Saturday, April 30, 2005


Thanks to Elisabeth Donovan at The Miami Herald's Infomaniac Weblog:

Time magazine has a picture in it's new edition showing House Majority Leader Tom DeLay enjoying a fine Cuban cigar two years ago during a meeting in Jerusalem with the Republican Jewish Coalition.

The Hoyo de Monterrey double corona, considered a very good smoke by many in the cigar world, costs about $25 each when purchased overseas, and is not available in the United States because of the long-standing embargo against products from the Communist island. DeLay, who has been a longtime vocal critic of the Fidel Castro regime (a "thugocracy", as he has referred to it), continues to support the embargo, saying during a debate last year about possibly loosening the sanctions:

"Every dime that finds its way into Cuba first finds its way into Fidel Castro's blood-thirsty hands.... American consumers will get their fine cigars and their cheap sugar, but at the cost of our national honor."

According to the Time piece, DeLay's smoke in Israel was not illegal at the time...but it would be today:

Last September, the Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control tightened its prohibitions against U.S. citizens importing or consuming Cuban cigars. Even Americans licensed to bring back up to $100 worth of Cuban goods are no longer allowed to include tobacco products in what they carry. The regulation also noted that Americans are barred not only from purchasing Cuban goods in foreign countries, but also from consuming them in those countries.

DeLay's spokesperson said when asked about the Majority Leader's taste that there has been "no change in our Cuban policy."

Yes, friends...Tom DeLay, Man of Principle (said VERY sarcastically)


Being from southern Mississippi and having attended the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, it was great to hear that one of our Golden Eagles was being touted among 64 candidates to receive the Xanthus Dick Howser Trophy, which is awarded by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association in conjunction with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce to the nation's top college baseball player.

USM senior catcher Brad Wilcutt is having a stellar year, with a batting average of .340 with 12 home runs and 58 RBIs. He has 55 hits with 13 doubles, 41 runs scored, a slugging percentage of .642 and an on base percentage of .429. Not only that, but for players who have been in all 41 games, he has the lowest number of strikeouts with 19.

The Golden Eagles are 30-12 overall with an 11-7 Conference USA record as of this afternoon (they are playing Louisville as I type this), and are ranked 34th nationally.

The winner will be announced in Omaha on June 17th during the College World Series.

It would be nice to see a fellow Eagle's name on the permanant trophy, a bronze bust of former FSU and major league coach/manager Howser, which is displayed at Tropicana Field.


Thanks to Ed from the Panama City-based blog Ironknee for the heads up...

Political advertising in the UK is rather different that it is on "this side of the pond". The political parties make mini-movies of three minutes to highlight their positions on a variety of issues. Much of the time they are quite straightforward, but sometimes they can be rather creative.

Doing some further research, I learned that these are NOT actual ads, but are spoofs made for Channel 4 in the UK by producers Lee Ford and Dan Brooks. They are not in any way comedic in nature, but lay out thoughts of the three major political parties (Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrats) without the usual considerations of tone.

They say:

"C4 gave us a completely open brief to do whatever we wanted. Basically, we set about creating the kind of broadcasts the three main parties would like to make if there were no regulations and they didn't have to be politically correct. The aim is leave the viewer thinking, 'O my God, did they actually make that?'"

They are quite creative. Check them out for yourself.

BTW: I found the music used for the Conservative spoof quite good. It is a wonderful song by the band Bent called "As You Fall":

Is this how you were found,
Like a star falling to the ground?
As you fall you make no sound
As you fall
Wish for a place you want to be.
Lyin' still, flowers all around
In my dreams I see you
Falling down
So it this how you were found?
Like a star falling to the ground...


Enjoyed the Polk County Democratic Party's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner last evening at the Lakeland Yacht & Country Club (no yachts there; it's on Lake Hollingsworth). It is the local party's primary fundraising event of the year, and over 300 supporters packed the venue to hear keynote speaker U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, Congressman and gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis of Tampa, and Florida Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox (who will likely announce his candidacy for governor within two months).

Due to Senate rules prohibiting members and their family members from participating in fundraising events --- even to support their political party --- while the Legislature is in session, State Senator Rod Smith of Alachua, another gubernatorial candidate, was unable to attend. He had previously confirmed that he would be at the dinner, but the rules were clarified earlier in the week barring his ability to attend. Former State Representative Dean Saunders of Auburndale spoke briefly on Smith's behalf.

Congressman Davis was introduced by Polk County Tax Collector Joe Tedder, while former state party secretary Juanita Geathers of Winter Haven gave the introduction for Chairman Maddox.

The event should rank among the most successful in recent memory, and shows that the Democratic Party in Polk County is beginning a resurgance that will hopefully result in gains in support, both financially and at the ballot box. The 2006 election will be important both on the county and state level, and the time to prepare is now!

Friday, April 29, 2005


Thought it was rather interesting how the White House screwed up sooooo bad in scheduling President Bush's news conference Thursday night.

First, they scheduled the event for the first night of the May "sweeps" period, when networks and local stations bring out their most promising or popular programming as ratings during this period help set advertising rates for the next year.

Then, Bush's press people announce a start time of 8:30PM ET, when almost all the broadcast networks are halfway through hour-long shows. They had to move the start time back to 8:00 ET after NBC, CBS, and FOX said they would not air it at the later time slot.

Then, to add insult to injury, NBC and CBS decided to cut away from the news conference early for a quick "talking heads" analysis of what Bush said before jumping onto their entertainment programming; NBC with The Apprentice, CBS with Survivor: Palau. FOX, apparantly noting that two of their competitors were getting out early, abruptly interrupted Bush's answer of the final question to start The Simple Life: Interns. Paris Hilton is much better eye candy than George W. Bush any day.

ABC was the only broadcast network to stay with Bush from start to finish. But then, with their weak Thursday schedule, they don't have much to present.

My son and I enjoyed the most entertaining show on the schedule: UPN's WWE Smackdown!

Thursday, April 28, 2005


This has been an interesting week already for reality televisionn fans. First, there was last night's American Idol episode where rocker Constantine Maroulis was eliminated after receiving the fewest number of votes from viewers Tuesday evening. That was a shocker, so much so that the audience in-studio booed heavily, not to mention that judge Paula Abdul wept at the announcement from host Ryan Seacrest.

Maroulis' elimination was simply a shocker, as he is clearly one of the best overall singers in the competition. He would not have won --- I believe that either Carrie Underwood or Vonzell Solomon (from Fort Myers, BTW) will take home the title --- but seeing Scott Savol among the final five is simply wrong. He's a decent singer, but his performances have been lame compared to the other competitors.

Then this afternoon The Smoking Gun Web site comes out with a story that the remaining rocker among the five finalists, Bo Bice, had been busted a couple of times on drug charges in 2001 and 2003 --- including a felony cocaine possession count --- but got the charges dismissed after completing a drug diversion program run by the district attorney's office.

And on top of this, the main headline in today's Tampa Tribune looks into the ABC series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which renovated an area home last month (and will be featured on the program this Sunday evening). The estimated value of the property increased sharply, from $131,100 to $450,000, which means a much higher property tax bill to Pinellas County (at least TRIPLE the approximately $2,000 the James Dolan family paid last year) as well as a likely six-figure debt to the IRS. The article has tax experts poo-poohing a income tax loophole mentioned by the production company to winners. The extra tax burden has been noted in several sources over the past year.


Please be forewarned that you may not see much new in the way of postings here over the next couple of days. Work, family errands, and tomorrow evening's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner sponsored by the Polk County Democratic Executive Committee will keep me away from the 'puter more than normal.

