Monday, February 27, 2023

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: Preaching Freedom, Ron DeSantis Leads By Cracking Down (NY Times book reviewer Jennifer Szalai)

The New York Times Book Review panned the latest louche lousy literary effort by pompous wealthy Dull Republican funded feculent fetid privileged Ivy Leaguer RONALD DION DeSANTIS, bigoted, bumptious Boy Governor of the State of FLori-DUH, which my mother would have called a "non-book," a nasty effort by DeSANTIS's staff to position him as if he were a living breathing natural person, instead of just another KOCH INDUSTRIES empty suit:


Preaching Freedom, Ron DeSantis Leads By Cracking Down

In his new book, “The Courage to Be Free,” the Florida governor and potential Republican presidential candidate offers a template for governing based on an expansive vision of executive power.

In this color photograph, Ron DeSantis is shown from the waist up, in a navy suit jacket and tie, speaking from a lectern and gesturing with his right hand.
Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida speaking at the annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas, Nev., on Nov. 19, 2022.Credit...Wade Vandervort/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
In this color photograph, Ron DeSantis is shown from the waist up, in a navy suit jacket and tie, speaking from a lectern and gesturing with his right hand.

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THE COURAGE TO BE FREE: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival, by Ron DeSantis

As governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis has been casting himself as a Trump-like pugilist. But the overall sense you get from reading his new memoir is that of the mechanical try-hard — someone who has expended a lot of effort studying which way the wind is blowing in the Republican Party and is learning how to comport himself accordingly.

Not that he admits any of this, peppering “The Courage to Be Free” with frequent eruptions about “the legacy media” and “runaway wokeness.” But all the culture war Mad Libs can’t distract from the dull coldness at this book’s core. A former military prosecutor, DeSantis is undeniably diligent and disciplined. “The Courage to Be Free” resounds with evidence of his “hard work” (a favorite mantra), showing him poring over Florida’s laws and constitution in order to understand “the various pressure points in the system” and “how to leverage my authority to advance our agenda through that system.” Even the title, with its awkward feint at boldness while clinging to the safety of cliché, suggests the anxiety of an ambitious politician who really, really wants to run for president in 2024 and knows he needs the grievance vote, but is also trying his best to tiptoe around the Trump dragon.

What a difference a dozen years make. Back in 2011, a year before DeSantis first ran for Congress, he published “Dreams From Our Founding Fathers” — an obvious dig at Barack Obama, whom DeSantis lambasted for his “thin résumé” and “egotism” and “immense self-regard.” It was a curious book, full of high-toned musings about “the Framers’ wisdom” and “the Madisonian-designed political apparatus.”

His new book will leave some supporters, who have encouraged DeSantis to “humanize himself” for a national audience, sorely disappointed. In his acknowledgments, he thanks “a hardworking team of literary professionals who were critical to telling the Florida story,” but presumably those professionals could only do so much with the material they were given. For the most part, “The Courage to Be Free” is courageously free of anything that resembles charisma, or a discernible sense of humor. While his first book was weird and esoteric enough to have obviously been written by a human, this one reads like a politician’s memoir churned out by ChatGPT.

DeSantis’s attempts at soaring rhetoric are mostly too leaden to get off the ground. “During times of turmoil,” he intones, “people want leaders who are willing to speak the truth, stand for what is right and demonstrate the courage necessary to lead.” Of his childhood baseball team making the Little League World Series, he says: “What I came to understand about the experience was less about baseball than it was about life. It was proof that hard work can pay off, and that achieving big goals was possible.” You have to imagine that DeSantis, a double-barreled Ivy Leaguer (Yale and Harvard Law School), put a bit more verve into his admissions essays. At around 250 pages, this isn’t a particularly long book, but it’s padded with such banalities.

Much of it is given over to laying out what he calls “Florida’s blueprint for America’s revival,” or, as he puts it in his generic summary: “Be willing to lead, have the courage of your convictions, deliver for your constituents and reap the political rewards.” What this has meant in practice looks an awful lot like thought policing: outlawing classroom discussion of sexual orientation through the third grade; rejecting math textbooks that run afoul of Florida’s opaque review process; forbidding teachers and companies to discuss race and gender in a way that might make anyone feel “discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress.” Florida also has a ban on abortion after 15 weeks — which DeSantis has indicated he would be willing to tighten to six weeks — with no exceptions for rape and incest.

