Sen. Lauren Book Isn’t The Problem. Lobbying Is The Problem.

For the people on the sex offender registry living in the state of Florida must be a complete hell living experience. The random sex offense laws conjured up appears to be one of the most repressive compliance standards in the nation. However, there seems to be a focal point on assessing blame to Florida State Senator Lauren Book making a case for those oppressive bills to become law. But I would argue that Senator Book isn’t the problem with registry issues in the state of Florida. I would say that lobbying perhaps is the fourth branch of government for the Sunshine State that allowed such harsh conditions for Florida registrants.

First, all one has to do is follow the money trail. That begins with a simple search of the Florida Department of State Campaign Contributions website. A quick query instantaneously identified a plethora of lobbying donors in addition to real estate, educators, attorneys, and a trickle of a few large corporations. Rather than place direct blame at Senator Book for her legislative introduction, she was perhaps influenced by high profiled lobbying. Before anyone begins shooting fish in the barrel and tossing a lawn dart on Ron Book. I would suggest focal attention on the outside players. The Book family remains successful only if it has spending dollars filling its coffers. This implies that lobbying to introduce strick compliance laws for registrants are motioned by perhaps real estate, educational, and entertainment contributive dollars.

Let’s take an easy example of entertainment lobbying economics. Disney is perhaps the most identified source of revenue for Florida. The Disney corporation provides a political donation. Not because Senator Book has a pretty face. Instead, it is a political contribution to be heard later down the road once in office. So, if Disney wants to strengthen its “family atmosphere,” it would suggest a public policy that would eliminate possible harm or liability from happening on its property. Disney has said it utilizes facial recognition software to ban registered offenders from its property. But Disney doesn’t escort people off its property. That task has been outsourced to the local Sheriffs department. That indicates that Disney and the county have an exclusive agreement in place to trespass people from its properties. Disney has exclusively outsourced its problems to Florida presenting an illusion that it was deputies the entire time seeking offenders entering its properties. Naturally, this allows the Book family to become victims of circumstance. Sure, there is a plausible argument that there wouldn’t be such a case if Senator Book hadn’t introduced registrant bills that become law. However, it is safe to say that lobbying would have identified another member of the legislature to pass its restrictive measures sooner or later.

The money trail in sex offender legislation in Florida is pretty clear that the entertainment, real estate, and educators are the leading lobbying effort and establishment of maintaining a sex offender registry to rid of people from its state. Otherwise, why would a rising star democrat senator become the voice of the opposing party by introducing legislation typically found in republican policymaking? Deductive reasoning and logic points directly to lobbying and a need to sterilize the state entertainment sector from certain liabilities.

So, how does the sex offender registry advocacy tackle how to deal with lobbying? Simple. It begins a boycott campaign, not with Florida. But with the businesses that contribute to campaigns. An economic woe no matter how small, will eventually send a ripple effect to the business sector, even if you never step foot in the state of Florida. Rather than focus energy an attention on Senator Book. Focus and energy should be pressured upon the very contributory organizations that help finance and pressure public policy. To stop lobbying in its tracks, it is essential to slow their cash flow.

I’d bet if registry advocacy lobbying somehow became a contributing source of campaign influence during elections to render the registry obsolete, that opposition would be employing the same tactics.

Most of all, being visible to speak with legislatures is a crucially important role in our democracy. If people don’t listen, it’s okay. Eventually, if they see you in the hallways each week, they begin to pique an interest because they have no idea if you are making headway or not? Being visible in registry advocacy is vital not to tell your message but to describe how the registry has increased homelessness, higher unemployment rates, starvation, and other issues relevant to your particular state. Advocacy begins with being a lobbyist and sharing concerns for all constituents past, present, and future.

Lauren Book isn’t the problem. Lobbying is the problem.

Footnote: I would be willing to talk to Lauren Book about registry issues affecting her state in a professional diplomatic discussion if she would allow me the privilege?

Political Shutdown Games

I am not normally political. This post will be an exception because I am an American and I am concerned.

