Monday, February 28, 2005


Florida's Attorney General, Charlie Crist, wants to "make criminals think twice about violating the sanctity of our churches, synagogues, temples and mosques."

His solution? Create a "new law [that] would enhance penalties for offenses that involve the use or threat of physical force or violence if those crimes are committed in places of worship."

Is this really necessary? Crist references just one incident where parishioners were robbed during a church service. Perhaps there are more, but it is doubtful that this type of crime is a statistically significant percentage of violent lawbreaking in Florida.

Not to be skeptical, but Crist is the person who referred to himself as "Chain Gang Charlie" during his last election campaign, and it never hurts to be able to claim you are tough on crime and working to insure that we can "worship without fear," especially if you might be running for Governor in 2006.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Are These They Guys We Want Deciding the Issue? 

USA Next -- a new right-wing attack group, but with a familiar cast of characters -- has set out to take on opponents of President Bush's Social Security proposal (whatever that is) in the style of the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" sleezebags.

The first salvo is an advertisement that
paint[s] AARP as pro-gay sex - even though it's tough to think of AARP and steamy lust in the same hot breath - and anti-soldier. It showed a soldier with a red X across him, and two gay men kissing at their nuptuals, with the headline "The REAL AARP Agenda."
If you look at its website, it seems the REAL USA Next agenda is cashing in on senior citizens by building a right-wing parallel organization to AARP. Nothing wrong with that, except you would think that it could compete for membership without using deception and slimeball tactics.

Actually, it probably can't.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Neither Social nor Secure 

Writing in the current issue of the New York Review of Books, Paul Krugman tries to "set the record straight" on the future of Social Security. He finds that the so-called Social Security crisis is greatly exaggerated and the administration's solutions are dubious at best.

Moreover, the Social Security debate is masking much more urgent problems that are being ignored (perhaps consciously so):
Here's how the debate is really playing out, in four easy steps:

1. Talking heads and other opinion leaders perceive the issue of an aging population not as it is--a middle-sized problem that can be dealt with through ordinary changes in taxing and spending--but as an immense problem that requires changing everything. This perception is, alas, fueled by books like The Coming Generational Storm, which blur the distinction between the costs imposed by an aging population and the expense of paying for medical advances.

2. Because the demographic problem is perceived as being much bigger than it really is, the spotlight is off the gross irresponsibility of current fiscal policy. As you may have noticed, right now everyone is talking about Social Security, and nobody is talking about the stunning shift from budget surplus to budget deficit since Bush took office.

3. The focus on Social Security--the one part of the federal budget that is actually being run responsibly--is, in practice, offering the architects of our budget deficit an opportunity to do even more damage.

4. Finally, we're not having a serious national discussion about the bigger problem of paying for health care, and we probably can't in today's ideological climate.
Krugman's article is worth reading no matter what your position on the administration's proposals for Social Security might be. Many on the right have a visceral disdain for Krugman, but he is a trained economist, unlike gasbags such as O'Reilly, Cavuto, Hannity and Limbaugh. Unfortunately, from this latter group we are likely to get nothing better than "Swift Boat" style attacks on groups such as the AARP and individuals such as Krugman.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Progress Through Moderation 

The presidential papers of Dwight D. Eisenhower have been placed online -- apparently the first such group of presidential papers to be made available in such a manner.

A quick look at the electronic version of the eight volume work turns up many mundane missives and memos, as one would expect, but there are plenty of gems to be found, as well. In a letter written on February 26, 1959, to Ralph McGill, editor of the Atlanta Constitution, Eisenhower summarizes his views on southern Senators, as regarded the civil rights struggles in their states, as well as his own thoughts on the path to be taken.

Dear Ralph: I was truly interested in your letter of the twenty-third.1 I agree with your observations about the Southern Senatorial group, except that I place Olin Johnston, Thurmond and Eastland in a special group.2 These three, it seems to me, reflect a viewpoint that is not only extreme but rigid. They seem so entrenched in their prejudices and racial antagonisms that they never show so much as a glimmer of a readiness to see the other side of the problem.

I was particularly interested by your evaluation of Senator Talmadge.3 With the equipment he has, it would be a pity if he allows it to be dissipated by a too great anxiety to be "right"--to pick the expression out of your letter.4

It occurs to me that, in these times, there are great opportunities for our abler Southern Senators and Congressmen to rise to real heights of statesmanship. With the party machine normally in pretty good order and confronted by no active, virile and growing opposition party, most of them can be fairly well assured of re-nominations and therefore need not worry too much about their political careers. Many people consider that Holland, Stennis, Fulbright and Talmadge have real ability.5 If they should choose to use that ability with the single thought of promoting the national good, as their own study of the facts might reveal the nation's good, they could become outstanding figures on the national scene, and in history.

At least four others of the so-called Southern group are committed to partisan political ambitions, beyond redemption.

For the two Virginia Senators I have a very great liking, and, in many ways, great respect.6 I think their attitudes toward race are far more flexible than are those of some of the others, even though they have felt forced to take leadership in intransigence. While they sometimes put revenues above obvious national need, it is such a great relief, these days, to find conservatives in spending that I cannot fault them seriously in this particular regard.

Political developments have given to the Democrats a great majority in both the Senate and the House.7 I rather suspect that for the political leadership in these two Houses this is not an unmixed blessing because the Democrat Party is not, by any stretch of the imagination, unified insofar as adherence to common economic convictions and political aims makes a party. The Northern and Southern Democrats have a marriage of convenience and though there is a great deal of family fighting and even, in the election years, talk of a divorce, the matter goes no further than that when the prize of committee chairmanships remains so glittering and tempting.

