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Friday, December 16, 2011

Allen West's Insanity To Hard To Follow

In a different dimension where this blog was the top source of Florida political news that I once dreamed it would be, I wouldn't be following so many other blogs when spotting the latest Allen West gaffe. It earned him the title America's Dumbest Congressman from Daily Kos today, and Washington Monthly has already pointed out West is stark raving mad.

Let me weigh in anyway. Comparing the Democratic messaging machine to Joseph Goebbels is both laughable (the Democrat's have no talent at messaging) and a bit offensive to come from the lips of a man representing a largely Jewish population.

But I actually think there is something more significant here, and it reaches well beyond West. It is this constant idea among conservatives that they are accountable to no one and when someone tries to hold them accountable, it is a sign of some anti-democratic and wicked conspiracy. At a different time, the media might have called bullshit on this, but not today. Ironically, the reason noone will call them out is because they don't want to appear biased to conservatives, who believe everyone in the world who does not share their worldview is biased anyway.

Makes you wonder what 'bias' even means to these people when they believe Allen West is a respectable public servant.

Sigh. More later, I am sure.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Map An Interesting Start

So the first draft of the Congressional map for Florida is out and there is some significant chit-chat out there. It has been a while since I blogged, and I guess since I have bloviated myself about redistricting, this is a good time to chime in. My take, for what it is worth, is that is is actually a pretty good sign for Democrats next year in Florida.

Some are suggesting this ignores the Fair Districts amendment. I say, Duh!

No, that's not true. I do think this acknowledges the amendment, but only in a political sense and not by the letter of the law. It seems lawmakers are answering the amendment by making a district which doesn't benefit the GOP's ambitions. Given that the Republicans have a stranglehold on the Legislature here, that is a pretty good after-effect of passing the amendment. Does that make me a cynical partisan? I don't think so. Considering Florida is a state with a U.S. senator from each major party and which has been a swing state in the past FIVE presidential elections, it is just crazy how badly the GOP dominates the Congressional delegation from this state. Ultimately, the partisan make-up of our delegation is the greatest way to measure how fair the district lines are created, and this gives us a chance to balance the scales. Just a chance.

Before we start, here is a link to the map that is used today:

The Panhandle is almost unchanged, and I am not sure how much any tweaks would do. When we lost Boyd last year, we probably lost FL-02 for a good while. Boyd was a conservative Democrat, and the voters eventually decided it was time to switch him with a conservative Republican. I am not sure it will be so easy to get them to switch back, and I am not sure how much the modern Democratic Party wants a new Blue Dog. But things start to get interesting in Northeast Florida.

Right now, FL-04 is held by Republican Ander Crenshaw. But the district now has more Duvall County in it than has before. I don't think that means much this cycle, but if Jacksonville trends more Democratic, it could mean this seat comes into play when Crenshaw retires. An Hispanic seat in Central Florida (FL-27) almost surely will be Democratic, and Corrine Brown's seat, while an embarrassment to Fair Districts advocate, seems unlikely ever to switch red. Does Alan Grayson have a shot with this map? I think so, but he will have to convince Democrats of that. In the big picture, that is a good thing for liberals.

In South Florida, David Rivera's district is moving away from him, showing the Legislature may take my advice and hang the fucker out to dry. This is good news for any and everybody, as this freshman who has spent more time avoiding investigation than filing legislation, is a black eye on the state transcending party lines. It looks to me like Allen West is also in for a fight, convincing me more than ever that he is a one-term Congressman and the right's 2010 version of Grayson 2008.

So there is a lot in my opinion to like in this map. The most important thing to remember, in my opinion, is that it is a starting point. Considering the fear in many, many states with GOP legislatures, it is important to note this is a map that does not make anything worse for Democrats next year. Since our current map is so screwed up, that is hardly a consolation, I know, but this map, as it looks today, gives Democrats the chance to pick up seats next year, and the opportunity to get our House delegation in balance over the next decade. And this is only map one, so things are likely to get better. I view this all as good news.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Stop Calling New Frontrunners

I guess all of the pundits, blogs and media outlets are ready to declare Newt Gingrich as the new GOP frontrunner, even though everyone knows he is unlikely to win the nod, much less the presidency. This seems contrary, but it it true.

So can we just stop saying the term front-runner? Can we admit that Mitt Romney has not sewn this up, but that there is no way to tell today, in mid-November, who will start winning primaries, caucuses, and ultimately the nomination?

Here is the deal. Newt Gingrich won't win in Iowa or New Hampshire, and if he is a blip in the polls then, it will be amazing. Just as winning Ames meant nothing for Michele Bachmann, being ahead in the polls right now is not important for Newt Gingrich. If there is a front-runner today, it doesn't matter anyhow. Winning polls doesn't win elections.

Just saying.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Boeing Moving in at Kennedy

Now that's what I'm talking about.

The news that Boeing will take over a hanger at Kennedy Space Center for its own space program is exciting news to those of us who believe private spaceflight is the future. Hopefully, this private company won't be the last to get space on the port.

Seeing the final space shuttle flight has been a tough pill to swallow for everyone living in Florida this year, but this could create a genuinely brighter future, and one where there is more manned spaceflight, not less.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Mr. McGillicuddy Flip Flops

My own Congressman has entered the US Senate race, the one he said he wouldn't enter a few months ago during a clearly botched unroll on the same courthouse steps where his father announced a successful campaign.

Connie Mack may now be the frontrunner in the race to lose to Bill Nelson next year, but I am sure the piranhas already in the tank will take every piece of him they can. Does a known adulterer have much to fear when the ops teams go nuclear? I think we all know that. Expect a stream of news about bar fights, nepotism and bizarre votes on issues sure to offend the right, the left and everyone in between. That's what you get for having a legislative record and the maturity of a 12-year-old boy.

The biggest news in this to me, of course, is that Mack's House seat is in play. Today, it isn't too much of a swing district, but that seems likely to change as the redistricting process plays out. It will really depend on whether the Legislature wants to keep scandal-prone David Rivera's seat in the red column. We will see some early entries within days, but the viability of an interesting race will be determined this spring.

The Republican field in the 14th is already significant, including former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, state Reps. Gary Aubuchon and Dudley Goodlette and a number of smaller office candidates who could make a difference depending on where the district lines fall.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Victory For Multilateralism

I won't completely recount the process I followed from being wary of involvement in Libya to seeing it as a long-overdue return to a foreign policy based on cooperation with the world. I went through that here.

Instead, I celebrate today the power of multilateralism, which is what ultimately led to the death of Muammar Gaddafi. It was freedom fighters in Libya who deposed and disposed this tyrant, and the result is that the country is now in a state of true democracy.

Will that last? I suppose the Glenn Beck's of the world are waiting for terrorists to roll in and install an enemy to America. That could happen, of course, but I would argue it is a lot less likely since America under Barack Obama backed NATO efforts and international assistance for this genuine liberation.

Contrast that to Iraq, where the George W. Bush administration also successfully deposed a dictator but were forever stained with the mark of a foreign invasion. Saddam Hussein was tried and executed by a court there, but it always smelled, even in America, of a verdict designed to appease American interests rather than satisfy the will of the local population.

The same, I believe, cannot be said of Libya. And as a bonus, the slight military involvement we had in the country will not leave us in a quagmire for years waiting for a new government to establish a police force capable of maintaining the same peace as the American military.

This is what happens when there is a true Coalition of the Willing. This is why revolutions are homegrown, and only invasions are imported. This is where international support for the people of a country can result in goodwill. There will be no "Mission Accomplished" moment from the deck of an American military vessel. Yet, it feels like this mission was achieved in a much more durable way.

And of note, the mess caused by unilateral action in Afghanistan and Iraq is still being felt now. We have more troops in those countries than ever set foot in Libya during this entire conflict. It is utterly amazing. The Arab Spring is a model for the world to watch, and for America to learn from. You can't twist people's arms and expect them to be grateful with outcomes forced upon them. But the tanks in Sirte today really are being greeted as liberators.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rick Scott, Socialist

Calling Barack Obama a socialist has come into complete vogue among America's right. I often wonder if they even know what the term means. But based on what Republican leaders like Rick Scott call conservatism, I wonder if they even mean the word as an insult.

For example, what would you call controlling what degrees college students earn in Florida and assigning them subjects to study based on workforce needs in the state? Rick Scott has proposed just that. While the press has focused on his weird hatred of anthropologists (maybe he is trying to clear the job field for his daughter), it strikes me that we have heard this sort of tactic before. Like in Communist China.

