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A Corporate Culture of Life Only A GOP'er Could Love

Thursday, November 03, 2011

I'm always hearing from Libertarians and Republicans about how bogged down and unresponsive government can be inferring that capitalist corporations can turn on a dime to help the customer in need.  Don't ask Californian Terri Weissinger to confirm that.  Since corporations are now "people" with rights I find it interesting that this corporate "person," in the figurative flesh known as U.S. Airways, felt the need to refuse a helping hand when it was their fault in the first place when Ms. Weissinger found herself between a rock and a hard place.  Oh wait, when they act like this maybe they are people after all.  Another example of Republican "culture of life" at work since they are the ones that insist corporations ARE PEOPLE.  I guess U.S. Airways was proving they are the GOP's kind of people.  How quaint.

Guns, guns, and more guns....

History has a funny way of putting things in perspective, especially when it comes to American gun culture.  I guess today even the old west archetype of individualism, Wyatt Earp, would be a pariah in his own country since he was for restricting some places where guns weren't welcome.  I always find it interesting when conservative gun owners celebrate the facilitation of introducing more firearms into public and private domains without restrictions.  Since Gov. Walker of Wisconsin signed a new bill making the state one of now 49 that allow the carrying of concealed weapons into churches I'm inclined to ask  the age old sarcastic inquiry of "what could possibly go wrong there?"  When individual instances of just exactly what can go wrong take place its always a conservative mantra to utter something about the price we pay for freedom on some level even if that price is the life of human beings.  When I read about Walker's bill taking effect it dawned on me how a certain symmetry exists in the conservative matrix of what value they place on human lives.  I  now completely understand the American conservative movement and their insistence that human lives have a price in the context of accessible health care for any citizen that can afford it.  If you can't afford it you don't deserve it and you just die.  The corollary that seems to go along with that seems to be if you aren't carrying a firearm when somebody goes off for any number of reasons then that's just too bad and you made a poor choice.  Your life is expendable.  That's some "culture of life" they have going there.  And its so Darwinian of them. 

Why We Pay Taxes

I'm not sure there is a parable here for the insane denizens that seems to make up Libertarians, Republicans and the so-called "Tea Party" but once in a while a teachable moment rears its head and makes a statement for the obvious even they should be able to understand. Taxes are for important community "stuff" that everyone shares in. This "stuff" enables sane people to continue being contributors to society at large by sharing the expenses that make it possible to be, you know, a community. But I guess the people of Highland Park, MI don't believe in safety for those who work at night or can't afford or chose to own personal transportation. I won't even go into the other things a community does to make life possible in a sane world. But paying taxes is one of the things one must do to make this possible. Whenever a red faced conservative shouts into a microphone, "its your money and you should keep it!" there is no doubt you made that "money" through the things that community makes possible by providing you with a way to to earn it like roads, police and fire departments, public schools that produce educated labor, [in some cases] trash pick-up, street lights, stop lights, and on and on. It's amazing to me how many people have forgotten that....

Senate Democrats Letting Speaker Boehner's Agenda Run Over Them

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The malaise that permeates our nationally elected Democrats continues to deepen. The mind boggling aspect of all this is the fact that John Boehner’s battle plan is so simple that it seems to confound the Democratic leadership. If Speaker Boehner’s $100 billion dollar budget amputation was so odious in H.R. 3 then why does it suddenly become palatable to the leadership across the aisle if it’s chopped into increments amounting to the same thing? The grin on Boehner’s face in light of this is only going to get more indelible when the GOP takes this maneuver and runs with it against the Senate Democrats in 2012. There is a page on Facebook calling for Alan Grayson to take the reins of the Florida Democratic Party. I say let's forget that and start a movement to make him the head of the national Democratic Party. Mr. Grayson would be just what the doctor ordered for this creeping malaise that doesn’t seem to show any signs of abating in the near future.

Questioning The Validity Of Teacher Pay Polling

Whenever ever I see polls about teachers like the one on CNN this morning I’m always leery of the wording the poll question takes. There were two: (1) “Should teacher pay be based on quality of work?” and (2) Should teacher pay be based on a standardized scale for all teachers.” The problem with asking the second question is like any query using the word “standard.” The first question works perfectly if teachers have control over their environment. In reality though teachers are more susceptible to conditions outside their control i.e. class sizes, more and more politically driven budgetary concerns, economic conditions, and on and on. That’s why it continually gets driven toward the standard end. Right now across the country communities are demonstrating their lack of value in education through their elected representatives’ continuous propensity to make it the first thing they target in budget cuts. Perhaps when value is shown through actions the first question can finally be the yard stick everyone desires.

