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DC Police Union hired lobbyists in effort to overturn crime bills | The Hill

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Illiberal Florida—Ron DeSantis' War on Freedom and Democracy


“Liberal, liberal, liberal.” I remember when Ronald Reagan used the term as a slur during a speech in 1988. That dreaded “L” word. 

Many Americans lump “liberal” together with the words “bleeding heart” and incorrectly believe it means people who are just plain soft on things like spending and crime. 

But true liberal values are actually what hold our democracy together, and the loss of them threatens our future of our Republic. Today’s piece looks at the state of Florida under Governor Ron DeSantis and how it is a prime example of the illiberal threat to our system. 

With its illiberal policies, Florida is experiencing the first dangerous steps toward fascism and autocracy. It is something we would never recognize as a true democracy. 

— George Takei

Recent headlines out of Florida should trouble all freedom-loving Americans. 

In school districts across the state, teachers covered up or removed books from shelves out of fear they would be criminally prosecuted under Florida’s new education laws. A teacher who recorded a video of empty bookshelves was even fired for posting about it. 

The governor installed handpicked cronies on boards from the trustees of New College to the tax district overseeing the Walt Disney properties, while he and his rubber-stamp legislature have threatened to cancel all high school AP courses, gender studies courses, and diversity, equity and inclusion programs at state colleges, all because the governor personally thinks the College Board and state education systems are too “woke.”

The state further has targeted Black voters, the trans community and political opponents while using the state’s coffers to fund political stunts around migrants. There has even been a proposed law to require bloggers who write critically about the governor or other political leaders to register first with the state. 

These aren’t isolated instances of liberal value rollbacks. They are a disturbing and recognizable pattern.

What’s really going on down in the “sunshine state”? 

Florida is experiencing what it feels like to live in what political scientists call an illiberal state. It’s the first step a democracy takes toward authoritarian rule. 

But what does that mean, exactly?

We in the U.S. and in Western Europe live in a “liberal democracy.” The “liberal” reflects the fact we have laws protecting things like freedom of expression and the rights of minorities against the potential tyranny of the majority. 

A democracy without liberal values, like freedom of speech and equal protection—things added into our Constitution as safeguards against majoritarian or strongman rule—can backslide quickly into rule by one man. 

And that’s exactly what is happening in Florida.

“Liberal democracy is liberal, while Christian democracy is, by definition, not liberal,” said Hungarian president Viktor Orbán in a speech in July 2018, “it is, if you like, illiberal. And we can specifically say this in connection with a few important issues—say, three great issues. 

“Liberal democracy is in favor of multiculturalism, while Christian democracy gives priority to Christian culture; this is an illiberal concept. Liberal democracy is pro-immigration, while Christian democracy is anti-immigration; this is again a genuinely illiberal concept. And liberal democracy sides with adaptable family models, while Christian democracy rests on the foundations of the Christian family model; once more, this is an illiberal concept.”

Modern American “conservatism” has embraced illiberal values so wholeheartedly that Orbán was the opening headliner at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, in Dallas in 2022 after Hungary hosted the whole CPAC conference earlier in the year.

Political analyst and commentator Fareed Zakaria warned as early as 25 years ago of the rise of “illiberalism” in certain parts of the democratic West. Illiberal leaders are elected through what seem like democratic processes, but the erosion of civil institutions and safeguards have actually so undermined traditional liberal protections for minorities, free thinkers, and political adversaries of the regime that it ultimately threatens democracy itself. 

Orban’s battle cry and Zakaria’s warnings carry strong relevance for Florida today, which has become the fiefdom of presumed U.S. presidential contender Republican Governor Ron DeSantis. 

There are some commonly recognized indicia of illiberal regimes, including the following:

  1. Consolidation of executive power via a charismatic leader, 

  2. Populism targeting minorities and the monitoring of civil society;

  3. Curbs on academia and curricula and restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly;

  4. Targeted repression of opponents; and 

  5. Abuse of state financial power and state resources.

In each of these areas, Florida has not only drifted into illiberal territory but has done so purposefully and relentlessly under the leadership of DeSantis. 

