Comment Of The Day: “Open Forum, And An Idea….,” B-17 Crash Thread

The first Comment of the Day to arise from the recent Open Forum is on a topic that never occurred to me before: one more indicia of how well readers here respond to the challenge of keeping the blog vital when I am called away. Here’s a summary from the AP:

“…a deadly crash in Connecticut this week of [a] B-17 has cast a pall over the band of brothers — and sisters — who enjoy riding in vintage planes and raised questions of whether machinery over 70 years old should be flying passengers.

The propeller-driven 1945 bomber went down at the Hartford airport on Wednesday, killing seven of the 13 people aboard, after the pilot reported engine trouble on takeoff. The cause of the fiery wreck is under investigation.

Arthur Alan Wolk, a lawyer who specializes in crash litigation in Philadelphia, said Friday that the accident shows the risks associated with flying old planes: They break. He said the rules for operating vintage aircraft are stringent, but he questioned whether compliance and training are adequate.

“The engines are old with no new parts being manufactured for decades,” he wrote in a blog post. “Even in service these aircraft needed the resources of a government to keep them flying. The aircraft and engines were never intended to last this long so intense maintenance and inspections are vital to continued safety.”

Frequent commenter Other Bill raised the issue, writing in part,

Ten or fifteen Christmases ago, I took my son and son-in-law on a one hour flight in a B-17 out of Falcon Field in Mes, Arizona. It was mind-boggling in so many ways. Incredibly crude and rickety. I can’t imagine flying in it at altitude for twelve hours, never mind enemy fighters and flak. Was it responsible to put my son and son in law at such risk in a plane built in a hurry to last for twenty five missions sixty or seventy years, an entire lifetime, after its construction? Should all warbirds be grounded and placed on static display? Seeing them fly brings tears to my eyes, but is the risk worth it?

His musings sparked this Comment of the Day from Steve O in NJ:

Hmmmm. I guess you have to measure the number of warbirds flying versus the number of accidents and the number of fatal accidents. Don’t forget, the FAA has some very stringent rules in place as to what standards an aircraft, especially an antique, needs to meet before it is allowed to fly. Flying is by nature risky, even with modern equipment.

Over the years 27 of the 261 pilots who have passed through the Blue Angels have been killed in crashes or other accidents, roughly 10%. So every man (no female demo pilots on that team yet, although the USAF Thunderbirds have had at least 2) who suits up with that team has a 1 in 10 chance of dying, statistically. Does that mean we should ground them? Italy’s Frecce Tricolori (Tricolor Arrows) demo team had a disastrous crash in 1988 that killed 3 pilots and 67 spectators. They’re still flying (saw them myself last year) and no one talks about disbanding them.

Warbird flying is more so, because of the fact you are dealing with very old aircraft and crude equipment by today’s standards. However, those who fly them accept the risk. The same goes for show flying, particularly with these aircraft so small you are almost wearing them rather than piloting them. I have to add that in 2016 the American Airpower Museum’s P-47 “Jacky’s Revenge” suffered engine failure during a promotional flight over the Hudson, crashed, and sank, drowning the pilot. The remaining AAM pilots and aircraft continue to soldier on, however. Continue reading

The Killer Ride

38-year-old Jose Calderon Arana suffered a fatal heart attack two years ago after taking the “Skull Island: Reign of Kong” ride at Universal Orlando Resort. He had  heart problems, didn’t speak or read English,  and now his family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit, arguing that Universal was negligent by not displaying warning signs in Spanish, since it knew that many tourist were non-English speakers.

Skull Island employs animatronics and 3D screens  to simulate a truck expedition through the monster-filled island depicted in the “King Kong” movies. (If those icky giant bugs are on the ride, I might have a heart attack.) A very large sign at the entrance says, in English, “Warning! This ride is an expedition through the rough terrain of King Kong’s natural habitat. The movement of the truck is dynamic with sudden accelerations, dramatic tilting and jarring actions.” It goes on to warn that people with heart conditions or abnormal blood pressure, back or neck conditions, and expectant mothers shouldn’t go on the ride. Graphics accompany the warnings:

Continue reading

Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/22/18: The All Fark Edition!

GOOD MORNING!

On a day when Ethics Alarms finally passed its high-water mark for followers, I thought it appropriate to plug Fark, one of the legion of sources I check every day to find ethics topics. It’s a facetious news aggregation site that links to both serious and obscure stories with gag intros, like this week’s header on a story about a recent study on Alzheimers: “The number of Americans with Alzheimers is expected to double in the next 40 years. That’s horrible, but did you hear that the number of Americans with Alzheimers is expected to double in the next 40 years?”

My dad loved that joke, and the older he got, the more often he told it, and the more ticked off my mother would be. An all-Fark Warm-Up is a good way to avoid (mostly) politics for a while.

