Editorial: He’s got to go–NOW

Donald Trump returns from a failed rally in Tulsa, Okla., in June 2020. (Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP/Shutterstock).

Jan. 8, 2021

President Donald Trump must be removed from office immediately.

He is a danger to the United States, he is completely unfit for office and he appears to have lost the capacity for rational thought. He publicly engaged in sedition, incited a riot and arguably committed treason by trying to overthrow the rightful government of the United States. He cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of the country and he cannot be allowed to have any further authority over the vast, destructive powers of the United States military. He is actually a clear and present danger to all life on this planet.

It now appears that the Vice President and Cabinet will not remove him under Amendment 25 of the US Constitution. There is momentum in Congress to impeach him a second time and this time it could succeed in removing him. This might not seem necessary with only 12 days to go (as of this writing) but the threat is so great and his crimes so obvious that the effort should be made.

If he had any shred of decency, dignity or care for the country he would resign—but that is not likely from this sick and twisted man.

Southwest Florida’s role

The representatives and citizens of Southwest Florida did not cover themselves in glory during the current crisis.

Its congressional delegation—Reps. Byron Donalds (R-19-Fla.), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) all voted to overturn the election of President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris and negate the votes of 80 million Americans. Notwithstanding their protestations to the contrary, they attempted on a legal and procedural basis to accomplish what the rioters tried on a violent and physical basis: to stop the proper functioning of government, cancel the results of a legal election, overturn democracy and install autocratic rule at the behest of a would-be dictator.

Trump’s more extreme supporters from Southwest Florida traveled to Washington, DC to register their protest—and some illegally entered the Capitol and participated in the riot and rampage that occurred there.

Now, in the bizarre and delusional mythmaking that characterizes Trumpism, they are asserting that the rioters who invaded the Capitol and battled police were somehow not Trumpers, were disguised anarchists, were a small minority, were agents provocateurs.

This is straight out of the George Orwell book. In fact, to quote his novel, 1984: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” Or, as Donald Trump himself said in 2018: “What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening,”

Anyone who watched the horrendous invasion of the Capitol simply knows that this wasn’t true. This was a mass riot by tens of thousands of people attacking the legislative branch of the United States government in its own home at the incitement of a delusional president who had been defeated in an election.

No amount of mythmaking and self-delusion will change that fact, whether the mythmakers are in Southwest Florida or anywhere else.

The Dec. 2, 2008 dedication of the Capitol Visitors Center. (Image: C-SPAN)

It’s worth noting that there is also a Southwest Florida connection to the physical building: it is the Capitol Visitors Center, the secure underground entrance to the Capitol Building where visitors are normally screened and which includes an extensive museum, offices and educational facilities. As the acting Architect of the Capitol put when it opened on Dec. 2, 2008, it is “a respectful and dignified way to enter the people’s house.” It was built by Manhattan Construction Co., owned by retired congressman and Naples resident Francis Rooney. Being underground, the Visitors Center did not appear to be a target of the rioters and there are no reports at this time of damage to it.


On a personal note: For many years, this author covered Congress and spent a great deal of time in the Capitol Building. In fact it was love and respect for the institution, particularly the House of Representatives, that inspired him to write a comprehensive citizens’ guide to Congress.

To go to work in or around the US Capitol Building and its complex each day is to be awestruck anew by its dignity and majesty. Every corridor and room has its hallowed past and reminders of the people who served this republic with distinction. The whole building is a physical expression of the greatest democratic experiment in history and inspires respect and reverence.

There is no single word to express this author’s feelings as he watched insane, raging rioters rampage down hallways he intimately knew, defile the floors of the House and Senate, saw police overwhelmed in the Capitol Crypt or watched a pitched battle in the magnificent Rotunda, the sacred space between the House and Senate. Like their ignorant leader these people had no reverence, no piety and no patriotism for what that building represents.

Now one knows how it must have felt when the barbarians overwhelmed the defenses of Rome and went on a rampage through its precincts in the year 410. And in the Jewish tradition, one suddenly gets the sense of the impact of the defilement of the sacred Temple in Jerusalem by pagan invaders.

In the case of the Jewish Temple, in the year 164 before the Common Era, Greek invaders were expelled and the Temple reconsecrated. It was this reconsecration that is commemorated by Hanukah (which means “dedication” in Hebrew), the Jewish festival of lights. The story is that a small supply of the Temple’s hallowed oil miraculously burned for eight days.

Perhaps in our current context it is also an important reminder for everyone that reconsecration can occur and that wounds can heal and vandalism be repaired—with dedication.


What’s next

The next stage of the American political drama will be played out in Washington among a handful of people with the institutional responsibilities for the functioning of government: the President, the Speaker of the House, the Senate majority and minority leaders and the bodies of the US House of Representatives and the Senate.

Citizens of the United States and Southwest Florida can make their lawful voices heard. They’ve already made their preferences known through their votes in the presidential election; it was this preference that Donald Trump attempted to steal.

Donald Trump has demonstrated that democracy and the machinery to implement it cannot be taken for granted; it has to be defended. Supporters of America’s democracy have acted and continue to act in a lawful and orderly fashion, in contrast to Trump and his followers, who have shown themselves riotous, seditious and disorderly.

Lawlessness and anarchy have to be suppressed and punished through legal, lawful means. The representatives of Southwest Florida have stated with their votes, actions and failure to criticize or condemn Donald Trump, which side they are on.

If America’s electoral machinery continues to function as intended, the next legal chance for citizens to make a difference will occur in two years when there is another election. In Florida, that election will include the office of governor, a senator and all representatives.

If America is to continue as a democracy, over the next two years lovers of democracy will have to mobilize, stay alert, be vigilant and active. The last election is over but the struggle continues. And as events at the Capitol demonstrated, everything—absolutely everything—remains at stake.

Liberty lives in light

©2021 by David Silverberg

Editorial: ‘Ridin’ with Biden’ caravan should greet Trump in Fort Myers on Friday

A “Ridin’ with Biden” caravan in Collier County on Aug. 16. (Image: WINK News)

Last night, Oct. 13, Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson (R) alerted local media that President Donald Trump would be visiting Fort Myers in some capacity on Friday, Oct. 16.

