Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Mustang Bobby at the Miami-Dade blog Bark Bark Woof Woof notes that the Washington Times magazine Insight has published a piece which says that Vice President Dick Cheney could retire after the mid-term elections in November.

The story says that, considering the reportedly growing rift between the president and vice president and their staffs, as well as the possible crisis regarding the Scotter Libby classified leak case, there is a concern that Cheney is becoming too much of a political liability for the administration. What the magazine calls "senior GOP sources" are anticipating that the vice president will be encouraged to resign next year several months following the congressional elections.

"Nothing will happen until after the congressional elections," a GOP source said. "After that, there will be significant changes in the administration and Cheney will probably be part of that."

Under the rules of succession in the Constitution, in such a case the President will nominate a Vice President who would take office upon confirmation by a majority of both houses of Congress. The Speaker of the House --- currently Congressman Dennis Hastert (R - IL) --- is third in line and would be the most likely individual selected, especially for such a relitively short period (about 1 1/2 year until after the 2008 election).

That could have some interesting ramifications for our local congressman, Adam Putnam (R - FL), who is a close ally and friend of the speaker and has hosted Hastert at his residence near Bartow.


The St. Petersburg Times' political blog The Buzz tells us this morning that the cable powerhouse Bright House Networks is setting up a news bureau in Tallahassee for it's two news networks, Bay News 9 in the Tampa/St. Petersburg/Lakeland area, and Central Florida News 13 in the Orlando area.

The new bureau will be manned by former WCJB-TV Gainesville political/legislative reporter Troy Kinsey and photojournalist Thomas Jenkins, and will have a satellite truck to have the capability for live feeds. The bureau will be located in WFSU-TV's broadcast centre at Florida State University.


As those of you who visit this site regularly may have noticed, I have recently been featuring quotes from the great Lebanese writer/poet/philosopher/artist Kahlil Gibran. When I was in high school I discovered his classic writing The Prophet, mainly from the musical/spoken word interpertation by the late British actor Richard Harris (Yes, Professor Albus Dumbledore himself, with a then-little known Barry Manilow as a member of the background chorus).

I've been reading some of Gibran's other works, and this piece in particular reminds me so much of what is happening across our land today that I felt moved to share it here with you. It is amazing that this writing, done nearly eight decades ago, sounds like he is talking to President Bush and the neo-coms in Washington directly.

by Gibran Kahlil Gibran

Your thought is a tree rooted deep in the soil of tradition and whose branches grow in the power of continuity. My thought is a cloud moving in the space. It turns into drops which, as they fall, form a brook that sings its way into the sea. Then it rises as vapour into the sky. Your thought is a fortress that neither gale nor the lightning can shake. My thought is a tender leaf that sways in every direction and finds pleasure in its swaying. Your thought is an ancient dogma that cannot change you nor can you change it. My thought is new, and it tests me and I test it morn and eve.

You have your thought and I have mine.

Your thought allows you to believe in the unequal contest of the strong against the weak, and in the tricking of the simple by the subtle ones. My thought creates in me the desire to till the earth with my hoe, and harvest the crops with my sickle, and build my home with stones and mortar, and weave my raiment with woollen and linen threads. Your thought urges you to marry wealth and notability. Mine commends self-reliance. Your thought advocates fame and show. Mine counsels me and implores me to cast aside notoriety and treat it like a grain of sand cast upon the shore of eternity. Your thought instils in your heart arrogance and superiority. Mine plants within me love for peace and the desire for independence. Your thought begets dreams of palaces with furniture of sandalwood studded with jewels, and beds made of twisted silk threads. My thought speaks softly in my ears, "Be clean in body and spirit even if you have nowhere to lay your head." Your thought makes you aspire to titles and offices. Mine exhorts me to humble service.

You have your thought and I have mine.

Your thought is social science, a religious and political dictionary. Mine is simple axiom. Your thought speaks of the beautiful woman, the ugly, the virtuous, the prostitute, the intelligent, and the stupid. Mine sees in every woman a mother, a sister, or a daughter of every man. The subjects of your thought are thieves, criminals, and assassins. Mine declares that thieves are the creatures of monopoly, criminals are the offspring of tyrants, and assassins are akin to the slain. Your thought describes laws, courts, judges, punishments. Mine explains that when man makes a law, he either violates it or obeys it. If there is a basic law, we are all one before it. He who disdains the mean is himself mean. He who vaunts hisscorn of the sinful vaunts his disdain of all humanity. Your thought concerns the skilled, the artist, the intellectual, the philosopher, the priest. Mine speaks of the loving and the affectionate, the sincere, the honest, the forthright, the kindly, and the martyr. Your thought advocates Judaism, Brahmanism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. In my thought there is only one universal religion, whose varied paths are but the fingers of the loving hand of the Supreme Being. In your thought there are the rich, the poor, and the beggared. My thought holds that there are no riches but life; that we are all beggars, and no benefactor exists save life herself.

You have your thought and I have mine.

According to your thought, the greatness of nations lies in their politics, their parties, their conferences, their alliances and treaties. But mine proclaims that the importance of nations lies in work - work in the field, work in the vineyards, work with the loom, work in the tannery, work in the quarry, work in the timberyard, work in the office and in the press. Your thought holds that the glory of the nations is in their heroes. It sings the praises of Rameses, Alexander, Caesar, Hannibal, and Napoleon. But mine claims that the real heroes are Confucius, Lao-Tse, Socrates, Plato, Abi Taleb, El Gazali, Jalal Ed-din-el Roumy, Copernicus, and Pasteur. Your thought sees power in armies, cannons, battleships, submarines, aeroplanes, and poison gas. But mine asserts that power lies in reason, resolution, and truth. No matter how long the tyrant endures, he will be the loser at the end. Your thought differentiates between pragmatist and idealist, between the part and the whole, between the mystic and materialist. Mine realizes that life is one and its weights, measures and tables do not coincide with your weights, measures and tables. He whom you suppose an idealist may be a practical man.

You have your thought and I have mine.

Your thought is interested in ruins and museums, mummies and petrified objects. But mine hovers in the ever-renewed haze and clouds. Your thought is enthroned on skulls. Since you take pride in it, you glorify it too. My thought wanders in the obscure and distant valleys. Your thought trumpets while you dance. Mine prefers the anguish of death to your music and dancing. Your thought is the thought of gossip and false pleasure. Mine is the thought of him who is lost in his own country, of the alien in his own nation, of the solitary among his kinfolk and friends.

You have your thought and I have mine.

Monday, February 27, 2006


First, we learn that one of America's greatest comedic actors, Don Knotts, fell to lung cancer Friday night in Los Angeles. Then, less than 24 hours later, Darren McGavin passes away at the age of 83 of natrual causes.

One interesting coincidence: both men were featured in the 1976 family comedy "No Deposit, No Return".

