In Florida, “I Eat Ass” And A Qualified Immunity Ethics Conundrum

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A policeman’s lot is not a happy one, and qualified immunity, the doctrine that exists to shield officers and other state officials from liability when they commit torts in the course of their duties, is under fire because of its role in blocking accountability for cops who engage in police brutality. But without qualified immunity, policing would become even more perilous than it already is.

Take the “I Eat Ass” controversy.

Please.

In Florida, jerk Dillon Shane Webb had a sticker on his vehicle that boasted “I Eat Ass.” (Some may disagree, but Ethics Alarms regards public display of that legend signature significance, as a non-jerk would never do it. Not even once). Columbia County Sheriff’s Deputy Travis English pulled Webb over in May of 2019 and demanded that he cover up the message. Webb refused, and he was subsequently arrested and jailed for “obscene writing on vehicles” and “resisting an officer without violence,” because he had refused to obscure the sticker. Reason, the libertarian cite that is usually more reasonable, wrote that Officer English “took exception” to “I Eat Ass.” No, the officer was under the impression that the display violated Fla. Stat. § 847.011(2), which prohibits “any sticker, decal, emblem or other device attached to a motor vehicle containing obscene descriptions, photographs, or depictions.”

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: Miami Beach City Commission Candidate Kristen Rosen Gonzalez

“Well, I’m perceived as being Hispanic. I’m perceived as being Hispanic by all of the Hispanics in my community. I’m their girl. My last name is Hispanic. I know I’m not Hispanic… I’m sorry I probably oversold myself. If you want to nail me to the cross, go ahead. Make me look foolish.”

—-Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, a Democrat running for the Miami Beach City Commission, upon being questioned about claiming to be Hispanic when she bears the name “Gonzalez” only because of her marriage to a man with that name, whom she divorced eleven years ago.

Oh, you’re perceived as being Hispanic, so that mean it’s OK to say you are Hispanic! Sure, that’s consistent! It’s like the progressive rule that if you say you are female you are female, and if you say you are black, you’re black!

This may be the ideal template for a 2021 Democratic candidate. She does have a still-active role model of sorts: President Biden’s current climate czar, John Kerry, who early in his political career in Massachusetts used shamrocks on his campaign materials to suggest that he was Irish. There was no Irish in his lineage whatsoever; his paternal grandparents were Jewish. But even Kerry, who is far from the sharpest knife in the cutlery rack, never tried to justify his deception. (He was never called on it either.)

This woman—I assume she really is a woman—referred to herself as “the most high-profile Hispanic Democrat in the City of Miami Beach.”  It was an outright lie. When she was called on it, the best she could do was to justify an intentional misrepresentation by arguing that because her last name fooled people into thinking what wasn’t true was true, it was acceptable to perpetuate the misconception.

Why hasn’t this ridiculous woman withdrawn from the race yet? Why isn’t she hiding her head under a bag? Who finds these people?

The quote above gets worse as it goes along. It’s nice that she knows that she’s not Hispanic—I suppose being a liar is marginally preferable in a commission member than being insane—but she says she’s probably “oversold herself”? She’s falsely convinced all the Hispanics in her community that she’s one of them! What’s “probably” about that? And “oversold” in this case means lied. Nothing else, nothing better. Lied. Then, in a masterpiece of ethics jujitsu and gall, she actually tries to make herself the victim by comparing herself to Jesus Christ!

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The American Bar Association Adopts Yoo’s Rationalization or “It Isn’t What It Is”

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To be fair, “It isn’t what it is” is an argument lawyers are trained to make, but this is especially glaring.

The Florida Supreme Court recently voted to prohibit the approval of continuing legal education credits for any CLE program with diversity “quotas.” This was a broadside at the ABA, which in 2017 approved a Diversity & Inclusion CLE Policy that requires all its sponsored or co-sponsored CLE programs with three or more panelists, including the moderator, to have at least one member of a a “diverse group.” Programs with five to eight panelists must have at least two diverse members and programs with nine or more panelists must have at least three diverse members. This will supposedly help accomplish the ABA’s Goal III , which aims to eliminate bias and enhance diversity in the profession.

