Saturday, November 26, 2005


I hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving, enjoying the time with friends and family. We spent part of the afternoon with my daughter and her boyfriend, feasing on turkey, dressing, and plenty of other filling goodies. The leftovers we brought home with us certainly didn't last long!

Hopefully I'll be back posting on a regular basis sometime next week, as I have an order pending with another Internet provider. It will at least allow me to get back online (phone and Internet) at a lower price while allowing me to resolve my outstanding bill with the cable company.

We'll see what happens. This afternoon, my son will be begging for a Gator victory in their annual battle against Florida State. I'm favouring the Seminoles, and my beloved Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles should have a relatively easy time against Tulane later today.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Well, my cable/online access has been disconnected for a time until I can get my finances in order. What that means, of course, is that posts on this blog will be sporadic for the next few weeks. I will be using the online facilities of the Lakeland Public Library to post here, so I would ask your indulgence until things are back in order.

Please continue to visit here in the meantime; it's just that I will be unable to do daily posts. Thank you for your continued good wishes.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


A coalition of organizations including the Florida Press Association, Florida Public Broadcasting Service, American Association of Retired Persons, Florida Power & Light, and the Florida League of Cities have announced plans for a series of debates featuring the candidates for governor and U.S. Senator before next year's party primaries and the general election.

All major candidates have reportedly agreed to participate. The Democratic and Republican candidates for governor will face off during the week of August 21. The party nominees will then debate the week of October 23.

Democratic Senate incumbant Bill Nelson and Republican Katherine Harris will face off the week of October 16. If another serious primary contender enters the race, it could be possible to schedule an intra-party debate prior to the primary.


You may remember this time last year a controversy developed when members of Bartow's First Baptist Church constructed --- without permission --- a Nativity scene in front of the Neil Combee County Administration Building. That was followed by signs promoting the fictional holiday "Festivus" and a local morning radio show.

After the stink that was raised, County Commissioners developed a policy designating a "free speech zone" outside the administration building. But noone has used it. At least one group --- the Baptist Church group that placed the display there last year --- has cited the policy's requirments as a reason.

The six-page policy prohibits any lights or audio on the display, along with no profanity, pornography, or commercial speech. But it also requires anyone wishing to use the "free speech zone" to purchase a $500,000 insurance policy to protect the county from liability. It also requires 21 days advance notice and approval from the county.

Now, the president of the Orlando-based Central Florida American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) chapter is hoping to meet with commissioners soon to work on amending the policy, and is threatening legal action if negotiations are not successful. Another ACLU chapter, the Tampa-based West Florida Chapter, recently requested a copy of the Polk County policy.


Our municipal owned electric utility here in Lakeland is well known for being one of the most expensive of it's kind in Florida. As a matter of fact, only the electric utilities in Key West, Fort Meade, Tallahassee, and Ocala are more expensive. But the local boys apparantly want to give the other cities a run for their money.

The Lakeland City Commission's Utility Committee --- which includes all seven city commissioners --- approved unanimously the largest rate hike in the history of the electric service Monday afternoon, $11.40 per 1,000 kilowatt hours. The increase has to be approved by City Commissioners at a special meeting, expected to take place next week.

That means that the average consumer will see an increase of approximately $14.82 a month on their bill. That would leapfrog Lakeland over Fort Meade, Tallahassee, and Ocala to make our electric bills more expensive than any city in Florida outside the Keys.

Although rising natrual gas prices are being blamed for the huge hike (natrual gas is burned in all but one of Lakeland Electric's generators), much of the reason is the bad contract Lakeland Electric signed with the Florida Municipal Power Agency which has cost the local utility $19 million in lost revenue this year alone. It was no secret that the continued screwing local consumers have received from their city-owned electric service was a major story in the recent municipal election.

A lot of people here are gonna be hurt by this, especially the elderly and low income customers. And, sadly, there's not a great deal of help available for those folks.


At my job, we have to work every other weekend. That's just part of the job to try to collect overdue telephone bills and find customers who otherwise try to avoid your call to pay up.

The timing couldn't have been any better, since I worked this past weekend. After today, I'll enjoy the next five days at home. Our work week begins on Saturday, so since I worked Saturday and Sunday I selected Wednesday and Friday as my "drop days". Of course, we have Thursday off paid, and this will be my "off" weekend.

It should be a delightful Thanksgiving, as my daughter and her boyfriend will have the family over at their home for holiday dinner. If I don't say it again here before then, my hope is that you all have a wonderful, peaceful holiday.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Thanks to Mike who placed this comparative piece on the FLA Politics blog. When you really look at it carefully, Congressman Adam Putnam (R - Bartow) really IS a "Howdy-Doody-looking nimrod"!


The St. Petersburg Times' political blog The Buzz notes this morning that St. Petersburg businessman Jeff Parker has signed on as a member of the finance committee for Indiana Democratic U.S. Senator Evan Bayh's presidential exploratory committee. Parker, an Hoosier native, has known the Bayhs for many years, and touts the senator's decidedly moderate leanings.

He tells The Buzz: "His reputation as a fiscal conservative who opposed higher taxes as governor, his moderate positions on foreign policy, defense policy and social policy make him very attractive to moderates of both major political parties...It will be difficult, if not impossible, to label him as a classic liberal."

Parker is not the only Tampa Bay resident boosting the former Indiana governor. Also singing Bayh's song is Tampa consultant Bob Buckhorn, a former candidate for mayor of Tampa and the Hillsborough County Commission. Buckhorn reportedly joined Bayh for an event in New Hampshire.

Bayh comes from a well known political pedigree. His father, Birch E. Bayh, II, served in the U.S. Senate from 1963-1981 and made his own presidential run in 1976, losing the Democratic nomination to Jimmy Carter. He chaired the centrist Democratic Leadership Council (of which Buckhorn is also a member), and helped found the New Democratic Coalition in the Senate.

There are plans to bring Bayh to the Tampa Bay area early next year for a fundraiser.


Friday, we were talking about a Tropical Storm named Gamma that could affect South Florida.

Not now. Gamma done wimped out.

During the weekend the storm was whipped by shear and fell well south of the earlier projected course. Now it's not expected anywhere near Florida, and has weakened to depression status.

We can't forget that six people were killed by Gamma in Central America, but Florida has had more than it's share of tropical systems this season. Thank goodness the season's official close is next Wednesday.


The upcoming Florida Democratic Conference, scheduled for December 9-11 at Disney's Contemporary Resort in Lake Buena Vista, can boast some true national stars who will address the gathering.

The event will begin with a welcome reception Friday evening (December 9) featuring Democratic National Committee Chairman and 2004 presidential candidate Dr. Howard Dean with U.S. House Democratic Whip Congressman Steny Hoyer (D - MD).

