Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Not in God's Hands

"We're in the hands of the state legislature and God, but at the moment, the state legislature has more to say than God."
-- Ed Koch

Paige St. John has the story.

The good news:
Coastal residents won a round and their insurers lost one on Monday as a House property insurance bill took a twist.

The State Administration Appropriations Committee removed controversial language allowing windstorm insurers to duck much of the cost when a home is destroyed by storm surge.

The surprise amendment came from Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami, who said the clause could prevent storm victims from rebuilding.

"Let these constituents rebuild. Let's get this done," Robaina said.
* * *
The bad news:
... House Insurance Chairman Dennis Ross... promised he is still working behind the scenes to negotiate a more palatable solution.

Robaina said industry lobbyists are gathering with Ross' staff today to try to undo his amendment.

* * *
The insurance industry is fighting both in the courts and Legislature to undo a 2004 judicial ruling that requires them to pay policy limits when a home is destroyed, even when part of the destruction is caused by an excluded peril. It affects thousands of hurricane victims, especially in the Panhandle.

Trial attorneys from Pensacola were happy with Monday's victory. Bobby Loehr, an attorney with Levin, Papantonio Law Firm in Pensacola, appeared before the House committee Monday. He said Ross' bill, left as it was, would hurt thousands of Panhandle residents.
And more news to come:
* * *
The Senate's property insurance bill not only still contains a perils clause, it attempts to apply it to 2004 hurricane victims.

The clause also could be amended back into the House bill. It has one more committee hearing this week before moving to the floor for further tinkering.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Don't Eat This At Home

The menu of Florida Blogs this week offers an assortment of delicious goodies. They range from the ridiculous (the Chicken King translations) to the sub-slime (U.S. Senator Mel Martinez).

First, an un-appetizer. Inspired by news that Florida agriculture officials recently "seized a truck... that was carrying 16 tons of rotten, unrefrigerated meat headed to Chinese restaurants in Jacksonville," Gainsville Report serves up his own restaurant story. You won't want to try this at home.

* * * * *

Food was on the mind of Steve Koppleman over at Hatless as well. He reviewed a Hallandale Greek restaurant and a Lauderhill Mexican hot dog 'sitio'.

* * * * *

Speaking of awkward translations of English food colloquialisms into Spanish, Hatless also links to an amusing story from California's Reason Online about the late 'Chicken King', Frank Perdue, and his failed attempt to translate into Spanish the marketing slogan, "It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken." The story is embarrassing enough to leave juevos en su caro -- another English idiom that translates rather vulgarly into Spanish.

* * * * *

That new Florida Gun-Fights-In-Public-Places law we made fun of earlier this week is arousing comment from other Florida blogs, too. Bark-Bark, Woof-Woof thinks a local news source got the headline right:
Florida NRA Bill Would Allow People To Kill Others In Public
Why Now? predicts "Gunfights At the Ocala Corral."

Over at Hotwax Residue you can find a link to a South Florida incident showing just what kind of mayhem the new law is likely to unleash in "public places" like Pensacola Beach. Tourists who are gunned down in "public places" like a beach aren't the only ones who are likely to disappear from Florida, Hotwax says:
"This bill is a horrible idea ... .[I]t has helped me make the decision that, the minute I have my PhD in hand, I am outta here and shall not return."
* * * * *

On the same subject of deliberate murder, Anger Management notes with disgust the international company we are keeping when it comes to the 3,797 'official' Government executions in the world last year, as toted up in the annual report from Amnesty Intenational. Texas leads the nation in the death derby, of course, and we in the U.S. team once again made it into the Final Four, along with other "culture of life" nations like China, Vietnam, and Saudi Arabia.

* * * * *

If the intentions of Hot Wax Residue are evidence that bad laws in Florida will cause a brain drain away from the state, Infomaniac has proof that the brains of Florida's newly elected U.S. Senator, Mel Martinez, already have thoroughly drained away.

The poor man admitted late this week that his office authored, and he personally distributed, the infamous Terri Schaivo "talking points" memo. The memo urged Republicans to use Terri Schaivo's then-vegetative state for political advantage against fellow U.S. Senator Bill Nelson.

Mindful of the fact that it took a confession from Martinez and a public firing of his aide before the media got mildly interested, Florida News hands the press an insincere compliment for the "great job on their coverage, like they usually do." Florida Politics wasn't impressed, either. No more, apparently, than the unnamed "Florida Republican strategist" who also gave our state's newest senator the back of his hand. For Martinez, he said to a Florida newspaper, "It's just so familiar. It's never his fault."

Interstate 4 Jamming finds a link between Martinez' guilty aide and Tom Delay, who is looking more and more... well... despicable, as Situation Room points out. South of the Suwannee has more to say about political interference in the Schaivo case.

Both Flablog and Sticks Of Fire link to a growing chorus of critical comments about Senator Martinez in Florida newspapers. And the Palm Beach Post lists other Martinez maneuvers that have aroused bipartisan disapproval.

Another one may be brewing -- the apology that wasn't. As the Palm Beach Post reports:
"[Florida Senator Bill] Nelson's communications director, Dan McLaughlin, said Thursday: "While he (Nelson) had not received a personal call from Martinez, he read in the paper where Martinez was apologizing (to Nelson), and he accepts his apology."

* * * * *

Representative Baxley's Academic 'Freedom to Sue Your Professor Bill' is catching the attention of Floridians, too. Blogwood discovers a lot of the college horror stories being passed around by supporters of the bill turn out to be crude campus legends. Flablog found another myth.

* * * * *

In unrelated blogger views, Walmart is beginning to get it from all sides for its employment practices, including Florida Blues. BayCiti says Tampa politicians no longer have a Plan B if MacDill Air Force Base should be closed. And Discourse.net wonders why Congress has been so 'supine' when it comes to secret CIA detentions of ... well, we don't know who, where, or why. That's the point.

* * * * *

"Forget what the Whigs stood for in 1852?" asks Dred . He's found a web site for all you poli-dorks out there who want to know what the official political party platforms said, going all the way back to 1840.

In whatever it was the Whigs stood for there might be a lesson for all those timorous Democrats who voted for the Schaivo Bill, the Gun-Fights-in-Public-Places legislation, and the Sue-Your-Professor idea.

Maybe it's time for the voters to take them out for a power lunch. Say, to a Chinese Restaurant in Jacksonville.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Darkness at Dusk

The last solar eclipse observable from Pensacola in this decade, a rare hybrid eclipse, starts at 4:25 PM CDT Friday afternoon. At maximum coverage, the moon will eclipse 20% of the Sun. It will all be over by 6:06 PM, or about an hour before sunset.

Totality will be observable for just a few seconds, mainly by Venezuelan sloths and fish in the mid-Pacific Ocean who happen to look up.

Beach Rumors

The News Journal isn't is reporting it... WEAR-TV isn't saying... but rumors are circulating that the Santa Rosa Island Authority has tapped Buck Lee as the SRIA's new General Manager. Lee is a former Santa Rosa County commissioner who left office last November.

The the latest news is --:
After interviewing six candidates to replace Monte Blews, who is retiring at the end of May after 12 years as general manager, the board unanimously agreed Wednesday afternoon to offer the position to the 58-year-old Pensacola native. The offer will be made after a special meeting next week, giving Island Authority attorneys time to draw up a contract.

"I'm excited," said Lee after he was informed of the upcoming offer. "I'm looking forward to working with the Island Authority. Hopefully, we can get this beach back to better than ever."

The board voted to give Lee about 10 percent less than Blew's current $91,000 salary, citing Lee's lack of experience on the managing side of government. But they acknowledged that his experience on the policy side is what made him the front-runner over candidates such as Navy Capt. John Pruitt, commanding officer of the Pensacola Naval Air Station.

Pruitt, who has 2,000 people reporting to him, was a close second.

News Journal: No Comment

Today the Pensacola News Journal announced
"Severe weather and a power outage forced the News Journal to publish a smaller newspaper Wednesday night. ... The newspaper had to operate on backup power and was unable to publish... the Our Communities: Six months after the storm page.

Posted by Hello

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

New Swimsuit Fashion

The St. Petersburg Times has a fashion update of interest to Pensacola Beach visitors right here: Proper Attire in Public Places

New Swimsuit Fashion Posted by Hello

Saturday, April 02, 2005

A Glance in the Mirror

Once again, the St. Petersburg Times comes up with a prime piece of journalism. Today, it's Stephen Nohlgren's admirable article, Routine Returns A Sense of Calm.

The subject is the hospice center that cared for Terri Schaivo for the last five years. Like state Circuit Court Judge Judge Greer, the "Hospice House Woodside" staff studiously did their job and strived to maintain neutrality in the teeth of outrageous public displays, scurilous attacks on their motives, and the unbridgeable divisions within the Schaivo family.

There is much to admire in what Nohlgren reports about Woodside's staff and the quality of care they provide. And one revelatory glance in the mirror at ourselves that is so appalling it warrants italics for emphasis:
Dr. Theresa Buck, the staff physician, understands the danger. Her own mother and step-mother refused to believe her assessment of Schiavo's condition because of what they saw on television.

"They said she is talking and asking for things," Buck said. "I had dinner with them Wednesday night and couldn't convince them that's not true. And I'm here every day."
Have we let commercial television so debase us as a society that now we embrace cable-cast ignorance and 'talking head' misinformation before we credit real facts from a trained observer?

Evolving News

It was pretty much 'All-Schaivo All the Time' around Florida blogs this week.

South of Suwanee has the best roundup, including a must-read link to an online interview with Florida's own Matt Conigliaro, whose Abstract Appeal blog has long provided the most reliable and objective reporting on the case.

But Florida blogs were talking about a few other subjects, too...
* * * * *

Robert C. of Interstate4 Jamming took time out from the week's other news to report "rumors are rampant in DC that White House advisor Karl Rove is encouraging Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R - Longboat Key) to avoid tossing her hat into the ring as a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Bill Nelson when it comes up last year." The White House is said to fear that Harris is a polarizing figure likely to inspire more Democrats to vote in next year's congressional elections. Harris' office says she'll announce her decision in June.
* * * * * *

Via Florida Politics we're told by the Orlando Sentinel that debates over the annual state budget should hit the floor of the Florida Legislature next week.
"Both House and Senate are expected to increase spending and, perhaps, propose tax cuts following an April 11 meeting of state economists to settle on a final estimate of tax revenues expected for the coming budget year. That group is likely to add hundreds of millions of dollars to the bottom line.
* * *

Even without new money, however, the final budget has historically been larger than either chamber's, as top lawmakers insist on cherished programs that had initially been in one or the other version but not both.
* * * * *

Mark Lane of FlaBlog highlights some $200 million in subsidies for professional sports approved, so far, by legislative committees. $30 million will go to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, $60 million to the Florida Marlins, and $200 million for the Orlando Magic.
* * * * *

Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings announced this week the state has been awarded federal funds to experiment with a "faith based" juvenile delinquency program. Up to 200 juvenile offenders "of any faith" can sign up, but the Government already has decided the program administration "will be Christian-based."

Blogwood is not impressed. To see why, just follow the links at the end of his aricle.
* * * * *

A gas price survey was started by Bark-Bark, Woof-Woof. "[A]long Coral Way," he says, self-serve regular gas is going for "$2.17 to $2.25." In faraway Traverse City, Michigan, it's reached $2.28. Readers are reporting in with their own local prices. So far, San Francisco seems to be the highest, at $2.78 for premium grade.

* * * * *

Miami law professor Michael Froomkin expands on news reports this week about a small plane pilot who's licensed to fly but can't use any airports because he's been placed on a secret blacklist, probably by mistake, and the Government offers him no way to know why, contest the reasons, or appeal. Even agreeing to inform for the FBI on fellow flight school students didn't help.

The professor comments:
"That’s right. Mr. Nice Guy was so desperate to get off the US government blacklist that he became an informer on his fellow students. And even that wasn’t enough.

So we have secret arbitrary blacklists that make you berufsverbot. We have people crawling to the secret service offering to be informers to save their careers. Will the next step will be secret denunciations. Almost certainly. If it goes on long enough then, in time, stoolies will have to meet their quotas for denunciations or get in trouble. Yes, I’ve seen this movie before. It wasn’t pretty. But last time the actors had Russian and East German accents."
* * * * *

The good professor might want to check out Dred's report on the so-called "academic bill of rights" tromping its way through the Florida legislature. The proposal is sponsored by Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), a Baptist funeral director turned citizen law-maker.

