Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Safe Celebration

Certain circumstances have us wondering this: Wouldn't it be nice if everyone could celebrate New Year's Eve somewhere safe? Somewhere, say, like Cape Cod where an unusual blizzard of half a foot of snow or more is expected tonight, driven by bitterly cold winter winds gusting up to 60 mph.

Sounds cold? True. But it also makes road travel practically impossible and, therefore frees folk to cancel those elaborate party plans and snuggle down warmly at home, guilt free, to celebrate the New Year together sensibly and safely, if not entirely soberly.
Below: A view of the Hyannis Green on the snowy morning of December 31st, 2008. Up to eight inches of snow are expected today, according to the Cape Cod Times.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mourning Joe

Former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski to Pensacola emigré Joe Scarborough: "You have such a stunningly superficial knowledge of what went on that it's almost embarrassing to listen to you."

Whither the Party of Lincoln?

Steve Benen:
So, to summarize, a leading candidate to lead the Republican National Committee promoted a song calling the next president a "magic negro." This has improved his chances of getting the job.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Electoral Strategy

Hilzoy, quoting D.C. reporter Spencer Ackerman:
"Do you believe for a moment that leveling Gaza will stop the rockets? Well, then you've lost your right to call the peaceniks naive. You want the cycle broken? Then you can start by breaking your own."
Bryan, pointing to BBC reporter Katya Adler's candid dispatch:
The BBC’s Katya Adler in Jerusalem says the timing of Israel’s operation is significant, as Israeli politicians are keen to score points ahead of a general election in February.
More from Adler's report:
Israel holds parliamentary elections in just over a month's time.

The Israeli public has a generally low opinion about how their government has handled what they call "Hamastan" - Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Until it started talking tough, the hawkish opposition leader, Binyamin Netanyahu, was leading in the polls. Now the gap has narrowed.

Indiscriminately killing lots of people makes you blind but gets you votes in Israel. As Glenn Greenwald points out, our own politicians suppose that encouraging American taxpayers to pay nearly $3 billion a year for this insanity is good politics here at home, too.

That has to change. If Israel wants to persist in plucking out its own eyes, at a minimum we shouldn't be paying for it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ironic Fact

The State of Massachusetts, historic home of many racketeers, now sponsors a racket of its own known as the The Numbers Game.

Beach Music

Perdido Key surf, December 2008:

Friday, December 26, 2008

Eartha Kitt (1927-2008)

Jazz legend, civil rights advocate, outspoken anti-war protester, and much, much more.

Day After Christmas

Romanian Christmas Carol 5 - video powered by Metacafe

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day

Still more Christmas stuff from the old days -- Tom Lehrer:

Letters to Santa (1899 Edition)

Newspaper this week featured a front page filled with "letters to Santa Claus" written to the Cumberland (Maryland) Evening Times in 1899. Too many to reproduce here, but here are a few excerpts:
Dear Santa Claus - I would like to have a nice express wagon, scrap book, and most anything that would suit a boy eight years old. Don't forget pap a box of tobacco for I am tired running to the store every evening.
Eugene Law, 28 Chestnut St.

Dear Santa Claus - Please bring me a bicycle, nice story book with lots of pretty pictures in it and anything else you can spare.
Gilbert Kohl, 300 N. Centre St.

Dear Santa Claus - I would like to have a ten dollar suit and a twelve dollar overcoat, four dollar hat, three dollar pair shoes, pair skates, sled, tool box, steam engine, magic lantern, story book, drawing slate, drawing slate, gun, drum, horn, texes pony, carriage, blackboard, ship, set of dominos, watch and chain, ring, engine and train, sandmill and false face.
John W. Yergiin, Md. Ave.

Dear Santa Claus —Please bring me a blackboard to write on, a little wagon and a nice Christmas tree and a nice yard, gun and lots of candy and nuts.
Frank Blaul, 252 N. Mechanic st.

Dear Santa — Please bring me a nice pocketbook, a pair kid gloves, a friendship bracelet, new dress, and umbrella.
Katharine Giles, 41 Decatur st.

Dear Santa Claus — Please bring me a doll, a bupgy, set of dishes, bureau, a ring, bracelet, watch, story book, stove, table lamp, candy, nuts, and oranges, wash tub and board, a glove, knife and fork, iron board pair shoes and clock.
Edna Johnston,105 Madison st.

Dear Santa Clause — Please bring me a double slate, double school bag, pair shoes and a pair gloves.
Regina Ryland, 128 N. Centre st.

Dear Santa - I think I have been a very good girl. I would like to have a new doll and a muff as my old one is too small and some new handkerchiefs, new dresses for my old dolls, you know I am satisfied with any thing you bring me, so bring me what you think best, and don't forget to trim my tree.
Beulah Kimble

Dear Santa - I hope you will not disappoint me. I would like to have a pretty book, a satchel, a sled, story book, pair kid gloves and some candy and nuts.
Myrtle I. Valentine, N. Centre street.

Dear Santa Claus - I would like to have a gold ring, a Golf cape and mackintosh and anything else you wish to bring me and don't forget my little sister Leota, for this is her first Christmas.
Bertha Scuber, 80 Decatur street.

Santa Clause— I send you this short note to open your heart for Christ-max & to fill the little girls & boys saks full of candy & tell Santa clouse not be stingy about it. Santa clouse help us out at the end of this year for you might be dead next year. For I hope we live to see another Santa Clouse & I hope you will be filled up with candy this max so we may all get some, divide small and serve all, & dont forget my little sister she is one year old but she cant write yet she is to little. But dont forget her in your prayers Santa Clous.
Susie McFadden, 137 Walnut street.

Dear Santa Clause - Please bring me a doll, a doll wash stand, a doll bed, some games, a box of paints, a doll stove, a little doll table and some story books.
Lillian Laing.

Dear Santa Claus - Please bring me a drum and a horse, a monkey in a box and toffie candy, nuts and oranges.
Will O'Neal

Dear Santa Claus - Please bring me a little trunk, little caster, wash-board, tub, wringer, clothes horse and if you have the clothes-line and pins I would like to have them and the rest of the toys give the other children.
Helen Stanley, 169 N. Mechanic street.

Amazing Grace

“Because the pardon power is constrained only by executive discretion, the president usually takes care to get it right before making the decision."
When historians look back on the Bush administration, they will be flabbergasted at the breathtaking width and depth of incompetence in every sphere, on every issue from virtually every perspective. This gang of nincompoops and criminals couldn't even get the grace of a presidential pardon right.

