Sunday, November 1, 2020

Sunday Reading

Latinos Con Biden — Stephania Taladrid in The New Yorker on how grassroots organizing is turning out the Latinx vote in Miami.

On a scorching afternoon in early October, Miguel Sahid walked over to a freshly painted mural in Wynwood, Miami’s art district. When Sahid reached the wall, tears began flowing from his closed eyes. Looming above him was an image of a Taíno woman wrapped in a Puerto Rican flag, her lips sealed with the word “Reclama,” or “Demand.” Her right arm was raised as high as Lady Liberty’s, but instead of a torch, she held a banner reading “Tu Voto es Mi Voto”—“Your Vote Is My Vote.” Sahid and others had commissioned the mural as a memorial to the victims of Hurricane Maria—but also as a rallying cry for the nearly nine hundred thousand eligible Puerto Rican voters in Florida, urging them to make their voices heard this November.

Sahid became involved in politics only recently—he was groomed in the world of theatre, and now runs an actors society for Latino youth. At forty-six, he comes across as a sturdy man, with carefully combed hair, warm eyes, and a jaunty smile. Like other Puerto Ricans, he has taken Donald Trump’s demeaning of the island personally, and sees Maria as a thorn in the President’s side. To this date, he vividly remembers the call he placed to his parents back on the island when the hurricane made landfall, in September of 2017. “Many of the phone lines were down, because everyone was calling,” he said. When he finally got his father on the phone, he learned that their apartment was flooded ankle-deep in seawater. Shortly after, Puerto Rico slipped into a blackout, and eight days passed before Sahid was able to reach his parents again. Trump’s callousness and ineptitude stunned him. “Everything changed when I saw he wasn’t paying the slightest attention to Puerto Rico, and that all he bothered to do was throw paper towels at us,” he said. “It felt as if he were offering a Band-Aid at a time when we desperately needed surgery.”

In the aftermath of the hurricane, Trump declared that he had done an “A-plus” job in Puerto Rico. During his only visit to the island, which lasted less than four hours, the President blamed local authorities for any problems and downplayed the damage. In reality, the official government death toll was 2,975, a higher number of victims than during Katrina, the hurricane that devastated New Orleans, in 2005. In parts of Puerto Rico, American citizens were left without electricity or clean water for months. The island has yet to fully recover from the disaster, which wrought an estimated hundred billion dollars in damage on a population whose local government was already heavily burdened by debt. Last month, in a transparent, last-minute effort to earn votes, Trump pledged a package of thirteen billion dollars in federal disaster funding to Puerto Rico. But many, including Sahid, saw this as a cynical political ploy by a President who reportedly wanted to hand over the U.S. territory to the highest foreign bidder. “First he wanted to sell us, then he wanted to swap us for Greenland, and now he wants to buy us?” he said ruefully. Feeling increasingly frustrated, Sahid looked for ways to become more engaged in politics and came across the grassroots groups Boricuas con Biden and Cubanos con Biden. “There, I found thousands of people airing similar grievances,” he said. “It made me realize that I’m not alone.”

According to the Pew Research Center, Latinos make up seventeen per cent of the electorate in Florida—the largest share of any battleground state. A staple of Florida politics is that Cuban-Americans reliably vote Republican; this year, they are expected to overwhelmingly support Trump. There are, in fact, more Puerto Rican eligible voters in the state than Cuban-Americans, and, together with myriad other groups, including Mexicans, Dominicans, Nicaraguans, and Ecuadorians, they constitute nearly three-quarters of the community’s voters. The result of the battle for their support could decide whether Trump or Biden wins the state. “Unlike 2016, this has been a much more contested environment,” Carlos Odio, the co-founder of the research group EquisLabs, told me. “If you’re Biden, what you’re trying to do is maximize votes. Trump has an easier job—he just needs to bat a few balls away.” To win Florida, Odio estimates that Joe Biden likely must secure around seventy per cent of the non-Cuban Latino vote—a level of support reached both by Barack Obama, in 2012, and Hillary Clinton, in 2016. The last time that Equis polled for Biden, his support hovered around sixty per cent. But he’s since made modest gains in Miami-Dade, Florida’s most populous county, aided by a heavy investment in advertising thanks to Michael Bloomberg’s half-million-dollar donation there and a wave of volunteers working to turn out the vote.

Addressing a small crowd of organizers in Miami Springs last weekend, Obama, who was in Florida to promote his Vice-President, emphasized just how momentous their work could prove, saying, “If you bring Florida home, this thing’s over.” Initially, the number of registered Democrats who had cast their ballots early in Florida outpaced Republicans by two-to-one. But in the last week, registered Republicans have steadily closed that gap, and now trail Democrats by less than a hundred thousand votes. In Miami-Dade, a Democratic stronghold, Republicans have an advantage in turnout of more than eight per cent. The numbers also reveal that half of Latino registered voters have yet to cast their ballots in the state. Privately, Latino political activists, and even Biden campaign staffers in the state, say that the Florida Democratic Party, which runs Biden’s coördinated campaign, has not invested enough money in direct voter contact among Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, Colombians, Venezuelans, and other potential supporters. “I’ve emptied my pockets,” one of the staffers said, of having to make up for the lack of budget with personal money. The staffer has overheard others say they’re “being sent to the front lines just like soldiers without bullets.” But the campaign contends it has spent six figures over the last week in get-out-the-vote efforts and events at early polling locations. “We are leaving no stone unturned,” Christian Ulvert, a senior adviser in Florida, said.

