Thursday, September 30, 2004

I'm going to be perfectly honest here: While I will watch tonight's debate from Miami (OK, Mustang Bobby, Coral Gables!), as well as the other scheduled debates to be held, I'm not really sure if they will make a real difference.

The debates have simply become lengthy photo ops where the candidates do not have the opportunity to address each other directly or ask each other questions about their vision for the nation and world. They have a very generous idea of what the questions will be beforehand, so there is ample time to review all possible answers for the best possible response. And it's simply ridiculous that the candidates, through their representatives, argue over the most minute points such the temperature of the venue and the height of the podiums. They have about as many rules/riders in their agreement than a rock star (check out The Smoking Gun to see what I mean with the rock star reference). Not only that, but at the second debate --- a "town hall meeting" format --- there is argument over the makeup of the audience. The idea was to make it a group of undecided citizens, but the candidates want it split with their partisans.

And while we're at it, let's scrap the Commission on Presidential Debates altogether, and put the debates in the hands of an organization which is decidedly nonpartisan and has a history of doing it right without putting up with a lot of drama as we're seeing now: The League of Women Voters! I'm certain they can do it better that it's being done now.

If you really want to see the best of the debates, I'd wait for the VP candidates. That should be a show, with the pit bull (Dick Cheney) -vs- the trial lawyer (John Edwards). But honestly, I don't expect too much tonight except a well prepared couple of candidates giving a slice-and-dice version of their stump speeches.

Oh, and by the way...

Yesterday I was trying to find out how it came to be that President Bush decided to visit Marty McKenna's citrus grove near Lake Wales. I looked at to find out if he was a big contributor...he's not, not even to sheepdog congressman Adam Putnam. Then this morning I accidently came across this item from WTSP-TV 10, which brought things clearly to light: HE'S THE PRESIDENT OF FLORIDA CITRUS MUTUAL! It's the mouthpiece for the industry, so it's obvious that the Prez would walk with the organization's top dog in his grove.

And this morning's Lakeland Ledger noted the hopes of those wanting to see their nation's Chief Executive...but didn't get the opportunity. No time for the "common folk" in Polk.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

President Bush took a brief moment on his way to tomorrow night's debate in Miami (alright, Mustang Bobby, Coral Gables!) to visit a citrus grove outside Lake Wales with brother Jeb! and congressional lapdog Adam Putnam.

This was strictly a visit for the agricultrual sector, of which Putnam is closely tied. He has family ties to citrus/cattle baron Ben Hill Griffin (for which the stadium at the University of Florida is named), and also to fellow Member of Congress and former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris (remember HER?).

According to Tampa's WFTS-TV 28, Bush did not make time as he did in previous post hurricane visits to meet with the "common folk", the victims and families who are still suffering from lack of basic necessaties --- water, power, and a roof.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Thanks to fellow Tampa Bay Blogger Michael Hussey and his Last Day of My Life for the heads up on the latest nimkimpoop idea by Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman; a new take on the "Three Strikes" theory: Three criminal convictions, lose your eligibility to the county's indigent health care coverage.

The St. Petersburg Times featured the story this morning. Norman, who has previously championed the morals of Hillsborough County (for those who choose to call it that) by attempting to block public access television and eliminate strip clubs, is saying that his proposal would also include some people convicted of some misdemeanor offenses.

Sorry, Jim. It doesn't quite work that way. All any people eliminated from the program would do is simply wait until their problems became severe, then go to the hospital emergency rooms. That, in turn, would eventually cost everyone and defeats the purpose you say by trying to save costs for law abiding people. DO THE MATH...DUH! And besides, it's the MORAL thing to do, helping your fellow person, regardless of wheather he/she is a criminal or co-worker.

Back to hurricane recovery business...

Polk County Schools announced today that students will not have class at all this week. Friday will make 14 days total in which classes have been cancelled for weather related issues. I heard Lt. Governor Toni Jennings mention in an interview on WUSF-FM this afternoon that the Legislature had no plans at this point to address the school calendar issue, which would be required for Polk and other affected counties to extend the school year into the summer. Polk has already attempted to adjust it's calendar by cutting scheduled holiday time and eliminating a couple of teacher work days.

And be extra kind to your spouse during this troubling time. There has apparantly been a sharp rise in the number of cases of domestic violence since Hurricane Charley, according to the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

This afternoon, my hometown newspaper, the Hattiesburg American (MS) and the Associated Press agreed to settle their lawsuit against the U.S. Marshals Service over an incident that occured in Hattiesburg back in April.

During a speech at Presbyterian Christian High School, a marshal accompanying Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia confiscated audio recordings that reporters for the American and AP were making of the event and either erased the recording or ordered they be erased before they could have the tape back.

Scalia, who reportedly does not like recordings made of his speeches, did send a written apology to the reporters. The Marshals Service, as part of the agreement, will pay reasonable legal fees incurred by the AP and the newspaper as a result of the lawsuit, as well as $1,000 each to the AP, the American, and the reporters individually.

The speech, by the way, was on the sanctity of the U.S. Constitution.

And to end on a...somewhat...lighter note:

Godly men fighting each other??? Check out this story.

JERUSALEM — Greek Orthodox and Franciscan priests have gotten into a fist-fight in one of Christianity's holiest shrines.

The fight broke out today in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which is built on the spot in Jerusalem where tradition says Jesus was crucified and buried. Israeli police officers, wielding clubs, had to break up the brawl.

The fisticuffs came after the religious leaders got into an argument over whether a door should be closed during a procession.

A dozen people, including some Israeli police officers, were slightly injured. Four priests were detained.

Hundreds of Greek Orthodox worshippers were taking part in the procession that commemorates the fourth-century pilgrimage by the mother of Emperor Constantine to Jerusalem.

Here's the link to that, and a few other interesting bits, thanks to WBBH-TV2 Fort Myers

Getting ready to go back to work...happy Tuesday!

Although it's a bit late for me as some of us have to get up way early, I saw this morning that NBC's Jay Leno will be stepping down as host of "The Tonight Show" five years when his contract ends. The amazing thing is that the network has learned from it's mistakes and decided to name "Late Night" host Conan O'Brien as his eventual replacement.

A good choice, although Conan's style may not resonate as well with the traditional 11:30 PM audience. He does attract a younger crowd to his show an hour later than Leno's, which is likely what NBC wants to do and is the reason they decided to take care of him now. O'Brien's contract was set to expire this year, and you know there were other entites ready to make the catch.

This brings up a couple of interesting questions. First, would Conan bring over his band, the Max Weinberg 7, or keep Leno's band led by Kevin Eubanks? And would the show move back to New York, where Conan is currently based, or stay at the NBC studios in Burbank? Would be interesting for the show to move back east, where Jack Parr began the tradition a half century ago.

You've gotta wonder how David Letterman is feeling this morning upon hearing the news?

And on a more serious note, Cargill continues to have problems related to the storms. Remember the huge breach it had at one of it's gypsum stacks that sent acidic sludge into Archie Creek after Frances? Well, here's another, slightly different situation on a smaller scale at their Bartow fertilizer plant, but according to this story in today's Lakeland Ledger they may be able to contain any effects before it reaches the Peace River, which is already overflowing it's banks near Bartow. As if that company doesn't have enough problems already with enviromential issues...

BTW: When you go to their Web site and look, it has a page where they tout their "Cargill Cares Councils" throughout the USA featuring fact sheets noting it's commitments to the people in the states in which they operate. If you notice closely, there is not one for Florida. Does THAT tell you something???

And personally, I'm not worried about any effects on this hurricane on the upcoming election as far as the ability of Polk County residents to cast their ballots. We have a fine Supervisor of Elections in Lori Edwards, who knows her way around Tallahassee as a former Democratic state representative. She decided to run for the nonpartisan SOE job after leaving the legislature due to term limits, replacing a long time officeholder who retired and defeating her assistant (who is still working in the office as Lori's assistant SOE). Lori and her staff had made plans to use portable trailers if necessary at polling places with generators to power the optical scan voting machines and modems used to transmit the results back to Bartow. They are a first-rate staff, and the optical scan method guarantees a paper trail if needed. We're proud to say that Polk County is ahead of the game, and many of our other counties can learn from Ms. Edwards.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Getting back to business as the recovery continues...

