Planes, Trains, and …

Rick Scott’s the gift that keeps on giving.

He can disagree all he wants, but he’s still wrong:

Scott announced the sale of the state’s two airplanes — a 2000 King Air 350 and a 2003 Cessna Citation Bravo jet — on Feb. 11. The King Air sold for $1.77 million, the Cessna for $1.9 million; $3.67 million all together.

Most of the proceeds paid off $3.4 million the state still owed on the Cessna. The money flowed from the buyers to the bank, bypassing the state treasury. What was left over went to the state’s Aircraft Trust Fund.

Alexander doesn’t oppose the sale. Just how it happened, arguing it violates the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches.

It’s a little complicated, but the gist is that the governor’s getting into the habit of just doing whatever he wants without paying attention to what’s legal.

Here’s the latest on the train debacle:

Then came Friday’s shocker. At 2 p.m., U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood issued a statement saying he had given Florida one more week to work out the deal.

“This morning I met with Governor Rick Scott to discuss the high speed rail project that will create jobs and economic development for the entire state of Florida,” LaHood said. “He asked me for additional information about the state’s role in this project, the responsibilities of the Florida Department of Transportation, as well as how the state would be protected from liability….“He has committed to making a final decision by the end of next week. I feel we owe it to the people of Florida, who have been working to bring high speed rail to their state for the last 20 years, to go the extra mile.”

Scott said he did not ask for additional time.

It’s another slightly convoluted saga, but basically, the FL legislature voted in favor of building a high-speed rail between Orlando and Tampa. FL gets $2.4 billion from the federal government for the project. Scott’s rejecting the money and the train, meaning another state will get the billions. Scott’s made up some ridiculous excuse about the state ultimately being on the hook financially, but advocates have already come up with a solution that would make sure that doesn’t happen.

It also looks like Scott may get sued:

The additional time comes as good news to one Republican state senator, Thad Altman of Melbourne, who is considering taking legal action against the governor to save the project.

Altman said he believes Scott violated the Constitutional limits of his executive authority by killing the project after the Legislature had voted to move forward with it.

We’ll see how this shakes out next week. Could be entertaining.

Free Drug Zone

All it takes to get a sense there’s a problem with pain pills here in Florida is to have a necessary, legal prescription. Try to get it filled at a CVS or Walgreens, and you run up against a lot of “We don’t have it” and “We don’t know when we’re getting it in” and “No, we can’t call another store for you.” It took 5 trips to 4 pharmacies to get what the doctor ordered to mitigate the excruciating pain I suffered after slipping on a set of stairs and bashing up my lower back.

When I posted my plight on FB, a friend pointed me to the NYT. That same day, there had been a front-page article about the proliferation of painkiller-related crime across the country:

More than 1,800 pharmacy robberies have taken place nationally over the last three years, typically conducted by young men seeking opioid painkillers and other drugs to sell or feed their own addictions. The most common targets are oxycodone (the main ingredient in OxyContin), hydrocodone (the main ingredient in Vicodin) and Xanax.


In sheer numbers, Florida, Indiana, California, Ohio and Washington have had the most armed robberies of pharmacies since January 2008, according to the D.E.A.

Here in Florida, I’ve learned addicts also have an alternative. They go to pill mills which the Wall Street Journal describes as “shady storefront operations that provide a bounty of prescription drugs, such as oxycodone and hydrodone, for addicts and traffickers.” According to the WSJ, the state passed a law in 2009 to set up a tracking system which “would include a centralized database to help identify buyers who are accumulating large numbers of pills and the doctors who are overprescribing them.” But in true Rick Scott fashion, public health and safety take a back seat to money, and Scott’s got some flimsy excuses for wanting to scrap the program, citing quetions about effectiveness, patient privacy, and cost. The Miami Herald:

But 34 states already have such programs up and running and say they don’t have the kind of problems Scott fears.


“I don’t think your governor understands the impact Florida’s pill mills are having outside the state,’’ said Kentucky Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo.

“If there’s no prescription drug monitoring program in Florida, I’m toying with putting a billboard just over your state line that says ‘Welcome to the Oxy-tourism Capital of the World.’”

