Rush to Judgment?

It�s good to see Florida Attorney General and 2006 Republican candidate for governor Charlie Crist defending our right to privacy. Charlie jumped to protect Rush Limbaugh, and all the rest of us, no doubt, from overzealous prosecutors.

According to stories in the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post, Crist’s brief before the Florida Supreme Court supports a lame compromise where they would have, “�a judge review all seized medical records in chambers to decide which ones are pertinent to a criminal investigation before releasing them to prosecutors.”

So have a judge read over all the records first, figure out which parts support or deflate a case, hand the evidence to the lawyers, and then sit back and hear it. Is it me, or is there a flaw here somewhere? Why not just have the judge plead the case too?

Gymnastic reasoning aside, one wonders about Crist’s objectivity. As the Post pointed out,

“Often, the attorney general fights for criminal investigators and on the side of the prosecution. But the office of Crist, a Republican, has refused to help Democratic State Attorney Barry Krischer in this case. “

Apparently Crist just doesn’t want anyone getting carried away. He stated in his brief, quoted in the Sentinel:

“Florida’s constitutional right of privacy guarantees citizens freedom from unwarranted observation of, and interference in, any aspect of their medical records. “

Doctor My Ears

I don’t know about you but I’m about up to here (gestures toward neck) with every single news story and pundit using “Doctor” on second reference to Condoleeza Rice. What is she, the first person ever in government to hold a frickin’ Ph.D.? O.K., I admit she does stand pretty much alone among Bush appointees as having completed some post-graduate work but come on, her official bio says she got her doctorate at the University of Denver! Which I’m sure is a fine state school BTW.

The point is, it’s not like she ever won a Nobel prize, and there are some actual medical doctors out there (paging Gov. Dr. Howard Dean) that are never referred to in the press as “Dr.” Seems like yet another example of the press doing as they’re told by the White House without question.

Mixed Week for Jeb

It must be hard when your unassailable arrogance is tested. Jeb was forced within days of appointing him to accept the resignation of his new speechwriter. Lloyd Brown, recently fired for plagiarism and previously counseled for workplace porn addiction, evidently couldn�t stand the heat. The South Florida Sun Sentinel published part of his letter of resignation but did not state if Brown took the paragraph off a web site or if he wrote it himself.

“�Sensationalized news stories using accusations made against me years ago as a device to attack Gov. Bush have convinced me that I can better serve my family and the governor by not being a distraction from the important work he is doing on behalf of the people of Florida,� Brown said in his resignation letter. His resignation is effective Jan. 31.”

Yes, Jeb is doing important work all right. The budget he introduced this week includes cutting taxes for rich folk while raising community college and state university tuitions AGAIN, privatizing Medicaid and eliminating coverage for catastrophic illness, and eliminating doctor visits and hospital stays for the poorest families and elderly people.

But as the Lakeland Ledger explained, people with at least a quarter-million to toss around for speculation can breathe easy.

“His largest tax-cut proposal this year would continue the phase-out of the intangibles tax on about 233,000 Floridians who hold stocks, bonds and other investments worth more than $250,000. Bush had promised to eliminate the tax, which he calls an ‘insidious’ levy on investments, when he ran for governor in 1998�The tax would be completely eliminated in 2006, Bush’s last year in office.”

Maybe Jeb doesn�t need a speechwriter right now after all. He could just take some of W�s speeches, tweak them a little here and there and, viola! Same stuff, different Bush.

The Party of Wacko Religious Nut Cases

Creepy story in Florida’s St. Petersburg Times.

“A mysterious committee backed by members of a secretive religious group whose members are forbidden to vote spent more than $500,000 on newspaper ads last year supporting President Bush and U.S. Senate candidate Mel Martinez.”

The group was one of many that tried to worked around campaign finance reforms by not identifying itself until the final days of the election, according to the paper.

“The group of men who formed the committee belong to the Exclusive Brethren, a reclusive religious group with roots in England and Australia. The group includes members from Knoxville, Tenn., Omaha, Neb., and other U.S. cities. Members of the Exclusive Brethren do not vote, read newspapers, watch television or participate in the outside world, according to published reports. So why would they care who gets elected in the United States?

