Monday, September 10, 2018

Featured Speaker

From the Washington Post:

Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.), a gubernatorial nominee who recently was accused of using racially tinged language, spoke four times at conferences organized by a conservative activist who has said that African Americans owe their freedom to white people and that the country’s “only serious race war” is against whites.

DeSantis, elected to represent north-central Florida in 2012, appeared at the David Horowitz Freedom Center conferences in Palm Beach, Fla., and Charleston, S.C., in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017, said Michael Finch, president of the organization. At the group’s annual Restoration Weekend conferences, hundreds of people gather to hear right-wing provocateurs such as Stephen K. Bannon, Milo Yiannopoulos and Sebastian Gorka sound off on multiculturalism, radical Islam, free speech on college campuses and other issues.

“I just want to say what an honor it’s been to be here to speak,” DeSantis said in a ­27-minute speech at the 2015 event in Charleston, a video shows. “David has done such great work and I’ve been an admirer. I’ve been to these conferences in the past but I’ve been a big admirer of an organization that shoots straight, tells the American people the truth and is standing up for the right thing.”

[…]

The Freedom Center covered DeSantis’s expenses for the 2017 conference at a luxury resort in Palm Beach, according to disclosure forms he filed as a member of Congress.

Fellow speakers included a former Google engineer who was fired after arguing that “biological causes” in part explain why there are relatively few women working in tech and leadership; a critic of multiculturalism who has written that “Europe is committing suicide” by welcoming large numbers of refugees and immigrants; and a British media personality who urged the audience to keep the United States from becoming like the United Kingdom, where “discrimination against whites is institutionalized and systemic.”

Requests to the campaign and the congressional office to interview DeSantis were declined. A spokeswoman for the congressman, Elizabeth Fusick, provided a statement that described DeSantis as “a leader in standing up for truth and American strength.”

There are a large number of places in Florida — and not exclusively upstate in what’s known as Lower Alabama — where these kinds of views are held as mainstream.  And knowing that he attended these meetings and spoke at them is probably what got him Trump’s endorsement in the first place.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Primary Results

Florida is setting up for an election between two very different candidates and ideologies in the governor’s race: Andrew Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee for the Democrats and Rep. Ron DeSantis for the Republicans.  They couldn’t be more different if you were asked by Central Casting to choose two polar opposites, and that seems to be the theme for the election as a whole, from governor down to local contests.

Andrew Gillum is African-American, setting up the possibility of being the first black governor of the state, and got backing from Bernie Sanders.  He came from behind to win in a field that included Gwen Graham, a one-term Congress-person and the daughter of former governor and senator, Bob Graham.  Ron DeSantis came out of the woodwork to beat Adam Putnam, who has been running for the office since he was in high school, thanks to a tweet by Trump.  He’s a Trumper all the way and this race is going to get really nasty really quickly; there are still parts of the state where whistling Dixie isn’t just an expression, and setting up an unapologetic liberal with a right-wing Trump-sucker will bring national focus, and that means lots of money for PAC ads and all sorts of shit.

Speaking of all sorts of shit, the Senate race between incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott has been set for months, and that too is going to be a study in contrasts.  Mr. Nelson is old school; moderate, unassuming, and competent, while Gov. Scott has been a disaster for the environment, education, and still stinking of corruption.

Locally — as in Miami-Dade County — the race a lot of people have been focused on is the one for U.S. House District 27, which happens to be my district.  Ileana Roz-Lehtinen, a somewhat moderate Republican, is retiring, and the primary race generated a lot of contenders, including David Richardson, who is openly gay.  Donna Shalala, who served as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the Clinton administration and then was president of the University of Miami from 2001-2015, came back to the area, dumped a ton of money into the race, and won.  She will go up against Maria Salazar, guaranteeing that the district will send a woman to Congress.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about how Bettina Rodriguez Aguilera, the Republican running for Congress who claimed that she was abducted by Christ-like aliens and still keeps in touch with them via telepathy did, she got 1,684 votes.  The endorsement by the Miami Herald was a big help.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Red Menace

Via the Washington Post:

Florida’s governor this week made official what residents of southwest Florida already knew: The bloom of toxic algae that has darkened gulf waters is an emergency. The red tide has made breathing difficult for locals, scared away tourists, and strewn popular beaches with the stinking carcasses of fish, eels, porpoises, turtles, manatees and one 26-foot whale shark.

Gov. Rick Scott (R) late Monday declared a state of emergency in seven counties stretching from Tampa Bay south to the fringe of the Everglades. Scott promised $1.5 million in emergency funding.

The governor is facing Sen. Bill Nelson (D) this fall at the ballot box in a contest for the senate seat Nelson has held for three terms. Each man has accused the other of failing to tackle the red-tide calamity and the simultaneous bloom of a different type of algae that is clogging rivers and canals and putting a scum on top of Lake Okeechobee.

Citizens in retirement communities are reporting respiratory distress from the vapors of the microscopic red-tide organism called Karenia brevis. A recent study found a 50 percent spike in hospital visits due to respiratory problems during red-tide blooms.

The red tide has been gradually moving north, to the mouth of Tampa Bay, according to state tracking data. For many places, the daily reports continue to say “Water Color: Dark” and “Respiratory Irritation: Intense.” Worst of all are the reports that state “Dead Fish: Heavy.”

