Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Every four years, our local political organizations are required to elect their leadership for the next four years. It's a decision of "staying with the course" or "seeking a fresh start", according to how well the particular organization is doing at the time.

The Polk County Democratic Party has been in recent years, quite admittedly, rather lethargic. But over the past year it has shown signs of coming to life under Chairman L. Mark Kaylor. Gone is much of the pettiness and constant bickering over the smallest points during meetings (although some of it continues to simmer just below the surface), replaced with a more cooperative spirit built from a need to succeed.

Thursday, our Democratic Executive Committee will elect new officers, just as others will be doing the same across the state. A number of people who may be considering a run for party office will likely not finalize their decision until the last minute, unsure of wheather if they really want to take on the responsibility. There's a lot of mending fences involved, making sure that everyone is in the mix.instead of doing just what you wanna do.

I was asked by several members to offer myself for the office of Secretary of the local party. Originally I refused, but after considering further I have decided that if the support is there I would be open to have my name submitted for nomination. It is sincerely a pleasure and honour to be thought of by fellow members in such a positive manner, and if it were the will of my collegues I would make it a point not to let them down.

It is important for all of us to begin now and prepare for 2006, and that starts with good organisation of our party apparatus and a well working group which bickers more with the opposition than with each other.


It's not very often that the Governor of Florida asks for broadcasters to give him time, but Jeb! has done exactly that this evening as we have now officially ended the 2004 hurricane season. Some stations will air his approximately ten minute address live; others may air it on a delayed basis (check your local listings). Just an address to reflect the historic nature of the hurricane season and the devestating effect it has had on our state...as if we didn't know already.


I'm ready to go back to work today after ending up in the emergency room after lunch Monday. Seems I had one of my occasional epileptic seizures at work, and the next thing I knew was being loaded up into one of Polk County EMS's boxcars for the $300+ ride to Lakeland Regional Medical Centre. Of course, I was ready to leave about ten minutes after arriving, but since I had to be cleared to return to work today, I had to stick around until, it turns out, approximately 4 1/2 hours...which for them is actually speedy.

Epilepsy is something I have lived with for almost all of my adult life. Although I take Neurontin to control the number and severity of the seizures, they can still occur anytime, anywhere. The one yesterday at work was the first I had suffered in approximately six months.

There is another gentleman in my work group that has epilepsy as well; his is much more controlled to the point that he will be seeking restoration of his driving privileges soon, which means he has not had a seizure in over a year.

Monday, November 29, 2004


Ronnie Clark is a member of the Escambia County School Board, elected over two years ago to serve the Panhandle county which includes Pensacola. It seems that a number of his constitutents have a problem with him because his work and School Board duties often conflict. He's a minister.

No, this is not one of those "church -vs- state" conflicts. The problem is that when he was elected, he pastored a church in Pensacola...no issue. But since his election, Rev. Clark has resigned his pastorate there and taken the position as minister of Hurst Chapel AME Church...in Winter Haven, 500-plus miles from Pensacola.

Critics say that he has become hard to reach, and has missed a number of required School Board meetings and workshops. Now the Pensacola News Journal in it's editorial is joining the call for Rev. Clark to resign. There has been word that Rev. Clark would, indeed, step aside effective in February.

He is able to keep his $32,000 a year position due to the fact that he has maintained his legal residence in Escambia County. But that's a long streach of driving for anyone, not what I would call an enjoyable commute.

The News Journal is right. If you cannot adequetely serve your constitutients properly, there's a choice that has to be made. The only reason to truly keep up this type of commute is for the ESCB payoff, which I am sure Hurst Chapel AME cannot match. Maybe the good reverand can move to Polk County...we certainly need some change on our school board.

Sunday, November 28, 2004


Thanks to the blog Truthout for this profoundly interesting article from Tuesday's Boston Herald.

Seems as though Stephen Roach, who is usually quite bearish about the American economy in his position as investment firm Morgan Stanley's chief economist, was singing a profoundly different song during meetings in Boston the week before. He is predicting that America has no better than a one-in-ten chance of avoiding economic "armageddon".

Some of the facts that he presented to the select group of fund managers should alarm anyone concerned with the state of our economy, and while his prediction is not completely fresh, some recent events give it a lot more credence.

Consider the article linked above as a MUST READ!


This is simply scary. Blogwood turned me on to this column from today's Palm Beach Post, which should be on your must read. The idea of Congressmen and Senators stripping the federal judicary from hearing cases which they are against their wishes is not only a serious attack on the seperation of the balance of powers among the branches of government, but is potentially a serious threat to our civil liberties.

In reviewing further, the group Americans United for Seperation of Church and State Website shows SIX BILLS PENDING that would prevent any federal court, including the Supreme Court of the United States, from ruling on the constitutionality of many church-state issues, including the Defense of Marriage Act.

The judiciary is there to serve as an arbiter, and it's independence is paramount to the prevention of one of the other branches overstepping it's boundries as written in the Constitution, and as a protector of the freedoms which we too often take for granted.

I would, therefore, respectfully ask all of you who are as concerned as I about this threat to let our senators and congressman know where you stand. I realize that our 12th District representative will likely support these measures, but it is important that we let him (as well as our new Senator-elect) know that Floridians care, and that this infringement on the judiciary is simply unacceptable. On the Americans United site (see link above) there is a means for you to send such a message.


The Orlando Sentinel's resident liberal columnist Myriam Marquez --- one of the best in Central Florida, if you ask me --- made note of a political catfight recently settled between two so-called nonpartisan officials, Orange County Chairman Rich Crotty (Republican) and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer (Democrat) over the city's attempt to annex valuable property near the Orlando County Convention Centre. It's an old fashioned "who's the boss" syndrome at work, and Ms. Marquez ended her piece today with this:

Overlay all those dreams with the political battle over who's the boss and here we are, living the big lie. It's time to do away with nonpartisan local elections and let the Republicans and Democrats come out of the potholes.

She's perfectly right. Most of Polk County's constitutional offices have been nonpartisan for several years now, as are the School Board positions. And that's a big lie. Once again from her column:

Back in March 2003 I had high hopes for a stable marriage of the minds. I wrote that Crotty and Dyer, with their experience as state legislators who each served at times as part of the minority party -- the "Out Guys" in Tallahassee -- and had learned to compromise with the opposition, would work together for the greater good. But I also warned that the "nonpartisan" posts that each man held at the local level were more partisan and parochial than many people may realize.

It's so true, and a drum that I've been beating here for a long time. And besides, everyone gets to know who is the Republican, who is the Democrat, and who is independent. Not only that, but the political parties and their activists work hard (or as much as is permitted legally) to help their partisans get elected, even for positions that are actually "nonpartisan".

There is no way to really keep politics out of many of those offices; just the fact that they are elected make them political...that's the nature of the beast. So let's take the untrue veil of nonpartisanship from those offices.


Earlier, I mentioned the intent of Jeb! and his Republican partners to "reform" Medicaid, and the other day let you know that the state's Department of Children and Families was closing offices throughout the state in the name of "effeciency". All of this will likely --- and in the latter case already has --- result in hardships for clients and added out-of-pocket expenses which many simply cannot afford.

Now up to 49,000 families will lose their KidCare benefits as of Wednesday. That's 80,000 children no longer eligible for the doctor visits, perscriptions, and dental care for the $15 per month family premium.


Two Miami Herald reporters spent part of the past week counting ballots in three rural north Florida counties which, although registrations are heavily Democrat, supported Bush by a large margin. All use optical scan balloting which has a paper trail, and are the heart of an ongoing controveresy. But according to the Herald reporters, but counts seemed to be accurate. There were minor glitches in south Florida as well, but nothing to apparantly show major flaws in the system.

