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The Flog

Congressman DeSantis: Let’s DEFUND the Russia Investigation

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) has proposed legislation that would defund Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation 180 days after becoming law.

That amendment would also prohibit the special counsel from investigating "matters occurring before June 2015." President Donald Trump announced his campaign in June 2015.

DeSantis, a Ponte Vedra Republican who was endorsed by Trump in 2012, filed the amendment to the House spending bill expected to be taken up by the lower chamber when it returns from congressional recess. As Politico notes, the House Rules Committee could exert its broad discretion to discard the amendment without a floor vote. In a statement to Politico, DeSantis complained that the order appointing Mueller "didn't identify a crime to be investigated and practically invites a fishing expedition," going on to say, "Congress should use its spending power to clarify the scope and limit the duration of this investigation."

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein's May 17 order appointing former Department of Justice official and FBI Director Mueller as special counsel overseeing the FBI investigation states that its purpose is to investigate "Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election and related matters."

The order authorizes Mueller to investigate "any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump" and "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation." It further authorizes Mueller to prosecute federal crimes uncovered in the course of investigating said matters.

Seems that's not specific enough for DeSantis, whose website's press release page reads like the highlights of a piece of Trump fan fiction.

Several Democrats in Congress have already indicated their intent to push back against the amendment, Politico reports.

 

 

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The Flog

PRO-CONFEDERATE Group Descends on Jacksonville

The Florida chapter of pro-Confederate group Save Southern Heritage has parachuted into Jacksonville's Confederate monument debate and is calling for a voter referendum on their removal. The group claims that a poll it commissioned shows that the public "overwhelmingly" opposes removing the monuments, WJCT reports.

Save Southern Heritage bills itself as "a voluntary association of individuals who revere the south, southern history and southern heritage," and "wish to see the history of the south preserved for future generations."

The Florida chapter of the pro-Confederate group announced its intent at a press conference in Hemming Park on Tuesday. At that press conference, Seber Newsome told WJCT, "This survey confirms our steadfast belief that Ms. [City Counil President Anna Lopez] Brosche is way off the political spectrum by associating herself with 'radical' groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter 'extremists.'" Last year, numerous stories about the debate over whether to remove a statue of a Confederate leader from the state capitol quoted Save Southern Heritage's Seber Newsome III of Yulee.

Last week, in part reacting to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, Brosche called for an inventory and removal of Confederate monuments from public places in Duval County. She has since backed away from seeking an outright removal.

Save Southern Heritage Florida is also the same group that Miami New Times reported on Aug. 17 had doxxed 113 civil rights activists, most from Hillsborough and Broward Counties, in a detailed dossier that included their names and faces, as well as home addresses, phone numbers and the names of co-owners and co-inhabitants of their homes. Miami New Times reported that the Florida chapter's spokesperson David McCallister claimed it doxxed the civil rights leaders, many of whom are elderly, "to weed out people who came to speak in front of the Hillsborough Commission from out of town." As the outlet reported, publishing …   More

THE FLOG

Questions Swirl about Jacksonville YOUNG DEMOCRATS President’s Spending of Group Funds

The Jacksonville Young Democrats are embroiled in an internal conflict over the group's finances, specifically how JYD President Kristellys Estanga has spent its funds.

Estanga declined to be interviewed for this story. At her request, all questions were sent to JYD Communications Chair John Aloszka via Facebook messenger. Through Aloszka, Estanga denied any wrongdoing.

Late one evening last week, while on a trip to Dallas, Texas for the Young Democrats of America annual convention, Estanga sent an email to the JYD executive committee asking it to authorize expenditures for Lyft fare. Following what Aloszka characterized as a heated conversation, the committee approved it.

But the last minute request did not sit well with some and gave rise to further questions about how Estanga has been handling JYD's funds. For some time, there have been grumbles that Estanga has been soliciting, receiving and appropriating donations without informing other members of the group or depositing said funds into the JYD account.

"We don't know who she talks to, what donors she talks to... We don't know what's been going on with our money," said JYD Field Director Cecelia Zucconi, who is an appointed member of the executive committee.

Those questions came to a head at the JYD meeting on Wednesday, August 16.

"During the treasurer report, she mentioned that the president had made Lyft charges and there was some debate on whether or not that was appropriate, and we felt that an audit should be called," Zucconi said. "There are a lot of charges out of town for Lyft and things like that," she later added.

At the meeting, which Estanga did not attend, JYD voted unanimously to audit its finances.

Aloszka said that there was simply a "misinterpretation" among some regarding what the group's bylaws require for travel expenditures. "[Estanga] emailed the board to approve one Lyft request as a courtesy, as these kinds of requests only need the president, treasurer and …   More

THE FLOG

HOPE Amid Ruin

“He went from an amazing musician and a trusted friend of hundreds of people, to a liar and a thief and would do anything for his next fix,” said Ryan Heath of his friend Scott Brandle.

