Thursday, July 29, 2004

Convention Blogs 

Tech columnist John C. Dvorak isn't impressed with the blogging at the Democratic National Convention.
Many of these posts are vapid observations combined with simple Kerry boosterism or knee-jerk Limbaugh-Republicanist complaints.

Some are simply an undecipherable mess. Hopefully a few professionals will come in and publish some thoughtful pieces before the exercise is over, but this looks laughable thus far.
For links to various convention blogs, go to Technorati's Election Watch 2004.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

There's Trouble . . . Right Here in Ybor City 

Sticks of Fire reports that an overabundance of teenagers in Tampa's historic Ybor City is bad for the area.

Ybor City, ca. 1927 Posted by Hello

Thursday, July 22, 2004

What's in your Wallet? 

Got a Capital One card?  You might think about getting rid of it. 

The company announced that after receiving almost three million tax dollars, it is shutting down virtally its entire Tampa operation.  You guessed it,  the approximately 1,000 jobs are being outsourced.
Capital One's departure probably will not only mean a substantial loss of jobs but local sponsorships and charitable donations.
Its projects included the Capital One Leadership Grants program, which it launched in 2000 with a $400,000 investment and a commitment to share technology and volunteers; and $250,000 in contributions to area food banks from 1998 to 2001.
Blogwood compares Capital One's action to "these wily welfare daddies" who are always ready to move on, with never a backward glace at the disruption they cause.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Caution! Professionals at Work 

Blogwood suggests that Floridians who want to make sure their votes count should fill out and return an absentee ballot.   The new touch screen voting machines won't produce a paper trail for verification of results
Look - lotto machines give receipts, in the form of a ticket. ATMs give receipts. So do gas pumps and all other computerized automated transaction machines. Why is it so hard to create a countable, verifiable paper trail in the form of a receipt that can be deposited into a ballot box?
This isn't the only voting issue that Blogwood is worried about -- there's also the state's handling of its list of felons, and Blogwood smells a rat.
So, it turns out the both the state and the private vendor who worked on the 2000 Florida voter disenfranchisement list were aware that using race as a factor in compiling the list would result in errors based on problems matching Hispanic names.
See, the state seems to have known exactly what it was doing when it compiled a $2 million list with almost no (traditionally Republican voting) Hispanics on it, but it turns out that this was just another one of those innocent mistakes, brought about by administrative incompetence, that coincidentally happened to favor the governor's party. Really.
As Blogwood points out, Governor Bush could end this mess with the stroke of a pen.  But that would require doing the right thing.

The Miami Herald's Robert Steinback makes the case that if Governor Bush is not actively engaged in trying to rig the upcoming election, he is willfully incompetent.

Yet, what could possibly look more suspicious than Jeb Bush's latest attempt to purge ineligible felons from Florida's voter rolls? As everyone knows, the same exercise in 2000 caused thousands of eligible citizens -- including a disproportionate number of black voters likely to vote Democratic -- to be wrongly dropped from rolls in an election that decided the presidency by 537 votes.
You'd think such an embarrassingly tainted election would have compelled Bush to make an extreme commitment to developing a process so free of suspicion that even the most jaded critic would be satisfied.
Not in Florida, not in 2004 and not where the Bush family dynasty is concerned. Bush didn't bother to create a multipartisan effort to produce a fair and transparent purge process, nor did he make his list readily available to all. Rather, he developed it behind closed doors and kept it hidden, forcing media organizations and rival parties to sue for its release.
Then in no time flat, thousands of eligible voters wrongly targeted for removal were discovered. Numerous county elections supervisors openly revolted, saying they wouldn't perform the purge based on a list of such questionable accuracy.
Then it was discovered that the list of 47,000 people included only 61 Hispanics -- a group friendly to Republicans. Bush, unable to continue defending the effort, scrapped it entirely, leaving list-purging to the counties.
The episode alone should have been enough to arouse the suspicion of all Floridians, regardless of party. But what truly astounds was the casualness of Bush's reaction. What should have been a shocking, constitutional outrage was, in Bush's words, ``an oversight and a mistake.''
An oversight? A mistake? Forgetting to mail the electric-bill payment is an oversight. Making a right turn on red where it isn't allowed is a mistake. Undermining the fundamental right to vote in a way that would help your brother's presidential campaign -- just as it helped him four years ago -- would be an abomination. The properly suspicious U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called for an investigation into whether black and Democratic voters were targeted for removal.
Yet Jeb Bush's reaction amounted to, Oops. My bad. No big deal. Get over it.

