Florida Catholic Voter Card Released

The Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops (FCCB) has released its 2012 voter card comparing President Obama’s record and that of Governor Mitt Romney. The mission of the Conference is to, “Serve as liaison to state government on matters of concern to the Catholic Church in the seven dioceses of the Province of Miami, as a nonpartisan public policy voice on behalf of the Catholic Bishops of Florida.”

The FCCB Voter Card covers a number of social policy issues including abortion, marriage, the death penalty and embryonic stem cell research. It also gives each candidates position on education choice, freedom of religion, heath care access for the uninsured, immigration and national security.

According to the Catholic Voter Card, “In keeping with its mission, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops aims to educate and inform Catholics about a wide range of issues. The information listed here has been compiled from policies, public statements, official and campaign websites and other resources to help voters inform their consciences before heading to the voting booth. The issues appear here in alphabetical order for informational purposes only and do not represent a complete list of issues that may be of importance to Catholics. The FCCB neither supports nor opposes any candidate for public office. The underlined text below indicates a hyperlink to the source. Go to www.flaccb.org to view these links.”

To view the Catholic Bishops 2012 Voter Card click here.

American Public School Students Going Hungry?

The Huffington Post column “Michelle Obama’s Low-Calorie School Lunches Slammed By ‘Hungry’ High Schoolers” reports, “Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity initiative has been the subject of conservative criticism for some time, and now there’s another group joining in on the attack.”

The group that HuffPo is referring to are public school students, whose video titled “We Are Hungry” [watch below] about school lunches has gone viral.

The video beings with the statement – Active teens require between 2,000 and 5,000 calories a day to meet energy and growth needs (“A Guide to Eating for Sports“).

According to Beverly L. Girard, PhD, MBA, RD, Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Sarasota County Florida Schools, “President Harry S. Truman signed the National School Lunch Act on June 4, 1946. Though school food service began long before 1946, the Act authorized the National School Lunch Program. The legislation came in response to claims that many American men had been rejected for World War II military service because of diet-related health problems [recruits were undernourished]. The federally assisted meal program was established as ‘a measure of national security, to safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities’.”

Upon signing the National School Lunch Program legislation President Truman stated, “Despite our capacity to produce food we have often failed to distribute it as well as we should … Congress has contributed immeasurably both to the welfare of our farmers and the health of our children.”

Have we met, if not surpassed, the initial legislative intent of Congress? Do we need government to be concerned about those volunteering for our military services having diet-related health problems? Do we need to be concerned about the redistribution of food given our nation wide system of grocery store chains? Is government the best determiner of a child’s eating habits? Do taxpayers need to provide welfare for farmers?

Many citizens are questioning governments expanding role in the free and reduced lunch program as amended by the Health and Hunger-Free Act of 2010. The new guidelines — the first major overhaul of school meals in 15 years — mandate public school cafeterias serve less fat and sodium and more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Taxpayers are also questioning the growing number of students on free and reduced lunches. Sarasota County, one of the wealthiest counties in Florida, has 50.37% of students in the district currently eligible for free or reduced price meals according to Dr. Girard.

Dr. Girard notes, “The determining body for the revised USDA meal pattern was the Institute of Medicine, chaired by Virginia Stallings, MD, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania.” Why does one institution have such power in determining what and how much children should eat?

The lunch caloric ranges for students are: elementary students – 550-650 calories; middle school students – 600 to 700 calories and high school students – 750 to 850 calories. Dr. Girard states, “If a child eats lunch at school for the 180 days of the school year, they receive about 16.4% of the meals they eat in a year at school. Sarasota school lunches represent adequate portion size and nutritional balance.”

Michelle Obama is concerned about obesity in America. It appears that the free and reduced lunch program’s initial intent to address the diet-related health problems of our draftees is no longer needed. Perhaps it is time to reconsider the need for this federal program?

If obesity is a problem then is there an over redistribution of food in America?

Is this the the American version of Hunger Games?

In a country where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced by a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.” ― Leon Trotsky.

Leon Trotsky was a Bolshevik revolutionary and Marxist theorist. He was one of the leaders of the Russian October Revolution in 1917, second only to Vladimir Lenin. During the early days of the Soviet Union, he served first as People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs and later as the founder and commander of the Red Army and People’s Commissar of War. He was also among the first members of the Politburo.

RELATED VIDEO:  “We Are Hungry” done by students from Wallace County High School in Sharon Springs,Kansas.

Teacher Takes Students to Terrorist Linked Mosque But Not To A Church

According to Scott Ferguson, Communications Specialist for the Sarasota County School Board, about 90 students from Riverview High School took a field trip to three houses of worship on Thursday, September 20, 2012. One was left off the list – a church.

