Archive for the ‘Election 2010’ Category

Marco Rubio and David Rivera are making their respective debuts as two of the newest members in the House and Senate in Washington. How are they doing? What have they done for you lately? Well, today I thought we should play a little catch up, so here we go.

Tea Party? What Tea Party?

Starting his career in Washington, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-U-Kidding-Me-FL) made news right off the bat by giving a big brush-off to the Tea Party that were largely responsible for putting him there in the first place. When asked if he would now be joining the Tea Party Caucus, Rubio said “not so much.”

“Really what I think the strength of the tea party is that it comes from the grass-roots,” Rubio told a group of Florida reporters Wednesday in an interview in his temporary Senate office. “That it is not a political organization, it’s not something run by politicians or people seeking higher office, but rather it is a movement of every day citizens from all walks of life. That’s the strength of the tea party: that it’s not a political organization run by people out of Washington. My concern is a tea party caucus could intrude on that.”

So in other words, the Tea Baggers are a grass-roots movement to get candidates like Rubio elected, but they shouldn’t necessarily have a voice in policy making in Washington?

“Some activists have taken note of Rubio’s reluctance to join the caucus — which meets for the first time Thursday — and expressed concern; others have said he’ll be judged on how he votes.”

Just how much of an observation the Tea Party will have from their vantage point under his bus remains to be seen, but here’s a hint of things to come. One of his first announcements on Wed. was that he will co-sponsor his first bill, one which will repeal the health care law. So if the Tea Baggers really don’t want a “government takeover” of their health care, well then enjoy the symbolic gesture Rubio made yesterday. In his quest to go backwards, Rubio proves once again that he’s all about talking points and little substance.

“Thanks Mom!”

Meanwhile, Marco Rubio’s bud from South Florida, newly elected Rep. David Rivera (Re-Writing-Disclosure-Forms-FL) is in a bit of a pickle. He has begun his career in the House with lots of “splainin’ to do” over campaign donations, disclosures, “thank-you campaigns,” and hiding behind his mother and godmother’s skirts. It’s quite an involved little tale, so rather than try to bring you up to speed here, I’ll refer you to a couple of timeline summaries:

Investigators look into Rep. Rivera’s `thank you’ spending

Do The Right Thing-Step Aside

Meanwhile, new Republican House Speaker John Boehner doesn’t want so much to get involved. When asked about Rep. Rivera’s “problems” he basically washed his hands of it all.

“As I understand the allegations against Mr. Rivera, they don’t involve any of his congressional service,” Boehner said. “These were activities that took place before he was elected. And I think we’re waiting to see how this plays out.”

When asked similar questions, Marco Rubio said pretty much the same thing, in almost the same words. (Shocking, I know that Rubio would spew mere talking points from the Speaker!)

Rivera’s close friend, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, reacted similarly to Boehner: “I’m aware of the issue that’s out there but when something like that is happening, it’s always appropriate not to just comment on it and let it play itself through.”

So there you go. The month of January and the progress made by two of the newly elected members from the Republican Party of Florida. If you like corruption and going backwards in time, then they’re doing a bang up job, wouldn’t you say?


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While we listen in on the second day of the Republicans in the House making their arguments in the charade of “repealing” the health care reform law passed last year, it’s important to point out one more development in the lawsuit filed originally by former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum. The lawsuit argues that the law is unconstitutional. In his run for the Governor’s mansion McCollum ran largely on the promise of “protecting Floridians” from health care reform. Never mind the cost to taxpayers from that very lawsuit which threatened to take away reforms that were popular among Florida voters. 20 other states joined in the lawsuit, along with business interests with a stake in the fight. Of course, McCollum lost the election to someone even worse as far as health care laws are concerned, Rick Scott, formerly known from Columbia/HCA, of Medicare fraud fame. (Scott himself was never charged with a crime.)

Today we learned that six more states have joined the lawsuit challenging the health care legislation that Republicans claim they want to “repeal and replace.” Or as some have said, actually “repeal and forget.” That’s now a total of 26 states jumping on the lawsuit bandwagon: Iowa, Ohio, Kansas, Wyoming, Wisconsin and Maine.

Not exactly surprising, many state officials who joined the lawsuit may have pretty good reasons for doing so. Like their Republican colleagues in the House who, as I write are grandstanding in their effort for “repeal,” they are big beneficiaries of campaign contributions from, wait for it….the health care industry!

From The Center For Public Integrity:

The state officials who joined together to file a lawsuit challenging federal health care reform have collectively received at least $5 million in campaign contributions from the health industry over the course of their political careers, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis.

Using data compiled by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, the Center found that top recipients of industry money include Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has received more than $1 million from health care professionals since 1996, and former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, who took in at least $970,163 from the industry starting in 1992, when he was a state senator, until he left the governor’s office this week. Other major recipients involved in the lawsuit include former Pennsylvania Attorney General and newly-elected Governor Tom Corbett, who has received about $830,000, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, with more than $770,000.

The money has flowed from a variety of interests ranging from hospitals and drug companies to health care insurers and doctors. Many oppose the mandate in the new law requiring Americans to buy health care coverage.

Florida Attorney General, Republican Pam Bondi has now continued with the lawsuit, saying she is taking up the fight “in the interests of families.” As those six states joined the lawsuit, Bondi said “It sends a strong message that more than half of the states consider the health care law unconstitutional and are willing to fight it in court. “I look forward to continuing to defend Florida’s families and businesses against this unconstitutional law and upholding the Constitution.”

In the interest of families? Bondi has also received campaign contributions from the health care industry:

Pam Bondi, who succeeded McCollum as attorney general and will take up his cause in the lawsuit, received about $75,000 from the industry, some $64,000 of which came from health professionals. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece this month, she said “our lawsuit, together with a similar lawsuit filed by Virginia’s attorney general, has exposed the health-care law’s threat to individual liberty and to the constitutional structure that the Founders designed as a means of protecting that liberty.”

As far the claim that the law is unconstitutional? Not necessarily according to The Center For American Progress, who issued a statement Tuesday signed by more than 125 legal scholars saying the law is constitutional.

As the Republicans in the House pull their “repeal Obamacare” stunt in front of the cameras for political gain, it’s pretty clear they’re acting on behalf of the health insurance companies they meet with behind closed doors who help them craft their arguments. Just like their colleagues in the House, state officials who have joined Bondi’s lawsuit have their own agendas as well.

Agendas so far to the tune of $5 million.

h/t Progress Florida

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In the wake of the murders in Arizona, newly elected Republican Rep. Allen West says he has no plans to tone down his “stronger language.”

“Now that I’ve been sworn into Congress I’m still the type of person that if there are means by which I can inspire people I will use historical references and metaphors, which I have done. My background is I am a tough guy, and in tough times you have to use a little bit stronger language when you start talking about the future legacy of my country.

“Look, I am not anyone that anyone should be concerned about. I’m just an everyday guy,”

“Stronger language?”

“Just an everyday guy?”


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It’s day two for Florida’s new Governor Rick Scott, and as the saying goes, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

Well, make that a triple.

From the Gov.’s website:

From The Office Of Rick Scott

The website “media center:”

"Media Center" For Gov. Rick Scott 1-5-11

And finally if you’re looking for something else and click on “frequently requested records” under the “media center,” you won’t find “coming soon.”

Maybe coming, not so much?

"Frequently Requested Records" 1-5-11

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Gov. Rick Scott says “Hold me accountable.”

Count on it.

Excerpts from Scott’s prepared Inaugural speech:

Thank you!

Governor Crist, thank you for your graciousness.

Mr.President, Mr. Speaker, Members of the Cabinet, Mr. Chief Justice and members of the Supreme Court.

Distinguished guests and my fellow Floridians.

We gather today to talk about Florida’s future.

To assess where we are, to define where we want to go, and to plan how to get there.

Clear goals and hard work can achieve amazing things.

Let’s begin by facing squarely the challenge of our time-a stalled economy.

This morning more than a million Floridians got out of bed and faced another day of unemployment.

For months they’ve searched for work.

They fill out applications.

They beg for interviews.
They face rejection after rejection.

For ALL the unemployed, life without a paycheck is a desperate daily scramble to provide the basics.

I’ve been a child in a home like that.
My father was often laid off…

My mother took in ironing just so we could have food on the table…

I have a very clear memory of their fear and uncertainty as they struggled to provide for five kids…

So, for me, job creation is a MISSION.
My personal memories fortify my commitment to this mission.

A lean and limited Government has a role to play in providing a safety net.

But prosperity comes from the private sector.

ONLY from the private sector.

The only path to better days is paved with new private sector jobs.

We have to remember that modern businesses can locate anywhere.
If the conditions Florida offers aren’t the best, businesses go elsewhere.

What does it take to create that favorable business climate?
Florida has to offer the best chance for financial success.

Not a guarantee just the best chance.

Three forces markedly reduce that chance for success, taxation, regulation, and litigation. Together those three form “The Axis of Unemployment”.

Left unchecked, they choke off productive activity.

Under my plan we’ll eliminate the business tax and reduce the property tax.

