Wednesday, September 29, 2004

No Power 

Florida Power & Light's website has a map showing power outage in its service area following Hurricane Jeanne.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Historical Hurricanes 

The always interesting Regions of Mind takes a look back at hurricanes in Florida, citing several instances of their influence on the early colonization of the region.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Hurricane Jeanne 

We were better prepared for Hurricane Jeanne than we had been for the other storms this year -- in large part because we never took our shutters down, and thus had more time to stock up on batteries, water and beer.

Our power was again knocked out, this time for about 20 hours. Initially, the outage was limited to about a half-dozen houses on our block. That is until the pinheads down the street decided that with the power out that it would be a good time to trim some branches away from the power lines. End result -- they managed to knock power out to another six houses. Fortunately, there were no widows or orphans as a result of this escapade.

Amazingly there were power company workers in the area and they restored power to the houses that had first "gone dark" fairly quickly. Those that had been knocked out by the amateur tree-trimmers had to wait another five or six hours.

Most of the tree-trimmers kept a low profile for the rest of the day.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Wake Up! 

Make no mistake about it -- there is a movement afoot to downplay the racism of America's past and to deny its existence today. One need go no farther than Michelle Malkin's psuedohistory, In Defense of Internment, in which she downplays, when she doesn't completely ignore, the racist motivation for the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II.

Leonard Pitts points out that not only was racism a historical fact, it is still alive and well in America. Proof? Well, how about this, from Mississippi:
the State Fair is opening next month. And that, along with enjoying the fun house and the State Championship Mule Pull, fairgoers will have the chance to shake hands with, or get an autograph from, the chief suspect in the Ku Klux Klan's 1964 murders of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.

Shake hands. Or get an autograph.

For those who don't know: Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner went to Mississippi seeking to register black voters. In the South in 1964, that was a crime sometimes punishable by death.

Seven men were convicted of the murders, but their alleged ringleader, an alleged preacher named Edgar Ray Killen, went free after a jury deadlocked 11 to 1 in favor of conviction.

According to The Clarion-Ledger, the juror who held out said she could not bring herself to convict a preacher. The 79-year-old Killen reportedly remains under state investigation for the 40-year-old crime. He has never recanted his hateful views.

Killen was invited to man a booth at the fair by a lawyer named Richard Barrett, head of a white supremacist group. He intends to hand out cards bearing images of Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner with a circle around them and a line through them.

A legend on the card describes the martyrs as communists who "invaded" Mississippi. These are what fairgoers will be encouraged to have Killen sign.

Your immediate urge is to ignore it, to sequester it in that far place in the mind we reserve for the atavistic few who didn't get the memo that this fight is over, this hate repudiated so thoroughly that even our word for it has fallen into disrepair.

From where I sit, that urge gives us more credit than we deserve.

Forty years after the bodies of those three men were dug out of an earthen dam, racism has not left us. It has only become a hide-and-seek thing, a did-you-see-it-or-did-you-just-imagine-it game.
The conservative/libertarian faction would have us believe that the real racism in America are programs, such as affirmative action that seek to level the playing field -- the old state-sponsored racism is yesterday's news (if, in fact, it was ever as bad as portrayed by liberals). Blacks are encouraged to "get over it."

But the products of the segregation era are still very much with us. Not far from my home there are blacks whose parents and grandparents farmed for white landowners and were systematically cheated out of their rightful earnings. This is not debatable -- I've heard these stories from whites who were in a position to know what was going on.

Today those blacks live in modest houses; a step up from the "quarters" or shotgun shacks occupied by previous generations, but nothing like the spacious homes that the sons and daughters of the old white farmers own.

As regards racism in America, the sins of the fathers are visited on the sons -- just not their own.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Never Mind 

The Palm Beach Post comments on the latest report on Cuba's WMDs:
. . . the administration is no better at finding weapons of mass destruction in this hemisphere than in Iraq. Last week, the State Department released a new assessment written under tougher standards adopted after revelations of recent intelligence failures. The new position is that there is no reason to suspect that Cuba has an active, offensive bioweapons program. The administration could have reached the same conclusion two years ago — the evidence then was just as nonexistent as the evidence now — had the political climate cooperated.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has voted to ease travel restrictions to Cuba:
The amendment to the Treasury and Transportation departments spending bill would remove only the most recent travel restrictions, imposed in June by President Bush, which limit Cuban-Americans to one 14-day trip every three years to visit immediate family members. The House measure would reinstate the previous limit of one trip per year and additional trips in emergencies, and it would allow visits to aunts, uncles and cousins.
The cynic might suppose that this move is all about domestic politics, as Bush's travel restrictions were not received all that well in much of the South Florida Cuba community.

Enough is Enough 

Hurricane Jeanne could loop back toward U.S. East Coast

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

A Company Man 

One of the Miami Dolphins' corporate sponsors is Levitra, an erectile dysfunction drug.

When queried on the sponsorship, given the Dophins' poor performance so far this season, Bayer Pharmaceuticals (manufacturers of Levitra) president Colin Foster, replied "Our affiliation with the Dolphins has been first class and we are truly excited to prolong the relationship."

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Academic Probation 

The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education has issued a report that gives the United States an "F" grade in the affordability of higher education. Of course Florida, with its recent tuition hikes, is among the failing states.
The report card evaluates states on the performance of their private and public four-year schools and community colleges in five categories, with grades ranging from A to F.

On affordability, the report card contradicts some recent studies that argue increases in financial aid have kept pace with recent tuition hikes, so real college costs have stabilized.

The report card, titled "Measuring Up 2004," grades affordability in part by comparing net college costs with the average family income in each state. By that measure, the study claims, college is becoming less affordable in most states.
Average tuition at Florida's public universities has increased over thirty percent since 1990:
Florida (2000) $1,911
Florida (2002) $2,365
Florida (2004) $2,553
During this period, Governor Bush and the Legislature have been pushing tax cuts that will force even higher tuition costs. This can't be good for the future of our state.

A Move in the Right Direction 

The Broward County Commission approved an ordinance that will reduce county property taxes on historic buildings. The tax break is limited, for the most part, to commercial structures, but could encourage preservation of buildings in some of the older downtowns in the county.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Get in Line Ralph 

Ever hear of Michael Badnarik, Walter F. Brown, David Cobb, James Harris and Michael A. Peroutka? Well, you'll see their names on Florida's presidential ballot in November, because they are the nominees of (respectively) the Libertarian, Socialist, Green, Socialist Workers and Constitution parties.

We'll have to wait to see if the Reform Party makes it on the ballot.

(via Abstract Appeal)

Please Don't Take My Sunshine Away 

I remember, as a kid, listening to advertisements for Tropical beer and Silver Bar ale. They were local products, brewed in Tampa, but by the time I was legally able to drink they were no more. We drank Bud and Miller (or whatever else we could afford), just the same as other college students across the country.

I thought of those beers while reading about the impending demise of another bit of local history -- the Burdines name is being dropped from department stores in Florida. In an effort to consolidate and standardize their brand, all Federated Department Stores will henceforth be known only by the name Macy's.

For over a century, the name Burdines was synonymous with department store in South Florida. Last year the Miami Herald chronicled the business' Florida roots.
The Burdines story began at a Miami trading post in 1898 when John Burdine arrived at the swampy frontier town with instructions from his father, William, to start a store for the 7,500 soldiers getting ready to invade Cuba in the Spanish-American War.

By 1912, Roddey Burdine, William's 23-year-old son, was in charge, and he built what seemed like a skyscraper at the time -- a five-story tower with an elevator and air conditioning that is still part of the downtown Miami store.

Sales grew as the city evolved into a popular vacation destination, and Burdines touted itself with ads in Northeast publications as the outfitter of the tropics.

When the song Moon Over Miami hit it big in the 1930s, the store brought out a clothing line bearing the same name. In 1946, it introduced the Tina Lesser strapless bathing suit, the first without stockings and formal hats. Shipping tropical fruits home for visiting customers became so big in the 1940s that Burdines opened its own packing house to handle the orders.

For its Sunshine Fashions, Burdines was careful to pick styles that were bold and bright enough to say Florida, but not so wild that they'd stay in the closet once the tourists got home.

''It wasn't just super-light tropical clothing,'' said South Florida historian Paul George, who has written a book on the Burdine family. ``You could take them back with you up North.''

Burdines rode its tropical appeal as it expanded across South Florida in the prosperity that followed World War II. Fort Lauderdale was so eager for a downtown Burdines in 1946 that it sold the store its City Hall, then on Southwest Second Street, and moved three blocks down, George said.

Federated purchased Burdines in 1956, pumping fresh cash into the overextended chain and fueling an expansion that would spread across Florida in the next 30 years.

The 1970s and '80s saw Burdines spread north into Orlando, Tampa, Sarasota and other Florida hubs -- expanding from 11 to 23 stores between 1977 and 1984.

But the march north -- along with stiffer competition -- also led to a dilution of the Burdines tropical look. Faced with marketing itself beyond South Florida, the chain turned more mainstream in 1990 by focusing on more national lines of clothing, George said. But the geographical identity remained. It is reflected in the current Burdines slogan: The Florida Store.
Time marches on, and we continue to trade a little bit of our heritage for greater efficiency.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Naming Names 

I've always suspected that Robert Novack was playing a role on the various pundit shows he frequents -- otherwise why would he consistently come across as such a blustering crank. Based on one of his latest tirades, the jury is still out:
Syndicated columnist Robert Novak apparently believes that the principle of not revealing confidential sources is rather flexible.

The man who has stood on this principle for months, in deflecting calls for him to identify who in the Bush administration "outed" CIA operative Valerie Plame, said this weekend on national television that CBS should release the name of its source for the documents at the center of the dispute over its recent program on President Bush's National Guard service.
Read the excerpt from the show's transcript -- it sounds like a bit from Saturday Night Live.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Three Years Later 

On the third anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, Juan Cole assesses what al-Qaeda hoped to accomplish and to what extent they are reaching their goals.

It is important to examine the historical background:
From the point of view of al-Qaeda, the Muslim world can and should be united into a single country. They believe that it once had this political unity, under the early caliphs. Even as late as the outbreak of World War I, the Ottoman state ruled much of the Middle East, and the Ottoman sultans had begun making claims to be caliphs (Muslim popes) from about 1880.
From al-Qaeda's point of view, the political unity of the Muslim world was deliberately destroyed by a one-two punch. First, Western colonial powers invaded Muslim lands and detached them from the Ottoman Empire or other Muslim states. They ruled them brutally as colonies, reducing the people to little more than slaves serving the economic and political interests of the British, French, Russians, etc. France invaded Algeria in 1830. Great Britain took Egypt in 1882 and Iraq in 1917. Russia took the Emirate of Bukhara and other Central Asian territories in the 1860s and forward. Second, they formed these colonies into Western-style nation-states, often small and weak ones, so that the divisive effects of the colonial conquests have lasted.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was not an unprecedented event from the point of view of Bin Laden and his followers. Far from it. It was only the latest in a long series of Western predations in Muslim lands.
The attacks on Western -- especially American -- targets can only be understood in the context of Ben Laden's desire to overthrow the individual nation-states of the Middle East and "unite them into a single, pan-Islamic state" and the repeated failures of Islamicists, such as al-Zawahiri in Egypt, to do so.
Al-Zawahiri then hit upon the idea of attacking the "far enemy" first. That is, since the United States was propping up the governments of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc., all of which al-Qaeda wanted to overthrow so as to meld them into a single, Islamic super-state, then it would hit the United States first.
Cole explains that just as with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, the 9/11 attacks were part of a strategic plan to neutralize the United States. Whereas the Japanese planned to use the time before America's response to carve out its empire in east and south Asia, al-Qaeda "was attempting to push the United States out of the Middle East so that Egypt, Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia would become more vulnerable to overthrow, lacking a superpower patron."
Bin Laden hoped the US would timidly withdraw from the Middle East. But he appears to have been aware that an aggressive US response to 9/11 was entirely possible. In that case, he had a Plan B: al-Qaeda hoped to draw the US into a debilitating guerrilla war in Afghanistan and do to the US military what they had earlier done to the Soviets. Al-Zawahiri's recent message shows that he still has faith in that strategy.

