Florence Snyder, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 16

Florence Snyder

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

In the Great Game, government fights for the White Walkers and the germs

Life really does imitate Game of Thrones.

Republicans, Democrats, Lannisters and Starks fight over White Houses and King’s Landings, but the future is trending in favor of the White Walkers and the germs.

A timely reminder of The Coming Plague comes from USA TODAY investigative reporter Alison Young, who weighed in this week with new reporting on the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) screw-ups in the handling of Ebola and other deadly viruses and bacteria.

The CDC dragged its feet for two years on USAT’s Freedom of Information Act request for incident reports about sloppy and potentially fatal missteps at its laboratories in Atlanta and Ft. Collins. Apparently, that’s how long the CDC’s Department of Making Documents Look Like Swiss Cheese needed to review 503 pages of reports and redact the living daylights out of them.

Young and her colleagues in USAT’s investigative reporting unit are the sweat and muscle behind Biolabs in Your Backyard, an exhaustive and exhausting look at “vials of bacteria gone missing, escaped lab mice carrying deadly viruses, wild rodents making nests in research waste” and myriad other tidbits and outrages you won’t read about in government press releases.

Along with America’s roads and bridges, our public health infrastructure is teetering on the brink of collapse. Government won’t cough up the money necessary for scientists and researchers to do their essential work in the safety of facilities that are appropriately staffed, equipped and maintained. But government can always be counted upon to support the CDC’s Department of Don’t You Worry Your Pretty Little Taxpaying Heads.

Reporters who write about threats to public health suffer from poor pay, the constant threat of being laid-off or transferred to the Deal Diva beat and have a round-the-clock migraine from banging their heads against The Government Stone Wall of Secrecy, Silence and Spin.

This blast from the Nieman Reports past reminds us just how much time these public servant-journalists spend “talking to the hand.”  It’s a chilling collection of horror stories about the “complete lack of respect for the public in the way…agencies operate” to block, tackle, and bully reporters trying to tell stories that might cause a run on the Torch & Pitchfork Depot.

Right now, the germs are winning. On the present trajectory, we all might get repealed and replaced.

Space Florida ‘Steeles’ itself for the winter that’s coming

Good on you, Jason Steele, for being the first person in the Space Florida boardroom to talk about the elephant.

“We have not had a target on our back, but I promise you, and my crystal ball is very clear, the target will be on our back,” Steele told his fellow Space Florida directors, as they reaffirmed a one-million-dollar line of credit for the folks behind a secret-something called Project Ice.

For all the public knew, the loan was going to Vanilla Ice, at a time when secret deals with rappers have fallen out of favor.

Steele’s warning seems to have had an effect. Within days, Space Florida revealed that the line of credit is for Made in Space, ” a Silicon Valley company with a growing Florida presence, for a project that aims to produce a higher-quality optical fiber aboard the International Space Station.”

Steele noted VISIT Florida’s claim that the public got 9-bucks on the dollar rate of return on its trade-secret intensive investment with Pitbull. We now know that the Miami rapper was paid a cool million to encourage millennials to come to Florida to get drunk and screw, an idea that might not otherwise have occurred to the kids. Steele warned that rate of return questions would be coming Space Florida’s way, too, and they’d best be prepared with answers that don’t make people laugh out loud.

Florida has a long history of public-private partnerships where private partners got the profits and the public got the bill.  Most of these deals have been covered quite well by Florida’s newspapers, in spite of the “trade secret” exemptions to the public records laws which have been multiplying like rabbits in recent years.

Beleaguered taxpayers picked up the tabs and suffered in silence because, as philosopher Bruce Springsteen observed, “you can’t start a fire without a spark.” Now that VISIT Florida has provided a blowtorch, pols and press will no longer be content to take an executive director’s word on ROI. They’ll want to know who did the research, and what they got paid to do it. Steele wisely wants Space Florida to get its “tools in the toolbox” … before they get hammered.

A desperate declaration of war on word salad

Quite frankly, moving forward, our partners, community partners, and stakeholders must step up to the plate to reach out, speak out, and double down on a robust, impactful, pushback against Word Salad.

So, clearly, our paid professional purveyors of political communication are obviously resonating with an obsessive-compulsive doubling down on words and phrases that frankly take up space but add no weight to The Conversation.

Going forward, we must bring a sense of urgency to the table and, quite frankly, unpack this, as we move forward to step up to the plate and meet this challenge in the State of Florida.

