A television network stood up for decency today. With head-spinning speed, ABC canceled its hit revival “Roseanne,” just hours after its titular star tweeted a crude racist remark about former Obama presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett.
Robert Iger, Disney CEO, tweeted “there was only one thing to do.”
The quick axing was a necessary corrective in this age of Trump, when the dog whistles from the White House have awakened many an inner racist. When you have a president who says there are “some fine people” amid the neo-Nazis at Charlottesville, who talks about “shithole countries,” you’re going to see an uptick in hate speech. You’re going to get what Roseanne Barr called her “bad joke” about Jarrett’s “politics and her looks.”
You can’t separate President Donald Trump from this story. Indeed, Trump has celebrated “Roseanne”‘s high ratings as a powerful endorsement of himself and his followers.
In the revival of the show, the title character returned to the air after a 21-year absence as, explicitly, a Trump supporter — just like Barr, the mouthy comedienne who plays her. The sitcom was seen as smart counter-programming on a network that has made a specialty of minority-themed comedies with a liberal bent, like “Black-ish” and “Fresh Off the Boat.”
ABC seemed, in fact, to be smelling the makings of a trend. There was talk of developing more shows to cater to conservative, Trump-admiring audiences. And why not, if the shows could deal with our divisions with humor and wisdom — and not compound our divisions?
The network seemed OK with its hard-to-control star, even when she filled her Twitter account with wildly fact-free conspiracy theories.
But raw racism — such as comparing an African-American woman (even a woman as accomplished as Jarrett) to a simian — has no place in American society. We cannot go back to a time when it was considered OK for many white Americans to look upon people of other races, cultures or religions as less than fully American — nay, less than human.
When that attitude surfaces, it must be confronted and repudiated.
By doing so in such a swift and forceful manner, ABC has done us all a favor. It has helped steer America’s course back towards its true north.
The National Football League, under pressure from many fans and the man in the White House, announced rules meant to remove the spectacle of players kneeling in protest during the playing of the national anthem.
Team owners voted Wednesday to require all team and league personnel who are on the field during the anthem to “stand and show respect” for the flag and the song. Those who choose not to stand for the anthem can stay in the locker room or away from the field, although each club can adopt its own additional rules.
Rick Christie, editor of the Palm Beach Post’s Editorial Page, says the owners are ordering players to subdue their protests against racial injustice: “In other words: Don’t demonstrate downtown, I have shopping to do. Don’t demonstrate at a sporting event because you take away from my entertainment. Why can’t you all just shut up and dribble?”
In 2010, an ex-convict in Florida named Steven Warner cast a ballot in an election. This is illegal, because unless felons jump through the hoops of a lengthy clemency process, felons in Florida are barred from voting for life.
Warner wanted his rights restored, and, after waiting the required five to seven years after completing all the terms of his sentence (prison, parole, probation, fines), he found himself three years later in front of the state’s Executive Clemency Board.
Gov. Rick Scott, who sits on the board along with his cabinet, asked Warner about his illegal voting.
“Actually, I voted for you,” Warner said.
Scott laughed, then said, “I probably shouldn’t respond to that.” A few seconds passed. Then Scott granted the former felon his voting rights.
Warner is white. But the board rejected five other former felons who had cast illegal ballots on that basis. Will it surprise anyone that four of those five were African-American?
This is the sort of arbitrary, imperious and no doubt politically motivated decision-making that U.S. District Judge Mark E. Walker cited in the stunning ruling he issued on Thursday evening, declaring Florida’s method of restoring felons’ rights unconstitutional.
The federal judge’s decision is an explosive truth-bomb aimed squarely at a system which gives the governor, much like a medieval king, “unfettered discretion to deny clemency at any time, for any reason.” Or as Scott himself said at one hearing, according to the ruling: “We can do whatever we want.”
“In Florida, elected partisan officials have extraordinary authority to grant or withhold the right to vote from hundreds of thousands of people without any constraints, guidelines or standards,” Walker wrote. “The question…is whether such a system passes constitutional muster. It doesn’t.”
His powerhouse ruling comes, coincidentally, nine days after state judges approved a measure for November’s ballot which, if approved by voters, will automatically restore voting rights of felons after they’ve served their sentences, except for murderers and sex offenders. It gives the drive for the much-needed Amendment 4 an incalculable boost.
And it is a withering attack on Scott, just as the two-term Republican is expected to announce a run for Senate against Sen. Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent.
For it is the miserly system that Scott established in 2011 to enable a few lucky ex-cons to have their rights restored that is flayed in Walker’s blistering decision.
Unlike the Voting Restoration Amendment drive — which has focused on the inequity of denying some 1.7 million Floridians their rights — Walker zeroes in on the extremely arbitrary way in which they might get those rights returned.
“To vote again, disenfranchised citizens must kowtow before a panel of high-level government officials over which Florida’s governor has absolute veto authority,” Walker writes. “No standards guide the panel.”
To be clear, the judge said it is constitutional for Florida to bar felons from voting for life, if the state wants to continue to be one of the three or four states in the nation to do so. “But once a state provides for restoration,” he writes, “its process cannot offend the Constitution.”
It is decidedly unconstitutional to have a system based on race, he writes. Or a system that’s so arbitrary that the governor can decide whether to grant the right to vote depending on whether that ex-felon is going to vote Republican or a Democrat. It’s unconstitutional to make ex-convicts meet standards of behavior that are never really defined — or as Walker scorchingly calls them — “frankly, mythical.”
The results of Scott’s mean-spirited system are perfectly clear. When Charlie Crist was governor, the then-Republican tried to end the state’s backwardness with executive clemency rules in 2007 that automatically restored voting rights for those who served sentences for lesser felonies. More than 155,000 felons got their rights back.
Scott overturned that, and then some. His 2011 rules, with their five- to seven-year waiting periods and demands for unspecified sterling behavior, are now often cited as the toughest in the nation. In the last seven years, just 3,000 people have received restorations.
And more than 10,000 people are on a backlog of cases waiting for hearings to have their rights restored.
“The context of these numbers is not lost on this court,” Walker writes. “More than one-tenth of Florida’s voting population — nearly 1.7 million as of 2016 — cannot vote because they have been decimated from the body politic. More than one in five of Florida’s African American voting age population cannot vote.
“If any of these citizens wishes to earn back their fundamental right to vote,” he adds, “they must plod through a gauntlet of constitutionally infirm hurdles. No more.”
Walker did not impose a solution — yet. He ordered lawyers for ex-cons and the state to file briefs related to remedies before Feb. 12.
So this ruling makes the second big development within two weeks with the potential to demolish Florida’s shameful status quo that prevents most ex-felons from reentering civil society despite having served their sentences.
On Friday came a third. The Constitution Revision Commission decided to consider the issue after Warner’s explosive ruling. The commission, which meets every 20 years to recommend possible amendments to the state constitution, had already considered several proposals aimed at automatically restoring rights for ex-felons. But members withdrew them after the voting-restoration petition drive got Amendment 4 onto the ballot, fearing that too many similar-sounding ballot initiatives would confuse voters and dilute all of the initiatives’ chances.
Would the same thing happen with a new ballot proposal aimed not at automatic restoration but at fixing the clemency process? That’s one of the next things to watch as the energy for reforming this long-stultified system gains unexpected momentum.
The Trump Effect is playing out in Boynton Beach, and it’s not pretty.
With fears of deportation on the rise in immigrant communities, first-term city commissioner, Christina Romelus, suggested that Boynton declare itself a sanctuary city. The idea was quickly shot down by the City Commission.
But some residents were so incensed at Romelus for suggesting the idea, they demanded that she resign, be voted out or be impeached.
Romelus, who was born in Haiti, has a better grasp of what being an American means than the self-proclaimed patriots demanding her ouster.
“Having differing opinions and working through those to reach a common goal is how this country was founded,” Romelus told The Post’s Alexandra Seltzer. “Asking for my resignation simply because I had the audacity to bring up a controversial issue is testament to this day and age in which we live. I think it is sad.”
She added that the “grotesque behavior” of those who have been “spewing blind hatred at me for wanting to have a discussion about this issue is alarming and merits attention.”
Romelus said she has no intention of resigning.
Good. She offers a point of view that needs to be heard.
And yes, this subject does merit attention. Let’s put the attention where it belongs: on President Donald J. Trump and the animosities and vitriol he has unleashed with his appeals to racism and xenophobia, ugly currents of American life that are usually held in check by a general sense of restraint, respect and decency.
