Thursday, October 30, 2003

Suspicions Confirmed 

The issue of just who was jamming television satellite broadcasts to Iran in July has apparently been resolved. It was the Iranians:
The jamming of U.S.-based TV broadcasts to Iran this summer was not being done by the Cuban government, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The jamming was in fact coming from an Iranian diplomatic facility inside Cuba, said Gonzalo Gallegos, a State Department spokesman. Gallegos said the Cuban government informed the United States in August that it had ordered the jamming to cease.
At the outset of this, the right-wingers were positive that Cuba was behind the jamming ("nearly a month has passed since the Cuban government began jamming U.S. government and private Persian-language TV and radio broadcasts into Iran"), and claimed the "Bush administration, meanwhile, appears paralyzed about how to cope with this latest threat, which one U.S. official likens to an 'act of war.'"

I guess it was fortunate that the Marines were otherwise occupied at the time.

Temper Justice with Intemperance 

A Miami Herald editorial questions the need for vindictive prosecution of Greenpeace protestors by the Federal government under what it terms an "antiquated" law.

It all began in 2002 when Greenpeace activists illegally boarded a ship outside the Port of Miami while others used their small boats to delay the Coast Guard from intervening. The protestors were rightly arrested:
Federal prosecutors charged six activists with a felony for interfering with the Coast Guard and a misdemeanor for boarding the ship. The six pleaded no contest, were sentenced to time served and fined. With the miscreants punished, authorities could concentrate on closing security gaps the protest may have exposed, not to mention going after real terrorism threats. Case closed, right?

Wrong. Fifteen months later, the U.S. Attorney's Office here got a federal grand jury to charge Greenpeace with conspiracy and illegally boarding the ship under an obscure, rarely used 1872 law. The law, say legal scholars, was intended to stop ''sailor-mongering,'' where people would board a ship and use liquor and prostitutes to lure away the crew.
One hardly needs to support Greenpeace tactics to agree with the Herald:
Indeed, this indictment is a puzzlement, coming so long after federal prosecution of the violators. There seems no point to it beyond vindictiveness toward a group that riles the administration. Is this the best use of federal law-enforcement resources? Is it selective prosecution? Why hasn't Justice applied the same standards to other groups, such as pro-life activists that use similar protest tactics?

Using the mantra of domestic security to justify an overzealous prosecution doesn't parse. The Greenpeace violators were justly punished at the time. The case should be closed and all resources focused instead on genuine threats to homeland security.
This is one reason some people question whether the war on terrorism is being used for political purposes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Here's Another One, Steverino! 

Steve Allen used to do a funny bit in which he would read real letters to the editor from a newspaper using the tone in which they were written: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" Here's a letter to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel that he would have loved.
. . . Democrats are livid with hatred and venom because they've lost so many contests against Republicans. They are resorting to tactics that are harmful to our country. Patriotism is a dirty word to the leftist liberals, so that makes them unpatriotic. That's un-American.

Prominent Democrats in their zeal have become so pathetic with their whining. The usual suspects such as the pseudo-intellectuals, the American Civil Liberties Union, Tom Daschle, the over-obese senator from Massachusetts, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, Bill Clinton, the junior senator with the fat ankles from New York, Jesse Jackson, etc. Included are the backers of moral decay residing in Hollysodom and Gommorahwood. They all failed to save Gray Davis.

It has become obvious and transparent the real media and the once respected newspapers, such as The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and even the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, won't let facts spoil a good lie.

It has become quite noticeable lately that this publication is printing slanted "analysis" on the front page, which should be reserved for hard and headline news. Also, there is blatant bias in your "Letters to the Editor." The ratio of letters against Mr. President and his administration far exceeds ones favorable.

All these subversive entities mentioned above are trying their utmost to divide the country and make Iraq into another Vietnam. It's not going to work because we are wising up. We've caught them in their lies and distortion of events and facts.
Fat ankles?

Censorship or Oversight? 

