Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Hey, It's Not Like its a Buddhist Statue 

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel editorializes today on the on-going deterioration of Ernest Hemingway's house in Cuba, Finca Vigía (Lookout Farm), efforts by American preservation groups to help preserve the landmark, and the Bush administration's refusal to budge from its hardline economic embargo policy in this case.

Hemingway's house in Cuba Posted by Hello
The house, now a museum, contains most of his personal belongings, left untouched by Cuban caretakers, and a library of 9,000 books. By contrast, the house in Key West that is so familiar to tourists from South Florida and around the world has only a few of his belongings and little of his history. The house in Cuba was his one true home.

But it is falling apart. Like the Buendia family home that falls prey to the ravages of time and dissolution in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's masterpiece One Hundred Years of Solitude, water and vegetation have penetrated the walls and foundation. The roof leaks. Mold covers the walls. Termites eat away at the wood frame. The floors are buckling. The bedroom where Hemingway wrote is so close to collapse that the furniture has been put into storage.

It needn't be this way. The U.S.-based Hemingway Preservation Foundation applied for a license that would exempt it from the United States' economic embargo against Communist-governed Cuba and allow it to provide money and expertise for the home's restoration. The Bush administration denied the request on the grounds that any help for Hemingway's house would boost Cuban tourism and provide financial assistance to Fidel Castro's government.
The Bush administration has made it clear that it will not soften its stand on Cuba, and has taken steps in the recent past to make the embargo more complete. All to punish Castro.

In preventing U.S. preservationists from helping to save Hemingway's Cuban home, the administration is punishing Americans and individuals throughout the world who value Hemingway's contributions to our culture and literature. The message is that nothing transcends the political agenda -- sentiments with which Castro might agree.

Of course the final irony is that Castro could survive longer than Finca Vigía.

[Last month, the New York Times ran an article on the Hemingway house.]

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Cult of Personality 

Hasn't this been tried before, in the Soviet Union, China, Iraq, North Korea, Albania . . .?

On the other hand, I'm glad to see that media consolidation is working so well.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Are You Still Here? 

Need you ask who pays for Florida's tax cuts? Oh, you thought that cutting taxes would generate more revenues -- a rising tide lifts all boats?

Get your head out of the clouds.

Lakeland blog Interstate4Jamming notes that in order to save money, the Department of Children and Families is consolidating its offices.
It's already occurred in Polk County, where the four DCF office which processes eligibility for food stamps and other services were closed and moved to the district headquarters in South Lakeland. It's a helluva drive for someone from Haines City or Frostproof, around 30-45 minutes away, who needs even basic services. An applicant is no longer allowed to meet with a caseworker; you simply apply and (if needed) put copies of your required supporting paperwork in a large box...and pray that it doesn't get lost or misplaced. And the office itself is damned hard to find: It's located in the a furniture store extension turned into an office building, with the entrance in back and no markings from South Florida Boulevard directing you.
Make it hard enough and maybe they'll go away.

American Madrassa 

Jerry Falwell's Liberty University has established a new law school dedicated to bringing a biblical perspective to the law. The New York Times has an article about the school, and my first thought was that if this was an Islamic institution people would be going nuts.
The class in civil procedure, at the new Liberty School of Law here, began with a prayer.

"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul," said Prof. Jeffrey C. Tuomala, quoting Psalm 19. "The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple."

But decisions of the United States Supreme Court, Professor Tuomala went on, are not always trustworthy. "Something that is contrary to the law of nature," he said, "cannot be law."
"The prevailing orthodoxy at the elite law schools is an extreme rationalism that draws a strong distinction between faith and reason," said Bruce W. Green, Liberty's dean.
"If our graduates wind up in the government," Dr. Falwell said, "they'll be social and political conservatives. If they wind up as judges, they'll be presiding under the Bible."
"We study the law that's written on the heart, the things that no one can deny," [student] Brian Fraser said.
Let me just say it here -- I consider Falwell and his ilk (Robertson, Dobson, etc.)no better than the extremist mullahs who run Iran. The only difference is that, thankfully, our holier-than-thou variety aren't running the country . . . yet. But they're trying.

Now, the right-wingers are fond of charging liberals with being anti-religion, and certainly anti-Christian, and I suppose you can find someone who espouses whatever cause you want. But there is a big difference between being anti-Christian and opposing the power-grabs of a cabal of power-hungry, right-wing kooks hiding behind an alter.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Double Standard 

Florida's last Democrat standing, Senator Bill Nelson, has taken up for the Boy Scouts. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel,"he is confident Congress would never allow the Defense Department's settlement of a religious discrimination lawsuit to cut off assistance from the military."

The Carpetbagger Report notices an "odd double standard" in the way Congress comes to the defense of the Boy Scouts while looking the other way when the Girl Scouts are attacked.
The Boy Scouts embrace obviously discriminatory policies when it comes to religion and sexual orientation. When the Defense Department decides to distance itself from those policies, Congress is outraged and rushes to the Boy Scouts' defense. The House, as the AP put it, found it necessary to "condemn criticism" of the group.

However, it's odd that Congress finds it necessary to "condemn criticism" of Boy Scouts while politicians are completely disinterested in more serious criticism of the Girl Scouts.

It rarely generates headlines, but far-right Republicans have targeted the Girl Scouts with pointed attacks for several years.

Leading the way has been Focus on the Family leader James Dobson. In a now-infamous 1994 article (which is no longer online), a Dobson magazine delivered a scathing attack on the Girl Scouts, insisting the group had "lost their way" after the Scouts made a religious oath optional for membership. (In Dobson's world, faith shouldn't be voluntary; it should be mandated on children by authority figures demanding vows of allegiance.)

Dobson added that the Girl Scouts are "pushing a philosophy -- a philosophy that includes humanism and radical feminism." In response, there was no congressional resolution honoring the Girl Scouts for its public service efforts.
Carpetbagger cites other instances of attacks on the Girl Scouts, including a boycott of Girl Scout cookies in Crawford, Texas, because of the youth organization's supposed ties to Planned Parenthood and an article in the National Review charging "the Girl Scouts are under the sway of radical feminists and lesbians."

Sen. Nelson, unlike most of those defending the Boy Scouts' right to discriminate on the basis of religion, noted that those who opposed federal funding of the organization are "well-intentioned."

You don't hear those words much anymore.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Fire Up the Website 

If it's true that Steve Spurrier is going to be coaching at South Carolina, and if, as seem to be the case, University of Florida's president, Bernie Machen and athletic director, Jeremy Foley, rebuffed Steve's feelers about being the Gator's "ball coach," then it's time to get the "firemachenandfoley.com" website going.

I can't imagine Spurrier coaching at another SEC school, unless he felt insulted by the UF administration.

Foley's job might very well hang on next year's Gator - Gamecock game.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Is This What Art Museums Are For? 

It's been a very busy two weeks, and I purposely kept myself from blogging in hopes of actually getting everything else accomplished.

Recently I attended a fundraising event at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art. The featured exhibit, a mini-blockbuster, of sorts, is Diana: A Celebration.

Apparently this exhibit is bringing in a lot of visitors and money, and I know that art can cover a wide variety of media and subjects, but I left with the feeling that this was just an aristocratic version of a traveling exhibit of Elvis memorabilia.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Purple Nation 

We hear much about red and blue states, but Boing Boing has posted a map that shows the color of each state as a function of the percentage of the vote; the more Republican, the more red and the more Democratic, the more blue. There's a whole lot of purple.

A different way of looking at the vote. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Election Aftermath 

I'm bummed.

I would like to think that free from the concern of being re-elected, President Bush will chart a more moderate course in the coming four years. But given that so many of the people surrounding him are outside the pragmatic tradition of American politics and governance, I'm not too optimistic.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


My son, away at college, did not receive the absentee ballot he requested and was prepared to make a 250 mile trip to vote today. Several other students from Broward County were in the same situation and decided to travel together.

It appeared, however, that the student my son was riding with was planning to vote for Bush. So they agreed neither of them would go, since they would just be canceling out each other's vote.

Not everyone could find a satisfactory solution, as Sun-Sentinel columnist Michael Mayo discovered:
[There are many] out-of-towners who never got their absentee ballots.

The elections office blames the post office. The post office blames the elections office. Voters like Sharon Rieck and Stephen McCoy Jr. don't really care.

McCoy, 41, of Margate, is working for the Federal Emergency Management Agency in hurricane-ravaged Indian River County. He is a Republican and a Bush supporter. He was assured his absentee ballot would arrive by FedEx by Monday. It didn't.

McCoy cannot leave work to vote. "We're trying to get people back in their houses," said McCoy, who has been assigned to a housing task force with strict deadlines.

Sharon Rieck, of Fort Lauderdale, also can't be in South Florida to vote. She and husband Harry are setting up a new home and business in Maryland. She requested absentee ballots four times. On Saturday, her husband received two ballots -- one by mail and another by FedEx.

She still doesn't have any. The FedEx envelope didn't contain her ballot, as the elections office promised.

"They keep talking about the post office, but it wasn't the post office that sent only one ballot in the FedEx envelope," said Rieck, an independent who wanted to vote for Kerry. "This is a joke."

Desperate, Rieck took her husband's extra ballot and filled it in. On the envelope, she crossed out his name, wrote hers, and signed it with her voter's number and an affidavit that this was her only ballot.

She also wrote a brief explanation to the canvassing board that will examine the ballot later today. She ended with a simple plea: "Please honor my right to vote."
It is almost beyond belief that with the example of the 2000 election fiasco still fresh in everyone's mind (not to mention the fate of the Supervisors of Elections in Broward and Palm Beach counties), there would still be so many screw-ups.

