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Monday, December 24, 2012

Bill McBride, 1945-2012

The news of the passing of Bill McBride took by sorrowful surprise today. Considering the man never was as successful in politics as many of us hoped he would be, I know his death will not be seen widely as a major event. But for so many reasons, I feel loss at the news.

Of course, I have always liked that McBride went to the same high school I did. The notion a Yellowjacket could have become governor of Florida was undeniably appealing from the moment I learned he was pondering entering the race in 2002. But I also appreciated how his small town heritage informed his politics, sometimes to his detriment in terms of strategy but always in a way that earned admiration on a personal level. I think back to how these powerful individuals who lived their lives sweeping the state end to end would always make sure there was never a day when one parent wasn't with their children, even if that meant rejiggering a high-stakes campaign. McBride's family came before his ambition, and I weep today for the now-grown children Bert and Lexi.

McBride, of course, was a remarkably successful lawyer before he tried his hand at statewide politics, so that loss should not be overlooked. In the end, Alex Sink was the more politically successful part of this power couple, something I would never have guessed a decade ago.

I recall when I first met McBride. He was campaigning at a Democratic banquet in Leesburg. His message at the time, that he was a better challenger to Jeb Bush's re-election than the baggage-laden Janet Reno, went over remarkably well with this hometown crowd. In the end, the fact McBride beat Reno and lost to Bush was a lesson to Florida Democrats on being overly cautious. (Could Bush have really bludgeoned Reno with Waco as the country was mounting up for a full-scale war with Iraq?) But for the Democrats at Silver Lake, the simple prospect of having a governor who knew what Lake Griffin looked like in the 1970s and could it to the polluted mess of modern times was enough reason to forgo any other options in the gubernatorial contest.

McBride spoke to me and told me he was already tracking what his hometown paper, The Daily Commercial, was writing about his own bid. He had read a recent article I wrote questioning if McBride, even if he won the nomination, could even carry Lake County in the end (he couldn't, it turned out). But he said he wanted me kept abreast of the race and gave me a direct cell phone number to reach him whenever I needed. Curses, I lost the number pretty quickly, but the campaign kept in touch to the bitter end.

The paper that year was the first in Florida to endorse McBride in the general, a risky move in a Republican County but one which still feels right. The guy was a hometown hero, even if he ended up being a bit politically naive. But I loved that someone growing up in the small town, conservative bastion of Leesburg had, just like myself, grown up realizing progressive policies would benefit the region more than free market-conservatism. The fact he was one of the most successful businessmen in Florida made him a good spokesperson for that message as well.

He wasn't perfect. I recall interviewing him about his longtime relationship with Gary Morse, the politically powerful owner of The Villages, and he simply said "I don't know what your problem with Gary is?" Oh, where to start... But even then, it struck me his failure to support oversight of explosive urban sprawl in the case of The Villages had more to do with misplaces personal loyalty than financial corruption.

I am saddened by news of McBride's death, though not entirely shocked. Even during the race, it was obvious the man was not the poster child for healthy living, and at the paper, we would get calls regularly from people talking about his dramatic shifts in weight. But I certainly wished for a long and happy life for McBride.

Going forward, I pray for Alex Sink and her family, and I hope still for the future McBride tried to achieve. I hope the days of the small town Democrat combining rural values with progressive sense haven't died with him.


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Let The Consternation Begin

We saw it coming. Now the moment has arrived. Charlie Crist, whose early political stances earned him the nickname Chain Gang Charlie, is now a Democrat. From the Tampa Bay Times, which seems to have the fullest account: 
Crist... signed papers changing his party from independent to Democrat. He did so during a Christmas reception at the White House, where President Barack Obama greeted the news with a fist bump for the man who had a higher profile campaigning for Obama's re-election this year than any Florida Democrat.

The paper goes on to tell some of these reasons Democratic partisans should be happy about this. The man is almost certainly running for governor in two years, and quite frankly would be a slam dunk to kick Gov. Voldemort and his deatheaters back into hiding.

 But all I feel is dread. Why? Because Charlie Crist has done all the things I said last May that would make his worth our consideration as a viable Democratic candidate, and it all makes feel a little ill. Part of it is that the rank political opportunism emanating from the man's political soul smells more than ever precisely because he was willing to do all those things. But strong as well is the fact no politician in the country better exemplifies what is so wrong with the Republican Party post-2010, and what makes the Democratic Party the one which genuinely represents a cross-section of America.

A man who served as the standard bearer for conservative values in a hopeless Senate bid in Florida as recently as 1998 is now treated as an alien at Marco Rubio's tea party. That Democrats will consider a man who even with his rush to the left would be a moderate within our own ranks speaks to the open-minded of those on the left.

 Of course, that also opens our side up to being dragged rightward in the central positions of our party, and that is distressing. Great candidates like Pam Iorio look like moderates today but could be branded communists by the time a primary with Crist was completed. A candidate like Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, whom I have greatly admired since her days in the state Senate, will get lambasted as Marxists from the start should she enter the race.

But then again, Crist may have done as much as any Florida Democrat to help President Obama win Florida this year. That means a lot with party officials, and more with moderate voters.

So what's a good Democrat to do? I suppose we're back to basics. Fight hard for the candidates we want representing the party in primary season, then going to the general election with whoever comes out alive. I will refrain from attacking Crist with the vigor I did in 2010, but I have not forgotten his roots, even as he has done. And we'll see how the 2014 cycle shakes out.

But somehow, the man who almost single-handedly made the 2010 cycle in Florida the craziest of my lifetime seems poised outdo himself in 2014, and he's doing so with the blessing of my president. This is going to be fun.

Friday, November 30, 2012

This comment says so much about outgoing Rep. Allen "Wild Wild" West: --- “Why would anyone want to get rid of a person that is born and raised in the inner city, third of four generations in the military—just an American success story?” asks West, from the living room of his Palm Beach Gardens home overlooking a pool and golf course. “I’m not some guy that came from a rich political family or anything like that,” he says. “I’m just an everyday guy, but I have a passion for my country.” --- The rest of the Bloomberg BusinessWeek article is great, but that comment truly speaks for itself. I can't imagine anything else that would offer any more insight into this crazy man's outlook on the world and the way it revolves around him.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Problem With Term Limits