Brandle, like thousands of other people in Northeast Florida, died from a heroin overdose. And like so many who grieve, Heath hopes to find meaning in his friend’s death. But not just Brandle’s death—according to Heath, the former musician is only among the most recent in a string of deaths that have touched Heath’s circle of friends. “I’ve easily known 16 that have died since the pain pill clinics started up in the late ’90s,” he said; of that number, seven have died in the past two years.

On Aug. 26, Heath and his very musically connected friend, Order by Chaos bandmember David Rowe, host Kickfest, a music festival organized to raise funds and awareness for the opioid epidemic in Northeast Florida. All of the funds raised, explains Heath, will go to help fund a pilot program for new treatment strategies with St. Vincent’s Riverside, Gateway Community Services and River Region Human Services: Dr. Raymond Pomm’s treatment program for opioid addiction at River Region treatment center. Pomm is medical director at River Region and Gateway Services.

“This isn't a problem just for ‘druggie junkie losers’ anymore,” said Heath. “This is happening to politicians, judges, cops, firemen, lawyers, teachers, mothers, fathers, grandmothers […] I can go on and on and on.”

As a firefighter, Heath has experience with the drug problem in a way that few do (though he said he's dealt mostly with cocaine overdoses). He talked about how paramedic friends of his regularly respond to desperate calls to administer Narcan, and give CPR to near-lifeless forms. His said these stories and his own experiences have shown him that “there’s a false belief that heroin addicts as …   More

A Medium, Rare

Many a comedian has died, metaphorically, on the stage of the Comedy Zone over the years. Cindy Kaza may be able to contact some of them when she makes her Duval debut on Aug. 22. The 36-year-old Detroit native, who now lives in Denver, has developed one of the more unusual acts you’re likely to ever see: As a professionally trained “psychic medium,” Kaza does much of her work onstage at comedy clubs around the country. It’s a bit intense for the setting, but Kaza approaches the work with a diligence and sincerity that can be disarming for the cynics who typically frequent such places. She answered a few questions, via email.

Folio Weekly: How long have you been doing this for a living? How long as a performer? In how many cities/states/countries have you performed?

Cindy Kaza: I have been working professionally as a medium for 10 years and have been touring the United States doing live shows for four years. I’ve worked in about 20 states in America and have also worked in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, England, Holland, Germany and France.

How long did it take to gain proficiency? How much training did it require?

I've been diligently studying mediumship since around 2007, but my journey into this field began in 2001. I had my first memorable experience at age 10, but pushed my ability away for several years, as it frightened me initially.

What religion were you brought up in? What role, if any, does your faith play in your approach to the work?

I was baptized Catholic and grew up in a Catholic household. I believe there is truth in all religions and that whatever path a person chooses to get closer to God is his/her choice. Does my faith in God play a role in my work? Yes. I talk about God a lot in my work. I believe the ability to feel the presence of our loved ones on the other side is innately human and that every human being can have his/her own personal experience. Some people are more in touch than others. I …   More

THE FLOG

Groups Call for Removal of CONFEDERATE Monuments

Today representatives of the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition, the Northside Coalition and Take 'Em Down Jax gathered in the afternoon summer swelter at Confederate Park in Downtown Jacksonville. Their message was clear: Remove Confederate monuments and memorials from public lands.

The movement advocating removal of Jacksonville's Confederate monuments has been slowing gaining traction for some months; last weekend's rally in Charlottesville, Virginia-which claimed the life of 32-year-old Heather Heyer when a car reportedly driven by a white supremacist rammed into a crowd of counter-protesters-has given it a new sense of momentum.

In response to the "horrific and unacceptable incidents" in Charlottesville, on Monday, Jacksonville City Council President Anna Lopez Brosche called for all Confederate monuments, memorials and markers on public property to be inventoried, then removed and relocated to museums and educational institutions.

In a media release, Brosche said, "It is important to never forget the history of our great city; and, these monuments, memorials, and markers represent a time in our history that caused pain to so many."

At today's press conference, Kristin Kiernan of Take 'Em Down Jax began by saying, "Today we must stand together. When equality is under attack, we have to fight back."

Kiernan expressed her dismay that racism is being learned by children at such a young age, and stated her desire for the community to "work together against hate and oppression." Only then, she said, could equality be achieved.

"It is not about a statue. It was never about a hot dog and a coke," Kiernan added, quoting activist Rodney L. Hurst, who was one of those beaten during the city's infamous Ax Handle Saturday in 1960, during which black activists attempting to dine at a Downtown Jacksonville lunch counter were bludgeoned by whites, including members of the Ku Klux Klan, some wielding ax handles.

Several, including Kiernan and Ben …   More

the flog

Council President: Take Confederate Memorials Down

Jacksonville City Council President Anna Lopez-Brosche has called for the city to start the process of removing all the Confederate monuments, memorials and markers from public property.

Telling WJCT that she has directed Parks and Recreation to inventory all the monuments, Brosche said that she will introduce legislation directing their removal after the inventory is completed; following removal, the monuments would be relocated to museums and other places of learning.

In a statement sent out Monday, Brosche said she was following the examples of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the Florida senate, which removed monuments from the state capital, "and in response to the horrific and unacceptable incidents that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia." On Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, a woman died and numerous were injured when a car plowed into a crowd counterprotesting white supremacists who had gathered to protest the removal of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's statue.