Please allow me to frame the issues involved with “the wall” in its actual terms. Despite what the media is saying, this is not about Democrat vs. Republican. In short, the executive branch of our government is threatening to declare a national emergency since the legislative branch will not authorize the seizure of private American property for a federal works project nor will fund it. The executive branch has already shut down the federal government. It is currently threatening to extend this government shut down for however long it takes for the legislative branch to cave.

Let us break this down. 

First of all, the framework of our government is based on checks and balances. Power is divided into three branches: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial. The Legislative branch controls the purse strings of government and creates laws. The Executive branch carries out those laws. The Judicial branch tells us whether the laws are constitutional or not. Each branch was designed to be able to balance the other branches.

Why? As shown by our original rebellion, Americans didn’t want a King or a Dictator when we were setting up our government. We were not particularly thrilled with a House of Lords telling us what we could or could not do either.

In this case, the executive branch wants to:
(1) take governmental cash; 
(2) create its own law; 
(3) take away private property from American citizens; 
(4) create its own federal works project. 

At least three of these functions fall within the power/ responsibility of the legislative branch. So, what is the problem? This is one of the most naked power grabs by the executive branch over the others in recent history. Once that power is exercised, it is going to be difficult or impossible to regain any balance again. The executive branch was never meant to have that much power (see our country’s previous concerns about Kings and Dictators). Is this constitutional? Very doubtful. Should all Americans be concerned? That is a question for you to answer yourself. 

Second, a “National Emergency” is generally declared under these general conditions: 
(1) Natural disasters including hurricanes, tornados, and earthquakes to name a few; 
(2) Public health emergencies such as significant outbreaks of infectious diseases;
(3) Military attacks; 
(4) Civil insurrection;
(5) Any unusual and extraordinary threat, which has its source in whole or substantial part outside the United States, to the national security, foreign policy, or economy.

Now the first 4 aren’t applicable. The last category was meant to be short-term only. It was designed to be reviewed by the legislative branch every year after it’s enacted (because again; the check and balance is fundamental to how we operate).

So, what is the problem here? If national emergencies can be declared by the executive branch for non-emergency purposes which vest power in one branch of the government why would that branch ever let go of that power again?

Third, the seizure of private property (known as “eminent domain”, a body of law which says the government cannot just take your home without due process). You are joking, right? No. The US/Mexican border is 1,933 miles long. It runs through 4 states (California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas). Only 33% of that land is actually owned or managed by the Federal Government. A sizable percentage of that land is owned by the Indian nations. It is land preserved for those tribes by treaty and land given under treaty is not land owned by the United States. These tribes already have a lot of reasons to be angry at the Federal Government. This would be pouring additional gas on an open flame.

The other 64% of that land is privately owned. 

How much land would have to be taken? The amount of land that the Federal Government would have to take would likely run 1,237 miles long to 12,371 miles deep (assuming a 1 to 10-mile DMZ from the border into the United States). Even if we could only take 100 to 500 ft of land in densely populated areas, that is a lot of private property that is going to be seized by the Federal government. 

The land necessary for this project would also run through some highly populated areas in the US such as San Diego, Calexico, Nogales, El Paso, and Laredo. There will be a lot of Americans who are going to have their homes and businesses taken by the federal government. Which will also mean a lot of lawsuits.

In terms of the federal works project, these types of works include hospitals, bridges, highways, walls and dams. These projects may be funded by local, state, or federal appropriations. If they are federal, they are funded by the legislative branch of our government (the same branch that our executive branch is currently trying to take power from). Is the seizure of power constitutional? Not likely given the separation of powers discussed above.

Finally, these considerations do not take into account the sheer cost, human and monetary, that will be involved. The Department of Homeland Security estimates the current cost at $21 billion for construction alone (not counting costs of maintenance or costs associated with increased military/federal patrolling). 

