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Florida Slush Funds, Radioactive Coulter, Corrupt Editors, Bullies and Body-Slammers: The Live Wire

| March 21, 2011

A St. Patrick's Day holiday postcard from the Mid-Manhattan Library Picture Collection of the New York Public Library.

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Florida GOP Wants Its Slush Funds

President Slush Fund.

From the Palm Beach Post: “A House committee Friday urged lawmakers to override former Gov. Charlie Crist’s veto last year of legislation that would revive so-called leadership funds, which would strengthen the ability of House and Senate leaders from both parties to raise campaign cash. The 11-4 vote by the State Affairs Committee broke on party lines, with Democrats opposed. Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, and House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, were powerful advocates for the fund-raising accounts last year, but were snubbed by Crist. The governor’s veto may have marked the beginning of his crumbling relationship with fellow Republicans, which concluded with him breaking with the party in April. Leadership funds were banned 20 years ago by Florida lawmakers following newspaper reports drawing links between legislation approved and cash flowing into accounts controlled by party leaders. The new proposal would allow legislative leaders from both parties to continue raising unlimited amounts of campaign cash. But instead of pouring the funds into the state party as is the current practice, the leaders would get control under the proposal.”

Reubin Askew: When Florida Had a Real Governor

From the St. Pete Times: “He walks with a stoop and looks a bit frail, but as he nears 83, Reubin Askew’s intellect is razor-sharp, his memories vivid. The two-term Democratic governor led Florida for most of the 1970s and spent the past two decades teaching public policy courses at state universities. He’s a living, breathing history of this fascinating state. Askew freely shared his recollections and opinions Thursday with students from Leadership Florida. With him was good friend Joseph Hatchett, who in 1975 was the first African-American to serve on the Florida Supreme Court, thanks to the former governor. […] Askew joked about his native Muskogee, Okla., a place memorialized by Merle Haggard in the famous line, “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee.” “That was a lie,” Askew deadpanned. […] Askew strongly championed school desegregation in 1971, and in a memorable speech at the University of Florida said the Constitution would be upheld, “and rightly so,” three words that he said offended some friends.

“I never had so many friends get tired all of a sudden. They were not around,” Askew said. He recalled a woman angrily confronting him at an event and saying, “We ought to bus you back to Moscow.” Both men are upset by current legislative efforts to reshape the judiciary by creating two Supreme Courts, abolish judicial nominating panels and require a 60-percent threshhold in future merit retention votes for appeals judges. “The feeling in the Legislature is that the court system is their enemy,” Askew said. “It bothers me.” Askew, who served 12 years in the Legislature, said he still cannot believe today’s presiding officers — the House speaker and Senate president — have the power to fire every unelected senior staff member. And people think the courts have too much power? “It’s the Legislature that’s too strong,” Askew said.” The full story.

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A New National Refuge for Panthers North of Okeechobee?

From Public News Service Florida: “A proposal to create a new national wildlife refuge north of Lake Okeechobee could give a big boost to efforts to save the Florida panther. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wants to designate the 150,000-acre Everglades Headwaters refuge as part of a greater effort to connect to the panther refuge in the south. So far, four public meetings have been held and public comment is being accepted until March 31. Elizabeth Fleming, Florida representative of Defenders of Wildlife, says this proposal is different in that it features a public-private partnership. “One-third of it would be acquired as public lands and a full two-thirds of it would remain in private ownership.” Much of that land would remain under the control of the area ranchers. Fleming says her group is working on a way to compensate ranchers for any losses caused by panthers. Although numbers have been increasing, the latest estimates say there are still only 100 to 160 adult panthers in Florida. A “Save the Panther Day” open house is planned from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge near Naples. Sandy Mickey, park ranger at the Florida Panther and Ten Thousand Islands national wildlife refuges, says these areas are instrumental in helping increase panther numbers. “It certainly has rebounded and that’s thanks in part to habitat protection in south Florida, including the refuge which was established in 1989.” As the panther population grows, Mickey says, people should never feed wildlife, watch out for wildlife while driving, secure pet food and garbage, and protect pets and livestock in enclosed structures – especially at night.”

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Colleen Conklin Sues Flagler Beach

For a few weeks last year Colleen Conklin, a member of the Flagler County School Board for the last 10 years, was hobbling on crutches, the result of tripping on a sidewalk on Flagler Beach’s South 4th Street at Ocean Shore Boulevard, in front of Coquina Real Estate’s office. She sued the city back then, for “general damages” and negligence and a sum of more than $15,000, with Jim Manfre–the former sheriff and occasional city attorney for Bunnell, when his partner, Sid Nowell, isn’t in the attorney’s chair there–as her attorney. The News-Journal unearthed the suit last week (it was filed last summer). The trip took place against the lip of an unfinished sidewalk, where concrete ends and dirt begins, in a handicapped parking spot, which remains unfinished to this day–unless the city intends the spot to stay the way it is. The city painted the curb along the spot yellow after the fall. The suit is still pending. Here are the before and after shots:

What End Game in Libya?

