The Keyser Soze School Of Ruthless Politics

If you’ve seen the movie The Usual Suspects then you know that Keyser Soze is not a nice guy. But he’s sort of the good guy.

Somebody is going to take advantage of you and your political party. It’s not a question of if, just when. And if you’re not ready for it, everything you’ve built could come tumbling down.

To quote the movie, this is what you’re up against:

“There was a gang of Hungarians that wanted their own mob. They realized that to be in power, you didn’t need guns or money or even numbers. You just needed the will to do what the other guy wouldn’t.”

And this is the Keyser Soze solution:

“And then he showed these men of will what will really is.”

A Test Of Political Will And Integrity

The ruthless political tactics that some people use are void of integrity. They’re so far over the the ethical line that it should be criminal. Most of the time it’s not. Not exactly.

With experience, you learn to see it coming and you can just walk away from the political deal. But even the most savvy political people get taken from time to time. And this is where you have to make a choice.

Do you keep your integrity intact? Or do you get ruthless?

Okay, let’s switch gears here and get a little more serious. The truth is, there are some good, solid political practices that you can follow when you’re neck-deep in it with ruthless politicians.

Real Political Solutions For Bad Political Situations:

  1. Stay afloat. Don’t ignore your good constituents. It helps you moving forward and brings some light to a dark day.
  2. Keep cool and calm. Overreacting is acting without thinking. The ruthless gang of politicians you’re dealing with expect it. They’re probably even hoping for it.
  3. Strategize. You need a comprehensive plan. And maybe tightening up the political ship. You want to figure out their possible reactions to your action. And how you’re going to steer the political situation to make their reactions mute. The best political plans forge forward no matter what they say or do. Or don’t say and don’t do.
  4. Be persistent. Stick to your guns and execute your political plan. If you can’t go around them, keep banging on the door until someone answers and meets your demands to rectify the political situation. Every day, go back and bang on the door again. And twice on the Sunday talk shows.
  5. Learn. Don’t get in deeper once you realize there’s a problem. And if there are similar loose ends in other areas of your politics, tie them up so it doesn’t happen again. Exercising some basic political due diligence is important. ‘Cause you never know.

Predatory politicians will always be around. They move from place to place constantly; they’re always there for a good time, not a long time.

Hold them in one spot for long enough, and just like sharks, they can’t breathe.

Sorry Keyser. We don’t need you on this one.

This column is an adaptation of the The Keyser Soze School Of Ruthless Business posted by Shane in 2007.

RELATED COLUMNS:

The Fiscal Cliff And The Keyser Soze Option

More Members of Congress Threaten to Take Economy Over the Fiscal Cliff

Clip from the movie The Usual Suspects:

Judge: Pinellas term limits case will proceed

Courtesy of Philip Blumel from Florida Term Limits Blog:

Pinellas county commissioners who refuse to comply with Pinellas County’s voter-approved 8-year term limits law are in denial. They had hoped for a summary dismissal as the citizen’s case as ‘frivolous.’

But on Nov. 28, Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge John A. Schaefer refused to dismiss the suit, suggesting that citizens may be correct that Commissioners Ken Welch, Susan Latvala, John Morroni and Karen Seel are serving on the Pinellas Commission in violation of the county charter.

In 1996, some 73 percent of Pinellas voters approved an 8-year term limits law which, according the Pinellas Charter, went into effect on Jan. 1, 1997. This gave commissioners an additional eight years in office before the term limit kicked in. However, commissioners refused to insert the term limits language into the charter and eight years later commissioners refused to leave.

Commissioners justified their rebellion by claiming county commission term limits are unconstitutional, citing a 2002 case in which the Supreme Court of Florida found term limits on constitutional officers to be unconstitutional. Relying on this interpretation, they simply ignored a local Pinellas court decision in 2000 to the contrary without even bothering to appeal it!

The only trouble with the constitutionality excuse is that the Supreme Court never ruled on the issue of county commission term limits and when it did, in May of this year, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that, yes, county commission term limits are constitutional and always were. The Supremes even went so far as to overturn their previous split decision on constitutional officers. Oops.

Following the Supreme Court ruling, three Pinellas residents connected with Save Pinellas filed a suit to compel compliance with the term limits provision in the charter.

In yesterday’s decision, the judge ruled that the Supervisor of Elections must be dropped from the suit and other minor changes, but that the core of the complaint had merit. It is unlikely there will be any resolution of this until at least Spring 2013.

If the lawsuit is successful, the governor would have to appoint four new people to fill the vacant seats until the next election.

ABOUT PHILIP BLUMEL:

Philip Blumel is president of U.S. Term Limits, a single-issue advocacy group based in Fairfax, VA, and a certified financial planner working out of downtown West Palm Beach, FL.

Florida’s High School Graduation Rates – a Shocking Report

For the first time ever, new data details just how many students by race are not graduating high school in each state. The data, released by the US Department of Education, measures how many ninth graders graduate with a standard diploma within four years.

The 2010-2011 results indicate that affirmative action may be a failure.

As Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray in The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life state, “The practice of affirmative action has been a classic example of the ‘everything not forbidden is compulsory’ mentality, as the idea of forbidding people to discriminate by race mutated into the idea of compelling everyone to help produce equal outcomes by race.” Herrnstein and Murray noted, “It is a mark of how far things have gone that many people no longer can see the distinction between ‘not interfering’ and ‘treating the same’.”

