Sunday, January 22, 2006

Peace In The Valley

Salut, Russ... Just wanted to keep you in the loop. We've got springlike weather in NH...All I have to say is global warming can be a GOOD thing. Yesterday, Bill and I went to see BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. It was a quiet, understated tour-de-force with some of the most amazing western scenery I have ever clapped eyes on. I was surprised to learn that Larry McMurtry collaborated on the screenplay and come to think of it, it makes sense. The grand sweep of the west, the quiet, fragile lives that stretch across it...Intense yearnings, paths not taken...Needless to say, tears were streaming down my face by the end of it. Bill had said, "I may cry"-- but I was the one who was bawling. Highly recommended but it moves at quiet pace. My fears regarding my relationship with Bill have seem to faded. I wrestled with my obssessive thoughts that have seemed to be trademark ever since I can remember. It seems that I was always over-obssessing about one thing or if I couldn't be happy unless I was WORRIED about something, you know? But as I evolve, I'm gradually getting over that. And my association with this loving, caring man is helping me to do that. Reading this book entitled THE END OF FAITH by Sam Harris. He posits that unquestioned religious faith is a dangerous thing for the modern world since each religion claims to be the "ONE TRUE WORD". So how can we respect others if we inherently think LESS of them because of their religious beliefs. Never mind the fact that the world...most notably the United States is headed up by a man that believes in The Rapture and Revelation. Harris also points out that many of the Bible's teachings...(including killing unbelievers) doesn't hold up in the modern world. So modern moderate Christians have decided to cherry-pick the areas that still hold meaning for them and live their lives by it. He makes no bones why he wrote the book. He thinks the human race is endangered by blind, unquestioning belief in these religions...that they should be questioned and held up to the same rational scrutiny as science or medicine...otherwise we're fucked. The job had me thoroughly demoralized this past week. I had one too many e-mails about how the Evil Empire is trying to screw us and I just obssessed on that for awhile as I sorted out the Ambassador's tax paperwork. But sanity and confidence resumed by the end of the day. All it took was a hearty "thank you" and the genuine grateful attitude to go with it. It's pretty telling when you have more job-satisfaction VOLUNTEERING than at your actual JOB. Anwyay, Russ...I hope you're well...Keep in touch, my good friend...GaP

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Reality Setting In

I just got in from a two day trip. It was a two-day Milwaukee layover that I picked up to make myself financially (more)solvent for the months of January. With the 21% paycut, this paycheck was lean and once the holiday pay honeymoon wears out, it's going to get a lot leaner. For the one or two that glance at this blog, you may have gathered that I work for an airline. One of many that are being raped by it's upper management for fun and profit. Morale is crumbling, apathy is a warm, comfortable blanket that I wrap around myself. Some passenger out there didn't appreciate my caustic demeanor? Tough. Enjoy your $100 ticket. We(the flight-attendant group) are powerless. The pilots have the clout out of all the work-groups. And they may have to use it to gum up the airline...Get the message out that we're not willing to get sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed and catastrophic reorganization. Every time I check my e-mail, I get forwards from my colleagues regarding the Union representing us and how negotiations are going. The news is demoralizing and demeaning. PAYCUT and OUTSOURCE are the two words that are on everyone's lips when they perpetuate the despair with their ear-to-the-boardroom-door theorizing... Maybe I can get hired at Newbury Comics. Pay would suck but at least I could work around music and comics all day...GaP

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Strong Words From THE MIAMI HERALD