DOMA Gets GOP "Family Values" Support

Thursday, February 24, 2011

You knew it wouldn't take long before the "I" word would began to find its way into the GOP conversation with their new majority in the 112th Congress. But to infer that impeachment procedings could come up over the Obama administration's DOJ policy change regarding DOMA is a strange avenue to chose to get there considering the guy who brought it up. Denizens of the party of "family values" continue to have a strange way of demonstrating their view of marriage as a "sacred institution." Mr. Gringrich's propensity to hold the very institution he claims to defend in contempt with his actions to date while pointing a finger at a man who seems to be the epitome of a family values man is quite a contrast in character and hubris. I suspect any 2012 Presidental run planned by Newt will get quite a review of his interesting take what constitutes "family values." Since he changes wives like he changes clothes it seems his actions tells us quick divorces should be a part of that equation. Since Republicans love slogans to define their ideology this little nursery rhyme like parable should fill the bill here:
"What's good for me
Is not good for thee,
Just ignore the hypocrisy!"

City of Jacksonville Budget Workshop Well Attended

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I just got back from the first of five planned City of Jacksonville budget workshops here in Arlington at the Regency Square Branch Library. This was my first time attending one of these and it was well worth the time. It was a capacity crowd that needed extra seats brought in to hold the participants. I talked to one of the Mayor's assistants and she indicated the first one is always the most popular but as they start running through the schedule attendance drops off. I ran into City Council District #1 candidate Lindsey Brock again and we exchanged pleasantries. The event itself was fascinating and very informative. I was pleasantly surprised and will definitely attend these things on a regular basis. I got a small bit of insight into the budget priorities of the city and how it spends our tax revenue. I'll have a more comprehensive recap later with some thoughts about what I saw and who was there.

Gun Control Advocates & The Argument They Should Use

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I don’t know what it is about watching national and state elected Democratic officials when they face off with their GOP counterparts but more often than not it’s usually a deer in the headlights moment. This morning on CNN I sat and watched Texas State House Representative Eddie Rodriguez (D – Dist. #51) square off with Texas State Senator Jeff Wentworth (R – Dist. 25) about pending legislation in both state houses to allow guns on college campuses that will no doubt pass without much resistance during the current legislative term. While Wentworth projected that serious aura of knowing exactly what he was talking about as he laid out his side of the issue with the Virginia Teach shootings as the center piece of his argument you could almost see Rodriquez’s wheels spinning in his head on how to answer his tired, by now worn out rationalizations for looser gunright ownership regulations. The only thing I can remember about Rodriquez’s convoluted counter points is this old liberals need to reach through the TV screen, reach down his throat and pull out the argument he should have given that would have effectively had Wentworth hitting the reboot switch on his GOP/NRA trained talking points in a loop and looking foolish.

What we were presented with instead was Wentworth giving the usual rationale that if more people on campus and in particular in the classroom had been armed this horrible incident would never have happened. The coup de grace of his argument was noting that in Texas all registered hand gun owners are required to complete both the classroom and range components of the handgun proficiency course (10 hrs) with a $25.00 dollar fee (he may have said $100.00 but I can’t be quite sure) from a qualified handgun instructor before being
issued a concealed handgun permit. This way each of these certified gun owners would have training to help them in a situation similar to Virginia Tech. It was at this point I was ready to lunge at the TV screen if Rodriquez could not even come up with one point of value to shut this guy up. Instead he opened with the “I’m a scared Democrat” regurgitation of his stand that yes, everyone should have a right to own a firearm, but on the other hand blah, blah, blah….. I nearly lost it. Whatever was said after that point was unmemorable and worthless.

The counter argument for this craziness is not rocket science. I just don’t understand where Democrats are coming from with this irrational fear of these crazies. What’s even worse is the crazier the right gets with their rationalizations the more afraid Democrats become. It’s disheartening. It's time to open a school for the liberal, the left of center, or just plain sane Democrat on how to make rational arguments in the media. Let class begin with an example of how to counter this argument: how Rodriquez should have answered Wentworth.

Thank you for allowing me here today to talk with your viewers about this critical issue and its place in our society. The recent
Detroit police station shooting should make everyone in the country stand back and give pause to the argument that regular citizens possessing firearms in this country with minimum or no training in their use would react accordingly in a crisis situation. A man walked into a Detroit police station this past January with a concealed shotgun, not even a handgun, and seriously wound four police officers in a shooting spree in a building full of armed professionals who make this their life work. Even then it did not deter or stop this individual from wounding these officers. Then there is the case of Major Nidal Malik Hasan of Ft. Hood who in November of 2009 walked onto a military base filled with professionals trained to use firearms for a living and kill 13 individuals and wound 12 before he was stopped by one of these trained professionals. I want to point out that in the process of his stalking and shooting these innocent victims he encountered one of these trained professionals in the use and control of firearms. Sergeant Kimberly Munley was called to the area in response to the emergency and encountered Major Hasan in the commission of these heinous acts and exchanged fire with him as she was trained to do. She was shot twice where one bullet hit her in the knee and the other shattered her femur into 120 pieces by the time she fell to the ground. It was at this point he was able to walk over to her and kick the gun out of her hand. He was not able to be stopped until encountering Sergeant Mark Todd who exchanged gunfire with Hasan before bringing him down.