Have we reached that point where the data shows that efforts to interject fairness into our education system have failed?

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “By using this new measure, states will be more honest in holding schools accountable and ensuring that students succeed. Ultimately these data will help states target support to ensure more students graduate on time, college and career.”

The School Year 2010-11 Four-Year Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rates for Florida are:

All Students – 71%
American Indian/Alaska Native or Native American – 70%
Asian/Pacific Islander – 86%
Black (not Hispanic) or African American – 59%
Hispanic/Latino – 69%
White (not Hispanic) or Caucasian – 76%
Children with disabilities (IDEA) – 44%
Limited English proficient (LEP) Students – 53%
Economically Disadvantaged Students – 60%
Asian – 86%

What does this data tell us? Nothing new really.

Asian and white students graduate at a higher rate than blacks and Hispanic/Latinos. Economically disadvantaged students do one percentage point better than black students. The District of Columbia has the worst graduation rate in the nation at 59%, while Iowa has the highest at 88%.

According to Take Part, “Despite the District of Columbia State Board of Education being only 1.4 miles (a walk through the capital building) from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s office, Washington, D.C. ranked dead last in national graduation rates at 59 percent. D.C. boasts the largest disparity in the country between white students and minority students who graduated during the 2010-2011 school year. Eighty-five percent of white students graduated, while only 55 percent of Latinos and 58 percent of black students earned their diploma. Iowa graduated 88 percent of students. Every major racial and ethnic group had a graduation rate over 73 percent.”

While Secretary Duncan points out this data is a snap shot, it is revealing in that it tells us what we are doing in public education is not working.

Graduating from high school is a key indicator of future success, even more so than a college degree. Studies show that states have been lowering standards for graduation. States and the federal government have poured more money into education than any other industrialized nation. Yet public schools are not graduating our young. Millions of our youth are without a high school diploma, even one that is watered down to the point of becoming meaningless.

With nearly 7000 students dropping out each day, a study from the Alliance for Excellent Education predicts that 12 million students will drop out in the next decade.

Herrnstein and Murray found, “As of the end of the twentieth century, the United States is run by rules that are congenial to people with high IQs and that make life difficult for everyone else … The systems have been created, bit by bit, over decades, by people who think that complicated, sophisticated operationalizations of fairness, justice, and right and wrong are ethically superior to simple black and white versions.”

The data is black and white. Will we continue as a nation to force the Utopian ideal of equal outcomes on the education system, or not? Are equal outcomes achievable? Is doing the same thing getting different results? These are the questions.

Herrnstein and Murray suggest as their first policy prescription: A wide range of social functions should be restored to the neighborhoods when possible and otherwise to the municipality. Perhaps it is time to get back to neighborhood schools?

UPDATE: Black Friday For Israel (Video and Photos Added)

It is Black Friday, November 23, 2012. While many are going shopping a group of Floridians will be gathering at 3:00 p.m. EST in Sarasota for the Solidarity Demonstration for Israel.

Among them will be Pastor Paul Scheele. Pastor Paul, Senior Pastor at Congregational United Church of Christ, has been serving congregations for over 30 years, the last 10 years in Bradenton. Florida. He was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and left there in 1960 to enroll in the U.S. Navel Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. While at the Navel Academy, Pastor Paul felt a powerful call to Christian Ministry and transferred to Lakeland College, a church related school in Wisconsin.

Pastor Scheele gave WDW an exclusive interview explaining why he supports Israel:

The Solidarity sponsor is the Sarasota/Manatee Jewish Federation (JFED). According to the JFED website, “Israel, like any other country in the world, has the right to self-defense in light of rocket attacks aimed at harming and killing innocent civilians in their homes, schools and hospitals.”

“For most of us, red is the color of roses, but for almost 13 years, Color Red is the code for danger for more than one million Israelis living near the Gaza Strip. It means you have 15 seconds to find a secure location before missiles hit”, notes the JFED Israel Advocacy website.

Howard Tevlowitz, Executive Director of the JFED, stated in a recent email, “As most of us sleep soundly in our beds in Sarasota, Bradenton, Longboat Key, Venice, Northport and Siesta Key – millions of Israelis are now regularly passing the hours of darkness in fear.”

Tevlowitz wrote, “If Hamas has the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, why do they engage in terrorism that is only counterproductive to peace? The answer is simple. Hamas targets Israel because it refuses to accept Israel’s existence as the democratic nation state of the Jewish people.”

UPDATE: The crowd at the Solidarity event was estimated at 500 people. Below are photos taken at the event. There were no counter protesters and the event was held peacefully and without incident. Attendees were of all faith, secular, all races and from all political parties.

View from stage.

View from back at the rally facing the stage

Supporters with signs

The JFED provided the below graphic to emphasize how vulnerable Israel is to rocket attack:

Click on map for larger view

Tevlowitz concludes by stating, “No government should, or would, tolerate a situation where nearly a fifth of its people – over one million – live under a constant threat of fire, including Israel. Just like any other country, Israel has the inalienable right — indeed the obligation — to defend its citizens from attack. Yet, inexplicably, some still question it.”

