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11 posts from May 15, 2014

May 15, 2014

Jeb Bush: U.S. teens behind Poland, Ireland and "even" Vietnam in math and science

One part of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s resume sets him apart from many of the other potential Republican presidential contenders: a longstanding focus on education policy.

As he travels around the country giving speeches -- and titillating political journalists and donors -- Bush has highlighted some of the education policies he advocated during his gubernatorial tenure, which relied heavily on achievement benchmarks, and chastised those who resisted.

Bush likes to remind audiences how far Florida came on education benchmarks and how far the nation still has to go to raise its standards.

During a May 12 speech at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think-tank, Bush said the U.S. lags behind other countries -- including some unexpected nations -- on some key educational measures.

"There is nothing more critical to our long-term economic security than a wholesale transformation of our education system," Bush said. "The latest results from the Program for International Student Assessment, better known as PISA, only confirm the urgency of our charge."

He continued, "U.S. teenagers have now fallen behind their counterparts in Ireland, Poland and even Vietnam in math and science. Between 2003 and 2012, the United States flatlined its results, but many other countries have made a command focus on this. ... There have been more resources placed in this, and they have higher expectations of their children, and they have gotten a better result. So for those that think … poverty is the reason why we haven’t had the educational gains, I guess we should really look to the wealthy countries like Vietnam to determine whether we should be successful. Come on!"

We thought we’d check whether Bush was correct that teenagers in Ireland, Poland and Vietnam rank higher than their U.S. counterparts in math and science. Turn to PolitiFact for the answer.

Marco Rubio explains his climate-change skepticism


Marco Rubio denies being a climate-change denier. But the Florida Senator isn’t a believer, either.

Call him a skeptic. For now.

“I think all science deserves skepticism,” Rubio said in an interview about what he does and doesn’t believe about global warming and what to do about it.

And right now, Rubio doesn’t want to take too much action.

In the wake of a new White House report on climate change that paints a bleak picture for his home county, his state, the nation and the planet, Rubio harbors doubts about some of the findings. He’s especially opposed to suggested fixes designed to lessen the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the United States.

Rubio says he thinks the laws won’t work — but will hurt the economy in a “devastating” way.

Rubio’s comments about the report, first made Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” exposed him to criticism from scientists, editorial writers and Democrats, who say the potential Republican candidate for president is thinking more about a future GOP primary instead of the health of the planet or Miami. Some branded Rubio a climate-change denier.

“Denial is a loaded term. That’s a term used to smear people, for example, who deny the holocaust existed or denied other things of that nature,” Rubio said.

“I’ve never denied that there is a climate change,” Rubio said. “The question is: Is man-made activity causing the changes in the climate?”

Rubio, however, won’t answer that with a yes or no.

More here

Charlie Crist basks in FL Council's 'galactically stupid' snub

@MarcACaputo @sbousquet

The Florida Council of 100, a politically astute group of top business leaders, abruptly blocked a speech Thursday by Charlie Crist scheduled shortly after an address by Gov. Rick Scott, the Democrat’s successor and likely opponent in November.

The Republican-leaning group had invited Crist weeks ago to address its spring meeting at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, and offered 30 minutes of speaking time.

On Tuesday, it withdrew the invitation, but Crist showed up anyway and listened to Scott’s talk. He then called a press conference and basked in the free publicity.

“It’s silly, childish and, frankly, rude,” said Crist. “It’s galactically stupid.”

The council gave no explanation for silencing Crist, who as a former governor is a lifetime member of the council. Two council leaders, chief executive Susan Pareigis and chairman Steve Halverson, did not respond to phone and text messages and emails.

Crist said Halverson told him Wednesday, “I owe you an apology. I was involved in that,” and that the reason was “we didn’t want it to be political.”

Halverson, a Jacksonville construction executive, has personally given $3,000 to Scott’s reelection campaign and $25,000 more to Let’s Get to Work, Scott’s political committee.

More here


Republicans mount last-ditch effort to keep secret docs out of redistricting case

Political consultants for Florida's Republican legislators mounted a last-minute attempt Thursday to keep key emails, maps and planning documents out of a court case that is scheduled to begin next week over the state’s congressional districts.   

The appeal to the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee comes after a circuit court judge ruled last week and again Thursday that several documents considered confidential “trade secrets” by political consultant, Data Targeting and its owner Pat Bainter, should become public if they are used in court by lawyers.

The high-profile legal scramble comes just days before a two-week redistricting trial is scheduled to begin in the Second Judicial Circuit in Leon County. The League of Women voters and seven Florida voters are suing the state for violating the state law that prohibits legislators from protecting political parties and incumbents when redistricting the state.

They told the court they plan to use the documents to argue that Bainter and his staff partners, Matt Mitchell and Michael Sheehan, “surreptitiously participated in the process of preparing the 2012 Congressional Plan,” which they contend unfairly benefits incumbents. 

The lawyers for Bainter, who are paid by the Republican Party of Florida, want the First DCA to order Lewis to halt proceedings in the trial while it appeals Lewis' decision not to close the courtroom when witnesses are examined about their documents. Lawyers for the House and Senate have filed a petition with the court saying they have not taken a position on the issue. 

The parties have been fighting for more than a year over whether the emails between legislators, staff and the political consultants should be kept secret. Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis last fall appointed a special master, Major Harding, a former Florida Supreme Court justice, to review 1,833 pages of documents. He concluded the documents could remain secret but Lewis conducted a separate review and decided that 538 of them were relevant to the case and should be disclosed.

Continue reading "Republicans mount last-ditch effort to keep secret docs out of redistricting case" »

Rick Scott said he's ready to dissolve blind trust if courts say so

From a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner from Rick Scott's campaign manager Melissa Sellers regarding the governor's blind trust:

Regarding the petition for a write of mandamus on the processes outlined by S.B. 2, the Governor will comply with whatever the courts decide.

The governor did not have a blind trust (like Alex Sink did) when he disclosed his assets in 2010. He set one up after taking office, which was supported by the Ethics Commission and then the unanimous and bipartisan will of the Legislature in S.B. 2. If the courts believe the trust should be dissolved, all assets will be disclosed in accordance with the law for qualifying.

Because all assets have been in a blind trust since 2011, the trustee of the blind trust has made all choices about what assets are purchased, sold or owned by the trust.

In sum, whatever the rules are, the Governor will gladly comply with them.

Download Letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner[1] (1)

FL black leaders to all-white Council of 100: You don't represent FL, 'bend to Scott bullying'


The Florida Council of 100 business group wanted to avoid controversy by dis-inviting former Gov. Charlie Crist from speaking.

It backfired. 

The decision became statewide news and it gave Crist a more-elevated platform than he otherwise had. Now, Sen. Dwight Bullard, the chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, and Rep. Perry E. Thurston, Florida House Democratic Caucus chair, have sent a letter to the group that accuses it of being spineless -- and racially exclusionary.

Here's the letter:

Florida’s Council of 100 purports to be a “nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of business leaders, which exists to promote the economic growth of Florida.” Your mission statement even claims you are seeking to “effect positive change” that is “beneficial to all Floridians.”

So it was simply incredible to us that your organization would abruptly cancel an invitation to speak by a Democratic candidate running for governor simply because he is a Democrat. It is amazing that your assemblage of powerful business leaders would so easily bend to the bullying of Governor Scott — who apparently just wanted to quiet any view of Florida inconsistent with his own.

Disregarding that you purport to be a “nonpartisan” organization, who does your organization truly represent?

Your officers and board are comprised of 31 people, of whom only five are women and only three appear to be Democrats. Of the 31 Floridians who lead your organization, not one of them is an African-American.

To repeat, in the year 2014, not one of your 31 officers or directors is an African-American. Your actions and your choices make it abundantly clear whom you seek to represent.


More proof Miami Dade is governor's race central

Update: Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist is announcing he is opening two new Miami offices on Saturday in what is more proof that Miami Dade County, and South Florida in general, is becoming governor's race central.

The two new offices will be in Little Havana and Liberty City, with announcements set for 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. respectively, said Kevin Cate, Crist spokesman. These will be his third and fourth offices, on top of the Broward office he opened earlier this year and his campaign headquarters in St. Petersburg. 

Crist's Little Havana office is 2206 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33135 and the Liberty City officeis 675 N.W. 62nd Street Miami, FL 33150.

“We're especially excited to open these Miami offices on the heels of more than fifty successful house parties across the state this week," said campaign manager Omar Khan in a statement. "This campaign operation is all about field and data, and we're giving people in Miami-Dade County the tools they need to be a part of this movement." 

Gov. Rick Scott's Miami office is 5455 SW 8th St, Suite 265, Miami, FL 33134. 

Correction: The Scott campaign is not holding an event at its office on Saturday as we erroneously reported. 

