Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Should We Believe Them This Time? 

John Bolton, undersecretary of state for arms control, told a House panel "'The administration believes that Cuba remains a terrorist and [a biological weapons] threat to the United States.''

The Miami Herald reported that
. . . Bolton acknowledged that "existing intelligence reporting is problematic, and the Intelligence Community's ability to determine the scope, nature, and effectiveness of any Cuban BW program has been hampered by reporting from sources of questionable access, reliability, and motivation.''
But other than that . . .

Fort Jefferson 

Fort Jefferson, located almost 70 miles west of Key West, was perhaps the most ambitious fortification project in our nation's history. But it was obsolete before it was completed, and never fired a shot in anger.

Now a national park, the fort is about to undergo a $16 million restoration effort. The task will require the workers to live on the island.
It's not a mission for the meek or pampered. The masonry crew hired for the first phase of the $16 million repair on Garden Key, a 23-acre sand island 68 miles due west of Key West, must be self-sufficient.

Completely self-sufficient. After all, this job will be a yearlong, bring-your-own-everything test of endurance. That includes the basics: food, water, housing, sanitation and electricity.

Forget something? It's a long, expensive haul to the nearest Home Depot, a two-hour ferryboat ride or 30-minute flight by seaplane. And don't expect to relieve the boredom with long-distance chats.

"Cell phones?" laughed Mike Ryan, the park's lead interpretive ranger. "Out here they're only good for paperweights."
Fort Jefferson is located on one of several islands that compose an area called the Dry Tortugas.
The Tortugas were first discovered by Ponce de Leon in 1513. Abundant sea turtles or "tortugas" provisioned his ships with fresh meat, but there was no fresh water-the tortugas were dry. Since the days of Spanish exploration, the reefs and shoals of the Dry Tortugas have been a serious hazard to navigation and the site of hundreds of shipwrecks.

U.S. military attention was drawn to the keys in the early 1800's due to their strategic location in the Florida Straits. Plans were made for a massive fortress and construction began in 1846, but the fort was never completed. The invention of the rifled cannon made it obsolete. As the military value of Fort Jefferson waned, its pristine reefs, abundant sea life and impressive numbers of birds grew in value. In 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt set aside Fort Jefferson and the surrounding waters as a national monument. The area was redesignated as Dry Tortugas National Park in 1992 to protect both the historical and natural features.
Its location and size makes Fort Jefferson an impressive sight. Images of the fort can be seen here, and a satellite image here.

Monday, March 29, 2004

The Dilemma 

Museums have never had better collections, but many have trouble finding the general operating funds to turn on the lights. Adrian Ellis discusses the "dilemmas of the sector -- overbuilt and undercapitalised; cash-poor, but asset-rich; with a high ratio of fixed to variable costs -- that threatens core purposes of stewardship, scholarship and effective public display."

Within the museum profession, the idea of "selling" part of an institution's collection and using the resulting funds for purposes other than acquiring additional art or artifacts is viewed as a cardinal sin. But Ellis asks, "why are you going down the tubes/deskilling your organisation/cutting public programmes/allowing backlogs to conservation work/closing galleries when a radical approach to a tiny proportion of your collection could remedy this problem?"

It is an issue that calls for a radical reevaluation of one of the museum's core values.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

A New Low 

If anyone can find a better word than evil to describe this legislative initiative, I'd like to hear it:
Florida's child welfare administrators are working with legislators to slash the living stipend older foster children receive to pay for housing, food and utilities once they turn 18, in a bid to cut costs in a $15.6 million program that state officials say is running out of money.

Called the "Road to Independence," the program is considered a lifeline to young adults who, with no family to call their own, are pushed into the street with little more than the comfort of an $892 check the state sends each month for staying in school full time and maintaining a C average.

Critics have long dubbed the initiative the "Road to Homelessness," arguing the sum is too paltry to live on, especially in South Florida, and that many foster children do not even qualify for it because of mental illness, learning disabilities and other deprivations that leave them far behind in their education.
The Senate bill is sponsored by Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, a mother of two.

This is the conservative way of thinking -- give the people who already have wealth a tax cut, then take away from our most vulnerable and misused young citizens. I guess Sen. Lynn believes they haven't suffered enough.

As I said, evil.

The Joys of Public Transportation in Florida 

Steve Koppelman is rewarded for trying to do the right thing.