It really is quite amazing. As Duncan Black says, the idiot can't do anything right.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Bush

Merry Green Christmas

We're celebrating an old fashioned Christmas. Here's the inimitable Stan Freeberg, marred by someone else with "random" visuals which we can't explain:

Viva Las Vegas

Somewhere we heard that Christmas Eve day is the second busiest time of the year for Las Vegas weddings. Possibly, we picked that up some years ago from Reverend Sandy at the drive-up window of The Little White Wedding Chapel.

You can test that hypothesis by watching the live cam.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

2009: Year of Lincoln

Steve Benen is calling attention to an exceedingly strange article on the Politico web site. It's against our principles to link to Politico; there, however, two reporters by the names of John F. Harris (editor of Politico) and Alexander Burns are snidely implying, to quote Benen quoting them, "that Barack Obama faces a possible 'backlash' for his 'ostentatious embrace of all things Lincoln.'"

We've read the Harris-Burns piece all the way through to spare you the pain. Here's the foundation they supply for claiming that Obama is "ostentatious" in his "embrace of all things Lincoln":
In Barack Obama's appearance last month on CBS's "60 Minutes," the conversation turned to the president-elect's long-time love of Lincoln.

"There is a wisdom there," Obama told interviewer Steve Kroft, "and a humility about his approach to government, even before he was president, that I just find very helpful."
On January 20th, President-elect Barack Obama will take the oath of office using the same Bible upon which President Lincoln was sworn in at his first inauguration
What makes the Politico piece fundamentally misleading and even mendacious is that the two Politico writers then go on to scatter a few historians' quotes around the rest of the article as if the historians were being critical of Obama for using the Lincoln bible or for finding "wisdom" in Lincoln. Here's just one classic example you can file away with your Jayson Blair memorabilia:
Eric Foner, a Columbia historian who has written extensively on the Civil War era, agreed that comparing one's self to Lincoln sets a rather high bar for success, and could come off like "a certain kind of hubris."
Do you see the John Wilkes Booth in this journalistic theater? Foner isn't saying that Obama compares himself to Lincoln. How could he? Only Harris and Burns are making that claim. What Foner does say is that if someone were "comparing himself to Lincoln" it would take hubris.

You can smell the age on this smarmy journalistic trick out of a very old bag. The rest of the Harris-Burns piece uses much the same kind of slight-of-hand and misdirection.

But that's not why we mention it. Politico is full of that kind of crap and there isn't time enough in any year to call that execrable web site out on every piece of trash it prints.

What we want to bring to your attention is that in the coming year we'll all be celebrating Abraham Lincoln. Feb. 12, 2009 is the bicentenniel of Abraham Lincoln's birthday. The Lincoln Bicentennial Commission is scheduling commemorative events throughout the entire year -- and beyond -- officially starting with the rededication of the Lincoln Memorial.

At last count, 22 states also have established Lincoln Bicentennial Commissions. Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, and the other states that formerly rebelled and joined the Confederacy are not yet among them, if you were wondering, but that doesn't preclude them from enjoying many of the traveling exhibits that will be touring the nation and even staging local events themselves. Every one of the fifty states has a coordinator position which you can contact for further information.

Among the Florida events we are looking forward to seeing are --
And, for the sake of what we hope by then will be regarded as "the bad old days" of the past eight years, maybe we'll trek out to California to attend the symposium at Chapman University Law School on "Lincoln's Constitutionalism in Time of War: Lessons for the Current War on Terror?"

There is a certain justice in knowing that Barack Obama will be president as we celebrate Lincoln's 200th birthday. Call it "hubris,"as Harris and Burns no doubt would, but we hope then-president Obama finds time to attend some of these bicentennial events himself.

No doubt Politico would find it "ostentatious" of him, too, but we think Lincoln himself would approve.

Sansom's Hiding Place

Florida newspapers from Miami to Tallahassee are ganging up on state representative Ray Samson (R-Destin) for his painfully obvious pay-for-play politics.

The way it worked was simple: Bob Richburg, the president of Okaloosa County Junior College... sorry, now it's Northwest Florida State College, thanks also to pay-for-play hanky-panky .... handed Samson a $122 million wish list and Sansom got a cushy $110 thousand job in return for funding most of it.

Worse, some of those funds supposedly earmarked for "education" turn out to have been designated to build a customized airport hanger suspiciously identical to one wanted for personal use by a Sansom campaign finance contributor. Wink-wink. Your scarce taxpayer dollars at work.

Here's more, from the News Herald:
Since 2006, when he became House budget chairman, Sansom helped the college get $35 million above what the Department of Education recommended. This year, while the Legislature was attempting to close a $6 billion shortfall, he secured $25.5 million for the school, which was $24.5 million above what had been initially budgeted. That was the single-largest public education capital outlay for community college projects this year.
Today's PNJ joins in with an editorial summarizing how Sansom is now avoiding all questions about the recent revelations. It's titled "Sansom Has No Place to Hide."

The thing is, he does have a hidey-hole. It's in the U.S. Attorney's office for the Northern District of Florida. We're still living in the Bush era, after all.

Northern Illinois U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald may see pay-for-play politics as an indictable offense -- it's called bribery and extortion in his book. Apparently, however, North Florida's acting U.S. Attorney, Thomas Kirwin, doesn't have a book.

Quite a few Florida newspapers, pols, and good-government types are demanding that Sansom resign as speaker of the state house of representatives. There's even a web site called

What? And leave him sitting there, a free man, in the Florida House of Representatives? We don't get that. If a publicly-paid politician in Illinois, or just about anywhere else, abuses his position to feather his own nest, we'd expect him to be indicted. If a publicly-paid politician does it in Florida, he should get a mere job demotion?

And what about Sansom's publicly-paid academic accomplice? He should testifying in front of a grand jury right now.

Bank on It

Monday, December 22, 2008

Inauguration Advice

Instead of a religious invocation delivered by a raging homophobe, president-elect Obama would have been better off if he had asked Tiger Woods to kick off the inauguration by sharing a few golfing tips.

In a still photo taken yesterday, Mr. Obama's form looks OK to us. But in the older video, below, it's pretty clear he needs to "keep his eye on the ball" and "stay down on the ball" through his swing, as they say on the links.

That advice works, too, when it comes to the Iraq War, Afghanistan, the economy, restoring constitutional liberties, global climate change, and sending Ossama bin Laden on his way to meet those 72 virgins.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Bunko Bailout Coming

From the Truly Terrible Ideas Dept., courtesy of the Associated Press: 'Let's use taxpayer money to bail out the rich people who were scammed by Bernie Madoff to the tune of $50 billion.'
Robert Schachter, an attorney with New York-based Zwerling, Schachter & Zwerling, which is representing several Madoff victims. "If we're bailing out Wall Street and the auto industry, maybe these individuals should be bailed out too."
We're as sympathetic as anyone to the charities and pension funds and universities and even entire cities that got taken by Bernie Madoff. The fact is, however, almost everyone who gave money to him knew Madoff was a crook. They just assumed he was their crook.

It's an old, old story. As the legendary con artist Yellow Kid Weil wrote eighty-five years ago:
The men I swindled were also motivated by a desire to acquire money, and they didn't care at whose expense they got it. I was particular. I took money only from those who could afford it and
were willing to go in with me in schemes they fancied would fleece others.
Alexander Cockburn, of all people, has more:
Of course many of them thought Madoff’s famous model was dubious. After all, how could the laws of financial gravity be defied, year after year, producing an unending yield (for the fortunate) of 10 to 12 per cent annual returns on capital invested. But the thought came with a knowing wink, that Bernie was scoring these huge returns, by being in the know, running on the inside track, using insider knowledge. As my father pointed out to me many times, many people have a bit of larceny in their bloodstream, and it’s what con men trade on, as Gogol imperishably described in Dead Souls.
Actually, there's a strong possibility that most of Madoff's investors will be getting bailed out by the Treasury Department, as Bloomberg News explains. All they need to do is convince the IRS that they suffered "theft" losses, not "investment" losses.

That could be good news, indeed, for all of those rich people who, as the Times describes it, fell for "that special lure — the sense that they were being allowed into an inner circle, one that was not available to just anyone." The reality, though, as Len Fisher writes today in Wapo is that many of Madoff's investors "must have suspected that he was a cheat but continued to invest because they thought they were benefiting from that cheating."

They were "complicit" in his cheating because they thought it would enrich themselves. Does that sound like a victim to you or a get-away driver?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Inauguration Comic

Grace Nearing has it about right:
I really had been hoping for a secular invocation, which may seem like an oxymoron until you realize that invocation is itself a contradictory term, meaning both a prayer asking God’s help and an incantation used in conjuring up a spirit. (I’d be for the latter if the Founding Fathers could be conjured up and we could at last get closure on some nagging Constitutional questions.)
* * *
[I]f I were managing the Inauguration, there’d be no poetry reading either. We the People do not read poems. We the People do enjoy stand-up comedy, however. Instead of hearing a poem (with or without references to poking, prodding, or pickling), I’d much rather hear Lewis Black do a routine about Alan Greenspan’s belated realization that his long-held model of free-market capitalism has a tiny flaw and now the entire universe is in the crapper!!!
Of course, if "we the people" were to get the inauguration we deserve, it would mean no Yo-Yo Ma, no Itzhak Perlman or Gabriela Montero or Anthony McGill, and no John Williams, either. Obama's swearing-in would be preceded by four hours of television sit-coms.

Inauguration Poet

Where's the outrage over Obama's choice of an Inauguration Poet?

Right here, actually: George Packer says it would be better to cancel Elizabeth Alexander because she was born after 1874:
[H]er poems have the qualities of most contemporary American poetry—a specificity that’s personal and unsuggestive, with moves toward the general that are self-consciously academic. They are not poems that would read well before an audience of millions.
You can evaluate Elizabeth Alexander's poetry for yourself. Not to our taste, we confess. But apparently the question of the day should be, do you detect in it traces of the Poetry Industrial Complex?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Obama and the New Awakening

"Christianity is the more dangerous when it gives its attention to this life."
-- Lucy Newhall Coleman, Reminiscences,
H. L. Green: Buffalo N.Y. (1891)

Bad economic times are great for those who peddle magical thinking. Just last Sunday, the New York Times reported:
Nationwide, congregations large and small are presenting programs of practical advice for people in fiscal straits — from a homegrown series on “Financial Peace” at a Midtown Manhattan church called the Journey, to the “Good Sense” program developed at the 20,000-member Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., and now offered at churches all over the country. Many ministers have for the moment jettisoned standard sermons on marriage and the Beatitudes to preach instead about the theological meaning of the downturn.
* * *
Part of the evangelicals’ new excitement is rooted in a communal belief that the big Christian revivals of the 19th century, known as the second and third Great Awakenings, were touched off by economic panics.
We may be facing an economic Depression, but for evangelical preachers, self-proclaimed prophets, and other assorted mountebanks and charlatans, it's Boom Times again.

"It’s a wonderful time," one evangelical 'Christian' minister told the Times. "A great evangelistic opportunity for us.”

We think it probable that president-elect Obama's choice of the disreputable Rick Warren to give the invocation at his presidential inauguration manifests the president-elect's desire to be as inclusive as possible. It is unlikely to reflect a bias against women's reproductive rights or gay Americans.

As revealed many years ago in his autobiography, as well now in his cabinet and other administration selections, Obama really does aspire to serve all of the people, not just Democrats, or liberals, or people who are smart or well educated; and, certainly not just oil company executives and the wealthiest top one percent of America, as the current occupant of the White House has done.

Still, the choice of Warren for giving the opening invocation is proving very unpopular in some quarters. Many once-upon-a-time Obama supporters are pointing out --
This is the same Rick Warren who recently said that the relationships of his 'many gay friends' are no different from child rape, incest or polygamy. He also jumped on the paranoia bandwagon surrounding same-sex marriage by falsely claiming that Prop 8’s failure somehow would have overturned the Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and religion.
Others see the decision to give Warren his 5 minutes in the sun as a divisive act of "wedge politics."

We don't buy it. Like it or not, evangelicals are part of the American people, too. They always have been, they are once again in great numbers, and they probably always will be with us to some extent or another.

Anyway, the very concept of an "invocation" for god's intercession is inescapably non-secular. By tradition, it is time reserved exclusively for make believe.

Even if you are convinced, as we are, that those who follow Rick Warren are fuzzy thinking sheep with child-like emotions who are intellectually stunted, they still are a part of the vast and colorful kaleidescope that makes our society who we are; just as much as gays are a part of it, and women who want control over their own bodies, and people who are infected with HIV, and Spanish-speaking immigrants, and even liberal rationalists.

