The Watering Hole, Monday, July 21st, 2014: Floriduh vs Kitties

I was going to write about yesterday’s ThinkProgress thread about a fundraiser for Florida Governor Rick Scott. The story combines just about everything we liberals abhor: wealthy private-prison CEO; $10,000/plate fundraiser; private-prison abuses and fraud; immigrant detention; privatization of prison system healthcare (under Rick Scott?!); and so on, with big money and greed being the leitmotif. But it just got me too angry, so here’s some photos of some of our past furry friends. If I’ve posted a lot of these before, please humor me.

Stubby Plant

Stubby Plant

Tippy with Velveteen Rabbit

Tippy with Velveteen Rabbit

Lissa Grooms Her Ears (Amelia in lower left, photo of 20-something Wayne in upper right)

Lissa Grooms Her Ears (Amelia in lower left, photo of 20-something Wayne in upper right)

Earnest squeezes behind Pip

Earnest squeezes behind Pip

Becca prepares to leap.

Becca prepares to leap.

Nog (N.O.G. = Not Orange Guy)

Nog (N.O.G. = Not Orange Guy)

Belz and Lissa play while Splatter watches.

Belz and Lissa play while Splatter watches.

Preston, Jack and Souphlee

Preston, Jack and Souphlee

There, at least I feel better…

This is our daily open thread–what’s on your mind today?

This is what the death of democracy looks like.

MaddowBlog

During the 13 months beginning July 1 the year before elections in 2004 and 2008, registered Democrats increased by an average of 209,425 voters.

From 2011 to this year, that number was 11,365.

Over that same time, the number of registered Republicans increased by 128,039, topping the average of 103,555 during the past two presidential cycles.

All Americans should be sickened by this graph, no matter what your political leanings.  If you’re not sickened, then you have forgotten what it means to be an American, and should be ashamed of yourself.

It’s Time To Talk About Our Guns

On Feb 26,2012, in Sanford, Florida, 17-year-old, 140-pound, Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by 28-year-old, 250-pound George Zimmerman. Zimmerman has said that it was a case of self-defense. Despite the many facts that have come to light since the shooting, Zimmerman remains a free man, who hasn’t yet been arrested. The Sanford Police report also raises some questions on its own, such as why less than one minute elapsed from the time 9-1-1 was called until the time the police arrived to find Trayvon Martin face down and dead. If accurate, it would mean that George Zimmerman could not wait one single minute from the time he was told they did not need him to follow Trayvon until the time he killed him. [NOTE: Many people have brought up the racial aspects of this case, but since race has nothing whatsoever to do with the discussion I am having here, I have intentionally left those aspects out. I completely agree that had Zimmerman been black and his victim a 17-year-old white male, he would have been arrested immediately. But let’s save the racial aspects for another discussion.]

Although Zimmerman’s lawyer has said his client would not be invoking it, at the middle of this controversy is a law known colloquially as the “Stand Your Ground Law.” It says, in essence, that if you reasonably believe your life is in danger, you can use deadly force to defend yourself. The law was modeled on laws designed and written by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group of legislators and corporations that propose bills to be passed by the states. Believe me when I say they are not acting in your best interests. They are dangerous, and the laws they’ve helped pass have put innocent people in danger. They must be exposed and dealt with, but for now we as a nation must once and for all settle this matter of what the true meaning and intent of the Second Amendment is, and what role guns should have in our Society.

For the record, and so that there is no misunderstanding about the topic Continue reading

The Wartering Hole, Wednesday, February 1, 2012: Money Wins in Florida Primary!

“Do you know what I intend? I intend to be a king in a big palace and when I go out in my coach, all the people will wave and I will shout at them, and…and…in the summertime I will go to my summer palace and I’ll wear my crown in swimming and everything, and all the people will cheer and I will shout at them… What do you mean I can’t be king? Nobody should be kept from being a king if he wants to be one. It’s usually just a matter of knowing the right people.. ..well…. if I can’t be a king, then I’ll be very rich then I will buy myself a kingdom. Yes, I will buy myself a kingdom and then I’ll kick out the old king and take over the whole operation myself. I will be head king.” Mitt Romney, age 5.

(with apologies to Charles Schultz)

This Be the Open Thread O’The Day.

Welcome to the Rocket Docket

A specially designated, high-speed housing court, nicknamed “the rocket docket,” set up specifically to process legally murky foreclosures as fast as possible; presided over by an apparently uninformed, utterly disinterested, retired judge who openly states his only goal is to resolve an astonishing TWENTY FIVE CASES AN HOUR. In layman’s terms, this means he wants to ‘throw someone out of their home approximately every two and half minutes.’ This same clueless magistrate, moving so fast he can’t possibly give the cases coming before him even a perfunctory once over, threatens – THREATENS – to cite a defense lawyer with contempt for simply talking to a reporter in front of said judge.

 

 

Is this taking place in some godforsaken, Third World banana republic?

No…

According to Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, it’s happening right here in America, in the so-called ‘Sunshine State,’ Florida.

The numbers are staggering:

In Las Vegas, one in 25 homes is now in foreclosure. In Fort Myers, Florida, one in 35. In September, lenders nationwide took over a record 102,134 properties; that same month, more than a third of all home sales were distressed properties. All told, some 820,000 Americans have already lost their homes this year, and another 1 million currently face foreclosure.

Nearly a million homes foreclosed on in 2010; another million coming this year; and almost all of those foreclosures fraudulent:

Virtually every case of foreclosure in this country involves some form of screwed-up paperwork. “I would say it’s pretty close to 100 percent,” says Kowalski. An attorney for Jacksonville Area Legal Aid tells me that out of the hundreds of cases she has handled, fewer than five involved no phony paperwork. “The fraud is the norm,” she says.

Out of hundreds of cases, less than FIVE were NOT fraudulent.

Those hundreds of cases were not just fraudulent, but blatantly, screamingly bare-faced fraudulent, based on documentation that makes such ridiculous claims it leaves you speechless… Continue reading

Where is your favorite vacation spot in the U.S.? — open thread

Is it the beaches you are attracted to?  Florida won the best beach award for 2008. The winner was Caladesi Island.  Caladesi Island is accessible only by private boat or via the Caladesi Connection ferry service.

Nature enthusiasts watch wildlife while hiking the three mile nature trail through the island´s interior or paddling a three mile kayak trail through the mangroves and bay.

Or is it our wonderful National Parks?  This video shows everything from the Grand Canyon, Glacier National Park in Montana, Grand Tetons in Wyoming, Great Basin in Nevada, Great Smoky Mountains, Haleakala in Hawaii, Joshua Tree in California, Katmai in Alaska and everything in between.  A wonderful by frotix.

Florida Republicans Back Tax Breaks For Plane & Yacht Owners

Florida’s House Republicans said “This isn’t about raising revenue.  Oh no! This is about fair and balance taxation system.”   Well, that is certainly obvious that it isn’t about raising money.

Buyers of yachts and private airplanes in Florida would be spared from paying the full 6 percent sales tax on their purchases. But magazine subscribers would now start paying taxes.

Those were among the decisions the House Finance and Tax Council made Monday as it weighed revisions to Florida’s tax system in a wide-ranging bill that creates two sales tax holidays for shoppers and leaves the budget $25 million in the red.

They were confident they would find the needed money by the end of the legislative session on May 1.

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In all likelihood…Your tomatoes are picked by slaves

Yes, I’m talking about the United States.  In Florida, since 1997, there have been seven slavery rings that have been prosecuted by the Department of Justice, freeing over 1,000 workers.  These employers are guilty of beating their workers, chaining them, keeping them in debt and imprisoning workers in U-Hauls for being sick or unable to work.

We still have a ways to go, in Immokalee, Florida, the tomato capital, between December and May, as much as 90 percent of the fresh domestic tomatoes we eat come from south Florida.

According to Douglas Molloy, the chief assistant U.S. attorney based in Fort Myers, Immokalee has another claim to fame: It is “ground zero for modern slavery.”

