Back in May, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced a bold initiative: his and other non-exempt executive staff emails would be made available to the public in an online database. A few months later, though, the effort has been less transparent window and more rose-colored glasses.
According to The Tampa Bay Times, the emails made public until now were not the ones in Scott's official state account. Instead, the emails put online "were from a different account used almost exclusively by conservative supporters." The email address that until now fed the online database, RLS@eog.myflorida.com, appears as Scott's email on Florida Tea Party websites.
As a result, the database contained a very high percentage of emails favorable to Scott's administration. And the Times reports that the impression given by those emails has had an impact:
Reporters -- acting at the urging of Scott -- have regularly relied on the Sunburst database rather than filing a public records request for official emails. Several reporters have used those emails to gauge public sentiment on a host of issues, and the informal reviews have skewed results in favor of the governor.
After the newspaper started asking questions on Monday, Scott's office acknowledged the two different email accounts, and said that it would phase out RLS@eog.myflorida.com and add emails sent to the official account to the database.
In response to questions from TPM, Scott Press Secretary Lane Wright sent a prepared Q & A stating that the governor's IT department "has already merged the addresses so that the Governor's official account used for state business and the account used for citizen services are one and the same." Emails to the official account could take a day or two to become visible in the Sunburst system. The statement also offered an explanation for the database's initial set up:
Due to the high volume of public comments received by the Governor's office, that practice was implemented in a good faith effort to protect citizens who may not be aware of Florida's sunshine laws from inadvertently publishing their private information on the Sunburst email transparency system. However, the official state accounts are now being merged with the email addresses used by the official website to avoid confusion and to ensure all non-private information is published via the Sunburst system. Now, any emails that do contain private information that is exempt from disclosure will be manually removed prior to publication on Sunburst. Answer #1, above, explains the new process in further detail.
Read the whole story here.
Click here to view this media
A Romney aide frustrated by questions about a series of gaffes the former Massachusetts governor made while Britain, Israel and Poland exploded on Monday and told reporters to "shove it."
During a visit to a memorial to Pope John Paul II in Poland, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney ignored questions from reporters about his overseas gaffes and his suggestion that Israelis were culturally superior to Palestinians, but traveling press secretary Rick Gorka responded with rage.
"This is a holy site for the Polish people," Gorka said. "Show some respect."
"We haven't had another chance to ask some questions," the reporter explained.
"Kiss my ass; this is a holy site for the Polish people," Gorka shot back, adding, "Shove it."
The aide later called two of the reporters to apologize, according to Politico.
"It was inappropriate," Gorka admitted.
From Diane Sweet:
I suppose that one blown fuse is understandable, what with Romney imploding all over Europe. Team Romney certainly didn't catch any breaks on this leg of the journey, either. Romney was greeted by a crowd of Obama supporters chanting "Obama! Obama!" in Gdansk, northern Poland, on Monday during a scheduled stop to meet with Poland's Prime Minister, Donald Tusk.
There were even more Ron Paul supporters on hand to "greet" Mitt Romney. Paul has quite a large following in Poland, and supporters unfurled a huge Ron Paul banner, and the group has a scheduled protest for Tuesday during Romney's foreign policy speech in Warsaw. Man, I hope his staff gets to take a nap before that one!
And here we all thought today's gaffe would be Romney telling a Polish joke. And there's video too, via Jonathan Martin at Politco: As Romney was walking away from Pilsudski Square toward his vehicle, reporters asked him about his string of gaffes and whether he had any comment for Palestinians, some of whom took offense at the Republican?s suggestion Monday in Jerusalem that Israel?s...
House and Senate leaders continue to work on a stopgap spending bill to close out the year, and could announce it as early as today. The bill would extend a continuing resolution on the budget for a mere six months, until the end of March 2013. But[...]
Read The Full Article:
But yesterday, another top Romney adviser Richard Williamson went a bit further. Pressed by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien to offer a substantive difference between Romney’s and Obama’s Iran policies, Williamson at first struggled but ultimately said that the military option should be “seriously considered” if Iran “gets to nuclear breakout”:
O’BRIEN: So, are you telling me that Governor Romney would be willing to bomb Iran if it looks like they’re getting nuclear weapons? That they would whether it’s with or without Israel, bomb Iran to end that — they cross the red line, bomb Iran?
WILLIAMSON: I’m saying two things. First, on the sanctions, it’s not just talking abstractly about sanctions. This administration has allowed Moscow and Beijing to determine what sanctions we can put in force. Governor Romney has made clear he’s going to put tough sanctions in force for the coalition and not play “Mother, may I” with the U.N. Security Council.
