Sunday, May 31, 2009

Prinicipal Lay Has A 'Come to Jesus' Moment

Some Pace High School students recited the lord's prayer at graduation last night. Apparently, the all-knowing god they pray to can't hear a silent prayer.

No matter. The students in Pace are just as entitled to protest government policy, even a policy embedded in the First Amendment and enforced by the courts, as John and Mary Beth Tinker in Des Moines were entitled to protest the War in Vietnam. That's the beauty of the First Amendment. We should all treasure it.

The real news is that principal Frank Lay has been cut loose by the Santa Rosa School Board when it comes to his scheduled June appearance to show why he shouldn't be held in contempt of court. According to the latest issue of the Santa Rosa Press Gazette:
Lay, who has come under fire for having the Ten Commandments displayed in the hall of Pace High as a historical document and offering a class on religion as an elective, has been advised by the school board that they will not represent him in any further litigation.
Maybe this explains principal Lay's transformation from lion to lamb in less than a week. Six days ago, he was loudly proclaiming "No way are we going to back down, back off, lay down or roll over" over the insistence that the public school continue to promote a version of Christianity that he and some of the students favor. Now, he's promising to 'work with the superintendent and the school board" and whining that he's just an "old dog" who can't learn "new tricks."

How quickly some folk abandon what they claim are their most deeply-held convictions the moment they realize they have to pay their own lawyer bills. That's what's known, in some circles, as a "come to Jesus" moment.

More Pace High School Religious Instruction

Sept. 18: Late Editorial Update ("Homo Neanderthalensis")
Sept. 17: Lay, Freeman Beat the Rap with the 'I'm Stupid' Defense
Sept. 17: Pictures of a Pep Rally
Aug. 22: Stupid, Not Contemptuous
Aug. 5: The One and Only Faith
Aug. 4: Frank Lay's Criminal Contempt Order
May 27: Laying Down the Puritan Law
May 15: Southern Hos-Pee-Tility

Friday, May 29, 2009

Tropical Training

Tropical Depression 1 in the Atlantic is not expected to turn toward land. It is just a marketing ploy of the hurricane gods, designed to get our attention as the Tropical Season gets underway in a couple of days. Like spring training for batteries -- catchers and pitchers, only. It's too early and there's too little going on to be any fun to watch.

Darkness at Noon in the 'Sunshine Law' State

If you want to know how poorly Florida politicians and other public officials obey the state's Sunshine Law, take a look at what has surfaced long after the St. Pete Times politely requested all documents and correspondence relating to Hangar-gate. The St. Pete newspaper's blog now has the email. [Is This Willie Meggs' Smoking Gun?]

Eye on Miami, a truly excellent blog, isn't surprised the evidence surfaced only after grand jury indictments were handed down against state representative Ray Sansom, college ex-president Bob Richburg, and Destin developer Jay Odom. EOM writes:
The issue of government failing to provide accurate information requested under Sunshine Act requests is not a new one to me. Having followed environmental issues in Florida as a writer and an activist for many years, I have found that even when Sunshine Act requests are highly specific, it is not unusual for government staff to "scrub the record" when complying with Sunshine Act requests. This game of cat-and-mouse never gets reported in the press and is rarely litigated. Who has the money to sue over records that are hidden in files or on computers?

This is particularly bad in areas of public policy-- like the environment-- where corporate interests count more than the public. * * * Your government's attitude: screw you.
In a number of other states we have seen public officials scrupulously observe their open records laws. Make a request, and they not only respond with everything relevant, but actually help you by suggesting additional sources where more can be found.

But not in Florida. Here, it's always dark under the Sunshine Law.

'Wild Thing' Star Collapses

Rapper Tone Loc, whose stage name sounds to us like something you might download to your I-phone, collapsed early this morning during a performance at Capt'n Fun. He was treated, presumably at Gulf Breeze Hospital, and released, according to But they might be making that part up.

Let's hope not. If the hospital's troubled Andrews Institute gets their mitts on him, who knows how far out the performer may go?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

West and East Santa Rosa Islands

Now that all the Memorial Day Weekend tourists have gone home, untanned and soaked to the skin, we're allowed by the Beach Chamber of Money Changers to discuss the local weather.

What happened to Fort Pickens Road last week, less than one day after its long-awaited reopening, during a Spring storm that wasn't all that unusual, is very worrisome. Barrier Island Girl documented the flooding with photos.

