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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Don't Shred on Me




Known for my gift of jamming shredders within fifteen minutes of use, I predictably procrastinate destroying old documents because to do so requires the manual rip, rip, ripping of paper by my own hands.

I get tired just thinking about it.

So--again predictably--I delayed ridding myself of several years of old check registers, bound together by brittle rubber bands.

It wasn't so much my obsessive-compulsive method of destruction (four horizontal strips, ripped into confetti, four horizontal strips, ripped into confetti, four horizontal strips, ripped into confetti) that kept me from taking on the task. It wasn't even the fact I couldn't close my desk drawer without leaning my shoulder into the push.

I simply did not want to open any of the check registers. Because to do so would confirm what I try not to think about.

I'm bringing home less money in my paycheck than just a couple years back.

And I'm spending more, yet buying less.

Slate, The United States of Inequality (September 2010)

(...)

"...from 1980 to 2005, more than 80 percent of total increase in Americans' income went to the top 1 percent. Economic growth was more sluggish in the aughts, but the decade saw productivity increase by about 20 percent. Yet virtually none of the increase translated into wage growth at middle and lower incomes, an outcome that left many economists scratching their heads."
(Take a peek at what income inequality looks like here)


In other words, the rich don't seem to be encountering my same difficulty.

How does your income compare on the income inequality scale? Enter your zip code over at Slate and find out where you compare financially.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Turkey Sandwiches 2010



What's the secret to a perfect turkey sandwich?

Topics of the day to butter the bread.

Slather about these stories while constructing what many consider the best part of Thanksgiving dinner.

Don't forget the mayo.

***

Dying with Debt: A Dirty Little Retirement Secret (USA Today, 11/26/2010)

Retired Americans are racking up credit-card debt like never before, be it for vacations or medical expenses, and a surprising number have no intention of paying it off before they die.

Nearly 40% of retired Americans said they've accumulated credit-card debt in their twilight years — and aren't worried about paying it off in their lifetime, according to a survey released by CESI Debt Solutions.

"At the end of the day, some people of a certain age say, 'It's too late in the game for me to do anything about it. I can't win. So I'm just going to stop playing the game,'" said Neil Ellington, executive vice president at CESI.

(...)

"Most people are too scared to talk about their financial problems, especially in their 'Golden Years,'" Ellington said. "Retirement is supposed to be all about enjoying the time you've been saving up for, and the reality is that many people couldn't save enough," he said.

And yet, that didn't stop them from retiring.

More than half of those surveyed had saved less than $50,000 — and many of that group said they'd saved absolutely nothing — yet they retired anyway. Just 4% said they had delayed their retirement due to debt.

Read more about what many could inherit here.

***

Florida Today seeks members for citizen's panel, blog (Florida Today, 11/19/2010)

(...)

To apply, send us a note telling us about your background, what you could bring to the panel and blog and why you'd like to get involved. Resumes also are helpful.

The finalists will be called and interviewed. New members will begin their terms in January.

To be considered, e-mail editorial page editor John J. Glisch at jglisch@floridatoday.com.

For those of you willing to forgo anonymity and get your opinion on the record, read more here.

***

Speak, Money (Harper's, 10/2010)

(...)

Although it is often claimed that the gap between rich and poor began decisively to widen in the late 1970s, as if to absolve Ronald Reagan for what his followers no doubt count as his primary accomplishment, the total share of income of the wealthiest 10 percent of American families was well within the postwar norm until 1982, when Reagan’s policies began a massive, decades-long transfer of national wealth to the rich. Under Bill Clinton, who shamelessly appropriated the Reaganite agenda, the transfer was even more dramatic, as the top 10 percent captured an ever growing share of national income. The trend continued under George W. Bush, and by 2007 the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans (families earning more than $109,630) were taking in 50 percent of the national income. In 1980 the top 1 percent of Americans received 10 percent of the national income; by 2007 the superrich (those with income above $398,900) had increased their share to 23.5 percent. The average increase in real income for the bottom 99 percent of American families between 1973 and 2006 was a mere 8.5 percent, whereas the richest 1 percent saw a 190 percent rise in real income.

(...)

Such a distortion of the nation’s balance of wealth did not come about by accident; it was the result of a long series of policy decisions—about industry and trade, taxation and military spending, by flesh-and-blood humans sitting in concrete-and-steel buildings—that were bought and paid for by the less than 1 percent of Americans who participate in our capitalist democracy by contributing at least $200 to political campaigns.

(...)

