FLORIDA POLITICS
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 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 Sunday, February 14, 2010

McCollum needs to "'wake up'"

    FlaDems are riding the RPOFer spending scandal gift horse as hard and as long as they can - William March:
    Alex Sink, Democratic candidate for governor, told a hometown crowd of Tampa Democrats that her Republican opponent, Bill McCollum, needs to "wake up."

    Citing the scandal over credit card abuse in the state Republican Party, Sink said McCollum, a Republican and the state attorney general, has neglected his duty in refusing to mount a criminal investigation.

    That scandal was a popular subject at the event, the Hillsborough County Democratic Party's annual fundraising dinner, named the Kennedy- Graham Dinner.

    "Thank goodness the Democratic Party's not built on credit cards," said Tampa's Democratic elder statesman, former U.S. Rep. Sam Gibbons. The scandal, he said, "shows carelessness and greed, which have long marked Republican rule."
    "Democrats critical of attorney general". Related: "Steele: "I don’t like what I’m hearing” about RPOF spending".


    Battle for the RPOFer base

    "So much for nice guy Charlie. The Republican Gov just sent out this Valentine's Day email that's pretty darn short on sweetness." "Charlie Crist's Valentine for Marco Rubio".

    Rubio responds with "Charlie and the Desperation Factory:"

    Desperate Charlie Crist is at it again. At a time when his poll numbers are lagging and he sees Marco Rubio raise $860,000 in ten days while continuing to attract support from respected conservatives Mike Pence and Grover Norquist, Crist is launching yet another false, negative and personal attack on Rubio under the cover of a sweet Valentine’s Day treat.
    Read the rest of Rubio's response here.


    HD 58

    "Democratic and Republican primary elections last month in state House District 58 had one of the lowest voter turnouts in Hillsborough County election history. This month, district voters again have an opportunity to say who they want as their state representative." "District 58 voting is starting Monday".


    "One of the lowest rates in the country"

    "A year ago this week, President Obama signed into law the controversial $787 billion stimulus plan intended to pour billions of dollars into all 50 states and create millions of jobs."

    But that's not how it has worked in Florida. The money is here -- but the jobs aren't. At least not yet.

    Since Obama signed the bill last Feb. 17, nearly $7.7 billion worth of grants, contracts and loans have flowed into Florida, cascading into the coffers of state and local governments, nonprofits and even private businesses.

    Targeted for everything from road projects to teachers' salaries, green-energy programs to cancer research, the money was sent with orders to spend it as quickly as possible to put people to work and help lift the economy out of the recession.

    But by the end of 2009, only 15 cents of every dollar sent to Florida had been spent, one of the lowest rates in the country, according to an Orlando Sentinel analysis of federal-stimulus-grant progress reports.
    "Florida takes its time spending federal stimulus money".


    Hiaasen slams Rubio

    Carl Hiaasen: " Marco Rubio's campaign to win the Republican Senate primary revolves around the now-famous hug that Gov. Charlie Crist shared with Barack Obama during a presidential visit to Fort Myers last year. Now Rubio, the darling of Tea Party conservatives, is getting uncomfortably squeezed himself."

    Last week, a committee of the Florida House of Representatives put Rubio's name on a list of witnesses who could be subpoenaed to testify about the Ray Sansom scandal. ...

    How did a self-proclaimed guardian of tax dollars fail to notice all that money pouring into some puny college in his pal's home district?

    It's a good question for the House panel investigating this mess, but Republican leaders aren't eager to put Rubio on the hot seat and spoil his shot at the open U.S. Senate seat.

    No sooner was the list of witnesses in the Sansom probe announced than it was also revealed that Sansom might agree to a legislative rebuke that would spare Rubio and other GOP lawmakers the embarrassment of testifying.
    "Meanwhile, the candidate showed up in Fort Myers to once again mock Crist for appearing there with Obama in support of the stimulus package. "
    Rubio says it's a complete failure, although the many Florida teachers whose jobs were saved by those federal funds might disagree.

    In any case, Rubio was having fun up on stage, playing the role of Mr. Tax Tightwad. He never mentioned his indicted buddy, Ray Sansom -- ``one of the best people'' he ever interacted with.

    That questionable character endorsement could haunt Rubio in the months ahead. It's worse than a hug -- it's a big wet kiss.
    Much more here: "Uncomfortable spotlight now on Rubio".


    Who knew? ...

