Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 6/25/17

1. On the same New York Times front page (June 21) that announced the Georgia 6 result, surrounded by Times’ agenda-advancing stories with slanted headlines (climate change, North Korea, the Obamacare overhaul,  the “divided GOP,” and Michael Flynn) was the kind of story that once made the Times’ reputation. It was headlined, “Haven for Recovery Becomes A Relapse Capitol,” Will this story be discussed today by the Sunday talking-head shows? Of course not. The implications of it are not friendly to progressive mythology.

The story explains how Delray Beach, Florida has become a Mecca for drug addicts and a bonanza for treatment centers and “sober houses,” group living facilities for addicts. Some quotes will provide a sense of the report, but you should read it all:

Unlike other places in the United States that have been clobbered by the opioid crisis, most of the young people who overdose in Delray Beach are not from here. They are visitors, mostly from the Northeast and Midwest, and they come for opioid addiction treatment and recovery help to a town that has long been hailed as a lifeline for substance abusers. But what many of these addicts find here today is a crippled and dangerous system, fueled in the past three years by insurance fraud, abuse, minimal oversight and lax laws. The result in Palm Beach County has been the rapid proliferation of troubled treatment centers, labs and group homes where unknowing addicts, exploited for insurance money, fall deeper into addiction.

Hundreds of sober homes — some reputable, many of them fraud mills and flop houses for drug users — sprawl across Delray Beach and several surrounding cities. No one knows exactly how many exist because they do not require certification, only city approval if they want to house more than three unrelated people. Hoping for a fresh start, thousands of young addicts from outside Florida wind up here in places that benefit from relapse rather than the recovery they advertise.

…the proliferation of fraudulent sober homes was in part also the result of two well-intentioned federal laws. First came a 2008 law that gave addicts more generous insurance benefits; then the Affordable Care Act, which permits adults under 26 to use their parents’ insurance, requires insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing conditions and allows for multiple drug relapses.

The result was a whole new category of young addicts with access to insurance benefits. This gave rise to a new class of abusive operator, as painstakingly chronicled in The Palm Beach Post: the corrupt sober house owner. Many drug treatment centers — which also treated inpatients — started paying sober-home owners “bonuses” from insurance money and fees for referring outpatients to their centers while they underwent therapy, according to law enforcement, a grand jury report and court records.

Sober homes, which are not covered by insurance, can get thousands of dollars a month for each recovering addict, in large part from treatment providers, law enforcement and city officials said. Much of it goes into the owners’ pockets. But it is also used to pay rent so patients can live free and to provide perks that lure patients from other sober houses: manicures, mopeds, gym memberships and, worst of all, drugs. Relapses are welcome because they restart the benefits clock.

To increase profits, many treatment centers and labs overbill insurance companies for unnecessary tests, including of urine, blood and DNA. Some have billed insurance companies thousands of dollars for a urine test screen. Patients often unnecessarily undergo multiple urine tests a week.

Ah, glorious compassion! So those of us who managed to not break laws and cripple ourselves while doing so get to pay for not only the self-inflicted problems of those who did, but also get to enrich  the scam-artists who live off of their addictions, protected by compassionate, expensive insurance guarantees that require no personal responsibility or accountability. Meanwhile, “federal disability and housing anti-discrimination laws offer strong protections to recovering addicts who live in them.”

This is the better “treatment” alternative to the “war on drugs” that the compassionate people harangued us about for decades. Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Ethics Quiz: The Bank, the Addict, and the Broken Egg.”

The recent post about Ronald Page, the gambling addict given an open, no limits ATM privilege by Bank of America, with predictable results, suggests two opposite reactions. That’s why it was an Ethics Quiz. I expected my answer that it would be wrong to imprison Page for a crime committed because BOA’s negligence triggered his addictive behavior to be countered by the response Karl Penny expresses, persuasively, here. This is his Comment of the Day on “Ethics Quiz: The Bank, the Addict, and the Broken Egg.”

“Jack, I do volunteer work in prisons with people who have all sorts of substance abuse issues. In addition, I grew up in a family of alcoholics. I say that not to garner sympathy or whatever, but to establish credentials, however unofficial. Addicts know what they are doing, even while they are doing it, they know it. They know it when they are sober, and they know it when they’re drunk (alcoholics, gamblers, drug abusers, etc—they’re all drunks—not very PC, but brutally honest). They are human beings imbued with all that goes into being human and, as such, they command my compassion and concern. But. They know. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Bank, the Addict, and the Broken Egg

There was a little software problem when Bank of America acquired LaSalle Bank and the two were transferring account data. As a result, LaSalle depositor Ronald Page found that he could make unlimited ATM cash overdraft withdrawals, even though he had only $300 in his checking account.  This tempting state of affairs lasted for seventeen days, and then from December 1, 2008 to May 31, 2009, Page gambled like a man on fire.  Unfortunately for Page and Bank of America—but fortunately for several casinos—Page is a gambling addict. He withdrew, and gambled away, $1,543,104.00

Now the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit says he is seeking to send him to jail for 15 months  after he pleaded guilty to charges of theft of bank funds. He is also going to be required to pay back the money, with interest, guaranteeing poverty for life.

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz question:

Is this fair? Continue reading

Consenting To Be Beaten

Bought and paid for.

Ethics Alarms has frequently used the analogy of a drunk paid by cruel bar patrons to dance for their entertainment as an example of how using money to persuade a desperate, impaired or foolish individual to allow himself to endure humiliation or harm is still unethical and cruel, despite the supposed “consent” of the victim. PETA’s attempt to pay Nadya Suleman, a.k.a. “Octomom” was recently cited in this context in the post about painting homes as billboards. Now, from St. Petersburg, Florida comes an even more horrible example., a locally operated website that sells videos (for up to $900) of scantily clad or semi-nude women beating up men, has been paying homeless men, drug addicts and street alcoholics $50 for submitting to  12-minute videotaped beatings by attractive females. Continue reading

The Charlie Sheen’s Violent Torpedo of Truth Tour : Unethical Performer, Unethical Audience

"Ladies and gentlemen, CHARLIE SHEEN!!!

Charlie Sheen charged the public money for his “Violent Torpedo of Truth Tour” and didn’t bother to give them anything coherent or entertaining for it. Live blogging of the “show’s” first performance in Detroit indicates that Sheen is simply continuing to spout the semi-surreal egomaniacal gibberish he has been giving to various interviewers, and doing little more. Audience members are walking out in droves.

Unprofessional. Unfair. Disrespectful. Dishonest.


As for that audience, yecch. Those who are there to support Sheen, a preening, sexist abuser who is neither trustworthy nor reliable, and who places his own pleasures above commitments, family and friendships, are endorsing antisocial values and despicable conduct. Those who bought tickets in hope of witnessing a “happening” are arguably worse, enabling an addict tottering on the brink of a nervous breakdown, and hoping that they will be there to see it.

Irresponsible, reckless, mean


Sheen is unethical to charge money for doing nothing worth paying for; his audience is the equivalent of the saloon patrons in the Old West who paid drunks to dance. They are preying on each other. What a revolting and depressing spectacle it must be.