Sunday, October 07, 2012

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please consider becoming a site fan on Facebook and following us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

"Garbage is garbage, no matter how pristine the can"

Leonard Pitts Jr. writes that "Florida, Virginia and nine other states embrace what might be called polices of 'eternal damnation,' i.e., laws that continue to punish former felons and deny them the vote long after they have done their time, finished their parole, rejoined society."

The state’s former governor, Charlie Crist, had streamlined the process, making voting rights restoration automatic for non-violent felons. His successor, Rick Scott, reversed that. In Florida, an ex-felon is now required to wait up to seven years before even applying to have his or her voting rights returned.

“Welcome back, Jim Crow” said the headline on a Miami Herald editorial. Ain’t that the truth. Between policies like these, new restrictions on Sunday and early voting and, of course, Voter ID laws, the NAACP estimates that 23 million Americans stand to be disenfranchised — a disproportionate number of them African American.

We have seen these shenanigans before: grandfather clauses; poll taxes, literacy tests. Yet African Americans — heck, Americans in general — seem remarkably quiescent about seeing it all come around again, same old garbage in a different can.

“If you want to vote, show it,” trilled a TV commercial in support of Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law before a judge blocked its implementation. The tenor of the ad was telling, though, implicitly suggesting that voting is a privilege for which one should be happy to jump through arbitrary hoops.

"But voting is emphatically not a privilege. It is a right. By definition, then, it must be broadly accessible. These laws ensure that it is not."
We are indebted to the NAACP for bringing attention and leadership to this. Five years ago, a newspaper columnist — a guy named Pitts, actually — raked the organization for being “stagnant, static and marginal to today’s struggle.” But that was then. In fighting to restore the voting rights of ex-felons, in calling last year for an end to the failed “War on Drugs,” the NAACP has done more than energize itself.

It has also challenged us to recognize that the brutish goals of Jim Crow America never died, but simply reshaped themselves to the sensibilities of the 21st century, learned to hide themselves in the bloodless and opaque language of officially race-neutral policy. It would be a critical mistake not to understand this. Indeed, the advice of the late Teddy Pendergrass seems freshly apropos: Wake up, everybody. And realize:

Garbage is garbage, no matter how pristine the can.

"Brutish goals of Jim Crow never died".

Speaking of "garbage"

It is hard to believe that some folks actually "think" this way, including the Pastor Tea Partier who runs the silly "Restore Justice 2012" -- See "Justices, Unions and the 'Appearance of Evil'".

By the same "logic" all Republican appointees to the Florida Supreme Court should recuse themselves because the legislation requiring participants in the FRS to contribute 3 percent of their gross income into FRS was sponsored by and passed by members of the Florida Republican Party.

White suited men with butterfly nets

It's fair to say we won't be seeing visuals of Allen West being chased by white suited men carrying syringes filled with tranquilizers and giant butterfly nets, at least not from West: "Rep. Allen West projects softer tone in television campaign ads".

"$350 million boondoggle"

The Palm Beach Post editors: "Citizens plan looks like $350 million boondoggle".

"Republicans more interested in tapping into tea party angst than being responsible"

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board: "Two decades ago, capping future revenue in fast-growing states was all the rage, as voters concluded that governments flush with cash had grown fat and arrogant. But this is not the 1990s, and Florida's gov­ern­ment is not living large after five years of cutting services, shedding thousands of jobs and slashing education funding. A strict revenue cap proposed in a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6 ballot won't solve any of the state's challenges and could create many more."

Voting for Amendment 3 would mean limiting the state's ambitions long-term even when the economy rebounds. It would bind the hands of future legislatures that might need to respond to a natural disaster, an offshore oil spill or some other calamity. Lawmakers would need to garner at least 60 percent of the votes in each chamber to breach the cap for a single year; and it would take a two-thirds vote to reset the cap for future years. Supporters contend that would be all but assured in a time of crisis. But that is a naive view of politics that would handcuff government at the moment that Floridians would need it most.

This amendment was put on the ballot because Senate President Mike Haridopolos of Merritt Island and other Republican leaders were more interested in tapping into tea party angst in a presidential election year than being responsible elected leaders. Haridopolos pushed the measure amid his bid for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. He later dropped out of the race, unable to withstand the scrutiny of a statewide race. Florida voters should heed the lesson from Colorado, where voters approved a similar cap in 1992 and suspended it three years later after it triggered cuts to services and increased the state's costs to borrow money.

"Reject budget handcuffs".

"Democrats have added Medicare to the equation"

"For critical Senate races, Republicans are turning to the playbook that served them so well in the 2010 elections. They’re saturating the airwaves with political ads detailing the perils of 'Obamacare' and the nation’s growing debt. Democrats have added Medicare to the equation, trying to make the case that revamping the government health care program for older people would virtually destroy it." "Senate race ads focus on Medicare, Obamacare, debt".

The latest from the spats-and-ascot set

Kingsley Guy: "Beware Floridians, and residents of other states that have done a reasonable job of controlling public finances: Deadbeat states are on the prowl, and unless politicians from fiscally responsible states stand their ground, the ne-er-do-wells could end up soaking the rest of America for a fortune."

The deadbeat states tend to be dominated by liberal Democrats and their handlers in public employee unions. In exchange for union campaign contributions and support, the politicians over the decades have granted employees excessive remuneration to the point where the states now face insolvency. The worst offenders have been Illinois and California. . . .

Floridians should note that the Sunshine State has among the best credit ratings in the union. But making Floridians responsible for Illinois' debt would take away much of the impetus for Florida and other states to remain fiscally sound. . . .

