Friday, June 24, 2011

St. Augustine Underground on the Demise and Fall of the Sunshine Violating FIRST AMERICA FOUNDATION

The party’s over for First America Foundation

What if we hold the party and nobody comes?

The night before your party, you have the nightmare. You’re all dressed up, waiting at the door and not a single guest arrives. St. Augustine’s 450th birthday party nightmare might just be a reality.

On June 4, Don Wallis, the chairman of the board of the First America Foundation resigned. Following suit, the foundation voted June 10 to terminate its contract with the city.

So how did it happen?

Established in July 2010, the First America Foundation was formed by Wallis, an attorney with Upchurch, Bailey and Upchurch in St. Augustine. Its sole purpose: to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the founding of the first permanent settlement in America, St. Augustine.

In August 2010, Wallis told the St. Augustine City Commission that the committee originally tasked with planning the 450th unanimously agreed to sunset the 450th Commemoration Steering Committee, turn planning efforts over to The First America Foundation and contract the City of St. Augustine as a governmental contributor.

“The city municipal government, by a 5-0 vote, decided to get out of the business of the commemoration,” Wallis told the Underground in November 2010.

At that time, the commission approved a contract with the First America Foundation for $275,000. The contract stated, “The city hereby contracts with the foundation for work to render professional planning and design and development services related to the St. Augustine commemoration program.” The contract further indicates that the $275,000 serves as seed money required for the commencement of the work on the project.

In an article in The St. Augustine Record June 11, foundation Vice Chairwoman Christine Chapman said she wasn’t sure what the future of the nonprofit organization was, but board members planned to meet with city officials to discuss what remained of the $275,000 seed money.

In the same article, City Manager John Reagan said, “The (foundation) staff was in a very difficult situation. They amount of work they had to do was way beyond the capacity of any one individual. I don’t know what will happen to the First America Foundation, but we’ll stay positive, and we will have a 450th celebration.”

Sara Kaufman
and Sarah A. Henderson


Guest column: First America Foundation isn't operating in the 'Sunshine'
Created 01/30/2011 - 12:00am
St. Augustine

A private foundation has taken over from the city the function of planning St. Augustine's 450th anniversary celebration, 2012-2015. The City Commission agreed and gave First America Foundation a $275,000 no-bid contract.

Our City Hall still mistrusts "we, the people."

Article I, section 24 of Florida's Constitution guarantees our right to open meetings and open records -- it was adopted in 1992 by vote of 83 percent of Florida voters (3,883,617 votes). Majority rules.

Our European forebears suffered under the yoke of secrecy and autocracy, exemplified by Cardinal Richelieu, who said, "Secrecy is the first essential in affairs of the State." In contrast, James Madison wrote that a "popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives."

Florida is our nation's leader on open government laws. Florida's strong open government laws inspired then-Senator Lawton Chiles to persuade Congress to adopt the federal Government-in-the-Sunshine law.

Our Florida Constitution and laws require openness. The 450th anniversary of our Nation's Oldest City must no longer be run as a "covert operation." President Kennedy said to the American Newspaper Publishers Association in 1961: "The very word 'secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers which are cited to justify it."

Lord Acton explained not only that "all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely," but he also said that "Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity." As the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, "secrecy is for losers."

It is my opinion that FAF's secrecy interferes with our City's vital mission -- meaningfully celebrating the 500th Anniversary of Spanish Florida (2013), 450th anniversary of St. Augustine (2015), 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (2014) and the 200th anniversary of the Spanish Constitution (2012).

We deserve an open, accountable process with public participation. That's what we were promised before the City of St. Augustine changed its plans and created this secret corporation on a "rush" basis, as the incorporation papers filed in Tallahassee reveal. The City's strategic vision for the 450th originally called for 40 committees of local volunteers. FAF inexplicably dropped the committees and is seeking corporate "partners."

No federal agencies or self-respecting corporate donors will want to fund an inscrutable, unaccountable foundation that breaks the law. St. Augustine does not need a secretive foundation that shows contempt for the will of 3.8 million Florida voters. As Ronald Reagan spoke at the Berlin Wall: City Commissioners, "tear down this wall."

The facts are irrefragable. FAF, in my opinion, is a city agency under Sunshine and Open Records laws. Our City of St. Augustine must compel FAF to open its meetings, books and records to the public. Our City must take swift action to end FAF's secrecy and to vindicate our rights. As Justice Louis Brandeis said, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant."


Ed Slavin earned a B.S. in foreign service at Georgetown University and a J.D. from Memphis State University (now University of Memphis).

Florida First Amendment Foundation Press Release -- FAF Honors Open Government Champions



24 June 2011

Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award

The First Amendment Foundation is pleased to announce it has awarded the Lake Helen and Sanford City commissions the 2011 Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award. Both commissions adopted ordinances that recognize the importance of public participation in the workings of government and encouraging such participation in all hearings, meetings, processes, programs, and operations. The nomination for the award was based on the commissions recognition of the value of citizen engagement which sets a standard for everyone at all levels of Florida government. Letters informing the city commissions of the award were sent to Mayor Buddy Snowden of Lake Helen and Mayor Jeff Triplett of Sanford.

The Pete Weitzel/Friend of the First Amendment Award was created in 1995 to recognize the significant contribution made by Pete Weitzel, former managing editor of The Miami Herald, and founder and past president of the First Amendment Foundation, in the area of open government. The Award is given annually to someone in Florida who has made a significant contribution to the cause of furthering open government. This is the first time in the history of the award that it has been given to a government agency.

Past recipients of the award can be found on the Foundation’s website,

James C. Adkins/Sunshine Litigation Award

Attorney Jon Kaney of Cobb & Cole, Daytona Beach, is only the second recipient of the James C. Adkins/Sunshine Litigation Award, which was created to recognize the importance and continuing value of Justice Adkins’ open government opinions while on the Florida Supreme Court. The award is given to an attorney in Florida who has made a significant contribution to the cause of furthering open government through litigation. Jon’s nomination for the award was based on his leadership role in The Bert Fish Foundation, Inc. v. Southeast Volusia Hospital District and his enduring commitment to ensuring that Florida government remains open and accessible to its people. Special thanks are owed to you, Jon, for all you’ve done. We greatly appreciate your efforts on behalf of the public and the First Amendment Foundation.

Sunshine Awards

Finally, the First Amendment Foundation is pleased to announce the winners of the annual Sunshine Awards for best article, political cartoon, op-ed/editorial, and column on open government during Sunshine Week 20011.

The winners are:

Best Article – Michael Bender, St. Petersburg Times

Best Political Cartoon – Jeff Parker, Florida today

● Best Editorial – The Palm Beach Post

● Best Column – Patsy Palmer, Esq., D’Alemberte & Palmer

All posts to the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors website ( during Sunshine Week are automatically entered in the contest. Sunshine Week, a program first started in Florida in 2002, has grown and is now a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information.

This year’s awards were judged by Lucy Dalglish, Executive Director of the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press and incoming President of the National Freedom of Information Coalition Board of Directors.

All awards will be presented at the annual Florida Press Association and Florida Society of Newspaper Editors awards dinner on Friday, June 30 at The Vinoy in St. Petersburg. For more information, please call Barbara Petersen at (850) 224-4555 or (850) 212-8665.

