Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary


UPDATE: Every morning we review and individually digest Florida political news articles, editorials and punditry. Our sister site, FLA Politics was selected by Campaigns & Elections as one of only ten state blogs in the nation
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Welcome To Florida Politics

Thanks for visiting. On a semi-daily basis we scan Florida's major daily newspapers for significant Florida political news and punditry. We also review the editorial pages and political columnists/pundits for Florida political commentary. The papers we review include: the Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach Post, Naples News, Sarasota Herald Tribune, St Pete Times, Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Tallahassee Democrat, and, occasionally, the Florida Times Union; we also review the political news blogs associated with these newspapers.

For each story, column, article or editorial we deem significant, we post at least the headline and link to the piece; the linked headline always appears in quotes. We quote the headline for two reasons: first, to allow researchers looking for the cited piece to find it (if the link has expired) by searching for the original title/headline via a commercial research service. Second, quotation of the original headline permits readers to appreciate the spin from the original piece, as opposed to our spin.

Not that we don't provide spin; we do, and plenty of it. Our perspective appears in post headlines, the subtitles within the post (in bold), and the excerpts from the linked stories we select to quote; we also occasionally provide other links and commentary about certain stories. While our bias should be immediately apparent to any reader, we nevertheless attempt to link to every article, column or editorial about Florida politics in every major online Florida newspaper.


Older posts [back to 2002]

Previous Articles by Derek Newton: Ten Things Fox on Line 1 Stem Cells are Intelligent Design Katrina Spin No Can't Win Perhaps the Most Important Race Senate Outlook The Nelson Thing Deep, Dark Secret Smart Boy Bringing Guns to a Knife Fight Playing to our Strength  

The Blog for Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Don't worry, be happy

    "In a sluggish economy, Gov. Charlie Crist is offering a budget that taps deeply into reserves to build what he calls a "bridge to the future." By gambling that an economic rebound is coming soon, Crist avoids making the tough choices circumstances require."
    His spend-now, worry-later bridge also misleads taxpayers who aren't paying close attention. For months Crist's big emphasis has been on tax cuts for property owners; specifically, cuts in tax revenue for local governments.

    But his budget violates the spirit of promised cuts by increasing the state's property-tax bite for schools by $338 million. That increase could reduce the small tax reduction some property owners expect to see next year.
    "Governor Mortgages Tomorrow To Minimize Pain Of Today"

    Third stooge gets a challenger

    "Annette Taddeo, a Colombia-born business executive, told The Miami Herald Saturday she will challenge Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for her seat in the U.S. Congress. ... Taddeo's move adds the last piece to a high-stakes Democratic Party election-year strategy to unseat the three incumbent South Florida Republican Cuban-American lawmakers: Lincoln Diaz-Balart, his brother Mario and Ros-Lehtinen." "Herald: Ros-Lehtinen latest to face a challenger".

    "They don't know how to think their way out of a paper bag"

    "The Florida Department of Education held its final public hearing Monday on new science standards that for the first time require evolution to be taught in the state's public schools."

    You will not believe what this guy is saying. Go here to find out.

    "More than 80 people spoke at the five-hour hearing. More spoke against the new evolution standards than for them, but those in favor also had plenty of representatives. The comments -- often met with applause -- touched on religion, science and even fruit."

    "Some speakers said they wanted creationism or intelligent design taught, while others said they just wanted what they called weaknesses in the theory of evolution talked about, too."
    "I'm a Christian who believes that God created the world in seven days," said Julie Williams, who came from Perry in the Panhandle to speak against the standards. "There are a lot of proven facts in the Bible." ...
    "Debra Walker, chairman of the Monroe County School Board, urged passage of the new standards as is. "
    She said the current "political meltdown over Darwinian theory" was proof that too many people had received a poor-quality science education.

    She noted that the school districts with some of the lowest science scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test were the ones complaining loudest about the new standards.

    "Do we want these boards setting science policy in Florida? I think not." ...

    Florida, [Christopher Parkinson, a biology professor at University of Central Florida,] added, needs better science education because too many students arrive in college unprepared. "They don't understand science," Parkinson added. "They don't know how to think their way out of a paper bag."
    "Evolution backers, opponents make points at Orlando hearing".Party favor

    "The Republican Party establishment has rallied around state Sen. Bill Posey of Rockledge in his attempt to capture the congressional seat held by retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Indialantic."
    At a press conference in front of Brevard County's GOP headquarters on Monday, Posey's most seasoned Republican opponent, state Rep. Stan Mayfield of Vero Beach, withdrew from the race and endorsed Posey. Mayfield said he made the move to avoid the kind a primary battle that might have weakened the GOP's chances in the November general election. ...