UPDATE: We learned this afternoon that Dennis Weaver, best known for his roles on Gunsmoke and McCloud, died at his Colorado home of complications from cancer. He was 81.



I'll be the first to say that a college education is not for everyone. Not every young man or woman who receives a high school diploma has the ability --- or the desire --- to seek a higher education. But there are many who want to improve their lot in life through a college degree, but whose family may not have the financial ability to support that dream. Sure, there are student loans that would force reciepants to pay back for much of their working lives (in addition to the loans for their home/car/furniture).

That's what programmes such as Upward Bound are for. It provides tutoring and other academic support for high school students from low income families to increase their chances for admittance and scholarships/other financial assistance which would allow them to make their dream happen. And at least locally, it seems to work well. According to a story in today's Daytona Beach News-Journal, ten of the 11 seniors participating in Daytona Beach Community College's Upward Bound programme entered college last fall, while the 11th joined the military.

So with this kind of success, which I'm certain can be shown across the country, it's amazing --- but not surprising --- that for the second year President Bush has submitted a budget which would eliminate Upward Bound and other educational programmes. Congress, to their credit, kept Upward Bound funded to the tune of $278 million last year.

From an NPR Morning Edition report earlier this month:

The president's choices reflect political priorities, more than a true measure of performance, says Gary Bass, who works for the government watchdog group OMB Watch.

"In the case of AIDS housing, there's more political support for that today," says Bass. "In the case of programs that serve disadvantaged kids, there's less support today."

Bush's budget would scrap about 40 educational programmes totalling more than $3 billion. So can we say that this is the president that supports the "dumbing down of America"?


Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty writes in this morning's edition about the behind-the-scenes battles being waged for Florida Senate President...in 2008! Current Senate President Tom Lee (R - Brandon) had to call a closed-door session of the Senate Republican caucus, almost never done under his watch, to insist that the growingly nasty tone of the fight end until at least the upcoming session's end. The 60-day session of the Legislature begins March 7.

It seems that two of the three state senators who represent Polk County are in the midst of it all. Rufty writes that Senate Majority Whip J.D. Alexander (R - Lake Wales) is reportedly gaining a reputation, at least according to one Senate staffer, of being a member "...not being able to keep his word." He had pledged his support to Senator Alex Villalobos (R - Miami) for the 2008 Senate President race, but pulled back his pledge card in favour of Senator Jeff Atwater (R - North Palm Beach), and he Alexander tells Rufty that Villalobos went back on his pledge regarding the issue of school district funding differential.

Meanwhile, Senator Paula Dockery (R - Lakeland) continues to support Villalobos. And both Dockery and Alexander are running for the Senate's presidency in 2010.

Sounds like your usual Tallahassee soap opera. And you thought only Democrats knew how to pull that off...

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Today's main front page "above the fold" story in the Lakeland Ledger is by Rick Rousos regarding the status of the local homeless community, and how Lakeland has received a reputation among homeless people throughout the region as a city filled with generous people and churches more tolerant of them and ready to help. Not the type of positive reputation that some in the community may want to hear of...

He also has several "sidebar" feature stories focusing on individuals among the local homeless community. Among them are a man who has chosen the homeless lifestyle as his own, a woman who credits her newfound religious faith for helping her into a new direction, a young man who sees his day labour job as a way out of the abyss of drugs, and a big man who says the outdoor life suits him just fine.

A great piece of work deserving of your review.


The Lakeland Ledger this morning considers Governor Bush's contridictary feelings on redrawing legislative and congressional district boundries. He supported an inititive in California, but opposes a similar proposal here in Florida. He has much the same contridictary belief about the non-profit group Common Cause, who supported both measures. Here in Florida he calls Common Cause activists "a group of Secret Squirrel liberals", but were friends on the West Coast. The editorial calls the governor's support for the redistricting proposal in California --- which failed --- the best endorsement for doing the same here.

Eastbound on I-4, the Orlando Sentinel editorial page endorses the idea of a medical school at the University of Central Florida. No surprise the Sentinel favours the hometown school over placing the med school at Florida State University, as the opinion is that it would aid in relieving the state's current physician shortage and that doing nothing would potentially do great harm to the state's economic future.

The Daytona Beach News-Journal comes out opposing President Bush's plan to sell off 300,000 acres from the national forest system --- including the Ocala National Forest --- as well as 500,000 acres within the Bureau of Land Management, even saying that "from some vantage points, it looks like an outright scam". It says the administration's excuse doesn't hold water, either, as the rural school programme that it says money from the sales would temporairly fund is actually being phased out.

Over on the other side of the state, the Tampa Tribune is endorsing a petition drive which should begin within the next few days to allow Hillsborough County voters the opportunity to decide it's current appointed county administrator system with an elected county mayor as is done in Orange, Miami-Dade, and Duval (Jacksonville) counties. It says that while Hillsborough County has a capable manager now in Pat Bean, the County Commission limits her latitude to solve major problems, something that would be eliminated with a county mayor.

Across Tampa Bay, the St. Petersburg Times remembers the six month mark following Hurricane Katrina. After President Bush rejected what it called a "sensible idea" by Congressman Richard Baker (R - LA) to create a Louisiana Recovery Corporation, it says the plan by Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D - LA) is "filling the void" and is worth consideration.

The lessons of Katrina are also on the minds of those on the Sarasota Herald Tribune editorial board, which has several specific reforms that it says should be seriously explored. Among those are making the Federal Emergency Management Agency a seperate office again and giving the military a more prominant role in domestic disaster response.

The Pensacola News Journal says that the local option sales tax needs to remain, but property tax relief is needed as well. So it says that higher impact fees on new construction and development is one way to bring such relief to Escambia Countians, and should be considered.

Today's editorial in the Miami Herald deals with the prison camp at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The opinion is that the administation should be called to answer how long and under what circumstances the prison will remain open, and that overall a better detention policy is needed for our war on terror.

Paved greenways are not allowed in Gainesville, and the Gainesville Sun calls the charter initiative banning them not only ill-conceived but sloppily written. A "glitch amendment" will be brought before the voters there March 7 which would allow paved parking lots, basketball and tennis courts and other park improvements but still not allowing greenways along Hogtown Creek. While the Sun would like to see the anti-greenway ban reversed, it supports the amendment before the voters.

What happens if your school board forms a Construction Advisory Council and noone comes forward to serve? That's the case in Marion County now with only two applications being received. The school district there has had great success with getting new schools built on time and often under budget, so the Ocala Star Banner says those supporting the idea of a CAC should consider the lack of interest as a compliment and let the idea die.

The Melbourne-based Space Coast newspaper Florida Today notes that Brevard County's growth put the area on the Milken Institute's Top 10 list for job gains among 200 metro areas nationwide. The opinion is that while that it is certainly commendable, growth is a double-edged sword demanding more investment in rising private needs and reminding us that many others are falling behind...and that cannot be allowed to be forgotten. BTW: Lakeland ranked 33rd, up from 67th last year.

