Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Elected to IFRRO's Board of Directors

I've been elected to the Board of Directors of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organizations (IFRRO). For the next three years, I will hold the sole seat on the Board reserved for a representative of journalists, authors, and other writers worldwide.

Although the name sometimes leads to confusion, IFRRO has nothing to do with abortion or reproductive rights. It's the global coordinating and standard-setting body for "reproduction rights organizations" (RROs) -- rights management agencies that license photocopying and other "secondary" uses of published written and printed works.

I was nominated for the IFRRO Board by the National Writers Union (NWU) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). The IFJ represents more than 600,000 journalists in 140 countries. The NWU is one of the US affiliates of the IFJ, although the NWU also includes many other types of writers as well as journalists. At the IFRRO annual general meeting in Amsterdam where the IFRRO Board was elected, I represented both the NWU and the IFJ.

Enough with the alphabet soup. What am I doing on the IFRRO Board, and why should writers (or readers) care?

Continue reading "Elected to IFRRO's Board of Directors"
Link | Posted by Edward, 30 November 2016, 19:07 ( 7:07 PM) | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, 30 October 2016

"Generation X': A Brief History of Dropouts from the U. of Chicago"

I'm honored to be among the former U. of C. students from "Generation X" featured in a thoughtful article by Hannah Edgar in the current issue of the student newspaper, the Chicago Maroon, Generation X': A Brief History of Dropouts and Transfer Students at the University of Chicago.

(The title of the article is an insider pun on the way the U. of C. refers to alumni like myself as "ex-degree", with an "X" and the year we left the University, in lieu of our degree and year of receiving it.)

Congratulations to Hannah Edgar for digging so deeply into this underreported (for reasons some of which she explores in the article) topic, and for including me in this distinguished company along with others including Andrew Patner, my classmate and, much later, one of Ms. Edgar's mentors.

And thanks to the U. of C., in all seriousness, for a profoundly valuable educational experience.

One of many issues Ms. Edgar and I talked about that didn't make it into the article was to what degree the inability of the U. of C. to deal with its "image problem" was, and perhaps still is, related to homophobia and/or Asperger's Syndrome.

When I read a description of the longstanding negative stereotype of a U. of Chicago student quoted from a former President of the U. of C. in a recent history of the College, my reaction was, "Is this a description of a stereotypical faggot? Or of a stereotypical person with Asperger's? Or both?"

The answer, of course, is "both". But no matter how obvious that answer is, it's one the U. of C. has yet to confront:

Every high school principal and college counselor knows precisely the kind of student they think we want, and they endeavor conscientiously to urge these students to come to the University of Chicago. The stereotype varies a bit in different parts of the country, but it adds up pretty well into a certain kind of youngster. First of all, he must be odd and not accepted in games and social affairs by the other students. He must be bright, not necessarily in the conventional sense of high I.Q., but in some extravagant and unusual way. He must have read and pondered esoteric things far beyond his years. He draws a sharp breath when reference is made to Aristotle, St. Thomas, John Donne, and James Joyce. He wears glasses, does not dance, deplores sports, and has advanced ideas on labor and the theory of relativity.... The converse of this stereotype is also the case. As one college counselor phrased it to me, "It simply does not occur to any of our normal students to go to the University of Chicago." We have insisted that the purpose of a university is to train the mind, and the inference has been drawn that the rest of the person may go hang so far as we are concerned. We have deplored fun, snorted at anyone who wanted to develop himself physically, and sneered at anyone who conceived of a college education as having any vocational or practical significance.... The stereotype which emerges is thought to be the only person who would be interested in or profit by our system of education." [U. of C. President Lawrence Kimpton, address to the faculty, 1954; quoted by Dean of the College John W. Boyer, Chicago Occasional Papers on Higher Education XXII, 2012, pp. 82-83.]

I can't say whether there was any larger a proportion of queers at the U. of Chicago than anywhere else -- I arrived on the Quads as a 17-year-old sexual naif who was completely oblivious to such matters even though there were already some out gay students in the College. I wouldn't have a concept of bisexuality, much less the sexual self-awareness to be able to recognize it in myself, until a year or two after I left Chicago. But looking back on my time in Hyde Park, it seems clear that a (mostly) deeply closeted, unspoken, and unexamined gay male sexuality was a significant component of the "cloistered" culture of the campus.

