How I Nearly Caused The World To Explode, and Other Travel Musings

Lots of time to fume and muse about the ethical implications of a frustrating day and an aggravating week while taking an interminable plane trip to Houston:

  • By the time I post this, I will have died a thousand deaths over one of the most frustrating experiences in recent memory. I was furiously juggling tasks as I prepared to leave on this two day business trip to Houston. I had to get my materials in order, pick up shirts, go to the bank, have several conference calls and, most important of all, write an expert opinion letter. Periodically I’d answer a comment on the blog when the letter began to make me crazy. In the middle of trying to wrap up the letter, I decided to load some raw Ethics Alarms article material into the drafts file, because typing on the netbook I travel with is no fun at all. I thought I had hit the “draft” button, but second later, I got an e-mail notice that my blog had a new post—in my rushed and attention-scattered state, I had pushed the “publish” button….now a raw, unfinished draft was on the site. Even though the opinion letter was at a critical point (and I was running out of time), I went to the blog to delete the premature post, and couldn’t. WordPress kept giving me an error message.

To  make a long story short, in the 20 seconds between my accidental post and trying to delete it, WordPress’s system had a major glitch. I couldn’t remove the post or edit it. I was in the cyber-position of being exposed to the world with a large piece of spinich on my teeth, and I was powerless to remove it. Three hours later, WordPress fixed the problem, and I got the damn thing off the site. (I’m working on the finished version).

And it occurred to me: this is how man-made disasters happen. Some boob, like me, is doing too many things at once, or is distracted, or not paying attention to what he’s doing, and he makes a mistake. It should be no big deal, except that by the purest chance, a system fails at the exact moment it can do the most damage…and voila! An oil rig explodes, or the power grid fails, or a cataclysmic, world-ending chain reaction of destruction is set in motion. When it does, it’s not the system’s fault, though I was furious ar WordPress. It’s the person who was careless and inattentive. In other words, it was my fault. I was irresponsible. The scary part is that when you are irresponsible, you never can really know how much harm you might cause.

  • I had more than the usual number of intense exchanges with commenters this week.  I threw two of them off the blog, and had another one blow a gasket and start name-calling. All these incidents had in common individuals who wanted to argue for pre-set positions, based on political beliefs or long-held biases. All,to some extent, retreated to positions of advocacy for a position that, if it could be supported at all, could not be objectively persuasive with what the commenter brought to it: ideological fervor, misinformation, bias. When their arguments, such as they were, didn’t get the desired response, one of them accused me of pursuing a political agenda; one said I was typical of the elite wealthy classes persecuting working class individuals like him, and the last accused me of being morally inert because I refused to accept her proffered excuses for rampant unwed motherhood.

The idea here, the point of Ethics Alarms, is to engage commenters in discussion about the ethical implications of news stories and issues of the day, because that is how we all learn to recognize the ethical content in our own conduct and decisions. I am not making pronouncements, though it often seems like that, but trying to frame the issues. I could, like most bloggers, seldom respond to comments and let readers debate among themselves. That doesn’t advance the mission, though. I don’t want to make the blog inaccessible to people who lack the ability to engage in an articulate and unemotional debate, but if all I am going to do is upset these readers and make them angry, that’s not very productive. One of the commenters last week, whom I tried to ignore because I could see where the exchange was headed, wrote that he stayed up all night waiting for my response to his last comment.

As more visitors come to the blog and enter the fray, I’m going to have to develop standards that are fair, civil, and a good use of my time. So far, I don’t have the answers. Obviously.

  • The Libyan campaign has all the earmarks of an Ethics Train Wreck in the making. One bi-product: the foolishness of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in giving its honor to a U.S. President with no track record in international affairs has had the predictable result even sooner than I expected. The Prize, already reeling from outrageous recipients like Jimmy Carter, Yassir Arafat and Al Gore, has lost all integrity and credibility, indeed, all prestige.That is a shame, because the Nobel Peace Prize once sent a crucial message to the World. Once the Committee began pursuing narrow political agendas, it betrayed its mission, and ruined Alfred Nobel’s objective. This is, in no way, the fault of Barack Obama; if anything, he is a victim

7 thoughts on “How I Nearly Caused The World To Explode, and Other Travel Musings

  1. That passage from Brozinski’s judgment can stand alone as an interesting look at lying. If you hadn’t told me it was a mistake, I would not have realized you had made a mistake. I don’t think this is quite the equivalent of spinach between the teeth (for what it’s worth).

    • Thanks. There were several things that made it worse than it looked. I got the idea to write about the list from Ken at Popehat, and happened to copy his layout of the list, intending to reformat it, do commentary, and credit him for the idea. As it was, the draft looked like I was ripping him off. The links weren’t there, I didn’t have any context for the decision. But if it bothered me more than anyone else, great.

  2. Sorry you had those problems on a trip to my home town, Jack! I know how frustrating it can be to laboriously write out a long comment or an article on the blogsite, only to have it disappear into the mists of cyberspace. WordPress, it seems, can be as bad as Xanga!

    I certainly hope that, as a guest poster on your site, I haven’t been too demanding or contentious! That I’ve caused controversy at times, I realize. But I try to bear in mind that- as a blog host myself- I owe my readership my best in fair analysis, so also to I expect, in return, a modicum of civility from my guest commentators.

    Your comments on the state of the Nobel Peace Prize are well-founded. I’ve found it difficult to grasp by what conceivable standards the Nobel Committee evaluates and makes awards in recent decades. In fact, just where does this committee itself derive? Certainly, they’re rather gratuitous about whom they award Mr. Noble’s money to. I could make an analogy here to certain other foundations or government-backed programs (giving out other people’s money!) but I think those are obvious. I’ll just say here what I’ve often said. Given my choice, I’d prefer (were if offered me!) the former Lenin Peace Prize over the Nobel. I hold the former in higher regard.

  3. “Cowards die many times before their deaths;
    The valiant never taste of death but once.”

    But I suppose Julius Caesar (and Shakespeare, for that matter) never had to deal with Word Press. “Et tu, Windows?”

  4. Pertaining to the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, you said “This is, in no way, the fault of Barack Obama; if anything, he is a victim.” Maybe so, but I can’t help thinking that a man of true integrity, possessing and practicing solid ethical beliefs, would have turned the prize down…

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