Saturday, August 23, 2014

Is Florida Really The Most Corrupt State In America?


The superficial, court-ordered redistricting in Florida only scratches the surface of the prevalent culture of political corruption that permeates the state's two political parties. The judgment does not attempt to deals ith anything but two tiny and blatant cases of grotesque gerrymandering-- and that was all the state legislature dealt with. Even if the new plan goes into effect in 2016, Florida will still be one of the most unfairly gerrymandered states in the Union-- despite the overwhelming passage of a citizens' initiative to put an end to the practice. But even the tiny ameliorative effort agreed to by the legislature is being challenged by corrupt Republican political hack Daniel "Taliban Dan" Webster.

Webster is busy raising money for a court challenge. No one has contributed yet, but Taliban Dan has filed the Daniel Webster Legal Expense Trust with the House Ethics Committee and plans to use it to solicit money from crooked lobbyists and other special interests who have already maxed out to his reelection campaign. Webster, a crackpot religious fanatic and follower of cult leader and child rapist Bill Gothard, has managed to amass one of the most reactionary/anti-family voting records of any Member of Congress. Webster on Gothard's demented teachings: "They are the basis for everything I do today." He brags about using Gothard's sick, corrupted rants in the political life of his central Florida district:

Webster, like many Florida Republican legislators, has been violently anti-LGBT throughout his miserable career. On February 28, 2013, for example, he voted for the failed amendment to strip protections for American Indians, immigrants, and members of the LGBT community from an anti-domestic violence bill. It failed because 60 Republicans joined the Democrats to defeat it, 257-166, including conservative Floridians Ted Yoho, Ron DeSantis, Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Trey Radel. Two years earlier he had worked frantically to prevent gay men and women volunteers from serving in the military and has voted against every attempt to allow members of the LGBT community to get married. He's a sick cookie-- and he isn't evolving, not even at the snail's pace other Florida Republicans are finally adopting. Just yesterday, the Miami Herald in covering the GOP primary debate for FL-26, pointed out that Republican candidates are not taking the kinds of vicious anti-LGBT stands that Old Testament authoritarians like Webster are clinging to. In fact, other GOP candidates have also been lightening up a bit on Global Warming, another agenda item that finds Taliban Dan off muttering to himself and to a shrinking band of fringe lunatics in crazy-land.
Questions on sea-level rise, immigration and gay marriage revealed divisions among the four contenders who taped Facing South Florida, which will air Sunday on Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS 4. A fifth candidate, ex-Congressman David Rivera, declined to attend.

By the end of the taping, Carlos Curbelo, Ed MacDougall, Joe Martinez and Lorenzo Palomares-Starbuck had agreed on plenty. But there was dissent in the very first question from investigative reporter Jim DeFede, who asked if all the candidates vying to represent Westchester to Key West would concur that-- whatever the cause-- seas are rising.

Yes, said the candidates-- except for one.

“I’m not exactly sure,” said Martinez, a former Miami-Dade County commissioner. “I’m not a scientist, Jim.”

…On gay marriage, it was again Martinez who differed with his three rivals. MacDougall, Curbelo and Palomares-Starbuck said they support making marriages among same-sex couples legal.

“It’s the right thing to do,” MacDougall said.

Martinez, however, said the question should be left up to states-- and if Florida voters were asked to repeal the state’s gay-marriage ban, he would vote no, Martinez added after the show’s taping. He does support civil unions and benefits for same-sex partners, he said.

A federal judge in Tallahassee ruled Thursday that Florida’s gay-marriage ban is unconstitutional, though he stayed his own order pending appeals.
Reform-minded citizens in every state like to brag that their state is the most corrupt: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas, New York, California, all have good cases that can be made on their behalf. But some say that Florida already has it sewn up. We're talking about a state that elected the most overtly corrupt governor in modern history after he had plead the Fifth Amendment 75 times and was then fined $1.7 Billion for running the biggest Medicare fraud scheme in history. This guy:

But Rick Scott isn't the root of Florida's endless epidemic of political corruption. One of the worst symptoms is the toxic role Big Sugar plays-- not just with slimy Republicans like Scott, but with just as slimy Democrats like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Democrats' go-to shill for the Fanjul sugar empire. This week Eye On Miami singled out Florida Republicans for their shocking corruption in relation to Big Sugar.
The excellent investigative report by the Tampa Bay Times, exposing links between Florida's top GOP politicians-- including Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislative leadership-- Big Sugar and high cost, free hunting trips to the King Ranch in Texas show the extent to which the party of the "free market" freely undermines the ideals of its base: sugar is one of the most heavily protected industrial crops in America, enjoying vast subsidies including illegal (according to the Florida Constitution) subsidies for the costs of Everglades cleanup.

Sugar's true cost to taxpayers, and the context of U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystal's flagrant entertainments of elected officials, isn't the Everglades and measures to shift cleanup costs to taxpayers-- it is public health and strategies to prevent Big Sugar from becoming the next Big Tobacco.

"Drastic Measures," in the Financial Times (April 25, 2014): notes the reach of Big Sugar, but also details a dramatic shift in health care priorities that is putting the first significant, coordinated pressure on sugar consumption. Earlier this year the World Health Organization reduced the recommended daily sugar intake by half, to the equivalent of six teaspoons of sugar a day.

"The amount of scientific research linking sugar intake with obesity has increased. And governments are waking up to the rising costs of illnesses such as diabetes and cancer that have increased alongside obesity. "The discussion of sugar linked to dietary concerns has been has been gathering momentum," says Stefano Natella of Credit Suisse. "The related global healthcare costs are at an all-time high--the bill is $500 billion or over 10 percent of global healthcare spending-- as are obesity and diabetes levels."

While Republican members of Congress ranted and raved about the costs of the Affordable Health Care Act, none also complained about the toll on consumers' health through excess consumption of sugar.

Democrats have also been loathe to tie the costs of Big Sugar to the domestic health care emergency, because of the enormous impact of campaign contributions to members of Congress and state legislatures where sugar is grown. When Michele Obama tried to move her popular "Get Moving" campaign towards the sugar problem, she was warned off by White House policy makers.

It is not just Florida, but Florida is the state where the lockdown by Big Sugar of the Florida legislature and Governor's Office is a given. The entire governmental investment for Everglades restoration, spending billions and hundreds of thousands of man hours in the multi-decadal effort, is a work-around of Big Sugar.

Cynical industry manipulation of public processes, with billionaires at their joysticks -- is crippling government agencies and forced Congress through the Farm Bill and state legislatures through lax regulations to keep intact taxpayer backed programs that form the backbone of protectionist trade policies.

So why haven't environmentalists decried Big Sugar as the same kind of destroyer as Big Tobacco? It's time.

"Sugar has become the new tobacco," says Simon Capewell, professor of clinical epidemiology at Liverpool University, one of the founders of Action on Sugar, a UK campaign group formed in January. "Everywhere, sugary drinks and junk foods are pressed on unsuspecting parents and children by a cynical industry focused on profit not health."
A secondary impact for bribe-hungry conservatives is that sugar rots the brains of people who over-use it, which explains why non-millionaires vote for Republicans and for deceitful politicians from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party.

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At 4:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Florida is very corrupt, but it has a long way to go to catch Louisiana - much less Wisconsin and Texas.


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