United Airlines and the Price Race to the Bottom

United Airlines and the Price Race to the Bottom

United Airlines is a dickwad. By now, just about everyone knows the incident where police, at the request of United Airlines, forcibly dragged a passenger off a flight because he refused to give up his seat, resulting in injuries to the man. United Airlines wanted to bump him and 3 others so they could seat four of their own employees.

United had unsuccessfully appealed for volunteers who were willing to give up their seats for $800, stay in a hotel and fly the next day. The passengers were removed so airline staff could get to Louisville to man a flight the following day.

That’s when airport law enforcement was called to remove him man by force. Passengers screamed ‘my god what are you doing’ and ‘this is wrong’ as the man was yanked from his seat. He appeared to go limp after being slammed against a headrest and one passenger said he was ‘knocked out’. When no-one else came forward, the air crew came aboard with four slips of paper with the names and seat numbers of passengers and began informing them they had been chosen to leave the plane.

‘They approached his doctor and told him to get off the plane,’ he said. ‘He refused because he had work the next day. He’s a medical doctor. He was very emphatic, “I can’t be late, I’m a doctor, I’ve got to be there tomorrow.’

Anspach, who said that the whole situation had put him off flying with United in the future, said that he saw the passenger hit his face when staff dragged him off.

United has since issued an apology. They say they are working with authorities, who have suspended the officer in question. Yada, yada, yada.

I have heard several people declare they would now be boycotting United Airlines because of this incident. I can respect that and mostly agree with it. It is an egregious misstep on the company’s part. United is not an airline which routinely covers itself in glory. But by and large, every airline has had instances of terrible customer service. Yes, even Southwest Airlines, which has one of the best reputations in the industry. Read more about United Airlines and the Price Race to the Bottom

The Un-Civil States of America

The Un-Civil States of America

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the death of civil society and what it means to sound right in the course of attempting to ackrite. One of the biggest bogeymen in American life is the concept of political correctness. In its most original (and I would say benign) form, political correctness demands that we use “language, policies, or measures that are intended to avoid offense or disadvantage to members of particular groups in society”. Such an approach is ripe for abuse and often shuts down debate on those same sensitive topics.

However, the backlash itself against political correctness has gone overboard and squashed reasoned and nuanced debate in this country. Instead, we have replaced debate with a level of coarseness that goes nowhere and leaves almost everyone feeling enervated. We use our best rhetorical cudgels to shout down any dissent on the very topics which require the most civil and thoughtful debate. We’re screaming past each other or not talking at all. Read more about The Un-Civil States of America

The Significance in Populism, Jihadism and Communism

The Significance in Populism, Jihadism and Communism

Why do individuals turn to extreme solutions in their quest for a life of significance?

There is a current running through right-wing populism which links with the insecurity experienced by those in the Middle East who have lashed out against the West. People yearn for a life of significance. To belong to something greater than themselves. This is the offer of religion, which cannot be matched by atheism, scientism or any -ism which strips the sacred from daily life. Read more about The Significance in Populism, Jihadism and Communism

My President was a Third Culture Kid

My President was a Third Culture Kid

Although he may not have meant it, Ta-Nehesi Coates’ article on President Obama in The Atlantic pretty much names him a Third Culture Kid (TCK) without explicitly saying so. According to Wikipedia, TCK’s are “children raised in a culture other than their parents’ (or the culture of the country given on the child’s passport, where they are legally considered native) for a significant part of their early development years. They are exposed to a greater variety of cultural influences.”

Third Culture Kids often learn to live in two spaces without fully occupying one or the other.  Without being capable of occupying one or the other. President Obama was raised a black man by a white woman and white grandparents. But his racial characteristics are not simply what has helped him appeal to white and blacks (and other minorities). From Coates’ article:

To simply point to Obama’s white mother, or to his African father, or even to his rearing in Hawaii, is to miss the point. For most African Americans, white people exist either as a direct or an indirect force for bad in their lives. Biraciality is no shield against this; often it just intensifies the problem. What proved key for Barack Obama was not that he was born to a black man and a white woman, but that his white family approved of the union, and approved of the child who came from it.

Click here to read the whole thing. It’s well worth your time.

Being a Third Culture Kid is perhaps analogous to being bi-racial in some aspects. There is a marked cultural difference between being Black in America and being of European/Caucasian ancestry. And so President Obama has learned to how to code-switch between worlds. He was taught to see the positivity of his white side by grandparents who embraced him wholeheartedly.

Obama’s early positive interactions with his white family members gave him a fundamentally different outlook toward the wider world than most blacks of the 1960s had. Obama told me he rarely had “the working assumption of discrimination, the working assumption that white people would not treat me right or give me an opportunity or judge me [other than] on the basis of merit.” He continued, “The kind of working assumption” that white people would discriminate against him or treat him poorly “is less embedded in my psyche than it is, say, with Michelle.”

Read more about My President was a Third Culture Kid

Taking President-elect Trump Seriously

Taking President-elect Trump Seriously

I heard an interesting quote the other day,

Donald Trump’s supporters took the man seriously but didn’t take his words seriously. Trump’s opponents took his words seriously but didn’t take the man seriously.