Let’s review a few striking examples in each area. 

Today’s illiberal regimes share a common theme: a central, strongman who seeks to weaken other branches of government along with the checks and safeguards they provide. 

DeSantis consolidated power in heavily gerrymandered Florida with both a Republican supermajority in the legislature and a Supreme Court stacked with his appointees. Governing in Florida often amounts to legislators doing what DeSantis wants, and his extremism put even his own sycophants in the state to shame. 

For example, during the redistricting process for Florida’s 28 Congressional seats, the legislature came forward with maps that largely kept the old map’s districts in place. That old map was already quite skewed with eight Democratic-leaning seats, 14 Republican-leaning seats, and six that were competitive. 

In a state once considered a swing state, which only went Republican by a few percentage points in 2020, the old map already represented a strong gerrymander in favor of the GOP.

But even this bias wasn’t enough for DeSantis. His office drew up its own new maps which created an even greater skew. It also fell afoul of the Voting Rights Act by cleaving Black opportunity districts apart. 

His legislature at first said, “No thanks, we’ll stick with ours,” so DeSantis did something unprecedented. He threatened to veto his own party’s maps

The legislators, not wanting to commit constitutional violations, proposed a compromise map, but DeSantis decided it still didn’t favor Republicans far enough. So he actually went ahead and did veto it. 

It was at this point the legislature caved. 

In April of 2022, the legislature conceded that it would just go with whatever DeSantis wanted. Confident that his own state Supreme Court would back him, DeSantis forced his map upon the voters in 2022. 

It had a whopping 18 Republican leaning districts, eight Democratic ones, and only two competitive ones. 

In June of 2022, the state supreme court left that very red map in place for the midterm elections, ruling 4-1 (with 2 recusals) that it lacked jurisdiction to even hear the case. Three of the four votes came from DeSantis appointees.

This experience exposed the true nature of Florida politics. The legislature doesn’t have true autonomy, and DeSantis can bend it to his will any time he wants. 

Now DeSantis is betting his own state supreme court will declare the state’s existing protections against gerrymandering actually violate the U.S. Constitution and therefore those protections are unconstitutional and void—paving the way for his unfair and racially discriminatory map to stay in place.

DeSantis targeted racial and sexual minorities through recent politically-motivated attacks upon Black voters and the LGBTQ+ community, two traditionally Democratic constituencies. His assaults upon their rights and freedoms were deliberately cruel and calculated to spread fear and division within the state, to depress voter turnout and to drive families and individuals from the state.

In the run up to elections in 2022, DeSantis made a point of publicly arresting and humiliating Black voters who mistakenly believed they were now permitted to vote. 

Here’s how he did it. 

The state of Florida—through a Constitutional Amendment passed by voters in 2018—restored the right of felons to vote, but a later law passed by the Florida legislature in 2019 only permitted registration by voters if they had paid off all fees, fines and restitution. 

Many voters were unaware of this new provision.

Several Black citizens who had served their sentences for felonies but who were unaware of this repayment requirement proceeded to register, often with the help of well-meaning voter registration volunteers. Even though they didn’t intend to break the law, DeSantis had police fan out across certain counties to arrest them and charge them with voter fraud. 

In the Gainesville, Florida area, ten people were charged with violating this law, eight of them Black. They faced five years in jail and fines of up to $5,000. 

The message was clear. If you have a felony record and are Black (a sizable number of voters, given Florida’s propensity to over-incarcerate Blacks), then you had better not even think about trying to vote.

The DeSantis administration also waged war against the LGBTQ+ community at all levels, from the “Don’t Say Gay or Trans” law that effectively erases gay families and identities from school curricula to recent moves by the Florida Board of Medicine to deny gender affirming care to trans youth and a new bill that grants emergency power to the state to remove trans kids from the custody of their parents if they provide gender affirming care to them, even if they live in another state. 

DeSantis’s official press spokesperson labeled opponents of his measures as “groomers,” and his administration took legal action against groups and establishments that hold drag events, even threatening to revoke the liquor license of Orlando Plaza Live, a venue that hosted an all-ages drag queen performance in December of 2022. 

The message to the LGBTQ+ community in the state is also clear. 

You and your families are not welcome in Florida. The atmosphere is so poisonous and toxic many LGBTQ+ families in Florida are leaving or considering doing so.

DeSantis made national headlines with his attack on the teaching of racial history in the state through his so-called “Stop WOKE Act,” which outlawed what conservatives loosely have termed “critical race theory” and other educational models or practices that might cause white students to feel shame or discomfort on account of their own race. 

He followed this up with direct attacks upon higher education, targeting New College’s board by replacing progressive members with his own hand-picked trustees. His administration also began demanding accounting from all state colleges and universities for how much of their budgets were spent on diversity, equity and inclusion programs. There is now proposed legislation to eliminate these programs entirely.

Recently, he even sought to curtail national educational programs by threatening to ban the College Board’s AP African American studies program as violative of Florida’s laws against “race-based” education. 

Seeming to cave to the political pressure while insisting that changes to its curriculum were not politically motivated, the College Board struck dozens of Black writers from its required reading including seminal authors on Critical Race Theory, Black reparations and intersectional identity. 

The word “systemic” was removed in most places in the course because the teaching of “systemic racism” is contrary to Florida’s ban on “critical race theory.”

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, DeSantis’ legislature at his urging also passed the “Combatting Public Disorder” law in 2021. That upped the possible penalties for “mob intimidation” to a one year prison term and for “rioting” to a whopping 15 years. 

Critics charged that under Section 15 of the law, police get to define what is a riot and who gets arrested, and therefore the law is unconstitutionally vague. The law further prevents the posting of bail (and thus keeps protestors in legal limbo while in custody) until they have made an initial court appearance. 

If the state also charges them with causing damage to historical property, such as a Confederate moment, that is classified as a third-degree felony and is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Max Gaston, a staff attorney of the ACLU of Florida, put it plainly:

"Section 15 essentially means that peaceful protesters could be arrested, held without bail, charged with a felony punishable by up to five years in prison just for standing in an otherwise peaceful demonstration if violence occurs nearby." 

The ACLU and other groups challenged the law, and it was enjoined by a federal court. DeSantis appealed the decision to the conservative 11th Circuit, but in January of 2023 that court sent the case over to the Florida Supreme Court stacked with DeSantis appointees for guidance in understanding what the term “riot” means. 

Few are optimistic about an outcome from that state’s high court that is favorable to free speech rights.

DeSantis made clear he will not tolerate political differences from state government employees, even within the ranks of state prosecutors serving more liberal regions of the state. 

When Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren publicly pledged, in the wake of the Dobbs decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion, that he would not enforce Florida’s 15-week abortion ban, DeSantis suspended him. 

He also suspended Warren for stating he would not charge anyone for providing gender-affirming care to transgender patients, which now appears a prescient stance given efforts to outlaw such care in the state.

Legal observers saw DeSantis’ suspension of Warren as an extraordinary move and a severe encroachment upon the traditional power of state and local district attorneys to use their discretion in deciding what cases are worth pursuing and how to allocate limited resources to best serve the communities and constituents who elected them.

Warren sued in federal court and prevailed on the question of whether it was wrongful for DeSantis to suspend him. However, the judge also ruled he lacked the power to order Warren reinstated because only a state court could reverse the governor’s decision. 

Despite a ruling plainly stating the suspension was wrongful, DeSantis refused to reinstate Warren. DeSantis likely knows attempts to win in Florida state court, stacked as it is with his cronies, are unlikely to succeed.

