A Robinson R44 goes home to Boca Raton (from the Panhandle)

Day 4 of a Robinson R44’s life after release from the factory…

Due to low clouds, we didn’t rush to get out of Destin, Florida, a beach town developed with the same attention to aesthetics as Ocean City, Maryland.

I posted the above images to Facebook, which added a reminder from Science (TM):

It’s Monday morning, but there are quite a few planes parked (looking towards the beach and the area for smaller planes):

We saw beautiful fish and rays along the shoreline, as well as Truman Show location Seaside, Florida (a New Urbanism development that is less urban/practical than the MacArthur Foundation-planned development in which we live). It was a one-hour flight to Tallahassee where we were prepared to assist Ron DeSantis with advice, if requested.

The northwest coast of Florida has been mostly left in its natural condition, punctuated by occasional fishing towns or camps:

Cedar Key, Florida was once the terminus of a railroad from Florida’s northeast coast, but is now comparatively isolated from the essentials of human life (Walmart, hospitals, Home Depot, etc.). Here we are setting up for a heroic landing on the shortest public runway in Florida, 2300′ (and a displaced threshold!):

When you land at Cedar Key, you can take a golf cart that’s already at the airport into town and pay the Cedar Key Adventures folks for its use. Or you can call Judy at (352) 949-2127 and she’ll come fetch you in her minivan ($20 into town for two). Steamers is Judy’s favorite restaurant, so we ate local oysters (cooked, but still perhaps not wise to combine with flying?), shrimp, and salad there with a water view:

Whoever wins the Republican nomination for the 2024 Presidential election might not need to campaign here:

Some photos around town, including extreme golf cart decoration and what is plainly the best fishing enterprise:

The gallery with the Wall-E sculpture also had some interesting artwork based on underlying nautical charts from Gayle Miller.

Back at the airport, a sign reminds pilots to think before departing in the dark:

A last look at the town…

We stopped for fuel at Lakeland, Florida, which has a great year-old restaurant: Waco Kitchen (from Waco Aircraft). Then it was over Florida’s Massif Central

and around Lake Okeechobee

before landing at Boca Raton.

It was about 33 hours of rotor-spinning time. We suffered from two squawks, unlike the previous flight that ended squawk-free. Robinson has a fancy new “cyclic guard” designed to keep folks in the front left seat from knocking into the central cyclic inadvertently. There is a somewhat complex mechanism to allow this to come down so that the seat can be flipped up to reveal the luggage compartment. The hardware came apart. We also had seepage from the tail rotor transmission sight glass window seal.

Final thoughts: Thank God we had air conditioning!

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The recent Falcon Heavy launch

I made it up to Titusville, Florida to watch the 6th Falcon Heavy launch. It was scheduled for a one-hour window starting at 7:29 pm so the Kennedy Space Center folks couldn’t be bothered to stay open and sell $250/person tickets for an up-close view. The wind was gusting to 30 knots all day, but forecast to quiet down around 8 pm and, therefore, SpaceX decided to launch at the very end of the window. A temporary flight restriction went live at 6:54 pm and cuts off a portion of the KTIX airspace, but the airport stays open and all runways are available to VFR pilots (I did not have to demonstrate my ability to land in a 30-knot crosswind, in other words).

Launches can be seen nicely from anywhere along the Intracoastal Waterway (regarding the channel markers: “red right returning doesn’t exactly work until you remember that the waterway goes from New Jersey to Texas and nobody wants to return to New Jersey”–local boat captain). My favorite spots are Shiloh’s, a local steakhouse with a lawn and some balconies, and the Space Bar, on a Marriott rooftop. Shiloh’s will have sports playing on its TVs and sometimes live music while the Space Bar plays the SpaceX YouTube feed (turns out that it is delayed by roughly 30 seconds).

The FBOs at KTIX close by 6 pm and most of the launches seem to be later in the evening. After hours, I prefer to park on the east side of the airport because it is a little closer for Uber so call U.S. Aviation for the gate code to get back in. The terminal will be closed, but there is a bathroom inside the fence for people who arrive after hours. The control tower closes at 9 pm, but there is pilot-controlled lighting, of course.

Shiloh’s from September 24, 2022:

Here’s the Space Bar setup:

The lobby and some other areas are fun too:

How did the launch look? I did not attempt to make an official record, since there were so many closer cameras pointed at the event. Here’s an interesting long exposure by Robert Wyman:

What about the sound? We were so far away that it did not hit us until about one minute after launch and was only a low rumble. A rocket launch in a movie theater is a lot more exciting, especially in the sound department. Still, it was fun to be in a crowd of people who appreciate space technology. After the launch, I caught a ride back to the airport with an interesting guy with whom I’d shared a table. He is involved with the training of firefighters to do water rescue. When I got back to Stuart, I found that a guy at APP Jet Center had been able to see the launch without taking more than a few steps outside:

Friends all the way down in Jupiter had also seen it.

Separately, I wonder why this ViaSat 3 system that was the payload makes economic sense. Each satellite supposedly has 1 terabit/second capacity. But how does that compare to the capacity of the entire Starlink system?

Going to Titusville and watching a rocket launch is the Florida $100 hamburger (closer to 1,000 Bidies, of course, when adjusted for inflation).


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More about The Swamp (book)

Second post regarding The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise, by Michael Grunwald. We’ll pick up the story at the dawn of the 20th century… (photos from Grassy Waters Preserve the other day)

NAPOLEON BROWARD declared war on the swamp during his 1904 campaign for governor, unfurling giant multicolored maps of the Everglades at campaign rallies, promising to bust a few holes in the coastal ridge and create an instant Empire of the Everglades. “It would indeed be a sad commentary on the intelligence and energy of the people of Florida to confess that so simple an engineering feat as the drainage of a body 21 feet above the level of the sea was beyond their power,” he taunted his audiences.

