Tagged: Florida

If A Bigfoot Hunter Doesn't Have His Reputation, What Does He Have?

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America is an increasingly crass nation, true. But there are still some places where decorum and good breeding are expected and even demanded.

For instance, anyone acquainted with cryptid enthusiasts knows that a gentleman seeking introduction to their society must first build a solid repute for probity. In turn, those admitted to the drawing-rooms and salons of the cryptidologists know that only the most polished among them can aspire to the rarefied circle of Bigfoot hunters, the royalty of the cryptid-seeking community. And yet even Bigfoot hunters — elite as they are — can encounter self-doubt when they ask themselves, "yes, my poise and quality have made me a Bigfoot hunter, but do I possess the savoir-faire necessary to achieve a position amongst the Bigfoot hunters of Florida? Can I persevere in that imperial land, where the exacting standards for urbanity and good deportment strain the abilities even of graduates of the finest finishing schools in Tampa and Orlando?"

By necessity, when swimming in these heady waters, a good reputation is everything. So you see, when one Florida Bigfoot hunter accused another Florida Bigfoot hunter of being crazy, the latter had no choice but to sue for defamation.

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Orange You Glad You Don't Work For The Assholes At Elizabeth R. Wellborn, P.A.?

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In an at-will state, like California or Florida, you can fire your employees for any reason — however moronic — so long as it is not specifically prohibited by state law. So: you can't fire people based on race or gender, or for reporting unlawful activity. However, you can fire people for all sorts of utterly arbitrary and douchey reasons. Just ask 14 former employees of Elizabeth R. Wellborn, P.A., a law firm in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

Apparently Elizabeth R. Wellborn, P.A. fired 14 people for wearing orange on the same day. Most of the employees said they were wearing orange to celebrate it being payday and because they were going out carousing after work — except for one, who says she just likes orange and happened to be wearing it that day. It's not clear what about the orange caused the firm to go nuts — though firm supervisors did apparently invite people to come forward to offer any "innocent" reason for wearing it.

Though the firm has refused comment, some reports suggest the firm viewed the shirts as some sort of protest of some firm policy. If that's the case, it's possible the firm is in trouble under the National Labor Relations Act for punishing "concerted activity." If, on the other hand, the mass firing was simply arbitrary and capricious, it's probably perfectly legal. I think that it should be — the government should not police employment decisions that do not violate specific rights. Is such behavior repugnant? Certainly. But there's a remedy for that — publicize the behavior. Ask yourself — do you, as a potential client, feel comfortable taking your case to a firm Elizabeth R. Wellborn, P.A. that makes arbitrary and capricious decisions in such a matter? Does the termination of 14 employees for wearing orange inspire confidence in Elizabeth R. Wellborn, P.A.'s probity and discretion? Given that Elizabeth R. Wellborn, P.A. handled its pique over a shirt color in a manner almost certain provoke litigation (whether or not that litigation has ultimate legal merit), can you trust that firm to handle your matter in a way that will avoid unnecessary litigation and expense?

I sure as hell wouldn't hire Elizabeth R. Wellborn, P.A. for anything. And I hate orange. It makes me look like a giant pumpkin.

Great Moments In The Regulatory State

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Could one of our readers — perhaps someone from the great state of Florida, from whence this regulatory situation hails — point me to some context or explanation that makes this less ridiculous than it seems?

Because it looks ppretty freaking ridiculous.

(Click to embiggen)

Remember: the regulatory state is its own justification and its own constituent.

Hat tip to reader Dustin.

Florida Didn't Ban Sex. Um . . . Probably.

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All right, all right, ha ha, Floridians are stupid freaks, it's an easy joke. They never outlawed bestiality before because they thought animal husbandry meant marrying animals, Fark has a Florida tag because they're so reliably nutty, etc. It's all very tired.

