Monday, January 31, 2011

Rick Scott Obstructs Fair Districts Amendments 5 and 6

The People's Governor Rick Scott has been quietly busy delaying the will of the people by withdrawing request for the federal preclearance required before recently passed Fair Districts Amendments 5 and 6 can become law.

The Florida Legislature had proved unsuccessful in removal of the amendments from the November 2010 ballot prior to the passage of both by voter majority. A lawsuit since filed challenges the constitutionality of 5 and 6.

Scott's delay tactic serves to help slow down the clock on implementation.

Adding salt to the wound, Scott actively and successfully recruited Kurt Browning to serve as this state's Secretary of State. Browning previously served as the chairman of Protect the Vote, a PAC that raised a ton of money in attempt to defeat Fair Districts. As Secretary of State, he serves to oversee elections. (Think Katherine Harris without the make-up.)

Scott reasons that "...the delay is to only to assess all state rules and regulations" prior to preclearance by the U.S. Justice department.

That's a smokescreen, Governor. As editorialized by The Miami Herald, "...The amendments, however, aren’t legislatively generated laws. They’re enshrined in the Florida Constitution — after being approved by more than 3.1 million voters. The only review they need at this point is by Justice’s voting-rights lawyers."

My guess is the longer the delay, the more likely districts will remain unchanged for election 2012, much to the hope, joy and glee of our GOP-controlled state legislature.

Certainly didn't take too long for Guv Scott to become one of the Team.

Unfortunately for the people who voted to pass both amendments as well as the 48% of us who cast a vote against Scott and remain unrepresented in Tallahassee, Florida law does not permit his recall.

Talk to Me.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Weekend Zen

I've been taking care of business, it's all mine
Taking care of business and working overtime

Work out

Takin Care of Business.

Bachman Turner Overdrive. 1974.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Does Florida state Rep. Steve Crisafulli Want to Raise Revenue Off Home Owners?

blog post photo

Another "short" to mull over.

Florida state Rep. Steve Crisafulli (R) has a plan that appears to keep Florida property taxes constant....even if the market value on your home drops.

For Talk to Me readers who do not live in Florida, Crisafulli is a fellow Brevard County resident, a local if you will.

My commentary underlying the interview conducted by Florida Today's Matt Reed reads as follows:

Statement by the Representative:

"But if market values should decrease or stay the same, the assessed value shall as well. It doesn't change what's already done."

"If I'm interpreting this correctly, under Crisafulli's plan, a property owner would continue to pay the same amount of property tax on a home that's market value has dropped, meaning property taxes would never drop, but remain constant (although capped to a 3 percent hike in "good times").

Should my $100,00 home drop in value to $50,000, I'd still pay taxes on $100,000.

If this a correct assumption, allow me to remind FT readers that Crisafulli is a member of a veto-proof GOP legislature and this could likely pass with ease as yet another "revenue raiser" that the current state majority can honestly say is not a raise in your property taxes.

As (with) the (previous) raise in license fees and auto registration/tags, this (proposed action) effects all Florida residents and is a direct hit to our individual home budgets, regardless of our personal political leanings."

Read more here.

Property appraisers are reportedly supportive of such action.

If readers interpret Crisafulli's pitch differently, please feel free to share your viewpoint.

Talk to Me.

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Short Shorts

A word cloud of the State of the Union address.

The much discussed Michele Bachmann rebuttal, complete with charts. (Can't see the video? Watch here).

And Dennis Kucinich sues over a sandwich to the tune of $150,000.


A copy of the suit obtained by the Cleveland Plain Dealer documents the April 2008 incident, in which Kucinich purchased a sandwich wrap he says was "represented to contain pitted olives." After consuming it, Kucinich found the olives were not pitted, causing "serious and permanent dental and oral injuries" that required "multiple surgical and dental procedures."

Talk to Me.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

We Do Big Things

I doubt the guy who breezed by me Tuesday morning in his red IMPEACH OBAMA plastered SUV--his chambray shirt sleeve extending in flip of the bird recognition of my Women for Obama bumper sticker--thought very much of the President's State of the Union speech.

My guess is he thought even less of the comingled Congress--Republicans, Democrats and Independents seated together in collegial fellowship, projecting partnership for this country.

But for me, I found the setting the first step back towards civility.

Seated apolitically, with elbows likely brushing when one or the other rose (and as witnessed, often together) in applause of the remarks, set a tone that be best summarized as follows.

