Like some other businesses (Dell, for example) Delta Airlines has had enough complaints from people who can’t understand the reservations agents Delta hired overseas. They have made the decision to halt outsourcing their reservations centers to India.
Chief Executive Richard Anderson told employees in a recorded message late Thursday night that the world’s biggest airline operator is in the process of bringing all customer calls back in-house in the U.S.
Customer calls were no longer forwarded to India as of the first quarter of this year, Anderson said. Foreign call centers remain in Jamaica and South Africa, though Anderson indicated that staffing at those locations likely will be reduced in the future as the global financial crisis cuts call volume.
“The customer acceptance of call centers in foreign countries is low, and our customers are not shy about letting us have that feedback,” Anderson said.
I’m sure the pressure about outsourcing jobs that could quit easily be handled by people in the hinterlands of North Dakota, Oklahoma, or northern Ohio didn’t hurt in making that decision easier, either. I must say, I approve. When the idea is to offer customer service over the phone, having people answering those phone who speak the same language as the majority of your customers is a good business decision.
Now what could birthdays, questions asked of twins, and network security have in common? Funny you should ask and even funnier what brought this up.
Some of you know, but most don’t, that I’m an identical twin. We live a long way off from each other, now, and we’re even further apart in terms of political thought. The fact that I’m a twin doesn’t come up in casual conversation much so it’s not something I tend to bring up. So, why now? Well, years ago when we were boys we’d find ourselves in situations all the time where some adult friend or acquaintance of our parents would be doing the “oh, aren’t they so cute, looking exactly alike?” thing and they’d ask how old we were followed up by when our birthday was. One or the other of us would reply with the actual date (in the summer months somewhere). This person would then look to the other one of us and ask the question, “Oh, and when’s yours?”
Now, it’s certainly possible for twins to be born on different days but it’s a very rare occurrence in the already rare situation of identical twins. We’d stammer a bit, trying to get the info across to this adult that they were asking a dumb question without actually saying they were doing so. This person would suddenly get it and then laugh at their mistake expecting us to find it hilarious as well. Well, after 2 x 10some-Godawful-number times we’d heard this, it began to get unfunny. So the day came when the selected dope asked the 2nd one of us what our birthday was and – I’m not sure which one of us started it – the 2nd twin answered “April 12th.” I have no idea why we picked April 12th. It was just some random date sufficiently different from our birthday that the math would have shown Mom in labor for over a fiscal quarter. Some of the people we’d say that to would get it almost immediately and, usually, laugh. Others walked away never having gotten the joke.
Years later, we’d trade off years, each of us calling the other on April 12th and wish them a happy birthday. The next year, the other one would do it. It’s just one of those things that goes from joke to inside joke to inside custom over the years.
When the day came that I was signing up for Facebook, it demanded to know my birthday. Well, this is where network security comes in. Folks, you don’t put your social security number up on a public bulletin board. You don’t put your mother’s maiden name up there. Why? Because that’s data that financial companies and various other organizations use to positively identify you and it’s data that ID thieves go to great lengths to get. Another item of that data set is your birthday. Working the industry I do, I know all too well what can be done with that info in the wrong hands. And that’s why, when I was presented with the “gimmee-your-birthday-or-you-don’t-get-a-Facebook-account” question, I gave it the fake date I and my brother had used for years. I never gave it a second thought.
Until this week, that is, when a number of friends and well-wishers started sending me happy birthdays. Messages that, for reasons of travel, I didn’t see until last night. So, to those of you who reached out to me and sent best wishes, I thank you and I’m truly honored and humbled you thought of me. That it’s not the real date does not make the wishes or my thanks any less real. I just wanted everyone to know.
A very Happy Easter to you all! By the time this fires, I’ll be at Mass celebrating the Risen Lord. Here’s hoping your celebrations are happy, too.
The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.
Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”
The federal government is enjoined from abridging the freedom of speech or of the press by virtue of the explicit restriction against Congress making any law granting any part of the federal government the power to do so. That restriction is housed in the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the highest law of our land. What that means, essentially, is that the government has no authority to halt the reporting of a public event (unless they’re somehow asserting a national security issue and, therefore, are classifying the event) nor can they confiscate a reporter’s materials used to record that event. And yet, according to Mark Segraves at WTOP News in DC, that’s exactly what happened a few nights ago:
What makes this story truly unbelievable – and very scary – is the fact that the mastermind of this attack is a federal employee, Gloria Hairston, an internal communications specialist with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. She was aided by at least two other employees of the V.A. and four armed security guards.