In the last couple of days the big joke has been that Florida finally attempted to outlaw bestiality and accidentally outlawed sex between humans (or, at least, what passes for human in Florida). Everybody's laughing about it based on a post on the blog Southern Fried Science, which pointed out that (1) the law bans sex with "animals", and (2) humans are, scientifically speaking, animals, and (3) therefore Florida has banned humans having sex with humans.

Potentially salutary impact on the nation's gene pool aside, this is too pedantic. As another blogger points out, the statute clearly draws a distinction between "persons" and "animals," and prohibits the former from sexual contact with the later for the purpose of sexual gratification. No judge would interpret that to prohibit humans from sexual contact with humans, even if "persons" are scientifically "animals" as well. Both reason and the rule of lenity prohibit it.

But scientists, and persons who are (not unreasonably) cautious about engaging in sexual contact with Floridians, may want more precision and certainty than that. Fortunately, traditional methods of statutory interpretation can help. All we have to do is see if somewhere else in Florida law there is a statute making it clear that when the Florida Legislature uses the term "animal", they mean the colloquial definition, not the scientific one. Then we can be sure that, no matter what sort of deoxyribonucleic-acid-dump-site Florida may be, and however true it may be that 166 years of imbeciles is enough, the Florida Legislature did not intend to stop Floridians from reproducing.

Let's see. Florida Statutes, Title XLVI, Crime: Section 828.02, Definitions. This should do it:

In this chapter, and in every law of the state relating to or in any way affecting animals, the word "animal" shall be held to include every living dumb creature . . . .

Uh-oh.

Angry Dick Doctor Gives Fair Warning

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Many people are angry about the health care bill. And who can blame them? It only passed because of loathsome back-door dealings, it's full of weird provisions that we're still discovering, and it it's going to do God knows what to the economy and health care system. It's massive regulation by the sort of people who think that islands capsize.

But some folks handle that anger better than others.

Take Dr. Jack Cassell of Mount Dora, which [as required by dramatic and narrative convention] is in Florida. Dr. Cassell is a urologist. Dr. Cassell is so mad, he's telling patients and prospective patients who are Obama voters to — if you'll excuse the expression — piss off.

Jack Cassel, Angry Dick Doctor

Is this unethical? I'm not familiar with medical ethics, so I couldn't say. If you ask Dr. Cassell, he'll respond with the same argument your little brother used in the backseat of the car when he held his finger a millimeter from your face saying "I'm not touching you, I'm not touching you":

"I'm not turning anybody away — that would be unethical," Dr. Jack Cassell, 56, a Mount Dora urologist and a registered Republican opposed to the health plan, told the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday. "But if they read the sign and turn the other way, so be it."

Rather than condemn Dr. Cassell, we should thank him.

After all, here's a man who either (1) doesn't want to treat people whose political views differ from his, or (2) is so angry he's lashing out in a rage, or (3) is a big-league and inventive attention-seeker.

Whichever it is, and whether you voted for Obama or McCain or some third party, ask yourself — is that a man you want handling your junk? What if he asks you a question in the middle of a procedure and you don't answer right? What if he remembers some particuarly galling provision of the bill in the middle of a catheter procedure? What if he's gripped, again, with a desperate need for attention whilst you're in a vulnerable position?

Thanks for the heads up, Doc.

Raising the Level of Discourse

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In a rhetorical masterpiece sure to sway many voters, Robert Lowry, a candidate for a Florida Congressional seat, shot at a target marked with the initials of his opponent in the race, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Mr. Lowry first called the shooting a joke, but later (probably after talking with many, many consultants) admitted that it was a mistake. You think? Sheesh.

Among other heart warming tidbits from this story:

  • Apparently the Southeast Broward Republican Party holds their weekly meetings at a shooting range. Isn't that sort of like the Democrats holding their convention in the Castro with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence presiding? No one thinks this might be a bad idea?
  • Charmingly, they use targets equipped with traditional Arab scarves, when they aren't shooting at Congresswomen's initials that is.

It's nice to know that in this topsy-turvy world we live in, where Chaos is all around us, Florida remains the soul of consistency.