Am I exagerating? Perhaps a little. It isn't like Scott wants to force people to major in certain things. But the philosophy remains the same. Have more journalism majors than journalism jobs? Well then let's stop teaching journalism classes. And for my media friends, yes, journalism schools seems to be next on his list after those meddling anthropologists.

So let's get this straight. ObamaCare for everyone is socialism, though having the state subsidize Rick Scott's health insurance is ok. Taxing millioners is class warfare, but redistributing wealth toward the rich makes sense. And taking millions in government money is cool as long as it is through fraudlent Medicare claims.

It seems to me Rick Scott really likes socialism, as long as he gets to be the dictator.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Rick Scott's 700,000 Lies

See what I did there? That headline makes it sound like Rick Scott has told 700,000 lies since taking office. He has probably told far fewer, at least consequential ones, but it sound like a really big deal when I put it that way.

But really, this post is about one lie, that Rick Scott was going to create 700,000 in 7 years through, well, some other third 7 thing as part of his "7-7-7 Plan." (I bet the rest of the country thought Herman Cain was so creative)

The big politics story in Florida this week has been about how the press suddenly realized he was measuring job growth in a different way than he promised. See, the 700,000 was going to be in addition to normal growth, at least on the campaign trail. Now, Voldemort says that is never what he meant.

I always suspected Scott would claim the job growth was happening no matter what the numbers said, and there are frankly some other ways he is cheating the figures that have barely been discussed. For example, in this statement from Scott "clarifying" what he meant in the central promise of his campaign, he touts 87,200 private sector jobs, but a look at the graph at the bottom of the page shows he is ignoring a loss of 15,600 government jobs in the same time period. We'll get to that in a minute.

The big lie really dates back to the summer of when reporters were just starting to take Scott's campaign seriously. When he unveiled his plan, it didn't take terribly long for the press to realize how unremarkable 700,000 new jobs in seven years would be. This is Florida, a state with so many undeveloped platted housing lots waiting for the recession to end that job growth is almost guaranteed in that time period. Maybe he was initially caught flat-footed when the St Pete Times asked in July if he meant on top of normal growth and he said yes. But come the debates, he wasn't waiting for someone to question things. He stated boldly that everything was on top of normal growth, preempting a call of "bullshit" from Alex Sink.

In hindsight, maybe Alex should have just said, 'Well, I'll create 1 million,' knowing that wasn't a job more than would come if she played the violin her entire governorship. But enough hypothetical dreaming.

Here is why the difference matters. Let us look at the last release from the Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation tracking the jobs figures in Florida. In August, we actually had unemployment rate in Florida fixed at 10.7 percent, the same as the month before despite the addition of 9,900 jobs in statewide. How could that be? Florida's population growth is not just people coming here with jobs. We have retirees,families with only one person working, etc. That means jobs did not go up at a rate any faster than our regular population. That is why the number of jobs gained was inconsequential to the economy, other than ensuring things were not any worse.

There are in fact more people actively looking for work and unable to find a job in August than there were in July. The unemployment rate is better than it was a year ago, but in the last month, it has not improved despite the creation of nearly 10,000 jobs. Get it?

The good news is that while Rick Scott has job growth numbers to hide behind and pretend he is on his way to fulfilling his 700,000-job promise, that doesn't matter politically. The voters only really care if the economy is better. If after four years in office, Florida has created 400,000 jobs but added 3 million new people, the economy will be much worse, and Floridians will have no tolerance for "I only promised this many jobs in this many years" platitudes from the governor, and he will be tossed on his ear.

Of course, there are other dishonest things Rick Scott is doing here. One is the suggestion that his own policies have created the job growth which has occurred. I don't want to suggest his trade trips and marketing campaigns to prove Florida is "open for business" have born no fruit. I am sure there has been some good from all that, and they probably were the responsible thing to do. But understand that Scott has been in office less than a year. Any job growth which he could be considered responsible for could only have happened in the last few months.

For one thing, no real policy objectives could be accomplished by Scott until the legislative session, which did not happen until this Spring. The first few months of office, Scott literally could not get any laws passed because there was nobody in Tallahassee to write them. And with few exceptions, new laws don't take effect until the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1, about one week ago! This may be a surprise to Republicans, but government moves very slowly.

So Rick Scott's policies could not, in earnest, have done anything until eight days ago. Just another lie.

Now let us get back to those job growth numbers. I have noted before that Republicans supposedly obsessed with job creation certainly like firing government workers. That is something else coming to roost for Scott with the new fiscal year. All of the employee layoffs that had to come with cutting the budget mean an incredible amount of lost jobs, but Scott doesn't even think those count.

Why wouldn't they? If a teacher loses her job but two manufacturers gain employment, that only nets a job gain of one job, right? If we lay off four secretaries at the Florida Department of Health, but two people get jobs at McDonalds, that is a job loss of two jobs. But that is real math, not Republican math.

Rick Scott might say, with no basis is facts to back it up, that the private sector jobs created were somehow possible because of a reduction in money paid to government workers. Some of that would be because of reductions in taxes and regulations which give a little money back to the private sector so they can create more jobs. That money will be divvied out in small chunks though, so those two manufacturing jobs probably get paid about the same as the one teacher. Sounds like redistribution of wealth to me, but since teachers aren't really wealthy, I guess Rick Scott thinks it's ok. It isn't socialism if the rich don't pitch in.

But again, the fiscal year didn't start until October, and tax cuts to businesses won't set in for another year. The new laws go in effect now, but it will be 2012 before companies are paying out on new tax rates. What's that? Another lie!

Maybe I was wrong in that first paragraph. Rick Scott bundles so many fibs into every statement he says that 700,000 lies may be a conservative estimate.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What To Make of Cain

I have been trying last night to figure what the Herman Cain win in Florida means, since I feel like I really should say something about it. But honestly, the biggest thing I see is that this Presidency 5 poll turned out as worthless as Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich said it would be.

Rick Scott predicted beforehand that the winner of the straw poll would become the nominee. But that was when he figured Rick Perry would win, and it seems he has been looking for a good reason to endorse Rick Perry (please, oh please make yourself an albatross around that Texan's neck). Since Herman Cain won, though, I think anyone would be foolish to say that guarantees the nomination. Rather, this thing just gives Cain enough steam to keep his campaign doors open for a few extra weeks.

In truth, none of this is going to matter once the real primaries and caucuses begin. The greatest demonstration of the polls meaninglessness is the rapid implosion of Michele Bachmann two weeks after winning the Iowa straw poll. Will Cain similarly implode? He seems less gaffe-prone, so probably not, but he also seems highly unlikely to become the nominee.

I tend to think Cain is running for running mate right now, but willingly concede it is silly to ever run for running mate. That is ultimately a decision of the nominee. But one lasting impact of this straw poll win is a demonstration Cain can appeal to Florida voters. Since many Republican pundits have been anxious to preemptively name Marco Rubio as the running mate, this likely takes a huge argument in favor of Rubio (that he would help win Florida) off the scales should it come down to a choice between Cain and Rubio.

Of course, that brings to mind what seems to this liberal observer what may be the best take-away. Between the birthers and the more-rabid-than-justified rantings of the tea party, it has seemed obvious in the last few years that racism, at least passive racism, was more of a problem for Obama than anyone wanted to say out loud immediately after his election. But as a black man wins the Florida straw poll, the first such poll held in the South and a poll which was only supported by the most conservative and most involved voters, it does seem the most active Republicans are anxious to make racism a part of the past. Is there a little tokenism at play? Likely, but then there is some place for that. Generally, it seems that Cain won because the party is hungry for a CEO with private sector credentials instead of a politician with a government resume.

I don't want to suggest too much should be read into a truly insignificant poll. This isn't a bellweather on where the state is headed next November. It isn't an indicator who the Republican nominee would be. But it offers a taste of what Republican party regulars in Florida want out of a nominee. And they don't want to play it safe with a mealy-mouthed Romney or play to the rabid base with a tough-talkin' extra-dumb Perry.

And that likely means this field is still more wide open than it appeared over the last two weeks.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dreaming of Mars

I hope this works.

The Space Launch System (SLS) will be able to carry the Orion crew vehicle, as well as cargo, equipment, and science experiments to Earth's orbit and beyond, NASA said. Officials are targeting its first mission for late 2017.

"This launch system will create good-paying American jobs, ensure continued U.S. leadership in space, and inspire millions around the world," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former astronaut, said in a statement. "While I was proud to fly on the space shuttle, kids today can now dream of one day walking on Mars."