What Architecture Tells Us 

Apropos my previous post on the decline of a distinctive South, certainly one of the major causes in reducing regional differences is the increasing bland sameness of architecture throughout the nation. From Walmarts to Wendy's, it's hard to tell whether one is in Tampa or Topeka.

Of course the national chain businesses use their buildings as brands -- instantly identifiable symbols of what's inside. All the more disappointing that our government officials have virtually abandoned the idea that our public buildings should say something about our regional or national ideals and aspirations. (Compare, for instance the historic and current courthouses in Taylor County, Florida)

Architecture writer James S. Russell discusses the relationship between culture and the built environment in "Where Are We Now? Architecture's Place in an Era of Evolving Values." Some excerpts from this article follow:
America is not a poor nation even now, but it builds poor. A nation that works in warehouses, drives to strip malls on massive slabs of asphalt at best embellished with a few trees is not asking architecture to say much.
In the 1980s, the rise of corporate raiders and "maximizing shareholder value," definitively ended an era in which corporations (motivated by genuine community commitment or paternalistic noblesse oblige -- take your pick) considered buildings something more than warehouses for workers. Facilities since then have been regarded as profit-making assets in their own right, and any commitment to express a connection to a local community, to present corporate values in steel and glass, or to reflect by design the needs of business process have been all but banished. Business leaders have permitted themselves to be dictated by a speculative norm of real estate (demanding only the generic and the identical; obsessed with the "exit strategy") because it could not find a way to value architectural nicety or invention.
If today's buildings seem unneighborly, or inconsistent, or ignorant of history, that reflects America and its priorities today, an America made largely to conservative individualistic and anti-government values.

The boxy stores and slablike apartments that dominate the landscape may look vaguely modernistic, but they reflect not a stylistic orthodoxy but cheapness of construction. It's the euphemistic "cost effectiveness" applauded by conservatives and enforced by Wall Street analysts, who do not regard public spiritedness in architecture as prudently contributing to the bottom line.
For a nation unused to expressing itself in public construction, and unsure if it should, projects like the World War II memorial in Washington seem irresolvable. Trying not to offend anyone, Friedrich St. Florian's design has been reduced to an exercise in thin-veneer neo-classicism that must, through inscriptions and allegorical sculptures, thank the Allies, the home front, each branch of the armed forces and so on. With this architectural equivalent of an Academy Awards acceptance speech, it will be difficult for the memorial to convey the immensity and deep significance of the event.

In our era of terror, a new "visitor center" at the U.S. Capital is being built as a bunker underground. No fortress replaced the Capitol burned by the British in 1814; Lincoln underwrote construction of the dome that crowns the building today even as the city was threatened by the Confederacy during the Civil War. Subterranean accommodations, however, appear to avoid messy questions of symbolism and expression, and are planned for the Washington Monument and the White House as well. Maybe funds will be forthcoming to replace the ubiquitous Jersey barriers in the city's monumental core with truck-bomb-resisting monumental flower pots. Such a palliative and defensive use of design most importantly evokes a nation that has nothing to say, or at least that does not choose its most sacred and symbolic places to convey its ideals anymore.
"Government" has been turned into such an evil word that direct investment in transportation, in schools and colleges, and in other kinds of public facilities is suspect today, whatever its value to the economy as well as to our health as a society. (Ask the average business group what its greatest priorities are and you usually hear "improve the quality of the workforce," i.e., invest in education, and "improve transportation," -- another direct government investment.) Instead, we manipulate the tax code in hopes of spurring greater consumer purchases or in trying to get businesses to buy equipment it would otherwise not order.

Perhaps this is the moment to be gutsier: to put our money and our best thinking -- and some of our cash -- into schools, transportation, housing for those who need it, public places -- places that exemplify our ability to work together and help each other; places that express what we share rather than aggrandizing who we are. We can propose architecture that's not just about "adding the aesthetics," but about using building fabric to meet the ample real needs out there. If Americans want to stand for something -- not just in the world, but within their own communities -- and want to pass those values on, architecture remains the most permanent barometer of a civic culture.
I fear we're not leaving much for future generations.

What Happened to the South? 

Geitner Simmons writes about the "disappearing South" in his blog, Regions of Mind.
If the traditional South is dead — and I'm speaking of the truly old-time South, the non-modern South, the South with an authentic tie to the ancient world of the pioneers — I would pinpoint its demise at a different times: a century ago, in the 1890s.

That was the era when it became obvious that, for most Southern households, the old pioneer ways of subsistence agriculture and providing one's clothing had finally come to an end. Commercial agriculture and a modern consumer economy, unstoppable in their momentum, were on the rise.
While I don't disagree with this, I would suggest that the post World War I years were also significant in breaking down (or adulterating) the "old ways."