There is a disconnect here, since the only purpose of continuing legal education is to do as good a job as possible keeping lawyers abreast of the law and developments in their profession. Does the skin color, gender, ethnicity or other characteristics of the CLE instructors and trainers advance that purpose in any way? I don’t see how, and neither did the court, which wrote in part,

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Evening Ethics Cool-Down, 5/5/21: Toyota, Patents, And The Cheating Homecoming Queen

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I don’t want to over-use the “This Date In Ethics” concept, but attention must be paid: this was the day, in 1961,that Navy Commander Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. boarded the Freedom 7 space capsule to becoming the first American astronaut to travel into space.

In these times where so many aspects of our culture are working to imbue Americans with fear of living, when people wear masks in their cars and teachers are willing to cripple both the economy and children’s education to minimize their risk of catching a virus, it should be remembered that a young, healthy man risked his life and the chance of a fiery death to advance America’s science and the spirit of exploration.

1. For some reason (Cognitive dissonance?) I haven’t been checking Althouse as often since she decided that her readers were hogging too much attention on her blog by insisting on posting comments. She still has an admirable talent for cutting through the BS. Reacting to today’s announcement that Facebook’s “quasi-indepedent” board upheld FaceBook’s partisan and anti-democratic ban on Donald Trump’s posts. Ann writes, “I’m not surprised. If the decision had gone the other way, Facebook could have found some new offense and banned him again.”

Not could have, though; would have.

2. How is this fair or equitable? Once again, Toyota is giving a special discount to “recent college graduates.” This is, of course, ham-handed pro-college virtue-signaling, but wouldn’t you guess that non-college grads of the same age need such discounts more? In the TV ad, we see a nice, upper-middle class white girl from childhood to college—it sure looks like her parents can afford a car…or she can afford a full-price cheaper car. Interestingly, this is one of the relatively few TV ads running now that dares to feature a white character who doesn’t at least mitigate her ingrained evil by being part of a mixed-race family.

Special deals on products and services for special categories of Americans—yes, even veterans—are divisive and incoherent.

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Valentine’s Day Ethics Warm-Up: “Ya Gotta Love Ethics!”

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I’m going to see if I can get through this entire post without mentioning yesterday’s acquittal of Donald Trump. There’s a whole other post around the corner for that. Let’s see.

I was sorely tempted to post the simple word “Good!” to my Facebook feed, but resisted the temptation. All it would have accomplished was to trigger some genuinely, or at least formerly, nice and reasonable people….who have nonetheless been smug, abusive, irrational, nasty, obsessed, hateful and harmful to the culture and society since November 2016. And as much as the Duke in “McClintock!” is an inspiration…

…I won’t. At least, not right now.

1, And the audacious hypocrisy continues! To a ridiculous and childish extent, too. Here’s Dr. Jill Biden’s kindergarten-style, “do as we say not as we do,” signaling-virtue-while-not-actually-engaging-in-it White House lawn display.

Biden diaplay

How nauseating.

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Mid-Day Ethics Warm-Up, 1/5/2021: Zombie Lawyers! Imaginary News! Dead Ethics Alarms! Wrong Numbers!

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1. The Florida Bar, protecting us all against unethical zombie lawyers...Last month, the Florida Supreme Court approved that Florida Bar’s decision to disbar Sabrina Starr Spradley, a 41-year-old attorney in private practice in Delray Beach, Florida. She died more than a year ago. The rules do not require another attorney or family member to tell the bar when a lawyer being disciplined has died, so poor Sabrina had to suffer the post mortem indignity of being labeled an unethical lawyer.

“We do have 108,000 lawyers in Florida,” a Florida Bar spokesperson explained. “There are a lot of individuals that we regulate. We rely on people to inform us.”

Why? How hard is it to routinely check the obituaries before wasting the Supreme Court’s time?

2. For the fake news Hall of Fame. Because President Trump is “reportedly” (whatever that means) “considering” flying to Scotland instead of attending Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20, the Independent reports that Scotland won’t allow him in, because it wouldn’t be “essential” travel. Can a news headline (“Trump not allowed into Scotland to escape Biden inauguration, Sturgeon warns” ) be built on fewer facts than this?

Incidentally, there’s no law requiring an outgoing President to attend the inauguration of a President, and if Trump declines to do so, he would not be the first. He’d be the fourth, following John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Johnson. A gracious transfer of power is always in the best interest of the nation, and Trump would do himself a favor if he just sucked it up and pretended to be a statesman. I doubt that he will.

