Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Call or Write Tennessee State Senator STACEY CAMPFIELD, Homophobic Republican Sponsor of "Don't Say Gay" Bill in Tennessee Legislature

Senator Stacey Campfield
District 7 — Part of Knox County — Map

District address

2011 Flagler
Knoxville, TN 37912

Nashville address
301 6th Avenue North
Suite 4 Legislative Plaza
Nashville, TN 37243
Phone (615) 741-1766

Washington Post: Five Florida Counties Key to Today's Republican Primary

Actual Washington Post photo of a Tampa, Florida polling place today
(In St. Johns County, some 2/3 of our polling places are in conservative churches. Not one is in a synagogue. Notice the Christian art in the polling place. This offends the First Amendment -- voting should be in schools and other government buildings, not in churches, except as a last resort).

Five counties to watch in the Florida primary
Posted by Chris Cillizza at 12:52 PM ET, 01/31/2012

Today’s Florida primary features the largest and most diverse electorate of any contest to date in the Republican presidential primary fight.

TAMPA, FL - JANUARY 31: Ray Roy sets up a polling station as they prepare for voters on primary day on January 31, 2012 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney enters election day with a clear polling lead although former House Speaker Newt Gingrich pledged this morning that “I’m not going to lose big in Florida.”

Most precincts — 94 percent, actually — close at 7 p.m. eastern time while a handful of polling places in the state’s Panhandle region close at 8 p.m.

Given the size and complexity of the Florida electorate, we polled a bunch of Sunshine State Republican strategists in search of the five counties they will be watching as leading indicators of not only who will win tonight but also of how the swing state is trending heading into the general election.

Their picks — plus a smattering of our own sense and that of the Twitterverse — produced what we think is a great CliffsNotes version of where to watch as ballots start to get counted tonight. Our five counties to watch are below — and listed in alphabetical order.

(And at the bottom is a special bonus: county-by-county results from the 2008 race, in which John McCain beat Romney 36 percent to 31 percent. Included in the chart are how much Romney won or lost each county by, and our projections for how well he needs to do in each county in order to win.)

Have a key county of your own that we didn’t mention? Throw it in the comments section!

The Fix’s top 5 Florida counties to watch

* Brevard: If there is a county where Gingrich’s pledge to have a permanent colony on the moon by the end of his second term will resonate, it’s this one where Cape Canaveral is located. Cuts to NASA plus a large tea party contingent mean that Brevard could be the epicenter of conservative anger (and turnout) both today and in the fall. In the 2008 Florida Republican presidential primary, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) beat Romney by 5 points in Brevard, which mirrored his statewide margin. In the fall election, McCain beat then Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) 55 percent to 44 percent

* Duval: This Jacksonville-centered county is home to voters who are, in the words of one veteran Florida operative, “more like a Georgian than a Floridian”. It’s culturally conservative and big — one Florida strategist estimated that 10 percent of the GOP primary vote will come from the Jacksonville media market. This is one of the areas where Romney ran strongest in 2008 against McCain — he carried Duval 41 percent to 27 percent — and he’ll need to replicate (or improve on) that performance to break 40 percent tonight. (Worth noting: Much of Romney’s Florida leadership team has their political roots in Duval County.)

* Miami-Dade: This is the key south Florida county and will be read as a sign of how Hispanics feel about Romney and Gingrich. Miami-Dade was Romney’s Waterloo in 2008 — he lost by more than 52,000 votes to McCain in the county (former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani actually came in second!), a margin that Romney could never make up statewide. (McCain won Florida by roughly 97,000 votes total.) If Romney runs stronger here tonight, Republicans will argue that it bodes well for his chances of narrowing the gap against Obama in the fall; Obama won Miami-Dade by 16 points over McCain in 2008.

* Orange: Turn on any television or read any political blog or newspaper and you will quickly grasp that the I-4 corridor, which runs from Orlando in the east to Tampa Bay in the west is the most critical region in this Republican presidential primary. (Heck, the Fix family’s new favorite show — “RockCenter with Brian Williams” — did a segment on the I-4 corridor last night.) Orange County, which houses Orlando, is as good a barometer as there is when it comes to determining how the I-4 corridor will vote. (It also is an early reporting county.) In the 2008 primary, the county was basically a draw as McCain beat Romney by 435 votes. Romney needs a far stronger showing in tonight’s voting. One other bonus for paying attention to Orange: It will be a very competitive county in the general election. Obama won it with 59 percent in 2008, but four years earlier Sen. John Kerry (Mass.) won it by .2 percent of the vote, a margin of 815 votes out of more than 388,000 votes cast.

* Pinellas: Nestled in the Bay Area — Tampa Bay, that is — Pinellas has an interesting amalgam of large churches populated by evangelicals and more moderate suburbanites. It’s also an older county; roughly one in five residents were over 65 years old, according to the 2010 Census. Pinellas runs a very aggressive absentee vote program; as of yesterday, more than 62,000 votes had been cast by absentee ballot in Pinellas. This was McCain territory in 2008 as he won it by 10,000 votes over Romney. It’s also likely to be a swing area in November; in 2004 then-President George W. Bush won it by 226 votes out of more than 550,000 cast.

With Aaron Blak

Huffington Post: Stacey Campfield, Tennessee Senator Behind 'Don't Say Gay' Bill, Removed From Knoxville Restaurant After Anti-Gay Remarks

Tennessee Senator Stacey Campfield's proposed "Don't Say Gay" law continues to divide residents -- but one local restaurateur made her views on the legislation resoundingly clear this weekend.

As Metropulse and Towleroad are reporting, Martha Boggs, the owner of Knoxville's The Bistro at the Bijou, asked Campfield to leave after he tried to dine at her establishment.

Following the incident, Boggs posted a status on her restaurant's Facebook page which read, "I hope that Stacy (sic) Campfield now knows what it feels like to be unfairly discriminated against."

Metropulse reports that Boggs later clarified her actions in an interview. "I didn't want his hate in my restaurant," she said. "I told him he wasn't welcome here. ... I feel like he's gone from being stupid to being dangerous, and I wanted to stand up to him." Boggs is also due to appear on HuffPost Gay Voices Editor-at-Large Michelangelo Signorile's radio program on SiriusXM OutQ today to talk about the experience.

Many have been quick to applaud Boggs' actions on Facebook. "You didn't unfairly discriminate against Stacey Campfield," one user praised. "You have the right to refuse service to anyone, especially a poorly educated bigot."

Still, another user added, "Denying service to a man because you don't agree with his opinions is no different than denying service to a man because you don't like his skin color."

Boggs' actions come on the heels of an interview Campfield gave last week to Signorile, in which the senator made controversial statements on the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the media's supposed "glorification" of homosexuals.

"Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community -- it was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men. It was an airline pilot, if I recall," he said in the interview. "My understanding is that it is virtually -- not completely, but virtually -- impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex...very rarely [transmitted]."

Alan Grayson on NEWT GINGRICH's Delusions of Adequacy

A few days ago, when I heard about Newt Gingrich’s plan/idea/hallucination to make the Moon the 51st State, I wondered what else he has in mind for the country we all love. (I mean America. And, for liberal Democrats, North Korea. Or at least that’s what Newt would say.)

Newt conducted a whirlwind campaign tour around my State of Florida this week. (Better late than never. No, actually, better never.) At the Space Coast, Newt explained what he wants NASA to do. I started to think through what other great plans/ideas/hallucinations that Newt might have in mind for the rest of us. A sort of a Contract With The Universe. Based on Newt’s lunar lunacy, here is what I think that we may see from Newt Gingrich, 45th President of the United States:

(1) Gingrich will direct the Army Corps of Engineers to drain the Mediterranean Sea. Gingrich will then lay claim to all of the land underneath it. And then he will put the screws to Crete. (Warning to Newt: this may hurt you with your key Tea Party constituent group, the Cretins.)

(2) Gingrich will create jobs in the construction industry by getting bids on a project to make the Washington Monument three times as large, and kind of smoother. Then he will rename it the “Washington Monument to Newt’s Greatness.”

(3) In order to qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Gingrich will make infants change their own diapers. You know, to show them the value of work.

(4) Gingrich will order the Pentagon’s DARPA weapons lab to erect a giant 10-gigawatt humidifier, and a giant 10-gigawatt dehumidifier. Turn them loose on each other. Let’s settle this, once and for all. (By the way, Steven Wright thought of this first.)

(5) Gingrich will command the Department of Energy to dig a hole deep down into the Earth’s crust, and fill it with soufflĂ©. Think of how proud we will all feel, watch the world’s first geothermal soufflĂ© rise. And rise. And rise.

(6) Gingrich will have the U.S. Postal Service deliver the mail by drone airplane. Just bomb the mailboxes. First with the mail, and then . . . .