Subject: From the Miami Herald Fear Destroys What bin Laden Could Not ROBERT STEINBACK One wonders if Osama bin Laden didn't win after all. He ruined the America that existed on 9/11. But he had help. If, back in 2001, anyone had told me that four years after bin Laden's attack our president would admit that he broke U.S. law against domestic spying and ignored the Constitution -- and then expect the American people to congratulate him for it -- I would have presumed the girders of our very Republic had crumbled. Had anyone said our president would invade a country and kill 30,000 of its people claiming a threat that never, in fact, existed, then admit he would have invaded even if he had known there was no threat -- and expect America to be pleased by this -- I would have thought our nation's sensibilities and honor had been eviscerated. If I had been informed that our nation's leaders would embrace torture as a legitimate tool of warfare, hold prisoners for years without charges and operate secret prisons overseas -- and call such procedures necessary for the nation's security -- I would have laughed at the folly of protecting human rights by destroying them. If someone had predicted the president's staff would out a CIA agent as revenge against a critic, defy a law against domestic propaganda by bankrolling supposedly independent journalists and commentators, and ridicule a 37-year Marine Corps veteran for questioning U.S. military policy -- and that the populace would be more interested in whether Angelina is about to make Brad a daddy -- I would have called the prediction an absurd fantasy. That's no America I know, I would have argued. We're too strong, and we've been through too much, to be led down such a twisted path. What is there to say now? All of these things have happened. And yet a large portion of this country appears more concerned that saying ''Happy Holidays'' could be a disguised attack on Christianity. I evidently have a lot poorer insight regarding America's character than I once believed, because I would have expected such actions to provoke -- speaking metaphorically now -- mobs with pitchforks and torches at the White House gate. I would have expected proud defiance of anyone who would suggest that a mere terrorist threat could send this country into spasms of despair and fright so profound that we'd follow a leader who considers the law a nuisance and perfidy a privilege. Never would I have expected this nation -- which emerged stronger from a civil war and a civil rights movement, won two world wars, endured the Depression, recovered from a disastrous campaign in Southeast Asia and still managed to lead the world in the principles of liberty -- would cower behind anyone just for promising to ``protect us.'' President Bush recently confirmed that he has authorized wiretaps against U.S. citizens on at least 30 occasions and said he'll continue doing it. His justification? He, as president -- or is that king? -- has a right to disregard any law, constitutional tenet or congressional mandate to protect the American people. Is that America's highest goal -- preventing another terrorist attack? Are there no principles of law and liberty more important than this? Who would have remembered Patrick Henry had he written, ``What's wrong with giving up a little liberty if it protects me from death?'' Bush would have us excuse his administration's excesses in deference to the ''war on terror'' -- a war, it should be pointed out, that can never end. Terrorism is a tactic, an eventuality, not an opposition army or rogue nation. If we caught every person guilty of a terrorist act, we still wouldn't know where tomorrow's first-time terrorist will strike. Fighting terrorism is a bit like fighting infection -- even when it's beaten, you must continue the fight or it will strike again. Are we agreeing, then, to give the king unfettered privilege to defy the law forever? It's time for every member of Congress to weigh in: Do they believe the president is above the law, or bound by it? Bush stokes our fears, implying that the only alternative to doing things his extralegal way is to sit by fitfully waiting for terrorists to harm us. We are neither weak nor helpless. A proud, confident republic can hunt down its enemies without trampling legitimate human and constitutional rights. Ultimately, our best defense against attack -- any attack, of any sort -- is holding fast and fearlessly to the ideals upon which this nation was built. Bush clearly doesn't understand or respect that. Do we? =

