Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/10/2008: Post-Newark Hangover Edition

Good morning!

Trying to get back to normal here. I hope it isn’t age, but I suspect it is: for quite a while now I have found myself foggy and exhausted up to three days after a period of stressful travel combined with one or more three-hour seminars. One reason is that I never can sleep in hotels;  another is all the walking around airports lugging two heavy bags, since 1) I cannot risk checking luggage 2) My presentation materials alone weigh more than ten pounds and 3) I object to bringing rollerboards on airplanes as inconsiderate and unfair to other passengers. The side effects right now include a sprained wrist and a swollen knee.

Speaking of side-effects, one of the unfortunate ones of the craven abandonment of the field of battle by the blogs’ “resistance” participants is that traffic collapses quickly without new posts. Over at Popehat, Ken sometimes goes weeks without posting anything. Then again, maybe he’s smart enough not to pay any attention to daily, weekly and monthly fluctuation in traffic, unlike me. Once, if travel and schedule snafus stopped me from posting, I could count on Chris, deery or Charles to have a long-exchange of contentious opinions with other commenters as they maintained that there was no media bias, that Trump should be impeached because he violated “norms,” and the FBI was as professional and uncorruptable as Elliot Ness, or at least Elliot Ness as portrayed by Robert Stack. Now they have retreated into the comforting warmth on the left-wing echo chamber.

1.  Tipping ethics. I was going to include this in yesterday’s salvage operation, but literally had to end the post so I could take a nap. The following tipping dilemmas occurred during my trip, not for the first time:

  • Should I tip a limo driver who is being entirely paid for by my client? I don’t know what he or she is being paid, in most cases. If I do tip the driver, is that an expense I can be reimbursed for? I usually do not ask for reimbursements of discretionary expenditures during business trips.
  • At the Newark arirport’s computer-run restaurant, the bartender handed over the food I had ordered by punching in the order myself, and an 18% tip was added to my bill, though I could reduce it (or raise it.) The man virtually did nothing, and was raking in automatic tips from everyone there. Is 18% fair? (I paid it.)
  • What do you tip an Uber driver on a 250 buck fare?  He was a very lively, interesting driver. I gave him $50. Is that ethically reimbursable? I think not.

2. Melania’s parents. In a classic example of how journalists frame the news to suit their partisan agendas, we have the recent story of how the First Lady’s Slovenian-born parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, recently became United States citizens. Here’s Yahoo’s take, headlined “The Stunning Hypocrisy Of How Melania Trump’s Parents Became U.S. Citizens.”

President Donald Trump has made it his goal to slash both legal and illegal immigration to the United States, calling repeatedly for the end of what he disdainfully calls “chain migration.” This policy, better known as family-based immigration, allows U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to sponsor their close relatives so they can come to the country — and it’s exactly the path to citizenship the parents of first lady Melania Trump used. On Thursday, the Slovenian-born Viktor and Amalija Knavs officially became United States citizens in a private naturalization ceremony in New York City thanks to the program their son-in-law has repeatedly vowed to end.

Through the demonized process of “chain migration” Melania, who became a citizen in 2006 and whose immigration history is sketchy at best, sponsored her parents for a green card. In February, it was reported they were close to obtaining their citizenship — just a few weeks after the president announced in his State of the Union address a proposal that would allow only spouses and minor children to be sponsored.

Do note that the news isn’t that Melania’s parents became citizens, but that it was “stunning hypocrisy” for them to do so. Since it was not hypocrisy, much less stunning hypocrisy, by any definition, this article is fake news. (Gee, I wonder if Facebook will block it? Somehow, I don’t think so.) I also is smoking gun evidence that neither the writer, Andrea González-Ramírez (I’m sure she has no pre-determined views on immigration), her editors, nor Yahoo execs are sufficient bright or objective to report on the matter. It also shows they don’t know what hypocrisy is, but that they are dedicated to spin innocuous facts into attacks on the President.

It is not hypocrisy for anyone to take full advantage of a law that that person opposes. If the speed limit on the interstate is 65, and I think it should be 55, I am not hypocritical if I drive at the posted limit. If I think that the mortgage interest deduction is a middle-class entitlement, I am not a hypocrite if I still deduct what the law permits. I strongly believe that the age where Social Security and Medicare kick in should be raised, but I am not going to be a martyr and pointlessly refuse my benefits when it won’t have any impact on the nation’s fiscal health unless the policy is changed for everyone.

