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

Comment of the Day Trio: “Principled Or Betrayer: Pete Buttigieg’s Brother-In-Law, Pastor Rhyan Glezman”

I won’t make a habit of this, I promise: a Comment of the Day deserves its own post. However, the comments on the question of whether Mayor Buttigieg’s brother-in-law was crossing ethical lines or not by making an inter-family disagreement into media fodder have been uniformly excellent, and bundling the three of moderate length coming up makes sense to me.

Incidentally, the polling shows a real split of opinion, but 59% agree on the basic question: they feel the pastor was ethical. (I’m still not sure about that.)

Here’s the poll so far…

The first of the trio of Comments of the Day on “Principled Or Betrayer: Pete Buttigieg’s Brother-In-Law, Pastor Rhyan Glezman” comes from James M….

As a pastor, Pastor Ryan Glezman has an obligation to attempt to resolve his conflict with his brother-in-law in a way that respects Biblical teachings. (If he doesn’t respect the wisdom of the Bible, he’s probably in the wrong line of work…)

Fortunately, the Book of Matthew, Chapter 18, has some straightforward instruction for dealing with such conflicts. Since both profess to be believing Christians, they are “brothers”, and Matthew’s Gospel gives clear direction:

Verses 15-17:
15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.
16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’
17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Pastor Glezman has expressed his concern that Pete Buttigieg’s frequent forays into Biblical interpretation pose a risk of leading others astray. He didn’t go public over this right away: Mayor Buttigieg has been bloviating about what he thinks Christians should do for quite some time now. Based on that, I’d guess that the pastor has already attempted to privately address the issue with his brother-in-law, and has now moved to treating him as if he were “a pagan or a tax collector”.

Since Chapter 18 gives dire warnings to us all not to cause others to stumble in their faith, Pastor Glezman has ample cause for his concern. Pete Buttigieg’s religious pronouncements do pose a risk of misleading others.

The chapter also emphasizes the vital importance of practicing forgiveness and grace when we deal with others. Now, some people think that means that Christians need to let bad actors continue to cause problems, “turning the other cheek” and “going the extra mile”. That is only part of the truth. Our obligation as Christians includes helping bad actors to understand whatever they’re doing wrong and repent of doing it. We’re not doing a bad actor any favors if our compliance leads him to continue screwing up. We need to approach the problem with love for the bad actor, but we may also cause the bad actor significant heartburn if that’s what it takes to deal with their behavior.

Next is first time commenter Barbara Ravitch. I love when a new commenter enters with such a high-level splash, and with some recent defections and unexplained disappearances, the Ethics Alarms binders full of women could use some replenishment.

Here is her Comment of the Day: Continue reading

Brand New Week Full Of Hope And Promise Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 9/9/2019

Ah! I also feel wefweshed!

1. On torturing the homeless with earworms. The city of West Palm Beach, Florida  has been blaring the horrible kids song “Baby Shark,” as well as another annoying song in the genre, “Raining Tacos,” outside an event center to drive homeless people away. Listen…

The homeless and their advocates object to the tactic as cruel and counter-productive. The city says it only wants to make them go to homeless shelters.

This is a case of “ick” rather than unethical conduct. Music is used to keep subjects of torture awake in some cases, and auditory assault by kids’ songs is only different in kind from high-pitched beeps and  other more direct methods used around the country, such as recordings of chain saws . Some cities have even outfitted parks and public spaces with devices that blast a high-frequency sound that only teenagers and young people can hear.

The use of annoying songs passes the utilitarian test, I think. In this case, the desired end justifies the means. I will change that assessment of there is evidence that one or both of the two songs are literally driving the homeless insane.

That is a distinct possibility. Here’s “Raining Tacos”:

2. Let’s try to think of the least qualified, most objectionable candidates who would still be better than this trio...It’s official!  Mark Sanford, who had to resign as South Carolina governor to avoid being impeached after going AWOL and conspiring to cover it up as he secretly visited his soul mate, a South American seductress, or, as such were called in less politically correct times,  “firecracker,” has now declared that he will accept the GOP nomination for President.  He now joins failed semi-Republican Senate candidate and Gary Johnson running mate William Weld, who is 74 and hasn’t held office in 22 years; he distinguished himself as a nominee of the Independent Party by announcing that he would vote for Hillary Clinton.  Then there’s Joe Walsh, who spent all of one term in the House, and was reduced to being a radio talk show host after it was revealed that he was a deadbeat dad.