    The impact of the state party's move wasn't lost on Alan Bergman of Indialantic, one of three other Republicans -- all political newcomers -- challenging Posey for the seat.
    "Today: GOP likes Posey in primary".

    He ain't no "political analyst"

    Mike Thomas: "I am not a political analyst." You got that right. Anyway, he asks us to "consider this scenario, which no longer seems so far-fetched:"

    Barack Obama goes into the convention having won the majority of primaries and delegates. But he doesn't have enough delegates to win the nomination.

    And so the superdelegates -- a group of politicians and political insiders -- go into their star chamber and pick Hillary Clinton.

    The fallout not only would cost Democrats the November election but would haunt them for many elections to come.
    That may be true, but here's where Thomas goes off track and demonstrates that, as he puts it, he "not a political analyst." He compares the Dem process to the 2000 fiasco, which resulted in the selection of Dubya:
    Many blacks in Florida were blocked from voting when they erroneously popped on lists of convicted felons.

    Many more who did vote had their ballots tossed out for technical errors -- for example, writing in Al Gore's name as well as punching it on the ballot. The problem was compounded by antiquated machines in rural counties.

    More than half the rejected Florida votes in 2000 were cast by black voters. In its report, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights referred to "injustice, ineptitude and inefficiency." ...

    And so consider the fallout if eight years later, Democratic Party bosses basically do the same thing that they accused the Republicans of doing. They defy the will of the voters, including the vast majority of blacks, and rig the election for their candidate.
    "Democrats: Are they dumber than concrete?". Nominating a candidate by following the rules (no matter how stupid they may be) is hardly comparable to the selection of the worst President in history by a system riddled with "injustice, ineptitude and inefficiency."

    "Goebbels would be proud"

    "Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum and Muslim leaders will meet today to address concerns that McCollum showed the controversial film Obsession to his staff during work hours in state buildings."

    McCollum sent an e-mail to his 500 employees in January, urging them to attend one of three screenings of the film in order to understand "the terrorist threat to Florida and the West by radical Islam." Employees taped up posters of the crescent moon and star of Islam imposed over the wreckage of the World Trade Center.

    Muslim leaders from the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles and the Council of American Islamic Relations describe the film as an "anti-Muslim propaganda film."

    "We are gravely alarmed that a respectable, high-level official such as yourself would be promoting such inflammatory anti-Muslim propaganda through your office, " wrote MPAC executive director Salam Al Marayati on Jan. 23. "The office that hate crime victims turn to for legal aid and justice is itself igniting the fire of bias and fear through such events."
    "A month before offering the film to employees, McCollum blasted a University of Florida administrator for asking organizers of an Obsession screening on campus to apologize for a poster that said "Radical Islam Wants You Dead."
    McCollum said the UF administrator "has chilled free speech on the UF campus."

    "It's one thing for Bill McCollum to defend free speech at a university campus. But it's another for him to endorse this anti-Muslim film and make it available during work, on taxpayer money," said Ahmed Bedier, executive director of Tampa's Council on American-Islamic Relations.

    "Staff asked for it," said Bill Stewart, assistant deputy chief of staff for McCollum. But the e-mail to the staff about the film said McCollum had presented the film to private groups. In August, McCollum praised the film at a screening for about 200 people in government and business which included Adam Hasner, now the majority leader in the state House, and Orlando lawyer Jonathan Kilman, counsel to Charlie Crist during his campaign.
    In the film,
    men in traditional Middle Eastern dress burn an American flag while Middle Eastern music plays. The planes fly into the twin towers. Bleeding people run from the train station in Madrid and from the subway bombings in London. Peaceful scenes of Muslims at market and prayer are interspersed with violent scenes and fanatical speeches of extremists advocating violence. ...

    Jack Shaheen, an Oxford University research scholar and author of four books on racism, stereotyping and propaganda, describes the film as "very convincing."

    "Goebbels would be proud. This film has a place in cinema history with the racist film Birth of a Nation and the Nazi film Triumph of the Will because it so cleverly advances lies to vilify a people."

