Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Well, we in Polk County already know for the most part the results of our primary election, JUST OVER TWO HOURS after the polls closed! While our neighbours in Hillsborough only have slightly over ten percent of the results announced, the Polk SOE office has 94% of the results.

The results show a couple of things: There will be some major changes on the Polk County Commission, and the voters --- even the Democrats --- have decidedly shown their more conservative face today.

SHERIFF: No real surprise here. Grady Judd, the number two man in the Sheriff's Office and retiring top lawman Lawrence Crow's hand picked successor, easily won over two opponents. Judd had the advantage of being the media face of the PCSO during the past year-plus as part of Crow's plan to familiarize the voters with him.

COUNTY COMMISSION: One incumbant, District 1 Republican Don Gifford, lost his re-election bid in his party primary to political newcomer Bob English. He'll face Democrat Mark D. Hopkins (no Web site) in November. District 4 caretaker Paul Senft (no Web site), who was appointed by Jeb! to fill the unexpired term of the late Charles Richardson (and who promised the Gov not to run for the seat but did so anyway), won the Republican nomination over two opponents with 40 percent; Jean Reed will be his Democratic opponent November 2.

Meanwhile in District 5 there were crowded races in both party primaries to fill the spot Neil Combee is leaving as he retires. Republican public school administrator Sam Johnson will meet Democrat John Thomas Fennell, a minister, in November (Neither have Web sites). Both are newcomers. Fennell is the African-American minister of a predominately white Disciples of Christ congregation in Lakeland

SCHOOL BOARD: Two incumbants, Frank O'Reilly (no Web site) and Brenda Reddout, won easy reelection to their seats, which are nonpartisan. O'Reilly switched to the Republican party a couple of years ago, and Reddout was a major advocate of school uniforms, which was a divisive issue in Polk County and caused some litigation which included the ACLU. There will be one runoff, in District 2 as Lori Cunningham will face off against Lynn Wilson. Cunningham had 43 percent of the vote against Wilson's 32

U.S. SENATE: On the Republican side, Polk County went decidedly toward Mel Martinez with 43 percent of the vote, followed by Bill McCollum with 33 percent. Among Democrats, Polk is Betty Castor country, as the former USF President received 61 percent. Peter Deutsch came in second with 25 percent.

U.S. HOUSE: The conservative streak showed on the Democratic side here, as Bob Hagenmeier will be the D's nominee against Republican incumbant Adam Putnam. Hagenmeier defeated Jeff Seimer in Polk by ten percent with his decidedly more conservative lean on some social issues. Putnam had only token opposition, not much to worry about.

TO BE HONEST WITH YOU: Hagenmaier is gonna have to REALLY convince me of a reason to vote for him in November. Now, I am a really good, lifelong Democrat and have worked for Democrats...but a number of Bob's views are simply different from many of my beliefs. I certainly won't vote for Putnam! But I need to know why to support or work for Bob Hagenmaier. Someone please convince me!

On this primary election day in Polk County, you've got to give HUGE kudos to Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards and her staff. Right after Hurricane Charley and all the destruction it caused across eastern Polk, especially in the Lake Wales/Fort Meade area, there was talk of a number of precients possibly being switched, with the possibility of using portable trailers and generators. Thankfully, only a handful of people are still without power, and only three precient locations have been changed: Two in Frostproof (that use the same location) had to switch because the usual location at First Baptist Church is housing students from Ben Hill Griffin Elementary School while it is being repaired. And voters at the Winter Haven Senior Centre simply have to go across the street to the Winter Haven Garden Centre due to air quality conditions due to damage (possible mold spores).

I remember when Lori first ran for SOE after leaving the Legislature, a victim of term limits. There was some doubt as to wheather she was really up to it, or if she was simply waiting for another office in Tallahassee. She has done an excellent job in the office, respected among her peers. You GO GIRL!

Monday, August 30, 2004

It's not often that a newspaper is so bothered over the behaviour of a candidate that it have endoresed for office that it has withdrawn said endorsement. While such action may have occured in the past in a local race, I have never heard of it happening in Florida in a state or national race...until today.

The St. Petersburg Times did it one day before the Republican primary by changing it's mind in removing it's endorsement from former HUD Secretary Mel Martinez in favour of former Congressman Bill McCollum. The unprescidented move was in response to the Martinez campaign's adversitments against McCollum, which you've got to admit were below the belt. There's nothing wrong with highlighting differences in opinion/policy, but character assaination has no place in the political arena.

If Martinez if that desperate to win the Republican nomination, just think about what he would go against Betty Castor, who will likely win the Democratic race tomorrow. And just remember, dear ol' Mel was brought into this race by the White House, regardless of how neutral 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue tries to be.

Also saw a story where Jeb! got into the stink over the weekend, trying to take credit for getting Martinez to pull one of the harsher TV ads which was supposedly running in the Panhandle. Of course, it's almost impossible to change TV ads during a weekend when the office is closed and there's only a skeleton crew of engineering personnel. Now, Jeb! has another stink of his own to control with his DCF director resigning today...that's a department which is an almost constant scandal, but that's for another day.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Uh, oh...not again...