(7) Gingrich will instruct NOAA to conduct a valid scientific test to see whether prayer can change the direction of hurricanes as they approach the shore. A double-blind test, so the hurricane doesn’t know.

(8) Gingrich will mandate that the National Institutes of Health develop a neurological examination to determine whether Newt Gingrich really is more intelligent than every other human being combined.

(9) Gingrich will compel all the tree-hugging liberals who work at the National Endowment for the Arts to translate the internet into Klingon. Including the porn. No, especially the porn.

(10) Gingrich will proclaim a Constitutional Amendment mandating that Newt Gingrich (a/k/a the “Great Leader”) be President of the Earth-Moon Alliance for life, and twenty years beyond that. Just work out the details.

You think I’m kidding. Well, don’t cling to that conclusion. Here are some actual things that Newt really said, and I’m not making any of them up:

“I have enormous personal ambition. I want to shift the entire planet. And I’m doing it. I am now a famous person. I represent real power.”

“Gingrich - Primary mission, Advocate of civilization, Definer of civilization, Teacher of the rules of civilization, Leader of the civilizing forces.”

Gingrich on Gingrich: “The most serious, systematic revolutionary of modern times.”

Newt Gingrich decides who lives and dies. When a reporter asked Gingrich what to do about the homeless a few days after the police shot a homeless man in front of the White House, Gingrich said: “Give the park police more ammo.”

And Newt Gingrich determines what is true and false. As he said a few weeks ago: “Any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood.”

Why is such an obvious megalomaniac considered to be a serious candidate for President? I don’t know. You would have to ask the Tea Party that question.

As for me, I have rather more modest ambitions than Newt does. I would like to try to help the 24 million Americans who can’t find full-time work. The 50 million Americans who can’t see a doctor when they are sick. The 47 million Americans who need government assistance to feed themselves. And the 40 million Americans who live in homes where the mortgage is more than the value of the home.

Let’s keep our eye on the ball, please.

Are you with me?


Alan Grayson

Washington Post -- Q&A WIth Pulitzer Prize Winnning Columnist Eugene Robinson re: Romney vs. Gingrich

Eugene Robinson Live: How Romney got the lead in Florida

Eugene Robinson is an Associate Editor and twice-weekly columnist for The Washington Post. His column appears on Tuesdays and Fridays. In a 25-year career at The Post, Robinson has been city hall reporter, city editor, foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires and London, foreign editor, and assistant managing editor in charge of the paper's award-winning Style section. In 2005, he started writing a column for the Op-Ed page. He is the author of "Coal to Cream: A Black Man's Journey Beyond Color to an Affirmation of Race" (1999) and "Last Dance in Havana" (2004). Robinson is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists and has received numerous journalism awards.

About the topic
From the heart of Miami, Eugene Robinson live chats with readers about the Florida primary, Mitt Romney's lead, and more. Submit questions and your opinions now.
Eugene Robinson :

Hi, folks. Welcome to this week's chat. I'm coming to you from South Beach, where I have to report that the weather -- not quite as nice as yesterday -- is still pretty nice. Hey, somebody has to cover the Republican primary... Let's get started.

January 31, 2012 1:02 PM

Mr. Robinson, In your opinion, which Republican candidate has the best chance of defeating the incumbent in the general election? Your advice will be appreciated because I vote in the primary tomorrow. Thanks

January 30, 2012 7:42 PM

Eugene Robinson :

I feel compelled to give an honest answer, rather than suggest you vote for Ron Paul. All the polls suggest that Mitt Romney would be President Obama's toughest opponent this fall. We've learned in the past few weeks that Romney has vulnerabilities, but he's still the one who would give the president the toughest challenge.
– January 31, 2012 1:04 PM
Gene: You are without a doubt the best writer on the Post. You are steady, honest, and brilliant. Why can't we convince the public how dangerous it would be to have Gingrich as President. The only reason he soared above in South Carolina was because he did not answer any decent questions but he just ranted and raved so that he could not be cornered in. The speech he gave during the debate had already been heard twice earlier that day. He played his game once again. Help us to get rid of him. P.S. By the way, I am a former Republican who is a great supporter of the President! I just want to get rid of Gingrich once and for all.

January 31, 2012 5:33 AM

Eugene Robinson :

Thanks so much, but there are a lot of tremendous writers at The Post. You'll probably get your wish about Gingrich, but maybe not quite yet. He vows to go all the way to the convention, and if he has enough money I'm sure he'll do just that. But the Republican establishment is so set against him that there's no way, in my opinion, that he could actually win the nomination.
– January 31, 2012 1:06 PM
Romney's Lead
So I assume that Romney's team is trying to bury Gingrich as early as possible. But even if Florida is a big win for Romney doesn't Gingrich have enough money to keep going for a while? And does Gingrich have any chance of winning the nomination?

January 31, 2012 11:21 AM

Eugene Robinson :

Gingrich could run into money problems. He's okay as long as billionaire Sheldon Adelson keeps bankrolling the pro-Gingrich PAC, but there's a long stretch between now and Super Tuesday with few opportunities for Gingrich to put points on the board that would encourage campaign donations.
– January 31, 2012 1:08 PM
To the Moon, Newt!
How's his lunar colony idea playing? Should we expect him to carry the "Space Coast" of Brevard County?

January 31, 2012 12:53 PM

Eugene Robinson :

If Gingrich doesn't do well in the Space Coast, given his advocacy of lunar colonies and the like, then he'll have to chalk up Florida as a total failure. The buzz a couple of days ago was that if there was any movement here, it was toward Newt. But that seemed to fade yesterday.
– January 31, 2012 1:11 PM
Will networks "call the winner" right after Polls close in Panhandle of Florida?
Thanks for your columns and informed perspective -- I am wondering if viewers are going to be told who "won" as soon as the Poll and Ballot counters are actually able to present data or just "projections". It still amazes me that the Iowa Caucus final results are not what they seemed when the Victory speech was being given and Network Pundits were calling for Perry and Bachmann to leave the race within minutes or hours. Thanks for this information/opinion!

January 31, 2012 12:36 PM

Eugene Robinson :

Your recollection of election night in Iowa is a little off. The Romney-Santorum race was too close to call -- for all the networks -- until very late in the evening. In fact, when MSNBC went off the air, Santorum was leading by 27 votes -- but a couple of precincts were still out. The candidates both spoke, but nobody could claim victory. It wasn't until 3 a.m. or so when the state GOP announced that Romney had won by eight votes. Then, two weeks later, after a recanvass of the votes, the state party found that Santorum won after all. As for Perry and Bachmann, though, it was clear they hadn't done well -- and clear that their campaign treasuries would start to wither. Here in Florida, if the polls are right and Romney really has a big lead, the networks will probably call the race quite early.
– January 31, 2012 1:17 PM
Your accusations of racism are divisive (and laughable)
In a recent column, you "accused" Gingrich of "race-baiting" and went on to say, "Romney's approach, however, is more subtle. On Monday, he made the pitch that Obama had to be replaced right now, because if he remains in office for four more years, the country will be transformed into 'something we wouldn't recognize.' Bingo. The Obama Administration, to state the obvious, doesn't look like any of its predecessors." To state the obvious, Romney was not talking about a black-and-white photo of the Administration. He was talking about a fatal blow to the federal system envisioned by the Founders, with a federal government "delegated" "few and defined" powers, while the states "retained" "numerous and indefinite" ones in Madison's words. Your attempt to make something racial out of this is despicable but in keeping with your normal writings. "Stuff" like yours, at best, preserves the racial problems in this country, not ideas like Romney's.

January 31, 2012 12:36 PM

Eugene Robinson :

I stand by those columns. I notice you didn't defend Gingrich. As for what I wrote about Romney, you conveniently leave out the preceding paragraph, which reads as follows:

"Romney and Gingrich, especially, have taken pains to create the impression that there is something alien and illegitimate about the Obama presidency. They portray Obama not as a political opponent but as a usurper."

That is what the column accuses Romney of. And that's what he is doing.
– January 31, 2012 1:24 PM
Presidential Election 2012
So I figure it boils down to four states: Nevada, Colorado, Ohio & Florida. The president has three possible scenarios: if he wins Ohio, he wins; if he wins Florida, he wins; if he wins Nevada & Colorado, he wins. The Republican nominee (most likely Romney) has to win all four to win the election. That being the case, I figure the president already has it in the bag. My question is (assuming that Romney is the nominee): do you really believe he has a shot at winning the election? Because I don't see it.

January 31, 2012 12:04 PM

Eugene Robinson :

There are some other states in play, too -- Virginia, North Carolina. I've always said this is going to be a close election. I believe Obama should be favored to win, but it will be no cakewalk.
– January 31, 2012 1:28 PM
How did Romney get the lead?

Despite Newt's many, many negatives - the main reason - about 4 to 5 times more money for "Romney's" PACs to spend on attack ads. Reverse the money and I'd bet Newt would be ahead, moon base or no.