A funny thing happened to a state representative in line for the Speakership. Voters in his own district appear to have fired him this week. From the Ocala Star-Banner: --- In a farewell email to his Republican colleagues on Friday, would-be Florida House Speaker Chris Dorworth says he expects to lose his close race for re-election after a recount. The Lake Mary lawmaker trailed Democrat Mike Clelland, a political newcomer, in central Florida's District 29 by 123 votes pending an automatic recount tentatively set for Sunday. --- This of course shows that the night Tuesday was better for Democrats than we ever dare dream, but it also highlights a little-discussed but very real problem with term limits in the state House. I know, there are so many, but the fact leadership gets decided years in advance is true folly. See, Dorworth was not set to become Speaker this month. He was expected to take House reins in 2014, after a whole 'nother election where all 120 members of the House were to stand for vote. If memory served, this is the first time someone is succession to be speaker has been voted out since term limits truly kicked in after the 2000 election. Since that time, the party caucuses in Tallahassee have early on decided not only the upcoming leader of the party for the next two years, as happens in the U.S. House, but pick leaders the next couple sessions as well. There are often leadership fights along the way to try and change course, and efforts have been made to change the makeup of both the House and Senate through primary challenges by people unhappy with succession plans. But that never works. It takes something like what happened with Dorworth to truly shake up the process. The voters have to do it. Many problems were predicted with term limits such as an outsourced influence of legislative staffs. Other problems have made themselves readily evident, like the too-easily-accepted influence of lobbyists. But this problem is one that comes from the legislators themselves. It makes no sense to plot out future sessions, but it has happened. This means anyone dreaming of leadership is fighting for it the minute they take get sworn in to their freshman term in the House or Senate. That places personal ambition over the higher good of serving your district. My guess, though I certainly haven't followed this one closely, is that voters in Dorworth's Lake Mary district had a problem with that. This problem is systemic. But voters have to realize the consequences of enforcing eight year term limits. Nobody likes politicians, and everyone wants them put in their place, but realize term limits enforce bad behavior and an obsession on Tallahassee politics ahead of what's happening at home.

Don't Let West Make Us Forget Recount Nightmares

One of the sweetest victories for Democrats in Florida this week was the ouster of Allen "Wild Wild" West from the U.S. House of Representatives. After watching West beat Ron Klein last year in the midst of a tea party wave, it felt good to know voters in South Florida wouldn't tolerate this man's insane antics. But the margin of defeat was narrow, and if anyone should be sympathetic to the agony that comes along with losing a close election, it is Florida Democrats.

That's why I think we should resist the temptation to belittle West's recent attempts at getting a hand recount. Now, I can appreciate the irony that after Republicans responded to the 200 election they made  it harder to justify a recount, not easier, West is finding himself a bit outside the margin for having a recount done automatically.

But I also feel strongly that recounts are a good thing. They strengthen democracy and erase hurt feelings, which often come coupled with denial.

Here's the facts: Patrick Murphy won this race by less than 3,000 votes. That's just a 0.66 percent victory, and against a wingnut opponent running in South Florida, Democrats should think twice about gloating with that type of total. In truth, Murphy had plenty of material to bury this guy. Instead, it was a squeaker.

West knows what its like to be on the opposite side of a squeaker too. When he got elected, it wasn't known until morning. But he did end up with a bigger margin than this.

So now he wants a hand count. Honestly, we shouldn't be afraid of that. The odds are statistically very low that a hand count would overturn the results of the election. More importantly, they would only do that if West had in fact won the race.

In the 12 years since Bush v. Gore, voting rights has become too partisan an issue. Democrats have been fighting for ballot access, for transparency in election management, against unaccountable electronic voting machines and against a Legislature that felt the only thing that went wrong with 2000 is that we spent so much time checking the math.

But the reason Democrats left 2000 so bitter is that they felt nobody ever did a full account of the election. Had that happened and Bush was still ahead, even it was by a margin even smaller than 537 votes, we would have licked out wounds and gone home, however unhappy.

The positive when we defeat someone like West by this close a margin is that it will show folks on the right the importance of maintaining integrity in the democratic process. Let West sit there and watch the manual count of more than 318,000 votes. Let Republicans take a close look. Let them wrestle with what to do when someone cast a write-in for Allen West just to have it thrown out because they should have bubbled in his name. Let them see the number of South Florida voters who learned from the Butterfly Ballot to never fill out a ballot incorrectly again.

Let West see more than 160,000 people who came to polls expressly for the purpose of firing him. Let that sink in.

This will be better for democracy. It will be better for disposing of poor feelings among Tea Party Republicans who just can't imagine how Allen West could lose. It will be better for Patrick Murphy to go to Washington with as few people questioning his credibility as possible.

Let Allen West win this one. We already won the round that mattered.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Great Night in the Sunshine State

After suffering through the demoralizing 2010 cycle, I found myself walking into these elections more pessimistic than in the past, but the voters of Florida surprised me in a pleasant way. I'd love to congratulate such great Democrats as Bill Nelson, Joe Garcia, Patrick Murphy, Lois Frankel and—of course—President Barack Obama.

But Florida Democrats also need to understand a world exists tomorrow where Obama will never be on a ballot again and where liberals must find a way to incite minority voting during years when such an inspirational figure is no on the ballot. We can beat the economic inanity of Mitt Romney, the bigotry of Allen West and the pure corruption of Joe Garcia in a year like this, but we need to find out ways to do it in off years as well.

I know this blog has been largely dead this cycle, but I will try to get some port-mortem stuff up here in the next few days. The takeaway from this election, I hope, is a reminder that Democrats can do anything in Florida when mobilized, but we need to be prepared to defend our spoils in 2014 and beyond. That means prepping for battle now.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Silliness of Questioning Unemployment

The amount of paranoia and a widespread belief in nonsensical conspiracy theories has reached a level unseen in years with this presidential race. The recent questioning of unemployment figures is just the most recent chapter, but one which in many ways shows how intellectual rationalization has overtaken common sense even among the sensible right wing.

Darrell Issa right now is publicly toying with whether the Bureau of Labor and Statistics should be fact-checked by Congress. And what better agency to depoliticize facts than Congress, right? Of course, plenty of folks by now have explained how the BLS is insulated from politics, and others have discussed the social ramifications of questioning every bit of data that they don't like.

What I have heard few discuss in the last week is the futility of this theory in the first place. In other words, there is nothing to gain—NOTHING—from faking unemployment numbers. The Obama administration would not only be acting criminally if they did such a thing, but they would gain nothing from it.

Why? Because people don't really give a shit how many people in this country are unemployed. They care if THEY are unemployed.

To be a little more fair, they care if they and the people they know and love are out of work or under threat of losing their jobs. Statistics from the BLS help economists determine the general election of the economy, but individuals base their own thoughts on the state of the nation based on the anecdotal evidence around them.

For example, I four years ago had just been laid off, along with a couple dozen other people at the newspaper where I was working. Weeks after that, my wife was very nearly laid off from the same paper. I got a new job, but within a few months, my employer did across-the-board salary cuts and laid off a couple of co-workers in my new place of business. I don't know exactly what the unemployment rate for the country or the state of Florida was at the time, but I didn't care. As far as I was concerned, the economy was in the tank, and no positive jobs report at the time could convince me otherwise.

