Friday, July 29, 2005

Way to Go 

The Naples Daily News lauds a victory for historic preservation:
Utopia. That is what a religious cult known as the Koreshans sought more than 100 years ago when they started a settlement on the banks of the Estero River.

Today, the only remaining home from that ill-fated yet fascinating quest is safe and preserved -- a natural adjunct of the Koreshan State Historic Site. Some 104 acres comprising the Boomer family property has been bought for $14.5 million --— shared by the state and Lee County.

Imagine this: An historic home ripe for redevelopment comes on the civic radar. Preservationists get an asking price from the family, then take it to the state and county. They say "yes." The deal is done.

Orderly, logical, efficient.
The saga of the Koreshan community in Estero is a fascinating, albeit little known, part of Florida's history. The Florida Heritage Collection website has hundreds of photographs relating to the Koreshan experience.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Jump Right In . . . 

Another Florida blogger checks in -- That Florida Blog.

For the Birds 

The Lee County city of Cape Coral may get an official bird -- the burrowing owl.
Cape Coral has an estimated 2,000 burrowing owls -- the largest population in the world.

The owls moved to Cape Coral in the 1950s. They were attracted by the open fields left after trees were chopped to make room for streets and houses.

Despite their abundant numbers, the state has designated the owls as a species of special concern. That's the label given to creatures before they are elevated to threatened status.

Burrowing owls live in burrows, holes and tunnels that can stretch 8 to 12 feet long. They line the tunnels with grass, roots and dung before they lay half a dozen eggs in there.

Owl nesting season starts Feb. 15 and ends July 10.

Adult owls --— which mate for life -- —usually return to the same burrow or a nearby area year after year.

The owls stand about the same height as a 16-ounce soda can.
The little owls are found throughout southern Florida. In fact, on the opposite coast, Florida Atlantic University's mascot, now the Fighting Owls, originated from the number of burrowing owls on campus.

The little critters are hardly the favorites of developers, as finding an inhabited burrowing owl nest on one's property can hold up construction.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Smear or Death 

One of Florida's right-wing bloggers, Truth or Death, thinks wondering about the Republicans' motivations in questioning whether or not Senator Nelson would be "easy on sexual predators" reveals a cry-baby attitude.

Tough guy TorD asks what all the fuss is about; the Republicans were only asking questions.

Of course they weren't only asking questions, they were trying to smear Senator Nelson -- bring up a controversy early in the campaign so that later candidates had something that their back-room boys could spread around when needed. Senator Nelson's opponent would then say that she (or he) certainly wouldn't call him a coward in the war on child molesters, but what can you do with all these rumors?

I'm going to give TorD credit for not being dumb enough to believe that this was just an honest and innocent search for clarification. Rather I think he is following the Republican campaign mantra: "It's not whether they know you're lying; it's whether or not they can prove it."

UPDATE: TorD responds, agreeing that ". . . the RNSC article was a smear job." He just doesn't see anything wrong with that method.

I Didn't Know This 

China has 125 troops in Haiti as part of the international peacekeeping force there.

(via Strategy Page)

Monday, July 25, 2005


Another new level in trashing an opponent, but hardly surprising, as this is what the Republican Party has developed as standard operating procedure.
Sen. Bill Nelson predicted Republican attempts to oust him would get ugly as he sought re-election next year.

But even Nelson was caught off guard when told a Republican group was questioning whether he would be easy on sexual predators simply because he appeared with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in a historically black community of Eatonville, Fla.

After the appearance, the National Republican Senatorial Committee posted items on its Web site asking "Nelson Campaigns With Obama -- Does He Agree With Obama's Record Of Lenience On Sexual Predators?"
Why don't the Republicans just come out and say, "We think Senator Nelson supports pedophiles and child molesters"? At least that would be a more honest approach.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Sgt. Schultz Award 

Governor Bush knows nothing about his 2000 election recount meeting with Supreme Court nominee John Roberts.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Supreme Court Trivia 

John Roberts is 50 years old, and thus could serve as a Supreme Court justice for several decades. With the potential for several other appointments during President Bush's term of office, he could conceivably have justices serving a total of 60 or more years on the bench.

