Wednesday, March 28, 2007


As you may have noticed if you are a regular visitor to this site, there have not been any new posts here recently. It may be some time before I will be able to post here again due to some family issues. I shall not go into detail at this time, but I do ask for your thoughts and prayers. Thank you for your support, and may Almighty God bless each of you.

Robert C.

Friday, March 16, 2007


ABC / This Week with George Stephanopoulos: The topics and guests had not been announced as of early Friday morning. Please check back later today for possible updates. And the roundtable will include, among others, conservative columnist George Will in a discussion of the week's political news.

CBS / Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer: The topics and guests had not been announced as of early Friday morning. Please check back later today for possible updates.

CNN / Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: The topics and guests had not been announced as of early Friday morning. Please check back later today for possible updates.

FOX / Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace: The topics and guests had not been announced as of early Friday morning. Please check back later today for possible updates.

NBC / Meet the Press with Tim Russert: Marking the four year anniversary since America's incursion into Iraq will be former Congressman Tom Andrews (D - ME), former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R - TX), Richard Perle of the American Enterprise Institute, and Congressman Joe Sestak (D-PA), a retired vice admiral in the Navy.

Syndicated / The Chris Matthews Show: The topics and panel members had not been announced as of early Friday morning. Please check back later today for possible updates.

Bay News 9 / Political Connections: This week's guest will be Florida Secretary of State and former Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Kurt S. Browning.

And if you live in the Tampa/St. Petersburg/Lakeland area, one other programme you should make a point of checking out is Flashpoint, seen Sunday mornings at 11:00 on ABC affiliate WFTS-TV 28. Hosted by primary news anchor Brendan McLaughlin, the programme is usually an interesting discussion of local and state issues and often features political leaders from all around. Unfortunately, WFTS does not actively promote Flashpoint, and it is not mentioned at all on the station's Web site. Hopefully, that will change soon.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


Last Thursday, I ordered the new book Jeb: The Next Bush by Palm Beach Post Tallahassee Bureau Chief Shirish V. Date from, and was notified it was to arrive Monday via UPS. Of course, Monday came and book. Thankfully, Amazon provided the shipment tracking number so that I can keep up with it. On Tuesday, after it still didn't arrive, I checked out it's shipment history and noted that my two pound book has been travelling around the eastern USA.

Once it was picked up in Lexington, Kentucky, it went to Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee, and then Jacksonville where it stayed over the weekend. But then, I noticed there was no departure scan on Monday as it was supposed to have received. No activity for the shipment until yesterday morning, when there was a departure scan from, of all places, Secaucus, New Jersey. UPS now notes that the rescheduled delivery is for tomorrow...four days behind schedule.

I'm looking forward to what I expect should be an interesting read. Now if the folks at UPS would just bring it on...

UPDATE: The book made it back into Florida...back to Jacksonville as of after 9:00 AM Thursday morning. It apparantly has not left as of this morning, as there has been no note of a departure scan from there.. We'll see what happens.


First, let me say that I have no issue whatsoever with schools instituting reasonable dress codes for their students. Students should not be allowed to wear clothes which are distracting from the educational experience in any way.

In today's hip hop culture a favourite form of dress for boys is the "low-rider" pants/shorts, in which they are worn below the waist and exposes his underwear. Most school districts already ban such wear, but state Senator Gary Siplin (D - Orlando) wants to make such a restriction part of Florida law.

Siplin has tried and failed with this in recent years, and he's brought it up once again this legislative session. Previously, he would have made wearing below waist garments exposing underwear on school grounds a second degree misdemeanor. This time, he has changed the bill to mandate a verbal warning the first time an individual is found in violation, followed by a three day suspension for a second offense and a ten day suspension for subsequent violations.

While the intent is worthy, it sets poor precedent. One has to ask, if this somehow passes, what's next? This is simply an issue that has no place in the Florida Legislature, but should be decided on the local level. And if such dress as Senator Siplin is addressing is allowed, then parents should demand change at their school board.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Power and greed are great motivators for one helluva fight on the horizon to determine who will take the top job in the Florida Senate. As president of the chamber, he or she will have tremendous authority, including that of appointing members of committees, and can wield the virtual veto axe to use at will on any legislation.

Currently, Senator Ken Pruitt (R - Port St. Lucie) holds the top job through next year. Senators J. Alex Villalobos (R - Miami) and Jeffrey H. "Jeff" Atwater (R - North Palm Beach) have been in a contentious battle for who will succeed Pruitt But the big blowup could be for who will take the president's post in 2010, with three senators seeking the job.

