Sunday, December 02, 2012

Please consider giving a newspaper subscription as a gift and/or buying one or more subscriptions for delivery to your workplace. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

"Time to find out if the real fraud was the legislation itself"

The Palm Beach Post editorial board: "Some new detractors say the repressive election “reforms” Florida legislators passed last year really were a farce, and the specter of voter fraud used to justify them was merely a fantastical fig leaf. The real goal, they say, was suppressing Democratic votes."

You’ve heard this before, but these critics aren’t Democratic operatives or the ACLU. These are two former luminaries of the Florida GOP.
"Last Sunday, The Post published interviews by Dara Kam and John Lantigua with former Gov. Charlie Crist and Jim Greer, the former chairman of the Republican Party of Florida. Both told The Post that the real purpose of the 2011 election law was to reduce Democratic turnout. As proof, they cited conversations and meetings they had with GOP officials years earlier about the tactic."
Civil rights groups, Democrats, and newspaper editorial boards have said the same thing since last year, when the Florida Legislature reduced the number of early-voting days, made it harder for transient people to cast a regular ballot and needlessly restricted third-party registration groups such as the Florida League of Women Voters. Fear of voter fraud was one of the rallying cries, but no proof of a real problem was offered.

But it’s one thing to hear outside voices heap scorn on measures pushed through by Republican. It’s quite another to hear those same criticisms from former high-ranking former Republicans. . . .

Written by Republican operatives and now renounced by former Republican leaders: That’s the legacy of the election law changes imposed upon Florida’s voters. Judges have blocked or weakened key portions after concluding that they violated federal law. It’s time to find out if the real fraud was the legislation itself.

"Feds should investigate Florida’s 2011 election law".

Charter madness

"The failed Orange County charter school that gave its principal a payout of $519,000 in taxpayer dollars after closing in June also paid her husband more than $460,000 during a five-year period, audits show." "Failed charter school paid principal's husband $460K".

"A no-brainer"

"The governor and legislative leaders may be uncertain about whether Florida should embrace the Affordable Care Act and its expanded insurance coverage, but Bob Graham says it's a no-brainer." "Graham tells state to hop on health act".

Teabaggers in their rear view mirrors

John Lantigua: Because Obama spanked Romney 71 to 26 percent among Hispanic voters, "Republicans have already started offering bills. Early last week, three Republican senators presented a version of the Dream Act that would help select undocumented young people become legal. And the Republican-controlled House voted Friday to make green cards accessible to foreign students graduating with advanced science and math degrees from U.S. universities, a bill unlikely to go anywhere this session of Congress as Democrats say it is too narrowly tailored." "Even with bipartisan support, immigration overhaul won’t be easy".

"Another distinguished career ended in a sleazy Florida skid"

Carl Hiaasen: "Jill Kelley, the mystery vixen in the David Petraeus scandal, is now flanked by a high-profile Washington attorney and a professional 'crisis manager.'"

This can only mean that she wants her own reality show, a book deal or both.

It was Kelley who received the anonymous e-mail warnings from Petraeus’ biographer-slash-mistress, Paula Broadwell, and it was Kelley who then contacted a friend in the FBI, Agent Frederic Humphries II.

(Humphries, an anti-terrorism specialist, once emailed to Kelley a shirtless photo of himself. Write your own joke.)

Broadwell thought Kelley was making a move on Petraeus, and told her to back off. Once the feds identified Broadwell as the source of the e-mails, her affair with Petraeus was exposed, he resigned as director of the CIA — and another distinguished public career ended in a sleazy Florida skid.

News organizations have described Kelley as a “Tampa socialite,” a term heard about as often as “Boston alligator-wrestler.” Recent media reports have demoted Kelley to “a Tampa hostess,” a phrase which calls to mind one of those upbeat greeters at the Olive Garden.

In fact, Kelley’s hostessing talents drew a lofty crowd. She is a thrower of major parties for high-ranking military types at her big bayfront house (currently in foreclosure proceedings, what else?).

"A New York businessman named Adam Victor says Kelley offered to help him land a $4 billion natural-gas contract in South Korea, in exchange for a 2 percent commission."
You might be wondering how a Tampa party maven could credibly present herself as someone who could facilitate an international megadeal. Well, it turns out that Kelley was an “honorary consul” for the government of South Korea.

Like Forrest Gump, she pops up in the darnedest places.

Although it was mainly a ceremonial gig, Kelley showcased the honorary consul title on the license plate attached to her silver Mercedes. An $80 million commission surely would have eased those car payments, not to mention that troubled mortgage, but the gas deal went nowhere.

Last week, South Korea brusquely de-consuled Kelley. She has also lost her solo roaming privileges at MacDill.

So far there’s been no evidence that she posed a security risk, or that she did anything worse than try to make a quick fortune using her manifest skills as a schmoozer. It’s Florida, for God’s sake, the land of opportunism.

Nobody forced those generals to hang out at Kelley’s house, drinking her booze and snarfing down her canap├ęs. When she tells her own story — which she undoubtedly will — prepare to be further surprised by who else came to party.

"Jill Kelley, mystery vixen in Petraeus scandal".

Fund raising junket in South America

Steve Bousquet: "Scott heads to Colombia today to drum up business with Florida's second-largest trading partner, his seventh overseas trip since taking office."

