Friday, October 24, 2014

State of Florida 2014 Midterms: Early Voting in Tamarac

Used to live here in Tamarac, when I worked for the library system between 1994-2003.  I'm visiting today for personal reasons - to absent friends - but needed a place to wait for the afternoon services and so as a librarian would I made my way to the local branch.

I forgot a lot of the Broward libraries offer themselves up for Early Voting polling areas.  Tamarac branch no exception.

What was nice was running into a set of volunteers for the local and state issues on the ballots: you know, the sign-wavers standing outside of the 75-foot perimeter away from the front door.  Especially a group of pro-Amendment 2 canvassers:

Big props to anyone and everyone who's taking the time to canvass the polling places anywhere out there in Florida (and all other states) this time of year.  This is civic participation, this is the free speech and public assembly the Founders wanted for their posterity.

Inside they've taken a whole corner of the library floor to set up the polling booths, with an elaborate queuing line into a meeting room where the optiscanners and ID stations are set up.  I don't think I can take pictures of it, only to tell you that they've got more polling booths set up here than I've ever seen at any other Early Voting spot in the last 12 years.  And this is just Tamarac: the other libraries must be set up the same way.  Have to expect a lot of people, I suppose...

It's a cloudy day today, threatening to rain and all.  Weather gets to be like this in late October in South Florida.  Still, today's a good day to GET THE VOTE OUT FLORIDA!  Don't forget to vote YES on 1, YES on 2, NO on 3, YES on Crist and NO on every Republican from Rick "I Ain't Testifying Today, Judge" Scott down.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

If This Doesn't Make You Angry Enough, You're Willfully Allowing The Death of the Middle Class To Continue...

There's another chart or three detailing just how f-cked a majority of Americans are right now in this ongoing - yes, this ain't over kids - recession.

Here, take a look at this (via the Washington Post):
The dark blue line represents what we'd consider the Middle AND Lower Class here in the U.S.  Essentially the botton 90 percentile of families based on real average wealth (with wealth defined by income, equity, et al).  Starting off at the post-WWII spot of 1945, you'll see the three tiers of income - Bottom 90, Top 10, Top 1 Percent - all going upward during the 1950s and even improving for the Bottom 90 in the late 1980s and 1990s (when Reagan's income tax reforms kicked in, property values went up, new technology jobs started).

Up until about 2005-06, near about the start of the Great Recession that we're still in.

Everybody dropped.  Every market got hit - stock market, commodities, property market - and there was a massive downturn.  It looks like the downturn took a two-year, three-year dive before flattening out for the three years following... except for the 1 Percenter track.  Where the Bottom 90 AND the Top 10 Percenters flattened, the 1 Percenters went up, and went up sharp.

What the hell happened there?  Referring to that Washington Post article:
...The problem was that middle class doesn't own that much in stocks, but went into debt to buy lots of housing. So the housing crash turned their biggest financial asset into an albatross, wiping out their equity but not their debt. And the housing recovery hasn't done much to fix this, since it's struggled to move beyond the "nascent" stage.
Stocks, meanwhile, collapsed during the crisis, but came back soon thereafter. The middle class, in other words, missed out on the big bull market in stocks, but not on the even bigger bear one in housing. That's why the recovery has restored so little of the wealth that the recession destroyed. In fact, the bottom 90 percent have actually kept losing net worth the past few years, in large part, due to rising student loan debt...
Not all recoveries were made equal: the stock market flourished, the investment population flourished, the rest of us got screwed with debt up to our ears.

One thing I keep seeing from the hate-the-poor tweeters and Facebook posters on the Intertubes is how it's the poor people's fault they don't invest in the obviously-successful, will-always-go-up stock markets.  I keep replying when I can to let them know that not everyone can play the market: even a MENSA member like me can't make heads or tails of stock profiles and investment surveys.  Every poor person simply can't afford to pay into stock ownership, no matter how smart they are, because stocks themselves get expensive.  And most middle-class Americans didn't have much free money on hand to dabble either.  If the middle class invested in anything, it was in something tangible and focused: their homes, and they left the stock market stuff to their pension plans and 401(k)s.  For the 1980s and 1990s, the system worked after all: property values increased, and most Americans thought themselves well-off regardless of how much wealth they really controlled.