The exact nature of the visit is unclear as of this writing: whether it will be a rally or just a visit, a drive-through or a meeting with local politicians. Also undetermined is the exact location of Trump’s appearance and whether it will be an event that will be held indoors or outdoors.

Whatever the final disposition, there’s little doubt that it will be a COVID-19 super spreader event. If a rally or speech, the president’s supporters will no doubt gather unmasked in tight groups. Lee County will be dealing with coronavirus fallout for weeks to come—if people are infected on Friday, they will likely become symptomatic around two weeks later. Any rally or gathering has the potential to create a wave of infections that could overwhelm Lee County medical facilities.

At the same time, a Trump visit provides the potential for Southwest Florida Democrats and supporters of former Vice President Joe Biden (D) to show their support for him and register their disapproval of Trump.

A “Ridin’ with Biden” caravan through Fort Myers on Friday would be a safe, peaceful and appropriate response to a Trump visit, demonstrating the spirit and determination of Southwest Florida’s democratic community—and showing that local Trumpism is neither monolithic nor unchallenged.

A similar caravan in The Villages of Florida on Saturday, Oct. 10, gained national attention when it greeted Vice President Mike Pence’s arrival.

Southwest Florida can do its part for American democracy and a Joe Biden victory. The time is short but the stakes are high and the need is great.

(This story will be updated as new details become available.)

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Endorsement: Good over evil

Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Sept. 27, 2020

Most of us lead our lives in shades of gray.

Daily, we make innumerable decisions of small importance. Our moral choices are usually of light significance and we select among options of greater or lesser compromise.

But every so often, perhaps only once in a lifetime, we face a choice of great consequence that is stark, uncompromising and absolute, one that has no shades of gray, only black or white.

This is such a time.

As Americans we still have a vote and if the mechanisms of our 244 years of self-rule and independence hold, that vote will count toward how we’re governed and determine our future and that of the nation.

This year the choice is between absolute good and absolute evil. Donald Trump and what he represents is evil. Joe Biden and what he represents is good.

Without hesitation or reservation we endorse good.

A dark reign

As has been stated in the past, it has always been the position of The Paradise Progressive that a media outlet covering politics has a duty to endorse. Following candidates and political developments on a regular basis gives journalists insights and knowledge that need to be shared with voters. Whether the outlet is national or local television, online or print or even a simple blog, it is the obligation of independent media in a free society to help voters make an informed choice. Any endorsement offends some people but that comes with taking a stand on anything.

This year the choice is stark but it is also easy.

The crimes, the corruption, the incompetence, the treason, the delusions, the divisiveness, the debaucheries and the failures of Donald John Trump have been amply documented throughout the past three-plus years.

To list them yet again is beyond the scope of this essay. Reiterating Donald Trump’s failings and evildoing is cathartic but unproductive, like being caught in an emotional whirlpool in a sea of hate.

Beyond the ugliness of this vile and vicious person we have also seen the depressing spectacle of what he has done to Americans’ sense of themselves as decent, moral, independent individuals. He has imposed a toxic and twisted personality and mindset on a nation that was once free, proud and brave and needs to be again.

America was founded amidst an age of absolute monarchs who said they ruled by divine right. The colonists who declared independence in 1776 could see that it was untenable to be governed by the whims and frailties of a single, fallible human being, no matter how much he glorified or exalted himself. When they won their freedom Americans put their faith in reason, in equality, in a spirit of sensible compromise and most of all, in institutions embodied in their Constitution. Those institutions included equal justice under the rule of law, checks and balances on power, and democratic participation.

Their faith worked and was rewarded. Those beliefs built the greatest, freest, most prosperous nation of any time or place in history. It was a light to the world, a shining city on a hill, an inspiration to all humanity, the scourge of tyrants, the refuge of huddled masses yearning to breathe free and the last, best hope of earth.

Donald Trump threatens all of that at the most fundamental level. That’s why it’s appropriate to put this contest in elemental terms of “good” and “evil.” It’s why it’s proper to speak of the “soul” of both the nation and its people. Joe Biden has called this a fight for the nation’s soul and he’s right.

And lest anyone think that these broad themes don’t apply at the local level, one need only look at this summer’s political contest here in Southwest Florida.

In this region’s Republican primaries we saw the spectacle of otherwise accomplished and sensible people abandoning reasoned decency and discourse in an effort to imitate Donald Trump. They spewed insults, fear, prejudice, subservience and flattery to win his favor and that of his most fanatical followers. They didn’t campaign for office; they worshipped a false god.

This is what Trump will reduce us all to if he’s given another term in office. He has attacked every institutional pillar of American governance; in a second term he would demolish them.

It also needs to be said that the Party of Trump is not the Republican Party, which once valued individualism, free thought and personal autonomy. The Trump Party is a mindless cult and, sadly, every Republican candidate has sworn fealty to it.

Returning to good

There is a saying that “America is great because it is good. When it ceases to be good it will cease to be great.” The line is attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville, the famous French 19th century observer of America. While there’s some dispute whether he actually wrote that, even if he didn’t he should have, because it’s true.

It is one of the cruelest ironies of history that Donald Trump should have as his slogan “make America great again” because by leading America so far from goodness he has taken it so far from greatness.

In fact, it really is time to make America great again by making America good again and, as Joe Biden says, “build back better.”

We can all still do that with our votes. The time is now, while our votes still count and we’re still free. We need to preserve that freedom.

Therefore, here in Southwest Florida, we endorse the entire Democratic ticket and urge voters to vote Democratic straight down the line starting with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for president and vice president, Cindy Banyai for Congress and the entire slate of Democrats for all state and local offices.

You can see complete lists of Democratic candidates on the Lee County Democratic Party website and the Collier County Democratic website.

This year, like no other in America’s history, each of us needs to ensure that evil is defeated. Each and every one of us needs to make America good again.