January 31, 2012 1:10 PM

Eugene Robinson :

It's hard to be confident in that what-if scenario, I think, because Gingrich is capable of political self-immolation at any given moment. But it is true that he has inspired more fervor among conservatives than Romney has, or perhaps ever will. Romney is the establishment's choice, largely because he has the best chance against Obama. The party rank-and-file still haven't fallen in line.
– January 31, 2012 1:33 PM
Downside for Democrats?
Is there any downside at all for the Democrats to having Romney and Gingrich keep whaling on each other for as long as possible? Could the public become inured to the criticisms of Romney too soon? Also, I've heard it said that having to fight Hillary made Obama a stronger candidate. Could that be happening here as well?

January 31, 2012 1:10 PM

Eugene Robinson :

From the Democrats' point of view, I don't see the downside. There is no way the Romney campaign is happy about the way Gingrich is defining their candidate. And while it's true that a candidate can be made stronger and sharper by a primary fight, it's not clear to me that this is happening with Romney.
– January 31, 2012 1:37 PM
All the way to the convention
If the Republicans go all the way to the convention without formally declaring a front-runner, won't that be detrimental to their changes of winning the election? I'm thinking specifically of Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter in the 1980 election, and that in-fighting giving Ronald Reagan the advantage as a result.

January 31, 2012 1:12 PM

Eugene Robinson :

I've heard people compare this contest to that 1980 campaign. And it didn't work out well for President Carter in the end.
– January 31, 2012 1:39 PM
Romney v Obama
Eveyrone says that Romney is the best Republican candidate to face Obama but aren't there concerns about voter apathy in the Republican party? Independents might break for Romney if the economy doesn't approve but I think Democrats would be energized to put Obama in for a second term while the right wing might be demoralized because no one who they truly believe is conservative is running.

January 31, 2012 1:24 PM

Eugene Robinson :

What's really changing in the Obama-Romney equation is that the economy is getting better. Polls show brightening attitudes about how the nation and the economy are doing. The shift is not huge but it is measurable, and if things continue to move in that direction, Obama becomes harder to beat.
– January 31, 2012 1:43 PM
singing contest
Does Romney think that singing "America the Beautiful" makes him more "human" and "relateable"? I think smooth Obama wins that singing contest.

January 31, 2012 1:27 PM

Eugene Robinson :

One of the odder things about Romney's campaign has been his decision to recite "America the Beautiful" as part of his standard stump speech. Now he has begun actually singing the song. In that category, I'm not sure either Romney or Obama is the equal of Herman Cain.
– January 31, 2012 1:46 PM
What happens when Santorum drops out?
Newt talks a lot about the "conservative candidates" (aka him plus Santorum) are added up, they win. Assuming Newt is serious about staying in the race through the convention, when Santorum drops out, is it really a sure thing that his support will all flow to Gingrich?

January 31, 2012 1:35 PM

Eugene Robinson :

No, but I think Gingrich would get most of it. Many conservatives just don't believe Romney shares their views.
– January 31, 2012 1:50 PM
Click here!
Gender Gap
Polls mostly show Newt Gingrich performing significantly better with men than with women. Do you think this stems from his infidelities? Or his white-hot rhetoric -- something which traditionally plays better with men than with women? Romney sure seems like the "nicer" candidate.

January 31, 2012 12:46 PM

Eugene Robinson :

Probably a bit of both. There was speculation, actually, that Gingrich's vote among conservative women in South Carolina would fall sharply because of the whole "open marriage" thing, but the drop-off wasn't that big.
– January 31, 2012 2:01 PM
Orlando -- Heart of the I-4 Corridor
Romney ads 'round the clock here. Some Newt ads, but not nearly as many.

January 31, 2012 1:02 PM

Eugene Robinson :

Romney's got the dough. He blankets the airwaves.

And that's all for today, folks. My time is up. Thanks for tuning in, and I'll see you again next week.
– January 31, 2012 2:02 PM

The Collective Press (St. Augustine, Florida) 2005 article, "The Stupor Bowl Cometh" (Superbowl was in Jacksonville that year)

The "Stupor Bowl" Cometh

By Ed Slavin

A friend asked, "who's going to the Super Bowl?" I responded, "a bunch of rich people."

Residents are urged to "spruce up" their homes and businesses in anticipation of Super Bowl XXXIX. You're expected to redecorate and otherwise cater to skybox CEOs for an entire week.

Jetloads of corporate oligarchs are flying in. Actual fans of actual competing teams are a small minority of the stadium audience. Every cadaverous Fortune 500 corporation will be there -- spending what the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis called "Other Peoples' Money."

Stupor Bowl tickets make great political or commercial bribes.

Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch's Fox network charges some $2.4 million to air a thirty second spot (plus production costs).

How many Stupor Bowl tickets, hotel rooms, bar tabs and prostitutes will be paid for by American consumers? How many unindicted corporate criminals will roam our streets?

Ever since football supplanted baseball as national sport, American moral values have been declining. Megacorporate culture venerates "team players and brute force -- Groupthink -- not skill, intelligence or individual achievement. America now treasures violence, overpaying "athletes" to maim one another (many playing injured and later crippled). America's football gladiators play roughly in unsafe conditions (cold, sleet, snow, rain). We venerate an indescribably unsafe workplace as a "spectator sport."

At least football players have a democratic trade union. So should all Americans.

Sadly, uninformed Americans hold up football players (and cheerleaders) as "role models" (not artists, musicians or civil libertarians). American football is a violent, slow, dumb, dull sport based on violence, meanness and bigness. (For a good time, watch Australian Rules Football, which emphasizes skill, speed and agility, not brutality).

America does not invest adequately in libraries and education. Is there any wonder why so many people don't know what's happening?

Our football culture is a great way to divert people from corruption and rot. Imperial Rome offered its citizens "bread and circuses." America offers its citizens football.

Every high school and college in America squanders money on football, many with expensive night games and fields lit at public expense. Why is American education in crisis? Misplaced priorities, with massive spending on football at the junior and senior high school and college level. Baseball pays for its own "farm teams."

All Americans pay for college football (NFL farm teams) and NFL football venues.
Corporate oligarchs exemplify NFL values.

America venerates violence while arms merchants turn America into a permanent warfare state, subsidizing corporate welfare recipients like Lockheed Martin.

Listen to a Pentagon briefing on warfare: you will hear football slang. Listen to warmongers stigmatize dissenters and call them "Monday morning quarterbacks."

Jesuit priest-poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote in 1918 that the world is "smeared, bleared and teared with trade."

Today, we are "smeared, bleared and teared" with football and its conformist "team player" ideology. It's everywhere and destructive of democracy and the health and happiness of humankind.

Corporate "crime in the suites" grows. We face declining real income, preventable workplace deaths and diseases, civil rights violations, gun deaths, Fox News and other media and corporate monopolies, pricefixing, shoddy defective products, dangerous prescription drugs, rapacious advertising industry, job outsourcing, NAFTA, environmental pollution, suburban sprawl, union-busting, whistleblower-persecution, bribery, chicanery, casefixing, election-stealing, propaganda, corporations that keep you on hold, anti-intellectualism, surveillance and other activities --- antisocial behavior "brought to you by" overpaid, unaccountable CEOs.

At the 1773 Boston Tea Party, patriots dressed as Native Americans, dumping tea in Boston Harbor, protesting British imperialism. (A surviving tea chest is proudly housed in a Boston museum display case, hand-made by skilled St. Augustine wood workers).

How should progressives "celebrate" the Stupor Bowl? As a symbol of greed, violence and corruption, promoting meanness, exploitation, and authoritarianism.

Authoritarians hate satire, but real Americans love it. Satire helps inform and entertain.

What do you think? A Stupor Bowl party might include mock "citizens' arrests" of CEOs and Bush Administration officials, with prison striped uniforms, pinstripes, handcuffs and Abu Ghraib style dog collars and leashes. A corporate "Hall of Shame" and.or teach-in might help educate the public about what Corporate America is doing to workers, consumers and our environment.

The whole world is watching -- estimated worldwide TV audience is one billion people.

New York Times Editorial on "Increasingly Sour Taste in Voters' Mouths" From Bigoted Republican Presidential Candidate Wrecking Crew

January 30, 2012
Don’t Stop the Debates

Senator John McCain spoke for many nervous Republicans on Sunday when he said it’s time to “stop the debates.” They’ve turned into mud-wrestling contests, he said on “Meet the Press” on NBC, and are driving up negative impressions of the party’s presidential candidates.

Mr. McCain, who knows something about unfavorable ratings, is right that the 19 debates so far have left an increasingly sour taste in voters’ mouths. Since the debates began, the popularity gap has grown between the leading Republican candidates and President Obama.

