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?

The Biggot In Us All

Many people may have a deep prejudice for anyone listed on a sex offender registry. The stigma of registrants went from a simple listing of constant identifiable threats to a list whereas anyone with an infraction of the word sex is a listable offense. That’s right! Offenses regardless of how significant or insignificant, have always been an integral and meshed part of the sex offender registry. It is no longer a listing of the habitual offender. Today the streakers, nudists, flashers, urinators, and sometimes masturbates in public settings are the midway point as the sex registry grows and expands.

There will always be heated debates as to what is a sex crime, which should be listed, and how that listing is to be used. But one thing is crystal clear; there is no easy solution as to what is the most credible threat of a sex offender these days thanks in part to the convoluted sex registry.

At some point, you or someone you may know has been convicted of something. Rather a traffic infraction or a serious crime, there has been some conviction that has been publically shared or encountered. However, thinking of that particular situation of, for instance, drunk driving, assault, or theft. Does that one black mark insist that the individual should be labeled for the rest of his/her life? Could you imagine a society where one drunk driving conviction would take away your driving privileges for the rest of your life? Better yet, what if there was a special license plate on a vehicle identifying the driver was convicted of a drunken driving encounter? How would you react or feel by that stigma? Better yet, does that conviction demonstrate a need that the punishment should continue for a lifetime? Well, welcome to how society has created the modern day sex offender registry. Of the one million US registrants, mostly all are first time convictions.

Mississippi is considering a DUi license plate. Ohio, Georgia and Minnesota issue DUI plates.


Additionally, most convictions are plea deals similar to those that receive plea deals for drunken driving or other criminal convictions. Before tossing out a narrative that drunk driving is far different than a sex offense; think again. Sex offender registries all across the nation have become a catalyst in adding arson, drug, homicide, and other crimes unrelated to sex crimes as a registerable public offense. Some states are currently in legislative processes to create a pet abuse registry. Sure, all these lists sound as if they serve a more significant cause of public safety. However, quite the opposite effect is taking place. These registries are not only the stigma of shaming efforts but are a threat towards liberty but also a threat to families all across this great nation.

When a state such as Alabama enacts a forced sterilization procedure for convicted sex offenders shouldn’t that alleviate the risk of ever offending again? Why not delist a potential offender from registry requirements if there is forced sterilization? Sounds like a reasonable trade-off? But Tennessee now wants to strip parental rights of registrants from their own families. Without sounding politically motivated, isn’t it the Republican Party and Libertarians that tout where the government should remain out of harm to families and protection of life? Don’t worry; the Democrats aren’t any better. They are the party of transparency, liberty, and human rights but are the first people demanding anyone “suspected” of a sex crime be put on a registry before they have a trial!? Isn’t sterilization or parental right terminations no different than abortion or a violation of the sanctity of family or the protection from divorce? I am sure evangelists will interject some rhetoric, but I warn any religion that “you can’t pick and choose the word of God.” Politics has no business managing families unless the family is in danger and has been assessed by a judge instead of a politician.

However, perhaps history has an eerie part in repeating itself through other means? Wasnt is the Nazi’s that created a list of Jewish people although they were not criminals? However, the Nazi’s deemed Jewish people criminals by enacting confusing and complicated policies. What about the Civil Rights movement? Didn’t policy and bigotry create many Jim Crow laws where African-Americans were quickly arrested for crimes that weren’t crimes? What about World War II and Japanese internment camps? What about the AIDS crisis of the 1980s when there was talk about an AIDS registry? LGBT rights where people were arrested for being gay/lesbian, What about the President of the United States that insisted on a Muslim registry? Do you see where this is going? We haven’t learned any lessons throughout history. We repeat history rebranding it as a clever marketing gimmick in the name of “public safety” and “maintaining higher morals.” There is no higher moral standard if the policy intends to do more harm than good.

Instead, there ought to be a point-blank suggestion pro-registry proponents are perhaps the torch bearers of bigotry. After all, it is demanding a listing of sex offenses without equal representation of other more serious criminal offenses that identify the cusp of prejudice. It is all about the generalization of sex and the disgust pretending to maintain Christian standards of becoming pro-registry citizens on the exterior, but in secret, these Christians prey on the internet to find their ill repute but when caught attempt to shame others claiming “they aren’t like the people on the registry!” It’s bigotry at its most elegant design and society dances around the registry as promoters of bigotry and its prejudicial issues. Prejudice is nothing more than hate filled with hate on top of hate. It doesn’t matter how you attempt to slice hate as a choice. It is still hating if you believe it should happen to others but not to you. If you want to fix something, then you find a solution to sustain help, with programs, and education. Instead, all we have over the past several decades is a hate list that keeps filling up; not because of sex crimes. Its because America wants to keep adding hate so that other people will hate too.

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.

Stop Dividing Families and Ideals

North Korea has a long-standing law called “three generations of punishment.”  If one person is found guilty of a crime and sent to a prison camp, so too will their entire family, and the subsequent two generations born at the camp must remain there for life. Perhaps President Trump sought to infuse a bit of that energy altering it by dividing parents from children housed at immigration camps. The President has a personal agenda that went a step further by hinting during his campaign suggesting Hispanics are rapists, criminals and responsible for gang warfare with sad commentary that some are good. Perhaps this is where the far-right embraces its unscholarly rhetoric because enforcement and creation of our policies seem somewhat North Korean, East German, and Soviet.

Before we begin slinging the hammer and sickle of change, we may want to reflect on how our perception and approach has significantly changed. Many may recount the days of Jane Fonda controversial visit to North Vietnam which branded her the name of “Hanoi Jane.” Another similar instance is when basketball star Dennis Rodman visited North Korea during the Obama administration. These individuals were hounded and scorned by media, the general public, and naturally politicians. Because high profile individuals attempt to try to mediate truce or other politicized means, there is a level of contempt that they are doing more harm than good. Today we are witnessing a dramatic shift in how sworn enemies or those where a majority of citizens are wary of relations, this President wants to stride in to assert that “these are good people.”  The implication is that tough and ruthless leaders are good and democratically elected individuals are not so good? At least that is the takeaway points I am witnessing. The punishment that Trump is conveying is the media is unfair to him, liberals are dividing this nation, the FBI is not to be trusted, anyone that disagrees with the President is not loyal and deserves public admonishment. Does this sound like a nation built upon free principles?

If you want to understand the platform of the traditional Republican Party, then reflect on a time where Nancy Reagan once touted, “say no to drugs” campaign. Shift forward to modern day platforms where heroin and drugs from Mexico is the biggest threat to American society. Attorney General Jeff Sessions guidances from former President Barack Obama’s administration that allowed states to legalize marijuana with minimal federal interference. Now Trump says he is likely to support ending a federal ban on pot. Perhaps that recent United States/North Korea summit had an ah-ha moment? Marijuana is legal in North Korea. It’s perfectly legal to buy and smoke cannabis in public and private. Cannabis grows wildly in North Korea and has been sold abroad by government agencies as a way to earn foreign currency.   Maybe Trump took a whiff and passed and saw a potential job creation moment? (after all, we didn’t see Dennis Rodman, but he was at the summit somewhere?)

What I do not understand is how our neighbors to the south are considered rapists, gangs, and drug dealers but the North Korean people are suddenly, in the eyes of the President, worthy of a sit-down? Ironic that North and South Korea are in negotiations to tear down its demilitarized zone in exchange for peace and prosperity. However, Trump continues to hammer at legislation to build a wall. North Korea has political prisoner camps that lock up families, and now we witness our administration locking up families but dividing them. I personally find it interesting that President Trump executive order 13767 to deploy all lawful means to secure our Nation’s border but then signs Executive Order 13841 to stop his initial order? Trump’s order legislation is becoming somewhat similar to the Nuremberg Laws of 1935.

Folks, the United States is critically divided because our President is not committed to stability instead it policy or diplomacy. In fact, the Presidential behavior of Trump has become someone similar to his Twitter feeds. It changes like the wind as to stir and generate so much buzz that we forget about the previous issue. The conversation that should bring us together to work out our policial differences sounds like a moment with Pope Francis. This is where positive LGBT experiences of inclusiveness are met with rug pulled moments. It usually begins where traditional Catholics are not so welcoming followed by a slew of sad commentary and misrepresentations of LGBT people become labeled and divided from membership with their families. At least that is where Americans learned how to become prejudice, in my opinion.

Might I suggest that we leave our political preference at the door when discussing how to repair the nation? For a brief moment, can we forget about our identities and the skin color, religion, or other distinguishable features at the door? Let’s have an open session involving how to fix things rather than what our political platform or religious doctrine says. When I build a table or chair, I don’t need my local politician or priest to discuss or influence how to make it better. It is people that get things done, no different than Dennis Rodman or Jane Fonda. They weren’t elected but at least facilitate to some form of reasonable change. Could we attempt the same path?

When Not To Talk Politics With Family

Tonight I was visiting my cousin that lives nearby. Her mom, my aunt, happened to be visiting her. What was intended as a pleasant visit quickly turned into a heated argument.  Having a graduate degree in political science seems to be a lightning rod towards political assessment. Based on that education qualification I seem to be bombarded with political affiliation questions as if I am the official spokesperson for all politics. I typically assess that all politicians rarely do much in the form of actual draft legislation. It is the people behind the scenes that actually do most of the real work. But I digress. An argument ensued because I was being candid and shared my critically laced viewpoint as academically possible all while presenting a similar discussion of the opposing parties.

 

My aunt is an individual that loves watching Sean Hannity and Fox news religiously. In fact, each time I hear her talk she is spewing anti-Hillary rhetoric and an occasional jab at Obama with racial undertones. I pay no attention to the noise because I believe in freedoms of speech and decorum for each person to be heard – requiring that they listen in return as a caveat; which in this case didn’t occur. I replied my aunt, “what did Hillary do for you to be so angry with her?”  She couldn’t answer and immediately switched the subject towards Trump. She said, “Trump has done more than any other president in history.”  Naturally, I disagreed and said, “I’ve not witnessed anything earth-shattering that would surpass other presidents.”  I could see the veins pop out of her face and neck with a burst of anger and disgust when she yelled, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? You are the first person that has ever said anything negative about Trump. Even people I know as Democrats have praised Trump!”  I said, “everyone is entitled to opinions, but can you tell me one thing the President has done?” She couldn’t name anything and placed the blame on me as to what is wrong with this country. I sat and let her unleash her barrage of fueled Fox rhetoric without one ounce of law, policy, or comparison that would shed an instance where President Trump has done anything she claimed that had been done. I basically took this instance as an individual looking for for an argument for the pure sake of arguing.

 

I avoid political discussions with family members because it does always leave a sour taste when debating about any President or political leader. I give points where they are deserved and of course, reflect on how things could be a bit better diplomatically to be fair and allow the ability for others to share openly without scorn or ridicule. But one thing was evidently clear that when one disagrees politically, the assumption is there is a political motive. This is not always the case. I would be equally as critical of Democratic, Libertarian, and Independent leadership as I would any Republican. But this seems to be the apex point of arguments that a political compass determines influence and the way individual answers politically minded questions. Fairness is something I strive for. It is when one drinks the cool-aid of one-sided politics then constituency is ultimately alienated. Basically, people love to argue as if they are winning or increasing their political know-how.  This is why, I believe, there is political indifference in America because we do not listen to one another. Additionally, as Americans, we once were a nation of diplomacy and bipartisanship. No longer. We much rather take our frustrations out on social media, each other, or on bumper decals affixed to cars/trucks and taunt how idiotic minded people are; at least that is how others describe it to me. And we wonder why very few enter politics?

 

Eventually, my aunt left fuming that I didn’t agree with her, or something to that effect. She was visibly worked up that I challenged her. I don’t expect any individual to read a Cliff-notes version of politics taught by a television commentator using carefully constructed clips to educate the public. But the reality is media has become the classroom of learning and its showing cause and effects. I am not angry, disappointed, or upset with her. As I said before, everyone is entitled to his/her beliefs and opinions. That, to me, is what real freedom is all about. Naturally, I would have relished in a moment of overall fairness that my side could have been constructively heard and recognized. There was a time where we could “agree to disagree.”  That time seems to have passed long ago. Afterall, politics is nothing anyone should get worked up about. The beauty of law, public policy, and elected officials is that they or it can be replaced at the swipe of a pen or the pull of a leaver, unlike the permanent corporate fixture.

 

A talking point as to why I am writing this is to share that some people in crazy moments like to argue just to argue. I’ve never really understood that rational about such dialog? I guess some people want to feel intellectually gifted or academically equal as if I am prejudging them? I enjoy a good debate here and there as long as the debate facilitation is constructive and doesn’t become personal or off-topic. It is no secret that I enjoy the academic world of debate and try to apply where and when possible such conduct of viewpoints. To me, there is no winner. There are moments of victory to prove a point. But ultimately the greatest takeaway is when both sides learn from one another to effectively make an issue better and relevant for all. Wishful thinking on my part. But I still have hope for humanity.

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