The teacher who organized the field trip was Riverview High School Social Studies teacher Stephanie Simmons. Ferguson notes, “As always, parental permission was required for any students who attended.” According to Ferguson a fourth house of worship, the Taoist Tai Chi Society, listed on the permission form was not visited due to time constraints.

The public high school students visited Temple Emanuel, Kadampa Meditation Center (Buddhist) and Mosque Salaat.

Ferguson states, “The purpose of the field trip was to provide information about these religions to students in order to promote knowledge and understanding. Ms. Simmons felt that the students already were familiar with the teachings of Christianity so they would have a basis for comparison with the tenets of Judaism, Buddhism and Islam.” [My emphasis]

Bill Warner, a private investigator, reported in October 2009 that Muneer Kazem Arafat, a member of the Islamic Society of Sarasota/Bradenton (ISSB) raised funds for suicide bomber’s families. Mosque Salaat was being built at the time by ISSB. Warner reports, “Imam Muneer Arafat’s former mosque in Sarasota raised money for martyrs families – hosted terrorists Sami Al Arian, Mazen Al Najjar and Hussam Jubara.  Muneer Arafat, revealed in court that he declined Sami Al Arian’s invitation to join Palestinian Islamic Jihad because he was a member of a different group!”

Sarasota Imam Muneer Arafat

According to Warner, “Islamic Society of Sarasota and Bradenton (ISSB) featured repeated guest appearances by Al-Arian terrorist colleagues Mazen Al-Najjar and Hussam Jubara. Al-Najjar, who was a Director of IAF, was deported from the United States in August of 2002.” Joe Kaufman, Chairman of Americans Against Hate, stated, “Given the fact that Al-Arian’s colleagues were heavily involved with ISSB, and given the fact that ISSB was raising money for the families of martyrs, it is imperative that law enforcement focus much of its efforts on ISSB.”

“The Department of Justice, on Saturday, November 24th, 2001, Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) arrested Mazen Al Najjar, in Tampa, Florida. The arrest is based on a final order of deportation recently upheld by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, in Atlanta, Georgia. Mazen Al Najjar was ordered deported because he violated his visa. Mazen Al Najjar,” reports Warner.

Ms. Simmons reported that at Mosque Salaat a woman did most of the presentation to students. She showed slides of the architecture used in mosques and photos of mosques around the world. She pointed out several features of the mosque in Sarasota, including the dome, balcony, purification rooms, carpet and courtyard. The presenters talked about how the mosque was received by neighbors and the community and showed the students Arabic writing and the calligraphy used in artwork around the mosque.

Florida Ranks 2nd On Parent Power Index

The Center for Education reform has released its Parent Power Index. According to its website, “PARENT POWER means parents have access to quality educational options and are provided with good information to make smart decisions about their children’s education. The PARENT POWER INDEX gives parents an interactive tool to discover whether their state affords them power – and if not, what they can do to get it. ”

The top ten states are:

INDIANA: #1 Overall PPI: 84.0%
FLORIDA: #2 Overall PPI: 83.0%
OHIO: #3 Overall PPI: 79.0%
ARIZONA: #4 Overall PPI: 78.0%
D.C.: #5 Overall PPI: 77.0%
LOUISIANA: #6 Overall PPI: 76.0%
PENNSYLVANIA: #7 Overall PPI: 75.5%
UTAH: #8 Overall PPI: 75.0%
MINNESOTA: #9 Overall PPI: 74.5%
WISCONSIN: #10 Overall PPI: 70%

To see how your state ranks on the Parent Power Index click here.

According to the Center for Education reform, “Florida ranks consistently in the top ten for its charter laws. Florida also has been a leader in providing educational options for children with broad school choice programs. More than 22,000 children with special needs use private schools. Another 38,000 receive tax credits. Parents will find state websites easy to navigate to learn about their schools and the options available to them. Florida also is the top scorer on Digital Learning Now’s index for online learning opportunities. While there is no parent trigger available and much work still to be done, Florida ranks high in affording parents power.”

“Florida is leading the nation in transforming education for the digital age. Florida leads the nation in online course enrollments, with more than 250,000 course enrollments last year. Florida can improve by adding digital enrollments to its data collection, exploring innovative ways to provide students with Internet access devices, and creating a statewide website to provide a one-stop-shop for digital learning,” reports the Center for Education Reform.

ABOUT THE CENTER FOR EDUCATION REFORM:

In the emerging landscape of education reform, the Center for Education Reform is the leading voice for structural and sustainable changes that can dramatically improve educational opportunities for decades to come. Our guiding purpose is to improve the accuracy and quality of discourse and decisions about education reform, leading to fundamental policy changes that make a difference long after news and election cycles have ended.