It's time to say that we as Democrats did an overall good job, but it simply wasn't good enough to overcome our opponent's efforts. We have to begin looking forward to the 2006 Congressional and state races, and that means --- first and foremost --- recruiting quality candidates NOW to get the electorate familiar with them and begin challenging the Republican record of so-called "compassionate conservatism".


The Orlando Sentinel is reporting this morning that Medicaid reform is near the top of the list for Jeb! and his buddies in Tallahassee for the upcoming legislative session.

They're being very quiet about possible changes, so that can't mean anything good for the state's poor and elderly who benefit from the program. My guess: Deductions and co-pays for those reciepiants on the higher end of the income spectrum, plus longer waiting lists for certain speciality services.

I realize that Medicaid needs some serious reform; after all, it takes up 25 percent of all state spending. But it's time to think about the citizens who benefit, not the insurance companies/HMOs who gobble up much of those funds.

Saturday, November 27, 2004


I was reading Blog For America today and saw this interesting post:

Wanna stick it to the Man?
Wanna demonstrate to corporate america that you are tired of businees as usual?
Wanna show the religous right that you are tired of them twisting and exloiting compassionate principles?
The right may campaign from the Bible but they govern from the pocketbook...
Its time to throw the money-changers out..
Boycott Christmas.

I actually feel like one of the respondants who replied:

I can't boycott Christmas...no money.


At long last Cypress Gardens Adventure Park opened Friday, but not without some slight problems. That's part of why they call it a "soft" opening. Not all the rides are in working order yet, and some of the food venues weren't ready for the preview. But Kent Buescher is saying everything should be ready by next weekend. If the crowds from yesterday are any idea, he should do rather well with it.


Small town politics can sometimes make it's big time counterparts seem like a walk in the park. People have disagreements, get their feelings hurt, and generally take things much more personal in a small town setting. That is the case in Eagle Lake, a small town just south of Winter Haven.

Two women who served together on the Eagle Lake City Commission, Peg Crittendon and Suzy Wilson, are headed back to court again in their ongoing feud dating to their time on the board before Ms. Crittendon was defeated for reelection last April. Ms. Crittendon has filed ethics complaints against four of the five city commissioners, including two against Ms. Wilson.

Ms. Wilson was previously granted a restraining order against her former collegue, keeping her at least 50 feet away at all times. Now she has filed a civil lawsuit against Ms. Crittendon, citing alleged slanderous remarks made to a fellow commissioner and a reporter claiming that Ms. Wilson was a drug user and had come to commission meetings high.

Maybe we just need Vince McMahon to make a stop in Polk County and resolve this...

Wednesday, November 24, 2004


I plan to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday/weekend, although I have to work today and Friday. My daughter and her boyfriend will be coming over today to help cook the Thanksgiving dinner, which we are having today. She works at a call centre, and is working tomorrow...so we're having our family time today.

Be sure you give thanks not only today, but every day. We are truly blessed in many ways.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


The Florida Department of Children and Families has decided to make it more difficult for our state's poor and needy to seek services such as food stamps, AFDC, and Medicaid. The state social services agency is closing a number of offices statewide, blaiming the decision on our Legislaure's slash and burn budgetary practice toward DCF.

The idea is that instead of dealing with a local caseworker to apply or requalify for services, Floridians would have to do their business with DCF by phone, online, or through community agencies or churches. In the name of "becoming more efficient", agency clients will now have to deal with a faceless, nameless person only God-knows-where instead of face-to-face with a local caseworker.

While the change may save money in fewer offices and workers, the effect on reciepants and applicants would be profound. Many who truly need food stamps or AFDC funds to help support their families during tough times would be reluctant to seek that assistance, if they are even advised on how to do so. There is simply no comparision to dealing with someone across the desk who can answer questions and provide at least a little support when things happen...like when more information is needed, or if scheduled benefits don't arrive on time.

It has already begun in Polk County, where DCF closed it's outlying offices throughout the county and consolidated it's operations in the district office in south Lakeland. Nearly an hour drive for people in places like Haines City, Davenport, Fort Meade, and Frostproof. Not only that, the office is located in the back of what apparantly had been the extension of a furniture store, with no directions from South Florida Avenue or in the front of the building that the DCF entrance was in the rear. It is simply marked in the front, "Clausson's Office Building". Since the furniture store is also on site, one would unknowingly believe that it was the office furniture part of the business.

It truly seems like the state's real intent is to discourage those who really need assistance to apply. That way, Jeb! and his cronies in the Legislature can point to the reduction of applicants/recieptants as a positive sign that the state's economy is somehow improving.

Get real, Jeb!


The Indiana Pacers' suspended Ron Artest appeared on NBC's Today Show this morning. He had the chance to apologize for his actions Friday night in Detroit, when he went into the stands and assulted fans who threw cups and liquid at him during a brawl. But not only did he not apologize (although he did say he regretted the incident) but when he was asked what he would say to children who may have seen the sickening spectacle he only said that "Things happen"....not even looking the least bit contrite for his part in the incident. He then went into a promotion for the rap CD being released on his record label.

At least he got what he wanted, but a a heavy cost. Being suspended for the remainder of the season --- 70+ games without pay --- will cost him several million dollars. Hey, NBA Commissioner David Stern did the right thing, and I hope he doesn't balk under a players' union appeal that is expected.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

There are a couple of items to share with you:

--- I've read that President Bush wants to improve relations with our Central American neighbours, but this is above and beyond the call. Capitol Hill Blue noted this AP story of a Republican congressman from Illinois who has married a counterpart from Guatemala. But not just anyone...the daughter of the most notorious dictator in the nation's modern history.

I guess that the nuptials will be seen favourably with the evangicials, some of whom "The General" has forged ties with over the years as he is an ordained minister who while also a murderous dictator was known for lengthy "sermons" that were aired on national television and radio.

There is no plans for either to resign their seats. Would be interesting to hear some of their "pillow talk" in the name of foreign relations.

--- Yesterday I commented on the seemingly breakdown of personal discipline after watching the ugly scene between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons Friday night. If you want yet another bit of evidence, look at yesterday's college football game between Clemson and South Carolina. It wasn't as serious as the scene Friday, since no fans became involved, but it was truly a black eye for both teams, as well as a sad way for Gamecocks coach Lou Holtz to end a storied career.

Again the lesson is this: If you act like animals, you'll be seen as animals. People --- not only athletes --- need to learn to have more personal discipline and restraint, rather than embarrassing themselves in front of everyone because they feel "disrespected".

Saturday, November 20, 2004


The first dose of reality that the University of South Florida's Polk County campus will, indeed, came to fruition yesterday as an agreement was signed symbolizing the donation of two parcels of land totalling 518 acres of land by Williams Acquisition Holding Company for development of a self-sustaining campus which would accomodate up to 15,000 students.

The campus will be located near the east link of the Polk Parkway with Interstate 4, and will offer a full four year programme. That is a slight change from the original plan, where only junior, senior, and gradulate level courses would be offered. Currently USF shares a campus on U.S. Highway 98 south of Lakeland with Polk Community College.

The Master Plan for USF-Lakeland is to be part of the I-4 Technology Corridor which links the metro areas of Tampa/St. Petersburg and Orlando/Daytona Beach. It is a public-private inititaive to attract new technologicial development, and colleges such as USF, PCC, and the University of Central Florida in Orlando will all benefit from the research they will help perform in a number of areas.

If fully funded as intended, the new USF-Lakeland campus should be able to host it's first classes in 2008 or 2009, with a fully functioning campus by 2013. It will include student housing, and one of the parcels of land donated which is not suitable for building will be used as a wetlands preserve and recreational area with parks and trails.