How does this compare with other Presidents?

George Washington got to pick all the original justices (as well as their replacements, while he was in office), and his appointments served a total of 85 years.

Using that figure as a benchmark, the following Presidents selected justices who had more total years of service:
Franklin Roosevelt (141 years)
Andrew Jackson (139 years)
Abraham Lincoln (103 years)
Dwight Eisenhower (92 years)
Richard Nixon (91 years, and counting)
All of the above had multiple terms in which to make appointments to the Supreme Court, so who had the most impact in a single term?
John Adams (69 years)
William Howard Taft (62 years)
Warren G. Harding (47 years)
Several Presidents did not have the opportunity to make any nominations (the most recent being Jimmy Carter) but of those who did, Andrew Johnson fared worse; his only nominee was never acted upon by the Senate. Close behind, John Quincy Adams' sole appointment served only two years.

(source: The Supreme Court Historical Society: Presidential Nominees)

How Safe Are Our Rights? 

Given the debts George W. Bush owes to the radical/theological right, I suppose the nomination of John Roberts is about the best we can realistically expect.

Still, there are some real problems, and of a recent nature, as Slate's Emily Bazelon points out.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

On the Meaning of On 

Quick, now. What is the most egregious misrepresentation going on in America?

The Republican/right-wing defense of Karl Rove? The shifting rationale for the Iraq war? Putting forth the idea that private accounts will save Social Security?

No, sorry.

According to Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy, it's the New York Times use of the word "on" in regard to an ACLU request for FBI documents under the Freedom of Information Act. He claims that since some of the 1,173 pages of documents provided by the FBI may only mention the ACLU and not be primarily about the ACLU, the article in question saying the documents are "on" the ACLU is a "serious misrepresentation."

Of course since the documents have not been made public, no one actually knows what might be in them.

Nice to know that Professor Kerr has so much time on his hands.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Expanding Blogroll 

Just updated my blogroll to the left, adding the 13th Juror from Orlando and Saint Petersblog from St. Pete.

In doing so it struck me that the ranks of Florida bloggers, at least those who are blogging about Florida politics, culture and history, has greatly expanded of late. I haven't been blogging all that long (just a little over two year), and it seems to me that when I started there were only a half dozen, at most, bloggers in that category. Not all are of equal quality or interest, but all have something to say about Florida.

I couldn't bring myself to get rid of a couple links in hope they will return, especially the Conquistador of Florida politics.

Rebuilding Blues 

Pensacola Beach Blog discusses the problems of rebuilding and repairs in the wake of multiple hurricanes, in particular the scarce availability of licensed contractors.

PPB notes,"The Pensacola area, including Pensacola Beach, owes a huge debt of thanks to foreign and out-of-state workers who helped to pick us up when we'd been knocked down by Ivan," inasmuch as there were not enough licensed contractors to get all the work done.

But now restrictions on who can access the beaches ("a resident or a licensed contractor") will have the effect of putting local property owners in a bind.
Those whose homes were damaged again by Hurricane Dennis can't hire a handyman to help seal up their home, apply a blue roof, clean up the debris, or perform a myriad of other necessary post-hurricane tasks -- tasks that need to get done now, well before anyone begins to think about permanent repairs or rebuilding.

These aren't jobs that require a licensed contractor. But you'll have to pay for one, anyway -- or do it yourself.
It seems to me that local governments have some responsibility to protect consumers against frauds and scams, but perhaps they need to take a more compromising position on this issue. Of course many governments are so starved for funds (in some cases self-inflicted) that it is virtually impossible to institute new, or make major shifts in existing, programs.

Why Now isn't too happy about the recovery efforts being put forth by FEMA (and the local power company).

And in a move that says a lot about Florida Power & Light's faith in its electrical system and its ability to make repairs in a timely manner, the company is now entering the business of selling generators.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Where Do They Get These Guys? 