1. I have no sympathy for this guy. Is that unethical? This is Mark Cropp:

He has “Devast8” tattooed on his face. He says that his brother did it when they both were very drunk, as if he was a non-participant.  “Once it was started, I thought, I can’t go back on it now,” he has said. “I wish I had stopped while the outline was there to be quite honest.” Good, Mark. This is progress.

Cropp has been complaining for a year that his face tattoo has kept him from being hired. Would you hire him? I wouldn’t. Such high-profile self-mutilation is signature significance for a person with terrible judgment and life skills, or, to be brief, an idiot. Would you hire someone with “I am an idiot” tattooed on his forehead? Same thing.

Apparently he has been arrested and is facing charges in New Zealand, where he lives. Psst! Mark! Don’t have “I am guilty!” tattooed on your face while you are awaiting trial.

2. No sympathy, Part 2. I also have almost no sympathy for Beverley Dodds, who once looked like this…

…until decades of slathering herself  in Coca Cola and baby oil while sunbathing and broiling herself on tanning beds caused her to have to  battlethe effects of skin cancer for two decades, and has the skin of a reptile. (You don’t want me to post a photo of her skin. Trust me.) Like Mark above, this is self-inflicted mutilation. How sorry should we feel for someone who hits themselves in the head with a hammer every day who complains of headaches? Few public health issues have been so thoroughly publicized as warnings about long-term skin damage from excessive exposure to the sun and tanning beds.

3. No sympathy, Part 3.  24-year-old Michael Vigeant of Hudson, New Hampshire, a Red Sox fan on his way home via subway from Yankee Stadium after the Sox had lost to the Yankees (they won the next night though, thus clinching the division, and eliminating New York. Go Red Sox!)  died when he tried to climb on top of a moving Metro-North train and was electrocuted by overhead wires. The resulting chaos trapped hundreds of riders more than two hours. His brother did it too, but was luckier, and train personnel got him down. Michael touched a catenary wire and was electrocuted, said MTA officials.

Now watch his family try to sue the city.  I put “Don’t try to subway surf on moving trains,” “Don’t get huge tattoos on your face” and “Don’t repeatedly broil your skin” in the same category: lessons an adult should learn and has an obligation to observe. Not doing so suggests a general responsibility and commons sense deficit that is a menace to everyone, not just them. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/22/2017: Listening To Maxine Waters And Getting Hit In The Face With A Baseball

Good Morning!

(Boy, am I glad this week is almost over…)

 

1 There is an Ethics Alarms category for incompetent elected officials like Maxine Waters, but in general I try not to state the obvious, and Rep. Waters has been an embarrassment to her district, her party, the House of Representatives, her party, the Congressional Black Caucus, her gender, her race and democracy generally for decades. Her latest statement that “Impeachment is about whatever Congress says it is. There is no law that dictates impeachment” is an especially striking example of her ignorance, her defiance of her ethical duties, and her sick partisan extremism, but still: Who that has watched this woman can be shocked at this?

During a Congressional Black Caucus town hall yesterday, Waters called on the black community which, to our pity and its shame, trusts this despicable woman to support impeaching President Donald Trump because “there is no law” restricting the practice.

Waters either is unaware of or chooses to defy the Constitution’s Article II Section 4: 

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

A. That’s law. In fact, it’s the law of the land.

B. “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” is not synonymous with “Anything Congress decides”

One of the worst things about Waters is that she makes citizens who trust her more ignorant about their own country. Her characterization of impeachment is simply false. It is also a prelude to an anti-democratic, ant-Constitutional system in which the Legislative Branch can veto the results of an election as long as one party has a sufficient majority. In this regard, Waters is not alone: this has been a theme of the Democratic “resistance” since the election. That alone is just reason for any rational American to vote against the Democrats, and this would be true if a werewolf were President.

It’s always fun to guess whether Waters is stupid, or lying. I vote stupid. “Bill Clinton got impeached because he lied,” Waters said yesterday. “Here you have a president who I can tell you and guarantee you is in collusion with the Russians, to undermine our democracy. Here you have a president who has obstructed justice, and here you have a president that lies every day.”

Bill Clinton was impeached for lying under oath, which made him unfit to be a lawyer, much less make the laws. He was also impeached for lying to a grand jury, another crime, and obstructing justice for real, not by firing his own subordinate.

An ethical party would censor Waters the way Republicans supported censoring Joe McCarthy. At this point in its history, the Democratic Party is closer to following Waters’ unethical conduct than opposing it. Continue reading

The Ethics Lessons In The Tragic Death Of Harambe The Gorilla

The primary lesson is this: Sometimes bad things happen and nobody deserves to be punished.

The tragedy of Harambe the Gorilla is exactly this kind of incident.