Finally let’s look at the assassination attempt on President Reagan in 1981 who was surrounded by Secret Service agents, the best trained and armed professionals in the world, who was still unable to stop
John Hinckley from hitting his intended target including Press Secretary James Brady, a police officer and a Secret Service agent. This argument about arming every individual possible, which is the goal of this legislation, to prevent incidents such as these falls apart in the face of the facts regarding the outcome of these incidents. All the individuals involved were trained professionals who do this for a living. These were not individuals who had minimal training for x number of hours who do not do this on a day to day basis. People were still killed, maimed and wounded. This position from the right and the NRA only serves to denigrate these patriotic, brave first responders who carry out their jobs in a heroic fashion unnoticed or unheralded on a day to day basis that make it their business to protect the innocent citizens of our country. Giving everyone the right to take possession and have opportunities to commit harm to innocent citizens in this country without going through a process to screen out unstable individuals is unconscionable. Sir, I will agree with you on one of your tired worn out talking points and principles you and your fellow supporters drag out every time this discussion comes up: you are right guns, don’t kill people, first time offenders that have a right to bear arms for the purposes of committing heinous crimes on innocent people do.

It would have been fun to watch Wentworth reach for the Rolaids with this rejoinder to his nuttiness. This stuff is not hard. Not only that this would, for once, put them on the defensive and the NRA in a position to oppose and delegitimize the professionalism of all these first responders who have been deified in the media. But alas all we are left with are impotent arguments that only serve the purpose of enabling these crazies.

Jacksonville Small Businesses & Unemployed Get Lost In GOP's National Agenda

Monday, February 21, 2011

Oh good god...all over the country people are starving for information on what Congress is doing about jobs. You would think the newly elected 112th Congress would be all over it. Instead we get enablers from the mainstream corporate media villagers. This Sunday on Meet The Press was sure an eye opener on cognitive dissonance from not only the villagers but our elected officials on both sides of the aisle. With the new GOP House masters of the universe not only in control of one house of Congress but driving the MSM meme this is what we heard courtesy of The Washington Monthly's Steve Benin:
During the hour-long episode of "Meet the Press" yesterday [Sunday, Feb. 20th], there was exactly one reference to the U.S. unemployment rate, uttered by former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D). The word "spending" was used 40 times. [My emphasis]

The very first sentence of the broadcast was host David Gregory telling viewers, "The battle to rein in government is shaping up to be the major fight not only of this year, but of the 2012 campaign."

There was no discussion of how, exactly, this became "the major fight," only that the political establishment has decreed it to be. If you thought economic growth and job creation was at the center of the policy discussion in Washington, I'm afraid your attitudes are so 2010.
I bring this up because this sounds so familiar here locally. At the Jacksonville Mayor & City Council District 1 candidate forum this past Thursday I heard one candidate mention the flight of small businesses not just leaving but running out of the Arlington area mentiond ONCE the entire evening. What was driving the converstation of the candidates? City deficit spending. Sound familiar? Its like this guy is driving the agenda for the whole country. So here is my memo to Audrey Moran: Party DOES matter at the national, state, and local levels.

Jacksonville Mayor & City Council District 1 Candidate Forum Recap

As promised here is my report on the District 1 Candidate Forum this past Thurday, February 17th put on by my neighborhood organization: The Alderman Park Civic Association. I've decided not to use any photos I took during the evening because of the poor quality of the photos and the lack of competency on the part of the operator. It was held off Lone Star Rd. in Alderman Park’s St. Andrews Episcopal Church. It was a fairly well attended event with a full slate of candidates shaking hands and kissing babies. The TU was even present. The first thing I noticed was the demographics of the crowd: mostly white, gray-haired, fairly balanced gender mix, probably retired and very, very conservative. The President of the Association is a Teaparty Republican who was a Rick Scott backer sporting one of those “Have You Prayed For A Liberal” bumper stickers on his car. It always strikes me that conservative’s bumpers always conveys a message to marginalize someone’s philosophy or belief system as it is never something to persuade. In any event, there is no doubt political ambitions are bubbling in that head as he is probably a good bet for a future District 1 City Council candidate once Clay Yarborough decides to take his homophobia and religious bigotry to the state house in some capacity.

I walked around and saw a couple of neighborhood folks I knew and exchanged pleasantries and took a few photos, which had the effect of everyone giving me a wary eye. There was no doubt that in all probability, with the exception of DINO’s Warren Lee and Ken Jefferson, I and poor old out manned Darryl Fleming, a candidate for Clay Yarborough’s City Council seat, were the only Democrats in the room. One of the Group 5 at large candidates for City Council, Robin Lumb, ambled over and introduced himself and left a card and then the forum was gaveled to order by the intrepid association President.

During the course of the evening three main themes emerged from the Republican cavalcade of tax cuttin’ cowboys as they burnished their conservative credentials for three minutes of allotted time to address the audience: (1) [Wait for it…] tax cuts!; (2) reducing the size of government [a shocker, I know]; and finally (3) union basing. That last one caught me off guard but looking at the slate of candidates I really should have expected it. Everyone seemed to be against the Craig Airfield extension and for some reason round-a-bouts.