All this reminds me of a criminology course I took in college.  In it we learned that an amateur crook doesn't want anyone to know he has committed a crime; a professional criminal doesn't care who knows what he did, just as long as they can't prove it. 

Looks like our governor is handling the upcoming election in a professional manner.

Fool Me Once . . .  

Will a Bush second term bring war with Iran? Juan Cole is afraid it could, and based on assertions that don't pass the "common sense" test:
So then you come to me and say that in 2000 and 2001, Iran was actively helping al-Qaeda and was trying to ally with it. And I say, that sounds to me like complete gibberish and I would only accept it if you show me excellent documentary proof.

It would be like saying that you had evidence that Roosevelt let German Nazi agents cross the United States to carry out an operation against Mao's forces in China during World War II. Well, on the face of it, the fascists would not have wanted the Communists to get China, so such a covert operation wouldn't be out of the question. And the US would certainly have in principle welcomed anything that would have helped the Nationalists. So you could argue yourself into thinking that the proposition isn't completely crazy. But if you just step back, you can see that geo-political speculation doesn't carry much weight in such a situation, and the whole idea is obviously crazy. That is how I feel about the idea that Khamenei cozied up to Bin Laden.
An invasion of Iran, Cole suggests, would benefit al-Qaeda, which "would especially like to see a US- Shiite struggle, so that its two major enemies would both be weakened and pre-occupied with each other rather than Bin Laden."

Burning the Constitution 

I think this sums it up nicely:
I know many Democrats may support it.  Apparently, the majority of Americans support it.  And God knows Republicans - by and large - support it.   All of these people are idiots.  If you support the flag burning amendment, you are an idiot.  You don't understand anything about democracy.  If some of these people are not idiots, they are bad people.  If an otherwise smart person supports the flag burning amendment, they are either suffering from a mental disability or they are simply a bad person. 

(via Bark Bark Woof Woof)

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Dreams Deferred 

Miami's Mustang Bobby notes that today is the thirty-fifth anniversary of the first manned moon landing, and recounts where he was when he witnessed the event.

I was in college at the time and remember watching the landing at my (then future) in-laws house, delaying going to work until the "giant leap" had taken place.

As impressive as the landing was, I remember being amazed that it could be televised as it happened.

If you had taken a poll that evening (and someone probably did) I would guess that most people would have expected that three-and-a-half decades hence, we would have permanent colonies on the moon and regular expeditions to Mars.

Empty History 

Charleston, SC, has one of America's great historic districts. To a large extent, economic hard times following the Civil War and thereafter stymied redevelopment, leaving the old structures in place, to be "found" by later generations.

Charleston Homes Posted by Hello

I've always felt that Charleston would be a great city to live in if you were wealthy, but a dismal one to call home if you weren't, but a post in Regions of Mind (quoting a column from the Providence Journal) suggests that there may not be that much living going on there.  Many of the historic homes are purchased by out-of-towners who visit their properties rather infrequently (". . . some owners are said to occupy their great Charleston manses only during the 17-day Spoleto Festival.").

Not much that can be done about this, I suppose, but the best historic districts are the one's that are full of life.

