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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump, Florida, Russia: Tracking the Sunshine State in the Mueller Report

Trump t-shirt seller at Germain Arena rally 9-19-16

A seller peddles a t-shirt at a Trump campaign rally at Germain Arena, Estero, Fla., Sept. 19, 2016. The Mueller Report has revealed that Russians organized rallies for Trump in August 2016.     (Photo by author)

April 19, 2019 by David Silverberg

Russian election interference efforts in Florida were numerous and extensive during the 2016 presidential election campaign, according to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Report (technically, Report On The Investigation Into Russian Interference In The 2016 Presidential Election).

The big initial news in Florida was that a Russian hacker tried to penetrate at least one Florida county’s election system. The scramble is now on to identify the county.

However, there are references to Florida events, people and places throughout the 448-page document.

Here, in the order they appear, are summaries of those references.

Aug. 20, 2016: Florida rallies

The Internet Research Agency (IRA), the Russian organization chiefly responsible for covertly interfering in the US election through social media, organized rallies for Trump throughout the country using front organizations. The report describes their modus operandi:

“The IRA organized and promoted political rallies inside the United States while posing as U.S. grassroots activists. First, the IRA used one of its preexisting social media personas (Facebook groups and Twitter accounts, for example) to announce and promote the event. The IRA then sent a large number of direct messages to followers of its social media account asking them to attend the event. From those who responded with interest in attending, the IRA then sought a U.S. person to serve as the event’s coordinator. In most cases, the IRA account operator would tell the U.S. person that they personally could not attend the event due to some preexisting conflict or because they were somewhere else in the United States. The IRA then further promoted the event by contacting U.S. media about the event and directing them to speak with the coordinator. After the event, the IRA posted videos and photographs of the event to the IRA’s social media accounts.”

Three of these rallies were in New York, a series were held in Pennsylvania and a series were held in Florida. “The Florida rallies drew the attention of the Trump Campaign, which posted about the Miami rally on candidate Trump’s Facebook account,” states the report. The IRA-organized Florida rallies occurred on Aug. 20, 2016 and were called “Florida Goes Trump!” and were billed “a patriotic flash mob.” At least 17 rallies were attempted.

(During the campaign, Trump held two rallies in Southwest Florida, one at the then-Germain Arena in Estero on Sept. 19, 2016 and the other at the Collier County Fairgrounds on Oct. 25, 2016.)

Nov. 2, 2016: Disseminating Russian disinformation

As the report states:

“Among the U.S. ‘leaders of public opinion’ targeted by the IRA were various members and surrogates of the Trump Campaign. In total, Trump Campaign affiliates promoted dozens of tweets, posts, and other political content created by the IRA. Posts from the IRA-controlled Twitter account @TEN_ GOP were cited or retweeted by multiple Trump Campaign officials and surrogates, including Donald J. Trump Jr.”

One of these Trump Jr. retweets was an allegation that Democrats were committing voter fraud in Florida: “RT @TEN_GOP: BREAKING: #VoterFraud by counting tens of thousands of ineligible mail in Hillary votes being reported in Broward County, Florida.”

June 15, 2016: Releasing hacked e-mails

On June 14, the Democratic National Committee publicly announced that its e-mail server had been hacked. Apparently in response, the following day the Russian unit (Unit 74455) of its military intelligence service, the GRU, began releasing the stolen e-mails under the persona Guccifer 2.0. Releases were grouped around specific themes such as key states—like Pennsylvania and Florida.

The report also states: “On August 22, 2016, the Guccifer 2.0 persona transferred approximately 2.5 gigabytes of Florida-related data stolen from the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] to a U.S. blogger covering Florida politics.” The blogger’s name is not mentioned in the report.

November 2016: The attempted hack of Florida election officials

In November 2016 GRU officers sent over 120 e-mails to Florida election officials in a spearphishing effort—specifically targeting the officials with false e-mails that would open their systems to exploitation. “The spearphishing emails contained an attached Word document coded with malicious software (commonly referred to as a Trojan) that permitted the GRU to access the infected computer,” states the report.

It was through this technique that at least one Florida county’s election system was hacked. Since release of the report, the media and Florida officials have been seeking the name of the county.