The candidates for Mayor that did show up were Dino Warren Lee, and GOP’ers Mike Hogan, and Rick Mullaney. I guess Audrey Moran was reaching out to Democrats somewhere else in the city that evening along with Democrat Alvin Brown since we were at a minimum in the room. I was hoping Ms. Moran would be there so I could ask her about her UNF forum statement regarding taxes and fees but considering the crowd in attendance and their hostility to anything approaching the statement she made at UNF it might have been a wise decision to have a convenient schedule conflict as an alibi. Mike Hogan and Rick Mullaney looked like two of Pavlov’s dogs barking in unison on taxcuts [More! More!] and cutting government and making it smaller. I should follow them around with a little bell and ring it and watch them bark out Taxcuts! like one ofo Pavolov's subjects. But my liberal sensibilities tell me that’s cruel. Rick Mullaney touted his “34 point plan to […wait for it] shrink government and cut taxes. Mike Hogan was the one candidate who said no more round-a-bouts and got a smattering of applause. He followed that up with a pledge against excessive salaries as well (sorry city government workers – that means no raises for you). Warren Lee was against the Craig Airfield extension proposal but other than that who knows. He gave a bio and took a question about unions to which he replied “we need serious budget cuts.” DINO’s don’t do very well when they act Republican because why vote for one when you can vote for a real one.

The candidates for Jacksonville Sheriff were first with the staid and serious Sheriff Rutherford giving credit to Cowford’s homicide rate decline the past year to an aggresive district attorney’s office and JSO’s community outreach programs, which dropped us out of our number one ranking in the state for murder. When you can beat out Miami in that category you know there is some serious ammunition being expended into some bodies demonstrating one’s right to bear arms. He did fail to mention our fair city still leading the way in other felonies but no one was counting once the decline in violent deaths was noted. Once a discussion of guns was brought up all the following candidates no matter the office usually demonstrated their conservative credentials by extolling the virtues of the 2nd Amendment. Seems like the constitution is always sacred to them unless of course its the parts they don’t like (i.e. 14th Amendment). I wanted to ask DINO Sheriff candidate Ken Jefferson about his response to a question at an earlier forum for the Sheriff candidates reported by TU PolitiJax writer Abel Harding about his policy regarding armed suspects – “Kill’em, shoot’em, and bury’em. But I figured all that would do is gin up the concealed and carry crowd and I thought better of it.

Tax Collector and Property Appraiser candidates were all GOP candidates talking efficiency and making your visits to their offices like a retail operation. They wanted to make your visit(s) the quickest and most accessible to the services you need which of course sounds reasonable. But that’s like the roadside inn touting clean rooms instead of something more than basic services. Someone in the audience wanted to know why Mike Hogan’s name was on every Tax Collector sign and thought it was a frivolous expense and is the next office holder going to do the same. They stumbled over each other saying no.

Now we come to the Candidates for Dist. 1: Yarborough, Brock and Fleming. As the lone Democrat Mr. Fleming didn’t have much to offer other than his experience about being in the military and working in Pentagon procurement offices and heavily involved in the Boy Scouts. Clay Yarborough talked about his fiancé and said basically he’s going to keep doing the same old same old and voting no on everything that moves. I’ve seen more vision at the St. Augustine school for the blind than these stuffed shirts offered all night. This brings us to the one candidate who stood out for me because he offered an actual idea for the community: Republican candidate Lindsey Brock. He was very personable and cordial and spoke to the members of the audience and it was what he didn’t do that caught my attention more than anything else. He didn’t lead off with the standard Duval County GOP line about tax cuts and shrinking government. He talked about coming up with a program to link JU students with small businesses and show them how attractive a community Arlington can be with their vibrant ideas and talent. I almost stood up and shouted Here! Here!. I watched to see if anyone other than myself found that interesting – then nothing. He actually said he wanted to do something about bringing small businesses back to Arlington. I nearly fainted.

It was at this point I’d decided I couldn’t take anymore of this charade. District 2 and at large candidates were getting ready to speak and I just could not bear to hear more of the same. I saw Mr. Lindsey headed for the back of the room when he finished and before I knew it we were outside having a discussion about his ideas and I was able to give my views on what community means to me and my ideas about the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission. He actually listened to what I had to say and engaged me about some of those ideas. Once I left I came home and immediately sent an email telling him he was the only candidate present that seemed reasonably grounded and open to what others had to say. I’ll have more to say about him later. Even though I’m diametrically opposed to almost every position he holds he does come across as someone you could actually work with.

I wanted to end the recap with some of the questions that were asked during the course of the evening. Someone stood up with a question for Rick Mullaney about unions. After giving a preamble that was straight off one of off Fox News’ Sean Hannity/Glenn Beck anti-union tirades about how they are responsible for choking off government revenue he wanted to know how he felt about unions. After nodding in agreement while that guy went on before his question and even mouthing “That’s right” when he remarked about unions being a revenue problem for the city he basically answered he was for sitting down and setting union leadership straight about where they stood with him and telling them his guidelines for dealing with them. Once they understood he would not budge an inch on any demand then he would be glad to tell them at a sit down to live with it. What a guy. I wanted to shout to him the next time his house caught on fire or he needed a cop, his call would be answered by an actual taxpaying union member(s). But the thick fog of ideology would have prevented any understanding of that concept.