Vote.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

A Democratic endorsement

01-15-20 Holden and BanyaiDavid Holden and Cindy Banyai are introduced at a meeting by Collier County Democratic Chair Annisa Karim this past January.       (Photo: Author)

July 21, 2020

Democrats in Southwest Florida have never been blessed with an abundance of political candidates but this year is different—there are two capable and attractive Democratic candidates for Congress and that means Democrats have a difficult choice ahead of them.

As stated in a past posting, it has always been the position of The Paradise Progressive that a media outlet covering politics has a duty to endorse a candidate when choices are hard. Following candidates and political developments on a regular basis gives journalists insights and knowledge that need to be shared with voters. Whether the outlet is national or local television, print newspapers or even a simple blog, it is the obligation of independent media in a free society to help voters make an informed choice. Any endorsement offends some people but that comes with taking a stand on anything.

When it comes to the race for Congress in the 19th Congressional District, Democrats have to make a selection between candidates Cindy Banyai and David Holden.

Both are excellent people. Both bring great virtues to the table. Both are intelligent and articulate. Both have run civilized campaigns focused on the issues and solutions to problems. Democrats should be proud of their conduct.

Importantly, both are committed to preserving democracy and the best values of America. Both seek to serve all the people of Southwest Florida. Both believe that healthcare is a right, the environment needs to be protected and justice and equality need to advance.

Both have strong educational credentials. Holden has a Master of Public Administration from Harvard University. Banyai has a PhD from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Japan.

David Holden, 61, is thoughtful, insightful, extremely well versed in the issues and has real compassion for people and a deep commitment to social justice. He genuinely cares about overlooked and underserved communities. Thanks to his 2018 run, voters in the District, especially in Collier County, are familiar with him.

Cindy Banyai, 40, is a mom with a strong sense of social justice and a fearless willingness to fight for what she believes is right. She has energy and determination and is a fast learner. She is intimately familiar with the issues and challenges facing families, especially with school-aged children, of which she has three. Living in Fort Myers, she’s especially well versed in the needs and geography of Lee County.

So how is a Democrat to choose?

Looking to the future

It makes sense to look beyond the individuals to the job demands of a member of the US House of Representatives and the situation that is likely to confront those members when the 117th Congress convenes in January 2021.

This assumes, of course, that the United States is still governed under its original Constitution, that the election takes place as scheduled, and civil order prevails. These are no longer givens, thanks to President Donald Trump’s drive for “total domination” and unwillingness to commit to accepting the results of the vote. In fact, by next year the nation could be in a state of civil war or something like it. Also, the election may have been disrupted or in dispute, and even if defeated Trump could still be insisting on staying in office.

But for the purpose of this essay, let’s assume that the election takes place as scheduled and life goes on as in the past, in something akin to pre-Trump “normal” or close to it.

Now, what follows are not absolute predictions of the future; rather they’re scenarios and, in fact, one hopes that they turn out better than at first glance. But they’re certainly plausible given where we are today and they represent the environment in which the next Congress may be working.

First, the members of the 117th Congress may very well have to govern a nation that is essentially bankrupt. Between the economic crash, the ravages of coronavirus, the emergency spending that’s been done to date and the impacts of Trump’s changes to the tax system, the government may be in a situation that is effectively bankrupt.

Secondly, the odds are high that the country may be in a full-blown economic depression. The kinds of stock market crashes Wall Street has suffered under Trump will not be overcome with just an election and a change of administration. Trump has deeply injured America’s trade and international economic relationships.

Third, unemployment may be at Depression-era levels and take many years to recover.

Fourth, coronavirus will likely still be with us. There’s no telling what the state of the pandemic will be in January. It’s unlikely to disappear like a miracle, as Trump promised. Even if vaccines are developed, tested and proven by late 2020 or early 2021, huge numbers of people around the world—but especially Americans—are likely to still be suffering and dying. Social distancing is likely to still be in force.

The impacts of Trump’s tenure on defense and foreign affairs are too numerous to delve into here but they will certainly preoccupy Congress.

The next Congress will also be deeply engaged in investigating and rooting out the corruption that Trump introduced into government.

Overall, the 117th Congress is likely to be overwhelmingly preoccupied with the work of renewal, restoration and repair.

So if this is the situation that the new members of Congress will confront when they take office, what will the representative of the 19th Congressional District and Southwest Florida have to do?

  • Any representative will have to do whatever can be done to ensure that Southwest Florida gets as many federal unemployment and economic benefits as possible, to cope with what is already a devastated local economy.
  • The representative will have to ensure that Social Security benefits continue to flow to the area’s seniors who are entitled to them and depend on them.
  • The representative will have to ensure that in a time of crisis and straitened circumstances the area receives the federal support that has already been promised for projects like the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project, Hoover Dike restoration and harmful algal bloom protection. Remember: the federal government will be trying to cut costs anywhere it can and environmental management is likely to be on the chopping block. Trump already tried to shortchange Southwest Florida on its contracted appropriations; that can’t be allowed to happen again.
  • The representative will have to bring whatever aid is available to a region that is still going to be in the grip of coronavirus. That means getting federal support for medical supplies and whatever other needs the area’s healthcare system requires.
  • The representative should continue trying to make the moratorium on offshore oil exploitation permanent.
  • The area could see widescale homelessness as a result of the economic depression and unemployment as occurred in the 1930s; the representative will have to work to get as much federal assistance as possible to address that problem.
  • If the area suffers a devastating hurricane in the 2020 season, the representative will have to fight for a share of emergency funding and support starting on the first day of the 2021 term.

These are some of the real challenges that will likely confront a newly elected congressional representative. Elections may be lost and won on grand rhetoric and sweeping visions but the truth is that these are some of the unglamorous tasks that will be pressing, immediate and urgent on the first day a new representative takes office.

So who is best equipped to meet them?

Endorsement

During the course of this campaign, Cindy Banyai took two particularly impressive actions.

The first came when she was trying to get the state to postpone the deadline for candidate filings due to the coronavirus.

To do this, she pulled together a coalition of candidates from around the state from both parties. It showed that she was willing to work across the political aisle to get something done and reach a goal she had set. It took initiative and an openness to converse with people holding different opinions and political allegiances. Ultimately, she was successful and was able to file, which is why she’s on the ballot today.