There is another major hurricane in the eastern Carribean that we will have to keep a close watch on over the next week, named Francis. The latest long-term predictions according to the National Hurricane Centre in Coral Gables are showing that this storm, which very well may become a Catagory 4 over the next few days, may come very close to the Florida coast by next weekend.

In additional to it's own computer models, the NHC also takes into consideration models from the US Navy Meterlogicial Office, Enviroment Canada, the UK Meterlogicial Office, plus a couple of others.

After what we went through with Charley, this bad girl deserves our attention.

It was truly fun watching the Republican U.S. Senate candidates go after each other last night in their last televised debate before Tuesday's primary. It was like the team members arguing during over how to do their assignment during an episode of "The Apprentice", willing to do anything to come across as the leader to avoid those words from Donald Trump..."YOU'RE FIRED!"

It was fun watching a truly pissed off Bill McCollum going after Mel Martinez about a mailer sent claiming the former Congressman of catering to "the radical homosexual lobby" for his vote for a bill increasing penalities for hate crimes against gays and lesbians, among others. McCollum demanded an apology from the former HUD Secretary, and said that Martinez was unfit to serve as a United States Senator. It was also fun to watch McCollum try to get fellow candidate Doug Gallagher into the fray, asking him to condemn Martinez' campaign tactics.

It was fun to watch Bernard Klein show his true colours, just how radical to the right he really is. And it was fun to just see former House Speaker Johnnie Byrd there...he realizes his campaign is basically over, and time to go back to the real world. The Legislature will be a better place for that.

Thanks to Lakeland resident Bob Krimm for this thoughtful letter that appeared in this morning's Lakeland Ledger:

We're not talking "left-wing liberal media" here: Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service reported that for two years in a row, the average per capita income of American workers had dropped by more than 9 percent, and that this has not happened, even for one year, since 1953.

In Washington, President Bush reported that the economy was strong.

Two days later, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 57 percent of the newly created jobs paid much less than the ones that had been lost.

President Bush reported that the economy was strong.

On Aug. 8, the U. S. Labor Department reported that only 32,000 new jobs were added last month -- about 90 percent below expectations.

In Ohio and Michigan, President Bush reported that the economy was strong.

Because of the poor "new jobs" report, the Dow plunged 147.7 points to a new low for the year.

In Iowa, President Bush reported that the economy was strong.

The Congressional Budget Office just reported that the tax cuts have shifted the tax burden to the middle and lower economic brackets.

Now we can understand that the economy has indeed improved . . . for those with incomes averaging $1.2 million a year, President Bush's largest campaign contributors.

With polls for the president still hovering in the 40 percent to 50 percent range, it's quite clear that almost half the voters in America still get their news from the same source that told them that Iraq had something to do with 9/11.

Something really should be done with all these left-wing, ultraliberal, "Bushbashing" governmental agencies.

Friday, August 27, 2004

The Sayfie Review, which is a good resource for political news from across Florida despite it's obvious Republican leanings, has gotten together with Insider Advantage, Inc. to premiere Florida Insider. The site's description says that it will be a subscription-based premium source of analysis of the Sunshine State's political scene. Right now it is running a free trial, which includes some interesting tidbits:

Insider Advantage's analysis of the U.S. Senate race, which includes one unnamed Republican insider lamenting the slow fundraising and media profile of their candidates this way: "For a state the size of Florida, this looks like a race for fourth grade president."

References from the Center for Responsive Politics as to which candidates have been recieving the most money from in --- and out of --- Florida, and breakdowns in how the Kerry and Bush campaigns have done raising money in specific areas of the state...sadly, Lakeland/Winter Haven has raised approximately nine times more for Bush; Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater almost three times more for the incumbant Prez.

Just remember...mo' money doesn't always translate into mo' votes...ya gotta still get da people out! GOTV!

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Feeling soooooo much better this morning.

A summer cold is simply the WORST type of cold to have. It makes you feel more miserable than you normally would. And I almost couldn't stay awake at work yesterday because I was drinking Nyquil. But it worked. Certainly not at 100%, but a heckuva lot better than I was 24 hours ago.

And I slept like a baby last night...

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

I voted today.

Taking advantage of the early voting period, I made the time to stop by the Lakeland branch courthouse and cast my ballot in the primary election scheduled for next Tuesday. Here were my picks, and thus Interstate4Jamming's endorsements to you. Please note that unless otherwise noted, these are the DEMOCRATIC primary picks:

U.S. Senate: Betty Castor

U.S. Congress, District 12: Jeff Siemer

Sheriff, Polk County (Nonpartisan): Kirk Warren

Polk County Commission, District 5: John Thomas Fennell (no Web site)

Polk County School Board, District 1 (Nonpartisan): Kirk Erickson (no Web site)

Polk County School Board, District 2 (Nonpartisan): Lynn Wilson (no Web site)

Polk County School Board, District 4 (Nonpartisan): Toni Elliott (no Web site)

I watched the Polk County League of Women Voters' Forum last evening which featured the congressional candidates seeking the 12th District seat currently held by Republican Adam Putnam. It was also planned to feature the District 5 candidates (that seat is currently held by another Republican, Ginny Brown-Waite), but due to Hurricane Charley another event in Citrus County was rescheduled for last evening and the candidates all attended that event. The 5th District only includes a small snippet of northwest Polk, so you go where you can influence the most voters.

