Custom Search

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Space Jobs

So the House today made it so we get one more shuttle launch. I hope Suzanne Kosmas uses this to her advantage, but that's about all I can say.

Per the UPI Science News section, the House voted 304-118 to save the shuttle program for at least a little bit longer. This was a popular measure on both sides of the article, and shows how Democrats like Kosmas can save jobs in their district, even when the president doesn't include that in his budget. I'm happy Sen. Bill Nelson was visiting the House today making sure this got through. These are elected officials and they have constituents on the Space Coast, so this is what they are supposed to do.

But I can't help but wonder if we shouldn't just rip the band-aid off here. The Shuttle program is a dying program. I frankly find the popularity of this among conservatives a bit baffling. This is really an antiquated program, and a classic case of government continuing to fund something just because it is too painful to stop funding it.

I've noted before that those Republicans who dog stimulus spending on roads, which get used by millions every single day, are fairly hypocritical voting for millions to be spent sending people in aging cans into orbit. Like so much in government, our leaders seem unwilling to spend what it takes to reach loftier goals, but too reliant on pork to cut the losses and call it a day.

What we really need to do is find a way to reach further into the stars. I tend to think that can best be accomplished offering incentives to private space carrier providers, but it doesn't seem right now as if anyone is ready to put a Virgin Galactic ship on the pad as soon as the last shuttle lands.

I think the short-term possibilities in space tourism could be wonderful for the Space Coast economy. I think the long-term benefits on genuine intergalactic exploration are so great they can be ignored forever. But the vote today just hops NASA back on the same hamster wheel that has been spinning since the 1980s. Rather than waiting for the next Columbia disaster, I'd like to move on to the next step instead of keeping the shuttles on life support.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Kosmas Plan. The Grayson Plan

Central Florida this year may offer the best example of campaign experimentation for Democrats in this entire campaign cycle as Suzanne Kosmas and Alan Grayson take starkly different approaches to re-election strategies. If one of these incumbents fall in November and the other remains standing, it will set the tone for years on how campaigns in swing districts are waged.

Kosmas is playing the ultimate moderate. She supports the Bush tax cuts, piddled around on Obamacare and has disappointed liberals with a Progressive rating which makes Allen Boyd look like a leftist. She is trying to be what many, including myself, believe is a dying out creature: the Southern conservative Democrat.

Grayson, meanwhile, is the ultimate fighting Democrat. He calls out social conservatism for being outside the mainstream, assaults right-wing health care policy, and fills his coffers with national donations as a result. This is the campaign most of us in the blogosphere have wanted from Democrats. It is what we hoped Howard Dean would do, and after that campaign imploded, what we wished so badly John Kerry had done.

But the "conventional wisdom" has always been, when the going gets tough, run to the center. Never mind that in any sport known to man, the most successful plays normally come from running up the sides.

Right now, Congress is breaking session, and infighting between the conservative Democrats like Kosmas and the liberals like Grayson has resulted in no vote being taken on the tax cuts, either those that benefit the rich, whom Kosmas is apparently quite worried about, or those that affect the rest of us.

There isn't enough polling being done on either of these seats, despite being the most watched Congressional races in the state. Kosmas and Grayson both have released internals which show themselves leading. But Sunshine State just released a poll that shows Grayson behind Dan Webster by 7 points. The NRCC says Kosmas is behind Sandy Adams by 10.

Obviously, everything is still in the air, and the next five weeks are go-time for both incumbents.

I want both freshmen to win re-election, of course. Kosmas is far from my favorite Democrat, but she's better than Rapey McNovotes. But given the choice, I would rather see Grayson re-elected and Kosmas go down than vice versa. While I was hard on the Grayson ad yesterday, I do kind of hope the name Taliban Dan sticks. More importantly, though, I want a declaration that sticking to one's principles and fighting for a liberal cause is not political foolishness, and that a progressive agenda has its place in mainstream America, not just liberal strongholds.

It's still a real possibility both of them could lose, which would suck, but at least would leave no room people to blame being liberal for Grayson's downfall. More important than any candidate is the right for a progressive agenda to be treated with equal respect in the marketplace of ideas, especially when right-wing fanaticism is so often given a pass.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hey Alan, I'd Rather They Look Crazy

Alan Grayson has sparked a big argument over semantics with an ad which really could have done a lot of good. The issue at hand is an excerpt from a speech by Republican challenger Dan Webster to religious men about the role of genders in marriage, and a quote a film editor just found a little too precious.

"She should submit to me. That's in the Bible."

Of course, as local media have already noted, he said a little more. A full excerpt via the Orlando Sentinel:
Find a verse. I have a verse for my wife; I have verses for my wife. Don't pick the ones that say, um, she should submit to me. That's in the Bible, but pick the ones that you're supposed to do. So instead, love your wife, even as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it, as opposed to wives submit yourself to your own husband. She can pray that if she wants to, but don't you pray it.

So what's the difference. Not all that much, really, except the Grayson ad makes it seem like Webster wanted men to go enforce this scripture, and Webster was actually telling them it was up to women to consciously submit to their husbands, and that men should worry about their own action. Either way, I consider a little weird and antiquated.

But I wish Grayson wasn't going this route. It's patronizing and distracting. And it does as much to energize the defensive right as to fire up the left.

The frustrating thing is that Grayson nails Webster on some legitimate public policy positions which fall outside mainstream philosophy. Remember when I noted pro-life groups are touting some 63 House candidates who oppose abortion even in cases of rape or when it saves a mother's life? Webster is now on that list.

The problem is, none of that is getting discussed because of Submit-gate. You have Markos Moulitsas, who is particularly protective of the American Taliban brand, defending Grayson. But Adam Serwer is tearing up the advertisement at the Washington Post. All of this is turning the conversation to Grayson's campaign tactics and away from the fact Dan Webster is kinda nuts.