Mustang Bobby down in Miami posted on his blog Bark Bark Woof Woof about an interesting story from the New York Times regarding a sharp increase in the number of Democratic registrations in Florida and Ohio, two "battleground" states in the November election.

Wish I could say that was the case in Polk County. The Supervisor of Elections puts everything online, including a record of stats on voter registrations. While the local Democratic Party has begun working to do phone banking, primarily to get registered Dems to vote absentee or early vote to insure those votes ARE COUNTED, the Repubs have admittedly done a better job at getting people to either register on their side or change their registration.

The efforts of groups like ACT may be working in the larger metros such as Tampa/St. Petersburg, Miami/Fort Lauderdale, and Orlando/Daytona Beach, but you can't ignore the mid level areas, especially along the I-4 Corridor.

And while we're on the subject of politics, Scott Maxwell has a good column in today's Orlando Sentinel about Mel Martinez' decision to accept a debate against Betty Castor. One piece of this column struck a nerve:

If Martinez was really concerned about the Florida press corps, he wouldn't have hired an out-of-town national Republican operative named Jennifer Coxe to be his lead press agent.

So fervent is Coxe in promoting and defending her candidate (regardless of facts) that, in a previous political job in Tennessee, the Nashville Scene reported she was voted "most annoying spokesman" in a survey of press and political operatives. In fact, the paper noted that she won the 2002 title by "a stunningly wide margin."

Coxe, however, is just one out-of-town cog in a Washington-coached campaign that Martinez appears to have little control over.

Asked if Martinez was making his own decisions on issues like the debates, Coxe responded: "It doesn't matter."

Here's the article that Maxwell was referring to from 2002. At the time she had worked for Van Hilleary, the Republican candidate for Governor of Tennessee.

As for wheather it matters, the answer if clear: Yes, it does. A candidate should/must have the final decisions over his/her campaign. Certainly, a campaign manager is there to provide guidance and direct the operation, but in the end the candidate must accept responsibility for everything said and done in his/her name. The debacle with the low-blow advertising toward Republican primary opponent Bill McCollum was something that Martinez should have been advised of, and should have had final yes or no approval since it would represent Mel and his campaign. The same applies here, as it represents a major opportunity to present himself to potential voters still undecided at this point.

Even though Jeanne is gone, it isn't over quite yet...

My work day didn't happen. I took the bus to the call centre, only to find out that because of a power outage which had been resolved shortly before I arrived, the decision had been made to close for the first shift. The IT geek types have a number of systems to deal with and insure they are functioning OK before allowing anyone to use them, considering we have several departments within our centre (Credit/Collections, Deposits, Error Processing, High Toll). That, as you may understand, will take several hours, so it is expected that our centre will be open for it's second shift at 4PM.

Looking for a place to eat and a few groceries this morning, US98 looked like Dale Mabry Highway at rush hour, for those of you Tampa folks who know that experience. And this is LAKELAND, for gawd's sake! Several restaurants usually open during the morning were still closed, and those that were open had long lines for seating or service. IHOP at 98 near I-4 had up to an hour's wait for a booth. McDonald's across the street had a 15 minute line for an order, and they ran out of muffins for breakfast sandwiches. Most of the convenience stores did very steady business with rushes on gas and snack sandwiches.

And kudos to the people at Bright House Networks Tampa Bay. After the electricity came back on last night, the cable/internet went down. I didn't worry about it until this morning, and when I called and let them know that my apartment complex was affected, it wasn't long before we were back up and running.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

It's about time!

After 13 1/2 hours without power, the folks at Lakeland Electric restored service to my little corner of the world only moments before I began typing this post. It's been a rough day since shortly after 7:00 this morning, when the electricity for much of northern Lakeland went down. As a matter of fact, at one point reportedly 90 percent of Polk County's 450,000 citizens were without power. Remarkable, considering it's sheer size, but not completely unusual for such a storm.

Listening to the radio reports and ham radio operators, this seems to be the first of the three major hurricanes that have caused significant damage throughout Polk. The previous storms, while causing some sporadic damage in Lakeland and western portions of the county, had mainly affected the southern and eastern regions. One amateur radio operator I spoke with in North Lakeland early in the afternoon said that his home weather station read a high wind gust of 93MPH during the height of the storm, and over six inches of rain.

There is a dusk to dawn curfew in effect. Schools and county government offices will be closed Monday, as well as the County Health Department clinics and Department of Children and Families offices.

The Lakeland Ledger has some really good picture galleries of damage and other effects of Jeanne from throughout Polk County. Here's a link to a series for Lakeland, some scenes from Bartow, and some from Winter Haven/East Polk County.

Right now there is still some breezes with occasional gusts of about 25 MPH and light rain, but that will move off overnight. Some of the local weather types are saying that although Jeanne will have gone away tomorrow, because of her the atmosphere will be rather unstable with a chance of thunderstorms...a breeding ground for possible tornados. Sounds like a fun day...

My power is back on, I've made my blog entry, and since my AC is back on I'm going to bed...Some of us have to go to work and collect past due telephone bills tomorrow.

NOW I'm starting to become concerned...

It's kinda hard trying to get a few hours of sleep when the wind gusts are picking up enough for you to feel the building ever so slightly shake. And you hear noises in the night as if something is hitting on the building, not knowing what kind of debris just struck, only to realize that it is simply another transformer a few blocks over that blew.

When I stepped onto my balcony a few moments ago, it was especially eerie to see this huge oak tree right in front of my building, it's large branches beginning to shake ever so slightly. I didn't see that with the two previous storms, although the small limbs littered the parking lot afterward.

Here's the latest radar view from the Tampa Bay National Weather Service (as of 6:44 AM). The centre of Jeanne is approximately 50-60 miles southeast of me in Lakeland, but it looks like we're in for rough weather for much of the day. I'll be back if the electricity doesn't go out or the tree in front of my building doesn't fall on us here...

As the clock approaches 5AM Sunday morning, it looks like we are beginning to get the worst band of Hurricane Jeanne. Of course, her strength is nowhere near the 115 MPH sustained winds found at landfall, but it is certainly not a storm you want to be outside driving around in.

The rain is coming down in sheets, and I would guess that the wind gusts are close to hurricane force, if not quite there. The centre of the storm is southeast of us, and it looks like our friends in Lake Wales, Frostproof, and Fort Meade are getting slammed once again. As they wanted that again! They got the centre of BOTH Charley AND Frances, or damn near close to it, and a lot of homes and businesses in those South Polk County towns are still recovering from that double whammy.

One of the reporters on WTVT-FOX 13 was doing a live shot in Lake Wales from a shelter location parking lot, and they caught a simply remarkable picture of an extended flash in the background of a transformer(s) blowing/possibly catching fire of in the distance. The electricity here is still on, but it did flicker a time or two after 3:00 AM while I was standing out on the front balcony and saw a couple of transformers toward US 98 blow.

There hasn't been any significant debris in the parking lot as there was during Charley or Frances. Actually, almost none. During the previous storms there were plenty of fallen tree limbs and shingles which flew off the buildings. That's not to say that will not happen here, but so far everything's relativly sturdy.

It's gonna be a looooooooooooooong day, as the new 5:00 AM Forecast Track shows.

A bright and early Sunday 'morn to you, too!

Yeah, I had a restless sleep, so I had to step onto my apartment's front balcony to see if the neighbours still had a roof. They do.

The 8PM Forecast Track has Jeannie cutting through the northeast corner of Polk County. However, that forecast is challenged by WFTS-TV 28 Chief Meteorologist Denis Phillips, who is looking for her to continue more westerly and cut more of a swath through Central Polk and Eastern Hillsborough counties. I'll buy into it; after all, he was one of the first to say on-air that Charley's earterly turn toward Charlotte County was more than "just a wobble".

Right now there is some gusts here in North Lakeland (near I-4). Nothing of any consequence, about 20 MPH. Earlier there were gusts up to 35 MPH at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in the south part of the city. Some bands of rain are coming through. Before I settled down for a few hours of rest, I noticed that at least a couple of neighbours had taped their windows at their apartments, and you could hear the strains of ranchero music as some Hispanic neighbours across the way were enjoying their Saturday evening before the storm.

