Apologies And Thoughts …

My apologies, but there can be no Saturday Surprise today.  In light of the terrible Ethiopian Airlines crash on Sunday, then the tragic mass shootings at two mosques in New Zealand by a white supremacist on Friday, I simply could not get into ‘fun’ mode and felt that perhaps it would be inappropriate anyway.  Saturday Surprise will, hopefully, return next Saturday.

I am deeply disturbed and saddened by both of the aforementioned events.  Each took the lives of innocent people, and each was preventable.  And, while the causes of the two may seem to be completely different, they really aren’t all that different.  They both track back to arrogance and a sense of entitlement.  Today I would like to share a few of my own thoughts about the two aforementioned events with you.

First, the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302.  I’ve already written about this at some length and won’t repeat what I’ve already said.  But this crash could easily have been prevented.  Boeing knew that the 737 Max 8 had a flaw, and one crash had already occurred, Lion Air flight 610 on October 29th, 2018.  Boeing was negotiating with the FAA for a software fix when the government shut down and talks came to a halt for 5 weeks.  And the rest is history.

This, my friends, is a tragic example of capitalism run amok.  Corporate greed.  Profit vs people’s lives.  We live in a corporate world, where governments pander to rich industrialists such as Boeing, Smith & Wesson, Exxon, General Motors and many others.  People are put on the back burner.  People’s lives take a backseat to the bottom line.  189 people lost their lives on the Lion Air flight and 157 people lost their lives on the Ethiopian Airlines flight.  346 people died because Boeing was more interested in their profits than in those 346 lives.  How many lives will be lost due to the burning of fossil fuels, because coal and oil companies care more about profit than lives?  How many will be lost due to the spraying of known toxic chemicals on the food we eat, because ‘Big Ag’ cares more for its bottom line than your life or mine?  The time has come … actually came long ago … to rein in capitalism, to impose strict safety regulations on every company doing business.  Will it happen?  Probably not, for those corporations buy our politicians about as easily as we buy a can of peas.

There is a lot of blame to go around for the killings at the Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Center, it would seem, for everyone seems to be pointing fingers.  Many blame the internet and social media, and yes, there is an element of blame there, since the killer had apparently been posting images of weapons and a “manifesto” for his actions online.  Some blame right-wing leaders, such as Trump, who have given voice to and even encouraged and emboldened the white supremacists, and certainly they must share a portion of the blame.

But, the reality is that the internet is … us.  It is people, expressing their opinions, their hopes, sharing family moments, keeping up with sports, communicating, and in some cases, promoting hate.  People.  Trump and other right-wing personas exist only because they are given a voice … by people.  Who is to blame?  The man, Brenton Tarrant, who planned and carried out the massacre, and any associates who may have helped him, certainly carries the lion’s share of blame.  Perhaps he got his ideas from radicals and white supremacists on the internet, but who put those ideas out there?

I propose that there is enough blame to go around for most all of us.  Sure, Donald Trump opened a can of really nasty worms with his hate speech, his call for a Muslim ban, his denigration of all races other than Caucasian.  But people did not have to fall in line behind him.  They did, because they chose to, not because he forced them to.

But here’s the other thing, and it is, as I think about it, the main reason I write this blog:  We have an obligation to speak out, nay … to SHOUT out … about the injustice of Islamophobia, of homophobia, of misogyny, of white supremacy.  It is not enough for those of us who know it is wrong to just shake our collective heads and roll our collective eyes when these things happen!  It is NOT enough to send “thoughts and prayers”!  Unless we wish to keep seeing bastards like Brenton Tarrant shooting up mosques, shopping malls, movie theaters and schools, then we need to use our voices.

Remember that oft-quoted quotation by Martin Niemöller?

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

We need, more than anything, to have conversations, not screaming matches, not hateful speech on social media sites.  We need to speak to and treat each other with respect.  It is okay to disagree, but we are getting absolutely nowhere by demeaning others and shouting at the tops of our lungs.  But speak we must, for to remain silent is to ensure that tragedies like those from this past week will be ever prevalent.  Freedom of speech is not only a right, but also a responsibility. Will we sit quietly by and allow bigots to rule the world in which we live? Think about it.