Eugene Volokh, one of the bloggers at the Volokh Conspiracy, writes today about a battle at Roger Williams College between the school's administration and a student newspaper. The issue deals with the conservative oriented newspaper's extreme language in an anti-gay article, in response to which the college cut off the publication's funding.

This sort of thing isn't new. In 1971, against the direct orders of president Stephen C. O'Connell, the University of Florida's student newspaper, The Florida Alligator, printed a list of abortion services. At the time this violated state law. The newspaper was later vindicated when the law was ruled unconstitutional, but O'Connell withdrew the newspaper's funding and kicked it off campus. The newspaper was re-christened the Independent Florida Alligator and has ever since continued to publish without university oversight (but with university advertising money).

An interesting history of college newspapers and censorship can be found here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

The Water War: They Shall Not Pass! 

The Gainesville Sun claims that north Florida has plenty of uses for its water:
Why, the [Florida Council of 100] insists, we're so awash in water that it's just neighborly to share the stuff with our parched fellow Floridians in the growth-choked south and central parts of the state.

Maybe, but most folks up here don't think we're "wasting" our waters by allowing it to keep our wetlands, lakes, rivers and estuaries healthy.
But more important, projected growth in the area may mean that there will not be that much water to send south, even if there was an inclination to do so. And there is not:
If it's a water war the Council of 100 wants, it's going to get it. But the price of victory may be bitter indeed.

By the time they get through waging that war - in the Legislature and in the courts - they might find they've won a dry victory indeed.

On Second Thought 

Florida Senate President Jim King has conflicting thoughts on the "Terri Shiavo law":
"If the courts come back to us and say what we've done was not the right thing to do, was unconstitutional, and reverse what we've done, I will tell you that the Senate will not revisit this issue again."
King said that the bill he voted for was less extreme than that supported by House Speaker Johnnie Byrd, which would have gone beyond the Shiavo case.

(via Florida Blog)

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Being Bad for its Own Sake 

One of my favorite character actors, Jack Elam, died the other day.

The wild-eyed Miami native (Miami, Arizona, that is) could play bad and he could play funny -- and funny bad. But he didn't much care for the modern heavies:
"In the old days, Rory Calhoun was the hero because he was the hero and I was the heavy because I was the heavy - and nobody cared what my problem was. And I didn't either," he added. "I robbed the bank because I wanted the money ... I've played all kinds of weirdos but I've never done the quiet, sick type. I never had a problem - other than the fact I was just bad."
According to a friend, he lived his life in character, "He was cantankerous in a great way, in a funny way. He smoked, drank, all that stuff. He lived one of the best lives I've ever seen."

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

How'd They Do That? 

Eugene Volokh, a blogger and law professor at UCLA, questions what authority allowed Governor Bush and the Legislature to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case.

He doesn't take a position on whether or not the feeding tubes should be withdrawn, but does say, ". . . I might be missing something, but I'm not sure how this can work legally."

Also, see Mark Lane's review of this situation, here, here, and here.

UPDATE: A St. Peteresburg Times article casts doubts on the bill's constitutionality:
Legal experts from around the country agree that "Terri's Law" is probably unconstitutional. For one thing, no legislature is allowed to pass a law that applies to only one person, they noted.

The new law, written and voted on in a matter of hours, unravels a string of thoroughly considered court rulings, and that violates the constitution as well, they said.

"Terri's Law" also violates Mrs. Schiavo's right to refuse medical treatment by substituting the wishes of elected officials who want her kept alive, according to experts in constitutional and medical law.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Step to the Head of the Line, Please 

Leonard Pitts follows up his column on racism with one taking on affirmative action, and he says it's a much bigger problem than we think.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Pay No Attention To The Man Behind the Screen 

If it wasn't for his questionable ethics, meglomania and extreme right-wing crusades, Johnnie Byrd would be entertaining. Fresh from any number of what most people would charitably call blunders, Florida's Speaker of the House, Johnnie Byrd, is once again in the midst of controversy. This time it includes questionable bidding, cronyism and secret software. Supposedly the software allowed a few house leaders to keep track various "promises" made by fellow legislators and how they were being fullfilled.
The computer company, which has handled numerous state technology contracts, was ``coerced'' into creating the secret Web page for the speaker's senior staff that even Byrd couldn't access, Hayes' attorney, G. Donovan Conwell, said Wednesday.

