Letters for January 24, 2002

More bunny debate

For an immigrant from Haiti (as is the case with most bathroom attendants, floor moppers, and bottle washers in South Florida), it's not a bad gig. If they assume the pose of attentive valet, whisking lint off your jacket, etc., it may in a way lend dignity to the job. They're not just standing guard in a pisser; they're providing a personal service to gentlemen!

It may seem "classist, racist, and elitist," but given the actual circumstances explained above, it is hardly that. Indeed, mature black American males are on their knees in every major airport and office building across the land shining shoes! Consider the fact that there is no such term as "shoeshine man." I can't think of a more demeaning anachronism than "shoeshine boy." But they aren't complaining. Hell, they even got a union!

As for club-goers who blow more on a drink tab in a night than washroom attendants make in a week, stiffing the poor guy on a measly tip seems a supreme lack of class. Also, if having someone hover over ya with a towel while you're holding yer willy at least guilts you into washing your hands afterward, I think good hygiene is well-served and the world is a much cleaner, healthier place!

Up with the hard-working bathroom attendants of Earth! Down with classist elites too miserly even to tip them!

John Stacey
via the Internet

Norman may be liberally myopic, but...: "Crash Landing," Bob Norman's December 27 cover story, was much too long, quite biased against Delta Airlines, dishonest, poorly thought out, and completely missed the point. It ignored and distorted facts while clinging to the antibusiness agenda of the bleeding-heart liberals.

I am not an employee of Delta Airlines, I am not an attorney, and I have no personal interest in the case. I read about cases such as Janie Axelrad's every so often. The same model is always present: an appealing "victim" and a large corporate target. Lawyers dream of this situation, particularly when the victim is not prosperous or well-educated. The contingency fee will hopefully provide early and luxurious retirement; at worst, such cases provide excellent advertisement. In most cases, the lawyer fills the victim with visions of a large settlement for damages real or imagined, such as diminished quality of life. The judicial system frequently mishandles these cases. The media is frequently dishonest.

First, let's look at Norman's reporting. Early in the story, he states that Axelrad sued Delta for $100,000 in medical bills and other damages. Nowhere in the entire story, which covered three full pages of newsprint, was the amount of the "other damages" revealed. I strongly suspect that the amount of the "other damages" was the reason that Delta resisted so vigorously. There is one short sentence that notes that Axelrad had injured her left knee while skating and that both knees were arthritic. The seriousness of Axelrad's injuries was clearly due to a pre-existing condition. Norman never made this point clear. The side-by-side photographs of Axelrad, one taken several years ago and the newer photo with Axelrad wearing a knee brace and an unhappy expression, are obviously meant to tug the reader's heartstrings. No enlightenment, lots of sympathy.

Now, let's look at Delta's performance. Remember that prior to September 11, 2001, no aircraft had ever been blown out of the sky or even damaged by a hijacker or terrorist. It seems to me that Delta acted quite responsibly. It evaluated the threat and ordered the aircraft to land with all possible haste. What else could Delta do? Counsel made an issue of the difference between the shortest possible theoretical time to land and the actual time it took. If the same criteria were applied to policemen, firemen, and paramedics' responses, not a single department in the country would emerge unscathed.

Axelrad herself acted somewhat strangely. She says she was expecting a set of stairs "like the president goes down." I find it almost impossible to believe that a person born and growing to maturity on the North American continent would not know that in emergencies, airlines use chutes to clear the plane in the fastest possible time and in the safest way. Axelrad, by her own words, "turned to the right." This chick is unbelievable. Possibly a bomb ticking away onboard the aircraft and she stops to discuss things with the flight attendant. The flight attendant rightly moved her onto the chute as quickly as possible. Anything less would have been grossly irresponsible to both Axelrad and the remaining passengers.

Axelrad's first lawyer, Jeffrey Wolfson, recognized the "appealing victim-big corporate target" model and went to work. Delta rightfully resisted. Wolfson abandoned the case. Enter Julie Hager. She smelled blood (money) and acted accordingly. The case went to trial in October 2001. By now, the facts were submerged in mud.

The system is clearly imperfect. The court system usually provides justice. Usually, but not always. For example, how many readers think O.J. Simpson is as pure as the driven snow? One of the flaws in the system is the tendency of judges to permit frivolous lawsuits to be heard. The practice of smearing one another's clients can and should be stopped. Cases should be decided on their merits.

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