Banyai’s second initiative came when WINK-TV News held an online and on-camera debate among District 19 congressional candidates—and didn’t invite any Democrats to participate.

Banyai drafted a letter to WINK management protesting this oversight. But she didn’t just send the letter. She reached out to her opponent, David Holden, and convinced the chairs of both the Lee and Collier Democratic parties to sign on. She drafted the letter and it was approved by all parties with a single word change. When the letter was brought to the attention of WINK management a second Democratic debate was held (even though this one was only online).

By these actions, Banyai displayed an instinct to reach out to all parties on an issue and showed a skill for coalition-building. Bringing people together and building coalitions are what she has done her entire professional life. These are perhaps the most critical instincts and skills for getting anything tangible done in Congress. It’s how laws are made, money is appropriated and legislation is passed.

She consistently displayed initiative and energy in campaigning even when coronavirus curtailed in-person events. She has also consistently promoted a progressive agenda and in a measure of her commitment to Democratic values, she got into the race in September 2019 despite the fact that Rep. Francis Rooney looked like he would run for a third term, his victory seemed certain and the odds for any challenger were long at best.

She also has some actual congressional experience as an intern on Capitol Hill. It may not be much but it’s more Washington experience than any other candidate of any party in the race—and despite its widespread disparagement, the past four years have shown that experience counts for a great deal.

Lastly, her past as a pugilist stands her in good stead: she knows how to take a punch to the face and keep on fighting.

Banyai hasn’t just talked the talk, she’s already walked the walk.

As a result of these actions, experiences and instincts, Cindy Banyai should be the next congressional representative from the 19th Congressional District.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Cooperation

On January 16 of this year, Banyai and Holden sat together at the Collier County Democratic Party’s Progressive Caucus meeting. They were asked if each would support the winner of the Democratic primary and both agreed.

That was not an idle question and it was not an insignificant answer. It was a solemn pledge and Democrats should expect both candidates to abide by it.

Despite the long odds in the 19th District, there is a Democratic path to victory. In a year when the Republican standard bearer is clearly unfit and increasing numbers of Republicans are recognizing it, there is a real possibility that a Democratic alternative could win in Southwest Florida. Democrats should aggressively pursue it.

After this primary, local Democrats need to unite. Whoever wins, both candidates should campaign together—and not just pro-forma, phone-it-in campaigning. They should aggressively and energetically share platforms, tweets, online conferences and town halls, statements, campaign materials and most of all, funding. When in-person campaigning becomes possible again, they should appear together early and often. These are two talented and committed people. Together they will make a dynamic team.

It will be essential that Democrats show Southwest Floridians of all political affiliations that the Party is united and committed to ideals and positions that will benefit everyone.

The upcoming primary should not be a loss for anyone; it should be a win for Southwest Florida.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Editorial: Everything Trump touches dies—and right now that means Florida

07-14-20 Charlie ChaplinCharlie Chaplin in the movie ‘The Great Dictator.’

Everything Trump touches dies: it’s the title of a book and never was a title more accurate, more appropriate and now more literal, especially here in Florida.

Trump has really touched Florida. He’s an official resident, he has his second White House in Florida as well as a golf club in Doral. He dominates the Republican political landscape, the Party and its two senators. He also handpicked the state’s governor.

And sure enough, his touch is killing Florida and Floridians. His incompetence, delusions and arrogance at the national level in handling the pandemic have, as of this writing, resulted in 3,361,042 confirmed American coronavirus cases and 135,582 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

In his adopted state 4,381 Floridians have died since March 1 and 295,312 have been infected to date, according to Florida’s Community Coronavirus Dashboard (the one posted by dissident scientist Rebekah Jones). On Sunday, July 12, Florida hit a record 15,300 new cases; the next day it reached 12,624.

All this would be bad enough but Trump’s disastrous mismanagement at the national level has been imitated on the state level by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R).

Florida’s path from haven to hotspot starts with Trump’s denial of the seriousness of the coronavirus threat, his characterization of warnings of it as a Democratic hoax and his dismissive assurances that it would disappear “like a miracle.” Then, when its devastation couldn’t be denied, he resisted strong measures to contain it and rushed to open the economy for the sake of his re-election.

DeSantis mirrored the president’s performance almost word for word and gesture for gesture. He denied the seriousness of the threat, failed to prepare for it and dismissed warnings as exaggerations. Then he failed to provide statewide guidance for responding and rushed to re-open the economy. When infections and deaths began to spike, he accused the media of using the spectacle to gain ratings.

Now two events in Florida are threatening to turn the spike into an eruption: unrestricted re-opening of schools—an all-caps demand that Trump made on Twitter—and bringing the Republican National Convention to Jacksonville. There is no telling what the rate of infection will be and how many deaths will result if these two events occur as Trump demands.

Trump is on his way to causing more American deaths from coronavirus than Americans killed by Adolf Hitler during World War II.

(Between June 1944 and May 8, 1945, there were 552,117 US casualties in the European theater of operations, of which 104,812 were killed in action, according to the US Department of Defense.)

The question that arises from all this is: Given Trump’s glaring incompetence, the demonstrated danger of his delusions and the clear path to disaster that he continues pursuing, how long will Florida politicians in positions of power—or aspiring to positions of power—allow themselves to be led by a man whose course clearly leads to catastrophe? How long will they blindly follow him?

Certainly, there seems no answer in Florida where the governor, better educated than his mentor, shows no signs of independent thought. In Southwest Florida the Republican candidates up and down the ballot make a point of going to ever greater extremes in their praise and defense of this person whose decisionmaking seems insane.

Every day, every person who dies from this plague rebukes this man and his tweets. But throughout the peninsula of Florida there’s only silence from the members of his party and the people scratching and scrambling to get votes.

In 1940 Charlie Chaplin released his anti-Nazi film, The Great Dictator. In it, Chaplin as an imposter dictator gives a final speech against dictatorship that sounds hauntingly relevant today.

“You are not machines!” he tells his listeners. “You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate—the unloved and the unnatural!”