Ask yourself a simple question. When was the last time that you saw a governmental project brought in under time and under budget? Does anyone remember the “big dig” in Boston, Mass? The actual costs are likely to be much higher. This estimated cost also does not include compensating folks for taking their land or the associated impact upon their businesses. 

The Federal budget deficit grew to $779 billion dollars in 2018 according to the Treasury Department. How are we, as a country, going to fund this project? How are we, as a country, going to deal with the additional debt? Unlike private businesses, our country cannot declare bankruptcy. 

This is not about Democrat vs. Republican. It is not about who has the best zingers measured in 10 second sound bites. It is about our country. The core of this issue deals with the profound and immense changes the outcome will have on the structure of our nation. This is the way that we, as a country, should be framing these issues. Please think about it.

We Created Discrimination​

Many believe that prejudice is influenced or taught in the home. I suspect that could be a plausible argument. However, I tend to think that forms of discrimination are formed from particular events. I would cite such facts such as soldiers being deployed to Iraq and engaging with faction groups posing as soldiers. It could also be argued that military leadership paints a portrait of Muslim culture or middle easterners as radicals. We commonly hear and see this rhetoric often by soldiers displaying “morale” patches or scribbled helmet sayings similar to the days of “Commie Killer” adorned on cold war helmets.

But why are Americans suddenly anti-Latino or anti-Mexican? Immigrants typically embrace jobs that American youth won’t take or apply. Is it that unfair prejudice is actually our malice and bitterness is that they are employable while most American youth won’t take a moment to apply? It reminds me of the days where migrant workers filled American farmlands picking anything from cotton to yams far less in wages, benefits, and protections than the typical American worker. Generations beforehand worked side by side to pass on time treasured traditions ensuring that families would hopefully pass on to future generations. Eventually, those generations abandoned the hard and heat sweltering work. This the era of migrants to fill the slack left by younger generations to seek higher education or other employment means. It was American farmers that opened the floodgates to welcome anyone that would take jobs ranging from farms, manufacturing, production lines, janitorial, cooking, and other low paying or low skill jobs. Today we see job construction sites filled with not faces of the typical white or afro-American worker. Instead, we see construction sites all over America with a diverse mix of Hispanic and foreign workers. What I don’t understand is companies and individuals insist on hiring Latino workers while at the same time treat them as potential criminals or quasi-servants. It is as if the middle and low class of Americans have somewhat created the underclass of society that will work but ridicules that class for taking all the jobs available in the first place? It doesn’t make sense, but we use immigration law to argue about the legality of something Americans skirted the law in the first place.

When any form of leadership creates a dialog that a particular group of people is criminally prone with no facts to support it, then perception becomes a reality. Influences such as hate-filled speech lead to discrimination. With that being said, Latinos as a whole in America have been falsely criminalized. There are those that oppose such language but appear to be falling on deaf ears or silenced by the power of government influence. Folks, a lot can happen in four years during a Presidential cycle. But what has transpired over the past year has the recipe of leading from political divisions towards a severe civil war where the firestarter could come from the Latino community – and legitimately so. I certainly do not wish or want any forms of fighting. But individuals within society have a right to protect their integrity and stability that they refrain from becoming labeled or wrongly classified. When certain politicians decide to take it upon themselves to invoke religious scripture, then society may experience repercussions like no other they have witnessed.

A suggestion to return to some form of normalcy is for Americans to accept responsibilities that they habitually cut corners by outsourcing, allowing immigrants, don’t enforce hiring practices, and skirt issues to get ahead. It is somewhat strikingly similar where Americans would foolishly recommend that if African Americans were not happy with America that they could go back to Africa. Such exaggeration is not only stupid but a magnification of how and where discrimination and bigotry originates.

Every so many decades Americans disdain for other cultures publically airs its own forms of prejudice. Such recent events are when Japan during the 1970’s gas crisis began importing cars to the United States. 1980 were when China started to import cheaper manufactured goods. 1990 were when people from India began infiltrating customer service and high tech job markets. 2000 when suddenly Mexicans that had been here in the millions were decidedly a threat to Caucasian populations. Perhaps we should take a moment and remember that the melting pot doesn’t belong to any race, religion, creed, sex, or identity. Just because you discover it doesn’t make it exclusively yours. We are a society elected by people supposedly of laws. But when we create laws to enforce upon a particular class of people, then we are no longer a democracy.

When is our American Perestroika?

Recently President Trump introduced a replacement for the high court. I wasn’t anxious about who Trump selected. What I was a bit concerned and perhaps disturbed about was how the selection was made. Nearly a year ago today U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died. That left an open seat and plenty of time for a replacement to be introduced. Politicians like Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell blocked every pathway creating an obstruction from an Obama appointment. Fast forward to today, and the same leadership is claiming obstruction and delay by the Democratic Party. This is nothing more than politics as usual.

I think what bothers me the most about Washington politics is that the levels of obstruction and abuses of power. Most of all the lies or “alternative facts” that don’t ever seem to go away. For example, McConnell and Cruz once said that if Hillary Clinton were elected President that they would hold up any nominee. But if the Democratic party holds up a candidate that Trump will demand a nuclear option to force his choice. At this point in American politics, I don’t see the American people becoming divided. Instead, I view Congress is purposely dividing Americans and damaging the future of politics.

Ever since I can remember I was never supportive of congressional term limits. My reasoning was that term limits could potentially do harm to an efficient government. Today my attitude has changed because Congress has created an iron clad good old boy system that doesn’t have an ability to represent people. Instead, it serves selfish interests. Perhaps we should do away with the Electoral College system and replace it with a popular vote. Today’s politics no longer has a desire to maintain historical precedent and legislative compromise. Politicians are destroying the American fabric of democracy.

I am a citizen that agrees that our borders have some questionable holes. But I am also aware that companies are the ones that exploit those holes by illegally hiring undocumented workers. I am mindful of the fact that bureaucracy can be good for government. But aware that politicians abuse power for their own agenda. I know that there are checks and balances required of the people and government. But mindful of the fact that citizens enjoy popularism rather than democratic and fair law. Congress, in my opinion, is burning the bridges of democracy and the foundations of our society. I worry that at some point all these dominos will eventually fall leaving us somewhat similar to how Communism fell over a decade ago. Perhaps I am asking, “when is our Perestroika?”

Religious Accommodations

Accommodations such as medical, religious, physical and mental are important in our society as long as it isn’t a distraction and provides a pathway towards equality based on the conditions. But what if religious accommodations begin to reshape let’s say the typical American driver license? Today I read where a man in Maine will be allowed to wear his goat horns, yes horns, on his official driver license photo. Okay, it’s safe for me to throw out the yellow flag on this one and ask “why?”

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It is bad enough to wait in anguish at a driver license office. It is true, there are some that take an immense amount of pride in that driver photo as if Glamor Shots or Hollywood will somehow beg you to star in a feature film. But some want to defy the entire process completely in the name of god or whatever they refer to as a higher power. It is as if we are destined to abuse certain systems for our own benefit.

To be candid, I strongly feel that there should not be any religious accommodations when it comes to a driver license photo. My reason is simple; religious rights are not an issue of the state nor motor vehicles. Religion is and should continue to be a private matter. Sure, I’m sympathetic towards reasonable religious accommodations. But I fear that we are stretching the elasticity of public good towards a select few. What is next? Will football helmets require an extension for religious accommodation? Basically, when we extend the far reaches of accommodations we end up dumping more money to resolve additional issues. My fear is that such accommodations will only create a system based on biometrics and DNA. Sure it will be fair but perhaps more intrusive than meeting religious accommodations.

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I don’t want to sound insensitive about this issue. Naturally, I am curious as to what others think. I am only voicing my observation and potential outcomes. It may be true that a healthy democracy always changes and evolves. I have a concern that we may be running in circles chasing a wagging tail. While we should be mindful at accommodations, we must adhere to best practices by identifying those that intend to abuse the system.

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