The U. of Chicago was and is a center for for the study of psychology and human development, among many other things. So there were probably U. of C. scholars who had heard of "Asperger's Syndrome" as early as the late 1970s, when I was there. But the term wouldn't enter general public discourse until decades later. And to this day, I have never heard anyone describe the student body of the College of the U. of C. as characterized by an inordinate percentage -- even compared to other "elite" and "hothouse" academic institutions -- of people "on the spectrum".

Today, however, now that we have the words and concepts to describe it, that should go without saying -- or should be said, and its significance and implications discussed openly and in some depth. It would be impossible to address the character of the typical student at the College of the U. of Chicago without reference to Asperger's.

(For what it's worth, the graduate and professional schools at the U. of C. were more "normal", or at least more in line with the norms of graduate and professional schools.)

I'm quoted in the Maroon as saying, among other things about my time at the College of the U. of C. in 1979-1980, "It was the first time I met smart and interesting people who were weird in the ways that I was weird, and who didn't make fun of me or think that I was terribly weird. And that was all wonderful."

As I told Ms. Edgar in the course of a long conversation (her story has been in the works for months, and reflects an immense amount of research), I wasn't just talking about finding myself for the first time in a community of Aspy's, or at least where Aspy's were common enough not to be a focus of special attention. That was, however, certainly a part of what it meant for me to find a home, in some sort of personal as well as in an intellectual sense, at the College of U. of C.

Link | Posted by Edward, 30 October 2016, 01:26 ( 1:26 AM) | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Tom Hayden, 11 December 1939 - 23 October 2016

Testimony of Thomas Emmett Hayden
Before the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence
23 October 1968

First of all, I should say very frankly that I don't come here with any expectation of a dialogue or understanding being achieved or with any belief in the legitimacy of the commission. Frankly, I think that it is very difficult for a person in my position to believe that you are actually prepared to study the real causes of violence as I see them in the country. There are no young people on the commission, no student activists, no draft resisters, no outspoken critics of the draft....

My only purpose is for coming here, therefore, are twofold, and they have to do with simply stating for the official record, first, that the sources of violence in this country are to be found in the war on Vietnam which you should be studying rather than in student protest movements, draft resistance, or the antiwar movement. And in a deeper sense violence in this country stems from a system which is sick, which is racist, which apparently has a boundless ambition to police the world, which is therefore losing authority and legitimacy in the eyes of millions of young people in this country and many millions more of people around the world, a system which relies more and more on the use of force, and the use of police to maintain itself rather than relying on consent or persuasion or traditional techniques of democracy.

The second statement that I would like to make is that the antiwar movement, the draft resistance movement is not a nihilistic handful of true believers, that our position is composed of actual human beings with actual needs that we believe are denied, it illegally and him morally denied. This solution to the war cannot be pacified with trick solutions, nor will it be eliminated through repression, because the opposition is composed of people who do not want to die or live in constant disorder, but who will not become "good Germans" quietly accepting an insane, immoral order of things. There is nothing sinister incomprehensible about the opposition, about young people, about students in this country, except to their enemies who think their own authority is beyond question and challenge....

Look at the situation of a student facing this problem. He has no vote. His voice does not count in the democratic manner. Attempts to work within the system have been frustrated, and a student is not able to avoid the war for two basic reasons in particular, two basic ways in which the war is brought to him: first, the draft, and second, the transformation of the university into an instrument of American foreign policy, including policy in Vietnam. For many students, the draft represents the most tangible form of oppression that they have experienced in their sheltered, middle-class lives

Originally, the protest against the draft came from the protest against the war. But the more that students understood the draft, the more they realized that they had to objections to it. First of all, through the draft the American state interferes with what the students consider to be an inalienable right, the right of the individual to decide what he will die for. Second, the draft, we see, is an instrument of social management and manipulation. In the words of Selective Service documents, official documents called A Memorandum on Channeling, the draft and the deferment system are used to keep students working in acceptable careers, acceptable to the makers of the war and to the government of the United States. It is not primarily or exclusively used to supply manpower for wars but is used as a device to regulate the ambitions of American youth according to a national interest defined by men for whom the youth can only fight but not vote. If you want that memorandum, I will submit it to you. You cannot get it any longer from the Selective Service because it caused great embarrassment but was obtained from them and widely reprinted on campuses....

