Wednesday, January 30, 2008

When the Cat's Away

We'll be taking a break for a few days to work on our own, personal version of The Wave for the New England Patriots.

If you want to party, sad to say the Pensacola Beach Krewe of Wrecks web site is off-line, last we saw. Maybe they gave it up for Lent. The SRIA has a list of Mardi Gras weekend activities.
Krewe of Laffite: A Mardi Gras Calendar. The PNJ also lists Mardi Gras events.

If you'd rather read opinions about the news, politics, and household cats in Northwest Florida, check out our geographical neighbor's blog, Why Now? He's always good for an informative post, a rousing argument, or an old fashioned cat fight.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Primary Day

What Why Now? says.

Nelson's Clumsy Endorsement

Bill Nelson's apparent intent to endorse Hillary Clinton today is puzzling. If he was to do it, why wait until the last day voters go to the polls?

Substantial numbers of Florida voters have cast their ballots early and we would judge many who might be influenced by what Nelson thinks are not likely to hear about it until late today or tomorrow, anyway. It's a small pebble thrown on the pond that will make no waves.

Nelson's endorsement can't help Hillary much in Florida; certainly not as much as a full-throated endorsement might have done two weeks ago. And Nelson's influence hardly extends a millimeter beyond our borders, so it will have even less impact on Super Tuesday.

So, Hillary can't be all that thrilled. Neither can Barack Obama, of course. It all seems rather clumsy, ineffectual, and counter-productive, especially for someone who surely yearns to be on the short list for V.P.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Avatar for Pensacola Voters

Louise Roug of the Los Angeles Times thinks she's found the avatar for Northwest Florida's electorate. Sad to say, it may be so.

The stand-in for typical Pensacola voters are Charles and Rhoda Harding, a debt-ridden pawn shop proprietor and his wife. Their business is located "across the street from Dinosaur Adventure Land, a 'Bible-based creation museum."

They twice voted for George W. Bush, hate Hillary Clinton for no reason they can articulate, and are drawn to Mike Huckabee because "he sounds like he wants to help people."

The Hardings, who are in their early 60's, have suffered greatly under the Bush administration. "By almost every indicator," Roug writes, their "quality of life... has worsened since 2004."
When the Hardings voted for Bush, they trusted the war would end once U.S. troops uncovered weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They were hopeful their wrecked world would return to normal once the insurance company paid to repair the roof blown off by the storm.

Though the couple believe in minimal government, they expected there would be emergency help -- perhaps a loan to cover the hurricane damage. Their insurance company paid only half the cost of repairing the roof, and federal officials turned them down when they applied for assistance. They never returned to an even keel.

The Hardings, who earn about $2,000 a month, could no longer afford health insurance. When their son Ronnie started suffering from bouts of fatigue, he refused to get tested because it would strain family finances, and his leukemia went undetected.

Ronnie died July 28. He was 43.

The week Ronnie spent in a hospital cost almost $100,000, and the Hardings are already $50,000 in debt. All they got from the government was $250 in assistance for their son's cremation. "That's what you're worth here in America," Rhoda says.

After two decades of running Adams Pawn, they are trying to sell their business. But in this depressed economy, there are no buyers.
So there you have it: they're anti-war, pro-national health care, for a competent FEMA, and against Bush's consumer bankruptcy law amendments. In other words, their political views almost exactly match those of a liberal Democrat -- and they don't even know it.

It's a phenomenon that we've seen before. Years ago, a legal aid worker of our acquaintance happened to win a hard-fought Social Security disability case for a horribly injured unemployed blue collar worker. What should have been an open-and-shut case -- the guy couldn't walk and was dying of an incurable lung disease -- was made extremely difficult because of changes in federal disability law forced through Congress by the Reagan administration.

The client was, of course, grateful for our friend's devotion to his case. He also was thrilled that he'd won. After profusely thanking our lawyer friend, his family loaded the man's wheelchair into their broken-down van and started off for home.

"As I was waving good-bye," our friend recounted, "I happened to glance at the bumper sticker on the back of the van. It said, 'Re-elect Reagan.'"

What makes this scene double ironic was that at the very same time, the Reagan administration also was fighting to abolish funding for the legal aid society.

The source of the disabled man's legal problems was the Reagan administration. And the only avenue for a cure was under attack by the Reagan administration. Yet, just like the the Hardings in today's LA Times story, the disabled man and his family were about to vote against their own interests -- and they didn't even realize it.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Question for Candidates

Time was when the one thing all presidential candidates claimed for themselves was their loyalty to the U.S. Constitution. Anyone elected president even takes an oath to uphold it:
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
Given the grave threat to the Constitution posed by the Bush administration's FISA proposal now pending in the U.S. Senate, Bryan at Why Now? rightly asks, "Where in hell are Obama and Clinton?"

For that matter, where are all the presidential candidates, whether they be in the Senate or not? Have they no motivation or "ability" to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution?"