For the third time this morning, I watched the ugly incident in Auburn Hills, Michigan replayed where players and fans had their own version of "WWE Smackdown" toward the end of an NBA game between the Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons. It was a situation that should never had escalated the way it did, and was potentally dangerous for all involved.

There is plenty of blame to go around, and noone should be excused for what occured.

First, the Pistons' Ben Wallace overreacted to being fouled by Indiana's Ron Artest, pushing the hot-tempered Pacer and starting the chain of events that would become one of the ugliest moments in American sporting history.

Then, one of the drunken fans near the court at the Palace at Auburn Hills threw a cup of beverage onto Artest, who was laying on the scorer's table as the situation was apparantly beginning to come under control. Artest --- followed by teammate Stephen Jackson --- overreacted by going into the stands and assulting the fan who he believed threw the beverage on him and it downhill from there.

Clearly, there was not enough security to control the situation decisively.

There are certain lines of acceptable behaviour that are and should never be crossed under any circumstances.

One, while fans pay to cheer/boo/cajole the players, throwing anything is completely out of line. That should earn a person an immediate ejection and/or arrest.

Two, players should know better than to leave the playing area or bench for any reason and go into the stands, even if he feels provoked They are professionals who should act accordingly. If a player feels that a fan is acting improperly by throwing items, he should let a security person know so that person can be dealt with accordingly.

Three, team and venue officials should act to control alcohol sales. I'm certain that many of the fans that chose to involve themselves were drunk, or close to it, and that impared their better judgement. Major League Baseball took the step a couple of years ago to ban alcohol sales after the seventh inning, a measure that should be seriously considered by other sports leagues. In the NBA, I would suggest shutting off sales at the end of the third quarter. While it may not completely prevent future incidences, it would likely have some influence.

Sadly, this incident is just another bit of evidence that we seem to be losing out sense of personal discipline. A similar incident occured the other evening at the VIBE awards, with one person being stabbed in the process. Boorish behaviour seems to be the new norm. And that's a shame.

Friday, November 19, 2004


--- I've been keeping an eye on the Polk County School Board case regarding the Lake Gibson High School student expelled for accidently bringing a knife to a football game after an afternoon of fishing near his home. My first mention of this case was last Thursday when the Lakeland Ledger made mention of the incident.

There is good news to report: He has been allowed to return to class...for now, pending a hearing by the seven member Polk County School Board. New Superintendent Gail McKenzie placed a stay order on his expulsion and allowed the young man to return to class after the State Attorney's office dropped charges against him for bringing a weapon on school property. He can still face expulsion if the School Board upholds the original decision of former Superintendent Jim Thornhill.

The kid's been out of school for over two months while this issue has been bantered about, including a postponment of a hearing before the School Board due to a snafu in the paperwork at the district office. That's certainly long enough, considering the circumstances of the issue. If calmer heads prevail --- and there's still hope for that --- the Board will do the right thing and drop the whole expulsion nonsense and allow him to get back to a normal situation.

--- It's nice to hear that the company I work for is springing for Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday...with all the trimmings! Not often you see that kind of behaviour from an employer in today's climate, but the company is good compared to many others in the customer service industry when it comes to working with employees in many areas. And our call centre continues to expand: If you know anyone who is looking for a job with a decent wage and a chance to advance, give them a call. It can be demanding work, but it's a helluva lot better than most of the jobs available out there now.

--- And I guess I'll buy a couple of Lotto tickets today...the jackpot's up to $50 million dollars.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


--- The relationship between the Polk County Opportunity Council and the Bartow City Commission is getting almost like that between Governor Jeb! Bush and millionaire high speed rail activist C.C. "Doc" Dockery...almost.

The situation has come about because the Bartow City Commission appointed community activist Dave Hallock to serve as it's representative on PCOC's Board of Directors. Hallock, who has served on several board including those of United Way of Central Florida and Early Childhood Resources, is well known in the area's social services community and doesn't mind asking hard questions about how the money is spent.

PCOC, a community action agency which provides services to the poor including rent, home repairs, and is also the contractor for the Head Start programme, has had it's reputation damaged in recent years by employees who were convicted of theft...including a previous Executive Director. The agency does like to handle it's business "under the radar", and apparantly does not want hard questions about it's practices and spending, as it is stonewalling Haddock's appointment by requesting to review his credentials further before allowing him to serve.

This has the some Bartow commission members angry enough to the point of suggesting withdrawing from PCOC.

There's no excuse for this behaviour from an organization. Dave Hallock --- whom, by the way, I have never met --- is well known in the social services community of Central Florida. His civic credentials are beyond reproach. He serves as Secretary of Friends of the Bartow Public Library and has worked with Families of Polk County, Inc., in addition to the organizations mentioned previously. The City of Bartow has a seat on the PCOC Board, it is entitled to appoint whoever it wants to fill that slot, and Mr. Hallock seems quite knowledgable and more than qualified to do so.

It's simply a matter of trust.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004


--- More evidence that the Republican leadership does not care about simple ethics: The House Republican Conference took a secret ballot today and approved a proposal which would allow Majority Leader Tom Delay to keep his position, even if he is indicted by a grand jury in Travis County, Texas on state political corruption charges. Delay has already been rebuked by a House ethics committee for the appearance of linking contributions to political favours and improperly persuading aviation officials to intervene during the Texas congressional redistricting dispute, when Democratic legislators fled the state to delay a vote on a plan --- which eventually passed --- giving Republicans a huge advantage in several districts.

--- The Lakeland Ledger ran a story about a protest that took place Sunday across from the First Baptist Church at the Mall. Between 15 and 20 activists gathered to show their feelings about the Florida Baptist Convention's resolution to support a state constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage, which was written by the church's senior paster, Dr. Jay Dennis. What was really surprising is that the only media mention of this event was that it was the lead story on Sunday evening's WTTA-TV 38 News Central...surprising because WTTA is owned by the strongly conservative Sinclair Broadcasting Group. That's the same company that was going to run the Anti-John Kerry documentary. They actually led their newscast with a pro-equal rights story against the largest religious demonination in Florida??? And what took the Ledger so long???

BTW: More protests are planned for subsequrint Sunday mornings starting at 9:30 AM. The group gathers across Memorial Boulevard (U.S. Highway 92) from the church (the former Lakeland Mall) in the old Searstown Shopping Centre (Checker's).

--- Finally, I've never been a big fan of Eminem, mainly because he has a tendency to act like a common punk occasionally. But his latest single release has a powerful message. As my son mentioned, you may not like him as a person, but you've gotta appreciate the message. Check out the lyrics to "Mosh" to see what I mean.


This whole thing of decency on the airwaves now has broadcasters running scared and having second thoughts after a couple of things in the past couple of weeks:

- The whole "Saving Private Ryan" issue. ABC aired the Steven Spielberg movie on Memorial Day, as they did twice before, uncut. That included about 20 instances in which the "F-word" was used. The network was not permitted to do any editing per their contract with Dreamworks SKG, Spielberg's production company. While ABC and it's affiliates experienced few complaints as a result of it's two previous airings, 66 of it's 240+ affiliate stations refused to broadcast the movie this time, citing the more aggresive enforcement and record fines being assessed by the Federal Communications Commission.

- Monday Night Football's "tease" at the beginning of it's broadcast. The Phildelphia Eagle's Terrell Owens did the "tease" with one of the actresses from the hit ABC show "Desperate Housewives", in which she dropped her towel in front of him at the end. The National Football League was upset, the Eagles put out a statement saying they wish it had not aired, and ABC apologized. Pretty tame for prime time, but it aired at 6:00 PM on the West Coast, 7:00 in the Rocky Mountain states...a little early for the suggestive banter.