    Copes, the spokeswoman for McCollum: "With this film, you don't get the best, most complete information on terrorism, but it's probably more than you started with."
    "McCollum, Muslims to discuss film".

    Assault weapons

    The Sun-Sentinel editors believe that "the assault weapons proposal filed in the Florida Legislature is a good starting point. What's really important in the proposal aren't the increased penalties that call for a minimum mandatory 25-year-prison term for using a semiautomatic or automatic weapon in a crime. There is already a 15-year penalty in place for that, so its questionable whether the added years would really be a deterrent. What's more important is that the bill would be an additional tool for prosecutors going after people who use false identification to acquire the weapons — and also those who knowingly and willfully sell to people using a false or invalid ID. Buyers and sellers could face up to 15 years in prison and face up to $25,000 in fines, greatly enhanced from existing penalties." "Assault weapon bill is a start, at least".

    FCAT Follies

    "Even schools regarded as stellar performers by the state will fall short of U.S. standards, chiefly because of the different ways the FCAT is used to measure achievement." "FCAT scores that spell success in Florida likely to fail federal standards".

    Brilliant Mistake

    "The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission moved forward a measure for the November ballot that would ask voters to tie government growth to the inflation rate after it is adjusted for population and student enrollment growth." "Panel looks to tie government growth to inflation rate".

    "If cleared by a second committee, the proposed state constitutional amendment would go to the full Taxation and Budget Reform Commission for a vote on whether to put it on the November ballot." "State panel wants ballot item to limits local taxes". See also "Plan would give voters a budget veto".

    Skimpy reasoning

    Scott Maxwell: "Normally, these people would rather pass a cactus through their small intestine than a new tax. But apparently the rules change when we're talking about something of which they disapprove. In this case, we're talking strip clubs. (So maybe we should clarify to describe this as one of those things about which politicians claim they disapprove.)" "Why it might soon cost more to see less".

    Local government investment pool

    "Florida chose Federated Investors Inc. on Tuesday to take over management of its local government investment pool, hoping the private investment firm will help reassure investors who withdrew more than $15 billion in a panic last year." "Federated Investors to manage local government investment pool".

    CD 13

    "GOP seeks to avoid repeat of 13th District primary battle". On a related subject, see "Touch screens innocent, but already convicted" ("Results just in: The touch-screen voting machines that the losing candidate says cost her a Florida congressional seat work just fine. Yet touch screens are headed for the scrap heap.")

    Same old ...

    FPL "wants to build three turbines on 6.3 acres in Blind Creek Park, just north of the nuclear plant. The park is oceanfront land bought for preservation with state and county money. "

    FPL is trying to rush a state decision at a Thursday hearing in Tallahassee before the Acquisition and Restoration Council, an advisory board. A decision could come on Friday. If the council approves the plan, Gov. Crist and the Florida Cabinet would cast the final vote. ...

    This latest tactic, designed to keep residents from making any public comment, is more of the same. Gov. Crist believes in renewable energy. But FPL is flashing the wrong kind of "green power."
    "FPL's same old tricks"

    Sales tax hike?

    "A former Republican Miami legislator rolls out a massive tax proposal for the November ballot today for his fellow members of the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission. Carlos Lacasa, an attorney, wants to give homeowners and businesses a 25 percent exemption on the value of their property and make up the lost revenue with a 1-cent hike in the 6 cent state sales tax." "Taxation and Budget Reform Commission hears property tax plans".

    Raw political courage

    "Add Gov. Charlie Crist to the list of people unwilling to accept the Cincinnati Reds moving their spring training from Sarasota to Arizona." "Crist bats for baseball".


    Joel Engelhardt: "Undermining the Everglades".

    The Orlando Sentinel editors are at it again

    Recall the Orlando Sentinel's editorial earlier this week, titled "Fattening Up: Local and state governments are overly generous to employees", when the editors actually wrote the following:

    While businesses cut back on health-insurance benefits and replaced expensive pensions with 401(k) plans, few governments have done the same.
    The point they make is clear: it is a good thing to "cut back on health-insurance benefits" and "replace[] expensive [defined benefit] pensions with 401(k) plans". We responded with this screed: "Orlando Sentinel embarrasses itself".

