CD 13 Saga Continues
Notwithstanding claims by the GOPers,
"the GAO in its report [Tuesday] said it does not believe 'the prior test results adequately demonstrate that the voting systems could not have contributed to the undervote.'""Probe of faulty ballots incomplete".
"Congressional investigators will perform further tests on Sarasota's contested voting machines, possibly pushing any resolution of the disputed 2006 election into 2008. The Government Accountability Office, which is investigating whether faulty voting machines caused some 18,000 ballots to register no choice in the congressional race, told a House task force Tuesday that it needs to conduct further testing before it can conclude that the machines weren't at fault."
"Federal investigators told Congress on Tuesday that, after four months of reviewing previous studies and audits of the November 2006 election, they still do not have "reasonable assurance" that the voting machines are not to blame for the abnormally high undervote in the 13th Congressional District race." "Congress orders new tests of voting machines".
Special Session begins Today
"When lawmakers convene a special session today to plug a $1.1 billion hole in the state budget, Democrats will be flexing their muscles." "Special session starts today". "This session, known as Special Session C, deals with two issues: cutting the budget and reinstating personal-injury protection for motorists. 8 Days of the session, today through Oct. 12, no weekends":
$1B Approximate amount to be cut"Back in session".
1.4 Approximate percentage of budget
$40,000 Cost of session per day
1 Number of special sessions still to come this month
$147.5M Teacher merit pay plan
$228M Cuts in public education: K-12 public schools (at least $138-million; universities (at least $68-million); universal prekindergarten ($22-million)
5 Proposed percent increase in state university and community college tuition ($11.4-million)
5,000 Proposed additional slots to the KidCare health insurance program ($3.8-million)
"Advocates say some people may be forced into nursing homes as further paring is considered." "State's budget cuts hit disabled". See also "Families fear losing disability services", "Legislators begin budget cutting in Tallahassee today", "Special session to cover budget cuts and insurance" and "Budget cuts, auto insurance on lawmaker's agenda Wednesday".
Good time Charlie is in a jam. "The governor who prides himself on optimism is facing pessimistic times -- and the hardest test of his leadership skills since he took office 10 months ago."
Adding to the pressure: living up to the rosy expectations he's stoked by promising deep tax cuts to all and a booming economy as a result."Budget cuts, taxes and insurance burden governor".
The reality is that property tax cuts aren't as big as promised, the property tax amendment he's pushed is not as popular as hoped, the economy is faltering, state tax collections are down, and the state has a $1.1 billion hole in its $71 billion budget.
''I'm willing to face everything,'' Crist said Tuesday. ``I mean, my gosh, I have to face everything. I don't have a choice.''
The Tallahassee Democrat editorial board observes that "lawmakers have taken two missteps to date: One was sending all the blame downstream to local governments, in particular counties, which are hamstrung because 60 percent of their property taxes already go to services mandated by whom? By the state. ... he second misstep came in the Legislature's own crafty property-tax amendment, which has been taken off the ballot, at least for the moment, by a circuit judge who said it's confusing and/or misleading." "Talk is cheap".
Poor things: "Legislators find workload getting bigger every day" ("What is supposed to be a part-time job for many state senators and representatives, who have careers and families back home they must juggle with their responsibilities here, is increasingly a full-time commitment.")
That's our Mel
"The White House on Tuesday reaffirmed a vow to veto a massive water resources bill that supporters say promises a badly needed $2 billion kick-start for stalled Everglades restoration. The move, expected as early as this week, sets up a high-stakes face-off between Congress and the White House, with some key Florida lawmakers planning to lead an override campaign that could be the first of the Bush presidency." "State lawmakers fighting for Glades bill".
Will RNC and Bushco sycophant Mel Matinez "lead an override campaign" against his beloved benefactor, Dubya?
Meanwhile, Mel's fans at the Orlando Sentinel, think his quitting as RNC head is a "Wise move". Incredibly, the editors pen this:
Mr. Martinez said he would not be an "attack dog" when he took the RNC post. Both Republicans and Democrats would do well to choose chairmen who take the same approach. They shouldn't have to resort to personal attacks to win arguments over principles.Putting aside the irrelevant reference to the Dems (we must be "balanced" of course), the Martinez cheerleaders at the Sentinel conveniently overlook that Mel is one of the most rabid "attack dogs" in recent history.
