Monday, July 28, 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Ethics Of Rick Scott

Basically, he doesn't have any.

Yes, let's do start off with the fact he ran a corporation that committed billions in Medicare Fraud to where the company had to fire him and pay $1.7 billion total in fines.

He still - God help us - bought his way into the Governor's office in 2010.  So let's look at a lot of the questionable things he's done in office:

His hand-picked Lt. Governor Jennifer Carroll had to resign over her own ethics conflicts and criminal investigation involving Internet gambling cafes.

His hand-picked Education Commissioner had to resign over evidence he intervened in falsifying school evaluations owned by a prominent Republican Party fundraiser at his previous employ in Indiana.  So far, Scott isn't showing any skill in hiring the best of the best to work with him.  Speaking of...

He's had a high turnover rate of staff moreso than other governors, either due to scandal (see above) or internal office conflicts that point to a chaotic and mismanaged office.

He had on staff during his transition period one Adam Hollingsworth, who advised against the high-speed rail deal, then promptly went to work for a rail company pushing the All Aboard Florida project that rivaled the high-speed rail plan.  Thing about All Aboard Florida is that its:
...256-mile rail service has been touted from the beginning as a completely privately financed project that will not cost the state a dime, which is the reason Scott said he supports the plan... At this point, though, the project is seeking $1.5 billion in federal loans that could be key to refinancing its existing debt, and more than $230 million in state dollars already have been set aside for projects that either will directly or indirectly benefit All Aboard Florida’s rail line...
Too much of this reeks of inside dealing.  As an op-ed in the Tampa Bay Times says:
It's now clear that All Aboard Florida was seeking special treatment from the governor's office as soon as Scott won the 2010 election... Meanwhile, state transportation officials have enabled All Aboard Florida to hide behind exemptions in the public records law to avoid releasing some documents, including a ridership survey that was part of its loan application process. Leaked documents obtained by the Scripps/Tribune Tallahassee bureau show much of the financial plan will rely on land development along the tracks, not ridership per se, just reinforcing that there is more the public deserves to know. Now Scott is asking the company to slow down to hear from concerned citizens, particularly those between Palm Beach County and Orlando, where no stops are scheduled. This is after he signed a budget that would pay for "quiet zones" in those neighborhoods and after his transportation agency had signed off on the project... Scott is all over the map on rail. ...Now he deceives voters by claiming no public money is going toward All Aboard Florida while millions in state dollars will be spent to make it work, his chief of staff has lobbied for it for years and his transportation department refuses to release documents that should be public...
Another questionable policy push Scott has been working on has been to force state employees and residents applying for financial aid of any kind to get drug-tested on a regular basis.  Despite the facts that 1) a majority of workers and benefits seekers ARE NOT DRUG USERS, and 2) the costs to the state to pay for all that testing was ridiculous.  It doesn't make sense until you consider that Rick Scott's pre-governor gig was being CEO for a chain of state-wide health clinics, which would have seen money pouring in from Scott's enforced drug tests.

Then just a few weeks ago, Scott's campaign committed a breach of campaign rules by having on-duty police officers appear at a rally, giving the impression that law enforcement was backing him for re-election.  Psst: you're not supposed to do that:
...Under Florida law, it's a first-degree misdemeanor for a public official to "directly or indirectly coerce" any employee to engage in political activity, and employees are prohibited from doing so while working.
Scott's campaign said it made its intentions clear but a high-ranking member of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office insisted that he believed he was going to a state event to meet the governor and discuss ways to reduce crime, which is why he asked several deputies to come along.
"We obviously didn't know we were going to a campaign event," said Hillsborough Col. Jim Previtera. "Had we known it was a campaign event, we wouldn't have been there."
Previtera said he was working on Friday, the Fourth of July, when Cody Vildostegui, a Scott campaign aide, asked him to attend a press conference Monday about reducing crime. Previtera's boss, Sheriff David Gee, who supports Scott, was unable to attend.
Also in attendance was another Scott supporter, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who said the same campaign staffer made it clear to him that it was an event promoting Scott's re-election bid.
When asked about it, repeatedly, by reporters at a following event, Rick Scott basically zoned out and refused to directly answer, giving either rote responses or trying to deflect the question.  It made him a punchline for CNN for God's sake.

