Rick Bragg on his first grouper sandwich

Requiem for a Fish Sandwich? By Rick Bragg? In Garden & Gun? Yes please. I don't think it's online yet, or at least I haven't been able to find it, so I'll just go ahead and type up one of my favorite parts: …

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Sorry for the delay. Lots going on. It's Wednesday, right?

1. Consumer confidence among Floridians rose two points in July to 84, hitting another post-recession high for a second consecutive month, according to a new University of Florida survey.

"While an index of 84 is not historically high, it does reflect far more optimism than we have seen over the past year," said Chris McCarty, director of UF's Survey Research Center in the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

The last time Florida consumers were this confident was April 2007, prior to the recession, when the housing market was beginning to unravel.

And yet ...

2. More than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reported to collection agencies, and that number is even higher across much of the South, in Florida and in the Tampa Bay metro area, according to a study released Tuesday by the Urban Institute. …

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Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight says Charlie Crist and Rick Scott could make history by being so unpopular

Just passing this along:

While the national political scene has decayed into polarized stagnation, Americans' views of state governments have remained mostly positive. That's probably part of the reason why governors seem to have an advantage when running for president. Yet in Florida, home to one of the nation's marquee gubernatorial races, Democrat Charlie Crist and Republican incumbent Rick Scott are teetering on becoming the least-liked pair of candidates for any governor's race in the past 10 years.

Scott has been unpopular for most of his term. His unfavorable rating has almost always exceeded his favorable rating in Quinnipiac University's polls of the state. In the most recent Quinnipiac survey, for example, 45 percent of Floridans held an unfavorable view of the governor, and just 40 percent held a favorable opinion. …

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It's Tuesday and here are some things.

1. ... 88 percent of Florida voters now would allow use of marijuana for medical purposes — broad support that cuts across age, gender and political lines. That is up from 82 percent support that Quinnipiac reported in November. About 55 percent of Floridians would legalize marijuana for recreational use, the poll reported — up 7 percent from November. Click.

2. The family hasn't decided yet how to tell the boy his mother is dead. And because a guy wanted to show off his gun.

3. For the first time, members of the Florida Medical Association have approved a resolution endorsing Medicaid expansion, a politically contentious issue that the group's leaders have generally avoided in the past two legislative sessions.

But the FMA's full-throated support for expansion comes with a caveat: Medicaid reimbursement rates must be increased to attract more doctors to the program. …

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What Tampa's Odyssey Marine Exploration is finding in the wreckage of the sunken S.S. Central America

Spotted in today's New York Times:

A treasure-laden ship that has lain silent on the Atlantic seabed for more than 150 years is giving up some of its secrets, as explorers who have revisited it for the first time in two decades detail in reports on their recovery operations. The sunken hulk, off South Carolina, has so far given up 45 gold bars, 47 pieces of gold jewelry, more than 2,000 gold coins and some 11,500 silver coins.

Other retrieved items, including a pair of glasses, speak of the lives lost. Eerily, the explorers found some 60 ambrotypes, a kind of early photograph on glass plates. The photographs, which are being left in the ship’s debris field until a conservation plan can be devised, portray miners and in one case a man and woman, their portrait set off by an oval mat.

The ship, the S.S. Central America, was steaming for New York in September 1857 when a hurricane sent it down with 425 people and tons of California gold aboard. The bones of the side-wheeler were discovered in 1988 more than a mile beneath the waves. But dreams of fabulous wealth fell apart as insurers and angry investors also filed claims. …

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The letter to the editor of the day comes from Buck Beasom of Tampa

In this morning's paper:

This article was disturbing, to say the least. Unfortunately, it was not even a bit surprising. It simply reinforces what any Floridian with any common sense already knows: Our state politicians are for sale to the highest bidder. They don't want to talk about this, and — in fact — don't think it is anybody's business. It's just business as usual. You pay us. We protect you. We should stop calling it a Legislature and start calling it what it is: a mafia.

What is worse is that it is not confined to Florida. It goes all the way to Washington. And our Supreme Court is fine with it. In fact, the justices think this is the way things should be. Your voice should be heard by as many ears as you can buy. "Freedom of speech" has been polluted into buying the freedom to be heard. If you are just a regular, honest person, don't expect to be heard at all. Own a bunch of casinos, an "oil services" company or the sugar industry, however, and you can buy all the voice you want.

Until we collectively agree that the "corporations are people" crowd should get kicked out on their ears, we will continue to be governed by crooks.

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It's Monday morning. Here are seven things.

1. A man in Brooksville decided to show his gun to his friend, who was five months pregnant. The baby died, too. Click.

2. The median starting salary for a lawyer in Florida is ... $45,000? Click.

3. Since 1837, Massachusetts has had only three shark attacks and one fatality, in 1936, according to the International Shark Attack File. By contrast, in that same time, Florida has had 687 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks and 11 fatalities, most recently in 2010. Click.

4. Papers that don't do this are lame.

5. Such a strange quote given the context: "Do your own job.''

6. There's a big business in Newberry near Gainesville called the Gourmet Rodent. …

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A little Friday afternoon Florida reading from Tim Dorsey

The Florida Humanities Council staged a micro-fiction challenge. The task was to tell a Florida story in 250 words. And it had to start like this: "They named the gator ..." Here's what Dorsey wrote in the magazine called Forum: …

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National Geographic liked the Times' Octavio Jones' picture of the recent sinkhole in Spring Hill

The other day in Hernando County.


The other day in Hernando County.

Kathryn Varn was also there. Nearly 300 sinkholes have opened up in the Sunshine State since 2010 and thousands over the past century. The Florida Speleological Society has likened the state's geology to "Swiss cheese coated with soil."

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Learning about our particular brand of lobster

Nine things I underlined in what Terry Tomalin put in this morning's sports section:

1. "The problem is that lobsters are notoriously hard to count," said Tom Matthews, who works in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's field office in Marathon. "If you took all of the lobsters and put them in one room, they would all gather together in one corner."

2. So with the two-day lobster sport season running next Wednesday and Thursday, Matthews couldn't really tell me where to go in the Florida Keys to get my limit.

3. "... lobsters are natural nomads. They can walk one or two kilometers in a day looking for food. In a couple of weeks, they can move 20 or 30 kilometers."

4. A Florida lobster looks a little like a crawfish. It doesn't have the large claws for hunting and defense like its cousins off the coast of Maine.

5. The spiny lobster's main defense is its speed.

6. ... it is possible to see long lines of lobsters walking across the ocean bottom. "When a low pressure — a cold front or a hurricane — approaches, lobsters will queue up or form a line and walk to deeper water where it is safer."

7. ... the regular lobster season opens Aug. 6 and runs through March 31 ... …

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On the inevitability of marriage equality in Florida

Here yesterday: Because this is the biggest issue facing Florida and America right now? From the Times' editorial page today: Jolly recognizes the difference between religious beliefs and government-sanctioned discrimination. He probably also sees that the courts, public opinion and the political winds are trending toward tolerance, fairness and legally recognizing same-sex marriages. Rubio, Scott and Bondi have yet to see the light. It will be up to the courts and the voters to help them along.

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This is Gerald McCoy. He plays for the Bucs. He showed up for the first day of practice in his robe.


This is Gerald McCoy. He plays for the Bucs. He showed up for the first day of practice in his robe.

Friday. Seven and then some.

1. I can't find this anywhere here on tampabay.com, but I definitely underlined the following paragraph in today's paper: Peacocks are once again rampaging through the northern part of Pinellas Park, prompting officials to hire a trapper to remove the birds. City officials earlier this month hired Vernon Yates' Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation to trap, tranquilize and remove "nuisance peacocks" in the area around Helen Howarth Park. Background. On the topic of rampaging birds.

2. Best places for business and careers? Not in the Sunshine State. Tampa Bay was No. 72 on the annual Forbes list. Florida metros ranking higher than that: at No. 54, West Palm Beach; at No. 67, Orlando; and at No. 69 ... North Port. Tallahassee was No. 165. Yikes.

3. Next week Rick Scott and Pam Bondi will go for a ride in Tampa in a driverless car. …

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Rick Scott, All Aboard Florida, the Sabal Trail Transmission, and linking the personal to the political

Rick Scott.


Rick Scott.

Time's Michael Grunwald:

The Florida governor has been questioned about his investment in a natural gas company and his aide's involvement in a rail project.

A few months ago, I wrote about an epidemic of fake Republican scandals that Democrats were hyping for 2014, starting with a nothingburger of a whatever-gate involving Florida Governor Rick Scott. My point was that political scandals rarely get traction, and shouldn't get traction, without a semi-plausible link to significant public policies. Let me put it a different way: Damaging scandals look more like the two latest messes involving Governor Scott.

The first involves Scott's support for a controversial Miami-to-Orlando rail project known as All Aboard Florida, when the company pushing it had financial ties to his chief of staff. The second involves Scott's support for a controversial natural gas pipeline to North Florida, when he owned a stake in the company building it. You probably haven't heard about these messes, because they're pretty obscure. They're also mini-messes, especially for Scott, who was once CEO of a hospital chain that paid a record $1.7 billion fine for fraud committed on his watch. Keep reading.

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John Romano on Dunedin Elementary and school grades and what's really the problem

In his column today, which you should read, here are the three most important points he makes:

1. One small problem with school grades: They're a sham.

2. The single most predictive factor in a school's grade is the poverty level of the student body. You tell me how many students are eligible for the free/reduced lunch program, and I can usually tell you a school's grade.

3. Dunedin Elementary was once a highly regarded school with the test scores to prove it. Back in 2005, Dunedin scored a coveted A in the state grading system. At the time, its free/reduced lunch rate was 53 percent. As that rate increased to 59, 62, 63 and then 67 percent, Dunedin clung to a B grade. By 2010, the rate was up to 78 percent and Dunedin dropped to a C. By 2012, it was 83 and the school was down to a D.

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Because this is the biggest issue facing Florida and America right now?

You saw this on 1A of today's Times?

What Marco Rubio says: "Those who support same-sex marriage have a right to lobby their state legislatures to change state laws. But Americans like myself who support keeping the traditional definition of marriage also have a right to work to keep the traditional definition of marriage in our laws without seeing that overturned by a judge. ... I will be attacked as a hater, a bigot or someone who is anti-gay. This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy. Supporting the definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not anti-gay, it is pro-traditional marriage. And if support for traditional marriage is bigotry, then Barack Obama was a bigot until just before the 2012 election." …

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