Fla-blog What are some of the worst ideas floating around the Florida Legislature? So many to choose from in a busy session. Here's the first group
March 15, 2005


What are some of the worst ideas floating around the Florida Legislature?

So many to choose from in a busy session. Here's the first group, in no particular order:

+ The Muzzle the Profs Bill --
HB 837 (PDF version here) SB 2126. Part of national crusade by rightwing wingnut David Horowitz. Could be used to intimidate, harass, sue and fire professors with controversial views. Or who are simply not conservative enough for campus Young Republicans. As a St. Pete Times editorial reminds us:

In the 1950s and '60s, Florida gained notoriety for a legislative witch hunt, known as the Johns Committee, that searched campuses for homosexuals, Communists and civil rights sympathizers. Surely lawmakers don't want to go down that road again.

+ The Street-Shooter Bill -- HB 249 (PDF form here) Extends right of self-defense with a gun from home to car to "any other place where he or she has a right to be." Some see this as an overbroad license to kill. And a few legislators fret about "vigilante justice." Others worry about legalizing gang warfare. (Scroll down) It's a cinch to pass.

+ The North Fla. Veto -- It's no surprise that legislators want to muzzle the citizen referendums. One of the changes that passed the House Judiciary Committee by a party-line vote would not only require a 60 percent supermajority, but would require passage in 60 percent (or 15) of the state's 25 congressional districts. Thus, conservative Panhandle and rural Central Florida voters could have veto power over anything that passes in urbanized parts of the state. Combine this with all other limits, and the citizen referendum in Florida will be, for all practical purposes, dead, dead, dead.

+ The Long, Slow Death Bill -- HB 0701 SB 2128. In reaction to the Schiavo case, lawmakers are moving a bill that presumes anyone who is severely incapacitated and in the end stages of life or in a persistent vegetative state would want a feeding tube. In other words, unless that person has written instructions, he'll be kept alive endlessly by artificial means.

Yup, to quote an old legal axiom: hard cases make bad law. Forget telling your wishes to the family, forget the family trying to act on what you would want. If it's not in writing and in the right legal form, you will kept hooked up to machines indefinitely. Will this be accompanied by more money so Medicaid can pay for more nursing home care after family savings and insurance limits are exhausted. Ahh, you know the answer.

Gauntanamo Cases SCOTUSblog:

Here's a scorecard on the Guantanamo cases. The cases, six now pending in the D.C. Circuit and others still developing in U.S. District Court, have grown increasingly complex in recent days -- including unusual court orders this Saturday and Sunday. As a result of a number of developments, the schedule for disposing of the cases in lower courts has been stretched out.

Two good posts on the continuing slide towards routinized and euphemized torture by the U.S., one at Body and Soul and one at Respectful of Otters. Jim Henley notes a couple of recent domestic crime cases where the obvious suspects turned out not to have done it, asking “Couldn’t we have tortured the “right” people into confessing to both these crimes?” (That real-estate arson last year in Maryland was in that category, too.) Meanwhile, Juan Non-Volokh might be trying to talk himself into it through the latest version of our old friend, the ticking bomb.

Cosmetic Democracy the road to surfdom

You probably saw the story the other day about how the Bush Administration makes fake news stories and arranges to have them played on real television stations and passed off as real news.

Now, the Government Accounting Office (GAO) has provided advice that the practice violates federal anti-propaganda laws and, in fact, issued a memo to that effect on February 17:

"[T]elevision-viewing audiences did not know that stories they watched on television news programs about the government were, in fact, prepared by the government," Walker wrote. "We concluded that those prepackaged news stories violated the publicity or propaganda prohibition."
Walker noted that agencies may legally distribute prepackaged stories "so long as there is clear disclosure to the television viewing audience" that the material was prepared by the government or its contractors.

Of course, the administration isn't having any of that:

The White House, intent on continuing to crank out "video news releases" that look like television news stories, has told government agency heads to ignore a Government Accountability Office memo criticizing the practice as illegal propaganda.
...Accompanying Bolten's memo was a letter from Steven Bradbury, principal deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, who said video news releases "are the television equivalent of the printed press release."

....Giving no indication that the administration would change its policy, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, "It's very clear to the TV stations where they are coming from."

Actually, a better argument for the administration to mount would be that their prepackaged propa..., that is, news stories, are simply the media equivalent of breast enhancement surgery. Sometimes what nature, or the political situation, provides simply isn't dramatic or complimentary or flattering enough and a bit of augmentation is in order. (Especially when you're in the porn industry.) Clearly, the White House's failure to tell anyone about their democratic cosmetic surgery is simply an understandable matter of privacy and modesty.

