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121 posts from January 2007

January 19, 2007

"I just don't want to die the same day Castro dies"

Humorist Art Buchwald, who died Jan. 17 at his son's home in Washington, D.C., retained a keen sense of humor until his dying day, reports the Washington Post.

According to his longtime friend, Post vice president at-large Benjamin C. Bradlee, Buchwald expressed great interest in the timing of his death - hoping his obituary wouldn't be eclipsed by the death of any other celeb, including Cuba's Fidel Castro.

"I just don't want to die the same day Castro dies," Buchwald told his friends, Bradlee said in the Post's front-page obituary on Friday.

McCain in South Florida

U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumed Republican frontrunner for president, will woo donors tomorrow during a private meeting at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.

On Sunday, McCain will appear on NBC's "Meet the Press'' via satellite from South Florida. McCain's support for sending more troops to Iraq may come up.

McCain last came to Miami in December during the Republican Governors Association, the group then headed by his presidential rival, Mitt Romney. In the middle of the conference, McCain dispatched a shuttle to take participants to a private reception.

It's official, Mel's in at the RNC

Florida Sen. Mel Martinez became the first Hispanic chair of the national Republican party Friday, vowing to reach out to communities "who may have never believed that Republican ideals speak to them."

Several border state Republicans had planned to vote against Martinez because of his staunch support for what they consider "amnesty" for illegal immigrants, but the protest didn't amount to more than a few voices raised in dissent. (And a baffling sign outside the downtown hotel where the RNC held its winter meeting urging delegates to vote 'Neigh' against Mel.)

But Martinez, who schmoozed with committee members at cocktail parties Thursday night and breakfast Friday, called the dissent "democracy" and vowed to move the party forward.

"Our party needs to be about the business of making the American dream come true for every American," he told the crowd of delegates, who sat hushed as he recounted his voyage from Castro's Cuba to the United States as a 15-year-old.

Martinez will serve as honorary party chair; day to day details of running the Republican National Committee will be left to Mike Duncan, a longtime RNC operative.

In an interview earlier in the week with Florida reporters, Martinez said he's told President Bush -- who tapped him for the job -- that his primary role is as a U.S. senator.

   "I made it very clear to him that I needed to be, and intended to be, a full time senator for the state of Florida," Martinez said.

   His selection reflects the party's interest in boosting its profile among Hispanic Americans, who flocked to Bush in 2004, but voted with Democrats in 2006.


Who’s worse: State Farm or Citizens?

Unlike House Speaker Marco Rubio, who thinks state-run Citizens Property Insurance is the “worst insurance company in the state of Florida” and shouldn’t be expanded to cover other types of insurance, Gov. Charlie Crist says State Farm is worse and cited the case of Guinevive Kilgore, an 83 year old, African-American woman from Pensacola who was mentioned in his inaugural address.

“It’s like any business endeavor. You get good people there,” Crist said of the idea to expand Citizens.

But the House says Citizens needs a business plan before expanding. Responded Crist, thumping the podium and raising his voice before walking off:

“Yeah, well, I’ve got one. And it is to have the people work hard that go there – to put a new board in place and make it responsible.

"It's just like we’ve brought in great people in this administration. It’s not complicated. It is not complex. It is straightforward and simple, and it’s an American idea. It’s what we need to be doing.

"And Guinevive doesn’t think they’re the worst company. I think she thinks State Farm is the worst company.”

Crist also today spent part of his lunch hour cold calling residents--a widow from St. Augustine, a retired couple from Port Charlotte, and a couple from Dunedin--who had written or e-mailed the governor to talk to him about insurance. In between sips of a Coke Classic (he's trying to curtail his use of Red Bull), Crist was able to talk to Stan Whitney, while leaving messages urging the others to call him back. Whitney, who is 78 and retired seven years ago from Vermont, decided last year to drop his insurance because the premiums were too high. Since Whitney does not have a mortgage, he made the decision to go bare, which means he also has no coverage for liability, fire or theft.

"I was very surprised and pleased to receive his phone call,'' said Whitney. "I'm thankful I wrote that letter. Someone you think your voice won't be heard....I had about given up hope. Now maybe there's a chance."

Bill Maher: He's a Ros-Lehtinen fan

Comedian Bill Maher tells the Miami Herald he enjoys sparring with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican who made recent headlines by trying to distance herself from telling a documentary film crew that she'd welcome the assasination of Fidel Castro.