And now we're getting reports of how his "blind" trust is making money from a pipeline deal one of his staffers promoted while on his payroll:

Upon his election, Gov. Rick Scott’s transition team included a Florida Power & Light executive who pitched his company’s plan to build a major natural gas pipeline in North Florida to fuel a new generation of gas-fired power plants in places like Port Everglades...
...Five months later, the Florida Public Service Commission, whose five members were appointed by Gov. Scott, unanimously approved construction of Sabal Trail as the state’s third major natural gas pipeline. More approvals are needed from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which the governor oversees.
What wasn’t publicly known in 2013, however, was that Gov. Scott owned a stake in Spectra Energy, the Houston company chosen by FPL that July to build and operate the $3 billion pipeline. Sabal Trail Transmission LLC is a joint venture of Spectra Energy and FPL’s parent, NextEra Energy.
BrowardBulldog.org’s review of financial records made public last month by Gov. Scott show that as of Dec. 31 his portfolio included several million dollars invested in the securities of more than two-dozen entities that produce and/or transport natural gas – including some, like Spectra, with substantial Florida operations.
His stake in Spectra Energy was reported as being worth $53,000 that day.
Florida’s ethics laws generally prohibit public officials like the governor from owning stock in businesses subject to their regulation, or that do business with state agencies. A similar prohibition exists on owning shares in companies that would “create a continuing or frequently recurring conflict” between an official’s private interests and the “full and faithful discharge” of his public duties...
The problem is that the stock purchase happened while his portfolio was under a "blind trust".  While Scott isn't supposed to have any interaction with his trust, there's no guarantee he didn't get word to his handlers to put a little money in on a company he knew was going to do some profitable business.  Similar to Scott's push to drug-test everybody (okay, I exaggerate, Scott doesn't want to drug-test Florida elected officials), this is where Scott's policy actions are directly affecting his business holdings.

All of these things taken separately, you don't see much: maybe you see an elected official's office in a level of disarray.  But if you put it together... if you see the habits that Scott keeps, and the environment in which he puts himself...

What I see is an ongoing pattern from well before his governorship of running his office with disregard for rules.  A disregard to the point where laws get broken in the pursuit of personal profits.  It's a habit that didn't stop the second he took his oath of office.  An oath he doesn't take seriously.

Rick Scott performs his job as governor to enrich Rick Scott the businessman and no one else.  He holds no ethical values that would conflict with his self-serving wants.  He pursues personal profit at the expense of the public interest.

This is not a man who deserves our vote.  This is not a man to put in a position of public trust.
 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Anniversary: Bravo

Before the day goes by, today is the 45th anniversary of one of mankind's greatest achievements:

With all congratulations to the late Neil Armstrong, to Buzz Aldrin, and to Michael Collins (who had to stay in the Command Module) for their historic flight there and back.

And also, due to their efforts, we were able to contribute to one of the best episodes of the television show Mad Men:

And with that "Bravo," Bert Cooper passes on... and later on that episode, Don Draper witnesses Bert's ghost sing "The Best Things In Life Are Free" in a mind-blowing (there are layers of symbolism behind this that would take a 20-page journal essay to spell out) closer:
The song, the setting, the moment... all because we as the human race achieved the moon.  We haven't really moved on from that moment - the technology can't sustain ourselves for long out there, so we're still on this fragile blue ball - but if anything out of all the wars and madness, we made it.  It may have cost a fortune, but we made it.  And it was a moment everyone back then shared... a moment we all share today, and it was in a way free for all.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

In One of Those BREAKING NEWS Moods Here In Florida, A Pro-People Moment

It's bound to get challenged and held pending God knows what other legal complaint, but for now Florida is the newest state to have a court overturn the ban on gay marriage:
Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis Garcia overturned Florida's 2008 constitutional gay-marriage ban on Thursday, and ordered that two Key West bartenders and other gay couples seeking to wed be allowed to marry.
"The court is aware that the majority of voters oppose same-sex marriage, but it is our country's proud history to protect the rights of the individual, the rights of the unpopular and rights of the powerless, even at the cost of offending the majority," Garcia wrote in his opinion, released about 1 p.m. Thursday.
The judge gave the Monroe County clerk's office until Tuesday before it can grant licenses for gay weddings, "in consideration of... anticipated rise in activity."
It was unclear early Thursday afternoon whether the state will appeal the ruling. A judge in Miami-Dade County has yet to rule in a similar case...
As noted, if this doesn't get delayed while waiting for the Miami-Dade courts, Monroe County's clerk on Tuesday will become a tidal wave of gay couples getting hitched.  South Florida - Key West included - does have a sizable gay community.