Thank you,

Violetta Shekinah

First Amendment Foundation

336 E. College Ave., Suite 101

Tallahassee, FL 32301

Please help support the work of the First Amendment Foundation by making a donation today.

To donate, go to:


American Bar Association Journal re: 450 lawyer business litigation firm that respects employees' rights to wear casual clothes to work

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  • Quinn Emanuel Takes Casual Dress to the Flip-Flops Level

Law Firms

Quinn Emanuel Takes Casual Dress to the Flip-Flops Level

Posted Jun 23, 2011 6:41 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

Business casual outfits of tailored slacks or pressed khakis are too dressy for some lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

The Careerist interviewed founding partner William Urquhart about the firm’s dress code after meeting an associate dressed in shorts and flip-flops. Urquhart told the blog that practically anything goes. T-shirts and jeans are particularly popular, he said, including jeans with “raggedy edges” worn by men despite their wives’ disapproval.

"We take casual dress to a whole new level," Urquhart said. "The only dress code we have is that you have to have something between your feet and the carpet—and that's because our insurance company requires it."

The firm believes casual dress encourages creativity and helps eliminate the "trappings of power" that can intimidate associates, Urquhart said.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Thank you, Al Gore, for speaking the "inconvenient truth"

I was proud to testify before Al Gore (then a Congressman) on July 11, 1983 on Oak Ridge mercury pollution in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, calling for criminal prosecution of Union Carbide and Department of Energy for their environmental crimes.

I was prouder still to read Al Gore’s article (below) about Global Warming.

Right on!

Rolling Stone: Al Gore's Excellent Article, "Climate of Denial"

Climate of Denial

Can science and the truth withstand the merchants of poison?

Illustration by Matt Mahurin

The first time I remember hearing the question "is it real?" was when I went as a young boy to see a traveling show put on by "professional wrestlers" one summer evening in the gym of the Forks River Elementary School in Elmwood, Tennessee.

The evidence that it was real was palpable: "They're really hurting each other! That's real blood! Look a'there! They can't fake that!" On the other hand, there was clearly a script (or in today's language, a "narrative"), with good guys to cheer and bad guys to boo.

But the most unusual and in some ways most interesting character in these dramas was the referee: Whenever the bad guy committed a gross and obvious violation of the "rules" — such as they were — like using a metal folding chair to smack the good guy in the head, the referee always seemed to be preoccupied with one of the cornermen, or looking the other way. Yet whenever the good guy — after absorbing more abuse and unfairness than any reasonable person could tolerate — committed the slightest infraction, the referee was all over him. The answer to the question "Is it real?" seemed connected to the question of whether the referee was somehow confused about his role: Was he too an entertainer?

Photo Gallery: 11 extreme-weather signs the climate crisis is real

That is pretty much the role now being played by most of the news media in refereeing the current wrestling match over whether global warming is "real," and whether it has any connection to the constant dumping of 90 million tons of heat-trapping emissions into the Earth's thin shell of atmosphere every 24 hours.

This article appears in the July 7, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available on newsstands and in the digital archive on June 24.

Admittedly, the contest over global warming is a challenge for the referee because it's a tag-team match, a real free-for-all. In one corner of the ring are Science and Reason. In the other corner: Poisonous Polluters and Right-wing Ideologues.

How Obama gave up on climate change legislation

The referee — in this analogy, the news media — seems confused about whether he is in the news business or the entertainment business. Is he responsible for ensuring a fair match? Or is he part of the show, selling tickets and building the audience? The referee certainly seems distracted: by Donald Trump, Charlie Sheen, the latest reality show — the list of serial obsessions is too long to enumerate here.

Photo Gallery: 12 politicians and executives blocking progress on climate change

But whatever the cause, the referee appears not to notice that the Polluters and Ideologues are trampling all over the "rules" of democratic discourse. They are financing pseudoscientists whose job is to manufacture doubt about what is true and what is false; buying elected officials wholesale with bribes that the politicians themselves have made "legal" and can now be made in secret; spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on misleading advertisements in the mass media; hiring four anti-climate lobbyists for every member of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. (Question: Would Michael Jordan have been a star if he was covered by four defensive players every step he took on the basketball court?)

How oil and gas companies have blocked progress on global warming

This script, of course, is not entirely new: A half-century ago, when Science and Reason established the linkage between cigarettes and lung diseases, the tobacco industry hired actors, dressed them up as doctors, and paid them to look into television cameras and tell people that the linkage revealed in the Surgeon General's Report was not real at all. The show went on for decades, with more Americans killed each year by cigarettes than all of the U.S. soldiers killed in all of World War II.

This time, the scientific consensus is even stronger. It has been endorsed by every National Academy of science of every major country on the planet, every major professional scientific society related to the study of global warming and 98 percent of climate scientists throughout the world. In the latest and most authoritative study by 3,000 of the very best scientific experts in the world, the evidence was judged "unequivocal."

But wait! The good guys transgressed the rules of decorum, as evidenced in their private e-mails that were stolen and put on the Internet. The referee is all over it: Penalty! Go to your corner! And in their 3,000-page report, the scientists made some mistakes! Another penalty!

And if more of the audience is left confused about whether the climate crisis is real? Well, the show must go on. After all, it's entertainment. There are tickets to be sold, eyeballs to glue to the screen.

Part of the script for this show was leaked to The New York Times as early as 1991. In an internal document, a consortium of the largest global-warming polluters spelled out their principal strategy: "Reposition global warming as theory, rather than fact." Ever since, they have been sowing doubt even more effectively than the tobacco companies before them.

To sell their false narrative, the Polluters and Ideologues have found it essential to undermine the public's respect for Science and Reason by attacking the integrity of the climate scientists. That is why the scientists are regularly accused of falsifying evidence and exaggerating its implications in a greedy effort to win more research grants, or secretly pursuing a hidden political agenda to expand the power of government. Such slanderous insults are deeply ironic: extremist ideologues — many financed or employed by carbon polluters — accusing scientists of being greedy extremist ideologues.

After World War II, a philosopher studying the impact of organized propaganda on the quality of democratic debate wrote, "The conversion of all questions of truth into questions of power has attacked the very heart of the distinction between true and false."

Is the climate crisis real? Yes, of course it is. Pause for a moment to consider these events of just the past 12 months:

Heat. According to NASA, 2010 was tied with 2005 as the hottest year measured since instruments were first used systematically in the 1880s. Nineteen countries set all-time high temperature records. One city in Pakistan, Mohenjo-Daro, reached 128.3 degrees Fahrenheit, the hottest temperature ever measured in an Asian city. Nine of the 10 hottest years in history have occurred in the last 13 years. The past decade was the hottest ever measured, even though half of that decade represented a "solar minimum" — the low ebb in the natural cycle of solar energy emanating from the sun.

Floods. Megafloods displaced 20 million people in Pakistan, further destabilizing a nuclear-armed country; inundated an area of Australia larger than Germany and France combined; flooded 28 of the 32 districts that make up Colombia, where it has rained almost continuously for the past year; caused a "thousand-year" flood in my home city of Nashville; and led to all-time record flood levels in the Mississippi River Valley. Many places around the world are now experiencing larger and more frequent extreme downpours and snowstorms; last year's "Snowmaggedon" in the northeastern United States is part of the same pattern, notwithstanding the guffaws of deniers.

