NATCA’s Air Traffic Controllers; Still Flying High After 25 Years

Take a moment to click on and view the video below.  You will find it absolutely astounding:

World Air Traffic 24 hrs in 1 1/2 minutes

If you look closely, you will see thousands of individual moving dots, each one representing an individual airplane identified by air traffic control radar.  You will also see that as the earth rotates, certain areas are in daylight while others are in nighttime.  During daylight the air traffic increases exponentially, and though Europe has high air traffic density during its daylight hours, no other place on Earth has more air traffic than over the daytime USA.

Now consider this:  The video is of a single 24 hour period on Earth.  Tens of thousand of flights are clearly visible, and yet not one of them crashed into another.  Not one!

How can that possibly be with the incredible density of traffic seen on this video?

The answer is air traffic controllers, whose jobs it is to guide these airplanes safely and efficiently through the available airspace.  Air traffic controllers do this day in and day out, often in extreme conditions where it seems there are just too many airplanes present for the airspace available to put them in.  Nevertheless, day after day air traffic controllers juggle all of these flights, many of which have hundreds of passengers sitting on them, mixing large airplanes with small ones, fast airplanes with slower ones and crisscrossing airplanes heading right at each other at a blistering closing speed of 1000 miles per hour!

They do this hour after hour and day after day.  Yet, not one of those flights gets lost, or forgotten, or crushed against the body of another airplane in flight.  How is this possible?

It’s because air traffic controllers are highly intelligent, highly trained, highly motivated and highly dedicated to quality service in the performance of their jobs.  They make hundreds to thousands of instantaneous decisions in 3 dimensional space every day, each of which could result in a midair collision or crash if it is the wrong decision.

If you think that kind of pressure is stressful, you’re absolutely correct.  Air traffic controllers have a higher incidence of high blood pressure, divorce, and other issues than the average population.  They can suffer from sleep disorders because of their work schedules which must accommodate a 24/7/365 demand for services.  They sometimes cannot reach retirement age because of disqualifying medical conditions causes by the constant high stress of their jobs over time.

In the USA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employs most air traffic controllers.  Because of the negative effects of the high stress of the job, federal law was changed in the mid 1970’s to allow air traffic controllers to retire at age 50 with 20 years of service.  Federal law also mandated that controllers cannot be hired past their 31st birthdays, nor are they permitted to work air traffic past their 56th birthdays.

These federal law changes were achieved through the efforts of the air traffic controllers’ federal union of the time, the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO).  However, in a struggle with the FAA in August 1981, PATCO conducted a strike, which is prohibited for federal employees under US law.  11,500 striking controllers were fired, and PATCO subsequently disbanded as a result.

Fast forward to July 19, 1987:  Though controllers had been working without representation for almost 6 years since the PATCO strike, a new air traffic controllers union, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), was certified as the exclusive representative for the nations air traffic controllers after winning an election on June 11, 1987.  Controllers had not had representation during the almost 6 years since the PATCO strike.  It was a monumental achievement, especially considering that it was achieved while then-USA president Ronald Reagan, who fired the striking PATCO controllers in 1981, was still in office.

This week NATCA is meeting in Denver, Colorado for its 13th biannual convention, and concurrently is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its federal certification.  Over 1300 air traffic controllers from all over the USA are present for the convention and the anniversary celebration.

During those 25 years, NATCA accomplished things that were once thought impossible:  development of collaborative partnership processes with the FAA for solving problem, more effective equipment design because of controller involvement, the first-ever successful non-postal salary negotiation within government, controller involvement in all aspects of air traffic control oversight, etc..

Unfortunately, NATCA was also forced to endure the anti-labor efforts of the GW Bush administration, which immorally stripped NATCA of decent working conditions in 2006 in an effort to demoralize the federal workforce.  However, NATCA was able to reverse this situation in 2009, and won back reasonable working conditions and collaboration under the Obama administration.

Next time you take a flight, or a family member flies, or you look up and see an airplane flying overhead, remember the unseen and unsung air traffic controllers that keep those airplanes (and loved ones) safe….and also remember the union that represents and protects those controllers (and through them, all of the flying public)….NATCA.

Happy 25th anniversary, NATCA!   Enjoy your well-deserved celebration!!

