Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Florida Political Snapshot April 2010

As of right now, Crist is making a public speech tomorrow: while the content isn't fully known, the speculation is that Crist is going to run for the Senate as an No Party guy.

So what does this all mean in Florida?

Things to consider:
1) Crist is going to have the lead if only temporary, mostly because of his name recognition and the fact that non-Party Independent voters and party Moderates who had more love for Crist will have his back.  But Crist is jumping into this election without the full backing or support of a Party: like it or not, political parties have the machinery to fund and push campaigns.  Crist is going in without any major financial backers and almost no campaign workers with connections and experience.  He's not going to bring a lot of state-level Republicans with him, and he's not going to get a lot of state-level Democrats who smell blood in the water.
2) Rubio doesn't have an easy run now that Crist is out of the GOP primary.  The primary was easy because Rubio could pander to the Far Right for about four more months and not get into any trouble.  Now that there's no primary, there's no reason to pander to the crazy base: NOW Rubio has to pander to the whole state of voters, meaning he's got to suck up to Moderates and Indys who make up the Undecided voters that everyone needs to, you know, ACTUALLY WIN.  And there's ANOTHER problem on top of that: Rubio has NO CREDIBILITY selling himself as a Centrist or reasonable candidate.  Everybody, and I mean EVERYONE, knows that Rubio drove Crist out of the GOP primary because Rubio was in the Far Right's pocket.  I can't imagine any Moderate or Independent voter getting convinced that Rubio is MORE moderate than the obviously-moderate Crist.  And on top of that, all it will take is one misstep in trying to pose as a Moderate for Rubio to anger up the Far Right.  Rubio's got no margin for error and no chance to play to the whole voter spectrum.
3) The Democratic challenger, Meek, still has a tough road ahead of him.  While the voting registers show a 700,000 increase in Democratic voters that could give Meek an edge, Crist is going to take away a lot of the Moderate and Independent voters the Democrats could have counted out if there had been a contested GOP primary.  A bloody GOP fight would have coated Rubio as a Far Right wingnut well enough to allow Meek to convince the 33-35 percent of the middle-of-the-road crowd to lean Dem.  Now?  That 33-35 percent is with Crist, who has a bigger profile, a slightly better resume, and a track record of being open-minded (stopping voter record purges, being pro-Obama and pro-stimulus) to where even Democrats might think a vote for Crist will still serve their party well.

So for right now, the three-way race is up for grabs.  Meek has the growing numbers, Rubio has the money, Crist has the marquee name.

The wild-card in all this.  The credit card / tax dodge scandal.  While Crist is not in the clear as some of his buddies are under investigation, Rubio himself is under investigation too.  The good news for Crist is that he's jumping the GOP ship before they get torpedoed by the federal investigations into the state-wide party: Rubio does NOT have the luxury to avoid this issue.  Oh, I'm sure the Republicans are going to mudsling on Crist that he's in it deep, but they can't explain away Rubio's name being in the mix: bringing up the credit card scandal is going to hurt Rubio as well as Crist.  Strange days indeed.

Welcome to Florida!

