Friday, June 30, 2006


ABC / This Week with George Stephanopoulos: U.S. Senators John McCain (R - AZ) and Dianne Feinstein (D - CA) are scheduled to appear. The roundtable will consist of Time magazine's Joe Klein, Cokie Roberts of ABC News, and former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson (R - TN).

CBS / Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer: U.S. Senators Arlen Specter (R - PA / Judiciary Committee Chairman) and Carl Levin (D - MI / Ranking Member, Armed Services Committee) will discuss Iraq and the New York Times publishing controversy. Also appearing will be Times Executive Editor Bill Keller.

CNN / Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: The current showdown between Israel and the Palestenian Authority, the future of Hamas in power, the prospects for a Palestenian state will be discussed with Congressmen Peter King (R - NY) and Barney Frank (D - MA), Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres, and Chief Palestenian negotiator Saeb Erakat. Also on the schedule: NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin will talk about the scheduled space shuttle mission, Musician/Author Tony Orlando, and Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker magazine.

FOX / Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace: NASA Administrator Griffin will be here, too. Also, U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham (R - SC) and Jack Reed (D - RI) will talk about this week's U.S. Supreme Court decision on military tribunals at Gitmo and the war on terror.

NBC / Meet the Press with Tim Russert: U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell (R - KY) and Chuck Schummer (D - NY / Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman) will talk about the upcoming midterm elections, Iraq, and the Supreme Court decision on military tribunals. Also, radio host and former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett, John Harwood, Washington Post National Security Correspondent Dana Priest, and William Safire of the New York Times will discuss freedom of the press.

Syndicated / The Chris Matthews Show: The questions being pondered will be: Will President Bush scale back his executive powers after losing the Supreme Court Guantanamo decision? And who is the next Bill Clinton? The roundtable considering these issues will be Norah O'Donnell of NBC News, Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune, syndicated columnist Kathleen Parker, and Dana Milbank of the Washington Post.


I'll be working through the holiday weekend, so postings here will be light. Of course, there will be a look this evening at who'll be on the Sunday chat shows. Also, I plan have a Sunday Florida Editorial Roundup.

Whatever you have planned, please do it safely and drink responsibly.

And...God Bless America!


Ever since New Hampshire's V. Gene Robinson became the first openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church USA three years ago, some of the more traditional/conservative dioceses within the denomination have been expressing their discontent with the decisions of the national leadership. That rift has continued to develop with the election of the first woman, Katharine Jefferts Schori, as the church's presiding bishop at it's recent General Convention in Columbus, Ohio.

The Orlando-based Diocese of Central Florida, which includes parishes in Polk County, announced Thursday following a meeting of Bishop John W. Howe, the administrative board, and standing committee it has asked for "immediate alternative primatial oversight", in effect rejecting the authority of Bishop Schori. Four other dioceses --- in Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin (CA), and South Carolina --- have also appealed to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the titular head of the Anglican Communion, for such alternate oversight. Click to read the open letter here.

The letter opens the door for a possible split from the main church:

"The Constitution of our diocese makes it clear that our ultimate loyalty is to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Christ. In preparation for our Convention on January 27, 2007, we will study the constitutional crisis in which we find ourselves and consider the various constitutional, canonical, financial, and spiritual options available."

The Lakeland Ledger reported this morning that Howe had reserved a date in September for a called diocean convention at the Lakeland Center to consider possible responses to the General Convention, but was advised against it as the event may aggravate instead of help the situation.

This is a simmering situation that reaches all the way down to the local level.

Thursday, June 29, 2006


The U.S. Navy officially announced Wednesday that it has chosen the Avon Park Air Force Range as the replacement target range for it's operations in Vieques, Puerto Rico.

The range is a 106,000 acre area located in Polk and Highlands counties and is the largest military range in the eastern U.S. In addition to it's use for bombing practice by Navy and Air Force aircraft, the facility also hosts ground military and special operations training.

Avon Park has a bit of a history. It served as an Army Air Force training base during World War II for B-17 air crews for air-to-ground bombing.

The Navy abandoned Vieques, an island-municipality just off the main Puerto Rico island, following a series of protests over several years beginning in 1999 following the death of Vieques native and Navy civilian employee David Sanes. He was on duty at an observation post when two bombs fell very near his position and 1.5 miles from where they were intended.

The Navy plans to use the range for high explosive bombing practice three to six times a year in 20 day blocks each. The number of runs (single aircraft) would increase from the present 6,900 to nearly 10,000.


For 26 years, Floridians have enjoyed protection from oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico thanks to an annual moratorium, but it was almost killed in a close vote this year. The annual moratorium has helped to keep Florida beaches pristine and free of the threat of oil spills.

But it seems that marching to the orders of House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R - IL), Congressman Adam Putnam (R - Bartow) has brokered a deal with House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R - CA) that would end the ban on drilling off much of the nation's coastline and could result in drilling for oil and gas as close as 50 miles off our beaches. The amendment is buried near the end of H.R. 4761, the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act, and is set for action today in the House.

Many within the Florida congressional delegation oppose the measure, as well as both of our U.S. Senators. Senator Bill Nelson has said he would filibuster the bill when it comes up in the upper chamber.

Wednesday, several people staged a "mock oil spill" in front of Putnam's district office in Bartow to protest his involvement with the amendment.

"Any Floridian who wants to keep our coast free of oil rigs must oppose this bill," said Darden Rice, regional coordinator for the Sierra Club. "Adam Putnam has sold out Florida. Why would he undermine the protection we have had for 26 years?"

Putnam and his crew defend the proposal, saying the bill provides for a permanant ban and not an annual moratorium which would avoid the possibility of it not being renewed as almost occured this year.

In addition, according to Putnam, in the Gulf of Mexico the ban will be 235 miles offshore and will be written into law. That is because on top of the 100-mile ban in the Gulf, the military mission line -- where ships and aircraft for the military train and travel -- will be honored.

But here's the problem: The legislature of any state can choose to allow drilling within the 100-mile limit off it's coastline. And, there is no military mission line on the Florida coast for a very small piece of the Panhandle, which would make the limit there only 100 miles.

For example, if the Alabama or Mississippi Legislature got greedy and chose to allow drilling within the 100 mile limit, and something unfortunate occured that caused an oil spill, it wouldn't take much to cause that mess to wash up along Pensacola or Fort Walton Beach. The "Redneck Rivera" would have a heck of a cleanup...and who would pay? More than likely, you and I, and the tourist industry which drives that part of Florida would suffer for only God knows how long.

The Sierra Club National Office has released a statement on the bill. And the Tampa Tribune published an editorial last Saturday opposing the measure.