Which leads to the second chart from that Post article:

The Bottom 90 Percenters - 90 percent of ALL Americans - saw their percentage of the nation's overall wealth drop from over a 1/3 (37 percent) of everything down to less than a 1/4 (23 percent) of everything.  We never really had all that much, but we had enough to spread around and feel secure.  Now 90 percent of us aren't getting as much of the pie as we used to get.

Meanwhile, look at the Top 10 Percenters.  Sure, the 10-to-1 Percenters dropped as well, but not as sharp as the Bottom 90.  And the Top 10-to-1 holds 35 percent of the share.  Add that to the Top 1-to-.1 Percenters who hold 20 percent, and add again to the .1-to-.01 Percent (the REALLY rich) also 11-12 percent and then add the .01 Percenters themselves (the UBER rich) at 11 percent share and you've got 77 PERCENT of total wealth held by the Top 10 Percenters.  The Top .1 Percenters at roughly 42 percent - nearly double of 90 PERCENT OF ALL AMERICANS - of all total wealth.

We haven't seen income disparity like this since the days of the Great Depression, when the poor were REALLY poor and the rich were REALLY rich.

And this recession - where wages for the middle classes and the poor have stagnated for years, even more than a decade by now - isn't over yet.  Debt for lower-income families- for even what we'd still consider the middle class - remains crushing and getting worse.  We've taken some of the debt woes from healthcare finances out of the equation but not by much, and we're looking at increased debt woes from higher education costs.  Piling on-top of that is the fact our housing industry hasn't improved and the foreclosure problems - with banks still bad-faith actors - remain a threat.

So what if anything are we doing as a nation about the massive personal debts - mortgages, college costs, other costs - we have threatening what's left of our middle class?

Nothing.  Not a goddamn thing.

Angry yet?

Just a Reminder to All Florida Voters During This Early Voting Cycle

If Rick "No Ethics" Scott wins this November, and if prominent Republican governors like Scott "John Doe Investigation" Walker and Chris "BridgeGate" Christie either lose this November or end up indicted... then Rick "Medicare Fraud" Scott becomes a front-runner for the GOP nomination for the Presidency in 2016.

Think I'm joking?  If Scott wins, it will be even against all evidence that Scott has run a mismanaged and corrupt governor's office.  It'll be in a state where the enthusiasm for Scott isn't even all that great among the average Republican voters (and where the Far Right are more fixated on just winning at all costs against the dreaded Obama).  He would win in a state that voted for Obama twice and has a 500,000 voter advantage for Democrats over Republicans (if you're thinking "oh well maybe the 3 million NPA voters will all go for Scott," no f-cking way).  And winning in a state where the libertarian candidate (who would traditionally pull away votes from right-leaning candidates) is seemingly getting enough votes (8 percent, maybe?) to prevent anyone from getting a solid 50 percent or more turnout.

If Scott wins it will be due to his getting the wingnut factions of the state to turn out in enough numbers to overwhelm what should be, what has been a vociferous and angry left-centrist faction (the hostility I've seen on the anti-Scott webpages is on par to the hostility I've seen directed at Obama: I've never seen other former governors like Jeb Bush mocked and despised at such a level...).  While Scott's victory may be blamed on the Dems stumbling (oh GOD I hope not) over another centrist candidate, that won't matter to the Far Right.  They'll see a Republican governor who won re-election in a state Obama won.  They'll think he won on "the issues" of tax cuts, refusing Obamacare Medicaid funding, and being a swell example of a Randian "make the poor piss for their food stamps" CEO-turned-elected official.

Personally, hopefully, PRAYING that the voters of Florida are angry enough at a bad governor like Rick "Fraud Up The Wazoo" Scott to turn up in droves to drown out the Far Right voters, that Crist is good enough a campaigner to ensure that turnout for him and for the Democrats as a whole.  I am hopeful that we'll see Rick "WHAT PART OF MEDICARE FRAUD DID YOU KEEP OVERLOOKING REPUBLICANS?" Scott running in shame from the cameras after a decisive electoral loss on the night of November 4th.  But hope is one thing, reality another.  The polling has been up and down too much this year to feel comfortable about Crist winning.  WE NEED VOTER TURNOUT PLEASE GOD.  We need 4.5 million registered Democrats AND enough of the 3 million NPA to get out the vote saying "Go to Hell you Medicare Fraud" kicking Scott out the door.