Spring, 2016, Henry Oknyansky/Henry Greenberg

In the spring of 2016 a Florida-based Russian approached the Trump campaign and political activist and provocateur Roger Stone with an offer to sell damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

As stated in the Report:

“In the spring of 2016, Trump Campaign advisor Michael Caputo learned through a Florida-based Russian business partner that another Florida-based Russian, Henry Oknyansky (who also went by the name Henry Greenberg), claimed to have information pertaining to Hillary Clinton. Caputo notified Roger Stone and brokered communication between Stone and Oknyansky. Oknyansky and Stone set up a May 2016 in-person meeting.

“Oknyansky was accompanied to the meeting by Alexei Rasin, a Ukrainian associate involved in Florida real estate. At the meeting, Rasin offered to sell Stone derogatory information on Clinton that Rasin claimed to have obtained while working for Clinton. Rasin claimed to possess financial statements demonstrating Clinton’s involvement in money laundering with Rasin’s companies. According to Oknyansky, Stone asked if the amounts in question totaled millions of dollars but was told it was closer to hundreds of thousands. Stone refused the offer, stating that Trump would not pay for opposition research.”

According to the Report, Rasin was trying to make money by peddling the information and getting a cut if the information was sold. Despite his statements that he had worked for Clinton, there’s no evidence he ever did, according to the Report.

Despite being a director or registered agent for a number of Florida companies and having a Florida driver’s license, the Special Counsel’s office was unable to locate Rasin.

The Rasin-Oknyansky effort may have been separate from official Russian interference efforts, according to the Report.

July 27, 2016, Trump’s Doral, Fla., press conference.

It was at this Doral, Fla., press conference that President Donald Trump made his infamous remark: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.” There are repeated references to this press conference throughout the report, starting on page 18. As the Report notes: “Within five hours of Trump’s remark, a Russian intelligence service began targeting email accounts associated with Hillary Clinton for possible hacks.”

Mar-a-lago, Palm Beach, Fla.

President Trump’s Mar-a-lago resort figures several times in the Report.

It was here in the Spring of 2016 that Paul Manafort was hired as campaign manager, initially without pay.

It was also at Mar-a-lago that on Dec. 29, 2016 the Trump team first learned of President Barack Obama’s imposition of sanctions on Russia for election interference and the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats.

Numerous members of the Presidential Transition Team, including Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus and K.T. McFarland, who was slated to become deputy national security adviser, were at the resort.

There was an exchange of e-mails about the impact of the sanctions. National Security Advisor-designate Michael Flynn was in the Dominican Republic and spoke by phone with McFarland. Flynn told McFarland that he would be speaking to Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak. He did so that evening and urged the ambassador not to allow the situation to escalate by retaliating. The following day, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced there would be no retaliation.

Conclusion: Russian efforts past and future

It remains to be seen if the Florida county where Russian spearfishing succeeded will be revealed. But what the Mueller Report really brings out was the depth and breadth of the Russian election interference effort. With Florida a key battleground state and the home of Mar-a-lago, there was considerable Russian effort expended here.

Most importantly, the Mueller Report is a critical warning for the 2020 election: Florida is in the crosshairs. The Russians will be back.

Liberty lives in light
© 2019 David Silverberg

Follow-up: Trump at Lake O — he came, he saw, he left

03-29-19 Trump at OkeechobeeFlorida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Maj. Gen. Scott Spellmon, President Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rick Scott and Rep. Greg Steube at Lake Okeechobee on Friday.   (Photo: AP)

March 31, 2019 by David Silverberg

As predicted by The Paradise Progressive last week (Analysis: Follow the money when Trump comes to Lake O), when President Donald Trump visited Lake Okeechobee on Friday, March 29, he came, he saw, he boasted—but real results were sparse.

The Paradise Progressive: If he behaves as he has in the past, his visit will be a narcissistic exercise in self-praise…

Donald Trump: “This project was dying until we got involved,” he said. He also called Everglades restoration “very, very important. It was very dangerous and it’s a big project. But it’s a great project for Florida. And Florida is a state that’s a phenomenal state. A very important project.” Exactly in what way Everglades restoration is “very dangerous” remained unexplained.

The Paradise Progressive: …a vicious vilification of enemies real and perceived…

Donald Trump: “They set up these caravans.  In many cases, they put their worst people in the caravan; they’re not going to put their best in.  They get rid of their problems.  And they march up here, and then they’re coming into their country; we’re not letting them in our country.”

The Paradise Progressive: …and digressions into irrelevant or peripheral topics.

