Category Archives: 2012 Election

David Brin Says Republicans Don’t Know How Run Wars … But Democrats Do (They Just Can’t Market It)

David Brin, the science fiction writer and part-time sociologist, likes to annoy people, preferably everyone at once. He may have outdone himself in CONTRARY BRIN: How Democrats and Republicans Wage War.

A taste:

The contrast between Democratic and Republican styles of war could not be more stark. Beginning with the degree that they show deference to the United States Senior Officer Corps.

Do you know any generals or admirals? Ask them about this. Odds are, you’ll get no answer at all, due to their punctilious respect for civilian authority and resolve not to meddle in politics. But you may get hints. Anyway, continue searching and ask retired generals or admirals! And bear in mind these folks constitute the third best-educated clade in American life, after scientists and medical doctors.

One of these retired flag officers told me: “Democrats admit they don’t know anything about military matters. They consult. They ask questions. They listen.”

He added: “Republican presidents all assume they’re some mix of John Wayne and Patton. Plans are for nerds. Caution is for wimps.”

And this:

Republican administrations like war to look and feel like war! Tank armies and massed divisions… with politicians giving direct orders and over-ruling the professionals. And in the process, they pretty much destroyed the old-fashioned tools that they used.

When he entered office as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen was asked what he considered to be his most desperate concern. “The Army,” he said. Saving it from what had been done to it.

Now chew on this fact: When Bill Clinton left office, every U.S. Army and Marine Corps brigade was rated fully combat ready to defend the lives and interests of Americans. When George W. Bush left office, not one U.S. brigade was so rated. We went from all to none. And the GOP has a reputation for defense?

The Army that rolled over Saddam’s Republican Guard divisions in 92 and 03 does not exist anymore. What has replaced it is in some ways better, more agile, more professional, if also tired and badly in need of rest. It had to adapt and become agile, having been worn down to the bone. Things are better now, but it will take time. And meanwhile, we must confront deadly foes across a murky battlefield of terror and sabotage that spans the globe. So, whose doctrines are appropriate?

Posted in 2012 Election, National Security | Leave a comment

A Messaging Mystery (Updated)

This new Obama web add is vaguely funny.

But I cannot figure out how it fits into any sensible over-all Obama messaging strategy or why it was worth whatever it cost to make it.

Is the strategy to get some marginal anti-tax pro-Romney voter to stay home? If so, this seems inadequate to the task. Or is the strategy to just throw things up and hope they go viral? Surely they can do better than that?

Update: In contrast, I totally get what’s going on in this Obama closer commercial which I gather is going to be on TV in swing states:

Meanwhile, the Romney campaign has its closer ad up, one that even the in-the-tank Washington Post fact checker called A ‘greatest hits’ of misleading Romney claims.

Lying seems to work, though: it’s a close election.

Posted in 2012 Election | 1 Comment

Long Wait Times at the Polls

Wait times at some South Florida polling stations exceed five hours this afternoon of the first day of early voting. IMHO this is somewhere on a continuum that runs from mismanagement to voter suppression.

You can see the Miami-Dade County Elections deptartment’s own estimates at this printout I made of the Miami-Dade County – Elections – Early Voting Wait Times page just before 4pm today.

Wait times are FIVE AND HALF HOURS at Coral Reef Library. And FIVE HOURS at North Dade Regional Library. Four other locations have wait times of three to five hours. Twelve more are one to three hours. Only two — West Flager Branch Library and Lemon City Library — are under one hour.

I was at the Coral Gables library this morning to return some library books, when the app was showing a two hour wait. The people at the front door of the library — who I would guess were still a good half hour at least from a polling machine — told me that they had been waiting two and half hours to get that far. The line went all the way around the corner and past the long side of the building. It was much too big for me to get a decent photo with my cell phone. The people working the polls told me the line started at 5:30am for the 7:00am opening.

By the time I got there, about mid-day, it was hot.

Indeed, someone collapsed while I was there and the paramedics had to be called out. I hope it wasn’t serious. Or deadly.

I blame Governor Scott and the GOP for cutting early voting days and hours and putting us through this. And I blame the GOP-controlled legislature for our absurdly long ballot.

Meanwhile, all you can do is be prepared: figure out how to vote before you get there so you don’t hold up the line. (I have a downballot cheat sheet if you want one.)

Posted in 2012 Election, Miami | 7 Comments

Early Voting Starts Tomorrow (10/27)

About a million people have already voted absentee in Florida, and the number is sure to grow. But if you are worried about your signature not being recognized then starting tomorrow you can vote early at any of a host of locations.

There are fewer days for early voting than there were four years ago. In 2008 there were 120 hours of early voting spread over 14 days. This year there are only eight (longer) days of early voting, adding up to 96 hours. Plus, the ballot is much longer, so wait time may be an issue. (Plan ahead! See my 2012 Voting Guide.)