The beige stucco house at 209 South Seventh Street is remarkable only because it is in better repair than most Immokalee dwellings.  For two and a half years, beginning in April 2005, Mariano Lucas Domingo, along with several other men, was held as a slave at that address. At first, the deal must have seemed reasonable. Lucas, a Guatemalan in his thirties, had slipped across the border to make money to send home for the care of an ailing parent. He expected to earn about $200 a week in the fields. Cesar Navarrete, then a 23-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico, agreed to provide room and board at his family’s home on South Seventh Street and extend credit to cover the periods when there were no tomatoes to pick.

Lucas’s “room” turned out to be the back of a box truck in the junk-strewn yard, shared with two or three other workers. It lacked running water and a toilet, so occupants urinated and defecated in a corner. For that, Navarrete docked Lucas’s pay by $20 a week. According to court papers, he also charged Lucas for two meager meals a day: eggs, beans, rice, tortillas, and, occasionally, some sort of meat. Cold showers from a garden hose in the backyard were $5 each. Everything had a price. Lucas was soon $300 in debt. After a month of ten-hour workdays, he figured he should have paid that debt off.

But when Lucas-slightly built and standing less than five and a half feet tall-inquired about the balance, Navarrete threatened to beat him should he ever try to leave. Instead of providing an accounting, Navarrete took Lucas’s paychecks, cashed them, and randomly doled out pocket money, $20 some weeks, other weeks $50. Over the years, Navarrete and members of his extended family deprived Lucas of $55,000.

To put their back-breaking labor into prospective, for every 32 pound basket of tomatoes workers get approximately 40 to 50 cents, this rate has not risen much from what workers were paid 30 years ago. On a good day you could possibly make $50 if you picked a ton of tomatoes, that’s only if you work very fast.  But there are many pitfalls in achieving that goal.

If it rains, you can’t pick. If the dew is heavy, you sit and wait until it evaporates. If trucks aren’t available to transport the harvest, you’re out of luck. You receive neither overtime nor benefits. If you are injured (a common occurrence, given the pace of the job), you have to pay for your own medical care.

The fast food industry contributed greatly to the poor wages paid to workers for the tomatoes that were bought by Burger King & McDonald’s to name a few.  It wasn’t til last year that Burger King finally caved to a salary increase.

Astonishingly, Burger King, until May 29, 2008, refused to go along with a deal that will cost them less than $300,000 annually; last year, the corporation raked in $2.23 billion in revenues.

The Campaign for Fair Food, has put pressure for the past four years on YUM! Brands, owner of Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Long John Silver’s, and A&W. Yum! agreed to the one-cent raise in 2005 and, importantly, pledged to make sure that no worker who picked its tomatoes was being exploited.

But the program faces a major obstacle. Claiming that the farmers are not party to the arrangement, the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, an agricultural cooperative that represents some 90 percent of the state’s producers, has refused to be a conduit for the raise, citing legal concerns.

The only way to ensure you are buying slave-free tomatoes is to buy them locally or from Whole Foods, which is the only grocery chain that has signed on to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) Campaign for Fair Food, which means that it has promised not to deal with growers who tolerate serious worker abuses and, when buying tomatoes, to a pay a price that supports a living wage.  The tomatoes picked in Mexico, laborers have even worse conditions than our workers face here in the US.

It’s hard to believe in this day and age we are still prosecuting people for slavery.

30% Spike In Foreclosure Filings

Now that the temporary suspension of foreclosure filings has been lifted by some of the banks, February saw a dramatic increase to the tune of 290,000 property foreclosures.  Chase is set to lift their moratorium on Friday.

That total, a roughly 6% increase from January, was the third-highest monthly total – following those in August and December 2008 – since the foreclosure-listing service’s report was launched in early 2005.

After a 45-day voluntary moratorium in Florida ended at the end of January, foreclosure activity increased 14% from a month earlier, RealtyTrac said. Many New York proceedings delayed by a 90-day extension appear to have hit the system in February, boosting foreclosure activity by 23%, the report said.

The two hardest hit cities are Las Vegas and Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida.  Las Vegas saw one in every 60 properties and the Fort Myers area had one in every 65 units get hit with a foreclosure notice.

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We care — unless you’re “teh gay”

CommonDreams

As her partner of 17 years slipped into a coma, Janice Langbehn pleaded with doctors and anyone who would listen to let her into the woman’s hospital room.