It's easy to flip the bird at a passing motorist, but altogether different when sidled together on the same bench seat.

Enjoy a few of my favorite moments from the President's speech.


Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸ we had no idea how we’d beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. In a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology – an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.


We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo Projects of our time.


Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom. In South Korea, teachers are known as “nation builders.” Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones. And over the next ten years, with so many Baby Boomers retiring from our classrooms, we want to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math.

In fact, to every young person listening tonight who’s contemplating their career choice: If you want to make a difference in the life of our nation; if you want to make a difference in the life of a child – become a teacher. Your country needs you.


Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation. For less than one percent of what we spend on education each year, it has led over 40 states to raise their standards for teaching and learning. These standards were developed, not by Washington, but by Republican and Democratic governors throughout the country. And Race to the Top should be the approach we follow this year as we replace No Child Left Behind with a law that is more flexible and focused on what’s best for our kids.


Now, I’ve heard rumors that a few of you have some concerns about the new health care law. So let me be the first to say that anything can be improved. If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you. We can start right now by correcting a flaw in the legislation that has placed an unnecessary bookkeeping burden on small businesses.

What I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition. I’m not willing to tell James Howard, a brain cancer patient from Texas, that his treatment might not be covered. I’m not willing to tell Jim Houser, a small business owner from Oregon, that he has to go back to paying $5,000 more to cover his employees. As we speak, this law is making prescription drugs cheaper for seniors and giving uninsured students a chance to stay on their parents’ coverage. So instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let’s fix what needs fixing and move forward.


And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply cannot afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Before we take money away from our schools, or scholarships away from our students, we should ask millionaires to give up their tax break.

It’s not a matter of punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success.

In fact, the best thing we could do on taxes for all Americans is to simplify the individual tax code. This will be a tough job, but members of both parties have expressed interest in doing this, and I am prepared to join them.

So now is the time to act. Now is the time for both sides and both houses of Congress – Democrats and Republicans – to forge a principled compromise that gets the job done. If we make the hard choices now to rein in our deficits, we can make the investments we need to win the future.


From the earliest days of our founding, America has been the story of ordinary people who dare to dream. That’s how we win the future.

We are a nation that says, “I might not have a lot of money, but I have this great idea for a new company. I might not come from a family of college graduates, but I will be the first to get my degree. I might not know those people in trouble, but I think I can help them, and I need to try. I’m not sure how we’ll reach that better place beyond the horizon, but I know we’ll get there. I know we will.”

We do big things.

Read the President's remarks in entirety here.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bachmann SOTU Overdrive

Every "star" bloated on the glow of their fifteen minutes of fame hires a publicist, a manager, a hair stylist and a make-up artist to milk every second from that fifteen.

I would guess Michele Bachmann is no different. I first noticed her makeover from Midwest Maven to Polished Politician sometime around the holidays, about the same time the conservative males of my acquaintance began to look past her wild-eyed politics and into her carefully applied wide eyes to use hot for the first time in months in a context other than a well-rehearsed jeer aimed at global warming.

And she's ready for her prime time close-up. The Republican congresswoman from Minnesota has somehow managed to undercut her own party through the Tea Party score of the online "alternative rebuttal" to this evening's State of the Union address by President Obama, usurping the traditionally singular post-speech thunder of the official GOP response offered by "Roadmap to Dismantle Social Security" Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).

Hey, Michele, if you've got it, flaunt it. This country loves telegenic personalities, the more overly-camouflaged and eccentric, the better. You Go Girl.

But keep in mind, no amount of make-up can put a pretty face on gems like these.

"I find it interesting that it was back in the 1970s that the swine flu broke out under another, then under another Democrat president, Jimmy Carter. I'm not blaming this on President Obama, I just think it's an interesting coincidence." -Rep. Michele Bachmann, on the 1976 Swine Flu outbreak that happened when Gerald Ford, a Republican, was president, April 28, 2009

"I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out: Are they pro-America or anti-America?" -Rep. Michelle Bachmann, calling for a new McCarthyism, Oct. 2008

"Take this into consideration. If we look at American history, between 1942 and 1947, the data that was collected by the Census Bureau was handed over to the FBI and other organizations at the request of President Roosevelt, and that's how the Japanese were rounded up and put into the internment camps. I'm not saying that that's what the Administration is planning to do, but I am saying that private personal information that was given to the Census Bureau in the 1940s was used against Americans to round them up, in a violation of their constitutional rights, and put the Japanese in internment camps." -Rep. Michele Bachmann, June 2009

Catch the Bachmann post-show over at the Tea Party Express.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Olbermann's Out, Cowboy Boots In and WMMB Serves Up a Winner

Keith Olbermann signed off Countdown for the last time Friday night, surprising viewers with the unexpected sever of his contract with MSNBC . Questions remain regarding the specifics although righties over at The Washington Post infer the parting was in the works for months.