Real Christians

This is just over a year old and STILL relevant today...maybe even more so...GaP ____________________________________________________________________________ Subject: Dr. Robin Meyers' Speech during the 11/04 Peace Rally at OK University As some of you know, I am minister of Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City, an Open and Affirming, Peace and Justice church in northwest Oklahoma City, and professor of Rhetoric at Oklahoma City University. But you would most likely have encountered me on the pages of the Oklahoma Gazette, where I have been a columnist for six years, and hold the record for the most number of angry letters to the editor. Tonight, I join ranks of those who are angry, because I have watched as the faith I love has been taken over by fundamentalists who claim to speak for Jesus, but whose actions are anything but Christian. We've heard a lot lately about so-called "moral values" as having swung the election to President Bush. Well, I'm a great believer in moral values, but we need to have a discussion, all over this country, about exactly what constitutes a moral value -- I mean what are we talking about? Because we don't get to make them up as we go along, especially not if we are people of faith. We have an inherited tradition of what is right and wrong, and moral is as moral does. Let me give you just a few of the reasons why I take issue with those in power who claim moral values are on their side: When you start a war on false pretenses, and then act as if your deceptions are justified because you are doing God's will, and that your critics are either unpatriotic or lacking in faith, there are some of us who have given our lives to teaching and preaching the faith who believe that this is not only not moral, but immoral. When you live in a country that has established international rules for waging a just war, build the United Nations on your own soil to enforce them, and then arrogantly break the very rules you set down for the rest of the world, you are doing something immoral. When you claim that Jesus is the Lord of your life, and yet fail to acknowledge that your policies ignore his essential teaching, or turn them on their head (you know, Sermon on the Mount stuff like that we must never return violence for violence and that those who live by the sword will die by the sword), you are doing something immoral. When you act as if the lives of Iraqi civilians are not as important as the lives of American soldiers, and refuse to even count them, you are doing something immoral. When you find a way to avoid combat in Vietnam, and then question the patriotism of someone who volunteered to fight, and came home a hero, you are doing something immoral. When you ignore the fundamental teachings of the gospel, which says that the way the strong treat the weak is the ultimate ethical test, by giving tax breaks to the wealthiest among us so the strong will get stronger and the weak will get weaker, you are doing something immoral. When you wink at the torture of prisoners, and deprive so-called "enemy combatants" of the rules of the Geneva convention, which your own country helped to establish and insists that other countries follow, you are doing something immoral. When you claim that the world can be divided up into the good guys and the evil doers, slice up your own nation into those who are with you, or with the terrorists -- and then launch a war which enriches your own friends and seizes control of the oil to which we are addicted, instead of helping us to kick the habit, you are doing something immoral. When you fail to veto a single spending bill, but ask us to pay for a war with no exit strategy and no end in sight, creating an enormous deficit that hangs like a great millstone around the necks of our children, you are doing something immoral. When you cause most of the rest of the world to hate a country that was once the most loved country in the world, and act like it doesn't matter what others think of us, only what God thinks of you, you have done something immoral. When you use hatred of homosexuals as a wedge issue to turn out record numbers of evangelical voters, and use the Constitution as a tool of discrimination, you are doing something immoral. When you favor the death penalty, and yet claim to be a follower of Jesus, who said an eye for an eye was the old way, not the way of the kingdom, you are doing something immoral. When you dismantle countless environmental laws designed to protect the earth which is God's gift to us all, so that the corporations that bought you and paid for your favors will make higher profits while our children breathe dirty air and live in a toxic world, you have done something immoral. The earth belongs to the Lord, not Halliburton. When you claim that our God is bigger than their God, and that our killing is righteous, while theirs is evil, we have begun to resemble the enemy we claim to be fighting, and that is immoral. We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us. When you tell people that you intend to run and govern as a "compassionate conservative," using the word which is the essence of all religious faith-compassion, and then show no compassion for anyone who disagrees with you, and no patience with those who cry to you for help, you are doing something immoral. When you talk about Jesus constantly, who was a healer of the sick, but do nothing to make sure that anyone who is sick can go to see a doctor, even if she doesn't have a penny in her pocket, you are doing something immoral. When you put judges on the bench who are racist, and will set women back a hundred years, and when you surround yourself with preachers who say gays ought to be killed, you are doing something immoral. I'm tired of people thinking that because I'm a Christian, I must be a supporter of President Bush, or that because I favor civil rights and gay rights I must not be a person of faith. I'm tired of people saying that I can't support the troops but oppose the war. I heard that when I was your age--when the Vietnam war was raging. We knew that that war was wrong, and you know that this war is wrong--the only question is how many people are going to die before these make-believe Christians are removed from power? This country is bankrupt. The war is morally bankrupt. The claim of this administration to be Christian is bankrupt. And the only people who can turn things around are people like you--young people who are just beginning to wake up to what is happening to them. It's your country to take back. It's your faith to take back. It's your future to take back. Don't be afraid to speak out. Don't back down when your friends begin to tell you that the cause is righteous and that the flag should be wrapped around the cross, while the rest of us keep our mouths shut. Real Christians take chances for peace. So do real Jews, and real Muslims, and real Hindus, and real Buddhists--so do all the faith traditions of the world at their heart believe one thing: life is precious. Every human being is precious. Arrogance is the opposite of faith. Greed is the opposite of charity. And believing that one has never made a mistake is the mark of a deluded man, not a man of faith. And war -- war is the greatest failure of the human race -- and thus the greatest failure of faith. There's an old rock and roll song, whose lyrics say it all: War, what is it good for? absolutely nothing. And what is the dream of the prophets? That we should study war no more, that we should beat our swords into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks. Who would Jesus bomb, indeed? How many wars does it take to know that too many people have died? What if they gave a war and nobody came? Maybe one day we will find out.

