Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Crist needs to explain his right-wing judicial appointments

"Florida's 2014 governor's race may become an expensive popularity contest over who steers the state in the next four years but one little-discussed part of the job - the power to appoint - could give the next governor a legacy that could last much longer."

Four members of the seven-member state Supreme Court reach their mandatory retirement age during the next four years and, depending on how the retirements play out, the next governor may have the power to pick their replacements.
"Judicial power play underway as 4 near retirement".

Judicial appointments should be particularly important to Florida's public employees. Consider the Florida Supreme Court's ruling in Scott v. Williams, which permitted the Governor to gut public employee pension rights. In that case, Chief Justice Polston together with Justices Pariente, Canady and Labarga voted to reverse the trial court's decision in favor of public employees. It was a 4-3 decision.

Pariente was appointed in 1997 by Lawton Chiles, but right-wing Justices Polston, Canady and Labarga were all appointed by Charlie Crist. Mr. Crist has some explaining to do to Florida's public employees. Are these the kind of appointments Floridians can expect in a future Crist administration?

He got his

"A dozen young children dressed in their holiday best and donning Santa hats made a surprise visit to South Florida U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart's home to serenade the Republican congressman and urge him to push for immigration reform." "Immigrants carol at Fla. Rep. Diaz-Balart's home".

Big of him

"Florida says elections supervisors can keep key absentee-ballot information secret".

That Florida GOPer website problem

"Company defends glitchy jobless-benefits computer system". See also "Deloitte Defends Work on Troubled Unemployment System".

House Judiciary Chairman Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala embarrasses both himself and the State of Florida

Fred Grimm: "Yet another skirmish in Florida’s 2013 uncivil war broke out earlier this month in Lake City over a shocking, shocking proposal from the Florida chapter of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. They want permission from state officials to erect a memorial to the Union war dead at the Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park, 50 miles west of Jacksonville. The Union descendants noted that 'there are no battlefield monuments to Union soldiers or regiments on the battlefield [yet] there are three Confederate monuments erected on the site by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.'"

A request for a union memorial would hardly seem all that controversial, except the Civil War apparently remains unresolved in those parts.

Another batch of descendants, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, called for “the second battle of Olustee” to beat back the notion of a union marker. Commander Michael Givens of Charleston notified his members: “Compatriots, a new heritage attack has been launched at Olustee.” This “monument to invading Federal forces,” Givens warned, with a Freudian flourish, would be “a large, black Darth-Vaderesque shaft that will disrupt the hallowed ground where Southern blood was spilled in defense of Florida.”

At a rowdy meeting in Lake City with state park officials this month, anti-Union memorial protestors broke out in a spontaneous rendition of Dixie. (Led, in a scene nearly too weird to contemplate, by a black neo-Confederate waving the Confederate battle flag “like a conductors baton,” according to Margie Menzel of the News Service of Florida.)

"House Judiciary Chairman Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, better known as the NRA’s point man in the Florida legislature, promised to use his clout to stop this affront to the old Confederacy."
“There is a sacred trust that's being violated when you go in and change an historic site from the way it was commemorated by those who established it,” Baxley said. He promised to introduce his own version of a bill making it illegal to mess with these sacred patches.

Still, it’s a little strange that folks from Florida, of all the southern states, get so riled up over their Confederate heritage. There’s not much. (Although both the Confederate Memorial Day, April 26, and Jefferson Davis’ birthday, June 3, are defined in Florida statutes as “legal holidays.”) When the state joined the secessionists, Florida’s population was barely 140,000. More than 60,000 of those residents were slaves, whose modern day ancestors, I’m guessing, aren’t much offended by some “large, black, Darth-Vadereque shaft” memorializing the Union losses at Olustee.

Ancestors of the 80,000 non-slaves, mostly white, who lived in Florida at the outbreak of the Civil War have long since been overwhelmed by immigrants and their offspring from Yankee states and foreign nations.

Besides, a number of the union soldiers who fought at Olustee that day 150 years ago were themselves Florida residents – blacks liberated from local farms and recruited into the three black regiments assigned to the federal forces aiming to cut off southern supply lines to Florida beef and produce. (Confederate troops considered the use of black soldiers, well, beyond the pale.).

The aftermath of Olustee brought reports of the kind of racist killings seen later that year at Fort Pillow. William Frederick Penniman of the 4th Georgia Calvary, in his 1901 memoir, described how Confederate troops systematically executed wounded blacks left on the battlefield. “The next morning I had occasion to go over the battlefield again quite early, before the burial squads began their work, when the results of the shooting of the previous night became quite apparent. Negroes, and plenty of them, whom I had seen lying all over the field wounded, and as far as I could see, many of them moving around from place to place, now without a motion, all were dead. If a Negro had a shot in the shin another was sure to be in the head.”

Hard to understand how modern Floridians could judge such a “hallowed” killing field too sacred to raise a monument to those union dead. Some of them Floridians. Except, of course, they were black Floridians.

Writing about these romanticized remembrances of “our sacred southern heritage,” demands that inevitable quote from William Faulkner, circa 1950, from Requiem for a Nun. "The past is never dead. It's not even past."

In Florida, the past isn’t dead. It’s just that the inconvenient stuff of the past – slavery, massacres, lynching, the century-long reign of Jim Crow – has been conveniently redacted.

"In Florida, when it comes to race and the Confederacy, the past is never past".