Republican Governors are all the rage in national politics these days, and some of them are being seriously discussed as contenders for President next year.
On Sunday morning, a plethora of such leaders, like Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Scott Walker, Haley Barbour and our own Rick Scott took to the national airwaves, many of them in Washington D.C. for the National Governors Association Winter Meetings.
Let's begin first with Indiana's Mitch Daniels, formerly the OMB Director under George W. Bush, who is seriously turning on conservative policy wonks with his accomplishments in the Hoosier state. With a void amongst the alleged front-runners for the 2012 nomination, more and more people are talking up Daniels, and his insistence on not pushing the social issues does seem to make him a potential serious contender who might be able to get independent votes.
Despite all of the publicity around Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's attempt to take away some collective bargaining rights for public employees, it's only been noted this week that Daniels, dubbed the new "it-boy" of American politics by Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace did the same thing in Indiana years ago, and was asked about that on Sunday:
WALLACE: All right. You took away -- what is going on in Wisconsin now, you took away public workers' collective bargaining rights by executive order six years ago the day after you were sworn into office, but now you are calling their unions the privileged elite. Question, teachers, public safety officers -- the privileged elite?
DANIELS: Across America, Chris, we've had a huge inversion. There may have been a time, a century ago, where public employees were mistreated and vulnerable and underpaid. If that was ever a problem, we have over-fixed it. Not everywhere but in many places.
As you know very well, public employees in America -- most decidedly federal employees, but everywhere -- are better paid than the taxpayers that pay their salaries. When you add much more generous benefits and much more generous pensions on top, the gap widens, and then there is near total job security in the last recession.
WALLACE: But you really would call teachers, I mean, they're public servants, you said they are public servants. Would you really call teachers a privileged elite?
DANIELS: I was really talking about the government unions, of whom their union, of course, is one. Now, it is true that teachers are paid in Indiana 22 percent more than the taxpayers who pay their salary. The benefits raise that further, that is all true.
I happen to think that is a good idea. We have some of the best paid teachers in America, and I think that is absolutely fine. In fact, one of the bills our Democrats want us to kill would allow us to pay the best teachers more, which is something I'd really like to do.
But as a general phenomenon, we have a situation in which public sector unions get gillions of dollars in dues, which they hand back to the politicians who then sweeten the pot for them in an unending circle, and that's a bad idea.
What makes Daniels interesting is that he speaks the truth on certain issues, even though he doesn't have all the answers. For example, over the past couple of years of studying the American health care system, its obvious that one of the most expensive parts of it is that we spend so much money for people on their (literal) last legs of their life, an extraordinary amount that we simply must begin to address, especially as the country collectively gets older.
We all remember Sarah Palin's "death panels," but the fact is that evaluating end of life issues is something that needs to be addressed, for the status quo is unsustainable. Daniels struggled with this on Sunday, but didn't run away from talking about it:
One issue that could hurt Daniels with the Tea Partiers and others who care about cutting spending is the fact that on his watch as Bush's OMB Director, federal spending went through the roof. Daniels' answer here wasn't so compelling, since he didn't give a good reason why the country needed Bush's massive tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 that helped create some of the large debt we have today.
Meanwhile over on CBS' Face The Nation, host Bob Schieffer had the cover boy of Sunday's New York Times magazine, New Jersey's hulking Chris Christie, on for much of the half hour program. Christie isn't running for office in 2012 - yet- but he didn't mind giving advise to other potential candidates about how they should conduct themselves in the arena.
"No, you cant finesse it and you have to have unscripted moments. You cannot be blow-dried and, you know, poll-tested and come out here. Thats not what the American people want. They want somebody who is going to speak straight to them. And, they want to ask you questions and they want unguarded moments. Thats when they can really judge your character.
The "Face" host then asked if his comments were directly towards Sarah Palin. Watch:
Meanwhile, speaking of potential GOP presidential candidates, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee continues to draw impressive numbers in polls assessing the 2012 field. Back on Fox News (where he's expanded his reach with a weekend program over the past few years), Huckabee responded to a question about running in 2012 by getting at something that obviously is a concern to him if he were to run: could he afford what is expected to be a several hundred million dollar contest to seriously challenge Barack Obama's prodigious war chest.
WALLACE: Let's face it, obviously you're promoting a book and being a potential candidate is good for business in that sense. But here's the serious question, which I think relating to all this -- don't the American people deserve a candidate who believes with all of his or her heart that they are the best person for the job?
HUCKABEE: Absolutely. And one of the reasons that I have not yet made that decision is because I'm working through that process. I think I would be an excellent president and a good candidate.
But what I want to know is do I think I can carry it to the finish line? Can I raise the level of money, an obscene amount of money that's going to be necessary to win the primary, and then to challenge an incoming president who's going to have a billion dollars piled up just waiting on somebody to come after him?
Huckabee, like some other Republicans, is apoplectic about Obama telling his Justice Department to no longer defend the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which he had been, even though concurrently he was arguing to get rid of "don't ask, don't tell," in the military, infuriating gay rights activists. Now the President has stirred up the right wing with this issue, and Huckabee is predicting that Obama will lose support with his most loyal supporters, black Democrats.
ALLACE: This week the president decided, decided that the Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of same-sex marriage, is unconstitutional, and he directed the Justice Department to no longer defend DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, in court. You say that that could destroy the president. Isn't that over the top?
HUCKABEE: No. I'll tell you why. Maybe that's a hyperbole, but heck politicians are given a little hyperbole, as are talk show hosts. But here's what I mean by that. First of all, he alienated the African-American community. Overwhelmingly African-Americans support traditional marriages, more than Hispanics and more than whites. In the white community, it's about 56 percent, 65 in the Hispanic, 75 in the African-American community.
You have African-American church leaders like Anthony Evans coming out saying of the 34,000 churches that he networks with, they are in arms about this. But secondly...
WALLACE: But if he believes that it's unconstitutional, I mean you would say give an honest answer.
HUCKABEE: Well, let's take a look at that. He said because some lower court decided that a part of DOMA was unconstitutional that he would not enforce it. OK. By that logic, he should not try to implement Obamacare, because some lower courts have already decided that it's unconstitutional.
That's hypocritical. It's hypocritical and it's dishonest, because when he ran for president, Chris, he said he supported traditional marriage. He's on the record. Now, the question is was he dishonest then? Is he dishonest now? Or did he change his view, and if he did when and why?
WALLACE: If he did change his view, is that legitimate?
HUCKABEE: He better explain why because that's not why he got elected. And here's another thing I think he's got to explain. Why is it that on one hand, he has been saying that if this issue is addressed, it should be addressed legislatively, and now he's doing it not legislatively, not even judicially?
Judicially, it would go to the Supreme Court. He's doing it administratively. I don't think that what he's doing is constitutional. If a president begins to decide which pieces of the law he's going to choose to support or endorse or enforce based on a lower court decision, not because it's actually bubbled up to a final adjudication -- that is an unusual precedent for a president to take.
Port of St. Petersburg
Six days ago, President Barack Obama said the fight to stop the oil leak is "finally close to coming to an end." Six days ago, BP announced a "significant milestone" after drilling mud into the well that held back the flow of crude oil, a process called "static kill".
But Wednesday, Greenpeace launched from the Port of St. Petersburg to embark on a three-month long expedition to investigate the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in search of answers coming from someone other than BP or the government.
A 50-meter long icebreaking ship known as the Artic Sunrise will house the crew of researchers, marine biologists, environmentalists and activists. Their hope is to conduct an investigation of the spill through research and through independent study to perhaps find something that was missed in the clear-the-oil shuffle.
"What do I expect? I honestly don't know. Going back into very recent history, what BP will try and do to the science that we do, we'll see. We've got independent scientists on board, we're an independent organization and we'll go out and do what we need to do," said Dan Howells, Greenpeace USA Deputy Campaigns Director.
This morning the Tampa City Council rejected a proposal to have the Florida Department of Transportation apply for federal funds to study extending the Tampa-Orlando high speed rail line to Tampa's International Airport.
The 70 minute long discussion featured several speakers who told the Council that they did not believe it was viable to extend high speed rail to TIA, but instead support having a light rail link go there.
City Council woman Mary Mulhern, who has single handedly been a force in driving the discussion about getting funds to study the possible link, challenged those speakers, such as TIA interim director John Wheat and Ed Turanchik, currently a consultant with an agency working with the FDOT on the rail line, saying there has never been a definitive study to determine whether or not it in fact was viable.
Mulhern began the discussion by calling it "astonishing" that in the 26 year history of high speed rail in Florida, it had never been studied.
