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July 21, 2016

Dave Barry meets Zoltan the presidential candidate


via @rayadverb

Spoiler Alert, the Republicans went ahead and actually nominated Donald Trump. The theme of the night was “Make America An Adjective Or Verb Again,” and the highlight speaker was Chris Christie, who had the crowd on its feet when he presented DNA evidence linking Hillary Clinton to a 17-state string of bank robberies. The evening ended on an inspirational note with Melania Trump leading the delegates in singing an original song she mostly wrote herself called “This Land Is Your Land.”

(I promise that’s the last Melania Trump plagiarism joke, unless I think of more.)


Meanwhile the streets of Cleveland continue to teem with lunatics and media people, not that there is always an obvious difference. Among the sights I observed while wandering around out there were:

▪ Some women from the antiwar group Code Pink wearing only brassieres above the waist, with the words “BUST UP WAR” written across their cleavages.

▪ A man wearing a T-shirt that said “FURNITURE LIVES MATTER.” I asked him what the shirt meant, and he said “It means we have a furniture company here in Cleveland.”

▪ A man exercising his “open-carry” rights by carrying an AR-15 rifle and two Glock 19 pistols, all of which he said were loaded. He also had a Taser. This man was fully prepared to defend himself from any potential threat he might encounter on the streets of Cleveland, including North Korea.

I also ran into a candidate for president. Really. His name is Zoltan Istvan, and he’s the candidate of the Transhumanist Party.

More here.

Photo credit: Carolyn Cole, TNS

Pam Bondi joins feds in lawsuit to block major health insurance merger


Attorney General Pam Bondi is joining an effort to block the merger of two of Florida's largest health insurers.

A lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice, eight states and Washington, D.C., says that the $37 million deal for Aetna to acquire Humana would hurt competition and increase insurance prices across the country.

It's an odd move for Bondi to join forces with the federal government. Under her leadership as attorney general, the state has joined or filed several lawsuits contesting the Obama administration's immigration policy and Environmental Protection Agency rules.

Last year, she and Gov. Rick Scott sued the federal government over health care funding, claiming the Obama administration was "coercing" the state into expanding Medicaid.

“Competition in our health insurance markets is crucial to keeping premiums down and the quality of care up, particularly when it comes to our seniors and other vulnerable populations, the individuals most affected by this proposed acquisition,” Bondi said in a statement. “It is important that we do everything we can to preserve competition in these markets.”

In particular, the governments behind the lawsuit say less competition could hurt seniors and low-income families who buy health coverage from the insurance exchanges set up by the Affordable Care Act, according to a court filing.

In a joint statement, Aetna and Humana said they would "vigorously defend the companies' pending merger."

Florida and the other governments' lawsuit, the companies contend, is incorrect about the merger limiting competition. The merger will increase Medicare options, they said.


The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation approved the sale in February on conditions that Aetna expand access on the Affordable Care Act exchanges and the "fair treatment" of people with HIV.

School board member joins South Dade leaders in endorsing Miami-Dade mayor


As he fends off a challenge from school board member Raquel Regalado, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez picked up the endorsement of one of Regalado's fellow board members, Lawrence Feldman

The endorsement was announced Thursday when Gimenez rolled out backing from a group of South Dade leaders, including County Commissioner Dennis Moss. Moss is the senior Democrat on the commission, and Gimenez is a Republican -- though both hold posts that are officially non-partisan. Regalado, the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, is also a Republican.

Feldman represents the school board's District 9, which overlaps with the South Dade area. Also endorsing Gimenez on Thursday from the area: three mayors, Peggy Bell of Cutler Bay, Eugene Flinn of Palmetto Bay and Otis Wallace of Florida City; and two state representatives, Kionne McGhee, a Democrat, and Michael Bileca, a Republican. (Wallace's sister, Sandy Walker, owns a magazine, the Gospel Truth, that has received paid political ads from Gimenez's reelction effort.)

In a press release announcing the endorsements, Mayor Bell said of Gimenez: "We are confident that Mayor Gimenez will continue to serve South Dade and our entire community with the integrity and responsibility that have been the hallmark of his tenure as Mayor of our county."

The non-partisan mayoral primary is Aug. 30. There are seven people running, and a November run-off would be held if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote. 


PolitiFact: A look at claims Donald Trump could repeat at convention


Donald Trump has taken his philosophy of "a little hyperbole never hurts" from his 1987 best-seller The Art of the Deal and magnified it for his 2016 presidential campaign.

When Trump gives his Republican Convention speech, he will likely repeat some attacks on Hillary Clinton and statements about immigration, security and the economy.

We looked through Trump’s Truth-O-Meter record and selected seven of his most significant misstatements.

Trump said Hillary Clinton "wants to abolish the Second Amendment."We found no evidence of Clinton ever saying or suggesting that she wants to abolish the Second Amendment. She has repeatedly said she wants to protect the right to bear arms while enacting measures to prevent gun violence. Gun advocates say Trump’s claim is backed up by Clinton’s openness to a gun buyback program and her disagreement with a Supreme Court decision on gun rights. But these two cherry-picked comments don’t add up to opposition to the Second Amendment itself. We rated this claim False

Keep reading here from PolitiFact.

Photo by Mark J. Terrill / AP

'Rude' Cruz non-endorsement is talk of Florida delegation's GOP convention breakfast


INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump tweeted late Wednesday night it was "no big deal" that primary runner-up Ted Cruz refused to endorse him on the convention floor.

Perhaps not for Trump. But Cruz was all Florida delegates could talk about Thursday at an early-morning breakfast.

"It was unfortunate that he made those statements and he did what he did," Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia said. "I do not know if that was the intended outcome of his speech, but if it was, it was an extremely unstatesmanlike, and he probably should have declined the invitation to speak."

At a buffet line, one delegate was overheard telling another Cruz was plain "rude."

The top-billed breakfast speakers also couldn't avoid reflecting on Cruz the day after.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott tried to stay above the fray without referencing Cruz directly. "This is a time to be unified," he told reporters.

Other speakers took Cruz's speech head on.

"I'm a friend of Ted's, and I think he made a mistake last night," U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said, though he also struck a note of empathy for his Texas colleague. "It's just hard for us, who've been in the center of it, to get along."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich posited that "part of what's going is the kind of normal turmoil when something historic has occurred."

Cruz, Gingrich added, is "a brilliant Princeton debater and a brilliant Harvard debater" who could "give you a wonderful speech on the theory of kicking over tables." About two-thirds of the way in, he added, "Donald Trump would walk into the room and kick over the table."

"In all fairness to Ted, he has always had this challenge of being sensitive to people," Gingrich continued, drawing laughs. He said a reporter asked him Wednesday night, "Isn’t this a sign of division?"

"Well, there were 5,000 people on one side," Gingrich said. "And Ted."

Object preview

But not all the delegates felt rancor toward Cruz.

“I liked it,” Miami-Dade County alternate delegate Rey Lastre said of the speech. “It’s important to have diversity of opinion. The Republican Party is supposed to be a big tent. I was clapping for Ted. Other people were too."


Police, hospital unions add to Regalado's labor backing in Miami-Dade mayoral race


Miami-Dade mayoral challenger Raquel Regalado is set to expand her labor backing Thursday with endorsements from unions representing police, port workers, and hospital employees, along with the non-profit that has been a leading critic of her opponent: the Pets' Trust. 

Her planned announcement event at the Police Benevolent Association's union headquarters in Doral mostly makes official endorsements that campaign watchers already expected. PBA president John Rivera has been a top foe of Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, and Pets' Trust leaders already have been generating anti-Gimenez ads to support Regalado's challenge of the incumbent. Also backing Regalado on Thursday: Miami-Dade's teachers union, which played a key role in her winning the endorsement last month from the AFL-CIO, an umbrella group representing a string of public-sector unions in the county. 

The union representing about 5,000 employees at the county-owned Jackson hospital system also is announcing its endorsement of Regalado at the 10 a.m. event. The group was part of the AFL-CIO endorsement announced last month, though that backing did not guarantee member unions would go along. Gimenez later won the endorsements from some AFSCME chapters representing county workers. 

Gimenez took office in 2011 on the promise of a property-tax cut, and used austerity budgets to pay for  it before rising property values allowed for restored spending and higher worker pay. Union leaders contend years of cuts during the recession and slow recovery have left Miami-Dade short-staffed and unable to provide adequate services. 

