Sunday, August 31, 2014

Walking Into September With a Lot On My Mind

September starts tomorrow.

We should already be working on getting Charlie Crist getting the votes to win the governor's race this November.

We should be, here in Florida and across the nation, working to get everyone voting this November.  No more of these "below-50-percent" turnouts, people.  I'm sick of it, and you should be too.  The low turnouts are why the wrong candidates keep winning...  We need the best candidates winning (psst, vote for Charlie Crist for Governor)!  And we can ensure that by getting more, not fewer, voters turning out... because fewer voters means only the single-issue wingnuts are voting, while more voters means there are more issue-oriented moderate voters, whom I trust are sane enough to know to vote for an experienced elected official with a decent track record of respecting the state over an unethical corrupt business owner who's only in office to service his own needs.

Also, vote for Marihelen Wheeler for the Florida 3rd District (because the Republican incumbent in that district wanted to crash our economy during the Long October)!  And vote for Michael McKenna for the Florida 10th District (because the 10th District is one of the two gerrymandered districts the GOP crafted to favor their own, and dammit that earns them a nice F-U for their BS maneuver)!

In fact, just kinda DON'T VOTE REPUBLICAN at all this 2014 midterms, people.  The Republican Party wants to kill all government, which is really killing the whole nation.  So kick the Republicans out of office, since they don't respect their jobs and they sure as hell don't respect us the voters.

Get to work this September, voters.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Real Voter Scandal Continues: The Turnout Sucks, Florida 2014 Primary Edition

(update: hello to the people linking in via Crooks and Liars.  Thank you Batocchico for the promotion! please check out the other recent articles while you're here...)

So here we are in Florida, 2014, everyone in the state knows what is at stake - GET RICK "NO ETHICS" SCOTT OUT OF OFFICE - and we get our August Primary up and everything.  And there are actual choices for both major parties this primary: Democrats choosing between Crist or Rich; Republicans choosing between Scott (augh), Cuevas-Neunder, or someone named Yinka. (slow pause)  Yeah, well, anyway, there's every reason to think that with choices to be made for the big state-wide vote, we'd see a large number of voters showing up.  We've got 11 million-plus registered to vote, and although the NPA voters couldn't vote in the party primaries we've still got 8 million or so Republicans and Democrats on file available to make their choices known.

And what happens with the voter turnout?

We've have rat farts that made a bigger impact on things.

(copied from the Tampa Bay Times)

Governor - GOP Primary
5802 of 5804 Precincts Reporting - 99%
NamePartyVotesVote %
Scott, Rick (i)GOP833,58588%
Cuevas-Neunder, ElizabethGOP100,58511%
Adeshina, YinkaGOP16,8802%
Governor - Dem Primary
5802 of 5804 Precincts Reporting - 99%
NamePartyVotesVote %
Crist, CharlieDem620,68974%
Rich, NanDem214,11126%

According to the state's Supervisor of Elections page, there's 4,152,489 Republicans, 4,608,759 Democrats (with NPA and third parties at 3,083,202).  I'm counting less than a million voters turning out for Republicans, waaaay less voters turning out for Democrats.  Less than a million for each party.  That's less than 25 percent (a quarter) of registered voters this Primary.  Our turnout didn't even get to the 39 percent failure I railed about in the FL-13 Special election a few months back.

WE ARE NOWHERE NEAR EITHER PARTY MAKING A MAJORITY DECISION ON WHO THEY WANT AS THEIR CANDIDATES.  We are nowhere near a 50 percent of voter turnout, where a solid majority of fellow Floridians can stand up and say "hey, this is who we want representing our interests!"

To hell with the screeching over "voter fraud" (which happens on such a meager scale - less than a percent - to be non-existent), the real screeching needs to be over the FAILURE of registered voters to actually show up and f-cking vote.

Because this is what happens when those registered voters don't show up: their interests will not be addressed.  Their real-world needs such as good jobs at good wages, working schools, functioning roads and bridges, clean water, affordable housing and utility bills... none of that will be properly addressed because we'll end up with elected officials who KNOW that a majority of Floridians didn't even care enough to show up.  Those officials know all they have to do is indulge the voters who DO show up, who always show up regardless, and they'll be able to keep their comfy, full-pension-in-4-years jobs.

And the voters who DO show up?!  They're the wingnuts.  The extremists.  The single-issue crazies obsessing over hating gays, worshiping guns, shooting doctors, and nuking the social safety nets like Medicare Social Security and Medicaid.  This is why abortion remains a major campaign issue even when a majority of Americans don't even consider abortion a Top 10 Topic: it's still red meat for the extremist voters, and the politicians know who they have to pander to.

It may be so easy for a majority of citizens to tune out, to disengage, to walk away from politics because of all the negativity and social warfare (some of it literal).  But that disengagement has a price: OUR NEEDS AS A STATE AND AS COMMUNITIES SUFFER.  They suffer because the needs of the minority (by number, not ethnicity) extremists will be sated at the expense of the many.

Worse, the minority group getting the special treatment above all others tend to be the uber-rich billionaires making themselves richer by getting their cronies they elected to hand over more and more tax breaks and free access to our public funds.  And then people wonder why income inequality has become a huge problem: IT'S BECAUSE YOU'RE LETTING THE CROOKS WIN RE-ELECTION.

This is frustrating.  This is insane.