Donald Trump: “I want to just thank the Army Corps of Engineers, who’s been fantastic.  I said, ‘Let’s go.  We need a wall also on the border.’  You know that, right?  I’m looking at all these walls; I’m saying, ‘Southern border, too.  Don’t forget our southern border.’  And we’re right now building a lot of wall in the southern border.”

As for the topic at hand, funding Everglades restoration projects and repairs to the Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee, when asked by a reporter about providing more money than currently in his proposed budget, Trump responded: “We’re going to be doing more.  We’re going to be doing more.”

To which the reporter responded, quite correctly: “When?  How much?”

To which Trump replied: “Soon. A lot. More than you would ever believe.”

This prompted the next day’s headline in the Naples Daily News: “Trump makes vague Everglades promise.”

As also predicted, Trump’s visit was an opportunity for Florida officials—all Republicans—to lobby him for more Everglades money, which they did while lavishly thanking and praising him. These officials included Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio and Reps. Greg Steube (District 17), Brian Mast (District 18), Francis Rooney (District 19) and Mario Diaz-Balart (District 25).

This was a stark contrast to the event on March 14 when Rubio, Scott, Rooney and Mast sent a formal letter to the White House complaining that the latest proposed budget underfunded Everglades projects and failed to meet previous federal promises.

At Lake Okeechobee on Friday, Rubio in particular tried to cajole Trump along. “You have a chance, Mr. President, and your administration, to go down in history as the Everglades President — as the person who helped save and restore the Everglades,” he said.

To which Trump replied: “We have a chance to go down as many things.”

Liberty lives in light
©2019 by David Silverberg

Analysis: Follow the money when Trump comes to Lake O

Trump addresses rally regarding Everglades cropped 10-23-16Donald Trump addresses a rally at the Collier County Fairgrounds on Oct. 23, 2016 after flying over the Everglades from Palm Beach.     (Photo: The author)

March 28, 2019 by David Silverberg

After underfunding Everglades restoration work in his proposed budget, President Donald Trump can be expected to distract from this shortfall by touting work on the Hoover Dike and the planned Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) reservoir when he is scheduled to visit Lake Okeechobee tomorrow, Friday, March 29.

Announcement of the visit was issued on Tuesday, March 26, by Judd Deere, deputy White House press secretary who tweeted: “@POTUS to visit Lake Okeechobee Friday to tout work on dike repair, EAA reservoir.”

Further details of the visit were not available as of this writing but it will coincide with Trump’s latest weekend vacation trip to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.

According to a White House statement regarding the trip:

“The Herbert Hoover Dike project exemplifies the Trump Administration’s efforts to promote federal and state collaboration on infrastructure projects that benefit its surrounding communities, which is why it was prioritized in the president’s 2019 budget request.

“President Trump is visiting Florida on Friday because he understands that these investments are vital to minimizing potential impacts, including harmful algae blooms, and improving water quality during rainy seasons in the years ahead.”

In fact, far from prioritizing the Everglades projects, the trip comes after Florida Republican lawmakers banded together on March 14 to decry the administration’s underfunding them. The Hoover Dike repair and EAA projects are critical to cleaning water from Lake Okeechobee before it can flow out the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. Polluted water last year led to blue-green algae blooms in the rivers and fed red tide in the Gulf, damaging Southwest Florida’s tourist season, marine life and overall environment.

In a statement criticizing the president’s proposed budget, Florida’s senators, Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and representatives Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) and Brian Mast (R-18-Fla.) announced:

“For the third year in a row, the administration’s budget request underfunds critical projects in South Florida. It is incredibly short-sighted to continue to underfund a series of projects that are absolutely necessary to ensure the environmental sustainability and economic vitality important to the State of Florida and enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress. Failing to meet the basic federal funding commitments to restore the Everglades is contrary to the administration’s goal of improving project partnerships and cost-sharing with states. Successive Florida Governors have remained committed to this goal, pushing state funding of this 50/50 federal-state partnership to historic highs. Congress and the Army Corps of Engineers envisioned a $200 million per year federal commitment when the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan was first authorized nearly 20 years ago, and it is time for the administration to meet that commitment.”

Federal funding for Everglades restoration is also critical to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ plans, which call for $2.5 billion in spending on water quality projects over the next four years. As noted in the statement, $200 million each year was long pledged for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP).

Analysis: The visit and the visuals

Why is Donald Trump suddenly so concerned about Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades that he’s making a trip to see them for himself?