Eight anguishing hours passed before Langbehn would be allowed into Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center. By then, she could only say her final farewell as a priest performed the last rites on 39-year-old Lisa Marie Pond.

Jackson staffers advised Langbehn that she could not see Pond earlier because the hospital’s visitation policy in cases of emergency was limited to immediate family and spouses — not partners. In Florida, same-sex marriages or partnerships are not recognized. On Friday, two years after her partner’s death, Langbehn and her attorneys were in federal court, claiming emotional distress and negligence in a suit they filed last June.

Jackson attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case on grounds that the hospital has no obligation to allow patients’ visitors.

Jackson Memorial Hospital took this stand, in spite of the fact that Ms Langbehn had the proper legal documents in hand, which allowed her to make medical decisions for her partner.

I looked up the Mission Statement of Jackson Memorial Hospital, and this is what I found:

Mission Statement:  To build the health of the community by providing a single, high standard of quality care for the resident of Miami-Dade County.

Vision Statement:  Our strategic vision is to be a nationally and internationally recognized, world-class academic medical system and to be the provider of choice for quality care.

Values:  Service Excellence and Quality, Commitment, Compassion, Teamwork and Communication, Respect, Confidentiality, Integrity and Stewardship, Inclusion.

Wow.  That brought a tear to my eye.

But then I remembered what Jackson Memorial Hospital did to the Langbehn/Pong family, and would suggest an addendum to JMH’s “Mission & Vision” page:  UNLESS YOU’RE GAY.

Jeb Bush will not run for Senate

Jeb Bush has decided not to run for the Florida Senate seat:

Jeb Bush has decided not to run for the Senate in Florida, according to former state House Speaker Marco Rubio.

“He said it just wasn’t the right timing,” Rubio said, recounting a phone call he received this afternoon from the former Florida governor and presidential brother.

I’m afraid there will not be such a thing as “the right time” for a Bush in the near future, if ever again. George W. Bush saw to that effectively.

Attempted Sabotage Foiled in Deerfield Beach, Florida!

This is sad that this kind of tactic is still going on.  TMZ is reporting that Deerfield Beach, Fla. which is one hour south of Palm Beach had 400 people waiting to vote at 6:15 a.m. this morning.  All were waiting for the polls to open at 7:00 a.m and this is what they found.

There is one voting machine to accommodate all of them.

The area almost entirely African American. Many of the people never have voted before. One woman was 101 years old. She was wheeled into the polling place and on her way out she said that before she died, she wanted to vote for a black man.

Continue reading

“Angry Voter” Attacks Election Supervisor

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An early voter went a little crazy at the Duvall County Elections Office in Jacksonville, Florida. No one is sure what set her off or what the problem was.

Downtown elections office became a chaotic scene Friday afternoon when a woman described as an angry voter disrupted the place and then attacked Supervisor of Elections Jerry Holland. Holland said a woman later identified as Shari Wilder, 45, was in the office earlier to vote, but came back and began yelling at the staff. He said he stepped in to make sure none of his employees were hurt — especially two pregnant women.

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Voting Machine Malfunctions in Florida

(Florida voters line up to vote.  Associated Press had raw footage from one precinct.)

Early voter lines are long in Florida, some voters are checking other locations for a shorter wait time. In Northeast Florida reports of machine malfunctions are causing voters a long wait time. Problems with voting machines are also causing major concern. Jacksonville.com has more on what is happening in their part of the state.

Malfunctions left some voters wondering Monday if their vote would count, while election officials throughout Northeast Florida were slammed with record early voting turnouts. Jerry Holland, Duval County supervisor of elections, said seven out of 15 optical scan machines were replaced on Monday as a result of problems with the machines rejecting ballots. “We’re looking at everything,” said Holland, who said the humidity, the paper or the machine may have been factors.

Problems with the machines occurred throughout Duval County, including Gateway mall, Webb Wesconnett, Mandarin, Highlands, Regency Square and Bradham-Brooks Northwest libraries, according to officials.

Tia Sewell-Crumpler, who voted at one of the problematic sites – Highlands library – felt uncomfortable her ballot wasn’t scanned. “I wanted to see it go into the machine,” Sewell-Crumpler said, to get counted.