As part of our core mission, the Center works on three primary fronts:

  • Generating and sharing leading ideas and information
  • Supporting and enabling grassroots activism
  • Protecting and stimulating media coverage and issue accuracy

Senator Avella “offended” at Muslim Parade in NYC

NY State Senator Avella

On Sunday, September 23, 2012 not far from Ground Zero where terrorists attacked the United States on 9/11, American Muslims were filmed calling for the end of freedom of speech and praising suicide bombings. These comments come just days after American Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three others, two former Navy SEALS, were murdered in Benghazi.

Democrat New York State Senator Tony Avello came face-to-face with Muslim speakers attacking America and he did something which few people have the courage to do. He left in protest.

After listening to several Muslim speakers condemning America and calling for an end to freedom of speech, Senator Avella got up from his seat as a VIP Marshall of the 27th Annual New York Muslim Day Parade and left the stage. Over one thousand Muslims in the audience and the large group of New York City Muslim community leaders appeared shocked that the Senator would walk off the stage just before it was his time to speak.

It appears Senator Avella had enough of the verbal attacks against America by “moderate” American Muslim dignitaries, which he afterwards characterized as “offensive”.

While these American Muslim speakers have the First Amendment right to condemn America, Senator Avella also has the right to exit the stage. New York Senator Avella took a very public stand on the freedom of speech issue just 12 days after the 11th Anniversary of 9/11.

Watch this video of two of the speakers at the 27th Annual New York Muslim Day Parade. The first calls for blasphemy laws and the second, an American Muslim woman, praises suicide bombings. Note Senator Avella leaving the stage and then captured on video saying he was “offended” by the remarks of these speakers:

Senator Tony Avella began his public career over 20 years ago as an aide to New York City Council Member Peter Vallone, Sr. Senator Avella later served as an aide to Mayors Koch and Dinkins and as Chief of Staff to the late State Senator Leonard Stavisky and to State Senator Toby Stavisky.

UPDATE:

Imam Shahbaz Chisti Sahib from the Coney Island Brooklyn Mosque and the Marshall of Muslim Day Parade 2012 leads crowd in Nazi Style salute Sunday, September 23, 2012 in New York, NY:

Heritage Foundation: Six Factors That Threaten The American Dream

Courtesy of the Heritage Foundation:

Occupy Wall Street’s pathetic first birthday last week confirmed that the longstanding reports of the movement’s death have not, in fact, been exaggerated. So why are we keeping it alive by talking incessantly about income inequality instead of focusing on what really matters — opportunity and upward mobility?

All this huffing and puffing about widening income gaps — coupled with strident calls for wealth redistribution — detracts from the urgent need to shore up our threatened American Dream and develop an opportunity agenda. The nation’s attention should be squarely focused on expanding everyone’s prospects — especially those at the bottom who most need a hand up and a way out.

What matters is not how much more those at the top earn in relation to those at the bottom — they are, after all, not in competition with one another — but rather the real needs of those at the bottom and the opportunities for advancement available to all Americans. And while government “spreading the wealth around” would surely equalize outcomes — the Left’s Dream — it would neither address the real causes of poverty nor expand the real opportunities and earned successes that define the American Dream.

A new Heritage report defends the American Dream from liberalism’s misguided attempts to redefine it along statist and egalitarian lines and explains why income inequality is not an obstacle to advancement in the United States. What really matters — and continues by and large to thrive — is upward mobility.

Rather than focus on those at the top of the ladder we should be concerned about the hurdles that threaten those struggling to achieve the American Dream. “Defending the Dream” draws attention to six factors that most threaten upward mobility:

Statism: The modern administrative state entangles businesses in a suffocating web of regulations and laws. All of this red tape takes a toll on the economy, which in turn leads to fewer jobs being created. And fewer jobs means fewer opportunities for those most in need of jobs.

The Collapse of the Family: The decline of marriage, especially among the poor, has devastating, long-lasting consequences on children and their prospects for success. When it comes to the American Dream, the family is not a tangential social or religious issue; it is a crucial economic one that is deeply intertwined with mobility.

The Dependency Fostered by the Welfare State: Far from eradicating poverty, the welfare state traps people in poverty by discouraging work and undermining the family.

The Erosion of our Culture of Work: By legitimizing indolence and devaluing hard work, our culture decreases the likelihood that the poor, who are most in need of sound cultural indicators, will take advantage of the opportunities America continues to offer.

The Failures of Public Education: Our failing public schools deny countless children the rudimentary skills they need to move ahead in the life.