As a result,the cards get shuffled. The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell moves into the 8:00 PM time slot, Ed Schultz gets kicked back to 10:00 PM with Rachel Maddow remaining at 9:00 PM. Cenk Uygur--host of the web's The Young Turks--fills in at 6:00 PM.

And yet somehow, Chris Matthews manages to hold on to both 5:00 and 7:00 PM. Go figure. (All times cited are ET/PT).


Per FLORIDA TODAY's Matt Reed, up Tallahassee way, the new Governor has tossed aside his carpetbags to don a pair of cowboy boots , better known in these parts as cowhunter boots. Looks like mini-me state Senator Mike Haridopolos sported kickin' ranch as well, quite possibly picked up at Orlando's Millenia Mall, where I spotted him post-Christmas, chowing down at the Food Court.


Finally, while running Saturday errands , I caught enough of The Mutual Fund Show (10-11 AM) with host Adam Bold to give local talk radio station WMMB a thumbs up. Bold talked down a caller certain the death of the dollar was near with a not happening and a bit of advice--if such a scenario ever did occur, investments would be the very last worry on one's Mad Max doomsday list.

Listen to the January 22 show here.

Talk to Me.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Weekend Zen

Wipe Out.

The Ventures.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pass the Repeal Popcorn

The U.S. House repealed this country's health care law Wednesday afternoon via a symbolic final vote (245-189). The repeal is destined to die a swift death in the Senate.

The way I view the theater from my C-Span box seat, the repeal is a win-win situation. House Reps can certainly boast of this campaign promise kept and the Senate gets to slap down the repeal, keeping health care reform the law of the land.

What a colossal waste of time.

Keep in mind, this is just the beginning of the "repeal and replace" health care platform by the majority GOP, a party of politicians who never gave two kernels of thought to reforming health care prior to the ripping of the congressional carpets beneath their freshly shined shoes once President Obama signed health care reform into law.

Among other lawmakers pilfering away the money we pay them to make decisions on our behalf, Florida state Senator Michael Bennett (R-Bradenton) now finds himself wavering on the immigration bill he himself filed early December. He is rethinking a vote for his own bill, indicating his real intent was merely to start a conversation.

Right. More like dipping his big toe to test the waters of media attention should Bennett decide to join the pack of Repubs hot for Bill Nelson's Senate seat.

Take Florida state Rep. Jason Brodeur. Please. The Republican from Sanford filed a firearms privacy bill that if passed into law would make it a felony for a doctor to ask a patient about gun ownership. Penalty? Five years and a fine up to $5 million, which would likely equal compensation awarded the first settled lawsuit filed by a new parent against the family physician for failing to appropriately discuss child safety practices.

What's next? No questions about the family pool? Child safety locks? Improperly stored chemicals?

And I thought Republicans worked to keep government out of our lives.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

200 Cows Standing in a Field (or Not)

My choice earlier this week to take the 528 over to Orlando International instead of my usual route via Highway 1-92 through Kissimmee proved premonition pops up more often than not.

The emergency broadcast system cut off Buckethead and the crew over at WTKS 104.1, squawking dire tornado warnings to span Osceola, Orange and Brevard County. (Those of you unfamiliar with the area, that's one major parcel of ranch land). A funnel cloud had been sighted at Harmony, Florida around about the time I would have found myself driving through the green community sprawling east of St. Cloud.

Fate--and the fact I wanted to breeze through IKEA prior to connecting with my guest over at OIA--found me fifty or so miles north of touchdown. Yet, as I turned off Interstate 95 to jump on the 528 (also known as the Beachline, formerly known as the Beeline) the storm cells breezed above at a fairly fast clip, keeping me anxious and on alert for cattle hugging the ground and animals of all types moving together en mass in attempt to reach safe ground in solidarity.