Expendable Lives …

The United States seems to be out to destroy its own people, and others along with them.  First, we pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, putting the entire world in danger of extinction, but most of all its own citizens.  Then we pull out of the Iran nuclear agreement, making the world far less safe, and turning our friends and allies against us.  Then we renege on numerous trade agreements, denigrate world leaders, and further alienate our allies.  We encourage large farmers to use dangerous chemicals to produce our food.  We scale back regulations that made our air a little cleaner, our cars a little safer, and more.  The latest in this all-out effort to destroy the people of the United States is a sweetheart deal between our government and Boeing Aircraft.Lion-Air-crash-Indonesia-plane-what-happened-why-did-Boeing-737-Max-8-crash-739292Last October, a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 flight went down over the Java Sea, killing 189 people.  Last Sunday, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 flight crashed, killing all 157 people on board.  One might just begin to think that perhaps there is something wrong with the Max 8, yes?  Well, guess what, folks?  Every single nation on the globe has decided to err on the side of caution and ground the Boeing 737 Max 8 until further notice, pending safety reviews.  Every nation, that is, except the United States!  And, do you know why the U.S. isn’t grounding the Max 8?  First, I will let Donald Trump himself explain it to you.

“Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT. I see it all the time in many products. Always seeking to go one unnecessary step further, when often old and simpler is far better. Split second decisions are needed, and the complexity creates danger. All of this for great cost yet very little gain. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want Albert Einstein to be my pilot. I want great flying professionals that are allowed to easily and quickly take control of a plane!”

Say WHAT??? Perhaps Daniel K. Elwell, the acting administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, can explain it better.

“The FAA continues to review extensively all available data and aggregate safety performance from operators and pilots of the Boeing 737 MAX.  Thus far, our review shows no systematic performance issues and provides no basis to order grounding the aircraft.  Nor have other civil aviation authorities provided data to us that would warrant action. In the course of our urgent review of data on the Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 crash, if any issues affecting the continued airworthiness of the aircraft are identified, the FAA will take immediate and appropriate action.”

Okay, neither of those guys have any answers, but perhaps Robert Reich does.

“The 737 Max 8 has been grounded all over the world – except in the U.S. Why? Maybe because Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg personally lobbied Trump not to ground it, and Trump’s toothless, brainless FAA under Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao (who also happens to be married to Mitch McConnell) refuses to take action.”

Now that answer is most likely nearest to the truth.  Trump pandering to and covering for yet another of his rich cronies, and to add insult to injury, Elaine Chao, married to Bootlicker-in-Chief Mitch McConnell, heads the Department of Transportation that oversees the Federal Aviation Agency.

Two United States airlines fly the 737 Max 8 aircraft and both said they planned to keep flying. Southwest Airlines has 34 of the planes and American Airlines has 24.  My advice to all would be to boycott those two airlines.  Since the federal government will not act, we must.  We the People have power in this case … the power of choice.  When Southwest and American are flying planes that are not even half full, when it begins to hit their bottom line, you can bet your sweet patootie they will stop flying the Max 8, despite Donald Trump and despite Elaine Chao.

Boeing deserves whatever it gets, up to and including bankruptcy.  They have known for some time that there were problems with this plane, but have been far too slow to address those problems.  According to The Wall Street Journal …

“A software fix to the MCAS flight-control feature by the FAA and Boeing had been expected in early January, but discussions between regulators and the plane maker dragged on, partly over differences of opinion about technical and engineering issues, according to people familiar with the details. Officials from various parts of Boeing and the FAA had differing views about how extensive the fix should be. U.S. officials have said the federal government’s recent shutdown also halted work on the fix for five weeks.”

While our government and Boeing dragged their feet, while Donald Trump shut down the government over an elusive ‘wall’, dangerous planes were left in the sky until more people died.  And now … the United States government cares so little for the lives of its people that it refuses to ground these planes.

At least two American pilots, flying United States routes on the Max 8 filed incident reports with the FAA in November that raised similar safety concerns to those preceding the crashes in Indonesia and in Ethiopia. Another pilot wrote of having been given insufficient training to fly the plane: “I think it is unconscionable that a manufacturer, the FAA, and the airlines would have pilots flying an airplane without adequately training, or even providing available resources and sufficient documentation to understand the highly complex systems that differentiate this aircraft from prior models,” the pilot wrote. “I am left to wonder: what else don’t I know? The Flight Manual is inadequate and almost criminally insufficient.”

But the FAA turned a deaf ear.  How many more people will have to die before the lives of people matter more than corporate greed?  Think about this:  every other nation in the world cares more for its people than the United States of America does.  Doesn’t exactly give you a warm feeling inside, does it?