“That’s hard to say and members contacted by the St. Petersburg Times wouldn’t say anything except to praise President Bush and say they wanted to see him re-elected.

“Steve Truan, owner of a Knoxville map store, was listed as the contact person for the group, which formed just days before the November election. He said the group likes to �fly beneath the radar� and refused to talk about the ads, all of which were placed by a Knoxville advertising agency whose owners refused to answer questions.”

Of course Bush and Martinez, who seem to have benefited big time, claim the donation was unsolicited.

“The ads included a full page in the New York Times and a smaller one in the Tampa Tribune supporting the president, and a quarter-page ad in the St. Petersburg Times endorsing Republican Mel Martinez for U.S. Senate because of his support for traditional marriage.

“Both campaigns denied knowing anything about the committee or its members.”

How can these guys get away with claiming they represent mainstream Americans? And why do the Democrats let them?

Dressing Katherine Harris

I�ve been sick of the prospect of George W. Bush�s second inauguration since November, but it�s reaching critical mass. Another appalling story of Republicans spending like drunken sailors at the prospect of the mind-numbing celebration. And who but Florida�s own Katherine Harris to set the tone?

According to an article in the Tampa Tribune, Harris knows her priorities.

“�Faced with the choice of golfing in her campaign fundraiser or trying on ball gowns for Thursday’s inaugural gala for President Bush, U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris took a few strokes and then left dozens of chilled bankers and the chairman of the House Banking Committee.”

Now here�s a great big WHY from the same article:

“Designers are trying to land their dresses on first lady Laura Bush and daughters Barbara and Jenna with an aggressiveness the industry generally saves for Hollywood celebrities.”

Better make them vodka-proof and use a fabric that won�t show cigarette burns.

But back to Katherine. Where does she get this kind of money?

“�Harris arranged to have seven ball gowns delivered from Saks Fifth Avenue to the Legacy Country Club in south Manatee County on Monday.

“�They came straight from the runway,� Harris said.

“That created another problem: fitting into dresses worn by rail-thin models. Immediately after choosing a gown, Harris hit the gym. Afterward, she went back to the fundraiser to greet her guests.”

Yeah, that one trip to the gym will take care of it. How does this towering intellect fit into such a petite body?

Black Box Voters 50% More Likely to Cast Bad Ballots

A South Florida newspaper’s independent study showed black box voting machines were highly unreliable in the presidential election.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel analysis showed:

“Florida’s touch-screen voting machines performed better in the Nov. 2 presidential election than they did in the March primary, but were still outmatched by older voting devices that use pencil and paper ballots�

“Voters using the ATM-style voting machines in November were 50 percent more likely to cast a flawed ballot or have an unregistered vote in the presidential race, compared to voting machines employing simple paper ballots.

“I’m not surprised at all,” said U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton, who lost a federal lawsuit last year that demanded touch-screen machines generate a paper receipt.”

The article said 15 of Florida’s 67 counties use the machines, including the bluest – Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade.

On a more encouraging note, a group of Democrats in Broward (Ft. Lauderdale) has launched a wiki-forum and web site called BlueBroward.org, aimed at figuring out how to win more races next time.

Keep Jeb at Home and Save

This tears it. This is the last time we let Jeb out loose in the world. What does the governor decide Florida urgently needs, after his recent trip to Indonesia? That’s right, a $37.5 million tsunami warning system.

According to an article in the Miami Herald, the same sceintists who deny the existence of global warming are worried.

“…The world’s attention has been focused on people who live near the edge of oceans, and we have a responsibility to respond to their needs,” John H. Marburger III, science advisor to President Bush, said during a news conference in Washington, D.C.”

Now hold on to your hats for the next part. There is evidently some question about how much at risk Jeb’s governed are.

“Scientists say tsunamis — particularly those caused by an earthquake as powerful as the one that triggered the one last month off Indonesia — do not pose a great risk to South Florida and the rest of the U.S. East Coast.”

This doesn’t mean Florida is in the clear, however. Especially in theory.

“…virtually all coastal residents are at least theoretically vulnerable to the series of giant waves that can mark a tsunami�

“South Florida experts are unaware of any tsunamis in the region in the recent past, though several longtime residents cite an unexplained event during the early 1960s that left several Miami Beach hotels swamped by unusual tidal waves.