Gov. Scott blaming Sen. Nelson — a Democrat — for not doing anything about the problem is typical for a Trump-sucking windbag.  So far his response has been to blame someone else and ban the term “climate change” from the lexicon of official statements.

During Scott’s tenure, budgets for environmental agencies have been sharply reduced. The budget of the South Florida Water Management District, which oversees water issues from Orlando to Key West, was cut. Many of the more than 400 workers who lost their jobs in the $700 million cut were scientists and engineers whose jobs were to monitor pollution levels and algal blooms. Scott also abolished the Department of Community Affairs, which oversaw development in the state.

In the real world of sane politics and environmental responsibility, this disaster would doom Scott’s chances of winning any election.  But the odds are that it won’t make a difference in the campaign, and if he becomes a senator, Florida will truly be a red state.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Race To Watch

There’s a good piece in The Hill on the importance of the Senate race in Florida, and it could all come down to how Puerto Ricans feel about Rick Scott and Bill Nelson.

About 1.3 million Puerto Ricans are now estimated to live in Florida, overtaking the number of GOP-leaning Cuban-Americans who were once the largest Hispanic group there. After Maria, an estimated 40,000 Puerto Ricans resettled in Florida, according to Stefan Rayer, who’s director of a population program at the University of Florida.

Hurricane Maria put Puerto Rico in the spotlight in September, as thousands continued to live without power for months after the storm struck and the death toll rose to more than 5,000 people. Trump endured heavy criticism for his tepid recovery efforts compared to his response to hurricanes that hit Texas and Florida.

Now it’s becoming a key campaign issue for both candidates, and it appears the crucial voter bloc is still up for grabs.

And if the Democrats lose this seat they could very well miss the chance to take over the Senate.

Florida has already played a crucial role in the nation’s electoral history, and while Bill Nelson may not be the most exciting candidate out there, he could be the one that could hobble or even end the GOP running roughshod over the Constitution.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Florida Steps Up

From the Miami Herald:

Three weeks after the Parkland murders, an emotionally raw House gave final passage Wednesday to Florida’s first gun restrictions in three decades and approved $400 million for mental health and school safety.

The vote by a deeply divided House was 67-50 after a debate that lasted nearly eight hours. . Once the bill passed, lawmakers saluted and waved to the visitors’ gallery and Andy Pollack, whose daughter Meadow died in the massacre.

The gun and school safety bill (SB 7026), which earlier cleared the Senate on a precarious 20-18 vote, goes to Gov. Rick Scott, who said he will consult with Parkland families but declined to say whether he will sign or veto it.

“When a bill makes it to my desk, I’ll do what they don’t seem to be doing in Washington,” Scott said. “I’m going to review the bill line by line, and the group that I’m going to be talking to, the group that I care the most about because it impacted them so much, is the families.”

Scott restated his opposition to arming school personnel but did not say whether he will sign the bill or veto it.

All 17 grieving Parkland families signed a letter calling for passage of the legislation.

“More needs to be done and it’s important for the country to unite in the same way the 17 families united in support of this bill,” Pollack said after the vote. “I’m a father and I’m on a mission. I’m on a mission to ensure that I’m the last dad to ever make a statement of this kind.”

Pollack asked supporters to join him on the web site RememberMeadow.com.

Scott reiterated his opposition to arming school personnel, but did not say whether he will sign the bill or veto it.

“I’ve been clear. I don’t think we ought to be arming teachers,” Scott said.

Under the legislation, anyone buying a firearm from a licensed dealer must be at least 21 years old and wait three days before obtaining a weapon, and Florida would have the first statewide program that allows trained school personnel, except those who exclusively teach, to carry guns.

After so many failed attempts, so many “thoughts and prayers” and whiffing at real gun control, this is progress.  No, it’s not everything — c’mon, ban the damn semi-automatic weapons already — but in this state and with the power of the NRA aimed at the backs of every state elected official who supports the bill, it’s a good start.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

One Small Step

Via the BBC:

Florida lawmakers have voted to enact new gun control measures, weeks after one of the worst school shootings in US history took place in the state.

The Senate narrowly passed a bill that would raise the age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21 and require a three-day waiting period for most weapons.

Senators voted 20-18 in favour, after an amendment removed a provision to arm classroom teachers.

The law now requires approval from the House of Representatives and governor.

Given the state’s propensity for fetishizing anything to do with guns, not to mention the basic ownership of Tallahassee by the NRA, this is progress.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Democrats Keep On Winning

Another special election, another Democrat flips a GOP seat.  And this time in Florida.

Democrats continued a streak of special election wins with a victory along the Gulf Coast of Florida on Tuesday, the 36th red-to-blue switch in a state legislative race since the 2016 election.

Democrat Margaret Good triumphed by seven points in the Sarasota-based 72nd District, defeating Republican candidate James Buchanan in an area that backed Donald Trump for president in 2016 by more than four points.

The upset is likely to reverberate through the two major parties as they gear up for the midterm election cycle. Although Republicans have been buoyed in recent weeks by the sense that their tax legislation will be popular among voters, and by new polling showing that Trump’s popularity has ticked up, Tuesday’s outcome offers yet another data point that voter enthusiasm lies with Democrats.

