Editorial Roundup: Florida

Palm Beach Post. September 19, 2022.

Editorial: With hate on the rise, all of us need to unite against anti-Semitism, white supremacy, bigotry

In July, anti-Semitic and anti-social justice posters were draped on the walls of a progressive church in Fort Lauderdale. In June, individuals associated with the hate group Goyim Defense League distributed anti-Semitic propaganda in Coral Gables, Parkland and Boca Raton.

In May, twice in one week, swastikas marred the walls of a high school bathroom in Davie. Flyers praising Hitler were distributed in Boca’s Lake Wyman neighborhood in April. ...And on it goes.

A report issued this week by the Anti-Defamation League documented many such incidents in our midst and throughout Florida. The hatred simmers, just waiting for an excuse to boil over, as it has so many times, in so many parts of our country and world throughout history. Precisely because it has boiled over so many times, we know what to look for and we know how it will scald, if our response is but to ignore it.

We also know that one day it’s Jews under attack, another day, Muslims, another day Blacks, and yet another day, anyone who doesn’t identify as heterosexual.

All of us need to fight back.

We also know that one day it’s Jews under attack, another day, Muslims, another day Blacks, and yet another day, anyone who doesn’t identify as heterosexual.

All of us need to fight back.

The organization also advocates passage of a comprehensive hate crimes law to protect marginalized communities. The laws should include provisions for grants to help secure religious institutions and other community centers that could be targets of violence, it adds.

Law enforcement agencies and municipalities should report hate crimes to the FBI and Florida attorney general for tracking and prosecution, the ADL says. While they’re at it, handing out heavier sentences, with substantive community service and education requirements, could only help.

The organization says “an overlapping network of white supremacists” has coordinated efforts to spread hatred around the state, with the anti-Semitic Goyim Defense League at its center.

The ADL identified more than 400 instances of white supremacist propaganda being distributed in Florida from January 2020 through August of this year. Anti-Semitic incidents increased 50 percent from 2020 to 2021, from 127 to 190.

The ADL noted “a significant increase” in violent rhetoric online this August, after the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago. The threats targeted law enforcement and Department of Justice officials, singling out magistrate Bruce Reinhart, who authorized the warrant to search the Trump compound. Reinhart, a board member at a local synagogue, had his information removed from the judicial directory after receiving violent threats.

The beauty of South Florida’s landscape is not just in its blue waters and white sand but in its extraordinary blend of races, creeds and nationalities. Those who don’t appreciate how that elevates our community are missing one of its great wonders. Worse, those who see our unique mix of cultures as a reason for meanness, bullying or violence, or as a tool for political gain, ruin it for the rest of us.

Truly, in Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe, we are the world. Those of us who appreciate the aroma of Cuban coffee, the lilt of a foreign accent or the twist of an unexpected viewpoint, need to stand vigilantly to preserve the differences among us and every individual’s rights.


Orlando Sentinel. September 16, 2022.

Editorial: DeSantis hits a new low with Martha’s Vineyard immigrant stunt

There is plenty to say about Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ugly political stunt this week, which dumped two planeloads of confused, misled, tired and hungry people in the ritzy Massachusetts resort of Martha’s Vineyard with no notice and absolutely no preparation for their welfare.

But it starts with this: Shame on you, governor.

This is a new low, even if you don’t have the decency to realize it. But you have made the people of Florida ashamed, and you have wasted their tax dollars doing it — even though the people you callously used as pawns originated in San Antonio, Texas.

There are so many ways that what you did was indefensible. These people are not props for your ambition. They are human beings. Many of them have families that they love so much they were willing to endure privation and risk their lives in a desperate bid to flee totalitarian regimes. It seems likely that many of the people on that plane were in this country legally. They had done nothing wrong.

And you used them. Without a scintilla of remorse, without one word of concern for their well-being. Some legal scholars are already saying that your stunt could meet the definition of human trafficking or kidnapping. If it turns out that you participated in the commission of a crime, the people of Florida could well be on the hook to pay for your legal defense.

