Category Archives: Florida Sucks OK!

With So Many Reasons To Despise Marco Rubio, His “Gay Past” Shouldn’t Be One Of Them

After appearing first in this-is-barely-journalism online scandal sheets like Towleroad, reports of Marco Rubio’s alleged “gay past” have now made it all the way to the Washington Post, and more’s the pity.

The “story,” to the extent one can be said to exist, is a masterpiece of innuendo, insinuation, and plain, old nudge-nudge-wink-wink gossip. In May 1990, when he was 18 years old, Rubio “was arrested for being in a crime-plagued public park after closing time.”

The “crime-plagued park,” also described as “notorious” (code-word alert) in the screechy reports now zooming around the internet, as well as “a haven for drug dealers, prostitutes and gang members,” was also apparently known for sexual encounters between men in which many things may have changed hands, but cash was not one of them.

In specific, however, what Rubio was actually arrested for was drinking beer inside a closed car with a friend. He never went to court; he was never convicted of anything; the charges were eventually dismissed.

The court file, meanwhile “been has destroyed,” the Washington Post says, in one of those irresponsible uses of the passive voice in English that strongly implies an ominous conspiracy (just in time for the new X-Files), but ignores the near certainty that most twenty-five-year-old records for misdemeanor arrests in which the charges were dismissed have also been destroyed. (But “destroyed” sounds so much more dramatic than “sent to the shredder because we needed the space.”)

Since this not-really-a-story broke, the queer media in particular has been throwing around phrases like “closet queen” and “hypocrisy” like there’s no tomorrow.

And they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

First of all, there is absolutely no reason to think that Rubio was in the park because he was having sex with, intended to have sex with, or even wanted to have sex with, another man.

There is no proof that he was there for some reason other than to drink beer in public at an age when he wasn’t legally entitled to do so.

And no one has said any different—at least not anyone who has talked so far.

Second, let’s suppose it’s true. Let’s suppose he was there to cruise for dick. Are we really arguing that a teenager who, at 18-going-on-19, might have been living the vida loca couldn’t grow up to be heterosexual? Or might not have decided, for religious or other reasons, that whatever he was doing, or thinking about doing, with other men, he ought to quit it?

In other words, can we stop insisting on the one-drop (of semen) rule?

Third, and most importantly, Marco Rubio is evil. He is a right-wing, Christian fundamentalist, anti-abortion horror show who denies both rape and climate change with approximately equal enthusiasm.

But the great thing about the American Dream is that none of that is any obstacle to becoming one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse!

No, you can be one of the most terrifying politicians to have come along since the McCarthy era and still be a) a closeted homosexual; b) an out homosexual; c) a heterosexual; d) someone who used to be gay but isn’t anymore; e) a homosexually-oriented but exclusively heterosexual-behaving man or woman; f) a man or woman with naughty erotic fantasies that are, in any case, nobody else’s business; or g) all of the above at different points in time.

In the meanwhile, getting all Dowager Countess of Grantham-sniffy over his supposed “gay past” is just a way to imply that there’s something inherently shameful and indecent about being gay.

Anyone worried about the potential victory of the Tea Party Jihad in America should be shaking with Chikungunya-fever-like chills over Rubio’s politics. The man is despicable.

But not because of a little (alleged) adolescent fellatio.

 

Alton & Kolter Homes – Changing Life (for good) in Southeast Florida

If there is one thing this little corner of Palm Beach County needs, it is more:

A) Strip malls (aka “Up to 500,000 square feet of Retail Space”)
B) Tacky, overpriced, housing “communities” in which every unit is identical to all the others (aka “Up to 2,000 Single- and Multi-Family Homes and up to 700 Apartment Homes”)
C) “Boutique” yoga studios, fro-yo stands, and expensive restaurants trying desperately to appeal to residents desperate to believe they live someplace trendy
D) Homeowner associations, absentee landlords, and property-management companies
E) Hotel rooms (three hundred planned)

If you’re Kolter Industries (also known, more bucolically, as Kolter Homes) or one of its shadowy avatars, the “Alton Town Center Development Company” or Brock Development Corporation (because real estate, in South Florida, is nothing if not one enormous shell game), the answer is: F) ALL OF THE ABOVE.