Although research has long shown that there is a racial and ethnic disparity in the use of vote-by-mail, some are frustrated by what they see as the state campaign’s failure to invest more heavily in Latino turnout, despite the Biden campaign having raised a record $1.5 billion nationally, and working with a hundred-million-dollar donation from Bloomberg. But they also recognize an all-too-familiar pattern, which, in their view, explains why Democrats have not won a statewide election in Florida since 2012: the Democratic Party is not making a large enough effort in a state where demographics trends favor them. “Florida doesn’t have to go to the margins,” the staffer said. Now some of them are dreading a Trump victory or a repeat of the 2000 Presidential election, when the contest was settled in George W. Bush’s favor by five hundred and thirty-seven votes. If Republicans continue to turn out their voters in droves, Biden staffers fear that they may not be able to keep up with their lead. “If we don’t get the Hispanic vote out today and tomorrow, it’s game over,” the staffer told me on Saturday. “At this rate, they’re going to catch up to us by Monday.” Another staffer argued that it was impossible to make up in a matter of days for work that should have been done over the last year. “At this point, I’m praying for a miracle,” the staffer said.

What may offset the campaign’s neglect is that many Latino voters believe their livelihoods and integrity are on the ballot this year. For the nearly fifty thousand Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida after Hurricane Maria, November 3rd may well determine the future for their relatives back home. For the nearly two hundred thousand Venezuelans, Hondurans, and Salvadorans living in Florida, it may be a question of undoing Trump’s attacks on the Temporary Protected Status program, which allows immigrants from countries beset by violence, repressive regimes, or natural disasters to remain in the United States. And for the more than three hundred thousand voters of Mexican descent, it may be a matter of standing up for their dignity. Across nationalities, Latino voters are fed up with being treated as second-class citizens. What’s more, some say that they see in Trump the authoritarian instincts displayed by leaders of the nations they fled. “The reason why I’m horrified by Trump is because I see Daniel Ortega in him,” Carolina Chamorro, a Nicaraguan sociologist who moved to Florida in the nineteen-eighties, said, referring to the Sandinista leader. “All he’s doing is manipulating the masses.”

Much of Trump’s bigoted rhetoric has been aimed at Latinos—and, in cases like the mass shooting of twenty-two people last year in El Paso, in which the gunman set out to kill as many Mexicans as possible, it’s proved fatal. For Maria José Wright and Fred Wright, the notion that Trump is viewed as a pro-life leader is painfully ironic. Their son, Jerry, was one of the forty-nine victims of the Pulse night-club shooting, in Orlando, in 2016. Until that year, the Wrights had invariably voted Republican. “A lot of people don’t know this, but the shooter at Pulse, who took my son’s life, got radicalized because Trump started talking about banning [immigrants from] Muslim states,” Fred, an Ecuadorian-American businessman, said. “To us, he is pro-death.” Maria José expressed regret that many conservative Latinos who support the President limit their pro-life defense to the unborn, when more than a hundred Americans are killed by guns every day, and more than two hundred and thirty thousand have died as a result of COVID-19. “It’s shameful,” she told me. Maria José said she was troubled by the G.O.P.’s personality cult, and by Trump’s debasement of the press, scientists, and his opponents. “It scares the living crap out of me,” she said.

In a closely contested election riven by fear and hostility, the work done at the grassroots level could prove decisive in increasing turnout. Weeks before the start of early voting, Sahid joined dozens of volunteers, including Daniela Ferrera, the co-founder of the grassroots group Cubanos con Biden, and began rallying voters by organizing caravanas, rallies on wheels. When early voting began, they started visiting polling places to counter the presence of Trump supporters, whose vehemence they fear will deter Biden voters from turning out. A week ago, in the city of Hialeah, a Republican stronghold north of Miami, Maria Caridad Fernandez, a Cuban-American voter, wept after seeing fellow Biden supporters outside her polling site. Fernandez told me that she had been doubting whether to vote or not—her neighbor’s pro-Biden yard signs had been stolen, and she found the current political climate deeply dispiriting. But the sight of Biden supporters evoked a feeling of belonging—one that was comparable to what Sahid had felt. “I want this country to be proud of us and to never feel ashamed of having welcomed us in,” Fernandez said.

Sahid recently led a Sunday-morning caravan of Biden enthusiasts through downtown Miami. Previous caravans had numbered in the hundreds, but, this time, two thousand cars had registered on the eve of the event. Dressed in jeans and a tight “Latinos con Biden” shirt, Sahid welcomed people with a broad smile as they drove in: “¡Hola, hola, hola! How are you guys doing?!” Within less than an hour, there were more cars than the street could fit. People brought their elderly parents, their children, and pets and carried cardboard signs, some homemade, that said “Abuelas Cubanas con Biden,” “100% Anti-Comunista, 100% con Biden,” and “Republican voters against Trump.” Other signs referenced Trump’s treatment of Puerto Rico and his talk of trading away the U.S. territory, such as, “Prohibido Olvidar” and “Puerto Rico no se vende.” Next to their Biden flags, people brandished Puerto Rican, Mexican, Venezuelan, and Uruguayan flags. Leading the way was a pickup truck, playing at full volume a classic Puerto Rican song, whose lyrics went “¡Pa’ fuera! ¡Pa’ la calle! ” or “Get out, to the street.”

On the caravan’s way to Tropical Park, when Trump supporters drove by, their shouts of “Communists!” were drowned out by the cheering and honking of Biden supporters. “This is how you know the street is on your side,” Sahid said proudly. “Two months ago, you saw none of this.” His husband, Andres Mejia, sat to his right and joked that Sahid has had to replace his car horn three times. “It went mute during the first caravan,” Mejia said, as Sahid kept honking. By the time that Sahid reached the main boulevard in front of the park, more than a thousand people were lined up on the street’s edges, waving signs and dancing. An elderly Dominican man expressed astonishment at the size of the pro-Biden crowd in a park where Trump supporters convene regularly. “Trumpists had been here for a year,” he said in disbelief. “One never gets to see anything like this in Miami.” The turnout had exceeded Sahid’s expectations, but he was cautiously enthusiastic.