But that’s not simply because the candidates have increased the intensity of their attacks on each other, nor is it curable by cutting back the mud-fighting, as Mr. McCain suggests. It’s also because voters have been exposed to the broken windows of the Republican idea factory. The value of debates is to put the candidates on stage to air their ideas. If voters find them dishonest and divisive, the Republicans are getting the wrong message if they think all they have to do to fix that is to stop talking so much.

Consider some of the “bold ideas” the country learned about in just the last two debates in Florida, leading up to Tuesday’s primary there.

Newt Gingrich wants to build a lunar colony on the moon in just eight years, and he seems to believe that the private sector can be induced to pay for it. He wants to convene a “gold commission” to get the country back to hard money, which would shackle the economy to a single commodity. He wants to end multilingual ballots (disenfranchising millions), promote an uprising in Cuba and end the capital gains tax, which would allow millionaires to pay less of their income to the government than the minimum they pay now.

Mitt Romney promised to get millions of illegal immigrants to “self-deport,” apparently by making their lives miserable. He would veto the Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for immigrant college students and military service members. He would refuse to extend any government help to struggling homeowners, while repealing the Dodd-Frank law that finally regulated the banking practices that led to the housing crisis.

The debates that Mr. McCain so deplores also gave voters a taste of the incompetent candidacies of Herman Cain, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, helping to put an end to them. They have properly marginalized Ron Paul and his cranky libertarianism.

And they have given Rick Santorum repeated opportunities to point out that Mr. Romney’s bellicose opposition to “Obamacare” is an almost comical contradiction to his support for the same idea in Massachusetts when he was governor there. (Mr. Santorum’s strong debate performances haven’t given him much recent traction in the primaries, though.)

Most of all, the debates have shown the complete lack of interest by all the Republican candidates in the issues of economic fairness. While the candidates argue over their investments and their complex tax returns and who can cut taxes for the rich the most, the contrast to Mr. Obama’s newfound voice on shared responsibility could not be more clear.

The long series of debates are an open window onto the failed policies and dubious values of the Republican Party. No wonder some people want to close it.

Happy Turkey Day -- Can You Believe Anyone Would Vote for One of These Four Turkeys? (Republican Primary Day in Florida)

Post number 5401

This blog began nearly six years ago, in the year 2006, after our City of St. Augustine illegally dumped solid waste in our Old City Reservoir. This post marks the 5401st post since April 2006.

Our erstwhile City Manager retired in 2009.

New Commissioners, with independence and vision, have been elected.

A new City Manager, with integrity and sensitivity, is now on the job.

As Ronald Reagan said, "You ain't seen nothin' yet."

We're proud to live in St. Augustine, where citizen concerns are being heard and heeded.

Our City is now worthy of pride.

Our City is standing up to Rep. WILLIAM L. PROCTOR and all his works and pomps -- his eminent domain bill for Florida School for the Deaf and Blind is a stench in the nostrils of the Nation.

Good work!

Monday, January 30, 2012

FOLIO WEEKLY Editor Anne Schindler re: Lawlessness -- Rep. WM. PROCTOR's Conflict of Interest --- FSDB Eminent Domain Bill

Blind Spot

Rep. Bill Proctor’s eminent domain bill offers a legislative reward for bad behavior.

Written by: Anne Schindler

Published January 24, 2012

The original three buildings of the Florida School for the Deaf & the Blind were indistinguishable from single-family homes — handsome, Victorian structures set behind a low picket fence on San Marco Avenue in St. Augustine. A photograph from the era shows students seated on the wide front porches and leaning over the gate, as horse drawn carriages and pedestrians stroll by (right).

In the intervening years, the school has evolved — to put it mildly. It has grown from five to almost 80 acres and from a few dozen to roughly 700 students. In that time, the school has not only erased its once-domestic footprint, it has decimated acres of single-family homes and destroyed large swaths of the surrounding historic neighborhood. In recent years, school administrators have bought and demolished two city streets of charming, well-built bungalows, in defiance of the wishes of nearby residents, their own original master plan and even, on occasion, city law.

In recent weeks, the city and the school have been in mediation, trying to settle on an appropriate response to school’s brazen disregard of city rules on matters such as fence height and the preservation of historic structures. But even as negotiations were ongoing, the school’s chief benefactor — longtime FSDB Board member and state Rep. Bill Proctor (R-St. Augustine) — was working to exempt the school from following any rules at all. House Bill 1139, introduced by Proctor in December, would shield FSDB from having to observe city zoning codes and give the school the radical power of eminent domain.

The measure would allow the school to accomplish one thing immediately — to build the block-long dormitory that it’s been wanting for years. The plan has been stymied in part by a need to rezone the property to allow for a dorm –– something residents oppose, and the city has previously refused — and in part by the stubborn reluctance of one resident who refused to sell out (James Register, who has lived there since the 1960s, and who owns the only home left standing on the once-residential block). Both obstacles would be conveniently removed.

In fairness, the school has little other room to expand. It already acquired the former (filled) wetlands in the 1950s (before pesky “environmental laws” prohibited such things), so the only space left for it to grow is into surrounding neighborhoods. But the question of expansion raises a legitimate question of need: By exactly how much is the school growing? According to St. Augustine City Commissioner Leanna Freeman, the student population is trending in the opposite direction, down 10 percent over the past five to seven years.

For some, the declining population suggests that the school’s expansion push is unnecessary. But it’s not just a question of need. It’s a matter of principle. In rejecting the school’s previous request to rezone the Alfred/Genoply block for the dorm, city Planning and Zoning Board member Jerry Dixon noted “the [adjacent] property was acquired sort of underhandedly” — without informing residents of expansion plans, and without regard for the inch-thick Facilities Master Plan the school drafted at the request of the governor in the early ’80s. The school simply began buying up homes.

Without the power of eminent domain, which allows a government to take property by fiat and reimburse according to appraised value, the school used old-fashioned squeeze tactics, targeting willing sellers first, then pressuring reluctant residents to sell as the community eroded. As resident Bo Sterk told the St. Augustine Record in 2001, “Nobody knows what is going on. … People are just caving.”

The money used to acquire the homes, it’s worth pointing out, were taxpayer dollars — roughly $1.9 million — for a project that was either poorly defined or deliberately concealed. (The school’s own board minutes from March 2002 show that: “Purchase of the land was approved with the intention of use to be decided at a later date.”) Whether that money was well spent remains in question. Absent a rezoning, the school cannot use much of the land it purchased. And as a scathing 2003 audit by the state found, in at least 11 cases, the school had already drawn up contracts to buy property before it conducted the required appraisals. As audit supervisor Joe Williams noted at the time, “Essentially, the [FSDB] president believes the school is free to manage its own affairs … without regard to any statutory or rule provisions. We respectfully disagree.”

The fact that Proctor wants to free the school from rules it barely observes already is a slap in the face to the surrounding community — but not a big surprise. Proctor will be protected from public backlash by the fact that he’s term-limited, but in truth, he’s never shown much concern for what his constituents think. He’s never had to face a real challenge for his seat, never paused in his support of bills like SB 6 that his constituents opposed and has blithely chaired the House Education Committee while educating all his children (and now grandchildren) in private schools. Proctor’s disconnect from the people of his district has reached its apex with the FSDB proposal — a bill that would put an equally arrogant institution at a similar remove.

It’s a bad piece of legislation, and it sends an even worse message: Lawlessness and incivility are rewarded, and the rights of institutions take precedence over those of actual people. The students of FSDB deserve better role models.

Anne Schindler


DOJ Press Release: Lydia Cladek Convicted -- Cladek's $100,000,000 Fraud Showed "Personal Greed at Its Highest Level"

Jury Finds St. Augustine Beach Woman Guilty of Conspiracy, Mail Fraud, and Wire Fraud
U.S. Attorney’s Office January 27, 2012

Middle District of Florida (904) 301-6300

JACKSONVILLE, FL—U.S. Attorney Robert E. O’Neill announces that a federal jury yesterday found Lydia Cladek (67, St. Augustine Beach) guilty of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud. Cladek was charged in a 14-count indictment on November 19, 2010. She was found guilty on all charges and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison for each of the fourteen counts. Cladek’s sentencing hearing will be scheduled for a future date.

According to testimony and evidence presented at trial, Cladek offered investors the opportunity to “loan” money to Lydia Cladek, Inc. in exchange for a promissory note from the corporation. The notes were secured by car notes that Lydia Cladek, Inc. had purchased in the past. Cladek represented that the assigned notes were genuine and valid, had never been assigned before, and would not be assigned in the future. She also represented that she would use the funds that were loaned by the investors to purchase new car notes. All of these representations were false.

In some cases, the car notes attached as collateral to investor notes had previously been assigned to four or five investors in the past. In many cases, the car notes were then assigned to new victim investors, sometimes in as little as a week.

