Here's a question for you.
Say you were a large government agency, charged with, amongst other things, public safety in a specific area of regulation - and that responsibility applies to millions of Americans on a daily basis. And say you conducted a survey of professionals in that field in order to determine if the type of survey you were conducting was a good way to gather information (No, really). And let's say that survey of survey techniques cost the taxpayers $11 million dollars. And then, say, something funny happens - you get real data from your expensive test.
And the results are universally bad - indicating a major systemic danger to the public, one that is getting worse. Every single response (from thousands of professionals - the absolute experts in the field) says the system is breaking down. The results also indicate that you really aren't living up to your responsibility. The results strongly indicate that if something isn't done pretty damned quick, there are going to be some catastrophic consequences.
So here's the question: Do you A) take immediate action to correct the situation and live up to your charter? or do you B) cover that shit up and pretend it never happened?
I'll bet you can guess the correct answer. See because the part I left out is that you have friends in the industry you're supposed to be regulating, in fact you're in bed with this industry right up to your eyeballs, and if you choose Option A), well those friends are going to take a serious hit in the wallet. And, really, what kind of friend would you be if you placed public safety over the financial bottom lines of your buddies?
NASA yesterday released partial results of a massive air-safety survey of airline pilots who repeatedly complained about fatigue, problems with air-traffic controllers, airport security, and the layouts of runways and taxiways. The results have been 'redacted' - which is a government term for 'deliberately rendered unreadable through the removal of critical references and specific information, because, really, that Freedom of Information Act just plain bites and the people who paid for this information really have no need to know anything about it."
You can find the actual survey data here. NASA was forced to release the information through the FOIA. They weren't happy about it. They sullenly followed the letter of the law, but did it in a manner that violates the very spirit of public disclosure. Good luck figuring it out, it's about 10,000 pages of raw data fields exported from the NASA database in PDF format. The data has been deliberately disassociated from the original survey questions in order to prevent analysis. All references to the original data fields have been removed - i.e. it mostly 10,000 pages of numeric tables without any description of what those numbers mean. Additionally, most of the pilot's statements have been edited in a manner that can best be described as ludicrous: for example, entire paragraphs have been removed leaving only the word 'fatigue.'
"NASA Administrator Michael Griffin told reporters ... that the agency had no plans to study the database for trends. He said NASA conducted the survey only to determine whether gathering information from pilots in such a way was worthwhile."
And apparently, if the results show that NASA is not doing its job correctly then by Griffin's definition the survey isn't worth bothering with. I love the fact that Griffin said his agency has no intention of studying the database for trends. $11 million this database cost us, solely in order to determine if it was worth doing, which according to Griffin it was not. Oh well.
Silly me, I thought NASA was an agency dedicated to science. Apparently though, they have adopted the creationism model of scientific investigation, i.e. Step 1) Determine the results you desire FIRST, 2) conduct the investigation, 3) throw out any data that does not directly support Step (1). When confronted with the conflicting data, pretend it doesn't matter because that's not what you were looking for in the first place.
Really, is it any wonder why nearly forty years after men first set foot upon Earth's moon, we're still trapped in Low Earth Orbit? Or that we've lost two manned spacecraft due to utter stupidity and a complete inability to face unpleasant truths? Or that we've decided to throw away the Hubble Space Telescope, one of the single greatest scientific instruments ever fielded in the entire history of mankind? Or...oh screw it, I could go on all day and I've got other things to do today.
Personally, I think we ought round up Micheal Griffin's family, wife, kids, grandkids, and etc. Then strap these people into some bargain airline seats and let them fly around the country until Mike retires. If he's good with their safety, I guess I'm good with it.
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