It ought to be illegal.  There ought to be a rule making damn sure no election is certified until a solid majority (I'd love for it to be 60 percent super-majority) of voters available for that election have placed their ballots for counting.  And if that means extending the voting times, so be it (and have the parties PAY for those extensions: it'd be a good way to force them to get better at GOTV efforts).  If people don't like the choices being offered, every election - even the closed party primaries - ought to have a blank space to add a write-in vote.

WE OUGHT TO HAVE OUR ELECTIONS BE BUSINESS AND SCHOOL HOLIDAYS TO GIVE PEOPLE ENOUGH FREE TIME TO SHOW UP AND VOTE (most people don't even realize they have a right to leave work for an hour to go vote, and because they work during election hours few of them even make the effort).  We ought to move elections to Fridays or Saturdays, on weekends: this isn't 1880 when people had to travel during business hours to the county courthouse to file their ballots while they conduct business in-town.

We can do these things: except we can't.  BECAUSE BOTH MAJOR PARTIES PROFIT FROM THE BROKEN ELECTORAL SYSTEM.  Yes, even Democrats.

I remember from a political science class back in college where two professors discussed how political parties figured out a rule: that the fewer people who showed up to vote, the EASIER it got to control that election's results.  Because the ones who always turned up were the single-issue wingnuts, and those were easy to manipulate and control.  If voter turnout grows, the number of more moderate, more complex-thinking voters who can't fit within the square pegs increases to where the campaigns can't dictate the results (which really scares them, 'cause they hate to get off-message).  I'd love to remember what the name of that rule was: I did not write it down then because it was tangent to another topic discussed that class.

And so, nothing will get done.  At least, not by the parties' separate leaderships.

If anything is going to fix this, it's going to have to be from the voters ourselves.  WE NEED TO SHOW UP AND VOTE.  We need to make our voices heard.  We need to get state amendments on-ballot to reform our broken electoral system.  We need to get 8 million voters showing up for Primaries.  We need to get 11 million voters showing up for the General Election.

We need to wake up, and we need to get in the faces of the status quo a-holes running our political parties into the ground.  They need to respect the voters better, and that means showing up and making them aware we are not their puppets.

Dammit, Florida.  GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT.

P.S. just for the Love of God DO NOT VOTE FOR RICK "MEDICARE FRAUD" SCOTT.  I'm serious.  Rick Scott is not running for Governor to work for our state: Rick Scott is running to make money for Rick Scott.  That is all he represents.  Just PLEASE do not vote for him...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Liveblogging the Florida Primary 2014 (w/ UPDATES)

I'll be at work for most of the day and early evening, but by 8:30 PM or so I'll be updating this day's entry with current notices.  I'll be tracking the Governor candidates and any Polk/Tampa Bay oriented races.  Here's hoping a lot of Republicans are voting for the other two names on the ballot other than Rick "Medicare Fraud" Scott...  Keep an eye for updates please and thank ye, you seven blog readers. :)

So far just seeing online info on the local races in Pinellas County.  There's a boatload of Latvalas running for office over there.

Well dammit.  That was anti-climatic.  I just got home from work to watch on television as Nan Rich is conceding her race against Crist (currently winning 74 percent) while I'm seeing on the screen tracker that Rick "No Ethics" Scott is pummeling Cuevas-Neunder at 88 percent.  DAMMIT, REPUBLICANS, YOU HAD ONE CHANCE TO PROVE YOU STILL HAVE SOULS.  Instead you bought into Scott's snake-oil sales pitch AGAIN.  ...I dunno why I bother with you people...

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Get Out The Vote, Florida: Tuesday August 26th

The Early Voting is done here in Florida.  Now, the regular vote day is set.

Tuesday, August 26th.

Find your precinct.  It's on your voter ID card.

Find your ballot.  Everyone has one, even the No-Party-Affiliate voter (Yes, NPA voters: YOU CAN AND SHOULD TURN UP TO VOTE THIS TUESDAY).

If you're Democrat, you've got a major decision to make: vote for Charlie Crist to run as your candidate, or vote for Nan Rich.

If you're a Republican, you've got a major decision to make: to NEVER VOTE FOR A CROOK LIKE RICK SCOTT AND INSTEAD VOTE FOR ONE OF HIS PRIMARY CHALLENGERS.  I mean, okay, C'mom Republicans, show some goddamn sanity once in your lives and PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO NOT VOTE FOR THAT MEDICARE FRAUD.

I mean, it's been four years of this crook trying to pull stuff like this:

...But, in practice, the Scott administration has erected barriers to public records, marginalized the use of Sunburst and interpreted the state's Sunshine laws in a way that open government advocates say has set back the clock on Florida's open records tradition.
"They don't turn over anything unless they get caught,'' said Steve Andrews, a Tallahassee lawyer whose two-year legal battle over a property dispute with the state produced thousands of documents raising questions about many of the administration's practices.
Andrews spent 18 months getting copies of text messages that he was repeatedly told by the governor's staff did not exist. He is suing the governor's office for violating the state's public records laws, alleging the records he has received are incomplete and, in some cases, altered.
The governor acknowledged for the first time last week that he uses a private email account but issued a blanket denial that he uses it for public business. He also accused Andrews of harassment...
...Scott spokesman John Tupps said the governor's office "now discourages the use of text messaging by employees because text messages are hard to catalog due to the digital nature of the message."
But thousands of records obtained by Andrews and the Times/Herald indicate that the governor's staff may have violated that policy when dealing with communication about politically-sensitive information, or when lobbyists and well-positioned Republicans want to communicate with the governor's top advisers.
For example, when Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Herschel Vinyard met the governor and staff from the governor and attorney general's offices at the Governor's Mansion on a Sunday in February 2012, he arranged and discussed it with Scott's then-deputy chief of staff, Carrie O'Rourke, via text messages. Records show they were meeting to discuss, among other things, a potential settlement regarding the BP oil spill...

