It's about punishing them for being poor

It is really expensive being poor

Republicans in Florida will see the poor and people of color driven back off the voter rolls if it’s the last thing they do. On Tuesday the state’s House Criminal Justice Subcommittee passed along a new bill that would reverse much of the progress made by a widely popular amendment that restored voting rights to felons last November. Prior to its passage Florida was one of the four states in the country that denied felons the right to vote and it was also coincidentally the first to institute a poll tax which this new thing sounds a lot like and clearly is.

At question in the bill is the issue of when a person has officially completed their sentence. Republicans argue that they should be required to pay off all outstanding fines and fees including ones not imposed upon them by a judge in their sentencing before they can become eligible again. In other words any balance on the costs of their incarceration or probation such as ankle monitoring bracelets and any of the other horrific indignities they were subjected to by the profit-making carceral state torture apparatus must be paid in full before they are granted the basic right of suffrage. Civil court judgments unrelated to the state’s sentencing would also have to be paid off.

Is getting a job and your life back in order after completing a prison sentence often very difficult? Yes it is. Does that mean that many of the people might not be able to allocate money they do not have toward these often very old fines? Of course it does. What happens next? Fuck you is what according to state Republicans and also any other Republican anywhere else at any time in history regarding any other issues if we’re being fair to Republicans. You paid your debt to society now pay all these other debts we came up with in the meantime.

The bill “is an affront to Florida voters who approved Amendment 4,” Kirk Bailey of the ACLU of Florida said in a statement. “If this bill passes, it will undoubtedly continue to disenfranchise those who have already served their time and paid their debt to society.

In arguing against the passage of the bill the Fines and Fees Justice Center, a group fighting against the often arbitrary and cruelly punitive fees associated with incarceration and arrest, laid out how such costs act as an extra hurdle for poorer people.

“The end result of the proposed definition is to disenfranchise poor, low, and middle-income Floridians while higher wealth individuals can participate fully in our democracy. This is not about punishing someone for a crime – it is about punishing them for being poor,” they argue.

“Our position is simple: conditioning the fundamental right to vote on the payment of monetary obligations is unconstitutional. The right to vote should absolutely never come down to wealth, or the lack thereof, but [this bill] does just that. The most appropriate definition of ‘term of sentence’ is also the most simple: a person’s sentence is complete when they complete any period of incarceration or probation.”

In somewhat related news billionaire Patriots owner was offered a plea deal for soliciting prostitution in Florida this week.

“It's not known whether Kraft or the others will accept the conditions of the diversionary program, which includes completing 100 hours of community service, screening for sexually transmitted diseases, completing a course about prostitution and paying $5,000 per count,” ESPN reported but I think we know the answer to that one if we look deep inside our hearts. Being a Patriots fan has been very good the past few years no drawbacks or anything to be ashamed of whatsoever. You love to have devoted a significant part of your identity to this particular sporting franchise.

The amount owed by citizens registering to vote for the first time in Florida this year would likely be at minimum in the hundreds of millions of dollars according to WLRN Miami. As an added little extra fuck you many of these fees will have long since been turned over to private collection agencies who can then impose extra fees of up to 40% under state law. So now your ability to vote is conditional on whether you’re good on the vig to some giamope the government sold the lien on your body to which is more or less how the founders envisioned it.

That’s all before we even get to how Florida and other states have long used “so-called ‘user fees’ and surcharges to underwrite criminal justice costs and close budget gaps,” as the Brennan Center for Justice has explained it. That’s kind of a lot to cover here but real quick aside:

“Since 1996, Florida added more than 20 new categories of financial obligations for criminal defendants and, at the same time, eliminated most exemptions for those who cannot pay,” they wrote in 2010 of Florida’s “cash register justice.” It hasn’t gotten much better since.

“The fee increases have not been accompanied by any evident consideration of their hidden costs: the cumulative impacts on those required to pay, the ways in which the debt can lead to new offenses, and the costs to counties, clerks and courts of collection mechanisms that fail to exempt those unable to pay.”

It is really expensive being poor.

