Florence Snyder, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 12

Florence Snyder

Florence Beth Snyder is a Tallahassee-based lawyer and consultant.

South Florida is still ‘skin tight’

Call him Ismael, and don’t be surprised if he turns up in Carl Hiaasen‘s next ripped-from-the headlines novel.

Ismael Labrador is a very real purveyor of strip mall surgery and beneficiary of Florida’s laughably lax enforcement of laws aimed at protecting the public against charlatans peddling plastic surgery on the cheap.

As owners of south Florida plastic surgery “clinics,” Labrador and his ex-wife Aimee De la Rosa cater to people with little money and less self-esteem. The Miami Herald’s Daniel Chang brings us the details, which would be shocking if we hadn’t heard this story so many times before.

Labrador has been on the state’s bad guy radar since 2007, when Miami-Dade police investigators discovered he employed unlicensed doctors to work on real people with unrealistic dreams of looking more Kardashian-like. He beat the rap by accepting a $30,000 fine and a wrist slap from the regulators, along with some community service, the nature of which Chang’s story mercifully spares us.

In the decade since, Labrador and his former missus retrieved a boatload of complaints from injured patients, some of whom ended up in area hospitals with “debilitating injuries and infection.”  Three deaths have been linked to their bargain basement beauty treatments.

Some customers trusted their instincts and decided not to go through with surgery. It took Attorney General Pam Bondi to get their deposits back, and, in exchange, her office agreed to drop an investigation into the facilities. We’ll see how that works out, because Florida has not seen the last of Labrador.

Spokeswoman Giannina Sopo says her clients will carry on following a “rebranding” as Eres Plastic Surgery. In a statement to the Herald that might have been crafted by a drunk alumnus of The Onion, she wrote:

“Like so many of our patients, we too are opening a new chapter in our lives with our rebranding effort. We have worked from the inside out to improve all aspects of patient care and we are in compliance with all local, state and federal regulations that regulate cosmetic surgery centers and businesses.”

The rebranding includes a promise that doctors and nurses will monitor patients closely before and after their surgeries.

Well, it’s never too late for surgeons and surgical nurses to do stuff that mothers knew to do since before Hippocrates was born. But don’t bet the Brazilian butt lift that Eres will.


In St. Johns County, an uphill fight to put the genie back in the bottle

Cellphones are here to stay, and so, it seems, are the staggeringly stupid things we do with them.

Facebook fiascos are infinite in variety now that people of limited impulse control have a high-powered computer at their 24/7 command. It’s a problem for people of all ages, and from all walks of life.

Not for the first time this week, a Florida public official is wearing egg on his face for Facebooking While Biased Against Muslims. State Rep. Sam Killebrew offered this jolly joke to his fans and followers: “Liberals are acting like (President-elect Donald) Trump is going to kill all the gays, make slavery legal again, and take away women’s rights. Did he become a Muslim?”

As night follows day, right-thinking people took offense and Killebrew returned to Facebook to issue an “if you were offended” non-apology.

At age 71, Killebrew is probably beyond understanding why not everybody thinks he’s Central Florida’s answer to Mark Twain. But there’s hope for the kids, and St. Johns County is working hard to help them understand that the internet is an unforgiving place with a long and photographic memory.

Seventy-three percent of American teenagers have a smartphone, and 100 percent of them have brains that will not be fully developed until they are well into their 20s. It makes for a lot of heartache and aggravation in St. John’s County, where Sheriff’s Lt. Mike Strausbaugh clocks a lot of hours trying to educate kids about the consequences of uploading while clueless.

Long before Donald Trump cyberbullied his way to the White House, tech-savvy teenage Eddie Haskells were honing their skills at hounding the helpless. Sometimes, the kid who is told to “go kill yourself” really does. After a bit of community soul-searching, parents return to sleeping with their smartphone, and letting their children do the same.

Schools, youth groups, and cop shops everywhere are spending ungodly amounts of time cleaning up the messes caused by young’uns armed with Apples and Androids. The genie is out of the bottle, and all the Lt. Strausbaughs in the world can’t put it back.

Florence Snyder: Hogan, Ifill and Rushing, rest in peace …

Death really does come in threes. This week, people who care about journalism are mourning the loss of Paul Hogan, Gwen Ifill, and J.T. Rushing.

Hogan was one of our last links with an era when a kid could volunteer at the Marietta (Georgia) Daily Journal, bypass college, and rise to become the editor of the Tampa Tribune. The Grim Reaper kept a respectful distance from Hogan for three decades following his 1987 departure from the newsroom he loved, and the feisty reporters who loved him. Reading William March’s heartfelt remembrance, it’s easy to see why Hogan was squeezed out when the Trib fell in to the hands of the corporate carpetbaggers who plundered, looted, and left the paper to rot.

