Sunday, March 28, 2021

Sunday Reading

Better Press Conferences, Please — Susan B. Glasser in The New Yorker on the vapidity of the presidential press conference.

Sometimes the big moments in our politics meet the very low expectations we have for them. Joe Biden’s first Presidential press conference, on Thursday, was one of them. By the end of it, after an hour and two minutes that felt much longer, Biden had answered some two dozen questions. The majority of them were repetitive variants on one of two subjects: immigration and the Senate filibuster.

Biden had no actual news to offer on either subject. In case you missed it, he is really, totally, absolutely committed to fixing the terrible situation at the border, and also not yet ready—because he does not have the votes—to commit to blowing up the filibuster. There was not a single question, meanwhile, about the ongoing pandemic that for the past year has convulsed life as we know it and continues to claim an average of a thousand lives a day. How is this even possible during a once-in-a-century public-health crisis, the combating of which was the central theme of Biden’s campaign and remains the central promise of his Presidency? It’s hard not to see it as anything other than an epic and utterly avoidable press fail.

For weeks, Washington clamored for a Biden press conference. This was, after all, the longest a new President had gone without holding one since the Coolidge Administration. Republicans—and the state-run media in Russia—seized on Biden’s reticence as proof that he was somehow too old or incoherent to face the rigors of extended, unscripted questioning. With his critics having set such a low bar, it should surprise no one that Biden, who did, after all, win a national election by surviving almost a dozen debates with his Democratic-primary rivals and two with Donald Trump, cleared it. Republicans, it could be said, succeeded in one respect with their preshow spin: they wanted Biden to be on the defensive talking about immigration and the border, not the passage of his $1.9 trillion COVID-relief package and the success of his vaccine campaign. Reporters, based on the questions, agreed.

Sixty-five days into Biden’s tenure, there was plenty to ask him about, even in the absence of the Trump-manufactured dramas that fuelled the news in the past few years: horrific mass shootings, escalating tensions with China and Russia, missile tests by North Korea, and, oh, yes, the pandemic. The killings in Georgia and Colorado over the past week forced Biden to cancel part of his carefully planned “help is here” tour to tout the COVID-relief package—a reminder that, no matter how disciplined and organized his Administration is, no matter the contrast to Trumpian chaos, all leaders fall prey to the press of urgent and unanticipated crises. Biden opened the press conference by announcing a new plan to administer two hundred million vaccines by his hundredth day in office and a vow to get a majority of elementary and middle schools open by then. But that is where the big story of his Administration began and ended—as far as the journalists were concerned.

Biden’s policies on the pandemic have been popular with the public, including with Republican voters, but there are plenty of tough questions to be asked about them, given the huge uncertainties of when and how we are going to get out of the COVID mess. Instead, the press conference quickly reminded me why I never liked them much. What did we learn? That Biden agrees with Barack Obama that the Senate filibuster is a “relic of the Jim Crow era” but is not yet committing to a full-out attack against it. That he has not yet decided whether to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan by the May 1st deadline set by his predecessor. That he will “consult with allies” about the North Korean missile tests. That he plans to run for reëlection in 2024 but might not because, hey, it’s a long time from now and who knows if there will even be a Republican Party by then. His strongest words were reserved for the current Republican campaign in numerous states to restrict voting rights—which the President called “un-American” and “sick.” The funniest moment by far was when he was asked whether he would run in 2024, given that Trump had already announced he was doing so by this early point in his tenure. “My predecessor?” Biden said, and then he laughed. It was a short, derisive laugh. “Oh, God, I miss him,” he said.

Although Biden refused to endorse the effort by progressives to get rid of the Senate filibuster, he eventually seemed to lose enough patience with the press conference that he engaged in a little filibustering of his own. Late into the hour, I found myself tuning out a bit when Biden gave a long lecture on the twenty-first-century battle between autocracies and democracies. During his answer, I noticed that Zeke Miller, the Associated Press correspondent who had been given the first question at the press conference, was tweeting from inside the press room—about a different subject entirely, the Israeli elections. (In another rarity, Israel and the Mideast also did not come up at the press conference, I should note; perhaps American foreign policy is finally pivoting, after all?) Meanwhile, Biden had begun another stem-winder, on infrastructure. “There’s so much we can do that’s good stuff,” the President said. This, by the way, was in response to a question about gun control that he did not really answer. It’s not for nothing that Biden served for all those decades in the Senate.

I have spent years, as an editor and a reporter, hating on Presidential press conferences—the faux-gotcha questions, the pointless preening, the carefully calculated one-liners from the President made to seem like spontaneous witticisms. Print reporters like me are biased toward scoops and original reporting; we tend to dislike events that are staged for the cameras, featuring journalists as props.

Then came Donald Trump, and an entire Presidential term of watching press conferences with a renewed sense of urgency. No matter how hard they were to sit through, they were undoubtedly relevant: Trump regularly used them not only as a platform for his lies and cartoonish demagoguery but also for unexpected policy pronouncements that had significant real-world consequences. Trump’s performances required watching because his Presidency defied the norms of governance; he was the only one who could speak for his Administration of one, and thus we had no choice but to pay attention.

That was then. Today, no one watches a Biden press conference worrying that he is about to suggest that Americans drink bleach to cure their COVID or that he will declare war on Michigan because its governor wasn’t appreciative enough. Wondering whether Biden, a famously long-winded seventy-eight-year-old former senator, will stumble over an answer does not have the same consequences as watching a Presidential press conference to find out whether Trump is still threatening to rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea. This is an improvement, to be sure. But politics moves on, and, in this case, Trump’s exit from the White House means that we journalists have the space and time to consider once again the problem of how to insist on transparency and accountability in our government without relying so heavily on the empty spectacle of the televised Presidential press conference, a platform that arguably had its heyday in the early nineteen-sixties.

I am, of course, all for asking Biden hard, tough, and pointed questions—the more the better. But Thursday’s press conference reminded me of why I hated these staged events in the first place. It taught me nothing about Joe Biden, his Presidency, or his priorities. The problem was not that it was boring. It was that it was bad.

Rough Waters in Key West — Richard Morin in the Washington Post on the battle between the capital of the Conch Republic and the cruise ships.

It was another balmy day in paradise when Key West, Fla., voters decided they’d had enough of the thousands of here-today, gone-tonight tourists who regularly pour from giant cruise ships onto the streets of their iconic city.

By decisive, even overwhelming margins, the voters approved ballot measures to immediately slash the number of passengers who can disembark daily as well as ban the biggest ships. But several months later, in an end-around that has incensed locals, the cruise industry is fighting back. Two state lawmakers with broad industry backing are pushing bills to nullify the vote and prohibit Key West from regulating such activity in its own port.

“I am so furious that I can hardly see straight,” said Kate Miano, owner of the luxe Gardens Hotel, where century-old brick walkways wind past orchid-festooned trees. “We battled the big cruise ship companies, and now they’re taking away my vote? I can’t understand how they can possibly do that.”

Yes, they can, say legislators now meeting in Tallahassee. And there’s a good chance they will soon succeed.

“We can’t simply have a group of 10,000 people closing down the port of Key West and holding the state of Florida hostage,” Rep. Spencer Roach (R) said at a hearing this month, his number referring to the total votes cast in support of the three city charter changes.

The maneuvering in the state Capitol has at times been both blatant and blundering, marked by dueling statistics, charges of betrayal, threats of retribution and alternating predictions of economic or environmental doom. It has fueled editorial outrage in newspapers statewide — with Roach, one of the bills’ sponsors, accused with other Republicans of trampling on democracy.

Before the coronavirus pandemic idled fleets globally, cruise tourism in Key West had grown from a single ship that docked monthly in 1969 to a $73 million-a-year business. By 2018, more than a million passengers were arriving annually in ever-larger vessels that resembled floating communities; the biggest measured more than three football fields in length and carried more than 4,000 passengers and crew.

Collectively, it all had quite an impact on this island community of 25,000, a place made famous by the literary likes of Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and Wallace Stevens.

On streets where art galleries, fine restaurants and specialty shops once flourished, vendors hawk bawdy T-shirts and stores advertise “Everything inside $5.” Part of downtown’s historic Duval Street, which runs from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, is now a shopping pit that caters to the swarms of day-trippers, in Miano’s view.

“The lower end of Duval is crap,” she said.

The cultural transformation has been accompanied by environmental changes offshore. Fragile coral reefs have been threatened by the mile-long silt trails churned up as the megaships approach and depart. The vessels also roil the bottom of the six-mile channel to the port, damaging habitat and disrupting migration patterns of game fish. Local fishing guides say they were the first to sound the alarm.

“We saw it beginning maybe 15 years ago,” said Will Benson, a Key West native whose clients pay him $700 a day to chase bonefish, tarpon and permit in the shallow inshore waters. He’s seeing fewer fish, and those he finds have become more skittish, less likely to bite. Some have left their usual haunts.

The November vote limited the total number of cruise-ship tourists allowed to come ashore every day to 1,500 — fewer than half the daily average in February 2020. It also closed the port to ships with more than 1,300 passengers and crew — about half the size of most ships that docked before the pandemic. The final charter change gave docking priority to ships with the best environmental and health records.

Industry officials contend the result ultimately will cripple cruise tourism in Key West and endanger hundreds of local jobs that depend on the big ships. The city’s coffers will take a big hit, they predict. Cruise-related taxes brought in $21 million in 2018.

The new rules will be “the destruction of the port as we know it,” said John E. Wells, another native and chief executive of Caribe Nautical Services. His firm is the agent for every cruise ship that docks in Key West. “We have 287 port calls scheduled for 2022,” ships often making a stop as they loop through the Caribbean. “Only 18 will meet the size criteria.”

The Committee for Safer, Cleaner Ships, the local group fighting the state legislation, scoffs at those claims. Key West will do just fine without the megaships, said treasurer Arlo Haskell, a writer and poet. Citing the industry’s own figures, he pegs cruise revenue at about 7 percent of all tourist spending in Key West in a normal year. Ships will continue to dock, he notes, although only the smaller ones.

“The goal is to make Key West the premier small-ship destination,” Haskell said, while holding onto the overnight and extended-stay tourists who are the backbone of the city’s tourist trade, the ones filling hotels, B&Bs and restaurants.

To Wells, opponents’ arguments carry a whiff of elitism. The smaller ships cater to a moneyed crowd; the big ships bring the cost of a cruise within reach of middle-income and working-class people.

“I call it economic discrimination,” he said. “That’s not what Key West is about.”

He and others say seaport traffic benefits areas far from port communities and should be governed by the state or federal government. They would prefer one set of port regulations “instead of a patchwork of conflicting restrictions in each municipality,” according to a statement by the powerful Cruise Lines International Association.

The initial bills in Tallahassee indeed covered all 15 Florida seaports. They were greeted with vehement protest from legislators loath to see cities in their districts lose control of their ports.

So amendments were tacked on that only prohibited cities from restricting cruise ships in their ports, excluding those ports controlled by a county or port authority. That left only Key West, Panama City, Pensacola and St. Petersburg subject to the proposed prohibitions. Of those four, only Key West is a cruise-ship destination. (The state constitution prohibits bills that target a single municipality, hence the need to create a “class” of city-controlled ports.)

Lawmakers may not be finished trying to punish Key West for its November vote. In a recent tweet, Roach urged his colleagues to oppose giving federal stimulus money to ports that ban cruise ships. “Yep, looking at you city of Key West,” he wrote.

The amended bills sailed through subcommittees. One anticipated hurdle fell several weeks ago when a Republican senator whose district includes Key West unexpectedly withdrew an amendment to exempt the city for environmental reasons. She provided no explanation.

The final legislation is expected to be delivered to Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in the next few weeks.

DeSantis, mentioned as a potential GOP presidential contender in 2024, is the wild card in this game. While a prominent ally of Donald Trump and a pro-business conservative, he has embraced several issues dear to Florida environmentalists, including restoration of the Everglades. So far, the governor has not tipped his hand.

It’s been more than a year since cruise ships have docked in Key West. Locals say the offshore waters are cleaner and downtown streets less mobbed. Tourist-tax collections haven’t cratered, and Miano says business at her hotel is better than ever.

Even the fish seem friendlier, Benson says. “They are more relaxed, and the bite lasts longer.”

Doonesbury — Party preference.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Classical Gas

Back in February, I wrote Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) to ask him why he voted against the nomination of Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation. Yesterday, he — or his office — replied.

I voted against his confirmation because, during his testimony in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, I asked Secretary Buttigieg about the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund, which is almost entirely funded by revenue generated by federal gas taxes. In his response, he was open to increasing the gas tax and has on other occasions signaled support for other taxes; including a vehicle miles traveled tax on electric vehicles. I will never support a tax increase on American families, especially one that disproportionally [sic] hurts low and fixed incomes households.

I replied.

Thank you for your response.

To quote Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, “Taxes are the price we pay for civilization.” Unlike some members of your party, including the former president, I believe in paying my fair share. In fact, this year for the first time in my life, I am not receiving a tax refund but paying in addition to that which has already been withheld. But as the Republicans are proud to say, this is the greatest country on Earth. Well, if you want to fly first class, you have to pay the fare.

The federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993. Meanwhile, the fuel efficiency of vehicles has doubled, meaning fewer gallons of fuel are being sold, and the price of fuel, when adjusted for inflation, is close to what it was during the Reagan administration. The federal fuel taxes pay for highway maintenance and construction, and it is in sore need of being done. After all, the Trump administration promised infrastructure reform nearly every time they needed a talking point, yet they proposed nothing. Our roads and bridges are crumbling before our eyes. What solution have you proposed to replenish the fund other than raising the gas tax? Let’s hear it.

I am glad to hear you are concerned about the needs of low-income families. One way to alleviate the burden would be to raise the federal minimum wage like they’re doing in the state you represent. That way your concern about their ability to pay more at the pump would seem to be genuine. So far, you have been against it
.
I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you voted against Mr. Buttigieg for the reasons you stated, not because he is openly gay.

I’ll let you know if I hear back.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Sunday Reading

Welcome to Florida Politics — Fabiola Santiago in the Miami Herald.

Confirmed: There was voter fraud in Florida in the 2020 election after all.

And the alleged perpetrator, foul-mouthed Frank Artiles, is getting his due.

The disgraced former Florida lawmaker and GOP operative is charged with making a mockery of democracy: rigging a 2020 state Senate race in Miami-Dade by planting and paying $44,708 to a bogus, no-party candidate with a similar name to the Democratic incumbent.

His masterful strategy to win for the GOP — now the stuff of riveting search and arrest warrants — was to siphon off votes from the Democrat.

Who needs to rack up endorsements, debate the issues and highlight experience, when all you have to do is hire a guy who lives in Boca Raton with the last name of Rodríguez?

Two Cuban-American Rodríguezes against a Cuban-American García amounts to perfectly executed confusion for the largely Hispanic and Anglo voters of Miami, Coral Gables and Pinecrest.

The Senate 37 race between Democratic Sen. José Javier Rodríguez and his newcomer Republican opponent, Ileana García, founder of Latinas for Trump, was decided in her favor after a three-day recount — and by only 32 votes.

The shill candidate drew 6,382 votes.

García’s win was one of the upsets that expanded the majority Republican dominance of the Florida Legislature. García is there right now casting votes and shaping policy along predictable party lines — and we may never know if that was truly the voters’ will.

We do know Artiles’ intention — he even bragged about the candidate plant — and we know who benefited from his dark money criminal enterprise: the Republicans.

Like in a movie, he allegedly paid Alexis (Alex) Rodríguez for the dirty deed by repeatedly raiding his Palmetto Bay home safe, grabbing stacks of cash — from $3,000 to $5,000 — so rewarding a nondescript auto parts dealer he didn’t think anyone would bother to track down.

Idiot that he has always been underneath the bravado, Artiles didn’t think the money and paper trail would lead to him — or that three reporters, the Miami Herald’s Samantha Gross and Ana Ceballos, and WPLG TV’s Glenna Milberg, would tirelessly pursue the truth.

Or, that the cheating Alex Rodríguez would talk.

Or, for that matter, that the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office Public Corruption Task Force would investigate and pursue the case.

His home raided by law enforcement, Artiles now faces several felony campaign-finance charges and additional ones for false swearing in connection with voting or elections.

May he languish in prison for it, although that remains to be seen, given Miami-Dade’s prosecutors’ poor record for putting corrupt politicians behind bars, where they belong.

But for now, it’s democracy-affirming to see the law catch up to his shenanigans.

The ex-Miami state representative for District 118 and senator has been a slimy politician his entire career — with the support of his colleagues and his party, it’s worth noting.

He broke the law in 2010 when he ran for office in District 119, which spanned from Sweetwater to Homestead before redistricting, where he didn’t live. When caught by Political Cortadito blogger Elaine de Valle at his Palmetto Bay house wearing gym pants and socks at 9:45 p.m. on a Monday night, he claimed ignorance.

In 2016, post redistricting, he won his Senate seat using ethnic-baiting tactics in a heavily Hispanic district. He told voters that his African American contender, Dwight Bullard, supported “a terrorist organization.” It was Black Lives Matter. Shameful.

In the Senate, he bullied Senate colleagues. He bullied the Miami Dade College president.

He hurled racist and misogynist rants at an African-American senator in front of colleagues gathered at a Tallahassee bar in 2017.

He called Senate President Joe Negron a “p—y” and the senators in the GOP caucus that elected him “n—as.” He called Sen. Audrey Gibson, an African-American Democrat from Jacksonville, sitting across the table from him at the Governor’s Club, a “b—h” and a “girl.”

Trying to escape Senate censure, he made things worse with an insincere apology that blamed his lack of basic human decency on growing up in Hialeah. He was eventually forced to resign in disgrace, although not by his Cuban-American colleagues, who did all they could to torpedo Senate censure.

Nothing much was lost.

A homophobe, he had been peddling a potty bill that would have made it illegal for transgender people to use a public bathroom that doesn’t correspond to their biological gender designation at birth.

Here’s hoping he liked the bathrooms at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, where he was booked Thursday morning and spent about nine hours before posting a $5,000 bond.

But what about the voters?

A rigged election shouldn’t be allowed to stand, but a special election can’t be called unless García is implicated, too, and so far, she hasn’t been.

For now, voters can only hope to savor the kind of justice served by the prospect of a five-year prison term for a bad actor who has long-earned banishment.

Bully, racist, misogynist, gay-hater — and hopefully soon, convicted felon, Frank Artiles is getting what he deserves.

This incident drew national attention: both the New York Times and the Washington Post covered it, and while they were at it, got the village I live in, Palmetto Bay, into the news and Google. So the Trumpers were right: there was voter fraud. And they should know, because they were doing it.

Doonesbury — Jim Crow 2.0

Thursday, December 17, 2020

DeSantis Is Killing It In Florida

Literally.