Unfortunately, economic 
improvements for the vast majority of Americans over the past three decades have been so marginal that they are easily overshadowed by cynical manipulations of the political business cycle, the timing of economic expansions with election years, and by the strange fact that lower-income voters are more sensitive, in terms of voting behavior, to income growth among the wealthy than they are to their own economic well-being.

Read more of the sad truth here.

***

New Florida law is delaying regulation of pill mills (The Florida Times-Union, 11/24/2010)

The fight against pill mills and prescription drug abuse in Florida has hit another snag as a new state law will inadvertently hold up administrative rules meant to regulate pain clinics.

The law requires legislative approval of any state agency rules that could have at least a $1 million impact over five years. It went into effect last week when the Legislature overrode Gov. Charlie Crist’s veto of the bill.

The new law was intended to slow down government regulations but, in an unintended consequence, it will delay the Florida Department of Health’s rules governing pain clinics, which were to go into effect Sunday. The Legislature will now have to approve the rules, and that likely won’t happen until the next session in March.

(...)

Bruce Grant, director of the Florida Office of Drug Control, said Florida is still the epicenter of the prescription drug supply problem, and the lack of regulation is a major threat to public health.

“It’s frustrating,” Grant said. “My job and the job of this office is to keep the focus on moving forward.”

Grant called on the department to consider using emergency contracting laws — generally used for natural disasters — to get a database up and running. The database would require pharmacies to report narcotics prescriptions and allow doctors to check if patients have received drugs elsewhere.

“You have seven people dying every day from prescription drug overdoses, pain clinics exploding, law enforcement swamped with investigations,” Grant said. “I think you could probably make the case you have an immediate danger.”

Read more about how GOP micromanaging can cost lives here.

Talk to Me.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Weekend Zen

Turkey for me

Turkey for you

Let's eat the turkey

in my big brown shoe


Love to eat the turkey


At the table

I once saw a movie

With Betty Grable


The Thanksgiving Song.

Adam Sandler.




Happy Turkey Day!

See you Monday.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Something to Talk About




The day before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest travel days of the year.

Figure in the new security measures bogging down the flow at many of this country's airports and my guess is, both travellers and those meeting friends and families at their destinations best prepare for delays.

Whether waiting to clear security or waiting in the lobby, I'll throw out a few topics to help pass the time.

Israel Airport Security

Many Americans--on their last nerve regarding body scanners and pat downs of their person--have deemed the Israelis as the leading experts of airport security. With TSA Under Fire, is Racial Profiling on the Table? (CBS News, 11/23/2010)

(...)

As the New York Times reported Monday, some are looking to Israel - where profiling is just one among the many airport security tactics that make civil liberties defenders cringe - for guidance on airport security. The system is extremely restrictive by American standards, and stories of over-the-top searches and overzealous questioning are common. (Here's one that involves a murdered laptop.)

"My experience leaving Tel Aviv was by far and away the most unpleasant encounter I've ever had with airport security officials in the decade," blogger Matthew Yglesias wrote. "As best I could tell, things went pretty smoothly as long as you were (a) Israeli, (b) traveling with an Israeli, or (c) traveling with some kind of well-established tour group."

Yglesias said that it took three hours for him to get from his initial security check to the airport's food court, and added that the Jewish member of his group "had the easiest time" while the black woman in the group "had the hardest time."


The Economy

Sort of like Lent, what have you sacrificed because of the economy? Personally, I've cut having my eyebrows waxed from my must-have list.

As far as others, More American Expatriates Give Up Citizenship (The New York Times, 4/25/2010)

Amid mounting frustration over taxation and banking problems, small but growing numbers of overseas Americans are taking the weighty step of renouncing their citizenship.

(...)

“What we have seen is a substantial change in mentality among the overseas community in the past two years,” said Jackie Bugnion, director of American Citizens Abroad, an advocacy group based in Geneva. “Before, no one would dare mention to other Americans that they were even thinking of renouncing their U.S. nationality. Now, it is an openly discussed issue.”

The Federal Register, the government publication that records such decisions, shows that 502 expatriates gave up their U.S. citizenship or permanent residency status in the last quarter of 2009. That is a tiny portion of the 5.2 million Americans estimated by the State Department to be living abroad.

Still, 502 was the largest quarterly figure in years, more than twice the total for all of 2008, and it looms larger, given how agonizing the decision can be. There were 235 renunciations in 2008 and 743 last year. Waiting periods to meet with consular officers to formalize renunciations have grown.

Anecdotally, frustrations over tax and banking questions, not political considerations, appear to be the main drivers of the surge. Expat advocates say that as it becomes more difficult for Americans to live and work abroad, it will become harder for American companies to compete.

