RPOFers "starting to demand ideological purity"
Bill Cotterell: "The Florida Republican Party has finally become accustomed to being the dominant force in state government. Perhaps predictably, it is now becoming more like the Democrats — not in positions on issues, but in style."
Republicans are not as good at hair-splitting as the Democrats, who can argue furiously for an hour, then pass a motion 112-3. Although Democrats remain the largest party by registration, they fell from power partly because of their inability to reunite after sharply dividing over things the average working Floridian doesn't care about."Nearing 20 years of increasing power, Republicans are starting to demand ideological purity on the right as avidly as the Democrats used to excommunicate apostates on the left."
The most interesting Republican race, right now, is between Chairman Jim Greer and a growing number of GOP state committee members who want to fire him. Democrats wore out a series of party chairmen — Simon Ferro, Terrie Brady, Mitch Ceasar, Bob Poe, Scott Maddox — during the years of their demise.Much more here: "Cracks appear in GOP unity".
If the only way Greer can keep the gavel at a special meeting next month is by ruling an election out of order, his job won't be worth keeping. As it is, Florida Republicans are in the awful position of starting an election year with either a new chairman, or one who virtually forces the party to keep him.
Cardiologists want theirs
"Cardiologists across Florida are organizing protests and opposition to Medicare cuts they say could cause delays in treatment." "Fla. specialists oppose possible Medicare cuts".
Crist resorts to "trickle-down talk we've been spoon-fed by Jeb"
Scott Maxwell: "Charlie Crist nowadays is looking more beat-up than Rocky at the end of his bout with Apollo Creed."
His state is in economic shambles. Unemployment is outpacing the rest of the nation. And politically, he's losing ground to Marco Rubio, who's surging largely because he's not Charlie Crist."The last thing this state needs is more tax-cut pandering for business interests — especially when the result would doubtless mean higher taxes for you."
Charlie is desperately searching for something — anything — that might lift his falling fortunes.
So he has reverted to the most Pavlovian of responses for the simple-minded pol: The tax-cut proposal.
We already have one of the lowest tax rates in the United States."Punch-drunk Charlie Crist reels in tax-cut bait".
The tax-hating wonks at the Tax Foundation say that only three states tax their residents less than Florida.
And our corporate income tax of 5.5 percent is well below the national average — 39th, according to the same foundation.
So, according to all the trickle-down talk we've been spoon-fed by Jeb Bush and all the Jeb wannabes who've worshipped at the altar of Grover Norquist in the past decade, Florida's economy should be thriving more than most any in America right now.
Except we're not.
Florida is not only suffering — we're suffering more than the rest of the country.
From the "values" crowd
"Budget crisis guts teacher-certification program".
Greer on the ropes
Aaron Deslatte: "Embattled Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer will grant his critics a hearing next month to discuss his performance -- but they won't be able to vote him out of the job just yet."
Under pressure from internal critics, Greer sent a letter to GOP executive board members Tuesday calling for a special meeting in Orlando in response to a petition signed by at least 50 executive board members calling for his ouster."Greer to Critics: You can talk -- but that's it".
The move was forced by Republican Party of Florida vice-chairman Allen Cox of Gulf County, who along with dozens of other GOP leaders, has accused Greer of financial mismanagement and tried to push him out.
But Greer's letter says that since the RPOF constitution calls for electing a chairman to a fixed, two-year term, those calling for his ouster will have to make their case through the normal grievance process, which Greer himself controls as chairman. Therefore, the committee won't be able to vote when it convenes at 9 a.m. Jan. 9.
Cox called that interpretation "nonsense" Tuesday and said his group would challenge Greer's interpretation of the rules.
Thank you, Mr. Obama
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "The bad news this Christmas continues to be a job shortage, but there is good reason to believe the worst is over. The economy is once again growing, sales of existing Florida homes were up last month, and most of the stimulus spending in the federal pipeline hasn't yet reached local job markets."
Locally, the federally subsidized construction of a highway from the Tampa port to I-4 will create both good private-sector jobs and a piece of permanent and productive infrastructure."Working to recoup Florida's lost jobs".
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor of Tampa reports that the new defense appropriations bill includes nearly $10 million for this area for the University of South Florida and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute.
At the state level, Workforce Florida reports that it could receive up to $200 million from the federal government, with no local match required, to provide temporary jobs for low-income families.
Seventy years ago, the Tribune concluded: "We can look forward with optimism." A growing feeling of business optimism and improving economic data lead us to the same opinion today.
"More people continue to leave Florida than move in from other states, reversing a decades-long trend of population growth fueled by retirees and job seekers, according to estimates released Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau." "More leaving Florida than moving in".