Three Things To Read Today Discourse.net

Three blog postings you should read if you care about freedom or justice:

Made a mistake and got arrested for pot? Well, we'll take away your financial aid so you can't go to college and then you can.. well, sell drugs, I guess.
The End Is Near...why are you so upset? Sisyphus Shrugged
So the guy who shot up the church was apparently all depressed

Police in this Milwaukee suburb said they do not know why Ratzmann opened fire on Saturday afternoon. He killed seven people and wounded four, but left no note and no obvious clues to his troubled mind. Witnesses told detectives that Ratzmann, 44, a computer technician, was losing his job and that a recent prophesy of doom by a church elder may have upset him.

It also teaches some other good stuff.

Arguments for Torture Unfogged

A really fine post by Kieran Healy, which brings together some of main points torture opponents have been making in a very clear way. Read it, or at least bookmark it to send to your torture-supporting acquaintances.

Nominee in Focus: Terrence Boyle

People For the American Way
In February, President Bush renominated federal district court Judge Terrence Boyle for a promotion to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. Boyle's record bears an undesirable mark of distinction: his rulings have been reversed on appeal at a rate twice as high as any other district court judge nominated by President Bush. Just as remarkable, many of these reversals have been handed down by the 4th Circuit, which is widely considered the most conservative federal appeals court in the nation.

Boyle has also tried to overrule important federal laws and precedents that protect the rights of ordinary Americans. For example:

  • Boyle suggested in an employment discrimination case that the federal government should respect discrimination that is explained by a state's "culture"; and,
  • He attempted, despite repeated reversals, to severely limit federal anti-discrimination laws and wrote that working is "not a major life activity" warranting protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Boyle's habit of making judicial errors is all the more troubling because of his apparent indifference to his errors. A number of his reversals have been for making the same mistakes for which he was reversed in earlier rulings. Still others have been for committing "plain error," a term courts use to describe obvious and egregious mistakes that harm individual rights and undermine the fairness and integrity of judicial proceedings. Click here to read People For's full report on Judge Boyle.

Lebanon Roundup Dove's Eye View

Arabist Network publishes an anonymous Syrian analysis of who might have killed Hariri. Also read their article about the latest demonstrations.

Helena Cobban, journalist who has lived in Lebanon, writes Lebanese analysis here and here. Jonathan at the Head Heeb does a succinct summary of the day's events.

Keep reading Syria Comment for views you won't see elsewhere. The comments alone are signs of great ferment in the region.

As'ad Abu-Khalil, the Angry Arab, rants with no paragraph breaks, but he really does know all the players and his view, while angry, is quite broad. Others report on the opposition rally; As'ad tells you what the speaker said: Bahia Hariri, member of Parliament and sister of the assassinated man, gives a speech to the opposition crowds that is pro-Syria and very Arab nationalist. There are no simple pictures in Lebanese politics.

Pravda Singularity

At the helm at the New York Times .

William E. Kennard was elected to the Board of Directors of The New York Times Company in 2001.

Mr. Kennard joined The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm, in May 2001 as a managing director in the global telecommunications and media group. Before joining The Carlyle Group, Mr. Kennard served as Chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission from November 1997 to January 2001.

Like you couldn't tell.

Ciao, Italia Body and Soul

Italy will begin withdrawing its troops from Iraq in September.

I only read the Italian press sporadically, so I don't know if it's unusual for them to report deaths of soldiers in Iraq on the front page, but I must say I was moved, looking at today's edition of Italy's largest paper, Corriere della sera, and seeing the double headline:


The Wisdom of Chairman Greenspan MaxSpeak, You Listen!

I hate to be nitpicky, but I do have to point out a small problem with Alan Greenspan’s testimony before the Senate Tuesday. For those who missed it, Mr. Greenspan justified his testimony in support of President Bush’s tax cut in 2001. At the time, Greenspan said that the tax cuts were a good idea, because otherwise the surpluses would be too large and we would pay off the government debt too quickly. Greenspan stood behind this testimony by saying that it was based on budget projections that most economists believed at the time.

Okay, now remember that Mr. Greenspan claims to have recognized the stock bubble. Those of us who recognized the stock bubble, cautioned in 2001 that the projected surpluses were not likely to continue. The collapse of the bubble would lead to a recession, which would severely depress tax revenue, as would the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars in capital gains tax revenue.

The question then is, if Alan Greenspan recognized the stock bubble as he claims (and is born out in the transcripts of the Fed meetings), why did he fail to recognize the implications of the collapse of the stock bubble for the federal budget?

Reform This

Nobody said Social Security was perfect. If you want to consider constructive, as opposed to destructive, improvements, this article by Gene Steuerle is a good place to start. Gene was Ronald Reagan's principal tax economist and an architect of the 1986 tax reform. Note that the article devotes little attention to private accounts.

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