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Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 11/10/18: “Ugh!” “Bah!” “Arf!””Ew!”And “Ahh!”

Why are these guys happy? Read on…

Goooood morning!

1. Why does anyone pay attention to what Dan Rather has to say about the trustworthiness of the news media? Interviewed in some Trump-bashing forum or another, the man who was fired from CBS for using a fake document to bolster an anti-President Bush story argued that President Trump was waging a “war on the press” in order  to “undermine the public’s trust in the rule of law, ” and that he was making “some headway” in undermining the press’s legitimacy.

To the contrary, Dan Rather and his biased news media colleagues have been 100% responsible for undermining the public’s trust in journalists. All of the Presidents attacks and insults would come to nothing if it were not so obvious, which more evidence every day, that the news media was biased, incompetent, dishonest, and pursuing a partisan agenda. Indeed, the fact that CNN, MSNBC and other news sources still resort to Rather as a credible commentator is enough to justify distrusting the new media all by itself.

2. Yup, those Republicans won’t return to civility…Kathy Griffin, trenchant as always and teeming with wit, has now called President Trump a “stupid racist piece of shit.” It is time to definitively establish that the “Trump is a racist” slur is a Democrat/”resistance” Big Lie, and nothing else. There is no evidence that Donald Trump is a racist. I have reviewed the episodes that supported support that contention, and ultimately they boil down to “If you aren’t a progressive, you’re a racist.” Trump opposes illegal immigration, and the dishonest advocacy of open borders has relied on intimidating supporters of this self-evidently correct position by tarring them as racist. Trump challenged Barack Obana’s birthright citizenship exactly as he challenged Ted Cruz’s citizenship in the 2016 campaign for the GOP nomination. (Ted’s not black, in case you hadn’t noticed.) The argument that this proves Trump is a racist is a failed syllogism: Many racists were birthers, Trump was a birther, ergo he’s a racist. False. He’s an asshole. He would have trolled any President, of any color, with the same idiotic accusation if it suited his purposes. But, again, the Democratic play-book for eight years now has dictated that any criticism of Obama is suspect of racist motives. And, of course, the President must be racist because he wants to limit the number of Muslims who enter the country from hotbeds of terrorism.

The hypocrisy of Trump’s foes using the Nazi Big Lie tactic while accusing him of being a fascist is so obvious that it’s hard to believe everyone doesn’t see it. I admit, it’s a versatile Big Lie, allowing pundits to equate Trump’s advocacy of “nationalism,” meaning opposition to the world government dreams the Democratic Party (and quite a few Republicans) have been promoting since Woodrow Wilson (who WAS as racist) with “white nationalism.”

Griffin’s “evidence”? The President said the White House might pull the press credentials of April Ryan, who happens to be black. If CNN was real news organization, it would have fired Ryan, who is a biased, ideologically-driven hack, long ago. Here are the Ethics Alarms Ryan files. Here is what April Ryan considers legitimate questioning of the White House Press Secretary:

“Sarah, is slavery wrong? Sarah, is slavery wrong? Does this administration think that slavery was wrong? Sarah, does this administration believe slavery was wrong?”

Stop making me defend President Trump. Continue reading

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The Flight Connection Dilemma, Or “It’s Hell Being An Ethicist”

Increasingly, I find myself wondering whether everyone who travels on business regularly encounters the vast range of irritations, outrages and generally unpleasant experiences I do, or if it’s just me. This time, on an over-night trip to Boston, I had important medicine confiscated by the TSA, got trapped in a hotel elevator, ran out of the house without my computer, injured my mouth when a sharp piece of food pierced a gum, and, of course, my flight was delayed. This time the delay would cause a genuine hardship: I had an important and time-sensitive task to complete involving the welfare, indeed safety, of two family members, and it meant that I had to be home no later than 6:40 pm.

When we finally landed at Reagan National, which is less than a 20 minute cab ride from my home if the lights and traffic break well, there was still a slim chance that I could make my deadline, IF the plane emptied quickly. The flight attendants said that there were several passenger who probably had tight connections, and asked them to raise their hands so everyone could stay seated to help them bolt the plane and try to make their flights.

Being human, my mind filled with rationalizations for raising my hand. I did have a tight connection, sort of. The urgency of my need to leave the plane wasn’t necessarily less than any of my fellow passengers. In fact, it was objectively important. And really, what would be the harm if I raised my hand? What might that cost one of the passengers trying to make a connection, 5 seconds? Ten? And how did I know everyone raising their hands really had a plane to catch?

