In “Airplane!,” the late Stephen Stucker created an iconic comic character as the chaotic “Johnny,” a deranged but relentlessly cheery air traffic control employee who treated the life-and death emergency of an endangered airliner as an opportunity to pull practical jokes, like pulling a plug to shut off all the runway lights just as the plane was making its desperate approach with a volunteer pilot at the helm. “Just kidding!” he says. This week, we learned that Johnny, or at least his copycat, was alive and well. An air traffic controller at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport instructed the pilot of Delta Flight 630, just over 1,000 feet off the ground and preparing to land, to abort the landing and circle the airport. Seconds later, Johnny II said, “I’m kidding, Delta 630. After you land, I’ve got no one behind you. Expect to exit right.” Continue reading
Tag Archives: ethics alarms
Those who participated in the epic, star-studded battle in February here, led by the departed Bruce Bartup, over what are acceptable levels of intensity and personal attack on Ethics Alarms, will experience some nostalgia reading this debate on Slate about the website’s policies. My favorite line: “…if someone is a dick, and we’ve explained that he’s a dick, why shouldn’t we also call him a dick? He’s earned it!”
If you missed Bruce’s Lament and the terrific donnybrook it generated (sadly, Bruce took his bruised feelings and went home to the British Isles, though I urged him to persevere) can read his Comment of the Day and the responses to it here.
Graphic: kiss my wonder woman
Today the multiple winner of Ethics Alarms’ annual “Commenter of the Year” Award, “tgt” returned to the ethics wars here without warning or fanfare after many months away.
Good. Continue reading
One of several cantankerous commenters on the inexplicably contentious Julian Batts post wrote, in the course of his generalized abuse, “Who would ever book you? LOL.” (Those familiar with this forum know it was the “LOL” that got him banned more than the insult). The rhetorical question was also secretly ironic, because I was booked that very day (yesterday) on an early morning talk show, by Arthur King, an occasional commenter here who has me on South Portland, Maine’s WGAN as his guest occasionally.
You can listen to the segment here. Much thanks to Arthur, for both a professionally run interview and great timing.
The title describes the public transit riders who watched this disturbing scene unfold on a Philadelphia bus, and did nothing:
2014 is the 50th anniversary of the infamous Kitty Genovese case, and dueling books on the incident either recount the accepted version that 38 people in an apartment building heard the 28 year-old woman’s screams as she was being stabbed to death but “didn’t want to be involved” and let her die, or adopt the revisionist theory that the apathy of bystanders was unfairly and inaccurately hyped by the news media. The incident on the Philadelphia bus tells me that the revisionists have a burden of proof that will be hard to meet. There was plenty of evidence already, like here, or here, or here, or here, or more recently here, that Kitty Genovese might not fare any better today. Continue reading
To anyone who is capable of compassion and objectivity, the abortion controversy represents a classic ethics conflict: two ethically defensible positions based upon undeniable ethical principles that are in opposition. Both factions have their absolutist wings which would deny the other side’s interests, holding that either the life of the unborn ( abortion opponents) or a woman’s autonomy (abortion advocates) is such a societal priority that nothing should be permitted to compromise its primacy in any way. Yet the best solution to most ethics conflicts, if possible, is balancing, resulting in acceptance of a reasonable middle position that acknowledges the validity of both interests.
Recent comments from prominent pro-abortion advocates are ethically troubling, because they suggest a complete denial that any valid interests on the other side exist at all. This signals a retreat from reason and fairness into zealotry and fanaticism, and it makes balancing not merely more difficult, but unimaginable.
In an interview on the cable station Fusion, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards had this revealing exchange (video above): Continue reading
The Ethics Alarms resident humanist, Bruce, has filed a passionate brief condemning the sometimes rough debate on Ethics Alarms, and, in some ways, the blog itself. This is the latest volley in an ongoing thread that has jumped around from multiple posts: my fault, because I keep raising the issue in various ways. I would normally append some reactions at the conclusion of such direct criticism, but it’s a busy day, so I’ll have to put them in the comments to Bruce’s post later, with this exception.
The Ethics Scoreboard, which was not a blog but a website, embodied Bruce’s suggestion of radically fewer posts, more carefully considered and proofread. I am proud of a lot of the work there, but the format was limiting. The goal of Ethics Alarms is to try to inject ethical considerations into the national analysis and discussion of daily events, including politics, that need them but hardly ever receive them, because, sadly, most commentators are either uninterested or incapable of it. The reason I chose a blog format is that these issues are time-sensitive, and if I am to have even a wisp of a chance of elevating the discussion and encouraging valid analysis of right and wrong, I have to strike quickly, or I might as well be writing about the ethics of the Spanish American War.
Jeffrey Field, my favorite Occupier who often weighs in here, periodically sends me a note that says “Slow down!” I appreciate that, and take it to heart. Nonetheless, when the news media was (lazily? maliciously?) misrepresenting the meaning of David Wildstein’s lawyers’ letter regarding Chris Christie’s involvement in the George Washington Bridge affair, and I could find nobody who was pointing out what miserably unethical journalism this was, I had to write about it immediately—and, frankly, Ethics Alarms readers were ahead of most of the public. A little later, the New York Times, for example, had to tune down its characterization of the document.
I know my analysis is not always air tight, but I’m not trying to end discussions, but begin them. I wish I could do ten posts a day.
Here’s Bruce, and his Comment of the Day on the post “How People Rationalize Being Close-minded: A Case Study”: Continue reading
I guess it’s a sign of longevity that some ethics stories are recurring so exactly that I can handle them with previous posts. I never wanted to see this one repeat, however.
In 2004, two EMT’s let a pregnant woman die in front of them without offering aid, because they were on a break and wouldn’t abandon their coffee and bagels to save a mother and her unborn child. (They were suspended and yet kept their jobs.) Over the weekend, in Washington, D.C., a 77-year-old man, Medric Cecil Mills, collapsed across the street from a fire station. The man’s daughter ran across the street to seek help, and the firefighter she spoke to explained that he couldn’t respond until being dispatched and instructed her to call 911. The man died.
[A black humor note: when 911 was called and a rescue vehicle dispatched, it went to the wrong address.] Continue reading
I am directed by management to announce to you all that your Ethics Alarms host was recently honored by Trust Across America, whose co-founder and Executive Director Barbara Kimmel often weighs in here. The inspiring non-profit organization, which pursues the crucial mission of enhancing trustworthy behavior in organizations, annually names its Top 100 Thought Leaders In Trustworthy Business, and I made the 2014 list, which is a distinguished one. For example, it also includes Charles H. Green, whose commentaries on posts here often enhance the site.
The list is described on the TAA site this way:
“While there are many “top” lists and awards, none specifically address trustworthy business – perhaps because the word “trust” presents a definitional challenge. For five years Trust Across America has been working with a growing team of experts to study, define and quantify organizational trust. During the course of our research, we have met with and spoken to hundreds of experts, across a variety of professional disciplines who, when their efforts are combined, help create trustworthy organizations. As our understanding of trust deepens, so does our pool of exceptional candidates. Many of the honorees are well-known CEOs and leadership experts, while others are quietly working behind the scenes as teachers and researchers. We intend to shine the spotlight on both groups, to redirect the focus from the “scandal of the day” to the trustworthy leaders and organizations of the day.”
I could not be more grateful, honored or humble (hey, I can be humble!), and I want to thank Barbara and her organization for this recognition and encouragement. Trust, as I write here often, really is the essential goal of ethics, for without trust, productive human society is impossible. We have a very long way to go to repair the fraying societal and institutional trust now plaguing America, but groups like Trust Across America give me hope that the task is not impossible, just daunting. I do believe that together, by setting and maintaining high standards and not allowing ourselves to be distracted by biases and rationalizations, a more trusting, ethical world is within reach.