Among the disruptive factors of the late teens and twenties were the thousands of military men returning from foreign service with experiences totally alien to Southern traditions, the economic dislocations caused by veterans coming back to a depressed rural economy, the completion of national highways such as the Dixie Highway in 1917, that when combined with the advent of affordable massed-produced automobiles, greatly increased geographic mobility.

Southern traditions may have endured, but the static South was coming to an end.

Students Fund Bush Tax Cuts 

Governor Bush is proposing almost $300 million in tax reductions this year, even though the State doesn't seem to be able to fund it's existing programs, much less take care of growth or plan for the future.

Tuition, however, doesn't count as a tax, so the Governor's plan is for students to pay an additional 7.5 percent next year.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Compassionate Conservatism Draws the Line 

"If there were actual pogroms against gays in this country, obviously I would be against them."

Jonah Goldberg
The Corner

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Family Feud 

Ann Louise Bardach, author of the controversial Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana recently spoke with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's books editor, Chauncey Mabe.

Among the factors she cites as critical for understanding the U.S.-Cuba relationship is the blood relationship between exile leaders and Castro:
Bardach reports that the father of brothers Lincoln and Mario Diaz-Balart, both congressmen from South Florida, was minister of the interior under Batista; their aunt was Castro's first wife and mother of his son. When Castro came to power, the Diaz-Balart family lost influence in Cuba, but was able to reconstitute it in Miami.

"The principal players are all related," Bardach says. "So you have this 45-year political conundrum, plus a family blood feud on top of it.
Another issue is the "[t]ransformation of Cuba into a black nation, where some 70 percent of the population is black or mulatto."
"The darker the population, the stronger the support for Castro," Bardach says. "One officer in Cuba told me that when they look at Miami, they see nothing but a white establishment that wants its houses back, and the leadership in Miami is doing nothing to alter that view. Black Cubans in Miami more often than not live in the Dominican neighborhoods.

"Race is a complicated issue, and I can't believe how it's been misplayed by exile leaders. If tolerance isn't learned, then there will be a tremendous price when Castro dies."
Finally, Bardach believes that many leaders in the exile community have never really confronted the abuses of the Batista regime.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

It's Still a Shameful Harvest 

Agriculture is Florida's second largest business, but few recognize the plight of the workers at the bottom -- those who pick the crops and perform the other arduous tasks necessary to get the food on our tables.

An exception is the St. Petersburg Times' Bill Maxwell. While he writes on a variety of subjects, he keeps coming back to the farm workers. It's something he knows about first hand.

Maxwell doesn't think much of the farm labor contractor system that supplies labor to the growers:
As practiced in Florida, it is a vicious system that absolves the growers of any responsibility for the plight of their field hands. Bush's legislation would merely increase from $1,000 to $2,500 the maximum penalty levied against abusers. As far as I am concerned, the crew boss system is immoral primarily because it practices intentional cruelty.

Several companies have been sued, for example, for cheating workers by "doctoring" their hours, a scheme that lets growers avoid paying minimum wage. Growers also save money by not informing their workers about the dangerous pesticides they are exposed to. Underaged children still work in some fields. Crew leaders are permitted to pack as many as 25 workers into tiny trailers, charging each worker as much as $50 a week. Most farm workers do not have health insurance, and vacation is virtually nonexistent. Many of the vehicles that transport farm workers are unsafe and uninsured.

In short, it is a system that abuses the weak - the disenfranchised - for profit.
And "at every turn" the government -- whether in Florida or at the national level -- intervenes on the side of the growers. A solution would be to allow the farm workers to organize:
Lawmakers can transform the lives of farm workers overnight by committing the ultimate act of legislative decency and common sense: Give farm workers the right to bargain collectively, without being harassed or terrorized.

But growers do not want farm workers to organize. To assist growers in keeping their workers powerless, Congress excluded farm workers from the Wagner Act, the National Labor Relations Act, the National Labor Relations Board, the Fair Labor Standards Act and other labor legislation and panels.
Unions? Why that's practically un-American, isn't it?

So That's How It Works 

Florida Politics quotes Paul Krugman:
Florida's governor has been an aggressive privatizer, and as The Miami Herald put it after a careful study of state records, "his bold experiment has been a success,” at least for him and the Republican Party, records show. The policy has spawned a network of contractors who have given him, other Republican politicians and the Florida G.O.P. millions of dollars in campaign donations."

