Sunday, March 22, 2015

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

"Gov. Scott, This Is America"

Nancy Smith is usually "on the other side of" what she perceives to be the usual, unfair "media attacks against Gov. Rick Scott. Not this time."

She "can't defend forcing Barton Bibler, a longtime, valued employee at the Department of Environmental Protection, to take a leave of absence and seek a mental health evaluation ... for what? For writing a report he was asked to write. Mostly, his crime was using the phrases 'climate change' and 'global warming' in the report."

OK, it's a little more complicated than that. Bibler circled the words "Keystone XL pipeline" and put a line through them. And he was obviously glad to hear discussion of climate change at the Coastal Managers Forum.
To which Smith says, "Big deal."
The fact is, climate change, rising sea levels and the possible environmental impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline all were discussed at the meeting.

Bibler has an opinion, for heaven's sake. He's not a slug. Is that a firing offense? It's not as if the report he turned in was a treatise on global warming; not as if it was going to be distributed to the press (though now it might be). It was inside baseball. As a longtime employee, he probably should have learned by now that color commentary from rank-and-file bureaucrats is frowned upon.

"Come On, Gov. Scott, This Is America." See also "Answers sought after reports of ‘climate change’ ban," "Answers sought after reports of ‘climate change’ ban" and "PolitiFact Florida: Fact-checking Rick Scott on the environment and sea-level rise."

In Florida, pollution, sea level rise and wildlife habitat loss are worsening

"Bill Maxwell": "Game on!"

How else do we describe the portent of President Barack Obama's veto of a GOP-sponsored bill that would have forced authorization of the 875-mile Keystone XL pipeline? By rejecting the bill, Obama not only enraged Republicans; he deepened the wrath of the oil industry and other businesses with financial interests in the venture.

The veto is being called a "milestone" in Obama's presidency. Not only will it bring more partisan gridlock in Washington, its ideological impact will be felt nationwide, especially in Florida where environmental problems such as water pollution, sea level rise and wildlife habitat loss are worsening.

"Don't be fooled by environmental bills in Washington, Tallahassee."

"Destiny and DNA might have foretold that Jeb Bush would make a run"

"Destiny and DNA might have foretold that Jeb Bush would make a run for the White House someday, aiming for a job that both his father and brother held. That his wife Columba stands a chance of becoming the first Latina first lady is a more unlikely story." "Columba Bush’s painful, unlikely road toward the White House."

"A tale of two budget proposals"

"Now that lawmakers may be facing a potential $1.3 billion hole in the health care budget, many of Gov. Rick Scott’s once-obtainable goals are in sudden limbo as money gets shifted around to cover gaps." "A tale of two budget proposals leaves Gov. Rick Scott’s tax cuts, education spending at risk." See also "Florida House, Senate budgets are $4.3 billion apart."

Sorry Jeb, no "Homeland Security" for you in Florida

"The Jeb Bush effort in Florida, code-named 'Homeland Security,' will pour enormous resources and energy over the next year into a state that many thought Bush, its governor from 1999 to 2007, would be able to count on as a bedrock of support." "Seen as Linchpin, Florida Is Focus of ‘16 Bush Plan."

"Bush is the front-runner in the financial sense, but no other"

In Michael Tomasky's take on books attributed to GOPer candidates for president in the New York Review of Books, he first discusses Jeb Bush, a candidate whose hirelings have not yet written a book to which he can assign his name:

[I]n his first big policy speech, Jeb Bush emphasized the “opportunity gap,” telling the Detroit Economic Club that “only a small portion of the country [is] riding the up escalator.” Median incomes are down, he said, and “households are, on average, poorer.” In Romney’s absence, Bush has become the instant front-runner among the candidates representing the establishment wing of the party, and the big money will likely coalesce around him and his message, at least to the extent to which conservative plutocrats can bear to do so.

On the evidence of his February 18 speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Bush’s foreign policy will not differ dramatically from his brother’s. Rhetorically, Bush tries to sound more like his realist, cautious father. But the substance of his policy positions puts him closer to George W. (the phrase “take them out” when applied to the Islamic State can mean only a ground war, although he’s not likely to admit to that). And he is surrounding himself with some of his brother’s key advisers—most surprisingly Paul Wolfowitz, the intellectual architect of the disastrous Iraq intervention.

The odd thing is that Bush polls no better against Clinton than several of the other candidates; so he is the front-runner in the financial sense, but no other. His politics are basically conservative, which is reflected by his record as governor of Florida on issues from education to privatization to his lamentable handling of the Terri Schiavo case, when he defied all medical expertise and advice to pander to a right wing that believes in preserving “life” in all situations.

But, surely aware that staking out nothing but those kinds of positions makes a Republican unelectable, Bush began a couple of years ago to present himself as more moderate, on immigration and supporting the “Common Core” learning standards and, now, on economics, which will obviously be his major talking point. Naturally, these positions have awakened contempt for and distrust of Bush within the more extreme base voters, among whom he polls poorly. A big fight clearly looms.

Tomasky moves on to Florida's other candidate:
Unlike the other campaign books, American Dreams is at least largely about policy. There are chapters on the struggles of the middle class, regulation in the age of the “sharing economy” (Uber, Airbnb, etc.), higher education, retirement, economic security, and, inevitably, values. Chapters open with homiletic descriptions of the particular crisis in question, told through the stories of a few real-life Americans Rubio has encountered in his journeys, and then move on to prescriptions.

His prescriptions aren’t innovative. On poverty, as he said in his speech about a year ago, he wants the federal government to eliminate many of its programs and turn the money over to the states with fewer strings attached. Ronald Reagan proposed this a generation ago. Rubio’s chapter on retirement largely repeats the proposals set forth by Paul Ryan in his budgets, proposals that would (especially with regard to Medicare) result in much higher out-of-pocket expenses for future seniors, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Where his solutions aren’t standard conservative policies, they are in fact already in place. With regard to higher education, for example, he wants a transparent, return-on-investment kind of ranking of colleges and universities, so that applicants and parents can see what kinds of salaries graduates make. And he favors something called “income-based repayment” that would reduce the monthly cost of most graduates’ loans. These are plausible ideas. The Obama administration has instituted them both (though not yet on a large scale).

"2016: The Republicans Write."

"Online voter registration"

The Tampa Bay Times editors: "Florida should allow online voter registration."