Specifically on the question of the draft, I think the most important thing that could be done will be to make it possible for individuals to have wider than religious objections to wars, that is, make conscientious objection a political category rather than a military one, which would have an underlying premise that the army apparently would not like which is that the individual should choose what war he wants to fight.

I think that that is a most important right, to decide when you will pick up a gun and in whose country you will fight for what cause That is with reference to the problem of how young people face the war, that is the point at which young people are forced into civil disobedience or disruption most often, because they cannot accept a draft system by which the either Dodge and feel morally uncomfortable by dodging; or in which they have to lie and say they are a Quaker or invent false descriptions of their religious beliefs; or they can be a conscientious objector in the Army patching up people in the war that they don't want anybody to fight; or they can go into the war itself.

This is, I think, a most sacred right that everybody recognized, Daniel Webster and other people certainly recognized, long before -- well, right down through our history until the Cold War and the establishment of the idea that you have to have a permanent military. With the idea that there would be many wars in many places came the idea that people would not understand those wars, there might be objection to them, and in order to fight them you would have to have a permanent manpower pool that you could draw upon and regiment. That interferes severely with the whole democratic process, I think....

Leon Higginbotham (Vice-Chair of the Commission and Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit): Mr. Hayden, I want to ask you one question because I am concerned as to whether there are any rather elementary mechanisms from which we as a country can move from protest a solution. Part of your thesis, as I understood it, was that youth is a feeling of impotence, and they cannot graft their sentiments into any type of significant action. Do you believe that reducing the voting age to 18 would be a help in decreasing the frustration of the impotence?

Hayden: Yes, it would, if at the same time we had someone to vote for.

Higginbotham: But you see no relationship between having the right to vote and having someone to vote for?

Hayden: No, not necessarily. You would increase frustrations of young people if they had a vote which had no effective means in a two-party system.

[Excerpted in "Mayday/Hard Times", 17-24 March 1969, and in book form in Rebellion and Repression (Meridian Books/World Publishing Co., Cleveland, 1969).]

Link | Posted by Edward, 25 October 2016, 09:28 ( 9:28 AM) | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Writers shouldn't have to choose between privacy and copyright

Writers shouldn't have to choose between protecting our privacy and protecting our copyrights. But existing and proposed laws in the US and other countries are forcing us to do so. They should be, and can be, changed to remove this unnecessary and unfair dilemma for working writers.

That's the message of comments I helped draft, as part of my volunteer work as a member of the National Writers Union (NWU), which were filed this week with the U.S. Copyright Office by the NWU and the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA):

Writers are being forced to choose between revealing their identities and personal information or risking the loss of some of their rights. We should not be forced to choose between protecting our privacy and protecting our copyrights....

We urge Congress and the Copyright Office to address the causes of this dilemma, and repeal the registration requirements for enforcement of copyright and remedies for infringement (17 U.S. Code §411 and § 412). And, in light of the privacy issues highlighted by this NPRM [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking], we encourage the Copyright Office to reconsider and withdraw its proposal for legislation to categorize rights to any work as "orphaned" and fair game for unauthorized and uncompensated copying if an author has not chosen to make public sufficient information that they may be contacted by would-be licensees, or deliberately or inadvertently does not respond to licensing requests, regardless of how actively they are exploiting the rights to their work.

Privacy and copyright are fundamental rights. Writers should not have to choose between them.

I work on privacy issues with the Identity Project and as a consumer advocate for travellers, and I work on copyright issues as a member of the NWU (and, through the NWU, of the International Federation of Journalists and the International Authors Forum).

But despite fundamental similarities and -- in at least some legal systems -- common conceptual roots of privacy rights and writers' rights, the relationships between these rights, and their effects on each other, have often been overlooked in policy-making.

British novelist, blogger, and activist for writers' rights Nick Harkaway remarked on this in his book, The Blind Giant: Being Human in a Digital World:

I don't think it's a coincidence that privacy and intellectual property are major battlegrounds in the shaping of our digital environment, but I do find it odd that so many privacy campaigners are also uncomfortable with the idea of IP [Intellectual Property].... To me, the issues are closely related. Privacy and IP share to my eye a common conceptual basis, and the problems that they both face in the age of digital reproduction are problems in common....

Intellectual property, more than ever, is a line drawn around information, which asserts that despite having been set loose in the world -- and having inevitably, been created out of an individual's relationship with the world -- that information retains some connection with its author that allows that person some control over how it is replicated and used.