None of us ought to wake up to seeing Rick Scott trolling Iowa for voters in Winter 2015.  /shudder

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Another Florida Folly

Even with all the general weirdness and madness of a last-minute campaign run for a hotly-contested gubertorial race here in the Sunshine State, we've got this going on as a distraction:
This map is from a coalition operating out of the City of South Miami.  City officials want to split off the southern half of the state so they can form their own, one that would do something about the climate change/flooding doom facing the coastline:
...(Vice Mayor) Harris told the commission that Tallahassee isn't providing South Florida with proper representation or addressing its concerns when it comes to sea-level rising.
"We have to be able to deal directly with this environmental concern and we can’t really get it done in Tallahassee," Harris said. "I don’t care what people think -- it’s not a matter of electing the right people."

The solution isn't that simple, crew.

I think I've argued in other articles about secession that the logistics of such a move - either to become an independent nation or a separate state - would be self-defeating.  While the move to become a state won't be as risky - the federal government is still there providing a foundation - there are still massive issues over revenue sources, property rights, and bureaucratic snafus.

First off, the existing state government has to sign off on this.  Considering South Florida is a major financial, trade, tourist, entertainment metropolis (Miami is one of the major global cities), Tallahassee may be loathe to give up that tax base.  That this coalition wants to grab the next two major metros in Tampa Bay and Orlando - as well as key metros like Ft. Myers/Naples and Lakeland - is going to leave North Florida with just Jacksonville, Pensacola, Tallahassee, Ocala and Gainesville (with J'Ville the only real metro).  Tampa is another major financial hub and seaport... Orlando has Mickey Mouse and global tourism money... South Florida is going to be taking a lot of money off the table and there's no way our current government will give up all of that.

The first thought I had when I saw the makeshift map up there was "why the hell does Miami-Dade want to include all the redneck counties between there and Tampa/Orlando?"  Reading that article helped spell it out: Orlando/Orange County is where Florida manages the water resources that South Florida needs.  But still, the logic of the map eludes me, because there's another thing that the secession types keep overlooking: even with a single state there are cultural and socio-political rivalries that prevent such clean break-ups ever happening.

Florida is not easily divided into two parts.  At best - at the very least - it can be divided into six territories.  If the state of Florida ever fractures it most likely go like this:

  • South Florida (Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, the Keys) - Everything from West Palm Beach down to Homestead is one big metro.  If you've ever read the Dredd comics, where they came up with megacities that engulfed entire states, you might get an idea what South Florida looks like: an uninterrupted chain of highways packed with suburbs, slums, business towers, and sports arenas.  The Keys from Largo to West may not be packed, but it's pretty much joined to the hip to Miami-Dade - literally, it's the only way in or out by car - and part of the same tourism appeal and Caribbean culture.  This might include Martin County, maybe even Saint Lucie...
  • Southwest Florida (Ft.Myers-Lee, Collier, Charlotte, inner counties south of Polk) - pretty much the last part of Florida to get suburbanized, and one with a lot of political-religious-social cohesion along the coastline.  The inner counties are mostly farmland and some of the least populated counties.  They'd have to choose between Miami-Broward-Palm Beach (an area they share little with), Tampa Bay/Polk County (same issue), or form their own faction (with Martin/St. Lucie/Okechobee Counties) surrounding the key geographic feature of the area, Lake Okechobee.  Taking their chances with Ft. Myers/Naples metro would be the likeliest move...
  • Tampa Bay (Pinellas, Tampa-Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, Polk, Pasco, maybe Hernando Counties) - Defined by one of the key growth markets of the early 1980s that made Florida the 4th most populous state within a decade, not as big a financial market as South Florida but still a major trading port anchored by a coherent media market, healthcare industry, and sports franchises.  They'd get Sarasota County because the city of Sarasota is too close to the southern reach of the metro to split off with Port Charlotte-Ft. Myers-Naples...
  • Greater Orlando (Orange, Seminole, Osceola, Brevard, Indian River, Volusia, Lake, maybe Sumter Counties) - the tourist Mecca.  Orlando brings in the people for the amusement parks, Brevard and Volusia brings in the beach tourists eager to visit Daytona and Cocoa Beach.  The South Florida group foolishly cuts off Seminole from Orange, despite the urban reach of Orlando overlapping Seminole as an outlying suburban circle of Purgatory. This faction could conceivably pick up Polk County if they make the right offer (more condos in Haines City!)...
  • Northeast Florida/Jacksonville (Jacksonville/Duval, every County east of the Suwanee River) - Where North Florida kinda becomes indistinguishable from the Deep South, and has more in common with Georgia than the urban centers of Central/South Florida.  Jacksonville would be the major seaport and business center, with Gainesville as the cultural/academic center.  There's little else up here except for horse farms and cattle.
  • Northwest Florida (Tallahassee, Pensacola, Panama City, sparsely populated Counties west of the Suwanee) - the other half of North Florida, the Panhandle.  Tallahassee is the state capitol and home of two universities (Florida St. the big draw), and then you gotta drive three hours and a time zone to get to Pensacola and that's pretty much it.  There's an airbase where they test UFOs and some decent southern-facing beaches, but that's it.  And if the state goes bonkers and splits up like this, there's a good chance Pensacola might just pack up and merge with Alabama, as that region has more in common with Mobile than Tallahassee...