Bark Bark Woof Woof has a post on Senator Rick Santorum's (R-PA) defense of his comment that Boston's liberal attitude is responsible for the Catholic pedophile scandal in that city.

Best line (by Mass. Rep. Martin T. Meehan):
There's not much you can say about someone who claims to have read the Bible cover to cover and came away from it thinking it encourages hatred for fellow human beings.
The Barker may be contributing to the Santorum for President campaign for its entertainment value.

Climate Control 

If you haven't visited the Real Climate website, you should. It describes itself as, "a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary."

A recent post took the Wall Street Journal to task for an editorial on global warming that stated, "the scientific case....looks weaker all the time."

Real Climate examines the WSJ's rationale for that conclusion, point by point, and finds that most assertions are either factually wrong, based on outdated information, "cherry-picked anecdotes" or, "be they intentional or not," misleading.

No screaming, name-calling or jumping up and down; just a reasoned exposition on the current scientific understanding of the phenomenon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Journalism is the Problem 

Charles M. Madigan of the Chicago Tribune says the problem the rightwingers have with the media isn't bias, it's journalism:
It is hard in the news biz not to notice the shifting collections of rationales for this war. It was weapons of mass destruction at first, then it was making Iraq the centerpiece in the push for democracy and now it's because, surprise, the place is crawling with terrorists.

Torture is another one of those things we don't like to hear about. How dare the media suggest the U.S. is involved in torture, or sending war prisoners to places where there are few scruples about collecting intelligence, or humiliating prisoners.

Truth is no defense. It's viewed as unpatriotic. Maybe as liberal.

But it's not. It's just journalism.

In a democracy based on the thought that an informed electorate will make wise decisions, someone has to point out all of these unpleasant things, just so you know what your government is up to.

I know, it's not happy to hear it. It's not patriotic either.

It is just truth building up over time and playing out in context. If you really long for flag-waving news, go to a parade. But that is not what journalism is about.
I was at a lunch meeting the other day and one participant was complaining about the "liberal media's" concentration on all the bad things that are happening in Iraq, and that this editorial slant was all to bring discredit on President Bush.

Kinda like the newspaper ignoring how many students cross the street successfully every day, but then when one child gets hit by a car it places the story on the front page.

(via Romenesko)

Monday, July 11, 2005

Pinellas Pundit 

Another new Florida blog (which I am hardly the first to notice): Saint Petersblog.

I can't decide whether or not the "About Me" biography is supposed to be satirical, but the posts are pretty good.

"Dean of Florida History" Dies 

Perhaps Michael Gannon, one of the foremost Florida historians himself, said it best:
"Who among us who raise pens or touch keyboards in service to Florida history has not known his guidance, his encouragement, his persuasion, perhaps even his goading?"
He being Sam Proctor, who died Sunday in Gainesville at the age of 86.

When I arrived at the University of Florida over three decades ago, Sam Proctor was already a campus legend. Although in those days the study of Florida history was still considered somewhat parochial by many of us students, Sam was setting the stage for the blossoming of the field. In particular, his founding of the university's oral history program has, over the years, produced more than 4,000 interviews of Floridians of all stripes, including Eugene Patterson, Red Barber, Claude Pepper, Billy Osceola, and Ben Hill Griffin, to name just a very few.

For over thirty years he was the editor of the Florida Historical Quarterly, vigilantly upholding scholarly standards (and always exhorting colleagues, students and amateur historians to submit more manuscripts).

He wasn't a particularly prolific writer, but his 1952 book, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward: Florida's Fighting Democrat, is still the authoritative source on the subject. Of course all Gators know Sam for his tireless work in preserving the history of the University of Florida.

The Lakeland Ledger included Sam in its 50 most important Floridians of the 20th century.

Those who love Florida history have lost a good friend.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Not Only Hurricanes 

In Florida when we think of natural disasters we think of hurricanes, and rightly so. We usually don't give much thought to some of the disasters other areas experience, such as volcanic eruptions, mud slides, blizzards and earthquakes.