In other words, the claim that lies beneath the notion of of intellectual property is similar or identical to the one that underpins notions of privacy. It seems to me that the two are inseparable, because they are fundamentally aspects of the same issue.

This commonality is even more evident, as Harkaway notes, if writers' rights are conceptualized as human rights rather than property rights. In Continental European law, authors' rights ("droit de l'auteur") are human rights of the creator, some of which (such as moral rights) are inalienable. Copyright in the USA and UK is a property right that can be freely traded, completely separated from its creator, and held by a non-human corporation. The USA has ratified the Berne Convention copyright treaty, which recognizes writers' moral rights, but Congress has done nothing to enact those rights into US copyright law for written works.

This isn't the first time the NWU and allied writers' organization have addressed the dilemma for writers created by laws that force us to choose between protecting our privacy and our copyrights. Nor is it the first time that we too have noted the anomaly, noted by Harkaway in the passage quoted above, of support for some of these laws and policies from groups and individuals who are normally protective of privacy.

In comments to the U.S. Copyright Office last year, for example, the NWU and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) had this to say about the threat to anonymous writing posed by laws that already do (in the UK and the European Union) or would (as proposed in the USA) define essentially all anonymously self-published work as "orphaned" from birth, because its creators haven't chosen to identify themselves publicly:

Continue reading "Writers shouldn't have to choose between privacy and copyright"
Link | Posted by Edward, 19 October 2016, 06:30 ( 6:30 AM) | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

National reading of "It Can't Happen Here" on Monday, Oct. 24th

Over the weekend I got to see a stellar new staging of Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here at the Berkeley Repertory Theater.

The 1935 novel is prescient even in its details. I've re-read it several times in the last year, and I've been recommending it to everyone I know.

It's rightly known as an anti-fascist work, but it's also a paean to the power of the pen. The protagonist is the social democratic editor of a small-town newspaper in northern Vermont, and his role in the resistance to American fascism is as a propagandist.

Lewis himself was commissioned by the Federal Theatre to adapt his novel for the stage. In 1936, as one of the Federal Theatre's experiments in using the arts to promote popular national discourse, it was produced simultaneously in more than 20 cities throughout the country.

(The Federal Theatre was a WPA arts project directed by my great-aunt, Hallie Flanagan Davis. It was eventually defunded and shut down by Congress for allegedly purveying Communist propaganda, after Aunt Hallie was unrepentant in her testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee.)

I was disappointed when I learned that the Berkeley Rep has written a new staging of the novel, rather than using Lewis' own script. But the new adaptation is both excellent and faithful to the book -- it wasn't necessary to change even the details to make it timely and relevant.

In the spirit of the original Federal Theatre national production, the Berkeley Rep has instigated a national staged reading of the new version of "It Can't Happen Here" this coming Monday, October 24, 2016. Dozens of professional and amateur theater companies, libraries, etc. are participating.

I encourage any of you who are able to attend one of these readings. (And if you are in the Bay Area, try to make it to the Berkeley Rep, in spite of the price. Trust me, this show is worth it, if you can afford it.) It's a chance to celebrate engaged journalism, and to be reminded that while fascism has its American face, so does resistance to fascism.

Link | Posted by Edward, 18 October 2016, 11:23 (11:23 AM) | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Amtrak improves long-distance bicycle transport

Over the last month, Amtrak has quietly rolled out a major upgrade to its services for transporting bicycles on long-distance trains: Amtrak has added bike racks or hooks for unboxed bikes in the baggage cars of almost all of its long-distance trains.

Kudos to Amtrak, whose headquarters isn't always so highly regarded for marketing savvy or customer responsiveness. (Amtrak's front-line staff, especially onboard, on the other hand, are known among regular riders for going the extra mile to accommodate passengers.)

This changes makes Amtrak a better choice than ever for bicycle transport across the USA compared to planes, buses, DHL, Fedex, or the U.S. Post Office. But the latest change has gotten remarkably little fanfare from either Amtrak or cycle-touring organizations such as the Adventure Cycling Association, which is why I'm bothering to call it out here.

Intermodal transport of bikes on trains is long established as a way for cyclists to get to and from their rides, whether using a bicycle for the first and/or last miles of their daily commute, putting their bike on a train to get out of the city for a Sunday ride in the country, or getting to the start or home from the finish of a cross-country tour.