Drought. Historic drought and fires in Russia killed an estimated 56,000 people and caused wheat and other food crops in Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan to be removed from the global market, contributing to a record spike in food prices. "Practically everything is burning," Russian president Dmitry Medvedev declared. "What's happening with the planet's climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us." The drought level in much of Texas has been raised from "extreme" to "exceptional," the highest category. This spring the majority of the counties in Texas were on fire, and Gov. Rick Perry requested a major disaster declaration for all but two of the state's 254 counties. Arizona is now fighting the largest fire in its history. Since 1970, the fire season throughout the American West has increased by 78 days. Extreme droughts in central China and northern France are currently drying up reservoirs and killing crops.

Melting Ice. An enormous mass of ice, four times larger than the island of Manhattan, broke off from northern Greenland last year and slipped into the sea. The acceleration of ice loss in both Greenland and Antarctica has caused another upward revision of global sea-level rise and the numbers of refugees expected from low-lying coastal areas. The Arctic ice cap, which reached a record low volume last year, has lost as much as 40 percent of its area during summer in just 30 years.

These extreme events are happening in real time. It is not uncommon for the nightly newscast to resemble a nature hike through the Book of Revelation. Yet most of the news media completely ignore how such events are connected to the climate crisis, or dismiss the connection as controversial; after all, there are scientists on one side of the debate and deniers on the other. A Fox News executive, in an internal e-mail to the network's reporters and editors that later became public, questioned the "veracity of climate change data" and ordered the journalists to "refrain from asserting that the planet has warmed (or cooled) in any given period without IMMEDIATELY pointing out that such theories are based upon data that critics have called into question."

But in the "real" world, the record droughts, fires, floods and mudslides continue to increase in severity and frequency. Leading climate scientists like Jim Hansen and Kevin Trenberth now say that events like these would almost certainly not be occurring without the influence of man-made global warming. And that's a shift in the way they frame these impacts. Scientists used to caution that we were increasing the probability of such extreme events by "loading the dice" — pumping more carbon into the atmosphere. Now the scientists go much further, warning that we are "painting more dots on the dice." We are not only more likely to roll 12s; we are now rolling 13s and 14s. In other words, the biggest storms are not only becoming more frequent, they are getting bigger, stronger and more destructive.

"The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change," Munich Re, one of the two largest reinsurance companies in the world, recently stated. "The view that weather extremes are more frequent and intense due to global warming coincides with the current state of scientific knowledge."

Many of the extreme and destructive events are the result of the rapid increase in the amount of heat energy from the sun that is trapped in the atmosphere, which is radically disrupting the planet's water cycle. More heat energy evaporates more water into the air, and the warmer air holds a lot more moisture. This has huge consequences that we now see all around the world.

When a storm unleashes a downpour of rain or snow, the precipitation does not originate just in the part of the sky directly above where it falls. Storms reach out — sometimes as far as 2,000 miles — to suck in water vapor from large areas of the sky, including the skies above oceans, where water vapor has increased by four percent in just the last 30 years. (Scientists often compare this phenomenon to what happens in a bathtub when you open the drain; the water rushing out comes from the whole tub, not just from the part of the tub directly above the drain. And when the tub is filled with more water, more goes down the drain. In the same way, when the warmer sky is filled with a lot more water vapor, there are bigger downpours when a storm cell opens the "drain.")

In many areas, these bigger downpours also mean longer periods between storms — at the same time that the extra heat in the air is also drying out the soil. That is part of the reason so many areas have been experiencing both record floods and deeper, longer-lasting droughts.

Moreover, the scientists have been warning us for quite some time — in increasingly urgent tones — that things will get much, much worse if we continue the reckless dumping of more and more heat-trapping pollution into the atmosphere. Drought is projected to spread across significant, highly populated areas of the globe throughout this century. Look at what the scientists say is in store for the Mediterranean nations. Should we care about the loss of Spain, France, Italy, the Balkans, Turkey, Tunisia? Look at what they say is in store for Mexico. Should we notice? Should we care?

Maybe it's just easier, psychologically, to swallow the lie that these scientists who devote their lives to their work are actually greedy deceivers and left-wing extremists — and that we should instead put our faith in the pseudoscientists financed by large carbon polluters whose business plans depend on their continued use of the atmospheric commons as a place to dump their gaseous, heat-trapping waste without limit or constraint, free of charge.

The truth is this: What we are doing is functionally insane. If we do not change this pattern, we will condemn our children and all future generations to struggle with ecological curses for several millennia to come. Twenty percent of the global-warming pollution we spew into the sky each day will still be there 20,000 years from now!

We do have another choice. Renewable energy sources are coming into their own. Both solar and wind will soon produce power at costs that are competitive with fossil fuels; indications are that twice as many solar installations were erected worldwide last year as compared to 2009. The reductions in cost and the improvements in efficiency of photovoltaic cells over the past decade appear to be following an exponential curve that resembles a less dramatic but still startling version of what happened with computer chips over the past 50 years.

Enhanced geothermal energy is potentially a nearly limitless source of competitive electricity. Increased energy efficiency is already saving businesses money and reducing emissions significantly. New generations of biomass energy — ones that do not rely on food crops, unlike the mistaken strategy of making ethanol from corn — are extremely promising. Sustainable forestry and agriculture both make economic as well as environmental sense. And all of these options would spread even more rapidly if we stopped subsidizing Big Oil and Coal and put a price on carbon that reflected the true cost of fossil energy — either through the much-maligned cap-and-trade approach, or through a revenue-neutral tax swap.

All over the world, the grassroots movement in favor of changing public policies to confront the climate crisis and build a more prosperous, sustainable future is growing rapidly. But most governments remain paralyzed, unable to take action — even after years of volatile gasoline prices, repeated wars in the Persian Gulf, one energy-related disaster after another, and a seemingly endless stream of unprecedented and lethal weather disasters.

Continuing on our current course would be suicidal for global civilization. But the key question is: How do we drive home that fact in a democratic society when questions of truth have been converted into questions of power? When the distinction between what is true and what is false is being attacked relentlessly, and when the referee in the contest between truth and falsehood has become an entertainer selling tickets to a phony wrestling match?

The "wrestling ring" in this metaphor is the conversation of democracy. It used to be called the "public square." In ancient Athens, it was the Agora. In the Roman Republic, it was the Forum. In the Egypt of the recent Arab Spring, "Tahrir Square" was both real and metaphorical — encompassing Facebook, Twitter, Al-Jazeera and texting.

In the America of the late-18th century, the conversation that led to our own "Spring" took place in printed words: pamphlets, newsprint, books, the "Republic of Letters." It represented the fullest flower of the Enlightenment, during which the oligarchic power of the monarchies, the feudal lords and the Medieval Church was overthrown and replaced with a new sovereign: the Rule of Reason.

The public square that gave birth to the new consciousness of the Enlightenment emerged in the dozen generations following he invention of the printing press — "the Gutenberg Galaxy," the scholar Marshall McLuhan called it — a space in which the conversation of democracy was almost equally accessible to every literate person. Individuals could both find the knowledge that had previously been restricted to elites and contribute their own ideas.