What's interesting about this network of contractors isn't just the way that big contributions are linked to big contracts; it's the end of the traditional practice in which businesses hedge their bets by giving to both parties. The big winners in Mr. Bush's Florida are companies that give little or nothing to Democrats. Strange, isn't it? It's as if firms seeking business with the state of Florida are subject to a loyalty test.
If Florida Politics isn't one of your daily reads, you don't know what's going on in Florida.

Monday, March 15, 2004

We Shall Overcome 

Thirty-nine years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered a speech to Congress calling for legislation that would protect voting rights for blacks. At that time blacks in the South were routinely denied the ability to cast a ballot in local, state or national elections -- usually they weren't allowed to register.

Johnson left no ambiguity as to where he stood on the issue by using the title of the famous civil rights anthem, We Shall Overcome, in the speech. But in the speech he noted the proposed legislation was only part of a larger American mission:
This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose. The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, north and south:

"All men are created equal." "Government by consent of the governed." "Give me liberty or give me death."

And those are not just clever words, and those are not just empty theories.

In their name Americans have fought and died for two centuries and tonight around the world they stand there as guardians of our liberty risking their lives.

Those words are promised to every citizen that he shall share in the dignity of man. This dignity cannot be found in a man's possessions. It cannot be found in his power or in his position. It really rests on his right to be treated as a man equal in opportunity to all others.

It says that he shall share in freedom. He shall choose his leaders, educate his children, provide for his family according to his ability and his merits as a human being.

To apply any other test, to deny a man his hopes because of his color or race or his religion or the place of his birth is not only to do injustice, it is to deny Americans and to dishonor the dead who gave their lives for American freedom.
I will welcome the suggestions from all the members of Congress-- I have no doubt that I will get some--on ways and means to strengthen this law and to make it effective.

But experience has plainly shown that this is the only path to carry out the command of the Constitution. To those who seek to avoid action by their national government in their home communities, who want to and who seek to maintain purely local control over elections, the answer is simple: open your polling places to all your people.

Allow men and women to register and vote whatever the color of their skin.

Extend the rights of citizenship to every citizen of this land.

There is no Constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong--deadly wrong--to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country.

There is no issue of state's rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights.
It was more than 100 years ago that Abraham Lincoln--a great President of another party--signed the Emancipation Proclamation. But emancipation is a proclamation and not a fact.

A century has passed--more than 100 years--since equality was promised, and yet the negro is not equal.

A century has passed since the day of promise, and the promise is unkept. The time of justice has now come, and I tell you that I believe sincerely that no force can hold it back. It is right in the eyes of man and God that it should come, and when it does, I think that day will brighten the lives of every American.

For Negroes are not the only victims. How many white children have gone uneducated? How many white families have lived in stark poverty? How many white lives have been scarred by fear, because we wasted energy and our substance to maintain the barriers of hatred and terror?

And so I say to all of you here and to all in the nation tonight that those who appeal to you to hold on to the past do so at the cost of denying you your future. This great rich, restless country can offer opportunity and education and hope to all--all, black and white, north and south, sharecropper and city dweller.

These are the enemies: poverty, ignorance, disease. They are our enemies, nor our fellow man, not our neighbor. And these enemies too--poverty, disease and ignorance--we shall overcome.
The ensuing legislation, signed into law on August 6, 1965, was the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Politics not Policy 

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Sunday opinion section carried an interesting interview with William Delahunt, a member of Congress and a "vocal critic of the embargo on Cuba".

I haven't been able to find a link to this article on the Sun-Sentinel's website, but here are some of Delahunt's comments:
I think [the U.S. should be] working toward normalization of the relationship [with Cuba] at all different levels. What we have, what we see in our relationship with Cuba, is an aberration. We have relationships with governments and societies whose policies we abhor. Best example is Saudi Arabia.
[In response to a question on the ban on travel to Cuba] First of all it's an American constitutional right that we're talking about. This is an American right. This goes beyond just simply the bilateral relationship. You can travel to North Korea today. If you can get on a plane and get to Beijing and get a visa from the North Korean government, you can spend a weekend there . . .

All that aside, I have been to Cuba. I have witnessed and observed other Americans [who have traveled] to Cuba. They can travel unfettered. They can go anywhere in the island. They can listen. They can interact.
[The U.S.'s Cuban strategy] is about domestic politics. This is not about policy. This is about the administration's relationship with the extremists who do not want any change whatsoever, who want to continue a failed policy.
[I]f we can deal with Gadhafi, and talk about lifting economic sanctions and have this dialogue, why is Cuba the exception?