Byrd and his staff continued to deny the system's existence Wednesday, even when shown copies of the purported screen layout.
Sure sounds like our Johnnie, though.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Woo Woo!!! 

Marlins are in the World Series . . . again.

Debate Debatable 

University of Miami law professor Michael Froomkin describes a campus debate on the war in Iraq in his blog discourse.net, and wonders whether such events are worth the effort.

One of the participants was Fred Barnes, executive editor of the neoconservative Weekly Standard, who according to Froomkin was less than impressive:
If Fred Barnes is what passes for informed thought in conservative Washington circles today, it's no wonder the republic is in such a mess. In response to a question about the missing WMDs, Barnes reiterated that Hussein had an arsenal including missiles tipped in aflatoxin (surely the worlds most slow-acting chemical weapon!). Then -- having failed to rebut suggestions there were no nuclear weapons or near-weapons in Iraq -- he suggested (quoting Condoleezza Rice) that we should be prepared to invade threatening countries before we discovered the war had begun with a mushroom cloud. Never mind that the Kay report says that all the Iraq Survey Group evidence collected to date indicates that there were not any active programs to develop or produce chemical or nuclear weapons.

Perhaps the most offensive thing Barnes said was that there were "two kinds of people: Sept. 10th people and Sept. 12th people." The idea was that if you didn't support attacking Iraq, you were some sort of ostrich-headed wimp who was ignoring the fact that the nation was attacked (by someone other than Iraq, but don't bother us with details...). I found the waving of the (irrelevant) bloody shirt offensive, especially as even George W. Bush now admits that there is no evidence of any connection between Saddam Hussein and 9/11.
The academic nature of the event was also degraded by some in the audience:
One crazy person in the front--a man dressed in bright orange scrubs with his hair done up in Bo Derek braids with seashells attached--asked something long and rambling about trains carrying nuclear waste, which he seemed to think was at the root of the problem. He also clapped wildly, and alone, every time anyone made a remark that he liked.
Mr. Froomkin came away with the realization that blogging may be "a better way to debate complex issues in public."

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

The Notorious Byrd Campaign 

Robert Daugherty, dean of the University of South Florida medical school, will step down for soliciting campaign contributions from his employees.

Guess who for? That's right, Republican Senate candidate and Florida Speaker of the House Johnnie Byrd.

According to the St. Petersburg Times , "The money was to be given to Byrd in appreciation for his planned campus visit today for a presentation on a proposed USF medical building that needs legislative funding."

Daugherty claims that the solicitations weren't his idea: "Daugherty said two Tallahassee lobbyists who work for USF's medical school - former House speaker John Thrasher and Donald "Scotty" Fraser, a former executive at the Florida Medical Association - suggested he solicit the money before Byrd came to Tampa this week."

Byrd says he had no idea this was going on, which if true would represent a departure from his previous strongarm fundraising tactics.

Judy Genshaft, president of the university, had the good sense to tell Daugherty to give the money back and to ask him to resign.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Racism? What racism? 

Listening to call-in shows (even sane ones, like C-Span's National Journal) or reading blogs, one often runs across the opinion that straight white males are the most persecuted group in America. Women have taken over the nation's institutions of higher learning, and blacks are keeping alive the myth of racism to get undeserved gains (at the expense of, you guessed it, white males). And of course don't forget the "gay agenda."

