Sunday, October 31, 2004

The anti-John Kerry "documentary" (read: character assassination) "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal" is getting air time across America, although Sinclair Broadcast Group backed off from their original plan to do so. Sinclair did show some excerpts from the film as part of an overall "news program" after heavy criticism and pressure from advertisers, viewers, and stockholders. However, the production company --- Red, White, and Blue Productions --- has raised donations through the website for "Stolen Honor" and purchased airtime a-la "infomercial style" to get the full 42 minute hatchet job aired on various television stations, PAX TV and via DishTV as well as online. Sinclair's station in Tampa Bay, WTTA-TV 38, aired it early this morning. Several Florida stations have/had time set aside for several airings this weekend. For example, WKMG-TV 6 in Orlando was scheduled to broadcast "Stolen Honor" four times, and WCTN-TV in West Palm Beach also has/had four airings scheduled. Don't bother looking for the exact times; they are listed by the individual stations as "Paid Programming".

It just goes to show you that if a group wants to do a slam job on a candidate, they will do it by whatever means are available. While Sinclair rightly had pressure brought upon it to not air the film under the excuse of being a "news event" to get around FCC regulations in forwarding a clearly political agenda, the folks behind it were able to get it aired regardless.

Thankfully, it won't have as much of an effect as it's airing will not have received much publicity, and it was/is being aired at generally off times when viewership is extremely low. The intent now is to plug sales of the DVD (noted at several times by reminders at the bottom of the screen).

Hope everyone set their clocks one hour back before heading off to bed last night/early this morning...

--- Nearly 19 percent of all registered voters in Polk County have darkened the ovals on their optical-scanned ballots to date, either voting absentee or taking advantage of the early voting option. The really good news is that very few issues have arrived; only one poll watcher, a Democrat, has been barred from one of the early voting sites in Winter Haven. Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards says the ban was not authorized by her office, and is investigating to resolve the issue later today.

--- And here's one great story: An Advanced Placement American History teacher and several administrators at Kathleen High School in north Lakeland will be providing free rides to the polls, with AP students serving as escorts walking the elderly and homebound voters to the polling place, talking with them, and providing any other aid necessary. The teacher, Danny Whittenton, got the idea as a method of providing a community service for his students.

--- From the endorsement file, including a couple we didn't see 'till now:
George W. Bush
Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)

John F. Kerry
Key West Citizen

Will Make No Recommendation
Key West Citizen

Betty Castor
Leesburg Commercial (10/19)

Mel Martinez
Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)

--- Everyone with half a brain knows that Fox News Channel's take on the news and commentators tend to be slightly right of center. Two of their top hosts, Sean Hannity and Oliver North hit Florida running yesterday to galvanize the conservative base on behalf of President Bush. Hannity and North were joined by Christian Coalition founder Ralph Reed, former Secretary of Education and Drug Czar William Bennett, and syndicated radio talker Neil Boortz. They hit a Baptist church in Pensacola, along with sites in Jacksonville and Orlando.

--- New polls out today from Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, taken October 26-29 of 800 registered voters. The margin of error: +/- 3.5%:

If the 2004 presidential race were held today, who would you vote for:
The Republican Ticket of George W. Bush/Richard Cheney: 49%
The Democratic Ticket of John F. Kerry/John Edwards: 45%
Another party's ticket: 1%
Undecided: 5%

--- And how 'bout the low blow ads being run against Betty Castor now? The Orlando Sentinel reports today that a "527" group called the Florida Leadership Council --- heavily bankrolled by Miami Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huzeinga --- has purchased full page ads picturing Ms. Castor with terrorist Osama bin Laden along with fliers picturing school-age children wearing gas masks. Huzeinga is no stranger to below-the-belt tactics to get what he wants, according to this 1994 Miami New Times piece, so it shouldn't be any surprise to see the former "garbage king" (remember, he owned Waste Management, Inc. for a time) dip into the trash once again.

--- And for those who may still be undecided, let me provide this link to the Official Interstate4Jamming Political Endorsements, although with one change:

Constitutional Amendment 4: Authorizes Miami-Dade and Broward County Voters To Approve Slot Machines In Paramutuel Facilities: NO. I will readily admit when I've made a mistake, and in this case I did simply because I didn't read the language of the proposal well enough. While I do believe in local option, that the people of an area should be allowed to decide for themselves issues that will only affect their area, the language says that the Legislature MAY tax slot machine revenues, NOT WILL! And if this is passed, I'll betcha the gambling interests would lobby hard against any type of taxation to benefit education or anything else...and Floridians would be screwed yet again.

This is the reason why everyone should read the proposals closely, and in this case I failed.

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Ramblin' about on a Saturday morning...

--- Politics reared it's head in Tampa, and as a result one Hillsborough County high school band will not be playing at President Bush's campaign rally tomorrow evening at Legends Field. According to the story in the St. Petersburg Times, The band from Plant High School had been asked by the Bush/Cheney campaign to perform at the incumbant's final campaign rally in Florida, but had to back out after a parent complained to the Hillsborough County School Board, as it is district policy forbidding the use of school bands at campaign functions unless all candidates are involved.

The HCSD peeved off both sides this week, as they also refused a request by the Kerry/Edwards campaign to use the gymnasium at Jefferson High School for an event.

A spokesperson said if the request had come from the White House, there would have been no problem.

--- It's always great to see a newcomer to our blogging community, and I welcome Empericial Polk County to the table. Actually, he's been around for a few weeks; I only learned about his blog when he replied to my post yesterday, having learned about I4J through the Lakeland Ledger online blog "Polk NewsWatch". I've read his posts, and he brings another view to the "eastern side of the Tampa Bay region". Check the site out, but don't be a stranger here, either...

--- EPC did mention in one of his posts that Publix Supermarkets was one of the leading contributors to the campaign against Amendment 5, the Minimum Wage Amendment which would raise the minimum wage in Florida to $6.15 an hour. Publix --- one of the most expensive supermarket chains in the area, if you do any reasonable comparable shopping --- donated $100,000 to the Coalition to Save Florida Jobs, the group organized mainly by restaurant and supermarket owners to defeat this measure. The St. Petersburg Times article also shows Outback Steakhouses and it's political action committee has donated almost a third of the $1.25 million raised for the group.

--- Speaking of Publix, it should be no surprise that supermarket chain's vice chairman and his wife donated $50,000 each to the Republican National Committee. Barney Barnett is the company's vice chair, and his wife, Carol Jenkins Barnett, is the daughter of company founder George Jenkins who also heads Publix Super Markets Charities. Lakeland Ledger reporter Mary Toothman apparantly found the information through Fundrace, where you can enter a name or city and learn who has donated to what federal campaign or party as it is public record.

--- From the endorsement column today:
Mel Martinez
Fort Myers News-Press

--- And while on the senatorial race, the new Florida Opinion Poll from the New York Times Florida Newspaper Group shows Democrat Betty Castor with a slim lead over Republican challenger Mel Martinez, 46.6 to 43.5 percent, with 9.9 percent still undecided. The poll was conducted October 23-27 with 802 most likely voters. The margin of error is +/- 3%

--- With all the talk about voter intimidation in this general election, one would think this is a strange anomoly becase of the gulf between the various factions. But in Florida's history, voter intimidation is par for the course, according to this article from today's Tampa Tribune.

--- And some words to remember heading into the final weekend before the Election...

