« November 2011 | Main | January 2012 »

223 posts from December 2011

December 20, 2011

Cuban dissidents record video of police crackdown

Cuban dissidents have sent out photos and videos of a large police crackdown in the eastern town of Palma Soriano that left at least five government opponents with head wounds, black eyes and other injuries.

One photo of the Dec. 2 roundup of 46 dissidents shows Henry Perales with two wounds on his shaved head that required nine stitches to close. Another shows AbrahanCQ Cabrera with one stitch on his forehead.

“That wound bled a lot because it was on a blood vessel, but it was a kick to the ribs on the right side that made me fall to the ground … It still hurts,” Cabrera told El Nuevo Herald Friday by phone from Palma Soriano.

The images were sent to the newspaper by Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia, U.S. representative of the dissident Cuban Patriotic Union. His brother, former political prisoner Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, heads the Union and was one of the men arrested in the Palma Soriano crackdown.

Union members and supporters took two weeks to smuggle out the photos and videos, via emails, because they had to work slowly and carefully to avoid police agents who were trying to find and seize the images, Luis Enrique said. The Palma Soriano roundup was one of the largest and harshest police crackdowns on dissident in recent years. All were freed hours or days later – one of them 12 days later – without charges.

Full story here

Democratic Rep. Pafford presents 2-minute guide to state budget

Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, released this two-minute video to explain how state budget writers make ends meet when revenues are down. Here's a six-minute extended version. How do you think he did?

U.S. House to U.S. Senate: We're not passing your payroll tax cut as-is

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday blew off the Senate's bipartisan proposal to extend a payroll tax cut for two months, instead voting for a conference committee that would work on a bill with the Senate.  

Problem is, the Senate is already gone home for the holidays, and won't be returning until Jan. 23. And if the extenstion isn't approved, an estimated 160 million people will see lighter paychecks beginning in January. The tax cut is about $1,000 a year for families, the White House said. 

President Barack Obama told Republicans shortly after their vote that they need to "come together right now and do the right thing," noting that the Senate was able to do so, even if it means they must return after the holiday break to negotiate extending the two-month period to a year. "We have more important things to worry about than politics right now," Obama said. 

But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, wasn't able to muster the votes to pass the Senate bill with the two-month extenstion, and didn't schedule a vote that would have failed -- and would have painted Republicans as raising people's taxes. Instead of voting on the Senate bill, House Republicans voted to meet with the Senate to work out their differences on the tax cut legislation. Boehner went as far as to appoint six "conferees."  

Tuesday's 229-193 House vote was largely along party lines, although seven Republicans did vote with Democrats. Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and David Rivera voted to go to conference with the Senate on the bill, as did and Rep. Allen West,  R-Plantation. Democratic Reps. Frederica Wilson of Miami, Alcee Hastings of Miramar, Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston and Ted Deutch of Boca Raton voted for it. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Miami, didn't vote -- his office said he was anavailable because of a family medical issue. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, who is running for U.S. Senate in Florida, also voted with fellow Republicans on the bill. 

Note: Both Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., voted for the two-month payroll tax cut extension last week in the Senate, where it passed 89-10.

From Koch cash to sugar money, economic elites fundraise for Mitt Romney at Palm Beach home of Dolphins owner

PBROMNEYMoney doesn't buy happiness. But it puts a downpayment on it --especially in the world of presidential campaigns. 

So it's a good bet Mitt Romney is smiling about his Jan. 12 fundraiser at Related Group developer and Miami Dolphins co-owner Steve Ross's home on the azure Atlantic's waters off Palm Beach. This is where the smart money, the big money, lives -- a place where "winter" is a verb.

Suggested per-person donation: $2,500. Event co-chair fundraising goal: $50,000. Host committee goal: $25,000.

The event is chaired by Darlene and Gerald Jordan (of Hellman, Jordan Management Co., who helped Romney win the Mass. governorship in '02). And it's co-hosted by Pepe Fanjul, one of the original modern-day sugar barons. One of the lesser known Koch brothers, Bill Koch, is among the 15 co-chairs. 

For googling purposes, here's the list of chairs, co-chairs and hosts: NOLAN D. ARCHIBALD, JANELLE & CARLOS BERUFF, M. ANTHONY BURNS, LOURDES & PEPE FANJUL, JULIE & AMIN KHOURY, JOHN RAKOLTA, JR., ALEX SANCHEZ, CHRISTINE & STEPHEN A. SCHWARZMAN, STEPHANIE & AMBASSADOR NED SIEGEL, WOMEN FOR ROMNEY, ELAINE & KEN LANGONE, JAMES B. LEE, JR., LAURA & LEE MUNDER, KATHY & JOE O’DONNELL, SUZANNE & MICHAEL AINSLIE, JENNY & GEORGE BANKS, CAROLYN & DAVID BRODSKY, HOWARD COX, MAUREEN CRONIN, MARGO & ASHTON DE PEYSTER, NANCY HEFFNER DONOVAN, STEVE DUNCKER, DIANA & LLWYD ECCLESTONE, LEWIS M. EISENBERG, ELIZABETH FAGO, CONSTANCE & MIKE FERNANDEZ, T. MARTIN FIORENTINO, JENNIFER & DAVID FISCHER, MARJORIE FISHER, MIKE FITZGERALD, PAMELA & BOB GOERGEN, JAMES D. GREENE, PHIL HANDY, NANCY & JOEL B. HART, LT. GOVERNOR KERRY & SEAN HEALEY, BILL HEAVENER, MARGI HELSCHIEN, CHAIRMAN WILLIAM M. ISAAC, SUZANNE & WOODY JOHNSON, GINNY & DAVID KNOTT, SANDRA & STEPHEN M. LESSING, LEORA R. LEVY, NICOLA & JEFF MARCUS, HOLLY & GEORGE MATTSON, HENRY S. MILLER, MUFFY & DONALD MILLER, DOROTHY & THOMAS M. MULROY, SALLY & THOMAS NEFF, SANDY & JOE O’CONNOR, TODD PETER, NATALIE & MALCOLM PRAY, BONNIE RE, MELANIE SABELHAUS, DEBORAH SIGMUND, PAUL SPRAGUE, BEN STARLING III, MICHAEL STEIN, RICK STONE, JIM TAGGART, TONY TAMER, CINDY TINDELL, DRS. LESLIEBETH & PETER A. WISH, DR. ZACHARIAH P. ZACHARIAH.

Check out an aerial of Ross' pad. Quite the digs for $31.9 million Picture 10

Gov. Rick Scott's shrinking Florida government workforce

From today's column by Steve Bousquet:

In the spirit of generosity that marks the holiday season, Gov. Rick Scott will give state workers an extra day off this Friday.

How kind!

Scott issued an executive order shutting all state office buildings two days before Christmas.

Will anybody notice?

State employees have become practically an endangered species in Florida.

Year in and year out, they are sacrificed at the altar of a smaller, leaner bureaucracy at a time when politicians are forced to continually slash the size of the state budget to avoid raising taxes.

Florida has the smallest and lowest-paid workforce of any state in the country.

It's a trend that will continue in 2012.

Keep reading.

New Gingrich's Florida grassroots team takes shape, sprinkled with Caniacs

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich announced his campaign chairs for Florida's 67 counties. Just a few noteworthy names: state Reps. Michael Bileca, Carlos Trujillo and Debbie Mayfield, and Hillsborough County's Tony DiMatteo. The following Gingrich backers were on Herman Cain's team until his campaign fell apart: Roger Whidden, Tami Donally, Ashley Carr, Steve Czonstka, John Salak, John Hitzel, Mary Mazzuco, Dick Windle, Ruth Cobberly, Andy Tuck, Linda Osborne, Kelly Rainer, Terry Rauch, Clint Pate, Donna Solze, Joey Suggs, Hal Downing, Betty Ramey, Sheri Dodsworth, Tom Moffess, Sally Beshears, Jolien Caraballo.

From a press release:

Continue reading "New Gingrich's Florida grassroots team takes shape, sprinkled with Caniacs" »

December 19, 2011

Does Barack Obama believe he's the 4th-best modern president?

With nary a mention of Solyndra or Fast & Furious, Steve Kroft's recent 60 Minutes interview of President Obama was already one of the year's finest examples of softball, newsless thumb-suckers that lead the right to tar reporters as liberals.

Now comes yet another reason for conservatives to suspect Kroft: CBS edited out Obama's comment suggesting he's the fourth-best president of the modern United States.

"As you yourself said, Steve, I would put our legislative and foreign policy accomplishments in our first two years against any president -- with the possible exceptions of Johnson, FDR and Lincoln. You know, just in terms of what we've gotten done in modern history," Obama said, according to a clip that never made it to broadcast.

MSM-bashing NewsBusters had a field day. A sample:

Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your Obama. That's because in his not so humble opinion, he ranks even higher than John F. Kennedy. Don't feel so bad, President Kennedy. Obama also feels that his administration is better than that of Presidents Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan to name a few. 