It’s time for Florida’s leaders and voters to stop being machines and start thinking hard and independently about what’s best for themselves, their state, their nation and humanity—and not just what’s best for Donald Trump.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

 

 

Editorial: Maintaining domestic tranquility in Southwest Florida

05-31-20 Ft. Myers protestProtesters yesterday, May 31, in Fort Myers.                (Image: NBC2 News)

So far, Southwest Florida has been spared the destruction and chaos afflicting most of the rest of the country as a result of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. There have been two protests in Fort Myers, both peaceful and lawful and more are scheduled.

The goal of the region’s political leadership and people—regardless of party—should be to allow the expression of legitimate discontent while protecting lives and property and avoiding violence and destruction.

How can that best be done?

Expressions of respect

To ensure domestic tranquility we need to hear that message from officials in authority.

06-01-20 Derrick Diggs
Ft. Myers Police Chief Derrick Diggs

To date, only Fort Myers Police Chief Derrick Diggs has issued a statement in the wake of Floyd’s death (produced in full below). It was a commitment to professionalism and justice.

There need to be such statements from every public official in a position of authority in Southwest Florida. As President Donald Trump has shown, words matter—only we need positive expressions right now, not hateful ones.

This is especially true of Fort Myers Mayor Randy Henderson, who before his run for Congress was a uniter and respected all the communities in his jurisdiction. Sadly, he chose to follow a low road to office in his campaign and that diminishes his credibility. Nonetheless, there was never a time when he has so needed to step up as a leader of his city and show respect for peoples’ concerns and a commitment to justice. If that means jettisoning his congressional ambitions for now, the peace, tranquility and welfare of his city demands it.

The mayors of Cape Coral and Naples, Joe Coviello and Teresa Heitmann, also need to step up and speak out as do all the elected officials—and candidates—in the region.

And if those officials and candidates choose to use the rhetoric of division and hate, that will count toward their final reckonings in August and November.

Commitment to professional policing

Aside from its deeper sources, what happened to George Floyd was the result of unprofessional, undisciplined policing when one officer’s emotionalism overwhelmed rational law enforcement protocols.

People expect unbiased, professional, disciplined, responsive law enforcement. It’s why they pay their taxes.

Chief Diggs made that commitment in his statement. Southwest Florida needs to hear similar commitments from all its other law enforcement chiefs.

At the very least, such expressions will reinforce these principles among their deputies and officers, reassure at least some of the public and serve to maintain the bonds between law enforcement and the people it serves.

Containment of extremism

This is an extraordinarily passionate and emotional time. Extremists can have an outsized effect on events. Fortunately, there seems little inclination to violent extremism in Southwest Florida.

To maintain that atmosphere, it’s important that all influencers spread a message of non-violence. Local leaders of all faiths play an outsized role in this. Their active participation is essential.

From a law enforcement standpoint, objective and unbiased intelligence gathering and surveillance of potentially violent extremists–whatever their beliefs–needs to be robust and active.

Expressions of extremism should receive immediate condemnation. Sadly, one of the worst extremists is President Trump. While no one, it seems, can control him, on the local level thinking people can exert their influence to tamp down more incendiary exhortations—including his.

Every indivdual’s effort

As individuals on the local level, there’s little we can do to influence the broad movements across the nation in real time. But our actions and decisions make a difference.

There is just no substitute for organization and activism. And if making phone calls or participating in Zoom forums or writing letters to the editor isn’t as emotionally satisfying as marching in the street, it’s worth knowing that in the long run it will make a difference.

If the Constitution is followed and we all add our efforts and we have elections as scheduled in August and November, and the count is fair and honest, and if the law is obeyed and power is properly transferred, we do have hope of change and times will get better.

And that will be the best possible legacy to come from the death of George Floyd.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Full statement of Fort Myers Police Chief Derrick Diggs:

Citizens of the City of Fort Myers:

As your Police Chief, I would like to take a moment to address with all of you the recent tragic events involving the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

When I assumed my leadership role with the Fort Myers Police Department four years ago, my primary goal was to build bridges between our police officers and the community we serve by increasing our positive engagement within our city.

I believe this department is well on its way to building those bridges and we remain dedicated to these endeavors.

In my effort to build the community’s trust, I ensure the Fort Myers Police Department continuously provides ongoing training to ensure our officers are current with the ever-changing case law, technology, applied tactical procedures, and attitude regarding fair and impartial policing.

As an agency, we are constantly evolving, learning, and growing. Alongside our community, we have been able to achieve a remarkable decrease in violent crime during the last four-year period.

As a 40-year law enforcement professional, I trust that justice will ultimately be served in Minneapolis against the officers involved in this tragic incident, as their actions or inactions are unacceptable and would not be tolerated in Fort Myers.

With that said, be assured that the Fort Myers Police Department is True to our Community, True to our Commitment, and True to our City.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Endorsement: Joe Biden. Yes, Joe Biden.

03-09-20 Joe BidenFormer Vice President Joe Biden in his campaign video.

March 10, 2020

If our current world were a TV show, it would be “The Apprentice.” An untrained, uneducated, unstable apprentice rules a fake boardroom, inciting turmoil and stress and cutthroat conflict—and every week someone gets fired.

People are tired of this show. It’s clear that they’re ready for a change and not one that provides even more conflict. They want something akin to “Father Knows Best” (if anyone remembers that); something scripted, civilized, with clean language and healthy family values and if it’s kind of dull and formulaic and corny, well, that’s OK.

This TV metaphor is not as farfetched as it might seem at first glance. Hosting “The Apprentice” was a truly formative experience for President Donald J. Trump. Its storms and stress drove ratings and as a creature of television Trump governs as though he’s constantly reaching for ratings. This is not conjecture or deduction; it shows up repeatedly in his infamous tweets.

But government is not what we’ll call “unreality” TV. It’s serious business that has enormous impacts on our lives and futures and the state of the nation and the world. It’s partially because of this (among so many other reasons) that Trump has got to go.

Both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden realize this. Now the time has finally come for Florida voters to weigh in.

Early voting in the Florida Democratic presidential primary began on Saturday, March 7. The early voting goes on until next Saturday, the 14th, then Election Day is next Tuesday, the 17th. It should go without saying but every eligible voter should vote.