Some answers suggest themselves:

  • As the White House statement declared, the purpose of the trip is to “tout” the president. He will praise himself for Everglades support that he has not offered in this or past budgets. This is part of his post-Robert Mueller victory lap.
  • With Florida a crucial—perhaps the most crucial—state in the 2020 election, it will be an effort by Trump to keep Florida in the Republican column by creating favorable publicity and exciting supporters.
  • It is an effort to mollify the Republican lawmakers who banded together to criticize the lack of Everglades/Okeechobee funding in the budget proposal.
  • It is an effort to support Gov. Ron DeSantis, who owes his entire success to Trump and is now trying to actually address Florida’s water and environmental problems. DeSantis’ efforts, however, are undercut by Trump’s budget proposal, his insistence on money for his border wall and the potential for his national emergency and funding reprogramming to actually take money away from repairs to the Hoover Dike and other critical US Army Corps of Engineers projects in southern Florida.
  • It is an effort by the president to establish some environmental credentials, since his every action since taking office has been inimical to Florida’s environmental health.

For their part, DeSantis, Rubio, Scott, Rooney and Mast will no doubt use the occasion to lobby the president to bump up funding for the Everglades-Hoover Dike projects, either with special supplemental funding proposals or through executive actions, since he’s already put his budget proposal before Congress. Put another way, they may try to convince him not to take Everglades funding away as he pulls together money to build his border wall. As part of this, they will also no doubt extravagantly flatter him and his efforts for Florida.

Very interesting in all this is the total absence of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), whose district covers nearly all of the Everglades. Diaz-Balart did not sign on to the Rubio/Scott/Rooney/Mast statement and he has not made any statements regarding Everglades funding and the president’s budget. He will likely be present when the president tours the Hoover Dike and the Everglades but he has otherwise been a cipher on this issue.

In conventional politics, a presidential visit to Lake Okeechobee and the Everglades would be the occasion for the president to announce new funding for these vital projects. That may actually happen this time. All the groundwork should be have already been layed to have the president make a grand gesture of support and call for a bipartisan effort to ensure that this work gets done.

But this is not a conventional president. If he behaves as he has in the past, his visit will be a narcissistic exercise in self-praise, a vicious vilification of enemies real and perceived and digressions into irrelevant or peripheral topics.

This is not the first time Trump has seen the Everglades or spoken regarding the infrastructure surrounding it. On Oct. 23, 2016 he visited the Collier County Fairgrounds during his presidential election campaign.

“A Trump administration will also work alongside you to restore and protect the beautiful Florida Everglades,” he pledged in a disjointed speech. “Our plan will also help you upgrade water and waste water. And you know you have a huge problem with water, so that the Florida aquifer is pure and safe from pollution, we have to do that. We will also repair Herbert Hoover Dike in Lake Okeechobee, a lake [with which] I’m very familiar…”

He also provided some rambling observations of the area.

“I just flew over,” he said following his helicopter flight from Palm Beach. “I just flew over and let me tell you, when you fly over the Everglades and you look at those gators and you look at the water moccasins, go on, you say, ‘I better have a good helicopter!’ I told the pilot, ‘You sure we’re OK? Those are big! Because that’s a rough looking site down there!’ You don’t want to be down there and I’ve heard for a long time go around the Everglades it’ll take you longer but…” he said, trailing off and addressing other, unrelated topics.

(On a side note, it is very interesting—and alarming—to listen to Trump’s 2016 speech again. It’s full of slurred words, incomplete thoughts and unconnected statements. The whole speech can be heard on C-SPAN.)

Floridians should not be distracted by the breathless local media coverage, the hoopla, the rhetoric and the ceremony of a presidential visit. The ultimate test of Trump’s latest excursion—and the success of Rubio, Scott, Rooney and Mast—will be whether the Hoover Dike repairs and the federal portion of CERP are fully funded.

All else is commentary.

Liberty lives in light
© 2019 by David Slverberg

US House fails to override Trump veto; Rooney bucks GOP, Diaz-Balart sticks with party line

01-13-19 us capitol cropped

March 26, 2019 by David Silverberg

Updated 10:20 pm with vote link and Diaz-Balart vote.

Today, March 26, the US House of Representatives failed to override President Donald Trump’s veto of House Joint Resolution 46, which would have terminated his declaration of a national emergency on the southern US border. The vote was 248 to 181, short of the two-thirds needed to override the veto.

Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) stuck to his previous position against the national emergency and voted to override the veto.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) voted to sustain the veto.