I call the incident an “attack” because it was just that. An attack on the First Amendment, an attack on veterans and an attack on the public’s right to know how their government is treating wounded vets.
Schultz is a reporter with Public Radio station WAMU. Last Tuesday night, he was covering a public event at the V.A. Hospital in Washington, D.C. While interviewing one of the veterans about the poor treatment he was receiving at the hands of the V.A., Ms. Hairston demanded that Schultz stop recording the interview and hand over his recording equipment.
“She said I wouldn’t be allowed to leave,” Schultz tells WTOP.
At first he refused. But after being surrounded by armed police officers who stood between him and the exit, he looked for a compromise.
“I became worried that I was going to get arrested,” Schultz says.
I am amazed that Schultz’s editor advised him to hand over the recorder’s flash memory card. The VA has refused to answer questions about this situation nor have they returned the memory card. (And even if they did, who would believe they had not tampered with it?)
Even more astounding was what happened when one of the many vets who overheard what was going on came out into the hall to try to give Schultz their phone number. The VA official apparently claimed he wasn’t allowed to do that and promised to “get ugly” if they didn’t do as she ordered.
Read Segraves’ whole article for the details. This is one that deserves a full and public investigation to say nothing of an indictment against Hairston if this situation turns out to be even remotely as reported. Schultz’s comment at the end is spot on: With actions like these, what is the VA trying to hide? Why do they fear what interview was going to reveal?
Update: Well, apparently the glare of the spotlights the VA’s actions attracted have managed to clear whatever haze was keeping the VA from thinking clearly. In a letter from the VA, spokeswoman Katie Roberts has said they will return the gear:
In a written statement to The Associated Press, VA spokeswoman Katie Roberts said the department “regrets this incident occurred” and as a result would hand back the flash drive that it took from WAMU reporter David Schultz at the VA Medical Center in Washington. WAMU is a National Public Radio affiliate in the capital.
“After reviewing all the facts surrounding the incident of April 7th and actions since, VA has arranged the return of the flash drive to WAMU,” Roberts said. “We make every effort to protect the privacy of our patients and to ensure that they are able to make informed decisions about what information they release or discuss with the public while in a VA facility.”
“The Department of Veterans Affairs regrets this incident occurred as we appreciate the interest of the press in covering veterans’ issues,” she added.
I would certainly hope that someone has explained all of that to Ms. Hairston, the woman who clearly didn’t think the VA appreciated the interest of the press at all.
Thanks to a post by Warner Todd Huston over at RedState I was alerted to a fascinating tale of – at the very least – horribly unethical tactics undertaken by a Democrat-aligned lobbying firm in Boston. Matthew Nadler works for the Halifax-Plympton Reporter and Enterprise out of Halifax, MA. He takes his paper’s position in the market as a small-community newspaper seriously and tries to make sure the local residents have a paper that deals with their local issues. Which is why what happened a few weeks ago has obviously rankled him. Having received a letter in the mail from a local resident who was writing to advocate on a national issue dealing with Medicare, Mr. Nadler sensed something amiss:
I have to tell you, there was something fishy about the letter to begin with. For starters, the letter didn’t ask people to contact Senators Kennedy or Kerry, or Congressmen Frank or Delahunt. I’m pretty sure that a local person would have included that. When you’ve been in this business long enough, you sort of get a sense of when a letter isn’t quite what it appears.
But, it was attributed to a local resident. It had his name and phone number. So I called. I spoke with him. The gentlemen informed me that he had no idea what I was talking about. I apologized for wasting his time and was happy for the lesson in why we always verify a letter, no matter how innocuous the subject matter.
That apparently wasn’t the end of it, however. Last week he got a phone call from a guy claiming to be calling on behalf of the man who, it turned out, hadn’t written the letter. When Mr. Nadler expounded a bit to the unknown caller on what had happened and what he generally thought about people who would impersonate a local resident to get their politics advanced, the caller became less than willing to identify himself. Mr. Nadler was just getting started:
Little did he know that, using modern communications technology available in most homes, I had his phone number, and using the magic of the Internet, I found out where he was calling from.
The number belonged to a company called the Dewey Square Group, which turns out to be a lobbying firm based in Boston. The staff list is full of some of the heavy hitters of Democratic politics in Massachusetts, people like Michael Whouley, who’s so important that Dennis Leary played him in a TV movie.
Now, their Web site doesn’t list their clients, but it doesn’t take a genius, or a newspaper editor, to figure out they’ve been hired by someone with an interest in keeping Medicare Advantage in business. That’s fine. A lobbying firm needs clients. Maybe Medicare Advantage is worth keeping. I really don’t know.
What bugs me is that they seem to think I’m stupid. Or maybe lazy. Or both. And they think there’s at least one senior citizen in town that meets those criteria as well.
One has to wonder how many times Dewey Square Group has done this. I mean if they were caught out this time, how many times did letters they wrote under the cover of some unsuspecting resident actually get in print because some other opinion section editor wasn’t as disciplined as Mr. Nadler obviously is?
One also has to wonder whether this kind of activity is actually illegal. When I read the story I was reminded of the episodes of “sock-puppetry” that ran around the blogosphere during the last election cycle. The difference here is that when some idiot blogger decides to create alternate personas to jack up his comment count and misrepresent how many people are agreeing with him he’s actually creating that persona, he’s not stealing someone’s name to do it. When I read this story to my wife, her response was that she thought this represented identity theft. It’s clearly impersonation. So, is it illegal? I think it certainly should be.
In any case, I think anyone looking to contract with a lobbying firm should be very careful about doing so with Dewey Square Group. If they’re using letters written by common joes on a subject as a metric of their effectiveness in bringing the issue to the public eye, then they’re putting their fingers on the scale to skew the reading. You might not be getting your money’s worth, here.
Watching the General Assembly today was certainly instructive. The phrase has been attributed to a number of people but whoever said it was right: Laws, as with sausage, should not be watched in the making.
In my previous post I did a sort-of live blogging of event up to around 6:15 PM or so. Feel free to read that post but I’m going to recap the pertinent stuff here. As you know if you’ve read this blog I was an advocate for several bills passing through the Assembly and, when Governor Kaine vetoed them, I was also an advocate for the override of those vetoes. Well, here’s how it shook out today:
|House (Y/N)||Senate (Y/N)||House (Y/N)||Senate (Y/N)|
|HB1851||Military > 1 gun/mo.||73/26||26/14||Yes||No|
|SB877||Retired LEO CCW in restaurant||76/22||30/10||Yes||Yes|
|SB1035||CCW in restaurant||n/a||24/16||n/a||No|
|SB1528||CCW safety course online||73/23||28/12||Yes||Yes|
You’ll note that the Senate actually had a majority vote to override the veto in each case. The ones that failed did so because they needed 2/3rds of the Senate to vote for the override, which means they needed 27 Yes votes to get the job done. Cynic that I am, I am convinced the Democratic majority in the Senate contrived to allow a number of their own to vote yes to the override so they could go home and say they voted “yes” but there just wasn’t enough votes to complete the override. Be as that may, this is what it is. Of the 5 bills I was hoping to see an override on, 2 of them managed to get through. Of the others, the House voted to override but the Senate did not.
The big bill, so far as I was concerned, was SB1035 which sought to remove the inconsistency of being a trustworthy enough citizen to carry a concealed weapon in the street and the sidewalk outside a restaurant but not enough so as to carry it past the threshold of that restaurant. Irrational fears and hyped-up hypotheticals is all that the opponents of this bill have had for over 2 years, now. This law has been passed twice by the Commonwealth’s elected representatives by quite large margins only to be dismissed by a handful of people. Truly incredible.
The good news is that this will be the last time Kaine gets to use Virginia’s legislative process to pad his national resume. He’s out in November, period. Those of us who have tried to work with him and his party must now put our efforts into electing Bob McDonnell to the governorship and as many Delegates and Senators as we can who offer the trust and respect to Virginia’s citizens that we’ve clearly been asking for.
In case any of my nearby neighbors were wondering, Delegate Dave Poisson (House 32nd District) and Senator Mark Herring (Senate 33rd District) voted like this:
Note that Poisson didn’t vote on SB1035 because the Senate failed to override making the House vote moot. I would like to point out to my fellow Loudouners that the votes of these 2 gentlemen make it clear they trust a retired cop slamming down brews at the local pub with a concealed weapon far more than they trust you stone-cold sober. Keep that in mind.