    ... Myriam Marquez thinks "labor unions" are a grand idea ... ahem ... as long as they are limited to Cuba:

    Lincoln Diaz-Balart will leave the U.S. House with no regrets and on a mission. No, not to become Cuba's next president, he says, but to help Cubans chart a new destiny.

    Diaz-Balart's strategic prowess on Capitol Hill in the 1990s stopped any presidential move to end the U.S. embargo of Cuba.

    Led by Diaz-Balart -- probably the man Fidel Castro hates the most -- Congress codified the embargo into U.S. law so it's no longer simply a White House policy. Now Congress has to change the law to end the embargo. Or Cuba has to free all political prisoners; allow political parties, labor unions and a free press; and set a date for multiparty elections for a U.S. president to lift the embargo.
    "Diaz-Balart aims to maintain fight for a free Cuba". Meantime, "Unions Bite Their Tongues Over Disappointment With White House".


    "Run, Sarah, run"

    Unfortunately, the best thing the Dems have going for them, Sarah "Palin Plans To Duck The Media At High-Profile Florida Appearances".

    Leonard Pitts writes a letter to Sarah, pointing out that

    something is wrong when we celebrate mental mediocrity like yours under the misapprehension that competence or, God forbid, intelligence, makes a person one of those "elites'' -- that's a curse word now -- lacking authenticity, compassion and common sense.

    So no, this is not a clash of ideologies, but a clash between intelligence and its opposite. And I am tired of being asked to pretend stupid is a virtue. That's why I'd welcome the moment of truth your campaign would bring. It would force us to decide once and for all whether we are permanently committed to the path of ignorance, of birthers, truthers and tea party incoherence you represent, or whether we will at last turn back from the cliff toward which we race.

    If the latter, wonderful, God bless America. If the former, well, some of us can finally quit hoping the nation will return to its senses and plan accordingly. Either way, we need to know, and your candidacy would tell us. If you love this country, Mrs. Palin, you can do it no greater service.

    Run, Sarah, run.
    "Dear Sarah: Say it is so, run for president".


    Entrepreneurs in action

    "Only one story, amid an orgy of overwrought media coverage during South Florida's Super Bowl week, stopped [Fred Grimm] cold."

    Other reports cataloged the influx of celebrities and high rollers; the effect so many big spenders had on stores, restaurants, luxury hotels; the lucre NFL bacchants injected into the local economy.

    The Miami Herald's Jennifer Lebovich and Carol Marbin Miller reported a less glorious aspect of Super Bowl economics -- hundreds of teenage hookers shipped here to service the party-boy frenzy.

    Their story seemed all the more jolting, juxtaposed against reports out of the Haitian disaster about children stolen away from orphanages and survivor camps by child traffickers.
    "Fred Grimm".


    No thanks

    "Offshore drilling protesters join hands". See also "Protesters across Florida rally against offshore oil drilling", "Hundreds in Lake Worth protest oil drilling" and "Naples protesters drill home the message: No oil rigs off Florida's Gulf coast".


    "Sheldon ready for a challenge"

    "The arrival of thousands of Haitians to hospitals and youth shelters poses a significant challenge to the state's oft-criticized child-welfare agency -- and its chief is ready." "Florida Department of Children & Families Secretary George Sheldon ready for a challenge".


    "Texters and talkers "

    Mark Lane: "In Florida, it's legal to talk on a cell phone, send text messages, look up the nearest donut place on Google and check your e-mail while driving."

    We tend to be a live-and-let-live state when it comes to road rules. A late adopter on highway safety legislation. As a state, we usually think that a good time to act is when the federal government tells us we have to or lose federal money. Florida's road-law motto: Aw, do we gotta?

    But enough people have been scared or hurt by texters and talkers in Florida intersections that there are at least 14 bills forbidding texting or cell phone use while driving awaiting March's legislative session.

    Most would make violations a noncriminal offense that could get you points on your driving record. A few propose hefty fines. Given the budget situation, expect interest in fines.

    Sometimes a lot of bills on one topic is a sign of a Legislature poised for action. Sometimes it's a sign there's no agreement about how to act. The latter may be the case here.
    Read the entire column here: "Hang up, tune in, drive on".


    Grayson at work

    "Grayson hopes to mitigate ruling".


    Mike Thomas agrees with himself

    Apparently upset that his defined contribution (401(k)) plan ain't working out so well, reliable brown noser Mike Thomas* attacks public employee pensions (so-called "defined benefit plans"), whining that if he had his life to live over, he would work for the government." He begins by insulting public employees generally, saying :

    I would be a bureaucrat, a paper shuffler, a guy who stands behind the counter and gets to you on my own sweet time.
    He then moves on to insult fire-rescue workers:
    Even better, I would be a firefighter.