I am hoping that we survive this hurricane as we did Charley and Frances. This is a mid-size apartment complex of approximately 120 units in 16 buildings. The electrical wiring is underground, which is one of the main reason why our power did not go out while others in the area did. The local utilities have already announced that when the lights go out, it could be an extended outage, as the manpower and equipment are already streched thin due to the previous storms...and they cannot necessairly rely on the amount of help from utilities outside the area that was received after Charley and Frances.

I'm going back to bed for awhile, but if the electricity holds up I'll continue to make entries here as long as possible. As the saying goes, you can't be good to anyone unless you be good to yourself. Keep high (on life, of course), and keep dry.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

And so it goes...

It seems so quiet right now. Outside my apartment in North Lakeland, the kids are playing just like any other Saturday afternoon. But the Emergency Management folks down in Bartow have ratcheted up their work, opening up six shelters at 4PM to add to the nine plus one special needs shelter which opened two hours earlier. That is because they had issued a mandatory evacuation of mobile homes and low lying areas, something which had not been done here for hurricanes Charley and Frances. A mandatory evacuation is something normally heard for residents in the coastal counties, not here in the Center Of It All (BTW: That's my term, not the EcoDevelopment geeks in Bartow).

Oh, and it's rather fitting that TWO DIVAS were visiting Polk County at the same time: Jeanne, as we all know, but Cher was bringing her farewell tour to a sold out audience at The Lakeland Center tonight; that will not proceed as scheduled.

Some would say "It's about time!", and they would be about right.

The Polk County Emergency Management office has only now within the past half hour ordered a mandatory evacuation of mobile homes and low-lying areas as a precaution to Hurricane Jeanne. That would have seemed like a no-brainer to announce that yesterday evening as soon as it was clearer that the centre would likely come close to, if not cross, Polk County. Regardless, it's going to be a rough night, and a mobile home is not the structure I would want to be in if the centre of a wind of hurricane force were hitting while I was sleeping (if that would be possible!)

Right now...cloudy but calm. The clouds are beginning to abound but no rain yet. The local NBC affiliate, WFLA-TV 8, is in continuious coverage mode along with the Bright House Networks regional cable news channel Bay News 9. Everyone else is in regular football, Major League Baseball...WFLA simply moved NBC's Notre Dame football coverage to PAX affiliate WXPX-66, with which it has an agreement.

Things will begin to deteriorate here tonight.

Some notes as we prepare once again, this time for Jeanne...

---For those who want a good site to check out the latest info about hurricanes that may affect this part of our state, and discuss same, go to the Central Florida Hurricane Centre 2004 site. It is a great source for lots of information, and there is a good message board there as well (registration required, but it's free).

---Not too many people are seeking plywood at the local Home Depot from what I saw this morning. Apparantly most folks have saved theirs from Charley and Frances, or have decided not to go through the trouble again...a definate mistake if that is their choice, considering the 11AM forecast track that takes Jeanne's centre over eastern Polk County. It has, BTW, strengthened into a Catagory 3 hurricane, and a Catagory 4 is not out of the question prior to landfall overnight.

---There are nine shelters which have been opened as of noon across Polk County, plus one special needs shelter. Other than that, the official response has been decidedly slow...or it seems that way. My guess is that with everyone being so storm weary, along with questions as to the effect Jeanne will have here, there is some reluctance to put the citizenry through this once again. That decision may bite our emergency management people on the backside if this forecast track is correct.

---And a couple of media notes of humour: A couple of posters on the Central Florida Hurricane Centre 2004 site (see above) message board noted interesting coincidences from The Weather Channel...

1) One rather timely commercial for Tropicana orange juice (the poster, I believe, was from Cocoa Beach), featuring as music the theme from the 60s sitcom "I Dream of Jeannie" (remember that classic with Barbara Eden?)

2) During their "Local On The 8s" forecast segment, the background music was the song "Cast Your Fate To the Winds". Here are some other music they could used that would have been just as appropriate:

---"Riders of the Storm", The Doors
---"Rock You Like A Hurricane", Scorpions
---"Eye of the Hurricane", Kevin Kinney

Come Saturday Morning...

---The tracking maps for Hurricane Jeanne keep changing. Here is the latest one based on the 5AM forecast. IF this forecast holds up --- and that's a BIG IF --- you've got to feel for those poor folks in Lake Wales. They caught the eye of Charley, they caught the eye of Frances, and now with this forecast they just may catch the eye of Jeanne.

If you've never been to Lake Wales, it's really a wonderful place. It's best known as home to the Historic Bok Sanctuary with it's garden and carrillon tower. Lake Wales has a small but growing antiques/arts district in it's downtown area. And if you've got some real cash burning in your wallet and a real hunger in your belly, there's always Chalet Suzanne Country Inn and Restaurant. Fast food this ain't, and the check will definately reflect that! You've got to wonder if they feel cursed after the past six weeks with another hurricane bearing down.

And for those from the East Coast who may be looking for rooms in Polk County to escape the storm: Check out the Polk County Visitors and Convention Bureau Website for occasional updates on hotel/motel availabilities. Simply click on the "Hurricane Update" link on the top right corner of the page and a press release will come up with the latest information.

---But as of yesterday afternoon, it didn't seem like anyone was really that concerned. I pass by a Home Depot on my way home from my bus stop. It looked like a regular Friday afternoon, no busier than normal. But I did notice the warehouse crew unloading plywood like crazy in the back in preperation for a possible last minute rush. But that just wasn't happening...yet. Even as of late Friday Polk County Schools are scheduled to be open Monday. They've already cut half of the scheduled Christmas/New Year's vacation to make up most of the nine days already missed for hurricanes. Polk students, along with those in Citrus County, have received a special waiver to take the FCAT later than the rest of Florida.

---We will get to see Betty Castor -vs- Mel Martinez in a statewide televised debate, after all. Martinez acquiesed Thursday and agreed to NBC News Washington Bureau Chief and host of Meet The Press Tim Russert to moderate the debate, to be held at WFLA-TV in Tampa on October 18. Martinez rejected another debate closer to the election date which would have aired on public television stations, saying it was too close to the election. He had originally balked at Russert, who is known for his preperation and tough questioning, claiming he preferred a Florida journalist.

It shouldn't matter. Russert has done debates in Florida before, and has always had Sunshine State journalists on the panel. It's a non-issue. Mel has just better start preparing to answer the tough questions that will be asked, just as his opponent Betty Castor will. It won't be an easy night for either candidate, and the Florida electorate will be better informed as a result.

BTW: I didn't realize that Tim Russert also was a Senior VP of NBC News! Not even Brokaw can claim THAT!!! Now if his beloved Buffalo Bills could only play football...

---Speaking of so-called compassionate conservatises...what a laugh! Ralph Reed, the above-mentioned Mel Martinez, and 12th District Congressman/Bush lapdog Adam Putnam were all present and accounted for Friday evening at a Republican rally held at Grove Park Christian Church in Lakeland. All the usual verses were sung, and State Representative John Stargel offered what was described as "a lengthy prayer", by which time I can only guess that even the Hevenely Father was almost snoring.

BTW: Speaking of Putnam, I was watching a story of Jeb! and company in Bartow Friday to announce Federal relief for the citrus/agricultrual industry, at which Putnam was there (his family is heavily into citrus and cattle). In case anyone say, he looked like he had one helluva HICKEY on his neck! Mister Congressman mustva gotten him some kinda BOOTY the night before! (Sorry, just couldn't help that, but from the tape it sure 'nuff looked like one)

Friday, September 24, 2004

One moment here to salute our Jewish friends and neighbours as they celebrate the Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur begins at sundown this evening and ends at sundown Saturday. During this period observant Jews do not drive, carry cash, or work. According to a recent visitor to my site, Ruby of the blog Yeshiva Girl In Israel (thanks for the visit!), it is a Day of Atonement, "when almost all Jews wear white and spend 25 hours fasting, many of which are spent praying, or "davening" in synagogue". Check out her site to learn more...she is in a women's seminary there!