American expats have long complained that the United States is the only industrialized country to tax citizens on income earned abroad, even when they are taxed in their country of residence, though they are allowed to exclude their first $91,400 in foreign-earned income.

One Swiss-based business executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of sensitive family issues, said she weighed the decision for 10 years. She had lived abroad for years but had pleasant memories of service in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Yet the notion of double taxation — and of future tax obligations for her children, who will receive few U.S. services — finally pushed her to renounce, she said.

“I loved my time in the Marines, and the U.S. is still a great country,” she said. “But having lived here 20 years and having to pay and file while seeing other countries’ nationals not having to do that, I just think it’s grossly unfair.”

“It’s taxation without representation,” she added.



The Bush Tax Cuts

Hate to break the news, but the end of the year is within sight. If Congress allows the Bush tax cuts to expire, what changes could be in store for taxpayers come the new year? (The Christian Science Monitor , 9/13/2010)

(...)

•The 10, 25, 28, 33, and 35 percent rates would all rise. The new tax rates would be 15, 28, 31, 36, and 39.6 percent. This would cost taxpayers about $157 billion per year.

•The indexing of the alternative minimum tax for inflation would end. The AMT, which provides $66 billion in annual relief for taxpayers, attempts to ensure that individuals who benefit from itemized deductions or credits pay a separately calculated minimum tax.

•Taxes on capital gains and dividends would rise, meaning that investors could potentially pay about $35 billion more.

•Married couples would go back to paying higher rates than today, at a cost to them of $32 billion per year.

•Expanded tax credits – such as the child tax credit, which went from $500 to $1,000 – would end. This would cost families $26 billion per year. Some taxpayers would also pay an additional cumulative $1.5 billion in education costs.

•The estate tax, which has already expired, would go back to its 2009 level, costing heirs at least $26 billion.

•Higher-income households would see the dollar value of their personal exemptions phased out and would have a lower value for certain itemized deductions. This would cost those people – most of whom make well over $170,000 a year – about $21 billion.


Bristol Palin

Did Sarah's daughter win Dancing with the Stars? (Media Decoder, 11/23/2010)


Happy Trails.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Turkey Talk




With the hopelessly socially-networked Talk to Me traveller in mind (you know the type, those who check in online before unpacking their carry-on, hey...that sounds a lot like me) my plan for for the pre-feast days leading up to the big sit-down is an offering of dinner topics guaranteed to keep the conversation moving.

Napkins in lap? Let's talk turkey(s).


The Appetizer.

Barbara Bush hopes Sarah Palin will stay in Alaska. (Yahoo News, 11/22/2010)

(...)

Speaking to CNN television alongside her husband ex-president George H.W. Bush, the former first lady offered a backhanded compliment to Palin, before delivering her zinger.

"I sat next to her once. Thought she was beautiful. And she's very happy in Alaska -- I hope she'll stay there," said the former first lady, who is known for her quick wit and her tart tongue.

More cheese and crackers here.


Salad Talk.

Divided We Eat (Newsweek, 11/22/2010)

(...)

...modern America is a place of extremes, and what you eat for dinner has become the definitive marker of social status; as the distance between rich and poor continues to grow, the freshest, most nutritious foods have become luxury goods that only some can afford. Among the lowest quintile of American families, mean household income has held relatively steady between $10,000 and $13,000 for the past two decades (in inflation-adjusted dollars); among the highest, income has jumped 20 percent to $170,800 over the same period, according to census data. What this means, in practical terms, is that the richest Americans can afford to buy berries out of season at Whole Foods—the upscale grocery chain that recently reported a 58 percent increase in its quarterly profits—while the food insecure often eat what they can: highly caloric, mass-produced foods like pizza and packaged cakes that fill them up quickly. The number of Americans on food stamps has surged by 58.5 percent over the last three years.

Corpulence used to signify the prosperity of a few but has now become a marker of poverty. Obesity has risen as the income gap has widened: more than a third of U.S. adults and 17 percent of children are obese, and the problem is acute among the poor. While obesity is a complex problem—genetics, environment, and activity level all play a role—a 2008 study by the USDA found that children and women on food stamps were likelier to be overweight than those who were not. According to studies led by British epidemiologist Kate Pickett, obesity rates are highest in developed countries with the greatest income disparities. America is among the most obese of nations; Japan, with its relatively low income inequality, is the thinnest.

Spoon a smidge more cranberry relish here.


Entree Vous.

New Poll Suggests Shift in Public Views on T.S.A. Procedures (FiveThirtyEight, 11/22/2010)

(...)