In addition to making false representations about the quality of the investors’ collateral, evidence also showed that Cladek used new investor funds to pay interest to old investors and to fund her lavish lifestyle. By as early as 2003, Lydia Cladek, Inc. did not have sufficient car notes on hand to provide promised collateral to all investors. By 2005, Cladek had outstanding investor notes of approximately $58 million, but only had car notes on hand for approximately $38 million. By March 31, 2010, the date on which the FBI served a search warrant on Lydia Cladek, Inc., the existing performing car notes owned by Cladek had dwindled to just under $4 million, while the outstanding loans to investors exceeded $90 million.

Cladek used money given to her from investors to maintain lavish real estate holdings, including three vacation homes in Captiva and Sanibel, Florida as well as a luxurious residence in St. Augustine Beach. Cladek maintained her own household “manager” who testified that she purchased much of the custom furnishings and accessories in the home for Lydia Cladek, including a set of sheets costing $2,000.

In order to invest, potential investors had to be personal friends of Cladek or be referred by an existing investor. Cladek obtained many of her investors from her church and other social organizations.

“This case represents personal greed at the highest level,” said U.S. Attorney Robert O’Neill. “We will continue to prosecute those who seek to deprive people of their hard-earned money. The conviction of Lydia Cladek should be a warning to those seeking to take advantage of a trusted business-client relationship, by engaging in fraudulent practices. And it should bring a greater awareness to those seeking to invest their dollars.”

“We are pleased with the jury’s verdict, and hope that Ms. Cladek’s victims can take some comfort in the fact that she has been brought to justice,” stated James Casey, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation

This case was investigated by the FBI. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jay Taylor and Mac Heavener.

Zany Republican Wrecking Crew Will Soon Leave Florida in its Wake

The Florida Republican Primary is nearly over. Currently cruising radical rightist primary votes in Florida are a rancid menagerie of three mediocrities – the banksters' pals, false-flag, faux “family values” hucksters (Romney, Gingrich, Santorum).
The Republican Primary is tomorrow.
The stiff Quarter-Billionaire and the other fakers will soon take off in their private jets, cruising more hicks and rubes to deceive, hoping to protect the privileged from any hint of regulation or equal treatment.
For the moment, we in Florida are blessed to watch the blizzard of negative TV ads, with each nasty, other-directed dull Republican stating a part of the truth about their fellow Republican.
In contrast to the Republican wrecking crew are the authentic, real people who make our town and Nation a better place – people like my friend Robin Nadeau, who died January 6th.
People like Robin Nadeau practice real family values, not faux family values, working to help better their town, county, state and Nation.
We are the 99% and there are more of us than there are of the 1% and their zany defenders, whose surnames sound as dull and somber as they are (Romney, Gingrich and Santorum).

Excellent St. Augustine Record Editorial Parts Ways with Rep. WM. PROCTOR, Opposes FSDB Eminent Domain Legislation, HB 1037

Our view: Don't give FSDB eminent domain
Posted: January 29, 2012 - 12:34am

Officials of The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind want the Florida Legislature to give the school the same powers of eminent domain other public education institutions have. They say they don’t have any plans to use it now but would like it, just in case for the future. And they say it would save public dollars on land costs.

But they want it without local government oversight and that’s where we part ways with the school, the bill and state Rep. Bill Proctor.

In his last term in the Florida House of Representatives, Proctor is pushing House Bill 1037 which would give the school eminent domain. Proctor is not the sponsor of the bill but he might as well be. The bill’s sponsor is Rep. Doug Broxson of Gulf Breeze.

Proctor is the political face of FSDB and has been for more than two decades, including his 18 years on the board of trustees, 12 of them as chairman. There’s little doubt in our mind that the bill is being pushed as a “thank you gesture” from his colleagues. Proctor would disagree with us because he said to the Record Editorial Board recently that the bill is needed to give FSDB what other public educational entities already have — the power to take private property, if necessary, for the institution’s use and at reasonable costs. We agree those powers are allowed for public schools, colleges and universities. But, along with the power in the law, there are also requirements that those entities work with local governments on their expansion and master plans.

Until Wednesday, HB 1037 included those same kinds of requirements. But Wednesday night, during the House Community & Military Affairs committee, those requirements to cooperate were deleted from the bill. And the bill analysis at myfloridahouse.com said it passed without objection.

The bill must face other committees before the full House votes. But, the new version is so badly gutted of checks and balances that we have to question what the House wants the bill to be? It appears the only goal is to allow the school unregulated powers of eminent domain. We do not believe this should occur. We fully expect that if this bill passes the House and Senate that FSDB will have greater powers than any other public school or college or university over eminent domain.

This bill is about the future. While FSDB has said it has no expansion plans now, a future board of trustees and administration could change that. With the wrong people in power, and eminent domain authority without local government oversight, we could see whole neighborhoods disappear.

The Florida Legislature should let this bill die. Should it pass, we hope Gov. Rick Scott has the political will to veto it.


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Don't give FSDB eminent domain power
By watchinourbucks | 01/29/12 - 01:14 pm

If you've been here long enough, you'll remember the fiasco of our Airport Authority being legislated eminent domain. The 80-85
families in Araquay and Jackson Park, some third generation homeowners were "displaced" by pressure from the airport authority.
Approximately 304-309 parcels of land CURRENTLY are owned by the Airport Authority; patch-work parcels on both sides of U.S. 1, OFF the tax rolls, for expansion. Do ya' think that the same grasping attitude might be budding at FSDB ?

New, tax subsidized hangars now stand where these 'just plain folks'
homes once stood. Our previous av valorem taxes paid to the airport, helped squeeze out those homeowners not wanting to sell.

If eminent domain is granted to FSDB, essentially ANY property
owned by residents can be "needed" by FSDB for some 'worthwhile'
purpose. Our / your taxes will pay for it; their attorney ( paid by your taxes) will fight you for ownership of YOUR home. YOU will have to retain an attorney, if you want to keep YOUR home ( possibly to pass on to your heirs).

It was interesting how FAST a fence was constructed along the
City / FSDB property line: perhaps a reader might want to do a
Freedom of Information request of Mr. Hutto and FSDB Board Members' emails / correspondence, to see if the decision to construct the fence was done in the sunshine. Was
the formality of a bid to several vendors done ?

I plan to send copies of the " Our View," and St. Augustine Commissioner Bill Leary's guest column to all of our Florida
Legislators, as well as Governor Scott.

It might be interesting to obtain, under the Freedom of Information
Act, copies of emails / letter correspondence from and to the bill's
sponsor, Representative Doug Broxson and Representative Bill
Proctor, for the past 10 months or so.

Why would Representative Doug Broxson, from Gulf Breeze, Fl.
sponsor House Bill 1037, for Representative Proctor ?

Mr. Proctor has had some positive for St. Augustine during his terms. Will this apparent eminent domain "thank you gesture" be a stain on his and Representative Broxson's political career ?

Coach Paterno won hundreds of games during his coaching years.
Most people will remember his inaction re. Coach Sandusky's conduct; a major 'forever smear' on all of Jo-Pa's successes.

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Last bad acts
By nautico | 01/30/12 - 07:37 am

Watcchinourbucks, your mention of Paterno and Sandusky reminded me of a line from the TV show "Blue Bloods" in which Tom Selleck's police commissioner character says

"Sometimes we judge ourselves by our good intentions, but we are judged by our last worst act."

The reactions to Gov Haley Barbour's pardons come to mind, as well. Like those pardons, Rep. Proctor's bill smacks of a final out-the-door gift to his FSDB constituency.

St. Augustine Record: Commissioner William Leary Blasts Oppressive, String-Pulling Puppeteer Rep. WILLIAM PROCTOR

Guest column: City and FSDB must work out problems locally not by legislative fiat
Posted: January 29, 2012 - 12:35am
By Bill Leary
St. Augustine City Commissioner

At Friday’s emergency meeting of the Board of Trustees of The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind (FSDB), at which angry and fearful neighbors were gratefully allowed to speak their minds, I was struck by how much it seems we are all puppets dancing to the strings of Bill Proctor.

Act One was 10 years ago when the school, under his leadership, purchased several residences in the block bordered by Genopoly and Alfred streets for future use. Proctor concluded the school paid too much and vowed to run for the Florida Legislature to give FSDB eminent domain powers so it would never have to over-pay again.

Act Two began last spring involving the Collins House, a large carriage house on a residential lot owned by FSDB used to house students. After two years of disuse, FSDB decided to renovate rather than demolish the structure and expand its use and size beyond that allowed under city single-family residential zoning. Nearly all neighbors were pleased the building was being saved, but many objected to the code violations. Over their and the city’s objection, FSDB nonetheless implemented its restoration plan and has moved students back into the building.

Into this cauldron of discord and mistrust Proctor thrust legislation to (1) resolve the Collins zoning issues in favor of the school by legislative fiat; (2) replace the requirement that the school cooperate with the city in its expansion with a requirement that the city serve FSDB’s interests even if that means ignoring the will of its citizens; and (3) give the appointed board of trustees the power to take private property by eminent domain even if over the objections of the owners or their elected officials.

