Monday, August 30, 2004

What is it with these Republicans? 

I'm sure its been done before, but I've never seen it -- the St. Petersburg Times has recinded its endorsement of Republican senatorial candidate Mel Martinez. The Times decided it could not associate itself with Martinez's "hateful and dishonest attacks."
No matter what else Martinez may accomplish in public life, his reputation will be forever tainted by his campaign's nasty and ludicrous slurs of McCollum in the final days of this race. The slurs culminated with Martinez campaign advertisements that label McCollum - one of the most conservative moralists in Washington during his 20 years as a U.S. representative - "the new darling of the homosexual extremists" because he once favored a hate crime law that had bipartisan support. A few days earlier, the Martinez campaign arranged a conference call with reporters in which a group of right-wing Martinez supporters labeled McCollum "antifamily." Why? Because McCollum supports expanded stem cell research to find cures for deadly diseases - a position that is identical to those of Nancy Reagan, Connie Mack and many other prominent Republicans.
Martinez was hand-picked by the Bush White House to run for the open seat, and apparently Mel learned a thing or two about campaigning while serving in the administration.

Two Years Too Long 

Jerry Regier, hired by Gov. Bush two years ago to head the Department of Children and Families, finally threw in the towel, quitting the post today. He was a questionable choice, and did little to prove his critics wrong>
Regier was a controversial pick from the start. Before actually taking over the agency, there were news accounts detailing conservative Christian articles associated with Regier that said spanking children was OK and that women should focus on being homemakers instead of seeking careers.

Other stories followed. Bush was angered when Regier agreed to chair the political campaign of an Oklahoma friend. Regier quickly rescinded that decision. He also faced accusations that he fired several workers to please a state senator, Republican Rudy Garcia, who said they were rude to his grandmother.

But the recent audit escalated the controversy to a new level.
The final straw was the allegation that he accepted gifts from those doing business with DCF.

At least Regier had the good sense to get out. According to Gov. Bush, when Regier told him he intended to resign, Bush asked him to take some time and think about it. If Bush had any concern over what was going on at DCF, he would have thanked Regier for his service and then cracked open the champagne.

Her Time in the South Wasn't Wasted 

Best line of the Sunday talk shows was from Hillary Rodham Clinton, who in response to George Stephanopoulos questioning her on the connection between the Swift Boat attack ads and the Bush campaign, said, "If you find a turtle on a fence post, you can be sure it didn't get there by accident."

Quote is from memory, as ABC charges $19.95 for a transcript.


The Tampa Tribune's Daniel Ruth learned about being a Republican at his family's dining room table, but he doesn't seem to recognize today's version.
My father's Republican Party worried about the spread of communism and the influence of the Beatles.

Today's Republicans fret over who is sleeping with whom and burn Dixie Chicks CDs. This is a theocracy - with an open bar.

When my father's Republican Party worried about weapons of mass destruction, they actually existed.

Today's Republican Party ... well, you get the idea.

Often - quite often, in fact - after I've written a column critical of President Bush, I'm accused of ``hating'' Republicans.

Really now, as one who voted for Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole, I'm hardly filled with hate toward one of America's great political institutions.

Call it disappointment, instead, over what the Republican Party has become - its pettiness, its ideological bent.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain! 

The Palm Beach Post isn't fooled as to who is behind the Swift Boat attack ads:
Mr. Bush can't sell his presidency, so he's taking the political coward's way out by letting others lie about his opponent.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Are We Surprised? 

Ben Wasserstein, writing in the Los Angeles Times, documents the one-sided view of the Swift Boat Vets charges presented by the conservative media. A sample:
The leading serious conservative journal, the Weekly Standard, posted a new issue online Friday with a cover story titled "The Kerry Wars." The story cited the Washington Post article and admitted that "the documentary evidence available so far backs Kerry's story," but its paragraph dealing with the accusations that Kerry lied to get his medals concludes that "such claims boil down to Kerry's word versus his opponents'." That ignores the witnesses who back Kerry's story. It also ignores the pesky documentary evidence that supports Kerry's version of events.
And the Baltimore Sun's David Folkenflik also looks at the way the media is handling this controversy:
Conservative commentators say that the press initially responded to the allegations of the anti-Kerry Swift Boat Veterans for Truth by paying scant attention. Here, for example, was columnist Jeff Jacoby in yesterday's Boston Globe: "Far from leaping on the charges that Kerry's Vietnam heroism had been greatly exaggerated, the mainstream media's initial reaction was to largely ignore them."