How nice therefore to find this handy dandy tool online: Miami-Dade County – Elections – Early Voting Wait Times which promises some information about how long you may need to wait at the local early voting location.

Note that they do warn that “The wait times listed below are approximate and may vary based on time of arrival.” Plus, I see that even though voting doesn’t begin until tomorrow there’s already a five minute wait time listed for the North Dade Regional Library. Everywhere else currently shows zero.

Posted in 2012 Election, Miami | Leave a comment


I’ve been hearing about this billboard, which is apparently very visible on I-95.

The billboard is paid for by, the crazy people who also endorse Alan West. I suspect, though, that fear-mongering like this works, at least some. More about Obama’s Jewish support in Florida from the Palm Beach Post.

Personally, I think “kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve” the Middle East Romney will be bad for Israel. Anything that emboldens Bibi to be worse than he already is cannot end well. There likely will be another war. And many many casualties on both sides.

Sometimes a true friend is the one who keeps you from doing something rash.

Posted in 2012 Election | 8 Comments

Downballot Recommendations November 2012

Miami-Dade county, and Florida generally, have one of the longest ballots ever. Mine is ten (!) pages long. I assume by now you have figured out how you want to vote in the Presidential and Senate elections, but what about the Congressional elections? And, especially what about the Judicial elections, the State Constitutional Amendments, not to mention the odd cruft cluttering the bottom of ballot – charter changes, referenda and so on?

Well, fear not. Here again are not only some suggestions as to how you might vote, but also some reasons for those suggestions, plus in some cases links to places you can go for more information.

One important thing to note: Most ballot questions require 60% to pass — but that 60% is of the people who vote on that question, not people who vote at all. Thus, if you vote for President, but don’t vote on, say, the state Constitutional Amendments, you make it easier for the “yes” vote to prevail. And given how bad some of those proposals are, giving up before you get to the end of the ballot could be a big mistake this year.

Quick Summary

Congressional Representative
FL-07 Nicholas Ruiz III
FL-09 Alan Grayson
FL-10 Val Demings
FL-13 Jessica Ehrlich
FL- 16 Keith Fitzgerald
FL- 18 Patrick Murphy
FL- 22 Lois J. Frankel
FL-26 Joe Garcia
Fl -27 Why bother? IRL will win, the other candidates are jokes.

State Attorney
No recommendation: there is only one candidate on the ballot.

State Representative
District 114: Ross Hancock (line 53)

State Supreme Court
Vote to retain all three Justices – this is important
Vote YES to retain Justice R. Fred Lewis (line 62)
Vote YES to retain Justice Barbara J. Pariente (line 64)
Vote YES to retain Justice Peggy Quince (line 66)

District Courts of Appeal
Vote to retain all five judges:
Judge Angel A. Cortiñas (line 70)
Judge Kevin M. Emas (line 72)
Judge Ivan F. Fernandez (line 74)
Judge Leslie Rothenberg (line 76)
Judge Richard Suarez (line 78)

County Judge, Group 24
I’m going to vote to re-electJudge Andrea Wolfson (line 81), but please see below for context.

Florida Constitutional Amendments
If you’re in a rush, just vote NO on all of them.

If you are feeling nuanced, you still should vote NO on Amendments 1-10 (there is no 7); there is some case to be made for Amendments 11 & 12. For more details please see here.

School Board Question: Bond Issue
For Bonds (line 222)

County Charter Amendments
Term Limits – NO (line 225) (Reasons)
Technical Changes YES (line 226) (Reasons)
Urban Development Boundary YES (228) (Reasons)
Creation of New Municipalities NO (231) (Reasons)
Enforcement of Citizens Bill of Rights YES (232) (Reasons)
Extend Time to Fill Vacancies of Mayor and Commission NO (235) (Reasons)
Mayor Conflict in County Procurement NO (237) (Reasons)
Tennis Center YES (238) (very reluctantly) (Reasons)
Non-Binding on Animal Services – No recommendation (Reasons)
Non-Binding on Doing Business With State Sponsors of Terrorism NO (243) (Reasons)

Coral Gables
Allow Residential Parking of (some) Pickup Trucks YES (260) (Reasons)

Reasons for these recommendations appear below.

The Details

US Congress

If you live in FL-26, it’s important you vote for Joe Garcia. Not simply because he’ll be a great congressman, but because his opponent, David Rivera, is quite likely not only the most corrupt member of Congress, but among the top three most crazy. Rivera lies about stuff that is easy to check. He violates campaign laws with impunity (Rivera secretly and illegally funded a fake candidate in the Democratic primary in order to upset future rivals; when the FBI closed in, the key witness vanished). He once drove a truck carrying an opponent’s mailers off the road. The only reasons I don’t say Rivera is the craziest person in Congress are Michele Bachmann and Alan West, but Rivera is sure a contender –not as much for his political views, which are in the main fairly conventional, but for his personal behavior — which is downright bizarre — and his willingness to lie about himself and his opponents. This guy gives Congress a bad name, and that takes serious effort.