But since then, I have had my salary restored and earned a promotion at work. My wife is happier at her job, and does not fear a sweeping round of layoffs the likes of which were happening every few months at her company not so long ago. The professional colleagues I've kept up with for years, most working in that lucrative field of print media, hold jobs now, often in different places than they worked four years ago, and do not live in fear of their positions being consolidated. Honestly, the ones I know who are looking for work are doing so because they see job openings appearing on classified sites for the first time in many years.

Additionally, I see cranes and bulldozing on commercial lots which sat empty for years. I hear of business expansions and grant openings. I think the economy is doing astoundingly better than four years ago, and it's not because of any jobs report. It is what I see with my own eyes.

Is it possible things are only better in my corner of the world? That the country as a whole is worse off? Of course that's a possibility. But if that's the case, a majority of voters will see those circumstances and vote with a different perception of the world informing them. They won't be swayed by a jobs report any more than I would.

This gets me to where I see some real dishonesty being perpetuated in a truly nefarious way. Because I don't think the people complaining about this jobs report being fixed actually see things too differently than I do. Does anyone believe Jack Welch is feeling any pain in this economy? Is he worse off than four years ago? Are his friends in economic trouble? Ha!

If there is any legitimate reason for him to question the jobs numbers, it may because he isn't being the job creator he promises he could be and that Republicans suggest we worship. Maybe he doesn't believe the report because neither he nor his corporate colleagues is creating any new jobs. But then small businesses are being opened all across the country right now, undeterred by health care reform, estate tax returns or any of the supposed job-killing measures employed by Obama.

The real reason Republicans are pissed about these job numbers isn't that they see more unemployed people in their circle of friends. It is that they have trumpeted for months now that Obama is in a bad spot for re-election because no president gets re-elected with unemployment north of 8 percent because no one has since FDR. It is an article of faith that America will vote out incumbents if the unemployment is 8.1, but may not if it is 7.9 percent.

I always thought this argument was ridiculous for a number of reasons. First, only two presidents—Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush—lost re-election with employment above 8. Obama, unlike either of them but like FDR, has seen unemployment go down, not up, during his time in office, and I think that makes more difference. The other reason I thought this reasoning was stupid is that no one knew what the unemployment level would by come November. I got my I-told-you-so moment last Friday, and the right responded with this conspiratorial nonsense.

Bottom line is this. Jack Welch doesn't live in my world, and he sees things differently than I do. He will vote based on what he sees. So will all of us.

If Republicans are scared of an improving economy, that's sad. But the reason they are scared is not that a BLS report suggested a 0.3 reduction in unemployment. It's that they can see things are getting better, and they hate that.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Poisoning The Judiciary

The new inexplicable Republican fever today is the push to repeal three members of the Florida Supreme Court: R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince. These justices are guilty of that crime-in-Republican-eyes of existing at all.

Not to say we shouldn't take this seriously, but I have to say this is most likely a matter of Republicans throwing a lot of money uphill. In that sense, I am thrilled! While this plot to poison our courts and give reactionary Gov. Rick Scott the right to pack the bench is certainly insidious and wrong, it is also absolute folly.

First off, let's touch on the real motives. The state GOP officials who endorsed the repeal effort today sourced some insignificant ruling on a death penalty case six years ago, but the deep feelings run further. Most notably, the state Supreme Court was the legal force pushing us to count votes in an election in 2000, and Republicans have never forgiven them.

The irony in both cases, of course, is that conservatives won out in the end and got their way. But never mind that. Any vote against the wishes of conservatives is "judicial activism" so these justices are awful.

The good news? This has been tried before and never, ever worked. Not even in the highly partisan atmosphere post-Bush v. Gore when Lewis and Quince survived a similar repeal effort the next election cycle. Not when pro-life nuts and racists went after Justice Leander Shaw in 1990. Not ever.

To date, in fact, no Florida justice has ever failed a vote for merit retention in the state of Florida. And I don't think an issue as not-sexy as judicial merit retention will draw anyone but the most basal of base voters to turn up at polls. By the way, they are there anyway thanks to their vitriolic and irrational fear of President Obama.

Nevertheless, the Koch brothers funded ads airing on Florida stations today calling for a no vote on merit retention.

Our best response, though, is to just laugh. Yes, I know we should stay vigilant and make sure to keep these voices of rationality on the bench, especially when such reactionary people control the legislative process in Tallahassee. But mocking the billionaires funding this effort helps too.

Consider that this money could be spent on helping Mitt Romney win Florida (and he's losing badly right now). It could fund Connie Mack's efforts to unseat Sen. Bill Nelson (an effort which is going even worse).

No, instead those dollars are being spent to fight judicial activism by vetoing the decision of thoughtful justices through a purely political process. This isn't just hypocrisy on display. It is sweet entertainment dripped with schadenfreude.

This effort is scrupulous and wrong. But it is also bound to fail. To have at it.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Don't Be So Surprised

I'm not going to say the implosion of Mitt Romney in the past few weeks has been anything short of shocking. Between the exploitation of a foreign tragedy, the leak of an embarrassingly frank talk to Boca donors, the proclaiming of the $200k-$250k earners as "middle class and the delayed tax return release, this has been a spectacular parade of unforced errors like I have never seen.

But there has been a cry among flustered Republicans that this was a year the GOP could not lose. Not that they care what I think, but rubbish.

That last link goes a widely-quoted piece by Peggy Noonan essentially blaming Romney's poor polling on a sloppy campaign. But if nobody noticed in the clown show that was the 2012 Republican primary, Mitt was the best they got.

Does anyone really think this election would be closer had Republicans nominated Newt Gingrich? Or Rick Santorum? Or laughably Michele Bachmann or Herman Cain? Of course not. But that was the choice presented to voters.

Now, that's not to say this list of Republicans from the shallow end of the cestpool are truly the most attractive candidates for president. But the greatest sign last year that the tide, whatever you think of jobs reports, was in our favor was the number of folks who stayed on the sidelines. Mike Huckabee. Sarah Palin. Mitch Daniels. Jeb Bush. Really, Romney and Rick Perry were the only major contenders any realistic Republican was dreaming about who actually threw a hat in the ring. Perry, it turned out, was not ready for primetime, so we ended up where we are today.

Actually, I laid out more than two years ago the reasons that while Jeb may well harbor White House ambitions, 2012 wasn't the year to pursue them. My top reason:

Jeb Bush won't run unless he can win. He knows that, unlike governor, there are no second chances at the White House. 

Barack Obama at no point in the last four years has seemed like a loser for re-election. That gets forgotten by Republicans so blinded by hatred of his liberal principles that cannot see the broader view of the president. Let's just check out some conventional GOP wisdom.

Republicans believe Obama is ruining this country by taking it far to the left, yet he has pushed tax structures well to the right of uber-moderate Bill Clinton. Indeed, most liberals have been starkly disappointed that he failed even to go that far. The same goes for the hardly-ambitious ObamaCare reforms which look more like DoleCare even than RomneyCare.