FISA Amendments Explained

This week, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) explained in clear, precise, and compelling ways the ongoing dispute in Congress over competing amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Nothing short of the Founding Fathers' constitutional plan for preserving individual freedoms via our democratic government of "checks and balances" lies at the heart of the issue. The original text and video (approx. 14 min.) also is available here.

video


Click on this link to see what you can do today to defend the U.S. Constitution at no cost.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Oops

Pensacola News Journal
(1/25/2008 classified ad section)

PAINTING OF MOTHER- accidentally sold in Moving Sale on 1/11 or 1/12. please call 850-293-3511 Published on 01/25/2008

The 'Real' Giuliani

The New York Times today says Rudy Giuliani isn't "the man the man who stood fast on Sept. 11, when others, including President Bush, went AWOL." Nor is he "the man we endorsed for re-election in 1997 after a first term in which he showed that a dirty, dangerous, supposedly ungovernable city could become clean, safe and orderly."

Write the Times editors:

That man is not running for president.

The real Mr. Giuliani, whom many New Yorkers came to know and mistrust, is a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man who saw no need to limit police power. Racial polarization was as much a legacy of his tenure as the rebirth of Times Square.

Mr. Giuliani’s arrogance and bad judgment are breathtaking. When he claims fiscal prudence, we remember how he ran through surpluses without a thought to the inevitable downturn and bequeathed huge deficits to his successor. He fired Police Commissioner William Bratton, the architect of the drop in crime, because he couldn’t share the limelight. He later gave the job to Bernard Kerik, who has now been indicted on fraud and corruption charges.

The Rudolph Giuliani of 2008 first shamelessly turned the horror of 9/11 into a lucrative business, with a secret client list, then exploited his city’s and the country’s nightmare to promote his presidential campaign.

The Times isn't thrilled with any of the other G.O.P. candidates, but from a disappointing field the editors coolly endorse John McCain as "the only Republican who promises to end the George Bush style of governing from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe."

On the Democratic side, the Times give John Edwards short shrift, says a lot of nice things about Barack Obama, and then endorses Hillary Clinton.

Will primary voters care about either endorsement? Not likely. While once influential, the impact of newspaper endorsements everywhere has greatly diminished over the years. Television advertising and five-second soundbites, to our shame, are far more effective in molding minds.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dio's Question

Apropos of this, we are reminded of Dio's Rhetorical Question:
"For who does not realize that it is in no wise fitting, nor yet advantageous, to entrust affairs to any one man, or for any one man to be put in control of all the blessings we have, however excellent he may be? Great honors and excessive powers excite and ruin even such persons."

-- Cassius Dio (NEE: Cocceianus), Roman History (c. 222 A.D.) at Book 36.
Answer:
Who doesn't? The "Yeas" are listed here.

Nelson Mounts Fence on FISA

UPDATED BELOW
During the U.S. Senate debate on FISA legislation this morning, Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson endorsed Diane Feinstein's supposed "compromise" amendment on telecom immunity. He added, however, that if the amendment fails (as the Republican minority surely will see that it does) he intends to vote for the Bush administration bill -- which immunizes telecoms for past law-breaking and purports to give the president exclusive power to order wiretaps of American citizens -- even though Nelson's special access to intelligence documents leaves him "not sure" whether telecoms and the Bush administration acted lawfully in the past.

In other words, Nelson once again is straddling the fence while the Bush administration strangles the U.S. Constitution. He does it so often, Nelson must have splinters where his manhood once resided.

UPDATED
1-24-08 pm

This afternoon Florida's Bill Nelson voted along with Bush-Cheney administration supporters to "table" the Senate Judiciary Committee version of the FISA legislation. As Chris Dodd (D-CT) pointed out during the morning debate, the only appreciable difference between the two bills is that the Judiciary Committee bill protects constitutional rights of American citizens and offers some degree of a check against abuse of presidential power while the Intelligence Committee bill does not. The motion to table succeeded, 60-36.

corrected 1/24 pm

Beltway Banditry

In Washington today, telecom lobbyists have launched a full-court press to win retroactive immunity for their illegal eavesdropping on American citizens. Granting retroactive immunity will let corporate law-breakers off the hook and hamstring efforts to learn the truth about Bush's illegal spying program.


While many Americans understandably have been worrying over crime in the streets, it seems crime in the boardrooms of the Telecom corporations (that would include ATT, Verizon, and all the rest -- except U.S. West) has been running rampant. For six years they violated the U.S. Constitution and federal law by spying on thee and we.

Now, Telecom industry lobbyists and Dick Cheney are angling to have Congress grant them retroactive immunity for their past crimes. And, in the absence of real leadership from any presidential candidate other than John Edwards, Democrats in Congress are just as deeply implicated as accessories-after-the-fact as Republicans.

As Glenn Greenwald explains today --
Telecoms already have immunity under existing FISA law where they acted pursuant to written government certification or where they prove they acted in good faith (see 18 USC 2520 (d)). There is no reason that the federal courts presiding over these cases can't simply make that determination, as they do in countless other cases involving classified information.
Lots of bloggers and more traditional news sources have the low-down on what's happening, such as here and here and here. If you're short of time, Leave Us Alone! offers a succinct version. with links. Raw Story has an update for today, as well.

Click on this link to see what you can do today to defend the U.S. Constitution at no cost.