In the state capitol, the Tallahassee Democrat salutes State Senator Rod Smith (D - Alachua) and State Representative David Simmons (R - Altamonte Springs) for their efforts to clarify statutes regarding the idea of "false light" when it comes to damaging a person's reputation and noting that truth must remain a defense in such cases.

The Palm Beach Post uses it's editorial space this morning to criticize Mayor Lois Frankel for using private gatherings with business and community leaders to announce her wish to overturn a referendum from ten years ago setting a five story limit on new construction east of Olive Avenue along the downtown waterfront. The mayor wants to approve a 15-20 story condo tower in the area where City Hall currently is, using the proceeds to build a new administration building at Clematis Street and Dixie Highway.

The Florida Times Union of Jacksonville calls on more attention to be given on the area's high suicide rate, citing that during the past three years there were more suicides in Duval County than murders.

And the South Florida Sun Suntinel, while saying that the Bush Administration did the right thing in extending temporary residencey status for Central Americans, suggests that it should extend the same courtesy to Hatians. The editorial says that Hatians qualify for TPS, and that offering it sends a message of good will and support.

Make it a great Sunday.

Saturday, February 25, 2006


But it's time for Girl Scout Cookies again! Yes, friends, that means time for Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Peanut Butter Cremes, and all the others you know and love.

I didn't realize that it was GSC time until coming out of Wal-Mart this afternoon and the tables were set up and boxes were selling like crazy. Besides being generally delicious, you're helping some young girls raise needed funds for their activities and helping them learn important lessons they'll use for a lifetime.

When you see 'em, help 'em out!


With all the missteps and general screwups that federal officials did in the crazy aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Sheriff Billy McGee is considered a true hero among many of his constituents in Forrest County, Mississippi...and he's facing federal misdemeanor charges for it.

It seems as though he and three deputies commendeered two ice trucks at the Federal Emergency Management Agency staging area in the Camp Shelby National Guard training base south of Hattiesburg last September 4 to provide ice and water to residents of two communities who had been without either for a week, and the sheriff admits not following FEMA regulations in asking the trucks' drivers to accompany them.

Sheriff McGee has been charged with interfering with, intimidating and impeding a federal officer. He was to have pleaded guilty this week, but the hearing was unexpectedly delayed late Thursday. The plea is part of a deal which would allow McGee to keep his office, run for reelection in the future, and have no action taken against his subordinates.

Across Forrest County, McGee has found lots of support. A group of students from Forrest County Agricultrual High School are circulating a petition on behalf of their sheriff, and residents are speaking out for him, according to this Hattiesburg American story.

"They'll probably guarantee the sheriff re-election for years," [one resident identified only by the last name] Wiseman said. "The federal government has and continues to commit so many missteps in the name of bureaucracy, like the trailers sitting in the mud in Arkansas. Things that just become totally unreasonable to citizens ... turn them against government. You had a local official who understood the plight his citizens were in and acted in contrast to rule-bound bureaucrats up in Washington."

And one resident of the south county community of McLaurin, an EMT named Amanda Skelton who helped staff a makeshift emergency room there in the days following the storm, said the ice helped folks who truly needed it:

"We had diabetics and people who needed ice for medical reasons," she said. "We had people in their 90s who were dehydrated and our were dehydrated. It was pretty desperate."

While the sheriff may have violated strict protocols, he did what he felt he needed to do on behalf of the citizens he was sworn to protect and serve. And from the quote above mentions, his actions very well could have saved several lives. Hurricane Katrina was a "storm of the century" event which noone could have truly been prepared for. When everything is said and done, Sheriff McGee should be saluted for helping his communities, and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Dunn Lampton should seriously consider dropping the charges against a true hero.


It's not often that I say that there is a Republican elected official that I would actually like to see and hear, but U.S. Senator and former/probable GOP presidential candidate John McCain is one of them. While there are a number of issues with which I disagree with the honourable Senator from Arizona, he is one of the few nationally known GOP politicos who still hold a much more moderate view of things than his far-right brethren and has generally not abandoned those more centrist views for the sake of convenience. His life story is a truly inspiring one of faith, honour, and never give up, as well.

Senator McCain has been announced as the featured speaker April 8 for the Polk County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day fundraising dinner at the Lakeland Center (rescheduled from it's original date of February 18). Ticket prices have not been announced as the event has had to be moved to a larger room in the facility...but I would suspect it will set ya back a bit.

So, how does Polk County's GOP get such a notable national name? It was apparantly negotiated with County Commissioner Paul Senft, who happens to be Florida's committeeman on the Republican National Committee.

Senator McCain is only one of three potential (read: likely) 2008 presidential contenders making the tour through Florida. While they are not saying anything about their possible campaigns for the White House, nothing needs to be said. Florida expects to be a major battleground three years from now, and those interested in be a part of it need to get or strengthen their name recognition here now.

Besides McCain, Democratic senate collegue and former first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton (D - NY) spoke to the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce on Friday, and makes an appearance at a Florida Democratic Party reception today in Tampa. And former senator from North Carolina/2004 Democratic presidential contender John Edwards spoke to University of Miami alumni.

To use a common saying nowadays..."The Game Is On".


You can guess that the two big issues likely to be discussed this Sunday will be the growing sectarian violence in Iraq, especially since the bombing of the Golden Mosque this past week, and the flap over the pending sale of management services of six U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World, which is owned by the United Arab Emriates.

ABC / This Week with George Stephanopoulos: U.S. Senators John McCain (R - AZ) and Carl Levin (D - MI). Also, the roundtable segment will feature Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria, CNN commentator and former Pentagon spokesperson Torie Clarke, E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, and George Will.

CBS / Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer: Has not been announced as of Saturday morning (02/25)...highly unusual!

CNN / Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, his Iraqi counterpart Dr. Mowaffak al-Rubaie, U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D - CA) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R - TX) will discuss the growing violence in Iraq and how it will affect U.S. troops.

FOX / Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace: The port controveresy will be discussed with U.S. Senator Joseph Biden (D - DE) and Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend. Also, Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (R) and Washington Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs.

NBC / Meet the Press with Tim Russert: Remember that MTP may be seen at a different time in your area due to NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympic Games, which close Sunday. That said, AAHNALD (a/k/a California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) will be in studio. Also, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner (R - VA) and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Congressman Peter King (R - NY) will discuss port security and Iraqi violence.

Syndicated / The Chris Matthews Show: Has not been announced as of Saturday morning.


Anti-abortion supporters, whose cause was likely strengthed with the approval of Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. and Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. to the United States Supreme Court, now have something else to crow about.

The South Dakota legislature Friday approved a bill banning nearly all abortions in the state effective July 1. The law has no provisions for exceptions in the case of rape or incest, only if necessary to save the life of the mother.

It was clear that the legislation is intended to force a U.S. Supreme Court showdown and possible review of it's landmark 1973 decision Roe -vs- Wade, which made most abortions legal across the USA. The Republican co-sponsor of the bill, State Representative Thomas J. Brunner, told CNN as much when he was quoted as saying "We're just proud to be the state that's leading this charge...The time is right."

Governor Mike Rounds (R), a devout Roman Catholic, has hinted he would sign the bill into law. He went a bit further than Brunner when he was quoted by the Rapid City Journal as saying:

“I do believe the goal we have in front of us should be the eventual elimination of abortion...I also recognize the probability of the court totally eliminating all abortions is very remote. But any movement we can make toward this ultimate goal would save lives...I personally think we will save more lives by continuing to chip away at Roe v. Wade one step at a time. But maybe this new court is more favorable to the elimination of the constitutional determinations that were made in the Roe decision,”

Brunner also admitted that the legislation "certainly flies in the face of current law," but that the state is prepared to take it to the high court, if necessary. Planned Parenthood, who operates the only abortion clinic in South Dakota, has promised to do just that.

The Seattle Times reported this morning:

During floor debate in the state Capitol in Pierre, one lawmaker said he had received word of an anonymous pledge of at least $1 million to help the state defend its ban. And I remember viewing one news report Friday noting that the governor has set up a defense fund to accept donations for that purpose.

Four other states are considering similar legislation, so it's clear that a direct challenge is not far off. Women and pro-choice advocates need to be ready to fight now, because what happened Friday in 'lil ol' Pierre, South Dakota has clearly started the ball rolling.

One interesting note: The newspaper in the South Dakota capital city, the Pierre Capital Journal, makes absolutely no mention of the bill in it's online edition today.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Polk County is remembering the life of long time law enforcement officer and four term sheriff Monroe Brannen, who died Thursday from complications of pneumonia at Lakeland Regional Medical Center. He was 91.

Brannen, who served as sheriff from 1961 to 1976, was not only known and respected as a lawman, but as a great historical source. He also served as an influence for a number of current office holders. Among the current politicos hired by Mr. Brannen were now-State Attorney Jerry Hill, who was but 18 years old when he was hired as a jailer, and current sheriff Grady Judd, who was 18 when hired as a dispatcher (Brannen made Judd the first Polk sheriff's deputy under 21 when the age requirement was lowered). Judd remembers him this way:

"He was my idol when I was a child...He was the sheriff for most of my childhood, and his brother lived down the street from me. Whenever Sheriff Brannen would come visit him, I'd run down the street just to get a look at the High Sheriff. And I'd think, `Someday I'm going to grow up and be sheriff.

Brannen went through a lot in his 37 years of law enforcement. He was shot in 1949 while working a domestic violence call as a Lakeland police officer, losing an eye. And during his 1976 reelection campaign he was indicted on charges of perjury and conspiracy to discredit a political rival. He was acquitted of the charges, but lost the general election to then-Florida Highway Patrol trooper Louis Mims.

Lakeland Ledger political writer Bill Rufty writes about the life of Monroe Brannen in today's edition.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced.


In the 2004 Palm Beach County general election, according to the organization BlackBoxVoting.org, it found the electronic voting machines logged over 100,000 errors, including memory failures. Not only that, but in approximately 70,000 cases cards got stuck in the ATM-like machines.

From the AP story appearing in newspapers today:

Also, the hard drives crashed on some of the machines made by Oakland, Calif.-based Sequoia Voting Systems, some machines apparently had to be rebooted over and over, and 1,475 re-calibrations were performed on Election Day on more than 4,300 units... Re-calibrations are done when a machine is malfunctioning.

Bev Harris, founder of the non-partisan group, also claims that the one machine showed 112 votes cast two days before the start of early voting in Palm Beach County, a possible sign of tampering, and that evidence of tampering was found on at least 30 machines countywide.

County election officials are disputing the claims, saying that many of the issues had to do with voters not following proper procedures such as inserting their user cards into the machine wrong. They also say that many of the other errors would not have affected the vote total, as there are backups in place.

Regardless, friends, this simply strengthens the voice for a "paper trail". While no system can truly be tamper-proof, I like Polk County's use of an electronic voting machine (scanner) with paper ballots that can be counted if needed.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


"People don't need to worry about security."
President Bush, speaking earlier Thursday about the ongoing B&O/Dubai Ports World controveresy.

Hearing that is like listening to the late comedian Wally Cox vocalize what will probably go down as his most famous line,

"There's no need to fear; UNDERDOG is here!!!"


In the midst of all this political news, I've just got to put in something bright. Since I took the day off from the blog here Wednesday, I've selected a great story from the Lakeland Ledger --- "above the fold".

It has been announced that Florida's oldest and longest serving schoolteacher --- and very possibly one of the nation's --- will retire at the end of this term.

Hazel Haley is 89 years young, and will step aside after an incredible 69 years of service to young people, 60 of those at her alma mater, Lakeland High School. She had taught about a half year in Oviedo in Seminole County, and a short time in Moore Haven teaching migrant students, before returning home. Among her students was the late former governor Lawton Chiles, for whom the old LHS campus on North Florida Avenue downtown was named when it was made into a middle school academy.

Ms. Haley has seen a lot, and done a lot, and I4J congratulates her on a wonderful career that she is leaving on her own terms. The Lakeland-based blog Aikane Leo has some fond memories of his former teacher.


The Quinnipiac University Polling Institute released it's latest Florida poll this week, and it shows some possible close general election matchups but a lot of Sunshine State voters remain undecided six months before the primaries.

Attorney General Charlie Crist is on top of both Democratic primary hopefuls, Congressman Jim Davis (40-36 percent) and State Senator Rod Smith (42-32 percent), while GOP opponent Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher shows closer numbers against the pair: 37-36 percent against Davis, 38-34 percent vs. Smith.

Among Republicans, Crist leads Gallagher 40-31 percent with 27 percent undecided. Among Democrats, Davis leads Smith 29-13 with a huge 53 percent still undecided.

It's clear the Democratic candidates have to really begin getting their message out. Crist is the best known of the four major gubernatorial candidates, but 47 percent have not heard enough to form a favourable or unfavourable opinion of him. That jumps to 49 percent in Gallagher's case, but skyrockets to 77 percent for Davis and 82 percent for Smith.

In addition, the new Strategic Vision poll came out with similar numbers: Among Republicans, Crist beats Gallagher 46-37 percent with 17 percent undecided. Davis still beats Smith among Democrats 38-20 percent with 42 percent undecided. In a general election matchup, Crist wins by similar numbers (46-39 against Davis, 47-36 against Smith). Gallagher also wins against both Democrats (45-38 vs. Davis, 46-35 vs. Smith). Remember that Strategic Vision is a Republican-leaning organization.

One other issue in the Strategic Vision poll: It asked it's respondents about several possible matchups in the U.S. Senate race between incumbant Democrat Bill Nelson and various well known GOP politicians. Nelson wins all handy...except for against Charlie Crist (46-45 percent, in the margin of error) and Governor Jeb Bush (52-38 percent).

And here's something for the candidates and legislators to pay close attention to, especially with the new legislative session beginning soon: The QU poll shows by a 60-33 percent margin that Floridians want to see their state budget surplus funds used to address state needs rather than for tax breaks. Needless to say, GOP respondants favour tax breaks 53-40 percent while Democrats want to address other needs 75-17 percent. The likely make-or-break vote, independents, favour addressing other needs by a margin of 64-30 percent.

The QU poll was conducted February 15-20 among 1,076 Florida registered voters (429 Democrats, 443 Republicans, 204 independents/others). The margin of error is =/- 3 points for questions asked of all respondents, and =/- 4.7 percent for those asked strictly by party affiliation.

The SV poll was conducted by phone with 1,200 likely Florida voters 18+ on February 17-19. The margin of error is =/- 3.0 percent.


Our Congressman, Adam Putnam (R - Bartow) could almost considered much of the time a puppet for President Bush, with a percentage level in the high 90s when it comes to sharing the same views on major issues. But it seems as though he and the White House differ when it comes to the issue of allowing a state-owned company based in the United Arab Emirates take over management of terminals at six U.S. ports.

The company, Dubai Ports World, is purchasing the British-owned Peninsula and Oriental Steam Navigation Company for $6.8 billion. B&O manages terminals at the ports of New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, and New Orleans. And you can also add Tampa to that list, as the Tampa Port Authority, under the objection of Hillsborough County Commissioner Ronda Storms, voted to authorize Port Director Richard Wainio to sign a contract to allow B&O/DPW to manage cargo handling at the Port of Tampa.

The deal has come up against strong criticism by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, with much of the flap over the fact that two of the 9/11 terrorists were UAE citizens, and at least part of the money used to fund the attacks were laundered through the Middle Eastern country. That said, the UAE is considered to be a strong ally in the war on terrorism. Also coming out against the deal is another congressional representative whose district covers part of Polk County: Ginny Brown-Waite (R - Brooksville), who says there is enough bipartisan support to override any presidential veto threat.
While it would be better if American ports were managed by American companies, it is unfortunately more the exception than the rule. US port terminals are also owned by companies based in Singapore, China, and other countries, and security would continue to be handled by federal, state, and local authorities and the United States Coast Guard. You gotta consider that if the UAE-based company allowed any funny business to go on at any American port, that would undoubtly hurt them when the pain is greatest...in the bank account. Bad for business, you know. Such a thing would have a ripple effect through all the areas where DPW operates, and port authorities would definately have second thoughts around the world.


This is an interesting story found in yesterday's paper. Apparantly, there is a group known as Christian Exodus, seeking to encourage 12,000 like minded people to relocate to South Carolina where they would begin to have a profound effect on the state's political structure and work with the "express purpose of reestablishing a Godly, constitutional government" in their view. The eventual idea, according to founder Cory Burnell, is to somehow succeed from the Union and establish "an independent, Christian-oriented country."

Burnell has done this before. As a regional chairman of the group League of the South, he wrote several articles advocating a "Southern Independence" movement with the plan of withdrawing one targeted state from the USA by 2014. That state now seems to be South Carolina, a small state already considered rather conservative and home to Bob Jones University, which made news several years ago on it's ban on interracial dating (since changed).

Only about 20 families have reportedly made the move to South Carolina, and Burnell still lives in Tyler, Texas, although he claims to be preparing his family for their own relocation.

Historian and political consultant Ned Barnett says that at least in some ways, Christian Exodus is serving the purest interpretation of the Constitution and the Founding Fathers.

"This idea is a great publicity stunt and it sounds like a very dramatic action. But I'm a fairly strict interpreter of the Constitution and I can tell you there is no legal basis for any state withdrawing from the U.S. That issue was settled, once and for all, by the American Civil War.

"Beyond that, the so-called 'Separation Clause' of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would prohibit any state government from addressing a purely religious issue. They couldn't acknowledge the efforts to secede -- even if that were legal, which it is not -- on the basis of religion. It's kind of a catch-22. There's really no way around it, and it would keep a state in the U.S. even if that state could otherwise secede."

A theocracy of any type is dangerous; look at much of the Middle East. Personally, these folks don't have a great chance anyway, as this is the far, far right of the fundalmentalist Christian movement. Many of their brethren, while they may agree with some of their ideas, will simply write them off as nuts. But you always have to keep an eye on these types of folks.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Getting ready for work...then the sink goes on the fritz...In the end I won't have time to post anything here before having to head to work. But take time to view the previous posts, thanks for stopping by, and keep dropping in.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


U.S. Senator Bill Nelson spoke Monday to the monthly gathering of the Polk County Tiger Bay Club held at Bartow's Peace River Country Club, near where GOP opponent Katherine Harris grew up. He discussed a variety of topics, including the need for changing direction in the nation's immigration and economic development policies in order to help stave off leftist governments in Latin and South America.

Also, being in the heart of orange country, he spoke against the dumping of Brazilian orange juice on American markets. The senator also discussed the effort he and Republican collegue Mel Martinez are making to prevent oil drilling off the Florida coast. The Lakeland Ledger has a complete look at what happened as well as some of Nelson's remarks.

Nelson is in Polk for a couple of days, including two fundraisers. He attended a event in Lake Wales last evening, and will have another this afternoon in Lakeland.


It was sad to hear yesterday that one of the great voices of my youth had passed away. Curt Gowdy is being remembered as the first superstar of television sports after he succumbed to leukemia at his Palm Beach winter home. He was 86.

If you think Al Michaels or Bob Costas seem to be on your television screen a lot, Curt Gowdy did all the big events for nearly five decades: Major League Baseball, the early Super Bowls, NCAA Final Fours. If it was on television, you probably heard Gowdy's voice somewhere.

He worked as play-by-play announcer for the Boston Red Sox radio broadcasts for 14 years, leaving to join former major leaguer Tony Kubek in the booth for NBC Television's Saturday afternoon "Game of the Week" for a decade. Also during much of that time, the avid outdoorsman and Wyoming native hosted ABC's "The American Sportsman" where he was often seen hunting or fishing with a variety of celebrities.

Those were the days before cable television and announcers that seek to bring the attention to themselves. Curt Gowdy enjoyed telling a story, but not get in the way of the action. I always enjoyed his work watching the Saturday afternoon baseball game, helping me understand what was going on and learning more about the players whom I enjoyed watching.

Among his career highlights:

--- Ted Williams' final home run

--- Super Bowls (including the first)

--- Rose Bowl games (that's when it was strictly between the Big Ten and the Pacific Coast Conference champions, before BCS)

--- Olympic Games (including the 1976 Montreal games)

--- World Series (of course, back then, if you worked the Yankees or Red Sox, that was almost a given)

--- MLB All Star Games

College basketball analyst and former coach Dick Vitale has a wonderful rememberence piece for his old friend on ESPN's Web site.

