Friday, October 31, 2008

Studs Terkel (1912-2008)

The lights of planet Earth just dimmed. Chicago Tribune:
Author-radio host-actor-activist and Chicago symbol Louis "Studs" Terkel died today at his Chicago home at age 96.
* * *
It is hard to imagine a fuller life.

A television institution for years, a radio staple for decades, a literary lion since 1967, when he wrote his first best-selling book at the age of 55, Louis Terkel was born in New York City on May 16, 1912. "I came up the year the Titanic went down," he would often say.
* * *
He was in that living room last year when he said with zest that when he "checked out"-- as a "hotel kid" he rarely used the word "dying," preferring the euphemism "checking out" and its variants--he wanted to be cremated. He wanted his ashes mixed with those of his wife, which sat in an urn in the living room of his house, near the bed in which he slept and dreamed.

"My epitaph? My epitaph will be 'Curiosity did not kill this cat,'" he said.

He then said that he wanted his and Ida's ashes to be scattered in Bughouse Square, that patch of green park that so informed his first years in his adopted city.

"Scatter us there," he said, a gleeful grin on his face. "It's against the law. Let 'em sue us."

Terkel is survived by his son. A memorial service is planned.

There is much, much more....

Evolutionary Milestone

Friday's New York Times is reporting that the audience for Obama's 30-minute infomercial "far exceeded" the expectations of television executives. It "was a smashing ratings success on Wednesday night, proving to be more popular than even the final game of the World Series — and last season’s finale of 'American Idol.'"

It appears that, at last, we have arrived at that point in the long evolutionary struggle of humankind when it makes news that a presidential candidate can capture the imagination of more onlookers than a handful of amateur nobody's hoping for a record contract.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

School Props for McCain

MSNBC via Huffington Post:
A local school district official confirmed after the event that of the 6,000 people estimated by the fire marshal to be in attendance this morning, more than 4,000 were bused in from schools in the area. The entire 2,500-student Defiance School District was in attendance, the official said, in addition to at least three other schools from neighboring districts, one of which sent 14 buses.
Since when do schools connive with politicians to help construct a Potemkin village?

More Layoffs Ordered at Pensacola News Journal

The powers on high at Gannett Corp. have ordered the involuntary "lay-off of 10% of its newspaper employees -- up to 3,000 workers -- by early December." These cuts will come on the heels of earlier substantial job eliminations and firings that have left the News Journal a shell of its former self.

According to the Business Journal of Milwaukee "
Laid-off personnel will receive one week of severance for every year with the company, with a cap of 26 weeks."

It's not that Gannett Corporation is losing money, although revenues are trending down. In fact, third quarter profits for the corporation, it was announced yesterday, were 69 cents a share -- and that includes a special expense charge of $23 million for "severance expenses" from the earlier round of layoffs this summer. The problem is that while Gannett is profitable, its third quarter profits are less than they were a year ago when the corporation earned $1.01 a share.

Wall Street doesn't like that.

We've recently been engaged in a large project that requires a good deal of research into a couple of century old newspapers. This may explain why we're feeling a bit sadder than usual over the slow death of the Pensacola News Journal we seem to be witnessing. There was a time, we can see clearly in the archives we've been combing, when newspaper owners were truly devoted to the communities they served and well satisfied if they made any profit at all.

Somewhere along the way, Wall Street bought out almost all of those newspapers. Now, the distant owners and investment houses that really own the nation's papers do not give a flip about the communities their newspapers serve. The stock-holding institutions and investment houses are satisfied only if their profits increase, quarter upon quarter and year upon year, no matter how thin and useless the actual "product" they are selling may be.

In Wall Street's world the Pensacola News Journal is not a community newspaper. It's a line item on an accounting sheet. It might as well be a widget manufacturer, for all Wall Street cares.

Life in America is poorer for that. We aren't sure what the solution may be, aside from establishing a relationship with a foundation as the St. Petersburg Times once did, but there has to be a better way.

Obama TV Ratings

Nielsen overnight ratings for the top 56 local TV markets measured last night's audience for the Obama campaign's 30-minute commercial at 21.7 percent of all households. The ad “outperformed the usual programming in the time period,” according to Hollywood Reporter. In the large Florida market of West Palm Beach/Ft. Pierce viewership was a very high 28 percent.

Dept. of Amplification
10-30 pm
Late afternoon Nielsen ratings, which fine-tune the overnight viewership, calculate 33.5 million people watched the Obama TV special.


Obama's 30-Minute 'Infomercial'

If you didn't watch it live or Tivo it, here's Barack Obama's much-talked-about infomercial. It runs about 27 minutes:

Bush Fan Evaluates McCain

Shorter David Broder: If John McCain were to run the country the way he has run his campaign, we're all in deep doo-doo.
[H]e had limited interest in, and capacity for, the organization and management of large enterprises. His first effort at building a structure for the 2008 presidential race collapsed in near-bankruptcy, costing him the service of many longtime aides. From beginning to end, the campaign that followed has been plagued by internal feuds and McCain's inability to resolve them.

The shortcoming was intellectual as well as bureaucratic.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Simple Question, Simple Answer

Question: Is it a negative political ad when the ad does nothing but accurately quote the other guy -- with verifying footnotes?

Answer: No.


The 'Socialism' Canard

One of the enduring mysteries in Northwest Florida is why so many active and retired military veterans respond so fervently whenever some pol accuses another pol of having "socialist" ideas.
Just the other day, we witnessed a retired Navy officer of no particular distinction begin foaming at the mouth the moment he launched into his claim that Barack Obama's economic plan to let the notorious Bush tax cuts of 2001 expire was "socialistic."

There are few walks of life in America more "socialistic" than the military life that Navy officer has led. In the military, the federal government pays for nearly everything:
  • Government-subsidized housing
  • food
  • transportation
  • health care for the entire family
  • education
  • all job costs
  • PX consumer goods, and even
  • one of the last "defined-benefit" pension plans in the land.
To each according to his need, from all of us regardless of ability. Johns Hopkins professor Hillary Bok ("Hilzoy") makes something of the same point today, in a snarky way, with her article "Socialism Is Everywhere."

Mystery solved: The other guy's economic plan always is "socialistic" and "redistributive." My guy's economic plan merely rewards those who "need help" or "deserve" it.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Governor Extends Early Voting

Florida Governor Charlie Crist today used his powers to issue an executive order extending early voting throughout the state. Here's the nub of it, after a lot of whereas's and wherefore's:
I order the Supervisors of Elections to open early voting sites from 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. through October 31, 2008 and open early voting sites for a total of twelve (12) hours between 7 a.m. November 1, 2008 and 7 p.m. November 2, 2008.
For the western-most two counties in the Florida panhandle, this represents a considerable expansion of early voting. Until today, to comply with the restrictive legislation passed by the Republican-dominated legislature in 2005, local election officials were forced to keep banker's hours and were not planning on being open at all this coming Sunday.