From the Washington Post: “The prominent role played by the United States in carrying out and commanding the initial coalition attacks on Libya appeared to extend far beyond President Obama’s description of a narrow mission in which U.S. forces would play only a supporting part. […] administration officials and military leaders came under a barrage of questions — raised by members of Congress, outside experts and reporters — about the parameters of U.S. participation and the operation’s goals, especially if Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi does not capitulate. […] Lawmakers commenting on the weekend’s events were divided. Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) said that Obama should seek a declaration of war from Congress and questioned who would emerge in control of Libya. “We really have not discovered who it is in Libya that we are trying to support,” Lugar said said on “Face the Nation.” “Obviously, the people that are against Gaddafi, but who?” […] Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), on “Meet the Press,” said Obama had allayed early concerns about possible “mission creep.” The operation, he said, “has been very carefully limited,” Levin said. “After the air is cleared of any threats, there’s going to be a handoff to our allies, and this mission will then be carried on by French, by British and by Arab countries.”” The full story.

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Detroit Car Wreck: When Editors Bow to Advertisers

Chrysler_200-dog detroit news review spiked

The dog in the fight.

Unfortunately, there are examples of shoddy, unethical, pandering journalism all over the place. That’s why journalism is in the toilet, why readers and viewers don’t trust journalists, and why advertisers seem, at least in the short run, to be the only winners, though they too suffer immensely when the medium they choose to advertise in is corrupt. The latest installment in this sad tale is the Detroit News’s deletion of “negative” lines in its auto writer’s review of the Chrysler 200. “The Chrysler 200 is the car that sits at the center of a multi-million-dollar, Eminem-starring “Imported from Detroit” campaign meant to symbolize the rebirth of not only the automaker, but of Detroit,” writes “Unfortunately, as we’ve experienced first hand, the car’s just not competitive with current models — only competing well with the older version of itself, the Chrysler Sebring. Scott Burgess, who up until today was the auto critic at The Detroit News, called it out for what it was in a review that ran in this past Thursday’s paper. […] Two sources at The Detroit News tell us that after receiving a phone call from an advertiser, changes were made to the online version of Burgess’ review. […] What we do know is that although the changes don’t go so far as to turn a negative review into a positive one, it was certainly enough to water it down.” Burgess resigned. Detroit News publisher Jonathan Wolman apologized, though not without qualifying his apology with craven explanations: “While our intent was to improve the piece by making these passages less grating…”

Here’s the full review, with the deleted passages in strike-out, compliments of

2011 Chrysler 200 falls short of the competition

Chrysler had its hands full when it took on redesigning the midsize Sebring and creating the 200. It was a marvelous effort – one of monumental proportions.

Through years of abuse, the Sebring had become the rented punch line for a brand considered a joke.

But then came the Super Bowl, the ad, and a shift in consumer thinking about luxury, Detroit and Chrysler. The hardest steel, the hottest fire. What? That’s the 200?

There’s still hope. The all-new 300 shows how Auburn Hills can reinvent itself with modern design, edgy performance and vision. The 200 shows how Band-Aids on sheet metal never really stick.

Chrysler, of course, had to do something with the Sebring, and every change on this car is a marked improvement. It rides better, looks better and just feels better than the outgoing rib-hooded Sebring.

But the problem the 200 faces is that the competition has moved well past it in design and performance. Chrysler wants to eventually drive its luxury heritage home again, but this 200 won’t help the brand sputter out of the parking lot. If this is the best vehicle Detroit exports, then Glenn Beck is right.

Too harsh? Far from it. In fact, the Chrysler 200 makes me angry. No one is prouder of the Motor City, and I want every carmaker, foreign and domestic, to produce world-class cars and trucks. When that happens, consumers win. Regrettably, the 200 is still a dog. And I get mad as hell when anyone pumps out a car that forces me to recommend the Toyota Camry over it.

If you compare the 200 to any of the mainstream midsize competition – not the luxury brands it is purported to go up against – all of them outshine the 200.

The only head-to-head match the 200 wins is against the Sebring. So if you’re a Sebring owner, eligible for some sort of friends or family discount – or more likely, rented a Sebring and are considering buying one – here are all of the improvements you’ll find in the 200.