If by his choice of the abominable Rick Warren, president-elect Obama is hoping to use the inescapably "religious" moment of the inauguration to reach out to evangelical America, we say more power to him. After all, Warren is being accorded only a few minutes' of show-biz sermonizing, not a cabinet post. If it makes Warren and his ilk feel good, so what?

There's little reason for those of us whom Warren would like to send straight to hell to be any more offended than if the religious invocation were delivered by a more mainstream figure who believes water turns into wine, or golden tablets dug up in New York were written by an angel, or god promised a perpetual deed in the desert to one people and not another.

If anything, whether he realizes it or not, the president- elect is following the same furrow plowed almost two centuries ago by others who aimed at transformational reform of the republic. The Second Awakening itself may have begun in its earliest stages as a unified charismatic movement with only vague reformist tendencies in reaction to a dramatically changing America. But it soon splintered. A large part of the movement animated reform and made common cause with anti-slavery abolitionists and early feminists who sought equality for women.

In the end, the Second Great Awakening did not impair reform, it advanced it. Solidarity among the reformers trumped their differing religious convictions; to the point where Amy Post could write in the 1891 preface to Lucy Newhall Coleman's autobiography:
Mrs. Colman and myself have in most things seen eye to eye but in the matter of Spiritualism we are widely apart. While to me the knowledge, for such it is to me, that my departed loved ones can and do come to me is a blessing so great that I cannot describe it, she has no faith in it whatever. What matter? Our friendship is too strong, too sweet to be disturbed by difference of opinion. I cheerfully recommend the work to all reformers of whatever name and grade.
To be sure, fundamentalist Christianity can be "more dangerous when it gives its attention to this life," as the estimable Lucy Newhall Coleman wrote. But the tasks ahead for Barack Obama are many and daunting. He will need the support of as many Americans as he can get. If some among them also are attracted from Rick Warren's flock, so much the better.

As the very different private views of Amy Post and Lucy Newhall Coleman testify, so long as religious conviction and its opposite are not allowed to intrude on public policy, solidarity can be achieved among all manner of people with differing personal beliefs to advance meaningful reform.

Busman with Boat Busted

Travis Lakin has been fired as head of the Pensacola area bus system. Remember, bosses: Although Florida law is loaded against employee rights, you should treat them gently if they have video skills.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Throw a Shoe Yourself

It was bound to happen in this digital age we're suffering through. You already know that giving Bush the boot has gone viral on YouTube, with all manner of knocks-offs where chickens, snowballs, and even cans of spam are thrown at our lame duck leader.

In Afghanistan, a satirical TV comedy show has "reconstructed" the incident, this time with shoes that actually hit Bush.

Now, Wired is reporting that on-line games are popping up all over the world and in multiple languages:
In the Sock and Awe browser game (screenshot above), players toss shoes at the bobbing-and-weaving president. The Flying Babush and Bush's Boot Camp games offer similar action.
Where Muntazer al-Zaidi went wrong is he didn't get rich by filing for trademark protection on throwing stuff at Bush. It's the American way, right? Those Iraqis who have survived the Bush administration still have a lot to learn.

Then, again, we still haven't figured out how to hold our own war criminals accountable, even when they confess. As Matt Yglesias pointed out yesterday about Bush's "war of choice":
The harsh reality is that this was not a noble undertaking done for good reasons. It was a criminal enterprise launched by madmen cheered on by a chorus of fools and cowards. And it’s seen as such by virtually everyone all around the world — including but by no means limited to the Arab world. But it’s impolitic to point this out in the United States, and it’s clear that even a president-elect who had the wisdom not to be suckered in by the War Fever of 2002 has no intention of really acting to marginalize the bad actors. Which, I think, makes sense for his political objectives. But if Americans want to play a constructive role in world affairs, it’s vitally important for us to get in touch with the reality of what the past eight years of US foreign policy have been and how they’re seen and understood by people who aren’t stirred by the shibboleths of American patriotism.
If he did nothing else, crazed by the deaths of family and friends or not, al-Zaidi is among the first in the world to try to hold Bush accountable. Is our own legal system as interested in equal justice?

Monday, December 15, 2008

YouTubing the Boss

Pensacola has what is surely one of the lamest mass transit systems in the nation. Buses, only, and even they run on a schedule only a banker could use.

Take the Pensacola-Pensacola Beach run (above): Just two runs a day, six days a week. Early arrival at 8:19 am, last bus leaving the beach at 4:54 pm. How convenient is that for a daily destination largely populated by service industry employees half of whom, or more, work the dinner hour and late into the night?

ECAT also has been deeply troubled over the years by management problems. Those just got worse this week when a fired employee -- here, we need a new verb -- YouTubed Escambia County Area Transit's general manager, Travis Lakin. Now the manager's been suspended, pending an investigation into allegations he directed two public employees to work on restoring his private boat. Thyrie Bland has the story for the Pensacola Newsletter.

This is hardly in Blagojevich territory. More like dog- nips- at- mailman's heels, or boss- sends- secretary- out- to- buy-wife's- Christmas- present. Still, if true it was a stupid and probably illegal use of public resources.

There is a lesson somewhere in all of this, but it's not likely to be the one wanted by those of us who hunger for a truly innovative mass transit system for the Pensacola area. Most likely, it will be taken only as warning to middling managers not to hire -- and especially not to fire -- anyone with video skills.

Law and Disorder: Ten Worst Prosecutor Awards

Scott Horton is calling attention to the annual "Ten Worst Prosecutors" award ceremony, sponsored by Houston lawyer Bob Bennett this month. The award certificates are here. The award-deserving details are here.

It's truly disturbing to read just how low our legal system has sunk. No. 1 on the list? Take a gander:
Leading the list for the second year running is former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, the man who, doing the bidding of Karl Rove, introduced new standards of ineptitude, dishonesty and political corruption to the U.S. Department of Justice. The award comes just at the right moment, as word spreads in Washington that the man George W. Bush addresses with the mafioso moniker “Fredo” is the target of a special prosecutor appointed by his successor.
Close behind are neighboring Alabama U.S. attorneys Alice Martin (Birmingham) and Leura Canary (Montgomery).
Martin and Canary have mastered the art of using their prosecutorial powers to advance the interests of their political party and political associates, as Bennett notes. And they have done so with a wink and a nod from the Bush Justice Department, which has systematically swept all complaints against them– notably led by their career employees– under the carpet.
We expect president-elect Obama to cleanly sweep these disgraces and other "dishonorable mentions" out the door. If there's any justice left in the land, they'll all be as unemployed as Gonzalez, who's been reduced to groveling for college campus speaking engagements where he stands at the podium and lets students throw epithets at him.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Giving Bush the Boot

Below is Reuter's News Service video of the Iraqi reporter who gave Bush the boot today. You'll notice that Reuters got only half the story, as you might say. To compensate, they show the first flying shoe twice -- the second time in slo-mo.

