Comment Of The Day: “The Wake-Up Call And The Power Cord”

Nemisis pursues an arrogant mortal…

Here is slickwilly’s reflection on the breakdown of systems, human error, hubris and nemisis in his Comment of the Day on the post,The Wake-Up Call And The Power Cord:

The O ring failure had a great impact on young slickwilly, who was home on a rare sick day and watched the shuttle blow up live. The information that later came out made it clear that launching spaceships was fraught with danger, as there were so many things that could go wrong in such a complex system it was a wonder they ALL did not blow up.

My first and only brush with ethics (engineering: make sure the bridge does not fall down) was greatly reinforced by memories of that Shuttle disaster. (I still get chills when I think of the radio message “Roger, go with throttle up” which preceded that explosion.

The definition of hubris is “excessive pride or self-confidence” and comes from Greek Tragedy’s  “excessive pride toward or defiance of the gods, leading to Nemesis.” (NOTE: Nemisis was the vengeful Greek god who destroyed mortals guilty of hubris.)

Hubris caused the Shuttle tragedy. NASA (and their contractors) became complacent, and allowed less important considerations (like flight schedules, politics, and mission timelines) overcome important items like launch protocols and safety. Continue reading

The Wake-Up Call And The Power Cord

As you may have noticed, your host has been involuntarily separated from Ethics Alarms for about 24 hours. Several things occurred that under normal circumstances would have had me dashing off a post while waiting for flights or preparing to check out of my hotel—and there were definitely several comments that had me reaching for a phantom keyboard—but I was without laptop, thanks to leaving the power cord behind in my previous hotel.

So I have a little story to tell. I stayed at a decent Boston hotel last night, not a 4 star hotel like the one I just left  in Atlanta (The Four Seasons), but a nice one, professionally run, dependable. Yet this morning this was my wake-up call, via recording:

“It’s 7 AM. This is your wake-up call for March 8, 2018.”

Almost at the same time, David Hogg was on CNN, explaining how darned easy it was to create a system that would prevent school shootings forevermore.

Wrong. Systems break down, you experience-free, arrogant, disrespectful, know-nothing puppet.  The belief that human beings can devise systems that will solve every problem, or any problem, and do what they are designed to do without failing miserably at the worst possible times and in the worst imaginable ways is signature significance for a fool, or a child. O-Rings fail. Police don’t act on warnings that a kid is violent. Obamacare raises health care premiums.  Political parties end up nominating Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Jack Ruby breaks past police security. Communism ends up killing hundreds of millions rather than creating a worker paradise. The Titanic hits the wrong iceberg exactly where it’s weakest. Hitler takes a sleeping pill during the Normandy invasion.

The T-Rex gets loose. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/21/17

Good Morning!

1. There was one of those moments in a Major League Baseball game yesterday that teaches life lessons in character, and ethics for anyone who is paying attention.

The Boston Red Sox were playing the Toronto Blue Jays in an afternoon game at Fenway Park. Boston led 3-1 in the second inning, but the Red Sox pitcher,  veteran Doug Fister, was struggling with an uncharacteristic control lapse: he walked his third batter in the inning, and also had given up a couple of hard-hit balls that suggested that a gaggle of runs and a blown lead were inevitable. Then, mirabile dictu, Fister caught a break. The next Toronto batter swung mightily and lofted an easy, lazy pop-up to the infield. If there had been one out rather than two, it would have been called an automatic out under the Infield Fly Rule. Everyone, including Fister, who is fighting to preserve his spot on the Sox roster as well as his flagging career, breathed a sigh of relief. The Toronto batter slammed his bat to the ground. Settling under a pop-up not any more difficult than those he had successfully caught as a Little Leaguer was Red Sox utility man Brock Holt, a second baseman this day. He is much admired for his versatility, energy and reliability. Holt is also trying to revive his career after a frightening, season-long battle with vertigo, as well as to show the team that he can fill a yawning void at third base.

Holt dropped the ball. It bounced off his glove, as the Toronto baserunners were charging around the bases at the crack of the bat, since there were already two outs. Two of them scored, and later two more after Fister surrendered hits in te lengthened inning, making the bounty bestowed by Holt’s muff four runs. Fister was soon out of the game, and was charged with his team’s eventual two-run loss by an 8-6 score. (Today’s headline in Boston: “Doug Fister’s Future As Starter Uncertain After Loss To Jays”).

Yet Fister never shot an angry glance at Holt. He’s played the game; he knows how mistakes and random bad luck can turn everything around in an instant. He probably has dropped a similar ball in a crucial situation: I know I’ve done it, at second base, losing a company soft-ball game. Holt trotted to the dugout, got supportive pats on the back and fanny from his team mates, and played the rest of the game with his head high and his skills on display. There is no doubt that he felt terribly about the play, but Holt  didn’t hide under a rock, rend his garments, or make a big display of anger and frustration to signal to the hometown crowd—which didn’t boo or jeer him at any point in the game.

That’s life, as my father used to say, and this is how ethical people handle life. Disaster strikes out of a confluence of factors (a very bright sun undoubtedly helped Holt miss the ball, but professional ballplayers learn to cope with the sun) and all we can do, if we are competent at life as well as fair, responsible and brave, is to accept responsibility, not make excuses, and not allow such events to diminish or destroy us. Both Fister and Holt displayed the character necessary to do that. Neither blamed the other, and no one blamed them. Tomorrow is another day.

Play Ball!

2. Professional troll Ann Coulter is having a public spat with Delta Airlines that reflects badly on both of them. Continue reading

Jurassic ObamaCare


John Hammond: All major theme parks have delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956, nothing worked!

Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, but, John, if The Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists.

That memorable exchange from Jurassic Park came to mind constantly when major break-downs in the website were being called glitches by government toadies and the news media (but I repeat myself), and it came to mind again when the President was taking his absurd victory lap in April after the enrollment figures came out, as if the public’s ability to finally make the damn website work was the final definition of success.

Like the pathetic Hammond, the visionary who built his dinosaur theme park only to see it fall victim to Chaos Theory and hubris, Obamacare’s army of deceitful supporters and cheerleaders resolutely refuse to admit what should be apparent. The project was too ambitious, badly designed, sloppily executed, and dependent on too many untrustworthy contractors—like Dennis Nedry, who was just Newman in disguise. The evidence has been obvious, but as has now become standard operating procedure for this epically incompetent, amateurish, dishonest and unaccountable administration, the strategy has been to deny, delay, confuse, posture and accuse, while hoping some miracle or collective amnesia prevents the day of reckoning.

Yesterday we learned the raptors are out of their enclosure. On top of the revelation that the enrollment numbers do not ensure the stability of the program as various disgraceful choruses from the media claimed in March, we were told this (from the Washington Post): Continue reading

Disaster Ethics: The D.C. Naval Yard Shooting

Twelve dead? This is great---we can make another push for gun control!!!"

“Twelve dead? This is great—we can make another push for gun control!!!”

About 10 minutes from where I live, unidentified gunmen have killed 12 people (one of the gunmen is also dead) in an unexplained rampage. The facts are still being sorted out, and at least one shooter is still at large as I write this, but already two predictable examples of unethical disaster and crisis response have been on display:

1.  Reflex anti-gun tragedy exploitation

Apparently from now until the Second Amendment is but a distant memory, some Democratic politicians and anti-gun zealots will use every gun-related tragedy as a springboard to lobby for more regulations, and the facts be damned. At this point, we have not been told why the attack took place, who the shooters were, whether it was a terrorist act or not, whether the killers were Americans, whether or not the weapons were obtained illegally and what kind of guns they were. Never mind: interviewed on the radio, D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congress’s non-voting member, immediately pointed out that with all the guns that are available in this country, it should be no surprise to anyone that tragedies like this occur. I’m sure she would have liked to have been able to claim that global warming also played a part, except that it is a cool day in Washington. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Dunce: Photographer Jill Greenberg”

Tornado ruin

A home in Tanner, Alabama, after the events of April 3, 1974…

Here are the always thoughtful and often profound Fattymoon’s reflections, in the Comment of the Day, inspired by the post, Ethics Dunce: Photographer Jill Greenberg:

“This reminds me of the time I made a critical decision, on the spot, while covering the aftermath of a killing F5 tornado at Tanner, Alabama the night of April 3, 1974.


“Walter McGlocklin was walking away from me, carrying one of his two surviving daughters. He was cradling this little girl, her upper body and tear streaked face peeking just above her father’s right shoulder. The look of utter horror on her face! The lighting was perfect, an eerie cross hatch of flashlights and spotlights – I KNEW I had the picture of the year. I raised my Minolta 35 mm and focused in. And that’s when it happened. Something inside me said, Do NOT violate this little girl’s privacy. Do NOT allow this little girl’s unbearable pain to act as fodder to sell newspapers across the country. I slowly lowered my camera. It’s a decision, one of only a very few, of which I will forever be proud of.”




Ethically Disturbing News Item Of The Week

"Screw Bobby...grab the carry-ons!"

“Screw Bobby…grab the carry-ons!”

Apparently an unusual number of the passengers on board the plane that crashed yesterday grabbed their luggage on the way to safety, and at least one passenger grabbed his luggage before he thought to grab his child.

I don’t even want to think about the significance of this, but it can’t be good.

The story, in Forbes, is here.

Deadly Incompetence in Seattle….Luckily, It Was Just a Game

I know about the ADA, but still...hiring blind umpires who can't count just isn't working out...

It is rare that an ethics outrage repeats itself so closely that I could recycle a previous essay and just change the names. This occurred, however, in Seattle this past Saturday, in the baseball game between the Mariners and the San Diego Padres. San Diego’s Cameron Maybin walked on a 3-2 count (four balls are required by the rules) and eventually scored the only run of the game on Antonio Gonzalez’s fifth-inning single, allowing the Padres to defeat the Mariners 1-0 on Saturday night.

With one out in the fifth, Maybin walked when a pitch was called high by home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi. A video review of the at-bat by official scorer Dan Peterson confirmed the count should have been 3-2 when Maybin trotted to first base, meaning that his turn at the plate wasn’t completed. But Cuzzi, who like all umpires carries a pitch counter, saw that the stadium scoreboard showed a three-ball count before the pitch, and since 1) technology is always right 2) he wasn’t paying attention 3) he can’t count to “4” and 4) (or is it 3?) it isn’t like calling balls and strikes is his job or anything, he decided that the player had earned a base on balls. Continue reading

Our Future: This Will Happen to You Unless Our Irresponsible Leaders Repair the Infrastraucture, and Quick

From Chanhassen, Minn, an awful experience that is just the beginning—trust me on this. Yet our politicians don’t have the courage or integrity to do what has to be done to stop it.

A taste:

“Along Lake Susan and Chanhassen Hills drives, residents learned that something was terribly wrong in their homes Wednesday night when a geyser of sewage began spewing from toilets on the lower levels…”

Be very afraid. More than that, be angry. A must read.