As I wrote before, it was sad to see the shuttle go, but it was really long overdue. If NASA can get another working manned-flight program that runs efficiently and gets us to Mars, that will be a wonderful thing.

And a particularly strange element of modern political opinion is that conservatives absolutely decried Obama for not supporting manned space flight. Maybe it is a military thing, but the supposed budget hawks of today do not have the same problem Bob Dole did when he voted against putting a man on the moon.

I just hope this doesn't deter the progress of private spaceflight. Politics and government can be counted on to eventually disappoint, and I sure hope the kids at SpaceX can keep the dream alive if NASA cannot.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Heartless and Guiltless

In all the coverage of frontrunner squabbling, a little noticed moment when the Tea Party crowd celebrated at the thought of innocent people dying may have indicated the broader problem with the Republican Party today. When Ron Paul suggested a 30-year-old who opted against health care and got sick should die with no chance at government support, the gathered masses went nuts.

As Mother Jones notes in the link, this is just the most recent sign the death and suffering are not reason for intervention but for celebration. Last week, a crowd cheered the fact Rick Perry had signed off on a record number of executions.

But this was the Republican base for Florida cheering Ron Paul's crazy remarks. And it was more disturbing to me to see the revelry than Paul's cold-hearted remarks. He is a crazy right libertarian, and it wouldn't surprise me if he wanted ambulances to pass a bleeding man on the road if it meant saving on government-purchased gasoline. (I do hope this reminds the anti-war crowd that sees the value of Paul in the debates to remember we do NOT need this man to actually become president).

The thing most striking to me, though, is that opponents to ObamaCare always said the hypothetical 30-year-old in Wolf Blitzer's question needed that choice to live without health insurance. That claim was the basis of Bill McCollum's so-far-successful lawsuit against ObamaCare on behalf of all of Florida. And it was always the top complaint from the right. I can hear my brother-in-law now saying 'Why shouldn't a guy who is young and healthy be able to say, I want to save the money and not buy insurance?"

The reason why is that a Republican will some day be in the White House. When that happens, the citizen with no insurance is screwed. Ron Paul said as much last night, and the crowd cheered.

People said Alan Grayson was uncivil suggested the GOP health care plan was 'Don't Get Sick,' and if you do, 'Die Quickly.' Last night, we learned most Republicans will cheer the young people who take their own advice all the way to fast grave.

Update: Grayson has actually responded to this now at HuffPost.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A World Event

When the planes hit the World Trade Center, I was still asleep. Sept. 11 began for me with a phone call from my mother, a teacher who found herself in a school of high school students watching the news instead of studying Latin. She wanted to know what the paper was going to do, and what I would do to report on the crash.

I distinctively remember thinking this was a silly thing to ask. The buildings were still standing. A plane had hit the Pentagon and it was clearly an act of terrorism, but it just didn't seem at the time like the sort of story a newspaper in Florida would focus 100 percent of its resources upon.

My wife woke up and was more concerned. She saw the image and said 'That's the World Trade Center!' Quickly, she ran to grab our 1-year-old son, and she expressed anger that terrorists would bring their fight to our shores. But I simply didn't think it was that big a deal.

Then the first tower came down. From the next room, my wife screamed, 'Something is happening.'

I told my mother I had to go and was suddenly glues to the TV set. CNN's Aaron Brown was audibly shocked, peering through the smoke to try and figure if anything remained. As he declared the tower was truly gone, that was when 9/11 started for me. When the second tower collapsed, it felt inevitable.

I was at work within 10 minutes. Somehow, I knew my day would be long and grim. That by day's end, I would be speaking with people who had lost loved ones. A retired intelligence officer called me not long after I got to work and authoritatively stated the only terrorist group he felt could pull off so extravagent an attack. It was likely not the first time I heard of the group, but it was the time the name would stick with me. Al Quaeda.

We got many false reports through the day. Threats of car bombs were clearing out plazas in Washington. Disney World evacuated, which of course was a big deal for us in Central Florida. As it turned out, the planes in the morning caused the only destruction of the day, but it was enough.

I was on the phone with Rep. Cliff Stearns quickly. His office was among those that had not been evacuated. He figured Congress would declare war as soon as the Capitol was open. That never officially occurred, but of course, we have remained in an unofficial state of war since that day. I do recall being impressed with how much Stearns knew about the political struggles of mid-Asia, and felt we had an interesting perspective on the next few months of international news. Stearns was on displomatic missions to Afghanistan both before and after the fall of Kabul.

A photographer and I also went to a local bloodbank, where lined had formed and where people with no direct connection to the tragedy still felt a need to give back. A grown man was in tears in front of TV set there. I asked if he knew anybody. No, but the loss of life was just immense. If nothing else good happened that day, that transcendant connection between mankind was felt throughout the world.

And I did end up speaking to family for a victim, at least potentially. A girl at the local high school had a cousin in the Center. She waited in school throughout the day, watching the news and waiting for a family member to come and update her. Of course, that didn't really happen. Hope was held for many in this disaster that left chaos for days, and the WTC had no passenger roster. Three of four people did make it out. I never could get an update from the girl or her family.

The day was a moment in time that connected the world. I thought of my own short time living in New York a couple years ago. But everyone, even those who never step foot in the city, have memories somehow tied to that city.

Of course, the years since then have been profoundly changed, often for the worse. Our foreign policy was gripped by paranoia. Our focus, which had been overly focused on domestic issues, turned 100 percent to foreign matters. Sadly, the first steps toward economic collapse went unnoticed as a result. And we went about fighting the last war. Our enemy was a mafia capable of nihilism and mass destruction, but we still sought the modern versions of Germany and Japan to target with our military forces.

But the connection we all felt is something worth revisiting. Perhaps a decade later, we can view everything in a clear-eyed way. Maybe we can take a broader view of the country now, and not be so focused on the madmen who caused this. Osama is dead. Al Quaeda is in tatters. There will always be people intent on doing America harm, but we learned that day a decade ago that the world was largely on our side.

As I watch pictures of children this morning taking rubbings of names at the WTC memorial, I am reminded that an entire generation of children lives with the consequences of this day, but they also view it through the prism of history. The children holding crayons today are too young to recall 9/11 at all vividly. I think the rest of us have something to learn from them. And this country has the strength to do just that.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Roadblocking the Stimulus

It is one thing to disagree with the policies of a president, but to intentionally prevent efforts from helping the state of Florida is destructive and unpatriotic. Sadly, it is no surprise at all that this would be Gov. Scott's response the Obama's jobs plan.

The president wants to create jobs? Well not in my state, says Mr. 700,000

From TBO:
Gov. Rick Scott and top Florida Republicans are sending early signals they could reject the billions in federal aid that could flow to the state under President Barack Obama's jobs proposal.

Florida has a 10.7 percent unemployment rate that is higher than the national average. But Scott and GOP legislative leaders said the plan outlined by President Obama was too similar to the nearly $800 billion stimulus package that was approved by Congress back in 2009.

The article also quotes Speaker Dean Cannon saying Obama still "doesn't get it." I personally feel like the president finally "gets it" and realizes jobs are the issue he must place above health care, continuing unnecessary wars, coddling Wall Street and making clear to America he will negotiate every good idea away upfront.

But the actions of Scott and Cannon speak to something more nefarious. Informed people can disagree about policy, but standing in the way of your opponent's success, when that success would mean the restoration of America's economy, is another thing altogether.

Rick Scott has already said he doesn't want people in Florida earning a living from high speed rail. Now he is making sure nobody new gets employed in a job that is paid for with federal, out-of-state revenues.

Apparently, Republicans do not believe the problem is that too many people are out of work. It is that too many are employed. It should be no surprise since the this governor, who wants us to believe jobs are his first and only priority, responded to the state budget by vetoing numerous job-creating products.

Partisanship aside, I understand Rick Scott wants more jobs created in the public sector than private sector, and I respect all of his efforts to stimulate job creation there, but it has become apparent he will never allow the government to directly create, or in many cases even assist, in job creation.

Also important. Barack Obama was elected to the presidency. Whether you personally voted for him or not, it is not the role of Florida's governor to stand in the way of a federal effort to create jobs. Is this an experiment that could go awry? I guess it is possible, but the American people will judge Obama on the results soon enough. His ideas deserve the chance to succeed or fail on their own without the meddling of an ill-willed state executive .

This will hurt Scott in the long-run, as he is clearly stopping the creation of jobs more often than he is promoting it, and when third-parties measure his progress toward this 700,000 jobs in seven years goal, they will include the many minuses Scott was responsible for every time he turned away money could provide a middle-class family with a paycheck.