The following week, he and a group of volunteers put together another caravan, which drew several hundred cars from different parts of the city. The plan was to meet at the Freedom Tower, on Biscayne Boulevard—an iconic building where Cubans long petitioned for asylum, and which is known as the “Ellis Island of the South.” As Sahid and others got closer to the monument, a growing number of Trump supporters showed up in their cars. When the Biden supporters finally reached their meeting point, the boulevard was blanketed with Trump 2020 flags. Leading the caravan in support of the President were the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group. They had hired a parade float, which featured a large-sized cutout of a bridge and which read “TRUMP UNITY.” It included a singer, too—a boisterous man who performed the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” with the letters “M.A.G.A.” Members of the rival caravans engaged in a screaming match. Some people shouted “¡Comunistas! ”; others “¡Asesino! ” A girl on an electric scooter carried a megaphone and repeatedly yelled, “Biden is a pedophile!” Another kneeled on the backseat of a car and twerked in the direction of a crowd of Biden supporters. There were different ways one could read the effort to sabotage the caravan—as a desperate attempt to regain the streets or a troubling show of force designed to intimidate Democrats. Sahid didn’t rule out either scenario. “It’s going to be darn hard to win this thing,” he said.

Democracy vs the Corrupt Federal Judiciary: Which Side Are You On? — Josh Marshall in TPM.

We now have another case in Texas where the state Republican party is going to court to attempt to throw out roughly 100,000 ballots cast via curbside voting in Harris County, Texas. They lost their bid in state courts. So now they’re rushing to federal court where a thoroughly corrupted federal judiciary is likely open to this wholesale disenfranchisement. Federal judges are buying into the theory proposed by four justices on the pre-Barrett Court that only state legislatures can make any changes to voting procedures. Mark Joseph Stern of Slate says state Republicans have drawn one of the most partisan federal judges in Texas to hear the case.

Here we have yet another opportunity for a corrupted federal judiciary to rig the election in favor of the Republican party. It’s akin to the kind of things we see in broken democracies like Russian and Turkey, where notional democratic procedures are backstopped by courts which intervene if the elections are going in the wrong direction.

People need to open their eyes to the reality of what has happened. The federal judiciary has been thoroughly corrupted. The issue is not principally one of ideology. It is that a large number of Republican judges see their role as backstopping the electoral fortunes and policy choices of the Republican party. For this they are willing to use states-rights federalism or federal intervention depending on situational convenience. They manufacture new interpretive theories wholesale to achieve these ends. This can sound hyperbolic. But it’s not.

For democracy to survive the federal judiciary must be reformed. We’re focused on Trump right now. But even if he’s defeated next week the federal judiciary will remain in place in its corrupted state and likely expand its efforts to interfere in elections and exercise vetoes over Democratic policy-making. For democracy to survive the federal judiciary must be reformed. That starts with expanding the Supreme Court with at least four new Justices. But it should apply to the rest of the federal judiciary as well.

Doonesbury — Closing argument by the numbers.

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.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Staggering Back To School

From the Miami Herald:

At the end of what may be a record-breaking 29-hour special meeting that began Monday, the Miami-Dade County School Board voted unanimously Tuesday to push back the gradual start of in-person classes until Oct. 14, more than a week later than first proposed.

The board is following the staggered reopening of schools that Superintendent Alberto Carvalho recommended Monday, but with later dates to make sure schools are ready and teachers and staff are protected from the spread of coronavirus.

A soft opening of schools is expected for students in Pre-K, kindergarten and first grade and students with special needs on Oct. 14.

All elementary school students, plus students in sixth, ninth and 10th grades — some of whom are entering new buildings and schools for the first time — can return the next day. On that day, all high school students, whether learning online or in-person, would go back to starting school at 7:20 a.m.

Schools would be fully open for all students who wish to return to the schoolhouse on Oct. 21.

The timeline applies only to the 51% of students whose parents chose for them to return to school, based on the district’s parental surveys. The remainder of the students will continue with online learning.

The new plan, which the school board approved around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday after more than four hours of changes and debate, also comes with a no-opt teacher planning day moved to Oct. 13.

Before opening, the school district must also have a “verified provision of all PPE (personal protective equipment) and related resources and full compliance with all required and represented procedures, protocols, personnel, and approaches presented regarding employee and School House Model reopening readiness presented by the Superintendent.”

A formal recommendation from medical experts must be provided to the school board prior to reopening.

I work part-time for two District-managed charter schools, and I work in one of those school offices two days a week (the other school I work strictly from home). The school where I report to has the strict CDC and District protocols in place, and on Monday we welcomed back students in Kindergarten and Grades 1 through 3.

We are a comparatively small school. Even at full enrollment we are under 800 students in Grades K-10, and the remote option remains; we’ve been doing that for a couple of weeks now with our students.

There is no easy way to do this.  Unlike some people’s thinking, we can’t just throw open the doors and let chance and hope lead the way.  Lives are at stake, and not just the students.  Some of the most vulnerable age groups — over 60 — work in the schools as teachers, staff, and other ancillary positions.  And for those politicians who are pushing so hard for the schools to re-open, I’d like to offer them the opportunity to spend a week in our school and see if they are willing to be brave enough to do it.  Any takers?