Saturday will begin with a 7:30 AM breakfast with Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. The General Session will feature remarks by U.S. Senator Bill Nelson along with candidates for statewide office, Democratic members of the Florida congressional delegation, and key leaders of the state legislative delegation. Also on the agenda will be speeches by Congressmen Barney Frank (D - MA), John Lewis (D - GA), and Luis Gutierrez (D - IL). The 12:30 PM lunch features remarks by former U.S. Senator from North Carolina and 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards. Dinner that evening will be at 8:00 PM with the featured speaker being U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D - IL), considered by many as a rising star within the party.

The conference ends Sunday, and the 9:30 AM brunch with include an address by Virginia Governor Mark Warner.

Sounds like an interesting weekend. Edwards and Warner are reportedly looking at the possibilities of making a presidential run in 2008, and Obama has ambition written all over him, so their appearance in Florida will be watched closely. I'll be there as a delegate from Polk County.

Bein' a po' boy, I probably won't get to enjoy the major meal events (seperate ticketed events), but there will still be plenty for me to enjoy and learn from.

Sunday, November 20, 2005


Intergovernmental rivalries and tensions are the concern of the Tampa Tribune editorial this morning, as it encourages Hillsborough Countians to consider a strong county mayor system of government similar to that practiced in Orange County. It is a change of heart from the early 1990s, when Mother Trib argued against such a move.

The Sarasota Herald Tribune opinion this morning calls on the Legislature to restore full funding to the trust funds established for affordable-housing programmes, stating that the modest restraints placed on raiding such funds simply are not good enough.

On the St. Petersburg Times editorial page, Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Wayne S. Timmerman is criticized for placing a gag order on attorneys in the case of Debra Lafave, the 25-year-old former teacher charged with having sex with a 14-year-old student. It says the move basically uses the judiciary to help prosecuters gain ground on the defence by denying Lafave's attorney the chance to publicily frame his client's case.

The new Medicare prescription plan for seniors needs work, and the Daytona Beach News Journal notes that "Had Congress put priority on people over politics and drug-company profits, there would be more to celebrate". The editorial encourages readers to let their representatives know their disappointment that they did not strike a better deal.

Another lesson from Hurricane Wilma, according to the Orlando Sentinel: When it comes to true first response, the answer lies close to home. That's the answer to those complaining about a lack of supplies as officials in South Florida took too long to decide where relief supplies should be distributed.

The Florida Times Union opines that placing a property on a list of historical landmarks without informing their owners is unfair and heavy handed. This was done in Jacksonville/Duval County in 2002 with about 230 properties. The editorial supports a proposal by City Council member Art Shad to correct the problem.

Today's Tallahassee Democrat editorial looks at using educational data, such as dropout and graduation rates, for advancing political agendas. It notes that while the Bush Administration in the state capitol has made some notable strides in education in the past six years, it's achievements have been undercut by it's apparant aversion to criticism.

While President Bush's approval numbers continue to head into the toilet, it's no surprise that many Americans have even less regard for Congress. The Gainesville Sun editorial today gives one example of why Congressional leaders --- of both parties, mind you --- are held in such low standing, as the appearance of favours done for special interests and contributions from those interests makes our representatives look terrible.

In the wake of Hurricane Stan last month which killed over 1,000 Guatemalans and buried villiages in mudslides, the Palm Beach Post calls on the federal government to grant temporary protected status to those Guatemalan nationals who are already here, and allow it to serve as a test of the guest worker plan that has been suggested previously.

As the last of Florida Light & Power's 3.2 million customers left without power by Hurricane Wilma got their electricity back on this past week, the South Florida Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale says that it's fair to ask if the power grid is more vunerable than it should be.

The Pensacola News Journal has a bad tasting pill for readers to it's editorial this morning: Prepare to pay higher insurance premiums --- one way or the other --- as developers continue to build on the state's most storm-vunerable areas.

Here at home, the Lakeland Ledger slams Congressman Adam Putnam (R - Bartow) and other members of the Florida congressional delegation for "getting too chummy with the camel" when it comes to oil and gas companies seeking to get drilling approved as close as 20 miles off the state's coastline. The others were Representatives Ander Crenshaw (R - Jacksonville), Mario Diaz-Balart (R - Miami) and Ileana Ros-Lehtenen (R - Miami).

Florida Today, based on the Space Coast in Melbourne, salutes NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, who it says is "bringing the intellect, vision and honesty necessary for NASA to have any chance of realizing..." the dream of returning astronauts to the moon by 2018 and eventually sending them to Mars.

The war on terror and America's values are the subject of the editorial today in the Miami Herald. It notes that the U.S. Senate voted to ban the use of torture and states that we can win the war without giving up our traditional values.

Ocala, a tourist stop? The Ocala Star Banner mentions the Florida Baptist Convention's annual conference which was recently held there, and takes note that the tourist tax exposes just how healthy Marion County's tourist trade is. The local tourist tax has actually generated nearly $950,000 this year...nearly double what was predicted, and says that the Ocala/Marion County Tourist Development Council is well on it's way to fufilling it's mission.

And today's editorial in the Naples Daily News salutes Collier County Commissioner Fred Coyle for his relentless pursuit of insuring that infastructure improvements keep up with the rate of growth.

Make it a great Sunday! I've gotta work.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


I just had to rub it in a little more this morning, as Polk County high school football teams continue to do well in the Florida High School Activities Association playoffs.

America's number 1 football team (per the USA Today poll) the Lakeland Drednaughts, continue to roll over their opponents. Last night in Tampa the 'Naughts shut out Chamberlain 49-0. They will now host another Polk County team, Lakeland Lake Gibson, in the regional 5-A finals Friday night. Lake Gibson eliminated another Hillsborough County team, Tampa Wharton, 16-14.

A bit of a surprise in 4-A, as the Winter Haven Blue Devils defeated Tampa Jefferson 21-20. They will now travel to Seffner Friday night in a regional final matchup against Armwood.

In the 3-A regional finals, Lakeland Kathleen eliminated Wauchula Hardee 14-11 and now visit Sarasota Booker Friday.

And in 1-A action, Fort Meade made it into the state semifinal round with a 21-14 defeat of Glades Day (Belle Glade). The Miners have hosted all their playoff games, and will host Miami Bay Point Friday night to determine who goes to the title game. Fort Meade is the defending 1-A state champion.

Good luck to all! Must be something in the water here...


The 2005 hurricane season officially ends in a week and a half, on November 30, and what has become the most active season on record just doesn't want to go quietly.

