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Monday, July 16, 2012

Voter Purge Happening. Be Vigilant Now.

Gov. Rick Scott has won the legal battles necessary to move ahead with a disgusting attempt to disenfranchise voters in the state of Florida. This shouldn't be a complete surprise, but nobody should think the battle for voting rights is over. Rather, now comes the moment when the agenda is revealed by facts instead of by suspicion and spoken through the voice of rhetoric.

Via ABC News, the federal courts have said Scott can attempt to purge illegal immigrants from Florida voter rolls and have access to federal databases to get it done. But don't mistake this for a defeat. This is now where Scott gets tested to see if he is a political hack or a man of his word. Readers of this blog know where my money is.

But one should understand the sad history of voter disenfranchisement in the last decade and a half in Florida. This is just a different flavor of the disenfranchise techniques practiced in the past by Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush.

As we all wrung our hands post-election in 2000 about butterfly ballots, a story sadly overlooked before the election suddenly grabbed the attention of political watchers in the state as the purge of convicted felons was dissected. Ex-felons were not allowed to vote, other than those who went through a lengthy clemency procedure, and in the name of fair democracy, then-Gov. Jeb and then-Secretary of State Harris took to cleaning felons who were wrongfully voting off the rolls.

Many liberal commentators on the national level noted this only after the painfully close 2000 vote in Florida went to the governor's brother George W., handing the presidency to the loser of the national popular vote in a painful episode in American vote-counting. Too bad it wasn't ever considered before how this practice would impact the election, but I will note that most election supervisors in Florida refused to do Harris' felon purge because of issues that arose within elections circles.

The problem, of course, was that many people on the list weren't ex-felons at all. Some had similar names and birth dates, and a disproportionate number of those people were minority voters who, should demographic exit polls offer any indication, were likely to vote Democrat in the election. I suspect having to save their own vote from a Bush-led attempt to disenfranchise them would make these particular voters even more likely to cast a ballot against W.

In 2004, the state under a new Secretary of State tried to do a purge again. I wrote about this at the time at Unsurprisingly, there were similar issues again. First, the state tried to prevent anyone from even looking at the list, seeing as that had created so many problems (read embarrassments and dark revelations) in 2000. When the list was made public, people quickly found new problems again and the list was put aside for that election.

Ironically, the biggest reveal then was that Hispanic voters seemed to have been left off the polls completely. Why? The most cynical explanation was that the Cuban vote was a reliable Republican voting block. Even then, the notion the Florida Hispanics were voting Republican was a bit dated, but the political conventional wisdom was still so at the time.

Today, people realize that the Hispanic vote in Florida is more likely to tilt Democratic than Republican. And low and behold, this voter purge targets Hispanic voters squarely.

Why do I bring up the 2000 and 2004 lists? Because they both reveal the ways in which the left won when the truth finally surfaced about the contents of the lists.

To date, Scott has not successfully gotten anyone purged off the voter rolls. But his efforts begin in earnest now, and now is when we see whether he is going after legitimate voters because of their ethnic heritage or if he is genuinely concerned about some secret population of illegal immigrants dilluting our vote.

Honestly, almost everybody feels people who are not American citizens should not vote in American elections. Frankly, it is hard to make an argument otherwise. The question is whether it is actually a big problem. It amuses me how big a deal Scott makes about his team ferreting out up to 1,000 people who may have voted illegally in past elections statewide. More than 8 million people voted in the 2008 election for president, and Barack Obama won the state by more than 200,000 votes. But Scott's insinuation feeds a Tea Party illusion that Obama only won four years ago because of voter fraud.

And they say we need to get over the 2000 election.

Back to point, those who care about the right to vote being preserved aren't worried about people who shouldn't vote being purged. They are afraid the true intent is to go after innocent bystanders who very likely will vote against Rick Scott's party.

Now we get to see who Scott tries to actually purge. Now we get to see if we were right.

And if we were, just as we were in the past, we can supervisors not to do the purge, or maybe stop the state from using the list at all. And that would be a win for democracy, the nonpartisan kind that genuinely matters most if our republic is ever to have credibility on the power of democracy on the world stage.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Money for Nothing

Watching Mitt Romney argue with himself about whether he headed Bain Capital, effectively or officially, in that period between 1999 and 2002 has been entertaining, but if you ask me, the real outrage is that he is still earns more each year from Bain Capital than I will likely earn in my lifetime.