Broward has been vilified by modern environmentalists for his intense assault on the Everglades, but he was considered a staunch conservationist in his day. He supported strict laws to protect fish, game, birds, and oysters, and his top priority was the reclamation of a swamp for agriculture and development. Broward never stopped to think what draining the Everglades might do to the fish, game, birds, and oysters that lived there, but hardly anyone did. The conservationist John Gifford dedicated his book of Everglades essays to Broward, explaining that “the man who makes two blades of grass grow where only one grew before is the proverbial public benefactor, but the man who inaugurates a movement to render 3,000,000 acres of waste land highly productive deserves endless commendation.”

When a canal-based drainage project did succeed, the projects could be substantial.

Swampland the state had sold to settlers for 25 cents an acre now produced harvests of $600 an acre for tomatoes, $1,000 for lettuce, $1,500 for celery. At a time when farmers were struggling to survive on 160-acre homesteads out west, the farmer Walter Waldin netted $3,400 on six acres in six months in the Everglades—after building a home and feeding a family of five.

One problem, however, was that the canals were temporary:

[James Wright, a former high school math teacher hired by the Feds to study the challenge] also ignored the high cost of maintaining canals, a problem exacerbated by the gentle gradient of the Everglades, which produced currents too slow for the canals to scour themselves out, and by the explosive proliferation of the water hyacinth, an attractive but invasive weed that had clogged almost all the state’s waterways since a well-intentioned gardener named Mrs. Fuller imported it to Florida in 1884.

The setting aside of swamp for parks began in 1916 with a 4,000-acre Royal Palm State Park that became the core of Everglades National Park. Meanwhile, humans were trashing the rest. Regarding the Miami area:

Meanwhile, 34,000 acres of the Everglades had been converted into farms, and much of the rest was parched by ditches, drought, and the Tamiami Trail. “The drying up of the Glades, due to the various canals, is playing havoc with the birds here,” one surveyor wrote. “The finer ones are fast disappearing. They lack feeding grounds.” The water table was dropping fast, drying out springs that once bubbled to the surface on Cape Sable and within Biscayne Bay, reducing the downward hydraulic pressure caused by the weight of fresh water—the “head”—that kept salt water from the region’s estuaries from intruding into its aquifers. By 1920, Miami’s overpumped well fields at the edge of the Everglades were turning salty. The declining water table was also fueling the fires that raged in overdrained Everglades wetlands. Broward had ridiculed the idea that a swamp could catch fire, and Randolph had predicted soil shrinkage of no more than eight inches, but some of the Everglades had already lost three to five feet of the black muck that had inspired so many pioneer dreams. This was not only the result of subterranean fires; it was also caused by “oxidation,” the exposure of historically flooded organic soils to the open air. The aeration of the muck breathed life into long-dormant microbes in the soil, which consumed organic material that had accumulated underwater over thousands of years. The soils then dried into powder and blew away on windy days, kicking up dust storms so violent that pioneers “could hardly get out of the house without wearing goggles.”

Charles Torrey Simpson, an early preservationist, very nearly wondered heretically whether at least some humans should be illegal:

“We shall proudly point someday to the Everglade country and say: Only a few years ago this was a worthless swamp; today it is an empire. But I wonder quite seriously if the world is any better off because we have destroyed the wilds and filled the land with countless human beings.”

Agriculture in the Florida swamp got a huge boost when the state’s research lab figured out that the Everglades soil was deficient in copper, manganese, and some other necessary trace elements.

The idea that the federal government should be in charge of all of the water in Florida got a huge boost from President Herbert Hoover, whose confidence was not shaken in the repeated failures of the Army Corps of Engineers to control the Mississippi. The dike that surrounds Lake Okeechobee is named after Hoover. The effects of the dike were not all positive…

The Depression years were drought years, and the combination of the new dike, which prevented water from the lake from reaching the Everglades, and the old ditches, which carried water from the sky away from the Everglades, left its wetlands desert dry. Its fresh water table dropped like a boulder, allowing salt water to intrude further into its aquifers every year, contaminating wells and ruining tomato farms along the Gold Coast. Meanwhile, soils that had been accumulating underwater for thousands of years were vanishing with exposure to the air; in Belle Glade—town motto: Her Soil Is Her Fortune—the ground was sinking so quickly that settlers had to add an extra doorstep every few years.

Failure and unintended consequences always motivated the experts to go bigger. The late 1940s:

The Army Corps plan for the Central and Southern Florida project called for the most elaborate water control system ever built, the largest earthmoving effort since the Panama Canal. It envisioned 2,000 miles of levees and canals, along with hundreds of spillways, floodgates, and pumps so powerful they would be cannibalized from nuclear submarines. The C&SF project was designed to control just about every drop of rain that landed on the region, in order to end the cycle of not-enough-water and too-much-water that had destabilized the frontier and stifled its growth…

The plan’s first big innovation was its strict separation of the usable Everglades from the unusable Everglades, a concept that first appeared in Captain Rose’s drainage proposal for Henry Flagler. The plan also adopted Rose’s call for piece-by-piece as opposed to all-at-once drainage. The work began with a 100-mile-long “perimeter levee” running more or less parallel to the coastal ridge, walling off the Gold Coast and a wide slice of the eastern Glades from the rest of the marsh. Next, the Corps encircled and reclaimed the rich soils of the upper Glades with more levees and drainage canals, creating an Everglades Agricultural Area the size of Rhode Island. The Corps then built more levees to divide a swath of the central Glades even larger than Rhode Island into three gargantuan “water conservation areas,” a more recent plan devised by the Belle Glade research station. The station’s scientists had suggested that “rewatering” the central Glades could restore the region’s hydraulic head and mimic the natural storage capacity of the Everglades, preventing salt intrusion, soil subsidence, muck fires, and water shortages all at once. The conservation areas would still look like the Everglades, but they would hold onto needed water for farms and cities during droughts, absorb excess water from farms and cities during storms, and recharge the region’s aquifers to keep salt out of its groundwater.

