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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rubio Staying Put

Sorry Tea Partiers. Marco Rubio isn't ready to ditch his new job yet. At least that is what he told ABC News:

"I am not running for president in 2012."

Exciting stuff.

Of course, this interview makes a lot of what I expected to be an easy-to-predict approach to his new job. Rubio is playing the role of junior Senator from Florida. Shock!

The tease also makes a big deal that Rubio won't rule out running for VP. Well, of course not. But let me note that you don't run for vice president. Your party's nominee appoints you to that spot on the ballot. And until we know who the Republican nominee for president in 2012 is going to be, speculation on this is nuts.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Kidnapping Reporters. It happened to me once (I guess).

This whole thing is just hilarious to me. Depending on who you trust or what conspiracy theories you believe, an Orlando Sentinel reporter last week was kidnapped by Joe Biden's handlers and locked in a closet for hours, then granted an exclusive, then covered up in a secret plot by the liberal media.

Ok. Some of that is surely true, but you should really all read Scott Powers' first person account.

He blames the blogosphere for blowing this story out of proportion, though I must say no well-read blog is buying into the cover-up notions outside of the crazy comments sections.

But if people are outraged by the treatment of this journalist, that's great! What they need to know, in that case, is that political reporters who cover events with the president or vice president are always treated this way, if not worse. The level of surprise on the part of Orlando Sentinel people at the way this story has gone viral speaks in part to just how matter-of-fact this sort of thing is within the world of political journalism.

Let me recount what was my closest bout with a national politician of this order. In October 2000, I got to interview Dick Cheney during a visit to the Villages. Cheney was still a candidate, so I cannot claim this get was as big as Powers landing an interview with Biden, and the interview was a roundtable, not an exclusive.

But to the same degree that Powers was imprisoned by the Biden people, I was absolutely kidnapped and taken across county lines by the staff for Cheney and his band of thugs! Well, maybe not kidnapped in a burlap-sack-over-the-head, send-notes-to-my-family-demanding-money kind of way. But I did end up 100 miles away from where I expected to be that day.

As I mentioned, I was in Cheney's vicinity so I could cover a campaign event in The Villages, a ginormous subdivision headquartered in Lake County and developed by one of the biggest GOP donors in the state of Florida. In advance, we had been promised an interview with Cheney, but my boss at The Daily Commercial had already warned this then 22-year-old reporter that we may end up with only comments from the speech. The event, held outside in a shopping district, was more crowded than the Cheney folks had expected, and there was no way an interview of any worth was going to happen there. But handlers said it could still happen for us if I traveled to Ocala, the next stop of the day.

I was there with a reporter from the Sentinel, who could not travel but didn't care that much because the metro paper had interviews Cheney multiple times by then. For my two-county paper, this was very obviously the only shot at Cheney we would get. A reporter from the Ocala Star-Banner was there too, and she was angry that no interview would be done in Lake County, but agreed to go along and complain the whole way. There was also a Daytona-based TV station which had been teasing an interview with Cheney all day long. I can't remember the name.

At this point, I naively believed we would board the national press bus, a Greyhound with telecommunications equipment on top and some notable national journalists (though none whom I can recall the names of) inside ready to adopt this band of local reporters-turned-traveling press. But it was soon made clear there was no room on that bus. Instead, we would all sit in a crowded van with event staff, bunched in like convicts being transferred between prison facilities.

One big difference between us and prisoners, though, we were abandoning our cars. We all had driven to the event in The Villages on our own. But media check-in for an event like this is a lengthy ordeal. We would not leave and meet up at the next event, as that would presumably give us the opportunity to load up ammo and other dangerous materials we failed to bring in to the Lake County event but which we would not forget in Ocala. Yes, that is far-fetched, but security would not tolerate us leaving and coming back in for another event down the road unless we were traveling with Cheney people the whole time.

So we shuttled to a large gymnasium-type facility in Ocala, where we all were held by security under a set of dingy bleachers. The Star-Banner reporter was getting increasingly cranky. We were joined by an AP reporter and by some high school newspaper editor who won some type of lottery and was promised one question of the Vice President. There was no waterboarding, but I was forced to endure the same stump speech from Cheney for the second time that day.