Two Polk County lawmakers, Senators J.D. Alexander (R - Lake Wales) and Paula Dockery (R - Lakeland), are both working to gaining support, along with Michael S. Bennett (R - Indianlantic). To say that Alexander and Dockery are not fond of each other would be the understatement of the year; they have feuded openly for quite some time. And there could be two other senators possibly looking at their own possibilities in three years.

Joe Follick of the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group writes about what could become a very nasty situation today.

Monday, March 12, 2007


...for cancelling a scheduled August debate between it's presidential candidates which was to have been co-hosted by Fox News Channel. It was done after a tasteless, disgraceful comment by Fox Chairman/CEO Roger Ailes last Thursday evening in which he deliberately confused the name of U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama with terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

Almost immediately after Ailes' remark, Democratic candidate and former U.S. Senator John Edwards dropped out of the event, citing FNS's participation.

Anyone who watches television news can tell you that Fox News Channel's "Fair and Balanced" moniker is a baldfaced lie, and that it has been biased toward conservative Republicans since it's inception. As a matter of fact, Ailes has served as a campaign adviser to Republican candidates for years, including presidents Reagan and Bush (both). Not only that, Fox News Vice President David Rhodes responded to the Nevada Democratic announcement by saying that the Democratic Party is owned by the liberal Web site, which had urged the Nevada party organization to cancel the event as part of it's boycott of Fox.

Hey, what's wrong with setting up another deal with maybe MSNBC or CNN???


It was nice to see Jim Johnson, author of the conservative-leaning Tampa blog The State of Sunshine, as one of the guests Sunday with Brendan McLaughlin on WFTS-TV 28's weekly public affairs show Flashpoint. Jim and USF political science professor Dr. Susan McManus discussed several state and Bay Area issues: The popularity of Governor Charlie Crist, Speaker of the House Marco Rubio, the debate over renewing the Pennies for Pinellas sales tax, and last week's municipal election in Tampa.

Jim did quite well on-air, and it's a good sign that the better political bloggers are beginning to earn the respect of the "mainstream" media. Let's hope we see more of Jim and other of our better bloggers represented.


Many of you may remember I noted here back in January that two Republican State House members, Dennis Ross of Lakeland and Donald D. Brown of DeFuniak Springs, ended up on the wrong side of Speaker Marco Rubio's favour and were stripped of committee chairmanships after they were the only two members to vote against a compromise property insurance package which passed during the special Legislative session.

It's no secret that when one is in the doghouse with the leadership a legislator's effectiveness is greatly damaged, and Ross is especially aware that any bills which he may sponsor may very well go down in flames.

But will Ross, a legislative veteran in his fourth and final term in the House, remain in the doghouse for the entire session? Lakeland Ledger political writer Bill Rufty notes that most observers and a couple of collegues believe not. An attorney with a strong background in insurance matters, as well as his tenure in the House during a year in which nearly a third of it's members are attending their first session, it is believed that Ross will be called upon as the session moves forward, especially with the state's no-fault insurance statutes scheduled to sunset this year.

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Tired of having to respond to an exceptionally high number of calls by deputies, Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee and State Attorney Mark Ober have filed a civil lawsuit against the owners of four apartment complexes in north Tampa seeking to require them to take steps to curb criminal activities within the properties. The legal action is requesting owners of the apartment complexes to:

•Hire private full-time security squads
•Install security walls or fences around the complexes
•Install secured and monitored access gates
•Evict and issue trespass warnings to people charged with committing crimes on the property
•Evict anyone who lives in an apartment with another person who is charged with committing crimes on the premises
•Submit to independent inspections for code compliance
•Hire independent property managers to report to the court

If those requirments are not met, the lawsuit calls on the complexes to be closed down. The action is being taken under the "public nuisance" laws due to what the announcement noting it calls the "high crime activity, managerial tolerance of crime on the premises, lack of private security, and unhealthy/dangerous apartments and living conditions".

Now we're not talking about public housing authority properties here. At least a couple of the complexes being targeted have monthly rents of over $1,000. One would believe that renters should expect a certain amount of security paying that amount a month (not including utilities) and that the management would be aggressive to make their properties more desirable by evicting tenants who participate in or assist illegal activities or harbour those who do.


It has been a busy week with local elections, the Legislative session the "Scotter" Libby and John Evander Couey convictions. So one would think the opinion pages of Central Florida's newspapers would have plenty to opine about. Let's find out...

The Tampa Tribune looks at the current controversy over the veterans' health care system and the quality of facilities and care being received for by our men and women in uniform. Noting that part of the problem is due to corners being cut since a privitization initiative begun by the White House, the editorial calls on a panel led by former U.S. Senator Bob Dole and former Health & Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala to look into privitization contracts entered and insist that measures of accountability be made part of any such deals. It also suggests that the panel consider a recommendation to give veterans some control over their own care.

Across the bay, the St. Petersburg Times welcomes the refreshing change in attitude brought by Governor Charlie Crist after one of his first acts in office, to embrace the idea of "government in the sunshine" and forming the Office of Open Government. It notes that today is "Sunshine Sunday", in which newspapers across Florida raise awareness of the importance of open government and remind citizens that it is our right and duty to hold elected officials accountable. After all, they are supposed to be working for us, right?

While the governor is embracing open government, the Lakeland Ledger editorial reminds us that some legislators are seeking to further restrict access to public meetings for records, noting three of the more ludicrious examples. It also reprints the Sunshine Sunday editorials from the Times and Melbourne's Florida Today. And the Daytona Beach News Journal notes that while government agencies in Volusia and Flagler counties are good at providing access to basic information online, they could do more.

There is still some election business to be handled, part of that being a special election to fill the State House District 49 seat which became open when Republican John Quinones resigned to run for the Osceola County Commission. The district covers portions of central Orange and northern Osceola counties. The Orlando Sentinel endorses civil rights attorney Darren Michael Soto in the March 20 Democratic primary (the general election will be April 24), saying he posesses enthusisam and knowledge of the district that his five primary opponents do not and noting that Democrats voting "might just have a hand in launching their party's next rising star".

Unfortunately, the Sarasota Herald Tribune was experiencing some technical difficulties this morning, and their Web site had not been updated with today's information.

Let's hope your day, and the coming week, are positive.

Saturday, March 10, 2007


It was really nice to get out of the apartment complex for a few hours this afternoon and, for the first time in many months, catch a movie. My intention was to see Reno 911: Miami, the film version of a funny cable programme, but it's run at the theatre actually ended Thursday. So my granddaughter and I caught the second choice, the new John Travolta/Martin Lawrence/Tim Allen/William H. Macy comedy Wild Hogs. While it was not a great picture (most of the reviews have been negative), it is hilarious in parts. And while some of the content was not appropriate for the young five-year-old, it was her first time to go to the theatre and she was more fascinated at the surroundings than at the movie itself.

So much for the social life...

Friday, March 09, 2007


ABC / This Week with George Stephanopoulos: U.S. Senator Jim Webb (D - VA) is the featured guest who will talk about the operation in Iraq and the proposed plans for withdrawal. Former U.S. Senator Bob Dole (R - KS) will discuss about the problems in the Walter Reed Army Medical System. And the roundtable will include former Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke, Newsweek International editor Fareed Zakaria, The Nation Washington editor David Corn, and conservative columnist George Will in a discussion of the week's political news.

CBS / Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer: A smogarsboard of topics --- Iraq, Treatment of U.S. Veterans, and the "Scotter" Libby guilty verdict --- will be bantered with U.S. Senators Charles Schumer (D - NY), Arlen Specter (R - PA), and Claire McCaskill (D - MO)

CNN / Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: The Iraq Security Conference and the new Iraq security plan will be discussed with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, U.S. Senators Joseph Biden, Jr. (D - DE / Presidential Candidate) and Lindsey Graham (R - SC), former Arkansas governor and Democratic presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, and former Bush speechwriter David Frum, now with the American Enterprise Institute.

FOX / Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace: Former U.S. Senator Fred Thompson (R - TN) will try to answer wheather staunch conservatives have found their 2008 presidential candidate.

NBC / Meet the Press with Tim Russert: The Iraq Security Conference will be one of the topics of discussion with U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad. The roundtable bantering about the news of the week and Decision 2008 will consist of Michael Duffy of Time magazine, Dana Priest of the Washington Post, Ted Koppel of The Discovery Channel, and presidential historian Michael Beschloss.

Syndicated / The Chris Matthews Show: The Libby Verdict: If Vice President Cheney hurting President Bush, and will he last through the remainder of the term? And if Hillary Rodham Clinton should win next November, what will be First Gentlemen Bill's job? Those questions will be asked of Katty Kay of the British Broadcasting Corporation, David Ignatius of the Washington Post, Andrea Mitchell from NBC News, and Newsweek writer Howard Fineman.

Bay News 9 / Political Connections: Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney takes a bit of time out of his Florida swing to appear.


"There are times that I have fallen short of my own standards. There's certainly times when I've fallen short of God's standards."

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and possible 2008 Republican presidential candidate, during an interview with Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson to be aired today. During the interview Gingrich admitted that even as he was leading the charge against then-President Bill Clinton for lying about his tryst with Monica Lewinsky, he was in the midst of an extramartial affair himself.

The remarkable thing is that Gingrich believes he shouldn't be considered a hypocrite for going after Clinton. SOP for the GOP.

Special thanks to Miami-based blogger Mustang Bobby at Bark Bark Woof Woof, one of the best blogs in Florida...always worth a look.


Want to view pictures of adults sexually abusing children? And what kind of person would do something like that, anyway?

No, we're not talking about horny men hookin' up with teenaged girls they met in an online chat room, although that is just as wrong (not to mention illegal). I'm referring to REAL YOUNG children.

The reason I bring this up this morning is that the Polk County Sheriff's Office arrested ten men Thursday in an ongoing investigation of downloading and posessing child pornography; their computers had been seized back in January. An eleventh man, apparantly realizing what they would find and the likely consequences, chose to hang himself instead.

From today's Lakeland Ledger:

At a press conference Thursday morning, detectives played the audio portion of a child pornography clip taken from one of the men's computers. In it a man could be heard saying "Good baby" and a baby could be heard crying as it was sexually assaulted.

"It takes your breath away and it breaks your heart that these children have been victimized like that, and that these so-called human beings find energy and entertainment in that," [Sheriff Grady] Judd said.

The images on the computers were so vile, "No normal human being can imagine it," [Assistant State Attorney Brad] Copley said.

None of the men who have been arrested are accused of molesting children nor of making the child pornography that was on their computers, Judd said.

However, by seeking out and frequently buying child pornography, these men help create a market for it, and encourage the manufacture of new child pornography.

"These people enjoy it, relish it, and go out and look for it," he said.

WFLA-TV's report of the arrests noted that some of the pornographic pictures were of sexual abuse of children as young as one year old. I almost wept reading the story, as I have a beautiful five year old granddaughter that is worth more to me than life itself, and to even think that something as vile and sickening as that could happen to her...or any child...

I had been wondering about Sheriff Judd. Last summer I noted here that he turned down an offer to participate in Dateline NBC's "To Catch A Predator" series because "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". In the most recent edition of the series, the crew returned to Florida and teamed up with the Flagler Beach Police Department.

Anyway, a huge 'attaboy' to the PCSO this morning. It's a small step, as internet service providers need to be more vigiliant in finding and shutting down websites that contain such garbage, and those that don't should be considered just as guilty as those who put the sites up. The real work will be to find those sickos.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


The latest Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll was released Wednesday, and the numbers seem to be holding steady, with U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton holding a nearly three-to-one lead over other Democratic contenders and former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani with a wide lead among current and possible Republican candidates.

Among the Democrats, Clinton is still the clear favourite in the Sunshine State, with 38 percent of the respondents saying they would vote for her if the primary were being held today. The only other candidate in double digits were former U.S. Senator and 2004 vice presidential nominee John Edwards and current Senator Barak Obama with 13 percent each. Eighteen percent indicated they were undecided.

On the GOP side, Guiliani had 38 percent saying they would vote for him if the primary were held today. In second place is U.S. Senator John McCain (18 percent), followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 14 percent. Undecides made up 16 percent.

Respondents were asked about a wide variety of matchups. Click here to read the full findings.


Of course, the big news in this part of Florida this morning is the guilty verdect handed down in Miami Wednesday against John Evander Couey for the abduction, rape, and murder of nine year old Jessica Marie Lunsford. The trial was moved from Citrus County where the crime was committed because of the publicity and imability to find enough folks to seat an impartial jury pool.

Even with the main confession disallowed (it was made after he had requested an attorney), the evidence was overwhelming against the convicted sex offender, so it was a bit surprising that the jury needed four hours to reach it's verdict.

Now that the guilt-or-innocence part of the trial is completed, what will be clearly the more emotional part, the penalty phase, will begin Tuesday. The only way that defense attorneys apparantly feel they can keep Couey from receiving the death penalty is to prove the defendent is mentally retarded. Couey's doodling and drawing in court with coloured pencils is very likely part of that scheme.

I have had mixed emotions about the death penalty for a number of years, and believe that it should be saved for only the most henious of crimes. This would definately be one of them, but instead of the three-drug cocktail at Starke I would simply put him in a room with Mark Lunsford, Jessie's father, for 15 minutes.