RIP, old friend.

Monday, February 20, 2006


The St. Petersburg Times reminds us that serving in Congress has it's undeniable perks, but it has significant hardships for those seeking to run for office back in their home states.

That is the situation facing Democratic congressman and candidate for governor Jim Davis.

Being in the House of Representatives provides an knowledge of the federal level and how the system works in Washington that someone in the state Legislature simply cannot understand. That can be helpful when it comes to working for funds to pay for needed programmes at the state level.

But in running for office, he's still bound by federal fundraising limitations. While his opponents don't have to worry about those limits, Davis cannot solicit money from corporations or unions, and cannot solicit "soft money" contributions for the state Democratic Party of more than $10,000.

Florida law caps donations to candidates at $500, but campaigns also rely heavily on their state parties, which can raise unlimited soft money. Besides raising money for their own campaigns, statewide candidates also aggressively raise soft money for their parties, which in turn cover much of a campaign's overhead expenses, such as staff.

State parties are legally barred from earmarking soft money to any particular candidate, and there is no way to track how much soft money any candidate has raised for his party. But finance reports provide at least a hint of how much soft money [State Senator and Democratic primary opponent Rod] Smith and Davis have raised for the state party: It covered more than $710,000 of Davis' campaign expenses and nearly $600,000 in Smith expenses.

That said, Smith faces his own fundraising issue: He is barred from raising any money during the 60 day legislative session, which begins March 7.


Lakeland Ledger political columnist Bill Rufty focuses this morning on the efforts of the Frederick Douglass Republican Club of Central Florida to let people know that, contrary to the word currently spread mainly via e-mail, even if the Voting Rights Act is allowed to expire next year, blacks will not lose the right to vote.

This is a myth that has been going around for at least a couple of years, and the GOP club is reminding people that the right to vote is guaranteed by the 15th Amemdment to the Constitution:

Passed by Congress February 26, 1869. Ratified February 3, 1870.

Section 1.The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude--

Section 2.The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

It's almost certain that the Voting Rights Act will be renewed, but a couple of it's stipulations could fall by the wayside. And that has some concerned. Among them is Section 203, which mandates bilingual election materials. With Florida's large Hispanic and Hatian populations, this could be seen as a method of diluting their growing voting strength in some areas. And with the support of allowing Section 203 to expire among some Republicans --- including Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite (D - Brooksville) --- that could potentially bite the Repubs in the hind quarter...especially with some in the Cuban-American population already teed off over the Bush Administration's refugee policy.

Congressman Adam Putnam (R - Bartow) was quoted as saying he has not yet drawn an opinion on renewing the act or it's provisions.

One other item that has some worried is the possibility that Section 5 could be allowed to expire. That section mandates federal review of all redistricting in areas which have had a history of violating voting rights. Only five counties in Florida still work under Section 5 mandates, including Hillsborough and Hardee in the Tampa Bay area. Putnam does seem to lean allowing Section 5 to expire, as this quote shows:

"It is insulting to some counties to be held to a different standard when creating voting changes. It ignores the progress made in the last 40 years in the New South."

Sunday, February 19, 2006


It's no secret that in recent years many rural counties, mainly in North Florida, have seen a strong support for Republican candidates, although their voter registrations have continue to show a hugh majority of Democrats.

Yesterday at Lake Buena Vista state Democratic leaders, including U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, gathered to discuss how the party can inprove it's chances in the midterm elections. Winning back the hearts of those crossover voters in rural areas will have to be a major part of that effort.

In several of those counties, there is not a significant party organisation in place functioning. Also, the traditional liberal message on issues such as gun control and gay rights laws do not resonate with the vast majority of rural voters, who tend to be strongly conservative.

"You can't use liberal Democratic messages in rural counties and expect to be successful," said Rhett Bullard, the party's state committeeman for Hamilton County. "People will label you a fanatic and you'll be out there. You'll just be a liberal nut."

And of paticular concern is the Democrats' floundering influence in the African-American community, and in it's churches.

"We are hemorrhaging in the African-American church because we aren't embracing our faith enough in their eyesight," [State Representative Frank] Peterman said. "We seem to be afraid to mention God, while the Republicans openly mention him."

Also speaking at the event were State Senator and Attorney General candidate Skip Campbell (D - Taramac) and former gubernatorial candidate Betty Castor, who both press their campaigns for an independent body who would redraw legislative and congressional boundries.

We still have a lot of work to do, and cannot simply rely on the GOP's meltdown to gain ground.


"You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give."

Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931)


For years, the Cuban-American vote has been loyally in the hands of the Republican Party, primarily based on the belief that the GOP would be tougher on the Fidel Castro regime and hopes that policies of Republican administrations would somehow eventually force Castro out of power.

But it's the Bush Administration's "wet feet, dry feet" immigration policy regarding Cubans seeking to escape the island nation for the USA that has angered the million-strong Cuban-American community, mainly based in South Florida. The idea is that those refugees who actually reach dry land would be allowed to remain; those who do not would be returned to Cuba. The policy is generally considered rather ambiguious and often applied unfairly.

Now, after a recent case where 15 Cubans who reached the partially demolished Seven Mile Bridge in the Keys were returned to their home nation (the reasonining was that since the bridge no longer touched land, they had "wet feet"), some leaders within the Cuban-American community are considering rethinking their loyalty to the Republicans and their candidates.

We'll have to see if it's just an idle threat, but it has the GOP concerned enough that Dubya responded by meeting with community leaders and advocates. Governor Bush and U.S. Senator Mel Martinez have announced their disagreement with the Coast Guard decision.


The Fort Myers News Press is publishing some of the controversial cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed today (they do not appear on it's Web site).They were originally published last year in European newspapers, and have led to violence in several countries during protests. It's editorial today states that the West must stand behind the publications which originally ran the offending cartoons, and that Islam needs to change and modernize if it is to live at peace with other cultures.

Here at home, the Lakeland Ledger basically reprints the opinion which originally appeared last Sunday in it's sister newspaper the Gainesville Sun believing that the money used to lure the Scripps Research Institute to Palm Beach County could have been better used supporting the State University System. But it applauds Governor Bush for his budget recommendations this year that it says would have a more direct impact on the work being done at other state institutions.

Also liking the idea of the governor's $630 million plan to develop science and technology based industries in Florida today is the Orlando Sentinel, calling the idea of building Centers of Excellence the best part of the plan.

Today, the Gainesville Sun reminds us that while we talk about ethics reform, let's not forget about the mess in Congress. It agrees with the idea of an independent Office of Public Intergrity in Congress, which is a good idea, but it forgets who would be responsible for funding this office...that's right, your friends in Congress!