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Not Illegal, “Just” Cynical And Unethical: The Bloomberg Florida Vote-Buying Scheme

As part of the Democratic Party’s commitment to “go high” in its pursuit of power, Michael Bloomberg is buying the votes of convicted Florida felons for Joe Biden.

Not technically, of course, but that’s exactly what he’s doing. After all, the ends justifies the means. Isn’t that what Mitch McConnell essentially said when he refused to let the Senate vote on…wait, that’s the Republicans. I’m getting my cynical, unethical parties mixed up.

Mike Bloomberg has pledged to pay off the debts of  felons in Florida who have recently been ruled ineligible to vote unless they pay the fines that are part of their punishment.  This is a generous action by Bloomberg, who is devoted to expanding the right to vote of all Americans…no, wait, I’m confused again. The Washington Post reported that only Black and Hispanic ex-felons in Florida will get the gifts, because they they are more likely to vote for Biden than whites.

Nice.

The revelation comes from a memo originally obtained by the Post which read in part, “We know to win Florida we will need to persuade, motivate and add new votes to the Biden column. This means we need to explore all avenues for finding the needed votes when so many votes are already determined.”  Apparently the former New York Mayor with the personal vendetta against the President only cares about the right to vote when it is exercised the way he wants. Of course, Joe Biden and the rest of the party are thrilled to have Bloomberg’s money purchasing votes to defeat that unethical Donald Trump, who will do anything to win.

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz (R., Fla.), himself possessed of somewhat dubious ethics alarms, told Fox News that that Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody  might launch a criminal investigation of Bloomberg (actually the non-profit organization that he is funding) for vote purchasing. That looks like a stretch. The relevant law, Section 104.061, Corruptly influencing voting, states, Continue reading

Monday Ethics Madness, 9/14/2020: Accusations, Crimes And Punishment

On this day, September 14, in 1814, Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the poem that was eventually set to music and, by act of Congress in 1931, became America’s official National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The poem, originally titled “The Defence of Fort M’Henry,” was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort standing up to furious bombardment by the British during the War of 1812. A lone, tattered  U.S. flag was still flying over Fort McHenry at daybreak, giving rise to the anthem’s most bracing line, “And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”

I’ve listened to the Anthem being attacked more or less my whole life—it’s bellicose, it’s too hard to sing, it’s set to the music of a drinking song, it was written by a slave-holder. What matters is that the Anthem, unlike so many others nations’ anthems, has a authentic historical origin linked to an existtential  crisis in our history, and that it eloquently represents the American character and its dedication to hope, perseverance, and resilience. The Star Spangled Banner may be hard to sing, but when a crowd sings it with  passion, or when a singer knocks it out of the park like the late, great Whitney Houston, only France’s Marseillaise can equal it for sheer chills.

The current assault on the Anthem, and the use of it for cheap political theatrics by refusing to stand and convey proper respect for what it represents, is an attack on American history, values and culture. Nothing less.

1. It’s called “paying one’s debt to society.” I have no intense objection to allowing convicted felons to vote once they have served their sentences. I also have no intense objection to banning convicted felons from voting for life. In 2018, Florida’s voters decided to end the disenfranchisement of those convicted of felonies, except for murder and sexual offenses. Then the battle became whether convicted felons should be required to pay all the fines related to their crimes before they became eligible to vote again.

Well, of course. Isn’t that intrinsically obvious? You can vote when you have paid society’s requirements as a punishment for the felony: whether that is time in prison, or time on probation, or a cash fine, it’s all part of the “debt to society.” Pay that debt, and then you can vote.

But Democrats are expert in representing legitimate requirements and safeguards for voting as sinister voting suppression schemes, so in May  a Florida court ruled that requiring convicted felons, many of whom are indigent, to pay court-ordered fines before they could regain the vote was unlawful discrimination, by imposing an unconstitutional “pay-to-vote system.”

What an astoundingly deceitful and dishonest argument! Is requiring people to pay for their groceries a vicious “pay not to starve to death” system? The fines have nothing to do with voting. The fines have to do with completing the punishment for the felonies. Calling the fines the equivalent of a poll tax is clever but deliberately misleading, yet a court bought it. Fortunately, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta overturned that decision, and ruled that the 2019 Florida law requiring ex-felons to pay their fines before being re-enfranchised was indeed constitutional.