Exclusive interviews with SE Florida residents courtesy of METV and the JFED:

IDF Soldiers spell out Netanyahu as a ‘loser’ for not using ground forces in Gaza

According to the Times of Israel,  “The IDF Spokesman’s Office said Thursday it was looking into a photograph circulating widely on Facebook in which 16 IDF soldiers arranged their uniformed bodies on the sand, to spell out the Hebrew words “Bibi loser” — in a deft physical critique of Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu’s failure to send ground troops into Gaza during the just-ended Operation Pillar of Defense.” READ MORE…

 The following was received by WDW from the Israeli Consul General in Miami:

Consul General Chaim Shacham

Main Message: Operation “Pillar of Defense” has improved the security of the State of Israel and the safety of its citizens. It has demonstrated the determination of Israel to defend its civilians against terrorist attack, while doing its utmost to avoid harm to the civilians of Gaza behind whom the terrorists were hiding.

Detailed Points:

1. Quiet will be answered with quite. If the quite is violated, Israel will respond with appropriate force. The understanding achieved is that the fire will be ceased as of 2100 (2PM EDT) and after 24 hours of calm, issues of concern to the parties can be discussed (though not directly).

2. The military operation was carried out according to plan and achieved many significant objectives: senior terrorist commanders were killed and most of the missiles aimed at the center of the country were disabled, as well as thousands of shorter range rockets.

3. The international community has expressed full support for Israel’s right to defend itself. Israel was able to put together an international coalition against Hamas, much like the international coalition formed against Iran.

4. Israel thanks the US for its support of the operation and the Iron Dome system, as well as its willingness to help prevent future arms smuggling into Gaza.

5. Israel also welcomes the contribution of Egypt to stopping rocket attacks against its civilians

6. Iron Dome has proven to be a strategic asset – it says lives strengthens the home front and reduces the enemy’s motivation to attack.

7. Israeli citizens demonstrated remarkable resilience.

8. As seen in the past, it may take time for the cease-fire to take hold.

9. The operation has provided leverage in the struggle against Iran, which has armed, financed and trained the terrorist organizations in Gaza.

10. Intelligence has shown that Hamas was surprised by the intensity of the reaction, and has regretted precipitating an Israeli reaction. It has lost the head of its military wing, its long-range missiles and much of its arsenal

11. Israel has re-established deterrence, and demonstrated to a turbulent region that it will not shy away from take action against threats to its citizens.

Consulate General of Israel to Florida & Puerto Rico

Chaim Shacham
Consul General
www.consulateisrael.com

RELATED COLUMN: OBAMA HELPED HAND VICTORY TO HAMAS AND THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD

Petraeus asked socialite to stop Florida radio host planning to “deep fat fry” the Qur’an

Courtesy of Jihad Watch:

Bubba the Love Sponge

Petraeus and Allen knew that if this happened, Muslims in Afghanistan and elsewhere would like start rioting and killing innocent people. And rather than stand up and say that it was madness to rampage and kill over a stunt by a man named Bubba the Love Sponge (or anyone else), they tried instead to stop the stunt from happening.

Petraeus and Allen thereby reinforced (yet again) the principle that violent intimidation and terrorism work, signaling to Islamic supremacists and jihadists that if they were willing to kill people to shut Americans up, rather than stand up for the freedom of expression they would work to shut Americans up as well.

“Petraeus asked socialite to avert anti-Islam stunt,” from AFP, November 17:

WASHINGTON — A Florida socialite at the heart of a scandal that brought down the CIA chief was once asked by him to stop a radio talk show host who was threatening to “deep fat fry” the Koran, US media reported early on Saturday.
That account, which comes from emails sent by socialite Jill Kelley, offers a new glimpse at her relationship with Petraeus and other senior military officials.

In March, a Florida radio talk show host named Todd Alan Clem but known as Bubba the Love Sponge said he was going to “deep fat fry” a copy of the Koran as a stunt, the reports said.

Gen. John Allen, commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, and CIA director David Petraeus, both asked Kelley, who lives in Tampa, to try to intervene and stop the radio host by contacting the city’s mayor, Bob Buckhorn.

“I have Petraeus and Allen both emailing me about getting this dealt with,” Kelley wrote to the mayor, according to NBC News.

The generals saw the “Bubba” announcement as a potential threat to the safety of US troops stationed in Islamic countries.

Defacing the Koran is forbidden in Islam and in the past plans to burn the Muslim holy book by a controversial Christian pastor in Florida sparked deadly protests across the Muslim world….

According to Examiner.com:

The Tampa based radio host and long time Howard Stern Show bro was named in a newly released series of emails between General David Petraeus’ scandal figure Jill Kelley and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. Kelley and Buckhorn exchanged emails about Bubba the Love Sponge in March 2012 after BTLS threatened to deep fat fry a Koran on air.

According to the emails, both Petraeus and General John Allen contacted Mayor Buckhorn directly asking him to intervene and stop the stunt for fear that U.S. troops could be endangered. Buckhorn turned to Kelley, a “Tampa socialite” who has experience smoothing over sticky situations, for help.

RELATED COLUMNS:

Islam indoctrination in U.S. textbooks

Petraeus’ Jill Kelley has history with Bubba the Love Sponge

Leaders in Florida Should Seize Momentum to Reject Health Insurance Exchanges

Tallahassee, Florida— Today Americans for Prosperity (AFP) the nation’s largest and most effective advocate for economic freedom released the following statement calling on state leaders to reject the state-based health insurance exchanges.