The editorial in today's St. Petersburg Times slams the Tampa City Council for not doing their homework before refusing to designate 15 cigar factories --- the last of 200 built in the 19th century not already protected --- as historical landmarks on the guise such protection would violate the developer's property rights. That idea was dismissed nearly three decades ago by the United States Supreme Court, which upheld preservation as a means of governments to enhance a community's quality of life.

Preservation is also on the minds of the editorial board at the Daytona Beach News-Journal, which notes that historical preservation often begins with passion. They use the example of Rev. Jefferson Rogers, who invested many hours and dollars preserving the home of theologian Howard Thurman, who is said to have had a profound influence on the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. It salutes the newly formed Save Our History coalition for having the same passion, but calls on more partnerships to help in building support.

The Tampa Tribune notes that recruitment for National Guard service is down. Funding would only be raised if recruitment numbers comes up, and the Tribune disagrees with that idea, noting that Homeland Security cannot afford such a situation and that a strong defense requires a full strength National Guard.

Red tide is the subject of today's opinion in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. It calls for increased funding for research for monitoring alga and mitigating it's effects, but it also calls on citizens to do their part to help the marine enviroment and gives a couple of suggestions on how to do so.

Over on the Space Coast, the Melbourne-based Florida Today touts a Brevard County School District proposal to better prepare students for college or the job world, beginning in 2012, with a series of tougher standards.

Today's editorial in the Ocala Star-Banner has gone to the dogs, it seems. While it endorses reforming Marion County's ordinance to rein in violent dogs in the wake of a man's recent mauling death, the editorial reminds us that dogs, regardless of breed, are only as dangerous as their owners allow it to be.

The Miami Herald commends the House for a thorough, fair job for it's Katrina report released last week, and noted that instead of simply fixing blame such investigations should be blueprints for ways to withstand the next hurricane. It also calls on the Federal Emergency Management Agency to once again become a stand alone agency that reports directly to the President.

In the aftermath of Palm Beach County area officials selecting the site for the new Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens, today's Palm Beach Post editorial reminds those who worked so hard to bring Scripps to the site need to begin work immediately to deliver on their promises. It notes that the biggest obstacle is Governor Bush, who actively supported another site, and says he can help by fending off legislative meddling.

With the controversey regarding 14 year old Martin Lee Anderson's death at the Bay County juvenile boot camp run by the local sheriff's office still raging, the Tallahassee Democrat says there is some good that is being done, but the Legislature needs to make the funding more equitable between the state and the counties for juvenile justice programmes and ensure that facilities are safe and effective.

Meanwhile, the South Florida Sun Sentinel opines that the way Florida's child welfare system precribes psychotropic medications to youngesters in it's care remains a problem for the Department of Children and Families, and as the state once again plans to study the issue hope remains that results will lead to improvements.

Early voting on renewing Escambia County's one cent local option sales tax begins tomorrow, and the Pensacola News Journal endorses renewal, citing it has allowed both the county and City of Pensacola to keep up with the needs of a growing area...and that the alternative is increasing the property tax.

The Florida Times Union of Jacksonville has planned unit developments, or PUDs, on it's mind today. It says that under the city's current system of planning --- which it calls backwards --- PUDs work more by luck than design, and calls on the city to stop playing loose with the ideas so they can be a win-win situation for everyone.

Make it a great Sunday!

Saturday, February 18, 2006


"A man can be free without being great, but no man can be great without being free."

Kahlil Gibran (1883 - 1931)
Lebanase Poet/Writer/Philospher/Artist


This is a minor tidbit, but I thought some of you may be interested; thanks to Scott at the new District Blogs FL-01 site.

The U.S. Senate race has five active candidates besides incumbant Democrat Bill Nelson and GOP contender Katherine Harris. One of them is a fellow by the name of Tom Wells, representing the Family Values Party. He had been campaigning for the First District congressional seat currently held by ultra-conservative Jeff Miller (R - Pensacola). Although Wells had earned only a handful of votes as a write-in candidate in three previous congressional races, Scott seemed to think that Wells had a chance to draw as much as 20 percent of the vote running from Miller's right (it's a surprise anyone could do such a thing, but...).

But what caught my eye is that when I visited the Florida Department of Elections Web site and checked out Mr. Wells' information, his address is a church called "Raised Messiah's House of Prayer", located in Cantonment. If the church is listed as a non-profit organization, it could now easily lose it's designation under IRS regulation. BTW: His Web site was originally set up for his 2004 congressional race; it doesn't look like he has updated it recently.

Of course, noone truly believes that Tom Wells has a snowball's chance in Hades of winning the U.S. Senate race. I simply bring this to your attention because such blurred lines between religion and politics is becoming more open...


He is, however, a third cousin on my father's side.

I never knew him personally, because we lived on opposite sides of Jones County, Mississippi. He was our state representative when I was but a child, and the only time he ever came to our corner was when he was in the area hustling votes for reelection. His son now is the area's U.S. Congressman.

I'm talking about retired federal judge Charles Pickering, who was a federal district judge for several years and was appointed to a seat on the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals by President Bush while Congress was in recess (a/k/a a "back door appointment") during January, 2004 after his nomination three years earlier was blocked by Senate Democrats who accused him of racial sensitivity. He was forced out later that year when the Senate once again failed to confirm his nomination.

He has now written a book, "Supreme Chaos: The Politics of Judicial Confirmation and the Culture War", describing his experience during the confirmation process.

During a visit to Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi this week, Pickering opined that the Constitution should be amended to read that judges cannot "legislate from the bench".

From the story which ran in today's Hattiesburg American:

"This way judges could not change, alter or add to our Constitution...Now judges are legislating from the bench and we have a mystery Constitution."

The 68-year-old retired judge described the judicial confirmation process as mean-spirited and highly partisan (DUH!), and documents the history of recent confirmation fights on Capitol Hill. He says he will expand on his ideas for improving the process in his next book, due in early 2007.

One interesting note: According to the American story, Pickering's lecture was attended by approximately 400 students...some of them saying they were there as a class requirment.


Thanks to Mike at the blog Florida News for the heads up this morning; he got the story from Bob Norman's South Florida-based blog The Daily Pulp, and it's certainly worth spreading here.

It seems as though South Florida Sun Sentinel Broward County political columnist/writer Buddy Nevins was invited to speak February 6 to a group of Lauderdale Beach Republicans, and they got a heckuva lot more than they bargained for. Even the club's founder/former president Bob Wolfe, who invited Nevins to address the group, said he was "stunned" by the writer's remarks.

Nevins announced that he had "abandoned" the Democratic Party in favour of the GOP, and when asked why he reportedly said "To vote for Charlie Crist in the primary". Needless to say, Nevins' remarks brought cheers from the party loyalists.

But he wasn't finished. According to Norman's post:

He then told the Republican room that there was a “liberal” bias in the Sun-Sentinel newsroom. To prove it he pointed out that there were a lot of gay and lesbian employees working there.

