Saturday, June 30, 2007

ACLU Day of Action

On June 26, 2007 thousands of Americans traveled from across the nation to Capitol Hill to demand that Congress restore due process rights, and the rule of law as enshrined in the Constitution. TampaBay Democrat bloggers joined the rally and managed this good photo of Senator Patrick Leahy and ACLU Director Anthony D. Romero who kicked off the event.

Over eighty organizations, led by the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, came together to organize a rally and lobby visits to Congress. In addition to the rally, attendees at the Day of Action to Restore Law & Justice delivered over 250,000 petition signatures to Washington lawmakers, urging them to:

1. Restore habeas corpus and due process.
2. Pass the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007.
3. End torture and abuse in secret prisons.
4. Stop extraordinary rendition: secretly kidnapping people and sending them to countries that torture.
5. Close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay and give those held currently access to justice.
6. Investigate wrongdoing and ensure those who broke the law are held accountable.
7. Return to the rule of law.

"Thousands of Americans have come together to tell their elected officials that the country is on the wrong track and that we need to restore our basic liberties," said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director. "The great writ of habeas corpus upon which this great nation was founded must be restored. The accused have the right to due process, and cannot be held indefinitely without charge."
Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is planning to offer his habeas restoration bill as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill in two weeks. Leahy successfully shepherded the bill through his committee earlier this month.
Rallies took place all over the nation including Tampa.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Reflections on SD-3

I have read all the excellent posts put up around the state about the results of the SD-3 race. Ken's piece on What Went Wrong on the Florida Progressive Coalition raised many excellent questions and provides some insightful thoughts. Ray's Postmortem for SD-3 pointed out a lot of hard lessons learned. There are always lessons to be learned from any election. They are just easier to take if you win. OK, small correction already. I've been trying to read Why Calling Supervoters is Dumb on Grassroots Brevard but something over there keeps crashing my browser. And I have read Tally's piece More Thoughts on SD3, which is a good segue to where I am going.

The first three pieces, including what I could read of the Grassroots Brevard post before my browser crashed, are what I would call tactical reviews, for the most part. Tally's piece comes closer to what I would call a strategic reflection. And that is the direction that I am going to try to go.

If we are going to attempt to play the Florida version of the 50 state strategy, we are going to have to be strategic about it. There are three legs to the successful campaign stool. The legs are the Candidate, the Issues, and the Money. We all know what happens to a stool with less than three legs, don't we. So let's review the SD-3 race with a strategic eye towards these three legs.

I don't know Suzan Franks. Never have had the opportunity to meet her. I do know some folks who worked very hard for her. I plan on knocking back more than a few beers with one of them very soon. So what I am about to say is not about Suzan Franks. I am sure there are a number of Senate Districts in this state where Suzan would have been able to put up better results. But SD-3?. What I am really trying to say here is that we need to match the candidate to the district. This particular district might have looked attractive because the previous incumbent was known as a "moderate". But this is really, with the exception of Leon, a pretty conservative district, and we needed a conservative Democratic candidate here. The best example I can give you of this is the SD-10 race last year. Steve Gorham was a candidate hand made for this very conservative Senate seat. Steve is a great guy and made a terrific showing against an incumbent county commissioner, Rhonda Storms. I think we'll be hearing more from Steve in the future. Another example is Alan Boyd in FL-02. Only a Blue dog could win as a Dem in that district. The R's tried very hard to unseat Boyd in 2004 and lost. The result? Boyd was unopposed in 2006.

Another problem that Suzan Franks had in SD-3 was her relative newcomer status in that district. Running against Charlie Dean, formerly the long time sheriff in Citrus County, put Suzan at a huge disadvantage in the County with the most voters in SD-3. So what do these two things tell us strategically? They both point to the need for Dems to build our bench from the ground up. If we had been able to field a candidate who was a long time office holder and resident of SD-3, whose political philosophy was more suited to the district, I am sure we would have had a much better showing. I believe this is particularly true in a seat like SD-3, but it is also more or less true in any other senate seat.

Democrats win when we can clearly articulate that are values put us on the side of the voters on the issues. The top 3 issues to voters in Florida are property taxes, insurance and education. The property tax issue was the issue in play during this special election. Instead of leading with a statement on how her values led her to support equitable and just tax reform, Franks spends the first half of her issue page on property taxes on attacks on Charlie Dean. That violates what I call the General Grant Rule. Grant wanted to know what his commanders were going to do to Robert E. lee, and not hear about what Robert E. Lee had done and was going to do to them.

On property insurance reform, Franks totally missed the boat. Again she leads with an attack on Dean. Her only substantive proposal is to support a national catastrophe fund, something as a Florida state senator, she would have absolutely no control over. Franks missed a great opportunity here to lay out a values based plan for true property insurance reform that could be implemented by state action alone.

Education is clearly the issue closes to Suzan Franks heart. Her issue page on education is considerably longer than either of the other two issues. and here she says this:
I will continue to fight for the values embodied in a quality education
The problem is, she says this in the last sentence of her lengthy statement on education. If you lead voters with your values they will see that you are on their side on the issues. The quote above is a good one in closing. it would have been a great one as an opening.

So what does this tell us about issue strategically? Believe it or not, we actually won in 2006 by being closer to the voters on our values. Voters need to believe that you share their values. If you make voters believe that you will always be guided by your clearly expressed values, even if they disagree with you on an issue, they will know that you are making a principled stand and will respect you for it. The alpha and omega of positions on issues are your values, values, values.

The third leg of our stool is all about the money. In 2006, the R's outspent us by better than 3 to 1 in the governors race. The final numbers are not in on this race, but it looks like that ratio is going to be hugely larger. Money has been rightly called the mothers milk of politics. In state races money is needed for mailers. Mailings are both the most effective and most efficient mass media tool in state an local races. Winning any election requires you to get more of your voters to the polls than the other guy. This is especially true in special elections. In this race, we missed our opportunity to put on a statewide full court fund raising push the moment that a special election was going to be called.

In general we should be raising money the day after an election and keep on raising money right up until the fund raising blackout before an election. This money should go to the state party for use in absentee ballot and other ongoing strategic outreach efforts. It should also be available as seed money for general elections so that our nominee is ready to roll on the first day after the primary. In 2004, Senator Bill Nelson led an effort to do exactly that for our eventual US Senate nominee. While she ultimately lost that very close election, Betty Castor was in much better shape to campaign after the primary than was Jim Davis. Davis was off the air for an entire month after the primary. This gave Charlie Crist an advantage that could not be made up.

In Florida, there are 164 state races. Four of those are statewide, including the Governor. the other 160 are legislative districts. We must think strategically about building our bench and matching our candidates to the districts. We must make values our strategic weapon of choice. Most Americans actually share the progressive values espoused by most Democratic candidates. Once we get individual voters to recognize that fact, getting voters to agree with you on an issue, or agreeing to disagree with respect becomes infinitely easier. And we must do a better job raising money strategically.

Once we get those three legs on our strategic stool shored up, we will be much more likely to write about our electoral victories instead of lamenting on our electoral defeats. Winning is much more fun than losing. I am ready for some big time fun!