In his statement announcing his vote, Rooney declared: “My vote to override a veto of the resolution to rescind the national emergency declaration was based on the US Constitution and had nothing to do with President Trump.”

He continued: “My vote was based on the rule of law and the Constitutional separation of powers. Although it is true that there have been over 60 national emergency declarations since 1976, no previous declaration was in direct contrast to a vote of Congress and none dealt with appropriation and allocation of money – which is the sole responsibility of the Congressional branch.”

Rooney further stated: “I care deeply about securing our border and have both cosponsored and voted in favor of multiple bills to accomplish this and provide fixes to our broken immigration and visa systems. We need to secure our southern border and control who enters and leaves. This can be accomplished with the right combination of defensive barriers including walls and fences, surveillance technology, and vigorous enforcement of our laws.”

Diaz-Balart did not issue a statement explaining his vote.

The other 12 Republicans who voted against the declaration on its first passage on Feb. 26 did so again and were joined this time by a 14th, Rep. John Katko (R-24-NY), who had been absent from the first vote.

In a statement following the vote, the bill’s original sponsor, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-20-Texas) and Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-12-Calif.) issued a joint statement: “Both chambers of Congress – a Democratic House and a Republican Senate – resoundingly rejected the President’s sham emergency declaration by passing HJRes.46.  This will provide significant evidence for the courts as they review lawsuits.  The President’s lawless emergency declaration clearly violates the Congress’s exclusive power of the purse, and Congress will work through the appropriations and defense authorization processes to terminate this dangerous action and restore our constitutional system of balance of powers.

“In six months, the Congress will have another opportunity to put a stop to this President’s wrongdoing.  We will continue to review all options to protect our Constitution and our democracy from the President’s assault.”

With the House failing to override the veto the Senate is unlikely to vote on the matter since both chambers must be in agreement. However, as of this writing, no formal Senate announcement had been made.

Liberty lives in light
© 2019 by David Silverberg

Editorial: Override vote is choice between dictatorship and democracy

Fist posterized 2-21-17

Next Tuesday, March 26, the US House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on whether to override President Donald Trump’s veto of its bill terminating his national “emergency” declaration. The Senate may vote the same day or shortly thereafter—or not at all.

The importance of this vote cannot be overstated. It is nothing less than a choice between dictatorship and democracy.

Trump is walking a path that dictators have walked before. He has declared a national emergency where none exists to grant himself extraordinary powers.

This is not just a fight about money; it’s a fight about freedom. He is seeking to take the power of the purse away from the people. He is trying to reduce the legislative branch of government to irrelevance. He is discarding the Constitution.

But as bad as that is, equally worrisome is Trump’s proven record of insatiability. No matter what he gets, he will always want more. Any measures to appease him will only lead him to demand more of everything—money, power, control. If Trump’s declaration stands, over time he will use his emergency powers to crush dissent, a free press and an independent judiciary. He has already threatened violence against his critics, whose criticism is legitimate and sanctioned by the Constitution.

He has to be stopped and overriding his veto is at least a place to begin.

As though to emphasize the current danger, history itself seems to be screaming a warning. The House of Representatives voted against Trump’s emergency declaration on Feb. 26. That was the eve of the anniversary of the 1933 Reichstag fire, which Adolf Hitler and the Nazis used to declare a national emergency in Germany and suspend freedom of expression, the press, assembly, privacy, habeas corpus, unreasonable search and seizure—in short, all the freedoms guaranteed in America by the Bill of Rights. Then a physically intimidated and purged Reichstag passed an Enabling Act that formally established the Nazi dictatorship. All this occurred exactly 86 years ago.

Haven’t we learned from history? If we’re to remain a democracy these lessons have to be heeded: Despots never stop their quest for power on their own until someone stops them—and if they can’t be stopped legally, the only recourse becomes violence. Democracy has to be protected. Freedom has to be preserved. The Constitution has to be defended.

The way to do that now, in our own time, is to override Trump’s veto.

The role of Florida’s delegation

The initial votes on terminating the emergency declaration (House Joint Resolution 46) revealed splits among Florida’s senators and representatives of Southwest Florida. A vote for the resolution was a vote to terminate the emergency, a vote against it was to continue it.

Sen. Marco Rubio voted for the resolution, stating: “We have an emergency at our border, which is why I support the president’s use of forfeiture funds and counter-drug money to build a wall. However, I cannot support moving funds that Congress explicitly appropriated for construction and upgrades of our military bases. This would create a precedent a future president may abuse to jumpstart programs like the Green New Deal, especially given the embrace of socialism we are seeing on the political left.”