    Pension plans helped bring down the auto makers and the airlines. They are budgetary bombs on timers, set to go off on somebody else's watch.

    At the end of last year, 92 percent of corporate pension funds were underfunded. And the federal insurer of pension funds was $22 billion in the red.

    This is why these pensions are vanishing from corporate America, replaced by savings accounts in which employees take responsibility for their retirement.

    But government is slow to change, which is why government is becoming the last bastion of union employees and defined pensions.
    "State pensions: Bad deal for public".

    Thomas is of course shilling for the Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, Associated Industries of Florida, and the League of Cites, and of course his employer - after all, inserting his nose deep enough into derriere of what Thomas calls "corporate america", might very well get him a raise, or at least avouid the next round of layoffs.

    Because Thomas' boss man thinks unions are a bad thing (see "Send in the Scabs", "Picking scabs, part two" and "Scab 30"), if Thomas spouts enough anti-union garbage, he will of course make the boss man pleased with his work. It is an old song and dance at the Orlando Sentinel**.

    - - - - - - - - - -
    *Ironically, it was just a week ago, on February 6 that the Orlando Sentinel editorial board issued one of its routine editorials attacking public employee pensions, urging the state to "take a whack at generous benefits for state employees" (followed shortly thereafter by their like minded brothers and sisters on The Sun-Sentinel editorial board in a February 11 editorial, "Can't give state workers generous benefits while axing important programs for Floridians"). It didn't take long for the compliant Mr. Thomas to follow up with today's column agreeing with the editorial boards.

    Thomas proves himself correct - at least in his own mind - by reference to, of all people, a government employee, more specifically an "University of South Florida economist", one Chris Edwards, who Thomas cites for the proposition that
    layoffs in the public sector are a third what they are in the private sector, according to University of South Florida economist Chris Edwards. If the people who run this newspaper ran the government, the county administration building would be half empty and production would be up. Edwards calculates that public sector jobs pay, on average, 34 percent more than private jobs.
    Thomas neglects to mention that this "University of South Florida economist Chris Edwards" doesn't appear in the online USF faculty directory, nor is he identified as a faculty member in USF's web site for the school's Department of Economics. Perhaps these USF websites have not been updated, or Mr. Edwards is a visiting or adjunct professor and his name does not appear on the USF web sites for that reason.

    One wonders if the "University of South Florida economist" Thomas spoke with is the same Chris Edwards who is the "director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute"; the Cato institute is of course a "libertarian think tank that often works in coalitions with right-wing groups". And this Cato Institute Edwards - should he be the fellow Thomas spoke with - is hardly the neutral academic he is made out to be: rather, he is the author of thoughtful tomes like "Downsizing the Federal Government" and book chapters like "Privatization," Chapter 6 of the Cato Handbook for Policymakers, 7th edition, and is a regular contributor to the polemic National Review Online, and the delightful American Spectator; this Edwards even signed a petition sponsored by Dick Armey's FreedomWorks, the folks who launched the "nationwide 'tea party' tour", to open Social Security to privatization. Moreover, the Cato Institute Edwards does not even possess a Ph.D, which would be unusual for a University economist, particularly a "University of South Florida economist".

    Of course none of these biases is made clear to Thomas' readers - instead we are simply told that Mr. Edwards was a "University of South Florida economist". Which begs the question - who is feeding Thomas his sources, and shouldn't he, and the editorial board, be a little more forthcoming about their acting as conduits for right-wing, libertarian dogma?

    Note: in response to the anticipated criticism the author of this post will receive about this site's anonymity, we say yet again that we're just a blog, and our politically progressive, pro-union, pro-public employee bent is not, nor ever has been a secret. Unlike the commercial news media, we never have claimed to be unbiased (e.g., here (scroll down)) - our perspective is plain for all to see.

    **As we have previously noted, these public employees critics overlook the most recent data, which shows that in Florida,
    [i]n 2008, the average state government had 216 employees per 10,000 population; Florida had 118. Also, the average payroll expenditure was $69 per state resident nationwide, but only $38 in Florida. The state was tied with Illinois for the lowest ratio of actual employees to population, and we ranked 49th in authorized full-time positions (103) per 10,000 residents.
    "Sentinel goes after state workers again" (internal quotations omitted).

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