When Ron DeSantis ran for governor of Florida in 2018, he made a politically savvy decision: He would be the most pro-President Trump candidate possible. He popped up on Fox News Channel repeatedly, understanding that it would be an effective way to get Trump’s attention. After he earned Trump’s endorsement in the Republican primary — and then won his party’s nomination — his campaign ran an ad touting how loyal he was to the president’s vision. At one point in the spot, he helped his young daughter build a wall with her blocks.

After narrowly winning the general election, he remained loyal to Trump. After the coronavirus emerged in the United States, he echoed Trump’s insistences that economic activity should not be constrained to slow the virus’s spread.

At one point in late May, DeSantis stood in the driveway of the White House after meeting with Trump, attacking members of the media for criticizing his decision not to limit business activity.

“You’ve got a lot of people in your profession who waxed poetically for weeks and weeks about how Florida was going to be just like New York,” DeSantis said. “‘Wait two weeks, Florida is going to be next. Just like Italy, wait two weeks.’ … We’re eight weeks away from that and it hasn’t happened.”

“We’ve succeeded and I think that people just don’t want to recognize it because it challenges their narrative, it challenges their assumption,” he later added, “so they’ve got to try and find a boogeyman.”

At the National Review, Rich Lowry echoed DeSantis’s rhetoric, asking where the Florida governor should go to get his apology.

Lowry should have waited a few weeks. On the day DeSantis spoke at the White House, Florida was seeing 724 new coronavirus cases a day on average. Three weeks later, the average was more than 1,200. Three weeks after that, more than 7,100, 10 times the figure as when DeSantis was taking his victory lap. At the worst point over the summer, Florida had nearly 12,000 new infections a day and 185 new covid-19 deaths.

[…]

A White House report recommending that Florida curtail the availability of indoor dining and other activity to slow the spread of the virus was reportedly muffled by DeSantis’s administration. On Tuesday, he appeared at an event to encourage restaurants to remain open, claiming — falsely — that restaurants aren’t a significant driver of new cases. (He also declined to refer to President-elect Joe Biden as president-elect.)

Last week, Jones’s home was raided by state police who seized computers she was using to create a standalone data tracker. She is accused of illegally accessing state computer and messaging systems; she claims the state sought to silence her.

In the end, Trump would almost certainly have won Florida no matter what the coronavirus death data showed. His victory was powered heavily by a shift among Hispanic voters in Miami-Dade County, where a 290,000-vote loss in 2016 became an 85,000-vote loss in 2020, as his statewide win margin grew to 260,000 votes. But with Trump leaving office and DeSantis sticking around for at least another two years, the question remains: Did his administration intentionally misrepresent coronavirus data for political purposes?

In other words: Did DeSantis’s loyalty to Trump and favored position as a keep-the-economy-open poster child manifest in less-dire death totals?

In a word: Yes.

Carl Hiaasen in The Miami Herald:

From the beginning, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ handling of the COVID-19 crisis has been a course of secrecy, cold-blooded deception and negligence.

Now comes the raid by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents on the home of Rebekah Jones, the ex-state health data analyst who started her own COVID dashboard after complaining that the DeSantis administration was twisting statistics to underplay the severity of the pandemic.

The governor initially said he didn’t know about the investigation or raid. On Friday, he admitted he did, fumed about the term “raid,” and then huffed out of a press conference. Look for him soon on Fox News.

Seizing Jones’ computer — ostensibly to investigate a “hacking” incident — has all the appearance of clumsy retribution for embarrassing DeSantis. So spongy was the state’s search warrant that it prompted the resignation of former prosecutor Ron Filipowski from the 12th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission, to which DeSantis had recently reappointed him.

Filipowski, a Marine veteran and lifelong Republican, said that DeSantis has been “reckless and irresponsible” in dealing with the pandemic, and that Floridians “are not being told the truth about COVID.”

A recent investigative series in the Sun-Sentinel provided sickening details about the depths to which DeSantis sunk to please President Trump, his super-spreader idol.

In late September, for instance, the Florida Department of Health — DeSantis’ pliant Ministry of Propaganda — told county officials to stop making public statements about COVID-19 until after the Nov. 3 election.

News releases or media posts must not mention the virus, the order stated. It came from Alberto Moscoso, communications chief of the state health department. He left his job Nov. 6.

The motive for muzzling local health departments was obvious. Florida being a key state for Trump, DeSantis didn’t want voters to be reminded that COVID-19 was on a deadly surge.

On Sept. 25, DeSantis himself ordered a full reopening of bars and restaurants, and sought to stop local governments from enforcing mask mandates. Between Sept. 30 and Election Day, at least 2,526 Floridians died of COVID-related causes.

That number, which came from the state, is probably higher. Real experts believe the state’s death toll has already passed 20,000. Many of those victims could have avoided getting sick, but we have a governor who has shunned medical warnings in favor of “blue sky messaging.”

DeSantis’ own spokesman has disparaged the use of masks and tweeted that the coronavirus is “less deadly than the flu.” That yammering stooge, Fred Piccolo Jr., still has his job, which is all you need to know about DeSantis’ true priorities.

From the pandemic’s early days, his administration hid key information about the spread of the virus in nursing homes, prisons, hospitals and even public schools. Only the threat of lawsuits by family members, news organizations and patient advocacy groups has pried loose the data.

The governor habitually edits COVID statistics to paint the cheeriest possible picture. His latest spin is that most newly infected patients are younger, healthier and asymptomatic, which curiously fails to explain why hospital beds and ICUs are filling up with coronavirus patients.

Who in Florida can forget DeSantis’ smug victory sit-down with Trump at the White House? That was more than seven months and 18,000 deaths ago, but the governor’s arms are probably still sore from patting himself on the back.

Later he toured the state with Trump’s pandemic guru, Dr. Scott Atlas, a radiologist and Stanford University Fellow who doesn’t like masks and preaches for a fully reopened economy.

Seeking infectious-disease advice from a guy who reads X-rays for a living is like hiring a dentist to do your colonoscopy — it’s not exactly in his wheelhouse. The Stanford Faculty Senate “strongly condemned” Atlas’s position as “contrary to medical science,” and he recently resigned from the White House.

Mercifully he has not resurfaced at DeSantis’ side, but there’s still time.

These days — when he’s not harassing the whistleblower who caught him fudging the COVID statistics — the governor is following Trump’s cue and focusing exclusively on the coming vaccines.

Like the President, DeSantis had little use for virus scientists until now, when they’re poised to save his political future.

Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins University reports that new COVID-19 cases are doubling every 78 days in Florida . As of this writing, more than 4,500 persons are hospitalized here with the illness, nearly twice as many as a month ago.

True, lots of people who once scoffed at the idea of masks are wearing them now, but lots of people are dead who might never have been infected if their friends and loved ones had been more careful.

Or if we’d had leadership that sent the right message from the first day, instead of spinning upbeat story lines while trying to gag local health officials who knew what was coming.

Heartsick families, packed hospitals, crushing unemployment — but in the DeSantis version of reality, nothing but blue skies.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Not So Fast, Ron

From the Miami Herald:

Jimmy Flanigan walked into his family’s packed Flanigan’s Restaurant in Coconut Grove Friday night, three hours after Gov. Ron DeSantis approved 100 percent inside seating, and thought it looked too busy.

A crowd gathered to watch the Miami Heat play an 8:30 p.m. playoff game Sept. 25 on more than a dozen televisions. Patrons were standing shoulder-to-shoulder. The bar was steadily serving drinks.

“It was a little scary walking into a Flanigan’s after six months and seeing it full,” said Flanigan, CEO and president of the South Florida-based chain of 24 sports-bar-style restaurants. “It was too busy. So we backed off to 50 percent.”

New state guidelines for restaurants and bars, released after 4 p.m., and a delay of more than a day before Miami-Dade clarified its own rules to stem the spread of coronavirus, caused confusion across the county among patrons and restaurant owners.

“To say it was confusing would be an understatement,” Flanigan said. “It was compounded by the fact that the governor released the hounds without any warning.”

DeSantis moved the state into Phase 3 Sept. 25, ordering that all businesses immediately be allowed to open with at least 50 percent capacity. Restaurants, the order said, would be allowed to open at 100 percent indoor seating capacity. Local government would have to justify to the state any restrictions that kept capacity under 50 percent, DeSantis’ order read.

Not until nearly 11 p.m. the next day did Miami-Dade release its new guidelines to control the spread of coronavirus. Mayor Carlos Gimenez’ order allows at least 50 percent inside dining capacity for restaurants. They may reach up to 100 percent if they can sit tables six feet apart or by using outside spaces.

However, bars are allowed to seat at least 50 percent, even if their inside space does not allow for six feet of social distancing, DeSantis said.

The 30-plus hours between those two orders allowed for scenes not seen in Miami since before the March 16 restaurant shutdowns.

Flanigans, which regularly fills up for sporting events, immediately drew crowds that heard about DeSantis’ rules. Other restaurant owners were calling Jimmy Flanigan for advice, even as he was learning of the rules himself.

Flanigan said he ordered his Miami-Dade restaurants to go back to 50 percent capacity starting Sunday, and he shut down service at the bar.

“If you see a business at full tilt, it’s shocking. You start thinking about the (COVID-19) spread again,” Flanigan said. “That 24-hour period was where all the confusion came in.”

And it will, according to those who know best and who are being ignored by Trump and his whiny little minion, Gov. DeSantis.

Florida’s decision to reopen bars and restaurants at full capacity has the United States top infectious disease expert concerned that it will lead to another COVID-19 outbreak.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, shared his concerns on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Monday.

