Tag Archives: #DeathSantis

Fascism in Florida – Come & Get Me

Subtitle: Your papers, please.

Subtitle: “We must believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the world.” – Malala Yousafzai

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Florida Senator Jason Brodeur has introduced legislation (2023 SB 1316) to, among other things, require bloggers who are compensated in any way for articles “about” certain state officials (including the governor) to register with the state and file regular reports.

Brodeur is a Republican (I know, I had you at “Florida Senator”). Brodeur’s background can be read here: https://www.flsenate.gov/senators/s10/?Tab=Personal  He is not stupid, in the sense that he has earned a Master’s in Public Health from Dartmouth College. That can’t be easy. But, of course, we’ve learned that intelligence and high educational achievement do not necessarily produce rational or coherent politicians. See, e.g., Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz.

Brodeur is a very busy guy – he has nine committee assignments. But he’s not too busy to propose a law that must have been copped from a first-year law school exam question: “draft a law that violates the First Amendment in at least ten ways.”

Brodeur’s brainchild legislation applies to bloggers who receive “anything of value” for posting blog pieces “about” Florida political leaders. “Blogger” means “any person as defined in s. 1.01(3) that submits a blog post to a blog which is subsequently published.”  If the “anything of value” is not currency, then the term means the fair market value of the item or service received. The triggering action includes that the blogger has received or “will receive” compensation and thus requires registration even if the blogger has only been promised something of value, whether or not it is actually received later.

I have questions. First, what is “anything” in “anything of value?” Are “likes” posted in response to the blog post “anything of value?”  How about readers’ reposts on other blogs? What if someone just sends me money as a “reward” for my bold reporting of the truth about Florida politicians? So many questions.

I could not find “s.1.01(3)” that the bill says contains the definition of “blogger.” Search and Advanced Search of Florida statutes turned up no documents. Search of the proposed bill for the definition – same, nada. But you can get there by additive analysis of the key operative language.

Missing, however, is any geographic limitation, leaving the question whether the bill’s authors intend it to apply to bloggers everywhere. I can’t wait. I’m going to send this post to the bill’s author and ask if I’m in violation. Come for me. Please. Pulleeesee come for me. I’ll be visiting Florida in a few weeks, so if you guys hurry, you can make me a violator while I ‘m there. While there, I plan to publish another blog post entitled, Governor DeathSantis – Herald for the Second Dark Age. I can reasonably guarantee that Hiz Honor, the Govnah isn’t going to like it.

Back to the merits. The Brodeur bill requires bloggers whose post is “about” an “elected state officer” or “mentions an elected state officer” to register with the state within five (5) days after the posting. An “elected state officer” includes the “Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, a Cabinet officer, or any member of the Legislature.” Once registered, the blogger must file monthly reports, unless the blogger does not have “a blog post” on a blog during a given month. Presumably, “a blog post” refers to only those that “mention” an “elected state officer” in some way, but this is unclear.

No time limit for the reports can be found in the bill so presumably the filing requirement continues in perpetuity unless the blogger stops blogging about “elected state officers.” That, of course, is the point, isn’t it? To use the power of the state to suppress criticism of elected politicians.

But wait, there is more. The bill states exactly what must be reported:

  • The individual or entity that compensated the blogger for the blog post.
  • The amount of compensation, rounded to the nearest $10 increment, received from the individual or entity, regardless of how the compensation is structured.
  • If the compensation is for a series of blog posts or for a defined period, the blogger must disclose the total amount to be received upon the first blog post being published. Thereafter, the monthly report must disclose the actual date(s) of additional compensation received for the series of posts.
  • The date of publication of each post.
  • The website and website address where the blog post can be found.

Late reports are subject to fines of $25 per day late subject to a maximum of $2,500 per report. Fines are paid into trust funds created by Florida law to fund the administration of lobbyist registrations, including salaries and other expenses and to pay expenses incurred by, for example, the state legislature in “providing services to lobbyists.” The state legislature provides “services to lobbyists?” What?

Thus, the underlying concept of this legislation is that blog posts “about,” say, a legislator are by legislative fiat, lobbying and are to be treated as such for purpose of fining late-filed reports. This is so even if the blog post is in no way related to attempts to influence legislation. A blog post “about” a state legislator might be an exposé of asserted corruption by the legislator, but if the blogger doesn’t file the report on time, her fines are to be paid into the legislative fund for managing lobbying registrations and the cost of services for lobbyists.

Brodeur was quoted in an interview claiming that people who write about the legislature are indistinguishable from lobbyists who talk to legislators. What? Do lobbyists in Florida openly criticize the legislators whose favor they’re seeking? Not likely. People who write critically about legislators (for present purposes, “bloggers”) are in no way similar to lobbyists who try to curry favor with legislators to get (or prevent) legislation.