(Ed. noteFor those interested in historical trivia, although NATCA was certified on June 19, 1987, it was actually born on December 18, 1985 at the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association (MEBA) headquarters in Washington DC.

(On that day, newly-hired-by-MEBA ex-controller John Thornton met with a working controller who had previously sparred with then-FAA administrator Don Engen on the ABC Nightline Program on November 13, 1985. As a result of the show, Engen invited that controller to a meeting with him.  After that meeting the controller met with Thornton.  Late on the afternoon of December 18, 1985, the two of them settled on the name “NATCA” and adopted the now famous NATCA logo which the controller had previously designed.)

The (Lunatic) Westboro Baptist Church Joins the War Against Women!

One axiom of all wars is that each side is defined by those that join them.  For example, in World War 2, the side known as the “axis” consisted of Japan, Germany and Italy.  Germany and Italy were fascist dictatorships, and Japan was a fascist-like, deity-based empire ruled primarily by a brutal imperialistic military.  All three were brutal in nature, with their dictators and/or military ruling with an iron fist.  As the war progressed they became even more brutal and lunatic-based.

They were initially joined by the Soviet Union (USSR).  But that country was communist, which in purists terms was the extreme opposition of a fascist government.  Ultimately, Germany attacked invaded the USSR and it joined the allies against the axis.

The 21st century conservatives’ war on women is somewhat the same.  What started as a singular religious fundamentalist agenda among evangelical and other fundamentalists Christians in the USA was joined by the social conservatives of the republican party which encouraged  the GOP candidates for president to go further and further to the right.  In fact, they seem to be attempting to “one-up” each other regarding who is more to the extreme right.  Social issues such as actively opposing abortion, universal health care, contraception, and sex between unmarried people, particularly in ways that especially target women, is now part of their political mantra.

GOP presidential candidate Rich Santorum was the early champion of this effort.  He attempted to stamp religion upon everything, to the point that he stated publicly that the concept of separation of church and state expressed by Jon F. Kennedy, one of the most beloved US presidents in history, made him want to vomit.  He made it clear that he is against contraception, abortion, sex education, sex outside of marriage, and even sex in marriage if it’s for other than strictly procreation.

He was enjoined by the champion of hate radio, Rush Limbaugh, who publicly and repeatedly called a 3rd-year female law student at Georgetown University a “slut” and a “prostitute” because she testified before a democratic congressional committee in favor of health insurance companies having to provide free contraception to women.  Considering what many people think of Rush, one can see the connection between him and Santorum.

Enter the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) which might be Christianity’s answer to the Taliban.  the WBC is a lunatic-fringe fundamentalist cult claiming to believe in and follow the bible literally, much as the Taliban claims to follow the Quran literally.

The church is internationally known for its members’ protesting at the funerals of American soldiers who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  They march and protest with picket signs that say “God hates fags”, and “God loves dead American soldiers”.  The WBC claims that God is angry at America for its tolerance of gays and lesbians (among others), and American soldiers are killed as punishment against America.  One thus might conclude that these folks are lunatic cultists.

Considering this, no one should have been surprised when the WBC announced they had commissioned two ads which they hoped to sell to the ad-starved Rush Limbaugh radio show, which saw a major exodus of advertisers following his calling that college student a slut and a prostitute.

In the first ad, WBC uses a parody of the Jeff Foxworthy “You Might be a be a Red Neck” comedy routine, but substitutes “You might be a slut”, presumably referring to women.  In the ad, a man says:

“If you wear a dress that is strapless with a brassiere that isn’t, you might be a slut…..If you are an anchor bimbo for Fox News and your name is Kelly or Julie, you might be a slut…..If you think it’s OK to have sex with men outside the marriage bed, you might be a slut……..And if you fornicate your brains out and you think the government ought to pay to kill your baby, well, sounds like a slut to me — and God hates sluts.”

You can watch the ad for yourself here:  You might be a slut…

Interestingly, the company that broadcasts Rush’s show, Premier Networks,  has since rejected the ads.  It seems that no lunatic wants anything to do with anyone who can out-lunatic him.  That might also be the reason that we haven’t heard Rick Santorum get very involved with defending Rush during the college student incident.  Rick absolutely doesn’t want to hang with someone who has out-lunatic-ed him, either.