I have been assured by friends who voted for Donald Trump that they don’t agree some of his more divisive rhetoric. That, yes, they realize he is an “ass”, to use one friend’s term. (Seriously, being a fanboy of Trump or any other politician is naive). Okay, I take that to heart. I’ve known some of these people since elementary or middle school. I believe they have good intentions. But now that he has become our President-elect, what promises and policies of Mr. Trump’s should be taken seriously? The following is his 100-Day Plan, taken directly from his website. Read more about Taking President-elect Trump Seriously

At Least Hillary Clinton isn’t Donald Trump

At Least Hillary Clinton isn’t Donald Trump

Or … She Ain’t That Muchuva Jagoff

I’m not all that broken up about Hillary Clinton getting my vote for President on Election Day. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not disappointed. In liberals, in Democrats, in Republicans, in our country.

My main voting issue has usually been foreign policy. In the first two Presidential elections in which I voted (2000 and 2004), the Democratic Party supposedly represented a stark choice to the Republicans. They advocated a more cautious, diplomatic approach. They didn’t bloviate about forcing the rest of the world to respect us or make naive assumptions about the instant transformative power of Democracy. FREEDOM! No, the rest of the world doesn’t hate us for our freedoms.

It wasn’t difficult to vote for Barack Obama in 2008 either. He made the same assurances that Gore and Kerry did. Respect for international institutions and our allies. Perhaps a pullback from using the military as the blunt edge of democracy promotion. And then he went and cocked it all up. Sending troops into Libya in the first place, not closing Guantanamo, nearly getting us into a war in Syria. President Obama got my vote in 2012 but with much less enthusiasm. And behind many of his most hawkish decisions was his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. Read more about At Least Hillary Clinton isn’t Donald Trump

Colin Kaepernick, Woodrow Wilson and Effective Protest

Colin Kaepernick, Woodrow Wilson and Effective Protest

The Colin Kaepernick protest reminds of a recent episode of Malcolm Gladwell’s new podcast series, Revisionist History. In an episode called Generous Orthodoxy, he examines what it means to protest. His first example was of a 98-year old Mennonite minister took on his church over gay marriage. The minister supported his gay son’s decision to marry and was subsequently excommunicated from his local church. For a man who had dedicated his entire life to that church and still believed in Jesus, it was a tough blow. His son had left the Church but at his father’s gently urging, he had eventually come back to Christianity, to Jesus, through a different road. The minister wrote a letter to his church which gained a lot of attention for its grace and humility. He didn’t lose his religion but nor did he stand down from loving and supporting his son.

new-exhibit-at-princeton-university-revisits-woodrow-wilson-cad14d32dab77f46The other example was from campus protests at Princeton where people battled about whether to remove references to Woodrow Wilson. Wilson was a former President of Princeton, former President of the United States and failed architect of the League of Nations. A significant man, by any measure. He was also an avowed and committed racist. (Srsly it’s pretty bad). Students at the university protested against naming the School of Public and International Affairs after Wilson. They claimed that his very mention was an affront to the ideals of the university; that references to him left them feeling unwanted. Others supported keeping Wilson’s name at the university and only emphasizing his great achievements. And still others tried to suggest a compromise – keep his reference and mention both his great achievements and his racism. Those who protested did so vociferously and with great stridency (screaming that the university owed them nothing! and that they were owed everything by the university!). There is real pain in their voices when you hear it. But ultimately, they lost and Wilson’s name has stayed prominent at Princeton. Read more about Colin Kaepernick, Woodrow Wilson and Effective Protest

David Bowie’s Under Pressure and the Challenge of Love

David Bowie’s Under Pressure and the Challenge of Love

david-bowie-zoolanderAs much as I loved David Bowie’s role as Cultural Icon David Bowie in Zoolander and would have enjoyed seeing him do a cameo in Guardians of the Galaxy 2, David Bowie’s collaboration with Queen in Under Pressure is one of the most influential songs I’ve ever heard and has remained in my all-time Top Ten for years now. It’s the ending that gets me.

In a cold, cold world, Bowie’s slowly rising voice at the end of the song define love and strife and struggle in a shared fashion that doesn’t so easily lend itself to platitudes and thoughts of ‘happily ever after’:

‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
And love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves

Read more about David Bowie’s Under Pressure and the Challenge of Love

Catholic Muslims: The Pope and the Qur’an

Catholic Muslims: The Pope and the Qur’an

Pope Francis released an encyclical today discussing the environment and humanity’s responsibility to be good shepherds of it. Quoth Rod Dreher:

What Francis has written is an encyclical that celebrates life as harmony, communion, and incarnation. He calls on all persons to revere nature as gift, and to think not as atomized individuals, but as stewards who owe a debt to others, as well as to the past and to the future. [Emphasis is Dreher’s]

110307-F-PO994-001There are of course many, many similarities between the religions of the world. One of the most striking, to me, is the Catholic doctrine that, “Man is not saved by faith alone. Faith must be combined with good works.”

This is also a central tenet in Islam. There are stories of the early sahabah (companions of the Prophet), who, during Ramadan, would want to stay at the mosque all day and night praying, such was the fervor and zealousness of their faith. But Prophet Muhammad admonished them to get out of the mosque, to attend to their families and businesses and lives. Not to just sit around and be all religiony. Read more about Catholic Muslims: The Pope and the Qur’an

The Politics of… Srsly No One Care About Clinton’s Announcement Speech

The Politics of… Srsly No One Care About Clinton’s Announcement Speech

Kevin Drum on Hillary Clinton’s lovely but completely ineffectual and unimplementable announcement speech: As near as I can tell, Americans seem to vote for president based almost solely on affinity. That is, they vote for whoever says the right things, with no concern for whether those things are obviously impossible or little more than self-evidentRead more about The Politics of… Srsly No One Care About Clinton’s Announcement Speech[…]