Eager to grab the national spotlight ahead of his anticipated presidential run, DeSantis orchestrated high profile campaigns against perceived corporate enemies and against vulnerable migrants who weren’t even in the state of Florida. 

In picking his corporate battle, DeSantis chose the Walt Disney Company, which happens to also be the state’s largest employer. DeSantis accused the company of “woke” policies against traditional conservative values, particularly on the question of LGBTQ+ inclusion and identity. 

After Disney came out against the Don’t Say Gay or Trans bill, DeSantis threatened to take away the company’s special tax district status which it has held for over 50 years. That status permits the company essentially to self-govern and plan on its own properties, which are extensive within the state. 

When that plan failed, after DeSantis and his allies realized it would stick counties with a $1 billion tax bill, he moved successfully to seize control over the Tax Board of the district serving Disney, insisting only his political appointees be permitted to govern it.

The message here again was clear. 

Oppose DeSantis’s policies and you will suffer financially for it, no matter how big a company you are and no matter how long you have been here working cooperatively with the state. The message is not meant just for Disney, but for any company, big or small, within the state. 

DeSantis sent a different kind of message, but one with a similar threatening undertone, to the migrant community. Using state funds, he ordered a plane full of Venezuelan migrants flown to the liberal enclave of Martha’s Vineyard. 

This was an escalation of the political theater that he and GOP Governor Greg Abbott of Texas earlier had performed by busing migrants to D.C. and dropping them off at the home of Vice President Kamala Harris. 

The migrants on the DeSantis plane weren’t even originally in the state of Florida, but rather in Texas. That didn’t deter DeSantis from executing his plan. Indeed, the Florida legislature, eager to support their leader’s antics, doubled down on the program and authorized new state funds to transport migrants to other states even if they were not in the state of Florida at the outset.

Again, the intended message here is unmistakable.

DeSantis was saying, “We have the power to do this and we are willing to abuse it.” He is fully ready to use human beings as political pawns in order to score points nationally with his future base of voters. The cruelty and inhumanity is truly the point.

Now that DeSantis intends to extend his illiberal brand beyond his home state to the rest of the country, it’s time to take seriously the notion that he would in fact be worse than Trump if elected President. 

While Trumpian populism scoffs at liberal values and institutions, DeSantistic illiberalism seeks their outright destruction as its principal mission. In each of the five areas discussed above, DeSantis has shown us who he is and how he would govern the nation if given the opportunity. He also is more cunning and willing to plan far more carefully than Trump.

America is not immune from the dangers of illiberal attack and a quick resulting backsliding of democracy. The ferocity of DeSantis’ attack has been matched by the speed of the decline in liberal protections there. 

Rather than recognize and alert the public to the danger, however, national media often has cozied up to DeSantis, speaking about his “brand” and telling liberals what they can “learn” from him. 

DeSantis’s assault on vulnerable communities, educators, and political opponents in Florida came at a fast and seemingly unrelenting pace. It has taken some time, but groups are beginning to push back against his policies and attacks.

On the education front, Florida college students recently held a statewide walkout to protest DeSantis’s attacks on educational freedom. The walkout organizers are demanding an end to "the DeSantis administration's attacks on LGBTQ+ and BIPOC students, faculty and staff" and the restoration of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in all colleges across the state. 

Black legislators, preachers, and activists recently rallied in Tallahassee to protest DeSantis’s ongoing assault on the AP curriculum, his slashing of college diversity programs, his migrant relocation plan, and his targeting of the LGBTQ+ community. 

And student-led groups such as the Florida-based Dream Defenders are organizing to partner with left-leaning publishers who can supply banned books on African American history and intersectionality to students who are currently being denied access to them.

Resistance to DeSantis’ administration is currently scattered and in the early stages of organizing. But with the attention of the entire nation now turning to his possible presidential run, Americans of all stripes are growing wiser to the danger he represents.