Florida also has a sizable Bible-thumping evangelical community which is bound to set their OUTRAGE meters to 11, so expect a ton of screechy End Of the World over the next few hours, days, weeks, years...

I FINALLY FOUND THAT ARTICLE I WAS LOOKING FOR

Apologies for the All-CAPS headline, but dammit I've been looking for a link to this thing for years.  I've really been trying to find it when I wrote my Presidential Character review of Bill Clinton last year.  As a librarian I revel in the success of finding a research item...

Lemme explain.  I wanted to make a point about Bill Clinton being an Active-Positive based on a character analysis on him talking about "future imperatives" and how America was a nation that looked forward by setting up goals that would benefit future generations and not the current one(s).  The article itself was really going into how the Baby Boomer generation - sans Clinton, who accepted the "future imperative" - was the horrific exception, the generation obsessed with its own needs and doing nothing to set up any "imperatives" for future kin.

Problem was I couldn't find the article, which I knew was at least archived somewhere: it was either an online article I saw in Salon or else in a magazine with political/current cultural focus like Rolling Stone or Esquire.  As a librarian who prides meself on finding anything, being unable to find this was frustrating.

This morning, doing some side work researching another matter, I decided to retry my search terms to focus more on the Baby Boomers and how they were destroying everything on the political landscape.  THAT'S when I got a search result to a New York Times 2012 op-ed called "The Entitled Generation".  And THAT referred to the article I was looking for!

The article by Paul Begala was in Esquire (I knew it was one of those) published April 2000 titled "The Worst Generation".  Finally.  At last.  I'll need to update that Clinton review now.

As for the reason I wasn't finding that article before: well, my bad, I mis-remembered the phrase.  It wasn't "future imperative" it was "future preference":

...It is my contention that the single greatest sin a generation can commit is the sin of selfishness. And it's from this standard that I draw my harsh conclusion. I'm not alone in this view, of course. The Boomer in Chief, my former boss, Bill Clinton, used to tell me about an influential professor he'd had at Georgetown. His name was Carroll Quigley, and he taught young Bill Clinton and hundreds of other Hoyas about something called the Future Preference.
I can still see Clinton doing his Quigley impression, eyes full of mischief, his voice an Arkansas version of a bad Boston accent, as we bounced around in a bus or flew through a thunderstorm on Air Elvis, our campaign plane back in 1992. "Mistah Begahhla," he'd intone as he looked at me through the bifocals perched on the end of his nose. "Why is America the greatest sociiiiiiety in human hist'ree? The Few-chah Pref'rence. At every critical junk-chaah, we have prefuhhed the few-chah to the present. That is why immigrants left the old waaahld for the new. That is why paahrents such as yours sacrifice to send their children to univehhsities like this wan. The American ideal is that the few-chah can be bettah than the paahst, and that each of us has a personal, moral obligation to make it so..."

Writing it when he did (2000) Begala was setting up his fears about the OTHER Baby Boomer threatening to become the next President, Bush the Lesser.  Whose administration did ignore the future in the obsessions of satisfying present needs (massive tax cuts even after being warned of the massive deficits that would happen, a bloated Medicare package left unfunded) and in the recklessness of starting fights (a war in Iraq) without a care (there was no Plan B) about how to resolve such fights so that our future (the poor kids sent in to fight that war) wouldn't have to fight it again...

So that's it.  That was the keyword I should have been looking for.  Future Preference.  It's something we should be looking for in our political leaders from now on.  I've added it to my Labels.  Hashtagging it on Twitter asap.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Killing the Florida Gerrymander: Court Ruling Is In

It happened last night, didn't see the news in the Tampa Bay Times until later today:
A judge threw out Florida's congressional map late Thursday, ruling that the Legislature allowed for a "secret, organized campaign" by partisan operatives to subvert the redistricting process in violation of the state Constitution.
In a 41-page ruling, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis said that two of the state's 27 districts are invalid and must be redrawn, along with any other districts affected by them, to bring the map into compliance with the state's new Fair District amendments.
The case, brought by a coalition led by the League of Women Voters, is expected to be appealed and ultimately decided by the Florida Supreme Court...
Lewis rejected challenges to districts in South Florida and Tampa Bay, but said that District 5, held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, and District 10, held by Republican U.S. Rep. Dan Webster of Winter Park "will need to be redrawn, as will any other districts affected thereby."
The judge agreed with the coalition's prime argument: that Republican legislators and staffers collaborated with political consultants to create "a shadow redistricting process" that protected incumbents and the GOP...

