Monday, January 31, 2005


With several state legislators eyeing possible statewide races in 2006, potential candidates are looking at making a run for those seats.

In Polk County, State Representative Dennis Ross (R - Lakeland) has announced that he is planning to run for Chief Financial Officer next year. That has Lakeland City Commissioner Seth McKeel giving serious thought to what would be a vacant seat for District 63. McKeel is in his fifth year on the City Commission, and his family name would give potential opponents second thoughts at a challenge. He is the grandson of the late Seth G. McKeel, a businessman who served on the Polk County School Board for many years and for whom McKeel Academy is named.

St. Petersburg Times political editor Adam C. Smith had a good look Sunday at some of the legislative and congressional races that could be interesting across the Tampa Bay region.


There's actually a race for governor now: State Senator Rod Smith (D - Gainsville) has told the Palm Beach Post that he would file papers today to run and would send a letter to the state Democratic Party this week. This is according to Adam C. Smith in today's St. Petersburg Times (the Post Web site did not have a link to the story as of 6:00 AM this morning)

Smith apparantly feels that his more moderate views on many issues would win back rural Floridians, mostly in North Florida, who have turned to Republican candidates in recent elections. He is in favour of the death penalty, pro-gun, and is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

His early entry will give the Alachua County legislator time to build name recognition across the state. At present the only other Democrat in the race is Lawton "Bud" Chiles, III, an unknown entity as he has not run for public office before. Also considering a possible run next year are Florida Democratic Party chairman and former Tallahassee mayor Scott Mattox, former Education Commissioner/USF President/Senate candidate Betty Castor, and Congressman Jim Davis (D - Tampa).

Among the Repubs being touted as possible candidates: Attorney General Charlie Crist, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, and Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings.

Sunday, January 30, 2005


Thanks to Mustang Bobby of the Miami-based blog Bark Bark Woof Woof for turning me on to this well writen piece from today's Washington Post (registration required). I am including some of the text here FYI:

When President Bush stands before Congress on Wednesday night to deliver his State of the Union address, it is a safe bet that he will not announce that one of his goals is the long-term enfeeblement of the Democratic Party.

But a recurring theme of many items on Bush's second-term domestic agenda is that if enacted, they would weaken political and financial pillars that have propped up Democrats for years, political strategists from both parties say.

Legislation putting caps on civil damage awards, for instance, would choke income to trial lawyers, among the most generous contributors to the Democratic Party.

GOP strategists, likewise, hope that the proposed changes to Social Security can transform a program that has long been identified with the Democrats, creating a generation of new investors who see their interests allied with the Republicans.

Less visible policies also have sharp political overtones. The administration's transformation of civil service rules at federal agencies, for instance, would limit the power and membership of public employee unions -- an important Democratic financial artery.

If the Bush agenda is enacted, "there will be a continued growth in the percentage of Americans who consider themselves Republican, both in terms of self-identified party ID and in terms of their [economic] interests," said Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and an operative who speaks regularly with White House senior adviser Karl Rove.

Many Democrats and independent analysts see a methodical strategy at work. They believe the White House has expressly tailored its domestic agenda to maximize hazards for Democrats and tilt the political playing field in the GOP's favor long after this president is out of the White House.
What is notable about the Bush White House, some analysts believe, is the extent to which its agenda is crafted with an eye toward the long-term partisan implications.

"I've been assuming all along that creating the basis for a durable Republican majority was one of the major purposes of the administration's policy agenda," said Gary Jacobson, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego. "Indeed, I don't think these guys do anything without weighing the potential partisan consequences and are particularly attracted to policies that might increase the Republican coalition."

John D. Podesta, White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton and now head of the liberal Center for American Progress, said, "I think that most of their domestic agenda is driven and run by a political strategy as much as core fundamentals and belief."

His top example is the curbs on lawsuits. "Why would you make this the cause célèbre?" he asked. "The notion that this is a key element of their economic program is laughable. It's important to them in both directions both in organizing core elements of their business and doctor communities, and at least undermining a financial base of the Democratic Party."

Republicans note that limiting the growth of lawsuits and damage awards, as well as proposed investment accounts in Social Security, are ideas Bush and other conservatives have championed for years. The Bush agenda lies "at the wonderful intersection where good policy is good politics for Republicans and conservatives," said Stephen Moore, president of the Free Enterprise Fund, which is lobbying for the Social Security changes.

But, one rung away from the White House, many Bush allies make no effort to disguise their glee at the payoffs these ideas could bring to interest groups allied with the GOP, and the heartburn they would cause interest groups allied with the Democrats.

In an interview last week, for instance, Norquist unabashedly dissected the political overtones of legislation to limit lawsuits.

"This will defund significantly some of the trial lawyer community, and it rewards the business community, the Fortune 500 guys who have been increasingly supportive of the broad center-right coalition," he said.

Of specific provisions protecting gun manufacturers from class-action lawsuits, Norquist added, "This will strengthen the Second Amendment community, especially the NRA." He was referring to the National Rifle Association, a core GOP constituency.

The Bush administration has also challenged predominantly Democratic organized labor, especially public employee unions, on a host of fronts. The most recent was a major revision of civil service rules at the Department of Homeland Security that the administration would like to expand to the entire government over the next few years. The National Labor Relations Board has helped make it harder for unions to represent temporary workers, among several rule changes pushed by GOP appointees.
"Most people who are investors tend to vote Republican," said Mehlman, manager of Bush's reelection campaign. "This creates conditions under which voters are more likely to support politicians who are pro-growth, pro-ownership, pro-free market."

The expansive nature of the Bush agenda, said George C. Edwards III, a prominent presidential scholar at Texas A&M University, reflects how "this is a very strategic administration," which tries to use policies to advance its long-term party-building goals. "I think Karl Rove views this as his great legacy."
The finance and investment banking community, which stands to benefit from the creation of private savings accounts financed through Social Security, provided overwhelming support to the Bush-Cheney campaign. The top 10 employers of Bush donors all are part of this sector, including Morgan Stanley, $604,480; Merrill Lynch, $580,004; and UBS Americas, $459,075.

"The dividend tax cut, expanding IRAs and private Social Security accounts are all examples of President Bush and Karl Rove understanding that the more people we can lure into the 'investor class' with private pools of private capital, the better it is for Republicans and Republican issues," Moore said.


Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell has a humorous look at U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez being so close to each other in more ways than on the Senate floor. Martinez has recently leased office space in an Orlando building next to where Nelson's is. And Nelson recently purchased a home in Baldwin Park, where Martinez already lives.


If you've driven along Interstate 4 in Polk County for the past several months (although it seems much longer), it has been an interesting experience due to the ongoing construction. When everything is completed by late this year (maybe = sarcasm mine), the interstate will be six lanes from the Memorial Boulevard exit in west Lakeland to the Osceola County line.

But it will take a little longer than expected, yet another victim of our 2004 hurricane season. According to the Lakeland Ledger, contractors working on the project report being approximately a month behind schedule and have requested additional time and up to $1.5 million to make up the losses.

Now if they can only get the U.S. 98 project straightened out...driving along that road near and north of I-4 during afternoon rush makes a drive along Tampa's Dale Mabry Highway before a Bucs game seem like a leisurely ride.


Following the lead of 11 states whose voters approved constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriages, Florida may be next on the list if the Southern Baptists and other conservative groups have their way.