As you know, the reason that I so earnestly support moderation in the race question is because I believe two things. The first of these is that until America has achieved reality in the concept of individual dignity and equality before the law, we will not have become completely worthy of our limitless opportunities. The second thing is that I believe that coercive law is, by itself, powerless to bring about complete compliance with its own terms when in any extensive region the great mass of public opinion is in bitter opposition. This generalization was true under the carpet-bagging government of the South, under the Prohibition Amendment and the Volstead Act,8 and it is still largely true within the four states you name in the deep South.

But this second fact does not excuse us from using every kind of legitimate influence to bring about enlightenment through education, persuasion, leadership and, indeed, example. Of course, we cannot overlook the need for law, where law is clearly necessary and useful. Stated in another way, neither government--at any level--nor we, as individuals, can neglect our clear responsibilities and duties if we are to progress steadily, even if slowly, toward realization of what we like to call the American dream.

The legislative program I have placed before the Congress is a modest, but I believe, effective, one. Its enactment should be accomplished quickly. One of the finest results that I would anticipate would be a wider acceptance of the philosophy of progress through moderation. This might inspire extremists on both sides to gravitate a bit more toward the center line, which is the only path along which progress in great human affairs can be achieved.9

This letter is long but, as you see, your communication found me in much the same mood as you apparently were.

With warm regard, Sincerely

Eisenhower mentioned Florida's Spessard Holland as a Senator who might be able to put the "national good" above parochial concerns. Holland was a forward looking statesman on many issues, but could at best be described as a moderate on racial matters. Of course in the context of the 1950s, that was no easy task in the South. Like Florida Governor Leroy Collins, Holland's legacy is that he presented a respected and dignified alternative to the extreme segregationists and the racist thugs and goons that followed them.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Fear and Loathing in the Hereafter 

Hunter Thompson is dead at his own hands. The only surprise is that he made it to the age of 65.

The doctor and his counselor Posted by Hello

There are few books that were as memorable as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I remember seeing Dr. Thompson speak at the University of Florida -- outside by the Graham residential area, to an overflow crowd. One of his conditions to come to Gainesville was that he be met at the airport with a limousine, a quart of Wild Turkey and a case of beer (maybe more).

He didn't disappoint the audience. His rambling talk was entertaining, but the highlight of the evening was the question and answer period -- veiled references to evil doings, contemptuous put downs of ass-kissers and some comments that had absolutely no relation to the question asked. In other words, everything we hoped for

One of a kind.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

No Earth Tones Allowed 

Sun-Sentinel television critic, Tom Jicha, reflects on the impact Miami Vice had on television and the city.
As the debut approached that summer in 1984, city fathers were petrified that the show was going to be a sensationalized dramatization of an area where murder was commonplace, drug dealing drove a white-hot illegal economy and cocaine cowboys shot up suburban malls.

This queasiness didn't abate until the premiere hit the air in September. The depictions of out-of-control crime and corrupt cops justified their worst fears.

However, the city never looked more alluring. And in fact, the series turned out to be the best thing ever to happen to the area. Tourism, which had been in a free fall, soared. South Beach was transformed from a languid haven for the Social Security set into a sizzling jet-setter hotspot. Real estate values boomed.

"The city started imitating the show," said award-winning director Thomas Carter, who is credited with creating Vice's unique visual style.
In South Florida, it seemed that everyone watched Miami Vice. Discussions at work the next day revolved around the locations shown (and how Crockett and Tubbs could have possibly gone from one landmark to another via the route used on the show). Even CPAs could be seen wearing t-shirts with suits.

"I can feel it coming in the air tonight . . ." Posted by Hello

Miami and South Florida became unique -- sour lemons were turned into lemonade (with a splash of rum).

Friday, February 04, 2005

Two Fronts 

David Neiwert suggests that while correctly going after foreign terrorist, we shouldn't overlook those who are homegrown:
Since the early 1990s, the vast majority of planned terrorist acts on American soil -- both those that were successfully perpetrated and those apprehended beforehand -- have involved white right-wing extremists. Between 1995 and 2000, over 42 such cases (some, like Eric Rudolph, involving multiple crimes) were identifiable from public records.
Neiwert says we cannot continue to count on the incompetence of domestic terrorists.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

He's Seen Them All 

It's hard to believe that this will be Super Bowl XXXIX -- it seems like only yesterday that the mighty Packers, led by Max McGee and Bart Star, teamed up to defeat the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs in the inaugural contest.

I've watched every Super Bowl except for, perhaps, the best -- Super Bowl III. Alas, I was in the hospital with a just-broken leg (I don't think the doctor was too happy about it, either).

In any case, the Miami Herald's Edwin Pope has one up on almost everybody. He has covered every single Super Bowl for the Herald. He's one of only four sportswriters to have been at every championship game. And he has plenty of memories,
Probably the most memorable pre-game moment for these sportswriting veterans was Jim McMahon of the Chicago Bears mooning a helicopter television camera hovering over the practice field before Super Bowl XX in New Orleans. "It was one of the few times a player did anything newsworthy that week," Pope said. "And McMahon was the biggest jerk of any Super Bowl, he really worked at it."
Pope's favorite player to interview? Phil Simms.

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