“State leaders should join the growing chorus in sending a strong message to Washington that their states will not implement these flawed health insurance exchanges,” said Slade O’Brien, Florida State Director. “Exchanges will increase prices on consumers and increase taxes on hardworking families.”

Multiple governors have announced this week that they will not create an exchange. This list now includes Mike Pence (IN), John Kasich (OH), Robert Bentley (AL), Bobby Jindal (LA), Sam Brownback (KS), Rick Perry (TX), Nikki Haley (SC), Nathan Deal (GA), Robert McDonnell (VA) and Jay Nixon (MO). AFP applauds these steps.

“It is disconcerting to see Florida’s legislative leaders urging the Governor to create a state-based health insurance exchange. AFP strongly opposes any and all attempts to create an exchange and expand Florida’s Medicaid program” O’Brien continued.

The federal government is offering unlimited grants to states to create an exchange between now and the end of 2014. All exchanges must be self-funding starting in 2015. Each governor must notify the federal government by Friday, November 16, 2012, of his or her decision whether to create a state-based health insurance exchange, defer to the federal government or partner on a hybrid-exchange.

“Federal funds are flowing freely to buy state compliance, but state budgets will take the hit in two short years,” said Nicole Kaeding, AFP state policy manager. “Creating an exchange puts state taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars every year. States should reject these bloated bureaucracies.”

Americans for Prosperity (AFP) is a nationwide organization of citizen-leaders committed to advancing every individual’s right to economic freedom and opportunity. AFP believes reducing the size and intrusiveness of government is the best way to promote individual productivity and prosperity for all Americans. For more information, visit www.americansforprosperity.org

Florida’s Fiscal Cliff Hanger

Florida’s government run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has more than 1.4 million policyholders statewide. However, that number only reflects approximately 23 percent of Florida’s homeowners insurance market leaving 77 percent of Florida homeowners subsidizing Citizens policies.

According to Americans for Prosperity – Florida, “Nearly half (45 percent) of all Citizens policies in the State of Florida are held by residents living in just four counties – Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe Counties. Only two counties out of 67 have a majority of their homeowners insurance policies with Citizens (Miami-Dade and Hernando Counties), meaning private policyholders in Florida’s other 65 counties are subsidizing Citizens’ homeowners insurance for residents of these two counties.”

AFP – Florida notes that in Miami-Dade and Hernando counties, 100 percent of renters, businesses, automobile policyholders, churches, charities, local governments and school boards are subsidizing their counties’ Citizens’ policyholders.

How did government take control of Florida’s property insurance?

It all started in 1972 when the Florida Windstorm Underwriting Association (FWUA) was created under Democrat Governor Reubin Askew to provide wind-only coverage in coastal regions. This was followed by the creation of the Florida Residential Property and Casualty Joint Underwriting Association (FRPCJUA). FRPCJUA was created in December, 1992 under Democrat Governor Lawton Chiles because hundreds of thousands of Floridians were unable to find homeowners insurance following Hurricane Andrew.

Finally, under Republican Governor Jeb Bush FWUA and FRPCJUA were merged in 2002, creating Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. Citizens offers wind-only and all-perils property insurance coverage to Floridians without private insurance options.

According to a September 2012 white paper from the Insurance Information Institute:

Limited availability of insurance coverage for the most vulnerable property was a problem before 1992, yet became amplified in Andrew’s aftermath.

By the end of 1992, the FWUA had fewer than 62,000 policies and an exposure measured by total insured value of $7.4 billion.1 Five years later, with the formation of the Florida Residential Property and Casualty Joint Underwriting Association (FRPCJUA), there were 417,342 policies in the FWUA, another 487,590 policies in the FRPCJUA with a combined exposure of more than $136 billion.2

As of June 2012, Citizens Property Insurance Corp., formed in 2002 through the merger of the FWUA and FRPCJUA, had more than 1.4 million policies in force with nearly $500 billion in exposure to risk.

Thomas C. Feeney, III, President & Chief Executive Officer, Associated Industries of Florida states, “It’s unfortunate that more than three quarters of Floridians, and all of Florida business owners, are burdened with the financial responsibility of subsidizing homeowners property insurance for some Floridians in addition to paying 100 percent of their own insurance premium. With estimates that suggest Citizens Property Insurance Corp. rates are roughly 33 percent below where they need to be in order to cover its risk and pay claims…”

“In addition to the unreasonable financial burden Citizens Property Insurance Corp. places on a majority of Floridians throughout the state, the structure of the state-run insurer has also allowed for subsidized, reckless development in the most hazardous and environmentally sensitive areas of Florida. It’s time to reform Citizens in order to protect Floridians from a financial perspective, while at the same time protecting Florida’s wildlife and coast,” says Manley Fuller, President, Florida Wildlife Federation.

The greatest threat to Florida, a.k.a. Citizens Insurance, is just one hurricane away from pushing all Floridians of a fiscal cliff.

RELATED COLUMN:

Florida property owners hit with massive tax increase.

Fired investigators uncovered evidence of misconduct at Citizens’ top levels

Florida Property Owners Hit With Massive Tax Increase

Florida property owners received their property insurance bills and found the line item “FL HURRICANE CAT FUND PREMIUM RECOUPMENT”.