I always figured Webster would be the toughest person for Grayson to face in the general election, and that is because Webster is the opposite of Grayson in every way. Grayson is known for being willing to fight hard on the floor of Congress. Webster was known for running the state House in a way that allowed Dems a voice on legislation even though Republicans held significant majorities. If Grayson is the king of righteous anger, Webster is the master of calm demeanor. When Webster was considering resigning from the state Senate a few years ago to seek higher office, a bipartisan group of legislators devoted time on the Senate floor to ask Webster not to leave because he was too well-liked within Tallahassee. He makes a difficult target for Grayson's blowtorch tactics.

But as it happens, Grayson is right on the issues, and Webster is right of Attila the Hun. He was the one who sponsored a bill in 2008 requiring women to get ultrasounds before abortions, a bill which a few years later would get passed and sent to Gov. Crist's desk. He pushed for elimination of the intangibles tax under Jeb Bush, just one of the many tax give-aways to the rich which Democrats need to exploit this year in order to energize the middle class.

This is what the voters in Florida's 8th need to learn about Webster. They know he is a nice guy, and spending campaign money convincing them otherwise is just a waste. People need to realize the reckless, right-wing social and fiscal policies that leave this nation economically wasted and far too far from free were promoted in large part by Webster.

Focus on that in the future, Alan. Please don't submit us to more of this worthless praddle.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Et Tu, Wexler?

Watching the way this Senate race has played out since Charlie Crist took his Republican clothes off and started trumping down the streets in his naked independence, it has frustrated me to no end how many otherwise sensible liberals have nodded, applauded and cheered that the Emperor had beautiful new liberal credentials.

Now, fire-breathing liberal Robert Wexler has jumped in. This makes me very angry. But it's just the latest in a long list of backers that includes Charlie Whitehead and a number of other high- and low-level Democrats. And the governor is touting his support from the left pretty loudly.

To be honest, I am starting to wonder if Crist really is trying to win this anymore. Since taking a hard tack to the left, he has done nothing but bleed Republican support to the advantage of Marco Rubio while splitting Democrats with Kendrick Meek.

I worry, in my most cynical moments, that Kos is right about Rubio getting a free pass and this race tilting totally in the wrong direction. I don't want to kid myself into thinking this would have been a cakewalk if Crist died quietly in the GOP primary and there had ended up being a genuine Meek-Rubio battle in November, but I certainly think things might be easier is Crist wasn't chipping at the left full-time right now.

But people like Wexler fuel the myth that Crist is the only thing standing between Marco Rubio and the Senate. A united left would stop Rubio, and do it more forcefully than squishy Charlie ever could. That is why the Wexler endorsement hurts so much. This man literally wrote the book on standing up for liberal values, and has now thrown his weight behind a guy whose politics shift with the sands. How can someone who stood up to Bush rhetoric even at the height of jingoism now be snuggling up to Crist?

I want Meek to win. I haven't been shy about saying that. I also always figured Crist went into this race the favorite because he could siphon from the left and the right. But I never expected Crist to run this piss-poor of a campaign, and I now fear he will prove me wrong by placing poorly and ruin my hopes of a Meek win by taking the Democrats down with the ship.

But hey. Maybe I'm just in pessimistic mood. Maybe I was more on the mark last week. And for some reason, there aren't a billion polls coming out on this race right now, despite no candidate polling above 43 on a good day.

People have been chiding me for months, telling me a vote for Meek is a vote for Rubio. Well look at the world around. Crist is spoiling this race for us. He has tossed out his political future on the right, and is scorching the fields as he explores life on the left. Crist won't win this way, but can do a lot of damage. And Wexler is enabling the destruction.

Maybe I'm too pessimistic right now, and was more on spot last week. Hopefully the polling will turn around a bit as all candidates take to the airwaves with a little more oomph. Meek has people like Al Gore, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden behind him, and those should be worth more outside a small part of South Florida than Wexler could ever dream. But things have to swing into gear quick.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Adams Would Say No For Rape Victims?

Something tucked into a HuffPost article caught my attention today. Apparently, the Republican National Coalition for Life is very excited about Sandy Adams, one of 63 House candidates they have endorsed who are "pro-life without exception."

In other words, they oppose freedom of choice even in the event the mother was raped and in cases of incest. Follow some links and you realize she even opposes in cases where the mother's life is in danger.

The article as a whole focuses primarily on Senate candidates, which makes sense. Senators, after all, are the ones who vote for Supreme Court justices, likely the only people with the power to impose these kinds of archaic restrictions.

But RNC for Life spokesperson Dianne Edmondson make special note of four House candidates who were especially exciting candidates to watch, and Adams was among them. I've written before about Adams' extreme views on other constitutional issues. I'm sure more will come up, but here is a list so far.

- Adams opposes direct election of U.S. Senators, preferring the Legislature take the reins there.

- Adams wants to repeal the amendment which created the federal income tax.

- Adams opposes a woman's right to choose, even in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the mother's health.

And you though the Tea Party was all about upholding the constitution. Turns out that includes one particular reading of it, and not a complete one at that.

Now, it's no secret Democrat Suzanne Kosmas is among the most endangered incumbents in the U.S. House. An NRCC-funded internal poll released last week shows Adams beating Kosmas 49-37. But can a candidate this extreme really be considered as a reasonable alternative?

What It Means To Lose A Country

Obama is just like Castro. That seems to be the message behind this advertisement from the Marco Rubio campaign. Check out the last line.

"As the son of exiles, I understand what it means to lose a country."

So he understands what happens when communist revolutionaries take over a nation through an armed revolt and turn dissenters into political prisoners. A lot of connection to what's happening in America today, right?

I mean, seeing the Democrats win landslide elections the past two election cycles, including watching President Obama receive nearly 70 million votes, more than any candidate in American history, is exactly like witnessing a violent revolution. Exactly the same.

And seeing left-of-center programs programs like the very watered-down health care package, and proposals intended to save the world, is kind of like tossing your enemies into political prisons and letting them die from dehydration. Exactly the same.

And suffering through less than two years of President Obama has to be exactly like dealing with 36 years of continuous, uninterrupted tyranny on behalf of the Castro brothers. Why, it's just amazing conservatives aren't fleeing to Costa Rica to escape the terrible, oppressive regime in power within the United States right now.

The funny thing, of course, is that the Tea Party camp is the crew dressing up like revolutionaries right now.

But this also shows just how far Rubio will go to push the meme Democrats are really some type of destructive force pushing not only a philosophically wrong agenda, but one that will totally end the American way of life. The hyperbole is ludicrous.

All this is especially funny to me since there is no way Marco Rubio will get a majority of votes in the Senate race this year. He could win, of course, but the current front-runner is polling in the low 40s. I guess it's fine to conservatives win with a plurality as long as they are Republicans.

But even if the Rubios and Joe Millers win on Election Day, I'd like someone to point out they are coming in without the majority support of their state voters, and they they represent not an outspoken majority but a group of well-organized activists who came out ahead in three-way races during a mid-term. And then I hope they remember that people like Rubio did so comparing the Obama administration to one that seized power and allowed zero dissent.

Hopefully, though, a majority of Florida voters will see through this insane, extremist rhetoric, and remind Rubio that voters can still stop nutjobs from seizing the reins of power here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What Wave? Garcia Up on Rivera

Don't look now, but Democrats in Florida may make net gains against all predictions on doom in House races this year. A new poll shows Joe Garcia up 7 points on David Rivera in Florida's 25th. Now, it's just an internal poll, so I won't go nuts on it just yet, but that's a big enough lead someone ought to commission an independent poll pretty darn quick.

The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll, commissioned by the DCCC, pegs this with Garcia at 40, Rivera at 33, Tea Partier Roly Arrojo at 7 and Whig Craig Porter at 2 percent. I'd be a lot happier if Garcia was over 50 right now, but this means even if all the Tea Party voters came home and voted Republican, the race would be tied. And while people always want to cry spoiler, I don't believe those third-party voters would come out for a mid-term election to cats anything but a protest vote.

The Garcia camp is obviously giddy. From a release:
“This poll makes one thing clear - South Floridians are rejecting Tallahassee politician David Rivera's scandal plagued past because they know he can't be trusted,” said Shripal Shah, Regional Press Secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Voters are supporting Joe Garcia because they understand that he will fight for middle class families and will work hard to bring jobs to South Florida.”
If nothing else, this shows a great opportunity for a pickup, despite the doom-and-gloom predictions making all the national headlines. As I've said again and again, this is a very winnable race for us. If it wasn't a territory trending our way, then Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart wouldn't be fleeing this custom-made district to run for his brother's seat instead.

But more important, Rivera is a terrible candidate. Last week, I noted he is now resorting to calling Garcia a henchman of Castro. His past is peppered with accusations of domestic violence, inescapable financial problems and an unorthodox history of quashing dissent. This is who the Republican Party of Florida has chosen as a successor to a seat drawn solely for the purpose of adding to its Congressional majority.

My rosy prediction the Dems could gain a seat in Florida this year hinge upon Garcia winning, so I am pulling for him in a very big way. Since the DCCC also has a money advantage right now, I'm rosier about this South Florida race every day.

Memories of the SBA

It was only a matter of time before this became a campaign issue. The sloppy investment decisions of the State Board of Administration gripped government officials throughout Florida three years ago, throwing retirement funds for cities and school boards into total disarray and spawning creation of a competing investment portfolio.

And Alex Sink was a part of it. Her position on the Cabinet and SBA gave her one of three votes on the investments. Until August, the best hope of allaying any political consequence for this was that Bill McCollum, the once-presumptive GOP nominee for governor, was just as much to blame. Now Sink has secured the Democratic nomination, but Rick Scott's surprise candidacy balances out the ballot.

But I'm not that worried. I link above to a St. Pete Times on the entire SBA affair. It's a fair assessment, but it's a gobbledygook of a scandal. Basically, money managers were chasing higher yields on investments, something they really shouldn't do with a standing fund such as this, and got burned by a collapsing economy. They were running the funds like an investor looking for a quick buck, and Sink, McCollum and Gov. Charlie Crist went along.

None of it was illegal. It was all just stupid.

I was covering the City of Cape Coral when all this went down, and that city was among those who yanked their money and fled the system, never to come back. The finance director for the city got an award for the foresight, but I also spoke with other cities who felt the mass exodus created the collapse as much as the actions of the SBA. That, I would note, is an opinion not well-expressed in this piece.

But the biggest reason this won't be a candidacy-cratering controversy? It's too complicated. Sink was one of three people who supported a move which could have boosted public revenues, but always ran the risk of costing. The latter occurred. How many people have been directly affected by this? Excluding those SBA officials who lost their jobs amid the original scandal, nobody. If you don't quite understand what all happened, you are not alone.

Compare that the the biggest of Rick Scott's scandals. His company was fined for stealing from the federal government. You get that? The fine was for $1.7 billion. The loot was likely much larger. Scott likes to brag the HCA had cheap rates when he was in charge. How were they low? If he'd known, he says he would have stopped the fraud. But according to another Times expose, he was warned of problems but never bothered to check things out.

That's all pretty cut and dry. Sink, as one of three votes, supported a bad investment and got snookered by crooks.

Rick Scott's company was caught stealing.

Which story scares you the most?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Something To Note on Rubio's Surge

A few recent polls have shown Marco Rubio surging in the polls, most recently an Ipsos/Reuters which pegs the race Rubio 40, Charlie Crist 26 and Meek 21. I won't sugarcoat anything. The polls are consistent right now, so this is no outlier. Rubio is the favorite right now. But lest Democrats, or even Crist supporters, lose heart, there are some things to keep in mind.

Any pollster worth his salt knows you don't get good results randomly calling anybody with a listed phone number. Getting some hick in the woods who doesn't know where his polling place is and asking him who he supports in the Senate race will do no good. Pollsters screen voters in a ton of different ways, and the first step is usually calling people who have regularly voted before.

This election year, though, each of the three major candidates offers something to groups who have not always participated in elections before. The most notable political movement this year, of course, has been the Tea Party, and Rubio was among the first revolutionaries to benefit from the crazy zeitgeist. But if I may rub against conventional wisdom a little bit, I am not sure how many of those energized by the right-wing conservatism are truly new voters. These activists, while not folks I would characterize as smart, are informed on policy.

As demonstrated by races in Utah and Delaware, the movement has been about conservative purists taking back the party platform using the machinations of politics. For example, less than 60,000 people voted in the Delaware primary Tuesday, only about 32 percent of the Republicans in the state. Like Florida, the state has a closed primary, or else the defeat of Mike Castle surely would not have taken place. In Utah, the voting pool that ousted incumbent Sen. Bob Bennett was even more selective. Only 3,452 delegates were present at the state party convention where Bennett garnered just 26 percent and was booted from even appearing on a broad ballot.

All this is to say the Tea Party isn't made up of previously uninvolved voters. It is made up of reliable, super-involved voters. Crist would have seen the same fate as Castle had he stayed in Florida's Republican primary, but he saw the chances were better in November, and he is still right.

Crist has appeal to moderate, independent voters who normally only come out for presidential elections. And he is the rare independent who has plenty of money in the bank to reach out. While many Republican politicians yanked their support from the governor as soon as he went Indy, Crist's financial supporters have stayed true. That means he can go on TV, and can send out mailers. He can reach a target audience of people who don't like the partisanship of Washington politics and normally sit mid-terms out. As it happens, those are exactly the people he needs to motivate and get to the polls.

And they are people who don't show up for pollsters. They often get screened out, if they get called at all. Polls predicted candidates like ex-Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura would lose in 1998 for precisely this reason. Ventura won by getting people voting who had never voted.

And as for my favorite candidate? I would note Meek has been surging in the polls since he won the primary. Once polling in the low teens, he is now firmly back in the 20s, and going up. Why? For one, Democrats realize he can win. He trounced the over-monied Jeff Greene in August, and he finally got his mug on television sets. Plus, he also has an appeal to a big voting group - blacks - who notoriously are under-reprented in most elections.

Barack Obama attracted more than 65 percent of black voters to come out in 2008, surprising no one. That was about 5 percent more than came out for John Kerry, who was attempting to become out whitest president ever. Now, nobody thinks Meek has the political energy of Obama, but he can ride the coattails well. Registration increased among blacks in 2008 as well, so more voters are involved in a process to which they once felt disenfranchised. Once Meek is coating the airwaves with advertising, he will inspire voters to come out in hopes of electing Florida's first black Senator since reconstruction.

So the polls favor Rubio today, but the pollsters likely ignore the greatest sources of political opportunity which exist for Meek or Crist. And as noted before, this has been the most dynamic election year ever in Florida. I wouldn't underestimate the possibility of any outcome on Election Day.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Complainers Keep The Story Alive

It inevitably happens whenever a story gets over-covered. Once the papers are printed, the broadcasts are done and the country is whipped so far past a tizzy they are tired of everything, the critics start asking why the media was covering a story in the first place.

So is the case with the Rev. Terry Jones. Obviously, the Gainesville hate-monger is no sympathetic character, and his actions were perhaps not creative enough to just the attention his canceled Quran-burning wrought. But as I see tweets and status updates roll by complaining at how much attention was paid by the media, I wonder how the tweeters could possibly know.

The reason attention was paid to Terry Jones is because America paid it. The media focus is simply an extension of that. Now Jon Stewart is saying the media paid too much attention to the minister, but last week was devoting segments of his show to the topic. Hillary Clinton says the media should have ignored it. And of course, the media itself always does plenty of naval-gazing.

But at least reporters will engage in self-reflection. The same does not seem to go for the general public, which faints and fauns on every aspect of the story, driving up hit counts, ratings and every other measure which editors use to determine the news of the day, and then blame the media for luring them in with all this sweet candy and vitriol. They were made to read this story. Also, their mother made them fat.

I have already linked to my own First Amendment soapbox on this, but I want to reiterate a couple things I believe with all my heart. Pressuring this demonstration of free speech to stop was wrong. It was wrong of Secretary Gates to call Jones and pressure him to stop. It was wrong of Barack Obama and Mitch McConnell and Alex Sink and everybody who felt the need to quiet his voice. If they wanted to do anything, they could have set the example of actively ignoring Jones as they claim to wish the media had done.

But there are reasons we pay attention. A religious leader felt the work of God was to publicly burn a sacred text. Yes, he has a small congregation, but should we only pay attention to such cultish behavior when it amasses to a real problem? This was important for us to notice. It was important for us to reject. For liberals to reject. For conservatives to reject.

And we were denied the chance by de facto censorship. That is not the American way. But now we move on to the next step, rejecting those who allowed us to pay attention in the first place.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rivera Tries to Tie Garcia to Castro

When so much bad news hits your campaign for Congress, how does a good GOP hopeful respond? By calling his opponent a traitor. The fun was exposed by the Naples Daily News, where much to Rivera's chagrin, someone knows Spanish. Rivera apparently wenton Spanish-language radio and had an otherwise typical interview, but decided to slip in that Garcia was an "esbirros."

Lost? He is the newspaper's translation:

Republican candidate David Rivera has labeled Democratic opponent Joe Garcia as an esbirros, or henchman, of Fidel Castro’s Communist regime, among other harsh claims made in Spanish in a Sept. 3 radio interview with a radio station in Miami.

And then he denied saying that. Twice. But who would have thought the newspaper had the ability to get audio, and to translate the justification for Rivera's accusation. He said Rivera destroyed a foundation helping Cubanos. Oh, and he did it to help Castro's government.

More below:
“He (Garcia) has the support of all of the allies of the Castro regime in this community. All of the owners of Castro’s travel agencies are supporting Joe Garcia. All of the esbirros (and) Fidelistas (Castro sympathizers) that we have in this community are supporting Joe Garcia,” Rivera said in Spanish.
This is all baseless, of course. Garcia was executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation for four years, and served on its board for 20. He touts that work on his website, where he boasts becoming one of the leading advocates for human rights in Cuba and Latin America.

Frankly, Garcia is far more anti-Castro than I care for, but I accept that South Florida candidates, particularly those coming straight out of the Cuban-American population in Miami, are going to support continued embargoes and the like. Frankly, Garcia and Rivera aren't far apart on Cuba issues. Which, of course, if probably why Rivera is stooping to this level.

We shouldn't be surprised. Rivera has been a disaster as a candidate, plagued by scandal after scandal.

I have detailed the reasons before why I think Garcia can win this race, and why Democrats should pick up on his momentum. But if my sunny optimism admiration for the Democrat doesn't get others revved up, consider directing sheer anger at this sack-of-garbage running on behalf of the Grand Old Party. Don't let someone who lies in Spanish so the media won't catch it end up with a seat in Congress peddling that garbage, or trying to derail any messages he doesn't want out.

Crist Comes Out For Gay Rights

What to do. What to do. Raw Story says Charlie Crist is going to come out this week with a position paper favoring gay rights. He will oppose Don't Ask Don't Tell, support gay adoption, etc.

After writing so often about what a hypocrite Crist is about so many issues, how do I react to this story? Hmmmm...

I guess I can't think of anything. We'll just have to see how this plays out in the media. In the meantime, he is a link to some wedding pics.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sink Kick's Scott's Hiney in Fundraising

Division of Elections reports show enormous fundraising successes for Democrat Alex Sink in the wake of the state primary. I would like to think that would give naysayers some pause as they predict the doom of the Democratic Party this November.

Alex Sink grabbed a cool $525,000, compared to in Rick Scott's $43,000. I know that doesn't mean a huge amount because Scott is just going to bankroll the race the same as he has done to this point. The man has loaned a shocking $38.9 million to his own coffers so far. But this does show a huge enthusiasm gap in our favor.

From the time Rick Scott first reported figures in April up until the end of the last reporting period of Sept. 3, the Republican has only collected just over $567,000 in cash donations. Sink has taken in around $8 million. And since she is showing a 2- to 7-point lead in recent polls, the news is roses right now for Florida's CFO.

All of the data, be it financial or in the polls, indicates that Sink's supporters want her to win. That makes a huge difference going forward. After a bitter and divisive primary, one which offered Bill McCollum supporters few reasons to support Scott with any sort of enthusiasm, the Republicans are in bad shape when it comes to the gubernatorial race.

In a year when the Tea Party voters get all the press, and a year when so many people supposedly are frustrated with the Democrats, the Republican Party of Florida has to be very frustrated right now. But this is predictable. Bill McCollum ran a lackluster campaign and got beaten by a terrible candidate with a huge bankroll. All of the establishment Republicans in the state, from Jeb Bush to Jon Thrasher, found themselves with egg on their face, spending Primary day at what had to be a very depressing party in Central Florida waiting to hear McCollum concede.

Now, most party establishment has officially gotten behind Scott, but Scott had made them look stupid. He called the state GOP corrupt, labeled all Tallahassee insiders as a major problem, and now has no concrete party support. Plus, McCollum did everything he could to point out the ten shades of sleazy that color Scott's shadowy past. Independent and liberal voters did not vote in the GOP primary, but the learned plenty about Scott along the way. And while Sink coasted to her party's nomination with nary a bad word said, Scott had poisonous negatives come dawn on Aug. 25.

Things will change, of course. Scott will run nasty campaign ads which tar Sink as a Tallahassee insider as well. He will ask voters if they really want a former Bank of America executive handling Florida's purse strings. He will subtly raise questions whether we are ready for a female governor, and drop hints about whether the woman is too liberal if she won't take her husband's last name. All the crap he has, he will throw.

But we know that. McCollum was taken by surprise. He may have known Scott was a crook, but could not anticipate the tactics Scott would employ is his vanity-driven, shameless power grab of a campaign. We know. And so do voters.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Like Voting for Senators? Not Sandy Adams

One of the best things going for Republican Sandy Adams in the race for Florida's 24th is that people don't know much about her. In this sort of anti-incumbent, and in some places anti-Democrat, climate, being an unknown quantity can be good. But as we learn a little more about the state House member, voters may suddenly realize it isn't a great idea to jump on the Adams-wagon.

Right now, incumbent Suzanne Kosmas is pushing audio of Adams supporting repeal of the 17th Amendment and going back to letting statehouses choose U.S. Senators. I am curious what Marco Rubio thinks of that idea.

So do you enjoy voting in Senate elections? Since we have arguably the hottest such race in the country, I would think voters right now would be especially suspicious of this sort of constitutional repeal.

And once again, I'd like to note that Republicans, supposed defenders of the Constitution, seem to have a lot of things they want repealed. Birthright citizenship. Federal Income Tax. The list goes on and on.

I wrote yesterday that this race may be slipping away from us. If Kosmas can fight back, though, and paint her opponent as an extremist, then we can defend the 24th from attack. Adams was part of a crowded primary field, and emerged victorious when many early on were predicting rich steakhouse man Craig Miller would be the nominee. But outside of the few thousand (OK, almost 20,000) who voted for her on Aug. 24, she is largely an unknown quantity.

Let's hope Kosmas writes Adams' story before Adams does.

Why The Quran-Burning Must Proceed

update: Well, call me skeptical, but I believe this cancellation is a fake. Based on coverage from the New York Times, it seems very clear to me this story that Jones cancelled the burning based on a chance to talk Ground Zero mosque with Imam Rauf is pure baloney. My guess, tomorrow morning Jones will announce that the NY Imam has rebuffed his offer of compromise, and that the book-burning will go as scheduled.

Just as I was getting into it, Terry Jones has apparently canceled the Quran burning. I don't think I'm on board with this.

I have tried to ignore the Gainesville pastor who plans a book-burning to celebrate the worst attack on American soil in history. But with Barack Obama, Sarah Palin and David Petraeus going nuts over this, I feel this now-national story cannot be overlooked. It would have been nice to think one man's deranged message would get no traction, but it has, and we all now have an obligation to pay attention.

To get the basics over with, burning the Quran is wrong. It is dangerous to Americans abroad and at home, and it is an inappropriate form of protest against anything.

But far more important to note is that the Rev. Terry Jones must not have his rights to free speech violated. Nobody - not the government and not an angry citizenry - should infringe upon that. Our freedoms, those things the terrorists supposedly hate us for, must be protected. Indeed, the extremely offensive and outrageous protests like the one Rev. Terry Jones plans to conduct demand protection the most.

Why? Because the expression of American viewpoints, no matter how onerous, provide honesty to our democracy. Freedom of expression, more than any other single element, provides the workings to our political system. It is why democracy works in America but has failed in other parts of the world. Many forget Saddam Hussein was regularly re-elected by his people in democratic elections, successes grounded solely in the fact people were so thoroughly terrified of speaking out against the tyrant.

Terry Jones is providing a public service to democracy this weekend. He is offering a very public peek into the dark heart of right-wing extremists, and showing exactly why everyone who bathes their message in Christianity is not right merely by virtue of accepting Jesus Christ as Savior. Even many who view the religion of Islam with contempt are offended at the notion of destroying a holy book in protest.

The reverend also exposes the flawed logic to the thought patterns of many social conservatives. The Jones view is that his salvation through the Christian faith makes his own actions and outlook just. If Islamist terrorists attacked us on 9/11, an action he knows in his heart was wrong, it seems an obvious answer that their religion is the source of the problem. The actions of the 9/11 terrorists were evil, and the 9/11 terrorists were religious Muslims, thus religious Muslims must be evil.

As a liberal, it seems clear to me Mohamed Atta worldview was closer to Jones than it is to my own. But that is just my opinion. To Jones, tolerance of any Muslims is akin to appeasing terrorists. Of course, to me, the actions of Jones this weekend are clearly evil. Jones is a religious Christian. Thus, to follow Jones' logic, all religious Christians would be evil. But I reject that logic. My worldview is that the actions of a few nuts, even when done in the name of God, are no reflection upon an entire faith.

This is the difference between liberals and conservatives. For more than three decades, conservative Christians have argued their interpretation of the word of God was the only one which was valid within American politics. But my Bible includes passages about tolerance and forgiveness. Those are liberal values. And it has frustrated me for some time that the dominant voices in political conversation have insisted those views reject true Christian faith, even if those values are built upon the same faith.

I am delighted that the Quran-burning controversy comes on the heels of the New York mosque debate, another matter of little real-world consequence but which is grounded on freedom of expression and those values most important to the national foundation. In the mosque conversation, conservatives have lambasted moderate Muslims for daring build a center of worship down the street and around the corner from an area where 9/11 terrorists did this nation harm.

Sites like RedState have ignorantly suggested the "mosque at Ground Zero" would be a victory site for hate. Of course, most of those who attacked us that day died at Ground Zero. That was their own victory dance, if one was to be had, as smoke billowed and towers collapsed moments after they "martyred" themselves for a cause. No one in Al Queda will feel empowered by a mosque near Ground Zero. It is the creation of Ground Zero which emboldens them. They wouldn't know about the mosque is such a stink had not been raised by its critics. But in contrast, I believe Imam Rauf is right to suggest broad rejection of the mosque could boost recruiting efforts for terrorists and compromise national security as Muslims suspicious America is waging war on Islam have their fears justified.

Still, protests of the mosques are just as important to protect as the burning of the Quran. They show that bigotry, not faith, truly drives the attack on the Islamic faith by many Christian conservatives. That insight helps democracy more than it hurts us.

Those who know anything of theology know the bickering between Christians and Muslims is truly silly, as the faiths are rooted in the same ancient texts. The Quran is as much an extension of the Holy Bible as an alternative. But religion is not truly guiding these outward actions of hate. It is only used to justify them.

And justifying hate is absolutely what the Rev. Jones will do this weekend. He planned for only the like-minded to hear his venomous sermons, but is pleased, I am sure, to now have a world stage. As leaders complain this will stoke the hate of the Islamic World, Jones celebrates. He wants his "enemies" to hear his message.

They should hear. But so should we. As Jones tries to explain that his Christian faith justifies his own prejudice, but the Islamic faith of Al Queda extremists does not justify theirs, we should hear that. When he says that Americans who do not share his worldview are people weak of faith, even if they consider themselves true believers, we should hear that. And when he tries to promote the 30-year-old message that right-wing hatred is the greatest contribution Christians can introduce to the public discourse, we should hear that too.

It is vital we absorb this freedom of expression. It is critical we consider and deliberate the words he speaks. And when his poisonous corruption of the word of God is put to the scrutiny of critical thought and common sense, it is inevitable that most will reject it. And that is an important accomplishment indeed.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bad News for Kosmas

If anyone is going to mess up my sunny disposition about Democrats' chances in Florida's House races, it will be Suzanne Kosmas. I am starting to fear the freshman has worked so hard to moderate herself in the eyes of voters she has been left with no strong base on which to win re-election.

A poll provided to The Buzz shows Kosmas as a 12-point underdog to state Rep. Sandy Adams. At this stage of the election that is bad news. Of course, this is a partisan poll from Public Opinion Strategies, and so far is just one poll. It could be an outlier. It could be one that is weighted heavily to favor Republicans. Are 63 percent of Space Coast voters really opposed to Obamacare? I have trouble believing that.

But there is no question this is troublesome ground. This seat was created in the 2002 Legislative session, when Speaker of the House Tom Feeney wanted a custom district to carry him to Washington. It worked until the Jack Abramoff scandal and a Democratic wave brought him down. But the district still leans to the right.

That is why Kosmas was wishy-washy on health care. She voted against original versions, pissing off the left, the voted for the final, pissing off the right. Not that I expect Democrats to learn lessons, but this should teach one to those politicians who believe blatant pandering gets anywhere with modern voters. But nothing to do about it now.

Obama has low approval ratings in the district, around 38 in this poll. With his shuttle-hating ways, that doesn't surprise me so much. But again, Kosmas has responded by coming out fighting against the president. Since she already has a shaky relationship with the left, I don't think this is so wise a strategy.

My advice, shore up support on the left. Compare Kosmas' support in FL-24 to Alan Grayson's in FL-08 and you see how well triangulation fares to authentic liberalism in the year 2010. But it may be too late. There are no big fights left in Congress before Election Day, and no way for Kosmas to still prove herself to voters. Her record stands for what it is. Only her rhetoric can turn this race around.

To write off a race in early September, as some party leaders already seem intent to do, would be ridiculous. A few presidential visits and a solid televised debate could still shift things the other way. But more pundits are moving this from Toss-Up to Leans R. I don't like it, but I can't argue. I want to say this is Kosmas' race to lose. I fear that she will do just that.

Allen West, Banking on Crazy

One of the most entertaining races in the entire country this cycle has to be the Klein-West battle in Florida's 22nd. The fun is provided almost entirely by over-the-top Allen West, the manifestation of machismo and everything the pistol-hugging wingnut fringe wants a Congressman to be. West is one of the best fundraisers in the country, drawing money from wackos in every corner of the country.

He is a man with no mental filter. Rather, he speaks from his gut, the same gut that encouraged him to fire bullets off near an Iraqi police officer's head when he suspected collaboration with the enemy. And increasingly, he speaks only with those whose guts shout the same zany things that he does.

Read this interview with Renew America by conservative writer Joe Simpson. In it, West ups the looney-tunes quotient by tying every issue under the sun to some socialist-terrorist plot. And you thought the Reds and the Islamic extremists didn't get along. My favorite part is where he suggests Mexican immigrants are secretly Muslim terrorists. From the interview:
The number one language being learned by terrorists right now is Spanish, and we are finding prayer rugs and translation books all along the border.
But there are far more important parts of this interview, most notably the place in which West promises criminal investigation of the White House. What for, you may ask? But that presumes you believe it as anything less than criminal for leaders to implement policies with which you disagree. Apparently, West does not feel the same way. When asked what would warrant a criminal investigation, here is West's reply:
There is so much. We have seen stimulus monies earmarked for blue states, TARP monies showing up in foreign bank accounts, the administration providing taxpayer dollars to support a Soros-owned oil exploration company drilling off the Brazilian coast while Obama shuts down drilling in the Gulf... it boggles the mind.

I would support investigations into the many unconstitutional Czars this administration has appointed aimed at revealing the kinds of activities they have engaged in. I would support investigations into this administration's interactions with Wall Street cronies, unions, ACORN and the SEIU.
Of course, West wants his supporters to know he is crazy. So are they. He just doesn't want anyone else to figure it out, and thus has stopped speaking with anybody who is not Fruit Loops. When you read the full interview with Simpson, the writer makes clear he is a card-carrying member of the bonkers right. That's fine, of course. Simpson isn't running for Congress, and I appreciate what he does for everybody by putting the words of politicians in full public view for broad scrutiny.

But West now will only talk with people like Simpson, writers who believe "this administration is engaged in a war with the American people." When David Weigel at Slate sought to write up a piece on this race, he learned West has stopped returning calls. Klein would speak to him, but West was AWOL. Now, West may not like Weigel's slant on things, of course, but he is also directing sheer vitriol at the mainstream reporters covering this race.

After the Palm Beast Post endorsed his Republican primary opponent, something obviously done more to protest West's extremism than to boost David Brady's tiny standing in polls, he told writers at the Post-run Post on Politics that he had "every intention of making the Palm Beach Post pay" for the insult.

More widely known, West in late August went after a tracker for filming his speeches, something West likened to "Gestapo-type intimidation." That attack has created some consequence in a heavily-Jewish district, especially since the tracker was the grandson of Holocaust survivors. But my problem isn't with the ethnically-tinged hyperbole, which is standard West fare at this point. It is that West lives and dies by his Internet stardom.

That tracker was gonna put words from a speech on YouTube. Indeed, that is where they ended up.

Imagine, Allen West on YouTube.

But maybe that's not fair. That link is to a campaign YouTube channel. It isn't like 5,230 other YouTube clips, mostly by third-parties swiping video from speeches or Fox News appearances, aren't already online. And it isn't like the man's entire political career isn't based entirely on tea party activists sending these clips to friends around the country and encouraging them to chip money into West's coffers.

Except it is. West is a financially successful candidate because his hateful rhetoric plays well as long as fervent right-wingers are the only ones who hear it. Unfortunately, wackos in Oregon don't vote in Florida. West needs to win over old Jewish grandmas to win a seat in Congress.

That's not going to happen. Not as long as the mild-mannered voters in Ron Klein's district get to hear what Wild West has to say whenever his belly breathes fire in front of a camera, whomever might be filming.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Novelty of Running Mates

I have tried for more than a week to try and figure something interesting to say about the selection of running mates by candidates for Governor, but I just can't see as much interest in the choices as many suggest. Ultimately, the role of Lieutenant Governor is one that holds far more bearing with the press than it does with the public, as demonstrated by Pam Bondi's defeat of Jeff Kottkamp in the Attorney General primary last week.

Bill Clinton once said that choosing a running mate was the first act a candidate could do which seemed presidential before they were actually elected president. Or something. I can't find the quote online.

That's true, but like any appointment, it gets picked apart by the public more than it gets praised, if anyone notices at all. And I think for gubernatorial candidates, that is even for true.

Alex Sink made a choice that was "safe" picking Rod Smith. Rick Scott "bucked conventional wisdom" with Jennifer Carroll. Neither decision will win any votes for either candidates. And honestly, they won't lose any either when the cards are finally down. It will be Sink and Scott who get judged by the general public, not their choices for Lieutenant Governor.

My thoughts are this. Scott picked somebody with legislative experience, something he doesn't have, so it is no bucking of any wisdom that he would choose an experienced politician to balance out his ticket. He also picked a black woman, two other things which he is not. The obvious political reason for this is that it will broaden the appeal of his ticket, except it won't. Black voters will still go overwhelmingly for Alex Sink. I guarantee it. When Carroll ran for Congress against Corrinne Brown, she never made any significant headway against the liberal black House member. The notion that running black Republicans will make more black voters rush to a ticket whose leader thinks reaching out to Hispanics means eating dinner later, or register with a party which has proudly chipped away at affirmative action measures, is a conservative pipe dream. Yes, there are black Republicans, but this decision won't be what brings them to polls any more than a lack of black candidates has kept black Democrats voting the other way.

Bottom line: more people label Carroll's selection as craven pragmatism than bold politics, fairly or unfairly. But come election day, nobody will remember this.

As for Sink's choice, I think most voters have forgotten already. Sink decided to announce her pick days before the Primary election. The idea was that it would suck some news attention away from the heated GOP primary at a time when the Democrat was coasting to the nomination. But did anyone notice that linked TBO story already had figured Smith to be the top choice? A former state Sen. and state attorney, Smith has a legislative background Sink lacks, providing the same professional balance Carroll does for Scott.

But this man is as vanilla as they come. White. Male. Failed statewide candidate in the last race for governor. Is just doesn't get more exciting than this. Will large numbers of people come and vote because of Smith? They haven't before.

So now the campaigns have two people who will do campaign events, though crowds will probably only show up for the gubernatorial candidates themselves. They have two people to place phone calls to donors, though the donors who get a thank you from the LG candidates will know how low they are on the Christmas card lists.

Smith and Carroll are both experiences state legislators, and if there is any genuine duty involved in the job of Lieutenant Governor, it is working directly with lawmakers to get bills passed. But politically, these choices are about the least important decision Scott or Sink has to make this season.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Another Rig?

Update: At least the news seems to be getting better, not worse. The rig is in 340 feet of water, according to NOLA. Mariner Energy says this is an oil and natural gas rig, which makes me feel a need to link to this old post.

Also, just yesterday Mariner's leaders were protesting Obama's drilling moratorium, according to Climate Progress, making karma the leading cause of the explosion. I wonder if tourism leaders consider a moratorium on drilling to be anti-business?
I don't want to over-react yet, but another oil rig has exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, per The News-Press. Nobody has died, and this rig is in 2,500 feet of water, as opposed to the Deepwater Horizon rig's 5,000 feet of water.

We don't know if oil is leaking. Hopefully, we learn that very soon. But I hope the continuous lies from the oil companies suggesting offshore drilling is actually safe now are put to rest.

Chiles Supports Sink, McCollum Stays Mum

It is official. Bud Chiles has ended his independent run. But I think the more surprising thing is that he has endorsed Alex Sink. From his online sign-off:
"This decision to step aside comes with many emotions – sadness, yes, but also resolve and faith that our message has not fallen on deaf ears. While she and I have some differences, I am confident that she will wake up every morning determined to fight for what’s best for Floridians."
He draws a stark difference, of course, with zillionaire Rick Scott, who "may not have the best interest of Floridians at heart." I call that an understatement, but then, I am no politician or statesman.

But I want to draw a stark contrast with this and Bill McCollum. As quoted in The Buzz, McCollum has congratulated Scott but has no plans to endorse. Apparently, after a slash-and-burn campaign where Scott refused to disclose much about himself but tarred and feathered a long-serving public servant, McCollum still has questions about "his charecter, his integrity, his honesty."

I don't think that is just sour grapes. I was amazed in 2004 when Bill McCollum, after a grueling primary in which Mel Martinez called McCollum the "new darling of the homosexual extremists," McCollum ended up backing the GOP nominee. What is different now?

This is an executive post. McCollum may have had a professional respect in 2004 for Democrat Betty Castor, but he was not going to back anyone who would caucus in Washington with Senate Democrats. In collegial legislative bodies, party matters. So does philosophy, and whatever personal gripe he had with Martinez, the two aligned politically, and Martinez would promote a similar agenda to the one McCollum had in Congress.

But a major thing to consider as Chiles endorses Sink is this. Chiles has no obligation to back Sink. He challenged as an independent. There is no party commitment. He hasn't run before and may never run again. McCollum, though, has somewhat of a partisan obligation to back the victor of the primary in the general election. Right now, he is choosing not to do so.

That truly speaks volumes.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Thanks for Listening, Bud

Bud Chiles is out of the race for governor, according to numerous media sources. I think it is pretty clear he heard the very reasoned calls of Rantings From Florida to drop out if he is too afraid to run as a Democrat.

More seriously, though, this is the first time I have felt good about Rick Scott winning the Republican nomination. Whether Chiles was frightened by the blackness pouring from Scott's soul or simply intimidated by his millions, I believe fear of a Scott victory shook some sense into the pragmatic activist. If he was scared of Sink's personal fortune, he had to realize Scott buys millionaires of Sink's caliber to feed to the pit of souls he got in the HCA settlement. This was never a race that Chiles could win, but until today, it seemed likely Scott could, if only by buying the mansion outright when the market is low.

Earlier this week, I responded to a conservative reader's question on whether Alex Sink would move to the left or the right as the general election drew closer. I predicted then that if Chiles stayed in the race, she may have to move to the left, but that I thought her more suitable as a centrist candidate. I know that is a dirty word in the blogosphere, but the most important thing for any candidate to be is authentic, and with a pro-business ex-banker running on her record as the state's Chief Financial Officer, we need to accept that Alex Sink is an authentic moderate Democrat.

Just as important, we should understand that a chief executive in Florida will have to placate an electorate not known for extreme liberalism. We have a great opportunity to elect a true liberal to the Senate, where ideology matters far more. But Alex Sink, a loyal Democrat whose roots are in corporate management, is a good choice for the Governor's mansion, and likely the best we can get right now.

Somehow, Sink has become a favorite to win an election in which every poll showed her losing a few months ago. Despite a natural environment and a conventional wisdom that this is a Republican year, the Democratic Party in Florida is poised for its most successful cycle in recent memory. Every Cabinet post has potential to swing our way. And in Congress, I still see the potential for us to pick up a seat and defend all challenged incumbents.

I have given Bud Chiles a hard time for nearly foiling his father's legacy, but today, I applaud him, and thank him for doing the right thing. His support, which has floated anywhere from 9 points to 19 points depending on the pollster, will most likely swing to Sink. Honestly, much of it would anyway as horrified Chiles supporters were faced not merely with the prospect of conservative but respectable Bill McCollum but of the sinister criminal mastermind Rick Scott. This was the best thing for Democrats and the best thing for Florida.

Thanks for listening, Bud.