Property Fever!

Hello, Steven... Hope you're New Year is off to a positive start...Of course, the morale situation at North--- is dire...Our only hope is that the class-action lawsuit levied against our CEO Douglas Steen--- will cause him to drop his effort to neuter us as an airline...Apparently his shareholders are accusing him of (gasp! surprise!)insider-trading... Listen, I need to have your take on something that's been bugging me...After BBC Breakfast, we are treated to a phalanx of home-purchasing, home-revamp-for-profit programmes of every manner, shape, and form. What is this locust-like fascination with property over there? Seems like the Brits(or at least the more affluent ones) are going nuts for the comfy-cozy fantasy of untold riches by way of property-purchasing. It's a breathless feeding frenzy that actually reminds me of the Japanese when THEY get into, well, almost ANYTHING really. They do NOTHING by half-measures... Any insights into this, my friend? I'm just stymied. I know property is the big buzzword on BOTH sides of the pond...but how do you think this plays into the British mindset? Hope you're well, my friend...GaP ______________________________________________________________ Hi Gary, Thanks for the emissive. I am really sorry to see what is happening with North---. We are all in the hands of a mindless few who gather for their own benefit, regardless of the consequences to the masses. Yes, property is the big thing here. There are several TV channels dedicated to nothing else. The programmes tell you how to be a property developer, how to decorate, how to change your property, how to sell the one you have and buy 2 others, one in the country and one in the town. Basically it is a bit of a feeding frenzy. This has, in part, been brought about by the fact that it seems the pension funds we have been paying to (both private and government)for all our working lives are worth almost nothing. Most of them are based on the insurance/pension companies playing the stock markets - badly. The only financial certainty (if indeed there is one) seems to be property, the values keep rising, and rising and.... So, as a consequence those that can are buying properties either to let, refurbish and sell, or just keep buying bigger and bigger ones hoping that when it is time to retire they can sell the big house and buy a smaller one, the difference being their pension. There is logic there somewhere. It is all about the uncertainty of our futures and the pension funds that are failing. It is a big issue here, with some of the big, supposedly sound, pension companies going bust and people being left with no (or very little) income after they retire. It is quite a large and serious matter. So much for the welfare state! Christmas and New Year were fun here. We should have known what t was going to be like. On Christmas eve we had a flat tyre going to get the last minute Christmas shopping. 7 am Christmas morning there was a loud BANG followed by the sound of rushing water. A joint had burst and the water came pouring through our dining room ceiling into the dining room and adjoining lounge. The hot water tank emptied itself onto the tiled floor of the dining room and saturated the lounge carpet. Ho Hum. Clare and I were seen outside in dressing gowns in the cold scrambling to shut the water off by the stopcock in the drive. What a lark! Anyway, fair play to Clare, we had guests for lunch and the dinner was only 20 minutes late on the table. It was a surreal situation, me dangling from the ceiling with an emergency plumber trying to repair the damage, Clare stuffing the turkey and putting it into the oven! The ceiling is a mess; the lounge carpet is destroyed and hacked to pieces. Over the next 3 days we had two more plumbing disasters, none of which were related. Spooky. Great time to have no heating and hot water. And of course I now have flu! This coming Monday I head off to the USA. It is the very exciting 'World of Concrete' convention in Las Vegas and I am attending with one of my agency companies. KLM/Air France couldn't help me so I am using BA to LAX then on to Las Vegas with America West (?). Keep well, keep in touch, let me know if you want to buy any properties here! Ciao! Steven