“Some South Floridians have expressed concern over reports that a mega-tsunami, one that dwarfs the Southeast Asia disaster, could be triggered by the partial destruction of a volcano in the Canary Islands.

“Experts say the so-called Cumbre Vieja event could propel a 60-foot tsunami to South Florida and many other regions of North, Central and South America.

“But they cannot pinpoint the timing, saying that the disaster is likely to occur at some point during the next 5,000 years.”

Well, that’s good enough for me. 5,000 years can go by faster than you realize. We better start awarding some fat government contracts to relatives and cronies ASAP.

Blow Jobs and Justice in Florida

A weird story of sexual harassment, internet porn, plagiarism, and secret investigations has Florida abuzz.

Last week, while Jeb was off cheering tsunami victims, he fired Secretary of Elder Affairs Terry White via a short and terse letter printed on the Florida News blog.

The reason for the firing? Sexual harassment of coworkers. What coworkers? Can’t tell you, it’s a secret. What did they say he did? Can’t tell you, it’s a secret. Well, what proof do you have? Can’t tell you, it’s a secret.

The “investigation” began Friday, Dec. 30 and ended when White was escorted out of the building on Wednesday, Jan. 5. According to the Palm Beach Post:

Bush’s office refused to release the names of the alleged victims or the nature of the complaints, and his spokesman said Thursday that no written documents involving White’s dismissal exist.

Rodriguez conducted her investigation within hours of receiving the complaints from the elder affairs department. After interviewing White, senior staff at the agency and the workers who made the complaints, she found that White violated Bush’s code of ethics and recommended “immediate disciplinary action.”

“Did he (White) get due process? Who knows?” said Barbara Peterson, executive director of the Florida First Amendment Foundation. “Anybody who would conduct an investigation without taking notes, that’s just impossible for me to believe.”

If nothing else, this clears up one question. Until now, White’s sexual orientation wasn’t publicly defined, with his job advocating for seniors serving as wife, mistress, and phone sex partner. It’s also funny that calculated leaks claim White asked female coworkers to perform oral sex on him. Nothing seems to get the Republican dander going like the thought of blow jobs at the office.

The fact that White had recently gotten sideways with HMOs had nothing to do with the lightening speed of the inquiry or the firing. After all, it’s not as if anything like that ever took place on Jeb’s watch. Although, as the Tallahassee Democrat recalled…

[White] succeeded Gema Hernandez, who was forced out by Bush in 2001 when some legislators complained about her management style – and Hernandez said she had run afoul of some powerful companies that do business with the elder-services agency.

So what about the internet porn and plagiarism? For that, you have to go to the man Jeb hired as his new staff writer the day after he fired White.

Lloyd Brown was asked to leave Jacksonville’s arch conservative Florida Times-Union, where he was editorial page editor, in November. The dismissal came after Jacksonville’s other local news source, the independent Folio Weekly, ran a story from a former T-U editorial writer whose life was made miserable by Brown. Although he viewed online porn pretty much all day everyday, regardless of who was in the office, Brown also visited the Heritage Foundation and other right-wing sites long enough to copy and paste editorials.

Because his firing focused on the plagiarism, which was so blatant as to defy defending, reports on the story outside of Folio did as well. Editor and Publisher also paid attention.

The Folio story actually focused more on accusing Brown of abusing his workplace computer to view Internet pornography and of creating a hostile work environment for Bussard. “I really can’t comment on that,” Brown said.

Cannon said the allegations of Internet pornography use and harassment were “a human-resources issue that had been settled to the satisfaction of both parties more than five years ago,” but would not elaborate further. He said those non-plagiarism complaints would not be reviewed by the committee.

After being fired, Brown was allowed to announce his “retirement” and fade away. Until this week, when Jeb evidently felt the need to add someone who really knows about sexual harassment to his staff. Jeb’s hiring of this sick puppy boggles the mind in a way only a Bush can. Can you say “hubris?”

10 Dumbest Consumer Goods

Some of the items on this year’s Sierra Club list of the 10 Dumbest Consumer Goods I had thought of, others I missed. Either way, I agree with them all. I hope this settles once and for all the controversy over what a total waste leaf blowers are. As I tell my friend Ray, who loves them, I think it’s a guy thing. Women reach for a broom. Men want something with some horsepower.