Monday, July 19, 2004

A Real Piece of Work 

Are there any Floridians who are not Jimmy Buffett fans?  I thought not.  In fact, I think the state song should be changed from Old Folks at Home to Changes in Latitude.
So I purchased the new Jimmy Buffett cd, License to Chill, and have to agree with Sharkbitten -- ". . . it is superb songwriting along with fantastic performances from some of country music's best but unknown that make this an album that even non-Parrotheads will love."

One of his Best Posted by Hello

Buffett teams up with some of country music's biggest stars (and some lesser known singers), but it's Jimmy's album all the way.  My favorites so far: Boats to Build (with Alan Jackson), Coast of Carolina and the old Don Gibson hit Sea of Hearbreak.

Ft. Myers Baseball Tradition 

Last year Lee County demolished most of Ft. Myers historic Terry Park baseball stadium. The original Terry Park, named for the family that donated the property on which it was built, opened in 1925 and was the spring training headquarters of the Philadelphia Athletics (1925-36), Cleveland Indians (1941-42), Pittsburgh Pirates (1955-68)and Kansas City Royals (1969-87). Since 1987 the stadium has been used high school, college and amateur games.

Now a new stadium is being built, but with an eye to the past.
The Lee County Parks and Recreation Department could have razed the old grandstand to a pile of steel and concrete to be hauled away in dump trucks. Instead, with a nod to the park's rich baseball history, officials kept old girders standing to serve as the outline for a new grandstand, which they hope will retain a sense of the old.
County officials and architect Ron Weaver believe the new stadium's design evokes the old, retains a sense of the history of Terry Park and pays tribute to that tradition.

"If we had torn the whole thing down there wouldn't be any point of reference", said Weaver, a principal architect with BSSW, a Fort Myers firm.
The Ft. Myers News-Press article states that more than ninety Hall of Famers have "played, managed, umpired or worked as executives in the park." The article also includes links to historic photos, stats of those who played at the park and a 1966 video clip from the stadium.

Friday, July 16, 2004

End of a Warrior 

The aircraft carrier USS Oriskany survived the Korean and Vietnam wars, but in August she will arrive in Florida waters to be sunk off Pensacola, becoming an artificial reef.

Final sailing of the USS Oriskany Posted by Hello
Although its construction began during World War II, the carrier was only completed following the outbreak of hostilities in Korea. Later she was early on the scene in Vietnam, arriving there for combat duty in 1965. The next year, while on station off Vietnam, disaster struck the Oriskany:
The carrier was on station the morning of 27 October 1966 when a fire erupted on the starboard side of the ship's forward hanger bay and raced through five decks, claiming the lives of 44 men. Many who lost their lives were veteran combat pilots who had flown raids over Vietnam a few hours earlier. Oriskany had been put in danger when a magnesium parachute flare exploded in the forward flare locker of Hanger Bay 1, beneath the carrier's flight deck. Her crewmen performed fantastic feats in jettisoning heavy bombs which lay within reach of the flames. Other men wheeled planes out of danger, rescued pilots, and helped quell the blaze through three hours of prompt and daring actions.
The Oriskany was decommissioned in 1975, and would have been scrapped had not the contractor defaulted.

The Melting Pot 

Almost six out of ten people living in Miami are foreign-born.  The BBC reports that a UN study places Miami at the top of the list of major cities with significant populations of residents born in other counties.  The next city on the list, Toronto, has "only" 44% of its population foreign-born.
The first five cities on the list are all in North America.  Following Miami and Toronto are Los Angeles (41%), Vancouver (37%) and New York (36%).
(via Discourse.net)

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

No Constitutional Pollution For Now 

My first reaction to the idea of same-sex marriages was negative, but the more the issue is discussed, the less I am opposed. I just haven't heard any evidence that this measure will do real harm.

Certainly, the drive for a constitutional amendment is ill-considered, so I'm happy to see that Florida's Senators, Graham and Nelson, voted against the amendment.