Turanchik said in his remarks that the high speed rail technology didn't lend itself to going to TIA, mentioning the size and speed of the trains and the "curvature" that is also demanded. He also said that the high speed rail in Tampa, in being located close to downtown, would be a boon for development around the area, something that because of height restrictions and the like could not happen at the airport.
Since April 20, the Deepwater Horizon well has leaked millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico- making it the worst oil leak in US history.
Now that Memorial Day has kicked off a summer of fun, dont forget your best friend.
Our all-time favorite spot to cool off and enjoy the best of life in Florida is the award-winning Fort De Soto dog beach. Fort De Soto's Paw Playground is separated into large-dog and small-dog fenced yards, plus there's a beautiful stretch of beach where dogs can run off leash. The Paw Playground has a rinsing and cooling station where you can wash the sand and salt water off of your dog and give him a drink of fresh water. Please be considerate and pick up after your pet bags are available in the Paw Playground and on the dog beach. Remember that dogs must be on leashes everywhere in the park except the fenced area and in the marked section of the dog beach. Rangers do patrol and ticket violators! Our dogs enjoy rolling in the sand, watching the occasional dolphins cavorting in the bay, and chasing balls and floating toys into the water.
Today is the one month anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf, and the news isn't really getting any better - if anything, it's getting worse.
For example? Try yesterday at the House Energy Subcommittee meeting, where Steve Wereley, an engineering professor at Purdue University, said after studying a videotape of a second leak in the oil well, that he sees 25,000 barrels of oil coming out of that leak alone.
From the NPR story that aired this morning on Morning Edition:
Wereley says the oil in this part of the pipe is under tremendous pressure. Add his current figure to last week's estimate of about 70,000 barrels a day, and his total is now approaching 100,000 barrels a day. And, there's another leak he has yet to analyze.
Wereley's flow rate includes both gas and oil, so he says his figures may come down once he sees enough video to be able to quantify the amount of gas.
"But from what I see in the videos, I don't see the numbers coming down that significantly," he says.
BP of course, has been saying that it's only been 5,000 barrels a day leaking, and they report that in the past few days they've been able to capture 3,000 of those barrels. So when Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey asked Werelely about that, he responded that he didn't see "any possibility, any scenario under which their number is accurate."
Also yesterday in Washington, scientists began criticizing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's handling of the spill, saying they've been too slow and have allowed BP to run too much of the show.
The New York Times reports that on May 6, NOAA hailed the fact that they had helped finance a small research ship called the Pelican. But when scientists aboard the Pelican 9 days later announced that they had discovered large plumes undersea that looked like they consisted of oil droplets, " NOAA criticized the results as premature and requiring further analysis."
"Do something random and absurd" was Chris Rish's way of describing his reasons for hosting a kite fight. In reality it was way more than that. Rish, a film professor at the International Academy of Design and Technology in Tampa, said the event was "an experiment in a new way of communicating. It's an attempt to build something from nothing."
His idea was to use his and his students' social media contacts to spread the word about something odd like a kite fight and see who would come. He instructed his students to show up, bring at least one friend or relative, and send the information about the event to all of their Facebook, Twitter and other networks. Rish also contacted media outlets, including Creative Loafing.
The result? About 10 people, six kites and two media people. Rish denies having any expectations about outcomes. According to him, the day was about trying to direct people's time and energy, and teaching his students about the power and limitations of communicating through social media. He hopes to continue to schedule other random events and develop a following for the "random and absurd."
[Editor's Note: For more on the beaches, check out our full Summer Guide 2010 coverage.]
They certainly got the name right. Pinky's Ice Cream and Candy Shop, a small strip-mall storefront in Indian Rocks Beach, is a retro explosion of color and sweets the type of place that lives as legend in the beach tales of thousands of family vacationers (especially the young ones). The shelves along the walls are loaded with all manner of sugary treats you name it, it's probably in here somewhere and almost all of it is somehow pink. There are even flamingos crammed into every corner of the store.
[Editor's Note: For more on the beaches, check out our full Summer Guide 2010 coverage.]
Lighthouse Donuts 215 Gulf Blvd., Indian Rocks Beach, 727-517-8722, facebook.com/lighthouse-donuts. CL food critic Brian Ries said it best: "The pillowy-soft texture is nigh perfect... the cake-style donuts are even better. They look, and taste, loved. You'll love 'em when you eat them, too." They've even got great coffee. Sit inside the historic home that now houses the bakery, soak up sun on the outdoor patio, or drive-thru for a quick donut fix.