The Miami Herald's Leonard Pitts, Jr. is one of the best columnists around. Today he writes about the very real racism that exists today:
. . .administrators at [Abington Memorial Hospital in Abington, Pa.] asked African-American staff members to stay out of the room of an unidentified woman who checked into the maternity ward in September. This was at the request of the woman's husband, a white man who didn't want black doctors or nurses assisting in the delivery of his child. The hospital has since apologized.

For the record, something very similar happened three years ago in Nashville. According to The Tennessean newspaper, a woman with a life-threatening hole in her heart asked surgeon Michael Petracek to exclude a black male member of his surgical team from the operating room. The doctor agreed. He, too, later apologized.
Mr. Pitts notes that in both cases those objecting to black medical personnel did not know the people in question -- their racism was impersonal -- which in many ways makes it worse.

But he asks a more compelling question:
Why did the people who did know them not stand up for them?

You learn, as an African-American, to deal with the impersonal nature of other people's hatred. If you are to have any sanity, much less happiness, in this life, that's a must.

But the black men and women of Abington Memorial were hired, presumably, because the hospital thought them qualified. They were retained, presumably, because they did good work.

Now they -- and we -- discover how little that evidently means. What paltry respect it buys.

How must it feel to be a black employee at Abington right now? Blindsided? Back-stabbed? Betrayed?

It hurts to receive humiliation from people who don't know you. But it hurts worse, I suspect, to receive it from people who do.
So please spare us the boo hooing over the plight of white males, at least until you hear the joke, "What do you call a white male with a Ph.D. . . "

Thursday, October 09, 2003

The Harvest of Shame Continues 

In Florida students, abused kids and state employees are the targets of our state's miserly governments -- why should farm workers be any different?

It was a good idea -- in order to reverse the environmental damage to Lake Apopka the state would purchase adjacent vegetable farms, the source of the problem. The farm owners received a total of $120 million for their land and equipment.

The St. Petersburg Times' Bill Maxwell writes about the plight of the Lake Apopka agricultural laborers who were thrown out of work and then screwed out of promised retraining and relocation benefits.
Before the farms shut down, Florida officials promised the workers that they would not suffer unnecessarily. The Legislature established a $5-million effort intended to retrain the farm workers, relocate and compensate them for the loss of their homes and aid businesses hurt by the shutdown. Under provisions of the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Act of 1970, the workers were to receive cash to find new housing. Those forced to relocate had 18 months to apply for assistance.

Five years later, few workers have received a dime, and the program, advertised as a safety net for the workers, has failed.
Poor with little education, many with limited English language skills, these people were an obvious target for those who had other ideas on how the money should be spent.
Much of the money meant to retrain workers went elsewhere. "To date, Orange County has spent only a third of its money, $1.1-million of $3.2-million," the Sentinel states. "Officials say most of the remaining funds are to be spent on a nearly five-mile water and wastewater pipe along U.S. Highway 441 in northwest Orange. Officials hope access to dependable water supplies will entice development in the area."

With a green light from officials, the city of Apopka spent only a quarter of its $1.3-million on farm workers. Much of the remainder is being held in an impact fee trust fund to encourage land development.
As with justice, compensation delayed is compensation denied.
The relocation program has been abused just as much, as local officials wrangled over contracts and profit margins. The date passed for individual farm workers to apply for relocation funds. In many instances, systems had not be set up for applications, and, where offices were open, no staff members were available to help non-English speakers complete the paperwork.

At the same time, the unemployed field hands could not afford to remain in their local homes. Some, like Esteban Almeda, who lived with his wife and two children in a mobile home owned by the grower, were evicted.

The Farmworker Association of Apopka estimated that the relocation program owed Almeda as much as $10,000. He did not receive a dime because he and his family moved back to Mission, Texas, where they could find work and place a roof over their heads. Almeda is not alone. Because farm workers, as a group, lack political clout, they have been abandoned - a tragedy that would not happen to any other segment of the U.S. population.
Over forty years after Edward R. Murrow exposed the serf-like conditions of migrant farm workers in America, the abuse continues.