Some have said that Proctor has chosen in his last year in office to represent FSDB rather than St. Augustine. I believe that in his personal quest to right a perceived affront a decade ago, Proctor now represents the best interests of neither. Clearly his quest is at odds with the City of St. Augustine and its residents. But in the long run, it does not further the interests of the school. Long after Proctor stops pulling the strings, FSDB, the city and its residents will have a relationship. Surely the school’s board does not wish it to continue as it is. I understand the board’s priority to protect and meet the needs of the students and their families. We all honor them for what they do.

Likewise, I respect Proctor’s devotion to FSDB, but on this matter, we clearly disagree. He says it’s just fair to give the school eminent domain because the other public schools have it. But that is casuistry. Even if those school systems did not, I believe he would argue FSDB should because it is unique. The simple fact is that one must view his quest not as filling in the last piece of some educational governance puzzle, but as pouring oil onto a raging fire. His legislation will ensure that for many years to come, the relationship between the school and its neighbors and the city will remain needlessly cold.

It will be hard to stop Proctor’s personal quest because through patience and political cunning he is positioned to effect trades with other legislators to achieve his goal. But it a misuse of the Legislature to keep us here locally from working this out ourselves. There is a saying that “things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out.” If he will allow it, FSDB and we will work this out. For our future, we simply must.

Bill Leary was elected to the St. Augustine City Commission for a four-year term in 2010. He previously served on the city’s Planning and Zoning Board.


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Bill Leary
By NEFLNative | 01/29/12 - 12:05 pm

The best thing the city residents ever did was elect Bill Leary to the City Commission! Excellent editorial, Commissioner Leary!


Friday, January 27, 2012

Florida Center for Investigative Reporting re: Senator Thrasher's Bill That Would Ban State College Professors from Serving in State Legislature

Blog, Government, Politics
Florida Legislature: College Professors Need Not Apply

Published on January 25, 2012. Tags: Brevard Community College, Conflict Of Interest, Dennis Jones, Florida College System, Florida Senate, John Thrasher, Mike Haridopolos, Northwest Florida State College, Ralph De La Cruz, Ray Sansom, SB 1560, St. Petersburg College, Subcommittee On Ethics And Elections

Sen. John Thrasher has proposed a bill that would prohibit college professors from serving in the state legislature. (Photo: screen capture from Senate video.)

By Ralph De La Cruz
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Triangulate this story and you’ll find it falls somewhere between laughable, maddening and ironic: A bill moving forward in the Florida Senate would ban state college and university employees, such as professors, from serving in the state legislature.

Cue up the “Yeah, no need to taint the Capitol gene pool with some smart people” joke.

Although the proposal seems far from certain (SB 1560 only passed the Senate Rules Subcommittee on Ethics and Elections by a 7-6 vote on Monday), it has nevertheless passed its first legislative obstacle.

The bill, authored by Sen. John Thrasher, is supposed to prevent conflicts of interest by folks from state colleges and universities. But banning them from serving in the legislature doesn’t make sense. Because, almost by definition, every person in the state has the potential for a conflict of interest. That’s true not just for the state legislature, but every county commission, town council and water district seat.

It’s how our citizen government works. We pick people who live and work in our communities and ask them to manage the affairs of those towns and counties and the state. That’s why every governing body already has conflict-of-interest rules that forbid voting on a bill or ordinance from which you could benefit.

And if lawmakers are so concerned about conflicts of interest, why single out state college and university employees? Spend a little time going through the current Florida Senate roster and you’ll find that more than a quarter of the 40-person Florida Senate (12 lawmakers) identify themselves as lawyers or paralegals (one senator). And these are people who — wait for it — make laws. Talk about a conflict of interest. Or are they simply people with expertise and familiarity in that area? Thrasher, by the way, is on that list.

Another six see themselves as professional politicians. Four are farmers or ranchers. Another four are from the health care industry, and four more in education. Two are from real estate, two contractors, two former sheriffs, two bankers.

Which of those industries doesn’t have a vested interest in state laws?

If Thrasher’s bill keeps moving forward, it should be interesting to see how it will be received by Sen. Dennis Jones, a vice president with St. Petersburg College. Not to speak of Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who lists his occupation as a professor at Brevard Community College (remember the $152,000 he got for a 175-page double-spaced book manuscript on Florida politics?).

The other major problem with Thrasher’s bill is that it’s another law for a problem that doesn’t exist (remember the bill that would ban Sharia law and the other bill to end the ban on dwarf-tossing?). How many times has there been a serious problem with folks from state colleges and universities taking over government?

Aside from Haridopolos’ book deal, the most obvious example is the case of former state House Speaker Ray Sansom, who was hired by Northwest Florida State College after he left the legislature, and subsequently used his political power and influence to the advantage of the college, himself and a developer.

Sansom was a lot of things — depending on your view: a hired gun, a politician/lobbyist, a scalawag — but no one ever seriously identified him as a professor.

And if this is really about addressing the Sansom and Haridopolos embarrassments, wouldn’t it make more sense to propose a bill that would ban politicians from becoming college professors, rather than the other way around?

Thrasher’s bill just doesn’t make sense. Yet seven senators — supposedly our most senior, respected lawmakers — voted for it and moved it past the first legislative hurdle.

And chew on this: SB 1560 has already gotten further than a bill that would have allowed Florida voters to recall state leaders.

* * *

I won’t be updating you on the fate of SB 1560. Today’s item will be my last for the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. I’m leaving behind 28 years in journalism to write books and movies. I look forward to the opportunity to pursue that lifelong dream, but will seriously miss writing this blog and interacting with readers.

Every writer knows (or should know) that, by themselves, words are meaningless. It’s only when they’re read that they acquire any power. Thanks for giving some of mine a little juice.

I will continue to be an avid reader and fan of FCIR. If any of you feel a need to reach me, send me a line at elvientogrande@gmail.com.

Good luck, all.

St. Augustine Record Quotes Former Rep. Doug Wiles Opposing Conflicted Rep. Proctor's Eminent Domain Bill for FSDB

The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind Campus has mushroomed from five acres to more than 75 acres. It demands eminent domain despite declining enrollments. Two National Register of Historic Places neighborhoods are in danger -- Fullerwood and Nelmar Terrace. State Representative William L. Proctor is behind the scheme.

Wiles says eminent domain for FSDB would have long-term impact
Former legislator differs with Proctor on granting school eminent domain
Posted: January 27, 2012 - 12:33am

When former state Rep. Doug Wiles, D-St. Augustine, wrote House Bill 1059 in 2004, he intended that The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind be treated as a school district or university — adding that it should cooperate with city zoning laws.

But the Senate removed the obligation to cooperate from the final bill.

Now, with House Bill 1037 submitted by state Rep. Bill Proctor, R-St. Augustine, any neighborhood protection in Wiles’ bill would be gone, and FSDB would have the power of eminent domain.

Proctor worked closely with the city when he served as president of Flagler College, Wiles said.

“When things got a little rough, they worked it out,” he said. “Both sides can grow and expand when you work together. (FSDB President) Danny Hutto has tried his best to keep good neighborhood relations. I don’t think they need eminent domain, but if you have to have it, there should be part of the law that says you’ve got to work together.”

Residents living in the historic neighborhoods of Nelmar Terrace and Fullerwood are alarmed.

FSDB is bounded on the west by San Marco Avenue and on the east by the Intracoastal Waterway. Unless it decides to expand across San Marco, it can only grow north toward Fullerwood and south toward Nelmar Terrace.

Wiles’ bill said educational institutions “may have an adverse impact on the public facilities (and) services of host governments,” so its long-range plans must contain “elements of intergovernmental coordination that addresses compatibility with the surrounding community.”

He served from 1996 to 2004.

On Thursday, he said giving FSDB eminent domain “may not have an immediate impact but would certainly have a long-term impact. We can’t even imagine what that impact will be. Eminent domain powers given to a state agency may apply anywhere, even in the county.”

Today, Fullerwood and Nelmar residents say they will attempt to convince FSDB’s seven-member Board of Trustees to end their attempts to obtain eminent domain. A hearing set for 9:30 a.m. on campus is to discuss security issues relating to the historic Collins House on Nelmar Avenue, now a girls dormitory.

Wiles said H.B. 1037 would eliminate the sense of cooperation that he specifically wrote into his 2004 bill.

There’s sometimes a dramatic escalation in land cost when a state institution seeks to buy private property, so eminent domain — used for example by North Florida Regional Airport to acquire the Araquay Park properties — can be necessary for the public good, he said.

But residents note that FSDB’s enrollment is declining and ask, “Why do they want this power?”

Homeowners have the power to sue under 1995’s Bert J. Harris Property Protection Act, which says property owners could be due compensation if a government takes their property without adequate compensation.

