Journal: News & Comment

Saturday, September 06, 2003
# 9:16:00 PM:

Thanks, Mr. Smith

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I've been a Salon subscriber for some time. While the amount I read of the site's content waxes and wanes with my spare time (of which, with two kids under six in the house, there is currently little), I always try to make room for Patrick Smith's Ask the Pilot column.

Smith is a little cynical, sometimes self-pitying, but always informative and passionate about flying, aircraft, and, in particular, the social and political sides of global aviation. For example, many people comment on how commercial flying is much, much safer than driving. Smith does so particularly well, by having us ask ourselves two questions:

  1. How many people have you met who have been in a commercial airliner crash, or have you known personally who have been injured or killed in such an incident?
  2. How many people have you met who have been in an automobile collision, or have you known personally who have been injured or killed in such an incident?

The chances of knowing even one person in the former category are pretty small—but probably not as small as not knowing, or being, anyone in the second.

Quoting a well-respected report, Smith notes that "for flying to become as risky as driving, disastrous airline incidents on the scale of those of September 11th would have [to occur] about once a month."

Here he is talking about the jungle in Borneo:

Fifty years ago one would have described the bizarre warbled yelping of the gibbon as "unearthly." Today we say "it sounds like a car alarm." [But] who says of the car alarm: "It sounds just like a gibbon"?

And here's some more good Salon writing from Joe Conason:

If your workplace is safe; if your children go to school rather than being forced into labor; if you are paid a living wage, including overtime; if you enjoy a 40-hour week and you are allowed to join a union to protect your rights—you can thank liberals. If your food is not poisoned and your water is drinkable—you can thank liberals. If your parents are eligible for Medicare and Social Security, so they can grow old in dignity without bankrupting your family—you can thank liberals. If our rivers are getting cleaner and our air isn't black with pollution; if our wilderness is protected and our countryside is still green—you can thank liberals. If people of all races can share the same public facilities; if everyone has the right to vote; if couples fall in love and marry regardless of race; if we have finally begun to transcend a segregated society—you can thank liberals. Progressive innovations like those and so many others were achieved by long, difficult struggles against entrenched power. What defined conservatism, and conservatives, was their opposition to every one of those advances.

Thanks to Dori and Tom for that last link, by the way.


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