State Attorney

I have no great enthusiasm for Katherine Fernandez Rundel, who is running unopposed. It’s fine to vote for her, and I probably will, but I can’t bring myself to recommend it in this election. We certainly can do worse; we also could wish for someone who took a stronger line on public corruption.

State Representative

The incumbent, Erik Fresen, has been one of the leading proponents of expanding gambling in Southern Florida. He is the recipient of large donations from gambling interests, and he supports their attempts to change local laws to further weaken the prohibitions on gambling now on the books.

If you support more gambling dens, along with the low-wage jobs they create, plus the increased levels of crime and corruption that inevitably follow in their wake, then the incumbent, Erik Fresen is your man.

If you don’t think we need more Mafia, more drugs, more corruption of local government (assuming that is possible), all for the sake for a few jobs as parking attendants and croupiers, then you should vote line 53 Ross Hancock.

This is not a partisan issue: this is about what sort of community you want to have. Erik Fresen is Mr. Gambling in the Florida House. He wants to be a state Senator too. Vote against him and tell him our interests matter more than gambling money does. (PS. Fresen also lobbies for charter schools, for which he is also a consultant.)

The challenger, Ross Hancock, seems like a decent guy, if a bit naive about politics. But I’ll take naive over sleazy and willing to go to bat for Big Gambling any day.

Florida Supreme Court

Please see An Important Vote in Florida : Retain our Supreme Court Justices for more information about this important vote. The Florida Bar poll of its members found overwhelming support for retaining all three Justices, with 89%-92% of attorneys supporting retention of each Justice. This would be a no-brainer and a cakewalk for some excellent Justices but for a sleazy recall effort funded by the Koch brothers and supported by some elements of the Florida Republican party.

District Courts of Appeal

Here in Miami-Dade we vote on retention for the 3rd DCA. I start with a presumption that all lower and intermediate court judges should be retained. The presumption can be overcome by a showing of incompetence, partiality, or ethics violations. One possible sign of incompetence is a low rating by attorneys in the bar poll relating to retention. All but one of the judges up for retention got good to excellent scores on the bar poll:

• Angel A. Cortinas 86 percent.
• Kevin M. Emas 93 percent.
• Ivan F. Fernandez 91 percent.
• Leslie B. Rothenberg 78 percent.
• Richard J. Suarez 90 percent.

Even Rothenberg’s 78% is a good rating, especially compared to what some judges have gotten in the past. (More detailed results are here if you want them.) That said, there has over the years been some amount of muttering about Rothenberg, who has been accused of pro-prosecution bias over the years, starting from her appointment to a lower state court in 1994. I’m not in a position to say if this is merited today.

In considering whether to vote against these judges — all of whom except for Kevin Emas (appointed by Charlie Crist) were appointed by Jeb Bush or Rick Scott — you also should also consider that Rick Scott will appoint their replacements. I’m voting to retain them all.

County Judge, Group 24

Andrea Wolfson (line 81) is the incumbent, Greer Elain Wallce (line 80) the challenger. This is a runoff from a three-candidate race in the primary in which Wolfson got 48% – not quite enough to avoid a runoff.

One issue in this non-partisan race is that Andrea Wolfson first applied for an endorsement from SAVE-DADE (a local progressive, and pro-LGBT-rights group), then withdrew that request when she got the Christian Family Coalition endorsement. SAVE-DADE endorsed Wallace. The Herald, for what little it’s worth, endorsed Wolfson. This one hurts a bit, but given that fellow lawyers rate her highly, I’m sticking with my policy of voting for incumbent judges unless there’s a compelling reason not to. Some readers may find the endorsement history to be a compelling reason to vote for Greer Elain Wallace, and I’d understand that.

Florida Constitution Amendments

For detailed discussion of the amendments, please see A Bunch of Horrible Florida Constitutional Amendments and Vote NO on Florida Constitutional Amendment 4.

School Board Question: Bond Issue

The entire county establishment is behind this. You can see the promises of what the money will be used for at M-DCPS Building a Pathway to the Future. The schools need the money; their need is in substantial part the result of mis-management and mis-budgeting in the past, but what’s done is done and we can’t take it out on today’s children. History suggests some of the money may leak before they see it, but even so, the needs are real and large. The current school Superintendent seems more honest and competent than most, which argues that more of the money might get where it needs to go. Vote FOR Bonds (line 222)

County Charter Amendments

Term limits are popular, but I am almost never in favor of them as they seem anti-democratic. Plus, term limits ensure that elected representatives are always learning the ropes. Removing experienced figures eliminates the people who are most likely to know how to push back against lobbyists and bureaucrats.

This proposal comes on the heels of a proposal rejected recently by the voters that would have linked term limits to a living wage for Commissioners instead of the pittance they now receive. The claim made by supporters of this measure is that if voters support the term limits now, they might support the wages later (the wages matter because otherwise a Commissioner needs another source of income, creating distractions and conflicts of interest). For what little it’s worth, the Herald is pushing this argument. I don’t buy it. I don’t even understand why anyone else believes it. NO (line 225).

Technical Changes. From what I can tell these are genuinely technical and non-controversial. YES (line 226)

Urban Development Boundary This amendment will make it harder to change the rules to move the UDB by ‘charterizing’ the super-majority requirement. Developers are continually trying to nibble away at the UDB. YES (228)

Creation of New Municipalities I start from the position that is perhaps less favorable towards the creation on new municipalities than is fashionable. Be that as it may, the point of this amendment was supposed to be to make it easier to create new municipalities, overcoming a set of roadblocks set up by the County — blocks that I happen to think were in some (but not all) cases justified. These so-called reforms, however, seem to go much further than would be necessary to level the playing field even if you didn’t agree with my stance. If this change is approved, we can look forward to more municipalities that take only wealthy blocks, and leave poor ones orphaned in unincorporated Miami-Dade. This is bad for many reasons, not least that it becomes more costly and more complex to supply emergency and other services to the patchwork of the poorest blocks left behind when their wealthier neighbors incorporate. NO (231)

Enforcement of Citizens Bill of Rights YES (?) (232)
The case against this measure is that the proposal actually weakens a local ethics rule “providing for forfeiture of office if a public official or employee willfully violates the Citizens’ Bill of Rights.” Who could support that? Well, that is a provision which almost never gets invoked. The case for this amendement is that it trades something that doesn’t get used for something that will get used: increased powers for the currently toothless Commission on Ethics and Public Trust to enforce the Citizens’ Bill of Rights. I hate weakening ethics rules in South Florida, but realpolitik counsels that we’d end up winners in this trade, getting something for what, in practice, is almost nothing.

Extend Time to Fill Vacancies of Mayor and Commission NO (235). This seems to me to be a Trojan Horse of a proposal. The relatively short time to fill vacancies we have now does not seem to me to be a problem when a Mayor needs replacement, but rather a fairly good thing. This ‘solution’ seems capable of creating mischief by allowing the interim Mayor — a Commissioner who happens to be the Chair — to exercise too much power for too long. It could even incentivize future Mayoral recalls as new form of power grab.

Mayor Conflict in County Procurement NO (237). This proposes putting the Chair of the County Commission in charge of county procurement if the mayor has a conflict of interest. I am suspicious of this: it seems another attempt to empower the Commission Chair, a person who is not elected city-wide in any meaningful way. I do not see how replacing the Mayor’s baggage with the Commission Chair’s baggage will actually do us any good. Like the Herald says, reject this and hope that some future task force comes up with a better idea.

Tennis Center YES (238). The case for the tennis center building is that no public funds will be used, just private funds. The case against the building is that it would take away some more park lands — that’s why the amendment is needed as the current charter protects the park against new buildings. I’m for holding the line on parks. Why then, suggest a yes vote? It’s basically a case of giving in to blackmail: the building has been conflated with a vote to extend the lease of the Sony Open, an extension which cannot be done without a referendum. Given the unfortunate choice between risking losing the Open versus sacrificing some smallish amount of park, I’m reluctantly going to vote for this one.

Non-Binding on Animal Services – No recommendation
The case for is cute kittens and cute puppies. The case against is that we don’t need to tie the hands of the county government when it comes to budgets. I have no idea if this is the best use of our money. If you want me to get into the business of voting on various appropriations, please give me a way to rank all of them, instead of just serving up one or two.

Non-Binding on Doing Business With State Sponsors of Terrorism NO (243)
As a general matter, localities don’t need to have a foreign policy. On the other hand, I do sympathize with the impulse to take moral stands. This one, though, is about making yet another meaningless gesture at Cuba. I don’t think Cuba is in any doubt where we stand.

Coral Gables
Allow Residential Parking of (some) Pickup Trucks YES (260)
Boy this is a silly waste of a ballot line. For some reason Coral Gables has a complex about pickup trucks, and the Commissioners are afraid to vote even a timid permissive pickup-truck-parking policy. This will allow dude trucks — just four wheels and nothing in the back — to be parked at homes over night. There’s no reason not to allow this, and there’s also no reason it should have needed to be on the ballot.

*WHEW* We made it to the end.

Posted in 2012 Election, Coral Gables, Miami | 9 Comments