Tuesday, February 28

Former Soviet Dissident Predicts Collapse of the European Union

The EU has problems:

Vladimir Bukovksy, the 63-year old former Soviet dissident, fears that the European Union is on its way to becoming another Soviet Union. In a speech he delivered in Brussels last week Mr Bukovsky called the EU a “monster” that must be destroyed, the sooner the better, before it develops into a fullfledged totalitarian state.

There is an important difference between Mr. Bukovksy and people who accuse the US of being a totalitarian state. Mr. Bukovksy is a victim of a totalitarian state. That experience lends credibility to his observations, since he has seen it before, unlike all this twenty-year-olds that protest in DC without knowing what they are protesting against. (Merely being able to protest acts as proof against their "Bush=Nazi" accusations.)

I have to say that he has a convincing story. If you want, you can make correlations between the Soviet Union and the US, but that comparison falls apart when you take into account the actions of the two Governments, instead of just the basic structure. (Like both the US and USSR had elections....)

Paul Belien (Brussels Journal): But all these countries that joined the European Union did so voluntarily.

VB: No, they did not. Look at Denmark which voted against the Maastricht treaty twice. Look at Ireland [which voted against the Nice treaty]. Look at many other countries, they are under enormous pressure. It is almost blackmail. Switzerland was forced to vote five times in a referendum. All five times they have rejected it, but who knows what will happen the sixth time, the seventh time. It is always the same thing. It is a trick for idiots. The people have to vote in referendums until the people vote the way that is wanted. Then they have to stop voting. Why stop? Let us continue voting. The European Union is what Americans would call a shotgun marriage.

The EU was born during the time of the Soviet Union. It only makes sense that it's development was influenced by the presence of the USSR just next door. Something that should be investigated is whether or not European officials colluded with the Soviet Union or were planning some sort of (economic) integration with the Soviet Union.

Today’s situation is really grim. Major political parties have been completely taken in by the new EU project. None of them really opposes it. They have become very corrupt. Who is going to defend our freedoms? It looks like we are heading towards some kind of collapse, some kind of crisis. The most likely outcome is that there will be an economic collapse in Europe, which in due time is bound to happen with this growth of expenses and taxes. The inability to create a competitive environment, the overregulation of the economy, the bureaucratisation, it is going to lead to economic collapse. Particularly the introduction of the euro was a crazy idea. Currency is not supposed to be political.

The EU, at least the "Old Europe" countries of the EU are and are going to continue to have problems. Is the EU going to collapse? I don't think so. At least I suspect that if things fall apart, it will not be as much a disaster as when the Soviet Union fell apart. After all, the EU is not the owner of all businesses within the bloc, like the USSR was. Nor are the member-state Governments appointed by the EU. It also helps that the "New Europe" EU members have healthy, growing economies, which will hopefully force reform onto the other members. One could hope.

How is the EU going to dig themselves out of this Problem? Why hasn't anyone suggested that Russia join the EU? Or would that interfere with the Europen wish for another Superpower to be born. (I am referring to Russia, not the EU)

The interview and transcript of the speech are at:

Former Soviet Dissident Warns For EU Dictatorship - Brussels Journal

Saturday, February 25

Parents Involvement Missing from No Child Left Behind

“No Child Left Behind” is nothing new. It was signed into law in 2001 with both Republican and Democrat support. Since then there has been a steady stream of criticism from Schools. States, parents and even the Democrats that once supported it. I really haven’t given the act any thought until recently, when I made a revelation about why the No Child Left Behind Act is not working as well as it should. Take the following:

Inadequate Funding. For some reason the country thinks that the Federal Government funds schools. They provide some money, but schools are funded by local and state taxes. Remember property taxes? In many states, a part of the property tax is the school tax. So the money to fund the schools should be coming from local and state taxes. One way that people are shifting blame is by claiming that the Federal Government is mandating standards, but they are not providing enough money to meet the new standards. What a load of bull. These are your children. You local community is in complete control of how much money is available to fund your schools:

Education is primarily a State and local responsibility in the United States. It is States and communities, as well as public and private organizations of all kinds, that establish schools and colleges, develop curricula, and determine requirements for enrollment and graduation. The structure of education finance in America reflects this predominant State and local role. Of an estimated $909 billion being spent nationwide on education at all levels for school year 2004-2005, about 90 percent comes from State, local, and private sources.