The folks in South Florida are keeping an eye out on Tropical Storm Gamma, disorganized and lingering off the coast of Honduras. Thursday and early Friday the predictions were for Gamma to come close to the Florida coast, if not cross the state. Now, the news seems somewhat better for all of us, as the models seem to show the storm taking a more southerly path and crossing the centre of Cuba Monday afternoon/evening.

But, as we know all too well, these systems tend to have a mind of their own. Therefore, it's always smart to keep a watch down south for the next couple of days.


I have written here how disappointed I am in the actions of the board of directors and management team at the Polk County Opportunity Council, the area's community action agency mandated to help low income residents and is best known as provider for the Head Start programme in Polk County. PCOC's financial management woes have been common knowledge for some time, and this week the Florida Department of Community Affairs placed the agency on a one year probation.

This morning's Lakeland Ledger reports the findings of a team of 11 specialists from Mid-Iowa Community Action who visited the PCOC offices in Bartow for a week during October. The team was hired by DCA as consultants to determine what could be done to help the agency, which has a staff of 169 and budget of $12.4 million.

Their findings were not promising, painting a picture of what the Ledger story called a "dysfunctional" board and an "inept and untruthful" executive director, all without a clue.

Among the findings in it's 13 page report:

--- Executive Director Carolyn Speed "consistently misstated how changes took place in the employment of several individuals." And "several employees in agency management positions are directly related to the executive director."

--- PCOC's adherence to equal opportunity hiring was questioned by MICA. "Many job openings were not advertised outside the organization."

--- Financial consultants have been heavily relied upon since Sept.1, but the existing staff could not produce statements of revenue and expenses. The accounting system can't generate accurate historical data from which to determine an accurate starting point for a new database.

--- The weatherization coordinator (who helps to provide poor people with services such as home insulation) receives no supervision. MICA found one instance in which a contractor was paid before doing his job, and there was no written documentation of the work being finished.

--- PCOC has been cited in several recent program monitoring reports for failing to have a detailed inventory that listed equipment by identifying what agency's money was used to purchase it. But "661 of the 700 items listed on the equipment inventory records examined do not contain cost data," and 130 items couldn't be found.

--- PCOC is overcharging the federal government for the value of time and mileage of Head Start parents who bring their kids to and from school. On the other hand, the agency has been paying a federal unemployment tax that non-profit agencies are exempt from.

--- PCOC usually has a scapegoat for its problems. "PCOC lacks organizational coherence and focus. Interviews and conversations with staff and board members revealed a lack of a firm understanding of the organization's current situation and a shared vision of its mission. The most widely shared perspective is that the organization's problems are the responsibility of parties outside the organization. There appears to be no meaningful communication throughout the organization . . ."

--- "The PCOC board of directors exercises very little meaningful responsibility for the operations and well-being of the organization. The board primarily ratifies actions and decisions already made by the staff. . . . Few of the board members interviewed demonstrated a clear understanding 1) of the board's legal responsibilities, 2) the nature of the findings and deficiencies identified by major funders (Head Start and the Florida Department of Community Affairs), and 3) the gravity of the threat to the organization's funding and corporate viability. The board did not recognize that the financial information presented to it was incomplete and insufficient for it to make decisions."The situation has deteriorated to the point that board members expressed frustration with having to make decisions without adequate information from the staff. Staff members expressed frustration that there is no point providing the board with detailed information that the board does not understand. Consequently, the board is regularly asked to make important decisions based on little or no supporting information."

--- "Head Start staff did not provide to the assessment team in a timely manner information (contracts, work plans) that should have been readily available, despite being repeatedly asked for that information."

--- Only a half dozen or so PCOC board members regularly attend meetings.

--- "PCOC management cannot provide the Board of Directors with a reliable picture of the overall financial condition of the agency."

As sad as it is for me to say, I fully believe that it's time to strip PCOC of it's funding and let another organization step up to provide these services. This type of ineptness only provides fuel for conservative mouthpieces such as Congressman Adam Putnam (R - Bartow) to call for additional cuts in programmes to help our low income neighbours.


Rummy is taking his talking points on Iraq and why to stay the course to four of the five network interview shows Sunday, only ignoring NBC's "Meet the Press".

ABC - This Week With George Stephanopoulos - Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld answers his critics and discusses strategy for Iraq. Also, the roundtable includes Time magazine's Joe Klein, Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaira, syndicated columnist George Will, and ABC News' Martha Raddatz. And as Nightline anchor Ted Koppel ends his tour on the late night news show, a look at his most memorable political moments.

CBS - Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer - Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld discusses our work in Iraq. Also, Senate Foreign Relations Committee members Richard Lugar (Chairman / R - IN) and Christopher Dodd (D - CT). And the New York Times' Elizabeth Bumiller.

CNN - Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer - Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld. Also, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (US Army, Ret.), former Chief of Staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell. Former Reagan Assistant Secrerary of Defence Richard Perle, Former U.S. Senator and now President of New School University Bob Kerrey, Former CIA Middle Eastern Specialists Reuel Gerecht and Melissa Boyle Mahle, and Former CIA Senior Officer Michael Scheuer.

FOX - Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace - Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld to discuss the White House's reaction to this week's call for American troops to be brought home from Iraq. Also, Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Joe Biden (D - DE). Also the usual panel: The Wall Street Journal's Paul Gigot, Cici Connolly of the Washington Post, NPR's Juan Williams and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol.

NBC/MSNBC - Meet the Press with Tim Russert - Congressman Jack Murtha (D - PA) on why he has changed his mind on American troops' role in Iraq. Also, a discussion of the Bird Flu and wheather we are prepared with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health; Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention; Health & Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt, and Dr. Michael Ryan, Director of the Epidemic and Pandemic Alert and Response Department of the World Health Organization.


C-SPAN usually isn't known for "interesting" television, but the past couple of days saw some truly interesting sights and a couple of especially funny moments on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

However, it was a sad couple of days for the institution, during which the basic rules of civility seemed to simply fall by the wayside as the House debated the GOP budget cutting plan and a resolution to call for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq (a Republican stunt). Tempers flared and words became personal. In one particularly funny moment, however, Congressman Marion Berry (D - AR) referred to my local representative Adam Putnam (R - Bartow) as a "Howdy Doody-looking nimrod" during the heat of the debate. Putnam was managing the debate for the GOP side for the budget cut proposal which passed by a razor-thin margin early Friday morning. UPDATE / Sunday, 11/20 9:00 AM ET: If you want to see for yourself just how correct Congressman Berry is, check out this link at FLA Politics. Thanks, Mike!

And, in an especially disturbing incident, reaction to the call from Congressman Jack Murtha (D - PA) to withdraw troops from Iraq was swift and personal. Here is a man who served his nation in the United States Marine Corps for nearly four decades. A Purple Heart recipient in Vietnam, well respected by members on both sides of the aisle. A "hawk", who has bucked his party more often than not in areas of defence and the current effort in Iraq/Afghanistan. After his news conference Thursday, Republicans openly questioned his patriotism, character, and linked him to movie producer Michael Moore, a vocal liberal opponent of the current military operations.

It got to the point a couple of times when I believed we would see a South Korean Parliment kinda scene, where fisticuffs occasionally break out during especially heated debate. Not really, but it looked like our elected representatives were acting more like schoolchildren not getting their way than responsible adults debating the finer points of policy and seeking some middle ground. Maybe during the Thanksgiving recess their constitutents will encourage them to play fair and bring down the noise.

Friday, November 18, 2005


Singer Jimmy Buffett, a fellow alum of the University of Southern Mississippi, has announced that he would only offer his support to two political campaigns for the 2006 election: U.S. Senator Bill Nelson's reelection campaign here in Florida, and Kinky Friedman's long-shot bid for the governorship of Texas.

Nelson won't have much of a problem, especially if Katherine Harris is the GOP candidate. Friedman's campaign, though, is a heckuva lot more interesting.

For those who are unfamiliar, Kinky Friedman is an author/columnist/humourist/performer based in Austin, and is probably best known as close buddies with country music legend Willie Nelson. He performed some hilarious satricial music as the frontman of the Texas Jewboys during the 1970s as the whole "Outlaw Country" genre was beginning to blossom in Austin.

Actually, his campaign may not be quite as much of a longshot as many predicted. Recent polls show Friedman running a close third at 21% behind incumbant Republican Rick Perry (42%) and Democratic challenger and former congressman Chris Bell (25%).

One look at his Web site, and you see some interesting platform items:

As Governor, Kinky, or “the Kinkster”, would:

--- Legalize casino gambling to fund education

--- Abolish political correctness “We didn’t get to be the Lone Star State by being politically correct”

--- Take a good look at death row. “We need to make sure that we’re not putting innocent people to death, which I believe we are”

--- Outlaw the de-clawing of cats

--- Bring young people into his administration. “Young people are less corrupt. They are the future of Texas ; it’s theirs to win or lose.”

I’m a Jew, I’ll hire good people.

“If elected, I would ask Willie Nelson to be the head of the Texas Rangers and Energy Czar and Laura Bush to take charge of the Texas Peace Corps to improve education in the state. I’d ask my Palestinian hairdresser, Farouk Shami, to be Texas ’ ambassador to Israel . We’ve worked together to create Farouk & Friedman olive oil. The oil comes from the Holy land and all of the profits go to benefit Israeli and Palestinian children.”

But while many see Friedman's humour in this campaign, he has some serious items that he addresses.

I could handle Kinky Friedman as my governor if I were in Texas...

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell writes this morning about the decision of Orange County NAACP chapter head and construction company executive Derrick Wallace to abandon principle and switch his party affiliation to the GOP.

"I've thought about this for two years," Wallace said Tuesday afternoon, just a few hours after returning from the elections office. "This is not a decision I made yesterday."

But why?

"It's purely a business decision. Ninety percent of those I do business with are Republicans," he said. "Opportunities that have come to my firm have been brought by Republicans."

At least the man was honest about it. We'll see just how he feels as he --- and we --- watch GOP policy, controlled by the Far Right, continue to screw African-Americans (and all Americans, for that matter) on everything from voting rights to health care issues.

Michael Spooneybarger / Tampa Tribune


The Irish rock band U2 performed last night before a jam-packed crowd at the St. Petersburg Times Forum, and from all reports it was one helluva show. I've always enjoyed their music, and wish I could have been there for the experience.
They played 24 songs during the performance, including six encores, and Lakeland Ledger critic Bill Dean gives the show an excellent review.

You can check out the review for yourself --- along with the song list.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


"We have the greatest governer in the history of Florida, and the greatest governor in the country."

Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist
speaking to the Peace River Federated Republican Women's
Forum Wednesday in Punta Gorda, referring to Jeb Bush.

Thanks to Sarasota Herald Tribune political columnist Jeremy Wallace.


More results were released today from the Quinnipiac University poll taken of 855 registered Florida voters (281 Democrats, 305 Republicans, 269 Independent/Third Party/NPA) November 8-13, this time dealing with national issues and politicos.

President Bush's tanking approval rating nationally seems to be confirmed here. The survey showed 61 percent disapproved of the job the chief executive is doing, a 64 percent majority disapprove of his handling of the Iraq war, and 60 percent responded that going to war there was the wrong thing to do.

As far as who should run for the White House, Democrats chose former first lady and current U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D - NY) over 2004 Democratic nominee Senator John Kerry (D - MA) and former Senator and Kerry running mate John Edwards (D - NC). Among Republicans, former New York City mayor Rudy Guliani leads, with Senators John McCain (R - AZ) and George Allen (R - VA) far behind.

And while Jeb! has always said he's not running for President, 33 percent of voters said they would "definately" or "probably" vote for him, with 58 percent saying they would "probably" or "definately" not do so.


Sometimes --- not always, only occasionally --- losing candidates apparantly can't handle losing, so they try something else. But one effort in Orlando has ended, at least for the time being, according to today's Orlando Sentinel:

Sam Ings, who ran third in the mayoral race there last year, had been collecting signatures to recall Mayor Buddy Dyer. Ings claims that Dyer paid a campaign consultant to gather absentee ballots during last year's election and should therefore be removed.

While Dyer was indicted for a single count of violating election law earlier this year, the local state attorney dropped the charge six weeks later saying that an investigation had determined that the mayor had not intended to break the law. The law has since been rewritten by legislators.

Ings, a retired police captain, is being looked at on a possible violation of election law himself. To be exact, failing to register his recall committee and sending out a political mailer using an official voters list which he is not entitled to have.

But if Ings does decide to renew his recall drive, he may have another official in his sights. He is waiting for the result of another investigation, this one regarding wheather City Commissioner Ernest Page violated any laws in a voice-mail message about a housing project in west Orlando.

The Sentinel reported two weeks ago that a Tampa minority advocate who wants to convert hundreds of rundown Orlando apartments into below-market condos accused Page of threatening to kill the project unless his nonprofit development company, Southwest United Communities, was cut in on the deal.

"OK, right now the city is not going to be involved unless Southwest United Communities is involved. In other words, the project is dead unless you talk to me quick. . . . Brother, you should've known, politically, that that [expletive] was not gonna work," Page said in an Oct. 3 voice mail to minority advocate Al Pina.


Some interesting political news over the past 24-48 hours. Seems as though Katherine Harris' campaign manager, Jim Dorman, has resigned. The National Journal's daily political brief, The Hotline, notes that Dorman will remain with the campaign as a senior adviser.

Apparantly Dorman felt that Congresswoman Harris (R - Longboat Key) should be spending more time and effort on her U.S. Senate campaign, while she believes that she should apparantly stay in Washington to fufill her duties in the House.

Deputy campaign manager and former state Republican Party executive director Jamie Miller will take over Dorman's role, at least for now.

With a new Quinnipiac University poll showing Ms. Harris significantly behind (read: 24 points) Democratic incumbant Senator Bill Nelson, there is apparantly a new/revived effort to court Florida House Speaker Allan Bense (R - Panama City) into the race.

That 24 point advantage is the same that Quinnipiac found in it's previous survey August 31. But what may spark Bense is another response on the poll: It shows Floridians have mixed emotions about their now-senior senator, with 37 percent saying he should be reelected, 33 percent saying he should not, and 29 percent undecided.

Apparantly, not many Floridians have heard there is a gubernatorial race next year...or at least they haven't decided. Remember, it's ten months before the party primary.

Looking at the 2006 Governor's race, 56 percent of Florida Democrats are undecided on who should get their party's nomination, with 25 percent backing U.S. Rep. Jim Davis and 15 percent backing State Sen. Rod Smith.
Among Republicans, 38 percent pick Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher, while 36 percent pick State Attorney General Charlie Crist, a tie, with 24 percent undecided.

In possible general election matchups:
Davis gets 40 percent to 39 percent for Crist, a statistical tie;
Davis gets 41 percent to 38 percent for Gallagher;
Crist beats Smith 41 – 36 percent;
Gallagher beats Smith 41 – 36 percent.

Just remember, though, in the words sung by the great Neil Diamond:

The road is long, with many a winding turn / That leads us to who knows where, who knows where...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


How many of you remember when you were in high school, and fell head over heels over that one girl? And although you may have married months or years afterword, had kids, started a career, and all that stuff, you couldn't get that one girl out of your head from time to time?

I do...soooooo clear. Pasadena, Texas in 1975. Pasadena High School, to be exact.

Martha was a classmate in my junior speech class, and was active in the drama class next door. She actually should not have gone to school there, living in southeast Houston. Her father taught math there, though, and an exception from the residency requirments was apparantly one of the benefits.

For the better part of a year, we spent much of our time together. Listening to Barry Manilow. Enjoying Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet. Talking about attending the University of Houston together.

And then, my family decided one night that things were not going well doing the Urban Cowboy type life (without the mechanical bull), and it was time to move back to Mississippi.

I never saw the "girl of my dreams" since. We traded letters for a time but after a period, I guess that we both realized that the chances of getting together again were extremely light. I know that she's now married with a family of her own in the Texas state capitol.

But three decades later, through everything I've gone through in the meantime, there are times which she returns to my thought.

I am lost
Somewhere inside my own dreams
Afraid of what life really means
Living without your love
From "Living Outside Myself"
Gino Vannelli (1981)


At last night's Polk County Democratic Executive Committee meeting in Bartow, I had the chance to hear a couple of excellent individuals who I hope will do well in their upcoming elections.

Stephen Gorham is a gentleman recently seperated from the U.S. Navy, where he served America in the Middle East. Raised in Lakeland, he now lives in Plant City with his family, and is running for the Tenth State Senate District seat being vacated by Tom Lee (R - Brandon).

Sylvia Blackmon-Roberts is an African-American businesswoman seeking the Lakeland City Commission Southeast District seat being vacated by Seth McKeel, who is running for a state legislative post. She is in a runoff against Edie Yates.

They both presented themselves quite well, although they could spend a bit more time talking about the issues that are premier in their races.


Please feel free to look over some of the posts from the past several days, in case you missed them. It's just kinda quiet around here today.

Monday, November 14, 2005


The 27th tropical depression of the 2005 hurricane season has formed in the southeastern Carribean Sea, and if it becomes a tropical storm will be known as Gamma.

It is not expected to affect the United States at this time, and the forecast track takes it toward Central America. Also, while water temperatures in the area are still favourable to help such a storm strengthen into a hurricane, the forecast at this time do not see that occuring.

As always, though, such things bear watching.


Occasionally, the Lakeland Ledger will fill some space with some headlines or brief excerpts from stories published this week in years gone by. Here's one that will make you wish for "the old days", from November 14, 1967:

A total 116 Polk County voters switched their political allegiance during the past year, according to County Supervisor of Registration Blanche Work.

Of the overall number, 84 Democrats re-registered as Republicans and one Independent registered Republican.

Twenty-five Republicans changed over to the Democratic side, as did six Independents.

The switches in allegiance had little impact on the ratio of Democrats to Republicans. Registered Democrats still outnumber the GOP in Polk by about seven to one.

There are 74,297 Democrats and 10,631 Republicans registered.

Compare that to today's figures from the SOE's office as of November 2:

123,415 Democrats, 114,562 Republicans, 8902 Other Parties, and 46,232 Unknown (consider Independents).


Tampa mayor Pam Iorio was the guest on Bay News 9's Political Connections chat show Sunday morning. She's looking at a reelection bid next year, and while there are not a lot of big issues to tout for her stump speech, the mayor said she likes the accomplishments in more "mundane" areas:

"I like issues of road building and replacing sewer lines, stormwater and addressing longstanding drainage issues. It's not the most exciting to talk about, but they are the bread and butter of government, and I truly think Tampa is moving in a positive direction."

Iorio, a Democrat, is considered a rising star --- one of few they can brag about in the Tampa Bay area --- and there are some who would hope that she would consider a statewide race. A few were not happy that Ms. Iorio avoided appearing with last year's presidential nominee Senator John Kerry when he visited the area, but she told host Al Ruechel that "I'm not a particularly partisan person...I think that excessive partisanship gets in the way of problem solving."

That said, Ms. Iorio did support Tampa's Betty Castor in her bid for the U.S. Senate last year, and is supporting Tampa congressman Jim Davis in his bid for governor.

Sunday, November 13, 2005


Better late than Laundry, breakfast, and the other mundane responsibilities of life pushed this post back somewhat today, but now that we're here, we'll proceed...

We start in South Florida, where the Miami Herald says that the Medicaid reform plan should be looked at closely in order to insure that our state's most vulnerable citizens are protected. Governor Bush is expected to ask the Legislature to approve the nation's most sweeping reform programme for Medicaid during an upcoming special session.