If the human rights record of Saudi Arabia is so repressive it make [Cuba] look like a democracy, why do we support, why do so many members of Congress from South Florida support assistance to Saudi Arabia? And yet when it comes to Cuba, there are boundaries. It's because it's a policy that's an anachronism, an appendage to an anachronism, now that the Cold War is over.
The Sun-Sentinel also carried an article on the status of Cuba's political prisoners.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Tampa Landmark 

The Tampa-based blog, Sticks of Fire, writes about that city's Central Avenue business district, and efforts to preserve the Jackson House, one of the few places visiting blacks could stay in during the segregation era.

Another Florida Blogger 

I just came across a Florida-based blog with the interesting title, Bark Bark Woof Woof. Lots of observations on national politics as well as life in Miami-Dade County.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

A Cautionary Tale 

Ponce de Leon named the land he discovered in 1513 Pescua Florida, "the place of flowers," perhaps in honor of Easter Sunday. Just over two centuries later, and half a world away, the Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen named an isolated Pacific island for the day he arrived -- Easter.

Jared Diamond reviews several books on Easter Island in the current issue of the New York Review of Books, and discusses the environmental disaster the Easter Islanders brought on themselves as a result of complete deforestation
The overall picture for Easter is the most extreme example of forest destruction in the Pacific, and among the most extreme in the world: the whole forest gone, and all of its tree species extinct. Immediate consequences for the islanders were losses of raw materials, losses of wild-caught foods, and decreased crop yields.

Raw materials lost or else available only in greatly decreased amounts consisted of everything made from native plants and birds, including wood, rope, bark to manufacture bark cloth, and feathers. Lack of large timber and rope brought an end to the transport and erection of statues, stopped the construction of seagoing canoes, and left people without wood for fires to keep themselves warm during Easter's winter nights of wind and driving rain at a temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, after 1650 the islanders were reduced to burning herbs, grasses, and crop wastes for fuel. There would have been fierce competition for the remaining woody shrubs, among people trying to obtain thatching and small pieces of wood for houses, implements, and bark cloth.

Most sources of wild food were lost. Without seagoing canoes, the bones of porpoises, tuna, and pelagic fish vanished from middens by 1500. The numbers of fishhooks and fish bones in general also declined, leaving mainly just fish species that could be caught in shallow water or from the shore. Land birds and wild fruits vanished from the list, sea birds were reduced to relict populations, and the shellfish consumed became fewer and smaller. The only wild food source whose availability remained unchanged was rats.

In addition to those drastic decreases in wild food sources, crop yields also decreased, for several reasons. Deforestation led locally to soil erosion by rain and wind, as shown by huge increases in the quantities of soil-derived metal ions carried into Flenley's swamp sediment cores. Other damages to soil that resulted from deforestation and caused lower crop yields included desiccation, nutrient leaching, and reduced rainfall. Farmers found themselves without most of the wild plant leaves, fruit, and twigs that they had been using as compost.
Diamond points out that beyond its impact on the natural environment, the deforestation ultimately led to "starvation, a population crash, and a descent into cannibalism."
Easter Island's chiefs and priests had previously justified their elite status by claiming relationship to the gods, and by promising to deliver prosperity and bountiful harvests. They buttressed that ideology by monumental architecture and ceremonies designed to impress the masses, and made possible by food surpluses extracted from the masses. As their promises were being proved increasingly hollow, the chiefs and priests were overthrown around 1680 by military leaders called matatoa, and Easter's former complexly integrated society collapsed in an epidemic of civil war.
By the time Roggeveen arrived in 1722, the islanders were living in a "miserable" state.

The obvious question asked by Diamond, and by many before him, is "Why were Easter Islanders so foolish as to cut down all their trees, when the consequences would have been so obvious to them?"

But then he notes, "This is a key question that nags everyone who wonders about self-inflicted environmental damage."

Quote of the Day 

Howard Troxler, in the St. Petersburg Times, on legislative efforts to make it more difficult to amend the state's constitution through citizen initiatives:
I must be out of practice at watching the Legislature, because it seemed to me to be as ludicrous a session of banjo-picking thuggery directed against the citizens as I have witnessed.

