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Friday July 13, 2012

Pride, Greed, Sloth, and general incompetence

7 Deadly Sins This week in local cultural malice, incompetence, and shoddiness, sung to the tune of the seven deadly sins. I’ve only got four this week, so I guess we’re not doing so bad


I am sure that the Florida Cultural Alliance does important work, and deserves all the support we can muster for them. But when I saw the email they sent out yesterday, I just had to share it as an example of the worst kind of corporospeak, and the worst in online interaction design. Try — just try — to have any sense of what the purpose of the email is and what they want you to do after reading it just once. Not possible. I’ve ready if about a half donzen times and I get it now, and it’s stark. The FCA has apparently submitted SUGGESTIONS to a Florida State government entity. They want you to familiarize yourself with the state program they’re addressing, read their dense PDF suggestions, write a letter indicating your support for their suggestions and fax (Yes. Fax. In 2012.) it to the number provided TODAY BY 5 PM. Doesn’t say who you’re faxing it to, and doesn’t say why it has to be today. But hey — this was dated 1:25 pm, so they’re giving you more than three hours. Get on it.

Oh! And as an afterthought, yeah, you can submit your suggestions for the Five-Year Strategic Plan. Oh wait no, that’s for the Six-Pillar Framework. You do it by clicking into a PDF (this one created by the State) that takes your comments and has a “email this form” button which to me looked suspiciously like just a text box with no functionality.


It’s not in my nature to wipe lipstick off a pig, but the Jewish Museum of Florida couldn’t hack it anymore and signed it’s buildings and collection to FIU. And that’s fine. The Wolfsonian certainly seems to be thriving under FIU’s wing. But tacking the initials of the university to the organization’s name, which henceforth will be “Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU”, is galling. It makes perfect sense from the institutional ego perspective, but would have been overruled by typographic aesthetics and all-around sanity at a classier organization.


While Googling around for the previous article, I perchanced to click on a link to a Sun Sentinel article. You will probably not get it, but here’s what I saw:

sun sentinel screenshot

“Hey, you found a link to one of our articles in a search engine! Can we interest you in a home-delivery subscription to our newspaper?” Look at your statistics Sun Sentinel — this is not helping your subscription rates. And I guarantee you that it’s hurting your readership and credibility. And while we’re on it: I understand why your pages need to be choked with ads, but spam popover links? Really?


Next February, the Arsht Center is hosting a concert tribute to Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. It’s part of a series of six concerts, half of which are these condescending “tributes” to Jazz Names You Recognize, which in my opinion are demeaning to the performer, the legendary figure, and the audience. But something (and I’m assuming it’s actually not the Arsht Center’s people) has sunk to a particularly odious level with this, which I received in yesterday’s email:

thelonious monk

Thelonious Monk is died in 1982 after a heartbreaking final few years. He is a hero to musicians and creative people everywhere. And while this concert does include his son, using the man’s name and image like this is repugnant. There is a special place in hell for the people that did this, where they can hang out with the folks behind the John Lennon shirts


Wednesday May 7, 2008

The results are in from the Broward citrus canker class-action lawsuit: $11.5 million to be split between several tens of thousand residents. It’s not clear how much each person/tree will get, because some have already gotten money, yadda yadda, but sounds like upper three digits to me. Good news for former citrus tree owners in other counties, where similar lawsuits are ongoing; bad news for the State (uhh, that would be us). Someone should start talking settlement, no?


Wednesday April 30, 2008

A Miami-Dade school principal offered to do his job for $1 per year plus benefits, and the school board turned him down, essentially saying he can have the job for $120,000 a year or not at all. The reason is some budgeting BS. Meanwhile, the State is cutting $60.5 million in funding to Miami-Dade schools (and, if you want extra anger with your lunchtime burger, “Meantime, there’s enough money to keep giving the owners of 20 sports stadiums and arenas — including the ones used by the Miami Dolphins, the Miami Heat and the Florida Panthers — tax subsidies as high as $2 million each.”)


Tuesday April 29, 2008

Your State government watch: mandating ultrasound scans for women before they can get an abortion in the Senate, undermining evolution in the House. (Neither bill is a law yet.) Attention Republicans: how do you sleep?


Monday April 28, 2008

Let them believe

I believe Florida license plate

Ahh, Florida legislature, how we love thee. Just in the last year you’ve screwed us out of having our votes counted, debated what can hang from the back of a truck, and now this: the good folks in Tallahassee are considering the ‘I Believe’ license plate.

Now, this is an easy opportunity to engage in a little open Christian-bashing — and believe me, I’ll get into that in a second — but let’s consider the central argument against the plate. Sayeth Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida,
“[it] sends a message that Florida is essentially a Christian state” and, second, gives the “appearance that the state is endorsing a particular religious preference.”