National security is on the minds of the editorial writers up the road at the South Florida Sun Sentinel, who urges the executive and legislative branches of the federal government to cooperate more effectively in meeting the challenge of improving our defenses against terrorism at home.

Traffic fatalities in Orange County, combined with a fewer number of Florida Highway Patrol troopers, are the subject of today's editorial in the Orlando Sentinel, who calls for more officers to help stem this disturbing tide.

Here in Polk County, the Lakeland Ledger notes the failure of referendums in California and Ohio to form independent committies which would redraw congressional and legislative district boundries. The editorial urges that the current effort in Florida should continue, but to assure the voters that the motive is good government and not changing the party in power.

The St. Petersburg Times encourages a look into how race and class figure into our criminal justice system in the wake of the comparatively leniant sentencing of former Tampa teacher Jennifer Porter for a hit-and-run incident in which two African-American children were killed last year. Her punishment of house arrest, probation, and community service angered many in the black community of Pinellas County who felt Ms. Porter got a break as she was white.

The state's "Government In The Sunshine" law is the subject of today's editorial in the Florida Times-Union of Jacksonville, which went to court to force police in Jacksonville Beach to release the name of an officer involved in a shooting incident. It reminds public officials and agencies to learn --- and abide by --- the law.

Across North Florida, the Tallahassee Democrat is concerned with the long-term neglect that the Big Bend area's natrual assets have received in the midst of sharp growth, and that celebration and reflection is in order after approval of a plan to clean up and restore what is now Cascades Park in the state capitol.

The Pensacola News Journal says today that thanks should go to Florida's senators and congressional representatives who have fought for a ban on drilling less than 100 miles off our coasts. But the decision against including a drilling comprimise which was in an upcoming deficit reduction bill was but one round in an ongoing battle to protect the Sunshine State's coastlines.

Today's editorial in the Sarasota Herald Tribune concerns the arts. While artists and officials in Sarasota continue to debate the merits of setting up clown statues around town, the editorial compares that with what's happening in nearby Bradenton. There, plans are moving forward to exhibit six foot tall brightly lighted fiberglass geckos in the city's Village of the Arts and downtown for three months before they are auctioned off to benefit the Artists Guild of Manatee's programmes for area students.

In the wake of a Cocoa teacher who also served as an after-school tutor being charged with molesting young students in April, the Titusville-based Florida Today calls on the Brevard County School Board to fast track changes in policy to protect students from this type of abuse.

The area's fast growth is on the minds of the editorial board at the Daytona Beach News-Journal, which says that cooperation between the Volusia County and it's 16 municipalities is essential to control how the area is to continue growing.

Instead of it's own editorial, the Fort Myers News Press is featuring two guest op-ed pieces regarding the pending purchase of 74,000 acres of Babcock Ranch by the state for preservation. Kitson & Partners CEO Syd Kitson takes the position in favour. St. Petersburg-based attorney Thomas W. Reese, representing Lee County's Responsible Growth Management Coalition, writes against the proposal.

Florida Power & Light is the focus of the opinion in today's Naples Daily News, urging the state's largest electric utility to put more of it's infastructure underground and take other action --- including being more open with it's customers --- in the aftermath of this year's hurricanes.

With a mutual aid agreement now in the works between the fire departments of Ocala and Marion County, proponents of consolidating city and county government services a la Miami-Dade and Jacksonville-Duval see an opening to do the same there. The Ocala Star Banner says it is an idea worth discussing further.

Just up the road, the Gainesville Sun decries the look of University Avenue and 13th Street near the University of Florida, and calls on city commissioners to approve staff and consultant recommendations for the ambitious University Corners project to launch an incentive plan to improve what they call the University's front door.

The Palm Beach Post says that the new Medicaid drug benefit programme isn't good medicine, but people now have to make a choice.

The Tampa Tribune doesn't have it's own editorial today; just several individual op-ed pieces.

Make it a great Sunday.


Politicians...telling the TRUTH!?!?

A contridiction in terms, maybe? Not in this case.

Former North Carolina Senator and Democratic Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards used his op-ed piece in today's Washington Post to admit that he was wrong in voting to support our current engagement in Iraq, saying that "...we now know that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction when our forces invaded Iraq in 2003. The intelligence was deeply flawed and, in some cases, manipulated to fit a political agenda.

It was a mistake to vote for this war in 2002. I take responsibility for that mistake. It has been hard to say these words because those who didn't make a mistake -- the men and women of our armed forces and their families -- have performed heroically and paid a dear price.

The world desperately needs moral leadership from America, and the foundation for moral leadership is telling the truth.

I have always admired and respected John Edwards, and more so now. He's a gentleman who is not afraid to admit when he's wrong, a trait more men and women in the political world should have or choose to use. I had the honour of meeting Mr. Edwards a couple of years ago while he was still an active candidate for president, and hope that we will see and hear more from him soon.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


Congratulations to several Polk County high school football teams that played last night in regional playoff competition.

--- Needless to say, the nation's top ranked Lakeland Dreadnaughts (USA Today poll) shut out Gibsonton East Bay at Bryant Stadium 41-0. They will now visit Tampa Chamberlain Friday in 5-A regional semifinal action.

--- Another Lakeland school, Lake Gibson, defeated Brandon 32-13. They are on the road again Friday at Tampa Wharton. If they win there, it sets the stage for a possible local showdown with Lakeland in a semifinal matchup.

--- A bit of a surprise in 4-A, but the Winter Haven Blue Devils surprised Tampa Hillsborough 21-20 in overtime. The local boys host another Tampa school, Jefferson, next Friday.

--- One up, one down in 3-A. Kathleen's Red Devils eliminated Titusville Astronaut 27-21, and move ahead to an appointment with Hardee of Wauchula. Meanwhile, the only loss for Polk's playoff teams came from Haines City, who dropped a 39-6 decision at Cocoa.

--- In 1-A, Polk County's other defending state champion Fort Meade Miners won at home against Fort Myers Evangalical Christian 21-14, and they host Glades Day of Belle Glades next Friday.

And championships are on the agenda at The Lakeland Center this weekend, as the FHSAA Girls Volleyball Finals wrap up tonight.


Yesterday, I mentioned here about the 2-1 decision from the Lakeland-based Second District Court of Appeals overturning the ruling by a Polk County judge to deny an unidentified 17-year old girl a waiver from the new state law requiring parental notification before a minor can terminate her pregnancy.

Today, one area lawmaker decries the appeals court action, and says that the law needs to be fine-tuned to set the bar higher for exemptions and make it more difficult for appeals courts to nix the rulings of a lower court in these cases.