When Muscular, All-American Birds Are Outlawed, Only Outlaws Will Celebrate Muscular, All-American Birds

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PETA currently holds a death grip on the Nutty Interest Group Crown. The Nutty Interest Group Crown is worn proudly by the political entity that shows the most skill at saying ridiculous and outrageous things, nominally to advance its interests but possibly just to get attention under the "all publicity is good publicity" theory. They're sufficiently nutty to make one pause on occasion and wonder if it's all intended to be satire of activists, like a decades-old live-action Landover Baptist thing.

PETA is the champ. But don't count out the NRA. They came to play.

Case in point: Florida's chief NRA lobbyist, who as a result of dramatic and narrative convention is named Marion Hammer (see how the "Marion" sets off and therefore emphasizes the hyper-aggressive "Hammer"? It's exquisite. It's like "Leslie Mangler"), has GRAVE CONCERNS about the selection of Florida's new state bird. It's not because the proposed state bird is the pink-collared assault-weapon-banning Brady-caller. No, it's because the bird suggested by Florida's schoolchildren is a bird of low character, and possibly a threat to the security of that great state:

In 1999, more than 10,000 schoolchildren signed a petition to change the state bird to the Florida scrub jay. Supporters boasted about how it will eat peanuts right out of a person’s hand.

Hammer was unmoved. “Begging for food isn’t sweet,” she testified in a committee hearing. “It’s lazy, and it’s a welfare mentality.” Scrub jays had lots of other bad habits that disqualified them to represent Florida, she contended. “They eat the eggs of other birds,” she told lawmakers. “That’s robbery and murder.”

Scrub jays are only able to engage in such conduct because of repressive gun laws and a pro-criminal judicial system. Hammer knows what bird she wants — the bird that engages in muscular home defense:

She also likes the fact that mockingbirds are willing to fight other birds, even larger ones, that might threaten their nests.

"They are very protective of their family and of their territory," she said.

Hammer is in favor of a "Nest Doctrine" amendment to Florida law that would allow mockingbirds to peck to death any bird with suspicious-colored feathers that wanders into its general vicinity.

Given this is Florida, I submit that the appropriate bird would be the Nuthatch.

THIS. IS. FLORIDA!!!!

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Florida does not merely transcend satire. Florida takes satire out behind the bleachers and kicks the everloving shit out of it.

Case in point: Clearwater, Florida made playing catch on the beach or at the park illegal.

Cretekos said the idea behind the law was to give police the authority to stop a game on the beach or in a park that could possibly hurt someone else. He said he'd like to see the city narrow the law to more careless activities that could actually hurt someone.

But, see, the geniuses on the City Council didn't draft the law to restrict violent, dangerous games. It did this instead:

No person or persons shall engage in rough or potentially dangerous activity such as football, baseball, softball, horseshoes, tennis, volleyball, badminton, or any other organized activity involving thrown or otherwise propelled objects such as balls, stones, arrows, javelins, shuttlecocks, Frisbees, model aircraft or roller skates on any public bathing beach or park property except in areas set aside for that purpose.

Cretekos is now trying to change the law, and says he has been doing so for "months."

Now, to be fair to the Clearwater City Council, since they passed this law, badminton-related deaths have dropped dramatically. But still, it seems a little excessive. I find it difficult to imagine that a person of average intelligence reading this law would not realize that it sweeps up a vast amount of innocent, safe public activity that the government has no business regulating. This suggests one or more of the following conclusions: (1) The Clearwater City Council is made up of persons of less than average intelligence, (2) the members of the Clearwater City Council passed the bill without reading it, or at least without reading it carefully, or (3) the members of the Clearwater City Council have an officious and nannyish view of the role of the government in micro-managing public behavior of citizens.