Wiles said, “The school bought (the Collins House) knowing they couldn’t use it. Why wouldn’t they want to work more effectively with the political entity that surrounds it?”

FSDB to hold emergency meeting over securing alleyway by Collins House

The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind trustees are to hold an emergency meeting today to figure out how to make a campus alley safer for students.

FSDB spokeswoman Miki Gilloon said there have been some “increased incidents” since the holidays in the alleyway on the Collins House property on Nelmar Street. The alleyway is also adjacent to the president’s house at 27 Milton Street, she stated.

“Basically this meeting is to look at ways in securing the alleyway, and this is a decision that’s going to be made by the board of trustees,” Gilloon said.

The meeting is open to the public and to be conducted at 9:30 a.m. in Moore Hall, 207 N. San Marco Ave., Room 126.

Residents may also participate by conference call by dialing 866-503-4605.

When prompted, enter code number 9048272614. Then, state your name and press the # key.

Satire On Rep. Proctor's Eminent Domain Bill -- A Parody of "Baby Baby Where did our Love Go" by the Supremes

Proctor, Proctor

Bill, don't BS me
Ooh, please don't BS me
We know you’re all wrong

We got this yearning, burning
Yearning feelin' inside us
Ooh, deep inside us
And it makes us all mad

You came into our hood, Proctor Proctor
So selfishly
With HB 1037
Stinkin' like horse pee

Now we won’t surrender
You’ll wanna reprieve
Ooh, you’ll wanna reprieve

Ooh, Proctor, Proctor
Where will our house go?
Ooh, don't you hear me?
Don't you see me no more?
Ooh Proctor


Proctor, Proctor
Where will our House go?
in Nelmar Terrace
and Fullerwood next door?

We got this yearning, burning
Yearning feelin' inside us
Ooh, deep inside us
And it’s our sense of place

Before you were elected
We had HB 1059
But now you forgot that
We can kiss your behind

Proctor Proctor, ooh Proctor

Proctor, Proctor don't BS me
Ooh, please don't BS me
for FSDB

Proctor, Proctor
Where will our house go?

The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind Campus has mushroomed from five acres to more than 75 acres. It demands eminent domain despite declining enrollments. Two National Register of Historic Places neighborhoods are in danger -- Fullerwood and Nelmar Terrace. State Representative William L. Proctor is behind the scheme. Proctor needs to appear before our City of St. Augustine City Commission and answer questions under oath, instead of hiding in Tallahassee. What do you reckon?

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New York Times column re: Gingrich's ethnocentric Ph.D. thesis supporting Belgian colonialism

December 4, 2011
What Gingrich Didn’t Learn in Congo

San Francisco

NEWT GINGRICH seldom misses a chance to note that he is a historian. He lards his speeches with references to obscure events in the American past, talks about his time teaching at West Georgia College (not one of those effete Ivies), and has declared that the more than $1.6 million in fees he earned from Freddie Mac was for his work not, heaven forbid, as a lobbyist, but as a historian. And last year he was in the news for saying President Obama exhibited “Kenyan, anticolonial behavior.”

Mr. Gingrich would be our first president with a Ph.D. since Woodrow Wilson. Does his work as a historian tell us anything about him? Or, for that matter, anything about why, despite certain events in 1776, he considers “anticolonial” an epithet? To address these questions, a good place to start is his 1971 Tulane doctoral dissertation: “Belgian Education Policy in the Congo 1945-1960.”

A curious document it is — but not in ways that Mr. Gingrich’s enemies might hope for, since the dissertation is not filled with racism or drum-beating for colonialism’s glories. At the start he asks, “Did the colonial powers perform a painful but positive function in disrupting traditional society and so paving the way for more rapid modernization? Even if they did, was the price of colonial exploitation too high?” Good questions, but he never answers them. Instead, he surveys his subject in a highly pedantic way, dutifully covering rural and urban schools, church and state schools, white and black schools, Protestant and Catholic schools, and education for men and for women. Footnotes, statistics and quotes from eminent authorities abound. The writer who emerges from the text is not the fire-breathing, slash-and-burn partisan attacker Mr. Gingrich’s critics portrayed from his time as House speaker, nor the profound, big-picture thinker Mr. Gingrich the candidate presents himself as. It’s the desk-bound policy wonk.

Part of the wonkery is the absence of any human detail. What did a colonial-era Congolese school look like? What was in the textbooks? How did the teachers treat their students? The reader never learns because Mr. Gingrich never went there — although he did go to Belgium. Perhaps he couldn’t afford a trip to Africa. He cites interviews with one American and seven Belgians — but not a single Congolese, though there were hundreds living in Europe and the United States he could have talked to.

Instead, the future legislator was interested in how educational policy in the Congo reflected tensions in Belgian political life — between Catholics and secularists, and between the French and Flemish halves of the country. Absent Congolese voices and lives, the dissertation is as dry as a stale biscuit.

Despite these limitations, however, Mr. Gingrich is clear-eyed about colonialism. “Belgium ran the Congo as a profitable business,” he writes. “This goal could be achieved only with a passive native population.” He notes that the various “civilizing” efforts the Belgians were so proud of “were commercially motivated. For example, the natives received medical care because it improved their capabilities as a work force. They received enough education to be effective workmen.”

He refers to the “paternalistic” policies of a mining company and the colonial government and to the channeling of blacks into vocational and technical training as “ ‘Uncle Tom’-ish,” though “advanced” for its time. Secondary education for girls was “appalling”; for boys, “also pretty dismal.” School financing was “woefully inadequate” and it was “pathetically unjust” that spending per pupil on the children of white settlers was nearly 10 times what it was for Congolese. He scoffs at Belgian pride in setting up two universities during the final years of colonial rule, pointing out that the students were overwhelmingly white.

Beyond education, Mr. Gingrich has a shrewd politician’s sense of how the colonial system worked. Power was held by a “triumvirate”: an all-white senior civil service, a powerful cartel of corporations and the Catholic Church. The first wanted power, the second profits, the third converts. Could this astute description reflect a hitherto unknown radical phase in Newt’s youth?

Alas, no: his beef is not that there might be anything immoral about one country’s owning and exploiting another, but that the Belgians didn’t create a class of Congolese who could keep the economy functioning efficiently — for whose profit, he never asks. “The Belgians get very low marks for their efforts to develop a political elite and much of the country’s post-independence chaos is due to this Belgian failure.”

Hmmm. If you think this sounds too anticolonial, better alert Fox News. But the bigger question is: does this thesis show an original, creative historian at work? This it does not.

Woodrow Wilson’s Ph.D. dissertation boldly asserted that the founding fathers had gotten many things wrong, and advocated for this country something like the British parliamentary system. Soon published as a book, it was argued over for decades, and even scholars who disagreed with Wilson respected him, and his openness to changing his ideas. Mr. Gingrich may succeed in being elected president, but it is hard to imagine him, like Wilson after he left the White House, being elected president of the American Historical Association.

Adam Hochschild is the author of “King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa.”

Click Here to read Ph.D. Dissertation of NEWTON LEROY GINGRICH --- What do you reckon?

How many sources are from Africa? How much solicitude can one have for a brutal European despotism? Ask NEWTON LEROY GINGRICH at tonight's Republican presidential debate in Jacksonville, FL.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

St. Augustiine Record: City: Protect historical artifacts --- outrage over TV reality show sparked commission action

Posted: January 24, 2012 - 9:55pm

Outrage over TV reality show sparked commission action

Desiring to protect the city’s historic resources, St. Augustine City Commission this week passed a resolution reminding its residents that local archeological artifacts require protection from exploitation.

Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline became alarmed after a Los Angeles film company recently requested to film a reality show of city residents digging artifacts from their yards and talking about them on camera.

That project was never developed, though just weeks before, a local resident armed with an expensive metal detector boasted about finding “secret” sites and shipwrecks where he locates and removes thousands of artifacts, including gold and silver from the 16th century.

“It was a double-whammy,” Sikes-Kline said Tuesday. “So it was important to get our message out.”

She also heard that the film company planned digging on the site where Seminole Chief Osceola was captured.

In a prepared statement released Tuesday morning by the city, Sikes-Kline said, “We can all be the best stewards of our property and be sure that when it’s excavated it is not done wilfully but with professional oversight.”

Both those cases sparked an angry outcry from residents and protests from archeologists who said removal of historical artifacts from their locations removes any chance of determining their age and much of the historic value they may hold.

Artifact restoration expert John Powell of St. Augustine said Tuesday that the city’s “archeological integrity” must be maintained.

“St. Augustine has already lost innumerable archeological resources to construction and development,” he said. “Any information we can save about the city’s past we should save. (The city’s) archeological ordinance mandates that any major disruption of soil must be excavated by the city. It’s the only thing that stands between archeological information and the total destruction of those resources.”