Even the scenario I've painted here is unlikely: the state could easily fracture into ten parts as much as six, and there's little incentive for the sections to split off (yes, even for South Florida) because the costs of forming a new government - new elected officials, new government buildings, new bureaucracies to manage the graft - are just too damn high.  Mind, South Florida (just Miami-to-Palm Beach alone) might have enough financial muscle to pull it off, but barely.  The other parts of Florida would never afford such a move.

The other point of this proposed split is that South Florida residents are increasingly worried about the global climate change - the global warming in particular - that's due to flood out most of Dade and Broward Counties by 2020.  The costs of pumping out rising seawater from the sewers and streets are getting higher by the month: flooding is not happening during hurricanes anymore, it's happening during peak moon tides.  The response from Tallahassee has been to basically handle it as an ongoing crisis kept as far away from the news cameras as possible: but sooner rather than later the beaches that the state prides on won't even be there anymore, and boating won't be done on the Intercoastal, it will be done on Hwy 441.

But if South Miami/Florida thinks splitting itself off to form its own government will help matters, it won't by much.  They'll still have to cope with the costs of pumping and reinforcing flood walls, for one thing.  They'll have to contend with the fact our federal government - cough, oil-and-coal-paid-for pols with both parties, cough - is ignoring the problems of climate change altogether, something that a new state still won't be able to overcome.  And considering the map that the South Miami group is pushing, the new state government they'll form is going to include a lot of Republican-leaning red counties (Ft. Myers and Naples, Lakeland and Orlando and the infamous I-4 Corridor, the suburban outlets of Tampa and Pinellas) that might counter the more urban-leaning Democratic areas of South Florida itself (not to mention the conservative Cuban population in Dade/Broward mucking up matters).

Just chalk this up as another pipe dream by a local group of concerned citizens horrified that the leadership in Tall Hassle (the nickname for the corrupt capitol of the Xanth fantasy series whose map mimics Florida's) isn't working to answer their concerns.  A better alternative than wasting time and effort to forge a new state would be focusing on CLEANING UP the political mess of the existing state by voting out the corrupt Republican bastards who are ignoring climate change in the first place.

Alright, I'm off to bed.  Just remember kids, here in Florida we've got Early Voting going on, and you all need to GET THE VOTE OUT and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T VOTE REPUBLICAN.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Early Voting In Florida 2014, October to November. GET OUT THE VOTE, PEOPLE

Early voting for the General Election (Nov. 4th) begins today here in Florida.  Polk County (the state officially begins Oct. 25th, but some counties can go earlier if they want).

This is it.

This is the election to get Rick "No Ethics" Scott out of office, and to vote Charlie Crist back as a Governor we can trust.