Sen. Rick Scott voted against the resolution, stating: “For years, everyone in both parties has said they want to secure our border, but they never did anything about it. It’s time to get serious about border security and the safety of American families. That’s why I support the president’s efforts to secure the border and voted against the resolution of disapproval today.”

When it comes to Southwest Florida, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.), whose district includes large portions of Collier County, voted against the termination. His website does not include a statement explaining his vote. (A request for a statement has been made to his office and will be added to this report if it is made.)

But by far the most interesting vote was cast by Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.). Rooney joined 12 other Republicans in voting for the resolution to terminate the emergency.

Rooney’s statement was revelatory: “I voted for the resolution because I believe in the rule of law and strict adherence to our Constitution. We are, as John Adams said, ‘A nation of laws, not men.’ The ends cannot justify the means; that is exactly what the socialists want.”

The reader can ignore Rooney’s gratuitous swipe at socialism (and Rubio’s too) since that’s just an effort to justify a break with the party line; it’s his belief in the rule of law and adherence to the Constitution that counts. Clearly he believes Trump’s declaration violates both those principles.

Just how momentous Rooney’s break with Trump is on this issue can only be appreciated in the context of his record.

Rooney has been a committed, conservative Trumpist since running for Congress in 2016. He shared the stage with Trump during their election campaigns. Rooney called for a pro-Trump political purge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in December 2017 and has never recanted or retreated from that position. He buys the idea of a “deep state” and regards public service, public servants and liberals as enemies and has little use for public education. Rooney voted repeatedly to continue Trump’s shutdown of the federal government. He voted against making Robert Mueller’s report public. He put forward legislation to advance the Trumpist agenda and voted with Trump 95 percent of the time in the 115th Congress and until this vote, 100 percent of the time in the 116th. Even Trump personally characterized as “brutal” Rooney’s defense of Trump actions.

Nor has Rooney previously shown much respect for the Constitution. Last year he attempted an unsuccessful legislative end-run to cut short congressional terms by cutting salaries, in violation of constitutional provisions on terms, an effort he has now abandoned.

Rooney has consistently been an enthusiastic Trump supporter, enabler and booster.

So when even Francis Rooney—even Francis Rooney!—sees Trump’s emergency declaration as an unjustified means to an end that violates the rule of law and the Constitution, it’s time to sit up and take notice.

The reckoning

In the first round of voting, HJRes 46 did not pass by the two-thirds margins that would indicate an assured veto override; as a result, much of the political betting is that the veto will stand.

However, the importance and possibilities of the coming override vote should not be dismissed. It is a second chance to set things right.

As stated at the outset of this essay, this is not politics as usual. This is not another routine procedural vote in the US Congress. This is a matter of freedom or tyranny, democracy or dictatorship—it’s a moral question, not just a political one. The true question at issue is: Will the United States continue to function as a representative democracy?

Those legislators who think they can appease Trump or that his emergency declaration will be a one-time departure from the Constitution or that they are not putting the nation and its future at risk by voting with him are wrong.

Nor should they think that their vote in favor of Trump will endear them to him. The nature of despotic rule is that it is whimsical, capricious and arbitrary. Do they think they’ll earn his favor? Donald Trump has consistently turned on his supporters and enablers. But that’s also the nature of despotism: no one is safe and the despot is ultimately loyal to no one but himself. It’s why the founders created a nation built on laws and not men.

Those who voted against the emergency declaration are already under pressure to change their votes. The arguments no doubt run the range from high principle to political expediency to crass rewards and punishment.

It’s unclear whether Scott or Diaz-Balart will change their votes, although they should. If Diaz-Balart votes to sustain the emergency declaration he will be making possible an American Castro, the kind of despot who forced his family to flee Cuba—a situation with which he is intimately familiar.

Rubio and Rooney have taken commendable positions against the emergency declaration. For them, maintaining those positions by voting to override is more than just a matter of political consistency—it’s a moral duty.

The override vote will be a critical moment in the life of the nation, a nation founded in opposition to one-man rule, whether hereditary monarch or usurping despot.

It was that principle and the values of freedom and democracy that made America great. Now it’s time to sustain that greatness.

When the vote is called, gentlemen, do what’s right.

Liberty lives in light

For further reading and research:

  • From WGCU and PBS:

The Dictator's Playbook

The Dictator’s Playbook

Learn how six dictators, from Mussolini to Saddam Hussein, shaped the 20th century. How did they seize and lose power? What forces were against them? Learn the answers in these six immersive hours, each a revealing portrait of brutality and power.

 

  • Available at the Collier County Public Library:

On Tyranny 3-5-19

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder, published by Tim Duggan Books.

 

 

 

Regarding the “emergency” on the border:

© 2019 by David Silverberg

BREAKING NEWS: Senate votes against Trump ’emergency;’ Rubio, Scott split

02-27-19 The_Capitol_at_Dawn

March 14, 2019 by David Silverberg

Updated 4:28 pm with Trump reaction, 9:46 pm with vote correction

By a vote of 59 to 41, the United States Senate voted today to approve House Joint Resolution 46, overturning President Donald Trump’s emergency declaration on the border.

Twelve Republicans joined Democrats in voting to terminate the emergency declaration.

Florida’s two Republican senators split, with Marco Rubio voting against Trump to terminate the emergency and Rick Scott voting with him to continue it.

Other Republicans who voted to terminate the state of emergency were Mitt Romney and Mike Lee of Utah, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Rob Portman of Ohio, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.

After the vote President Trump issued a tweet with the single word “VETO!” He then elaborated in a second tweet a few minutes later (capitalization his): “I look forward to VETOING the just passed Democrat inspired Resolution which would OPEN BORDERS while increasing Crime, Drugs, and Trafficking in our Country. I thank all of the Strong Republicans who voted to support Border Security and our desperately needed WALL!”

The House and Senate are expected to attempt an override of any veto, which will require a two-thirds vote in each chamber.

In the House, on Feb. 26 Rep. Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.) joined 11 other Republicans who voted to terminate the emergency while Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-25-Fla.) voted with the president.

Liberty lives in light
© 2019 by David Silverberg

 

Analysis: SWFL, the Democrats and the next President of the United States

10-25-18 Terry McAuliffe speaking to Dems croppedFormer Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe exhorts Collier County Democrats to get out the vote during a visit to Naples on Oct. 25, 2018.         (Photo by the author)

March 14, 2019 by David Silverberg

It seems like a stampede, an avalanche, a tsunami; Trevor Noah calls it “World War D”—it’s the constantly growing number of Democratic candidates who believe they can beat Donald Trump and become the next president of the United States.

As of this writing, 16 Democrats have formally announced their candidacy but as many as 30 or more may enter the race or are potential candidates.

This Sunday, March 17, will mark one year until Florida’s Democratic primary, when Southwest Florida Democrats will be able to make their preferred candidate known.

Of the vast array of candidates—and under normal circumstances this number qualifies as “vast”—one declared candidate and two potential candidates have some connection, however tenuous, to Southwest Florida.

Familiarity can be an important thing, especially if the candidate wins. Just knowing that the Paradise Coast is here and that it has special needs, particularly of an environmental nature, can be an important asset to a region, whether during the campaign or when the party platform is formulated. And if a candidate with that familiarity becomes president, the rewards can be substantial.

Possible candidate Joe Biden

03-14-19 Joe Biden FB
Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden is not an announced candidate—yet. He keeps teasing at a run and he rates high in the polls at the moment.

Biden’s connection to Southwest Florida is through his brother, James Biden Jr., who bought a vacation home on Keewaydin Island for $2.5 million in 2013. He then sold it for $1.35 million in February 2018.

Joe Biden spent Christmas 2013 on Keewaydin with the family. But that’s as far as his connection goes. He never mingled with the locals or got involved in state or local politics. Indeed, when he was down here he seems never to have left the island for the mainland. But at least he knows there’s a Southwest Florida and that it has nice beaches.

Possible candidate Terry McAuliffe

03-14-19 Terry McAuliffe FB cropped
Terry McAuliffe

A former governor of Virginia and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Terry McAuliffe, visited Naples on Oct. 25 of last year to boost Democratic candidates and make connections to the Collier County Democratic Party.

McAuliffe is a longtime Democratic activist. He was co-chair of President Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign in 1996 and subsequently chaired Clinton’s inauguration. He chaired the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005 and then chaired Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign.

He was defeated in his first run for Virginia governor in 2009 but tried again in 2013 and won election. He served as governor from 2014 to 2018 where he attempted healthcare reform and Medicaid expansion (blocked by a Republican legislature), restored voting rights to felons, boosted the economy and ended veteran homelessness. He was elected chair of the National Governors Association in 2016.

