So an appeals court has denied a challenge to a “stand your ground” ruling in the Curtis Reeves theater shooting case. That means a trial is one step closer. It could also mean that we’re one step closer to formally acknowledging the manifestly obvious–even in NRA-venerating “Flori-duh.” What the hell are you doing bringing your gun to the movies?
It was encouraging that the Hillsborough County Commission exercised discretion and adopted a gun-control measure that will extend the waiting period for the purchase of a firearm in the county from three to five days. The usual suspects, from Second Amendment activists to gun-store owners, protested. But to no avail. The Republican-dominated commission passed the proposal, 5-2. The media weighed in with props for the commission for doing the right thing.
Of course, it was the right thing to do. But what it says–even in these post-Parkland, post-Pulse times–is that no more than incremental progress can be expected until there’s more pressure after the next slaughter. How low is this bar of public-safety responsibility for public officials? And keep in mind that Commissioners Ken Hagan and Stacy White still couldn’t belly up to the low-caliber bar of responsible gun control. We’re not there yet. Obviously.
What to make of the proposed Florida gubernatorial ticket of two former U.S. representatives, Democrat Patrick Murphy and Republican David Jolly? One obvious takeaway is that the current crop of Democratic candidates is less than impressive. In an election year that will be more blue than red, even an unprecedented, reddish-blue version could have a “bipartisan” shot in the ultimate swing state.
Graduation day at a major university is a day, if there ever was one, for celebration. A ceremonial forum for exuberance. For a journey successfully concluded and momentum jumpstarted for the next life stage. And everybody has a back story, some more cathartic and empowering than others.
And yet, there was the University of Florida–as embarrassingly seen on prime time network TV and across social media–with a designated “usher” pushing, grabbing and bear-hugging newly-minted grads as they walked–or “strolled”–across the stage. There was concern, apparently, that some graduates were just too exuberantly self aware. A number of black students felt targeted by the de facto bouncer.
This was as shameful as it was stupid. UF, which will now change its practice of “ushering” graduating students, should welcome celebrations, including animated ones, of those who have just earned a degree from a prestigious university.
UF President Ken Fuchs has apologized, and the university will presumably usher in graduation- ceremony changes appropriate for those proudly celebrating a milestone achievement.
Here are four names of those who have contributed, however unwittingly and ironically, to where we unfortunately are now in Florida and the United States.
*Charlie Crist. There would have been no GOP challenge by Rick Scott if the incumbent Republican Florida governor didn’t yield to ambition by stepping down.
* Alex Sink. In an election that was the Dems to lose, she led the loss with an ineffective, uninspiring campaign capped by a debate debacle.
* Bernie Sanders. The best intentions of an admirable avatar of socialistic idealism ultimately yielded liberal disillusionment that morphed into MIA leftist voters who couldn’t abide an establishment candidate.
* Hillary Clinton. Smart, informed, prepared, but flawed candidate. Think Bill Clinton enabler who couldn’t take full advantage of her vile, misogynist opponent. Plus big-money, Wall Street speeches that undermined Democratic-base identification. Plus stupid handling of emails that rallied the opposition and provoked “Lock Her Up” chants among the pitchfork and flambeau deplorables. Plus keeping on Huma Abedin as vice chair of her campaign, which meant keeping the Weinermobile nearby, which led to the final, fatal James Comey email inquiry.
Not fair? Of course not. But life, alas, too often isn’t. In this case, we had good, capable people who deserved better. As, alas, did the majority of us who are still stuck with “Flori-duh” frustration and “MAGA” menace.
When it comes to the issue of felon voting rights, which most states automatically restore after non-violent felons have completed their sentences, “Flori-duh” doubles down on its alt-Reich, Jim Crow-era, “Deliverance”-culture reputation. The state has even appealed the federal judge’s ruling–no, embarrassing rebuke–when he said the state must overhaul its sham system for restoring felons’ voting rights and come up with something that doesn’t reek of discrimination, voter suppression and unconscionable arbitrariness and unfairness. The 26-page appeal motion, in effect, a defense of the indefensible, is not exactly Pam Bondi’s finest hour, and that’s saying a lot for this Trump-supporting attorney general marking time before a return to Fox commentating.