When Watchdog Wire asked Citizen Insurance: Is this recoupment a tax increase on all homeowners? The reply was, “Yes, all Floridians assume the potential for assessments should Citizens run into a deficit situation.”

Unlike private carriers Citizens is not able to manage risk and reduce policy counts to manage such risk. As an insurer of last resort, created by Florida statute, Citizens must write most risks that apply for coverage.

This “recoupment” is a tax on every Florida property owner.

According to Citizens Insurance, “Citizens may levy an Emergency Assessment when Citizens incurs a deficit in any year and that deficit exceeds the amount to be collected by the Regular Assessment.” See Florida Statue 627.351(6).

That means that assessable policyholders could be assessed a maximum of 30 percent of assessable premium if there is a deficit in each of the 3 Citizens accounts. The Emergency Assessment can be spread over multiple years as was done in 2012.

The total dollar amount for the Citizen “emergency assessment” is $887,502,331 to be collected over a 10 year period. The original assessment was 1.4% but reduced to 1% by the Citizens Board of Governors. The assessment was discussed and approved by the Citizens Board of Governors at a publicly noticed meeting. The assessment was also approved by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

Citizens is responsible for paying hurricane and other covered claims to its policyholders. If Citizens funds are depleted after a catastrophic event, resulting in a deficit, assessments are levied. This ability to levy assessments provides Citizens with resources to pay claims after an event.

Below is a summary of the assessments and the order in which they are levied:

Policyholder Surcharge

· Citizens policyholders are the first to be assessed if a deficit occurs.
· The policyholder surcharge is levied only on Citizens policyholders and is a one-time surcharge.
· This assessment can be up to 15 percent of premium for each of Citizens’ 3 accounts. The assessment is levied for any account that has a deficit. That means that Citizens policyholders could be assessed a maximum of 45 percent of the policyholder’s premium if there is a deficit in all 3 of Citizens accounts.
· If the Citizens Policyholder Surcharge does not cure a deficit, additional assessments will be levied based on the account type:

o Coastal Account – Regular Assessment
o Commercial Lines Account (CLA) or Personal Lines Account (PLA) – Emergency Assessment

Regular Assessment

· A broad base of licensed Florida property and casualty insurance companies, including property and automobile insurers are assessed if a deficit remains.
· Companies must remit their portion of the Regular Assessment to Citizens within 30 days of a levy. They may recoup the assessment amount by passing it on to their policyholders.
· Insureds who purchase coverage from surplus lines insurers are also subject to the regular assessment.
· If there is a deficit in the Coastal Account, an assessment of up to 2 percent of premium or 2 percent of the deficit in the Coastal Account can be levied against assessable insurers and their policyholders.
· This assessment is a one-time assessment.
· Citizens policyholders are not charged this assessment.
· If the Citizens Policyholder Surcharge and the Regular Assessment do not cure the deficit in the Coastal Account, an Emergency Assessment will be levied.

Emergency Assessment

· A broad range of property and casualty policyholders, including Citizens policyholders, are assessed directly by their insurance companies. Insurers collect from their policyholders and forward to Citizens.
· For each of the 3 Citizens accounts, this assessment may not be more than 10 percent of the policy premium or 10 percent of the remaining deficit, whichever is greater.

According to the September 2012 Citizens Property Insurance Corporation rate hearing, “Citizens lost nearly $1 billion on sinkhole losses occurring in 2007-2011 with a loss ratio for sinkhole business for 2011 of 877%. This created net loss for the PLA for year ended 12/31/11 and resulted in less financial resources to pay for future hurricanes.”

Florida property owners gird your loins – another emergency assessment is on its way and it looks like a huge Sinkhole!

RELATED COLUMNS:

Fired investigators uncovered evidence of misconduct at Citizens’ top levels

Florida Insurance regulators remove 210,000 policies from Citizens, the state’s largest insurer

Citizens’ Insurance Looking To “De-Populate” Roles

Florida Has 3,756 Federal Employees Who Make More Than Governor Scott

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK)

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) asked the Congressional Research Service (CRS) to determine how many in state federal employees are making more than their Governor. Florida came in fifth highest with 3, 756 employees. The top five states are: Colorado 10,875, Maryland 7,283, Arizona 4,426, Alabama 4,299, and Florida 3,756. Delaware had the fewest federal employees making more than their governor at 37 employees.

According to CRS calculations 77,057 federal employees earned more in total annual pay as of September 2009 than their respective state governors earned in 2009.

The top three groups of federal employees in Florida making more than Governor Scott are in the Medical, Hospital, Dental, and Public Health Group (1,830), Transportation Group (588) and Legal and Kindred Group (483).

Table 12. Florida: Federal Employees Compensated at a Rate Greater Than the Governor’s Salary, by Occupational Group  shows the following breakdown. NOTE: Florida Governor’s salary is $132,932.

