Thursday, May 22, 2008

Some Cost-saving Ideas for the Airlines

Yesterday's news about American Airlines deciding to charge travelers for the first piece of checked luggage, and the general trend in the business toward charging for all things that used to come with the purchase of a ticket, got me thinking about some other creative ways airlines could start saving money in these hard times. Here are the top ten I came up with:

10. Coin-operated restroom doors on the plane, like public toilets in France. I suggest 25 cents to start.

9. If you're going to make the restroom doors coin-operated, why not take it that next logical step? Coin-operated toilet paper, sinks, soap, and paper towels. 25 cents each. Sure, this means if you only have 50 cents you have to choose, but how often do you really need more than two of these items? Tear the paper towel in half and it can do double duty!

8. For budget travelers, an adult diaper could be sold for 75 cents. That's a savings of 50 cents over using the bathroom and cleaning up afterwards! Add a dollar to that savings and you could get yourself a:

7. seatbelt.

6. Coin-operated overhead reading lamps. 15mins for a quarter or 1hr 15min for a dollar.

5. Floating and non-floating seat cushion sections on the plane. Seriously, how likely is it that you're going to crash over water AND survive? I'd take that bet for a $5 savings. That's four full-service trips to the bathroom! Or three full-service trips and a:

4. $1.25 glass of ice water. (A bargain considering ice and water are sold separately for 75 cents each.)

3. Of course, peanuts and overstock test-market snack crackers would have to be paid for, but you need not even worry about that cost if you opt out of the:

2. 10% flight attendant fee on each ticket.

And finally, in the tradition of David Letterman, the number one way airlines could make some much-needed extra cash:

1. A "Frequent Breather Membership Card." For just $100 a year, travelers can join the Frequent Breather club and have much-needed oxygen pumped to their seat as they fly. The infrastructure for this program already exists- overhead fans. All the airlines would have to do is de-pressurize the cabin and pump oxygen only to those who have paid for it. That's right, while your fellow passengers are passing out from hypoxia in diapers filled with their own waste, you can breathe easy and relax knowing that you're a Frequent Breather.

Friday, May 16, 2008

A Supreme Court that doesn't suck.

That would be the California Supreme Court. CA's Supreme Court decision in In re marriage cases was a bright spot this week amid the suffering, dying, and soulless acts of inhumanity that normally pass for news. I couldn't help but smile and feel silly that I was getting choked up as I washed the dishes and listened to an older lesbian talk about texting a marriage proposal to her partner. Who says romance is dead? "how r u will u mrry me :)" Did I mention I felt silly? But it really felt like a moment to celebrate - Rationality is not completely dead. There are still some embers under all that cold ash; you just have to poke it a little, blow on it, add some small kindling and it can ignite. Not the best metaphor I've ever come up with, but the best my mind offers up to me at this moment.

Then, of course, I had to listen to the reactions of those who were disappointed by the ruling. I can't find the quote online, but one person said something like, "The framers of the California Constitution never could have imagined that same-sex marriage would one day be protected." To me, this statement merely highlights the limits of human imagination as opposed to the 'common sense' wisdom it purports to impart. First, if we accept it as true, it is merely a fact among many in the history of human imagination - like saying that at one time the movement of heavenly bodies didn't accommodate the notion that the earth moved around the sun. The statement has no bearing on the truth or falsity of whether the word marriage contains within it the capacity to encompass same-sex unions. In addition, it indicates a lack of imagination on the part of the speaker - that the speaker cannot imagine a framer who could imagine marriage encompassing the concept of 'same-sex unions.' All framers, of the U.S. Constitution and of the California Constitution, were undoubtedly fairly intelligent human beings or, at least, as intelligent as present-day people. If presented with the argument of the majority opinion in In re marriage cases, all the framers could indeed imagine the concept encompassing same-sex marriage. They may not agree, but they certainly could imagine it.

To come, perhaps: a detailed discussion of the logic of the decision and the real issue at the heart of it - a battle between representative and direct democracy. Doesn't that sound exciting? It does to me. But I often read Kant and Whitehead to relax. I forgive you if you don't share my enthusiasm.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The All Important Bigot Vote

The title of this post comes from a Jon Stewart sketch. In the wake of West Virginia we're told once again that Obama cannot win among white working-class voters, those "hard-working Americans," as Clinton referred to them in her interview with USA Today, who contribute to this country, unlike all those Obama supporters, a coalition of African Americans and Daily Show watching drunken stoner slackers. Is this seriously Clinton's argument for why she should be the nominee? Didn't Obama win the Democratic primaries in Idaho and Wyoming? The largely white populations in those states must either be lazy or un-American. And does she not care at all whether African-Americans vote this November? Obama's support among African-Americans is upwards of 90%. Clinton takes the vote so much for granted she doesn't put any credence in the argument that black voters might feel disenfranchised if a bunch of party bigwigs overturned their vote for the nominee. For all her preaching about democracy and not wanting to disenfranchise voters, she seems perfectly willing to do so if it means she wins. Michigan is a perfect example. She would have the Michigan delegates seated proportionate to the votes the candidates received when Obama wasn't even on the ballot. That left Obama supporters with the choice to vote 'uncommitted' or to vote in the Republican primary to mess with their results.

Again, I think she needs to stay in this race until June just to keep her supporters from protesting the November election. But her campaigning disgusts me. I'm tired of the say-anything, insult anyone, whatever's expedient attitude of the Clintons. Like the opportunistic originalism of Scalia, they cherry-pick whatever supports their position and to hell with whether their arguments are consistent or coherent. Winning at all costs. Let's hope the next few weeks go quickly and we can move on to defeating John McCain instead of fighting his surrogate, Hillary Clinton.