Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Mommeee ... Castro's Looking at me Again! 

It has been over 45 years since Castro has come to power, and all of the U.S. government's attempts to bring him down have boomeranged -- American citizens are the ones who are paying the price. With their freedom.

The latest idiocy comes from Florida State Representative David Rivera. He want to prevent researchers and students from traveling to Cuba for academic purposes. Too many spies, says Davey -- "My bill simply seeks to protect higher education from the threat of espionage activities."

And I thought it could not get any more stupid than trying to prevent Cuba's baseball team from playing in the World Baseball Classic or requiring American-owned hotels to break the laws of the nations in which they are located to spite Castro.

If elected officials like Rivera spent only a portion of their time worrying about the welfare of Floridians, rather than competing to see who can come up with the most outlandish method of getting back at Castro, maybe our state wouldn't be in such sorry shape.

Fidel is certainly lucky to have such enemies.

Friday, February 24, 2006


Via The Buzz: The National Journal ranks Clay Shaw as the third-most vulnerable incumbent in 2006.

Most of the comments on the Buzz's post are skeptical, and I am too. Ron Klein seems to be running a strong campaign, but despite Shaw's occasional support of hard right-wing issues, he is generally seen in South Florida as a moderate Republican (admittedly, that can be pretty far to the right).

His opposition to the aggressive lobby tactics of the sugar industry has led many to believe he's some kind of populist (which he is not).

Still, he's a personable individual who has made a whole lot of friends over the years -- I wouldn't bet against him.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Strategy 

Republicans seem to have the same problem whether they are in the White House or sit on Florida's State Board of Education: everything is tactical -- they act without thinking through the long-term consequences of their actions.

Yesterday the Board of Education "approved a sweeping plan to tie public-school teachers' pay to their students' performance on standardized tests." FCATs, of course. Except for those teachers whose subjects aren't a part of the FCAT.

Here's the plan:
All teachers' base salaries must be based on their annual performance evaluation which must, by law, be based primarily on student performance. Districts and unions have some flexibility to decide how student performance is measured and incorporated into the salary, but the Florida Department of Education must approve each plan.

Teachers whose students make the largest learning gains -- which will be calculated under a new state formula -- must receive bonuses of at least 5 percent of their base salary. The bonus plan -- known as Effective Compensation, or E-Comp -- requires bonuses for at least the top 10 percent of teachers. In reading and math, those learning gains will be measured through the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. In other subjects, the state will adopt new tests to measure gains.
Wait a minute . . . maybe I'm wrong. Perhaps the Republicans are thinking long-term.

This new system will have the effect of pitting teacher against teacher, and teachers against administration, as they scheme to get the mix of students that will insure success on the tests. Not too smart and hard-working, as this group doesn't have enough room for improvement. Not too many remedial, as time will be wasted just getting them up to speed to take the test. Certainly not immigrant kids who may not speak English very well. Administrators will be accused of "stacking" some classes to make sure that a favored teacher can get his or her bonus.

Yes, the Republicans are thinking ahead -- another step in the process of killing off public education.

The next step? The Republicans legislators provide no extra funding for the bonuses, so the money has to come from other teachers.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Don't Give Florida Legislators any Ideas 

It seems Arizona is competing with Florida:
The legislation there would require public colleges to provide students with "alternative coursework"” if a student finds the assigned material "“personally offensive,"” which is defined as something that "“conflicts with the student'’s beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion." On Wednesday, the bill starting moving, with the Senate Committee on Higher Education approving the measure --— much to the dismay of professors in the state.
Where is Rep. Baxley? Florida's reputation is at stake!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Devaluing the Currency 

It would seem to me that a political columnist needs to be seen as above partisan politics.

Why then, would Sun-Sentinel political columnist reregister as a Republican and then make a partisan speech to the Lauderdale Beach Republican Club? According to one report, it was not an objective look at the political scene in Broward County, but rather a "Nevins-led GOP pep rally."

Perhaps this is one factor in Nevins' recent call for Democrats Bob Parks and Carole Andrews to be turned out of office in the next Broward County School Board election.

Money to Go 

Sun-Sentinel political columnist, Buddy Nevins, notes that with Broward County Mayor Ben Graber deciding to run for an open State Senate seat (currently held by Skip Campbell), other candidates are reassessing their options.

Former State Representative Stacey Ritter, who is a candidate in that same Senate contest, is reportedly considering dropping out of the race and going for Graber's County Commission. Nevins points out that "if Ritter decides on a commission campaign, she has a head start: roughly $100,000 in political donations in the bank from her Senate race."

Earlier, in the same race, Senate candidate Scott Brook dropped out to run for Mayor of Coral Springs. He could take his donations with him, too (although his decision came early in the campaign, and I doubt he had raised a substantial amount of money at that point).

I'm not sure what viable alternatives might exist, but something seems wrong with asking contributors to funds a campaign for a particular political office, and then switch races and still use the money previously raised.

The lobbyists, law firms and development companies that politician rely on most likely don't care -- they tend to fund candidates across the board. But what about individuals who may support Ritter for Senate, but are not even in her district for the County Commission? Or those who may prefer another candidate in that race?

As the law stands now, tough luck. Bait and Switch is not illegal in politics.