Death is doubly hard when it comes far, far too early, as it did for Ifill and Rushing.

Ifill’s death at 61 unleashed a torrent of genuine grief. Media bashers, no matter how hardcore, stood in line to pay tribute, along with the legions of journalists she mentored and inspired, and the audiences who trusted her implicitly. Ifill began and ended her career at news organizations where a woman of any color had to be twice as good to get half as far as her white male competitors. And still, she rose.

Rushing left the Jacksonville Times-Union years ago, and that was Florida’s loss. His byline on a story meant there was something underneath it worth your time. His death at age 45 barely registered in #TheProcess, where memories are short and turnover is high. For much of its life, the T-U was a house organ for corporate interests and deservedly disrespected by regular people. Rushing’s tenure as its Tallahassee bureau chief went a long way toward turning that around.

Postcard from the ‘sorry-not sorry’ apology files

Most of us learned in Sunday School that an insincere apology is worse than no apology at all, yet people keep issuing them, anyway.

Case in point: John Browning, member of the Florida Transportation Commission, St. Johns River Water Management District board member, and person who never met a Muslim he didn’t think was packing a suicide belt.

Browning was at the Jacksonville International Airport to catch a plane to President-elect Donald Trump‘s victory party when he spotted a man wearing a red and white checked headscarf. Browning snapped a picture and uploaded it to Facebook, with the clever-for-a racist fourth grader-comment asking his friends if anyone had “ever wanted to get off a plane when loading.”

Dinah Voyles Pulver, bless her, covers stupid things public officials say on social media for the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Her story hit the paper’s website Friday afternoon, and Browning disappeared the post from his Facebook page before the presses rolled on the Saturday print edition.

But screen shots are forever, and Browning went into his dance:

“I apologize for any hurt I may have caused,” Browning posted. “It was not my intention. I have good friends that are liberal and conservative and enjoy a lively discussion with both.

“In hindsight it was a mistake to post …. Thank you, but no one needs to defend my mistake.”

That’s a relief, because this mistake is indefensible, and anyway, it wasn’t a mistake.

Browning posted exactly what he meant, and he knew he would tickle the funny bone of his fellow Facebook travelers like the one who responded to his defamation of all Muslims with a hearty  “If you hear something ticking, run like the wind!!!!!!!!”

Browning is entitled to his opinion, and he’s done Florida a service in telling the internet what, exactly, his opinion is. His phony baloney apology fools nobody, and insults everybody.

Florence Snyder: Is your mug shot in FACES virtual lineup?

Now that Attorney General and former Tampa Bay-area prosecutor Pam Bondi is among President-elect Donald Trump’s Legal Influencers, this is an excellent time to talk about FACES.

That’s the Department of Acronyms name for the Face Analysis Comparison Examination System, a statewide “facial recognition database” created over a decade ago by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office. Let’s hope our state’s top lawyer has heard of it. Most people working in Florida’s criminal justice system hadn’t until Sunday’s front page story in The Florida Times-Union by enterprise reporter Benjamin Conarck.

It’s a riveting account of an accused crack cocaine addict and dealer by the name of Willie Allen Lynch. Representing himself, Lynch discovered he and 33 million other folks are shaked and baked into a database that looks a lot like the ones on those police procedurals aimed at old people who still watch network television.

FACES golly-wow technology warp-speeds its way through millions of pictures of law-abiding people with drivers licenses along with less savory characters with mug shots —and spits out someone to arrest.

It’s a neat trick when viewed on a Jumbotron at Hawaii 5-0 headquarters.

In real life, the technology comes with questions that deserve a closer look.

“One of every two Americans is in a facial recognition database, according to a report released last month by Georgetown University. Florida’s face-matching system is the country’s largest and most active,” Conarck reports.

“Using the technology, police can insert people with no criminal histories into virtual lineups without their knowledge and identify faces on social media or in protest crowds. The software has expanded swiftly to police departments around the country, and has been left virtually unregulated.”

That won’t trouble those who think that people who have done nothing wrong have nothing about which to worry. But judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers have obligations to the Constitution which require that cards be laid on the table when a citizen’s life and liberty is at stake.

FACES software “is not designed to say ‘no’,” Conarck writes. “Instead, it returns multiple potential matches. That means police and prosecutors could be learning of alternate suspects from searching the database without notifying defense attorneys, who would be legally entitled to that information.”

This entitlement is grounded in a U.S. Supreme Court decision dating back to 1963, when judges were still writing opinions in longhand.