Well no, it doesn’t do that. Florida has some 200 different specialty tags. Does anyone think the state legislature in any meaningful way “endorses” the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Florida Memorial University, or NASCAR? Of course not. What we have here is the highly dubious enterprise of the state raising revenue through its vehicle licensing arm. You can question the whole enterprise, but letting it go for the last 200 plates and then suddenly deciding that this one is somehow extra-contemptible is absurd. Of course there is no shortage of folks ready to do just that. But sorry, the state isn’t forcing anyone to get this plate or making it the default choice. And a quick glance at the list of current specialty tags makes it clear that yes, this plate will soon be followed by plates for a plethora of other religions, and maybe even one for us atheists (several folks have suggested a Flying Spaghetti Monster plate). The state’s policy has been clear: it’ll print a plate if it thinks more then a couple of dozen people are interested. No sane person would infer any sort of approval.

There are certain areas where the state should draw the line. I’m personally still horrified every time I see the “Choose Life” plate. Does one of the most agonizingly troubled moral debates of our time need to be reduced to a license plate? Should the Florida Transportation department be used as a revenue collection agency for assholes who harass pregnant women? Don’t I have a right not to be reminded of abortions of all things, when I drive down the road? By any reasonable, objective, standard this plate is a universe more offensive then some silly deceleration of faith.

Oh, about those Christians. Well, honestly: what can you say about folks who want to proclaim their religious belief through so tacky a means? Have you guys read the bible? You know it wants you to stone adulterers and gays to death, right? You’re cool with that. You know your precious pope is helping the cause of AIDS by opposing condom distribution in Sub-Saharan Africa, right? What, you don’t support those things? So, the bible is the word of God or is it not? Yeah… I believe there is a word for you: hypocrite. (That’d make a good license plate!)

As for the rest of us, let’s take a deep breath and go with it, as well as with the other religious plates that are sure to follow. The “endorsement” is non-existent, and remember that separation between church and state is a balance. It says that you trust in God on your money, after all.


Tuesday April 22, 2008

The Florida State Senate just passed an amendment to a transportation bill that bans Truck Nutz, the metal dangling testicles you’ve seen hanging from the hitches of classier pickups around town. The final vote is Thursday. For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my state. (via kottke)


Tuesday April 15, 2008

State shall pay for cut-down trees

The first of several huge class-action lawsuits against the state’s past Citrus Canker policy has come home to roost. The Miami Herald article deals primarily with the legal technicalities of the case, but here’s the point: The state based its decision to cut down healthy trees growing within 1,900 feet of infected trees on junk science, and didn’t sufficiently compensate owners. Well, now comes the penalty phase — we’re talking hundreds of thousands of trees, and the plaintiffs are talking as much as $5,000 per tree. Tim Farley, who’s quoted extensively in the article (and you can hear audio of him talking some more!) says the Florida citrus industry should pay, “but unfortunately that’s not how the system works.”

Actually, a tax on the citrus industry to pay compensatory damages in these cases would be just a wonderful idea. But they’re not the really really real guilty party here — industry looks after its interests, right? That’s what they do, that’s what they have lobbyists to do, that’s what we expect them to do. The real criminals here are the people that put the 1,900 foot rule into place — the government officials who failed to stand up to the industry, to stand up for residents with trees.

So, what do you do to ensure this doesn’t happen next time, with the next situation? Nothing. You take it, and the next time you take it again. There’s your moral. Now, get out there and plant some citrus trees — they only take a few years to get to fruit-bearing age.

Update: Clarifying the compensation per tree. First of all, that’s what the trial is going to determine. $5,000 is the pie-in-the-sky figure the plaintiffs are starting with, a number to be compromised from, and even then it’s intended to be the upper range. Actual amount would be determined by the size/age/value of the tree, with the majority in any case being under $1,000.


Wednesday March 26, 2008

The ‘get the fuck out of my lane’ law is getting another shot in Tallahassee. Yay!


Thursday March 6, 2008

Florida bicycle adventure

florida bike route

I’ve been considering a bike vacation, and I’m throwing this out in case anyone has any suggestions or advice. My current thinking is to take a train to Tallahassee, then spend two weeks biking back along route above or something similar. Pass through Gainesville, then swing over to the east coast for Cape Canaveral, then south along A1A, possibly with a detour toward Lake Okeechobee. 540 miles isn’t too much for 10 days or so, but the idea is that it be leisurely. I’d want to follow the quietest side-roads possible and see as much of what there is to see as possible. FerfeLaBat already had some suggestions — anyone else? Of course I’ve ridden through the state any number of times, but presumably this would be a fresh perspective photos would follow, along with updates as often as I could get to an internet window (probably not that often) and numerous twitter updates. I’m also wondering whether to try to bring camping gear along, or whether to stick strictly to motels (thinking the latter — nothing sucks more then a day of biking without a shower, and campgrounds with such facilities are few, and who wants to have such strict targets). Thoughts?


