Thursday, February 23, 2012

Two news items

Two recent items caught my attention yesterday.  The first can be seen here, where the band and their crew denied any responsibility for the stage collapse caused by a downburst during the Indiana State Fair.  In effect, they said the victims were at fault and the construction of the stage was not responsible for the tragedy.  I discussed this event in an earlier blog posting, considering things from a different viewpoint.  It's my understanding that there's a code covering the construction of outdoor stages that, if followed, would mitigate the chances for such events as what occurred at the Indiana State Fair - but there is no substantive enforcement of that code.  Hence, I suppose the construction of the stage was formally done legally, but it evidently didn't follow the (unenforced) construction code.  To put the blame for the event on the fans is not entirely without some substance, but certainly it seems like a pretty weak defense that I suspect won't stand up in court.  Not only is it a weak defense, but I find it personally repugnant that the band and crew have chosen to wash their hands of any responsibility for what happened.

Of course, the whole process of severe weather warnings and emergency preparedness had some serious deficiencies during the event, so Sugarland should not have to shoulder the entire burden of responsibility for the fatalities and injuries.  There's plenty of folks with whom they can share that blame.  But the blame game is a matter for the courts to work out.  What I'm mostly concerned about is learning the lessons from this and similar recent events.  If the band and crew walk away without having to accept some part of the responsibility for what happened, will any other band and crew be encouraged to take the extra effort and cost to construct an outdoor stage meeting the industry's (unenforced) code?  Shouldn't there be a move in the industry to accept enforcement of this code, for the safety of those attending outdoor events? 

The second news item concerns the discovery of the source for leaked documents that were confidential information regarding the misinformation campaign on global warming by the Heartland Institute, funded by the big oil companies and other right-wing "business as usual" groups/individuals.  It seems that Peter Gleick, in seeking confirmation regarding the authenticity of documents he'd seen, obtained them directly from the Heartland Institute by posing in an email as one of the members of the institute's inner circle.  Thus, he obtained his copies by what has to be considered as an unethical process, and the climate change deniers are all up in arms about this, howling for Gleick's blood.  I certainly don't condone the unethical process by which Gleick received copies of the documents, but ...

I want to remind the climate change deniers, now in a self-righteous rage over this incident, that some of them used even less ethical methods when they hacked into the computers at the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Centre (the so-called "Climategate" affair), and obtained private emails of the scientists working at the Centre.  The deniers were dismissive at the time about any concerns regarding the ethics of how the confidential emails were obtained - instead, they were howling for answers to the charges made against the scientists associated with the research.  As it turned out, all of the scientists accused of wrongdoing were subjected to multiple investigations by various groups, and eventually were exonerated of any serious ethical breaches.  The deniers have denied the validity of those investigations, of course!  And the climate change deniers are still dismissive of any concerns about how the information leading to the "scandal" was obtained.

If the scientists associated with "climategate" were forced to answer the charges associated with revelations derived from illegally-obtained emails, then it seems to me that the Heartland Institute should be forced similarly to submit to investigations and answer to any charges derived from unethically-obtained documents.  What's good for the goose should be good for the gander!  If the ethics of obtaining information are irrelevant when considering the revelations in that information for one side of this controversy, then they should be equally irrelevant for the other side.

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