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485 posts from January 2012

January 31, 2012

Yahoo News!: Newt Gingrich goon squad assaults Ron Paul supporter

Ron Paul's campaign is demanding an apology for a what looks like an assault, according to a  report filed by Yahoo! News concerning a physical attack on Ron Paul supporter Eddie Dillard in Windermere:

Dillard, a 29-year-old Ron Paul supporter from this suburb near Orlando, arrived to vote at his precinct at Winderemere Baptist Church early Tuesday morning. Pulling into the parking lot, Dillard noticed a man outside the polling place with a Gingrich sign. He decided to run home, slip into his "Ron Paul Rocks America" T-shirt, grab a "Ron Paul 2012" sign from his garage, and return to give his candidate some representation outside the precinct after he cast his vote....

One of Gingrich's security agents stepped in front of him. When Dillard didn't budge, the agent lifted his heeled shoe over Dillard's bare foot and dug the back of it into his skin, twisting it side-to-side like he was stomping out a cigarette. Shocked, Dillard kept his ground and took a picture of the agent with his phone, which was quickly knocked out of his hand. Dillard slipped off his flip-flop to pick up the phone with his foot, and a Gingrich supporter kicked the sandal away.

"Don't kick me!" Dillard said to the man who knocked away his sandal. More members of Gingrich's security retinue approached, shoving their shoulders and chests in front of him.

"Just block him!" a Gingrich campaign aide said. "Everyone step on his toes!"

Jews unite! Newt Gingrich kicks Mitt Romney right in the kishkes over kosher food veto

Kosher food articleThe campaign of Newt Gingrich is robo-calling to bashing Mitt Romney for his veto of kosher nursing-home money in 2003.

This can only help Democrats, to the degree it's effective at all. No one's really sure how many Jewish voters there are, and it's a given that there are 1) few of them and 2) even fewer Republican Jews. And of those who will vote, it's a good bet to think this won't sway them too much.

Anyway, here's the alleged robo-call, according to the Huffington Post:**

As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney vetoed a bill paying for kosher food for our seniors in nursing homes. Holocaust survivors, who for the first time, were forced to eat non-kosher, because Romney thought $5 was too much to pay for our grandparents to eat kosher. Where is Mitt Romney's compassion for our seniors? Tuesday you can end Mitt Romney's hypocrisy on religious freedom, with a vote for Newt Gingrich. Paid for by Newt 2012.

Asked in Celebration today if he approved this, Gingrich wouldn't answer a reporter.

This was his last scheduled stop before awaiting returns in Orlando. He visited with a small crowd of residents on the manicured lawn outside the picture-perfect Heritage Hall. Ron Paul signs seemed to outnumber Gingrich signs, though a few were sporting Gingrich stickers.

He told one woman, "I need your help."

Spokesman RC Hammond told reporters that Gingrich intends to keep competing, across the board.

"The medias' picked front runner hasn't broken 50 percent yet," he said. "That leaves a lot of math out there for the conservative side of the party to pick up, which is how we'll stay competitive in the nomination. Which is why it will last late into the spring. because we will continue to bring in delegates, we will continue to bring in large amounts of support. As long as the tea party supporters keep coming our way, we're going to be able to do very well."

He also said of the campaign's FEC report -- says $5 million was raised from $250 contributors -- "We are a campaign of small donor donations," he said.

**incidentally, "kishkes" is yiddish and translates as guts.

Closing its prison could stagger rural county

What does a prison mean? In some places, it means everything. A rural north Florida community that went out on a limb to get its state prison is now about to lose it. Rick Stone reports on the struggle in Monticello.

Listen Now

Late in the 80s, with crime rising and prisons filling up, Florida needed new prison sites but few counties wanted to be one. Jefferson County, just east of Tallahassee, was different. Then, as now, underpopulated and desperately poor, it saw an opportunity and it did something unusual.

we welcomed them with open arms

Kirk Reams is Jefferson's court clerk and chief financial officer. 

Our county commission went and bought this property, 300 acres, we went out and bought it and donated it to the state. 

In 1990, the county's gift became Jefferson Correctional Institution and JCI became the region's primary employer and economic engine. In a county of 14-thousand, about 200 people are directly employed by the prison -- that's six percent of the workforce -- and everybody else depends on it. But times have changed. Crime is down, prisons beds have fallen empty and the state has decided to close 11 prisons and work camps. Because of its low score on a comptimelicated point system,  one of them is Jefferson Correctional.

2:06 it would be the equivalent of taking the job at Disney out of orange county

Apart from its jobs, and the economny it anchors, the prison is deeply entwined with Jefferson County and its only town, Monticello. Prison work crews maintain the streets and parks at no cost to local government. They separate recyclables from garbage at Monticello's solid waste plant, which director Beth Letchworth says earns the county 70-thousand dollars in a good year.

 to replace this squad with five people at minimum wage would cost this county 140-thousand dollars.

Like almost everybody you meet here, Letchworth is a native of Jefferson County and a former prison worker. So is Sam Flowers.

well, my wife works out there, to. So it would hurt my family. It would be a hardship on my family if it happens.

This is a town hall meeting at Monticello's elegant little courthouse. Two state senators and two state representatives, none of them very hopeful about saving the prison, are about to take testimony. 200 people are packed into the courtroom. In the last hour, dozens of "JCI Means Jobs" yard signs have appeared on the street. Paul Michael says local businesses, many facing bankruptcy,  paid for them.

1:11 there's total buy-in out here in this county. I don't know anybody who wants the prison to leave. It's part of our county. We're serious about it.

The testimony is passionate and personal. Paula Pierce, the wife of a JCI prison guard, said there are no other jobs within miles of Monticello, and Governor Rick Scott --who signed the prison closing order -- should know that.

:58 I don't understand why he wants to pick on Jefferson. I don't understand why he cannot come and face us, and look in the faces of the people he is impacting.

Jerry Loggins, who just made lieutenant after 13 years at J-C-I, said the community has been betrayed by the Department of Corrections, the D-O-C.

15:50 the land out there, we gave them. And now D-O-C wants to snatch our jobs away.

The county's lobbyists and legislators say they've made little headway toward getting J-C-I off the closing list. If they fail, the prison is slated to close by July 1. Most in Jefferson Country are preparing to have their gift of 20 years ago thrown back at them, and return from having little to having nothing.

 --Rick Stone



Appeals court throws out Brown and Diaz-Balart redistricting lawsuit

In a blow to two incumbent congressmen -- and the Florida House which has spent taxpayer money siding with them -- a federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected a challenge to Florida's Amendment 6, added to the state constitution by voters to curb so-called gerrymandering of congressional districts.

From the Associated Press: The three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rebuffed claims by U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, and Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, that the power to change congressional redistricting rules resides solely with the Legislature and not the voters through a referendum.

"The lawmaking power in Florida expressly includes the power of the people to amend their constitution, and that is exactly what the people did here in passing Amendment 6," wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus in the 32-page opinion, which affirmed a September ruling by a Miami federal judge. Full story here.

Scott rejects proposed tuition hike

 The first budget confrontation of the legislative session emerged Tuesday when Gov. Rick Scott declared his opposition to an 8 percent tuition increase at state colleges and universities that Republican lawmakers support.

"I don't believe in tuition hikes," Scott said."We have to do what the private sector has done and what every family has done and that's tighten our belts ... That's the first thing I want to focus on, is how we can reduce our costs rather than how do we raise tuition."

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday is expected to vote out a preliminary budget of $69.2 billion that includes an 8 percent tuition hike -- the same as in the current year's budget, which Scott signed into law last May without objecting to a tuition hike.

Rep. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, who chairs the House budget panel, issued a statement defending the House's support for a tuition hike. "The cost of postsecondary education in Florida is almost the lowest in the nation at an average of $5,531," Grimsley said. "Allowing tuition increases helps keep Florida nationally competitive."

Grimsley said Florida ranks 45th out of 50 states in the cost of undergraduate tuition, now about $184 per credit hour or $5,531 for a full year of 30 credit hours. The 8 percent increase to base tuition by the Legislature last year totaled $7.65 per credit hour. The universities tacked on another 7 percent to make a $9.16 hike, or $275.10 for a full year of 30 credits.

The Senate has not yet prepared its budget, but support for a tuition increase exists there too. Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, who chairs the budget subcommittee on higher education, disagreed with Scott. 

"I have great concern because we're cutting back on dollars, and education has been cutting back every single year for the last four years now, and to come one more year where we have to reduce money and say 'no tuition increases' is very difficult," Lynn said.

Tuition has increased every year for the past six years in Florida.

-- Steve Bousquet and Kim Wilmath


Marco Rubio leads contraception-religion-ObamaCare battle with bill

Just in time for the 2012 elections, here's a fight over sex, health insurance and religion pushed to the fore by Sen. Marco Rubio, who wants Congress to repeal a contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act. Expect some talk about insurance plans that offer breaks on erection pills, but not The Pill.

From a press release:

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 2012, a bill to repeal a new ObamaCare mandate that violates the religious liberties and conscience rights of faith-based institutions by forcing them to offer employees insurance coverage for contraceptives.

Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Human Services finalized a new mandate that would require most church-affiliated organizations to offer their workers private insurance coverage without out-of-pocket charges for birth control.  The administration ignored efforts by numerous faith-based organizations to be granted an exemption on religious grounds.