WE Can Fix Health Care Now!

We all know the "healthcare" system is broken and it seems everyone has a "plan". It is shameful that America's healtcare system is ranked near the bottom among industrialized nations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks the U.S. as 27th in the industrialized world for infant mortality. The average life expectancy, according to the WHO, in the U.S. is age 78, ranking 25th among industrialized nations. The average number of good health years is 69, also ranking 25th, and below Slovenia. According to the Institute of Medicine, 18,000 deaths in the U.S. are caused by lack of health insurance.

The good news is that we already have a system in place and we can fix health care now!

We all know the "health care" system is broken and it seems everyone has a "plan". It is shameful that America's health care system is ranked near the bottom among industrialized nations.
The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks the U.S. as 27th in the industrialized world for infant mortality. The average life expectancy, according to the WHO, in the U.S. is age 78, ranking 25th among industrialized nations. The average number of good health years is 69, also ranking 25th, and below Slovenia. According to the Institute of Medicine, 18,000 deaths in the U.S. are caused by lack of health insurance.


The good news is that we already have a system in place and we can fix health care now!

Americans annually spend $5,267 per capita on health care, while the industrialized world’s median is $2,193. The U.S. spends more on health care than any other country in the world. Presidential candidate John Edwards remarked, "We're spending more on health care costs than any other country in the industrial world and getting one of the worst products out the other end."

In other words, we have the most expensive and least effective health care system in the world. The term "health care" itself is a misnomer when applied to our system . Our system does not promote health it treats sickness. It is a sickness system and the overall system is sick.

"Every other industrialized nation in the world provides universal health care to its citizens," Rep. Jim McDermott (D) of Washington. The fact that this country does not provide universal health care to its citizens is a crime and our government is responsible. That crime is negligent homicide and millions have already died.

There is no perfect system but obviously ours is seriously flawed and must be changed. Rather than creating a new system from whole cloth, Medicare can be turned into a national health care system that will provide coverage to all Americans. We simply need to change the eligibility rules and eliminate that 20% that the insurance lobby insisted that Medicare not cover

Let us move right now to solve this critical problem. The solution is simple but not easy however, it is doable right now. It can be funded by removing the income caps on Social Security and Medicare. This will have the advantage of putting both programs on solid fiscal ground.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Florida Political Reporters Beware - Romney's in the State

The Florida Democratic Party just released an"Urgent Memo to Florida Political Reporters Covering Romney". It seems former Massachusetts Governor and Republican presidential wannabe Mitt Romney is making a fundraising trip in Florida today. And the Florida Democratic Party is rightfully concerned for the safety and welfare of the Florida Political Press Corps.

The memo warns the Florida Press Corps:
All Florida political reporters should be aware that a high-level traveling staffer for Romney is now under investigation in New Hampshire for impersonating a law enforcement agent when he allegedly pulled over a New York Times reporter, telling him his plates had been run and that he could not follow a Romney campaign caravan.

Today, as Romney raises money in Florida, you may want to ask his donors if they are comfortable funding this sort of activity. Please note that the staffer in question continues to be paid by the campaign while under investigation.
It appears that the New Hampshire incident is not the only time this character, Jay "Trooper" Garrity may have pulled a stunt like this. Again from the FDP:
the aide, Jay Garrity, or "Trooper" Garrity, also allegedly pulled over a reporter from a different publication. "Marcia Vickers, a senior writer with Fortune magazine, said that while trailing Romney in New Hampshire on Memorial Day for a forthcoming magazine piece, Garrity instructed her at one point to stop tailing Romney's car." [The Boston Globe 6/25/07]
What really concerns me is the Republican pattern of contempt for, or the feeling of being above the law. We are just now reading the Washington Post series about Vice President, (or is it the President of the Senate?), Dick Cheney, and his abuses of power. And now we have a Republican presidential wannabes' staff exhibiting the same kind of arrogant behavior.

If the light shines on the real moral character of these Rethug politicians, I am pretty sure more people are going to be voting Democratic in 2008. So let's keep the lights turned up bright.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Hey Kids! Climate Change Is Your Boogeyman!

Let me say at the outset that I’m a fan of, of their writer Emily Yoffe, and of the Washington Post.

But if there’s one thing I can’t stand it is a disingenuous argument. And I’ll tell you, nine times out of ten, there’s nothing more disingenuous than playing the God!-What-About-The-CHILDREN!!! Card. And Emily’s column today in the Post about global climate change does exactly that.

Ms. Yoffe has decided to take on Al Gore and his “campaign of mass persuasion” on global climate change. She is concerned. You know. For the children.

“I, however, refuse to see the apocalypse in every balmy day. And I think it’s wrong to let our children believe they’ll be swept away before they get a chance to fret about college admissions. An article in The Post this spring described children anxious, sleepless and tearful about the end; one 9-year-old said she worried about global warming “because I don’t want to die.”

“Usually we want to protect our children from awful events, adjusting the message to suit their age. Certainly we tried to do that after Sept. 11. But an essential part of the global warming awareness movement is the belief that scaring us to death is the best way to spur massive change. Gore explicitly compares warming to the Nazis of the last century and terrorists of this one.”

If you don’t read denial in that first line, then you’re probably reading the wrong blog.

Yoffe is clearly missing the big picture, which is this: that global climate change is a massive, massive event, and it’s not the kind of thing that is going to manifest itself in a single day, a single week, month or even year. In the larger picture of decades, millennia, and eons, it’s happening quickly, but in the age of instant news and the Internet, it’s clearly not happening quickly enough.

The bigger point is action, or taking action. Should children be scared of global climate change? Yeah, a little bit. They should also be scared of riding in cars with people who have been drinking, and speeding, and not wearing seat belts. It’s why they show Blood Flows Red on the Highway at driver’s ed. Does it mean they’re going to blow up in a horrific accident on the road? No, probably not. Is it meant to scare them? Hell yes. Furthermore, it’s meant to cause them to take action. They’re supposed to slow down, buckle their seat belts, not drink and drive.

Same thing is true here. Look, we live in an organic world that has never, ever seen the kinds of pollutants we’re putting into the atmosphere every day. Even Yoffe admits that change is happening:

“All this is not to say that it’s not getting warmer and that curbing our profligate environmental ways is not a commendable and necessary goal. But perhaps this movement is sowing the seeds of its own destruction – even as it believes the human species has sown its own. There must be a limit to how many calamitous films, books and television shows we, and our children, can absorb.”

In other words, we know things are changing, we know that “curbing our profligate environmental ways” is a “commendable and necessary goal.” But God, does it have to be so scary?

Of course it’s scary. But we live in an America where an election was stolen and nobody did anything. In fact, we went ahead and elected the prime thief to Congress. We live in an America where you can call a war hero a liar and a coward and pretty much get away with it. We are living in an America where torturing folks is pretty much okay with everyone. We are living in an America where the president started a war based exclusively on lies. Last time I checked, we're still fighting that war. We are living in an America where the rich – the new robber barons – are getting away with, well, everything you can imagine, and it's all pretty much at your expense. And everyone is solidly focused on jailed heiresses. And the bad news is, we’re all okay with that.