This is the election to vote against every Republican on the ballot to break the corrupt power this party has inflicted on our state the last 15-20 years.

This is the election to vote FOR our state's environment in Amendment One and to vote FOR our state to begin medicinal marijuana in Amendment Two and to vote AGAINST the rigged court-packing disaster in Amendment Three.

Early voting is simple.  It's for people who can't get off work or know they won't be available to vote on Election Day itself.  Voting hours (in Polk County at least) are 9 AM to 6 PM Monday through Saturday (yes! You can vote on Saturday in case you're working Mon-Fri always and forever), and 10 AM to 6 PM on the one Sunday October 26th.  Each county will list locations where they will have polling places that allow anyone from any part of the county to show up to vote (it does not require a specific precinct for you to use).  Last day of Early Voting in Florida will be November 1st (Saturday).

Bring every possible form of ID with you that shows a photo of you with Elvis shaking your hand, your primary address, blood type, birth origin, dog license cat license fish license, anything and everything in case you run into some a-hole trying to deny your RIGHT to vote.

Turnout for voting is key, people.  Small turnouts mean only the extremist candidates and extremist parties win.  The more voters, the more likely the common-ground common-sense votes carry the day.


And for the Love of God DON'T VOTE REPUBLICAN.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

First Rule Of Public Debates: Never Do Anything Stupid or Petty. Or Throw A Hissy Fit.

(UDPATE: hello to all Crooks & Liars visitors!  Just remember these three things: please comment if you want, although I ask you not use 'anonymous' as an ID; please prepare for NaNoWriMo this November; and when you speak of Ta-Nehisi Coates and the Horde, speak well.  You can find me Tweeting away on #fantrum to my heart's content... P.S. GET THE VOTE OUT PEOPLE)

So there was supposed to be a Governor's debate here in Florida tonight between Charlie Crist and Rick Scott.

So before the debate begins, there's a bit of confusion going on, and then finally the debate moderators had to note conflict brewing backstage.

So what happens is that Crist has a floor fan he takes everywhere.  Every public speech or gathering he's got a a small floor fan that can fit under a podium or chair and uses it for cooling down.

This is old news.  It's been reported on as recently as this August.  There's a fake Twitter account for Charlie Crist's Fan that's been around since 2009.  (UPDATE: It turns out Crist had one as far back as 2006 when he campaigned for Governor then... the debate promoter ended up providing a fan to the opponent Tom Gallagher...) I'm willing to bet Crist had a fan like that at last week's Hispanic Debate.  Another thing to point out: This is Florida.  Nearly everybody in the state has a floor fan like that, or a ceiling fan, or an oscillating fan.  IT'S FLORIDA: IT GETS HOT DOWN HERE.  Even in October.

But somehow Scott and/or his campaign handlers didn't like Crist having that floor fan around and argued to have it against the rules at this debate for Crist to have it there.

So, the fan is there under Crist's podium and Scott decides to refuse to take the stage.  For seven minutes, Crist's pretty much the only one up there, cracking at least one awkward joke at Scott's expense before Scott finally came out to begin the debate proper.

Why Scott has to throw a hissy fit over a fan makes little or no sense.  It's not like the fan is a f-cking teleprompter or Blackberry giving Crist an edge.  See above: THIS IS FLORIDA.  There are fans everywhere.  As Crist says towards the end of the debate when the fan issue became the question, "What's wrong with being comfortable?"

As Michael Mayo at the Sun-Sentinel notes:
...that Crist, our former governor, looked bad for so desperately clinging to his trusty sweat protector. And Scott, our current governor, looked worse for almost scuttling the debate over something so silly.

It's already made the national media sites.  I won't doubt that the Republican partisan sites will talk up Crist's evilness in bringing an EVIL DEMONIC floor fan onto the stage like that.  But what does it say about Scott's demeanor that he threw the adult equivalent of a child's tantrum?

Look, like it or not that is a state-wide - and tonight of all nights a NATIONAL - stage upon which to present yourself as a cool, capable, level-headed politician.  There are several rules about debating (one them is literally "don't let them see you sweat!"), and one of the top rules is "Never act stupid or petty at the podium."