But crap. I’m an ethicist. Raising my hand would be a lie, and there were no substantial or legitimate justifications for it. So I kept my hand down. I missed my crucial appointment, and it is going to cause me and two family members a lot of unpleasantness. Nonetheless, it was the right thing to do.

Right?

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Saturday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/13/18: The Mob, Bizarro World, Mid-Air Pedicures, And Robert E. Lee [UPDATED!]

1. Things fearmongers say...A Facebook friend, smart, a lawyer, good guy, wrote this: “The confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh will go down as one of the darkest days of the American experiment.” He really wrote that, and an astounding number of the Facebook leftist echo chamber “liked” the statement. Apparently Kavanaugh is going to resuscitate the Dred Scott decision, Korematsu v. United States, child labor and end women’s suffrage. He’s going to engineer from the Supreme Court chambers the equivalent of the American Civil War, or Pearl Harbor. Right. If Kavanaugh turned out to be a stealth combination of Jack the Ripper, the Marquis de Sade and Dr. Fu Manchu his confirmation couldn’t possibly rank in the top hundred “darkest days.”

That kind of rhetoric is hysterical and irresponsible, an abuse of free speech designed to make gullible and intellectually lazy people irrational and ignorant.

2. “Stop  making me defend Donald Trump…AND Robert E. Lee!”  Last night, as President Trump was speaking in front of a rally, NBC News tweeted out,

WATCH: President Trump says “Robert E. Lee was a great general” during Ohio rally, calling the Confederate leader “incredible.”

A few points to note on this: How is that observation and opinion news by any definition of the word? Lee was regarded as a “great general” well before the Civil War: that’s why Lincoln offered him the  command of the Union army when the war started. There are many, many books written by military experts that express and justify that assessment. Ghengis Khan was also a really great general, along with Julius Caesar and Curtis LeMay. This is a rare variety of fake news, joining more common varieties that have become routine of late like potential news, future news and psychic news,called past news, a new oxymoron. As for “incredible,” this, everyone conscious should know by know, is generic Trump-speak like “great,” “tremendous,” and “sad.” Who knows what it means here? It doesn’t mean Lee was an incredible human being, or at least there’s nothing in the context of NBC’s tweet that suggests that. He had an incredibly good beard for that period, at least compared to say, Longstreet, who looked like a member of ZZ Top. He was incredibly conflicted over which side to fight for. He had incredible guts.

Incredibly, though not really, because the mainstream news media has established that there are no depths to which it will not stoop in its unethical bias and incompetence, NBC tweeted that to bolster the long-running false narrative that President Trump is a racist, which he must be to extol Robert E. Lee,  the object of a particularly vile historical airbrushing and statue-toppling movement, a part of the Left’s Orwellian indoctrination and mind control effort as it slowly but surely embraces totalitarianism.

But if one actually knows the context of Trumps’ remarks, he was not praising Lee, though there is no reason why he shouldn’t, but making the point that despite Lee’s credentials and reputation, it was unheralded Ulysses Grant, denigrated as a joke when the war started, who defeated Lee. Trump was, as he usually does, talking about himself, and NBC’s tweet was intentionally misleading, and just more pandering to Trump-haters, attempting to further divide the country.

3. Floss! Floss! One of the very first posts on Ethics Alarms was about the ethics of people flossing their teeth in public. Having read this story, about a woman who began giving herself a pedicure during an airplane flight, I hereby officially proclaim that the conclusion in that post applies:

Manners and public etiquette are always evolving, and society determines what it will and will not endure. The passive, “mind your own business” theory always espoused by the least respectful, rudest and least considerate among us is a prescription for an endless deterioration in the quality of public life, and a greased slide into culturally-endorsed bad conduct. Every citizen has an obligation to his and her community to confront conduct that he or she feels does not belong in public, confront the offender, and support others who do so. Doing otherwise is not “minding one’s business,” but endorsing and entrenching bad conduct, abdicating the public duty of cultural preservation.

On a related note, there’s this.  Continue reading

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Travel Notes…[UPDATED]

Every trip I take seems to require some ethical clarification…

  • Lose-lose. At our hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, a convention of either transvestites, transgender individuals, or some combination of the two dominated the hotel. The organization was “Himmaher”…I think I’m spelling it right. [Correction: I wasn’t. And that wasn’t the organization; it was the name that was listed for the gathering, and the name was HIMMERSHE. Thanks to Zanshin in the Comments below for the correction.]