But anything can happen, and the U.S. Geological Survey chronicled the rare, but real, occurrence of earthquakes in Florida:
A shock occurred near St. Augustine, in the northeast part of the State, in January 1879. The Nation's oldest permanent settlement, founded by Spain in 1565, reported that heavy shaking knocked plaster from walls and articles from shelves. Similar effects were noted at Daytona Beach, 50 miles south. At Tampa, the southernmost point of the felt area, the trembling was preceded by a rumbling sound at 11:30 p.m. Two shocks were reported in other areas, at 11:45 p.m. and 11:55 p.m. The tremor was felt through north and central Florida, and at Savannah, Georgia.

In January 1880, Cuba was the center of two strong earthquakes that sent severe shock waves through the town of Key West, Florida. The tremors occurred at 11 p.m. on January 22 and at 4 a.m. on the 23rd. At Buelta Abajo and San Christobal, Cuba, many buildings were thrown down and some people were killed.

The next tremor to be felt by Floridians also centered outside the State. It was the famous Charleston, South Carolina, shock in August 1886. The shock was felt throughout northern Florida, ringing church bells at St. Augustine and severely jolting other towns along that section of Florida's east coast. Jacksonville residents felt many of the strong aftershocks that occurred in September, October, and November 1886.

On June 20, 1893, Jacksonville experienced another slight shock, apparently local, that lasted about 10 seconds. Another minor earthquake shook Jacksonville at 11:15 a.m., October 31, 1900. It caused no damage.

A sudden jar caused doors and windows to rattle at Captiva in November 1948. The apparent earthquake was accompanied by sounds like distant heavy explosions. Captiva is located on Captiva Island, in the Gulf west of Fort Myers.

On November 18, 1952, a slight tremor was felt by many at Quincy, a small town about 20 miles northwest of Tallahassee. Windows and doors rattled, but no serious effects were noted. One source notes, "The shock interfered with writing of a parking ticket." It didn't say in what way.

The three Florida shocks of doubtful seismic origin rumbled through the Everglades - La Belle - Fort Myers area in July 1930, Tampa in December 1940, and the Miami - Everglades - Fort Myers area in January 1942. Most authorities attribute these incidents to blasting, but a few contend they were seismic
I don't believe we need to worry about Florida "falling into the sea," but you never know.

Deadly Hurricanes 

Mercifully, Hurricane Dennis caused less damage to Florida than might have been expected. Still, almost two dozen deaths have been attributed to the storm since its formation. Fortunately, improvements in communications, forecasting and construction methods have combined to reduce fatalities from hurricanes. Where these elements are lacking, the death toll climbs dramatically, as was the case in Central America in 1998 with Hurricane Mitch.

But even the most deadly hurricanes of the past century do not compare with those that roared through the Caribbean in 1780. This was during the period of the American Revolution, when English, French and Spanish fleets were active in the area.
Eight different storms battered the West Indies and American coasts, including four killer storms in October. During that month, hurricanes killed more people, an estimated 27,000, than died in battle during the entire six-year [American Revolutionary] war.

The first hurricane struck western Jamaica on October 3rd and completely destroyed the settlement of Savanna-La-Mer. It raced across Cuba and the Bahamas before entering the shipping lanes between Cape Hatteras and Bermuda. In addition to an estimated eleven hundred deaths, two British fleets were hit. Later that week, a second storm raked Cuba, killing 2000.

Next was the greatest killer hurricane of all time: the Great Hurricane of 1780. 22,000 may have died between October 10th and 16th on the seas, and across the West Indies islands of Barbados, Martinique and St. Eustatius. Both British and French naval fleets, on maneuvers in the Antilles, sustained heavy casualties, including the 74-gun HMS Cornwall and over 100 British merchant ships.

The final hurricane of the quartet, hit the 64-ship Spanish fleet of under Admiral Solano off the western tip of Cuba as he was preparing to attack Pensacola. It's estimated that 2000 died in this storm.
By way of comparison, the death toll from the October, 1780, hurricanes just about equaled the combined populations of Boston and New York City in that year.

