Friday, October 30, 2009

Airline Pilots: rare heroes, few great, most good and deligent, and some well . . . just plain human

For young kids growing up, few professions exude as much glamour as that of Pilots. Earlier this year, this view was reinforced by the heroics of Airline Pilot 'Sully' Sullenberger, who successfully carried out the emergency ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, offshore from Manhattan, New York City, saving the lives of all 155 people on the aircraft. Media, and most of us just went ga ga heroics. And kids of this generation had yet another role model.

Bloggers and writers continue to eulogize Sullenberger and the story. (Sweating the Small Stuff: Lessons from “Sully” Sullenberger. American Mustache Institute Honors David Axelrod, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger)

Fast forward to end of October and comes news of Pilots of a commercial aircraft that let their jet go “wayward,” prompting an intense media scrutiny, leading to FAA convening an emergency session to revoke their license. The airline has indicated that they will be fired. There way too many intricacies to the story including role of laptops in aircraft and role of technology in aviation itself (e.g, can we really trust pilots who totally trust auto-pilots?, Pilots missed Twin Cities by 150 miles - but how?) and so on.

As a frequent (business) traveler, I have learnt to trust the system, and the men and women behind the system - from ground staff to the air-crew who do a tremendous job of ensuring we travel safe. This said, a few incidents do stand etched in one’s memory.

The bottomline: Pilots and crew are just like us: rare heroes, few great, most good and deligent, and some well . . . just plain human

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Globalization of England: British Jobs for British, < Polish, Asian, Indian, Immigrant> Workers

I was talking to my friend who lives London over the weekend who was describing his plan for move. His family was moving across town from Southall to a new place in Wembly. He remarked that the movers he had contracted were no polish, adding that he selected movers who advertised they hired only British blokes for the jobs. His remark also triggered an intense debate with him on the impact of Polish and East European immigrants in London and UK in general. Knowing my friend, I realized that his remark was not racist but certainly nationalist.
I recall the years I spent in London and Manchester in the mid-nineties when a similar debate over the influx of South-Asians, Indians, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans, in England. After moving from UK, I have sporadically kept track of events there, especially as it pertains to Britain’s role in global economy, immigration and similar aspects. The growing strength of European Union, Eurozone,, European Economic Area and the council of Europe has also meant freer movement of goods and services, and more importantly people across Europe.

The visible aspect of globalization and EU, especially the influx of East Europeans in UK is perhaps the most jarring to the media and average Joe Bloke (ref articles below). The non-visible part, movement of billions of Euros, Pounds and Dollars in contracts for European giants, say Airbus, that translates to real economic value and jobs in Western Europe is downplayed by digerati and the media. For instance, Airbus employs around 57,000 people at sixteen sites in four European Union ountries: Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Spain. Airbus also sells to Poland as it does to other countries around the globe. If Airbus were to setup the next plant in Poland, perhaps fewer Poles would find the need to immigrate across Europe.

For those living across the pond, the story perhaps sounds familiar: replace EU with NAFTA and Polish with Mexican (or Latin American). Steve Hamm, author and journalist for Business Week stirs similar conversation in his blog while talking of Indians in America.

Bottomline: The global downturn is certainly making politicians in the west reassess their views on Globalization, especially the visible aspects of globalization that impacts man on the street: jobs; which in turn translates to sentiments and most importantly Votes.

Interesting articles/blogs:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wag the dog: Playing the global media

This week the American media went wild over the saga of a young boy thought to have taken off on a helium balloon in Colorado. Now comes news that the Sheriff will file Charges on suspicions of a hoax (Sheriff: Charges will be filed in balloon saga). It also turns out Richard and Mayumi Heene had inside hooks into the media (Huffington Post: Balloon Boy, Wife Swap Son).