Friday, January 06, 2006

I Couldn't Watch This Show...

Subject: Travel Channel to air flight attendants in 6 weeks of training Frontier reality show set for takeoff Travel Channel to air flight attendants in 6 weeks of training By Chris Walsh, Rocky Mountain News January 5, 2006 One hopeful shows up late to class. Another forgets to complete his physical. A third fails too many tests. They all get booted - and that's just during the first week of training. Next Thursday, the Travel Channel will begin airing a reality series about the rigors of becoming a flight attendant, featuring nearly 40 candidates recently accepted into Frontier Airlines' six-week training program. The series, called Flight Attendant School, aims to show viewers there's much more to the job than serving "peanuts and Pepsi," as one executive at Denver-based Frontier puts it during the first episode. The carrier hopes to gain national exposure - and possibly new customers - through the show, especially after rival Southwest Airlines garnered a huge share of headlines this week by launching service from Denver. The Travel Channel reaches 82 million households nationwide, giving Frontier an opportunity to reach a massive audience. "This is such a huge thing for us to have large national exposure for our training program," Frontier spokesman Joe Hodas said. "This gives us the opportunity to build some name recognition outside Denver." But the show's debut comes at a bittersweet time. Pam Gardner, a popular executive at Frontier who plays a huge role in the show, died unexpectedly from a blood clot last week. As Frontier's vice president of in-flight services, Gardner led the airline's flight attendant training program. The show is mostly filmed at Frontier's headquarters just a few minutes from Denver International Airport. But it also includes footage from other areas around town, including a house in the Reunion development where eight of the candidates lived together throughout the training. The show's first episode leaves viewers with the clear impression that getting a job as a flight attendant, at least at Frontier, isn't as easy as it looks. Hundreds of candidates apply, but only a fraction are selected for admission. Of those that make it to the program, roughly one-third don't survive the process, a trainer says at one point during the show. Flight attendant hopefuls must master two dozen tests, memorize tedious in-flight safety demonstrations and learn a host of skills, such as exterminating fires, administering CPR and handling violent passengers. Candidates are kicked out of the training program if they're late to class once, even by just a few minutes, or for failing more than two tests. The experience is more than just an extended job interview for those involved, and emotions run high. During the intro to the first episode, set to a modified version of John Denver's Leaving On a Jet Plane, one candidate says she'll feel like a failure if she doesn't make it through. Later in the show, another hopeful talks about wanting to make her parents proud. GRB Entertainment, involved in such reality TV fare as The Princes of Malibu and Growing Up Gotti, produced the show, which will run in back-to-back installments on Thursdays. Frontier was chosen over other airlines because the carrier has created a friendly, relaxed corporate culture, the Travel Channel said. And its management was willing to open up its training process to the world. "For this series to work, we needed to find a partner that would give us the access we needed around the clock," said James Ashurst, a Travel Channel spokesman. "Frontier gave us that access, and we think it worked out great." Flight Attendant School • What: An 18-episode cable-TV series featuring the rigors involved in becoming a flight attendant at Frontier Airlines • Where: The Travel Channel, which reaches 82 million households nationwide • When: Two new half-hour episodes will air back-to-back at 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, starting Jan. 12.