Short a few gears

First, the 200 features the engine that will power Chrysler’s recovery: the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6. This 283-horsepower engine provides oomph to this car’s performance. It has lots of power and can pull this car all over the place while hitting 19 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway. This is the premium engine, however.

The base model comes with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 173 horsepower but only improves mileage to 20 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

Car buyers in the midsize category prefer a good four-cylinder engine. The 200 doesn’t have one.

Worse yet, this car is equipped with a four-speed automatic transmission. Even subcompact cars now come with more gears spinning than this. There is an optional six-speed transmission that can help the acceleration, but it feels ill-calibrated with quick up-shifts.

Then there is the new look of the 200. While it’s much improved, it’s still the same. The front end has been redone and the straked hood is gone – thankfully.

The new face of Chrysler isn’t a bad mug. The expansive seven-bladed grille and stretched logo above have a touch of class. The LED trim in the headlights sparkle like chrome. It’s no secret that the very best pieces of the 200’s exterior were taken right from the 300, which had undergone years of reworking. It’s a smart move.

But no number of LEDs can hide a profile that looks like a loggerhead turtle. If this car came in tortoise shell, the EPA would have to put it on the endangered sedan list to prevent trappers and automotive enthusiasts from rightfully shooting it into extinction.

Inside improvements

Of course, tortoise shell would look nice in the much improved interior. Chrysler overhauled this area the interior, changing out the dash and refining most touch points, which are much softer now. The seats are upgraded, the instrument panel looks much nicer and the craftsmanship is noticeably improved – none of the pieces snapped off or cut me.

But Chrysler couldn’t swap out the first-generation UConnect system, which still is awkward to use and just a poor infotainment system. (The system Chrysler is moving into vehicles right now is much better, but the 200 wasn’t ready for it.)

Perhaps the biggest interior improvement is the car’s ride. Chrysler overhauled the suspension to smooth out the ride and provide better handling at every level of driving. Even the steering feels less numb. And with so many upgrades inside, a lot less noise seeps inside the cabin, so the ride is much quieter.

The changes to the 200 are significant, but this car lacks inspiration or soul.

It performs better when compared to itself, but doesn’t perform as well as any of its competition. That’s a losing proposition.

It’s vastly improved, but that’s only because it was so horrendous before. Hopefully, this car is a placeholder until the real redesigned 200 arrives – eventually.

The only thing this 200 proves is that good enough is never going to be good enough.

See Also:

How to beat technology addiction

From the Guardian: “You’re in the middle of reading a long, important document, but suddenly find you can’t concentrate. It’s not because the topic is snore-inducing or because it’s chocolate o’clock, but due to a tiny, red light, flashing insistently in the corner of your eye. A BlackBerry silently screaming for attention forces you to stop reading to see what the messagesays. Two minutes later, you do the same again. Whether it’s an iPhone or a trilling landline or a pinging email, the latest technology interrupts us all the time. But if you’ve ever wondered exactly what effect the myriad interruptions have on your working day, research by academics at the University of Kent is a worthy interruption. The faculty of psychology at Kent set up a “reading laboratory” with an eyeball-tracking camera to monitor eye movements. It then linked up just over 100 testers and asked them to read a passage of text on a computer screen, before interrupting the participants with one-minute messages – like phone calls. They were then told to return to the original reading, while the eye-tracking camera analysed how they did so. The researchers, led by Ulrich Weger, a senior lecturer in psychology at Kent, found that participants re-read a substantial portion of text before reaching the point where they left the original task – so much so, that each interruption caused an average 17% increase in the total time it took to read the whole passage. […] The academics also looked at the impact of background speech and music, and found that when participants were exposed to simultaneous background speech while reading a text, it took them significantly longer to get through it. Some workers might seize upon those findings as a reason to kill off open-plan offices.” The full story.

