Thursday, April 10, 2008

Record Indicates Problems

A friend complained a bit to me last week that she couldn't follow the project -- it's too all over the place for her -- too many unconnected or disconnected or distinct pieces...

I argued, after nodding sympathetically, that that is the whole point. Scope, Discovery, Exploration... there is not one story I am looking to understand -- but really trying to get some picture of the world -- and some picture of a year, as well.

All this to say, if you are squeamish about tangents, today might not be the day for you to read...

The AP reports this morning, "Oil Spill Pilot's Record Indicates Problems."

"WASHINGTON (AP) — The pilot who steered a container ship into the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge last fall, causing a huge oil spill, had a drunken driving conviction and a history of alcohol abuse and took numerous prescription drugs that could have impaired him, federal investigators said Wednesday."

This stood out to me for a couple of reasons -- for one thing, it does appear that the Vadez crash lived in this realm. The Captain in that crash had a history of alcoholism, left his post, slurred -- he had numerous DUI's etc...

So if that's what happened in San Francisco, it's important to know.

On the other hand, the article goes on to list ailments and medications -- and I'm not so sure what to think. We do as a culture have a tendency to impale a person on his own record after his demise:

"The pilot, Capt. John Cota, had regularly received waivers allowing him to hold on to his federal mariner’s license despite illnesses including glaucoma, depression, kidney stones, migraines, pancreatitis and, most recently, sleep apnea, according to testimony at a hearing of the National Transportation Safety Board."

I don't know -- it seems to me that the problem is in something about who captains a ship. Maybe it's a clash what used to be the culture and what is now at stake -- on the one hand, should depression really be cause for not being able to work? On the other hand, one wouldn't be able to do some jobs that we are accustomed to think of with much more weight. Astronaut. Pilot. Surgeon. There are some jobs for which we do require deeper levels of -- purity? cleanliness? freedom from ailments? -- from their practitioners...

"“I wouldn’t want anyone taking those medicines and having to make decisions in a safety-sensitive position,” the witness, Dr. Robert Bourgeois, said on the last day of a two-day hearing on the accident on Nov. 7."

Okay, so let's figure out who's steering these ships! Let's say -- each of these tankers holds the potential for national disaster, and let's make sure we are being responsible -- for the ships, for the companies, for the crew -- let's make very clear what's at stake.

Each of these tankers holds the potential for national disaster.

If we change the way we think -- does it help?

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