“They’re winning elections in places where they shouldn’t be,” said Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s former campaign manager, at a Sunday afternoon rally for the Republican candidate. “We’ve seen them win statehouse seats in Wisconsin. We’ve seen them win big mayor’s races in New Hampshire. Fifty seats have already changed hands, from Republicans to Democrats, since President Trump took office. Make no mistake: The Democrats are unified.”

Gee, Corey, I wonder what it could be that has the Democrats unified?  Could it be that the Republicans are falling in behind a sexist, racist, narcissistic vulgarian who was elected with the help of a global adversary and who, when confronted by a choice of good for the country or good for him, always goes with the latter?

As for Trump’s popularity ticking up, it’s because he’s offered goodies and temptations, the same way a predator offers candy to get into his windowless van.  Most people catch on pretty quick.

But one of the overriding factors may be that the Democrats at long last are running candidates who not only are a stark contrast to the fear, loathing, and racially-tinged message of Trump, but who offer something to vote for.  It also doesn’t hurt that they’re raising a ton of money and outspending the Republicans.  You can have the best message in the world but it won’t do you any good if nobody hears it.

This time they did.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Coastal Disturbances

Via the Washington Post:

The Trump administration’s decision to exempt Florida from expanded offshore drilling kicked off a frenzy Wednesday in other coastal states, with governors from both political parties asking: Why not us?

“We cannot afford to take a chance with the beauty, the majesty and the economic value and vitality of our wonderful coastline,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R), who backed President Trump in his state’s competitive 2016 primary, said in a statement.

“Not Off Our Coast,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) wrote in a tweet. “We’ve been clear: this would bring unacceptable risks to our economy, our environment, and our coastal communities.”

The Florida carve-out, announced Tuesday by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, created new doubts about the fate of the entire offshore drilling decision — and immediately became another challenge for Republicans as they work to hold off Democrats in the midterm elections. Nine of the 11 states that opposed the drilling order have gubernatorial races this year, and many of the most competitive contests for the House of Representatives will unfold in districts that touch coastline.

By Wednesday afternoon, state attorneys general, joined by environmental groups, were suggesting that Zinke had undermined the entire drilling rule with his high-profile visit to Tallahassee, where he heaped praise on “straightforward, easy to work for” Gov. Rick Scott (R) — a political ally whom Trump has repeatedly urged to run for the U.S. Senate.

“The Administrative Procedure Act requires there to be a reasonable rationale behind agency decisions, and that they can’t be arbitrary and capricious,” said Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, referring to a 1946 law governing major regulatory changes. “So, saying Florida is exempt because Rick Scott is straightforward and trustworthy? That Florida’s coastlines are unique? That seems to be the definition of arbitrary and capricious.”

This may actually accomplish two good things: keep oil drilling off the coast of the rest of America and completely blow up Scott’s attempt to run for the Senate by depicting him as less a guardian of the environment and more a tool of Trump so that Mar-a-lago doesn’t end up with tarballs on the beach.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Friday, May 26, 2017

Florida Getting In On The Action

The Russian meddling in elections didn’t just happen at the presidential level.  Welcome to Florida!

Via TPM:

A Republican political operative in Florida asked the alleged Russian hacker who broke into Democratic Party organizations’ servers at the height of the 2016 campaign to pass him stolen documents, according to a report Thursday by the Wall Street Journal.

In return, that operative received valuable Democratic voter-turnout analyses, which the newspaper found at least one GOP campaign consultant took advantage of the information. The hacker went on to flag that same data to Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of Donald Trump’s who briefly advised his presidential campaign, and who is currently under federal investigation for potential collusion with Russia.

The Wall Street Journal’s report presents the clearest allegations to date of collusion between people connected to Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.

Cybersecurity experts were sounding the alarm as early as last July that Guccifer 2.0, which had tapped into both the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic National Campaign Committee, was connected to the Russian military intelligence apparatus. However, in September, Florida GOP consultant Aaron Nevins wrote to Guccifer 2.0 to tell the hacker to “feel free to send any Florida based information,” according to the Journal.

As if Florida politics wasn’t riddled enough with weirdness; they would make a Chicago ward-heeler get out of the business.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Endangered Species

Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) has a target on his back for voting for Trumpcare while representing a district in South Florida that is overwhelmingly Democratic and that loves Obamacare.

MIAMI — If Democrats are going to take back the House, they’re going to have to start here.

Almost two dozen interviews with voters this weekend from across GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s sprawling district — which stretches from southwest Miami down all the way to Key West and out across the Everglades to the Gulf Coast — reveal a mix of opinions on his vote last week in favor of the House health care bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act and its impact on his reelection next year.

But the voters with the most passionate responses were generally those who opposed the Republican plan and their representative’s support for it.

Judith Casale said she is going to do everything in her power to stop Curbelo, one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the country in the 2018 midterms.

“I have never canvassed before, but I will f—ing crawl door to door to make sure you lose,” the otherwise mild-mannered 60-year-old recalled that she tweeted at Curbelo as she sat in her living room on Saturday afternoon.

Casale, a Miami native who runs a small brokerage company with her husband Dan, said the couple depends on Obamacare after both developed preexisting conditions that made it almost impossible for them to find health insurance.

Though registered as a Democrat, Casale said she was not very politically active before Donald Trump’s election, and had voted for Ronald Reagan.

“I have called him pretty much every day. I have faxed. I have tweeted. I have Facebooked,” she said of Curbelo. “I have told him, fix it, don’t repeal it.”

Curbelo has a target on his back and he knows it.

