Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Fourth Amendment at Sea

Via PogoWasRight a link to Coast Guard Boardings and Your Fourth Amendment Rights, Part 1. According to the author, the 4th Amendment has no traction at sea: the Coast Guard can board US flag ships at will, whether on the seas, on rivers, or in port, without the least suspicion.

Sorry, but when it comes to Coast Guard boardings, you don’t have any rights.

I’m surprised how many boaters don’t know this. The US Coast Guard can board your boat any time they want, and look anywhere they want, without probable cause or a warrant. They can do this on the open sea, or while you’re asleep aboard in your marina at midnight. They can look through your bedsheets, in your lockers, in your bilges, in your jewelry box, or in your pockets. They can do it carrying just their sidearms, or they can do it carrying assault rifles. They can be polite about it or they can be rude, but mostly they’re polite.

The article does not say, but I presume this even applies to houseboats?

Posted in Civil Liberties, Law: Constitutional Law | 1 Comment

Florida Files 11 Ethics Charges Against Rep. David Rivera

The state of Florida “has filed 11 separate ethics counts against U.S. Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami — all stemming from actions he took while he was a member of the state Legislature.”

Given that Rivera left the state legislature about two years ago, and many of the facts were reported in newspapers a long time ago, you might wonder what exactly took Florida so long to file the charges.

Meanwhile, you now have eleven more reasons to vote for Joe Garcia to replace David Rivera in Congress.

(Wow – Wikipedia has a whole section on Rivera’s peccadillos. Lots there besides the subject of this ethics complaint.)

Posted in Politics: The Party of Sleaze | Leave a comment

You May Be Looking For…

Miami-Dade Early Voting Locations wait time estimates. My suggestions on how to vote in Florida’s November 2012 elections: Downballot Recommendations November 2012 and my analysis of the proposed Amendments to the Florida Constitution, plus extra information on why you should vote to retain our excellent State Supreme Court Justices. Or maybe Why I Do Not Have A Treadmill (Sears Can’t Deliver). (This post will stay on the front page until the election.)

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We Can Do This

Hurricane Sandy doesn’t look like it’s gunning for us, but we may get some weather from the side of it, and the U is being cautious:

The University of Miami administration continues to monitor the progress of Hurricane Sandy. At this time, all classes, events, and clinical activities are operating on regular schedules. It is anticipated that operations will continue on normal schedules on Thursday and Friday.

While South Florida is outside the three-day forecast cone, coastal areas are under a tropical storm watch. Local weather conditions will start to deteriorate Thursday afternoon, with a prolonged period of 25 to 35 mile per hour winds and higher occasional gusts. Depending on the proximity of rain bands, the area could receive one to three inches of rain through Friday night, when conditions are expected to begin improving.

Due to the weather we will experience, members of the University community are urged to allow extra time for their commute to campus and to exercise extra caution on the roads. Additionally, any loose items kept outside need to be secured.

Check for updates at or 1-800-227-0354.

Emergency Information Hotline is 1-800-227-0354

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Downballot Recommendations November 2012

Miami-Dade county, and Florida generally, have one of the longest ballots ever. Mine is ten (!) pages long. I assume by now you have figured out how you want to vote in the Presidential and Senate elections, but what about the Congressional elections? And, especially what about the Judicial elections, the State Constitutional Amendments, not to mention the odd cruft cluttering the bottom of ballot – charter changes, referenda and so on?

Well, fear not. Here again are not only some suggestions as to how you might vote, but also some reasons for those suggestions, plus in some cases links to places you can go for more information.

One important thing to note: Most ballot questions require 60% to pass — but that 60% is of the people who vote on that question, not people who vote at all. Thus, if you vote for President, but don’t vote on, say, the state Constitutional Amendments, you make it easier for the “yes” vote to prevail. And given how bad some of those proposals are, giving up before you get to the end of the ballot could be a big mistake this year.

Quick Summary

Congressional Representative
FL-07 Nicholas Ruiz III
FL-09 Alan Grayson
FL-10 Val Demings
FL-13 Jessica Ehrlich
FL- 16 Keith Fitzgerald
FL- 18 Patrick Murphy
FL- 22 Lois J. Frankel
FL-26 Joe Garcia
Fl -27 Why bother? IRL will win, the other candidates are jokes.

State Attorney
No recommendation: there is only one candidate on the ballot.