Bruce Grant, who led the Florida Governor’s Office of Drug Control under former governor Charlie Crist, said care was taken to address concerns in the three areas Scott has cited.

His office secured $1.2-million from nonprofits, private donations and federal grants so state money would not be used. As for privacy, the information in the database would be protected under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which safeguards patient confidentiality.

Chris Baumgartner of the Alliance of States with Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs said the 34 state programs all have “a very good track record’’ for privacy and cost control. On average, the programs cost $500,000 a year to operate, he said.

Fred Grimm sums up Scott’s stance on pill mills in a strong opinion piece today:

The governor has managed to make himself the political ally of oxy addicts and drug dealers and the woman who drove her red Cobalt all the way from South Carolina. And he has managed to offend a constituency with a powerful, emotional message, while unwittingly lending his face to Florida’s shadowy trade in oxycodone, millions of pills sold in sham clinics, much of it for illicit resale.

I get the sense Scott’s against anything that regulates anything, I mean, who needs rules when you know firsthand you can make hundreds of millions of dollars running a company that systematically breaks them?

The Rick Scott Experiment

I’ve been trying to figure out what (besides funny videos and casual observations) might be relevant and of interest to readers as I’m now down in South Florida and no longer entrenched in the daily DC grind. People here don’t live and breathe politics like they do in Washington so it’s much easier not to get as riled up. However, I have found following our old friend Rick Scott a fairly adequate substitute. See, almost every day, The Miami Herald has a story about Florida’s new Governor, and very few – if any – have been flattering.

According to the Herald and other state papers, Scott has offended African American lawmakers, promised to repeal a much-needed program that would monitor Florida’s dangerous pill mills, rejected federal money for a popular high-speed rail program, held a private dinner that possibly violated state law, and released a budget thick with cuts but thin on details. Keep in mind Scott’s been in office 6 1/2 weeks, and this is only a fraction of the news. In fact, it’s only a fraction of what I’ve read in the print edition of the Herald since I moved here at the beginning of the month.

And then there’s this gem I just discovered via a quick Google search. Reported locally in October last year, the state of Florida once sued Scott for insider trading:

The Florida civil suit, which was separate from the federal investigation of Columbia/HCA that led to $1.7 billion in fines, was filed in Tennessee state court. But it was shelved in favor of a larger federal case that leveled many of the same claims as the Florida state suit. The list of defendants in the federal case also included Scott, who had been forced out as the company’s CEO on July 25, 1997, about two weeks before the civil actions were filed.

The suit was settled six years later for about $14 million. Scott was never criminally charged.

I’m more than familiar with Scott’s history as head of Columbia/HCA, but I didn’t know that he’d once been party to a civil suit against the hospital chain. How rich.

So here’s what I’m planning to do. Each time I happen upon a Scott story that may be of interest, I’m going to repost it. If there’s even a shred of truth to the absurd suggestion that Scott may seek higher office someday, someone should be keeping track of the ridiculousness going on down here right now. The public tends to have a short memory, and I would hate to see Rick Scott successfully slither his way up the political ladder unchecked. After all, the man’s a total snake.

Made in America

Just saw this ad on TV.


If you thought it couldn’t get worse than the Snuggie, you would be mistaken.

Cute, Inc.

“Thank you for buying Girl Scout cookies. 10 boxes is a lot! My goal is to sell 130 boxes. You helped me a lot! If you want more call mommy.” – 7-year-old Ella to her Grandpa

Misleader of the PAC

The Miami Herald ran an opinion column this morning entitled “And the GOP front-runner is…” in which Doyle McManus of The LA Times writes:

The race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination started in earnest last week at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.

So let’s get started. Here’s the conventional wisdom, fresh from the corridors of power, on the state of the Republican race:

There are really only two spots on the GOP ballot. One is reserved for Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who won nine primaries in 2008. The other is for someone who isn’t Mitt Romney — someone like Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee or Tim Pawlenty.