The Giuliani Tourist Trap

"[Florida] is a state of full of mothers who live for phone calls from long-distance adult children... ."
Timothy Egan, Jan. 24, 2008
Timothy Egan, 2006 National Book Award winner for his historical treatment of the Great Dust Bowl, today is blogging for the New York Times. Summarizing Rudy Giuliani's imploding Florida campaign, he uses a memorably snarky headline to foretell the conclusion: "Goodbye Rudy, Tuesday."
[Y]ou can summarize Giuliani’s problems in the line he no longer uses. When the World Trade Center towers came down, he turned to his loyal sidekick Bernie Kerik, and said he was glad George Bush was president.

Now, that line is a triple loser. Kerik, his police commissioner, is under federal indictment, in a sea of troubles. Bush is despised by two-thirds of Americans, and even a majority of Republicans want to go in a different direction.
* * *
Yet Giuliani still wants to frighten people into voting for him. Maybe that’s why he hired the gothic-faced actor Jon Voight to stump for him in Florida. What, Christopher Walken wasn’t available?
There is no doubt that Giuliani's unpopularity in Florida is snowballing. The Miami Herald reports his poll numbers have sunk to Huckabee levels, just above "Undecided" and the campaign corpse known as "Fred Thompson." The odd thing is that Egan attributes this to Giuliani's estrangement from his children rather than to the ex-mayor's hateful, retributive personality.

"This is a state of full of mothers who live for phone calls from long-distance adult children," Egan writes, "and there’s one thing they can’t abide – Rudy’s wreck of a family life."
Yes, people roll their eyes over the story of how Giuliani’s third wife picked him up in a cigar bar while he was still married to the second Mrs. Hizzoner. But I heard no end of condemnation over the mayor’s estrangement from his two children.
Another Times reporter, Michael Powell, probably has it right: Giuliani is hitting it off with the sight-seeing snowbirds, but not with voters who actually live in Florida. He's become a scary kind of tourist trap -- sort of like St. Augustine's Ripley's Believe It Or Not Museum -- not a serious candidate for what we used to call "leader of the free world."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hodos and Contels

Rick Outzen, publisher of Pensacola's weekly, The Independent News, asked a good question on his blog the other day: "Whatever Happened to Condo-Hotels?"

The answer may surprise you, unless you're familiar with Escambia County government.

School Super 'Censured'

Tuesday night the Escambia County School Board "censured superintendent Jim Paul for his Jan. 10 drunken-driving arrest in South Florida." What's that mean? The intrepid Michael Stewart explains:
School Board members approved a motion by Claudia Brown-Curry to "express disapproval of the conduct of Mr. Paul in Pinellas County."
In kiddyland, an "expression of disapproval" isn't even a "time out" much less a "grounding." It's more like a mild finger-wagging.

In any event, the school board's action rather misses the worst of Paul's behavior, doesn't it? More egregious than the crime "in Pinellas county" has been Jim Paul's persistent lying about it afterwards, right here at home in Escambia County. Reporter Stewart today exposes yet another whopper of Paul's.

As we pointed out when the story of his late-night drunken escapades first surfaced, the heavy irony behind this incident has its roots in Jim Paul's rigid insistence on a "zero tolerance" policy for students and teachers accused of even the most minor, attenuated, or thinly-evidenced misbehavior. But when it comes to his own behavior, all of a sudden he acts like all excuses should be warmly welcomed. To quote ourselves:
There is no reason to believe a "zero-tolerance" policy -- whether for drugs or alcohol abuse -- is any more effective or rational as a school district employment policy than it is as a policy governing student enrollment. There are gradations to such offenses. There can be important individual differences among offenders.
Paul apparently became sufficiently uncomfortable with the manifest hypocrisy of his own behavior that last week he claimed in an interview with Stewart that the school district's policy is mandated by "state law. "

"We have no choice," he claimed then.

Today, reporter Michael Stewart explodes that as yet another Jim Paul prevarication:
The state mandates zero tolerance for some school offenses, such as battery on a school official or bringing a weapon to school. In some areas, such as possession of alcohol or drugs, there is some flexibility.
To which the superintendent apparently now replies, If you don't like my policy, advertise and hold "a public hearing to... see if changes need to be made."

When an elected official repeatedly lies to the public not only about his own behavior but about the institutional policies he is charged with administering against others, he deserves more than a mere wag of the finger. He deserves to be fed a dose of the same medicine he's been so insistent is good for everyone else -- zero tolerance -- and it's up to the voters to do it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Market Wrap-up

Robert Benchley wraps up the world's stock market action. Could have been like CNBC today:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Man of the Future

MLK, April 4, 1967 (full text)

"Martin Luther King was a man of the future. He saw clearly that humankind has a choice. It is the choice between continuing to wage war, and surviving as a species. King was also a man in a hurry. He did not have much time. Neither do we."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Primary Limericks

Andrew Sullivan is collecting limericks by readers for the primary season. Here's an early favorite, with links to more:
There once was the mayor called Rudy
Who went to Long Island for booty
The taxpayers paid
So that he could get laid
Did 9/11 come before Judy?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Florida Flees Giuliani

Newsweek: The more he campaigns in Florida, the lower Rudy Giuliani sinks in the polls. Just imagine what will happen when the competition shows up.

That Hillary Quote

Bill Moyers remembers the true history of our country:

Wouldn't it be great if all the candidates for president, not to mention the New York Times, did so, too?

School Super's War on Truth

Yesterday, Escambia County school superintendent Jim Paul opened a second and a third front in his continuing war on the truth. The PNJ's Michael Stewart was embedded to report on it.

Along the old battle line -- did-he-or-didn't he? -- Paul managed to imply simultaneously that he had only one glass of wine before getting collared for drunk driving and that he might have had three or four, too.
"If you have one drink a day, does that mean you have a drinking problem? It might mean that.
* * *
"Maybe it was three drinks," Paul said Friday, adding that the amount doesn't matter. "Whether it was two drinks or four drinks, I did something wrong."
At the same time, Jim Paul launched a new frontal assault on the breathalyzer results:
He chastised those who questioned his account of events — particularly the .128 reading after two glasses of wine.

"How terrible would it be to everybody if we found out, 'Oh my God, the breathing machine was out of whack,' " he said.
This is reminiscent of Paul's earlier insistence that it wasn't his fault; it was the fault of the arresting officer. As first concocted, the officer "asked me to walk the line, and I thought I walked it perfectly, but he didn't."

Confused by the fog of this war? No doubt that's what Jim Paul, who's up for reelection this year, is hoping for.

Just in case the pincer movement in this war on the truth doesn't work, it sure looks like Paul is preparing to buy more time with a surge of the Ready Reserves. That would be the regiments of reformed alcoholics and Born Again proselytes who are always in abundance in Northwest Florida.

Local businessman Quint Studer told Stewart he's already "talked with Paul about his own experience in recovering from alcoholism." And Paul got the message:
"I'm going to meet with a counselor. I've got to talk to people who are in the business of counseling. They diagnose these kinds of things."
If the 12 steps are waiting just ahead for Jim Paul, can the Army of Jesus be far behind?

It doesn't take "people who are in the business of counseling" to diagnose Jim Paul's real problem: he's a serial liar and a hypocrite.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

FEMA Destroyer Visits Gulf Coast

Joe Allbaugh, who took a wrecking ball to FEMA two years before Hurricane Ivan devastated the Pensacola area, visited the Gulf Coast yesterday. He is shown, above, standing expectantly behind Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani (photo by PNJ photographer Ben Twingley).
At FEMA, Bush appointed a close aide, Joe Allbaugh, to be the agency's new director. Allbaugh had served as then-Gov. Bush's chief of staff in Texas and as manager of his 2000 presidential campaign. Along with Karl Rove and Karen Hughes, Allbaugh was known as one part of Bush's "iron triangle" of professional handlers.
* * *
By ignoring the logic of fully funded mitigation and other preparedness programs, Bush's first FEMA director earned some scorn among emergency specialists. "Allbaugh? He was inept," says Claire Rubin, a senior researcher at George Washington University's Institute for Crisis, Disaster and Risk Management.
Allbaugh later left what remained of the agency and helped advance his former college roommate, the incompetent Michael Brown, to the head of FEMA. Allbaugh himself went on to rake in millions on government consulting contracts in Iraq and New Orleans.

Giuliani is notorious in his own right. He hired mob-connected Bernie Kerick (now under indictment for corruption in New York) as city police chief and even recommended Kerik to head the newly created Department of Homeland Security.

Judging from yesterday's photos, there were more Bush administration crooks and cronies meeting with Giuliani in Gulf Breeze than Florida voters.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Giuliani Loses - Again

In the Michigan G.O.P. primary even a political corpse, Fred Thompson, beat Rudy Giuliani.

Jim Paul Wall Art

Today, in a centrally placed in-your-face editorial the Pensacola News Journal outright calls for the resignation of Escambia School Superintendent Jim ("Car Sleeper") Paul.

Not for being arrested on drunk driving charges. For being a ridiculous liar and a transparent hypocrite.

Alongside for the ride: a mocking editorial cartoon by the talented Andy Marlette, suitable for taping on the bedroom wall of every student in the Pensacola area.

Fishmonger's Son Arrested - Again

The late Joe Patti's idiot son, Frank, is in trouble again. He claims to have a clear memory of the event, unlike the last time when he tried to convince government shrinks his memory was erased after he mysteriously slow-crashed his car into a display locomotive.

Give it time. Frank may yet suffer an attack of amnesia. He just won't know for sure until his lawyers can assess Frank's chances of beating this wrap.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Florida Connections?

Though his campaign is almost broke, Rudy Giuliani doesn't believe in spending his own money. He or a look-alike is happy to take this money, however.

Monday, January 14, 2008

John Gunn - Hospitalized

Once upon a time Marine and long-time local Gulf Breeze newspaper columnist John Gunn, age 76, is no longer operating his frequent email news service. Wife Joan says that John was admitted the first week of December to Encore Senior Village in Pensacola.

John is in the early stages of frontal lobe dementia and is not expected to recover. A few weeks ago, he wandered away from the facility on one of the coldest nights of the year, precipitating an area-wide police search. He was eventually found, disoriented, some four and half miles away from the locked facility where he now resides.

Joan says her husband does have his 'good days' and would welcome mail or visits.
Encore Senior Village
9015 University Pkwy
Pensacola, FL 32514
Last revised 1-14-08 pm

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Candidate for President of 9 /11

The candidate for President of 9/11 is coming to Pensacola this week. If he can afford the bus fare.
"Sure, he has no foreign or national policy experience, and both his personal life and political career are riddled with scandal," said Hammond. "But in the key area of having been on TV on 9/11, the other candidates simply cannot match him. And as we saw in 2004, that's what matters most to voters in this post-9/11 world."
* * *
"Letting 9/11 fall into the hands of the Democrats in 2008 would be nothing short of a national tragedy," Giuliani said. "Ever since 9/11 was founded that fateful day on 9/11, 9/11 has stood for one thing: 9/11."
He will speak on this topic: "Subject, Verb, 9/11."

Saturday, January 12, 2008

News Flash: School Super Has 'Liver Problems'

UPDATED BELOW
"I didn't feel in any way inhibited," Paul said when asked if he was intoxicated.
-- School superintendent Jim Paul
This news about Escambia County School Superintendent Jim Paul almost brings tears to our eyes. In an interview with PNJ reporter Michael Stewart, Jim Paul has explained that before being arrested for drunk driving, he had consumed only "two glasses of wine."

Hey, that's not bad. Could have happened to anyone. Just two glasses. And only wine.

Then he fell sleep for five hours in the parking lot of a St. Petersburg gambling casino. Now, that shows good judgment, right? One almost wishes everyone who's had a glass of wine or two would be so safety-conscious.

Unfortunately, before Mr. Paul could finish getting a full night's sleep in his rental car he was rudely awakened by "a drunk" knocking on his car window at 1:30 in the morning.

A drunk, mind you! Gosh darn. Is there nowhere in America a law-abiding citizen can get a little shut-eye without being harassed by drunken bums?

After that, Jim Paul tried to find his way back to his hotel on Clearwater Beach, but he "got lost." Those rental agencies never give you a usable map, don'cha know.

After spotting Paul's rental car "speeding and weaving dramatically," a police officer gave the school superintendent a field sobriety test. Paul says, "He asked me to walk the line, and I thought I walked it perfectly, but he didn't."

So, Jim Paul was arrested. Quite possibly, the officer was impaired and didn't notice how "perfectly" Jim Paul was walking after his five hour snooze.

Oh, but there's more:
Paul registered .128 on an alcohol breath test that was administered, by his account of events, at least five hours after the first of his two drinks. The legal threshold for driving under the influence is .08.

An alcohol counselor in Pensacola, contacted by the News Journal, said Paul's account of how much alcohol he consumed before the .128 reading sounds unlikely.

After two hours, a person who drank two 5-ounce glasses of wine, which officials at the Hard Rock Casino said they serve, "should have a blood alcohol level of approximately zero," said Pensacola Naval Hospital drug and alcohol counselor Laurie Perkins.

Wait, wait... There's an explanation! Ms. Perkins says, "I'm not going to say it is impossible. There are cases where people have liver problems and their liver doesn't metabolize alcohol properly."

Paul concedes voters may no longer trust him, but adds that he can regain that trust "by accepting responsibility" for his actions. He's courageously begun to do that by blaming the two glasses of wine, the rude drunk who banged on his window, the confusing highways of St. Petersburg, and the arresting officer who didn't appreciate how "perfectly" Jim Paul was walking.

Once someone takes responsibility for all of these things, he says, "we need to move on."

But first, Jim, please have your liver tested.

UPDATE
01-12 pm
There's good news and bad news for Jim Paul over at Chris Olson's new Pensacola Blog.

The good news? Olson writes, "I don’t think Paul has a drinking problem." The bad news? Olson thinks Jim Paul is a liar.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Another Horatio Alger Story

Question: How do you make $115 million in a single day and get someone else to pay your country club bills and airfare for the next four years?

Answer: Become CEO of Countrywide Financial and Mortgage Co. ... entrap hundreds of thousands of consumers into borrowing on mortgages they can't afford ... slide more charges onto their bills without the customers' knowledge... sell your own stock in the company while stiff-arming the S.E.C. ... run the company to the brink of bankruptcy when the customers can't pay... reassure Wall Street everything is just ducky... then abruptly fire 12,000 salaried employees.

Finally, you thank your mother for encouraging you to go to college.

Inspiring.

High School Musingsville

In the most precise sense, perhaps this should not be considered a schedenfreud moment. It comes darn close, though.

There is a difference, after all, between illegal driving after drinking to excess and illegal drug use. Both are crimes and both can be just as deadly. But Pensacola's school district policy, justifiably or not, gives drunk driving teachers a second (or even a third) chance and none at all for drug offenses, however minor.

Rules are rules. Still, what other than the whiff of rank hypocrisy accounts for the venom these students and parents are expressing about Escambia County School Superintendent's arrest?

They know how unyielding and self-righteous he was when it came to another person's "mistake." They doubtless expect, now that the handcuffs are on other wrists, that Ron JimPaul suddenly will be pleading for mercy and understanding about his own lapse.

Other than the school district's draconian "zero-tolerance" policy for ingesting one kind of mind-altering substance and not another, there's no real difference between the two cases. Former Woodham High School coach and teacher Benny Washington didn't contest that he was caught with a small amount of "cocaine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia in his vehicle." By pleading no contest, technically, he may never be convicted of any crime. But he lost his teaching job anyway.

Escambia County School Superintendent Jim Paul came down hard on Washington by demanding he be fired or resign with a public confession that effectively bars him from reemployment. He also likely will not be contesting his own arrest for drunk driving. And he probably won't be convicted of any crime, either.

But Paul, you can be sure, won't resign his elected post. Instead, it's nearly a dead certainty he'll soon be begging for forgiveness from voters. Too bad for him that he couldn't find an equal measure of charity when it came to Benny Washington.

The real issue, as we see it, transcends these two individuals and any implications of hypocrisy. Alcohol and drug abuse are terrible things to see anyone suffer, and hardly less so when it happens to educators whom we rightly expect to set an example for young people. As one expert has pointed out at some length, however, "zero tolerance" policies do not work in society at large because "drug abuse and addiction are medical problems, not criminal justice problems... . "

There is no reason to believe a "zero-tolerance" policy -- whether for drugs or alcohol abuse -- is any more effective or rational as a school district employment policy than it is as a policy governing student enrollment. There are gradations to such offenses. There can be important individual differences among offenders.

Sometimes a child or a teacher -- or even a school district superintendent -- needs counseling and treatment, not umbrageous moralizing and one-size-fits-all punitive consequences. The objective remains to prevent to the maximum extent possible drug and alcohol abuse by teachers and students.

We hope Superintendent Jim Paul's arrest serves to inspire the school board to take a closer, more objective look at all of its drug and alcohol policies to see just where they have gone wrong.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Florida Carrion for Sale

40 cents on the dollar:
"South Florida is our principal focus,'' said Arsenault, 60. "If you're a vulture, Florida has more carrion. This stuff is lying on the ground. It's lost life. * * *

Arsenault said he and his three partners may buy a block of about 50 new, unsold condominiums in Orlando, Florida. They have a price in mind and they're willing to wait until they get it: 40 cents on the dollar.
* * *
Companies such as Miami-based Lennar, the biggest U.S. homebuilder by revenue, need to generate cash to make up for slowing home sales, especially this time of year, said Vicki Bryan, a Friendswood, Texas-based senior high-yield debt analyst for Gimme Credit LLC.

"They sold land at 40 cents on the dollar and they're happy to get it,'' Bryan said. "The value of land is eroding by the minute.''

Live! From Detroit, South Carolina

We were there once. So, observing the ethical standards of Maureen Dowd and the New York Times, we'll be blogging the South Carolina primary from Charleston and the Michigan primary from Detroit -- simultaneously.

Thought of the Day

Whiskey Fire:
"[M]ore harm has been done to our democracy by the demented anti-Clintinoids than the Clintons ever did. For openers, these are by and large the same gang of assholes who enabled George W Bush."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Analyzing the Analysis

How to explain the bizarro article coming out in Thursday's New York Times, titled "Analyzing the New Hampshire Surprise"?

Jacques Steinberg and Janet Elder ostensibly set out to answer one question: how could so many "pollsters and news organizations... have not seen it coming?" Oddly, the daring duo finds no "specific evidence" for any answer that might embarrass anyone even remotely connected with the mainstream media.

No sign of bias. No laziness. No group-think. No careerist urge to regurgitate conventional wisdom. No failure on the part of reporters toreport rather than merely repeat the commonly accepted narrative. Nope, everything was just hunky-dory with all the reporters.

There is this, however. Steinberg and Elder say that WaPo reporter Joel Achenbach wrote on his newspaper's blog:
“You had to see the crowds! Feel the energy!”“O.K., so in retrospect a lot of those people were probably college kids on break from Massachusetts or Maryland,
Well, all right! Now we're getting somewhere! Turns out it wasn't the failure of the mainstream media! It was the fault of all those crafty college kids who horned in where they didn't belong!

We're not buying it -- and here's why. Deep into the piece, Steinberg and Elder selectively quote from retired NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw. We say "selectively" because they seem to have deep-sixed the most important thing Brokaw had to say.

See if you can tell what in his remarks the New York Times reporters didn't think was newsworthy. (Hint: It's identified below in boldface print.)

In the telling by Steinberg and Elder, this was Mr. Brokaw's comment:
“Well,” responded Mr. Matthews, “we must then stay home, I guess.”

Mr. Brokaw said, “No,” adding a moment later, “but we don’t have to get in the business of making judgments before the polls have closed, and trying to stampede, in effect, the process.”
In the original transcript, this is what Brokaw really said:
BROKAW: We know from how the people voted today, what moved them to vote. You can take a look at that. No, no we don’t stay home. There are reasons to analyze what they’re saying. There are a lot of issues that have not been fully explored during all this.

But we don’t have to get in the business of making judgments before the polls have closed. And trying to stampede, in effect, the process.
What we think is, some editor at the Times bet Steinberg and Elder two beers that they couldn't write a horse-race piece about how rotten the New Hampshire horse-race media coverage was without touching on at least some substance, somewhere; perhaps an "issue" that has "not been fully explored."

Steinberg and Elder said, "You're on!" And they won.

Don't Cry For Thee, Maureen Dowd

Jon Swift plagiarizes the vile Maureen Dowd.

Inside the MSM

Maureen Dowd unintentionally spills the beans on what "objective" New York Times reporters really think of Hillary Clinton. Atrios has it right: "These people are all broken. Complete monsters."

John McCain's Disqualifying Speech

Last night, John McCain delivered what is surely one of the worst written, most apathetically delivered speeches in American political history. McCain might have been sleep-walking for all the enthusiasm he showed.

But it was the scripted speech itself that deserves closer attention. It was, in a word, execrable. Chock-full of banalities, adolescent bromides, and loosely associated clich├ęs. The speech was completely unsuitable -- either as an inspirational call to his followers as McCain prepares to march forward, or as a vehicle to introduce himself and his vision to the rest of the nation, or as a compelling recitation of what he stands for. It didn't even rise to the common, low level of a toastmaster's fawning introduction of his family and key supporters. In the unlikely event you have nothing better to do, you can inflict the whole thing on yourself here.

The speech simply made no sense. Worse, both the text and the delivery give a dispiriting, if not downright frightening, foretaste of just how bad John McCain would be at using the "bully pulpit" of the presidency.

Almost as remarkable was MSNBC's coverage of the event. Joe Scarborough, Keith Olbermann, Howard Fineman, and even (so it seems from the audio) the stage hands couldn't stop laughing.

We don't particularly object to derisive reviews of politicians who spout nonsense and call it policy. In fact, the nation could have used a lot more derision in the past seven years, especially when covering serial liars like this guy and that one.

Still, it would have been a service to viewers if the boys in the studio had sobered up long enough to explain why John McCain's victory speech last night virtually disqualifies him for national office.

New Hampshire Effects

So, how to explain the New Hampshire surprise? Some posit the "Bradley effect."
White voters who said that they were undecided break in statistically large numbers toward the white candidate, and many of the white voters who said that they were likely to vote for the black candidate ultimately cast their ballot for the white candidate.
Digby, channeling Pam Spaulding, says it might be the "Tweety effect."
where the misogyny of a talking head in the MSM so enrages a demographic that they go out and vote in a manner that will put egg on the face of the talking head.
Jane Hamsher wonders if it the unexpected vote surge was due to what might be called the Edwards effect.
Clinton took them from Edwards. Did his pivot against her during the last debate and his comments yesterday contribute to what happened?
Brad Friedman is worried it might be the Diebold Effect. It seems three quarters of all paper ballots in New Hampshire --
are counted on hackable Diebold op-scan systems, with completely hackable memory cards, all programmed and managed by LHS Associates.
We don't have enough facts to form a useful opinion, other than this: There is much to be thankful for in seeing both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama take their erudite, informed, and important dialog on the issues of the day out of the cornfields of Iowa and New Hampshire's woods into the heart of the nation.

An early end to the Democratic primary season, as the mainstream media was predicting, would not have been in the public interest.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Compassionate Hypocrisy

This would be our nominee for Quote of the Week, except for the fact that even more idiocy surely will be manufactured by the same gang of political thugs at the National Review throughout this young week:
Jonah Goldberg [National Review]: There was a lot of us who did not like 'compassionate conservative' but were willing to go along with it for other reasons -- national security, better than Al Gore, all that kind of thing. Bush would be good on judges.
* * *
The benefit of Bush's 'compassionate conservatism' is that it was mostly a marketing slogan.

Alex Chadwick NPR/Day To Day]: You mean you're worried that Mike Huckabee might actually mean it?

Jonah Goldberg: Yes, that's what I'm terrified of. * * * This guy means it. That is not what American conservatism has been for the last fifty years and it's not what it should be.
So, the next time Goldberg and his colleagues claim that they support, um, ah... anyone or anything, why should we believe them? They're probably just trying to sucker us, again, into supposing they mean what they say.

Never mind the political partisanship. Why on earth should anyone read a magazine edited by self-confessed liars and hypocrites like Jonah Goldberg?

Moonlighting from the 'Third Coast'

Bryan, our geographical neighbor at the Why Now? blog has begun moonlighting at American Street. On Mondays, for the moment.

Congratulations to him! Warmer congratulations to American Street for recognizing a sterling talent.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sublime Justice

Frank Rich, NYT. Jan. 6, 2008:
The party that has milked religious conservatives for votes for two decades is traumatized by the prospect that one of that ilk might actually become its standard-bearer. Especially if the candidate in question is a preacher who bashes Wall Street and hedge-fund managers and threatens to take a Christian attitude toward those too poor to benefit from the Bush tax cuts.

No wonder the long list of party mandarins eager to take down Mr. Huckabee includes Rush Limbaugh, Robert Novak, the Wall Street Journal editorial page and National Review. Dan Bartlett, the former close Bush adviser, has snickered at Mr. Huckabee’s presumably low-rent last name. Fred Barnes was reduced to incoherent babbling when a noticeably gloomy Fox News announced Mr. Huckabee’s victory Thursday night.
Ain't it fun?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Is there A Doctor in the House?

Bill O'Reilly is off his meds, again.

Ron Paul Out-Foxed

The conventional Beltway wisdom is that in the wake of Mike Huckabee's victory in Iowa, John McCain benefits. Adam Nagourney and Carl Hulse repeat that pre-cooked narrative, for those of you who just returned from Planet Tralfamador.