The news media is faking fainting spells because the Republican National Committee is not going to hold debates among this ridiculous crew, and is cancelling primaries as well. The RNC’s position isn’t unethical, it is responsible. I held in 2015 that  the GOP had no obligation to allow Trump to run for the GOP nomination, and he was a more acceptable and serious candidate than any of these fools—which is not to say that he was serious or acceptable. These are three dead in the water political failures trying to use NeverTrump hate to breath life into the corpses of their careers.

Here’s how bad they are: I’d vote for Newt Gingrich (ugh) or Mitch McConnell (ugh X infinity) over any of them.

3.  And this is why our rights are in real and immediate danger. From the Washington Post:

“Americans across party and demographic lines overwhelmingly support expanded background checks for gun buyers and allowing law enforcement to temporarily seize weapons from troubled individuals, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, as President Trump and Republicans face fresh pressure to act.”

“Allowing law enforcement to temporarily seize weapons from troubled individuals,” aka the “red flag” laws, is a violation of due process, the Second Amendment, and also a “pre-crime” measure. The public support sit because a) unscrupulous politicians demagogue the issue of gun control, b)the average American, thanks to our incompetent public school system, can’t distinguish a constitutional right from prickly pear, and c) limiting the rights of hypothetical “bad people” is so easy, compared to when one’s own rights are being infringed.

This is a useful poll, because it shows how vulnerable the ignorant are to politicians who want to take over their autonomy and weaken our democracy under the impetus of “do something.” Who is going to explain to these millions of inattentive people with weak critical thinking skills why “red flag” laws are the totalitarian camel;s nose in the tent? President Trump, with his junior high school level rhetoric?  Me, with my essays that violate Facebook standards? The news medi-ack! Ack! Gag! Cough! I couldn’t even that ridiculous possibility out. Who?

And who gets to define a “troubled individual”? Anyone with symptoms of depression, anxiety, or stress? That describes 90% of the people I know. Those with irrational anger and obsessions? That’s  the entire Trump-hating Facebook Borg, based on my reading this week. People with rocky marriages, conflicts at work with supervisors and co-workers; ranting bloggers? Charles M. Blow? Kurt Schlicter? Stephen Colbert? Alec Baldwin?

We have a dumb, ignorant, lazy, badly educated, civically incompetent  electorate that the news media and politicians want to make worse on all counts, and work constantly to accomplish that goal.

Principled Or Betrayer: Pete Buttigieg’s Brother-In-Law, Pastor Rhyan Glezman [Corrected]

 

Pastor, brother, candidate..

In what appears to be a case of the Popeyes (“It’s all I can stand, ’cause I canst stands no more!”), the evangelist minister brother-in-law of cult candidate for the Democratic Party nomination Pete Buttigieg found it necessary  to publicly rebuke the young mayor of South Bend.

Buttigieg, who has hardly been an unqualified success in his only elected executive office so far, has also distinguished himself, if that’s the right word, by embracing Ocasio-Corte- level climate change fear-mongering, has suggested that the nation should not honor Thomas Jefferson, and is all-in on with his party’s determination to remake our system to make it easier to dictate progressive policies to the public, as he has endorsed abolishing the Electoral College, packing the Supreme Court, and eliminating the Senate filibuster. He has called for a National Service, forcing or enticing teens to participate in government-dictated social programs.

Most significantly, Buttigieg has been at his most arrogant and obnoxious when he uses Christianity and God as crude weapons against conservatives.

