Crist flubs his first foreign policy foray
Let there be no misunderstanding, Charlie is a lightweight of the first order: "When Florida Gov. Charlie Crist led a trade mission to Brazil last month, all the talk was of improving commercial ties with the state's largest trading partner." Here he is, shooting off his mouth:
"God bless sweet Brazil," Crist told his hosts, hailing the country's world-renowned biofuels program.Charlie would then proceed to set a world record for flip-flopping:
So it came as a surprise on Crist's last day in Brazil when he abruptly announced the cancellation of a meeting with executives at the state-controlled energy giant, Petroleo Brasileiro, or Petrobras . . . [saying that Florida will not 'doing business with companies that sponsor terror'].Oops ... turns out Charlie was wrong; but of course it must have been someone else's fault:
Crist had viewed Petrobras, the world's largest distributor and retailer of biofuels, as a potentially key partner in his plans to promote renewable energy. . . .
At the time, Crist's staff said it was entirely symbolic. While Petrobras had a modest $35-million invested in an Iranian oil drilling company, as far as they knew, Florida had no investments in Petrobras.
Now the St. Petersburg Times has learned that the Florida pension fund has $111,919,435 in foreign equity assets invested in Petrobras, according to the State Board of Administration, which manages the state's investments.Yet, and this isn't particularly reassuring, Crist actually did know: he just musta forgotten. You see,
"I talked to the fund before I met with Petrobras to see what amount might be affected," said George LeMieux, Crist's then-chief of staff. "Perhaps someone missed it."
Crist knew about Petrobras' Iran ties two months before the trip, staff members [now] concede. . . .Charlie has really stepped in it:
The contract was signed on July 14, 2004, well before a recent intensification of concern [an unfounded concern as it turns out] about Iran's nuclear ambitions, Petrobras officials say.
Petrobras officials were taken aback by the scolding from a politician on only his second overseas trip . . . ."State pensions, Brazil's oil and Iran". All this posturing about terrorism is particularly ironic when one recalls that
Brazil's Consul General in Miami, Joao Almino, has contacted Crist's office to express his government's "surprise" over Crist's decision and the language used in his Nov. 7 statement. Brazil respects Florida's right to regulate its pension plan, officials say, but they deny that Petrobras is associated with terrorism.
Halliburton Co., the oil company that was headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, signed contracts with Iraq worth $73 million through two subsidiaries while he was at its helm, the Washington Post reported.You see,
During last year's presidential campaign, Cheney said Halliburton did business with Libya and Iran through foreign subsidiaries, but maintained he had imposed a "firm policy" against trading with Iraq.
Cheney has long criticized of unilateral U.S. sanctions, which he says penalize American companies. He has pushed for a review of policy toward Iraq, Iran and Libya."Halliburton Iraq ties more than Cheney said". Is Charlie really ready to become the Veep? As Adam Smith wrote yesterday, and the Brazil imbroglio underscores, Charlie shouldn't keep his hopes up 'bout DC:
Is he really ready? First and foremost we hope, a president wants someone who would be instantly ready to handle the most important job in the world. Charlie Crist has amazing political instincts and warmth, but that whole heartbeat away from being the most powerful person on Earth thing is a steep threshold. . . ."Sorry, Charlie, no veepstakes". That's our Charlie.
We're betting Crist can spell potato, but that wouldn't stop Democrats from making the Dan Quayle comparisons should the nominee pick a rookie governor who twice failed the Bar exam.
"It's a Wonderful Life"
"It is the modern-day version of It's a Wonderful Life. Depositors hear bad news. Too many want all of their money back immediately, and there's a run that makes the situation worse. Jimmy Stewart makes everything work out fine in the movie, but the final scene for Florida's troubled government investment pool has yet to be written. . . . This crisis provides an opportunity for Crist, McCollum and Sink to make improvements. First, they should conduct a national search for Stipanovich's replacement. This job is too important to be filled by political appointees as it has been in the past." "Draining risk from investment pool".
"And the problem is far from over: Alex Sink, the state's chief financial officer, who had pressed Stipanovich for the Nov. 14 finacial update that triggered the run, plans to ask auditors to probe what happened." "Sour state investments jolt local governments".
Will heads roll? "The Florida agency that manages billions of local tax dollars steadily decreased its safe investments in favor of riskier ones since 2003, an analysis by the Orlando Sentinel shows. The State Board of Administration essentially stopped buying such bedrock funds as U.S. Treasury bills and other federally backed notes and replaced them with less reliable commercial paper and private debt, some of which was linked to the subprime-mortgage crisis rocking the financial world." "Troubled Florida state fund shifted to risky investments".