Why McCain? Because G.O.P. party leaders are so nervous about the Franken-gelical monster they've created. Sadly, No explains:
When the Republicans’ Christianist sect decided that it was sick and tired of being played for fools by its own party, its adherents decided to throw their support behind one of their own. And because this particular candidate doesn’t show the same enthusiasm for tax-cutting and war-mongering that Mitt Romney and Rudy Guliani do, the GOP establishment is freaking the hell out.
Things will be different in New Hampshire, we're told. In the Granite State, "there are far fewer of the evangelical conservatives who were key to Huckabee's Iowa victory."

Maybe so. But if the state's "Live Free Or Die" motto has any remaining resonance, Republicans looking for "change" -- which we are assured the Iowa caucuses signaled -- New Hampshire voters might want to take a look at candidate Ron Paul (R-Tex).

Paul drew 10% of the GOP caucus votes in Iowa, besting both Rudy Giullani and nearly beating Fred Thompson.* Last quarter, he pulled in more bucks than any GOP candidate.

He's a rock-ribbed libertarian, as his fascinating appearance last night on Bill Moyers Reports firmly establishes: a true "small government" conservative without all the biblical baggage and with a far firmer understanding of the Constitution.

So, you'd think Ron Paul would be a plausible heir to head the so-called "Reagan coalition." The thing is, Fox Cable News won't let Ron Paul debate in New Hampshire.

Giulliani and Thompson? They're gold with Fox News.

So can someone tell us, just when was Fox Cable News appointed Arbiter of GOP Political Correctness?
------------------

* Iowa Caucus results.
HT to comment below.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Obama Phenomenon

The BBC's James Coomerasamy, who has been covering with distinction the Iowa presidential caucuses for BBC World Service Radio and BBC America News, reported early this morning that the chief lesson of last night is the huge turn-out of Independents and fallen-away Republicans for the Democratic victor, Barack Obama.

Our own Iowa sources confirm this. Precinct chairmen called to tell us that nearly fifty percent of the record-breaking turn-out they saw at local party caucuses were there to register as Democrats for the first time ever. "I've never seen so many Independents and Republicans," Democratic precinct chairman Roger Kuhle said. "Almost all of them went for Obama. They were genuinely enthusiastic."

The numbers verify the anecdotal reports. In 2000, the last time there wasn't an incumbent president running for reelection, 60,760 Iowans attended the Democratic Party caucuses. The best Democratic turnout in state history was just 125,000 in 1988.

By contrast, last night over 234,000 Iowans braved sub-freezing weather to attend the Democratic caucuses. That's nearly twice as many as in state history.

As the Des Moines Register's respected Iowa Poll foresaw shortly beforehand, likely "60 percent of Democratic caucus goers " were first-time attendees and "72 percent of Obama's support" came from those first-timers.

It was because of that record-breaking turn-out, as Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson reports, that Obama beat Hillary "eight ways to Sunday."
He edged her out among Democrats 32/31, and cleaned her clock among independents (44/17) and wayward Republicans (41/10). He beat her among people making less than $15,000 (37/30) and more than $100,000 (41/19). He beat her among health-care voters (34/30) and suburban voters (30/25).

Most astounding however, he beat her among her core supporters, women, by five points. What more can I say than — in a night of mind boggling statistics — that that’s the stat of the night.

A black man did this. In a state that’s 96 percent white. This is truly a historic night in America.
Of course, Iowa is only the start of the presidential primary process, not the end. Regardless of Iowa, or New Hampshire or South Carolina for that matter, as Josh Marshall acutely observes, Hillary isn't going away any time soon.

Nor, it would seem, is John Edwards.

Once again, the Iowa caucuses have defeated conventional beltway wisdom and given the nation good cause to rethink who it is we really want to lead our nation.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Cold Snap

"A strong Arctic airmass ... settled into the deep South and will persist across the region" through Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. It was every bit as cold as this (below) but without the snow:

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year Predictions

We fully expect that when this investigation is "completed' ...
Florida is not the only government investment pool to have acquired assets linked to subprime mortgages, but it is the only one to have suffered a run, for reasons unlikely to be clear until the investigation is completed.
... it will be concluded that someone talked.

And while we're making predictions, we'll go out on a limb and predict that this --
Spokesmen for Bush and Lehman Brothers said Bush's consulting work had nothing to do with the sales of the securities to the Florida investment pool.

...will be exposed as a "misstatement" (in normal life, that's known as a lie).

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Squelching Rumors

"I got pricked by Mick"
The rumor that Mik Miller of Body Extremes in North Quincy, Massachusetts, is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having implanted the most face jewelry in other people is not true, Mik tells us. They have no category like that.

The rumor that he used to hand out cards to customers reading "I got pricked by Mick" may be true, but it's out of date. He doesn't do that anymore. Everyone at his shop is "professional and fun," someone named Robyn assures the world.

Un-Faust

When it comes to earmarks Northwest Florida's idiot congressman Jeff Miller says, "I would like to see a moratorium on all earmarks" and "I'm not going to sell my soul for two pieces of gold... ."

Instead, he gives it away in secret:
But that didn't stop him from filing 15 earmark requests earlier this year, none of which his office would disclose at the time.