UPDATE - 06/30/2006 - 06:17 AM: The Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act passed last evening by a 232-187 vote. Thanks to the St. Petersburg Times, here is a breakdown of how Florida's delegation voted:

Mike Bilirakis (R - Tarpon Springs)
Allen Boyd (D - Monticell0)
Virginia "Ginny" Brown-Waite (R - Brooksville)
Ander Crenshaw (R - Jacksonville)
Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R - Miami)
Mario Diaz-Balart (R - Miami)
Tom Feeney (R - Oviedo)
Ric Keller (R - Orlando)
John Mica (R - Winter Park)
Jeff Miller (R - Chumuckla)
Adam H. Putnam (R - Bartow)
Cliff Stearns (R - Ocala)
Dave Weldon (R - Indiatlantic)
C.W. "Bill" Young (R - Indian Shores)

Corrine Brown (D - Jacksonville)
Jim Davis (D - Tampa)
Mark Foley (R - Jupiter)
Katherine Harris (R - Longboat Key)
Alcee Hastings (D - Miramar)
Connie Mack (R - Fort Myers)
Kendrick Meek (D - Miami)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R - Miami)
E. Clay Shaw, Jr. (R - Fort Lauderdale)
Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Weston)
Robert Wexler (D-Boca Raton)

The Times made note this morning:

Wednesday afternoon, the [Florida congressional] delegation agreed to seek two changes. One strengthened language to prevent drilling in the Navy and Air Force training zone in the eastern gulf, a vast region that extends 234 miles off Tampa Bay.

House leaders agreed to that change, because it still leaves open most of a gas-rich region of the gulf, called Lease-Sale Area 181, that energy companies have been eyeing for years. It also may not survive when the House reconciles its bill with whatever offshore drilling measure might pass the Senate, but allowing the change for now meant they could count on the support of several key Republicans, including Reps. C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores and Jeff Miller, who represents the Panhandle.

''The military mission line is put into statute – anything east of that line in the Gulf of Mexico, there will be no drilling,’’ Young said during Thursday’s debate. ''Florida’s west coast is protected far and above where we had originally requested.’’

The second change, in the form of an amendment offered by Rep. Mike Bilirakis, R-Tarpon Springs, and supported by most Floridians, would have kept drilling 125 miles off the nation’s coasts unless states voted to allow it closer.

The amendment would have changed the heart of the Putnam-Pombo bill and was crushed, 353 to 65, by lawmakers who said it didn’t go far enough to ease restrictions on drilling. Among them was Rep. Dave Weldon, a Republican from the Melbourne area, who said the extra 25 miles added too much buffer.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Last week, I posted here that the Florida Chamber of Commerce had taken it's previously announced endorsement away from State Senator Alex Villalobos (R - Miami) in his reelection bid and given it to GOP primary challenger Frank J. Bolanos.

Now, another major organization has done the same thing, but in a statewide race.

According to Central Florida Political Pulse, the political blog of the Orlando Sentinel, the Fraternal Order of Police's Florida State Lodge has revoked it's endorsement away from Florida Senate President Tom Lee (R - Brandon) and has announced that it would support primary opponent State Representative Randy Johnson (R - Celebration) for Chief Financial Officer.

The FOP is one of two major police unions in Florida and represents 23,000 active and retired law enforcement officers. It's legislative committee chairman, Edgar Burroughs, said that Lee did not support the organization's primary legislation during this year's session in Tallahassee: bills changing disability standards and creating a law enforcement memorial vanity license plate.

The union had originally endorsed Lee last fall. It has posted it's letter to Lee notifying him of it's rescinding of the endorsement; check it out here.

Also, the FOP announced it's endorsement of State Senate Minority Leader Walter "Skip" Campbell, Jr. (D - Tamarac) for Attorney General at it's conference held last week at St. Pete Beach. The press release noted that delegates voted unanimously in favour of the endorsement, and mentioned that "his support of the FOP and law enforcement legislative agenda is well known and appreciated".


For years, the Tampa/Hillsborough County Urban League has provided a number of programmes to benefit minority and low-income residents. Youth, adult education, and crime prevention programmes have been mainstays of it's work, along with clerical skills training and relocating low-income public housing residents.

But recently, it's good work has been overshadowed by it's own financial problems, which the Tampa Tribune reports on today. It is currently $3.1 million in debt to the city, county, and Wachovia Bank; the amount also includes a federal tax lien and a circuit court judgement. National Urban League officials placed the Tampa/Hillsborough affiliate on probation two years ago due to "issues of performance"; it remains on probation today.

It was just last year that the Urban League was bailed out of $600,000 in federal tax and construction liens along with late payments to contractors. Now it is fouled it's relationship with Hillsborough County by failing to provide a current financial audit. That threatens to deny the Urban League chapter more than $97,000 in county funds to host a race relations seminar. A county management and budget department official was even denied entry into the organization's Centro Espanol office last Friday.

Friends, this is a mess. Stay tuned, because the drame will undoubtedly continue.


A lot of times in these spaces, we bloggers tend to moan and groan and bitch about who's doing what to who, who's screwing "we, the people", and concentrate on what's wrong. Sometimes, a story comes along that we simply have to make time and space to let you know what's right here at home.

The Lakeland-based supermarket chain Publix has 650 laptops and personal computers that were aging and had been replaced. So, what to you do with 'em? Toss 'em out? Dump 'em on an unsuspecting charity with far outdated software that wouldn't do them any good and aren't worth the time, hassle, or expense of upgrading 'em?

This morning's Lakeland Ledger reports that the answer is: None of the Above. Publix got together with the United Way of Central Florida and Microsoft to refurbish the computers, install new software, and distribute them to several Polk County nonprofit organizations.

For the past several months, Publix employees had been installing the Microsoft-provided software, delivering and setting up the machines...all on their own time.

Among the groups benefiting from the refurbished computers are Girls, Inc. of Lakeland, the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, Central Florida Speech and Hearing Center, the Learning Resource Center of Polk County, and Volunteers in Service to the Elderly.

According to the Ledger story:

Staff at United Way actually put the two companies together, and Microsoft liked the idea so much the company plans to form similar partnerships throughout the country.

"When companies team up to address the needs of the underserved, the results can be amazing," Kirsten Kliphouse, a Microsoft district manager, said in a news release. "Together with Publix, our goal is to close the gap in technology education."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Former Kathleen High School principal Mike D'Angelo filed a $7.7 million dollar lawsuit against the Polk County School Board after he says he was fired for exploring the possibility of converting Kathleen into a charter school. He also claimed that his rights to due process were violated.

The litigation made it to Federal District Judge Richard A. Lazzara in Tampa earlier this month, who dismissed the case but apologized to D'Angelo for having to do so and scolded the defense.

The Lakeland Ledger reported in today's edition that transcripts show Lazzara saying the former principal was treated badly.

"You can't be a principal of a school like that and not make some people unhappy. And I'm sure there was some dissension. But to pull the rug out on him, especially after he receives an outstanding evaluation, in my mind is unconscionable, and you can tell the School Board that for me..."

"You know, I've always been taught that for every wrong there's a remedy. Well, there was a remedy here, which turned out to be hollow. So I say to you, Mr. D'Angelo and Mrs. D'Angelo, I think this is the first time I've ever done this -- I apologize to you. I don't like making this decision, but the law compels it."

