Monday, January 31, 2005

Put that Camera Down 

Here's a trend that just doesn't seem right -- copyrighted public space.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

History as Art 

If an architect is a combination of artist and engineer, is the architectural product a work of art?

Maybe so, but that concept is being tested as Christie's will be accepting bids (minimum $1.2 million, please) on the "Umbrella House" in Sarasota.
"The concept of offering real estate as art is a very new concept," says Steven Good, chairman and CEO of Sheldon Good & Company, which is overseeing the sale. "We've had interest from all over the U.S. and elsewhere."

Only two other houses have been sold at art auctions. Philip Johnson's Rockefeller Guest House, located in Manhattan, was the first, in 1989; it was auctioned again in 2000. Last year, the National Trust bought Mies Van der Rohe's Farnsworth House, located in Plano, Ill., from Sotheby's.
The house was designed by Paul Rudolph in 1953 in the modern style. Christie's describes the structure as an "architectural masterpiece."
Built as the model home in the Modernist enclave of Lido Shores, located on Lido Key, the home has become one of the icons of midcentury Modern design. The Umbrella House was named for its huge wooden trellis, which extended the width of the home and enveloped the terrace and pool. The “umbrella” no longer exists, but the house has otherwise been faithfully restored.
The auction will take place on February 23rd.

Umbrella House (1953) Posted by Hello

Better than . . .? 

Juan Cole, a scholar of Middle Eastern history and politics at the University of Michigan, is on C-Span's Washington Journal this morning. He is often portrayed by conservatives as a radical anti-Bush ideologue, but his comments on the show today are thoughtful and insightful.

He is, of course, no cheerleader for the invasion of Iraq. From his blog today:
In his appearances on Wednesday, President Bush said that it was a positive that Iraqis are even having elections, since three years ago it would have seemed out of the question. You know, if all you have to boast about is that you are better than Saddam Hussein, it isn't actually a good sign. Can you imagine what would have happened to the Republican Party if its reply to Kerry's criticisms of last summer had been, "Well, the American Republican Party is a damn sight more progressive than Hitler was." Saddam was overthrown on April 9, 2003. It is 2005, and the US has been running Iraq for nearly two years. Now the question is, how does the situation in Iraq compare to the Philippines, or India, or Turkey. Answer: It sucks. There is little security, people are killed daily, there is a massive crime wave, and elections are being held in which most of the candidates cannot be identified for fear of their lives. So the conclusion is that the Bush administration has done a worse job in Iraq than the Congress Party does in India, or the AK Party does in Turkey. That's the standard of comparison once Saddam was gone.
As the old saying goes, "It's not good enough to be better than the worst . . . "

Monday, January 24, 2005

Science vs. Ideology 

Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt, writing in the Real Climate blog, take on the various studies that claim to refute global warming:

The current thinking of scientists on climate change is based on thousands of studies (Google Scholar gives 19,000 scientific articles for the full search phrase "global climate change"). Any new study will be one small grain of evidence that adds to this big pile, and it will shift the thinking of scientists slightly. Science proceeds like this in a slow, incremental way. It is extremely unlikely that any new study will immediately overthrow all the past knowledge. So even if the conclusions of the Shaviv and Veizer (2003) study discussed earlier, for instance, had been correct, this would be one small piece of evidence pitted against hundreds of others which contradict it. Scientists would find the apparent contradiction interesting and worthy of further investigation, and would devote further study to isolating the source of the contradiction. They would not suddenly throw out all previous results. Yet, one often gets the impression that scientific progress consists of a series of revolutions where scientists discard all their past thinking each time a new result gets published. This is often because only a small handful of high-profile studies in a given field are known by the wider public and media, and thus unrealistic weight is attached to those studies. New results are often over-emphasised (sometimes by the authors, sometimes by lobby groups) to make them sound important enough to have news value. Thus "bombshells" usually end up being duds.
My impression is that the concept of a man-made global warming is most strongly opposed by those of a libertarian bent since responding to an environmental crisis of this sort cannot be left to individual choice or market decisions. It would be a losing strategy to argue what should be done on the basis of libertarian values versus science, thus the effort to cast doubt on the overwhelming amount of research that points to global warming.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Trust Me, I'm a Doctor 

At the risk of being accused of having a contemptuous attitude toward red state values . . . .

What a colossal pinhead!

Unfortunately, he's a dangerous pinhead.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Martin Luther King Day 

From Martin Luther King's Nobel Prize acceptance speech:
Most of these people will never make the headlines and their names will not appear in Who's Who. Yet when years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvelous age in which we live -- men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization -- because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness' sake.
Delivered December 10, 1964, Oslo, Norway.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

You Can't Spell Constitution Without Con 

Blog de Leon reflects on the Florida constitution:
The campaign against the spate of amendments that have been added to Florida's Constitution in recent years is anti-democratic and anti-choice. Its priorities are elitist, and its distrust in the voters is ugly. So perhaps it may come as no surprise to learn about a GOP plot to dump our present Constitution and write a new one.
As the conquistador notes, The history of the Florida constitution is a history of change. In any case, state constitutions are supposed to be more accessible to citizen initiatives than is the federal constitution.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Explore Florida 

Here's a useful website -- Exploring Florida: Social Studies Resources for Students and Teachers.

You don't have to be a student or a teacher to enjoy viewing the thousands of historic photographs and maps, listening to music about Florida, playing the videos and just browsing through all kinds of interesting stuff.

The site is produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, College of Education, University of South Florida.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Key West has a new museum . . . or is it an attraction? Or both?

Pirate Soul opened recently to much hoopla in the island city. The project is the brainchild of Pat Croce, who chronicles the opening in his blog.

If Pirate Soul, the museum, is as well done as Pirate Soul, the website, it should be a "must see."

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Reprieve for Biltmore 

The St. Petersburg Times reports that the developer who had planned to demolish the 1897 Belleview Biltmore Hotel has backed off in the face of local opposition.

Belleview Biltmore Hotel (USF Special Collections) Posted by Hello

Few think that this is the end of threats to the historic structure. As one developer stated,
"The Biltmore properties are all trophies in their own regard with a lot of development potential . . . Just because this group didn't bring their dream to reality this time, does not mean that it won't happen."

"The highest and best use of this property is not being utilized today,"
The sprawling hotel was built by Henry Plant, who also built the distinctive Tampa Bay Hotel in Tampa. The Belleview Biltmore is said to be the world's largest occupied wooden structure.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Know Your Enemy 

Regions of Mind has an interesting post the different view of warfare held by Europeans and Southeastern Indians during the early colonial era.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Only the Best for Florida 

Governor Bush needed someone to write speeches, policy proposals and other public communications. One would think that this would be a job that would attract a large number of bright, articulate and forthright individuals.

Lloyd Brown got the job. His politics are undoubtedly in sync with the Gov.'s, but he has a little baggage -- like plagiarism and viewing pornography while on the job.

Oh, and penning lines such as,
Affirmative action was put into effect 35 years ago. It was racial discrimination but it was justified by Congress on the grounds that Americans of African ancestry should be given preferences to make up for past wrongs.

Among the wrongs was slavery, which existed briefly in America but ended more than a century ago.

However, while it is unfortunate that people from Africa were slaves in 18th century America, it was not unique.
(emphasis added)
Where does he get these guys?

(via Flablog)

Friday, January 07, 2005

The Odd Couple 

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports that Broward County Mayor, Kristin Jacobs, and Fort Lauderdale Mayor, Jim Naugle, are "willing to speak out against passage of a March referendum that would allow the county's three racetracks and one jai-alai fronton to install slot machines."
"It's such a bad deal," Naugle said. "The tax money will be distributed statewide and we're the ones stuck with the huge social costs of dealing with the addiction and the crime."

Jacobs said she is philosophically opposed to additional gambling. She vowed to campaign against the referendum despite what appears to be residents' overwhelming support of more slots.

"I'll be speaking my mind and take the consequences," Jacobs said. "I've never shied away from standing up for what I believe in."
Other than this issue,the two mayors couldn't be more different in their political philosophies. Mayor Jacobs is an ardent environmentalist and has advocated causes such as fair wage provisions and mass transit. She believes that government can be a positive force in creating a better quality of life.

Mayor Naugle (who has been Fort Lauderdale's mayor longer than any other who has served in that office)is militantly anti-big government. Although a registered Democrat, he can be counted on to support -- verbally, at least, -- a variety of right-wing causes.

UPDATE: Blog de Leon looks back at gambling in Florida.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Edjukashun in Florida 

To almost no one's surprise, Florida's priorities were underscored by a new report on funding for education:
The state ranked 47th based on data from 2002 and adjusted to account for "regional cost differences." The ranking mirrors other findings.

Only Arizona, Mississippi, Nevada and Utah spent less than Florida on students in kindergarten to 12th grade, based on the newspaper's ranking of the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Florida's adjusted spending per student was $6,492 a year, or about $1,200 less than the national average, according to the newspaper's annual "Quality Counts" report. The report was based on data from 2002 because that was the last year for which comparable information was available nationwide. But the report's authors said they doubted data from more recent years would drastically shift the rankings.
Admittedly there is not a one-to-one correlation between spending and performance, but come on. . . 47th?

Defending Florida's fourth from the bottom ranking, State Sen. Evelyn Lynn (Republican from Ormond Beach) was quoted as saying "Frankly, I don't think the amount of dollars equates to a top-quality education . . ."

In case you forgot, this is the same Evelyn Lynn who supported both the death penalty for juveniles and cutting funding for foster children attending college once they turn 18. A real advocate for children.

UPDATE: North Florida blogger, Dred, tries to make the case that Florida's education system is not bad, merely mediocre.

Dred cites Castle Hill Elementary in Broward County as an example of how funding and achievement don't correlate, but provides no context.

Castle Hill's student population is drawn from an economically depressed area. Comparing the Castle Hill zip code (33313)to Broward County as a whole, median family income is less than two-thirds of the county's, and there is over twice the percentage of individuals below the poverty line as in the county (or the nation, for that matter). The median value of housing in 33313 is less than 70% of the median for Broward as a whole. More than one out of three residents in 33313 are foreign-born, compared to 25% for Broward County (16.7% for Florida and 11% for the United States). (Statistics from U. S. Census Bureau)

The point? Castle Hill is hardly a typical elementary school to make the case that funding doesn't count.

UPDATING the UPDATE: Actually, Dred quotes from an article in Education Week that uses the Castle Hill example -- he didn't come up with it on his own.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

On Confirming Gonzales 

Population Statistic:
Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales promises to abide by the Geneva Convention’s prohibitions against torture, despite arguing in 2002 that the War Against Terror rendered them obsolete. This position, and his role as a top legal aide to President Bush, contributed to Abu Ghraib and other prisoner abuses.

Call me crazy, but if an AG prospect has to issue a verbal assurance that he won’t break international treaty obligations, his qualifications are shaky at best. It’s like needing a written statement from a potential chief of police that he’s not a shoplifter, or from a drug counselor that he’s not a crack addict.
. . . the Democrats ought to lead the Senate in exercising its Constitutional duties of oversight via the confirmation process. By and large, this administration has operated its legal war on terrorism out of the public view, and without public debate, since Sept. 11. There are broad policy questions that deserve such debate, and which can be effectively aired during these hearings, in my opinion. Moreover, even if the Senate does not torpedo this nomination, it can still do some good by asking these questions and using the confirmation process as a tool by which to scrutinze conduct which the Bush administration has claimed to be their executive prerogative (and unscrutinizable by anyone — Congress or the courts) since Sept. 11. The Senate has both the right and the duty to ask Mr. Gonzales the tough questions, and it must do so.
Many chickenhearted Senators believe that they expend political capital by opposing cabinet nominations, when in fact opposing the right ones may create it. But even if I’m wrong about that, for some things — torture, fundamental constitutional principles — the calculations should be left aside.
As far as I’m concerned, Congress was almost as much to blame for Iraq as Bush — they wrote him a blank check, with the Gulf of Tonkin precedent sitting there in front of them. If there isn’t some serious attempt in Congress to come to grips with the torture scandal in the next year, then some of the torture dirt will stick to them as well.

No Questions Please 

Andrew Sullivan responds to Glenn Reynolds assertion that criticism of torture is "anti-Bush" and likely to result in "the ratification of torture."
The point is not "an anti-Bush political issue." It's about whether the United States condones torture of prisoners (many of whom have turned out to be innocent) in its care. Since president Bush shifted U.S. policy to one which allows what any sane person would call torture, any criticism of the policy, by its very nature, has to be "anti-Bush." And when the president responds to his egregious error - which has undermined the war - by rewarding those who helped him make it, like Gonzales and Bybee, are we all supposed to roll over? Is all legitimate criticism of the administration now reducible to this kind of inane partisanship? Glenn's deeper point is that if you ask for torture to be stopped, the majority of Americans will respond by saying: ramp it up. But that amounts to complete capitulation to something no civilized person should tolerate . . .
Of course right now one the main fears of those who would like to sweep the issue under the rug is that torture might be a difficult subject for President Bush's nominee for Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, to handle in confirmation hearings, given his record.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Where Will They Live? 

Housing prices in Florida -- particularly in the urban areas -- are skyrocketing. Good for those who already own their homes, but what about those who haven't yet jumped on the carousel? Local governments across the state are grappling with how to provide affordable housing.

An article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune tells of efforts in that county to address this issue. The basic problem:
Roughly 65 percent of the county's workers are in service jobs, like restaurant or retail sales, and earn an average of $24,000 a year.

According to federal guidelines, a worker in that income bracket can afford to spend no more than $600 a month on housing expenses, including utilities.

Yet a market-rate, two-bedroom apartment here is nearly $750 a month. And the monthly payments on a home in this area, where the median price now exceeds $256,000, can be higher than that.

With food, clothing, medicine, car and other expenses, that average service worker cannot get ahead -- especially if he or she is in a single-income household with dependents.
Many earn significantly less than $24,000. Based on Department of Labor figures, the average child care worker earns about $15,000 a year, while the annual income of a nursing aide is usually less than $20,000.

Like many other Florida counties, Sarasota has put much of the burden for providing affordable housing on developers. Now the county wants to spread the responsibility:
They will also consider putting employers who pay low wages on the spot.

The idea is known elsewhere as a "linkage fee" because it establishes a link between low-wage jobs and workers' struggles with rising housing expenses.

The fee would be collected when commercial or industrial employers pull permits in the unincorporated areas of the county. The charge could range from a few cents to several dollars for each square foot of new construction.

The money would go into the trust fund and could be used to offer down payment assistance, repair existing homes or buy land for nonprofit home builders.
Needless to say, there is a lot of opposition to this proposal and it remains to be seen if there is the political will to pass this measure, or if it will work.

Whatever, Florida governments will increasingly be faced with housing costs that are outpacing the wages of many citizens.

(via bayciti)

Palm Beach County's First Temple 

Efforts are being made to preserve the first Jewish temple in Palm Beach County, a 1920s structure located in West Palm Beach.
Renewed interest in the temple began with a West Palm Beach city historic preservation board hoping that someone would step up and save it from the wrecking ball of developer WCI. The developer, which plans to build a condo on the property between Broward Avenue and Flagler Drive not far from Currie Park, was willing to talk to people who wanted to move the building, but there were no guarantees.

Lately, Joseph Pubillones, co-chairman of the city's historic preservation board, has gotten calls from people and religious groups who have said they want to help save the building.

And the Historical Society of Palm Beach County is working with officials from the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County and the Anti-Defamation League to decided how to preserve the building and where.
One plan would have the structure once again serving as a synagogue.

A Unified Theory of BS 

Right-winger Hugh Hewitt, shilling his new book in the Weekly Standard, will probably be treated as an oracle by that publication's faithful readers.

Of course he is going after the wingers' favorite target -- the so-called mainstream media (MSM or legacy media). Hewitt says of the nations newspapers and broadcast news organizations, "the devastation is pretty complete."

Oh, really?

Well, according to Hewitt the proof is in attacks on New York Times and Washington Post articles by bloggers who Hewitt claims are "pummeling" the press.

Right-wingers view the Sixties and early Seventies as the beginning of the nation's decline, and Hewitt is right in step:
With the arrival of the civil rights movement, journalism slowly began to reform itself and to work overtime to represent underrepresented political and social points of view. There developed a great tolerance for viewpoints and perspectives from ideological minorities, and a great hunger to represent those views not only in the media product but also in the media workforces. First opposition to the Vietnam war and then the hunting of Richard Nixon accelerated this trend, so that old media quickly evolved into a fortress of "oppositional" reporting and personnel.

The new recruits to big journalism and their mentors did not work overtime to assure that, in the elevation of tolerance of ideological minorities, there would remain representation of majoritarian points of view. In fact, majoritarian points of view became suspect, and the focus of pervasive hostile reporting and analysis. Crusading journalists seemed to be an ideological pack.
. . . . . .
[Big media had become] a self-replicating echo chamber of left and further-left scribblers and talkers and self-reinforcing head nodders who were overwhelmingly anti-Republican, anti-Christian, anti-military, anti-wealth, anti-business, and even anti-middle class.
And just what might be the marjoritarian point of view? Hewitt doesn't say, other than that Rush Limbaugh represents it.

That anyone would take what Rush Limbaugh says as insightful commentary brings into question their own judgment. But that's OK with Hewitt, because at least you know where he's coming from (as opposed to Thomas Friedman, Maureen Dowd, Paul Krugman, et. al.?).

But back to majoritarian views. What Hewitt and the other members of the blog mob call majoritarian views can only be expressed in the abstract or in opposition to the specific views of others. When the self-proclaimed majoritarian views get specific, they tend to break down, which is why most of the conservative commentary on, say, Social Security privatization are attacks on "New Deal thinking" or individuals who do not support the President's position (whatever that might be).

Like his counterparts, O'Reilly, Scarborough, Limbaugh, Miller, etc., Hewitt is a blowhard who figured out that you don't need to fool all the people all the time -- fooling some people some of the time is enough to make a lot of money.

(via Sayfie Review)

Monday, January 03, 2005

They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore 

The conquistador recalls Governor Leroy Collins:
Collins wasn't a perfect man, and he had endorsed segregation throughout his career as a statewide officeholder. It was in the waning days of his term as governor when he made an impromptu speech in Jacksonville describing segregation as "morally wrong." This ignited strong feelings, which were used against him by Ed Gurney the brutal 1968 campaign for the Untied States Senate. Collins lost and retired into the mist of history, where his reputation has been growing stronger with every passing year. (Gurney's name is all but forgotten, and one can only wonder about what Collins might have accomplished in the Senate.)
Governor Collins made us proud to be Floridians.

"We Are Men" 

The reenactment of the battle that began the Second Seminole War -- the Dade Massacre -- was held on January 1st near Bushnell. Although the ambush had happened on December 28th, once again Major Dade's troops were wiped out, almost to a man.

This year, however, the Seminoles were without their narrator, Chief Billy Cypress, who had died the previous April.
As the Dade Battlefield Reenactment got under way on Saturday, there was a noticeable absence.

The voice of the Seminoles wasn't there.

Chief Billy Cypress of South Florida, the only person in the 24-year history of the re-enactment ever to have narrated the Seminole point of view, died April 12, 2004. In his honor, the Seminole narration was omitted and Cypress' helmet and musket were planted at the forefront of the re-enactment battlefield.
. . . . . . . .
The Seminole point of view, as stated by Billy Cypress in previous re-enactments, was that with the battle, the Seminoles showed the white men that, "We are not dogs, to be beaten. We are men."

Billy Cypress at the Dade Battlefield during a previous reenactment (Florida State ParksPosted by Hello


People who are passionate and sound like they know what they are talking about aren't necessarily right.

According to Corey Pein, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review, a lot of people who should have known better forgot about that during the flap over whether or not documents concerning George Bush's National Guard service were forged or genuine (or something in between).

Give Your fair Share 

Juan Cole has some thoughts on charges by conservatives that the Middle Eastern nations aren't contributing their share to tsunami relief.

Cheers for Preservation 

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel congratulates the Historical Society of Palm Beach County and the Palm Beach County Commission on preserving Palm Beach County's 1916 courthouse.
After what started out as an uphill, costly battle against demolition, the courthouse -- currently undergoing a $20 million restoration to its original 1916 sheen -- is the leading contender of 117 Florida projects competing for state money next year. Even more indicative of how far it's come: The renovated building seems more and more likely to end up on the National Register of Historic Places, the ultimate listing of America's timeless landmarks.
It has, indeed, been a long time in coming -- the fight to save the courthouse has been going on since before the new Palm Beach County judicial complex was completed in 1994.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

The Moral of the Story 

Much has been written about the Republicans representing traditional values-- and that the Democrats are out of step with mid-American morality.

The Palm Beach Post's Stebbins Jefferson wonders exactly what that means:
During the recent election, Alabama was one of the red, allegedly pro-moral values states. Yet it is curious to note that on Nov. 2, when Alabamians voted their values, the majority voted against amending the state constitution to delete segregation-era language.

The Alabama Constitution is nearly 40 times as long as the U.S. Constitution and fraught with 750 amendments. Historically, the document is a cumulative amalgam of legal adjustments intended to disenfranchise blacks and poor whites and grant large landowners dominant political power. During the 1950s, to counter the Supreme Court ruling in Brown vs. Board of Education, the state Legislature inserted language in the Alabama Constitution that required separate schools to be provided "for white and colored children."

This fall, almost a half-century later, Democratic majority leader Ken Guin sponsored an amendment to eliminate the school segregation law that remains in the constitution though it cannot be enforced under federal law. The new amendment submitted for voter approval would delete references to white and colored children and simply guarantee a public education for all citizens of the state. The measure was defeated by a margin of 1,850 votes.
Naturally those who opposed the amendment assure us that this was not a matter of racism, but rather a question of states' rights. Where have we heard that before?

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