Ideas that found resonance with others rose in prominence much the way Google searches do today, finding an ever larger audience and becoming a source of political power for individuals with neither wealth nor force of arms. Thomas Paine, to take one example, emigrated from England to Philadelphia with no wealth, no family connections and no power other than that which came from his ability to think and write clearly — yet his Common Sense became the Harry Potter of Revolutionary America. The "public interest" mattered, was actively discussed and pursued.

But the "public square" that gave birth to America has been transformed beyond all recognition. The conversation that matters most to the shaping of the "public mind" now takes place on television. Newspapers and magazines are in decline. The Internet, still in its early days, will one day support business models that make true journalism profitable — but up until now, the only successful news websites aggregate content from struggling print publications. Web versions of the newspapers themselves are, with few exceptions, not yet making money. They bring to mind the classic image of Wile E. Coyote running furiously in midair just beyond the edge of the cliff, before plummeting to the desert floor far beneath him.

The average American, meanwhile, is watching television an astonishing five hours a day. In the average household, at least one television set is turned on more than eight hours a day. Moreover, approximately 75 percent of those using the Internet frequently watch television at the same time that they are online.

Unlike access to the "public square" of early America, access to television requires large amounts of money. Thomas Paine could walk out of his front door in Philadelphia and find a dozen competing, low-cost print shops within blocks of his home. Today, if he traveled to the nearest TV station, or to the headquarters of nearby Comcast — the dominant television provider in America — and tried to deliver his new ideas to the American people, he would be laughed off the premises. The public square that used to be a commons has been refeudalized, and the gatekeepers charge large rents for the privilege of communicating to the American people over the only medium that really affects their thinking. "Citizens" are now referred to more commonly as "consumers" or "the audience."

That is why up to 80 percent of the campaign budgets for candidates in both major political parties is devoted to the purchase of 30-second TV ads. Since the rates charged for these commercials increase each year, the candidates are forced to raise more and more money in each two-year campaign cycle.

Of course, the only reliable sources from which such large sums can be raised continuously are business lobbies. Organized labor, a shadow of its former self, struggles to compete, and individuals are limited by law to making small contributions. During the 2008 campaign, there was a bubble of hope that Internet-based fundraising might even the scales, but in the end, Democrats as well as Republicans relied far more on traditional sources of large contributions. Moreover, the recent deregulation of unlimited — and secret — donations by wealthy corporations has made the imbalance even worse.

In the new ecology of political discourse, special-interest contributors of the large sums of money now required for the privilege of addressing voters on a wholesale basis are not squeamish about asking for the quo they expect in return for their quid. Politicians who don't acquiesce don't get the money they need to be elected and re-elected. And the impact is doubled when special interests make clear — usually bluntly — that the money they are withholding will go instead to opponents who are more than happy to pledge the desired quo. Politicians have been racing to the bottom for some time, and are presently tunneling to new depths. It is now commonplace for congressmen and senators first elected decades ago — as I was — to comment in private that the whole process has become unbelievably crass, degrading and horribly destructive to the core values of American democracy.

Largely as a result, the concerns of the wealthiest individuals and corporations routinely trump the concerns of average Americans and small businesses. There are a ridiculously large number of examples: eliminating the inheritance tax paid by the wealthiest one percent of families is considered a much higher priority than addressing the suffering of the millions of long-term unemployed; Wall Street's interest in legalizing gambling in trillions of dollars of "derivatives" was considered way more important than protecting the integrity of the financial system and the interests of middle-income home buyers. It's a long list.

Almost every group organized to promote and protect the "public interest" has been backpedaling and on the defensive. By sharp contrast, when a coalition of powerful special interests sets out to manipulate U.S. policy, their impact can be startling — and the damage to the true national interest can be devastating.

In 2002, for example, the feverish desire to invade Iraq required convincing the American people that Saddam Hussein was somehow responsible for attacking the United States on September 11th, 2001, and that he was preparing to attack us again, perhaps with nuclear weapons. When the evidence — the "facts" — stood in the way of that effort to shape the public mind, they were ridiculed, maligned and ignored. Behind the scenes, the intelligence was manipulated and the public was intentionally deceived. Allies were pressured to adopt the same approach with their publics. A recent inquiry in the U.K. confirmed this yet again. "We knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war, rather than setting out the available intelligence," Maj. Gen. Michael Laurie testified. "To make the best out of sparse and inconclusive intelligence, the wording was developed with care." Why? As British intelligence put it, the overthrow of Saddam was "a prize because it could give new security to oil supplies."

That goal — the real goal — could have been debated on its own terms. But as Bush administration officials have acknowledged, a truly candid presentation would not have resulted in sufficient public support for the launching of a new war. They knew that because they had studied it and polled it. So they manipulated the debate, downplayed the real motive for the invasion, and made a different case to the public — one based on falsehoods.

And the "referee" — the news media — looked the other way. Some, like Fox News, were hyperactive cheerleaders. Others were intimidated into going along by the vitriol heaped on any who asked inconvenient questions. (They know it; many now acknowledge it, sheepishly and apologetically.)

Senators themselves fell, with a few honorable exceptions, into the same two camps. A few weeks before the United States invaded Iraq, the late Robert Byrd — God rest his soul — thundered on the Senate floor about the pitiful quality of the debate over the choice between war and peace: "Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent — ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing."

The chamber was silent, in part, because many senators were somewhere else — attending cocktail parties and receptions, largely with special-interest donors, raising money to buy TV ads for their next campaigns. Nowadays, in fact, the scheduling of many special-interest fundraisers mirrors the schedule of votes pending in the House and Senate.

By the time we invaded Iraq, polls showed, nearly three-quarters of the American people were convinced that the person responsible for the planes flying into the World Trade Center Towers was indeed Saddam Hussein. The rest is history — though, as Faulkner wrote, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." Because of that distortion of the truth in the past, we are still in Iraq; and because the bulk of our troops and intelligence assets were abruptly diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq, we are also still in Afghanistan.

In the same way, because the banks had their way with Congress when it came to gambling on unregulated derivatives and recklessly endangering credit markets with subprime mortgages, we still have almost double-digit unemployment, historic deficits, Greece and possibly other European countries teetering on the edge of default, and the threat of a double-dip recession. Even the potential default of the United States of America is now being treated by many politicians and too many in the media as yet another phony wrestling match, a political game. Are the potential economic consequences of a U.S. default "real"? Of course they are! Have we gone completely nuts?

We haven't gone nuts — but the "conversation of democracy" has become so deeply dysfunctional that our ability to make intelligent collective decisions has been seriously impaired. Throughout American history, we relied on the vibrancy of our public square — and the quality of our democratic discourse — to make better decisions than most nations in the history of the world. But we are now routinely making really bad decisions that completely ignore the best available evidence of what is true and what is false. When the distinction between truth and falsehood is systematically attacked without shame or consequence — when a great nation makes crucially important decisions on the basis of completely false information that is no longer adequately filtered through the fact-checking function of a healthy and honest public discussion — the public interest is severely damaged.

That is exactly what is happening with U.S. decisions regarding the climate crisis. The best available evidence demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that the reckless spewing of global-warming pollution in obscene quantities into the atmospheric commons is having exactly the consequences long predicted by scientists who have analyzed the known facts according to the laws of physics.