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Big Eight

Miami-Dade County Public Schools lays out what has to happen before school can open at the school sites on August 24. From the Miami Herald:

The topic was brought up six hours into Wednesday’s School Board meeting. The criteria were the result of a closed-door meeting held Tuesday with medical and public health experts as well as Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez. That meeting also may have violated Florida’s Government in the Sunshine Law.

“The No. 1 question on everyone’s mind is are we going to reopen schools,” said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who introduced the criteria. “We want to do the right thing.”

The eight criteria are:

▪ A sustained COVID-19 positivity rate of less than 10%, trending toward 5%, for 14 days. Miami-Dade County is currently over 30%; one month ago, that figure was 6%.

▪ A steady reduction in number of individuals hospitalized.

▪ A sustained reduction in ICU bed occupancy.

▪ A continuous reduced viral burden for 14 days with a decrease of virus-positive individuals.

▪ An increase in viral specific COVID-19 test availability with decreased wait time.

▪ A turnaround time for test results less than 48 hours.

▪ An increase in quantity and quality of contract tracing.

▪ Ensuring vaccinations for school-aged children. Carvalho said many parents who would’ve taken children for regular immunizations have not done so. He said the district is launching an awareness campaign.

“Based on where we are today, we don’t meet the criteria,” Carvalho said. “It is difficult to predict where we’ll be on Aug. 24.”

School officials had hoped to begin the 2020-21 school year in the school house five days a week, with mandatory masks and social distancing. The plan approved by School Board members July 1 called for smaller class sizes and classrooms in larger spaces, like cafeterias, gyms and media centers. It also allowed the school district to pivot to fully online learning or a hybrid model of in-person and online distance learning depending on data related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miami-Dade County continues to be the epicenter of the outbreak. The county is still in Phase 1 as the state reported 10,000 new cases Wednesday, surpassing a total of 300,000 cases.

School officials had said previously that physical schooling was only possible if the county entered Phase 2.

Miami-Dade is the fourth-largest school district in the country, with over 340,000 students and over 40,000 employees. The way things are going, with a little more than five weeks to go before August 24, the chances the county will enter Phase 2 are slim.

The state is ramping up funding to the schools to prepare for remote learning, but the process takes time to get the funding in place and the materials delivered in time to start classes, remote or otherwise. As Hank Tester of CBS4 reports, time is ticking away.

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The clock keeps ticking to figure out how the school year will begin in South Florida.

In Miami-Dade, the district is asking families to go online by Wednesday to declare their preference for August, which includes full on-campus learning, something virtual or a combination.

No campuses will reopen though unless the county is in Phase 2 of its reopening plan.

In Broward, four options remain on the table, though the superintendent is on record saying he sees no path to schools fully reopening in five weeks.

The governor is now changing how sees the school situation in South Florida.

“I’m not gonna dictate how everything goes… Miami is different,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis at a press conference at Jackson Memorial Hospital. “I’ve told the commissioner of education to work with these districts. Understand, we have a very diverse state. The response here is just gonna be different than other parts of the state.”

Teachers like Josh Paolino are waiting for the outcome of the Miami-Dade County Public School’s survey so they can begin planning.

“You need time to design the curriculum based on whatever model we have. Are we going to teach physically? Are we going to have a hybrid online?” he said.

Paolino is part of a group of teachers who want to make clear that “changing from online to a hybrid or schoolhouse model is not simply a matter of flipping a switch” because that “type of planning work we do changes under each model.”

“We have been told there are three possible models: in-home, a hybrid, which still needs discussion… and we have the full online model, which we are in much more favor of,” he said.

Online is favored because teachers are familiar with it and because of the health concerns – not only for kids, but for their own ranks.

“Nationwide 1/4 of all teachers have some type of underlying conditions that may affect their health when it comes to COVID,” Paolino said.

Josh brings up a great point: everyone is talking about taking care of the children, and that is a high priority, no question, but what about the employees that are in the high-risk category for Covid-19? Can the District cover the medical costs of teachers and support staff who get sick from the virus because of having to work in the schools? (Full disclosure: Josh rents a room in my house.)

The District has some huge hurdles to overcome, not the least is the clustasrophic way that the state and federal governments have dealt with the pandemic and the unconscionable attitude that it’s more important to get the economy going and schools open at the expense of the health and lives of the people who keep it running.  In short, it is true that the state is suffering mightily from the economic collapse, but it’s also hard to make money from dead people.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Slow Going

Miami-Dade County is slowly re-opening.

Anyone going back to work on Monday needs to wear a face covering, and businesses must test all staff and hire deep cleaners if an employee tests positive for COVID-19.

Those are two of the most sweeping decrees in an order released Friday night by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez outlining the rules that will be in place once businesses are allowed to reopen Monday.

The public schools — and the ones I work at — will remain closed to students for the rest of the school year. My office is open on a limited basis, but I can do what I need to do from home.

Everybody, me included, would like to get back to some semblance of normal.  I want my neighbors who own small businesses to get back to work.  I want the students to go back to school.  Watching graduations, weddings, and funerals on Zoom is no substitution for being there.  It’s going to take a while, and we’re probably not going to see life as we knew it again even after there’s a vaccine and everyone has been inoculated.

As for me, I’m staying put.  I’m not a worrywart, but I’m pretty sure a week from now we’re going to see a spike in new infections here in Miami-Dade.  And I’d rather not be one of them.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Gathering Nuts

Via the Miami New Times:

A veritable who’s who of right-wing con artists, alt-right media hounds, and outright racists apparently plan to hold some sort of Art Basel for Grifters conference in Miami this month. An avalanche of some of the worst pundits online — including at least one fascist — say they’ll hold a “Demand Free Speech” rally Saturday, September 28, on an undisclosed yacht somewhere in the Magic City.