But then, Mike over at Florida News said much the same yesterday (he's in the midst of finals at FSU), and he still had some good ya never know. Keep checking anyway, feel free to look through the archives in case you missed something, and thanks for visiting. Y'all come back now, heah?


Was pleased to hear last night that 12 year old Margarita Aguilar-Lopez was found safe and sound last evening, and the man she was traveling with, 25 year old Antonio Paulino-Perez, had been arrested. They were found near a small town in northwestern South Carolina.

It was truly wonderful that, after all the tragedies in the news regarding abducted and missing children locally in recent months, that at least one ends on a positive note!

There are still plenty of questions to be answered, and unfortunately authorities may never be able to answer them all.

1) Was the girl actually abducted, or did she go willingly? They are both from Mexico, and my understanding is that it is not unusual for young girls of 12 or in their early teens to leave home and begin a life on their own; it's part of the culture, as one of the local news reporters put it. That still doesn't make it right. You remember the old saying "When in Rome..."? Well, it's rather illegal for a child that age to do that sort of thing...

2) Why were her two brothers seemingly unconcerned throughout the investigation? When the girl left and police first began asking questions, the brothers said they were drunk and forgot.

3) What happens now? Obviously, she will be placed into foster care until everything is settled, and hopefully she will be reunited with her parents in Mexico. As far as the brothers, I'd like to see them charged with child endangerment. And the fellow she was with? Let the feds work that out as he took her across state lines. And they'll all be deported.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


It's been awhile, so welcome back to the blogosphere --- and thus, to the blogroll --- to Blunted On Reality, a Tampa-area based weblog. Great to have you back!


The Houston Chronicle looks at reaction to an AP picture of President Bush and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah walking hand-in-hand during a visit Monday to Bush's ranch near Crawford, Texas.

While it is Saudi custom as a sign of friendship and respect among men to hold hands while walking, some folks here saw it as rather odd.

Good ol' boys tend to keep other guys at arm's length — unless they've just scored a touchdown.

The Chronicle story even asked a morning radio host about the picture:

John Walton, an arbiter of a certain Southern political correctness at KIOL/97.5 FM as part of the Walton & Johnson morning radio show, didn't realize it was a Saudi custom, but he thought it was OK for Bush to take the prince's hand.

"I think (Bush) would do just about anything to get the oil prices lower," Walton said.

Bush and Adbullah certainly looked happy and relaxed walking among the bluebonnets. Could this Saudi tradition of hand-holding catch on among men of the South?

Hmmm, go ask your daddy what he thinks.


Sid Salter is one of Mississippi's top political writers. It wasn't long ago since he plied his trade --- and wrote his column --- from the small Scott County town of Forest, where he owned the local weekly newspaper. His insights on state politics were syndicated statewide. In recent years Mr. Salter has sold the Forest newspaper, but still writes his column for the state's flagship newspaper in Jackson, The Clarion-Ledger.

This week he touches on local politics, as the state's 296 municipalities head to the polls on May 3 to elect new officials. Much of what he writes could easily refer to Florida, as I'm taking the liberty to reprint a slightly edited version of it here, only eliminating the paragraphs that specifically refer to the Magnolia State election. Words or phrases using the [] brackets refer to those I have changed from a Mississippi to Florida reference. You can read Sid Salter's original column here.

How's President Bush doing on domestic issues? What about the price of gas?

Get out of Iraq? Stay? What's the exit strategy?

Analyses of those and other burning questions about national and international government and politics are as close as CNN or Fox News or this newspaper or that talk radio station you listen to on the way to work each morning.

Insomniacs can surf the Web at 2 a.m. in search of online updates. News, fresh news, news that's "fair and balanced" or just regular, garden-variety news is available at your fingertips 24/7.

One need do nothing more strenuous than flip the cable TV dials to become at the very least an unwilling voyeur of the non-stop news cycle debates of national and world politics.

But for many [Floridians] the nuances of Middle East policy aren't on their radar screens. They could care less about the fate of the filibuster in the U.S. Senate. The complexities of the European Union don't interest them, either.

Real life, real local issues

But they do care whether the ditches near their homes drain effectively. They do care whether or not the streets in front of their homes need paving.

They know whether or not their neighborhood is a high-crime area and they know whether or not their property taxes are increasing.

How's the water? How's the water pressure? What about fire protection? Do the tornado warning sirens sound when there's danger?

You want a myriad of complex issues?

Take your pick: There's a dead dog in the road. There's a live dog in the road biting the meter man. Or "it's my dog, and you better leave that #@*&$*#% alone if you know what's good for you!"
The [Florida] Legislature has [160] elected members to make laws for the state, but many state residents don't have a clue who represents them at the state Capitol and could care less.

But most [Floridians]— voters or non-voters — know the identity of their mayor and their city [commissioner]. Most of them know their mayor or [commissioner's] home phone number as well — and have no compunction about dialing that number at 11 p.m. if there's a water leak or a sewer pipe break or other problem.

Municipal elected officials are the government out where the rubber meets the road. They get their hands, feet and vehicles dirty doing the people's business.

Those officials don't get time off. If they go to the grocery store, somebody wants to talk city business — or at church or a funeral or a high school football game. That goes with the turf.

Get out and elect good leaders for your cities. Between now and then, ask for their home phone numbers. Call early, call often.

And one other piece of advice: If you don't know who your city commissioner is --- or, for that matter, your county commissioner as well as your state senator and representative --- find out...and get his/her phone number(s). That's right: Office, home, cellular. And remember, as Mr. Salter made clear...Call early, call often!


U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay returned home to Texas briefly Tuesday, catching a ride with President Bush for the chief executive's Social Security privitization event at the University of Texas' Medical Branch in Galveston. As has been the case at Bush's similar events across the country, it was an invitation-only gathering of about 700, with about 100 outside protesting. The White House chose Galveston because county employees there decided to opt out of the Social Security system entirely 25 years ago in favour of private retirement accounts.

But back to DeLay: As you would expect from a highly partisan crowd, the hometown boy from Sugar Land received a warm greeting. But on a couple of other fronts, there is reason for the ethically-challenged congressman to be concerned, aside from the obvious items which have been reported.

First, he now has a Democratic challenger for his seat in next year's election. Former Congressman Nick Lampson of Beaumont, who was defeated two years ago after redistricting, has filed papers to challenge the House Majority Leader for his 22st District seat. The announcement came one day after DeLay's 2004 challenger, Richard Morrison, decided to withdraw citing personal financial issues. Lampson does not currently live in the district, which covers portions of Houston's southern suburbs and part of Gavleston County, so he'll have to move there. Lampson is not a stranger to many, though, as his former congressional district covered approximately 30 percent of the area now represented by DeLay.

There could be another Democrat in the race: Houston City Councilman Gordon Quan, the first Asian Mayor Pro-Tem in city history, is considering his options.

And a Houston Chronicle - Zogby poll taken at the end of March shows that DeLay should be worried. A couple of the questions:

For whom did you vote in the 2004 Congressional Election:
DeLay - 50.7
Morrison - 33.1
Other - 16.2

If the election for Congress were held today and the candidates were Republican Tom DeLay and someone else, who would you vote for?
Other - 45.0
DeLay - 38.4
Not Sure - 16.6

Overall Opinion of Tom DeLay:
Very Unfavourable - 30.6
Slightly Favourable - 28.8
Very Fabourable - 22.0
Slightly Unfavourable - 13.4
Not Familiar at all - 3.0
Not Sure - 2.1

Texas 22nd Congressional District Poll taken 30 March - 02 April 2005
Margin of error: +/- 4.5 percentage points

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Liz Wilde, who plies her trade at Fort Myers radio station WRKX-FM (a/k/a 96 K-Rock) did a rather unique bit on celebrating Brittney Spears' upcoming baby. I take this off a radio message board post that she added today:

Britney's baby is big news for we earthly peons so here's how we celebrated....