- Fellow Tampa Bay blogger Blogwood was suspended indefinately by Tampa community radio station WMNF after a listener heard the "F-word" once on his 4:00 - 6:00 AM programme. He was apparantly featuring songs that had the "Seven Dirty Words" of George Carlin fame, in the title. The one "F-word" apparantly got by, as the other titles were either insturmentals or the lyrics were incomprehensible onair.

The bottom line is that, in the more conservative climate of 2004, radio and television broadcasters will find themselves stressing more about how the content of their programming is perceived. I am not saying that any of these instances were proper or not, although the "MNF" tease was inappropriate on the Pacific Coast where it was seen at the dinner hour. And Blogwood may have a point as his programme is heard before daylight and prior to many children getting up to start the day. But it is further evidence that the far right, including the conservative Christian community, have the upper hand in at least some issues for now. The message is...push the envelope at your own risk.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

--- After the elections, and as we approach the holiday season, the Tampa Bay/Blogging brethren seems to be taking a light hiatus. Mark Lane at FlaBlog is posting lite until Thanksgiving, and Tommy at Sticks of Fire took off for a few days. And I'm posting light since I am pulling some much needed OT at work. Don't worry, though...we're still here and active!

BTW: Thanks to Tommy for his mention of our Polk County blogs. A good mention of Emperical Polk County and Polk NewsWatch included.

--- The Winter Haven News Chief Web site looks a lot better since it's recent renovation. It looks much more visibly attractive, and is more organized than it's previous form.

--- Speaking of the News Chief...it answered the question of what someone would want to do with nearly 100 tons of railroad ties. I mentioned this oddball story last week when they were stolen from a Haines City construction site. Seems as though a landscaper from Lake Hamilton has been arrested, and has admitted taking the 140 ties --- weighing approximately 400 pounds EACH --- to use in fashioning mulch boxes.

---One programme I plan to watch this evening is Frontline on PBS (10PM on WEDU-TV3; replayed twice during the overnight period). Tonight's show deals with Wal-Mart and it's influence on America. It also promises a revealing look into how the Arkansas-based juggernaut does business. While we all appreciate lower prices (and yes, I shop there myself), it makes you wonder...at what cost?

Monday, November 15, 2004

It should be mentioned here that I will likely not be posting quite as much this week. I will be taking advantage of the opportunity to get some overtime hours at my job, as our client (MCI) is making some major changes in it's credit and collections/customer service area. MCI is closing some of it's operations at it's suburban St. Louis call centre, and many of those jobs will likely be moved to Lakeland over the next few months. It's rare that we have OT, so when it comes...you get the picture.

It was done quietly, with little fanfare and no cameras...much different than four years ago. The Florida election results were officially certified Sunday. It was so routine that two of the three members of the Canvassing Board simply called in their approval from home. When they are all Republicans, and their candidate wins, it's that easy.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Earlier today I received an interesting e-mail message that should be disturbing to anyone who supports the right of women to make decisions regarding their own bodies. After verifying the information included, I post the message here with appropriate links for your reference:

President Bush has announced his plan to select Dr. W. David Hager to head up the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee. The committee has not met for more than two years, during which time its charter lapsed. As a result, the Bush Administration is tasked with filling all eleven positions with new members.

This position does not require Congressional approval. The FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee makes crucial decisions on matters relating to drugs used in the practice of obstetrics, gynecology and related specialties, including hormone therapy, contraception, treatment for infertility, and medical alternatives to surgical procedures for sterilization and pregnancy termination.

Dr. Hager is the author of "As Jesus Cared for Women: Restoring Women Then and Now." The book blends biblical accounts of Christ healing women with case studies from Hager's practice. His views of reproductive health care are far outside the mainstream for reproductive technology. Dr. Hager is a practicing OB/GYN who describes himself as "pro-life" and refuses to prescribe contraceptives to unmarried women. In the book Dr. Hager wrote with his wife, entitled "Stress and theWoman's Body," he suggests that women who suffer from premenstrual syndrome should seek help from reading the Bible and praying.

As an editor and contributing author of "The Reproduction Revolution: A Christian Appraisal of Sexuality Reproductive Technologies and the Family," Dr. Hager appears to have endorsed the medically inaccurate assertion that the common birth control pill is an abortifacient. We are concerned that Dr.Hager's strong religious beliefs may color his assessment of technologies that are necessary to protect women's lives or to preserve and promote women's health. Hager's track record of using religious beliefs to guide his medical decision-making makes him a dangerous and inappropriate candidate to serve as chair of this committee.

Critical drug public policy and research must not be held hostage by antiabortion politics. Members of this important panel should be appointed on the basis of science and medicine, rather than politics and religion. American women deserve no less.
Additional information on this subject is from this Time Magazine article.

Sunday Reading:

--- Howard Troxler has written an excellent column in today's St. Petersburg Times about the so-called "religious right" and their hypocracy. We are all sinners in the eyes of God, but many of these right wing theocrats forget the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:5:

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

--- Michael Kinsley writes in the Washington Post about the Bush Administration's complaints against "activist" judges. And he also makes mention of the Republican's platform plank regarding legalized abortion, and how their idea of an "activist" judge would rule:

But has anybody read the 2004 Republican platform on abortion? It doesn't merely call for reversal of Roe v. Wade. It calls for "legislation to make it clear that the 14th Amendment's protections apply to unborn children," and for judges who believe likewise. If fetuses are "persons" under the 14th Amendment, which guarantees all persons "equal protection of the law," abortion will be illegal whether a state or Congress wants to legalize it or not. More than that: There could be no legal distinction between the rights of fetuses and the rights of human beings after birth. So, just for example, a woman who procured an abortion would have to be prosecuted as if she had hired a gunman to murder her child. The doctor would have to be treated like the gunman. If the state had a death penalty, it would have to apply to both. And the party that now controls all three branches of government says this is already the case. Legislation is only needed to "make it clear," and judges are needed who will enforce it.

--- Now if you REALLY want to read something to get your dander up, check out this editorial in Friday's Tampa Tribune. The title says it all: An Abused Ashcroft Led With Dignity. Whoever wrote this piece must have been smoking some wild weed before creating this POS.

--- The Miami Herald has a story on a Miami-Dade police officer using a Tazer gun on a 12 year old child who was playing hookey from school earlier this week. The incident marks the second time a Tazer was used on a child; a six year old was hit with the 50,000 watt shock three weeks ago in a school principal's office when he threatened to hurt himself with a piece of glass. Friends, Tazers are excellent tools to subdue or catch criminals or others as an alternative to using lethal force, but hitting children with it should be out of the question except in the most extreme circumstances.

--- And also from Friday's Herald, columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. mentions the comments of a federal jurist who is concerned about the erosion of personal liberties. And this judge, A. Wallace Tashima, knows about such things first hand: As a Japanese-American, he spent part of his childhood in an internment camp during World War II.

--- Today's Lakeland Ledger has a feature on Neil Combee, who ends a 16 year run on the Polk County Commission tomorrow. The Republican becomes one of the longest serving members of the BOCC, and is retiring to return to his real estate and ranching businesses.

--- And the Winter Haven News Chief once again has a piece on the upcoming reopening of what will be known as Cypress Gardens Adventure Park. While Florida's first theme park will have many of the staples that made it famous in it's glory days, there will be interesting additions to attract families and young adults. If it is promoted properly, it could actually become a wonderful low-budget alternative to the bigger theme parks such as Disney and Universal Studios, or at least a nice addition to a family's Florida vacation at a much more reasonable cost. Check out it's Web site, too!

