5 x 8: What do airlines owe you?


If you ever want to experience the complete absence of power and control — unless you’re a big spender, of course — try to get an airline that’s stranded you somewhere to do something about it.

The crash of the jet in San Francisco over the weekend, not only stranded its passengers, but all of the people whose flights were canceled as air traffic in the U.S. backed up.

A few decades ago, the federal government deregulated the airlines and said, “treat people any way you want.” And it worked for a time; new airlines sprouted and fares went down until the big airlines gobbled up the little airlines and felt no embarrassment about setting the rules.

NPR’s story last evening describing how it all works sparked a fascinating discussion on the NPR website of capitalism itself, because people who had bought tickets months in advance, were kicked off other flights to accommodate the passenger who flies more during the year.

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Is it fair? Is there a compelling interest in providing passengers more protection?

One opinion:

I’m sorry, no. If I am a confirmed passenger on a flight, I have a contract to fly. I have paid my fair and confirmed my seat. I damn well deserve that seat. I don’t care if Mr. Whomever has flown 10,000,000 this year, or 500. I’ve purchased that seat, and if I show up to the flight on time, I have the right to exercise that contract and take that seat.

It’s this kind of crap, along with “priority access” through security lines and the rest of it, that airlines need to be re-regulated. An airliner that pushes off from the gate and sits for 20 minutes has not had an “on time” departure. A seat that does not have enough room between the seatback and the seat in front of me for my femur is simply unsafe to travel in.

Sure, airlines should be able to reward their best customers. But, not at the expense of everyone else.

Discussion point: What do airlines owe you when you buy a ticket?

Related: Overnight Update on Asiana 214 (James Fallows – The Atlantic).


You readers who have already abandoned the telephone land line can skip straight to #3. But not everyone has the luxury of cellphone or wireless service to communicate with the the outside world. What is to happen to them now that the telephone companies are abandoning the copper phone line?

The Associated Press reports almost every major telephone company is abandoning — or has plans to abandon — copper phone lines. Optical fiber is an option, but it’s too expensive to lay in many areas of the country.

“The real question is not: Are we going to keep copper forever? The real question is: How are we going to handle this transition?” says Harold Feld, senior vice president of Public Knowledge, a Washington-based group that advocates for public access to the Internet and other communications technologies.

The elderly and people in rural areas, where cell coverage may be poor or nonexistent, will be most affected by disappearing phone lines, Feld says. “Are we going to handle this transition in a way that recognizes that we have vulnerable populations here?”

Verizon says replacing the lines just doesn’t make economic sense. When they were originally laid down, the phone was the only two-way telecommunications service available in the home, and the company could look forward to decades of use out of each line. Now, it would cost Verizon hundreds of dollars per home to rewire a neighborhood, but less than a quarter of customers are likely to sign up for phone service and many of those drop it after a year or two.


Over the long holiday weekend in Chicago, there were 38 separate shooting incidents in which 10 men were killed and 55 others, including two young boys, were wounded. More than 200 people have been killed in the city so far this year, and that’s actually lower than a year ago.

Each killing has a story behind it but we often write off homicides as just another person who got killed in a long line of people killed, not only in Chicago, of course, but here in Minnesota, too.

So it’s notable that the Chicago Sun Times is telling each story, refocusing people on the tragedy behind the statistics, much the same way the nation’s media did for American soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, at least until those stories got too numerous.

There’s no shortage here. Here’s an example from yesterday afternoon.

US Navy veteran Jerimiah Milsap lived for his four children, and wanted nothing to do with “that world” of gang violence, a friend said Monday. Milsap, 25, was murdered early Saturday morning on the Near West Side, shot multiple times as he stood in front of his apartment building with his brother and another man, who were shot and wounded.

“He was a good guy who was not gang connected,” said Ricky Newbern, who works at the nearby Newberry Community Center, half a block from where Milsap was shot.

“He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it,” one of the men said. “All he wanted to do was take care of his family.”

One of the picture showed Milsap with his four young children. Others showed him in his navy uniform.

(h/t: Luke Taylor)


Cookie Monster no longer eats cookies, now that we’re in the middle of an obesity epidemic. But was he shamed into a leafy-vegetable regimen or what he a closet veggie all the time? The answer, researchers report in Scientific American, could be helpful in teaching the rest of us about how peer pressure works.

Daniel MacFarland and Heili Pals (2005) evaluated internal and external motives that inspire change, and determined that change to the network is the driving factor in identity shifts over time. MacFarland and Pals thoroughly dissect social identity theory (SIT) and identity theory (IT), competing models of identity change, and conclude that in both theories the actor perceives an inconsistency which leads to a change in identity. Essentially, the actor seeks to establish an identity because he or she believes that it fails to meet a standard. In the case of Cookie Monster, we have two standards in conflict: Cookie is a monster who eats cookies (internal), and Cookie needs to promote moderation as demanded by his larger network of fans and supporters and in keeping with social trends (external). We shall see how these theories lead to pressure for Cookie Monster to change.


What would we see if other planets were as close to earth as the moon is?

Saturn, for example.

Ron Miller via Talking Points Memo (TPM)

Bonus I: The drudgery of the water park (Snarky in the Suburbs). (h/t: Brian Hanf)

Bonus II:
Pedal Power To Horsepower: Toys Point Towards Future Of Cars : Monkey See (NPR).

Bonus III: Pine-Tar Incident: The Untold Story (Wall St. Journal). h/t: Krystyna Pease

Would you be willing to produce a photo ID to vote?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Caring for expanded patient rolls?

Second hour: Minnesota lawmakers approved this year legislation to give counties the power to increase vehicle registration by $10 per car to raise more funds for transportation funding. A few already have approved such taxes; Hennepin is holding a public hearing Tuesday to discuss it. Other counties are considering it, too.

Third hour: Sexism in the technology industries.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): From the Aspen Ideas Festival: “Can We Get Past Politics to Reform Immigration?” Panelists are Admiral Thad Allen, Henry Cisneros, and Al Cardenas.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – The Muslim Brotherhood on Egyptian unrest; The Silent Epidemic in the South; How swearing is changing .

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Dan Olson has his profile of a Minnesota monarch butterfly migration watcher Dave Kust, a classroom teacher and volunteer monarch observer for Monarch Journey North.

Minnesota is the only state in the nation that will offer each of the three main insurance programs of the Affordable Care Act. Minnesota has committed to an expansion of Medicaid, developing a new online health insurance exchange, and providing a safety net program for lower-income people who earn to much to qualify for medicaid. Reporter Catharine Richert has been talking to some of the state’s leading health care experts to find out what they’ll be watching for and how they’ll measure the state’s success.

Some residents of the southeastern Minnesota community of Kasson have been fighting for nearly 10 years to preserve a nearly 100-year-old school, running into what are common themes: difficulty finding money to refurbish it, difficulty determining a new use, interests in the community that want to use the property for something else. A judge is giving them what looks like a last chance this summer. MPR’s Elizabeth Baier will have the story.