COFFEE, TEA, OR ELSE: “We are old enough to remember the glory days of flying, when flight attendants were happy, attractive people, eager to please,” muses Montecito’s Bill Tomicki, publisher of the witty travel newsletter ENTREE. “Of course, this has all changed with soaring fuel prices, larger, cramped planes, union strife, and the relentless pursuit by the airlines to squeeze every farthing out of every customer.

Barney Brantingham

“So we were not exactly surprised when we encountered despair and irritating attitudes on a recent American Airlines flight. Food and drink service was ghastly, smiles were absent, and the whole experience was torture. And we were in First Class!

“The grumpy attendants could not wait to get it all over so they could disappear into their nest at the front of the plane and yak away loudly while poring over their trashy celeb magazines. And why do they delight in hitting the ice with a hammer so much? They ignored the passengers until it was time to occasionally bark out orders. When we complained, we heard them mutter, ‘They’ll get over it.’

“Yikes. Misery. Speaking of misery, the airlines need a dress code. If we see another man in an armpit-baring tee shirt, we will truly have to use those barf bags.”

EX-SCOUT EXEC SUED: David Tate, former Boy Scout chief executive here and named in an ongoing lawsuit, is now up in Portland, Oregon, being sued by a former employee at a nonprofit. Nina Do, a k a Phuong N. Do, is claiming racial and sexual discrimination, retaliatory discharge, and unpaid wages, overtime, and vacation payment. In the lawsuit, she says she was Tate’s administrative assistant at the Northwest Osteopathic Medical Foundation when he allegedly made hostile comments and berated her Asian ancestry. She said he fired her October 25, 2012. She seeks $499,000. “I don’t have any comment,” Tate told me. “I haven’t heard anything about it in months and months.” The suit was filed December 26. The parents of a Santa Barbara teen molested by a Boy Scouts of America (BSA) volunteer say Tate tried to talk the mother out of reporting the case to law enforcement. The California Supreme Court recently rejected a BSA appeal in the case, opening up 30,000 pages of so-called “perversion files” nationwide, covering the period dating to 1991.

TALE OF TWO BANKS: One racked up annual profits, the philanthropist-owner handing out community largesse. The other, just across Carrillo Street, sacked half its Santa Barbara employees at Christmastime, the result of reckless real estate loan policies back during the go-go years.

On one hand, Michael Towbes, owner of steadily profitable Montecito Bank & Trust, has, along with his other philanthropies, established the Towbes Fund for the Performing Arts. Towbes wisely weathered the housing meltdown of 2007. But the venerable Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, founded by three area businessmen in 1960, fell into foolish hands, ran up millions of dollars in losses due to a deadly load of toxic loans, and cut employee benefits and 300 jobs in 2009. Texas banker Gerald Ford saved it from disaster with a $500-million cash infusion in 2010 and last March flipped it, selling it to Japanese-owned Union Bank for $1.5 billion, a tidy profit. When the takeover became official around Christmastime, 468 jobs were cut, though 80 percent of the laid-off workers can stay on until April.

GETTING GASSED: “We hear everybody is whining about U.S. gas prices,” emails ex-county supervisor Frank Frost, who lives part-time in the South of France. “Here in France they are paying the equivalent of $8.25 a gallon for premium, almost $8 a gallon for diesel. But our diesel Citroën, about the size of a Honda Fit, gets 47 miles to the gallon. Why can’t we have cheap diesel cars in the U.S.? Three guesses.”

Here’s something to think about: According to the Internet, in 1970, the average price for a gallon of gas in the U.S. was 36 cents. A gallon of milk was $1.15. That’s right, milk used to be more expensive than gasoline. Today, a gallon of cow juice sells for about $3. The price of petrol, controlled in California by a few oil companies and bouncing up and down, is around $3.65 in Santa Barbara. On the other hand, how many miles can you run on a gallon of milk?

LOCAL GUY AT THE UN: The U.S. and UN must push in 2013 for solutions to issues like climate change, migration, and global gun violence, urges San Marcos High graduate Robert Orr, now a top UN policy expert.

Speaking to the area United Nations Association chapter, Orr, assistant secretary-general for policy coordination and strategic planning, also pointed out that more than a billion people go to bed hungry every night. In a world with messes everywhere, the most impossible problems seem to land at the United Nations’ doorstep, Orr told a luncheon group at the University Club. “The UN is the court of last appeal,” said Orr. One of its successes is the transition toward democracy in Burma, he said. “No one wanted to touch it.”


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