Time to clip wings

A commercial airline pilot mostly follows instructions from ground-based controllers, as can be confirmed by listening to United Airlines’ channel 9.  But the job properly requires some distinctive qualities, including

  • good judgment
  • responsibility to the welfare of the passengers
  • responsiveness to evidence and facts, rather than superstition and hunches
  • understanding the rules of a common carrier, and the basics of public service.

This jerk appears to lack all of the above, in addition to being personally an ignorant bigot and possibly cowardly.  If Delta doesn’t put him on the street, I will go far out of my way if necessary to avoid using their service, and others should do the same. I don’t feature being delayed because a pilot suddenly has the idea to behave like an infant, nor fall out of the skies because he or she is crazy or detached from reality.

Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

31 thoughts on “Time to clip wings”

  1. Either the guy has some kind of phobia, or other mental problem, or there’s something more to the story that’s not being related. Either would not surprise me.

  2. He doesn’t work for Delta, according to the comments on the link. He works for Atlantic Southeast, a regional carrier that Delta contracts with. Regional pilots are low-paid and overworked.

    None of that excuses him in the slightest, but Delta does not employ the jerk, so they can’t fire him.

  3. Brett– phobias are almost always recognized by the sufferer as irrational. This guy, OTOH, has his bullshit-he-learned-from-talk-radio excuse already prepared:

    “For what reason, he said some ‘passengers might be upset or uncomfortable’,” Raham said the pilot told him.

    See, it’s for the good of the passengers.

    And racism is not in the DSM-IV.

  4. “Brett– phobias are almost always recognized by the sufferer as irrational.”

    Not phobias which have some degree of social validation as legitimate. For instance, an awful lot of liberals are phobic about firearms, but don’t admit to having a phobia. No, they think, because of the social validation, that it’s rational to be scared witless if you see a holstered gun on somebody’s hip.

    Anyway, bottom line is, unless there’s something to this story that’s not being reported, the action was clearly irrational and unjustified.

  5. Heck yes, some liberals (and people in general) are phobic about firearms. The purpose of firearms is to kill. That’s their ONLY purpose. But my perfectly rational and justified phobia about firearms has nothing to do with this pilot’s baseless, bigoted feeling about a couple of peaceable Muslims headed to an anti-bigotry conference, one of whom was not actually wearing “Muslim” garb, but a traditional Indian coat with a Nehru collar.

  6. Not phobic here.

    eg – a gun in the holster of a cop – does not provoke fear.
    gun in holster of slightly tipsy guy walking down Market St – fear.
    Guns in hands of cops pointed at thugs who beat me up – glee.

  7. See, that’s what I was saying: It’s socially validated among liberals, so you don’t see it as irrational to feel fear, even though you routinely subject yourselves to hugely greater risks without a second thought.

    To some extent, fear of visibly Muslim groups on planes is socially validated, so somebody could easily rationalize that their phobic reaction was just normal.

  8. Let me see if I have your argument down: phobias are not seen by the patient as irrational, because two phenomena (one actual, one made-up) that are not phobias are not seen by the person as irrational.

    You can stop using the word “phobia” now, and for the foreseeable future.

  9. uh, what Brett? Having some fear / caution around folks with guns out is rational. I also would feel a similar fear with a person with a knife out on Market St. (well, if a person had a knife out in hand, that’s even more worth being fearful of than a gun in a holster.)

    I’m also fearful of giant steel cages hurtling down the avenues. I look both ways, and don’t step out in front of them when they are disinclined to stop.

    Fear of somebody actively being Muslim? That’s just stupid. “They might pray at me! They must be secretly plotting to take over the plane with their hidden super-allah powers!” Some of us walk around in cities with actual Pakistani restaurants ( if you are in downtown San Francisco, head to the Tenderloin to Shalimar. Sure, there are junkies and probably crooks with guns around, but the food is to live for.) And we’re all more cautious of the junkies than the Pakistanis.

  10. personally, i think the fastest way to get conservatives behind gun control would be for liberals to start carrying them. then again, i speak as a proud liberal who contributes to both the aclu and the nra on the basis of civil liberties.

    regarding the subject of the post though, i think there’s something deeply silly about the pilot’s fears of someone “flying while muslim.” disciplinary actions are called for here.

  11. I’m not sure what we’re arguing about. If there’s not more to the story than being reported, the action was irrational. Now, calling all toasters claims it can’t be a phobia, because he’d know the fear was irrational. I dispute that. People are perfectly capable of thinking phobias are rational, if the social circles they move in support those phobias. That describes to some extent fear of Muslims on planes, just as much as it does fear of firearms in the hands of ordinary people. In neither case is the fear wholly irrational, in neither case is the fear remotely proportional to the threat.

    But, I don’t know that the story is all that complete. None of the accounts I’ve found relate the pilot’s end of things. Maybe he saw them doing something he regarded as suspicious, and was not reacting irrationally. I find it somewhat conspicuous that we’re not getting the pilot’s end of things.

  12. Interesting to compare this story to the one just above it, in which a cheerleader can be kicked off her squad for refusing to cheer her rapist by name. In that context, not being willing to do everything that counts as ‘being a cheerleader on our high school squad’ can get you kicked off, even if you have a good reason for doing it. But if you’re a pilot who refuses to do that part of your job called ‘flying the passengers the TSA has screened’, maybe it’s all OK and the pilot will not have to lose his job.

  13. Brett Bellmore:

    Maybe he saw them doing something he regarded as suspicious, and was not reacting irrationally

    If he did see them doing something he regarded as suspicious then either he didn’t say so or he did say so and the TSA didn’t think it was suspicious, and the airline didn’t think it was worth mentioning as an excuse. I can’t imagine a rational suspicion that would fit.

    Now, there is a report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where a passenger claims that the pilot claims that the TSA asked for the two men to be removed, not the pilot. If that’s true the pilot is innocent and the TSA, and the two airline spokepeople, are deliberately lying about what happened, and we should expect a defamation lawsuit any minute now. I’m not holding my breath, though.

  14. Brett, I’m arguing that there is no rational reason to be afraid of Muslims, while there is a rational reason to be afraid of a person wearing a gun. (adding some qualifiers)

    If you were saying that some folks are afraid of a gun just sitting on the floor, you would have a bit better comparison.

  15. And I’m arguing the case for fearing both is essentially identical: Both are capable of violence, neither likely to dish it out.

  16. Americans killed by Mulims in America << Americans killed by guns in America.

  17. Nice false equivalence there, Brett. Muslims are capable of violence… because they are Muslim? Because they are human? Either way, it’s because of who they are, not what they’ve done. People carrying weapons are capable of violence because they walked out of there house with a weapon.

    By your amusing non-logic, if we let Muslims onto the floor of Congress, we must also allow AK-47s.

  18. Oy… “their house.” Teh Intertoobz iz destroying my ability to spell.

  19. Mobius, I’m not trying to argue that fear of Muslims is rational. But I would note that Muslims in America << guns in America, too.

    But then, liberal fear of gun owners isn't particularly rational, either…

  20. Wow, now you move the goalposts from ‘guns’ to ‘gun owners’.

    Here is my mad-lib ™:

    I called the cops just now because I saw some kids in the field playing with a _______! (noun)
    Muslim / Gun

    Can you believe it? I they wouldn’t let me in the airplane with a _____! (noun) What _____! (swear word)

    p.s. In college, I was a better shot than my NRA roommate. (well, not that either of us did much shooting.)

  21. “Wow, now you move the goalposts from ‘guns’ to ‘gun owners’.”

    Because we’re agreed that it’s irrational to fear an isolated gun sitting on the ground. I figured the topic had to be the actual fear in question. Which is not guns sitting unattended, or incompetent minors with guns.

    I fear I’ve thread jacked, after all, I already knew irrational fear of guns was endemic among liberals, I didn’t have to demonstrate it yet again.

    Bottom line, people do not necessarily realize they have a phobia, if they have social support for their irrational fear. Substitute “AIDS victim” for Muslim, if you need an example you don’t personally exemplify.

    And I’d really have to hear the pilot’s side of the story before arriving at any conclusion. I really do find it disturbing that none of the accounts felt it necessary to relate it.

  22. Brett, I must have missed your post proving the existence and actual text of the Constitution. Could you please direct me to it on this site?

  23. Brett: “I already knew irrational fear of guns was endemic among liberals, I didn’t have to demonstrate it yet again.”

    I suggest you have irrational prejudice against liberals, ascribing to them all sorts of beliefs they don’t actually have. I think you have demonstrated it yet again.