Florida is home to an estimated 620-thousand citizens of the Jewish faith, by the way. Politically, many tend to vote Democratic, so that's why Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman --- an Orthodox Jew --- made South Florida his second home during the 2000 presidential campaign. He was/is scheduled to make an appearance there with Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas on behalf of U.S. Senate candidate Betty Castor in what is expected to be a hotly contested race.

And speaking of people visiting this site, it's amazing to see where the visitors are from. Mexico, England, Japan, truly is a world wide web! All checking out what one guy in the I-4 Corridor of central Florida has to say on one given day. Welcome, and please spread the word. After all, Central Florida is truly the Centre Of It All!

Thanks to Charles 2 and his blog The Fulcrum for the heads up:

For those who haven't taken seriously the thought of possibly renewing the draft, this headline in today's edition of Army Times should interest you:

Myers: Call-ups expected after election

Of course, Myers refers to General Richard B. Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Unfortunately, you must be a paid subscriber to access the story, but when you consider that the military services are already streched to nearly the breaking point, and that in many cases the National Guard and Reserves are expected to not meet recruiting goals, where do you think they will find the men and women to do the job???

And when the expected outcry comes against renewing the draft, the neocoms will challenge the patriotism of those who oppose they always do, claiming that to do so would be to be in cohorts with our enemies.

We just have to be ready with the voice to answer in kind...

"Good Morning, Americans...It's FRIDAY!" --- Paul Harvey

I'm sad and angered to hear that one of the blog sites that I rely on often to catch up on Florida political news --- appropriately called, what else, Florida Politics, has been hijacked by a person or persons of a decidedly opposite flavour from the original author.

The actual owner had been off-and-on recently due in the aftermath of Hurricanes Charley and Frances, and with the cleanup I had simply thought he had taken some time off once again. But, no...this is what is now on the site. Reading communication to a couple of fellow bloggers (Blogwood and Flablog), he has made note to Blogger regarding the situation.

This is what it should look like. Let's hope we have our Florida Politics back, and the sooner THE BETTER!

And the new forecast track is out on Jeanne. It looks somewhat better for those of us inland, at least as of 5AM. Looks like the tea leaves call for it to skim the east coast Sunday afternoon. Looks like our TV reporter/blogger Mike in Jacksonville will be busy yet again this weekend. No rest for the weary, as the saying goes...and with all the face time for the weather guys and gals on the tube, not a lot of NFL games Sunday in Jacksonville/Orlando/WPB unless you've got a dish.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

I just had to share this from the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, if for no other reason than as a reminder that you've just got to take care when cooking/frying food...

Seems as though Mississippi Republican congressman Roger Wicker of Tupelo was released after two days in the hospital. He happened to be frying okra at his home Sunday evening when a pot in a cabinet above his stove fell, hitting his hand and spilling hot grease on his hand and arm.

Common sense, friends...common sense.


Just when I thought we were about finished with all these freaking hurricanes and other tropical systems, here comes Jeanne! Now, this track could change all over again before the weekend ends, but most of the computer models point generally toward us. And to make things even more freaky, what remains of Ivan just WON'T GO AWAY! It did a turnaround from interior Alabama/Georgia, went back into the Gulf of Mexico, and now is hounding the northwest Gulf Coast. This is simply a crazy hurricane season for our region!

Some other random notes this Thursday afternoon...

---Sad news from New Orleans, not weather related: The death over the weekend of Ellis Marsalis, Sr., patriarch of the great family of jazz musicians including grandsons include Wynton, Branford, and Delfeayo. He was 96 years young. His funeral was earlier today in New Orleans. It would only be fitting if there were a traditional jazz tribute to this stalwart of the Crescent City and civil rights activist through the French Quarter with the band playing "When The Saints Go Marching In", because this is one gentleman who brought so much to so many through his family.

---Speaking of music, heard the latest work from a wonderful artist on radio yesterday. Josh Grobin is only 22 years old, but he has a talent that is well beyond his years. The song, "Remember When It Rained", is such a moving piece that you get easily taken into the emotion of the moment. Discovered by music producer David Foster when he sought vocalists for California governor Gray Davis' inauguration, he signed the then-16 year old and soon had him filling in for opera superstar Andrea Bocelli during the dress rehershal for the 1999 Grammy Awards. Heard by comedianne Rosie O'Donnell, she invited him on the spot as a guest on her show, and that was followed by numerous other appearances, highlighted by a PBS "Great Performances" special and a spot with Charlotte Church at the closing ceremony of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. After working with a wide variety of artists throughout his stellar career, including Chicago, Celine Dion, Madonna, and The Tubes, Foster has found his best project yet. This is a truly gifted young man who will be along for a very long time.

---Now, I've got to comment here about the whole CBS "Memogate" scandal. Let's be blunt here...there were simply some STUPID individuals on West 57th that didn't dot all their i's and cross all their t's to insure that everything was as it should be, and made some DUMB decisions. That's what happens when some people are anxious to get a story on and hopefully make a name for themselves in the meantime. There will be the appropriate bloodletting to save some face among people who were involved, but it will not reach CBS News President Andrew Heyward or CBS Nightly News anchor/managing editor Dan Rather. Some, especially in the conservative community, will not be happy with that, saying that Heyward and Rather have liberal leanings and should either step aside or be fired by parent company Viacom

---And close to home, if you let people know they can get free food (read: food stamps) on an honour system with lax rules...they will come...and they did! THOUSANDS DID! Word got around Lakeland like wildfire, and people came to the Lakeland Centre FAST.

Remember Cat Stevens, the 70s singer who made songs such as "Morning Has Broken" and "Peace Train" into hits? Seems he is persona non grata in these United States of America, according to our government. The singer, who has gone by the name Yusuf Islam since he converted to the Muslim faith some years ago, was denied entry into the US and was taken from his flight from London when it was routed to Maine. He was on a "No Fly List" from the Transportation Security Administration.

Islam has been known for many years for his efforts on behalf of peace and justice, and has denounced terror and those who would commit such acts. He denounced the radical Muslims who were responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks, saying "They hijacked my religion..." in an interview with the UK newspaper The Independent.

Yeah, a real radical, this Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam.

Oh, Peace Train soundin' louder.
Glide on the peace train.
Ooh, ah, ee, ah, ooh, ah.
Come on, now Peace Train.
Peace Train...

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Wish I could have gone...

Hoarse in voice but strong in his words, Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry appeared in Orlando last evening with his running mate John Edwards, the first time they had been at an event together since a rally in Ohio on the night President Bush accepted the Republican nomination. Earlier in the day the candidates were across Florida; Edwards in Tampa, Kerry in Jacksonville. Today Kerry will be in West Palm Beach while Edwards is in Miami.

It's good to see the gloves finally coming off. I do believe that if there was a mistake made in Kerry's campaign, it was focusing on his service in Vietnam instead of his 20 years in the United States Senate. While his military service and his opposition to the war afterward were honourable, that was 30 years ago...and his campaign people should have realized that Vietnam still is a touchy subject with many Americans from that period. Certainly there was/is plenty of good works over two decades serving the people of Massachusetts in the Senate that are more in line with what is important to more Americans today.

The debates will be incredibly important, probably moreso than any other time in the history of the genre, in determining who will win this election. That's just my opinion.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

It's always sad to see an old, familiar piece of local or regional tradition pass away in the name of a company's national brand and/or effienincy. We have seen this in recent years as the names of Florida-based banking companies such as Barnett have disappeared due to mergers with larger, national organizations (In Barnett's case, Bank of America).

I had meant to post this last week after hearing this bit of news on the radio, but the political/historical blog South of the Suwannee made mention of it. The Burdines brand name will be dropped from department stores across Florida beginning in January. It is part of parent Federated Department Store's effort to convert their regional nameplates nationwide into Macy's and Bloomingdale's. You had to figure it was coming when the Macy's brand was added to the name earlier. The Miami Herald has a very nice look into Burdines' history.

Thanks to SOTS for reminding us of another wonderful piece of Florida history about to pass away. Enjoy it...while you can.

