The Re-Making of a Conservative: The Jeb Bush Mirage

May 29, 2014

(Counterpunch) Anyone familiar with the record of Jeb Bush’s two terms as Florida governor will be rubbing their eyes at the recent NY Times profile depicting Bush as “an intellectual in search of new ideas, a serial consulter of outsiders who relishes animated debate and a probing manager who eagerly burrows into the bureaucratic details.” (Jeb Bush Gives Party Something to Think About, New York Times, May 24, 2014)

Jeb was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007. In 1994 he narrowly lost his first political race to the late Lawton Chiles. To the right-wing of the GOP, it was a glitch. As a result of that loss, George W. and not Jeb was in line to be the Republican contender for president in 2000. Twenty years later, in 2014, Jeb Bush, longtime advisors, and the deepest fundraising network in Republican politics is pushing a version of Jeb Bush into the media headlights. That version, detailed in the New York Times puffery, bears scant resemblance to the Jeb Bush who was governor.

Jeb could be a micromanager. But “an intellectual in search of new ideas”? Hardly. Jeb made his mark as a micromanager by requiring adherence to preconceived ideas, like those developed by his conservative think tank, The Foundation For Florida’s Future. “A serial consulter of outsider who relishes animated debate”? Debate requires two sides of an argument, and Bush rarely paid attention — more frequently was dismissive than not — of those who dared rebut what he had already decided. Read the rest of this entry »


Marco Rubio Faces the Nation: Not Ready for Prime Time

July 19, 2011

Marco Rubio has been in the US Senate nearly nine months. After a nine month gestation, last Sunday the junior senator from Florida emerged as tidy proof on “Face the Nation’.

Face The Nation host Bob Schaeffer led off with a question about the GOP stance on raising the debt ceiling. Rubio returned with spin: it is a problem of spending, not the debt ceiling. Spending cuts, spending cuts, spending cuts. Even rating agencies like Standard & Poors say so. Schaeffer asked the senator’s view of a compromise deal to allow the president to increase the debt ceiling without action by either party. Rubio stuck to his point: “it’s not about the debt ceiling, it’s about debt.”

Rubio used the phrase “credible solution” to the debt problem several times, including the rating agency’s emphasis on a credible solution in its recent report. When Schaeffer tried, twice– including a Rubio clip from a Fox News interview– to get the junior senator to acknowledge that not everything in the economy is President Obama’s fault, Rubio pushed back.

“People want to know when they will have a job. Until America has a credible solution to its debt problem, people will be afraid to invest in America.” Here, Schaeffer could have asked: name one investor who wouldn’t create a job in the US because of the national debt. Read the rest of this entry »


The Wrecking Crew: Making Florida a Haven for Polluters

July 15, 2011

We have reached the nadir of the dumbing down of American politics. The path was cleared by ideologues: and why should the devastation not be delivered by the conservative right holding the Book of to their American flag lapels? I am half-tempted to go along with the Ron Paul wing of the Republican Party and let August 2nd come and go: just like Y2K right? (On Jan 1, 2000 apocalypse was predicted when computers would all shut down or short circuit because they had not been programmed to accept the millenium date. If you don’t know what happens on August 2nd, stop reading now.)

Republican brainiacs believe they can pin “this budget thing” on President Obama and the Democrats, but if there is no resolution to the budget and debt ceiling crisis, expect a stock market crash of at least 20 percent off the bat. No one thought home values could be worth only half of what they were, five years ago. Let the GOP masterminds like Karl Rove explain how it is the Democrats’ fault our savings turn out to be worth only half of what they were.

That the Republican Party turned into a party of unrecognizable extremists didn’t happen overnight. For those who thought Grover Norquist was just trying to shrink the size of government, look at the consequences of the decapitations that are working themselves out in slow motion. Turn, for example, to Florida’s GOP wrecking crew in the House of Representatives.

If you were too focused on Texas’ GOP initiative to save the incandescent light bulb, or the electric utilities’ decision to abandon investment to reduce man-made chemicals that cause global warming (because of regulatory uncertainty as a result of Republicans effort to kill environmental regulations), then you might have missed the Florida GOP delegations’ most recent tactic in the Holy War against the US EPA: to gut the Clean Water Act as revenge for the federal agency’s efforts (after decades of lawsuits and inaction) to clean up Florida’s filthy waters where the state refuses (thank you, Governor Barely Legal Rick Scott). Read the rest of this entry »


Florida: Winning the Race to the Bottom, or, A State of Liars

May 11, 2011

The worst legislative session in Florida history is over. The mad scramble to a remote state capitol is now emptying of lobbyists. But their work is hardly finished. Having engineered a radical evisceration of public protections, the lobbyists and state legislators are now headed home to counties and municipalities to make sure that the profits accrue to the benefactors: land speculators, ideologues, and private profiteers who are giving political campaigns money at an unprecedented rate to the GOP; in many cases, on the order of 10-1.

Last week the Florida legislature– the most conservative in modern history– wiped out more than 30 years of environmental protections with scarcely a debate in the Senate. Is this what Florida voters wanted, when they elected Rick Scott as governor and a legislature that clearly meant to use the economic crisis to impose a final solution on environmental rules? Those are the same special interests that pushed the economy built from housing and construction off a cliff with support for fraudulent growth schemes sold to gullible buyers as “what the market wants”. Florida has the highest level of at-risk properties in the nation. More than one in five mortgages are in some state of distress. In Miami-Dade, local courts dealing with foreclosures have a backlog of more than two years. Read the rest of this entry »


Sergio Pino’s Bad Year: The Fall of a South Florida Banker

March 22, 2011

On the same day that Sergio Pino announced his resignation from the board of the bank he founded, US Century Bank in Miami had more bad news: the ratings agency, Fitch, withdrew its rating. In a public statement to South Florida Business Journal, Pino said his withdrawal had nothing to do with the severely deteriorating condition of the bank.

Pino, along with other bank directors, have been major Republican campaign contributors and lobbyists for suburban sprawl in Florida wetlands and farmland. They have strongly supported and pushed for the expansion of the Urban Development Boundary in Miami-Dade to include lands purchased as speculative investments for future platted subdivisions and sprawl. The bank they founded has been the recipient of the largest infusion of federal taxpayer moneys, through TARP, among all Florida banks. Read the rest of this entry »


Victims of the Free Market: Predatory Speculation

March 8, 2011

Civil War in Libya. Oil speculators crowding into the market. For nearly a week running, network TV news has led with the story of rising gas prices and the “threat to the economy”. Really? The Federal Reserve core inflation excludes food and energy, on the basis that price spikes moderate and in any event (barring revolutionaries gaining foothold in Saudi Arabia) speculators come and go, exchanging futures for paintings by Michaelangelo. The price of gas goes from $3.14 to $3.55, and suddenly we are atwitter about tapping the national oil reserve?

In the week before TV news began to focus on gas prices, the Administration announced the jobless rate fell to 8.9 percent. The emerging story line is that rising fuel prices are threatening the economic “recovery”. That’s not why the seams are coming apart. Read the rest of this entry »


SEIU: Off to the Races, Backwards … the Dismal Politics of South Florida

January 14, 2011

(Counterpunch) The Service Employees International Union gave $20,000 to the political action committee to save long-time Miami Dade county commissioner Natacha Seijas from recall and political oblivion. Seijas is facing the second recall by petition in less that three years. The Hialeah commissioner– it is well known– is the de facto chair of local government in Florida’s most populous county. She has carved out a permanent incumbency in a Cuban American district that seethes with resentment against Fidel Castro but enforces political orthodoxy with the same exact ferocity. Seijas is a battle axe in defense of untouchable fiefdoms: mainly contracts at Miami International Airport, near the end of a $4 billion rebuild that is notable for chronic cost overruns– and zoning for development in farmland and outside the urban development boundary. Read the rest of this entry »