Hang On, Pensacola! 

Hurricane Dennis Posted by Picasa
Pensacola Beach Blog signed off a couple hours ago with the following:
The Boardwalk pier on Pensacola Beach, rebuilt after Ivan, is now well under water. Water and power were shut off to the beach several hours ago.

Near midday, wind gusts over 65 mph are beginning to be felt on the mainland. Trees are being bent by the stronger gusts. Electrical brownouts are playing havoc with power in various mainland neighborhoods.
Farther east, and at about the same time, Why Now reports that "US 98 which runs on Okaloosa Island [a barrier island] is just about cut again and all of the local bridges are closed."

Good luck, friends.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Florida's Terror 

I haven't read this book yet (although I've placed my order for a copy), but it looks interesting -- Emancipation Betrayed:The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920, by Paul Ortiz.

The publishers blurb:
In this penetrating examination of African American politics and culture, Paul Ortiz throws a powerful light on the struggle of black Floridians to create the first statewide civil rights movement against Jim Crow. Concentrating on the period between the end of slavery and the election of 1920, Emancipation Betrayed vividly demonstrates that the decades leading up to the historic voter registration drive of 1919-20 were marked by intense battles during which African Americans struck for higher wages, took up arms to prevent lynching, forged independent political alliances, boycotted segregated streetcars, and created a democratic historical memory of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Contrary to previous claims that African Americans made few strides toward building an effective civil rights movement during this period, Ortiz documents how black Floridians formed mutual aid organizations--secret societies, women's clubs, labor unions, and churches--to bolster dignity and survival in the harsh climate of Florida, which had the highest lynching rate of any state in the union. African Americans called on these institutions to build a statewide movement to regain the right to vote after World War I. African American women played a decisive role in the campaign as they mobilized in the months leading up to the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. The 1920 contest culminated in the bloodiest Election Day in modern American history, when white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan violently, and with state sanction, prevented African Americans from voting. Ortiz's eloquent interpretation of the many ways that black Floridians fought to expand the meaning of freedom beyond formal equality and his broader consideration of how people resist oppression and create new social movements illuminate a strategic era of United States history and reveal how the legacy of legal segregation continues to play itself out to this day.
Florida's violent racial past was further exposed in a recent St. Petersburg Times article on Hernando County, which led the state in the rate of lynchings -- by a whole lot -- between 1900 and 1931. The accounts are gruesome and the acts gratuitous; even the most innocent behavior could lead to mob violence:
The worst of the violence began in 1924, shortly after a prosperous black farmer named Will Timmons bought a new car, said Retha Timmons, his now-deceased niece, in a 1999 interview with the St. Petersburg Times .

As she returned with him from the fields, he was confronted by a group of white men - unmasked because they apparently did not fear arrest - and then beaten "half to death," she said.

L.C. Mobley, 72, a lifelong Hernando resident, said he was told as a boy that the mob "beat (Timmons) between the legs until they tore his testicles up."

"They did castrate him ... because he bought a brand-new Ford."
Retha Timmons said that her uncle, who was bedridden for more than a year with his injuries, never reclaimed his farm and that she stayed away for 70 years.
Others met even more hideous fates -- shot, drowned, hanged and burned. It appears that no one ever was tried for these crimes; in fact, it seems that no one in any position of authority even cared.

Design vs. Engineering 

David P. Barash asks whether the concept of intelligent design can stand up to even a cursory look at how the human body is engineered.
Current believers in creationism, masquerading in its barely disguised incarnation, "intelligent design," [claim] that only a designer could generate such complex, perfect wonders.

But, in fact, the living world is shot through with imperfection. Unless one wants to attribute either incompetence or sheer malevolence to such a designer, this imperfection --— the manifold design flaws of life --— points incontrovertibly to a natural, rather than a divine, process, one in which living things were not created de novo, but evolved. Consider the human body. Ask yourself, if you were designing the optimum exit for a fetus, would you engineer a route that passes through the narrow confines of the pelvic bones? Add to this the tragic reality that childbirth is not only painful in our species but downright dangerous and sometimes lethal, owing to a baby's head being too large for the mother's birth canal.

