Saturday, March 12, 2011

If airlines were like Wegmans, people would like them a heckuva lot more

Shout out to America’s greatest supermarket, the Rochester, NY based Wegmans; Fortune magazine’s number three best company in America to work for and home of 1,505 employee ‘likes’ on facebook.  It’s amazing how many people I run into who have been in a Wegmans and still rave about it.
After watching Yael Hersonski’s documentary ‘A Film Unfinished’ about the Nazi cinematographers who were dispatched to the Warsaw Ghetto in 1942 to create a propaganda film depicting Jewish haves and have-nots in the ghetto, I feel the double sucker punch of what they perpetrated AND how they tried to show the world that they trying to help European Jews or at least build a false image in response to the rumors of death camps and persecutions.  Coupling this movie with the recently rediscovered 1970’s film the Voyage of the Damned, I am left with the audacity of the Nazis to film their despicable acts and then try to spin an alternative yarn.  Never again.
Thanks to Becky Quick from Fortune magazine for this one.  Which item has the most federal tax and fees: (a) A can of Budweiser, (b) a carton of Marlboro Reds, (c) a Smith and Wesson centennial revolver, or (d) or a roundtrip ticket between Chicago and St. Louis?  Shockingly it is (d), when a $151 airline ticket actually costs $185 to cover all of the taxes and fees; a 20% markup.  But don’t cry for the beleaguered airlines, they are already lining up the next set of customer fees: increased bag checking, priority boarding, weather-related trip insurance, and premier seating with additional reclining.  By the way, the airlines nabbed $22Billion in revenue in 2010 from fees over and above the base ticket price.  Oh so that’s what they mean when they say trickle down.
Seriously, this country has worse short term memory than Leonard from Memento.  I could feel the hairs on the back of my next stand up when I read about the latest Wall Street investment vehicle:  The Synthetic Junk Bond Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO).  That’s right the same jokers who brought the world the synthetic CDO based on Mortgage Backed Securities have moved on to bundling junk bonds into tranches for investment.  I am sure the ratings agencies are already warming up their AAA ratings stamps.  Fool me once….
Courtesy of the Department of Energy, to help avoid the confusing comments about our sources of energy to power the country’s electrical grid, I present the following numbers for 2010 (in ,000 Megawatt hours):
Total: 4,120,028
-      Coal: 1,850,750
-      Natural Gas: 981,815
-      Nuclear: 806,968
-      Hydroelectric Conventional: 257,052
-      Other Renewables: 168,144
-      Other: 55,300
Irrespective of what is going on in Japan, I believe we need to increase the portion of our electrical grid from nuclear and continue to develop renewable sources from solar and wind.  Did you notice that oil doesn’t show up?  That’s right we have little petroleum-based fuel supporting the electrical grid.  Now, to power our transportation grid, that’s another story.

Things I learned recently:
-        Waves on the open seas can travel 500 mph, the same as a jetliner.
-        The one nation in the world with a female majority in the national parliament?  Rwanda.  Amazing isn’t it? 
-        Daylight Saving Time was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin in 1784

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