This wasn’t meant to be a rant about that stuff, really, but more about the lack of engagement in America. Emily Yoffe doesn’t want us to scare the children. Or anybody for that matter:

“It doesn’t seem sustainable to expect people to remain terrified by such a disinterested, often benign – it was so nice eating out on the patio! – and even unpredictable enemy. (I understand we’re the enemy, but the executioner is the weather.) Recall that the experts told us last year would be a record-setting hurricane season, but the series of Katrinas never materialized.”

Let me say that this paragraph really galls me. How dare she so casually talk about “eating out on the patio” and the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in one paragraph. That is reprehensible.

I hope that people aren’t scaring their kids, telling them their going to die because of global warming. There is, in fact, quite a lot of scary stuff out there, despite how Emily Yoffe thinks it should be. But just because there’s scary stuff out there doesn’t mean we need to raise our children to be scared – we need to raise our children to be activists.

crossposted at The Spencerian

Sunday, June 24, 2007

SD-3: Tallahassee Democrat Endorses Franks

The Tallahassee Democrat endorsed Democratic candidate Suzan Franks today in the special election for SD-3. In making their pick, the Democrat had this to say
we would urge voters to support the candidacy of Ms. Franks, who served in the New Hampshire Legislature from 1992 to 2000 and served on her local board of education, and thus should know her way around a statewide political process. A relative newcomer to Florida, Ms. Franks may not have this state's inner workings down pat, but she has a genuine interest in problem solving and a willingness to listen that suggests her potential to grow and make a difference in the least partisan of the two legislative chambers.

Mr. Dean, a retired Citrus County sheriff, is utterly devoted to his party, saying he will march to the tune of his leaders almost regardless of where they take him.
So, imagine this. The Democrat apparently puts problem solving above marching like a lemming with party leaders in choosing who would do a better job for the people of SD-3.

Hopefully the voters in SD-3 will want somebody who's looking out for their interests ahead of the Republican party's interests.

A Good Look at 2008 Congressional Races

There is a very interesting look at potential Dem US House seat pickups in 2008 over at Political Truth. progressiveflademocrat gives a good rundown on some of the potential pickups. Vern Buchanan, Ric Keller and Tom Feeney (he of the newly minted legal defense fund) lead the list.

Also getting mention is Bill Young. There is the inevitable question about retirement. However, I firmly believe that Young will have to be carried out of the Capitol in a box. That does bring up a very interesting prospect however. Death in office requires a special election to be held. That could actually be very good news for the Dems. FL-10 is still a very tough proposition for any Democrat despite the Districts top of the ticket voting pattern. However, with a special election, FL-10 would likely get a ton of attention from the DCCC. This District would be hard pressed to ever get that kind of DCCC support in a regular election cycle.

Just some food for thought.

Friday, June 22, 2007

SD-3: Suzan Franks, In Her Own Words

The special election to be held on Tuesday, June 26, is important to the future of Florida and our district. The choices couldn’t be clearer - an experienced leader with a record of real accomplishments for the voters, versus a special interest candidate fueled by outrageous amounts of money. The 3rd district deserves a Senator who brings a fresh perspective and new ideas for solving Florida’s growing problems. I am that candidate, with extensive experience in the areas of economic development, education, the environment, and agriculture.

My name is Suzan Franks, and I live in Hernando, in Citrus County, with my husband of 27 years, Rick. We have three grown children. I have over 23 years of elected public service in offices ranging from the School Board, to State Representative. As an independent thinker, I’ve had a long history of being able to work with people on both sides of the aisle. The job of a State Senator is, after all to work together for the good of all the citizens of Florida, while at the same time protecting the interests of the district they represent.

The immediate problems facing Floridians are skyrocketing insurance costs, a convoluted property tax structure, slipping education rankings, and our environment. The root cause of many of these problems is the State Legislature itself. For the last few years they have taken it upon themselves to pass an increasing number of unfunded mandates down to our counties and cities. An example of this is school funding. Here’s how it works.

They passed legislation requiring the counties to increase education funding by over seven percent. But they didn’t bother to send the funding for this increased spending. The counties, now required by law to increase education funding, have to find funds. They have a choice. They can cut needed services such as police or firemen. Or they can stop repairing roads and close parks. Or they can find new revenue, such as raising sales taxes or property taxes. This puts the counties in a quandary and eventually your taxes go up. There’s a major problem with this approach - it’s illegal. Article VII, section 18 of the Florida Constitution says they’re not allowed to do this.

This gives the legislature, of which my opponent is a part of, the opportunity to crow about how they increased education funding, and at the same time chastise the counties for not living within their means. They don’t tell you that they just raised your taxes. It’s sort of like a relative on a spending spree with your credit card, and you don’t know about it until you get the bill. After I’m elected, the first piece of legislation that I introduce will call for and end to this practice, and refund the monies spent by the counties to be repaid.

Tourism plays a major part in our economy, and it’s mostly related to our diverse ecology. Our beaches, wetlands, and wildlife are all part of the economic engine that is Florida. We have to protect these resources and our finite water supply for the good of all Floridians by encouraging sensible development, and making sure environmental regulations are enforced.

With my experience in education, I will lead the fight to restore excellence to Florida’s public schools. Our children are our investment in our future. College tuition rates are too high, and we’re denying a lot of our children the chance to make a good living and saddling them with an enormous debt on graduation day.

The difference between the two campaigns is like night and day. I’ve been traveling around the district, geographically Florida’s largest, meeting people and talking with them about their concerns. The Republicans sit in Tallahassee and send out mailers. The message that I get, is that people in Tallahassee are out of touch with their constituents. Recently, the Republican Party sent out a mailer to some residents telling them that their drinking water was unsafe, and that they had shoddy roads. The residents knew this wasn’t true, and it even angered the Republicans in the area. The same day the mailer was sent, my opponent was at a fundraiser and pocketed $60,000 from his real “constituents”. If they’ll lie to you about something like this, what else will they lie to you about?

So, now they’re relying on the same tired old tactic, yelling “She’s a liberal”! I seem to remember Mel Martinez calling Bill McCollum a liberal in 2004. You couldn’t believe them then. You shouldn’t believe them now.

Monday, June 18, 2007

June 19-Tampa: National Day of Action in Support of Emp. Free Choice Act

Join us for National Day of Action in Support of Emp. Free Choice Act
June 19th, working families from across the country will come together to support the Employee Free Choice Act. This CLC will be holding a rally from 4:00 to 6:00 PM at Verizon Wireless, located at 6550 W.
Hillsborough Ave. (just west of the Veterans Expressway on Hillsborough Avenue). Verizon Wireless was chosen for this event because of their much-publicized actions to thwart its employees' choice to form a union.
This company epitomizes why the Employee Free Choice Act is so important to working families!

Join us and help our voices be heard. This is the "must-do" event!

Cheryl Schroeder, Executive Director
West Central Florida Federation of Labor

SD-3: "What else are they going to lie to them about?"