"In the weeks before his $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme was revealed, attorney Scott Rothstein repaid hundreds of millions of dollars to the investors he had swindled, according to records filed in bankruptcy court this week."
Documents show that Rothstein used the law firm as his piggy bank, withdrawing massive sums for himself and doling out fat loans and payments to friends and family. He even paid salaries to his parents and wife. ..."Some Scott Rothstein victims were repaid". See also "Rothstein firm paid out $432 million before collapse".
The bankruptcy records show that Rothstein paid himself $13.4 million from his law firm's accounts between November 2008 and October, when he flew to Morocco as his scheme unraveled. Yet Rothstein never cashed $846,000 in paychecks from the firm.
Millions more were listed as being paid to Rothstein's partners, employees and business associates, the bankruptcy trustee says. ...
Among those who allegedly received big loans: Stuart Rosenfeldt, co-owner of the law firm; Marc Nurik, Rothstein's defense attorney; and Irene Stay, the firm's former chief financial officer. However, all three say the information in the court records is inaccurate.
Rothstein's firm paid more than $300 million to creditors in the 90 days before the bankruptcy case was filed in November, the records show. That timing is significant because those entities might be asked to return money.
But the records of the law firm -- where the now-jailed Rothstein was said to manage the books -- are in disarray. Trustee Herbert Stettin said the information is based on the law firm's unaudited books and might be amended in the future.
"South Florida deluge raises questions about drainage systems". Perhaps we should beg for federal bailout money to fix this, while at the same time of course calling for tax cuts.
The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "Officials with the state Department of Transportation spent months negotiating in secret with CSX Railroad to cut the deal that would eventually become SunRail - the $495 million purchase of 61 miles of track for commuter rail near Orlando."
The DOT negotiators even signed confidentiality agreements to keep the public out of the know."What's cooking with 'Wafflegate?'".
And now it appears that maybe, just maybe, they've tried to skirt the state's public records law by sending e-mails relating to the rail legislation that passed earlier this month with words like "pancake" and "French toast" in the subject line.
If DOT Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos and aide Kevin Thibault used the breakfast terms in an effort to trick people such as state Sen. Paula Dockery, the leading critic of the CSX deal, and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a sometime critic - both gubernatorial candidates - they should resign.
"The law firm of financial-swindling suspect Scott Rothstein gave a whopping $6.06 million to nonprofit groups, arts organizations and foundations in the last year, according to newly released financial records." "Donations from Rothstein's firm".
Crist's Rothstein blinders
Fred Grimm asks: "A penchant for vulgar ostentation proves nothing, of course. But gold toilets? Come on, guys. Surely a police chief or a former attorney-general-turned-governor might have suffered a flicker of unease as they lowered their bottoms onto one of Scott Rothstein's gilded thrones."
"I'm not clairvoyant,'' Gov. Charlie Crist protested when The Miami Herald pressed him on his very profitable coziness with the wild-spending, cigar-chomping Rothstein, who the feds claim was illegally funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to the political campaigns of Crist and other favored candidates."Did Rothstein's powerful pals wear blinders?"
Crist, fending off queries from The Herald's editorial board, countered with his own rhetorical question: "Should we distance ourselves from people because there's a lot of talk? Is that a fair standard?''
Well, Charlie, when a "lot of talk'' happens to coincide with gold toilet seats and two $1.6 million Bugatti sports cars, perhaps a governor ought to reexamine those standards.
You'd think that the former judges and prosecutors Rothstein hired to give his Lauderdale law firm its unwarranted gravitas might have been slightly unnerved as they watched so much inexplicable wealth flushed away on so much bad taste.
Maybe the string of political candidates coming to grub for money at Scott Rothstein's garishly appointed mansion might have overlooked the gold bathroom fixtures and a single Bugatti, or just one red Ferrari or a lone Rolls-Royce or one little Corvette. But the second Bugatti, the other red Ferrari, his second Rolls and two extra Corvettes? Not to mention the other waterfront homes?
The Diaz de la Portillas
"Miami-Dade School Board member Renier Diaz de la Portilla is under investigation for allegedly skirting bidding rules to pay for a mailer that could help his brother in a political campaign to succeed their other sibling as state senator."
Renier Diaz de la Portilla said the mailer, approved by a School Board lawyer, was legitimate and that the investigation launched by the county's inspector general was "politically motivated.'' It stemmed from a complaint made by Miguel Diaz de la Portilla's campaign opponent, Julio Robaina."Political flap, investigation over Renier Diaz de la Portilla mailer".