Monday, March 08, 2004

The Bottom Line 

Architecture critic James Russell on what outsourcing may be getting us:
Some say China looks like what the states must have looked like to Europe in the late 19th century as the growth of industry catapulted America to the dominant economic power in the world. Will China manage the same feat? I don't know, but it is a riveting spectacle.
The China phenom raises some deeper issues for America. China is plunging mind-boggling sums of public money into physical infrastructure and the educational infrastructure. The investment may propel the nation quite rapidly beyond its current status as a platform for cheap labor. With exceptions, America too rarely makes such investments.
We'd rather have tax cuts.

The Best Laws Money Can Buy 

The St. Petersburg Time's Lucy Morgan looks at lobbyists in Tallahassee and the amounts of money that they bring to the table:
How much do lobbyists spend wining, dining and influencing legislators? In 1970, the combined reported expenses of 872 lobbyists came to an average of less than $500 per legislator. Last year, 2,024 lobbyists combined to spend nearly $50,000 per legislator.
The biggest spender? BlueCross BlueShield of Florida -- more than the next five interests combined.

The Past Isn't Even Past 

Marcus Dixon should consider himself lucky -- not so long ago he would have been lynched. As it is the teenager is looking at 10 years in a Georgia penitentiary -- no parole.

Leonard Pitts, Jr., looks at all the things that are wrong with this case: racism, misuse of statutory rape charges and mandatory sentencing guidelines.
Put simply, it is impossible to believe that, had both Dixon and the girl been black -- or white -- this would have even gone to trial. And had he been white and the girl black? Well, as Strom Thurmond's life proves, he'd have a better chance of winding up in the Senate than a cell.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

The NRA Position on Lead Contamination 

The Florida Legislature is trying to figure out how to get gun ranges to clean up without running afoul of the gun lobby. It won't be easy:
NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said environmentalists have exaggerated the public health risks of lead, which she called "an element that comes from the ground."
From an column by Steve Bousquet in the St. Petersburg Times.

UPDATE: In an editorial, the Times takes the Legislature to task for kowtowing to the gun lobby:
The newest version of the bill (SB 1156) still grants gun range owners immunity from liability for the harm they do. In fact, the bill makes it a crime for a public employee to sue a gun range, even if it is a threat to public health.
Of the more than 400 gun ranges in Florida, only one is fighting its cleanup responsibilities in court - the Skyway Trap and Skeet Club in Pinellas County. For years, Skyway has been sending lead shot into the wetlands that feed Sawgrass Lake Park, where children gather for nature classes. The lead has flowed into the lake and contaminated fish, creating a hazard that could cost $10-million or more to clean up.

How could anyone say that Skyway shouldn't be responsible for its own mess? It was easy for NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer. She is pushing the bill based on an absurd constitutional argument that lead pollution at gun ranges is protected as part of the right to bear arms.

Be Afwaid, Be Vewy Afwaid 

Stephen Goldstein, writing in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel:
Floridians are never more at risk than when the Legislature is in session. Talk with state senators and representatives one-on-one and even the wackos may seem reasonable; get them together in a landlocked, inaccessible backwater like Tallahassee and they morph into a cross between Machiavelli and the Keystone Cops. From the Panhandle to the Keys, solons annually may trek to the capital with the best intentions, but once they get there it's Pandemonium.
In an article on the beginning of the Legislative session, the Sun-Sentinel notes that one Tallahassee bar favored by lobbyists and legislators ". . . boosts its liquor inventory by about 40 percent every year around this time to take care of its legislative 'regulars.'"

Happy Birthday 

On March 3, 1845, Florida became the 27th state admitted to the union.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Giving Higher Education the Business 

Florida's universities are at the mercy of the Legislature -- and with the number one goal of the legislative leadership being tax cuts, higher education cannot be sure from year-to-year what sort of monies will be available.

The Tallahassee Democrat reports that the state's two major research universities, Florida and Florida State, want to enter into a contact with the state that will guarantee a "set amount of money each year" in return for educating a specific number of graduate students.
University officials frequently say it's difficult to do long-term planning when they have to return to the Legislature each year and ask for money. Last year, lawmakers cut public universities' budgets by $40 million.

"They keep telling us, 'Think outside the box,'" [FSU President T.K.] Wetherell said early last year. "What we're doing is not working."
Unfortunately, Wetherell followed this up by saying, "We can run the university like a business."

Exactly what business does he have in mind? Our universities are not businesses -- they don't have the same purpose or goals. Of course we expect good stewardship of public funds, but that is not the same as running higher education like a business.

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