In less than two years, Scott also has visited Panama, Canada, Brazil, Israel, Spain and Britain, trips aimed largely at pitching foreign investment in Florida. All told, those trips cost taxpayers more than $332,000, with some travel and lodging donated by hotels and airlines.
"Gov. Rick Scott headed to Colombia with huge delegation to promote Florida business".

So much for that

"Aaron Deslatte": "Legislative bipartisanship may not last through the holidays".

"One of the four most vulnerable Republican-held seats in the country"

"Democrats see the Pinellas County congressional seat held by C.W. Bill Young as one of the four most vulnerable Republican-held seats in the country. " "Targeting Young's seat".

Christian Slater's vote rejected

"Actor Christian Slater of Miami tweeted last week that Miami-Dade elections officials sent him a letter that his provisional ballot had been rejected (though they addressed it to Christina Slater)." "Actor's vote not counted".

"Hypocrisy and political opportunism"

"Now that he seems likely to seek office as a Democrat, former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist is being accused by Republicans — and some Democrats — of hypocrisy and political opportunism." "Who is the real Charlie Crist?"

Scraping the bottom of the barrel for ideas

Country clubbers like Kingsley Guy acknowledge that "the Republican Party tends to over-reach, as it tries to use government power to impose moral strictures on society."

The Terri Schiavo case illustrates the point. Schiavo, a west coast Florida woman in a persistent vegetative state, had been kept alive for years by a feeding tube. Her husband wanted the tube removed, insisting this would have been his wife's wish, and the courts agreed.

In 2004-05, Gov. Jeb Bush and the Republican-dominated Legislature intervened in an effort to keep the feeding tube in place. President George W. Bush and Congress even got into the act. The religious right cheered them on, but the backlash was enormous. Eventually, the court order held sway, and Schiavo was allowed to die.

Kingsley suggests that, "as Republicans strive to figure out how to broaden their electoral appeal," they, try not to laugh, "might want to go back to basics and re-read, or more than likely read for the first time,"
Barry Goldwater's The Conscience of a Conservative. A Jeffersonian to the core, many of today's so-called "conservatives" don't have a clue as to what their patron saint was talking about.
"Florida voters are not Puritanical".

Jim Crow backfires

"Pizza, popsicles and port-a-potties may have helped secure the decisive win for President Barack Obama and other Democrats in Florida."

Obama’s data-driven campaign machine and the popular president himself deserve most of the credit.

But the GOP-majority legislature may have unwittingly given Obama a boost with a restrictive election law reportedly targeted at Democratic and minority voters.

Progressives, left-leaning groups and the NAACP, which did not endorse Obama, rallied in opposition to the law and used it to motivate voters, including blacks for whom restrictions on early voting triggered a generations-old sensitivity to having their vote suppressed.

"Progressives, union organizers and black leaders say the law backfired. They put their organizational skills to work before and during the election."
Once voting began, they used music, food and water to transform waits in line of up to eight hours into celebrations.

In Homestead, undocumented workers who couldn’t even vote pitched in with a mariachi band and barbecue, said Florida New Majority Executive Director Gihan Perera.

In Collier County, voters got in their cars and turned on their headlights for voters waiting in the dark to get into an early polling site.

State Sen. Gwen Margolis ordered pizza for voters waiting for hours at a Brickell Avenue precinct in Miami.

And union workers handed out water along with potato chips and power bars.

Some black voters saw a four- to six-hour wait to vote as a badge of courage, responding with a “we’re going to show them” attitude, said Democratic strategist and Obama campaign Florida adviser Steve Schale.

“It didn’t seem to have the impact of suppressing the vote as much as it had the impact of empowering people,” he said.

"Early voting limits motivated Democrats, minorities to turn out".

Yee Haw! "Jacksonville does the worst"

"A new national report card compiled by gay rights groups rating cities for lesbian, gay and transgender protections looks at 11 Florida cities with sizable gay populations and finds that Orlando, Miami and Tampa do the best job of protecting the rights of gay residents, while Jacksonville does the worst." "Gay rights ratings".

Twenty-somethings delivered Florida's electoral votes

"Twenty-somethings delivered the state's 29 electoral votes. (Yes, it was close enough that plenty of groups can make that claim.) An analysis by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida notes that Obama's share of the vote among those younger than 30 actually increased from 61 percent to 67 percent since 2008."

This from the Pew Research Center:

"Young voters continue to identify with the Democratic Party at relatively high levels and express more liberal attitudes on a range of issues — from gay marriage to the role of the federal government — than do older voters. In fact, voters under 30 were as likely to identify as Democrats in the 2012 exit poll as they had been in 2008 (44 percent now, 45 percent then). And they are the only age group in which a majority said that the government should do more to solve problems."
"Millennial voters".

"That's a mistake"

The Sarasota Herald Tribune editors: "The governor's [$10,000 college degress] challenge seems to presume that the colleges should tighten their belts rather than ask taxpayers to boost funding. That's a mistake; bigger public investment is warranted because higher education offers a great return to the society which funds it." "The $10,000 college question".

What's a Teabagger to do?

"Federal officials have denied Gov. Rick Scott’s request for financial help to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy, including $9.1 million for eroded beaches in Palm Beach County."

The Federal Emergency Management Agency told Scott in a Thursday letter, “it has been determined that the damage to the infrastructure from this event was not of such severity and magnitude as to be beyond the capabilities of the state and affected local governments.” Scott sought $67.2 million to cover beach erosion and structural damage across seven Florida counties.
"Feds deny Sandy disaster aid to Florida".