By contrast, the AP has both feet on the ground:

Do you think this story has legs?

Dept. of Amplification
12-14 pm
The more you watch the videos, the more puzzling it is that the Iraqi journalist could get as close to Bush as he did and pelt him with heavy objects. It's not like it wasn't foreseeable.

We are reminded of the incident in mid-May, 1958 when then-vice president Richard Nixon was pelted with eggs and rocks during a parade through Caracas, Venezuela. Then, the angry crowd almost overturned his limousine and grabbed both Nixon and his wife.

As one news account of the time described it --
Vice-President Richard Nixon narrowly escaped serious injury at the hands of a howling mob here Tuesday shortly after he landed in Caracas to wind up his goodwill tour of South America. The vice president was the target for spit, debris, eggs and rocks and he was showered with glass when practically all the windows in his limousine were smashed by the screeching horde which tried to break into the car to drag him out and when that failed, to overturn it. Mrs. Nixon also was pelted with spit and debris.
At the time Venezuelans were mad because the U.S. was threatening to control exports of their oil and propping up a corrupt Venezuelan regime. Fifty years later, we are threatening to control Iraqi oil and propping up a corrupt Iraqi regime that was recently ranked worse than Somalia.

Dept. of Sports Commentary
12-14 pm
The Voice of quotes an anonymous source as saying, "Nobody wants to see President Bush being missed by a flying shoe like this." Read more: "Analysis: How Did He Miss?"

Dept. of Further Amplification
12-14 pm
The New York Times has the most detailed exposition we've come across describing what the Iraqi TV journalist said as he was throwing his shoes:
First shoe: “This is a gift from the Iraqis; this is the farewell kiss, you dog.”

Second shoe: “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq.”
Dept. of Eyewitness Accounts
12-15 am

Adam Ashton of California's Modesto Bee was an eyewitness to the show-throwing:
As it ended, a couple Iraqi security guards in suits took away two more Iraqi journalists because one of them called Zaidi's protest "courageous." * * *Many of the broadcast reporters feared the Iraqi government would take their cameras and tapes. They expect that things will be tougher for them next time they cover one of Maliki's events.

"This will have consequences for us," one reporter told us.

Exporting democracy and freedom to Iraq. Mission un-accomplished.

The Other Shoe Drops on Bush

It's grainy and off-color, but here's the first video of the Iraqi reporter throwing his shoes at George Bush.

Northwest Florida Foreclosures

It took almost a year from when we first noticed it, but the Pensacola Newsletter at long last has published the astonishing news that home foreclosures are rising in Northwest Florida. Who'da thunk it?

Kris Wernowski reports the numbers:
Florida has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country, and the problem steadily is getting worse.

Escambia County ranks 37th, and Santa Rosa County ranks 42nd among the state's 67 counties in percentage of foreclosures, according to, which collects national foreclosure data.

* * *

In Escambia County, 724 foreclosure suits were filed in 2005. In the first 11 months of this year, 2,248 were filed.

In Santa Rosa County, 292 suits were filed in 2005. Through November of this year, 1,332 had been filed.

Rick Harper, the economist from Rosecoloredglassesland, reads those numbers and tells Wernoski, so she says, "Northwest Florida was somewhat insulated because the local economy is less dependent on tourism, and the buying frenzy of investors never completely materialized here."

Whaaat? Hard to say what planet Harper is living on, but we love him just the same. He always makes us feel soooo good.

As when he tells reporter Wernoski, "It's safe to say the pace of foreclosures will not abate for probably another 12 months."

Remember, this is the congenital optimist who confidently predicted there was no risk of a banking crisis -- just hours before the Bush administration announced a $700 billion bailout plan to keep the banks from failing. If he's says "12 months" it's a good bet foreclosures will be salting the earth for the rest of time.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Kirsten Dahlen (1970-2008)

Kirsten Dahlen, 38, passed away unexpectedly on December 9, 2008 at her mother's home in Hockessin. She died peacefully in her sleep.

Kirsten was a marine biologist, environmental educator, author, photographer and intrepid traveler who was always seeking new adventures. Her writing echoes the many paths she walked, from the Head Hunters Trail in Malaysian Borneo to the white sands of Antigua's 365 beaches. While she called the U.S. home, her work made it hard to predict where she actually was.

Kirsten grew up in Hockessin, Delaware, graduating from Ursuline Academy and then Goucher College in Townsend, MD. Kirsten spent 15 years working with sea turtles in the Caribbean, Latin America, South East Asia and the United States. Kirsten has worked on world-renowned sea turtle nesting studies in Jumby Bay, Antigua and Little Cumberland Island, Georgia, USA.

She worked with communities worldwide to develop sea turtle friendly beach practices and educational outreach programs. Kirsten also worked with industry, lending her experience in attempts to mitigate harmful effects on the marine environment. Through this work she was asked to contribute to the clean up efforts at the World Trade Center in September 2001.

Her lifelong passion for the sea is shared with all in her recent works "Wrong Way Peach Fuzz: A Turtle Tale" and "Peach Fuzz: The Early Years", in addition to her photography, essay collections and blogs.

She is preceded in death by her father, Dr. Rolf J. Dahlen. She is survived by her mother, Mary Carr Meunier Dahlen of Hockessin; her brother, Peter Rolf Dahlen of Stockholm, his wife Helene and son Sebastian; sister, Meghan Dahlen Freeland of Hillsborough, NC, husband Tom and son Gabriel; and brother, Sean Dahlen, who like his sister calls the world home.

Funeral services will be held Saturday, December 13 at St. Catherine of Siena Church, 2501 Centerville Road, Wilmington, DE. Doors will open to visit family at 10am followed by Mass at 11am. Burial services will be private.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you visit Kirsten's website for current information on donations in her memory:

Reprinted from the Wilmington News Journal

See also: "Memorial Being Established for Kirsten Dahlen"

Weighing a Bailout for Bernie

Do you think the very same Republicans who voted against saving U.S. auto makers because they have written contracts with their blue collar employees would approve a bailout of Wall Street tycoon Bernie Madoff?