---There's a great editorial in this morning's Lakeland Ledger. The Polk County Commission approved a record $999.9 million budget this past week by a 4-to-1 vote. The only member to vote against among the all-Republican board was Randy Wilkinson, who is generally considered the most eccentric of the group and often is the lone dissenter. His occasional actions and comments both in and out of the commission chamber have been a source of humour and embarrassment (see my post from August 22), and more than a few e-mails to Ledger Political Editor Bill Rufty have asked how long Polk Countians have to deal with Mr. Wilkinson (his seat is available in 2006).

---Sometimes a candidate or his/her spouse simply needs to have his/her mouth taped shut to keep his/her foot out of it. Often the words may be well meant, but are often taken out of contex and put into a different light. That is the case with Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of the Democratic presidential nominee. This AP story was about a visit she made to a hurricane relief centre in New York City's Carribean community where items were being prepared to be sent to areas hard hit by Hurricane Ivan last week. Needless to say, her comment "Clothing is wonderful, but let them go naked for a while, at least the kids," was the hit of right wing conservative talkers. Of course, noone bothered to mention that the Kerry/Edwards campaign donated water, blankets, and first aid kits to the relief effort.

---Speaking of presidential politics, after being disrupted by those unwanted visitors Charley, Frances, and Ivan, the candidates are beginning to schedule campaign swings into the Sunshine State. Kerry/Edwards will do a joint appearance Tuesday at Orlando's TD Waterhouse Centre, their first since Bush accepted the Republican nomination. Earlier that day they will do town hall forums on health care, likely before invited audiences; Edwards in Tampa, Kerry in Jacksonville. They continue Wednesday with Kerry campaigning in West Palm Beach while Edwards is in Miami.

The President will be in the Panhandle and south Alabama today in his official capacity to see damage caused by Hurricane Ivan days ago.

---And here's an interesting situation for those who are concerned with touch screen machines. In Hillsborough County, 245 votes were originally not counted from one such machine according to a story in the Tampa Tribune, because of human error...the machine was left in TEST MODE! No results were altered, and the state has recertified the results...but what if...

---And no wonder Oscar de la Hoya is looking for "The Next Great Champ"; it sure as heck ain't him. He was KO'd by Bernard Hopkins Saturday night in the 9th round of their bout. Maybe a couple of those wannabes could mentor him...

Saturday, September 18, 2004

It seems that Ralph Nader will be on the ballot in November, thanks to a 6-1 decision Friday evening by the Florida Supreme Court. Nader, the former consumer advocate who ran on the Green Party ticket four years ago, will run in Florida under the banner of the Reform Party. Yes, the same party which originally brought us H. Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan's presidential campaigns.

Let's really look at this Reform Party...

The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Thomas wrote a really good column today which deals with the whole issue of getting on the ballot in Florida, and with a basic look at the Reform Party's history after Perot's ill-fated race for the White House. Their actual "nominating convention" was in reality a telephone conference call, and the meeting at a Dallas-area hotel was held simply to affirm the decision which had already been made previously.

According to this Associated Press story from August the Reform Party's own national treasurer requested that the Federal Elections Commission terminate it's fundraising authorization stating that it only had $18.18 in the bank and contending that national party leaders failed to build the organization or to foster "philosophical alignment among members and candidates." Needless to say, he was immediately suspended as treasurer.

The Reform Party USA's headquarters --- so as it is --- is located in the west part of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Shawn O'Hara, who has run for Governor three times as well as several other offices --- all failing attempts --- is a real estate mogul who has worked to defend former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard Samuel Bowers, who is accused in the murder of civil rights activist Vernon Dahmer. Having grown up in that area, I know the case fairly well.

Vernon Dahmer and his family lived in northern Forrest County near Hattiesburg, and he helped African-American citizens pay their poll taxes at his grocery so they could register to vote. Of course, the KKK at that time didn't appreciate such activitism by "those folks", and firebombed his home, killing Mr. Dahmer.

One of O'Hara's promises during at least one of his campaigns for governor was to pardon the former KKK Imperial Wizard

But you want another tie between this attempt to get Nader on the ballot and helping George W. Bush back in the White House in November? Check out this quote from a story which ran in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on July 12 if you don't want to read the entire piece (it's near the end of the story):

Some of Nader's admirers are also befuddled by his alliance with the Reform Party, which backed Pat Buchanan in 2000.

The chairman of the Reform Party, Shawn O'Hara, voted for Bush in 2000 and says if Nader were to tilt the election one way or another, he would prefer if Bush is re-elected.

While O'Hara says Bush "has lied to the American public" about what he calls the "illegal war in Iraq," he is far more dismissive of Kerry.

"I'm not a George Bush fan anymore. My man's Ralph Nader," O'Hara said. But, he added, "I'm doing everything I can to make sure John Kerry never gets around the White House."

---If there's one bright spot in the aftermath of the hurricanes that came through Polk County over the past two months, it's that among all the debris that is being carted off to the landfills are billboards that will never see the light of day again!

Bad news for a few small time billboard owners, some of whom will be put out of business as a result because of the county's development regulations which sets where billboards can be placed. Those already in place when the ordinance was written were allowed to stay, but if/when those in locations where they would be persona non grata suffer damage equal to or more than 50% of their value, they must come down and not replaced.

Between Charley and Frances, a number of those billboards won't be back, but the Lakeland Ledger reports that the billboard owners were seeking help from the Polk County Commission.

In a bit of a surprise, the BOCC, which usually can't get their lips off the backsides of the builders and developers (Polk's impact fees are substantially lower than any of the surrounding counties), didn't offer much help. Only Jeb! appointee Paul Senft (who filled the seat after the late Charles Richardson died) seemed sympathetic to their plight.

---It was good to read about the packed house last evening in the Lakeland Yacht and Country Club to hear former John Kerry swift boat mate Del Sandusky give his first hand account of working with the Democratic presidential nominee during the Vietnam War. Sandusky was the gentleman whom Kerry and his mates rescused in the Mekong River during a ambush by the Viet Cong, and he has been campaigning for Kerry across the country for several months.

Friday, September 17, 2004

It's a Friday afternoon, and I'm looking forward to a nice, comfortable weekend without having to worry about another damn hurricane making a beeline toward Florida! Of course, thoughts and prayers are with our friends and neighbours along the panhandle and throughout the Gulf South who are recovering from Ivan.

Now for some random thoughts...

---I made a post here several days ago asking the question "Do you ever think about your first love?" At the time I was thinking about my high school sweetheart from Texas. It seems that Dave at spacecoastweb: blog thinks about his all the time...a really great story you should check out for yourself. It put a smile on my face! (Scroll down to September 14's post).

---Happy Birthday (belated) to Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof in Miami. He's 52 (I put it here because he actually admits it!). I'm catching up, but hey, we're getting better just like fine wine!

---Tommy at Sticks of Fire is taking some time off. As the saying goes, you can't be good to anyone unless you're good to yourself. Enjoy, but don't be gone too long.

---What's this I read this morning about Mel Martinez's campaign having second thoughts about a statewide televised debate against Betty Castor unless NBC Washington Bureau Chief and "Meet The Press" host Tim Russert is replaced as moderator? Russert has a reputation of being especially well prepared and a tough questioner, and does these type of debates across the country for NBC affiliates. Martinez' camp is balking on the grounds that they favour a Florida journalist, but News Director Forrest Carr of Tampa's WFLA --- who would host the debate --- told the Tampa Tribune that Russert has a ten year tradition of having Florida journalists on panels whenever he has done these events previously in the Sunshine State.

Sounds more like the former HUD Secretary is afraid of tough questions...

---The Florida Supreme Court seemed to be uncomfortable with the question of wheather Ralph Nader should be kicked off the ballot during arguments today in Tallahassee, according to a report from the Capitol News Service. An interesting paragraph in that report:

While Nader may be a national candidate, he is the Reform Party’s candidate in only five states...and a party spokesman had trouble naming them. Patrick Slevin with the Reform Party of Florida says, “The Nader representative of those states that I heard her say, I can’t give you it.”

---The right wing conservative talkers are beginning to make a big item about a comment that John Kerry's wife Teresa Heinz Kerry made during a visit to a hurricane relief centre in New York earlier in the week while volunteers were helping pack supplies to sent to several Caribbean island countries savaged by Hurricane Ivan.

As usual, they like to take the comment out of context without reading the entire text. Would you rather your children starve and be clothed or be naked for a few days and have the life sustaining necessities of food and water? That is what Ms. Kerry was saying, although her comment was not the most prudent.