The judge said he had to make the ruling to dismiss based on a recent 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Garcetti -vs- Ceballos, which effectively says that employee speech pursuant to duties is not necessairly considered free speech guaranteed under the First Amendment. That decision especially makes it more difficult for whistleblowers to seek legal protection under the Constitution.

Because the Garcetti case was decided May 30, this could become a test case, as D'Angelo and his counsel have reportedly filed a notice of appeal with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.


It hasn't even been two months since conservative talker Rush Limbaugh made a deal to avoid criminal prosecution on a charge of doctor shopping, and yet the radio host could be facing yet more drug charges after being detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents Monday at Palm Beach International Airport.

Limbaugh had just arrived on a private plane from the Dominican Republic when his luggage was checked and an agent found a bottle of Viagra which had apparantly prescribed to someone else. A spokesman with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office told the Palm Beach Post that the names of two doctors, who Limbaugh said were his personal physicians in Florida, were listed on the bottle. He said the 29 tablets, used to treat erectile dysfunction, were for his use.

The 55-year-old Limbaugh was detained for about three hours before being released. Officials say the radio host cooperated with them, and that the case will be turned over to the State Attorney's office to determine if charges are appropriate.

The agreement which Limbaugh, an admitted prescription drug addict, reached with prosecutors in April is that the felony doctor shopping charge will be dropped in 18 months under certain conditions. Among them are that Limbaugh complete substance abuse treatment, submit to randon drug testing, and refrain from violations of any law.


You've seen NBC News' Dateline newsmagazine series "To Catch A Predator", where reporter Chris Hansen, along with volunteers and law enforcement officers, would set up a sting operation to go online and catch suspects who were expecting to meet and likely have sexual relations with a teenager after they had met in an online chat room.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office followed that format over the weekend in leading a sting which ended up with 20 men from as far away as Gainesville being charged with items from Solicitation of a Minor via the Internet to Transmission of Material Harmful to Minors to Attempted Lewd Battery. One of the suspects was also charged with Resisting Arrest without violence, and another with a drug charge.

As a matter of fact, Dateline producers had approached Sheriff Grady Judd about his agency taking part in the "Predator" series but declined, saying he felt more comfortable having his own detectives handle the investigation from start to finish. The NBC crew was insisting on volunteers from the group Perverted Justice, which has worked with the show in it's previous editions of the series, do the online chats. They went to Fort Myers instead and worked with the Lee County Sheriff's Office.

The PCSO worked out of a house in southern Polk County, with several detectives spending time concentrating on local online chat rooms and getting into conversations with adults believing they were on with a teen. The suspects would eventually direct the chat into a more sexually explicit direction. When they would say they were interested in a meeting, they would apparantly be given a phone number to call and a time was set up. The phone had a voice machine set up to allow the detectives the ability to sound more childlike, and calls were recorded.

The rest, as they say, is history. The chump would show up, and put down quickly by deputies.

A couple of sidebars:

Chris Hansen, the Dateline reporter who has done the "Predator" series for the newsmagazine, is scheduled to testify this morning before the congressional Committee on Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (among it's members: Democrat gubernatorial candidate Congressman Jim Davis of Tampa; a distant relative of mine is Vice Chairman) at it's hearing in Washington which has been titled “Making the Internet Safe for Kids: The Roles of ISP’s and Social Networking Sites.” And he has local ties as well: The Michigan native spent some time in the early part of his television career as a reporter for WFLA-TV 8, Tampa's NBC affiliate.

And the Polk County Sheriff's Office has done the whole TV bit before. In the very early days of Fox Television's series Cops several segments were filmed with local deputies which aired; I believe it was the first and/or second season.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Police and other officials in Tampa are working to calm the fears of residents that things will be allright when the Cigar City hosts it's biggest convention ever beginning next week as the Shriners hold their week long Imperial Council Session.

Many people remember the traffic nightmare that occured in March when a motivitional seminar held at the St. Pete Times Forum brought 20,000 people to downtown Tampa. Officials say this will be different for several reasons.

They say that only a fraction of the people expected to visit for the convention will actually attend the business meetings and events at the Tampa Convention Center. Thousands more will be attending a variety of events to be held throughout Hillsborough County, which should relieve the pressure on traffic in the midtown area. Also, the Shriners will be coming from across the country and beyond, with many of them using public transportation to get to the other venues. Back in March, many of those attending the motivitional seminar were from the local area.

The Tampa Tribune has more information on what to expect regarding the event, which is expected to last through July 5.

BTW: The Shriners International is actually headquartered in Tampa on Rocky Point Drive, so in effect the gathering is also a homecoming.


There is a great piece in today's Orlando Sentinel that deals with the fustration that many residents in what is known as the Four Corners area have with a lack of parks, schools, and other services, even as subdivisions continue to be built and more people move in.

The Four Corners area is the area where Polk, Osceola, Lake, and Orange counties come together. It is considered to be one of the fastest growing areas in Central Florida because of it's proximity to Orlando and the theme parks where many of them work.

Many of the issues are the result of a general lack of cooperation between the various governmential agencies in the four counties, a situation we have begun to see change. For instance, Polk and Osceola counties share a fire/EMS station in Poinciana, and there are few jurisdictional issues if a fire truck from one county can respond quicker to a call just across another county's line.

Two sidebar pieces deal with families --- one in Polk County; the other in Lake County --- and compares the distance to the nearest school, sheriff's station, fire/EMS station, big-box retail store, and water restrictions.

There is still a lot of work to do there to make up for a lot of things simply ignored in the past. That's what happens when you approve developments without considering what infastructure is needed and putting it in place beforehand.


The Buzz, the political blog of the St. Petersburg Times, reminds us that it wasn't too long ago that Governor Jeb Bush criticized Democratic gubernatorial contender Congressman Jim Davis of Tampa for missing a number of votes in the House of Representatives. It seems that now Davis' primary challenger, State Senator Rod Smith of Alachua, has followed the gov's lead and notes on his Web site that Davis missed 11 votes last Thursday, including one on cutting the estate tax.

Smith's site asks: "The issue not withstanding, it is a shame that the 640,000 Floridians that Congress Davis promised to represent did not have a voice on the issue. Was he campaigning? Was he sick? Does he have a note from his doctor?"

The senator, who claims to have missed only four votes during the last legislative session in Tallahassee, should know where his Democratic opponent was: They were together at a candidate forum in Orlando.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Good morning! I hope that everyone is enjoying their weekend. As for me, it's allright; a bit more sunburned after a couple of hours with my beloved granddaughter in the pool Saturday, but it was worth the pain.

