Sunday, May 30, 2004

Bill Cosby is a funny man, but he also has a very serious side as well. The comedian, who has a doctorate (in education, I believe) from Temple University, has for a number of years been active in supporting historically black colleges (if you remember during the "Cosby Show" years he would often appear in scenes wearing sweats of various colleges) and helping improving the ability for young African-American young people to earn a higher education.

Not long ago during an NAACP event commerorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown -vs- Board of Education decision, Cosby strongly criticized many facets of African-American culture...from speaking habits to spending to urban fashion. And he was right on target! The only thing is, The Coz could have been speaking about the overall culture today of many young people, regardless of race or skin colour.

I include some of his comments here, courtesy of the Washington Post

"Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal," he declared. "These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids -- $500 sneakers for what? And won't spend $200 for 'Hooked on Phonics.' . . .

"They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English," he exclaimed. "I can't even talk the way these people talk: 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' . . . And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. . . . Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. . . . You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!"

The Post's Hamil Harris reports that Cosby also turned his wrath to "the incarcerated," saying: "These are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake and then we run out and we are outraged, [saying] 'The cops shouldn't have shot him.' What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?"

Please note here that he did not specifically refer to African-Americans here. I know quite a few white folks that would fit these comments to a tee. Those people who are choosing to criticize Dr. Cosby's comments are simply short-sighted and need to take a moment for a reality check.

This has NOT been a good weekend so far. It turns out I forgot to write down a payment I had made in my check register, which has really screwed up my bank balance royally to the point that when my son and I ordered pizza last week, it overdrew my account. Thank God for overdraft protection! But the downside, of course, is that you still have to pay the penalty; in my case, my bank (Bank of America) charged a $17.00 fee. No complaint here, as it was my screwup. BOA has been really good to me, and this is the first time this has happened. The only problem is that I had to actually borrow money from my daughter in order to have enough to pay my rent! I'm having to keep a much closer watch over finances now, since the rent went up $50 a month when we renewed the lease here this past month...but it was better than expected, considering the improvements made in the community over the past year.

On the upside, I stayed home with family Friday evening instead of going to a political event. Kinda unusual, but I am the public relations committee chairman for the local Democratic Party, so it's usually good that I be at those events. It was a quickly planned meet-and-greet for a County Commission candidate who had very recently entered the race for one of the four seats to be decided on the ballot, but I was simply tired after a long week of work and ready to enjoy a quiet three day weekend with my son and granddaughter. In that respect, the weekend has been good!

Saturday, May 29, 2004

The mind is wandering while the rest of the family is sleeping this early Saturday morning, so let me share what's on my mind while I've been reading the morning news...

Sad to hear the Citrus Connection, the Lakeland/Winter Haven area's mass transit service, is planning to discontinue it's Night Ride program as of July 1. Night Ride offered workers from 9 PM until midnight who didn't have other transportation options a way of getting to and from their jobs. Unfortunately, a lack of riders and loss of grant funding means no more service.

There were a couple of problems. First, the Citrus Connection hardly promoted the service at all. According the the Lakeland Ledger story this morning, transit director Steve Githens admitted it was marketed on a shoestring budget. Not quite the way you want people to know about your service, Steve! Then a representative of the Downtown Development Authority was quoted as saying ridership would increase if people would people would catch a bus after hours to dinner and movie without worrying about the after dinner drink. One problem with that: the Night Ride service was marketed only for nighttime workers.

In order to ride you had to 1) Go to the Citrus Connection office and fill out an application stating your place of employment, 2) have their staff verify your employment, and 3) wait for you to be mailed a card which you have to present to the driver when boarding the Night Ride bus. It only provided door-to-door service to and/or from your workplace. That was the purpose of Night Ride, as it was funded by welfare reform grants...which are now going, going, gone.

Thanks, Jeb! Thanks, Dubya!

And speaking of Jeb, it looks as though he will veto part of the budget that provides funding for restoration of publicly owned historical sites at Cypress Gardens. Sounds like the state is beginning to balk on it's commitment to preserve the Gardens, Florida's first theme park which was closed last year after over 70 years but scheduled to reopen later this year under new owner Kent Buescher. It'll be truly interesting to see the place when it does reopen. Buescher owns Wild Adventures Theme Park near Valdosta, Georgia, and plans to make Cypress Gardens more family-friendly instead of an attraction for senior citizens and wedding parties while keeping intact the original botanical gardens created by Dick and Julie Pope so many years ago.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Some random thoughts as I begin a three day weekend...

I want to see The Day After Tomorrowfor myself, just for the entertainment value.

I read the a couple of reviews of the new Fox movie today, and both Roger Ebert and USA Today critic Mike Clark panned it severely except for it's special effects. And the film has sparked a political debate over the question of global warming and the government's enviromental policy.

