Since 2002, daily Florida political news and commentary


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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.


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The Blog for Saturday, February 16, 2008

Put on a happy face

    "Floridians were warned that Amendment 1 would lead to a significant reduction of services. So we shouldn't be surprised that the Broward County Commission is planning to make major cuts at the sheriff's office. Sure, Gov. Charlie Crist promised law enforcement wouldn't be harmed if voters approved the amendment for property tax relief. But that's for others to decide."
    It seems absurd to even consider reducing law enforcement services at a time when violent crime is rising and at least one cop killer is on the lose. But these aren't prosperous times, and we better get used to it. There are no sacred cows in this new fiscal arena.
    "Public safety must not be compromised by Broward law enforcement budget cuts".

    "Disingenuous bloviating" from the "values" crowd

    Daniel Ruth: "Bush's proposed 2009 budget would eliminate funding for Reading Is Fundamental, affecting some 4.6 million children nationwide, including more than 180,000 Florida students."

    So much for Leave No Child Behind, unless of course it involves the cost of a - book.

    By contrast, the federal government will spend just under $400 million this year building and upgrading prisons.
    "Tampa attorney Richard Maney, who has been involved with RIF for 28 years, estimates 1.3 million books have been distributed locally to children in 28 schools."
    Log on to first lady Laura Bush's White House Web page and you find this public relations poppycock: "As a former public school teacher and librarian, Mrs. Bush has a special place in her heart for books and libraries. She knows that a love of books - of holding a book, turning its pages, looking at its pictures, and losing oneself in its fascinating stories - goes hand in hand with a love of learning."
    "Since when was a bum's rush onto the street 'a special place'?"
    Is there a more shopworn hustings example of disingenuous bloviating than the pol's favorite line about how much he [or she] loves the children, how children are our future, how children are the cat's pajamas?


    You don't eviscerate one of the nation's most successful reading programs then claim to love the little dickens.

    What would you call that? A weapon of mass misdirection?

    If the Bush administration needs a mercenary reason to restore the RIF funding, maybe it could be this - just think of all those well-read enlistees you'll have available years down the road to serve in Iraq.
    "A Budget Choice That's Hard To Read".

    "Too Quick"

    The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "State environmental regulators sometimes are criticized, justifiably, for not being tough enough in enforcing permit requirements and other rules against private companies and utilities that discharge wastewater into public waterways. But the way to get away with practically anything is to be another government or agency dumping or draining water. Few rules apply, and any that might are swiftly waived with no fines and conciliatory murmurs about "misunderstandings."" "Public agencies too quick to let each other pollute".

    "South Floridians want universal healthcare"

    "Almost two-thirds of South Florida residents believe that uninsured Americans should be able to get healthcare, but even more are concerned about rising healthcare costs, problems with prescription drug coverage and the safety and quality of care." "Poll: More, less costly healthcare needed".

    "But whose fault was it?"

    "As lawmakers gathered Thursday in Statuary Hall to pay respects to the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, a clamor of bells signaling an upcoming vote went off, prompting some fierce finger pointing, aimed primarily by Democrats at Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart, R-Miami, a top Republican on the House Rules Committee."

    Republicans accused their Democratic rivals of playing the politics card.

    They said they believed they had an agreement with the Democratic leadership that House business wouldn't start until the end of the Lantos ceremony. And they said that Díaz-Balart, as a member of the House Rules Committee, was forced to act when Democrats reconvened the House during the ceremony because he didn't want Republicans to be prevented from objecting to a vote to hold White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers in contempt of Congress.
    "Democrats blame Lincoln Díaz-Balart over memorial's disruption, then House Democrat offers regrets". See also "" and "".

    The delegation thing

    "Democrats nationwide are worried that the nearly tied nomination battle between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama is headed for a disputed outcome, threatening their chances to win November's election. If the deadlock continues, they fear, the nominee could be chosen in a way that angers party members - either by unpledged "superdelegates" or by the disputed delegations from Florida and Michigan." "Delegate Deadlock Feasible".


    The Palm Beach Post editorial board:"Of all the bad ideas to come up in the Legislature recently, the idea of cutting the number of judges in Florida is among the worst. That irresponsible thought came from someone in a responsible position: state Sen. Victor Crist, R-Tampa, who is chairman of the Senate committee that decides how much money the courts will get. "

    Fortunately, Sen. Crist's House counterpart sounded responsible. Florida, said Rep. Dick Kravitz, R-Jacksonville, "could become a Third World country. ... I would think that's the last thing we would want to do is cut judges." Also, such a move almost certainly would raise separation-of-powers issues about the legislative branch trying to diminish the judicial branch.

    The "Third World" comment has become a cliché, but Rep. Kravitz makes a point. The court system - judges, prosecutors, public defenders - amounts to 0.7 percent of the state budget. In terms of importance, though, the courts are crucial to the state's welfare. Gov. Crist doesn't have the clenched-teeth dislike of the courts that Gov. Bush did, but too many legislators still see the judiciary as a service little different from road-building.
    "Overrule this suggestion"

    "Bush-McCain Republicans" Ouch!