At a meeting Friday near Orlando, the Florida Baptist Convention's State Board of Missions approved a strategy to bring an amendment to the voters next year. It would be part of an effort that includes several other groups such as Florida's chapter of Focus on the Family, Liberty Counsel, the Christian Coalition, and possibly even the Catholic Church

The campaign will be officially launched February 14 with a news conference in Orlando. Gay couples across the state are expected to attempt obtaining marriage licences the same day, according to Jim Narbone, a spokesman for the group Equality Polk County which has been holding weekly protests across from Lakeland's First Baptist Church at the Mall. The church's pastor, Dr. Jay Dennis, introduced a resolution which was approved at the annual meeting of the Florida Baptist Convention calling for an amendment in Florida to legally define marriages in Florida as being between one man and one woman.

I liked what Equality Polk County spokesperson Jim Narbone told the Lakeland Ledger:

"My first reaction is to get angry, but it saddens me that these people, who are supposed to believe in a loving God, are so willing to exclude God's creatures. Baptists, for all their efforts, can only stop marriage in the eyes of the state, not in the eyes of God."


Thousands of Floridians who wanted to vote absentee in last November's election were not able to do so, and the reasons were numerous. The Palm Beach Post has looked at what happened there, where over 3,500 ballots were returned or rejected.

In nearly two-thirds of the cases, ballots were returned as undeliverable. Absentee ballots cannot legally be forwarded, so if the voter has moved...tough luck. House numbers transposed, street name correct but wrong city, those happened as well. Over 1,000 arrived back too late to be counted, some via Express Mail at $13.65 each, and another 500+ had signature issues...mostly because the voter simply forgot to sign it!

But some voters insisted the Supervisor of Elections office was to blame for problems.

Saturday, January 29, 2005


President Bush has his State of the Union address Wednesday, where he is expected to push his Social Security privitazation scam before the American people, then he goes on the road to spread the bulls**t across the country. Among his stops is Tampa before a hand-picked audience, according to this story in today's St. Petersburg Times. What did you think, that he would actually face the constituency, many of who have serious questions about this ill-advised plan?

Needless to say, the time and location for the event are not being released. While security will likely be touted as the reason, one has to believe that the POTUS doesn't want to be upstaged by the band of protesters who will undoubtedly show up to provide some reality to this attempt at administrative "three card monte".

Congressman Jim Davis (D - Tampa) says he is glad the President is coming to the area, but has doubts that there will be any open and honest debate considering it will not be a public event. He's got a point, because the POTUS does not want any real discussion regarding the issue of allowing younger workers to risk their futures in the stock market. After all, the mutual funds industry was a big supporter of Bush's reelection and therefore stands to profit most from this idea through the fees they would charge.

If you want to read something enlightening about the issue, check out this article from Rolling Stone magazine (And, if you bought the print copy like I did, Gwen Stefani's cover shot ain't bad to look at, either...). Princeton economics professor Paul Krugman discusses the "phony crisis" and provides a dose of reality to the discussion.


Having moved to Lakeland nearly three years ago, I had almost forgotten that this is the opening day of the Florida Citrus Festival and Polk County Fair in Winter Haven.

Of course, the Orange Dome will have the usual exhibits of citrus related merchandise and history, and the FFA and 4-H groups will be competing for ribbons. But most folks come to enjoy the carnival rides, musical shows (mostly country but one night for the young folks), and food.

In recent years, the organizers have cut back on the musical talent from B- or C- list national performers to simply local talent. But after an accident on one of the rides last year, they changed the company that was in charge of the carnival shows, and that also means some new rides for visitors to enjoy.

The only real problem with the Festival is that it is crowded into a relatively small area. Organizers tried to move it for a couple of years to an area near Auburndale, but the idea crashed and burned as attendance dropped.significantly. It improved once they moved back to the Chain of Lakes facility in Winter Haven.

But they may be moving again soon, as the City of Winter Haven wants to eventually sell the property which also includes Chain of Lakes Stadium to a developer who would likely turn the area into condos.

The Lakeland Ledger does a Lettermanesque Top 10 list of things to do at the festival.


Kent Buescher should be a happy man now. The owner of Cypress Gardens Adventure Park can smile as attendance is above expectations, and most reviews have been quite favourable for an attraction that is still working out some hiccups.

But bringing in some traditionally popular talent such as Kenny Rogers, George Jones (tomorrow), Pat Boone, and Les Brown's Band of Renown does cause a problem: On concert days, traffic is a major problem as visitors have to exit onto two lane Helena Road to enter the parking area, causing a snarl that backs up to Cypress Gardens Boulevard. It's not only a discomfort issue for guests, but also a potential public safety problem if emergency vehicles need to get to the park.

As he pledged when purchasing the park, Buescher is paying for a study to determine what needs to be done to improve the situation. He's also working to make parking easier for visitors by expanding the on-site overflow parking and making a deal which allows guests to park two miles away at the State Farm Insurance regional office and taking a shuttle to Cypress Gardens.

It's a good problem to have, at least...

Friday, January 28, 2005


Polk County is a dangerous place to be if your're a suspected criminal this week. Thursday a Polk County Sheriff's Office deputy shot a Haines City man who had apparantly been suffering from depression and locked himself in his room with a gun after an argument with his girlfriend. The man had pointed the gun, which turned out to be unloaded, at the deputy. He was wounded on the wrist and shoulder with one shot and after being checked out at the hospital, was taken to the Peace River Center for evaluation and then to the Polk County Jail.

This occured after two officer-involved shootings in Lakeland Tuesday, and is the fourth this year. BTW: It turned out that in one of the Lakeland shootings, officers shot the suspected bank robber in the back as he was trying to escape.


Of the Florida blogs that I read regularly, I have always enjoyed the Miami-based Bark Bark Woof Woof. "Mustang Bobby", as he is known, is one of the best writers in the blogosphere. His posts are usually well thought out and interesting to read.

Today he has outdone himself with a post which he says he has to do occasionally. You see, "Mustang Bobby" just happens to be gay, and the new Secretary of Education's objection to an episode of the PBS children's series Postcards From Buster which includes two lesbian couples has his dander up. The Department of Education, which helps fund PBS, wants any of it's money back which may have been used to produce the episode.

C'mon, SecEd Spellings! As Bobby puts it so eloquently:

The first goal of education is to teach children that not everyone in the world is exactly like them or some Donna Reed / Ozzie and Harriet vision of what you think life is like, and the sooner children learn to accept that fact, the better off they will be. If they see Buster the Bunny visiting a lesbian couple's house on television, they may feel comfortable when they visit the home of one of their classmates who has two mommies - or two dads.

Check out the entire post, as it is one of the best written pieces in quite some time. And very true, as well. Thanks, Bobby, for the reminder.

Thursday, January 27, 2005


I've always admired Ted Turner. He's never been afraid to say or do what he wants to do, when he wants to do it, and not give a rat's behind what people think. Ted's taken immense chances in building his business empire; winning greatly at times and losing just as greatly others. I believe his worst mistake was selling Turner Communications Group to Time Warner, a decision I'm sure he regrets to this day. But the Atlanta Braves won the World Series on his watch, so to me that certainly counts for something!

The "Mouth of the South" spoke to the National Association of Television Programe Executives Wednesday during their annual Las Vegas convention, and he certainly didn't hold back. Ted let loose on Fox News, comparing their ratings boost to Hitler's rise in popularity during the 1930s and calling the network a propaganda voice for the Bush Administration.

Ted's been out of the picture too long.


From this morning's St. Petersburg Times:

U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris, Florida's most famous member of Congress and a potential candidate for Senate, received early Christmas presents late last year from some controversial benefactors.
While raising money in New York on Dec. 12, she received 10 $2,000 checks from people related to or connected to a New York rabbi and campaign fundraiser dubbed "the Brooklyn Bundler" who was indicted on charges of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal money intended for disabled children.

