Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review of Today's Political News and Punditry

"FCAT farce gets worse"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "No wonder Gov. Rick Scott and Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson have suggested in recent weeks they are ready to reassess the FCAT. After more than a decade of leading the national charge on school accountability, Florida on Wednesday released 2011-12 grades for public elementary and middle schools that were largely meaningless."

The grades have been tweaked, adjusted and tweaked again. Even ardent supporters of the A+ plan appeared willing to concede that the process, which began with the ill-conceived grading of the state's FCAT writing test, has been a complete mess.
"Wednesday's results would have looked even worse if the state Board of Education had continued on its original track, backed by Scott and Robinson, to dramatically raise requirements for student passing scores on the FCAT, on which school grades are largely based."
The results will obviously fuel the growing backlash against the FCAT. Even Republican state Sen. Don Gaetz, a former Okaloosa County school superintendent and the incoming Senate president, distanced himself from the results.
"FCAT farce only gets worse". See also "" and "".

"Explosive contradiction to the upbeat spin coming out of Tallahassee"

"Some angry lawmakers want Gov. Rick Scott to create a panel to investigate a tuberculosis outbreak after learning that state officials kept mum about the epidemic even as the legislature was debating closing Florida’s only TB hospital in Lantana." "Democrats urge Gov. Rick Scott to probe TB cluster".

Fred Grimm: "Last February, even as Duval County was struggling with a burgeoning tuberculosis crisis, our oblivious lawmakers were debating a bill that would massively downsize the Florida Department of Health, cut 12,000 public health jobs, eliminate preventive care and environmental health programs and close Florida’s last TB hospital."

They weren’t told that Duval health officials had just asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for help.

The controversial bill passed and was signed by the governor on March 27. Nine days later, the CDC issued a 25-page report, describing the Duval crisis as the largest outbreak of TB that the agency had encountered over past two decades. The investigation tallied 99 illnesses and 13 deaths in 2010 and 2011 from tuberculosis, including an antibiotic-resistant strain that public health officials fear most. The CDC calculated that the TB victims, many of them homeless and in and out of Jacksonville’s homeless shelters and assisted-living facilities and jails, had exposed more than 3,200 others to the lung disease. So far, only 253 of those potential new victims have been tracked down. The outbreak isn’t contained. And it has moved beyond Jacksonville.

The outbreak and the CDC report made for an explosive contradiction to the upbeat spin coming out of Tallahassee. The governor’s office denied a cover-up, but if not, the bad news was sure as hell muffled. Other agencies may have been notified, but there was no public warning. And the Palm Beach Post was only able to pry the CDC report loose after invoking the state’s public-records laws.
"Florida pretends TB is gone; outbreak says otherwise".

Anti-Nelson super PAC "trots out a series of distortions"

"U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is facing a growing threat in his re-election campaign — and it's not necessarily Republican rival U.S. Rep. Connie Mack. It's the super PAC." "Third-party groups spending millions to attack Bill Nelson".

"A new television ad attacks Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., on the health care law and claims to have 'the facts.' Then it trots out a series of distortions."

The ad is from an outside spending group called American Commitment, a Washington-based conservative advocacy group. It's a 501(c)4, so it doesn't have to disclose its donors. The ad's website notes that its president, Phil Kerpen, previously worked at other right-leaning groups like the Club for Growth, Americans for Prosperity and the Cato Institute.
"PolitiFact Florida: Ad distorts to attack Sen. Bill Nelson on health care law".

Another fine Jebacy

"Number of Floridians ages 25-34 with college degree fell in 2010".

Nelson trailing in Rasmussen poll

"U.S. Rep. Connie Mack has opened up a 46-37 percent lead over incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, according to the latest Rasmussen Reports poll." "Mack leads Nelson in new poll". "Connie Mack Begins to Steam Ahead of Bill Nelson".

Voter registration deadline

"Voter registration deadline Monday". See also "Monday is registration deadline for Aug. 14 primary".

GOP publicity stunt

"Florida Reps Spar Along Party Lines on House Vote to Repeal Obamacare".

"Sex, lies and audiotapes"

"As part of her defense in a criminal trial, a former aide to Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll said she caught the lieutenant governor in 'a compromising position' with another aide shortly before being fired last year."

The allegations are part of the ongoing prosecution of Carletha Cole, a former aide to Carroll who shared a recording of a conversation with Carroll's chief of staff with a reporter for the Florida Times-Union after she was fired.