In a particularly odd moment, then-Gov. Jeb Bush showed up among the press to see that we were being treated ok. Again, the reporter from the Star Banner spoke up. He tried to alleviate the situation, even helped carry recording equipment for media to a tiny round-table setup in a back room.

Then Cheney came in, along with Rep. Cliff Stearns, and we were each allowed one question. One. I can't even remember what I asked. When it was all done, Cheney, Bush and Stearns got up and departed, and that was it. I went around explaining to event staff that I had no car, which somehow surprised everybody, but was driven back to The Villages by a low-ranking staffer.

And all of this is to say what? Not that I was mistreated. On the contrary, while I detest Dick Cheney's presence on earth as a matter of principle, I felt the media had been treated remarkably well. I got a question. Of a vice presidential candidate. What more could I ask?

I have since covered presidential visits to Florida one four other occasions - twice for Bush visits, twice for Obama - and never gotten so close to the subject as to shout a question from the rope line. So for me, things turned out pretty well that day.

I am sure I made some joking comments in the newsroom about the kidnapping, and about the long waits, and the fact I couldn't file a story until 7pm on an event that began at 2pm. But the comments were joking, the same way Scott Powers joked about Joe Biden tossing him in a closet.

Covering presidential or vice presidential visits is very exciting - during the exciting parts. But a whole lot of it is sitting around, waiting for someone important to come help you. If you push too hard, there is always the possibility security will just kick you out. And scream all you want about the rights of the press, once you are denied access there is no getting it back once a moment has passed. While you are sitting around behind some bleachers or in a storage closet, it is easy to get pissed about what you aren't covering, mostly because you would rather be covering something than just waiting around. But you also wonder if the official is having some clandestine meeting with a rich donor. He probably is, by the way, but there is nothing inherently illegal about that.

Anyway, if people think the press should have better access to leaders, the press sure isn't going to disagree. But people only seem to be concerned about it when the other side is "obstructing." None of the conservatives bitching right now about Biden's treatment of the Sentinel cared a lick about the wall of secrecy that surrounded the Bush-Cheney White House. That's just how it goes, I guess.

So it isn't really that big a deal that Biden locked Scott Powers in a closet. But if the world disagrees, I sure wouldn't mind seeing local press treated a little better as a result

Stupid Pol of the Week: Installment 2

I have a funny feeling this gentleman will win this award frequency. The respected Senate President from Merritt Island caught heat last week for putting off an ethics bill, which seemed particularly unsmooth for a politician drowning in ethics violations.

Congratulations Mike Haridopolos. You are the Rantings From Florida Stupid Pol of the week.

Of course, having leadership get in the way of an ethics bill is stupid at any point, but what makes President Mike's public mishandling of this situation so bad is that he is the only high-profile candidate currently running against Bill Nelson for U.S. Senate. Note I say high-profile, not serious. This man cannot stop a GOP-dominated Legislature from blasting him apart in public week after week, so imagine when an incumbent Democratic Senator takes to the airwaves on this sorry excuse for a politician.

Most of Florida doesn't know who Mike Haridopolos is. When they decide to learn and google this man's name, posts like this are all that will come up. The Senate run is a fool's errand, and Haridopolos is the fool.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Mr. McGillicuddy is Out

The first serious challenger to Bill Nelson has chickened out.

“The time is not right for me,” (Connie) Mack said. “You have to put family and friends above political ambitions, and that is what I have done.”
“There were days when I woke up and said ‘Let’s do it.’ Then there were other days I thought about all the time I would be away from my wife and young children. In the end, this was just not the right time.”

Why? Probably some serious crap none of us knows about. When you check out that link to the News-Press, check the early coverage where the paper practically predicts he will open a Senate office in his dad's old digs. Having worked at that paper and knowing the professionals well, I can only guess they had sources saying the Senate race was a go. I wonder what happened.

