Thursday, March 31, 2005


Higher education facilities in Polk County are or will be seeing changes in it's leadership ranks, as one college is about to inaugurate it's new president, and another's has announced his retirement.

Florida Southern College, which is affiliated with the United Methodist Church, will celebrate the inauguration of it's 17th president, Dr. Anne B. Kerr, tomorrow in Lakeland. A native of Augusta, Georgia, she holds a bachelor's degree from Mercer University as well as a master's and doctorate from Florida State University.

Among the events scheduled for tomorrow's celebration are a prayer breakfast at The Lakeland Center, author Frances Mayes ("Under The Tuscan Sun") will receive an honourary doctor of humane letters degree, the main inauguration ceremony and reception, and a performance by Metropolitan Opera soprano Roberta Peters followed by a fireworks display over Lake Hollingsworth.

Meanwhile, after seven years at the helm of Polk Community College, president Dr. J. Larry Durrence announced Tuesday that he would retire effective Januray 30 of next year. The announcement was made early so that preperations could begin to select his successor.

During his tenure, PCC reversed a downward trend in enrollment, introduced new degree programmes in information technology and health care, increased the number of scholarships for students, built up it's endowment programme sizably, began a corporate college to train students for business and industry, and opened a charter high school for advanced juniors and seniors.

Dr. Durrence has long been active in the community, having served as a former Mayor/City Commissioner in Lakeland and is currently Chairman of the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce. He says he wants to spend more time with his family, which includes children in the Panhandle and in Virginia.


Another day, another court rejection. The United States Supreme Court turned down yet another emergency request for a hearing on reinserting Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. It was the sixth time the high court has rebuffed requests to become involved in the longstanding controversy.

This latest appeal was based on an appeal to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta stating that Tampa Federal District Court Judge James D. Whittemore should have considered the entire body of litigation in ruling against Bob and Mary Schindler instead of only ruling on procedural issues.

Meanwhile, Rev. Jesse Jackson returned to Pinellas Park Wednesday afternoon after spending much of the day in Tallahassee to lobby Governor Bush and legislators to once again intervene. Jackson met with Senate President Tom Lee and three black senators who had voted against a bill last week which was intended to have Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted.

Mrs. Schiavo is now in her 14th day without food or water, and doctors had originally said that she could only survive one to two weeks without nutrition or hydration.

Rev. Jackson reportedly spoke with Terri's parents and urged them to prepare for the end, as the legal options have all but run out and legislators are unwilling to revisit the issue.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005


In his blog, Sarasota Herald-Tribune political columnist Jeremy Wallace is reporting that rumours are rampant in DC that White House advisor Karl Rove is encouraging Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R - Longboat Key) to avoid tossing her hat into the ring as a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Bill Nelson when it comes up last year. Wallace cites this report from The Hill and MSNBC's Chris Matthews in his piece.

As for Harris, her office says it's a lot of nothing, that she and Rove meet occasionally to discuss a variety of subjects. But it's no secret that while Harris was considering running for the Senate last year when Bob Graham stepped aside, the White House discouraged her, citing the likely polarizing effect her candidacy would have and it's favour toward eventual winner Mel Martinez. Many Florida Democrats remember Ms. Harris from her conflict-of-interest in 2000 when she was a state co-chair of President Bush's campaign while serving as Secretary of State, and her decisions in the aftermath of one of the most divisive elections in recent memory.

Congresswoman Harris is continuing to say that she would make a decision by June. It is not known at this point if we would possibly see a rematch of last year's race against Democrat Jan Schneider of Sarasota. Ms. Schneider has been keeping active, though. She was among a group of protestors, primarily from the Florida Alliance for Retired Americans, who gathered in front of Harris' office last week.


Attorneys for Bob and Marie Schindler had the idea of appealing the Terri Schiavo case once again to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeal in Atlanta, claiming that Tampa-based Federal District Judge James D. Whittemore should have ruled on the basis of all the information brought forth in the case, not only procedureal matters.

It didn't work.

The 11th Circuit has denied a petition requesting a rehearing by a 2-1 decision, and later a majority of the 12 active judges backed up the denial. In the later denial, Judge Stanley F. Birch, Jr. of Georgia concurred with some strong comments:

A popular epithet directed by some members of society, including some members of Congress, toward the judiciary involves the denunciation of "activist judges". Generally, the defination of an "activist judge" is one who decides the outcome of a controversy before him according to personal conviction, even one sincerely held, as opposed to the dictates of the law as constrained by legal precedent and, ultimately, our Constitution. In resolving the Schiavo controversy it is my judgement that, despite sincere and altruistic motivation, the legislature and executive brances of government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers' blueprint for the government of a free people --- our Constitution.

The Schindlers' only judicial hope now is to appeal the 11th Circuit's ruling to the United States Supreme Court.


The Tampa Tribune featured an opinion piece this morning from Pulitizer Prize winner and author B.D. Colen, who noted the irony between the present drama playing itself out in Pinellas Park (and, as of now, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta) and a somewhat similar situation that he is quite familiar with: The case of Karen Ann Quinlan in 1975-76.

An interesting read.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman swept through central Florida early this week for a town hall meeting in Orlando and two fundraising events today. He was the featured guest at the Polk County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day dinner Monday night at The Lakeland Center. The chairman took time to speak with the Tampa Tribune, saying that President Bush and Congress acted on principle instead of politics when they decided to pass a bill to intervene in the Terri Schiavo affair. In addition, Mr. Mehlman said that government's interference in the case would not cause any political fallout.

Sorry, Mr. Mehlman, but you must not have been reading the latest polls or watching public sentiment...or you must be simply unable to comprehend the information.

A recent Time magazine poll published Monday shows that President Bush's approval rating has fallen to 48 percent. Also, three quarters of those surveyed disapproved of congressional interference with the Schiavo case, and 70 percent disagreed with the president's efforts. Other polls have generally shown between 65 and 80 percent saying that the federal government's efforts to interfere were wrong. Of those who identify themselves as "born-again" or "evangelical" Christians, just over half --- 53 percent --- agreed with the decision to remove Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube.

Even Republicans are fighting among themselves over this case. State GOP lawmakers who voted against a proposed bill that would have, in effect, mandated reinsertion of Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube, are seeing themselves with a potential target on their back from their brethern.

Maybe the Republican chairman --- and, for that matter, the rest of their leadership --- need to look and listen to the common people more. But that's not good for the pocketbook.


I really enjoy watching WFLA-TV 8's morning news program, and it adds some flair when meterologist John Winter has another outrageous piece from his "moron file". This morning, I've got a story to add to that file, thanks to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Seems as though a Fort Lauderdale traffic cop pulled over a motorcyclist speeding ten miles-per-hour above the limit a block away from a hospital. The motorcycle was being driven by a doctor, who was enroute to the hospital to deliver a baby. Apparantly the police officer didn't believe his story, and the good doctor was eventually handcuffed and placed into the cop's cruiser.

After checking out the doctor's story with the hospital, the officer didn't simply let the M.D. go free, but drove him to the hospital, bringing him into the maternity ward still in handcuffs and wearing his helmet! By this time, the baby's head was showing.

The doctor delivered the newborn child 15 minutes later...and still received a traffic ticket. As for the police officer, his bosses call his actions "unexcusable"; he now faces a possible 16 day unpaid suspension for this plus another unrelated incident.


Noticed in the Pensacola News-Journal today that Dr. John Dunsworth, who volunteered to serve as principal of a failing Santa Rosa County elementary school that was in danger of being closed due to poor test scores and declining enrollment, passed away Monday in Pensacola. He was 81.

Dr. Dunsworth, who had served as a school superintendent in Santa Ana, California among several administrative positions in his 50-plus year career as an educator, offered his services for only one dollar a year in the effort to save Munson Elementary School. Teaming with teachers, parents, and community members, Munson under his tenure enjoyed sharply increased test scores which in several areas were the highest in Santa Rosa County even as funding from the school district decreased. He was honoured six years ago by the Florida Legislature for his career, and especially his work at Munson Elementary.

He later wrote a book about the experience, The Dollar-A-Year Principal: Miracle At Munson. He made this observation, which should be taken to heart by many in the field of education today:

"Good schools see the potential in everyone and work to develop that potential. That's the key."

Monday, March 28, 2005


I don't hate Randall Terry, the founder of Operation Rescue and activist in the U.S. Taxpayers' Party. I really can't hate any person, as that would be against my upbringing as a Christian. However, I do believe that Randall Terry is a hypocrite whose claims to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ should be called into serious question, considering some of his quotes over the years. Thanks to the blog South of the Suwannee for the heads up to this:

Quote is from the Fort Wayne (IN) News-Sentinel, 16 August 1993:

"I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good. We don't want equal time. We don't want pluralism."

From the U.S. Taxpayers' Alliance banquet in Washington, DC, 08 August 1995; talking about doctors who perform abortions and volunteers escorts:

"When I, or people like me, are running the country, you'd better flee, because we will find you, we will try you, and we will execute you. I mean every word of it. I will make it part of my mission to see to it that they are tried and executed..."

Quote is from 1992:

"What it is coming down to is who runs the country. It's us against them. It's the good guys versus the bad guys. It's the God-fearing people against the pagans, and some of the pagans are going to church."

Personally, I cannot have any respect for a man who in one moment talks about being a religious, God fearing man, and in the next breath comes out with such inflammatory statements. Randall Terry is an adultrer and has publicly attacked the character of his own son, who has come out as gay. He's continued his diatribes recently as Bob and Mary Schindler's primary spokesperson in Pinellas Park. I wonder: Did the Schindlers seek Mr. Terry out, or did Terry seek out Terri Schiavo's parents in his neverending search for on-camera appearances to help line his own pockets and that of his organizations. He's simply another shyster taking advantage of a very sad situation...and that's wrong.


This information was brought to my attention this afternoon. One would think that the protesters keeping a vigil in front of Terri Schiavo's hospice were wonderful, Christian people, singing hymns and praying constantly.

You might be surprised.

The AP ran this story, picked up by San Francisco ABC affiliate KGO-TV, focusing on the protesters. It leads with Scott Heldreth, a North Carolina resident who has been arrested numerous times for blocking sidewalks and picketing in front of abortion clinics, and the father of six children. His ten year old son was one of those arrested in a symbolic attempt to enter the hospice to bring Mrs. Schiavo water.

But Mr. Heldreth has not only been arrested for his acts of civil disobedience. He's a registered sex offender with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, having been charged with two counts of rape (on a minor) in Ohio.


I don't really know why, but on occasion I actually listen to Polk County talk host/station lessee/Republican activist/right wing ideologue Lynne Breidenbach's show to see what outlandish comments she and her like-minded guests will make.

Today, she really went beyond the line.

In recent shows during the climax of the ongoing Terri Schiavo
drama Lynne has been, as many of her conservative brethern, calling on Jeb! and the Legislature to act. She has even said on air that she would, if in the governor's place, called out state law enforcement to place Mrs. Schiavo into protective custody...even if in contempt of court orders preventing such action.

She's also wailed on against Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer and his decisions in favour of Terri's husband Michael. Today Mrs. Breidenbach stated on her afternoon talk show that she had "heard" that Michael Schiavo had contributed to Judge Greer's campaign for reelection to the bench, which --- if true --- would pose a severe ethical crisis for the jurist. However, Mrs. Breidenbach only said that she had heard the information from a couple of reliable people in the know, and did not provide any evidence to support such a claim.

Even a talk show host --- who, it's understood, is not a journalist and supposed to be opiniated on issues --- should know that one simply does not make such comments without proof to back it up. It is, to say the least, irresponsible, and borders on slander as the comment was clearly meant to further question not only Greer's judgement in his decisions, but also his ethics and integrity.

Lynne Breidenbach should know better, and stop trying to be the next Rush Limbaugh.


Bill Rufty's political column in the Lakeland Ledger today concentrates on the Legislature as it returns from it's Passover/Easter break, and the jam packed schedule it will have to loosen up the logjam of proposed bills to be considered by committees. Now that the Terri Schiavo drama is, for the most part, over in Tallahassee, lawmakers can get back to their primary work...legislating.

If you were wanting to see your state House or Senate member this week, you will likely have a difficult time at best doing so. With committee meetings packing the schedule and business on the floor, they'll be rushing to consider bills in their committees or explaining legislation that they are involved with in another.

I like the quote from Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher to the Ledger editorial board last week:

"If it hadn't been Terri Schiavo, it would have been something else. Something always holds up the work."

That's politics for you.


The furor over Terri Schiavo has brought protesters from across the country to hold a nonstop vigil outside the hospice where she is staying. But the protests and media zoo that has resulted is getting out of hand, as several hundred students at a nearby elementary school are being relocated until the situation ends.

Parents of students at Cross Bayou Elementary School in Pinellas Park were notified this weekend that due to safety concerns, law enforcement officials had requested the Pinellas County School District to move the 600 children. They will be relocated to the Gus A. Starvos Institute in Largo, about four miles away, and most will be relocated to two other schools in the area. Officials say they are uncertain when Cross Bayou will reopen.


While many people and media types were watching the continuing drama which is the Terri Schiavo case, Jessica Lunsford was finally laid to rest Friday in a private ceremony in Homasassa. Jessica is the nine year old girl who was abducted from her home nearly a month ago, sexually assulted and murdered. Her body was found only about 150 yards from her home.

A public memorial was held at a church Saturday, which brought together over 1,000 friends, family members, and the community at large.

But Jessica's memory will remain, and her legacy may very well be in changes that hopefully will be made in laws regarding sex offenders. Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy plans a visit to Tallahassee today as the Legislature returns from it's long Easter break to discuss such possible changes. Petitions are filling for people to demand tougher laws and restrictions on sexual offenders. One of them is at this site, and you can sign it online.


I first saw this article Friday while looking at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune Web site, but didn't have the time to bring this to your attention.

Remember the brouhaha from when it was revealed that conservative columnist Armstrong Williams had taken money from the U.S. Department of Education to promote "No Child Left Behind", and that he had done several columns on the programme? It seems as though we may have our own version of Mr. Williams right here at home!

Mike Vasilinda, who has been in the Florida news business for three decades and does freelance work for the Capitol News Service (which consists of the state's NBC affiliates) and whose work has also aired on CNN, has a production company that contracted with several state agencies --- including some that he has reported on --- which have earned him over $100,000 during the past four years.

Mike Vasilinda Productions, Inc. had done work for Governor Jeb Bush, the Secretary of State, and the Florida Department of Education...all of whom are regularly covered in his work. In addition, Vasilinda's company won a $900,000 contract in 1996 to produce the nightly Florida Lottery drawing, as well as a promotional video for Leon County government and has done work for at least one politician.

Although Vasilinda says his government work does not affect his reporting, it does raise serious questions. Reporters should never give even the appearance of conflicts of interest. If Mike did a story that reflected poorly on an agency which he did business with, the payback could be loss of that business...and that hits where it hurts most, the pocketbook. No true journalist should ever put themselves in that position.

Sunday, March 27, 2005


When you were born and raised in South Mississippi, one thing you learned about real quick was Rice's Potato Chips. Founded and still based in Hattiesburg, it got it's start by a woman as America was in the depths of the Great Depression.

Myrtle Rice, who started the company out of her rental home in Hattiesburg, turns 90 today.

There's a lot to be said for a strong woman who started her business in the male-dominated South during one of the worst times in our nation's history...and become successful with it. While Rice's is not Lay's or Ruffles, it provided me and my siblings with some delicious eats while we were growing up. Unfortunately, it is a brand only known mainly in the South Mississippi area.


A great reminder today from the Gainesville Sun. As much of the editorial specifically mentions the upcoming municipal elections there, I'm choosing to excerpt the first part of the newspaper's opinion because it is a reminder that we all should be as informed and active in local issues as we tend to be what's happening in Tallahassee or Washington, DC.

Remember, many times City or County Commissioners turn out to be future state legislators, governors, congressmen and senators. So it's important to look and listen at their actions closely at City Hall so that we can truly determine if they deserve a promotion.

When it comes to politics, people have a tendency to focus on the "Big Show." Presidential elections typically produce the biggest turnouts, followed by governors' races and congressional elections.

And that's not surprising. Getting the attention of the electorate is largely a function of raising and spending money, and national and statewide candidates tend to attract the big bucks. And too, thanks to CNN and the nightly network news, events in Washington, and to a lesser extent, Tallahassee, tend to preoccupy our attention more than what's going on across town.

And that's a shame, because what goes on across town - or more specifically, in City Hall - can impact our daily lives just as much, or perhaps even more, than what goes on in the White House and Congress.

The people we elect to run our city government decide whether or not we will have adequate parks, how well our streets will be maintained, how many police officers to hire, what sort of new development should be approved and so on.

And yet, while presidential elections can produce turnouts of upwards of 70 percent, City Commission races rarely motivate more than 20 percent of the electorate to vote.


The update from the last 24 hours in the Terri Schiavo case:

--- Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, were denied an appeal (pdf format)by the Florida Supreme Court of a previous decision by Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer. They had stated earlier that no further appeals would be forthcoming on the federal level, and Bob Schindler told the St. Petersburg Times that the state appeal was likely the final judicial attempt in the years-long battle.

--- The state and Jeb! have at least two appeals pending before the state's Second District Court of Appeal, based in Lakeland. That court has previously blocked attempts by the governor and state to intervene.

--- While protesters were planning an Easter Sunday Mass outside the Pinellas Park hospice where Terri is staying, the Schindlers urged them to go home and spend the time with their families. Protesters have reportedly become more intense and resulting in chaos, as the number of law enforcement officers has increased as a result.

--- Family supporters are saying that Terri's condition continues to deteriorate, and her breathing has become increasingly laboured. One attorney said that hospice workers have begun giving Mrs. Schiavo morphine.

--- On Saturday the spiritual advisor of Terri's parents, who are devout Roman Catholics, requested that he be allowed to give her Holy Communion. That request was denied. She had received Communion and last rites on the day her feeding tube was removed by court order. The order from Judge Greer says that she can receive Communion once more before her death, and the hospice chaplain will determine the appropriate time.

Saturday, March 26, 2005


This is my weekend to work, and we are celebrating my beautiful granddaughter's fourth birthday (belatedly) this afternoon. So between that and household chores, there will likely not be much time for me to add here for a couple of days.

Thanks to everyone who has visited. The Terri Schiavo case and related postings here have undoubtedly attracted a number of visitors, and the number of visits to this blog has spiked over the past week. Don't be a stranger here, because there's always something going on!


The latest items in the Schiavo case from Friday and overnight:

--- Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer is expected to rule early today on the latest motion by Bob and Mary Schindler, Mrs. Schiavo's parents, to rehydrate Terri. The claim is that she attempted to vocalize that she wanted to live on the day her feeding tube was removed.

--- Another nutcase is busted. A North Carolina man was arrested by FBI agents for allegedly promising in an e-mail sent to some Florida media outlets a $250,000 bounty on Michael Schiavo, and a $50,000 bounty for the "elimination" of Judge Greer. The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that Richard Alan Meywes, whose political affiliation is independent, was charged with murder for hire and the transmission of interstate threatening communications. His first court appearance is scheduled for Monday in Asheville.

--- The Department of Children and Families' abuse hotline has been clogged with calls from people concerned about Terri Schiavo, making it difficult for legitimate abuse reports to get through.

--- The battle may even extend after Terri's death over what happens to her remains. Michael has said that his wife would be cremated, with the remains to be buried in a family plot in the Philadelphia area. The Schiavos and Schindlers are originally from that region. Needless to say, the Schindlers oppose those plans. Sounds like the litigation will not even come close to ending after Terri is gone, and I'm guessing civil litigation as well.

Friday, March 25, 2005


Terri Schiavo's parents have once again been turned back by a three judge panel of the federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta (here's the opinion in pdf format).

The judges involved in this opinion are Ed Carnes of Alabama, Charles R. Wilson of Pensacola (a former Assistant County Attorney and County Judge in Hillsborough County), and Frank Hull of Georgia. All are Clinton appointees to the appeals court, and are the same judges that denied a similar motion earlier in the week (pdf format).

The appeal came after federal district judge James D. Whittemore turned down another motion to reinsert Terri's feeding tube early this morning.

Tonight Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer is holding another hearing on a motion filed by attorneys for Terri's parents. This time, the claim is that the day Mrs. Schiavo's feeding tube was removed, she somehow tried to say "I want to live." They also asked Judge Greer to recuse himself from the case, which he refused to do.

If you didn't read this piece in this morning's USA Today (or, for that matter, this story from Thursday's Miami Herald), make time and do it. They suggest that the schism between Terri Schiavo's husband Michael and her parents were initally based on the $1 million settlement resulting from the malpractice lawsuit filed against Terri's doctors. $700,000 was mandated to be used for Terri's care; Michael received the remaining $300,000 for "loss of consortium" --- legalese for loss of companionship. Allegedly the Schindlers wanted a portion of Michael's $300,000, claiming that he had promised half to them and that he owed the Schindlers for helping he and Terri move to Florida and allowing the couple to live in their condo.

The Schindlers' initial legal action came approximately four months after the settlement was received.


Was listening to a radio show after work Thursday afternoon when I heard the hosts enjoying a conversation with television producer and author Chuck Barris. Among the game shows that he is responsible for are The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, The $1.98 Beauty Show, and The Gong Show. It was really good to hear Barris, who is now virtually retired from the TV business and has written a new book which is in stores.

I miss much of his work, which were done with pure fun in mind. He even mentioned that he still keeps contact with "The Unknown Comic", who was a regular on The Gong Show who wore a bag over his head when he performed because, according to Barris, he didn't want his friends to know that he was on the show. It became one of the programme's favourite and often most hilarioius bits, and Barris said he isn't as funny without the bag.


Many folks throughout Tampa Bay have been keeping up with our own American Idol contestant Jessica Sierra. Good to see that she's made it through another week. While Jessica is not the best performan among the ten contestants remaining, she has an excellent voice and presentation. With some work, the 19 year old from Tampa could have a good future.

She was one of the three contestants whose phone numbers were misidentified during the Tuesday broadcast for people to vote, resulting in the Tuesday night votes to be voided and another broadcast Wednesday to replay the performances for a revote.


Last evening Bob and Mary Schindler, the parents of Terri Schiavo, got a hearing before Federal District Judge James D. Whittemore. The hearing lasted almost four hours, unusually long, and we're still waiting for a decision.

Judge Whittemore had to remind attorneys to avoid the emotional aspects of the case and stick to legal arguments. The St. Petersburg Times reports:

When (Schindler's attorney David) Gibbs began to describe the actions of Michael Schiavo as "murder," Whittemore angrily cut him off.

"That's the emotional aspect of this case," the judge said, "and the rhetoric that does not influence this court. We have to follow the rule of law and that's what will be applied."

The judge told those in the courtroom that he would remain in the courthouse "...for as long as necessary.", that he would not leave before writing an order.

Reporters and attorneys were herded from the downtown Tampa courthouse after security officials became concerned about a backpack left near the building. The bomb squad eventually blew it up.

People such as Alan Keyes and Patrick Buchanan who had been hoping Jeb! to pull a George Wallace/Ross Barnett act of defial and call out the FDLE will likely be disappointed. Talking to reporters Thursday, the governor said:

"(My powers) are not as expansive as people would want them to be," Bush said Thursday. "I've consistently said that I can't go beyond what my powers are, and I'm not going to do it."

Jeb! is not stupid. He may have a lack of good judgement much of the time, but he knows that such a move to openly defy a court order would mean his likely impeachment, and the end of his political career.

My guess is that attorneys for the Schindlers probably have a number of motions on hand that, in an act of desperation, they can file with the court once the previous one had been denied. It's like throwing something at the wall, hoping that someway, somehow, something will stick.

The time to end this has come...

Thursday, March 24, 2005


Today, the Supreme Court of the United States declined --- for the FIFTH TIME --- to become involved in the Terri Schiavo case. It's decision was only four lines long...short and sweet.

Also, Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer declined a motion asking the Department of Children and Families to take Mrs. Schiavo into protective custody based on supposedly new allegations of abuse by her husband/guardian Michael and a claim by a neurologist that she is "minimally conscious".

The ball bounces back into Federal district court in Tampa this evening as the Schindlers seek another emergency ruling allowing Terri's feeding tube to be reinserted while the courts review the case and it's merits.

The never ending drama continues...


--- Just before 11PM last night Terri's parents filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, supported by legal arguments added by Republican leaders in Congress. Among the arguments they are presenting is that last weekend's action by Congress was intended to have Terri's feeding tube reinserted to keep her hydrated while federal courts review the case. Of course, if she were to pass away, the case would be moot as the bill passed under cover of darkness only applied to Mrs. Schiavo.

--- Pinellas County Circuit Judge George Greer is expected to rule before noon on another motion from the Florida Department of Children and Families to intervene. The petition cites new allegations of abuse and challenges the claim that Terri is in a "persistant vegatative state". Judge Greer denied one motion by DCF Wednesday afternoon, going so far as to issue an emergency order preventing DCF from any action toward reinserting the feeding tube after attorney George Felos was reportedly informed by Pinellas Park police that two doctors and an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were enroute to the hospice with the intent of rehydrating Terri.

--- Remember that Terri and Michael Schiavo were subponeaed last week to appear at a House hearing, which caused new requests (and denials) to prevent the feeding tube from being removed? The hearing, which had been scheduled for Good Friday (coincidence? I didn't think so) at the hospice where Mrs. Schiavo is staying, has been postponed.


Ever since last year's hurricanes, most notably Charley, officials with the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Centre in Coral Gables have been considering eliminating the "skinny black line" which marks the most likely path of a tropical storm or hurricane. Yesterday in New Orleans, it was announced that the black line would stay in forecast maps. But NHC Director Max Mayfield is beating the drum to remind people not to count on a storm to follow that line.

In the situation of Charley, the "skinny black line" showed that it's most likely path would take the hurricane near Tampa Bay. But instead, it make landfall near Punta Gorda, nearly 90 miles south. While Charlotte and Lee counties were within the hurricane watch area, many residents there did not pay much attention, believing Charley would simply follow the most likely path. It made a sudden turn, and as a result people in the area had little time to respond.

The NWS sought opinions from emergency services officials, members in the tourism industry, government, and the general public.

It's likely less confusing to keep the status quo, but people in the "cone of death", as it's generally referred to, should always be aware and prepare when they are within it. There are still many questions about tropical storms and hurricanes, and they are not predictable many times as they approach landfall.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


I was watching "Hardball" on MSNBC this evening, and conservative commentator Pat Buchanan was debating the Schiavo case with a writer from The Nation. He actually had the gall to suggest that President Bush should use his executive authority and order federal marshalls to enter the hospice in Pinellas Park and force caregivers to reinsert her feeding tube. Host Chris Matthews asked under what authority, to which Buchanan basically said "He's the President!"

Force over the rule of law.


Authorities in the Houston metro area have placed an all points bulletin on the orange Hummer that baseball great Roger Clemens was given by his New York Yankee teammates in 2003. It was stolen this morning from the parking lot of Memorial High School in the Spring Branch area of Harris County, where his 18 year old son (and future Texas Longhorn) Koby is a senior. Seems that he forgot to LOCK THE DOOR, thus making the vehicle an easy target.

The Hummer has Texas license plates T63 CZP. There is a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and charging of the thief or thieves.

It shouldn't be too hard to find. It's the only orange Hummer around town.


Here's the update (as of 6:00 PM) on events today related to the Terri Schiavo case:

--- The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta voted 10-2 to deny a rehearing before the entire panel of judges en banc. The federal efforts now move on to the Supreme Court of the United States, with the file being read first by Justice Anthony Kennedy.

--- The Florida Senate once again rejected a bill directly related to this case, filed by Senator Daniel Webster (R - Winter Garden). It would have mandated that nutrients not be denied to any incapacitated patient unless he/she has authorized in writing that such food and water be withheld. It failed by the same three vote margin that it did in it's previous vote.

--- Once again, Jeb! is putting on the full court press to force the feeding tube back into Terri. This time, he has had the Department of Children and Families file a motion with Pinellas County Circuit Judge George Greer to seek placing Mrs. Schiavo into protective custody, claiming that a neurologist at Jacksonville's Mayo Clinic --- Dr. William Cheshire --- has reviewed the medical records and believes that Terri is not in a "persistant vegatative state", as has been accepted by other professionals, but a "state of minimal consciousness". I've not heard anything official yet, but while visiting a Court TV chat with Abstract Appeal blogman and appellate attorney Matt Conigliaro (his second such online chat with Court TV), he mentioned that word was out that Judge Greer has denied that motion as well after a hearing this afternoon.

And while this is not news, I thought you may want to check out this interesting bit from the Panama City-based blog IronKnee . It is a much shorter version of a piece by economist Heather Boushey on the blog, but Ed --- a good Roman Catholic who happens to disagree with the Church on this issue --- does it justice in three paragraphs.


The Lakeland Ledger is reporting this morning that indicted political activist Dewey Smith has hired Plant City attorney and former Florida House of Representatives speaker Johnnie Byrd to fight efforts to keep three controversial changes to Polk County's charter off the ballot.

Smith was indicted by a grand jury last month for knowingly submitting petitions to the Supervisor of Elections office with allegedly forged signatures, including a couple with SOE Lori Edwards' name. He was also indicted for violating campaign financing laws by accepting and attempting to hide a $5,000 contribution from a supporter; the legal limit is $100.

The three items supported by Smith's Home Rule Charter Committee would:

1) Cut the salaries of all constitutional officers (Sheriff, Property Appraiser, Supervisor of Elections).

2) Place term limits on those constitutional officers to eight years.

3) Make those constitutional officers, in effect, department heads under the supervision of the County Commission.

Another group, the Polk Committee for Effective Government, has filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent SOE Edwards from verifying the petitions. That lawsuit will be heard April 1.

The hiring of Byrd only applies to the petition drive, not to his pending criminal charges.

Byrd is no stranger to controversy, as we all know. As speaker, he was a primary supporter of "Terri's Law". Locally, he served as legal counsel to Bartow's First Baptist Church in regard to the Nativity scene controveresy over the Christmas holiday.


Overnight it was announced that a three judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit denied an appeal of a federal district judge's decision in Tampa seeking to have Terri Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted. You can read the decision for yourself here (pdf file). So while their next step in the process is to appeal directly to the United States Supreme Court, which has refused to hear the case twice before. Any emergency appeal would first go to Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee who is said to be moderate in the area of social issues.

It looks as though their best hope at this juncture is to press the Florida Senate to pass legislation which would allow the reinsertion of Terri's feeding tube. Senator Daniel Webster has said he would continue the effort, but he needs to have three of his collegues to change their votes. And today is the last day for the State Senate to meet before the Easter holiday break.

I was rather surprised that two Polk County state senators decided to break from most of their collegues with seven other Republicans in voting against the proposal. J.D. Alexander of Frostproof and Paula Dockery of Lakeland ended up on "Wanted" flyers that were passed around the State Capitol, as they will surely be targeted by right wing activists for voting their consicence. I've had doubts in the past about these two, as I disagree with both on many issues. But I have to give kudos to them here for refusing to have the state interfere once again in what is, bascially, a private matter that belongs in the judicial system.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


It seems like an endless list of stories related to the Terri Schiavo case, but the consequences come close to home for some.

Judge George Greer, the Pinellas County Circuit Judge that has presided over the case for several years before it was allowed to be heard in Federal court, is a Republican, and conservative evangelical Christian; a Southern Baptist by demonination.

Four days after he discussed his relationship with the church of which he was a member --- Clearwater's Calvary Baptist Church --- with the St. Petersburg Times, the pastor sent a letter to Judge Greer saying that it "might be easier for all of us..." if he left.

The letter continued: "I am not asking you to do this, but since you have taken the initiative of withdrawal, and since your connection with Calvary continues to be a point of concern, it would seem the logical and, I would say, biblical course."

The judge responded with a letter withdrawing his membership with the church.

He stopped financially supporting the church after a publication that it supported became critical of him. Greer had told the Times that he had other unrelated problems with the church.


The Tucson Citizen reports today that a 19 year old University of Arizona student was not allowed to enter the Tucson Convention Centre where President Bush addressed a forum as part of his nationwide tour to promote his Social Security policy.

Steven Gerner was one of several UofA Young Democrats who acquired tickets to the event through the local congressman's office, but an event worker confiscated his ticket because his T-shirt was deemed to be "threatening". The white tee had printed on the back "Be A Smart (Democratic Party logo here)" . The staff member returned 20 minutes later and informed Mr. Gerner that his name had been "reported" and he would not be allowed into the event.

Are they sooooooo afraid of differing opinions that they are willing to block admittance to a public forum --- albeit, ticketed --- because of their party affiliation? Sounds like it.


Today's Houston Chronicle: White House officials say the bill addresses only Schiavo's case. That is why it is improper in a federal system. It sets no national policy and offers no guidance in hundreds of other cases that similarly pose the question of how long medical science should sustain comatose or brain-dead patients. Contrary to White House statements, the bill does set a terrible precedent. President Bush and Congress now reserve the right to swoop down on any state at any time, even in the middle of the night, to assert federal power in an area previously reserved to the states.

Today's Rocky Mountain News (Denver): One of the few newspapers offering an opinion favouring reinsertion of the feeding tube.

Congress in our view does have the prerogative to intervene. After all, convicted murderer Scott Peterson will surely exhaust the federal appeals process in California to comply with the federal Constitution's requirement of due process before deprivation of life. Terri Schiavo's life is being taken from her on what appears to be a much lighter burden of proof.

The San Francisco Chronicle: THESE ARE some of the same politicians who talk so passionately about states' rights, a limited role for government, self-determination and the independence of the judiciary.

Those principles were nowhere in sight when Congress stepped into the Terri Schiavo case Sunday night.

The decision on whether Schiavo's life should be extended by an extraordinary medical effort simply does not belong in the hands of 535 House and Senate members.

Today's Pittsburgh Post Gazette: If the meddling lawmakers had wanted to take the high road, they would have left matters alone and left Terri Schiavo's fate in the hands of her husband, which is how the courts have ruled repeatedly. They would have taken the hint from the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to hear an appeal of a lower court ruling that the legal battle has reached its proper end. And they would have resisted the selfish impulses to use the case for political gain.

But that would be too much to ask. So instead of wrestling the deficit or saving Social Security, Congress spent the weekend on a cause celebre involving one person whose case had already been addressed in court. Talk about a national tragedy.

The Omaha World-Herald (registered required): Certainly the courts are, as any human institution, fallible. We must trust nonetheless the professionalism of the doctor-witnesses and the integrity of the lawyers and judges. Without that trust, we are left with only raw power politics in a clash of unbending ideologies.

Which, unfortunately, is what we got when President Bush and a majority of the senators and representatives swooped in, snatched the case from the Florida courts and handed it over to the federal courts.

That is just a sampling. To view more, check out Mustang Bobby's Miami-based blog Bark Bark Woof Woof.


Sid Salter, widely considered as the most respected political columnist in Mississippi and former publisher of a small weekly newspaper, now plies his trade with a weekly column in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

Today, he has some fun with the proposed two cent toilet paper tax here in Florida, and the possibilities if that idea were put into place in the Magnolia State.


"I was absolutely so disgusted with what he said." --- Pinellas County Commissioner Bob Stewart

"...a disgrace." --- Pinellas County Property Appraiser, former legislator and Republican state committeeman Jim Smith

"...apparantly they don't understand the law and the seperation of powers." --- State Representative Everett Rice (R - Treasure Island)

These are all quotes by Republican officeholders in Pinellas County regarding the strong words used by U.S. House Majority Leader and constant ethics violator Tom DeLay (R - Texas) over the weekend toward Pinellas Circuit Judge --- and fellow Republican --- George Greer, who had been presiding over the Terri Schiavo case for many of the past 15 years. DeLay had accused Greer of "murder" and "terrorism" in comments while marshalling Congressional representatives to pass controversial legislation allowing Mrs. Schiavo's parents to take their case to Federal district court.

The St. Petersburg Times article shows many Republican leaders in Pinellas County backing Greer, including some who disagreed with the rulings he has made in the case such as Clerk of the Courts Ken Burke and probate attorney Bruce McManus.

The local Republican chairman kept his views to himself, but reminded his fellow Repubs of "The Eleventh Commandment" as spoken by the late President Ronald Reagan:

Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican

Ya know, I LOVE IT when Republicans fight among themselves.


I had the opportunity Monday to speak with the brother of Mark Lundsford, the father of slain nine year old Jessica. He lives in Ohio, and I received his call at random in the course of my job.

Unaware of where I am based or if I had any knowledge of the tragic case, he volunteered the information of his relationship with Mark and Jessica, and based on what he said and the information I had before me I am certain that the information is true.

He noted that while the family had not finalized funeral arrangements for Jessica, he said that they are most likely looking for a service to be held Saturday.

My guess is that it would likely be in Homasassa at the Faith Baptist Church, where she attended regularly.

Monday, March 21, 2005


In today's St. Petersburg Times, columnist Howard Troxler can be credited with one of the most strongly written diatribes yet on the Congressional vote over the weekend regarding the Terri Schiavo case.

As I have written previously, I don't have a strong opinion either way on this case. That said, the votes in Washington opens up a dangerous precedent on two fronts.

It overrides the state judicial process. The vote last evening was like the supporters were telling Floridians, "We don't like the way your state judge ruled, so we're going to let the Schindlers take this to Federal court where, we hope, a district judge more to our liking will 'toe the line' the way we want." It steps all over the due process of states.

Also, it usurps the traditional "next of kin" rule. With a married couple, the spouse is considered the "next of kin", and has the responsibility of making the types of decisions Michael Schiavo has made if the other partner does not have written instructions.

While some in the Religious Right criticize Michael Schiavo for moving on into a new relationship with two children, and while others look upon him as a total jerk (he has come across as such in most of his appearances), the law --- which is all that should count here --- doesn't disqualify the spouse for adultury or being a jerk from being the legal guardian.

Terri Schiavo's case today...whose will it be tomorrow?


As expected, the House followed the lead of their Senate brethren shortly after midnight and passed the comprimise bill which allows Terri Schiavo's case to be heard by a Federal court. President Bush sign it into law a couple of hours later. Before now, the only way that this family dispute --- which has been fought out in the state courts for seven years --- could be heard at the federal level is by a writ of habeus corpus by a district court (rejected twice already, most recently Thursday) or if the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear it directly (they have not).

Professor Froomkin at makes an interesting point, asking why Senate Democrats (I would ask, for that matter, the House Dems) didn't bother adding a rider(s) to the bill:

Say, a requirement that the CIA not use any methods of torture abroad that would be cruel and unusual punishment at home? Or anything else that ought, in principle, to be uncontroversial but would cause Rovian heartburn? Why just roll over without charging a price for quick action?

Now all eyes will be on the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Tampa today (click on the "Notable Cases" link on the left centre of the page to read last Thursday's denial order and possibly newer actions), as attorneys will be blanketing motions and requests there today.

UPDATE: 5:15 PM --- Federal District Judge James Whittemore heard arguments in the case today, giving each side's attorneys a half hour to present their case. He has adjourned the session without making a decision.

Whittemore was a Clinton appointee to the Federal bench in 1999 and confirmed the next year. A graduate of the Stetson University School of Law in 1977, he worked for a small St. Petersburg law firm before joining the newly created federal public defender's office. He returned to private practice in 1981, and nine years later was appointed to the 13th Judicial Circuit in Tampa. Judge Whittemore served as a circuit judge until his confirmation to the federal bench.

The most notable case I have found that he has been involved in since he's been on the Federal bench is sentencing Rev. Henry Lyons' former aide/lover/publicist for the National Baptist Convention USA Bernice Edwards to nine months in prison three years ago for violating the terms of her probation.

The Web page for the U.S. District Court Middle District of Florida does not include a biography for Judge Whittemore.


St. Petersburg Times political columnist Adam C. Smith had an interesting feature Sunday about U.S. Senator Bill Nelson.

There is no secret that some Democrats have doubts about Nelson, but he remains for formidable candidate and is in the process of putting together his campaign team for the run next year.

And while Republicans are supposedly gleeful about Nelson's alleged vunerability, noone has stepped up to "toe the line" and challenge him.

Sunday, March 20, 2005


I have not actually taken an opinion on the Terri Schiavo case, although I have kept up with it for some time. Here in Tampa Bay, where the case has been fought for over a decade, you can't help but hear or read about it. I do, however, understand the differing points of view.

That said, I firmly believe that Congress should not be involving itself in this situation because it usurps not only the judicial process, but also a state's right to make it's own policy. Judge Greer in Pinellas County has made decisions based on the Florida Statutes, irrespective of political or religious considerations. That is what a judge does, based on the law governing the case.

Blogwood, a Tampa-based blog which has fallen on the side of Schiavo's husband Michael, points out some interesting contridictions between some of the talk and the action in this case:

1) Here is President Bush's statement on this case:

The case of Terri Schiavo raises complex issues. Yet in instances like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life.

2) White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales, who served as Chief Legal Counsel for then-Governor Bush in Texas, prepared memoranda on the issues in death penalty cases which could prompt Bush to possibly grant clemency or allow the execution to proceed. In Atlantic Monthly magazine, author Alan Berlow writes:

"During Bush's six years as governor 150 men and two women were executed in Texas, a record unmatched by any other governor in modern American history.

"From 1995 to 1997, Gonzales acted as his legal counsel when the then-Governor decided whether to grant clemency, or to allow the executions to go forward. What kind of counsel did Gonzales provide? According to Berlow, he "repeatedly failed to apprise the governor of crucial issues in the cases at hand: ineffective counsel, conflict of interest, mitigating evidence, even actual evidence of innocence."

3) One of the primary groups supporting Mrs. Schiavo's parents in seeking to reconnect her feeding tube, National Right To Life, helped negotiate a law passed in 1999 and amended two years later. The legislation allows a hospital to withdraw life support from a patient, even over the objection of family, when it is determined that further care is futile. The family has ten days to find another facility to take their family member, and the hospital or other facility must make a good faith effort to do the same. Then-Governor Bush had vetoed a similar bill in 1997 at the request of some members of the religious right, according to Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief, at the time a state senator who had sponsored the bill.


(a) If an attending physician refuses to honor a patient's advance directive or a health care or treatment decision made by or on behalf of a patient, the physician's refusal shall be reviewed by an ethics or medical committee. The attending physician may not be a member of that committee. The patient shall be given life-sustaining treatment during the review.

(b) The patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the individual who has made the decision regarding the directive or treatment decision:
(1) may be given a written description of the ethics or medical committee review process and any other policies and procedures related to this section adopted by the health care facility;
(2) shall be informed of the committee review process not less than 48 hours before the meeting called to discuss the patient's directive, unless the time period is waived by mutual agreement;
(3) at the time of being so informed, shall be provided:

(A) a copy of the appropriate statement set forth in Section 166.052; and
(B) a copy of the registry list of health care providers and referral groups that have volunteered their readiness to consider accepting transfer or to assist in locating a provider willing to accept transfer that is posted on the website maintained by the Texas Health Care Information Council under Section 166.053; and

(4) is entitled to:
(A) attend the meeting; and
(B) receive a written explanation of the decision reached during the review process.

(c) The written explanation required by Subsection (b)(2)(B) must be included in the patient's medical record.
(d) If the attending physician, the patient, or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the individual does not agree with the decision reached during the review process under Subsection (b), the physician shall make a reasonable effort to transfer the patient to a physician who is willing to comply with the directive. If the patient is a patient in a health care facility, the facility's personnel shall assist the physician in arranging the patient's transfer to:
(1) another physician;
(2) an alternative care setting within that facility; or
(3) another facility.

(e) If the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient is requesting life-sustaining treatment that the attending physician has decided and the review process has affirmed is inappropriate treatment, the patient shall be given available life-sustaining treatment pending transfer under Subsection (d). The patient is responsible for any costs incurred in transferring the patient to another facility. The physician and the health care facility are not obligated to provide life-sustaining treatment after the 10th day after the written decision required under Subsection (b) is provided to the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient unless ordered to do so under Subsection (g). (e-1) If during a previous admission to a facility a patient's attending physician and the review process under Subsection (b) have determined that life-sustaining treatment is inappropriate, and the patient is readmitted to the same facility within six months from the date of the decision reached during the review process conducted upon the previous admission, Subsections (b) through (e) need not be followed if the patient's attending physician and a consulting physician who is a member of the ethics or medical committee of the facility document on the patient's readmission that the patient's condition either has not improved or has deteriorated since the review process was conducted.

(f) Life-sustaining treatment under this section may not be entered in the patient's medical record as medically unnecessary treatment until the time period provided under Subsection (e) has expired.

(g) At the request of the patient or the person responsible for the health care decisions of the patient, the appropriate district or county court shall extend the time period provided under Subsection (e) only if the court finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that there is a reasonable expectation that a physician or health care facility that will honor the patient's directive will be found if the time extension is granted.

(h) This section may not be construed to impose an obligation on a facility or a home and community support services agency licensed under Chapter 142 or similar organization that is beyond the scope of the services or resources of the facility or agency. This section does not apply to hospice services provided by a home and community support services agency licensed under Chapter 142.

Added by Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 450, § 1.03, eff. Sept. 1, 1999. Amended by Acts 2003, 78th Leg., ch. 1228, § 3, 4, eff. June 20, 2003.

And under the provisions of this bill, a critically ill five month old baby died shortly after he was taken off life support Tuesday afternoon, according to Houston's NBC affiliate KPRC-TV. No facility was found with the ten day provision to take the young boy who had a fatal genetic disorder, thanatophoric dysplasia, a condition characterized by a tiny chest and lungs too small to support life.

Again, I do not have an opinion on this situation, but the politicians should not immerse itself in an issue which belongs in the courts. Those congressional representatives who are advocating the bill to be debated later today/tonight and voted on after midnight are primarily doing so to pander to the religious right. And that's sad.


Nearly 1,200 National Guard troops, including units of the Florida National Guard's 53rd Seperate Infantry Brigade based in Tampa, will be leaving in late April or early May for three months of training at Camp Shelby, Mississippi before being deployed to Afghanistan.

Shelby is one of two National Guard camps --- along with Camp Atterbury, Indiana --- which have been activated as deployment centres for overseas bound troops.

Camp Shelby, with 134,820 acres in Forrest and Perry counties, is the nation's largest state owned military training facilities. It was built in 1917 during World War I, and has been used by soldiers training for every war since then. It is located near Hattiesburg, Mississippi, about a 45 minute drive from Gulfport/Biloxi and a little over an hour from New Orleans.

Hattiesburg is a great place, although I am a bit biased having been born and raised there. It has an active cultrual scene as well as many historic homes and buildings, and it is home to the University of Southern Mississippi (Go Golden Eagles!!!), as well as the Baptist-supported William Carey College. There are also some great restaurants and watering holes around the city where you can enjoy some good food and drink. You'll find the people generally friendly and hospitable.

BTW: For those USF supporters: The Bulls play at Southern Miss' Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field May 13-15, and the Conference USA tournament will be played there May 26-30.

For those visiting this blog who are among those to be deployed, thank you for your service to our country, and Godspeed.


Well, it's something that we've known for quite some time, but the Orlando Sentinel columnist Mike Thomas provides us with a good reminder this morning. He uses the current situation with Terri Schiavo --- who is being kept in a hospice thanks to Medicaid funds, since all the money from lawsuits is gone --- to ask what will happen if Jeb! gets what he wants, especially with nursing home funding cuts.

Saturday, March 19, 2005


The "person of interest" that Citrus County authorities wanted to speak with in connection with the disappearance of nine year old Jessica Lunsford three years ago, John Evander Couey, has admitted to abducting and murdering the child.

Couey, a registered sexual offender, had lived in a mobile home within eyeshot of the Lunsfords. He admitted the deed to Citrus County investigators while he was being given a polygraph by the FBI in Augusta, Georgia.

We wanted to hear the news that somehow, someway, Jessica would be found alive and returned to her family. But after three weeks with no word, I'm sure that reality set in for many of us that this would be the end result.

UPDATE: Saturday, 19 March, 10:38AM: Searchers found Jessica's body in a densely wooded area only about 150 yards from her home.

"Everyone heard me say, time after time, that she would be home," Lunsford said, his eyes hidden behind dark black sunglasses. "She's home now."


I4J sends it's deepest condolences to the Lunsford family. I pray that now they will find some peace at this extremely painful time, as well as the love and support of their friends, neighbours, and communities, as well as the knowledge that Jessica is, in the truests sense of the word, home.

May justice eventually be served, and may Almighty God have mercy on the soul of John Evander Coudy.


President Bush came to Florida as part of his tour promoting his Social Security "reform" Friday. He appeared in Pensacola to a group of about 1,000 supporters, including mother and former first lady Barbara and brother/governor Jeb! Meanwhile, groups of both supporters and detractors gathered to offer their views.

After the Pensacola visit, Bush and his mother flew to Orlando for a similarly orchestrated appearance. Before the event at a YMCA Centre, the President and former first lady visited The Life Project Senior Development Centre to meet a group of senior citizens.

The crowds at both events, par for the course for Bush's events, were ticketed and available only through congressional offices and selected like-minded community groups.

In a case of bad timing, Bush's visit to Orlando was "below the fold" on the front page of the Sentinel (pdf file). It would likely have been the main headline had it not been for the confession by a former neighbour in the abduction and murder of nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford and the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.


The New York Times recently ran an article by Abby Goodnough (registration required) on how some Florida cities, including Winter Haven, are looking at baseball spring training differently in the face of budget pressures and demands by teams to build new facilities or upgrade current facilities.

Several years ago, the Legislature approved a fund of $75 million to assist cities toward that end, but with a caveat that teams must commit to five or ten years in the facility. Winter Haven did try to reach an agreement with the Indians to get a share of that money for improvements to Chain of Lakes Park, but the Cleveland team refused to make the necessary commitment.

The article also looks at the increasingly aggresive attempts by Arizona to attract teams currently training in Florida there.


Orlando Sentinel political/celebrity columnist Scott Maxwell noted Tuesday that Republican interim Orlando mayor Ernest Page was delinquent in paying 2003 taxes on two pieces of rental property he owns. After being advised of his situation, he reportedly paid the $2,779.05, which includes interest and late fees. Maxwell noted that it was not the first time that Page had been late on paying taxes, remembering that he had a regular segment entitled "Page Watch" while doing a previous political column for the Sentinel in which he kept track of the now-interim mayor's shortcomings in that area.

Friday, Maxwell noted that Page wasn't the only politico or wannabe delinquent on paying up. Seems that the man Buddy Dyer faced in the runoff last year, former bar owner Ken Mulvaney, still owed $989.96 in taxes and fees from 2001 assessed on his former Irish Pub (now closed). Mulvaney made a beeline to the tax office and settled the issue.

Maxwell's response: This column is starting to wonder if commissions are due.


Thumbing through yesterday's print edition of the Lakeland Ledger while waiting to get started at work, I came across this strongly worded piece by sports columnist Corey Long. Mr. Long called out retired baseball star Mark McGuire for his testimony --- if you want to call it that --- Thursday on Capitol Hill.

Now I know why the Bash Brothers never liked each other. For Mark McGwire, it's got to be tough to stare at Jose Canseco and see himself -- a liar, a cheater, a phony and a hypocrite...

Ever since his "harmless" bottle of androstenedione was found in 1998, McGwire has categorically denied (through his publicists) the use of steroids. No way, no how, not ever. And how dare anyone accuse him of otherwise.

But under the bright lights on Capitol Hill on Thursday, Mac couldn't say no. And by not saying no, he said a resounding yes...

But McGwire couldn't join Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro to just say no. I can't blame him. There's a pretty stiff penalty for lying under oath.

McGuire should have done the right thing and, if he had used, say so. He wouldn't have to "rat out" his friends and former teammates. He should just "be a man" and admit if he was a user.

Certainly, his accomplishments would be tainted, but people tend to forget over time. However, the respect he would have received for doing the right thing and telling the truth would have more than made up for it.

Friday, March 18, 2005


Those words were spoken by Ozell Wilson, chairman of the board for the Polk County Opportunity Council, to a packed meeting Thursday.

Is Mr. Wilson blind, or can he just see what he wants to see?

He made the comments even as it was reported that the Community Action Agency was in jeopardy of losing it's federal grants to run the local Head Start program. The Head Start Review Report from the federal Administration for Children and Families office in Atlanta showed 10 deficiencies in PCOC's operation, and gave it 90 days to correct them or risk losing it's grants.

Among the issues:

--- Saying that it's record keeping procedures "have failed", ACF noted that PCOC "does not have proper internal controls in place to ensure that federal assets can be safeguarded", based on a review of "inaccurate management reports" and the "improper accounting of cash balances".

--- PCOC failed to submit a IRS 990 report for 2003.

--- PCOC failed to submit financial information to the management staff in a timely fashion.

--- PCOC failed to produce accurate financial statements

--- PCOC "failed to determine reasonableness of cost" in leasing a Canon fax/copier/printer on a no-bid contract...which also got the Executive Director a free trip to Las Vegas.

There is plenty of scrutiny to go around, as the FBI has also interviewed at least four former PCOC employees. The State Attorney's office has also conducted interviews. The State Department of Community Affairs is also looking into the agency (PCOC receives some funds from the state), and the federal Inspector General's office has been requested to investigate by Congressman Adam Putnam.


I've really been enjoying my CD collection recently...if you want to call it a collection. Between my schedule and enjoying my beautiful diva of a granddaughter, I haven't really had much of an opportunity to lay back and enjoy the wealth of entertainment that is included on my table.

My musical tastes are somewhat varied, which I credit to my 15 years as a radio personality here and in my native Mississippi. During that "previous life" I had the chance to work at several stations with a variety of formats. It helped to hone my appreciation for good music.

That said, you won't find country or rap/hip hop in my collection, as I'm what you call "old school". Most of the CD's I have are "Greatest Hits" collections, with the 70s being most prominent and featuring the singer/songwriters such as Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond. Also included are jazz/rock bands such as Blood, Sweat, & Tears and Chicago. You'll also find artists such as Mannheim Steamroller (a little trivia on this group in a moment) and John Tesh, as well as Marc Cohn.

Now for the trivia: Mannheim Steamroller frontman Chip Davis has a couple of commercial hits during the 80s as...are you ready for this...C.W. McCall, as in "Convoy". McCall was a ficticious trucker character that Davis made up while writing commercial jingles for a bread company, and it took off from there.

Right now my favourite CD to carry along happens to be Steely Dan's greatest hits work Showbiz Kids. I've always enjoyed the rock work of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, with their heavy jazz influences.

I've got to sit back and enjoy more of this...

Thursday, March 17, 2005


The Polk County Commission approved a six page display policy for it's newly designated "Free Speech Zone" to be located in a grassy area between the Neil Combee Administration Building and the Polk County Courthouse in Bartow. And there's plenty of hoops for groups like that Sunday School class from Bartow's First Baptist Church if they want to place something there.

Applicants will be selected in an annual random lottery held on the first Wednesday in October, and those approved must:

--- Pay a $50 application fee.

--- Pay a $100 deposit if selected.

--- Purchase a $500,000 insurance policy to cover liability costs.

--- Submit details of the display, which must be approved by the County Attorney's office.

After the lottery, groups can apply for any available display date by applying 21 days in advance and being approved. The length of time such displays can remain will vary.

The requirments for displays include no light or sound, profanity or pornography, no commercial speech, and no permanant changes to the display once approved.

One of the five Republican County Commissioners, newly elected Bob English, voted against the policy, saying "If this is free speech, boy, it's a funny definition...It really does limit free speech with all the hoops and rings people have to jump through to get a forum."

In his few months on the BOCC since his election, English has served as the more moderate of it's members. At our meeting Monday evening, the Polk County Democratic Executive Committee voted to invite English to speak and discuss his ideas with the group.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Former four-star general and 2004 presidential candidate Wesley Clark is still in the thick of the political picture, although he seems to be working primarily under the radar.

For those who may have thought that Clark had just gone back to his Arkansas home to enjoy a quiet retirement, think again. After he dropped out of the Democratic presidential race he started an organization, WesPAC, to help elect Democrats to the White House and Congress and provide leadership on issues on national security. He also appears occasionally on news programs to discuss national security issues.

From ABC News' The Note Tuesday:

Spotted on Capitol Hill yesterday: Wes Clark, speaking, according to a source who was there, to a standing-room-only gathering of Democratic Senate staffers with a national security bent. Clark gave an upbeat account of the Party's fight to forge policy alternatives to President Bush's plans. He urged Democrats to stop talking about exit strategies and timelines and focus on how to win in Iraq.

He also joined Leaders Reid and Pelosi for a closed-door meeting of their newly announced National Security Advisory Group, including bold-faced names Perry and Albright.

The interesting items from that piece: He appeared before a SRO gathering, and the item appeared under The Note's heading "Democrats: 2008"