Even Newt Gingrich has labeled this legislation “insane” and an “embarrassment.” Yes, it’s true. Even the Newtster thinks this legislation is nuts. He urged its withdrawal. https://bit.ly/3ZPeXYc Not likely. Your papers, please.

I will not waste more time on this nonsense. The notion that a state government can compel a compensated person (“anything of value”) who writes “about” the Governor or a legislator of the state to register and file reports is so blatantly a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that detailed analysis is unnecessary. Recall that Florida is among the leading states banning books about various aspects of American history that politicians don’t want anyone to read. If the Republicans in Florida have their way, the state will have justly earned renaming to Gilead.

Stay tuned for publication of Governor DeathSantis – Herald for the Second Dark Age. I will never register nor pay a dime in fines to Florida so ….

Norwegian Cruise Line Fights the Right Fight Against Ignorance

The case is Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Ltd., et al. Plaintiffs, vs. Scott Rivkees, M.D., Defendant, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The opinion was written by U.S. District Court Judge Kathleen Williams acting on the Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction. The defendant is the Surgeon General of Florida and the head of the Florida Department of Health.

The lawsuit was brought to enable Norwegian to protect its customers to the maximum extent possible in the face of directives from the Republican “small government” Governor of Florida who has forbidden cruise lines operating there on international itineraries to require use of face masks, vaccinations and proof of vaccinations.

Judge Williams’ thorough and carefully crafted 59-page opinion grants the plaintiff’s motion. This allows Norwegian to establish its own COVID health protocols, including requiring proof of vaccination as a condition for cruising. The opinion skewers the defense for its failure to present evidence on key issues. While it’s always tempting to blame this on the lawyers, the reality in this case is that the evidence for the defense simply doesn’t exist. The state’s attempt to prevent cruise lines from adopting safe health standards is a political maneuver, not a rational health policy decision with demonstrable roots in local health needs or medical science.

Judge Williams’ opinion should stand up well in the appeal that Governor DeSantis, known on Twitter as #DeathSantis, has announced he will file. DeSantis’ statement about the case included this gem, “A prohibition on vaccine passports does not even implicate, let alone violate, anyone’s speech rights, and it furthers the substantial, local interest of preventing discrimination among customers based on private health information.”

That suggests the good governor did not read the District Judge’s opinion or lacks understanding of the legal principles involved. His lack of awareness extends to the growing public support for “vaccine passports,” and he is also unaware of federal ventilator resources sent to his state by the federal government to help relieve the crisis caused by the Delta Variant and his refusal to recognize the challenges it poses. Delta threatens to overwhelm the health facilities of multiple, mainly southern, states, including Florida, that have largely ignored the danger still posed by COVID-19. Florida’s governor is earning his moniker as #DeathSantis every day.

Norwegian Cruise Line is on the right side of health science, health policy and rational business behavior. Kudos to NCL’s management for standing up to the Florida Governor’s rejection of all of those as he plays to his right-wing political audience, the same base that thrives on adoration of Donald Trump (you remember him, speaking about Democrats: “the virus is their new hoax.”)

In an op-ed in TravelMarketReport, https://bit.ly/2VKcfri, way back in October 2020, long before anyone had heard of the Delta Variant, I argued that the path to travel industry recovery required restoration of consumer confidence but that the path then in play was more chaos than order. I suggested an approach that, in those troubled times, I thought might work:

I suggest that the atomization of the industry’s approach must be replaced with an across-the-board cooperative regime of joint decision-making to which individual firms commit to total compliance for a significant period into the future. For example, and as a great beginning, the cruise industry players (of which there are relatively few independent entities) have undertaken a collective effort to establish firm rules about how ships will be sanitized, how masking and social distancing will be applied and so on. Obviously, the science behind this is still evolving, but much is already known about how to manage indoor environments. I believe that the new rules should be vetted with a representative sample of cruise travelers to evaluate whether the rules are understandable, practical and reassuring. The likely outcome is not a return to full-on unlimited cruising and many economic challenges will remain. The concept is not a cure-all but an attempt to establish a common and trustable arrangement that will permit business to resume on some scale.

Call me a dreamer if you like. We are not close to what I had envisioned. Nowhere is this clearer than in the battle Norwegian Cruise Line is fighting, alone, with Florida. Downloadable CDC data for Florida, from August 6, paints a grim picture. https://bit.ly/3lU94rX This will not deter Florida’s governor from resisting science and common sense as he continues his efforts to stop the cruise lines from using the best defenses available to control the virus and resume safe cruising.

The chaos will thus continue for a while longer. I am confident Norwegian Cruise Line will continue the fight and hopefully will succeed, however long it takes.