If you don't already know, Romney pulls in millions upon millions each year from Bain, even though he does absolutely nothing. Via the New York Times:

The family’s Bain holdings are still considerable: in his 2011 disclosure, Mr. Romney reported Bain assets between $12.4 million and $60.9 million, which provided between $1.5 million and $9.3 million in income. The blind trust for his wife, Ann, held at least another $10 million, generating income of at least $4.1 million. Because the campaign is required to provide only a minimum value for some Bain assets now held by Mrs. Romney, the total could be far more.

This man did nothing to earn that money in 10 years. The funny thing to me, of course, is that Romney has argued vigorously over the last few days that did nothing to earn that money for 13 years. And this is where the real disgusting news comes, not just about Romney but about where conservative public policy ultimately takes us.

While many argue we shouldn't begrudge Romney for his wealth, and perhaps on a personal level they are right, there is something terribly wrong with an economic system where doing nothing can ever earn you enough every year to buy an island.  And it bellies the lie that so many conservative voters truly believe: People can all get rich if they just work hard enough.

Romney, of course, never did work hard in order to get rich. He was born to a successful businessman and politician, and then he made a career out of leveraging assets to make more money. Did that require some tenaciousness and "creative destruction?" I suppose, but it's not as much work as it takes to move bricks from one end of a construction yard to the other.

Don't get me wrong. I personally have never traded in what anyone might call "hard work." I'm a writer, and carrying my laptop with me is the closest I do to heavy lifting. But I do work hard, just as doctors, teachers, electricians and plenty of other professionals who will never get Romney-type money do. Sadly, it seems the closer you get to doing genuine hard work, the less likely it is that you will get rich doing it.

Somehow, conservatives have managed to get huge numbers of hard-working people to ignore that folks like Mitt Romney make millions each year just watching their portfolios grow. Instead, these rank-and-file Republicans get angry that there are drunks getting welfare money from the government. Honestly, when you consider how little the "welfare queens" of the world actually pull in, it's stunning people consider them worth an ounce of outrage at all.

To put it another way, Republican leadership of today wants you angry that a retired firefighter could earn more than $100,000 a year in pensions just because he spent his healthiest years running into burning buildings to save children from certain death, but then say Mitt Romney should be admired for pulling in $20 million a year because he once ran a company that bought and dismantled other companies in order to further the bottom line for investors.

It really doesn't matter much whether Mitt Romney was calling shots at Bain in mid-2001 or if he had an underling do it. Sure, he was just caught in a big fat lie, but anyone who minds voting for a liar probably left the Romney bus a long time ago.

But that Romney assures us today that he has done nothing with Bain for more than a decade but he still rakes in millions each year from Bain, that's a sign of why our economy is so terribly broken, and why this is not the man who will fix it.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hostility Toward The Working Class

I was hoping Bill Young would quietly retire into the night this year. Instead, it is in on voters to bring about leadership that is not absolutely hostile to working class people. Check out this lovely clip, courtesy FCANactivists:

Because people who are making minimum wage don't have jobs. Lovely.

The Ridiculous Tax-Penalty Debate

This sort of pissing contest is what made the Republican Primary clown show so entertaining this year, but I don't think any general election issue has proved as ridiculously entertaining as the response in the past week to the health care ruling.

Of course, the original schadenfreude of seeing the right betrayed by a conservative Chief Justice, and the resulting justifications, provided a great opening salvo. But I think my first laugh-out-loud moment came when conservative bloggers started writing about how the courts upholding ObamaCare actually hurt the president.

Here is Erick Erickson at RedState:
It seems very, very clear to me in reviewing John Roberts’ decision that he is playing a much longer game than us and can afford to with a life tenure. And he probably just handed Mitt Romney the White House.

That's right, ObamaCare winning just handed Romney the White House. The logical twisting is astounding.

Let's start with a simple exercise and ask what would happen in the health care reform was shot down. By Erickson's logic, that would be good for Obama, right? To have centerpiece legislation, and the only legislation to be commonly referenced using Obama's name, thrown out as unconstitutional would have been just wonderful for the White House. Frankly, this suggestion is ridiculous on its face, and I think initial misreadings by CNN and Fox of the court rulings show that the media would not have gone with such a ludicrous narrative

The logic Erickson uses is that this court decision fires up the right-wing base and puts the health care issue back in the political realm. The mistake he makes, of course, is that this issue was always principally a political one. That is why so many of us on the left have been frustrated by conservatives who profess a hatred of judicial activism trying to push a legislative issue into the hands of the courts. Now sure, Republicans have used this ruling to bump fundraising, but so would Democrats, and everybody was prepared to make a push regardless of what the court ruled.

But now we have entered a new and equally ridiculous stage of the fight: the tax vs. penalty debate.

I admit out side has stumbled a little here too. Obama has said the individual mandate is protected by the taxing authority but is not technically a tax. But there has been for more of a cry on the right for this to be labeled a tax. Not a penalty. A taxing, taxy, taxerific tax tax.

Problem is Mitt Romney's campaign hasn't unified around that message in a coherent way, with Romney staffers first saying the mandate was a penalty, then Romney himself saying it's a tax.

Hilarity. But not for the reason so many Beltway pundits think. This is an insane debate to be having in the first place, and frankly, our side should just stop talking about this issue at all, kick back, and watch Romeny burn his own messaging department to the ground. But let me explain something as a public service to all involved.


The Obama camp in coming months, and they will realize this, wants to brag about ObamaCare and the way it will bring healthcare to the American people. The right will argue that it is too expensive to make sick children well unless they are rich. In fact, they spent months arguing that making sick children well was a violation of the constitution!

The Supreme Court ruling did an important thing in stating the Republicans were wrong. Obama will be helped by the court ruling because he won, not because of debates about the Commerce Clause or the use of judicial restraint or whether there was a leprechaun sitting on John Robert's shoulder convincing him to rule in favor of ObamaCare by offering a big pot o' gold.

Mitt Romney was already running on the platform that Obama is a tax-and-spend liberal, despite the fact taxes have gone down for most Americans in the past four years. This court ruling doesn't change anything in that regards. The right will put out ads filled with lies regardless of what is happening in the world. They will try to create their own reality. They are counting on Americans not being able to assess what is happening around them with their own eyes. They will fail in this mission, and they know it. That's why they are so mad at Romney right now.

Grab some popcorn. This is gonna be a fun election for the blue team.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Rick Scott's History of Health Care Fraud

So Rick Scott just hates federal involvement in health care. So much so Florida apparently won't even participate in the now clearly constitutional reform.

 Fine. Most of this stuff won't kick in until 2014, at which time we are due to show Rick Scott the way out of our governor's mansion. But I would like to remind people Rick Scott knows more about taking money from the federal government than he likes us to remember.

Scott ran HCA based by fraudulently taking money from the feds, so much so he earned the company a record fine in a settlement (Indeed, something I think is often forgotten is that this settlement amount was likely much, much less than HCA stole). But that was different, because that was taking government money and putting it in his own pocket, not allowing a program that would ensure that people who don't have insurance today can get medical care.

This whole health care debate has sickened me. Republicans used to be the party that wanted people using a service to pay for the service, not the ones who would defend a system where the only way poor people could see a doctor is by visiting a government-funded emergency room and standing in an eight-hour line. That's why the GOP came up with the individual mandate in the first place.

But the Rick Scott philosophy has always been that if he cant make money off sick people, he would rather they just die. He didn't care if that money came their the poor people's pocket or strapped government coffers so long as it ended up in his hands at the end, even if it was done so through bold-faced fraud.

That sick bastard is our governor now, folks.

As this governor complains now about federal demands, don't forget his private sector experience was built on stealing from the feds. When he talks about how health care is bad for individuals living in Florida, remember that he made his fortune stealing from people. And when he complains about how this hurts business, remember that his idea of good business was centered around fraud.

It's a shame we can't enjoy the full benefits of health care reform before the end of Scott's lone term of service. Having to live with Voldemort as governor is making many of us sicker every day.