Along with manatees and panthers, the simple declarative sentence is an endangered species. The annoying and downright ludicrous verbal tics of Word Salad have taken over the language of politics, like pythons in the Everglades and Gambian pouched rats in Carl Hiaasen’s new novel.

Here’s a partial list of fresh from Florida Word Salad ingredients:

at the table

basically

call out

challenge

clearly

community partners

double down

drill down

frankly

get our arms around

going forward

icon

I’d love to work with you

impactful

legendary

lessons learned

level the playing field

like

obviously

moving forward

partnering

picking winners and losers

policies in place

pushback

reach out

resonates

right?

robust

sense of urgency

So

speak out

stakeholders

step up to the plate

strategic vision

thank you for that question

thank you for the opportunity

that said

The Conversation

The State of Florida

The takeaway

unfortunately

unpack

working group

Some of these nasty bits of kale show up twice in a single sentence. Or three times. A particularly fluent speaker of Word Salad can spew four or five in a row without pausing for breath.

It will not be easy to rid The State of Florida of the empty calories and vapid clichés of a pervasive verbal virus that reduces even the smartest and most sincere speaker to an easy target for parody. The public expects and deserves nutritious platters of protein-rich food for thought. People in #TheProcess, resolve to cast off those rhetorical pork rinds and potato chips, and #makeFloridacoherentagain.

 

Drunk is the new barefoot and pregnant

Drunk is the new barefoot and pregnant. Both work equally well to keep women from posing a threat to men in the marketplace, which may explain why “heavy drinking has been normalized” for the sex that isn’t built to metabolize alcohol.

Men can be stewed to the gills and nevertheless stay in high places for an entire career. For women, the distance from first drink to rode hard, put away wet is a lot shorter. It’s not fair, but the science is conclusive. Women have smaller bodies than men, and a smaller quantity of the enzymes needed to process toxins in the tequila.

Blood alcohol levels in women climb faster and stay elevated longer than they do in men. Women who can avoid debilitating hangovers, date rape and DUIs may have a harder time avoiding breast cancer, heart disease and atrophy of the brain. Liver disease starts earlier and progresses faster in women than in men. A woman may get on the wagon, but liver disease will continue to progress in ways it does not in a man who dries out.

When it comes to pleasures of the flesh, science is never a match for marketing, and marketing is the steamroller behind what The Washington Post calls a “profound cultural shift: Women in America are drinking far more, and far more frequently, than their mothers and grandmothers did, and alcohol consumption is killing them in record numbers.”

In 2013, more than a million of them turned up in emergency rooms. Middle-aged women were the demographic most likely to be suffering from severe intoxication.

Over in Africa, it’s always Wine O’Clock for a growing population of professional women who need to ” … unwind after a hard day’s work money to spend on more expensive drinks.”

For working moms and stay-at-home moms who don’t have time to wash stemware, there’s a wineglass big enough to hold an entire bottle of fruits of the vine with names like Mommy’s Time Out, Mommy Juice and Mommy’s Little Helper. It’s a road we’ve been down before, and even the Rolling Stones know where it ends.

Birth control and higher education have made it possible for girls of 20th-century vintage to gain a toehold on the ladder of success.  But we won’t have equality until a drunk woman can go as far in life as a drunk man, and stay alive long enough to enjoy it.

rape protest

Florence Snyder: Now in her 80s, Susan Brownmiller continues to inspire

At age 81, the journalist, historian, and feminist icon Susan Brownmiller has lost none of the youthful mix of outrage and optimism that fueled the four furious years of research and reporting that became “Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape.”

Brownmiller in 1975 (AP)

The highly influential tome was front page news when first published in 1975.

Since then, the book has informed and inspired generations of lawyers, social workers, and everyday people who are trying to bend the arc of history in the direction of justice for rape victims.

As this year full of extraordinary loss comes to a close, it is reassuring to know that Brownmiller is of sound and generous mind, giving interviews to Al-Jazeera, PBS, and fan-girls from Florida who call to say “thank-you.”

Brownmiller was in her 30s when she began reporting on the movement then-known as “women’s liberation.” Somewhere in a consciousness-raising group, “I realized that rape had a history,” said Brownmiller, and someone needed to tell the story of those who, since ancient times, had been violated, and thereafter shamed in to silence.