Look to Rick Perry back in 2011-12 for God's sake.  He came in late to the GOP primaries as a "white knight" figure - a Far Right governor of a Far Right state popular with the GOP wingnuts - only to blow it on the debate stage when he couldn't remember the three federal agencies he'd close down as President.  The stupidity was so painful that moment that his fellow debaters jumped in to remind him.

In terms of pettiness, bad debate performances turn on how one of the debaters would get stuck on some minor detail or annoyance and flare it up into a useless argument.  This is where Scott screwed up.  Where Crist came out to the stage to begin the debate, Scott refused.  A smart debater would have come out, pointed out the rule, asked Crist directly to work that debate without the fan, shift the burden completely onto Crist, and proceed with the event.  Instead, Scott came across acting like a spoiled child who wasn't getting his way and was going to take his toys and go home.

So who had the Oops Moment here?  Crist may have brought out a floor fan against Scott's wishes but he was the one who came out prepared to actually debate.  Scott was fighting an argument over a floor fan that Crist has used almost his entire political career with no scandal, and was "standing up" for his argument by throwing a tantrum.  Over a fan.  IN FLORIDA.

Our state's entire existence depended on air conditioning, and Scott is throwing a hissy fit over a fan.  How many Floridians are sitting at home watching this debate thinking "why the hell doesn't Scott have a floor fan?"

If our governor's election turns entirely on how the average Floridian thinks about the use of floor fans during a debate, AND STILL VOTES FOR RICK "NO COOL" SCOTT, we deserve to sink into the rising climate change waters.

Going to bed now.  When I wake up tomorrow morning I wanna see at least 60 percent of my fellow Floridians claiming they're fans of Charlie Crist.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Florida 2014 Election: Sample Ballots and Reminder

Just got mine in the mail from the County Elections office.

Some of you may be voting by mail.  Some of you should plan ahead and vote during the EARLY VOTING cycle between October 20th to November 1st.  Some may be traditionalists and wait until the Day itself, first Tuesday in November which is November 4th.

The key thing is to VOTE.  GET THE VOTE OUT FLORIDA!  I don't wanna see 39 percent or 42 percent turnout this midterms.  I wanna see 76 percent!  I WANNA SEE 90 PERCENT TURNOUT PEOPLE.  Your vote, your voice, your POWER.  VOTE DAMMIT.

But, you might say to the computer screen, I don't know what to vote on!

Well, then, glad you asked, lemme help you out here.  Two basic rules:

That doesn't help us much, Mr. Blogger you say can you speel it out for us?

Sigh.  Fine.  Let's go through the ballot topics.  Federal first:

1) There is no Senate seat contested (per the 2/3 cycle), so wait until 2016 to vote Marco Rubio out.
2) Any Congressional district you are in that has a Republican candidate and a Democratic candidate, VOTE DEMOCRAT.  Any district you are in that has a Republican candidate and a Libertarian candidate, vote for a valid Write-In Candidate.  Any district where there's a Republican and a No-Party-Affiliate candidate only, vote for the NPA (unless you know the NPA personally as an -sshole, in which case sue the state for emotional damages).  Any district where there's a Republican candidate unchallenged, curse the Old Gods and The New and volunteer to campaign next election on the ballot because dammit you gotta vote that crooked Bent-For-Destruction GOP out of power.

If you're in District 9, vote Alan Grayson.  District 10, vote Alan Cohn.  District 17, vote Will Bronson.  District 3, vote Marihelen Wheeler.  District 12... District 12... BILIRAKIS IS RUNNING UNOPPOSED?!?!  DAMMIT DEMOCRATS, YOU COWARDS.  Whadda ya gonna do, let Bilirakis sit there in office until he retires to let his son inherit the seat the same way Gus inherited it from Mike?!  30-plus years of the same family running a little fiefdom in North Pinellas/West Pasco?!  DAMMIT.