    "'Bush-McCain Republicans,' Democrat Barack Obama calls them."

    President Bush is backing McCain through his body language, with protocol demanding that he not swing explicitly behind the candidate with a race still technically - and only technically - in progress.

    His father's endorsement, which follows one from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, is a further nudge by GOP chieftains for conservative activists to get over their distaste for McCain and for rival Mike Huckabee to find a day job and get out.
    "Bush Family Backing McCain".

    Miami Vice

    "Feds: Colombian druglords use scheme to launder euros thru Miami".

    Florida-GOPer Mob War Heats Up After Botched Hit

    Recall yesterday's St. Petersburg Times's editorial about the Jeb-Gang's botched hit on the "Machine Gun" McKay: "A tax commission appointed every two decades is expected to rise above legislative politics, not sink to the same level. If the attempt to railroad former Senate President John McKay and his plan to broaden the sales tax is any indication, the commission may end up serving only as an echo chamber for a Legislature that turns a deaf ear to any honest discussion of tax reform."

    You see, "Machine Gun"

    "Machine Gun" MacKay makes his getaway

    McKay was blindsided Tuesday by an economic study that was approved without his knowledge and conducted by a former economic adviser to Bush ["Tony eye shades"* Villamil]. It claimed his plan would cost the state 53,000 jobs, a questionable assertion considering that McKay seeks no net increase in taxes.
    "Tax reform runs aground". McKay was able to make a quick getaway (by suspending the meet) and calling some muscle (friendly economists) for backup at the forthcoming peace conference among the families; the meet's location, despite the word on the street, will not be held at Tallahassee's Apalachin hotel. About the upcoming meet, "Bubbles" Bense said this is "our thing" and we gotta keep peace in the family.

    More on the explosive ambush - which threatens to set off yet another mob war - from the The St. Petersburg Times this morning: "The influential panel that has the power to propose the biggest changes to Florida's tax system in decades made a recent decision that says a lot about how Tallahassee [crime] works."
    Two of the 25 [family] commission members hired [Jebbite crew] economic adviser J. Antonio "Tony" ["eye shades"] Villamil of Coral Gables at $10,000 a month [in bag money] in December.

    They didn't notify other [McKay family] commission members, who didn't know Villamil was on the payroll until this week.

    Villamil was hired to review a proposal that would ask voters to swap sharply lower property taxes for a broader sales tax that includes taxes on some services and goods now exempt the Legislature would decide which ones.
    Here's the rub:
    business forces are fighting the idea, saying it would make Florida less competitive, cost jobs and scare off employers.

    Villamil's conclusion is that taxing services would make Florida less competitive and eliminate 53,000 jobs a year because taxing services would increase the cost of doing business in Florida.
    "A stunned McKay quickly asked that his proposal be tabled until Feb. 25." He needed the extra muscle to take on the ambush by "Eye Shades", who
    is a former U.S. undersecretary of commerce and economic adviser to Jeb Bush with solid [family] credentials. He and the tax commissioner who approved his hiring, Gulf Power chief executive Susan Story, are on the board of Enterprise Florida, the state's business development arm.

    "They've just been around ['da neighborhood]. They've been doing work for the state for many years," Story said of Villamil's company, the Washington Economics Group. "The name just came up."

    Villamil also is a senior research fellow at Florida TaxWatch, which opposes McKay's tax proposal.

    Story also chairs the Florida Chamber of Commerce, a group fighting McKay's proposal.

    Commission Chairman Allan ["Bubbles"] Bense, also a chamber board member and former House speaker from Panama City, said Villamil's name "was run by me and run by Susan ["Socks"] Skelton," the commission's executive director.
    And this is a particularly nice touch: Villamil was secretly hired in December at the bargain basement price of "$10,000 a month" in a brown paper bag, as
    Two other economists, David Denslow of the University of Florida and Hank Fishkind of Orlando, have analyzed McKay's plan for free and have said it would be good for Florida.
    "Sales tax foes gain by investing in advice". This, according to a FISA wiretap.

    And just who is this Antonio, (a/k/a "Tony-the-Nose") Villamil, the hit-man fixer who pulled the Valentines day ambush on McKay?

    Villamil, also called "Fat Tony" by his close friends, ain't as heavy a hitter as "Diamond Donna" Arduin**, but he's close. Antonio, also referred to as "Tony Ducks" by the sole employee of FDLE organized crime strike force, is the Chief Executive Officer of the creatively titled front group, "Washington Economics Group, Inc.", commonly referred to by those in the know as "the Wedge" or "Wedgies".