May God Almighty have mercy on his soul.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is continuing his media buy in Florida, this time with a 60 second radio ad airing on South Florida Spanish language stations. The commercial is voiced by former Florida GOP Chairman Al Cardenas, who is also a chairman of Romney's Florida Steering Committee. Of course, it makes mention of Cuba, and plugs his visit this weekend as the featured speaker of the Miami-Dade Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner after which he will "address our leaders in exile".

Here is a text in both English and Spanish, with thanks to the Palm Beach Post political blog Q.


Have you noticed that the price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline has jumped significantly just within the last month? I don't drive, but even I remember that just after the first of January that at some of the lower price stations one could notice prices just above $2.00 a gallon.

Today, the average price for a gallon of unleaded in the Tampa Bay area is $2.51 a gallon, an increase of 36 cents in the past month. The Tampa Tribune story today notes that while prices are expected to continue on their upware spiral for awhile due to higher oil prices, increased demand for heating oil, and refinery disruptions, they should not reach the record levels of last year.

More people should consider mass transit to get to where they're going. Here in Lakeland, the Citrus Connection service gets you to where you're going at a reasonable price (they recently raised rates for the first time in it's 20+ year history), and they have some good pass offers for frequent riders...including one I take advantage of where my employer pays half the cost for an unlimited pass! Twelve dollars a month as much as I ride is really good. Now if they can only consider expanding their service hours, especially on Saturday...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Last Friday, West Palm Beach-based conservative commentator Ann Coulter spoke at the 34th annual gathering of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, and shook up the political world with the following comment made while she was opining about the various Democratic presidential hopefuls:

"I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards, but it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I'm - so, kind of at an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards, so I think I'll just conclude here and take your questions,"

Needless to say, use of the anti-gay slur brought almost universal condemnation from responsible leaders from both political parties...almost. While one has to give Governor Charlie Crist credit for his response when asked --- he said, “It sounds outrageously inappropriate.” --- a couple of local GOP leaders seemed ready to stand by the shock-blond.

Tampa Tribune political writer William March asked for reaction to Ms. Coulter's remark at the Pinellas County Republican Party's Lincoln Day fundraising dinner Saturday, and got these reactions:

Hillsborough County GOP Chairman David Storck: “If the gal from the Dixie Chicks can call the president names, I guess Coulter has a right to say what she wants.”

Pasco County Republican Executive Committee Chairman Bill Bunting: “I have a lot of respect for her and I stand behind her. I wish she’d be the speaker at my dinner.”

First, while the gal from the Dixie Chicks may have pushed the boundries with her comments regarding President Bush, she didn't call him a faggot. These individuals would have been in the chorus condemning Ms. Coulter loudly if she had referred to U.S. Senator Barack Obama with the 'N' word. What's the difference? There is NONE!

There is simply no place for such garbage in the political process.

BTW: While I am sure there are many decent people in West Palm Beach and Palm Beach County, is there just a coincidence that Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh make their homes there???

And the Belfast Telegraph includes a brief list of Coulter's more crazed remarks:

* MUSLIMS: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."

* VOTING: "It would be a much better country if women did not vote. That is simply a fact. In fact, in every presidential election since 1950 - except Goldwater in '64 - the Republican would have won if only the men had voted."

* DEMOCRATS: "In the history of the nation, there has never been a political party so ridiculous as today's Democrats. It's as if all the brain-damaged people in America formed a voting bloc."

* BUSH: "The thing I like about Bush is I think he hates liberals."

Monday, March 05, 2007


--- 11:30 AM - West Palm Beach - Brunch at the home of Netscape founder James H. "Jim" Clark. $1,000 per guest; those who raise $10,000 will be designated hosts.
--- 1:00 PM - West Palm Beach - Rally at the Raymond F. Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. $100 per person.
--- 2:30 PM - Hallandale Beach - Fundraiser at the home of Miami-based attorney Jeremy Alters and his wife Rachel. $1,000 per person; those who raise $10,000 will be designated hosts.
--- 6:45 PM - Coral Gables - Fundraiser at the Biltmore Hotel. $250 per guest.
--- 8:00 PM - Miami - Fundraiser at the home of defense attorney Roy Black and his wife Lea. $2,300 per guest; those who raise $10,000 will be designated hosts.

FRIDAY, MARCH 30: Tallahassee - Fundraiser and public speech at the State Capitol. Details TBA

FRIDAY, MARCH 09: Miami - Republican Party of Miami-Dade County Lincoln Day Dinner - Miami Airport Hilton, 5101 Blue Lagoon Drive. Private Reception including photo opportunity with Romney and Dinner $250 per person.

SATURDAY, MARCH 10: Tampa - Republican Party of Hillsborough County Lincoln Day Dinner - Grand Hyatt Hotel (Rocky Point), 2900 Bayport Drive

MONDAY, APRIL 23: Sarasota - Republican Party of Sarasota County Lincoln Day Dinner - Location and Details TBA


Some old habits just don't go away. This piece from Saturday's St. Petersburg Times (reprinted in this morning's Lakeland Ledger) reminds us of that oh so clearly.

For a number of years there has been talk about building a toll road connecting Southwest Florida with Jacksonville. While that still may come to pass, the idea at present has been scaled down a bit. The plan now is to build what would be known as the Heartland Parkway from eastern Fort Myers to the Polk Parkway near Auburndale and onward to near Orlando.

One of the Florida Senate's most powerful Republicans, J.D. Alexander (R - Lake Wales) heads a company which owns Blue Head Ranch, a 62,000 acre piece of land through which the road would go. Alexander has seeking favour for the Heartland Parkway by forming a lobbying group which includes some of the state's most powerful real estate names which also own property along the proposed route.

While Alexander, who is a grandson of the late multimillionaire agricultrual and cattle baron Ben Hill Griffin, Jr. (former Congresswoman Katherine Harris, and current Congressman Adam Putnam are also relatives), says he has not been involved in the project, corporate records show he has several past and present links to the lobbying organization which is pushing for the road.

- Its president is Renee Dabbs, who works at a Tampa political consulting firm called the Victory Group. Records show Alexander paid the firm more than $90,000 during his 2004 campaign. The firm handles corporate communications of a company partly controlled by Alexander.

- A citrus grower named Bryan Paul is listed as director. Paul did business with Alexander, who sold Paul citrus from 2000 to 2004.

- Last year, Nancy Watkins was listed as HEART's treasurer. Watkins, a Tampa accountant, is listed as the treasurer for Alexander's fundraising committee, Floridians for Better Government, which has raised more than $341,000 since 2000.

Alexander said he may have recommended the Victory Group to HEART and told Paul to get involved with the group. He said he had no role in Watkins' involvement.

But he did recommend the man who would become HEART's public face, Rick Dantzler.

The two Polk County men know each other well. Dantzler, a Democrat, left a state Senate seat in 1998 in a failed bid for governor and then lieutenant governor. Dantzler is also an attorney for a company with strong ties to Alexander.

His duties at HEART include meeting with landowners, environmental groups and editorial boards to explain the group's position.

On Wednesday, Dantzler met with the St. Petersburg Times editorial board and said HEART had the same goal as the general public: responsible long-term growth that can preserve the environment.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


Late this morning I came across WFTS-TV 28's weekly current affairs programme Flashpoint, and after a brief interview with freshman Congresswoman Kathy Castor (D - Tampa) host Brendan McLaughlin's main guest was Palm Beach Post Tallahassee bureau chief Shirish V. Date. He is now covering his fifth gubernatorial administration for the Post, but the appearance was to promote his new book Jeb: The Next Bush. It is an unauthorized biography of the former governor, whom Date is convinced will eventually make a run for the White House...if not next year, then in 2012.

Apparantly Mr. Date was not on Jeb's list of reporters to confide in, and he did not offer an interview for the book. In addition to his own experiences covering Bush for eight years for the Post, Date depended primarily on interviews with a variety of people and public records including many of the former governor's e-mails.

It was a great interview, and after watching it I decided that I need to get a copy for my own reading pleasure. If you want to purchase a copy at $17.79 via, click here. It's not his first book. Date has also written the Bob Graham biography Quiet Passion, among several other well-received novels.

Flashpoint is usually a good programme, and is the only locally originated current affairs/interview programme on Tampa Bay commercial television. For those not familiar, it airs at 11:30 AM Sunday mornings following The Chris Matthews Show.


This morning we awaken to what will likely be Old Man Winter's last real strike at Central Florida before Spring begins in just over 2 weeks (March 20, to be exact). Enjoy the slight chill while you can before the heat and humidity --- and the almost constant forecast of a slight chance for afternoon and evening thunderstorms --- become a regular part of your day.

So is there a chill in the editorial pages across Central Florida this morning? Let's find out.

We begin with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, which is concerned about the decline in food safety inspections by the federal Food and Drug Administration...down 47 percent between 2003 and 2006. And while the Bush Administration proposes an increase in funding of $10.6 million for the FDA next year, former Health & Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson says it needs to be increased tenfold.

Meanwhile, the Daytona Beach News Journal looks at and opines on the top issues facing legislators as they head into their annual session. While it says the state's tax system is broken, the DBNJ notes there is good reason to wait until the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission does it's work in evaluating all sources of state income. Other subjects touched upon in the editorial are insurance, elections, education, health care, and the budget.

The death penalty is the subject of today's St. Petersburg Times editorial. It looks at the botched execution of Angel Diaz in December and the recommendations of the governor's Commission on Administration of Lethal Injection, whose report was released Thursday (.pdf file). The Times agrees with the recommendations that additional training, supervision, and proceedures be adopted for future lethal injections, and that the three-drug cocktail currently used be reconsidered. But it's real point comes in the very last sentence:

The commission recognized that the process requires "some qualified medical personnel" to accomplish "a humane and lawful execution." Since the Florida Medical Association and the American Medical Association bar physicians from taking a life in this manner, it might be difficult for the state to procure those services. That is another reason why the state should abolish capital punishment.

Many of us who grew up in the South "back in the day" probably learned the Stephen Foster song "Way Down Upon the Suwannee River (Old Folks At Home)" in elementary school. Growing up in Mississippi, of course, I was unaware that it was actually Florida's state song. Most of us at such a young age likely didn't realize how offensive the song was and is to many Black Americans. Today the Orlando Sentinel editorial page notes that "Suwannee River" has no place as the state song and suggests one "with a more tropical theme that brings Florida up to speed on current tastes and interests..."Margaritaville", anybody?" Actually, it's writer, Jimmy Buffett, is a fellow native Mississippian (born in Pascagoula) and is a fellow alum of the University of Southern Mississippi (GO EAGLES!).

The Tampa Tribune opinion this morning is entitled "The Sacred And The Profane", and basically compares James Cameron and film director Simcha Jacobovici to P.T. Barnum regarding their TV documentary (broadcast last evening) which claims to debunk one of the fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith, the Resurrection of Jesus. For the record, I didn't watch...I don't have cable, and likely would not have watched anyway.

Over on the Space Coast, the Melbourne-based Florida Today agrees that the state's tax inequities should be solved, but not through a plan proposed in the House which would eliminate the property tax for homestead properties, cutting other property taxes, and raise the sales tax to 8.5 percent, which would be the nation's highest. The plan would also cap local revenue with money being doled out to local governments according to a formula devised by legislators.

Finally, last week it was the Orlando Sentinel which called on the Legislature to allow law enforcement authorities to use so-called "red light cameras" as evidence in issuing tickets to drivers who run stop lights. Today it's the Lakeland Ledger, making many of the same points that their collegues in Orlando did seven days ago. Currently they can be used, but only warnings can be sent to the auto owners. Lakeland is one of a number of municipalities considering the use of such technology.

Make it a great day, and keep warm!

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Miami Herald political columnist Beth Reinhard spent some time yesterday at the Reclaiming America for Christ conference sponsored by televangelist Dr. D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Ministries in Fort Lauderdale, and she basically confirmed what many have been saying: That conservative Christian political activists aren't happy over their choices in the 2008 presidential race.

One pastor in attendance was quoted as saying, "We obviously don't see Democrats as a viable option, and the Republican candidates have some weak stands on moral values. The evangelical vote by and large is not excited about what is taking place in the Republican Party.''

Many evangalicals are having to 1) hold their noses and support one of the front runners such as former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani or U.S. Senator John McCain, with whom they disagree on several major moral issues, 2) throw their support to a second tier candidate such as U.S. Senator Samuel Brownback or former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, or 3) simply stay at home.

Among several that Ms. Reinhard spoke with for today's piece, the wish is that someone such as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich or former Florida governor Jeb Bush would be encouraged to run for the White House next year. Both men have already said they would not do so.

As for Dr. Kennedy, he is not present for the event this weekend. The Presbyterian minister is in a Michigan rehabilitation hospital, recovering from cardiac arrest suffered days after Christmas. The following week, he underwent a procedure to implant a pacemaker/defibrillator.


For awhile now, Florida lawmakers and political activists have been discussing the pros and cons of moving our presidential preference primary, traditionally held in March, to the earlier of February 5 or one week following New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary. State Senator Jeremy Ring (D - Margate) has filed a bill for consideration of the earlier date, and told the St. Petersburg Times political blog The Buzz he believes that most of his collegues support the bill.

However, at least one powerful legislator is not singing the same chours.

State Senator Lee Constantine (R - Altamonte Springs) is Chairman of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, which would consider any bill on the subject. He favours a mid-February date, which would likely be after the nominations have already been wrapped up.

Constantine tells The Buzz:

"It’s just a question of looking at the various options and getting it done right...I’m looking at other options outside just Feb. 5 or one week after New Hampshire...There are many people who think the earlier you do it favors those who have the most money because Florida’s such a big state."

