Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Common Thread

Either the internet has allowed me to to be selective about my news or controllers are getting better at making the news. I’m not really sure which but I am seeing a common thread in the news and it isn’t very pretty. It started off with Lou Dobbs last night.

I’ve been able to watch Lou on a semi-regular basis since I retired. It’s something most people don’t think about. Controllers aren’t able to watch anything on a regular basis. Most of them work a different shift everyday. But anyway, I agree with much of what Lou Dobbs says although he seems to “bang the drum” a little loudly these days. He seems to be outraged on a regular basis, but when you stop and think about it, there is a lot to be outraged about.

Last night, he ran three stories that struck a chord with me. First, the FDA has known for a long time about the potential for contamination in peanut butter and spinach. A federal agency that knew about a problem but didn’t address it. Gee, where have I heard that before ? Then there was the story about food supplements (specifically vitamin C) that aren’t regulated at all. Did you know China has all but cornered the market on vitamin C ? Anyway, a lack of regulation shouldn’t surprise anyone these days. Next, Lou jumped to one of his favorite subjects: illegal immigration.

This story focused on the fact that the rank-and-file officers of the Border Patrol have lost confidence in their leader; David Aguilar. That of course opened the door for Lou’s other favorite horse to flog, the prosecution of the two Border Patrol agents (Ramos and Compean) that wounded the drug dealer, by U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton. Johnny Sutton worked for Alberto Gonzales and (you guessed it) then-Governor George W. Bush, back in Texas. This merry-go-round won’t stop so let me just jump off.

I suspect the story angle about the low morale at the Border Patrol came from the “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” survey that just came out. Regardless, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (DHS) ranked 195th out of the 222 government organizations listed. The FAA came in at 204th. I could say a few choice words about that ranking but my buddy John Carr has already taken care of that over at The Main Bang. Allow me to move along.

The next story that came across the internet was an entry from Stephen Barr at The Washington Post. FAA Has Some Unhappy Controllers. He can say that again.

”Only 9.3 percent of the air traffic employees said they trusted FAA management and just 8 percent said they believe that agency executives were honest in how they share information.”

I’m sorry, were we talking about honesty ? How does calling imposed work rules a “contract” translate into “honesty” ? Honestly, these people lie so often you don’t even notice it half the time. Mr. Barr starts his missive with this little tidbit:

"Trust is a big deal, as we all know.

That's why the Federal Aviation Administration is conducting focus groups with employees across the country to find out why they have a problem with management."

We need a focus group to figure out what FAA management should have learned in the first grade ? Controllers know a little about trust. If you want people to trust you, try telling The Truth .

If you’d like to hear more on the subject, run over to The FAA Follies and read “Stack of lies”. Once you’ve read that, make sure you keep scrolling down and read the next story, “Quality individuals.” I don’t think a focus group is going to help the FAA with this problem.

Moving on. The last news I got yesterday was a little more upbeat. Ed Schultz brought his radio program to Chapel Hill, NC to cover a town hall meeting with Presidential candidate John Edwards. Turns out there was a controller in Ed’s audience and his comment made the show. You can listen to it here. I really liked the controller’s “Air Force One” comment but I liked Ed Shcultz’s response better.

I’m not much on listening to talk radio (even progressive talk radio) but Ed sees the same common thread that I do. Business good. Government bad. Cheap labor. Just plain anti-labor. This Administration doesn’t want government to work. In fact, they want to destroy it.

They are destroying the agency that helps keep the food supply safe. They don’t want to increase any regulation, even when public health is at stake. They are destroying the agency that helps guard our borders. They fail to enforce the immigration laws in order to allow the price of labor to drop. But even that isn’t low enough to satisfy the greed. Outsource what we can to China.

George W. Bush didn’t weave this common thread throughout the tapestry of our lives by himself. He had help. A lot of help.

This is what this mutated form of conservatism -- unbalanced and unchecked by Congress or the Judiciary -- has done to our country. On my night stand, there still sits a copy of Paul Krugman’s book "The Great Unraveling: Losing Our Way in the New Century”. Losing our way. Indeed.

Don Brown
April 25, 2007

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