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From The Ethics Alarms Archives: “Ethics Quiz: The Harley Tragedy”

(This is a different Harley)

The arrival of Spuds, our new dog, was postponed a day. While chatting with his foster owner, she told us that had had decided to to report Spuds’ previous owner for animal cruelty. Good. The woman neglected the dog outrageously, as I wrote about here.

But for some reason, my mind flashed back to this post from 2013, involving a more complex animal cruelty case. It’s an ethics quiz, but I’ll be adding a poll at the end. The comments to the original post were very good.

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Ethics Quiz: The Harley Tragedy

I’m sure PETA thinks this is fair; I’m not sure that I do.

Tammy Brown,47, a disabled Moon Lake, Florida woman trying to make ends meet on her $508-a-month government check, argued that she was not able to afford veterinary care for Harley, her 14-year-old dog who had a painful ear infection as well as skin problems, periodic tumors, heartworms and ear mites. Because she did not get treatment for Harley, however—the fact that she tried to treat the dog’s problems with over the counter ointments wasn’t enough to mollify the judge— Brown was convicted of felony animal cruelty. She spent more than a month in jail awaiting sentencing, and then received six months of house arrest, 300 hours of community service, three years of probation, and $1,000 in court costs. Circuit Judge William Webb also commanded, “I don’t want you to own any animals. Not even a goldfish!” (Hartley had been euthanized.)

Apparently Harley’s physical condition was shockingly poor, so much so that jurors found photos hard to look at. An Animal Services officer testified that Harley couldn’t stand up without support. The prosecutor wanted Brown imprisoned.

Has society become so animal-sensitive that it has lost its priorities?

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz

Assuming that Harley’s lack of treatment was due to lack of resources and neglect rather than malice…

Was Tammy Brown’s sentence fair, or was it excessive and cruel?

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Friday Evening Ethics Gallimaufry, 7/17/2020: SCOTUS, Di Blasio’s Delusion, And DiMaggio’s Luck

Speaking of gallimaufry, “A Heavy Dragoon” is one of the best Gilbert and Sullivan “list” songs, but you seldom hear it. Erudite is the listener who can identify all the historical figured named! The song is from “Patience,” the firs show I ever directed, and still one of my favorites. The singer in the clip above, Darrell Fancourt, played the part of the Mikado more times than anyone, and even dropped dead while playing the role.

1. In baseball history, it’s Moral Luck Day. On July 17, 1941, New York Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio didn’t get a hit against the Cleveland Indians, in great part due to a pait of great plays by Cleveland third baseman Ken Keltner, finally ending his historic 56-game hitting streak, the longest in MLB history then and now. Largely on the basis of the streak, though it helped that the Yankees won the pennant, DiMaggio was awarded the American League MVP award, despite the fact that Boston’s Ted Williams hit .406 that season, nearly 50 points higher than DiMaggio. In fact, Williams outhit the Yankee during the same 56-game period.

The end of The Yankee Clipper’s amazing streak was luck, and the streak itself was luck. All hitting streaks are. Baseball is the  sport most governed by random chance, especially hitting: a well-hit ball can become an out if it happens to be hit within a fielder’s reach, and a ball barely touched by the bat can dribble down the  baseline for a cheap hit. DiMaggio was undeniably a great hitter, but many players in baseball history were better; he just was lucky—good, but lucky—for a longer stretch of games than anyone else. Yet of all his many achievements, the 56 game streak in 1941 is the first thing baseball fans cite when assessing  the greatness of Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio.

2. It isn’t what it is! Yesterday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said that releasing prisoners onto the city’s streets to avoid their infection by the Wuhan virus  in jail had made New York City safer, saying, “We now have fewer people in our jails than any time since World War II and we are safer for it and better for it.”  De Blasio’s office announced  that more than 1,500 inmates had been released from city jails in three weeks, reducing the number of prisoners to its lowest level in 70 years.

The problem is that his assertion is ludicrous. De Blasio’s boast that the prisoner release made the city safer defied  the evidence of the results of the prisoner release the NYC Bail reform law required in January 2020. Of those who committed felonies that were no longer eligible for bail, 19.5% were re-arrested at least once after an initial non-bail eligible felony arrest, 1,798 of 9,227 individuals were re-arrested. 2020 recidivism resulted in 1,452  major crime arrests (murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, grand larceny, and grand larceny of a vehicle) vs. 681 in 2019. Meanwhile,  shootings in the city were up 205% in June  compared to a year earlier. Continue reading