    Wedgies describes itself as offering "customized economic and business consulting services for corporations and institutions based in the Americas." Who are Wedgie's business associates? Although apparently not including "Società Generale Immobiliare", "Eye Shades" and his crew provide consigliere to the following:
    Multinational Corporations

    - Lockheed Martin
    - FedEx Latin America
    - IBM
    - Motorola
    - SBC Communications
    - Ameritech International
    - Lucent Technologies
    - MediaOne/AT&T
    - Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc. (Vivendi)
    - Microsoft Latin America
    - Carrier
    - Medtronic, Inc.
    - Phelps Dodge
    - Esso Inter-America
    - Visa International
    - MasterCard International
    - Telefonica Data Systems
    - Bureau Veritas (BIVAC)
    - Merck Latin America
    - Wilbur Smith Associates
    - DMJM+Harris

    Florida-Based Corporations

    "Eye Shades" at work

    - Sprint of Florida
    - Florida Marlins
    - Flo-Sun Sugar Corp.
    - Farm Stores Inc.
    - The BMI Companies
    - Spillis Candela & Partners
    - The Biltmore Hotel
    - Trammell Crow Company
    - Florida Outdoor Advertising Association
    - Advantage Capital
    - WCI Development Companies
    - Iberia Tiles
    - Florida Hospital
    - Mercy Hospital
    - St. Joe Companies

    Financial Institutions

    - ABN-AMRO Bank
    - Barclays Bank
    - Lazard Frères & Co.
    - Banque Nationale de Paris
    - HSBC/Marine Midland
    - Fiduciary Trust International
    - SunTrust Corporation
    - First Union National Bank (Wachovia)
    - Union Planters Bank of Florida (Region's Bank)
    - BankAtlantic Corp.
    - Hemisphere National Bank
    - BankUnited
    - The Equitable/AXA Advisors
    - CommerceBank, NA
    - PointeBank, NA (Mercantile Bank)
    Mrs. Villamil (a/k/a Marielena Muscles) serves as WEG President & Chief Operating Officer and brags about her "extensive and high level contacts" in the corporate and public-sector communities of Florida and Washington, D.C." Muscles has also been the beneficiary of appointments by the usuals suspects, including "Jeb!" "the Weasel" Bush and "Cellophane Man" Mel.

    And get this scam,
    The Wedge is certified by
    the State of Florida as a Minority Business***.
    Yes, "Eye Shades", with "over twenty-five years of successful experience as a business economist and high-level policymaker at both federal and state governments", who and who also served as a U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs for the Godfather's daddy, is an affirmative action baby****. Thank goodness "Bubbles" Bense and his ambush crew were able to obtain a dispassionate analysis of McKay's proposed plan, and at the bargain rate of $10,000 a month, less the vig of course.

    - - - - - - - - - -
    *All appellations mine, with apologies to the Italian-American community.

    ** Marco "The Horse" Rubio "spends $10,000 of the public's money each month for the services of [Diamond] Donna Arduin's consulting firm. ... Arduin served as the former governor's budget director, and is a keeper of the Jeb-is-wonderful flame. ... If her job is to keep pushing Jeb Bush's ideas, there's no market for them." "'Indulging Jeb'". See also "Marco's Muse" and "Political stunts aren't tax reform". We took a closer look at Ms. Arduin last year in "The Real Culprit", noting that
    She is a principal in Arduin, Laffer & Moore Econometrics ("ALME"). See also "Former aide to governors forming consulting firm".

    Yes, that "Laffer": namesake of the Laffer Curve, referred to in this New York Review of Books piece by Jason Epstein as "the crackpot theory that led Ronald Reagan to believe that huge tax cuts in federal taxes would lead to federal surpluses, when the actual outcome proved to be a cumulative deficit of $3.5 trillion."

    Perhaps most importantly, Arduin is a cheerleader for the wingnut Fair Tax proposal to change "United States tax laws to replace the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and all federal income taxes (including AMT), payroll taxes (including Social Security and Medicare taxes), corporate taxes, capital gains taxes, gift taxes, and estate taxes with a national retail sales tax, to be levied once at the point of purchase on all new goods and services." See ALME's "A Macroeconomic Analysis of the Fair Tax Proposal (.pdf)".
    No doubt Arduin was not pegged to participate in the McKay ambush because she likes sales taxes (at least at the federal level), on everything.

    *** No doubt that state contracts with struggling minority contractors like this (With CEOs who served as ) contributed to Jebbie's claimed "success" with his silly "One Florida" scheme: "Jeb Bush looks back on his controversial One Florida policy and sees success." "Jeb Bush on One Florida". More: "Jeb Bush Roils Florida on Affirmative Action".

    Luv it when wingnuts (like Clarence Thomas) exploit the very "liberal" programs they claim to disdain. Clarence viewed things quite differently back in 1983,
    In a November 1983 speech to his staff at the federal Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, Thomas called affirmative action ''critical to minorities and women in this society.''

    Then, his remarks got personal: ''But for them (affirmative action laws), God only knows where I would be today. These laws and their proper application are all that stand between the first 17 years of my life and the second 17 years.''

    As an undergraduate at Holy Cross College, Thomas received a scholarship set aside for racial minorities. He was admitted to Yale Law School in 1971 as part of an aggressive (and successful) affirmative action program with a clear goal: 10 percent minority enrollment. Yale offered him generous financial aid.
    "Clarence Thomas: Affirmative Action Success Story". That is not to suggest that Villamil is a hypocrite in the mold of "Crazy Clarence" Thomas.

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