On the day of the healthcare vote last week, activists staged a “die in” outside his district office in Miami, lying on their backs on the sidewalk with faux gravestones.

“He should know he wrote his political death certificate with that vote last week. Because we are hell-bent on turning that district blue in 2018,” said Mike Williams, the founder of Indivisible Miami, the local chapter of a new group that sprung up since the election as the left’s answer to the Tea Party.

Curbelo’s office said he was not available for an interview, but pointed to a statement in which he said the GOP health care bill was not perfect, but that it was important for him to be a part of negotiations. The vote “is just a step in the legislative process for this bill — not the end of it. We have worked hard to improve the legislation, but we have a long way to go,” he said.

What are the odds that Mr. Curbelo — like just about everyone who voted Yes — never read the bill in the first place?  And even if he did, it makes no sense to vote for a piece of shit so that it can be “improved” later on.

The only thing worse than being a hard-core ideologue is being a wishy-washy weathervane who relies on his ethnic roots and the prejudices of his constituents to keep him in office.

Bonus Track: An advocacy group is already running ads targeting vulnerable representatives, including Mr. Curbelo, in his district.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

They Put The “Duh” In Florida

Via Miami New Times, here is the latest evidence that my state is run by idiots.

The federal government is run by a despotic regime that dictates laws and hands down rulings wholly incongruous with the vision laid out by America’s Founding Fathers, say two Florida lawmakers. According to state Sen. Keith Perry  — a Republican who represents Alachua, Putnam, and portions of Marion Counties — and Rep. Julio Gonzalez, a Venice Republican, the regime now running the United States constitutes an oligarchy of wealthy elites that “must be dismantled for the sake of our republic and for the continued empowerment of its people.

Who are those tyrants? Try the entire judicial branch of the U.S. government.

In December, Gonzalez filed a resolution in the Florida House, which, if passed, would urge the U.S. Congress to straight-up invalidate the judicial branch. And this morning, Perry filed a companion bill in the state Senate. The pair is asking Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution so that Congress can overturn any judicial decision. Under the crackpot bills, which are identical, Congress could overturn U.S. Supreme Court decisions with a 60 percent vote.

Really.

“Florida Legislature respectfully petitions the United States Congress to propose to the states an amendment to the United States Constitution providing that any law, resolution, or other legislative act declared void by the United States Supreme Court or a United States court of appeals may be deemed active and operational, notwithstanding the court’s ruling, if agreed to by Congress pursuant to a joint resolution adopted by a 60 percent vote of each chamber of Congress within 5 years after the date the ruling becomes final,” Gonzalez’s resolution reads.

It sounds like these guys were not paying attention in their junior high school civics class that explained the basics of our constitutional system; you know, the part about the three co-equal branches of government that consist of executive, legislative, and judicial.

The legislators write that the judicial branch of the government has “taken on an increasingly activist role aimed at molding legislation according to the political beliefs of its members,” adding that such an activist posture tends to excessively consolidate power in one branch of government, and, as George Washington observed, such encroachments eventually create “a real despotism.”

They also add that federal judges tend to rule by “usurpation,” and then, staggeringly, complain that “the United States Supreme Court currently possesses ultimate and unchecked authority on matters of the constitutionality of the United States’ laws such that its opinion on such matters has the same effect as amending the United States Constitution.”

The two men don’t mention that this is, quite literally, the exact job of the U.S. Supreme Court. Nor do they mention that the federal courts have done nothing out of the ordinary this year, compared to other times in American history.

This morning, Perry didn’t cite Trump’s recent judicial smackdown as a reason for proposing the resolution. But the president’s influence is all over the text: Trump, too, has waged a war against the courts, the biggest check on his power, and would clearly be happier if pesky things such as the U.S Constitution, federal judges, and opposing legislators didn’t exist.

Perry, it seems, would rather we be governed by Trump alone. In the meantime, New Times is soliciting donations to send a few copies of the children’s A-Z civics book D Is for Democracy to the two lawmakers’ offices.

What we need now is immediate increased emergency funding for remedial civics education in Florida.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Is Rubio In Trouble?

Marco Rubio, who Time magazine once touted as the savior of the Republican party, finds himself in a tight re-election race against Rep. Patrick Murphy here in Florida.

Recruited, touted and funded by the DSCC, Murphy spent the weeks before the Trump implosion explaining why that group and a related super PAC had already started to scrap $6 million of $10 million in planned ad buys. He had $4 million left to spend, just $600,000 less than the incumbent. Rubio’s line that “both candidates” were flawed skipped over Clinton’s higher favorable ratings — still underwater, but not as toxic in Florida as Trump.

And Democrats, who a month earlier had despaired about beating Rubio, began the week looking for an opening — a path to the Senate laid by angry Trump voters leaving the rest of their ballots blank.

Not everyone has declared the race over. Last week, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) flew into Orlando to join Murphy and local candidates for Congress at a news conference commemorating four months since the Pulse nightclub shootings.

“I spent the morning on the phone calling my donors and national donors, telling them to put money into Florida,” Chris Murphy said. “I think Trump is the kiss of death for down-ballot candidates no matter what you do. If you don’t pull your support, you’re going to get asked questions about why you’re sticking with this monster.”

If there’s an ad campaign for Murphy here in South Florida, I’ve missed it, but perhaps that’s because the campaign knows they have this part of the state sewn up and need to spend their cash in other markets such as Tampa and Jacksonville where there aren’t as many Democrats but might be going for the disgruntled Republicans.

