The state with the prettiest name already thwarting felony restoration amendment

When Floridians by a sixty-five percent margin voted on an amendment in November automatically restoring voting rights to hundreds of thousands of former felons, I hope they foresaw the catastrophe. No way would the Florida GOP allow almost a million former felons, most of whom are people of color, back on the voting rolls without a fight. The adverb in my first sentence matters; the amendment was, unusually, crystalline in word and intent, mandating an automatic restoration.

To Governor-elect Ron DeSantis and his colleagues, however, “automatic” is a point of view. At an elections conference a couple weeks ago, the state said it has, according to the Tampa Bay Times, “stopped transmitting documents counties use to remove convicted felons from the rolls.” Legislators need more time. Indeed, DeSantis has already said he wants the legislature to write “implementing rules,” which means a two-month delay until the session opens in March. Election supervisors are fuming:

All this talk about the legislature is baffling to elections supervisors and civil rights groups, who say the amendment was designed to be self-executing. The state Supreme Court unanimously approved the amendment’s language as clear and specific, saying voters could understand that the point was to “automatically” restore the affected population’s voting rights.

“I don’t think you need the legislature,” Manatee County election supervisor Mike Bennett told TPM.

A self-described “strong Republican” who tried to enact felon rights restoration during his 12 years in the state Senate, Bennett called himself an “advocate” for Amendment 4. As Bennett noted, the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee won’t have its first meeting until March, and any proposed measures will then have to pass the House, the Senate, and be approved by DeSantis.

“That process will take more time whereas if the secretary of state’s office handled it and came up with the definitions and clarifications, they could do it much faster,” he said.

Without uniformity and guidance, the possibility exists that men and women who show up to vote will, ye gods, fall into the GOP trap of committing voter fraud:

“On January 8 people are going to be coming to my office trying to register to vote,” Bennett said. “And I want them to be able to register to vote but I don’t want them to commit another crime accidentally.”

For the percentage of my readers who believe in the new federalism, the results look inevitable: counties with Democratic mayors will move quickly to answer the will of voters, while counties with Republican ones will stop short of outright defiance. Advocates of the new Confederacy will always find support.

The president’s disgust with people of color

“Florida recount” inspires more grins than “Frank Drebin, Police Squad,” but if the results hold I expect Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott to triumph, thanks to a campaign cycle marked by demagoguery and chicanery. They will owe their support in some measure to the Cuban vote, which remains intransigent despite the steady accumulation of tombstones at Caballero Rivero Woodlawn North:

Miami communications strategist Giancarlo Sopo, himself a Cuban-American, looked at Miami-Dade’s most Cuban precincts. He found DeSantis won twice as many votes as Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum did in those enclaves: 66 percent to 33 percent.

That’s a difference of more than 160,000 votes – far more than the shrinking statewide advantage DeSantis has held since election night. The governor’s race will probably go to a recount now because less than half a percentage point separates DeSantis and Gillum.

A Telemundo poll taken the week before elections showed, guess what, that sixty-four percent of the Cuban Americans polled supported DeSantis. Not a surprise. Gillum, black and socialist, never had a chance.

Now the president, refreshed after staying in from the wet French rain, went on his morning Twitter constitutional. As reported by his faithful amanuensis Jonathan Swan of Axios, he wants to end federal Hurricane Maria aid to Puerto Rico:

More than $6 billion has been allocated to help aid storm recovery, but hundreds of thousands of people are still waiting for help, living in homes that are in desperate need of repair, according to The New York Times. The island’s leadership has said it needs billions more to rebuild, and in February said that it would cost at least $17 billion just to fix its beleaguered power grid.

 

Swan reported Sunday that Trump has even proposed demanding some of the money already allocated to relief back.

Swan is the fellow who acted as Trump’s errand boy when the president suggested changes to the Fourteenth Amendment that, were he alive, would have inspired Thaddeus Stevens to smother him to death with a toupee, therefore take a deep breath. But it’s a reminder of the president’s loathing for brown skinned people unless they’re supine like Cubans, who, I’ll remind readers, don’t consider themselves people of color and whom American immigration policy has considered white.

Fear and trolling in Florida, five days before Election Day

About a couple hundred miles northwest of Miami-Dade County, Estero is a municipality that gets lumped with Fort Myers. For me Estero is what I drive past on my way to Sanibel and Captiva islands, where my family has vacationed for decades. Lee County is a conservative bastion, home to snowbirds from the Midwest. The president addressed them last night.

But for all the criticism that Trump has received for his divisive rhetoric the last week — telling CNN to blame itself for being targeted with a bomb and suggesting that the Tree of Life synagogue would have been better off had it had armed security — his supporters felt like Trump is leading the country in the right direction, and that it’s Trump and his supporters who are being attacked.

 

“The crazy lefties want to make us afraid to show our opinion,” Jeff Augustine, dressed in a light blue colonial costume, said as he passed out palm cards urging Republicans to wear their Make America Great Again gear on “MAGA Day” this Saturday. “Don’t be afraid to express your opinions. The violent left wants to make you afraid.”