While Republicans believe Obama has done way too much, most liberals, and I believe moderates, feel he has actually done too little.

In that sense, it seems no surprise that the Romney campaign has floundered so. The message of the GOP, after all, is that intervention is the wrong medicine, but Romney as a challenger to an incumbent has to make the case this president has not done enough to fix the economy. Those messages simply don't jive.

So Obama was always a favorite. And in their hearts, Jeb and Huck and Sarah and Mitch and Marco and Fred and everybody viable candidate with some base instinct for the lay of the land knew it. The polls have born that out too, with Romney failing to hold a lead in the polls since cinching the nominations and finally having to share broadcast time with a Democrat.

The growing conventional wisdom is that Mitt Romney with his recent gaffes has lost the election. But the truth is he was never winning in the first place.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

An Insignificant Purge

It appears any great fears about a voter purge significantly affecting the Florida election this year have been calmed. Thanks to a highly scrutinized process—and don't let anyone convince you the scrutiny was anything less than critical—Gov. Rick Scott's efforts to purge non-citizens from the polls resulted in just over 200 people getting cleared off voter rolls.

All but two counties (including quite sadly the one in which I live) had stopped purging from Scott's once-mega list of potentially fraudulent voters. The number of voters being dumped now seems a very reasonable assessment of how many people might be in a state of nearly 20 million people who were both illegal immigrants and who had the gall to register to vote. Truthfully, the bulk of the 207 people being purged from the rolls likely never voted in a single election.

The big takeaway to me is that Florida officials who embarked an obviously partisan mission tinged with racism ultimately did nothing but demonstrate how small a problem in-person voter fraud actually is. This has been another embarrassing episode in a state with a pungent reputation for protecting voters' rights.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

West's Disgusting Vision of Unity and Patriotism

When the nation was attacked more than 10 years ago in the worst attack ever committed on American soil, the entire nation unified together. It was a beautiful thing to see in a moment of terrible darkness. But even then, as the Sean Hannitys of the world made quick and partisan attacks on President Clinton for something that happened well after he left office, I wondered if Republicans were capable of rallying around a president in times of national tragedy if the president was from across the aisle.

U.S. Rep. Allen West answered that question in a tragically predictable way when he turned the Libyan attack on the anniversary of 9-11 into a chance to assault the president. Here is the bulk of West's statement on the Libya tragedy, made not through his campaign arm but sent out as his official statement as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives:

Americans need to question whether the deaths of these innocent patriots could have been avoided. The Obama Administration touted the Arab Spring as an awakening of freedom, which we now see is a nightmare of Islamism.

Even more concerning, is the initial response to these attacks last night from the embassy officials of the Obama Administration was to apologize for a Facebook video that supposedly hurt Muslim feelings.  President Obama's policy of appeasement towards the Islamic world has manifested itself into a specter of unconscionable hatred.

How anyone can believe this President is strong on national security and foreign policy is beyond my comprehension.  President Obama has clearly surpassed former President Jimmy Carter and his actions during the Iranian Embassy crisis as the weakest and most ineffective person to ever occupy the White House.

Understand, readers, that this is more than half of West's statement. To blame Obama, not even the Islamic extremists responsible for the attack and whom West has made a career of blaming for everything.

So much is wrong with this statement. Rejecting the Arab Spring, and in it the very concept of freedom itself, West sides squarely with violent dictators who have turned the Middle East into a garden for violence. But again, such extremism comes as no surprise from a man who first came to national prominence using thug violence and intimidation as a way to supposedly keep the peace.

National debate and conversation should not shut down because of tragedies. But it is stunning that a party who so loudly has shouted for the need for America to speak strongly and with one voice when it comes to international incidences such as this, it is disgraceful for men like West to use the megaphone of public office to critique American leadership with such wicked and hate-filled rhetoric. Allen West didn't criticize the president today, he criticized America.

What this all the sadder is that West is speaking in the same misguided tones as the current standard-bearer of his party, but just as sensible foreign policy experts on the Republican side have critiqued Romney for his ill-timed words, they should also condemn West.

Don't misread this. West has the right to disagree with the president on all matters, including those related to foreign policy. But to use the Libyan attack as a chance to score cheap political points against the White House is shameful. And West should receive nothing but shame for doing so.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chain Gang Charlie Turns Whip On GOP

The speech from Charlie Crist on Thursday night was an impressive lead-in on the DNC's big night. Florida's ex-governor went on the offensive against a party as offended by his moderation as President Obama's left-of-centerness.

The full transcript is on the Tallahassee Democrat's site. My favorite line?

I look around Florida, and I see a state bursting with diversity and opportunity, a state that looks like America’s future. When I look at the Republican ticket today, I see two candidates who would break the fundamental promise of Medicare and Social Security, and cut investments in our middle class which are so important to our economic recovery.
Of course, Crist had many positive notes as well, and some nice inside jokes for those who watched a polite embrace of the president during a visit to Florida result in the end of his political career. But this message was more than just a thumbing of the nose at the extremists in his party who drove him from his seat of power. It was a careful, strategic speech set on making sure Obama wins Florida this Fall.

And a reminder to those especially naive people who see this race as leaning toward the GOP, Florida is enough to cinch this thing for Obama, and even in advance of the president's speech, Obama has been leading in Florida for most of 2012.

But this blog is focused on Florida politics, and there is a reason I am focusing on Crist tonight, not Obama. The real question of this speech for me is not whether it will help Obama win (it will, but Obama is winning anyway). It is whether Charlie Crist is positioning himself truly and honestly as a Democratic politician for the future.

On that lines, it seems to me Crist is still straining hard to appease a batch of Republicans who wouldn't give him the time of day. He cited the governing prowess of Reagan as if it existed, and he still made sure to leave ideological daylight between himself and the president he is endorsing.

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t agree with President Obama about everything. But I’ve gotten to know him, I’ve worked with him, and the choice is crystal clear. 
Maybe I'm sensitive, but that felt a little back-handed. And it was less than I hoped for. Perhaps it should just be read as an appeal to those voters who dislike Obama's more liberal leanings whom Crist would like casting pragmatic votes for the president.

But this was less than I hoped for. I had hoped Crist would come out tonight and declare as a Democrat. If Crist is genuinely thinking of running for governor in 2014, and especially if he wants to run for Bill Young's House seat, we need to know Crist will be a reliable supporter of some progressive values. Specific progressive values. When will we get that speech? It wasn't here tonight.

Still, all things said, Democrats must stay optimistic about Crist's trajectory. They just can't let him start direct our political agenda, especially if he is intend and directing it in a rightward direction. Let's hope Crist's transformation continues, and that his evolution can be shown as more than political opportunism. The great fear in embracing Crist fully is that he could always bolt the Democratic Party as easily as he did the GOP.