I had several illuminating encounters. I don’t know that this is true of all such people, but the members of this association or club all seemed to want to make any non-club member they saw as uncomfortable as possible. Yes, that’s unethical. How you choose to dress, what you choose to have lopped off, and who you want to sleep with could not interest me less, and that is the  attitude a society like ours should strive to encourage. (None of those things should engender and advantages, either.) But what these people seemed to be seeking was imposed ethics zugswang. If you looked directly at them, the response was a chip-on-the-shoulder, “Go ahead and stare, honey: neverf seen a freak before?” If you appeared to be avoiding staring—I regard a six-foot ex-male standing in the middle of a hotel lobby in a  wig, skimpy bathing suit, 6 inch heels and speaking loudly in a base voice as parading a psychological problem or ten, and deserving the same social courtesy I would offer to a Tourette’s victim or a hebephrenic—then the individual decided to make it a project to get you to stare, as if your failure to provide the attention they craved was an insult.

Yeah, I know this is a stage, similar to the early stages of the gay rights movement. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/17/18: Dead Singers, Honorable Magicians, Untrustworthy Ex-Employees, Volunteer Pitchers, And Little Horses

Goooood Morning, Pennsylvania!

(That’s where I going for the next four days, on a rural Pennsylvania ethics CLE speaking tour!)

1. Aretha Franklin Ethics If I can say right now without question that I will never voluntarily listen to an Aretha Franklin record, does that make me a racist? Her death triggers the “recognition but not admiration” impulse I reserve for artists whose skill and importance to the culture I acknowledge and honor, but whose art I never enjoyed and won’t miss. ( Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Barbra Streisand and Joni Mitchell are in the same category for me, restricting the list to pop female singers.) However…

  • It certainly is incompetent for Fox News to mix up Aretha and Patti Labelle, walking right into the “all black folks look the same to them” canard.
  • Since the news media/resistance collective has decreed that anything the President does of says is proof of a depraved soul, we had this yesterday: a White House press pool member for Buzzfeed told another reporter—she didn’t even tweet it!— that the President’s reaction to Franklin’s death was that he”Described her as a person he knew well and who worked for him.” This became more proof that President Trump is a racist: his immediate reaction to the death of a black woman was to think of her as a subordinate.

Will the sane and fair members of the public, which I assume is, if not a majority, a large group, ever turn on such people? A. The statement was hearsay, and not even a quote. B. Franklin did work for him, signing a contract to sing at at a Trump casino. C. What does “knew well” even mean in this context? He didn’t say that he knew her personally, or that they were pals, though who knows? I know her well too: she’s that famous soul singer I couldn’t stand listening to.

2. A spontaneous outburst of integrity...from the unlikely source of professional magician/loudmouth Penn Jillette. Jillette is an asshole, an assessment that I doubt he would dispute himself, but when the vocally-progressive entertainer (aren’t they all?) was asked in a recent Vulture interview to weigh in on Omarosa’s claims about the kind of language Donald Trump used behind closed doors, he responded,

“If Donald Trump had not become president, I would tell you all the stories. But the stakes are now high and I am an unreliable narrator. What I do, as much as anything, is I’m a storyteller. And storytellers are liars. So I can emotionally tell you things that happened racially, sexually, and that showed stupidity and lack of compassion when I was in the room with Donald Trump and I guarantee you that I will get details wrong. I would not feel comfortable talking about what I felt I saw in that room….

I will tell you things, but I will very conscientiously not give you quotations because I believe that would be morally wrong. I’m not trying to protect myself. This really is a moral thing.”

Good for Penn. He’s also a very creative and entertaining magician, as is his mute sidekick, Teller. Continue reading

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Ethics Salvage, 8/9/018: Here’s Why There Were No Ethics Alarms Posts Yesterday, And More

Good morning? What’s good about it?

My plan, as it is most days I travel, was to arrive at my destination (New Providence, NJ), check into the hotel, and spend the evening catching up on ethics posts, then get up early, compose an ethics warm-up. maybe another post r two before I lose control of the day in the onslaught of seminar-leading and more travel. It’s a good plan. Unfortunately, nothing went right. My original flight, into Newark airport, was cancelled after an hour’s delay: Newark had stopped all air traffic. I switched airlines and bought ticket to LaGuardia, where I was told that my client’s limo service could pick me up and take me to my destination.(My program was to start at 9:00 am today.) I got on the plane, we left the gate, and waited. It was storming in New York City and environs. After two more hours, the plane returned to then gate, where we were told to wait around. If things started up at LaGuardia, we were going to have to seize the moment, get on the plane and take off. Never mind: after a half hour or so, that flight was cancelled too.