    The editors are at it again today, throwing out this assertion at the end of an otherwise unremarkable editorial, to wit: public employers should be
    bringing pension plans and expensive vacation and leave policies in line with businesses.
    That is to say, it would be a good thing for public employers to join the private sector to, as the editors' put it the other way, "cut back on health-insurance benefits", and other benefits.

    Excuse us if we're wrong, but we haven't seen any reputable support for the assertion that "cut[ting] back on health-insurance benefits" is a good thing. Yet, the essence of the editors' argument is that, if "businesses" are cutting back on insurance, it is necessarily the right thing to do. The editors offer absolutely no support for their position other than the empty assertion that "businesses" are doing it.

    Of course, businesses' sole motivation - as it understandably is in our economic system - is to maximize profit. If a company could pay its workers a dollar an hour with no benefits, thereby maximizing profit, it (understandably) would gladly do so. More specifically, if business can "cut back on health-insurance benefits", it is understandable that they would do so to maximize profit.

    This of course is good for those that own corporations, whether they be stockholders in publicly held companies or the owner(s) in privately held companies, like the real estate mogul, Sam Zell, who is the owner, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Tribune Company and, in turn, the Sentinel.

    As to "businesses" like the Tribune Company/Orlando Sentinel, we fully understand why they think "cut[ting] back on health-insurance benefits" is wise. Obviously, anything that maximizes the profit of "businesses" like the Tribune Company/Orlando Sentinel is consistent with the very reason a business exists.

    Indeed, if you look at the Tribune Company's board of directors you will find these wise souls:

    - Jeffrey S. Berg, who among other things, is on the Board of Directors of Oracle Corporation. As of 2005, Oracle employed more than 50,000 people worldwide and is the world's second largest software company.

    - Brian L. Greenspun, the chairman and chief executive officer of The Greenspun Corporation, a privately owned corporation that manages the Greenspun family assets. These "assets" include, among other things, the American Nevada Corporation, a developer; VEGAS.com, which in turn owns both "Casino Travel and Tours" and CTT Transportation (which provides limousine and motor coach services); as well as the following joint ventures: Sky Mall (a catalog that is distributed to airline passengers) and at least 50% ownership of four casinos.

    - William C. Pate, chief investment officer of Equity Group Investments, LLC. Pate serves on the boards of Covanta Holding Corporation: "As of December 31, 2006, it owned and operated approximately 51 energy generation facilities, which uses municipal solid waste, water, natural gas, coal, wood waste, landfill gas, and heavy fuel-oil. In addition, Covanta Holding Corporation owns and operates a waste procurement business, landfills, and waste transfer stations, as well as a water treatment facility." Pate also serves on the board of Exterran Holdings Inc., whose "customers include international oil and gas producers; independent exploration, production and distribution firms, and national energy companies. Exterran has operations in over 30 countries worldwide".

    - Maggie Wilderotter, who among other things serves on the board of directors of Yahoo! and Xerox Corporation, the latter a international operation with divisions throughout the world.

    - Frank E. Wood, chief executive officer of Secret Communications, LLC, a venture capital company in Cincinnati. He is chairman of the board of 8e6 Technologies, an internet filtering company, and serves on the board of Chemed Corporation (Roto-Rooter) and C Bank, a new business bank.

    - Betsy D. Holden , a senior advisor to McKinsey & Company and the former president of global marketing and category development at Kraft Foods, Inc. (owned by The Philip Morris Company, it is the largest food and beverage company headquartered in North America). She also serves on the board of Western Union Company (with reported revenues top $3 billion annually.)

    - William A. Osborn, the chairman and chief executive officer and a director of Northern Trust Corporation and its principal subsidiary, The Northern Trust Company. In addition, he serves on the board of the delightful Caterpillar, Inc. Among Caterpillar's fine contributions to American society, is its embarkation upon a "southern strategy", transferring work from unionized facilities (with, yes, "health-insurance") in Illinois, to right to work states such as North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee (Dyersburg), and Georgia, at the cost of nearly 20,000 high-wage union jobs in the Peoria, Illinois area.

    With corporate masters like these, it is less than surprising that the Orlando Sentinel editors think that, if "businesses" are doing it, it must be the right thing to do, and, hence "cut[ting] back on health-insurance benefits" and "replac[ing] expensive pensions with 401(k) plans" is wise policy.