Some say the bill would effectively authorize any student to sue a professor with whom he may disagree. That ought to stop all those ivory tower types from promoting dangerous ideas from the Age of Enlightment like evolution, the earth is round, everyone is entitled to due process of law, and a preposition ain't nothing good to end a sentence on.
* * * * *

Speaking of evolution, Anger Management has identified a shark hunter who almost qualified for the Darwin Award, which is handed out periodically to those who "accidentally kill themselves in really stupid ways," thus improving the human genome.
* * * * *

Evolution also has the attention of Why Now?Based in Cinco Bayou, that Florida blog snagged an interesting ABC News article on "laughter" research.

An Ohio professor and his students --
are finding there is a long evolutionary trail to our odd noises of amusement, and the latest proof comes from ticklish rats.

You've probably never heard a rat laugh, and there's a good reason.

Jaak Panksepp, of Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and his students found that the rodents emit gleeful "chirps" when playing, but only at ultrasonic tones five times higher than the human ear can hear. Once Panksepp hooked up an ultrasonic detector to listen in on rats in his lab and started tickling the animals, he realized the effect on them was dramatic.

* * *

The fact that rats have a form of laughter suggests it has been around for a very long time. Scientists have estimated that the common ancestor of rats and humans lived some 75 million years ago.
Not long enough, apparently. Another researcher and his students have been hanging out in shopping malls, "surreptitiously watching people in the act of laughter."

Among other things, what they found:
"[M]ore often than not, the person doing the laughing is not the one listening, but the one doing the talking. Plus, he learned what people say before laughing is often not even remotely funny."

* * * *

Florida ranks dead last in high school graduation rates and near the top in violent crime, Florida News reminds readers. So he's outraged that the state legislture this week defeated a proposal to raise the age for compulsory school attendance to 18.
"In fact, of the ten most violent states in the nation, eight are also ranked in the bottom ten in high school graduation rates.

If low graduation rates lead to high crime rates, doesn't it make financial sense to keep kids in school longer?

No doubt. The average annual cost to house a prisoner is between $20-30,000, not to mention the costs to victims and communities. The annual cost of educating a child in Florida is roughly $7,000."
That's the problem, of course. The proposal to save money as well as young people simply makes too much sense to pass the Florida legislature.
* * * * *

Another thing to do, one might conclude from Sticks of Fire, is to get sexual predators away from elementary schools. A statehouse bill named in honor of Homosassa's Jessica Lunsford would commit more than $13 million to electronically tracking convicted sexual predators who are on probation. Angry proposals to castrate them also may play well with constituents, but they would be of doubtful constitutionality.
* * * * *

Hot Wax Residue has more on budget choices facing the Florida legislature, including Jeb Bush's proposal for a "do-over" vote on the class size amendment and a cut in the "per drink" alcohol tax.

Apparently, the governor thinks cheaper booze will help the state attract big business.

Do you also suppose scientists would find that tax cuts on alcohol would make them laugh more?

Friday, April 01, 2005

A Wealth of Living Wills

Robert Friedman of the St. Petersburg Times has a checklist for those who "want medical authorities to resort to extraordinary means to prolong [a] hellish semiexistence."
  • I want the medical geniuses and philosopher kings who populate the Florida Legislature to ignore me for more than a decade and then turn my case into a forum for weeks of politically calculated bloviation.

  • I want total strangers -- oily politicians, maudlin news anchors, ersatz friars and all other hangers-on -- to start calling me "Bobby," as if they had known me since childhood.
Read more here.
* * *

If you feel differently, Blog Bioethics.net suggests a form that even "cerebrally challenged" politicians can understand. His living will includes items like these:
  • Under no circumstances shall the members of the Legislature enact a special law to keep me on life-support machinery. It is my wish that these boneheads mind their own damn business, and pay attention instead to the health, education and future of the millions of Floridians who aren't in a permanent coma.

  • Under no circumstances shall the governor of Florida butt into this case and order my doctors to put a feeding tube down my throat. * * *

* * *

More seriously, as we've written before, the Florida State Bar Association makes available a free Living Will and Medical Surrogate form. Click here to download it and make your own choices.