Monday, April 26, 2010

By The Time I Flee Arizona

If I had the money, a secure job at good wages, I'd travel more often.  I'd love to see the world.  I've been D.C., New York City, Chicago, New Orleans, flown out to San Diego and San Francisco, driven through the East Coast and through Kentucky and Tennessee and even Indiana (if there is any other place flatter than the Everglades, it's western Indiana).  I hope some day to hit the road and drive through as much of the United States as I can, between here and Las Vegas and back again, the long way around.
I'd love to visit Arizona.  But not now.
I'd love to swing through Tombstone, home of the OK Corral, to indulge my interests in the American West history.  But not now.
I'd love to see the Grand Canyon in its entirety.  But not now.
And if I do drive to Las Vegas, I'm asking the AAA trip-tik people to draw out the routes that take me around Arizona.
The immigration bill the Arizona government just signed into law is insane.  It requires the state's law enforcement - state, county, local - to approach any person who could very well be minding his/her own business and not even actively breaking any laws and essentially say "papers please."  A cop can approach anyone and ask for some proof of residence - driver's license, state-issued ID for non-drivers, tribal ID (for the huge Native American population), and/or other form of government-issued ID (green card) - and if you don't have it they can drag you off for being an illegal resident.
What's more interesting is that private citizens can sue their law enforcement agencies to compel the cops to go hunting for possible illegals.  Basically any racist in your neighborhood can call up the cops, accuse you of being an illegal, and if you don't have your papers on you the cop is going to be forced by that racist bastard to drag you off.
It's racial profiling.  It's WWH (Walking While Hispanic), the immoral equivalent of DWB (Driving While Black).
Anyone remember those old Vagrancy laws that cropped up with those Black Codes the southern states issued during and after Reconstruction?  This is those Black Codes all over again, only this time for Hispanics.  They'll be asking for your birth certificates next.  Oh, wait: THEY DO!
Here's a question: what's going to stop a cop, or a racist bastard harassing that cop to arrest you, from thinking your ID is fake?  Not a damn thing until you can get a lawyer to argue your case, by then your whole week, hell your whole life, may be screwed.
Here's another question: do you know how many Hispanics physically fit the Hispanic stereotype?  There's blond pale-skinned Mexicans you know.  And do you know how many Irish illegals there are in Arizona?  Do we have to chase after them as well?  If you gots red hair and a penchant for wearing green, you might be in trouble in Bisbee...
Question Three: what about people who are legally vacationing who just happen to leave their passport back at the hotel?  How many Spaniards and southern French and Italians and Greeks and Turks and Maori and Samoans going to get pulled over for looking like they might be from Costa Rica or the Yucatan?  I worry for the Pacific Islander players on the Arizona Cardinals team now...
This law may create hassles for the 460,000 illegals currently hiding in your state, but it's also creating hassles for the 1,500,000 LEGAL Hispanics residing in Arizona.  Millions of Hispanics whose generational ties to Arizona stretch back to before the Mexican-American War of the 1840s.  We're talking about families that have been there LONGER THAN MOST WHITES LIVING THERE NOW.  By what right do you idiots have of making those millions of Hispanics get treated like second-class citizens IN THEIR OWN NEIGHBORHOODS?
They're saying now the cops are going to harass obvious-looking Caucasians now, just so they can avoid accusations of racial profiling.  So do any of you white boys volunteer to get pulled over for doing nothing wrong but living in a racist-driven state?  I doubt it.  I'm pretty sure you guys keep leaving your wallets at home just like the rest of us.
There is a problem with illegal immigration in this nation.  But creating laws that harass and punish the innocent IS NOT HOW YOU FIX IT.  You go after the ones who ARE breaking the law: you go after the employers and businesses who hire these illegals and shut them down.  You go after the human traffickers who are scamming the illegals who are forced to bribe and sell themselves like slaves just so they can enter a country that believe it or not is still safer and healthier than whatever hellhole they're fleeing from.  You wanna stop people from fleeing Central and South America?  Provide more foreign aid to help those nations build themselves up into safer, stronger communities.  Oh wait, America's not supposed to be nice to other nations, are we?
I can't wait for this law to get overturned for the rampant violations of the Constitution it creates.
I can't wait to see the number of Hispanics that hadn't dropped out of the Republican Party the last time they pulled this sh-t (the 2006 midterm cycle when Dubya - it's ironic that the Bush family actually has solid ties to the Hispanic community and yet their own party keeps doing this - tried to push an Immigration reform bill through Congress) now drop out of the GOP.  They don't have to sign up Democrat, but I guarantee the percentage of Hispanics in the GOP is going to be the same as the percentage of Blacks (about 2-5 percent).
I hope smarter heads prevail and we DO get serious immigration reform: stronger enforcement against the businesses who hire illegals, better crackdowns on the human trafficking, better foreign aid programs.
Next up: wondering what the heck's gonna happen to Crist AND Rubio...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Schadenfreude IV: The Quickening

I am busy studying one more time (AAAAAA) for the CompTIA A+ Essentials exam.  Fourth time's the charm?