Officials said voters can feel confident their ballots are being handled carefully and tactfully. Procedures have been put into place to make sure all registered voters who go out to vote have their say in the election. “We’re going to make sure every vote counts,” Holland added.

Broward County to the south also reported problems with equipment, according to The Associated Press, which said some voters in other parts of the state waited for hours as crowds swarmed election offices.

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Ashland, Oregon Criminalizing Laws Target Homeless – One Ordinance States “Sleeping Prohibited”

When a city like Ashland, Oregon passes laws targeting the homeless it sends a clear message that they are not welcome. It sends another message that beneath the thin veneer; society considers them worthless. Instead of lending a helping hand, most people cross to the other side of the street to avoid them. As if they have something that is contagious. This lack of empathy I find to be heartbreaking. 

McCain’s home state of Arizona is one of the places were 32 homeless people died on the streets of Phoenix, in the summer of 2005. Four homeless men died of heat exposure, in one weekend, in the summer of 2006. Sad statistics that I’m sure did not even get a mention in the local paper.  When cities like Phoenix and Ashland could solve the problem easily by building homeless shelters.

The ACLU of Oregon is challenging Ashland’s anti-camping ordinance.

The Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon calls upon the City of Ashland to amend its “Prohibited Camping” ordinance from one that punishes poverty and homelessness into one that prods the city to provide housing for the homeless.

The city’s inhumane anti-camping law is inconsistent with the values of the Ashland, and the ACLU calls for immediate reform.

“The poor should not be punished simply for being poor, and that’s what this law does in Ashland,” said the ACLU of Oregon Executive Director David Fidanque. “The city of Ashland and all cities should seek to address the underlying issues of homelessness and poverty, rather than enacting and enforcing laws that target those who are homeless.”

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McCain Finance Co-Chairman Sent Joke About Killing Obama

I wish I could say this wasn’t true,  but unfortunately Tampa Bay Online is reporting that Al Austin – Florida Finance Regional Co-Chairman – is circulating an email joke that refers to the assassination of Obama and his wife.  This posted by William March.

Al Austin, a longtime, high-level Republican fundraiser from Tampa, today sent to his list of political contacts an e-mail containing a joke that refers to the assassination of Barack Obama.

When asked about the e-mail, Austin said it was a mistake and apologized and that he wouldn’t knowingly have circulated it. He said he planned to send an apology and retraction to the same e-mail list.

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GOP Is Dumping McCain – “He Has Turned Into A Troll”

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There are some who feel that McCain can turn this disaster around in 30 days. I had to laugh at that quote, because the election is in 23 days. The GOP must be so upset they have forgotten basic math skills. This is from a NYT’s article on Sunday.

“The main thing he needs to do,” said Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota, “is focus on a single message – a single, concise or clear-cut message, and stick with that over the next 30 days, regardless of what happens. He’s had a lot of attack lines. But it’s time to choose.”

Republicans are coming out left and right making their displeasure known about McCain.  My suggestion to McCain this morning, don’t read any newspapers.  A former Republican Governor not very happy with McCain speaks out.

Tommy Thompson, a Republican who is a former governor of Wisconsin, said it would be difficult for Mr. McCain to win in his state but not impossible, particularly if he campaigned in conservative Democratic parts of the state. Asked if he was happy with Mr. McCain’s campaign, Mr. Thompson replied, “No,” and he added, “I don’t know who is.”

Gail Collins from The New York Times op-ed is wishing for “Dear Old Golden Dog Days.” The whole op-ed is a great read. Here is her wish list and her view of McCain.

Remember how we used to joke about John McCain looking like an old guy yelling at kids to get off his lawn? It’s only in retrospect that we can see that the keep-off-the-grass period was the McCain campaign’s golden era. Now, he’s beginning to act like one of those movie characters who steals the wrong ring and turns into a troll.

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Biden Fires Back: McCain-Palin “Appeal To Fear”

Joe Biden is on fire as he smacks down McCain-Palin, on their appeal to fear- “this is beyond disappointing,” Biden roars, “this is just wrong.” This is his first rally since the vice-presidential debate he spoke to a crowd of 3,500 at the Sundome at the University of South Florida.   One of his best speechs.

Palin Attacks Biden While Mourning Loss

Sarah Palin while speaking to a crowd in Florida – on the Campaign Trail – took pot shots at Joe Biden today. The Senator has been off on bereavement since the loss of his mother-in-law to a heart attack. Palin is fully aware of the reasons behind his absence.

Rachel Maddow Shows How John McCain Will Lose Florida

Wall Street Journal is reporting McCain plans to cut Medicare to cover his Health Care Plan. The cuts are going to be $1.3 trillion according to McCain Campaign officials. John McCain made his biggest mistake to date. Just when he sends Sarah Palin, pit bull, to Florida to try and gain some of the ground they have lost. McCain Campaign did not do their homework again-there are over 3.2 million Floridians covered by Medicare!!

Ohioans Speak Out Against McCain

Ohio has always had a distinctive divide when it comes to politics. Northern Ohio, from Massillon up to the Great Lakes has strongly favored Democrats-while Southern Ohio is GOP country.

What makes me stand up and take notice of this particular poll is that it was done in Southern Ohio. The Columbus Dispatch did a poll and found that Obama has a 7 point lead. Not only is that music to my ears-it means that the southern part of the state is waking up to the fact that we can’t afford any more heavy job losses-and that this state can no longer tolerate the Bush-McCain policies. The citizens of this great state are speaking out and becoming more vocal.

“Their qualifications are worlds apart,” said Bruce Tromp, 42, a software engineer from Springboro, near Cincinnati. “Biden has years of experience and is a skilled politician. Palin doesn’t even seem to understand the issues, let alone be able to form an intelligent opinion on them.”

The Ohio Democrats from around the state are rallying for Sen. Barack Obama-this new Dispatch Poll shows-that there are concerns about our economy throughout all the districts. With thousands of voters casting their ballots early to vote absentee, having this new setup will not be “the only poll that counts is the one on Election Day.” This will cut back on the election fraud this state has witnessed in the past.

Ohio is even more critical to McCain’s campaign this year since he pulled out of Michigan last week. Not only has no Republican ever won the presidency without carrying the Buckeye State, McCain almost has to run the 2004 electoral table to win, carrying every single state President Bush won four years ago, including Ohio.

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It runs in the Family – Another 398 Days to Go

When President George H.W. Bush shed tears while praising his son Jeb at the end of the latter’s second term it may well have been because George W. Bush’s Trainwreck-Presidency has cost Jeb’s chances on a future Presidency. Looks like George W. Bush really did you a favour here if you consider this story on Florida, debt backed funds, Jeb Bush and Stipanovich:

via:Bloomberg

Florida Board of Administration executive director Coleman Stipanovich supervised a $ 26 billion money market fund and asked Lehman Brothers Inc. for support in reducing the risk in debt based investments.

What Stipanovich, 58, hadn’t told his boss, Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, was that Lehman Brothers was the same firm that had sold the state fund $842 million of mortgage- backed debt in July and August. Those securities defaulted within four months, and totaled more failing debt than any other bank sold the state, Florida records show. “At the time, I never knew it was Lehman Brothers that actually sold us these investments,” Sink says.

Enter Jeb Bush:

Sink also was unaware that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who incorporated Jeb Bush & Associates in February 2007, a month after completing his second term, had been hired as a consultant to Lehman Brothers in June. Bush is the brother of President George W. Bush.

And, of course, Jeb Bush had nothing to do with Florida buying Lehman Brothers’ structured finance products at all.

Lehman Brothers spokeswoman Cohen says there’s no link between Bush and Lehman’s sale of debt to Florida. “Bush is a member of the Lehman Brothers private equity advisory board and his company has been retained by the firm for consulting and advisory services,” she says. The former governor declined to comment.

I tend to agree with this guy:

Craig Holman, of Washington-based nonprofit public interest group Public Citizen, disputes Lehman Brothers’ view. “That defies credibility,” says Holman, who lobbies for ethics in government. “It’s a clear conflict of interest. Bush is a consultant to the company selling bad investments to the same agency on which he served as a trustee until January.

I guess it really runs in the family! Don’t ask what your country can do for you – ask what you can do to your country!

Read the story here: