Sunday, October 18, 2015

After reading the hard copy of your hometown newspaper, please "like" us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Our digest of, and commentary on today's Florida political news and punditry follows.

"There’s no reference in either testament to 'popping a cap in thine heathen ass'"

Carl Hiaasen shows little mercy for "the father-son team that has been pimping tirelessly for the NRA." Hiaasen writes, "So God is a gunslinger."

That’s the latest Word from Rep. Matt Gaetz, the Fort Walton Beach Republican who’s on a crusade to flood Florida with more firearms.

He’s pushing legislation to allow concealed weapons on state college campuses, and to let permit-holders openly carry their handguns in stores and restaurants. He said these are rights “granted not by government but by God.”

Gaetz’s pronouncement left theologians scratching their heads, because guns aren’t mentioned anywhere in scriptures. Firearms didn’t exist when the Bible was written, and there’s no reference in either testament to “popping a cap in thine heathen ass.”

"Anytime a politician starts throwing God’s name around, people get suspicious."
In Gaetz’s case, he’s half of a father-son team that has been pimping tirelessly for the NRA in Tallahassee. His dad, Don, a state senator, also wants more heavy weapons in public places, although he hasn’t gone so far as to credit God with ghostwriting the Second Amendment.

But let’s set aside our well-founded skepticism and consider the remote but intriguing possibility that young Matt isn’t just another programmed hack for the gun lobby. Perhaps he experienced a true religious Visitation.

Maybe one afternoon, while Gaetz was on the shooting range, God appeared personally to him and presented the manuscript of a new, unpublished scripture.

He called it the Book of Glock.

And although it was only the first draft (and there were probably a few typos), young Matt devoured the Book of Glock from beginning to end, and a trembling rapture came upon him.

For God (perhaps) sayeth, “Go ye forth, and let all the people of the world know that their Heavenly Father is totally into guns. Seriously. I beseech all the lambs in my flock to lock and freakin’ load!”

At which point young Matt Gaetz’s jaw would have dropped because he surely didn’t expect to see the Lord Himself show up in full camo driving an old F-150 with a missing tailgate.

Much more here: "From God’s lips to Gaetz’s ears."

"Jeb Bush’s epic implosion"

"Bush may not yet have packed it in, but we might as well start shoveling dirt on his campaign. The chances he can overcome poll numbers consistently stuck in single digits, the baggage of his last name and his near-daily gaffes, are slim to none. To paraphrase a famous comedy bit, his presidential ambitions’ metabolic processes are now history, they are off the twig, they have kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible. THIS IS AN EX-CAMPAIGN!" "Jeb Bush’s epic implosion: Why it’s high time he gave up his presidential fantasy."

"Bush ridicules Trump's fitness to lead military in new video," "Bush has 'grave doubts' about Trump as commander in chief," "'Pathetic' Trump and Jeb Bush spar over 9/11 remarks" and "Tension Builds Between 2016 GOP Rivals Rubio And Bush."

"Shaky ground"

"By next June, Florida more likely than not will find itself without an enforceable death penalty." "Florida death penalty is on shaky ground."

2,000 plus hunters out to kill black bear

"More than 2,000 hunters have pulled permits to hunt black bears in Florida for the first time in more than two decades. Opening day is Saturday, and Wade expects that on that day he will bag the bruin he has watched since March." "Hunt for black bears starts Saturday; limit is 320 bruins."

Florida's anti-gerrymandering model

Hedrick Smith: "One root cause of the mutiny that ousted Speaker John Boehner and blocked House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy is the Great Republican Gerrymander of 2011, which helped elect and now protects the 45 ideological insurgents in the House."

Their congressional districts were engineered so starkly in their favor that in the 2014 mid-term elections, they beat their Democratic opponents by an average 38 percentage points, a staggering margin. Only two had competitive general election races. Three had districts with such a lock for the Republican nominee that no Democrat even bothered to run.

Those protected monopolies back home give the Republican rebels a rare kind of political immunity. They can overthrow a Speaker or bring Congress to a halt without fear of retribution from either the party leadership or the voters. Partisan gerrymandering and party primaries with shockingly low turnouts, mainly of party loyalists and extremist voters, virtually guarantee their re-election.