Augustine, 34, says he’s voting Republican on Election Day in St. Petersburg. Gilfedder will do the same.

 

“Trump is what I’m all about in the elections. He needs help, people that are on his team,” said Gilfedder, who’s not enamored with DeSantis but says he will support him anyway. “He’s Republican. He supports Trump and that’s enough for me.”

Ron DeSantis, the non-racist who happens to speak at conferences where racists gather, promised that a vote for him is a vote for a governor who can get the federal resources “to clean our water and clean our rivers and protect our way of life.”

A fascinating choice of words. Exactly three months ago we canceled a Sanibel vacation because the red tide menace had strengthened; only now has the algae on the east coast started to dissipate, thanks to cooler weather, not the state response. In the hurricane-ravaged Panhandle, a homeless problem grows, FEMA drags its feet.

But five days before an election facts don’t matter anymore if they ever did. Keeping the base motivated matters, even when the base is a vise around your neck.

The state with the prettiest name: October update

“We’ve lost our self-respect,” said the woman to the Publix cashier on Sunday in Cuban Spanish. “Sooner rather than later we’re going to deal with socialism.” Who “we” was is unclear: Floridians? Cubans? Americans? All of them, like as not. The robust paranoia of the Cuban exile mind specializes in the collapsing of referents.  Continue reading

Length /= Proof

So, I’m a partisan, but I’m trying to figure out what crime Andrew Gillum committed by accepting Hamilton tickets from an FBI agent other than possibly lying about where he got them? What quid pro quo happened? The POLITICO story, naturally, buries the lead twenty-five paragraphs down with a quote from a federal prosecutor:

Zimet said the acceptance of gifts by Gillum is “probably not” a federal “theft of honest services” crime “if there’s not some quid pro quo attached to it,” and a quid pro quo can either be a vote “or a promise to do something that gets you closer to criminality.”

The Tallahassee Democrat‘s story, detailing evenings of booze, trips to Costa Rica, and rooms at the Millennium Hotel, is more thorough, but all I get from this document dump is how, to quote the story, lobbyist Adam Corey, under FBI investigation, “assisted Gillum in positioning himself for a run at statewide office.” The story’s length adduces its seriousness.

It’s the kind of political reporting that drives me bonkers: narrative without analysis, reminiscent of the direst of 2016 coverage.

Rick Scott and vote suppression

Image

Now that Governor Rick Scott has announced a Senate challenge to William Henry Harrison confidante Bill Nelson, his record as an opponent of voting rights should hand Florida Democrats a victory. The Miami Herald compiled a dandy list of Scott’s systemic efforts to rid himself of black and college-age voters:

▪ The state ordered Pinellas County in 2013 to stop the use of remote sites as a convenience for voters to submit mail ballots, but Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark defied the order and the state backed down.

▪ Scott’s Division of Elections blocked a request by the city of Gainesville to use the student union at UF as an early voting site in 2014, saying it was not a government-owned community center. The site was not used.

▪ Judge Walker in 2016 struck down a state law that rejected mail ballots if a voter’s signature on the ballot envelope did not match a signature on file. In a state with millions of older voters, the judge said the rule “categorically disenfranchised thousands of voters.” They can now update their signatures.

▪ Scott refused to extend the voter registration deadline in 2016 after ordering evacuations due to Hurricane Matthew. The Democratic Party filed suit and won a six-day extension.

The judge in that case also was Walker, who called Scott’s logic “poppycock” and said: “No right is more precious than having a voice in our elections.”

Pin these items on your fridge with magnets. Couple this fact sheet with the news yesterday that a federal judge declared grifter/Kansas secretary of State Kris Kobach in contempt of court and I can feel the ground shifting as far as public awareness goes about this longterm GOP project to disenfranchise.

Florida’s ‘nonsensical’ disenfranchisement of felons dealt a blow

A throwback to post-Reconstruction ideas about what to do with menacing black felons completing their sentences and voting against the racist system and to shopworn twaddle about recidivism, Florida remains one of three states where felons have to beg to have their rights restored before a clemency board. A federal judge has set this notion on fire:

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said the Florida “scheme” unfairly relies on the personal support of the governor for citizens to regain the right to vote. In a strongly worded ruling, he called the state’s defense of voter disenfranchisement “nonsensical,” a withering criticism directed at Gov. Rick Scott, the lead defendant in the case.

“Florida strips the right to vote from every man and woman who commits a felony,” Walker wrote. “To vote again, disenfranchised citizens must kowtow before a panel of high-level government officials over which Florida’s governor has absolute veto authority. No standards guide the panel. Its members alone must be satisfied that these citizens deserve restoration. … The question now is whether such a system passes constitutional muster. It does not.”

It’s not all. As the article reminds readers, Floridians will vote on a ballot measure this November whose approval will automatically restore the voting rights of more than a million felons.

As for losing defendant Rick Scott, the governor will likely run for Bill Nelson’s Senate seat.

Hurricane Irma’s highest body count

While I’ve been posting about missing cable and internet and running out of James Salter novels to read, seniors are dying from heat exhaustion. In Hollywood Hills about twenty miles north of me, Hurricane Irma claimed her highest death toll. And in what kind of facility were these seniors?

The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills has a health inspection rating of “much below average” by the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration, which evaluates all long-term care facilities in the state for the U.S. government. The facility’s “overall rating,” which includes staffing, fire safety and health inspections, was was listed as “below average.”

The nursing home is owned by Larkin Community Hospital, which has a long history of running afoul of healthcare regulators. In 2006, the U.S. Justice Department fined Larkin and its owners $15.4 million in a settlement of a civil fraud complaint. The litigation named Jack Michel, a doctor who is listed in Florida healthcare records as an officer and board member of the nursing home with a controlling interest.

Florida is ripe fruit for charlatans and grifters. Besides its history as swampland requiring drainage and several hundred million in execrable real estate investments, the state also boasts a large senior population who no longer have a Claude Pepper in Congress to watch over their interests. Our governor, who has, I must admit, projected fortitude and command for the last ten days, ran a company responsible for the largest Medicaid fraud case in American history.

Rick Scott’s personal relationships

Four hours after my family fun vehicle drove past the intersection of the Florida Turnpike and Interstate 595, the former closed after another lone gunman who understands how the Supreme Court has interpreted the Second Amendment shot at least five people dead at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Several hours later, my twice elected governor held a press conference, in which he reassured a rather gobmsacked reporting crew that he was in constant touch with the person who doesn’t lead the executive branch yet. :

A reporter later asked, “Wouldn’t it be appropriate to call the president for resources?”

“I have a personal relationship with Vice President Pence and President-elect Trump, and I reached out,” Scott said.

Twice he omitted the crucial suffix and called Pence “vice president.”

The press frets about the Disruption of Norms but laments why we don’t live in a bipartisan era. We don’t because the GOP believes in capping the motherfucker while he’s sleeping in bed rather than negotiate.

Florida — the state with the prettiest name, part #678

FL_Slime

As the Donald Trump candidacy has adulterated political discourse, so have Florida’s waterways become more toxic thanks to the Southeast’s biggest Trumpist, our governor Rick Scott:

We’ve got 450 tons of phosphorus a year flowing into Lake Okeechobee from farms, ranches, citrus groves and the Orlando suburbs. And, boosted by global warming, vibrio vulnificus, AKA “flesh-eating bacteria,” menaces swimmers in brackish coastal waters, especially when fresh-water releases (like from Lake Okeechobee), mess up the salt-water ratio. The bacterial infection killed 14 Floridians in 2015 and 5 so far in 2016.

The ERC voted 3-2 on July 26 to adopt new standards that include rules for 39 chemicals that had not been previously regulated. But the board, despite outraged public opposition, simultaneously loosened regs on the long list of other chemicals, essentially allowing state waterways to be used as an industrial sewer. “I have never seen so much public opposition to an ERC decision in the 25 years that I have been participating in ERC meetings,” said Linda Young, director of the Florida Clean Water Network.

Two members short because Scott wants to control any outcome, the Environmental Regulations Committee is rattled around in the pockets of Big Sugar like a half dozen pennies. But the voters of Florida won’t have to wait until January 2016 to suffer the consequences of a state government beholden to lobbyists. Forget Republicans: it’s malfeasance like this that puts the lie to libertarianism.

Rising sea levels: worse than expected

lol oops: <blockquoteThe number of people threatened by rising seas fueled by climate change in the U.S. could be three times greater than previously estimated, with more than six million Floridians at risk under a worst-case scenario, according to a study published Monday.

For the first time, a team of researchers looked at ongoing population growth in areas where the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has created flood maps that more accurately reflect local conditions. What they found was startling: projections that failed to factor in population growth in dense states like Florida hugely underestimated the number of people at risk and the cost of protecting them…

…Using the most conservative estimate of sea rise — three feet by 2100 — the team found that 4.3 million people are projected to live in coastal areas across the country expected to flood. Floridians account for 1.2 million. Using a higher estimate of six feet by 2100 — a number scientists increasingly say could be more likely given the faster melting of polar ice — the number of people triples to 13.1 million, with nearly half living in Florida. South Floridians account for a quarter of the statewide estimate, the authors said

I laugh because the news is horrendous. What else is there to do? Meanwhile condos keep rising on West Avenue in Miami Beach and in Brickell. The infrastructure can’t support the flood waters and cities like Miami Beach will spend $400 and $500 million on pumps when (a) the pumps have thus far proven useless during king tides (b) I can imagine $500 million in damages to one condo complex in wealthy Aventura.

No way out of this one, folks.