O.K., enough sexist stereotypes, here are the ones I would have put on the list myself:

…”Only ten?” OK, it was a tough choice. Some waste exorbitant amounts of energy, others turn precious natural resources into trivial junk, while still others encourage us to consume for the sake of consumption…

2. Leaf blowers. Using a leaf blower for half an hour is equivalent to driving a car 110 miles. And all it gets you is leaves on the other side of the driveway.

3. Disposable DVDs. Disney and Flexplay are marketing DVDs that become unplayable 48 hours after the seal is broken. They can be mailed in for recycling, but would people who couldn’t be bothered to mail in a rental really do so?

4. Lunchables. Processed meat, fatty cheese, and crackers in an unrecyclable plastic tray, wrapped in more plastic and then cardboard. Kids deserve better.

5. Disposable toilet cleaners. Instead of a brush that lasts for years, you can now spend a lot of money for flushable toilet brushes.

8. Swiffers. “You can just throw away the dust with the cloth!” exults the Web site for these rags-on-a-stick. Somehow it doesn’t sound like progress.

10. The Hummer. Ostentatious energy waste as a reason for being. A special lifetime achievement award.

Check out the rest of the list. Disposable underwear?

Theo-Conservatives Hate Sex

Over at Alternet, Lara Riscol describes 2004 as the year the rightwing showed the depth and depravity of its aversion to sex:

With a third of our HIV prevention billions promised to anti-abortion Christian-based groups, America is now exporting white weddings as social panacea from here to Africa. Masters of misinformation, theo-conservatives have spun abstinence successes into justification for their bulging billion-dollar entitlement. Abstinence works, they say, seizing upon 2004 data showing a big drop in teen pregnancy during the 90s — attributing 25 percent to abstinence and 75 percent to increased contraception use.

Duh. Abstinence from intercourse avoids pregnancy. And 30 years of peer-reviewed research says that comprehensive sexuality education delays first intercourse and reduces risky behavior once one’s sexually engaged. Not only does the data say nothing about the impact of abstinence programs, but President Clinton’s abstinence dollars under Welfare Reform didn’t reach states until 1998. Bush’s more restrictive abstinence didn’t hit the streets until 2001. Recent preliminary results actually show that abortion has increased since Bush has been pandering to its sex-obsessed base.

But it’s all about perception. Though almost no one does it — that is, sex only with one’s spouse until death do you part — the retro right has mainstreamed abstinence, which obscures its larger agenda to legislate a biblical worldview. Think The Handmaid’s Tale, or at least strict “man on top” gender roles and reinstituted enforcements of sexual morality.

But 2004 proves once again that purity politics works. In October, Bush spotlighted “real families” in Iowa when signing the Working Families Tax Relief Act. After Bush celebrated Mike and Sharla Hintz’ 13th wedding anniversary, Mike — a youth pastor and father of four — told reporters: “Where we are in this world, with not just the war on terror, but with the war with our culture that’s going on, I think we need a man that is going to be in the White House like President Bush, that’s going to stand by what he believes.”

Earlier this month, the First Assembly of God Church fired Mike Hintz for sexual exploiting a 17-year-old girl in his church youth group.

Still, conservatives perpetuate their perceived stand for moral absolutes as a salve from our sex saturated culture, and their opponents as promoters of moral relativism, or even perversion.

In the aftermath of 2004’s greatest smirch upon America, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the conservative Heritage Foundation — source of strict abstinence-only language driving funding and intervention throughout the world � syndicated a column linking the Iraq prisoner torture to liberal rot:

“With the non-judgmental, sex-crazed, anything-goes culture that we have become at home, it seems that America has set herself up for international humiliation. Our country permits Hollywood to put almost anything in a movie and still call it PG-13. We permit television and computers to bring all manner of filth into our homes. We permit school children to be taught that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle. We allow Christianity and the teaching of Judeo-Christian values to be scrubbed from the public square. We allow our children to be taught how to use condoms in school, rather than why to avoid sex.”

In one distorted swoop, conservatives discredit proponents of sexual health and justice with the sick, the bad, the ugly.