The story here is not that a city council banned playing catch. The story here is that across the country, in every jurisdiction, from federal to village, the law is choked with stupid, poorly drafted, micro-managing laws pushed upon us by the sort of people who aspire to be "officials." This encrustation has consequences — it makes it vastly more expensive and inconvenient to do business or otherwise conduct oneself in compliance with the law, and it gives government agents vast discretion to make our lives miserable if they choose to enforce some obscure, strangely-drafted rule.

And yet this phenomenon gets little attention except when the law is funny, as in this case. Maybe all laws need automatic sunset dates. Or maybe towns like Clearwater, as well as Congress, need Patrick's "House of Repeal."

Hat tip to Chris.

Florida Politician Does Something Sensible; No Word On Other Six Seals

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Popehat readers near the ocean: could you kindly check whether the tide is red?

Florida Governor Charlie Crist has signed a bill that takes some baby steps towards reigning in the moronic trend of zero-tolerance policies in public schools, under which if little Billy brings a spork from home, he may find himself proned out on the wet playground pavement by Resource Officer Muscly McOverreact. Overlawyered has a good archive of zero-tolerance idiocy.

I must admit that I was not expecting that from a Florida politician.

The bill is not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction:

It is the intent of the Legislature to promote a safe and supportive learning environment in schools, to protect students and staff from conduct that poses a serious threat to school safety, and to encourage schools to use alternatives to expulsion or referral to law enforcement agencies by addressing disruptive behavior through restitution, civil citation, teen court, neighborhood restorative justice, or similar programs. The Legislature finds that zero-tolerance policies are not intended to be rigorously applied to petty acts of misconduct and misdemeanors, including, but not limited to, minor fights or disturbances. The Legislature finds that zero-tolerance policies must apply equally to all students regardless of their economic status, race, or disability.

I'd love to see more Legislatures recognize that not all behavior on at school should be treated the same. That — and, God willing, a less hysterical attitude towards drugs — might might result in fewer thirteen-year-old girls being strip-searched by predatory school administrators looking for Ibuprofin.

The Peril of Being Able To Do Whatever You Think Of

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Every day, most of us have stray thoughts like "hey, wouldn't it be great if . . ." and "I wonder what would happen if I could . . .", followed by some flight of fancy, some product of random synapses firing, half-remembered pizza dreams, and general pathology.

That's as far as it goes for most of us. There are few Ludwigs the Mad or Howard Hugheses among us to turn those thoughts into fantastical castles or giant wooden airplanes.

There is, however, one class of people empowered to turn any damn thing that enters their head into reality, no matter how odd the idea, questionable the circumstances that generated it, or deranged the underlying "logic." And we all have to live with the results.

That class of people is, of course, Congress.

Rep. Alan Grayson was standing in the middle of Disney World when it hit him: What Americans really need is a week of paid vacation.

So on Thursday, the Florida Democrat will introduce the Paid Vacation Act — legislation that would be the first to make paid vacation time a requirement under federal law.

. . . .

“There’s a reason why Disney World is the happiest place on Earth: The people who go there are on vacation,” said Grayson, a freshman who counts Orlando as part of his home district. “Honestly, as much as I appreciate this job and as much as I enjoy it, the best days of my life are and always have been the days I’m on vacation.”

I know, from experience, that children experiencing the wonder that is Disney World do not dwell on the efforts their parents made to get them there. They have only the most dim comprehension that they parents work to get money and exchange that money for goods and services like Disney tickets or, if they are not that well-off, kidneys.

Grayson and his ilk exist on a similar plane of childlike wonder. Where does the money to pay for paid vacations come from? Who knows, and who cares? It's probably Scrooge McDuck's vault, or maybe it streams from the tip of Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey's wand. Just make the businesses do it. Employees can't be expected to bargain for it; they, too, are tired, sticky children in the eyes of Congress. Just order it by fiat, and like magic, America will be the Happiest Place on Earth.

You Were Lucky To Have A Lake! There Were A Hundred And Fifty Of Us, Living In A Shoebox In The Middle Of The Road.

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It's difficult to make me feel sympathy for convicted sex offenders, but Broward County Florida is doing its best.

Following the lead of other cities and counties, Broward County commissioners last week enacted tougher restrictions for unincorporated areas. Sex offenders won't be able to live within 2,500 feet of schools, parks, playgrounds or school bus stops.

It's difficult to find a location in Broward County that isn't within 2,500 feet (almost half a mile) of some school, park, playground, or bus stop.  So difficult that newly released offenders are now forced to live "beneath a roadway overpass, overlooking a canal, surrounded by broken glass and forced to sleep with a stick to beat back rats."

It seems Broward is attempting to duplicate the feat of Miami-Dade County, which has so restrictively "zoned" its population of offenders that all are forced to live beneath the Julia Tuttle Causeway Bridge: current population fifty-two men and one woman.

Of course the unstated purpose of these laws is to force newly released sex offenders to move to other parts of the state, where they will become Someone Else's Problem.  Since the Supreme Court has held in cases like Smith v. Doe that even the most draconian living restrictions on sex offenders can be classified as non-punitive, public safety measures, we have the odd situation where a de facto sentence of exile (the only alternative being to live underneath a bridge) is held to be entirely legal, even though a de jure sentence of exile, if imposed by a court, would be reversed as unconstitutional.

Bureaucratic Inertia Is A Feature, Not a Bug

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At his informative blog Photography Is Not A Crime, Carlos Miller covered the appalling case of a Florida woman who was arrested for videotaping police officers arresting her son, an arrest that culminated in her receiving suggestive and crude email from (it appears) one of the arresting officers. Prosecutors, showing good judgment, dropped all charges against her, making what appears to me to be a rather remarkably broad declination statement:

“Based upon the facts and circumstances articulated in the probable cause affidavit and police report, the Committee unanimously determined that the State will not be able to establish beyond a reasonable doubt either that the defendant’s actions constituted a violation of the interception of communication statute or that the officers were acting in the lawful execution of a legal duty.”

So naturally she sought to get her camera back. It was no longer evidence of a crime (if it had ever genuinely been evidence of the crime), and the police had no right to detain it.

But anyone who has to deal with the government knows that there are rights, and then there is the ability to vindicate those rights. Even though she has no longer charged with a crime, she encountered a preposterous bureaucratic morass in her attempt to retrieve her own property.

This is not, as one might assume based on contact with other agencies, only about indifference or incompetence. It's also by design. Bureaucratic delay, like main force, is a tool the state wields to thwart and retaliate against citizens who exercise their rights in ways that the state's agents do not like. That's why, for instance, it once took me twelve days to get a client out of federal custody after he had been acquitted of all charges in a manner that infuriated the case agents and the judge; I was met at every turn by a wall of implacable leave-at-4:30, lose-paperwork, don't-return-calls bureaucracy. That's why I am still trying, three years later, to get a client's car keys back from the police department that arrested him. And I do this for a living. The vast majority of citizens, confronted with smug indifference or thinly-veiled hostility, give up before they succeed in forcing the government to respect their rights.

What's the answer? I don't know. But people like Carlos Miller covering the case and naming the names of the bureaucrats is a step in the right direction.

For the Love of God, Nobody Mention To Her That Wednesday is Humpday

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Via Jonathan Turley, I encountered the elsewhere-freakish but Florida-mundane story of state senator Larcenia Bullard (D-Miami, via deep space). Bullard became agitated during a Florida legislative debate over a bestiality law. Florida does not have a current bestiality law, apparently. I'm not entirely sure, based on my familiarity with Florida, that this is a bad thing; I'm not sure that they should be excluding some of the smarter animals from their potential gene pool. (No offense, there, Marc Randazza.)

Anyway, Bullard became agitated when someone used the term "animal husbandry":

Rich's legislation would target only those who derived or helped others derive "sexual gratification" from an animal, specifying that conventional dog-judging contests and animal-husbandry practices are permissible.

That last provision tripped up Miami Democratic Sen. Larcenia Bullard.

"People are taking these animals as their husbands? What's husbandry?" she asked. Some senators stifled their laughter as Sen. Charlie Dean, an Inverness Republican, explained that husbandry is raising and caring for animals. Bullard didn't get it.

"So that maybe was the reason the lady was so upset about that monkey?" Bullard asked, referring to a Connecticut case where a woman's suburban chimpanzee went mad and was shot.

Yes, the federal government has grown increasingly law-encrusted. But bear in mind that most of the laws that govern your everyday life, determine how your children are educated, and limit how you can run your business are debated and passed by state and local politicians like Larcenia Bullard. So ask yourself — do the anarchists still seem so silly?

Edit: Cappy, a commenter over at The Agitator, points out that Bullard is the Vice-Chair of the Agricultural Committee and a former teacher. That makes this even more awesome.

Your Wretchedness Makes You A Poor Candidate To Live

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How much would it suck to be a disabled kid in foster care, with little hope of placement in a stable home? Well, it might suck so much that they won't give you a liver transplant because your circumstances are so hopeless.

A disabled foster child whose liver is failing has been removed from a Central Florida hospital's organ-transplant waiting list because hospital administrators fear the state's shaky child-welfare system cannot ensure he has a permanent home in which to recover.

Shands Hospital in Gainesville removed the boy, 15, from a waiting list for organ recipients after administrators determined the boy's unstable living conditions make him a poor candidate for a transplant, said Nick Cox, the Department of Children & Families regional administrator in the Tampa Bay area, where the boy lives.

Jesus, that's bleak.

The boy has had a difficult life, even for a foster child.

Removed from his mother at infancy because she could not kick a crack cocaine habit, the teen had been living with relatives under DCF supervision until about a year ago, when his relatives were unable to continue caring for him. Since then, he has been in foster care in the Tampa Bay area.

That sucks. Here I was under the impression that Florida had so many extra adoptive parents that it was turning them away.

No One's Life, Liberty or Property is Safe while the Florida Legislature is in Session

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The Florida Constitution has this to say about the rights of its citizens:

All natural persons, female and male alike, are equal before the law and have inalienable rights, among which are the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty, to pursue happiness, to be rewarded for industry, and to acquire, possess and protect property…

Unless, according to the Florida legislature as of last Tuesday, by "possessing and protecting property," one means prohibiting others from bringing firearms onto that property.

no public or private entity may prohibit any customer, employee, or invitee from possessing any legally owned firearm when such firearm is lawfully possessed and locked inside or locked to a private motor vehicle in a parking lot and when the customer, employee, or invitee is lawfully in such area.

The law, Florida House Bill 503, also prohibits owners of commercial property from even asking of employees or customers whether those people are bringing guns onto the premises.

Mind you, I support your right to own a gun, and to keep arms in your home. I simply do not support your non-right to bring a gun onto my property, against my wishes.

Naturally, there are exceptions, and one of those exceptions is the State of Florida itself, which does have the right to prevent people from entering much of its property with firearms. But for others, this is a rather shocking abrogation of the rights of Florida merchants and employers to determine for themselves whether guns are to be allowed onto their property, and to control their property in general as they see fit. It goes far beyond now-traditional civil rights protections, which prevent merchants and employers from discriminating on the basis of race, gender, religion, and the like, as those are to an extent inherent characteristics, whereas the decision of whether to pack heat is always an individual choice.

The provision that guns must be kept locked in the car is a fig leaf of sanity, providing no real protection to anyone who feels that guns are unwanted on his or her private property. How long does it take to unlock a glove compartment or to pop a trunk?

Still, I suppose Floridians should be glad that the federal government is beyond this law, or nobody's mail would get delivered once Florida's postal workers learned of it. As are manufacturers of explosives, a loophole that Disney has exploited rather cleverly. But banks, and many other sensitive businesses where guns are traditionally thought a no-no, are not excepted.

H/t: Jag of the Popehat forum.