For example, he has accused Christians who don’t support the $15 an hour minimum wage of being poor Christians and hypocrites. Paul Miragoff nicely explains the intellectual bankruptcy in that claim, writing, ” Why isn’t Buttigieg a hypocrite for not supporting a $20 an hour minimum wage? For the same reason that other Christians aren’t hypocrites for opposing $15 an hour. The Bible doesn’t address the minimum wage rate and there are public policy arguments against raising it.”

Ah, but God is on this candidate’s side, you see.

Now he is arguing that the Bible can be read to favor late-term abortions, meaning that if one opposes killing the unborn, one is a bad Christian. In an interview this morning on “The Breakfast Club” radio show, Pete Buttigieg said, Continue reading

When Absolutism Must Prevail: “Choice Of Evils”

“Choice of Evils,” taken from the utilitarian philospher Jeremy Bentham’s (1748-1832)  famous quote above, is an ethically rich “Law and Order” episode from 2006 that I recent watched again. Assistant DA Jack McCoy decides to prosecute a mother for murder after she admits to shooting her homeless, psychopath son. Her defense: she did it to protect the community, or, in cruder terms, he needed killing. She had met his girlfriend who was pregnant,  and told her that her son would eventually kill her and the baby if she didn’t get away.

The mother explained that her first husband and the dead man’s father is in prison for murder, and like his son. lacked empathy or a conscience. She related how her son displayed all the traits of a psychopath growing up, such as torturing and killing animals. In sympathy for her plight, McCoy offered the mother a manslaughter plea and short prison time, but she turned the deal down, adamant that she hd done nothing wrong.  She was then charged with second-degree murder (that’s also generous, since the killing was premeditated), and the trial began.

The problem of how to deal with “bad seeds” is a  societal dilemma of long standing, and one without a satisfactory solution. It is easy to sympathize with the mother’s plight, but a society that approves of preemptive executions when an individual  seems likely to harm someone before he or she actually does is on a fast track to chaos; it’s not even a slippery slope. Once again, the seductive appeal of pre-crime measures has to be resisted decisively, or individual rights and justice mean nothing.

Does society have to wait until a loudly ticking time bomb goes off? If it’s a human time bomb, absolutely, and no exceptions. Sometimes, that metaphorical bomb turns out to be a dud, and every human being has the same right to be judged on the harm, if any, he or she actually does rather than the harm some feel they are certain to do.

In the episode, it is discovered mid-trial that the son had in fact murdered a man, which his mother did not know at the time she murdered him. McCoy argued to the judge that this was irrelevant to the case and likely to mislead the jury. He was correct. The mother’s act was exactly as illegal and intolerable whether her son was a likely killer or a proven one. The discovered homicide is an example of moral luck: it changes how the mother’s act is perceived, but doesn’t change the ethical analysis at all.

In the end, the jury votes guilty, and sends the mother to prison for 25 years. This is because she admits on the stand that her current husband had threatened to leave her if her son moved back into their home, which he announced he would soon do. Thus the preemptive murder began to look less like an altruistic act to spare society, and more like one for the mother’s personal benefit.

Again, it shouldn’t have mattered. Killing a human being based on probabilities and presumed future harm to society can never be deemed just or tolerable.

Never.

Now THAT’S A Norm Presidents Shouldn’t Mess With…

Apparently President Trump lobbied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to bar two of the President’s least favorite members of Congress, Representatives Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota,  from entering Israel for official visits. Israel then reversed an earlier  decision to admit the two Muslim Democrats, both supporters of the international Israel boycott movement.

From the Times:

An Israeli official close to the prime minister’s office said on Thursday that a call came from the Trump administration as recently as this week pressing Mr. Netanyahu to bar the congresswomen. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss delicate information, said the prime minister found himself in a “lose lose” situation, having to choose between upsetting Mr. Trump or the Democrats.

Of interest but irrelevant to the ethics issue is this morning’s news that Tlaib is now being allowed to enter Israel on humanitarian grounds in order to visit her 90-year-old grandmother, provided the Congresswoman pledges  “not to  promote boycotts” while in the country. That’s nice. But it doesn’t change the analysis of what Trump did.