To prove that noone is exempt from computer viruses, I tried to pay my cable/Road Runner bill yesterday. I was told by three representatives at Bright House Networks that the Tampa Bay Region's computer system for customer services and credit/collections had been hit by a virus and were not available until nearly 7:00 PM.

It could have been worse. It could have been Hurricane Ivan. From the pictures I have seen from Pensacola and coastal Alabama, it was absolutely nasty.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

While there were some folks who probably didn't think it would actually happen, former Congressman Bill McCollum did, indeed, end up endorsing Republican U.S. Senate nominee Mel Martinez. But while Martinez reportedly apologize for his campaign's low-blow tactics toward McCollum toward the end of the primary race, the former Congressman from Melbourne made it clear that while all may be forgiven publicly...all will not be forgotten.

And who can blame him?

Meanwhile Democratic nominee Betty Castor makes note that she doesn't have to modify her positions for the general election, a slap at Martinez' campaign. Some of Mel's more right-wing stances were removed from his Web site within days of the primary, which many believe is a beginning of an effort to remake the candidate's appeal to a necessary wider base for November 2.

And what's this about Ralph Nader being back on the ballot??? Last week Leon County Circuit Judge Kevin Davey ordered Secretary of State Glenda Hood to remove Nader's name from the ballot, stating that the Reform Party is not longer a viable third party according to Florida Statutes. But Hood is appealing the decision, which puts the former consumer advocate back on the ballot...for now.

The Florida Democratic Party is challenging Nader's being on the ballot on a technicality. If they really wanted to stir up a hornet's nest, Party Chairman Scott Maddox should challenge the fact that Florida's Bush/Cheney campaign staff did not bother turning in the required paperwork to the state elections office until September 2, the day after it was required to be there. A third party such as the Green or Constitution Party would never have gotten the same consideration.

Actually, Ralph Nader is a shadow of his former self, is running for ego, and will be lucky if he even gets half the votes he received four years ago.

Monday, September 13, 2004

This was simply too interesting to pass up...

In rural Cassia County, Idaho, high school English teacher Karen Christenson was trying to teach Ray Bradbury's classic futuristic novel Fahrenheit 451, set in a society where all literature is burned. In an attempt to give her students a taste of how some totaliertarian societies banned and censored what people saw and heard, she stood before her sophormore class and ripped apart a Bible.

Bad choice.

After at least three students transferred out of her class, apparantly some people were offended enough to complain to the extent that the school superintendent announced that Ms. Christenson was disciplined for her "over the top" lesson. The exact discipline was not announced, although her principal said that the lesson was a good just didn't have a good result.

Now if it had been another document we consider precious, say, the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, would anyone have given it a second thought?

It was definately over the top, but you have to admit that the action accomplished it's hopefully get at least a few people to think. That is, afterall, part of what a teacher is supposed to do.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

It was three years ago yesterday.

I was working night shift at another call centre and living in Winter Haven. Just waking up for whatever reason, I turned on my bedroom TV and the first thing that came on was these shocking pictures from New York, something about an airliner crashing into the World Trade Center. At the time, I thought it was simply an incredible, tragic accident.

And then, a plane crashed into the second tower, and I and all American realized that this was more than just a coincidence. Something was terribly, terribly wrong.

And that wasn't all. It wasn't long before we heard reports of still another airliner hitting the Pentagon, and a fourth crash in some rural Pennsylvania field.

I watched the reports the rest of the day: CNN, MSNBC, all the broadcast networks, as they tried to make some sense into what had happened. And then I had to go back to work again that evening, and take calls from angry customers as if nothing happened.

But I, and all America realized, that our nation --- and our world --- had changed forever.

And the thing that still amazes me today is that the criminal who masterminded this and other terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden, is still at large, protected by a Taliban militia and a Pakistiani government that will not allow out military that is just across the border to chase him down like the dirty dog he is. In the meantime we are fighting a war in Iraq that we should not have entered based on questionable intelligence and our unwillingness to work with our allies toward another solution that may have kept now over 1,000 American soldiers alive.

We are truly fighting a war on terror, but are we fighting the real enemy?

Saturday, September 11, 2004

For a while there, I thought I would have to get over to the microwave to warm up a hearty meal of crow as a result of my earlier post about where Ivan would end up. But I may not have to, after all, after seeing the latest track from the National Hurricane Centre. The tracks over the past several days have been going farther west, and with a high pressure ridge developing eastward across Florida, is should keep Ivan The Terrible away from us. The five day track does take the storm into the Panhandle, but I'm just not ready to make book on that quite yet.

It looks as though although we will definately get some wind and rain from this storm, it will certainly not be to the extent that we saw with Charley and Frances. Unless Ivan makes some unpredictable curve --- and these storms DO have a mind of their own, it seems --- it looks as though we will dodge a major trifecta, this time.

And ya know what? I'm REALLY HAPPY this afternoon, because MY SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI GOLDEN EAGLES BEAT NEBRASKA THIS AFTERNOON 21-17!!! A really nice way to open the season for the defending Conference USA Champions. Some good talent on the roster, including several from Florida. Seems like USM tends to attract talent from Palatka; three grads from Palatka HS, including two brothers play for the Eagles. Well, they can't rest on this victory...they host the California Golden Bears in Hattiesburg on Thursday night.

"I will not support the election of the opponent of any Democratic nominee, I will not oppose the election of any Democratic nominee, nor will I support any non-Democrat against a Democrat in any election other than in judicial races [as mandated by Florida law]."

The Loyalty Oath. If you are a member of a Democratic Executive Committee in Florida, you sign this oath prior to qualifying to become a committeeperson. It does not apply to rank-and-file registered Democrats, or to elected officials. The Republicans have their own version, although not as restrictive.

It is there because if you are a part of the Democratic leadership team, you should be working for your team, not supporting the other side. It provides a means by which the party can purge members of it's leadership who divide the organization by working for the opposition.

But what happens when you have a candidate that you simply cannot support? That is the case in several area across Central Florida.

One would say that the most obvious way to not violate the oath would be to simply remain quiet, not speak openly for or against those candidates, work for those candidate whom you do support, and move on.

But with some, it's not that easy.

I shall not go into further detail here. But I will say this: There will be an interesting debate once this election is over regarding the Loyalty Oath, and wheather it should be reworded or even scrapped completely. The Oath is mandated by the state party, and in some states is not required at all.

And before I head to work (Yes, I'm actually working on a Saturday!), one more hurricane related note: Kudos to the amateur radio operators who volunteer long hours at locations throughout the area. Shelters, Red Cross HQ, the County Emergency Operations Centre, wherever needed. "Hams", as they are more popularly known, provide needed communication links especially when the power is down (and thus the phones are probably out). They often provide "Health and Welfare" traffic in hard hit areas passing messages to families that their relatives are OK. Even as we're getting ready for Ivan, they're preparing as well.

73s to ya!

Friday, September 10, 2004

Some random thoughts this Friday afternoon:

--- For only the second time in it's 35+ year history, the Muscular Dystrophy Association's annual Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon failed to meet it's goal of breaking the previous year's pledge record. The only other time that had happened was during the recession of the 1980s. Part of that came from the fact that several Florida "Love Network" affiliates either cancelled it's broadcast of the telethon or only aired the national segments in deference to coverage of Hurricane Frances. Also, in many areas of the Sunshine State the firefighters' MDA fundraising efforts were curtailed thanks to the hurricane. In all, MDA's goal fell short nearly two million dollars.

---Looking around Lakeland today heading to and from work, the plywood rush is beginning again. No big lines yet, but I do see homes and businesses that had not previously been boarded up now so done, and occasional trucks with boards coming and going. Ivan is still three days away, unless it makes a turn away, but noone is taking any chances. Smart choice, after hearing the reports I have heard. And the Polk County School Board has already decided to cancel classes and keep district offices closed Monday.