The US cleverly outfoxed al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, using air power and local Afghan allies (the Northern Alliance) to destroy the Taliban without many American boots on the ground.

Ironically, however, the Bush administration then went on to invade Iraq for no good reason, where Americans faced the kind of wearing guerrilla war they had avoided in Afghanistan.
In this light, the invasion of Iraq, while tactically successful, was strategically flawed -- much as if the United States had invaded Fascist Spain in the midst of World War II. It has not brought us closer to defeating our real enemy, al-Qaeda, and has created a whole new group of enemies. Moreover the overthrow of the secular Baathist regime has created a void that will more likely be replaced by an Islamic government than one based on Western democratic principles. While this may be good for the Iraqis, it does not bode well for our fight against our real enemies.

Cole's assessment: "The US is not winning the war on terror. Al-Qaeda also has by no means won. But across a whole range of objectives, al-Qaeda has accomplished more of its goals than the US has of its."

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Bruderly's Blog 

A lot of political candidates have established campaign blogs. Most of those that I've seen are a series of press clippings favorable to the candidate (see, for instance, Betty Castor's blog), and there's nothing wrong with that.

Dave Bruderly is running for Congress from Florida's 6th district, and is putting out a more hard-hitting campaign blog.

I don't know what kind of chance Bruderly has against Republican incumbent Cliff Stearns, but if they read his blog the voters will certainly know where he stands.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Hurricane Aftermath - St. Petersburg 

Costa Tsiokos, at Population Statistic, blogs on one reason why Target is everything K-Mart is not, although the hurricane just confirmed what most people already knew.

Hurricane Frances - Broward County 

Our Flag Was Still There Posted by Hello

Monday, September 06, 2004

Don't Take Your Plywood Down 

After Charley and Frances, is Ivan next?

Five day forecast for Hurricane Ivan Posted by Hello

It's still a long way out, but projections have South Florida feeling Ivan by this coming Saturday. Barely enough time to clean up the debris from Frances.

Frances left our home without power for thirty hours, but many households in Palm Beach and counties to the north will not have electricity restored before Saturday.

The best bet? Buy Home Depot stock.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Hurricane Frances 

Lost power early on, and still without it at home (I just came into work to check on damage -- none, and electricity is on).

Here in northern Broward County/south Palm Beach County area there are a whole lot of trees and branches down, but little significant damage to structures.

I had a huge gumbo limbo branch come crashing down last night, but it missed hitting anything. Relatives in the Wellington area lost a big avocado tree -- fortunately it fell away from the house. Still haven't heard from aunt & uncle in Port St. Lucie.

We were lucky this time -- now what's this I hear about Ivan?

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Not Again! 

YIKES! Posted by Hello

The Big Picture 

Rightwing bloggers like to accuse the "elite" media of ignoring stories when they fail to report something like a carpet factory reopening in Iraq, but they are not too worried that bigger issues fail to make the papers.

Project Censored has selected the top issues that are not receiving much attention, including"Wealth inequality in 21st century threatens economy and democracy," "New nuke plants: taxpayers support, industry profits" and "Bush administration manipulates science and censors scientists."

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