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Friday, July 29, 2011

Resign as Speaker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Debt Less Important Than Jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 21, 2011

GOP Should Sacrifice Rivera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final descent

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

So long shuttles.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

American Heroes Have Thicker Skin Than This

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Grayson Playing It Wise For Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 18, 2011

Told You So

Haridopolos out. Never stood a chance.

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

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

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

Friday, July 8, 2011

Godspeed, Shuttle Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue to dream. Today is just the beginning.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Screwed Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sunrail Gets Rick Scott's Go-Ahead

Credit where it is due.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coddling Evil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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