What we snagged, on the other hand, is an image of the view of Fort Pickens Road in the year 2020:

Not really. That's a picture of East Ship Island from West Ship Island, courtesy of Alexey Sergeev.

Until Hurricane Camile in 1969, Ship Island, Mississippi and Santa Rosa Island, Florida, shared a very similar history, both geologically and otherwise. It looks inevitable that they will, again.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Grand Jury Indicts Sansom for Perjury, Odom for 'Official Misconduct'

The grand jury in Tallahassee that previously indicted Northwest Florida state rep Ray Sansom met again today and added a new charge for Sansom to defend: "felony perjury."

Along with that, the grand jury threw Destin developer Jay Odom into the dock for the first time. He's charged with "official misconduct" as a principal behind the scheme to have the legislature appropriate $6 million for an airplane hangar and claim it was for student use.

The gravamen of the new charges is that Odom finagled the appropriation and the lease, and Sansom lied to the grand jury about it when he claimed he "was unaware developer Jay Odom planned to use the airport building to store corporate aircraft." Explains the Miami Herald:
The new charges are based on documents State Attorney Willie Meggs obtained from the college after it fired Richburg. The documents include a lease showing Odom planned to use the college building at Destin Airport, Meggs said.
Sansom's attorney, Steve Dobson, told the Miami Herald that he's "confident that after all the facts are heard that Ray Sansom will be completely exonerated." Good thing the lawyer didn't have to repeat that statement under oath.

Meanwhile, ex-college president Bob Richburg is demanding the board of trustees reconsidered his firing. The Daily News reports, "The trustees voted 5-2 to pursue mediation."

They might want to wait on that mediation until the jury verdict. Richburg could have a hard time of it, running a college from inside a prison cell.

Idol Con Game

We told you so. This, from the New York Times, is just for openers:
The show’s host, Ryan Seacrest, it was noted, mentioned multiple times during the finale that nearly 100 million votes were cast, but he gave no hint about the margin separating the two finalists. Last year he clearly stated that the winner, David Cook, received 56 percent of the 97.5 million votes cast, a 12 million-vote margin of victory. And earlier this season Mr. Seacrest gave details about the vote margin between the bottom two contestants.
It's not the 38 million Arkansas votes, or however many they really were. It's the continuing absence of any comparative vote totals.

Laying Down the Puritan Law

It seems Pace, Florida, High School principal Frank Lay has 'layed' down the law to The Law. Almost as foolishly, he's now openly flouting the directives of the Santa Rosa School Board.

Today's PNJ coverage by Carmen Paige sacrifices coherency for sensationalism, but if you've been paying attention, nevertheless the picture is clear. In summary --
  • Pace High School for decades has promoted its own brand of 'Christianity' with daily prayers over the loudspeakers and various school-sponsored "Christian" class projects, school rallies, etc. If you doubt it, just ask any of the scores, if not hundreds, of University of West Florida education majors who have been assigned to Pace over the years for their teaching practicums. We know. We have.
  • After a lawsuit was filed accusing the publicly-financed high school of violating the First Amendment's establishment clause, the school district's governing board wisely consented to entry of a judgment (rather than fight a losing battle and wind up paying as much as a million dollars in lawyers' fees for both sides after they lost).
  • The school board unequivocally promised to stop the plainly unconstitutional conduct at the high school, and U.S. District Judge Casey Rogers duly entered a Consent Degree, making it binding.
  • Back in January, apparently with the explicit approval of high school principal Lay, low-level school clerk Michelle Winkler colluded with her husband to resume old habits by having him offer a 'Christian' prayer at an official school function. Principal Lay compounded things by directing the school's athletic director to offer a prayer at a fund-raising luncheon.
  • Lay and Winkler now face contempt of court charges. They have been summoned to appear before the court on June 25.
  • Meanwhile, Pace High reportedly 'Layed' plans to have student speakers at its graduation ceremony selected on the basis of "popularity" not merit. (That tells you just about everything you need to know about Pace High School.)
  • Concerned, as it well ought to be, that the "popularity" poll was influenced by certain teachers and other school officials who have a religious agenda, school district officials "have decided not to let any student speak at graduation whose election may have been influenced by a teacher or student government." Instead, the board ordered that speakers be chosen "on a neutral basis because of their grade-point average."
  • As if to underscore his disregard for the law, last night principal Lay appeared before "more than 700 people" at a politico-religious rally staged at the Pace "Assembly of God" church. Lay vowed, "No way are we going to back down, back off, lay down or roll over."
That may be so. But if he keeps to his word, then what principal Frank Lay is going to be is an ex-principal -- and quite possibly a jailbird. He's expressed not only contempt for the law of the land and the Federal courts, he's become contumacious of his employer.

"The consent decree signed by the School Board has given away much of our freedoms," Lay claims. "It is time we stand up because the next generation is counting on that."

Actually, what the next generation should be counting on is a good, solid education. Under Lay's watch, they're obviously missing out.

Still, there is no one better than Lay, himself, to illustrate the fundamental reason our founding fathers took special care to craft a Constitution that simultaneously guards against state-sponsored religious activity at the same time it guarantees the free exercise of personal religious convictions. Sacrificing academic merit in a public school for someone's favored religious expression is precisely what the Constitution was designed to prevent. We remained shocked that Pace high school students don't know this.

Lay is entitled to say and pray whatever he wants, to himself or inside the "Assembly of God" brand of religious house. But he's not entitled to abuse his position as a publicly-paid high school principal by flouting the law and importing his own religious sentiments inside the walls of Pace High School.

Take a history course, Reverend Principal Lay. (And you, too, Don Stuart of Pensacola Beach.) The Puritans settled Massachusetts in 1630 not to escape religious persecution in England, but to establish a religious autocracy of their own right here in North America. As the great Puritan scholar Perry Miller once wrote, "There is nothing so idle as to praise the Puritans for being in any sense conscious or deliberate pioneers of religious liberty."
They maintained here precisely what they had maintained in England, and if they exiled, fined, jailed, whipped, or hanged those who disagreed with them in New England, they would have done the same thing in England could they have secured the power.


The [17th century] government of Massachusetts, and of Connecticut as well, was a dictatorship, and never pretended to be anything else; it was a dictatorship, not of a single tyrant, or of an economic class, or of a political faction, but of the holy and regenerate. Those who did not hold with the ideals entertained by the righteous, or who believed God had preached other principles, or who desired that in religious belief, morality, and ecclesiastical preferences all men should be left at liberty to do as they wished -- such persons had every liberty... to stay away from New England. If they did come, they were expected to keep their opinions to themselves; if they discussed them in public or attempted to act upon them, they were exiled; if they persisted in returning, they were cast out again; if they still came back, as did four Quakers, they were hanged on Boston Common. And, from the Puritan point of view, it was good riddance.

Miller, "The Puritan State and Puritan Society,"
Errand into the Wilderness (1956)
In that bygone world to which ignoramuses like principal Lay and beach resident Stuart so groundlessly appeal, every nation in the western world "assumed it could allow only one church to exist within its borders, that every citizen should be compelled to attend it and conform to its requirements, and that all citizens should pay taxes for its support." When the Puritans were unable to succeed at home, in England, by having their church so enthroned, "they came to America, where they could establish a society in which the one and only truth should reign forever."

To be sure, Puritan government slowly liberalized to a minor degree over the course of the late 17th and 18th centuries. Non-believers who were taxed to support the Congregational sect eventually were given the right of franchise to vote on some matters. But it was not until after the American War of Independence that a complete separation of church and state became possible.

Our founding fathers built a constitutional wall between the religious and civil governments precisely to avoid entangling the civil administration of government (including public schools) with any religious creed, as the Puritans had done. They saw the First Amendment as a keystone of individual freedom; not just because of the freedom-of-religion clause, but the anti-establishment clause, as well.

All of this may be giving Preacher Lay more credit than he deserves. We can't shake the sense that this is not really, for him, a religious crusade so much as it is the opening salvo in a political campaign. What, after all, is left for an obscure, unemployed, and hypocritical martyr to do, once he's been found guilty of deliberate contempt of court, except run for political office?

More Pace High School Religious Instruction

Sept. 18: Late Editorial Update ("Homo Neanderthalensis")

Sept. 17: Lay, Freeman Beat the Rap with the 'I'm Stupid' Defense
Sept. 17: Pictures of a Pep Rally
Aug. 22: Stupid, Not Contemptuous
Aug. 5: The One and Only Faith
Aug. 4: Frank Lay's Criminal Contempt Order
May 31: Principal Lay Has a 'Come to Jesus' Moment
May 15: Southern Hos-Pee-Tility

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Greenwald on Sotomayor

President Obama's first, but probably not last, nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court is U.S. Circuit Court judge Sonia Sotomayor. Don't know much about her, so we checked in to see what Glenn Greenwald has to say about her.

Since Glenn is the only lawyer we know for sure had a constitutional law case before her, we figured he'd know a lot more than all the blow-dry hairdos and exploding heads on Tee-Vee. And he does.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

At the Bat - Again

It ain't over till it's over."
-- Yogi Berra

The grand jury that indicted Northwest Florida state senator Ray Sansom along with Northwest Florida college ex-president Bob Richburg has re-convened and heard new evidence. Expect more grand jury news by June 1.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Viva Fort Pickens!

Gulf Islands National Seashore Superintendent Eubanks announced that the roadway gates will open to vehicular traffic at 7:00 a.m. on Friday, May 22, 2009.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Idle Thoughts on American Idol

We haven't watched American Idol and we wouldn't have seen last night's finale, either, except that She Who Rules The Roost insisted that we need to keep up with contemporary culture.

"You're still rooted in the Fifties!" she snarled.

"No, we're not," we insisted.

"Oh yeah? Name one composer since Mozart," she challenged.

"Bach," we answered.

"That figures," she muttered. "Okay, name a twentieth century composer."

We had to think a moment. "Sibelius."

"But he was born..."

"Died in the fifties," we interrupted. "The nineteen-fifties."

"No fair! His best stuff was done in the 1800's. Name some one who was born in the twentieth century."

"Billy Strayhorn." We knew we had her.


"Take the A Train, Satin Doll, Lush Life -- "

"Exactly! That's my point! You're in a time bubble! You know nothing about music since the duck-and-cover days."

We cheerfully admit it. Last night, though, it gave us an advantage. We knew Adam Lambert would lose. He's too good. Lambert has a strong, exciting voice with a wide range and nearly perfect pitch. His competition, Kris Allen, by contrast seemed weak, a little flat, and rather boring. So, we were sure Allen would win.

We were only mildly surprised that Fox TV Network declared him the winner without ever disclosing the actual vote totals. The host, what's-his-forgettable-name, said something vague about the winner getting 'about a million' more (paid) phone calls. MSNBC reported today that an anonymous "source close to the show revealed the final vote wasn't even close."

How very, well, Bush-Gore of them. Okay, folks, move on. That's all you get. Don't look behind the Fox curtain.

One thing about being frozen in the culture of the 1950's is that we remember the Payola Music Scandal and the Television Quiz Show Scandals. When you have a ton of money flying around the music business or commercial television, it's a safe bet that something is fixed. When you combine the two into competitive music on television, it's a sure thing.

Remember, you heard it here first. If American Idol isn't fixed, somehow, some way, then you can call us "Ella Fitzgerald."

The 100 Percent Solution

Pensacola Beach Elementary School scored 100% across the board in the FCAT scores for reading and math, it was announced today. Congratulations, all!

To be sure, the FCAT system is badly flawed, and it's inappropriate to place too much emphasis on a single test like this when evaluating the overall quality of a school. It should be recognized, too, that the Pensacola Beach Elementary School largely manages to escape the important responsibility -- those who don't know any better might say 'burden' -- that so many other public schools shoulder in educating children who come from economically disadvantaged home environments.

But we'll leave all of that for another day. For now, all the teachers, students, administrators, parents, and other supporters of Penascola Beach Elementary School deserve a long, loud round of congratulatory applause. Keep up the great work!

Reading Scores, Escambia County Elementary Schools
Math Scores, Escambia County Elementary Schools

Two Speeches, One Conclusion

Steve Benen: "Watching Cheney's speech, the one phrase that kept coming to mind was, 'He must think we're idiots.'"

More here:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Injustice in Chief

Jeffrey Toobin, from the New Yorker Magazine for May 25:
After four years on the Court, however, [Chief Justice John] Roberts’s record is not that of a humble moderate but, rather, that of a doctrinaire conservative. The kind of humility that Roberts favors reflects a view that the Court should almost always defer to the existing power relationships in society. In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff. Even more than Scalia... Roberts has served the interests, and reflected the values, of the contemporary Republican Party.
Look out for falling legal doctrines in the week to come as the Supreme Court winds up its current term.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Beach in Black and White

Every year, it's the same old, same old.

One weekend a year thousands of predominantly minority Mobile, Alabama, residents gather on Pensacola Beach. County law enforcement officers double- and triple-team them. A handful of arrests are made, mostly for underage drinking and traffic offenses. Santa Rosa Island Authority officers wring their hands and shake their heads in dismay. And then, the Internet message boards mavens hit the keyboards to whip out racist rubbish.

This year, it seems, Thyrie Bland got the assignment to write it up as sensationally as possible. Here's the lede:
What started out as a day of hanging at the beach ended Sunday with fights, arrests and deputies telling everyone to leave.
Sounds like the cops had to stop a riot, doesn't it? You have to drill down 27 paragraphs -- 27 of 'em! -- before learning "Rain started shortly after noon. Lifeguards warned the beachgoers to seek shelter because of lightning." Seven paragraphs later, we're told "The rain didn't last long, and some of the cars that left the beach returned."

"Some." Got it?

Here's a boiled-down summary of Bland's news reporting about all the visitor villainy on the beach this nail-biting day (all direct quotes):
  • By 11:30 a.m., the parking lots at Fort Pickens gate had filled with vehicles.
  • Some people headed to the gathering had to park in the Casino Beach parking lot and walk to the Fort Pickens gate.
  • Before deputies began clearing the Casino Beach parking lot on Sunday, some of the young people began to get unruly.
  • [T]here was a fight that involved five women in the Casino Beach lot.
  • After the fight, someone threw money in the air, and people began pushing and shoving as they tried to grab the money.
  • A disc jokey played hip-hop tunes as young men tried to talk to girls strolling through the parking lots in colorful bathing suits.
  • Others walked to the beach to take pictures as waves crashed on the shore and dark clouds formed in the sky.
  • By late Sunday afternoon, the crowd that had gathered at Fort Pickens had made its way to the Casino Beach area.
To be sure, our annual Mobile visitors leave behind "huge amounts of trash, including cans, beer cartons, plastic bottles and cups." So, too, do the mostly-Caucasian bubbas who annually trash the beach after the Mardi Gras parade, the Blue Angels show, and on the Fourth of July. If tourist-generated trash on the beach is newsworthy, it ought to be reported every weekend.

Yes, some Mobile revelers got smashed or probably high, and engaged in juvenile fisticuffs. The media doesn't cover it as breathlessly, but such misbehavior -- and worse -- also happens during the several March and April weekends when predominantly Caucasian college jocks descend on Pensacola Beach for "Spring Break."

Look, we don't care for hip-hop any more than we like country music, acid rock -- or The Osmonds, for that matter. We deplore the way most tourists come to the beach for its natural beauty and leave it looking like an Indonesian city dump. Drinking to excess, drugs, and stupid street fighting are despicable everywhere, not just on the annual weekend Mobile young people customarily beach it in Pensacola.

But all those things happen every day on every beach in America. It has nothing to do with race and only a tenuous connection with age.

There were two ways to cover yesterday's beach event. One was the sensationalist way the News Journal did it. The other was to report that other than a brief fight and the usual minor drinking busts, Mobile grads had a good time on the beach until the rain began to fall.

There is no other way to say this: The Pensacola media, the News Journal included, shamelessly sensationalize the "Mobile graduates" weekend and encourage, however inadvertently, the baser instincts of a racialist public.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Real McCoy

In today's Sunday Pensacola News Journal, Carlton Proctor offers a thousand-word-plus retrospective on the Andrews Institute's recent "Project Odyssey" misadventures. It's a subject we've mentioned before.

Essentially, Baptist Hospital built an expensive monument to the Miracle of Medical Marketing and then finagled a quarter of a million dollars -- with prospects of more to come -- out of state development funds on the premise that private space travel by multi-millionaires would generate much-needed tourist money for Florida some day soon. Or, maybe the premise was that treating rich space tourists would solve one of America's most pressing unmet medical needs. Something like that.

Seriously. Space tourism medicine. As in Star Trek's Doctor "Bones" McCoy.

It's not entirely clear why the story is the PNJ's top front page headline, as if it were breaking news. But Proctor has done one thing to advance the narrative. He gives ample -- some might say endless -- opportunity for the hospital's "chief innovation officer" to explain why he did nothing wrong and, besides, space tourism is so awesome.

'Project Odyssey' will soar "to the highest level," Dr. Joe Story promises. "We're going to run this program with the staff and doctors we have on board," he vows.

This is very good news, indeed. Since "the staff and doctors ... on board" Baptist Hospital are so capable, no more money should be needed from the public coffers. Right?

Of course, that kind of defeats the purpose of the Andrews Institute marketing scheme, doesn't it. After all, what's the point of spending millions to erect a fancy building, slap an allegedly famous physician's name on it, and import a bunch of batting cages, if you can't parlay all of that into cushy money grants in the form of state and federal government hand-outs?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Graham: "CIA Prohibited Notes"

It does make one wonder... Did we have a government of laws or of CIA agents?

We sure miss Senator Graham.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Southern Hos-pee-tility

"'We did what we normally do in the South before we eat,' he said."
-- Pace High School Principal Frank Lay
Apparently, what's 'normal' in certain Northwest Florida locales is to conspire before every meal to piss all over the U.S. Constitution and be willfully contemptuous of the courts.
"Michelle Winkler violated the order by having her husband, who is not a School Board employee, offer prayer at the non-instructional employee of the year banquet" on Feb. 20, said Benjamin Stevenson, an ACLU of Florida staff attorney. "We filed a motion for the federal court to issue an order for her to show cause or explain herself."
* * *
The suit said school officials regularly promoted their personal religious beliefs and led prayers at school events.
It bears emphasis that this was no inadvertent slip on Ms. Winkler's part. It was planned in advance every bit as deliberately as your run-of-the-mine bank heist.
  • She first declared her intentions weeks ahead of time:
In a Jan. 23 e-mail prior to the banquet, Winkler asked Jud Crane, director of purchasing, for "off the record" permission to have prayer at the event.
  • She admitted in writing her purpose was personal to her needs, not those of the public school or its students:

"I would like to use the prayer I had prayed about and received from God and will suffer whatever consequences for," she wrote in the e-mail.

  • She was warned in advance her plan was inappropriate:
Crane said he was told there would be no invocation or devotion, but that she could give a nonreligious "thought of the day."

  • But she went ahead, anyway, and even enlisted her husband as a confederate:

At the banquet... she told the audience she was not permitted to pray, but called her husband to the microphone to do so.

We totally agree with Ms. Winkler. She should "suffer whatever consequences."

How about probation -- conditioned on Ms. Winkler, at her own expense, completing a fact-finding report after living six months in a nation where there is no separation between church and state institutions? Say, Somalia, Pakistan, or Sri Lanka?

It would be god's will. She told us so herself.

More Pace High School Religious Instruction

Sept. 18: Late Editorial Update ("Homo Neanderthalensis")
Sept. 17: Lay, Freeman Beat the Rap with the 'I'm Stupid' Defense
Sept. 17: Pictures of a Pep Rally
Aug. 22: Stupid, Not Contemptuous
Aug. 5: The One and Only Faith
Aug. 4: Frank Lay's Criminal Contempt Order
May 31: Principal Lay Has a 'Come to Jesus' Moment
May 27: Laying Down the Puritan Law

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Creative Restriant

Today's PNJ congratulates the Santa Rosa Island Authority for its admirable -- or should we say, 'admiral' -- restraint in not laughing the floating parking garage idea off the planet. Terrible idea, the paper says, but "the SRIA deserves praise for seeking creative ways to provide more parking on the beach."

Creative? Since when is yet another parking garage "creative"?

Apparently, the PNJ editorial board doesn't read its own columnist, Reginald Dogan. Just about this time last year, he spent a week at the beach and reached the same conclusion everyone else -- or, at least everyone who isn't trying to scam a multi-million construction deal out of it -- reaches after studying the issue: "There is a parking problem on the beach — a couple times a year, maybe."

Even if it were otherwise and the beach looks like Highway 98 at rush hour, a parking garage hardly qualifies as "creative." Rather than concede to a traffic jam of individual passenger cars at the outset, what's needed is a more efficient, less expensive, more environmentally-friendly, and fun way of moving the occasional large crowds one mile from the Gulf Breeze peninsula to the island.

Now, that would qualify as creative.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Parking Paradise

It's a hallowed tradition on Pensacola Beach for developers to name monstrosities they build after the scenic or environmental jewel they've just destroyed. White Sands, Beachside, Sea Horse, Palm Beach, Emerald Isle, etc. etc.

So if this isn't a tardy April Fool's joke, it should be named "Most Beautiful Beach in the World" Parking Garage:
Gulf Breeze Naval architect and regular beachgoer William Preston... has submitted plans to the Santa Rosa Island Authority for a 600-space, five-deck, floating parking garage that would cost about the same as building a land-based parking garage: $8,000 to $12,000 per parking space. Using that formula, a 600-space floating garage could cost between $4.8 million and $7.2 million.
Preston makes a lot of extravagant claims for his idea. Most of them, interestingly enough, involve towing it somewhere else. For example: "It could be moved out of harm's way during a hurricane," he promises.

Yeah, right. They said the same thing in Mississippi about floating casinos. That worked out well, right?

Someone by the name of Jim Cox is quoted as exclaiming, "Wow. Thanks for a great out-of-the-box thinking."

Either Mr. Cox is a master of bitter irony or he's badly confused. The notion of plopping a floating parking garage down on Pensacola Beach isn't out of the box. It's out of the lunatic bin.

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Seven Million Dollar Erectile Dysfunction

Beach residents will remember Los Angeles Dodger superstar Manny Ramirez. He spent much of the winter on Pensacola Beach, as we noted three months ago, reportedly taking "batting practice" at the Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze.

Seriously. "Batting practice."

We remain highly skeptical of the Andrews Institute. It looks to us like one of those transparent hospital marketing strategies you see popping up all over the country -- a "re-branding" business strategy using some purportedly 'famous- doctor's- name- from- somewhere- else' coupled with the high fallutin' word "institute." Travel anywhere and you'll come across them.

Why would a supposedly non-profit hospital need to "brand" and "market" its services? Well, so that it can perform the desperately-needed public service of preparing filthy rich couch-potatoes for outer space vacations, or maybe to justify hiking the hospital bills on desperately sick ordinary local residents -- whichever occurs first.

Now, just a few weeks after leaving the beach, 'Meltdown Manny' has been suspended by Major League Baseball for taking a banned substance prescribed by an unnamed doctor. Since the Pensacola News Journal totally missed the local connection, we'll link to the Boston Globe version of the story. Besides, a lot of Red Sox fans have crocodile tears running down their cheeks right now, so the Boston media are all over this one.
Ramírez said in a prepared statement that the substance was not a steroid but a medication his doctor prescribed for an unspecified personal health issue.
The Globe reports Ramirez took "human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), a female fertility drug that steroid users sometimes ingest to regulate their natural testosterone levels."

Rumors are rife that Ramirez took the drug to treat erectile dysfunction. That could make sense if Manny, as also rumored widely, spent most of his free time on Pensacola Beach socializing with scantily dressed women. A couple of months screwing your head off on Pensacola Beach can give ED to almost any man.

As the other Boston newspaper reports --
HCG - when used as a fertility medication for females - triggers ovulation.

For males, HCG is injected for testosterone replacement therapy by inciting leydig cells located in the testicles to create testosterone. The drug can be utilized to mask and reverse the adverse effects steroids have on the body, including decreases in testosterone production and testicular size.

And that's where things could get, well, sticky for the Andrews Institute brand:
[I]t would be unusual for a physician to prescribe HCG to treat erectile dysfunction, according to William McCloskey, a professor of pharmacy practice at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. In the days before Viagra, Cialis, and similar drugs reached the market, HCG was used to treat erectile dysfunction, but its use has greatly diminished because of the new products, McCloskey said.
In other words, HCG is soooo yesterday. If some Baptist/Andrews Institute doctor prescribed it for Ramirez' ED condition, he'd better have a darn good medical reason. The suspension for 50 games will cost Manny "nearly $7.7 million of his $25 million salary."

Highway Hijinks

While crossing 3-mile bridge this morning, we spotted an aging, apple-red Toyota Camry with a beat-up right rear fender tooling along at 60 mph. The driver had a bowl in one hand and a spoon in the other, and was eating his breakfast. We assume his knees were on the steering wheel.

This message has been brought to you by the spirit of John Gunn, who no longer patrols the streets and highway of Gulf Breeze for his readers.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Pennsylvania Specter

Steve Benen:
In the four whole days he's been a Democrat, Specter has voted against the Democratic budget, rejected a Democratic measure to help prevent mortgage foreclosures and preserve home values, announced his opposition to the president's OLC nominee, and this morning rejected a key centerpiece of the Democratic health care plan.
Can we give him back to the Repubs?

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Celebrating the Physical

Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald is, in our opinion, the best syndicated columnist the local Pensacola paper runs. Maybe the best in the nation.

Today, his column from early in the week ["Bearing Witness in Wonder and Loss"], which celebrates books, LPs, photographic prints, and all such "physical" things, finally made it into the PNJ. (We'd link to the PNJ's version, but it will disappear too soon behind an over-priced firewall.)

Pitts begins:

Last week, I fell into conversation with a fellow named Bud and shared something that has been rattling around my head for awhile now: a sense that, as intellectual properties become ever more digitized, we are seeing the disappearance of, well . . . things. Physical artifacts that once were as much a part of every day as ketchup stains on your tie are now disappearing inside hard drives.
* * *
It's recorded music. I have a huge collection of CDs and vinyl albums that these days is used mainly for decor; when I want tunes, I turn to my iPod.

And it's photography. We used to have these things called snapshots, but no longer. Photos are digitized now.

And it's books, where you can instantly, cheaply download that novel or biography right to your reading device.

And it is, of course, newspapers. Enough said.

There's more, including a premonish ending.

As it happens, we've been contemplating the same subject recently, as we plow through ancient newspapers and very old letters for a research project on pioneer life that we're engaged in. There's a lot we can learn from our forebears. One thing is how conscious they were of later generations to come.

Despite often appalling and frequently life-threatening living conditions, a good many of the traders, miners, newspapermen, farmers, preachers, merchants, lawyers, doctors, soldiers, adventurers, housewives -- and even children -- who built the United States and settled the West took special care to write down and preserve their diaries, letters, and other evidence of what life was like for them. They did it, perhaps, partly to make sense of things for themselves; but from the evidence of their own words, mostly out of regard for future generations they, themselves, would never meet.

They wanted us to know our roots and to see the pathways by which we came to where we are today. Mostly, so we think, they hoped we would learn from their triumphs and mistakes.

In the digital age we now find ourselves in, are we exhibiting the same regard for our descendants-to-be? How will historians a century or two from now retrieve our emails? Those digital photos still left in the camera? Yesterday's IM? Tomorrow's text message?

Have we abandoned our own responsibility to future generations for our own digital convenience? It's a question that occurs to us every time we step into a physical library, pour over an old 19th century diary, or sit down with an elderly relative to look at her family photo album.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Supreme Law of Averages

As it happens, we were in the audience last week when a speaker pointed out that the bloc of four of the most reactionary justices in the past century of Supreme Court history, as a matter of averages, more likely than not will continue doing their worst from the bench for at least the next quarter century. That would be until 2035 or 2040.

After Justice David Souter's resignation, the average age of all eight remaining Supreme Court justices is about 69.31 years (with modest rounding-off). The average age of the three remaining "liberal" justices is 78.33 years old. The average age of the four most conservative justices on the Supreme Court is 61.41 years.

Barring the unexpected and unusual, there is no way President Obama can tip the balance of the Supreme Court -- even if Justices Ginsburg and Stevens were to live to be a hundred and ten.

John Roberts, 54 (Jan. 27, 1955)
Clarence Thomas, 60 (June 23, 1948)
David Souter, 66 (Sept. 17, 1939)
Stephen Breyer, 70 (Aug. 15, 1938)
Anthony Kennedy, 72 (July 23, 1936)
Antonin Scalia, 73 (March 11, 1936)
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 76 (March 15, 1933)
John Paul Stevens, 89 (born April 20, 1920)
Samuel Alito, 59 (born April 1, 1950)

Eye Mote for Pensacola Tourists

It's taken nearly five years, now, and untold millions of dollars, but following Hurricane Ivan Escambia County has at last found a way to rebuild the fishing pier parallel to 3-Mile Bridge on the Pensacola side in such a way as to totally obscure the once-breathtaking view eastward from the bridge.

It took some doing, we're sure, but county officials made sure the pier will be exactly at eye level for passing vehicles. That way, you won't be able to enjoy the water view unless you bring a pole and pay the fishing fee -- or drive on to Gulf Breeze and Pensacola Beach.

Thanks, Escambia County!