Our local example of greed, lack of urban planning, and thoughtless, unrestrained development is a large piece of land just east and west of the interstate freeway: the Briger Forest.

The damage that Alton/Kolter has already done to the Briger Forest–one of the last and largest pieces of unprotected (and undeveloped) forest in southeast Florida–is egregious.

Here’s what it looked like a few months ago:

briger_before

And here’s what it looks like now, after bulldozers and other heavy machinery swooped in and wiped vast swaths of the forest off the face of the earth.

briger_1

Protests and litigation against planned development of the so-called Florida Scripps Phase II/Briger Project have been going on for ten years. Nonetheless, and to absolutely no one’s surprise, the South Florida Water Management District (otherwise known as “a realtor’s best friend”) issued an Environmental Resource Permit for the project. The permit was in turn immediately challenged by the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition and Everglades Earth First!.

These and other groups charge that the project includes no hazardous waste management plan (this point is directed primarily at the Scripps Institute, which conducts animal and biochemical experimentation and which owns the entire 600+ acres), no provisions regarding mitigation of the impact on local water quality, and no environmental impact statement regarding the destruction of habitat for the many listed endangered species that live in the Briger (including storks and the Eastern Indigo Snake), a direct violation of the Endangered Species Act.

What I can report personally is that the area was home to a large number of gopher tortoises, another endangered species, and that no attempt was made to relocate them. One day the forest was intact; the next day it was bulldozed.

The nucleus of the plan is the creation of a Scripps-managed “Biotech City” on the site, but Alton/Kolter is already bragging about its plans for a “community,” including single-family homes, apartments, hotels, and retail businesses (“the 24/7 shopping destination for all of northern Palm Beach County”) that will sprawl across the entire piece of land:

Alton Communities

The “Alton Homes” community will presumably look a lot like the laughably named “Abacoa Town Center” about a half-mile away:

abacoa1

Pretty right?

What I can tell you from experience, however, is that many of the retail spaces in the Abacoa Town Center are empty and/or change hands every few months, that the restaurants are largely spruced-up fast food joints, and that the apartments (I’ve been in some of them) are cheap, abominable boxes. There is no town there, no center, no community.

But by God, we need another one just like it right across the street.

And with it all the jobs that will be created. They’ll be nearly exclusively minimum-wage, dead-end jobs, of course, with no health insurance or retirement, and they’ll add almost nothing to the local tax base. Of course, there’ll also be the folks who’ll have to work on expanding Donald Ross Road, which runs between Scripps and the new Alton Community. The current two lanes in each direction are never, ever going to be enough to handle the traffic, presuming this place ever fills up. (Road construction will be temporary work, of course.) And then we’ll need a lot of mostly-paid-under-the-table gardeners and landscapers, because you can’t expect white people to do work like that.

But still. I just said “jobs”; I didn’t say “good jobs.”

As for the tech positions that “Biotech City” will create, it isn’t as though South Florida produces a lot of STEM graduates (or professional graduates of any kind), so the vast majority of them will go to foreign nationals on restrictive J1 visas that keep them from protesting their low pay and enforced, unpaid overtime or from organizing to improve conditions.

And so a good time will be had by all, especially if you’re a real estate parasite speculator developer in South Florida.

Yeah, I know: fighting the realtor lobby in this part of the U.S. is like trying to get John Boehner to quit looking like he’s trying to choke down a mouthful of used cat litter, but still. It’s worth saying what a colossally bad idea this is.

But AltonLife.com has thoughtfully provided some bitter humor for those driving by this newest scar on the land:

briger_2

Life changing.

Because when you kill something, you most definitely change it.


Mayor of Palm Beach Gardens:
Bert Premuroso
(561) 799-4104
rpremuroso@pbgfl.com

Vice Mayor Eric Jablin <ejablin@pbgfl.com>

City Manager Ron Ferris <rferris@pbgfl.com>

Palm Beach Gardens City Council:
Council Member Joseph Russo <jrusso@pbgfl.com>; Council Member Marcie Tinsley <mtinsley@pbgfl.com>; Council Member David Levy <dlevy@pbgfl.com>

Palm Beach County Commissioner:
District 1
Hal Valeche
(561) 355-2201
HValeche@pbcgov.org

Not Bad … for a Museum in a Mall

The Boca Museum of Art (BOCA) in Boca Raton is a small, attractive, elegantly appointed museum located in a building whose exterior is nothing short of ghastly. But then so is the entire “Plaza Real” area: faux-Spanish architecture in shades of peach and salmon lines a broad boulevard clotted with desperately snooty shops, over-priced restaurants, and what has to be America’s largest unofficial parade of the nouveau riche––ostentatious, gas-guzzling mega-cars straight out of the Sopranos catalog, yappy dogs and sour-faced children, and women with gibbous bosoms constructed of what appears to be reinforced concrete. If you’ve seen Queen of Versailles, you’ll recognize the Siegels (pre-crash version) on every street corner. Where this outdoor shopping mall comes to a dead-end, that’s where you’ll find BOCA.

All this is important as preamble because it provides context for two significant aspects of the BOCA experience. First, if it weren’t for the nouveau riche and arrivistes of Boca Raton, some of whom apparently died and left their collections and/or money to cultchah, there likely wouldn’t be a BOCA museum. By all appearances, the museum has never acquired a single piece on its own initiative.

That’s why there are very nice works of art alongside both the deeply unimaginative (the obligatory Warhol, a forgettable Lichtenstein, a cookie-cutter Morandi) and a large amount of astonishing dreck (the sculpture “garden” is especially hair-raising: there’s one nostalgic Robert Indiana piece and the very interesting Labirintite by the Italian artist, Rabarama; the rest of it is scrap metal).

Labirintite by Rabarama. Here on display in Catania in 2008.

Labirintite by Rabarama, on display in Catania in 2008.

That’s also why there are a couple of beautiful (tiny) Picasso sketches and a decent Chagall in the same gallery as Delacroix’s and Degas’ drunken telephone doodles. Most people wouldn’t have even bothered to frame them, but when Abe and Mitzy Fatwallet donate their collection to you, you have to take ALL of it. In short, BOCA is a very mixed bag.

The small display of African masks is lovely, as are the two contemporary blown-glass pieces set among them, though the African grouping is inexplicably jammed up against a series of Mayan ceramics and stonework. (That, one guesses, is meant to be the “primitive” gallery.) The Mayan pieces are gorgeous, but all the signage in that part of the museum seemed deliberately vague, as if in sideways acknowledgement that the provenance of at least some of those pots, vessels, and effigies is suspect.

The current exhibitions––a half-century of haute couture and a display of American quilts––are OK if you like that sort if thing. The Vera Wangs and Oscar De La Rentas certainly seemed to act as bees to honey for a certain demographic (elderly white women), while at least a half-dozen fairly stunning photographs can be found among the mediocrity of the “Draw and Shoot: Fashion Illustrations and Photography” exhibit that accompanies the main event. Oh, and by the way: giving a title like “Politics NOT as Usual: Quilts with Something to Say” to an exhibit of quilting and then neglecting even to mention the Names Project Quilt is just plain perverse.

In any case, the second feature of BOCA that is explained by the museum’s physical setting in the heart of the Boca Raton socio-cultural habitus is the astonishing, outrageous ticket price: $15. (Keep in mind that this is a city where they charge you $12 for access to the beach.) No, you don’t even get a printed gallery guide for that.

BOCA’s apparent attitude, which is both bone-chilling and increasingly widespread throughout arts and cultural venues in America these days, is that art is for them what can afford it, and hoi polloi needn’t bother showing up.

BOCA, at least in the context of the vast cultural wasteland that is South Florida, is a great little museum, but that doesn’t give them the right to take advantage.

11/6, 3:30pm update: Voting Rites (& Wrongs): Palm Beach County, FL – Dispatches from the Heart of Darkness

November 6, 2012, 3:30pm

Dateline Jupiter, FL: After two people in a row told me on the phone that they had been planning to vote today, but had changed their minds because “Get Out the Vote” calls had been coming in about hourly since nine this morning, I gave up. And that’s the end of my volunteer efforts for the Obama campaign this election.

Sure, being bugged about repetitious phone calls is a stupid reason not to vote. But all most people need is a stupid reason.

Prior to Obama’s campaign in 2008, in which a nearly unprecedented 62% of the eligible electorate voted, average voter turnout in a presidential contest had been a laconic 40%. That’s right, in a typical election year, only 2 out of 5 people who could vote for president actually do. In “smaller” races, turnout is even less.