Everybody...step back and...take a deep breath. IT'S ONLY A MOVIE! It is not meant to be a diatribe on major issues of the day, only a two-plus hour bit of entertainment. Certainly, we have serious concerns about the enviroment. This administration has failed miserably in the area of protecting our resources. But let's keep those discussions where they the political and policy arenas. The Day After Tomorrow should be looked at simply for what it is...a fictional dramatic work of entertainment value only in the eyes of the viewer.

And it has not been a grand year for the Polk County School District. It has seen several school administrators either fired or investigated for putting their hands where they didn't belong...either in the school or organizational tills or under student's clothes. Just this week, the dean of discipline at the school district's alternative school for students with discipline problems was arrested and charged with having a sexual relationship with a girl that began when she was 11. And an investigation against a high school band director has been closed by the Sheriff's Office as the alleged victim has dropped the case, according to the Lakeland Ledger. The school district and the state department of education's Office of Professional Practices Services will continue it's own investigations.

It also seems that now Superintendent Jim Thornhill's term is about to end, he is busy letting principals know their contracts are not being renewed. And on top of it all, the five schools in Lake Wales have formed their own charter school district, the first attempt to do so in Florida since the idea of charter schools was established. The very idea circumvents the law mandating one school district for each county statewide, thus spreading the tax base as equally as possible countywide and making equal school resources available throughout a county instead of centered in one city or area.

With a new superintendent set to take over soon, she's got a lot of work ahead.

TGIF! After I finish this day, it's a three day weekend to enjoy the pool, the computer, and my beautiful three year old granddaughter. But let's not's Memorial Day weekend.

A lot of us have simply forgotten the purpose for Memorial Day. It is a day to remember those people who have sacrificed life and limb in the service of our nation at home and away wearing the uniforms of our military. To them we owe much, not the least of which is our most sincere thanks. That's why, even when I'm collecting past due funds from a customer on my job and they happen to mention a loved one serving in the military, I always ask the customer to pass along my thanks to them for their relative's service to our country. Might cost me points on the quality assurance grade, but it's sincere.

Unfortunately, in today's political scene, there are some who happen to feel that if you don't walk in lockstep with President Bush and his reasoning for going into Iraq along with his plan for our troops there, you are somehow not patroitic and not supporting our military there. That is like the neocoms in the White House that tend to wrap themselves in the flag and believe that somehow they are the only real patriots. That's simply not the truth.

While we may disagree on the reasoning and method of how to proceed in Iraq, we all support our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines whereever they are, and pray for their safe return soon. Please take some time during your happy weekend of family and fun to remember the people who helped provide the safety we all enjoy.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Another season of "American Idol" is behind us. And after all the bad, off pitch performances, controveresies about voting, and various other conspiracy ideas being floated about, the right contestant won.

North Carolina's Fantasia Barrino came through the old fashioned way: She was simply the best singing talent the show has seen in it's three none!. Even the usually ascerbic judge, producer Simon Cowell, admitted as much after one of her three songs during Monday night's final matchup against Georgia teen Donna DeGarmo. This is simply one talent to keep a close eye on over the next several years. If she has good guidance and avoids the pitfalls that so many fall into throughout the music business, this talented young woman could become a superstar.

But don't cry for young Miss DeGarmo. While her vocal talents are nowhere near Fantasia's --- or, for that matter, several of the other finalists who were voted off before her --- it was truly her stage presence that kept her in the competition. Her youthful enthusiam and ability to relate to the audience apparantly counted more than her vocal talents. With time and some vocal coaching, she can and will do quite well as a performer.

So where does the show go from here. After three years, it certainly needs to evolve so that it does not become dull. One idea would be to change the panel of judges. Unfortunately, Randy, Paula, and Simon simply are beginning to look bored in their roles. And while theme nights are a good idea, keep within the format!

A couple of random musings before steppin' out to collect money from all these people behind on their telephone bills this Thursday morning...

How soon we forget. Of course, the high gasoline prices we are experiencing now is nothing short of criminal, and noone wants to pay two dollars a gallon. But now that the Saudis have said that they would increase production and are attempting to bring their OPEC brethern into the fold, I remember it was not long ago that we were reading reports of a sweetheart deal between President Bush and the Saudi royal family that they would manipulate production to bring prices down in time for the November elections. The Saudi Arabian move seems more than just a coincidence now...

Former Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd is an also ran. He began a TV ad campaign this week touting his conservative credentials as he seeks the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democratic incumbant Bob Graham. Sorry, but the way he ran the state house the past two years alienated even his fellow Republicans, and as soon as this year's session ended several of his former collegues who had endorsed his campaign jumped off the ship like rats off the Titanic. He'll be lucky to be in the second tier of Republicans behind McCollum and Martinez.

And Betty Castor, will you PLEASE QUIT TAKING THE TAMPA BAY AREA FOR GRANTED!?!? One of her supporters had scheduled a fundraising event in Auburndale for June, rented the building, and was making plans for the event when her campaign people called and cancelled saying there was a "scheduling conflict" in South Florida...nice way of saying a good way of getting a LOT MORE $$$ than in Polk County. If that's the case, JUST SAY IT!