Maybe someone told him he was a cheater who was sleeping with Sonny Bono's wife in Washington while his wife was busy raising kids in Florida. But then we all knew that.

Maybe we'll learn more. Maybe we won't. This is my home district, so believe me, I will listen around. Would be great if this House seat ends up in play while Nelson gets a pass.

Either way, it was nice of Connie to fly in to his district before returning home to Palm Springs.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Fantastic News From Frankel

I suspect every Democrat in the West Palm Beach area who ever dreamed of heading to Congress is salivating at Allen West's every delicious gaffe, but I suspect we just saw the entry of the next Representative for District 22.

Lois Frankel has entered the race. Via CNN:

"As a mayor and the mother of a veteran and small business owner, I know what families need to do to get by in these tough times" Frankel said in the statement. "Family budgets must be balanced with thought and care. That is why as Mayor of West Palm Beach we balanced our budget while also promoting economic revitalization."

"I am not running for Congress to win favor with the Washington extremists and I am not motivated the same tired partisan fights. I believe it's about time we put the interests of our local economy and families first," Frankel said.

She is the mayor of West Palm Beach, but you may remember her as the Democratic leader for the Florida House in 2000, when she fought vehemently, albeit unsuccessfully, to have a legitimate recount after the 2000 fiasco. As a leader of her party and a representative from the Butterfly Ballot garden, she became an articulate and awesome voice for democracy at the time when a national spotlight shined brighter on Florida lawmakers than ever before.

Sadly, her star was rising at a time when GOP politics was taking a firm grip of Florida. It is telling that so many Republican players in that affair - Speaker Tom Feeney, state Sen. Ginny Brown-Waite, Secretary of State Katherine Harris - would find themselves by 2002 winning Congressional campaigns while Frankel left the House and pursued a career in local politics.

Mind you, mayor of West Palm Beach is a significant step up the political food chain compared to state House member, but she always deserved more. At a time when the Republican leadership in Florida is reveling in arrogance and practically anxious to commit some sort of abuse of power, now is the time for Frankel to get the recognition she has so long deserved.

Allen West, the lunatic just elected from the 22nd to the House, provides a fantastic opportunity. Living in swing and committed to symbolizing the ugliest principles in the GOP skeleton closet, he makes the top of every tea party fantasy league pick list and every Democratic strategist's list of likely pickups in 2012.

I had rather thought Ron Klein would try and take this seat back, but that isn't happening. I am fine with that, especially since Klein made some utterly embarrassing votes during his last days on the Hill.

And no offense to Patrick Murphy, but he has to prove himself real quick to prove himself a more viable candidate than Frankel.

The mayor has already paid her dues. Her respect was earned years ago. Now, it is time to reward her for years of service. If we do, I trust she will reward Florida progressives with more dedication and poltical success for years to come.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Stupid Pol of the Week: Installment 1

I am starting a new feature here at Rantings From Florida entitles "Stupid Pol of the Week," something for those lawmakers who do something exceptionally gaffe-worthy and which makes us truly question the soundness of our democratic process. This was inspired by a reader who sent a note on a Florida lawmaker.

So let's hear it for state Rep. Kathleen Passidomo. She is promoting school uniforms, of which I have never been a fan, but it was her unfortunate blaming of street clothes for the gang-raping of children that she has earned this honor.

Via Raw Story:
"There was an article about an 11 year old girl who was gangraped in Texas by 18 young men because she was dressed like a 21-year-old prostitute," Passidomo declared.

"And her parents let her attend school like that. And I think it’s incumbent upon us to create some areas where students can be safe in school and show up in proper attire so what happened in Texas doesn’t happen to our students," she added.

So yeah. The 11-year-old girl brought it on herself. Anyone wondering, she is referencing the much-hyped incident in Cleveland, Texas.

Not much to say about Passidomo. Her words speak for themselves.

And that is what I want this to be about here. Readers, please let me know when you hear of a politician saying something truly appalling. And I mean a really awful statement, not just a stance on an issue in which you disagree, but a truly reprehensible framing of the issue.