WRXK's 96 K-Rock's Liz Wilde Show had a "Britney Spears White Trash Baby Shower", being as that she had humble beginnings in the deep south, to "celebrate" the little package. Giveaways included a baby grab bags chock full of boxes of Kraft Mac and cheese, Backyard wrestling dvd's, raspberry Zingers, stuffed animals won at the Wal-Mart claw machine ( won by sidekick/producer Mickey), Hank Williams the 3rd cds, and the newly reintroduced Today Sponge (as coveted on Seinfeld)...To top off the celebration of baby anew, Liz took new baby names and the best won a chance at a "Fetus Fling" in the K-Rock parking lot, throwing for distance, of course.....with a floppy little "Baby Alive" (remember that one, you could feed it and it crapped!?)

We're taking bets on how her bounce back factor will be...stay tuned....


Arianna Huffington, a former Republican and candidate for Governor of California last year who now identifies herself as a "progressive Democrat", is an interesting columnist. I have been receiving her e-mailed writings for nearly a year, and while I don't agree with her 100 percent of the time, she often makes some wonderful points.

Ms. Huffington is launching a new project: The Huffington Post, an online site which this article from the New York Times is calling a likely challenge to The Drudge Report. And she's got a number of notable people who will be writing for this new site, including former CBS Evening News anchor Walter Cronkite, and former Colorado senator Gary Hart, who will focus mainly on national security issues.

But it won't be entirely liberal. She's also signed on Washington Times editorial page editor Tony Blankley and former Bush speechwriter David Frum...who coined the phrase "axis of evil".

It promses to be an interesting project which I'll keep an eye on. You can do so, too, by visiting the site which will begin May 9.


You may remember a few days ago I noted a number of Tampa city employees having disciplinary memos placed in their personnel file for sending personal e-mails on the job.

It's happened again, this time in Tallahassee. The St. Petersburg Times' Lucy Morgan reports today that four Florida Department of Education employees have been or will be fired for sending inappropriate e-mails at work. The investigation is continuing, and more could be disciplined at DOE and other state agencies.

James L. Gay, 45, an administrator in the DOE print shop; Dana Hendricks, 27, an operations and management consultant in the Office of Leadership Development; and Maryann Ford, 49, a research and training specialist at Leadership Development, were fired. A fourth employee, Rochelle Franklin, 36, a career service distribution agent in the Office of General Services, has been suspended and given 10 days to respond to a notice that she is being fired.


The investigation began when Leatha Anderson, a data processing specialist in the DOE telecommunications office complained that Gloria Johnson, an administrative secretary in the Office of Academic and Student Affairs, approached her several times to ask if she would participate in a threesome. She told Johnson not to contact her again, Anderson told investigators.

Investigators initially looked at Johnson's e-mails to see if the liaison had been suggested electronically. They discovered inappropriate e-mails to Johnson from Gay and Hendricks, according an report completed by DOE Investigator Dean Goodson.

A look at e-mails sent by Gay and Hendricks to others turned up more lewd e-mails.

The e-mails tracked by investigators included nude videos and pictures, profanity and suggestive remarks. One animation portrayed former President Bill Clinton at his desk with Monica Lewinsky.

Another, entitled "Whose Baby Daddy is This?" was a video of a woman dancing naked from the waist down.

One video portrayed Barney, the purple dinosaur known to millions of children, dancing to profane and violent gangsta rap.

Some of the e-mails came from employees at the Department of Transportation and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, an indication that the investigation could well spread to other state agencies.

Let this be a lesson: Keep your private e-mails between your private home addresses, as many agencies and companies are becoming more aggressive in monitoring e-mail communications on the job.


It seems as though something we haven't seen in quite awhile on Capitol Hill is actually possible: Compromise.

According to the morning news, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D - Nevada) and Majority Leader Bill Frist (R - Tennessee) have been holding private discussions on the issue of judicial appointments to the Federal appeals courts.

Reportedly, Reid has shown a willingness to sign off on a deal that would allow two of President Bush's appointees to the Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, if Frist and the Republicans would 1) replace another appointee for the Sixth Circuit with one that is preferred by Michigan's two Democratic senators, and 2) withdraw their threat of the "nuclear option" to change Senate rules which would end the right of the minority party to filibuster against judicial nominees.

Will it work? A good question. Many of the far-right Republicans, including the president, have on a number of occasions taken a "win-at-all-costs" attitude to insure that their side prevails. And the judicial appointments issue is vital to continue the foundation of moving government at large to the right, as federal judgeships are for life. However, they tend to be short-sighted, seeming to forget that the time will come --- hopefully sooner, rather than later --- that Delay, Frist, and company will once again be in the minority. And that's one helluva reason to begin working hard on a comprimise where both sides can come away from the table somewhat satisfied. Maybe both sides can and will learn something from the experience, that if working together on an issue like judicial appointments can result in a middle ground, they can use that as a starting point on other issues as well.

Maybe I'm too much of an optimist here...

Monday, April 25, 2005


Myriam Marquez, the Orlando Sentinel's resident liberal columnist, has some excellent words of wisdom regarding America's own ethically impaired Congressional conservative, Tom DeLay (R - Texas).

Never mind DeLay's ethical lapses. Those pale in comparison to his agenda. We should all fear his attacks on the U.S. Constitution. That's what makes him truly dangerous.

And also something DeLay should seriously consider, using the example of a fellow Texan...and a Democrat:

Another man from Texas, Jim Wright, had the sense to step down when it became clear he was facing a firestorm about his questionable dealings as House speaker back in the early 1990s when the Democrats were in charge.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


A fire believed to have started in an electrical panel destroyed a wood shop and wreck room as well as caused heavy damage to the maintenence barn at Polk County's historic Chalet Suzanne near Lake Wales. Fortunately, the blaze was brought under control quickly as Lake Wales and Polk County firefighters responded. It did not affect the well-known restaurant, which has consistantly received high ratings in a number of national publications.

But there will be changes there, as owners Eric and Denise Hinshaw will construct a conference centre on the property to host meetings, weddings, and larger events.

It would have been a shame to lose such a wonderful part of Florida. We're all extremely fortunate.


The Lakeland Ledger has an article this morning noting that U.S. Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R - Sarasota) is still coy about the idea of running for the Senate next year against Bill Nelson.

While some Republicans across Florida are hoping that she'll run, praising her work in Congress and as a party loyalist, it is clear that she's not getting a lot of clear support up front. House collegue Ginny Brown-Waite was quoted as saying that she would "prefer not to say at this time." And former Sarasota County Republican Party chairman Tramm Hudson, who is considering a run for Harris' seat in the House, notes that "I don't think she's getting the encouragement."

It's clear that some in the Republican Party fear a Democratic backlash if Mrs. Harris runs, remembering her role in the 2000 presidential election controversy when she was Secretary of State AND state chairman for the Bush/Cheney campaign...a clear conflict of interest. But a number of Democrats, especially among the traditional liberal party activists, have been quite unhappy at Senator Nelson for his precieved inaction or lack of support on several issues.