Somewhat contrary to conventional wisdom, the T.S.A. has been willing to dial back or reverse new security protocols in the past:

In 2007, the T.S.A. permitted bringing lighters on board the airplane, which it had banned previously.

The T.S.A’s 3-1-1 liquids rule is still on the books. However, many travelers believe that it is being enforced only sporadically.

In 2002, the T.S.A. stopped asking passengers routine questions about their luggage at check-in counters (e.g. “Did you pack your own bags?”)

Most airlines no longer check a passenger’s photo identification again at the departure gate, which used to be more common.

The TSA implemented a new type of explosives-detection technology (so called “puffer machines”) in some airports beginning in 2005, but removed them by 2009.

In 2003, the T.S.A. largely discontinued additional random screening at departure gates, although it re-implemented the screenings in 2008.

Over the weekend, the T.S.A. announced that pilots would be exempt from the new screening procedures.
Carve a second helping of turkey here.


Dessert.

Black Friday: A Festival of Greed in the Midst of a Sea of Pain and Suffering (Michael Snyder, The Economic Collapse, 11/22/2010)

(...)

Just like so many of our other holidays, the true purpose behind having a holiday called "Thanksgiving" is being totally obliterated by a tsunami of greed. Meanwhile, more Americans than ever are living in poverty this year and very few people even seem to notice.


(...)

The truth is that the U.S. economy is dying. Americans have been living beyond their means for decades, and now we are starting to pay the price for the gigantic mountains of debt that we have accumulated. But instead of preparing for harder times and looking for ways to help those who are hurting, most Americans are preparing for another orgy of shopping this holiday season....

*According to a new study by America's Research Group and UBS, more Americans than ever before will be out shopping this Black Friday.

Meanwhile, nearly 15% of all American households experienced a food shortage at some point during 2009, and experts anticipate that the final number for 2010 will be even worse.

*Approximately 48.9 percent of all Americans plan to shop on Black Friday this year.


It's Thanksgiving. Have another slice of pumpkin pie here.


Second Cup of Coffee.

The 2010 Electorate: Old, white, rich and Republican (The Miami Herald, 11/22/2010)


The 2010 elections turned into a rout of the Democrats because the elderly and wealthy surged to the polls to help sweep the Republicans back into power, and the balance of women's votes shifted to the GOP as well, according to a new report.

The study released Monday by Project Vote, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group, also found that turnout by pro-Democratic blocs such as African-Americans, young people and Latinos dropped sharply from 2008 levels, leaving a lopsided pro-Republican electorate to dominate the national landscape.

Most of these trends are normal in nonpresidential elections, because presidential campaigns galvanize broader turnout trends. In most ways, turnout in 2010 was similar to the last midterm election in 2006.

However, one striking development helped Democrats in a few races: Hispanic voting surged in several states, helping Democrats win hotly contested Senate races in California, Colorado and Nevada.

Cream and sugar here.


"Thanksgiving is an emotional holiday. People travel thousands of miles to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often."

--Johnny Carson

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Beam Me Up, TSA




I've got an idea to medically reframe the heightened security measures at our nation's airports.

If I'm required to pass through an airport body scanner prior to my next flight, at the very least, I should get a mammogram out of the entire deal. Upon emerging from my dose of radiation, a TSA agent hands me the original image and I'm on my way to the gate with a little something for my trouble.

Or better yet, let's go whole hog. MRI me. Saddle me up, shoot me through and I'll pick up the results along with my purse, laptop and shoes.

Think of the whole deal as the first step towards the public health care option.

By the way, Pew Research recently conveyed that out of the general public "... fewer than half (46%) know that Republicans will have a majority only in the House when the new Congress convenes in January."

My guess is those 46% are the same turkeys who didn't bother to vote this last midterm. I suggest a body scan and a pat down for them next flight.

Gobble, gobble.

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Weekend Zen




Don't go near the water

Don't you think it's sad
What's happened to the water
Our water's going bad

Oceans, rivers, lakes and streams
Have all been touched by man
The poison floating out to sea
Now threatens life on land

Don't go near the water
Ain't it sad
What's happened to the water
It's going bad

Don't go near the water.


--The Beach
Boys





For those on the roads this weekend, Happy Thanksgiving, safe travel and always, always always eat a second slice of pumpkin pie
.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dockery Shunned




A couple weeks back, I appealed to more level-headed Florida Republicans to stand up to the new conservative leadership running the legislative show up in Tallahassee.

Well, this is what happens to those who dare do what they feel is best for the Sunshine State.

Via The Buzz:

(...)

