Friday, December 30, 2005

2005 Political Whore Award 

Plenty of candidates, but my vote goes to Bill Frist's diagnosis of Terri Schiavo's medical condition based on his viewing a video provided by the Schindler family, and his subsequent denial of what he had done.

Original Intent 

Florida's law prohibiting those convicted of a felony from voting is, to say the least, controversial. Many say it is used to disenfranchise the poor and black, while others claim that those who violate the law should not be allowed to participate in the election of those who make the laws.

Florida is one of four states that removes voting rights from felons, Virginia, Kentucky and Alabama being the others.

Spencer Overton at blackprof.com provides some background on how Virginia decided to prevent felons from voting:
According to a transcript of proceedings from the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1901-02, Carter Glass, a delegate to the Convention, stated that the plan that included felon disenfranchisement laws "“will eliminate the darkey as a political factor in this State in less than 5 years, so that in no single county . . . will there be the least concern felt for the complete supremacy of the white race in the affairs of government."”
If one were to go to the original sources in Florida, would a similar statement be found advocating disenfranchisement for felons?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Big Problem 

Jacqueline Dowd at the 13th juror, tells us what it takes to find housing if you are a minimum wage worker:
In Florida, a minimum-wage earner must work 102 hours per week to afford the $816 Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment. (The Fair Market Rent is HUD’s best estimate of what a household seeking a modest rental unit can expect to pay for rent and utilities in the current local economy.) Looked at another way, for a 40-hour week, a worker must earn $15.68 per hour to afford that apartment.

In Orlando, a worker needs to put in 98 hours a week at minimum wage -- or earn $15.04 an hour -- to afford the $782 Fair Market Rent. And just try to find a two-bedroom apartment in Orlando for $782! In Monday’s paper, there were ads for 26 two-bedroom apartments; only three rented for less than $782 (not including utilities) while 16 cost $1,000 or more.

The least affordable housing in Florida is (no surprise here) Miami, where a minimum wage earner must work 121 hours a week to afford Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment. Other communities above the state average are: Naples, 108 hours; Tampa-St. Petersburg, 105 hours; and Sarasota, 103 hours.
In the Broward/Palm Beach housing market, any rental unit that is priced less than $700 a month is almost certainly either substandard housing or in a dangerous neighborhood (with, of course, poor schools and public services).

The markets are out of kilter and free market economics will not solve the problem.

Already have your house and consider this a minor problem? Then who do you suppose is going to work in our restaurants, cut our grass, watch our pre-schoolers or empty our bedpans? Or, to put it another way, do you have any expectations of your children living in the community in which you reside, or even near to it?

It is a very big problem.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

This is Funny 

What if the Southeastern Conference football teams were Simpson characters?

Why am I not surprised at who was selected for the University of Florida?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Death or Freedom 

Although there are criminals for whom I think the death penalty is just punishment, I believe it is bad policy. Not only is there the chance of executing an individual innocent of the capital charge, it also leads to situations like this:
Germany has freed from prison a Lebanese member of Hezbollah who was serving a life sentence for killing a U.S. Navy diver from Maryland during the hijacking of a TWA jet in 1985.

The release of Mohammed Ali Hamadi infuriated the family of Robert Dean Stethem, who was beaten, shot in the head and dumped on the tarmac of Beirut's airport after he refused the hijackers' demands to denounce his country.
Hamadi was convicted in West Germany in 1987 of Stethem's murder and received the maximum sentence. The West German government refused an extradition request because Hamadi could have faced the death penalty if tried in the United States.
This is not an isolated incident -- nations throughout the world, particularly Europe and Latin America, will not extradite criminals to the United States because we allow capital punishment.

Personally, I would rather forego our clunky death penalty and see Hamadi sitting in a Federal prison than having him back on the street.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Native Born 

Geitner Simmons has a post on how in the South, a number of individuals holding high political office were not Southerners by birth, Simmons writes, "For generations, the South generally proved inhospitable to non-Southern emigres who tried to launch political careers; they faced a carpetbagger stigma that was hard to overcome."

In Florida that has not always been the case. Although a number of political leaders have had southern ties, the first native-born governor was Ossian Bingley Hart, who held office 1873-74. Hart had opposed secession and supported reconstruction activities in the state. He died in office.

Throughout the nineteenth century, only three Florida governors were born in the state. On the other hand, three post-Reconstruction governors were northern-born: George Drew (New Hampshire), Edward Perry (Massachusetts) and W. S. Jennings (Illinois).