Occupational Group Federal Employees in Occupational Group Making More Than the Governor:

  • Accounting and Budget Group – 64
  • Business and Industry Group – 46
  • Copyright, Patent, and Trademark Group – 2
  • Education Group – 7
  • Engineering and Architecture Group – 272
  • General Administrative, Clerical, and Office Services Group – 223
  • Human Resources Management Group – 7
  • Information Technology Group – 13
  • Information and Arts Group – 2
  • Inspection, Investigation, Enforcement, and Compliance Group – 84
  • Legal and Kindred Group – 483
  • Mathematics and Statistics Group – 10
  • Medical, Hospital, Dental, and Public Health Group – 1,830
  • Miscellaneous Occupations Group – 16
  • Natural Resources Management and Biological Sciences Group – 40
  • Physical Sciences Group – 57
  • Congressional Research Service – 11
  • Social Science, Psychology, and Welfare Group – 12
  • Transportation Group – 588

Total 3,756

Sources: Governor’s salary information for 2009 was taken from the Council of State Governments, “State Government Compensation by Branch”. The
distribution of positions by occupational group was calculated by CRS using the Office of Personnel Management’s Central Personnel Data File from September 2009.

Read the report titled “Public Servants or Privileged Class: How State Government Employees Are Paid Better Than Their Private-Sector Counterparts“.

Watch this video from Citizens Against Government Waste:

Do we really need to hire more teachers and adminstrators?

The candidates for President have different strategies for dealing with education and visions of the role of  the federal government in public schools. President Obama has stated that he wants the federal government to hire more math and science teachers. Governor Romney says the decision on hiring teachers is best made at the state and local levels. Who is right? A new study sheds light on the hiring of teachers and administrators since 1992.

The findings show states have consistently hired more teachers and administrators, far outpacing the growth in student population.

According to Dr. Benjamin Scafidi’s November 2012 study The School Staffing Surge: Decades of Employment Growth in America’s Public Schools“Between 1950 and 2009, the number of K-12 public school students increased by 96 percent. During that same period, the number of full-time equivalent (FTE) school employees grew by 386 percent. Of those personnel, the number of teachers increased by 252 percent, while the ranks of administrators and other staff grew by 702 percent—more than 7 times the increase in students.”

America has more teachers than ever in the classroom and more administrators overseeing them.

Dr. Scafidi’s research found, “[I]f student growth had matched that of non-teaching personnel from 1992 to 2009 and if the teaching force had only grown 1.5 times faster than the pupil enrollment, American public schools would have an additional $37.2 billion to spend per year—the equivalent of an $11,700 a year increase in salary for every American public school teacher.”

According to the study from 1992 to 2009 Florida had an increase in student population of 33% with total school personnel increasing by 55%. From 1992 to 2009 teachers increased by 70% and administrators and other staff increased by 41%. 

In 2002, Floridians approved an amendment to the Florida Constitution that set limits on the number of students in core classes (Math, English, Science, etc.) in the state’s public schools. The class size amendment took effect in the 2010-2011 school year. It appears this amendment was ill advised as the number of teachers to pupils doubled despite the amendment.

The costs to meet Florida’s class size Constitutional mandates are negatively impacting overall education funding at the district level.

Dr. Scafidi states:

However, parents, other citizens, and policymakers may want to cast a wider net in looking for opportunities to improve the education offered to students. In contrast to the static student achievement in public schools (despite massive increases in taxpayer funding), school choice programs have a good track record. All forms of enhanced school choice tried in the U.S. have led to an improvement in academic outcomes—in just one case was there no effect—for those who remain in public schools. The most recent empirical study on that topic, by Figlio and Hart (2010),33 shows ‘evidence that public schools subject to more competitive pressure from private schools raised their test scores the most following the introduction of Florida’s program.’ They found that the greater the competition for Florida’s tax-credit scholarship program, the larger the benefits to Florida public school students. [Emphasis mine]

Florida has been a national leader in providing parents with school choice options.

According the the Department of Education website, “Florida’s A+ Education Plan was the impetus for policies and programs that thrust Florida into the spotlight as a national leader in providing parents and students with a wide array of school choice options directed to meet individual learning needs and styles.” Among these choices is charter schools.

According to the Florida DOE, “Charter schools are public schools of choice. They are very popular—and among the fastest growing school choice options in Florida. Charter schools are largely free to innovate, and often provide more effective programs and choice to diverse groups of students. Since 1996, the number of charter schools in Florida has grown to over 400 in 2010. Charter school student enrollment has grown well over 175,000 students.” For statistics on Florida charter schools click here.

Offering school choice options, particularly opening charter schools, remains in the hands of local school boards.

Sarasota County, Florida has been a leader in providing charter school options for public school students. The numbers of students enrolled in Sarasota County charter schools has gone from 1,807 in 2004-2005 to 5,728 in 2012-2013, an increase of 300%. At the same time the number of teachers, administrators and support personnel have all declined. Sarasota County is doing more with less, yet remains one of the top districts in Florida on FCAT scores.

The ratio of growth in teachers and administrators nation wide continues to outpace student growth. Florida is no exception but has experienced less of it compared to other states such as Hawaii and Ohio.  According to Table 2 – Comparing the Increase of Students to the Increase in Public School Employment, FY 1992 to FY 2009, Delaware, Florida and California are tied for third lowest with a ratio of growth of  1.5.

The demand by parents for charter schools is increasing. Does this study show that teacher quantity is not a factor but teacher quality is?

Half of Florida College Grads With Average Student Loan Debt of $23,054

According to Takepart.com, “Our student loan debt is $1 trillion and climbing. According to a new report, two-thirds of college seniors who graduated last year had student loan debt. The average was $26,600 per borrower. This is the highest average debt among students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in U.S. history.” In Florida 51% of college graduates had an average debt of $23, 054. For a list of Florida colleges and universities with tuition costs and average debt per student click here.