Here’s the problem. If the nomination started in earnest at CPAC and we’re talking about the front-runner, shouldn’t we actually mention the front-runner? Take a look at the results of both CPAC straw polls:

Guess how many times McManus mentions Paul in his piece. If you said 0, you win. He doesn’t. Not once. I am totally unclear on how you write an entire column about the “race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination” saying it “started in earnest last week” at CPAC and make no mention of Ron Paul. This is the comment I left on the Herald site:

Ron Paul won both CPAC straw polls – the First Choice ballot and the Combo choice ballot – and yet this piece makes no mention of him anywhere. If you title something “And the GOP front-runner is…” and you cite CPAC as the start of the nomination in earnest, how can you pretend the winner of the polls just doesn’t exist? If you have an opinion of who might top the Republican ticket and you want to write that piece, great. But you can’t use CPAC as your lead-in or proof if you’re going to completely dismiss the guy who actually won.

I don’t believe Ron Paul is going to be the Republican presidential nominee in 2012 – and clearly neither does McManus – but at the very least, he should explain why he’s written off Ron Paul.

If he can’t, then he’s got no business writing about CPAC and GOP front-runners at all.

Seriously Florida, WTF: Great Scott Edition

My disdain for Rick Scott is well-documented, and I knew Floridians would suffer a serious case of voters’ remorse once their newly-elected Governor started governing. Scott’s been in office about a month now, and already the frustration seems to be building.

See, Scott’s always been a “pro-rich; scam the the public sector; screw the poor, sick, and elderly; rules don’t apply to me” kind of guy, and now he’s bringing his destructive behavior and callous business model to Tallahassee. There’s been a Scott headline in The Miami Herald every day since I’ve been down here, and as expected, not one casts the Governor in a flattering light. Today’s gem (headlines slightly harsher in the print edition than online):

Scott budget eliminates homeless aid

Right underneath it:

Senator: Prison cuts won’t fly

Scott wants to get rid of Florida’s Office of Homelessness and privatize its prison system – firing 1,700 workers and shifting 1,500 prisoners to facilities that get paid per inmate. The Economist explains why a for-profit prison system is problematic:

Some experts contend that firms in the prison business reap profits by billing government for rather more than their initial lowball estimates while scrimping in ways that may make prisons less secure.

Sounds a lot like Rick Scott’s style when he ran Columbia/HCA.

Florida elected a liar and a cheat, and now that he’s attempting to run the state like he runs his businesses – money first no matter what – no one who bothered to do any homework on the man should be the least bit surprised. Sadly, not enough people did.

Patients but No Virtue

As I mentioned briefly last week, I’ve been nursing a banged up lower back. The pain’s not subsiding so I made an appointment to see an orthopedist. Let’s call him Dr. K.

I walked (slowly) into Dr. K’s practice at 9am on Tuesday morning. The office was packed. I filled out the new patient paperwork and took a seat to wait. When they called my name about 20 minutes later, a man in scrubs immediately ushered me back to their x-ray area. When I explained that I’d already had x-rays, had them faxed down from DC, and they should be in my chart, he looked baffled. He called for the Physician’s Assistant – let’s call her C – and then insisted I sit in the x-ray waiting area which looked remarkably similar to the waiting area at the DMV.

When C showed up with my chart, she asked what the problem was. I explained that I had already had x-rays, and they had been faxed to the office the day before.

“Didn’t you get them?” I asked.

“No,” C replied. Then she opened my chart, and the packet of papers from Sibley was sitting right on top.

Now we speed ahead a bit. I see Dr. K. He sends me for an MRI. I get to the MRI facility (owned by the same orthopedic center), and the woman there recommends I make an appointment to see Dr. K the following afternoon since my file has been labeled “stat” and my results will be ready asap. I do. For 2:45pm on Wednesday. It’s Dr. K’s last available appointment.

2:40pm on Wednesday, I show up to see Dr. K with the MRI results. The facility gave me a CD to bring with me to my appointment. After about 10 minutes of waiting, the receptionist – let’s call her F – asks if I have my MRI report. I tell her I have the CD, yes. She says no, the doctor needs the MRI report and that takes 3-4 days. I ask why Dr. K can’t just look at the MRI images on the CD, but all F can say is that he needs the report. So F calls our friend C and asks if she has the report. She allegedly goes to look and comes back saying it’s not in the system. F tells us to make an appointment for Friday and come back. She also gives us the number to call the MRI center to check on the progress of the report.