That means the Federal contribution to national education expenditures is about 10 percent. This 10 percent includes educational expenditures not only from the Department of Education (ED) but also from other Federal agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services' Head Start program and the Department of Agriculture's School Lunch program. Subtract these other dollars, and ED is left with less than 8 percent of total education spending. ED's $71.5 billion appropriation, by the way, is about 2.9 percent of the Federal Government's nearly $2.5 trillion budget in fiscal year 2005.

As you can see, the “lack of Federal Funding” excuse is bogus. Anyone in education who tells you this is attempting to take advantage of you not knowing how the system works. Now you know.

Inadequate Parental Support. Where are the parents in all of this? When I was growing up, My mom was fully involved in helping me with my homework, especially when I was in kindergarten, first and second grade. Parental support at this time is essential as children need to learn how to do homework. They do not learn how to do homework at school. That is learned at home!

I have no evidence that parents are not helping their children with their homework. But I can see a change between the people I went to school with and those who have gone through the school system after me. My mom stayed home and raised us. I can’t see how a working mom can dedicate that amount of time to work and help with her child’s homework. If the parents have more than one child of if the child has a “single mom,” the problem of finding time and energy to help your child is huge.

People today are not considerate to others. They drive like maniacs on the road. They do not follow the law. They throw trash wherever as soon as they create it. They are fiscally irresponsible. They do not make rational decisions. They are never accountable for their own actions. This behavior is not something that is learnt in school. This type of behavior is learned at home, mostly by observing how their own parents behave and even how their parent’s discipline them. Want your child to go off and “find himself”? They might find out that they like illegal drugs. Or they might find out that they are alcoholics. They even might find themselves in jail just like the American Taliban. Many will simply find that they have inadequate math and reasoning skills.

How you bring up your child is your business. Just don’t expect the Government and the schools to do the job alone. You only have one chance to do it right with each child. Your life might not be so hot, but it is not an excuse to handicap your child. So please, if you can’t teach them how to count, at least express to them how important it is to learn as much as possible in school. At the very least, make sure your kids are going to school. I have run into enough job applicants that could have used this assistance from their parents. Since it’s not my job to teach them basic skills, I gave six of them the boot, which technically counts as a valuable learning lesson in it’s own right.

The Federal Role in Education - US Department of Education

Wednesday, February 22

Happy Birthday President Washington

Today is President George Washington's Birthday. It also happens to be Senator Ted Kennedy's birthday as well as mine. While the poor weather today canceled my annual trip to Washington's home at Mount Vernon, I will still pop open a bottle of bubbly later tonight to toast the first President of the US as I do every year. The more I read about the Revolution and the early years of the country, the more amazed I am that the US was able to become independent and free at all! A good deal of credit is due to Washington.

When I was young, I thought it was great to share my birthday with the First President. But this is not the only reason to appreciate him. He truly was one of America's most important citizens. Some things were too great for even him to tackle, such as slavery, but he has put in place a country and a Government that runs to this very day. There are not that many countries on this planet where you can find multiple past presidents attend an event with a person who holds the job they used to have, and get along.

Thank you President Washington.

George Washington - Wikipedia
Mount Vernon

Monday, February 20

Try this Port threat on for Size

I recently posted on how the firestorm about a UAE Company is a complete non-issue and how people should do at least a minimum of investigation, especially when they do not understand the underlying issues.

With this in mind, if a UAE Company operating ports in the US is such a threat, then how do you rate the following in comparison:

Take this:

Put it on this:

Have it follow this route:

What can you get?

So here all these people are blabbing about what a threat it is for a UAE company to operate ports in the US. A Company that has a number of Americans running it. These same people have no clue that at the moment there are Saudi-Flag vessels, manned by Saudis carrying tens of thousands of containers into the US each year.

Is this company managed by Americans too? Sorry, no. (Management - Board of Directors)

Where is the rage about this?

Where is the outrage?

Where is Senator Clinton?

(As I write this, John Gibson is giving a rant on Fox about the port operator issue.)

UAE DP World Port Deal is a Non-Issue - Fred Fry
National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia

Note: This post is merely an example to put the DP Ports story in perspective. The NSCSA is a publicly traded company. It must meed high international standards to avoid it's vessels being arrested in the ports that they visit. As far as I know, it is a fine organization whose seafarers don't deserve to be treated as criminals any more than any other seafarers. (However, you can thank 16 terrorists for labeling your country as a threat, not me.)

Update: 28 February 06

Here are more sites mentioning the Saudis presence in US Port Operations:

Saudi Shipping Company “Controls” 9 US Ports - Sweetness & Light

Hillary Has "Port Values" Except when it's Saudi Arabia or China - Gateway Pundit


I suspect in about a week someone will point out all the foreign firms that handle loading cargo, meals and refreshments onto airplanes. Not only in the US, but also overseas. How hard would it be for a person to work for one of these firms and slip some weapons onto the plane? How about a bomb?

Thank you for flying Hyperbole Airlines - Varifrank

Sunday, February 19

UAE DP World Port Deal is a Non-Issue

There seems to be some anger that a Company based in the United Arab Ererates will be Operating some Ports in the US. This is a perfect example of how people today go running off their mouth without knowing any facts about a situation.

For starters, lets take a look at the management of this Corporation:

Management Team

Mohammed Sharaf Chief Executive Officer - Arab/Muslim

Mr. Sharaf has more than 18 years of expertise in the transport and logistics industry. He has worked in the company since 1992, holding such diverse roles as Assistant Customer Service Manager, Commercial Director, Deputy Managing Director, and Managing Director before being named CEO in 2005.

Edward H. Bilkey Chief Operating Officer (retiring) - American

Ted has over thirty years of diverse experience in the transportation industry. He has served as the President of Norton Lilly & Co., a premier shipping agency in the United States. Mr. Bilkey was instrumental in the development of China Ocean Shipping Company’s services to the United States after the opening of China in the 1980s. He also served as Vice President of Maher Terminals in the Port of New York, one of the major US Terminal Operators.

Anil Wats Chief Operating Officer - ??

Anil Wats is the Managing Director, Asia and Australia for DP World. He has 26 years of experience in the international Shipping and Logistics industry. After graduating with a degree in Business Management, Mr. Wats started his career with Sea Land Service, Inc. and over a period of 21years achieved the position of VP and CEO responsible for the group activities covering the Middle East and Subcontinent. Prior to this position, Mr. Wats served as the VP-General Manager for the Mediterranean region.

Following the acquisition of Sealand by Maersk, Mr. Wats was CEO for the A.P. Moller group activities for Indonesia which included Maersk Sealand, various logistics companies and other business entities. He was also on the Board of Directors for Thailand, Taiwan and Asia Logistics in addition to being an active member on various global committees based at the Maersk headquarters in Copenhagen. He joined DP World in December 2003 responsible for business development in Asia and the Middle East and as Global Commercial Director at DP World, Dubai.

George DaltonGeneral Counsel - American

George Dalton is General Counsel for DP World. Mr. Dalton has over 25 years of legal experience with an extensive background in corporate, financing and international transactions. At DP World he manages and oversees all legal matters. Mr. Dalton joined CSX World Terminals in 1999 as Vice President and General Counsel. Previously, he was with Sea-Land beginning in 1995 as counsel to the North America Terminal Operating Group and the Americas Division which covered activities in Latin America and the Caribbean. Prior to joining Sea-Land, he was a partner in the New York City maritime firm of Kirlin, Campbell & Keating until 1987 when he became a founding partner of Maddy, Dalton & Lion which focused on international transactions and corporate matters. Mr. Dalton has a juris doctorate from Fordham University School of Law in New York and is a graduate of Fordham University. He is a member of several legal associations.

Joost Kruijning Senior Vice President Operations - Netherlands

While attending the Maritime Institute in his hometown of Rotterdam, The Netherlands, Mr Kruijning started his shipping career in 1988 by joining the Sea-Land Service Inc. Operations Department at their Rotterdam Container facility. During his 13-year tenure with Sea-Land Service Inc., he was closely involved with the development and start-up operations of the Sea-Land Delta Terminal Project, the first semi-automated container terminal in the Ports Industry. This was followed by assignments in Russia as Port Manager - St.Petersburg and the Sultanate of Oman as Terminal Operations Manager - Salalah Port Services Inc., before joining Dubai Ports International in 2001 as Senior Manager – International Port Operations.

Matt LeechHead of Business Development - American

Matthew Leech is Head of Business Development, for DP World. Mr. Leech has over 14 years of experience in the finance and container transportation industries. At DP World, he is responsible for global new business development activities. Prior to acquisition of CSX World Terminals by DP World, Mr. Leech served in a similar role as Vice President, Operations and Development, where he has led many of CSXWT’s key expansion initiatives including the acquisition of terminal facilities in Korea, China and Venezuela in addition to managing terminals in Australia, Germany, Venezuela and Russia. Mr. Leech also held the position of Director, Strategic Planning and Infrastructure Development, where he was responsible for leading the global strategic planning and infrastructure development activities, and the position of Director, Project Analysis for CSX World Terminals. Mr. Leech joined Sea-Land Service in 1995 and held various geographic positions in the Strategic Planning group focusing on network planning, alliance management and business analysis. Prior to joining Sea-Land, he held progressive positions in the commercial real estate group of a large financial institution based in Washington, DC. Mr. Leech received a BA in economics from Georgetown University and an MBA with a finance focus from the University of Maryland.

Michael Moore Senior Vice President Commercial - American

Michael brings with him over 20 years of expertise in the transportation industry, having started as a management trainee in the trucking industry in the US and then moving to Sea-Land Service, Inc. in 1984. His broad background experience in container shipping spans terminal operations, sales, logistics, pricing and trade management. In 1999 he joined Maersk, where he served as the Vice President of Global Sales in Europe for 6 years

Vijay SharmaChief Financial Officer - Indian

Mr. Sharma joined the DP World team in early 2005 as Director Finance. A banker by background, Vijay has had a wide range of experience in all aspects of wholesale Banking - Corporate Banking, International Finance and Investment Banking in both developed and developing markets. Beginning his career with Grindlays bank in India, his twenty three years as a banker has seen him live and work in India, Africa and more recently with the ANZ Investment Bank in London as Director, Global Corporate Finance covering the Middle East and South Asia.

Yuvraj NarayanSenior Vice President,Corporate Strategy - ?

Mr Yuvraj Narayan, Senior Vice President , Corporate Strategy, DP World, is a qualified Chartered Accountant with more than 13 years experience in International Corporate and Project Finance with the ANZ Group between 1984 to1997. He was the Head of Corporate and Project Finance for South Asia before moving as Chief Financial Officer of Salalah Port Services Co. SAOG. This Company was the Concessionaire for the Management and Operation of the new Container Terminal in the Port of Salalah.

Tell me how this management team team represents a threat? All of these people are professionals with years/decades of experience. This management team looks very similar to what you would find in most any International Corporation based in the US. This is probably even more American than many.

One reason for this is that This company took over American CSX World Terminals a couple of years back. CSX was an offshoot of SEA-LAND, which was the American Company that gave birth to Containerization. Another reason is that most Arab Countries import trained people to run their countries at most every level. This can sometimes create odd partners, especially in the case of workers from India. You see, they don't like the Indians, but tolerate them. There are many Indians in the Middle East. (Unfortunately, this permits young Muslims to go off and study the koran / head off on jihad, and also creates high unemployment because they are not qualified for any but the most basic jobs, so even their own won't hire them.)

The UAE has another, pressing problem. They are running out of oil and they know it. So they are busy trying to replace the oil revenue that they will lose with business revenue. One way is by setting up free-trade zones, and working to turn their country into a trans-shipment point for the Middle East just like Singapore is for asia.

Ports are operated at a local level. To think that some person from the UAE will now have free access to US ports is idiotic. For starters, they first would need to get a visa to even enter the country. Even if they did get in, would you think a longshoreman is going to do something against the US just because someone claiming to be their boss tells them? They are more likely to get the sh*t kicked out of them. (Longshoremen are not port employees of the operating companies, but are provided by unions that really control the ports. That is where their loyalty lies.)

Are their threats in the UAE, sure, but this is not one of them.

Further explanation:

A real port threat:

See Also:
DP World

Update 22 Feb 06:

California Conservative reverses it's initial opinion and now supports this deal

Saturday, February 18

If Images of Mohamad are Forbidden, Why look for them?

We are being told that one reason why all of these Muslims are upset is because it is forbidden to make images of the "prophet Mohamad." So imagine my surprise when I get a visitor to FFI from Iran who found my little blog with a Google search for "picture messenger mohamad"

Unfortunately, there are no pictures of him here. Not that I am afraid to post them. I think I have written enough to earn my own fatwa without having to post a picture. So if you want to be offended by pictures, go to this website which has posted photoshopped mohamad images. Do not go there if you are easily offended. Don't go there is you are a Muslim either.


Now if it is forbidden to use his image, what about using his name? Shouldn't that be forbidden too? Isn't naming your kid after the prophet Mohamad just as offensive to him as drawing a picture of him?

Update: 27 February 06

Don't think the web surfer above is the only one. Here is one from Syria:

And here is another one from another corner of Iran:

Last year I met a German woman who spent time in Iran. I did what most every American would do; ask questions about life there. The answers were most interesting. "Yes, alcohol is illegal but everyone knows where to get it." "Yes, women and men are not to meet, but everyone does it." The impression that I got was that the Iranian people were for the mostpart very moderate and many people violate the rules, at least in private.

Makes me wonder what the people think of thier new ruler and his new rules.

Update: 6 March 06:

More Muslim visitors looking for images.

One from Morocco:

And yet another one from Iran:

Update: 8 March 06:

One more. This time from Jordan:

Wednesday, February 15

If the Vice President Shoots a Lawyer in the Woods, Does he make a Sound?

The Vice President Cheney's shooting incident was truly an accident. Watching the interview of the VP today, you can see that he was truly sorry for the error, as any person would be. The most amazing part of this whole incident is how the press has reacted, especially the White House Press Corps. As a whole, the White House Press Corp is about as useless a group as you could gather, second to perhaps the General Assembly of the United Nations, and the actions of the White House press corp covering this story proves it.

One would expect hard questioning from this group, but we all know that all they do every day is try to get something embarrassing to stick to the President. We have Plamegate, No WMD-gate, payments to place positive news stories-gate, NSA Eavesdropping-gate, and secrecy-gate. Lets not forget how the White House press Corp treats anyone who ends up in their midst and doesn't ask questions critical of this current Administration.

As we have all seen, the White House Press Corp is all riled up over not being informed immediately of what happened. At first I wondered why they would be so angry/upset. Then it occurred to me. How is it possible that the Vice President can go and shoot someone and NO MEMBER OF THE PRESS IS AROUND TO WITNESS IT?

Sure, this was not some public trip. Then again, when has Bush been on vacation without any press? No local press were around searching for a scoop. How can that be? This was not some indoor activity, nor some secret trip. This didn't happen in China, Iran, or North Korea where the authorities would have acted forcefully to conceal the story. The police knew about the shooting. Those at the hospital knew about the shooting. None of them blabbed to the press. Not even for (blood) money.

In fact, the story was first reported in a local paper, and not in the national press, in effect blindsiding the national reporters. That is what the press corp is mad about. Not about secrecy. After all, the story came out within a day of it happening and I think that is acceptable, especially considering that there is no evidence that anyone tried to conceal the story, other than complaints that it was not handed to the press on a platter.

As far as I am concerned, the White House should evict all current members of the Press Corps, starting with Helen Thomas, who has been pushed to the back of the room, and NBC's David Gregory, who always appears to have some sort of mission against the White House. Neither is a good example of "objective reporting" and are just wasting space. Perhaps they have spent too much time in that cramped room and have lost sight of the big picture.

They can be replaced with a rotating Press Corp of reporters from around the country. The group as a whole would probably still be as anti-Bush as the current group, but I suspect that they might be more competent. They would take the opportunity to actually ask relevant questions since they would only have the opportunity to ask questions at the White House for a week or so before they are rotated out.

The White House should strike now while they press corp is already angry. They have nothing to lose. This can be a wake-up call for the press to seriously look at how they are reporting the news, especially considering how many people must have known about this story and sat on it.

For example, check out today’s news story where the House voted 418-1 to stop funding for the new Palestinian Government. Who is the one who Congressman who voted against this?

Neil Abercrombie - Democrat from Hawaii

How do I know this? I read it at the Jawa Report.

It is a good thing that I read it there, because the press has not printed this information anywhere. Could all of the reporters covering this story all decide that the name was not important? Were all of these stories derived from one reporter’s story who omitted the name? Could be, but in either case, something is seriously wrong with the Press. We all know about it. How come these crack reporters don’t?

Saturday, February 11

Sony DVD Anti-Copy Software Prevents DVD Playback on Sony Vaio Laptop!

On Friday I pulled my work PC out of my backpack after finishing lunch on my Frankfurt to Dulles flight. It is a Sony Vaio and it has a DVD drive. Not bad for a work PC! Now as I stated before, I do not buy Sony Products because I do not like them. It is a different story when your work buys the computer. If anything the Vaio is cool because it's small. It is noticed by everyone else as everyone pulls out their laptops when going through security and while on the plane.

I finished watching the end of Jaws and then popped in "The Fifth Element." It didn't work. I figured that perhaps it did not like being played in Intervideo, so I tried Media player and Realplayer. That's when I got the error message that the DVD is protected. I quickly pulled out the box, and cannot see any notation of copy protection on the box. I did notice that this is a Sony movie. Wow! Is it possible that the copy protection that they put on their DVD is not compatible with their own DVD-player equipped Laptop? It appears so. What an asinine error!

Now I have played other movies in the player with no problem, Jaws being one of them. Seems like most of the DVD are marked on the box as having copy protection. This was the first time that I had a problem. Now I have added no software to this machine and as far as I know it is not capable of ripping anything off the disk. Strange thing is, the DVD plays in my home computer just fine, and my home computer's DVD player is set for DVD region 2 and I have software installed to play all region DVDs. So the copy protection only managed to prevent my playing the movie in a computer incapable of copying it! Too bad I cannot figure out if it is the disk or the computer to blame. If I had to guess, I would suspect that Sony hid some of their Digital Rights Management Software in the Vaio. While I cannot prove this, their past actions make this a good guess. Seeing what they can hide in a CD, just imagine what they can inside your computer. Yet another reason not to buy Sony products.

In other related Sony News:

They announced the wholesale pricing for Blu-Ray DVD disks:

The $23.45 wholesale price for new releases represents a 15 to 20 percent increase over wholesale prices for new releases in standard DVD format, while the $17.95 wholesale price point for older titles can be 50 percent to 80 percent higher than the retail price of the same titles in standard DVD format.

Sony says it initially plans to ship four Blu-Ray titles a month, increasing releases to ten Blu-Ray titles a month by the fourth quarter of 2006.

Sony's Blu-Ray format is still locked in a looming format war with Toshiba's competing HD DVD technology. HD DVD is generally seen as the lower-cost contender, with initial pricing for players expected to debut in March 2006 expected to be between $500 and $700, compared to $1,000 for Blu-Ray players when they ship in mid-2006. Studios haven't announced pricing for HD DVD titles.

Looking at the pricing tells me that Blu-Ray is not targeting me as a customer. For starters, I can buy a HD DVD player and still have $500 left over for buying movies. Perhaps I'll keep the money and use some of what I don't spend on a new HD TV and HD DVD player to just buy some old-generation DVDs. The quality is good enough for me. The additional quality is not worth spending thousands of dollars. I'll start going back to the movies first. Its cheaper.

United Airlines Marketing Dream Meets Harsh $5 Reality

I am sure that most American readers who watch TV have seen the "Emmy Nominated" ads for United Airlines. I will admit that they are pretty good.

I have been traveling across the Atlantic a good bit lately, and for the most part have been flying with either British Airways, or Finnair. I have to say that I have no problems with either. Finnair used to lose my bags, WAY too often. But, that is now three years in the past and in general have had no problems in the last couple of years.

British Airways is currently my favorite, as for some reason, more often then not, they have been upgrading me to Business Class. One gets all too easily accustomed to sleeping in a bed across the Atlantic.

Unfortunately, I found out this last Friday that I had to go to Europe the next day. British Airways wanted almost $3,000 for a next-day flight, which was a thousand more than Lufthansa and United were charging. So I would not be going via BA this time.

United Airlines recently exited from bankruptcy and the news was currently reporting that United execs had awarded themselves millions in stock to reward themselves for shaking down the employees to accept paycuts of about 30%. Expecting the United staff to not be too happy about this, I opted for Lufthansa instead. However, since United and Lufthansa are partners, I still ended up with the return flight on United. So be it.

So, now to the problem. The flight takes off from Frankfurt and they bring the drink cart around. I quickly check the magazine to see if they will charge for drinks and when my time comes, I ask for a gin and tonic. I get my drink and then hear "Five Dollars." What the F*ck, I immediately thought. To add to the shock, I only had four.