It seems to me that those advocating a ban on gay marriages fall into one (or more)of three categories: those who are homophobic, those who are reacting viscerally, and those whose attitudes are based on religious beliefs. Actually there is a fourth -- political opportunism.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

What's in a Name? 

This past session, the Legislature passed a law "requiring" that offensive place names be changed. Among the local place names targeted are Jew Point in Monroe County, Redskin Hammock in Osceola County and Squaw Pond in Marion County.

Of course not everyone agrees what a specific name might mean. According to a Daytona Beach News-Journal article, there are 17 sites containing the word "coon." Residents are not always of one mind as to whether the name refers to raccoons or is a racial epithet.
. . . despite language in the law that makes the process seem mandatory, the state doesn't intend to force communities to change any names, [Division of Historical Resources] Director Fred Gaske said.

And local governments will have final authority to determine what residents consider offensive, says state Sen. Steve Geller, D-Hallandale, the law's sponsor.

That's why the law doesn't specify which words should go, Geller said.
There are also a number of sites in Florida that incorporate the word "Negro," such as Negro Cove in Martin County. Of course most of these names were changed in the 1950s and 1960s from an even more offensive term.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Florida's Pompeii 

The more we learn about early settlements in Florida, the more complex we find that they were. Archeological research on Santa Rosa Island, near Pensacola, is turning up more than had been imagined.
University of West Florida archaeologists and students, aided by public volunteers, last year recovered more than 40,000 artifacts, and they are digging up more this summer.

What they've found shows Presidio Isla de Santa Rosa was more than a typical military and penal colony. Family life also thrived there.

"The numbers are incredible,"' said Judy Bense, director of West Florida's Archaeology Institute. "Not only that, what we're finding are things that we don't usually find."

Most are personal items, many typically associated with women. They include pieces of figurines, earrings, bracelets, cuff links, keys, colorful pottery and rosary beads. Guns, bullets and other military artifacts common at other presidios have been found to a lesser extent here.

The Santa Rosa presidio lasted 30 years through 1752. It was hidden by sand, scrub oak and palmetto until discovered four decades ago at Gulf Islands National Seashore near Fort Pickens, a Civil War-era structure at the island's western tip.
Historians say the Santa Rosa Island settlement was abandoned, and in haste, due to its vulnerability to hurricanes.

Tampa's Federal Courthouse 

The St. Petersburg Times doesn't like the direction Tampa is taking in its efforts to redevelop its historic federal courthouse.

Tampa Federal Courthouse Posted by Hello
The four-story building on Florida Avenue was built 100 years ago and operated as a post office, customs house and courthouse. When the federal government gave the building to the city of Tampa, [Mayor Pam]Iorio said she wanted the property to become a catalyst for developing north downtown. With its three-story columns, grand entrance and elegant presence across an entire city block, the courthouse would be perfect as a mixed-use transit station and shopping space, an amenity needed in that part of downtown to connect the city center with the emerging nearby neighborhoods.
A city advisory board has recommended using the landmark structure for boutique hotel space or a charter school.

Marketing Florida's History 

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel calls for Florida to take advantage of its historical resources:
In 2013, Florida will mark a watershed event: the quincentennial celebration of its "discovery" by European explorers. It was in April 1513, almost 500 years ago, that Juan Ponce de Leon landed in northeast Florida in search of a youth-restoring spring, or so legend tells us.

That led to the earliest, permanent European settlement in the United States in St. Augustine in 1565. Floridians inherited key landmarks of that history, the San Marcos fort and structures in the old town village.

The quincentennial will offer a chance for Floridians and out-of-state visitors to learn about the state's rich past, including the history of Native Americans that originally populated the state, the Civil War era, the boom-and-bust days of the 1920s and 1930s and Florida's role in the Space Age.
The Sun-Sentinel editorial encourages Florida to "develop an alluring marketing plan" for its historic sites. Actually, the state's Division of Historical Resources has been in the forefront of encouraging visitation at the many landmark destinations in Florida. One particularly worthwhile DHR venture has been the publication of Florida History & the Arts.