NOTE: The links to the Washington Post and Miami Herald articles require registration, but it is free of charge.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Vice President Dick Cheney checked himself into a Washington hospital today complaining of shortness of breath.

That has already brought out posts on various message boards discussing "What If?" As in what if Cheney decides to resign or worse.

My take is:

1) Cheney will never willingly resign. He would have to either become unable to perform his duties or be carried out in a coffin before that happens.

2) If either were to happen, Amendment XXV of the Constitution provides for the President to nominate a Vice President, who would have to be approved by BOTH houses of Congress.

3) Just the possibility of that happening should send chill bumps down your spine. With the so-called Christian Right claiming a major role in the reelection of the President, this would be the perfect sceanrio for them to demand payback. Just think of someone like a John Ashcroft being nominated to the nation's second highest office. TRULY SCARY!!!

Scattershooting on this Saturday morning, still bummed out by my beloved Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles being beaten last evening by Memphis...with TCU and California still on the horizon...

--- Here's a wonderful article from today's Lakeland Ledger, written by Rollins College Professor Robert L. Moore, a native of Lakeland. The title says it all: One Election Does Not Erase Liberalism.

--- Sometimes, ya gotta learn not to play the good-old boy card. Seems as though Polk Circuit Judge Dennis Maloney, who otherwise receives high marks for his work on the bench, has been recommended to receive a public rebuke from the Florida Supreme Court for becoming improperly involved in the arrest of a friend's son. His son was riding with a friend --- the son of one of Hizzoner's close friends --- while the young man was drunk. The friend was busted for DUI, and Judge Maloney ordered Lakeland Police to turn the boozer over to his daddy, in violation of law and LPD policy. Here's the recommendation (.pdf file) from the Florida Judicial Qualifications Commission.

--- Earlier this week I mentioned:

On November 2 eleven states passed ballot items to ban gay marriage. Now the Florida Baptist Convention wants to add Florida to that list. The state's largest denomination is expected to pass a measure at it's annual convention Monday and Tuesday in Jacksonville calling for a constitutional amendment to uphold the "biblical definition" of marriage as between one man and one woman. The thing is, that definition has been law in Florida since 1997, and the statute also bans recoginition of same-sex marriges performed elsewhere. So why put it in the constitution, when the Florida Legislature would not likely change the law in the forseeable future? Simple...to show the religious community's political clout in the aftermath of the 2004 election.

The resolution, writted by Rev. Jay Dennis of Lakeland's First Baptist Church at the Mall with help from State Rep. John Stargel (R-64-Lakeland), passed.without discussion. Now a group of local activists are planning to gather across Memorial Boulevard from the church tomorrow morning from 9:30-10:00 in a show of Equality and Freedom for all Americans.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Rambling on before I ramble off to work on this Friday morning...

--- Remember the post yesterday about the young man who was appealing his one year suspension from school for inadvertantly bringing a knife to a football game after an afternoon of fishing? The appeal before the seven member Polk County School Board was scheduled for yesterday, but was put back a month due to a paperwork snafu in the district office. So now the kid is screwed again for a month because someone in the Bartow office didn't do their job.

The young man has paid quite enough for his mistake. He spent the night in a juvenile detention facility, and he has not been to class since the incident in September (two appeals held up and the superintendent decided not to reduce the punishment per a mediator's recommendation). His mother refuses to send him to one of the district's two "alternative schools" for problem students (he has only had previous minor problems with tardiness; no violent behaviour), and will likely enroll him in a private school in the meantime. IMHO, count the time out of class as a suspension and bring him back into the fold.

--- Also in the Lakeland Ledger this morning is a puff piece about Rev. Jay Dennis of Lakeland's First Baptist Church at the Mall. He is the one --- along with State Rep. John Stargel (R-64-Lakeland) --- who authored the propsed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Although 2004->Ch0741->Section%20212#0741.212">there is such a ban already in place in the Florida Statutes, the right wing is so afraid that "activist judges" will overturn such state laws and feel the only way to protect the traditional definiation is to amend the state constitution.

--- And it just so happens that Rev. Jerry Falwell is back in the news, starting a reincarnation of his old Moral Majority from the Reagan era.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Thoughts, opinions, and random ramblings on this Thursday morning:

--- Take time today to remember the brave men and women who have served our nation --- and continue to do so today in far off corners of the world. While we may not agree with the political decisions being made in Washington, we appreciate the sacrifices that our military personal make in the service of our nation. We also pray for their quick return home to family, friends, and communities. Thank you!

--- As part of it's Veterans Day lineup, ABC Television plans to broadcast the film "Saving Private Ryan". This would be the third broadcast airing of the Academy Award winning epic by ABC, and per the network's contract with director Steven Spielburg it must be aired unedited.

That is apparantly causing concern for several affiliates, which have chosen to broadcast alternative programming instead. The issue is that the dialogue of "Saving Private Ryan" includes several uses of the F-word, and the affiliates fearing possible fines and other sanctions by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC has cracked down on what it considered "profane and indecent" language in broadcasts since the Janet Jackson wardrobe debacle at this year's Super Bowl and U-2 lead singer Bono spouting the F-word during a live NBC broadcast of last year's Golden Globe Awards.

Among stations in Florida not airing "Saving Private Ryan" are Tampa/St. Petersburg's ABC affiliate, WFTS-TV 28, Orlando's WFTV-TV 9, and WMBB-TV 13 in Panama City. Here is a statement by WFTS owner E.W. Scripps Company stating why "Saving Private Ryan" will not air on any of it's ABC stations. And this link is to Cox Communication's WFTV statement. BTW: If you are in Tampa/St. Petersburg and have a good antenna, you can see the movie on Sarasota ABC affiliate WWSB-TV 40.

Here's part of the story that appeared in Variety (edited):

So while "Saving Private Ryan" got strong ratings in its initial airing, ABC affils repping more than 35% of the country have told the net they won't air tonight's encore broadcast of Steven Spielberg's D-Day epic.

The scheduled preemptions come even though most, if not all, of the stations now balking at running Steven Spielberg's D-Day epic have aired it in the past. Pic, which contains more than three dozen utterances of the word "fuck," must air its unedited form, as per ABC's license agreement with DreamWorks.

But with the FCC and Congress threatening blockbuster fines for stations that air indecent material before 10 p.m., a slew of station groups have told ABC they don't want to take a chance on viewers complaining to the FCC. The preemptions come even though in 2002, the FCC -- responding to a complaint about the pic from activist Donald Wildmon -- ruled "Saving Private Ryan" wasn't indecent.

ABC's affiliate relations department was said to be working overtime to get some stations back on board. Industry insiders suggested several major station groups have ordered their affils not to air "Ryan," but that some local stations are balking at the group decision. As a result, it's possible the number of preemptions will ultimately fall below the 35% level.

While affils from some stations say they're not sure they can risk airing "Ryan" in the current political environment, others, including Pappas-owned KHGI in Lincoln, Neb., argue preempting the pic is a public service.

"Pappas has decided that the interests of the viewers of KHGI, in the Lincoln-Hastings-Kearney, Neb., market, are best served by preempting this program," read a statement released by the company. "Pappas Telecasting and its management have been in the forefront of regulatory efforts to eliminate profanity, indecency and gratuitous violence from network programming, particularly during times when children may be watching. Moreover, as is evidenced by recent decisions of the Federal Communications Commission, stations that air network programming with indecent or profane content are subject to significant fines and the threat of license revocation."

But Ray Cole, prexyprexy of Citadel Communications, said he pulled "Ryan" from his three ABC stations in Iowa and Nebraska because of fear of fines.

"Under strict interpretation of the rules, we can't run that programming before 10 p.m.," Cole told the Associated Press. "We have attempted to get an advanced waiver from the FCC and, remarkably to me, they are not willing to do so."