Next someone asked about shutting down Terry Parker and making it a magnet school. One of the candidates, whom at present I can’t remember, said Terry Parker was a tradition in the community, then he went on to say was expressly not for closing it down. He asked the questioner to delay taking his family out of Arlington and work together with the community to improve the school.

And finally there was one question I wanted to cover. A lady, I think, stood up and asked why we had a storm runoff fee/tax and when we had an actual problem with storm runoff water she couldn’t get any service. I was stunned, though I shouldn’t have been, at the response she got. Several candidates took the microphone and said they had nothing to do with that current tax/fee. They explained to her what it actually was but went no further than that. Earlier in the evening when Kurt Kravitz, the candidate for Tax Collector spoke he mentioned his background was a successful business man with the Jacksonville Suns who made his employees do at least three different jobs and how he wanted to wanted the employees at the Tax Collector’s office do the same. Once they finished denying to the lady they had nothing to do with that tax I wanted to stand up and tell her this is an example of what we are in for. I wanted to tell her the reason she and others, who could be heard grumbling in agreement with her as she spoke, were not getting a response for that problem even though they were paying a fee was an example of shrinking government/city services what were already cut to the bone. On top of that here we are listening to some guy tell us he’s going to make his employees work more than one job as well. I wanted to say Kravitz was the perfect example of this mindset and this is not only what we have been going through for the past 12 years of dominant GOP rule but that we can expect more of the same in the future with these characters.

Though this sums of my recap I’ll have more to say later. I want to post the speech Democrat Daryl Fleming should have given and I will be commenting further about the race as it nears its conclusion for Mayor and District 1.

Wisconsin State Democrats Fighting Back

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I was just over at Balloon Juice and picked this up from E.D. Kain of this absolutely amazing video of Wisconsin State Representative Steve Hintz (D - Oshkosh District #54) setting the record straight how the minority party is getting treated by the new Teaparty way of doing government business. I feel like this has been happening for awhile now in the Florida legislature but not this severe. If Gov. Rick Scott's legislative backers start hitching their stars to him this is the treatment we can expect our elected state Democrats to get. Watch and behold this civics lesson rant for the ages about the integrity of the GOP majority and their leadership in Madison:

The latest reports I'm hearing is the Wisconsin public employee unons have already agreed to the financial concessions except stripping away their collective bargaining agreements. Once Florida state senator Steve Wise finishes with his efforts there is no doubt the teacher unions here in our fair state will be rendered impotent and stripped of our collective bargaining rights as well. Welcome to the Teaparty world where taking away rights is what they are all about.

Elected Florida Democrats Get A Warning From Wisconsin

Friday, February 18, 2011

The showdown taking place in Wisconsin as I post this is starting to reach critical mass for the public sector employees in the state. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve seen elected Democrats take actual stands against their Republican counterparts and not act intimidated or cower in their caucus rooms worried sick about how they will be portrayed in the media. At this moment I wish I was a Wisconsin Democrat joining in the fight. It’s more than just a fight for public employees to keep their bargaining rights: it’s a fight for human beings to be taken seriously for the worth of their labor against the crushing corporate tide rolling over the American landscape.

I seriously hope our Florida Democratic legislators, at least the few we have left, are watching what’s taking place in Madison right now. The reason being is they are going to have to do the same thing. They are going to have to take a stand against the onslaught that’s about to come from a Governor, who by the grace of 50,000+ plus voters is going to pull the same thing as Gov. Walker is doing in Wisconsin. We better get ready. The firefighters, the police and sheriffs’ offices, the communications workers and finally the teachers who all share membership in unions the time is coming. Tallahassee is coming for us and they aren’t going give any quarter. We are about to be in a fight for all we are about. We are about to find out what our beliefs mean to us not only as Democrats and union members but what it means to be a citizen in this state whose labor has worth to our community and our families. We have more worth than nameless corporations who are going to come in and use our infrastructure and our community services and not pay a dime for it. These corporations will take their profit margins and send it out of the state never to be seen again while us, the citizens that call Florida home, give them a free ride through their bidder in the Governor’s mansion.

Get ready. They’re coming.

City of Jacksonville District 1 Candidate Forum Teaser

Was truly planning to report on District 1 Candidate forum tonight put on by the Alderman Park Civic Association. As you can guess I was the only Democrat in the building with the exception of poor Daryl Fleming, District 1 candidate against Lindsey Brock and religious bigot Clay Yarborough. The photos I took were poor quality but I should get one or two of the batch I took on the site that's good enough to get a sense of the dynamic. I'll give a full review tomorrow night but there was a lot of union bashing/hating, complaints about high taxes [imagine that!] and posturing by the Mayoral candidates in some kind of race to see who can make the most cuts and make the government the smallest.

