Florence Snyder - 2/8 - SaintPetersBlog

Florence Snyder

Florence Beth Snyder is a Tallahassee-based lawyer and consultant.
rape protest

Florence Snyder: Now in her 80s, Susan Brownmiller continues to inspire

At age 81, the journalist, historian, and feminist icon Susan Brownmiller has lost none of the youthful mix of outrage and optimism that fueled the four furious years of research and reporting that became “Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape.”

Brownmiller in 1975 (AP)

The highly influential tome was front page news when first published in 1975.

Since then, the book has informed and inspired generations of lawyers, social workers, and everyday people who are trying to bend the arc of history in the direction of justice for rape victims.

As this year full of extraordinary loss comes to a close, it is reassuring to know that Brownmiller is of sound and generous mind, giving interviews to Al-Jazeera, PBS, and fan-girls from Florida who call to say “thank-you.”

Brownmiller was in her 30s when she began reporting on the movement then-known as “women’s liberation.” Somewhere in a consciousness-raising group, “I realized that rape had a history,” said Brownmiller, and someone needed to tell the story of those who, since ancient times, had been violated, and thereafter shamed in to silence.

“Against Our Will” maps the weaponization of male genitalia from the Trojan War to Vietnam.

“It’s still a battle strategy,” Brownmiller said last week, when, for too-brief a moment, People on TV were talking about Aleppo.

Today’s news that Boko Haram is teaching child soldiers how to rape comes as absolutely no surprise to Brownmiller’s audience.

When Brownmiller began her research at the New York Public Library, its card catalogue contained more entries for rapeseed than for rape.  Police and prosecutors viewed rape as a property crime against fathers and husbands, if they thought about it at all.

The ratio of rape to rapeseed has changed in today’s digital card catalogue, thanks to women like Brownmiller who did the hard and largely thankless work of bringing light to dark corners where women’s spirits are broken.

Even though rape remains a ubiquitous weapon of war, Brownmiller continues to “hope that changes in our lifetime.”

“I have to feel optimistic,” she said. “The fires of good always burn, and pendulums shift all the time.”

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Hold the door on the DSOs

Now that Pitbull has opened Pandora’s Box, all sorts of corporate welfare stories are flying around where Richard Corcoran can see them. Last week, the University of Central Florida (UCF) put itself on the radar with its unprecedented decision to turn a private, not-for-profit outfit called Limbitless into a university direct-support organization (DSO).

Limbitless is by all accounts doing the Lord’s work. A creation of UCF engineering students, the company makes artificial limbs from 3D printers and enlists celebrities like Iron Man himself, Robert Downey Jr., to deliver them to kids who would otherwise have to do without. So far, around 15 families have benefited from Limbitless’ ingenuity and generosity.

Everyone should hope that these kinds of young people can build these kinds of ideas into ventures that generate profits and enable them to do well by doing good.  And everyone who thinks that government should not be in the business of “picking winners and losers ” should say, “Whoa!”

As a nonprofit, Limbitless has had to compete in the real world for whatever it needs to fund its overhead. With the magic and fairy dust of DSO status, the overhead burdens are lifted. UCF will furnish Limbitless with free office space, lawyers, flacks, and the priceless imprimatur of the nation’s second-largest university.

DSOs have been proliferating like kudzu for decades and performing the same function. The whole point of a DSO is to provide a thick and shady haven. Reporters are rarely seen, except when the DSO does something spectacularly stupid, which has been known to happen.

Nonprofits, too, have been breeding grounds for scandal. What UCF has done is unprecedented for a reason. Let’s hope it’s not too late to hold the door.

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Craig Fugate fumes while Florida sinks in a sea of bulls**t!

Like a teenager who wants Daddy’s money, but not Daddy’s directives, Gov. Rick Scott is not embarrassed to throw tantrums when the feds fail to pony-up fast enough whenever it rains, even as he sticks his fingers in his ears at unwanted advice like “try rolling up your windows.”

Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) director Craig Fugate isn’t having it.

Fugate was the wind beneath then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s wings in the horrific hurricane seasons of the decade past. The Bush administration won worldwide admiration for its competence in dealing with whatever Mother Nature threw our way, and Fugate went on to earn more praise managing the nation’s response to the rapidly accelerating pace of acts of God and their ungodly consequences.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg View’s Christopher Flavelle, Fugate makes the case for a “disaster deductible.” The idea is to give state and local governments a pocketbook reason to get out of denial and in to action that would reduce the risk of death and damage from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, volcanoes and earthquakes, fracking-related or not. States would be on the hook for a hefty deductible, but can bring the number down if they resist the urge to build in places people were not meant to live.

