Sunday, December 07, 2014

Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

Trust Us, He's a Knuckle Dragger

Florida Republicans are getting in the way of Jebbie's makeover: they want the Teabaggers to know that Jeb Bush can drag his knuckles with the best of 'em. "Florida politicians say Jeb Bush is a true conservative."

Respected Ronald Reagan biographer Craig Shirley told the Washington Examiner recently that Jeb Bush is the latest in a line of Bushes who oppose Reaganism. Radio host Mark Levin has dismissed Florida’s former governor as “a very good moderate Democrat,” while pioneering conservative activist Richard Viguerie for at least two years has been trashing Bush as a dangerous, big government Republican.

Meanwhile, much of the speculation about the 2016 presidential race lately centers on whether a moderate is a viable contender for the Republican nomination.

"Jeb Bush, a moderate squish?"
The governor who treated trial lawyers and teachers union leaders as enemies of the state? Who stripped job protections from civil servants? Who slashed taxes? Whose passion for privatization included enacting the nation’s first statewide private school voucher program and extended to privatizing health care for the poor, prisons and child protection services?

This “very good moderate Democrat” defied court after court to try and force the reinsertion of feeding tubes for brain-damaged Terri Schiavo and consistently backed more restrictions on abortions and fewer on gun ownership. He fought for reduced entitlement spending and, deriding nanny-state impulses, repealed the helmet law for motorcyclists in Florida and vetoed a GOP-backed bill requiring booster seats for kids in cars.

“For us who live in Florida, who experienced the eight-year Jeb Bush governorship, it’s almost laughable and maybe even hysterical for people who live outside of Florida to claim that he’s a moderate,” said former House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, himself a conservative Republican who led the opposition to Florida accepting federal money to expand Medicaid to more than 800,000 people.

"Florida politicians say Jeb Bush is a true conservative."

Poor "Jeb!," even the wingers say he "is more about big government crony capitalism than concern for children’s education."

Powerful new documentary exposes Publix greed

Scott Maxwell reminds us that Publix

is one of the big holdouts in the corporate movement to ensure that tomato pickers get decent wages and working conditions.

[Even] Wal-Mart has agreed to pay an extra penny a pound to lift these impoverished wages.

So has McDonald's, Chipotle, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Taco Bell and others.

All of these companies agreed to pay a tiny amount extra — voluntarily — because they thought it was the right thing to do.

"Publix, however, refuses, and is now the focus of a powerful new documentary called 'Food Chains.'"
Narrated by Forest Whitaker and produced by "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria, the movie takes place in Florida's sun-baked tomato fields — and in front of Publix's Lakeland headquarters, where executives refused to speak with farmworkers.

The movie lays bare this country's long record of shoddy treatment of farmworkers, particularly immigrants. It shows a segment of Edward R. Murrow's famous "Harvest of Shame" report aired by CBS way back in 1960.

Things have gotten better. But sorry working conditions — and even crimes — persist.

The Coalition for Immokalee Workers says farmworkers make about 50 cents for every 32-pound bucket of tomatoes they harvest. That means a worker who harvests 2 tons of tomatoes in a single day — 125 buckets, or 4,000 pounds — would make about $62.

Florida's fields also are littered with cases of abuse. They range from the criminal (workers being beaten) to workplace problems such as sexual harassment and insufficient shade, water or breaks.

The Fair Food Program changes all that — through voluntary cooperation.

Companies agree to pay an extra penny a pound. That money — which costs the average tomato-buying family about 40 cents a year — then goes into an audited fund that makes sure pickers get raises and that workplace-safety practices are in place.

Many companies decided it's simply the right thing to do. Florida's largest grocery chain, however, refuses.

Publix says none of this is the chain's concern. It says suppliers are free to charge them more for tomatoes, which Publix would gladly pay.
But the movie calls baloney on that. So does common sense.

If Publix would happily pay more money, the suppliers would happily take it.

"Publix remains a holdout in fair-wage farm debate."

"Hard to tell what the Florida Legislature has the most disregard for"

The Miami Herald editors: "It’s hard to tell what leaders in the Florida Legislature have the most disregard for: the environment or the voters who overwhelmingly told them in November that they wanted the state’s natural resources to be protected and preserved." "The voters spoke on Amendment 1."

Except for the part it won't be a mid-term election

Bill Cotterell: "Florida Republican Party leaders happily celebrated their sweep of state elections and gains in Congress Saturday, then turned their attention to expanding GOP majorities and winning back the White House in two years."

“The 2016 campaign begins today,” state GOP Chairwoman Leslie Dougher said at the first quarterly board meeting since the elections. “The preparation must start now.”

She and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Democrat Hillary Clinton will probably run a tough, well-financed campaign with the online and volunteer forces President Obama organized to win Florida’s 29 electoral votes twice. They said 2014 “was a great year” for Republicans, with the re-election of Gov. Rick Scott and all three Cabinet officers, a gain of six seats in the Florida Legislature and winning control of the U.S. Senate — as well as electing governors in such heavily Democratic states as Massachusetts and Illinois — but that turnout will be much heavier for the presidential election in 2016.

Scott said “there is no reason” his state party can’t duplicate, in a presidential year, the off-year turnout efforts that won for him and the state legislators in 2010 and this year.

"Republican Party leaders celebrate wins, look ahead."

Except, Rick, for the part it won't be a mid-term election.

Solar power

The Tampa Tribune editorial board: "It seems only natural that solar power will play a meaningful role in providing for Florida’s future energy needs. The price to produce solar power is dropping as the technology for harnessing and storing the sun’s energy advances." "Clear the dark clouds over solar energy production in Florida."