Let's cross our fingers on this one.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Romney Down Under

As I predicted, Mitt Romney post-RNC remains down in the national polls. He enjoyed a bounce for sure, but not enough to take the lead. More impressive, he didn't even pull ahead in Florida. Via Pollster:

So even in the state where the convention was held, a state which two years ago felt a stronger rush from the GOP wave than most, Romney is doing poorly.

Granted, when you look at the national polling, the race is very close (though a glimpse at the electoral college shows how little that matters). Knock at Rasmussen, a notoriously right-leaning poll, and you dispose of the only poll showing a Romney lead and dramatically reduce Romney's chance at victory this Fall.

The thing is, though, that the Democrats are also about to feel a bounce. Romney did pick up some support from the RNC, just not enough to get him out of the quagmire that is his candidacy (good luck with Afghanistan).

Also striking, Connie Mack seems almost to have had a negative bounce in polls post RNC. Real Clear Politics shows Sen. Bill Nelson with a six-point edge, while they called the race a a tie in mid-August. If this isn't just volatility because of so little polling being done, it it probably because of how the national GOP has so clearly written off this race.

I frankly was a little shocked that prime speaking time was given to Marco Rubio, who isn't on any ballots for four years, while Mr. McGillicuddy was practically relegated to opening act status. Via the Tampa Bay Times:

Mack, the Florida congressman, was the first speaker of the evening and came on the stage directly after a musical interlude. Scores of people searched for their seats or socialized during the Florida congressman’s five-minute speech. 

For all the bravado, it looks more and more like the national GOP is ready to throw in the towel on this who election year. I'm not crying, of course, but it is hard to take anyone seriously who says the Republicans are in a good position for anything in 2012.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Opting Against Inspiration

Maybe this is the best strategy Mitt Romney has at this point, but it is hardly inspiring.

Romney spent his time in Tampa refusing to offer a decent reason to vote for him and instead trying to convince people who voted for Obama last go to switch their vote this time. Some will, of course, but I don't know if anybody will do so based on Romney's speech last night.

The line I think sums up the speech? Via*:

 President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY to help you and your family.

This reminds me of the Internet meme of Odin promising to get rid of the ice giants, then noting you don't see any ice giants. It's a fine point, I suppose, but for a man whose greatest attribute is his ability to make billions in the private sector, it is a jarring for Romney to promise he will exhibit no ambition and pursue no lofty goals.

But Republicans this year have opted against inspiration, and instead choose destruction and obstruction. Even that strategy, though, isn't well advanced by the themes of Mitt Romney's message at the RNC.

The chief message from Romney, and in many ways Paul Ryan the night before, has been that Barack Obama has been a disappointment. Pardon me, but on behalf of the 69.5 million voters who supprted Obama in 2008, No Shit! Pointing that out, and turning Obama's predisposition for letting people down into the central theme of the GOP ticket's coming out party, does beg the natural question of why.

See, voters already punished Obama for failing to accomplish much in his first years in office. That was largely what the midterms were about as GOP voters woke up to fact a liberal was in the White House and Democratic voters realized Obama wasn't that serious about changing how Washington does business. The Tea Party convinced their people to go to the polls and the Obama for America crowd failed to do the same. Thus, a Republican landslide.

But why should people who supported Obama in 2008 switch their votes? Some people are fickle, but anybody who supported Obama's genuine vision for the country knows they will be worse off with Romney in the White House. To date, Romney has offered no viable alternative vision for anything, but the positions he adopted in the primary this year show where he is headed. So does the selection of an Ayn Rand devotee as his running mate.

And what riveting vision did Romney offer during the biggest speech of his career? He promises not to try to do too much.

The RNC was Mitt Romney's greatest chance to capture the enthusiasm and imagination of those voters who will decide this election. I just don't think he delivered. I am anxious to see snap polling to see if, in fact, Romney will be the first major nominee in decades to leave their own convention behind in the polls. But whether that's true of not, Obama will have his moment next week.

Despite losing some luster for failing to live up to lofty expectations, there is no doubt Obama will put out an inspiring speech from Charlotte. Once the dust settles from that, we'll know where this race stands, but right now, I don't think Republicans have much to be excited about, and this should be their moment of celebration.

*I know, but they have his actual transcript, not just the prepared remarks released in advance of the speech and which don't reflect exactly what he said

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Authentic Zealotry

Is it just me or does Paul Ryan sound like he's recruiting people to a cult right now?

I'm sorry but I really don;t understand how someone can preach about how man will be judged on how it treats the least fortunate among us, then promote the most aggressive social program cuts of anyone on a major presidential ticket in the past half century.

I respect Paul Ryan in many ways. I really do. But he is without doubt an extremist, not a candidate for which a broad base of voters across the country can rally around. His religious zealotry seemed an odd mix with his cold, passionless political agenda. I honestly have never seen Ryan in more bizarre form than in those last several minutes on stage in Tampa.

It just verified to me that this isn't a ticket as interested in winning the White House as it is spouting a strident conservative agenda. I'm not saying there isn't some value to that, but it seems strange watching the GOP say with such sincerity that they can win this race and then opt against a political strategy with any hope of winning.

Worse, the Ryan speech started to border toward its end on genuine personal offensiveness. Suggesting he was willing to bridge that huge bridge between Ryan's Catholicism and Romney's Mormonism made me wonder how religious people of virtually any other faith would feel. Sanctimoniousness and self-righteousness are attributes certain to turn off more voters than it draws in. Ryan is obviously a selection intended to rally the base, and a better choice than a Sarah Palin or Dan Quayle for sure, but sending this baby-faced ideologue on stage to deliver such a divisive message was misguided and insane.

Ryan's speech makes me feel better about the vice presidential debate than I have since the moment he was first announced. This guy just isn't ready for prime time.

I am starting to wonder if the Romney-Ryan ticket will be the first in decades to leave its own convention with underwater poll ratings. My wife kicks kicking me and telling me I am getting ahead of myself. Probably so. But no doubt any bump from this convention will be weak and be ground that President Obama can erase in a short period of time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

So Who Exactly Built That?

As thousands of Republicans chant "We Built It" in the middle of a taxpayer-subsidized arena, I just can't help but laugh.

Are you confused what the heck these people talking about in the first place? Of course, because I am sure tons of non-politically aware people have wondered onto this blog. If you really don't know, President Obama said during a speech that private sector leaders didn't build the American infrastructure that allows capitalism to flourish here. Here's a clip. If you are still confused why this is a big deal, hey, I don't know what makes these guys tick that well either.

Now I'll let the national blogs mock these people for missing the whole "we built that" message that Obama was conveying. I would like to pick something else apart.