But today couldn't pass without this as a point of interest.  Via the St. Pete Times and Miami Herald, I offer up this for the moment.

Federal law enforcement agencies have launched a criminal investigation into the use of American Express cards issued by the Republican Party of Florida to elected officials and staff, according to sources familiar with the inquiry.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Tallahassee, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service are all involved in the inquiry, which grew out of the state investigation into former House Speaker Ray Sansom. He was indicted on criminal charges that he stashed $6 million in the state budget for an airplane hangar for a friend and campaign donor.
In the federal case, Sansom and others could be charged with making false statements on their tax returns and tax evasion stemming from hundreds of thousands dollars in charges on party credit cards.
A spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Florida, Katie Betta, said she could not confirm the investigation nor make any comments. Coming in a high-stakes election year, the investigation could expose the inner-workings of a party that has dominated state government and raked in millions of dollars from lobbyists and special interests.
Meanwhile, in a separate inquiry, the IRS is also looking at the tax records of at least three former party credit card holders — former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio (Crist is smiling over this one), ex-state party chairman Jim Greer (Crist isn't smiling so much about this one) and ex-party executive director Delmar Johnson — to determine whether they misused their party credit cards for personal expenses, according to a source familiar with the preliminary inquiry.
Political parties, which are tax exempt, are allowed to spend money only on political activities, such as fundraising, running campaigns and registering voters. While it's commonplace for party officials and politicians to wine and dine donors, the Florida party allowed credit card holders to rack up hundreds of thousands of dollars in charges with little oversight.
The IRS opened the so-called "primary'' investigation into Rubio, the leading Republican candidate for Florida's open U.S. Senate seat, and the two former state GOP officials to see if there's enough evidence to support a full-fledged criminal inquiry, according to a source familiar with the IRS examination... (more)

This has gone national, as the GOP's open war against Crist for his hugging of Obama was well-known and as Rubio's rise was considered part of the Great Teabagger Uprising.  I shall comment further hopefully by Friday when I have time.  For now, ask yourselves these three questions:
1) Why did these politicos use the party's AmEx cards when they were perfectly capable of paying for these things out of their own pockets?  They are, after all, well-paid elected officials or else employed with salaries and benefits somewhere in the private sector...
2) How much has actually been billed to the state's GOP via these credit cards?  What other purchases were going on that WEREN'T related to party needs?
3) Who was going to pay for all of this?
4) Why is the Spanish Inquisition standing there amongst their weapons?  Wait... I wasn't expecting the Spanish Inquisition...!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

And Crist Gets Kicked from the GOP Reindeer Games in 5... 4... 3...

And the fandom rejoiced: Crist vetoes the SB 6 "Death To Tenure" bill the Republican-led state legislature tried to force onto the state of Florida.

The way things stand, the lege doesn't have the vote to override the veto, so the bill is dead.  Now all that happens is that the state (and national) Republican party leadership is going to go after Crist's head on a platter.

Some background is needed.  The state Republicans - and the national level crowd - never really had a lot of love for workers' unions.  Especially teachers' unions.  And the Republicans really don't have a lot of love overall for education in this nation - facts tend to lean too, ah, liberal for them - so any chance they can get to screw around with education is a good thing for them.

The SB 6 was the result of the previous Florida governor Jeb "I'm the Smart One" Bush's push via his 'education foundation' to screw with our state.  The final bill's result - gutting tenure, switching to an annual employment contract rather than a long-term contract, eliminating raises based on experience and advanced degrees (NOTE: My mom worked as a Florida teacher since 1978-79, and in the 1990s worked on a doctorate so she could get a teacher's raise for it.  The bill would have killed that kind of teacher improvement), and tying teacher evaluations to students' testing scores - would have been the crown jewel of the ex-governor's push to punish the Florida teachers' union no wait that's right, there's been an open war between Jeb and the teachers for a good long while (what happa, Jeb, did a Phys Ed teacher give you a C for lousy volleyball play?).

Public response to the bill was overwhelming.  Nearly everyone who wasn't a Republican state official HATED it.  Crist had gotten over 100,000 messages with over 58,000 opened by this point and nearly all of them begging him to veto the thing.  Because Crist is out campaigning for the US Senate primary, he ran into a sizable portion of Republican voters... who all told him they had relatives working as teachers or were themselves teachers who were going to get screwed over by the bill.

Let's be fair about this: Crist was all for the anti-tenure bill... until the people spoke in such numbers that he had to pause and step back.  And like I said about him earlier, Crist may be crazy but he's not stupid.  And he's also not entirely beholden anymore to a political party that's all but dumped on him.

I earlier thought Crist had a good chance in his Senate campaign because I figured a majority of Republican voters in this state would wise up and realize that a Republican who played well to Democratic and Independent crowds (like Crist) come November was a better choice than a Far Right Winger like Rubio.  Well, color me the naive optimist.  Crist is getting his ass handed to him in the primary polls by about 27 points, with Rubio up like 62 to 35 percent of the pre-polled votes.  Rubio is also getting all the national love with the likes of Palin, The Club for Greed, and Rudy Giuliani campaigning for him (Jeb hasn't openly supported either candidate but it's an open secret Jeb doesn't like Crist much.  Jeb definitely hates him now for the veto... ).  Apparently the Far Right Wingnuts are in full control of the state party.  And now the paradox I warned about - that an extremist party can win a primary but suffer in the general election - is close to playing out.

Crist is paying now because he openly supported President Obama's economic stimulus package back in 2009.  Mind you, that stimulus was something EVERY state needed (almost every state is struggling to this day with severe budget shortfalls), but because of the GOP's ambitions and obstructionist mood nearly every Republican leader denounced it even as they gleefully took the money.  The Republicans didn't want to give Obama any bipartisan political cover at all.  Crist didn't read the memo: he greeted Obama as the President toured the nation promoting the stimulus, and essentially gave Obama the cover he needed.  The GOP hasn't forgiven Crist at all, even though he played it true.

But for all the hatred that Crist generates within his own party, he plays well as an overall candidate when you include the Democrats and Independent voters into the mix.  Especially now that he vetoed this thing, he's gotten in good with a large voting bloc (teachers and their families).  In short, there's been a lot of buzz about Crist running as an Independent ticket (or even switching to the Democrats' side of the primary).

Polling is showing Crist does well if he drops out of the GOP and runs as an Indy.  In a three-way race, Crist tops out at 32 percent, Rubio at 30 and likely Democratic candidate Rep. Kendrick Meek at 24.  And the polling was before the veto was signed: if the outrage against the bill is any indicator Crist's popularity statewide will go up.

Historically, a contested-three-way race doesn't help an Independent: the entrenched party system makes sure of that.  The few Independents who do win (such as Joe "It's All For Me" Lieberman) overtake an existing candidate (Lieberman essentially stole all the support from the established GOP candidate Schlesinger) or else happen to run where one party has no challenger in place (still making it a de facto two-party race).  Crist will be fighting a tough race as an Indy as long as both Rubio and Meek stay in the fight: the Democrats might like what Crist did just now for the teachers' unions, but politics is politics and they'll vote Meek just so there's an actual Dem in the Senate.

Crist's problem is that he's got a time limit: if he doesn't drop out before the last week of April and enlist as an Independent candidate, he'll miss that deadline.  The primary itself is in AUGUST: that meager lead Rubio has could well explode before then and Crist will get pummeled and humiliated worse than Mondale was in 1984.  If he drops out, though, he'll be called 'opportunistic' and 'traitor' and Lord knows everything else by the GOP... but it's not like he's being treated politely right now anyway.  What will happen is that he will lose the backing of an existing political machine and be left alone without a base of support.  Switching to the Democratic party is another option, but Meek isn't dropping out for what I know...

Part of me actually wants the Republican Party to openly dismiss / kick Crist out of the party: makes it easier for everyone involved.  It'll definitely make the GOP look petty and demonstrate their decades-long push to drive moderates out of the party.

In truth, though: Crist needs to drop out of the GOP and run as an Independent.  His political career in the Republican Party is done, finished.  The party's open support for Rubio was too obvious a clue: their coming outrage over his vetoing Jeb Bush's pet project even more so.  If Crist wants to remain in politics, he's going to have to go it alone for now.  On his terms.

It sucks that the political system is like this now.  But the damn Purity Party led by the RINO hunting Club for Greed has made it this way.

Fly, Crist, fly away you're free!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Drunken Teenagers with Their Parents' Credit Cards

This entry's title - Drunken Teenagers with their parents' credit cards - is a phrase I've been using to describe the fiscal destructiveness of the modern Republican Party.  How they spent and spent for two massive unfinished wars, a Medicare 'reform' that was in truth a payout to the Pharmaceutical companies, and constant bumping up of our debt limit put our nation into such a huge hole that China could own us without firing a shot.  I'm not the only one who noticed, and even some who are right-of-center noticed as well.

So I dare compare the Republican Party - fiscally irresponsible, spend-crazy, adding debt like there's no bill due - to drunken teens using their parents' credit cards to rack up more debt and buy crazy sh-t to satisfy their indulgences.  But I was just being figurative.

Well, here in Florida the Republicans just went and made it literal.

The local papers - so far the St. Pete Times and Orlando Sentinel leading the way - are pursuing reports of how a minor staffer with the state's GOP organization racked up over $1 MILLION on a party-issued credit card.  Expenditures of shopping sprees across the globe.  Travel tickets everywhere.  TOYS!  Further reports are examining how other leaders in the party - including current senatorial frontrunner Rubio - racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending as well.

Obviously, that staffer with the million-dollar credit debt didn't spend all that on herself or her family: evidence points to higher-ranking members of the state party - our old favorite Sansom gets a name-drop - using her card as a convenient means of side-stepping their expenditure reports.  Problem is, that credit card statement still has to go somewhere, and the papers found out.  And how the Republicans have to go into "Explain It Away" mode because while people expect the Republicans to live extravagantly they don't much like it when 12 percent of the state is STILL OUT OF WORK AND STRUGGLING FROM DAY TO DAY.

At least two questions come quickly to mind:
  • Who's gonna pay all these credit card bills when they come due? (obvious answer: the deep-pocket campaign fundraisers who pretty much use this as a form of legalized bribery)
  • Why are these GOP leaders spending so much of other people's money when all of them - Rubio, Sansom, even Crist had questionable spending sprees of his own - are fully employed at good wages and could well afford these things out of their OWN pocket?

I'm not sure the Republicans are gonna like the way this story is gonna play out, especially as it's coming on the heels of reports on how their National party organization the RNC went and spent money on questionable items as well... including a memorable stop at an expensive (yet tastefully refined) lesbian bondage club.

This seriously needs more play on the national stage.  This is more than just a Florida scandal: this is endemic of how the Republican leadership really behaves with people's finances.  This is a perfect example of how the Republicans are truly FISCALLY IRRESPONSIBLE: they spend other people's money - in some cases flat-out embezzle - to fulfill their personal needs and then have other people pay their bills.

So anyways, this isn't even the major news story in Florida right now.  Everyone's up in arms about the Florida legislature's attempt to destroy our state's educational system, with a bill SB6 sitting on Crist's desk awaiting a possible veto.  This has major ramifications: if it passes you can kiss all the good teachers goodbye (as the bill ends tenure and forces teachers onto an annual contract, no one is gonna want to work without job security).  If Crist vetoes it, he guarantees the Far Right wingnuts (who hate the Democratic-heavy teachers' unions) running the primary between him and Rubio will make him pay for it (and it's not like he's won them over anyway).  So a good number of political commentators are convinced if he vetoes it Crist is going to have to run as an Indy... so there's that drama going on today.

The third major story in the state today?  It's about a monkey!  There's an escaped rhesus macaque who's been free for over a year moving all over the bay area, and the locals keep an eye out for him. Watch the video.