On the positive side, Bernie makes things. On the negative side, what he makes are Ponzi schemes. But on the positive side again, he doesn't pay union wages, he wears a suit and tie, and he works on Wall Street.

That's four positives to one negative. Hands down, Bernie would win billions if the G.O.P. was in charge of Congress.

G.O.P. Sinks Auto Bailout

It used to be said, "As General Motors goes, so goes the nation." Still true? Now that the Republicans have taken away the possibility of life support, we shall see.

Literally thousands of small parts suppliers will now disappear. And even the Japanese auto plants here in the U.S. will be shutting down.

As Molly I. says over at Eschaton, 'if only G.M. could have figured out a way to pay its executives and not the workers.'

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Traveling Turtle Girl, Farewell

Kirsten Dahlen, better known to Pensacola Beach residents as "The Traveling Turtle Girl" was discovered dead in her bed Tuesday afternoon. She had gone home to attend the baptism of Sebastian, a newborn nephew, and continued posting photos and updates on her blog.

Read the tragic news as reported by her friend and turtle nest-saving colleague, Barrier Island Girl, here and here. Kirsten's brother, Sean, has posted the public notice on his sister's blog.

We hope to have more by way of a memorial in a day or two.

Shorter Hurricane Prediction - 2009 Edition

Phil Klotzbach and Prof. William Gray of Colorado State University have released their annual December forecast for next year's hurricane season, which starts June 1. Here's a shorter version:

  • It's impossible to predict next year's hurricane activity this far out, you fools....
  • But we do it anyway to satisfy your curiosity.....
  • Even though we have no idea where any hurricane might make landfall, if there actually should be any hurricanes and if they happen to make landfall....
  • Being based on November weather patterns and statistical probabilities, whatever we say could be flat wrong....
  • But we like to scare you....
  • So next year we predict "above average" hurricane activity with fourteen named storms and seven hurricanes, three of which will be doozies.
Coming soon: Dr. William Gray's 365 annual horoscope predictions for 2009!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Difference Without a Distinction

What's the difference between the "pay to play" schemes of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who tried to trade on his public office to enrich himself with a new job, and Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Ray Sansom (R-Destin), who actually succeeded in doing that?

Seriously. Is there any real difference? Other than the fact, of course, that Sansom doesn't live within the jurisdiction of a tough U.S Attorney and presumably hasn't had his phones tapped; at least, not until some time after January 20, 2009, when president-elect Obama gets to replace all of them.

Well, yes, there is a difference. Sansom got himself the job he wanted -- a part time $110,000 a year taxpayer-paid unadvertised job for which he wasn't even qualified. Blagojevich hasn't managed that, yet.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Zell Ethos

Turns out the Tribune's troubles are connected to today's indictment of Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges:
In a November 11 intercepted call, Harris allegedly told Blagojevich that Tribune Financial Advisor talked to Tribune Owner and Tribune Owner "got the message and is very sensitive to the issue." Harris told Blagojevich that according to Tribune Financial Advisor, there would be "certain corporate reorganizations and budget cuts coming and, reading between the lines, he's going after that section." Blagojevich allegedly responded. "Oh. That's fantastic." After further discussion, Blagojevich said, "Wow. Okay, keep our fingers crossed. You're the man. Good job, John."

In a further conversation on November 21, Harris told Blagojevich that he had singled out to Tribune Financial Advisor the Tribune’s deputy editorial page editor, John McCormick, “as somebody who was the most biased and unfair.” After hearing that Tribune Financial Advisor had assured Harris that the Tribune would be making changes affecting the editorial board, Blagojevich allegedly had a series of conversations with Chicago Cubs representatives regarding efforts to provide state financing for Wrigley Field.

(emphasis added)
So it is alleged, in effect, that Sam Zell's ethics seeped downward in the newspaper's chain of command to the presently anonymous "Tribune Financial Advisor," as surely as it is alleged Blagojevich's ethics were embraced by his assistant, John Harris. Nothing should surprise about this.

When someone who doesn't care about newspapers buys one solely out of greed, the ethos will spread. Sooner or later, everything goes on the auction block, including editorial integrity.

The Sansom Mistake

Speaking of amoral crooks, as we just were, it seems to us the question is not whether state representative Ray Sansom (R- Destin) should be removed as State House majority leader, as the Pensacola Newsletter editorializes today. Nor is it whether he should resign his leadership position as some Democrats are saying.

The better question is whether Ray Sansom should be removed from office altogether for abusing the public trust for his own private gain.

We recall that a couple of Pensacola Beach resident association leaders got to know Mr. Sansom back in the late '90s and early 2000's when he was first running for office. He assured them that if he won he would sponsor a bill to allow a referendum on whether Pensacola Beach would be allowed to incorporate as a self-governing municipality.

Sansom won. No bill was ever introduced. In retrospect, the mistake beach residents made was that they didn't offer him some cushy, high paying job on the side. Turns out, that's the traditional quid pro quo you're supposed to give Northwest Florida legislators.

Revisiting the Tribune Bankruptcy

We need to clarify something about the the Tribune Company bankruptcy. We still think the beginning of the end of newspapers started when journalism got the high fallutin' notion that it was a white collar profession that could be sanctified by a college degree instead of sweat, raw talent, and dedication. But we do realize this isn't the immediate cause of the Tribune Company's bankruptcy.

That happened because Sam Zell, the guy who bought two of the leading newspapers in the world along with a number of other businesses, didn't give a fig whether they survived or not. He's not a journalist. He's an amoral businessman whose only interest is in enriching himself. Zell used other people's money, including money belonging to the newspaper's employees, and a promissory note, to buy the multi-billion dollar mega-corporation:
“I’m here to tell you that the transaction from hell is done,” Mr. Zell said last December when he sealed his $8.2 billion takeover of the publisher of The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times.
* * *
Mr. Zell financed much of his deal’s $13 billion of debt by borrowing against part of the future of his employees’ pension plan and taking a huge tax advantage. Tribune employees ended up with equity, and now they will probably be left with very little.
Wall Street calls this a "leveraged buyout" to give it a tony-sounding aura of legitimacy. But if you were to grab other people's money without their permission and then try to buy something with it, the cops would call it robbery.

The end result is that two profitable newspapers -- both the L.A. Times and the Trib do turn a modest annual profit -- and a kiosk full of their sister publications, including Newsday, the Hartford Courant, the Orlando Sentinel, and the South Florida Sun Sentinel -- were saddled with a towering debt that no amount of reasonable profits could possibly pay off.

So, in the immediate sense, the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune were not bankrupted by a failure of journalists. An out-and-out crook beat them to it.

There oughta be a law.

Dept. of Amplification
12-9 am
Duncan Black has it exactly right:
If I understand this correctly, Sam Zell basically bought his newspaper empire by pretending the employees were actually the owners and then borrowing lots of money in their name, paying it back by deducting from payroll.
* * *
It's thievery, as we said above, made legal only if you're a Wall Street tycoon.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Charlie Crist's European Junket

Someone we know is pretty hot today. She opened the Pensacola Newsletter this morning to discover that Florida Governor Charlie Crist spent more than $430,000 on a 12-day trip to Europe last summer.

"Four hundred thousand dollars?!" she screamed. "Twelve days?! That's almost twenty percent of the $2.2 million cut-back he's ordered in annual services for preventing juvenile crime."

According to one blogger, the governor was accompanied by "his fiancee, her sister, 9 bodyguards, a photographer, 65 Florida business executives, [and] 2 people tied to the sugar industry."

Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice has frozen salaries, taken away hard line telephones from supervising probation officers, and is cutting back on juvenile crime prevention programs with proven success records, as the New York Times reported just last week. But the state can afford to spend almost a half million dollars sending the governor on a 12 day European junket?

The Orlando Sentinel, which is also pretty hot about Crist's poor judgment, has the details of his expenses on an interactive chart. It discloses, among other things, that Charlie Crist and his royal entourage ran up over $1,039 in room service and mini-bar bills.

Someone will have to file a Sunshine Act demand to see how much was for bread and how much for booze. We're betting on the booze.

Speaking of crime prevention... Nine "bodyguards"? Nine? As long as we're paying for them, don't you think we should know how many of them just happened to be personal friends with the body they were supposedly guarding?

Newspapers R.I.P.

It's popular to blame the Internet pipes for this:

But, personally, we blame the very idea of journalism schools. The fate of newspapers was sealed the moment someone got the notion that a college degree in journalism would qualify you to do the same job as young Mark Twain, Bill Nye, Margaret Fuller, Eugene Field, Lincoln Steffins, Nellie Bly, H.L. Mencken, Grantland Rice, Walter Lippman, Martha Gellhorn, Ernie Pyle, William Shirer, Edward R. Murrow, A.J. Liebling, John McPhee, Izzy Stone, Scotty Reston, Murray Kempton, Tom Wolfe, Walter Pincus, and Seymour Hersh, among perhaps a couple of thousand others.

Still, you're gonna miss 'em when they're all dead and gone.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Mulling Over Mel

It would be impossible to overstate how rare it is for a sitting U.S. senator to voluntarily retire from public life. Usually, they have to be carried out in a box.

Retire? Never! Remember Strom Thurmond? He even ran for reelection once as a corpse -- or so it appeared -- and won!

Even more so, a first-term, freshman Senator almost never of his own free will turn in his Capitol Card. Unlike, say, a congressman who has to start running for reelection the moment the poor sap has been elected the first time, U.S. senators serve much longer six-year terms in office. They are very nearly free of the shadow of accountability for at least four of those years, and usually more.

By the time they have served a full term they are practically part of the furniture in everyone's home. Unlike lesser politicians, they don't have to spend very waking minute grubbing for bucks to finance the next campaign; the really big bucks somehow find their way to them.

This is, of course, because even a freshmen senator has a tremendous amount of power under the rules of the "higher" chamber. A single senator can anonymously block major presidential appointments, hold trial-like hearings into everything from the I.R.S. to your choice of a mother in law, and even bring the business of the entire 100-member Senate, and sometimes the U.S. Government as a whole, to a sudden stop with a Jimmy Stewart style filibuster.

As for a senator with seniority? For example, one who has just embarked on his second six-year term? The power grid gets so electric it has been said that every U.S. senator who has ever been returned to office sooner or later fantasizes that some day he, too, may become president.

In short, being a U.S. senator is a really cushy job with lots and lots of power, oodles of prestige, and perks to make a pasha blush. Just about the only way you're ever going to see one them leave office voluntarily before reaching the age of a hundred and twenty is to beat him at the polls or, as with Hillary Clinton, offer an even better job.

We say "just about" because there is one other way: you can try to scare the daylights out of him. Threaten him. Let him know that he can't run for reelection -- or else.

Now, given the power and prestige we mentioned earlier, that isn't a very easy task. And it's highly unlikely to succeed. Just look at Joe Lieberman. Connecticut polls are now showing him with a popularity rating so low it makes Bush look good by comparison. But as the whole world witnessed when the Democratic Caucus met late last month, Lieberman doesn't scare. He may be a ligner and a trombenik but he's still a senator and so he doesn't scare easily. He hasn't committed any overt felonies, and so far as anyone knows he hasn't cheated on his wife since he married the second one.

All of which is a long way around saying, the Mel Martinez announcement that he isn't interested in running for reelection makes no sense to us. Not a bit. That it was followed within a matter of hours by Jeb Bush's signal that he would like to run for Senate -- well, as they say, do the math.

"Martinez's decision was based on a desire for more free time and a less scheduled life," a spokesman told the Washington Post. Do you buy that? We don't.

The one explanation with a high probability of truth that we can see is that someone, somewhere scared the tar out of Mel Martinez. How? Well, it's theoretically possible someone threatened to run against him in the Republican primary. But that didn't turn out so well for Lieberman's opponent, did it? With a Democratic Party in Florida as fractured as the Republicans were in Connecticut, Martinez had the same ace up his sleeve that Leiberman played two years ago -- and even if he lost the primary, Martinez likely would have won reelection in Florida as an "independent" as handily as Lieberman did in Connecticut.

It's also theoretically possible that some doctor scared Martinez. Maybe the senator has a disease so dreadful he knows he won't be around long enough to enjoy a second term. But even his own office isn't hinting at that.

A third possibility is that someone, somewhere has something really, really bad on Martinez. Something that could ruin his life or deprive him of that 'free time" and liberty he prizes so much. Someone who is in a position to promise that his future "schedule" won't be as regimented as, say, that of a prisoner.