Here is a tweet from James Grant the committee chair pushing for the new poll tax in question. Grant’s daddy was a state legislator just like him what are the odds man and Grant also doesn’t happen to think term limits apply to him. He thinks he’s got the right to be in office for as long as he wants and other people shouldn’t have the right to vote against him.

Not sure what any of that means but here’s one from him from Tuesday morning before the bill vote where he appears to be fantasizing that he’s a heroic Viking heading into battle which should not be surprising from a guy trying to put the racist toothpaste back into the racist bottle.

Prior to the amendment ex-felons were required to petition the governor and a comically evil panel of ghouls with no set rules, standards, or accountability to plead for the restoration of their civil rights.

“It’s a cross between The Jerry Springer Show and a trial in Soviet Russia,” Jon Sherman, the senior counsel at the Fair Elections Center told the Guardian before the vote last year. “It’s a kangaroo court that sits in judgment of people’s lives and whether they’ve turned them around post-sentence. The governor and his cabinet can make any determination for any reason – stated or unstated.”

You will not be surprised to hear they did not rule favorably in most cases.

Infamously in August of 2018 while sitting on such a panel the state’s Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis asked a black man how many children he had fathered and with how many different women. Later he asked another man whether or not he was a regular church-goer as a means of determining whether or not he deserved to ever vote again.

Hold on I just got an email with Florida in the subject line let me check if it’s related to any of this.

In Key Largo, the new 200-room, 13-acre Baker’s Cay Resort, at mile marker 97 bayside, is open as the Florida Keys’ only Curio Collection by Hilton. The property features pet-friendly amenities, with a Cay-9 pet program with animal beds and lifejackets, cooling water bowls and collar charms. Pets can explore the hotel’s private beach, swim in Florida Bay during Paw Happy Hour and lap up “puptails” and “yappetizers.” Pet parents can indulge at a beachside tequila and taco bar with house-made hot sauces crafted from peppers grown on the property. Food and beverage options include Dry Rocks and Calusa restaurants and two bars. Visit bakerscayresort.com or call 305-852-5553.

Ah, hmm, I guess not but good to know if you want to take your dog swimming on a private beach in Key Largo. Last month I wrote about the times I visited the Keys and also about how the world is going to end due to climate change and about alcoholism and some other things in a paid-subscriber-only piece and it was a good one you should go read it.

Florida’s efforts to disenfranchise black people stretch back to Reconstruction when they were faced with the prospect of being forced to grant the right to vote to every man in the state. They instead came up with the genius idea to arrest as many of them as possible to prevent them from exercising the franchise which was crucial because so many white people had had their own voting rights taken away due to their role in things such as rebelling against and declaring war on the United States. The white people might have been outnumbered if they didn’t act fast which they of course did.

Kind of sprinting through things here due to you could write a nine million page book about all the various flavors of racist laws we have had but in 1865 they passed what were called Black Codes that increased penalties on recently freed slaves for things like vagrancy and disobedience and other made up shit, “a crime with such a broad definition nearly anyone could be charged,” as the Washington Post described it last year.

Putting a point on it historian Jerrell Shofner wrote that “felony disenfranchisement was a way of reducing the effect of the despised black suffrage that Conservatives knew they had no alternative but to accept.”

Later on in 1889 Florida instituted a poll tax of $2 under the presumption that few if any black people would be able to pay it and they were right. Few poor white people could either but one cool trick a lot of states with poll taxes did was grandfather people in saying that if your literal grandfather had voted then you could too.

“The historical record is filled with racially derogatory statements from delegates at State constitutional conventions who believed poll taxes and other devices would suppress Black voter registration and turnout,” the Constitution Center writes.

And all of that worked really well for decades up until the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the 24th Amendment all of which simply made the racists have to get more creative which is exactly what they’re doing today. America’s capacity for innovating new kinds of racist shit to do is unparalleled.

On the other hand I just saw a video where a host on Fox News Katie Pavlich wanted to talk to racism’s manager because America doesn’t get enough credit for ending slavery a mere hundred and fifty years after it started she said.

Responding to Elizabeth Warren’s talking about looking at the idea of reparations she got real red and raw and dumber than shit about the whole thing.