As the guys on the radio bandied about best practices to employ if caught in the car during a tornado (don't hide beneath an underpass, get out of the car and jump in a ditch only as a last resort and if the storm is way in the distance, book it out of there fast) I found myself driving from a gloomy gray day into Dorothy from Kansas pitch black.

I had met up with the massive storm cell after all.

I turned the radio down to listen for the sickening sound of an airborne freight train, all the while ticking off my choices of which snake-infested ditch running parallel to the highway would prove best to throw myself.

Which made me think of how the phrase raining cats and dogs came about or actually frogs and fish due to theories pointing to tornadoes dumping whatever wildlife had been sucked up during the fast and furious move onto a town of flabbergasted citizens.

Which made me think of the recent mass animal deaths and how little press coverage these incidents have received.

As I drove unscathed out of the darkness and into the glint and glimmer of Orlando--our version of Oz--I promised myself to check into those stories, the most recent being the two hundred cows found dead in Wisconsin on January 14th.

Some have suggested the bovines were embarrassed to be Packers fans. Others point skyward to blame the purge of unwanted animals on the Mother Ship. But many--many--fervently feel the animal deaths--in addition to the previously reported massive deaths of birds and fish--are signs of the biblical type.

More likely, epizootic disease is the culprit, defined as "...disease which attacks many subjects in a region at the same time but is only occasionally present in the population; when it occurs it is widely diffused and rapidly spreading."

Preliminary findings point to interstitial pneumonia as the cause of death for the cattle.

Whatever your theory, keep your pets close and thank Google maps for devising a method to track the demise of the masses.

Check it out here.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Open Travel to Cuba

For those who dream of Havana, travel to the capital city of Cuba just became a little easier. President Obama eased travel restrictions to the island nation last week to American students, scholars and religious groups.

As reported by the St. Pete Times:


The White House announced three steps Friday that officials said will enhance the "free flow of information" between the two nations. The administration will relax travel restrictions for U.S. citizens seeking to visit Cuba. It will enable Americans to send money to the island to support private enterprise. And it will allow direct flights to Cuba from a host of new American gateways, almost certainly to include Tampa International Airport. The moves build on the Obama administration's 2009 reversal of Bush-era travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans to the island.

Journalists will also be permitted travel. Throwing bloggers into the mix could cause this gal to rethink her spring break plans.

Reactions have been mixed, with dissenters feeling the policy will aid and abet the Cuban government.

What's your take on quite possibly visiting Cuba in your lifetime? (And for those who have made the trip, please consider telling the tale of your adventure).

Talk to Me.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

David Rivera Round Two

Believe it or not, I tied my last Christmas bow last night and later today, I'm off to the airport to greet one heckuva late arriving guest. But as is said, Christmas is forever, not for just one day.

It's not so merry these days for David Rivera. The newly-elected Florida Congressman--under investigation by the Miami-Dade state attorney's office for over $500,000 in secret payments from the owners of the Flagler Dog Track to Millennium Marketing, a company tied to him--continues to be plagued by campaign money questions. As reported by The Miami Herald, Rivera--who had initially planned to run for Florida state Senate before throwing his hat into the ring for Congress--may have much more to say about giving thanks.


Rivera set aside tens of thousands of dollars from his dormant Senate campaign account to say "thank you'' to supporters of a race he never intended to finish.

Rivera paid the money to a company called ACH Fundraising Strategies -- a Miami-based business founded by the daughter of a longtime aide. He cut a $50,000 check to ACH on July 15, 2010 -- the day before the firm was incorporated as a business.

Rivera offered no comment on the latest news and declined to be interviewed by the Herald; however, "... earlier this month, he acknowledged receiving $132,000 from Millennium--payments Rivera had not previously disclosed in financial disclosure forms, a faux pas of the ethical sort that (as we've witnessed previously) often results in a slap on the wrist.

Read more about Rivera's fine ho ho ho here.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Weekend Zen

All we hear is radio ga ga

Radio goo goo
Radio ga ga
All we hear is radio ga ga
Radio blah blah
Radio what's new?

Radio someone still loves you.

Radio Ga Ga.



Thursday, January 13, 2011

Out of Many, One

Judge John Roll.
Dorothy Morris.
Phyllis Schneck.
Dorwan Stoddard.
Gabe Zimmerman.
Christina Taylor Green.


The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better in our private lives -- to be better friends and neighbors, co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their deaths help usher in more civility in our public discourse, let's remember that it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy, but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to our challenges as a nation, in a way that would make them proud. It should be because we want to live up to the example of public servants like John Roll and Gabby Giffords, who knew first and foremost that we are all Americans, and that we can question each other's ideas without questioning each other's love of country, and that our task, working together, is to constantly widen the circle of our concern so that we bequeath the American dream to future generations.

I believe we can be better. Those who died here, those who saved lives here --they help me believe. We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us. I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.

--President Barack Obama, 1/12/2011
McKale Memorial Center, University of Arizona


Read the President's remarks in entirety here.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Gator Tales

For those of us fighting the Facebook upgrade, we are out of luck. The FB is forcing the issue. Before getting caught with your privacy settings down, check out how to customize your settings here.


President Obama signed the Local Community Radio Act into law last week, opening up the dial to voices yet unheard via low-power radio within three clicks of a major station. Don't sweat it, Clear Channel. It's all about going local. Read more over at Radio.


And about that Florida immigration bill. Although Governor Scott pledged in his campaign to make immigration reform the law, passage of the bill looks iffy at best. Discrimination and racial profiling top the list of Top Reasons to Dump the Bill, but one other has caught the attention of those in charge of "raising revenue" here in the Sunshine State.

Think impact on tourism.


And if you haven't heard the reasoning behind comedian Daniel Tosh's explanation of why George W. Bush was reelected, catch the former Titusville resident's act on Comedy Central. As Tosh would say, it's funny because it's fill in the blank here.


Bundle up. It's cold out there.

Happy Wednesday.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Crazy for Feeling So Blue

When tragedies like the Arizona shootings take place, our first reaction to make sense of the breach of our everyday normal is to compartmentalize the actions as simply crazy.

I happened across a statement issued by Mental Health America via the Tucson Citizen that serves to remind that our initial attempt to chalk up extreme behavior to mental illness may simply be incorrect.


It will likely take many days to understand the reasons and motivations behind this national tragedy. Many have pointed to mental health as an issue.

It must first be emphasized that people with mental health conditions are no more likely to be violent than the rest of the population. And we have science-based methods to successfully treat persons with even the most severe mental illnesses.

Here's the disclaimer.


A very small group of individuals with a specific type of mental health symptoms are at greater risk for violence if their symptoms are untreated.

My guess is Jared Loughner will likely fall into the untreated group.

Mental Health of America furthered stated that a shortfall in funding "...fails to provide Americans living with mental health conditions with the effective community-based mental health services they need ... just as demand for these critical services has risen dramatically."


It is also important that, as a community, we assist persons with signs and symptoms of mental illnesses to seek treatment. Although rare, when a person becomes so ill that he/she is a danger to themselves or others state laws provide a way to get them help even if they don’t believe that they need it. The best strategy, however, is to have an accessible system of care that is easy to use.

For those of us who live in Florida and suspect a person is a danger to self or others, call law enforcement. They--as well as medical professionals--can cite the Baker Act, a law that provides an unstable individual with emergency services and temporary detention for mental health evaluation and treatment when required, either on a voluntary or an involuntary basis. Length of stay is typically 72 hours.

Read more about the signs of mental instability here.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Gabrielle Giffords

To borrow a phrase from President Obama, let me be perfectly clear.

Leave Sarah Palin out of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting.

You heard this lefty. Leave that nonsense at the keyboard.

Those who frequent Talk to Me know good and well that this blogger is no fan of the former Governor of Alaska; in fact, I stopped writing about her some time ago because I personally feel the less coverage Palin gets, the better.

Yet, after bringing up my Facebook page to find the SarahPAC midterm election target list of House Democrats with Giffords name crossed off with a red slash mark, I was more stunned than when I initially viewed the infamous "crosshairs" map early last year.

To utilize the shooting of the Arizona House Rep and the death of six others--including a nine-year-old child--to take a political swipe at Palin is at best, sickening.

Judge John Roll, 63, Gabriel Zimmerman, 30, Dorwin Stoddard, 76, Christina Greene, 9, Phyllis Schneck, 79, and Dorothy Morris, 76, all alive last week at this time are now dead.

Twenty others have been shot.

Horrific circumstances that prompted some small cog of the political noise machine to take a cheap shot.

I'm uncertain if words can truly encompass the disrespect of that decision, to those who lost their lives, to those injured and to their families and friends.

On Sunday's Meet the Press, five of Giffords' colleagues--Democrats and Republicans--joined moderator David Gregory to process the incident. Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) offered the following in response to Gregory's question about the political climate in Frank and Giffords' home state of Arizona.


Well, you know, I'm always concerned about how we treat each other. In the ultimate analysis here, that's what this is all about. This Jared Loughner had no respect for innocent human life and, ultimately, no respect for his fellow human beings. As willing--whatever his statement was, he was willing to kill someone, kill many people to make it. And, ultimately, I, I feel like that we need to realize as, as members of Congress, as, as Americans, that true tolerance is not pretending you have no differences. It's being kind and decent to each other in spite of those differences. And when we allow people like this to go unnoticed, that have no respect for their fellow human beings, I think we make a terrible mistake. Because, ultimately, if we don't have a more loving respect for each other, we, we really have no hope as a society.

Giffords herself was concerned with the target list. During an interview with the congresswoman after her office was vandalized last March, MSNBC analyst Chuck Todd noted that "...in fairness, campaign rhetoric and war rhetoric have been interchangeable for years." He asked what she thought Palin's intentions were."


"You know, I can't say, I'm not Sarah Palin," Giffords replied evenly. "But what I can say is that in the years that some of my colleagues have served - 20, 30 years - they've never seen it like this. We have to work out our problems by negotiating, working together, hopefully Democrats and Republicans.

"I understand that this health-care bill is incredibly personal," she continued, "probably the most significant vote cast here for decades, frankly. But the reality is that we've got to focus on the policy, focus on the process, but leaders - community leaders, not just political leaders - have to stand back when things get too fired up and say, 'Whoa, let's take a step back here.' "

Last week, I asked FLORIDA TODAY readers to turn off fringe news.

Today, I'm asking readers to rethink the rhetoric and reach across the aisle.

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Weekend Zen

Guess who just got back today,

Them wild-eyed boys that'd been away,
Haven't changed, had much to say,
But man, I still think them cats are crazy.

The Boys are Back in Town.

Thin Lizzy. 1978.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bennett Immigration Bill a Distraction

I once viewed a bicycle safety video where a clown jumped out from behind a tree in an attempt to divert a young biker’s attention from the rules of the road.

“Hey kid,” he yelled, hopping back and forth, his giant shoes slapping the pavement. “Look over here. OVER HERE!”

State Sen. Michael Bennett, R-Bradenton, is waving our attention away from the state’s many problems with his recent filing of his bill on illegal immigration.

With Florida’s unemployment at 12 percent, a predicted job growth of 1.9 percent and the state’s economy projected to grow only by 2.6 percent in 2011, will Floridians see past the distraction offered by Bennett’s legislation?

The bill would require police to confirm the immigration status of suspects and report those in the country illegally to federal immigration authorities. Dissenters believe Florida lawmakers are quick to jump aboard Arizona-style immigration reform in an effort to score points with conservative voters.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush also expressed doubts over state laws that criminalize illegal residents, maintaining their deportation would cost billions and place a burden on local law enforcement. He prefers solutions that would more smoothly transition noncitizens into society.

Bush — his Latino wife a naturalized American citizen — is further concerned such reform laws could lead to racial profiling, indicating his own children might look suspicious to authorities.

Additionally, much of Arizona’s law has been struck down in the courts as an unconstitutional violation of the civil rights of US citizens who could be targeted, including the portion that would require the verification of a suspect’s immigration status.

With a major Republican voice like Bush weighing in alongside the courts, why would Bennett proceed with the bill? It’s easier for political opportunists to distract voters through the proposal of legislation off the backs of those with no power. However, Florida’s recent pick-up of two House seats as a result of the 2010 Census may result in a subtle political power shift for those without a vote.

The census counts all state residents, legal or otherwise.

It’s time Sen. Bennett stopped clowning around with illegal immigration reform and focused on Florida’s real problems.

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Bust the Filibuster

For those who cried Boehner tears these past couple of years over proposed legislation too cumbersome to read, take a peek at the four page plan to reform the Senate filibuster here.

Specific reforms include:

--Clear path to debate provides two hours for debate instead of using the filibuster to block motions to proceed.

--Eliminate secret holds by prohibiting Senators from objection on behalf of another without disclosing the name of the senator with the objection.

--Right to amend guarantees consideration of germane amendments by both the majority and the minority.

--Ensure real debate by limiting the talking filibuster to the subject at hand.

--Expedite nominations by providing two hours of post-cloture debate.