Let's see what the Florida newspaper editorial writers are concerned about this morning:

The Miami Herald opines that the Sunshine State's congressional delegation, once unified against oil and gas drilling closer to our beaches, has become splintered, with Congressmen Mario Diaz-Balart (R - Miami) and Jeff Miller (R - Pensacola) supporting HR 4761 which passed committee last week and would allow drilling 50 miles or even less offshore. The editorial calls on them to vote with the rest of the delegation against the bill, and it favours the idea of Florida U.S. Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Mel Martinez (R) to create a no-drill buffer of 260 miles from Tampa and Naples.

The Pensacola News Journal also makes note of the issue, saying that it would be ironic if Floridians had to depend on President Bush to veto a bill on offshore drilling off our coast, but that's unlikely. The PNJ has supported a 100 mile buffer, but admits that at some point the Florida delegation will have to cut the best deal it can, considering that a number of Republican members are weakening on the issue.

In Fort Lauderdale, the South Florida Sun Sentinel mentions the good news that the Florida Department of Children and Families recieved recently as the Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability took note that foster children are obtaining permanent placements more quickly, case managers have lower caseloads and more foster homes are available. However, there is a higher percentage of children who experience repeated abuse and return to foster care, starting salaries for caseworkers are lower than before DCF turned over its operations to local agencies, and staff turnover rates have gone up. Foster parents don't receive enough money from the state to help raise foster children, and the local agencies that currently oversee foster care aren't much better at working with foster parents than the state bureaucracy that once ran foster care. The editorial says that DCF must step up if the idea of community-based care is to succeed.

Babcock Ranch is on the minds of the opinion writers at the Naples Daily News once again, as developer Syd Kitson is seeking $2 million in federal money for enviromential projects on the 91,000 acre property. The editorial reminds us that Kitson spoke of partnerships when seeking approval for the project, which also included state and county taxpayer money to set aside 74,000 acres of the land. The Daily News is wondering when Kitson plans to put some of his own money on the table.

Today's Fort Myers News-Press editorial is concerned about what it sees as a myriad of problems with Lee County's 22 seperate fire departments, saying spending and accounting abuses are out of control, and proposing consolidating them into one countywide fire service. After a study on the effects of consolidation, such a move would require approval by the Lee County Commission, the state legislature, and eventually Lee County voters.

West Palm Beach's reputation as a increasingly violent place has grown, with murders and violent crime rates going up. Some residents on the north side of WPB say it has been happening since Mayor Lois Franken took office, with her telling the residents that police are doing all they can. But Police Chief Delsa Bush said she would bring in consultants to evaluate her department, has created a special unit to investigate the murder cases, and has asked for help in several area, including ordinances to crack down on panhandlers, a ban on handguns, and a requirement for 24-hour convenience stores to install survellience equipment. The Palm Beach Post calls on commissioners to provide Chief Bush the support she needs, and also notes Mayor Franken needs to change her approach toward residents.

Americans have always been ready to help, but many nonprofits feared a case of "compassion fatigue" because of the many pleas for financial assistance. However, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune editorial page mentions a report from the Giving USA Foundation that showed Americans gave $260 billion last year, including a record amount in disaster relief due to Hurricane Katrina. It reminds us that the need for help will always be there, and may actually rise with the new hurricane season.

With the gubernatorial primaries ten weeks away, the St. Petersburg Times complains today that the four main candidates are not giving Floridians many positions which are either interesting or innovative, calling what they have presented as unrealistic or simplistic or both and that they can all do better. It says that the candidates should start thinking as big as the office they are running for.

Across the Bay, today's Tampa Tribune editorial calls for Governor Jeb Bush to take off the gloves in the battle with federal officials after a recent report card contridicted the state's record gains in education. The governor has serious doubts about the federal No Child Left Behind programme, and the Tribune suggests that he should lead a coalition of governors to demand change.

Here at home, the Lakeland Ledger is concerned about funding for the Florida Forever programme to acquire, manage, and restore natrual lands which has not changed in 15 years while land prices have skyrocketed. It notes that "This year, it has received 30 percent more applications than last year; the dollar amount is four times more than available funding." It also notes that 28 counties, including Polk, have made those Florida Forever funds go further by enacting locally funded programmes. The Ledger calls on legislators to commit to a mammoth funding increase.

"Failure all around". That's what the headline of today's Orlando Sentinel editorial, which blames Orange County School Board member Kathleen "Kat" Gordon and Superintendent Ron Blocker for poor showings for several high schools on the FCAT, including two in Ms. Gordon's district. It calls on the district to OK Mr. Blocker's idea to add a seventh period to the day at the high schools in question but include a demand of Education Commissioner John Winn to require failing students to attend one-on-one tutoring during that time.

With housing prices continuing to head upward and keep many out of the market, the Daytona Beach News Journal presents several suggestions on how business and government to work together to prevent a collapse of the American dream for many families.

The opinion in Melbourne-based Florida Today is concerned with the decision to launch the space shuttle Discovery, scheduled for takeoff Saturday, one which it says will make or break the shuttle programme. It mentions that NASA has admitted that it has not fixed the problem that caused the 2003 Columbia tragedy, and notes that while Administrator Michael Griffin said this past week that Discovery was ready to fly, NASA's top safety official and chief engineer voted against it...a rare case of public dissent among agency leadership.

The Ocala Star Banner editorial makes note today that the local effort to save Silver Springs has grown into a statewide movement, and that the outside attention to save it from development into an 11,000 home city is welcome. The Florida Forever programme is reportedly about the finalize it's appraisal of much of the 5,200 acres owned by developer Avatar...which had rejected a previous offer as too low. The Star Banner says that "Getting the deal done between DEP and Avatar is not an option, it's a necessity. The 500 million gallons of water a day that flows from Silver Springs is not just a beautiful natural wonder for the enjoyment of tourists and boaters. It is a huge and real sample of what we here in Ocala/Marion County drink every day.

Didn't know about spoofing caller ID? The Gainesville Sun deals with the issue today. It is when "a spoofer uses a Web site to make a telephone call; the Web site changes the spoofer's caller ID number so it becomes any other telephone number the spoofer desires when it pops up at the other end of the line." Businesses and emergency responders rely on caller ID to be dependable and accurate, and with the backing of Agricultrual and Consumer Services Secretary Charles Bronson spoofing caller ID became illegal in Florida after Governor Bush signed a bill which passed the Legislature unanimously this session, and the Sun calls on Congress to catch up with Tallahassee.

Today's Florida Times-Union, based in Jacksonville, looks at proposed changes to neighbouring Clay County's government charter which may go to the electorate at the November general election. It calls three of the four proposals --- a beefed up ethics clause, a stronger non-interference clause, and a proposal to add two at-large council members --- desperately needed. It says the fourth, which would make it slightly more difficult to place citizen inititave amendments on the ballot, not urgent.

The Tallahassee Democrat ran a three day series that began last Sunday dealing with the pristine past, polluted present, and the uncertain future of Wakulla Springs. Today, the editorial deals with the issue, and says that we have dropped ball on responsible stewardship of the waters, and that it's time to recover the fumble. The editorial has several suggestions on how to improve what it calls a crisis on the verge of a calamity.

Friends, make it a good Sunday, and take some time to read some of the posts from the past few days...and visit often, OK?

Saturday, June 24, 2006


This is not a local story, but let it be a lesson to all business or government entities:

In my hometown of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, it seems that either late Thursday or early Friday, two unidentified men broke a window on the southeast side of the City Hall building and gained access to it's basement level. The Hattiesburg American reports that they then shattered the door of the Information Technology department, stealing more than $150,000 of computer equipment. That includes four servers which contained personal information of at least 23,000 city residents and employees.

Hattiesburg, the fourth largest city in the Magnolia State, has a population of nearly 50,000.

In addition to containing names, addresses, Social Security numbers and other personal data, the servers were a central hub for all the city's electronic information, including e-mails, contractor information and other data.
"It's the brain of the city of Hattiesburg," city spokesman John Brown said.

The computer servers stored information on about 23,000 registered voters, all city personnel since 2000, about 16,000 utilities customers and numerous contractors who did work for the city.

The approximately 375 employees on direct deposit and 1,000 utility customers with bank draft payments, however, have the most to lose if the thieves gain access to their bank information.

Police Chief David Wynn says the crime was apparantly well thought out and professional in nature. The perps were caught on videotape, which is being analyzed by the FBI and an investigator with the Lamar County Sheriff's Office (Hattiesburg is located primarily within Forrest County, but western areas of the city are in neighbouoring Lamar County as well).

City Hall was closed Friday as police were investigating the break-in and so that backup copies of the stolen information could be downloaded to other servers.


We lost Aaron Spelling today. You may or may not recognize the name, but he is known to all to keep up with the television business as the world's most prolific producer. The shows that he has been involved in one way or another with numbers nearly 200. They range from cop shows such as Starsky and Hutch and T.J. Hooker to detective programmes like Charlie's Angels and Hart to Hart to dramas such as Dynasty, Beverly Hills 90210, and Melrose Place.

While he has rarely given interviews in recent years, he did state in one that of all the programmes he has been involved with, his favourite is the WB Network family drama 7th Heaven, which ends it's run this season.

Spelling had suffered a severe stroke five days ago at his Los Angeles home. He had previously been diagnosed with oral cancer in 2001. Spelling was 83 at his passing this morning.



ABC / This Week with George Stephanopoulos: PLEASE NOTE that This Week will be rescheduled or preempted in several markets during ABC Sports' coverage of the FIFA World Cup. Check your local listings. (Will be preempted in Tampa/St. Petersburg and Orlando) Where it will be seen, U.S. Senators Mitch McConnell (R - KY / Majority Whip) and Richard "Dick" Durbin (D - IL) will discuss the renewed debate over Iraq. Also, outgoing Harvard University president Lawrence H. Summers will discuss the comments and controversy surrounding his leadership. And the roundtable will feature Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria, ABC News White House Correspondent Martha Raddatz, and CNN anchor Lou Dobbs. You meed no George Will??? OMG!

CBS / Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer: Iraq and the North Korean nuclear threat will be discussed with U.S. Senators Richard Lugar (R - IN) and Barbara Boxer (D - CA) along with Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau Chief Doyle McManus.

CNN / Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: The Taliban and their possible return to Afghanistan will be discussed with that nation's president, Hamid Karzai. U.S. Senators Joseph Biden, Jr. (D - DE) and Chuck Hagel (R - NE) will talk about a variety of current events. Also appearing: Former Secretaries of State Madeline Albright and Dr. Henry Kissinger, and Iraqi Oil Minister Dr. Hussein Shahristani.

FOX / Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace: U.S. Senators John Warner (R - VA) and Carl Levin (D - MI) will debate a timetable for a withdrawal from Iraq, while Senator Arlen Specter (R - PA) and Representative Peter King (D - NY)will the deadlock over immigration reform.

NBC / Meet the Press with Tim Russert: U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D - WI) will talk about Iraq and the possibility that he will offer himself for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. Then, a roundtable about how our occupation in Iraq will affect elections this year and in 2008 with Washington Post columnist David Broder, Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent David Gregory, and Anne Kornblut of the New York Times.

Syndicated / The Chris Matthews Show: The roundtable will consist of NBC News' White House Correspondent Kelly O'Donnell, Joe Klein of Time magazine, Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times, and Andrew Sullivan of Time and The New Republic. Discussion will focus on wheather American operations in Iraq will mobilize Democrats as Vietnam did, and is Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice rescuing President Bush from political peril.


The St. Petersburg Times recently overhauled it's system for processing stories, and it apparantly caused an embarrassing glitch which appeared for a time on it's Web site. What you see above (courtesy of Wonkette) is the result of an error which occured while attempting to process the syndicated column of satirist Andy Borowitz. Someone apparantly labeled it to appear as a straight news story.

Times political columnist Adam C. Smith noted on the newspaper's political blog The Buzz:

"Rove spoke to Online City Editor Kevin McGeever, and was exceptionally gracious. He thought it was funny and noted that he'd been accused of being Satan, but never actually working with Beelzebub. He wanted a copy of the online story for himself."

You can read the entire piece for yourself by clicking this link to The Borowitz Report.


The four main gubernatorial candidates appeared Friday in a forum hosted in St. Petersburg by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors and Florida Press Association, and the issue of a candidate's private life came in for key discussion in the wake of the Tampa Tribune's printing this week of portions of a court transcript related to State Chief Financial Officer and GOP candidate Tom Gallagher during a nasty divorce from his first wife.

The hearing transcript, from 1979, showed Gallagher's now ex-wife Ann Louise seeking a restraining order, claiming he had broken into the family home several times after she kicked him out when she discovered that he was having an extramartial affair. He admitted only one instance when he came to get their sheepdog. The unnamed judge in the case, later identified as Milton Rubin, refused to issue the order, telling Gallagher that he was a public figure and didn't need the adverse publicity. Rubin said he would not issue the order as long as Gallagher stayed away from the home until the divorce was finalized.

Two of Gallagher's opponents, Democratic State Senator Rod Smith of Alachua and GOP frontrunner Attorney General Charlie Crist, said Friday that the press should concentrate on a candidate's public decisions instead of mistakes in their private lives.

Here are what the candidates had to say, from the AP story by Brendan Farrington and the St. Petersburg Times political blog The Buzz.

Rod Smith: "Most folks don't care about it. Truth is that three of the candidates up here have been divorced at some point in their lives. About every family sitting out here has had a divorce...Folks out there don't care about that as much as you care about writing about it."

"If divorce was the reason we don’t have great leaders, Ronald Reagan wouldn't have been the president he was. You know, we’re human beings. If I had the life to do over again I’d probably do it most the same way but there’s a bunch of things I’d do differently."

Charlie Crist: "We understand sometimes that (politics) is a contact sport, but we need to keep it on a level that talks about issues."

"We are what we are. Yeah, I’m divorced and I don’t have any children. But Strom Thurmond [late South Carolina U.S. Senator, who married at aged 66 and had four children...two after turning 70] gives me hope (laughter). I’m only 49. But in all seriousness, my upbringing has had a profound impact on my life. I understand the importance of families."

Congressman Jim Davis of Tampa: "We're human beings -- we never claim to be perfect...Y'all are the judges and so are the voters...Some folks have said they want a governor with a wife and kids in the governor's mansion. That works for me. If I’m the governor, the first thing I’ve got to do in the morning is get my kids ready for school."

It should be noted that of the four candidates on the dais, Davis is the only one who has not been divorced.

Gallagher told those in attendance that he spoke with current spouse Laura about what may come out regarding his personal life before deciding to enter the gubernatorial race.

"There's nothing I've seen come out that my wife didn't know about prior," he said. "All of us have things in our lives that we probably haven't been proud of, and I think the sign of a good leader is to take those things and mistakes you've made in your life and learn from them, and it makes you a better leader."

On other issues, Democrats Davis and Smith gave credit to term limited GOP incumbant Jeb Bush on his leadership during the recent hurricanes, but criticized his and the legislature's policies on education. They also slammed Republicans for supporting tax cuts that benefit few Floridians instead of spending more on education.

Crist supported the Bush education package, and specifically mention his Just Read! Florida programme. Gallagher suggested to the editors present that newspapers can help toward improving children's reading skills by devoting a learning page for elementary aged kids.

Friday, June 23, 2006


Last November, I posted a bit here about author/humourist/performer Kinky Friedman, who is running an independent campaign for governor of Texas. He actually has a strong following, as one poll then shows him running a close third behind the two major party candidates, including incumbant Republican Rick Perry.

Shortly afterward, in January, Friedman's campaign was featured in a 60 Minutes segment reported by Morley Safer and was repeated recently.

One of my favourite quotes from the piece came when he was asked about occasionally speaking irreverantly about Jesus in a heavily religious state:

"Well, I just said that Jesus and I were both Jewish and that neither of us ever had a job, we never had a home, we never married and we traveled around the countryside irritating people...Now, if that's comparing myself to Jesus, I don't really think it is. But, the Jesus in my heart is a Jesus with a sense of humor. And, personally, I think he's enjoyin' my campaign as much as anybody right now. I think he is."

And how about putting the Ten Commandments back in school:

"I want them back, they belong there...Maybe I'll have to change their name to the Ten Suggestions, you know. But they were taken out, not by separation of church and state, but by political correctness gone awry. One atheist stands up and says, 'I don't like the Ten Commandments,' and suddenly out they go. And, of course, we all know what happens to an atheist when he dies. His tombstone usually reads, 'All dressed up and no place to go.' "

And my personal quote of the day:

“May the God of your choice bless you...Criticize me all you want, but don’t circumcise me anymore!"

People walk on the north shore of Scott Lake on Thursday as birds feed on fish that died after being left high and dry when the lake's water was sucked into sinkholes that opened underneath it. Last week, the water came up close to the line of grass near the houses
Photos by Scott Wheeler / Lakeland Ledger

Not the greatest view for some of Lakeland's biggest and best known executives and business leaders and their families from their quarter million dollar and more homes.

It's been more than a week since Scott Lake began losing water into two --- possibly up to four --- sinkholes. Now, the water is almost gone, with alligators and snapping turtles fighting to stay alive and the smell of dead fish covering the area.

Thankfully, only one home has been damaged for now.

So, what happens now? It will be at least a week before it will be safe enough for scientists and engineers to investigate further.

Scott Lake could fix itself, or residents may have to pay to fill the sinkholes with cement grout, clay, or some other barrier. Although the state Department of Enviromental Protection owns the bottom of the lake by state law, it has been a private lake for over 25 years. That means residents who live along the lakeshore would have to pay for any restoration project.


I have been asked to note here that the 24th annual convention of the Democratic Black Caucus of Florida is coming up July 14-15 at the Imperial Swan Hotel & Suites (formerly the Sheraton Inn Lakeland), 4141 South Florida Avenue in Lakeland. The theme for the Friday/Saturday event is No Vote Left Behind, A Democratic Call To Action.

There will be a number of workshops dealing with issues from Running to Win to Restoration of Civil/Voting Rights to Campaign Funding. There will also be a candidate forum featuring state and federal candidates.

Registration is $125 for caucus members, $150 for non-members, and $50.00 for full time students. The registration fee includes all meals, workshops, and materials. Contact the hotel at (863) 647-3000 to reserve a room until July 2 at the convention rate of $79.00 plus tax; just ask for the Polk County Democratic Caucus rate. I will have more here soon regarding the awards banquet and Saturday breakfast.

The event is open to all registered Democrats. Click here to download the registration form (Please disregard the reference to's in Lakeland this year!)

To find out more, contact DBCF President Daisy Black at (305) 754-6141, or Rev. Alex Harper, Polk County Caucus President, at (863) 660-7100.


Clarence D. McSwain, a 31-year-old Seargant First Class in the U.S. Army, lost his life in the service of his country June 8 during his third tour of duty in Iraq. An improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near his convoy vehicle in Baghdad. McSwain, from Meridian, Mississippi, will be remembered tomorrow nearly 50 miles away in Laurel, where a number of family members live.

Needless to say, his family already misses him greatly, and is grieving at their loss. This native Mississippian grieves with them, and prays for his family and friends as they remember with the knowledge that they will be together again soon in a much better place.

So why, in God's name, does a group of so-called Christians from a Kansas Baptist church want to attend military funerals to protest and hold up signs saying "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" and disrupt the family's time for rememberce?

The group, from Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, has announced they are coming to Laurel to protest Saturday near where McSwain's funeral will take place. This small band, which has made their presence known at military funerals across the country, say that the soldiers died because of what they call America's tolerance of gays and lesbians.

Friends, I strongly believe in the right of people to protest and publicly present their views. However, this church group steps way over the line. It simply shows no class whatsoever, and only shows disrespect to the fallen soldiers and their families who are trying to cope with the loss of a fallen husband, brother, son, and friend.

Thankfully, the federal government has passed a law prohibiting demonstrations at national cemetaries, and many states have or are considering laws setting a minimum distance from the gravesite from which such protests must remain. While they concede the Constitutional right for citizens to demonstrate, it allows families the privacy and respect they need and deserve at a very difficult time.

The Patriot Guard Riders have alerted Laurel police that members of their organization would attend to show their support for the family and protect them from the Westboro protests, which have included shouting anti-gay epithets and signs saying, among other things, "You're Going To Hell!"

It sounds as though the Westboro congregation, which mostly consists of members of the pastor's family, has been focusing more on the somewhat harsher language as found in the Old Testament. Maybe they need to read more from the teachings of Jesus about things like forgiveness and love.