The event’s top billing? Serial con artist Jacob Wohl, who is charged in California with a felony for unlawfully selling investments in a company called Montgomery Assets, will apparently debate Nick Fuentes, a self-described “American nationalist” who has appeared on white-nationalist programs and at one point was recorded going on an anti-Semitic rant about a fellow conservative blogger by calling him a “race traitor” and saying he “worked for Jews.” It’s unclear what Wohl and Fuentes might actually debate, but the event seems designed more to generate protests and controversy than to conduct intellectual discussions.

The grifters have yet to announce a location for the event, likely to avoid protests before the so-called debate occurs. So far, the event pages simply states it will happen “on a four-decker yacht in the legendary Miami Harbor” and will include “heated debates, a stimulating panel, based and red pilled entertainment, food, drinks and much, much more.”

But tickets are being sold on the website 1776.shop, which is run by Enrique Tarrio, a Miami native who leads the neofascist Proud Boys group. “Early-bird” VIP tickets cost $150 for whatever reason. Among the other guests, the group says Zoe Sozo, an ambassador for the campus conservative group Turning Point USA, will also attend. This would be far from the first time TPUSA operatives have brushed elbows with far-right nationalists such as Fuentes: In 2018, New Times caught students in the Florida International University TPUSA chapter making rape jokes, sharing racist Pepe the Frog memes about Syrian refugees, and referencing “Jew hating” and neo-Nazi Richard Spencer in leaked WhatsApp chats.

The event’s webpage also appears to include artwork seemingly stolen from Elizabeth Kolbert’s 2015 New Yorker article “Miami Is Flooding.” Spokespeople for the New Yorker did not immediately respond to a message from New Times today.

And I’m going to miss all the fun; I’m gonna be out of town that weekend.  Oh darn.

This is the first time I recall hearing about such a gathering here in South Florida.  This part of the state isn’t really known for harboring a whole lot of white nationalists; that’s the Panhandle’s shtick.  It sounds like one of those scams that someone like Trump would gin up to sell more crap with his name on it.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Miami Winter

It’s currently 52 with a high of 75 expected today.  For some here that’s enough to break out the parkas, gloves, and stocking caps.  But as this photo from 2006 under similar circumstances shows, it’s always beach weather for some people.

Chill out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Sunday Reading

Miami Underwater — Carolyn Kormann in The New Yorker.

In Miami, the rising sea is already an ineluctable part of daily life. Everyone is affected—whether storm flooding forces a small-business owner to shut down for a few days (at tremendous cost), or daily tides hinder students commuting to school, or the retreating coastline forces people to abandon their homes. There are other, less obvious, but equally troubling impacts. People’s increased contact with overflow water from urban canals and sewers is a significant health issue. Low-income communities of color—like Liberty City and Little Haiti—also face rising housing costs as residents seek higher ground. Some have started referring to this as climate gentrification, “a trend of underserved communities being taken over by investors and developers due to rising sea levels,” Valencia Gunder, a community organizer, explained. Historically, “low-income communities of color were forced to live in the center of the city, high above sea level. Now that the sea level is rising, that puts us in prime real estate.” Gunder is one of the many Miami residents who appear in this video series, which focusses on the high-stakes questions that arise as people begin to adapt, and the factors that help create and strengthen resiliency for what’s ahead. “Every adaptation project is an opportunity to improve our environmental quality,” Tiffany Troxler, a wetlands biologist, said. “And to improve social equity.”

As the average global temperature increases, sea level is projected to rise more than one foot by 2045, which would put a fifth of Miami underwater at high tide. While the entire East Coast of the United States is at tremendous risk, Miami is particularly vulnerable. Its underlying bedrock is limestone, which makes the effects of sea-level rise particularly insidious. “Limestone is very porous, so salt water can seep up,” Ben Wilson, an environmental scientist, said in an episode that examines the intersection of ecology and development. “We can’t just build a wall to keep salt water out.” Along the shoreline, freshwater marshes, which act as natural coastal buffers against storm surge, are collapsing because of increased salt-water intrusion. Once those grasses are gone, storm waters will flood Miami much more quickly.

The economic effects will be staggering. Tourism and property taxes—derived from real-estate development—are the region’s two main sources of income. “There are many in the business community, and even government officials, who feel we shouldn’t talk about it,” Wayne Pathman, a real-estate lawyer, said. “But it’s too late for that.” The median family income in Miami-Dade County is roughly forty-five thousand dollars—not high for a metropolitan area. The hardest-hit communities will be, and have already been, those with the fewest resources to adapt and rebuild.

“With climate change there already are winners and losers,” Jesse Keenan, a Harvard professor who teaches courses on climate adaptation, said. “The idea, as a matter of public policy, is how do we subsidize and and support the most vulnerable populations, who are very often the economic losers.” There is no easy answer. But the people featured in these videos are, at least, trying. “I love this place,” one activist told the filmmakers. “I love the people, I love the diversity and the colors and the richness. I love that cross-cultural mix we have going on here. The question is, ‘Can we live here much longer, and safely? And if so, how much longer, and how safely?’ ”

Party of Fear — Leonard Pitts, Jr. in the Miami Herald.

“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party. The party left me.’’

Ronald Reagan

Now I know how the Gipper felt.

Once upon a time, you see, I thought I was a little bit conservative. Mind you, I could never side with the right on social justice matters like the treatment of LGBTQ Americans, African Americans and women, where they have always been irredeemably wrong. But I did agree with them on the importance of fathers and on the need for self reliance, a strong military and foreign-policy realism. While I support government regulation of business, consumer standards and the environment, I was even willing to listen to conservative complaints about excessive red tape.