So stay tuned for tomorrow's District 1 forum report...

City of Jacksonville Budget Workshops & Citizen Input

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Imagine my excitement this past Tuesday when I got my confirmation to have a seat at the table at one of five City of Jacksonville budget workshops scheduled between February 23rd, and April 16th of this year. Immediately, my first thought was of Jack Nicholson’s malevolent character “The Joker” in Tim Burton’s “Batman” when he turned to the camera and uttered this warning followed by a chilling cackle, “Wait’ll they get a load of me.” All kidding aside I was actually thinking this opportunity, if anything, will be a sobering experience and a privilege to be taken with a great deal of seriousness.

I’ve always been annoyed at candidates for Mayor and City Council [or any other public office for that matter] whenever they would try and qualify their candidacy with their successful business background or burnish their credentials with free market theories regarding matters of public sector accounting. Private and public sector spending and accounting work under not only two different sets of accounting principles [for the uninformed that would be GAAP for private and GASB for public] but under two different sets of goals and means with which to achieve their bottom lines. To set the record straight I am not an accountant nor do I play one on TV. Heck I haven’t even gotten a good night’s sleep at a Holiday Inn to claim as a qualification. But my toils at the University of Florida to get a degree in history and a minor in political science has given me some knowledge in the rudimentary workings of federal, state and local governments. Civics lessons aside I think I can get most of the plumbing details down enough to understand how these government sausages are eventually made.

I hope to take this as more of a learning experience than to have any real expectations of an impact from a private citizen such as myself who happens to be a property owner. And by the way being a property owner does not nor should it give me any special weight at one of these things. I’m just gratified to see that any citizen, regardless of their circumstances economic or otherwise, is open to register for a seat at the table.

On February 23rd I’ll be at the Regency Square Library location with issued workbook in hand. With my registration they even gave me some homework to do before arrival: reviewing the budget process (including decision making & timelines); the current city budget breakdown (including revenue, expenses, cap improvement and pensions); and millage rates (for police, children, fire, parks and water works). Looks like I’m in for quite an evening. As I’ve already indicated I don’t expect to have much input into this process at all but I’m looking forward to the sausage making process so I can be a little more informed while I’m throwing darts at the lobbyists, special interests and individuals who have agendas outside the best interests for the city and communities.

I’ll be sure to take pictures and be ready with commentary. Perhaps I can even live tweet the event! Stay tuned.

Gov. Scott's High Speed Rail Rejection An Economic Train Wreck

If anything Gov. Rick Scott is consistent in making sure his ideological makeup doesn’t get its hair mussed no matter what the storm is swirling around him. This past Wednesday when he made a big deal out of turning down federal stimulus monies to build a high speed rail network between Orlando and Tampa he joined in with two other Governors who have chosen the same path to turn down the jobs that went with it: Ohio’s Gov. John Kasich and Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker. Gov. Walker as it turns out is dealing with another firestorm regarding an attempt to strip union bargaining rights from state and public employees which is another story.

Rick Scott ran an ad during his campaign promising from behind the wheel of a pickup truck the usual two part refrain all right wing conservative Republicans regurgitate in their run: making government smaller and cutting taxes. The “will create jobs” rejoinder uttered each time afterwards is almost a throwaway line. This was followed by a grin and a campaign slogan designed to burnish some kind of blue collar credential: “Let’s get to work.” That’s the entire breadth of his so called plans for Florida. His entire campaign could almost be a perfect laboratory study in a stunning lack of vision beyond those two goals.

Confirming this lack of insight for Florida's future is an Economic Research Group study commissioned by the non-partison U.S. Conference of Mayors showing the benefits of the $2.4B stimulus Scott just turned down: $2.9 billion per year in new business, including up to $1.7 billion per year in GRP growth and up to 27,500 jobs. Let me repeat that: 27,500 jobs. On top of that the study also pointed out one other critical feature to this federal stimulus package: […]HSR's projected larger flow of passengers will lead to increased tourism and business travel, generating additional spending at local hotels, restaurants and retail stores. Projections show that by 2035, HSR can annually add roughly $255 million in the Orlando area.

With Scott’s recent inaugural budget seeming to be more of a blueprint for cutting jobs to the tune of 8,800 public sector workers all one needs to do is add the 27,500 jobs that was projected from the stimulus money and you have a total of +35,000 plus jobs gone as a first year achievement for Mr. Scotts “vision for Florida that’s nothing more than an impending economic trainwreck for Florida taxpayers. Meteor Blades over at Daily Kos sums up what these GOP Governors are about perfectly:

Planning for the past is big with these Republican governors. Planning for the future, in their view, is apparently only relevant in Europe, Japan and China.
Already there isn’t enough sugar on the planet to sweeten the bitter taste of the tea these three Governors are brewing.