A broken system

Gov. DeSantis, you have learned well from history’s most repressive regimes. Like most effective lies, this vicious little propaganda stunt wobbles on a narrow basis of truth. This nation’s immigration system is so overburdened as to be overwhelmed. The channels intended to process people who are seeking asylum from oppressive regimes are so backlogged that a 45-day wait for a hearing on an asylum claim has bloated into a delay that could last a year or more. That — along with the constant influx of people who cross into the United States illegally — puts a crushing weight on communities along the U.S.-Mexico border, and the Biden administration (like the Trump administration before them) has adopted a policy of helping some of them reach communities in other states where they might have family or be able to find work. And yes, Florida — where many cities boast large populations of people who can speak and understand Spanish, Portuguese and Creole as well as plenty of year-round work — is a popular destination.

In a closed-to-the-public speech to wealthy donors and a press conference Thursday, you pretended that you were simply doing the same thing in different destinations. That’s a lie. This arbitrary sling-shotting of migrants into communities deemed liberal will actually make it more difficult to keep track of them; with no access to specialized services or immigration offices, they will be more likely to scatter. And it’s highly unlikely that any of them would have chosen Martha’s Vineyard as a final destination. The snide tweet by one of your paid-to-mislead minions, featuring an aerial photograph of former President Barack Obama’s home on Martha’s Vineyard with the note that there was “plenty of room,” telegraphs the intention behind this flight: These people were being dumped in the midst of a community where you and your staff probably assumed they’d be greeted coldly and with great umbrage.

Well, that last part is true — but the outrage was reserved for yourself and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has been engaging in his own brand of migrant-dumping, including busloads of people who were unloaded near Vice President Kamala Harris’ Washington, D.C. residence.

Toward the hapless migrants, the people of Martha’s Vineyard showed only compassion and kindness. They had no idea the planes were coming until well after they landed; according to the Washington Post, one of the first to realize what was going on was the local sheriff, who saw people wandering around clutching red folders and looking confused and distressed. Local residents and elected officials flew into action to line up shelter. Restaurants delivered hot meals. Local leaders made it clear that they would treat the stranded migrants with respect — and even expressed hope that some would remain on the Vineyard while they awaited their hearings.

Not quite the reaction you expected. Then again, we have little evidence, Gov. DeSantis, that you know what kindness and decency look like.

Reckoning is nigh

In recent months you’ve acted several times to remove officials from public office. Alas (despite the blustering threats of your erstwhile patron Donald Trump against state officials who refused to fraudulently tip the 2020 election in his favor) President Biden has no authority to suspend state governors and it’s unlikely that the Legislature — which you have thoroughly bullied into submission — will do its constitutional duty and send you packing.

In just a few months, however, voters will decide your fate. Among those voters: Nearly 3 million Floridians who are first-generation Americans on at least one side of their family. They have heard the stories of their parents or grandparents’ gut-wrenching decisions to leave their homes and everything they knew to come in search of a better life in the United States.

Those people — along with all Floridians whose hearts were touched by the bewilderment and fear of the people you so callously abused — see what you have done, Governor. And in November they may well decide that, while you feel no shame, it is time you experienced the sting of regret.


Tampa Bay Times. September 15, 2022.

Editorial: What did these kids do to deserve this?

Kids shouldn’t be used as props in immigration debate.

These are little kids. Just kids. We don’t know much about them. We don’t know their names or even where they’re from. Maybe Venezuela. Maybe Colombia. But we do know this. They’re just kids, and they deserve to be kids, not props or pawns in some ridiculous political grandstanding about immigration.

The kids came off of two chartered planes that, with the blessing and encouragement of Gov. Ron DeSantis — himself a father of three young children — dropped them in Martha’s Vineyard in an apparent attempt to own the libs. But it’s in the Bible itself (Mark 9:37) that Jesus says, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me.” So who was really doing what Jesus would do here?

On their way, the migrant families would have flown not so far from the Statue of Liberty, where Emma Lazarus’ poem declares the promise of a better America than the one that chartered those planes: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.” Remember, except for American Indians, all of our ancestors came from somewhere else, often fleeing conditions like those in Venezuela.

But that’s an editorial for another day. Right now, fight about immigration all you want, but leave the kids alone.


South Florida Sun Sentinel. September 19, 2022.

Editorial: Florida’s top court telegraphs its intent on abortion

The Florida of days gone by would not need a Nikki Fried to promise a statewide ballot initiative campaign to protect abortion rights after she recently lost a Democratic primary for governor.

Voters amended the Constitution in 1980 to guarantee personal privacy, and nine years later, the state Supreme Court agreed unanimously that it protected reproductive choice. As one justice said then, the ruling was intended to protect women no matter what might happen eventually if the precedent in Roe v. Wade was overturned, which it was in June.

But the modern, radically conservative Florida Supreme Court appears primed to repeal abortion rights in this state.

Sensing an opportunity, Attorney General Ashley Moody has filed a full-throated attack on the 1989 precedent, and the court quickly obliged her. On Sept. 7, it granted Moody’s request to dismiss an emergency motion that tried to suspend enforcement of Florida’s 15-week abortion ban with no rape or incest exception. The dismissal order appeared to be unanimous with no sign of a dissent.

Order mysteriously vacated

Seven hours later, at 10:30 p.m., the court vacated its order, explaining that the clerk’s office had issued it “in error” and that the request for a temporary injunction against the 15-week law “remains under consideration.”

A court spokesman blamed “human error,” but it is inconceivable that the clerk would have even drafted an order without direction from Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz that a decision was imminent. Premature releases are very rare. It may never be known what went on during those seven hours.

One possibility is that a justice demanded to file a concurrent dissent. Another is that it dawned on justices how bad it would look for the court to dismiss the emergency motion so fast — especially with five of them seeking new terms from voters in November.

That would signal that the majority agreed with one or both of Moody’s main arguments for denying a temporary injunction and eventually upholding the abortion ban.

Moody’s first argument is that the plaintiffs, a group of abortion providers and the ACLU, could not suffer “irreparable harm” from the law and have no standing to attack it.

Her other argument is that the 1989 decision, in a case styled In Re. T. W., was “egregiously wrong.” She said the court should “recede from its precedents and clarify that the original meaning of the clause has nothing to say about abortion — and certainly that the Privacy Clause is not so clear as to pry the abortion debate from the hands of voters.”

Moody’s first argument would open the door to a lawsuit by someone denied an abortion. Her second would slam the courthouse door and erase the majority opinion by Justice Leander Shaw in the 1989 case, that the court could think of “few more personal or private decisions” than whether to terminate a pregnancy.

A signal to the Legislature?

For the court to agree with Moody, as it appears poised to, would encourage the Florida Legislature to ban abortion altogether, as at least 12 states have done since June, when the U.S. Supreme Court abandoned Roe v. Wade.

That would be a terrible mistake, argues retired Florida Justice Charles Wells, a conservative who served from 1994 to 2002.

“To recede from prior decisions on this type of issue converts judicial construction into political construction, undermining confidence in the judiciary,” Wells told the Sun Sentinel.

Florida Supreme Court justices must secure voter approval to stay in office. Appointed by a process known as merit selection, which under Gov. Ron DeSantis exists only in name, they must be retained every six years in merit retention elections where voters choose “yes” or “no.”

No justice has ever lost. On two occasions when abortion opponents raised the issue, Shaw won 60% of the vote in 1990 and a second pro-choice justice, Rosemary Barkett, won with 61% in 1982. The numbers closely track the level of support for abortion rights in polls.

In the Aug. 23 primary, Tampa-area voters in Democrat-leaning Hillsborough County turned out a circuit judge who had denied an abortion to a 17-year-old girl, in part because she had a C average. (An appeals court reversed him.) Judge Jared Smith’s opponent made that an issue and defeated him in a nonpartisan election.

Florida Supreme Court Justice Jorge Labarga is the only one likely to abide by the 1989 privacy precedent. He has dissented from a recent string of right-wing decisions, which began when DeSantis replaced three retired liberal justices with nominees chosen for their Federalist Society memberships and ideology.

Besides Labarga, justices facing retention votes on Nov. 8 are Charles Canady and Ricky Polston, who were appointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist, and DeSantis appointees John Couriel and Jamie Grosshans. Voters who care about abortion rights should vote accordingly.


Miami Herald. September 15, 2022.