There are two Democrats in the primary August 31: former USDA scientist Bob Hagenmaier of Winter Haven, a social conservative with some views you simply don't expect from a Democrat, and Jeff Siemer of Lakeland, who has worked in the financial software industry. Putnam's token Republican opponent is Robert O. Wirengard of Plant City.

Wirengard simply wasn't that well spoken, and some of his views --- like a monthly stipend to all citizens from the government --- are simply odd. Hagenmaier, who has received endorsements from the Tampa Tribune and the Frisbee Publishing Group newspapers (Polk County Democrat, Fort Meade Leader, Lake Wales News) last week, seemed uncomfortable on several occasions and had to think about his answers, although they were pretty straightforward. Siemer, who has the Lakeland Ledger's endorsement, has really worked on his presentation and has become short and to the point with his answers. He was the only one of the candidates to actually challenge Putnam on a couple of issues. I would really like to see Siemer and Putnam go head-to-head this fall; that should be one heckuva debate from two young, dynamic contenders.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Not a great surprise, but Jeb! has decided to pull a no-show at the Republican National Convention next week in NYC, choosing not to be with his brother the President when he is ordained the party's nominee for a second term in office. The Gov has chosen to say at home and leave the leadership duties for the Florida delegation to Lieutenant Gov Toni Jennings.

Jeb!, who is chairing Florida's reelection efforts for his brother, will not be with him when the Prez comes to Miami on Friday. The timing and location of the visit are seen by many as quite interesting, as it could and will be seen as an effort to help the campaign of former HUD Secretary Mel Martinez, whose attempt to win the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat is bogging down behind Congressman Bill McCollum.

Guess I'll step back and watch the Polk County Government TV Channel for the League of Women Voters' forum featuring the candidates for the U.S. Congress from Districts 5 and 12. Should be interesting who shows up.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Here in Polk County, people do tend to get incredibly stupid on occasion, some more than others. When they are in the political arena, especially in public office, it's an embarrassment to all of us who live and work here.

Randy Wilkinson has almost been a constant embarrassment to himself and his constitutents since the time he was first elected to the Polk County School Board, and has just continued it since becoming a County Commissioner. Often, it's just his mouth that gets him into trouble. Now the Lakeland Ledger is reporting the Wilkinson has been showing up at the county's Recovery Operations Center for free meals which are meant for the staff and volunteers who have often put in up to 14 hour days helping Polk County get through the aftermath of Hurricane Charley. He doesn't show up and help, just grabs a free meal and chat with a couple of folks.

HUGE kudos to EMS medical supervisor John Wheeler, who is overseeing the kitchen at the ROC and had the gonads to ask Wilkinson to leave when he popped up in front of everyone in line looking for some eats. If he ain't gonna help, he should STAY THE HELL OUT! The meals are in consideration for the hard efforts these volunteers and county staff have made on behalf of their fellow citizens, putting in long hours away from their own families.

The real sad thing is that...of the five Polk County Commissioners, four seats are up for grabs in this election (one is to fill the unexpired term of a commissioner who died in office earlier this year). Guess whose is not? We have to deal with Randy for two more years. Who knows what adventures we will be dealing with in the meantime from Mr. Wilkinson.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

A HUGE STINK has developed during the past week over an ad running around the country purchased by a group known as "Swift Boat Veterans For The Truth", one of these shadow organizations that are raising money and/or buying media time in support of or against one of the presidential candidates. In this case, this group is financially backed by people who are supporting President Bush's reelection and is supposedly made up of fellow "swift boat" veterans from the Vietnam War era who are slamming John Kerry, going so far as to question the medals he earned in action.

In today's Chicago Tribune online site (registration required), a former fellow swift boat commander, one of three that traveled up the Dong Cung on February 28, 1969 (the third commander has since died) and now a Tribune editor ended a 35 year silence and wrote a piece to share his rememberances of that day, the actions of which brought John Kerry his Silver Star for valor. William B. Rood has said that this would be his only public statement on the events of that day, so don't look for him on the Sunday talkers. It's an interesting read by a fellow who don't have a dog in this fight.

One would think this would bring this to a close...but you and I both know it won't.

I am a truly HAPPY MAN this morning. After four weeks, I FINALLY got my computer back from Gateway in Dallas! I had some issues after two power supplies fried in quick succession, and when I called the customer service number the representative suggested that I ship the tower back to Gateway for a look-see. Thank God for the intelligence to purchase the extended warranty! It turned out there were apparantly at least three issues, including corruption in the operating system (Windows XP), so they fixed everything and it's back where it belongs.

For my recent posts I had been using my old IBM Aptiva, which has Windows 95 and does not have a CD burner or any of the newer features that this baby does. But it's still a workhorse that fills in when needed, and it least allows me to stay online and communicate with everyone. Hell, I rely on this more than I do my phone!

I won't be doing much posting this weekend as I have to get everything reloaded and updated on the Gateway machine. But, as Ahnold would say, I'll bee baaack.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

ON THE SUiptalptal

A couple of days ago, I mentioned that the attorney general's office had filed a civil complaint against two motels, one in Lakeland, for alleged price gouging against people who were trying to escape Hurricane Charley. The Lakeland motel, Crossroads Motor Lodge, is on U.S. 98 at Interstate 4 just a short walk from my humble abode, and I had heard some horror stories about that place before and how they treated customers and employees.

I didn't realize how bad it was until I saw this story in today's Lakeland Ledger.

Seems as though they currently owe the City of Lakeland almost $100K in code enforcement fines, and they've received a number of complaints with the Better Business Bureau over the past several years. Check out the story link for yourself.

Sounds like the owner really doesn't give a rat's behind about offering a decent service, just making a quick profit. And by the way: In the story, where it mentions the scrolling outside sign regarding the trucker's rate...I see that sign every day because my bus stop is just down the street from the motel. There are so many lights out on that sign that you can hardly read it...at least you have to stare at it for awhile before you can understand determine what it says.

As I closed the original message: Business people like this that take advantage of others for a quick profit will, in my humble opinion, have a special place waiting for them in the deepest depths of Hell

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Coming across an article online today reminded me of a haunting fact, especially as many here continue to recover from Hurricane Charley. It was 35 years ago yesterday --- August 17, 1969 --- that another destructive hurricane struck the Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Camille came ashore along the Mississippi coast near Pass Christian, devestating the area with sustained winds of approximately 200 MPH and taking the lives of 172 people.

They still remember the event every year in Harrison County with a touching ceremony. Nothing fancy; no speeches or pontificating by public officials. Just a simple rememberance. Check out the story from the Sun Herald, the newspaper that serves the Gulfport-Biloxi area.

To many, Pokemon is just an afternoon kids' TV cartoon show that has balooned into the usual commercial juggernaut: Various toys, backpacks, notebooks, and other items are readily available for a price. But one Pokemon franchise has become especially popular, and not only with children. The Pokemon Trading Card Game has gotten a signiificant following, with players from pre-teens to adults throughout the country and around the world. There are groups of PTC players that have formed weekly leagues, one of which is based in Winter Haven. My 24-year old son is addicted, and makes the trip on Saturday mornings to enjoy what has been referred to as "a mind game for all ages".

This weekend is the biggest weekend for PTC game players, with the World Championships being held at Walt Disney World in Orlando. There is an interesting article in today's Clarion Ledger of Jackson, Mississippi about some Magnolia State players who are making the trip, the tournament, and about the game itself. In addition to the tournament and Friday's "Last Chance" qualifier, there are a number of other free events which should be rather interesting.

At first, I thought it was just a kid's game not worth much. But as I learned more, it actually teaches quite a bit. And it helps keeps many kids out of trouble...

One thing that sickens me more than anything during a tragedy such as a hurricane is to see predators who don't think twice about taking advantage of the situation to make an extra buck from those who may have lost their homes, jobs, and in some cases, loved ones. Businesses who jack up their prices during this time should be hit with the full force of the law, and people should remember these people and spread the word about their crappy business practices.

The State Attorney General's office has filed civil charges against a Days Inn in West Palm Beach and the Crossroads Motor Inn in Lakeland (just up U.S. 98 from where I live) for price gouging, hiking up the room rates to evacuees as much as $20 a night. Listening to an Orlando radio station yesterday, I heard reports of gas stations in that area who were selling fuel for $1.78 before the storm; in one case reportedly $2.09 now.

And of course we can't forget about the unlicensed contractors who charge exhorbant prices for poor quality work, and people soliciting contributions saying it will go toward relief efforts when it will only go into their pockets for another six pack.

There will be a special place in Hell for people such as these.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Usually, I concentrate on political news and events that are happening in the local area. But Alan Keyes always seems to stir the pot wherever he shows up. The former independent presidential candidate and conservative from the East Coast who Illinois Republicans was drafted to run as their candidate for the U.S. Senate after their original candidate withdrew after some scandalous sexual information came out from his divorce papers and no other name candidates stepped foward. It seems he has sounded off twice recently: Once in a news conference about his idea about reparations for some African-Americans who are the dependents of slaves. The other time was last Friday on a public affairs show on WBBM Radio in Chicago, where he said that he favoured the direct election of senators, repealing the 17th Amendment and returning to the practice where senators were selected by state legislatures.

Thanks to the blog Dizzy From Spinning for the heads up on the Keyes info. A good liberal-focused source.

Also thanks to FlaBlog for the recent mention and kind words. In the midst of all the hurricane related news he reminded me there was still a Senate race on by mentioning some recent newspaper endorsements over the weekend.

And congrats to Tommy and Sticks of Fire in Tampa, who experienced the blogging equivilent of 15 minutes of fame over the weekend, as his hits during Charley and afterward shot up like a HUGE bull stock.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Getting back to normal in Imperial Polk County...well, almost.

