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Monday, September 26, 2011

What To Make of Cain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Dreaming of Mars

I hope this works.

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Heartless and Guiltless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A World Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Roadblocking the Stimulus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Drilling Himself Into a Hole

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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