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Friday, November 19, 2004

Knucklehead of the Week: Gator Fans

OK, so Steve Spurrier appears to be the next coach at the University of South Carolina, one of the Gator's annual opponents in the SEC.

Gator Nation -- get over it. The whining and name calling (I saw a poster on a sports discussion board referring to "Stevil Spurrier") are rampant, and fans obviously have hard feelings about Spurrier not returning to UF to replace Ron Zook.

He's a great coach, no doubt, but he is not the only coach who can win here. There are successful coaches at many other schools, and hopefully UF will entice one here.

I think it'll be fun to watch Spurrier throw his visor and have his semi-regular tantrums on the opposing sideline. Personally, I had become tired of watching it on ours.

Spurrier already defied the Thomas Wolfe idiom that you can never go home again when he returned to UF in 1990, so who can blame him for not wanting to come back again? I hope he is able to resurrect the South Carolina football program, because USC has been a bad football team for a long time, and this fan prefers to watch good games, not just blowouts (although those can be fun, too).

Too many Gator fans worry that this means UF's program will take a step back or that Spurrier will start collecting SEC Championship rings. These are the same folks who were so impatient with Zook that they had him fired before he finished his third year, when any football expert will tell you that starting next year UF was to begin reaping the fruit of Zook's work as a recuiter and coach.

Lighten up. This is a game, and Spurrier decided to take his ball and go play somewhere else. UF will be fine.

Hell Frozen Over?

From Florida ACLU Executive Director Larry Spaulding, who's Friday Civil Liberties e-mail this week offered a few humorous bits. This was the best:

The following is supposedly an actual question given on a University of Maryland chemistry mid-term. The answer by one student was so "profound" that the professor shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course, why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well.

Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic (absorbs heat)?

Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is compressed) or some variant.

One student, however, wrote the following:

First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore, no souls are leaving.
As for how many souls are entering Hell, let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today. Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell.

With birth and death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.

This gives two possibilities:

1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will increase until all Hell breaks loose.

2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell freezes over.

So which is it?

If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa during my Freshman year that, "it will be a cold day in Hell before I sleep with you, and take into account the fact that I slept with her last night, then number 2 must be true, and thus I am sure that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over.

The corollary of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore, extinct...leaving only Heaven thereby proving the existence of a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting "Oh, my God."

This student received the only "A" in the class.

State Supreme Court Rebuffs Overly Strict Teen Curfews

The Gainesville City Commission has enough of a progressive conscience not to have enacted youth curfews. But many cities have, and Thursday the Florida Supreme Court narrowly upheld a lower court ruling that teen curfews in Tampa and Pinellas Park were unconstitutional.

It was not a complete win for civil libertarians, though, as the court left wiggle room that governments can use to enact less strict teen curfews.

But a win is a win, and lately those of us who favor a free society have not had many victories.

Great Florida Political Blog

I've added a blog to my daily reading list. It is called Florida Politics, and it is sharp, knowledgeable and useful in understanding how state politics works. No info on who is behind the blog, but the site is updated daily with numerous posts that cover many important issues. Check it out.

Dems Need to Get Mad AND Get Even

After the 2000 presidential elections, Democrats blamed voters who supported Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, particularly those in Florida, for handing the election to Bush.

As a Nader voter in 2000 and the publisher of a Gainesville magazine that heartily endorsed his candidacy over Gore and Bush, I maintained that Bush's victory was more likely due to the Democrats who voted for Bush, as there were far more of those voters than there were Nader supporters.

True, had I been precognizant, I would have endorsed Gore, but at the time both candidates were mumbling the same rhetoric and Nader's candidacy had the hope of creating a viable third party that would address progressive, populist issues that the two main parties typically ignore. Bush was not promising to wage war preventatively against nations not threatening anyone and in fact promised to move away from "nation building," which he used as a catchphrase for President Clinton's "humanitarian interventions" in the Balkans.

Now we all know better, and in the 2004 election Nader was a non-factor. Still Bush won, and in large part thanks to many Democrats who voted for him. In Florida, Democrats have a large advantage in registered voters over Republicans, yet Bush won big. Nader got squat.

Dems have been agonizing over what to do next and how to convert themselves so that they appeal to Bush voters who schizophrenically support fiscal and environmental policies that do them harm. How to win the "moral" vote? How to appeal to "red state" mentalities? And on and on…

The reason Republicans are winning is because they are more Machiavellian than Democrats. To the GOP, the end always justifies the means, which is why they so ruthlessly lie about their Democratic opponents. They developed a strategy back in the 1970s to divide the Democratic base by portraying the Dems as elites who care little about values, as big spenders who prefer to give handouts to minorities, and as purveyors of depraved cultural mores.

The Dems have maintained the same strategy of trying to win minds and not hearts, using silly things like facts to prove how their policies are superior. And while they are right, the argument falls into the GOP trap by making Dems appear to many Americans as know-it-alls. Bush was happy to avoid discussing issues and instead paint Kerry as out of touch with American values.

In 2004, the GOP strategy worked, but not as well as people think. After 9-11, the GOP's jingoistic call to protect America overshadowed Bush's many failings. At first I thought it was frightening that America could not agree that this was one of the worst failures of a US president in history, but now I see it more clearly – despite 9-11's obviously rallying point for America behind Bush, and despite the GOP's strategy of deflecting the debate away from its failed policies, the election was still close. If not for 9-11, Bush would have lost in a landslide.

The strategy that Dems need to take, unfortunately, needs to resemble the GOP's. Worry less about facts and more about the elitist nature of the GOP. Don't play nice. Expose Bush's economic policies for what they are – theft from our grandchildren to enrich his wealthy buddies. Point out that the so-called cultural depravity in TV and movies is not being controlled by liberal actors like Tim Robbins but by right-wing media owners like Rupert Murdoch and General Electric. Stop rationalizing our imperial foreign policies as protecting America, which is a lie that we pay for with our pocketbooks and lives. And most importantly, stop being the voice of corporate America and instead become to voice of the workers – remember that in Florida Bush won by a safe margin but the minimum wage increase won huge.

The Dems need to spend more time painting portraits of the GOP, which should be easy because Republicans control all levels of government and must take ownership of all of its policies. They need to talk about morals and such, but not so much as to say "we're moral, too," but to explain how the GOP only pays lip service to morality. Even the conservative religious leader who Bush hired to run his faith-based initiative quit because, he said, Bush was using the program to play politics and hand out pork projects.

I admit, I am advocating an escalation of the nastiness that elections have become, but the GOP started this and will not relinquish a successful strategy. The Dems need to care more about the end and less about the means.

Good Riddance

An Alabama man convicted in 2002 of a 1963 church bombing that killed four black girls died in prison Thursday. Although Bobby Frank Cherry always denied his involvement in the crime, relatives said he had bragged about lighting the fuse.

Here's one of those times I hope Christians are right about the existence of Hell. The Lake of Fire could not be painful enough for this guy.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Pork Trumps Health Care

Another three percent of Florida's working age population is without health insurance, as compared to five years ago, according to a state study:
Nearly 20 percent of the state's working age population is without health insurance, compared to about 17 percent five years ago, according to a study by the state Agency for Health Care Administration.

Of those, more than half went without insurance for a year or more, and 63 percent blamed unaffordable premiums.
Not that I really thought health care was a big concern for Jeb and his elite compatriots in Tallahassee. They are too busy carving the pig and distributing the pork to worry about helping citizens get health care.

That's why the state put a referendum to eliminate the bullet train and not, say, a referendum on whether the state should help fund indigent health care. Taking the bullet train out of the equation frees up money to spend building roads that spur development and on subsidies to big businesses like Wal-Mart in the guise of economic development. Whenever you hear politicians talk about economic development, they are usually talking about subsidizing the profits of big business.

Requiring businesses to provide health care or spending tax money on it is counterintuitive to the way these jokers think. Besides, almost every elected official in Tallahassee got their using massive campaign contributions from big business special interests, so paying attention to the needs to non-contributors would likely lose them their jobs come next election.

Meanwhile, Jeb's big bro is proposing to eliminate the tax deduction for businesses that provide health care, meaning that employees will either lose coverage or be required to pay more. Paying more, of course, is what the Florida study says is causing people to go without health insurance.

Florida: Make Pre-Paid College More Expensive

If you are planning to join the state's pre-paid college tuition program, do it sooner than later. Lawmakers are again discussing changes to the program that will raise costs enough that it could become too expensive for moderate-income vitals.

Almost one million kids have been signed up since the program began. The advantage is that you lock in tuition to the rate it is when you enter the program – you pay a lump sum and the state gets to use that money for investments. When you kid starts college, the tuition is already paid.

Here's the problem: state universities want to begin raising tuition annually at more than 14 percent, which would mean the state would lose money on the prepaid program. The prepaid lump sum is based on the state making about 8 percent interest.

To cover the proposed increase, parents would have to pay $4,000 more than they do now. This would obviously be an impediment for many families, and that's sad. The idea of the program was to create a way for low and moderate income families to afford college educations for their kids, and it has been wildly successful.

National ACLU Prez to Speak at UF Tonight

ACLU president Nadine Strossen will speak at UF tonight about the USA Patriot Act and marijuana policy. The free talk is at 7:30 p.m., in the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom. You can get free tickets at the Office of Student Activities, which is on the third floor of the Reitz Union, or at the door if they are available.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Something Stinks

Remember to call your local elected officials for the increased likelihood of an early death caused by the pollution they've encouraged. Sure, some city and county commissioners have tried to reduce pollution by opposing urban sprawl and heavy polluting industries like the Florida Rock cement plant, but most have gleefully and consistently supported growth at all costs.

Now we have confirmation of one of those costs – our lives. Researchers at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies released a study this week that says pollution increases related to automobiles, power plants and industries are linked to higher death rates, particularly in cities.

The Alachua County Commission in particular is a prime suspect when it comes to pollution increases. For all but four years of the commission's entire history, it has been dominated by commissioners who rubber-stamped every proposed development and industry that came along. They are responsible for the traffic congestion that snarls the west side of town most of the day, for the growth mismanagement that has spread gated communities across the county in ways the require people to drive everywhere, for railroading through the Florida Rock cement plant, and for opposing citizen efforts to enforce clean air standards.

Keep this in mind when you hear a developer-backed candidate for city or county commission bleat about the need for economic development, to keep local government off the backs of business or to balance environmental policies with business interests. Those are codes words to the people who make money from real estate development that these candidates, if elected, will be happily compliant with all proposals to further dirty our air.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Appeals Court Rules Against Vouchers

Mark Lane at FlaBlog has a short post on the recent appellate court ruling against Gov. Bush's voucher law. He has links to the ruling and a statement by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been arguing5 (rightly so) for years that the vouchers are an obvious violation of the state constitution, which forbids giving public school money to religious institutions, which is exactly one of the things vouchers are intended to do.

Which is one reason that it's scary to let the Bush brothers have any hand in judicial appointments. Far from opposing judicial activism, as they claim, the GOP wants judges who will interpret laws and the constitution and rule in court cases as the GOP wishes them to do.