Well, now young faces grow sad and old
And hearts of fire grow cold
We swore blood brothers against the wind
Now I'm ready to grow young again
And hear your sister's voice calling us home
Across the open yards
Well maybe we'll cut someplace of own
With these drums and these guitars

Well, we made a promise we swore we'd always remember
No retreat, baby, no surrender
Like soldiers in the winter's night
With a vow to defend
No retreat, baby, no surrender

From No Surrender
by Bruce Springsteen

Friday, October 29, 2004

I'm glad I started my vacation today...

C-SPAN has been airing various radio talk shows from battleground states this week --- although none from Florida --- and one of those shows was hosted by Montpelier, Vermont based talker and author Thom Hartmann. It's always great to hear alternative voices on the radio to counter the diatribes of right wing idealogues such as Rush Limbaugh and WTWB Auburndale's Lynne Breidenbach.

He made a point during his programme this afternoon that rang loud, reading from an article he wrote in July for the web site which notes that one of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's vice presidents, Henry A. Wallace, warned of the "American facists among us." I include selected portions of it here, as Wallace's words from the World War II era (his words are from a New York Times op-ed piece that ran April 9, 1944) ring strangely similar when compared to current events:

"The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."
"If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. ... They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead."
"Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after 'the present unpleasantness' ceases."
Mr. Hartmann also mentions the 1935 Sinclar Lewis novel "It Can't Happen Here", as the story is so very similar to what is happening right now before our eyes. Read the entire article, and you will likely come away ready to work your ass off during the next few days to put this to a stop!

If you've ever seen the musical or film "The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas", or heard ZZ Top's hit "La Grange", one wouldn't believe that they were based on a true story...but it is!

I lived in the Houston suburb of Pasadena --- made famous by Gilley's nightclub in the movie "Urban Cowboy" --- when this all happened back in 1973, and it has much to do with a flamboyant consumer reporter with the local ABC affiliate KTRK-TV 13 named Marvin Zindler. Zindler, who had joined Eyewitness News only a couple of years earlier after working for the Harris County Sheriff's Department, received a tip about two bordellos in rural central Texas that were operating openly. Check out the entire story from KTRK's Web site.

Zindler, who is the first person to sign a lifetime contract with KTRK and owner ABC/Capital Cities, Inc., is still at it today in his 80s, helping the thousands of viewers who write yearly asking for aid with a wide variety of problems. His flamboyant style helped establish television consumer reporting at a time when the genre was just becoming popular nationwide. He is also quite open about his several cosmetic surgeries, including four facelifts. It's great to see such a fine fellow still going strong in an industry that tosses out talent on a whim.

Starting my vacation today as we gear up for the final election swing...

--- Always sad to come across this type of news, but this hit especially hard. Polk County lost a fine citizen and Democratic activist Wednesday in Rev. William Standard Echols of Lake Wales. He was a retired United Methodist minister, having served pastorates in Miami, Jacksonville, Jacksonville Beach, Lake City, West Palm Beach, Nokomis, and Delray Beach during his long career. I had the pleasure of knowing Bill Echols as a fellow member of the Polk County Democratic Executive Committee, and I can say that Bill Echols was a gentelman of true class whose wonderful presence and great attitude will be missed by many.

My heart is heavy this morning as I type this, but glad in the fact that his pain is now subsided, and that he will be with our Creator. As you read this, please keep his beloved wife of 53 years, Verna, and his family in your thoughts and prayers during this time of condolence as they recover from their loss.

--- Another day, another poll: The Florida Poll, conducted by the New York Times Florida Newspaper Group, shows John Kerry with a slight lead over George W. Bush: 48.3 to 46.7 percent --- well within the three percent margin of error. But Kerry scores well with independent voters, 48 to 40 percent...and surprisingly strong among male voters, a strong Bush group. This poll shows both candidates at 47 percent each among men. Among women, it's Kerry 49-46...again within the margin of error.

Within the important I-4 Corridor (defined by the poll as Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk, Osceola, Orange, Seminole, and Voluisa), Kerry leads 50.5 to 45 percent.

All the details are included in this article from today's Lakeland Ledger.

--- Speaking of polls, the new Mason-Dixon poll is out on the U.S. Senate race, and it's a dead heat. Republican Mel Martinez leads Democrat Betty Castor, but only by .3 point. Six percent are undecided, and Veterans Party candidate Dennis Bradley got into the mix with one percent. The margin of error here is +/- 4 percent. The Orlando Sentinel has the details.

--- And speaking of Mel Martinez, Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell noticed this:

Out on the campaign trail, Martinez has repeatedly said: "I have elderly parents that depend on Social Security." They depend on it? Yikes. That's either quite an exaggeration or Martinez might need some tips on being a good son -- seeing as how one of the financial disclosures he filed earlier this year reported a net worth of somewhere between $1 million and $2 million.

In recent days, Martinez has stressed that he wants to be a bipartisan leader who would build bridges across the political aisle. That notion is quite a contrast from the Republican primary when he vowed in a fund-raising letter: "I can become the Democrats' worst nightmare."

Scott also mentioned about the numerous celebrities trekking through our Sunshine State this political season...

--- Want to know how your county has done compared with others in early and absentee voting? Check out this chart, thanks to the Orlando Sentinel. Glad to see Polk has done well in ratio of absentee ballots mailed and returned: 70 percent! I've also been told by insiders that Polk's Democratic GOTV phone banking has been extremely well in the opinion of state party officials; one of the best statewide!

--- And 12th District congressman/Bush lapdog Adam Putnam may have a cakewalk in his reelection campaign, but that has not stopped him from raising money...and passing it on. Putnam has raised $753,083 compaired to $51,560 for Democrat Bob Hagenmaier --- about 80% of Hagenmaier's money is his own. Putnam has passed on approximately $128,000 of his contributions to other Republican candidates and to the Republican National Congressional Committee. Part of his money two years ago went to help relative and (now) fellow congressperson (not to mention former Florida Secretary of State...remember HER???) Katherine Harris in Sarasota, who is in a close race of her own now against Democrat challenger Jan Schenider

Thursday, October 28, 2004

--- Thanks to Barry at the Lakeland Ledger for the kind comments in his blog on the newspaper's Web site, Polk NewsWatch. I've taken the liberty to add the blog to my list of Florida Press Related Blog Links in the right column of the page, along with those from the Miami Herald and Sarasota Herald-Tribune. While I may be occasionally critical of their editorial opinions and the slant of their political columnist, the Ledger is overall a good newspaper

--- Is Katherine Harris pictured getting too cozy with a collegue on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives? You be the judge of this video taken from C-SPAN's live coverage of the House on October 7. You need Windows Media Player to download.

--- Yesterday I posted a link to an audio story from NPR's outstanding news program "All Things Considered" regarding a challenge in one south Georgia county to the voter registration of almost every Hispanic resident. There was a hearing to be held today where those Hispanics who were challenged were required to show proof of their citizenship. Unfortunately, the NPR story was the only news organization that has mentioned it, even those in Georgia. Any time any side attempts to use race of other criteria to prevent people from casting their ballots, it needs to be looked at closely, and although this is one small, rural county in Georgia, the persons behind this should have the light of justice cast close on them.

The short story is that the three white men that has brought these challenges against almost every Hispanic in Atkinson County --- slightly over 100 people --- after the primary election, when their candidate for a county commissioner post lost in a close race. There was some rumours of the winner getting illegal aliens (read: Hispanics) registered to cast ballots for his race. The problem is: Many of these Hispanics being challenged are established, long term residents of the community. Let's keep an eye for stuff like this happening here...

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

--- From the endorsement file that we missed...
John F. Kerry
Citrus County Chronicle (Saturday)

Betty Castor
Tallahassee Democrat (Wednesday)

--- It is truly interesting how far people will go --- even to attempting to deny their fellow citizens the right to vote --- to win an election.

