Saturday, January 11, 2014

Florida, WTF?

I've been compiling a list of items I titled WTF, Florida? It's been sitting around waiting for me to do something with it for months, so many of the examples (see below) will be familiar by now. But one last bit of Florida infamy from last night's All In with Chris Hayes show finally got me to post it.

Hayes held a "tournament of corruption" comparing New Jersey, Florida, Louisiana, and Illinois. Each state was endorsed and described by a hometown journalist, politician, or activist.

Florida congressman Alan Grayson won the bout, in my opinion, with the number of corruption charges (one a week for the past 12 years!) and particularly for his final words. After Hayes pointed out that Florida is not traditionally thought of as a machine politics state, where an almost feudal lord controls his turf with carrots and sticks, Grayson responded:

Well, at the state level it's a one-party system, and the Republican party is hopelessly corrupt. They handed out credit cards to all their top officials. Corporation contributions to the Republican Party of Florida ended up paying for personal expenses, including, for instance, a back waxing for Senator Rubio. And I can give you countless other examples. And none of this ever gets punished. The reason why you don't think of Florida is because so much of it never gets punished.

Why is that? It's because the Ethics Committee is appointed by the governor, so of course they're not going to do anything to the governor. The Ethics Committee isn't even allowed to bring any charges or perform independent investigations. And if a citizen brings a charge of corruption against a public official in the State of Florida and can't prove it by clear and convincing evidence, the citizen, the informant, has to pay the attorney's fees for the official.

Florida, I will never live in you. I have no idea why so many people are moving to your soggy flatlands, impaired by hurricanes and humidity. Your vile politics and hatred of your own citizens increase my mystification.

Here's my list of examples:

Stand your ground law

Florida passed the first stand your ground law, expanding the right of people to shoot others if they in any way feel threatened, anywhere. That's bad enough, but the law has a racially disparate impact. How stand your ground helps white defendants.

The state's gun permit class takes four hours. Most of the topics covered relate to the gray areas of the stand your ground law, as if prepping gun owners on how to shoot first and ask questions later.

Trayvon Martin. No explanation needed.

Jordan Davis, another black teen-aged boy, in this case shot in Jacksonville by a middle-aged white guy outside a convenience store.

Marissa Alexander, a black woman who in the past had been abused by her husband, shot a gun into the ceiling in self defense (no one was injured) but couldn't get acquitted based on stand your ground.

Criminal justice generally

Did you hear the story of the boy with the puppy? He was holding it while at a beach when cops confronted him because he was rough housing. They put him in a choke hold because he "clenched his fists" and gave them "dehumanizing stares."

Then there was the high school girl, Kiera Wilmot, who was expelled and charged with a crime for a science project involving a soda bottle and household chemicals. (She was later cleared and reinstated.)

Oh, and this: Florida's plan to make it easier to execute its inmates.

Such as the recent time when they executed a clearly schizophrenic man.

Voting rights

Florida is fond of purging its voter roles. Large numbers of legitimate voters received notices requiring them to prove they had the right to vote. The action was disallowed by a court, but then reinstated after Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was knocked out by the Supreme Court.

More than 200,000 people were turned away from voting in 2012 because of long lines and other problems.

Miscellaneous crapitude

With inspiration from ALEC, the legislature and governor have preemptively stopped an increase in the minimum wage and prevented paid sick leave for workers.

If you haven't watched the documentary the Queen of Versailles give it a look. It's about time-share mogul David Siegel, who is married to Jackie Siegel. Their extravagant, tacky lifestyle took a hit during the crash. Siegel, who made millions by (in my opinion) swindling people out of their money in exchange for dubious access to extremely part-time housing, is also known for trying to coerce his employees into voting for Romney.

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