As of this writing, McAuliffe has not yet announced his intentions for 2020 but his candidacy remains a possibility. However, he has gotten little to no media attention and despite his record he remains relatively unknown to the public and Democratic voters.

Candidate Elizabeth Warren

03-14-19 Elizabeth Warren FB
Elizabeth Warren

Firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced her candidacy on Feb. 9 of this year, but she was laying the groundwork much earlier. During the 2018 congressional campaign Warren oversaw an energetic outreach effort to local campaigns.

In Southwest Florida, Warren endorsed Democratic congressional candidate David Holden in his run for the 19th Congressional District stretching along the coast from Cape Coral to Marco Island.

While exciting to Holden’s campaign workers, Warren’s endorsement was made only days before her Oct. 15 announcement that DNA testing showed her with Native American ancestry. The announcement backfired. She was mocked by Trump and widely condemned, including by the Cherokee Nation. Fearing that the Warren endorsement would prove more of a liability than an asset, the Holden campaign did not extensively publicize it.

Nonetheless, Warren’s involvement in the local congressional campaign provided her with at least a passing familiarity with Southwest Florida and a few contacts.

How Southwest Florida is likely to vote

Will Southwest Florida Democrats favor these candidates or others when the primary arrives next year?

Ironically, a good indicator of local sentiment can be seen in the results of the Democratic gubernatorial primary last year.

While Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was the surprise winner of the Democratic nod for governor statewide, he didn’t play well in Lee and Collier counties.

In Lee County it was former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine who led the pack with 39 percent of the Democratic vote, followed by former Representative Gwen Graham with 25 percent. Gillum came in third, with only 21 percent.

Collier County posted nearly identical results, with Levine leading (35 percent), followed by Graham (30 percent) and only then Gillum (19 percent).

Even allowing for differences in personality and race, the results indicate that Southwest Florida Democrats tend to be temperamentally conservative. That is likely to prove the case when the presidential primary comes around. So expect the most conservative Democratic candidates to get Southwest Florida voters’ ballots in 2020.

Some good campaigning might change that equation but the presidential candidates have barely made a dent so far in Florida, according to the Politico article, “For Democrats, 2020 race for Florida cash and talent is ‘wide open,’” by Matt Dixon and Gary Fineout. They write that only Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) have active finance operations in Florida.

Yet all of this may not be terribly significant given the lateness of Florida’s primary on the electoral calendar.

Late to the game

For a populous state that can hold the key to a presidential election, Florida is a latecomer to the presidential primary game.

The first Democratic caucus will take place on Feb. 3, in Iowa. The first primary will be in New Hampshire on Feb. 11. After that will come a caucus in Nevada on Feb. 22 and a primary in South Carolina on Feb. 29.

The first Super Tuesday arrives on March 3 when Alabama, California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia hold primaries.

At this point the number of potential nominees should be considerably narrowed down—but even then Florida doesn’t get a say.

No, the Florida primary comes after Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio also hold their primaries.

On March 17, Florida will finally weigh in on the same day as Arizona and Illinois. (Colorado has yet to determine its primary date.)

Is it possible that a contest could be so close by the time of the Florida primary that the Sunshine State could play kingmaker—and that the Paradise Coast could cast the deciding ballot? Yes, but it’s doubtful.

So if any Democrat in Southwest Florida is confused or alarmed by the huge number of Democrats who have declared their candidacies right now, have no fear: by the time you vote you may have only one or two choices and the nominee may already be known.

Let’s hope it’s someone who knows that there’s a Southwest Florida.


Changing the calendar

Iowa and New Hampshire lead the Democratic caucus and primary and calendar and get a disproportionate say in the selection process. Critics have pointed out that these two rural, white states hardly reflect the nation as a whole or the Democratic Party in particular. Indeed, Florida, a must-win state in the general election, will have barely any input in the nomination process given its place in the calendar.

In a fascinating article, “We Re-Ordered The Entire Democratic Primary Calendar To Better Represent The Party’s Voters” on the website FiveThirtyEight.com, author Geoffrey Skelley examines what the order of primaries would be if they were based on the makeup of the Democratic Party.

Spoiler alert: By Skelley’s reckoning, Florida would move up drastically to fourth place. Illinois, New Jersey and New York would hold their primaries first.

That would give Floridians a much bigger say in the final nomination.

Changing the order of primaries is not on the horizon for 2020. But we can dream.

Liberty lives in light
© 2019 by David Silverberg