Thing is, I still hold more or less the same views, but I’m nobody’s idea of a conservative. I didn’t change, but the definition of conservative did. And that forces a realization:

With apologies to John F. Kennedy, Ich bin ein liberal.

That will, I know, bring howls of derision from conservatives. They’ll see it as a portentous announcement of a self-evident truth — like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar announcing that he is tall.

I get the joke, but the joke makes my point.

We live in a starkly bipolar political world. One is red or one is blue, one is right or one is left. But I’ve always resisted the idea that I had to choose a team and line up behind its talking points. I’ve always said no political philosophy has a monopoly on good ideas.

So I was never willing to call myself liberal. Or conservative. I liked the idea of weighing the facts and thinking a thing through for myself.

I was naïve, though. While I was holding out on a lonely island of principle, the middle space between the extremes shrank to nothing. Political identity became actual identity, and one was required to choose sides, like a kid in the slums forced to choose between rival street gangs, with conscientious objection not an option.

And the choice isn’t really a choice at all, because what used to be conservatism no longer is. When’s the last time you heard the right talk about the kinds of things — fatherhood, clear-eyed foreign policy — that once helped define it?

No, these days, being “conservative” means being angry and fearful at the loss of white prerogative. It means to embrace — or at the very least, tolerate, which is functionally the same thing — a new and brazen strain of white supremacy. It means to be dismissive and destructive of the norms of democratic governance. It means to willingly accept nonstop lies, intellectual vacuity and naked incompetence and pretend they are signs of stable genius. It means to be wholly in thrall to the Cult of Trump.

Small wonder GOP heavyweights like columnists George F. Will and Max Boot and campaign strategist Steve Schmidt have disavowed their party out of devotion to what conservatism used to be. Their moral courage makes neon obvious most Republicans’ lack thereof.

That said, one wonders if it will not turn out that these worthies are simply holding out on their own lonely island of principle, if conservatism’s headlong march toward fascism will not make them the ones who seem naïve 20 years down the line. But that’s their problem.

This column is about my problem, which I guess I’ve solved, though not without some regret for the days when I felt free to walk between political extremes and not declare myself. But in 2018, that’s an unaffordable luxury. In 2018, one of those extremes represents a danger as clear and present as any foreign adversary.

So yes, I am a liberal. Because I have, literally, no alternative.

Compare and Contrast — Musings on public speaking.

1863:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

1961:

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.

2018:

I have broken more Elton John records, he seems to have a lot of records. And I, by the way, I don’t have a musical instrument. I don’t have a guitar or an organ. No organ. Elton has an organ. And lots of other people helping. No we’ve broken a lot of records. We’ve broken virtually every record. Because you know, look I only need this space. They need much more room. For basketball, for hockey and all of the sports, they need a lot of room. We don’t need it. We have people in that space. So we break all of these records. Really we do it without like, the musical instruments. This is the only musical: the mouth. And hopefully the brain attached to the mouth. Right? The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain. The brain is much more important.

Doonesbury — Wasting time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Thoughts On Rails

Miami’s traffic is legendary for being really terrible.  Every time there’s a ranking of the ten worst places for commuting, South Florida, which encompasses everything from Homestead to Palm Beach, comes out at or near the top… or the bottom.  So thanks to age and convenience, I have been riding the county’s Metro Rail system since last September.  Residents 65 and older get a free pass, and the nearest depot with covered parking ($11.25 a month) is six miles from my house.  The travel time is about the same: an hour from door to door, both directions.  It saves me about $100 a month in gas and untold stress on me and the car.

Being a creature of habit, I ride the same train every morning and I usually sit in the same place; a seat that puts me right at the exit to get off and get to the Metro Mover, the mini-train that passes by my office’s front door.  I see the same people riding the train with me, and I’ve even made a couple of friends who share the commute with me.  They’re like me; mid-level employees who like to get to work early or have a schedule that gets them out early, and we take the inevitable disruptions to the train service — the cars on Metro Rail date back to 1984 and the new ones are being rolled out slowly — in stride.

I also see a lot of blue-collar workers.  There’s a lot of construction going on in downtown Miami and the train usually has a variety of men and women dressed for labor; hard hats, heavy boots, and equipment, and they’re of all ages; ranging from their twenties up to (I’m guessing) their fifties.

At 5:00 a.m. it’s a quiet ride.  Most of us are either dozing or looking at their phones, some listening with earbuds, and the only sound is the rattle of the train and the scratchy P.A. “Green Line — Palmetto” as the doors open.

There are cracks and flaws in the system.  Metro Rail was intended to cover a lot more of the county, including a line out to Miami Beach and back.  But it was halted about half-way and plans to continue or finish it have stalled.  The only new service in the last ten years was the addition of the Orange Line out to Miami International Airport.  The funds initially set aside to expand it and improve it were spent on other things, and as I noted, the replacement cars — I’ve actually ridden one — are few and far between as they are being tested and certified.  So, as one of my fellow commuters noted the other day, we’re moving really slowly to get someplace fast.

But it beats sitting in the middle of U.S. 1 and taking an hour and a half to go seventeen miles.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Monday, November 9, 2015

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Sad Music Note

South Florida has a lot going for it in terms of cultural expression: good museums, a lot of theatre, and a lot of places to see and hear art and artists.  We have a Design District, an area called Wynwood that is part of the Art Basel events, and a new performing arts center that includes a concert hall, ballet stage, and a theatre big enough to stage opera and host national tours of Broadway musicals.  We’re not exactly Lincoln Center, but we do all right.  But what it can’t seem to hold on to is a classical music radio station.