Friday, February 17, 2006

It's Only Money 

Wonder why medical costs are rising? Perhaps it is, in part, the result of the people with oversight not watching the bottom line.
G. Wil Trower, chief executive of the North Broward Hospital District and, at $523,500 a year, the highest-paid public official in Broward County, is stepping down after being threatened with dismissal for what one district board member called "a complete lack of leadership."

The district board voted 6-1 to accept a deal with Trower, which was announced Thursday. Trower struck the deal with the seven-member board to become a consultant and keep his salary until he retires in August 2008, rather than engage in a public fight to save his job, according to a taped transcript of a special meeting Wednesday. The district, which is supported by taxpayer money, also agreed to pay Trower about $29,000 for pay increases he had passed up over the past two years and allowed him to retire at 59 percent of his full salary -- about $309,000 per year -- plus benefits.
Board member Robert Bernstein was the driving force behind Trower's removal and lucrative separation settlement.

As the Sun-Sentinel article points out, five of the seven North Broward Hospital District board members have been appointed by Governor Bush within the last year.

If Mr. Bernstein and his colleagues really believed that Mr. Trower's leadership was so detrimental to the District that he needed to be fired, they should not have paid him well over a million dollars to avoid a "public fight."

Now, if its all about politics . . .

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Ve Have Vays of Making You Patriotic 

Wendy McElroy is referring to a law in Arizona mandating "public schools and universities . . . to hang an American flag in every classroom" , but the same goes for Florida:
Does no one else see the gut-wrenching irony of legally mandating a symbol of freedom? Or of punishing those who do not 'honor' that symbol of freedom in the legally required manner....that is, those who do not buy from an American company and or do not hang it according to government specifications (at least 2 by 3 feet and in every room)? Without intending to do so, the article got one thing right. The presence of the flag may raise the level of patriotism but it will do so at the cost of genuine freedom.
Actually, I doubt it will the raise the level of patriotism, either in kindergarten, a Chemistry 101 lab, or much of anything in between.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I Wonder . . . 

Back from travels.

Eric Muller ponders an interesting question:
We are being told that the sort of accident in which a quail hunter shoots another happens "often" and "goes with the turf" of the sport.

So Harry Whittington (or one of the 5 other hunters in the hunting party) could just as easily have shot the Vice President?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Funny, but somehow reassuring.
You know the old joke about the dog that chases cars - "“What would he do if he caught one?" I was reminded of that when I read that Hamas won an election victory. I imagine a room full of Hamas leaders looking at each other behind closed doors and saying, "“Oh crap, we won."”

And I imagine the Israeli leaders sitting around behind closed doors and saying, "“It just got a lot easier to find the people we want to kill."

I have to think it will be difficult for Hamas to reconcile the whole "“destroy Israel"” platform with "“We'll all be at the Parliament building at noon talking about how to do it."”
Scott Adams, The Dilbert Blog


Didn't watch the State of the Union speech last night -- but read the transcript this morning. I agreed with Miami blogger Bobby Cramer (Bark Bark Woof Woof)that President Bush's call for greater civility in politics is a bit incongruous, given the history of his presidency (Karl Rove, Swift Boaters, Dick Cheney's FU, etc).

Also, I see that Cindy Sheehan was ejected from the House Gallery (arrested, in fact) for wearing an anti-war T-shirt. I don't know about the arrest, but I don't have a problem with prohibiting visual advocacy from the audience -- the State of the Union message should not have a Let's Make a Deal atmosphere, at least not from the audience.

But Ms. Sheehan was not the only one to run afoul of the rules. The wife of Florida Rep. C. W. "Bill" Young (R-Pinellas County) was asked to leave for wearing a pro-war T-Shirt. I will forego any comment on the appropriateness of wearing a T-shirt to an event such as the State of the Union address, and direct your attention to the genteel demeanor exhibited by the Youngs.
Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Indian Shores, said she was ejected from the House gallery during Tuesday night's State of the Union address because she was wearing a T-shirt that said "Support the Troops - Defending Our Freedom."

Young said she was sitting in the gallery's front row, about six seats from first lady Laura Bush, when she was approached by someone from the Capitol Police or sergeant-at-arms office who told her she needed to leave the gallery.

She reluctantly agreed but argued with several officers in the hallway outside the House chamber.

"They said I was protesting," she said in a telephone interview late Tuesday. "I said, "Read my shirt, it is not a protest.' They said, "We consider that a protest.' I said, "Then you are an idiot."'

She said she was so angry that "I got real colorful with them."

They told her she was being treated the same as Cindy Sheehan, an antiwar protester who was ejected before the speech Tuesday night for wearing a T-shirt with an antiwar slogan and refusing to cover it up.

Young, 50, said her shirt was not a protest but a message of support for U.S. soldiers and Marines fighting for their country. She often wears the T-shirts when visiting her husband at the Capitol and during her visits to see the wounded at military hospitals.

Sgt. Kimberly Schneider of the Capitol Police could not provide details about the incident but said, "She was not ejected from the gallery. She did leave on her own."

Young's husband, a Republican who chairs the House appropriations subcommittee on defense, was unaware she was removed until after the speech. He said he was furious about the incident.

"I just called for the chief of police and asked him to get his little tail over here," Rep. Young said late Tuesday. "This is not acceptable."

Beverly Young said, "Wait until the president finds out."
Maybe they can get the chief fired.

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