Brosche's statement also read, "It is important to never forget the history of our great city; and, these monuments, memorials, and markers represent a time in our history that caused pain to so many."

This is a developing story.   More

the flog

The Democrats Need NEW Leadership

There is an epidemic of insanity permeating the leadership of the Democratic National Committee. Despite mounting losses, they continue to actively alienate and antagonize the very group of voters that they need to win. This increasingly profound incompetence and lack of ethical standards makes them unworthy to lead the party.

Instead of championing progressive causes heavily favored by the increasingly dominant Millennial generation, they've rebranded themselves as an anti-Trump "Resistance." Are Millennials buying it? Do a search for the Twitter hashtag #McResistance. That's what they've been calling it on social media. It's a mocking reference to what this generation sees as a cynical and amusingly obtuse marketing campaign clumsily disguised as a resistance movement by a political establishment that doesn't have a clue.

Despite the fact that the Millennials are coming of voting age and have now surpassed the Baby Boomers as the largest generation, the Democrats still refuse to listen to this burgeoning demographic. Millennials tend to be way more progressive, more inquisitive, and much more hostile toward Neoliberalism and the establishment that clings to it. They're also far less likely to be influenced by marketing.

So what have the Democrats done to earn the Millennial vote? Not a damn thing. Instead, they continue relying on outdated fear tactics and obnoxious marketing techniques, refusing to budge on issues like free college tuition and reforming Wall Street. They also had to be dragged kicking and screaming on gay marriage, raising the minimum wage, and now Medicare-for-all. These are the Democrats we're talking about.

In spite of the Democrats reporting a whopping $3.3 million of debt in June, the failed decision-makers who caused it are still sitting comfortably at the top. Florida Democrats like Congresswoman Val Demings and Senator Bill Nelson must be put on notice that their constituents will no longer vote for anyone who refuses to …   More

THE FLOG

Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library to the City: Don't Cut Our Budget, Raise It

This morning, Friends of Jacksonville Public Library gathered in front of the Main Library with a plea to the city: Don't cut our budget-restore it.

The group believes the mayor's proposed $500,000 cut to the materials budget will further diminish the quality and number of library resources available to the public. The mayor's office did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

In a handout distributed at the press conference this morning, the Friends point out that the library's materials budget was $5.3 million in 2005; for next fiscal year, the entire materials budget, $2.9 million, is less than 2005's print books budget alone. The city isn't the only one slashing the library's budget; the state has proposed a $150,000 reduction in the funding it provides to JPL, according to the handout.

Fewer resources mean longer wait times for popular titles, and fewer periodicals and other materials. Anyone who has tried to check out a new bestseller knows the "hold" blues. Wait times of several months for popular titles and films are not uncommon.

To address the accumulated loss in purchasing power caused by 13 years of cuts, the Friends are asking for an increase of $850,000 for materials and $1.1 million to add a sixth day of service at nine branches: Argyle, Beaches, Mandarin, Maxville, Murray Hill, San Marco, South Mandarin, West and Willowbranch.

Along with several others, Friends member Harry Reagan, a former president of the group, lamented how few libraries are open on Sundays; they'd like to see all libraries open six days a week. According to the library website, of 21 branches, only five-Main, Highlands Regional, Pablo Creek Regional, Southeast Regional, Charles Webb Wesconnett Regional-are open on Sundays, and for only four hours in the afternoon.

In an apparent nod to the proposed addition of 100 new cops to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, for which funding is included in this year's budget, Reagan noted that the …   More

Shocking Event & UNSETTLING Art

 

Inside a tiny Murray Hill apartment, artist Paul Owen Weiner is laboring on a new body of work. It's designed to challenge viewer’s (and his own) notions of patriotism, nationalism and anxiety. He’s here in Jacksonville as the current resident artist of Long Road Projects, the artist residency and edition house founded in 2016 by Stevie Covart Garvey and Aaron Levi Garvey.

“My work usually starts with some kind of shocking event,” he said, “and the [2016] election was that shocking event … there was no turning back.”

A native of Aurora, Colorado, Weiner talked about the ways in which he thinks art should operate—as a part of a larger dialogue without a crisp ideological edge. He notes that being in Aurora when the Century Cinema 16 mass shooting occurred directly influenced his work—away from obsessive personal mark-making and into things dealing with information and misinformation; and how physical places inform bodies of work: “there is history, but which history,” he posed rhetorically.

The new in-process pieces are a suite of American flags that have been painted black, and the accompanying paper pieces divorce the symbols of the flag from their context (stripes and stars). “These black flags ask you to be introspective about your relationship to America,” said the artist. “I am interested in these as a mirror of society [...] and as a mirror of the person standing in front of it.”

The question, of America and American-ness, is one that always needs examination, but now, as Washington seems determined to return to the “great” days of buggy whip factories and hand-crank telephones (because really, who does know how computers work?), and of one kind of American; discourse and disagreement are more important than ever. Right now, said Weiner, his biggest concern isn’t the people who might disagree with him; it is censorship …   More