Oh, No! Not The Seat Reclining Ethics Debate Again!

I saw Ann Althouse’s post about a seat reclining dust-up on American Airlines, and immediately decided that the issue wasn’t worth posting about, since in my view, the ethical choice is clear. Then the issue exploded all over cable news and the web, so here I am. It would be so much easier if more people read Ethics Alarms.

A woman had posted on Twitter mid-flight:

She attached the video. Many of Ann’s commenters opined that the woman was a “jackhole” herself (for some reason I’ve never liked that term) for videotaping him and sending his face hither and yon rather than having a civilized discussion with him. How the flight attendant could justify siding with a jerk who was punching a seat, I cannot fathom. Now “Wendi” says she is considering suing American.

I addressed this issue in 2014, in the context of a product called “The Knee Defender,” which a jackhole could install to prevent the seat in front of you on a plane from reclining. I was pretty ticked off about it, too. In fact, I got on a roll: Continue reading

Afternoon Ethics Cool-Down, 2/28/18: Honors, Bribes, Blackmail, And “Ugh!”

Good Afternoon.

Actually, that’s dishonest: it’s been a terrible day, morn to now.. A catalogue retailer took an email address my wife sent them a year ago and  bombarded her account with hundreds of promotional messages yesterday, crashing her email. Then her efforts to fix the problem resulted in a Proethics system email crash that I have been trying to address for the past five hours. I finally decided to get something productive done, so I’m getting up this post while talking to my tech people. UPDATE: They just gave up.

1 Trump Tweets. Ugh. The President criticizing his own Cabinet member, in this case Jeff Sessions, in public via tweet, is horrific leadership and management practice. If I were Sessions, I would resign, It is disrespectful, disloyal, undermines morale on the President’s team, and is just plain stupid. I don’t understand how Trump had any success at all treating employees and subordinates like this. While we’re on this perpetual subject. the fact that the President would say out loud that he would have rushed the Parkland shooter without a weapon is just more evidence of a) a flat learning curve b) the lack of the usual filters from brain to mouth and c) the unethical tendency of third parties to critique the actions of others in rescue situations. No question: the resource officer who was required by policy, assignment and duty to try to intervene in the shooting deserves all the criticism he has been getting, and is accountable. But the President of the United States announcing that he is Batman is something else entirely.

My objections to the non-stop personal ridicule of our elected leader stands, but he also has a duty, as the steward of the Office, not to make himself look ridiculous.

2. An unethical boycott tactic, but I repeat myself.  The anti-gun zealots have decided to attack a free and constitutionally protected Bill of Rights advocacy group as part of the news media-assisted effort to demonize the NRA as being somehow responsible for a school shooting that none of the proposed “common sense gun reforms” would have prevented. Now the Second Amendment-gutting crowd  is using the boycott, a particularly odious weapon favored by progressives, which depends on the venality and spinelessness of corporate executives to constrict free speech. Delta Airlines announced it was ending a promotional discount with the National Rifle Association after threats and a social media campaign, then tried the weaselly explanation that its decision to stop offering discounted fares to the N.R.A. “reflects the airline’s neutral status in the current national debate over gun control amid recent school shootings.”
Continue reading

The Emotional Support Peacock And The Tragedy Of The Commons

The Tragedy of the Commons is a term originating in ancient economic theory describing a situation in which a shared-benefit system is destroyed by individual users who selfishly behave contrary to the common good by depleting or spoiling the resource involved. Ignorance or denial of this principle, which is based on centuries of observing the human race, is core to progressive and liberal ideology, unfortunately. Another way of expressing the tendency is the old adage, “Give them an inch, and they’ll take a mile.”

Federal regulations over the last decade–I’m assuming under Democratic auspices, but I don’t care to check,  it doesn’t matter to the post—have required airlines to accommodate passengers with not just seeing eye dogs but “therapy animals” and “emotional support animals” that supply the passengers who own them with relief from anxiety. These creatures must fly at no cost and uncaged, and so far, no discrimination regarding species have been set.  It’s a nice regulation, don’t you think?  I think its nice.

However, if there ever was a policy that guaranteed the Tragedy of the Commons, this was it. Many passengers exploit the rules by calling their pets “therapy animals”—and really, aren’t they all?—to save money and hassle. The number of animals flying in the cabin with passengers doubled, and doubled again.  Some passengers were bitten by dogs. Some animals defecated in the aisles. Some of the passengers  flew or attempted to accompanied by  comfort turkeys, goats, gliding possums known as sugar gliders, snakes, reptiles, spiders, and even more exotic companions. Continue reading

Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/21/17

Good Morning!

1. There was one of those moments in a Major League Baseball game yesterday that teaches life lessons in character, and ethics for anyone who is paying attention.

The Boston Red Sox were playing the Toronto Blue Jays in an afternoon game at Fenway Park. Boston led 3-1 in the second inning, but the Red Sox pitcher,  veteran Doug Fister, was struggling with an uncharacteristic control lapse: he walked his third batter in the inning, and also had given up a couple of hard-hit balls that suggested that a gaggle of runs and a blown lead were inevitable. Then, mirabile dictu, Fister caught a break. The next Toronto batter swung mightily and lofted an easy, lazy pop-up to the infield. If there had been one out rather than two, it would have been called an automatic out under the Infield Fly Rule. Everyone, including Fister, who is fighting to preserve his spot on the Sox roster as well as his flagging career, breathed a sigh of relief. The Toronto batter slammed his bat to the ground. Settling under a pop-up not any more difficult than those he had successfully caught as a Little Leaguer was Red Sox utility man Brock Holt, a second baseman this day. He is much admired for his versatility, energy and reliability. Holt is also trying to revive his career after a frightening, season-long battle with vertigo, as well as to show the team that he can fill a yawning void at third base.

Holt dropped the ball. It bounced off his glove, as the Toronto baserunners were charging around the bases at the crack of the bat, since there were already two outs. Two of them scored, and later two more after Fister surrendered hits in te lengthened inning, making the bounty bestowed by Holt’s muff four runs. Fister was soon out of the game, and was charged with his team’s eventual two-run loss by an 8-6 score. (Today’s headline in Boston: “Doug Fister’s Future As Starter Uncertain After Loss To Jays”).

Yet Fister never shot an angry glance at Holt. He’s played the game; he knows how mistakes and random bad luck can turn everything around in an instant. He probably has dropped a similar ball in a crucial situation: I know I’ve done it, at second base, losing a company soft-ball game. Holt trotted to the dugout, got supportive pats on the back and fanny from his team mates, and played the rest of the game with his head high and his skills on display. There is no doubt that he felt terribly about the play, but Holt  didn’t hide under a rock, rend his garments, or make a big display of anger and frustration to signal to the hometown crowd—which didn’t boo or jeer him at any point in the game.

That’s life, as my father used to say, and this is how ethical people handle life. Disaster strikes out of a confluence of factors (a very bright sun undoubtedly helped Holt miss the ball, but professional ballplayers learn to cope with the sun) and all we can do, if we are competent at life as well as fair, responsible and brave, is to accept responsibility, not make excuses, and not allow such events to diminish or destroy us. Both Fister and Holt displayed the character necessary to do that. Neither blamed the other, and no one blamed them. Tomorrow is another day.

Play Ball!

2. Professional troll Ann Coulter is having a public spat with Delta Airlines that reflects badly on both of them. Continue reading

The Doctor, The Emergency And The Flight Attendant: A Depressing Ethics Tale With No Ethical Resolution In Sight

Was it race, gender, youth, all of them, or none of them?

Was it race, gender, youth, all of them, or none of them?

Tamika Cross, a young OB-GYN flying Delta from Detroit to Minneapolis,  heard flight attendants calling for medical assistance when a passenger  man two rows in front of her was found to be unconscious. Dr. Cross raised her hand, only to be told, according to Cross’s subsequent Facebook post on the incident, “Oh no, sweetie, put your hand down. We are looking for actual physicians or nurses or some type of medical personnel. We don’t have time to talk to you.”

Cross says she tried to  explain that she was a physician, but was “cut off by condescending remarks,” from the attendant. A moment later, when there was a second call for medical assistance and Cross again indicated that she was ready to help, the same flight attendant said, according to Cross, “Oh wow, you’re an actual physician?” She then quizzed Cross  about her credentials, area of practice, and where she worked. In the meantime, a white, middle-aged male passenger appeared, and Cross, she says, was dismissed.

On her now viral Facebook post, Dr. Cross concludes:

“She came and apologized to me several times and offering me Skymiles. I kindly refused. This is going higher than her. I don’t want Skymiles in exchange for blatant discrimination. Whether this was race, age, gender discrimination, it’s not right. She will not get away with this….and I will still get my Skymiles….”

What’s going on here?

Stipulated:

1. This was an emergency situation.

2. Dr. Cross sincerely felt insulted and treated with disrespect.

3. She also feels that she was the victim of stereotyping,, bias and prejudice.

4. Her account can be presumed to be an honest recounting of how she experienced the episode.

5. The Roshomon principles apply. We do not know how the flight attendant perceived the situation as it developed, and will never know, since the incident is already tainted with accusations of racism.

6. This was an emergency situation.

7. There is no way to determine what the flight attendant was thinking.

8. Despite all of the above, observers, analysts and others will be inclined see the event as confirmation of their own already determined beliefs and assumptions.

9. This was a single incident, involving a set of factors interacting in unpredictable ways.

Next, some ethical observations…. Continue reading

Of T-Shirts, Delta, Racist Ding-dongs, and a TSA Incident Worth Screaming About

How frightening.

A brown-skinned  blogger named Anjiit recounts a recent outrageous incident in which he and his wife were kicked off a flight and subjected to extra-screening by the TSA because he was wearing a satirical T-shirt mocking airport security. The episode occurred at the Buffalo-Niagara airport, and the airline involved was Delta.