Read the full summary of the Udall-Harkin-Merkley Rules Reform Package here.

No vote until the Senate convenes on January 25th.

Enjoy a good-natured poke at the procedure (tactic?) most likely to obstruct.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Boys (and Girls) are Back in Town

The 112th Congress swears in this morning, beginning at 9:00 AM. (Check it out here).

The Republicans have boasted their plans to undo work done by the 111th Congress. (Which appears a bit iffy to me, considering the Senate continues to hold a Democratic majority while President Obama maintains the option to utilize veto power).

But enough of that. I pose this question to you.

Which law will the Republican-led House waste taxpayer dollars in attempt to repeal first?

Talk to Me.


The John Wheeler Homicide

The John Wheeler story has caught the country's attention.

Police have recently confirmed that the Vietnam war vet and former aide to three American presidents was sighted less than 24 hours previous to the discovery of his body in a Delaware landfill on New Year's Eve. The cause of death had not been reported at this writing.

John Parsons Wheeler III, age 66, proved an instrumental force in the construction of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and also helped to organize MADD. His impressive resume included serving under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush, and was a special assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force during President George W. Bush's second term.

In his 1984 book Touched with Fire: The Future of the Vietnam Generation, Wheeler predicted 'War will play a part in American life in the 1980s and 1990s, and in the next century, whether by financial involvement, efforts at deterrence, or commitment of our own forces''.

At that time, his prediction was considered crystal ball thinking.

Read more about Wheeler's life--and untimely death--here.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Is Rick Scott a Pension-Buster?

Rick Scott sheds the title of Gov-elect today as he opens Florida for business following his inauguration as the state's 45th governor.

Or will Floridians be given the business, particularly state employees working towards a pension?

Scott's intent to actively oversee the pension fund has many concerned. He believes last year's $16.7 billion shortfall was the result of poor oversight. (SBA executive director Ash Williams--who Scott claims to have met at a couple of FSU games, but never to sit down and actually discuss the management of the pension fund--disagrees with the Scott assessment, stating the fund is in "...extraordinarily good condition").

Increasing the age of retirement and requiring employees to contribute to their own retirement are two ideas tossed about by Scott to shore up the pension fund. In fact, his proposal to close down the defined benefit plan to the newly hired is what many view as the beginning of the end of an earned pension following a lengthy career.

This isn't the first time Florida's state workers have witnessed the emergence of a Governor Pension-Buster. Back when Jeb Bush governed the state, FRS employees were given a choice of two tracks: the Pension Plan or the Investment Plan, highly touted as portable should an employee discontinue work for the state. The responsibility of investing employer contributions fell upon the shoulders of the employee. Invest poorly and the state is off the hook with a retirement benefit, effectively busting the employee's pension.

As far as contributing dollars towards retirement, Florida has not required that employees match contributions as the pension is a benefit, the end result carrot awarded for years of work at compensation far lower than states requiring employee matching funds.

Regarding raising the retirement age, some experts are suggesting the opposite. Lowering the age to kickback and relax to 55 would clear the field for younger workers and serve as a stimulus to create jobs.

Yet, what I see as a carrot, the new Governor sees as a "ticking fiscal time bomb". Here's my suggestion for those of us who worked in this state a heckuva lot longer than Rick Scott...

...get your financial house in order.

Read more about Scott's plans for Florida pensions here.

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Think for Yourself in 2011

For the new year, I’m tuning out fringe news. I invite FLORIDA TODAY readers to join me.

Partisan broadcasting is getting this country nowhere fast. Whether right leaning or left, network cable news has not upheld its responsibility to inform. But it has done a fantastic job of pitting citizens against one another.

Some might say we are more polarized than ever, but a better description might be immobilized. The country is so caught up in my way or the highway talk, no one wants to make the first move to discuss compromise.

Opinion has a place. However, when news bellies up with the politicians that on-air journalists are charged to impartially cover, the relationship becomes as self-serving as a tickbird hanging out on the back of a rhino.

Investor Warren Buffett once observed the smarter the journalists are, the better off society is. One good look over the past year makes me believe most of us need a reality check on where better to divine our current events.

Pick up a newspaper, scroll through the online news, listen to public radio or watch C-Span. Stumble across a story that doesn’t ring true? Rather than flip on FOX or MSNBC, get informed. Form your own opinion, instead of relying on a talking head to opine for you.

Let’s think for ourselves in 2011.

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