3. They can’t help themselves. In the New York Review of Books article called “Troubled Waters,” Jeff Goodell reviews two books about the Flint water crisis ethics train wreck, which occurred, you will recall, under the watchful eye of Barack Obama’s EPA. Never mind: as I was reading, I wondered, “Now this has to be twisted around somehow to make it an attack on Donald Trump. Sure enough, here was the final paragraph:

“But perhaps the best way to read these book as a preview of America’s future. Many of the factors that led to the tragedy in Flint—the disregard for the environment, the unwillingness to invest in rotting infrastructure, the distrust of science, the lying officials and, above all, the racism that shapes many state and federal policies—are the guiding principles of the Trump administration. The sad truth is that we are all living in versions of Flint now.”

Total number of times President Obama’s name is mentioned in the review about an environmental catastrophe that occurred during President Obama’s administration? None. You should be able to apply your own Partisan BS Meter that junk yourself, but to provide some hints, “unwillingness to invest in rotting infrastructure’ has been a bipartisan scandal for more than 50 years, and only the most biased myopia could assign responsibility for the crisis to Donald Trump, who has only neglected the infrastructure for  19 months, while Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama neglected it for their entire terms of office. Untrustworthy scientists were among the villains in Flint, and lying officials are hardly a new innovation in the Trump administration.


26 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 8/10/2008: Post-Newark Hangover Edition

  1. 1. I’ve tipped a driver above what the client was fronting, and just told him, “…and this is from me.” The fellow usually responds by telling me that there were ways to adjust mileage so he could get more while I kept my money.

    3. I think hypocrisy depends on the basis of objection to the law. If you think the minimum wage should be $15 because it would increase demand and raise all boats, it’s not hypocritical to pay your employees $10. If you think the minimum wage should be $15 because it is immoral not to provide a living wage to workers, then it is hypocritical to pay them $10.

  2. In regards to number 2, I had reached the same conclusion.

    I’ve determined that I would never begrudge anyone here in CA for taking advantage of any and all entitlement programs that they qualify for. I’ve had to give it a lot of thought, and perhaps I’m still not quite right, but my thinking is that leaders who create “freebie” style entitlements should expect those who qualify to sign up, and crunch the numbers accordingly. That is their responsibility. Voting for fiscally responsible politicians is ours. And if the wrong people take office and run up the tab buying themselves more loyalty, so be it. Everybody line up and get yours, even if you didn’t vote for these clowns and think it’s a huge waste.

    We live in a state where money has been set aside for decades to fix roads, and our state government says, “Oops! We spent all that on whatever other stuff we felt like. We need you plebs to pitch in with a new gas tax for roads now. Look how bad they are!”

    Then governor Jerry Brown actually called citizens “freeloaders” who were pissed about the gas tax. That’s how they think in Sacramento.

    They’re like the boozy uncle who is giving away all of his retirement money. I advised against this, Uncle Jerry, but if you insist. Everybody make sure you get your $1000. Invest it wisely so at least someone can have their house in order.

  3. #2: I don’t recall Trump, nor most of the anti ILLEGAL immigration folks, saying much that advocated for the reduction of legal immigration. This is one of two common straw man arguments used to attack the opponents of illegal immigration; to call the opponents xenophobic and anti-immigrant when they are anti-ILLEGAL immigration. (The other is the racism canard.)

    The grievance among the anti-illegal immigration crowd with regards to chain migration is the use of it by illegal entrants or those on a tourist visa to establish an anchor baby and then use that anchor baby to bring the whole family to the US.

    • Matthew
      The argument of cutting legal immigration depends on what one believes is the appropriate number of legal immigrants to be granted status. Trump wants to return it to about 500k per year which it had been for decades. The increase in H1B visas that was demanded in the 90’s to accomodate the growing tech sector and doctor shortages was layered on top of that 500,000 person figure raising it to about 1,000,000 per year. Trump wants merit based immigration but does not want it to absorb most of the higher income jobs that are created. As a result, a return to the 500,000 person figure would constitute a cut because it would disproportionately impact the number of people coming that will rely on government assistance.

      • I have to write about that last part, but I’m still thinking. At a gut level, I don’t see why a country with our debt shouldn’t be responsible and try to minimize the number of immigrants who aren’t self-sufficient.

        • Framing the argument in such a manner has been woefully absent.
          Trump has been unable to articulate that point effectively.

            • I’m not so sure that he has been totally unsuccesful. The problem lies with his delivery as it it far too often disjoint and as many say a word salads or clouds.