Monday, November 01, 2004

What to Save? 

Before too long buildings built in the 1960s will be old enough to be considered historic -- some have already been recognized as worthy of preservation.

The New York Times addresses the issues involved in saving buildings that have not yet achieved widespread respect. "For preservationists, the challenge is to separate the masterpieces from the mediocrities before the wrecking ball takes both. Politicians, developers and philanthropists will have to decide which buildings are worth going to bat for."

The article notes the situation in Palm Beach County, where a 1960s addition (actually more of an envelope)is being demolished to expose the county's 1916 courthouse.

1916 Palm Beach County Courthouse Posted by Hello

The preservation of recent architecture is of particular concern to South Floridians, as so much of the existing built environment dates from the post World War II era. Politicians and developers have not had a good record of saving the region's earliest structures, and there is no indication that they have any appreciation for late twentieth century architecture.

A new book MiMo: Miami Modern Revealed, by Eric P. Nash and Randall C. Robinson, Jr., examines the architectural style that followed Art Deco in South Florida.
MiMo is an umbrella term that describes modernist architecture with a unique South Florida twist -- elements that pay homage to both our climate and our location as a vacation destination. You can be pretty sure you're looking at MiMo if you're seeing gold anodized aluminum, space-age-style floating staircases or catwalks.
Along with the book's authors, Terri D'Amico, an interior designer and adjunct professor of interior design at Florida International University, has been a strong advocate for the significance of the style.
One of the key elements of MiMo that D'Amico likes to point out is its visual glamour and optimism. In this post war period Americans were taking their first vacations. Social Security made it possible for Americans to retire to Florida.

"They were like Hollywood sets," says D'Amico of many MiMo buildings. "You were to pull up in your car and feel like you were on a Hollywood set, but you were Joe Schmoe from Indiana."

MiMo architecture on Miami Beach Posted by Hello

North of Miami, the Broward Trust for Historic Preservation, a relatively new preservation organization, has been attempting to champion the area's mid-century buildings. A sampling of Broward County's more distinctive 1950s and 1960s structures is showcased on the group's website.

M. Malkin, Education Consultant 

Michelle Malkin is upset that a public school is showing Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11.

Of course the fact that the film is being shown in a class for a propaganda and politics lesson doesn't matter to Ms. Malkin. The school still gets an "F" from her.

Perhaps the students should be viewing something less controversial, like Triumph of the Will. (Actually, they should be seeing that one, too).

One of the Many Reasons I'm Voting for Kerry 

Who are the Florida Leadership Council? The organization does not appear to be registered with the Florida Division of Corporations and its website does not provide information on any individual associated with the 527 organization. But a little bit of sluthing indicates that the FLC is run by Cory Tilley, Governor Bush's former Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director. Tilley also served a Communitions Director for the Republican Party of Florida.

This somewhat mysterious organization came to my attention by way of a full page advertisement in today's South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The ad is a complete falsification of John Kerry's postion on defense of the nation. Trading on Kerry's use of the term "global test" the ad asks "Do we need the French to sign a permission slip before we act to protect our national security? Should we ask the Germans if it's OK with them if we defend ourselves?

Of course this is not what Kerry said -- in fact it is exactly the opposite of what he stated in his debate with President Bush.

It's telling that no Florida leader would publicly associate his or her name with this "leadership" organization, in the ad or on the FLC website.

And Cory Tilley? He's president of Coremessage, Inc., a communications and public realtions firm, and is registered as an officer or registered agent for other organizations such as The Coalition to Protect Florida, Inc. (formed to oppose the class-size amendment) and Floridians for Family Values, Inc.

This sort of electioneering is not the first for Tilley. Last year he was investigated by the Florida Elections Commission for violating campaign finance laws:
A mysterious committee that launched an advertising campaign against slot machines at the state's horse and dog tracks is being investigated by the Florida Elections Commission.

Floridians for Family Values was formed this year by Cory Tilley, who owns a public relations firm and is a former communications director for Gov. Jeb Bush.

Tilley, chairman of the group, will not say who provided the money or paid for advertisements mailed out to thousands of Floridians in April.
The investigation recently lead to charges being filed:
A committee formed by Cory Tilley, former communications director for Gov. Jeb Bush, has been charged with 13 counts of violating Florida elections law.

The charges, approved by the Florida Elections Commission, involve Floridians for Family Values, a group formed with mysterious financial backing in early 2003.

Tilley, a communications consultant, formed the group as a political committee and failed to file required reports documenting contributions and expenditures.

When reports were required in July 2003, Tilley tried to "decertify" the committee, contending it did not spend money to influence an election and should not have to file reports.
Makes one wonder whether Tilley is up to his old tricks with the so-called Florida Leadership Council.

These are the people in whom the Republicans want us to place our trust.

SLEAZE UPDATE: Josh Marshall (Talking Points Memo) notes another FLC advertisment that takes the Republican scare tactics into the future.

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