... Republican Sen. Paula Dockery of Lakeland isn't feeling the love.

Dockery is the only experienced GOP senator who was not named chairman of any Senate committees and she was unceremoniously reassigned to an office on the less prestigious second floor of the Senate Office Building, the province of Democrats and freshman Republicans. In the Legislature, that's the equivalent of being sent to Siberia.

"It is what it is," Dockery said as she packed up her papers at the end of Tuesday's one-day session. "I'm concentrating on the transition, I've got my plate full and I'm here to serve the people I represent and I'll do it in whatever capacity I'm allowed."

Haridopolos was asked why Dockery, a 14-year member of the Legislature, was not offered a chairmanship. "There's a lot of tough committee assignments, and she didn't get one," he told reporters. "This is a new Senate. It's more conservative, and I'm proud of that. I worked hard to get it here ... I can't make all senators happy sometimes."


Dockery twice blocked a costly high-speed rail system before Senate leaders prevailed. She criticized the Republican hierarchy's obsession with using party-issued American Express cards. On Election Night, she was vocal in her disgust over Sen. John Thrasher's re-election victory.

Chalk up yet another loss for Florida.

Read more about Paula here.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cleaning Up Florida Waterways


Lake Apopka

Cat 101.

Never place the food bowl near the litter box.

Cats simply will not eat where digestion eventually follows.

Florida lawmakers must not be cat people.

Under their watch, "...about 1,900 miles of the state's rivers and streams, 380,000 acres of its lakes and 570 square miles of its estuaries got fouled by nutrient pollution."

We drink, fish, boat, swim and play in what is quickly becoming liquid Tidy Cat.

The EPA recently released clean water standards for the state, requiring monitoring of "...the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen that gets into waterways from sewage plants, industry and other sources. First for its rivers, lakes and springs, and later, likely beginning in 2012, its estuaries and saltwater bodies."

Most Floridians think that's a good thing. In fact, 70% wouldn't mind paying a little bit more for cleaner water.

But not You Know Who.

Instead of utilizing the 15 month implementation period to figure out how to best meet the new requirements, Florida Senate Prez Mike Haridopolos stated his intention to "...permanently stop [the regulations] from taking effect."

Not much of a surprise reaction, coming from the guy who lobbied for the potential foul of offshore drilling, pre-Deepwater Horizon.

My guess is Mike is a bit leery that the $3 to $6 a month charge per household might come off looking like a clean water tax. Can't have that, after he stated just this week--to the applause of the GOP state legislative majority--that taxes would never be raised under his leadership tenure.

I just can't imagine why any politician would lobby for dirty water.

Unless someone is lobbying the politician in order to profit off the litter box.

Talk to Me.

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wesley Snipes, Body Scans and Mike's Open-Door(s)



While the politically-addicted continue to debate for whom the Bush tax cuts will extend (or not), the tax man cometh for Wesley Snipes.

The actor was convicted back in 2008 for willfully failing to file his tax returns. Standing between him and the federal Big House--the jury that handed down the verdict. Snipes believes a few members of the jury did him wrong, pegging him as guilty prior to the first witness taking the stand.

Apparently, emails have surfaced that support his allegation. Snipes is hoping the judge will grant him new trial.


***

As a needle-phobic, a tattoo has never been on my bucket list. But after hearing my choices of clearing security at Orlando International include a full body scan or an invasive pat down, I'm rethinking my aversion to both needles and ink in consideration of a few picturesque possibilities that would immediately and unmistakeably register my disgust with TSA during my pass by under their watchful eyes.

As for that révolution so many have waxed rhapsodic over, I think John Tyner drew the line in the sand with his recent don't touch or else warning to those federal employees for whom our clothes are now invisible.


***

Mike Haridopolos has instituted an open-door policy. Literally.

And FYI, the incoming Florida Senate Prez and his House Speaker sidekick Dean Cannon have removed two bills targeted for veto override: removing the Department of Management Services from the control of the governor and into the hands of the Florida Cabinet and cutting worker's compensation for state workers.

But don't take your eye off the state legislative bouncing ball.

To quote Wesley Snipes, "There's a whole other side that has yet to be seen on the screen."

Talk to Me.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Tune Out Fringe News




America's New Media has absolutely jumped the shark.

Middle of last week, The Huffington Post ran a headline indicating that the White House had basically caved and reached a decision to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

That was news to the White House. And senior adviser David Axelrod, the source of the reported comments.

Axelrod insisted, he had stated nothing new to the Post, only "... what had been said before--middle-class tax cuts should be extended permanently but we can't afford to borrow another $700 billion to permanently extend cuts to the wealthiest. But we're willing to sit down when Congress returns and figure out a way forward that makes sense."