While the stations didn't get any complaints about "Ryan" the last two times it aired, Cole cited Janet Jackson's Super Bowl peepshow and last week's election as reasons for keeping "Ryan" off the air.

Ironically, the Parents Television Council, a conservative group that regularly decries so-called "indecent" material on TV, said it's in favor of ABC airing "Ryan" as is.

"Context is everything," PTC toppertopper Brent Bozell said in a statement. "We agreed with the FCC on its ruling that the airing of 'Schindler's List' on television was not indecent and we feel that 'Saving Private Ryan' is in the same category. In both films, the content is not meant to shock, nor is it gratuitous."

ABC declined to comment on the affilaffil defections, instead issuing a statement noting the pic will carry numerous parental advisories. Sen. John McCain also taped a new introduction to the movie.

Pic was set to air in May, around Memorial Day. But after the Jackson incident, ABC execs decided to push the encore airing to November -- after the election.

Most of us have heard worse, and people should know that in a realistic portrayl of war there will be language which may not be suitable for younger viewers. Indeed, ABC has already noted that it would air the appropriate warnings before and during the broadcast. Moms and dads should be forewarned, and view with caution.

I've seen "Saving Private Ryan", and it is one of the best war movies of all time. I'll be watching. And thanks to Mustang Bobby in Miami and his blog "Bark Bark Woof Woof" for the heads up (and, BTW: HAPPY BELATED ANNIVERSARY!!!)

--- Yassar Arafat died late last night (Eastern Time). I'm sorry, but you won't see me crying tears over his death. Arafat was, quite bluntly, a terrorist and corrupt leader who plundered the Palestinian Authority treasury of money meant to help his people. Not only that, but in the latter days of Bill Clinton's presidency, Arafat walked away from an agreement that would have given the Palestinian state legitimacy and allowed the Palestinian people the opportunity to live at peace with it's neighbours in Israel. Maybe the new leadership that will come into the spotlight will sit down in a spirit of cooperation and comprimise and achieve what Arafat could/would not do.

It certainly will not be easy. There are people in Israel that do not want any type of Palestinian state, as well as Palestinians who want hundereds of thousands of Israeli settlers removed from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, plus Jerausalem to be their capital. On both sides, nothing else would be satisfactory. Both sides need to work out an agreement which may not give them everything they want...but as I usually say, half a loaf is a heckuva lot better than the status quo.

--- The Polk County School Board has a pressing question before it today: Does 1/8 of an inch constitute the difference between a "dangerous object" and a "weapon"?

The question comes from the case of a student at Lake Gibson High School, who had been fishing earlier in the afternoon. He had taken a knife to cut line and help remove hooks out of the mouths of fishes he caught. Unfortunately, the young man apparantly forgot that he had the knife on him when attending a football game. During the game he attempted to break up an altercation involving a friend, and when the knife was noticed by a school resource officer the student was the one who ended up at the Juvenile Detention Centre.

Administrators twice upheld the expulsion. Although a hearing officer later recommended that the penalty be reduced to suspension, it was ignored by Superintendent Jim Thornhill and his security/discipline chief. The case has now been appealed to the full seven member school board, which will decide the issue today.

While "no tolerance" policies are generally commendable, each case should be decided on it's own merits. This student has had no serious discipline problems (tardiness) or violent behaviour, and it is apparant that the kid simply forgot he had the knife on him. Witnesses say the student did not pull the knife of threaten anyone; indeed, he was simply trying to break up an altercation and prevent a friend from getting in trouble or worse. Certainly in this case a suspension would have been appropriate. But now the student has been out of class since the incident in September. Hopefully the School Board will do the right thing in this case.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A lot of people, myself included, enjoy watching what is generally considered the gold standard of news as presented by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). For many years "The Beeb" has held a reputation of presenting a much wider picture of the world in a truly honest and fair manner.

It looks as though BBC may face the same fate as it's American broadcast counterparts, as the Evening Standard of London is reporting that the UK's government-run service is expected to chop off up to 50% of it's total workforce. The action is being taken in advance of a government review of it's royal charter, which is schedule for 2006.

Another source of good news on "the telly" is "The National", the nightly news broadcast of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Anchor Peter Mansbridge has become a favourite of mine, a no-nonsense presenter in the tradition of Walter Cronkite and Tom Brokaw. The only thing is: You either have to have digital cable if you live in areas served by Bright House Networks in Tampa Bay (on Newsworld International), or you can watch online.

It's always interesting to see what the view of America is from the outside...

And it's always newsworthy when a celebrity from the entertainment world comes to visit Polk County. The Winter Haven News Chief noted today that Jane Seymour, best known in recent years for her television role as "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman", was the featured guest at Winter Haven Hospital's 15th Annual gala fundraiser. The proceeds will be used to support the hospital's soon-to-be open heart surgery centre.

Happy Wednesday Morning!

--- There is an interesting article from this morning's Palm Beach Post about how the Republicans won the I-4 Corridor in last week's election. It credits the GOP's strategy to get the Hispanics and gun owners as well as "NASCAR dads and soccer moms", and also pointed out that 5th Congressional District representative Ginny Brown-Waite --- whose district only covers a very small part of northwest Polk County --- was present and doing radio broadcasts from a large gun show held at the Lakeland Center.

The power of incumbancy also helps, as shown when President Bush showed up in places like Lakeland on Marine One. That was the first visit by a sitting president since Jimmy Carter, and helped excite people in Polk County so close to the election. As if Polk had not become more conservative leaning already, that simply helped to bring more voters out and get them excited to work for the president's reelection.

The article does not touch on one important aspect: the evanglicial Christian vote. That has been --- and will likely be --- discussed in detail, but one cannot discard that group of voters. When I worked as a poll watcher in my precinct on Election Day, almost every voter that came in during the last few hours had a copy of the Christian Coalition's voters guide...and many actually were referring to it while looking over their ballots! Volunteers were also passing out the voters guide at the early voting location in Lakeland, and likely those in Winter Haven and Bartow as well. We have to find a way to reach that group of voters, and communicate to them that Democrats are not as evil as many of their pastors say we are. That means presenting our positions and goals in a way that is not threatening. It won't be easy, but it has to be done in order to prevent the Democratic Party from becoming a marginal influence in politics on every level.

--- What about Katherine Harris for the U.S. Senate in 2006? There was talk that she was about to jump into this year's campaign for the seat soon to be held by Mel Martinez, but was discouraged by operatives within the White House to allow Mel that opportunity. While Ms. Harris is definately ambitious, she would --- IMHO --- be much safer to stick with her congressional seat for awhile before making a run for the Senate. She is such a lightning rod from her days as Secretary of State when she helped in the Bush election debacle...something that will not be forgotten soon by Democrats...plus there will probably be some heavy hitters ready to run two years from now on the GOP side that she will be small potatoes in comparison.

Although Jeb! has said he would not be a candidate, don't put your money against it. Two years is a long time to reconsider, and I'm sure that if his approval numbers remain high there are key people with the Republican Party both statewide and nationally that will strongly encourage him to take the plunge. With most of the other high profile GOPers likely to chase the governor's post in 2006 (state CFO Tom Gallagher, Attorney General Charlie Crist, possibly Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings and/or former Congressman Bill McCollum), Jeb! would be a perfect candidate to challenge incumbant Bill Nelson. Now any of the previously mentioned individuals could decide to make the Senate run, especially if the governor remains adamant about returning to private life in Miami.