In case you weren’t following zoo news over the long weekend, what happened was this. On Saturday, a mother visiting the Cincinnati zoo with several children in tow took her eyes off of a toddler long enough for him to breach the three foot barricade at the Gorilla World exhibit and fall into its moat. Harambe, a 17-year old Lowland gorilla male, took hold of the child, and zookeepers shot the animal dead.

Then  animal rights zealots held a vigil outside the zoo to mourn the gorilla.  Petitions were placed on line blaming the child’s mother for the gorilla’s death. Other critics said that the zoo-keepers should have tranquilized the beast, a member of an endangered species. The zoo called a news conference to defend its actions.

Lessons:

1. Animal rights activists are shameless, and will exploit any opportunity to advance their agenda, which in its craziest form demands that animals be accorded the same civil rights as humans. Their argument rests equally on sentiment and science, and takes an absolute position in a very complex ethics conflict. This incident is a freak, and cannot fairly be used to reach any conclusions about zoos and keeping wild animals captive.

2. Yes, the mother made a mistake, by definition. This is res ipsa loquitur: “the thing speaks for itself.” If a child under adult supervision gets into a gorilla enclosure, then the adult has not been competent, careful and diligent in his or her oversight.  The truth is, however, that every parent alive has several, probably many, such moments of distraction that could result in disaster, absent moral luck. This wasn’t gross negligence; it was routine, human negligence, for nobody is perfect all the time. You want gross negligence involving animals? How about this, one of the first ethics essays I ever wrote, about the late “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin holding his infant son in one arm while feeding and taunting a 12-foot crocodile? You want gross negligence amounting to child endangerment? Look no further than the 6-month-old waterskiier’s parents. Taking one’s eyes off of a child  for a minute or two, however, if not unavoidable, is certainly minor negligence that is endemic to parenthood. Zoos, moreover, are not supposed to be dangerous. Continue reading

In Maryland, Tempting Moral Luck And The Barn Door Phenomenon In A Free Range Kids Ethics Conflict

Lyon Sisters

Just months after suburban Maryland parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv were cited by Montgomery County’s Child Protective Services for “unsubstantiated neglect” for allowing their children Rafi, 10, and Dvora, 6, to walk home from a park close to home, the defiant parents let their kids to do it again. Again, someone called 911 (anonymously), and again the children were picked up by police.

This time, the police took the Meitiv children to Child Protective Services headquarters and for some reason didn’t tell the parents, who, naturally enough, freaked out. Five and a half hours later the agitated children and frantic parents  were reunited. You can read about the initial incident from the mother’s perspective here; and obviously Lenore Skanazy is in full battle array on her “Free Range Kids Blog.” Columnists everywhere are rushing to their keyboards to write columns like this one, by the Washington Post’s Petula Devorak, titled “Why Are We Criminalizing Childhood Independence?”

The ethics of this issue are more complicated than simplistic “We used to walk around freely all the time when we were kids and it was more dangerous then than now” reminiscences are equipped to explore.

Analyzing this ethics conflict (“when two or more ethical principles are in opposition”)  screams out for the useful starting point for ethics analysis:

What’s going on here?

Before I answer, let’s get a couple of ethics verdicts out of the way: Continue reading

The Shannon Stone Tragedy Ethics Quiz, Part II

Don't try this if you're not a firefighter

 Many commenters were upset with me for characterizing the tragic death of Shannon Stone, who fell to his death while trying to catch a ball during a Texas Rangers game, as the result of his own bad judgment, suggesting that I was impugning the character of a dead man. (I wasn’t.) That reaction sparks the second Ethics Alarms quiz question relating to the incident.

NBC baseball blogger (and lawyer) Craig Calcaterra put up a post this morning headlined “Idiot nearly falls from the stands chasing a ball at the Home Run Derby”:

“Just days after Shannon Stone died from a fall while reaching for a baseball at a Texas Rangers game, a fan at last night’s Home Run Derby nearly fell out of the outfield stands while lunging for a home run ball hit by Prince Fielder.  He was spared serious injury or death only because his friends grabbed him by his feet, held him and then pulled him back as he dangled over the railing above a concrete deck 20 feet below…His name is Keith Carmickle, and common sense is not his forte. His fall came after he stepped up onto the narrow metal table which abutted the railing — the kind you stand in front of and set your drink on while watching the game — and then, while still standing on it, reached down low to catch the ball as it came in…He missed the ball, but his momentum carried him forward and he fell headfirst over the rail. If it wasn’t for his brother’s and his friends’ quick action, down he would have gone. Despite his idiocy, he (a) escaped this dangerous situation of his own making unscathed; and (b) was allowed to stay at the Derby by security. Both of these factors have been added to the “evidence that there is no God and/or that He is not just and fair” side of the big ledger I keep on my desk and in which I tally the wonder and folly of Humanity as I encounter it…”

Your questions to answer, if you dare: 1) Is it fair for Calcaterra to call Carmickle an idiot, and Stone just a random victim of circumstance? 2) Why or why not? Continue reading