“Well that is very concerning to me, I mean, we have always said that, myself and Dr. Deborah Birx, who is the coordinator of the task force, that that is something we really need to be careful about,” Fauci said, “because when you’re dealing with community spread, and you have the kind of congregate setting where people get together, particularly without masks, you’re really asking for trouble. Now’s the time actually to double down a bit, and I don’t mean close.”

Fauci shared his concerns just days after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that all 67 counties would be transitioning into Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan, including Miami-Dade and Broward, the two hardest hit areas in the state.

Meanwhile, Richard Corcoran, the state’s Commissioner of Education, is trying to force Miami-Dade County Public Schools to re-open fully. That is being met with resistance both from the school administration and the rank and file teachers.

The Miami-Dade County School Board will convene an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss reopening schools, this time under pressure from the Florida Department of Education to open schools Monday.

Days after the board voted on a conditional timeline of reopening schools between Oct. 14 and Oct. 21, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran sent a sternly worded letter to Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho and board chair Perla Tabares Hantman on Friday. He accused the board of contradicting the district’s state-approved reopening plan, which says the district would determine by Sept. 30 if “local conditions meet the criteria established” to open schools Oct. 5.

Corcoran instructed the district to open schools for in-person classes by Monday or prove exemptions on a school-by-school basis by Friday.

Tuesday’s 1 p.m. board meeting, to be held in person for the first time since March at the school district’s downtown headquarters, only has one item on the agenda to decide how to proceed. Superintendent Alberto Carvalho offered the board two options.

[…]

A dozen protesters led by the Rank and File Educators of Miami-Dade rallied outside the Miami-Dade School Board administration building on Monday afternoon supporting the board’s decision for a later start and condemning DeSantis’ demands as bullying.

Jeff Raymond, a high school social studies teacher, said he visited his classroom at the end of last week and didn’t see any hand sanitizer and not enough social distancing in classrooms. His school, which he asked to not name, said 80% of students are expected back for in-person learning.

On Monday, Raymond received paperwork to apply for an exemption under the Americans with Disabilities Act. He has pre-existing health conditions and said he was “not comfortable at all” with his classroom setup.

“I’ve been prepared to take a bullet for my students and those are unpreventable,” he said. “This is preventable.”

Several teachers from Miami Beach Senior High were present. One teacher who declined to give his name said he hasn’t received any PPE or been told about protocols.

History teacher Charles Pilamunga said he brought a tape measure to his classroom. He has 37 desks in his spacious classroom, yet there’s only 2 feet between desks. International standards outlined in the teachers union agreement with the district call for 3 feet, 3 inches of social distance.

Pilamunga can’t quit his job. He’s the sole breadwinner in his family and he has two young children.

“It is what it is but I’d rather it not be this way,” he said, carrying a sign that read, “It’s life or death for us, our students and our communities.”

But as long as DeSantis can deliver the votes for Trump, it doesn’t matter if more people get sick.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Fatal Attraction

It’s not uncommon for a governor of a state to want to get along with a president.  After all, the federal government can be helpful and even a lifesaver in tough times like a hurricane or some event that requires more than just what the state can provide.  It’s not uncommon for a governor of the opposition party to do his or her best to be on good terms with that president; politics should stop when the emergency declaration is signed.  Of course, in recent years we’ve seen governors of the opposition staunchly refuse to go along with the president because of political consideration even at the peril of their citizens.  Gov. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) bullheaded refusal to accept the benefits of Obamacare and Medicare expansion in a state where a lot of the citizens (including this writer) count on Medicare was done for no other reason than it was coming from President Obama, and Scott would face electoral backlash from his base of right-wingnuts if he accepted it.

In 2018 Scott got himself elected to the Senate, and while it would be far more preferable that someone else was in office, at least he’s out of Tallahassee and can’t cause any further immediate damage to the state.  But he was replaced by someone worse; someone more craven, more ignorant, and a bigger toady to Trump and his proto-Fascist base than Rick Scott.  In ordinary times, all it would mean is that he spends his weekends on his knees in Palm Beach.  But as we are reminded every day, these are no ordinary times, and his sycophancy and political ambition are killing Floridians in record numbers.

As Florida became a global epicenter of the coronavirus, Gov. Ron DeSantis held one meeting this month with his top public health official, Scott Rivkees, according to the governor’s schedule. His health department has sidelined scientists, halting briefings last month with disease specialists and telling the experts there was not sufficient personnel from the state to continue participating.

“I never received information about what happened with my ideas or results,” said Thomas Hladish, a University of Florida research scientist whose regular calls with the health department ended June 29. “But I did hear the governor say the models were wrong about everything.”

DeSantis (R) this month traveled to Miami to hold a roundtable with South Florida mayors, whose region was struggling as a novel coronavirus hot spot. But the Republican mayor of Hialeah was shut out, weeks after saying the governor “hasn’t done much” for a city disproportionately affected by the virus.

As the virus spread out of control in Florida, decision-making became increasingly shaped by politics and divorced from scientific evidence, according to interviews with 64 current and former state and administration officials, health administrators, epidemiologists, political operatives and hospital executives. The crisis in Florida, these observers say, has revealed the shortcomings of a response built on shifting metrics, influenced by a small group of advisers and tethered at every stage to the Trump administration, which has no unified plan for addressing the national health emergency but has pushed for states to reopen.

DeSantis relies primarily on the advice of his wife, Casey, a former television reporter and host, and his chief of staff, Shane Strum, a former hospital executive, according to Republican political operatives, including a former member of his administration.

“It’s a universe of three — Shane and Casey,” said one Republican consultant close to DeSantis’s team who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment.

The response — which DeSantis boasted weeks ago was among the best in the nation — has quickly sunk Florida into a deadly morass. Nearly 5,800 Floridians have now died of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus — more deaths than were suffered in combat by Americans in Afghanistan or Iraq after 2001. One out of every 52 Floridians has been infected with the virus. The state’s intensive care units are being pushed to the brink, with some over capacity. Florida’s unemployment system is overwhelmed, and its tourism industry is a shambles.

DeSantis began the year as a popular governor, well-positioned to help his close ally President Trump win this crucial state in November’s election. DeSantis is now suffering from sagging approval ratings. Trump is polling behind Democrat Joe Biden in recent polls of Florida voters. And both men, after weeks of pushing for a splashy Republican convention in Jacksonville, succumbed to the reality of the public health risks Thursday when Trump called off the event.

Trump asked DeSantis in a phone call in May whether he would require masks for the convention and whether the virus would be a problem, according to a person with knowledge of the conversation. DeSantis said he would not require masks and the virus would not be a major problem in August in Florida.

“You were elected to be the governor of our state and make decisions about what is best for us in Florida,” Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández said of DeSantis. “If he was more concerned with what the president thought of him, the outcomes are here.”

The good news — if there is any — is that DeSantis’s political future at the state and federal level is, to quote Col. Potter, lower than a gopher’s basement, and for the first time in nearly 100 years, Florida is on the verge of becoming a state that the Republicans will lose with a GOP incumbent. If Trump loses Florida, Gov. DeSantis will become the Bobby Jindal of 2024, assuming he can get re-elected in 2022.  Despite the fact that the Florida Democratic Party has basically been running on fumes since Lawton Chiles was in office (Bill Nelson was a cypher his last term), they have a real shot of at least winning the governor’s seat, and they may even make inroads in the state legislature, depending on how many un-masked Freedum-shouters make it out of The Villages alive.

It’s one thing to try to curry favor.  It’s another thing to be complicit in depraved indifference for the sake of your job.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Damn The Virus, Full Speed Ahead

Cases of Covid-19 are soaring in Florida, but that’s not going to stop Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his minions from doing his piety to Trump by demanding that public schools reopen in the fall.

Florida’s top school official issued a sweeping executive order Monday requiring all schools in the state to reopen their buildings for in-person instruction for the coming school year, even as coronavirus cases in the state continued to rise.

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, a Republican and former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, issued the order, which states that “school districts and charter school governing boards must provide the full array of services that are required by law so that families who wish to educate their children in a brick and mortar school full time have the opportunity to do so.”

Many districts, including the Miami-Dade school system, have proposed offering multiple options for schooling, including hybrid models that would incorporate online and in-person learning. The order requires schools to offer full-time instruction “at least” five days a week for families who desire it.

The order leaves room for local health officials to override it. Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho called the order “fair and measured.”

The announcement comes the same day President Trump tweeted, “SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!” In a later tweet, he said those hesitating to reopen schools amid a global pandemic were politically motivated: “Corrupt Joe Biden and the Democrats don’t want to open schools in the Fall for political reasons, not for health reasons! They think it will help them in November. Wrong, the people get it!”

So basically Mr. Corcoran made a lot of noise and then basically said go ahead and do what you want. For the record, we will. Despite the talk from Tallahassee, the Florida Department of Education is making millions of dollars available to public and charter schools to provide for remote learning and, if the schools choose to re-open for face-to-face learning, money to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) and all the accoutrements that go along with enforcing CDC guidelines for social distancing.

What it all comes down to is that the Republican governors are realizing that against all prudent advice they re-opened bars, restaurants, and other businesses only to have the infection rate soar and they have to deal with it all over again.

The pandemic map of the United States burned bright red Monday, with the number of new coronavirus infections during the first six days of July nearing 300,000 as more states and cities moved to reimpose shutdown orders.

After an Independence Day weekend that attracted large crowds to fireworks displays and produced scenes of Americans drinking and partying without masks, health officials warned of hospitals running out of space and infection spreading rampantly. The United States is “still knee deep in the first wave” of the pandemic, Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Monday

Fauci noted that while Europe managed to drive infections down — and now is dealing with little blips as it reopens — U.S. communities “never came down to baseline and now are surging back up,” he said in an interview conducted on Twitter and Facebook with his boss, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins.