The State of Florida raises enough revenues to meet its needs.

It should focus on spending those revenues smarter, setting better priorities and demanding more accountability.

We’ll also re-examine every regulation to make sure its benefits outweigh its costs.

Today, I will sign an Executive Order creating a state office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory reform to review all proposed and existing regulations to determine their impact on job creation.

Every Floridian should have the right to access the court system for redress of harm.
But, we will not allow excessive lawsuits to strangle job creation.

And we WILL NOT ALLOW a small group of predatory lawyers to stalk the business community in search of deep pockets.

Private sector jobs grow in places where public sector spending is kept within bounds.

All of us who are lucky enough to have a job working for the people of Florida have a duty to watch over state spending with great vigilance.

Let’s make it easy to build and grow a business in Florida…
So that new enterprises will compete with each other for space.

Let’s tell the world, “If you can dream it, it’s EASY to make it HAPPEN in Florida”

Why NOT?

After all, we have always been the destination for dreamers.

The place where someone with a big new idea could give it a try.

Railroads into the wilderness, a magic kingdom, a trip to the moon, freedom from a foreign tyrant, better health, life without winter.

Large and small, dreams are the stuff that Florida is made of.

Floridians differ in their dreams for their children.
Every child is unique, and every child can learn.

We need an education system that offers the maximum amount of choice.
A system focused entirely on what’s best for individual student learning.

We can’t create a workforce for the future with an education model that’s stuck in the past.
To capture the world’s best jobs, we’ll need to offer the world’s best-educated workforce.

First, we’ll refuse to allow increased government intrusion in these areas.

We’ll put FLORIDIANS back in the driver’s seat with increased use of free markets.

Because when government does the buying, government chooses what services are available.

The truth is…he who pays the piper calls the tune.

We want EVERY Floridian to be in a position to call the tune.

We’ll also apply some of the key tools that private businesses use to create a culture of constant improvement.

We’ll measure everything…

We’ll implement changes based on what we learn from those measurements.

And, most importantly… We’ll hold everyone accountable.

No job – public or private —should be immune from accountability.

This is the time we can do great things together…

If we have the courage to act, our children and our grandchildren will someday thank us for it.

May God Bless the Great State of Florida.

Let’s get to work.


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Rick Scott has said that he plans to run the state of Florida like a business, and you can take him at his word.

So it begins:

On 12-20-2010 Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. makes a $10,000 contribution to Rick Scotts Inaugural fund.

On 12-27-2010, Scott announces that Bryan W. Koon of Arkansas will head the Florida Division of Emergency Management. Koon has been the director of Wal-Mart’s emergency management operations since February 2009. No salary information has been disclosed.

Also there’s this:

Scott’s portfolio also has included stock in Wal-Mart, Gannett Co. Inc., the publisher of USA Today and this newspaper, and West Palm Beach-based Quepasa Corp., which operates a social networking site that caters to Hispanics.

Quepasa Corp. is an entirely other controversy previously covered on this blog.

But getting back to Wal-Mart and emergency management. What does Koon know about emergency management? Good question. Last week I wondered that myself and found a question and answer “interview” of Koon on the FEMA website. It didn’t answer my question, just left me with more. I made a note of it and planned to post it later. However, in the meantime it was brought to my attention that the same FEMA question and answer “interview” disappeared from the website soon after. Sure enough, I pulled up the link I had bookmarked and the entire page was gone.

Since someone apparently doesn’t want anyone reading about what Koon may or may not know about emergency management, and what that may mean to Florida residents I’ve decided to post that same “interview” from the Google cache so you can read it for yourself.

Here are “10 Questions With Wal-Mart’s Bryan Koon” from FEMA, dated Aug. 11, 2010:

1. From an emergency operations standpoint, what keeps you up at night?

Our biggest threats very closely parallel those to society as a whole – major natural and man-made disasters that have the potential to devastate communities, cripple infrastructure, and displace hundreds of thousands of people. Events like a large New Madrid fault earthquake, a large-scale terrorist attack in a major city or a Category 5 hurricane hitting an East Coast city like New York or Boston would strain everyone’s capacity to respond, including ours. The supply disruptions, staffing issues and social distancing that would result during an avian flu pandemic could be a “game changer” for us, and we are taking that threat very seriously. An extended drought in the Southeast or elsewhere could also have severe repercussions for our operations, as well.

On the plus side, however, Wal-Mart’s Emergency Management Department has an outstanding group of associates watching the globe for potential impact to the company on a 24/7 basis, so I’m usually able to get a good night’s sleep.

2. As the world’s largest company, what unique business continuity challenges does Wal-Mart face due its sheer size?

Because of our scope, nearly every disaster has the potential to impact our associates, our customers and members, our retail facilities, our distribution system or our suppliers. Our job is to analyze the event to determine how it could affect or has already affected us, and how we should respond.

The same size that is our vulnerability is also our strength, however. We’re able to mobilize whatever resources we need from outside the impacted area to provide timely support to our associates, customers and members, our operations, and to our communities.

Our size also allows us to maintain a full-time team of experts focused on emergency management, a luxury that many private sector entities do not enjoy. Having a dedicated staff allows us to focus year-round on preparedness, planning, mitigation, and operations, and to develop and cultivate those relationships with governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and other private sector entities that really pay off when we’re dealing with a disaster.

3. What was the most challenging crisis that Wal-Mart has faced during your tenure? What was the response?

I joined the company in April 2006, so I missed the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005. Still, we’ve had some fairly challenging events – the California wildfires of 2007, ice storms in the Central U.S. in 2006 and 2007, major blizzards in Colorado and in the Northeast, flooding in New York and Pennsylvania, earthquakes in Hawaii and the bridge collapse in Minneapolis. As I write this, the Pacific Northwest has just gone through another severe storm with 100 mph wind gusts and flooding rains, and the Midwest has had a string of unusual January tornadoes.

Our response to these events follows the same pattern every time: take care of our associates, take care of our operations and take care of the community. Although the hazard and the regions vary, our response is designed to focus on those priorities, in that order.  We maintain an Emergency Operations Center at our corporate Home Office in Bentonville, AR, that we can increase or decrease the activation level of, depending on the emergency.  Depending on the nature of the event, we’ll bring in groups from around the company to deal with emergency merchandise, transportation, logistics, operations, property restoration, finance, legal, aviation, communication, asset protection, safety, etc..  The Wal-Mart Foundation has a presence in the EOC, and we have space for national representatives of the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army so that we can better coordinate efforts with them.  The groups are organized into Emergency Support Functions, so that we can better manage the situation and interface with governmental emergency management agencies.

4. What makes Wal-Mart successful at business continuity?

The same things that make Wal-Mart a successful retailer on a day-to-day basis make it successful during a disaster: caring associates, a powerful and flexible distribution system and a strong community presence. We are also able to leverage our experience in other disasters and transfer those lessons learned to future events. For example, we have an extensive database that helps us keep track of what the most popular items are after each type of disaster, which enables us to get the right merchandise to an area more quickly in preparation for or in response to an emergency.

In addition to being able to harness the strengths of all the different divisions of the company, the Emergency Management Department is given a great deal of support from the senior leadership of the company and the latitude to develop new, innovative programs that support the company’s overall goals.

5. Contingency plans are designed to be used in a variety of potential foreseeable events. How does Wal-Mart prepare for the unforeseen? Is this possible?

Although the structure of our response remains basically the same for many events, we do script out the initial actions required for certain types of hazards, and the groups that need to be involved in taking those actions. These “action plans” are designed to ensure that the critical first steps and notifications are accomplished in a timely manner, and allow us to bring in the appropriate personnel to deal with the issue.  Every day brings a new and interesting challenge, but we’ve found that our basic structure and response mechanism is capable of handling most of what we throw at it.

6. What support mechanisms does Wal-Mart have within its industry to maintain awareness of potential threats to its business continuity?

We maintain very close ties with a wide variety of information sources – trade organizations, governmental agencies, retail sector coalitions, contract intelligence agencies, open source, scientific publications, law enforcement, emergency management organizations and conferences, etc. We analyze our own internal data and look for trends that could become more widespread. We also need to remain cognizant of the direction that the company is taking and determine what new hazards and vulnerabilities that could expose, then plan accordingly.

7. How does Wal-Mart envision partnering with the federal government in the future? How does this differ from the past? Is there value in this partnership?

Our ideal situation is one in which private sector, non-governmental organizations and local, state and federal government emergency management organizations all have an explicit understanding of each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Together, they  develop inter-operable plans that maximize those strengths and minimizes gaps in coverage; the old analogy of layering swiss cheese slices on top of each other until no holes remain. We feel that we are on the right road to get to this eventuality, but it will still be a long trip. It started with Hurricane Katrina, where the folly of planning in a vacuum and hoping for the best was exposed and the benefits of involving the private sector were clearly illustrated. There is absolute value in this partnership and we will continue to press hard to establish and codify it.