“They keep blaming America for the sin of slavery but the truth is, throughout human history, slavery existed, and America came along as the first country to end it within 150 years. And we get no credit for that to move forward and try to make good on that.”

That’s weirdly not true buddy.

Also Tucker Carlson this week said he doesn’t think the country is racist due to “inter-marriage.”

Here’s something else that sucks.

Dick Dale the beloved guitar icon who invented surf rock died earlier this week and if that excerpt above is from an interview he gave a few years back to the Pittsburgh City Paper.

Dick Dale was from Boston and spent a lot of time down on the South Shore where I am from and that sort of thing shouldn’t matter when a celebrity dies but it does I think we all know that. It’s different to know that someone looked at the same trees you looked at.

I would see Dick Dale dates advertised at the Middle East in Boston like way more frequently than you would have thought they should be happening up until this year and be like why is this dude still touring so hard he must love it! and maybe he did love it but he shouldn’t have had to keep working until the day he died no one should have to do that celebrity or not. I’m trying to imagine touring at 80. I fucking hated it at 25 and no way I was gonna do it at 40 with this band I have now it sucks shit.

In any case the point is I can't imagine a more succinct emblem of our cancerous American nightmare than a beloved elderly guitarist dragging his dying body across the country to play in pain while his hospital tells him to wash out the bag he shits into to save some dead eyed ghouls money.

Here’s something else that sucks part two.

I think it’s fair to say that doctors have been overprescribing opioids for a good long while here now but I don’t know if that’s necessarily because they are fucking morons who don’t know what they’re doing and want all their patients to die? I think it maybe has to do with the Sackler family and others narcotraficantes like them bribing doctors into pushing as much of their product as possible (?) And then they had the fucking stones to try to make the rest of us look like junkies for falling for it.

“We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible,” Arthur Sackler wrote in an email in 2001 if you remember that part of the sordid plot which you probably do because I will never forget it. “They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals,” he said.

A few weeks ago I wrote this about that particular family whom I do not care for all that much:

I don’t know if they are going to end up facing any consequences for what they’ve done we don’t tend to punish billionaires particularly frequently these days but at the very least I think we can all agree to remember their name for what it is. They love having their names attached to big impressive things so let us call the opioid crisis by what it is let us make sure to say the name Sackler every time we mention it. The Sackler opioid crisis. That way they can be remembered on throughout history like they always wanted.

I don’t really want to ruin the overall you know vibe of Hell World by sharing some good news but here is some good news: Turns out the National Portrait Gallery in London won’t be accepting a £1 million donation from the Sacklers after an uproar over their accepting the blood money.

“But while both parties insisted that the decision was mutual, it will be seen as a major blow to the family’s status as leading philanthropists and evidence that a campaign against the Sacklers, led by the American artist Nan Goldin, has been effective,” the Guardian reported.

Goldin who has spoken about becoming addicted to OxyContin herself after being prescribed it said today that they did the right thing. “I hope there is a domino effect now,” she said.

“There needs to be,” she said.

“I don’t know how they live with themselves,” she said.

Goldin wrote an article in Art Forum about her experience and Elizabeth Sackler who loves art wrote a letter in response trying to explain that her father’s stake in Purdue was sold to his brothers after he died so she had nothing to do with the whole thing. She’s a big supporter of the arts including the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

“My father, Arthur M. Sackler, died in 1987, before OxyContin existed and his one-third option in Purdue Frederick was sold by his estate to his brothers a few months later,” she wrote. “None of his descendants have ever owned a share of Purdue stock nor benefitted in any way from it or the sale of OxyContin. I stand with all angry voices against abuse of power that harms or compromises any and all lives.”

It was Arthur’s savvy in marketing Valium that got the ball rolling on the Sackler drug empire Goldin has pointed out but I take her point no one wants to feel guilty about things that happened before we were born or that our parents set into motion and maybe we shouldn’t feel quite as bad as them but we still benefited from it all didn’t we. We still got the leg up.

“She’s not off the hook,” Goldin said.

None of us are. Not for any of this.