Monday, April 05, 2010

A question to Erick Erickson

Far Right commentator Erick Erickson (why he gets hired with CNN while honest journalism grads like me stay unemployed, I'll never understand) made recent comments about the It's-That-Time-of-The-Decade federal Census:

ERICKSON: This is crazy. What gives the Commerce Department the right to ask me how often I flush my toilet? Or about going to work? I’m not filling out this form. I dare them to try and come throw me in jail. I dare them to. Pull out my wife’s shotgun and see how that little ACS twerp likes being scared at the door. They’re not going on my property. They can’t do that. They don’t have the legal right, and yet they’re trying.

Seeing as how the Commerce Dept. is going to hire me later this month to work part-time as a Census Enumerator, I have a personal question and request for Mr. Erickson:

If it turns out I have to be the little (6-foot-1-inch tall, 300 lb) ACS twerp (I think of myself more as a smartass, actually) knocking at your door, can I go ahead and make arrangements with you to have you shoot me in a non-lethal location?  Say, with me standing in Yeehaw Junction FL and you standing in the Colorado Supermax for taking shots at a federal employee?

I know, I sound like a smartass over here, but seriously these Far Right wingnuts are totally going off the cliff here.  They're all getting paranoid and talking smack about a perfectly legal government function that's been done every decade since this nation was formed under the aegis of the Constitution.  They're all working themselves up into a froth all because this year for some godforsaken reason they're convinced that ZOMG OBAMA ZOMBIE SOCIALISTS ARE GONNA USE THE CENSUS TO EAT OUR BRAINS.

I figure part of the reason the wingnuts are acting up is that in their zeal to hate the federal government they're picking on what have been normal nearly every-day functions of the government.  They rant about service at the DMV (those are state-level functions, and they're actually pretty good in most states).  They rant about the Postal Service (again, the USPS does okay but its problems are that they are losing money as letter-writing gets replaced by emailing and faxing).  They rant about the massive waste and fraud in the national defense budget.   They rant about ANYTHING having to do with the federal government because because because.  Because any effective government program makes their "Government is BAD" meme look foolish or worse a pack of lies.

But this year this term of office, the Far Right are - as I mentioned earlier - going completely over the cliffs.  And a lot of that has to do with their paranoid hatred of Obama.  His being in the White House amps everything up to 11.  Considering they honestly don't HAVE anything on Obama the way they did with Clinton (the previous "questionable" Democrat who dared interrupt the Glorious GOP Revolution that began under Reagan), it just somehow makes it worse because they have to fabricate outrage over everything that doesn't deserve it.

I'm serious here.  Where were these paranoid freaks back in the last census ten years ago?  Was Michelle Bachmann ranting against the Census when she was in the Minnesota State Senate in 2000?  We've had roughly 21 different Census takings over 220 years this nation has existed.  How many complaints were there about the 1990 Census?  My dad was working as an Enumerator back then, did he do anything wrong with your statistics, Mr. Erickson?

Now I admit there was a slight problem with the Census in 1980, but that was quietly resolved with a side order of fava beans and a nice Chianti.  After that, of course...

There was a Census back in 1860: I guarantee you it had nothing to do with the following Civil War (which was fought over slaves no wait States' Rights to be total jerkasses no wait the future peanut industry).  There was a Census after the Civil War ended in 1870: did the Southern states complain about how they were counting people (well, maybe in South Carolina...)?  And there was nothing wrong about the Census back then either: hell, the Census in 1870 was epic because a census taker in San Francisco officially labeled Joshua Norton with the career of Emperor on his tally sheet (click link, scroll 2/3 of the way down, under the pg. 81 spreadsheet).  That was totally awesome!  I can't wait to enumerate, I wonder how many Emperors I'll run into when I do.

Oh, and Mr. Erickson?  I'm really not afraid of you, so I *will* knock on your door if I have to.  And I have to, it'll be my job.  And you'll HAVE to answer the very legal requirements of the Census, per the US Code Title 13, Sections 141, 193, and 221.  Come at me with your wife's skirt shotgun and I'll just list it as a dependent.