The Republican National Convention right now is happening in the Tampa Bay Times Forum. That's right, a venue named for the evil liberal media giant known as the Times. This paper happens to be the largest circulation publication in Florida and the only major newspaper in Florida that is not corporate-owned, so it either represents the best of small business or the worst of corporate independence, but I assure Republicans in the Sunshine State hate the Pulitzer Prize-winning rag. I, for one, feel blessed the paper is here, but then I am a liberal pinko.

But the truth is that this newspaper didn't build the Forum. Indeed, many of those of us who lived our whole lived in the state still bristle when this venue is called anything but the Ice Palace. It was built to house the Tampa Bay Lightning, a franchise in that beautiful representation of private sector success and machismo which is professional sports. But they didn't build it alone.

Turns out some $86 million in taxpayer subsidies went to raising this stadium from the ground, much more than the $53 million contributed by the Lightning. Corporate sponsorship from the wicked liberal media came much later when naming rights were put up for sale.

Like so many sports venues, the use of public funds was justified because the venue serves a public good. Such subsidies are hugely controversial across the political spectrum, of course, but business leaders typically line up behind such efforts to lend political support. Why? Because having a pro sports team raises a region's profile in enormous ways. In addition to bringing a Stanley Cup to a region known for its beaches, the venue puts Tampa on national television with some regularity as the Lightning play their sport for an audience reaching for beyond the Bay area.

And, of course, the venue allows us to host other major events, i.e. the Republican National Convention.

You see, there is no doubt the Tampa Bay area is benefitting economically from the convention being in town. If the most Democratic of business owners has enjoyed a boost is business as hotels fill up, restaurants serve food out and strip clubs bring folks in. All of that wouldn't be possible without a venue in town that could host such an event as the RNC. No city in America can host this type of event without major venues like this, and that is why the public expense is justified. It will take a lot of rent money for that $86 million to get paid back, but the public benefit is enormous and the businesses who pay taxes in the area will feel a return in their cash registers just this week that more than makes up for their share of the initial expense.

Now most of the people at the RNC are not from Florida, much less from Tampa Bay. So while they may be renting the venue this week, spending their dollars at local malls and to stuff the corsets of area strippers, they didn't build any of this. The taxpayers did.

Your welcome.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Making Sense of Charlie Crist

So often, politicians put on a good face when voters speak loudly, toss some platitudes and then go about just ignoring the people. For much of his political life, former Gov. Charlie Crist has been a master at this. But I take notice that the man who threw such a cog in the 2010 elections nationwide is going about things a different way as he braces for an inevitable run in 2014.

The first major step came earlier this month when he threw his support behind Bill Nelson in the Senate race. This is the sort of race where if Crist was still a sitting Republican governor, he would have had the choice either of backing Connie Mack's losing Senate bid or simply staying out of the race completely, tacitly endorsing Nelson as he did so. Now that Crist is out of politics, he could still go ahead and endorse Nelson because he worked closely with the senator, and not risk much with his Republican supporters of yore.

But the stakes went up significantly this weekend when Crist wrote an Op-Ed in the Tampa Bay Times backing President Obama. Everyone interested in Florida politics really needs to read the whole thing on the link, but here is an excerpt:

As Republicans gather in Tampa to nominate Mitt Romney, Americans can expect to hear tales of how President Obama has failed to work with their party or turn the economy around.
But an element of their party has pitched so far to the extreme right on issues important to women, immigrants, seniors and students that they've proven incapable of governing for the people. Look no further than the inclusion of the Akin amendment in the Republican Party platform, which bans abortion, even for rape victims.
The truth is that the party has failed to demonstrate the kind of leadership or seriousness voters deserve.
In the short term, of course, the hope is that this will help Obama win over swing voters as Mitt Romney tries to paint Obama as some type of socialist extremist. But the obvious question on the minds of most political observers is what this truly means for Crist's future.
The broad speculation for months has been that Crist will attempt a return to the governor's mansion in 2014, challenging the utterly unlikable and eminently unpopular Rick Scott, and doing so as a Democrat. He could beat Scott, of course, but based on polls from pretty much the day Scott took office up until now, most any Democrat would have a good shot. That is the ultimate upswing to having a disaster in Republican politics hold the governorship.
The question becomes then, why should Democrats nominate Crist? As a constant and vocal critic of Crist and his craven history of political gamesmanship, that certainly is an important question for me.
But as I blogged in May, there is always room for rethinking one's own position on a candidate. Let me excerpt my own post just to hold myself accountable to what I said:
We would do our own ranks a severe disservice by dismissing their candidacies based solely on Crist's celebrity status. But if Crist made the switch to Democrat now, if he spent the next two years fighting for Barack Obama to win Florida, for Democrats to take more seats in the state Legislature, to rebuild a party which has been in tatters for a decade and a half, then Democrats should consider forgiving Crist of his past sins. But he shouldn't get a pass to the big race. He needs to prove he cares more about a set of public principles than his own ambitions. The good news is there is still time to do it.
I don't pretend this blog is highly influential, but I do know that post I wrote was emailed hundreds of times, more often than anything ever written on these pages. If this short checklist of things to do ever made it in front on Charlie Crist, I must acknowledge that in just a few weeks, he has made some significant progress.
If Bill Nelson stays in the Senate and if Barack Obama wins Florida, Charlie Crist will be able to claim some credit. I want to see him do some real work on the trail, but writing this enormous Op-Ed just as the GOP convention gets underway definitely counts. It also sounds like he will be the most high-profile ex-Republican official to speak in Charlotte at the Democratic National Convention this year. Frankly, it sounds like Charlie Crist is well on his way to achieving those accomplishments which I said he must before he deserved the accolades of anyone on the left?
Can he help us win back some legislative seats? Can he get us a couple Congressional seats this year? I at least would like him to try. Has he yet shown a commitment to a set of principles important to the left? I guess that's what got him in trouble with the Marco Rubio crowd to begin with. 
I recommend he change his registration to Democrat sooner than later if he really plans to run in 2014. My guess is he may do this in high-profile fashion at the DNC this year.
Of course, there will be a primary for governor, and I would like to see who really throws their hat in the ring before hinting a handicap on this race, much less considering an endorsement. Proving he is a good Democrat still doesn't mean Alex Sink or Nan Rich should set their own ambitions aside. It is also noteworthy that other offices, including every Congressional seat in Tampa Bay, will be up in 2014 and Crist may see greater appeal in a different job than governor. He did forgo a run at re-election two years ago in favor of seeking a Senate seat.
But is Charlie Crist in fact worthy of consideration for a Democratic nomination for high office? Based on his invaluable contributions of personality to our cause this year, I have to say, inevitably and undeniably, that the answer is yes.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Welcome to Florida! (enjoy the weather)

Welcome to Florida, Republicans except for Todd Akin. We hope you have all the Sunshine State has to offer.

We know many of you are concerned about the hurricane. I thought I would put this little primer for the visitors, the sort of thing than can ease your worst fears and let you know your worst nightmares are not simply imagined.