For many Florida Democrats the choice they’re left with after the early primaries and caucuses is disappointing and uninspiring. Out of a field that covered a wide range of personalities, races, genders, ideologies and ages, they’re left with two old white men and a flaky outlier without much of a chance (Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-2-Hawaii)).

It has always been the position of this author that a media outlet covering politics has a duty to endorse a candidate when choices are difficult. Following candidates and political developments on a regular basis gives journalists insights and knowledge that need to be shared with voters. Whether the outlet is national or local television, print newspapers or even a simple blog, it is the obligation of independent media in a free society to help voters make an informed choice. Any endorsement offends some people but that comes with taking a stand on anything.

As the headline of this editorial makes clear, The Paradise Progressive is endorsing Joe Biden. But as the Declaration of Independence put it, “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” requires that the causes of the decision be explained.

So let’s look at some of the big issues in turn.

Democracy versus dictatorship

The overriding issue of this election is whether the United States will remain a democracy or become a dictatorship under Donald J. Trump. It is that stark.

Biden clearly understands the threat and he put it directly and forthrightly in his April 25, 2019 campaign launch video.

“We are in the battle for the soul of this nation,” he said at the time. “The core values of this nation, our standing in the world, our very democracy, everything that has made America, America, is at stake.”

Campaign videos are in part propaganda intended to sway voters to elect the candidate. However, they also reflect who the candidate is and what he or she most cares about.

In his launch statement and subsequent speeches, Biden demonstrated that he really gets it; he fully understands the risks and the stakes in this election.

“I believe history will look back on four years of this president and all he embraces as an aberrant moment in time,” he said. “But if we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation — who we are — and I cannot stand by and watch that happen.”

The launch video drew heavily on events in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 and Trump’s reaction to it.

“…That’s when we heard the words from the president of the United States that stunned the world and shocked the conscience of this nation. He said there were ‘some very fine people on both sides.’ Very fine people on both sides?” Biden said incredulously. “With those words, the president of the United States assigned a moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it. And in that moment, I knew the threat to this nation was unlike any I had ever seen in my lifetime.”

He continued: “Folks, America’s an idea, an idea that’s stronger than any army, bigger than any ocean, more powerful than any dictator or tyrant. It gives hope to the most desperate people on earth, it guarantees that everyone is treated with dignity and gives hate no safe harbor. It instills in every person in this country the belief that no matter where you start in life, there’s nothing you can’t achieve if you work at it.

“That’s what we believe. And above all else, that’s what’s at stake in this election.

“We can’t forget what happened in Charlottesville. Even more important, we have to remember who we are.

“This is America.”

All of this is correct. This election is not really about healthcare, or Social Security or particular policies or who cast which vote on whatever issue way back when. The election is about freedom versus tyranny and Biden fully understands that.

Sanders understands it too but while his crusade for social justice is admirable, he has not focused as much on the fundamental question the way Biden has—or at least he has not articulated his concern with the same focus.

If Biden wins, Sanders has the possibility of continuing to work for the goals in which he believes and even achieving them; if Trump wins, Sanders could be jailed for simply believing what he does. If Trump changes or amends the Constitution in a second term to suit himself (the usual dictator’s playbook) Sanders could lose the constitutional and political mechanisms to keep fighting for the American people and the American people could lose their freedom altogether.

Normality versus upheaval

In addition to the issues, elections are lost and won on underlying sentiment and today more than anything, exhaustion is the dominant underlying sentiment in much of the country.

People are longing to return to “normal”—a time when politics were distant, when celebrity trivialities made headlines, when people didn’t wake up every day to some new outrage or horror to dominate their breakfast conversation. They want a president they can reasonably trust, in whom they have confidence and one who behaves with dignity and good sense. They don’t want to overturn the existing order; that’s what Trump’s done for the last three years. They’d rather be secure and they want reasonable, predictable governance. It’s what Trump calls “boring.”

These are actually not revolutionary times. There’s ferment among some parts of the population, notably younger people and Latinos, but it’s safe to say that the majority of Americans are just weary.

Bernie Sanders is offering revolution while Biden offers renewal. While Sanders and his followers express legitimate grievances and there’s a need for reform, Biden can win vast swaths of voters offended and appalled by Trump’s behavior and madness.

This is the “electability” argument and Biden has shown that he can inspire moderate, centrist Democrats and mobilize them to the polls; presumably he can do this with the rest of the population.

Donald Trump has nicknamed Joe Biden “Sleepy Joe.” But that’s not so bad. After losing lots of sleep over the past three years, we could all use a little rest in the next four years.

The fact is that the next president is not going to be spending his term creating new programs or expanding existing ones; he’s going to be repairing all the terrible damage that Trump has done to the nation, its Constitution, its laws, its government, its diplomacy and its standing abroad. He will especially have to cope with the gigantic deficits Trump has run up. In fact, his most pressing problem will probably be staving off a national bankruptcy and restoring equity to the tax code in order to do it.

This brings us to a third major issue…

Healing versus wounding

When Biden gave his victory speech after Super Tuesday he said, “We need a President who can fight, but make no mistake about it, I could fight, but look, we need this badly, as badly, someone who could heal,” adding as well, “We need a President who can heal the country as well, and that is what I will do as your President. I promise you.”

Perhaps it’s not as eloquent as Abraham Lincoln’s “with malice toward none, with charity toward all,” but the sentiment is there. In fact, Biden is the only candidate to use the word “heal” in a victory speech.

Healing will be another major task ahead of the next non-Trump president. Biden already sees that.

Back in June 2019 when Donald Trump addressed his campaign kickoff rally in Orlando, he inadvertently revealed his real state of mind when he accused Democrats of being driven by “hatred, prejudice and rage.” It was as clear and obvious a case of projection as any politician has ever uttered.

For the 2020 election Trump and the Republicans were setting up a Wagnerian scenario of a cosmic clash between Trumpism and socialism. Like pirates, they were loading their guns with all the hatred, prejudice and rage they could ram down the muzzles and were preparing to fire volleys of vileness and vitriol at all who dared oppose Trump.