School is out all week as the damage to facilities is being determines and repairs made as the cleanup continues in those areas slammed by the unwanted visitor named Charley, but the stores are being restocked and working folks are heading back to the job throughout the area. And Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty is wondering in his piece today about the county's oldest continuing political rally: The Haines City Chamber of Commerce's Pig Roast

This is one of several similar events held throughout Polk County during the political season, where people can meet and greet candidates for a variety of public office, have a bite to eat and --- in some cases --- enjoy some down home entertainment. Most of these pig roasts, bar-b-ques, or whatever the sponsors care to call them, have a nominal admission fee which includes the cost of a dinner and also covers the costs incurred in putting on the event...$5-10 is average. However, the Haines City Chamber does it up BIG TIME, and their admission reflects it: $50 a person!

Not exactly the outing you used to take the family to that long ago, and certainly not an outing that a working person is able to afford today. It's actually just less than a ticket to get into Disney World! The Haines City Chamber does it at the Greenlefe Golf and Country Club, and Rufty wonders if it is the political rally it was founded to be, or now simply a annual fundraiser for the Chamber. Good question...we wonder, too!

And while on the political soapbox, last week there was supposed to be a radio debate between two candidates for the District 5 Congressional seat: Democrat John Russell of Dade City, and incumbant Republican Ginny Brown-Waite. It was to be broadcast on Auburndale/Lakeland radio station WTWB 1570, which is run by conservative activist and former Polk County Sheriff's Office PR spokesperson Lynne Breidenbach on a time share agreement with owner Carpenter's Home Church. Anyway, Congresswoman Brown-Waite was a NO SHOW, with no reason given or mention of her absence. Russell did get a debate, though, and held his own with Ms. Breidenbach --- who hosted the show the debate was to be held on --- for a good half hour on a variety of issues. Russell is a feisty young fellow who doesn't mind working with the other side when something good can come out of it, but will push back if pushed first.

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly that even in a situation like Hurricane Charley how politics seems to raise it's head.

Of course, you always expect the President to see the damage for himself, meet with some of the residents, and offer words of comfort and assurance that the resources of the United States Government are on their way. And indeed, G.W. Bush certainly didn't waste any time getting on the plane. He wasn't about to make the same mistake his daddy made after Hurricane Andrew 12 years ago when he was criticized for delays in getting help to areas where it was needed most.

His Democratic opponent, John Kerry, did the right thing by simply offering a classy, heartfelt statement of sympathy and support for the people of Florida, but said he would not visit the area personally. Not only would such a visit be percived as overtly political --- certainly not appropriate during this time --- but also take resourses away from necessary recovery efforts for security and related issues.

A good idea. Let the folks down there get through this...politics is the fartherest thing on their mind right now.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Now that Charley has done his damage and left, I can thoughtfully consider how the local broadcast news outlets did in their coverage of this major event. The best overall job has to go to WTVT-FOX 13 for their willingness to stay with the story from start to finish. Even as Charley was pounding eastern Polk County --- one of the largest counties in the Tampa/St. Petersburg media market --- with wind and rain, causing considerable damage, the other network affiliates couldn't wait to jump back on the network prime time bandwagon. And FOX 13 News tended to be more thorough in their overall coverage. A close second would go to Bright House Networks' cable news channel Bay News 9; their main problem is the same one they always have. They tend to tape an hour's newscast and rerun it for several hours at a time, and WFLA-NBC 8 doesn't get quite that lazy, they DO use the EXACT SAME SCRIPT for both hours of their early morning newscast from 5-7AM.

And I give kudos to Denis Phillips of WFTS-ABC 28 for being the first meterologist --- at least I saw while scanning the channels --- to note Charley's change in direction toward Port Charlotte. This was before 1PM, and he was especially cautious that it may be just a wobble, but his belief based on his Penn State meteo studies, was that this was the real deal. Guess they do more than play football up there in Happy Valley...

Being a Polk Countian, the decision by WFLA and the other network affiliates, WTSP-CBS 10 and WFTS to dump their coverage while Charley was still affecting a significant portion of their coverage area was rather inconsiderate. If it had been Hernando, Citrus, or Sarasota Counties which had been involved, the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games would have definately switched to PAX 66 as had been tenatively planned and the other stations would have readily stayed with local coverage. While coverage of news in Polk by Tampa Bay television stations has improved some (WFLA, WTVT, and BN9 maintain news bureaus here), there's still a way to go.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

To quote a song from one of the 1970's disaster movies, "There's got to be a morning after..."

And to say the least, we truly dodged a bullet by a hair last evening. Here in north Lakeland, we had heavy wind with gusts of over hurricane force, and heavy rain, for over two hours. Fortunately, the only "damage" at the apartment complex where I live was that a few shingles came off a couple of neighbouring buildings (they had been redone earlier this year), and some light tree branches, but nothing of any consequence. The electricity stayed on throughout, which was not the case throughout the city.

My neighbour and her children decided to stay with relatives in Winter Haven, only 20 minutes east...not a great idea as things turned out. Signs and other debris flew past their apartment, the roof of a neighbouring building began to come off, and overall it turned out to be a scary night. What a difference only a few miles makes, being on the west (weaker) side of the storm's eye and the stonger northeast quadrant.

Here in Polk the areas that really got hammered are Bartow, Lake Wales, and Fort Meade. Lots of serious damage. Nothing to the degree that the folks in Port Charlotte or even Arcadia received, but there will be a number of people and familes that will be suffering during the recovery period. And Polk County Schools have announced they will be out all next week; several of the schools received damage or are being used as shelters or feeding centers for those whose homes have been damaged or destroyed.