Cole has been charged with disclosing that recorded conversation.

Cole's motion, filed in response to the state's efforts to keep some records sealed, portrays a dysfunctional office where Carroll's aides frequently recorded conversations and the lieutenant governor pushed for a website where fans could follow her. It also says Steve MacNamara, former chief of staff for Gov. Rick Scott, viewed Carroll as a "loose cannon," in the words of the filing.

But its most sensational anecdote concerns Cole inadvertently walking in on what she believed to be a sexual encounter between Carroll and a female employee.
"Ex-Employee Says Jennifer Carroll, Aide Caught in 'Compromising Position'". See also "Ex-aide alleges misconduct among Lt. Gov. Carroll, staff" and "Florida lieutenant governor target of ex-aide’s sex allegations" ("A fired aide claimed she caught Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll in what she believed to be a sexual encounter with a female employee.")

Meanwhile, "Lt. Gov. Carroll denies aide's charges" ("Sex, lies and audiotapes swirl around allegations").

"Second-class citizens in Southwest Florida"

"Democrats often feel like second-class citizens in Southwest Florida, but they could be in danger of looking up at another powerful voting block: independents. The percentage of registered voters who do not identify with a major political party is on the rise in Collier and Lee counties. The increase — up about 2 percent since 2008 — mirrors an uptick nationally in the number of voters registering as independents." "Independent voters on the rise in Southwest Florida, battleground states".

Villages an ATM for GOP

"The massive retirement community, which has over 50,000 residents according to the 2010 recent Census, has become a must-visit stop for Republican politicians and conservative media figures." "The Villages has become an ATM for GOP".

Rubio embarrasses himself

"Republicans, led by Mitt Romney and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, pounced on President Barack Obama on Wednesday after he told a Miami TV anchor that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez does not pose a 'serious' national security threat to the United States."

Experts in the region, though, called Obama's comments reasonable. Chávez is "certifiable," with a tremendous ego fueled by the power that comes from sitting on vast oil reserves — but he's not as dangerous as the leaders of other less friendly regimes, said Riordan Roett, the director of Latin American Studies Program at the School of Advanced International Studies at The John Hopkins University.

The Republican criticism is "just pure electoral politics," Roett said.

"He poses no security threat to the United States or anyone else," Roett said. "Hugo Chávez is not going to attack us, he's not going to occupy our embassy, he's not going to bomb U.S. planes arriving in Caracas at Maiquetía Airport. He is a loudmouth who enjoys listening to himself, and has built up on the basis of oil revenue, a very, very populist, dependent regime that can't deliver on basic services, on goods and commodities to his own people."
"Republicans attack President Barack Obama for Hugo Chávez remark".

"Will young vote this fall?"

"The last time Barack Obama ran for president, students lined up three hours deep at the University of Central Florida Arena to vote for him by a 3-to-1 margin. And Tuesday, when first lady Michelle Obama brought her husband's re-election campaign to the original UCF arena, now known as The Venue, a packed room of 2,251 rowdy campaign volunteers and supporters from throughout Central Florida made the event sound like a campus pep rally."

But outside the arena, the support Barack Obama enjoyed from college students in his 2008 presidential election may be far from secure this year.
"Michelle Obama is cheered at UCF — but will young vote this fall?".

Predictable Chamber Endorsements

"Florida Chamber of Commerce Unveils Legislative Endorsements".

Runnin Gub'ment like a Bidness

"Florida businesses owe the federal government almost $700 million borrowed to make unemployment payments during the past three years." "Florida owes federal government $700 million for jobless benefits".

"Another thoughtless edict from a governor who seems unable to make the transition from corporate CEO"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Scott is toying with Florida's economy by sending mixed messages about the state's commitment to partner in high-tech medicine. In a newly disclosed letter to three state-supported cancer research facilities including H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Scott said the centers could not make money off their brand names if they want to continue to receive state funds. It was another thoughtless edict from a governor who seems unable to make the transition from corporate CEO, and it raises troubling implications for jobs, medical research and the economic future of Tampa Bay and the state." "Scott's thoughtless edict on cancer centers".

New Citizens

"The new president of Citizens Property Insurance made it clear: his goal is to reduce the state-run company’s footprint in Florida." "New Citizens boss wants to slowly shrink state-run insurance company". See also "Barry Gilway: No 'Doom-and-Gloom' Rate Scenarios on Citizens' Horizon" and "New Citizens chief wants better public outreach".

The Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board on "The value of Citizens".