Second, that Tehran should know that Governor Romney is committed to work everything possible diplomatically to avoid having to use force. But if it gets to nuclear breakout, military options are on the table and have to be seriously considered.
Watch the interview (conversation quoted above begins at 3:02):
While it’s unclear what Williamson means by “breakout,” that threshold by some definitions is lower than nuclear weapons capability. “Breakout” could mean the decision to acquire and action on acquiring all the necessary components for a bomb (such as enriching low-enriched uranium to a higher purity), while “capability,” what Romney’s adviser previously referred to last weekend, could be described as actually obtaning all the necessary components after the decision to breakout.
As this blog has previous noted, While Obama has said an Iranian nuclear weapon is ?unacceptable,? declaring a nuclear ?capability? an American ?red line? that would trigger war sets a lower threshold for U.S. military involvement. The CIA has laid out a specific definition, but again, the ?nuclear capability? language is a complex issue. The word ?capability? has a special meaning in the non-proliferation context, but it?s not always clear exactly what. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), one of the Senate?s most vociferous Iran hawks, said this year, ?I guess everybody will determine for themselves what that means.? Iran hawks in Congress pushed a bill this year to shift the official U.S. ?red line? to a nuclear ?capability.?
For his part, President Obama considers a potential Iranian nuclear weapon a threat to both the security of the U.S. and its allies in the region, as well as the nuclear non-proliferation regime. And he?s vowed again and again to keep all options on the table to deal wtih it. U.S., U.N. and Israeli intelligence estimates give the West time to pursue a dual-track approach of building international pressure and using diplomacy to resolve the crisis. Questions about the efficacy and potential consequences of a strike have led U.S. officials to declare that diplomacy is the ?best and most permanent way? to resolve the crisis. Obama has also reaffirmed Israel?s ?sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs.?
A new survey from the Pew research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life shows support for marriage equality continues to increase, especially for Democrats. Polls have consistently shown marriage equality is a winning issue, and Pew similarly found that 48 percent of Americans support the freedom to marry while 44 percent oppose it. Among Democrats, support dramatically increased from 50 percent in 2008 to 65 percent in 2012, while Republican support only increased slightly from 19 percent to 24 percent. Support has increased among all age groups, but particularly those born after 1980, 63 percent of whom now support marriage equality. Attitudes on the nature of sexual orientation are also shifting, but more slowly, with 51 percent now believing orientation cannot be changed and 41 percent believing it’s something people are born with.
More than 600 million people in the northern and eastern parts of India lost power on Tuesday, putting roughly half of India’s population in the dark.
While the specific causes behind the mass blackouts remain unclear, the underlying cause is clear – India is reliant on an aging, inefficient government coal power monopoly that can’t meet the country’s energy needs:
Some analysts said public outrage over the widespread outages may force Prime Minister Manmohan Singh?s government to tackle reforms in the crisis-riddled power sector. Fuel shortages are crippling coal and gas-fired plants, forcing them to run below capacity or shut down for long stretches; state utilities have billions of dollars of accumulated losses; and, as has been on stark display, the nation?s creaky grid needs upgrading.
?Unless this government wants to commit political suicide, there?s no way they can ignore this,? said Abhey Yograj, managing director of Tecnova, a consulting firm that advises foreign companies on India.
While some are suggesting that increasing domestic coal production is the necessary next step in addressing India’s power problems, it’s not so clear that’s the case. One of the principal barriers to cheap coal production is environmental protection, and for good reason: The IMF estimates that coal pollution kills about 70,000 Indians per year and development of coal in India (and China) is undermining efforts to decrease global carbon emissions. Further, Indian coal development can create underground fires that cause houses to fall into the earth and fuels the corruption in the Indian energy sector that’s holding back meaningful reform. Solar power is actually less expensive than coal in India and renewables more broadly are becoming increasingly plausible alternatives to expanded coal development.
In fact, the Indian government is pushing a National Solar Mission aimed at generating 12.5 % of India’s total electricity from renewable resources by 2020. By the end of 2012, the Solar Mission called for 810 megawatts of installed panels, but, according to a recently released report, India passed the 1 gigawatt mark in June of this year, a full 6 months ahead of the plan for 22 gigawatts by 2022. The report also found that India had only about 506 megawatts of installed capacity as recently as March, meaning that the country doubled its efforts in only two moths.
India has vast rural populations that often have limited access to electricity. The Solar Mission aims to provide more reliable sources of power to those citizens while reducing energy cost, decreasing reliance on foreign coal, and ameliorating the consequences of India’s economic growth for the environment.
Max Frankel contributed to this post.
For the past several weeks, Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Joan Orie Melvin (R) has been under suspension from her job and indictment for four felonies and five misdemeanors. In a preliminary hearing yesterday, former clerks alleged that they had been forced to work on her campaign and asked to falsify records to obtain “street money” to get people to the polls.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports:
[Former former Orie Melvin chief law clerk Lisa] Sasinoski referred back to an incident just before the 2003 general election when she claimed that Janine Orie, the judge’s sister and office manager, asked her to copy receipts and vouchers of her travels with the judge, to make it appear the judge’s other sister, Sen. Jane Orie, accompanied them in their campaign travels. In that way, they could get a check from the campaign treasury, write it out to Jane Orie for reimbursement, and she would then in turn provide the campaign cash to be used as street money. She explained that street money was used to encourage and help people get to the polls.
Now an employee of Justice Max Baer, Ms. Sasinoski testified that at the end of the 2003 election season, she told Ms. Orie Melvin that she could no longer participate in political activity. Two days later, she said Janine Orie demanded her court and building ID.
Another former clerk also testified that she experienced retaliation after she declined to work for Orie Melvin’s campaign on election day.
Special interests and the legislature’s GOP majority killed a constitutional amendment earlier this year that would have switched from elected appellate judges to a merit-based selection system.
The Scranton Times-Tribune, Philadelphia Daily News, and the Philadelphia Bar Association have called for Justice Orie Melvin to resign. While she has refused to do so, the Supreme Court has already split three-three on at least one case and may effectively mean major decisions will be made by lower court judges.
When eight Obamacare regulations go into effect tomorrow, 47 million women will benefit from the guaranteed coverage of preventive services — including contraception coverage — without co-pays. The new rules will require most insurance plans to begin including the services at no additional cost at the next renewal date that falls on or after August 1, according to a news release from the Department of Health and Human Services.
The Center for American Progress graphic breaks down what will be covered and how women will benefit:
But even as millions of women will benefit from even more provisions of the Affordable Care Act, nine states are attacking the contraception coverage requirement because of the claim that the provision violates religious liberty. Even though President Obama announced an “accommodation” for religious institutions so that the employer does not have to pay for the birth control coverage, states have considered legislation or ballot measures to either reject the federal regulation or undermine contraceptive coverage in state law. And ongoing challenges against the contraception regulation continue in federal courts.
The Washington Post's Ezra Klein asks an important question about Mitt Romney's policy platform: Has he actually learned anything from the failures of the Bush administration? The answer, so far, is no:
These last few years have been extraordinary ? and not in a good way. We have been through, and in some ways are still in, a once-in-a-many-generation economic storm. And nothing in Romney?s agenda is responsive to that fact. There?s no new thinking here. Nothing that is clearly about the unusual problems we face in this moment. Nothing that a Republican in 2007, or 2005, or 1999, or 1991, couldn?t have proposed. Romney is like a doctor looking at a patient with acute pneumonia and prescribing, as he does during routine physicals, diet and exercise.
This can?t be emphasized enough; far from offering a plan to deal with the short-term problems in the economy?namely, the lack of adequate demand?Romney is proposing a set of policies that are identical to those offered by George W. Bush. Indeed, with Paul Ryan's budget plan, the Republican Party has committed itself to reliving the Bush administration, with larger tax cuts, fewer regulations, and a greater willingness to cater to corporate concerns.
The chief challenge for the Obama campaign is pointing this out to the public. Most Americans have a low opinion of the Bush administration, and still blame President Bush for the state of the economy. If Obama can tie Romney to the previous administration, it will be a huge blow to the former Massachusetts governor.
If there are obstacles to this, they have everything to do with economic conditions and Romney?s perceived competence. Typically, when the economy is bad, voters will support the opposition regardless of what it stands for. We?re not at that point, but the economy is bad enough that many Americans will support Romney regardless of whether his policies would improve conditions. What?s more, because of his business background, Romney simply looks like he?s competent. Polls consistently show that voters trust Romney to improve the economy. It?s hard to overrate this asset, especially for someone who isn?t known for his political skill; it makes people skeptical of the idea that he would mishandle the economy, or do something that would run against their interests.
As a related point, this is why the attacks on Bain Capital are so important for the Obama campaign: If they can present Romney as an unscrupulous, selfish businessman, then they will have an easier time selling the idea that he wants to return to the unscrupulous selfishness of the disastrous Bush years.