Here's an update on the trial of Republican Florida state representative Bob Allen, the Florida co-chairman of U.S. Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign, who was arrested outside a men's restroom at a city park "after offering to perform a sex act on a plainclothes police officer". He's the same fellow who "sponsored legislation that toughened penalties for lewd or lascivious conduct and created a new provision that allows some sexual predators to receive life prison sentences for their offenses. Allen had dubbed the bill the 'Sexual Predator Elimination Act.' Before his 2006 re-election, Allen had received a 92 percent rating from the Christian Coalition of Florida." "State Rep. Bob Allen insists he's innocent, will not quit".
Allen's criminal trial started this week and yesterday he introduced a novel defense - he was too fat to get into the bathroom stall. "The jury in the sex-solicitation trial of Rep. Bob Allen [went] to the Titusville park where the seven-year legislator is accused of agreeing to pay $20 to perform oral sex on an undercover police officer."
Defense attorneys have questioned whether Allen was tall enough to peer over the stall door and whether there was ample room for the lawmaker and the officer inside the stall.More precisely, Allen's attorney, one Mr. Eisenmenger
[Yesterday], Officer Danny Kavanaugh testified that Allen twice looked over the door of the handicapped stall as he was drying his hands and then joined him inside.
implied that it was physically impossible for Allen, who is 5-feet-11 and about 300 pounds, to look over the door and then squeeze inside the stall with the officer.Not all those who examined the stall agreed:
"How was he able to get his whole body in?" Eisenmenger asked the officer, who replied that the handicap stall, which is 5 feet 8 inches wide and 10 feet long, is made larger to accommodate wheelchairs.
"You could fit the jury in that stall," said Titusville police Chief Tony Bollinger, who was there Thursday when the panel, five attorneys, Allen and his wife, Beth, and about a dozen reporters with trucks descended on the placid riverfront park."Jurors visit stall where Allen's troubles began".
In any event, the stall was not the most romantic of places, it being a "drab facility with concrete walls and a big back stall." "Jury in Allen sex case takes tour of park bathroom stall".
Charlie strides world stage, and falls on his derrière
"The governor, on an international trade mission to Brazil, canceled a meeting Wednesday with executives at Petrobras, the state-owned energy producer and mass distributor of biofuels."
According to a release, Crist steered clear of Petrobras because the company does business with Iran, and that violates the spirit of a bill he signed in June that forbids the state from investing its $140 billion pension fund in companies that do business with Iran. ... The board that oversees the pension fund announced that it will start divesting in September 2008 if the fund managers don't sever their ties from the targeted nations.Was this sycophantic flourish really necessary?
When the choice was going green or going with red, white and blue, Gov. Charlie Crist chose the colors that never run."Crist walks out of Brazilian deal over Iran".
Raw political courage
"With his property-tax agenda derailed in the Florida Legislature, House Speaker Marco Rubio is making plans for his political future that include throwing his fundraising clout behind a drive for bigger property-tax cuts. The West Miami Republican has indicated he plans to raise money from lobbyists for two groups that will push his conservative policies -- and keep him politically relevant after term limits force him from office next year." "Florida House speaker to continue fight for tax cuts".
Plus they elected Dennis Baxley
"Actor Wesley Snipes is looking to move his tax-evasion trial from Ocala, calling it a 'hotbed' for Ku Klux Klan activity. In a motion filed in federal court, Snipes and his attorney say the government selected the Ocala federal courthouse to host the trial because it had the 'best possibility of an all-white southern jury.'"
Whatever the merits of Snipes' claim, the comments of local Chief Assistant State Attorney Ric Ridgway suggest that he ... how does one put this ... has spent too much time in Ocala:
"That's perhaps the most outrageous claim I've ever heard made in open court," Ridgway said. "I've been practicing here since 1983. I've never seen any evidence that there was racism here any more than anywhere else in the country. I think a person can get as fair a trial here as anywhere." "Wesley Snipes wants trial moved, says Ocala a 'hotbed' for Ku Klux Klan".
Equal time please
"The Republican Party announced Thursday that it will strip half the delegates of New Hampshire, Florida, South Carolina, Michigan and Wyoming for scheduling early nominating contests." "GOP Punishes Florida, 4 Other Early Voting States". See also "Florida penalized over early primary", "GOP smacks Florida for early primary", "GOP punishes five states by stripping half their delegates" and "Republican Party leaders vote 121-9 to punish Florida GOP".
Don't count on seeing a rash of articles, editorials and columns by our local pundits about how the GOP has shot itself in the foot and are otherwise a bunch of disorganized dopes. The traditional media has exhausted that meme with the Democrats and, well ... you know we need to move on and all that.
"Jilted by the GOP earlier this year, viewers of the nation's largest Spanish-language television network will get a chance to see the Republican presidential candidates debate in Miami on Dec. 9." "GOP's top tier to join Spanish debate".
Beware "glittery, confetti-like material"
"U.S. Rep. Ron Klein's Fort Lauderdale office was evacuated for about three hours Thursday after a staffer opened a suspicious letter with glittery, confetti-like material inside and called the city's hazardous materials team. . . . The handwritten, printed letter on notebook paper had an illegible name and a fictitious return address and included religious slurs, a swastika and complaints about high property taxes, said Felicia Goldstein, Klein's district director. A staffer opened the letter and called the U.S. Capitol Police, who told the staffer to call Fort Lauderdale Police." "Material in letter forces evacuation of Klein's office".
Florida's booming economy
"With the plummeting Florida economy and bleak signs it will worsen, the state government's chief economists are estimating that property values for homes and businesses will start to tick down statewide in 2008 for the first time in recent history." "Falling property values predicted for Florida in '08".
Scrapping a "multimillion-dollar computer system"?
"Top [PBC] courts officials on Thursday took the first step down a path that could lead to a decision to scrap a multimillion-dollar computer system that keeps track of everything from traffic tickets to murder cases to big-money legal disputes." "Court officials vote to hire computer analyst".
"Congress sent President George W. Bush its most forceful rebuke Thursday by overriding his veto of a water projects bill that directs billions of dollars toward restoration of the Everglades and recovery programs for Hurricane Katrina." "Senate rejects Bush veto". See also "Water bill overcomes Bush veto", "Bush veto negated on water legislation" and "Major water act includes dollars for Everglades restoration". The Sun-Sentinel editors: "Override of Everglades bill a lesson for Bush, a benefit for Florida".
One reporter put it this way: "President Bush suffered the first veto override of his seven-year-old presidency Thursday as the Senate enacted a $23 billion water resources bill." "Congress Overrides Bush Veto". It might have been helpful to mention how many times he vetoed legislation in, say ... his first six years in office.
"Attempts by Florida legislators to contain the cost of homeowner insurance took a long step forward Thursday when the House passed a bill to create a national fund to cover mega-disasters." "U.S. House approves catastrophe fund bill". See also "House passes bill to help homeowners insure against catastrophes".
Way to stand tuff against political pressure ...
The Florida Supreme Court sure ain't what it used to be. The News-Journal editors:
In four separate rulings in other states, the U.S. Supreme Court seems to have put the practice of lethal injection on hold. Yet the Florida Supreme Court, in rulings last week and this week, gave the go-ahead to execute two inmates."Stop and go".
In light of the federal court's ruling, Florida's failure to stay the executions seems particularly cruel. Mark Dean Schwab, convicted in 1991 of the brutal rape-murder of Junny Rios-Martinez, is set to die in Florida State Prison on Thursday. Members of Junny's family are preparing to travel to north Florida to witness the execution -- if it takes place.
It would have made more sense for state authorities to put that execution and the scheduled killing of Ian Lightbourne on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court works out issues surrounding the death penalty. Such a stay would be less stressful on families of victims, who have to live through the buildup of anticipation only to face a last-minute stay. If the federal court follows its established pattern, such a stay is almost certainly coming.
We're still waiting Mr. Brogan
The Palm Beach Post editors: "After almost five years on cruise control, Florida Atlantic University President Frank Brogan drove himself into a deep pothole. But even with Mr. Brogan's annual evaluation coming Wednesday, outsiders are more concerned than the FAU trustees about the damage. ... Mr. Brogan has been deceptive about this deal since The Post revealed it more than six months ago." "Davenport getting paid; public waiting for story".
The latest from the genius running our state: "Ask the governor: Documentation critical in a fair election".
Jon and Marco
"House Speaker Marco Rubio has recruited another ally to bolster his contention that Gov. Charlie Crist cannot cut a deal on his own that would expand gambling on Seminole Indian land. Former House Speaker Jon Mills, now a University of Florida law professor and member of the most recent state Constitution Revision Commission, concluded: 'The Governor may not implement a valid compact that allows Class III (Las Vegas style) gaming on Indian lands in Florida without legislative authorization or approval.' Mills said he weighed in at Rubio's request." "Mills is Rubio ally on gambling".
Now that negotiations are over ...
Now that collective bargaining with Disney World's biggest union are over, we read: "Disney reports strong fourth-quarter earnings".
You know the Orlando Sentinel editors are enjoying this: "Video released in Orlando Weekly case".
Those icky unions
"Some Florida lawmakers and a union are questioning a private equity firm's pending purchase of the nation's largest nursing home chain, demanding answers about how it will affect the 3,000-plus residents in the chain's 29 homes in this state. The lawmakers and the Service Employees International Union are asking that state regulators closely examine Carlyle Group's plan to take over Manor Care Inc. The $4.9 billion buyout, which has already been approved by Manor Care shareholders, is also being examined by officials and lawmakers in other states." And the Carlyle group's predictable response is ... you guessed it:
the union is taking on the sale as part of its campaign to increase union membership."Union, lawmakers challenge sale of Manor Care nursing homes".
"Orange City recount sees same result: 5-vote victory".
"Park officials can't remember the last time bald eagles were found nesting in the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, but now they're keeping a protective eye on a pair in a portion of the Everglades that is off-limits to the public." "Nesting bald eagles discovered in Palm Beach County wildlife refuge".
"The Golden Years"
Bill Cotterell on Bob McKnight's book "called "The Golden Years . . .," a combination of personal memoir and political notes by an insider who served in the Florida House and Senate when things were different around the Capitol." "Insider wisdom".
Pass the concrete
"Florida is a fast-growing state with a multibillion-dollar agriculture business that's one of its most productive economic engines. Yet the Sunshine State, for whom the orange is an icon, runs a real risk of unintentionally inflicting a form of lethal canker on the industry: unsustainable development." "Dwindling rural land poses threat".
"Efforts to tighten the budget in Tallahassee are putting a squeeze on this year's teacher raises." "State cuts resulting in lower raises for teachers".
That's our Vern
"It was more than just a little suprising to see U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key, voting to continue a debate to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney in Congress on Tuesday. But, it doesn't mean Buchanan actually wants to impeach the vice president, who a year ago came to Sarasota to campaign for Buchanan." "Buchanan votes to continue Cheney impeachment debate in House".