Powell praised City Archeologist Carl Halbirt and renowned University of Florida archeologist Kathleen Deagan as world-class “treasures” who have influenced and educated thousands of local residents with their work.

Halbirt said that, by having the archeological ordinance, 600 city properties have been excavated.

“Without the ordinance and investigation, this information would have been permanently lost,” he said. “We’re helping to preserve St. Augustine’s heritage through documentation.”

Sikes-Kline admitted that the new resolution has no enforcement teeth but said it serves to remind residents they should recognize the importance of preserving the archeological significance of what they find on their land.

This can be done by contacting the city prior to any excavation, she said.

There is no telling what Halbirt will find.

For example, while excavating a wooded lot off Magnolia Street for a proposed house construction, he found post holes that led to the conclusion that this site once held a prehistoric Native American occupation that dates prior to Don Pedro Menendez.

Also on that site he found more post holes and archeological items that post-date the 1565 Menendez encampment.

Sikes-Kline said that public property in the county and city is already protected.

“But private property is private property. We can’t tell people what they can or cannot do on their property,” she said. “We just want them to call before digging. This (resolution) is an opportunity to educate people.”


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About Time
By mullb@slhn.org | 01/25/12 - 07:32 am

Finally the city did something to protect itself an its history. I'd like to thank the people responsibile for this one.History be it good or bad is ir replacable once its dug up/ plowed over /built on, or whatever method of destroying it happens.St.Sugistine can preserve its history as well as enlighten vistors who come there for its history amongst other things.Job well done an hopefully people will follow thru. As far as the gentleman who is "secretly" taking treasures an history away from others as they say every dog has its day an time will tell. bdm


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Speaking of looters...
By Soldado | 01/25/12 - 08:35 am

...whatever happened with the entirely justifiable outcry generated a week or so by the Record's spotlight on them and Dr. Deagan's entirely correct commentary? Is *our* local/state/national heritage still being "expertly restored" for private profit, resulting in the destruction of St. Augustine's irreplaceable archaeological sites and artifacts?

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If the city managed our
By Alaric | 01/25/12 - 09:11 am

If the city managed our resources better the Spanish quarter wouldn't be closing. There is no real danger of private archeologists. The city could benefit from more exposure. It seems that completely rejecting outside and private archologists indicates that the city wants to keep evrything to itself. The city should try and work with them and help maintain the integrity of their work rather than flat out rejecting them.


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How many
By Ravendriver | 01/25/12 - 04:21 pm

artifacts end up in the private collections of government employees?

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By hearmeroar | 01/25/12 - 05:42 pm

Ravendriver: REPORT IT.

Elsewise, STFU.

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By hearmeroar | 01/25/12 - 05:50 pm

Confusing msg.

You're blaming the City for the collapse of the SQ? No. That was the State, which had been running it since its inception, never putting money into it.

The City took over the SQ and buildings in good faith, not realizing the depth of the lack of commitment by the State for DECADES.

The City has a STAFF archaeologist, which does NOT preclude other archaeologists or contract companies from working in St. Augustine.

The reality show woman (Mandelbaum) is a self-admitted "digger" for "treasure." She is NOT an archaeologist.

The metal-detecting Bob Spratley leads his friends from Georgia and elsewhere to archaeologoical sites on government and private property to LOOT -- and just for good measure, he sends his friends back to their home states with cultural material they have STOLEN from us.

St. Augustine Record: City to oppose eminent domain -- Resident: FSDB is committing 'neighborhood homicide'

Posted: January 23, 2012 - 11:15pm

Resident: FSDB is committing ‘neighborhood homicide’

A simmering, decade-long zoning dispute between the city and The Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind reached a low boil Monday night as residents of the historic Nelmar Terrace neighborhood strongly protested a proposed compromise agreement hammered out with the school.

Nelmar resident Melinda Rakoncy told the City Commission that if the school’s attempts to achieve eminent domain power succeed, “that is war on the city of St. Augustine. It would strip the city forever of its ability to control its own growth.”

Rakoncay explained that, with that power, FSDB could force the purchase of any piece of land in the city.

House bill 1037, filed by state Rep. Bill Proctor, R,St. Augustine, would not only give the school eminent domain power but make the school’s zoning violations permanent after July 1.

Senate Bill 1348 was filed as a companion bill to Proctor’s. Both would delete the present requirement that FSDB cooperate with local authorities in the restoration of school facilities.

On a motion by Vice Mayor Leanna Freeman, the commission voted 5-0 to approve a resolution opposing that legislation.

Proctor — who is term limited — did not attend Monday, but has said he wants FSDB to have eminent domain power before he leaves office.

Rakoncay said, “He’s not representing his district or the city. He’s representing the school.”

St. Augustine activist Ed Slavin said Proctor has had a “close and intimate relationship” with FSDB as a board member and chairman of the board for years.

“This as a conflict of interest for him,” Slavin said. “Let him be here under oath and not hiding in Tallahassee.”

Former Nelmar neighborhood Lisa Lloyd said she loved the school and its mission, but added that its administrators have “used children’s disabilities to hide their misbehavior. If you let those (zoning) violations go, why would anyone else in the city follow the law? It’s frightening. Taking people’s homes away form them is completely reprehensible.”

FSDB officials have said several times that they have no plans to use eminent domain. They just want to be protected from gouging when they want to purchase a piece of land, they said.

But it’s doubtful whether any member of the City Commission or any Nelmar Terrace resident believes that.

Multiple residents said they were “disappointed” at the terms of a mediated agreement worked out between the city and FSDB giving the school permanent control over a city alleyway. For that parcel, the public would get access to two strips of land — one along Nelmar Avenue and the other along the Intracoastal, though they would not have access to the water.

City Attorney Ron Brown laid out the city’s choices:

■ If the mediation proposal is rejected, things stay as they are until new proposals can be worked out. If the eminent domain bills pass, however, the city has no recourse and the school has no incentive to negotiate.

■ If the mediation proposal is approved, the city at least gets something. So if the eminent domain bills pass, the mediation provisions remain in effect.

The major issues include the usage and fencing of the Collins House on Nelmar, the future use of the vacant eastern half of the Genoply Tract, the possession and use of an alley between Milton and Nelmar streets that has been public since 1912, and of course, eminent domain.

Brown said the mediation proposals are “the best we think we can do at this time. (If the bills pass), the Legislature will have the effect of legalizing what the school has done on that property.”

One of the primary concerns the neighborhood has with the Collins House is reducing its eight-foot institutional security fence to six feet, he said.

Commissioner Nancy Sikes-Kline, who as one of the mediators spent 16 grueling hours working on the agreement, said she wasn’t happy with the result.

“But it’s here. We can modify it,” she said, adding that she was not able to recommend the agreement. “I wanted to close this wound that has been festering for so many years. This was the best we could do.”

Alfred Street resident Jessica Misterly said she was disappointed with the proposal, which she felt was “skewed toward FSDB. The city gets little or nothing.”

Nelmar resident Jeanette Booth said FSDB is not governed by publicly elected officials and said she opposed the bills.

“We want to be good neighbors, but we want (FSDB) to follow the laws,” Booth said.

James Register, of 15 Genoply St., the only resident on that street that hadn’t sold to FSDB, said the school offered him $80,000 for his house, then $125,000 and then $140,000.

“I’ve lived here since 1967,” he said. “(After eminent domain takes my house) what are you going to do with me? I’m waiting for someone to knock on my door and say, ‘Mr. Register, congratulations! You’re now part of the FSDB campus’”

James Carr called the school “an 800-pound gorilla, above the law, above reproach. They can do what they want.”


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expand the campus outside of the congested city ,, nelmar
By yathink | 01/24/12 - 07:32 am

terrace residents have a right to enjoy their property without being harassed by f.s.d.b. and it's eminent domain ideas... proctor should butt out and cease using his relationship with the school to enable them to STEAL property... buses can transport the kids between campuses,, if managed properly, they won't have to bus them at all !!!>>>yathink

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Ed Slavin = yathink
By Jazyddrums | 01/24/12 - 07:41 am

Ed Slavin = yathink

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By Ravendriver | 01/24/12 - 09:13 am

you should be ashamed of yourself. Follow the $$$$.

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local control?
By peanut | 01/24/12 - 06:31 pm

If Proctor had his way, Flagler College would have eminent domain. Under his leadership, the college would buy property, tear down historic houses and then build a fake historical building. The college has a master plan but somehow the city is never given access to their plans. They are produced piecemeal so that no one can examine the whole plan. This is also his plan for D&B. He doesn't care that he is destroying one of the nicest areas of this city.. Due to the water all around, our neighborhoods are small and expanding the school is destroying the quality of life there. The campus used to be a safe place for neighbors to ride bicycles and fish. a.. that has already been destroyed. The abuse on the campus was not from visitors, it was from employees.