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

Ethics Observations On The GOP New Hampshire Debate

Rubio meltdown

Two ethics controversies occurred before the ABC debate (transcript here) even began.

  • DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz really is a shameless and audacious hack. Does anyone seriously defend her? After being justly criticized in the news media for unabashedly hiding the Democratic candidates debates, staging them on weekends and against football games to smooth the road for Hillary, she actually had the epic gall to accuse the GOP of doing the same thing in a tweet yesterday, which read:

“Hmmm, wondering why @GOP trying to hide their #GOPdebate on the Saturday of #SuperBowl weekend no less?!”

Is she that lacking in self-awareness? Was she mocking herself? Is she an idiot? After she was blasted left and right for the tweet, she either revealed her real objective or concocted a face-saving retort:

“.@TheDemocrats debates set viewer records. Both parties’ broadcast network debates on wknds. Replies to SuperBowl #GOPdebate make my point,”

Whether this was her original intent of a U-Turn, it was also her trademark, a ridiculously transparent lie. “TheDemocrats debates set viewer records” is deceit: all the debates by both parties have exceeded previous viewer levels, but the Republican debates have significantly out-drawn the Democrats. There is no doubt that the Democrats would have drawn more had they avoided weekends like Republicans did, and that the fact that they did not was entirely intentional.

Why do Democrats tolerate a sleaze like Wasserman Schultz? It is natural to judge a party by its leadership, and she is neither bright, nor honest, nor effective,  nor appealing.

The other issue was the unfairness of leaving Carly Fiorina out of the debate. I don’t pretend to understand the formula used to demote the candidates, but since all of the other potential debaters–Gilmore, Graham, Huckabee, Santorum, Paul—had dropped out, either Fiorina should have been given a chance to debate herself for two hours, which would have been fun, or be in the main debate. Her New Hampshire poll numbers are equivalent to several who debated last night.

Debate observations: Continue reading

Two Stories To Look Back Upon Ruefully When The Nation Has Gone To Pot And It’s Too Late To Reverse Course

Once heroin is legal, there will be no more heroin problem...

Once heroin is legal, there will be no more heroin problem...

One of the horrible results of the coming election—not as horrible as the possibility of electing Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump President, perhaps, but horrible still—will be the nation’s final capitulation to the movement started in the 1960’s to keep the country, the culture and the poor stoned. Cognitive dissonance will ensure it on the Republican side, as opponents to legal pot will be the same old fogeys who proclaim that gay marriage will destroy the earth, causing a valid and correct argument to be destroyed by a senseless one. Others in the party, caring about staying in power more than our society’s welfare, will just give in, citing the usual ethically inert rationalizations that legalizing drugs is the lesser of two evils and that we need to use treatment, not punishment. Meanwhile, Democrats will pander to its pot-loving base, while also stumping for state governments legalizing the crap to close budget deficits created by their fiscally irresponsible policies. Heck, even I would rather see the pot industry taxed instead of me.

And we will be bombarded by the pairing of pot legalization with the allegedly racist “mass incarceration problem,” which is really and truly the “too many African Americans break laws and expect to get away with it because their parents and culture don’t send the message that its a big deal” problem. The big deal they, and we, are now being told is that they get punished for breaking laws, which is racist because Black Lives Matter.

I was in court watching sentencings a couple months back in Northern Virginia. While the crimes the defendants being sentenced for were not drug related, every single one of those sentenced–-every one—had either  a pot charge dropped in favor of a guilty plea for a more serious crime, had record of drug arrests, or had tested positive for pot during while awaiting sentence or on parole. Bernie and Hillary and the gang (the gang including journalists, who like their weed) would have us believe that the prisons are just teeming with otherwise law-abiding black citizens who are there because they engaged in harmless recreational drug use and nothing else. The new paradigm, pushed by the President (of course), is that prison should only be for violent felons, not habitual scoff-laws who often dabble in violence too.

Ah, yes, this is all going to work out so well.

I  encountered two stories on the web that show the path we are on as well as the muddled thinking and dishonesty that got us there. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Laws

heroinoverdoseI know how this one will break down, but it’s an interesting issue nonetheless. And it doesn’t involve Hillary, Donald Trump of Bill Cosby!

Many states have addressed drug-related deaths by allowing junkies using illegal drugs to call 911 for a fellow shooter or snorter in life-threatening distress and be immune from prosecution.   New Mexico passed a “Good Samaritan law” in 2007 that granted limited immunity from prosecution on simple possession charges for people who used 911 to report a drug overdose going on in front of them. The Drug Policy Alliance reports that 28 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws differing in exact provisions but providing limited freedom from prosecution in exchange for saving lives.

There is an explosion of heroin use nationwide, and therefore heroin deaths, right now. (The government abandoning its vital statements via law that drug use is wrong has a lot to do with causing this, but that is for another day.) As always, the first proposals to address a drug crisis involve loosening enforcement. Slate writes,

“In the end, of course, it doesn’t much matter how or why states pass these laws, as long as they pass them. A University of Washington study evaluating the initial results of Washington state’s Good Samaritan policy found in a survey that drug users who were aware of the law were 88 percent more likely to call 911 in the event of an overdose than before. “Despite lingering concerns about possible negative consequences of the new law, such as prosecutions being impeded, no evidence of negative consequences has been found to date,” the study concluded. Good Samaritan laws are humane and sensible. There are no compelling reasons to oppose them.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day:

Are there really “no compelling” ethical reasons to oppose such laws?

Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Washington Post Columnist Michael Gerson

“In determining who is a “major” candidate for president, let’s begin here. Those who support the legalization of heroin while mocking addicts are marginal. It is difficult to be a first-tier candidate while holding second-rate values.”

—-Washington Post columnist and former Bush advisor Michael Gerson, pronouncing presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul’s Libertarian endorsement of drug legalization ethically unacceptable.

Gerson’s deconstruction of the all-too-common and increasingly ominous calls for legalizing addictive drugs nicely captures the trio of ethical flaws of the advocacy: it denies the crucial and legitimate government role defining responsible conduct for society, it embraces the myth that recreational drug use “does no harm,” and it is arrogant and selfish, condemning the poor and reckless to problems that their fragile resources cope with, in order to bestow a dubious “freedom” that the drug advocates do not need. Continue reading