Thus I ended up at the end of a line of about a hundred travelers , while a single American Airlines agent tried to handle each crisis, a process which appeared to bid fair to last until Christmas before they would get to my urgent need to be in Springfield, N.J. in time to meet up with my colleague and perform a three hour musical ethics seminar for a paying audience of over a hundred lawyers. My ProEthics partner and spouse was simultaneously coordinating with Mike, the musician, on his way to the hotel from Brooklyn, the New Jersey Bar, and the airlines, trying to develop plans B (an early morning flight from Dulles or National and a mad dash to the seminar), C (an overnight train trip), D ( driving to New Jersey), and E (hiring someone to drive me, so I didn’t fall asleep at the wheel). Cancelling was never an option: I’m a show-biz guy, and the show must go on.

For some reason an American agent came over to the back of the endless line, and said, conspiratorially, “Who wants to go to JFK?” About 2o of us eagerly followed her to another gate, and I eventually found myself on a plane to JFK—which stalled on the tarmac, because JFK had halted take-offs and landings too. After an hour or so, the pilot announced that he had “timed out” along with the rest of the crew, and that we were returning to the gate, de-planing, and would wait for a fresh pilot who was en route, assuming his plane arrived.

Well, to cut out a lot more twists and turns, eventually I got to JFK, paid $250 to have a car take me to my hotel in New Providence, and got to bed at around 4 am,  with a scheduled pick-up by a limo service to take me and Mike to the venue at 8. The limo driver got lost, incidentally. Then it was a blur of a three-hour interactive seminar (Mike, as usual, was brilliant), back to the airport, more delays, and home by about 7 pm last night. I started this post around 9, found myself unable to think, and went to bed.

My friend Tom Fuller is fond of saying that if you have no options, you have no problem. I had no options, but I do regard not being able to get posts up in a timely fashion a big problem.

I was, however thinking about multiple ethics issues that arose during my odyssey–actually, a Cyclops and some Sirens, even Scylla and Charybdis,  would have been welcome diversions from Airport Hades—and will pass some of them along now: Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/8/18: Breaking Radio Silence

Good Morning!

Adventures in Woburn, Mass.:

1. The Event. I guess I should have assumed that some commenting here would go on yesterday about the unpleasantness involving an ex-participant here, while that dispute was causing me to lose all of yesterday between travel and court. (I alomot tried to put up a post late last night, but was too fried.) I have little to say on the matter, which is still being considered, except that I did learn some surprising things, such as that

  • …the weakness of the concept of “lawyer-in-all-but-degree” tends to be exposed in court;
  • …being banned from an ethics website is an existential catastrophe, and actionable, according to “lawyers-in-all-but degree”;
  • …having a great poker face is an essential talent for a judge:
  • ….in  lawyer-in-all-but-degree schools, they apparently teach that the position that “judicial misconduct” and “judicial ethics” are essentially the same topic is ridiculous and libelous, and
  • ….playing the part of Van Johnson in “The Caine Mutiny” just isn’t as much fun in real life as it seems to be in the movie, if you get my drift. It’s kind of embarrassing and sad.

2. A airport encounter:  In the airport on the way to Boston and waiting for my flight in an early morning mob, I was anxiously wandering through the crowd when I heard a quiet male vice say, “Nice tie!” It was not obvious who had spoken, but I decided it had to be a young African American airport employee who was helping a traveler in a wheel chair. “Did you just say ‘nice tie’?” I asked him, though he was not looking at me. Then he lit up, said that he had, and got into a long conversation with me about ties. He is a tie aficionado. He has photos of his ties on his cell phone! He loves talking about ties! And thus I connected with a fellow human being in a chance encounter, when he took the step of breaking through the silence and mutual disinterest that increasingly marks the daily interactions of Americans, even neighbors. I also ensured that he would not feel like I was ignoring his existence when he had taken the risk of an unsolicited overture to interact. [Unlike the female jogger I write about here.] Contrary to some of the comments that I received then, I don’t think anything about the chance encounter yesterday should have been different if the participants had been different ages, races, ages, or stations in life. Continue reading

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