              Not everyone is a gifted orator. I often find myself adding asides during presentations which seem logical to me but not to all which then tends to confuse rather than edify. My writing (when subject to repeated edits) is far more concise. Perhaps those of us that compose thought clouds in our minds before committing them to paper are able to sift through his thoughts to gain an understanding of what he is trying to communicate. The alternative is we have no clue in our understanding and allowing our biases to create an illusion of understanding.

              • I should add that inductive reasoning is often difficult to comprehend when one is trained in deductive thinking.

            • “I don’t see why a country with our debt shouldn’t be responsible and try to minimize the number of immigrants who aren’t self-sufficient.”

              Jack, you XENOPHOBE and RACIST!

              Doesn’t EVERYBODY already know that immigration BALANCES THE BUDGET and ERASES NATIONAL DEBT?!

              ESPECIALLY when vast numbers of destitute immigrants are allowed to enter. How can the rich ever hope to keep getting richer without a massive underclass to exploit?! And of course as you know, the rich pay the lion’s share of the tax burden. So, richer rich = higher government revenues = eventual balancing of the budget and erasure of national debt.

              Simple economics. VERY simple economics. The ONLY kind of economics that future voters will understand. (I can’t go on – I’m laughing too hard.)

              (Your gut really must be most upset. Careful with that “gut level” stuff.)

  4. #2 Would it be then hypocritical for people, that claim that citizens need to pay their fair share of taxes (shout out to a certain Vermont senator), to pay the legal minimum of taxes required of them by law. They would then say, that even if they voluntarily paid more taxes by writing a check to the Dept of Treasury (check it out, you actually can pay the govt more than your legally mandated taxes, albeit it will be “for decreasing the national debt”, but money is fungible), that it would have no meaningful effect, because the rest of society isn’t paying more as well, so it’s just a grain in the dune, a fart in the wind, etc. Some will also say, they won’t pay extra, because the govt spends it on stupid stuff and not on the stuff they believe is worthwhile (that’s whole other debate topic, let’s give the govt more, but I won’t do it on my own on principle, because they spend it on dumb stuff). I think that would be an ultimate virtue signal, to show how much you believe in paying your fair share and inspire your friends, relatives and neighbors to following your lead.

    • “Would it be then hypocritical for people, that claim that citizens need to pay their fair share of taxes (shout out to a certain Vermont senator), to pay the legal minimum of taxes required of them by law.”

      This is hypocritical, if the person claims that there is a moral or ethical duty for a high earner to pay a “fair share.”

      “…it would have no meaningful effect, because the rest of society isn’t paying more as well, so it’s just a grain in the dune, a fart in the wind, etc.”

      This is essentially the (hypocritical) argument used with respect to the environment – I can fly to distant vacations several times a year because saving the planet requires concerted effort.

  5. I guess it follows that the “Patriotic Millionaires” who want higher taxes but refused to donate to the Treasury when informed of that option by a reporter are not being hypocrites?

    • Nope, that’s not hypocritical either. They want higher taxes as a policy. Giving money to the government is not a policy solution.

      Now, someone who advocates citizens voluntarily paying minimum of 2% of gross income as a charitable deduction IS a hypocrite if he doesn’t put his wallet where his mouth is.

      • Again, people don’t just want policies, they want policies for a reason. If that reason is based in utility, then there’s no hypocrisy in nor following the policy voluntarily. If, though, the reason is based in morality, then one is a hypocrite not to follow it voluntarily.

      • I am not sure that wanting higher taxes as a policy is not hypocritical, when the millionaire knows HE won’t pay it, given the legion of lawyers and CPAs he has at his disposal.

        I have always challenged liberals (when that was all they were) with paying more of their own money, instead (or in addition to) forcing me to pay more. They seem to use every loophole as well. If all the liberals paid more, the government would have everything it needs, right?

  6. 1 Tipping Ethics:

    No, that’s your client’s responsibility. If you do, it’s nice and safe, but not reimbursable. Most of the time, limo drivers contracts include tips when their service is used for business.

    Heck, I don’t have a clue. I don’t tip based on service, I tip mainly as a way to help the servers earn their living. If I get bad service, I remonstrate with the manager. In this case, I guess somebody has to stand there and watch the machines. I’d probably let it go as well.

    Uber driver: I’d say reimbursable, at least partially. When claiming reimbursements, I set a limit on tip reimbursements (this was a while back) of 15%. That’s what I claimed if I gave more, and the rest was on me. YMMV.

    2 Melania’s parents: Is it impossible for journalists of Latin descent to see Trump or anyone within six degrees of separation from him as anything other than evil? I think not.