One of the “Big Lie” attacks (I haven’t yet added this one to the Ethics Alarms Big Lie Directory, but it will be #6) on President Trump, spurred by partisan academics and gullibly swallowed whole by history-challenged members of the public, has been that this President uniquely ignores or violates so-called “democratic norms,” meaning that he frequently takes actions that may be within his power, but that traditions, precedent and the practices of his predecessors have established as un-Presidential or even taboo. For the most part, this is contrived criticism representing a double standard and requiring historical amnesia. Presidents break norms, and the stronger ones break them frequently. Democrats attempting to equate  breaking precedents as the equivalent of “high crimes and misdemeanors” are showing their hand: this complaint is just one more unethical justification for a “resistance” coup.

The fact that there is nothing automatically wrong with breaking norms does not mean that all norms should be breached, or that breaching a particular norm is wise, responsible, or ethical. A President enlisting a foreign ally to take negative action against a member of Congress is one norm that shouldn’t be violated.

The action is unethical by any ethical standards. From a Golden Rule standpoint, no President would tolerate members of Congress lobbying foreign governments to take adverse action against him, though I have little doubt that this has been attempted by legislators in the past. Kant’s Rule of Universality would reject the practice as a new norm, and from a utilitarian standpoint, it’s hard to see how such conduct by a President would result on balance in more beneficial consequences than negative ones. Continue reading

Comment Of The Day: “’Three Strikes And You’re Incompetent’ : The Wernher Von Braun Fiasco, And What It Tells Us About Journalism”

This is going to start out as a history-heavy day at Ethics Alarms, and Zoe Brain’s terrific Comment of the Day regarding Wernher von Braun, the abuse of science, and the moral compromises of war  gets it off to a smashing start.

Quick: how much do you know about Japanese Unit 731? Here’s a sample (and here’s some more background) :

Unit 731 was set up in 1938 in Japanese-occupied China with the aim of developing biological weapons. It also operated a secret research and experimental school in Shinjuku, central Tokyo. Its head was Lieutenant Shiro Ishii.The unit was supported by Japanese universities and medical schools which supplied doctors and research staff. The picture now emerging about its activities is horrifying.According to reports never officially admitted by the Japanese authorities, the unit used thousands of Chinese and other Asian civilians and wartime prisoners as human guinea pigs to breed and develop killer diseases.

Many of the prisoners, who were murdered in the name of research, were used in hideous vivisection and other medical experiments, including barbaric trials to determine the effect of frostbite on the human body.

To ease the conscience of those involved, the prisoners were referred to not as people or patients but as “Maruta”, or wooden logs. Before Japan’s surrender, the site of the experiments was completely destroyed, so that no evidence is left.

Then, the remaining 400 prisoners were shot and employees of the unit had to swear secrecy.

Special thanks is due to Zoe Brain for raising the topic of these horrific  Japanese war crimes, which have received so little publicity compared to their Nazi equivalents.

Here is her COTD on the post, “Three Strikes And You’re Incompetent” : The Wernher Von Braun Fiasco, And What It Tells Us About Journalism”:

I am a sometime Rocket Scientist. I am also a sometime senior engineer on military projects – in this context, “Defence Industry” is an unhelpful euphemism to sanitise a regretably necessary evil.

Von Braun is an object lesson. Although a member of the Nazi party, he joined to further his passion of developing rocketry. His later membership of the SS was coerced, though any man of principle would have resisted rather harder than he did.

His boss, Dornberger, who arguably had more influence on the US space program than Von Braun, was a nasty piece of work. He wasn’t just an amoral mercenary with overly flexible ethics, he was quite approving of working slave labourers to death.

I am in no danger of becoming a Dornberger. A Von Braun? Well, apart from the lack of talent on my part, yes, I could see myself becoming like him if I was careless. Just by getting too wrapped up in a technically sweet solution to an intractable problem, by telling myself I was advancing Science for all Humanity, and a hundred other justifications and excuses for selling my soul, one compromise at a time.

Maybe I already have done. Some work I did 25 years ago is now in the hands of a regime I do not trust. Had they been in power then, I would not have worked on that project, just as I refused to work on some others. Continue reading