“But he took a lot of questions from the crowd and he basically made comments that the media is liberal,” Wolfe told the Pulp of the meeting, which wasn’t recorded. “And he made some comments about how people wore their sexuality on their sleeve in this community and especially in the newsroom and that it reflects the liberalism [at the Sentinel].”

To illustrate his point, Nevins mentioned that he used to sit next to the president of the gay and lesbian journalists’ association.

No reply at this point from the Fort Lauderdale-based Sun Sentinel. Mr. Norman has said that Nevins has been a respected and credible reporter in the past, but anytime that a reporter "comes out of the closet" to endorse a political party or candidate, his credibility must come into question and it is clear that he can no longer be trusted to objectively cover politics. In this case, if I were the editor at the Sun-Sentinel, it would be very clear that Mr. Nevins had to be reassigned to another beat...if not terminated altogether. While a discharge is a bit serious, one has to consider that his comments regarding at least a number of his collegues would cause significant tension in the newsroom, and I'm sure that some would be reluctant to work with him further.


President Bush appeared at a fundraiser for the Republican Party of Florida Friday evening in Lake Buena Vista, which governor and presidential brother Jeb Bush announced brought in $3 million.

But with the president's approval rating hovering at around 40 percent in Florida as elsewhere, candidates in this year's midterm elections have to think carefully about appearing with the chief executive.

According to this AP story, Dubya remains popular among wealthy Floridaians and the party loyal. But University of Central Florida political science professor Aubrey Jewett said the president could become a political liability in the coming months if his approval rating doesn't improve.

However, Congresswoman and U.S. Senate candidate Katherine Harris (R - Longboat Key) dismissed those concerns, saying that she expects President Bush's rating to improve as voters become more aware of what she calls positive news coming out of Iraq.

Remember, she's saying this while in Fantasyland for an evening...

BTW: Congressional Bush lap-dog Adam Putnam (R - Bartow) was noted on TV last evening to greet the Prez when he landed in Tampa to address an invitation-only group of 300 business leaders at the city's port.

Friday, February 17, 2006


That a magical time is almost here. Pitchers and catchers are reporting this week to spring training camps, and that means it's time for baseball to be on the minds of many.

If you're a baseball fan and want to get up close to your favourite players, locally the best place is Winter Haven's Chain Of Lakes Park, where the Cleveland Indians make their base. Many days you'll see Hall of Famer Bob Feller strolling around the grounds, often in an Indians uniform. He'll readily sign autographs and chat with fans. It's also a nice view, as well...so enjoy it while you can. The Tribe won't be there much longer, and the city wants to sell off the land for development.

And I'm less than a mile from Joker Marchant Stadium and Tigertown, where the Detroit Tigers have been based for 70 years. Sadly, I've never had the chance to visit for myself, as my schedule has not allowed me the opportunity. That's a situation I plan to correct this spring.


ABC / This Week with George Stephanopoulos: Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will discuss the scathing Congressional report about his department's response to Hurricane Katrina (read it for yourself; .pdf file / Adobe Acrobat required). The report's author, Congressman Tom Davis (R - VA), will appear with Senator Joe Lieberman (D - CT) to discuss how to do better in the future. Miami Heat star Shaquille O'Neal, a reserve deputy sheriff in Miami-Dade County when he's not slammin' jams, will discuss protecting children on the Internet. The roundtable will feature George Will, NPR and ABC News' Cokie Roberts, and Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation.

CBS / Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer: U.S. Senators Dr. Bill Frist (R - TN) and Barbara Boxer (D - CA / Foreign Relations Committee), and New York Times reporter Elizabeth Bumiller.

CNN / Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff will also appear here to discuss the Katrina report and preperation for future situations. Also, Select Committee on Intelligence members Senator Saxby Chambliss (R - GA) and Congresswoman Jane Harman (D - CA). Three ambassadors to the U.S. will also appear: David Manning of the U.K., Wolfgang Ischinger of Germany, and Jean-David Levitte of France. And discussing Iraq will be retired Major General Paul Eaton, former commander of Iraqi Troop Training.

FOX / Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace: Discussing the Katrina report and fallout from last weekend's shooting incident with Vice President Cheney will be U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R - SC) and Evan Bayh (D -IN). And former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson (D-WY) will talk about the Cheney media flurry.

NBC / Meet the Press with Tim Russert: Here, too, will be Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff discussing the Katrina report. And a roundtable on the Cheney shooting incident featuring former Cheney counselor and Republican strategist Mary Matalin, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, NBC News White House correspondent David Gregory, and Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal.

A couple of other notes: Due to NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympic Games, MTP may be seen at a different time than normal in your area. Consult your local listings. And noting David Gregory's appearance, I should mention that he had a great insight into the media frenzy over the Cheney shooting incident on the NBC Nightly News blog, one feature you should visit on a regular basis. There, reporters, producers, and anchor/managing editor Brian Williams post almost daily not only about what to look for on the broadcast, but also some occasional behind-the-scenes peeps. Most of the posts are during the early/mid afternoon.


Of course, you all know that the Lakeland High School Dreadnaughts football team earned the top spot in the USA Today Super 25 national poll for their undefeated season in addition to their two consecutive state championships.

Well, while looking through USA Today this week...lo and behold ANOTHER prep team from Polk is honoured with a spot among the nation's elite.

The girls' basketball team at Winter Haven High School is ranked 15th in the latest Super 25 poll, the second consecutive week the Lady Blue Devils are at that position. This is an awesome team with a record of 29-1, and their quest for the 5A Championship continues as they host a Polk County showdown against (Lakeland) Lake Gibson Saturday with the winner playing in the FHSAA tournament at the Lakeland Center next week.

While the Lady Blue Devils are in the national rankings, they are not the only local team in the quest for a state title. In 4A, Haines City will host Naples in quarterfinal action. And in 1A action, Lakeland's Evangel Christian travels to Sarasota Christian to see who moves on.

And that's just the girls...

The boys will be in regional semifinal action next week, with those Lakeland Dreadnaughts facing (Orlando) Timber Creek Tuesday evening to determine who moves ahead in 6A. In 5A, Lake Region High from Eagle Lake will meet Brandon Tuesday, while (Lakeland) Kathleen hosts Lely in 4A action.

Good luck to all our local teams!

And while posting about Winter Haven High School, they have something else to be especially proud of. At a banquet last evening at The Lakeland Center, English teacher and 17 year veteran Diane Plowden was honoured as Polk County's Teacher of the Year. It's a family business for Ms. Plowden, whose father is a guidance counselor at Winter Haven's Denison Middle School and mother serves as a teacher at Lake Alfred Elementary.

Also from Winter Haven, Elbert Elementary computer network manager Pam Diaz was honoured as the county school district's School Related Employee of the Year.

Some really great prizes were awarded to the honourees, and are well deserved. We often take our teachers and school staff for granted, and it's nice to see that our community can see the best of the best honoured in such a way. Congratulations to both women, and thanks to all teachers and school staff for your significant contributions.