The Conservative Manifesto

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I love cowboys. Actually, to be more precise I love the Hollywood caricature of the plains cowboy of the old West. You know the one. The rugged, wind burned individual bred from hardy white western European stock sandwiched between a 10 gallon hat and trail worn cowboy boots. He was the traveling loner with a body adorned and wrapped in leather chaps and matching leather vests. He rode atop a loyal Mustang (or Palomino – YMMV regarding the choice of horse) with his meager belongings tucked inside a saddle bag along with a blanket roll, tobacco bag & rolling papers, the requisite Colt .45 strapped to his leg and the Winchester slung inside a saddle sling as he wandered across the great open plains between the Mississippi valley and the Rocky mountains. Riding tall and erect he was accountable to no one but himself. But even more important, he was not one to rely on anyone but himself to get through life and take it in at a pace of his own choosing and without interference from anyone. Though he blends in with an ever changing seasonal environment he’s convinced himself the environment is a product of his own freewill. In other words it was his world and everything and everyone else just lived in it. For those grounded in the pop culture of the 1960’s and ‘70’s he was the Marlboro Man on steroids and he was armed.

The main problem in today’s body politic that defines our modern governments is this persistent Hollywood characterization of cowboys in the old west. And that problem is this: every Republican white male over the age of 45 actually see themselves as this Hollywood caricature. All one needs to do is listen to every speech ever given on the house and senate floor by the white right wing conservative male and you hear an oration peppered with veiled references to every characteristic I’ve described above. And to go even further, not only do they perceive themselves as this old west loner who just needs the community (i.e. today’s urban center or city, state or nation) to stay out of his way along with its pesky rules and regulations that go with it, he just doesn’t understand why everyone else doesn’t feel the same way. Welcome to the conservative Republican mindset.

To further complicate matters the Hollywood caricature described above has never existed in the pure form it envisioned. In real life cowboys, as defined by the actual historical name, does take on some of those Hollywood characteristics described above, but in the real three dimensional world of reality they were also a product of their environment. As people migrated west armed with nothing more than a few belongings, a plow and a Bible they competed to convert the open plains into proto urban centers of the future. Upon their arrival they also had with them their complicated notions of interpersonal relationships. Those interpersonal relationships were the basis of a loose social network couched in a sense of community. The real old west cowboy had to navigate that sense with a modicum of cooperation and the constraints it placed on his existence. Soon there followed a period of rapid expansion where these communities became more numerous, wide-spread and complex. As this expansion moved west the maverick characteristics that defined the old west cowboy became diluted. In a word the future was about community and the responsibilities that came with it if you decided to take advantage of some of the services a community or city offered.

This brings us to the modern conservative manifesto. The Hollywood cowboy caricature described above could almost act as a template overlay for the edict or declaration of principles that make up today’s white male conservative Republican. In reality these dogmatic annunciations of tenants and creeds in the real world is nothing more than a smoke screen that can take on a life of its own as it describes the raison d’etra of a conservative’s essence of being : one who is a devoted to family; one who believes in fiscal responsibility; small government; low, low, low taxes; one that believes in an unfettered, free, and unrestrained environment for private capital to flourish; a Christian devoted to faith and all the trappings of the religious community; and finally, one who devoutly believes in personal responsibility and accountability for one’s own actions. I think that about covers it. But let’s not kid ourselves. That rhetoric is for media and political consumption only.

Let’s strip away the rhetorical cloak and see what lies underneath where it sits hidden and only accessible by way of veiled dog whistle references. It’s the one principle that drives every fiber of their being in the rush to consturct a world where it’s the only thing that matters. It’s the main clause of their conservative manifesto: the community opt-out clause. This clause defines who they are. It’s the right to not invest in that community. It’s the right to take advantage of the services of that community without having to pay into it. It’s the right to let corporations and individuals of a certain tax bracket to come into your community and use its infrastructure without investing in it like tax exemption initiatives to attract private corporate benevolence. It’s the right to send money that corporations make out of the community never to me seen again in reinvestment. It’s the right to use the fire department, police department, city services and offices without investing in it. It’s the right to exist in that community and take advantage of what it offers while hardworking individuals of that community invest in it through property taxes, taxes on small businesses and volunteer services. That’s the one principle that makes them rage on in the Congressional forum for their so called conservative principles.

It’s the Hollywood cowboy who’s convinced himself the environment is a product of his freewill at the expense of everyone else while he navigates his way through it without even a by your leave. The essense of this principle is one they consider a natural right and brings a clarity only a conservative mind can appreciate.

Tea anyone?

No Room For Children In Gov. Rick Scott's Vision for Florida

One of the less endearing traits of conservatives is their tendency to not let practicality or the human condition get in the way of ideology. Let’s forget for a moment the GOP/Conservative clarion call to cut taxes and shrink government no matter the economic condition or circumstance. One of the more striking elements of this one size fits all ideological blueprint for economic redress is the lack of a standard for a perfect equilibrium regarding the optimum size of government and just how much taxes is enough for the basic services one might expect from local, state or federal government. This brings us to two elements of this ideology that are counter intuitive regarding the human condition and they both have to do with children.