It all started with Howard Fineman's interview of Axelrod. In his story, the Huffington Post correspondent and veteran newsman opined what he felt Axelrod's remarks suggested. In the process, the analysis by this respected journalist--framed by the incendiary headline--set the Left on it's ear, uprighted only by the President himself through the reiteration of his well-known position on middle class tax cuts.

Yet, when reporting the follow-up story, Fineman again summarized what he interpreted Axelrod to have previously suggested.

The choice by The Huffington Post to present a piece of punditry as factual is yet another example of what The New York Times calls "...a testament to the frenetic, headline-grabbing news media environment."

I don't know about the rest of those plugged into American politics, but this lefty blogger is ready to slap a new bumper sticker on her car--Tune Out Fringe News.

Read more about this story over at CNN Politics.


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Friday, November 12, 2010

Weekend Zen




It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no millionaire's son, no.

It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate one, no.


--Creedence Clearwater Revival. 1969.

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembering Paul Clark

blog post photo

Paul Clark taught me to swim at the Eau Gallie YMCA.

I was just a kid, maybe seven years old.

In my mind's eye, I see Paul-tanned, hair bleached Florida blonde, with an easy smile, often flashed to reassure nervous young moms seated poolside, that yes, he could bob and float their kids to personal water safety.

Paul was a natural born kid magnet. During free swim afternoons, when neighborhood kids hit the pool to escape the brutal heat, the teenager met us at the gate, greeting each of us by name. But if caught running on the slippery concrete pool deck, one shrill blast of the whistle from Paul would screech a kid to an instant halt.

Summers came and went. Tadpoles became Minnows and before too long, Paul's kids evolved into adept swimmers. YMCA swim patches sewn to our suits delineated the ranks to Swim Hall of Fame accomplishment-Fish, Flying Fish, Shark and Porpoise. The truly motivated aspired to Junior Lifeguard and with passage of the class, dived into the ultimate swim status for a kid, Senior Lifeguard, the level that-with successful completion-graduated a new generation of Pauls.

Paul was still around. We caught his wave and hello every now and then, but his sightings grew less frequent around the Y.

One day we heard Paul was headed out to Vietnam.

He lasted two months.

Paul died Feb 23, 1969 at Binh Duong, South Vietnam. Ground casualty, small arms fire.

His body was recovered and shipped home.

SP4 Paul Franklin Clark --
C CO, 1ST BN, 5TH INFANTRY, 25TH INF DIV, USARV-- was 23 years old.

I visited the Vietnam War Memorial many years ago in search of Paul. As I ran my fingers across his name etched into the black marble, I remember the confident grin of the young man from so many years ago. The water splashes, the smell of chlorine tickles my nose and Paul's whistle blasts once more, demanding attention. Stop before you hurt yourself.

Our local YMCA closed years ago. The main building is now the home to various businesses. The pool remains on the grounds, cloaked from view by years of Florida scrub gone wild, tangled and woven through the bowed chain link. Only those who swam their 1960's summers away know the pool is even still there.

Out by the front gate, hidden in the weeds, lies a small concrete marker, a tribute to Paul Clark and his service to the YMCA.

We will never forget.


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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dissension Points



Okay. I'll admit it.

While frequenting the political aisle of my local bookstore, I've been known to spontaneously turn an Ann Coulter or possibly a Laura Ingraham title face backwards on the shelf or better yet, strategically place a quality fiction selection over anything penned by or about Sarah Palin.

But I never thought to reshelve a former President's memoirs in the war criminals section.

Read more about the Facebook group who is planning the subversive move here.

Speaking of which, old George's interview with Matt Lauer went belly up with television viewers, finishing fourth in the Monday evening ratings.
Guess folks don't miss Mr. Bush enough to miss even thirty minutes of Dancing with the Stars.

Listen to GWB pitch Decision Points and explain how TARP saved the economy.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

How Loaf Can Scott Go?



The upside to Alex Sink's loss to Rick Scott is the blogging manna falling from Florida heaven.

Those who worked the Scott campaign out of Tampa have learned the hard way that compensation doesn't necessarily equate to cash.

Instead of receiving a paycheck for services rendered, the Let's Get to Work team decided to pay part-time campaign workers with a gift card. And better yet, an American Express gift card, the card Florida Republicans can't seem to leave home without.


(...)

Obviously you can't pay bills with gift cards," (Mark Don) Givens says, and it made him angry that the campaign would offer them to him. In addition,Givens says there was a delay in receiving most of his compensation. He says he kept waiting and waiting and couldn't get anything.