---Read today that the Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood submitted a ballot to the county Supervisors of Elections with the names of candidates of President/Vice President of the United States which excludes Ralph Nader/Peter Miguel Camejo. It was determined that the Reform Party of Florida is no longer a viable third party, and that it's nominee is not entitled to a spot on the ballot. Here are the candidates and their parties that will appear on the statewide ballot:

-------Michael Badnarik / Richard V. Campagna (Libertarian Party)
-------Walter F. Brown / Mary Alice Herbert (Socialist Party)
-------George W. Bush / Richard B. Cheney (Republican Party)
-------David Cobb / Patricia LaMarche (Green Party)
-------James Harris / Margaret Trowe (Socialist Workers Party)
-------John F. Kerry / John Edwards (Democratic Party)
-------Michael A. Peroutka / Chuck Baldwin (Constitution Party)

Do you ever think about your very first love? That one special person who turned your head around back in high school and got the blood flowin' real good?

I still do, 29 years after the fact.

Pasadena, Texas, 1975. Her name was Martha. She would not even have attended Pasadena High School, except for the fact that her father was a teacher there. For was a bit of a loner like myself, it was surprising that someone like Martha, who was active in drama and speech activities would have given me a second glance. But she did. And that year-plus became, without doubt, the most special year of my lifetime.

Since then I have married, had two beautiful children and a precious granddaughter who I love dearly, divorced, gone through numerous life changes, but occasionally those wonderful memories still come to the forefront. Every time I hear Barry Manilow's melody "Could It Be Magic" I still almost come to tears.

Our relationship ended after I moved back to Mississippi. There were promises that we would keep in touch regularly, and I had planned to return to Texas for college, but that never happened due to financial constrants. I know she is happily married with children and living in Austin, Texas now. But that is one woman who will always have a special place in my heart for how happy she made me so many years ago.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

A few random notes in the aftermath of Frances:

It was good to read a couple of fellow bloggers back on board today. Tommy posted at his Sticks of Fire site after an active weekend in Tampa. He also notes a wicked thief taking advantage of the kindness of others, a so-called "person of the cloth" at that. Also, to say that Dave's experience as a result of Frances was interesting would be a serious understatement. You can read it for yourself at spacecoastweb: blog. Great to read both are safe and sound, and hope you will keep Dave's in-laws --- as well as all who have suffered through both Charley and Frances --- in your thoughts and prayers.

And there is a note that Florida Politics will resume posts Thursday after a break due to the storm. Was beginning to get really concerned there...

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

There's a lot of relief today, but a lot of worry, now that Frances is now out of sight.

I went back to work after the holiday weekend, what holiday we could call it considering the events of the past three days. One of my collegues whose home suffered roof damage during Charley had it aggrivated further from Frances. He's one of those who I certainly feel for, as he'll have to deal with the double deductable his insurance company will slap on him and others in his situation. I discussed this subject in an earlier post, and am still surprised that the media has not pressed the issue of wheather the insurance companies will forgive the double deductible as they have in some past occasions. Needless to say, I'm sure the bank loan officers will be very busy people over the next few weeks and months as home owners try to cover the required amount of their insurance companies.

There's a lot of worry also about Ivan, but IMHO he's going to miss Florida. Looking at the track, my belief is that this one will head into the Gulf of Mexico. From there, it could hit anywhere from Texas to Mississippi. I just don't believe that Florida is in for three major storms in four weeks. Las Vegas wouldn't even make book on that bet. But just in's worth watching.

Getting on to OTHER MATTERS: To see and hear the media, you would think that anyone who believes in God is a flag waiving Republican thinking that George W. Bush is the greatest commander-in-chief since George Washington, and to believe differently is to condemn yourself to the deepest depths of Hades. Contrary to those sights and sounds, there are a lot of Americans who have a deep religious faith but whose political beliefs are different from the so-called Religious Right.

Case in point: New York's non-demoniationial Riverside Church has taken an an activist role through it's Mobilization 2004 program. This program is a nonpartisan attempt to shine a light on issues of economic and social injustice. It's "mission statement" is known as the Prophetic Justice Principles, against which we should test our political leaders' policies for moral depth.

I was drawn to this program the Sunday before the Republican National Convention, when former President Bill Clinton spoke during a worship service at Riverside as part of the Mobilization 2004 program which was aired on C-SPAN. His speech, linked here (need Adobe Acrobat Reader), was clearly moving.

Monday, September 06, 2004

While I had the opportunity, here's a couple of crazy stories I came across during Frances:

During WFLA's continuing coverage Sunday, one of their photogs was shooting at a convenience store in Polk or Highlands County --- I'm not sure which --- during a time when the cops were off the streets (winds 45+ sustained). This person comes up to the front door of the mom-and-pop store, breaks the glass on the front door, unaware there was a TV camera shooting, takes some items, and makes a getaway. The photog calls 911, and a police car comes and investigates after the culprit had gotten away. Then, shortly after the police leave and the NewsChannel 8 cameraman continues filming, ANOTHER looter comes, takes some smokes, and escapes. Minutes lates, A THIRD looter starts to enter, but sees he's being taped. He approaches the photog and threatens him. The cameraman packs up, but not before calling 911. The schmuck gets picked up and is in the county jail. Three people total are arrested as a result.

There was also tape on one of the stations of a scene, I believe on the east coast, of an SUV driving down a flooded street, pulling along a boogie boarder.

My favorite, though, is the story I mentioned in a previous post of a situation Thursday along I-4 while the freeway was packed with evacuees from the coast attempting to escape the approaching hurricane, only to be halted in Orange County by two 18-wheelers stopped in the middle of the interstate while their drivers were dukin' it out. The OCSD Chief Deputy, who happened upon the scene, would have arrested the two of them, but considering the situation of a backed up freeway simply ordered the combatants to get back in their rigs and move on.

The sun's actually trying to peep out from the clouds now.

Just woke up on this early Labor Day. Still a little wind and very light rain, but Frances has almost left Polk County. Actually, while Frances was a much longer storm to deal with because of it's slow movement, compared to Charley three weeks ago the amount of damage caused was much less. For those who live outside the area, the Lakeland Ledger included in today's edition a town-by-town summary of Frances' effect on the area.

Thankfully, today is a holiday, so people will be mainly concentrating on cleaning up their yards with all the limbs and other debris that may have blown around from the wind. Our maintainence crew here at the apartment complex will be busy this week, as a number of shingles came off several buildings. The new owner of the complex just had new shingles/some roof repairs done earlier this year along with other improvements.

Of course, some people and businesses in our area did not come out as fortunate. The Winter Haven Police training centre had it's roof ripped off and had two inches of water inside as of last evening. Please keep our friends/neighbours in your thoughts and prayers. Better yet, help support these organizations; they are always there when needed, and have been there over the past three weeks for Charley and now for Frances. These groups need and deserve your support:

AMERICAN RED CROSS: To make a donation - (800) 435-7669 To check on the welfare of a family member - (866) 438-4636

THE SALVATION ARMY: (800) 725-2769

THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH FLORIDA CONFERENCE: They do not have a toll free number to make donations, but you can click on the link to do so online, or mail to
Florida Conference Storm Recovery Fund, Post Office Box 3767, Lakeland, FL 33802-3767


SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION DISASTER RELIEF/NORTH AMERICAN MISSION BOARD: No toll free number, but their mailing address is Post Office Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

There's still some rain and winds whipping around, but we'll in good shape for now. But the enviromential situation going into Hillsborough Bay could be changed for the worse very soon.

It seems as though since this morning, there has been a breech of a fertilizer gypsum stack at a Cargill facility in eastern Hillsborough County, causing a potentially highly acidic river of wastewater sludge to slide down the stack and into a creek which eventually flows into the bay. The waste, as much as 120 million gallons, reportedly rates 7 on the acidity scale and is deadly to fish and plant life, as well as possibly causing a burning sensation to human with long enough contact.

Hillsborough County Administrator Pat Bean was contridictory in two interviews. On WFTS-TV 28, she strongly disputed the 120 million gallon figure, using a much smaller figure provided by Cargill. She also said that the Coast Guard told her they were giving the lead on this situation to the Florida Department of Enviromential Protection. But in the story online, it is noted that Ms. Bean said that the USCG was taking the lead. Also in the WFTS interview, she noted that she called FDEP as well as the county enviromential department and the Coast Guard as soon as she was informed of the breach. Problem is, the Secretary of Enviromential Protection had already made the announcement in Tallahassee a half hour earlier.