While the judge is only ruling on two districts needing to be re-drawn, the effect on the connecting districts will force them to be reshaped to conform to the rules.  I mean, take a look at the 5th District that got struck down:

via the Washington Post 
It goes through five counties, two of them - Duval and Orange - densely populated counties - due to being urban centers Jacksonville (Duval) and Orlando (Orange) - that could have easily formed their own district if said districts were designed by population density alone.  It carves Alachua County in two, splits Putnam County down the middle, and wiggles down along the non-retirement-community part of Lake.  In fact, I see a tiny little foot (that dangly thing sticking out at the bottom half) that is going into a sixth county - Seminole - taking off a northern chunk of a geographically small - but packed - county.  Why the hell is that?

Well, because this district basically takes the minority populations of two urban centers - Jacksonville and Orlando - to shove both into one district so that the surrounding districts will be more White (and in some districts more elderly).  By putting the urban (read: leans Democrat) into one district, the GOP state leaders can carve out friendly (read: leans Republican) out of six districts.

And that is exactly what the judge found: there was evidence that the Republicans in the state legislature along with their allies on the outside consulting intentionally carved the districts to favor their own party.  Consider the 10th District, the other one Judge Lewis ordered to be redrawn (and which is connected to the 5th, highlighting how that district was intentionally skewed), per the ThinkProgress website:
...Though more compact in shape than a purple worm, District 10 has what Judge Lewis describes as “an odd-shaped appendage which wraps under and around District 5, running between District 5 and 9.” As Lewis notes, Districts 5, 7, 9 and 10 are shaped the way they are in part because a Republican political consultant suggested that they be redrawn in a way that transformed them “from being four Democratic performing or leaning seats in early maps . . . to two Democratic and two Republican performing seats in the enacted map.” So Republicans likely picked up two congressional seats because of the odd design of these districts.
Indeed, Lewis discusses significant evidence that Republican lawmakers colluded with Republican operatives regarding the maps. Early in the process, Republican legislative leaders met with a group of GOP political operatives and a top Republican lawyer to discuss redistricting. The deputy chief of staff to Florida’s then-house speaker shared draft maps with a particular Republican consultant at least 24 times. In some cases, he provided this GOP consultant “with draft maps that were never released to the public.”
For all the show-boating the state legislature did with the redistricting efforts in 2012 - I personally attended a mass presentation in east Pasco County, but didn't get a chance to ask a question as I'd hoped due to the huge volume of people who showed up - they never intended for this to be an open or transparent process.  The court hearings revealed a series of secret meetings, destroyed records, reluctant testifiers.  Back to the Tampa Bay Times report:
...Lewis also noted that legislative leaders and the political operatives destroyed almost all of their emails and other documents related to redistricting and concluded that the circumstantial evidence surrounding all of those developments, and the evidence that the consultants attempted to influence the same districts he has found problematic, proved the GOP operatives were trying to influence the process.
"There is no legal duty on the part of the Legislature to preserve these records, but you have to wonder why they didn't,'' he wrote. "Litigation over their plans was 'a moral certainty' as their lawyers put it earlier in the case, and intent would be a key issue in any challenge."
You don't have to wonder: you have to accept the evidence (or lack of it considering how most of it got lost/destroyed).  The people in power - a Republican-controlled legislature - wanted to create a permanent Republican majority by intentionally carving out gerrymandered "safe" districts that proportionally favored Republicans over Democrats nearly 60-40.  And that was just at the federal Congressional level.  It's horrifying that this court case didn't seem to look at the damage done with the state Senate and state House seats.

I doubt we'll see the necessary fixes to the districts in time for the 2014 midterms.  And the court case is bound to drag up to the appellate system well into 2016, unless the plaintiffs get the courts to expedite the matter to get it fixed by that election cycle.  But this is a huge step: it is on record now.  Florida's districts are gerrymandered.  And those gerrymanders gotta go.

