No one knows yet whether the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max threw itself into the ground shortly after takeoff for the same reason the Lion Air Boeing 737 Max threw itself into the ground. All there is to work from is the context. The Wall Street Journal supplied one part of the context:
Boeing Co. is making an extensive change to the flight-control system in the 737 MAX aircraft involved in October’s Lion Air crash in Indonesia, going beyond what many industry officials familiar with the discussions had anticipated.
The change was in the works before a second plane of the same model crashed in Africa last weekend—and comes as world-wide unease about the 737 MAX’s safety grows.
And then it supplied another:
A software fix to the MCAS flight-control feature by the FAA and Boeing had been expected early in January, but discussions between regulators and the plane maker dragged on, partly over differences of opinion about technical and engineering issues, according to people familiar with the details. Officials from various parts of Boeing and the FAA had differing views about how extensive the fix should be.
U.S. officials have said the federal government’s recent shutdown also halted work on the fix for five weeks.
Another Journal story, about the Transportation Department, gave even more context:
Thirty-five Congressional mandates sit unanswered, on everything from minimum seat space to secondary barriers protecting cockpits. The top job at the Federal Aviation Administration has been open for 14 months. Enforcement fines against major U.S. airlines have dropped 88% in the past two years, even as three-hour tarmac delays have more than doubled.
When the members of the political mainstream resolve to keep their heads down and hope Robert Mueller or the 2020 elections will eventually fix the government’s problems, they are pretending that this sort of thing doesn’t matter. The Federal Aviation Administration goes along without an administrator in charge. The government shuts down for weeks for no reason, and a safety review gets shut down with it. One hundred fifty-seven people die in the crash of a brand-new plane, five months after 181 people died in the crash of the same kind of brand-new plane.
The executive branch’s only real effort is reserved for jamming as many committed right-wing partisans in their 30s and 40s onto the federal courts as possible, for the sake of controlling the future, while the day-to-day government rots.
The entire executive branch of the government has been running, or not running, like this for more than two years. The president is too ignorant and lazy to care; his cabinet members are too corrupt and lazy to care; any effort to maintain public or common things, let alone improve them, is an insult to the ideologues whose money made this all possible. The executive branch’s only real effort is reserved for jamming as many committed right-wing partisans in their 30s and 40s onto the federal courts as possible, for the sake of controlling the future, while the day-to-day government rots. There is no Secretary of Defense, and the commanders in charge of war operations are just bombing whatever suits them. There’s still basically no State Department. Remember when Saudi Arabia murdered a Washington Post columnist inside its consulate in Istanbul, and the United States had no ambassador in place in either country? There’s still no ambassador to the United Nations. Other countries to which we have no ambassador include Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Honduras, Libya, Pakistan, Panama, and Qatar. The president has declared a state of emergency on the Mexican border, but he has not nominated an ambassador to Mexico, either.
Think of an agency and check it and see: FEMA? There is no FEMA administrator right now. There was one, but he resigned last month after being accused of misusing vehicles. I don’t know if that got lost in the other news at the time, or if I briefly knew about it and then forgot again. There are vacancies all over the rest of the top of the agency. What is going to happen when there’s a disaster? This is the disaster, already.