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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Florida 2012: Day One

I’ve been in Florida for 24 hours, but I’ve already seen ads galore.

Incumbent Senator, Florida Democrat, Bill Nelson, leads 14th District Congressional District Representative, Connie Mack by seven points among “likely voters” with 10% undecided. But the Senator isn’t taking any chances, and has been airing a spot that both attacks the Congressman’s vote to “end Medicare as we know it,” and ties him to the lascivious side of the Hooters restaurant chain, a history of bar brawls, road rage, debts, liens, unpaid bills, and a sense of entitlement, under the tagline “the rules are different for him.” This in the wake of the Congressman’s ad accusing the Senator of voting for a stimulus bill so wasteful it allocated $144,541 to the study of monkeys on cocaine. The fact that it was rated false by Politfact notwithstanding, this video was as memorable as it is absurd. And in the world of political mudslinging anything that the public and/or the pundits remember, counts as a win.

Discussion of world affairs in the 2012 presidential election has been so minimal it has left many wondering if either, President Obama, or Mitt Romney actually has a foreign policy. Both simply appear to be in possession of a wish list that includes increased trade with China, resolution of the European economic challenge, and the continuous use of the US military to wage a war on terror cells, and intimidate uncooperative nation-states. As previously discussed, this disinterest in the peoples of the globe has a number of ironies and adverse consequences. Nevertheless, the Bill Nelson v. Connie Mack contest has provided a rare opportunity to discuss the US’s role in Venezuela, the oil producing Latin American nation that helped found OPEC.

In October 2010, Hugo Chávez, United Socialist Party member, president of Venezuela since 1999, and star of Oliver Stone’s performative mode documentary film, nationalized a fertilizer plant owned in part by a company controlled by prominent conservative donors David and Charles Koch. Concurrently, a mysterious group, launched an anonymous effort to enjoin neocons and conspiracy theorists in a crusade against the “Venezuelan problem in the Americas.” The Committee to Free Venezuela Foundation is a 501c4 nonprofit organization, founded in Delaware, with a domain name registered in Portugal, launched by an undisclosed donor who forked over $150,000 to get the group up and running. Its one tangible deliverable is a half an hour’s worth of propagandist video entitled, “Stop Hugo Chávez,” based largely around a speech that Connie Mack delivered to the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2011. Unfortunately, the Congressman has blurred the line of what is allowed in his role Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere Affairs of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

As reported in Politico, Internal Revenue Service filings show a close interplay between his staffers and this nonprofit “dedicated to educating the American public and policymakers about the dangers posed by Venezuela’s Socialist Dictator Hugo Chávez.” The group’s Executive Director, Jeff Cohen, was the Congressman’s Chief of Staff until June 2009, and actually returned to the House staff position of Top Aide until one month before the Congressman jumped into the Florida Senate race. Since February, Jeff Cohen has been listed as a “part-time employee” in the Congressman’s House office payroll, despite the fact that he is currently serving as the Campaign Manager of Connie Mack for Senate. Tax exempt nonprofit dollars, salaries for employees serving the public through the taxpayer bankrolled offices of elected officials, and partisan political campaign monies are not supposed to mix, much less in the singular pocketbook of one individual.

Prior to these revelations, the Congressman capitalized on attacks of Senator Nelson and President Obama’s foreign policy priorities for Latin America—whom he labeled soft on Chávez, as well as negligent of the challenges posed by the “pink tide,” writ large—and thus, successfully garnered support from a number of Latino leaders, voters, and community members, concerned with the abuses of power Venezuela’s President engaged in when curtailing the freedom of the press, and President Obama’s silence with regard to this pivotal matter.

Since these revelations, however, talk of world affairs has evaporated, leaving a void that will prompt a barrage of questions and comments from those who concern themselves with the role the US plays in a world that seeks to accelerate the pace and breadth of access for multinational corporations migrating the globe in pursuit of natural resources, manufactured goods, sources of capital, speculative and commodities markets, while impeding investment in human resources through the imposition of policies of austerity and severe foreign debt repayment schedules. Perhaps it is the very obvious irony that the labels on goods bought and sold in the US match the names of the countries from which we have historically or currently seek to restrict the number of immigrants that allows all discussions of foreign policy to come full circle.

Despite incontrovertible, nationwide shortages of scientists, technologists, engineers, mathematicians, and so many other highly trained and skilled professionals, we even place obstacles on qualified students who wish to attend college because of the status they or their parents enjoy.

After “undocumented and unafraid” youth organized with a passion and purposefulness reminiscent of those brave Americans who fought segregation and Jim Crow, President Obama moves to grant deferred action to DREAM Act eligible students, and then Arizona Governor Brewer signed an executive order denying any and all state funded benefits to the very same young Americans. Five US-born, American citizens whose parents happen to be undocumented Florida residents were forced to sue the State of Florida because they have been denied in-state tuition. Based on Constitutionally guaranteed rights, and well established legal precedent, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals was compelled to strike down and reject the article in Alabama HB 56 (a state level immigration law) that orders public schools to check the immigration status of their students. Yet, Mitt Romney campaign advisor and surrogate Kris Kobach, submitted amendments to the Party Platform to be adopted in anticipation of the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa, based on language from the Romney campaign website, to complete the border fence, deny in-state tuition for “illegal aliens,” and end sanctuary cities, making it crystal clear that the GOP nominee would have lost the Primary if he had not been the most insistent on stripping away any and all “incentives” for “illegals” and their kids to remain in the US.

As I said, I’ve been in Florida for 24 hours, and I’ve already talked about all of this and more. Politic365 has invited me to speak with folks before, during, and after the RNC. I’ll be in Tampa, as well as Orlando, Miami, Gainsville, and Jacksonville, in an attempt to dive deeper in dialogue regarding the issues informing whether people show up or stay home on November 6, 2012. Even if you’re not a Floridian, if you believe it’s time to stop consuming political discourse passively, and start engaging passionately in a truly open and accessible public forum, disinterested in partisan rhetoric, but ravenous for real talk, please join me. Your savoir-faire, presages, and proposed solutions are welcome.

Please #voiceyourvote:




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