Flashback to about six months ago: Media went similarly wild over the saga of Nadia Sulaiman who gave birth to Octuplets and dropped the story like hot potatoes the moment they realized she was a single mom on welfare already struggling to support her other kids. The public was outraged over the fact that a single mom on welfare went on to get fertility treatment and give birth to eight more children. Needless to say, before the story died down, Sulaiman’s "supporters"created a website asking people to donate, publicizing the URL, again thanks to the media frenzy over the story. (I couldnt google the URL when I searched recently).

And before that there was the saga of the British girl lost in Portugal. How did the story end? Parents were suspects : A British couple who turned their young daughter’s disappearance from a Portuguese resort into an international cause célèbre — raising millions of dollars and recruiting celebrities from J. K. Rowling to the pope to their campaign — were formally named suspects by the Portuguese police on Friday, a representative of the family said. Of course, this was not the last word. Two years hence, the saga continues and the media continues to follow the story: Satellite clue to Maddie kidnap

Wag the Dog is a Hollywood classic about a Washington spin doctor who, mere days before a presidential election, distracts the electorate from a sex scandal by hiring a Hollywood film producer to construct a fake war with Albania. The scheme enlists the aid of a country music singer, who creates several theme songs for the war; a "fad king"; and a costume designer, who helps create a fictional special forces unit to fight the war's supposed battles.

Of course, not all of us are as media savvy, at least not savvy enough to get over the money-and-muscle of large corporate in India. I remember how Jet Airways ensured almost a total media blackout when little Aditya died on board an international flight. The mainstream media India approached and interviewed us for stories that never got aired or published. The parents decided to bury the grief in solitude and move on.

I guess for every Nadia Sulaiman or Heene family that manages to Wag the Dog, there are a hundreds of others with a story waiting to be told.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Weekend musing: Gays and Hijras

Among the politically volatile topics in the west is that of Gays, Gay Rights and homosexuality. Perhaps the reason, the American President who already has a full enchilada of topics in his plate is also taking on this (Re. Obama to End 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' Military Policy).

Why do I blog on a topic, where I have very little knowledge? Because I was intrigued by the headline in the news (Gay rights advocates march on DC, divided on Obama) . . . and the fact that I had an interesting conversation with a relative of mine in Delhi. They had a baby recently, and I had called to congratulate them. The cousin had to abruptly end the conversation and called back later to apologize. Apparently a group of Hijras descended at their apartment, demanding to “bless” the baby in return for a few thousand rupees (1$ = 46.5 Rupees).

[Ref Wikipedia: Hijras also perform religious ceremonies at weddings and at the birth of male babies, involving music, singing, and sexually suggestive dancing.]

I remember when the western media picked on one remark from Iranian president, Mr. Ahmadinejad’s address to Columbia University last year. Why? Because he said 'We don't have any gays in Iran' Perhaps he meant that in Iranian culture gays would be considered Hijras? [Wikipedia tries to clarify: These (Hijra) identities have no exact match in the modern Western taxonomy of gender and sexual orientation.]

Friday, October 9, 2009

Congrats Mr. Obama.... US President wins Nobel Peace Prize

I logged in this morning to check the news and was pleasantly surprised to see the headline In a surprise, Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize. “The Norwegian Nobel Committee said, citing his outreach to the Muslim world and attempts to curb nuclear proliferation.” I thought I’d draft a quick blog to Mr. Obama about whom I have blogged a couple of times recently. (Olympics, Disrespect to President, Biography)

Mr. Obama,
Congratulations on being awarded 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, perhaps the highest honor for global leaders. You have been facing a few tough sells:
  • War in Iraq, Afghanistan. Legacy of your predecessor
  • Healthcare Reform. Most Americans realize it is needed. . . just that the legislators need the right nudge to make it happen.
  • Economy . . Don’t need to describe this one.

The most recent debacle, flying all the way to IOC to root for your hometown, Chicago, only to be shown the thumbs down must have been a letdown.
Being conferred this global honor should re-ignite the spirit of "Yes, we can" . . . . at least when it comes to a few big ticket items: Healthcare reform for one?!

Global Citizen,