That said, the folks at FiveThirtyEight give Mr. Murphy a 28.4% chance of winning.  Which is too bad because he’s running against an unprincipled opportunist who sees his job in the Senate as a temporary position until he can try again to run for the White House.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

It Already Looks Like A Bribe

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi tells us that she didn’t return the campaign donation she got from Donald Trump right after she lost interest in joining the suit against “Trump University” because to do so would have looked suspicious.

At a hastily called news conference before the Cabinet meeting, Bondi said her only regret was not meeting with reporters earlier to discuss an array of Trump-related documents, released by her office in April, that lay out the Trump University chronology.

“I would never, ever trade any campaign donation — that’s absurd — for some type of favor to anyone,” Bondi said.

Returning the contribution also was never seriously considered, she said.

“If I had returned it, you would have reported, ‘Bondi accepted bribe, got caught, and returned it,’ ” she said. “There was nothing improper about it, so there was no reason to return it.”

There’s another really old profession that deals in favors for money, but I’ll pass up the comparison for now and just say that if someone is worried about improper impressions, there’s a pretty good reason that thought occurs to them: it’s because it is improper.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Business As Usual: Lies and Bribery

It looks like things are getting a little curiouser and curiouser for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and her solicitation of a campaign contribution in exchange for not being part of the suit against Trump University.  Via TPM:

The indefatigable Sopan Deb (one of the reporter standouts of 2016) reports that Trump today flatly denied ever speaking to Bondi about his foundation’s contribution to Bondi’s campaign in 2013, just before her office decided not to join New York State’s suit against Trump and Trump University.

Trump: “I never spoke to her” … “Never spoke to her about that at all.”

Legit?

Who knows? But according to multiple reports, well before this became a big story and never denied by Trump, Pam Bondi personally solicited the contribution from Trump.

Here’s the AP from last June: “Florida’s attorney general personally solicited a political contribution from Donald Trump around the same time her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates.” (emphasis added)

Bondi responded furiously to the AP report, pushing back against claims of impropriety. But she never disputed the AP’s claim that she solicited the contribution personally.

[…]

So where did the AP get the idea that Bondi spoke to Trump directly? From an on the record interview with her political consultant Marc Reichelderfer, who Bondi asked to speak to the AP on her behalf!

Given that this information came from Bondi’s consultant, speaking to the AP on her behalf while trying to defend her against claims of a conflict of interest – and that it was never disputed post-publication – it is overwhelmingly likely that the two did speak and that Trump is lying.

Apparently it’s not a bribe if you ask for it up front.  It’s only a bribe if you have an underling collect it from a dead drop, preferably in a used paper bag leftover from a Subway sandwich and stashed under the third bench on the left in the park.  But if you’re bold enough to ask for it in person and then follow through with legal non-action through your office, well, it’s business as usual.

You have to give a little leeway to Ms. Bondi; she’s not as deft at skulduggery and payoffs as Mr. Trump — in those ranks he has no peer — and her previous attempts at fund-raising have been ham-handed.  She once had to call off the execution of a prisoner because it conflicted with a campaign event.

If there is any karmic justice in the world, this will all blow up in the next month or so and subject Mr. Trump and Ms. Bondi to the kind of scrutiny and suspicion that Hillary Clinton gets every time she scratches her nose.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Primary Results

In Florida, the races that caught national attention did not produce any upsets: Marco Rubio will be the GOP candidate for Senate facing Rep. Patrick Murphy for the Democrats.  (By the way, Mr. Rubio hinted he might not stay in the Senate if elected.  2020 beckons…)

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schulz, who had issues when she was the head of the DNC, won her race against Tim Canova.

In Miami-Dade County, the mayor’s race will go to a run-off in November between incumbent Carlos Gimenez and Raquel Regalado (oh joy, more robocalls).  And it looks like there will be some run-offs in the school board election as well.

The sun shone on the constitutional amendment to allow tax breaks for solar power.  So that’s good.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I Voted

I Voted 08-30-16I stopped at the polls on the way home.  It was raining and all of the electioneers — all campaigning for judges — were huddled under ponchos or the trees in the parking lot of the church where the polling station is located.  They tried to hand me their material but I had a list of recommendations from a lawyer friend and so I politely declined their suggestions.

It was a short ballot; a page and a half.  Since it’s a closed primary I couldn’t vote for someone to primary out Marco Rubio, but I did get to choose a Democrat to run against him.  I also got to choose a candidate to run against U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lentinen.  She’s not a right-wing nut job — she’s on the right side of LGBT issues — but she’s a Republican and I’d vote against her if it my other choice was Teddy the Wonder Lizard.  I also voted in favor of the constitutional amendment for solar power.  After all, this is the Sunshine State, according to my license plate.

When I got home there were four messages on the machine all urging me to vote for a particular candidate.  I even got one from former President Jed Bartlet.  (He said his name was Martin Sheen, but I’d know that voice anywhere.)  He wanted me to vote for Alan Grayson.  Sorry, Mr. President; I already voted, and Mr. Grayson is just too much of a loose cannon and he’d get slaughtered upstate where they don’t have a problem voting against a “non-Christian.”  I’m not wild about Patrick Murphy, either, and there was another choice anyway.