State Representative
District 114: Ross Hancock (line 53)

State Supreme Court
Vote to retain all three Justices – this is important
Vote YES to retain Justice R. Fred Lewis (line 62)
Vote YES to retain Justice Barbara J. Pariente (line 64)
Vote YES to retain Justice Peggy Quince (line 66)

District Courts of Appeal
Vote to retain all five judges:
Judge Angel A. Cortiñas (line 70)
Judge Kevin M. Emas (line 72)
Judge Ivan F. Fernandez (line 74)
Judge Leslie Rothenberg (line 76)
Judge Richard Suarez (line 78)

County Judge, Group 24
I’m going to vote to re-electJudge Andrea Wolfson (line 81), but please see below for context.

Florida Constitutional Amendments
If you’re in a rush, just vote NO on all of them.

If you are feeling nuanced, you still should vote NO on Amendments 1-10 (there is no 7); there is some case to be made for Amendments 11 & 12. For more details please see here.

School Board Question: Bond Issue
For Bonds (line 222)

County Charter Amendments
Term Limits – NO (line 225) (Reasons)
Technical Changes YES (line 226) (Reasons)
Urban Development Boundary YES (228) (Reasons)
Creation of New Municipalities NO (231) (Reasons)
Enforcement of Citizens Bill of Rights YES (232) (Reasons)
Extend Time to Fill Vacancies of Mayor and Commission NO (235) (Reasons)
Mayor Conflict in County Procurement NO (237) (Reasons)
Tennis Center YES (238) (very reluctantly) (Reasons)
Non-Binding on Animal Services – No recommendation (Reasons)
Non-Binding on Doing Business With State Sponsors of Terrorism NO (243) (Reasons)

Coral Gables
Allow Residential Parking of (some) Pickup Trucks YES (260) (Reasons)

Reasons for these recommendations appear below.

The Details

US Congress

If you live in FL-26, it’s important you vote for Joe Garcia. Not simply because he’ll be a great congressman, but because his opponent, David Rivera, is quite likely not only the most corrupt member of Congress, but among the top three most crazy. Rivera lies about stuff that is easy to check. He violates campaign laws with impunity (Rivera secretly and illegally funded a fake candidate in the Democratic primary in order to upset future rivals; when the FBI closed in, the key witness vanished). He once drove a truck carrying an opponent’s mailers off the road. The only reasons I don’t say Rivera is the craziest person in Congress are Michele Bachmann and Alan West, but Rivera is sure a contender –not as much for his political views, which are in the main fairly conventional, but for his personal behavior — which is downright bizarre — and his willingness to lie about himself and his opponents. This guy gives Congress a bad name, and that takes serious effort.

State Attorney

I have no great enthusiasm for Katherine Fernandez Rundel, who is running unopposed. It’s fine to vote for her, and I probably will, but I can’t bring myself to recommend it in this election. We certainly can do worse; we also could wish for someone who took a stronger line on public corruption.

State Representative

The incumbent, Erik Fresen, has been one of the leading proponents of expanding gambling in Southern Florida. He is the recipient of large donations from gambling interests, and he supports their attempts to change local laws to further weaken the prohibitions on gambling now on the books.

If you support more gambling dens, along with the low-wage jobs they create, plus the increased levels of crime and corruption that inevitably follow in their wake, then the incumbent, Erik Fresen is your man.

If you don’t think we need more Mafia, more drugs, more corruption of local government (assuming that is possible), all for the sake for a few jobs as parking attendants and croupiers, then you should vote line 53 Ross Hancock.

This is not a partisan issue: this is about what sort of community you want to have. Erik Fresen is Mr. Gambling in the Florida House. He wants to be a state Senator too. Vote against him and tell him our interests matter more than gambling money does. (PS. Fresen also lobbies for charter schools, for which he is also a consultant.)

The challenger, Ross Hancock, seems like a decent guy, if a bit naive about politics. But I’ll take naive over sleazy and willing to go to bat for Big Gambling any day.

Florida Supreme Court

Please see An Important Vote in Florida : Retain our Supreme Court Justices for more information about this important vote. The Florida Bar poll of its members found overwhelming support for retaining all three Justices, with 89%-92% of attorneys supporting retention of each Justice. This would be a no-brainer and a cakewalk for some excellent Justices but for a sleazy recall effort funded by the Koch brothers and supported by some elements of the Florida Republican party.

District Courts of Appeal

Here in Miami-Dade we vote on retention for the 3rd DCA. I start with a presumption that all lower and intermediate court judges should be retained. The presumption can be overcome by a showing of incompetence, partiality, or ethics violations. One possible sign of incompetence is a low rating by attorneys in the bar poll relating to retention. All but one of the judges up for retention got good to excellent scores on the bar poll:

• Angel A. Cortinas 86 percent.
• Kevin M. Emas 93 percent.
• Ivan F. Fernandez 91 percent.
• Leslie B. Rothenberg 78 percent.
• Richard J. Suarez 90 percent.