‘To make things even more difficult, unemployment for recent college grads was at 8.8 percent in 2011,” states Takepart.com.

Takepart.com issue a report, by the Project on Student Debt, showing which states have the largest student loan debt and highest college tuition, both public and private.

The Project on Student Debt report notes:

We estimate that two-thirds (66%) of college seniors who graduated in 2011 had student loan debt, with an average of $26,600 for those with loans.1 The five percent increase in average debt at the national level is similar to the average annual increase over the past few years. Also similar to previous years, about one-fifth of graduates’ debt is comprised of private loans.

State averages for debt at graduation from four-year colleges ranged widely in 2011, from $17,250 to $32,450. Graduates’ likelihood of having debt, and their average debt load, also varied widely by college.

High-debt states remain concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest, with low-debt states mainly in the West and South. Average debt continues to vary even more at the campus level than at the state level, from $3,000 to $55,250. Colleges with higher costs tend to have higher average debt, but there are many examples of high-cost colleges with low average debt, and vice versa.

Project on Student Debt states, “Recent college graduates have entered an enormously difficult job market, which poses particular challenges for those who need to begin paying back student loans. The unemployment rate for young college graduates in 2011 remained high at 8.8 percent, a slight decrease from 2010, which saw the highest annual rate on record for this group (9.1%). In addition, many more young graduates were considered underemployed. Among those who wanted to be working full time, as many as 19.1 percent were either working part time or had given up looking for work.3 Further, 37.8 percent of working young graduates had jobs that did not require a college degree, depressing their wages.”

To view the average student loan debt by state click here.

 

Tampa man sentenced for exporting millions of dollars of computer equipment to Iran

TAMPA, Fla. – A Tampa man was sentenced Thursday, October 19, 2012 to four years in federal prison for conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Iranian Transaction Regulations. He was also ordered to serve one year of supervised release and forfeit $10 million, which was traceable to proceeds from the offense. This sentence resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Export Enforcement.

Mohammad Reza “Ray” Hajian was born in Tehran, Iran. Reza Hajian is associated with several companies, including Nexiant LLC, P&P Computer, LLC. and Rh International LLC. Reza Hajian has 4 known relationships including Kostas Kerdemelidis, Leon Mavromatis and Nicholas Mavromatis and is located in Tampa, FL. Source: Florida Department of State last refreshed 5/20/2012 You may view Hajian’s connections in Florida by going here.

According to court documents, between 2003 and 2011, Mohammad Reza “Ray” Hajian, 57, of Tampa, conspired with others to unlawfully export sophisticated, enterprise-level computer and related equipment from the United States to Iran, in violation of the U.S. embargo. In an effort to conceal their activities, Hajian and his co-conspirators routed shipments of computers and related equipment, payments and travel between the United States and Iran through the United Arab Emirates. Hajian and his co-conspirators communicated with each other via email. They employed fake identities, fake end-users and coded language to mask the true nature of their activities. Hajian shipped approximately $14.85 million worth of computer and related equipment during the conspiracy.

According to Tampa Bay Online:

Hajian conspired to export the equipment without the required U.S. license from as early as 2003 through the autumn of 2011, prosecutors said.

During one shipment in 2009, Hajian emailed a co-conspirator a proposal to sell Hitachi Data Systems equipment for delivery to Iran through the United Arab Emirates, court documents said.

In May 2009, Hajian received wire transfers from an employee in the United Arab Emirates totaling $1 million, payment — at least in part — for the computer equipment.

Hajian then sent an email to an unnamed co-conspirator in Iran saying the sale was for $128,315.

In June 2009, Hajian made a shipment to the United Arab Emirates, “knowing that this shipment was destined for Iran and also caused the value of the shipment … to be significantly understated on export documentation,” court documents said.

“The magnitude and scope of the threats facing the United States has never been greater than today, and that’s why Homeland Security Investigations investigates individuals who try to export sensitive technologies to hostile nations,” said Sue McCormick, special agent in charge of HSI Tampa. “Homeland Security Investigations takes pride in protecting our country, and today’s sentencing is the latest example of our effective investigative efforts.”

“Today’s sentencing demonstrates the ongoing cooperation with our federal law enforcement partners to prevent U.S. technology from falling into the wrong hands. In this case, a key Iranian procurement network which could have been damaging to U.S. national security was shut down,” said Robert Luzzi, special agent in charge of the U.S. Department of Commerce/Bureau of Industry and Security’s Office of Export Enforcement Miami Field Office. “Parties who conspire to export to embargoed destinations such as Iran will be pursued and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Hajian pleaded guilty July 11. Three of his companies, RH International LLC, Nexiant LLC, and P & P Computers LLC, also pleaded guilty that same day.

Democrat Denies Stating: Illegals “better employees than Americans” But The Record Shows He Did

Keith Fitzgerald, Democrat candidate for Congress in Florida’s District – 13, is quoted in a 1997 Sarasota Herald-Tribune column stating, “[I]llegals are are often good hires … they’re better employees than Americans.” This came up during a debate with Representative Vern Buchanan this week. Buchanan paraphrased what Fitzgerald said in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune column. It is interesting that Fitzgerald, who wrote a book on illegal immigration, would deny what he wrote and re-stated in the column (see the below video).