8. What type of emergency preparedness education/tips does Wal-Mart offer to its employees? For their families?

Taking care of our associates is our number one priority, and all of our policies and procedures reflect that priority.  Our people are our number one asset, and we recognize that we won’t be able to restore our operations or our communities until our associates and their families feel safe and secure.  So, we work hard to ensure that they have access to the information and tools they need to be personally prepared for emergencies.  Our 1 ½ million associates in the U.S. plus their families account for roughly 1% of America’s population.  Ensuring they’re prepared not only helps to ensure their safety & our company’s resiliency, but it also helps to take pressure off of other responding organizations who will need to care for those who did not prepare.

We use a multi-faceted approach to preparedness education via our corporate Associate Preparedness Campaign.  By partnering with organizations like the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the Ready.Gov office of the Department of Homeland Security, the American Red Cross, the Weather Channel, and Onestorm.org, we are able to provide information, expertise, and practical tools for our associates from across the industry.  Many of these sites allow our associates to prepare a customized emergency plan for their families, including evacuation routes, nearby shelters, and customized checklists.  This crucial information is introduced to our associates via subtle ongoing messaging found on Wal-Mart Television, Wal-Mart Radio, our intranet computer systems, on-line sites, and in our Wal-Mart World magazine. However, our focus is not only on internal education – we spend a lot of time and energy spreading the word about Personal Preparedness within our communities as well.  We have been part of numerous citizen preparedness campaigns at the state and Federal level in states like Texas, Colorado, Louisiana, and California.  And this year, we are working with the National Weather Service to print and distribute a hurricane preparedness guide that will be distributed to millions of residents along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

9. Are employees trained and/or empowered to make decisions in an emergency or is there an easily identified chain of command to ensure quick decisions?

Every Wal-Mart and Neighborhood Market store, Sam’s Club, and Distribution Center, as well as all of our corporate facilities, have prominently displayed flip charts that detail the initial actions that should be taken for many different types of emergencies. These are backed up by a detailed emergency procedures manual that all managers have access to. In addition, we do numerous training classes for all operational and asset protection managers so they are aware of what their potential hazards are, as well as what their initial actions should be.

In addition to this training, they are backed up by a deep bench of experts at the corporate level to help them through an emergency. We have a dedicated emergency line that goes to our Alarm Central Station. Utilizing this emergency line and a mass phone and e-mail notification system, we can contact the people who need to be involved and have them up to speed and ready to respond within a matter of minutes of an incident occurring.

Finally, all of our managers are empowered to do what is right in a given situation, without direction for the Home Office. They are the ones who live in their respective communities and they are best positioned to recognize what action is necessary to rectify or mitigate a situation. We saw that during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and we continue to see it in events like the California wildfires and the Washington state flooding of 2007.

10. From your perspective, is emergency preparedness and response a government, private-sector or individual responsibility?

That’s an easy one – yes. Successful execution in the aftermath of a disaster requires a concerted effort from all three, particularly in the first 72 hours. We are doing our part by educating our associates, customers and members, giving them information about disasters and disaster kits and providing access to supplies they need to have when they need it and at the low Wal-Mart price. We will continue to work closely with governmental agencies to educate them about the private sector’s capabilities and to develop plans that utilize both of our strengths.

Any questions?

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Art From Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear, On Facebook

It’s been a much debated issue since it occurred at the National Mall in Washington D.C. in October. Before the controversy over media false equivalence (or not) that it caused, the burning question had been:

Was Sanity And/Or Fear INDEED Restored by Jon Stewart and/or Stephen Colbert at “The Rally To Restore Sanity And/Or Fear?”

No one would argue that it was not a success, no one beyond FOX fear-mongering windbag Glenn Beck, or ANY fear-mongering windbag at FOX, for that matter. But as to the sanity or fear issue, who really knows?

One thing that is clear, however, it did restore one measurable thing, and for that reason, it could also casually be called this:



Take a look at the Amtrak Performance Report from October and you’ll see that among other things, the Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert Rally did just that. Well, sort of.

From the Amtrak Report:

October’s strong performance was due in part to 1) a somewhat improved economic environment vs October FY10 allowing for the continuing recovery of business travel, especially along the Northeast Corridor; 2) the increased appeal and popularity of rail travel; 3) continued high gasoline prices; 4) effective recent advertising and marketing campaigns; 5) increased difficulties with air travel and growing consumer dissatisfaction with air service; and 6) the introduction of Wi-Fi service on Acela. Furthermore, the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” in Washington, DC on October 30th generated an estimated incremental 9,000 trips worth $700,000 in ticket revenues.

So argue all you want over sanity, fear, or even media false equivalence, knock yourself out.

Either way, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert gave a significant boost to the familiar phrase “All Aboard Amtrak!” in October.

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