But that's not really true. Earlier in the year, the Globe itself had done deep spade work turning up old military records and interviewing several former comrades who contested how brave Kerry really was. When the Swift boat group held a news conference in May to unveil its initial allegations that Kerry had exaggerated his wartime record, a database search shows, the Globe devoted two front-page stories to the subject.

The Dallas Morning News, The Washington Post, Knight-Ridder newspapers, Scripps-Howard, Copley News Service, McClatchy newspapers, the Houston Chronicle, the Washington Times and United Press International were among those print news outlets that spent significant ink on the claims. Fox News Channel, CBS and MSNBC yielded significant air time to the Swift boat veterans group's contentions that Kerry wasn't under fire, really, and his wounds weren't terribly serious.
But the truth isn't what these charges are all about.

And I Thought UF was the Party School 

While Florida Republicans are focused on Cuba (see post below), Florida's college students are doing their part to uphold the state's image in Europe. This included ". . . students' sampling too much of the local vintage, insulting the residents and keeping guests at their hotel awake with their drunken revelry."

(via Population Statistic)

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Florida's Foreign Policy 

Apparently some elected officials feel we've taken care of Florida's problems, so its time for them to work on foreign issues:
Travelers to Cuba could lose a litany of state benefits including food stamps, Medicaid and affordable housing under a bill that seeks to crack down on those who visit the island.

Under the bill, anyone who has lived in Florida for less than five years and travels to any country deemed by the U.S. Department of State to sponsor terrorism would be ineligible for state services for at least a year.

That would mostly affect travelers to Cuba, said state Rep. David Rivera, a Miami Republican who is sponsoring the legislation. Though the travel is legal, Rivera argues that the money spent on the island only helps to prop up Fidel Castro.

''It's an issue of gratitude,'' Rivera said today. ``People are sick and tired of people living here, taking advantage of taxpayer generosity and then providing support to the Castro regime by traveling back to the island.''
First of all, I wonder whether this would be constitutional.

Second, would the Florida Republicans care?

Third, should the American government, or any state government, be telling us where we can travel and where we can't? Perhaps a case could be made that temporary travel restrictions might be imposed for extraordinary circumstances, but that's not the situation here.

Fortunately, at this point, a goofy move like Rep. Rivera's will hardly make Florida any more of a laughing stock than it already is.

UPDATE: The Miami Herald calls this what it is, "punitive and unfair."

Calling a Lie a Lie 

The St. Petersburg Times says it all:
Whatever other Vietnam veterans think of Kerry, there is no excuse for the reprehensible campaign to discredit his war record. Negative advertising may work, even when it's based on lies, but voters should be skeptical of a message that poisons the very notion of service to country.

What Consititution? 

E. T. York, former president of the University of Florida and chancellor emeritus of Florida's State University System, charges Governor Bush and the Legislature with failure to abide by the state constitution.
I refer to . . . Amendment 11, which deals with the governance of the State University System. Gov. Bush and his appointees, including the university Boards of Trustees and the Florida Board of Education, strongly opposed this amendment, but it was approved by a convincing margin of more than 60 percent of Florida voters.

Despite its overwhelming approval, the executive and legislative branches of Florida government have been reluctant or have simply refused to take the steps needed to abide by this amendment.
York cites the Legislature's approval, and Bush's subsequent signing, of bills to establish two new programs, one at Florida State University and the other at the University of South Florida. This was done even through the Florida Board of Governors and the two universities had not supported the new programs.

Of course this is nothing new in Florida
in the year 2000, certain legislators were attempting to secure the approval of a new medical college at FSU and new law schools at Florida A&M and Florida International University.

When the Board of Regents opposed the creation of these three expensive programs, contending that they were not needed to meet Florida's needs for lawyers and physicians, the Legislature then summarily abolished the Board of Regents, approved the new medical and law schools, and instituted an inadequate governance system for universities.
York believes that at this point it will take judicial action to get the governor and legislatures to act within constitutional bounds. To that end, a non-profit organization, Floridians for Constitutional Integrity, has been formed to press the issue, and to "ask the courts to clarify one part of the Florida Constitution and to see that it is honored."

It's unfortunate that citizens have to force their governor to obey the law of the land, but it is clear that Gov. Bush views constitutional provisions as mere nuisances, and thus to be circumvented if they run counter to his political agenda.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Monday Morning Thoughts 

Is there anything as worthless as having representatives of the two parties or presidential candidates together on a news talk show? Each will have their talking points and usually the whole time is spent speaking around the question. Better that just one person be interviewed at a time. This doesn't work, however, if the interviewer is someone like Tim Russert, who apparently is not in the least bit insulted that no one is bothering to answer his questions in any meaningful way.

The best commentary on the Kerry Swift Boat issue was from Juan Williams, who said that if the anti-Kerry charges were brought up before a judge, they would be laughed out of court.

Why do those who suggest that there may be something to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth charges, in spite of virtually no documentation to support those charges, reject the idea that the Bush campaign is somehow involved in this sordid mess?

In looking at the anti-Kerry charges, I'm reminded of what I was told many years ago by an owner of one of the best restaurants in South Florida. He said that if someone complained that the food was too salty, he immediately went into the kitchen to talk with his chef and see what might be the matter. But if someone said the food was too salty, the meat was overcooked, the fork was dirty, the service was slow and the air conditioning was not turned down enough . . . well, then he pretty much assumed that the customer was just looking to cause trouble, for whatever reason.

My grandfather was wounded at the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne in the First World War. He was hit in the arm, but the wound was, in and of itself, not life threatening (he was more worried about the medical care he might receive than the wound itself). Nonetheless, he took great pride in his Purple Heart, and I hate to think what he would have done to someone who suggested his injury was not serious enough to warrant the award. Then again, I doubt he would conceive of anyone doing so (good thing, as he was a pretty tough ol' boy).

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Gators on the Move 

Here's a good way to make public or alternative transportation work -- don't provide enough parking.

At the University of Florida there are 50,000 students, but only about 12,000 parking spaces.

Gator students who had long ago given up their bicycles, and wouldn't have been seen on public busses in Orange, Broward or Duval counties, quickly adjust to other methods of getting around.
Of course this wouldn't work if the campus wasn't bicycle and pedestrian friendly, and if the public transportation was reliable and frequent. Also, many (most?) of the students live in fairly close proximity to campus.

These are worthy goals for our urban areas, as well.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Digital Evolution 

Chauncey Mabe, the [Fort Lauderdale] Sun-Sentinel's book editor, has accepted that sometime in the next 100 years reading books will be limited, for the most part, to academic settings.
. . . digital technology is rewiring the human brain. One of the great things about the brain is what scientists call "plasticity," its ability to rewire itself on the basis of new experience. It seems that getting the bulk of your information and entertainment from a computer and/or television screen means the very structure of your brain is different than it would be if you relied on reading. Not only will people no longer read for pleasure in 50 years, I believe that within a century most people will no longer be able to read a book. Oh, sure, people will remain capable of functional reading -- computer text, magazines or their future equivalent and so forth -- but they will be unable to engage in the immersive reading required by a book. The Great Gatsby -- or perhaps some work of Stephen King or Elmore Leonard -- will be taught in college only with great labor, the way students currently study The Canterbury Tales in Middle English.
Like Mabe, I consider this prospect profoundly disturbing. I'm not concerned that my great great grandchildren will not be smarter and more informed than is the average person today, but rather that an essential part of our civilization will be lost as book reading becomes a lost art.

Of course, I suppose that much the same argument was made as knowledge of Greek and Latin disappeared as necessary components of an educated mind.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Bay Watch 

Hurricane Charley is heading for Tampa Bay. The last time that area suffered a dead-on hit from a major hurricane Warren G. Harding was president and Florida's governor was Cary A. Hardee.

Two years ago, in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew, the St. Petersburg Times discussed the damage inflicted by the 1921 hurricane and made comparisons to what could happen to the now urbanized area should a similar storm hit Tampa Bay. The Times also posted photographs showing damage inflicted by 1921 storm.

One major difference between then and now is that in 1921 a little over 100,000 people lived in the St. Petersburg-Tampa region. Today that number stands at well over two million.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

It's a One Way Street 

Republicans like to portray their party as especially loyal to the nation's soldiers. This in spite of any number of examples to the contrary.

In its September issue, Fast Company, hardly a leftist publication, devotes most of the magazine to a study of courage. One of the case studies presented is General Eric Shinseki (subscription required):
There were a few empty chairs at General Eric Shinseki's June 2003 retirement ceremony. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld didn't make it to the event, which honored Shinseki's 4 years as U.S. Army chief of staff and 38-year military career. Neither did Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, nor any of Rumsfeld's other close associates. For a four-star general concluding a brilliant career, it was a major breach of protocol.

It was also no surprise, given Shinseki's simple answer to a simple question a few months earlier. On February 25, 2003, as the general testified before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the looming war in Iraq, Senator Carl Levin asked him what kind of manpower he believed it would take to keep the peace in postwar Iraq. "Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required," he said. It was the reasoned estimate of a lifelong military man who had lost most of a foot in Vietnam, had led NATO's Peace Stabilization Force in Bosnia, and had commanded both NATO's land forces and the U.S. Army in Europe.

But it was not the answer his civilian boss was looking for. Rumsfeld was then in the process of convincing Congress that the war would require relatively few ground forces. Shinseki could have parroted the party line, or hedged his answer to appear more neutral, but he didn't. As Bill Clinton recently put it, Shinseki committed candor. "He was a darn good military leader but not a very good politician," says Les Cotton, the sheriff of Navarro County, Texas, who served as a soldier with Shinseki in Vietnam.

The DOD's response was swift and wounding. "Wildly off the mark," said Wolfowitz, trying his best to publicly repudiate -- and humiliate -- the general. Rumsfeld made similar public comments. "This is someone who at the height of his professional career . . . in the name of disclosure and truthfulness chose to take the ultimate hit," says Michael Useem, professor of management at the Wharton School of Business. "It's courage on the inside."
But then again, this was probably just an isolated example. The Republicans wouldn't make a habit of attacking our soldiers, would they?

Stuck in Traffic 

Gainesville is not a big city -- at least it doesn't feel that way to those who come from South Florida, Tampa Bay or Orlando -- but traffic congestion is an ongoing problem there, and not just on football Saturdays.

The Gainesville Sun's Ron Cunningham has a couple solutions. The most immediate is that residents should move to the east side of town, where the traditional grid system disperses traffic. The newer developments on the westside have "barricaded the grid with cul-de-sacs," concentrating traffic on a relatively few arteries and making it harder to get from one location to another.

But the long-term solution has to be better public transportation. Cunningham contends that the economics will create demand for it:
The era of cheap gasoline is coming to a close. World market conditions and global political trends must inevitably drive up the cost of gasoline, and thus the cost of driving.

Start with a demand that is already outpacing refinery capacity. Throw in the fact that China is embarked on the most massive industrialization program in history and will increasingly gobble up more oil.

Consider too that much of the world's oil comes from places that are growing more, not less, stable and dangerous. And factor in the likelihood that most of the easy-to-get-at (cheap) oil has already been pretty much gotten at. Future reserves will be more expensive to find, extract and transport.

Bottom line: Driving is going to get a lot more expensive. Especially when you consider that a frequently cited "solution" to congestion involves charging motorists for the "privilege" of driving during peak hours or for the use of specially reserved lanes or roads.
He suggests that cities that hope to prosper will increasingly have to offer a mix of transportation options. And if this is the case in Gainesville, how much more so in Florida's urban centers?

Monday, August 09, 2004

Two Wrongs Don't Make a Senate Campaign 

Former Speaker of the Florida House and current candidate for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate, Johnny Byrd keeps inventing new ways to embarrass the state. He, apparently, is beyond embarrassment.

The Tampa Tribune's David Ruth points out Byrd's latest scam -- claiming credit for an idea that wasn't his.
Byrd's Web site boasts that the speaker, now in the death twitches of his blessedly final moments of elective life, made the gas tax rollback a priority during the session.

Uh, that's not quite right.

Byrd's foremost priority as speaker was extorting money from everybody in Tallahassee - lobbyists, fellow Republicans, the Capitol janitorial crew - to fund his self-absorbed ambition to become (HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!) a senator.
You would think, however, if Byrd is going to hijack someone else's work, that it mighty be something useful to Floridians.
There is no question that all of us would like to pay less for gas.

But the Henriquez plan to eliminate the state tax for merely a month is like putting a condom on Michelangelo's ``David.'' What's the point?

By Sept. 1, the 8-cent tax will be restored to pumps, inflicting a sort of sticker shock on consumers. In the meantime, this month, the state will lose about $60 million in revenue.

All of this to save the average driver, according to Byrd's own legislative analysts, about $4.

For a state government that loves to claim it's more financially strapped than the Joad family, where is the fiduciary responsibility in frittering away $60 million?