With the best of intentions, it’s close to impossible for law to keep up with technology. We’re just going to have to pick up the pace, and FACES is as good a place as any to start.

Not surprisingly, police and prosecutors hid behind spokesmen offering vague platitudes as Conarck went about his reporting. Bondi could take a big step in a more transparent direction by giving him some FACES time.

Florida Bulldog, tenacious watcher of the watchmen, celebrates its seventh anniversary

Uber-real estate developer and all-’round power broker Armando Codina once threatened to punch the aggressive and highly decorated investigative reporter Dan Christensen in the face. Today, Codina is among a growing number of donors to Florida Bulldog, the investigative reporting website Christensen founded in 2009, when he became one of the casualties of one of the Miami Herald’s newsroom purges.

Movers and shakers like Codina may not always like the impertinent questions posed by reporters like Christensen, but they understand that democracy cannot survive without a free and independent pack of watchdogs who aren’t afraid to pee on the Gucci loafers of the powerful.

Bulldog celebrates its seventh anniversary Tuesday at YOLO, a popular watering hole on Las Olas Boulevard. There’s a lot to celebrate, at least for people who aren’t reading about themselves on Bulldog’s increasingly well-trafficked website.

Crime reporter turned crime novelist Michael Connelly was the earliest and most generous Bulldog supporter on an honor roll that now includes, along with Codina, William Scherer, a founding partner of the powerhouse law firm Conrad & Scherer; Wometco Enterprises Chairman Arthur Hertz; Ed Williamson, chairman and CEO of Williamson Automotive; Miami Herald alum Dexter Filkins, a Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent and staff writer for The New Yorker; and former Sen. and Mrs. Bob Graham.

Bulldog was the first, and for years, the only news outlet willing to lend credence and column inches to Graham’s concerns about the role of the government of Saudi Arabia in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Media lawyer Tom Julin, a partner at the Gunster law firm, has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of time to Freedom of Information Act litigation on behalf of Bulldog as it digs for truth in the face of federal stonewalling and sandbagging.

The Bulldog party begins at 6 p.m. and goes on until 9, or until people in #TheProcess run out of stories to leak to reporters in the room, whichever is later. The event is free, and so is the first drink. YOLO is located at 333 East Las Olas Blvd.

Disclosure: Florence Beth Snyder is a member of Florida Bulldog’s Board of Directors.

Florence Snyder: On Veterans Day, a valentine to UF’s bug-busters

The bad news is that a variety of bedbug not seen in Florida in 60 years is back. The good news is the University of Florida is on the case.

Like its cousin the “common bedbug,” the tropical bed bug under investigation by UF researchers will drain your blood — and your bank account. The difference is, the tropical bedbug can do it faster.

Doctoral candidate Brittany Campbell and her colleagues at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have taken to the peer-reviewed journals and any news organizations which will listen, to spread the scary news about the return of a nasty brand of bedbug that could “… develop more quickly, possibly cause an infestation problem sooner, and also could spread more rapidly.”

Like Zika, the story starts small. Patient Zero is a family in Merritt Island whose home was overrun in 2015. UF’s entomologists can’t pinpoint the bedbugs’ point of entry, but the list of suspects includes nearby Port Canaveral. Ports are great engines of globalization, and, since ancient times, a great way to spread all manner of pestilence.

The creepy crawlies are formidable opponents, but we rarely think of them until they are, literally, sucking our blood. Previous generations have fought back with high-powered pesticides. It seemed like a good idea, until the cancers and birth defects began to show up.

This Veterans Day weekend, UF researchers are in their labs, seeking safer weapons of war against bedbugs, mosquitoes, and fellow-traveling forms of vermin. Let’s thank them for their service.


Postcard from the center, which didn’t hold

It’s Morning After in America, and the recriminations are well underway.

Even with a crappy crystal ball like Larry Sabato‘s, you can predict the Democrats will assemble an Autopsy Committee like the one the Republicans did in 2012. Old habits die hard.

Bleary-eyed pundits, pollsters, pols, and political reporters are crying into their beers and Bloody Marys on Twitter and on national television. They’re plenty worried about their credibility, and their fat paychecks, not necessarily in that order.

The cluelessness is entirely bipartisan, and has been for decades.

Floridians old enough to share the Clintons‘ fondness for Fleetwood Mac recall a time when state workers got regular raises. It was 5 percent, or 10 percent or 2 percent, of your current salary, whatever that salary was.

The Little People were not fooled by the fake fairness of the People in Power. A 2 percent raise for a telephone operator was enough to buy the kids some new clothes to wear on a family night at the movies. For the man three rungs up on the org chart, it was enough to buy the kids some new clothes to wear on a family vacation in Europe.