They are learning that DeSantis is not so different from strongman authoritarians like Viktor Orbán of Hungary. Ultimately, he is not even so different from Vladimir Putin in Russia who, like DeSantis, is not actually interested in democracy, let alone protecting freedoms and the rights of minorities.

To the contrary, he is interested only in his own power and aggrandizement, and he is willing to use open attacks upon freedoms and vulnerable communities to solidify his authority and embolden his supporters.

The sooner we all recognize and move to counter the danger, the safer all of the rest of America will be from Ron DeSantis.


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See No Evil,

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From a November discussion on the Eyes Left podcast, between Mike Prysner, an Iraq War veteran, and Mansoor Adayfi, a former detainee at Guantánamo Bay.

mansoor adayfi: As you know, Guantánamo was created out of the legal zone, out of the legal system. Torture was the mechanism of Guantánamo. Torture, abuse, and experimenting on prisoners. We went on a massive hunger strike in 2005. And there was force-feeding. It was torture.

I saw a fucking handsome person come in and he said, “I’m here to ensure that you are treated humanely.”

mike prysner: It was Ron DeSantis?*

adayfi: Yes. And, “If you have any problems, if you have any concerns, just talk to me.” We were drowning in that place. So I was like, “Oh, this is cool. This person will raise the concerns.” But it was a piece of the game. What they were doing was looking for what hurts us more so they could use it against us. In 2006, when DeSantis was there, it was one of the worst times at Guantánamo. The administration, the guards, all of them were the worst. They cracked down on us so hard. When they came to break our hunger strike, a team came to us. The head of the team, he was a general. He said, “I have a job. I was sent here to break your fucking hunger strike. I don’t care why you are here. I don’t care who you are. My job is to make you eat. Today we are talking. Tomorrow there will be no talking.” The second day, they brought piles of Ensure and they started force-feeding us over and over again.

prysner: For those who don’t know, Ensure is a thick milky nutritional shake mainly marketed on daytime television to elderly people. It is very hard to drink.

adayfi: Yes, and Ron DeSantis was there watching us. We were crying, screaming. We were tied to the feeding chair. And he was watching. He was laughing. Our stomachs could not hold this amount of Ensure. They poured one can after another. So when he approached me, I said, “This is the way we are treated!” He said, “You should eat.” I threw up in his face. Literally on his face.

prysner: Ron DeSantis?

adayfi: In his face. Yeah.

prysner: It was well deserved. A JAG lawyer at the time, he would have been well aware this was a violation of international law. There is no question that it was torture.

adayfi: They used to restrain us in that feeding chair. They tied our head, our shoulders, our wrists, our thighs, and our legs. They put some kind of laxative in the feeding liquid. We were shitting ourselves all the time. Then we were moved to solitary confinement—really cold cells. It was like five times a day. It wasn’t feeding. It was just torture. Five times a day. You can’t possibly handle it. They just kept pouring the Ensure. In one week, they broke all the hunger strikers. And he was there. All of them were watching. They also used to beat us. And if we screamed or were bleeding out of our nose and mouth, they were like, “Eat.” The only word they told you was “eat.” We were beaten all day long. Whatever you were doing—they just beat you. Pepper spray, beating, sleep deprivation. That continued for three months. And he was there. He was one of the people that supervised the torture, the abuses, the beatings. All the time at Guantánamo.

prysner: So Ron DeSantis was actually supervising torture, beatings? He was supervising these force-feedings?

adayfi: I’m telling Americans: this guy is a torturer. He is a criminal. He was laughing. And he was there to ensure we were treated humanely.

prysner: He was laughing?

adayfi: Yes, they were looking at us, laughing because we were shitting ourselves. I was screaming and yelling. When your stomach is full of Ensure you can’t breathe. And you are throwing up at the same time. I was screaming. I looked at him and he was actually smiling. Like someone who was enjoying it.