Even Rothenberg’s 78% is a good rating, especially compared to what some judges have gotten in the past. (More detailed results are here if you want them.) That said, there has over the years been some amount of muttering about Rothenberg, who has been accused of pro-prosecution bias over the years, starting from her appointment to a lower state court in 1994. I’m not in a position to say if this is merited today.

In considering whether to vote against these judges — all of whom except for Kevin Emas (appointed by Charlie Crist) were appointed by Jeb Bush or Rick Scott — you also should also consider that Rick Scott will appoint their replacements. I’m voting to retain them all.

County Judge, Group 24

Andrea Wolfson (line 81) is the incumbent, Greer Elain Wallce (line 80) the challenger. This is a runoff from a three-candidate race in the primary in which Wolfson got 48% – not quite enough to avoid a runoff.

One issue in this non-partisan race is that Andrea Wolfson first applied for an endorsement from SAVE-DADE (a local progressive, and pro-LGBT-rights group), then withdrew that request when she got the Christian Family Coalition endorsement. SAVE-DADE endorsed Wallace. The Herald, for what little it’s worth, endorsed Wolfson. This one hurts a bit, but given that fellow lawyers rate her highly, I’m sticking with my policy of voting for incumbent judges unless there’s a compelling reason not to. Some readers may find the endorsement history to be a compelling reason to vote for Greer Elain Wallace, and I’d understand that.

Florida Constitution Amendments

For detailed discussion of the amendments, please see A Bunch of Horrible Florida Constitutional Amendments and Vote NO on Florida Constitutional Amendment 4.

School Board Question: Bond Issue

The entire county establishment is behind this. You can see the promises of what the money will be used for at M-DCPS Building a Pathway to the Future. The schools need the money; their need is in substantial part the result of mis-management and mis-budgeting in the past, but what’s done is done and we can’t take it out on today’s children. History suggests some of the money may leak before they see it, but even so, the needs are real and large. The current school Superintendent seems more honest and competent than most, which argues that more of the money might get where it needs to go. Vote FOR Bonds (line 222)

County Charter Amendments

Term limits are popular, but I am almost never in favor of them as they seem anti-democratic. Plus, term limits ensure that elected representatives are always learning the ropes. Removing experienced figures eliminates the people who are most likely to know how to push back against lobbyists and bureaucrats.

This proposal comes on the heels of a proposal rejected recently by the voters that would have linked term limits to a living wage for Commissioners instead of the pittance they now receive. The claim made by supporters of this measure is that if voters support the term limits now, they might support the wages later (the wages matter because otherwise a Commissioner needs another source of income, creating distractions and conflicts of interest). For what little it’s worth, the Herald is pushing this argument. I don’t buy it. I don’t even understand why anyone else believes it. NO (line 225).

Technical Changes. From what I can tell these are genuinely technical and non-controversial. YES (line 226)

Urban Development Boundary This amendment will make it harder to change the rules to move the UDB by ‘charterizing’ the super-majority requirement. Developers are continually trying to nibble away at the UDB. YES (228)

Creation of New Municipalities I start from the position that is perhaps less favorable towards the creation on new municipalities than is fashionable. Be that as it may, the point of this amendment was supposed to be to make it easier to create new municipalities, overcoming a set of roadblocks set up by the County — blocks that I happen to think were in some (but not all) cases justified. These so-called reforms, however, seem to go much further than would be necessary to level the playing field even if you didn’t agree with my stance. If this change is approved, we can look forward to more municipalities that take only wealthy blocks, and leave poor ones orphaned in unincorporated Miami-Dade. This is bad for many reasons, not least that it becomes more costly and more complex to supply emergency and other services to the patchwork of the poorest blocks left behind when their wealthier neighbors incorporate. NO (231)

Enforcement of Citizens Bill of Rights YES (?) (232)
The case against this measure is that the proposal actually weakens a local ethics rule “providing for forfeiture of office if a public official or employee willfully violates the Citizens’ Bill of Rights.” Who could support that? Well, that is a provision which almost never gets invoked. The case for this amendement is that it trades something that doesn’t get used for something that will get used: increased powers for the currently toothless Commission on Ethics and Public Trust to enforce the Citizens’ Bill of Rights. I hate weakening ethics rules in South Florida, but realpolitik counsels that we’d end up winners in this trade, getting something for what, in practice, is almost nothing.