This design flaw is all the more dramatic because anyone glancing at a skeleton can see immediately that there is plenty of room for even the most stubbornly large-brained, misoriented fetus to be easily delivered anywhere in that vast, non-bony region below the ribs. (In fact, this is precisely the route obstetricians follow when performing a caesarean section.)

Why would evolution neglect the simple, straightforward solution? Because human beings are four-legged mammals by history. Our ancestors carried their spines parallel to the ground; it was only with our evolved upright posture that the pelvic girdle had to be rotated (and thereby narrowed), making a tight fit out of what for other mammals is nearly always an easy passage.

An engineer who designed such a system from scratch would be summarily fired, but evolution didn't have the luxury of intelligent design.

Admittedly, it could be argued that the dangers and discomforts of childbirth were intelligently, albeit vengefully, planned, given Genesis' account of God's judgment upon Eve: As punishment for Eve's disobedience in Eden, "in pain you shall bring forth children." (Might this imply that if she'd only behaved, women's vaginas would have been where their bellybuttons currently reside?)
My question is why God didn't think to create us with SPF 30 sweat?

Friday, July 08, 2005

OK, But What Are You Doing? 

Peer Review wants us to wear red on Fridays to "support our troops." In the comments section, the Peer Reviewer is asked,
Here's an idea: why not have all the folks who supported the decision to invade Iraq either volunteer to fight in Iraq; or, if they are too old, actively encourage their children and relatives to volunteer to fight in Iraq?
No answer to that from the Reviewer (who from his photo looks to still be of military age).

Here's another question for him: Do you think that the Bush brothers have encouraged their children to sign up? If not, why not?

Now, in reference to the London bombings, the Reviewer lets us know the war on terror is not over and exhorts us thusly:
The sooner the liberals and leftist get this point the sooner we can get on with winning the war and defeating the terrorist.
The Reviewer, like his right-wing cohorts, confuses differing on the way the war is being carried out with support for the fight against terrorism. Apparently he doesn't consider it important enough to sign up for the actual combat, but is ready to battle those who are not willing to mindlessly follow the neocons as they squander our troops and our treasure on misguided military adventures.

What a Surprise! 

State Attorney Bernie McCabe has told Governor Bush that there is no evidence of foul play or negligence in the circumstances surrounding Terri Schiavo's initial collapse, which led to her persistence vegetative state.

McCabe suggested that there was no point in carry on with this line if inquiry:
In summary, while there has been discrepancies that have existed over what time Mrs. Schiavo collapsed relative to what time paramedics were called, all available records indicate that it has been Mr. Schiavo's consistent position that he called 911 immediately after her collapse. This consistency, coupled with the varying recollections of the precise time offered by other interested parties, lead me to the conclusion that such discrepancies are not indicative of criminal activity and thus not material to any potential investigation.
In reading McCabe's letter, I suspect Governor Bush wondered if the state attorney was being sarcastic when he wrote in his letter,
. . . you urged that this inquiry be conducted without any preconceptions as to the outcome. We have attempted to follow this sound advice, unlike some pundits, some "experts," some e-mail and Web-based correspondents, and even some institutions of government that have, in my view, reached conclusions regarding the controversy surrounding Mrs. Schiavo based upon such preconceptions and/or misinformation.
Bernie, Bernie, Bernie . . . what the Guv meant was that he didn't want any preconceptions about Michael's innocence.

UPDATE: Flablog isn't surprised by the finding either, "What is surprising is that they just didn't go ahead and indict him anyway and make a judge throw it out. In this country we don't have political show trials; we have political show indictments."

Abstract Appeal refers readers to "a reprint of an internal memo from State Attorney Bernie McCabe's office that extensively discusses, from a law enforcement perspective, why various theories of Terri's collapse are either inconsistent with known facts or pure speculation. This is the most thorough treatment of its kind that I have seen. Ultimately, the memo concludes that no proof of criminal activity exists."