Dept. of Amplification and Clarification
10-29 am

According to Wednesday's PNJ, both Escambia and Santa Rosa election officials "will use all of their weekend hours on Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m." There will be no early voting on Sunday in the greater Pensacola area, at all.

Locally, then, the net effect of Governor Crists' order is to extend early voting hours an additional four hours each day through Saturday, only, for a total of 16 additional hours. If the last week's past is prologue, Saturday November 1 will see the heaviest turn-out of early voters.

Pensacola Bridge to Nowhere But Hate

It's something of a local tradition that the 17th avenue train trestle near the shore of Pensacola Bay is available for spray-paint graffiti. Years ago after it proved counter-productive to police the bridge, city and train officials gave up and declared the bridge a brain-free zone. Now, they obligingly white wash it every so often to make room for the new.

We assume it's mostly bored kids and borderline delinquents who avail themselves of the concrete canvass late at night. Normally, the graffiti one sees there doesn't rise much above the "Bubba Loves Barbi" variety; and it sinks only so low as to make it clear that Pensacola isn't likely to be sending any locally educated children to the National Spelling Bee contest, much less the Banksy School of Fine Art.

Until yesterday. Today's Pensacola News Journal:
The words "MURDER OBAMA" sprayed on the CSX train trestle on 17th Avenue in Pensacola were painted over Monday evening, said Tommy McCorvey, a CSX train master.
The Independent News has the photo.

What can one say? It's no accident that expressions of violence like this are occurring all across the country in support of the Republican ticket -- at McCain rallies, on cable television, and in the intellectual dark of talk radio. As Russell Goldman reported several weeks ago for ABC News, the McCain campaign has devised a deliberate plan "to spend these final weeks of the election going negative." The plan is inspiring all manner of violent outbursts by the unhinged "base" of the Republican party.

McCain and Palin don't expressly condone violence but their desperately inflamed rhetoric, scary telemarketing calls, despicable robo-calls, and absurd, extremist name-calling has created an atmosphere in which violence and threats of violence against the Democratic ticket and, weirdly, the media are becoming more and more common. It's getting worse by the day, as Eric Ose detailed a week ago (with video footnotes) for Huffington Post.

As Paul Buchanan writes:
The rage at McCain/Palin rallies is palpable. In contrast to the giddy (delusional?) displays at the GOP convention, they have become anger fests punctuated by boos and jeers as the specter of nuclear attacks, communism, terrorism and the loss of Christian values under an Obama-led democratic administration are invoked as reasons to vote Republican. The prospect of national collapse is held to be imminent otherwise.
* * *
[W]hat the Republican campaign managers and their media surrogates are doing is something much more dangerous than trying to win an election. Elementary discursive analysis reveals the not-to-subtle cues to direct action embedded in the Republican campaign rhetoric. Put bluntly: by demonizing Barack Obama, it is a subliminal invitation to murder.
The same day Buchanan was penning that last word, someone in Pensacola was spray-painting the same word on the 17th street bridge. While it is highly doubtful the spray-painter reads what anyone else has to say, it's clear that the lizard brains are getting the message: be afraid, hate, and do something about it.

McCain and Palin have thrown away their moral compass. They claim to put "America first" even as they attempt to redefine America by dividing it into 'real' and 'the other' America.

As U.S. News & World Report editor John Farrell says, "There are a lot of reasons to vote Democratic in this election. The smug Republican lie that you're not a 'real American' if you do is one of the best."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hockey Grandpa Convicted

WaPo:
Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was convicted of seven corruption charges Monday in a trial that tainted the 40-year Senate career of Alaska's political patriarch. The verdict, coming barely a week before Election Day, added further uncertainty to a closely watched Senate race.
* ** *
Stevens, 84, was convicted of all the charges he faced of lying about free home renovations and other gifts from a wealthy oil contractor.
* * *

The month long trial revealed that employees for VECO Corp., an oil services company, transformed Stevens' modest mountain cabin into a modern, two-story home with wraparound porches, a sauna and a wine cellar.

The Senate's longest-serving Republican, Stevens said he had no idea he was getting freebies.
Husbands and U.S. senators are notoriously unobservant, of course, but that "Oh, gosh! Where did this second story come from?" was never a defense that would fly.

Dept. of Amplification

The Department of Justice, helpfully, has put the indictment and trial exhibits on-line.

Dept. of Further Amplification

It seems Alaska Senator Ted Stevens cannot legally vote for himself in Alaska because he's a convicted felon.

The Stupidest F*cking Gal on the Planet

As everyone knows, Bush's former No. 3 in the Pentagon, Doug Feith, is the "stupidest f*cking guy on the planet." So says General Tommy Franks.

We now present the stupidest f*cking gal on the planet, Orlando's WFTV news reader, Barbara West:

Sunday Go to Meetin'

Sunday NYT:"Mr. McCain has found relatively small crowds — particularly compared with those that are turning out for Mr. Obama — even as he has campaigned in battleground states."



Asian Markets Crash; U.S. Futures Down

Looks like the markets are crashing again this morning. Is Bush speaking on the TeeVee again?

Dept. of Amplification

Analysts "now say" the economic forecast is looking so bad the FED plans to cut interest rates by half a percentage point next week, thus lowering the federal funds overnight loan rate to a record-tying 1 percent. We say, wait to borrow until the FED reduces the rate to a minus level and starts paying you to borrow its money.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Early Voting Florida Snaufs

"I don't have time to complain about the rules," a harried county election worker snapped back. "I just follow them."
Early voting across Florida is bringing record turnouts. But it's also exposed, as the Miami Herald points out today, how Florida's Republican-dominated legislature two years ago "made it harder, not easier, for Floridians to vote."

The legislature mandated a cut-back in early-voting hours and limited the number of early voting polling places a local election supervisor can establish. Supposedly, the legislature acted "to save money." As a result, now, there are only four early voting locations in Escambia County and just two in Santa Rosa County.

Escambia County Early Voting Sites
Supervisor of Elections Main Office
213 Palafox Place, 2nd floor
Pensacola (downtown)

Supervisor of Elections Branch office
292 Muscogee Road
Cantonment

Lucia M. Tryon Branch Library
5740 North 9th Avenue
Pensacola

Southwest Branch Library
12248 Gulf Beach Highway
Santa Rosa County Early Voting Sites

The Elections Office
6495 Caroline St, Suite “F”
Milton

South Service Center
5841 Hwy 98
Gulf Breeze

All locations will be open today (Sunday) from 11:30 am to 3:30 pm. Tomorrow (Monday through Saturday, early voting locations in the two counties will be open from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

The scant locations and limited hours are causing long lines in both counties. While we were standing in line over an hour yesterday, we overheard another voter complaining about the long wait, the abbreviated hours, and the gas it took to drive to the distant early voting polling place.