One of the things that hurt us was, you know, when someone comes and tells you, “I’m here to help you, I’m here to ensure that you are treated humanely,” and when he turned against us—not turned against us, showed his true face—it was a shock to us all. He had his notebook. He would ask the prisoners, “Do you have any problems? How can I help you? How have the guards treated you?” I was like, “Wow, thanks!” But everything we told him was turned against us.

prysner: So he basically was gathering intelligence to tell the interrogators what it was that was impacting you most so they could do it more.

adayfi: I remember when we were talking about the noise in the night. We were talking about the vacuums, the generators, the fans, and everything. And they brought more stuff.

prysner: You told DeSantis this and then they increased the noise?

adayfi: They increased the noise. And also the food, for example. We told him we don’t eat meat. What the guards did after that is they mixed all the food with meat.

prysner: And that’s another thing you told DeSantis?

adayfi: It’s not just that. Medicine. Clothing. Treatment. Sleeping. The desecration of the Qur’an. Everything. We talked to him. When they were force-feeding us, he was smiling. Looking at us as trash.

prysner: You told me there was a resistance tactic there, of splashing administrators? Splashing them with your own feces? But you didn’t use this tactic often?

adayfi: Only the worst of the worst got splashed.

prysner: DeSantis?

adayfi: Yes.

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25 days ago
Holy shit. He's somehow more evil than I could imagine.
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Rally sidechain shuts down with under a day's notice, taking users' tokens with it

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An orange, pink, and red gradient in the shape of a rectangle with a rounded top right corner, with an overlaid white star symbol making it resemble an R. Followed by the text "rally" in white lowercase"

Rally is an Ethereum sidechain built to support "social tokens" — typically, tokens intended for fans of various celebrities or groups.

Fans of creators including Felicia Day (actress and famous nerd), Brandon Powell (LA Rams wide receiver), and Portugal. The Man (rock band) may be disappointed, however, because Rally announced with under one day of notice that they would be shutting down. "This means that after today, the site will no longer be supported and you may experience a degradation in services or it may simply become inoperable. Additionally, since NFTs on the Rally sidechain are not transferable to mainnet, these will not be accessible once the site shuts down," they wrote in an email. The project also deleted its Twitter account.

The group behind the Rally Network had raised $57 million in funding in 2021, and was backed by VCs including Andreessen Horowitz.

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LOL, so much for NFT's being "permanent" and "decentralized"
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This should be the absolute peak of hurricane season—but it’s dead quiet out there | Ars Technica


To state the obvious: This has been an unorthodox Atlantic hurricane season.

Everyone from the US agency devoted to studying weather, oceans, and the atmosphere—the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration—to the most highly regarded hurricane professionals predicted a season with above-normal to well above-normal activity.

For example, NOAA’s outlook for the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30, predicted a 65 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 25 percent chance of a near-normal season and a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season. The primary factor behind these predictions was an expectation that La Niña would persist in the Pacific Ocean, leading to atmospheric conditions in the tropical Atlantic more favorable to storm formation and intensification. La Niña has persisted, but the storms still have not come in bunches.

All quiet

To date the Atlantic has had five named storms, which is not all that far off "normal" activity, as measured by climatological averages from 1991 to 2020. Normally, by now, the Atlantic would have recorded eight tropical storms and hurricanes that were given names by the National Hurricane Center.

The disparity is more significant when we look at a metric for the duration and intensity of storms, known as Accumulated Cyclone Energy. By this more telling measurement, the 2022 season has a value of 29.6, which is less than half of the normal value through Saturday, 60.3.

Perhaps what is most striking about this season is that we are now at the absolute peak of hurricane season, and there is simply nothing happening. Although the Atlantic season begins on June 1, it starts slowly, with maybe a storm here or there in June, and often a quiet July before the deep tropics get rolling in August. Typically about half of all activity occurs in the 14 weeks prior to September 10, and then in a mad, headlong rush the vast majority of the remaining storms spin up before the end of October.