A Regalado spokeswoman said unions representing private-sector port workers (known as longshoremen), and skilled construction employees (known as craftworkers) also will endorse Regalado. Both are part of the AFL-CIO coalition. Rivera, the police union president, said in a statement that the broad backing shows strong support for Regalado's challenge to Gimenez. 

"It is historic for so many groups to unite in such a public way.  Raquel Regaldo is committed to providing real solutions to real problems in Miami-Dade County, problems which have been ignored or not given the proper attention under the current administration," Rivera said.  "Miami-Dade County deserves better and that is why we are all standing together behind Raquel Regalado."



Joe Biden to campaign with Patrick Murphy in Tallahassee


05122016_141257_bidenmurphy2_0512_8colVice President Joe Biden is headed to Florida's capital in early august to campaign for U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy's Senate bid.

The two Democrats will campaign in Tallahassee, Murphy's campaign confirmed. Details about the event -- including the date -- aren't being made public yet.

“I’m very excited that my friend Vice President Joe Biden will join us on the campaign trail in our state’s capital,” Murphy said in a statement. “The vice president and I share the same rock-solid commitment to strengthening America’s middle class. I’m proud to fight alongside him as we work to grow our economy, raise the minimum wage for hardworking families, and protect Social Security and Medicare for seniors.”

The vice president has campaigned with Murphy twice already, in Orlando and Miami.

Florida's Senate race is a top priority for both major parties, who see it as a key to winning a majority in the chamber. Murphy faces U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary.

Grayson has previously said that he believes Biden may have mistakenly endorsed Murphy, thinking he was a different Patrick Murphy, a former congressman from Pennsylvania.

Undoubtedly, the vice president's appearance could help Florida's Murphy, whose electoral odds are far from secure in the primary or general election, polls show.

Photo by Kristen M. Clark, Times/Herald.

GOP experiences growing pains to grow party among Hispanics



The email hit reporters’ inboxes at 3 p.m. Sunday. The Republican National Convention had added a news briefing for reporters at 5:15 p.m. that afternoon — in Spanish.

Except no one told the GOP staffers who were supposed to conduct the brefing.

When the 4:30 p.m. English-language press conference ended, Spanish-language reporters clamored for their turn. The Republican National Committee’s Hispanic communications director, Helen Aguirre Ferré of Miami, who had been standing in the back of the room, kept her cool and made her way to the podium to translate the English-language remarks from the previous briefing on the fly.

These are the growing pains of growing the Republican Party.

“The party is coming together,” Aguirre Ferré insisted Wednesday morning at a briefing, this time planned well in advance.

Over the past four days in Cleveland, the GOP has accentuated its efforts to communicate with Hispanic voters, dedicating a daily time slot to Latino media so they could disseminate messages from Spanish-speaking surrogates for presidential nominee Donald Trump.

More here.

Photo credit: Carolyn Cole, Los Angeles Times via TNS

July 20, 2016

Ted Cruz steals Mike Pence's show at GOP convention's unofficial Florida night



CLEVELAND -- Mike Pence was the marquee name at the Wednesday at the Republican National Convention. But Ted Cruz stole the show.

The Texas senator, the last candidate to lose to Donald Trump in the GOP presidential primary, used his prime-time speaking slot not to endorse the nominee, but to lay out a methodical, ideological vision that sounded like the foundation for a potential Cruz candidacy in 2020.

“To those listening, please, don’t stay home in November,” Cruz said. “Stand, and speak, and vote your conscience, vote for candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”

Thousands of Trump delegates assembled on the floor of Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena did not take it well. By the time Cruz concluded, the riled-up audience jeered and booed him off stage.

It was astonishing political theater.

The night had been intended to celebrate Pence, the Indiana governor Trump selected as his running mate.

“You know, I’m new to this campaign, and honestly, I — I never thought I’d be standing here,” Pence said, pivoting to Trump. “He’s a man known for a large personality, a colorful style and lots of charisma — and so I guess he was just looking for some balance on the ticket.”

Wednesday was also Florida’s unofficial night in the spotlight.

More here.

Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press