State Representative Dennis Ross (R - Lakeland) told the Lakeland Ledger for a story which ran in today's edition:

"If a minor attempts to receive an exemption, and the judge hearing the case denies it, that should be it...I feel we will have to revisit the law as a legislature and set standards by which an appellate court can overturn a judge's decision in such cases."

Waviers for minors have been rare. The Ledger story notes that since the law took effect June 30, only three girls who have sought abortions at Planned Parenthood's four Southwest and Central Florida clinics have requested parental notification waivers.

FYI: If Ross' name sounds familiar, he was considering a run for Chief Financial Officer to replace current gubernatorial candidate Tom Gallagher, but decided against it when it was discovered he would have to sell off his interest in his law firm.


Much of the discussion will focus on the suicide bombings in Jordan and how the monarchy is reacting. There will also be discussion on midterm election strategy, Iraq, the Senate investigation of pre-war intelligence, and the Bush Administration's policy on torture.

ABC - This Week With George Stephanopoulos - Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan. Also, campaign committee chairs: Senators Elizabeth Dole (R - NC) and Charles Schumer (D - NY) with Congressmen Tom Reynolds (R - NY) and Rahm Emanuel (D - IL). Actor Jack Klugman also is interviewed regarding politics and friendship.

CBS - Face The Nation - Senator John McCain (R - AZ). Also, Governor Mark Warner (D - VA) and New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller.

CNN - Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer - National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (Ret.), Former State Department Chief of Staff under Colin Powell, with Deputy Prime Ministers Dr. Ahmed Chalabi of Iraq and Marwan Muasher of Jordan. Senators Pat Roberts (R - KS), chairman of the Select Intellegence Committee, and Carl Levin (D - MI), ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. Criminal defence attorney Jeralyn Merritt, Court TV analyst/author/former Texas judge Catherine Crier. Governors Thomas Vilsack (D - IA) and Mike Huckabee (R - AR).

FOX - Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace - Senators Pat Roberts (R - KS) and his vice chairman on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Jay Rockefeller (D - WV). Governors Mike Huckabee (R - AR) and Bill Richardson (D - NM) will discuss the 2005 election results and what they may (or may not) mean. Also the usual panel: FOX News Washington Managing Editor Brit Hume, NPR's Mara Liasson and Juan Williams and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol.

NBC/MSNBC - Meet the Press with Tim Russert - Jordan's King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein will discuss the attacks this past week. And politics is on the menu as party chairman Dr. Howard Dean (Democratic National Committee) and Ken Mehlman (Republican National Committee) talk about this past week's elections and what's to come.

Friday, November 11, 2005


Thanks to the St. Petersburg Times' political blog The Buzz for the heads up:

The two Democratic gubernatorial candidates for governor had endorsements to crow about this week.

Former U.S. Senator Max Cleland of Georgia is supporting Congressman Jim Davis (D - Tampa), and will be making a Veterans' Day appearance with him in Tallahassee. Cleland lost three limbs during the Vietnam War, and became known as a strong supporter of John Kerry's presidential campaign last year. Since he was defeated for reelection in 2002, President Bush has appointed Cleland to the board of the Export-Import Bank.

Meanwhile, State Senator Rod Smith (D - Alachua) has gotten the support of the Florida Council of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which will officially ask the Florida AFL-CIO to endorsement him. The statewide coalition of local labour unions is not expected to make a decision until next May.


The Lakeland-based 2nd District Court of Appeal on Thursday overturned a ruling by a Polk Circuit Judge who had denied a 17 year old girl a waiver from the new state law requiring minors to notify their parents prior to having an abortion.

The parental notification law became effective June 30 after passing the state Legislature during it's regular session.

While we don't know the girl's identity because of her age, the Lakeland Ledger noted today that she lives in the Tenth Judicial Circuit, which includes the counties of Polk, Highlands, and Hardee. She will become 18 next month, still lives with her parents, comes from a Roman Catholic family, graduated from high school with what was called "an impressively high grade-point average", and currently attends a post-secondary school nearby.

The girl testified before Circuit Judge Ellen Masters that she became pregnant by her steady boyfriend, who she plans to marry within a year. She also said that she was not pressured by her boyfriend to get an abortion, but that she was not prepared to raise a child financially or otherwise. While the girl says she has a good relationship with her parents, she testified that they would be "adamantly opposed" to her terminating her pregnancy, and may kick her out.

The Ledger reported:

[Judge Stephen T] Northcutt and Chief Judge Carolyn Fulmer formed a majority ruling that nothing in the hearing before Masters showed the girl lacked the maturity to decide whether to have an abortion or conclude that telling her parents would not serve her best interests.

Northcutt wrote that sending the case back for more information would not be useful. In addition, if the appellate court didn't rule within 10 days, Masters' order would be reversed and the waiver granted, the judge wrote.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Charles A. Davis Jr. wrote that the girl hasn't shown sufficient maturity to make such a decision.

He noted that there is no evidence that the girl investigated what other options were available to her or that she understood the consequences, including possible medical complications, of getting an abortion.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


Lloyd Dunkelberger, Tallahassee reporter for the New York Times Regional Newspapers Group, writes that pending a meeting Senate President Tom Lee (R - Brandon) will allow the chairman of the Regulated Industries Committee to sponsor a bill during December's special legislative session which would authorize Vegas-style slot machines in Broward County.

Normally, that would not be news. Voters in Broward County earlier this year approved a proposal which would allow the slot machines at two horse racing tracks, one dog track, and a jai alai fronton under the guidelines of a new constitutional amendment.

But Senator Dennis Jones (R - Treasure Island), along with three collegues, are currently being investigated after Magna Entertainment spend $48,000 in July to host the four lawmakers for two days at it's Toronto headquarters. Magna owns Gulfstream Park near Hallandale Beach, and will benefit from the additional gambling revenue.

The amount of the trip showed up as an in-kind donation to the Republican Party of Florida. That would not be a problem, except that the trip took the form of a direct benefit to the legislative quartet...who are not permitted from accepting gifts valued at over $100.

The other members who took Magna's charter jet to Canada are former Senate President Jim King (R - Jacksonville), Mike Bennett (R - Bradenton) and Representative Frank Farkas (R - St. Petersburg). Farkas is currently seeking a Senate seat.

From Dunkelburger's story:

Lee said he weighed those facts against Jones' legislative experience, which includes 22 years in the House before coming to the Senate in 2002.

"I don't want to prejudge him . . .," Lee said. "He is an experienced and talented lawmaker."

But Lee said he wanted to have a conversation with his committee chairman "so that he understands the gravity of the situation, the perception that we find ourselves in and (whether) he is up to the task of managing this piece of legislation against the backdrop of what will be a lot of scrutiny."

A question here: Is bad judgement rampant on the Capitol campus? It it the air, or something in the water?


