Monday, March 31, 2008

Dear friends: Open your wallets for Joe Garcia

Two great choices:

Please take action by midnight. This is the deadline for reporting donations in the first quarter. You can make a difference, and Joe will thank you.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Putney Challenge, and more from the news

The daily run through the Miami Herald was over 50 percent dispiriting on Sunday, and the list will appear below. But first here’s the pep-up item that hit at the end of Michael Putney’s Sunday morning show, “This week in South Florida,” on WPLG Channel 10.

He cast a sharp eye on wet foot/dry foot, the policy that lets Cuban migrants stay in the United States if they reach dry land but most likely repatriates them to Cuba if they are stopped at sea. I didn’t have a tape running on the show, so these aren’t direct quotes, but his argument ran as follows:

The people who run the smuggling boats are prosecuted, but those who are smuggled are not, though they participated in an illegal act. Also not prosecuted are their relatives who paid for the smuggling. Then there’s the fact that those who are smuggled would be likely to oppose the Castro regime if they remained in Cuba, so this U.S. policy amounts to a safety valve that lets the Castros get rid of opponents. This doesn’t make sense, and Putney looks forward to hearing from the candidates for Congress with new ideas.

Call that the Putney challenge. Let’s hear from Annette Taddeo, running in District 18, Raul Martinez in District 21 and Joe Garcia in District 25. Anyone got a new idea to replace wet foot/dry foot?

May I also ask our D friends among the incumbents, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, District 20, and Kendrick Meek, District 17. Any new ideas? Friends?

This policy is one of my favorites in declaring South Florida as having driven the United States slightly mad. Ethnic politics gone ‘round the bend. Think how this looks from Mars.

I’m not in favor of prosecuting more people – the jails are far too populous already. I AM in favor of having less organized crime around, and smuggling is part of that underworld. Where I do some of my recreation, in the Florida Keys with boating enthusiasts, theft of high-powered boats is a serious problem, to the point that my slow sailboat is not a target for thieves, nor is an ordinary powerboat with puny motors.

It seems pretty clear we need new thinking in this area. I’m waiting to hear responses to the Putney challenge.

Meanwhile, my list from the Sunday Herald:

Headline: Miami Cuban groups to get less aid.

This one presents opportunities for our Democratic challengers for Congress, though it would help if the Herald didn’t ignore our reasonable comments, e.g. what Joe Garcia said the other day when this began to emerge. In part: "Today's developments underscore the fundamental flaws of a policy designed to win votes in Miami and patronize partisan supporters -- not bring freedom to Cuba.” See the rest of his statement here.

Headline: Delegates seated in limbo.

Political writer Beth Reinhard once again mines the – for her – fertile field of how the Democrats screwed up the primary date and their participation in the Democratic convention. And once again never mentions that it was a Republican idea in the first place. Also doesn’t mention that the Republican-dominated legislature is in session and could be encouraged to do the right thing for all the primary voters whose votes were diluted or swept aside by the legislative foolishness of last year. Hey, Tallahassee! Let’s have another primary!

Headline: 10 great destinations to see before it's too late.

This was shocking. The Herald’s Travel section kisses off the Everglades by mentioning the environmental jewel of South Florida as one of 10 world destinations endangered by global warming. Go See These Places Now! And by the way, here’s two paragraphs about the ‘Glades.

Let me tell you: we’ve got some ideas about saving the Everglades, starting with electing Democrats to Congress and building the Skyway to help restore natural water flow in the River of Grass.

Headline: Don't trust this gang with our state's future.

On the positive side, Carl Hiaasen’s Sunday column identifies Jeb Bush as a central driver in the odd business that may get more religion into our politics in Florida. "The unseen hand behind this crusade belongs to former Gov. Jeb Bush ..."

Headline: Pleas to save homes put lawmakers in bind.

Back to the negative: If you, like me, opened the Sunday Herald to p. 5A and saw the little file shot of Lincoln Diaz-Balart on a story about the Foreclosure Crisis, you may have looked in vain for mention of the person running against the FL-21 incumbent. You may have noticed that the story, datelined Hialeah, was not from the Miami Herald’s own stable of writers or from the Herald’s owners, McClatchey. It was a NY Times news service article, so you could look it up online and see a more balanced report, including a photo of Democratic challenger Raul Martinez, and two paragraphs of comment from him, as follows:

Raul Martinez, a former mayor of Hialeah who is running against Mr. Diaz-Balart, said he planned to point out repeatedly that his opponent was slow to help homeowners in crisis.

“People are so concerned about taking care of themselves they might not call anybody,” Mr. Martinez said. “You may not want to let the world know you are losing the house. We have a lot of proud people in our community.” As for Mr. Diaz-Balart, he said, “If I was him, I wouldn’t be waiting. I would be out there leading.”

I can only wonder what Republican breakfast food it is that they eat at the Herald when deciding which words to cut from a piece like this. Let’s see, we’ll cut this guy, he’s a Democrat …

I call this one: Herald misuses NY Times article.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hypocrisy, your name is Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Kudos to Ana Menendez, for digging up wonderful old quotes from Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, our congresswoman from Florida’s District 18. Then she was denouncing torture. Now she’s for it, along with her Republican colleagues in the U.S. House, Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL-21) and Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25),

The situation then was the Vietnam War, and American captives were tortured by, among others, agents of Castro’s Cuba. Easy to denounce that. But what of torture by American agents? They vote for that, repeatedly – endorsing inhuman treatment in pursuit of dubious goals.

From Menendez’ column in the Sunday Miami Herald:

What a shame. Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balarts, who are themselves witness to the atrocities committed in the name of ‘national security,’ would have been especially powerful allies in the fight against the erosion of rights in this country.

Instead of offering leadership, they have taken the side of a president who has squandered his and this country’s moral capital.

Indeed, yes, “instead of offering leadership.” That’s what the election is about this year. Leadership is on offer from the challenges mounted by Annette Taddeo in FL-18, Raul Garcia in FL-21 and Joe Garcia in FL-25.

Friday, March 21, 2008

In her own words, Debbie Wasserman Schultz

The congresswoman from Florida’s District 20 held a town meeting Thursday evening in Plantation and said the following in her opening remarks:

"As far as staying out of the races in South Florida that the candidates
that are running against Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, or Mario
Diaz-Balart, I will tell you two things: one is that I have not endorsed
any of three Republicans nor will I. I don't support their re-elections. I am supportive of the Democratic candidates that are running against them. I have never stated otherwise.

“And as the co-chair of the Red to Blue campaign for the Democratic
Congressional Campaign Committee, I can assure you that I have spent
hundreds and hundreds of hours and will spend more hundreds and hundreds of
hours raising money, as I have been. I have been actively involved in
recruiting candidates and encouraging the DCCC to be supportive of our
candidates across the country, including the three Democratic candidates in
these races and I will continue to do so.

“But at the same time I am a member of Congress representing the 20th
District of Florida and it is my responsibility to balance my role in
Congress with my role at the DCCC and my role as a Democrat. And I think it
is absolutely my responsibility to make sure that I can effectively work
with my colleagues. And that's a tough balance. You know, it's like
walking a tight rope. The way I have chosen to be able to, the way that I
can do that is by working behind the scenes to help those Democratic
candidates by not publicly coming out against my the Republican incumbents (inaudible) work together to help this region and that's how I'm going to address that this evening."

At that point, several members of the audience walked out to protest the congresswoman’s inability to get fully on the team of the three challengers, Raul Martinez, Annette Taddeo and Joe Garcia (respectively running against the three Republican incumbents in the first paragraph of her statement). And since those audience members were the source of the transcript above, I’m unsure whether Wasserman Schultz went any further into this topic. She clearly didn’t want to discuss it any more. The audience had applauded when she spoke of being “supportive” of the three challengers, but then there were groans when she said she couldn’t come out publicly against her Republican colleagues.

This blog has been into this topic repeatedly since this story erupted in the Miami Herald on Sunday March 9,
with regret because it’s a Democratic blog criticizing Democrats (Kendrick Meek of FL-17 as well as Wasserman Schultz) in high elected office. But this blog and others aren’t doing this just because we’re somewhere off in the left-wing blogosphere. We are Democratic activists. We are working openly for the three challengers, and we are angry that our high elected Democratic officials – whose two seats are entirely safe -- have unfathomable reasons for not getting fully on board with us. We are hearing from Democratic voters that they’re not happy, either, and they’re acting demoralized.

If there is some wonderful benefit for South Florida in this alliance between our Democratic and Republican members of Congress, I ask that you, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Kendrick Meek, point it out to me and all those in agreement with me. It must be pretty huge, possibly even humongous, to balance this failure to be on the team for the 2008 elections, against “effectively” working with your Republican colleagues.

Did you end the war? Did you get SCHIP passed? Did you get sufficient money to restore the Everglades? Did you get your Republican colleagues to vote against immunity for telecoms? Did you get them to vote against torture? Did you make them stop the president’s illegal wiretaps, illegal executive encroachments, unjust tax policies?

Are you satisfied with your support for the Republicans’ cruel policy on family reunions for Cuban Americans? Did you notice that this was imposed by the worst president in U.S. history? Did you hear Mario Diaz-Balart declare on CNN that your support for this policy shows that it’s right? Don’t you know any Cuban Americans who haven’t been able to go to family funerals in Cuba because of this cruel policy? Could I introduce you to some?

Well, the rhetorical questions could go on for quite a while. And we wonder why you want to say just that in the paragraphs above and not take any further questions.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The word from Joe Trippi: 250 new donors needed

There’s a diary up on DailyKos from Joe Trippi, the national political consultant who’s joining the Joe Garcia campaign as senior media adviser. His bottom line: build momentum by developing 250 new donors by the end of March.

That’s until a week from Monday, Democrats. Talk to your neighbors and suggest it’s time to show colors in this race. Green, we mean.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Joe Garcia endorsed by Kos/Blue Majority

This was another strong development for the Democratic surge in South Florida: The Kos of DailyKos, Markos Moulitsas, endorsed Joe Garcia for the U.S. House in Florida’s District 25, which puts Garcia up on the Blue Majority top tier of endorsed candidates in the nation.

Not long ago it was Democracy for America urging his election. More recently it was the DCCC – Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee – publicly offering strong support for him in a letter signed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and four of her top colleagues in the House Democratic leadership. That was a roll, and it extended, too, to Raul Martinez’ candidacy in District 21 against Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Annette Taddeo’s challenge to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in District 18. They are included, too, in the Blue Majority/Kos endorsement as "sister districts."

My friends, we’re looking at sweep city now in Miami-Dade County. But it won’t happen without our whole-hearted work and donations. And it won’t happen if the Miami Herald is correct in predicting that a quarter of Democratic voters might stay home in November because of the early-primary fiasco. I know, they had a poll saying it – not exactly a prediction – but somehow the poll was bogus. I mean, are there really so many small-minded people out there that they’d withhold their vote because the Republicans connived to have that primary too early. The question was a little loaded, I think. Another in that category is their poll saying that Florida Democrats aren't going to vote for John McWar -- McCain, I mean -- even if he picks Charlie Crist for vice president. Who's dumb enough to pay a pollster to ask that question?

So I urge you now to do what I did: romp over to that Kos diary and click on the link to donate to Joe Garcia’s campaign. And while you’re feeling generous, remember Raul Martinez and Annette Taddeo, too.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Too much bridge playing at Bear's den

And there were complaints.

Take a deep breath and read this in the WSJ about the executive level at Bear Stearns.

And then there's this one reporting that in 2005 Bear Stearns gave out bonuses of $2.6 billion, or roughly 10 times what the whole company went for in the weekend fire sale.

Anyone for reasonable regulation of this "industry?"

Thanks to SusanG at DailyKos for rounding up these tips.

Joe Trippi joins Joe Garcia campaign

Our campaigns for Congress in South Florida are not just for their districts, important as they are. They are for Florida and the United States and the wider world, and we’re getting confirmation of this day by day.

Monday’s news: Joe Trippi joining the Joe Garcia campaign as senior media adviser. This is a development with national punch. We now have one of the top campaign people in the United States. I like to think of Joe Garcia as inhabiting the same rank: campaign thinker of national impact, due to his work with NDN directing its Hispanic Strategy Center, so this is a pairing that should be a multiplier of effectiveness.

We will still have to think small from time to time – the detail of a district campaign is where the votes are won – while also working on national momentum to contribute to a Democratic landslide in November.

Joe Trippi ran Howard Dean’s campaign in 2004 and was widely acclaimed for innovative use of the Internet. And he was named a Fellow at the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. In 2006 he was consultant to John Hall’s winning campaign for New York’s 19th Congressional District and for Jerry Brown’s winning bid to be California attorney general. He was senior adviser to John Edward’s presidential campaign this year.

UPDATE: Trippi had a diary on DailyKos recently, and here's the link.

And I forgot to say: Statement of interest: I'm on the Garcia media team.

The Garcia campaign statement said:

"Our campaign is proud to count with the experience and support of someone as talented and committed as Joe Trippi," said Joe Garcia. He went on to add that "this campaign is gaining both local and national attention because we are talking about the issues that all Americans care about like revitalizing our economy, greater access to affordable healthcare and confronting the challenges of global climate change."

Last week we had more national attention as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee announced strong support for Joe Garcia in FL-25, for Annette Taddeo in FL-18 and Raul Martinez in FL-21. This came in the form of letters to the three campaigns signed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and four of her DCCC leaders.

At the same time, the DCCC put the three candidates on the list of 90 races of top national priority, another indication that these districts – so often in the past forgotten by the Democratic Party leadership – are in play and winnable.

The full DCCC list can be seen at Swing State Project along with some useful comment.

For starters, let’s note that Florida has a total of eight targeted races on the offensive side, meaning that we see ways to take away half of the Republicans’ current 16 seats in the U.S. House. In addition to our three in South Florida, the DCCC targets Ric Keller (FL-08), Gus Bilirakis (FL-09), Vern Buchanan (FL-13, in “Red to Blue” status), the open seat in FL-15, and Tom Feeney (FL-24, also in the “Red to Blue” category).

On the defensive side, Florida has two Democratic seats on the DCCC list, Tim Mahoney in FL-16 and Ron Klein in FL-22, both seats won in 2006. Nationally, there are 32 seats on the defense list, 58 on the offensive list.

Let’s say the 2008 election has a result like the 2006 election. What was that? Democrats gained 31 seats in the U.S. House, to a total of 233, while not losing a single House seat to Republican challengers. Let’s do that again, up 30-40 seats – impossible? Why not? Is Republican leadership getting more popular?

In case your Republican friends say the Dems are losers, you can mention the fact above about the U.S. House, and also cite the fine 2006 gains on the state level, where there now are 28 Democratic governors against 22 Republicans, and many more state legislatures have moved to the D side, too. Look it up in Wikipedia,, and navigate to U.S. general elections.

One of the Swing State Project commenters noted that Texas doesn't have a single seat on the DCCC targeted list and opined that this shows a Democratic party in poor shape. In Florida, we have half the Republicans on the targeted list; this looks pretty strong to me, but what kind of a picture do we get from local media? Well, Monday’s Miami Herald, for instance, has a p.1 headline “Democrats unable to agree on do-over.” Well, is that quite it – unable to agree? Us? It was a Republican legislature and Republican governor that put us in this pickle. Maybe they should be asked to agree on something, too, huh?

No, though the lead story in the Monday Herald features the Republican plight: “Sinking bank rescued in sale to a rival.” There’s typical Republican performance: corporate welfare on a scale most vast.

Or how about the NY Times’ lead story on Sunday: “For Democrats, increased fears of a long fight.” Wait, I thought that fear was a Bushite monopoly, but no, here’s the Times trying to inject fear into an election contest between two strong candidates. You can read the whole nine yards of that story and look in vain for someone who actually fears what’s going on. Be brave, my friends. We can deal with this.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

See the DCCC letter

Over at Draft Joe Garcia the resident genius has figured out how to show the letter from Nancy Pelosi et al promising support for our three challenger candidates for the US House. Here's the link.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Breaking news: Pelosi leads DCCC in supporting our D challengers

We may have a hard time getting our local Democratic congressmen to back fellow Democratic challengers, but how about a nice letter from Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, James E. Clyburn, Rahm Emanuel and Chris Van Hollen.

Dated March 14, the letter from the five top figures in the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee congratulates Joe Garcia on a "strong start" to his campaign for Florida Congressional District 25.

It concludes: "We look forward to supporting your campaign and helping you become our newest Democratic partner for change in Washington."

Identical letters went to Raul Martinez, challenging in District 21, and to Annette Taddeo, candidate in District 18.

Dear friends: this is a scoop. I think. I've checked the AP, the NY Times, the Miami Herald and its blog. They don't have it. Is it unimportant? I don't think so, in the context of a solid six days of turmoil and heavy blogging since the Miami Herald published an expose on Page One last Sunday.

UPDATE: Early Saturday the Herald put up a story online reporting the same development. UPDATE II: It's in the newspaper, too, p. 1 of the Metro section.

Readers of this blog and Brownsox' posts on DailyKos the last three days know the drill: Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20) and Rep. Kendrick Meek (FL-17), two rising young Democrats in the House, are somehow unable to back the three strong challengers to the three Republicans who misrepresent Miami-Dade County and chunks of Broward, Collier and Monroe counties.

The Democrats have "allegiances," in the Herald's terminology, with those Republicans, even though they are far right on the Iraq war, health insurance for children, torture, illegal wiretapping, executive powers, you name it -- the whole spectrum of Bushite folly.

Wasserman Schultz and Meek still may have begged off any close association with the campaigns of Joe Garcia (Fl-25), Raul Martinez (FL-21) and Annette Taddeo (FL-18). But with Pelosi, Hoyer, Clyburn, Emanuel and Van Hollen behind the three challengers, this will be a powerful campaign to turn South Florida blue and blue and blue.

This must be taken as a victory for the party grassroots, which rose in righteous anger when the Herald's story came out last Sunday. This was quickly blogged wherever possible, with DailyKos diaries ringing in with 200-plus comments -- all negative toward the position of Wasserman Schultz and Meek.

Earlier in the week the turn of the tide was signaled on the DCCC's own blog, where on Wednesday Brandon English had the byline on a post declaring that the DCCC would support the three challengers.

With the demurral: "While some of our Members may not always be able to actively campaign with every candidate, you can be assured that the DCCC will be there."

My friends, this practice of "allegiances" must be rooted out wherever it exists. There is a difference between having civilized debate with friendly opponents, on the one hand, and being bound not to oppose the re-election bids of neo-con hardliners just because they happen to live in your same county. This is politics, not junior high.

DCCC blog backs our Congressional candidates

With all the fuss – some of it appearing in this blog space – over our Democrats in the US House and their support for our challengers, it’s good to see that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has a blog post up backing the challengers and promising full support.

This will be valuable down the line. I’m sure they won’t mind if I copy the whole post, so here it is, with the link:

Saturday's big Democratic win of Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert's seat is just more proof that voters are looking for the big change that Democrats will deliver.

In South Florida, we have three strong Democratic challengers fighting for change against some of President Bush's most reliable rubbberstamps. Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL-21), and Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25) have rubberstamped President Bush's failed agenda time and time again. With only underfunded challengers as opponents, they have become entrenched politicians unwilling to respond to the will of the voters.

Those days are over. Democratic challengers Annette Taddeo (FL-18), Raul Martinez (FL-21), and Joe Garcia (FL-25) are running tough campaigns against the South Florida Republicans that will force them to defend their blind support of President Bush. With Bush's approval numbers mired in the 30's, that'll be no easy task.

The DCCC will be right alongside these candidates taking the fight to these loyal Bushies. The DCCC's sole mission is to elect Democrats to the House and that's just what we plan to do. We do it by ensuring our challengers have all the resources we need, knocking on doors, making calls and making sure no Republican attack goes unanswered.

While some of our Members may not always be able to actively campaign with every candidate, you can be assured that the DCCC will be there.

In a recent blog post at Swing State Project, there was frustration against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz's call that she would not be campaigning for South Florida candidates. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz works tirelessly to help elect more Democrats to Congress. She has made clear that she supports the DCCC involvement in these South Florida races and has made sure that a Member who could completely throw themselves into those races would be assigned to them.

These Florida districts are ready for the big change that Democrats will deliver with a Democratic President and a strong Democratic Majority. Let's keep the focus on beating Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL-21), and Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25).

Joe Garcia’s campaign took this as a full endorsement and cited it in a message to supporters, also mentioning national endorsement by Democracy for America and backing by the Miami-Dade Democratic Party.

This is a good time to be a Democrat running for Congress, or for any other office. Let’s always make sure that our Democratic Party acts wisely and promptly in supporting these fine candidates.

Debbie’s daily rip on DailyKos

Here, again, is DavidNYC, making a career out of analyzing our Debbie Wasserman Schultz’ remarks.

Down in the comments I’ve rung in again today. Someone asked if the Republicans used this sort of palship as a campaign ad. I pointed out that Mario Diaz-Balart used it just recently on CNN to buttress the hard-line policy on Cuba travel and family reunions. The Democrats support it, so it must be right – so goes his argument, specious to be sure, but there’s a logic to it that makes me and others furious. We admire DWS in many ways but this is a HUGE problem. Wake up.

NBC wakes up: FlaDems not so bad

Over at Naked Politics, the Miami Herald’s blog, they’re reporting a mea culpa from NBC political director Chuck Todd, who maligned our beloved Florida Democratic Party as one of the worst in the country.

After a little fact-checking, he says that was back in the distant past – 2004 and earlier – and nowadays we’re much better.

I’d be inclined to agree if our Bless-its-heart party had had the wit to see trouble coming with the too-early primary date and had fought it tooth and nail in the state legislature. That misstep was only a year ago, so by my clock we’ve only been doing much better since then.

Late-breaking thought
: If the state legislature is agitated now to be passing laws about boys showing their boxers, will Naked Politics be safe and legal?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Your TV Guide

Happened to discover: Live TV coverage of the Florida State Legislature, now in its annual session, is available on my neighborhood cable system, Atlantic Broadband. It’s Channel 78 here on the Beach. Sort of like C-span, one of my favorite TV channels. Schedule info is available on line:

One more round on DailyKos

Here once again is DavidNYC ripping our Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Subprime crisis in your insurance company?

Last year this blogger dipped into financial fiasco several times as the subprime crisis began to affect Florida’s public bodies. That is: Your tax dollars had been whacked right out of the savings accounts of school districts, county agencies and city governments and sent to perdition.

New stuff trickles out from time to time, so here’s a little roundup. I pause to say that this is probably far from complete, as other stories may be coming out every day. It’s just that they are hard to recognize, disguised under headlines like this one in the Miami Herald, “Citizens discounts millions.”

What’s that supposed to mean? Well, it’s talking about Citizens Property Insurance, which you may know as the largest insurer of homes in Florida, a state-run company to which you probably pay premiums.

What does “discounts millions” mean? It means that $88 million that used to be in Citizens’ accounts to pay your claims and otherwise do business isn’t there anymore. That is, an investment that used to be so solid that it was like cash now doesn’t sell, so it has to be downgraded to nothing on a balance sheet.

Who’s to blame? Start with Jeb Bush, who managed this for two terms as governor and now is a consultant for Lehman Bros., which sold a ton of subprime stuff to Florida. Talk about a conflict of interest! While in office Jeb was a trustee of the State Board of Administration, which is like a bank or money market fund for government bodies to park their money, and now he’s “advising” the company that sold bad investments to the SBA.

Back in December some bloggers were demanding that Jeb disclose the details of his contract with Lehman. Heard anything? Jeb! Speak up! Can’t hear you!

The reader may be baffled. Haven’t heard of this? Try Googling “jeb bush lehman brothers” and see what’s under the rock.

Next item: The NY Times business section on Tuesday had a front-page story with the headline “High Finance Backfires on Alabama County.”

Again, the headline is a little obfuscatory. The county in question is Jefferson County, home to Birmingham, the largest city in Alabama, so not exactly some remote place out in the sticks. Ought to have some people with financial acumen.

Nonetheless, they are in danger of going belly-up. The whole county. The subprime thing hit them with $5.4 billion worth of funny investments. A ton of swaps. Exotic bond deals. Interest rates ballooning like those funny mortgages for poor folks.

Next item: If we’re lucky to be doing better than Jefferson County in neighboring Alabama, thank goodness we’re not in the private sector, where the numbers can be much higher. Here’s Carlyle Capital Group defaulting on $16.6 billion. Pretty soon this is going to add up to real money.

It’s starting to look like a do-over

Vote by mail. OK, that’s the way I already vote. I will do what they say and vote again, differently this time, since I inked John Edwards for the Jan. 29 primary. Or will Edwards be on the ballot again, with Gravel and Kucinich, the big guy from New Mexico, etc etc?

I hate to say it, but I’m detecting a common thread in our two soap operas here in Florida: the primary that “didn’t count,” and the two members of Congress who don’t back their fellow Democrats.

In both cases, Republican political tricksters have steering in their bumper cars, while our cars have none.

It probably was Karl Rove who told the Republicans in the Florida Legislature to advance the primary date so early that there’d be an explosion. And Rove’s boss’s brother Jeb probably drew the gerrymandered districts that make our two Democratic members of the U.S. House so sassy and our three Republicans in the U.S. House so … words fail me. They all lack the good American tonic of competition. All five of them.

If we want to keep our supreme chance of electing a Democratic president in November, we must not be made into fools any more. This new plan must be bulletproof. Some silly way of restaging a primary will make the country laugh at Florida and at our two presidential candidates and at Democrats all over the land. And even if it’s not silly, Rush and Sean and Foxy will make it seem so. They will be able to quote the Miami Herald’s future scathing editorials about our inability to take our medicine.

The ray of hope I see in our situation is that we do have three honestly strong and good candidates for Congress in Annette Taddeo (FL-18), Raul Martinez (FL-21) and Joe Garcia (FL-25). This is a powerful dash of competition to be added to the political mix in Florida. We must work for them flat-out.

Meanwhile, I had the good fortune Wednesday afternoon to be at Miami Beach City Hall when the City Commission passed a resolution that urged the Democratic presidential candidates and all involved to work for a solution to the Florida primary that didn’t count. The draft resolution suggested several methods for a new vote but was amended to leave out all ideas as to how it might be done. Wise choice; passed unanimously. I don’t think a coin flip was one of the abandoned ideas.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

More on our serial soap opera: congressional races

Too much to say, so little time before the pillow demands my presence.

Starting with our serial soap opera:

Three posts on DailyKos today about our two Democratic members of the U.S. house who can’t figure out a good reason to publicly support three fine Democrats who are challenging the three Republicans who misrepresent Miami-Dade County along with chunks of Broward, Collier and all of Monroe.

Starting with the last, by DavidNYC. It hit the Kos front page about 10 p.m. Short and pithy, bound to make Debbie Wasserman Schultz mad: it declares she has to "buck up" and heartily endorse our three candidates.

Way back in the early morning DavidNYC was on the front page of Kos with a view of how the top of the Democratic Party in Washington would view the situation.

And down in the diaries we had a Florida perspective on it, in which Tally wrote in a Kos Diary how it all was related to gerrymandering. Tally advised all of us to work on the petition to amend the state constitution to ban gerrymandering.

Tally's diary drew a commenter who remarked a little unbelievingly that Joe Garcia says in his campaign speeches that Mario Diaz-Balart designed Congressional District 25 for himself while in the state House. I had to chime in with the comment:

Yes, indeed, Joe Garcia often says that FL-25 was drawn up by the Republican incumbent, Mario Diaz-Balart (whom I happened to see on C-span in the House today fumbling for fulminating words during the budget debate). It's true. I will try to get Joe to start carrying those petitions to end gerrymandering.

Fine diary. It takes the story steps further along into the reason we're in this pickle where Republicans with fewer registered voters than Democrats in Florida have 16 house seats and the Democrats have 9. Gerrymandering. Americans won't stand for this, will they?

Well, then I thought I ought to look up the figures to be sure that there are more registered Democrats than Republicans. Sure enough, over at the Florida Secretary of State, Division of Elections, there are PDF files with very small print that reveal a total of 10,203,122 registered voters in Florida as of the Jan. 29 presidential primary. Of them:

4,137,067 were Democrats
3,825,727 were Republicans
1,911,510 were Non-Party Affiliated
Lots more were in minor parties.

Perhaps not all Democrats vote for D candidates for Congress. And perhaps not all Republicans will vote for their local R. But let’s just say it out loud: there’s no way that such a party breakdown can fairly lead to a 16-9 advantage by the smaller party. So I want to applaud and declare heroic those who are working that petition to make gerrymandering plainly unconstitutional in Florida. Let’s do it!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

DailyKos takes up our SoFla "united front" problem

There's over 200 comments on a diary that's been up since about 2 p.m. on the front page of DailyKos discussing the national issues around Debbie Wasserman Schultz's refusal to help our Democratic candidates for Congress in South Florida. Pretty heated stuff. My post here from Sunday also has a dozen comments (well, some from me, too), so I'd say we're striking a nerve with this topic.

My issue with this congressional behavior, which no doubt has a long history and some utility, is that this is a special election. The rules are different now, but Wasserman Schultz isn't adapting -- even though she is allied with the presidential candidate who trumpets how happy she is to be in a race between a woman and an African-American. Historic stuff!

The special thing, I think, is that this could be the year of an unprecedented landslide for Democrats. But we won't get it if we're not united and hard-working. Our two Democrats in the House aren't getting it and are not uniting. Have they not noticed the facts in my recent post (scroll down a few days) showing Democrats nationally at 52 percent and the Republicans at 35 percent? That's a 17-point margin. And growing. Why do they want to remain friends with such losers?

Bret Berlin new county Democratic chair; Solidarity the issue

Candidates Daisy Black, Bret Berlin and Kevin Burns before the vote

Miami-Dade Democrats have a new chairman, Bret Berlin, our hard-charging state committeeman, and a new determination to face up to an issue of solidarity.

The Democratic Executive Committee elected Berlin Monday night on the first ballot over two challengers, Kevin Burns, the mayor of North Miami, and Daisy Black, the former mayor of El Portal. Berlin had 88 votes, to 37 for Burns and 8 for Black.

The meeting took place in an atmosphere of concern over a P. 1 report in the Sunday Miami Herald that laid out the distance between our two elected Democratic members of Congress, Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20) and Kendrick Meek (FL-17), and the three Democrats challenging the three Republican incumbent members of Congress in the county.

This blog covered this in depth Sunday, and the topic was the talk of the lobby before the special election meeting began. The Executive Committee had to have the election to replace Joe Garcia, who resigned in February to run for Congress in District 25.

Kevin Burns brought up the issue during his campaign speech before the vote, saying, “I cannot believe two elected congresspeople have the nerve to stand up and say they’re not going to support their fellow Democrats.” This won strong applause from some 200 people in the American Legion hall. He proposed to “reach out and work together” to deal with the issue.

After the vote was announced, Berlin said in his acceptance remarks that he would use the next meeting in April to make sure that the county party strongly supports the three Democrats running against the incumbent Republicans.

“I too was appalled when I read in the Miami Herald that certain elected officials think that they have the right to anoint who can run and not run. That’s not their right. That’s our right,’ he said.

Berlin is taking up most of the last year of a four-year term as chair of the county party. Joe Garcia had held it for a year after Jimmy Morales resigned in early 2007, saying he did not have the time required to run the party in a crucial election cycle.

In the meantime, three strong candidates have emerged to run against Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, in Districts 21, 25 and 18, respectively. In addition to Joe Garcia, who’s taking on Mario Diaz-Balart, businesswoman Annette Taddeo is running against Ros-Lehtinen, and former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez is taking on Lincoln Diaz-Balart.

Berlin announced that the party raised over $35,000 at a fund-raiser last month, giving some seed money to get rolling in a busy election year.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Deep problem for South Florida Democrats: Republican 'allegiance'

This was a headline loaded with pain: “Democrats torn between party, GOP allegiances.” Page 1 of Sunday’s Miami Herald. I already knew about this, but seeing it there made me sick. Now is the time to look at this deep problem we have in South Florida, and see if we can fix it – well before we have to vote in November.

In a nutshell, as I see it: We have two Democratic members of the House of Representatives who will not do anything to help three fine Democrats run against the three Republicans who misrepresent about 1.5 million people in Miami-Dade, Monroe, Collier and Broward counties. Their two seats are so safe that Republicans run no one against them, yet they will not venture out to help fellow Democrats.

How wrong can things get? This is pretty far down the spectrum of why people do not understand politics and why they stay away. I’m not going to speculate here as to why Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20) and Kendrick Meek (FL-17) do not support their local Democratic Party. It’s written about in the Herald, and I understand Ms. Wasserman Schultz was asked about it Sunday in Michael Putney’s show on ABC Channel 10.

What I want to look at here is the people they are in allegiance with, to use the Herald’s word in that headline. A disgusting thought, really, to be “in allegiance” with Lincoln Diaz-Balart, his brother Mario Diaz-Balart, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, when you say, as our two Democrats say, that you’d like to end the Iraq war and to see expanded health insurance for children.

The Republicans voted with President Bush repeatedly on the war, and they voted to sustain his vetoes on the children’s health insurance bills.

Mario Diaz-Balart’s District 25 includes the Everglades, a treasure of great value on the environmental scale. He’s a creature of Big Sugar, which is one of the biggest problems for the Everglades. He’s a creature of the rock-mining industry, another big problem for the Everglades. This is a congressman who deserves defeat on his environmental record alone (15 percent rating by the League of Conservation Voters ( in 2007, lower in earlier sessions). His opponent, Joe Garcia, is poised to take a pro-Everglades stance. Will he get help from Meek and Wasserman Schultz? They talk nice about the Everglades, but not about Joe Garcia.

Lincoln Diaz-Balart (FL-21) has an environmental record just as bad. And like his brother and Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18), he votes for torture. And for immunity for telecoms and the president that tapped our phones illegally. And for the end of habeas corpus.

Yet our two Democrats in the U.S. House supposedly feel bound by some collegial allegiance – Oh, how I hate to see that word used to describe ties between Democrats and these three Republicans – and will not work to get Democrats elected in their place.

What about the Republicans’ rationale for voting against the SCHIP bills: It’s “an attack on the Cuban-American community,” Mario Diaz-Balart said last October (Herald link no longer works). What attack? It would hurt cigar-rollers by increasing tobacco tax.

That is the crap that passes for legislative thinking among the Republicans we’d like to see defeated. My eyes well up, but our two Democrats are not moved.

Mario Diaz-Balart even brags about this allegiance on national television. After Fidel Castro announced his resignation, Diaz-Balart was on CNN and, pressed by Wolf Blitzer about waning support from younger Cuban-Americans, he declared that his constituents supported his harsh policy on Cuban family reunions and that his two Democratic colleagues supported it, too. So it must be right, he implied. Well, there’s a logic to that. And that’s the problem.

Now let’s consider whether the Republicans feel bound, like the Democrats, to be nice to the opposition. Ros-Lehtinen is known for having raised or donated nearly $1 million in the 2006 election cycle to the Republican drive – in vain, thank goodness – to retain the R majority in the House. Our two Democrats run and do the same for Democrats in other parts of the country, but we in South Florida are … pounding sand.

And what about the Republicans’ national security thinking? I like to go back to an article Ros-Lehtinen wrote last fall, published in National Review Online Oct. 5, 2007. (Alas, I looked through the digital archives of the National Review for traces of this neo-con fantasy bylined Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and could not find it.} The title was “The Right to Survive,” and she was referring to the U.S. right to survive. As opposed to what? Answer: Iran’s supposed drive to get nuclear weapons.

Now, of course, we need to keep track of what Iran is up to. And our intelligence organs do just that, and they sometimes throw a wrench into the neo-cons’ works, as with the recent finding that Iran wasn’t really working on a nuclear weapons program.

Ros-Lehtinen’s article was published before that verdict, but she probably hasn’t changed her mind one whit. She wrote that military and civilian nuclear processes are about the same, and she makes it seem that we’re in a “suicide pact” to let Iran wipe us out – unless we take her admonitions to heart. ”For no ‘paper right’ should be allowed to trump our right to exist,” were her last words.

A path to war is many steps long. If we ever go to war with this fourth-rate country Iran, Ros-Lehtinen’s article will be one of the steps along that path. Why are prominent young Democrats in the House not trying to get her out?

I launched into this post only after consulting the three candidates to be chair of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, Daisy Black, Bret Berlin and Kevin Burns. I asked if they opposed airing this topic in this blog, which is in a way the creation of the county Democratic Party. They all said it was OK to bring it into the open, though I didn’t tell them exactly what I would write. In fact, I didn’t know what I’d write then, when I spoke to them. It was pretty clear, though, that I’d be critical of our two Democrats in the U.S. House. I regret that it’s necessary. But if you look at the on-line comments to the Herald article, you’ll see that I’m not alone.

And we’re attracting national attention: The Swing State Project blog picked it up on Sunday with a piece suggesting that our two Democrats were “all too eager to kneecap these Democratic challengers.” Read it here and weep at what folly seems to have fallen onto our political situation.

The question is: Why are Democrats in perfectly safe seats not showing political courage?

The question is: Why are Democrats in perfectly safe seats following a harsh policy on Cuban family reunions instituted by the worst president in U.S. history?

Tell me. This space is open to you. (Though I’ll say here that I’m not open to publishing comments alleging corruption. I don’t think that’s the issue, or appropriate.)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Dems 52%, Reps 35%

Regular readers have seen the word landslide pretty often on this blog. Further fodder is in this story reporting a fresh AP national poll: The number of people calling themselves Democrats is up 7 points to 52 percent, while the Republicans are flat at 35 percent.

A lead of 17 points nationally – what does that mean to us in Florida? In South Florida? Landslide.

UPDATE: The above came from Then I rambled over to and found more landslide info, though not quite such a large margin on the D-R account, a hair under 10 percentage points. But also some thoughts on why this is happening. Aside from our superior message and aside from the absolute failure of the national Republican government, I mean.

It's the extended primary campaign, writes Matt Stoller. So maybe it wasn't a bad idea, after all, for our dingaling Republican governor and legislature to decide to move up the primary date, and for our dingaling Democrats to go along with it. It has made us all political actors for more months than usual, and the flurry of activity has brought more fence-sitters over to our D side.

But now that we see all the attention being paid to Pennsylvania for its primary in April -- and even Puerto Rico is getting some ink for its date in June -- maybe there should be a rush to be last. Yes, Vote Last! Our state can make the decision, in the end.

And, my friends, just in time, we're talking about a revote in Florida. So we could be both early and late in the same election year. Talk about having your cake and eating it, too.

Life is good.

Thursday was Florida’s day in NY Times editorials

There we were with the third editorial: “Florida’s ‘Theory of …’” I’m not sure that the virtue of the scientific side in the evolution debate is well served when we make fun of those who believe otherwise. There are framing things to be worked on here. Let’s do this smart rather than cutting.

And then we took a glancing blow in the lead editorial where it mentioned “the absurd front-loading of the primary season.”

Did we make the second editorial, too? Well, it was about Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, so there we were, too. Concerned like the Times.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Strong line to use on Sen. McWar

Being a veteran, I get stuff in my inbox like this.

That is, being a Veteran for Peace ...

Better ideas about mission in Tallahassee

Here's a link to Commissioner Katy Sorenson's piece in Wednesday's Miami Herald with pointed advice to state legislators from the view of local government.

Hey, Speaker Marco Rubio: How about solving problems rather than giving limited relief to one sector of taxpayers?

Such reasonable views tend to give me hope for the Herald's opinion pages. But then I look up to the day's lead editorial with the headline "NAFTA distortions discredit candidates." Rip the Democrats! Claim that their speeches make it seem that "NAFTA ranks right up there with Osama bin Laden as a threat to our national well-being." Whew, how over the top can they go?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Caucus video

With any luck should be added to the title.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Caucus results emerging: South Florida chooses delegates for Denver

Maryanne Patlak rushes to meet a caucus-goer in her successful drive to be elected delegate to Denver.

Time to celebrate for some local Democrats! Caucus-goers elected them on Saturday to attend the National Convention in Denver.

Congressional District 17: A long-familiar name is on the list for Denver: Eufaula Frazier, who will be one of the oldest delegates at 80-plus. She’s pledged for Sen. Hillary Clinton. Also elected for Clinton are Eddie Lewis and Henry Sturrup. Delegates chosen to back Sen. Barack Obama are Elizabeth Collins, Mae Rene Christian, Rev. Preston Marshall (county party chaplain) and Rev. Josh Brown; Edith Owens is an alternate for Obama.

District 18
: State Committeewoman Cindy Lerner (she’s a former member of the state House of Representatives) and former Democratic Party Chairman Jimmy Morales will be in Denver as Hillary Clinton delegates. Maryanne Patlak is elected as the Barack Obama delegate.

District 21: For Clinton, Karen Aronowitz, Adam Schwartz and Clifford Young. For Obama, Charlotte Klieman, secretary of the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee.

District 25: For Obama, Dean Gregory Stewart. For Clinton, Barbara Schwartz, Hector Caraballo and Emilio Vazquez.

More results will be posted here as they become known.

The results at this point are preliminary and unofficial. They must be transmitted to the Florida Democratic Party and certified.

Your blogger attended the District 18 caucus, held at the Palmetto Golf Course clubhouse on SW 152nd Street near US 1. There was a campaign atmosphere outside on the driveway as candidates competed with trays of doughnuts and jugs of coffee to entice voters, while inside it was all business as party volunteers signed people in and helped them fill out the long ballots and vote.

District 18 also includes Monroe County, and the results included a separate caucus held in Key Largo for Keys Democrats.

Remember: the delegates for Denver were elected in congressional districts, and their number was apportioned according to the vote for their candidate in that district in the Jan. 29 primary.

The state party said in a statement issued Friday that it remains committed to fulfilling the plan for selecting delegates and said it was “in full compliance with all DNC rules expect for the rule on timing of the first determining step (the Jan. 29 primary date…)

“While some have suggested that the Florida Democratic Party hold an alternative process to allocate (not select) delegates, no funding exists for anything that could meet the principles of openness, fairness, and allowing maximum participation, including that of our military serving overseas, elderly, disabled or any other Democrat.

“As the nominating process continues until June, we are urging Democrats to participate in the caucuses and recognize that our delegation will in all likelihood be restored by the eventual nominee. We look forward to strongly supporting the eventual Democratic nominee, no matter who it is. The incredible enthusiasm as evidenced by our record-breaking primary turnout and huge involvement in the delegate selection process bodes extremely well for Democratic prospects come this November.”

Congratulations to all the elected delegates, and thank you to the others for raising their candidacies. And special thanks to the dozens of volunteers who helped run the caucuses.