Until then, Rick Scott may doom the rest of us who live in Florida to watch jobs created in other states and hear a governor fiddle as the Sunshine State burns.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Drilling Himself Into a Hole

Rick Scott has rarely backed off of a controversial remark, but he sure seemed to run like crazy away from his statement on Everglades drilling today.

From the Sun-Sentinel:
"Gov. Scott has not called for an expansion of drilling in the Everglades," said spokeswoman Amy Graham in an email after the speech. "That discussion is not on the table."

Disappointing, really. This would have been a great tool to bludgeon the governor with. But let's not forget what started the confusion. A single statement widely regarded as an cautious ok to exploration: "With regard to the Everglades, I think we have to be very cautious if there's going to be any more drilling. It's my understanding, we haven't had any problems to date, so my goal would be to be very cautious."

Now, Scott didn't really stop there. He noted that Oil Well Road exists in Collier County, and if they named a road after it, it must be safe. Of course, the Everglades parks are navigable thanks to roads made by people who dreamed of mining resources, but which are not used for that purpose today because that was stupid.

I don't know quite how to react. Should I be horrified the state's top executive could even entertain this thought while sitting in a room of oil-hungry Economic Club guests? Relieved that he would back off so quickly following public disgust? Concerned that he could turn around just as quick? Amused that the head of Florida's GOP is so politically tone-deaf?

One thing I cannot help but question is where Scott's heart truly is after making the statement. His original stance was off the cuff. He was asked about whether drilling in the Everglades was cool, and seemed very clearly to say sure, if we're careful. And I can't think of any BPeason not to think oil companies would fail to be careful.

This isn't an issue where he should have been ambushed. Michele Bachmann made headlines a week ago by campaigning in favor of Glades drilling in Florida last week, and has maintained that position as some sort of manifest destiny for America to rape the land.

The take-away has to be that if Bachmann or another oil puppet becomes president, Rick Scott would not put up a fight to save the Everglades. He couldn't even fight a group of people in his natural base.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

West's Religious Bigotry

Allen West apparently believes our foreign policy should mimic that of the leaders of the crusades. In a bizarre weekly address this week (read about it on SaintPetersblog), he seems to suggest having leaders like Mubarak and Gaddafi in charge was the only thing stopping the rise of a new Ottoman Empire.

This is bizarre on so many levels, and it is scary this man has a seat in Congress instead of a corner in a mental institution.

Let's make this more clear than West's raving statements. He supports military dictatorships because he finds Muslims scary. Plain and simple.

Don't believe these right-wing douchebags when they say support religious expression. It is a lie.

Don't believe when they say they have the interests of the United States at heart with their foreign policy. That too is a lie.

West and his ilk want to have a Holy American Empire, a foreign superpower which imposes a religious belief. He supports a cause more nefarious than even the oil companies. His fantasy worldview envisions one where Muslims are either dead or kept at bay by power-hungry dictators who toss the opposition is political prisons. And should men like West grow in political stature within the United States, expect nothing short of that to become common practice here.

The only saving grace is that this latest rant from West is unlikely to find much traction in a world where few people get scared by the thought of the Ottomans coming back. That is a lousy boogeyman. But this sort of dogwhistle politicking will find an audience among bigots and xenophobes who dream of nothing short of genocide and ethnic cleansing when it comes to setting American foreign policy.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Funny the order with which these transition emails become public.

For example, the emails released Friday evening, a notorious time for politicians to release news they want lost in the shuffle, shows that Jeb Bush, the patron saint of Florida Republicans, was upset with how Gov. Rick Scott did business from the get-go.

Via HuffPo:
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was disappointed that Gov. Rick Scott fired the mother of an Army soldier who had just been killed in Afghanistan as well as others who worked in the governor's office, newly released emails show...

Bush followed her comment with another email in which he notes that other people, including Carolyn "Freda" King were let go. King, who first went to work for the governor's office when Bush was there, worked in the external affairs office of the governor. King's son, Army Pfc. Brandon King, was killed in Afghanistan in July 2010.

"All three are African American, non-political and good workers," Bush wrote to Wiles.

Yes, the people trying to find these lost emails are working very hard to get them released as soon as possible. It is just coincidence that emails of a staunch conservative chiding this idiot governor and suggesting his transition team is a bunch of racists didn't get released until everybody was pro-occupied with their weekend plans.

But we know the email scourers are releasing this stuff as soon as they get it. For example, Bush had also emailed Scott before encouraging the new governor to "veto stupid bills" and to slash spending, and also letting the fellow Republican know he held "a desire for you to succeed."

That email was released early last week, guaranteeing it would get a lot of play in major papers across the state. It had the sort of contents that made you wonder why Rick Scott's people weren't blasting all this email out. Nothing in the email was politically hurtful to the governor. In fact, it had a popular former governor advising Scott to embark on some of the most controversial actions he has taken since being sworn in.

But predictably, the more embarrassing emails are the ones that seem the hardest to find, and which get released after most reporters are halfway to Disney World with their kids.

I am sure that is just a coincidence.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Why Republicans Should Hate Birthers

No, it isn't because they are crazy people who embarrass the entire party. You can't ever really shake that type of thing. Like the wasps that keep forming hives on my awning, destroying one nest doesn't stop the next one from forming a week later.

The big problem with ignoring birthers is that they won't stop with attacking a president you don't like very much for reasons that have nothing to do with his place of birth. Florida's own Sen. Marco Rubio is learning about that now. Via the Daily Caller:

There is already a movement afoot (led by some on the fringe) to disqualify him from serving as president (which would presumably disqualify him from serving as vice president). That’s right — some are arguing that Rubio is not eligible because he is not a “natural born citizen.”

Here’s how the logic works (according to World Net Daily’s Joe Kovacs): “While the Constitution does not define ‘natural-born citizen,’ there is strong evidence that the Founding Fathers understood it to mean someone born of two American citizens.”

Read more:

Unlike predecessor Mel Martinez, Rubio was actually born on American soil, so when people ask Rubio about his ambitions for the presidency or vice presidency, he can't so easily dismiss the suggestion. But birthers who have expended so much energy trying to discredit Obama's eligibility are now eating conservatives just to make a point.

World Net Daily, a guilty pleasure of mine when I really want to laugh at the stupidest people on the other side of the aisle, has never been content to simply allege Obama's birth documentation is all a bunch of forgeries. They have also regularly planted what you would think was a non issue to them, that even if the docs are real, Obama is still ineligible because his father was not American. And since Rubio is the son of immigrants, this warped logic leads to his ineligibility as well.

It is interesting to see these people cling to the notion that our founding fathers, who revolted and established a government with no monarchy, that the lineage of leaders would be of such importance to determining someone's eligibility for the White House. But I digress.

Rubio isn't the first conservative the birthers have targeted just to make a point. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, once on the gossip list as a possible presidential contender, has also suffered because of birther zeal. (Of note, that link goes to a site which asks what Rubio, Jindal and Obama have in common. I would suggest an unlisted similarity is that all have skin a good bit darker than the poster.)

Of course, most of America long ago determined birthers were nuts. But enough members of the Republican voter base fall into that category that many GOP leaders have played too nice. Back when birther zeal was at its highest pitch, John Boehner was refusing to criticize birthers. And a number of members of Congress, including Florida's Bill Posey, have coddled or endorsed the birther position.

Short-term, this is bad news for Marco Rubio, and long-term, this is terrible news for the GOP. Birthers make it very difficult for people of color to rise to prominence in the Republican party, even as party leaders desperately seek for stars that provide diversity. While I am tempted to revel in the irony, this is also bad for the nation as a whole. When minorities, regardless of their personal values and philosophies, can only find electoral success in one party of a two-party government, and only get elected from gerrymandered districts, that limits minorities on a grand scale, which is bad news all around.

While I find many of his positions deplorable, Rubio deserves respect for beating the odds and becoming a leader of his party despite history and demographics being stacked against him. The recent assault from birthers should incite him to take a vocal and high-profile stance against this racist-driven movement within the conservative ranks. Honestly, it is a stance Republican leaders should have taken a long time ago.

Monday, August 22, 2011

They Will Never Grant Respect

Republican candidates for president have little or nothing to say about the end of Gaddafi's regime in Libya. I guess I can't completely blame them. Some refused to back this bloodless (or rather, US-casualty-less) war, apparently only finding themselves capable of supporting wars that bear tremendous human cost to America. But even the ones who acknowledge deposing Gaddafi is a good think refuse to give any credit to this administration.