The Looming Fiscal Crisis: Unless we change course, continued massive government spending and the surging public debt will destroy the foundations of our economy and put the American Dream beyond the reach of our children and grandchildren.

The rise in income inequality in recent decades has in no way contributed to these problems. They grow out of ill-conceived government policies, point to the complete failure of government to address some of our social problems and, in the case of the collapse of the family, are deep-seated cultural problems encouraged and made worse by governmental policies.

The United States must remain what it has always been: the Land of Opportunity. Misguided efforts to use government to transform it instead into the Land of Income Equality will inevitably leave us all worse off. Our first priority must therefore be to refocus the national conversation and our nation’s policies on the promise of upward mobility that is at the heart of the American Dream.

FRC-Action Releases 112th Congress Pro-Family Score Card

FRC Action and CitizenLink released their Vote Scorecard for the First Session of the 112th Congress. This scorecard outlines votes on legislation and nominations that FRC Action and CitizenLink either supported or opposed. It provides voters with information about the way elected Representatives and Senators voted on key issues affecting the family.

This FRC looked at 10 votes in the House and 7 votes in the Senate. According to FRC, “The votes recorded here are only a part of our effort to protect the family. As we work to defend traditional, pro-family policies in Washington, we encourage you to stay engaged as informed and active constituents. Your involvement is a great asset in the battle to preserve the American family.”

According to the FRC/CitizenLink Score Card of the Florida Delegation: 70% voted pro-family (a score of 60% or higher). Democrats had an average score of 4.6%. Republicans had an average score of 89.6%.

MEMBERS FROM FLORIDA

SENATORS:

Marco Rubio (R) – 71%
Bill Nelson (D) – 0%

REPRESENTATIVES:

Jeff Miller (R) FL-1 – 100%
C. W. Bill Young (R) FL-10 – 83% *
Kathy Castor (D) FL-11 – 0%
Dennis Ross (R) FL-12 – 100%
Vern Buchanan (R) FL-13 – 100%
Connie Mack (R) FL-14 – 50% +
Bill Posey (R) FL-15 – 100%
Tom Rooney (R) FL-16 – 100%
Frederica Wilson (D) FL-17 – 0%
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R) FL-18 – 66%
Ted Deutch (D) FL-19 – 0%
Steve Southerland (R) FL-2 – 100%
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) FL-20 – 16%
Mario Diaz-Balart (R) FL-21 – 83%
Allen West (R) FL-22 – 100%
Alcee Hastings (D) FL-23 – 0%
Sandra Adams (R) FL-24 – 100%
David Rivera (R) FL-25 – 83%
Corrine Brown (D) FL-3 – 16%
Ander Crenshaw (R) FL-4 – 66% +
Richard Nugent (R) FL-5 – 100%
Cliff Stearns (R) FL-6 – 100%
John Mica (R) FL-7 – 100%
Daniel Webster (R) FL-8 – 100%
Gus Bilirakis (R) FL-9 – 100%

+ VOTED WITH FRC ACTION
– VOTED AGAINST FRC ACTION
NV DID NOT VOTE
P VOTED PRESENT
I NOT IN OFFICES SPEAKER DID NOT VOTE
* ABSENT FOR FAMILY EMERGENCY

Florida US Senate Race in NRA Cross-hairs

Millions of National Rifle Association (NRA) members have received in the mail an evaluation of key US Senate races across America. One of those races is in Florida. According to Chris Cox, NRA-ILA Executive Director, “In 1787, weeks after the Constitution was sent to the states for ratification, James Madison wrote that the Senate was ‘the great anchor of the Government’. The same is true today, for two reasons of special concern to gun owners.”

The two reasons laid out by Cox are: 1.) Only the Senate can confirm federal judges including Supreme Court justices and 2.) Treaties can only be ratified by a two-thirds vote of the Senate.

The NRA has targeted Florida as one of seven US Senate races of interest to its members. 

Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)

According to the Cox column, “Clear Choices: Key Races Will Determine Makeup of United States Senate”, “Senator Bill Nelson has served for 12 years in the Senate, and has voted many times against the interest of gun owners.” Cox notes that Senator Nelson voted against Right-to-Carry reciprocity; to ban most common rifle hunting ammunition; to gut the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of its most important provisions; and to renew the 1994 Clinton semi-automatic ban.

Cox notes, “If that weren’t enough he voted to confirm both Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. With the historic Heller and McDonald decisions riding on just one vote, one more anti-gun Supreme Court nominee supported by Nelson could be a fatal blow to the Second Amendment.”

FL Rep. Connie Mack

Cox and the NRA note, “His opponent, Connie Mack, has a strong pro-gun record as a member of the US House for the past eight years.”

According to Cox, Rep. Mack strongly supported the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Pact; voted for legislation to protect the rights of gun owners during states of emergency; and supported the Right-to-Carry reciprocity. Mack also voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the investigation into the deadly “Fast and Furious” scandal.

The NRA gives Mack an “A” rating, while Nelson earned an “F” rating from NRA-PVF.

AJC Survey of Florida Jewish Voters

More than two-thirds — 69 percent — of Jewish voters in Florida say they will choose President Obama over Governor Romney, who will win 25 percent of the state’s Jewish vote, according to a new American Jewish Committee (AJC) survey.

Respondents self identified as follows: 16% REPUBLICAN, 25% INDEPENDENT, 57% DEMOCRAT, 1% OTHER and 1% DON’T KNOW/NO RESPONSE. Five percent of Jewish voters are undecided according to the AJC survey.

Ari Fleischer, former White House Press Secretary for President George W. Bush, was asked during a panel hosted by AIPAC in 2010 to make a prediction about the 2012 Presidential race. Fleischer predicted, “Repulicans will lose the Jewish vote by a margin of 3 to 1. If that happens Republicans will take the White House.”

This survey appears to be good news for Republicans in Florida, Republican US Senate candidate Connie Mack (who is Jewish) and Mitt Romney.

This is an 8% decline in support for President Obama. Obama won 76 percent of the Florida Jewish vote in 2008. Jews comprise about four percent of the voters in Florida, which is widely considered to be a key battleground state in the 2012 election.

“In a key state, to which both parties are devoting a great deal of time and attention, and where recent history is a reminder that the margin of victory can be razor-thin, the Jewish vote takes on added importance,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “This survey, the first of three on the Jewish political outlook in the build-up to November 6, will doubtless be of interest to all those following this year’s election.”

There are a number of oxymoronic replies in the survey.

Concerning the nuclear threat posed by Iran, 62 percent would support, and 27 percent oppose, U.S. military action against Iran if diplomacy and sanctions fail. However, 76 percent approve, and 22 percent disapprove, of the way President Obama is handling national security. On U.S.-Israel relations, 72 percent view Prime Minister Netanyahu’s handling of the relationship favorably, while 21 percent see it unfavorably. For President Obama’s handling of U.S.-Israel relations, 61 percent approve and 33 percent disapprove. On prospects for Arab-Israeli peace, 7 percent said the chances have increased compared to a year ago, 33 percent said they decreased, and 56 percent said they stayed the same.

The economy by all measures is in a recession with deepening concerns that America is headed over a fiscal cliff. Even so, 64 percent of Florida Jewish voters approve, and 33 percent disapprove, of the way President Obama is handling the economy.

The American Jewish Committee is a 501(c)(3) not-for profit, non-partisan organization that neither endorses nor opposes candidates for elected office. AJC has commissioned surveys of American Jews for many years on a range of key questions as a contribution to better understanding of the American Jewish community.

Dem. Candidate Fitzgerald – A Tale of Two Women

Democrat candidate for Congress Keith Fitzgerald is trailing by double digits in the polls against incumbent Congressman Vern Buchanan. He is looking to boost his campaign. The campaign has invited Sandra Fluke to improve Fitzgerald’s popularity. But there is another woman who may deflate his popularity, his sister Linda (Fitzgerald) Huber.

Linda Fitzgerald Huber with Rep. Vern Buchanan

Linda (Fitzgerald) Huber, the sister of congressional candidate Keith Fitzgerald, has endorsed U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s re-election, saying “Buchanan is exactly what we need in Congress.” Huber praised Buchanan’s positive vision for creating jobs, restoring prosperity to America and protecting Medicare benefits for seniors.

“Vern’s background as a businessman is exactly what we need in Congress,” Huber said in a statement released by the Buchanan campaign. “I support his agenda to grow the economy and create jobs while protecting Medicare.”

Huber also donated to Buchanan’s re-election campaign.

Huber, who lives in Kentucky, reached out to Buchanan last month to offer her endorsement. “We’re honored to have her support,” said campaign spokeswoman Sally Tibbetts.

According to a Fitzgerald campaign email sent by Julia Gill, Finance Director, “We invite you to join us on Saturday, September 29th for a special evening reception with women’s health advocate, Sandra Fluke.” Sandra Fluke is a Georgetown Law School graduate with no background in healthcare or being an advocate for healthcare. Fluke advocates on the importance of requiring insurance plans to cover birth control, requiring all insurance plans to have a contraception mandate.

The email goes on to say, “Sandra first came into the national spotlight in February of 2012 when Republicans refused to allow her to testify to the House Oversight and Government Relations Committee on the importance of insurance plans to cover the cost of birth control. She later came under attack by right-wing talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, for being a national voice for women’s reproductive health. Earlier this month, Sandra was a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention.”

Gill states, “Keith Fitzgerald is the only candidate in Florida’s 16th Congressional District who has been an advocate for women’s health in the Florida Legislature and will continue to be one as a Member of the United States Congress.”

According to the Florida Family Policy Council Democrats Keith Fitzgerald and Ted Deutch offered HB 169 to the Florida legislature for consideration:

“This bill pushes what is called ‘comprehensive sex education’ upon our young people and requires teaching children about homosexual acts and how to use all of the available contraception devices. While giving a cursory mention of abstinence, the bill assumes the sexual involvement of most young people and by doing so the policy will actually encourage sexual experimentation by younger children”

Additionally, Fitzgerald co-sponsored HB 3: Gay Adoption, which allow gays to adopt foster children. He co-sponsored HCR 8003: Equal Rights Amendment, which is supported by feminists and gives additional legislative powers to the Congress.

According to Project Vote Smart, Fitzgerald has consistently voted a pro-abortion agenda.

Fitzgerald voted against holding teachers accountable for their classroom performance. He voted against increasing graduation requirements for public school students. He voted for the expansion of gambling and for funding of a costly commuter train system in Orlando, Florida. He voted against cutting property taxes and against a property tax cap. He voted to increase state university tuition but against teaching evolution in Florida public schools. He voted against expansion of private school scholarships. He voted against off shore drilling but for expansion of Medicaid eligibility. He voted to allow for the use of public funds to build stadiums for baseball franchises that have been in Florida since 1993.

While a legislator Fitzgerald voted against the sense of the Florida legislature to try terrorists in Guantanamo Bay. The vote took place the same week terrorist Omar Ahmed Khadr, who killed a U.S. Special Forces soldier in Afghanistan, was being tried in New York City.

UPDATE:

Hat tip to Tad MacKie of Sarasota for pointing out that, “Fitzgerald voted AGAINST a bill that would make it a crime to kill an unborn child, during the commission of a crime against the pregnant mother. See : http://votesmart.org/bill/4241.”

American Airlines Lays Off Over 1,000 in Florida

Gov. Rick Scott issued the following statement after American Airlines’ announcement that it expects to reduce their Florida workforce by more than 1,000 workers before the end of the year:

“American Airlines’ announcement today is certainly bad news for their company and a setback for hundreds of Florida families. We are focused on growing our economy so every Floridian has access to a great job because we know that having the opportunity to work hard and provide for your children is the heart of the American dream.

“I asked the Department of Economic Opportunity Director Hunting Deutsch to work with the Southwest Florida Workforce Investment Board, the Beacon Council, the Miami Chamber of Commerce and the associated labor unions to immediately develop a plan to transition these highly skilled aviation workers into other jobs. We know that Florida workers want to work, and assisting them in identifying other opportunities in our state is a top priority.”

The Mass Layoff Statistics (MLS)* from the US Department of Labor report that during the period February to July 2012 there have been 470 “Layoff Events” in Florida. 

According to the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics Florida has seen a decline in the labor force. In February 2012 there were 9,297,200 in the labor force. In July that number dropped to 9,269,500. Since February 27,700 left the workforce in Florida. During the same period 26,700 jobs were added and the unemployment rate dropped from 9.4 to 8.8 percent. The decline in the workforce may be reflected in the decline in unemployment and skew the number.

On January 1, 2013 Florida is expected to lose over 79,400 defense and defense related jobs due to mandated cut backs in defense spending, known as sequestration. Other jobs are expected to be lost as mandated cuts of $1.2 trillion are implemented. Defense contractors are required by law to send out layoff notifications beginning this month.

*The Mass Layoff Statistics (MLS) program collects reports on mass layoff actions that result in workers being separated from their jobs. Monthly mass layoff numbers are from establishments which have at least 50 initial claims for unemployment insurance (UI) filed against them during a 5-week period. Extended mass layoff numbers (issued quarterly) are from a subset of such establishments—where private sector nonfarm employers indicate that 50 or more workers were separated from their jobs for at least 31 days.

Department of Defense Has Never Performed an Audit

Today, Concerned Veterans for America (CVA) released its second case study in a series launched last month entitled ‘Defend & Reform’. This study is called “Hiding in Plain Sight: Time for a Pentagon Audit.”

“Did you know that the Department of Defense has never performed an independent audit of its finances? With the national debt now surpassing more than $16 trillion and annual budget deficits exceeding $1 trillion, now is the time,” notes CVA.

Pete Hegseth, Chief Executive Officer of CVA, states, “We should seize this moment—with the nation on the edge of a fiscal cliff—to bring greater discipline, transparency and accountability to reforming the defense budget. This study highlights the need for a long overdue audit to the financial operations of the Pentagon.”

You may read the full case study by clicking below.

Open publication – Free publishing

You may read part one “One Year Later: The Closing of Joint Forces Command” by clicking below.

WARNING: Taxmageddon Coming to Florida on 1/1/2013

According to the Heritage Foundation, “On January 1st, 2013, there will be a $494 billion tax increase on you. This is the highest single-year tax hike in U.S. history. We call it taxmageddon.”

“Taxmageddon is coming from a variety of income tax rates increases, a higher death tax, new taxes from Obamacare, and many more. These tax hikes will primarily hit the middle class, with the dreaded Alternative Minimum Tax being the worst offender. You need to see the details to grasp just how bad it is,” states the Heritage Foundation.

The Heritage Foundation has broken out these federal tax hikes by state, so Floridians may see how bad taxmageddon is for them. According to the analysis Florida will see a total federal tax increase of $34.37 billion. With an average income per tax return of $65,085 that results in an average federal tax increase of $3,669 per tax return.

To view the impact of Taxmageddon on you and your state please click here.

Officers of the Court Using Government Computers for Political Gain

There is growing evidence that State Attorneys and Judges in Florida are using government computers for personal or political gain.

Florida has “Sunshine Laws”. According to the Florida Attorney General’s Government Under the Sunshine website:

Florida began its tradition of openness back in 1909 with the passage of Chapter 119 of the Florida Statutes or the ‘Public Records Law’. Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law was enacted in 1967. These statutes establish a basic right of access to most meetings of boards, commissions and other governing bodies of state and local governmental agencies or authorities.”

According to the Attorney General, “The definition of what constitutes ‘public records’ has come to include not just traditional written documents such as papers, maps and books, but also tapes, photographs, film, sound recordings and records stored in computers.” Chapter 286 of the Florida Statues gives the public basic rights to access to public records.

Recently public records requests have exposed Judges and State Attorneys using government computers for personal or political gain.

The Tampa Bay Times in an August 22, 2012 column on The Buzz reports, “State Attorney Robert ‘Skip’’ Jarvis of Live Oak [FL] has reached an agreement that will allow him to avoid prosecution for using law enforcement databases to research his political opponents and others.”

The Tampa Bay Times column notes, “The investigation of Jarvis began earlier this year when San Fillipo, a former assistant for Jarvis, complained to FDLE that his former boss had improperly researched state and federal records concerning his wife. Details of the investigation were included in a report King submitted to the governor’s office. FDLE agents determined that Jarvis had also conducted other searches that appeared to be improper, including a search of records relating to the wife of his Republican opponent.”

On April 12, 2012 Mr. Joel Chandler, a citizen, filed a public records request involving State Attorney Edward Brodsky, who serves as Assistant State Attorney in Florida’s 12th Judicial Circuit. After a number of communications between Chandler and Brodsky a lawsuit was filed seeking over 300 emails that Brodsky has not released. According to the lawsuit, “This is an action seeking a writ of mandamus and declaratory relief for a violation of the Florida Public Records Act by Eduardo Brodsky, Chief Assistant State Attorney for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit.  Plaintiff contends that Mr. Brodsky has unlawfully refused to produce public records in his possession to which no valid exemption applies.”

The lawsuit states, “Based  on information and belief, included  within the  364 pages of material withheld are public records to  which  no valid  exemption  applies. Review of other records obtained from other sources indicates that items included in the withheld material are records relating to official government business. Mr. Brodsky utilized his governmental e-mail address to conduct substantial governmental business, including the e-mail records sought here.”

Watchdog Wire previously reported on the use of 12th Circuit Court computers, including emails exchanges between Brodsky and Judge Janette Dunnigan, were used to coordinate a fund raising event for the Brodsky campaign. The email violates Canon 7 of the Judicial Code of Ethics and it is a crime under Florida Statutes. Cannon 7 states all judges shall not “publicly endorse or publicly oppose another candidate for public office.”

A concern among citizens is when requesting public records for officers of the court, the determination of what is and is not a public record is determined after the fact. 

According to Dennis Menendez, Chief Information Officer for the 12th Circuit, the email from Judge Dunnigan, “was previously reviewed for another public records request and was determined to be a private email not subject to public disclosure pursuant to Florida Rule of Judicial Administration 2.420(c) and case law.  See State v. City of Clearwater, 863 So. 2d 149 (Fla. 2003) and In re Amendments to Rule of Judicial Administration 2.051-Public Access to Judicial Records, 651 So. 2d 1185 (Fla. 1995).”

When a public records request is made it is then that the officer of the court determines whether it is private or public. For most citizens the use of any government computer during working hours would constitute public use and must therefore be open to Florida’s Sunshine Laws.

It appears officers of the court live by a different set of rules.

A citizen went to both the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office and State Attorney’s Office for the 12th Circuit to file criminal charges against Judge Dunnigan. Both offices refused to take the complaint. The citizen believes there is probable cause that Florida Statute 104.31 was violated by Judge Dunnigan. FS 104.31 states in part:

No officer or employee of the state, or of any county or municipality thereof, except as hereinafter exempted from provisions hereof, shall:

(a) Use his or her official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with an election or a nomination of office or coercing or influencing another person’s vote or affecting the result thereof.

(b) Directly or indirectly coerce or attempt to coerce, command, or advise any other officer or employee to pay, lend, or contribute any part of his or her salary, or any money, or anything else of value to any party, committee, organization, agency, or person for political purposes.

Florida Statute 106.15(4) – makes it a crime to use state property (email server, computer) for campaign purposes. Florida Statute 104.31 – makes it a crime for a state employee to participate in campaign activities while on duty (this email was sent on a date and time when Dunnigan was working on duty as a Judge.

The Florida judicial system appears to protect rather than prosecute its members under Florida’s Sunshine Laws. Perhaps it is time for Governor Rick Scott to appoint a State Attorney to investigate the case of Judge Dunnigan, as he did in the case of Mr. Jarvis?

First Amendment Rights Under Attack in Florida

Two Florida cities may have violated the First Amendment to the US Constitution with recent actions taken against local citizens. Those two cities are Venice and Winter Park, Florida.

The First Amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The City of Venice, Florida may have violated the First Amendment ” free exercise” clause when it fined Shane and Marlene Roessiger for holding a Bible study class in their home. Bethany Monk in her Citizen Link column, “Florida Town Threatens Family Over Bible Studies” reports:

The city of Venice, Fla., says a family that welomes six to 10 people in their home for a Friday night prayer meeting is breaking the law — and if the meetings continue, they could be forced to pay stiff penalties.

City officials say Shane and Marlene Roessiger’s group, called In Him Ministries, violates a city code prohibiting a “house of worship” from meeting on property that is less than 2.49 acres in size.

Brad Dacus, president of the Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), told CitizenLink the city is violating the family’s rights.

“This nation was built upon people being able to gather and pray and have Bible studies in their homes,” Dacus said. “Many churches are founded upon that as the beginning of their churches. For cities to be allowed to get away with this is totalitarian.”

Venice City Code Enforcement Officials are also threatening the family with fines of $250 per day for having a small sign in their yard that reads “Need Prayer?” followed by the family’s phone number. The code makes exceptions for political signs, however, which are present throughout the neighborhood.

Dacus said PJI will represent the Roessigers free of charge. “And we will do so until we [receive] final justice on their behalf,” he said.

The City of Winter Park, Florida may have violated the First Amendment “right to peaceably assemble” clause when the City Commission voted to shut down most if not all protests within fifty feet of any home and outlaw protests in any residential area. Freedom Outpost in its column City Prepares To Outlaw First Amendment reports:

Winter Park, Florida’s City Commission gave a preliminary approval to make an “emergency public safety ordinance” permanent. It would effectively shut down most if not all protests within fifty feet of any home and no ability to protest in a residential area. This is the First Amendment under attack.

The ban comes after pro-life protestors picketed the home of a notable resident on August 18. Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando CEO Jenna Tosh said, “I literally had to push through these folks who were carrying massive protest signs and signs that said, ‘Jenna Tosh kills babies and hurts women.’”

That night the Commission passed and emergency 60-day ordinance that banned protesting in residential areas. Then on September 10 they voted to make that ordinance permanent.

Isaac Babcock from the Winter Park/Maitland Observer reports, “The 4-1 vote, which was opposed on the Commission by Mayor Ken Bradley, grabbed the interest of a local constitutional lawyer, who said the city went ‘way too far’ to stop anyone from protesting within 50 feet of a residential home in the city. Attorney and UCF political science instructor Derek Brett said the ordinance would ban protesting in ‘huge swaths of the city,’ referring to it as ‘unconstitutionally overboard’.”

City attorneys claim the ordinance will hold up in court. They cite Frisby v. Schultz that was decided by the Supreme Court in 1988. The Court ruled 6-3 that the First Amendment right to freedom of assembly and protest was not violated when the the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, suburb of Brookfield passed an ordinance banning protests outside the home of Dr. Victoria, who performed abortions.