Hey, Woodrow Wilson! You failed to get the U.S. Senate to vote for a treaty to join the League of Nations. That's because you lacked the up close and personal political skills of our Obama who is renown for shmoozing politicians. The administration of Harry Truman brought about NATO and the Marshall Plan that saved Europe? Boring! Obama used his incredible diplomatic skills to bring the Olympics to Chicago. Okay, he came sort of close to doing it but, hey, he bagged a Nobel Peace Prize for basically existing. Beat that, Harry! 

But it's not just conservatives who felt Kroft's interview was lacking.  The Atlantic autopsied the interview the best, noting how frustrating it is for serious reporters with serious questions to watch an interview like that squandered. But chances are good that, if the president's handlers knew Kroft was going to ask some truly uncomfortable questions, Kroft wouldn't have gotten the chance.

Were I an adviser to President Obama, I'd urge him to give his next exclusive to Kroft too, for there is a superficial toughness to his interviews. "There are people in your own party who think that you were outmaneuvered. That you were stared down by John Boehner and Grover Norquist and capitulated," Kroft says at one point. Later he notes that "You say that you rallied the country, but these poll numbers show otherwise. They show that 75 percent thinks the country's on the wrong track." As a political operative, these are exactly the sorts of questions I'd want the struggling politician for whom I worked to get, because it appears that he has volunteered to sit down with a tough interviewer, but actually he is being given an opportunity to offer free-ranging explanations for something that no one can deny: lots of people in America are unhappy with him.

Here's the NewsBusters' video, replete with Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 to ensure a Masterpiece Theater-like arrogance:

Eric Silagy named new Florida Power & Light president as Armando Olivera retires

Florida Power & Light President and CEO Armando Olivera announced his retirement Monday after 40 years with the company, leaving the state's largest utility in the hands of Eric Silagy, its senior vice president of regulatory and state government affairs.

Olivera, who started as an engineer trainee in 1972, will continue as CEO until May 2. Silagy began as president today.

Silagy's rise to the top is not unexpected. He joined the company's energy subsidiary, NextEra Energy resources, in 2003 as VP of business development. He moved to FPL in 2007 as chief development officer, responsible for development of new power generation. He took the helm of the lobbying team in 2010.

Silagy directed the company's secret campaign in 2009  targeting two PSC commissioners appointed by former Gov. Charlie Crist, partly by posting negative online comments about  them as FPL aimed to influence public opinion on a rate case with a massive public relations campaign. The Senate would not confirm the appointments of the commissioners, Nancy Argenziano and Nathan Skop, who voted against the request, in 2010.

The company has said it neither coordinated nor condoned the attacks.

A Sun Sentinel story called into question Silagy's lobbying efforts during the 2010 session even though he was not registered as a lobbyist. The company promoted him not long after.

Meanwhile, a group of whistleblowers  continue to circulate rumors about unethical practices at FPL, including that employees destroyed documents so they would not have to disclose them. So far they have not offered evidence to substantiate their claims.

The shake-up comes on the heels of another base-rate increase request in 2012.

Oral argument dates set in Supreme Court review of healthcare reform

The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in the multi-state healthcare lawsuit for March 26-28.

Here's the schedule, via Attorney General Pam Bondi's office:

March 26: The Supreme Court will hear one hour of oral argument on the jurisdictional issue of whether the federal Anti-Injunction Act prevents challenges to the individual mandate.

March 27: The court will hear two hours of oral argument on the constitutionality of the individual mandate.

March 28: The court will hear 90 minutes of oral argument on the issue of severability and one hour on the constitutionality of the law's Medicaid expansion.

'Newt will not hide behind Super PACS'

From a press release:

Miami, FL - Newt 2012 Florida State Director, Jose Mallea, sent the following letter to Newt Gingrich supporters in the state today: 

 
Newt Surges in Florida
SUBJECT:  Super PAC Attacks
TO:  Newt 2012 Florida Team
FROM:  Jose Mallea, Florida State Director, Newt 2012
DATE:  December 19, 2011
 
Miami, FL-- Newt Gingrich’s double digit surge in Florida polls has Super PACS in attack mode.  Newt will not hide behind Super PACS to attack his Republican opponents.  He remains focused on the facts that matter to Florida voters – ousting Barack Obama in 2012.

Newt is the only candidate who led a national conservative movement to reform the federal government.  A balanced federal budget, tax cuts, and leadership in the White House don’t have to be faint memories of the past.  Newt’s plan for the big issues that face our nation will renew America and restore leadership to the White House. 

Newt is a candidate of substance, we will continue to build our momentum and grass-roots support throughout the state for the positive ideas, positive solutions and the proven leadership of Newt.

Stay tuned for exciting Newt 2012 FL County team leadership announcements soon.