She probably feels --- and rightly so --- that Bush, Rove, and company owe her for being the loyal soldier last year when, as she apparantly wanted to run for Bob Graham's seat she was asked not to do so in favour of Mel Martinez. We'll see...

Friday, April 22, 2005


Thanks to Mark Lane at Flablog for this big heads-up!

It is simply incredible how far the Republican right will go to support their big business buddies! U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R - Pennsylvania) has introduced a bill which would, if passed, in effect prohibit the National Weather Service from providing for free weather forecasts and other information that is also available from private services such as The Weather Channel and AccuWeather, which are offered through paid subscriptions and advertiser-supported Web sites.

This legislation could be nothing short of disaterous for the general public! It could force NWS Web sites and NOAA Weather Radio stations run by local weather offices to close, as the wording of the bill is ambigious at best. You can view the bill's text in pdf. format.

Anyone who survived through the hurricanes last year by visiting the NWS Ruskin site, and anyone who listens to NOAA Weather Radio when severe weather threatens or before heading out on the water can appreciate the efforts made by these public servants, and should realize that WE ALREADY PAY for the service! Does this sound like a first step toward eventually getting the government out of the meterological business? It sounds like is came straight from the Reagan-era Republican playbook to me!

Say what you will about U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D - Florida), but his office has expressed concerns about this legislation.

"The weather service proved so instrumental and popular and helpful in the wake of the hurricanes. How can you make an argument that we should pull it off the Net now?" said Nelson's spokesman, Dan McLaughlin. "What are you going to do, charge hurricane victims to go online, or give them a pop-up ad?"

And it's the Commerce Committee on which he serves that will deal with the bill. Let's hope and pray that this dies a quick and hard death in committee!


State Representative Dennis Baxley (R - Ocala) is one of the most conservative legislators in Florida. His claim to fame this session is a bill --- HB837, better known as the "academic freedom" bill --- would allow university students to sue their instructors if they are taught "extremist or untrue views" or fail to include scholarly viewpoints other than the professor's own. It is Baxley's attempt to counter what he views as a pervasive liberal bias in higher education, and is part of a nationwide effort by right-wingers to force colleges and universities to their point of view.

Yesterday, Baxley --- who counts the Education Council and Education Appropriations Committee among his legislative committee assignments --- spoke to university presidents about his reasons for sponsoring this bill, noting that it comes from his "longtime concerns the university culture has gravitated far to the left and has increasingly lost ideological diversity." He even torpedoed the president of his alma mater, Florida State University, by using the claim that a professor at the Tallahassee school told students on the first day of class that he didn't give "A" grades to Republicans in his class. Of course, he didn't bother to go into specifics or name names.

But no worry...quite yet. While HB837 passed committee and is awaiting floor action, it's companion bill in the Senate (SB2126, sponsored by State Senator Steven R. Wise of Jacksonville and co-sponsored by Senator Bill Posey of Rockledge) has had no committee action with only two weeks remaining in the session.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


The Lakeland Center is trying to bring back the days of old, when it was the rock and roll heart of Florida. On Friday afternoon from 5-7PM, the municipally-owned venue is hosting a party for fans of REO Speedwagon to kick off sales of the band's May 22 concert.

It's all free, with beer samples, pizza, and a chance to win a two night stay at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (just don't raise a ruckus over the $20 cover charge there!).

This is the first of a series of concerts from the '70s and '80s. The Center's Web site also lists a Disco Inferno Concert July 16 featuring The Trammps, Peaches and Herb, The Sugar Hill Gang, and Thelma Houston. Then on August 27, Lakeland will rock with Foghat and Blue Oyster Cult.

A lot of younger folks may not remember, but during much of the 1970s and 1980s --- before many of the major arenas in Tampa and Orlando were built --- The Lakeland Center's Jenkins Arena and Youkey Theatre hosted many of the biggest names in the music business. It still is occasionally used by major acts to rehearse in preperation for tours.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Sad news to report this evening. Demetrios Tsiokos, better known as "Micho" and "Jimmy", died this morning at the age of 77. He is the father of Costa Tsiokos, who writes the St. Petersburg-based blog Population Statistic.

Of course, our deepest condolences go out to our fellow blogger at this grevious time, and I hope that all who read this today and over the coming days and weeks will keep Costa and his family in your thoughts and prayers.


Special Prosecutor Brad King of Ocala has dismissed all charges against Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and three co-defendants related to alleged violations of the state election law barring paying or receiving payment for collecting absentee ballots. Shortly afterward today Jeb! signed an executive order ending Mayor Dyer's suspension and reinstating him to office.

Anyone with half a brain should have known that this was a politically motivated move. While it was not any of the defendants' intent to violate the law, it has come out since that a number of political candidates seeking the African-American vote in Orange County --- including now-U.S. Senator Mel Martinez and now-Secretary of State Glenda Hood --- did exactly the same thing while they were local officials in Metro Orlando. So if one intends to go fo Mayor Dyer, why not investigate Martinez' and Hood's campaigns as well?

Former Mayor Bill Frederick put it best when he told the Orlando Sentinel:

"I cannot express my incredulity at the stupidity of this prosecutor," Frederick said. "If he happened to think that this deserved a slap on the wrist, he should have dealt with it in the grand jury room. It's unconscionable that he brought this to the brink of a trial."

Amen, brother! Welcome back, Buddy!


The St. Petersburg Times' political columnist Adam C. Smith has an interesting piece today regarding the Democratic campaign for governor, and the fact that the party's state chairman, former Tallahassee mayor Scott Maddox, seems to be falling farther and farther behind the 8-ball before his campaign even begins.

Maddox will resign his party position at the end of the current Legislative session and will run for "a statewide office". While he has not actually said which office he will seek, it is widely believed that he had planned to enter the gubernatorial race.

He may want to seriously consider the Attorney General's position instead, or that of Chief Financial Officer.

The two main announced contenders have already raised significant funds toward their campaigns. State Senator Rod Smith of Alachua has a war chest of approximately $350,000, while U.S. Congressman Jim Davis of Tampa has around $420,000. Those are big bucks this early in the race, and Maddox should be concerned if he plans to run for the state's top job.

Maddox has excellent fundraising ability, as his work for the state Democratic Party has shown. But for his own campaign, that may be another story the longer he stays on the sideline. He could possibly do especially well in the traditionally liberal areas of South Florida around Miami/Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, where Smith and Davis may be seen as too centrist.

I plan to hear all three gentelmen next Friday evening, when they will appear on the same dais for the first time during the campaign at the Polk County Democratic Party's Jackson-Jefferson Dinner in Lakeland. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson will deliver the keynote address. For information, call (863) 646-2404.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


There are some interesting facts from an audit conducted by the Legislature's accounting office, the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability.

According to the audit released yesterday, many of the state's publicly supported charter schools are not being held to the state A+ plan or the federal No Child Left Behind requirements.

From the AP story, written by Brent Kallestad:

The charter school contracts and annual reports fail to include information required for the accountability sought by the Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush.

Student performance also varied, but was evaluated as "poor in one-third of charter schools," reported the Legislature's auditing arm....

Charter schools' contracts generally do not establish clear academic performance expectations and often fail to include outcomes covering all grades served," the report said. "These weaknesses make it difficult for school boards and the general public to hold charter schools accountable.

"Nearly half, 47 percent, of the schools during the 2003-04 school year were not held accountable by the A+ plan because they did not have the required minimum of 30 students taking the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, while about one of eight schools failed to be accountable under No Child Left Behind.

This report was the third slam against many charter schools in less than five months.

Last September the Florida Department of Education was criticized by it's federal counterpart for mismanaging federal grants for charter schools. A U.S. Department of Education official said that it's issue was with the way FDOE awarded money and allowed local school districts run the program.

And in November the state Auditor General noted that many charter schools ended the 2002-2003 school year with deficits. About a quarter of them had problems with managing staff, and 15 percent had issues tracking spending...including not getting approval for purchases.


E-mails are a wonderful means of communication, but you've got to be extremely careful about how you use it at work. Forty-four Tampa city employees, including eight police department employees and a fire department captain, have had disciplinary memos placed in their personnel files after an audit showed that they had been sending personal e-mails in violation of city policy. The e-mails reportedly had nude of otherwise sexually explicit photos or images.

More and more companies are installing software which allows management to monitor e-mail usage in an attempt to insure that employees are only using it for job-related communication. While there are some people who have expressed concern about this "intrusion", just remember this: You're using their system, and you're on their time and payroll.

Monday, April 18, 2005


Was saddened to hear that former New York City news anchor and talk show host Tom Snyder has been diagnosed with leukemia.

Although I was a young fellow "back in the day", I always enjoyed watching Snyder hosting The Tomorrow Show during the 70s and early 80s. After NBC cancelled the late night/early morning show which followed Johnny Carson, Tom hosted a similar programme on CBS from 1995-1999...a show that was eventually reformatted and is now hosted by Craig Kilborn.

His career has taken a number of different turns. He also was the primary news anchor for the NBC and ABC owned stations in New York and Los Angeles, helped launch the magazine show Dateline Sunday on NBC, as well as NBC News Update, a two minute blurb that aired in prime time for several years.

Tom has had several health issues in recent years. Heart disease four years ago. A torn tendon about 1 1/2 years ago. Atrial fibrillation most recently. Now this. He discusses this new issue on his Web site/blog, and notes that his doctors have said this is curable through medication, chemo, or both.

A truly talented gentleman. I'm praying for him this evening.


After today, the skies above Lakeland will be significantly quieter as the Sun 'N Fun Fly-In ends another run. For a week, Lakeland Linder Regional Airport hosts one of the nation's largest air shows featuring military, experimental, and historic aircraft.

Among the airplanes Lakeland during the past week were the zebra-striped Sikorsky S-38 seaplane which was featured in the motion picture "The Aviator", the Air Force P-38 Lightning which crash landed and eventually buried under ice in Greenland during World War II but rescused and brought back to life after a $3 million rescue operation a few years ago, an Air Force A-10 "Warthog", three USAF F-16CJs, also known as the "Fighting Falcons", and a motorcycle gyroplane (not yet ready).

Unfortunately, I've never had the opportunity to attend the annual event, but get to see some interesting planes pass over heading to or from the airport. I've got to set aside some funds to make next year's Sun 'N Fun, and join the 160,000+ attendees...


The partally submerged body of 13 year old Sarah Michelle Lunde was discovered Saturday morning in water on an abandoned fish farm a very short distance from her home near Ruskin.

Another parent mourning the loss of their beloved child. Another parent asking who would want to murder a child, and why. Another parent who will now ask for justice, and in some way closure.

And another registered sex offender who has admitted to killing the child, in this case saying he did it when they got into an argument while he was looking for her mother, with whom he had a previous relationship.

It was only a few weeks ago that we were seeing an very similar scenario in Citrus County as volunteers looked, hoping and praying for a miracle but eventually disappointed when another young girl --- in that case nine year old Jessica Lunsford --- was found dead so close to her home.

Words are so difficult at a time like this. I pray for Sarah's family and friends, and make sure that I'll hug my beloved four year old granddaughter a little tighter tonight.

Updated Monday, 19 April


Rocker Ted Nugent appeared before the National Rifle Association's convention in Houston Saturday, singing some and suggesting that NRA members not only enroll new members, but also associate only with other members.

But he really preached to the choir as he spoke of his own brand of justice:

"Remember the Alamo! Shoot 'em!" he screamed to applause. "To show you how radical I am, I want carjackers dead. I want rapists dead. I want burglars dead. I want child molesters dead. I want the bad guys dead. No court case. No parole. No early release. I want 'em dead. Get a gun and when they attack you, shoot 'em."

I don't have a problem with guns per se; many members of my family enjoyed hunting, especially deer and turkey in the woods of south Mississippi. Now I believe in self defence as much as anyone, if someone truly believes that their life or the lives of their loved ones are in immediate jeopardy. But Ted's comments scare the hell out of me.

Also thought it was fitting that Ted appeared only hours before House Majority Leader/ethic-less Tom DeLay (R - TX)

Sunday, April 17, 2005


Only months after the 2004 presidential election came to a close, we're already beginning to see the first major party candidate make clear his intention to run.

Former Four Star General Wesley Clark spoke to a small group of supporters Saturday in Los Angeles during the California Democratic Party's state convention, and he announced that he would once again become a candidate for President of the United States.

There are several reports from individuals who were supposedly present:

From the Daily Kos message board

Another from the Democratic Underground blog

Reportedly California Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante was also present at the reception when Clark made his announcement.

The former NATO Supreme Commander had run in the Democratic primaries, but his late entry into the race hurt his ability to raise needed money in a crowded field. Since his exit from the race last year General Clark has been keeping busy, forming his WesPAC organization to focus on national security issues and appearing at various functions nationwide.

Saturday, April 16, 2005


The Lakeland Ledger is reporting this morning that 22 teachers and paraprofessionals in the Lake Wales Charter School System, including eleven of the 80 teachers at Lake Wales High School, have been advised that their contracts will not be renewed next year and will be placed on the Polk County School Board's list of displaced teachers.

Lake Wales met all the requirments and formed it's own charter school group consisting of four elementary, one middle, and one high school. This was the first year that it has operated seperately from the Polk County School District. All teachers and paraprofessionals were guaranteed their jobs for this first school year, and had officially taken one year leaves of absence from the Polk County district so that if this scenario had come about they could be placed on the displaced teachers list and could be assigned to other schools throughout the county for the next school year.

Decisions were reportedly made by principals at the individual schools, and Charter School Superintendent Clint Wright told the Ledger that decisions were made not to cut costs --- a number of those affected were veteran teachers --- but based on performance.

Certainly, any school will want to get rid of teachers and staff members who aren't getting the job done, but the large number after only one year is rather interesting. That's all I'm saying right now...


Kudos to my old hometown newspaper, the Hattiesburg American of Mississippi, for receiving the Gannett Freedom of Information Award for it's efforts against the U.S. Marshals Service after an incident last year during a visit to the Pine Belt by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

While Scalia was delivering a speech at a Hattiesburg area Christian school, marshals providing security confiscated tape recorders from reporters representing the American and the Associated Press; the tapes were erased. The reporters were never advised that recording devices were banned, and a lawsuit was filed by the organizations against the Marshals Service.

The litigation was eventually settled with the Marshals Service changing it's policy regarding media at events where they are providing security and a $1,000 award to the reporters, the newspaper, and the wire service in addition to covering some of the legal fees incurred. More importantly, the USMS admitted that it's agent acted inproperly in the incident.

The reporters also received a letter of apology from Justice Scalia, while stating that he did not request the recording devices to be seized.

This shows that it doesn't always take the New York Times, Washington Post, or other big-name and well-heeled media types to bring change. Sure, the American is owned by Gannett (which in Tampa Bay owns WTSP-10), but they handled the situation themselves without a lot of corporate types.

The newspaper's then-executive editor, Jon K. Broadbooks, is now serving in the same capacity at the Utica Observer-Dispatch in New York State. The reporter whose recorder was seized, Antionette Konz, is now the education reporter for Alabama's Montgomery Advertiser.


As we all know by now, Florida's freshman U.S. Senator has earned some harsh criticism --- well earned, IMHO --- for his staff member's memo about how the unfortunate Terri Schiavo situation could mean for the Republican's politically if they could get Congress involved...and for his giving the memo, apparantly sight unseen, to a Democratic collegue believing it was a memo of "talking points".

Polk County has it's own version of "memogate", and proves just how cozy our county commissioners are with developers to the detriment of her citizens.

Don Smith owns a ten acre parcel of land on Snively Avenue in Eloise, an unincorporated area just south of Winter Haven. He wants to change the land use designation for his parcel from residential to industrial over the objections of the county-appointed Eloise Community Redevelopment Agency. The parcel is currently used for a trucking terminal and repair shop, as it's zoning was grandfathered for industrial use. That changed when the county updated it's growth management plan over a decade ago.

The CRA wants to see the area developed for residential use, primarily to protect the area surrounding Snively Elementary School. The county's own Comprehensive Plan reads:

"Industrial districts shall be separated significant distances from schools and developed residential areas."

County Attorney Joe Jarret had written commissioners a "confidential" memo on January 27, a week before the hearing raising questions over approving the land use designation change, stating that the CRA would likely prevail an any lawsuit to challenge a commission approval.

Jarret's "confidential" memo ended up in the hands of Pete Bell, Smith's planning consultant. Bell said in a deposition that he heard of the memo by Commissioner Paul Senft during a telephone call. Bell went to the Auburndale office of another commissioner, BOCC Chairman Jack Myers, and asked for a copy of the memo. Myers claims he had not seen the memo, but called the commission office in Bartow and had the memo faxed to him...and gave it, without even reading it, to the planning consultant.

By the way, the County Commission sided with the developer in it's hearing on the afternoon of February 2 (pdf format; pages 15-19).

Eloise CRA chairman Bruce Bachman said he was not even aware of the memo until this situation became public knowledge. He and CRA vice chairman Johnny Brooks are considering asking for the organization's approval for filing an ethics complaint against the two commissioners, as State Attorney Jerry Hill has cleared them of any criminal wrongdoing. The CRA has also appealed the decision to an administrative law judge, who will rule in 30 to 60 days.

The decision by commissioners Senft and Myers to release the memo to the developers' consultant placed the CRA at a serious disadvantage a week before the hearing, and taints the ultimate decision. It also heightens the perception by many citizens across the county that our commissioners are too cozy with developers, often to the detriment of residents. The Lakeland Ledger was correct in slamming this disgraceful detriment of duty yesterday in it's editorial. It is, indeed, "A Broken Confidence".

Thursday, April 14, 2005


The United States Census Bureau announced it's list of the 100 fastest growing counties in America this morning, based on estimated growth between July 1, 2003 to July 1, 2004. Florida and Georgia were one-two for having the most counties on the list. Many of those in Florida in the top 100 were in northern and central regions of the state.

01 - Flagler County (between Daytona Beach and St. Augustine) - 10.1 percent population growth.
09 - St. John's County (St. Augustine area) - 6.7 percent
11 - Osceola County (suburban Orlando) - 6.6 percent
18 - St. Lucie County (Ft. Pierce/Port St. Lucie area) - 6.0 percent
22 - Lake County (suburban Orlando) - 5.6 percent
32 - Union County (Gainesville area) - 5.2 percent
38 - Pasco County (suburban Tampa) - 5.0 percent
48 - Hernando County (suburban Tampa) - 4.8 percent
49 - Clay County (suburban Jacksonville) - 4.7 percent
60 - Santa Rosa County (Pensacola area) - 4.5 percent
61 - Walton County (Panhandle) - 4.5 percent
65 - Lee County (Fort Myers area) - 4.4 percent
74 - Wakulla County (suburban Tallahassee) - 4.2 percent
93 - Okeechobee County - 3.9 percent


The local blogosphere continues to grow. I came across another Tampa-based weblog, Recess Time today, and it contains some really interesting work.

Cookie Christine's blog has been around for awhile, but I'm just now having the opportunity to discover it for myself. I've added it to my list, and suggest that you give it a read.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Anyone who watches Chappelle's Show on Comedy Central will recognize the phrase above as one of his best known lines parodying the late funk music star. But it has serious consequences for one political candidate in my old hometown of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Rick James is the former morning drive personality and programme director for WNSL-FM, the area contemporary music powerhouse (at which I started my radio career full-time overnights nearly two decades ago). He's also running for the Hattiesburg City Council. The problem is that whenever Chappelle's show features the Rick James bit, a number of the candidate's yard signs turn up missing. He told the Hattiesburg American editorial board that he's lost over $700 in signs because of the thefts.

According to his wife in a letter to Comedy Central, his campaign signs have turned up in yards over 100 miles away...among other interesting occurances which were mentioned in this blub from the New York Post. Of course, a number of the signs likely turn up in dorm rooms at the city's two colleges: The University of Southern Mississippi (GO EAGLES!!!) and the Southern Baptist affiliated William Carey College.

She was asking for a donation from Comedy Central to replace at least some of the signs that were stolen. According to the American, Comedy Central did release a statement saying it "felt bad about the signs being stolen".

James is running in the Democratic primary for the Ward 4 seat. The winner will face the Republican nominee and the Independent incumbant in November.


The Polk County Democratic Party's upcoming Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on April 29 should gain a lot of attention, as it will be the first event statewide where the three biggest contenders for the Democratic nomination for governor will be on the same dais. Congressman Jim Davis of Tampa and State Senator Rod Smith of Gainesville are both announced candidates; Florida Democratic Party Chairman Scott Maddox will step down at the end of the current legislative session and is expected to announce that he will run.

The event will be held at the Lakeland Yacht and Country Club, located at 929 Lake Hollingsworth Drive (map/directions). This is the local Democratic Party organization's major fundraising event of the year. It will be a great opportunity to many Democrats and progressives to hear all three of these fine gentlemen talk about their visions for our beloved Sunshine State.

And that's not all: The keynote speaker for the evening will be U.S. Senator Bill Nelson!

We've got a lot of work to do, both locally in Polk County and statewide, and this event will be a shot across the bow to the opposition that we're not about to lay down and allow the far right to dominate anymore. Anyone who would like to purchase tickets to this dinner should e-mail me by clicking on this link.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


An interesting story in today's Lakeland Ledger about a visit from Haiti's interim Prime Minister Gerald Latoutue with Jeb! in Tallahassee Monday, where a report was released from a commission he appointed suggesting that Florida and it's growing Hatian-American community help the impoverished nation.

Many of the suggestions are very good, as Haiti needs a great deal of help after the hellacious days of Aristide. However, I just have to mention one of the suggestions here:

Florida should provide assistance with Haitian elections planned in November, possibly including observers to ensure they are fair.

Certainly, on the face of it, it's a very worthy idea. But considering recent elections controversies in the Sunshine State, the folks in Port-au-Prince would need to ask themselves if they REALLY want THAT KIND of help from Glenda Hood and her cronies????? Maybe they should look at an example that has slightly less baggage???


Big thanks to Mike at Florida News for the heads up.

Everyone should be aware by now that the heat is on U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R - Texas), even within his own party. During the past year the exterminator-by-trade has been hit by allegations of some really buggy doins':

Nepotism - Since 2001 DeLay's wife and daughter have been paid more than $500,000 by his campaign and political action committees for "fund raising fees", "campaign management", and "payroll"...all with no details as to how they actually EARNED the money. While it's not unusual for officeholders and candidates to hire family members to work in campaign management or on their PACs, in this case the amount was unusually high, and thus raises red flags among advocates for overhaulling election and campaign finance laws.

Violation of House Travel Rules - DeLay and several fellow House Republicans accepted an expense-paid trip to South Korea four years ago by a registered foreign agent, the Korea - U.S. Exchange Council, despite rules clearly prohibiting such practices. In addition, DeLay, his wife, two aides, and two lobbyists made a trip to the UK in mid-2000, organized by the National Center for Public Policy Research but in reality paid for by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and the gambling services company eLottery.

House ethics rules allow lawmakers and their staffs to have travel expenses paid only for officially connected travel and only by organizations directly connected to the trips. The rules also require that lawmakers accurately report the people or organizations that pay for the trips. They prohibit payments by registered lobbyists for lawmakers' travel.

Ties To Lobbyists Under Investigation - That's CRIMINAL investigation!

With all of DeLay's ethics shortcomings --- he's been admonished THREE TIMES in the past year --- at least some of his fellow Republicans are openly questioning his fitness to continue serving as Majority Leader. Frankly, any congressional representative who has accepted money from his PAC should immediately return the gifts, as they could very much be counted as "dirty money". Many of Florida's congressional Republicans have accepted money from AMPAC...from as little as $20.00 (six congresspersons) to Clay Shaw's big receipt of $30,020.

The representatives (with these individuals, that's a contridiction in terms) who are supposed to serve Polk County are all on the high end:

Ginny Brown-Waite - 5th District: $20,000
Adam Putnam - 12th District: $15,000
Dave Weldon - 15th District: $13,569

Lest we forget, Katherine Harris (13th District) accepted $15,000. And, shamed to say, my distant cousin (I've never met him, BTW) Charles "Chip" Pickering, Jr. (R - Mississippi) took $11,565 in the ethically-comprimised money.

The only honourable thing for these folks to do is to return the contributions from AMPAC. You can encourage them to do so by clicking here.


--- It was a bad day for school bus drivers in three Florida counties. South of Eagle Lake, a school bus which was not containing students rear-ended a bus returning schoolchildren from Winter Haven's Garden Grove Elementary from a field trip at the Bartow Agricultrual Centre. Twenty-two students and three adults were sent to the hospital as a precaution; none were seriously injured.

In Hillsborough County, 18 children and one adult were taken to hospital as a precaution after a bus rear-ended a car Monday morning in the parking lot of Bay Crest Elementary. Again, thankfully, noone was seriously injured, and everyone was released by the afternoon. And in St. John's County, a woman was seriously injured when she turned her minivan into the path of a bus taking students to Mill Creek Elementary in St. Augustine. A dozen students received minor injuries.

--- And how 'bout this 21st Century Romeo and Juliet kinda story. Two neighbouring families in the Putnam County town of Crescent City who had been feuding for quite a while got into an old fashioned Wild Wild West shootout Sunday. The reason for this latest incident: Seems as though a couple of the teens have gotten the sweets for each other, and had been seeing each other on the sly.

It's just been a strange kinda couple of days across Florida...

Monday, April 11, 2005


I noticed that the featured speaker for our I-4 Corridor Association program next Thursday evening is John Russell of Pasco County. John ran last year for the Fifth Congressional District seat currently held by Ginny Brown-Waite, coming in a strong second place in the Democratic primary. He's not giving up; while John has not officially announced his candidacy, he has let it be known that he fully intends to jump in. And that's a good thing.

John Russell has a unique voice to bring to the current debate over health care in America, especially when it comes to Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. As a Registered Nurse, he sees first hand where the system needs to be fixed and actually has an idea on how to do it.

He also has something rarely seen in many candidates today: A real PASSION for the issues. Check out the Website (he never took the site down after last year's campaign, and has actually updated it since the election).

Sunday, April 10, 2005


The past couple of days Florida newspapers have been correctly savaging freshman U.S. Senator Mel Martinez. Earlier this week, after claiming it didn't come from his office, an aide admitted that he wrote the controversial memo that played up the political benefits of Congress becoming involved in the Terri Schiavo case and how it could be "a tough issue for Democrats". The aide, counsel Brian Darling, resigned.

Worse yet, Martinez handed the memo over to a fellow senator, Tom Harkin (D - Iowa) claiming he thought it was talking points and didn't read it prior to pulling it out of his pocket. My questions are this: HOW STUPID CAN YOU BE, AND HOW STUPID DO YOU THINK WE ARE???

Some samplings of the statewide editorial reaction:

Lakeland Ledger - Sunday:

In the fewer than 100 days that Mel Martinez has been in office, he's made quite a name for himself. Too bad Florida's freshman senator is apparently looked upon as a sideshow attraction to be viewed with pity, wonder, fear or amazement.

In just over three months, Martinez has turned his office-holding abilities into a candidate for a political version of America's Funniest Home Videos.

Florida Today (Melbourne) - Friday:

The memo baldly states what polls show most Americans already see:

The efforts of Congress and President Bush to slap down the courts, which repeatedly said the severely brain-damaged woman should be allowed to die, were nothing but self-serving vote-hustling.

Orlando Sentinel - Friday: is profoundly disappointing that an office led by Mr. Martinez would stoop so low.

The Schiavo memo betrays serious problems with the management culture that Mr. Martinez has established among those working for him in Washington. It raises troubling questions about the kind of people he has entrusted to help him serve the people of Florida.

St. Petersburg Times - Saturday:

Filling Florida legend Bob Graham's shoes was never going to be an easy task for Republican Sen. Mel Martinez, but nobody could have expected this catastrophe. His performance in office has been an absolute embarrassment and he is quickly ripping apart the spirit of common-sense politics in Florida.

Since leaving the Bush administration and announcing his run for the Senate, good ol' Mel has been a living, breathing puppet for the White House. But the problem is deeper than just his role as loyal lapdog. His ethics fall well short of what we expect from our leaders and he seems to have no clue as to what is going on around him.

South Florida Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale) - Today:

There's a disturbing pattern emerging here, suggesting either mendacity or an inability of Martinez to manage his staff. Either way, it doesn't bode well for a man who promised to tailor his Senate tenure as a trusted centrist.

Tampa Tribune - Friday:

It's bad enough that the memo politicized the Schiavo case. It's terrible that it was put in writing. That it specifically targeted Bill Nelson is not a healthy sign for Florida.
But that is what we are coming to expect from a senator whose staff takes radical positions and is willing to do most anything to win.

Martinez apologized to Nelson's chief of staff. He should apologize to Nelson personally. He owes Floridians an apology, too, for allowing so public a wedge to be driven between our two senators.

More important, he needs to begin taking responsibility for his office and quit imitating Sgt. Schultz from the old ``Hogan's Heroes'' television show: ``I know no-thing!''

This was one of the best; underneath the close of the editorial, there were side-by-side pics of Martinez and John Banner, the actor who played Nazi Sgt. Hans Georg Schultz, in his "Hogan's Heroes" costume.

God, I miss Bob Graham...


For fifteen years here and in my native Mississippi, I worked as a radio personality for several different stations with a variety of formats, from country to album rock to Big Band/Standards. It was among the happiest periods of my life, doing what I had always wanted to do. I wasn't concerned that it wasn't the "big time" or making big money...I was fufulling my childhood dream.

I've always loved the radio business, and try to keep up with what's happening there although I have been out of it for over a decade. That said, I am deeply saddened to see what has happened to radio in the past ten to fifteen years thanks to corporate ownership and lack of self control.

It seems that since the latest deregulation during the 1990s and loosening of ownership rules, whenever corporate types such as Clear Channel, Cox, and Infinity enter a market they seem to have little, if any, consideration or respect for the local community. National promotions/contests instead of focusing on the local area, scaling back or elimination of local news and public affairs programming, cookie-cutter programming with tight playlists and consultants who take the idea that whatever works in Orlando, Florida will work in Hattiesburg, Mississippi with little, if any, local input.

But also part of this is the increasingly lack of self-regulation and control in what gets played. One of the most played songs now is one by urban/hip hopster 50 Cent called "Candy Shop". Some sample lyrics:

I'll take you to the candy shop, I'll let you lick the lollypop
You gon' back that thing up or should I just push up on it
Got the magic stick I'm the love doctor
Get on top get to bouncing like a low rider
After you work up a sweat you can play with the stick
I'll melt in you're mouth not in your hands...
Climb on top ride like you in the rodeo
As soon as I come through the door
She pulling on my zipper...
Had me think 'bout that ass after I'm gone
Lights on or off she like it from behind

I'm not a prude, but anyone reading those lyrics should realize that they are highly inappropriate for play on radio. Maybe on satellite services where you pay to hear what you want, but teens and pre-teens are hearing this and similar lyrics every day.

Broadcasters using the public airwaves are bound to serve their local communities, and thus if it means keeping songs with clearly inappropriate lyrics off the air, so be it. Station owners and management must begin doing a better job of self-control; if they don't, then I'm afraid that the hard conservative groups and their legislative friends in Washington are waiting in the wings, and we certainly don't want that!


The Polk County Courthouse is only 21 years old, built in 1984 to serve the needs of one of Florida's fastest growing counties for years ahead. Over 440,000 square feet in ten stories...and it's time to grow again.

New construction is not an option: Money is especially tight, and there's no more space to build out. An architect has been hired to help officials decide which offices have to move out, and decisions have to be made as to where to put those displaced employees.

The Florida Supreme Court had determined that the 10th Judicial Circuit, which is based in Bartow, is in need of seven new judges. Once the Legislature approves the positions, certainly most of the judges --- and their secretaries, clerks, and related employees --- would be assigned to the Bartow courthouse...and there's no more room now to work with.

There had been some discussion of moving some employees to the old Scotty's home improvement store a few blocks away, but the county could not put a cohesive plan together as to who would make the move, and the owner had other offers pending and could not wait any longer. Frankly, there's not a great deal of office space available in Bartow; at least the amount that will be needed now.

Time's a-waistin'.


Anyone who has driven or ridden on Interstate 4 knows that it can be a quick way from Tampa to Orlando and Daytona Beach...if you're on it at the right time. It can also be a living hell during rush hour, even in Polk County, and especially now that the Florida Department Of Transportation is widening the interstate to six lanes.

The Lakeland Ledger featured the I-4 situation in today's edition with three stories: An overview of the current situation, a feature of how some commuters see their daily drive, and a look at what's ahead.

Personally, I feel they should have widened I-4 to eight lanes instead of six. This is a common error...poor planing. By the time the current project is completed, it will have actually done little to allieviate the nearly constant bottlenecks, and FDOT will decide that it's time to start again.

Some thought that construction of the Polk Parkway toll road would have helped, but so far that seems only minimal. While toll roads are commonplace around Tampa and Orlando, locals here are still getting used to the idea. That'll take some time, and the new University of South Florida Lakeland Campus site will help toward that (but that's a few years away; the Polk Parkway runs across the eastern edge of the property on the map).

Here's the FDOT page for Polk County construction projects.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


Thanks to the Lakeland Ledger's weblog Polk News Watch for the turnon.

While Polk County didn't get the amount of damage from last year's hurricanes that Charlotte or Lee counties did, we certainly got our share. There are still a number of homes with FEMA-issued blue tarps over roofs, nine months after the fact.

It's great that people have not forgotten and are still willing to help those who have not yet fully recovered. A group of young people from Connecticut will arrive next weekend and will be staying at the Lions' Club camp for blind and disabled children near Lake Wales.

The group of approximately 100 high school students represents the non-demoninational Pilgrim Fellowship, a youth-based mission group formed under the auspicies of the First Congregational Church of Greenwich. They do something like this each year; in 2004 they helped a low income community damaged by wildfires.

According to the Shore Publishing newspapers:

"(Pilgrim Fellowship adult committee chairperson Rebecca) Bunting said (Guliford, CT teacher and PF director Michael) Dalton's goal for those going on the Polk County PF mission is to help 50 homeowners move back to their homes. Dalton, who has already visited the Florida community, has been coordinating with a FEMA director who knows the need in the area. At this point, no more FEMA money is available to assist the residents. Bunting also recently traveled to the southern community, where she said she saw "...mountains of refuse piled on the side of the roads."

"This is a suburban, low- income community, where the average income is $10,000 or $12,000 a year. Some are Haitian immigrants, and they don't have any other place to live," she said.

In addition to helping the Florida residents, Dalton said, he hopes the youth members of PF will come away from the mission feeling empowered.

"Empowerment--the idea that they can make a real, tangible difference, if they put their energy into their cause. Second, and no less important, is the idea that all people are significant and all people deserve respect and dignity, even if they are below the poverty line.

"These are values that permeate all systems of spirituality. This is a mentality that, unfortunately, has been largely forgotten in the present climate," said Dalton. Besides helping to clean up debris to allow for rebuilding, the PF youths are trying to raise money to make a substantial gift of much-needed financial support to the Florida community."

Dalton added, he hopes PF youths will give the Polk County residents " in the goodness of ordinary people. There is so much negativity in our pop culture...there is also a perception that all young people care about is (whether) their cell phone works and that they have the latest Xbox game. Young people can be materialistic, but so too are adults.

Given the opportunity, they rise to the occasion. I see it all the time. They really want social justice."

There's a lot of people in Polk that will sincerely appreciate this effort. God bless 'em.


I was watching some of the coverage this morning that the various news channels were giving to the wedding of HRH Prince Charles and Camille Parker Bowles, the climax (we won't go there!) of their three decades-long affair. Mrs. Parker Bowles, the new Princess of Wales (although she'll not be officially known that way so as to distance her from the late Princess Diana; she'll be known officially as the Duchess of Cornwall), is still looked upon dubiously by many in the UK's population. And the tabloids had some fun.

The Daily Star had this headline on front page:
AND THEY'RE OFF: Old nags race to finish...oh and it's the National too!
(NOTE: The National is England's biggest horse race, held in the same esteem there as race fans on this side of the 'big pond' view any of the Triple Crown races...especially the Kentucky Derby)

The Daily Mirror reads:
The advise was reportedly given by former royal butler Paul Burrell...the butler who I believe was accused of stealing personal items from Diana, which he said were given to him.

Of course, Queen Elizabeth II did not go to the civil ceremony because as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, she could not be seen in such an awkward position.

It was originally planned for Windsor Castle, but under British law if it had taken place there, any citizen could have requested to be married there...and it could not be prohibited, even by the monarch! The wedding also had to be moved a day so that Charles and other government and church officials could attend the funeral Mass of Pope John Paul II in Vatican City.

Well, against all odds...