As members of the hospitality network for touring bicyclists, we get many cycle-touring guests in our home in San Francisco who are riding up or down the West Coast or across the USA. San Francisco is often the start or end of their ride, and we often find ourselves talking with our visitors about options for getting themselves and their bikes across the country or back up or down the coast. Our answer to, "What's the best way to do this?" is usually, "If you have the time, Amtrak."

There are racks for two or three bikes on many city buses in the US, and a tired cyclists can sometimes use a local bus as a "sag wagon" if it has a bike rack. But bikes on buses don't scale if there are a lot of cyclists travelling together. You can slide your bike on its side into the luggage compartment under a long-distance bus, but it's vulnerable to damage en route unless you dismantle, pad, and box it.

With some exceptions, bringing a bike with you as airline luggage is expensive (US$150 per bike, one way, is typical for a boxed bike checked as airline luggage on a flight within the USA) and requires you to partially dismantle and box it. Sending a bike as unaccompanied air cargo is even more expensive, and also requires boxing it. Within the USA, shipping a boxed bike by UPS or Fedex Ground is cheaper than sending or bringing it with you by air, but still not cheap and still requires boxing to meet package size limits.

Some of these fees and restrictions can be avoided by getting a bike with S&S couplers so that the frame can be split in half. You can even get couplers retrofitted in an existing steel frame, for a price. But breaking down a bike with couplers to fit into airline luggage is still a non-trivial task that requires finding or cutting down a box to exactly the right size.

A train (or in most cases a ferry) has room for many more bikes onboard than a bus or plane. If there's a dedicated baggage car, it's relatively easy to fit it with racks, hooks, and/or straps to secure numerous unboxed bikes. And for both historical and business reasons, passenger railroads around the world generally charge much less to transport bikes than do most airlines or other cargo shipping companies.

What does this mean if you want to bring your bike with you, or ship it unaccompanied, on an Amtrak train?

Continue reading "Amtrak improves long-distance bicycle transport"
Link | Posted by Edward, 13 October 2016, 07:41 ( 7:41 AM) | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Computer "outage" disrupts Delta flights

An outage of some computer systems or components on Monday led to cancellations and delays of Delta Air Lines flights.

Once planes and crews are out of position, it takes time to get them back to where they are needed. New crews and/or planes may have to be sent out if the original planes and/or crews have exceeded their safety time limits for periodic equipment maintenance or crew rest. Only today, Wednesday, are Delta flights getting back on schedule and back to their normal capacity.

Last month Southwest Airlines flights were similarly cancelled, delayed, and disrupted for several days after a computer system component failed.

What caused the problems with Delta flights? The "outage" that affected Delta operations has been attributed to an equipment failure that cut power to some components of Delta's computer system. But neither the nature of the problem nor the specific component(s) that were affected have been clearly identified. My guess is that the equipment that lost power was part of the interface between some components of Delta's in-house IT systems including its departure control system (DCS) and flight management system, and the Worldspan computerized reservation system (CRS).

Was this a result of problems with Delta's reservation system? No. Other airlines that use Worldspan had no problems. One thing we know for certain is that this was a problem internal to Delta's own systems (or those of some other Delta service provider) or related to the Delta-Worldspan interface, not to any core or shared Worldspan functionality.

Where would you point the finger of blame? I don't yet have enough information to be sure, but the underlying cause is likely to turn out to be a combination of (1) over-reliance on technology (see more on that below) and (2) the inability of airlines like Delta to make a clear, long-term commitment either to outsource their operational IT systems or keep them in-house. The interface between in-house and outsourced IT systems that failed only existed because Delta chose take some parts of its systems in-house while outsourcing others. Prior to that, Delta's IT systems had been integrated, first wholly in-house and then wholly outsourced to a single company, Worldspan.

Delta has an unnecessarily complicated relationship with Worldspan. Worldspan was originally developed in-house by Delta, but was spun off and eventually acquired by Travelport, a holding company which also bought the competing Galileo/Amadeus CRS. Throughout that time, Delta's systems continued to be operated by essentially the same team of people in the same facilities. But recently, Delta has taken some IT functionality in-house, while continuing to outsource database hosting to Worldspan. Given the changes back and forth between Travelport's Worldspan division and Delta over operational and legal responsibility for elements of the airline's IT systems, it's scarcely surprising that the interfaces grafted on to connect but separate Worldspan and Delta (a digital corpus callosum between the halves of its logical brain) are among the least well-tested and most vulnerable components of the complex and formerly unified system.

Was this a result of airlines using "old-fashioned" computer equipment? No. There's no basis to claims like the headline today in the Wall Street Journal, Delta Meltdown Reflects Problems With Aging Technology. One of the biggest advantages of "mature" software and systems is that they have had time for bugs to manifest themselves and be corrected. Legacy systems are often kept around and preferred because of their reliability. The major CRSs are no exception, and one of the many reasons most airlines outsource reservation hosting and other functions is the extreme reliability of the CRSs.

Can modern airlines operate flight even when their computers are down? Yes. Delta could, and perhaps should, take lessons from the best practices of more reliable airlines like Ethiopian (long one of the world's standouts for operational efficiency and reliability). As I've written about before, I travelled without incident with e-tickets on Ethiopian flights and connections that operated on time with a full passenger load even when the power had been out for almost two days at the place where we started our trip. Not having manual backups such as printed passenger manifests and paper tickets is a deliberate cost-cutting (and reliability-cutting) choice by airlines like Delta. This week's events show why I think it's the wrong choice, even if it saves a couple of dollars a ticket. And whatever the reasons for Delta's choice to take that risk, the airline has to take responsibility to passengers for its consequences. Delta gambled that its computers would never go down, and it lost. Now it needs to pay up.

Do government "security" or passenger permission requirements prohibit airlines for operating flights when their computers are down? No. Since 2006 airlines have, by default, been required to get permission from the US Department of Homeland Security before issuing each boarding pass. But while some of the permission procedures are secret, the Consolidated User Guide issued to airlines makes clear that there are multiple levels of fallback "outage" procedures (beginning on page 89 of the user guide) that allow airlines to operate flights and board passengers even when their computer systems are down -- as long as the airline still have access (e.g. through printed backups of passenger manifests, or through paper tickets) to lists of names of ticketed passengers by flight. (An unredacted version of the extremely interesting DHS Consolidated User Guide was apparently leaked and posted online without fanfare in 2010 by, but I only recently noticed it.)

Why couldn't Delta "endorse" my ticket to American Airlines, if Delta's flights were cancelled and American had empty seats? (1) Because Delta couldn't retrieve your electronic ticket in order to endorse it to another airline if Delta's reservation system was down (the ability to have paper tickets endorsed to another airline is one of their major advantages over e-tickets), and (2) because Delta and American ended their decades-old interline ticket acceptance agreement in 2015. As I predicted in 2005 when the process was just beginning, airlines have been steadily cutting back on interline agreements, retaining only those within "alliances" and deliberately making themselves unable to interoperate with members of other "alliances" or assist their passengers in case of disruptions to flight operations. Airlines lie and claim that alliances allow them to offer more flights to more places, but the termination of interline agreements between members of rival alliances is clearly detrimental to passengers' interests. This week's events were the first major demonstration of the consequences.

What are my rights if I had tickets for a flight that was cancelled? Delta wants to keep your money, of course. So it is urging passengers to apply the "credits" for cancelled flights to future Delta flights. But you are legally entitled to more: According to Delta's own domestic and international conditions of carriage, you have the absolute right to a full and unconditional refund which you can then use to buy new tickets on Delta, new tickets on a competing airlines, or anything else. You are entitled to a refund in the same form of payment you used to pay for your tickets (cash, credit, or debit card), and not just a "refund" in airline scrip limited to use with Delta and within a limited time:

In the event of flight cancellation, diversion, delays of greater than 90 minutes, or delays that will cause a passenger to miss connections, Delta will (at passenger's request) cancel the remaining ticket and refund the unused portion of the ticket and unused ancillary fees in the original form of payment.

Note that to get a refund from Delta, you have to request it. It might take some time, so make your request, in writing, as soon as you are sure you want a refund rather than just airline credit ("scrip"). Keep copies of documentation of your ticket, flight cancellation, and refund claim. If the airline refuses to give you a full refund, you can sue them for it in small claims court.

The travel consumer advocacy group Travelers United as well as some members of Congress are already calling on Delta to better inform ticket holders about their right to a full cash or credit card refund, and not to pressure them into accepting restricted credits in airline scrip usable only on Delta and only for a limited time.