In the meantime, the Westboro baptist Church is eating up all of this of free publicity.  They know they can reach more of the fornicating heathen masses and save them with their messages of why God will love them if they just learn to hate gays, lesbians, Muslims, Jews, Black, Latinos, Asians, Indians, immigrants, aliens, contraception, sex outside of marriage, sex inside of marriage (except to make babies), and anything foreign.

And the war continues….    🙂

GOP FEM-WARS: The Women Strike Back!

We, the PEOPLE!! has written several articles about how the religious right has hijacked the republican party, which has subsequently declared war on women and their reproductive rights.  As the evidence (and Rick Santorum’s having eight kids) demonstrates, the religious right does not believe that women should have the right to an abortion, contraception, or to have sex (even with just themselves!) before marriage.  Even after marriage, they believe in having sex SOLELY to procreate, i.e., for factory-production purposes.

Sadly and frighteningly, these folks would impose their whacked-out bible-soaked beliefs on everyone everywhere if they could.   From the view up here in the cheap seats, that makes them very similar to the Taliban and other extremist groups whose greatest happiness is derived from imposing their warped dogma on others.

Having written about this, however, has not done sufficient justice to how some women are courageously fighting back.  Take, for instance, the following examples:

First, there is Catherine Crier, author of the best-selling non-fiction book Patriot Acts: What Americans Must Do to Save the Republic”, as well as several others.

On the March 9th, 2012 episode of the very popular HBO Friday night political series “Real Time with Bill Maher“, Crier  suggested that women at the grass-roots level everywhere could fight back very effectively against these outrageous religiously-based attempts to limit their reproductive rights, although she warned that it could involve short-term sacrifice on the women’s part.

Her strategy?   Simple!   Agree completely with these GOP rules about sex, just as they’re being pushed by the GOP candidates and their evangelical supporters!

In other words, women will stop all sexual activity except for the express purpose of conceiving a child.  Thus, they won’t need contraception, and they’ll never require an abortion.

And since they won’t want children, they will no longer have sex.

So how long do you think any of their male sex partners who support the GOP are going to put up with THAT?????

Next is the democratic state senator from Ohio, Nina Turner, who has decided to use the legislative process to fight back.  She introduced a bill in the Ohio state senate that would limit a man’s access to Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, or any other erectile dysfunction medication.  According to her proposed legislation before the Ohio state senate, a man would not be able to receive a prescription for any of the popular erectile dysfunction drugs (which enable him to have sex)  until and unless he goes to a second doctor to receive a second opinion regarding his need for this medication.

According to the senator, she is only trying to look out for the health and well-being of men by ensuring that they receive information on the possible side effects of these medications, known as PDE-5 inhibitors.

The legislation also includes the requirement that a man seeking any of these medications would have to a doctor certify in wrting that his “symptoms” are not psychological in nature.  That way, men could be guided to make the right decision for their bodies, much as male legislators have passed bills requiring women to have ultrasounds and/or hear the heartbeats of their fetuses before they can have an abortion, thus “guiding” them to make the right decision for their bodies.

Similar bills have been introduced in the state legislatures of at least other states so far:  Virginia, Oklahoma, Idaho, and Pennsylvania.

It seems only fair that women state legislators begin to protect the reproductive health of men, just as male legislators, who make up the extreme and vast majority of all legislators in every state of the USA as well as the US congress have been making laws governing the reproductive health of women for many years!   🙂

And finally, there is Dr. Marlene Talbott-Green, whom, as a Professional Counselor, has advocated that the state should monitor for signs of masturbation by men.   She states, in a comment on the aforementioned article about Ohio state senator Nina Turner, that:  ” I think that’s even in the Bible – men should not spill their seed on the ground or anywhere outside a woman’s body… ”

She goes on to say:  “These people would then be taken into custody – for their own protection, of course – and face a hearing, and perhaps fines or jail-time, the way doctors will be criminalized for providing an abortion to a woman.

All of these women are professionals, and women everywhere should thank them and others like them that are actively advocating for women’s rights.

And yet…defying all logic, thousands of women yesterday voted for Rich Santorum in the Alabama and Mississippi primaries!