It’s as though Biden has rained on all their powder. Trump would love to run against Sanders. One of the reasons that he was so intent on getting dirt on Biden from Ukraine was that he knew that a reasonable, moderate, centrist was his most dangerous opponent.

The answer to hatred, prejudice and rage is not more intense hatred, prejudice and rage—it’s healing, tolerance and calm. That may sound wimpy or weak but it has power, as Biden’s electoral totals have shown. Instead of an apocalyptic clash between socialism and America that Trump could mount like a pale horse to Armageddon, Biden presents the prospect of reason overcoming madness and—to repeat it once again—democracy overcoming despotism.

Biden can ride these currents and he understands the whirlwind.

As of this writing, it looks like Biden will likely win the Democratic primary in Florida and ultimately be the Democratic nominee.

But there’s a lot that will be happening between now and Election Day in November. Not only are we facing a global epidemic but we have a financial meltdown on Wall Street. The Russians will be interfering. Trump may look very weak now but he’ll be fighting back, no doubt using every imaginable dirty trick as well as voter suppression, vote rigging and outright fraud. Hopefully, this will not include a physical attack or assassination. A lot can happen.

Still, Joe Biden represents the best chance of victory in 2020.

It is said that Democrats fall in love while Republicans fall in line. All Democrats may not love Joe Biden but they can respect him and if they can unite, if they can fall in line, then Americans just may have the last, best hope for a nation that Lincoln called “the last best hope of earth.”

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg

Coming soon: The hidden story of the Democratic primaries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democracy vs. dictatorship: Florida, Super Tuesday and the critical truths that count

03-02-20 Dem candidatesThe Democratic presidential candidates on the debate stage in South Carolina on Feb. 25. Since then, Tom Steyer, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar have dropped out.

March 3, 2020, by David Silverberg

As Floridians, we’re left out of the party that is “Super Tuesday” when Democrats in 14 states and one territory (American Samoa) vote for their preferred presidential candidate.

By tonight, and certainly by tomorrow morning, we will likely know the nominee of the Democratic Party.

There will be anger and disappointment—even disgust—among some Florida Democrats no matter who emerges victorious.

Sadly, we have two weeks until Florida Democrats get to vote. The primary falls on St. Patrick’s Day, so prayer and alcohol are two possible consolations. Still, whether your preferred candidate makes it through to receive your vote or you’re faced with an unpalatable choice on March 17, there are important truths—vital, inalienable truths—to keep in mind. And these overshadow all else.

  1. There is only one real issue in this presidential election: Democracy or dictatorship.

For all the media focus on personalities and debate points and the candidates’ records and positions on any other issues, in the end the 2020 election will decide whether the United States will be a free nation of principles, law and institutions ruled by its people or a plaything subject to the tyranny of a single man. All other considerations of the presidential primary process are subordinate to that one great truth and consequence.

  1. Every Democratic candidate will work to protect, preserve and defend the Constitution.

For all their differences of personality or position, all Democratic candidates can be counted upon to strive to fulfill the presidential oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Donald J. Trump, who governs as though he’s unaware that there’s a Constitution at all and routinely violates its provisions, was impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors. He’s a tyrant in his heart as well as in his actions and his rule will become more tyrannical if it continues.

  1. All Democratic candidates will support the rule of law and fair and equal justice for all.

This seems so plain and obvious and self-evident but it is not. Donald J. Trump clearly believes he is above all laws and acts accordingly. He only escaped removal through a gravely flawed and deliberately biased trial in the Senate. He has pardoned, excused and commuted punishment for criminals and miscreants of all stripes and natures as long as they’re his friends and sycophants.

Any Democratic candidate will uphold the rule of law and will take seriously the oath to enforce it equally, justly and vigorously—and will submit to the laws on the books like any other citizen.

  1. All Democratic candidates will support the human rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

Again, it would have been unthinkable in the history of the United States but we must worry about a president who attacks rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights, chief among them those of the 1st Amendment: freedom of speech, the press, worship and the right to petition government. In 2020, those rights and all others are at risk. Donald J. Trump threatens all of them—and every other human right and amendment in the Constitution.

Far from the United States pursuing a mission abroad to ensure the human rights of all people, in 2020 American citizens must ensure that they preserve those inherent rights in their hearts and heartland. Any and every Democratic candidate stands to preserve and protect them.

  1. Truth matters to all the Democratic candidates.

President Abraham Lincoln reportedly said: “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.” But Donald J. Trump turns that on its head. His philosophy might be expressed as: “You can fool all the people all the time and when you can’t you should try—and that includes fooling yourself.”

In politics there are inevitably shadings of truth and attempts to spin events to one’s advantage. But the United States has never before had a president who lies so instinctively, so inherently and so incessantly. He not only lies to the nation and the world but to himself and then believes his own lies. It is safe to say that any Democratic candidate will show a decent respect for the truth and objective reality and will act on the facts accordingly.

  1. Science matters to all the Democratic candidates.

It is extraordinary that any modern human being would think that he could change the course of a hurricane with a Sharpie and then force respected scientists to confirm his delusion. It is extraordinary that any modern person would dismiss any scientific evidence he doesn’t like as a “hoax,” whether that’s climate change or the danger of a plague.

It can safely be said that every Democratic candidate will respect science and scientifically reached conclusions of fact and act on that rather than delusions and lies.

  1. Every Democratic candidate will be concerned with protecting and preserving the natural environment.

Far from dismissing science and actively working to destroy the very planet on which we all live, as Donald J. Trump does, every Democratic candidate will work to preserve the natural environment, to keep it habitable and to pass on livable conditions to future generations. There may be differences of degree or emphasis but there won’t be the wholesale dismissal of environmental conditions and environmental science as a “hoax.”

*  *  *

These are just a few of the crucial truths that set all the Democratic candidates apart from Donald J. Trump. The most fundamental, supposedly self-evident truths of the American Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” are at risk.