The Sun-Sentinel editors on "the White House plan to prevent many more Americans from losing their homes to foreclosure [by] freezing interest rates for five years. . . . Unfortunately for South Florida's housing industry, it's too little too late, since many properties are already in foreclosure. The spike in the number of people losing their homes is one contributor to our region's housing slump, which has led to job losses for those in that sector as well." "Taxpayers shouldn't be asked to pay for bad lending practices".
More from Tom Blackburn: "Mortgage crisis: Everyone's problem".
"Addressing one of their largest immigrant audiences since the campaign started, Republican presidential candidates at Sunday's Spanish-language forum underscored their promises to stop illegal immigration, but also spoke more than usual about the importance of having compassion." "A softer tone on immigration". See also "Analysis: Republican candidates try civility in debate, for now" and "Republicans soften tone in bilingual debate".
"On the hot-button issue of immigration, the candidates largely stressed their support for stronger border security, with few firm proposals on how to handle the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants already living here." "At Univision debate, Republicans court Hispanics".
Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo boycotted the "Spanish-language debate with his fellow GOP presidential candidates in Miami on Sunday, saying it has no place in presidential race and accusing his rivals of 'pandering.'" "AP: Tancredo: GOP candidates 'pandering' at Spanish-language debate".
Yesterday, "Times: Giuliani duplicates his N.Y. success with Hispanics in Florida" ("Nowhere is Giuliani's support in Florida stronger than in South Florida, buoyed by high ratings among Hispanic Republicans.") and "Among Hispanic voters, GOP candidates look to Cuban-Americans for allies" ("The hard-line immigration stances taken by the Republican presidential candidates this year have stoked so much anger among Hispanic voters that the candidates are focusing their appeals almost exclusively on the reliably Republican Cuban-American community.")
"The need for change is obvious"
The News-Journal editors write that
the growing gap between haves and have-nots. Florida lost its claim to a low cost of living long ago. Housing costs have rocketed -- the report's word -- in the past five years. A recent downturn in home sales could help correct the market, but Florida is not likely to ever return to the days when housing was considered cheap. Meanwhile, in many parts of the state, costs of living top national averages. Yet per-capita income still lags below national benchmarks."Florida can't thrive with its current work force".
While Florida has added jobs at a still-respectable clip -- 1 million new jobs since 2000 -- the heftiest growth has occurred in areas that are non-sustainable (construction) or traditionally low-paying (services). . . .
The need for change is obvious. More than 15 percent of Florida's workforce lacks a high-school diploma, and the state's high-school graduation rate ranks 46th among the 50 states. Nearly 75 percent of workers don't have college degrees. Florida ranks a dismal 48th in the number of doctoral degrees in engineering and sciences. While Florida can offer a pool of 9 million workers, those workers often don't have the skills needed to attract high-paying, high-tech employers.
Other states tackled the challenge of converting to a high-tech economy by pouring resources into educational systems, making long-term commitments to build research capacity at universities and improve the public education system. Florida has paid lip service to those goals . . . .
You might call it "Rushing"
"South Florida and state officials will try a new tack next year to combat 'doctor shopping,' the growing practice in which a patient goes from doctor to doctor amassing pain pills for abuse or sale. They will launch a high-profile campaign for a statewide computer database to log every prescription for potentially lethal narcotic pills and antidepressants, to help doctors and officials spot multiple and suspect prescriptions." "Effort takes aim at 'doctor shopping' in Florida".
"Thurman, a 56-year-old former congresswoman and state senator from Dunnellon, may need to use all of her political skills to mend differences between national Democrats, who are angry over Florida moving up its primary to Jan. 29, and state Democrats, who are miffed over what they see as excessive punishment from the Democratic National Committee." "Winning is paramount for Florida Democrat".
Court to resolve round one of the Crist-Rubio sandbox fight
"The stakes are high, politically and legally, and the side bets are plentiful as the Florida Supreme Court considers a clash between Gov. Charlie Crist and the Legislature over casino gambling". "High court weighs casino gambling".
"Teaching science from the Bible"
Robyn Blumner yesterday:
Florida is also now in a dust-up due to the inclusion of evolution in its proposed science standards. Donna Callaway, who was appointed to the state Board of Education by former Gov. Jeb Bush, said she'll oppose the new standards because of it."A reality-based look at science".
Really folks, in this information age when scientific innovation is the key to our nation's future, we don't have the time to be mucking around in this tired debate. You don't produce doctors and scientists by teaching science from the Bible. Period.