You may have noticed I just called Isaac a hurricane. Some of the weather reports you are watching simply call it a tropical storm, but don't believe the liberal media. It will be a hurricane soon and you may as well just accept it. This storm is going to be a monster hurricane ready to destroy your festivities this weekend. I hope you kissed your loved ones goodbye before getting on that plane to Florida.

The first thing to explain is that "cone of uncertainty," which of course means that the only thing certain for you is death. Why else would they call it that? The thing is, once that line includes the city where you are, it's pretty much a guarantee you will die. Trust us. We've lived through quite a few hurricanes so we know.

But don't panic. If there is one thing Florida knows how to do, it is to properly bury people. We set aside enormous amounts of land as cemetery space in anticipation of just this type of thing.

So what can you do? I recommend breathless tuning in to news reports every other hour so you can get NOAA updates as soon as they come out. It won't save you, but at least you know how much time you have left. The thing to keep an eye on is the Category grade for the storm. Sadly for all of us, this storm is graded as a Cat 1 right now. As you know, there is no higher place than first, so we are pretty much doomed. To put things in perspective, Katrina was merely a Cat 5, so blow up those swim floaties and get ready for some looting (for the one-percenters, read 'to be looted').

But take some comfort in the fact that as attendees at the convention, you will be in the convention center. Now the locals will flee to the designated shelters in local schools, but you have even better digs. You are in an arena, and we know from those glorious Bush administration hey days that such arenas are the safest place to be in a situation like this.

Once the storm passes, though, recovery will be a smooth process—for the survivors. Florida has a pretty good track record for responding to disasters. We put the sort of business regulations in place that conservatives love so much, we bring to term the large number of embryos suddenly conceived in the storm blackouts, and we rely on the federal government to FEMA out way back to prosperity.

Sure, there have occasionally been times when hurricane recovery went poorly (I'm sure I can think of an example if I try hard enough), but that really depends on what administration is in the White House. We have Democrats there right now, and I am sure they will rescue you with the same enthusiasm with which a Republican administration would restore quality of life in a flooded metropolis full of left-leaning minorities.

So have fun with that.

Oh, by the way, you may want to get a living will in order. You wouldn't want to be caught in a vegetative state in Florida without your intentions written out. Crazy things have happened. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Campaign Lessons from Gangster Movies

There are many politicians in this state who disgust me. Allen West's hyperbolic rhetoric is grating. Rick Scott's abrasive disregard for opponents thoughts or rights is demoralizing. But there is simply no greater embarrassment to Florida voters than U.S. Rep David Rivera, R-Miami.

The most recent dumbass move from a man who should long ago have been thrown in jail is a tail of such brazen law-breaking and attempted bribery it sounds more like an old gangster movie than a genuine political campaign by an incumbent Congressman. From the Miami Herald:


Interviews with campaign sources, invoices, campaign records and other documents show that Rivera personally and frequently called Rapid Mail about Sternad’s mailers. During one call, Rivera directed an employee to walk outside, check the office mailbox for an envelope containing payment for one mailer., the sources said.
The envelope was stuffed with cash — $7,800.
The Sternard referenced was "Democrat" Justin Lamar Sternad, who was running against Joe Garcia for the Democratic nomination. Thankfully, Garcia won the primary. Long-time readers of this blog know I was a big fan of his two years ago, and I remain so today.
Sternad was an obvious plant using Republican money sent to Republican campaign firms with a message based on Republican attacks. Rivera clearly wanted Sternad to be his opponent. While unseemly, this tactic isn't new in politics, and trying to choose his own Democratic opponent is hardly a law bar for a man who once ran a truck full of his opponent's campaign literature off the road in the middle of the night.
But the tactics Rivera used here are in many ways the most brazen and filthy politics he has employed yet. The Herald investigation shows he was delivering envelopes filled with thousands of dollars to help find Sternard's campaign off the books. In a state so proud of government in the Sunshine, it should be no surprise this is not legal.
Rivera is a thus and he is running his campaign like a thug. And there is a place for thugs. Last March, I boldly predicted Rivera's legal troubles would get him out of the House and into the big house.
Truth is, it seems unlikely right now that Rivera will make it through his first term without being forced to resign.
Things haven't panned out quite as I hoped in that regard, but they may yet. The man under federal investigation before he could even be sworn in remains an embarrassment to his party and Congress in general. But regardless of whether the law can finally get to him based on these most recent accusations, it is critical voters take care of the man this November and vote him out of public office.

Read more here:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cliff Notes On Cliff Stearns

The news that Cliff Stearns could be unseated in a Republican primary is something difficult to fathom for those who have watched Central Florida politics in the last few decades, but that indeed happened this week when an unknown tossed the incumbent by less than 1,000 votes.

A lot of national media has jumped on the race to discern what cost Stearns his seat. I feel since I lives in Stearns' district through most of his time in Congress, and covered Stearns for five years while I was at the Daily Commercial, I ought to say something, and I have to say the conventional wisdom is a bit off. It is so easy to say this was a Tea Party candidate picking off a Washington establishment candidate, but I don't think you can batter Stearns on ideological grounds.

Stearns was always a reliable congressman for the district when it came to standard far like getting us proper road funding, keeping us abreast of international affairs and all of those other duties which are basic to being a good Congressman. I have always had a soft spot for the man in part because when I got Stearns on the phone on 9/11, I impressed my grandfather more than at any point in my professional career. Partisanship aside, I always thought Stearns was a good representative on balance.

But he also had a penchant for red meat, and it would come out every time there was a headline issue in Washington that had the attention of the base. Impach Clinton? Of course. Investigate Clinton after he was out of office for the Marc Rich pardon? We can toy with that to keep the haters pleased. Attack Planned Parenthood? Get Cliff a front-row seat. Even birtherism. That, I must say, was the saddest chapter of all.

Knowing Rep. Stearns, I can't imagine he actually bought into all of this crap, but any shot at a Democratic president seemed a fair one. People right now are suggesting he was becoming a star for taking on issues like Solyndra, but I don't buy that. Like so many issues, this was a chance to feed the base by taking cheap shots at Obama that meant nothing. Nobody but the most foolish of tea party voters thinks Solyndra will result in any serious matter or a justifiable punishment of anyone in the administration. But that foolish group is who Stearns always worked to keep happy.

The funny part to me is that the tea party has always contended keeping them happy is all they asked of congressmen.

Tea Party activists are ready to claim another scalp, even though Stearns was more likely just a victim of random violence. The Ocala Star-Banner, which is closer to the ground in this district than I am nowadays, suggests other opponents besides Ted Yoho were doing damage against Stearns on their own. From their editorial:
He (Stearns) had what was seen as viable opposition from state Sen. Steve Oelrich and Clay County Clerk of Court Jim Jett, both seasoned officeholders who had held multiple offices...Low-road campaigning by Oelrich, Jett and Stearns, who spent much of the campaign sparring … and ignoring Yoho.

