It's oh so very nice to think of our democracy with visions of fifes and drums, the Founding Fathers founding stuff and American eagles soaring to the patriotic heavens. After all, don't we all love a nice fairy tale now and then?
And there is Florida, where the Federalist Papers go to die.
In 2010, the voters decisively approved constitutional amendments that prohibited our august Florida Legislature from drawing legislative and congressional districts in a manner that would favor or disfavor incumbents or political parties, which admittedly did take the fun out of abusing power....
There's a running joke in the hysterically funny (and uncannily accurate) movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, in which the family patriarch played by Michael Constantine is able to deconstruct every aspect of life, technology and culture back to a Hellenic root.
But there is a kernel of truth to Constantine's lectures on all things Greek. Or at least it certainly feels like it upon arriving in this lovely, but often overlooked, northern seaport city of Thessaloniki, with a population of just under 400,000 people. It feels like home. It feels like a homecoming, even for someone with a decidedly non-Greek mongrelized heritage....
This was probably the tipoff that Judithanne McLauchlan was not going to be your typical candidate. After all, what glad-handing office seeker says stuff like: "Well, I think my pedagogy has been experiential learning."
In today's nasty climate of campaign advertising, popping off about being a pedagogue would have likely led McLauchlan's opponents to accuse her of being a child molester, or perhaps an admitted thespian, or even, dare it be said, someone who once engaged in matriculation....
Get ready for a rash of navel-gazing rivaling the Beatles heading off to "Ohmmmmmmmm!" away with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
Or you could think of the Florida Democratic Party's plans for self-reflection, meditation and thinking deep thoughts as its rendition of "Yawnberry Fields Forever."
After coming off an election debacle best described as the Charge of the Ultra Light Charade, as Florida's Democrats pretended to be a political party, state Chairwoman Allison Tant, the Gen. Halftrack of the Hustings, created a blue-ribbon panel of prominent Democrats (all 14 of them) to study the election's outcomes and recommend ideas to transform the party in time for the 2016 campaign. Forget the pig. This is going to be like putting lipstick on Lenin's corpse....
Chances are that if you are a younger person, the name Gary Hart means absolutely nothing to you. And therein lies the tragedy of a rising, promising political career that so spectacularly crashed and burned over the course of a single week in 1987.
All the stars were aligned for Hart, a charismatic, savvy, smart pol, to ascend to the presidency. Instead, as older people know, the man who would have had it all is best remembered for a dalliance that perhaps never happened, a comely blond model and a rather unfortunate photo taken while they were traveling on a yacht indelicately named Monkey Business. It might have just as well been called The Kiss of Death....
You could be forgiven if you confused Citizens Property Insurance Corp. with one of David Copperfield's legendary acts of illusion. One moment you're a customer. The next moment you're not. And you never even realized you disappeared.
Being a Citizens customer is not for the faint of heart, or those with a pinch of paranoia or low self-esteem. Being a Citizens policyholder sets up poor, unsuspecting souls for a life of rejection, abandonment and denouncement for fear of getting yet another of the company's letters informing them once again they've been passed around like a broken-down plow horse....
Until a few years ago, about the only thing most Americans knew about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was that they had one darn fine Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Other than that, there was the mystery underwear thing. And yes, the long-ago legacy of polygamy.
But as Mitt Romney emerged to capture the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, interest increased about Mormonism. And a lot of it wasn't pretty, including not too subtle grumbling during the campaign that the former Massachusetts governor somehow wasn't truly conservative enough to lead his party, which was really little more than a trumped-up euphemism that he wasn't Christian enough....
So, what might we expect from newly re-elected Gov. Rick Scott's administration over the next four years?
Given the governor's obsessive compulsive penchant for furtiveness — sheesh, he even made a "secret" visit to a black church in the waning days of the campaign — it is entirely possible we may not see him in public again after his January inauguration.
Would it shock anyone to see a Scott hologram filling in at all future gubernatorial appearances? And would we even know the difference?...
As the chattering class sorts through the political carrion of what's left of the Democratic Party in the wake of Tuesday night's scorched earth elections, there will be no shortage of theories as to how it all went so terribly awry.
There's a temptation to recall Adlai Stevenson's great line during his presidential campaign against Dwight Eisenhower, when a woman told him "all thinking people" were solidly behind him, to which Stevenson responded: "That's not enough madam, we need a majority."...
If you want to know why or if former Gov. Jeb Bush will run for president, ponder this scenario.
Jeb is walking the moors of South Florida, practicing posing for holy pictures as he weighs a 2016 candidacy, when he is overtaken by a vision. It is the dead of winter in Iowa, and the Republican presidential wannabees are gathered for yet another dreary debate.
Up on the dais are Texas Sen. Ted Cruz looking like a used shark salesman, grumpy New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie foaming at the mouth, Sen. Marco Rubio playing jacks, sanctimonious former Sen. Rick Santorum showing everyone his stigmata, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal handing out beignets, Texas Gov. Rick Perry waxing about how great it is to be in Hawaii, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee trying to raise the dead, and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan reciting Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged....
So after all this time, all this money, all the consultant reports, all the civic Sturm und Drang over an inverted Devo hat at the end of St. Petersburg's Pier, it is likely to come down to this? More of the same old same mold?
This community has spent the past couple of years haggling over what to do with the forlorn inverted pyramid, an edifice with the architectural significance of a manhole cover. It's dilapidated. It offers precious little practical use. And it's ugly. ...
At least for one member of the audience, this event might well have been regarded as the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Seething.
I had been invited to speak at last weekend's annual celebration of the written word. And yes, I'll save you the trouble. My participation in a program that featured such literary luminaries as R.L. Stine, Carl Hiaasen and Rose Styron, the widow of William Styron, was like including Otis, the Mayberry town drunk, to opine about the nuances of French wine....
And now, a word from our sponsors.
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Do you have the sneaking suspicion that if you asked Gov. Rick Scott to name the color of an orange he would answer with a rambling discourse on his Dickensesque childhood, accusations that Charlie Crist pals around with Boardwalk Empire's Nucky Thompson and the Castro brothers are terrorists?
Tuesday's tete-a-snit between two presumably adult candidates vying to become Florida's next governor wasn't a debate. A more proper billing would have been "Two Jesters in Jacksonville," as Scott and Crist spent a lost hour on television portraying each other as less qualified to hold public office than Uday and Qusay....
Dear Editors at Travel + Leisure magazine,
For a publication dedicated to wayfaring, you people really need to get out of the office more often. How else to explain your recent judgment that Tampa ranks sixth in the nation for its snobbiness?
Look, we're many things good and bad.
We have a lovely Bayshore Boulevard and an emerging, revitalized downtown. We have one of the great world-class airports, not to mention the iconic University of Tampa minarets dominating the skyline. Very nice. But we also are famous for naked trollops cavorting on their brass poles and an annual drunkfest in honor of a fictitious rapacious pirate, which gives everyone an excuse to get randy....