Wow…..Talk about voting against one’s own self-interests….but then, the ultra-religious, the mis-informed poor, and the lazy/stupid do it all the time.

And that’s why the GOP survives!


Is Rush’s Anti-Women Tirades Killing GOP?

Within the past seven days, two distinct but interrelated events took place that the GOP REALLY needs to examine, if they REALLY hope to win the presidential election in November:

The first is Rush Limbaugh‘s tirade against Susan Fluke, the third-year law student at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, who testified last week before a democratic congressional committee examining health care, religious freedom and contraception.  Fluke had been previously rejected by the full committee’s chairwoman, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA, because she was “not a member of clergy”.  Instead  Issa convened a panel of five men to discuss women‘s reproductive rights vis-a-vis their own religious views.  Nice….

So Congressional minority leader Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, convened her own committee and invited  Fluke to testify.  During the testimony, Fluke advocated for inclusion of contraceptive services in health insurance as part of the large issue of protecting women’s health.  Fluke used the example of one of her fellow students having developed ovarian cysts, which could have been easily (and cheaply) treated with birth control pills.  But because Georgetown University is a Jesuit-sponsored school, their health insurance plan did not cover any contraceptives.  The student eventually had to have her ovary removed.

Of course, the issue of religious freedom cuts both ways.  People who believe that contraception is just plain wrong or sinful should not be forced to use it.  But on the other hand, people who support contraception use should be free to access it and use it as they see fit.

No one should be able to impose or enforce their views on others. And one would be hard-pressed to find an example of a liberal forcing anti-contraception conservatives to use contraceptives against their will (on themselves).  But a religious organization imposing its anti-contraception beliefs on non-believers by denying contraceptive services to non-believers is do just that:  violating the personal religious freedom of the non-believers.

That concept is absolutely denied by conservatives.  But they also have other ulterior motives for their fierce opposition to contraceptive services’ inclusion in health insurance:  they want to throw as many obstacles in the way of Obama’s health care reform as possible, to whittle away at it.

Enter Rushie.  On his syndicated radio show, he lambasted Fluke, calling her a slut and a prostitute, for wanting to “be paid for having sex”.  He admonished her for having so much sex that she couldn’t afford the birth control herself  (what????) and said that if women wanted to be paid (in contraception supplies) for having sex, they should be forced to post the videos of their sex sessions online for all to see.  You can research the timeline of all of this here.

Rushie initially was loving the limelight on this until several liberal and women’s right organization began putting pressure on Rush’s commercial sponsors. as one after the other sponsor began dropping his show, Rush realized (or was convinced by the math) that he better stop the bloodletting, or he might have a show with no place to air it.  So on Saturday he apologized publicly to Fluke.  After all, with no show, Rush makes no money.  It’s all about the money, after all.

While this was unfolding, the remaining GOP presidential candidates were competing for votes in yesterday’s “Super Tuesday”‘s 10 state primaries and caucuses.  Before last night, each candidate made some very minor statement of opposition to Rush’s use of the insult words “slut” and “prostitute” and his demand for sex videos of women using health insurance-provided contraception to be posted online.  Romney said it wasn’t the language he would have used.  Santorum, the religious fundamentalist among the group, simply said that Rush was “being absurd”.  But it all belies the real motivators in the GOP race, and if anything can destroy the GOP’s image for this election cycle, it’s the real forces behind the rhetoric, which is NOT about women’s rights (at least directly) or even universal health coverage.

It’s about evangelicalism….and money.  Plain and simple.

The money is represented by Super-PACs, and the evangelicalism is represented by fundamentalist religious fanatics who want their Christianity stamped on the daily lives of all Americans via religious control of government, much like the Taliban wants their own brand of fundamentalist Islam imposed on everyone in Afghanistan (and elsewhere).

This has forced Romney to move further right than anyone thought possible.  And the evangelical religious right has helped the ultra-extreme-religious Santorum to come close to winning (though can’t close the deal)  Michigan last week and Ohio last night.  Santorum has the born-again vote, but Romney has the Super-Pac money.

And the more mainstream voters realize the influence of these two factors on the GOP race, the more they’re saying  “WTF!!!!”  And that’s cool with We, the PEOPLE!!

So Rush…keep it up, dude!!!