Despite President Trump’s claim that 99 percent of covid-19 cases are “harmless,” Arizona and Nevada have reported their highest numbers of coronavirus-related hospitalizations in recent days. The seven-day averages in 12 states hit new highs, with the biggest increases in West Virginia, Tennessee and Montana. The country’s rolling seven-day average of daily new cases hit a record high Monday — the 28th record-setting day in a row.

But we were told it would all “disappear.”

Monday, July 6, 2020

How Was Your Weekend?

Better than Trump’s.

With the coronavirus pandemic raging and his campaign faltering in the polls, his appearance amounted to a fiery reboot of his re-election effort, using the holiday and an official presidential address to mount a full-on culture war against a straw-man version of the left that he portrayed as inciting mayhem and moving the country toward totalitarianism…

The scene at Mount Rushmore was the latest sign of how Mr. Trump appears, by design or default, increasingly disconnected from the intense concern among Americans about the health crisis gripping the country. More than just a partisan rally, it underscored the extent to which Mr. Trump is appealing to a subset of Americans to carry him to a second term by changing the subject and appealing to fear and division…

[…]

Throughout his presidency, Mr. Trump has tried to bend events to his will, often using social media to drive home his alternate version of reality and, thanks to the power of repetition and the loyal support of his base, sometimes succeeding. But the president’s attempt to drive deeper into the culture wars around a national holiday, during an intensifying health crisis that will not yield to his tactics, risked coming across as out of sync with the concerned mood of the country at a moment when his re-election campaign is struggling and unfocused.

This is from the New York Times, which heretofore has been basically a weaselly template for bothsiderism: “Sun rises in the East; some disagree.” But it’s getting to the point where even the most objective observers have to acknowledge that whatever Trump is selling isn’t being bought by the people he needs to win another term, and those who do buy it could be sick or dead by the time November comes around.

Meanwhile, the plague rampages on. Texas and Florida had exponential growth in Covid-19 infections.

At least two counties in South Texas say they have hospitals already at full capacity. This comes after officials in Texas, California and Arizona rolled back their reopening plans. In Florida, however, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis said last week that the state was “not going back” on reopening, saying younger people were driving the spike but that they were at lesser risk than older people.

Republican Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez called the growth “extremely worrisome,” and said the growth was partially due to the early reopening of the state.

Gov. DeSantis is echoing his hero and not taking responsibility for the surge in infections.

Gov. Ron DeSantis would not take any responsibility for Florida’s skyrocketing coronavirus numbers Thursday, just hours after the state recorded its highest single day of new cases with more than 10,000.

“Well, do you give credit for Florida for having much lower fatalities per 100,000 than all the states you just praised?” DeSantis told a reporter who asked about Florida and other Southern states’ case numbers compared with the Northeast.

“We have fewer fatalities than some of those states have just in nursing homes,‘’ he said. “And we’re more populated than all of those. So we’ve worked very hard to protect the most vulnerable … and I think that the numbers bear that out.”

Florida reported a record-setting 10,109 coronavirus cases Thursday for a total of 169,106, and 67 new fatalities to bring the death toll to 3,617.

“I don’t think anyone predicted a Sun Belt resurgence in mid-June, but we had the infrastructure in place,‘’ DeSantis said. “And we’re in a much better place to be able to deal with this as a result of it.”

Yes, a lot of people predicted a Sun Belt resurgence in mid-June, which is two weeks after the state virtually threw caution to the winds and opened the beaches for Memorial Day. So, yes, those are on you. Maybe you’ll choke on it, if you’re lucky.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Fatal Attraction

From TPM:

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) pounced on a golden opportunity on Tuesday after President Donald Trump threatened to pull the 2020 Republican National Convention out of Charlotte, North Carolina if that state’s Gov. Roy Cooper (D) didn’t allow full attendance at the convention amid COVID-19.

“With world-class facilities, restaurants, hotels, and workforce, Georgia would be honored to safely host the Republican National Convention,” Kemp tweeted. “We hope you will consider the Peach State, @realdonaldtrump!”

The Georgia governor wasn’t the only Republican to swoop in amid Trump’s clash with Cooper.

Florida GOP chair Joe Gruters threw his hat in the ring several hours after the President issued his threat on Monday.

“The Republican Party of Florida would welcome the opportunity to host the Republican National Convention,” Gruters said in a statement. “Florida is committed to ensuring a safe, secure and successful event for President @realDonaldTrump and all attendees.”

And Texas GOP chair James Dickey made a similar offer on Monday during an interview with the American-Statesman.

“Texas would welcome President Trump and the RNC Convention,” he said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is all in favor having both conventions here.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday the political conventions for both major parties would be great for Florida’s coronavirus-damaged economy as President Donald Trump has suggested moving the planned Republican convention out of North Carolina.

“Heck, I’m a Republican, it’d be good for us to have the DNC (Democratic National Convention) in terms of the economic impact when you talk about major events like that,” DeSantis said while in Miami to announce two appointments to the Florida Supreme Court.

DeSantis was asked about Trump tweeting Monday about possibly moving the Republican convention from the Spectrum Center in Charlotte because North Carolina wasn’t reopening fast enough amid the virus.

Yeah, the most important thing is to revive the economy by endangering the lives of the citizens of the state and brown-nosing Trump because he’s the lead lemming of their political future.

Florida’s tax structure relies on tourism and convention business, so naturally attracting thousands of people from out-of-state is good for the state’s coffers.  Unfortunately, you can’t really raise a lot of money from people that are sick and dying unless you’re in the healthcare business.  That would be Rick Scott, the former governor and now senator who made his fortune by running a scam healthcare business.

I got really tired of hearing how “pro-life” the Republicans are and how the Democrats are the ones who were going to implement “death panels” with Obamacare.  But it seems that the GOP is the one that is sick to death of it.

Monday, May 6, 2019

If You Can’t Win, Cheat

Last November, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 4 which restored voting rights to felons who had served out their sentences.  There were no qualifiers in the amendment language other than excluding those convicted of murder or violent sex crimes, and when it went into effect in January, it had the desired result: a lot of people who had been denied the right to vote began to register.

Well, the Republican-dominated state legislature couldn’t let that happen, now could they?  After losing challenges to the amendment itself before the election, they decided to come up with qualifiers of their own.

The bill could disenfranchise more than half a million Floridians who have not completed restitution payments. (More than 80 percent of fines levied by courts in Florida from 2014 to 2018 had “minimal collections expectations,” according to the Clerk of Courts association, because defendants were too poor to pay them off.) Those with past felony convictions who have completed probation and parole began registering to vote in January, when Amendment 4 went into effect, and voter registration numbers have more than doubled from the same period four years ago. Now that could all come to a halt. “This is clearly an effort to undermine the will of the voters,” says Micah Kubic, executive director of the ACLU of Florida. “We are creating a two-tiered system and saying how much money you have can determine whether you can vote.”

The measure passed the Florida House last week, and the Senate approved a similar bill on Thursday.

It’s not just in Florida, either.

The move to gut Amendment 4 is part of a broader effort by Republican-controlled states to restrict access to the ballot after voters approved ballot initiatives in November’s midterm elections to expand voting rights and elected Democrats who supported policies like automatic voter registration and felon reenfranchisement. “There is an uptick in activity around measures to restrict voting access,” the Brennan Center for Justice states in a new report, with 19 bills restricting voting access moving through state legislatures in 10 states.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill on Thursday that could curtail voter registration drives by imposing fines of up to $10,000 on groups that submit incomplete registration forms, even though they’re required by state law to hand in any registration forms they collect. The law imposes additional requirements on registration groups, such as mandatory state training and limited time windows to submit registrations, and failure to meet these requirements is punishable by jail time. Civil rights groups allege that the law is an effort to disenfranchise black voters after the Tennessee Black Voter Project registered 90,000 African Americans ahead of the 2018 election. Shortly after Lee signed the measure into law, the Tennessee chapter of the NAACP and other civil rights groups filed suit against state officials to challenge it.

The Texas state senate passed a similar bill, which would make it a felony—punishable by jail time—for a voter to provide false information on a voter registration form or cast a ballot when the person is ineligible to vote, even if it’s an honest mistake and the ballot is not counted. The Texas House of Representatives is now considering the bill.

I fully expect the Florida law to be challenged in court, but it’s obvious that the Republicans in Tallahassee and other state capitals where they are beginning to find themselves in a bind for their blatant rigging of the system: both Michigan and Ohio’s congressional districts that were gerrymandered within an inch of their lives by GOP legislatures have been tossed out by the courts.  (In a fitting bit of irony, an Ohio legislator who is a defendant in the case complained that this ruling is politically motivated and will only help Democrats win elections.)

This is just more evidence to add to the steaming pile already accumulated on the stable floor that the only way Republicans can truly win an election — even after they lose — is by cheating and changing the rules.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Florida’s Turn

Michigan and Wisconsin Republicans are doing their best to kneecap incoming Democratic governors and state officials with lame-duck laws.  Now Florida Republicans, even though they maintained control of the governorship and state legislature, are trying to subvert a clear election result that they fear could result in bad news for them in future elections.

A month after Florida voters approved a measure to restore the franchise to about 1.4 million former felons—the largest expansion of voting rights in decades—a battle over implementing that change is already beginning.

The state’s Republican elections chief is resisting swift implementation of the measure, which was approved by nearly 65 percent of Florida voters on November 6 and is scheduled to take effect on January 8. He’s asking the state Legislature, dominated by Republicans, to interpret the ballot initiative. As a result, the dismantling of one of the harshest disenfranchisement schemes in the country could be subject to delays, confusion, and lawsuits.

To those who crafted Amendment 4, the ballot language was straightforward. It read, “This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.” It stipulated an exception for people convicted of murder or a sexual offense.

“On January 8, anybody who has completed the terms of their sentence for an offense other than murder or felony sexual assault had their rights restored by the voters on Election Day,” said Howard Simon, who as director of the Florida ACLU helped craft and shepherd Amendment 4 to passage. But Simon, who retired last week after 21 years leading the Florida ACLU, predicted that there might be trouble ahead. “I’m not naive,” he said in an interview with Mother Jones on the day he stepped down. He predicted that the state Legislature, which does not convene until March 5, might try to muddy the waters. Legislation could bog down rights restoration or sow enough confusion that some ex-felons are deterred from registering.

Gee, what a shock… not that they’re doing this, but that it’s taken them more than a month to rear up on their hind legs and say “Hey, the language in the amendment isn’t clear.”  Which is cynically funny since the Republicans are famous for crafting ballot measures and amendments that read like one of those software user agreements you click through on your way to download an app.

But they know that the majority of people affected by this amendment are minorities who, in their mind, don’t deserve to vote regardless of their record, and that if they are given back their constitutional rights, will vote for the other guys.

So here we go again.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday Reading

Invasive Pythons — Charlie Pierce on the GOP shenanigans in Florida’s recount.

Before we descend into the madness that is Florida and the way it conducts itself during elections, we should get a bit of a look at what’s at stake so we can understand a) why the Republicans are fighting so hard; b) why the Democrats should match their ferocity, and c) why Marco Rubio is peddling his self respect one Tweet at a time on the electric Twitter machine. As part of the latter effort, Rubio tweeted out a video from a guy who was a Seth Rich Truther. But we are concerned at the moment withother swamps and other critters therein. From the Miami Herald:

In a series of morning tweets, Everglades Foundation CEO Eric Eikenberg claimed “the public deception is underway” as a South Florida Water Management District government board meeting started in Miami. Eikenberg accused officials of trying to derail the project by tying up the land for two more years and failing to give adequate notice for the decision. U.S. Rep. Brian Mast echoed those concerns during public comment, saying Ron DeSantis, the Republican who has railed against the sugar industry and maintains a narrow lead in a state governor race facing a recount, asked him to deliver a message: Postpone the vote. “The governor-elect as well as federal legislators would like to be briefed,” said Mast, a fellow Republican whose district includes coastal communities along the St. Lucie River repeatedly slammed by blue-green algae blooms ignited by polluted water from Lake Okeechobee.

DiSantis [sic], who is headed for Recount City with Andrew Gillum, and Rick Scott,who is presently tied up pretending to be Juan Peron in his battle against Senator Bill Nelson, both have opposed extending the leases on the land held by the literal sugar daddies. Everybody—including Senators Nelson and Rubio—have argued for the necessity of letting the leases run and then establishing the reservoir on that land. The state has been an environmental catastrophe this year, so much so that even Scott, who would sell his grandmother for parts if he thought the old girl would bring a price, got concerned.

This past summer, that outrage was compounded by a saltwater red tide, also fed by coastal pollution, that littered beaches with dead marine life and became a central issue in a heated election. DeSantis, who claimed to be the “only candidate who fought Big Sugar and lived to tell about it,” and voted against sugar subsidies while in Congress, has been embraced by some environmentalists. His opposition to the industry helped him win an endorsement from the Everglades Trust and a hearty congratulations from the Everglades Foundation, which does not endorse candidates but has lent support, including a press conference with outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott in the closing days of his race against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. The tight Nelson-Scott race is also going to a recount. District officials said they complied with meeting laws and would have listed Thursday’s vote in the meeting agenda sooner but only reached a deal with Florida Crystals late Wednesday. Board chairman Federico Fernandez, who seemed genuinely surprised by the negative reaction, said he was assured the decision met requirements.

This is part of the reason why the fight in Florida has gone to knives as swiftly as it has. Along with the climate crisis, quick-buck development scams and environmental predation have been devouring Florida for decades and the political establishment there never has been able to unite against these threats to the ordinary citizens.This time, apparently, it has. So the reservoir now becomes something that may be at stake in whatever backroom maneuvering is undertaken in the pursuit of the two contested political offices. And, my lord, is that becoming a tangled disaster. Once again, Broward County is haunting the nation’s dreams and, once again, we find ourselves in the preposterous position of having one of the candidates controlling the process of settling an election in which he is involved. The count in the Senate race has closed to within the state’s requirement for a statewide hand recount, and Scott went into a frenzy trying to stop it. From the Tampa Bay Times:

Rick Scott filed suit against Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes over the county’s delay in completing its count of the votes from the midterm election. Scott sued as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, not in his capacity as governor of Florida. Scott followed up by lashing out at Snipes in an extraordinary press conference at the Governor’s Mansion on Thursday night. Broward County lags the rest of the state in completing the first, crucial phases of counting ballots from Tuesday’s midterm election. As of 8 p.m. Thursday, the same time the governor summoned reporters to the mansion, Broward County was the only one of the state’s 67 counties that had not reported to the state that it had completed its tabulation of early votes. Early voting ended Sunday in Broward.

Scott, acting in his capacity as governor in furtherance of his attempt to become senator, sicc’ed the state police on the election officials in Broward. Armed police officers were headed to the counting houses. In a late-night press conference, Scott wentall the way up the wall.

“I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida,” Scott told reporters on the front steps of the stately Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee. The targets of Scott’s wrath were Brenda Snipes, the Broward County elections supervisor, and Palm Beach supervisor Susan Bucher. Both officials are Democrats; Scott is a Republican. Scott unleashed the attack as his slim lead over Democrat Bill Nelson in the Senate race continued to evaporate. It stood at 15,092 votes, or .18 percent, on Thursday night. President Trump chimed in on Twitter, describing, without any evidence, a “big corruption scandal” involving election fraud in South Florida. Scott took the unusual step of delivering a partisan political attack from his taxpayer-funded residence, which is reserved for official state events.

A reminder: what we are talking about here is the counting of votes, which is the basic fundamental process for every election. We are not talking about recounts and chads and all that other nonsense that is surely coming down the pike because this is Florida, man. We are talking about counting the votes. And Scott is using his authority as governor to ratfck that process with armed law-enforcement personnel. Somebody get this guy a white suit with some braid, and a balcony on which to stand. And he’s doing so with the entire Republican political apparatus up to and including the White House supporting him by enabling and weaponizing what are so far baseless charges. There is a great deal at stake here. We should wait and see what gets traded away and what gets held hostage and which firmly held political positions are used as currency. The gators and cranes and invasive pythons in the Everglades should be watching, too.

The Queer Coming-of-Age Film Comes of Age — Spencer Kornhaber in The Atlantic.

“My God, are we gonna be like our parents?” That’s the fear voiced by one of the five motley high-school students locked in detention in John Hughes’s The Breakfast Club—and that’s the crucial question underlying most movies about adolescents coming of age. The onscreen antics of teenagers might take the form of giddy flirtations (Grease), drunken ramblings (Dazed and Confused), or feisty self-renaming (Lady Bird), but the kids’ objectives are usually the same: to fashion an identity by rebelling against the authorities—and expectations—that raised them. This quest is, however, circular. The losing of virginities and conquering of cliques may require transgressions in the moment, but by the time the credits roll, the teens have generally started prepping for a productive adulthood against which their own children might someday revolt.

For some kids, though, rule-breaking is less a route toward self-definition than a requirement built into existence. That’s the reality recognized by a recent crop of popular films centered on the queer teen, a figure who until now has been cinematically marginal: casually stigmatized in crass banter, relegated to playing sidekick in someone else’s rites of passage, or claiming the foreground only for small art-house audiences. The first major-studio movie about adolescent gay romance, Greg Berlanti’s spring hit, Love, Simon, uses teen-comedy tropes to portray homosexuality as no big deal in a well-off, relatively woke slice of America. But other recent films, set in less tolerant places and eras, hint that integrating queerness into a schema that has been overwhelmingly straight isn’t so simple.
Two prominent depictions of Christian gay-to-straight “conversion therapy,” the star-studded Boy Erased and the Sundance winner The Miseducation of Cameron Post, forgo the notion of puberty as a full-circle journey. So, in more oblique ways, did Moonlight, the Best Picture winner at the 2017 Oscars, and the 2018 Best Picture contender Call Me by Your Name. Whether persecuted or nurtured by their surroundings, queer teens fundamentally flip the Breakfast Club script: Their fear is not that they’ll become their parents, but that they face a future in which that isn’t a possibility. If that sounds potentially freeing, it is also, in these movies at least, a special kind of terrifying.

In literature and elsewhere, the go-to queer narrative is the coming-out story, which might seem well suited to the on-screen LGBTQ teenager on the brink of autonomy. After all, high-school movies are always, on some level, about outing: The protagonist struggles—nervously or defiantly or both—to announce who she really is to the world. But the queer teens now taking center stage are understandably gun-shy about this rite. Almost in passing, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird highlights the difference in what’s at stake. For Saoirse Ronan in the title role, bucking the dutiful-teen image is a performative thrill; her boyfriend (Lucas Hedges), who she discovers is gay, isn’t ready to upend parental expectations in what feels like a more irrevocable way.

Putting that apprehension in the foreground, this year’s gay-teen movies summon external forces to yank identity struggles into the open. In Love, Simon, Simon (Nick Robinson) is blackmailed by a classmate who discovers the secret Simon had hoped to keep through high school—and the kid eventually outs him anyway. Family members, peers, and school staff rally in support of an almost caricatured romantic-comedy finale for Simon: Young lovers ride a Ferris wheel, happily ever after. Simon never dreamed he’d remain in the closet; he just wanted to time his emergence to his arrival at college. That the mortifying disruption of this plan turns out to be kismet is not unlike what happens to the straight teens of Sixteen Candles and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, who have their private crushes revealed against their will.

The recent conversion-therapy movies redraw the blueprint more radically with the simple recognition that for a lot of queer youths, exposure really can spell catastrophe. In Desiree Akhavan’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post, set in the 1990s, the title character (Chloë Grace Moretz) is furtively hooking up with another girl at prom when the car door is flung open by Cameron’s male date. In Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased, Jared (Hedges again), the Arkansas son of a hard-line preacher (Russell Crowe), diligently resists acting on his same-sex attractions—but is still outed, in extremely traumatic circumstances, when he goes to college in the early 2000s. The unmasking of these characters doesn’t represent a capstone of self-actualization; it kicks off a communal effort to constrain who they might become—to stop same-sex attraction before it “gets worse,” as one Boy Erased church elder puts it.

Change, usually the liberating mantra of coming-of-age movies, represents oppression and conformity in these films: It’s what the Christian brainwashing camps insist is possible for gay teens, something very near the opposite of the discovery of a true self. The comic pop-culture trope of the regimented high school morphs into a grimmer setting of hapless yet powerful adults and trapped kids. Even the homework is a perverse twist. For The Breakfast Club’s crew, being forced to write an essay about “who you think you are” offers each teen a pretext to break out of a stereotyped public image. But mandatory self-analysis, when truly futile, begins to resemble torture: Jared must annotate his family tree with the sins of his forebears (alcoholism, gambling, gang affiliation), and Cameron draws an iceberg showing all the supposedly malign influences below her surface (enjoyment of sports, lack of positive female role models). “How is programming people to hate themselves not emotional abuse?” Cameron asks.Seeing through the quacks in charge and confirming the truth of their own desires—which both of them ultimately do (Jared with the eventual support of his mother)—isn’t a prelude to fruitful rebellion or an upbeat transition away from home. Jared the earnest church kid frets about his parents’ love more than anything else. Cameron takes on light punk airs, joining ranks with the pot-smoking skeptics in the program she’s sent to, but she’s not fighting the system to achieve acceptance. Though both characters end up as runaways of sorts, they don’t seem to be running toward any particular adulthood they may be dreaming of. Survival has to come first.

Set further in the past, the breakout queer-teen movies of the previous two years each consider—from opposite perspectives—how a person’s initial environs might follow them forever. In Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, the black youth Chiron (played in turn by Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) suffers bullying and parental abuse as he grows up amid Miami drug dealers and addicts in the 1980s. Moments of grace and fellowship are precious, and he’s shown acting on his same-sex desires in only one fleeting teenage encounter. In his high-school years, he does rebel—but by savagely beating a classmate, making a display of masculinity that brings him in line with the heterosexual status quo. Years later, he hasn’t diverged from the script that shaped his youth—he’s become a drug dealer—and whether he may belatedly be ready to pursue his desires is left open. Life itself may have erased this boy.

A contrast to Chiron in so many ways, the white and wealthy Elio (Timothée Chalamet) of Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name avails himself of a few different scripts over one blissful ’80s summer in the Italian countryside. Like a stereotypical 17-year-old, he sneaks around in pursuit of sex behind his worldly parents’ backs, at first with girls and soon with Oliver (Armie Hammer), the handsome graduate student spending the summer at his family’s villa. Yet what looks like brave same-sex exploration on his own terms is suddenly cast in a very different light at the film’s close: Elio’s father indicates that he’s been aware of the affair all along. In fact, he’s been jealous of it, having yearned in vain for similar experiences.

Can Elio be who his father wishes he’d been? The film holds out, for a moment, the utopian possibility that a queer kid could be propelled forward by the possibility of fulfilling unmet parental dreams, rather than disappointing deeply entrenched ones. Yet a shadow flits across that uplifting prospect. Elio is soon heartbroken to learn that Oliver, who has returned to his grad-student life, is marrying a woman. “You’re so lucky,” the older man tells the younger one over the phone while reflecting on their tryst. “My father would have carted me off to a correctional facility.” In the film’s pointedly open-ended final scene, Elio just sits and cries. Presumably he’s contemplating the mystery of his future, one in which the men who might have been his role models appear to have surrendered some part of themselves. Even in Elio’s liberation, there’s no clear path for him to walk.

Most teen stories, of course, are open-ended on some level. Puberty breaks everyone’s life in two, and what comes after graduation is necessarily unwritten. But for gay kids, a ready synthesis between the old order and the new sexual self doesn’t obviously await. Willingly or not, they’re swept into an unfolding historical saga. These characters thus come to inhabit their misfit status—a dislocation that’s permanent and deep, rather than fleeting and cosmetic—reluctantly, quietly, and often with gestures toward external conformity.

In look and feel, these movies mimic their muted heroes. Mostly gone are the hijinks and raunch of typical teen comedy, eclipsed by struggles to belong that tend toward stately, notably pretty melodrama. A sensitive camera eye helps capture teens’ interiority, a social vista, and the chasm between them. Yet the critic D. A. Miller has convincingly argued that mainstream gay movies’ “mandatory aesthetic laminate, which can never shine brightly enough with dappled light,” is also a sop: meant to make homosexuality palatable for a broad audience.

Certainly it’s curious that in an age of unprecedented visibility for LGBTQ communities, the queer teens chosen for the cinematic spotlight appear so allergic to, well, seeming gay. Simon is self-mocking as he at one point indulges in a daydream of being accompanied by a rainbow-clad cheering squad when he leaves the closet, and he keeps the only out kid at school—sardonic, femme, and black—at arm’s length. Elio pokes fun at the flamboyant older gay couple who visit his parents, and Jared’s arrival into a life of writing New York Times op-eds and attending Brooklyn dinner parties is shown glancingly, in an epiloguelike time jump. Whether the implied assimilationist impulse reflects the filmmakers’ or the characters’ caution is up for debate. Either way, the caution serves as a reminder: There’s a reason slogans like “It gets better” have tried to give queer kids the kind of optimistic narrative arc that pop culture has offered straight teens for so long.

And even in their mannered quietude and their relegation of politics to subtext, these films carry a disruptive message. Boy Erased ends with Jared telling his dad that he, not Jared, is the one who needs to change. When Simon’s father repents for all the gay jokes he’s told over the years, the gesture is warm but wan. The parental apology suggests why coming of age feels so heavy in these movies: It’s the world, not just the teen, that’s struggling to mature.
Doonesbury — Veterans Day.

Friday, November 9, 2018

In Florida, It Ain’t Over

Here we go again.  Via the Tampa Bay Times:

A visibly frustrated Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday accused “unethical liberals” of trying to steal a U.S. Senate seat from him, as his campaign filed a lawsuit against election officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties for allegedly refusing to release voting tabulations.

“I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida,” Scott told reporters on the front steps of the stately  Governor’s Mansion in Tallahassee.

The targets of Scott’s wrath were Brenda Snipes, the Broward County elections supervisor, and Palm Beach supervisor Susan Bucher. Both officials are Democrats; Scott is a Republican.

Scott unleashed the attack as his slim lead over Democrat Bill Nelson in the Senate race continued to evaporate. It stood at 15,092 votes, or .18 percent, on Thursday night.

“And I would have pulled it off if it wasn’t for those meddling kids!” said every villain in a Scooby Doo cartoon.  Nature and barbering choices are what made Mr. Scott look the part, but it goes along with the axiom that Republicans believe that counting every vote is tantamount to fraud

Meanwhile, Andrew Gillum, who had conceded the governors race to Republican Ron DeSantis, is having second thoughts as the count narrows down to the range of an automatic recount.

As of 9 a.m. [Thursday], DeSantis’ lead was just 42,948 votes out of 8,189,305 ballots cast — equal to 0.52 percent of the vote. Concession speech or no, Florida law requires an automatic machine recount in any race where the margin of victory is within one half of one percentage point.

By 2 p.m., Gillum gained on DeSantis by another 4,441 votes, and now trails by only 0.47 percent.

Thousands of ballots still remain uncounted, so it’s too soon to say whether a recount will indeed happen in the race for governor. Florida’s 67 elections supervisors must send their unofficial numbers to the state by 1 p.m. Saturday, and campaign volunteers were scrambled around the state Thursday as supervisors prepared to examine provisional ballots cast by voters with unresolved issues at their polling places.

The Gillum campaign sent out an email to supporters Thursday afternoon urging those with provisional ballots to call their supervisor of elections offices before 5 p.m. to make sure their ballot was counted, and campaign spokeswoman Johanna Cervone said the campaign was prepared for a recount effort.

“It has become clear there are many more uncounted ballots than was originally reported,” she said in a statement. “Our campaign, along with our attorney Barry Richard, is monitoring the situation closely and is ready for any outcome, including a state-mandated recount.”

There’s good reason for both Scott and DeSantis to be worried.  All of the votes haven’t been counted in Broward County, which is Fort Lauderdale, and that’s the most Democratic county in the state.  If there’s going to be a change in the resumed result of Tuesday night, it’s going to come from those votes.