Florida History & the Arts magazine Posted by Hello

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Pay Up 

Governor Bush and his Republican allies, having underfunded Florida's colleges and universities to the point that most institutions were faced with either cutting back enrollment or course offerings, now want to charge students that "take too long" to graduate higher tuition.

This brought a strong editorial response from the Pensacola News Journal:
According to reports, the latest concern in Tallahassee is a legislative audit showing that the university system spent -- gasp!-- $62 million last year on students taking too many classes, especially those not needed for their degree. For some reason these people just won't stick to their accounting curriculum or their business classes and get on with joining the rest of us in the happy work world of two weeks of vacation, declining health benefits and expanding work weeks.

Gosh, and we thought the biggest problem in education was not motivated students seeking to learn, but too many students who don't understand the value of education, and who don't work hard enough to get a good one.

University educations used to be valued for their mind-expanding virtue, and parents hoped their children would discover a new world of learning that could influence the direction the rest of their lives would take. A well-rounded education used to be considered the whole point of college.
Governor Bush and his fellow conservatives probably take the view that those attending state-funded institutions of higher learning are freeloaders who should be paying their own way. At least that seems to be the most logical interpretation of their economic war on Florida's colleges and universities.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Who Knows Her Better? 

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Dennis B. Roddy is a thirty year veteran of politics in Pittsburgh. He recently commented on the image of Teresa Heinz Kerry being created by the national press:
In Pittsburgh she is considered another Pittsburgher; not terribly unusual, not particularly liberal and not what we would consider a giver to any radical or extreme causes. She comes out of the traditional moderate Republican tradition. So all of this coverage of Teresa Heinz Kerry as Hillary Clinton with a big scarf and unruly hair leaves everyone here perplexed. And of course, like the rest of America, so many of us in Pittsburgh take our cue from the national media, so we have to check our impulse to join in on it.
This item caught my attention as I have received several emails of late, warning of Mrs. Kerry's support for anti-American causes. One stated, in part,
If voters will open their eyes, educate themselves and see the real Teresa Heinz Kerry, they will not appreciate her position as ultra rich fairy godmother of the radical left. They will not want to imagine her laying her head on a pillow each night inches away from the President of the United States.
This particular email credits WorldNetDaily (no link to a specific post) for the information on Mrs. Kerry's philanthropy. The charitable organization in question, the Tides Foundation, rejects the charges.

Missing in [In]Action 

Are First-n-Main and Hot Liberty no more? Neither has posted in the past couple months.

Bad Plans 

We need more leaders like Sarasota County Commissioner Jon Thaxton. In response to a proposal to create a southwest Florida toll authority, the purpose of which would be to build new roads and expand existing ones, Thaxton said:
"I think this is becoming precariously close to absolutely insane," said Thaxton during a discussion of a possible toll authority to widen I-75 to 10 lanes. "To widen roads to relieve traffic congestion is like curing obesity by loosening your belt."
"I'm finished building roads," he said. "If the turnpike comes to my county, I'm going to say no thank you. The solution to this problem is growth management. Either growth management is driving the transportation system or transportation is driving growth management and we lose every time."
Southwest Florida is becoming a traffic nightmare because of the type of development that has been allowed to proliferate. Gated communities are now the norm, and this has meant that traffic is channeled onto a small number of through roads. In fact, if one wishes to drive from Naples to Ft. Myers (a distance of about 35 miles)there are only two routes available -- you have to take either U.S. 41, a heavily-congested commercial corridor, or I-75, the only limited-access highway in the region.

A Devil's Brew 

Conservative bloggers (and cable TV blowhards) have been up in arms over Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, eager to pounce on any perceived misrepresentation or inconsistency.