This fundamentally is about fairness and compassion for those who need to be reintegrated into society, but it’s also about enlightened self-interest. Recidivism rates are notably lower when such felons can formally re-enter society and feel as if they belong–and actually matter. If they remain societal outliers and pariahs, nobody benefits. And this state’s population of former felons permanently disenfranchised is 1.5 million. No state has more–nor more to lose if this doesn’t change.
Speaking of change, the state’s best hope for formally and expeditiously restoring rights will be this fall when Amendment 4, which would permit the automatic restoration of rights to most felons, will be on the November ballot. If 60 percent of voters approve, it passes–and we’ll be more Florida than “Flori-duh.”
* Kudos to the Florida Democratic Party for the digital billboards it put up in Orlando and Tallahassee. “612 Days Between Pulse and Parkland. Rick Scott Did Nothing.”–The Sun Sentinel.
* We will have arrived at a true turning point, when serious (assault weapon and high-capacity magazine bans, for example) gun-control measures are not so much a political “wedge” issue but an actual common-sense, public-safety, moral imperative. Imagine, doing the right thing for the right–not alt Reich–reasons. We’re not there yet, although the bottom-up, shame-the-usual-suspects movement fueled by an articulate, motivated, teenaged demographic is impressively encouraging.
* And this just in: Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens just ratcheted up the rhetorical ante by encouraging gun-reform demonstrators to demand a repeal of the Second Amendment. Thank you, Justice Stevens, for cutting to the chase.
Enough of counterproductive, agenda-driven cherry picking of an out-of-context, 18th century relic–no matter how seemingly sacrosanct. Without the Second Amendment–and the absolutist take it induces from the gun lobby and its political minions–America would, as Stevens points out, be in a position to “weaken the NRA’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option.”
Noor Salmon, the wife of the Pulse mass murderer, has been found not-guilty of aiding and abetting her husband’s horrific act. The jury has spoken. But let’s not traffic in the non-legal term that is often used interchangeably, especially by attorneys, with “not guilty.” It’s “innocent,” a non-legal term. No, this defendant is not innocent.
As you (hopefully) noticed, there was no column from this scribe last week. We’re all the better for it. My wife and I moved–downsizing, as it’s known. The logistics and emotions take a toll, hardly a complement to sensible prose.
The relocation reality is this: You’ve left your comfort zone, your ‘hood, your neighbor-friends, your routine, your, seeming, identity. That landscaping that’s as aesthetic as therapeutic–it’s now somebody’s else’s. Some notable furniture, tchotchkes, memorabilia: gone. You don’t have enough room for all your “stuff.”
It is an emotional roller coaster. The unexamined life is easier. You take a 2018 look at stuff you’ve been lugging around for years. Why do you still have it? A memento from a junior prom. Faded programs from high school football to political conventions and Super Bowls. Goofy coffee mugs. Out-of-fashion, but nostalgic clothes from another era and another body. More art than art-worthy walls in the new digs. Will this piano fit–anywhere? And a journalist’s private archive: Where ego meets roach motels.
In the end, you jettison more than you thought you would. In the end, you are what you keep.
* Low-caliber Florida Legislature: Banning assault weapons won’t happen. Too many craven GOPsters more accountable to intimidating NRA cross hairs than their own conscience and vulnerable constituents. But arming school personnel makes sense? Talk about a “basket of deplorables.”
* If ever there were a Senate roll call vote not to be missed, it would have been the recent one in Tallahassee on an assault weapons ban. The one that symbolically said so much about values, priorities and political guts. The one that fell short by a 20-17 margin. The one missed by Dana Young.
* As we well know, Florida cities are precluded from passing local gun-control legislation. Local officials can be fined and removed from office if they enact gun rules. We are, to be sure, the Gunshine State. Recall that Mayor Bob Buckhorn couldn’t even convince Gov. Rick Scott to help get a public-safety exemption for a gun-free zone during the 2012 Republican Convention when the threats ranged from anarchists to terrorists.
It’s somewhat encouraging–but also embarrassing–that it can take a constitutional amendment–not a common-sense measure by the state legislature–to ban assault weapons for non-law enforcement or non-military use. It speaks volumes that Coral Spring Mayor Skip Campbell is planning to lead a drive to do just that. The stark reality is that this Legislature is something to be worked around–not worked with when it comes to public safety and guns. Disgraceful.