Extend Time to Fill Vacancies of Mayor and Commission NO (235). This seems to me to be a Trojan Horse of a proposal. The relatively short time to fill vacancies we have now does not seem to me to be a problem when a Mayor needs replacement, but rather a fairly good thing. This ‘solution’ seems capable of creating mischief by allowing the interim Mayor — a Commissioner who happens to be the Chair — to exercise too much power for too long. It could even incentivize future Mayoral recalls as new form of power grab.

Mayor Conflict in County Procurement NO (237). This proposes putting the Chair of the County Commission in charge of county procurement if the mayor has a conflict of interest. I am suspicious of this: it seems another attempt to empower the Commission Chair, a person who is not elected city-wide in any meaningful way. I do not see how replacing the Mayor’s baggage with the Commission Chair’s baggage will actually do us any good. Like the Herald says, reject this and hope that some future task force comes up with a better idea.

Tennis Center YES (238). The case for the tennis center building is that no public funds will be used, just private funds. The case against the building is that it would take away some more park lands — that’s why the amendment is needed as the current charter protects the park against new buildings. I’m for holding the line on parks. Why then, suggest a yes vote? It’s basically a case of giving in to blackmail: the building has been conflated with a vote to extend the lease of the Sony Open, an extension which cannot be done without a referendum. Given the unfortunate choice between risking losing the Open versus sacrificing some smallish amount of park, I’m reluctantly going to vote for this one.

Non-Binding on Animal Services – No recommendation
The case for is cute kittens and cute puppies. The case against is that we don’t need to tie the hands of the county government when it comes to budgets. I have no idea if this is the best use of our money. If you want me to get into the business of voting on various appropriations, please give me a way to rank all of them, instead of just serving up one or two.

Non-Binding on Doing Business With State Sponsors of Terrorism NO (243)
As a general matter, localities don’t need to have a foreign policy. On the other hand, I do sympathize with the impulse to take moral stands. This one, though, is about making yet another meaningless gesture at Cuba. I don’t think Cuba is in any doubt where we stand.

Coral Gables
Allow Residential Parking of (some) Pickup Trucks YES (260)
Boy this is a silly waste of a ballot line. For some reason Coral Gables has a complex about pickup trucks, and the Commissioners are afraid to vote even a timid permissive pickup-truck-parking policy. This will allow dude trucks — just four wheels and nothing in the back — to be parked at homes over night. There’s no reason not to allow this, and there’s also no reason it should have needed to be on the ballot.

*WHEW* We made it to the end.

Posted in 2012 Election, Coral Gables, Miami | 9 Comments

Charles Pierce Scores the Final Debate

Dispiriting stuff indeed:

A discussion of foreign policy that did not mention climate change. (Four debates and nary a mention. Somebody else is going to have to tell the polar bears.) A discussion of foreign policy that mentioned teacher’s unions exactly as many times — once — as it mentioned the Palestinians, and I am not making that statistic up. A discussion of foreign policy that did not mention hunger, or thirst, or epidemic disease, but spent better than ten minutes on The Fking Deficit. (Here Romney cited in defense of his position that noted political economist, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.) A discussion of foreign policy that was all about threats, real and imagined, and wars, real or speculative, and weapons, and how many of them we should build in order to feel safe in this dangerous world. (Romney actually argued that we should go back to the “two-war” strategy that we followed throughout the Cold War. Against whom in god’s name does he think we’ll be fighting the second war?)

There was no “we” in the final presidential debate this year. In no area have we as a self-governing nation so abandoned our obligations as we have on foreign policy. In no area are we so intellectually subservient to expertise, and to the Great Man Theory of how things should be run. In no area are we so clearly governed, rather than governing ourselves. The president, at least, occasionally seems to be aware not only that this is true, but also that it puts the whole experiment of self-government in mortal peril, just as the Founders knew it would when they lodged the war powers in the Congress, which has spent the last 225 years giving them back, in one way or another, to the Executive, which is presided over, always, by One Great Man. He at least seems self-aware enough to appear troubled by the power he nonetheless wields.

There is no nation in its right mind that would put its foreign policy in the hands of the Willard Romney who showed up on stage here in Boca Raton on Monday night, particularly since he had so clearly abandoned everything else he believed on the subject for the purpose of fronting himself as a moderate in order to run out the clock over the next three weeks. He knew nothing and said less.

Experts agree Romney lost. Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: “Mitt the shapeshifter falls on Obama’s bayonet” as does the CBS poll.

Nobody knows, however, if anyone in the USA cares enough about foreign policy for it to matter.

Posted in 2012 Election | Leave a comment