Better yet: the Republican crooks who carved out those illegal gerrymanders gotta go as well.  GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT, DEMOCRATS (AND INDEPENDENTS).

Open Primary Petition For Florida

While looking at this year's proposed state amendment items, I looked at the list of Active (those not yet filed) amendments floating out there and came across one that I feel deserves a chance for a vote.

A petition for Open Primaries, which allows non-party voters to participate, and to have the primaries competitive between candidates - rather than candidates within each party - setting up the top two vote-getters regardless of party to run for the general election.  It's similar to the primary system they use in California right now.

There's a lot of reasons to support an primary system like this.  It encourages the moderate elements of a party to run an alternative candidate to the (most likely) hard-value candidate the more extremist elements are pushing for.  It would encourage candidates across the board to appeal to the broad base of voters rather than the specific (usually extremist) base of a specific party.  It encourages opposing parties to at least bring in a challenging candidate for a gerrymandered "safe" district that could appeal to the independent/no-party-affiliate voters stuck in that gerrymander, and who could survive the primary as the second-choice candidate to then campaign more fully for the general (that this could weaken gerrymandering overall is another positive).  It gives an independent or third-party candidate a chance to step up.  This does run the risk of more extremist candidates regardless of party to survive to a general election, but competition in my humble opinion is vastly better than a non-competitive district just sitting there with a safe incumbent coasting along doing nothing to appeal to the people (and the crazy 99 times out of 100 should filter out: I trust the majority of voters to do the right thing).

So I'm all for this petition getting to a ballot as a voter referendum.

Here's the deal: You gotta be a resident of the state of Florida, and must be able to verify your address and stuff.  You can't go signing other people's names to it: you can and should ask your friends to get on board and sign for this amendment proposal so we can have it for a vote for 2016.

Here's the link to the MoveOn petition site.  The group promoting this - Florida Independent Voting - has a printable petition you can submit (which I think is the more legitimate process: paperwork counts).

So... can I get the seven people who visit my blog to get their Florida relatives to sign on? (hopeful grin)

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Midterms 2014: Heads Up, Florida

It's after July 4th.  The whole year is downhill from there...

Still, here in Florida we're getting the season kickstarted.  Well, two seasons actually: hurricane season and primary season.  It's a midterm year after all.

The street signs are already dotting the landscape in front of private offices and empty wildgrass fields.

The actual primary voting is set for August 26 - with Early Voting set for just 8 days(!) between August 16 to August 23 - so we're well outside of a month away, but dammit Floridians I want a big voter turnout this midterm so I want you all to PLAN AHEAD and make some time in your personal schedules to GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT.

I don't wanna see a 39 percent voter turnout.  I don't wanna see a 27 percent voter turnout.  If we get anything under 20 percent I swear to God I'm gonna file criminal charges of sedition on every registered voter who didn't show up to do your DAMN PATRIOTIC DUTY TO VOTE.  You made the effort to get registered, people, MAKE THE EFFORT TO GET ENGAGED WITH THE PROCESS AND VOTE.

And if you've got a problem where your districts are all non-competitive districts, I wanna see some petition drives to force the elections offices to put a NONE OF THE ABOVE option on the ballots.

This has been the real scandal of our electoral process: not the ridiculous and disprovable claims of voter fraud, not the genuine threat of the Republican Party suppressing minority and youth voters, not the massive amounts of megabillion bribery known as SuperPAC campaign Quid Pro Quos.  The simple fact that we honestly do not have enough voters taking the effort to actually vote: that we're being represented by elected officials who only get 30 or 35 percent of the people's approval.  We have an apathetic citizenry, one that's allowing the greedheads, the extremists and the con artists to continue rigging the electoral system simply because they show up and everyone else won't.

C'MON FLORIDA GET THE VOTE OUT!

(forthcoming: a review of the state amendment referendum for 2014.)

Saturday, July 05, 2014

For the 4th of July I'll Do My Best To Answer Requests

Per the previous 4th of July post, there was a request to find the clip where John Adams bemoans his fate, that he'll never appear in the history books and that only Ben Franklin, George Washington, and Washington's horse (he rode several, apparently his favorite was named "Old Nelson") will be known for winning the Revolution.

Only problem with that clip is that it cuts off Franklin's response too soon.  It's pretty much the only YouTube clip I can find.  If anyone can find a longer clip that preserves the punchline, pass it on.