California boat fire is 'Lord Jim' come to life

An eerie resemblance looms up in Joseph Conrad’s 1900 novel, “Lord Jim,” to the fire in a tourist boat off Santa Cruz Island, California, in which 34 sleeping passengers died and five members of the crew escaped without serious injury.

In Conrad’s novel the crew abandoned maritime law in jumping ship and leaving the passengers to drown. The protagonist, a young officer, suffered guilt and remorse until his transcendence on an island secluded from society.

Judgments of maritime law and of moral law are at issue, both in the novel and in the recent tragedy.

We don’t yet know all the facts. How sudden was the raging fire that impeded or prevented rescue? Perhaps it is impossible to carve a distinct line between duty and survival, and yet the question of judgment remains.

Conrad’s novel judges in terms of individual conscience in a world eager to either exploit or obscure the sensational case.

The tragedy in California demands a similar exploration of honor and lack of it.

Martin Tucker, Ph.D., Sarasota

Let democracy win in felon-voting case 

Florida's pushback on Constitutional Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to felons barred because of criminal convictions, clearly goes against the will of the people. Nearly two-thirds of voters approved the amendment.

A law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in June effectively reinstates the ban, because it requires people with felony convictions to pay all costs, fees or fines and any restitution arising from their conviction before they are allowed to register to vote.

Since Florida keeps no centralized statewide database of legal debts, people are left on their own to determine what they owe and if they are breaking the law by registering to vote.

This law has been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups and is going before the Florida Supreme Court for clarification.

Although states differ regarding a felon's ability to vote, our democratic principles lead us in the direction of states like Maine and Vermont, which allow people in prison to vote, rather than Florida's proposed policy.

Florida's restriction of voting privileges could substantially affect the 2020 election, which is why it has the support of private-interest groups in opposition to the voters’ intentions. Hopefully, democracy will triumph.

Sally Coler, Sarasota

It's not 'vitriolic hate' to report the truth

The hypocrisy of blaming the “liberal media” for “vitriolic hate toward our president” is unbearable. Those letter writers should remember how President Obama was treated by Republican leaders and the right-leaning media.

Mitch McConnell said Republicans' first priority was to ensure that Obama didn’t get a second term. They weren’t doing the work of the American people; they were there to undermine Obama. Conservative media did their part by publishing the meanest, most racist things aimed at Obama’s entire family.

But there’s no mention of this from Donald Trump or his supporters. Nor will they give Obama any credit for starting the steady economic growth in 2009. Trump arrogantly stole credit for this.

It’s not “vitriolic hate” to report when a president displays ignorance, racially coded rhetoric, incoherent 1950s-era policies, disrespect, unkindness, lies, poor and criminal staff choices, dangerous environmental policies, failure to protect our elections, and weak global policies based on a TV network’s advice. I could go on.

Many Americans have been duped by a man who lacks policy and, especially, moral leadership. The press must continue to expose that, even if some see it as hate.

Greg Jordan, Sarasota

Commercialized Gardens should lose nonprofit status

The Marie Selby Gardens Master Plan is being pushed forward as innovating a “greener future” for the city of Sarasota. Yet, since Selby Gardens is in the process commercializing, it should lose its nonprofit 501 (c)(3) classification.

Sarasota County is overflowing with nonprofit organizations. They could benefit from having more funds available.

The city's revenues would increase because of the millions of visitors to a garden unlike any in the world, where they will have paid parking and a bay-view destination restaurant. A win-win situation for the city and Gardens.

Property values around the Gardens would decrease but the new taxes the Gardens would be paying, with millions of new visitors, would offset the taxes lost from the local neighborhoods. Who would have ever thought the bromeliads could be a gold mine for the city and Gardens?

Will the “living inspiration for a living museum” solve many of the city's problems and challenges, or create more issues?

The city commissioners and the Planning Board should insist on major modifications to the parking, restaurant and zoning plans associated with the Master Plan before voting, to prevent the city from being damaged in the future.

Michael Sullivan, Sarasota