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

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

Ethics Alarms Déjà Vu And The President’s Infrastructure Proposal

The President has proposed an infrastructure upgrade, more or less. I don’t care about the numbers: whatever it is, it’s not enough. It is, however, something, and infrastructure renewal is a national emergency, indeed a crisis, that should not be derailed by partisan bickering and gamesmanship. Will it further exacerbate the ballooning debt? Yes. Unlike much of the spending that has dug the nation a deeper hole than it is likely to ever escape, however, infrastructure is not discretionary spending.

Jonah Goldberg just issued a mind-meltingly ignorant and dishonest column for the Los Angeles Times titled “Is American infrastructure crumbling? Hardly.”

Shame on him. This is Trump Hate as national suicide. Our infrastructure has been crumbling for decades, with each year of neglect guaranteeing bigger expenses and hidden burdens on the economy, not to mention that cholera outbreaks when the sewage pipes and water pipes start breaking coast to coast.

I’ve been writing about this unethical nightmare of irresponsible leadership and government for years, here and elsewhere. Nothing has changed. Where necessary, as you read these excerpts from 2010 and 2011, just change the name of the President or the parties. The situation hasn’t changed, other than getting worse:

From Blame Everyone for Infrastructure Ruin: Unethical, Irresponsible Priorities from Reagan to Obama…

In the early Eighties, I oversaw and edited an independent study funded by the Highway Users Federation and the National Chamber Foundation called “Transport Tomorrow,” exploring the immediate need for transportation infrastructure repair and expansion in all modes of transportation: roads, railway, waterway, and airports. In the process of learning how dire the need for massive construction and repair was if America’s future commercial needs were to be met, the study commission made a disturbing discovery: urban water and sewer systems were crumbling too. There was literally not enough money to fix all the roads, bridges, tunnels, water mains and sewer pipes that had to be fixed, and the consequences of not doing so would be economic paralysis and worse, disease and even social unrest.

In the face of this looming and undeniably real disaster, the Reagan Administration did—pretty much nothing. Neither did the Bush, Clinton and Bush II administrations, and even the Chamber of Commerce failed to make infrastructure repair one of its key issues. Oh, there were new projects, of course, and when a major bridge started to dump cars into rivers it was repaired. Holes were patched, pipes were replaced here and there. But the full-fledged commitment to the unsexy and incredibly expensive job of keeping the infrastructure sufficient to meet the needs of the nation, and protecting it from the ravages of use and time was deferred, and deferred, and deferred. Something was always more important: wars…tax cuts…the environment…health care. The Obama Administration is following this irresponsible pattern, except it has combined with the profligacy of the Bush Administration to push the Federal deficit into unprecedented dangerous territory. New taxes on just about everybody and everything are going to be needed to stave off financial ruin, and there will be little political will to spend any of the income on something as mundane, but crucial, as sewers.

The problem, however, has become infinitely worse since 1983, when “Transport Tomorrow” was released, and then as now, the attitude of our elected leaders is to let the next guy deal with the problem. Is this responsible? No. Is it cowardly? Yes. Is it a blatant, intentional and knowing distortion of priorities that will threaten American prosperity, jobs, and lives? Absolutely….

From Ethics Heads-Up: When the President Talks About “Investment in Infrastructure,” Pay Attention: Continue reading

Travel Ethics: Of Restroom Horror, Furious Apes and Dying Canaries

horrified_look

Perhaps with the sole exception of running into Larry Craig, my biggest fear in airport restrooms is encountering a bathroom stall that appears to have been last used by one of the baboons of the Kalahari. Why, in the name of humanity, would there ever be a reason for someone to leave a toilet seat dripping in urine, or the floor in front of the toilet covered and piled high with soaked and soiled toilet paper, or the toilet bowl filled with something that looks like it was deposited by an incontinent yak? Who among my civilized-appearing fellow travelers is secretly engaging in the manners of an Australopithecus? What ‘s the matter with these people? Continue reading

More Airport Encounters: Saying Thanks To An Accidental Mentor

Better late than never.

I previously wrote about the dilemma of whether to impose on celebrities who you encounter as they engage in the necessities of life (though I did not mention the time I was using a Kennedy Center urinal next to Colonel Sanders). I generally have ambivalence about the situation, but when I saw former Senator Alan Simpson standing at my gate as I disembarked at La Guardia, there was no question in my mind. I crossed over to him immediately, shook his hand, and said thank you.

I owe him, you see. Continue reading

Celebrity Encounter Ethics

You're welcome. But now I'll never know what Eddie Murphy is really like!

I run into a lot of celebrities when I travel. I assume everybody does who travels very often; I know that I am better at recognizing them than the average person because my celebrity knowledge spans multiple generations, I have a good memory for faces, and I have always watched way, way too much television. And it happened again today: I was having my usual battles with an airport self-service check-in kiosk, this one in Atlanta, when I realized that the traveler enduring similar annoyances (“We have no record of your itinerary. Please enter the code that we call something other than what it is called on your ticket receipt before you get frustrated and have to wait in line to speak with an agent, because you know that’s what is going to happen.”) was the young actress-singer, Raven-Symone.

She was traveling alone, and it seemed clear that nobody around us had any idea who she was. Strange: doesn’t everyone watch “The Cheetah Girls,” “Dr. Doolittle 2” and re-runs of “That’s So Raven” on the Disney Channel? The encounter immediately sent me into Marshall Celebrity Recognition decision mode: what is the ethical way to treat the rich and famous if you are insignificant and lowly, and close enough to assassinate them? Continue reading

Hole-in-the-Roof Ethics: If Obama Asks For Massive Infrastructure Renewal, the GOP Must Support It.

Seldom is a solution to a problem so obvious, and so conducive to bi-partisanship. It is a solution to two problems, really: America’s dangerously rotting infrastructure, and the nation’s dismal unemployment rate. Spend the money, trillions if necessary, to repair and replace existing roads, railway beds, waterways, sewer systems, airports and bridges.  It still won’t get us where we need to be, but we’ll be much better off than if we let the current deterioration continue, and we’ll save money in the long run, too—real savings, not phony health care reform savings that evaporate once reality kicks in.

There is no justification not to do this, nor is there any legitimate excuse for any elected official not to vote for it. (And no, not wanting to give the President a victory is not legitimate…or ethical, or patriotic.) Repairing the infrastructure isn’t “discretionary spending,” it is essential, unavoidable and cost-effective spending, unless it is diverted into new boondoggles and pork. No new structures, unless they replace unrepairable old ones. No light rail systems or bullet trains; what is needed is basic maintenance and repair….everywhere. It is already late, but “better late than never” has seldom been as appropriate. Continue reading

Web Ethics Complaint File: Rotten Etiquette in “Etiquette Hell”

The topic: rude behavior in public dining

There is nothing quite as exquisitely frustrating as having one’s commentary misrepresented elsewhere by a sloppy blogger, and then watching the nasty comments pile up by posters who never bother to read the original post. That is what is happening to Ethics Alarms, and thus me, over at an otherwise virtuous site called Etiquette Hell.

The site, or blog, or forum, or whatever the hell it is commented on the Starbucks post, with the inept headline: “Hogging all the tables in a crowded establishment.” That’s not what the post was about. That is a misrepresentation. The post was specifically about coffee shops that provide free wi-fi, and how customers abuse the privilege and benefit by camping out with their laptops for unreasonable amounts of time,  forcing patrons who need to use the tables for the primary purpose they exist to provide—allowing someone to eat and drink comfortably—to go elsewhere, or to stand. Continue reading

The Unethical Deficit Debate, a Cause for Despair

Our future, thanks to Washington, D.C.

If the bi-partisan dishonesty and unethical conduct surrounding the budget showdown last week didn’t cause you to despair, then you weren’t paying attention:

  • At a time when the federal deficit threatens the long-term (and not all that long, either) solvency of the U.S., risking quality of life, world leadership and security while placing us under the thumb of China, a Machiavellian adversary, both parties—and the President— opted for ideological point-scoring and demagoguery rather than serious explication of the issues.  Irresponsible cowards.
  • The government was brought to the brink of a shutdown over a pathetic, meaningless, 39 billion dollars of cuts that Democrats called “draconian” and Republicans and Obama trumpeted as the “largest budget cuts in U.S. history”. They were draconian only if you think like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who argued that Republicans were heartless to put “cowboy poetry” on the cutting block, and if, as is increasingly looking to be the case,  the Democrats are willing to let the country stay on the road to bankruptcy as long as it also leads them to power. The cuts were the “largest” only in their inflated figures: the budget was cut close to 50% after World War II. Liars and frauds.
  • Even if it were truly”the largest,” the heralded 39 billion dollars cut represented an infinitesimal dent in the overall budget and will have no appreciable effect on the deficit at all. It took a near shutdown to accomplish that. Easy Quiz: what are the chances of our current leaders displaying the political courage to make the substantial, genuine, painful cuts that all serious analysts agree are imperative to stave off financial ruin? Liars and cowards.
  • After all of the drama, after all the condemnation and hype, after “draconian” and “largest ever,” and after the President joined the charade, the no-nonsense Congressional Budget Office announced that by its calculations, the so-called cut was mostly fiction. It boiled down to only $352 million, less than 1% of a 39 billion that was inadequate to begin with. Incompetents.
  • The Democrats chuckled into their sleeves; the Republicans cried that they had been deceived, as if legislators don’t have the resources to find out what the money in the budget they are charged with approving actually pays for. Liars, incompetents and fools.

For me, the low point was President Obama’s speech at George Washington University, announcing his engagement—finally!—in the deficit-cutting debate while resorting that old Democrat stand-by, class warfare; blaming the Bush tax cuts, irresponsible but only one of many contributors to the deficit crisis; and  pledging to cut expenses by ending waste, fraud and abuse while simultaneously stating that the deficit couldn’t be cut by addressing waste, fraud and abuse.  It wasn’t any of those cynical moments that caused me to lose hope, however. It was the President’s insistence that the deficit cutting measures must not interfere with his highest priorities…such as building “new roads.” Continue reading

Ethics Heads-Up: When the President Talks About “Investment in Infrastructure,” Pay Attention

Yesterday, a massive water main rupture shut down part of the Washington area Beltway, tying up traffic and swamping cars. From the Associated Press story:

“At one point, water from the broken main shot eight or nine feet in the air, said Lyn Riggins, a spokeswoman for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. There was significant damage to the office park, with chunks of asphalt strewn across the parking lot, building windows shattered and three cars filled with water.

“It looks like somewhere where you would go white water rafting,” Riggins said.”

Advance reports discussing President Obama’s State of the Union message tonight note that he will be talking about, among other things, investing the nation’s resources on infrastructure renewal: roads, sewers, bridges and more. Already, Republican budget hawks and the conservative talk shows are mocking this as simply a euphemism for more “out of control spending.”

Addressing this country’s dangerously decrepit infrastructure will be expensive all right, but it is definitely an investment, and not undertaking it immediately is irresponsible, short-sighted, dangerous and foolish. For a quick refresher on why the neglect of U.S. infrastructure has been a scandalous breach of duty  of duty by generations of U.S. leadership, read this.