While it is still entirely possible that the Atlantic basin—which includes the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea—produces a madcap finish, we're just not seeing any signs of it right now. There are no active systems at the moment, and the National Hurricane Center is tracking just one tropical wave that will move off the African coast into the Atlantic Ocean in the coming days. It has a relatively low chance of development, and none of the global models anticipate much from the system. Our best global models show about a 20 to 30 percent chance of a tropical depression developing anywhere in the Atlantic during the next 10 days.

This is the exact opposite of what we normally see this time of year, when the tropics are typically lit up like a Christmas tree. The reason for this is because September offers a window where the Atlantic is still warm from the summertime months, and we typically see some of the lowest wind shear values in storm-forming regions.

What went wrong

So what has happened this year to cause a quiet season, at least so far? A detailed analysis will have to wait until after the season, but to date we've seen a lot of dust in the atmosphere, which has choked off the formation of storms. Additionally, upper-level winds in the atmosphere have generally been hostile to storm formation—basically shearing off the top of any developing tropical systems.

While it looks like seasonal forecasts for 2022 will probably go bust, it's important to understand the difference between that activity and the forecasting of actual storms. Seasonal forecasting is still a developing science. While it is typically more right than wrong, predicting specific weather patterns such as hurricanes months in advance is far from an established science.

By contrast, forecasters have made huge gains in predicting the tracks of tropical storms and hurricanes that have already formed. And while not as significantly, our ability to predict intensification or weakening has also been improving. Since Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the most destructive storm to ever hit Florida, the National Hurricane Center's track forecast accuracy has improved by 75 percent, and its intensity forecasting by 50 percent.

This is due to several factors, including more powerful supercomputers capable of crunching through higher resolution forecast models, a better understanding of the physics of tropical systems, and better tools for gathering real-time data about atmospheric conditions and feeding that data into forecast models more quickly.

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Transatlantic Car Rental


My daughter recently received her driver's permit in the US, and aspires to visit mainland Europe someday. She has learned enough about the rules of the road to know never to drive into the ocean; however, she jokingly suggested that given a sufficient quantity of rental cars, she could eventually get to Europe by driving east repeatedly. The question is, how many vehicles would it take to build a car-bridge across the Atlantic?

Eric Munson

After extensive research, I can conclusively state that this would be a violation of your rental car agreement.

Also, you would disrupt ocean circulation in the North Atlantic, potentially seriously altering the climate in the northern hemisphere. That's very bad, although not necessarily a violation of your rental car agreement.

If you try to drive from the US to Europe, your car will stop working pretty quickly, since according to Google Maps there's a large hole between them and it's full of water. Once your car gets stuck, you'll have to leave it there and go get another one.

Driving your second car onto the roof of the sunken first one could get you a little closer to Europe. If we assume you're starting in Boston and heading toward Lisbon, using a car as a bridge would get you about a millionth of the way there, since Boston and Lisbon are about a million car-lengths apart. If the Atlantic Ocean were two feet deep, you could make a bridge out of a million cars placed end to end. Unfortunately, a quick rewatch of Titanic (1997) suggests that the Atlantic Ocean is more than two feet deep. You'll quickly have to start piling up cars in multiple layers.

At first, when the bridge would be just one or two cars high, you could stack them in a single vertical column. But as the water gets deeper, you'll need to create a wider base to keep the wall of cars from tipping over.[1] The North Atlantic current would push against the car causeway, but the tipping force from the water motion would be relatively minor compared to the pile's tendency to topple under its own weight.[2]

As you built your bridge out into the deep ocean, the cars on the bottom of the stack would be crushed. The pressure crushing them wouldn't be the water pressure. Once the windows broke and the interior of the car flooded, the pressure would equalize and the cars would hold their shape, relatively unaffected by the weight of the ocean above them. Instead, what would crush the cars would be the weight of the other cars sitting on top of them.