It’s safe to say that the election of 2020 is the most critical since the first election of 1788; that it will determine whether America remains a democracy or lapses into dictatorship; that Donald J. Trump is a tyrant at heart and by both instinct and design aims to establish a tyranny over the United States more complete than any King George III ever imagined; and that every democrat—and that includes any person who believes in democracy at all—has an obligation to preserve, protect and defend the democracy and Constitution that has governed this nation and pass it on to future generations.

Against those kinds of stakes, the warts and pimples, the lapses and trivialities of different Democratic Party candidates fade into insignificance.

In Florida we don’t get to participate in Super Tuesday. But on March 17 and again on Nov. 3, we have to vote like our lives depend on it—because they do.

Liberty lives in light

© 2020 by David Silverberg


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An open letter to Rep. Francis Rooney

12-15-29 US Constitution

Dec. 15, 2019

Rep. Rooney:

This week you will face the most momentous vote of your time in Congress: whether or not to impeach President Donald J. Trump.

Only you know the full events of your past but I do not think I’m exaggerating if I say that this may be the single most important decision of your life. Previously your decisions affected you, your family, your business and your employees. As a member of Congress you have voted before to chart the course of the United States. However, this vote, more than any other, will determine the future of all the people of the United States, and indeed the people of the entire world and the planet on which we all live.

I also know from your statements that you fully appreciate the gravity and momentousness of this matter as well as its burden and responsibility and the magnitude of its implications.

I will not go over the evidence and arguments that have already been made. You have been far closer and better informed about this matter than any of us outside government could ever be.

But as a constituent and a citizen and American who still has and cherishes the fundamental right to speak freely and petition government for a redress of grievances, I would like to address larger issues.

When the founders of this nation met to draft the Constitution they had to deal with the ultimate fundamentals: How do people behave? What is government? What is fairness? What is justice? What is effective? What is right? What is wrong?

We have not had to think of these things in the last 240-plus years because they got it so right. We’ve very successfully lived within the framework and rules they created. By doing so, generations of Americans built the richest and most powerful nation humanity has ever seen and spread its best ideals and values around the world.

But now we have to address those fundamentals again. It is extraordinary that a single man has in less than three years so challenged centuries of precedent, experience and institutional strength to the point where the foundation of this society and civilization is at risk. But here we are.

You, more than most, know the full scope and sweep of American power and influence. Having served as an ambassador representing the United States abroad, you also have a broader perspective than many of your colleagues in Congress. You have worked shoulder to shoulder with the men and women of the US diplomatic corps and you know first-hand their intelligence, their commitment and their patriotism. These are the people under relentless attack by this president.

You know the subtleties of policy and how decisions made in the US capital can ripple outward and either erode or nourish foreign shores. You, more than most, can appreciate the full dangers of a president using the vast power of the United States for petty, personal ends—and I believe that you have a full appreciation of the scope of that economic, military and political power.

As an advocate of Kurdish independence you appreciate more than most the disaster this president’s casual betrayal of the Kurds caused and the genocide he unleashed.

You have very reasonably and responsibly said that you will keep an open mind about the evidence in this case and its implications. For that you’ve been attacked by the people who were your political base before that moment. You have quite rightly said that “impeachment is such a grave matter that it demands that a strong and clear case be made” and those who pursue it should “assure that no stone is left unturned.”

But who is the person who has ensured that those stones remain unturned? Who has built a virtual stone wall around the White House and Oval Office to ensure that Congress did not get the facts and testimony it legitimately sought and to which it is legally entitled?

Very much to your credit you urged the administration to cooperate and fulfill its constitutional duties. You specifically called on Energy Secretary Rick Perry and other top officials to testify.

You and I come from very different ideological perspectives and there is much about which we disagree. But I can say without fear or favor that in these matters you’ve behaved with probity and responsibility. Your observations have been insightful and your actions prudent. Your statements have been well-reasoned and logical.

However, when it comes to this president, White House and administration, your “repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury,” as the founders put it in the Declaration of Independence.

And so we come to the current pass and this week’s vote.

When you vote this week, you’ll be voting on more than just two articles of impeachment. As the founders did, you’ll be addressing fundamentals. You’ll be voting on whether the entire structure of this government will remain standing, whether this Constitution will stay in force, whether the experiment begun by the founders to have a government that rests on reason and compromise and the popular will rather than the whims of a single individual will survive. In short, you’ll be voting on whether “government of the people, by the people, for the people” shall or shall not perish from the earth.

As an American, as a constituent, as a citizen, as the grandchild of immigrants, let me issue this appeal: For the sake of ourselves, our families, our grandchildren and their grandchildren; for the sake of all Americans; for the sake of every person everywhere who has aspired to American dreams and ideals; for the sake of huddled masses yearning to breathe free; for the sake of equal justice under law; for the sake of fighters against tyranny everywhere; for the sake of the founders; for the sake of the Constitution; for the sake of democracy; for the sake of liberty; for the sake of freedom; for the sake of independence; for the sake of your honor; for the sake of your courage; for the sake of your place in history; for the sake of your conscience; and for the sake of your country, the last best place on earth, please, please, please

VOTE TO IMPEACH.

Sincerely,

The Paradise Progressive

Liberty lives in light

© 2019 by David Silverberg

Editorial: Fiscal responsibility for all

06-06-19 Trump golfing amidst disaster(Photo illustration)

Reps. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) and Greg Steube (R-17-Fla.) have taken a principled stand against providing relief to all the Americans suffering from natural disasters by voting against a $19.1 billion disaster relief appropriation bill.

The bill has passed both the House and Senate and now awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.

Rooney opposed the measure because he called it “completely fiscally irresponsible.” Steube opposed it because he “could not in good conscience” vote for a bill he called “filled with outrageous spending.”

The commitment of these gentlemen to principle and fiscal responsibility is admirable. In that spirit one presumes we can expect to see a measure from them curtailing President Donald Trump’s golf excursions, which to date have cost the American people at least $102 million. Talk about being “fiscally irresponsible” and “outrageous spending!”

We look forward to Rooney and Steube’s efforts. In the meantime, the people of the Florida panhandle, the homeless and destitute victims of storms, floods, wildfires, volcanoes and hurricanes—indeed, all Americans—will be watching and waiting.

Liberty lives in light

© 2019 by David Silverberg