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5 posts from December 28, 2012

December 28, 2012

Actual Miami press conference title: "ONE BULLET KILLS THE PARTY!"

"It’s sad that a family can be torn apart by something as simple as a pack of wild dogs," Saturday Night Live's Jack Handy once said in a "Deep Thoughts" sketch.

We don't have many of those in Miami, but we do have guns. Lots of guns. Especially on New Year's Eve. So here's the City of Miami's press conference headline: "ONE BULLET KILLS THE PARTY!" The press release:

(Miami, Fl. December 28, 2012)—City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, City Commissioners, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson and Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa will hold a Press Conference on Monday, December 31, 2012 at 10 AM for this year’s “ONE BULLET KILLS THE PARTY!” public awareness campaign at Moore Park, 765 NW 36 St, Miami.

In a united effort, concerned elected officials, law enforcement and community activists are urging residents and visitors never to fire celebratory gunshots in the air. Every year innocent people, including children, are struck by bullets fired into the air by people celebrating various holidays causing serious injury, and oftentimes death.

And last year's press conference:

'Bibi's Brain' and former Miami Beach mayor's brother, Ron Dermer, to be Israel's ambassador to U.S.

Ron Dermer, a conservative Florida-born Republican and brother of Miami Beach's former mayor David Dermer, is slated to be Israel's next ambassador to the United States, according to Israeli news reports.

Dermer was nicknamed "Bibi's Brain" in a 2011 Tablet profile that compared his relationship with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to that of Karl Rove and former President George W. Bush:

Dermer’s title is senior adviser to the prime minister, and he’s a jack-of-all-trades—strategist, pollster, and speechwriter for Netanyahu, as well as his chief proxy in foreign affairs. A constant presence in Netanyahu’s meetings in Washington, he has helped shape Israel’s posture in the American capital most notably through Netanyahu’s spring speech to the U.S. Congress, which foiled President Barack Obama’s effort to pressure the prime minister into meaningful negotiations with the Palestinians. “Bibi doesn’t move an inch without talking to him,” said one person who has been in meetings with both men.

At 40, Dermer has a full head of dark hair under his small knit kippah and the hyperkinetic energy of a man who is still young. A Wharton-schooled economist and Oxford-trained political theorist with Machiavellian political instincts, Dermer comes across as equal parts George Stephanopoulos and Karl Rove. He is a ferocious competitor who quarterbacked Israel’s flag-football team in the sport’s World Cup three times. “He cannot abide anybody being better at him than anything, particularly physically,” said his friend Tom Rose, a former publisher of the Jerusalem Post. “He wouldn’t let a 3-year-old beat him at Ping-Pong.”

While Ron Dermer cut his political teeth as a Newt Gingrich-era Republican Revolution conservative, brother David was a bit more liberal. Though a Democrat, however, Mayor David Dermer backed Republican Gov. Jeb Bush in his successful 2002 re-election bid.

Miami Herald story here

The rise and fall of Congressman David Rivera

For a decade, David Rivera was a political force to be reckoned with, the consummate operative who had a cat-like ability to survive any scrape — even as investigations swirled around him.

This November, the congressman’s ninth life expired.

Voted out of office as the FBI and IRS pressed on with probes into his personal and campaign finances, Rivera officially becomes a private citizen Thursday. Rivera could be charged soon, sources familiar with the investigation say.

Despite the ongoing investigations, Rivera has steadfastly denied he’s under any scrutiny and is already planning a comeback.

Rivera lived and breathed politics since and before his one term in Congress and four in the state Legislature. He was involved in every type of race: obscure party posts, local commission elections, contests for Florida House speaker, presidential races in the state and the winning campaigns of his close friend, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio.

But Rivera’s penchant for playing the political game proved to be his downfall as well. Rivera often embroiled himself in needless schemes and some ultimately backfired, say friends, foes and former peers.

“At the end of the day, David’s cleverness was a liability. But until now, it was an asset,” said J.C. Planas, a fellow Miami Republican who served and clashed at times with Rivera from 2002-2010 in the Florida House.

Those who were even closer to Rivera, including Rubio backers, have anonymously described his schemes as bordering on “pathological” and “Nixonian.”

When asked about the comparison to former President Nixon, Rivera said by email “Don’t even know what that means.” He then added a “hee hee” laughter message that went on to reference a famous Nixon 1962 press conference after he lost a California governor’s race.

“But I do know this, you won’t have David Rivera to kick around anymore,” Rivera said.

It’s a vintage Rivera response: funny, edgy and laden with political depth. It also shines a light on Rivera's mercurial nature, which has long concerned some Rubio backers. They’re relieved that Rivera’s political career could be over because it lowers the chances that Rubio — a vice-presidential shortlister in 2012 who won’t rule out a future White House bid — would get caught in the crossfire of a future controversy.

The two still own a Tallahassee home, which a bank started to foreclose in 2010 just as Rubio was running for Senate.

Rivera declined to comment for this article. In the past, he would simply laugh when told he was too crafty for his own good.

While in office, Rivera filed false financial reports by listing a phony company that paid him phantom income, records show. He took a gambling-company payout in secret when he didn’t need to. And former campaign vendors say he was involved in a bizarre election scheme involving stacks of untraceable cash to help attack Democrat Joe Garcia, who ultimately beat him Nov. 6.

The FBI is investigating the latter two cases. The state ethics commission rapped him for 11 instances of non-disclosure in October. And he avoided a 52-count state criminal indictment for his use of campaign and public money when he was a state legislator.

Throughout, Rivera’s explanations often changed when it came to specifics. But his general response was the same: Denial of wrongdoing.

More here

Taxpayers cough up another $190,000 in legal fees for Scott’s drug testing push

Gov. Rick Scott’s drug-testing push has racked up even more legal bills, with a federal judge ordering the state to pay $190,000 in attorney’s fees for a case involving state workers.

The ruling, posted Friday, orders Scott—and by extension, taxpayers—to cover the legal fees of the lawyers that took on the governor’s controversial plan to require random drug testing for state workers.

The $190,000 legal tab is in addition to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and costs spent in attempts to defend controversial laws passed by Scott. They include drug testing for welfare recipients, a 3-percent employee contributions for state workers’ pensions, voting law changes and a 2011 law banning doctors from asking patients about guns. In most cases, judges have ruled the laws to be unconstitutional, sparking appeals from Scott and higher legal fees.

Scott ordered the state-worker drug testing plan shortly after taking office in 2011, potentially subjecting the state’s 85,000 employees to random drug tests. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees sued and U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro ruled in April that the testing plan constituted an unconstitutional search and seizure. Scott immediately vowed to appeal.

"I respectfully disagree with the court’s ruling and will pursue the case on appeal,” Scott said in a statement that mirrors several others he has made this year.

But while the appeal plays out, taxpayers remain liable for paying the attorney’s fees of the plaintiffs. Those fees ran as high as $312,000—with lawyers billing up to $600 per hours—before a judge ruled that $190,000 was more appropriate.

If those fees are added to the $888,000 legal bills cited in this July article in the Orlando Sentinel, then controversial laws passed by the Legislature and Scott have easily cost taxpayers more than $1 million in the last two years.

Several cases are currently being litigated or appealed, so the legal meter continues to run each day.


PolitiFact reflects on the Obameter and Obama's promises

As PolitiFact finishes our Obameter updates on President Barack Obama's 2008 campaign promises, we wanted to highlight our observations and reflections on Obama's vision of government, the individual promises and the journalistic challenge of diving into the bureaucracy to determine whether the pledge has been fulfilled.

Here are the reflections of the PolitiFact staff.