Anyway, any seat where there's a Democrat and a Republican, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD VOTE DEMOCRAT.  Let Gus represent the GOP all on his loneso... whadda ya mean there's other unchallenged Republican seats?!  /headdesk


Next up, the Governor and state official races:

1) VOTE CHARLIE CRIST for governor.  He did a decent job as governor before (made efforts to protect the environment, played fair with the electorate, vetoed a bad and unpopular education bill), not a partisan hack like Scott nor a pocket-lining greedhead like Scott.
2) For Attorney General, vote George Sheldon.  Bondi has been a disaster as AG for Florida: pursuing bad anti-gay and anti-voter court rulings, failing to go after utilities for unfair price hikes, and refusing to pursue many of the conflicts-of-interest cases floating around our state government.  She's been Scott's partner in crime than representing the people's interests.  Sheldon can and should go after the utilities above anything else and will protect the rights of voters and the citizenry over the needs of any partisan in office.
3) For Chief Financial Officer... aaaaaaaauuugggggghhhhhh.  There's a Republican and a Democrat on the ballot, but the papers are complaining about the Democratic Will Rankin's lackluster campaigning and are noting that the Republican Jeff Atwater has actually done an honest job of things in Tallahassee.  Don't do this to me, Florida Dems...
4) For Agricultural Commissioner (which also covers consumer services for some reason)... dammit.  Democrats have another lackluster guy in Thad Hamilton running against Republican Adam Putnam who again has a solid record per the local papers.  Thing is... dammit dammit dammit, cannot vote for ANY Republican at any level of office, it just encourages the party wingnuts to be worse...  On the bright side, the Agriculture slot has a Write-In ballot space.  Find a viable write-in candidate and file a protest vote!

Now for the State legislative offices, both Senate and House:
1) What part of FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON'T VOTE REPUBLICAN have you not noticed yet?
2) For the Senate seats, there are almost no challenged seats, so there's few if any choices.  Of the 20 seats for election, there are only 5 challenges, meaning two Democrats and 13 Republicans are returning to Tall Hassle unopposed (!).  If there are ANY of those seats with a Write-In ballot choice, I recommend you fill in that Write-In as a protest vote against this ridiculous incumbency.
3) For the House seats, again there are few (less than 30 percent of them) if any challenged seats.  Again this is an insult to the voters that our state-level parties (especially the Democrats) are COWARDS when it comes to forcing incumbents to answer for their legislative sins.  Again, if there are ANY seats with a Write-In ballot choice, fill in the Write-In ballot as a protest vote and slap some fear into both parties.

For the Judicial Retention votes:

Remember last election, Rick "No Ethics" Scott and his buddies tried to actively vote out judges in order to fill those vacancies with his pro-Scott cronies.  It was the first time ever there was a partisan effort against the judges.  As long as Scott is in office, VOTE TO KEEP THE JUDGES (It helps that none of them up for vote have been embarrassments or crooked on the bench).

For the State Amendments on the ballot:

As I wrote earlier, we're down to three so it keeps it short and simple.
VOTE YES ON 1 to protect our wetlands and environment and water supply.
VOTE YES ON 2 to allow for medicinal marijuana and provide an end to the disastrous War on Drugs.
VOTE NO ON 3 to stop Rick Scott from preemptively packing the state courts with his cronies.

For any county-level or city-level tax referendums (referenda? damn my Latin which plural form fits...):

Vote YES on any tax hike program because F-CK YOU Grover Norquist.  Granted, this is more a knee-jerk reaction to the tax-cutting frauds dominating our discourse, but dammit too many of our public services at the county level are getting slashed and burnt here.  Okay, I'll relent: if the tax hike in question is a blatant attempt at lining someone's (a rich corporation) pockets, then don't vote for it.  But if it's for needed social services, please vote YES.

I think there's a rail funding program for Pinellas County on the ballot.  DEFINITELY VOTE YES on Greenlight, Pinellas County: our metro areas need alternative transit options.

Also, for the Pasco County Mosquito Control Board?   Seat Two has four candidates and I don't know a single one of 'em.  You're gonna have to vote for who you know, Pasco County.  (Update 10/25/14: there have been two people commenting that they found my article trying to figure out who to vote to be their Mosquito Hunter Expert, upset I didn't make a recommendation.  So I did some research to dig up any kind of newspaper list, and so far the Tampa Bay Times Recommends list... doesn't make one either!  Sorry, folks, you're gonna have to ask around about which of the four - Matthew "Skeeter" (?) Abbott, Bill Law, Niko Tzoumas, or Jerry Wells - to pick...)