For instance, Moore apparently (I haven't seen the movie)makes the point that the United States has the ability to make a real difference in the lives of millions in the Third World who suffer from the lack of safe drinking water, to whichJames Lilek responds:
Immediately! Right now! The entire purpose of the American economy must be turned to the task of building sanitary water systems in rural Peru, old Soviet industrial sites in the Urals, and the Chinese hinterlands! Immediately! We are not only obligated to step in and help poor Robert Mugabe upgrade the pipes of urban Zimbabwe, we must issue bonds to ensure that these systems work until the sun sputters out. Because that is the first obligation of the government, as set forth in the Constitution: ensure that someone in the Sudan can drink tap water without getting the squirts.
Each of Moore's words and edits are examined with the zeal of a shaman digging through the entrails of a sacrificial goat. Chasing Moore leaves no time to reflect on the comments of fellow right-wingers such as Ann Coulter
So while Michael Moore, Al Franken, George Soros, Crazy Al Gore and the rest of the characters from the climactic devil-worshipping scene in "Rosemary's Baby" provide the muscle for the Kerry campaign, Kerry picks a pretty-boy milquetoast as his running mate, narrowly edging out a puppy for the spot.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Forty Years Ago 

The Palm Beach Post's Michael Browning writes about the impact of the 1964 Civil Rights Act:
Black women such as Everee Jimerson Clarke found they could actually go into Burdines and Moss department store in West Palm Beach and try on clothes and shoes on the premises.

"Before that, if you were black and wanted to buy clothes or shoes from Moss or Shelby's -- Shelby's was the good shoe store -- and you were black, you would not be allowed to try them on there. Instead, they would send someone to your house, and this is only if you were a professional, a teacher, a nurse or someone with a good income, and you would try them on at home and buy them at home.

"After the Civil Rights Act passed, I made it a point to integrate hotels and restaurants. I integrated the Captain Alec's restaurant for the first time with my Miss Teen pageant," Clarke said. "I integrated the Colonnades Beach Hotel ballroom, the Sheraton on Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, the Holiday Inn on PGA. Every time a new hotel opened, I made it a point to go there. I wanted these young girls I was teaching to be able to conduct themselves properly in public."
The text of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 can be found here.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Bad Times for Citrus 

While Florida grapples with citrus canker, Brazil is being hit with a more deadly threat to its citrus industry -- citrus sudden death.

Florida takes a proprietary interest in its orange and grapefruit crops, but they pale in comparison to Brazil's:
For an agricultural powerhouse like Brazil, where orange trees outnumber people, the threat posed by citrus sudden death is a serious one. Oranges are one of the country's biggest breadwinners, providing jobs for 400,000 people and bringing in a hefty $1.3 billion a year in exports. Brazil is the world's No.1 citrus grower, with 5 out of every 10 glasses of orange juice consumed around the globe squeezed from this nation's fruit.
Brazil has become an agricultural superpower, as Regions of Mind recently noted.

What's in a Name? 

The St. Petersburg Times' Steve Bousquet notes that Republican Senate candidate Bill McCollum has charged one of his opponents, Mel Martinez, with being a trial lawyer.
"The similarities between Martinez and Edwards are striking, and a Martinez candidacy would greatly hamper our ability to present a unified message," said McCollum campaign manager Matt Williams.
Governor Bush defended Martinez, characterizing him as a "plaintiff's lawyer." (my emphasis)

Thursday, July 01, 2004

The Business of Justice 

Beginning today, Florida's courts are expect to be run like a business and cover their costs.
Now, more than ever before, the state’s system will live and die by the ability to wring money out of convicted criminals and collect on civil court filing fees.
This will immediately increase the fines for speeding and the cost of filing for divorce, along with many other court fees. Now I'll agree that it's not a good idea to break the law, but I question whether the financial penalty should be tied to the needs of the court system. One would think that there should be a rational nexus between the severity of the infraction and the punishment imposed.

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