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NOBODY ASKED ME, BUT ...
By Joe Brancatelli
March 10, 2011 -- Nobody asked me, but …

If you're trying to get a handle on what's going on in the Arab World, start with A Peace to End All Peace, a brilliant 1989 tome by David Fromkin. It's less than $14 from Amazon.com and it explains the underpinnings of a lot of what's gone wrong. History does matter, folks.

Speaking of which, anybody here ever hear of the Italo-Turkish War over Libya in 1911-1912? I know I hadn't. I don't know if the Wikipedia entry is totally accurate, but I'm always stunned to hear the Italians ever won a war. And, surprise, history matters…

Nobody asked me, but…

The murderous attacks at baggage claim at a Moscow airport in January and outside a terminal at Frankfurt Airport last week had one thing in common: The murderers went after "soft" areas at the airport, places outside security. In other words, public spaces where people gather before a security checkpoint or after a flight arrives and travelers have passed out of a "sterile" area.

It means terrorists are learning. If it's too difficult to target an aircraft, go after people and passengers before or after they deal with security. And the TSA's response to this new approach to terror from the bad guys? Crickets. In fact, they seem intent on lengthening the lines in the public areas before the security checkpoint.

Nobody asked me, but…

I know it's just me, but every time I watch the loon Gaddafi babbling during an interview or a speech, my mind wanders and I think I'm listening to some airline chief executives that I've interviewed over the years.

That inevitably leads me back to the classic 2003 comment by Gordon Bethune, who was then running Continental Airlines. "If you have to be in San Francisco for a presentation tomorrow, you are going. If I say it's $1,200 or it's $800, you are still going." Well, you know, I checked. The walk-up fare between New York/Kennedy and San Francisco tomorrow is $526. It's $446 on Monday and just $129 next Friday. Just sayin'…

Nobody asked me, but…

Capital One earned the credit card business of a clutch of international business travelers because its cards didn't impose any foreign-exchange fees on overseas charges. Then Chase and Citibank began rolling out cards without forex fees. Capital One's response? It launched a promotion today that'll give you 110,000 of its miles (worth about $1,100 toward travel purchases) if you take a Venture Card.

There's nothing wrong with the promo--the $1,100 will get you some decent free travel and Capital One's rules are pretty simple--but the gamers are already out there. The one billion mile cap means that just 10,000 folks will probably get the deal. And do you want to be in the business of churning your cards every time someone wants your business?

Nobody asked me, but…

Here are some complaints I don't get from travelers anymore: the hotel's phone rates are insane; the wake-up call was late; I couldn't find a pay phone at the airport; and I couldn't get reception on my short-wave radio.

Here are some new complaints I get all the time now: the hotel WiFi doesn't work; my mobile phone's reception sucks in the hotel room; I couldn't find an electrical outlet at the airport; and the airline's gate agent didn't honor my alliance's elite-status card.

Nobody asked me, but…

Nice freebie: Expat Shield, which you can download here. It gives you a British IP address so you can use the BBC iPlayer to watch BBC programming and news. It's intrusive on your operating system, so make sure you dump it from your system tray when you're finished using it.

And I'll say it again: Mediahopper, now called wwiTV, is absolutely indispensable given the speed of world news these days.

Nobody asked me, but…

One more time: You hated airline food and snacks when they gave it to us free, so why whine now that they don't give it away?

That said, you never have to listen to an airline when it claims fares are lower than ever. So much has been stripped from the fare--checked baggage, meals, seat selection, boarding privileges, free ticket changes, standby procedures, etc.--that it's virtually impossible to compare what we used to pay to what we're charged now.

Nobody asked me, but…

Porter Airlines, the Canadian start-up, has launched its first television commercials. They feature an animated raccoon called Mr. Porter. Make your own jokes, then start thinking about what animated animal would represent, oh, say, US Airways.

The Weather Channel shows movies now? 'Cause, you know, I want to watch March of the Penguins again when I am tuning in to see if a blizzard is going to bury my flight tomorrow…

Nobody asked me, but…

I was going to say, "Baseball season start yet?" Then I saw a TV commercial the other day and it was promoting a sale on a baseball bat for $199.95. Baseball bats cost $200?

Don't forget that Daylight Saving Time starts at 2 a.m. Sunday morning in most of the United States and Canada. Which gives me a chance to point you in the direction of StandardTime.Com. It wants to "stop the madness." It even has a petition you can sign if you're against Daylight Saving Time. C'mon, admit it, you love people who shake their fists at a clock…

AS I WAS SAYING…
I know you folks love the "Nobody Asked Me, But…" format, my ham-fisted attempt to honor the great sportswriter Jimmy Cannon. I most recently did it here, when we talked about Guido Sarducci and El Al's proposal for an "alliance of the miserables." We also did it here, when we talked about the demise of Howard Johnson's, the AMC Pacer, travel-industry mergers and overreaching that makes airlines look good. You can find more than a dozen more editions of "Nobody Asked Me, But…" in the archives. By the way, this is what the media business now calls "repurposing of content." It's sure why I went to journalism school … to be content that I repurpose….

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ABOUT JOE BRANCATELLI Joe Brancatelli is a publication consultant, which means that he helps media companies start, fix and reposition newspapers, magazines and Web sites. He's also the former executive editor of Frequent Flyer and has been a consultant to or columnist for more business-travel and leisure-travel publishing operations than he can remember. He started his career as a business journalist and created JoeSentMe in the dark days after 9/11 while he was stranded in a hotel room in San Francisco. He lives on the Hudson River in the tourist town of Cold Spring.

THE FINE PRINT All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property and responsibility of Joe Brancatelli. This material may not be reproduced in any form without his express written permission.

This column is Copyright © 2011 by Joe Brancatelli. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright © 2011 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.