The state payroll pay disparities that put down roots in Fleetwood Mac’s heyday pale in comparison to the pay disparities of today. It’s even worse in the private sector, where most of the jobs!jobs!jobs! are equal parts mind-numbing and soul-destroying.

Something had to give. When there is no center, the center cannot hold.

On Election Day, let’s talk baseball …

Grumpy and possibly jealous old men — some with newspaper columns — disapproved of Saturday’s comedy debut of Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, and Tallahassee homeboy David Ross.

Fresh off their World Series win, the trio swung by Saturday Night Live to sing “Go Cubs Go” with superfan and trained professional comedian Bill Murray, and to bump and grind with Benedict Cumberbatch in a tasteless-by-design sketch starring cast member Aidy Bryant, a gifted practitioner of physical comedy who makes anyone who shares her stage look terrific.

The Chicago Tribune’s Phil Rosenthal dissed the whole thing as an “error,” leaving those who thought it adorable and hilarious scratching their heads and seeking second opinions.

One was provided by Peggy Gossett-Seidman, who is highly qualified to weigh in on all sorts of sports. Gossett-Seidman was a trailblazing, groundbreaking, pioneering member of the generation that proved women can report and write sports with the best of the boys.

As a sportswriter for The Palm Beach Post, she was the first woman to cover the Miami Dolphins from inside the locker room. Her resume includes extended tours of duty as personal assistant to actor and football guy Burt Reynolds, and, later, tennis star and philanthropist Chris Evert.

We put the question to Gossett-Seidman, who concluded that the trio had “earned the right to act silly and marginally seedy on SNL.” In support of her viewpoint, and working from memory, Gossett-Seidman offered up short bios highlighting ties to Florida and random acts of pure class.

Even if you know nothing and care less about baseball, it makes for feel-good reading on a day when many of us could use it:

“Anthony Rizzo grew up in Parkland, attended Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. Barely 18 years old, he fainted in a locker room and found out he had cancer. He was newly signed with the Boston Red Sox, and they stuck by him and he had support from pitcher Jon Lester, who successfully fought off the disease. Both players ended up being traded eight years later to the Cubs where they share a special bond.

“The ‘old guy’ David Ross is the father of three who was traded around to at least five different teams while battling for a starting spot as catcher, dragging his family all over. He was likely better than most catchers on those teams but did not get the breaks. As a kid, he attended FSU’s elementary school and played college ball at Auburn and Florida. At 39, he is the oldest player to hit a World Series home run.

“Dexter Fowler apparently is the nicest guy in baseball. He called the team meeting with all players, no coaches, during the rainout in the final Series game. He delivered a mesmerizing, supportive message that teammates say inspired and propelled the team to pull together and win. A very religious guy in the sense that he tries to do the right thing always, Fowler is from a small Georgia town. He originally signed to play baseball for the University of Miami but needed the money so turned pro.

“So, if these fellows wish to dance around a late-night stage in short shorts or anything else, they have earned it.”

In remembrance: Janet Reno

Newspapers were rolling in dough in the late 20th century. Reporters had expense accounts and plenty of public officials were happy to let them pick up the check.

Not Janet Reno. She paid her own way, spoke for herself, and did not require those around her to bow, scrape, or screen calls to her home phone, which was in the book and accessible to the folks who paid her salary.

The former Dade County state attorney and United States attorney general under Bill Clinton needed no help to “craft the message.” She did not lard the public payroll with puppet masters to put words in her mouth about the “Hot Topics” of the day.

Harry Truman had done all the “message development” Reno would ever need.

Time after time after time, Reno faced hostile citizens, taxpayers, Congressional committees, and reporters. Her talking point never varied. “The buck stops here. With me.”

Reno was the state attorney in 1980, when riots broke out in Miami after her office failed to convict four white police officers accused of beating an unarmed black man to death. A dozen people died, and hundreds more were injured before the National Guard could restore order. Reno walked through the wreckage —alone, unarmed and unguarded — to take accountability with angry, distraught survivors.

Reno came from a storied Miami family that knew the difference between real friends and transactional friends. She was a star in a generation of lawyers that knew you can’t win if you’re afraid to lose. All of that would serve her well in jobs where making life-and-death decisions was just a normal day at the office.

Reno had hoped to continue in public life as her party’s standard bearer against Jeb Bush in the 2002 governor’s race. But the denizens of the Democrats backed the more malleable Bill McBride, leaving history to wonder if Bush could have crushed Reno as easily as he demolished McBride.

The memory of Reno standing in front of a bank of microphones, answering hostile questions truthfully until her interrogators gave up in exhaustion, is a source of pride to Florida, and an enduring example of what real accountability looks like.

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