And that's just the stuff they reported last week.  He's been pulling more unethical stuff than that his entire term.

Please for the Love of GOD, Florida voters, make this his ONLY term in office.

There's a perfectly good conservative candidate in Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder sitting right there on the ballot, you Republicans can easily vote for her.  Granted, I'm registered NPA, plus I'm also voting for Crist (or Rich, depending on who wins the Democratic nomination) regardless this November partly because the GOP stranglehold on state-level politics is obscene.  But still, you all, WE ALL can do a hell of a lot better than having that Medicare-Fraud, accountability-avoiding, free-loading, cronyist rule-breaking SOB Scott on the general ballot this November.

PLEASE.  Vote anyone BUT Scott.  For the Love of GOD...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Reminder: Early Voting Still a Thing in Florida This Week

Early voting for the Florida primaries continues until August 23, so you got like today until this Saturday to get your voting done in case Tuesday August 26 is a busy day for you!

And also, if you're Republican voting in this primary cycle, can you do the state of Florida a teeny little favor and vote FOR Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder?  To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what she stands for, but her one big positive is that she's NOT RICK "MEDICARE FRAUD" SCOTT.

Scott is NOT the best candidate to represent any party.  He sure as hell shouldn't have won back in 2010, he sure as hell doesn't deserve it - look at all the messes and screw-ups of his administration! - today.  C'mon Republicans, show you've got SOME ethical accountability...

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

At What Point Can The Stupidity of Racism End?

(Update: Batocchio at Vagabond Scholar linked this blog to the 2014 Jon Swift Memorial Roundup.  Hi, everybody!  Please leave comments if you want, and if this is your first visit here, please take a look around.  Io Saturnalia and here's hoping the next year isn't going to be as sh-tty as this one...)

It's easier to express rage during a round of Twitter messages.  It's been more than a week since the shooting death of yet another unarmed black teen by an angry guy with a gun... only this time the angry guy with the gun was a cop.

I don't want to pity Mr. Ta-Nehisi Coates.  But every time there's been a shooting involving an unarmed black teen and an armed angry guy (usually white), he's been called to make comment:

...It will not do to point out the rarity of the destruction of your body by the people whom you pay to protect it. As Gene Demby has noted, destruction is merely the superlative form of a dominion whose prerogatives include friskings, detainings, beatings, and humiliations. All of this is common to black people. All of this is old for black people. No one is held accountable. The body of Michael Brown was left in the middle of the street for four hours. It can not be expected that anyone will be held accountable.
We are being told that Michael Brown attacked an armed man and tried to take his gun. The people who are telling us this hail from that universe where choke-holds are warm-fuzzies, where boys discard their Skittles yelling, "You're gonna die tonight," and possess the power to summon and banish shotguns from the ether. These are the necessary myths of our country, and without them we are subject to the awful specter of history, and that is just too much for us to bear.

And Coates has been called too often the last few years to this role as the Speaker To Unspoken History. It must be tiring.

What's been horrifying in the wake of Michael Brown's murder has been the combination of arrogance out of a police force over-reacting to the protests by the Ferguson community, and the willful eagerness of the racists (there is no other word to describe those people) who were and still are quick to demean, defame, and demonize the victim as well as the mostly black neighborhood in which he lived and died.  As that article by Steven Rosenfeld notes, "the victim becomes the suspect."

It came so easy to the haters on Twitter.  I lost count of the number of tweets calling Brown a "thug", and claiming the city and county police were in their rights to break up the street protests using any violent force available.  I saw about fifteen, maybe twenty different tweeters bringing up the argument about how all the "white-on-black" protesters keep ignoring the "black-on-black violence", despite the evidence that, yes, black communities ARE protesting such violence and it's just the haters and the mainstream media are the ones ignoring that issue in the first place.  And I'd like these critics to give some public time and effort decrying "white-on-white" crime please and thank you...

What's at argument here, what's at stake, is the ongoing problem where a powerful governmental agency - responsible towards serving and protecting the public - is abusing such power when dealing with the poor and disenfranchised public they're supposed to serve.  What's at stake here is as much the militarizing of our nation's varied law enforcement offices as much as the dehumanization of entire communities.  Where the police lining up with tear gas and body armor are calling their unarmed civilian targets "f-cking animals", less about how those protesters were acting - most of them just walking with their "hands up" calling "don't shoot" - and more about the skin those protesters wore.

The threat of racism among our law enforcement agencies has been and continues to be a serious problem.  The racism in our nation's history, and our nation's current psyche, continues to be a serious problem.

At what point, haters, at what point do you f-cking let go of all that hate in your heart?  At what point do you stop the fear, recognize that the problems with our communities come NOT from skin color but because people - white and black and brown - are poor?  At what point do you give up the f-cking obsession of some southern conservative pipe dream of returning to an 1850 "utopia" where everyone knew their place by the power of who held the whip?