The emergence of the climate crisis seems sudden only because of a relatively recent discontinuity in the relationship between human civilization and the planet's ecological system. In the past century, we have quadrupled global population while relying on the burning of carbon-based fuels — coal, oil and gas — for 85 percent of the world's energy. We are also cutting and burning forests that would otherwise help remove some of the added CO2 from the atmosphere, and have converted agriculture to an industrial model that also runs on carbon-based fuels and strip-mines carbon-rich soils.

The cumulative result is a radically new reality — and since human nature makes us vulnerable to confusing the unprecedented with the improbable, it naturally seems difficult to accept. Moreover, since this new reality is painful to contemplate, and requires big changes in policy and behavior that are at the outer limit of our ability, it is all too easy to fall into the psychological state of denial. As with financial issues like subprime mortgages and credit default swaps, the climate crisis can seem too complex to worry about, especially when the shills for the polluters constantly claim it's all a hoax anyway. And since the early impacts of climatic disruption are distributed globally, they masquerade as an abstraction that is safe to ignore.

These vulnerabilities, rooted in our human nature, are being manipulated by the tag-team of Polluters and Ideologues who are trying to deceive us. And the referee — the news media — is once again distracted. As with the invasion of Iraq, some are hyperactive cheerleaders for the deception, while others are intimidated into complicity, timidity and silence by the astonishing vitriol heaped upon those who dare to present the best evidence in a professional manner. Just as TV networks who beat the drums of war prior to the Iraq invasion were rewarded with higher ratings, networks now seem reluctant to present the truth about the link between carbon pollution and global warming out of fear that conservative viewers will change the channel — and fear that they will receive a torrent of flame e-mails from deniers.

Many politicians, unfortunately, also fall into the same two categories: those who cheerlead for the deniers and those who cower before them. The latter group now includes several candidates for the Republican presidential nomination who have felt it necessary to abandon their previous support for action on the climate crisis; at least one has been apologizing profusely to the deniers and begging for their forgiveness.

"Intimidation" and "timidity" are connected by more than a shared word root. The first is designed to produce the second. As Yeats wrote almost a century ago, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

Barack Obama's approach to the climate crisis represents a special case that requires careful analysis. His election was accompanied by intense hope that many things in need of change would change. Some things have, but others have not. Climate policy, unfortunately, is in the second category. Why?

First of all, anyone who honestly examines the incredible challenges confronting President Obama when he took office has to feel enormous empathy for him: the Great Recession, with the high unemployment and the enormous public and private indebtedness it produced; two seemingly interminable wars; an intractable political opposition whose true leaders — entertainers masquerading as pundits — openly declared that their objective was to ensure that the new president failed; a badly broken Senate that is almost completely paralyzed by the threat of filibuster and is controlled lock, stock and barrel by the oil and coal industries; a contingent of nominal supporters in Congress who are indentured servants of the same special interests that control most of the Republican Party; and a ferocious, well-financed and dishonest campaign poised to vilify anyone who dares offer leadership for the reduction of global-warming pollution.

In spite of these obstacles, President Obama included significant climate-friendly initiatives in the economic stimulus package he presented to Congress during his first month in office. With the skillful leadership of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and committee chairmen Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, he helped secure passage of a cap-and-trade measure in the House a few months later. He implemented historic improvements in fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles, and instructed the Environmental Protection Agency to move forward on the regulation of global-warming pollution under the Clean Air Act. He appointed many excellent men and women to key positions, and they, in turn, have made hundreds of changes in environmental and energy policy that have helped move the country forward slightly on the climate issue. During his first six months, he clearly articulated the link between environmental security, economic security and national security — making the case that a national commitment to renewable energy could simultaneously reduce unemployment, dependence on foreign oil and vulnerability to the disruption of oil markets dominated by the Persian Gulf reserves. And more recently, as the issue of long-term debt has forced discussion of new revenue, he proposed the elimination of unnecessary and expensive subsidies for oil and gas.

But in spite of these and other achievements, President Obama has thus far failed to use the bully pulpit to make the case for bold action on climate change. After successfully passing his green stimulus package, he did nothing to defend it when Congress decimated its funding. After the House passed cap and trade, he did little to make passage in the Senate a priority. Senate advocates — including one Republican — felt abandoned when the president made concessions to oil and coal companies without asking for anything in return. He has also called for a massive expansion of oil drilling in the United States, apparently in an effort to defuse criticism from those who argue speciously that "drill, baby, drill" is the answer to our growing dependence on foreign oil.

The failure to pass legislation to limit global-warming pollution ensured that the much-anticipated Copenhagen summit on a global treaty in 2009 would also end in failure. The president showed courage in attending the summit and securing a rhetorical agreement to prevent a complete collapse of the international process, but that's all it was — a rhetorical agreement. During the final years of the Bush-Cheney administration, the rest of the world was waiting for a new president who would aggressively tackle the climate crisis — and when it became clear that there would be no real change from the Bush era, the agenda at Copenhagen changed from "How do we complete this historic breakthrough?" to "How can we paper over this embarrassing disappointment?"

Some concluded from the failure in Copenhagen that it was time to give up on the entire U.N.-sponsored process for seeking an international agreement to reduce both global-warming pollution and deforestation. Ultimately, however, the only way to address the climate crisis will be with a global agreement that in one way or another puts a price on carbon. And whatever approach is eventually chosen, the U.S. simply must provide leadership by changing our own policy.

Yet without presidential leadership that focuses intensely on making the public aware of the reality we face, nothing will change. The real power of any president, as Richard Neustadt wrote, is "the power to persuade." Yet President Obama has never presented to the American people the magnitude of the climate crisis. He has simply not made the case for action. He has not defended the science against the ongoing, withering and dishonest attacks. Nor has he provided a presidential venue for the scientific community — including our own National Academy — to bring the reality of the science before the public.

Here is the core of it: we are destroying the climate balance that is essential to the survival of our civilization. This is not a distant or abstract threat; it is happening now. The United States is the only nation that can rally a global effort to save our future. And the president is the only person who can rally the United States.

Many political advisers assume that a president has to deal with the world of politics as he finds it, and that it is unwise to risk political capital on an effort to actually lead the country toward a new understanding of the real threats and real opportunities we face. Concentrate on the politics of re-election, they say. Don't take chances.

All that might be completely understandable and make perfect sense in a world where the climate crisis wasn't "real." Those of us who support and admire President Obama understand how difficult the politics of this issue are in the context of the massive opposition to doing anything at all — or even to recognizing that there is a crisis. And assuming that the Republicans come to their senses and avoid nominating a clown, his re-election is likely to involve a hard-fought battle with high stakes for the country. All of his supporters understand that it would be self-defeating to weaken Obama and heighten the risk of another step backward. Even writing an article like this one carries risks; opponents of the president will excerpt the criticism and strip it of context.

But in this case, the President has reality on his side. The scientific consensus is far stronger today than at any time in the past. Here is the truth: The Earth is round; Saddam Hussein did not attack us on 9/11; Elvis is dead; Obama was born in the United States; and the climate crisis is real. It is time to act.

Those who profit from the unconstrained pollution that is the primary cause of climate change are determined to block our perception of this reality. They have help from many sides: from the private sector, which is now free to make unlimited and secret campaign contributions; from politicians who have conflated their tenures in office with the pursuit of the people's best interests; and — tragically — from the press itself, which treats deception and falsehood on the same plane as scientific fact, and calls it objective reporting of alternative opinions.