Water Wars 

The Tallahassee Democrat reports that Florida Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman Al Lawson doesn't think much of the proposal to pipe north Florida water south to the state's big urban areas.
"Anytime you have a number of people and entities and corporations involved in the issue of water, from the governor on down, there will be some change (in water policy)," Lawson predicted. "There may be things we're not doing right...but as far as the issue of transporting water, I don't see it being an option for North Florida at this point.

"We have to stand firm and fight it," said Lawson of the proposal from corporate leaders of the Council of 100 to pipe water from the Panhandle to more populous urban areas farther south. "Once you start pumping it, you can never stop."
I'm afraid that last sentence reflects the view of the developers, too.

UPDATE: The Miami Herald is a bit late on this story, but gets to the heart of the matter: "For the Bush administration, the report poses a political problem. It was bankrolled by the council, a group of powerful development and agricultural interests, many of whom happen to be deep-pocketed Republican campaign donors."

OK, Let's See California Top This! 

Let's see -- beer, stupid criminal, Miami. OK, everthing is in place.

This has all the elements of a good story by Carl Hiaasen or Dave Barry. No wonder they live in South Florida.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

What Your Government Can Do For You 

Florida Speaker of the House Johnnie Byrd, who is running for the U. S. Senate (or at least the Republican nomination), is a little government kind of guy, except when he can work government to his advantage. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that there is increasing concern that Byrd's Senate campaign is driving his legislative agenda.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Campaigning Away in Margaritaville 

California may be getting all the media attention, but there's also an election in Key West -- for mayor:
Among the four candidates seeking to unseat incumbent Jimmy Weekley is a poetic, if erratic, homeless man, Sloan Young Bashinsky, who says he will dress police officers up as pirates and consult God if elected, and the city's premier champion for the rights of wild fowl, Katha Sheehan, also known as the Chicken Lady.
All candidates are advocating measures to preserve the island city's unique sense of place.
During a forum held last week, [Bill] Estes pledged to help Key West ''go back to a neighborhood friendly place,'' Bashinsky criticized ''Yankees coming down like carpetbaggers'' and Sheehan, a libertarian who runs the Chicken Store on Duval Street, lamented the loss of mom-and-pop shops and friendlier times.

''I get a lot of hope from the chickens and the people who love the chickens that there is some type of island life to be salvaged here,'' she said.
Key West is a fascinating place, but is beset with serious problems, including extremely expensive housing costs and "outside developers" whose projects are often out of keeping with Key West's natural and built environment.

Fair and Balanced Redux 

There's no way to improve on Mark Lane's comments on the Fox view of the Everglades:
Come with us to Fox News' Everglades Bizarro World a place where Big Sugar has already succeeded in cleaning up the Everglades with it's hugely successfully artificial marshes, where environmental groups tried to block the Everglades Forever Act, where SFWMD and Big Sugar are for Everglades cleanup and those rotten environmentalists conspire to keep the 'Glades polluted in order to promote their radical Socialist command-and-control world order.

A delightful funhouse mirror version of the Everglades issue that would embarrass a sugar lobbyist. Can be read as parody, sugar agit-prop or alternate history.
Weird, but there aren't people stupid enough to believe Fox on this, are there?

Are there?

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Better Late Than Never 

The University of Central Florida, located in Orlando, is probably best known as Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper's alma mater. It's only thirty-five years old, and during the Vietnam era it's enrollment was just a couple thousand.

Now almost 40,000 students are studying at UCF, and some of them are protesting the university's connection with the "war industry." According to the student newspaper, the Central Florida Future, a student group, Campus Peace Action, is questioning the university's president about UCF contracts with companies such as Lockheed Martin.