Quite frankly, the bench on the Democratic side is much lighter. Senator Nelson will likely run again, so I don't see anyone willing or able to challenge the state's only remaining Democratic statewide officeholder. I do believe that we have only a few individuals with the statewide name recognition who could run for Governor, among them Congressman Peter Deutsch and Miami-Dade County mayor Alex Penelas (now THAT would be an interesting primary rematch!). They would likely not have to worry about Betty Castor; the former Educational Commissioner and USF president has said that she would likely not seek political office again, and I believe her after the bloody battle against Mel Martinez. Former Tallahassee mayor and current state Democratic chairman Scott Maddox is also a likely candidate.

Personally, I like former state senator Daryl Jones of Miami, but he's been away from the spotlight since his 2002 run for the governor's office. Some supporters from Polk County formed a group, Focus On Florida, to help keep Jones' name in the statewide discussion. The organization was to have done this through having Daryl appear at various "town hall meeting" type forums across the state, as well as Democratic Party events, but it has never truly come to fruition. The presidential and senate campaigns, plus the hurricanes, have prevented Focus on Florida to move forward. And in politics especially, out of sight...out of mind.

--- Here's a moving story from the Orlando Sentinel that many of us should get behind: An Orlando couple recently lost their two daughters in a tragic accident when they were struck and killed by a 22 year old woman who was likely speeding --- and talking on a cellular phone. Now the couple and some backers are beginning a campaign to require motorists to use hands-free attachments when talking on their cell phones.

It's a good idea, but I would go even farther to outlaw entirely the use of cell phones while driving. I understand that we are more mobile than ever, and that cell phones are, for many people, a necessary part of life, but it's simply stupid to be using one while driving! Drivers should concentrate fully on what they're doing, not distracted by business or personal conversation with a cell phone on your shoulder. While I do agree that a hands-free option would be better, using a cell phone is simply too much of a distraction, especially on a high traffic street where every second is important to preventing a possible tragedy such as what happened to these two precious youngesters. Phones and driving simply don't mix!

Experts say there is persuasive evidence that talking on a mobile phone poses greater risks than talking with a passenger. One study found that drivers using cell phones were four times more likely to be involved in wrecks than those who were not using a phone, and one leading researcher has found that drivers using phones performed more poorly on driving tests than motorists with blood-alcohol levels at 0.08 percent -- the legal limit in Florida.There are now more than 171 million cell-phone users in the country.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Just for your consideration, here's some scattershooting on this Wednesday afternoon while I'm back on the old IBM Aptiva computer...with WINDOWS 95!

--- An interesting story from USA Today regarding druggists who refuse to fill prescriptions for birth control pills or other contraceptives for religious or moral reasons. In one case, a Denton, Texas Eckerds pharmacist refused to fill a prescription during March for contraceptives for a woman said to be a rape victim!

Sometimes, we come across situations in our work that we may not agree with. But we do not have the right to judge another person's decision. As long as the prescription is written by a legally licensed physician, and as long as the medication being prescribed does not obviously present a danger to the patient (based on other medications being taken by the person), the pharmacist does not/should not have the right to simply refuse to fill the prescription based on his/her personal religious beliefs!

--- Governor Jeb! has said once again that he will not run for president in 2008, or for that matter for the U.S. Senate when Bill Nelson's term is up two years from now.

I can believe it when he says he won't run for the Oval Office, but if you give him six to 12 months, with the right prompting by Republican backers, he'll decide to challenge Senator Nelson. Florida's soon-to-be senior U.S. Senator is wearing a huge target on his back, the result of being the only remaining statewide Democratic officeholder. No doubt that even if Jeb! doesn't choose to make a run and head back into private life, there will be plenty of Republicans to take up the slack, as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel notes

--- The changes are beginning for the second Bush administration. Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Attorney General John Ashcroft have tendered their resignations to the President. Ashcroft's step-down was no great surprise. Evans' was.

--- I'm fustrated today, as my main 'puter, a Gateway piece, has gone south for the second time in six months. Looks like the power supply has gone south again. Looks like I'll be on this machine for awhile...but at least I'm still on.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Getting on the soapbox on this Sunday morning:

--- A few days ago after the election I mentioned that one probable reason for President Bush's wider-than-projected victory in Florida is that his campaign team chose not to give any ground to the opposing team of John Kerry and John Edwards. While the Democratic nominee focused his attention on the urban metropolitian areas of Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Tampa/St. Petersburg, and Orlando, the Republican incumbant and Vice President Dick Cheney chose to also make stops in smaller cities across the Sunshine State not normally paid attention to by national candidates. Niceville, New Port Richey, Lakeland, Fort Myers, Gainesville, and The Villages were visited by the president or vice president during the latter days of the campaign.

It seems that someone agrees with me. No less than the New York Times made the Republican strategy the focus of a story in today's edition. One item in the story that deserves mention; a bit surprising, but not really when you consider the result:

For example, in the Interstate 4 corridor that runs from Tampa through Orlando and up to Daytona Beach, the Republican National Committee had set a goal in early 2003 of attracting 10,000 volunteers, a target that Republicans in the state saw as ambitious and optimistic. And yet on Election Day, they were surprised to see that more than 25,000 in that region had volunteered to help Mr. Bush win re-election.

To quote Democratic Party's legal team chief in Florida, Mitchell Berger of Fort Lauderdale, "We woke up the beast."

While the Democrats were focusing on avoiding a repeat of 2000 by placing attorneys throughout the state in fear of more election hanky-panky, Bush and Cheney were visiting the out-of-the-way areas to insure their base and undecideds will get out for their side. It worked, and goes to show you that we cannot surrender any part of our state to the other side. The Democratic Party has to reach out to all areas, large and small, rural and urban, and communicate it's message in such a way that is not threatening to people. We simply cannot say, "They're DUMB", and let it go at that. We must attempt to reach those people --- yes, even the social conservatives. It won't be easy, and there are many traditional liberals who will scream and holler that we are "losing our focus" and "not holding to our principles". But if we continue on the course we are on now, we will be relegated to a minor role in national, state, and even local politics.

--- If you want to read an excellent article on what happened and what the Democratic Party needs to do to right it's ship, read this piece from Orlando Sentinel Insight Editor Peter A. Brown.

--- On November 2 eleven states passed ballot items to ban gay marriage. Now the Florida Baptist Convention wants to add Florida to that list. The state's largest denomination is expected to pass a measure at it's annual convention Monday and Tuesday in Jacksonville calling for a constitutional amendment to uphold the "biblical definition" of marriage as between one man and one woman. The thing is, that definition has been law in Florida since 1997, and the statute also bans recoginition of same-sex marriges performed elsewhere. So why put it in the constitution, when the Florida Legislature would not likely change the law in the forseeable future? Simple...to show the religious community's political clout in the aftermath of the 2004 election.

--- Here's an interesting column by the Lakeland Ledger Associate Editor Lonnie Brown, dealing with the fact that a number of voters picked and choosed the races they filled in the oval on. It happens all the time, and the difference would not have counted a great deal, but one race --- for the Board of County Commissioners District 5 seat --- could possibly have been much closer.

--- Florida has a couple of interesting results Tuesday. Gadsden County finally has an African-American sheriff after a recount, and Highlands County has the first female sheriff elected in a regular election in Florida. There have been other women who have served as their counties' chief law enforcement officer, but they have been widows of sheriffs who died while in office, and one was elected in a special election to fill the unexpired term of her late husband. Congratulations to both ladies.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Scattershooting 'round after my first day back at work from vacation...

