So today is a big day for Kevin Mitchell and his Business Travel Coalition. He's sending his letter to President Bush today asking the free world's erstwhile leader to call special session of Congress, starting August 9, for the sole purpose of debating our energy alternatives and enacting a coherent national policy. The plea is not exactly without precedent and Mitchell has spoken out many times before, but what IS different this time around is that Mitchell is not the only one asking people to sign the letter. He's joined by Bob Crandall. Yep, that Bob Crandall, the former chairman and chef executive of American Airlines. Crandall's recent call for modest reregulation of the airlines is not mentioned.
Airplanes have problems every day. They lose parts, they lose pressure, they get into strange mechanical situations where smoke or fumes are seen or smelled. It happened the other day to Continental, which had a 737 flying from Houston to Washington. Somewhere east of Houston, the plane's pressurization dropped, the pilots decided to go down, and Flight 458 made an unscheduled or emergency landing in New Orleans, about 300 miles east of Houston. No big deal? Well, no. BIG DEAL.
The plane had seven Members of Congress on aboard, members of the House who had chosen the 1:05 pm departure from Houston's Bush Intercontinental because it gets to Washington Reagan at 5-ish - just in time for Members to get to the floor of the House for the 6:30 pm votes that are often scheduled for the first working day of the working week. (No comments on the Congressional workload, please.)
TSA - the folks who make you take off your shoes at the airport - has had a troubled history, what with passenger resentment, critics, Congress, the press and so on. for the last three years though, it's been relatively quiet. That may be because the bad guys are resting, it may be because TFP - the flying public- has grown cooperative or indifferent. Or it may be good management. We really don't know, although we'll vote for better management, if not for good management.
That better management, in the form of TSA administrator Kip Hawley, came to the Aero Club the other day to give has farewell address. being a smooth guy and a Harvard guy, he was very smooth, and we'll quote a little bit of his patter here.
"In contemplation of the transition of administrations, I would like to share with you a list that I have prepared for whoever may end up at TSA in the next administration. It's my version of The Top Ten Things Not To Do as TSA Administrator. And I speak from experience.
Number ten: Don't take calls from friends in Washington about returning to government.
Number nine: Don't use your real name. Or if you do, reserve the URL, whatever your name is, like KipHawleyIsAnIdiot.com, reserve that URL.
Number eight: Do not stick around for the "is mascara a liquid or a gel?" debate.
Number seven: Don't ask for clarification when somebody says, "Huh, you look different in person."
And number six: Don't ever speak before checking the mute button.
Number five: Don't read the TSA blog just before going to bed.
And number four, this one is particularly important: After meeting at DHS Headquarters, do not rush out of the meeting, hop into the front seat of the Secretary's Suburban, and surprise the Secret Service agent on the Secretary's detail.
Number three: Never carry your wife's baggie through the checkpoint. It's a long conversation, but...
Former Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta is despairing. "Right now, partisan jockeying for position and Senate cloture" or the filibuster procedure make any legislation such as energy policy reform difficult, said Mineta. "I just don't see too much being done" on energy reform. Speaking at an energy and air-service summit, Mineta said, "if not now, when? My fear is we're going to dribble this opportunity away until after (the presidential election in) November and then try to pick it up in January."
But that, said Mineta, a Democrat who led the House Transportation Committee and then served in a Republican administration, will depend on the nomination of cabinet secretaries under the next president. That could easily take until June or July of 2009, says Mineta, now the vice chairman of Hill & Knowlton and still one of Washington's 'go-to' guys on airline issues.
He spoke as the airlines launched a lobbying campaign in conjunction with unions, school bus and truck drivers, service station operators and the like. SOS NOW is the campaign's moniker, for Stop Oil Speculation Now. The group is pushing for some sort of bill in the next 30 days, a goal that UAL chief executive Glenn Tilton says is feasible. ATA chief Jim May says that the campaign, which would increase regulation of futures traders, has generated a million messages in the last three days alone.