Worse Than Abu Ghraib


From the Guardian: “Commanders in Afghanistan are bracing themselves for possible riots and public fury triggered by the publication of “trophy” photographs of US soldiers posing with the dead bodies of defenceless Afghan civilians they killed. Senior officials at Nato’s International Security Assistance Force in Kabul have compared the pictures published by the German news weekly Der Spiegel to the images of US soldiers abusing prisoners in Abu Ghraib in Iraq which sparked waves of anti-US protests around the world. They fear that the pictures could be even more damaging as they show the aftermath of the deliberate murders of Afghan civilians by a rogue US Stryker tank unit that operated in the southern province of Kandahar last year. Some of the activities of the self-styled “kill team” are already public, with 12 men currently on trial in Seattle for their role in the killing of three civilians. […] Other charges include the mutilation of corpses, the possession of images of human casualties and drug abuse. […] The case has already created shock around the world, particularly with the revelations that the men cut “trophies” from the bodies of the people they killed. An investigation by Der Spiegel has unearthed approximately 4,000 photos and videos taken by the men. […] The US military has strived to keep the pictures out of the public domain fearing it could inflame feelings at a time when anti-Americanism in Afghanistan is already running high. […] The lengthy Spiegel article that accompanies the photographs contains new details about the sadistic behaviour of the men. In one incident in May last year, the article says, during a patrol, the team apprehended a mullah who was standing by the road and took him into a ditch where they made him kneel down. The group’s leader, Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, then allegedly threw a grenade at the man while an order was given for him to be shot. Afterwards, Gibbs is described cutting off one of the man’s little fingers and removing a tooth.” The full story.

See Also:

  • Judge: Soldier can show he reported Afghan plot
  • War changed soldier accused in Afghan killings, mother says

ONN: Ben Stiller on Manchild Syndrome
PSA: Ben Stiller Speaks Out Against Shaken Manchild Syndrome

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Ann Coulter: Radiation Is Good for You

From Science-Based Medicine: “Yes, according to Coulter, radiation is good for you, just like toxic sludge! Even more amazing, in this video Bill O’Reilly actually comes across as the voice of reason, at least in comparison to Ann Coulter He’s very skeptical of Coulter’s claims and even challenges her by saying, “So by your account we should all be heading towards the nuclear reactor.” Ann, for her part, near the end makes what to me is a totally incomprehensible statement about “correlation and causation.” Watch:

See Also:

  • Coulter: A Glowing Report on Radiation

The Body-Slammer Bullying Victime Talks

From mediaite: “Casey Heynes has captivated the world’s attention with the video of him standing up to a bully and laying the smackdown. As some news reports analyze the consequences of the fight, one news show in Australia went right to Casey to get his inspirational story. Casey provides play-by-play commentary for his bully confrontation and admits that he wasn’t really thinking. The interview reveals that Casey suffered from a “lifetime of torment and abuse” and was all alone since his friends had deserted him. Casey sadly spoke about how he could only remember a couple of days when nobody would tease him, and that he even contemplated suicide. Finally though, as documented in the now famous clip, Casey just reached a point where enough was enough and snapped.” Watch:

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JJ Special: Willem de Kooning

“My interest in desperation lies only in that sometimes I find myself having become desperate. Very seldom do I start out that way. I can see of course that, in the abstract, thinking and all activity is rather desperate.” So said Willem de Kooning, the great Dutch-American painter whose life spanned the 20th century. Watch:

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A Few Good Links

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6 Responses for “Florida Slush Funds, Radioactive Coulter, Corrupt Editors, Bullies and Body-Slammers: The Live Wire”

  1. J.J. Graham says:

    Thanks Pierre,
    DeKooning’s desparation led to some great painting. I was fortunate enough to see some of them in person in Maimi, pictures just do not do them justice. I’ll make sure and request a press pass for the next visit so I don’t get defacebooked. Chow.

  2. Steve Petocz says:

    With regards to Ann Coulter I don’t understand what is so disturbing about pointing out that there is possibly a correlation between radiation and lower cancer rates. It was Bill who made the wisecrack about lets all run towards the reactor totally changing the subject from one of science study to what sounds like an “SNL” skit. While we know that high levels of radiation can cause immediate harmful physical effects, we also know that every cancer patient is well aware of the life-saving radiation treatments of killing or reducing these rouge cells. I am a Fox news daily watcher and don’t find anything wrong with what she said, she was merely pointing out that just because the govt. believes that low level radiation can be bad for us doesn’t necessarily make it so. Lets face it where would we be without x-rays and nuclear scans, probably sick or dead a lot sooner. Please keep the facts intact of the story and not spin it with nonsense!

  3. PC MAN says:

    Mr. Petocz the fact that you are a Fox News watcher is the exact reason you are not offended by what she said.

  4. Steve Petocz says:

    PC man

    You just proved what Ive known all along and that is the truth doesn’t matter to the left, only what you believe does right or wrong. At least I have the courage to use my real identity. Sorry your bitter that Obama isn’t quite far left enough for most of you’s, Not to mention a complete disappointment !

  5. PC MAN says:

    Mr. Petocz I reread your initial post thinking I may have read it wrong, but no, you indeed are a fool.

  6. Steve Petocz says:

    And I refuse to have a battle of wits with someone who is obviously defenseless…..Yawn,,,,zzzzzzzzz

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