    It is bewildering to me how anyone who actually considers the law a thing could have such a twisted view of this country’s immigration law. Does Mexico have open borders? No, of course not. But the US should have because Trump or something. Bizarre! Does any country have open borders? None that I know of, but apparently the Left doesn’t care.

    Finally, following the link, there is nothing sketchy at all about Milania’s citizenship. In fact, it seems pro-forma for high profile, successful green-card holders. Not only that, but it’s utterly irrelevant if Trump would make H1B visas harder to get or would end chain migration. Milania wasn’t even married to him when she obtained her green card, and he certainly wasn’t in government at any level.

    3 They can’t help themselves: Well, “won’t” is more apt. They know what they’re doing, and they don’t want help, they want Trump gone at any cost.

  7. Point 1
    A. The firm providing the service covers all costs. If an additional tip is offered then it is unreimbursable.
    B. Any automatically included tip is reimbursable but in an establishment that such a tip is unwarranted then I would deduct it. A tip is for varying degrees of exceptional service therefore simply delivering product to the table is not service it is a necessary part of the basic transaction.
    C. Incurring higher expenses than necessary to ensure that one meets his her obligation cannot be passed on to the paying party. It is part of the risk one assumes when quoting a price. Example: client agrees to pay coach but your flight is cancelled and the only choice is a first class seat on another airline. You are entitled to coach fare. Similarly, if your ground transport is much higher than what it should have been then tip reimbursment should reflect only that which would be commensurate with a normal cost of ground transport

    Point 2. I agree. What is missing in the Yahoo story is that becoming a citizen does not happen overnight or come without significant costs. It takes years and thousands of dollars.

    Following rules not of your making cannot make you a hypocrit.

    Many politicians evolve on issues when that evolution benefits them. Both Clinton and Obama evolved on gay marriage for political purposes.

    Point 3. Where are the fact checkers?

  8. 3- Was former President Obama the only Lefty to be left out of the narrative?

    Not exactly

    DEMOCRAT Mayor Dayne Walling led a cheerful countdown (04/25/2014) at the Flint water treatment plant to press the button moving the city over to river water.

    “Walling and DEMOCRAT EMERGENCY MANAGER Darnell Earley even raised glasses in a toast and drank the water to show that it was safe.

    “ ‘It’s a historic moment for the city of Flint to return to its roots and use our own river as our drinking water supply,’ Walling said. ‘The water quality speaks for itself.’


    Oh my! All those Lefties out there with nowhere to hide.

    It gets worse.

    Obama’s EPA knew all about it but failed to act.



    Et tu, MotherJones & Slate?

  9. “It is not hypocrisy for anyone to take full advantage of a law that that person opposes. If the speed limit on the interstate is 65, and I think it should be 55, I am not hypocritical if I drive at the posted limit.”

    That example does not include enough information. Hypocrisy is about not living up to moral or ethical standards that you espouse, so it depends why you think the speed limit should be 55. If you argue we need a 55 mph speed limit because driving faster than 55 is inherently dangerous and risks lives, then saying “but the law says I can go 65, so I will” doesn’t cut it, because by your own standards, you are endangering other people.

    It’s like those people who advocate for a $15 minimum wage and are then found to be employing people for $8/hour. If their argument for a $15 minimum wage is based on some esoteric economic theory about labor mobility and employer monopsony, then it’s probably not hypocrisy for them to pay low wages. But if they argue that anyone who doesn’t pay $15 is greedy and hates poor people, then they are failing to live up to their own espoused principles, and they are hypocrites.

    So whether the immigration of Trump’s in-laws is hypocrisy on the part of the Trump family depends on why Trump opposes chain migration. I’ll pass on rendering a verdict because I can’t prove why Trump does the things he does. (But I have my suspicions.)

    “If I think that the mortgage interest deduction is a middle-class entitlement, I am not a hypocrite if I still deduct what the law permits. I strongly believe that the age where Social Security and Medicare kick in should be raised, but I am not going to be a martyr and pointlessly refuse my benefits”

    This brings up a related concept that is, by your strict definition, not hypocrisy. I’m talking about the case where people espouse principles only because they are convenient. There’s nothing wrong with proposing a new policy while still taking advantage of the old policy, as in your mortgage interest example. But…if you proposed to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction only after you paid off your mortgage, I think we could reasonably suspect the sincerity of your espoused principles. Similarly, if you start collecting your social security benefits at age 62, and then on your 71st birthday you propose raising the age for social security to 70, it sounds like you are espousing a principle that you didn’t want applied to you.

    Of course, there’s nothing wrong with looking out for your own self-interest. Teenagers like to have reckless fun, and parents want their children to be safe, so when teenagers grow up to be parents, their opinions on teenage behavior change. That’s okay. It’s just a conflict between the interests of teenagers and the interests of parents, and your interests change with your situation.

    But your principles generally shouldn’t change with your situation. And when it comes to practical applications, such as creating rules and legislation, we want those to be based on principles, not just on in the personal interests of those who happen to be in charge today.

    That’s not to say our principles cannot change as our experiences and studies lead to wisdom and enlightenment. But when somebody’s espoused principles happen to change in ways that also serve their personal interests, we have to consider that their espoused principles may just be a convenient excuse to assert their interests.

  10. Is there an Ethics dimension to wrecking one’s own body by refusing to take a roller carryon which, if the correct dinensions, does not inconvenience anyone any more than 2 heavy bags? Especially if one carries the carryon onto the plane instead of trying to roll it down the aisle. Sounds like perverse pride.

  11. I accidentally didn’t tip my latest Uber driver because the sun was in my eyes and I read the screen wrong.

    I feel terrible.

  12. A. No idea what to do with a limo driver but it does involve money from you to him. The company paying your way is paying the limo company, not the driver, and the median pay for limo drivers is $11.75, starting around $8/hr. Goes up to a high of $20/hr for a skill known as Customer Service, which may or may not include driving ability but definitely would be elevated for a favored driver with a regular passenger. No ties to minimum wages or regular hours, but on the other side no ties to long-term employment either. Unless he was a total Jeeves, you had a driver who would rely on tips. Tip? Depends on how long and, in your case, how good a driver. For me – not that I get the chance to be chauffeured very often, though I do have a friend who drives a Caddy (too low: you drop in and could use a pull getting out) – I would like a smooth and silent driver who wakes me quietly a minute or two before reaching my destination.

    B. The waiter is no more, the person behind the counter doesn’t even have to listen to you make an order. Phooey! (or pfui, as Nero Wolfe says).

    18% on all major hotel menus is what was known in Japan as an Imperial eemahpiriahruh, not for the royal visitor, but for the tourists at, I believe, the oldest Tokyo-based luxury hotel in the country. The exorbitant built-in 18% – was for (supposedly) English-speaking waiters and “Westernized” food. Hotels like this were also known for “rude,” i.e. non-Japanese-type service. In other words, the worse the service, the higher the tip … not noticeable if you have nothing to compare it to.

    In other words, if you have the option to pay less than the 18%, take it. Were you counting in the value of the overpriced items you bought? At least consider 15%, or better still, the old 10% “lunch counter” tip — and you aren’t even getting the level of service of a gas station snack!

    C. Ah. Someone made the point earlier that your Uber-guy was only Uber self-identified, and not on Uber-time. If it had been on and Uber-drive (okay, no more of that), you would have had him by the App … and nothing less. Lucky you! He was free-lancing, charged less than a regular taxi, though more than an Apped Uber, and he liked to learn about American Presidents. And he got a tip on top of the fare.

    I was surprised to read, further up on the Replies, the tips are reimbursable at all. I’ve always thought they fell into the “gift” category (well, they do, for us so-called retired yet still working folk). Though if you’ve added them into the regular taxi fare, they’re part of the total … and therefore add to the tax deductability.

    D. Once in a while, most of us get an urge to turn a tip into charity … to make up for what we’re pretty sure the server is not getting, especially when you can tell his hours are grueling and his family is near starvation. So, yeah. Do it. Just remember what the tip was, just in case you come back again, ’cause for sure he’ll remember you. I stop by the Boston Market restaurant when I’m in that part of town – I really like their food; it tastes way too good to be healthy – and from day one, some server has always noted my cane, gone to put ice in my drink, brought my dinner tray to the table and, after giving it a wipe whether needed or not, laid it out the plate and utensils (and extra napkins, added after the first time I requested one), and later come by to ask if needed anything else. That’s 4-star service as far as I’m concerned. Thus when I pay for the food, I am once again dismayed to find I get only a cash register receipt even for my credit card. No line to write in a tip. Not even a tip jar. So I now slip a few bills across the counter on the shady side of the register. I’m getting a bargain.

    • Sorry. Forgot to proof. Head hung. Hands threatened with The Other keyboard, the small one where the forefingers get to overlapping in the middle.

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