About fifteen years ago the commercial classical station WTMI was sold off to a “dance” music format which was basically endless nightclub noise.  Those of us who like a little Mozart or Copland with our day had to do without.  Then in 2007 a Christian non-commercial station was sold and switched over to be a repeater for the Classical 24 format put out by Minnesota Public Radio and PRI, and classical music was back on the air calling itself Classical South Florida.  It was not a station in the sense that it had live DJ’s here in Miami or Fort Lauderdale sitting in a studio and playing the music.  Frankly, that style of radio went off the air years ago in favor of packaged satellite formats covering everything from rap to oldies.  But it was classical music (albeit a limited variety; lots of the same warhorses played over and over), and it made a nice contrast to the noise on the FM band.

Now the word has come down that Classical South Florida will end its run tomorrow and revert to the “Christian music” format.  (I have always thought that “Christian music” has been an oxymoron since the end of the 19th Century, but that’s just me. YMMV.)

I’m sorry to see it go.  I was an early supporter of the station and it provided a touch of class even if it was just a repeater.  Its demise also adds to the myth that classical music can’t make it as a broadcast format.  I’ve lived in cities and towns big and small, and everywhere else, including Denver, Albuquerque, and Petoskey, classical music was available either through commercial or non-profit outlets.  It works if it’s done right: with local people who know their music and care about what their audience likes to hear.  Perhaps that’s one reason this latest effort failed; you can only hear Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks so many times.

Fortunately there are outlets available to me via the internet, and while my cars are still mired in 20th century technology, I can listen to Interlochen Public Radio at work and at home, and the stylings of jazz station WDNA.  But it’s sad that once again South Florida shows that when it comes to class, we have a lack of it sometimes.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Marco Rubio’s Driving Record

Marco Rubio likes to portray him as someone who’s just like the rest of us.  Well, here in Miami, he’s doing a bang-up job, so to speak, of being like a lot of the drivers in Miami.  And his wife is even worse.

According to a search of the Miami-Dade and Duval County court dockets, the Rubios have been cited for numerous infractions over the years for incidents that included speeding, driving through red lights and careless driving. A review of records dating back to 1997 shows that the couple had a combined 17 citations: Mr. Rubio with four and his wife with 13. On four separate occasions they agreed to attend remedial driving school after a violation.

[…]

The Rubios have spent more than $1,000 paying traffic penalties over the years, but after Mr. Rubio was elected to the Senate in 2010 they took a different approach to handling their tickets.

Mr. Rubio hired Mr. Hanna, a Miami-based lawyer and donor, whose website sales pitch says, “Have you received a traffic ticket? Don’t pay it.” With Mr. Hanna’s help, Mr. Rubio’s last two citations were dismissed and seven of Ms. Rubio’s last eight were cleared.

I can disagree with Sen. Rubio on a lot of his policies and his views on how this country should be run and still respect him, but it’s stories like this and the “rules are for the little people” attitude that prove that he’s just a dick.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Summer and Schvitz

ANTIQUE_FAN_1_734_800South Florida has two seasons: wet and dry.  The astronomical calendar has summer starting around the 21st of June.  Here the wet season starts about Memorial Day, followed soon thereafter by the start of the hurricane season, which lasts until the end of November.  The air temperature doesn’t vary a lot: it can be 90 in January and in July.  The difference is the moisture: not just the rains that come on a regular basis between May and November, but the humidity.  It keeps the orchids happy, but it can be trying if you want to keep your clothes from getting soaked by your own perspiration.

I’ve lived in temperate climates of northern Michigan, alpine climates such as the Rockies, the desert of New Mexico, and in between.  I appreciate them all: snowfall in Michigan is beautiful, the mountains are magnificent, and the colors of a New Mexico sunset are beyond belief.  But I like it here, too, and I don’t mind a little schvitz as long as the hurricanes go someplace else, preferably out over the Atlantic.  And you don’t have to shovel the heat.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Marriage Equality Comes to Miami-Dade County

From the Tampa Bay Times with reporting by Patricia Mazzei and Steve Rothaus, Miami Herald:

Gay Marriage Miami-Dade 01-05-15

Miami-Dade County became the first place in Florida to allow same-sex couples to marry on Monday, half a day before a gay-marriage ban that has been ruled unconstitutional is lifted in the rest of the state.

Weddings began around 1:30 p.m., less than three hours after Circuit Judge Sarah Zabel lifted the legal stay she had placed on her sweeping July decision declaring the ban discriminatory.

Two of the six couples who had sued — Catherina Pareto and Karla Arguello of Coconut Grove, and Jeff and Todd Delmay of Hollywood — were the first to be married, by Zabel herself.

The couples exchanged rings surrounded by family, friends and a pack of television crews at downtown Miami’s historic civil courthouse following Zabel’s 11 a.m. ruling.

“In the big picture, does it really matter whether or not I lift the stay or leave it until tomorrow?” Zabel said from the bench. “I’m lifting the stay.”

The elected clerk of courts, Harvey Ruvin, at first said same-sex marriages would begin at 2 p.m. But once his office received a signed copy of Zabel’s two-page order at noon, he let couples could apply for marriage licenses immediately.

“All of our offices are now fully prepared to follow the judge’s order, and everyone will be treated equally,” said Ruvin, a Democrat in a nonpartisan post.

Same-sex couples are now be able to marry in 36 states and Washington, D.C. The ruling also means gay marriages performed outside Florida will be recognized in Miami-Dade.

