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I wish someone would explain to me how the Amarillo Globe-News maintains its credibility and readership in the Panhandle and how it manages to strike fear in the hearts of public officials.
For the third time in as many weeks, the daily paper has bloviated about “transparency,” this time elevating the argument from Executive Editor Lee Wolverton’s poorly penned columns to an official position of an editorial posted to the paper’s website on Friday. This time the nattering called for televising the United States Supreme Court’s proceedings on the Affordable Health Care Act, asserting for those gullible enough to fall for the rhetoric, that television would constitute transparency. Oh, sure, TV in the Supreme Court Chambers would have been interesting — it might make it easier to see how Justice Clarence Thomas sleeps on the bench. That would assume, of course, that the camera angles aren’t as deceptive as those in Congress. You know, the ones that show a politician palavering platitudinous horse pucky from a lectern while the cameras don’t show an almost empty chamber.
But the fact that the court made full audio of the proceedings available at the end of the day — well, it’s hard to accuse the court of being a secret star chamber. What next? TV cameras in all the justices’ and their clerks’ offices as they review the briefs and discuss the cases? What a great idea as the justices plan to use three months to deliberate the matter.
It is one thing to say that more openness would contribute to a better understanding of the judiciary. It’s another thing altogether to call it a lack of transparency.
Oh, but wait, the Globe-News only selectively wants transparency, doesn’t it? After all, for the business of the city of Amarillo and Downtown Amarillo Inc. the poor plebeians of Amarillo don’t need to worry their little heads about things. No siree Bob, not only will we fight to keep as much of DAI’s taxpayer-paid-for business behind closed doors, but we’ll use those same taxpayer dollars to wage this war on (what was that called again?) transparency.
The continued drumbeat of selective spleen about open government reminds me of what a former night editor said as the city was on tenterhooks about the arrival of evacuees fleeing Hurricane Katrina.
This is the way it works, he explained.
“We’re going to write about this, and write about this and write about this until there is no more to write,” he said. “And then we’ll write some more.”
The JetBlue landing in Amarillo after its captain had some kind of mental issue is an example of this approach, and the more the Globe-News tries to create the impression they are covering an event of great moment in depth, the more the paper shows its ignorance. I can be charitable about the errors in, for example, the transcript of the radio communications. Given the quality of the sound and aviation jargon, I wouldn’t expect a reporter not familiar with aviation to discern the difference in a radio call to an en route center and a tower.
But when the opinions are based on something as simple as understanding how the Federal Aviation Administration’s regulations on pilot qualifications and the medical standards work, the Globe-News is making hay out of a straw man and falsely faulting a federal agency that can be held responsible for the safest skies in the world. That kind of anti-government attack fits in with the agenda of the Globe-News and its owner, Morris Communications: continue to find every way to bash the federal government.
The editorial, posted Saturday afternoon, is replete with errors.
Here are the questions that John Kanelis, the editorial page editor and whose byline is on the editorial, posed, “Was he (the pilot) tested rigorously enough by the Federal Aviation Administration? Did the FAA medical team spot anything that should have sounded some alarm? Should it have detected some signals?”
First, the so-called “FAA medical team” would have nothing to do with the pilot’s medical issues unless that pilot’s medial examiner, a specially designated local physician known as an AME, raises an issue; or, if the pilot is seeking some waiver from a set standard. And how “rigorous” is that test? Right now, each class of medical certificate has a set of standards and the examining doctor has no right to make those standards more rigorous. Unless a pilot evinces bizarre behavior during the medical exam, there is nothing that would come to the attention of “the FAA medical team.”
Here is something else: “The FAA does conduct ‘full medical examinations’ of pilots older than 40. It also allows pilots to fly if they are taking ‘non-sedating’ prescription medicine to treat certain psychological conditions.”
At issue here is not the pilot’s age. To be a jetliner pilot-in-command from the left seat requires, among other things, air transport and commercial licensure and what is called a first-class medical certificate. The medical standards are much more stringent than, say, the third-class medical certificate for a private pilot who flies general aviation aircraft without pay.
So any of the questions Kanelis poses after missing these key points are really, uh, stupid.
The upshot of the editorial’s logic is, “What’s more, it (the FAA) needs to hold itself accountable to individuals, the passengers who put their lives in the hands of pilots every time they climb aboard a commercial aircraft.”
The temerity of the Globe-News to push for something more stringent from the FAA like this strains credulity. The Globe-News conveniently overlooks how the airline industry fights some of these changes. After a regional airline’s turboprop crashed near Buffalo, N.Y., a few years ago, the causes of the crash were ruled to be pilot fatigue and a lack of proficiency. The pilot-in-command had a spotty record on passing his practical (flying) exams. As a result, the FAA wanted to strengthen the rules on pilot rest requirements and pilot fatigue. And it wanted to disqualify pilots who failed multiple tests. It was the airline trade groups that resisted these safety changes.
Folks, the realities around this incident are: (1) what happened is an extremely rare occurrence; (2) the rest of the crew did exactly as they were trained to do, and they did so admirably; and, (3) had the pilot manifested the behavior at another time in the flight, the jetliner would have diverted elsewhere with equally capable facilities — Albuquerque and Little Rock come to mind.
Had that happened, Amarillo would have been denied the massive dose of publicity and the people reading the Globe-News would have been spared the misinformation.
I doubt the management of the Globe-News worries about the embarrassment as long as the coverage gets page loads for the website.