Forty of the rebel band, mostly organized now in the Freedom Caucus, come from GOP-gerrymandered states. All but one or two are very junior members of Congress, from the tea party class of 2010 and from the “RedMap” classes of 2012 and 2014.

“RedMap” is the code name that Republican Party leaders gave to their secret nationwide campaign to dominate the once-a-decade redistricting process in 2011 by capturing majority control of as many state legislatures as possible in the 2010 election.

RedMap was inspired by Karl Rove, the GOP campaign guru, who opined pragmatically, “He who controls redistricting can control Congress.” The GOP invested $30 million in legislative races and scored sweeping gains. Nationwide, Republicans picked up 675 legislative seats, gaining control of legislatures in states that held 40 percent of all House seats, versus Democrats, with only 10 percent.

Never before had any party implemented gerrymandering as a national strategy.

The payoff was immediate and palpable. As the RedMap team later bragged, the GOP lost the presidency and the Senate in 2012 and lost the nationwide popular vote for the House, but nevertheless came out with a 33-seat majority in the House.

The key, RedMap’s architects trumpeted, was GOP gerrymandering in pivotal states such as Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

But there was a catch. The Great Gerrymander of 2011 that helped cement the party’s House majority also embedded the rump faction of anti-government extremists that toppled Boehner and now faces whoever becomes his successor. Fundamental political reforms are needed, and they need to come from outside Washington — at the state level.

California offers a roadmap, with its independent redistricting commission. But Florida offers a second model and is a vital testing ground because its Republican gerrymandering in 2010 produced six of today’s House rebels, more than any other state, and its gerrymander system has been challenged by citizen reformers.

In 2010, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and other civic groups enlisted enough public support to put on the ballot and then pass a statewide referendum barring partisan gerrymandering “with the intent to favor or disfavor” either political party or to protect incumbents. When the Republican-dominated Legislature ignored that mandate, citizens groups filed suit.

This summer, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that the Republican gerrymander of 2011 was blatantly partisan and unconstitutional. It ordered the Legislature to redraw eight of the state’s congressional districts. Just a week ago, a circuit court in Florida rejected the Legislature’s new maps as inadequate and adopted some proposals from citizens groups. Now, the court-approved maps threaten to scramble several Florida districts and unseat at least three incumbents, including the rebel choice for speaker, Webster.

"Florida is a key state in current congressional gerrymandering flap".

"State officials . . . smug complacency should end — now"

The Miami Herald editors point out that those Floridians "who remain out of work are still at great risk of being needlessly thwarted by the state of Florida’s very expensive but practically useless unemployment-insurance website, the target of a recent piece by Herald columnist Fred Grimm."

Basically, out-of-work Floridians are getting stiffed by the state. The website, CONNECT, after $77 million for installation and subsequent repairs, doesn’t work. Pages freeze and error messages abound. Residents wholly eligible for unemployment benefits get rejection notices instead.

The website came on line two years ago, touted as state of the art. Instead, it remains in a sorry state of inaccessibility. CONNECT has been an expensive roadblock between too many unemployed residents and the funds they need to pay rent or a mortgage, put food on the table and pay the bills during a tough time.

Worse, state officials have seemed to have remained content to let this untenable situation remain in place. Their smug complacency should end — now. It’s not as if they have been caught unaware. The problems started right off the bat when the website rolled out in October 2013. It was such a mess that the U.S. Department of Labor parachuted in, forcing the state to pay benefits upfront and address the site’s problems later.

Well, it’s later.

In February, Florida’s auditor general issued its findings that during a four-month period in 2014, 44 percent of the more than 408,000 claims processed were simply sent off into the web equivalent of the Twilight Zone. Applicants were instructed to submit their Social Security numbers, even though that was not a requirement. Moreover, the audit found weak security protections. . . .

One can’t help but think this is deliberate. In 2011, the Legislature imposed a series of major changes to the program that, the most recent report says, “made it more difficult for unemployed workers to access, qualify for and maintain benefits, and decreased the duration of benefits qualified unemployed workers were eligible to receive. The law imposed new barriers to benefit eligibility and expanded benefit disqualifications.”

State lawmakers should call Jesse Panuccio, head of the Department of Economic Opportunity, to account and remove the stumbling blocks that they put in place in 2011.

"There’s work, but state fails at its job."