The man sitting next to me helped me out and gave me the last dollar. My good mood evaporates and I am suddenly both mad and embarrassed at the same time. I go back to the magazine to recheck the page. Right at the top in the summary was the comment that alcohol was free for international Pacific flights and $5 on all other flights. Thanks, for putting that important piece of information in a part of the page that nobody reads, instead of in the refreshment section.

I was going to hassle the flight attendant but did not bother. After all it wasn't his fault. Well he could have told me before making the drink. So there I am pissed off and the flight attendant is there with an unhappy customer in a awkward situation. Neither of us are happy about this. The culprit, some prick in United's Corporate office, reaps all the benefits, protected by anonymity.

The point of this whole post is simple. No matter how good the advertising, and United's is recognized as some of the best, it will not compensate for a negative experience. My negative experience all centered around being told that a drink I expected to be complimentary, cost $5. Lufthansa did not charge for drinks on my Europe flight. BA does not charge across the Atlantic either. My ticket cost close to $2,000, and I find out that drinks were not included in the price. Lesson learned.

Some readers may be familiar with the old American Airlines cost-saving measure of removing an olive out of every salad. Looking at my United Salad, I see no olives. I guess that something else had to go, and it was the alcohol. I just wonder if any of these wise execs have bothered to count the cost of lost customers? Perhaps they are too busy counting their new stock.

Not for anything but United Airlines probably should no longer exist. God only knows how many people, employees and suppliers they harmed and ruined by claiming bankruptcy protection. The employees probably would have been better off with United going down. Some other airlines would have stepped in to take over United's routes. With that, they would need more employees, and many of United's would have found new jobs. the end result would have been a much healthier airline industry. Instead, United was unburdened of it's debt, so that it can lower it's prices below other airlines break-even point forcing them into trouble, where they otherwise would not. What a shame.

And no, my flight did not mimic the wonderful experiences shown in their commercials. After all, how would you feel to be starting your once-in-a-lifetime vacation by being nickled and dimed all the way to your destination?

Thursday, February 9

Racing up Pikes Peak - Video

Spending the week in Zurich, looking out at the mountains reminded me of a very cool rally film that I saw way back at the 1991 NY Car show. The only thing I remembered about the film was that the driver was racing up Pikes Peak. Thanks to Google Videos, I can now watch the video again.

Funny that the driver is Finnish Ari Vatanen. Back then I didn't even know that Finland existed.

If the video does not work in your browser, click on the link to get to Google's page for it:

Climb Dance - Google Video

Saturday, February 4

Mette Mannonen: Finnish Weather Goddess

One of the great reasons to look forward to traveling to Finland is the ability to watch the weather forecast on Finnish channel MTV3. If you are lucky, you will be able to receive your weather forecast from Mette Mannonen.

You do not need to understand Finnish to understand.

Just call me Mette's #1 Fan!

More (Better) pics in Google Images.

Europe, Unprepared

So here we are a couple of years after the 9/11 attacks and suddenly Europe wakes up to find out that they are completely unprepared to protect itself and it's citizens from the threat of terrorism and radical islam.

They have taken the approach of stepping softly, taking care not to offend muslims. Speaking out against the US Gitmo terrorist detention center, and continuing to let muslims who preach hate take shelter in their countries. Then there is the support for the Palestinian Authority and criticism of Israel, which should have won them some support from muslims.

However, Europe has been blindsided by their own anti-American press as well as many EU Citizens who took the opportunity to diplay their artistic talent at the expence of Islam's messenger, Mohamad.

The result has been dramatic. Danish flags are being burned. The Danish Embassy in Syria is burning. Most countries in Europe are being threatened with Jihad and Europes own 9/11. The threats are not coming from a radical few, but from the masses, as well as muslims living within the countries being threatened. It is as if the front lines have been overrun before the battle has even started.

I suspect that in the coming weeks we are going to see either a calming down of the tension, or more likely, a dramatic over-reaction by European Authorities to try and contain the threat. Think the Gitmo detention center is bad? This will be noting compared to the way Europe is going to abuse the rights of muslims they consider to be threats.

You will find no image of Mohamad here. However here is an image I like to call:

In the footsteps of Modern Islam:

More Fred Fry and Islam:
Islam was not Hijacked - 21 January 06
Ramadan and Islamic Oddities - 2 November 05
Signs that Allah (God) is not on Your Side: - 28 July 05
Signs that Allah (God) is not on Your Side: Update - 27 October 05