I’d also like to hear them explain themselves regarding HB1851 where they think our military personnel and Guardsmen aren’t worth the consideration of being able to buy more than 1 handgun a month. With the deployments going on a soldier with orders to ship out might very well get caught having to decide between buying a sidearm for his own use overseas or getting one for his wife to keep at home to defend themselves here. I don’t understand how they can claim to trust and honor our military personnel – and depend on them to fulfill their missions, I might add – and not allow them this latitude. I hope members of our military and Guard will keep that in mind, as well.
Time to turn our eyes toward the future, my friends, and work to show Virginians everywhere that we’ve got the ideas and solutions to a better way and the people who know how to get them implemented.
The Shroud of Turin, long revered as the burial wrap placed on the body of the crucified Christ, was in Constantinople in 1204 when the city was sacked during the 4th Crusade. The Shroud disappeared for over 100 years, resurfacing in the mid-1300′s. A Vatican researcher has announced that the Shroud was apparently taken and hidden by the Knights Templar in an effort to protect it from other groups who, they believed, would do it harm.
Barbara Frale, a researcher in the Vatican Secret Archives, said the Shroud had disappeared in the sack of Constantinople in 1204 during the Fourth Crusade, and did not surface again until the middle of the fourteenth century. Writing in L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, Dr Frale said its fate in those years had always puzzled historians.
However her study of the trial of the Knights Templar had brought to light a document in which Arnaut Sabbatier, a young Frenchman who entered the order in 1287, testified that as part of his initiation he was taken to “a secret place to which only the brothers of the Temple had access”. There he was shown “a long linen cloth on which was impressed the figure of a man” and instructed to venerate the image by kissing its feet three times.
Dr Frale said that among other alleged offences such as sodomy, the Knights Templar had been accused of worshipping idols, in particular a “bearded figure”. In reality however the object they had secretly venerated was the Shroud.
They had rescued it to ensure that it did not fall into the hands of heretical groups such as the Cathars, who claimed that Christ did not have a true human body, only the appearance of a man, and could therefore not have died on the Cross and been resurrected. She said her discovery vindicated a theory first put forward by the British historian Ian Wilson in 1978.
The timing of articles like this one is something I always find fascinating. It seems these “big, new discoveries” about Jesus always seem to appear at Easter and Christmas and the various news and cable channels all run their special reports, usually to give air to various challenges to the teachings of the Church.
That said, I think it’s plausible that what Dr. Frale has concluded is true. The Templars were in the right place and the right time period to have done this and, accusations of later crimes aside, it would have fit with their stated mission objectives. Certainly interesting from a historical perspective.
When I was a little kid my mother was, like many of the day, a stay-at-home Mom. That, of course, meant she was a soap opera fan and I can still see in my memory the opening sequence of such shows as “Days of Our Lives”, “As The World Turns”, and “Guiding Light”. As I grew older and she kept up with these shows I was amazed at their longevity. They were the TV shows that never died.
Well, apparently not.
Kevin Bacon got his start there. So did Calista Flockhart, Allison Janney, and Hayden Panettiere.
And now it is no longer.
CBS announced that “Guiding Light,” the longest running show in broadcast history – a program that predates television itself – has been canceled.
It’s (sic) last episode on CBS will air in September.
(Ignore that little grammar error. All those layers of editors must have been busy.) “Guiding Light” has run for 72 years in both TV and radio, literally longer than TV has been around as mentioned in the story. Personally, I’ve got nothing invested in this but it’s definitely a milestone.
Update: Just talked to my Mom and told her about this. Guess what? She still watches this show. Yeesh.
The stories were flying fast and furious a couple of days ago with the Pope reportedly saying AIDS in Africa cannot be resolved by distributing condoms. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.” So, let’s go to the transcript and see the actual comment, shall we?
I would say that this problem of AIDS cannot be overcome with advertising slogans. If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem. The solution can only come through a twofold commitment: firstly, the humanization of sexuality, in other words a spiritual and human renewal bringing a new way of behaving towards one another; and secondly, true friendship, above all with those who are suffering, a readiness – even through personal sacrifice – to be present with those who suffer. And these are the factors that help and bring visible progress.
Therefore, I would say that our double effort is to renew the human person internally, to give spiritual and human strength to a way of behaving that is just towards our own body and the other person’s body; and this capacity of suffering with those who suffer, to remain present in trying situations.