“Against Our Will” maps the weaponization of male genitalia from the Trojan War to Vietnam.

“It’s still a battle strategy,” Brownmiller said last week, when, for too-brief a moment, People on TV were talking about Aleppo.

Today’s news that Boko Haram is teaching child soldiers how to rape comes as absolutely no surprise to Brownmiller’s audience.

When Brownmiller began her research at the New York Public Library, its card catalogue contained more entries for rapeseed than for rape.  Police and prosecutors viewed rape as a property crime against fathers and husbands, if they thought about it at all.

The ratio of rape to rapeseed has changed in today’s digital card catalogue, thanks to women like Brownmiller who did the hard and largely thankless work of bringing light to dark corners where women’s spirits are broken.

Even though rape remains a ubiquitous weapon of war, Brownmiller continues to “hope that changes in our lifetime.”

“I have to feel optimistic,” she said. “The fires of good always burn, and pendulums shift all the time.”

Hold the door on the DSOs

Now that Pitbull has opened Pandora’s Box, all sorts of corporate welfare stories are flying around where Richard Corcoran can see them. Last week, the University of Central Florida (UCF) put itself on the radar with its unprecedented decision to turn a private, not-for-profit outfit called Limbitless into a university direct-support organization (DSO).

Limbitless is by all accounts doing the Lord’s work. A creation of UCF engineering students, the company makes artificial limbs from 3D printers and enlists celebrities like Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., to deliver them to kids who would otherwise have to do without. So far, around 15 families have benefited from Limbitless’ ingenuity and generosity.

Everyone should hope that these kinds of young people can build these kinds of ideas into ventures that generate profits and enable them to do well by doing good.  And everyone who thinks that government should not be in the business of “picking winners and losers ” should say, “Whoa!”

As a nonprofit, Limbitless has had to compete in the real world for whatever it needs to fund its overhead. With the magic and fairy dust of DSO status, the overhead burdens are lifted. UCF will furnish Limbitless with free office space, lawyers, flacks, and the priceless imprimatur of the nation’s second-largest university.

DSOs have been proliferating like kudzu for decades and performing the same function. The whole point of a DSO is to provide a thick and shady haven. Reporters are rarely seen, except when the DSO does something spectacularly stupid, which has been known to happen.

Nonprofits, too, have been breeding grounds for scandal. What UCF has done is unprecedented for a reason. Let’s hope it’s not too late to hold the door.

 

Craig Fugate fumes while Florida sinks in a sea of bulls**t!

Like a teenager who wants Daddy’s money, but not Daddy’s directives, Gov. Rick Scott is not embarrassed to throw tantrums when the feds fail to pony-up fast enough whenever it rains, even as he sticks his fingers in his ears at unwanted advice like “try rolling up your windows.”

Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) director Craig Fugate isn’t having it.

Fugate was the wind beneath then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s wings in the horrific hurricane seasons of the decade past. The Bush administration won worldwide admiration for its competence in dealing with whatever Mother Nature threw our way, and Fugate went on to earn more praise managing the nation’s response to the rapidly accelerating pace of acts of God and their ungodly consequences.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg View’s Christopher Flavelle, Fugate makes the case for a “disaster deductible.” The idea is to give state and local governments a pocketbook reason to get out of denial and in to action that would reduce the risk of death and damage from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, volcanoes and earthquakes, fracking-related or not. States would be on the hook for a hefty deductible, but can bring the number down if they resist the urge to build in places people were not meant to live.

Fugate calls the current governments won’t worry be happy FEMA will pay incentives “perverse.” And since he’s talking to Bloomberg, which is an ultra-sophisticated venue for business journalism and not a full-service family newspaper, he also calls them “bullshit.”

“The builders and developers and all the people running around saying they’re capitalists and they’re Republicans and they’re conservatives, and it’s all about individual freedom and making money and growing the tax base, and all the bullshit they throw at people, convincing them this is an economic boon activity. It’s nothing but socialism and social welfare for developers when you subsidize risk … FEMA is the euphemism for you, the taxpayer, holding the bag,” fumed Fugate.

Developers can buy permits, pols and PR campaigns about jobs! jobs! jobs! for pennies on the dollars they’ll make building whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want, Fugate is that rare public official who won’t ignore the smell, and isn’t afraid to call it by its right name.

Jackie Pons to taxpayers: DROP dead

Jackie Pons is the kind of public official who gave Florida’s Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP) a very bad name.