UPDATE - 06/24/2006 - 07:25 PM ET: The Hattiesburg American noted on it's Web site this afternoon that the Westboro Baptist group were no-shows at Sgt. McSwain's rememberence service. The Patriot Guard Riders lined up 103 motorcycles along Queensburg Avenue in Laurel near the church in respect and in case the Kansas congregants appeared.

Thursday, June 22, 2006


This morning, at approximately 8:30 while I was walking to my bus stop enroute to work, I was listening to The M.J. Morning Show on Tampa radio station WFLZ-FM (also heard in Jacksonville and St. Louis). Host Todd Schnitt (a/k/a M.J., and thanks, kometes, for the correction...always appreciated) was beginning a segment where he was going to try and contact Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist regarding a lawsuit filed this week against a Broward County pet store for fraud. Schnitz, a self described conservative who also does an afternoon talk show that is aired in Tampa, Orlando, and Charleston, SC, said that he has known Crist since his days in the Florida Legislature and liked him a great deal.

The problem is that Schnitt commented during the segment before trying to reach the AG that he felt Crist would make an excellent governor, and at least three times during the segment said that Crist would be "the next governor of the State of Florida".

Being a 15 year veteran of the radio wars, I am aware that the rules may have changed since my on-air days ended, but I believe the equal time requirments in many cases are still in effect. And when I was "in the biz" any radio personality who made that type of comment on-air in the midst of a campaign --- especially a primary campaign --- would be sacked and escorted out the door in a heartbeat. No station manager in their right mind would risk the negative attention any type of comment that could even be considered an election endorsement would bring, especially when it would possibly attract questions from the FCC.

Sounds like Mr. Schnitt would be ready for a reprimand from his bosses at Clear Channel Tampa.


Baseball spring training brings a lot of tourists to Florida, and that means a lot of money to cities who host the annual ritual. In many cases, a baseball team's making their spring training home in a city also means it's Class A minor league squad is also based there, which means more visitors --- although not quite as many --- and more money for the hotels, restaurants, and stores.

In recent years, cities in Arizona have been working to attract teams who currently make up the "Grapefruit League" to head west with promises of new facilities and the amenities that will help teams and cities make more money. To counter that effort, Governor Jeb Bush signed into law a bill making $15 million available to five cities who qualify so they can keep their teams by building new stadiums.

One of those cities is Winter Haven, who has a history of hosting spring training. For a number of years, the Boston Red Sox made Winter Haven their home, and Chain O'Lakes Stadium was built for them in 1966. After the Bosox left for Fort Myers several years ago, the park stood empty until the Cleveland Indians were forced to find a new home in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew destroyed their yet-unused base in Homestead.

Almost from the beginning, the Indians began demanding improvements to the aged facility. And because of the prime piece of real estate it stood on, the city wants to develop the Chain O'Lakes site into a shopping/condo centre. Another point of contention between the team and city is how much, if any, the Tribe plan to contribute toward a new stadium. Needless to say, the team has no intention of putting it's own money into the project, stating it wants the city, county, and state to foot the entire bill. Winter Haven officials are demanding that the city be an equal player in any partnership.

Now we discover that the Indians plan to begin discussions with Osceola County officials on the idea of moving their spring base to 30 acres of land which would be donated by The Walt Disney Company. The Tribe would play their games at Walt Disney World's Cracker Jack Stadium, which the Atlanta Braves also use. It would also make three teams training in Osceola County, as the Houston Astros are based in nearby Kissimmee.

City Manager David Greene told the Lakeland Ledger, in effect, that the city's attitude is for the Indians not to let the door hit 'em on the backside on the way out of town.

"If the Cleveland Indians want to relocate to Walt Disney World or Osceola County, the city of Winter Haven, in my opinion, will have its best effort to ensure that that happens...We'd be willing to consider a cooperative approval to terminate their agreement with the city of Winter Haven and making the state money available to Osceola County or Reedy Creek [Improvement District, an independent taxing district the state established for Disney with it came to Florida]".


That's right, it's another case to show that many of the legislators who are supposed to represent us in Washington don't give a rat's ass about the majority of us who make up the working class of America.

While a majority of senators voted in favour of a measure --- tacked as an amendment to an unreleated defence bill --- which would raise the minimum wage for the first time in nearly a decade, it still fell short of the 60 votes necessary for approval. Every Democrat voting supported the amendment (John D. "Jay" Rockefeller, IV of West Virginia did not vote), along with several brave Republicans. As one would predict, though, Florida's GOP rookie Mel Martinez voted against the working people of his state.

The Republican leadership, in bed with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and big business, made clear beforehand that they did not intend to allow a vote on the issue. This makes the ninth time in as many years that a stand alone increase in the minimum wage was denied.

What makes me incredleous over this issue is the fact that last week, the House of Representatives voted as it has nearly every year for the past decade to give itself a pay raise, even as many working Americans has been denied the opportunity to at least get to the poverty line. It was hidden as an obscure part of a measure (H.R. 5576; see if you can find it!) dealing with several federal departments, the judiciary, and the District of Columbia. That brings the annual salaries of legislators, many of whom are millionaires or close to it, to nearly $170,000.

CNN's Lou Dobbs is usually a fairly conservative gentleman, with whom I often disagree. Wednesday, he had a stinging commentary posted on the network's Web site. I include part of it here:

Raising the minimum wage to $7.50 would positively affect the lives of more than 8 million workers, including an estimated 760,000 single mothers and 1.8 million parents with children under 18. But even this 46 percent increase would get them only to the poverty line. Don't you think these families just might need that cost-of-living increase a bit more than our elected officials who are paid nearly $170,000 a year?

With no Congressional action on raising the minimum wage since 1997, inflation has eroded wages. The minimum wage in the 21st century is $2 lower in real dollars than it was four decades ago and now stands at its lowest level since 1955, according to the Economic Policy Institute and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Also, since the last time Congress increased the minimum wage for our lowest-paid workers, buying power has fallen by 25 percent. Yet over that time our elected representatives have given themselves eight pay raises totaling more than 23 percent.

Raising the minimum wage isn't simply about the price of labor. It's also about our respect for labor. One of this country's greatest business innovators, Henry Ford, made history almost a century ago by raising the salaries of his production-line workers far beyond the prevailing wage. Ford not only paid his employees well enough to buy the products they built, but he kept his employees loyal and productive. That's also very good business.

While I don't usually deal with national issues here, this is yet another example of how many of the individuals we send to Washington --- supposedly to represent we, the people --- care more about lining their own pockets and campaign funds while at every turn the working people take it up the backside het again. Friends, I wish we had an individual locally who would have the guts to take on our own "Red-Headed Nimrod", Congressman Adam Putnam (R - Bartow), who is as much in bed with the GOP leadership (Hell, he's part of it now!) and it's culture of corruption.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


When I leave work every weekday evening, I end up listening to the public radio show Marketplace. There are usually a couple of interesting features included in the half-hour programme, and one Tuesday especially had me smiling. Labour consultant and author Beth Shulman, a former vice-president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, had a great commentary on the need to raise the minimum wage. A House committee voted last week to raise the wage from the present $5.15 an hour to $7.25, and the Senate could possibly begin debate on the issue today.

