June 23, 2006

One more reason not to buy broadband; can Working Assets please help?

So, now AT&T (which includes the former SBC, let’s not forget) further torques up its privacy policy, so that you have to explicitly sign off on agreeing that it owns all your account information AND can share it with Uncle Sam.

Well I guess the NSA won’t have to back-door this next time, will it?

So, can Working Assets PLEASE find some other phone company, not named AT&T or Verizon, with which to partner to provide progressive broadband, as it does with cellphone service?

Greens fail to make Texas ballot

You can, of course still write in a Green Party candidate in an area race where one is running. I will have a list up later.

Earth hottest in 2,000 years (if not more)

So says the National Academy of Sciences. Its new report on global warming and climate change blames human-caused warming for about half of 2005’s spike in hurricane intensity.

And THAT is NOT good news for the future.

No word yet from our area’s own “Smokey Joe” Barton, on account of whose science-bashing fellow GOPer Sherwood Boehlert requrested the report.

Armando watch and Kos’ crazy, self-referential definition of “courage”

According to Kos, “courage” is admitting you were wrong in the first place for ever wondering if Armando is a corporate suck-up, and then apologizing for your un-Will of the People thought in public on your blog and seeking forgiveness.

Wright Amendment repeal, part 3: Will it really benefit the tourist/vacation traveler that much? And, is Southwest the “Amway of the airlines”?

My short answer to the first question? Probably not. And my short answer to the second question? Sure as hell sounds like it. (See below.)

Both of these are especially true if J. Gebhart, who responded to my original post about Wright repeal as currently agreed to by Southwest, American, Dallas and Fort Worth being a third of a loaf, accurately reflects Southwest business practices (re Question No. 1) and employee/corporate culture (re Question No. 2).

At the end of that post, I said that I hoped Southwest used the elimination of Wright to eventually again become an airline listed on Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia, etc.

To which, Gebhart responded:
The Wright Amendment compromise won't affect Southwest refusal to allow their inventory GDS wide and on third-party services. It is about control over how their available inventory is displayed and managing customer expectations.

When some travel sites were displaying SWA fares, they were comparing different fare types. Generally they were showing more expensive and less restricted SWA fares against less expensive and more restricted participant airline fares. This made SWA look like the more expensive airline, and didn't inform customers they could get a cheaper rate going to SWA directly.

Alternatively if one service becomes a large enough portion of your sales, the extortion effect becomes possible. That service could start demanding a referral fee or a higher fee than they were already receiving. If you train your customers to go to your own distribution channel, you can prevent the threat of that possibility.

Finally southwest.com is an award winning site for clarity and ease of use, and their 800 number is always answered by humans and not voice response robots. Many of these other services have usability problems. Not all customers are savvy enough to recognize the difference and blame the third party. Customers could come to think of your company as providing this sub-standard service and negatively affect your brand image.

It is in Southwest's interest to maintain tight control of their distribution channels.

Let me, then, analyze some of his key comments.

In the first graf, he talks about managing customer expectations. This customer, me, likes the ease and convenience of being able to look up all airlines, if possible, through one, or a set of similar, travel agency websites. This customer’s loyalty is toward getting the lowest fare — with the least amount of work possible — no matter the airline. This customer’s loyalty is to himself first and NOT to Southwest Airlines.

So, if enough other customers are like me, Southwest will learn to change its management of customer expectations. Besides, I’m an analytical and skeptical enough person, I fairly quickly see through having my expectations managed by any business. Indeed, in light of details of the Wright repeal agreement, my ardor for Southwest has already cooled, and my skepticism as to how much this has been about customer expectation management has increased.

Second, in reference to Gebhart’s second graf, I’ve bought Southwest tickets online once. I’ve never bought tickets online from another airline. I do know that Southwest has a multiple fare structure which may be geared more at business travelers than tourists. I also know that both American and United’s websites, and probably other major airlines, are structured more like Travelocity et al than like Southwest, whether that’s for better or for worse. I also do know that listed prices on Travelocity et al are cheaper for the “legacy airlines” than is visiting their individual websites. Maybe Southwest is afraid of adapting enough to meet competition head-on?

Third, in response to Gebhart’s third graf, in addition to the “Big Three” of Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz, we also have Priceline and Hotwire, among others. They’re not all under the same ownership; in fact, none of them is. Now, Southwest DID have a dispute with Orbitz, which was founded by legacy airlines; however, I’m not aware of any dispute with the other online agencies. So, what I said in my graf immediately above refutes Southwest’s alleged concern for a travel agency monopoly. And, in fact, it’s arguable again, from my graf above, that Southwest only selling tickets through its own website is in fact guilty of the very thing it claims to worry about.

Also, again, note his comment about “train your customers.” This DEFINITELY sounds Amway-like.

Fourth, in the next graf, the only time I’ve spoken to a “bot” on American, Continental or United is to confirm flight time and departure gate on the date of a flight. If a bot will service me immediately, rather than waiting on the phone for a human, I’ll take the bot any time. A human just isn’t needed for such automatic services. AND, if it’s cheaper for a bot to be used, AND that savings is passed on to me, I’ll definitely take the bot. Wake up and smell the coffee, Gebhart.

Finally, Gebhart all but calls many online airline ticket buyers idiots in his next–to-last graf, and specifically, idiots who need the mind-control ministrations of Southwest “because not all customers are savvy enough.” Wow. If that’s Southwest’s idea of “managing customer service,” I take back my statement two grafs above. THIS comment is even MORE Amway-like.

June 22, 2006

What will Isiah Thomas do next, or “Wouldn’t this make a great Onion story, sports division?”

In his first move as the New York Knicks’ combined head coach and general manager, Isiah Thomas announced he was signing himself to a contract to be the Knicks’ new point guard.

Thomas said he hadn’t lost more than half a step from his playing days and promised to bring a new level of competitiveness and smart playmaking to the Knick team.

Thomas signed himself to a seven-year max contract, then announced he was investigating NBA rules to see if he could trade himself to another team.

He was rumored to be looking at the Minnesota Timberwolves’ underachieving center, Michael Olowokandi.

June 21, 2006

NBA Finals postmortem

The Mavs didn’t shoot enough free throws. They didn’t drive enough. Until Game 6, they got colder as the Finals went on. Even worse, they got from behind the 3-ball line, yet insisted on shooting more.

On the plus side, this was Avery Johnson’s first full year with the team. Even though Dallas went into the Finals the favorite, nobody even expected them to be here.

If Avery continues to grow as a coach and the players take this as a “learning experience,” they’ll be back, and hands on the trophy.

June 20, 2006

As if Democrats would actually even stand up to Bush this little bit on Iraq

Over at Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall thinks this should be campaign policy on Iraq.
“President Bush thinks we should stay in Iraq forever, as far as the eye can see. He’s said it himself. He says, ‘Getting out of Iraq is up to presidents who come after me.’ I don’t agree. That’s too long. I don’t know if we'll be able to get our troops out of Iraq in 6 months or even a year. But I want to start working on getting them home as soon as I get into office. And staying in Iraq for at least three more years, like President Bush wants, is too long.

“My opponent is with President Bush on this. More of a blank check. I disagree.

“We’ve got too many challenges around the world to keep burning through money and our men and women in uniform just because President Bush can't admit that his policies aren't working.”

To which, I reply:
Right. Like this is actually going to happen.

Most Democrats are so spineless they feel Rove/Hastert will say that “less than three years” is a de facto timetable and so they will run like hell from any statement even close to that.

Wright Amendment compromise, part 2: Southwest-American collusion?

Since making my initial post about the Wright Amendment compromise at Love Field, the ugly word “collusion” has started filtering through my mind.

Given that the Hobby-Bush duo of airports in Houston actually is not hugely cheaper than D/FW Airport currently is for the area outside Wright, and that Southwest accepted lowball compromises on how much landing fees will go up at Love (after things such as trying to get Boeing Field reopened in Seattle because it thought Sea-Tac’s landing fees were too high, and complaining vociferously about fees at DIA in Denver), the number of gates it will have and that will be open for all airlines at Love, and the eight-year weight on eliminating the Wright Amendment flight area restrictions that have been at the heart of the debate, I had to wonder — is Southwest getting something in return that’s not being publicized?

Hey, Southwest propagandizing and myth-making aside, it’s a business like any other. If American deals it some cards under the table, it’s not going to complain.

The golfing gods have weighed in on Phil Mickelson’s Self-Massacre at Winged Foot

Arnold Palmer, who often DID play the same way, said he would have played No. 18 exactly the way Phil did.

Arnie had it even worse than Phil, giving up seven shots on the back nine at hometown-area Oakmont in the 1962 Open. He bounced back, though, and thinks Phil will.
“Losing only made me more determined to win. ... I don’t know many players who have won majors who haven't at some point had the same thing happen to them. Whether it's Nicklaus, Player, Snead, Hogan. I've done it numerous times. Some guys I suppose never recover. ... But I think Phil will.”

Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson have a different perspective though, coming in part from them being more conservative than Arnie, perhaps.

They both said, in essence, what was Phil thinking?

Of Phil’s second shot, they said:
"He had an easy option to get back into play? Really?" Watson asked.

"Put the ball in play. Go play golf," Nicklaus added.

Speaking about his play at the last hole in general, they had further comments.
“You don't ever give up the end of a golf tournament,” he said, adding he learned that lesson in 1963 when he picked the wrong club on the last two holes of an event he was leading and finished bogey-bogey and lost. I didn’t like that feeling and said I'd never do that again, and I never did.”

Watson won eight majors, including five British Opens. He acknowledged it’s easy to second guess but said: “What are you playing for? You’re playing to win, not be a hero. The only person you have to beat is yourself — and he beat himself. It sounds like he beat himself because he didn't play the percentage shot.”

Good Interior news from Kempthorne so far

New Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne has made a first commitment to revert national parks to Clinton-promulgated rules restricting snowmobile use. Sounds good so far, but let’s definitely not count these chickens before they hatch.
Kristen Brengel, a lobbyist for the Wilderness Society, described the new policy draft as good but noted that lobbyists for commercial and recreation interests still have three weeks to change Kempthorne's mind.

“It’s not over yet,” Brengel said. “Now Kempthorne will have his first opportunity to show whether he can be a true steward of the national parks.”

The new policy draft, if retained, could also put the clamps on cell phone towers in national parks. We can only hope, for one less eyesore, one less push by cell phone companies for park commercialization, and, above all — one more weight in the scales of reducing noise pollution, specifically in this case, the noise pollution coming from cell phone chatterers.

You know who you are. If you can’t stop yammering, then don’t visit Yellowstone or Yosemite in the first place.

Gays are mentally ill, Pentagon says; Pentagon bigoted, smarter people say

Let’s not be polite and say the Pentagon is “clueless” for showing how deep and strong its anti-gay bias is by continuing to claim homosexuality is a mental disorder. Instead, let’s call them hard-core bigots.

And, this is the perfect opportunity to inject that in many ancient societies, such as the Gauls, the enemies of Rome, homosexuality in the ranks was encouraged because it was believed to promote camaraderie and cohesion.

June 19, 2006

NBA Finals, Game 5

Yes, Dwyane Wade is like Michael Jordan ... including some forearm push-offs and opponent-jersey-tugging self-propulsion as part of that.

Now, I do live in Dallas. I do like the Mavs. I'm not a fanatic fan, though, at least not like I was for the Bird-era Celtics. Of course, I don't watch as much sports as I did a decade or more ago, anyway.

That is especially true of football, when I could be walking in a nature park on a beautiful Texas October Sunday rather than being cooped up inside.

June 18, 2006

“Old Phil” returns, blows U.S. Open

The old, stubborn Phil Mickelson popped back up out of his major championship gopher hole at Winged Foot today, saw his shadow, and the result was the continuing winless winter of his at U.S. Opens

I can’t say it any better than Johnny Miller:
“It’s possibly the worst collapse at a U.S. Open. It hurts to watch that finish.”

But, stubborn Old Phil insisted on continuing to use his driver, rather than bagging it for a 3-wood or a long iron when it wasn’t working well. He insisted on continuing to try to hit fades when the shot wasn’t there today. And, he insisted on rolling the dice on 18, somewhat reminiscent of his hitting a wood out of the primary rough on the front nine earlier today.

And what was Monty thinking clubbing down (I think) on 18, and trying to overshape a shot? Go with the higher club, don’t worry about shaping it so much, and just aim for the center of the pin. You could have at least tied Ogilvy, if not winning.