Might as well get comfortable; we’re going to be here for a while.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

“Racists Call Him Racist”

A snippet from the Florida gubernatorial debate last night:

Via the Daily Beast:

In a fiery exchange in their debate Wednesday evening, Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum said of his opponent, Republican candidate Ron DeSantis, that “racists believe he is a racist.” When asked about his support of conservative writer David Horowitz, DeSantis asked, “How the hell am I supposed to know every single statement somebody makes,” adding “I am not going to bow down to the altar of political correctness. I’m not gonna let the media smear me like they like to do with so many other people. In response, Gillum started listing the people who he said have supported DeSantis. “He’s got Neo-Nazis helping him out in this state, he’s spoken at racist conferences, and he accepted a contribution and would not return it from someone who referred to the former president of the United States as a Muslim n-i-g-g-e-r,” Gillum said. “I’m not calling Mr. DeSantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.” DeSantis has been under fire recently for telling voters not to “monkey” up the election by voting for Gillum. Gillum has also been the target of racist ads and comments throughout the election.

I’m not sure what “a hit dog will holler” means, but I think Mr. DeSantis was howling.

ETA: An explainer of “a hit dog will holler.”

Friday, September 21, 2018

But He’s Not A Racist

This does not surprise me at all, but I thought I’d share anyway.

This is reportedly the FIFTH racist incident to strike the campaign of Rep. Ron DeSantis, who started his gubernatorial run by intimating his African American opponent would “monkey up” the state of Florida’s economy if elected.

Politico reports that a Republican donor, who gave DeSantis over $22,000 dollars and got him to speak at Trump’s Mar-A-Lago, took to Twitter and called President Obama a “F—- MUSLIM N—-”

It’s hard to get more racist than that.

As usual with all racists that are caught being racist, Steven M. Alembik told Politico that he’s not a racist and was just mad when he went full-bore KKK on the former president.

Initially, Alembik said he didn’t believe he wrote that but then, after reviewing the tweet, said that “when I write anything inflammatory, it’s because I’m seriously pissed off. I’m an emotional human being. Do I have a filter on what I say? In public, yes. Would I use that word in public? No. This is Twitter.”

He doesn’t think Twitter is public?

After initially claiming he’s not a racist, he went on a weird (but all too common among racists) rant about the double standard associated with the N-word:

“So somebody like Chris Rock can get up onstage and use the word and there’s no problem? But some white guy says it and he’s a racist? Really?” the 67-year-old Alembik said, noting that what’s considered racially charged language now wasn’t racist when he was a kid. “I grew up in New York in the ‘50s. We were the k—-. They were the n——. They were the goyim. And those were the s—-.”

Yep, he’s a racist through and through.

This is Florida and we have an African-American running for governor.  Actually, I’m surprised it’s only the fifth recorded incident.  There will be more.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Featured Speaker

From the Washington Post:

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), a gubernatorial nominee who recently was accused of using racially tinged language, spoke four times at conferences organized by a conservative activist who has said that African Americans owe their freedom to white people and that the country’s “only serious race war” is against whites.

DeSantis, elected to represent north-central Florida in 2012, appeared at the David Horowitz Freedom Center conferences in Palm Beach, Fla., and Charleston, S.C., in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, said Michael Finch, president of the organization. At the group’s annual Restoration Weekend conferences, hundreds of people gather to hear right-wing provocateurs such as Stephen K. Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos and Sebastian Gorka sound off on multiculturalism, radical Islam, free speech on college campuses and other issues.

“I just want to say what an honor it’s been to be here to speak,” DeSantis said in a ­27-minute speech at the 2015 event in Charleston, a video shows. “David has done such great work and I’ve been an admirer. I’ve been to these conferences in the past but I’ve been a big admirer of an organization that shoots straight, tells the American people the truth and is standing up for the right thing.”

[…]

The Freedom Center covered DeSantis’s expenses for the 2017 conference at a luxury resort in Palm Beach, according to disclosure forms he filed as a member of Congress.

Fellow speakers included a former Google engineer who was fired after arguing that “biological causes” in part explain why there are relatively few women working in tech and leadership; a critic of multiculturalism who has written that “Europe is committing suicide” by welcoming large numbers of refugees and immigrants; and a British media personality who urged the audience to keep the United States from becoming like the United Kingdom, where “discrimination against whites is institutionalized and systemic.”

Requests to the campaign and the congressional office to interview DeSantis were declined. A spokeswoman for the congressman, Elizabeth Fusick, provided a statement that described DeSantis as “a leader in standing up for truth and American strength.”

There are a large number of places in Florida — and not exclusively upstate in what’s known as Lower Alabama — where these kinds of views are held as mainstream.  And knowing that he attended these meetings and spoke at them is probably what got him Trump’s endorsement in the first place.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Primary Results

Florida is setting up for an election between two very different candidates and ideologies in the governor’s race: Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee for the Democrats and Rep. Ron DeSantis for the Republicans.  They couldn’t be more different if you were asked by Central Casting to choose two polar opposites, and that seems to be the theme for the election as a whole, from governor down to local contests.

Andrew Gillum is African-American, setting up the possibility of being the first black governor of the state, and got backing from Bernie Sanders.  He came from behind to win in a field that included Gwen Graham, a one-term Congress-person and the daughter of former governor and senator, Bob Graham.  Ron DeSantis came out of the woodwork to beat Adam Putnam, who has been running for the office since he was in high school, thanks to a tweet by Trump.  He’s a Trumper all the way and this race is going to get really nasty really quickly; there are still parts of the state where whistling Dixie isn’t just an expression, and setting up an unapologetic liberal with a right-wing Trump-sucker will bring national focus, and that means lots of money for PAC ads and all sorts of shit.

Speaking of all sorts of shit, the Senate race between incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott has been set for months, and that too is going to be a study in contrasts.  Mr. Nelson is old school; moderate, unassuming, and competent, while Gov. Scott has been a disaster for the environment, education, and still stinking of corruption.

Locally — as in Miami-Dade County — the race a lot of people have been focused on is the one for U.S. House District 27, which happens to be my district.  Ileana Roz-Lehtinen, a somewhat moderate Republican, is retiring, and the primary race generated a lot of contenders, including David Richardson, who is openly gay.  Donna Shalala, who served as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration and then was president of the University of Miami from 2001-2015, came back to the area, dumped a ton of money into the race, and won.  She will go up against Maria Salazar, guaranteeing that the district will send a woman to Congress.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about how Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, the Republican running for Congress who claimed that she was abducted by Christ-like aliens and still keeps in touch with them via telepathy did, she got 1,684 votes.  The endorsement by the Miami Herald was a big help.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Red Menace

Via the Washington Post:

Florida’s governor this week made official what residents of southwest Florida already knew: The bloom of toxic algae that has darkened gulf waters is an emergency. The red tide has made breathing difficult for locals, scared away tourists, and strewn popular beaches with the stinking carcasses of fish, eels, porpoises, turtles, manatees and one 26-foot whale shark.

Gov. Rick Scott (R) late Monday declared a state of emergency in seven counties stretching from Tampa Bay south to the fringe of the Everglades. Scott promised $1.5 million in emergency funding.

The governor is facing Sen. Bill Nelson (D) this fall at the ballot box in a contest for the senate seat Nelson has held for three terms. Each man has accused the other of failing to tackle the red-tide calamity and the simultaneous bloom of a different type of algae that is clogging rivers and canals and putting a scum on top of Lake Okeechobee.

Citizens in retirement communities are reporting respiratory distress from the vapors of the microscopic red-tide organism called Karenia brevis. A recent study found a 50 percent spike in hospital visits due to respiratory problems during red-tide blooms.

The red tide has been gradually moving north, to the mouth of Tampa Bay, according to state tracking data. For many places, the daily reports continue to say “Water Color: Dark” and “Respiratory Irritation: Intense.” Worst of all are the reports that state “Dead Fish: Heavy.”

Gov. Scott blaming Sen. Nelson — a Democrat — for not doing anything about the problem is typical for a Trump-sucking windbag.  So far his response has been to blame someone else and ban the term “climate change” from the lexicon of official statements.

During Scott’s tenure, budgets for environmental agencies have been sharply reduced. The budget of the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees water issues from Orlando to Key West, was cut. Many of the more than 400 workers who lost their jobs in the $700 million cut were scientists and engineers whose jobs were to monitor pollution levels and algal blooms. Scott also abolished the Department of Community Affairs, which oversaw development in the state.

In the real world of sane politics and environmental responsibility, this disaster would doom Scott’s chances of winning any election.  But the odds are that it won’t make a difference in the campaign, and if he becomes a senator, Florida will truly be a red state.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Race To Watch

There’s a good piece in The Hill on the importance of the Senate race in Florida, and it could all come down to how Puerto Ricans feel about Rick Scott and Bill Nelson.

About 1.3 million Puerto Ricans are now estimated to live in Florida, overtaking the number of GOP-leaning Cuban-Americans who were once the largest Hispanic group there. After Maria, an estimated 40,000 Puerto Ricans resettled in Florida, according to Stefan Rayer, who’s director of a population program at the University of Florida.

Hurricane Maria put Puerto Rico in the spotlight in September, as thousands continued to live without power for months after the storm struck and the death toll rose to more than 5,000 people. Trump endured heavy criticism for his tepid recovery efforts compared to his response to hurricanes that hit Texas and Florida.

Now it’s becoming a key campaign issue for both candidates, and it appears the crucial voter bloc is still up for grabs.

And if the Democrats lose this seat they could very well miss the chance to take over the Senate.

Florida has already played a crucial role in the nation’s electoral history, and while Bill Nelson may not be the most exciting candidate out there, he could be the one that could hobble or even end the GOP running roughshod over the Constitution.