We had cleared the security checkpoint without incident, but while waiting at the gate, a Delta supervisor informed me my shirt had made numerous passengers and employees “very uncomfortable.” I was then questioned by TSA about the significance and meaning of the shirt. I politely explained that it was “mocking the security theater charade and over-reactions to terrorism by the general public — both of which we’re seeing right now, ironically.” The agents inquired as to the meaning of the term “ZOMG” and who it was that I thought was “gonna kill us all.” As best I could tell, they seemed to find my explanation that I didn’t think anyone would be killing us all and that I was poking fun at overwrought, irrational fears exhibited by certain members of the flying public to be satisfactory.  And moreover, they clearly deemed my shirt to be no legitimate threat. The Delta supervisor then told me I would be able to board the plane, but only after acquiescing to an additional security check of my and my wife’s belongings and changing my shirt. He went to lengths to explain that my choice of attire was inappropriate and had caused serious consternation amongst multiple individuals, and that ultimately “It’s not you, it’s the shirt.” Continue reading

Incompetent Elected Official of the Month: Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA)

Rep. Jeff Denham: Now we know.

First the airlines are unfairly pilloried in the media thanks to an ignorant serviceman’s YouTube complaint about being charged excessive baggage fees for his gear….despite the fact that 1) the airlines already give servicemen  discounts on extra bags (though they shouldn’t) and 2) the fees charged will be reimbursed, just like my business travel costs are reimbursed by the people who hire me.

Now Congressman Jeff Denham (R-CA) has introduced a non-binding resolution in the House that threatens to use contracts between the military and commercial airlines to punish carriers that do not waive all baggage fees for deployed military personnel.

Rep. Denham’s resolution has its good side: now we know that he is unethical, a fool beyond redemption, and a bully as well. Continue reading

Those Military Baggage Fees: Bad Journalism and Bad PR, Not Bad Ethics

The 24 hour news cycle and blogger feeding frenzy often produce snap ethical judgments that defy the facts, logic, and fairness. Today’s example: the supposed “outrage” of Delta Air Lines making Army reservists returning from combat in Afghanistan pay excess-bag fees. A Colorado soldier posted a YouTube video complaining that their unit had to pay $2,800 for extra checked bags, and you would have thought the airlines made the soldiers fly while strapped to the wing. “You’re not going to believe this!” said “Fox and Friends” goof Steve Doocy, introdoocying the story as if it was an act of domestic terrorism. There were similar expressions of horror on CNN’s Headline News and on the local news in Wilmington, Delaware, where I was staying yesterday while doing a musical ethics program for the Wilmington Bar. And yet…

Delta did nothing wrong or inappropriate.

The staff followed policy. What were they supposed to do, spontaneously waive thousands of dollars in luggage fees out of respect for our soldiers…and have to make it up out of their own pay? The military already gets a substantial break on checked baggage; the soldiers were complaining about having to pay for bags that exceeded Delta’s limit for waiving the fees on soldiers’ bags. But if the flights are related to the soldiers’ duties, why are the domestic airlines responsible for paying their expenses? (By the way, what the soldiers don’t pay for gets passed in costs to the non-military passengers.) Simple answer: the domestic airlines are not responsible, and should not be.

When I travel on business dictated by a client or employer, the client or employer pays my costs…just like the U.S. Government pays the travel expenses of soldiers flying to and from deployments. That’s right: soldiers get reimbursements from the military for additional costs if their orders require the expense and they submit receipts. Why, then, was it Delta’s responsibility to pick up the tab for these soldiers’ extra bags, and proof of evil corporate America’s unpatriotic greed that they asked the soldiers for the already-discounted fees for excess luggage instead?

I repeat: It wasn’t. A couple of soldiers didn’t know their own expense reimbursement procedures, used YouTube to make a misrepresentation go viral, and the media indulges its reflex reaction to fault businesses and fall worshiping at the boots of our young warriors. Nobody bothered to think, much less check facts, before condemning the Delta. Terrified, as ever, of any negative publicity, deserved or not, Delta abjectly apologized (for doing nothing wrong), and was followed by other carriers in eliminating bag fees to avoid getting the stink-eye from Bill O’Reilly. Delta said it would allow four bags for free. United said it had increased the number of free military checked bags from three to four. American said it will allow five free bags instead of three for military personnel. This is nice enough, of course, but it is pure public relations nonsense.

These airlines will charge seniors traveling by necessity to an assisted living complex for every bag they check, and the military isn’t going to pay their expenses once they gut the receipts. Do the airlines let military veterans check their bags for free?  Priests and nuns, who have taken vows of poverty? Handicapped travelers, who are unable to carry on heavy bags? The disabled only get two free bags, at best, before they are charged 50 bucks per additional piece. How about pregnant women? The unemployed, relocating to a new city to look for jobs…any breaks for ? Ethically, there are much more compelling arguments for giving breaks to any of these flyers than active duty soldiers, who are going to be reimbursed by the military anyway, and should be.

I am not sure even that would be appropriate, however. I don’t think that the airlines should be in the business of charging different fees to travelers in different circumstances; it requires value judgments that I do not trust the airlines to make fairly or rationally. Next we’ll be seeing waived bag fees for registered Republicans, attractive blondes and vegans, or whoever screams the loudest or has the most vocal lobby. The proper, ethical and fair way to do business is to have the same rules for everyone.

Except Steve Doocy and the rest of the media. Charge them double.