Ms. Shulman's comments, I felt, were so good they were worth copying here:

No doubt corporations face market pressures and have to fight to stay competitive. But they've also got a choice about how they respond to that pressure.

Instead of paying low wages and few benefits, companies can raise productivity and lower turnover by investing in training and paying their workers decently.

Some do. By looking after their workers and their communities, industry leaders like Costco, Cingular and Harley Davidson are profitable.

But most corporations choose the low road. They rationalize their behavior by insisting that they have to cut wages, shrink benefits and lay off workers because the law makes them do it.

After all, they say, companies can only act in their shareholders' interest. Except, actually, it isn't true.

A close look at American law shows that managers have the discretion to act in their overall company's interest, even if that doesn't lead to immediate shareholder gains.

There are no laws on the books that say managers must act exclusively in the interests of shareholders.

In the last quarter-century, more than half the states in our country have enacted statutes that specifically authorize managers to attend to the interests of stakeholders. Read: workers, customers, and creditors, not just shareholders.

The shareholder-interests-above-all myth shields managers as they shred the social contract that once bound companies to their employees and communities.

Don't be fooled. We all work hard. We deserve to sit at the table to help set the terms that ensure work provides the basics of a decent life.

Over 80 percent of Americans support raising the minimum wage. At today's $5.15 an hour, it takes working 11 hours just to fill a car's tank with gas.

I say we can do better than that and jump-start the economy while we're at it. We can raise the minimum wage at the state and federal level and index it to inflation. It's the right thing to do.

I say: Carry on, sister!


The Orlando Sentinel political blog Central Florida Political Pulse made note Tuesday that the Florida Chamber of Commerce has, for the first time in it's history, withdrawn it's endorsement of a sitting state senator and given it's blessing to a challenger.

The business organization announced that while it appreciates the past support from State Senator Alex Villalobos (R - Miami), chamber executive vice president Mark Wilson said "...we were truly saddened by his new allegiance to labor unions, plaintiff lawyers and other out-of-state special interest groups...". The group's endorsement went to Republican primary challenger Frank J. Bolanos, a member of the Miami-Dade County school board. It is the first time in his 14 years in the Legislature that Villalobos has had to face opposition.

As has been previously noted here, Villalobos is the middle of what has become a very nasty campaign to become Senate President two years from now. Earlier this year, seven conservative GOP collegues who had previously supported Villalobos switched their support to State Senator Jeffery H. "Jeff" Atwater (R - North Palm Beach). Villalobos placed the blame on what he called a well-organized conspiracy led by fellow Miami Cuban-American Republican Alex Diaz de la Portilla.

On top of that, Villalobos was stripped of his majority leader post in the Senate by current President Tom Lee (R - Brandon) after he opposed two measures key to Governor Jeb Bush's legacy: Putting measures on the ballot to approve school vouchers and to repeal the class-size amendment which voters approved a couple of years ago. His bucking Bush on these two education-based issues is understandable: His wife works for the local school district.

One has to wonder if and how the various situations are tied together.


Of course, everyone knows by now that CBS News announced Tuesday that Dan Rather is no longer with the company. After the former CBS Evening News anchor and his employer could not reach agreement on a new contract, Rather asked for an immediate release from his current obligation, which was set to expire in November. CBS was only too happy to acquiese, in effect kicking a 44-year veteran --- who put himself on the line time and again and loved the network endlessly --- to the side of the road. Almost everyone I heard Tuesday said that while Rather had likely stayed longer that he should have at Black Rock, the company's decision was a classless move, at least the way it was done.

And in another announcement made yesterday "across the pond", the British Broadcasting Corporation is cancelling one of it's longest running programmes, the weekly pop music countdown show Top of the Pops after 42 years. A victim of declining ratings in recent years, "The Beeb" moved the show from it's main BBC1 channel to BBC2 this year, which would be like moving a show here from the current top rated network Fox to The WB. The first programme featured The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, The Dave Clark Five, The Swinging Blue Jeans, and (performing the week's number one song "I Want To Hold Your Hand") The Beatles.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Vern Buchanan, one of the seven candidates seeking to replace Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R - Longboat Key), is pulling out the celebrity card. College basketball analyst and former coach Dick Vitale is hosting a $500 per person fundraising event for the millionaire automobile dealer at his Lakewood Ranch home tonight.

Sarasota Herald-Tribune political reporter Jeremy Wallace notes today that the two men have some common roots. Vitale was head basketball coach at the University of Detroit during the mid-1970s, while Buchanan earned his MBA there in 1986. They met during the 1990s when both men became involved with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Sarasota County.


All of us have probably done something stupid in our younger days, or at least something we regret and hope would be best forgotten. And although we've generally done the right thing and followed the rules in the years since that time, little did we realize that there are some cases where those indiscretions would come back and bite us in the backside.

I have two cases of that today.

First, there is the situation with State Chief Financial Officer and current Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Gallagher. The Tampa Tribune found portions of his 1979 divorce file which included a deposition from a woman who claimed she had an affair with the then-state legislator, and that his wife sought a restraining order after Gallagher broke into their home. He admitted doing so once to take their dog; his wife claimed it was more than once. The judge in Miami-Dade County refused to grant the restraining order in deference to Gallagher's budding political career.

"You’re a public figure,” the judge lectured the 35-year-old state representative. “I do not want to embarrass you by entering an order. That would be a matter of public record."

Gallagher responded, “Yes, sir"

The judge continued: “Listen to my words very clearly: That would be a matter of public record that might be used adversely against you in the future in one of your future campaigns."

Gallagher: “Yes, sir."

The judge: “So do you read me?"

Gallagher has also admitted to reporters smoking marijuana once, although his ex-wife said in the divorce documents that she found cocaine in a drawer in his Tallahassee condo.

"She showed it to Gallagher’s father before flushing it down the toilet, she said.

"That’s the first I ever heard of it,” Gallagher said Monday. He denied ever using cocaine..."

This would not be as juicy, being more than 25 years old, if Gallagher was not working hard at promoting himself --- especially to the religious right --- as a faith-and-family candidate.

And yesterday, I read the story of an Italian native who has lived here for much of his life. He stabbed a man decades ago, served his time, and has lived a quiet, peaceful life since. His crime has never come up; after all, he served his sentence. But now, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement are pushing to deport this gentleman for his crime decades ago.

Friends, this should be a reminder that we all have things in our past...

So, does it really matter what someone did 25 or more years ago, if they sincerely regret their action and have stayed out of trouble since? That will be for the voters to decide, but IMHO, it should not, as long as it is not criminal in nature or otherwise disqualifies the individual from serving in public office. In the case of the Italian native, there should be some way to consider his case on it's merits --- the fact that the event occures decades ago, that he served his sentence, and has lived a lawful life since.