Via Politico:
Texas Gov. Rick Perry called the end of Qadhafi’s “violent, repressive dictatorship” a “cause for cautious celebration.” But his ginger, forward-looking statement didn’t offer a larger view of the action in Libya and didn’t mention either President Obama or NATO.

Read more:

But hey, you can't blame politicians for being political. I mean, there is a presidential election going on. Certainly, the Democrats weren't so anxious to credit George W. Bush when he captured Saddam Hussein as the Dems were fighting it out in Iowa for the nomination in 2004. Right?

From Signals Vs. Noise:
I was particularly impressed with the level of maturity and respect offered by Dean:
This is a great day of pride in the American military, a great day for the Iraqis, a great day for the American people and, frankly, a great day for the administration. This is a day to celebrate the fact that Saddam’s been caught. We’ll have to wait to see what happens to the campaign later.


I guess I can't say much. Dean showed respect but lost the nomination, ironically because people thought he was too much of a screaming firebrand. I just find it interest that warmongering Republicans who were so anxious to support a full-scale invasion of Iraq are so squeamish about praising the disposition of a despot when it was a Democratic president who had a role in the effort.

Double standards. Hypocrisy. A refusal to even say congratulations to the other side.

These are the values the modern GOP wants to restore in the White House, folks.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Bright Side to the ObamaCare Ruling

An appeals court today ruled that the individual health mandate is unconstitutional. That's ridiculous. But i am sure Bill McCollum is feeling vindicated to see his politically-driven lawsuit filed on behalf of us, the Florida taxpayers, result in some embarrassment for the White House.

I wonder, though, how he feels that the greatest political damage this will cause is likely to Mitt Romney. I expect the hit county on video of the ex-Massachusetts governor proclaiming "I like mandates" is soaring as we speak.

But this, of course, is a matter of law, and I can't help but wonder what the long-term ramifications will be with the courts ruling the government can't tell citizens to buy insurance. Personally, I am waiting to see if state AG Pam Bondi will now tell lawmakers in Tallahassee to drop a requirement for Floridians to own car insurance. Considering Florida has long held that all children should have health insurance with the state even if parents didn't buy it for themselves, I wonder if the state will find itself arguing a "compelling reason" to at least apply the concept of health mandates to minors.

This ruling, of course, is a disappointment to me, but I must say there is some schadenfreude to experience knowing how complicated this will make things for the right. Even though conservatives have long cried about the mandate as the worst part of this bill, that was never what really drove them crazy. Actually, the mandate is what was used to appease insurance companies. The judge in this case ruled that the mandate could be ruled unconstitutional without tossing ObamaCare completely, so this in some ways is a terrible outcome for Republicans, and especially for insurance companies. The ruling essentially says that all the reforms in ObamaCare are legal and sound, and that only a requirement to buy insurance crosses the line.

So when Gov. Scott is next caught beaming about how he was right about ObamaCare all along, ask yourself whether this former healthcare CEO was really bothered by a requirement for Americans to be insured, something which guarantees people are using hospitals more often, or if the problem he and his lobby always had was with the regulations intended to stop insurance companies from screwing patients. Because those parts of ObamaCare still stand.

And remember, if reasonable leaders can get back to Washington, changes can always be made to legislation. Maybe this ruling will embolden leaders in Washington to push for true universal health care and avoid the entire mandate argument in the first place. This ruling is a knock on Obama, for sure, but is no defeat for true health care reform.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Surprising and Lame

I thought Dan Webster had thicker skin than this. Welcome to the big leagues.

Via HuffPo:
Staffers of at least one Congressional office, Rep. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), distributed "homework" to Congressional town hall attendees in the form of a "watch list" that features photographs, personal information and pointed questions about six activists who are constituents of Rep. Daniel Webster (R-Fla.), each of whom was openly critical of Webster at his town halls earlier this year.

Read the full article and be amazed at the level of paranoia. It is pathetic that Webster not only presumed people who challenged him in a town hall were not his own constituents (it is a swing district), but stunning that he never even looked up their address before warning Congressmen in adjoining states to watch out for these scary, scary liberals.

This is crap. Pure and simple.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Grayson's Re-Entry

A Daily Kos diary by Alan Grayson shows most of all that he is doing his homework on what it will take for Democrats to win in Florida in 2012. Without an actual Congressional district to run in as of yet, that's the most we can expect.

Here is the line most people are latching onto:
In 2010, my district and everywhere else in Florida, Republican turnout was in the sixties. Democratic turnout was in the forties. Republican turnout was close to what it was in 2008; Democratic turnout was barely half of what it had been. In 2010, I could have won every Democratic vote (and almost did), plus every Independent vote, and I still would have lost. When I saw those numbers, I said on MSNBC, “when Democrats don’t vote, Democrats don’t win.”

A good lesson.

What is the biggest takeaway to me? He doesn't ever say the word Webster.

I have noted before, the Florida Legislature is going to be good to Rep. Webster. As much of a radical right-winger as the man seems to the progressive blogosphere, Webster has extraordinary constituent relationships and a legendary ability to make friends with people on both sides of the aisle, no matter how far apart they may sit philosophically. If his adoration as the Grayson slayer isn't enough to win him friends in the GOP-filled state capitol, just his reputation as a fair state House speaker and state senator will lead to a GOP-leaning district which includes Webster's strongholds.

I don't care if Grayson ends up still living in Webster's district when the lines are drawn. There is going to be a left-leaning new district in Central Florida. That is where Grayson should run. The man will serve us well when he returns to Congress. Although most of us always liked that Grayson seemed unfettered by political consequence, we can likely trust to see an even more confident progressive head to Washington if he is representing a safe Democratic seat.

I very badly want to see Grayson return to Congress. He needs to run next year in an open seat if that goal is to be accomplished.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cutting Spending Cuts Jobs

I don't if I can say it any better than Joe Nocera did today, but it is getting extremely tiring to hear the far right in this country suggest cutting government spending will do anything but cost us jobs. I wonder sometimes if the current Tea Party crowd is simply anti-government or if they are opposed to any form of society whatsoever.

The fact we have even been talking about "debt ceiling" negotiations as opposed to budget talks shows how far off course the public conversation has gotten in the last few months. Cutting spending means taking money out of Americans pockets and putting more people on the unemployment lines. It is that simple. I understand how the very rich can have no problem with this. They have no shortage of money and do not fear a loss of work. But how regular middle- and low-class Americans can so thoroughly buy the line that any of the spending cuts in Washington will do anything short-term but hurt the economy shows a blindness to fact.

Of course, I don't comprehend how the Democrats can hold the White House and the Senate but continue to always get the short end of the stick on all of this. Personally, I suspect the Democratic establishment will benefit politically from how everything played out, and believe that became clear when Boehner's inability to control his own chamber was exposed.

But as Nocera notes in his NYT piece, that shouldn't matter. Growth is slowing, and it was already moving at a painfully inadequate rate. Now the party which is supposedly pro-business is doing what it can to ensure growth stops altogether. Meanwhile, unemployment remains high.

Everyone in Washington needs to understand that until the jobs problem is fixed, nothing will get better. If they don't see merit to that in and of itself, then they should consider voters can throw everybody out if we want come the next election. Does a struggling economy hurt the president? Sure. But even if the Republicans economic suicide leads to Obama's ouster, it could also lead to their own.

And if there is one thing the right should be able to comprehend, it is self-interest.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Resign as Speaker

John Boehner has failed as a leader of the Speaker of the House. He has done so on a more critical issue than Nancy Pelosi or Dennis Hassert ever did.

The failure to vote on a plan last night, days before the deadline for default, shows that the Speaker has been gambling without even checking what cards were in his hand. He went all in and he failed. And when you do that, there should be a consequence.

I do not think Boehner has committed a malfeasance that would make him ineligible for office. But in the first true test of his leadership, his leadership fell short. For the man leading the so-called party of personal responsibility, there is only one realistic option.

Redstate today says the market crash today is because of "Obamanomics," and not because of what happened in the House yesterday. It is just weird timing, I guess, that the discovery of this mysterious economic philosophy would happen

Mitch McConnell is on TV right now saying the Democrats should come up with a philosophy that majorities in both chambers would agree too, but the Speaker of the House cannot even get a plan that members of his own caucus will support. It seems to me McConnell, who has been compared to Pontius Pilot by his supporters, is not reading the landscape so well.

The only hope at this point is that Boehner will step aside and a new Speaker will take a Senate-passed plan and put it to a vote. This, of course, would do what McConnell demands because it would get all Democratic House members to support it and get the responsible Republican House members who want to avoid default to vote in favor of a Democratic plan.

Republican leadership needs to realize right now that they have lost this game. The deadline is looming. If the Senate can pass a plan and the House cannot, it does no good for the GOP-controlled House to reject the only plan on the table. The gaming is over. It is time for a plan.

Boehner failed to hold his own caucus together. He walked out of talks with a Democratic president. He has used up all of his credibility with the left, and then used up all of his credibility on the right. It is time for him to fade into the background of Washington politics.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Debt Less Important Than Jobs

I have heard so much belly-aching in the past few weeks about how the reason America's economy is in the tank is because of our debt. I call bullshit.

First off, this is a new philosophy for Republicans. Dick Cheney famously said that deficits don't matter, back when the most important thing the White House wanted to do was give tax cuts to billionaires. Come to think of it, that still seems to be the top priority, even as these supposed budget hawks complain about the debt.

But it is painfully obvious that the biggest problem with the U.S. economy today is unemployment. People only want to talk about that when they are taking political digs at one another. But one thing I think Democrats have failed to iterate well with the public during these debt ceiling arguments is that the only way to reduce government spending and start chipping at the debt is to fire massive numbers of people who work for the government or strip benefits from those who get money from the government.

The Republicans seem to understand this when they say you have to keep subsidizing big oil, maintaining a frankly delusional belief in trickle-down economics even with people who already make more money than they know how to spend. But giving money to people who will actually circulate their dollars through the economy, even if they dare use their dollars to cool their family or buy an X-Box, seems anathema to the 'eat the poor' right running the House.

Firing people won't help the economy. It will make it worse. Cutting off welfare checks won't help the economy. It will make it worse. Raising the unemployment rate will hurt the president. But it will make the economy much, much worse. I am afraid Republicans are willing to endure 18 months of economic disaster if it means putting the economy back on poor footing and gives then a shot at ousting Barack Obama from the White House.

But if I give them the benefit of the doubt and believe this really is a philosophical divide, then I think Obama and the Democrats need to spend more time selling that the economy is not about individuals. It is an easy sell for Republicans to say giving welfare checks is wrong because people didn't work for it, but it misses the greater impact of those checks. Telling the poor they shouldn't spend their money on frivolous consumer goods doesn't help the guy working at the local electronics shop or Wal-Mart. It hurts them.

I don't care if you think everybody on welfare is some alcoholic hobo who doesn't deserve a government check. Fine. I disagree but that's politics. But if it more important to deny that person money than it is to make sure this country doesn't risk default or a drop in credit rating, then I think you are wrong on multiple fronts. One, you are wrong to refuse to negotiate, and I think Republicans who refuse to work with Democrats are spitting in the eye of democracy even as they bellow about the wisdom of the founding fathers.

But I think you also fail to recognize that the economy won't get in fighting shape until people have jobs and money to spend, and firing government employees while cutting benefits and entitlements fails the system as a whole just to get some digs at a part you find unattractive.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

GOP Should Sacrifice Rivera

I know. Why should they care what I have to say. But with the entry of Luis Garcia into the race, the writing on the wall is getting more clear. A state House member who lives outside the district is considered a viable Democratic contender for this seat because it seems inevitable things will blow our way this time.

State lawmakers involved in redistricting next year have a choice: draw a seat that is more Republican-friendly by absorbing more of Collier County in order to protect scandal machine David Rivera, or shift this seat more in the direction of Miami-Dade so it becomes more fertile ground. Now, Rivera is so dirty I expect him to draw credible challenges from within his own party, but unless he gets removed from office before the candidate slate is set, he has to be a favorite to be his party's nominee. If that happens, he will lose in November regardless of whether this seat tilts GOP or not.

Federal law doesn't require candidates for Congress to live in their districts. It is just generally a good idea in terms of building a political base. As long as this race is a referendum on the embarrassment that is David Rivera, an outsider can take this election and move in later.

Now, I expect Luis Garcia will face some opposition in the Democratic primary as well. Joe Garcia, whom I thought did an admirable job running against a tide last year, seems an obvious choice to make a run. Depending how this district takes shape, I think a number of other prominent Dems will come out of the woodwork. But a contested primary is good for the party challenging an incumbent. It garners press, makes voters pay attention and fall in love with candidates early, and creates a sense that the primary is where the real contest is that cycle.

From Rivera's statement to the Miami Herald (follow the above link), he has no plans of backing out of this contest except by force.

GOP leaders in Tallahassee can give up this seat to the blue team and make other seats safer. I am sure Republicans would like Connie Mack's district to be all the more safer, especially since speculation is beginning again that he may make a post-Haridolopos run for Senate.

Cut your losses. Toss Rivera where he belongs, in the annals of history.

Final descent

I was woken up this morning by a sonic boom. I'm gonna miss that.

So long shuttles.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

American Heroes Have Thicker Skin Than This

There was a time when incumbent members of Florida's Congressional delegation worked together, and didn't insult and undermine one another at every turn. This was a time before men like Allen West somehow found a spot in the delegation. For those who missed this story, Wild West thought it appropriate to call Debbie Wasserman Shultz an "attack dog," "vile," and "not a lady."

What prompted this sexist screed? Wasserman Shultz disagreed with West on a budget vote.

Imagine. The chair of the Democratic National Committee having a different opinion that tea party acolyte Allen West about fiscal policy. Someone slap this woman and put her back in her place.

Sadly, it is no surprise that Allen West would turn toward vicious, personal attacks to argue his political righteousness. What is more amazing to me is the defense of West as some type of invulnerable figure. The Washington Times called West "An American Hero" in a truly comical presentation of the facts which ignores the personal nature of West's attacks and the policy-driven criticism from Wasserman-Shultz.

Let's try applying some logic to this. You cannot claim the ground of American Hero if you cry like a better whenever an opponent tosses a political punch. Apparently, Allen West only knows how to spar with someone if he is holding their head to a barrel and firing shots. But just as right-wingers made a hero of West for violating international law, they see him somehow as a victim even when he is the one to turn a political disagreement into a mudslinging match.

This will raise West's standing with the zany madmen who make up his base, but it will damage him with rational voters, swing voters, the type who show up during presidential election years. West is toast in 2012, and the GOP should know it even if the wackos in the tea party movement can't see past his military stars. This man is as much a disgrace to the U.S. House of Representatives as he was to the Army.

So go ahead and play the victim, you super-mighty "man-talking" embodiment as muscle-bound machismo. All you do is guarantee your own self-destructive demise next November. But fear not. You will have everything from the biased media to the Democrat's vile attacks to blame for voters' despicable return to their senses. I hope you will also be crying about your own party didn't do enough to protect by rigging redistricting or raising funds to promote your raving lunacy.

You are a coward who can't take a hit like a man, and who can't stop yourself from attacking a strong women who you should be working hand-in-hand with to promote the beyond-partisan needs if Broward County voters. And unlike your disgusting behavior while in the military, you will receive an appropriate punishment when voters toss you out on your ear.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Grayson Playing It Wise For Now

So far, Alan Grayson seems to be plotting his return to Congress using something he has sometimes lacked: sense. I didn't expect it first, what with him filing for a district that doesn't actually exist. But he seems to be acting in way that is appropriately shrewd and politically realistic.

An Orlando Sentinel shows the flexibility which Grayson shows in evaluating the prospects for his own future, but more importantly to me, it shows a calm assessment of where his chances are most promising. I feared last November that Grayson would try to win his own district back, knowing full-well that Dan Webster would run in much more friendly territory in 2012.

Why? Webster is extraordinarily popular in Tallahassee. He was buoyed by a GOP wave last year which allowed him to win a majority Democrat seat, but enough rich Republican territory lies on the edges on that district that it seems inevitable a Republican legislature will make this a right-leaning district this year. All reports also point to the Republicans trying to stem off criticisms of partisanship by making sure one of the new Congressional district in Florida ends up as a Democratic seat. (Mark that as one success for the Fair Districts amendment)

The real question now is whether Grayson can win in this new district. It will be a majority-minority seat, but it will be curious to see the racial breakdowns when all is said and done. If blacks outnumber Hispanics, for example, it may end up Gary Siplin's race to lose, despite his own baggage. But if this is an Hispanic seat, it could be up for grabs for a Grayson comeback. So far, I have not heard of a field-clearing Hispanic candidate from this area, but feel free to inform me of one.