Fugate calls the current governments won’t worry be happy FEMA will pay incentives “perverse.” And since he’s talking to Bloomberg, which is an ultra-sophisticated venue for business journalism and not a full-service family newspaper, he also calls them “bullshit.”

“The builders and developers and all the people running around saying they’re capitalists and they’re Republicans and they’re conservatives, and it’s all about individual freedom and making money and growing the tax base, and all the bullshit they throw at people, convincing them this is an economic boon activity. It’s nothing but socialism and social welfare for developers when you subsidize risk … FEMA is the euphemism for you, the taxpayer, holding the bag,” fumed Fugate.

Developers can buy permits, pols and PR campaigns about jobs! jobs! jobs! for pennies on the dollars they’ll make building whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want, Fugate is that rare public official who won’t ignore the smell, and isn’t afraid to call it by its right name.

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For your Christmas enjoyment: Adam Putnam’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”

With apologies to Band Aid…

[Paul Young]
In Legoland … there’s no need to cry
Adam Putnam’s watching over our food supply
[Boy George]
And in our State of Sunshine, we give thanks for this Wonder Boy
Raise your glass of Martini flavored with a big Key lime!
[Phil Collins on drums]
[George Michael]
But say a prayer … pray for the school children
At school lunch time
[Simon Le Bon]
Kids are forced to eat that mystery meat
There’s a world of fruits and veggies
[Sting and Simon Le Bon]
Putnam’s bringing it to you
Fruits and vegetables will be coming out of their ears…
And when he’s Governor the menus will improve.
[Bono}
Well tonight thank God you’re not eating school lunch food!
And there won’t be crap on the lunch tray now that Putnam’s here
Polk County produce will be coming their way
Citrus juice replaces Coke
Hope he’s not just blowin’ smoke
He’s promising a salad bar for all!
Here’s to him
Raise your wine glass, everyone!
Here’s to him
Lakeland’s very favorite son
On the web at “freshfromflorida”  dot com!
Feed school kids….
Citrus fruit from Florida!
Feed our kids….
Cattle from the Putnam Ranch!
Feed school kids…
Tomatoes on their pizza pie!
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AARP fights ‘loneliness epidemic’ with awareness campaign

Loneliness is an “epidemic” affecting 8 million older Americans and the newest addition to America’s epidemic of Awareness Campaigns.

In recent months, we’ve been flooded with Awareness of senior citizens bringing up grandchildren whose parents are dead or in jail. The rest of the old people are isolated and depressed in unprecedented numbers, says AARP, and it’s time to get Aware.

Because nothing says Awareness better than an online tool, AARP has gifted us with a pandering to a millennial-sounding website called Connect2Affect.org. It’s a 1Stop4U venue where old folks can “learn what leads to elder isolation and how to build social networks …” as well as “post … stories about loneliness.”

That could appeal to cyber-savvy geezers who aren’t overly busy hooking up with high school crushes, along with family members who don’t have time to spend with Uncle Ed and Aunt Mabel, but do have a chance to increase their Awareness.

AARP has developed a print and online “self-assessment checklist that can screen for someone’s risk of becoming socially isolated or depressed.”  Many self-aware seniors self-assessed without AARP’s help, and turned in droves to their doctors for companionship and a pill or three to ease their emotional pain. It hasn’t made a dent in the isolation epidemic, but it has blown a hole in the nation’s pocketbook.

For most of history, people lived in communities where they had meaningful and necessary contributions to make, right up to the time of their brief and final illness. We used to be Aware that we don’t have to outsource our babies to daycare and our compos-mentis grandparents to warehouses that look better than they smell.

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FAU puts its money where its priorities are

Lane Kiffen

In 1962, a legislative “initial operating money” appropriation plus private donations for “architect fees, salaries and other expenses” added up to $400,000 in seed corn for Florida Atlantic University.

It still adds up to more money than most working folks will see in 10 years, but it’s less than half of what the school will pay its new head football coach, Lane Kiffin (rhymes with “What is FAU sniffn’?).

To be fair, Kiffin is almost as “big-time” as FAU Football’s Founding Father Howard Schnellenberger, having honed his craft and worn-out his welcome at some of the country’s most prestigious football programs.

Those who swoon when a football coach talks like a Sensitive Guy in a Lifetime cable movie will not begrudge Kiffin his $950K FAU base salary.

“I felt the people there,” Kiffin said in welcoming himself to Boca Raton. “I felt how they wanted me. I felt the vision there. Coming out of there, that’s when I felt like the recruit who was like ‘OK, they have a vision for this place and how we can do it and they want to do it together.'”

 FAU president John Kelly was swooning and ripping his own bodice.

“Today, we continue our pursuit of excellence, our unbridled ambition by hiring the top person in the country, the genius in coaching: Lane Kiffin,” Kelly said.

Kelly reflects the prevailing wisdom — and don’t you dare argue with it — that everyone who teaches everything from anthropology to zoology should feel honored to drive their ten-year-old cars to campuses where coaches live like kings. A football team is a tide that lifts the academic boats, university presidents tell us from their skyboxes where they chat up the boosters. You’d think that nobody learned anything at college in the days before a blank check for football was embroidered into every school seal.

“Genius” Kiffin’s highlight reel includes being called a liar by Raiders owner Al Davis; NCAA violations at the University of Tennessee; and getting his walking papers from USC on an airport tarmac.

“It gives us a head coach with, obviously, a brand in himself,” FAU Athletic Director Patrick Chun enthused. ” … he’s the biggest celebrity football coach in our state.”

For his first act in office, Kiffin recruited another celebrity, De’Andre Johnson, whose collegiate career at Florida State was cut short when he was caught on camera striking a woman in a Tallahassee bar.

Stepping up to journalism’s mission to help with healing processes, Good Morning America gave Johnson airtime to apologize to the victim. Johnson continued to heal at East Mississippi Community College, where he played good football and rebranded himself as an advocate for victims of domestic violence.

Owl Nation is hoping that Johnson’s redemption is real, and is rooting for Kiffin to enrich the university, and not just himself and the retinue that surrounds a head coach, even at a fourth-rate football program, in a city whose name is regularly mispronounced by late night comedians.

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Christmas is a-comin’ and the geese are gettin’ hacked

With 11 shopping days ‘til Christmas, Yahoo dropped a lump of coal into the stockings of 1 billion of its users with news that their accounts had been “breached.”

That’s tech-speak for “bad guys forged your cookies” — and they are not talking about the sweets you leave next to Santa’s glass of milk.

Worse, bad guys have Yahoo’s “proprietary code” — and they are not talking about Pitbull’s million-dollar “trade secret.” For purposes of this holiday migraine, cookies and codes are the cyber-pathways by which everybody who does anything on the internet can have their savings stolen, their credit ruined and their life destroyed.

There will be time after Christmas for recriminations, and for Verizon to pull out of its “what were we thinking?” plan to pay $4.8 billion to take Yahoo off the hands of its shareholders.

Right now, Yahoo’s shellshocked customers are playing pickup sticks with passwords and slogging through lists of What You Need to Do Right Now, Dammit.

Meanwhile, back in the 20th century, Florida elections supervisors are fretting over the privacy of voters’ home addresses, which any 8-year-old can find on the internet, and birth dates, which most voters seem to have already shared with Mark Zuckerberg, Mike Allen and Peter Schorsch, and are happy to have them pass it on to the world.

No matter how much time we spend changing our passwords and passing ludicrous exemptions to our public records law, privacy is an idea whose time has come — and long gone.

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Plucky kids and dedicated teachers work to save school news

Facts may have died in 2012, but the obituary has yet to reach a handful of plucky high school kids who know that local news is important, and work hard to bring it to their classmates.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Erica Breunlin takes a deep dive into the shallow pool of secondary school resources for kids who aspire to careers in truth-telling, or just want to learn how to be smarter consumers of current events. As usual, it’s the teachers who are doing the heavy lifting, with very little help from individuals and institutions who claim to care about civics, civility, and surveys that show that young people can’t tell the difference between truth and tripe.

“I won’t let this thing die,” vows DeLand High School’s April Sniffen. “This thing” is The Growler, a delightfully-named school newspaper that’s been around since the 1920s, and has added an online edition to the workload, even as student participation has dwindled by dozens in the years she has served as sponsor.

Over at University High, Courtney Kohler-Hanks spends a lot of uncompensated time teaching herself to teach journalism. Like Sniffen, she has no professional training in the news business, but understands that too many kids are consuming too many empty infotainment calories and have too little access to reliable information about what is happening in the places that matter most in their own lives.

“Anecdotally, we have a sense that many schools are de-emphasizing journalism and reducing or eliminating funding for newspapers because of primarily budget constraints,” Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, told the News-Journal.

“There’s also no doubt,” LoMonte added, “that students are being discouraged from pursuing journalism largely because of the uncertainty with career prospects.”

Somehow, some kids refuse to be discouraged. They’re working to “localize broader news topics and involve student voices”; “branch students’ news knowledge out past their own points of interest”; and give their readers “information about what’s going on in this school.”

“I definitely think that journalism has a bright future,” University High’s managing editor Savannah Sicurella, enthusiastically and correctly told the News-Journal.

It’s a refreshing contrast to the 60-something editors who stopped covering cops, courts, city commissions, and school boards and have the nerve to bash subscribers who left them to forage on Facebook for news of the neighborhood where they live.

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Meaningless metrics mask troublesome trends in higher education

Florida changes higher education funding formulas nearly as often as Kardashians change clothes. At the Department of Making Things Incomprehensible, Metrics Mavens have their hands full monkeying around with the Ten Metrics that determine which universities get the rich gravy, and which get the thin gruel.

Florida’s Ten Metrics appear to have been written by the folks who write insurance policies, credit card contracts and the scoring system for figure skating. We could get the same results cheaper with an actual tribe of monkeys throwing stuff against the wall.

For university boards of trustees, The Metrics may as well have been brought down from Mount Sinai by Moses himself. They are carved in stone, at least for the current budget cycle.

This week, Florida Gulf Coast University’s trustees are looking for ways to carve $8 million from the budget. That’s the amount of state funding the university stands to lose in the current round of roulette at the Metrics Casino. As of last month, the “average cost per degree metric” was kicked to the curb in favor of the “net tuition per degree metric.” FGCU administrators are projecting that the net tuition cost per degree will come in at $18,060— the highest among Florida’s universities.

In the competitive cage match that higher education planning has become, something will have to give. Items in the FGCU guillotine queue include library renovations, and real professors, who can always be replaced with minimum wage adjuncts.

Those who worship at the altar of Metrics tell us that this is the One True Path to affordable, high-quality education. Actually, $18,000 isn’t much more than the cost of college back when students could get an exceptional education with a part time job and loans they would not spend the rest of their lives paying back.

What has spiraled out of control is bogus academic and administrative jobs and golden parachutes for people with dubious credentials and friends in high places. FGCU is spending $250,000 on its search for a new president. That’s more—lots more—than university presidents were paid in the days when they had to buy their own cars and pay their own mortgages.

Political interference is an old story in Florida higher education, but the monthly manufacturing of meaningless metrics breaks new ground. We are running universities like a badly run business, and students are paying the very high price.

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Cox Newspapers’ founder spins in his grave as lights go out at The Palm Beach Post

Florida’s Ministries of Disinformation got an early Christmas present from Santa in Atlanta when Cox Newspapers pulled the plug on the Tallahassee Bureau of The Palm Beach Post and laid off its lone remaining ranger, veteran newsman John Kennedy.

The Cox media empire was born in Dayton, Ohio in an era when men with political ambitions could make a fortune and make their way to the Governor’s Mansion from a basecamp in the news business.

In 1920, Gov. James M. Cox almost made his way to the White House. His running mate was fellow One Percenter Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

The family blood got thinner over the years and Gov. Cox’s heirs relocated to Atlanta, where the climate was warmer and the taxes were lower. For decades, though, they honored their founder with scrappy political reporting that kept the Tallahassee bureaus of bigger, better-funded news organizations on their toes.

As a publisher and a politician, Gov. Cox crusaded for the first version of a state highway system; a no-fault system of compensation for workers injured on the job; and restrictions on child labor. Decent roads and decent treatment of children and working people are not what politicians want to talk about these days at their “avails” and they are not crying in their eggnog at the news that there will be one less reporter trying to get them off their talking points and messages-of-the-day.

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