Whatever the explanation may be, Jeb must have known it was serious enough that he could be confident in preparing trial balloons to announce his own interest in the job even before the echo of Martinez' pre-announcement announcement has died away.

This is purely guesswork, mind you, but it seems very nearly ineluctable if we are to be guided by history, human psychology, political experience, and U.S. Senate custom. Of all logical possibilities, the most probable is that Mel Martinez made a Big Mistake somewhere along the line, perhaps during his four years in Washington D.C. -- and it must have been a doozie.

Maybe, somehow, Jeb found out. Maybe with a little help from his brother? The brother who has taken domestic spying on U.S. citizens to lengths never before seen? Who knows? Somehow, Mel got the word.

Go ahead. "Talk us down," as Rachel Maddow would say. Give us one good logical, plausible, reality-based explanation for Mel Martinez' decision not to run for reelection. And then tell us how Jeb Bush could not have had anything to do with it, except that he knew about it amazingly fast.

Friday, December 05, 2008

You've Been Cancelled

The 2008 hurricane season no sooner ends than storm warnings are heard in Pensacola over pending changes in hurricane insurance coverage. The news isn't all bad, we hasten to add, but every Pensacola Beach home owner (and others with homes in Florida) covered by a "wind-only" insurance policy that expires after February 1 should stay alert for threatened cancellation notices even as they prepare for next year's tropical storm season.

Florida Citizens Property Insurance held a public forum at the Civic Center last evening to explain the scary-sounding letters many of its customers have been, or will be, receiving. Citizens has been staging similar public meetings around the state since late summer.

Wind Only Policies

Essentially, the state-owned insurance company is scrapping the wide variety of policy language and differing policy provisions in all of its "wind-only" residential insurance policies and replacing them with a single, uniform policy that uses identical language. Or, at least, so the insurer explains on its web site in the FAQ section:
Currently, all of Citizens’ residential wind-only policies are written on a unique policy form. This form can cause confusion for policyholders, agents and claims adjusters. We are transitioning these policies to improve our service to you. This will make our claims process smoother and will enable us to handle your requests more efficiently. This new Internet-based system will give your agent the ability to do more for you.
"Transitioning" is Pencil-Head Speak for "we're canceling your policy and you'll have to reapply for coverage." Here's an example of the cover letter every wind-only residential home owner will be receiving "six, four, and two months prior to the renewal date of their existing policies":

There are some exceptions. "Wind-only" policies that expire before February 1 will be renewed without change for one more year. Multi-peril policies covering hazards other than, or in addition to, wind damage are not affected, Citizens says.

Back Story

In truth, there's no compelling reason why the state-owned insurance company couldn't have made the transition, month by month, to a uniform policy for everyone without the added terror of a cancellation letter. What's really going on is that the state-owned insurance company is trying to limit its own exposure by requiring home owners to certify their roofs are in good repair and by stopping them from over-insuring property for more than it's really worth.

That last point could become very sticky in a plummeting real estate market that some expect, as Prof. Christopher Mayer observed on NPR last night, to fall another 12-18 percent over the next year and a half. It remains to be seen just how rigorously Citizens will enforce the over-insurance rule.

There will be consequences beyond the obvious. For one thing, Citizens is inviting anyone with a "wind-only" policy to contact their agent before they get a cancellation warning to "discuss transitioning" to a 'full home owners policy' now. That sounds to us like a great idea, frankly. As bad as Citizens can be, we all should know by now that corporate and privately-owned property insurers almost always are worse when it comes to post-hurricane adjustment practices.

For another, some among the three hundred thousand-plus "wind-only" Citizens customers out there in hurricane lane are not going to get their mail, or they'll be too infirm or distracted to read it, or too stupid to understand it. Some will deliberately ignore it. Others will not realize they have to go through their local agent. Policies will lapse. When a storm hits, some homeowners 'suddenly' will discover they weren't insured.

Somewhere deep in the data base bowels of Citizens, you can be sure there is a statistical projection developed by actuaries coldly projecting exactly how many existing customers are likely to let their policies lapse and how much money Citizens will save as a consequence when the next storm hits.

There's no need to make that projection come true. If you're currently insured under a "wind-only" policy by Citizens Property Insurance, you'll probably be eligible for renewed coverage under the new uniform policy. But you must reapply through your local agent.

Those not eligible for renewal fall into these categories, in the words of Citizens Property:
  • If you built or rebuilt your own home, it must be approved by local government or a Certificate of Insurance must have been issued.
  • Seasonal and secondary properties may be accepted.
  • Your property cannot have four or more mortgages. Government-backed loans such as Fannie Mae are not counted.
  • Roofs that are damaged, have visible signs of leaks, or have a remaining useful life of less than three years are not insurable. This does not apply if you are a renter and your coverage is only for your contents OR you have a condominium policy.
  • If you have a shingle roof more than 25 years old OR your home is older than 50 years and your roof has any other type of roof material, you must have proof that your roof has been replaced or that the remaining useful life is at least three years.
  • Your property is constructed partially or completely over water.
  • Your prior policy was not been issued for a full annual term.
  • Your property has been condemned or is in disrepair.
  • Your policy covers a building that is not on the same property as your home.
Home owners are being urged to contact their local property insurance agent if they have any doubts about their eligibility for renewal -- and even if they don't -- well beforehand.

Real Estate Webmasters has a summary of how these changes may affect your premiums:
  • New insurance quotes will be sent out at least 60 days prior to the current policies' expiration.
  • Premiums may increase to cover the increased value of the home. Homeowners that are dissatisfied with the new appraisal will be allowed to appeal the valuation.
  • Policyholders will be allowed to choose from a variety of payment options.
  • Multi-Peril, Condo Association, and Commercial Non-Residential policies are not affected.
One last point that needs emphasis: The bad news is that state law still compels Citizens to try to "privatize" as many of its policies as possible, using the infamous "take out offers" where Citizens pays money to a for-profit company to take over your policy. Just last month, another 110,000 policy holders received notice they were being "depopulated" from Citizens.

The good news is, you don't have to leave Citizens Property Insurance if you don't want to. For example, if you suspect the private insurer who's offering you what seems like a cheaper premium charge is in reality a deadbeat who doesn't pay its bills, or potentially a criminal enterprise, or just a dog, you're free to remain a customer of Citizens.

But you have to watch for those "depopulation" notices, too. You have the burden of saying "no."