Of course, Grayson will likely see the same flood of national dollars from activists across the country that made for a huge war chest in 2012, even if that war chest proved ineffective against a GOP tidal wave in the state of Florida. Certainly, I would be happy to see him back on the floor of the U.S. House, and would feel less anxiety if he held a safe Democratic seat.

If things don't work out with redistricting, though, I hope Grayson stays realistic and sits this cycle out. He is an effective progressive voice that actually needs the megaphone of public office less than most anyone else. I expect 2012 to be a much, much friendlier year for Democrats than the last painful cycle, but especially with redistricting controlled by the other side, I don't expect a Dem wave in Florida.

I would hate to see Grayson branded a three-time loser. For now, I think he is playing things safe. As much as I enjoy his past bombast, safe is the right thing for him to do.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Told You So

Haridopolos out. Never stood a chance.

The obvious question now is who will run. Adam Hasner seems to be the best shot right now for the right. This exit is big enough it probably opens to door to someone like Connie Mack to reconsider, but I expect whatever secret skeleton was hinted at in that closet is still hanging around.

Some sitting Congressmen may also make a go, at least one of whom could really complicate my blogging life.

But it seems to me today as it has seemed for a very long time. Sen. Bill Nelson is in a stronger-than-it-appears position to get re-elected. And at this point, time is on his side.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Godspeed, Shuttle Program

With the launch of the Atlantis today, mankind saw its last scheduled blast into the stars, but by no means will this be the last time we reach to touch the face of God. Much has been made about the end of the space shuttle marking the end of an era for manned spaceflight, but it should be remembered this is the end of an era for a vehicle, not for trips to the stars.

"On the shoulders of the space shuttle, America shall continue the dream."

I don't know who it was who uttered those words as the shuttle lifted off the pad today, but they are words which must be remembered.

Those living in Cocoa Beach are understandably distraught and concerned about the future. The Obama haters are ironically quick to scream about how evil it is to end this long-running government program. (One wonders if he was expanding the shuttle program if they would call it socialism) Many people in the of Florida are feeling the sadness of knowing the orbiter is making its final runs around the Earth, and I too am a bit sad knowing there will never again be shuttle sent into space that looks like the toy vehicle I used to fly around on my ceiling fan in my room.

But what people who believe in spaceflight should be doing now is looking forward to the bright future. Space travel is about advancement, and the end of the space shuttle only bears this type of finality because the Constellation program is not as far along as we would hope. As I have noted before, there are also great opportunities which exist now with private spaceflight.

The shuttle was never going to take us to Mars, or even back to the moon. When we dream of a future where man lives in space, it is necessarily one where the shuttle is a museum piece, technology long surpassed by the next better rocket.

Continue to dream. Today is just the beginning.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Screwed Up

That's one shocker of a verdict. One really has to wonder how the presence of human remains in the trunk of a car for somebody who went partying for a few days while cops searched for her missing child.

I cannot help but think there remains a miserable public life lying ahead for Casey Anthony, but for right now, I join a chorus of people upset justice has not been well-served. Much of that will likely weigh on the shoulders of prosecutors and investigators who pegged so much hope of technology and so much less than expected on traditional evidence-gathering.

I am kind of shocked that a Florida verdict (we've never been known here for taking a soft view on crime) would return a not guilty verdict here. But I think it says some things about our values, and if I may go off on a haphazard commentary on this, it shows how the "traditional family values" which so often are suggested bedrock for society do not always offer as much strength as one might expect.

I think the holding up of maternal figures as sacrosanct has served us poorly, and if people could wrap their heads around true gender equality, it would mean something in cases like this.

I believe a focus on punishment within our justice system too often shades the thoughts of those who must decide who deserves the punishment.

But I am sure many on the other side of issues today will feel in their gut that liberal outlooks on the world had a detrimental effect as well.

Who knows? But a lot of people are angry right now, and I think they have good reason to be. The question looking forward though should be on how to make the justice system more fair and equitable, not more hostile and vicious.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sunrail Gets Rick Scott's Go-Ahead

Credit where it is due.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

The decision sets the stage for SunRail to begin operations as early as May 2014, running between DeBary in Volusia County, downtown Orlando and the south edge of Orange County. Within another couple of years it supposed to go to DeLand in Volusia and Poinciana in Osceola County.

The approval ends the region’s 30-year quest to devise a transportation alternative to cars and buses. Previous attempts ranging from magnetically levitated trains to light rail options have failed

While Scott closely held his decision, he did leave hints that he would give the go-ahead, most prominently by setting aside more than $269 million for SunRail in the state budget that takes effect today.

Maybe it was the PR disaster of killing light rail. Maybe the people Rick Scott has surrounded himself with have over time convinced him of the genuine need for working rail in Florida. And maybe, just maybe, six months of office-holding has finally injected some public responsibility for a governor whose background before was all private sector.

But this was the right decision. I didn't think he would do this. The decision to support SunRail marks a moment when Gov. Scott could have chosen to set us back a decade on rail, or allowed the project a fair shot at success regardless of his own personal doubts.

Rick Scott made the right move today. I applaud his choice.

Coddling Evil

Much is rightfully being made of Gov. Voldemort's robocalling madness. But I wanted to note a little-discussed element about it - the demonstration of a gross double standard for Rick Scott and for Charlie Crist by the Republican Party of Florida.

Make no mistake, I am no Crist sympathizer, as long-time readers will know. But I can't imagine the Republican Party spending money on an effort to raise positives for a politician not up for re-election for another three-and-a-half years. Indeed, this is the party that ultimately went all in against a popular governor to boost a right-wing crazy to the post of U.S. Senator.

So let's consider this. Rick Scott is recording robo-calls on an almost weekly basis and poisoning the voice mail of independent voters on an almost weekly basis. Considering these calls carry such lies as the suggestion he delivered a record veto on spending in order to pay for education (he actually budgeted less for education that the Legislature did, and regardless that money can't be easily redirected), I am glad the calls come from a political body instead of being official expenditures of the state.

But unlike his vanity letters to the editor, these calls are not being funded by his own campaign, but by the party. These calls come at the expense of state lawmakers and Congressmen in swing districts this year who could really use the help, thanks mostly the the deatheater taint the governor has put on the 'R' marking by their names.

Maybe the albatross impact of this governor's immense unpopularity is reason enough for the party to get involved. A sinking tide beaches all boats, after all. But it should be noted that when a governor, even one not favored last year by the establishment, turns into a national laughingstock because of his out-of-touch policies, the Republican Party rushes to the rescue.

Contrast this with the response to Charlie Crist's woes last year. While I was never a fan of Crist because I saw his policies as opportunistic, Florida Republicans watched his approval ratings with independents and Democrats and reacted with horror. A governor who would not carry water for the far right? Detestable, never mind his boost in the polls.

Indeed, when Jim Greer was personally favoring Crist's Senate prospects, the organization went nuts. It seemed clear to me that Greer's problems began not when it came to light he was caught stealing but when local parties started holding straw polls that touted Marco Rubio's tea party popularity. In the end, the governor was utterly abandoned, not by independent voters but by his own party.

Less than a year later, we now see that same party embracing a man nobody else wants to touch. The policies which make Rick Scott disgusting to average voters make him a hero to the right. Cutting benefits and pay for public workers? Turning away free money for infrastructure improvements? It is clear to even the casual observer that Rick Scott is punishing us poor muggles in order to promote a small ring of powerful evil lords who should be able to fund their own success but intend to make life easier at the expense of the poor. This is worse than corporate welfare. This is an assault on the middle class.

And it is exactly what the Republican Party wants in a hero.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Are We Really In Libya?

As I have mentioned before, I've been a little squishy about our involvement in Libya because I don't know if the U.S. stamp of approval does much for democratic uprisings in this part of the world. But I must say the rebuke of our Libyan involvement is just disgusting to me. Based on their unwavering and uncritical support of Bush's moral-free invasion of Iraq and our way-past-unwelcome forays in Afghanistan, I just can't believe these people can start preaching to us now about war powers.

To catch folks up, the House voted down a measure authorizing our involvement in Libya. A threat to cut off funding failed. But the words from GOP members who have suddenly found a war operation they don't like was astounding. Here is Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, via HuffPo:

“I think the message from Congress is not only is Libya not authorized, we don’t want to fund it. Period.”

All of this made me ask, just how much involvement do we have in Libya anyhow? We are supporting NATO, meaning we are actually going along with a real "Coalition of the Willing." We are primarily providing air support. We have not sent in an Osama bin Laden-like team of seals to storm Gadaffi's palaces.