There are and will be a lot of organizations moving in to help the victims. The two I suggest everyone support right off the bat are the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Both organizations are on top of things from the beginning to help in any and every way possible to make a difficult situation slightly better. Also gotta give a hand to the amateur radio operators who provide communications between the shelters, the Red Cross Chapter HQ in Winter Haven, and the Polk EOC in Bartow. When the power goes down, which usually means most phone service --- including cellular --- goes down as well, ham radio usually provides the only reliable means of instant point-to-point communication. A lot of important information gets through via ham radio, and even now people in areas such as Punta Gorda, Point Charlotte, and Lake Wales are able to get health and welfare messages to their families thanks to ham radio operators.

The hardest part has begun...cleanup.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Well, Charley has arrived in Central Florida. As I am writing this close to 6:30 PM, the rain is falling stedily in north Lakeland with a light wind. The main body of the storm is approaching southern Polk County after inflicting considerable damage in Desoto County to our south. From what I am seeing, it looks like the eye will cross Polk near Bartow, slightly east of Winter Haven, then move north-northeast and exit near Haines City/Davenport. While Lakeland will be on the west (weaker) side of the hurricane, we'll still experience a bit of wind and rain for the next few hours, so it ain't a situation to play around with.

I'm keeping up with what's going on by monitoring to the amateur radio communications between the Polk Emergency Management office, the Red Cross in Winter Haven, and the various shelter locations countywide. They do a fabulous job in handling evacuees who don't have anywhere else to go in a situation such as this. As of a couple of hours ago they had registered over 2,000 people at nine shelters; most were at or nearing capacity and as a result more have since been opened.

Gotta get some food ready in case the power goes down...

Back home after the call centre management did the right thing and closed at noon. Everyone inside was nervous about what might occur, and if they would be able to leave early enough to beat the rough weather. No sense taking stupid chances.

That said, just saw Denis Phillips on WTSP 10 News making a VERY INTERESTING observation: Tropical systems often tend to wobble slightly as they approach land, but Phillips noticed that Charley seemed to start a slight turn ever so slightly to the north-northeast, which would cause it to make landfall in the Venice/Fort Myers area instead of closer to Tampa Bay. Still extremely premature, but he was noticing that the way it was steering was more probably more than just a wobble.

You don't wish bad things on anyone or any other area, but if that happens that is a lot better for our area.

Another hurricane experience while we wait on Hurricane Charley...

In a past life I was a radio personality, starting my 15 year career in "the biz" in my native Mississippi. My first full time "gig" was doing overnights at the top 40 WNSL (better known as "SL-100") in Laurel-Hattiesburg...sadly, now part of Clear Channel's "Evil Empire". Anyway, I was on air during the middle of a hurricane when part of the station's roof came off...LITERALLY ON AIR! The jock I relieved at midnight and a friend he had brought (no visitors allowed) had decided not to risk driving in the deterioiating weather and stayed to help man the phones and pull AP copy. During one of my breaks when I was reading the latest information, we heard a noise and he stepped out of the studio to find out what it was. A few moments later he ran back into the studio yelling "THE ROOF'S COMING OFF!" as the mic was still live. A real Emmy moment!

It was in the management area of the building, and he with his friend kicked in the GM's office door and moved furniture which ended up saving many of the company's records.from certain water damage. We stayed on air throughout...

Thursday, August 12, 2004

The roads out of Pinellas County are jammed as people are paying attention and following the evacuation orders, affecting approximately 350,000 residents. More will be heading out in Hillsborough County as similar orders will become into effect at midnight. No school in Polk county tomorrow, as some facilities may need to be used as shelters for those from the coastal counties.

Meanwhile, in an act of incredible STUPIDITY, the Hillary Duff concert is scheduled to go on as scheduled tonight at the Sun Dome, no refunds for no-shows. Hmmmmmm...go to the concert or get ready to protect my property from the oncoming hurricane???? Sounds like the promoter needs to have some sense slapped into him...

Sounds like some of the other area bloggers are getting ready for Charley, at least according to Tommy at Sticks of Fire, who keeps up with what we are up to. He is usually able to find the newest blogs around the region before many of us do, and for that I'm grateful. Check him out.

As for MOI, it's work as usual tomorrow...at least we'll start the day. Just like the postal service folks, neither rain, nor wind, nor possibly Catagory 3 Hurricane will prevent the MCI contract collection agents from getting those past due payments! Might get stranded when the Citrus Connection buses are grounded when the wind gets above 45 MPH, but we'll be there to get the job done!

As I get ready for another exciting day collecting past due telephone charges, the lingering question is this: Will my call centre be open tomorrow?

No, this is not a commentary on outsourcing. Everyone is keeping an eye to the Carribean, watching the movement of Hurricane Charley and the forecast track of this growing storm. As of now, just after 6AM, the centre of the storm is expected to skim Pinellas County around midday tomorrow. Not good news, as Polk County would be in the northeast quarurant...roughest wind, heaviest rain, possible tornadoes...you get the idea, the worst part of a hurricane to be.

You simply don't mess with a hurricane. I'll never forget one of the worst: Camille, 1969, Mississippi Gulf Coast. I lived nearly 100 miles inland, and it was one heck of a night to live through. The highest sustained winds were estimated at 200 MPH, but that was only an estimate as the equipment was destroyed. Approximately six months later, my grandmother took a cousin and I for a drive along the coastal highway (U.S. 90). Much of the damage had been cleaned up by then, and surprisingly many of the beautiful homes along the Gulf that were built just after the Civil War including Jefferson Davis' final home Beauvoir only suffered slight damage. But in front of one home was a huge cargo ship that had been picked up by the considerable waves and swept over the beach, four lanes of highway, and set down in the front yard.

This won't be anywhere near Camille, of course, but just like the Boy Scouts, "Be Prepared".

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

I watched the Republican U.S. Senate candidate's debate last evening. Not really that interesting, to be perfectly honest. Even Johnny Byrd didn't make a complete idiot of himself. Mel Martinez was the voice calling for walking in lockstep with G.W. Bush (then shouldn't we just make him King?), while Bill McCollum tried to picture himself as the perfect conservative. Doug Gallagher seemed to be the most interesting of the bunch; at least he has the freshest voice. Too bad his people don't know any better, and all his illegally placed signs on the right-of-way on U.S. 98 between Lakeland and Bartow --- and there's a BUNCH OF 'EM --- will likely be picked up by a couple of fanataical Keep Polk Clean And Beautiful folks I know. They do that for every candidate --- Republican, Democrat, Green, youth sports, or chiropracter.

Anyway, it got to the point that near the end I just turned the telly off it became sooooo boring. Never thought I would say it, but the Democratic debate last week was more exciting.

Speaking of which, former presidential candidate Howard Dean's organization Democracy for America has endorsed Betty Castor's campaign for U.S. Senate, naming her as one of the latest "Dean Dozen"

Sunday, August 08, 2004

There's an old saying that if you don't remember the mistakes of the past you're bound to repeat them. Today's post has just that in mind, and for this I should thank the person who writes the Gainesville-based blog Simply Appalling. Over the past several days he serialized an opinion piece written on April 9, 1944 for the New York Times by FDR's then-Vice President Henry A. Wallace.

It's really amazing that much of the then veep's words ring loud today, six decades later. I won't repeat the entire piece here, as some of the content specifically deals with the time at hand, with American in the midst of World War II. If you want to read the piece in it's entirity, you may check it out at http://newdeal.feri.org/wallace/haw23.htm .

A fascist is one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intensity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends. The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party...

If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. Most American fascists are enthusiastically supporting the war effort. They are doing this even in those cases where they hope to have profitable connections with German chemical firms after the war ends. They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead...

American fascism will not be really dangerous until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery...

Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion.

The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination against other religious, racial or economic groups...
The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy...They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.

Several leaders of industry in this country who have gained a new vision of the meaning of opportunity through co-operation with government have warned the public openly that there are some selfish groups in industry who are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage. We all know the part that the cartels played in bringing Hitler to power, and the rule the giant German trusts have played in Nazi conquests. Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.

It has been claimed at times that our modern age of technology facilitates dictatorship. What we must understand is that the industries, processes, and inventions created by modern science can be used either to subjugate or liberate. The choice is up to us. The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. It was Mussolini's vaunted claim that he "made the trains run on time." In the end, however, he brought to the Italian people impoverishment and defeat. It was Hitler's claim that he eliminated all unemployment in Germany. Neither is there unemployment in a prison camp.

Democracy to crush fascism internally must demonstrate its capacity to "make the trains run on time." It must develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels. As long as scientific research and inventive ingenuity outran our ability to devise social mechanisms to raise the living standards of the people, we may expect the liberal potential of the United States to increase. If this liberal potential is properly channeled, we may expect the area of freedom of the United States to increase. The problem is to spend up our rate of social invention in the service of the welfare of all the people.

The worldwide, agelong struggle between fascism and democracy will not stop when the fighting ends in Germany and Japan. Democracy can win the peace only if it does two things:

Speeds up the rate of political and economic inventions so that both production and, especially, distribution can match in their power and practical effect on the daily life of the common man the immense and growing volume of scientific research, mechanical invention and management technique.

Vivifies with the greatest intensity the spiritual processes which are both the foundation and the very essence of democracy.

The moral and spiritual aspects of both personal and international relationships have a practical bearing which so-called practical men deny. This dullness of vision regarding the importance of the general welfare to the individual is the measure of the failure of our schools and churches to teach the spiritual significance of genuine democracy. Until democracy in effective enthusiastic action fills the vacuum created by the power of modern inventions, we may expect the fascists to increase in power after the war both in the United States and in the world.

Fascism in the postwar inevitably will push steadily for Anglo-Saxon imperialism and eventually for war with Russia. Already American fascists are talking and writing about this conflict and using it as an excuse for their internal hatreds and intolerances toward certain races, creeds and classes.

It should also be evident that exhibitions of the native brand of fascism are not confined to any single section, class or religion. Happily, it can be said that as yet fascism has not captured a predominant place in the outlook of any American section, class or religion. It may be encountered in Wall Street, Main Street or Tobacco Road. Some even suspect that they can detect incipient traces of it along the Potomac. It is an infectious disease, and we must all be on our guard against intolerance, bigotry and the pretension of invidious distinction. But if we put our trust in the common sense of common men and "with malice toward none and charity for all" go forward on the great adventure of making political, economic and social democracy a practical reality, we shall not fail.

Friday, August 06, 2004

It's a quiet Friday here in Imperial Polk County...the heart and soul of the I-4 Corridor. Looking forward to a nice, quiet weekend.

Always a welcome thanks to Tommy for the mentions he has given this blog past, present, and future. Said mentions have come up this week in both his Sticks of Fire and his new Tampa Bay blog list, TampaBlogs. SOF is always a great commentary on what is going on in the region, and I don't mind saying that it was a bit of an influence on this blog...or attempt at one! And TampaBlogs is beginning to show just how the blogging community is growing not only in Tampa Bay but throughout Central Florida.

Wheather you like a strongly political tone like spacecoastweb: blog, if your're more of a historical junkie and would enjoy South of the Suwannee, or just randon thoughts from DaveDorm from everything from the Bucs to software, you can find a blog for it in Tampa Bay. And on many, including this one, you can respond to what you read.

Love to hear from you!

Thursday, August 05, 2004

GREAT NEWS for all you rock 'n roll fans across central Florida! October 8 will be one night to enjoy some really wonderful music, but you'll have to pick your show, and it's all for a cause.

MoveOn PAC, the fundraising arm of the political organisation MoveOn.org, is sponsoring the Vote For Change Tour featuring some of the biggest names in music during the first week of October across several key "swing" states. Friday, October 8 is Florida's night, with shows in six cities at the same time, three along the key I-4 Corridor. The pending schedule, subject to change:

Kissimmee: Pearl Jam, Death Cab for Cutie

Orlando: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, R.E.M., John Fogerty, Bright Eyes

Gainesville: Dave Matthews Band, Jurassic 5, My Morning Jacket

Tampa: Dixie Chicks, James Taylor

Jacksonville: Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Keb' Mo'

Miami: John Mellancamp, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds

My son, who is 24, says Gainesville is getting the better show due to Dave Matthews and Jurassic 5. Sounds like Tampa's getting the short shrift. Wouldn't mind seeing Bruce and the boys in O-Town.

All the artists concerned are united in their support of getting Bush out of office ASAP, and it's unusual that Springsteen agrees to do anything of a political nature such as this.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

I didn't get to watch but the last half of Tuesday night's Democratic U.S. Senate candidate's debate that aired on the state's NBC affilates. For the most part, it was pretty cordial with all three candidates taking much the same positions on many of the major issues. Former USF President and Education Commissioner Betty Castor continued to take the high road, with Congressman Peter Deutsch seeking to highlight his experience within the Beltway. Playing the attack dog much of the evening was Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas...not so much attacking his opponents per se, but in the context of his look and attitude during the debate. Penelas, who in recent polls has been in third, sought to focus on where his positions were different from the others, a smart move less than a month away from the primary.

It seems rather strange that the heavy discourse between Penelas and Deutsch has virtually become nil now that Castor has taken the lead in most polls. The two men were going at it hot and heavy at the beginning of this campaign, but now that Betty is up front Deutsch's attention has turned toward alleged ties between her campaign and EMILY's List. Castor's campaign manager previously worked with the organization that helps Democratic women that support their positions get elected to office, and Betty has been endorsed by them. GET OVER IT, PETER!

The Republicans get their chance next Tuesday in Daytona Beach. It should be more entertaining, with Mel Martinez, Bill McCollum, Johnnie Byrd, and Doug Gallagher. Byrd should be the wild card, with his numbers dropping like a rock and needing to make a big move quickly he may say something that'll be seen to be very bright or very stupid...or both.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Just a quick note before heading out for another day of hard work collecting past due telephone bills...

Reading the latest musings from Florida Politics this morning, there was an interesting link to an editorial from the Florida Times-Union, which basically advised the Republicans not to worry.

I personally liked the last paragraph of the editorial:

One campaign is fueled by hatred, and one is based on a love of this country and concern about its future. One or the other will win.

The problem the folks in downtown Jacksonville have is...they must have the parties confused. The Kerry-Edwards team loves this country and is truly concerned about this future. Hope is indeed on it's way!

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Capitol Hill Blue reported last week that President Bush is taking powerful antidepressant drugs to combat his erratic behaviour, depression, and paranoia, and another article in the publication Friday reported that the Commander-In-Chief is withdrawing more into his own world in which only his closest loyalists are welcome.

Now before you start dismissing these articles as Democratic propaganda, let me mention a couple of things for your consideration. Capitol Hill Blue has been around for nearly ten years, and is one of the oldest news sites on the Internet. And for those of you who question Internet news sites, remember that it was such a site --- The Drudge Report --- that broke the story of then-President Clinton and his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

If, indeed, the story is factual...God help us all, and pray that they keep the person with the "nuclear football" as far away from him as possible. Hopefully after November 2 we can look forward to new leadership at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.