I am serious.  Dear Ferguson PD: when your fan base is made up of the KKK (!) you are clearly on the wrong side of history.

This entire week has been an exercise in watching the police enforce the unenforceable - the outrage of a community - through violent militarized tactics that even actual military veterans decried as overkill.  (The quote that's stuck with me all week, and needs to be said here, from the Business Insider article: "We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone.")  At only one point had calmer heads prevailed: when after a violent police-instigated crackdown on Wednesday night during that first week went global on the news, it forced the state governor to order the local police to stand down and sent in state troopers to handle the crowds.  The state law officers went in that Thursday with bullhorns instead of batons, standard patrol uniforms instead of body armor, and hugs instead of tear gas.  That night saw little if any violence.

What the hell happened after that Thursday?  Other than the Ferguson PD coming back with accusations that Brown was wanted for shoplifting cigars at a local store, making another attempt at defaming the victim to justify the shooting.  An accusation that quickly developed holes when the store-owner revealed he never called in a theft, that the police never even showed up for the video until that same Friday, that the timeline and earlier testimony was that the shooting cop Darren Wilson couldn't even have known Brown might have been a suspect, and that a subsequent review of that video showed Brown actually tried paying for those cigars.

In the wake of all that, the Ferguson and county police went back to their heavy-handed body-armor arrest-all-reporters tactics.  Against all evidence that Soft Power efforts - engaging the protesters on an equal level - work, they went back to the violent confrontations.  The only reason why I can figure out is racism: the Ferguson police want this fight, they want to debase and demolish their own citizenry because they can't imagine handling the issue - them vs. the black community - any other way.

Is that racism ever going to go away?  Is that blind stupidity - pushing them to shoot tear gas at kids and families, most of them unable to avoid it all because they live there - ever going to go away?

We should be rolling lighter than this through our own communities.  What the hell is wrong with us?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Anniversary: Woodstock, Looking Back Again And For a Reason This Time

It is, yet again, August 16th and time to remember back to Woodstock.

Why?  Why so much nostalgia for a concert I never attended (I was born 1970, nine months later... and no, my parents were in Spain at the moment...)?

Because, as a student of history, the moment appeals to me.

Coming at the end of a turbulent decade - the 60s - the concert was a royal f-ck-up, a disorganized mess, the promoters just a bit overwhelmed by the scale of their initial attempt and ill-prepared for the turnout that showed up (eventually 400,000 to 500,000 people, practically a major city).  They didn't have enough food or water, not enough security, poorly planned parking and traffic (it is not exaggeration to say that the concert shut down the southern half of New York state traffic).

It didn't help the surrounding communities either to have 500,000 show up unexpected on their doorsteps.  Bethel NY in particular bore a huge brunt of the problems, primarily helping out with keeping hundreds of thousands of concert-goers fed.  God bless 'em though, the people who lived there helped:

And that's kinda why I think fondly of Woodstock: people were for the most part good.  Good to each other.  Sure, there may have been a handful of people overpricing stuff or ripping others off, but those seem so few and far between and I can't find a lot of evidence about that.

There were only two deaths out of 500,000 people: one a heroin overdose and the other an accident involving a runaway tractor.  Almost no major fights, at least nothing reported to the local hospitals.  And most of what the hospitals handled were broken bones and medical emergencies.

And the key thing, about it being the Sixties: the concert-goers and the local police got along.  We're talking about the turbulent protest era, over civil rights and against the Vietnam War, where nearly every major march ended up with cops in riot gear launching tear gas and swinging batons at the dirty hippies.  The majority of the concert-goers were young and anti-war protesters.  There was a lot of drug use: a good amount of pot, and remember watch out for that "brown acid".  Any one of these things could have set the cops into Riot Control mode on top of the fact they had 500,000 people stumbling about Max Yasgur's farm.

The local police, however, tried something I'm surprised most police forces don't even apply 40 years later: a Soft Power approach of keeping the peace, where they didn't line up to intimidate the crowds with snipers and guys in body armor, but allowed the hired security people - most of them off-duty or ex-cops already - to patrol and handle the crowds.  The decision came down to avoid going after the drug users: the reality that a lot of attendees were gonna get high made detaining any of them a logistical nightmare.

Somewhere and somewhen, the local police tried treating the concert-goers not as rioters but as people.  And the results worked:
"...Not withstanding their personality, their dress and their ideas, they were and they are the most courteous, considerate and well-behaved group of kids I have ever been in contact with in my 24 years of police work," Lou Yank, the chief of police in nearby Monticello, told The New York Times...

Treating each other with respect tends to be a two-way deal.  And it made the Woodstock Festival work well enough that 45 years later everyone involved in it can look back with some small pride of being part of one of the biggest non-violent events in world history.

Sad to say, compared to the problems we've got whenever a protest or gathering forms anymore:

These are pictures from the first few days of protests in Ferguson Missouri after an incident where a cop shot an unarmed black teen in the back under questionable circumstances.  The local city and county police decided to bring in riot gear, body armor, snipers, and more personal firepower than most of our armed forces didn't deploy with during their tours of Iraq and Afghanistan (the quote sticking with me from an article from Business Insider: "We rolled lighter than this in an actual war zone").  And the county and city cops used rules of engagement that pretty much ensured rubber bullets and tear gas went flying everywhere, especially by Wednesday night.

It got bad enough that the state Governor forced the Ferguson PD and county law enforcement to stand down, sending in the state highway troopers to keep the peace.  And they went in like this:

The state troopers went in talking, not shooting.  Walking with the protesters.  Mingling.  Hugging.

Wednesday night had violence.  Thursday night had hugs.  Notice a difference...

This is why we gotta remember Woodstock.  Everybody - the police, the civilians, the neighborhoods, everybody - went in on their best behavior, and everything worked out for the best.  Lessons that need to be learned.

Early Voting Florida: Primaries August 16 2014


Early voting begins today (Saturday) August 16th!  It's for the Primaries and for the local elected offices such as School Boards and Judges.

Early polling places should be available in most accessible locations in every county (Except Pinellas County which for some GODFORSAKEN REASON never has an early polling place in North Pinellas.  Clearwater is still a hassle to get to!  Would it kill you guys to put a polling place in Tarpon Springs?!  We're not freaking Siberia up there!  /rage).

For example, I currently reside in Mulberry, so City Hall is where I go:

Just a reminder or three:
1) They do require photo ID.  Which is still a problem for people - mostly poor - who can't afford one (Driver's or State ID).  Also an authorized signature (to match the one you gave when you signed for your free voter ID card).  If you do not have a photo ID you can still vote using a Provisional Ballot!
2) Please read up on the candidates' information first.  Your county elections office should have a list of candidates, and hopefully those candidates will have websites arguing their positions.  If not, check the local newspapers for the op-ed recommendations.  The local elections for school board and justices may be non-partisan, but the candidates still are partisan so make sure you're not voting any wingnuts to office.
3) The primaries in Florida are closed: you have to be in a party to vote their primary challenges.  However, NPA (non-Party voters like me) can STILL vote for the school boards and judges, and that's still important, so EVERYONE needs to get out to vote.
3a) If you're Democrat, you DO have a primary contest for Governor: choosing between Charlie Crist and Nan Rich.  Personally, I back Crist but I'm NPA so I can't vote.  All I can say is vote your conscience.
3b) If you're Republican, you DO have a primary contest for Governor: choosing between Rick "Medicare Fraud" Scott and two challengers, Yinka Abosede Adeshina and Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder.  If you've followed this blog with any awareness these past four years, you know my feelings about Rick "No Ethics" Scott.  All I can say is vote your conscience... WHICH MEANS VOTING FOR ELIZABETH CUEVAS-NEUNDER.  PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD REPUBLICANS DON'T VOTE FOR A GODDAMN CROOK...
5) The major election issues - the state amendments - are set for November.  Again, I'll write about those three ballot issues - not many this year, odd - on a later blog entry.

That all said, if you're in Mulberry (Polk County) and need help finding your way to the early voting area, just look for the TARDIS:
The Doctor does not support nor does he recognize any of the candidates running for office this 2014.  As a Gallifreyian non-resident, he's not allowed to vote here anywho.
The Doctor does, however, encourage you to support your local public library! (Hi Mulberry!)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Gerrymander And The Contempt of the Florida Legislature

Previously on Gerrymandering Florida, the judge that ruled against the state legislature's blatant partisan district-making for the federal congressional seats ordered that legislature to hold a special session and redraw the affected districts to adhere to the state's Fair Districts amendments.  Said maps were being redrawn for use this year's midterms, which could mean a delay in the affected districts (and perhaps the whole state's primary and general elections).

There wasn't much expected out of this court order, though.  Personally, I had little hope that the state legislature - ruled by Republicans - would play by the rules and draw districts that were compact and based not on registered voters/ethnic makeup but on population density.  After all, these were the same jokers who drew the 5th Congressional District as this long snake-like gerrymander in the first place: they wanted to shove as many Democrats into that one district so they could craft six surrounding districts to favor Republicans.

So, to no surprise at all, the legislature presented to the judge their revised district maps.  Which is: they didn't change much of anything! (via Talking Points Memo)
...But the new maps look quite like the old ones, especially the boundaries of the snakelike District 5, one of the most gerrymandered seats in the country. In his ruling earlier this summer, Federal Judge Terry P. Lewis said District 5 “does not follow traditional political boundaries” and “connects two far flung urban populations” without legal justification. His opinion chided lawmakers, saying districts containing “finger-like extensions, narrow and bizarrely shaped tentacles, and hook like shapes…are constitutionally suspect and often indicative of racial and partisan gerrymandering...”
The revised districts still carve out a snaking thin 5th District between Jacksonville, half of Gainesville (the eastern half where most Blacks and college students live) down to the northern half of the Orlando metro.  The new map does nothing about those "finger-like extensions" that exist among most of the districts, clear efforts by the party in charge to carve out favorable "safe" districts rather than allow communities, cities and counties to speak with one unified voice.

To which I say: can Judge Lewis hold the entire Republican contingency sitting in the Florida legislature with contempt of court?  At least that redistricting committee?

The powers-that-be in the state legislature were given instructions, and a clear understanding from the judge that he was expecting a cleaner, rule-abiding map.  They refused: they intentionally made minor tweaks and are basically daring Lewis to accept what they're offering.

Judge Lewis shouldn't accept it.  He should hold them accountable: for violating the state constitution, for violating their oath of office, for displaying this level of open contempt for his court rulings.

If he's empowered to do so, Lewis should get an independent map-maker on this, get another redistricting map drawn up for Florida's congressional districts and set that map for use.  If not, if he's forced to require the state legislature to make the redistricting map, then he ought to make certain those bastards play by the rules and make a congressional district map that's compact, centered out evenly to our population centers, and unbiased to party alignment.

The state legislature's argument that they have to make the 5th District a "minority" district to abide by the Voting Rights Act requirements for minority representation doesn't make sense when you consider most urban communities are minority, and already effective areas to create such districts in the first place.  The bloggers over at Addicting Info went and did their own redistricting maps, and found that by following the compactness rule and population density without any other bias they could create six congressional districts with heavy minority (Black and/or Hispanic) voting blocs.  We still end up with evenly mapped out districts, not ones that are snaking over six different counties and splitting cities and communities.
This is what Addicting Info's compact and fair districts map looks like.  See anything?  Yeah.  NO GERRYMANDERS.

What the Republicans in the Lege are trying to do is carve out controlled, party-friendly districts, which violates the core values of our electoral process.  It also violates the whole idea behind the Fair District Amendments to make compact, community-focused districts.

The state legislature is pretty much breaking the law right now.

That's the sort of thing that's supposed to involve criminal charges, jail time, fines, something, ANYTHING to uphold the laws of the land.

To Judge Lewis, I urge you to hold the irresponsible leadership of the state Republican-controlled legislature in contempt of your court.

And I urge voters, in spite of our gerrymandered districts, to get up and GET OUT THE DAMN VOTE and to vote the Republicans OUT OF THE STATE LEGISLATURE.  Just DON'T VOTE REPUBLICAN, people.  PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD...

Friday, August 08, 2014

Anniversary: When Impeachment Was Real

Doonesbury: the stonewall (1974)
On this day in 1974 President Richard Nixon went before the nation and offered his resignation, effective the next day.  Gerald Ford, recently installed as Vice President, would be sworn in as President on August 9.

What began as an investigation into a puzzling break-in at the Democratic Party's headquarters in the Watergate Office Complex in June 1972 turned into a revelation of reckless law-breaking by a political campaign awash in slush money, political dirty tricks, warrant-less wire-tapping, interdepartmental warfare reaching well into the White House itself, and Paul Newman being on Nixon's Enemies List.

The rot with the Nixon administration was top-down, but up to a certain point most of the damage to Nixon himself wasn't threatening to his position (when the November 1972 vote was held, Nixon still won because most voters didn't think Watergate or the cover-up attempts involved him).

By 1974 the situation changed.  The revelation in 1973 that Nixon had been taping all conversations in the Oval Office (it was actually a practice begun during the FDR years, but not to the extent Nixon set up) created a Constitutional crisis.  The relationship - the system of checks and balances - between the three branches of the federal government were strained to a point not seen since the start of the Civil War, especially between the Executive and Legislative branches.  Court fights over the tapes and transcripts carried on for over a year.  By the time the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 in US v Nixon in favor of releasing the tapes, we were facing the likelihood of a President openly defying SCOTUS as well as defying Congress itself.

Impeachment - the removal of the President for criminal or unethical misconduct - was openly discussed.  And seriously - as opposed to other moments - considered...

The history of impeachment itself as a mechanism for cleaning corrupt officials out of power is kinda checkered.  For non-elected and (usually) non-partisan officials like judges, the system was even-handed.  There'd only been 62 proceedings in the House to consider impeachments, with only 19 proceeding to the Senate since 1789 up to today, making it a rarely used process.  But when it comes to the big chair of the Presidency... well...

In the review of Presidential character I did last year, I pointed out - in cases like John Tyler and Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton - that the partisan nature of the fights between the White House and Congress skewed the need to impeach.  As I said in a follow-up:
...Congress talked impeachment only rarely: in a case like John Tyler (when Tyler seemed to betray the Whig Party on a personal level); and in a case like Andrew Johnson (when party foolishness put a Democrat in the line of succession, leaving a Radical Republican Congress to reach for any excuse to purge him). The impeachment process against Tyler went nowhere because the Whigs couldn't garner enough votes in the House: the impeachment against Johnson came one vote shy of success, which historians still argue was the closest we'd ever gotten to a political coup in our nation's history. Both times, impeachment was used as a means to remove a President simply because of ideological conflict: neither one really broke the law (technically Johnson broke the Tenure of Office Act, but that law was specifically written against him, and the courts ruled it unconstitutional), they both were radically opposed to what Congress wanted...
This is the danger of impeachment: meant to be a tool to remove a powerful political figure that might otherwise be above the law, impeachment has rarely been used as such (only once)...
You'll notice that I gave one exemption ("only once"): that exemption was Nixon.

As Watergate's revelations unfolded, even the partisan backers of his own party - Republicans - began to step away.  Unlike Tyler and Johnson, there was something criminally wrong with Nixon's White House that even the most biased supporter couldn't defend.  It didn't help Nixon that the Congressional investigations especially in the Senate were fronted by respected pols - Sam Ervin and Howard Baker - known for their bipartisan work.

As long as Nixon kept hidden any evidence of criminal wrong-doing, of unethical activity, he was still safe behind the argument that Watergate was a political witch-hunt.  Which was why he and his lawyers fought hard to keep those tapes away from the public.  When the Supreme Court said that the tapes had to come out, there was nowhere to hide.  Other than outright law-breaking, full shutdown of the government, a White House coup making Nixon full-on dictator...

If there was anything in Nixon's soul, even it balked at taking that one step.  Nixon turned over the tapes.

The House Committee considering impeachment charges voted on July 27 to charge Nixon with obstruction of justice with a 27-11 vote, with enough Republicans on the committee voting for it.  The "smoking gun" tape - the one that caught Nixon telling six days after the Watergate break-in to get the CIA to block the FBI investigation, specific proof of obstruction - went public August 5th.

Word was, even Barry Goldwater and other GOP leaders were warning Nixon he was "toast."

Rather than face the ignominy of being the first President ever impeached - a legitimate possibility, one even Andrew Johnson was able to avoid - Nixon resigned.

It's never been that close a call.

In Andrew Johnson's defense, the law he was getting impeached over was a sham.  In Bill Clinton's defense, his actions trying to hide his affair with Monica Lewinsky didn't rise to an impeachable offense.  In all the other cases where impeachment was argued, pursued, wished for - Tyler, Bush the Lesser, and Obama (present tense) - the stench of partisan obsessiveness made it too reckless and either failed on a floor vote or failed (and should fail in Obama's case) in committee.

It was forty years ago, we came this close to a genuine impeachment trial, and for all that meant.  It was forty years ago our nation pulled back from a very dangerous political cliff.

We still have morons desperately trying to drive us back over that political cliff for all the wrong partisan reasons.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Just Can't Even Focus On The World Right Now

There just gets to be a point where the current events out there - the civil wars raging across the Middle East, the Ebola crisis in Africa, the Ukrainian-Russian border war, our immigration crisis along the U.S. border with kids and families trying to flee the violence of Central America, the climate change disasters affecting everything from California's drought to methane holes blowing open in Siberia - just overwhelm me.  Writing about even one of these things just gets me into a sad AND angry mood.

There's something I can write about tomorrow, but it's more history than anything else... you'll see...

Sunday, August 03, 2014

I Survived Tampa Bay Comic Con 2014: The Epic

Ah, to revel in the geekdom of comic books, science fiction and fantasy, costume roleplay, gaming, and walking.  Lots and lots of walking.

Shall I sing to you the song of Saturday comic conventioneering?  Too bad, I can't carry a tune.  I shall narrate my journey instead...

always begin your journey with a Selfie...
With many thanks to Mom for sewing this Jedi outfit for me back when I was thinner (2006).  Unfortunately, I thought I had safety pins but didn't and I ended up not going with the samurai-esque shoulder pads to complete the Jedi effect.  I DID have a belt on which to hang my plastic lightsaber though...

This is my... sixth attendance of the Tampa Bay Comic Con, and the second that they've held at the convention center itself - I mentioned earlier how previous Tampa cons were at an undersized hotel near the airport - and while this year the hosts have done a better job preparing for the turnout, there's still an issue with lines to get in.

On the downside, had to wait in a long line - even with advance ticket - outside the convention hall this year due to the growing turnout.  On the upside: growing turnout.  You know your convention is getting popular when the lines circle half of downtown...

That was the line forming behind us at that same spot I took the earlier photo...

Inside, I asked about at some of the shopping booths to see if any had any safety pins for the Jedi robe I did wear: I had a clip trying to keep the V-neck together but it wasn't holding.  Turns out there is a cosplay assistance group - the International Cosplay Corps - that helps out with wardrobe malfunctions at a con, so many thanks to the Mending Mistress standing with me (I regretted leaving the Jedi shoulder pads behind...).


 Cosplay can become a deliriously detailed and complex work of art sometimes.  Also very life-consuming and bulky.  This guy - I think that's a Warhammer outfit - is on stilts wearing a body armor suit taller than I am, with a cumbersome gun to carry, a sweltering helmet covering 85 percent of his normal vision, and he stands there 90 percent of the time letting everybody get pictures of him.  This takes dedication.  And a lot of stamina.

The more successful your cosplay, the more likely you're going to be standing all day getting pictures of you posted everywhere.  I dressed up this con and... no requests.
The other part of a convention on display: model working, crafts, costumes for sale, artwork for sale.  This booth was just a display of someone's hobby making detailed models of famous SciFi spaceships.  The hand-painted touch, the eye to detail... incredible.

If you do cosplay: do it in a group.  Themed costumes draw a lot of attention.  This foursome are a steampunk version of Batman, Batgirl, Scarecrow and Catwoman.

Another thing that helps with cosplay: GLOWY LIGHT THINGEES.  Oh man, if I can find a reasonably priced glass-blue-neon lightsaber on the market... sigh.

This Dalek tried to photobomb those Jedi!  Foolish Dalek...

It's Mike Maihack!  I'm a geek for his fanart involving Batgirl-Supergirl, and was hoping he'd have his most recent work - see the bit I wrote about Batgirl's new outfit at the end of this blog for more - but it was too recent for prints to be available.  I got his first Batgirl-Supergirl print instead, still a good one to get...

It's JC De La Torre!  My fellow Buccaneer fan, at the comic con in the Artist's Alley promoting his Star Mage (IDW) series.

There are TARDISes everywhere.  But that's okay, because space-time is this kind of timey-wimey ball of... stuff.

As always, it's R2-D2 and he's working this convention like a pimp uh BOSS.  For some reason, this little droid wants to hang out with the ladies in the R2 tank tops...

