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Today on Context Florida: Merrick Garland, political conventions, Florida’s unemployment and fracking alarmists

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Today on Context Florida:

The maxim that “no good deed goes unpunished” is often borne out in politics these days. If President Barack Obama hasn’t taped it to his shaving mirror, Martin Dyckman says he should. In Merrick Garland, he found an ideal Supreme Court candidate, one whom, were the present roles reversed, a Republican president might have nominated and a Democratic Senate would have been obliged to confirm. Despite all that, Senate Republicans are still refusing a hearing on the nomination and most aren’t even willing to meet with Garland privately. They’re holding out in the hope that a Republican will be elected in November to nominate a conspicuous reactionary like Scalia. In so doing, they’re catering to the Koch brothers, the NRA, and other elements of the rabid right that actively oppose Garland.

Political parties have held conventions in America since 1824. According to Darryl Paulson, many aspects of the convention have changed little in almost two centuries. What made for good television, made for bad election results for the parties. They did not want to project an image of a divided party to the American electorate. Both parties instituted rules that made conventions less dramatic. The party image improved, but television now found conventions bland.

Florida’s unemployment rate is down almost half from the peak of 11.1 percent during the Great Recession. While it is great news that the state’s annual unemployment rate was down to 5.4 percent in 2015, and down to 5 percent in January 2016, Dominic Calabro points out the numbers don’t tell the whole story. An underlying factor that determines whether the job market is truly positive is the labor force participation rate (LFPR). The LFPR is the percentage of able-bodied adults aged 16 and over who are either employed or looking for a job. It is considered a more accurate representation of what really is occurring in the job market.

Fear just secured another victory, says Dennis Freytes. Under pressure from green activists, the Florida Senate voted down a bill that would have helped expand fracking, the drilling process used to extract oil and natural gas from deep underground. Activists recycled discredited arguments to scare citizens and legislators alike into believing that fracking will harm Florida’s environment. If alarmism were a crime, these radicals would be wearing handcuffs. Fracking won’t damage the environment, but it will boost the state’s economy, create more jobs, and help secure American energy independence.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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