As we leave Dr. K’s office, my Mom stops in the hallway and takes out her phone. She calls the MRI facility and speaks to the guy in charge of reports whom we shall call L. L tells my Mom my report was, in fact, labeled “stat” and was faxed over to the Dr.’s office about 45 minutes prior. With this new information, we head back into Dr. K’s office, and that’s when things get ugly.

Mom and I have a little chat with F who calls back C. C insists there is no report but says she will look again. Sure enough, the report turns up, and C plops it down on my chart. At the same time she says, “The doctor is gone for the day. You can come back and see him tomorrow.”

It’s now about 3:05pm and my appointment was for 2:45pm.

Knowing C’s track record at this point, we refuse to back down. We know he hasn’t left yet.

Mom: “I know he’s still here. That’s absurd. Our appointment was for 2:45pm. If he had to leave, why wouldn’t someone come to the waiting area and explain that as opposed to just having us sit around?”

C: “He had emergency surgery. Someone is on the operating table. He had to go”

Mom: “Then again, why didn’t someone come explain that to us? If it were true, how long were you going to let us sit before telling us he wasn’t here?”

C clams up. “Well,” she continues, “You can come see him tomorrow.”

Mom: “Do you have a supervisor? I’d like to speak with her please.”

C does some whispering with F: “He’s still here. He will see you.”

Then F stands up, puts a stack of pictures of wedding dresses in a manilla folder (the day before, I’d overheard the front desk staff joking with F about her wedding), grabs her things, and leaves. Nothing has been resolved, but she has chosen to dismiss herself from the scene. It’s at that point a third woman steps in and demands my co-pay.

Knowing there shouldn’t be a co-pay for this kind of follow-up but not wanting to argue further, I hand over my credit card. Then we wait some more. If Dr. K is in such a hurry to get to a patient on the operating table, there’s certainly no evidence to support that.

Meanwhile, Mom sneaks a peek at the MRI report and sees it was faxed over at 14:34. That’s 2:34pm. My appointment was for 2:45pm meaning the report had been there the whole time. No one had bothered to look.

After Dr. K sees me, scans the report, never looks at the CD, declares nothing’s broken, and writes me a prescription for his center’s physical therapy facility, Mom and I go hunt down the office manager – C’s supervisor. We explain what went down, and she makes three standout comments:

1. C’s a problem, and we know it, but she’s Dr. G’s assistant (another doc), and she keeps him from blowing up at patients (no joke) so we keep her around.


2. The MRI facility should have told us your report was here because we get lots of reports, and we can’t be bothered to check all the time.


3. We have plenty of patients so while you seem like lovely people, we don’t need your business so if you never come back, it’s no biggie for us.

Tell me again we don’t have a problem with our money-driven health care system. Tell me how you fear reform will make you feel like a number and not a person. Newsflash: You are a number. Lots of numbers. Dollar signs.

Wildly Funny

I’d embed this video, but I can’t find the code so you’ll have to click through to watch.

When Animals Interact

Seems to be a compilation from BBC’s Walk on the Wild Side. Brilliant.


Despite my New Year’s resolution to get back to blogging more, you’ve probably noticed things have been unusually quiet ’round these parts. I now can explain why.

I’ve moved.

After almost six years in DC, it was time to say goodbye. I’m ready for something new, and the temptation to continue that quest from the comfort of endless sunshine was too tough to resist. I’m now back in South Florida for the time being and will continue to pursue whatever next great adventure’s in store from here.

My friend and I rented a truck, packed up my stuff, and drove more than 1000 miles down I-95. We took a couple of days to make the trip and had great fun sneaking the cat into hotels along the way. The picture above is Emmy making herself at home at a Holiday Inn in Daytona.

The only hitch in the whole plan was an unforeseen accident that happened last Friday night. I slipped on the stairs inside my apartment and landed on my lower back. Nothing’s broken, but I’m in a lot of pain which means my friend had to do much more of the driving than either of us anticipated. She was a total rock star, and I am infinitely grateful.

The plan now is to learn how to take it easy and let myself heal. Easier said than done, but I intend to try.