Wednesday February 6, 2008

Wow, the state of Florida is deliberately trying to slow down enrollment to its public universities.


Tuesday December 4, 2007

The state of Florida has formed a partnership with Google to create an app to help people find state information on the web. I have a better idea: why not overhaul the state’s websites so they’re spider-crawlable. “Database-based” is no excuse: Critical Miami is database based, and Google does pretty damn well with it, in case you haven’t noticed.


Wednesday November 21, 2007

I frankly don’t understand the pros and cons of Charlie Crist’s gambling deal with the Seminole tribe. (And I’m not sure I have much sympathy for the whining pari-mutuels.) The Miami Herald, on the other hand, is vehemently opposed to the pact. Update: But certainly not everyone agrees.


Monday October 1, 2007

The Florida Springs blog.


Thursday August 2, 2007


Click the picture. It’s Florida. Now zoom all the way in. This is a plane that crashed 26 years ago.


Monday July 23, 2007

Last week, Charlie Crist’s office sent out a list of all the requests for information it had received from reporters during the previous day. Bob Norman waxes philosophical about the ethical conundrum for reporters who have this information available to scoop their colleagues. All well and good, but this is the internet dammit — I want to see the full text of the e-mail posted somewhere by the end of the day today! Update: The list is out. The Orlando Sentinel stepped up to the challenge.


Thursday July 5, 2007

State Representative Marco Rubio explains the state tax cuts.


Wednesday June 27, 2007

State anti-ballot-initiative law vetoed


Tuesday June 5, 2007

“As any careful reader knows by now, the St. Petersburg Times and The Palm Beach Post were the only Florida news organizations that sent reporters to cover Gov. Charlie Crist’s trip to Israel. But The Miami Herald still found an enterprising way to get a little coverage.” The St. Pete Times nips in the general direction of the Miami Herald, who nips back. Feisty! They’re talking about Charlie Crist’s trip to Israel, which was kinda sorta covered for the herald by state representative Dan Gelber.


Tuesday May 22, 2007

What's up with the primary?

Yesterday, Florida moved its primary to January 29th, which means it’s preceded only the Iowa and Nevada caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. It puts us ahead of Super Tuesday, when most of the states hold their primaries.

This sort of leapfrogging is bad for the system (humor me a second), because there’s no logical place for it to end — nobody wants to be at the irrelevant end of the process, and the greater the time between the primaries and the general elections, the more wasteful and boring the whole process gets. And sure enough, the national Democrat and Republican parties wagged a finger at Florida about doing this, and both have threatened to take away 50% of our delegates. We’ll see if they follow through.

The standard arguments for the move is that Florida is one of the most important swing states in the country, and there’s no reason for us to have near-irrelevant primaries at the end of the process. So why not just move our date to Super Tuesday with the parties’ blessing? Well for one thing, South Carolina is on January 29th. Why should they get a first say about the candidates?

But for that matter, why should Iowa and New Hampshire? This is the problem with United States presidential primaries — the whole system stinks. I’m sure folks are real nice in Iowa and New Hampshire. But let’s face it — they’re hicks! Nothing wrong with that, but why in God’s name should this ultra-homogeneous (~97% white, overwhelmingly farmers, mostly Christian) group of people play the crucial role in our election process year after year after year? The only possible defense is a feeble appeal to tradition. Please. This is no way to run a country.

So Florida’s move is selfish, unreasonable, and destabilizing. But it’s destabilizing in a good way. We’re risking our delegates to bring down this idiotic system. When Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, and South Carolina move their primaries to February 5th, we’ll do the same. That’ll never happen, you say? Well, they won’t do it voluntarily, sure. But If this keeps up the national parties will make them move. Having all the primaries on one day is far from a perfect system (if you want to get wild and crazy with it maybe consider the random primary proposal), but at least it makes sense.

Oh by the way, the bill that brings this change also mandates new paper-trailed voting machines. No time to think this through, though, we’re going to find some “good enough” machines that print a little receipt and it’s going to be disaster city all over again. I predict that whatever new machines they get will have immediately-obvious flaws, we’ll be replacing them again in a year or two, and I’ll be looking for someone else to sock.


Thursday February 22, 2007

Alex Villalobos kills the “get out of the left lane you slow-ass” bill in the State Senate Committee on Transportation. I second his damning. And in fact, here’s his web page — whereon an e-mail address and a map of his district can be found. Maybe let him know how we feel?