"Well, they're lying to the folks in Dixie County about their water and their roads. What else are they going to lie to them about?"
These words were written by Beverley Wiskow of Inverness. The target of her ire? The Republican Party of Florida. According to the Gainesville Sun :
Dixie County officials said they were upset and confused about the motives of the Republican Party of Florida this week when it sent out oversized postcards urging residents to vote for Charles Dean for state Senate District 3.

Even local Republican officials were unsure what the mailing was supposed to accomplish.
Seems the RPOF mailed fliers into Dixie County stating that:
Cross City has water "unfit to drink" and so some people are being "forced to buy bottled water."
The fliers went on to say:
that "good, functional roads are a basic need that is just not being addressed in Dixie County."

The problem with these fliers? They are untrue!

So Beverly Winskow wrote to the Gainesville Sun and started her letter with these words:

One voter observed, "Well, they're lying to the folks in Dixie County about their water and their roads. What else are they going to lie to them about?"
Folks, this is a great way to blast back at the Republican smear machine. Cross City City Manager Mike Cassidy said the mailing was inaccurate. Again, per the Gainesville Sun:
(Cross) City and Florida Department of Environmental Protection records show that the city's water is drinkable....Cassidy said, "but our residents deserve the truth in all matters and this has led people to believe the water was undrinkable and that is not true. And no one is being forced to drink bottled water. "

So the RPOF is lying to Dixie County residents about their water. What else are they going to lie to them about? Here is the principle for Democratic candidates. Once you catch the Republicans in a lie, keep hammering it home. If they lied to you about this, what else are they going to lie to you about?

But the Republican Party of Florida was not content to lie about the water in Cross City. They had to go and lie about the roads in Dixie County too. The following was also reported by the Gainesville Sun:

(Dixie) County Manager Arthur Bellot said county officials and the Florida Department of Transportation have absolutely addressed road issues in the county by including money in their 2007-2008 fiscal year budgets for improvements on all of the roads listed in the Republican mailing.
Democratic candidates should make this their mantra
If they lied to you about this, what else are they going to lie to you about?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

16,834 students who passed Florida's key reading exam last year actually failed.

State officials are estimating that, because of an error on last year's reading test, 16,834 students who passed Florida's key reading exam last year actually failed. These students likely had trouble sounding out new words and answering questions about stories they had read.

State educators said they are most worried about 6,326 students from that group because their performance on both the 2007 FCAT and another national standardized test indicated continuing and significant reading problems...

Some of the students perhaps mistakenly promoted ended up doing well on the fourth-grade FCAT. Twenty-one percent of them scored at grade level -- meaning they theould read as the state says a fourth-grader should. That was compared with 68 percent of all the nearly 200,000 fourth-graders tested.

Robert Lange, a retired University of Central Florida professor, said he viewed that success as proof that it is better to keep low-performing children with their age group and provide them extra help than to hold them back. He said in the long-term, retention does not work.

Lange is a member of the Florida Coalition for Assessment Reform, which is opposed to the state's use of FCAT scores for high-stakes decisions such as promotion and retention.

Florida Department of Education officials took baby steps to minimize the impact of the blunder recently uncovered in more than 20,000 third-grade reading scores from the 2006 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Primary Question

There has been a tremendous amount of talk about what is going to happen with the Florida Presidential Primary now scheduled for January 29th. This was the subject of a meeting of the state's DNC members Friday night at the JJ and of both the state Executive Committee and Central Committee meetings on Sunday morning.

The meeting participants were faced with this question. They had received extensions from the DNC for submission of the FDP's Delegate Selection Plan. However, the DNC refused to grant an extension beyond June 15th. So the question was, what would the Delegate Selection Plan have to say about the January 29th primary?

The Florida DNC members ultimately came up with a set of principles to use to evaluate the question. The first was to encourage maximum participation of Democratic voters. That means a primary. Any type of caucus or other mechanism would likely draw only a small fraction of what a primary would draw. The second principle was that Florida Democrats votes should count. Period.

As reported in the St. Petersburg Times:

"Florida Democrats definitely do not want to be the people that decide, your vote doesn't count," said Arlin Briley, vice chairman of the Pinellas Democratic Party, echoing Democrat after Democrat attending the event. "We're in a spot, and we have to let the chips fall where they will and honor the people's vote."
Florida Senator Bill Nelson is also quoted by the Times:

Florida's top Democratic elected officials, Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson oppose making the Jan. 29 election nonbinding, but it's unclear whether DNC chairman Dean has any leeway to bend his party rules and avoid punishing Florida Democrats for the early primary.

"He better," Nelson said Saturday. "I have talked to him and said, 'Don't forget the goal, and the goal is to do well in Florida in November. The last thing you want to do is have the perception that you're taking away people's right to vote and putting in a smoke-filled-room caucus.'"
Under these circumstances the Florida Democratic Party decided to submit their Delegate Selection Plan to the DNC with the January 29th primary as binding on the allocation of delegates to candidates. The plan must be submitted to the DNC on June 15th. There will then be a 30 day comment period. After that, the DNC will decide what to do.

Here is the statement from the DNC upon hearing this news from Florida:
The DNC will enforce the rules as passed by its 447 members in August 2006. Until the Florida State Democratic Party formally submits its plan and we've had the opportunity to review that submission, we will not speculate further.
Howard Dean speaking in New Hampshire was quoted by the Times:
"Their primary essentially won't count,'' he said of Florida. "Anybody who campaigns in Florida is ineligible for delegates." By moving to Jan. 29, he said, Florida Democrats "essentially converted their primary to a straw poll."
Now for a dose of reality. At this point the DNC is like the boy with his finger in the dike. Other states (Michigan, for example) looking to move up are watching what the DNC is going to do about Florida. If the DNC can hang on long enough, these other states will have passed their window of opportunity to move up. At that point, the DNC will be able to say to Florida: OK, you got screwed by the Republican legislature. We don't like it, but we are going to accept your plan. That way, the DNC doesn't have to tell Florida Dems their votes won't count.

If that doesn't happen, here is another reality check. The Democratic nominee ultimately controls the Democratic National Convention. No Democratic nominee looking to win Florida in the general election could possibly fail to seat a Florida delegation at the convention. Here is the Times again, quoting DNC member Jon Ausman of Tallahassee :
once a presidential candidate receives a majority of the delegates, I believe Florida is home free.
I'd be hard pressed to argue with that assessment.

Don't Get Too Attached to Your Candidates

A couple of things happened yesterday that moved me to write this diary. I had just finished my Candidate Review Series Recap. I went through 6 weeks of research and analysis. I even did some navel gazing. I got a chance to see most of the campaigns in action. And I still couldn't come to a decision.

That puts me in the minority of Dems. It also makes me worry very much about something. So, what am I worried about? Follow me below the fold...

The first thing to occur happened away from the keyboard. At least my keyboard. We have a very active and very well organized volunteer Obama campaign presence here in the Tampa Bay Area of Florida. As someone who has some small experience in campaigning, I took the first opportunity I had to drop in on one of their meetings in my hometown, St. Petersburg.

Most of the meeting was taken up with the group members relating their experience on the campaign walk the Obama campaign conducted this week end. Some of us in the room did not participate. That's because the Obama campaign picked a date that was in direct conflict with the Florida Democratic Party Jefferson Jackson weekend. It was see Nancy Pelosi and 2,000 Democratic activists, or go knock on some doors. Well, I can and have knocked on doors plenty of other times. Nancy Pelosi won.

As the folks who walked told their war stories, it became quickly apparent that this was, indeed, an amateur, volunteer organization. But their enthusiasm was endemic. The conversation then moved on to the Obama campaign's participation in the St. Petersburg Pride Festival at the end of the month. This Festival is the largest GLBT Pride festival in Florida, and is a very big deal in St. Pete. Again, having some small experience in this sort of thing, I offered a few suggestions intended to make the Obama group's participation more effective and more fun.

It was then that the first really interesting thing happened. I was challenged by an acquaintance sitting next me as to whether I had gotten off the fence and picked a candidate. It was obvious she had not read my Candidate Review Recap, because I relayed in it that I had not. She then asked me what I was doing at their meeting, as if I wished their campaign ill.

Here is something I want to repeat from the first of my Candidate Review series:

I am going to support the Democratic nominee. Period.
So before a nominee is chosen, I will do what I can, as I have in the past, to help any of the campaigns that I can. I will not work against any campaign, only for them. That was pretty much my answer to my acquaintance.

The second event happened in cyberspace on DailyKos. I returned home to read this comment from my friend Boofdah on my Review Recap Diary:

If she (Hillary) gets the nom I hate to say this, but we're in a world of hurt. :-/

It's a relief that at least (so far), we have a couple of really great local candidates, like this guy, to get behind and do grassroots work for, in case my preferred Presidential candidate (see my sig) doesn't get the nod. I hate to be a sullen poor sport; but I
honest-to-God can't get excited about volunteering for HRC. :(


We have recently been through this in Florida. In last year's governor's race, we had a fierce primary battle. Adherents to both sides were fervently attached to their chosen candidates. The blogosphere was filled with vituperative comments flying from both sides. At the end of the primary, all too many of the supporters of the loser could not bring themselves to work for their party's nominee.

Did any of this lead to the ultimate defeat of our party's nominee? Probably not. Did it contribute to the loss of our party's nominee. Absolutely.

So, what is the answer to this. One of the great things about Democrats is our passion. No one should wish for that passion to be diminished. I certainly do not.

I'd like to see a passionate discussion. I'd like to see what thoughts are out there about how best to be advocates for our candidates, while at the same time recognizing that any one of our candidates is infinitely preferable to any one from the other side.

After all, isn't the ultimate goal to get one of our candidates into the White House?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Gene Smith at the Buzz for Edwards

Some of the best work of the Netroots is informed posting at newspaper blogs. We especially liked this exchange at "the Buzz" on June 12 (St. Petersburg Times). between Gene Smith and "Taxed to Death" at a post called "Edwards in FL."

Taxed to Death:
I don't want him [Edwards] to be president because he advocates redistribution of wealth and he doesn't understand that there are enemies of this country who want to destroy this country and are actively working toward this goal. Further he's willing to further destroy this country's economy on the off-chance that it may lower the global temperature .6 degrees.

Gene Smith :
Hey TTD,
It is going to be loads of fun picking on you today. Let's start with this:

"he doesn't understand that there are enemies of this country who want to destroy this country and are actively working toward this goal."

Actually, he [Edwards] understands that all too well. What he also understands is that the misguided policies of the current administration, branded as the "Global War on Terror" have actually made us less safe. Iraq - not making us safer; Abu Gharib - not making us safer. Torture and illegal electronic eavesdropping - well, abandoning our American values never has and never will make us safer.

These are all parts of the so called "Global War on Terror". I'd say that brand has failed and that we need a smarter, more effective policy to deal with the all too real terrorist threat in the world today. You know, the one that has been enhanced by the failed policies of the current administration.

While right-wing talking points dominate the air waves, when it comes to coherent response buttressed by facts and informed opinion the progressive netroots win everytime.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Candidate Review Wednesday: Recap

Six weeks ago, I set out to try to work my way through what candidate I wanted to support this cycle for the presidential nomination. I had a plan. I reviewed the 3 "top tier" candidates in detail. I did a review on Bill Richardson, because I promised my friend Becker. And last week, I finished up with the Final Four. The only one I haven't done is Al Gore. But then, he's not running... or is he?

So where has all this left me? To find out, you'll have to follow me below the fold.

I started with the premise that

There are two top level criteria I am going to use to evaluate the candidates. The first is their ability to win the nomination. The second is their ability to win the general election.
To get to the general, one must first win the nomination, no? I had a list of things I was looking at in the candidates:

  • Values projected in the Message
  • Stance on issues
  • Fundraising ability
  • Staff competence
  • Primary strategy
  • Does this candidate make me feel it?

So I started with Hillary Clinton. I found a lot to like in the values expressed in her speeches. I called her vote for the AUMF in Iraq

The albatross around Hillary's neck
I wondered

Is she doing the right things now regarding Iraq? Is it enough to overcome her initial vote and her continued refusal to admit a mistake?

I noted her strength in fund raising in the first quarter. I also talked about having people around her who had made it all happen before. My biggest concern was her ability to win the general elections, should she win the nomination.

What's changed in the past few weeks? Hillary's performance in the first two debates. She has been the hands down winner in each debate so far. She keeps that up, she just might make a believer out of ...?

Next up was John Edwards. I really liked the values expressed in Edwards speeches. He still has the most detailed policy pieces on the issues of any candidate. He is foursquare for ending the war in Iraq now. Edwards did not match the stunning amounts raised by Clinton or Obama. He did raise enough to continue to execute his plan. And his plan to win the nomination (he's leading the polls in Iowa, still) is a good one. Here's what I wound up saying about Edwards:

John Edwards message and values reaches me. His call for One America, his stance on Iraq, and his ability to clearly communicate his values resonates with me. ... Edwards would be a nominee that I would be excited to support. And best of all, Edwards can win the White House in 2008.
What has changed in the last few weeks? Edwards has stayed mired in third in the national polls. He had a better debate in New Hampshire than he had in South Carolina. I had a personal experience with the Edwards campaign in Florida this weekend. At the Florida Democratic Party's big Jefferson-Jackson weekend, the Edwards campaign didn't look like it could organize its way out of a wet paper bag. They sure didn't have a clue how to organize in Florida. And it showed.

So that leaves Barack Obama from the top tier. I also really liked the values expressed in Obama's speeches. I noted his "somewhat less forthright" stance on Iraq, despite his having initially opposed the war. Obama has not laid out many detailed positions on the issues. However, his values translate pretty well into the stances on issues that he does talk about. Obama raised a ton of money in the first quarter, stunning nearly everybody. He has surrounded himself with some very experienced campaign operatives. At the end, here is what I had to say about Obama:
There is a lot to like about Barack Obama. His message of working together to solve our problems, to turn the page does resonate with me. The values expressed in his speeches are my values. I'm more than a little concerned about his unwillingness to let those values guide him in his current views on Iraq. It concerns me all the more because on other issues, he has not laid out any measure of specificity on how he would proceed. In sum, Senator Obama has not closed the deal with me at this point.
Has anything changed in the last few weeks? Obama has not exactly helped himself in the debates. He is stuck in second behind Clinton nationally. And he has slipped into third in Iowa behind Edwards and Clinton. Obama did show an organizational presence in Florida this weekend. And if anybody wants to see a passionate plea by a surrogate, get hold of the videotape of Congressman Bob Wexler speaking for Obama this weekend.

I did review Bill Richardson. He has the potential to break into the top tier. However, he has not helped himself in either of the debates so far. And his near melt down on Meet the Press did not help him any either.

As stated earlier, I reviewed the Final Four. Enough said about them.

So, where does that leave me. The candidate who I worry most about general election electability (Clinton) seems to be easing some of those fears in me. Some. Not very many, but some. The guy I seemed to like the best (Edwards) is going nowhere fast nationally, but still has a viable plan to win the nomination. He needs to get better organized (and soon) in some other states than Iowa though. Otherwise Iowa could turn out to be a pretty empty victory. Obama seems to have peaked (for now) in the polls. However, there are recent hints he could have another stunning fund raising quarter. That would certainly keep the buzz going awhile. Richardson is still stuck in single digits and the other guys are still nowhere.

Speaking of nowhere, I am nowhere nearer to figuring out which candidate to get behind than I was six weeks ago. Is Al Gore running?

LG's Chief of Staff Cleans Up After Boss?

There is an interesting story over at the Florida Progressive Coalition. The FPC has a Wiki that includes this description:
Here you will find information about the issues affecting Floridians (Issues), a comprehensive list of progressive groups in the state (Progressive Organizations), information on how to be an activist (How To), the most information on Florida elections and politicians anywhere on the web and other information.
Included among those politicians is Florida's new Lt. Governor, Jeff Kottkamp. On May 8, 2007, The FPC reported
the Jeff Kottkamp page on the FPC Wiki was edited to remove negative information. This was done by someone using an IP address registered to the Florida Department of Management Services, either an employee or a contractor with access to a state computer.
The information deleted was a reference to this item:
State settled suit filed by ex-Kottkamp aide: A one-time aide to Charlie Crist’s running mate, Rep. Jeff Kottkamp, was paid $50,000 by the Legislature in settlement of a discrimination suit.
Now comes the really fun part. In a story breaking today on the FPC website Crystal Armstrong of the state Department of Management Services Enterprise Information Technology Services is quoted as saying the modifications to the FPC Wiki

were made from the computer of Larry Ringers who works for the Lt. Governor.

A. “Larry” Ringers, is the Chief of Staff to Lt. Governor Kottkamp. Two questions come to my mind. First, this appears to be a violation of state policy on computer use that includes this:
The second question is, what is so sensitive about the deleted information about this discrimination complaint that would lead Mr. Ringers to take this action?

Stay tuned. This appears to be the tip of the iceberg.

Blogs Included in Library of Congress Strategic Initiatives.

Blogs are being started and abandoned at volcanic rates. Nonetheless, bloggers are creating a massive chronicle of daily life, filled with stories and, of course, rants.

It’s a potentially important record of our time for future generations — one that the Library of Congress is interested in preserving. But as with other forms of digital data, the Washington-based library can’t hope — and, really, doesn’t want — to save all of the content being published in blogs, according to Laura Campbell, director of the National Digital Library Program.
Through that and other programs, the Library of Congress is working to collect and preserve so-called born-digital data that originates on the Web and to digitize other information for online access, particularly in educational settings.

JJ Weekend - Building Capacity

If the Jefferson-Jackson weekend was a state of the Party event, I can tell you that the state of the Florida Democratic Party is strong. Never have I seen a more enthusiastic and hopeful group of Democrats.

There was a lot of savoring our 2006 victories. But there was also the realization that there is a lot of work still to be done. On Saturday morning, I heard one phrase several times - capacity building. Now is the time to put the pieces fully in place to capitalize on our successes of 2006 in the 2008 cycle. Helen Briley from Pinellas commented that the party's presidential nominee should make more use of the existing DEC infrastructure. That way they wouldn't have to recreate the wheel everywhere they go.

FDP Chair Karen Thurman let it be known that the FDP is creating a capacity building checklist so the nominee will know what resources they already have available to them in each county. The check list includes surrogate speakers, crowd builders and community leaders. All in all, the chair hopes to have a list of 1,000 Florida Democratic leaders and operative who will be available to assist our presidential nominee. Karen talked about a Campaign Template so local parties would know what they had to do to win.

In a nod to my friend alonewolf, Karen made special mention of a provision in the new election law that includes the paper trail. That provision lets anyone who applies for an absentee ballot after July 1 receive an absentee ballot for every election through 2010. I can't tell you how many times I have heard alonewolf talk about our absentee ballot deficit. Well, in the special election for HD-49 won by Darren Soto, we won the absentee ballot, the early vote and election day. No one can remember the last time that happened.

Speaking of special elections, we do have 2 special elections coming up in 2 weeks. Suzan Franks is facing "consistent conservative" Charlie Dean for SD-3. Suzan is an experienced campaigner, having held several elective offices in her native New Hampshire. This district had elected Nancy Argenziano, one of the more moderate Republicans in the Senate. Franks has been telling voters
if you liked Nancy, you'll love me.
Suzan is going to have a tough go against Dean, who was busy raising money in Tallahassee tonight. So if you can, donate to Franks campaign, or volunteer your time. With your help, and the help of the FDP, Suzan can pull this one out.

The other special is for HD-43. This is the seat that Charlie Dean vacated to run for the Senate. Our candidate is Sophia Diaz-Fonseca, who resigned her seat on the Inverness City Council to make this race. Diaz-Fonseca will be facing off against former Pinellas Property Appraiser (and supposedly retired) Ron Schulz. Karen mentioned again and again that since the House and the Senate districts overlap, that we will be getting double bangs for our bucks.

There is a lot of valuable experience to be gained and lessons to be learned from these special elections. And there is a lot of respect earned by Democrats who can take these seats from Republicans. When Darren Soto, the winner of the HD-49 special election approached their table, two Congressmen and a US Senator' Chief of Staff stood up. That's capacity building.

Monday, June 11, 2007

First Shot at the Logo

Here is the first logo suggestion I have received. Ray Earhart was kind enough to send it in.

Let me know what you think, but be kind. Remember this was a voluntary effort and is to be appreciated.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

JJ Bloggers Luncheon - Blue Plate Special

Saturday, June 8, 2007 was a blue letter day for the Florida Democratic Party and the Florida Progressive Blogosphere. On that day, the FDP hosted its first ever Jefferson-Jackson Day luncheon for Florida Bloggers and Netroots activists.

When Phillip Perry of the FDP called the meeting to order, over 50 people were in the room. This was a huge turnout for the first of its kind event in Florida. As noted previously, special thanks is due to meowmissy for bringing this event to reality. I am not going to attempt a comprehensive list of the attendees. However, I would like to make special note of Ken Quinell from the Florida Progressive Coalition and Ray Seaman. They joined with meowmissy and the FDP staff in working to bring this luncheon to life. Thank you.

Phillip Perry gave the welcome and laid out the general goals for the luncheon. The immediate goal was to plan for the Netroots / Bloggers conference at the FDP convention in October. The ultimate goal of all this activity is to turn netroots activism into real world activism and elect more Democrats in Florida. A show of hands was asked for all those who had actually backed away from the keyboards and worked on some campaign in real life. Every hand in the room went up. This group was clearly engaged both online and in real world activities.

Near the end of the luncheon, FDP Chair and former Congresswoman Karen Thurman paid us a visit. Karen thanked us for attending this first of its kind event in Florida and was wowed by the larger than expected attendance. The state Chair told us how she recognizes the importance of what we are doing. She also told us how the feeling of empowerment among state Dems is continuing to increase. This is happening as we continue to savor our gains in 2006. At the same time, Dems are aggressively planning to continue those gains in 2008.

The main business of the luncheon was organizing the Bloggers / Netroots conference at the FDP Convention in October. Consensus was reached that there was enough on the agenda for two distinct sessions. The first would focus on Bloggers and Netroots activists. This session would include a guest keynote speaker and discussions on technology and content. The second session would focus on exchanging thoughts between the online activists and candidates. This session would give the Bloggers and Netroots activists a chance to get to know the candidates. And it would give the candidates a chance to learn what the Bloggers and Netroots activists could do to help get them across the finish line to victory. And it would continue to build bridges that would help to effectively obtain the synergies of effort among the Blogosphere, the FDP and the candidates.

And I would be remiss if I didn't put in a shameless plug for the brand name for the effort to make all this happen. Broad acceptance of the brand name Blog Florida Blue was apparent. We are still seeking a logo for this effort. Any and all suggestions are welcome. Until then, I am going to keep mine simple and to the point:

Just Back from JJ

I have just returned from the Florida Democratic Party's annual Jefferson - Jackson Day gala at Hallandale Beach. I want everyone to know that it was a great weekend event. I thought particularly that the Netroots / Bloggers luncheon was a huge success. I want to send special thanks to meowmissy for really getting the ball rolling for this event. And I want to thank Mark Bubriski and Phillip Perry from the FDP for making it all happen.

I am going to write extensively on the JJ weekend and the luncheon later. In the meantime, I want to point you towards the Florida Progressive Coalition, Tampa Bay Democrat and Blast Off! for the posts they have done on the festivities so far.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

SD-3: Tired Old GOP Rhetoric

Is this really all they have left? Here are the salient parts of The Republican Party of Florida's Chair Jim Greer's statement about the SD-3 primary results tonight:
“We look forward to a spirited race with Democrat nominee Suzan Franks, whose tax-and-spend record would block economic growth in the district and whose liberal values clearly do not represent the people who live there.”
I mean really. Are they so bereft of ideas that all they can come up with are "tax and spend" and "liberal values"?

Here is what Greer had to say about GOP winner Charlie Dean:
...time-tested... experience to lead and the same conservative values that families and communities in District Three hold dear.
Conservative values that families in District Three hold so dear? That's why they had elected Nancy Agenziano, the most moderate GOPer in the Senate? Greer boy, you are just out of touch, aren't you?

Elections are about the future. The voters of Senate District Three are looking for a leader with new ideas, not a tired old codger like Charlie Dean. Oh and speaking of taxers, wasn't it Charlie Dean who voted for that huge sales tax increase the Rubio tried to push n this state? Didn't Charlie Dean vote for the $545 million school property tax increase? Sounds to me like the folks in District Three could use a fiscally conservative Democrat in that seat instead of the tax hiking Dean.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Candidate Review Wednesday: The Final Four

I have previously laid out my plan to review our candidates . The stated goal of this exercise is to help me settle on a candidate to support for the nomination. My reviews of Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson can be found here.

Today, we are off to see, no, not the wizard. We are off to the (apologies to the NCAA) Final Four. So take a moment and review the other diaries in this series. Then follow me...

The Final Four are Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich. We'll spend a little time looking at each one of them. First though, let's take a quick look at the criteria I have established for this review:

There are two top level criteria I am going to use to evaluate the candidates. The first is their ability to win the nomination. The second is their ability to win the general election.

In my attempts to evaluate candidates chances to win the nomination, I am going to look at these factors:

  • Values projected in the Message
  • Stance on issues
  • Fundraising ability
  • Staff competence
  • Primary strategy
  • Does this candidate make me feel it?

Having said all that , let's look at reality here. None of these four guys has a snowball's chance in hell of actually winning the nomination. None of them is above single digits in any polls. None of them have come anywhere near the top three in fund raising. That should be the end of this diary right here. But I did do some research, so what the heck.

Let's start with Joe Biden. Joe is the Senior Senator from Delaware. He has been in the Senate since damn near as long as I can remember. He has the distinction of actually being elected to the Senate before he had attained the legal age to serve, 35.

Joe is not usually known for his reticence. In fact, he brought the house down with his one word answer of "yes" in the South Carolina debate. Trying to find values expressed in Joe Biden's verbosity was no easy task, but I did find this gem in a speech Biden gave on National Security and Civil Rights:

We need not change our national character in order to defeat terrorism. As a matter of fact, we are already defeated by the terrorists if we change our character.
Other than that though, Biden suffers from what has been called the "Issue Trap". As a long time Senator, Biden is adept at debating policy, particularly Foreign Policy. But to find values embedded in those policy choices is no easy task.

Chris Dodd, the Senior and only Democratic Senator from Connecticut also suffers from the Issue Trap. Dodd has been in Congress since he was but two years out of law school. I was able to find something that gives us a hint about Dodd's values though. Dodd has this prominently displayed on his web site: Restore Habeus Corpus and is the author of Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007.

The bill will restore Habeas Corpus protections to detainees, bar information acquired through torture from being introduced as evidence in trials, and limit presidential authority to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions.

Mike Gravel represented Alaska in the U.S. Senate from 1969-81. I had to look it up. Other than making a name for himself as the crusty old bomb thrower in the debates, there is not a lot to say about Gravel. And it was very difficult to find values statements on his web site.

Dennis Kucinich is another kettle of fish altogether. When he was the boy wonder Mayor of Cleveland, he was dubbed "Dennis the Menace." He hasn't changed much since. But in his description of his plan for a Department of Peace I did uncover this:
The United States was founded on hope, optimism, and a commitment to freedom. We can once again become a beacon of hope for the world. To do that, we must reject the current administration's policies of fear, suspicion, and preemptive war. It is time to jettison our illusions and fears and to transform age-old challenges with new thinking. This is the idea behind my proposal to establish a Department of Peace. This is the idea to make nonviolence an organizing principle at home and abroad and dedicate ourselves to peaceful coexistence, consensus building, disarmament, and respect for international treaties. Violence and war are not inevitable. Nonviolence and peace are inevitable.
Not bad for Dennis the Menace, huh?

As for issues, as always I start with Iraq. Joe Biden has been one of the first Democrats to come up with a plan for Iraq. His "federalization plan" has some merit. However, to make it work, a successful settlement of the Iraq oil distribution issue would have to be reached. Biden did not do himself any favors in this area when he voted for the Iraq supplemental without a time table for withdrawal.

Chris Dodd was alone among the senatorial presidential candidates to cast his no vote on the Iraq supplemental while the issue was still in doubt. Clinton and Obama both slunk onto the Senate floor and voted no after the votes for passage were assured.

Mike Gravel is for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. You can probably figure out where "Department of Peace" Kucinich stands. BTW, Kucinich voted against the original AUMF.

None of these guys make me feel it enough to sign on to a Don Quixote campaign. Enough said.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Message From a Floridian in Afghanistan

Something really interesting and really moving has happened recently in the Florida Blogosphere. Meowmissy announced the creation of the Florida NetRoots blog. This is a welcome addition to the ongoing effort to Blog Florida Blue . It has been welcomed by progressive blogs across Florida including the Florida Progressive Coalition and Florida Kossacks. This is, in and of itself, an interesting development.

What happened next is the really moving part. It truly is amazing to realize the reach of the blogoshpere. To find out what has moved me so, follow along....

After announcing the Florida NetRoots blog, meowmissy let us know she had been contacted by
a servicemen from Walton County currently serving in Afghanistan. He asked how he could help with the blog.
For those of you not familiar with Walton County Florida, I have one little statistic for you. George W. Bush beat John Kerry there 73% to 26% in 2004.

In response to his question of how he could help with the blog, I asked meowmissy to forward a couple of questions for me:

First, what do both active duty military folks and veterans think is the best way to support our troops in Iraq?

The second is how do the veterans feel about the current administrations' pronouncements about supporting our troops versus their actual delivery of services (health care, etc) to veterans?

Meowmissy had also been contacted by someone serving on the Executive Committee of the Florida Veterans for Common Sense . She passed along those questions and one of her own:
And how do they feel about the recent vote to continue funding the war?

It is the answers to these questions that have moved me to write this diary. Let's take the last question (Iraq funding) first. Our soldiers' response to this question was most eloquent:
...not much talk about this (Iraq funding) in Afghanistan. About the only thing I hear when people mention it is that someone will usually say something to the effect of "We need to get out of there. That place is a shit hole."

One thing I'd like you to express to your group. IRAQ IS NOT THE ONLY WAR.

People are getting shot at, dodging IEDs and dying everyday here in Afghanistan, and the American people and the MSM have generally forgotten about us. When we were extended to 15 months, most people I told had no clue, because the media only reported that Soldiers in Iraq would be extended. Everyday someone dies in Iraq it is reported in the MSM, but when a soldier in my unit was killed, it was never reported.

The next part of the response reinforces how Hillary Clinton really blew it in the New Hampshire debate when she repeated the Buschco frame:
I believe we are safer than we were. We are not yet safe enough.
Our Florida soldier relates this about the war in Afghanistan:
This war is just. I implore anyone who disagrees to come to this country and see what we are fighting and how we are helping. However, I believe our continued presence in this country to be more immoral than our presence in Iraq. This may sound confusing, but remember this: There is actually a mission here. There is actually an enemy which we can define. There is a clear goal to the operation. However, we have been here for nearly six years. In six years, a nation with the greatest military capability in the history of the world has not been able to defeat a third world shadow government. This is not to say that the troops on the ground have failed, or that the U.S. is not able to win this war. The problem is that this administration has been distracted by a war created and continued by deceit and pride. (Emphasis added)

Our Florida soldier goes on to relate to us his feelings about a recent terrible incident in Afghanistan:
A few days ago, five brave Americans were killed. My reaction was, "and for what?" Why did those men have to die? True, they died fighting a righteous fight, but why are we still fighting it? Why are we still here? Why have we not defeated our enemy here? Why are brave men still dying? Again, because this administration is too eager to save face to commit resources to a just and winnable war.

The most terrible thing is that this is not isolated. This has become the modus operandi for this administration. Resources are committed out of pride to Iraq, so we cannot help victims of national disasters in Louisiana and Kansas. We cannot help our poor because we must give tax breaks to the rich. We cannot aid the sick, because we must aid Big-Rx .... We can not slow the energy crisis or global warming, because we must aid the oil corporations. This administration has a record that is at best immoral and at worst criminal of ignoring big problems that we can actually do something about, in order to protect pride and cronyism.(Emphasis added)
If these feelings of our fellow Floridian, serving in Afghanistan, are being felt in Walton County, I would bet you the 2008 election there will not go to the Republican nominee by a 73% to 26% margin.

Now let's all say a prayer for the safe return of our fellow Floridian.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Welcome to Florida Netroots

We have a brand new entrant into the Florida Blogosphere. Yesterday, Florida Netroots made its entrance onto the stage of progressive Florida blogs. Much as Florida Kossacks grew out of the Florida Kossacks Mail List, Florida Netroots blog was given birth by the Florida Netroots Yahoo Group.

The founder of the Florida Netroots Yahoo Group and now the Florida Netroots Blog is committed netroots activist Meowmissy (aka Webrageous). Here is Meowmissy's self description from her DailyKos profile:

Web Developer, Public Servant, Cat Lover. When I get my act together I'd like to add writer and photographer to the list.

I'd say she pretty much has her act together already.

Here is the description of the Florida Netroots blog:

The Florida Netroots supports and promotes activism at the local and state level in Florida in order to ensure the election of more Democrats to public office.

The first entry in the Florida Netroots blog marked the debut of a great new project, Better Know Florida :

I'm sure many of you are familiar with Stephen Colbert's ongoing series "Better Know a District" where he does humorous interviews with members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Florida Netroots Blog is going to try out it's own "Better Know" series with categories like "Better Know a State Legislator", "Better Know a Local Official" and "Better Know a Candidate" where contributors to the blog write diaries about specific state or local politicians here in Florida.

The focus is on state and local politicians because the Democratic Party in Florida is in serious need of a strong bench. We won't have good candidates to run for Congress without first recruiting and promoting folks who run for local and state office.

Our mission, in part, is to educate ourselves and others about state and local politics. Together we can Blog Florida Blue .

I think that is a terrific mission statement. I want to encourage you all to check out Florida Netroots and show meowmissy some love.

Welcome to the fight in the Florida blogosphere.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Local Governments Win BIG?

The St. Petersburg Times is reporting on a letter sent yesterday by Senate President Ken Pruitt and House Speaker Marco Rubio
touting "substantial agreement" in the property tax talks.

One very significant portion of this letter could prove to be a major victory for local governments.

The details of this letter start out by saying
Cities and Counties will be required to cut their property taxes...

A cap on future property taxes will ensure that local governments cannot grow faster than personal income.
Nothing in there looks like a win for local governments. But look at the very next line in the letter
Local governments may override the caps and the cuts by an extraordinary vote
So what is an extraordinary vote, you ask? Here is what the letter goes on to say about that.
allowing local governments by a super majority vote, referendum or other heightened standards to override the mandatory cuts.
This provision appears to give local governments the power to retain control over their budgets. All they have to do now is to have the political courage to do what they think is best for their communities. I am betting that local governments in the Tampa Bay area will still look long and hard about where they might be able to reduce spending without impacting the quality of life in their communities. But they will retain control over how much to cut.

Stay tuned.