In Atkinson County, Georgia, three white citizens have challenged almost every Hispanic voter registration in the county. According to the report that aired on NPR's "All Things Considered", the nearly 100 Hispanics who live in Atkinson County and are registered must appear at a hearing tomorrow to prove that they are U.S. citizens or risk their registrations being voided.

I thought we had laws against using such racial profiling...

Scattershooting on a Wednesday morning...

--- Here are the numbers for early/absentee voting in Polk County to date, by party affiliation of those participating:

DEMOCRAT: 13,114

The numbers are good, as that is approximately 11 percent of the county's registered voters. When speaking to one of the office workers in Lakeland when I voted absentee two weeks ago, I was informed that over 29,000 absentee ballots had been requested and mailed.

There are only three early voting locations in Polk, a county larger than the state of Rhode Island. They are at the Supervisor of Elections' main office in Bartow and the branch offices in Lakeland and Winter Haven. That said, things have gone fairly well except for long lines and one case in Lakeland where the office staff had to fast track to Bartow for more ballots when they ran out for one geographical area.

Looks like the promise of long lines and a busy day next Tuesday will come to pass. If we can just get out registered Democrats to show up...

--- Kudos to Blogwood for the heads up on the next couple of items: Miami television station WPLG-10 has discovered that as many as 58,000 absentee ballots in Broward County that were supposed to be mailed out two weeks ago could be missing! Thousands of people who requested absentee ballots have yet to receive them, and it's a mystery to the Supervisor of Elections' office there, who reportedly mailed them October 7-8, and to the United States Postal Service, whose spokesperson noted there are several people who specifically handle absentee ballots.

--- And BBC News is reporting a secret document obtained from the Bush/Cheney Florida headquarters suggests a plan to possibly target African-American voters in Duval County for ballot challenges at their polling places. Anyone whose qualifications to vote is challenged may still vote using a provisional ballot; wheather it would be counted is determined by a canvassing board.

It is a violation of federal law to target challenges to voters --- even is there is a basis for it --- is race is a factor in such a challenge.

--- And you've got to feel for Brett Farve right now. The Green Bay Packers quarterback (and fellow Southern Mississippi alum) has gone through soooooo much, and now another bombshell. His father, who was his high school football coach, died last year from a heart attack; his brother-in-law was killed about three weeks ago in an ATV accident on Farve's property near Hattiesburg, Mississippi; now his beloved wife Deanna has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The good news is that after having a lumpectomy performed in New York, she will go through chemotherapy and is expected to make a full recovery. Our thoughts and prayers to them all.

--- Finally, the Boston Red Sox could make short shrift to the World Series tonight by sweeping the St. Louis Cardinals after going three up last night. Within a week, Boston may have a LOT to cheer about: A World Championship baseball team, and a hometown president-elect!

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Happy Tuesday Afternoon. I was scheduled to do some phone banking for the Kerry/Edwards campaign this evening, but decided to reschedule so I can deal with family matters. I've got my vacation scheduled to begin Friday so I will have the last few days prior to election day free, and I will be a poll watcher at my precinct on Tuesday...and hopefully celebrate with my fellow Polk County Democrats that evening/early Wednesday morning.

--- There is planning underway to schedule a visit by Elizabeth Edwards Thursday in Lakeland. The site and time are yet to be determined, but advance people for the campaign have scouted some possible sites for small, more intimate sites. From what I saw on C-SPAN of a town hall meeting forum featuring the wife of Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards, I'll definately take her over the rabble-rousing the current president did last Saturday at Tigertown.

--- From the endorsement file:
George W. Bush
Polk County Democrat (Bartow; also appeared in co-owned newspapers Lake Wales News and Fort Meade Leader)

John F. Kerry
Gainesville Sun

No endorsement
Stuart News

Betty Castor
Stuart News

Mel Martinez
Polk County Democrat (Bartow; also ran in co-owned newspapers Lake Wales News and Fort Meade Leader)

--- Now to get on the pulpit for a moment...

I almost have to laugh when I see the commercials against Constitutional Amendment 5 which is on the ballot next Tuesday. Amendment 5 is the Florida Minimum Wage Amendment, which would mandate that the minumum wage for workers in the Sunshine State be raised to $6.15 an hour, and tied to the rate of inflation. The opponents are making it sound as though if passed small businesses would fold up like accordians, and larger companies would simply turn to outsourcing. The announcer's last words are "Now is not the time."

If not now, when? Next year? Five years from now? While I do admit that some businesses may not be able to deal with it, many are simply acting out of simple greed, and an effort to keep the working class pinned down as much as possible. Many of them would rather the minimun wage never be raised, while the salaries of CEOs continue to skyrocket with golden parachutes galore!

This article from Florida Chamber of Commerce president Frank Ryll, Jr. should be a red flag. Not only does the Chamber wants to kill the idea of people making a living wage to support their families, but wants to make it more difficult for organizations to get constitutional amendment proposals on the ballot (See Amendment 2). True, Florida's constitution is easier to change than most states, but it gives the electorate the opportunity to act when their elected representatives won't...and sadly, that's quite often. Many legislators --- especially those who claim to represent us here in Polk County --- are too busy sucking on the breasts of business and development interests, and don't give a rat's ass about the working people who make this county and state running. The ability to amend the constitution by inititaive is one of the few chances we have to keep our representatives' feet to the fire.

If you couldn't tell already, I voted YES for Amendment 5, and NO for Amendment 2.

--- The polls continue to be sooooo close. Survey USA has Kerry with a two point lead over Bush, with the Others/Undecided group at only two percent. Their survey on the U.S. Senate race shows Betty Castor leading Mel Martinez 50-47 with four percent supporting Others/Undecided. The margin of error for both: +/- 3.7%.

The Strategic Vision poll released this week shows Bush with a two point lead 49-47 with four percent undecided; when Ralph Nader is added into the mix the only change is one percent off of Kerry's total added to the pro-Nader camp. In the Senate race, Martinez holds a three point lead over Castor 48-45, with seven percent undecided. The margin of error here is +/- 3.0%

--- I heard about this project this afternoon on NPR's "All Things Considered". The American Institute of Graphic Artists sponsored a 2004 Get Out The Vote program where members submitted poster designs. Some of the designs are available to view and download (in pdf format; Adobe Acrobat required), and some have been noted in elections offices across the nation.

--- And it isn't often that anything knocks "slobbernocker" presidential and senatorial campaigns from "top of the fold" Page 1, but Ron Zook's firing as head coach at the University of Florida did the least at the Tampa Tribune and Orlando Sentinel. You can see the front pages of those and many other newspapers at, the Web site of the Newseum which will soon move into new digs in Washington, DC.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Looking at what has happened while I spent eight hours at work, then three hours phone banking for Kerry/Edwards tonight:

--- Good news from our blogging community! FLORIDA POLITICS IS BACK!!! One of the most reliable political bloggers on the progressive scene had his domain "blogjacked" by a right wing author after the hurricanes, but it has been corrected and the RIGHTFUL OWNER has returned. He mentioned that it may be some time before he is able to return the site to it's previous readership, and the look is a bit different for now, but his return is good news. If you have the opportunity, drop by and leave him a message.

--- It hasn't been mentioned much in the ongoing debate between the presidential candidates, but here's another reason why this election is SO VERY IMPORTANT: Whoever is elected will have the potential to nominate at least two, and possibly three or even four, Justices of the Supreme Court. And it could happen sooner rather than later, considering the thyroid cancer of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. At age 80, he is one of the older Justices on the high court, and his conservative voice would be missed by the right wing.

--- It was really great to see former president Bill Clinton back on the campaign trail today, supporting John Kerry in Philadelphia. Clinton has such a great charm, and he will galvanize Democrats to the polls. His former Vice President, Al Gore, campaigned for Kerry today in South Florida.

--- Closer to home, Ron Zook was informed that his services would not be needed as head football coach at the University of Florida after this season, as well as the rest of his staff. Gator fans have expected nothing less than excellence, spoiled since the glory days of Steve Spurrier's reign as coach, and there are already hopes from fans that Spurrier will return to "The Swamp". But UF president Bernie Machen will have a big say in who fills those big shoes.
BTW: Don't bother going to; the server is "swamped".
Also...Florida is OUT of the Top Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles are BACK IN!

Sunday, October 24, 2004

--- Looking at the endorsements this week:

For George W. Bush
Lakeland Ledger (Friday)
Winter Haven News Chief (Sunday)

For John F. Kerry
Orlando Sentinel (Sunday)
Sarasota Herald-Tribune (Sunday)

For Betty Castor
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

The Sentinel endorsement of Kerry is especially interesting, since it 1) it is the first endorsement of a Democratic presidential candidate in four decades by the traditionally conservative newspaper, and 2) it had previously endorsed Mel Martinez for the U.S. Senate race against Betty Castor.

The News Chief endorsement doesn't mean a great deal when compared with the larger newspapers, but the tone of the editorial is quite interesting when one considers that it is owned by the staunchly conservative Morris Publishing Group of Georgia, which also owns the Florida Times-Union...considered one of the most right-wing publications in the Sunshine State. I excerpt from the N-C editorial:

"History will judge George W. Bush harshly, in our estimation, and unless things change, the harsh judgment will be justified. After narrowly winning the presidency four years ago, his tenure was unremarkable until the shocking events of Sept. 11, 2001 provided him an opportunity for leadership...

"The Congress sat by - timid, reticent, gutless - and let Bush have his way. American men and women have died in combat and many more will die because of Bush's choices...

"On the domestic front, this president - with U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam and other members of Congress as his handmaidens - has run up an obscene deficit. With nary a veto, Bush has elected to pass enormous debt to future generations. Even conservatives are dismayed, though few are alarmed enough to object vigorously...

"We recommend the George Bush/Dick Cheney ticket, but we do so with the weakest of enthusiasm, for they have not served this country well. We trust that any survey of recommendations will list ours as the most reluctant."

Many of the major newspapers in staunchly conservative North Florida have yet to offer their endorsements on either race, including the largest of the bunch, the Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville, plus the Tallahassee Democrat, the Pensacola News-Journal, and the Gainesville Sun. I fully expect most of them to endorse Bush next week, but miracles do happen. If the Tampa Tribune can choose not to endorse anyone, and the Sentinel goes with Kerry, maybe...just maybe...

--- Speaking of the Castor-Martinez race, they come together tomorrow evening (Monday) for their second and final debate in Miami, which will be aired on the state's eight CBS affiliates: Gainesville - WGFL-TV; Jacksonville - WTEV-TV; Miami/Fort Lauderdale - WFOR-TV; Fort Myers - WINK-TV; Orlando/Daytona Beach - WKMG-TV; Tallahassee - WCTV-TV; Tampa/St. Petersburg - WTSP-TV; West Palm Beach - WPEC-TV.

--- And if you haven't read it yet, check out this article from the current Rolling Stone magazine, written by Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. His work is always an interesting read, often funny, and doesn't pull any punches. If you enjoy sports, he is a regular columnist on Page 2 of

--- There's been a lot happening, so don't just read this post and get away...scroll down a little and check out the posts from earlier this weekend and in the week to learn my take on whatever else is going on. It's always interesting to find out who's visiting this site, and where you are from. Recently I've noticed visitors from Singapore, Finland, and India. Thanks for taking time to visit. While events here in Polk County, Florida, USA may not mean much to you personally --- even if you are in neighbouring Hillsborough County --- these rants and raves provide a different perspective that you may never find otherwise in the "mainstream media". And let me take a moment to promote my fellow Tampa Bay/Florida bloggers noted to the right of these posts. They are excellent, post regularly, and always have interesting things to say on politics, entertainment, or whatever else is going on.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Politics and Religion: Most Prefer Political Candidates to be Religious, but Voting Those Beliefs Is Another Matter

Cary McMullen is the Religion Editor for the Lakeland Ledger, and did an excellent piece in today's edition about the question. This link guides you to the entire column, but I'll take the liberty to excerpt some of it here:

Passion filled the gymnasium of Grove Park Christian Church in Lakeland during a recent Republican rally. At times it was hard to separate political from evangelical fervor. State Rep. John Stargel, (R-Lakeland), offered an invocation, and the featured speaker was Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition and now the Republican campaign director for the crucial Southeastern region. He declared, "We are going to move heaven and earth" to reelect President George W. Bush.

The zeal was just as intense among volunteers at the East Polk County headquarters of the Democratic Party in Winter Haven a few weeks later, although the only evidence of anything religious was a note on a marker board -- "Locate church sponsors."

"Wearing your religion on your sleeve is offensive to good Democrats," said office coordinator Ruth Ann Eaddy, who attends Beymer United Methodist Church. "We don't want to appear to be using religion. That's one of the reasons I'm a Democrat."
Among those present at the Republican rally were John and Mary Barker, members of Grove Park Christian Church. In their home later, Mary Barker, a retired accounting clerk for Publix, said it pleased her that Bush is "a good Christian man" who opposes abortion and embryonic stem-cell research.

"A candidate's religious beliefs matter," she said. "I've got the old faith that those things are wrong. I have a lot of respect for President Bush. I think he's trying to keep the country straight.

"It's a mistake to see evangelicals as a monolithic voting bloc, said Green of the Bliss Institute. Between 20 percent and 35 percent of evangelicals would consider voting for a Democratic candidate, depending on the candidate and the conditions at the time of the election, he said.

One of those is Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine, which espouses orthodox evangelical beliefs and progressive views on social justice. Wallis has insisted candidates should be evaluated on moral criteria beyond abortion and same-sex marriage, including the war in Iraq, poverty and human rights.In September, Wallis' magazine took out full-page ads in several major newspapers, including The New York Times, which declared, "God is Not a Republican. Or a Democrat." The ad included a petition signed by dozens of people, including notable evangelical writers Tony Campolo and Philip Yancey.

In an interview in his Washington office shortly after the ad appeared, Wallis said the decision to take out the ads was a direct challenge to statements supporting Bush by evangelical leaders such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson.

"Had Falwell and Robertson just endorsed Bush, there would be no problem. They ordained him. They said Christians can only vote for Bush. Those statements are theologically outrageous and have to be challenged," he said.

Lakeland engineer Bill Futch agrees. Futch and his wife, Nancy, attend The Fellowship of Lakeland, an independent congregation. He voted for Bush in 2000, a decision he said was "a big mistake." He listed a string of Bush's policies -- vouchers that allow children to attend private schools with public funds, tax cuts that he said disproportionately favor the wealthy and the war in Iraq -- and said they do not match the teachings of Jesus.

"The religious establishment was not who he fellowshipped with. It was the prostitutes, the poor and downtrodden. I feel we should be looking after those just as he did. The party in power now is not respecting those values," Futch said.

Eaddy, too, will have none of the so-called "God gap" that puts religious people in the Republican camp and consigns unbelievers to the Democrats. She said she was raised in conservative religious traditions -- Church of Christ and Baptist -- and now feels "very comfortable" in the United Methodist Church, the faith of three of the four candidates for president and vice president (Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John Edwards).

"The religious right seems to have the answers, but God is a mysterious thing. The reason I like (Beymer Memorial United Methodist Pastor) Bob Hornback's sermons is that he understands there are mysteries in this world. We need a president who can see mysteries in this world. (Bush) is a black-andwhite guy," she said.


The Catholic Church advises its members to take into account a range of the church's social teachings when deciding who to vote for. Some Catholics say this approach means other issues besides abortion must also be taken into account.

"The ultimate test is how a party philosophy or candidate measures up to the gospel -concern for the poor, inclusivity. Jesus did not exclude anyone from his circle of teaching," said Tom Keller, a retired property manager and former priest who is a member of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Winter Haven. "It's idealistic, but Christians are supposed to tilt at windmills."

Keller said he is leaning toward Kerry because he sees him as "the heir" of the traditional values of the Democratic Party.

"I always looked on the Democratic Party as the party of the people. I like to think (it) stands for gut gospel issues," he said.

We had a small, but vocal group of activists to let the Bushies of Central Florida know that Polk County was not totally in the President's camp this morning as he was about to arrive and give his stump speech to a crowd of several thousand at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland. A small group which gathered at the enterance to Joker Marchant Stadium had masks such as those worn in a hospital/doctor's office as a means to highlight the need to not get ill with the flu during this time of crisis with a lack of adequete flu vaccine.

Also a member of the group also had a faux American flag, but instead of the stars there were corporate logos to highlight the Republicans' attentiveness toward companies instead of caring about the working class.

One of our Democratic Executive Committee members had an inflatable "Pants On Fire" Bush, which she pulled on the back of her pickup truck. After most of the people were inside the complex at 10:00 AM, when the facility was scheduled to be in lockdown in preperation for Bush's arrival, she drove it around the neighbouring streets. It was a real attention getter, and a photog from the Lakeland Ledger snapped a picture. Here's hoping it gets some print in the Sunday edition.

I left in time to get home and watch the speech on Bay News 9. It was the President's standard stump speech to galvanize the conservative faithful, with nothing new of consequence and filled with contempt for John Kerry. Of course, there was the obvious mentions for fellow Republican candidates Adam Putnam (12th Congressional District) and Mel Martinez (U.S. Senate). Putnam was there; I'm not sure if Mel made it.

I felt a lot better after watching Democratic VP candidate John Edwards on TV from St. Petersburg. He just comes across so much better, highlighting the differences when needed but ending so positive that you feel much better after hearing him speak. He will make a wonderful Vice President. Usually presidents use their Veeps as attack dogs to keep the congressional leadership in line. With Kerry at the helm, he should possibly make Edwards the primary communicator for the administration, sending him on the stump regularly to promote his administration's agenda in the hinterland.

Scattershooting on an early Saturday morning...

--- Some seniors around Lakeland are quite unhappy over changes in the plans made for President Bush's campaign visit to the city today. The rally was originally scheduled for Joker Marchant Stadium, which is the spring training home for the Detroit Tigers, but officials moved it to Ty Cobb Field --- a practice field behind the main stadium --- to accommodiate the president's helicopter. Those poor folks who had expected to get there early (ticket holders were told to arrive between 8:00 and 10:00 AM, with Bush to speak around noon) and enjoy a nice, comfy seat for the long wait with likely now have to stand for several hours...folding chairs are a definate no-no, and bleachers which the parks staff had hastily constructed will be primarily for party officials, volunteers, contributors, and select guests.

The Lakeland Ledger reportedly received several complaints from senior citizens who had planned to attend but now having second thoughts because of the changed situation being simply too much for them physically. Needless to say, the local Bush-Cheney campaign leadership simply pooh-poohed the concerns, with manager Marilyn Paul telling the newspaper, "It's not a comfort thing."

Let Ms. Paul say that when she reaches her 60s or 70s and is not able to get around or stand for three or four hours at a time as most of the attendees at this event will now be expected to do.

BTW: A few of us will be near the stadium to show our support for the Kerry/Edwards ticket. It will feature a "Pants On Fire" inflatable Bush similar to this.

--- I was saddened to learn that former 12th District Democratic congressional candidate Jeffrey Siemer has left the Polk County area. He and his domestic partner have a place in Satellite Beach which they are making their permanent home. Their Lakeland residence suffered damage from the hurricanes, while the Sattelite Beach home escaped OK. Jeff is a fine individual with some good ideas, and as I have mentioned in this blog previously it is my hope and prayer that his experience did not scare him away from possibly running for elective office again in the future. I also hope that the good people in that area will treat Jeff well and consider him as much of a friend as many of us do.

--- Speaking of the 12th District congressional race, it's interesting that Democratic candidate Bob Hagenmaier seems to finally be getting at least some footing against Putnam. He called out the Republican incumbant during the Haines City Chamber of Commerce Pig Roast/Political Rally Friday.

On a seperate note, it actually brought a small smile to see it did'nt do quite as well as expected. It had to be postponed twice due to the hurricanes and related damage. The Haines City Chamber should seriously consider making the event more accessible to the community at large, instead of charging $50 a head as was the case this year. These events used to be fun, informational times for people throughout the community to meet and greet candidates for public office while enjoying good food and music, but now the HCCofC has raised the price significantly in recent years, and has actually moved the event from Haines City...last year it was held in Polk City; this year at the Greenlefe Resort. It's now more of a fundraiser for the Chamber, and more of a Republican-skewed event.

--- The Ledger endorsed George W. Bush on Friday. As a matter of fact, they endorsed a straight Republican ticket with only two exceptions: Betty Castor for the U.S. Senate, and Robert H. Gray for Florida House District 66. Gray is a political newcomer going up against citrus/cattle money; incumbant Republican Baxter Troutman is related by family to Bush sheep dog congressman Adam Putnam and puppy congresswoman Kathryn Harris. Troutman is so out of it he sponsored a water bill written by land developers...and he had to have a lobbyist explain it to a committee when presenting it because he didn't understand it himself!

One reply to the mention of this on Mark Lane's excellent blog FlaBlog notes that it's par for the course for publisher John Fitzwater considering his history (he was publisher of the Gainesville Sun prior to coming to Lakeland). The gentleman who replied mentioned:

"Fitzwater tended to label pro-environmental commissioners as "terrible" and referred to citizens who opposed things like cement plants as "CAVE dwellers" for Citizens Against Virtually Everything."

I'm sure Mr. Fitzwater enjoys it much better in Polk County, where development is allowed to continue unabated with the lowest impact fees in the region.

Friday, October 22, 2004

I was ready to sit down and write about all the hellacious traffic problems everyone in Lakeland could probably look forward to tomorrow (Saturday) as President Bush will be making a campaign stop at Joker Marchant Stadium. Now I read that officials have changed the venue from the main stadium to one of the nearby practice fields to accommodate Marine One, the president's helicopter. No motorcade; less traffic coordination headaches for the Lakeland Police Department. Too bad he won't see the "Imperial Polk County Welcome" some of us are planning, including the "Pants On Fire" mobile (pics are from a previous visit to Tampa).

--- More troubles for House Majority Leader Tom Delay. He's been subponeaed to testify in a Texas civil lawsuit in relation to the Lone Star State's bitter redistricting efforts last year and his role in using government resources in tracking down Democratic legislators who left the state in protest to prevent a quorum for a vote. The man has no ethics at all...

--- The Florida Supreme Court decided in a one page order Thursday not to reconsider their decision to strike down "Terri's Law". It's a loss for Jeb!, who has been a big advocate/supporter of Ms. Schiavo's parents in their fight against her husband against removing her feeding tube and thus ending her life. This case will undoubtly head to the United States Supreme Court.

--- And "The Rocket" ran out of fuel last'll be the St. Louis Cardinals -vs- the Boston Red Sox in the World Series. I'll pick Boston in six games...just too much talent there.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Frankly, I'm worried.

This election is expected to be extremely close, almost a carbon copy of four years ago. Thanks to independent groups such as and America Coming Together (ACT), thousands of people who have never voted or have allowed themselves to be taken off the rolls by not voting in recent elections are now added. There seems to be a galvanized youth movement, and the amount of help that the campaigns are receiving --- at least in Polk County, where I live --- is beyond what has been seen in recent history.

But frankly, I'm worried.

While these organizations have worked so hard to register new voters, I'm worried that it's going to be difficult at best actually getting them into the voting booth. Many people, especially youth, may do something as harmless as filling out a registration form when approached by someone. But will that translate into that person actually remembering to find his/her precinct or to the early voting site and filling in the oval/pushing the touch screen buttons?

We shall see, but I'm still worried...

--- The return of Cypress Gardens is nearing! There has been a LOT of work to bring Florida's first theme park back from the abyss, thanks to the vision of new owner Kent Buescher. He has had to put several million dollars more than originally planned into what will be Cypress Gardens Adventure Park, thanks to damage from all the hurricanes.

This will NOT be the Cypress Gardens your mom and dad enjoyed! And this will NOT be the Cypress Gardens that many seniors walked through before it's closure last year. Buescher, who owns Wild Adventures in Valdosta, Georgia, will keep many of the traditional features that made Cypress Gardens famous --- the water ski shows and Southern Belles among them --- but is also adding several rides including four roller coasters.

Cypress Gardens is holding a job fair this week, with an official opening scheduled for December. In a day when high ticket attractions such as found at Disney and Universal Studios are so popular, it will be hard for Buescher to compete. But he seems to have a good plan for a low-budget alternative for families who are not willing/able to pay the prices the big boys charge, and he has made Wild Adventures quite successful. And the concert schedule isn't that bad, either.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

I've occasionally lamented here how Polk County, with it's nearly half a million residents and important location in the centre of the I-4 Corridor midway between Tampa and Orlando, is often overlooked in favour of our larger neighbours While coverage from the Tampa/St. Petersburg media has improved in the past couple of years, often the only times you hear of anything considered newsworthy here is when something tragic happens.

The presidential campaign has truly come to Polk County least one of them.

President Bush will be paying his second visit of the campaign season to Polk on Saturday. He visited a citrus grove near Lake Wales while viewing hurricane damage after Jeanne in August. And last week Vice President Cheney made a brief stopover at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport while on a swing through Florida. The time and place is still not determined due to security, as standard operating procedure for this campaign required tickets obtained through the local Republican campaign offices for entry.

--- Sinclair Broadcast Group is feeling the pressure! They are now backing off their intent to broadcast the entire anti-Kerry documentary "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal" in prime time on their 63 stations nationwide, saying now they will air portions of the film along with footage from other documentaries as part of a program entitled "A POW Story: Politics, Pressure, and the Media" anchored by Baltimore Sinclair news anchor Jeff Barnd. Regardless, the broadcast promises to be another smear job on Kerry less than two weeks before the election, pushing Sinclair's conservative agenda and is simply another way they can use the public airwaves to help the Bush/Cheney campaign. The press release from Sinclair's CEO shows clearly that the pressure has been felt.

--- And the dirty tricks continue: Students at the University of Central Florida and two community colleges are claiming a middle aged couple approached them to fill out a form with personal information under the guise of an abortion rights petition. Seems they were contacted by the Supervisor of Elections office noting that their party affiliation had been changed from Democrat to Republican. The Orlando Sentinel looks at several cases of possible/probable fraud statewide.

Time to be on the phones all day, and most of the evening: Collecting past due telephone charges for my paying work, then phone banking for the Florida Democratic Party and Kerry/Edwards this evening to encourage early voting!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Is it too little, too late in Duval County?

Supervisor of Elections John Stafford resigned abruptly Monday, citing health reasons. Stafford has reportedly been in poor health in recent months, and the office has been in reality run by his deputy, Dick Carlberg.

Duval County's elections office has come under huge criticism recently for it's decision to only allow early voting at the main SOE office in downtown Jacksonville, not making additional sites available which are more convenient to citizens --- especially in minority neighbourhoods and accessible to the elderly. The state Republican leadership has played CYA on this issue, with Secretary of State Glenda Hood making a visit to Jacksonville this week (did she possibly convince Stafford that it was in his best interest to step aside or be sacked by Jeb!?) and announcing that two to four additional early voting sites would be set up with extended hours in Duval.

The Florida Times-Union reports that Jeb! is set to appoint Jacksonville attorney William E. Scheu as SOE until an election can be held within six months. But he's a big Republican donor --- what did you expect, Jeb! to appoint a Democrat two weeks before the biggest election of the past 50 years!?!?!? --- which makes folks think of his selecting Glenda Hood as Secretary of State...

The soap opera continues...

Monday, October 18, 2004

I watched tonight's debate between Betty Castor and Mel Martinez. It was an interesting 60 minutes, as moderator Tim Russert didn't level softball questions to either candidate. They dealt with the issue of Sami Al-Arian first, which took up about a quarter of the hour. I believe that Martinez lost some points when Russert asked both candidates if they would refrain from airing negative advertisments if the other agreed. Castor said she would if Martinez would agree; the Republican refused to take the bait, saying he would not decide campaign strategy "under these lights". He also lost out when he said he would privatize Social Security "for our younger folks."

Several times while Martinez was answering a question Castor looked at her opponent with a smile, looking as though she was ready to pounce. I do believe she won overall tonight.

--- BTW: Martinez did get an endorsement today, from the Naples Daily News.

Beginning a new work week with a few random notes:

--- Tonight is the first of two scheduled debates between U.S. Senate candidates Betty Castor and Mel Martinez. It should be quite interesting, as it will be moderated by NBC News Senior Vice President/Washington Bureau Chief and host of "Meet The Press" Tim Russert from the WFLA-TV studios in Tampa and broadcast on the state's NBC affiliates. Russert has plenty of experience in this type of format with Florida candidates for over a decade; he moderated both of Jeb's gubenatorial candidate debates against the late Lawton Chiles and Bill McBride. It starts at 7:00 PM ET.

--- Jeb! is saying he will not seek the presidency in 2008. Maybe it's because there are too many other Republicans anxious to seek the top job. Regardless, let's not forget this statement, and hold him to his promise.

--- And how 'bout those Astros! When I lived in Metro Houston (actually Pasadena, made famous by Gilley's nightclub of "Urban Cowboy" movie fame) back in my previous life (as a high school student during the early 70s), they were almost as pathetic as the Devil Rays are today. Now if they can just beat those Cardinals... Meanwhile the Yankees and Red Sox are even after what seemed like a marathon last night.

--- And the Buccaneers? They play tonight. There's still hope.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Well...The Tampa Tribune has decided not to endorse either George W. Bush OR John Kerry for President.

This would be the first time in recent memory that "Mother Trib", as she is known around Tampa Bay, has not chosen to endorse a Republican presidential candidate, let alone any at all.

So far today the count remains SEVEN endorsements from major Florida newspapers for John Kerry...Z E R O for Bush...check the links to the editorials in the post below.

--- And one other interesting note this afternoon: China is sending a force of 100 riot police to Haiti as part of a UN peacekeeping force. If I were among those who have been creating havoc there, I would stop NOW, and be really afraid. All one has to do is remember what happened in Beijing when students tried to protest in favor of democracy...Those Chinese police don't take no stuff off NOBODY...their rule is shoot first, ask questions later.

Jumping around the newspaper pages and other blogs on a Sunday morning:

--- Add to the Presidential endorsments:
Bradenton Herald
Daytona Beach News Journal (with an additional piece against Bush)
Florida Today
Miami Herald (registration required to view)
Palm Beach Post
South Florida Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale)
St. Petersburg Times

--- And to the Senatorial endorsements:
Lakeland Ledger
South Florida Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale)

--- For those who don't believe how important the I-4 Corridor is to winning elections in Florida, this story by Lakeland Ledger/NY Times Regional Newspapers Tallahassee Bureau Reporter Lloyd Dunkelburger should give you some clearer insights. The current U.S. Senate contest between Betty Castor and Mel Martinez is expected to be decided in this region, especially because both candidates call the I-4 Corridor home.

--- We lost Pierre Salinger yesterday. Salinger was press secretary to president's Kennedy and Johnson, and later became Chief Foreign Correspondent for ABC News during the 1980s before retiring. He left the USA and moved to France to run an inn with his wife because he opposed the presidency of George W. Bush. He had been in declining health recently, suffering from aphasia, and was in hospital to have a pacemaker implanted.

--- Double dipping is a practice most people don't like from their public officials, but one candidate for the Polk County Commission is saying he would do so if elected, according to an article in the Winter Haven News Chief. Republican Sam Johnson, who is running for the District 5 seat (which covers much of Lakeland, Polk City, and the Green Swamp), wants to continue working full time as Assistant Principal of Ridgeview Global Studies Academy in Davenport, a conversion charter school. Johnson's Republican primary opponent, Robin Addair, has said he would endorse and vote for Johnson's Democratic challenger, Rev. John Thomas Fennell.

I had a feeling more of this double-dipping would potentially happen once the electorate approved cutting the salaries of commissioners in half, to nearly $36,000 a year. Serving on the BOCC, especially for a county as large as Polk, is a full time job. The present commission just approved a budged of nearly ONE BILLION DOLLARS, and commissioners have responsibility for that oversight. Anyone who believes they can do the work of a county commissioner and responsibily maintain their regular job full time is simply living a fantasy.

--- Speaking of the Winter Haven News Chief, it had to print a retraction Saturday after they got snookered (Sorry, it's not on their Website). It seems that a few days ago, the NC printed a Letter to the Editor from someone identifying themselves as a Rev. Washington, an African-American minister in the area, accusing the local Democratic Party in effect of racism and not being the party of inclusion. Three of the four Democratic candidates for the County Commission --- Mark Hopkins, John Johnson, and Jean Reed --- have been running a coordinated campaign since just after the primary. Rev. John Thomas Fennell, who is black, did not become a part of that for reasons unknown. I am aware that his campaign has been low on funds, so it is reasonably logicial to ascertain that he may not have been able to share equally in such a team effort. Knowing the other three individuals, I do not believe they would have not at least offer Rev. Fennell the opportunity to join in their united effort; that is simply not in their character.

As it turned out, there was no such Rev. Washington. The letter had no address, which is usually a requirment for newspapers to print letters to the editor. It was faxed from a business whose location was next to the campaign headquarters of District 1 commission candidate Bob English; the business in question had given $500 to the English campaign. Once the News Chief realized what had happened, they published a retraction in Saturday's edition.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Newspapers across the country are already making their endorsements for President. Here is the list so far according to Editor and Publisher magazine, and you can keep up with which papers are adding their voices to one side or the other the site

Amarillo Globe-News
Clarksville (TN) Leaf-Chronicle
The Courier (Findlay, OH)
The Columbian (Vancouver, WA)
Las Vegas Review Journal
Mobile Press Register
Oakland Press (Pontiac, MI)
Pueblo (CO) Chieftian
The Sun (Lowell, MA)
Tulsa World

Albuquerque Tribune (Endorsed Bush in 2000)
Arizona Daily News (Tucson)
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Day (New London, CT; Endorsed Bush in 2000)
Detroit Free Press
Lone Star Iconoclast (Crawford, TX)
The Oregonian (Endorsed Bush in 2000)
Philadelphia Daily News
Philadephia Inquirer
Portland (ME) Press Herald
Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle Times (Endorsed Bush in 2000)
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"Come Saturday morning, I'm going away with my friend..."

This is the first time in soooooo long I've actually enjoyed letting the windows up. The cool air feels soooooo good, and hopefully it will help my electric bill...but then reality sets in, because my utility is Lakeland Electric, one of the most expensive in Florida. But it'll be nice to walk a few blocks to Mickey D's and pick up a small breakfast in just a bit.

--- Mel Martinez may end up wishing he had never brought up the name Sami Al-Arian. After he tried to smear Betty Castor with inaction in his case while president at USF, she has been running ads featuring photos of the accused terrorist meeting with President Bush at the White House years later...when evidence against him was much stronger than when Ms. Castor was at USF. The President was rewarding Al-Arian for his work campaigning on his behalf among Muslim groups. Remember: Mel Martinez was chairman of Bush's 2000 Florida campaign.

Now Jeb! is getting into the fray, claiming Ms. Castor has stepped over the line, but the Gov has his own ties to Professor Al-Arian to explain. Read it all in today's Orlando Sentinel

--- Thanks to Mark Lane at Flablog for the link (I tried to find this on my own last night and was fustrated) to the latest Washington Post polling information on Florida. There were two seperate polls, one of overall voters, and a seperate poll of Hispanics. Some really revealing numbers here, especially among Hispanics. It goes to show you that we simply cannot afford to lump all Latinos into one basket.

--- If you get severely ill, you had better pray that you don't end up at Heart of Florida Regional Medical Centre in Davenport. No, there's nothing wrong with the quality of care, but you'll likely suffer a heart attack when you get the bill. HFH has the highest average daily charge last year among Polk County hospitals, adjusted by the state to reflect comparative severity of illness. That is according to a new report by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. It's acute care patients are charged an average of $6,224 a day, more than 71% more than the next highest, Lake Wales Medical Centre.

--- The Lakeland Ledger began printing it's candidate endorsements today (it had earlier in the week made it's endorsements on the amendments). Today and Monday they are announcing their picks for the four Polk County Commission races. So far, they are two-for-two in favour of the Republican incumbants, with Bob English in District 1 and Jack Myers in District 3, for no other good reason than to keep the experienced players in the game. But if you've got commissioners who haven't stepped up to the plate, haven't provided necessary leadership when it's been imperative, provided only drama with infighting among each other and with constitutional officers, and simply kept themselves in power by sucking on the breasts of the Builders and Developers Associations, isn't it time for a sweeping change? Apparantly the Ledger editorial board feels the status quo is OK for them. I would have expected this from the Polk County Democrat, a notably conservative twice-weekly out of Bartow which endorsed all four Republicans this week (also Paul Senft in District 4 and Sam Johnson in District 5) as expected (as did it's co-owned Lake Wales News and Fort Meade Leader).

--- And it's always nice to put in a positive note here. The Ledger this morning led with a feature about a marketing class at Lake Region High School in Eagle Lake that mixed learning the art of marketing with getting involved by helping out an LRHS graduate who has an aggressive, rare form of cancer.

Friday, October 15, 2004


--- Reading this morning's Lakeland Ledger's bit on VP Dick Cheney's visit to Polk County, it seems that their political columnist Bill Rufty is a bit more generous in his guess of the number of attendees than he was yesterday. He offered yesterday to WTWB Radio right wing talk host Lynne Breidenbach a number of 1500-1700 to hear the Veep; in his story this morning he ups that to 2000. He also mentions --- in the last paragraph of the story --- that former Florida congressman, Vietnam War POW, and later ambassador to Vietnam Pete Peterson was across town at the Polk County Democratic Party Headquarters to counter Cheney's appearance. The Ledger didn't even bother sending a reporter to cover that event. As for Mr. Rufty, it's no secret that there are many who question his objectivity. If you read his column on a regular basis, he tends to slam Democrats and fail to note Democratic events in the Political Calendar that accompanys his Monday column, while GOP events are covered regularly and with a generous hand. It's rather odd, considering that the Ledger is owned by the New York Times Publishing Group.

--- The I-4 Corridor is considered to be extremely important to victory in Florida for both candidates, as we're seeing with appearances by Cheney, Peterson, plus Bob Dole, Ann Richards, and Ted Danson, and three of the ACT.PAC concerts being held in Orlando, Kissimmee, and Tampa. Bright House Networks' regional cable services Bay News 9 (for Tampa Bay) and Central Florida News 13 (for Orlando area) have authorized an exclusive I-4 Corridor poll by PMR Incorporated of Washington, DC. The latest poll was conducted Saturday through Monday, and respondants were asked:

If the 2004 election for President were held today, for whom would you vote:

47 % George W. Bush (down 1% from Oct. 2-4; down 4% from Sept. 17-19)
43% John Kerry (up 2% from Oct. 2-4; up 5% from Sept. 17-19)
2% Ralph Nader (unchanged from both previous polls)
8% Undecided (down 1% from both previous polls)

Margin of error: plus/minus 3.5%

Here's a link to a detailed breakdown of the poll by area, plus the Senate race.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

More scattershooting on a Thursday afternoon...

--- Vice President Dick Cheney threw red meat at the conservative Republican base this afternoon when he appeared at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport's Sun 'N Fun Pavillion. In addition to God, the flag, guns, and Iraq, the Veep sounded off an angry diatribe about John Kerry's mention of Cheney's lesbian daughter during the debate against President George Bush Wednesday night. He even called Bush's judicial nominees mainstream! That just shows you how far out of touch Bush and Cheney really are! If my distant cousin Charles Pickering is part of the so-called mainstream than I am proud to be part of the fringe!

--- Auburndale based radio station WTWB, owned by Lakeland megachurch Carpenter's Home Church but operated under a time lease agreement by former Polk County Sheriff's spokesperson and Republican activist Lynne Breidenbach, carried the Cheney political rally live in it's entirity. The station, which I like to call Republican Radio 1570, is strictly conservative talk radio which does not have any programming of a progressive direction. Personally, I would call it nothing less than an in-kind contribution to the Bush-Cheney campaign.

--- The Democrats had their own stars in Central Florida today. Former "Cheers" star and director Ted Danson was in Tampa today to discuss enviromential protections, and former Texas governor Ann Richards met with military moms and wives.

--- Although we are the centre of the I-4 Corridor with a population of nearly half million people, Polk County is often overlooked in favour of the larger metro areas of Tampa/St. Petersburg and Orlando/Daytona Beach. Even Osceola County tends to get more attention because of it's suburban proximity to Orlando and being home to part of the Disney complex. But today the National Public Radio program All Things Considered featured a segment in which reporter/anchor Melissa Block met with a group of four Polk County voters who watched Tuesday's debate in Auburndale. Two Republicans, one Democrat, and an Independent was the makeup of the group.

Scattershooting about on a Thursday morning...

--- Both John Kerry and George W. Bush were obviously well prepared for last night's third and final debate, but neither delivered what I would call a stinging or knockout punch. It was more like working not to lose than working to win. Both had plenty of numbers and info to present, but except for their closing statements they didn't actively seem to address Joe Voter in the hinterland. One specific example was the question where moderator Bob Schieffer asked Bush and Kerry what they would say specifically to a worker whose job had been eliminated due to outsourcing. Both men walked around the question, and neither answered exactly the way it was meant to be, as they were speaking to an individual citizen in that position.

Kerry came out clearer, more concise in his answers, and Bush brings along the same old stuff...

--- More touch screen problems, this time in Palm Beach County. The required dry "logic and accuracy" test run for the machines had to be postponed because excessive heat caused the server that tabulates data from the machines to crash. Maybe they could use some help from Norwood's Computer, which is owned/operated by fellow Tampa Bay blogger Blogwood.

--- Have you seen Katherine Harris' attack ads on Democratic opponent Jan Schneider? It's a laugh, putting herself in the same breath as "heroes" such as Rudy Guliani.

--- And, there goes the City of Lakeland's budget for today...Vice President Dick Cheney hits the stump here today, part of a swing through Florida which also includes Gainesville and Fort Myers. His appearance is at the Sun 'N Fun Pavillion at the Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, which is also the site of the annual Sun 'N Fun Fly In, one heckuva event if you've never been. You won't see many protesters, as he's scheduled to speak at approximately 4:00 PM (most folks have to work for a living), and he won't have to leave the airport there's no motorcade.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

I'm not a great country music fan, although my tastes in music are otherwise wide ranging. Country artists, and many country music fans, tend to be fairly conservative in their politics. Songs and artists which espouse a differing point of view often suffer a loss of popularity and lack of radio play, as the Dixie Chicks learned the hard way after their lead singer made comments criticizing President Bush last year during an appearance in London.

However, there are some country music fans and artists who do agree that it's time for a change, and aren't afraid to put their thoughts into song. One such tune is called "Takin' My Country Back". Their site has a free download of the song in various formats. There are no writer's credits, only a credit to "Honky Tonkers For Truth". Here are the lyrics:


Country music's got mommas and daddys
We got barrooms and old heartbreak songs
But I'm hear today to stand up and say
How I feel about my home sweet home
What's left, what's right and what's wrong...and

I'm takin' my country back
Son, you ain't been doin' her right
Oh, I been watchin' you and I don't like
How you've been treatin' my Stars and Stripes
You took our jobs and sent 'em overseas
Now we owe billions to the Red Chinese
You blew the budget and you botched Iraq
So I'm takin' my country back.

We had a bundle in the treasury drawer
More than there had ever been before
But every day we're drownin' deeper in debt
Maybe four years should be all you get
Then you gave tax breaks to the millionaires
And tried to make the workin' man pay
But you can't tax a man when his job's not there
Now look at where we are today...hey

I'm takin' my country back
Son, you ain't been doin' her right
Oh, I been watchin' you and I don't like
How you've been treatin' my Stars and Stripes
You got too many fancy friends for me
The Saudis treat you like you're royalty
You blew the budget and you botched Iraq
Now I'm takin' my country back.

Now I can understand why you were hot
'Cause Ben Laden never did get caught
So you said we had Saddam to blame
Tried to tell us it was all the same
But now the years roll by and our kids keep dyin'
You don't even have a plan to bring 'em home
And those WMDs you promised on TV
Hey, admit it, you figured it I'm takin' my country back!

Now you don't know my name, but you know who I am
I'm your everyday work hard, play hard
Raise kids and pray hard common man
And Lord knows I love this land...That's why

I'm takin' my country back
Son, you ain't been treatin' her right
Oh, I been watchin' you and I don't like
How you've been treatin' my Stars and Stripes
You say "Unite" but you divide us more
Cussin' each other on the Senate floor
Ain't we supposed to be above all that?
Hey I'm takin' my country back
I got my family and my church and flag...
Now I'm takin' my country back!