For more advice, see my FAQ About Changes to Flights and Tickets and my previous commentary on CRS and other airline IT outages:

Link | Posted by Edward, 10 August 2016, 12:49 (12:49 PM) | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, 25 July 2016

Burning the U.S. flag

Edward Hasbrouck at the U.S. Capitol, gagged with a U.S. flag

[On the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, gagged with a U.S. flag, at a press conference with Joey Johnson and others on 21 June 1990, as Congress was voting on whether to amend the U.S. Constitution to outlaw the "desecration" of the U.S. flag.]

Nobody could seriously argue that Joey Johnson's right to burn a flag outside the Republican National Convention is anything other than well-established law.

But instead of respecting that right, a Cleveland prosecutor and police are trying to frame Joey Johnson for something he didn't do, in order to punish him for what he and others did in exercising their right to express themselves by burning a U.S. flag -- just as a Dallas prosecutor and police did in 1984.

Here's what happened last week, some of the back story I was involved in that you won't learn if you only read news reports and/or court records, and why Joey Johnson deserves our support now just as much as he did more than three decades ago.

Continue reading "Burning the U.S. flag"
Link | Posted by Edward, 25 July 2016, 18:40 ( 6:40 PM) | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, 7 July 2016

House votes down proposal to defund the Selective Service System

We are your childen. Support draft resistance.

This week, during consideration of the annual funding bill for the Selective Service System and miscellaneous other agencies, the U.S. House of Representatives:

  1. Yesterday, voted down (294-128) a proposed amendment to completely defund the Selective Service System; and then

  2. Today, approved (217-203)an amendment that forbids the use of any of the money appropriated for the Selective Service System for Federal Fiscal Year 2017 "to change Selective Service System registration requirements" (such as to require women as well as men to register for the draft).

The effect of these two votes is likely to be limited. But in their current context, they are not a good sign for opponents of conscription and war, and confirm the need for continued, expanded, and more visible resistance to draft registration.

Continue reading "House votes down proposal to defund the Selective Service System"
Link | Posted by Edward, 7 July 2016, 21:50 ( 9:50 PM) | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

The no-fly list and the no-gun list

watchlist/blacklist flow chart
[The proposed No-Fly, No Buy law currently under debate in Congress would add the Terrorist Screening Database as a third source (yellow arrow at center right of flow chart) of entries in the "No-Gun" list, in addition to Federal and state felony convictions and certain misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence. Everything else on this diagram already exists and would remain the same. Click the image above for a larger version of the flow chart, or click here for a full-page PDF with a key to the acronyms.]

Last month, some (Democratic Party) members of Congress held a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives to try to pressure their (Republican Party) colleagues to agree to allow a vote on what was described as a "gun control" bill. The sit-in ended after the House adjourned for its 4th of July holiday without bringing the bill to a vote. But the bill remains pending as Congress reconvenes.

I'm a pacifist. I support gun control. Having guns around doesn't make me feel safer, no matter who has them. I've never owned or used a firearm. I don't want, and don't knowingly allow, any guns in my home, for any reason. Speaking only for myself, and not for any of the organizations with which I'm associated, I would vote to repeal the Second Amendment rather than trying to play games with its language about "a well-regulated militia".

I'm a firm believer in nonviolent direct action and a supporter of extra-legal tactics like sit-ins as a useful and often essential way to bring about political change, including revolutionary change, with or without the cooperation of the government.

So why do I think that that the Congressional sit-in was at best misguided, and that this is a dangerous bill that would set an even more dangerous precedent, regardless of the good intentions of some of its supporters?

The bill at issue in the House, like the similar bill still pending in the Senate that I wrote about last year in the Identity Project blog, has been described as "No-Fly, No-Buy". It would prohibit anyone on the U.S. no-fly list, and possibly also anyone listed in the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) as a "suspected" terrorist, terrorist supporter, or terrorist sympathizer, from buying a firearm.

To put it another way, these bills would add everyone on the no-fly list or in the government's "suspected terrorist" file to the no-gun list.

This is a people-control measure, not a gun-control measure. It is one more step away from punishment of criminal acts and toward pre-crime policing and imposition of sanctions based on predictions and blacklists. And it would do nothing to improve the "no-gun list" that we already have.

Yes, the US already has a "no-gun list". I'm on it, for all the wrong reasons, along with 25 million or more other people.

Continue reading "The no-fly list and the no-gun list"
Link | Posted by Edward, 6 July 2016, 07:11 ( 7:11 AM) | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)