Together, R2 and I will fight to save the Republic!  Either that or rescue Luke, who's fallen down a well or something...

It's the cosplayers for the Game of Thrones show!  Quick, name the ones playing characters that are still alive (so far...)  (P.S. I saw people cosplaying GRRM.  Seriously?  Why deal with the grief of people coming up to you screaming "WRITE FASTER, GEORGE!"...?)

A Tampa Bay Rays Stormtrooper made the rounds - mostly near the benches in a far corner, basically one of the best open spots for cosplayers to gather for poses - and I asked about how the trooper felt about the recent David Price trade.  The half-laugh half-cry of a damned soul I heard was all I needed to know.  Yeah, it was painful for me too...

During my patrol of the lower level - waiting for a presentation / open chat about publishing in comics - I spotted some professional-looking cosplayers coming out of the convention's work areas.  Including a fellow dressed up in a Wookie (might be Tarfful) outfit.  A massive, fur-covered outfit.  IN FLORIDA.  Even in an air-conditioned conventional hall, THIS TAKES COURAGE PEOPLE.

Unfortunately, I failed to take care of one thing during this: I bumped into two young women who remembered me from last year's convention from the pre-opening wait line, where I and a few other nearby geeks explained the tips and tricks of comic-cons (it was their first).  One of the ladies took my tip of cosplay to heighten the experience, as she showed up as a female (distaff) version of Han Solo.  And there I was, wearing a Jedi outfit... and I never once thought to get a photo of us posing.  /headdesk  I completely forgot to get a shot of her posing with the Wookie as well (granted, my smartphone battery was getting close to fading out, but still I had some juice...).  And damn me for a fool, but I'm lousy at remembering names...

Back to the Artist's Alley, where late in the day I come across Bernie Wrightson!!!  When I was eight-ish, we had a few comic books in the house, one of which was a special re-issue of Swamp Thing #1-2 by Len Wein and Wrightson as the artist.  He's the guy for gothic horror graphic art (his work on illustrating the story of Frankenstein is classic).  He's also (in)famous for his version of Batman... where he's wearing a bat-cape that's twice as long as humanly possible.  As a fan of both Wrightson's work, Swamp Thing, and Batman, getting a signed print from Mr. Wrightston was a huge treat.

Ahhh, Deadpool, my old nemesis.  Actually, nemesES.  A plurality of Deadpools are a given for any convention.  And every year they are driven by the same madness: to find a veteran actor of the Power Ranger series and worship him/her like a GOD.

This year it was a Red Ranger.  Go figure.  For some reason they got The Eleventh Doctor (see the fez?) to join in the ritual...

Alyson Larkin as Batgirl
Finally.  Last photo I was able to take before the smartphone powered down.  I spotted a cosplayer in an excellent version of Batgirl's new outfit! (UPDATE: According to the tumblrs out there, her name is Alyson Larkin) Let me clarify my own little geek-out here...

When I did MegaCon earlier this year, it was just after Frozen had become the Number One ZOMG fan-thing, and I expected to see a bunch of Queen Elsas in her Ice Queen costume.  Sadly then, only counted about four of them (in a cosplay crowd of thousands).  This month, with time to craft the outfit, I counted about nine, maybe ten of them (I saw more Maleficents though).  I digress a little, but the point is when there's a new thing for costuming to do, I'm hoping to see how quickly the response is and how pervasive (in 2009 for example every other male cosplayer was Rorschach and every other female cosplayer Silk Spectre).

It was announced about two weeks ago that a new comic book team for Batgirl was giving her a new re-design.  The response to it was - via the fan art - huge.  Nearly everybody went ga-ga over it.  So when I went to the Tampa comic con, I was keeping an eye out for anyone with the new outfit - practical boots, leather armor, and the SNAP-ON CAPE - to see what the response would be for cosplay.

I kinda knew the shortness of time - two weeks - made it unlikely to see one... and yet, thank you Batgirl Cosplayer of Tampa Bay, you made it!  And you did a great job of it!  Thank you.

That said, here's that Maihack print I hope he gets printed up soon for the next comic con:

And next year?  I need a simpler outfit.  How much are Wookie suits?

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Update on the Gerrymander Court Decision, and How It Affects Voting for Florida

The judge in that gerrymandering case is ordering the state legislature to convene a Special Session to redraw the illegal districts into something legal by August 15th.  I thought he'd wait but apparently he didn't: worse, it took him a month to make up his mind to order this done.

Because what this does is throw the entire voting calender into chaos:

...The practical effect is that lawmakers must convene a special session in the next two weeks to meet the map-fixing deadline. Lewis would then decide when and if special elections would be held for the districts whose boundaries have been modified.
Candidates would then have to qualify again, election officials would have to modify precinct maps, and the costs of the elections could rise...
While I'm all for making the Florida Legislature's collective life miserable for making these illegal gerrymanders in the first place, I dunno if this is the way to go. What's going to happen is that the election cycle - the primary at the end of this month, and the general election in November - is going to get thrown off-track. By messing with the dates we can have these elections, we're risking the likelihood most residents won't know when to really vote.

Continue reading

Friday, August 01, 2014

Brief Warning

Just to 
let you know
this will be a crazy
comic-con weekend for me
so I wanna make it clear to my 7 readers
that sometimes you just gotta
ride that flying shark
to freedom!

Welcome to August.