Over the past fifty years Florida has had nine elected governors, of whom five were born in Florida (Collins, Bryant, Graham, Martinez and Chiles) and four were born outside the state (Burns, Kirk, Askew and Bush).

Skeptical of Skepticism 

Interesting post at RealClimate on the difference between being a skeptic and a contrarian:
Much of what passes for 'debate' on climate change in the popular media, is often framed as the 'scientific consensus' vs. the 'sceptics'. A close examination of these arguments . . . doesn't reveal much that could be described as true scepticism . . .

Was it Something I Said? 

They have trouble keeping up with the voter rolls and felon lists in Florida, but apparently the Republican Party is on top of the Christmas card list.

Last year I received a card from the Florida GOP. I'm not sure that I could call it a Christmas card since it had no real reference to that particular day. This year I have checked my mailbox every day, but so far no holiday missive from our conservative friends.

Just as well, I hear that this year's version is also a little light on the "reason for the season."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Defending the Public 

Very interesting interview of Broward County's public defender, Howard Finkelstein, in yesterday's South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Perhaps best known for his on-going television appearances on Miami's Channel 7 in "Help Me Howard," Finkelstein discusses the biggest challenge facing the criminal justice system (funding, of course; "We have been trying to do justice on the cheap in this state for a long time, and unfortunately, you get what you pay for.") and the importance of Gideon vs. Wainwright ("It's as huge as Brown vs. Board of Education when it comes to no separate-but-equal approaches"), among other issues.

Finkelstein notes the significance of the public defenders office:
They pay me, and the people that work here, to make the government's life more difficult, because in the end it makes us all better as a people, all better as a culture, and much better as a sense of justice in our community. And while there have been some difficulties and there will be additional transformations, make no mistake about it: What this office does is truly important, and how special this country is is something that should not be underestimated.
He's a good fit for the office.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Hail Ceasar 

The Buzz reports that Broward County Democratic Party Chairman Mitch Ceasar "has been elected to the Executive Board of the Democratic National Committee. We're told he's the first South Floridian elected as a national director and only the second Floridian elected to that post."

Ceasar is an amazing political figure. He operates in a county in which the Democrats are not afraid to play hardball politics, his tenure as chairman has not been uncontroversial and he has had some unpleasant questions raised about his consulting jobs, but like the energizer bunny he just keeps going.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Padded Room Update 

Is there a larger collection of goofballs than at the National Review's Corner?

To wit: Jonathan Goldberg's mental contortions to support WalMart.

Goldberg's against subsidies to big corporations (or anyone, for that matter) unless it's at the local level . . . maybe.
Communitarianism at the local level can be despotic of course (think eminent domain) but even then it does have the virtue of being local despotism and the residents have to live with the consequences of their politics -- or they can move.
Sort of a local "love it or leave it," I guess.

Slouching Towards Babel 

The always interesting Far Outliers has a post on the next stage in the war on science: Wrathful Dispersion Theory. Not unlike Intelligent Design, WDT apparently concludes that the many languages found throughout the modern world are too dissimilar to have evolved, and must have been the product of a "creator."

Not to worry, say its proponents, this is not based on religion. And they won't speculate as to who or what the creator might be.

Friday, December 02, 2005

What Went Wrong? 

The Sun-Sentinel's Guillermo I. Martinez is perplexed at why the United States has so little influence in South America.

Martinez is a charter member of the anti-Chavez chorus, but he is astute enough to see that the Venezuelan president is successfully working with other Latin American nations. "How do you expect us to convince others that Chavez is a danger when his own neighbors do not agree with us?" he asks.
With each passing day, we are more and more isolated in the region, and Chavez's reputation as the new bastion of anti-imperialism grows.

I don't like it one bit, but one cannot hide from reality.

The fault lies in Washington: with the Bush administration, with the State Department, with Congress and with our media. We pay so little attention to what happens in the hemisphere that even when we are right, we cannot get a consensus to back our point of view.
I would suggest that at least two factors contribute to our marginalized influence in South America: our government's ham-handed attempt to treat Chavez as another Fidel Castro, and its support of unfettered privatization and free trade policies that enrich a few, but do not benefit the majority of South Americans.

That, and the fact that Venezuela, unlike Cuba, has a resource that is a powerful bargaining chip.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

No Irony Here 

"[Vice President] Cheney has lobbied against a measure in Congress that would outlaw "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" of prisoners. . ."

"Iraq's interior minister, meanwhile, fired his top official for human rights in connection with a torture investigation."

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