--- There is no question that following one of the dirtiest campaigns in recent memory, Senator-elect Mel Martinez has a lot of fence-mending to do, both within his own party and with the Loyal Opposition. While Martinez is promising to "represent all Floridians" and to reach out to Democrats and others who did not support his candidacy, Polk County Democratic Party Chairman L. Mark Kaylor put it well in a quote which appeared in this morning's Lakeland Ledger:

"There are plenty of Democrats who are moral, God-fearing Christians but are in fear of the right-wing fundamentalist segment of the Republican Party. Senator-elect Martinez is a prime example of someone from that wing of the Republican party who evokes fear for many, gay or not."

If the newest United States Senator from Florida expects to earn any respect from many people throughout our state, he'll need to show quickly after taking office that he can be independent and not simply a puppet of George W. Bush and the right wing of the Republican Party...as is the case with lapdog Congressman Adam Putnam.

--- It had to happen; things were just going too good. In some of the tallies for absentee ballots in Broward County, the numbers began going DOWN instead of UP. The computer glitch had to do with the software by Elections Systems and Software of Omaha, Nebraska, according to this story from the Palm Beach Post.

--- Who would want about 100 tons of railroad ties, and what do you do with such a large take? That is the question inquiring minds are asking as Haines City Police are investigating the theft of 495 cross ties, each weighing around 400 pounds each and reaching between eight and 16 feet across.

--- And while we're cruising around northeast Polk County, I've mentioned here about Heart of Florida Regional Medican Centre and it's being the most expensive medical facility in Polk. But if you go there pray you're not involved in an accident getting in/out of the parking lot onto U.S. 27...according to this story from Bay News 9, there have been 62 accidents near the hospital in the past year.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

--- First, please pray for Elizabeth Edwards and the Edwards family today. One day after the concession of the presidential election, we find out that Mrs. Edwards has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Reports are that it was caught early, and that a full recovery is expected.

--- Also watching as the condition of Palestinian Authority/PLO leader Yasfar Arafat continues to decline. Although the media pundits are basically guessing at this point due to conflicting reports, my guess is that Arafat is within days, if not hours, from death. We must be careful to watch for flareups in the days after Arafat passes on, as we shall likely see a power struggle between the legally legitimate successors and the various armed factions involved there. It will be a tense few days/weeks/months.

--- And The Sayfie Review will be going on hiatus until further notice. While I don't necessairly agree with Justin's political leans, it has been an excellent source for me since launching this blog for insight from many of Florida's newspapers. He says he plans to bring it back in the near future, possibly with a different format, and he also has a subscription based site, The Florida Insider, which Justin launched with Insider Advantage, Inc. The Sayfie Review will definately be missed. Thanks to Elizabeth Donovan at the Miami Herald's Infomaniac: Weblog for the heads-up.

--- So, we bring the curtain down on the 2004 election. Now we can start thinking about 2008.

Many of you are probably going "What the Hades are you thinking? The ink hasn't even dried on this one, and you're ALREADY talking about four years from now!?!?"

Why not?

On the Democratic side, we have Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York ready and rarin' to go. But IMHO...bad idea. Many traditional liberal Democrats love her, but there are many that hate her as well, seeing her as simply a overambitious political animal. She's simply too much of a lightning rod to be a winner on the national scene.

Then there's John Edwards, the most recent vice presidential candidate. Young, great charm, and who brought a positive message to the campaign. Probably the best our party has to offer at this time, but will be forever tied to the John Kerry campaign which lost in 2004. Not only that, but his decision not to seek reelection to his North Carolina senate seat will keep him out of the spotlight for the next couple of years. Also, his opponents will concentrate on Edwards' lack of foreign policy and general political experience (his run for the Senate was his first campaign).

Some are even touting Illinois Senator-elect Barack Obama as a possible candidate four years from now. Young, extremely intelligent African-American but who just won his seat. Let's watch closely how he handles himself in the Senate before putting him in a run for the Oval Office.

And there will be calls for former Vermont governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean to consider a run in '08. Dean galvanized a lot of people who had not participated in the process before in a way not seen since Bobby Kennedy, and was first to use the Internet to raise a large amount of money to support his campaign. Dr. Dean would be a wonderful choice to replace Terry McAuliffe as Chairman of the national Democratic Party, if he decides not to run again.

On the Republican side, several are already working toward replacing George W. Bush in 2008. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee is already taking to the road on a "victory tour" of the south with Republican senators-elect. Expect him to get away from the Beltway more and begin appearing on the "talking head" shows to get his name into the national scene.

One cannot forget Arizona Senator John McCain, which is most likely the reason why he didn't even consider John Kerry's overtures as a possible VP running mate. Unfortunately, he'll likely be eaten alive by the hard core right wingers within his own party as he was four years ago running against Bush.

Then there are the others: Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, Nebraska's Chuck Hagel, Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and two familiar names from New York: former NYC mayor Rudy Guiliani and Governor George Pataki.

As I noted last evening, the Democratic Party --- both locally and on the national level --- will need to make time over the next year and do some hard looking into itself. Until we as a party work harder to define what we are and what we stand for, then communicate that in a way that is non-threatening to the majority of our fellow citizens in the heartland, we cannot truly claim ourselves as a national party.

All one has to do is look at the map from yesterday. The Democratic Party only took a handful of states, mainly in our traditional strongholds of New England, portions of the old "rust belt", and the West Coast. Illinois stood awfully alone in blue, surrounded by solid red. And it's really troubling that the entire southeastern United States was red, when not too many years prior it would have been a Democratic stronghold.

The Democratic Party is a wonderful smogarsboard of people, representing a virtual quilt of interests: War, a woman's right to choose, enviromential issues, worker's rights, social and economic justice...the list goes on. But over the past two decades, since the so-called "Reagan Revolution" that brought people like Trent Lott and Newt Gingrich to the forefront, our opponents have been successful in communicating their message to America: That the term "liberal" is somehow dirty and equivilent to being a traitor to our nation.

What we have to do is find a way to better communicate our message in a couple of ways:

Show that we are the PARTY OF TRUE RESPONSIBILITY. Find a way to discuss our issues and concerns in a way that is not as threatening to potential supporters in the Heartland. I agree with William Saletan in Slate when he says that this is not a class war going on in America now, it is a culture war.

Start by changing the way you talk about pocketbook issues. Remember Bill Clinton's commitment to help people who "work hard and play by the rules"? Your positions on taxes and labor would be assets instead of liabilities if you explained them in moral terms. The minimum wage rewards work. Repealing the estate tax helps rich people get richer without risk or effort. Lax corporate oversight allows big businesses to evade taxes, deceive small investors, and raid pension funds.
Some of you are dismayed by the emergence of a huge voting bloc of churchgoers. Stop viewing this as a threat, and start viewing it as an opportunity. Socially conservative blue-collar workers don't believe in the free market. They believe in the work ethic. Bush wins their votes by equating the free market with the work ethic. Show them where the free market betrays the work ethic, and they'll vote for the party of the work ethic—you—against the party of the free market.

And we need to communicate our issues stronger, not waltzing around answers or fearing to call someone out when necessary:

Democrats in the Roosevelt-Truman years didn't have this problem. They called tyrants by their name, and they didn't sound like they were faking it...
When a Republican president runs a TV ad accusing you of failing to protect us from wolves, you should be able to point out that he's the one who emptied our shotgun into a fox, leaving us helpless against the wolves. And you should sound credible saying it.

When we begin putting things into a moral perspective, those people who blindly support the opposition party will take notice, then hopefully realize that it's truly in their best interest to "come home".

But we cannot stand aside when our opponents bash us time and again. I like Dave's perspective this morning on his blog spacecoastweb when he says:

It's gloves-off, bare-knuckle street-fighting. We can't live by Queensbury rules in a "SmackDown!" world.

Maybe, that's why those, who try to play fair, keep losing.
Enjoy and remember, even in the wide world of 'rasslin', the bad guy's mask is pulled off at the end of the show.