In fact, we have yet to see a single American military casualty result in this involvement. Check this list of military deaths reported by the Department of Defense. You will see we are continuing to lose soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq on a regular basis, even though the intended goals of those military operations, meaning the ouster of Saddam Hussein and the hunt for Osama bin Laden, have already been accomplished.

In other words, our involvement in the Libyan conflict is largely symbolic. Certainly, people have died in Libya, but it has mostly been the forced on both sides of this civil war. But we simply haven't paid a major price in American blood.

Compare the rhetoric from the GOP regarding this bloodless war to the caustic attacks against the left when resistance was expressed regarding operations in Iraq, which are still costing lives eight years later. Ann Coulter, who has criticized Libya involvement, thinks our involvement in both Libya and Egypt has been wrong-headed, and thinks the strange thing is that Democrats support these bloodless operations while opposing the incredibly costly attack in Iraq. Back then, she wrote a book called Treason about how unpatriotic it was to oppose a president's military ambitions, ever.

But she is just a pundit. What did officials say back then?

Well, here is Kevin Brady (see above) on President Bush's plans in Iraq, via The Political Guide:

"If our military leaders need the extra troops in Baghdad then Congress needs to back them. I have concerns about where we find the troops to build strength in Iraq because our soldiers and families are stretched awfully thin already.

But there can only be one Commander-in-Chief. If Congress starts interfering in battlefield decisions or refuses to fund our troops this war is lost. The consequences will be tragic."

Pretty funny, huh?

Republicans support war when they control the White House and oppose it when Democrats control the White House.

Republicans support war if it means our soldiers get killed for political reasons in efforts which produce only negative change in the Middle East and hurt our interests abroad, but oppose it when America is part of an internationally-backed effort and when no American lives are placed in danger.

Maybe the problem is that Democrats just aren't as good at jingoism. Honestly, most liberal anti-war groups have maintained opposition to Libya, refusing to succomb to the hypocracy that remains the core value of the modern GOP. Barack Obama has never attacked those who oppose his policies as un-American. We don't have politicians calling for boycotts of pop stars who are critical of the president. We simply haven't deployed the same fear-mongering machine that Bush used to guilt Americans into supporting wrong-headed actions of yore.

I have a feeling the right will get their comeuppance. I won't count on there never being an American soldier killed in the Libyan conflict, but at this rate this will be a much lower casualty conflict that accomplishes regime change much faster. Obama will be able to campaign two years from now on a military success that did not result in innumerable deaths, and did not paper every front page in America with stories of local soldiers whose lives were lost for reasons both distant and unclear.

But regardless of one's feelings on this conflict, it seems quite clear right now that Congressmen like Brady never have cared about the lives of our troops or the reasoning for our wars. They certainly didn't care about executive overreach when a Republican did it, and therefore don't really care at all.

All they care about is disgracing Obama. They disgrace themselves and their offices instead.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Astroturf At Its Worst

This is a sad, sad attempt. It really is. Rick Scott is sending out form letters to supporters to send to newspapers.

For what it is worth, the editorial sections at every newspaper I have worked at toss such letters out when they realize they are form letters. Of course, that would only work if letters were coming en masse. Seeing Scott's popularity numbers right now, maybe he figured that wouldn't be a problem.

Wondering how to counter this? My basic instinct is don't bother. But if people want to write their own letters, emphasis on their own, I am sure it would be easy to collect a litany of complaints much more coherent than this crappy form letter.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Recruiting Against Rivera

I suspect it won't be hard to find a slough of Democrats willing to challenge Rep. David Rivera, a freshman Republican in the 25th and easily the most embarrassing result of Florida's GOP storm in the 2010 elections. I have great admiration for Joe Garcia, and hope he runs again, but apparently some other interesting folks are also getting into the mix, including state Rep. Luis Garcia.

This will be a big race, so people will have to get in early, even though the district lines won't be known until next Spring. But something interesting, it seems as if this district, created 10 years ago so Mario Diaz-Balart could get a cheap ticket to Washington, may get drawn by the GOP Legislature as a more Democrat-leaning district.

From the St. Pete Times:

The Miami-based congressional district held by Republican Rep. David Rivera could get cut at the Collier County line, making the seat a little less Republican, said Steve Schale, a Democratic consultant.

Rivera's district, which is over-populated by nearly 111,000, borders the Fort Myers-based seat held by Rep. Connie Mack, who's mulling a run for U.S. Senate. His seat is overpopulated by about 162,000.

So it's likely, though not guaranteed, that many of those excess Collier and Lee County residents will form the backbone of a new Southwest Florida-based congressional seat, according to Schale.

Since Rep. Connie Mack is running for re-election instead of the Senate, I expect Tallahassee will make his seat a little safer at Rivera's expense. And since Mack doesn;t really live here anyway, he probably doesn't care. (note, I live in Connie Mack's district today. I also live a couple miles from Jeff Kottkamp, who the Times suggests may benefit from redistricting, so that may change)

The question in Tallahassee from a political standpoint is how much the Republicans want to keep this seat. Truth is the seat has been trending blue, enough so that Diaz-Balart high-tailed it out last year. Now that we have one of the most outwardly corrupt freshman in the country representing the district, it seems a ripe choice for flipping in 2012. And by corrupt, I mean was instantly under federal investigation.

But the question is whether is is important to keep the district red, not Rivera. Some Republican leaders are already recuiting challengers for this seat regardless what happens with Rivera. It will be curious to see if the folks in Tallahassee try to hold this area for their team.

The advantage we have, and the one we should leverage, is that this seat is tainted by corruption regardless what it looks lie next year. We should be the housecleaning campaign, regardless who we run, and regardless who they run. If we put a strong enough slate of people out there right now, I think it is more like the GOP won't even put up a fight. They are likely picking up two new seats in Florida this year, and that should be enough for them.

And when this seat moves to our column, we can bask in the irony that a seat blatantly hand-drawn for the Republicans will be in the hands of Democrats a mere 10 years later.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Wrong Inspiration

An interesting political phenomenon of the last 50 years has been the shift of "Support Israel" from being a banner message for the Democratic Party to one for the Republicans. Today, we seem to be at, I hope, a point where blind trust in Israel's good intentions is on the decline within American foreign policy.

But I get very discouraged when I see a message like this from Rep. Dan Webster, R-Winter Park. Webster went onto Good Life 45 to espouse a belief that continuing foreign aid to Israel guaranteed "God's Hand" would remain on this country. (h/t to Think Progress on this)

Here is YouTube of his appearance:

Webster's talk of how he "doesn't like giving money to our enemies" but "loves giving money to Israel" is problematic in a lot of ways. Of course, the position should not be dismissed out of hand. I, too, dislike how much foreign aid we give to nations which are openly hostile to the United States and which seem unconcerned about funding efforts that threaten our own national interest.

But what makes Israel our great friend? Certainly Benjamin Netanyahu did not seem friendly toward America during his recent meeting with Barack Obama, attacking our president as an ignorant fool in fornt of international press while being hosted at the White House. Israel's media called the get-together tense and cold. And in the midst of that, Bibi mischaracterized Obama's policy on a Palestinian State as a radical departure from past American positions, when it in fact was not. Webster may disagree with Obama's positions on Israel, and that fine, but I think the current friction between our leaders and Israel's leaders shows the nation is not our best friend.

But Webster's logic is what leaves me flabbergasted. He doesn't argue that supporting Israel is in our nation's best interest, or that Israel has been a valuable foreign policy ally. He argues that our nation must act based on religious conviction. Without getting all Church-and-Statey about that, making decisions about providing financial or political support for other nation's based on a particular interpretation of God's will is extraordinarily dangerous and foolish, and should not be considered in important decision-making processes in Washington, D.C. Webster obviously has a friendly audience on this television show, but his constituents as a whole should be appalled by this type of worldview.

Religious views have always played too great a role in American foreign policy in Israel. Whether influential Jews in the Democratic Party or evangelicals in the Republican Party are promoting this, the decision to endorse a foreign power, especially one with a horrendous record on human rights, should not be decided based on a desire to satisfy God.

Personally, I don't think God wants to engage in political gamesmanship. But my own values also conflict with the notion that ethnic segregation of the sort Netanyahu has supported for years would not meet the test of "What Would Jesus Do." I both disagree with Webster's suggestion God will look favorably on our support for a barbaric and detestable administration and in the notion that God's Hand should be the desired goal of any granting in foreign aid. If that makes me radical, then radicals far outnumber the people in this world who think Webster's view is mainstream.