All things are not equally true. It is time to face reality. We ignored reality in the marketplace and nearly destroyed the world economic system. We are likewise ignoring reality in the environment, and the consequences could be several orders of magnitude worse. Determining what is real can be a challenge in our culture, but in order to make wise choices in the presence of such grave risks, we must use common sense and the rule of reason in coming to an agreement on what is true.

So how can we make it happen? How can we as individuals make a difference? In five basic ways:

First, become a committed advocate for solving the crisis. You can start with something simple: Speak up whenever the subject of climate arises. When a friend or acquaintance expresses doubt that the crisis is real, or that it's some sort of hoax, don't let the opportunity pass to put down your personal marker. The civil rights revolution may have been driven by activists who put their lives on the line, but it was partly won by average Americans who began to challenge racist comments in everyday conversations.

Second, deepen your commitment by making consumer choices that reduce energy use and reduce your impact on the environment. The demand by individuals for change in the marketplace has already led many businesses to take truly significant steps to reduce their global-warming pollution. Some of the corporate changes are more symbolic than real — "green-washing," as it's called — but a surprising amount of real progress is taking place. Walmart, to pick one example, is moving aggressively to cut its carbon footprint by 20 million metric tons, in part by pressuring its suppliers to cut down on wasteful packaging and use lower-carbon transportation alternatives. Reward those companies that are providing leadership.

Third, join an organization committed to action on this issue. The Alliance for Climate Protection (, which I chair, has grassroots action plans for the summer and fall that spell out lots of ways to fight effectively for the policy changes we need. We can also enable you to host a slide show in your community on solutions to the climate crisis — presented by one of the 4,000 volunteers we have trained. Invite your friends and neighbors to come and then enlist them to join the cause.

Fourth, contact your local newspapers and television stations when they put out claptrap on climate — and let them know you're fed up with their stubborn and cowardly resistance to reporting the facts of this issue. One of the main reasons they are so wimpy and irresponsible about global warming is that they're frightened of the reaction they get from the deniers when they report the science objectively. So let them know that deniers are not the only ones in town with game. Stay on them! Don't let up! It's true that some media outlets are getting instructions from their owners on this issue, and that others are influenced by big advertisers, but many of them are surprisingly responsive to a genuine outpouring of opinion from their viewers and readers. It is way past time for the ref to do his job.

Finally, and above all, don't give up on the political system. Even though it is rigged by special interests, it is not so far gone that candidates and elected officials don't have to pay attention to persistent, engaged and committed individuals. President Franklin Roosevelt once told civil rights leaders who were pressing him for change that he agreed with them about the need for greater equality for black Americans. Then, as the story goes, he added with a wry smile, "Now go out and make me do it."

To make our elected leaders take action to solve the climate crisis, we must forcefully communicate the following message: "I care a lot about global warming; I am paying very careful attention to the way you vote and what you say about it; if you are on the wrong side, I am not only going to vote against you, I will work hard to defeat you — regardless of party. If you are on the right side, I will work hard to elect you."

Why do you think President Obama and Congress changed their game on "don't ask, don't tell?" It happened because enough Americans delivered exactly that tough message to candidates who wanted their votes. When enough people care passionately enough to drive that message home on the climate crisis, politicians will look at their hole cards, and enough of them will change their game to make all the difference we need.

This is not naive; trust me on this. It may take more individual voters to beat the Polluters and Ideologues now than it once did — when special-interest money was less dominant. But when enough people speak this way to candidates, and convince them that they are dead serious about it, change will happen — both in Congress and in the White House. As the great abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass once observed, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will."

What is now at risk in the climate debate is nothing less than our ability to communicate with one another according to a protocol that binds all participants to seek reason and evaluate facts honestly. The ability to perceive reality is a prerequisite for self-governance. Wishful thinking and denial lead to dead ends. When it works, the democratic process helps clear the way toward reality, by exposing false argumentation to the best available evidence. That is why the Constitution affords such unique protection to freedom of the press and of speech.

The climate crisis, in reality, is a struggle for the soul of America. It is about whether or not we are still capable — given the ill health of our democracy and the current dominance of wealth over reason — of perceiving important and complex realities clearly enough to promote and protect the sustainable well-being of the many. What hangs in the balance is the future of civilization as we know it.

USDOJ Press Release: Deputy Sheriff Pleads Guilty to Violating Civil Rights of Women Victims of Domestic Violence

Former Hickman County, Tennessee Deputy Sheriff Pleads Guilty to Civil Rights Charges

U.S. Department of Justice June 21, 2011
  • Office of Public Affairs (202) 514-2007/TDD (202) 514-1888

WASHINGTON—The Justice Department announced that former Hickman County Deputy Sheriff Kenneth H. Smith, 43, pleaded guilty today to violating the rights of two women by photographing parts of their unclothed bodies under the false pretense that those photographs were necessary for an official investigation. Smith also pleaded guilty to making material false statements to federal investigators. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 7, 2011, before Chief U.S. District Judge Todd J. Campbell.

“Our law enforcement officers are tasked with protecting and serving our communities, and those who use their power to take advantage of vulnerable individuals will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.

While working as a deputy sheriff, Smith was assigned to investigate two domestic violence complaints. During his investigatory interviews, Smith told the victims that he needed to take photographs of their exposed bodies to document injuries, including intimate areas of their bodies where no injury had occurred. Smith, abusing his power and position, lied to the victims and claimed these photographs were necessary for the police investigation and prosecution, when in fact the photos were not for legitimate law enforcement purposes, but for himself . The victims, trusting a law enforcement officer to protect them, acquiesced to Smith’s authority.

Smith also lied to FBI agents about sending text messages to a former female inmate in which he requested the former inmate send him nude pictures of herself, in return for Smith’s help in dismissing or reducing the outstanding criminal charges against her. When Smith was confronted with photographs of the explicit text messages coming from his personal cell phone number, Smith continued to lie to FBI agents that he had not sent them.

The case has been investigated by investigators with the FBI and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal McDonough and Civil Rights Division Trial Attorney Saeed Mody.


Civil Rights Division

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

St. Augustine Record Investigation Raises Gnarly Issues About Whether Our State Senator, JOHN THRASHER, Lives In Our Districtt

Where Thrasher lives questioned

Where Thrasher lives questionedCreated 06/19/2011 - 12:00am

It's clear that state Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, meets the legal residency requirements for living in his district.

But there's ample evidence that Thrasher's primary residence is his 5,701-square-foot Fleming Island home with a private dock and pool. Fleming Island is in Clay County, across the St. Johns River from Fruit Cove and miles from his district.

State law is vague on what constitutes residency for state legislators, with the principal requirement being the legislator's intent to make an address his home. Thrasher's 1,527-square-foot St. Augustine Beach condo has a homestead exemption. He has stated that it is his primary residence and most of his legal documents list the condo as his residence.

Yet the signs are that Thrasher's main home is in Clay County.

A newspaper is delivered there daily. The residence rings up water bills ranging from a low of $86 in March to a high of $450 in September. Thrasher gets the water bill at his Clay County home as well as the property tax bill for another house he owns in Clay County, even though his legal residence is in St. Johns County.

Thrasher has deep roots in Clay County. He started his political career on the School Board there and was a state representative for that district for many years, rising to be speaker of the House.

Thrasher acknowledged last week that he doesn't spend most of his time in his St. Augustine condo.

"I have five homes," Thrasher said. "St. Augustine is our primary residence. When we can spend time there, we're there."

He said he "doesn't keep track" of how much time he sleeps in the district, but "I spend as much as I can spend there, when I'm not in Tallahassee."

"I was in Tallahassee for 4 1¿/2 months," Thrasher said. "I have two daughters that live in Orlando with my two grandchildren, and we spend a fair amount of time there. I go to (all five) houses a lot."

These five homes are in Sky Valley, Ga., where Thrasher was when interviewed last week, a home in Orlando, one in Tallahassee, the St. Augustine condo and the Fleming Island home. He also has a second property in Clay County.

Do voters mind?

A local political expert said the question of residency doesn't seem to matter much to voters.

Matthew Corrigan, University of North Florida chair of the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, said the residents of Thrasher's district who elected him twice -- once during a special election after state Sen. Jim King's death and again in the 2010 general election -- may not care whether he actually lives in the district. His district, the Eighth Senatorial District, runs along the coast from Nassau County, through Duval, St. Johns, Flagler and Volusia counties. It does not include Clay County.

"I believe he did live in Clay County before and it didn't seem to bother the voters," Corrigan said. "The voters have elected him twice, so it doesn't seem to be a huge issue there."

That raises the question: How should you define residency when the law is so vague about what constitutes it?

Penny Halyburton, St. Johns County supervisor of elections, said that the definition of residency "is something that we struggle with all the time.

"It's a very hard thing to find," Halyburton said. "It's basically just intent, where a person says they're living."

She said that some criteria include where a person has his homestead exemption and what address is listed on his driver's license and his income tax returns.

Residency not defined

Chris Cate, spokesman for the state supervisor of elections office, said residency isn't defined in state statute.

Drawing from a Florida Supreme Court decision, the state office opined that, "Legal residence is ... determined by looking to where a person intends to make a home permanent and to whether factual evidence exists to corroborate that intent."

Cate said the office issued an opinion on the matter, stating, "This office and Florida courts have consistently construed legal residence to mean a permanent residence, domicile, or permanent abode, rather than a residence that is temporary."

Again, "temporary" and "permanent" aren't defined.

Does the fact that Thrasher still owns a home in Clay County and seems to spend a lot of time there mean that the St. Augustine residence is temporary?

No, Thrasher said.

"I'm not going to abandon a house worth well over $1 million and just not go there," Thrasher said. "Like our good friend (late state Sen.) Jim King. He had a house in Welaka and spent almost the whole summer there. A lot of (state senate) members have multiple homes. I'm glad that I can do that."

Thrasher said the Fleming Island home is not currently on the market, but that's because he said his Realtor advised him to take it off the market after it spent two-and-a-half years for sale.

"We're getting ready to" put it back on, he said.

Permanent vs. temporary

Thrasher said his St. Augustine condo is his permanent residence rather than temporary.

"That's where my homestead is. That's where I vote. It's my primary residence," he said. "I lost a lot of money (in property tax bills) when I transferred my homestead."

The Clay County Property Appraiser's Office calculator shows he would save about $600 there this year with a homestead exemption, about the same amount he will save with the St. Johns County homestead exemption, according to St. Johns County Property Appraiser estimates.

"In fact, after I was elected, we sold the condo we had in Ocean Gallery and bought a bigger condo (in Ocean Gallery) last year, so we could be more comfortable and have our kids come and spend time with us, which they'll be doing in July," Thrasher said.

Ocean Gallery is a condo complex on Anastasia Island.

Corrigan, the political science chair, said the legal intent is that "to be a representative from a geographic area, you should live in the geographic area.

"Obviously, to be a representative, you want to know your area," Corrigan said. "If you live there more on a full-time basis you will know it better, and you will be a better representative."

Comments (55)

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This forum's members complained Loudly over the residence issue.
Guess it didn't matter Enough.



just so long as he continues to represent us ,, and this district in the manner the majority of us desire....and on the tough issues when we may be occasionally wrong,,, the minority,,, then that makes him a true representative of the people...personally his office and staff ,, have been of assistance getting through to some thick headed folks in certain un named agencies... some of these folks can and are deliberately obtuse,,, and it is not until their boss calls them to inquire why he/she has a state senators office,, busting his/her shoes,, over constituent xyz,, and their little issue,,, do they get moving !!! that is why they are there,, to assist us with bureaucrats,, and deliberate dumb fuggs....and with the exception of some in this forum,, it seems neither does anyone else ....>>>>>>>> we'll take the HAPPY DAD'S DAY AND PASS IT ALONG,, THANKS>>>>>>>yathink


All in the Bag...........

"I lost a lot of money (in property tax bills) when I transferred my homestead."<\em>

My, oh my carpet baggin' just ain't as cheap as it used to be. You would a career lobbyist and serial ethics violater could have worked out a better deal, then again, those pesky sunshine laws and all.

we sold the condo we had in Ocean Gallery and bought a bigger condo (in Ocean Gallery)

Forty years on Anastasia island, I have seen lobbyist Thrasher maybe a dozen times, but interestingly, it was always just his mugshot in the Wreckord. Ah...the ole homestead....

Elected twice........ sadly we get the government we deserve........
I hear he won big support with the golfing and lobbyist communities......The big government lobbyist who bagged the tea partiers. (Pun intended)


I do mind

"just so long as he continues to represent us ,, and this district in the manner the majority of us desire...."

Here's the problem: Just because Thrasher was elected does not mean all voted for him. (aside -- never have, never will) Yet his election means he is supposed to represent ALL of us. I do mind that he was elected for our district, yet the majority of his time is not here. How is he supposed to be aware of his constitents when he doesn't reside there? I guess it's more important to build golf courses in state parks than actually "dance with those who brought him."

Thrasher is just another typical politician -- liar.


Might as well say he is a

Might as well say he is a resident of Tallahassee since he lives there just less than half the year.


Of course it doesn't matter John

Why else would anyone think character counts any more? Thrasher is so smug to say "yeah I have 5 houses" so I suppose our thoughts should be; oh that poor guy! How EVER does he manage to pay all those property taxes and for heavens sake, how on EARTH does he keep up with the maintenance, utilities, mortgages etc. on so much land and assets? On the backs of the taxpayers that's how. He's just as guilty as the hundred other representatives and senators across this country who continue to surpass all expectations for income and capital gains while the majority of the constituency is struggling to put food on their table. He's a man who's genuinely IN TOUCH. Of course the muckity mucks and well-to-do who keep "appointing" these people to their lofty positions are in the same boat on the economic scale. Doctors, lawyers, fellow politicians etc.. who line the pockets of their pet politicians so they can continue to take advantage of preferential "attention" to issues which affect them directly. "WE the people" don't count and the readers here should be painfully aware of this fact by now. So why then, do we care where our politicians lay their weary heads at night? Gee I don't know, maybe because it's the LAW?!? How stupid do these clowns think we are? And shame on the supervisor of elections to say it's a "hard thing to find" BS! All you have to do is ask the right questions Penny. Intent? Really? Ok so we're back to (it depends on what your definition of IS is) perversion of the language and semantics. BUSINESS AS USUAL what a surprise. Aptly stated, "State law is vague on what constitutes residency". *AHEM* Dare I say it sounds a lot like Corrine Brown's not the only one to pry open loopholes with a stick of dynamite and stick it to us. You will find that the law is merely a "guide" like our "living, breathing" constitution that has been perverted, pillaged and cast aside to suit the whims of the ones wielding power. Lies lies and more lies. It's all smoke and mirrors in the fun house and we are the ones standing in line in the rain holding our tickets.


Now here's the good news...

He doesn't live in our neighborhood!

Actually, he lives in the deep pockets of corporate America anyway. And he represents them well.

As our constitution states;

We the corporations of the United States...


"I have five homes,"



Living somewhere else might

Living somewhere else might indicate that he doesn't understand what is going on in his district. Owning five homes means he DEFINITELY doesn't understand what is important to me and my struggling little family.



The negative posters here could care less where "our" representatives lived if they had a (D) after their names!

And what golf courses? A proposal, an idea, or a bill presented by a senator is a long way from from putting the ball into a hole.

As for the government "we get", well sometimes at least 50% of the people are happy. What is BO's approval rate now? And ME, put the H between the b and the o.

From the looks of things, ole BO may like to see more golf courses in Florida. He may consider retiring here in '12, where he could play golf everyday. Did you see where his golf handicap is 18, and Biden's is 6, now talk about politicians being untruthful.

We know everything about Weiner, do you think we will see the golf scores from the Golf Summit? I will bet than BO did not break a 100, if he played by the rules of golf (and I don't mean your dog ME).



"The negative posters here could care less where "our" representatives lived if they had a (D) after their names!"

I believe that the 'D' candidate opposing Thrasher had been a resident of the district for 20 years or more, so that argument sails off into the sunset, along with the rest of your unrelated rant.

Thrasher was suspected of not living in his 'primary residence' in his district during the campaign, yet it made no difference.


More Media Bias

The way the print and other left leaning media uses its power to destroy republicans is disgusting. Thasher is a legal resident of SA, so where is the story.



Ironic that a legislator who

Ironic that a legislator who successfully pushed through voter suppression laws this session has his residency questioned. Maybe additional requirements for registering to vote should include utility bills, video surveillance tapes of ones comings and goings from his gated community, and affidavits from neighbors who have observed the alleged resident on more than a few occasions monthly.


media bias claim

That's it, kill the messenger, ignore the issue.


He ran. He got elected. The

He ran. He got elected. The paper writes an inflammatory story that admits that someone they don't like has not broken any law, yet they want readers to speculate that he has. What a non-story. Yellow journalism at it's finest.


media bias, some messenger, some message

Wonder how this writer voted.....duhhhhh? Is this really news? A vague description of residency makes the front page. Or is it just an opportunity to hammer a republican, now that Weiner has been roasted. Some how I think he will be back once he has been "rehabilitated". I don't know how forgiving those NY dems are, but they are quite liberal.

And ME, maybe the dems should find some stronger takes more than just living in the district for 20 years.

I just keep wondering why so many of these disgruntled libs don't move into a dem controlled district, there are many in Florida. I do not believe it is for employment reasons, as bright as these libs seem to be, they could get a job anywhere, if they are still working.


poor Patek

Changing premises once you got called usual.

The media bias is in Thrasher's favor, that this article was not printed last September, before the election. The questions were certainly asked!


bblanche "Left leaning


"Left leaning liberal media" and the St Augustine Record in the breath! That's absurd! You're overdosed on Kool Aid .

"Every One Is Entitled To Their Own Opinion But Not Their Own Facts. Facts Withstand Scrutiny, Opinions Often Do Not"



Just wondering...

Thrasher probably couldn't even vote for himself from his current residence.

But then again, why would he want to?


Patek, How a reporter votes


How a reporter votes does not change the accuracy of the facts a reporter reports. Thrasher is just one of many politicians that have a phony residence set up in an attempt SATISFY THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE LAW. His actual residence was well known during the election, but republicans didn't care because Thrasher had an (R) after his name on the ballot.. What does a former NY Congressman have to do with Thrasher's actual residence? Answer -- NOTHING.

"Every One Is Entitled To Their Own Opinion But Not Their Own Facts. Facts Withstand Scrutiny, Opinions Often Do Not"



Any wagers on a formal response from Thrasher being published in The Record this week?

I'd say that its a sure bet, and that it was probably written before this article appeared today.


Break out the crosses & holy water! Quickly, before it spreads!

Did the spirit of investigative journalism somehow possess The Record's newsroom, and has the ownership contacted a priest to exorcise that foul demon? Or will that spirit's next act be to influence reporters and editors to write an article showing Career Lobbyist Thrasher has written and voted for bills that benefit companies he worked for in the past?

And patek, your passive/aggressive defense of this criminal is as pathetic as it is desperate. Even you know it.


I Wonder?

How many elected officials, D and R, live outside their districts? Miami-Dade, Tampa, Jax have such high murder and armed robbery rates... that any elected official must have to think about where they live?

I'm not saying that's the case for Thrasher, but lets be fair?


called out?

What difference does it make how many houses or how much property someone owns. It is all public record, available to anyone, particularly a special investigative reporter. Now if we could review all of Thrasher's tweets!

Is Thrasher a legal (district) resident or not? That is the question.

According to the information in the two articles, he is a legal resident. So what is the point of the story, and that is exactly what it is, a story. No news there! And someone called it investigative reporting, what a stretch. How difficult was it to discover the property records of Thrasher?

How 'bout is he legal or not citizen, Nigel?

There is a dem congressman in south Florida, who used his in-laws home as his legal residence, so he could own a more expensive home in the DC area? Heck, I think he got re-elected, so it must not bother the dems in south Florida, like it bothers the dems here in NE Florida.

Didn't someone say "elections have consequences", and people have opinions. 2012 will be here before you know it, providing the libs more reason to be disgruntled....can't wait.



I voted for Thrasher. I am ashamed to admit it but I did. I have been a republican voter since I was 18 and while I do cross party lines, it is rare. Until Bush's second term I was dyed in the wool and fervently behind the (R). Thrasher however is another story. He and his (R) ilk in Tallahassee are screwing-over public safety in this state. They have done a fantastic job of allowing the citizens of this state to believe the hype of the pathetic economy in Florida and DEMONIZE firefighters, teachers and cops. So why shouldn't he squirm a little? Of course I suppose you would have to possess a conscience for any of this to bother you.. BUT the people on the lowest end of the pay scale now suffer a pay cut effective July 1 due to no fault of their own because lawmakers like Thrasher can't stop pandering. He like many other local (R)'s are a cadre of "good ole boy, slicked up, feel-good, I'm your man, lyin' sack of monkey squeeze politicians" and he has sold the three most crucial working-class components of our society down the river. From the looks of things he's done more for his friends in corporate America than he's done for "we the people". Oh woops, wait...yeah if you count teachers, cops and ems as we the people then yeah he's done PLENTY TO them...he has indeed done quite enough thank you, now you can stop. If this were survivor, the only vote Thrasher would get is; voted off the island! Oh wait...he doesn't live on the island...ok I guess that joke won't work! (and for the record, Fleming Island isn't really an island but a peninsula so he can't be voted off there I'd sooner vote for an anole next time least THEY actually provide a service by eating insects like mosquitos (which thanks to budget cuts hitting the mosquito control districts around the state) we are now over-run with... Really? do I need to go on?