A spokesperson for Scott acknowledges there was a problem getting Givens his check. The spokesperson says a supervisor made the decision to give Givens gift cards instead, however the campaign says the cards can be reimbursed for and it will pick up the service charge or it will issue a check in return for the cards.

The campaign says it will do the same for any other staffers who are upset about receiving the gift cards.

Still, when we asked Givens how he feels about the governor-elect he told us he is now "going Democrat."


If Givens holds out, perhaps the campaign will throw in a fish and a couple of loaves of bread.

Talk to Me.

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Monday, November 8, 2010

Cutting Back Florida's Cottage Industry: Prisons



Florida Governor-elect Rick Scott campaigned on taking a bite out of the Department of Corrections budget.

Should be fun to watch, considering the Legislature (GOP and Dem alike) have spent years scaring the bejesus out of Floridians, to the point most won't run errands after dark, help a stranger in need or allow their kids play outside..

Funnier yet, is the Mike Haridopolos method of cutting prison costs.

(...)

"One of the things we are openly looking at is means-testing prisoners. If they actually qualify for Medicaid, let them in. If they are really wealthy, make them pay." (Ready to Lead, Florida Today, 11/7/2010)


One glaring fiscal hole with that scenario, Mike.

Cash buys two kinds of justice in this state: justice for those with money and justice for those without.

Guess which group is sitting behind bars?

Better yet, just ask Rush.

***

The Florida Department of Corrections is the third-largest prison system in the country with 102,000 inmates, 28,000 employees, 139 facilities and a $2.4 billion budget.

--The Ledger, 10/13/2010

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Weekend Zen




Think of all that we've been through
And breaking up is hard to do




The Partridge Family.

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Our Old Girl



I've called Florida home for 47 years. My history is here.

These days, I hardly recognize the old girl.

My father caught the space bug and moved us here in 1963, joining other families from other places, all inflicted with the same reach for the moon madness. Whether you worked out at the Cape or owned a small business or provided a public service, we were bound by a common dream.

We were a community.

That seems to be missing these days. People may live here but they call home somewhere else and that somewhere else is where their allegiance lies.

Tuesday's state vote proved as much. More than half of Florida's registered voters didn't bother. As a result, a candidate with less than ten years residency in this state finds himself elected as our next governor, complete with a veto-proof Republican state legislature.

In other words, the woefully uncivic have released the hounds.

One post-election day later, our ethically-challenged Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos is conspiring with Speaker of the House Dean Cannon-designate to schedule in a special session to override the vetoes of the nearly departed Gov. Charlie Crist. The Miami Herald reports Haridopolos insists "...the potential overrides would not include hotly debated bills dealing with matters such as teacher merit pay, abortion and elections."

"House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon of Winter Park agreed, saying he'd prefer to let those kind of issues wait until next year's regular session."

Thanks for the warning.

Many of us kids from the sixties and seventies took our sense of community with us into adulthood. I chose public education, where the history is paid forward as I witness my former students now walking their own children to school.

But a few old school friends chose the path to Tallahassee, where they presently sit as cooler heads of the majority. Of those, I ask only this.

Remember where you came from. Remember back to what Florida once was and what Florida can be again.

The old girl is in your hands.

***

"'There is no more Punta Rassa as you knew it,' Toby Cypress said, his eyes reflecting sadness. 'It is all gone, Sol, just as Lake Okeechobee as we once knew it is gone, and the custard-apple forest is gone, and the balk cypress trees are gone. You are trying to capture the fog, and no one can do that.'"

Patrick Smith, Author
A Land Remembered

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Post Election Chat



Tampabay.com
runs an online column entitled Bizarre Florida, where weird is the norm in the Sunshine State.

Election night proved no different.

At the time of this writing, around or about 9:00 PM, a woman who sued a family in court over their own dog and a businessmen harboring a questionable background hold leads in the races for Florida's next Attorney General and Governor respectively.

Should the trend continue through the evening, it would appear that the state is right back to square one, pre-Crist.

But do not despair, dear Readers.

Looks like three big wins in favor of Florida's citizens.

Fair Districts (Amendments 5 and 6) appears headed for success as does Amendment 8, as in leave our class size amendment alone, state legislators.

Today, it's your forum.

Talk to Me.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What Did the Democrats Do?




Put policy before politics.

--Fair pay Act for Women --Credit Card Reform --Wall Street Reform --College Loan Reform --Health Care Reform --Children's Health Insurance --Economic Recovery --Tobacco Regulation --Hate Crimes legislation


Simply historic.