Maher, who hosts HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher, called Ros-Lehtinen a "good guest.

"She's strong, she's not a phony,'' Maher said. ''A lot of politicians are afraid of the forum. ``We have their feet held to the fire. In this day and age, politicians are so used to getting softball treatment on TV except on our show or [MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews], so it takes a certain type of person to [step] up to that. She's one of them, she's not afraid.''

Full story here: https://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/entertainment/16486894.htm

January 18, 2007

Power sharing, sure. Dollars? Not so much

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar, got a green light Thursday for his suggestion that Republicans and Democrats should split the job of chairing the Florida congressional delegation: he and Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, will share the honor.

But Republicans and Democrats alike appeared to balk at Hastings' suggestion that the delegation hire two staffers to help it keep track of legislation important to Florida. He suggested each of the 25 members could kick in about $3,000 from their congressional allowances and he offered to give up to $10,000.

"We need to kick it up in this delegation in a way that will help the state of Florida," said Hastings. "We ought to come in line with this century."

Rep. John Mica, R-Orlando, though, pleaded poverty, and few members took Hastings up on his offer.

Instead, they liked a suggestion by Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, to see if one of Florida's universities would send up an unpaid intern to help.

A peeved Hastings suggested the penny pinchers were "shortchanging the state of Florida" for what he called "chump change."

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, however, suggested it's best if members talk amongst themselves.

"We're already staff dependent," Diaz-Balart said. "I don't want to lose us getting together, talking among ourselves."

The delegation did embrace Hastings' idea of creating a website for the delegation "as a more creative way to communicate" with constituents, said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston, who got credit for the idea until she set the record straight.

"The website was Alcee's idea," she said.

Clay Roberts, of 2000 recount fame/infamy, is new DCA judge

Gov. Charlie Crist just made the long-awaited appointment to the First District Court of Appeal, naming his former top deputy, L. Clayton Roberts, to the job.

Roberts, 41, served as executive deputy attorney general under Crist, previously served as general counsel to the Florida Department of State under former Secretary Katherine Harris, and had the unenviable honor of being director of the Division of Elections during the 2000 presidential recount.

Roberts was also instrumental in that department's decision to purge the voter rolls of convicted felons. Activist journalist Greg Palast got him to storm out of an inteview over the matter, which Roberts has said he regrets.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush agreed to allow Crist to make the appointment, even though the outgoing governor could have made the decision as his last official act the morning of Crist's swearing in.

Roberts, who has sought the DCA job since he applied in 2005, told a selection board that the judge he respected the most at the U.S. Supreme Court was Antonin Scalia. He's filling a post held by retiring Judge Richard Ervin III.

Roberts' appointment needs to be confirmed by the Senate, and   comes at a time when the court is seething with intrigue. He couldn't be immediately reached. More here: Download Roberts.doc

Insurance, DC style

With their colleagues in Tallahassee tackling insurance reform, Florida's congressional delegation vowed Thursday to do get involved: firing off letters to urge a federal response.

"Other than Iraq, this was the issue,'' said Rep. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton, who said he got an earful about rising insurance costs on the campaign trail. He and fellow freshman Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Palm Beach Gardens were named point persons on the topic Thursday by House Financial Services Committee chairman Rep. Barney Frank, D-Ma., who said in a release that he'll make alleviating the spiraling cost of homeowner's insurance a priority for his committee.

Klein backs a national catastrophe pool to spread the risk of storms, but similar legislation has failed to pass, amid opposition from states not so prone to natural disasters. But delegation members said they'll seek help from other states hit with rising bills, including Connecticut, New Jersey and California.

"We need to be asking for hearings and action ASAP," said Rep. John Mica, R-Orlando. "This place doesn't move unless somebody pushes it."


Sound clip of "liar" discussion

As requested by a few folks in the Capitol and beyond, following is the sound clip of Sen. Steve Geller whispering out a deal with insurance lobbyists.

Download liar.wav

House council decides education agenda: class size, uniforms, athletic recruiting on the list

The House Schools and Learning Council held its first meeting Thursday in an unnoticed session in which the 14-member panel divided up the House's 100 Ideas proposals into various committees and decided which items to add to the list. The meeting was not noticed and was not attended by anyone but staff, until Miami Herald learned of it. More here.