Don't get me wrong, I like Betty Castor. I believe she'll be the Democratic nominee after her two primary opponents, who dislike each other with a passion, beat each other up while Ms. Castor stands aside and watches, waiting to pick up the pieces. And I believe she can defeat either Martinez or McCollum in the general election. But she can't afford to leave her home base vunerable.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Remember four years ago when there were over 20,000 Florida citizens who were improperly removed from the state's voter rolls? Now, six months before the 2004 election, half of Florida's 67 counties have responded to a request by state election officials to check if any of the voters removed in 2000 should be reinstated as required under a legal settlement between the state, the NAACP, and other groups reached nearly two years ago.

According to a story in the Miami Herald, along the I-4 Corridor only Brevard, Hillsborough, Osceola, Sarasota, and Volusia counties have responded. Of those only Hillsborough and Osceola have actually reported actually reported adding names back to the rolls...Hillsborough with 579, and Osceola with nine.

Sounds like a LOT OF WORK needs to be done, especially since Jeb! has ordered a new purge of the voter rolls statewide prior to the presidential election. And this latest list of approximately 47,000 voters has least Leon County Assistant Supervisor of Elections Janet Olin is saying her office has already found some in the new list.

Myrian Marquez is truly an insightful columnist. Ever since she began writing her column for the Orlando Sentinel a few months ago, I have looked forward to her occasional musings.

Her column Sunday was especially insightful. It dealt with the latest controversy in the Roman Catholic Church in America, as several bishops have threatened or actually instructed their priests to withhold Communion from political candidates or officials whose positions are contrary to the Church's teachings. Most notably, this affects the soon-to-be Democratic presidential nominee, John Kerry, who is of the Catholic faith and could be the first Catholic president since John F. Kennedy. Check out this wonderful piece of work from Ms. Marquez, who also is editor of the Sentinel's Spanish edition.

Seems as though one of our local residents had the same ideas the previous week, and sent it as a letter to the editor at the Lakeland Ledger. EDITOR'S NOTE: The Ledger finally printed her letter today (Friday, 28 May)! She gave me permission to reprint it prior to it being printed:

Thomas Wenski's column epitomizes everything that is wrong with the Catholic church. First of all, there is no such thing as "pro-abortion". The correct term is pro-choice, because that is exactly what it is: a choice. No one is dragging women by the hair into clinics to force them to terminate a pregnancy, but we've certainly seen pro-"lifers" trying to prevent women from making their own decisions. Seems the word life in that term only applies to the fetus, and not to the woman carrying it.

Secondly, the Catholic church has a lot of work to do on itself before it purports to know what is good for anyone. This whole communion issue is a partisan witch hunt designed to make Democrats look bad. During the last governor's election in Michigan, pro-"life" Catholics actually picketed outside of churches on Sundays to bring attention to the fact that Jennifer Granholm is a Catholic and pro-choice. Luckily, their strong arm tactics did not work--she won handily. Let's not forget, the people in charge of this witch hunt belong to the same organization that turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children that went on for many years. Not only a blind eye, but they created a safety net for abusive priests, many of whom never were or never will be punished.

Thirdly, I know a great number of Catholics that are sterilized, using birth control, had children out of wedlock, etc, that attend church every Sunday and take communion. Are they going to start handing out a questionnaire about your personal life before they distribute the Eucharist? They may be surprised to find that no one, no matter what political coat they wear, is really "able" to partake in this ritual.

Lastly, let us not forget that one of the Ten Commandments plainly states: Thou Shalt Not Kill. Wenski fails to mention that the church should be denying communion to Jeb Bush as well if they are going to play this game fairly. The hypocrisy of the Catholic church is staggering.

If the point of religion and the act of going to church is designed to bring one closer to holiness, as Wenski says, why deny someone's closeness to god simply because they aren't perfect? I wasn't aware that perfection was a prerequisite to enter a church. I thought the church accepted anyone, anytime, for any reason. Apparently, there is no sanctuary for one who does not live up to the church's standards, or follow every one of their rules, all of the time.

You just can't have your wafer and eat it, too!

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Greetings from Imperial Polk County, the center of it all!

Welcome to my new blog, Interstate4Jamming. It is intended to be an occasional commentary on a variety of subjects, primarily local and regional politics, but also every once in a while I may go off on whatever other issue happens to touch me. Please feel free to respond at any time; that's what the reponse links are for.

I am a 45 year old collection agent from Lakeland, a lifelong Democrat who is active in the local party executive committee. I consider myself more of a centrist, and believe with all my heart that it's time for a clean sweep from the court house in Bartow (actually the County Administration Building) to the State House to the White House. We actually need some progressive thinking people in office who understand ordinary working people. Unfortunately, many of those in office today simply don't care a rat's behind about the vast majority of us,

I am fairly new to blogging, and I am still learning. My thanks to those who own the Tampa area blogs Sticks of Fire and Florida Politics for ideas, although they don't know it (at least until now).