Polls are open until 7:00 p.m. local time.

Primary Day

Today is the Florida primary for local, state, and federal offices including the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.

If you live in Miami-Dade County and need a guide to the ballot and polling places, go here.  If you’re in Broward County, go here, and if you’re in Monroe County (the Keys), go here.

It’s also primary day in Arizona where Sen. John McCain faces a challenge from the right.

I’ll be voting on my way home from work.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Sunday Reading

The Trouble with Corey — Margaret Talbot at The New Yorker on hiring campaign insiders as network pundits.

This week, Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN, offered an upbeat assessment of one of the network’s newest additions, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, whom Zucker hired as an on-air political commentator in June. “I actually think he’s done a really nice job,” Zucker said in an interview with Variety. “He’s come under a much greater spotlight because of who he is, and the relationship he’s had with the media. As a result, people are going to be more critical.” It’s hard to know quite what to make of this. Bosses like to stand by their hiring decisions when they can—fair enough. But Lewandowski has manifestly not been doing a “really nice job” in his new role, unless his role is not so much to comment on the Trump campaign as to embody the pathologies of it.

The trouble with Lewandowski is not that he came out of a campaign or that he is clearly partisan. Both cable and broadcast networks have been hiring people answering to that description for years—Democrats like Paul Begala and David Axelrod, Republicans like Nicolle Wallace and Karl Rove—with the idea that, taken en masse, their perspectives add up to a kind of nonpartisan X-ray of American politics. Those old hands may be prone to repeating their parties’ talking points, but at least they have experience in the White House or in multiple campaigns, and they know they’re supposed to be offering some kind of insider’s insight into the process that may not always pay robotic obeisance to the candidate they worked for most recently. Most of the time, that campaign was long enough ago that they aren’t still being paid severance by it, as Lewandowski is. (To be fair, his CNN interlocutors say so every time he is introduced on air.)

Lewandowski, though, is a special case. CNN hired him just a few days after the Trump campaign fired him. As Trump’s adjutant, he had upheld an authoritarian attitude toward the press, banning the Washington Post, among other media outlets Trump doesn’t care for, from covering the candidate’s events. On his first CNN appearance, on June 25th, Lewandowski would neither confirm nor deny having signed a “non-disparagement” agreement of the kind other former Trump employees have. (In that interview, the CNN anchor Erin Burnett produced an example that read: “During the term of your service and at all times thereafter, you hereby promise and agree not to demean or disparage publicly the company, Mr. Trump, any Trump company, any family member, or any family member company.”) But, if he did, and if he were worried about being sued or just frozen out by Trump—not unreasonable worries, in his position—that would certainly make it unlikely he would say anything critical or even specific or surprising about his former boss.

Yet that was something his new CNN bosses could reasonably have expected: a few crisp anecdotes, a little texture, a sprinkling of behind-the-scenes flavor. Zucker said in the Variety interview that the network simply needed someone representing the G.O.P. nominee’s point of view: “It’s hard to find a lot of those. Our competitors tried to hire [Lewandowski], too.” But Lewandowski’s signal quality is a kind of unsmiling, nonironic loyalty that admits of no countermanding or even complicating detail; he’s like the ultimate faithful retainer, still fixedly serving his master as the mansion crumbles around him—Erich von Stroheim in “Sunset Boulevard.” He refers to Trump as “Mr. Trump” and speaks reverently about “the family,” meaning Trump’s family. When that interview with Burnett turned to how he felt about having been fired, Lewandowski said, “I’d go back and do it exactly the same way, only better. And if I did something to disappoint the family and I didn’t accomplish what they needed, then they do what they need to do, because the campaign is bigger than Corey Lewandowski.” He said he was “fully committed”—meaning fully committed to Trump. “In my private time with my family and my friends, I’m telling everybody that I know that Donald Trump is the only person who’s going to save the country for my children and, hopefully, their children someday.”

At one point, Burnett asked for a little glimpse into the process by which Trump was then picking a Vice-President. Campaign staff members are always coy about this, but there are ways of saying something moderately substantive about what the candidate’s priorities are, and, anyway, Lewandowski wasn’t working for the campaign anymore. This is what he said: “There’s been some speculation out there that people don’t want to be part of this. It’s absolutely the opposite. Every person that he has talked to, every person that he has had an interest in talking to, has reaffirmed with one-hundred-per-cent certainty that they would be absolutely welcome on the ticket.” Absolutely, one hundred per cent: you get the picture.

Lewandowski has not grown into his job since. It could still happen, I suppose. Once in a while, as Callum Borchers pointed out, in the Washington Post, Lewandowski will emit a brief display of empathy. Lewandowski’s CNN colleagues have been doing their best, and when the dogged Alisyn Camerota asked if he could understand why some people might look askance at Trump’s comments about Brexit and the falling value of the pound—namely, that they would be good for business at his golf resort in Scotland—Lewandowski said he could. “This qualifies as progress,” Borchers wrote. “He is at least capable of seeing a non-Trump point of view and granting an unfriendly premise.” Borchars continued,

For the most part, however, Lewandowski is bad television. He remains prone to spouting fiction and doesn’t stay on-topic, grinding segments to a halt as CNN hosts have to correct his misinformation or interject to steer the conversation back to the point.

