Worth watching: Boeing and FAA investigative report

At midnight last Friday, a Congressional funding impasse led the Federal Aviation Administration into partial shutdown. As a consequence, some 4,000 FAA workers have been furloughed. Although crucial air traffic control functions continue, airport construction and collection of ticket taxes will halt until some solution is worked out. ThinkProgress reported that the root of the shutdown is a GOP effort to strip FAA employees of union rights — what a surprise! According to the Washington Post, House Dems will introduce a bill to end the shutdown. But all this is just introduction, not the point of this post.

Seeking news about the FAA led me to this documentary which I highly recommend you watch. It’s about Boeing allegedly knowing that production of some aircraft has been faulty, yet doing nothing to fix the situation. Toward the end, the report gets into the ‘regulated-industry-as-customer’ approach to oversight that characterizes the worst of our corporate-captured government’s failure.
It’s a great piece of muckraking journalism by al Jazeera English, a multi-faceted story about which I’d heard nothing until now. It was originally published in late 2010 but it remains relevant. It’s a classic story of the public put into peril by corporate malfeasance in the name of profits, and enabled by higher-ups at a, ahem, responsive government agency. There’s a cast of many, including honorable and courageous whistleblowers from the ranks of Boeing and the FAA — people who put their public-interest ethics ahead of their careers and paid the price. Well worth your time. It’s led me to check on which kind of aircraft I’ll be flying on later this summer. Really.


In his former professional lives, John Moyers was a radio and newspaper reporter and a foundation executive. In 1998, he founded TomPaine.com, a non-profit, public-interest Web site inspired by the great opinion journals of American politics and the populist progressivism of Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense. As editor-in-chief, he conceived of and wrote TomPaine.com's "op-ads" -- editorial advertisements which ran 36 times per year on the op-ed page of The New York Times and in the pages of weekly political magazines. For this work, he and TomPaine.com received from The Newspaper Guild/CWA the 2004 Herb Block Freedom Award, "recognizing those who make a substantial contribution to a free press, are compassionate toward the weak and disadvantaged, defend the rights of free speech and assembly and hold a deep distrust of unbridled power." He returned to Vermont in 2004 to pursue other interests, including adaptive reuse of historic buildings and local civic activism.

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