Cheers erupted in the courthouse with Zabel’s decision. Some of the couples who were plaintiffs in the case cried tears of joy. Outside, surrounded by a throng of reporters and photographers, they held hands and raised their arms in victory.

“I feel good. I am relieved. I feel vindicated,” said Pareto, of Coconut Grove. She and her partner of more than 14 years, Arguello, arrived in cream-colored dresses, ready to get hitched. They were the first couple to obtain a marriage license Monday.

“Finally,” Arguello said. “Finally, our family will not be treated any differently.”

Outside of Miami-Dade, most Florida court clerks will start marrying gay couples Tuesday — some of them at 12:01 a.m. — following a federal judge’s order. Several counties in conservative North Florida have stopped marrying people in their offices, in part to avoid marrying same-sex couples, although they will still have to issue marriage licenses.

U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle of Tallahassee declared the state ban unconstitutional in August, but stayed his decision through Monday to give some time for legal appeals. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican, sought extensions of the stay from the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, but both turned her down.

The ban was approved in by 62 percent of Florida voters in 2008 as part of Amendment 2, an initiative organized by the Orlando-based Florida Family Policy Council.

In a statement issued Monday, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops said it was “deeply disappointed” by Hinkle’s decision and by the appeals courts’ refusal to grant Bondi an extension.

“Marriage based on the complementarity of the sexes is the lifeblood of family, and family is the foundation of our society,” the bishops said. “The crisis that sadly the family is experiencing today will only be aggravated by imposing this redefinition of marriage. Society must rediscover the irreplaceable roles of both mother and father who bring unique gifts to the education and rearing of children.”

Last year, Zabel was the second state judge — after Judge Luis Garcia in the Florida Keys — to overturn a 2008 voter-approved amendment to Florida’s Constitution that required marriages to be between a man and a woman. In all, four South Florida judges sided with same-sex couples who either sought to marry or divorce, or to have the state recognize their out-of-state marriage. The other two judges hailed from Broward and Palm Beach counties.

In the Keys, Judge Garcia vacated his stay Monday afternoon, but made the order effective at midnight, which means same-sex couples will be able to marry there beginning at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. Monroe County Clerk Amy Heavilin’s office plans to open at that time to marry 100 couples. First in line will be Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones of Key West, who filed the case that prompted Garcia’s ruling.

Broward Clerk Howard Forman also plans to grant licenses beginning at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale, with a mass wedding scheduled for 3 a.m.

Zabel ruled in favor of six same-sex couples from Miami-Dade and Broward, and the LGBT-rights group Equality Florida Institute, who sued last Jan. 21. They were the first plaintiffs to challenge Florida’s ban in court.

On Monday, Zabel kept her decision short: “The Clerk of the Court is hereby authorized to issue marriage licenses forthwith to prospective spouses of the same gender,” she wrote.

In addition to Pareto and Arguello and the Delmays, the other plaintiff couples were Jorge Isaias Diaz and Don Price Johnston of Miami; Dr. Juan Carlos Rodriguez and David Price of Davie; Vanessa and Melanie Alenier of Hollywood; Summer Greene and Pamela Faerber of Plantation.

Pareto’s and Arguello’s mothers, who accompanied their daughters to Monday’s hearing, later stood on chairs to see over the crowd as their daughters signed their marriage license.

Ruvin’s office had no time Monday to print new license applications, so Pareto signed as “groom” and Arguello as “bride.”

“Take lots of pictures,” said Marlene Pareto, who was tearing up. “My daughter looks prettier today than ever.”

Miami Herald staff writers Audra D.S. Burch and Carli Teproff contributed to this report.

I once said I thought Florida would be the last state to grant equal rights to everyone.  Once again, I am very happy to be very wrong.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Artists Jam

For the second time this weekend, protestors in Miami blocked traffic on a major highway. Via Tim Elfrink at Miami New Times:

For downtown-area commuters, the peak weekend of Art Basel is ending this afternoon much like it began: With 195 shut in both directions by protesters participating in the #shutitdown movement against police violence.

The protesters marched from Wynwood onto the highway around 5 p.m. This time, police had apparently already blocked off traffic before the protesters arrived.

The protests are fueled by the lack of indictments in the police killings of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York, as well as local cases like the death of Israel “Reefa” Hernandez, a teenage graffiti artist, at the hands of Miami Beach police.

The Miami rallies have echoed similar moves in NYC, St. Louis and elsewhere to shut down local highways.

On Friday, traffic snarled for miles in both directions as evening commuters and those trying to get to and from Art Basel events were halted by the action.

Today’s protests look to be smaller in number, but no less disruptive to highway traffic.

There are pictures of the demonstration at the link above.

Interstate 195 is one of the major links to Miami Beach from the mainland; part of it is the Julia Tuttle Causeway, and it is always bumper-to-bumper during rush hour even without Art Basel or public displays of anger.  Therefore I’m not too sure if the people got their point across without pissing off a lot of people miles away who had no idea why they were inching along I-95 from U.S. 1 to the Golden Glades.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Miami-Dade Bans Trans Discrimination

Via WPLG-TV:

After a four-hour public hearing Tuesday and months of debate, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted 8-3 to add protections for transgender people to its four-decade old Human Rights Ordinance. The move extends legal protections prohibit discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment based on gender identity or gender expression.

[…]

Opposition groups, mostly from the religious right, launched a campaign to squash the ordinance that included scare-tactic fliers and accusations that Communists supported the amendment.

The opponents had to be grasping for straws if they had to whip out the old Commies-are-for-it trope.  It isn’t 1950 anymore.

Needless to say, good for the county commission.