Read the transcript here.

Can't see the video? Watch here.

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The Final Three




As America heads out to vote, let's take a look at the final projections of the three pollsters I've followed through this midterm cycle.

Zogby Interactive (11/1/10) predicts a Republican lead 50% to 45% over the Democrats. I found the following breakdown interesting and not too big of a surprise as those voters earning $100,000 and under have benefited most under reforms passed by this Congress, i.e. credit card, college loan, banking and health care reform.

"Democrats lead among lower household income voters (under $35,000), 52%-43%, and the two parties are nearly even among those in households earning between $35,000 and $100,000. Republicans are ahead among households earning more than $100,000, 51%-43%."

Zogby added this observation. "...However, polls do not reveal much love for the Republicans. Independent voters still need to see progress on the economy and they sense neither party has answers."

FiveThirtyEight
(11/1/10) agrees to disagree with the broad range of pollster bets on the GOP--some high, some lower--but does share the general consensus that predictions point to all things elephant.

"Tuesday’s probably going to be a really good night for Republicans, but we really don’t have a very good idea of exactly how good — it’s probably time to embrace that conclusion. This is a really strange election, or at least one that pollsters are having an awfully difficult time getting a handle on. To claim you can predict Republican gains within a range of 5 or 10 seats isn’t science — it’s superstition.

So, I can’t tell you exactly what will happen on Tuesday. What I can do is show you some pretty pictures; maybe that will soothe the nerves a bit.

Our model calculates a generic ballot average (which it now has at Republicans +6.8 points)..."

Rasmussen (11/1/10) has hedged 12 points high for the Reps. But Scott R. relayed to the Wall Street Journal what was noted above by John Zogb--a vote cast for the GOP is merely a vote cast against the Democrats.

"...none of this means that Republicans are winning. The reality is that voters in 2010 are doing the same thing they did in 2006 and 2008: They are voting against the party in power.

(...)

Voters today want hope and change every bit as much as in 2008. But most have come to recognize that if we have to rely on politicians for the change, there is no hope. At the same time, Americans instinctively understand that if we can unleash the collective wisdom and entrepreneurial spirit of the American people, there are no limits to what we can accomplish.

In this environment, it would be wise for all Republicans to remember that their team didn't win, the other team lost. Heading into 2012, voters will remain ready to vote against the party in power unless they are given a reason not to do so.

Elected politicians also should leave their ideological baggage behind because voters don't want to be governed from the left, the right, or even the center. They want someone in Washington who understands that the American people want to govern themselves."


For the first time ever, I agree with Scott Rasmussen.

Now, get out from behind your computer and go do your civic duty.

Vote.


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Monday, November 1, 2010

Has the Tea Party Significantly Influenced Voters this Year?


I once viewed the Tea Party as the Paul Potts of politics, supported by ordinary people a bit rough around the edges, yet capable of great accomplishments.

Potts, an unassuming man who sold mobile phones for a living, stood solo on the stage of a British variety show and with a talent unexpected of someone so seemingly mainstream, belted out an exquisite operatic aria before a dumbstruck audience.

The we’re- just-regular-folk Tea Party supporters popped up on this country’s stage in much the same way, out of nowhere but from our everywhere, singing angry discontent for a government tone deaf to the people’s wants and needs.

Any semblance ends on that note.

While Potts himself defined stage presence, the Tea Party is an example of presence merely staged through unprecedented financial support by a right wing audience, focused on regaining political power.

In politics, the true genius works the ticket booth. FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity--major sponsors and early shapers of the Tea Party movement--recognized early how best to chorus the voice of a disgruntled citizenry as a means to push forward an extremist conservative agenda.

Both organizations are heavily financed by industries opposed to the enforcement of environmental laws, alternative energy policies, safety regulations in the workplace and the regulation of financial industries.

Figure in the formidable financial influence of media mogul Rupert Murdoch, billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch and the “Citizens United” Supreme Court ruling that struck down laws prohibiting direct corporate spending on campaigns and the Tea Party looks far less spontaneously populist and much more artfully orchestrated.

As Obama senior adviser David Axelrod, pointed out, “What they don’t say is that, in part, this is a grassroots citizens’ movement brought to you by a bunch of oil billionaires.”

The true influence on the upcoming election is the handful of individuals writing checks behind the scenes. Ironically, much of this financial backing stems from the same special interests the Tea Party rallies against.

Yet, without that bankroll, the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party would soon have found itself flat on its political octave.

***

Sunday Debate, 10/31/2010.

Read Marshall Frank's response to the same question here.

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