“The Obama Administration’s obsession with forcing mandates on the American people has now reached a new low by violating the conscience rights and religious liberties of our people,” said Rubio.  “Under this President, we have a government that has grown too big, too costly and now even more overbearing by forcing religious entities to abandon their beliefs.  This is a common sense bill that simply says the government can’t force religious organizations to abandon the fundamental tenets of their faith because the government says so.”

The text of the legislation is available here.

The politics of high school sports

Few topics evoke passion like high school sports.

This morning, a House education subcommittee debated a bill that would impose new regulations on the Florida High School Athletic Association, the 92-year-old organization that governs high school sports. If the bill were to become law, the FHSAA would have to establish guidelines for its investigations and better regulate its investigators.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Kelli Stargel, would also allow more children in private schools to participate in sports at public schools. Currently, the option is only available to children who attend small private schools that do not have sports programs. 

Continue reading "The politics of high school sports" »

Allen West's wife sees no conspiracy in redistricting

We missed U.S. Rep. Allen West voting this morning in Plantation but caught up with his wife at her precinct. Angela Graham-West wouldn't reveal who she voted for in the presidential primary.

She disagreed with suggestions that her husband got screwed by the redistricting plan that would steer his swing district  in Congressional 22 more to the left. "I don't think it was deliberate," she said.

Rush Limbaugh took Republicans to task for a redistricting plan that would hurt West and said "[Redistricting chairman Rep. Will] Weatherford is a Romney guy and this is why people think Romney is behind this."

When we told Graham-West about Limbaught's comments, she disagreed with the conservative commentator arguing that Romney cares more about his own race than West's race.

At a precinct at the Pompano Beach Civic Center, some Republican voters preferred Romney because they described him as having less baggage than Gingrich.

"I decided walking in -- that's how undecided I was between Romney and Gingrich," said Ronald Perkins, a 60-year-old who works as a chaplain at Port Everglades. "I'm very upset by all the negative campaigning."

Perkins said he had personally met Gingrich in the past and described him as "the smartest human being he has met" but said that can be a problem because "he knows it."

Ultimately Perkins said he thought Romney had a better chance: "Romney is more electable. He has less baggage. Both have baggage but Romney has less."

Perkins wasn't personally turned off by Gingrich's cheating in terms of evaluating presidential candidates.

"I believe in forgiveness," Perkins said. "He has gone to confession. Like the rest of us he continues to sin. To me it's not the most important criteria for who is going to be president."

Victor Reale, a retired airline agent in Pompano Beach, said Gingrich got his vote. Reale saw Gingrich as a man who promised quick action within hours of taking office.

"I liked the Newt," Reale said. "We should get the debt down. We've got to pay our bills and cut, cut, cut."


Support for private prisons shaky in Senate

As the Florida Senate prepares to begin debate on a bill that privatizes nearly 30 South Florida prisons and work camps, support from rank-and-file senators is weakening and unions and other groups are ramping up their opposition.

The legislation (SB 2038) is a high priority of the Senate leadership, but an informal and incomplete head count suggests that GOP leaders lack a solid majority of votes. They need 21 votes for passage, and 11 of the 12 Senate Democrats are in opposition (all but Gary Siplin of Orlando). The Republicans' real problem is in their own caucus, where these nine Republican senators are either firmly in opposition or will not commit to voting yes: Charlie Dean, Nancy Detert, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Paula Dockery, Greg Evers, Mike Fasano, Dennis Jones, Jack Latvala, Steve Oelrich and Ronda Storms.

"I would not consider myself as being in favor," Storms said Tuesday. The Hillsborough lawmaker, known for her careful attention to detail on key issues, said she hasn't had enough time to do her "due diligence" on prison privatization. When Storms is in doubt, she votes no.

Detert, a maverick Republican from Venice, said: "We probably need to have a study and joint meetings where we lay it out for everybody as to why this is a good thing."

In fact, Fasano, the leader of the anti-privatization bloc in the Senate, has drafted an amendment to do just that: State economists would spend a year on a "thorough and complete financial impact analysis of the costs and benefits of privatizing and closing prisons in this state." -- Steve Bousquet

Marco Rubio's Reclaim America raised $563k

Sen. Marco Rubio's political action committee, Reclaim America, had a pretty solid quarter
Raised: $563,390
Spent: $288,077
Cash on Hand: $275,313.53
Debts: 0
Donors: 3,000 +
Average Donation: $188.
Sources: 25 States

For some perspectice, other leadership PACs raised/spent this in the last quarter:

Rand Paul’s Reinventing A New Direction PAC: Raised $104,757.99; Spent $73,030.71.

Mitch McConnell’s Bluegrass Committee: Raised $308,399.95; Spent $304,334.37

Eric Cantor’s Every Republican is Crucial PAC: Raised $413,274.50; Spent $253,908.99.

John Boehner’s Freedom Project: Raised $156,894.70 Spent $481,613.07.