Okay, voters reading this blog, that should help you make your informed decisions on Election Day/Early Voting/Mail-in Balloting.

GO VOTE.  Tell your friends to vote.  Tell your family to vote.  Tell your co-workers to vote.  If your co-workers say they can't vote during the workday, encourage your co-workers to vote on the weekend (including a Sunday October 26th!) during the Early Voting period.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Job Hunting In Florida 2014: Still A Nightmare

Remember the noise over Obamacare's website woes?

At least eventually got fixed within two months.  We've got a situation here in Florida where the state's unemployment benefit claims site has been broken for a full year since it got revamped (via Tampa Bay Times):
Despite promises from Gov. Rick Scott's administration that the state's new online unemployment system is fixed, unpaid claims keep mounting and Florida now ranks last in the nation at providing timely relief for jobless workers...
...Complaints like that are nothing new for CONNECT, the state's online filing system for unemployment benefits that 1.1 million workers rely on every year. Upon its launch — one year ago — it wrongly withheld payments from thousands of job seekers because of more than 100 technical defects. But after a series of emergency measures, a Scott appointee in March vowed that problems had been fixed.
"The bottom line is that we have resolved the delays caused by CONNECT's launch," Jesse Panuccio, the executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity, told state senators in late March. "Service is now better than it was prior to CONNECT."
Federal labor statistics say otherwise.
In the year before CONNECT launched, Florida paid 78 percent of initial claims of up to $275 within two to three weeks, a federal benchmark that measures timeliness, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
The claims Florida paid on time dropped to 48 percent, however, in the year since CONNECT launched, making it last in the nation.
And it could be getting worse. Based on preliminary data, only 27 percent were paid on time over the last three months...
I can tell you from my own perspective at the library where I work the CONNECT system is still a major headache.  There's been a good number - about six or seven new people in the last two weeks - of people trying to get into CONNECT only to run into roadblocks such as the database not confirming data or having their determination still on hold because a certain form hasn't been faxed or emailed to the main office.

Meanwhile, the county's employment offices - renamed CareerSource Polk - are still packed and overwhelmed with people needing help with filing claims and job-hunting.  I try to help as much as possible at the library, but since I'm not fully tied into the employment system there's only so much I can do, and I'm forced to refer our library users to those career offices where they'd have to wait for hours to get any help.  We had a mobile bus service that stopped by once a month (it'd be nice if CareerSource could set up offices in more cities around here) but the manager for that changed jobs two months ago and they haven't found a replacement yet (if ever).

And these people need help.  They are not for the most part tech-savvy.  I've had two of them confused by odd wording on their options.  They end up clicking menu choices that detour them from where they need to go.  We need a cleaner, more concise website.  Hell, we need more people to help out navigate these sites: we need to recognize that not everything can or should be all self-serve online, that our job-seekers need help.

And for all of this, the fact that the government is delaying their payments must be maddening.  No wonder that Times article notes that our real unemployment numbers - where work-capable people simply opt out - are worse than the official 6.2 percent in-state.

What's maddening for me is how this isn't a bigger story.  We're talking about a system's state-wide failure that's been going on for a full year now, and yet it's barely made a beep on the radar until now.  Here's hoping this story gets picked up and promoted as we head into the election, because this needs to be one more nail in Rick "What Part of FRAUD Did You Republican Voters Keep Overlooking" Scott's electoral coffin.  One big reason the CONNECT system hasn't been fixed is that the damn company paid to implement it is still getting money they haven't earned:
Despite the growing backlog, Deloitte's relationship with Florida did improve. In June, it negotiated a contract extension that pays the company another $1.5 million to fix its own errors.
Deloitte's contract extension ends Nov. 20, but gives the company the option to remain on the project another six months for up to $2.4 million... In all, Deloitte's total payday could be $49.6 million for the CONNECT job, 30 percent more than the contract's 2011 price...

Want a better working system, Florida?  Vote for Crist.  If Scott is in office by Nov. 20th, I guarantee you he'll sign Deloitte to a contract extension that will screw us Florida residents for even more money for bad service.