Wednesday, April 12, 2017

United Airlines

I am not interested in whether it was or was not legitimate for United to remove the guy from the plane, because by the time security got there to remove him, clearly authority was on their side.  The doctor, David Dao, undoubtedly did not know the legal ins and outs of whether it was reasonable.  His whole justification seems to have been:  I am doctor, therefore I am important.  I am more important that anyone else you could remove from this plane, therefore I am not leaving.  This is the kind of "individual exceptionalism" that I see people use all the time to break rules.  In general, we might want to favour doctors in this sort of situation, but he was in no position to determine that.  It's not as though he had an emergency that he absolutely had to deal with; no, he just had patients to see the next day.  At that point, it's not up to him to decide if his reason for going is more important than another passengers.  Sure, he has the right to complain; he has the right even to sue the airline if the situation is egregious.  But he is not in a position to tell the airline that he is not going to get off, period.

The thing that puzzles me about this is what he hoped to gain from it.  Prior to the arrival of security, I imagine he hoped that protesting loudly enough would get the airline to move to an easier target.  I'm sure the airline would have liked to, but letting one person insist on staying aboard is certainly not fair and is likely to backfire when they have to explain to the next person in line that he, and not the doctor, has to get up and leave.

But after security arrived, what then?  According to what I heard on the radio today, security informed him that he needed to come along, and he said that they would have to drag him.  It's kind of hard to imagine any other scenario playing out.  They don't want to drag the guy; it's a hassle, whatever else it is, and their lives would be easier if he walked off.  So it wasn't like they just came up and pulled him out of his seat.  He refused repeated requests to get up peacefully, and he knew that the consequence was that they were going to take him by force.  Had he just lost his mind at this point?  Is he thinking that he will show up United by forcing security to take him away aggressively?  Is he thinking ahead to a lawsuit?  (Also on the radio, I heard that he said something about suing United before they pulled him off.)

I have a hard time imagining myself reacting the same way.  No matter how angry I might be, I would be thinking of what actions I would take after I got off the plane peacefully.  I really can't see asking to be dragged off the plane.  Perhaps if I had a true emergency, like one sees in t.v. shows -- "I have to get to that hospital tonight or a man will die!  I am the only person in the country who knows how to perform this operation!" -- I would have resisted.  Otherwise, no.  Again, whether it was fair or not for this man to get bumped is no longer the question once security arrives.  Someone with more authority than him has decided that he needs to get off the plane.  He is going to get off the plane one way or another.  Why choose the painful and embarrassing way?

As a final note, I wonder what the protocol is for removing passengers.  Surely security has some kind of standard way of doing this if a passenger resists.  They may never use that in their lives, and maybe they didn't remember at the time, but why even have security if you're not going to train them how to do the job?  The reason I ask is that dragging a person seems like one of the worst possible ways.  Heaving him over one's shoulder would seem much easier.  With three security guards there, they could surely have gotten him up and onto the back of one of them, and the other two could have helped support the weight.  It was probably very tight in the plane aisle, which is the best reason I can think of for not using this method.  But if you've ever tried to drag someone, you know how difficult it is.  They seem to have chosen the method most difficult for themselves as well as most embarrassing to the passenger.  But maybe this is what they're supposed to do; I'm just curious.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Trump, Good and Bad

I had been intending to write an entry in praise of Trump last week; in the meantime, I now have reason to criticize him as well, so here is a chance to do both.

I have begun to appreciate one thing about having Trump as president:  he just doesn't care what the media says about him.  No, that's not right; he obviously cares deeply, otherwise he wouldn't take the trouble to respond to every attack.  Let me put it this way:  he cares what the media says about him, but his way of dealing with it is not to compromise his beliefs (whatever they are at the moment); rather, he defends what he does and does it twice as much.

I have suffered through many Republican presidencies, and I'm sure anyone who shares my outlook and experience can tell you that most Republicans are absolutely disheartened by the degree to which presidents have conceded moral authority to their critics.  The whole idea that George W. Bush would push for what he called "compassionate conservatism" indicates the degree to which he had already accepted that regular conservatism was not compassionate.  Reagan had a much deeper appreciation of his own views, but he gave in to Democrats enough that they now hold him up as a model of compromise.  I know Democrats feel similarly about their presidents, an argument that I will not get into at the moment, but it seems certain to me that any other Republican would have recoiled in horror at the attacks that Democrats have made on Trump's decisions, such as his embattled cabinet picks and his executive orders.  Not Trump.  The only way he knows to meet an attack is head-on, so he has responded by going all in.  The first travel restriction was overturned, so he just passed another one.  The first Obamacare repeal failed, but he still wants to see it done.  He defends his positions with weird tweets and questionable facts, but he doesn't back down.  That's kind of reassuring, since he has mostly stuck to his platform so far.

I say "kind of" because we also kind an indication this week that his platform is about as solid as a column of smoke:  after years of railing against Middle Eastern intervention, he was president for less than 100 days before launching a strike on his own authority.  I'm a big Jonah Goldberg fan, and his latest column argues the same thing that I have been saying for a year or more:  Trump has no consistent beliefs.  I do think it's fair to say that one's perspective inevitably changes as president.  This has been demonstrated time and again when ironclad promises have been broken.  A lot of it is just the difference between sniping at the current leader and actually making the decisions that a leader has to make; part of it may also be information that only presidents and other high authorities are privy to.  Any person taking on the responsibility of office is subject to this kind of distortion.  But in Trump's case, I think the issue is much deeper, in large part because he does not have the philosophical underpinning of most other politicians.  He gets a different perspective while in office, but he does not have a life of deeply thought-out beliefs to hold him on anything like the same course and overcome the problem of perspective.  He is likely to change his whole view of a subject in the course of a day or a week or a month.

So far, that isn't really the case.  The attack on Syria was limited and saw no commitment of troops, and I hope that it will not presage any.  But if Trump's mind did change drastically, on this or any other subject, it would hardly be shocking.