The issue is that Florida is a large, diverse state, and under the current system we have little or no influence as to who the major party nominees will be. Senator Ring's bill would at least give Florida a certain amount of influence, forcing candidates to pay attention to the Sunshine State and issues close to Floridians.

Actually, I like my own idea better.

If it were up to me, I would have five regional primary or caucus dates, three weeks apart, with the last date being five weeks before the earlier of the two major party nominating conventions. In 2008, that would be the Democratic convention, which begins on August 25. The schedule would be rotated each election cycle so that one state or region would have no advantage as to when their caucus or primary would be held. Using the 2008 cycle as an example, my plan would be scheduled this way:

--- Tuesday, April 29: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Conneciticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Deleware

--- Tuesday, May 20: Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Maryland, Virginia, Missouri

--- Tuesday, June 10: North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas

--- Tuesday, July 1: Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado

--- Tuesday, July 22: Alaska, Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona

While candidates could still travel across the country, this schedule would encourage them to focus on the region forthcoming, and would become more knowledgeable on issues important to that area and address those issues.

Of course, this system would require a great deal of cooperation between officials on the state and federal level, too much to make it really workable.

Friday, March 02, 2007


ABC / This Week with George Stephanopoulos: The upcoming showdown on funding for the Iraq occupation and the 2008 election will be debated by U.S. Senators Chuck Schumer (D - NY), Vice Chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, and Trent Lott (R - MS), Minority Whip. Also, in his first Sunday chat show appearance, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, Jr. will talk about the stock market drop this week and what it means for the U.S. economy. Jazzman Wynton Marsalis will appear to discuss his new record release, which he says is his most political in years. And the roundtable will include ABC News Chief White House Correspondent Martha Raddatz, E.J. Dionne, Jr. of the Washington Post, and conservative columnist George Will in a discussion of the week's political news.

CBS / Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer: The Iraq occupation and Treatment of U.S. Veterans in the face of criticisms of conditions at Walter Reed Army Hospital will be the topics to be discussed with U.S. Senators and Armed Services Committee members Carl Levin (D - MI / Chairman) and Joseph Lieberman (I - CT) along with Washington Post writer Annie Hull.

CNN / Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer: The increasing violence in Baghdad will be the primary topic of conversation with the new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. Senators Jon Kyl (R - AZ) and Christopher Dodd (D - CT / Also a presidential candidate), Lt. General Raymond Odierno of the Multi-National Force in Iraq, and Congressman/Presidential Candidate Tom Tancredo (R - CO). Also appearing, Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times, Jill Zuckerman of the Chicago Tribune, and John Fund of the Wall Street Journal.

FOX / Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace: The latest on the Global War on Terror will be discussed with U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D - CA) and Congressman Peter Hoekstra (R - MI)

NBC / Meet the Press with Tim Russert: A debate on the proposed troop surge to Iraq between House Defence Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman John Murtha (D - PA) and Senate Armed Services Committee member Lindsey Graham (R - SC). Then, a discussion of the latest news regarding Decision 2008 with CNBC Chief Washington Correspondent John Harwood and Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post.

Syndicated / The Chris Matthews Show: Can Hillary Rodham Clinton win the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination as more Black votes head to Barack Obama? And Republican John McCain will be 72 next year; will voters consider him too old to be president? Those will be the questions discussed by NBC News Chief White House Correspondent David Gregory, Elisabeth Bumiller of the New York Times, Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page, and Kathleen Parker of the Washington Post Writers Group.

Bay News 9 / Political Connections: The controveresy surrounding the Largo City Commission decision to begin termination proceedings against 14-year veteran City Manager Steve Stanton after his announcement that he is a transsexual and will eventually undergo a sex change operation will be discussed with Mayor Patricia Gerard, one of only two members who voted against termination. Also appearing will be Bay News 9 political analyst and former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


“I have never been as excited about a candidate for president as I am about Barack Obama...
I am inspired by his message of authenticity, integrity and bringing Americans together. Barack had the foresight to oppose the Iraq War from the beginning, and as president he will bring our troops home. I have spoken with Barack to discuss the dangers facing our ally Israel, and I am convinced there will be no stronger supporter of Israel than President Obama.”

That quote is from Congressman Robert Wexler (D - Boca Raton), named today as co-chair of the Illinois Senator's presidential campaign in Florida. It was the first major announcement regarding Obama's organization in the Sunshine State. He will make his first campaign swing of the campaign in South Florida on March 25th.

Credit to the Palm Beach Post political blog Q.