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.

And it is. Continue reading

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.

***

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?

Continue reading

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

End Of The Day Ethics, 4/24/2020: A Curse, A Whorehouse, And The Grim Reaper

Yay.

Another weekend…

1. Nah, there’s no news media narrative coordination! Twitchy has pointed out the remarkable conformity of language regarding the Joe Biden sexual assault accusation. Last week, CNN reported that Democrats are “grappling with questions” about Tara Reade’s allegations. This week:

Politico: “The movement is facing a new challenge: how to grapple with the allegations against Joe Biden without tearing itself apart.”

Jake Tapper on Twitter: “Democrats grapple with questions about Tara Reade’s sexual assault allegation against Joe Biden…”

Jeremy Scahill at the Intercept: “My aim in writing this piece was to put into words what many principled people are grappling with right now, not to tell anyone what to do. Recognizing and understanding the problem helps us all decide what we believe is right…”

Mother Jones: “Sexual Assault Advocates Are Grappling With the Allegations Against Joe Biden”

All independent, objective journalists, of course…talking points? What talking points?

2. This “sharing a life” concept seems to be beyond you…over at Social Q’s a woman who is living with her boyfriend to ride out the pandemic complains, “He eats significantly more than I do, including some foods I don’t touch. Still, we split the grocery bill, and I am paying significantly more for food than usual. How should I handle this?” Columnist Phillip Gallanes’ advice is impeccably ethical:

Try stepping back and looking at the bigger picture…Sure, he eats more than you, but are you twice as messy (while sharing cleaning duties equally)? Do you watch three times as much Netflix (but split the bill in half)? And I haven’t even touched on emotional labor yet. ..if you want your partnership to survive even after we’re set free again, consider all the contributions each of you makes.

Nice try, Phil, but I’m guessing that question is signature significance, and the relationship is doomed. Continue reading

Now THIS Is An Unethical Lawyer. Yes, I Am Confident That I’m Not Jumping To Conclusions Here…[CORRECTED]

John Gillespie, a  criminal defense lawyer in Melbourne, Florida, was arrested in a law enforcement sting operation over the weekend  for using his legal practice to recruit young female clients into a prostitution ring that he ran out of his home.

And you thought “Better Call Saul” was disillusioning…

The Orlando Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation found evidence that Gillespie “would initiate women he represented on criminal charges into prostitution or exchange sex acts for legal fees.” A former law firm employee tipped off the agency, explaining that she had helped Gillespie recruit women and girls into sex trafficking. Continue reading

April Fools Free Zone Ethics Warm-Up: Everything You Read Here Is Real, Unfortunately.

Happy Day Like Any Other Day.

Well, not “happy,” exactly…

I’m on record on Ethics Alarms as detesting April Fools Day, as well as regarding April Fools stunts by professionals, like lawyers and journalists, unethical though usually not sanctionable. It should be a children’s day, like Halloween, but adults are determined to co-opt all such days, ruining it for everybody.

1. I lost a good friend yesterday. It’s more than that really: the human race lost one of its finest representatives. His name was Dennis Nollette; he was a lawyer, a writer and a bon vivant, but most of he was one of those amazing people who made you feel good just by being around him. I knew him in laws school, where he was my room mate for a year; he also was a member of the casts of the three productions I staged when I was a student. Since graduation, I think I saw Dennis six times, never for long, but with him it seemed like the time melted away: he was always the same, always emitting his powerful positive energy, optimism, and love for those around him, and I always felt as close to him as ever.

And just like that, he’s gone. There was no warning; it all happened so fast. All I have now is an overwhelming feeling of loss, along with an acknowledgment of my duty to let as many people as possible know that he was here, that he made the world a better place by being here, and that those of us who remains should follow his example by making the best out of life, and encouraging others to do the same by our example. That was Dennis’s genius, and attention must be paid.

2. Maybe the Constitution IS a suicide pact…Justice Robert H. Jackson’s  famous line in his dissenting opinion in Terminiello v. Chicago, a 1949 free speech case, has come to mind many times in the past few weeks, as the news media and online sources have churned out some of the most irresponsible and outrageous essays in memory, many of them about how this period will “change America forever,” usually in undesirable ways.  90% of these screeds are nonsense and based on flawed reasoning. My current leader for the worst idea is this piece, by conservative gadfly Roger Simon: “Should We Postpone the Presidential Election One Year?”