After 30 years with the Leon County school system, ten of them as Superintendent, and a DROP-enrollee since 2014, Pons jumped several sharks and was kicked to the curb on election night. The blow to Pons’ ego is cushioned by his vested retirement rights to a $6778 monthly pension check and a one time payment of just under $200,000.

Most folks would take that money and run with what’s left of their dignity. But if Pons can get somebody — anybody — to give him a place at the public trough ’til 2019, over $400K DROPs into his goody bag, and his monthly pension rises to $7151.

Pons doesn’t place much of a premium on dignity, so he’s lawyered-up and “weighing options” if he “cannot become re-employed timely.” In his case, that’s December 31. With Santa back at the North Pole and Baby New Year in the birth canal, time’s running out for Pons.

But stranger Christmas miracles have happened. Consider the case of Department of Corrections Inspector General Jeffery Beasley. For months, the Miami Herald doggedly documented human rights abuses on his watch and under his nose in the state prison system. Continued employment at DOC was untenable, or at least no fun. Quicker than you can say “bailouts for Bubbas” Beasley surfaced as “chief of investigations” for newly-elected Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil.

It’s been ten years since Lucy Morgan double-dipped her Pulitzer Prize winning plumb line into the murky waters of DROP and its myriad opportunities for mischief. Her reporting resulted in reforms that closed off the dark alleys of the Florida Retirement System, where the most extreme examples of taxpayer abuse occurred.

For most state workers, the system operates to provide a modest return on investment in a lifetime of exemplary public service.  For others, it’s a game of musical chairs, where the public always loses, and always picks up the tab.

For your holiday enjoyment: Adam Putnam’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

With apologies to Band Aid…

[Paul Young]
In Legoland … there’s no need to cry
Adam Putnam’s watching over our food supply
[Boy George]
And in our State of Sunshine, we give thanks for this Wonder Boy
Raise your glass of Martini flavored with a big Key lime!
[Phil Collins on drums]
[George Michael]
But say a prayer … pray for the school children
At school lunch time
[Simon Le Bon]
Kids are forced to eat that mystery meat
There’s a world of fruits and veggies
[Sting and Simon Le Bon]
Putnam’s bringing it to you
Fruits and vegetables will be coming out of their ears…
And when he’s Governor the menus will improve.
[Bono}
Well tonight thank God you’re not eating school lunch food!
And there won’t be crap on the lunch tray now that Putnam’s here
Polk County produce will be coming their way
Citrus juice replaces Coke
Hope he’s not just blowin’ smoke
He’s promising a salad bar for all!
Here’s to him
Raise your wine glass, everyone!
Here’s to him
Lakeland’s very favorite son
On the web at “freshfromflorida”  dot com!
Feed school kids….
Citrus fruit from Florida!
Feed our kids….
Cattle from the Putnam Ranch!
Feed school kids…
Tomatoes on their pizza pie!

AARP fights ‘loneliness epidemic’ with awareness campaign

Loneliness is an “epidemic” affecting 8 million older Americans and the newest addition to America’s epidemic of Awareness Campaigns.

In recent months, we’ve been flooded with Awareness of senior citizens bringing up grandchildren whose parents are dead or in jail. The rest of the old people are isolated and depressed in unprecedented numbers, says AARP, and it’s time to get Aware.

Because nothing says Awareness better than an online tool, AARP has gifted us with a pandering to a millennial-sounding website called Connect2Affect.org. It’s a 1Stop4U venue where old folks can “learn what leads to elder isolation and how to build social networks …” as well as “post … stories about loneliness.”

That could appeal to cyber-savvy geezers who aren’t overly busy hooking up with high school crushes, along with family members who don’t have time to spend with Uncle Ed and Aunt Mabel, but do have a chance to increase their Awareness.

AARP has developed a print and online “self-assessment checklist that can screen for someone’s risk of becoming socially isolated or depressed.”  Many self-aware seniors self-assessed without AARP’s help, and turned in droves to their doctors for companionship and a pill or three to ease their emotional pain. It hasn’t made a dent in the isolation epidemic, but it has blown a hole in the nation’s pocketbook.

For most of history, people lived in communities where they had meaningful and necessary contributions to make, right up to the time of their brief and final illness. We used to be Aware that we don’t have to outsource our babies to daycare and our compos-mentis grandparents to warehouses that look better than they smell.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons