On Florida: The Age of Endarkenment

My favorite singer/songwriter is the incomparable Ray Wylie Hubbard – the enormously talented Texas troubadour/philosopher/bard best known for penning the 70’s anthem, “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother.”

In 2010, Ray released a superb album entitled:

“A. Enlightenment  B. Endarkenment (Hint: There is no C).” 

Say what you want – that’s a damn good title – and a pretty fair experiential lesson for life in post-millennial America.

As much as we like to think we live in the Land of the Free, the fact is, our daily lives and livelihoods are increasingly controlled by forces we can’t begin to understand – or compete with.

Allow me to lay some heavy ‘enlightenment’ on you:

We live in a world where it’s difficult to comprehend what’s happening at City Hall – let alone in Deland, Tallahassee and Washington – because big money has effectively taken We, The People out of the equation.

We’ve been written out of the contract.

Our Rich and Powerful – the descriptor used by the Daytona Beach News-Journal to identify those who manipulate and control our destiny through an artificially created economy built upon the carefully directed flow of public funds – know what’s good for us, and themselves.

They purchase politicians at election time like chattel and use them as a convenient means of controlling their environment.

We are simply a means to an end – a necessary nuisance whose presence is required in the voting booth – and whose tax dollars are necessary to grease the right wheels in a system that no longer bears any semblance to a representative democracy.

Our local ‘powers-that-be’ tell us what they want us to hear – as though we were addle-brained children.   They paint some weird Fata Morgana on our collective horizon – a superior mirage that can only be realized if we follow their twisted logic – a panacea hotel, boardwalk expansion, or acquiescing to millions in corporate giveaways to make way for the “next big thing.”

While our lawmakers in Tallahassee simply ignore us.

Anyone who still thinks government has their best interests at heart – or that politicians give a tinker’s damn about the will of the people they represent – need look no further than the Florida legislatures shocking foot dragging in developing reasonable regulations for medical marijuana.

During the regular 2017 legislative session, lawmakers got hung-up on intractable differences over capping the number of storefronts – and ultimately failed to agree on how many dispensaries the state should have before time ran out.

So much for the concept of a free, open and reasonably regulated marketplace, eh?

Fortunately, the legislature was forced into overtime to hammer out issues related to economic development (read: corporate welfare funding) and education allocations – which provided a last/best opportunity for lawmakers to formulate rules and regulations for the implementation of medical marijuana in Florida.

When Governor Slick Rick Scott perceived the two sides were close to a deal, he added the “pot bill” to the special session, and, finally, a compromise came together.

Regardless of your feelings on the medical marijuana issue – the fact that our elected officials in Tallahassee initially shirked their sworn duty and refused to conform to the will of the people, put the objections of the always tight-assed law enforcement lobby over the needs of their most vulnerable constituents, and allowed the petty money grubbing and bickering inherent to our legislative process to hamstring a constitutional amendment supported by 7 out of 10 Florida voters – should be a real eye-opener for everyone.

I happen to support medical marijuana in all its forms, because I believe it is the right and compassionate thing to do for seriously ill people.

Unfortunately, the Florida Police Chiefs Association and other state and national organizations representing law enforcement executives don’t agree with me – and there are millions of reasons (and dollars) why.

After all, the “War on Drugs” has been so wildly successful in Florida and elsewhere that we should keep doing the same thing over-and-over again while expecting different results.

Add to that the greed factor in Tallahassee – a historic problem that helped Florida become the epicenter of the opioid epidemic – and you get the idea that perhaps profit motives are taking precedence over sound public policy.  Again.

Remember?

In the first six months of 2010, Florida medical practitioners bought more Oxycodone pills (41.3 million) than all healthcare providers in every other state in the nation combined.

You might also remember that in 2009, during the height of Florida’s “OxyContin Express,” Slick Rick Scott was working overtime to – inexplicably – torpedo efforts to create a prescription drug database which would have helped curtail the proliferation of “pill mills” that illicitly supplied dangerous and highly addictive narcotic pain medication to the Southeastern United States and beyond.

Now – far be it from me to cast aspersions – but I find it interesting that Governor Scott accumulated much of his incredible personal fortune in 2002, after founding a chain of walk-in clinics in Florida called Solantic – which has been described as the “Starbucks of Healthcare.”

When you add the Governor’s earlier shenanigans at Columbia/HCA, which was fined $1.7 billion for Medicare fraud after Scott was forced to resign in 1997, and you get the idea Rick is relatively comfortable profiting from the dark side of the healthcare industry.

It is estimated that medical marijuana will be a billion-dollar industry in Florida in just three-years.

Do you think ensuring that the right people were perfectly situated may have played a role here?

Anyone else of the opinion that setting the economic playing field was more important to Florida legislators than fulfilling the therapeutic needs of their constituents?

In my view, if you’ve ever seen someone you care about struggling with the horrific effects of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, the devastation of chemotherapy, or the debilitating results of post-traumatic stress disorder, I’m sure you can appreciate the benefit of anything that can bring effective palliative relief.

And if you truly are suffering – I could care less how you ingest medicinal marijuana.

But compassion wasn’t a factor here.

In my view, this represents the ne plus ultra example of how those we elect to high office – at all levels of government – routinely ignore the will of the public they are sworn to serve – an arrogance of power that I find both ethically and morally contrary to our system of democratic governance.

Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, I think we can all agree that the greed, squabbling and back-handed swipes that have resulted in legislative gridlock in Tallahassee simply cannot continue.

Look, I have been openly appreciative of House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s efforts to clean up state government – but his willingness to enter “secret” budget negotiations with Slick Rick and the obstructionist Senate President Joe Negron – was, in my view, counter to his stated goal of transparency in government.

In fact, it stinks.

Then, before the recent special session, Corcoran and Negron couldn’t even agree on what they agreed upon during their clandestine parleys.

See what happens when politicians conduct public business outside the public’s view?

Interestingly, I think Congresswoman, and 2018 democratic gubernatorial candidate, Gwendolyn Graham summed it up best when she said, “They made a secret backroom deal, now they can’t even agree on the secret deal they made, and they’re costing taxpayers with a chaotic special session filled with dysfunction and devoid of any leadership.”

 Unfortunately, she’s right.

All we truly know at this point is our reptilian Governor got what he wanted in the end – millions of tax dollars to fund his pet corporate welfare conduits – Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

 (Yeah, I’m aware of the limitations that have been put on Enterprise Florida. Do you really think these provisions will hamper even one tax dollar from flowing into the right hands?  Hide and watch.)

The rest of us got a ham-handed, clear-as-mud plan to implement medical marijuana which will invariably face legal challenges from John “For the People” Morgan, and every other facet of this budding industry.

“For the People.”

Now there’s an enlightening concept our elected officials at all levels of government should reconsider.

 

One thought on “On Florida: The Age of Endarkenment

  1. Hit the nail squarely on the head. Anyone who imagines that the welfare of the peons is foremost in the minds of our governing class is delusional. As far as I am concerned, we would get better representation by having our “elected” officials drawn via lottery from the voters roles, much as jurors are selected.

    Like

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