Editorial: Florida, home of many a Proud Boy, a hotbed for white supremacy. The rest of us can’t stand silent

White supremacists and extremists don’t always wear white robes and burn crosses. They don’t necessarily meet in dingy headquarters away from civilized society

They are marching on Capitol Hill. They are flying Nazi flags over interstate overpasses in Florida. They’ve distributed anti-Semitic fliers in Miami Beach, home to a large Jewish population. They have demonstrated outside Disney World, a lighting rod for cultural wars after the company opposed a state parental rights law critics dubbed “Don’t say gay.”

Groups with names like the “White Lives Matter” network, the “Goyim Defense League” and the “New Jersey European Heritage Association” once were relegated to the dark corners of the web. More and more, they feel entitled to publicize their darkest thoughts and beliefs.

Those who have sounded the alarm about the rise of extremism in the Sunshine State have often been dismissed as hysterical liberals. Even as we learned about the Proud Boys’ close ties to Miami Republican politics, in addition to their prominent role in the Jan. 6 attacks, many state leaders remained mum. The Anti-Defamation League describes the Proud Boys as a “right-wing extremist group with a violent agenda” and “some members espouse white supremacist and anti-Semitic ideologies,” which is why it was so rattling to see them show up in force at a recent Miami-Dade School Board meeting.

A new Anti-Defamation League report shows that Florida has seen a dramatic rise in anti-Semitic incidents — a 50% increase in 2021 compared to the previous year — and hate crimes. Nationwide, anti-Semitic acts also rose but at a slower pace of 34% increase. The organization also found that between 2020 and 2022, there were 400 instances of white supremacy propaganda distribution — 95% of those anti-Semitic — in the state.

Many will easily jump to the conclusion that we’re placing the blame on Donald Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis, who have focused on the same red-meat issues that also rally extremists, like immigration, racial resentment (through dog whistles like “critical race theory”) and an anti-LGBTQ agenda. But neither Trump or DeSantis invented anti-Semitism and extreme ideology.

Many books and dissertations will be written on whether Trump reignited the country’s history of racial animosity, or if he’s just a symptom of it. That anti-Semitism is on the rise in much of the Western world, as a study by Tel Aviv University found this year, hints at something deeper than MAGA. Trump and DeSantis have been strong supporters of Israel. DeSantis signed laws requiring schools to certify to the state they teach about the Holocaust and to protect students from anti-Semitism.

At the same time, we cannot ignore that the GOP has an extremism problem — and an even bigger problem disavowing it within its ranks. Florida has the largest number of people arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 attacks, according to the ADL. There was a “significant increase in violent rhetoric in right-wing online spaces” after the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, the report found.

Trump’s call to the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during a 2020 debate was celebrated in the group’s social media circles. It speaks for itself that some prominent GOP elected officials, like Georgia U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, attended the America First Political Action Conference. The white-supremacist event purposely coincided with a popular gathering of conservatives happening nearby in Orlando. That the American First conference is named after a famous Trump campaign slogan is not by chance. When a series of neo-Nazi demonstrations in Orlando took place in January, DeSantis deflected questions about it, accusing Democrats of trying to “smear” him with the Jewish community and calling demonstrators “jackasses” and “malcontents.”

The Proud Boys’ growing prominence inside the Miami-Dade County Republican Party prompted the Herald Editorial Board to ask GOP candidates during our election-recommendation process what they make of the group’s influence. One of them fumbled her response, and did not strongly disavow extremism, so we changed our mind about recommending her in a Florida House primary.

Let’s not forget some Democrats have openly flirted with anti-Semitism, and that hatred doesn’t always come from the political right. The ADL report also highlights activity in Florida by Black nationalist groups like Nation of Islam, whose leader “espoused anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-white bigotry.” Michigan Democratic U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar used an old anti-Semitic trope when she implied that money was behind U.S. support for Israel. Many lawmakers in her own party publicly condemned her.

“To that end — officials and community leaders must denounce hate especially when it emanates from a group or political party that they identify with,” the ADL report states. “Denouncing bigotry from an opponent is simple; doing so when it comes from an ally requires courage — and now more than ever, we need courageous leaders.”

Words that disavow hatred and extremism matter as much as the extremist acts themselves. It’s time for Florida’s leaders — across the state and here at home in Greater Miami — to speak up.