How many teachers could be hired for that money? How many more textbooks could be bought? How many seniors could be helped with prescription drug needs? How many more cops, firefighters or nurses could be added to the ranks of first responders?

How many reliable voting machines might be purchased?
Byrd is running way behind in the polls, but the fact that he has any support is amazing.

Sunday, August 08, 2004


Jeb Bush's man at the Department of Children and Family Services is Jerry Reiger, and the Gov. has supported him through a series of scandals and questionable practices.

The Sun-Sentinel's Michael Mayo detects something in Reiger's entertainment choices that may raise eyebrows among his evangelical supporters and cause Gov. Bush to wonder if he made the right choice.

Friday, August 06, 2004

An Offer They Can't Refuse 

According to the St. Petersburg Times, Florida's legislative leaders are doing what they do best -- strong-arming those who don't fall into line.
[St. Petersburg] City Council members say they are being pressured by state lawmakers to follow the Legislature's lead and rename the interstate [I-275] after late U.S. Rep. William C. Cramer, Florida's first Republican member of Congress since Reconstruction.

If they don't, they fear the city won't get any state money during the legislative session next spring.

That would jeopardize about $7-million needed to move the Dali museum to the spot now occupied by the Bayfront Center Arena.

Council members, who had planned to call the portion of the interstate that runs through the city the St. Petersburg Parkway, say they will probably comply and approve naming the highway after Cramer. But they said they aren't happy about the way the deal was presented.

"They've tried intimidation tactics. They've tried everything," said council member Virginia Littrell. "To go about honoring someone who deserves to be honored in this way, I think it's very demeaning to him."

State lawmakers said Wednesday it would be wise for City Council members to go along with the plan, especially given the friendship between Cramer's son, William C. Cramer Jr., and incoming House Speaker Allan Bense, R-Panama City.
Cramer grew up in St. Petersburg and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1954, serving seven consecutive terms. He ran for the U.S. Senate in 1970, losing to Lawton Chiles.

Rep. William C. Cramer (standing) . Photo by Angelo Deciucies from History of Western Pasco County
Posted by Hello

Monday, August 02, 2004

The Good Ol' Days 

Tuition at Florida's state universities has increased 15% in the past two years. Annual costs for an in-state student to attend the University of Florida during the 2003-04 year was estimated to be $12,140, a no-frills figure.

According to UF's Florida magazine,
When UF's Gainesville campus opened in 1906, tuition was free for Florida residents and just $20 for out of state students. Dormitory rent was $2.50 a month.

The University of Florida's Buckman Hall, constructed in 1906 when tuition was free. Posted by Hello

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Close Encounters of the Gator Kind 

There are about one million alligators in Florida. Although they are outnumbered 16 to 1 by their human neighbors, that still means there are going to be a lot of surprise encounters.

Both the Gainesville Sun and the Ft. Myers News-Press wonder if we have an "alligator problem."

I learned early on that you should assume any body of water in Florida is likely to contain some gators.

What Did You Do In The War, Daddy? 

Of late I have received a number of unsolicited emails that call into question John Kerry's actions in Vietnam. Some claim his Purple Heats and other medals were not honestly earned. Others quote other Vietnam veterans who assert that he exhibited neither leadership nor heroism during his tour of duty. They also imply that Kerry's combat record is, in any case, forfeited because he later opposed the war.

The Palm Beach Post's Randy Schultz thinks this sort of thing is all part of Bush campaign strategy, and he thinks it stinks:
As a senator for 20 years, John Kerry has cast enough votes for anyone to campaign against him straight up on national security and foreign policy. But it's been about more than that. President Bush took the National Guard pass on Vietnam, vaulting over about 100 others to get in. Many of his top aides, including the vice president, used deferments to avoid the war. Yet the Bush campaign has implied that Sen. Kerry, who chose to put himself in harm's way, saved another man's life and earned his colleagues' lasting respect is unpatriotic because he came home and opposed the war.

Is this tactic repulsive? Yes, but it's also the Bush Way.
Schultz recounts the way the Republicans attacked Georgia Senator Max Cleland's courage and willingness to defend the United States. Cleland was awarded the Silver Star in Vietnam.
When you hear rich, right-wing commentators criticize the "liberal elite," it's amusing. When you hear right-wing chicken-hawks smear decorated veterans as being less than patriotic, it's disgusting.
But don't expect it to stop.

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