Martinez has been labeled "Florida Frankenstein" for good reason; and, as one Democratic campaign operative put it, Mel has taken "the ugly mutated life form of what Lee Atwater started and which today's Republican Party, with the likes of Karl Rove, are continuing. They make stuff up after their polling identifies divisive or polarizing issues that they can use to drive home with ethnic groups or other constituencies." How soon the Sentinel editors forget.
Another Special Session?
"House Speaker Marco Rubio says he has "agreed with Senate President Ken Pruitt to hold a tax special session later this month". "Rubio's answer to WSJ piece: Tax cuts".
Everglades a political issue? 'Ya think?
"Has the Everglades become a political issue among Florida’s congressional delegation? None of the Republican House members of Florida’s congressional delegation signed a letter sent today to President Bush urging him not to veto the Water Resources Development Act, which authorizes $1.4 billion for the Indian River Lagoon clean-up and millions more for Everglades restoration projects. All nine of Florida’s Democratic representatives signed the letter." "Is Everglades letter political?".
"State Farm, the state's largest private insurance company, agreed to deepen previously proposed rate cuts, resulting in a savings of $23-million, or an average of $23 for each policyholder. The savings are part of a larger agreement ending a number of very public battles State Farm has been waging with the Office of Insurance Regulation and the Attorney General's Office." "State Farm to give refunds". See also "Insurer agrees to boost discount" and "State Farm agrees to lower rates".
"Lawmakers tried to lower insurance rates and regulators are getting tougher, but the bottom line still is below expectations. More than 3 million Florida homeowners will see modest rate cuts on their homeowner policies in the next year, including a 9 percent cut requested by State Farm Tuesday." "Lackluster rate cuts filed".
"A potentially historic shift"
The WSJ via the Miami Herald: "New evidence suggests a potentially historic shift in the Republican Party's identity -- what strategists call its "brand." The votes of many disgruntled fiscal conservatives and other lapsed Republicans are now up for grabs, which could alter U.S. politics in the 2008 elections and beyond."
Some business leaders are drifting away from the party because of the war in Iraq, the growing federal debt and a conservative social agenda they don't share. In manufacturing sectors such as the auto industry, some Republicans want direct government help with soaring health-care costs, which Republicans in Washington have been reluctant to provide. And some business people want more government action on global warming, arguing that a bolder plan is not only inevitable, but could spur new industries. ..."GOP is losing grip on core business vote".
The most prominent sign of dissatisfaction has come from former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, long a pillar of Republican Party economic thinking. He blasted the party's fiscal record in a new book. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, he said: "The Republican Party, which ruled the House, the Senate and the presidency, I no longer recognize."
Some well-known business leaders have openly changed allegiances. Morgan Stanley Chairman and Chief Executive John Mack, formerly a big Bush backer, now supports Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York. John Canning Jr., chairman and chief executive of Madison Dearborn Partners, a large private-equity firm, now donates to Democrats after a lifetime as a Republican. Recently, he told one Democratic Party leader: "The Republican Party left me" -- a twist on a line Ronald Reagan and his followers used when they abandoned the Democratic Party decades ago to protest its '60s and '70s-era liberalism.
"Republican John McCain brought his sputtering presidential campaign to the state Capitol on Tuesday, talking about hurricanes and climate change while raising money and paying a courtesy call on Gov. Charlie Crist." "McCain campaigns in the Capitol". More: "McCain tells Crist what he wants to hear on insurance, drilling".
"Florida's high-school students typically do poorly on the state's standardized reading tests, a problem officials have blamed on schools, teachers and even the students themselves." "FCAT woes: Real problem is test itself, some critics say".
The News-Journal editors: "Crist made the right call when he put the state's no-fault auto-insurance law on the agenda for the special legislative session that starts today in Tallahassee. Now the issue rests in the hands of lawmakers, who can expect a siege of special interests trying to tweak -- or stymie -- legislation that would reinstate some form of personal-injury protection coverage for drivers." "Revive 'no-fault,' slow down for fix". See also "No-fault auto insurance stuck in neutral", ""No fault" insurance on legislative agenda" and "Personal-injury protection debated".
More: "Compromise may be reached on continuing with PIP" and "What the PIP bill would do".
Recall that "It's taken years for the Legislature to create a potential crisis over no-fault auto insurance. Because of that delay, the Legislature has only 10 days to avoid the crisis." "Make it nobody's fault".
I am shocked!