So when we consider the hair-splitting and chad-counting over Bush v Gore in 2000, an important thing to remember was that the race actually came in at 47.9% vs. 48.4% OF FIFTY POINT FOUR PERCENT. In other words, 24.4% of eligible voters elected Bush.

So getting voters to vote does matter. But so does not pissing them off.

By 3pm today, we still did not have updated “strike lists” (lists generated by the Supervisor of Elections that tell who has cast a ballot and who hasn’t.) From those lists, presumably, a campaign would target folks who still needed to vote and (at least locally) have less than 4 hours to do so. And everybody else would get left alone.

Presumably. Instead, we were calling from lists printed this morning and accurate as of the last SOE update — which took place at 3:00 this morning. So much for the much-touted apps that were supposed to give real-time updating of voter turnout….

All of this isn’t solely the fault of Obama’s campaign. It’s the fault of the Obama campaign plus the fault of Patrick Murphy’s campaign, plus the fault of the Democratic Party, plus the fault of every other democratic candidate whose workers have a list and a phone. There hasn’t been the slightest effort to coordinate GOTV efforts or volunteers among all these different campaigns and entities in this county, and that’s why people are getting called over and over again.

At some point — weeks ago — the get-out-the-vote strategy needed to change. There was already plenty of evidence that over-zealous and over-saturated efforts to contact voters directly were starting to become counter-productive. But the strategy didn’t change, and my very strong fear is that, at least in Pal Beach County, the effort is going to blow up in our faces.

11/6: Voting Rites (& Wrongs): Palm Beach County, FL – Dispatches from the Heart of Darkness

November 6, 2012:

Dateline Jupiter, FL: However things go tonight, there’s going to be plenty of time to criticize the Obama campaign’s efforts here in Palm Beach County. Never one to leave Christmas shopping to the last minute, however, I want to get my observations on the record early. Because here’s the thing: What I’ve seen here in my area (the so-called Jupiter/Jupiter “West” portion of the county) has often been discouraging and disheartening, and a large part of that is down to local coordinators who were too inexperienced to lead and too stubborn to change direction.

  • Door-to-door canvassing needed to have stopped at least a week ago. I know, I know. The conventional wisdom is that knocking on doors is going to win this election for Obama in Florida. But the “conventional wisdom” failed to account for a brand-new phenomenon: the number of doors that are getting slammed in volunteers’ faces. People are sick of seeing volunteers on their doorsteps who are there to ask them the same damn questions. Some volunteers were getting worse than slammed doors: verbal abuse and, in at least a few cases, threats to call the police if they came back. And these are volunteers who are canvassing Democrat voters–in other words, the ones who are supposed to be on our side. What happened to them? Who knows, but when even they can’t stand to see you, you need to start leaving them alone.

This out-of-control over-emphasis on canvassing has also had a negative impact on volunteer morale. People who are largely untrained are being sent to talk to people who are increasingly exasperated, if not downright hostile. As a result, volunteers have bad experiences and don’t come back. The local Organizing for America (OFA) office had no way to address this problem other than finding fresh meat to send out onto the front lines.

To put it succinctly: the Jupiter OFA has only one strategy — door-to-door canvassing — and has refused to consider any other, even if that has meant leaving volunteers with nothing to do (or with only busy-work to do) or alienating them (and voters) entirely. That’s bad for Obama, but it’s bad in so many other ways that will, arguably, be even more important down the line. (Rick Scott is coming up for re-election in two years, and happy volunteers from OFA are the likeliest force to help staff the effort to send him packing.)

  • What is currently in your face may not be the most important thing to do. One of the local OFA’s big weaknesses has been the inability to prioritize tasks and to determine what was truly important and most likely to lead to a desired outcome. Yesterday, the 5th, volunteers in the office where I was working were still being asked to do cold calls – to a general list of all voters of all parties — to try to recruit Obama get-out-the-vote volunteers for Election Day.I don’t argue that I’m a representative sample of anything, but I started putting my name on Obama volunteer lists months ago. I first signed up in person with an Obama pollster at the farmer’s market in May. I gave my name to an Obama volunteer at the university where I work. When a different Obama campaign worker called me to find out whether I was planning to vote, I asked him to be sure to pass my name along as a volunteer. I signed up online – twice, both locally and nationally. I receive an average of twenty fundraising emails a week, but no one has ever called me to ask me to volunteer. Not once.

Sure, I could be the only one who slipped through the cracks. But I doubt it.

So here’s what I worry: that there are other lists of volunteers who’ve never been asked to do anything or who perhaps volunteered months ago but haven’t been invited back since. If that’s true, why — at the eleventh hour — is the campaign trying to recruit folks from a cold list of people who’ve never expressed any interest whatsoever in volunteering to do anything?

But suppose I’m wrong. Suppose all would-be volunteers have been called and are already either assigned or tapped out, were these calls really the best use of our time? Rather than risk another alienating phone call to a voter, why not simply send invitation emails to those people? The effort required is relatively small, and I’d be willing to bet the number of positive responses would be about the same (that is, minuscule, and that’s because it’s a random population unlikely to produce results). In other words, how about putting minor effort into initiatives with the likelihood of a minor return and major effort where the likelihood of success is major? That’s what a strategy looks like, folks.

  • Communication. In fairness, there have been lightning changes in information over these last few days. Early Voting was extended. No, it wasn’t. Instead, Supervisor of Elections offices would allow in-person absentee voting at all satellite offices. No, they wouldn’t. Yes, they would. You could still vote if you hadn’t already requested an absentee ballot. No, you couldn’t. Yes, you could. You can vote at your regular polling place even if you requested an absentee ballot but never sent it in. Yes, but you have to bring your absentee ballot with you. No, you don’t. Yes, you do or your vote will be provisional and it won’t be counted. Yes, it will. And on and on.

So OK, granted: There’s lots of confusing information circulating, and part of the confusion has been the media’s mangled reporting.

But that’s where the Obama campaign could have served as a reliable clearinghouse for accurate information. That didn’t happen.

Case in point. On Sunday at just about 1pm, the Florida State Director for FL.BarackObama.com sent out an email saying that “voting hours were extended Sunday and Monday” at the Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections office and giving the address of the main SOE office in West Palm Beach.

Here’s the SNAFU. First, the erroneous implication that “early voting” had been extended — one of the most widely misreported “facts” of the last 48 hours — is already present in the subject line of the email, though the body makes clear that only “in-person absentee voting” was at issue. It may seem that this is a distinction without a difference, but for important legal and strategic reasons, it’s crucial not to confuse the two. Second, the only place to cast an “instant absentee” ballot on SUNDAY was the main SOE office in West Palm Beach, but on MONDAY voters could go to ANY of the four SOE offices in the county to vote absentee in person. That info isn’t in the email, and it took until late Monday morning, when the SOE offices opened again, for volunteers at our location to confirm that all SOE offices would accept absentee-in-person votes.

More important, our local Jupiter/OFA office instructed us not to give this information out to anyone. Why? Here’s what we were told: because OFA was worried the SOE’s office would be overrun. Thankfully, most of us saw that as the nonsense it was and ignored the advice.

  • The Devil is in the details – but so is God. This morning, Election Day, an urgent issue arose at a polling place in Lake Worth, about 40 minutes south. We needed to contact the coordinator of the Lake Worth OFA office for help. Problem. The Jupiter OFA office DOES NOT HAVE A LISTof the names and phone numbers of the other OFA offices in Palm Beach County.OK, I know all that information is inside the iPhones of the Generation Facebook muffins who run the office – but it’s Election Day and they were all out doing other things, exactly as they should have been doing.

What I want to talk about is the willful cluelessness it takes to fail to place a list of contact phone numbers in prominent sight. That’s a lack of campaign (and real-world) experience that is, in a word, staggering. Yes, I know, if you dick around on the “Florida Organizing for America” website, you can eventually find those numbers – still no names, but at least numbers – which is where we eventually got what we needed. And that works great if you happen to be sitting at home at your computer and aren’t out in the field doing campaign work.

If a campaign is going to have volunteers, properly training and orienting them should be one of a campaign’s top five priorities. And once they were trained, a volunteer could have been asked to type up that contact list (or simply print it out). One of those volunteers, say, who was burned out on canvassing, but who still had a lot of desire to help… .