Remember, it's a Florida blog, so try and focus on the many, many fools we have representing the Sunshine State. But I want this honor to be one bestowed by the readers of Rantings, not just a decree from myself. So please, insult away in our comments below.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

GOP Finding Ways to Oust Rivera. We Should Too!

Truly, without doubt, the most shameful election result to come out of the Sunshine State last year was the election of Rep. David Rivera, R-Underworld. But don't take my word on it. Read Politico.

From the piece:

Republicans are already privately floating the names of potential primary challengers to Rivera, and on Capitol Hill he’s found himself increasingly isolated as leaders try to distance themselves from his troubles back home.

Top House Republicans organized a mid-February breakfast for freshmen who had participated in Young Guns, a fundraising and infrastructure support program for top recruits of the 2010 cycle. Rivera, who was a Young Gun, was left off the invitation list, a GOP source said.

Two weeks later, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) traveled to Miami for a fundraiser and didn’t even meet with Rivera. Cantor later told reporters he was “very concerned” about allegations regarding a misuse of campaign money before Rivera came to Congress. Cantor was in Miami once again last weekend and did not have an event with Rivera, a source said.

It seems Republican leadership in Washington has realized this man serves as nothing but a black eye on the caucus, and is outwardly looking for primary challengers to man who managed to become subject of a state investigation within weeks of being sworn in.

The thing is, when a new majority takes over the House, they want to look like reformers. But Rivera is about as crooked and corrupt as politicians come. He lied about his income on financials for years, and when he told the truth raised more questions about the offshore company that he runs. And that doesn't even get into allegations of running vehicles off roads to fend off negative campaign mailers, nor does it bring up that whole woman-beating thing.

Truth is, it seems unlikely right now that Rivera will make it through his first term without being forced to resign. State lawmakers from the area including Anitere Flores, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and JC Planas are already lining up for a challenge. And they should. Rivera would not have won this seat in 2006 or 2008, and was only carried to the House by a strong statewide GOP wave. Lawmakers who are interested in winning this seat in a special election best start prepping now.

What I want to know is why our team isn't doing more to get this seat back. If the red team is so ready to eat their own Young Gun, why isn't the blue team more prepared to make a good go? I know the DCCC is recruiting against Rivera and others in 2012, but we need to make a priority of this race. I don't think it will wait for the next presidential election, and that means it will be harder to pick up without any help from Obama's coattails.

I hope Joe Garcia, who nearly beat Mario Diaz-Balart here in 2008 but was knocked down by the 2010 tea party wave, is gearing up right now for a challenge. And if there is any other Democrat who thinks they can do better, they should get their damn name out there right now.

The Republicans willing to take out Rivera are already out there. This election has already begun. If we are going to field a team, someone better suit up now!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Who Really Promotes Shariah Law?

Being from Lake County, I was extremely disappointed, but sadly unsurprised, that a couple representatives for the area are the designated hate-mongers pushing a bill through the Legislature which would ban the use of Shariah Law by the courts. This bill is insane, first and foremost because no court in the U.S. has ever tried to do such a thing. But is also striking the only political movement which has come close to trying to enforce Shariah Law in Florida has actually been from conservatives.

Obviously, no one wants Islamic fundamentalism beliefs imposed on America. Why, that would be pro-terrorist or something.The irony, though, is that the backwoods, 19th Century approach to justice espoused by the far right, and too often specifically by lawmakers from my home county, lines up with Shariah Law more often than the liberal approach to enforcement of the law.

First, let's consider state Sen. Alan Hays comments directly to the issue via the Miami Herald:

"American Laws for American Courts was crafted to protect American citizens’ constitutional rights against the infiltration and incursion of foreign laws and foreign legal doctrines, especially Islamic Sharia Law."

Of course, right. Shariah law, according to the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, calls for severe capital punishments for such "crimes" as sex before marriage, sex after divorce and the drinking of alcohol. The classic stories of Middle Eastern governments cutting off the hands of thieves is based in this centuries-old doctrine. The most liberal of Muslim countries, notably Turkey, moved away from Shariah Law years ago. One hopes as the revolutions in North Africa spread that this dusty, barbaric approach to government will continue a deserved decline.