I will take the paper's word that the negative campaigning hurt Stearns. But I don't buy the notion he stopped listening to constituents. That doesn't seem like the Cliff Stearns I watched for years. Rather, I suspect redistricting left him trying to reach new voters, something I can attest made him nervous 10 years ago. My guess is he was paying extra-close attention to the desires of constituents expressed at forums and elsewhere.

I would suggest his problem was that he listened to these voters too much.

Stearns always paid too much attention to the knuckle-draggers in his party. My guess is the rise of the tea party in the past two years has made his follow that strategy to a greater degree than ever before. But the full make-up of a constituency, even in a Republican primary, is not just the base. It is the rest of the rank-and-file who had grown disillusioned with Stearns.

Even 10 years ago, I knew party regular voters on the Republican side then who felt Stearns lacked leadership. They saw him as a follower, someone who would never be more than a generic, do-nothing congressman. In the day, nobody wanted to challenge that in a primary. It's different now.

While the tea party would have people believe following their every command is the way for Republicans to win elections, most voters don't just want a congressman that leaps only when a single populist special interest says jump. Don't get distracted by the fact Ted Yoho brands himself the tea party guy in the race. Stearns was the perfect tea party candidate. And that's exactly why he lost.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Stupidity at an Olympic level

Marco Rubio is embarrassing our state right now with this ridiculous grandstanding on the "Olympic tax" and I am a little angry that so many national news outlets are giving this story such attention without offering the obvious counter to his argument.

It turns out that when athletes earn money, they have to pay taxes on it. Shocking, I know.

Here is part of what Yahoo Sports! considers a news story on this item:

The United States Olympic Committee rewards Olympic medalists with honorariums. A gold medal brings $25,000. Silver medals get you $15,000. And a bronze is worth $10,000.
The Weekly Standard, a conservative news magazine, ran the numbers and tabulated that the tax bill on a gold is $8,986, silver is $5,385 and bronze is $3,500.
They note that Missy Franklin, an amateur who has yet to cash in on her fame with endorsements, already owes $14,000 in taxes from her gold and silver medal. By the time the Games are finished, Franklin's tax bill could reach $30,000.
Well of course she does! I would note that this 17-year-old just earned $40,000 for two swims! Do you know anybody earning that much money who doesn't pay at least $14,000 in taxes on that? There is no special tax rate on the winnings. It is the same as if you earned a bonus at work. You would then have to pay out funding.
Understand, I feel wonderful for Missy Franklin's successes at the Olympics so far and hope she has more. I also feel great she has earned this much money, and also will congratulate her on any endorsements she gets after the Olympics or whenever she gives up her amateur status.
To suggest, though, that she hasn't cashed in on her fame is ludicrous. It took me years in my chosen profession to earn that much money each year. She could cash in more, for sure. But this more than pays the rent (especially considering she doesn't pay any rent). A 17-year-old who pulls in a professional salary should be commended, but she should also be taxed. It's that simple.
Consider the extreme of this philosophy. Since I took a probably unwarranted shot at LeBron James yesterday, let me today praise the Miamian's efforts both in the Olympic games and in his day job. The man is, after all, quite likely to bring back to Florida both an NBA Championship ring and an Olympic gold medal in a single year.
In addition to his salary, that means LeBron will earn $25,000 for his medal and get a cut of some $1.7 million the Heat will get for winning the championship this year. And I say good for him. But should he get a break in his taxes? No, that's nuts. And if there is one thing I think liberals and conservatives can agree on in this country, it's that basketball stars make too much money as is.
Maybe Rubio, as a Miami man, feels differently. But if so, that's ridiculous. This is cheap political points. Income is income. Taxes are taxes. And if we are to take Rubio seriously on his interest in reducing the deficit, giving tax breaks to professional athletes makes that task tougher than completing a 400-meter medley.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

GOP Won't Speak His Name

Stories like this just make me chuckle. It seems even Republicans have embraced the Voldemort comparison, and dare not speak the name of a Governor Rick Scott, even as the campaign in primary season.

Who can blame them? Every poll is the political world shows this man is less popular in Florida than a kid cutting across a lawn. He is less popular than Charlie Crist, the nearly anonymous Nan Rich and the  arguably despicable LeBron James, according to the last PPP poll. He is less popular than gay marriage, which sadly is still a losing issue in Florida. Heck, Dwight Howard is almost competitive with this guy.

It really is no wonder that a law enforcement officer, even one appointed by this governor like Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, would run from Scott's mention like a outed Death Eater in the Hogwarts faculty lounge.

But I would suggest today that the Harry Potter books have provided us not just with a similarly frocked villain with which to mock Scott. The protagonist of this series has in fact offered up a strategy for rolling back Scott's destructive agenda and plans for world domination. Readers of the books may recall that even years after Voldemort's initial plans to control the Wizarding World went awry, neither the dark wizard's supporters or opponents could comfortably utter his name.

The Death Eaters would refer to Voldemort as the "Dark Lord." Those fearful of the wizard called him "You-Know-Who" or "He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named." It was inferred that when Voldemort was at the height of his power, he demanded this type of identification as a form of deference. Of course, anyone who has followed politics awhile would find it quite plausible that Scott today may be telling Republican lawmakers not to speak his own unpopular name so that they could get into positions of power, then reveal their fielty to their Dark Lord and push his wicked agenda into the realm of real-world law.

But when Potter learned that many in the Wizarding World still feared Voldemort so much that they refused to utter his name because of a literal taboo, the young wizard scoffed. The way to defeat Voldemort was not to quake at his name, nor was it to deny his existence altogether. No, the way to defeat evil was to stare in the face and shout it down! The Order of the Phoenix eventually is unified in its willingness to speak Voldemort's name out loud, and that courage leads to Voldemort's ultimate and permanent downfall.

The lesson for Democrats, long trapped in an Azkabhan-like political exile within Florida's halls of power, is to speak Scott's name when Republicans will not. The lawmaker to afraid to be publicly associated with this terrible leader of their party should not be allowed back in the halls of power just so he can enact his Dark Lord's will in secret. Republicans won't own their association with Scott. We must make them. We must not allow these people to occupy seats of prestige, the way the fictional wizards of London allowed the Lucius Malfoys of the world to cling to their reputation by publicly denying Voldemort while they secretly awaited his return.

Rick Scott is not up for election this year, but his Death Eaters most certainly are, and that means his agenda and vision for Florida is on the ballot even if the paper does not bear his name. Speak his name. Remind people that a vote for a Republican lawmaker is a vote for the continuation of Rick Scott's reign of destruction. Turn their cowardice into a chance for victory this year.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Voter Purge Happening. Be Vigilant Now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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