On May 12, 2016, St. Johns County Republican Executive Committee members listened to Senate hopeful Carlos Beruff twice call President Barack Obama "that animal."
Demurely, the Republican St. Augustine Record belatedly reported that:
1. Beruff spoke to a local "Republican group, not naming REC, although newspapers throughout the world managed to report the name of the group, BUT
2. Omitted the material fact that at least four (4) local officials attended the hate speech, including Mosquito Board Chairman Gary Howell.
Beruff has no more business being Senator than Incitatus -- Emperor Caligula's horse, whom Caligula named a member of the Roman Senate and reportedly housed in a marble stable, with ivory manger, purple blankets, a jewel-encrusted horse-collar, fed oats mixed with gold flakes.
I was honored to work for three United States Senators during my undergraduate years at Georgetown. Diverse legislators and staffs worked together and got along as friends and professionals. Bipartisan legislation was prized, like the McGovern-Dole legislation solving hunger problems. As JFK said, politics was "an honorable profession."
Today, we've strayed from civility. Billionaires call the shots. The system is rigged. Public office is no longer treated as a "public trust." Politicians incite hatred. Two unpopular and untrustworthy politicians are poised to run against one another in November (Trump and Clinton), while the true voice of the people (Senator Bernie Sanders) is ignored, underestimated and marginalized by oligopolistic news media corporations.
Locally, in our county and state, we see economic royalists, bullies and bigots empowered, as in the continuing intimidation of First Amendment protected activity.
As President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said of these economic royalists in 1936, "They had begun to consider the Government ... as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob…. I welcome their hatred."
o St. Johns County and St. Augustine Budget hearings were traditionally held in private, not televised. But thanks to photojournalist-activist Jeffrey Marcus Gray, on May 18-20, 2016, We, the People showed the world County Administrator Michael David Wanchick's budget hearings, exposing the truth at last.
o St. Augustine inflicts rules limiting public comment. Columnist Steven Cottrell agrees: public comment must be heard on every single agenda item as at St. Augustine Beach, St. Johns County, Anastasia Mosquito Control District of St. Johns County (AMCD).
o Governments must have Inspectors General and Ombuds to expose waste, fraud and abuse and speak out for the people.
o Government employees deserve strong whistleblower protections (as at AMCD).
o Citizens must not be arrested for peaceful picketing, "plein air" painting or playing music.
o Federal courts have repeatedly ruled the City of St. Augustine is violating our First Amendment in its treatment of artists. Mayor Nancy Shaver has said "our streets are not lively," but four Commissioners would not budge. Result: yet another First Amendment ruling against our City, this time by U.S. District Judge Brian J. Davis. As attorney Tom Cushman wrote in the Record, "Enough."
o St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar and certain other local offices disdain Open Records requests. Some create bogus, inflated facetious cost estimates skills. Responses from the City of St. Augustine "Public Records Custodian" are often unadorned by anyone's real name. Records lawbreaking must stop.
o Sheriff Shoar retaliates against First Amendment protected activity, filing complaints against FDLE's 2009 "Special Agent of the Year" Rusty Rodgers for investigation of the September 2, 2010 shooting of Michelle O'Connell in the home of Sheriff's Deputy Jeremy Banks, which Shoar calls "suicide." Sheriff Shoar unsuccessfully sought to have Special Agent Rodgers prosecuted/fired. Thankfully, Special Agent Rodgers is now reinstated, but oddly blacklisted from working St. Johns County. Like the evil, obsessed French Inspector Javert in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, Shoar obsesses on Rodgers, for three years wasting our treasure, retaliating against Rodgers. Why? The truth was reported by The New York Times, PBS Frontline, et al. Sheriff Shoar still seethes and makes excuses.
o Shoar has enablers who own newspapers and radio stations. The St. Augustine Record and local Rush Limbaugh radio station WFOY merely empower Shoar, printing his handouts in their print pages and webpage. Meanwhile, they refuse to report that Shoar is under FBI investigation (while rightly covering the FBI's Hillary Clinton probes).
o Shoar's deputies arrested/jailed video-journalist Jeffrey Gray for a day March 14, 2016, for peaceful picketing on a sidewalk, (sign bearing the words "First Amendment Is Not A Crime.") All charges were dismissed on April 25th; 27 days later the St. Augustine Record reported that datum in the 23rd paragraph of a page one story, buried inside page in one sentence (after the initial story was on page one on March 15th and an alert on the paper's webpage on March 14th). Is the Record guilty of journalistic malpractice?
Progress is being made -- on May 20, 2016, Marion County Sheriff Christopher Blair was indicted for perjury and removed from office.
Enough Nixonian dirty tricks and rebarbative lawman politics.
Enough devastating developer misconduct, enough historic building demolition, enough clear cutting, enough wetland-killing. Enough government retaliation, secrecy, no-bid contracts, corporation-coddling, conflict of interest, mendacity, malfeasance, waste, fraud, abuse, flummery, dupery and nincompoopery.
FBI must scrutinize Sheriff Shoar and others, calling them before a grand jury.
As Justice Robert Jackson began his prosecution at the Nuremberg Trial, "The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated."
Senator Robert Kennedy said, "It is not enough to allow dissent, we must demand it, for there is much to dissent from."
Ed Slavin has lived in St. Augustine since 1999. He was Editor of the Appalachian Observer, Clinton, Tennessee weekly newspaper, which exposed the world's largest mercury pollution event (Union Carbide Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Plant) and corruption by Anderson County Sheriff Dennis O. Trotter (twice "Tennessee Sheriff of the Year"), who (along with three co-felons) was sentenced to four years in federal prison, and who (along with three other co-felon individuals and a corporation) paid an out-of-court settlement to Slavin for fomenting a meritless libel lawsuit against Slavin, served on the morning of his first law school exam in Memphis (Torts)