Monday, October 22, 2007

On the danger of factions

Great little observation here about single-issue, high-powered ethno-religious lobby groups. Namely Armenian-Americans, Cuban-Americans, and the famous/infamous Israeli lobby. Fallows pulls a great quote from the Federalist papers, about 'Factions'

"By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a
majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common
impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or
to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community."

Sound familiar?

NASA withholding vital survey safety data...for no good reason

Recently, I have been very impressed with the Associated Press. They continually break new stories, provide truly balanced, unbiased fact-based reporting. Good stuff. Unlike the NY Times...

Anyway, the AP has been trying for 14 months to get access to a 4-year NASA survey of airline pilots that the agency repressed the report "fearful it would upset air travelers and hurt airline profits".


As an economist and fan of free markets, I am hardly knee-jerk anti-corporate, but the thought that a public agency run by the government, payed by taxpayers money, and tasked with public service goals could possibly cite instigating panic and protecting corporate profits is unconscionable. In fact, I can't think of a single, defensible reason to ever suppress this kind of data. In the final letter from NASA to the AP denying their FOIA request, a NASA administrator actually wrote (and should be fired for it):
Release of the requested data, which are sensitive and safety-related, could materially affect the public confidence in, and the commercial welfare of, the air carriers and general aviation companies whose pilots participated in the survey
......(blink).....(go slack-jawed)......(start feeling overwhelming blood-boiling rage).....(serenity now).

Luckily the AP then decided that if they couldn't get the actual results, they could definitely find some disgruntled employees who could summarize them off the record. Go AP! Check out the link for full detail.