But this a huge concern of Hays, and of state Rep. Larry Metz. It is a shame the whole Republican party hasn't taken such a firm stance against disproportionate punishments being applied to such moral sins. That is, of course, assuming that is their problem with Sharia Law.

Then again, it is worth seeing what other legislation Hays has promoted through his years in the Legislature. This session, Hays is also sponsoring a bill which would allow the courts to take away driver's licenses of teenagers who flee from the police for any reason. He also is pushing a bill which would punish employers who hire illegals. Another bill would give sovereign powers to the sheriff and other constitutional offices in every county so they could end impasses with their respective employee unions. Yet another makes it more difficult for minors to have an abortion without consent of a parent.

But while many of these measures are, in my view, rather Draconian, it may seem an exaggeration to call them Shariah Law. Past holders of Hays' seat have suggested worse.

State Sen. Carey Baker got a bill through which made it illegal to display "Truck Nutz" on your car. I assume he did this for the children.

Former state Sen. Anna Cowin successfully passed a law in the late '90s which would allow the chemical castration of convicted rapists. Far from upholding Shariah Law, our courts dealt it a blow and overturned that one.

I actually know all of the politicians involved with these bills, and respect them on a personal level, but believe either the politics of the time or a whirl of personal zealotry got the best of them when they attached their names to these pieces of legislation. I know they sometimes felt very strongly about the legislation. But that just shows the great need for checks and balances in our government system.

The point, though, is that these bits of legislation that impose moral standards through criminalization are a far greater threat to our liberties than the existence of a centuries-old doctrine employed by nations on the other side of the world.These are laws which have passed or could pass the muster of our Republican-dominated Legislature.

Florida in the past criminalized interracial marriage, and it took the courts to end that law. We still have sodomy laws on the books today just waiting for a court challenge.

The legal system isn't imposing Shariah Law on Florida. It is protecting us from it. And the Legislature, quite sadly, has a deep and not-so-distant history of doing the opposite.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Why Haridopolos Is Not a Serious Candidate

Since Mike Haridopolos is the only significant name so far to announce a challenge against Sen. Bill Nelson, media and bloggers inevitably treat him with a level of seriousness. It is unwarranted. Here is why, via the St. Pete Times:

For the first time anyone can remember, a Florida Senate president was admonished by his own Senate in the first week of session for breaking ethics rules — specifically failing to fully and accurately detail his finances as required by the state Constitution.

Folks. The Republican-doninated state Senate would not do this if they felt this guy had a shot in the dark at joining the ranks of the U.S. Senate. Heck, they let David Rivera lie on his financials for years and never bothered with this sort of censure. Sure, John Thrasher went to lengths to avoid naming Haridopolos, calling the Senate president only the "senator from the 26th," but this sort of black eye derails a lot of efforts to boost positive name recognition for Mikey, and it does it at the start of the session, when Haridopolos is prohibited from much real campaigning for a couple months.

There are many other reasons why Haridopolos is not a great bet to beat Nelson. His Merritt Island district is so close to Nelson's Melborne base. The name recognition of state legislators is poor statewide, even for leadership. He has a super-long and hard-to-spell last name. And so far, he hasn't been very good at holding his own caucus together during some high-profile kerfuffles with the governor.

Give this guy a couple months of session screw-ups and we will forget he ever was in the game at all.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Voldemort's State of the State

Sure, Rick Scott oversaw historic fraud as the head of HCA, but we need to judge him now by the integrity he brings with him to the office of Governor. The State of the State address offered a glimpse into how he will govern. Any guesses how that turned out?

Well in the spirit of judging the man not on campaign tactics or his suspicious past, let's pick apart what he says about how Florida should move forward in the future. Below are excerpts of Scott's prepared text. Let's see if I've been too hard on him through comparisons to a fictional lord of darkness and evil magic.

"Thousands of our fellow Floridians have assembled here in our Capital – some to criticize our budget priorities, and far more to thank us for our willingness to make hard choices."

Well, Scott's presence in office incited the Awake the State rallies, but also drew Tea party activists to celebrate his arrival. While no impartial body can offer good tallies on who was in Tally for each side, I can't call shenanigans on this, but I do think it is a little laughable to suggest pro-Scott forces so vastly outnumber anti-Scott forces when this election was decided by such a close margin.

"All the cans that have been kicked down the road are now piled up in front of us. Floridians have been encouraged to believe that government could take care of us. But government always takes more than it gives back."

Ha! Not under Republic administrations it doesn't. Jeb Bush worked tirelessly to slash the intangibles tax into nothingness, thereby destroying a reliable revenue source which only impacted the very wealthy, i.e. those who could afford it. The liberal Gov. Charlie Crist spend his time finding ways to kill property taxes and expand the already unfair homestead exemption. The result of all of these measures, coupled with the decline in actual value of property throughout Florida, is that people are paying far less in taxes than they were 12 years ago.

And that is why the cans have been kicked down the road. Our Legislature has to produce a balanced budget every year, so with every cut, they put off or passed off the funding of important programs, and left us with very little fat to cut today.

"Some thought that businesses could tolerate a strangling web of regulations, and that government could grow without starving the private sector or destroying jobs. The result of that experiment is in: Government grew way beyond its ability to pay for its promises, and the jobs disappeared."

Again, the Florida Legislature has done little to increase regulations in the past decade. And certainly government has not grown. We see layoffs year after year at the state and local level. This sounds once again like a man more interested in national politics than in what is actually happening in his own jurisdiction.

"On my first day in office, I ordered a review of every regulation in the pipeline and every contract exceeding $1 million.
These steps sent two clear signals. First, that Florida will not allow unreasonable regulations to stand in the way of job creation. And second, that we intend to watch state spending like a hawk. On my watch we will never allow another wasteful project like the “Taj Mahal” Courthouse to slip under the radar."

Ok, I'll give him this one. Better auditing is a good idea. And the Court of Appeal courthouse in Tallahassee, the "Taj Mahal" Scott references, is indeed a smite on the state which has been ridiculed from the left and the right. It also is a sign of the type of chronyism which has run rampant in the capital, and why an outsider like Scott found traction with voters this year. I do think Scott will be more steadfast is stopping this type of embarrassing pork from getting in the budget this year, even more so than most veto-happy freshman Governors.

"We also sold the state airplanes as I had promised to do. And we created the most fiscally conservative state budget in the country."

No mention of the fact this was probably illegal.

"Our “jobs” budget is targeted to create private sector jobs, increase accountability and reduce the size of government.
Every day since elected Governor, I’ve gone job hunting for the people of Florida. In my business career I was never shy about picking up the phone and making a cold call to try to make something good happen. As Governor, I’ve been making those calls every day to recruit job creators, and I will continue making those calls until every Floridian has the opportunity to get back to work. As we meet tonight, unemployment in Florida stands at 12 percent."

And this gets me to my main peeve with Scott. Notice how he says "private sector jobs" as if government workers are not a part of the economy. So far, Scott has done nothing but promise to fire people. In Republican-land, that may be considered job creation. But it will not help chip at that 12 percent unemployment rate. It just won't. Scott has literally turned away billions in government funding which would create government and private-sector jobs, but continues to push the myth that if you fire government workers, private-sector positions will magically appear. I don't know if this makes him as stupid as the voters who support him, or some type of evil genius convincing us this poison will cure what ails us.

"Joining us tonight are four business leaders: one who decided to move a business to Florida, and three who decided to expand their business here. I’d like to recognize them now."

Now this was just patently dishonest. It is wonderful that Chromalloy is coming to Florida, and that the other manufacturers are coming here. But the Scott administration has little been in power for a matter of weeks. None of this job creation has anything at all to do with his election or leadership. He is just claiming credit for anything that happens from the moment he stepped foot in the Governor's Mansion. I guess politics is starting to rub off on him faster than expected.

"Last month, I delivered to you a budget that puts that plan into action and cuts taxes by $2 billion. These tax cuts put money back in the hands of families and business owners who will grow private sector jobs."

That budget will take money out of the hands of Florida families whose breadwinner hold a vital government job which is getting eliminated. And it cuts the amount of money those families take home by forcing workers to cut their pay in order to pay for pensions with less personal financial security.

"An important priority in our “jobs” budget is to consolidate government’s economic development efforts into a single, highly focused agency. Working with our public-private partner, we will have the resources to be effective, and the flexibility to adapt to particularly promising opportunities. This agency will be headquartered two doors down from my office, and its work will never be far from my mind."

I have my doubts about combining organizations devoted to protecting the environment and curbing sprawl, but I guess we'll see how that works.

"I know the members of this body have thoughtful, constructive modifications to our “jobs” budget. But we must not lose our focus or blunt our momentum. Business people in Florida and around the world are watching what we do in the weeks ahead. They can locate anywhere. They will be deciding whether to invest in Florida, based, in part, on our ability to work together to remove the obstacles to business success. I am convinced that putting this plan into action will put our state on the road to prosperity."

More Scott arrogance at work. Lawmakers will adjust the budget because that is their job. Yes, there need to be economic incentives included and there must be efforts directed toward job creation. But to saw changing the budget would waste time is a failure to understand or respect the legislative process, and is probably begging for trouble.

"We also need to focus on our incredible opportunity to improve our K-through-12 education system. We now have real innovators offering a 21st century approach to education. And many of those new approaches offer better outcomes without increasing costs. With so many Floridians out of work, and the exhaustion of one-time federal handouts, Florida educators will face challenges in managing limited resources. But our commitment to positive change must not waiver."

So why are you refusing to consult with educators about this issue? And why grumble at things like Race to the Top while you are slashing permanent funding? Those one-time handouts are about the only thing keeping Florida education going while you plot to restore unconstitutional vouchers.

"Great educators are priceless. Every one of us has a teacher in our past who made a lifelong difference in our lives. Educators, like other professionals, should be rewarded based on the effectiveness of their work, not the length of their professional life. That’s why Florida needs to pay the best educators more and end the practice of guaranteeing educators a job for life regardless of their performance."

Welcome back, SB6. I though we killed you.

"With these principles in mind, Florida can become the most innovative and effective place in the country to educate the workforce of the future."

Yes, with all the innovation that already-failed ideas can provide.

"We will also modernize our state government. Florida is currently the only state where taxpayers pay for the entire pension of state workers. We need to secure the state’s pension system and be fair to the taxpayers of Florida. We will bring Florida’s retirement system in line with other states by having government workers contribute towards their own retirement, just like everyone else. Providing a modern, health care safety net for our low-income and disabled citizens is an important state function, but the costs of this program have been spiraling out of control. Yet there are ways to save money and provide better care by adopting market principles and giving patients more choice."

Translation: Screw ObamaCare. We will run hospitals the same way I ran HCA.

"The costs of unemployment insurance cannot be allowed to deter job creation. By working with the legislature, we will bring those costs down. And finally, we need lawsuit reform. Every Floridian should have access to the courts for redress of harm. At the same time, we can’t allow frivolous suits and unreasonable awards to give our state a reputation that frightens away new jobs."

So we need to keep the poor poor, and make sure they have no way of getting money from wealthy people who do literally physical harm to them. Republicans don't want to stop rich people from making money. That would be un-American. But stopping poor people from getting money owed to them, that makes perfect sense. Tort reform was the banner for Republican-policy-making in Washington for most of the Jeb Bush administration, but lawsuit caps did nothing to abate the rising costs of health care. I can only imagine what further steps Rick Scott wants to take in curbing the rights of people who are sick and get hurt by the people tasked with caring for them.

"We are a state that has regularly done the impossible. We build magic kingdoms. We launch ships that fly to the moon. Florida can be the place where the American Dream continues to be a reality."

This inspiring note was a good way to end his speech.

That said, I remain thoroughly unimpressed with Scott's assessment of what needs to be done, and am continuously appalled at the total disregard of facts in reaching the conclusions he has reached. I fear we are seeing the beginning of a very predictable course of events that happens when the CEO of a corrupt health care chain becomes governor. I hate to keep bringing it up, but then, how many times does Scott bring it up in this speech alone, as if his disgraceful career is the perfect resume to become a Florida politician.

Ok. I guess that isn't such a crazy conclusion.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Do We Save Or Deny the Everglades

For those wondering why so little has appeared on this blog the last week, I got to spend most of last week in the Everglades chaperoning a class camping trip with my son. It was a great experience all around, but I wanted to share some political observations, and mirror those with the sad political reality we live in here in the Sunshine State.

Climate change is so very real. Any fool official who believes otherwise should spend a few days sleeping in the Everglades themselves. Perhaps it is easy to believe there are no problems with our water supply as long as the water still turns off in the Governor's mansion, but it was abundantly clear as we slogged through the slough of the Big Cypress National Preserve. The ranger who led us through our slog told us water levels had dropped about a foot in a week from the last time she was in the same part of the marsh. That's an astonishing rate.

Indeed, this is the driest year for the Everglades in the past 80 years. It is throwing the wildlife off terribly, with apple snails laying their eggs so far above the water marks the babies are unlikely to hatch (think about that pro-lifers). More water ought to be released by water districts into the Glades to help keep them wet, but that is only a short-term answer. Really, there needs to be a greater urgency placed on restoration projects to divert more natural waterflow back into the Glades. Since the marshes today are only between 10 and 20 percent the size they were a century ago, that really shouldn't be such a sacrifice for developed Florida to make.

Sadly, Florida has not been electing leaders of late who even believe mankind has had any effect on the environment. Gov. Rick Scott made it very clear early in the election cycle that he does not believe in climate change. Sen. Marco Rubio believes the same way. In fact, none of the Republicans elected to the US Senate last year believe in climate change.

It has become an ideological position to say "I don't believe in global warming." Politicians spout it as if proving they figured out Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy weren't real (spoiler alert!). It feeds into the stance that liberals are all liars who only secretly want to fund the multi-million industry that is promoting the global warming hoax. Not that the multi-billion industry that is destroying the environment has any reason to cook the numbers, but hey, they are good people, and the rangers leading school groups through the Everglades are obviously part of some left-wing conspiracy.

It astounds me how much traction denying global warming has found among people with no financial stake in denying global warming. But the term is admittedly bad branding. While not inaccurate (the earth has consistently risen in its global temperature year after year), it focuses attention on one narrow part of the problem and gives the deniers too great an opportunity to cling to their disbelief every time it gets cold enough to put on a coat.

But to deny mankind has had any effect on the environment? That is just dangerous, foolish and uneducated. I do not believe Rubio, Scott and their ilk are near as stupid as they would have me believe, so that leaves simply that they are sacrificing the well-being of Florida to satisfy big donors and score cheap political points with the knuckle-dragging crowd who try to disprove evolution by acting in ways so moronic it makes one wonder how the survival of the fittest could grant them immunity from harm.

Let me repeat, this is the driest season the Everglades has seen in 80 years. The water levels continue to drop year after year. There is no dispute - none - that this is a result of anything besides mankind's effect on the environment. And those who believe the environment is worth saving are ever to have any success at all in the political arena, something in messaging needs to change.

I do not know why every politician looking to nullify the Republican Party's successes isn't filming spots in the Everglades right now. I don't know why we don't see political advertisements quoting NASA astronauts explaining that water levels worldwide are going down at the same levels we see in Florida, and that they can see the change as the ride in the shuttles Republicans so badly want to keep in orbit. I don't know why campaign spots do not park rangers as frequently as they do law enforcement officers and television celebrities.

But for those living in Florida, the evidence of climate change is visible in every inch of the Everglades. And to let politicians who do not believe in it win the political discourse of today is evidence that we are all doomed.