Gordon Russell, author of the column reports, “…Fitzgerald says, people wouldn’t cross the border illegally if they weren’t certain they’d find work here. They usually do, so they keep coming.” The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) reports that illegal aliens costs to the state of Florida in 2009 as $5,462,614,142.

The FAIR website states, “According to the Census Bureau the foreign-born population of Florida was about 3,658,043 persons in 2010. This estimate meant a foreign-born population share of 19.5 percent … Between 2000 and 2010 the Census Bureau estimate indicates an average annual rate of change in the foreign-born population of about 96,314 people, compared to the state’s annual average population change of about 275,018 people. That is a 35 percent share of the state’s population change (not including the children born in the United States to illegal aliens).”

This is of note to Floridians because President Obama chastised Governor Romney for his comments about illegals “self-deporting” during the past Presidential debate as the best way to solve the large illegal alien population.

FAIR notes the following positions of the candidates:

Some of President Obama’s stances included:

  • support for a broad amnesty, including the DREAM Act;
  • touting his backdoor amnesty initiatives such as deferred action for those meeting the criteria of the DREAM Act, and focusing enforcement only upon illegal aliens who have committed serious crimes;
  • opposition to Arizona’s SB 1070; and
  • touting his efforts to reduce the time in which immigration officers have to approve visa applications.

Gov. Romney’s stances included:

  • opposition to a broad amnesty while supporting a military-only DREAM Act;
  • supporting E-Verify and other programs to promote attrition through enforcement;
  • opposing driver’s licenses for illegal aliens; and
  • supporting the stapling of green cards to the diplomas of foreign graduates of U.S. universities.

FAIR also notes, “Criminal aliens — non-citizens who commit crimes — are a growing threat to public safety and national security, as well as a drain on our scarce criminal justice resources. In 1980, our federal and state prisons housed fewer than 9,000 criminal aliens. Today, about 55,000 criminal aliens account for more than one-fourth of prisoners in Federal Bureau of Prisons facilities, and there are about 297,000 criminal aliens incarcerated in state and local prisons. That number represents about 16.4 percent of the state and local prison population compared to the 12.9 percent of the total population comprised of foreign-born residents.” Florida has the 8th highest illegal alien prison population.

Illegal aliens cost Floridians dearly to incarcerate, medicate and educate. With so many Americans out of work, is it not time to give the jobs to our legal workers? Today, few would agree that Americans would not fill the positions held by illegals.

VIDEO: Buchanan – Fitzgerald debate:

Family of Fallen Navy SEAL: Obama’s handling of Afghan War “Criminal”

Aaron Vaughn, Navy SEAL Team 6

Florida residents Billy and Karen Vaughn’s son Special Operations Chief Aaron Vaughn was one of the 22 Navy SEALs killed in the Chinook attack in Afghanistan on August 6, 2011. The Vaughn’s are raising questions about how the Obama administration has pushed the limits of Special Operations Forces as part of its war Afghanistan policy and how constrictive “rules of engagement” (ROI) intended to win the “hearts and minds” of the Afghan people are killing our special operators.

The Vaughn’s believe the ROI directly contributed to the death of their son Aaron and 38 others aboard the helicopter when it was shot down.

According to Breitbart’s Patrick Poole, “On August 6, 2011, while on their way to assist an ongoing mission in Wardak Province, Afghanistan, the CH-47D Chinook helicopter that they were riding in was shot down by an RPG fired by a Taliban fire team approaching their landing zone in Tangi Valley. All 38 American and Afghan service members who were aboard perished, including 17 Navy SEALS, 5 Navy Special Operations support personnel, 3 Air Force Special Tactics Airmen and the five-man Chinook crew, marking the largest loss of life in America’s 11 years of military operations in Afghanistan. Twenty of the twenty-two SEALs and SEAL support were from SEAL Team VI (DEVGRU).”

Poole lays out the Vaughn’s three major complaints about the failed Extortion 17 mission:

First: “One of the main concerns for the Vaughns is the operational tempo for special operations forces in Afghanistan. The CENTCOM report itself notes that in August 2009 the number of monthly objectives was 54. But in August 2011 – the month that the helicopter, ‘Extortion 17,’ was shot down – that number had grown to 334 objectives, more than a 600 percent increase in just two years.”

Second: “Another complaint heard by the Vaughns throughout the special operations community is that because so many special operations forces are in the field, they must rely on conventional forces and conventional equipment, rather than the specialized equipment typically used by special forces.”

Third: “Amazingly, because of the rules of engagement and the inability to determine whether there were any friendlies in the area, the Taliban team that shot Extortion 17 down was allowed to escape. The only fire from the escort craft noted in the CENTCOM report occurred several minutes after the crash to suppress any enemy attempting to approach the crash area.”

Poole quotes Karen Vaughn, mother of Aaron, stating, “When the families from the crash were meeting with the Army’s Investigation Team and Naval Officers, a father asked why they didn’t use a drone strike to take out the Taliban. A 3-star Admiral responded, ‘We are trying to win their hearts and minds’.”

Read the full column by clicking here.

The third and final Presidential Debate, with the topic foreign policy, will take place on Monday, October, 22nd. Will President Obama’s rules of engagement in Afghanistan come up in a question? Should Governor Romney make it an issue? Watchdog Wire will be doing pre and post-debate coverage of this important foreign policy/national security debate.

Video of Billy and Karen Vaughn discussing the circumstances surrounding their son’s death: