Reflections on 9/11

On this 20th anniversary of 9/11, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) has added a new page to their website with a collection of written accounts from air traffic controllers. One of those recollections is mine.

This is so much more I could have said, but because I did not talk to an live aircraft that day, I felt it wasn’t my place. We all experienced the disbelief, horror, anger and grief of terrorists hijacking aircraft and using them to attack our country, but we also experienced it from differing viewpoints. Some of those viewpoints were from loved ones who lost someone, first responders attempting rescues in the midst of chaos, Americans in shock, or other nations in sympathy. I am sure there are thousands more viewpoints that I can’t list.

But now, looking back, whether we ever thought about it personally or not, I think air traffic controllers were also dealing with a viewpoint we never acknowledged. Yes, we took pride in our accomplishments that day, doing what had never been done–closing our nation’s airspace and landing all those planes. But underneath it all, I believe we were dealing with an additional shock, anger and grief.

I cannot express how ingrained it is in air traffic controllers’ psyches that everyone walks away. Our entire job consists of one thing: the safety of the flying public from the time they leave the gate until they arrive at their destination’s gate. We think of the aircraft we work and the people on those aircraft as ours. During an emergency, controllers do everything they can think of to help achieve the best outcome, and that was also done on 9/11 with what we had available to us. For an air traffic controller, feeling helpless to change an outcome only happens after we have had an opportunity to do everything in our power to improve the outcome. I believe we were too busy rerouting and landing planes (because controllers do the job in front of them regardless of circumstances) to realize the additional hit to our hearts that we were taking. The terrorists used our aircraft and our people as hostages and weapons to hurt and harm and we didn’t have the opportunity to work for a better outcome.

In the aftermath, Americans united in solidarity, helping and giving where they could– protective of our citizens, our country and our freedoms–and refusing to give into fear and hate. I wish we were seeing more of that solidarity today. Terrorists attacking our citizens, country and freedoms not only originate in other countries.

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Full IRDA Review

Read the full review here!

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I just thought I’d share the link to my interview with IndieReader!

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1st Place!

How exciting that Outside Looking In was chosen for 1st place in the 2021 IndieReader Discovery Awards! Unfortunately, no in-person awards ceremony this year, but if you want to see my acceptance speech, you can find it here. The official announcement by IndieReader is here.

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Outside Looking In made finalist in the Parenting/Family category in the 2021 Next Generation Indie Book Awards! Here’s the link to the full list.

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Red Ribbon

While Outside Looking In did not make the finalist list for The Wishing Shelf Book Awards, it was awarded a Red Ribbon because the readers enjoyed it! You can read some of the comments here.

‘A fascinating insight into life working with autistic children. A red ribbon went out and highly recommended!’

The Wishing Shelf Book Awards

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The “I’m an outrageous liar” Defense

I have been trying to keep quiet about the former administration and its lackeys despite a number of states attempting to gerrymander voting districts and a Supreme Court case that may affect whether or not the American public can have a reasonable expectation of things like clean water, OSHA inspections in their workplaces and any other federal oversight that is to our collective benefit. But then I saw this and it’s just too much for me to keep silent. The idiot factor is so high, it may qualify for its own category in the Darwin Awards.

In her defense, Sidney Powell’s attorneys claimed the following in a court filing yesterday in the Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuit:

“Indeed, Plaintiffs themselves characterize the statements at issue as ‘wild accusations’ and ‘outlandish claims.’ They are repeatedly labelled ‘inherently improbable’ and even ‘impossible.’ Such characterizations of the allegedly defamatory statements further support Defendants’ position that reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact but view them only as claims that await testing by the courts through the adversary process.”

Also from the same article:

Her attorneys also claim she had a right to make accusations because she was acting as an attorney for the Trump campaign, even during her right-wing TV appearances. As a result, Powell is asking a judge in Washington, DC, to dismiss the case, or to allow it to be moved to the federal court in Texas.

Think about this for a moment. Her attorneys are claiming she was lying so outrageously that reasonable people would not accept such statements as fact. Such reasonable people as the then-President? The Republican congressional types in office who challenged the election results? The so-called patriotic Americans who attacked the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021 thinking they were going to Stop the Steal?

If I’m reading the statement correctly, Ms. Powell’s attorneys have now admitted that she was filing frivolous lawsuits about the election–wasting taxpayer time and money. They are saying it was okay for her to lie because she was representing the President’s interests and inferring that it is reasonable for our elected officials to lie to the American public in an outrageous manner–we should have absolutely no expectation of honesty from our leaders and their campaigns. I’m not sure how Ms. Powell has not been disbarred. And if her attorneys are arguing that her making false statements while representing her client was okay, maybe they should be disbarred as well for not knowing their own code of conduct.

Rule 4.1: Truthfulness in Statements to Others in the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct states:

Transactions With Persons Other Than Clients
In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly:

(a) make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person; or

(b) fail to disclose a material fact to a third person when disclosure is necessary to avoid assisting a criminal or fraudulent act by a client, unless disclosure is prohibited by Rule 1.6.

Even more interesting is that her defense implies that anyone who believed her claims had to have been unreasonable and should not have accepted the claims as fact. So, in effect, they are saying those that support(ed) Trump in his claims that he won the 2020 Presidential election are just as nutty as she is. In essence, her defense is to throw everyone else in the Trump supporter category under the insanity bus by claiming she is the sane one.

And the request to dismiss or move the case? Nuh, uh, lady. If you were working on behalf of the then-President, you can have your case in Washington, D.C. where it belongs.

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Taking a Bronze!

Outside Looking In received a Bronze Medal award in the Parenting/Family Relationships category in the 2020-2021 Reader Views Reviewer’s Choice Awards! You can see all the winners here.

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A quick thanks!

I just found a recent review of Outside Looking In on Reader Views. Many thanks to Rachel Denning for her kind words!

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A More Perfect Union

Like many Americans, yesterday saw a huge weight lifted from my shoulders. Watching the inauguration ceremony and subsequent events throughout the day brought hope that truth, an actual dedication to public service, empathy and reasonableness will be our nation’s path forward.

I’ll leave it to the historians, pundits and psychiatrists (who are probably smarter than me anyway) to explain how our country not only elected he-who-shall-not-be-named-again unless it’s in a news report of an arrest, indictment, impeachment and/or conviction, but why so many Americans still believe he did any real good in office. Hopefully, our descendants will heed the lessons of the history we just survived, as well as those lessons going forward.

But I would like to touch on one point. One of the things that resonated with he-who-shall-not-be-named-again supporters was a phrase–“Drain the swamp.” While those supporters did not recognize that crocodiles were being populated within the swamp by their chosen one, there is a reason that phrase struck a core. Hearing that President Biden took action on Day 1, here, here and here, to actually remove some of those crocodiles made me hopeful.

Let me be forthright; you should be aware of where I’m coming from before you can understand where I am going with this post. I am a strong supporter of labor, reasonable government regulation, public education and equal rights. I have been called everything from a flaming liberal to a snowflake. I personally believe we should all be snowflakes and recognized as such–unique and beautiful, with more heft and power when we unite and band together.

I believe we should have clean air and water and should not have to worry about our children developing cancer from toxic waste. I do not believe most corporations or businesses have public safety as a priority or that they will do the right thing if there are no meaningful consequences for doing the wrong thing. I believe everyone should have access to education. I believe in free (and civil) speech. I believe in a living wage and that no one should have to live in poverty or worry where their next meal may be coming from. I believe everyone should have access to affordable health care. I believe there should be consequences for any institution that takes unfair advantage of anyone to make money. I believe in equal rights for all and equal pay for equal work. I do not believe children should be separated from their parents unless the child’s health and safety is at risk. I do not believe corporations should be treated as individuals. I believe we are a nation of immigrants and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous and harmful. I believe that by lifting up the lowest amongst us, we all rise up. I believe in our Constitution and I believe in our nation’s core principles.

We have always been a nation (and world) of serious issues; that will never change. As we progress and evolve as a people, as new technologies emerge and as we discover new frontiers, the issues may change, but the fact that we will always have something that can be improved to better serve all will not.

I was an air traffic controller for twenty-five years, most of that time spent as a union activist. There were many different philosophies touted during those years (Quality Through Partnership and Interest-Based Bargaining to name two) to better relations between labor and management. Most were pretty much the same thing with new names to pretend that the latest and greatest innovations were being taught to us. The truth is, it’s all the same. To be successful in creating a better agreement for all requires several things.

Each side should go into negotiations knowing what they need, as well as what they want. Need and want are two separate animals. Example: I need enough money to pay all my bills, feed and clothe my family and attend to their health, with some left over to save; I want enough money that I could afford to take multiple family vacations each year and never have to worry again about replacing a broken appliance or repairing the family vehicle.

Each side has to be able to communicate to the other what is needed, wanted and why. Each side has to listen to the other and work together to find a solution that will give everyone what is needed and some of what is wanted. The reason for identifying the whys is simple; the solution you think might be the best may not meet the other’s needs, but there may be another solution neither of you have thought of yet since you weren’t considering all the factors. But this requires you to be honest and it requires you to listen. No hidden agendas.

So let’s circle back to why “drain the swamp” resonates with so many people. Some think it’s because of career politicians caring more about their monied backers than they do their constituents. Others believe that our government overreaches or just doesn’t understand the problems experienced by those in our respective communities or professions. And I believe they are all partially correct. But I think the underlying reason is that people just do not feel heard. People feel there are those in power above them, making decisions for them that make their lives more difficult or who have no idea how it impacts their family, their profession or their community. The ones with the most consistent and repeated access to many of our politicians or their legislative aides are lobbyists and backers, not individuals. Maybe the individuals join organizations that are better able to lobby for them, but even then, an individual’s message is filtered and can be lost. So people turn to social media and protests to be heard, but they are not being heard by the people who can effect change. So they begin to yell louder and more often, but, in turn, fail to listen as well.

Laws are large and can be unwieldy. In essence a law is an agreement that comes about after negotiation, just as a union contract is. Just as a union contract isn’t perfect on each iteration, neither is a law. We just attempt to improve each time and meet changing needs while still allowing for some wants.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was and is needed. But it is huge and could use some improvement. I have a friend who’s a physician who now has difficulty providing some of his patients with needed care because of unnecessary requirements within the law. I don’t know enough about it to offer a potential solution, but he does. My husband is an excavator and I sometimes hear him complain about an OSHA regulation that doesn’t actually improve site safety, but instead creates busywork for no benefit. Does either situation warrant repealing ACA or OSHA in their entireties? No, but they both show there is room for improvement.

So what if the federal government started a national bulletin board system for the American people? Start small with one topic and work out the bugs, before going wider with more topics. (Think climate change, law enforcement reform, educational reform, common sense gun laws, poverty, electoral college reform, etc.) Users would have to provide identifying information for security reasons (as well as to weed out those bot farms, foreign governments and ne’er-do-wells), but could choose more anonymous user names for public consumption. Though, lobbyists and spokespersons for large organizations/businesses should be always publicly identified. No PACs allowed.

There would have to be some disclaimers and protections for anyone to post (maybe have to check them off every time before a post is allowed). Whistleblower protections for public and private sector employees, respectful discourse and lawful prosecutory consequences for those who attempt to share classified information or non-disclosure agreements, etc. Legislators (or their aides) can post questions to a topic, but absolutely no opinions, solutions and definitely no campaigning–in fact, all potential questions from a legislative office should go to a moderator for approval and/or compilation with other questions to ensure the questions are being asked for informational purposes rather than slanting an issue. No private chats allowed. No pictures or files allowed without moderator pre-approval. And, unfortunately, it would have to be heavily moderated, because there are those who have forgotten how to respect reasonable boundaries and civil discourse. Let it be known and enforced that the goal is to identify actual and potential problems and find workable solutions to current issues as well as improve what we already have in place. Let it be viewable by all for transparency. An American citizen can have access to post to the bulletin board, but it is a privilege, not a right. Play by the rules and you’ll have the opportunity to be part of the solution and possibly sway more than your own elected representatives; ignore the rules and see if you can get your own appointment with your Congressional representatives because you will no longer be able to post to the bulletin board.

If the topic is the Affordable Care Act, put sections of the bill up for threads and ask for what works and what doesn’t. Professions should be mandatory in addition to type of environment they work in. (i.e. a nurse in a rural southern area may have different experiences than a patient advocate or specialist in an western urban area). Everyone would have access to other’s viewpoints of why something works well or why it doesn’t. Let the unintended consequences of a law’s language be widely shown so the language can be improved. Follow up questions could be presented to posters if needed to get a better sense of where the difficulties lie, i.e. type of facility, general demographics, age range of patients, etc.

President Biden is choosing some very competent people for his administration, but they are not in the trenches dealing with the day-to-day effects of the laws. We need a way to trickle up our experiences and ideas to those who can do make positive changes from them. Instead of an individual making their case for some improvement to one legislative aide to one Congressperson, they are making their case to all. What if a solution to one smaller problem is simply a slight tweak in bill language? It’s progress for everyone, regardless of originating district. What if 250,000 people report a problem that legislators never realized was an issue they could easily be addressing? What if someone can articulate a problem, but not a potential solution, but someone else (or multiple people) can help them brainstorm that solution? Positive change does not have to be large; it can come in smaller increments, so long as we keep moving forward. People who have feel they have had meaningful input and contributed in some way to a change are more likely to support that change in the future.

There are enough people in our country that care enough to fill the gaps, whether it’s addressing food insecurities within their community, setting up child care/schooling pods during a pandemic or any number of smaller, more focused solutions locally. They are motivated, they are creative and they are willing to work for a greater good. We need outlets to push that creativity and motivation outward and upward to positively affect our nation as a whole.

We are a government of the people, by the people and for the people, yet too many people feel overlooked and unheard. They should be able to be heard without protests, petitions, votes or lobbying. Let’s start using today’s technology to allow them to be heard in a manner that has a defined goal of finding solutions together rather than using technology to divide, placate or simply inform. We have a huge pool of resources available to us–smart, caring people with a diverse set of experiences and viewpoints; let’s find a way to now ask the people and unite them in a way to continue to form a more perfect union for us all.

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