In reading Sarasota Herald Tribune political columnist Jeremy Wallace's blog early this morning, the first thing that hits me is the headline for Wednesday's entry:

Redistricting reforms defeated in Calif.; Florida next?

Sounds like Wallace --- or at least whoever writes his headlines for the blog --- are already predicting gloom and doom for the efforts of the Committee for Fair Elections to change the way congressional and legislative districts here are drawn, and who does the redistricting.

In California Tuesday, a somewhat similar effort championed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was defeated. Between the governor's approval ratings being in the toilet and the number and subject of propositions on the ballot to consider (there were six), along with the predictable off-year low voter turnout, it was simply a reciepe for the effort to crash and burn.

Florida will be different. If the proposal to for a bipartisan, independent committee to redraw districts makes the ballot, voters will decide the matter next November when they choose a new governor along with their U.S. Senator, congressional representative, and other state and local races.

Supporters of this measure are hard at work. In Sarasota County, Wallace notes that Common Cause of Florida Executive Director Ben Wilcox spoke there Monday in support. And the co-founder of the Committee for Fair Elections, former Education Secretary and U.S. Senate candidate Betty Castor, will speak to the Democratic Club of Sarasota Saturday.

But some legislative leaders, led by House Speaker Allan Bense (R - Panama City) are working to keep their clear conflict of interest alive...and using taxpayer money in the effort. Up to $50,000 of taxpayer money, to be exact. Even Senate President Tom Lee (R - Brandon), who also opposes the independent committee proposal, "could find no justification" to follow Bense's lead.

From Monday's Orlando Sentinel:

The controversy began this month, when Bense signed a contract with Tallahassee attorney George Meros to help block the proposed amendment. The deal calls for taxpayers to pay Meros $250 an hour up to $50,000, plus expenses.

The amendment they are targeting would take the once-a-decade job of redrawing political boundaries away from the Legislature and give it to a 15-member commission appointed by both parties and the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. A related amendment would force a redrawing in 2007, rather than waiting until after the 2010 census.

But even if backers collect the necessary 611,000 signatures, the Florida Supreme Court must also rule that the proposed amendment is not inaccurate or misleading and that it is limited to a single subject before it is placed on the 2006 ballot.

That's where Meros comes in. He is helping House lawyers try to convince the court that the amendment fails those tests because, among other issues, it does not alert voters that it is an "unprecedented" shift in powers from the Legislature to the courts and that it could jeopardize racial diversity among political districts.

Friends, that is a crock. It is by no means a shift in powers to the courts. The proposal, as you read above, creates a 15-member commission with representation by both major political parties AND the Florida Supreme Court. Also --- believe this --- any move to dilute racial diversity among political districts would be closely monitored by groups such as the NAACP and challenged immediately in court.

And when it comes to the political parties disagreeing on redrawing boundries, I say this: As long as you have reasonable individuals who have the best interest of Florida who are willing to comprimise when and where needed, it can work. If not, there is always the California proposal which would form a commission with retired judges. But the current system, which is clearly a conflict of interest, must end ASAP.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


In an effort to shore up his reelection coffers, Senator Bill Nelson will be holding a major fundraising luncheon event Friday in Sarasota, the first such appearance since Congresswoman Katherine Harris announced her candidacy for Nelson's seat.

The event, for which tickets will range between $250 and $4,200, will feature 2004 Democratic presidential candidate and retired four-star general Wesley Clark...on Veterans' Day.

In addition to the Sarasota fundraiser, Clark will also appear with the senator for a breakfast in Orlando and an evening reception in Tampa.

It's great to see General Clark remaining active, while remaining generally "under the radar", making occasional appearances and through his WesPAC. I had the pleasure of meeting him last fall at the Florida Democratic Party state conference, and was impressed talking with him briefly and hearing him speak to those of us gathered.

Should be some great events across Central Florida.


While listening to NPR's afternoon news programme All Things Considered Tuesday on the way home from work, I heard a disturbing report about how the Internal Revenue Service is considering revoking the tax exempt status for a Southern California church (click to listen to the report) because of a sermon delivered just before last year's presidential election.

All Saints' Episcopal Church of Pasadena is known as one of the largest and most liberal congregations in Southern California. In 1987 the congregation declared itself as a "Peace and Justice Church", stating that All Saints' would be a place where "the most pressing and most difficult issues relating to peace and justice are addressed".

Reverand George F. Regas, who for nearly 30 years served as the church's rector, has spoken in his sermons against the Vietnam and Gulf wars. He was a guest celebrant and gave the sermon during a service on October 31, 2004, two days before the presidential election. The message, entitled "If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush", did not endorse either candidate, but was strongly worded against our current engagement in Iraq as well as speaking out against poverty and in favour of a woman's right to choose on the issue of abortion. Rev. Regas also described both Bush and Kerry as "...devout Christians". You can hear it yourself (MP3 file courtesy Los Angeles Times).

Apparantly the sermon got some attention in Washington, DC. Seven months after the service, on June 9, All Saints' received a letter from the Internal Revenue Service which stated that "a reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax exempt as a church..." As you all know, churches and other tax-exempt organizations are prohibited from endorsing a candidate for public office or intervening in political campaigns and elections. The letter said that "our concerns are based on a November 1, 2004 newspaper article in the Los Angeles Times and a sermon presented at the All Saints' Church discussed in the article".

In it's response, All Saints' included copies of it's policies as well as all literature given out prior to the election and transcripts of the sermon.

The church was offered a deal during a face-to-face meeting in which the IRS would not pursue an examination of it's tax-exempt status if it admitted wrongdoing by intervening in an election. Needless to say, All Saints' declined the offer. The current rector of All Saints', Rev. J. Edwin Bacon, informed his congregation of the IRS issue last Sunday during the Sunday Requiem Eucharist as his guest celebrant, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize reciepent Archbishop Desmond Tutu, looked on.

I don't mind any minister preaching on what they consider moral issues. War, poverty, and a woman's right to choose are not only political issues, but moral ones as well. I fully agree that churches should not actively endorse candidates for public office or attempt to influence the outcome of an election. But anyone who reads the transcript of the sermon will clearly see that while Rev. Regas decried against what turns out to be some of the shortcomings of the current administration, he did not endorse or favour one candidate over another. Compare that to what Jerry Falwell does in the pulpit at Thomas Road Baptist Church, or what some of our local pastors likely do on Sunday mornings as an election approaches.

The IRS's behaviour in this case is shameful, and reeks of political persecution.

You can read a transcript of the sermon, as well as the IRS letter to All Saints' and it's response and the Peace and Justice proclamation by clicking on the links from the church's page.