Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 10/23/2019: On “Lynching” And Other Things

The day looks good, feels bad…

1. No, “lynching” is not the right word for the Democratic Party/”resistance”/news media impeachment assault. The word worked for Clarence Thomas during the Anita Hill ambush, but someone ought to remind the President that Thomas was and is black.

The correct word is coup. This has always been what the effort to delegitimatize and remove Trump has been, and this is what it remains. “Witch hunt,” which some idiot issued as an anti-impeachment talking point again a couple of weeks ago, is also an inappropriate term. It may accurately evoke the McCarthy-like methods being used, but it is historically and politically confusing, focusing on methodology rather than objective.

The inability of this President and his staff to communicate competently is a dangerous weakness. It has always been so, but now more than ever. The public literally doesn’t understand what is going on, and a clear, credible, trustworthy advocate for the President who is able to explain what is so wrong, so insidious, and so damaging to democracy about what the “Troika of Totalitarianism” (I’m trying to imagine what Spiro Agnew would have called them) have been doing since the 2016 election is an essential bulwark against impeachment and conviction. Even someone like—I can’t believe I’m writing this—Lanny Davis would be an upgrade.  Kellyanne Conway destroyed her credibility with her “alternate facts” gaffe. Rudy Giuliani got himself enmeshed in the Ukraine controversy. Mick Mulvaney proved, with his naive and ham-handed explanation about why there is nothing criminal or inappropriate about any President using the leverage of his office to persuade a foreign government to do something that needs doing, that he isn’t up to the job. And the President is foolish to believe that his tweet-storms are an effective remedy against  a news media determined to tell only one side, the “resistance” side,  of the issues.

Why, for example, isn’t there an advocate for the White House who can point out, clearly, that the misleading characterization in this morning’s Times front page “news” story—the New York Times no longer does “news” involving Trump, only adversary spin—that the President used strong-arm tactics to force the Ukraine to “investigate Mr. Trump’s political rivals”? Joe Biden isn’t “political rivals,” he’s a former Vice President of the United Sates who may have been using his high position to enrich his son and warp foreign policy.

At this point, Joe Biden isn’t an official election opponent of the President either. It is completely legal and responsible for our government to find out exactly what was going on in the Biden-Biden-Ukraine tango, and the idea that a President cannot legally pursue investigation of serious misconduct in the previous administration because the members of it can now be called his “rivals” is, or should be,  a transparent Catch-22 concocted to advance the coup. Is that really so hard to explain? Why isn’t anyone explaining it?

A prominent  reason is that one of the more effective and damaging tactics in the coup attempt has been to intimidate and threaten any competent D.C. professionals who could advise and assist a President under siege. Until the Trump administration, the accepted norm when a patriotic member of the Washington establishment, regardless of party,  was invited to help a President was for the individual so invited to say, “Of course.” This was how President Clinton persuaded Reagan advisor David Gergen to rescue his administration from self-immolation.

Today, any political establishment figure, no matter how well-respected before, can count on being savaged in the news media if he or she agrees to join the administration, as well as harassed if they go out for dinner. The phenomenon effectively gives this White House a lobotomy by making it a huge and risky sacrifice to try to assist the White House.  It also isolates the President, and increases the chances of him making his situation worse out of anger, frustration, and his unfortunate lack of impulse control.

This too has been part of the coup strategy from the beginning: withhold from this President all of the honors, respect, fairness, deference and cooperation every other President has earned as a right of office by virtue of being elected, and eventually he will do something that will justify impeachment.

It’s a coup. “Lynching” just muddies the waters, and in this dirty business, muddy waters is exactly what the “resistance” wants and needs. Continue reading

Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 9/28/2019: The Search For Inspiration

I need inspiration today…

1. No, this isn’t it…The Idiot Air Traveler. At a certain point, extreme stupidity is unethical. In China, a Xiamen Airlines passenger opened the emergency exit door of the aircraft as the plane was preparing to take off because she  felt the cabin was “too stuffy” and wanted “a breath of fresh air.”  She was arrested, and the incident caused the flight to be delayed an hour. How stupid and ignorant does someone have to be to do this? Wouldn’t you say this is signature significance indicating idiocy? Would you hire someone who did this even once? Allow her to take care of your children? Trust her with sharp objects? Allow her to buy a ticket for another plane trip?

2. Nor this.. New York City intentionally violates the Constitution. It is now against the law in New York City to threaten to call  immigration authorities on someone or refer to them as an “illegal alien” when “motivated by hate.”  A 29-page directive released by City Hall’s Commission on Human Rights announces fines of up to $250,000 per offense for, among other things, “the use of certain language, including ‘illegal alien’ and ‘illegals,’ with the intent to demean, humiliate, or offend a person.”  Mocking people because of their accents or grasp of English is also a crime now in the Big Apple. So is threatening to call ICE.

“In the face of increasingly hostile national rhetoric, we will do everything in our power to make sure our treasured immigrant communities are able to live with dignity and respect, free of harassment and bias,” said Carmelyn Malalis, the agency’s commissioner.

Maybe the whole set of new regulations isn’t unconstitutional, but the ones focused on “hate speech” certainly are. The city is simply declaring its contempt for the First Amendment with this stunt.

3. I guess this is kind of inspiring...When it pays to be trans. The old Saturday Evening Post used to have a feature called “The Perfect Squelch,” regaling its readers with a witty comeback or rejoinder that left an adversary defeated and demoralized. It wouldn’t have printed this one, but I can’t imagine a better example of the genre. This is Faye Kinley… Continue reading

From Ethics Alarms’ “What Were They Thinking?” Files: Fly The Stupid Skies!

For some reason, the old United slogan “Fly the Friendly Skies…” was all I could think of when I encountered these two jaw-dropping news items in rapid succession last night.

On Southwest Airlines…

…Passengers boarding a Nashville-to-Philadelphia flight were startled to discover a flight attendant stuffed into one of the overhead luggage bins. Luckily this was a strange joke rather than the beginning of real-life murder mystery, but some of the passengers weren’t amused.  “I can’t get over how weird I find this,” one of them tweeted, adding “@SouthwestAir please get it together.”

Oh, it’s weird alright. It’s also unprofessional and unsettling. Flying is simply not a joking matter. In-flight staff are responsible for our lives, and we have no choice but to trust them. Any hint that they don’t take their duties seriously, are prone to goofing off, or have poor judgment undermines that trust.

Southwest’s response was to spin for its employee,telling Fox News,

“Southwest Employees are known for demonstrating their sense of humor and unique personalities. In this instance, one of our Flight Attendants attempted to have a brief moment of fun with Customers during boarding. Of course, this is not our normal procedure, and Southwest Crews always maintain Safety as their top priority.”

Reading between the lines, I’d guess that the attendant will not be facing smiles from the brass over her “attempt,” and will be facing some not so funny consequences for acting like a middle-schooler on the job.

Good.

But as the great Al Jolson used to say, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” “What were they thinking?” advances to “Are they capable of thought?” in this amazing tale from

Air Canada.

Continue reading

More Breast-Feeding Ethics

As some of the commentary on this post has again shown, there are some topics that many people are incapable of thinking about objectively and dispassionately. Breast-feeding is evidently one of those topics, and by complete coincidence—you think I plan these things?—another breast-feeding controversy has raised its nippled head.

The Dutch airline KLM is under fire for its policy regarding breast-feeding mothers in flight.  The policy is that breastfeeding is allowed onboard as long as no other passengers are offended by the practice. Otherwise, mothers are asked to use a blanket, or retreat to the rest rooms.

“To ensure that all our passengers of all backgrounds feel comfortable on board, we may request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this,” the airline clarified in a tweet this week.

In ethics, this is called a “reasonable and fair policy.” I would have avoided the term “offended.” Mothers who just flip out a breast and allow a kid to chow down in public—sometimes kids as old as five, in one restaurant episode of my own experience—aren’t being offensive; they are just deliberately or negligently making others around them uncomfortable by engaging in an intimate act and exposing body parts that society generally regards as warranting some cover in polite society. No, it’s not offensive. Immodest? Yes. Rude? Yes. Inconsiderate? Yup. Defiant? Sure. It’s also feminist grandstanding. Using a blanket to partially keep the activity between mother and child is hardly an unreasonable  requirement, that is, unless one believes that nobody else matters, and civility is an outmoded construct.

The argument for punishing KLM—of course, there is the threat of a boycott–is pretty much the same from all critics. Well, not all critics: here’s a bad analogy from Chris van Tulleken, a doctor in London:

“For the comfort of passengers from racist or homophobic backgrounds would they ask people to cover skin and identifiers?”

Two thoughts… Continue reading

Air Travel Ethics: When In Doubt, Play The Race Card.

Dr. Tisha Rowe, an African-American family physician from  Houston, was pulled off a recent American Airlines flight and required to cover herself with a blanket before being allowed back on the plane, which was traveling from Jamaica to Miami. You can see above what Dr. Rowe was wearing, thanks to her angry tweet about the episode.

I have no idea why this outfit was found so objectionable; I’ve seen much worse on many flights. On the other hand, a little taste and decorum while flying in close quarters with strangers is basic manners and civility.

Yesterday she said that she had been humiliated in front of her 8-year-old son, and asserted that racial bias was behind the incident. “Had they seen that same issue in a woman who was not a woman of color, they would not have felt empowered to take me off the plane,” Dr. Rowe said. “In pop culture, especially black women with a body like mine, they’re often portrayed as video vixens. So I’ve had to deal with those stereotypes my whole life.”

SHE looks like a “video vixen?” Okay! Whatever you say, doctor! Continue reading

What I Do For Ethics, Or Misadventures In Travel Hell

Am I imagining this, or was air travel once efficient, comfortable, and enjoyable? I can’t be sure now; it seems impossible. Of course, as bad as it is, things would be a lot better if basic standards of competence and professionalism were observed, or even attempted.

I just arrived at my hotel in Providence approximately 2 and a half hours after I was supposed to. The delay isn’t the issue; I’m used to that, and if there’s weather, there’s weather. (There was weather.) This trip, however was special.

  • My flight took off from infamous Gate 35X, which is portal gate from which passengers board buses that take them to smallish jets scattered around the tarmac. It is always crowded, and you are tasked with listening for the announcement telling you to go down the stairs to the sub-gates and line up for your bus. That is more tricky than it sounds, because the area is pure cacophony: people talking,  announcements from nearby gates, a recorded announcement on a loop telling you not to go down the stairs until you’re told, and as a special bonus, not one but three American gate employees making announcements in various heavily accented forms of pseudo-English, spoken at auctioneer  speed. All three were intermittently incomprehensible; people were constantly turning to companions and asking, “What did she say?”

Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 3/21/19: Planes, Tribe and McCain

Good morning!

I’m pretty groggy after one intense early morning seminar, five delayed flights,  the long trip home from San Diego, and a midnight arrival back in Virginia, but my ethics alarms seem to be functioning…

1. Today’s air travel ethics saga: I travel as light as possible for trips of two nights or fewer, carrying only my stuffed soft briefcase and a garment bag the is almost empty. I will not become part of the selfish flying hoards who lug ridiculous roller-boards onto the plane, slowing the loading process and hogging the limited storage space. (The airlines should charge passengers for bringing the luggage on board, not for checking it. Morons.) The barely filled garment bag (I wear my suit on the plane) always fits somewhere,  and even when they announce that all bags must be checked at the gate because there is no more space in the bins, I have always been allowed to bring my bag on board…until last night. Two rude and officious American gate monitors ordered me to surrender my bag or, they threatened, be forced to take a later flight. (“Hmmm..what does “later flight” mean to American since this flight is late taking off and the other four flights I’ve been booked on this trip were also late?” I queried. They just didn’t listen to what I was saying, and kept reciting the policy that I had to store one bag overhead and another under my seat.

I have always believed that you can’t take bureaucratic bullying passively, so I asked if there was a supervisor I could talk to. There was: a harried middle-aged guy with a bad toupe. He did listen, as I explained that I knew my own travel supplies, and that unless every compartment was filled with cement, I could easily find a place for my bag, because in nearly a hundred flights, I always have. Furthermore, I pointed out that it was unfair to treat me , one of the few passengers who carries minimal baggage as a matter of consideration and ethics, this way when other passengers were abusing the privilege of carry-on luggage. The guy said that he agreed with me, but since he hadn’t seen my confiscated bag, he couldn’t assess whether I was right or his subordinate Gate Nazis were. Having made my stand, I thanked him, and made my way down the jetway. Continue reading