On Unions, Abusive Flight Attendants, Golf Balls In My Hash Browns, And Res Ipsa Loquitur

By now you have heard the latest example of Outrage in the Air, the American Airlines flight attendant running amuck. A video of  part of the incident was posted by a passenger, Surain Adyanthaya, who uploaded it to Facebook. Adyanthaya wrote about what she witnessed on Flight 591  from San Francisco International Airport to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, saying,

“OMG! AA Flight attendant violently took a stroller from a lady with her baby on my flight, hitting her and just missing the baby. Then he tried to fight a passenger who stood up for her.”

The basic facts of the episode have been confirmed by multiple passengers, and the altercation has been reported across the news media. Then there is the video. It  does not show the stroller incident that Adyanthaya described, but it does show a female passenger standing at the front of the plane, sobbing uncontrollably as she holds her baby, as she says, “You can’t use violence with a baby.Just give me back my stroller, please.”

A male passenger seated near the front of the plane suddenly comes to the woman’s aid, saying,  “No, I’m not going to sit here and watch this stuff.” He then stands up and demands to know the male flight attendant’s name. The flight attendant who grabbed the stroller appears, prompting the male passenger to warn him.

“Hey, bud, you do that to me, and I’ll knock you flat,” he says. “Hey, you stay out of this!” the flight attendant shouts back at him, pointing his finger at the passenger. He then steps forward, challenging the passenger. “Hit me,” the flight attendant says, motioning with his hands. “Come on, hit me! You don’t know what the story is!”

“I don’t care what the story is,” the defiant male passenger replies. “You almost hurt a baby.”

Boy, from now on, I’m flying United. Continue reading

The Pink Slime Debacle: Is Anyone To Blame?

YUM!!!!

The maker of so-called “pink slime” filed for bankruptcy last week as the direct result of a public furor and public relations disaster related to “finely textured beef.” As a result, upwards of 650 people are losing their jobs, perhaps many more. Ground beef and other beef-based food will be more expensive, and quite possibly less healthy. Who, if anyone, is at fault?

The “pink slime” controversy was launched by cable TV chef Jamie Oliver, a healthy eating advocate who urged his viewers to reject ground beef that included the commonly-used filler. It is all meat, you know. In fact, it is virtually fat-free beef that begins as slaughterhouse trimmings, is then heated and spun in a centrifuge to separate tiny particles of meat from fat, and subjected to a puff of ammonium hydroxide gas to kill bacteria. Then it was mixed with ground beef. The process sounded unappetizing, and the nickname, coined in an e-mail by a USDA official, made it seem especially disgusting. The internet and social media got a hold of it, and the next thing you know, there were petitions and outrage. And the net result…jobs lost, beef made more expensive, no improvement in taste or health…a complete loss.

Good job everybody!

And almost everybody’s to blame too.

In rough order of culpability:

  1. The meat industry, for using unnatural, treated meat as filler and hiding it with the deceitful label “100% beef.” Consumers should have known what was being added and how it was produced, and it should have been on the labels.
  2. The clever USDA official. His cute name was a food slur, and in these days of viral tweets, YouTube videos and emails, coming up with a disgusting name for a safe food was reckless and irresponsible.
  3. The news media and websites, for not adequately defusing the controversy by explaining exactly what the substance was, indulging the anti-meat agenda of certain writers and reporters.
  4. Consumers, for being naive, emotional, irrational, and too easily stampeded. Most processed food can be made to seem disgusting,  especially anything to do with meat. So is a lot of food preparation. The public won’t take the time to distinguish between genuinely unhealthy foods and those that just involve processing that isn’t suitable for the squeamish, so they go overboard on the random targets of attention-seeking, half-cocked activists, and often the government and regulators follow the hysteria. This is the tragedy of DDT; this is Alar; this is cyclamates. Industries are destroyed that don’t deserve to be; lives are ruined, and the public health isn’t improved.

Was Jaime Oliver’s conduct wrong? I don’t think so. He’s a natural foods advocate; he has philosophical objections to processed food, and he  performed a public service by letting the public know something about its food that it should have been told about sooner. The story of “pink slime” could and should have been explained truthfully by someone who approved of it; it’s not Oliver’s fault that the job fell to an opponent.