Even when they're underwater, cars weigh a lot. About 50% of the weight of modern cars is steel and iron, which is much denser than water,[3] so submerged cars are still quite heavy—about 60% to 70% of their surface weight, depending on their exact composition. The cars on the bottom of a mile-high stack would be subjected to extreme pressures, even greater than what they experience in hydraulic car crushers. Those crushers[4] are capable of flattening a car into a pancake a foot or two thick, and the same thing would happen to the cars on the bottom of our stack.

The first part of your bridge to Europe would be over the continental shelf, where the water is relatively shallow—just a few hundred crushed cars deep.

You'd still need a lot of cars to form this shallow-water portion of the bridge; getting out to the edge of the continental shelf would take about a billion of them, which is probably close to the total number of cars in the world. Parking lots hold about 1 car per 30 square meters, so a billion cars would cover a large portion of eastern Massachusetts.[5]

After the continental shelf, the water gets a lot deeper. The deep-ocean portion of your bridge would require a lot more cars—likely about a trillion of them. This is far more cars than exist in the world; a parking lot big enough to hold them would take up most of the Earth's land area.

So you can't rent anywhere close to a billion or a trillion cars—Enterprise, for example, only has about half a million cars in its fleet. But if you tried, you'd run into other problems, too. I got a copy of a recent Enterprise rental car agreement, and I have some bad news:

4. Prohibited Use and Termination of Right to Use.

a. Renter agrees to the following limits on use:


(4) Vehicle shall not be used for: any illegal purposes; in any illegal or reckless manner; in a race or speed contest; or to tow or push anything.


(8) Vehicle shall not be loaded in excess of Vehicle’s Gross Vehicle Weight Rating [...]

(9) Vehicle shall not be driven on an unpaved road or off-road.

You'd clearly be in violation of 4(a)(9) by driving it off-road. I think you'd also be violating 4(a)(4) and probably 4(a)(8) as well. This would result in you being—at minimum—on the hook for the total cost of the rental car.[6]

Some credit cards offer coverage for rental car damage, so you might think that—if you're a high-status cardholder—you could try to get the company to foot the bill. Unfortunately, I took a look at the agreement for the American Express Centurion card, and the "What is Not covered" section clearly addresses this scenario:

What is Not Covered?



3. Use of the Rental Vehicle in violation of the terms and conditions of the Rental Agreement


8. off-road operation [...] of the Rental Vehicle


11. intentional damage [...] to the Rental Vehicle

Interestingly, American Express will also not cover damages incurred by using the rental car in a war:

[...] 1. War or acts of war (whether declared or undeclared), service in the armed forces or units auxiliary to it [...]

This rule could actually end up being relevant here. Your car bridge across the Atlantic, in addition to potentially disrupting ocean circulation, would cut off shipping access to northern Europe and much of Atlantic Canada...

...which may qualify as a naval blockade.

[1] A glance at piles of cars in a junkyard suggests that they often end up in stacks with an angle of repose of 30 or 45 degrees, but a stack with a 10°-15° angle of repose at the bottom should be stable once the cars are sufficiently crushed.

[2] Mike Ashby's Useful Solutions to Standard Problems is a fantastic resource for these kinds of calculations. In this case, you could use it to figure out how a column of cars will topple, which would require an estimate of the compressibility of a stack of cars at different stages of flattening. I used specs from hydraulic car crushers to come up with my rough estimates here, but these estimates could probably be refined with experiment if you know someone with a lot of cars.

[3] Citation: You don't see a lot of anchors floating around.

[4] Most famous, of course, for imperiling George Frankly in an episode of MathNet, the detective show on PBS's Square One TV.

[5] Apparently all the world's cars would take up slightly more space than all the world's people.

[6] If you continue to operate the vehicle in such a manner, 4(d) says the company has the right to notify police that it has been stolen.

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