"Can't you do something about this?" he demanded.

"I don't have time to complain about the rules," a harried county election worker snapped back. "I just follow them."

Elsewhere in Florida, it's a "nightmare", as Mike Madden reports for Salon.com. Still, early voting as allowed in some 32 states is bringing record turn-outs, according to the Los Angeles Times. One million have already voted in North Carolina and over 900,000 in Georgia. That's "double the pace" in both states compared with the 2004 election, AFP News service reports.

In Oregon, which blazed the trail in the 1980's with its innovative vote-by-mail system, state officials reported 281,781 returned ballots as of October 23.

Interestingly, Oregon's experience with mail-in ballots has led to a substantial reduction in annual election expenses. While "counties have seen their post costs increase... the overall cost of running a mail election is far lower than a poll election." For example, in the largest county in the state:
At one time, Multnomah County had 2,000 people working at hundreds of polling places. This election, there will be 200 to 300 people working at a single office, said elections director Tim Scott.
Moreover, voter turn-out in Oregon has been around 80 percent of all eligible voters, an order of magnitude or two greater than the best participation rates in the other 49 states.

It makes you wonder, doesn't it? Did the Florida legislature's sudden interest in saving money on elections have more to do with voter suppression and its fundamental distrust of democracy than with economic efficiency?

Beach Rental Rumpus

PNJ business editor reporter Carlton Proctor today reports that Orville-Beckford Ford Mercury in Milton will be closing soon. It's the second major auto dealership in the area we know of to shut its doors. Gulf Breeze Ford has been a ghost since late this Spring.

Long-established retail shops, restaurants, and service professionals are closing down all over the area, now, too. Barnhill's Buffet in Gulf Breeze? Closed over one weekend. TCBY in the Walmart shopping center? Closed overnight. Real estate sales and rental office in the Winn Dixie shopping center? Gone in a flash.

There are maybe a dozen more business closures just on Pensacola Beach and in Gulf Breeze, and many more on the brink. Anecdotally, small business owners we've spoken with say business is down 20-40 percent in the past four months.

The economic mess created over eight years of Bush administration mismanagement is now beginning to be felt on Main Street -- or, in this case, Via DeLuna and Ft. Pickens Road. Talk about "trickle down" economics!

Buried deep in Proctor's dispatch about worrisome trends in the local economy is this discouraging aside:
[T]here is growing tension between hotel and motel owners and condominium associations.

As consumer dollars shrink, and the number of rooms available for nightly rental grows, condos and hotels are going head-to-head, forcing down nightly rental rates in the process.

"I'm frustrated because from the hotels' standpoint, condos are soaking up a lot of our business," said Beverly McCay, manager of Holiday Inn Express on Pensacola Beach.

At the heart of the matter, says McCay, is the decision by several large beach condos starting to offer owners' rooms on a nightly basis, rather than weekly or longer.

Beverly is a terrific friend of the beach as well as a great hotel manager, and a very nice woman to boot. It's unlikely she intended her remarks to be a militant call to competitive arms. More likely, she was just describing the harsh reality of the situation.

There has always been some measure of spirited competition on Pensacola Beach between stand-alone rental condo units and hotels; just as there has always been competitive tension between the condo rental business and individual beach house rentals. Proctor hints at the latter when he adds, "While hotel owners are complaining, condo rental agents are losing business to the fast-growing Web site, www.VRBO.com — for Vacation Rentals by Owner.

Hotel versus Condo versus Home Owner rentals are a staple competitive feature of the lodging market on almost every beach in the world. Here, that competition occasionally takes on an unfriendly edge, as when the SRIA-financed Visitor Center made the deliberate decision some years ago to stop giving out any information about individual beach house rentals, even when asked.

"We don't know of any house rentals," Visitor Center personnel were instructed to lie to inquiring tourists.

So it's no surprise that a web site like VRBO.com -- and its subsection Pensacola Beach Vacation Rentals -- is thriving. That merely reflects the core principle of capitalism: everyone for himself.

Like the credit market, it works well enough when times are good but it can tear apart a community when times get bad.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Heating Up the Hate Machine

"We arrived back at the rooming house and were just about to run up the stairs when our attention was drawn to a small gathering in the landlord's front parlor."
Media Matters has a run-down on the "vitriolic and irrational" hate machine being heated up by the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, and a lot of other bloviators. We've come to expect it of these nuts, unfortunately; but, truly, it defies reason why mainstream media outlets like the Washington Post, ABC News, and CNN also would offer them microphones and ink. The whole jibber-jabbering lot of them are no different from the landlady we had our first year living off-campus.

We had a taken a tiny room in the attic of a frame house about two miles from campus. Five other guys of wide ranging interests and abilities lived on the second floor. One was a pitcher for the university baseball team who went on to have a short, mediocre career in the minors. Another was finishing his Ph.D. dissertation; he would go on to be a college president. The rest were, well, just guys.

That fall semester, John Kennedy was running for president. One sunny afternoon, after a hard day napping in class and playing bridge at the student union, we arrived back at the rooming house and were just about to run up the stairs when our attention was drawn to a small gathering in the landlord's front parlor.

Almost a dozen mostly old people were sitting around the room. They looked rather stiff and formal. To all appearances they were having tea but not enjoying it one bit. They looked unhappy and, well, angry.

Stretched above the parlor entrance was a large linen banner embroidered with the words, "International Anti-Beef Eaters Convention."

Upstairs, all of our fellow roomers had gathered in the room directly above the downstairs parlor. They had been listening in through the heating ducts.

"Man, these people are cra-a-a-zeee-y!" the baseball pitcher said. "They've been talking about how if Kennedy gets elected he'll be sending all of the Fort Knox gold to the Pope in Rome."

"What's with the 'international' thing?" we asked.

The dissertation fellow shrugged. "It sounds like one couple down there is from Canada."

No one was able to figure out what the connection was between "anti-beef eaters" and anti-Catholicism. So, at the first opportunity a day or two later we asked the landlady.

"Beef weakens the mind," she said sternly, "and makes people Democrats."

Certainly, our landlady was no crazier than Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, or, for that matter, Charles Krauthammer. She just didn't have a microphone or a syndicated column. These days, she'd fit right in on the pages of the Washington Post or over the cable signal of Fox News.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Calling Home

McCain Advisor Votes Early for Obama

More embarrassing for the McCain campaign than the hoax of a mentally troubled campaign worker is Charles Fried's announcement today that he's already has cast an absentee vote for... Barack Obama. Now, he wants his name taken off the McCain campaign's letterhead.

Chief among Fried's reasons? "The choice of Sarah Palin at a time of deep national crisis."

We know Charles Fried. He's a life-long very conservative Republican, a law professor at Harvard, and former Solicitor General during the Reagan administration. He's been serving as a McCain campaign advisor since day one. For McCain, losing Charles Fried is almost as bad an omen as losing your wife's vote.

McCain Campaign Worker Hoax

That McCain campaign worker who claimed she'd been assaulted by "a 6-foot-4 black man Wednesday night"? The one who said, oddly, that her assailant had carved a perfect backward 'B' on her cheek, as if using a mirror?

Turns out, the campaign worker made the whole thing up. She mutilated herself.

She's now been charged with filing a false police report. Police also are considering a psychiatric referral. Fox News exec John Moody may need one of those, too.
Before the hoax was exposed, he was predicting, "If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting."

Report the Smear

The Obama campaign has launched a new web site where those who are receiving them can report robocall, TV, email, and 3d class postal smears. "Fight the Smears" is the name of the site.

When you report the smear, you not only help the Obama campaign but democracy itself. It's time to stop the worms behind these baseless attacks.

Clothing Drive

Iowa veterans have a sense of humor.
Sarah Palin is coming to Des Moines on Saturday, and the Iowa chairman of Veterans for Obama is organizing a clothing drive for Disabled American Veterans across the street from her rally.

Bad Market Day

It's a bad day for little piggie to go to market. Bloomberg News:
"The panic levels are now quite unseen,'' said Christian Gattiker, Zurich-based head of equity research at Bank Julius Baer & Co. which manages about $307.6 billion globally. "It's difficult to have any words for this situation right now.''
The last months of the Bush administration are looking eerily similar to the last months of the Hoover administration. Sarah Palin says put your money in clothes.

Dept. of Investment Advice
10-24 am
... or cosmetics.

Joe Plumbers by the Numbers

(Nobel Prize winner) Paul Krugman:
But what’s really happening to the plumbers of Ohio, and to working Americans in general?

First of all, they aren’t making a lot of money. You may recall that in one of the early Democratic debates Charles Gibson of ABC suggested that $200,000 a year was a middle-class income. Tell that to Ohio plumbers: according to the May 2007 occupational earnings report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual income of “plumbers, pipefitters and steamfitters” in Ohio was $47,930.

Second, their real incomes have stagnated or fallen, even in supposedly good years. The Bush administration assured us that the economy was booming in 2007 — but the average Ohio plumber’s income in that 2007 report was only 15.5 percent higher than in the 2000 report, not enough to keep up with the 17.7 percent rise in consumer prices in the Midwest. As Ohio plumbers went, so went the nation: median household income, adjusted for inflation, was lower in 2007 than it had been in 2000.

Third, Ohio plumbers have been having growing trouble getting health insurance, especially if, like many craftsmen, they work for small firms. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2007 only 45 percent of companies with fewer than 10 employees offered health benefits, down from 57 percent in 2000.
* * *
Now that the “Bush boom,” such as it was, is over, we can see that it achieved a dismal distinction: for the first time on record, an economic expansion failed to raise most Americans’ incomes above their previous peak.
* * *
McCain proposes continuing Mr. Bush’s policies in all essential respects, and he shares Mr. Bush’s anti-government, anti-regulation philosophy.

What about the claim, based on Joe the Plumber’s complaint, that ordinary working Americans would face higher taxes under Mr. Obama? Well, Mr. Obama proposes raising rates on only the top two income tax brackets — and the second-highest bracket for a head of household starts at an income, after deductions, of $182,400 a year.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Caring

Panhandle Prejudice

Yesterday we had a brief conversation inside a small retail shop with a 60's-something customer in grime-stained painter's pants. He was missing several teeth:
Him: Palin's got more experience than Obama.
Us: Have you read Obama's autobiography?
Him: Don't gotta read nothing.
Us: Did you know he graduated from Columbia University with a major in international relations?
Him: Palin's right next to Russia. Anyway, I meant administrative experience.
Us: Did you know he was president of the Harvard Law Review, supervising nearly a hundred lawyers-to-be in the world, every one of them convinced he's the smartest guy on the planet?
Man: He ain't never had a real job.
Us: Are you aware he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago? He also --
Him: [turning to leave] Anyway, he's the wrong damn color.
Dept. of Amplification

It seems John McCain is planning a "Joe the Plumber" tour of Florida with Charlie Crist. So far, though, no actual plumber. Maybe they'd like "Him" to tag along.

McCain's Slide Into Slime

TPM has an "interactive map" cataloging by-the-state John McCain's descent into the deep slime of robocalls. 'Obama kills babies' ... 'Hollywood darling' ... 'terrorists' friend' ... etc. etc.

Apparently, McCain intends to crash this airplane, too.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Joe the Plumber in Pensacola

We'd guess the Obama rally in Pensacola yesterday is considered by campaign officials an unqualified success. Official turn-out was estimated at 6,500, the Civic Center crowd was told nearly an hour before Michelle Obama appeared on stage. Troy Moon reports it was closer to 7,000.

Our estimate is 7,500. You should believe us. We had the best view for estimating the crowd because we were seated on the aisle high above everybody else in the nosebleed section.

That's what you get -- a cold, dirty cement step to sit on -- when you arrive at an Obama rally on time. As Rebecca Ross reports in the PNJ today, everyone else got there at the crack of dawn.
By 8 a.m., cars lined nearby Alcaniz and Wright streets, and attendees formed long lines that snaked around the Civic Center parking lot.
We made the same mistake -- arriving on time -- the last time a Harry Potter book was released at the stroke of midnight. Then, as now, we were hauling along a couple of wide-eyed, pint-sized tykes. If this keeps up, those unfortunate kids are going to grow up seeing nothing of the adult world but the backsides of strangers standing in line ahead of them.

There was one advantage to our sky-high seats. We got to meet the real Joe the Plumber. At least, that's how he introduced himself when we mentioned how much we admired his Piggly Wiggly T-shirt.

"I'm the real Joe the Plumber," he said, "except I'm really an electrician. But I'm the real deal. I already own my own business. It's called Argo Electric.

"I have an electrician's license. I have a business license. I pay my taxes. I did my time as an apprentice. I work mostly in the Gulf Beach highway area, ten or twelve hours a day, six days a week. But I don't make no $250 thousand a year. That's a joke. Real Joe the Plumbers like me are tired of going broke. That's why I'm here."

His real name, he told us, is Charles Mathews and he lives in Milton.

"There aren't so many of us [Obama supporters] in Milton," he said with a grin, "but more than you'd think. A lot of people there are really hurting."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Blue Star Families for Obama

One thing to look for when Michelle Obama visits Pensacola today are Blue Star families. It's been mostly under the media radar even in a military town like this, but Michelle Obama has been meeting quietly with military families for some time, gathering their views on how the needs of military spouses and children can be better met.

"Navy Blue Wife" is one of those. As she reported on the Motley Moose Blog:
Barack and Michelle Obama, along with Joe and Jill Biden, have actually listened to both our frustrations and cheers. Michelle Obama has held roundtable discussions with many military families, and she has adopted our cause as a primary focus area in the campaign. In just two short months, BSF4O has generated chapters in 24 states, helped to host a care package service event at the DNC in Denver with Michelle Obama, attended dozens of rallies and roundtable discussions about military family issues, and hosted house parties across the country.

Keep in mind, we admire McCain's service to our country, but we cannot support his vision for our future in large part because of his continued refusal to provide real support to our troops, veterans, and the military community.

Reminder: Michelle Obama will be at the Pensacola Civic Center today. Doors open at 10:30 am. In the meantime --

Street Fight

The Martin Luther King street naming thing in the news today seems to hit the Pensacola city council about as frequently as a tropical storm hits the beach, which is to say every other year or two. The reasons for this are a credit to no one.

For one thing, white pols in Pensacola power positions habitually glorify other white Pensacola area pols in power positions by naming things after them. Too often, it seems, even before the honored ones have the grace to die, first.

What's more, the white guys they pick to honor aren't exactly inspiring paragons of civic virtue or moral rectitude.
  • The Bob Sikes Bridge to Pensacola Beach is named after a disgraced congressman who's smartest career move was to expire just before a grand jury indicted him.
  • Jim Bailey Middle School is named after an under-educated school board member who was still sitting on the board when the decision was made. No doubt, the name is an inspiration to all thick-headed young'uns who aspire to earn, some day, a high school degree, or at least a G.E.D.
  • Another downtown Pensacola street was named after former state senator and county commisisoner W. D. Childers, shortly before he was sentenced to three and half years in prison.
Like, there aren't enough famous dead people in this world? Pensacola has to name all of its stuff after home-grown nitwits, crooks, and rogues?

Another reason for the biennial street fight over the Martin Luther King name, it must be said, is the enervated state of leadership within the Pensacola minority community itself. Did we say "leadership"? There isn't any worthy of the word.

The late brilliant but fatally flawed Willie Junior came as close as any to playing a leadership role. But he hoarded all the opportunities to himself. For decades, incredibly, Willie actually drew salary both as a county commissioner and as head of the local community action program. That's a lot like being on both ends -- seller and buyer -- of a sales contract.

Willie was always generous with a handout to the less fortunate, but he never took the time or effort to mentor others into leadership positions. In the end Willie, himself, became so corrupt he would have qualified, by Pensacola standads, for naming at least one boulevard after him -- if he hadn't been African-American.

Even in disgrace and death, the racial divide persists in Pensacola. White rogues get their names on road signs. Black rogues get bumpus.

If only there were effective leadership within the Pensacola minority community and a genuine commitment to social justice on the part of white leaders, we could be well past symbolic gestures like renaming streets and school houses, or whatever. We could be tackling the root problems that afflict the minority community and handicap all the rest of racially-divided Pensacola -- poverty, discrimination in virtually every sphere of public life and municipal services, the scourge of illegal drugs, appalling lack of adequate health care, and lousy schools, to start with.

Every minute spent debating street names leaves one minute less to address the real needs of Pensacola and its minority community. Martin Luther King is justly an inspiring name. So, too, are names like Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass, Chappie James, or Jonathan Walker.

We say, the city council should take no more than five minutes and give every one of those historical luminaries a street or two. Then, both the council and new leadership within the minority community should turn to solving the real problems facing Pensacola.

Monday, October 20, 2008

McCain Left on Straight-Jacket Express


John McCain Accidentally Left On Campaign Bus Overnight

The Ugliness, the Ugliness

Yes. What Greenwald says.

Florida Judges Retention - 2008 Edition

Beginning with early voting today through Election Day, among other issues and candidates Northwest Florida voters will be asked a simple question, over and over: "Yes" or "No" on whether to retain in office "Supreme Court Justice Charles Wells and six judges on the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee."

Normally, we would inform ourselves on these important questions by doing what every red-blooded American voter in a democracy does: After getting home following a long day at work, we'd serve the family dinner, do the dishes, oversee the kids' homework, and then put them to bed. Once things quieted down, we'd spend the next eight or ten hours on the Internet researching and reading all the judicial opinions written over the past several years by the judges who are seeking our approval.

Not this year. Not a chance. When we go to the polls this year, we're going to follow the very precedent set time again, like here and here, by those judges on the 1st District Court of Appeals who now seek our approval.

We'll write a one-word decision and let them guess at our reasoning. And here it is:

No.

Dept. of Amplification

Bryan at Why Now? also resides and votes in the panhandle, aka First District Court of Appeals. He reaches the same conclusion we have:
The entire court... has a nasty habit of issuing rulings without issuing opinions. They make decisions that affect people’s lives without any explanation at all. * * * I can’t justify retaining them.

¡Enhorabuena, Google!

If you're smart enough to have Google.com as your home page, you're smart enough to know why this keeps popping up, lately, when you fire up your browser.


In June, Google was named the 2008 winner of the Prince of Asturias Award for "Communication and Humanities." Founded in 1980, the Prince of Asturias Award -- named for the historic heir to the Spanish throne -- is Spain's version of the Nobel Prize.

The prize is justly deserved:
Google, created by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, was cited for "instantly and selectively making the enormous flood of information on the Internet available to hundreds of millions of people, ... [for] a gigantic cultural revolution ... [and] widespread access to knowledge."
We celebrated last year's winner here. Now, we celebrate Google, which receives the award this coming Friday.

Your browser will then return to normal programming.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Michelle Obama at the Pensacola Civic Center Tuesday Morning

Michell Obama will be in Pensacola Tuesday, as we mentioned late yesterday. The details were announced late this morning:
Who: Michelle Obama*
What: Campaign rally
Where: Pensacola Civic Center
When: Tuesday, October 21
Time: Doors open at 10:30 am. Speech at 11:00 11:45 am

Free! No tickets required!
(added: For security reasons, do not bring bags and limit personal items. No signs or banners permitted.)

RSVP not required, but it would be "strongly" appreciated. Please call (850) 433-5070 or check in here.

* Michelle Obama biography here. Summary below:
  • Attended Chicago public schools
  • Princeton University (B.A. 1985)
  • Harvard Law School (J.D. 1988)
  • Associate, law firm of Sidley & Austin
  • Assistant Commissioner of Planning and Development, City of Chicago
  • Executive Director, Chicago chapter of Public Allies
  • Married Barack Obama in 1992
  • Mother of two girls -- Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7
  • Associate Dean of Student Services, University of Chicago
  • Vice president of Community and External Affairs, University of Chicago Medical Center
  • Never been mayor of Wasilla, Alaska

'No' On Florida Amendment 2

"It's difficult to imagine a more pernicious, mean-spirited, or fundamentally satanic idea than that embodied in Amendment 2."
The hot-button issue on the Florida ballot this November is known as proposed state constitutional "Amendment No. 2." Strictly speaking, this is not just an "anti-gay rights" referendum. It's aimed at everyone who has an affinity relationship with another person -- same sex or not -- unless sanctioned by a Government-issued marriage license.

Florida law, for good or ill, already intrudes on the personal privacy of its citizens -- and sojourners through the state -- by expressly prohibiting the legal recognition of gay marriages. Florida Statute 741.212 states:
Marriages between persons of the same sex entered into in any jurisdiction, whether within or outside the State of Florida, the United States, or any other jurisdiction, either domestic or foreign, or any other place or location, or relationships between persons of the same sex which are treated as marriages in any jurisdiction, whether within or outside the State of Florida, the United States, or any other jurisdiction, either domestic or foreign, or any other place or location, are not recognized for any purpose in this state.
Amendment 2 effectively would expand that ban by declaring all relationship unions invalid unless they are between one man and one woman who have a marriage license. Here is the proposed amendment language:
Florida Marriage Protection Amendment

"Inasmuch as a marriage is the legal union of only one man and one woman as husband and wife, no other legal union that is treated as marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof shall be valid or recognized."
What are the practical implications of this amendment? For openers, all common law marriages and other affinity relationships between a man and a woman likely would be declared null and void, along with same-gender relationships (whether sexually intimate or not).

If, for example, you are an older widow sharing your golden years with another woman or a man who is not your state-sanctioned spouse you'll be out of luck when one of you wants to visit the other in the hospital or include them as a dependent under an available health insurance plan.

Come to think of it, some nuts might even want to endanger the south Florida custom of "early bird specials" for anyone who can't produce an official marriage license. Have a little lawsuit with your salad?

As the Florida legislature's own Office of Economic and Demographic Research in late August warned [doc format], among other things:
  • If domestic partnership registries are deemed substantially equivalent to marriage, their termination could place registrants at risk of losing specified rights and benefits, such as those related to health insurance. The fiscal impact is indeterminate.
  • A loss of revenue may occur if domestic partnership registries are terminated. There would be a reduction in local revenue resulting from the elimination of registration fees associated with the registries.
  • * * * If the amendment has the effect of encouraging marriages (between one man and one woman) that were previously common law marriages, there may be a minor increase in the revenues from marriage licensing fees. The fiscal impact is expected to be minor.
  • Revenue from the domestic violence surcharge may be affected. By invalidating any union or “substantial equivalent thereof,” this amendment could be raised as a defense in domestic violence cases, resulting in fewer domestic violence convictions, causing a decrease in revenues for the Domestic Violence Program. The fiscal impact is indeterminate, but probably minor.
  • Costs of litigation may increase. Although the current statutes have been litigated and upheld, the initiative contains language different from the statutes, which could lead to increased litigation involving both public sector and private sector entities and individuals. The fiscal impact is indeterminate.
  • There may be varied effects on the costs of public services and benefits. Depending on actions taken by the Legislature, the courts, and Florida businesses, financial obligations between individuals are expected to change in complex ways that will probably result in increased costs of providing public services and benefits in some cases and reduced costs in others. The fiscal impact is indeterminate.
  • Some local governments that currently extend health insurance and other benefits to domestic partners may be impacted by this amendment. The net fiscal impact is indeterminate.
It's difficult to imagine a more pernicious, mean-spirited, or fundamentally satanic idea than that embodied in Amendment 2. It is challenging enough to find a loving partner in this world. What kind of religion would posit a god who punishes those who manage to do it, just because they didn't pay for a government-issued marriage license?

A Republican god, it seems. Turns out, a prime purpose behind Amendment 2 is to use it "as a political tool to drive ultra-conservative voters to the polls." According to opponents of Amendment 2, "The Florida Republican Party is the single largest contributor to the initiative ($300,000) and State GOP Chair Jim Greer bragged that the amendment "will help turnout."

So, add to the list of objections one more: Amendment 2 is being cynically promoted for partisan political purposes, not for anything relevant to its merits.

We're voting "no" on Amendment 2, just as the couple shown below will be doing. We urge everyone who values the integrity of the Florida ballot referendum process to vote no, too.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Michelle Obama to Visit Pensacola

Michelle Obama will be visiting Pensacola this Tuesday, October 21, the News Journal is reporting. Time and place details have not yet been announced.

It would make news whenever the wife of a presidential candidate comes to this relatively remote part of the country. But with so few days left in the campaign, it signals that even the Florida panhandle is in play this year for the Obama-Biden ticket.

The Northwest Daily News out of Ft. Walton Beach says " the event will be free and open to the public, according to the Obama campaign. Tickets are not required, but people who plan to attend are encouraged to RSVP at Fl.barackobama.com.

Obama Out-Crowds McCain

One hundred thousand amassed under the Gateway Arch -- and beyond -- in St. Louis Saturday for an Obama rally. The crowd broke Obama's personal record (excluding the convention), set last May, of an estimated 72,000 in Portland, Or.

By contrast, McCain today drew a crowd of 7,000 in Concord, North Carolina, just outside Charlotte. Later the same day, he drew 10,000 at a second rally near Woodbridge, Virgina, where McCain vowed he "will never concede defeat."

Meanwhile, McCain's aides were busy trashing the northern Virginia rally site by contrasting it with the "real Virginia" in southern Virginia.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Joe the Phony Plumber from the Florida Panhandle

Looks like John McCain's game-changing latest "media darling," just like the other one, is an unqualified phony.
  • He's not a licensed plumber
  • He can't lawfully work under someone else's license
  • He's never taken the required Ohio plumbing courses
  • He never finished the required plumber's apprentice program
  • His employer isn't licensed in Joe’s county
  • He presently owes $1,182 in back taxes
  • His last reported annual income was about $40,000
  • Now, he's telling reporters he doesn't want any tax cuts from Obama
  • Tax authorities long ago slapped a lien on his property
  • He doesn’t appear to have the money to buy a business
  • He's registered as Republican under another name
  • He doesn't vote much
Here's the kicker: the Toledo Blade reports that he was reared and educated in the Florida panhandle. Who'd a thunk it?

Stuffing the Bankers' Mattress

No one -- at least, no one in the Bush administration -- could have predicted that giving away $125 billion in taxpayer money to nine mega-banks with no strings attached would leave them free to horde it all to themselves.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Sassy Psyche Survey of John McCain

In descending order of sass:

Long-time Washington observer and columnist David Corn, describes McCain's debate persona last night with adjectives like "irritated"... "petulant"... "retro" ... and 'sarcastic'. He observes:
[V]iewers watching McCain's reaction shots during the evening could have easily wondered if the Republican presidential nominee would make it to the finish without his head exploding, for he seemed to be in the midst of an exercise in anger control.
Ari Melber for the Washington Independent sums up last night's debate:
Ultimately, McCain’s alternating anger and umbrage never delivered the clich├ęd “game changer” that politicos said he needed. He punched until he was punched out.
Ezra Klein:
The angry energy showed on McCain's face as clearly as in his answers. CNN, at least, had the split screen, and McCain was grimacing, twitching, blinking, sighing, smirking, eye-rolling. * * ** He looked like nothing so much as a man enduring acute gastrointestinal discomfort.
NYT analyst Patrick Healy:
Mr. McCain was more animated Wednesday night than he had been at the two other debates, though not always to his benefit in the split-screen presentation of television. His voice turned edgy at times, as when talking about Obama campaign attack advertisements, and his frozen smile and wide eyes — which blinked frequently and distractingly at times — seemed a little strange.
Jane Hamsher:
There were landmines everywhere and McCain stepped in all of them. His smirking, snarky tone was decidedly un-presidential, and his bitter, whiny complaining performance probably satisfied no one.
* * *
McCain was a nasty, vicious glass of sour milk who can barely contain his temper and can't quite fathom what is happening to him.

James Fallows:
McCain seemed to be in a 'roid rage.
Booman (Martin Longman):
John McCain lost because he acted like an asshole. Provoking him into being an asshole was the most surefire way to win this debate.
Rude Pundit (Lee Papa):
He was an angry leprechaun screaming at the man who stole his pot of gold. And, at the end of the day, John McCain seemed less like a major party candidate and more like a pissed-off Dad telling his college-aged daughter who she can and can't date, and, for no rational reason he can explain, he certainly doesn't want her fucking around with the black guy. Unfortunately for him, she's all grown up now and can make her own decisions.

McCain vs. McCain

Everyone and his second cousin is weighing in on last night's final presidential debate. Huffington Post has a wide variety of commentator reactions. Andrew Sullivan has more. Plus, scary-looking video evidence of McCain's inner struggle with his dark side.

For us, the victor was John McCain's superego. Against all odds, it managed to keep John McCain's id from jumping out of the seat and slugging Obama for everything bad that has happened to the poor man over the last gazillion years.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Debate Snap Polls

Tee Vee snap polls taken immediately after a debate usually don't mean much, not when they're close. But these? They're not close. Not even in the same solar system.

Confession of Voter Fraud

We want to confess. After several decades on the run and keeping our mouth shut, this silly and distracting Acorn voter registration nonsense has shamed us into coming clean at long last.

We are ready to admit our guilt and take our punishment. We once aided and abetted the casting of a real vote by a real person who never was allowed by law to vote.

It all happened "a long time ago in a galaxy Midwestern state far, far away...." We were still in our teens, and under the prevailing law of that time far too young to vote. But not too young to drive a car or volunteer as a campaign grunt -- which we had done once before in the year John Kennedy was elected president. That's how they got our name.

One dismal winter day a year or so later, the call came in from Democratic Party state headquarters. It was an emergency. The incumbent state senator in a lightly-populated rural county somewhere west of where we lived, in the middle of the state, had died. Two candidates, one from each party, were running in a special election to fill his seat. Voting was scheduled to take place the very next day and the Democratic candidate needed help driving people to the polls. Could we arrange among our high school friends for a few drivers with cars?

We could and we did. What we didn't realize at the time, being young and stupid, was why he needed help. A massive blizzard was expected the very next day. Funny, how adults pay attention to stuff like that and callow young people do not.

We encountered the blizzard the next morning when we were about half way along the hundred-mile drive to the rural county where the special election was being held. The pig-gray sky darkened quickly and huge sheets of wet snow with flakes the size of dinner plates began to fall. Visibility dropped to near zero. Highway traffic slowed to a crawl.

Undaunted, our modest caravan of four or five jalopies stuck together, bumper to bumper, and arrived at the county seat only four hours late. There, we found the Democratic candidate holed up, alone and shivering, in a small, cramped office that did double duty as a law office and an insurance agency.

There were no lights or heat. The power had gone out. On the candidate's desk were propped two cheap triangular cardboard signs. "A lawyer's time is his stock in trade," read one of them, the wisdom improbably attributed to Abraham Lincoln. "You're in good hands with Allstate," pronounced the other -- another deception, as we were to personally learn a lifetime later in Florida after experiencing our first hurricane.

In the cold, cramped, gloomy surroundings the candidate handed out handwritten lists of names and addresses of voters he thought would be on his side.

"There's about sixty names to a sheet," he said. "In this weather, that ought to be enough to put me over the top."

Many of the addresses were unusable by us -- "R.R. 2" or "half a mile past the Harman farm." So, another hour was spent blowing warmth into our fists to keep our fingers nimble while we grilled the candidate for better directions. By the time we were ready to fire up the engines and start hauling voters to the poll -- there was only one poll, inside the courthouse that stood sentry over the town square -- two feet of thick, wet snow blanketed the landscape, and more was falling.

The going was very slow. All in all, we managed to find only three or four dozen voters from the lists. Less than half of them had the bad sense to venture out with us. A majority, gazing out at the weather through frosted-glass storm doors, simply lied and claimed they had already voted. We cheerfully accepted their lies and skittled back as fast as we could to the warmth of our idling autos.

There was one very elderly woman, however, who was thrilled to have a ride. She was not an inch above five feet tall, heavy-set, and already bundled in a winter coat, scarf, and woolen gloves when we arrived at her home just outside the town limits. She brushed aside an arm as we tried to safely steer her along the icy steps to our waiting '56 Chrysler -- the one with the gearshift on the dash, aimed like a knife at the chest of everyone in the front seat. We took care to bundle her into the back seat.

"I bink votink in Amedica fur sexty yass," she said defiantly. "No leetle snow lak this gonna kip me avay from da polls."

The tank-heavy Chrysler crawled and slipped and slithered through snow-filled streets as we made our way to courthouse. Again, the old woman refused to lean on an arm as we mounted the courthouse steps.

Inside, a large, stoic woman with a mound of white hair piled on her head sat behind a flimsy card table. Her chin and mouth was hunched inside a double-thick turtleneck sweater. On the table was a sheaf of papers stapled together.

"Mrs. ____!" the poll worker greeted the old woman we had brought in. She quickly rifled through the voter registration papers in front of her. "I don't see your name here," she said.

"I bink votink in Amedica fur --"

"I know, I know, Mrs. ____." the poll worker interrupted. She handed the short ballot to our would-be voter. "Here you go, dear."

While the old woman voted, we asked the poll worker if she was sure the old woman's name was not on the registration papers.

She waved a hand at us. "Oh, don't worry none about that. Lots a' folks around here are from the old country. They don't much like to register their names. Makes 'em feel like the government's spying on 'em. We don't worry about it, anyway. We know who they are. They're neighbors."

Driving our charge back to her house through the worsening storm, we had to ask. Had she ever registered to vote?

"Vy vut I do dat?" she hurrumphed. "Day know me here. Anyvays, I dunt vant to be a citizen, needer. I just vant to vote."

It didn't take long for the election results to be tabulated. The Democratic candidate, the lawyer -slash- insurance salesman, lost in a landslide. Altogether, less than 200 votes had been cast and he got about 50.

"It wasn't a landslide," another campaign worker joked. "More like an avalanche."

"Should have been better," we replied. "That lawyer's list wasn't any good."

On the way home, the old woman's words kept echoing in our mind. "Yah, I bink votink in Amedica fur sexty yass. Sexty yass! Always fur da Republican, y'know. Thass me. Republican."

The ACORN Distraction

The attacks on ACORN for alleged voter registration "fraud" are, indeed, "nutty" as Think Progress noted yesterday. Rachel Maddow thoroughly dissected it last night on MSNBC (see video above).

Yesterday, too, Gannett News Service's Ana Radelat ran a fairly well balanced Q-and-A on the artificially manufactured controversy. (It's reprinted in today's dead tree PNJ, but not on-line).

Among other things, Radelat correctly observes that "most states require those conducting voter-registration drives to turn in all forms, even if they know they are fakes." ACORN pays low-income people to register other low-income people, and some of them cheat by signing up "Mickey Mouse" and other phony names.

"The problem plagues many voter registration groups," Radelet reports. "Among those accused of submitting false registrations is one that targets single women called Women’s Voices, Women Vote."

But the real money quote in all of this is based on the all-important distinction between so-called "voter registration fraud" and actual "vote fraud":

Q. Can voter registration fraud affect an election?

A: State voting officials screen out most duplicate registrations and those containing false names or incomplete information.

A 2005 study from the League of Women Voters and the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio found that only four of about 9 million votes cast in the state from 2002 to 2004 were fraudulent.

Four out of 9 million votes? Our calculator can't handle that small a fraction but we're pretty sure it's written 4.444 × 10-7 . That's another seven zeros. Each of us has a better chance of winning the Florida lottery.

Close that Trap


We told you so yesterday. Bush speaks, the market tanks. Now, Bryan is on board.

The best thing Bush could do for the American economy is shut up.

Beach Roads Re-do Redux

Repair work to reopen the Opal Beach road to Pensacola Beach began earlier this month. Today, the News Journal reports reconstruction of the road to Fort Pickens on the west end of Pensacola Beach "likely will begin in mid-November."

We've heard this before, of course. Gulf Islands National Park superintendent Jerry Eubanks has the luck of John McCain's economic plan writers. Every time he announces repairs will start at last, another storm comes along or the plovers decide to nest -- and he has to change plans again.

The west and the east end roads from Pensacola Beach were torn up, first, by hurricanes Ivan (2004) and then Hurricane Dennis (2005). Even Hurricane Ike (2008) over-washed much of Ft. Pickens Road.

The incomparable Barrier Island Girl has been building a fascinating photographic archive of the island roads au naturel as Mother Nature has its way with them. Ft. Pickens photos are here. Bowden Way photos on the eastern leg to Opal Beach are here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Tardy Birthday Greeting

We want to hurry up and wish a tardy "Happy Birthday" to the U.S. Navy. As of yesterday, it's 233 years old.

An angry reader brought this to our attention when he wrote last evening:
I live in Pensacola, Florida , a navy town? Today was the U S Navy's 233rd birthday. Not one word was printed in the Pensacola News Journal. Not one word was said on channel 3. Not one word was said on radio. When the economy tanks or base closure comes around we send delegations to Washington to expound on what great support we give the navy. Where were we today? It makes me sad. So let me say it to all those wonderful people who serve---HAPPY BIRTHDAY NAVY.
We can't answer for the newspaper, the TeeVee station, or Radio Land, but this blog neglected to celebrate the occasion because, frankly, we just didn't know about it.

Somehow, amidst all of the other birthdays we've carefully recorded in our Journal of Dates to Remember -- for the spouse, friends, the ex-spouse, the aunt, the inlaws, the grandchildren, cousins, nephews, nieces, and shirttail relatives who didn't vote for Bush -- the U.S. Navy's birthday just didn't make it.

We are profoundly sorry for that. This being Florida, we need to add, "Please don't shoot us."

The birth of the U.S. Navy actually is an interesting bit of history, which the Navy History Museum tells well:
On Friday, October 13, 1775, meeting in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress voted to fit out two sailing vessels, armed with ten carriage guns, as well as swivel guns, and manned by crews of eighty, and to send them out on a cruise of three months to intercept transports carrying munitions and stores to the British army in America. This was the original legislation out of which the Continental Navy grew and as such constitutes the birth certificate of the navy.

To understand the momentous significance of the decision to send two armed vessels to sea under the authority of the Continental Congress, we need to review the strategic situation in which it was made and to consider the political struggle that lay behind it.

Americans first took up arms in the spring of 1775 not to sever their relationship with the king, but to defend their rights within the British Empire. By the autumn of 1775, the British North American colonies from Maine to Georgia were in open rebellion. Royal governments had been thrust out of many colonial capitals and revolutionary governments put in their places. The Continental Congress had assumed some of the responsibilities of a central government for the colonies, created a Continental Army, issued paper money for the support of the troops, and formed a committee to negotiate with foreign countries. Continental forces captured Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain and launched an invasion of Canada.

In October 1775 the British held superiority at sea, from which they threatened to stop up the colonies' trade and to wreak destruction on seaside settlements. In response a few of the states had commissioned small fleets of their own for defense of local waters. Congress had not yet authorized privateering. Some in Congress worried about pushing the armed struggle too far, hoping that reconciliation with the mother country was still possible.

Yet, a small coterie of men in Congress had been advocating a Continental Navy from the outset of armed hostilities. Foremost among these men was John Adams, of Massachusetts. For months, he and a few others had been agitating in Congress for the establishment of an American fleet. They argued that a fleet would defend the seacoast towns, protect vital trade, retaliate against British raiders, and make it possible to seek out among neutral nations of the world the arms and stores that would make resistance possible.

So it seems, John Adams was the father of the U.S. Navy as well as second cousin to the Jerry Rubin of his time, Sam Adams. The first commander of the U.S. fleet was Esek Hopkins (1718-1802), who seems to have made a career of being a pirate before the American Revolution.

It's always both humbling and inspiring to be reminded that our nation, like the U.S. Navy, was conceived and birthed by political radicals, street protesters, and pirates.

Esek Hopkins was born on April 26. Mark that date, please, or you might be getting an angry email next year.