Expect pubic employee unions in the deadbeat states to get behind bailout proposals so they can continue milking state treasuries. They will probably have the support of all of organized labor and, consequently, many Democrats in Congress.

Bailing out sovereign states, however, goes beyond the point of common sense, or even political expediency. Floridians should demand a pledge from all politicians seeking election this year to the U.S. House or Senate, and in particular incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, that they won't support federal bailouts of states. The Florida Legislature, too, should go on record early in its next session insisting Washington steer clear of bailouts.

For the most part, Florida has been fiscally responsible over the years, regardless of which party was in power. A federal bailout of Illinois would be a slap in the face of every Floridian.

"Deadbeat states soak U.S. finances".

Worsening the state’s finances

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Florida voters will consider six proposed amendments to the state constitution that would worsen the state’s finances. Several would lower property taxes for certain groups. One would limit the state government’s ability to expand its budget. Voters should oppose all six." "Reject all revenue-limit and tax-break amendments".

"'Penny plan' could force deep cuts in Medicare, Social Security and defense spending"

"Republican U.S. Senate candidate Connie Mack’s signature 'penny plan' for balancing the federal budget could force deep cuts in Medicare, Social Security and defense spending, the independent Congressional Research Service reported this week." "Mack’s ‘penny plan’ for budget-balancing could cost plenty".

"Scott wants to privatize the state's Medicaid program"

"Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-led Legislature want to privatize the state's Medicaid program, but need the Obama administration's permission. The Obama administration wants to make more low-income Floridians eligible for Medicaid, but needs Scott and the Legislature to agree." "Florida's Medicaid program in limbo".

"The hottest local race of the election season"

"The shocking news in January that Palm Beach County State Attorney Michael McAuliffe was leaving office early for the private sector not only threw the office of more than 300 prosecutors into uncertainty, it left the race for the job wide open."

Now, with the election less than a month away, the contest has evolved into a three-way battle that has become the hottest local race of the election season — with allegations of ethical misconduct against the Democratic front-runner, a last-minute Republican candidate whose campaign is gaining momentum and a longtime criminal defense attorney who by far has the most state court experience but is underfinanced.
"Allegations fly in high-profile state attorney’s race".

Daily wingnuttery

You can's make this stuff up: see "Officials reject conspiracies on unemployment data" ("When conspiracists suggested Friday that the Obama administration had engineered a sharp drop in unemployment to aid President Barack Obama's re-election, the response was swift") and "Ark. GOP calls candidates' statements on slavery, Muslims 'offensive'" ("Arkansas Republicans tried to distance themselves Saturday from a Republican state representative's assertion that slavery was a 'blessing in disguise' and a Republican state House candidate who advocates deporting all Muslims. ")

Jon Stewart, Bill O'Reilly Debate

"Jon Stewart, Bill O'Reilly Debate: Light on Laughs, Heavy on Political Blah-Blah". Here's the video. Meanwhile, "'Saturday Night Live' rips Obama's debate performance".

The best they can do?

"In the congressional campaign between Democrat Lois Frankel and Republican Adam Hasner, PolitiFact Florida delved into claims about a Frankel campaign ad attacking Hasner over pay raises."

Frankel’s ad says Hasner said, “I’ll never accept a pay increase,” but he “voted to raise his pay four times.” We have several criticisms of this claim.

For starters, Frankel didn’t make it clear that Hasner said he would never accept a pay increase if elected to Congress. It’s possible to view the ad and falsely think he said that while accepting pay raises in the state House. There is a significant difference between saying that he would freeze his own congressional pay at around $174,000 and voting for overall budget bills that included measly pay raises in the state House that took his pay from $29,328 to $31,932 (and then back down again).

Also, Frankel omits that Hasner’s pay was frozen or cut for a few of his years in the House. And for one of those votes he did vote for a pay raise, but then House members said that was an accident, and they ultimately didn’t get a raise. Yes, Frankel says that he “voted” for the pay raises — not that he “received” them. Right away Hasner said that was a mistake and would be fixed, and it was.

There is a small kernel of truth here: Hasner did vote for three overall budgets that allowed himto get a small pay raise. We rate this claim Mostly False.

"Lois Frankel says Adam Hasner promised 'I’ll never accept a pay increase,' but he 'voted to raise his pay four times.'".

Meanwhile, "PolitiFact Florida checks out claims against Democrat Lois Frankel, who is running for Congress against Republican Adam Hasner. . . . The YG Action Fund launched an ad bashing Democratic congressional candidate Lois Frankel’s tenure as West Palm Beach mayor."

"YG (which stands for [try not to retch] Young Guns) is supporting Frankel’s Republican opponent Adam Hasner in the Broward/Palm Beach Congressional District 22 race. Their cartoonish ad shows a smiling headshot of Frankel and makes a series of claims about her tenure as mayor."

The YG Action PAC said that “Frankel took a 40 percent pay raise as mayor.” Frankel did form a committee to explore whether she should get a pay raise and that resulted in a 40 percent boost — an extra $35,750 — in 2004. However the ad omits the context for that raise: The mayor’s salary hadn’t increased since 1998 and after she got the raise in 2004, her salary then remained set at $125,000 a year until she left office in 2011.

The ad also stated that while Frankel got a hefty pay hike, the city “lost jobs.” The unemployment rate rose from about 5.8 percent to 10.2 percent during her tenure. But the number of employed actually increased slightly and Frankel can’t be blamed for a national recession.

For those omissions about context, we rate this claim Half True.

"Super PAC attacks Lois Frankel over pay raise, jobs record".