Take sanctuary cities. This is a concept that’s been around since the 1980s, most famously when San Francisco declared itself a “City of Refuge,” claiming the moral high ground with the argument that asylum-seekers should be shielded from shortsighted federal law enforcement. Some 300 cities, states and counties now consider themselves sanctuary cities, largely on practical grounds: they don’t want immigrants and their families to be scared of relying on local police. And so they limit their cooperation with federal immigration authorities.
The republic has seemed to get along well enough with this state of affairs, despite efforts in the 2008 primaries by Republican candidates Rep. Tom Tancredo, of Colorado, and Mitt Romney to crank it into a campaign issue.
But these politicians didn’t have Trump’s gifts for drawing attention, slinging invective, devising phrases that stick in the brain, and using a single horrifying fatal shooting in San Francisco by an undocumented Mexican to represent the whole of cities’ tolerance for illegal immigration.
Take a look at how the phrase “sanctuary city” spiked in Google searches after Trump made it a campaign issue. The chart’s timeline starts in 2004. Curiosity about the subject was minimal until June 2015. That’s the month when the billionaire real estate developer/showman declared for the presidency, telling us about the Mexican “rapists” sneaking over the border.
Since winning the White House, Trump and his attorney general, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, have placed a crackdown on sanctuary cities high on their agenda. And now it’s a boiling issue, the very mention of which is seen as grounds for impeaching a city commissioner.
Such are the heightened animosities in the United States under a president who speaks of “fine people on both sides” of the Charlottesville, Virginia, confrontation between neo-Nazis and people protesting neo-Nazis. Now, reprehensible views are free to roam — such as those of Cindy Falco-DiCorrado, one of the Boynton Beachers who called for Romelus to resign.
According to resident Mathi Mulligan, Falco-DiCorrado told him at a meeting this month to speak “better English,” and allegedly told black residents “you’re lucky we brought you over as slaves or else you’d be deported, too.”
Falco-DiCorrado says she was misconstrued, explaining that she always tells her son and husband, who speak with accents, to improve their English. And whatever anyone heard her say about black people, she meant that “out of hardships you can rebuild again and there are blessings.”
Her denials would be more convincing if she didn’t have a Facebook page that, according to Post columnist Frank Cerabino, is filled with tripe, including a post that reads: “If you agree that racism is no longer an actual threat in this country, but a strategy that the Democrats and Liberals use to secure black votes = SHARE!!”
And her attitudes would be less significant if she weren’t a member of Boynton’s Community Redevelopment Agency advisory board.
Now it’s being asked why someone with her views should advise an agency that aims to improve neighborhoods with large minority populations. Vice Mayor Justin Katz asked her this week to resign. She returned his email with a no.
The City Commission seems sure to take up the question at its meeting next Tuesday. Mulligan says, “We will keep pressing on until the City Commission fires this white supremacist from a job that gives her direct power over the lives of people of color.”
Falco-DiCorrado insists she’s no racist but is now, herself, the victim of a “lynch mob” that’s harassing her with emails.
And so, welcome to Boynton Beach, where nerves are frayed, tensions are rising, and in no way can it be said that Boynton Beach is winning. Or being made great again.
What we need is a way to talk about these differences with a whole lot less anger. But we’re not going to have that with a president who sets a tone of disparagement toward minorities and pushes the buttons of white resentment every time he talks to his “base.”
The bully pulpit has become a pulpit that bolsters bullies
There are more than 700 Confederate monuments in the U.S. — the vast majority in the South — according to the latest figures.
And there are many in Florida cities like Fort Myers, Gainesville, Jacksonville and yes, West Palm Beach. The latter is actually a private monument to Confederate soldiers in Woodlawn Cemetery. The cemetery is owned by the city.
Standing directly behind the American flag, a 10-foot tall marble monument is unmistakable when visitors drive through the front gate of Woodlawn. A Confederate flag is carved into the side with words honoring that army’s soldiers who are buried there. Early in her term, Mayor Jeri Muoio worked to remove all Confederate flags and symbols on city property, but the monument is owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
The city’s legal department has also been investigating if the city can tell the group to move the monument. But nothing yet.
This week, as the violent and tragic events of Charlottesville, Va., continue to dominate the news and political discussion — largely because of equivocal, ill-advised statements from President Donald J. Trump — the debate over whether these monuments should be taken down has once again heated up.