In the mid-1950s, the Army Corps made a movie about their plans and achievements, Waters of Destiny:

One the Corps was on the job, people felt confident that dry land was around the corner and, therefore, real estate could be purchased without much thought regarding whether it was buildable.

The Corps’s work did enrich some real estate speculators, but it impoverished the Everglades and the animals:

THE C&SF PROJECT did not extend the glories of flood control to southwest Florida, but that did not stop two Baltimore brothers named Leonard and Julius Rosen from selling nearly half a million acres of swampland there during the boom. The Rosens had gotten rich selling an anti-baldness tonic called Formula Number Nine, featuring the miracle ingredient of lanolin—and the immortal tagline, “Have you ever seen a bald sheep?” The brothers could see that shivering northerners yearned for a piece of Florida the way bald men yearned for hair. Their Gulf American Corporation offered “a rich man’s paradise, within the financial reach of everyone,” the ultimate miracle elixir. Gulf American’s most ambitious venture was Golden Gate Estates, where the Rosens platted the world’s largest subdivision in the middle of Big Cypress Swamp. … The Rosens sold tens of thousands of lots in Golden Gate, parlaying their $125,000 investment in Florida swampland into a $115 million payout, but only a few dozen homes were built there.

The Corps’s work did enrich some real estate speculators, but it impoverished the Everglades and the animals:

Marjory Stoneman Douglas had expected the C&SF project to save the Everglades, but it turned out to be an ecological menace. It did a terrific job of draining wetlands and promoting growth, but its expanded canals carried more water out of the Everglades at a time when south Florida’s expanding cities and farms were increasingly dependent on water in the Everglades. Its flood protection prompted additional development in the Everglades floodplain, which prompted demands for additional flood protection. And the Corps and its like-minded partners in the flood control district—often run by former Corps engineers—refused to release water to the park, except when it was already inundated. They manipulated water levels to accommodate irrigation schedules and development schemes, discombobulating the natural water regime to which flora and fauna had adapted over the millennia. “What a liar I turned out to be!” Douglas cried.

Nobody benefitted more from this than the sugar industry:

Big Sugar received no direct subsidies, as its army of spokesmen constantly pointed out, but it depended on federal import quotas, tariffs, and price supports that cost American consumers as much as $2 billion a year. Florida’s growers also relied on a federal program to import their labor pool of 10,000 impoverished West Indian cane-cutters; the industry was notorious for mistreating them, withholding their wages, and deporting any who dared complain. The growers also reaped the benefits of the C&SF project, which irrigated their fields in the dry season and drained their fields in the rainy season. They received more than half the project’s water releases, while paying less than one percent of the district’s taxes.

But that runoff [from sugar cane fields] wasn’t harmless to the Everglades, because the things that extra phosphorus made grow generally didn’t belong in the marsh. The Everglades was “phosphorus-limited,” with flora and fauna peculiarly adapted to a nutrient-starved environment, and ill-suited to compete when even minute amounts of phosphorus became available. And those thimbles added up; the agricultural area pumped 100 tons of phosphorus a year into the Loxahatchee refuge, fertilizing the march of the cattails.

President Nixon began to reverse some of the damage that the 1950s hubris had caused, with the help of Florida’s first Republican governor (voters in the former slave state had previously been loyal Democrats):

The other tectonic shift in Florida politics in 1967 was the ascension of Claude Roy Kirk Jr., a little-known insurance salesman who looked like a mob boss, partied like a frat boy, and stunned the state’s political establishment by becoming its first Republican governor since Reconstruction. Kirk only received the GOP

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Florida: Hydrology is Destiny (book review)

Some excerpts from The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise, a book that covers the literally foundational element of transforming South Florida into a place where a substantial number of people could live. The initial assessment was unpromising:

The Spaniards had abandoned southern Florida after deeming it “liable to be overflowed, and of no use.”

The Seminole Indians, themselves recent migrants from the north, were an early obstacle to white settlement in Florida and the three decades of war in the swamp were America’s first military quagmire.

But the ink had barely dried [on an 1823 treaty] before white frontiersmen began seizing slaves from Seminoles, and famished Seminoles began plundering cattle from whites. The settlers began clamoring for the return of all blacks living with the Indians, even though the tribe had purchased many of them legally from the settlers. Florida’s legislative council also passed An Act to Prevent the Indians from Roaming at Large, sentencing any Seminole caught off the reservation to thirty-nine lashes. “We were promised justice, and we want to see it!” protested a tribal spokesman named Jumper. “We have submitted to one demand after another, in the hope that they would cease, but it seems that there will be no end to them, as long as we have anything left that the white people may want!” He was right. There were only 4,000 Seminoles in Florida, but that was 4,000 too many for Florida’s settlers. And the new president, one Andrew Jackson, intended to remove them.

The odds were not even:

[the whites] had superior manpower as well as firepower; 40,000 federal regulars and state militiamen would cycle through Florida, while the Seminoles had no way of reinforcing their original 1,000 warriors.

As in Vietnam, military officers were sometimes confused about the rationale for fighting:

Taylor’s exploits in Florida earned him the nickname “Old Rough and Ready,” and helped launch his path to the presidency, but he spoke for many military men when he mused that if the Seminoles wanted the Everglades, they should be allowed to keep it. “I would not trade one foot of Michigan or Ohio for a square mile of Florida swamp,” he wrote.

The author draws some direct parallels:

The Second Seminole War was America’s first Vietnam—a guerrilla war of attrition, fought on unfamiliar, unforgiving terrain, against an underestimated, highly motivated enemy who often retreated but never quit. Soldiers and generals hated it, and public opinion soured on it, but Washington politicians, worried that ending it would make America look weak and create a domino effect among other tribes, prolonged it for years before it sputtered to a stalemate. Of the eight commanding generals who cycled through Florida, Taylor was the only one whose reputation was enhanced, when he declared victory after a clash near Lake Okeechobee—a battle that achieved nothing except to confirm the lake’s existence.

Nature is a more fearsome enemy than the Seminoles:

Motte and his fellow medical men did not realize it, because they blamed tropical disease on “swamp miasmas” and the summer “sickly season,” but those mosquitoes spread malaria, dengue, and yellow fever. The U.S. troops also suffered from dysentery, tuberculosis, and a kind of collapse one officer described as a “general sinking of the system a regular cave-in of the constitution.” At one point, five battalions could not muster 100 men; after a two-month trek through Big Cypress, 600 out of 800 troops in one unit reported unfit for duty.

By the time the Seminole Wars ended (1858), South Florida was inhabited by just a handful of Seminoles and perhaps 50 whites. The first big drainage ideas, starting from northern Florida where farming had been successful, were put together in the 1880s and the land was being promoted even before it had been created:

Disston [the dredger] promoted his domain as America’s new winter playground and breadbasket, a frost-free, illness-free, bug-free paradise where 20 acres were worth 100 up north: “You secure a home in a garden spot of the country, in an equable and lovely climate, where merely to live is a pleasure, a luxury heretofore accessible only to millionaires.”

How would it work?

Disston’s drainage strategy was straightforward: Move the excess water in the Kissimmee valley down to Lake Okeechobee, then move the excess water in Lake Okeechobee out to sea. In the upper basin, his engineers proposed to link the Chain of Lakes with a series of canals and straighten the serpentine Kissimmee River. In the lower basin, they adopted Buckingham Smith’s plan to lower Lake Okeechobee: one canal east to the St. Lucie River and out to the Atlantic, one canal west to the Caloosahatchee River and out to the Gulf, and at least one canal south through the Everglades. “Okeechobee is the point to attack,” one Disston associate explained. The key to the plan was to make the outflow from the lake through the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Canals “equal to or greater than the inflow from the Kissimmee valley, which is the source of all the evil.” By “evil,” of course, he meant “water.”

Of course, with the feeble equipment of the day the grand plan couldn’t be executed and what portions were executed quickly filled up with silt. What was working was Henry Flagler’s railroad down the coast.

At first, he had limited his interests to St. Augustine and Jacksonville. Then he had intended to stop at Daytona Beach. He had already spent ten times more than he had planned, and south Florida was still a blank space on the map. Flagler figured he would concentrate on north Florida. But after several chilly winters, Flagler realized that north Florida’s supposedly frost-free climate was not much warmer than the rest of the temperate South. When he took a trip to the real subtropics 200 miles south of Daytona, he became enthralled by a white-sand barrier island called Palm Beach: “I have found a veritable Paradise!” Flagler also noticed a tangle of scrublands on the mainland, directly across Lake Worth from his new enchanted isle, and West Palm Beach began taking shape in his mind’s eye: “In a few years, there will be a town over there as big as Jacksonville.”

The Royal Poinciana soon became the Gay Nineties winter hub for the Social Register’s exclusive “Four Hundred,” attracting Vanderbilts, Carnegies, Morgans, Astors, Fricks, and the rest of America’s industrial royalty. The guests enjoyed golf, fishing, yachting, and sunbathing—Flagler employed beach censors to make sure women covered their legs—along with haute cuisine, orchestras, and vaudeville. The guests were served by 1,400 staffers so attentive the resort was known as the Royal Pounce-on-them. Black employees whisked them around in bicycle-powered carriages known as Afromobiles, and entertained them with “cakewalks,” minstrel-style dance competitions whose winners got to “take the cake.” Suites cost $100 a night, about three months’ wages for a typical laborer.

Let’s try to adjust that suite cost to Bidies. $100 in 1895 (the hotel opened in 1894) is supposedly about $3,500 today (the BLS inflation calculator goes back only to 1913, but some other sources are available showing just a touch of inflation over the preceding two decades). The Royal Poinciana was demolished during the Great Depression, but the Breakers (rebuilt) is still with us. Suites are only about $3,000 per night right now (the shoulder season), but they no longer include three meals per day. So the price of a Palm Beach hotel room has remained almost constant in inflation-adjusted dollars for more than 125 years. If we adjust for attentiveness for the staff, though, the $100 fee in the 1890s was a much better deal.

Regarding Flagler’s cherished hope of draining the developing the slightly-inland swamp, the New York Times predicted that it would never be accomplished.

Were you thinking that we live in unprecedented times?

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the progressive movement emerged to try to rein in corporate America. The United States was now the richest country on earth, producing half the world’s oil and one-third of its iron and steel. Its citizens were consuming Campbell soup, Borden cheese, Post Grape-Nuts, and Hershey chocolate, while enjoying lightbulbs, telephones, automobiles, and airplanes. It was the dawn of the American century, a time of puffed-up national pride and confidence. But there was a growing feeling that average Americans were not sharing in the progress, that business interests controlled the government, and that the balance of power ought to be reversed. Progressivism was a gospel of science and reason; progressives believed the same pragmatic thinking that was solving great technological and engineering problems could be applied to social problems.

The only economic activity in the Everglades at the time was killing birds for their feathers, which would ultimately be used for women’s hats.

The feather trade also provided income for Seminoles, but they practiced an early kind of sustainable exploitation, refusing to wipe out entire rookeries. “The Indian leaves enough of the old birds to feed the young of the rookery,” one writer observed. “The white man kills the last plume bird he can find, leaving the young ones to die in their nests, then returns a few days later lest he might have overlooked a few birds.” This kill-them-all strategy took its toll. Roseate spoonbills, snowy egrets, great white herons, and short-tailed hawks nearly vanished from Florida. The wild flamingos that so enchanted Audubon—and inspired the name of the village at the tip of Cape Sable—did vanish from Florida. The lime-green-
and-carmine Carolina parakeet was hunted to extinction. There was only one pair of reddish egrets left on the peninsula, and only one rookery for brown pelicans, a clump of mangroves off Vero Beach called Pelican Island. “I

An Ivy League-educated professor tried to drain the swamp with a biological agent, the Australian melaleuca tree. John Gifford spread a handful of seeds near Miami and the tree is today considered a problematic invasive throughout the Everglades (immigrant humans are never illegal or “invasive”, of course, but immigrant plants should be eradicated with Roundup!).

This post is getting long, so I’m going to cover the post-1900 sections of The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise in a follow-up.

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Ron DeSantis vs. the Progressive Elite

Posts so far regarding The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival, by Ron DeSantis:

One topic that cuts through the book is how progressive elites have found new ways to dominate American politics and therefore, as the government has been greatly expanded, American society.

Ron explains how Facebook can now run U.S. elections:

In 2020, Facebook founder and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg poured $400 million into nonprofit groups to funnel directly to election offices in key states. This included more than $350 million dispersed by Zuckerberg’s Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) to provide so-called “COVID-19 response” election administration to local election offices, with the money going disproportionately to left-leaning counties to boost Democratic turnout in the election. Rather than fund groups seeking to influence the behavior of voters through persuasion, Zuckerberg used his $400 million to manage the election itself. In 2020 injecting private money into election administration was not against the law, largely because it was not something that state legislatures had contemplated. This meant that Zuckerberg-backed groups could direct the grant money it distributed to election offices. Groups like CTCL used this leverage to staff local election offices with partisan activists, requiring the offices to work with partisan “partner organizations” to expand mass mail balloting and to permit ballot harvesting. This represented an unprecedented transformation of election administration into an organ of partisan electioneering. Following the 2020 election, I responded to these questionable practices by ushering through the Florida Legislature a sweeping package of reforms to fortify election integrity. First, we enacted a prohibition on ballot harvesting and made it a third-degree felony. Second, we required voter ID for absentee ballot requests, equalizing the voter ID requirement for absentee votes with the long-required ID requirement for in-person voting. Third, we ensured that county supervisors of elections clean their voter rolls on an annual basis by instituting penalties for noncompliance. Fourth, we instituted an outright ban on Zuckerbucks to stop the use of private money in election administration.

The above is, of course, in addition to Facebook’s power to nag young progressives to get off the sofa and cast an in-person or mail-in ballot.

Facebook and friends had better keep working to keep Ron DeSantis out of Washington, D.C.!

As the years wore on, especially following the election of Donald Trump in 2016, large Silicon Valley companies began to evolve from being open platforms to serving as censors. Part of this was in response to pressure from the tech industry’s fellow travelers on the political left to crack down on what they considered to be “misinformation,” which was frequently just speech they didn’t like. Tech companies also received pressure from legacy media outlets, which had lost influence because of Big Tech’s rise.

This is all well and good, but when these tech platforms start to aggressively censor speech, it calls into question the basis for the federal liability protection. Indeed, the practices of Big Tech reveal the companies to represent the censorship arm of the political left, and their mission seems to be the enforcement of leftist orthodoxy and the marginalization of those who dissent from it. As companies like Facebook and Twitter make censorship decisions that always seem to err on the side of silencing those who dissent from leftist orthodoxy, they distort the American political system because so much political speech now takes place on these supposedly open platforms. From censoring the Hunter Biden laptop story during the 2020 presidential election to suppressing search results from conservative media sources, Big Tech has consistently placed a firm thumb on the scale for the political left.

Even apart from the risk of collusion with the government, Big Tech platforms have become the new public square, so viewing these quasi monopolies as just run-of-the-mill private companies is a mistake. While a properly functioning free market should allow for competitors to emerge to challenge the incumbent companies, Big Tech has used its massive market power to crush upstart firms. As a result, it’s wishful thinking to hope that the market will solve the problem of Big Tech censorship. With this in mind, I worked with the Florida Legislature to enact a series of reforms to protect Floridians from Big Tech censorship. We did this knowing these represented novel legal issues that would eventually be decided by the US Supreme Court. Our goal was to provide a legal framework that guaranteed more, not less, political speech. In doing so, we recognized that these massive tech companies are different from a typical corporation and are more akin to a common carrier like a telephone company. Our reforms included protections for political candidates against being deplatformed, which is a way for Big Tech to interfere in elections. What is stopping Big Tech companies from shutting off Republican candidates from social media platforms during the stretch run of an election? If someone hosts a get-together for a candidate and provides refreshments, that must be accounted for as a campaign contribution, yet a tech company can upend an entire candidate’s campaign, and that is somehow not considered interference with an election.

For those who are curious about the backstory regarding Disney and its fight with the people of Florida:

As the controversy over the Parental Rights in Education bill [“Don’t Say Gay” according to the New York Times] was coming to a head, [Disney CEO] Chapek called me. He did not want Disney to get involved, but he was getting a lot of pressure to weigh in against the bill. “We get pressured all the time,” he told me. “But this time is different. I haven’t seen anything like this before.” “Do not get involved with this legislation,” I advised him. “You will end up putting yourself in an untenable position. People like me will say, ‘Gee, how come Disney has never said anything about China, where they make a fortune?’ “Here is what will happen,” I continued. “The bill will pass, and there will be forty-eight hours of outrage directed at Disney for staying neutral. Then the Legislature will send me the bill a few weeks later, and when I sign it, you will get another forty-eight hours of outrage, mostly online. Then there will be some new outrage that the woke mob will focus on, and people will forget about this issue, especially considering the outrage is directed at a political-media narrative, not the actual text of the legislation itself.”

In promising to work to repeal the bill, supposedly family-friendly Disney was moving beyond mere virtue signaling to liberal activists. Instead, the company was pledging a frontal assault on a duly enacted law of the State of Florida. Things got worse for Disney. Almost immediately after the company issued its declaration of war, remarkable footage leaked from a video conference in which Disney executives promised to inject sexuality into programming for young kids. One speaker said that Disney would keep a “tracker” to monitor that the company was including a sufficient number of “canonical trans characters, canonical asexual characters, [and] canonical bisexual characters” in its programming. In bowing to the woke agenda, Disney had already, one speaker proudly pointed out, eliminated the use of “ladies,” “gentlemen,” “boys,” and “girls” from its theme parks.

Even though Democrats often rail about the nefarious power exerted over politics by large corporations, and supposedly oppose special carve-outs for big companies, they all dutifully lined up in support of keeping Disney’s special self-governing status. This confirmed how much the modern left has jettisoned principle in favor of power—so long as those corporations use their power to advance the left’s agenda, the left is perfectly willing to do the bidding of large corporations.

Ron D makes the point that Republicanism is essentially obsolete now that the biggest corporations have been enlisted in the Army of the Woke.

ESG provides a pretext for CEOs to use shareholder assets to target issues like reducing the use of fossil fuels and restricting Second Amendment rights. It is, in effect, a way for the political left to achieve through corporate power what they cannot achieve at the ballot box.

The battle lines almost invariably find large, publicly traded corporations lining up behind leftist causes. [Budweiser?]

For decades, a huge swath of GOP elected officials have campaigned on free market principles, but governed as corporatists—supporting subsidies, tax breaks, and legislative carve-outs to confer special benefits on entrenched corporate interests. Just because policies may benefit corporate America does not mean that such policies serve the interests of the American economy writ large. What is in the national interest is not necessarily the same as the interests of large corporations. And when large corporations are seeking to use their economic power to advance the left’s political agenda, they have become political, and not merely economic, actors. In an environment in which large corporations are aggressive political actors, reflexively deferring to big business effectively surrenders the political battlefield to the militant left.

Ron did manage to prevail in the 2022 election even in the very lair of rich corporate progressives:

While there had been chatter leading up to the election that Miami-Dade was in play, few were talking about the possibility that we could win the traditional Democrat bastion of Palm Beach County. Yet, we ended up being the first Republican to win Palm Beach in a governor’s race in nearly forty years.

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Ron DeSantis and Coronapanic

Posts so far regarding The Courage to Be Free: Florida’s Blueprint for America’s Revival, by Ron DeSantis:

Today let’s look at the chapter on coronapanic.

Compared to some of the Deplorables who comment here and myself, Ron DeSantis was a late convert to the Church of Sweden. He declared a state of emergency on March 9, 2020 and “Later than most governors, DeSantis imposed a lockdown” on April 1, 2020 (The Hill):

“All persons in Florida shall limit their movements and personal interactions outside of their home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or conduct essential activities,” his order said.

The lockdown ended on April 29, 2020 and that’s when DeSantis began to diverge from the Faucists. The book downplays DeSantis’s one-month Faucist period to concentrate on his Church of Sweden rebellion. He opens by quoting Eisenhower:

“we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.” [1961]

Eisenhower cited the alarming risk that what he termed a “scientific-technological elite”—an elite that is neither interested in nor capable of harmonizing all the competing values and interests that are the hallmark of a free, dynamic society—could commandeer policy and, ultimately, erode our freedoms.

Eisenhower wouldn’t have been surprised by the takeover of American society by the Covidcrats:

In March 2020, Fauci was held up as the authority on the coronavirus. On its face, this seemed understandable because Fauci was the head of the NIAID and touted as the nation’s foremost expert on infectious diseases. However, Fauci was also the epitome of an entrenched bureaucrat—he had been in his position since 1984, demonstrating staying power in Washington that would not have been possible without being a highly skilled political operator. He proved to be one of the most destructive bureaucrats in American history.

Ron describes getting immersed in the Imperial College London model and conversations with various high-level bureaucrats, including CDC director Robert Redfield, Deborah Birx, but perhaps not the Great Fauci Himself.

At one point, I asked Dr. Birx whether the policies for which the expert class was advocating—and which could be very destructive to society—had any precedent in modern history and, if so, what were the results. “Well,” she said, “this is kind of like our own science experiment.”

I decided that I needed to read the emerging research and consume the available data myself, not just about Florida or the United States, but also about what was going on in other countries.

I wanted to be armed with the foundational knowledge to chart my own course for the State of Florida. This course kept our state functioning and ultimately led to Florida serving as an example for freedom-loving people not just in the United States, but around the world.

As more data came in, it became clear that the Fauci policy of perpetual mitigation was wrong. One important insight stemmed from a study done by a team of Stanford researchers led by Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a physician at the Stanford School of Medicine who also had a PhD in economics and was one of the few prominent academics willing to speak publicly about the failures in the COVID-19 policies advocated by Fauci and his followers. The Stanford study examined the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, which can be detected after someone recovers from a coronavirus infection, in Santa Clara County, California. The study found that the prevalence of antibodies in the population was dramatically higher than the number of “cases” that had been detected up to that point,

Ron DeSantis was checking the curves wherever he could find data:

The April 2020 COVID-19 wave in New York saw hospitalized COVID-19 patients peak at 18,000, a significant number but something that the medical system could handle and a far cry from the 140,000 predicted by the flawed models.

He got some information from a Deplorable Science-denying Nobel laureate in chemistry:

While lockdown advocates claimed the epidemiological curves nosed over because of so-called social distancing, Levitt pointed out how lockdown-free Sweden also saw its first COVID-19 wave perform in a similar fashion. Indeed, as successive COVID-19 waves hit various parts of the United States in the ensuing months, the waves almost always featured about a six-to-eight-week period during which the wave would escalate, peak, and then decline. This was true regardless of mandatory “mitigations” that were employed.

He makes similar points to what I wrote in June 27, 2020 in “Looking at Covid-19 death rate is like the old saying “An economist is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”?

A Covid-19 epidemiologist can tell you how many Covid-19 deaths your society has suffered and, perhaps, some things that you can do to reduce Covid-19 deaths going forward. But the Covid-19 epidemiologist can’t tell you whether Intervention A against Covid-19 is actually worth implementing because (a) the Covid-19 epidemiologist is ignoring deaths from all other causes, and (b) epidemiologists in general can’t tell us what human activities are worth accepting some risk of death. How many lives are we willing to sacrifice in order that our children can go to school? Obviously we are willing to sacrifice some, because all of the driving of children, teachers, and administrators to and from school causes some deaths. But the threshold number at which schools should be shut down is not something that any epidemiologist can give us.

Is asking an epidemiologist whether to keep schools and playgrounds open like asking your accountant whether you should buy a dog? Yes, the expert can give you a bit of insight (“my other clients with dogs spend $4,000 per year on vet, food, and grooming”), but not a life-optimizing answer.

Here’s what Ron D writes:

So many of the so-called experts lost sight of the fact that true public health cannot be blind to everything but a single respiratory virus. Led by Dr. Fauci, the experts seemed to be throwing away previous understandings of how to approach pandemic management—and sowing fear and hysteria in the process.

The mostly peaceful mostly unmasked George Floyd mass gatherings showed Ron D that the Covidcrats weren’t serious about preventing Covid-19.

For two months, these so-called experts lambasted anyone for making a cost-benefit analysis when it came to COVID-19 mitigation policies. Then, the moment it suited their political interests, they reversed course by endorsing the protests as passing their cost-benefit analysis over COVID-19 lockdowns. That they specifically rejected protesting for other causes they did not support told me all I needed to know about what partisans these people were. These “experts” were not going to save us. People making the best decisions for themselves and their families would. It was up to leaders like me to lead in a way that was evidence-based, that recognized the obvious harms of mitigation efforts, and that best maintained the normal social functioning of our communities.

I’m still looking for good summary-by-state excess mortality data (comparable to what Our World in Data gives us by country), but Ron apparently ran the numbers and Florida has done pretty well by this metric (remember that the righteous said that Florida’s COVID-tagged death numbers were fabricated so excess deaths should be a better place to look):

Between April 2020 and mid-July 2022, New York witnessed an increase of so-called excess mortality of 20 percent, while California experienced an excess mortality increase of 17.7 percent. Excess mortality represents deaths above what is normally expected; of course, it includes COVID-19 deaths but also includes deaths caused by lockdown policies. During the same period, excess mortality increased in Florida by 15.6 percent—a smaller increase than in lockdown-happy states that typically received

Ron says that he doesn’t Deny Science. He just follows different scientists:

The approach that we took in Florida reflected the thinking of prominent epidemiologists like Stanford’s Jay Bhattacharya, Harvard’s Martin Kulldorff, and Oxford’s Sunetra Gupta.

And it is following these MDs, PhDs, and MD/PhDs that turned DeSantis into a Science-denier:

After several weeks of consuming data and measuring it against policies implemented around the country, I decided that I would not blindly follow Fauci and other elite experts. To this end, I revoked my order suspending elective procedures at hospitals. The predicted April surge in coronavirus patients never materialized, leaving Florida with one of the lowest patient censuses on record. I also abandoned the federal government’s framework of essential versus nonessential businesses. Every job and every business are essential for the people who need employment or who own the business. It is wrong to characterize any job or business as nonessential, and this entire framework needs to be discarded in pandemic preparedness literature.

It was easy for me to join the Church of Sweden because nobody cares what I think, say, or do. But Ron took a lot of heat:

When Florida experienced its first major COVID-19 wave starting in the middle of June 2020, it sparked massive media hysteria. The media drew a connection between Florida’s lack of restrictions and the COVID-19 wave. If only Florida had not been so reckless, the narrative went, it would not be experiencing such a wave.

After I saw other states from similar geographies endure similar COVID-19 waves in the fall and winter, I knew that COVID behaved in a seasonal pattern. I was, though, monitoring the data on a daily basis, and I was sure that the summer wave would follow a pattern similar to the trajectory that Dr. Michael Levitt had identified from earlier waves. It would not simply increase exponentially without end in the absence of a shutdown. The pressure grew on me to shut down the State of Florida to mitigate the COVID-19 wave, not just from the media but also from experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci and partisan opponents. On July 8, 2020, Dr. Fauci advised that states like Florida “should seriously look at shutting down.” This was because, Fauci explained, “we are seeing exponential growth.” All Democratic members of Florida’s US House delegation but one wrote me a letter to demand that I shut down the Sunshine State and impose a compulsory mask mandate. The letter was written on July 17, 2020.

Some of my friends and allies were worried about all the negative attention and urged me to implement some mandates and restrictions to help take the heat off me. For me, the important thing to do was to safeguard the freedom, livelihoods, and businesses of the people I was elected to serve. If doing so caused me to suffer political damage, and even to lose my job as governor, then so be it. It is easy to do the right thing when it is popular, but leadership is all about doing the right thing when under political attack.

In fact, by July 8, 2020—the day Fauci said Florida should shut down—infections in our state had already peaked. I knew this because visits to the emergency departments for COVID-like illness, which was the best leading indicator of infection trajectory, peaked on July 7.

What Fauci and especially the House Democrats were calling for was a post-peak shutdown, which would have been totally counterproductive and hurt Floridians.

As it turned out, even though during the summer wave Florida saw an increase in patients hospitalized for COVID, our hospital capacity was more than sufficient to handle the higher patient volume, just like in lockdown-free Sweden in the spring.

How did Florida end up as the mask-free state?

I was skeptical that masks would provide the protection that the public health establishment claimed, but I was adamant that a mask mandate was not an appropriate use of government power. If the masks were as effective as claimed, then people would choose to wear them without government coercion.

(The latest on Ron’s unscientific skepticism… “Were masks in hospitals a waste of time? Hated NHS policy made ‘no difference’ to

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Our two-year anniversary in Abacoa

From exactly two years ago… “Meet next week in Jupiter, Florida?

We’re escaping to the Florida Free State for the Maskachusetts school vacation week (April 18-25). A journey of 1,000+ miles is the best way for the kids to get a “mask break” (under what would be the “law” if it had been passed by the legislature instead of merely ordered by the governor, walking outside one’s yard, even at midnight in a low-density exurb, is illegal without a mask).

The post from 2021 quotes the Covidcrats:

Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday he had no immediate plans to change the Massachusetts’ mask mandate, saying his administration would only do so when more people are vaccinated.


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Will Brandon Johnson be Florida Realtor of the Year 2023?

It is impossible to walk a dog anywhere in Florida without running into neighbors who work in the real estate industry. Progressive victories yesterday in Chicago and Wisconsin were being celebrated down here. High hopes in particular are pinned on Brandon Johnson to take the title of Florida Realtor of the Year previously held by Andrew Cuomo.

The Democrat-governed state of Wisconsin isn’t as wealthy as Chicago, but it was a positive sign that a person whom the New York Times calls a “liberal judge” won by 55:45 (see “Liberal Wins Wisconsin Court Race, in Victory for Abortion Rights Backers”). (Separately, it is interesting that laws and the state constitution will have 180-degree different interpretations depending on the personal politics of the judge!)

The more extreme the politics in the states that send wealthy homebuyers to Florida, the better. If state and local governments are expanded in Illinois and Wisconsin and someone with money doesn’t agree with the new goals, that’s a big nudge toward moving. Chicago is home to nearly 200,000 millionaires (was 160,000 in 2022, but inflation should have lifted quite a few more folks into this category). If Brandon’s proposed new taxes motivate just ten percent of them to move to Florida, that’s 20,000 at least moderately nice homes that can be sold.

What’s the scale of real estate development in Florida? A whole new town, essentially, is being built on what was scrub land 30 minutes south of us: Avenir (houses from $700,000 to “over $3 million”); a similar idea is going on 30-miles inland from Fort Myers at Babcock Ranch.

As noted in yesterday’s post, in our neighborhood, the real estate bubble party ended with the interest rate boosts of summer 2022. Everything sat on the market for months maybe because nobody could figure out what houses were worth in the new non-zero-interest-rate environment. But just within the past month or so the market seems to be clearing. People agree that houses are worth, in nominal and continuously eroding dollars, between 80 and 100 percent of the peak 2022 numbers (i.e., everything has at least gone down a little via inflation).

Let’s hope that Brandon can follow through on his promise to make Chicago’s wealthy pay their fair share! He’s got at least $750 million in tax increases planned; the same article notes “34% of Chicagoans would leave the city if given the opportunity” and also highlights his work with teachers:

Johnson is a Cook County Board commissioner and earned over $390,ooo in five years as the Chicago Teachers Union legislative coordinator. He helped organize three teachers strikes in the city and has pushed the Red for Ed agenda intended to spread the Socialist doctrine among teachers.

He has received nearly $3.2 million in contributions from CTU and its affiliates, and the CTU just voted to take $8 per month from each member’s dues to back Johnson.

From a Florida perspective, the big dream would be a school closure or mask order from the new mayor. Here’s a February 2022 article about continued forced masking in Chicago schools:

Maybe it’s a good time to thank Lori Lightfoot for everything that she did for Florida?

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Floridians change their minds regarding abortion care?

April 14, 2022: “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs a bill banning abortions after 15 weeks” (state-sponsored NPR)

April 3, 2023: “Senate passes 6-week abortion limit with rape, incest exceptions” (state-sponsored PBS)

What explains the apparent inconsistency? The PBS article:

Lawmakers and Gov. Ron DeSantis last year passed a 15-week abortion limit But that came before the June ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.

I don’t think this is a complete explanation, however. If Floridians agreed a year ago that 6 weeks was the correct limit, they could have put two laws on the books, one of them inoperative until the Supreme Court ruled. So it seems safe to say that Floridians agreed that a 15-week limit was optimum a year ago, at least 1 week more than France and 3 weeks longer than Germany (the “15 weeks” period might actually be “15 weeks and 6 days”). But now we are saying, through our legislators, that 6 weeks is the right number.

(For the record, I am not offering an opinion that 6 weeks, 15 weeks, no limit (Maskachusetts), or some other time period is correct. I am noting only that 6 weeks is different from 15 weeks and the Science hasn’t changed regarding, for example, the viability of a baby born at 15 weeks.)


  • “Massachusetts law about abortion” (legal at all stages of a pregnant person’s pregnancy, but one doctor has to think it is a good idea after 24 weeks)
  • the local beach, below, yesterday. Let’s hope that nobody compares the body shapes to what prevailed in the 1960s or 1970s…

Very loosely related… (department of consistency): “Jury Says Tesla Must Pay Worker $3.2 Million Over Racist Treatment” (NYT).

A federal jury in San Francisco ordered Tesla on Monday to pay about $3.2 million to a Black man who had accused the carmaker of ignoring racial abuse he faced while working at its California factory.

The award was far less than the $137 million that a different jury awarded two years ago, mostly in punitive damages. The judge in that trial later reduced the figure to $15 million, prompting the plaintiff, Owen Diaz, to challenge the amount in a new trial.

It’s the same justice system, the same plaintiff, and the same facts. Yet the outcome is wildly different at slightly different times. $137 million, $15 million, and $3 million… all examples of “just” compensation.

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