Blogwood notes that with Gov. Bush timing is everything: "Jeb! cut short his Maine vacation to return to Florida in order to deal with Hurricane Dennis. He should have been out of town this weekend, but once he came back and saw the news dominated by hurricanes and terrorist bombs, he decided to quietly release a June 30 letter from Bernie McCabe in which the Pinellas Prosecutor recommended that the latest Schiavo investigation cynically ordered by the governor be ended."

The Last Liberal in Central Florida has the last word: "Don't expect any apologies from Jeb."

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

No Florida Jesse or Arnold, Please 

I certainly don't agree with Stephen Goldstein's idea that the Democrats need to run a "celebrity" for governor in 2006, but I find no fault with why we can't afford another Republican administration in Tallahassee:
After seven years of Jeb, Florida's gone to the dogs. His self-proclaimed government reform has been a failure. Make that a dismal failure! Everyone knows it. Someone with guts just needs to say it -- loud, clear and often.

Republicans have broken faith with Florida. Their record is tragic and undeniable: More and more people are being gouged for health insurance -- or can't afford it. Our schools are failing. Our teachers are underpaid. Most of the new jobs in the state pay a pittance and have paltry, if any, benefits. Privatization has redistributed public money into corporate hands without accountability. The rich have gotten richer, the poor have gotten poorer, and the middle class has gotten the shaft. Taxes haven't gone down, as Republicans claim; they've morphed into "fees" and been shifted from state to local government.

Voters pass constitutional amendments, but the governor and Legislature ignore them. The guv's got his own agenda -- saving Private Schiavo, hounding Michael Schiavo, lap-dogging for right-wing extremists, and attacking judges who don't do it "his way."
I say it's time to call in players from the bench.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Five Dollar Tour 

Sticks of Fire takes a disappointing tour of the historic Belleview Biltmore in Pinellas County.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Family Values 

The Republican-dominated House of Representatives voted to further curtail Cuban-Americans from traveling to Cuba for family visits. The House also voted to keep the economic embargo in place.
President Bush and GOP leaders in the House and Senate are stout supporters of economic sanctions against the Castro regime, and Bush has vowed to veto any effort to weaken the embargo.
This plays well to the hard-right and the Miami Cubans who dream of the day (someone else) will bring down Castro, but it ignores the fact that these measures have not had any success in bringing democracy to Cuba, and it fails to consider the human costs.

Marcela Sanchez, in a column written before the House vote, tells the story of the war hero who is paying that cost and "can't go home."
Sgt. Carlos F. Lazo returned from Iraq in March and wants to see his children. But the combat medic and veteran of the battle for Fallujah, whose meritorious service earned him a Bronze Star, cannot because they live in Cuba.

Strict U.S. travel restrictions adopted a year ago limit family visits to the island to once every three years. Lazo, who was in Cuba in 2003 and whose youngest child has been in the hospital over the last few weeks, must wait until next year. By that time, he may be back in Iraq.
Lazo makes us reflect on the contradiction of the policy. If banning travel can help change a regime, why is it, he asked me, "that you can travel from here to countries (with repressive regimes) such as North Korea, Iran or Syria," practically anywhere but the island 90 miles south of Florida? If the ban is meant to keep hard currency away from Castro's hands, why are Cuban exiles still allowed to send remittances to their immediate relatives on the island?

In the world beyond politics, there is little to no rational argument to be made to keep Lazo apart from his children. Even politicians such as Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., a Cuban-American, have admitted that the travel limitations do not serve to speed up Castro's downfall. Many argue, instead, that greater freedom to travel will only further the exchange of ideas about freedom and democracy.
Our Cuba policy is a misguided, ineffective mess of political pandering. Unfortunately our government seems locked into continuing this failed policy.

UPDATE: Florida politiX has an excellent post on this subject, with its implications for Jim Davis' campaign for governor.

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