In fact, here are links to two opposing viewpoints in the Confederate monuments debate:
Overnight Tuesday, Baltimore took down four statues of Confederate monuments after it was ordered by the state’s Republican governor. And in Charlotte, N.C., protesters had pulled down a Confederate statue earlier in the day.
Meanwhile, the white nationalist groups behind the Charlottesville event have promised to have more rallies and demonstrations to preserve these monuments. Whether they will have further access to university campuses is another issue. This week, both Texas A&M University and the University of Florida denied Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute permission to speak on their respective campuses.
In the case of UF — full disclosure: my alma mater — President Kent Fuchs rightly denied the request to rent campus space to the “alt-right” movement leader “after assessing potential risks” campus, local, state and federal law enforcement officials.
Continued calls “online and in social media for similar violence in Gainesville such as those decreeing: “The Next Battlefield is Florida’ ” also played a role in Wednesday’s decision, Fuchs said.
In a July 31 blog post, I made note of this debate after various Palm Beach Post letter writers shared their views on either side of the debate.
Among the blog post’s 500-plus comments emerged the interesting question of whether by removing these monuments to the Confederacy from public lands, we are seeking to hide an ugly part of U.S. history.
Aside from the preponderance of expected racist opinions, there were many like the following that stimulated an interesting intellectual discussion:
— Only an idiot would want to destroy history. Leave the monument alone. — Jimmy Anderson
— Now it will be Confederate memorials demonstrating history; and next it will be what? Could be anything that offends a group of people. If we don’t acknowledge history, it will repeat itself. And a lot of it is not necessarily good; but hopefully we have learned from it … leave the memorials! — Mo Earle
— Leave our history alone. Tearing down monuments does nothing be cheat future generations out of history… American history. The good and the bad. — Gennifer Cseak
Agreed, but there’s no rule that says that “history” must remain in a specific public space. Many of these monuments are front of city halls, major parks and other taxpayer-funded places that are frequented by the people who would be most offended by them as vestiges of slavery.
As a compromise, these memorials should be removed and placed in a taxpayer-funded museum where people who want to view them and further study history can do so at their leisure. After all, you can’t find a monument to Nazism in an outdoor public space anywhere in Germany.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comments section.
-@marcorubio: “The organizers of events which inspired & led to #charlottesvilleterroristattack are 100% to blame for a number of reasons. 1/6
–Rubio: “They are adherents of an evil ideology which argues certain people are inferior because of race, ethnicity or nation of origin. 2/6”
–Rubio: “When entire movement built on anger & hatred towards people different than you,it justifies & ultimately leads to violence against them 3/6”
–Rubio: “These groups today use SAME symbols & same arguments of #Nazi & #KKK, groups responsible for some of worst crimes against humanity ever 4/6”
–Rubio: “Mr. President,you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of blame.They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain 5/6”
–Rubio: “The #WhiteSupremacy groups will see being assigned only 50% of blame as a win. We can not allow this old evil to be resurrected 6/6”
I particularly like Number 3.
To watch an American president all but side with armed, torch-bearing punks shouting Klan and neo-Nazi slogans was sickening. For many people in Palm Beach County, the home of his oh-so-precious Mar-a-Lago, this is personal.
This county has one of the densest Jewish populations in America. It’s been home for generations to many black people. It’s an important destination for immigrants from Haiti, Guatemala and other countries poor in political tolerance.
The Palm Beach Post editorial board warned about Donald Trump’s softness on bigotry as early as March 2016, during the primaries when there was still plenty of time for Republicans to repudiate the man and derail his candidacy. They didn’t.
And now this great nation is headed by a president who refuses to stand up for the most fundamental of American principles.
It is a time for everyone else — particularly other leaders — to do the standing up.
Whilst I sympathize deeply with the family of Corey Jones on the tragic death of their love one, this case has drawn international attention, and after very careful consideration, the state attorney, Dave Aronberg, decided to hand the case over to the grand jury.
He has since been subjected to a barrage of criticism, and one wonders what the reaction would have been had he decided not to bring charges against the officer. To say that his action was politically motivated is ludicrous.
Aronberg has strong bipartisan support. Any challenge to him (on this issue) would be an exercise in futility. I say to those criticizing him, let your criticism be constructive; and to Dave, keep up the good work.