What's the REAL STORY???

The ham radio reports from many of the shelters across Polk County note a mass exodus of evacuees, although the all clear is not expected to be officially given until tomorrow morning, and shelter managers are being urged to encourage people to at least wait until 6:00 PM before leaving. However, those choosing to leave may do so. And they are advised that the county has imposed a dusk-to-darn curfew for those areas which do not have electricity.

It really looks as though the worst of this storm has ended for us. While we may continue to get plenty of rain and gusts of wind over the next several hours, it should be nowhere near what was originally expected...about what you would expect from a normal summer thunderstorm.

The coastal counties around Tampa/St. Petersburg will be hit harder as Frances enters the Gulf of Mexico's warm waters, allowing it to regenerate as it moves toward the Panhandle.

Aside from some scattered tree limbs and shingles from the buildings, there was no significant damage here at my apartment complex. As with Charley, we didn't even have a break in electric or cable service, as the lines are underground within the complex. Apparantly there was some sporadic damage across Lakeland/Polk County, but nowhere near what happened three weeks ago. By the time Frances reached Polk, it had weakened significantly.

We will probably hear more, though, as people move out and about more.

The center of Frances --- or, what's left of it --- is approaching Polk County, and the winds have decidedly picked up over the past couple of hours.

The front of my building is littered with shingles picked up from the neighbouring building. I went downstairs and looked at the roof to see how many from my building had been taken off. It doesn't look as though many, if any at all.

Watching WFLA's coverage from Tampa, one of their reporters who is south of Lakeland is noting some damage in at least one mobile home park. One interesting issue here is that after Hurricane Andrew forced some counties across Florida to toughen standards for mobile and manafactured homes to be habitable, our County Commission (which simply can't keep their lips off the backsides of the developers/builders/park owners) didn't follow suit. As a result, some park owners simply "hopscotched" their older mobile homes ---which would not have met the tougher standards --- to Polk County.

My son tried to take advantage of one of the brief breaks in the weather to pick up some drinks at the 7-11 three blocks away. Tough luck: It's closed. He said U.S. 98 is near deserted, a good sign that most people are smart enough to take heed of the warnings and stay inside.

Listening to the amateur radio operators send in their reports to the Red Cross office in Winter Haven, at least one shelter is reportedly without power as of noon.

We're still plugging away...

Couldn't sleep for more than a couple of hours at a time. Guess it comes from my previous life as a radio personality when working during a weather event like this really got the juices flowing.

The gusts at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport have been up to approximately 40 MPH, but it's mostly quiet with no rain right now. The power is still own...for now. I live in an apartment complex where the lines are underground, so unless one of the overhead lines outside that feed the complex come down we should be OK. We had no problems during Charley...but this ain't Charley.

A number of people from Polk County and elsewhere across Florida ain't taking chances when gettin' the heck out of Dodge. My old hometown newspaper, the Hattiesburg (MS) American, has a feature of one couple from Haines City who picked the Hub City as their place of shelter. Others fled as far north as Jackson, and sadly one person from Villas On The Green (near Jupiter) died after suffering a heart attack while driving along I-10 in Hancock County along the Mississippi Gulf Coast while getting away, according to the Jackson Clarion Ledger .

Here's a couple of other bloggers keeping up with this storm:

debwire: From St. Petersburg. In addition to her own posts, she has a good list of other bloggers thanks to Pensacola area blogger Several bloggers from around the Orlando area have been posting their experiences on this site. This is actually one of the better sites during this storm, because you have one site with several different perspectives/locations throughout the area.

Steve Koppelman's Hatless: He's in the Fort Lauderdale area. During the storm he's been blogging from his parent's home...which has storm shutters. He has an interesting observation on them, as well as some good pre-storm pictures

The only real concern I have is that I live in a second floor apartment, which is actually pretty good. Except that just outside my balcony is a HUGE oak tree. If one of those really BIG winds decided to pound our part of Lakeland, that tree leans slightly toward the building, guess where it's gonna go??? Can you say, new apartment???

Finally...Frances decided to make landfall (Link is from the Melbourne NWS radar).

The feeder bands are beginning to come across more often now, with bursts of rain and gusts of wind, but nothing really substantial yet. That's still at least a couple of hours away.

In eastern Polk, power lines are down in some area, perhaps on poles which were weakened by Charley three weeks ago. Those folks in areas which were hit hard by Charley...Lake Wales, Frostproof, Haines City...are expected to be hit hard again. It's just not fair. And remember the term I referred to in an earlier posting: DOUBLE DEDUCTABLE. I'm surprised noone has questioned Jeb! about that issue during the news conferences in Tallahassee.

Here is a link to the Lakeland Ledger's photo gallery. Some of the pictures are actually good. You can choose up to 31 pictures on the site at this time. I'm sure there will be more.

I'm going to try to get some sleep...hope Lakeland Electric keeps the electricity on. Had no problems in that area during Charley.

Here are some bloggers that are keeping up regularly with what's going on: Dave is in Orange County, and his friend Tom is weathering the storm out in his mobile home in Mims.

Bark Bark Woof Woof Mustang Bobby is in Miami-Dade County, and area which knows something about hurricanes and how to recover from their destruction.

Blogwood Norwood is in Tampa (Shameless plug: You can actually hear him on Tampa noncommercial radio station WMNF-FM 88.5 Tuesday mornings or online at their Web site But you've got to be early; he's on 4-6 AM).

Infinite Improbability From Tampa.

Side Salad From Tampa. I believe he works for the Tampa Tribune, and he noted on his last post that he is now at work after being called in. Sounds like fun.

Saturday, September 04, 2004

The first real report of substantial damage in Polk County has been noted. There was word of a possible tornado in north Lakeland a little while ago, causing a downed power line/tree and a fire at a house. And we haven't had anywhere near the whipping winds and torrential rains that the TV reports are showing from the Atlantic coast...that won't likely come until early Sunday morning.

I've been monitoring the local amateur radio networks on 2 meter channels (I've have a Technician license for three years and had a Novice ticket before that but let it expire so had to test again). The shelters are at approximately 60% capacity countywide, with several specific sites at capacity. One operator came on from a Haines City area mobile home park where around 25 elderly people were gathered in the clubhouse, including several on oxygen. They were not going to a shelter. Fortunately, the clubhouse is a newly constructed building (about a year old), so I pray they will be OK.

I saw where Pinellas County has ordered a mandatory evacuation of mobile homes, manafactured homes, and recreational vehicles effective a midnight. And I thought Hillsborough waited too late...

Watching the Tampa/St. Petersburg TV stations, what a constrast from the Charley coverage, when they went wall-to-wall beginning a couple of days prior to landfall. Only Bay News 9 went in that direction today. The network affiliates concentrated on NASCAR (NBC), college football (ABC), US Open Tennis (CBS), and whatever programming WTVT (the FOX station) had to offer. They all provided coverage regularly, but not to the extent they did with Charley, since the direct threat to the Tampa Bay area is apparantly considered not as serious...only heavy rain and tropical storm winds.

And let's keep an eye on the newest storm in the Atlantic, Ivan

The first rain band came through a bit ago...the kids are back outside enjoying themselves while they can before it gets really nasty.

Hillsborough County has ordered mandatory evacuation for all mobile homes, manafactured homes, and recreational vehicles beginning at midnight. I'm sure there will be some howling after this is over as to why it took County Administrator Pat Gray Bean so long to take action. She also urged persons in low lying, flood prone areas to seriously consider evacuation because of the probability of considerable rain amounts, but did not make that a mandatory order.

Another unusual occurance for Lakeland: The Sam's Club, which is the members-only arm of Wal Mart, opened it's doors to nonmembers in Lakeland earlier this week as Frances began to approach.

I attended the University of Southern Mississippi and occasionally peep onto the Eagle Talk athletic message board. One of the regular posters lives in West Palm Beach and asked the rest of the board to keep we Floridians in their thoughts and prayers. One reply mentioned lyrics from Jimmy Buffett --- a Golden Eagle alum who majored in journalism, by the way --- from his song "Son of a Son of a Sailor": "I'm just glad I don't live in a trailer."