"Money intended for job creation in Miami-Dade County's poorest neighborhoods was used for loans to politically connected people and their companies." "Political insiders got poverty funds".
He meant to say "Judeo-Christian" before he said "Christian"
"Clarifying remarks he made this weekend that the United States was 'founded primarily on Christian principles,' GOP presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain said Tuesday he believes the founding fathers were inspired by 'Judeo-Christian' values."
In the capital Tuesday for a fund-raiser and meeting with Gov. Charlie Crist, McCain insisted that he did not mean what he said."McCain: I meant to say 'Judeo-Christian' values".
Can you imagine if Gore or Kerry had said something like this? Check out this very recent Vanity Fair piece: "Going After Gore".
5-Year old urged to make "ideological value judgment"
"A judge deciding whether a [5-year-old] Cuban girl should remain with her foster parents in Florida or return to Cuba with her father warned both parties Tuesday against pulling the girl into a political debate about living in Cuba."
Attorneys for the girl's Miami foster parents requested an emergency hearing Tuesday before Circuit Judge Jeri B. Cohen to relate the child's apparent anxiety about the possibility of returning to Cuba. A court-appointed therapist told the judge by phone that the girl appeared very fearful Monday during a scheduled meeting when she was asked about Cuba, and repeatedly said she did not want to go there."Quit discussing Cuba with girl, judge orders".
The judge ordered another court-appointed therapist, scheduled to meet with the girl and her father later Tuesday, to begin broaching with the girl the idea of living with her father. But Cohen also instructed both her father, Cuban farmer Rafael Izquierdo, and the foster parents, wealthy Cuban-American couple Joe and Maria Cubas, to refrain from discussing with the girl a potential return to Cuba.
"You're making a 5-year-old make an ideological value judgment about Cuba. The issue is not, 'Do you want to go Cuba?' The issue is, 'Do you want to be with your father?' We need to change the issue here," Cohen said.
Charlie decides not to file frivolous appeal
Charlie called Bob about whether the state should appeal a verdict against the state for "an 8-year-old former Palm Beach County girl who was beaten nearly to death after state child-welfare workers released her broken body to a mother they knew didn't want her." You may recall that "legislators have for years ignored Marissa Amora and refused since 2005 to pay what a jury ordered for her lifelong care: $26.8 million."
The following deeply analytical legal discussion occurred between the two distinguished legal minds:
"I called back the governor and said we really have no grounds to appeal and he said, 'Fine. Then do not appeal,' Butterworth said."Butterworth: Crist asked to stop appeal of $26 million suit".
Don't Forget the Paintball Guns
"They may not have gotten far in carrying out their plans, but seven South Florida men wanted to form an alliance with al-Qaida to wage holy war against the United States, a prosecutor charged Tuesday in his opening statement at their trial in Miami federal court.The centerpiece of the group's violent agenda, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Gregorie, was a plot to ['blow up the 110-story Sears Tower in Chicago -- the tallest building in the United States'] and the FBI headquarters in North Miami Beach."
Gregorie told jurors the former Chicago deliveryman was serious about the plans he described, such as poisoning salt shakers in restaurants and provoking gang warfare to create chaos and panic. ..."Seven men on trial in Miami for purported terrorism plot".
According to prosecutors, the group had a military-style structure and claimed to be part of the Moorish Science Temple, which embraces some tenets of Islam. That organization maintains the United States was originally settled by Moors, whose descendants should have their own nation and independent government.
The plan to take down the Sears Tower with a blackjack and paintball guns seemed less than serious at the time of the original arrests:
Deputy FBI Director John Pistole said at the time of their arrest that their plans were "aspirational rather than operational." Other government agents said they posed no real threat because they had no actual al Qaeda contacts or means of carrying out attacks and no weapons other than a cosh [blackjack] found in one man's car. ..."Curtain falls as Miami terrorism trial starts up".
An FBI agent testified in pretrial hearings that they studied martial arts and trained with paintball guns. The first three dozen jury candidates were asked if they had any paintball experience.
One former policeman said he had trained with paintballs while on the force. Another man said his son played paintball at birthday parties. Another jury candidate turned to her neighbor and whispered "what?" when the judge asked if they had ever "gone paintballing."
"The state's largest teachers' union released a poll Tuesday night that shows more Floridians are concerned about rising property insurance than how much they pay in property taxes." "New Poll: Insurance Cuts Needed More than Tax Cuts".