Lopez-Cantera: Crist is 'talk, talk, talk ... lot of hot air'

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera is at the same Ritz-Carlton hotel where the Council of 100 cancelled a scheduled speech by Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist. But he said he was unaware of the cancellation.

"I don't have any knowledge of anything like that happening," Lopez-Cantera said. "Frankly, Charlie is all talk, so if he wants to talk, he's welcome to talk, because that's all he is, is talk, talk, talk. He can talk out of both sides of his mouth like he always does, and he's welcome to it."

The lieutenant governor added: "As far as we're concerned, Charlie just spews a lot of hot air. He's never really done anything, so more talk out of Charlie is just that -- just talk."

Crist's nixed business-group talk called Scott 'a bully with a $100 million checkbook''

Charlie Crist's campaign Thursday released a transcript of the speech he planned to deliver to the Florida Council of 100, before the group, without explanation, cancelled his invitation.

In the speech he never delivered, Crist would have called Gov. Rick Scott a bully "with a $100 million checkbook." The prepared text attacks Scott's integrity, priorities and for "flying in his private plane" to promote job growth "that he had nothing to do with."

Crist wanted to tell Florida's business elite that Scott "hid from federal investigators as a businessman, disparaged a good woman, Alex Sink, to win in 2010 and now he's trying to bully me by waving his $100 million checkbook and by running a daily smear campaign about my life and career." 

Crist's speech also was filled with policy proposals such as opening trade with Cuba, starting a high speed rail system, depoliticizing the governance of higher education, creating a new program to encourage students to get master's degrees and investing in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Here are excerpts:

"I am running for governor for one simple reason: Tallahassee is broken, and it is time to put the people back in charge. Quite simply, our state needs a governor who will wake up every day thinking about people like you, who will govern honestly and with the state's collective best interests in mind, and who will make this economy more fair for hard working business owners and taxpayers.

"And we need a governor who will refocus the state on things that are important to all Floridians: good schools, affordable health care, respect for our environment and dignity for our seniors. Because that's who I am, that's what I believe in and that's what I'll do if given the honor of returning to the People's house.

Crist went on to defend his record during "the global economic meltdown," for extending early voting in the 2008 presidential election and helping with the cleanup of the Gulf Coast after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

"Here is the reality: Today we have a governor in Governor Scott who leads by embracing the ideological fringes, taking care of his friends, bullying his opponents, hiding from the public and press and running from tough issues ... He's spent roughly $20 million on his re-election, building a campaign that peddles lies to press and runs negative television ads. Why? Because Floridians don't support his record as governor. It's that simple. He has nothing positive or true to say."


Fla GOP re-launches anti-Crist Dem web site


Four years ago today, the Florida Democratic Party launched a new website, CutandRunCrist.com, to drive home the message that when the going got tough in Florida, then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist bailed on Florida to run for U.S. Senate.

"By running for U.S. Senate, Charlie Crist has cut and run on the Sunshine State, once again taking the easy way out, avoiding responsibility and leaving the hard work of facing Florida's problems to the next governor," Democratic Party Chairwoman Karen Thurman said at the time. "At a time when Florida needs real leadership, unfortunately Charlie Crist is running from the mess he created, which is why Floridians are going to send Crist into retirement come Election Day. As governor, Crist has had time to jet-set around on his cronies' private jets, attend cocktail parties in Washington D.C., and hobnob with celebrities, yet he has done nothing to create jobs in Florida."

That happens to be the same message the Florida GOP is using today as Crist  runs as a Democrat for the job he gave up. So it was mighty fortunate for the Republicans that the state Democratic party forgot to renew that site, so the Republicans could buy it. Today, the Florida Republican party re-launches CutandRunCrist.com, which among other things features a bunch of quotes from current Crist supporters attacking him for leaving Florida in its time of need.

“When Florida lost over 830,000 jobs and saw its unemployment rate triple thanks to Charlie Crist’s failed leadership, he didn’t stick around to help Florida families. Instead, he tried to run away to Washington. And when he did, Florida Democrats aggressively reminded voters that Charlie Crist was only out for himself," said Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. "By re-launching this website, we’re happy to let Democrats make the case against the man they’ve now embraced as their party’s choice for governor.”

For those keeping track, this is the third former Florida Democratic Party website that the GOP has bought because the Democrats neglected to renew it. The Florida GOP also owns www.EmptyChairCharlie.com  and www.FloridaDems.com.