    When the CAIR starts sponsoring “Muslim Safety” classes, on how to interact with Muslims so they don’t accidentally go off and kill a friend …

  24. Brett, in one year almost 100,000 Americans are injured or killed by a firearm. How many Americans living in the US were injured or killed by Muslims? I’d wager that it’s somewhere on the order of >1% of the gun statistic. (Let’s not even discuss the idea that the vast majority of victims of gun violence were probably shot by Christians.)

    Now, is my fear of guns AND gun-owners still as irrational as another person’s fear of Muslims? Is it still a liberal prejudice? No, it’s a rational preference that there be fewer guns around me so that my chances of being shot will go down drastically.

  25. You’d lose that wager by better than an order of magnitude, though perhaps not quite two orders.

    Yes, and yes, your other stats are nearly as dodgy. But they’re coming from people who WANT you to be afraid of guns, so you’ll support their efforts to deprive people of them. So, what do you expect? Might as well get your statistics on the social effects of p*rn from the Moral Majority…

  26. The kind of speculation, hyberbole and general twists of logic that you’re expressing are what make it difficult to argue with conservatives.

    “All statistics that don’t support my argument are dodgy.”

    “Maybe the pilot saw them doing something hostile, therefore his actions were justified.”

    “Let me make up a hypothetical that might someday happen, in a remote alternate universe, and believe in that, and base all my arguments on it.”

    This week, I’d like to point out, three Republican lies about Obama were destroyed: 1) turns out he is tough on terrorism, 2) turns out he was born in the US, and 3) turns out he wants to lower our taxes (he’s created lowest tax rates of any president since 1958.) Add to that the fact that GM just saw its profits triple after a bit of help from the administration–which was portrayed at the time as socialism, but which has now proven that stimulus can really help an economy.

    Why we believe ANYTHING the right wing says anymore is beyond me. But even more puzzling is why more Republicans don’t defect over to Obama’s party, when Obama’s more successful with the GOP talking points than they are.

  27. Matt: You don’t find it annoying when news accounts conspicuously omit any statements by one of the key figures in an event? I do, as I’m not laboring under the delusion that news accounts are always fair, balanced, or comprehensive.

    I would really like to hear the pilot’s end of things, and the fact that we’re NOT hearing it bothers me. WHY are we not hearing his end of it, but are hearing from the people thrown off the plane?

    And, yeah, Matt, your statistic is dodgy. You cite 100,000 firearms injuries a year, (The fact that it’s a round number ought to incite suspicion in the first place.) as a reason to fear random John Q. Citizen walking down the street with a holstered gun. But think about the composition of that 100,000. It includes police shooting criminals in the commission of crimes. Are you robbing a bank, that you’re afraid of being shot? It includes defensive uses of firearms. Are you planning on mugging that guy, that you’re worried he’ll shoot you? Are you maybe concerned that girl you’re stalking is armed, and will shoot you when you break into her home? It includes, notably, suicides. You think some random dude on the street is going to grab you, and blow out his own brains through your head?

    Are you a gang member worried about somebody shooting back when you do a driveby on another gang’s hangout? A drug dealer who might get shot in a market dispute?

    Matt, if you’re a normal, law abiding person, not engaged in criminal activities, or perhaps engaged TO a criminal, you’ve got virtually nothing to fear. If you fear anyway, it’s because you’re irrational on the topic.

  28. Our gun laws are insanity. The NRA has far too much influence in this country and should be humbled.

    In Texas, where I live, the NRA just pushed through a bill in the legislature that will allow students to carry concealed weapons to class. Here’s the idiotic rationale from the senator who passed it: “My goal this whole time is to put doubt in the mind of the shooter that, ‘Well, maybe I shouldn’t go on that campus and try to take a bunch of kids out.’ Yeah, as if more guns is always safer than less guns.

    In Florida, pediatricians are no longer allowed to discuss firearm safety with children as part of well-child visits.

    The NRA has a delusional sense of our country and world as some wild west shoot-em-up. You describe me as fearful, and yet you very elaborately ran through a series of fairly implausible scenarios regarding guns above. Obviously, it’s much more on your mind than it is on mine. The people I’ve met in the NRA tend to be irrationally fearful of all kinds of things. That’s why they’re obsessed with guns: because they’re deeply, irrationally afraid.

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