The Future editorial on this issue takes both sides. It acknowledges the benefits of UCF working with the weapons industry, both for the university and the country, but also recognizes the need to have groups such as Campus Peace Action acting as a watchdog:
Campus Peace Action is right to question the connection, though. The military-industrial complex, a product of the 20th century, has forced progressive groups to carefully scrutinize any need for weaponry. Former President Dwight Eisenhower said in a speech to the nation on the eve of his departure from office that our military organization had changed significantly since before World War II.
Eisenhower said in his speech "Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together."

Questioning the relationship between any government entity and the arms industry is a good idea, because the military-industrial complex is dangerous. UCF's ties to it could be perfectly legitimate and moral, but they might not be. It's worth taking a look at.
UCF could hardly be called a hotbed for student radicalism -- if anything it has been just the opposite. The university can stand a little challenge, and may be the better for it.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

Good (and Bad) Sports 

Down then up -- Gators lose in the final minutes, but Marlins win in the bottom of the ninth.

As long as we're on sports, I'm guessing that the Rush Limbaugh comments on Donovan McNabb got the desired result -- that is it gave Limbaugh an excuse to exit and create an issue for his radio program. He wasn't that good as a football commentator, and if he saw the drug allegations coming it would provide him with a good chance to say the liberal media is out to get him again.

Who knows? Who cares?

The Miami Dolphins apparently have a problem with ESPN that goes beyond Limbaugh -- seems they object to the network's tendency to stereotype professional athletes, especially on its new drama, Playmakers:
[Dolphins linebacker] Zach Thomas saw one episode of Playmakers, now six weeks into its 13-episode season, and couldn't take much more. Still, there's always someone in the locker room who has seen it, so word spreads.

"When do you ever see a guy smoke crack 12 minutes before the game?" asked Thomas, who noticed "the crazy middle 'backer" wears No. 54.

"And there's always a wife beater in there," Thomas added, referring to allegations against one of the main characters. "You never see them preparing to play. And they were all selfish.

"It's unbelievable. It's not even close. I don't think there is one guy in here who isn't saying it's garbage. It's tabloid football.

"I'm just disappointed, because it's ESPN. If it was HBO, I would understand it. It might just be funny."
And just for the record, I'm pretty sure any of the three Florida NFL teams would be delighted to have McNabb as their quarterback.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

What State was that Again? 

One of the things I like about the Geitner Simmons' blog, Regions of Mind, is that it draws on such diverse sources. Today he quotes the National Review's Jonah Goldberg writing on what's wrong with Vermont, the point being that it is somewhat traditional for presidential candidates to have their home state trashed by the opposition.

Goldberg provides the following quote to support his argument that Vermont is Hell:
Hundreds of thousands of highly educated, well-off people invaded a state with a unique culture and history. They seized control of its resources and institutions, demeaned and destroyed the indigenous values of its people, altered the landscape, and drove many of the natives from their homes as a result of their activities . . .
My first thought was this sounds an awful lot like Florida, but then I realized that the invasion was only in the hundreds of thousands, not millions.

Why was I Surprised? 

I'm sure I wasn't the only one to receive an email from "The Florida House of Representatives" asking me to take an online survey:
The summer months will soon come to an end and the Florida Legislature will again begin its regularly scheduled Committee Meetings. As matters of public policy come before us, the Legislature needs your input and ideas.

Please notice at the top and bottom of this email, there are links to a survey. This is a new way for you to communicate with the Florida House of Representatives. Please take a moment to complete this short, 7 question survey.

With your participation, together we will make Florida a better place for all of our citizens. Thank you for your input.
The survey , while a bit crude ("Do you support providing annual bonuses for top-performing teachers based on how well their students are doing, even if it means that lower performing teachers do not receive raises?") was fairly straighforward.

When you submit the survey, however, you are sent to (you guessed it) the web Florida House webpage prominently featuring House speaker and Senatorial candidate Johnnie Byrd (complete with its own survey question: "Do you agree with the recent Florida Supreme Court ruling that parents do not have a right to notification of a minor daughter’s intent to have an abortion?")

If this guy put as much effort into trying to solve Florida's problems, instead of promoting himself, we might get somewhere.

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