The donors came mostly from Brooklyn, N.Y., but also from executives of an Iowa slaughterhouse that was at the time facing allegations of inhumane treatment of animals...
Most of the Brooklyn and Iowa donors to Harris did not return phone calls, though Boruch Greenberg of Brooklyn said he viewed Harris as a strong supporter of Israel and an emerging Republican leader. He declined to say who encouraged him to contribute $4,000.

"She has further political ambitions I believe, so I think it will pay off," Greenberg said of Harris, who sits on the House Committee on International Relations.
A fundraising letter sent last week invited people to contribute and receive a card designating them members of her "2005 campaign team."

"Your strong continued support will help me get ready for my next political challenges," the letter says, without indicating her plans. "Not much is guaranteed in politics but you can bet that I will continue to be a target of the liberals!"

No comment needed here...


It has been an interesting week in dear 'ol Lakeland, as there have been two officer involved shootings in less than 24 hours, one with the Lakeland Police Department and one with the Polk County Sheriff's Office.

Monday night, PCSO emergency response team members shot a man suspected of robbing several financial institutions along the I-4 corridor in recent weeks. Sheriff Grady Judd's chief of staff is saying the shooting was justified, but the State Attorney's office has the final call on that.

Then Tuesday, an LPD officer wounded a man who had been pulled over for a traffic violation when the officer felt his life was threatened as the driver supposedly lunged the car toward him. While not saying much as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates details, officials are saying the shooting appears justified.

This case is interesting. The driver has a lengthy criminal record and is listed as a habitual traffic offender who was carrying a suspended license at the time. But the officer is not without controversy, having been involved in another shooting three years ago as well as two other internal investigations and crashed a patrol car driving 90 in a 30 MPH zone on South Florida Avenue...when he was not responding to an emergency; he was just "puttin' the petal to the metal".

What is our quiet town comin' to???

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Just spend $17,000 on a full page ad in the Florida Times-Union asking for forgivness.

Seems as though one Orlando man is desperate enough to do just that after his spouse left him after several other methods failed. Either he's wanting to avoid alimony, or he's just nuts.

Thanks to Mark Lane's FlaBlog for the heads up...

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Those were the words of Ed Leon after it was learned that he had resigned as finance director of the Polk County Opportunity Council to accept a similar position with another, unnamed Community Action Agency in North Florida.

He is the third senior PCOC administrative official who has jumped off the sinking ship in recent weeks. Former finance department employee Carolyn Deckworth resigned at the end of December, and Anne Joyce, childhood education manager for PCOC's Head Start programme, left the agency last week.

While Ms. Joyce declined to give the reasons for her resignation, Mr. Leon was quoted in the Lakeland Ledger as saying his department was not to blame for several no-bid contracts awarded over the past two years in violation not only of PCOC's own bylaws, but federal rules. And he said that it was a problem getting employees to do required paperwork per regulations.

But PCOC did have some good news recently. A federal judge in Tampa dismissed a discrimination suit brought against the agency and former Executive Director Lottie Tucker by Leon's predacessor, Brian Jeronimus, who claimed he was sacked because he is a white man.

U.S. District Judge Richard Lazzard wrote that Jeronimus did not present any evidence to support his claim of discrimination, also noting that Mr. Leon is also a white man. Jeronimus has since appealed the decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Monday, January 24, 2005


The Palm Beach Post reports that New York Senator for former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was in South Florida, but not only for the Trump wedding. She spoke at a gathering of Brandeis University alumni and the public, where she made note that today's leaders do not have a vision, and that our economy may be on the brink of collapse.


Orlando Sentinel: Party members have started strategizing to gain ground in the statewide races of 2006


It really seems that the Polk County legislative delegation can't support each other on several items.

As I mentioned below, State Representative Dennis Ross (R - Lakeland) had considered a run for House Speaker, but could not get commitments of support from fellow Polk members Marty Bowen (R - Haines City), Baxter Troutman (R - Winter Haven), and John Stargel (R - Lakeland) early enough to make a serious campaign.

The same thing is happening in the Senate. Paula Dockery (R - Lakeland) had ambitions of running for Senate President in 2008, but it seems as though she may have been cut off at the knees by fellow Polk senator J.D. Alexander (R - Lake Wales). Alexander, who was apparantly one of Dockery's earliest suppporters, has thrown his backing behind Senator Alex Villalobos (R - Miami) but says he'll support Dockery in 2010.


It's no longer speculation: State Representative Dennis Ross (R - Lakeland) will soon file to run for the post of Florida's Chief Financial Officer in 2006.

Ross apparantly didn't plan to announce quite this early, but a couple of other hopefuls have made their interests known: State Representative Randy Johnson (R - Celebration) and State Senator Charlie Clary (R - Destin) are also expected to be candidates.

According to the Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty, Ross had considered a run for House Speaker, but could not even get committments from his fellow Polk County delegation members for their support in time.


I was wondering what happened to Blogwood, since young Mr. Norwood had not posted in several days...unusual. But we learn this morning that he was in Washington, DC for the "uninagurual" activities, and he seems to have enjoyed heckling Republicans immensely. Needless to say, several of the POTUS' supporters weren't happy about these "radicals" being there messing up their fun.

That's one of the great things about America: That we have the liberty to protest injustice and say what we want about policies that we feel go against the best of our nation's traditions. So Repubs: GET OVER IT! Better yet, realize the damage that Dubya's/Cheney's policies are doing to our reputation and goodwill worldwide as well as here at home.

Sunday, January 23, 2005


One of the great entertainers of television has passed away. Johnny Carson, who entertained late night audiences with Midwest charm, wonderful humour, and celebrity banter for three decades, died this morning at his home in Malibu, California at the age of 79.

Late night television was never the same after he retired from his "Tonight Show" desk, although there have been several talented individuals who have tried to catch the magic. But then, television has changed.

Carson's wonderful character skits, self-deprecating humour, and ability to put guests at ease made him a unique person among television personalities. But he also had a talented, loyal team of writers and production staff behind him, many of whom stayed with Johnny for over 20 years and knew just what worked...and what didn't.

And he wasn't only know for his on-camera savvy. He formed Carson Productions, which purchased the "Tonight Show" from NBC as well as did other shows, most notably "TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes". And, of course, there were his four marriages.

RIP, Johnny.


"The national government will maintain and defend the foundations on which the power of our nation rests. It will offer strong protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective morality. Today Christians stand at the head of our country. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit. We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theatre, and in the press -- in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past years."--

Adolf Hitler; from The Speeches of Adolph Hitler,1922-1939, Vol. 1, Michael Hakeem, Ph.D. (London,Oxford University Press, 1942), pp. 871-872.


It's been no secret that relations between the City of Winter Haven and the Cleveland Indians baseball club have been on the rocks for some time. The Indians are not happy with the Chain of Lakes facility, preferring a brand new, state-of-the-art complex built for them at public expense. The city would like to sell the 62 acres of prime lakefront property, which also includes the Orange Dome and is home to the annual Florida Citrus Festival, to a developer for the tax revenues. Many of the city's residents don't give a rat's behind about the Major League Baseball team, and would like Winter Haven to be rid of the half-million dollar plus deficit that the stadium's operation and maintainence puts on the budget.

It looks like everyone will be happy after this spring training season.

The Indians and Winter Haven officials had discussed the possibility of building a new complex in the northern edge of the city with costs shared by the team, city, county, and state. The state funds would kick in only if the lease is for a minimum of ten years, something the Indians had refused to do at Chain of Lakes. But the team has written City Manager David Greene saying they will not participate in any further such talks.

The Indians had come to Winter Haven as a last resort in the first place, needing a facility after the then-new complex in Homestead was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew. The city was happy to have a tenant for Chain of Lakes, since it had sat empty for a year or two after the Boston Red Sox left after more than 20 years for a new facility in Fort Myers. But as teams found competition among cities in Florida and Arizona willing to build new parks to the teams' specifications and demands, the Indians soon became unhappy with their situation.

The loss of Cleveland's baseball team would leave Polk County hosting only one MLB club, the Detroit Tigers in Lakeland. The Tigers and Lakeland have had a long and prosperous history together (nearly 70 years!), and Joker Marchant Stadium was renovated two years ago.


For those who are not aware, there was a controversy last week in Tarpon Springs over Wal-Mart's wanting to build one of it's Supercenters there. So much so that over 400 people attended a City Commission meeting and speak for or against the idea, which eventually passed 3-2 at 6:45 Wednesday morning!

But as the St. Petersburg Times' Howard Troxler writes this morning, there is a lesson for all of us to be learned...while it was too late for the opponents in Tarpon Springs to do anything, it isn't always too late if people act early enough.


The issue of changing the Social Security programme to allow younger workers to take a part of their money which would otherwise go into the Social Security Trust Fund and place into "individual investment accounts" has some Democrats in Congress sounding like Bush lapdogs and some Republicans deciding they cannot support the President on this issue.

One really surprising item comes from Joshua Micah Marshall's Talking Points Memo: Katherine Harris (R - Longboat Key) has apparantly joined the "Conscience Caucus", an ever-growing group of Republicans who are choosing not to back Bush's proposal.

I thought we knew ye, Kathy. I'm sure that saddens her distant relative and fellow Republican back-bencher Adam Putnam (R - Bartow) who, like the Bush lapdog he is, will jump as ordered by his masters at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and vote appropiately...even though his district is 16th among those with the largest number of Social Security beneficiaries nationwide.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


The Florida Republican that Democrats from Pensacola to Jacksonville to Key West love to despise --- 13th District Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R - Longboat Key) --- told WTSP-TV 10's Dave Wirth recently that she "really not interested in the governor's race."

She wiggled out of a question about running for Senator Bill Nelson's seat next year, and said that she doesn't think about possibly being given an ambassadorship now that Dubya is in his second term.

Harris --- whose actions as Secretary of State during the 2000 presidential election controversy probably made George W. Bush President --- has been mentioned as a possible candidate against Nelson. She reportedly considered seriously running for the Senate last year, but was advised not to in favour of Mel Martinez , who eventually won.

There are a lot of people who will never forget what happened in 2000...or her part in it.


Thanks to the Miami Herald Infomaniac blog for the heads up:

The U.K.'s Financial Times Senior Writer Norma Cohen noted in the recent American Prospect that Britian has tried privitization of their equivilant of Social Security, with none-too-good results:

"A conservative government sweeps to power for a second term. It views its victory as a mandate to slash the role of the state. In its first term, this policy objective was met by cutting taxes for the wealthy. Its top priority for its second term is tackling what it views as an enduring vestige of socialism: its system of social insurance for the elderly. Declaring the current program unaffordable in 50 years’ time, the administration proposes the privatization of a portion of old-age benefits. In exchange for giving up some future benefits, workers would get a tax rebate to put into an investment account to save for their own retirement.

"George W. Bush’s America in 2005? Think again. The year was 1984, the nation was Britain, the government was that of Margaret Thatcher -- and the results have been a disaster that America is about to emulate."

" ...the government was spending much more than it was saving by bribing people to leave SERPS (State Earnings-Related Pension Scheme). What had once been a £1.6-billion surplus in the National Insurance Fund vanished completely. Worst of all, many workers left good occupational plans and faced being worse off, not better off, in retirement by depending on the privatized schemes."

Now, check this out...

"And so, at the exact moment that America contemplates replicating this disaster, many in Britain -- some conservatives included -- are looking more and more kindly on American Social Security as a model for reform. The National Association of Pension Funds, a group of employers who sponsor the nation's largest schemes, is urging government not to expect the private sector to shoulder the burden of keeping the nation's elderly from poverty. Chief executive Christine Farnish notes that it's "actually cheaper for the state to carry the risk," adding that in looking for a system that offers the best combination of modest guaranteed retirement benefits delivered at low cost, the U.S. Social Security program seems the best model. "It doesn't have to make a profit, and it delivers efficiencies of scale that most companies would die for," she says."

We cannot say we have not been forewarned...


Had the opportunity to attend the Polk County Democratic Women's Club New Officer's Installation/Brunch today in Lakeland. The guest speaker was former Education Commissioner/USF President/Gubernatorial Candidate Betty Castor. Mrs. Castor has since founded and is President of a new Political Action Committee, Campaign For Florida's Future, and is hearing from people asking her to run for Governor next year. When I spoke with her about it today, she simply said that she had received feedback from supporters about it.

The new PAC will deal with several issues, but during her brief remarks today at the Cleveland Heights Golf & Country Club she focused primarily on it's plan to promote fair elections and reapportionment. Very soon a petition drive will begin calling for adding to the state constitution:

--- An independent, bi-partisan commission to draw district boundries for the U.S. Congress and State Legislature.

--- Creating standards governing reapportionment, including consideration of geographic boundries and protection of existing communities. In short, no more long, winding districts from Jacksonville to Orlando and the elimination of one county (Marion) being part of FIVE congressional districts.

--- Making such reapportionment effective with the 2008 election.

Ms. Castor was looking good today...but it looks like we won't know for some time what her intentions are for 2006. If she were to announce, it would I believe preempt several other lesser known individuals from thinking about it. Ms. Castor has the obvious name recognition, as well as much of the support from her most recent campaign that would be ready in a much shorter period of time if called upon. She'll be putting much of that to good use with this new PAC.


Today marks the third wedding of developer/reality TV star Donald Trump and longtime girlfriend Melania Knauss in Palm Beach County. For a man who usually gets whatever he wants, whenever he wants it, I'm certain that he was disappointed Friday when, at a hastily called special meeting of the Palm Beach Town Council, he was turned down unanimously for his request for a fireworks permit which would have allowed a nine minute show.

Seems like Palm Beach has not allowed fireworks shows to be done from land in over 20 years, only from barges on the Intercoastal Waterway or Atlantic Ocean, so they felt permission to Trump would be a bad precedent. From the sound of the Palm Beach Post, some of the council members were not happy about calling a special meeting to determine the question, as the application was not submitted until Tuesday.

Apparently, someone in The Trump Organization dropped the ball. Someone may just yet hear those words from Donald..."You're Fired!" for real!


It doesn't quite rank as terrorism, but it caused quite a problem to the Polk County court system for several days.

According to this story in today's Lakeland Ledger, apparantly someone got into the room which houses the courthouse's computer hardware approximately January 11 and stole a vital piece of equipment, resulting in courthouse employees unable to send e-mail or use the Internet. It also prevented the video connection between the courthouse and nearby Polk County Jail, resulting in judges conducting first appearance hearings at the jail.

When the replacement equipment arrived, it was learned that the culprit(s) apparantly changed things up which resulted in some fried circuits, destroying the replacement equipment and damaged the courthouse's backbone of communication.

It's reportedly all fixed now, but the Bartow Police Department and Florida Department of Law Enforcement are on the case. And, needless to say, security precautions are being tightened further to prevent a repeat performance.

Friday, January 21, 2005


We were wondering when it would happen: Colin Powell's kid, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell, announced that he would step aside in March.

His legacy will be one of the worst in the history of the agency. Allowing media conglomerates such as Clear Channel and Viacom to continue their Wal-Martting of the broadcast industry unabated while trying to return TV and radio to the censorship practices of half a century ago will not be a legacy to be proud of.

What scares me now is who will Bush select to chair the FCC now.


According to Thursday's Lakeland Ledger, a grand jury in Bartow is looking into possible forgery committed during petition drives by a committee seeking to make changes to the status of constitutional officers in Polk County.

A group known as the Home Rule Charter Committee headed the drive which wants to put three ballot measures on the 2006 ballot: To reduce the salaries of constitutional officers in half, set term limits for those officeholders, and place them under direct control of the Board of County Commissioners...making them, in effect, department heads.

Investigators from the State Attorney's office took several boxes of petition cards from Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards' office. Her staff had found at least 450 signatures that didn't match those on file for the registered voter.

Another group, the Polk Committee for Effective Government, had filed suit to block verification of the signatures by the SOE, but the Ledger reports today that the investigation has put that court action on ice for now.

The organizer of the petition drive is blaming any discrepancies/forgeries on a contractor he hired to gather petition signatures.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


For me, it's just another workday. That just means that I won't be watching when Dubya is coronated for another four years.

I've noticed that Florida News has blacked out his page for the day, with only a small message of condolence asking everyone to reflect on our nation's loss...but that tomorrow it's back to work fighting for change.

If you haven't done so, please read the post immediately below this. This "Statement of Conscience" is a wonderful piece of work, and should be read at every "uninagurual"/protest event today.

There is a small group of people from thoughout Polk County that will hold a "Billionaired For Bush" parody this afternoon in front of the Federal Building in downtown Lakeland, many dressed in appropriate attire.

And the I-4 Corridor Association will hold it's monthly meeting this evening at 7:30 in the fellowship hall of the First Baptist Institutional Church, 932 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue at Memorial Boulevard in Lakeland. The I-4 Corridor Association is an informal group of Democratic/Progressive activists from throughout the Central Florida area that has been meeting monthly for nearly two years to help elect like-minded candidates to public office and assist each other across county or other political boundries toward that goal. We have members from a number of counties throughout the region, and are seeking to expand into the Orlando/Daytona Beach area. For example, several of our members went over and helped Buddy Dyer's successful campaign for Mayor of Orlando, mainly walking precincts.

From a group of less than ten when the I-4 band started, we have grown to an average of 40-50 attendees each meeting. We actually had to move our meeting location when the hotel meeting room we had been using became too small for our group. One of our members is a Democratic activist (now the state committeeman from Polk County), as well as a respected pastor in the local African-American community, and he kindly offered his church as a place we can meet.


I came across this statement a few days ago, and although I did not write it, I wish I had. This group, called the "Not In Our Name Project", intends to puncture the celebration of war, greed, and intolerance that will forever be the legacy of George W. Bush's presidency. You can place your name to this "Statement of Conscience" at their Website.

As George W. Bush is inaugurated for a second term, let it not be said that people in the United States silently acquiesced in the face of this shameful coronation of war, greed, and intolerance. He does not speak for us. He does not represent us. He does not act in our name.

No election, whether fair or fraudulent, can legitimize criminal wars on foreign countries, torture, the wholesale violation of human rights, and the end of science and reason.

In our name, the Bush government justifies the invasion and occupation of Iraq on false pretenses, raining down destruction, horror, and misery, bringing death to more than 100,000 Iraqis. It sends our youth to destroy entire cities for the sake of so-called democratic elections, while intimidating and disenfranchising thousands of African-American and other voters at home.

In our name, the Bush government holds in contempt international law and world opinion. It carries out torture and detentions without trial around the world and proposes new assaults on our rights of privacy, speech and assembly at home. It strips the rights of Arabs, Muslims and South Asians in the U.S., denies them legal counsel, stigmatizes and holds them without cause. Thousands have been deported.

As new trial balloons are floated about invasions of Syria, or Iran, or North Korea, about leaving the United Nations, about new “lifetime detention” policies, we say not in our name will we allow further crimes to be committed against nations or individuals deemed to stand in the way of the goal of unquestioned world supremacy.

Could we have imagined a few years ago that core principles such as the separation of church and state, due process, presumption of innocence, freedom of speech, and habeas corpus would be discarded so easily? Now, anyone can be declared an “enemy combatant” without meaningful redress or independent review by a President who is concentrating power in the executive branch. His choice for Attorney General is the legal architect of the torture that has been carried out in Guantánamo, Afghanistan, and Abu Ghraib.

The original Not In Our Name Statement of Conscience initiated in 2002 was signed by over 66,000 people and was published in most major U.S. newspapers.

The Bush government seeks to impose a narrow, intolerant, and political form of Christian fundamentalism as government policy. No longer on the margins of power, this extremist movement aims to strip women of their reproductive rights, to stoke hatred of gays and lesbians, and to drive a wedge between spiritual experience and scientific truth. We will not surrender to extremists our right to think. AIDS is not a punishment from God. Global warming is a real danger. Evolution happened. All people must be free to find meaning and sustenance in whatever form of religious or spiritual belief they choose.

But religion can never be compulsory. These extremists may claim to make their own reality, but we will not allow them to make ours.

Millions of us worked, talked, marched, poll watched, contributed, voted, and did everything we could to defeat the Bush regime in the last election. This unprecedented effort brought forth new energy, organization, and commitment to struggle for justice. It would be a terrible mistake to let our failure to stop Bush in these ways lead to despair and inaction. On the contrary, this broad mobilization of people committed to a fairer, freer, more peaceful world must move forward. We cannot, we will not, wait until 2008. The fight against the second Bush regime has to start now.

The movement against the war in Vietnam never won a presidential election. But it blocked troop trains, closed induction centers, marched, spoke to people door to door -- and it helped to stop a war. The Civil Rights Movement never tied its star to a presidential candidate; it sat in, freedom rode, fought legal battles, filled jailhouses -- and changed the face of a nation.

We must change the political reality of this country by mobilizing the tens of millions who know in their heads and hearts that the Bush regime’s “reality” is nothing but a nightmare for humanity. This will require creativity, mass actions and individual moments of courage. We must come together whenever we can, and we must act alone whenever we have to.

We draw inspiration from the soldiers who have refused to fight in this immoral war. We applaud the librarians who have refused to turn over lists of our reading, the high school students who have demanded to be taught evolution, those who brought to light torture by the U.S. military, and the massive protests that voiced international opposition to the war on Iraq. We affirm ordinary people undertaking extraordinary acts. We pledge to create community to back courageous acts of resistance. We stand with the people throughout the world who fight every day for the right to create their own future.

It is our responsibility to stop the Bush regime from carrying out this disastrous course. We believe history will judge us sharply should we fail to act decisively.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Joshua Micah Marshall of Talking Points Memo decided to do some research as to whose congressional districts had the highest number of Social Security receptiants. It was interesting to note, although not real surprising, that Florida districts ranked as the top five, and six of the top ten:

01) FL 05 - Ginny Brown-Waite (R) - 250,771
02) FL 19 - Robert Wexler (D) - 184,624
03) FL 13 - Katherine Harris (R) - 182,035
04) FL 14 - Connie Mack (R) - 181,094
05) FL 16 - Mark Foley (R) - 178,715
06) AZ 02 - Trent Franks (R) - 167,294
07) MT AL - Dennis Rehberg (R) - 163,655
08) MI 01 - Bart Stupak (D) - 163,632
09) VA 09 - Rick Boucher (D) - 162,005
10) FL 15 - Dave Weldon (R) - 160,986

Especially interesting that Republicans represent seven of the districts with the most Social Security beneficiaries. I wonder if they were really listening to the ideas about changing the system? Check out the Talking Points blog again, as he promises to do some more number crunching soon.


Jeb! released his proposed state budget Tuesday, and it looks like while he wants to continue cutting taxes for boozers and the wealthy, he wants to pay for increases in some areas on the backs of blue collar workers, students, and the medically needy.

The governor wants to eliminate the "intangibles" tax on stocks, bonds, and other investments worth more than $250,000 as well as the per-drink tax on alcoholic beverages paid by restaurants and bars, and more sales tax breaks to encourage research and development companies to locate here (read: Scripps).

At the same time Jeb! wants to significantly cut the rolls of the medically needy program (36,000 to be exact), place more restrictions on the use of prescription drugs by Medicaid clients, increase tuition for higher education students, and build more prisons. Not only that, pay hikes for state employees are minimal at best, and don't even meet the cost of living increases.

Either Jeb! doesn't believe in the idea of "compassionate conservativism" that his brother the Prez claims to embrace (tell me another one), or they both have it wrong.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


Sarasota area congresswoman/former Florida Secretary of State (election fixer)/a**clown Katherine Harris is in the news once again.

Seems as though she was hosting a campaign fundraising golf outing Monday at a south Manatee County country club, according to the Tampa Tribune, when she decided to skip out on the chilly bankers --- and the Chairman of the House Banking Committee --- to try out several ball gowns that she had brought down from Saks Fifth Avenue and make her choice for what she will wear to Thursday's presidential

And of course, she headed straight to the gym after picking her gown (Can't have any of those bumps from all those rubber chicken campaign events showing, eh?). Then she returned to the event, I guess in time to tell her friends "goodbye".

BTW: The gown is by Pamella DeVos, founder/designer of the Pamella Roland line. She has designed fashions for, among other celebrities, Paris Hilton and Jennifer Garner.


The New York Times reports today (registration/login required) an announcement by Florida Democratic Party chairman Scott Maddox that the state's members of the Democratic National Committee have endorsed former Vermont governor and 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean for the party's chairmanship.


St. Petersburg Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief Lucy Morgan reports in today's edition that President Bush and Senator Mel Martinez received support from a highly secretive religious cult (my term, not hers) whose members are mainly found in the United Kingdom and Australia.

The "Thanksgiving 2004 Committee" raised money from residents in 18 states, but well over half of it's half a million dollars came from a gentleman in London, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. The committee is made up of men who are members of the Exclusive Brethern, a sect whose members shun newspapers, television, do not vote or otherwise participate in the outside world. They also avoid any relationships with people who do...even their own family members!

This committee purchased advertisments in several newspapers endorsing Bush, including a full page ad in the New York Times. The Martinez ad was a quarter page in the St. Petersburg Times.

Sounds like Dubya's kind of people...

Monday, January 17, 2005


Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty waxes reminicient today about the late Governor/U.S. Senator Lawton Chiles, Jr. as the prospects of his son, Lawton III, running for governor are increasing.

Lawton was one of the last "Florida Cracker" politicians, and Rufty's column this morning remembers some of the interesting tales that have become part of his legacy. It's good reading, and you're likely to get a laugh out of it as well.

Rufty also mentions that State Senator Paula Dockery (R - Lakeland) was recently appointed to the Board of Directors of the Friends of Florida State Parks. For those who may not be aware, her husband is C.C. "Doc" Dockery, a wealthy citrus/cattleman who was the driving force behind the high speed rail amendment, and who spent over a million dollars from his own pocket to get it passed. Needless to say, his once very close relationship with Jeb! went into the crapper real quick after the governor came out against the amendment and worked to kill it.

Sunday, January 16, 2005


Of course, the president's inauguration is a huge event for many, especially in DC, but the biggest event of the week will likely be Saturday in West Palm Beach.

The Third Wedding of Donald Trump.

A true celebrity guest list that even the POTUS would have trouble attracting, featuring A-list stars from Los Angeles, New York, London, Monaco, and likely beyond. A wedding cake that will weigh in at almost 200 pounds.

The nuptials to Melania Knauss are to be held at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, to be followed by the reception at his Mar-A-Lago Club.

If there is anyone who can upstage the president's inaugural with a bigger event the same week, it is only The Donald.


While the federal and District of Columbia governments are footing the bill for many of the security expenses for this week's inaugruation ceremonies, businesses and wealthy individuals have ponied up with nearly $40 million through the Presidential Inaugural Committee for many of the events leading up to President Bush's swearing in Thursday.

And the Orlando Sentinel is noting that Floridians are doing their part. The big monied folks include Wachovia Corporation , whose Jacksonville-based Southern Banking Group coughed up $250,000. It's main executive is Tom Coley, who was the vice chairman of SouthTrust Bank before it merged with Wachovia. For that kind of coin the bank/financial services company gets to be an "underwriter", which includes tickets to almost all inaugural events as well as a luncheon with President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.

For $100,000, one is a "sponsor" and gets tickets to balls, dinners, the swearing-in ceremony, and parade. The Florida sponsors:

Intervest Construction, Inc (ICI Homes) of Daytona Beach; Chairman/CEO Mori Hosseni.

Al Hoffman Jr. of Fort Myers, CEO of WCI Communities, Inc.

Jerome V. Ansel, Boca Raton; Developer and President of St. Andrews Realty

Vernon Buchannan, Owner/Chairman, Buchanan Automotive Group, Sarasota

BlueCross BlueShield of Florida, Jacksonville

Century Homebuilders, Inc., Miami, founded by developer and Florida International University trustee Sergio Pino

Ned Siegel of Boca Raton; Chairman, NLS Communities

Thien H. Nguyen, Redington Beach

Thomas Petway III of Jacksonville; Insurance company executive, partner in the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team, and member of the Florida Board of Regents (former chairman)

J. Ronald Terwilliger, Atlanta/Key Largo; Chairman/CEO of Trammell Crow Residential

WellCare Health Plans Inc. of Tampa.

Donors who gave $25,000:

Charles E. Cobb, Jr.; Coral Gables. Managing Partner of real estate/development/international trade firm Cobb Partners.

Horizion Bay Management, Tampa. Major developer of residential communities for senior citizens. CEO is Thilo Best.

JM Family Enterprises, an automotive company of Deerfield Beach.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, regional office Tampa

Stanley P. Whitcomb, Jr., developer, President, Whitcomb Associates, Inc., Bonita Springs.

Corporate contributions are allowed for inaugural committies; it is one of the last major loopholes in the campaign financing law because it is after the election. And there are no limits to the amount that an individual or corporation can contribute. Presidents have always raised monies for such ceremonies; President Clinton raised over $35 million for his second inaugrual celebration. But wealthy businesspersons and companies don't do it because they want to be good citizens...they want to be remembered when it comes time for their issues to be considered within the federal government or it's agencies, and a connection or idea that they are somehow close to the sitting President of the United States usually counts for a lot.


It's always nice when there is some good news to report. Senate Democratic Leader Lesley "Les" Miller, Jr. (D - Tampa) successfully underwent surgery Friday to remove a cancerous mass on his left kidney.

According to the press release from his office, a tumor and part of his kidney were removed during the four hour operation, and Senator Miller is already out of recovery. No additional radiation or chemothearpy treatments are expected to be necessary, and he is expected to be in Tallahassee for the legislative session.

Senator Miller's name has been one of several prominent Democrats floated about in recent months as a possible gubernatorial candidate next year.

Thanks to Florida News in Tallahassee for the heads up.


Remember the stink that was raised after the Baptists erected a Manger scene on the front lawn of the Neil Combee Administration Building in Bartow before Christmas? And the other signs that followed next to it?

The Polk County Commission has been considering the idea of a "free speech zone" where displays could be placed for a time. A "Citizens Advisory Council" is expected to present it's ideas by April 1. However, the Lakeland Ledger reports this morning that Commissioner Paul Senft, the most moderate of the five Republicans who make up the County Commission, has the idea of a knoll or park where 12 foot x 12 foot areas would be marked and numbered for anyone on a first come, first serve basis. Senft's idea would have no electricity available, and no lighting or sound would be permitted. And exhibitors would have to meet "generally accepted standards of obscenity and moral decency."

But a suitable place has to be found first...and that likely won't mean in or near the Administration Building or Polk County Courthouse; the space that Commissioner Senft is considering simply isn't there. And you know that they ain't gonna mess with the lawn in front of the Old County Courthouse. Maybe in front of the Supervisor of Elections office?

Saturday, January 15, 2005


One of the most humorous, but thoughtful blogs across Florida is also one of it's newest. Blog de Leon features commentary on issues, but concentrating on a historical perspective. It also features some interesting pictures from a variety of historical collections that often have to do with that day's posting.

Today, it features a wonderfully written post regarding the idea of some Republican legislative leaders to rework the Florida Constitution. As this post's title says, no other comment it for yourself


Monday is a holiday to remember the life, legacy, and dream of the late Reverand Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but also to seriously consider if the civil rights leader's dream has been truly realized here and elsewhere.

I grew up in South Mississippi during the height of the civil rights movement. I began elementary school the year that the Jones County School District was intergrated, and clearly remember the signs of racism that were part of the culture during that time. The "N-word" was as much a part of conversation as "Hows the weather?" Although I never personally saw a Ku Klux Klan rally until I was an adult, it scared the hell out of me when I did. In front of the Jones County Courthouse in Ellisville, there are to this day two concrete water fountains, although they have not worked in decades: One on the left in slightly smaller lettering says "COLORED"; the other, in large lettering, reads "WHITE". They remain mainly because the courthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places, but it continues to serve as a reminder of where we were at the time. Thankfully, Mississippi has changed much for the better in the years since the '60s.

But we should also remember that racism and resistance to "race mixing" was not confined to the Deep South. I remember the shocking pictures of rioting in, of all places, Boston --- yes, that bastion of traditional liberalism --- when it's public schools were desegregated during the 1970s. And the Los Angeles Times published a stongly written editorial after black fighter Jack Johnson's 1919 victory over a white opponent to gain the world heavyweight title (it had been moved from San Francisco to Nevada after a backlash over the thought of a black fighter going up against a white opponent) warning African-Americans against any thoughts that their place in the society had somehow improved because of the result.

We have certainly come a long way from the days of firebombings and seating people of colour at the back of the bus. But racism, unfortunately, still remains, although it is done in more covert ways. Today, if Dr. King were alive, he would certainly have spoken out against the ideas of racial profiling, selective enforcement of certain laws to control or restrict people of colour, and discrimination that remains in some areas of employment and promotion. I'm sure that the clergyman, while personally not supporting homosexuality, would also be strongly speaking out against any type of discrimination simply because a person was gay.

Friends, there is still a long way to go...pray for our country.


Attorney General Charlie Crist, considered by many to be a likely front runner in what is expected to be a crowded Republican race for Governor next year, was the featured speaker Friday at the monthly meeting of the Tiger Bay Club of Tampa. And he answered a question that has been reportedly been whispered by some: Is he, or is he

The St. Petersburg Times reports that the query was one of a three-part question asked the state's chief law enforcement officer by Mr. Lee DeCasare, a former community college teacher who writes a column for Tampa's tri-lingual weekly newspaper La Gaceta. The other parts of the inquiry were in regard to wheather the AG would open his Pinellas County divorce records from a brief 1979-80 marriage to the former Amanda Morrow, and what his views were on discrimination against gays.

His answer was rather short, according to the Times story: "I'm not, the records are open, and we shouldn't discriminate against anyone," Crist answered in a steady voice. The crowd of about 40 people applauded.

Crist is expected to run in what is widely thought to be a crowded Republican race for Governor, thanks to the fact that Jeb! cannot run again. Lieutenant Governor Toni Jennings and Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher are also considered to be players, and others may very well add their names to the list. So it is logical that someone would start a rumour regarding Crist's sexual orientation to stir the conservatives and homophobics across Florida to smear the AG and make him a non-entity in a gubernortorial campaign.

Not that I'm a huge fan of Charlie Crist --- I am certainly not --- but the idea of slandering someone like that if indeed it is not true is despicable, regardless of who the subject is. If a candidate or supporter of a candidate truly doesn't feel that their man/woman can be elected on their own merits without some character assassination, then maybe that candidate should not be in the race.

And...what if he is gay? Does it matter THAT MUCH??? A public servant should be selected on the views on issues that he/she will directly affect their job.

Let's do it right, now...without the crap that only turns many people off from the political square.


The Polk County Opportunity Council has been noted in this blog several times recently for their various controversies. Refusing to seat the City of Bartow's duly appointed representative to it's Board of Directors, leasing a $16,000+ printer/fax/copier under a no-bid contact from Canon, who then sent the community action agency's Executive Director to Las Vegas for a "training workshop" (although chances are she'll never do any major work with/on it).

Seems PCOC likes the idea of no-bid contracts, as the Lakeland Ledger reports this morning that they awarded three other such agreements over the past couple of years...although it is against their own bylaws as well as likely against federal bidding regulations. As a result of the litany of complaints, including from Congressman Adam Putnam (R - Bartow), the federal Administration for Children and Families plans an investigation.

Apparantly PCOC hired the Lutz-based human relations firm of David Myers & Associates to write an application for a new charter school, and about the same time (November, 2003) signed another no-bid deal with Diversity Advertising of Tampa to do PR work for the agency. Yet another no-bid contact was signed last year with Brandon human resources consultant Mac McDowell to conduct an employee pay study. The four no-bid deals, including the one with Canon, total approximately $44,080

The thing about all this is, that PCOC's own bylaws mandate at least two, and preferably three, competitive bids for services over $500. And the White House's own love of no-bid contacts (read: Halliburton) notwithstanding, federal regulations for community action agencies similarly require competitive bidding in the vast majority of cases.

As many of you may realize, I'm certainly no fan of Adam Putnam. Often, he's simply a message boy for the Bush Administration, ready to jump when commanded from Karl Rove and his boys at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. But this time he's on the mark in requesting a look at PCOC, and let the chips fall where they may. If there is wrongdoing of any kind, then those who are guilty and those who support the wrongdoers should be excised.

BTW: The Ledger also reported this morning that the Bartow City Commissioners are continuing to support their appointed representative to the PCOC Board, Dave Hallock. PCOC board members don't like Mr. Hallock because they claim that he has said nothing but negative things about the agency. As I've said from the beginning, I don't know Mr. Hallock, but according to the information I have read he has served on several boards that deal with children's and educational issues, and he would be an excellent fit for PCOC, which oversees the area's Head Start program in Polk and Highlands Counties. There is something terribly wrong when an organization simply wants a person who is willing to serve as a rubber stamp and not ask serious questions that sometimes need to be asked...or that the leadership in place don't want answered.

Friday, January 14, 2005


In Tampa Thursday, a man allegedly tried to abduct a 14 year old girl from her school bus stop. It wasn't the first time, as students at the stop had mentioned that he had been hanging around since before the Christmas holiday. He tried to get her the day before but the girl, a former trackster, escaped.

But according to the Tampa Tribune, the girl's father and uncle had been waiting to see if he would try again, and so' 'nuff, the idiot did just that. For his efforts, he got a serious beatdown from Daddy, a trip to the hospital to treat his bumps and bruises, and a one way trip to the Orient Road Jail. The fellow has been charged with aggrevated stalking and attempted armed abduction...both felonies. Not to mention, the serious hard-timers reportedly enjoy predators behind bars.

Daddy's the hero in this story. If it were my daughter or granddaughter, the fool might not have made it to the jail.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Friends, the great pundit Mark Twain said it best when he allegedly made the quote that noone's life, liberty, or property is safe when the Legislature is in session.

Now the Republican leadership in Tallahassee is seriously considering revamping the Florida Constitution. According to this story in the South Florida Sun Sentinel of Fort Lauderdale, the idea is to begin a two year "review of streamlining the constitution and convert it into a more 'pure' or 'pristine' document". It would have to pass both houses of the Legislature, and could go to the electorate as early as the November, 2006 General Election.

The idea came primarily from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Daniel Webster (R - Orlando), and embraced by his counterpart in the House, Judiciary Committee Chairman David Simmons (R - Altamonte Springs). It has the blessing of Jeb! and Senate President Tom Lee, as well as other in the legislative leadership.

Quite frankly, the idea of conservative Republicans in the State Capitol rewriting the Constitution scares the hell out of me. As Mark Lane put it in his FlaBlog:

They lost issue-by-issue at the polls, so now they'll just do a mass repeal of initiatives that had won over the year. And while they're at it, maybe throw in a little anti-abortion language, weaken the Sunshine Law so legislators can meet in secret without having to sneak around, remove separation of church and state language and, heck, why not add some novel Patriot-Act-style state police powers. This is a time o' war, people!

And let's make it harder for people to vote on any changes to our handiwork, too. And be sure to weaken the courts so those judges won't get in our way all the time. And some property-rights language so tree-huggers can't take us to court!

Yessiree, this could be a real Ashcroftian, Christian-Coalition-pleasing grab-bag of top-down, hard-right, we-don't-need-no-separation-of-powers-'round-here document. A model Christian Security-State Constitution with some goodies thrown in at the last minute for select contributors.

This is one plan that concerned progressives throughout Florida need to nip in the bud right NOW, before it even has a chance to come to fruition!

I know that it is by no means a perfect document. But to give the conservatives a chance to block --- or at least make more difficult --- citizen inititatives to make the will of the people law when our elected legislators fail to do their duty, to make it easier for public officials to make decisions away from the public eye...these things should not see the light of day.


I work in a call centre, so I know how volitale the industry is. It's often demanding work, dealing with customers who don't want to talk to you and often hostile while you're doing your job. The pay is often barely enough to cover your expenses, the expectations are high, and the thanks are often nonexistant. Therefore, the turnover is quite often high. It's not the type of work for many people.

But it's become a big part of the Tampa Bay employment scene in recent years, with a number of big name firms locating here. That is beginning to change once again, thanks to the seemingly endless consolidation of banking institutions. Only months after Capital One announced it was shutting down it's credit card call centre, JP Morgan/Chase has determined that it had more workers than it needed and is laying off 1,900 of it's employees.

BTW: The banner at the top of the JPMorgan Chase corporate website proudly boasts "Strengthening Communities". Considering their announcement Wednesday, isn't it somewhat ironic? Especially since both Capital One and JPMorgan/Chase received a sizable amount of tax incentives to locate their call centres here.

Thanks to Florida Politics for the good piece on it. BTW: I know one Waffle House that is NOT hiring. The one on Memorial Boulevard in Lakeland closed it's doors a week or two ago. There are still a couple of other locations in town, though. Seriously, Polk County has gotten it's share of call centres in recent years. The one I work at, GC Services, is one of the largest in the area and does contract work for MCI in the areas of collections, deposits, small business, and high toll security. They're always hiring...

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


Yesterday, I mentioned that I was favouring former Democratic Presidential candidate and former Vermont governor Howard Dean to be elected the next Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The vote by members of the DNC will be held next month, so regardless of who you favour it is important if you are a Florida Democrat to let our state's DNC members know how you feel. After all, they are supposed to be representating us, eh?

Here is a list of the Florida DNC members and their contact information. I have not included home telephone numbers for obvious reasons, and hyperlinks are to their e-mail addresses. Please note that the e-mail addresses are what I have found through Google search, and some may be to their work e-mail.

CLARENCE E. ANTHONY: 310 Southeast Third Avenue, South Bay, FL 33493. Is Vice Mayor of South Bay.

JON AUSMAN: 2202 Woodlawn Drive, Tallahassee, FL 32303. Works for the Florida Department of Transportation.

CATHY BARTOLOTTI: 2910 Pine Street, Tampa, FL 33607. Works with the City of Tampa's Purchasing Department

TERRIE BRADY: c/o Duval Teachers United, 1601 Atlantic Boulevard, Jacksonville, FL 32205. Works with Duval Teachers United.

MITCHELL CEASAR: 8181 West Broward Boulevard, Suite 201, Plantation, FL 33324. Attorney.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE JOYCE CUSACK: 224 North Woodland Boulevard, DeLand, FL 32720

DIANE GLASSER: 7379 West Devon Drive, Taramac, FL 33321

ALLAN KATZ: c/o Akerman, Senterfitt, P.A., Highpoint Center, 12th Floor, 106 East College Avenue, Tallahassee, FL 32301

SCOTT MADDOX: c/o Florida Democratic Party, 214 South Bronough Street, Tallahassee, FL 32301

CHUCK MOHLKE: c/o Fraser & Mohlke Associates, Inc., 1400 Pompei Lane, Apt. 45, Naples, FL 34103

JANEE MURPHY: c/o Hillsborough County Democratic Party, Post Office Box 10277, 2805 West Busch Boulevard, Suite 220, Tampa, FL 33679

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


That's right. I was not a huge Howard Dean fan when he was running for President; I supported retired four star General Wesley Clark, and then after he dropped out now-former North Carolina Senator John Edwards. That said, I have become more impressed with the former Vermont governor with time.

Although Governor Dean's campaign was not successful, it did energize a lot of people that have either been away from the process or had never been involved in politics before...especially young people who are the future of our party, and our nation. His campaign reminded me greatly of Robert Kennedy's 1968 attempt for the White House, sadly cut down by an assassain's bullet in Los Angeles.

Dean's ability to "think out of the box" is something we need greatly now. And he's not afraid to stand up for the values and issues that have made the Democratic Party the true "party of the people". We should not resort to becoming "Republican Lite", and we should NEVER, EVER surrender one state, one county to our opponents saying "it's beyond our reach/abilities". Raising the white flag should be a non-issue.

I believe that our party would be better with the leadership of Howard Dean.


Being from Mississippi, my ears perked up while listening to NPR's news programme "All Things Considered" Monday afternoon when I heard a tease of a story from the Magnolia State.

It seems that the Jackson-George Regional Library System, which serves two southeast Mississippi counties near the Gulf Coast area, banned the best selling book "America (The Book)" by Jon Stewart, the comedian who hosts Comedy Central's "The Daily Show". The library's board of trustees were apparantly offended by one picture of nine naked Supreme Court justices, with robes on the opposite page where readers could place on the judges so that they could "regain their dignity".

The story, which was originally run in The Sun Herald newspaper out of Biloxi-Gulfport, was quickly picked up by the Associated Press and aired on CNN, and yesterday by NPR. The national publicity was apparantly a factor in the library trustees last night reversing their decision by a 5-2 vote.

By the way: George County, which includes Pascagoula, is home to Senator Trent Lott....coincidence?