    The Tribune's owners, directors, and editors are hardly the ink stained wretches of yore (like Edward Willis Scripps*, who hung out with riff raff like Clarence Darrow as opposed to his mates at the club), although one can reasonably assume that they (at least the local editors) think themselves as cut from the same cloth and are otherwise engaged in a calling. To be sure, the Sentinel editors rail against dumping raw sewage into the ocean, the elimination of no-wake zones in Manatee areas, protecting the Everglades and so forth, but when it comes to economic issues (as well as issues concerning labor (read police and fire fighter unions, among others), they more typically articulate views consistent with the Tribune Company's embarrassing history** - in short, the editors' intellectual exertions tend to result in views consistent with the interests of "businesses", which coincidentally enough, include businesses just like the Tribune Company/Sentinel.

    The Sentinel is after all, and in the end, itself a "business".

    This context in turn makes it so very easy for the "diverse" editorial board to "thrash out the issues of the day", engaging in "broad, philosophical discussion" that "reflect broad, philosophical positions". And, after "hearing all sides of the issue", and a "debate [of] the issue" among the "diverse" editors, the editors valiantly "come up with positions" that are "in the community's best interest", which "reflect thorough research and weighing of the facts"***.

    Ironically, as stated earlier, these considered editorial positions - specifically on economic issues - reflexively reflect the less than difficult to discern wisdom of Messrs. Berg, Greenspun, Pate, Wood, Holden and Osborn, as well as Mmes. Wilderotter and Holden. Here's our familiar case in point: "cut[ting] back on health-insurance benefits" and "replac[ing] expensive pensions with 401(k) plans" are "in the community's best interest".

    In disputing any concern that the Sentinel's editorials are knee-jerk opinions, the Sentinel's editorial page editor grandly describes how editorial decisions are arrived it:
    The Sentinel's editorials are decided by the newspaper's 12-member editorial board. Their backgrounds, detailed above, are diverse, as are their opinions. The newspaper's editor and publisher are on the board, too, but usually participate only in broad, philosophical discussions.

    The board meets each weekday to thrash out the issues of the day. Generally, an editorial writer proposes a stand, which should reflect thorough research and weighing of the facts.

    The board then debates the issue before nailing down a position. After hearing all sides of the issue, the board always should be asking itself: "What is in the community's best interest?" ...

    The daily discussions also reflect broad, philosophical positions that we have arrived at in earlier discussions. For instance, we don't debate anew each day whether we want to protect the Everglades or raise the standards in our schools.
    Read it and weep.

    - - - - - - - - - -
    * Edward Willis Scripps is the prototypical progressive ink stained wretch, who, while controlling as many as 34 newspapers in 15 states, reflected a perspective long since lost: Scripps' newspapers tended to support progressive causes and the trade union movement. He once wrote (notwithstanding his capacity as an employer): "I have only one principle, and that is represented by an effort to make it harder for the rich to grow richer and easier for the poor to keep from growing poorer." Scripps claimed that he viewed his newspapers as "the only schoolroom the working people had". He added "I am the advocate of that large majority of people who are not so rich in worldly goods and native intelligence as to make them equal, man for man, in the struggle with individuals of the wealthier and more intellectual class".

    ** The Tribune Company's personality was defined by the tenure of a charming fellow named Robert R. McCormick, the Chicago newspaper baron who expired in 1955. Colonel McCormick was a counterpoint to the thoughtful E.W. Scripps: consider:

    - "A conservative Republican, McCormick was an opponent of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and compared the New Deal to Communism."

    - "During his long and stormy career, McCormick carried on crusades against ... Democrats, the New Deal and the Fair Deal, liberal Republicans, the League of Nations, the World Court, the United Nations ... socialism, and communism."

    - McCormick "continued to champion a traditionalist course long after his positions had been eclipsed in the mainstream."

    - "McCormick was described by one opponent as 'the greatest mind of the fourteenth century'".

    One might say that Colonel McCormick was ahead of his time - inasmuch as his current views reflecting the values of much of today's corporate media. Scripps and his newspaper philosophy are sadly anachronistic. The Tribune Company's reverence for McCormick (and presumably his "ideas") is reflected by its expression of "corporate citizenship" through the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation.

    *** The quoted language is from the passage quoted in the body of the post, with the quoted text indicated by underscoring.

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