Robaina, a Republican like the three brothers and currently a state representative, says the mailer was akin to a taxpayer-funded campaign piece because it targeted reliable Republican voters in the senate district.
Total cost: $23,400, though Miami-Dade's school board has halted payments on the contract until the investigation is over. The state attorney's office has now launched a related criminal probe, according to WFOR-CBS4, a Miami Herald news partner, which broke the news of the probe this week.
"This is a prime example of how the Diaz de la Portilla brothers use public money to profit,'' Robaina said, pointing out that Renier and Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a former county commissioner, were registered as lobbyists during the spring lawmaking session, as was the senator's recently estranged wife.
Joel Engelhardt: "Who failed Scripps 101? Port of Palm Beach commissioners, that's who. It was inexcusable, especially since they were warned." "Cruising for confrontation".
The Orlando Sentinel editors:
Larry Bostic was convicted of robbery and sexual battery in connection with a 1988 rape behind a Fort Lauderdale bar."Safeguarding justice". The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "When justice system crashes".
Alan Crotzer was found guilty of kidnapping, robbery and rape in a 1981 home invasion in Tampa.
Luis Diaz, identified as the notorious "Bird Road Rapist" — linked to more than 25 attacks in Coral Gables — was convicted of eight rapes.
All three served at least 19 years in Florida prisons. All three were innocent.
Floridians at the trough
"The Senate won't consider extending the federal deduction for sales taxes this year, key lawmakers said Tuesday. But it seems likely that the deduction – so important for people in Florida and other states without a state income tax – will be revived early in 2010 and made retroactive to the start of the year. " "Congress delays extension of sales-tax break".
Mike Thomas asks: "Would Jesus pray to block health care for needy?".
The Saint Petersburg Times editorial board this morning: "Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., for example, was able to grandfather benefits for 800,000 seniors in Florida (and a smaller number in other states) who are covered under the private Medicare Advantage plans. There are other winners: the AARP, longshoremen, the American Medical Association. Throwing a bone here and there is part of the cost of expanding health insurance to 30 million Americans."
Orlando Sentinel editors slam Grayson
The reliably Republican The Orlando Sentinel editorial board is doing everything it can to undermine Alan Grayson. Consider this "editorial" yesterday: "In just his first term in Congress, Orlando's Alan Grayson has become the toast of the blogosphere and a sought-after interview on cable news channels. He has done it with a series of inflammatory statements and stunts. But he may have jumped the shark last week."
In a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the 8th District Democrat asked that a Lake County woman behind a Web site critical of Grayson be investigated, prosecuted, fined and imprisoned -- for five years."U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is making a mockery of his office". See also "Has Alan Grayson gone too far?", appearing on the Sentinel's online edition front page this morning.
Mr. Grayson's four-page letter to Mr. Holder reads like a legal brief. It lays out in detail the congressman's allegations that Angie Langley of Clermont has misrepresented herself as his constituent and illegally raised funds against him through a committee and Web site called MyCongressmanIsNuts.com.
It's a sophomorically named parody of a Web site started by Mr. Grayson's campaign, CongressmanWithGuts.com. That site helped his campaign raise more than half a million dollars in a day last month.
The parody site, by contrast, had raised less than $11,000 as of mid-afternoon Tuesday, according to the running total on its home page. Which makes Mr. Grayson's appeal to the nation's top law enforcement official look like going after a gnat with a bazooka.
Being the target of rough criticism is an occupational hazard for public officials, especially those as high-profile as a U.S. congressman. Any politician who pursues legal action against critics, even critics who may not have followed the letter of the law, calls into question his commitment to the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.
It's an odd and ironic response from Mr. Grayson, one of the most intemperate voices in Washington. This, after all, is the congressman who called a former lobbyist now advising the Federal Reserve "a K Street whore." Who said that former Vice President Dick Cheney should "STFU" -- an acronym for a vulgar phrase used in Internet banter starting with "shut the" and ending with "up." Who declared on the U.S. House floor that the Republican health plan was for Americans to "die quickly" if they get sick.
Mr. Grayson's overheated reaction to the Web site parody adds to his image as a polarizing, divisive figure in Congress, an institution that runs on coalitions. It detracts from his credibility as a serious representative of his Central Florida constituents.
"Compelling juvenile justice to restore children's dignity"
The Daytona Beach News Journal editorial board: "Children in orange jumpsuits, shackled at the ankles and the wrists, chained to one another and paraded in court: It's the sort of scene associated with brutal regimes more inclined to punish and humiliate than rehabilitate. In Florida (and most southern states), it's been the norm regardless of the individual's alleged offense." "Unshackled".