In this regard, all the bland platitudes do serve a purpose. DeSantis’s blunt-force wielding of executive power might sound like a good time for hard-core social conservatives, but if part of the point of this book is to float a trial balloon for a presidential run, you can see the gears turning as he tries to make his message palatable for the national stage. Take out the gauzy abstraction, the heartwarming clichés, and much of what DeSantis is describing in “The Courage to Be Free” is chilling — unfree and scary.

Of course, DeSantis insists that he’s simply doing his bit to fight “political factionalism” and “indoctrination.” He removed Tampa’s democratically elected prosecutor from office in large part for pledging not to prosecute abortion providers — explaining in the book that he, DeSantis, was just using the powers vested in him by Florida’s state constitution to suspend a “Soros-backed attorney” for “a clear case of incompetence and neglect of duty.” (Last month, a federal judge ruled that DeSantis was in violation of state law.) DeSantis boasts about big-footing companies and local municipalities when he prohibited vaccine mandates and lifted lockdowns. In April 2020, when the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship expressed annoyance at the possibility of dealing with some “jackass mayor,” DeSantis told him not to worry: “I will overrule any mayor that gives you guys a hard time.”

It’s unclear what happened to the DeSantis of a decade ago, a boilerplate libertarian and founding member of the House Freedom Caucus who was mainly preoccupied with fiscal austerity and privatizing Medicare and Social Security. His 2011 book contained numerous tributes to “limited government.” Now, he says, in his typically windy way, anything he does that looks suspiciously intrusive is in fact a cleansing measure, purging public life of excess politicization: “For years, the default conservative posture has been to limit government and then get out of the way. There is, no doubt, much to recommend to this posture — when the institutions in society are healthy. But we have seen institution after institution become thoroughly politicized.”

Fewer than 20 pages later, DeSantis proposes making about 50,000 federal employees — currently apolitical civil servants — into “at-will employees who serve at the pleasure of the president.” By any measure, this would amount to politicization on steroids.

But despite all the dutiful servings of red meat, DeSantis looks so far to be the favored son of the donor class — which is probably the main audience for this book. The message to them seems to be twofold. First, don’t normalize “the woke impulse”: When Disney’s chief executive criticized Florida’s so-called Don’t Say Gay law (officially titled “Parental Rights in Education”), DeSantis cracked down accordingly. Second, Republican donors can take assurance from “the Sunshine State’s favorable economic climate” that, when it comes to what truly matters to them, it will be business as usual.

Reading books, even bad ones, can be a goad to thinking, but what DeSantis seems to be doing in “The Courage to Be Free” is to insist that Americans should just stop worrying and let him do all the thinking for them. Any criticism of his policies gets dismissed as “woke” nonsense cooked up by the “corporate media.” (Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation and News Corp, which owns the publisher of this book, doubtless don’t count.) “I could withstand seven years of indoctrination in the Ivy League,” DeSantis says, only half in jest.

The bullying sense of superiority is unmistakable, even when he tries to gussy it up in a mantle of freedom. DeSantis is not taking any chances: He may have been able to “withstand” the “indoctrination” of being exposed to ideas he didn’t like, but he doesn’t seem to believe the same could be said for anyone else.

THE COURAGE TO BE FREE: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival | By Ron DeSantis | 256 pp. | Broadside Books | $35

Jennifer Szalai is the nonfiction book critic for The Times. @jenszalai

Sunday, February 26, 2023

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: Bill to shield business, insurance companies from lawsuits is backed in Florida House. (WLRN/NSoF)

Our Florida Constitution provides in Article I:

"SECTION 21:Access to courts.The courts shall be open to every person for redress of any injury, and justice shall be administered without sale, denial or delay."

Our City's namesake, Saint Augustine of Hippo, wrote some seventeen centuries ago that "an unjust law is no law at all."

Wealthy Republican corporate-subsidized legislators like House Speaker PAUL RENNER, whose district includes half of St. Johns County, want to eviscerate your rights to justice in our courts.

Tort deform is the American Establishment's response to justice when it occurs.  

Emotional arguments and one-sided presentations typify the genre of court-shrinking bills.  Sinister corporate forces seek to pervert our justice system designed to slam the doors of the Courthouse "shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is often the only protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy."  (With an attitude of gratitude for quote from Senator Ted Kennedy's July 1, 1987 floor speech on "Robert Bork's America," written by W. Carey Parker, II, which helped persuade the Senate to reject Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court by 58-42 vote.).

DO read the latest in Flori-DUH legislative legerdemain flummery, dupery and nincompoopery,  from flim-flamming wealthy Dull Republicans in Florida, led by NELSON MULLINS corporate law firm partner RENNER, the pantomime, other-directed Florida House Speaker.  From WLRN/NSoF:

Bill to shield business, insurance companies from lawsuits is backed in Florida House

Tommy Gregory NSF.jpeg
Colin Hackney
New Service Of Florida
Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Lakewood Ranch, is helping sponsor a bill aimed at limiting costly lawsuits.

TALLAHASSEE — In a high-stakes debate, the Florida House on Friday began moving forward with a controversial plan designed to shield businesses and insurance companies from costly lawsuits.

The plan (HB 837) comes after years of business groups calling Florida a “judicial hellhole” because of the frequency and costs of lawsuits. But opponents, including plaintiffs’ attorneys and about 50 bikers who converged on the Capitol, said the bill is tilted too far toward insurers and would make it hard for injured people to pursue lawsuits.

Rep. Ashley Gantt, D-Miami, said insurance companies do not always do the “right thing” for policyholders.

“My concern is about the consumer, the everyday citizen, and having access to the courts,” Gantt, an attorney, said.

But House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, and other supporters said the bill would bring “balance” to the legal system. They said excessive litigation plays a major role in driving up costs for consumers on such things as insurance coverage.

“Every day I hear from businesses saying that we have a problem in the civil-justice system and we need remedies,” Rep. Tommy Gregory, a Lakewood Ranch Republican who is helping sponsor the bill, said.

The Republican-controlled House Civil Justice Subcommittee voted 12-6 along almost straight party lines to approve the bill. Rep. Mike Beltran, R-Lithia, joined Democrats in opposing the bill, which is filed for the legislative session that will start March 7.

As an indication of the stakes of the issue, people crowded one of the Capitol’s largest committee rooms as the House panel spent more than four hours on the bill.

The bill includes a series of proposed changes to try to limit lawsuits. Among the most-controversial issues would eliminate what are known as “one-way attorney fees” in lawsuits against insurers.

One-way attorney fees have long required insurers to pay the attorney fees of plaintiffs who are successful in lawsuits. Lawmakers in December eliminated one-way attorney fees in lawsuits against property insurers, but the bill would extend that to other lines of insurance, such as in auto-insurance cases.

Supporters of the change argue that one-way attorney fees provide an incentive to file lawsuits that increase insurance costs.

“Floridians are paying some of the highest automobile-insurance rates in the country, and, frankly, this is a tax by the rich plaintiffs’ bar against the poor working families of Florida,” said Mark Delegal, a lobbyist for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. “It needs to be addressed.”

But opponents said eliminating one-way attorney fees would make it difficult for injured people to get attorneys to represent them against insurers. Rep. Daryl Campbell, D-Fort Lauderdale, likened the situation to “David and Goliath” and said most people can’t afford to hire lawyers on an hourly fee basis.

“Right now, the one-way attorney fee statute helps level the playing field and gives Floridians a fighting chance,” Campbell said.

As another example of the proposed changes, the bill would revamp laws about “comparative negligence.” Under current law, juries determine each party’s percentage of fault in negligence lawsuits, with damages awarded based on the percentages.

For example, if a plaintiff is determined to be 60 percent at fault and a defendant is 40 percent at fault, the defendant would be required to pay 40 percent of the damages amount. But under the bill, defendants would effectively have to be at least 51 percent at fault before they could be forced to pay damages.

DeWayne Terry, a plaintiffs’ attorney who represented the Florida Justice Association at Friday’s meeting, objected to the proposed change, saying the issue is “about accountability.”

“Do not allow the insurance companies to get a free pass on not requiring the person that’s wrong to pay their fair share,” Terry said.

But Rep. Dean Black, R-Jacksonville, the change would be good policy.

“Under current law, a person who is 99 percent at fault for an accident can sue another person who’s only 1 percent at fault,” Black said. “This creates unjust outcomes, and it incentivizes lawsuits that really should never be in the system.”

As an outgrowth of that issue, Democrats unsuccessfully sought an exemption for motorcycle riders who do not wear helmets and get injured. Under the Democrats’ proposal, juries would not have been able to consider that bikers were not wearing helmets when apportioning fault about injuries.

“What it (the proposed amendment) allows is for people to exercise their freedoms,” Rep. Hillary Cassel, D-Dania Beach, said. “And let’s remember, we’re talking about law-abiding citizens.”

But the committee voted 13-4 to reject the proposal, as a group of bikers watched from the audience.

Kyle Weaver, an attorney representing the Florida Trucking Association, opposed the proposed amendment and said “life is about choices.”

“Whatever their decision is, if they choose not to wear a helmet, that’s their choice, but it should be evidence of comparative negligence,” Weaver said.

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: DNC ‘War Room’ rips author Ron DeSantis ahead of book launch. (A.G. Gancarski, Florida Politics, February 24, 2023)

DNC ‘War Room’ rips author Ron DeSantis ahead of book launch. 

By A.G. Gancarski, 

Florida Politics, February 24, 2023)

The press release spotlights various anti-Barack Obama attacks made by America's Governor.

Though Ron DeSantis’ “Courage to be Free” is embargoed even from reviewers ahead of its Tuesday release, political enemies are offering a preview.

The latest example comes from an arm of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The so-called “DNC War Room” is spotlighting the Governor’s new book by quoting purportedly politically inconvenient lines from his previous release, the less-heralded Dreams from Our Founding Fathers: First Principles in the Age of Obama.

Per the DNC, DeSantis’ first book “before his first congressional campaign … gave a window into his ideology. In his book, he laid out his extreme policy visions, dabbled with fringe conspiracies, heaped praise on the Tea Party movement, and railed against Medicare and Social Security.”

The juiciest material on offer finds DeSantis having “obsessed over President Barack Obama’s name and background” in the same way Donald Trump and the birther movement did.

“Obama called attention to his own Muslim roots, hoping to connect with the people of the Muslim world. During the presidential campaign of 2008, the mention of Obama’s middle name of ‘Hussein’ was considered to be outside the bounds of political decency. … Once Obama was in office, though, he highlighted the fact that he was ‘an African-American with the name Barack Hussein Obama’ as a way of endearing the United States with Muslims throughout the world.”

That was a recurring refrain for DeSantis: “Obama’s attempt to ingratiate himself with predominantly Muslim countries by showcasing his father’s Muslim roots and his middle name of Hussein was anything but a sound approach to diplomatic relations.”

DeSantis used Obama’s intersectional identity as a cudgel to chide the President for not being committed enough to the trope of American exceptionalism throughout the book, as highlighted by the Democrats.

“Obama also habitually called attention to (and in some instances unfairly exaggerated) America’s supposed flaws, even offering unsolicited apologies. He seemed to think that characterizing his country as a deeply flawed giant would endear him to other nations and foreign audiences. Within a week after taking office, he told the Al Arabiya news network that his presidency marked the chance to improve relations between the United States and the Muslim world, suggesting that the tension in the relationship stemmed from the behavior of the United States.”

DeSantis also took Obama to task for expressing regret for the nuclear attacks on Japan that ended World War II.

“Obama made international news when, in August of 2010, he became the first American president to send a representative from the United States to the annual Hiroshima remembrance ceremony ‘to express respect for all the victims of World War II.’ … Such a de facto apology served to create a moral equivalence between the actions of imperial Japan and the United States.”

Likewise, DeSantis condemned the President for talking about America’s “issues” with racism and associated oppression in a foreign speech, saying that decision to “invoke” subverted America’s moral authority.

“At a speech before the Turkish Parliament, Obama invoked what he called ‘our own darker periods of our history’ — slavery, segregation and the mistreatment of Native Americans. There existed no need to invoke these issues on foreign soil, and it simply reduced America’s moral authority in the eyes of the rest of the world and provided enemies of the United States with grist for their habitual criticism of America,” DeSantis chided.

Some of the other insights spotlighted are of the “water is wet” variety, including the unsurprising assertion that DeSantis embraced the “Tea Party” at its zenith.

“If anything, the fact that the tea party’s focus on the country’s founding principles represented a peculiar addition to modern political discourse demonstrates that the nation’s ruling class has not been faithful to such principles,” the budding politician wrote.

DeSantis “chastised Republicans for adding prescription drug coverage to Medicare and praised Paul Ryan’s plans to make cuts to Medicare and Social Security,” the DNC preview also notes.

“Other than the case of welfare entitlement, Republicans have, if anything, enhanced the welfare state through programs such as the addition of a prescription drug entitlement to Medicare, which was passed in a Republican Congress in 2003 and signed into law by George W. Bush. And even those Republicans most ambitious about reigning in federal spending, such as Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, have advocated changes that modernize but maintain the social safety net.”

While readers and reviewers eagerly await the Tuesday drop of the second DeSantis book, Democrats note there are lessons for 2024 even in his less-heralded first release.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at or on Twitter: @AGGancarski