Governor Scott’s proposed inaugural budget seems to base its virtue on the draconian nature of its harshness and severity especially in regards to government services concerning our states children. The one service and state agency that seems to bear the brunt of this push for austerity at any cost is the Department of Children and Families. This includes the elimination of homeless services, agencies that deal with school suicide prevention and finally domestic violence which always seems to have children as collateral damage. The Governors rhetoric seems only to find compassion for children if a family’s tax bracket rates a tax cut. Overall his budget and tax cut numbers tell us it comes down to $540.00 savings per household over two years. Take it to per month and it equals less than $23.00. Only a politician so disconnected from the people he serves would think that ranks as some kind of tax savings windfall for the taxpayer. These so called savings broken down per month won’t even cover the cost of a tank of gas.

The counter intuitive element of this budget/tax policy brings the centrality of its focus on the social issue at the very core of the conservative movement: its anti-abortion or right to life stance. If one is to cut all meaningful services that would act as a safety net or as an agent of aid for children that would be forced into this world through a rigid social policy that not only discourages abortion no matter the circumstance but education as well about how to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Low income and needy children would be left at the mercy of the vagaries of the market place where under these policies there is no room for compassion or help for the economic and socially disadvantaged.

This brings us to education. The planned per pupil cuts in costs would total around 10 per cent in a state that already ranks as one of the lowest in the nation in per pupil spending (Florida ranks 45th out of 50). This counter-intuitive policy would shackle the state’s public education system with burdens that could only work to undermine the classroom environment to the point where it becomes untenable with the rising school age population contrasted against an ever shrinking budget to support it. How children of low economic circumstance are expected to make wise choices in life when the public education system they rely on fails them economically is beyond me.

These policies certainly tell us all we need to know about Governor Rick Scott the person as he uses the plight of these at risk children as a means to an ideological end.

Thanks Fox News Mission Accomplished

Sunday, February 13, 2011

This is one of those "please kill me now" posts. As an educator whose mission in life is to stamp out ignorance sometimes I feel like the mytholigical Sisyphus wrestling with that damned boulder. There is no doubt the Murdock communications empire, fronted by the blathering dullards that think Egypt lies somewhere between Israel and Iran and therefore is a cesspool of 'Murikan hatin Is-lamb-iks, banks on the lowest common denominator in its audience to maintain an iron grip on the ignorance agenda. If you think I'm suffering from a bout of ideological hysterical rantings consider these lastest findings in a poll conducted by Perspectives In Politics. These are the kind of poll numbers that the likes of Haley Barbour slowly drink in and savor like a cool mint julip while sitting under a maple tree on an historical state government preserved southern plantation mansion caressed by a cool summer breeze with a chesire cat smile.

I'll let liberal scion David Sirota take the reigns with a rant from the ages in his Huffington Post column on how average Americans view government social programs and how seemingly detached they are from the reality of the impact those programs have on their daily lives. Take it away David:
How aggressively stupid is America when it comes to our debates over taxes, budgets and the size of government? That's been difficult to answer with any precision, beyond simply citing the Tea Partier who famously told his congressman to "keep your government hands off my Medicare." But now we have some hard numbers to tell us how deep this ignorance really goes.

According to new data crunched by Cornell University's Suzanne Mettler, large numbers of Americans who receive benefits from government social programs nonetheless tell pollsters they "have not used a government social program." And when I mean large, I mean large. For example, a majority of those who have received federally subsidized student loans, 44 percent of Social Security beneficiaries and 40 percent of G.I. bill recipients say they have not used a government social program.

These numbers go a long way to explaining why the economic debate in our country is so insane. Indeed, at a moment when taxes have hit a historic low, most politicians -- from presidents to governors to state legislators -- insist we must further cut taxes and shrink allegedly "Big Government." And they are finding a receptive audience in the general public because, as the numbers show, so many Americans wrongly believe they don't receive direct financial benefits from government.

Obviously, this aggressive stupidity politically props up the arguments of the anti-government right. With so many Americans evidently not knowing they receive benefits from the government, it's easy for opportunistic politicians to seize on our "me-first, screw everybody else" culture and misleadingly deride the government as some distant entity that exclusively benefits the "other." And if you don't know that, in fact, you are "the other," then you are more likely to conclude that that opportunistic politician is correct, and more likely to cheer on that opportunistic politician as he/she slashes the programs you directly rely on.

And as for us denizens here in the Sunshine state with newly minted Gov. Rick Scott the party is just getting started. As the Teaparty darling doning the persona of Don Quixote jousting with the evils of the collective in all its forms at the local, state and national levels the conga line for the Governor began in Eustis, Florida. As a school teacher surely to be on the wrong end of that conga line as it dances its way through every Florida county stripping public education of its very essence of existence the only thing I'm going to be reaching for is hemlock. Hey, maybe Socrates was on to something after all.

New Blog Redesign

Friday, February 11, 2011

After several starts and stops and constraints of family and time the blog redesign is finally in progress. I'm still working on my header but the new look is starting to take shape. I'll be back in the saddle soon with more pointless blather about the state of liberalism and the Democratic Party, such as it is.