Since then, some of Lewandowski’s more memorable moments have included a weird outburst with Christine Quinn, the former speaker of the New York City Council and a designated liberal commentator who he’s often been paired with on air. When Quinn, gesturing, brushed his hand with hers in the midst of a heated exchange about Trump’s reaction to the Khan family, he snapped, “Don’t touch me!” And then he said it again.

This week, Lewandowski distinguished himself by reviving the birther canard—the thoroughly debunked conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. One of the other panelists that night, Angela Rye, remarked, “Donald Trump has been attacking the President long before he began campaigning for this important office. He is the one who was the spokesperson of the birther movement” and “saying the President was an affirmative-action admittee of Harvard.”

Though she was bringing this up only to establish that Trump had long had it in for Obama, Lewandowski hijacked the conversation: “Did he ever release his transcripts or his admission to Harvard University? You raised the issue, so just yes or no. The answer is no.” After they had wrangled for a few more minutes, Lewandowski went full birther. “And the question was: Did he get in as a U.S. citizen, or was he brought into Harvard University as a citizen who wasn’t from this country?” he said.

Birtherism was the crucible and the template for Trump’s Presidential campaign. It foreshadowed so many of its hallmarks: dog-whistle racism, the brazen spreading of thoroughly disproven allegations, the just sayin’ tone in which Trump smears people. Advancing birtherism in the guise of political analysis is a firing offense. But then there have been so many already. Earlier this summer, Politico reported that the publisher HarperCollins was backing away from a $1.2 million offer to Lewandowski to write a book about his time on the campaign, “Let Trump Be Trump.” According to Politico, the publisher had decided that Lewandowski’s non-disclosure agreement would prevent him from producing anything valuable enough. Too bad CNN didn’t reach a similar conclusion.

Florida vs. Women and Zika — Nina Liss-Schultz in Mother Jones.

Last week, Florida authorities reported the first cases of local Zika transmission, which means that Zika-infected mosquitos are now in the continental United States. The cases prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to warn pregnant women against traveling to the part of Miami where the cases were found, the first advisory of its kind in the United States.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who’s been preparing for this situation for months, issued a similar message: “For women who live or work in the impacted area and are either pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, I urge you to contact your OB-GYN for guidance and to receive a Zika prevention kit.”

In June, after congressional squabbles blocked federal funding for Zika prevention and response, the Republican governor announced that he’d allocated more than $26 million in state funds, part of which would pay for CDC Zika prevention kits that consist of two kinds of mosquito repellent, tablets that kill mosquitos in water, and condoms. In late July, Scott said his office and the state Department of Health were coordinating door-to-door educational outreach in the areas of concern and working “with OB-GYNs and organizations that serve pregnant women in the impacted area to distribute Zika prevention kits to pregnant women.”

But it’s unclear whether those plans have become reality. A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health wrote in an email to Mother Jones that prevention kits are available for pregnant women at OB-GYN offices, but did not specify how they were being distributed or where.

“We haven’t heard about any kits,” says Laura Goodhue, a vice president at Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida. Planned Parenthood hasn’t received any Zika kits from the Florida Department of Health, nor has it received any guidance from the department about how to serve pregnant women during a possible outbreak.

How ready is the state—where almost two-thirds of pregnancies are unintended and the state government has attempted to block state funding for reproductive health clinics—to take on Zika? 

Here’s the backstory: The virus, which has spread through many parts of Latin America as well as Puerto Rico, is mostly benign for adults and causes mild flu-like symptoms. But it can cause microcephaly in fetuses, a severe and debilitating birth defect, the presence of which has ignited concerns over a global public health crisis. In March, the CDC told pregnant women to avoid traveling to Zika-infected areas in Latin America. And authorities in the region, where abortion is severely restricted and contraception is often hard to come by, took the unprecedented step of asking women to hold off on having children for as long as two years.

Florida’s recent cases of Zika weren’t the state’s first. By late July, nearly 400 cases had been reported over a period of several months, including 55 involving pregnant women. But they were all travel related, meaning someone brought the virus back from a Zika-infected region outside the United States.

The confirmation that four cases of locally transmitted Zika had been reported in a neighborhood in Miami means that mosquitos carrying the virus are now in the area. The number of confirmed cases grew to 15 in a matter of days, prompting the CDC to issue its warning. Those cases are a big deal because scientists warn that infected mosquitos are necessary for the virus to really spread. (Scientists still say, however, that we should not expect a widespread Zika epidemic in the United States.)

A big part of the defense against infection for women in Florida appears to be the Zika prevention kits and OB-GYN outreach, but the Scott administration’s strategy is unclear. The Planned Parenthood affiliate operates three clinics in Miami-Dade County, which has the fourth-highest uninsured rate in the country, and another just over the border in Broward County. The women’s health care organization serves tens of thousands of people per year, many of whom are low-income and without insurance—and more likely to get pregnant by accident. As Laura Goodhue notes, they have not received a single kit.

A spokesperson for Today’s Women Medical Centers, which offers family planning, prenatal, and abortion services, also said her clinic has not heard from Gov. Scott’s office or the state Department of Health about what help to offer women facing Zika. They also do not have CDC Zika prevention kits.

Goodhue says Scott’s efforts to curtail reproductive health clinics in Florida has damaged his efforts for Zika prevention. Most recently, Scott signed a bill that would block state funding for many reproductive health clinics, including Planned Parenthood and Today’s Women Medical Centers. Planned Parenthood sued the state, and the law is not currently being enforced, but, Goodhue says, Scott “has placed barriers on affordable health care, birth control, and contraception.”