It’s an incompetent question. Not only shouldn’t we, we can’t, and any suggestion from Republicans that we ought to even think about it would be instantly condemned as the attempted dictatorship by Donald Trump that Big Lie #3 has warned us about.  We also know that if the President did get an extra year, it would spent all of it defending himself against one impeachment attempt after another. Continue reading

When Ethics Alarms Don’t Ring (Or Were Never Installed): The Covidiots

Once again, one has to ask:

What’s the matter with these people?

The Beach

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a shelter in place order for the Golden State’s  nearly 40 million residents to stay at home from March 20 to the foreseeable future. California is third among the states in number of Wuhan virus cases. So, naturally, people went to enjoy themselves at the beaches, hiking trails and parks.

The Hosts

New Jersey police arrested  Eliyohu Zaks last week after a neighbor notified law enforcement that a large crowd had been observed at his home. It was a wedding. Police dispersed the crowd of at least fifty and charged Zaks with “maintaining a public nuisance.”  Earlier in the week, police broke up two other weddings in the same neighborhood, and the day before, a fourth homeowner, Shaul Kuperwasser, was also charged with “maintaining a public nuisance” by hosting more than fifty friends at his residence.

This is something of an epidemic of its own. “The Lakewood Police is asking that its citizens be responsible and obey the directives set forth by the State of New Jersey for the safety and health of all,” local law enforcement said in a statement. “Those that choose not to will be subject to criminal prosecution.” Continue reading

Sunday Morning Ethics Reveries, 3/15/2020: Oh, Hell…I Have To Write About The Wuhan Virus Whether I Want To Or Not..

Good morning…

The avalanche of Wuhan virus stories with ethical implications cannot all be squeezed Part III of the series about the pandemic’s ethical implications, especially since that one will concentrate on politics and the news media. So I’m stuck, much as I would prefer to think about almost anything else….

1. Here’s one that compels the question, “What’s going on here?” among others.  The Struthers, Ohio, police department posted this notice on Facebook:

“Due to the coronavirus, the police department is asking that all criminal activities stop until further notice. Thank you for your anticipated cooperation in the matter. We will update you when we deem it’s appropriate to proceed with yo bad selves.”

Before I got to the end, I assumed this was a serious message. It is far from the dumbest thing I’ve seen in response to the Wuhan Virus mess.Then I reached the end, and I decided that it was probably a joke.

Thinking some more, though: would it necessarily be futile to ask criminals to be responsible members of the community just for a while, for their own benefit as well as society’s? There might be some who would take the appeal to heart. If there were, however, the joke ending of the message would undermine any such impulse.

2. More on the Name Game: Our esteemed Mrs. Q had dubbed the illness the WuFlu. Checking on Google, there was a flurry or reports using that name in January and February; there was even a hashtag. I like it, but using Wuhan Virus does a better job of rubbing in the face of the appropriate parties the deceit and cowardice of the news media’s rush to follow China’s edict and pretend that the virus originated somewhere else. Continue reading

The Last Ethics Warm-Up of 2019…And I Finally Figured Out How To Get Ethics Alarms Links On Facebook

Ethical New Year!

1. Boy, am I slow. You can link to an Ethics Alarms article by using the Twitter link that every post has. This link works on Facebook, where EA has been banned with no explanation: I just tested it. So an interested reader clicks on that link, and is taken to a tweet that contains the Ethics Alarms link.

From now on, all posts will include the Twitter link to the post at the end.

2. Don Imus. The infamous “I-man,” Don Imus, died last week. He was one more example of the inherently unfair standard that shadows “shock jocks,” who are paid to be improvisational, outrageous, irreverent, and brave, but if they make one miscalculation and go too far (and what “too far” is changes quickly), their careers can end overnight. So it was that Imus and his on-air acolytes made demeaning and racially inflammatory comments mocking a college women’s basketball team, and Imus never recovered. That was even before social media mobs had reached their current strength. Imus was on AM radio and simulcast on TV; no shock jocks dare to do his act under such conditions now.  They wouldn’t last a week. From his Times obituary: Continue reading