So far, the Florida Department of Health has confirmed one case of microcephaly in an infant whose mother contracted Zika while in Haiti. There are no cases of currently pregnant women with microcephaly diagnoses. But if there were, her options would be limited: the state restricts public insurance coverage for abortion, and prevents health insurance providers on the Obamacare exchange from covering abortion, with no exception for fetal anomaly. There is also a ban on abortion after 24 weeks.

Jeri Bustamante, a spokeswoman for Scott, wouldn’t comment on whether Scott’s efforts to block funding for reproductive health clinics might be undermining his fight against Zika, but she did point out that the Department of Health is now testing pregnant women for Zika at no cost, and that, for now, the virus is contained to a small neighborhood in Miami. “We want to emphasize it is just within one square mile,” she said.

How to Watch the Rio Olympics — David Sims at The Atlantic has a viewers guide.

Watching the Olympics is a multimedia experience that should be perfectly suited to the age of TV streaming. Want to catch a volleyball game without missing that day’s individual dressage? For the most part you can: Viewers are no longer shackled to time-delayed primetime broadcasts for the events they want to watch. Indeed, watching the 2016 Rio Games, which begin with the Opening Ceremony at 7:30 p.m. on Friday August 5, will be easier than ever thanks to NBC’s blanket approach to airing thousands of hours of events both on cable and online. Unfortunately, the best viewing experience will mostly entail a cable subscription, but there are a few other ways to watch in the U.S. without shelling out too many extra dollars.

NBC will broadcast the Olympics …

The network paid the dear price of $1.2 billion to secure broadcasting rights for the Rio Games. After the opening ceremony on Friday, the network will air prime-time Olympic coverage for the entire two weeks of the Games. Viewers can catch up on the day’s biggest highlights from 8 p.m. to midnight every day, presented by hosts including Bob Costas, Ryan Seacrest, Al Michaels, Rebecca Lowe, and Dan Patrick. The channel will also air live coverage for most of the day, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., until the Games end on August 21.

The main NBC broadcast will feature the biggest events: Swimming, gymnastics, diving, beach volleyball, and anything else the United States excels at, but it should dip into all of the most newsworthy events as they play out. Unlike the Summer Games of the recent past (which took place in Sydney, Athens, Beijing, and London), the games in Rio will be easier for American viewers to keep track of during the day, because the city’s time zone is only one hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time.

… But other cable channels are airing events too

If NBC isn’t airing anything of interest, there are many other cable channels that are part of the NBCUniversal umbrella. NBC Sports will be the primary backup network, focusing on basketball and soccer. The Golf Channel will, unsurprisingly, be the home of golf, which is returning to the Olympics for the first time since 1904. Bravo will feature tennis; CNBC has a number of events including volleyball, cycling, and wrestling; MSNBC counts rugby and water polo among its sports; Telemundo will broadcast hundreds of hours in Spanish; and USA will carry more basketball, along with beach volleyball, rowing, synchronized swimming, and more.

Cord-cutters might have a tricky time of it

Beyond that, the NBC Sports app and NBCOlympics.com will stream some 4,500 hours of events that don’t make it to TV, but you’ll need a cable login to view anything for more than 30 minutes. NBC has also been smart enough to respond to criticisms of its past Olympic coverage by further expanding the viewing options online. Still, in an era of binge-watchers and cord-cutters, the Olympics are the kind of live event that the network will try to milk for every possible dollar, younger viewers be damned.

NBC’s approach is emblematic of the new path major networks have to chart in an era where ratings are more diluted than ever. No longer can it rely on its regular prime-time hits to generate ad revenue—most of the younger generation is happy to wait for it to appear on Hulu or Netflix months later, ready for binge-watching. The Olympics have been viewed for years as a prestige event, a gaudy laurel for NBC that couldn’t possibly justify the immense cost needed to secure the broadcast rights, though that has begun to change.

But there are work-aroundsInternet-only viewers can subscribe to NBC’s cable channels through PlayStation Vue, which is available on PlayStations, Roku boxes, and Amazon Fire TV, for between $30 and $40 a month. Apple TV users can also get access to some of the channels—NBC, NBC Sports, MSNBC, CNBC, USA, and Bravo—through Sling TV, a $25-a-month TV streaming service available as an app.

What about 2020?

This year, NBC agreed to pay a staggering $7.75 billion for the rights to future Olympics through 2032. Back in 2010, the network was judged to have vastly overpaid for the Sochi Winter Games, losing hundreds of millions because of the steep price paid to broadcast them. But live events like the Olympics are increasingly the kind of coveted property that advertising executives know viewers will actually tune into, rather than relying on their DVRs so they can skip through the commercials.

The network had assumed it would lose $200 million on the 2012 London Games; it ended up breaking even, because of higher-than-expected ratings. The seemingly vast overpay for the Olympics through 2032 is a bet on the future of TV, where live events will be the main purpose of broadcasting. That’s why Comcast, the cable company that now owns NBCUniversal, is rolling out a new set-top box that will offer access to real-time high-definition Olympic streams as well as regular cable programming. The 2016 Games might be a risky proposition for the government of Brazil and the athletes attending, but they may well prove a safer bet than expected for NBC.

 Doonesbury — Shilling for Roger.
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