Thursday, September 27, 2007

Solar in the Sunshine

It looks like Florida is slated to build one of the largest solar thermal power plants in the world. Governor Charile Crist announced the plans alongside Florida Power and Light officials and this familiar face:

Solar in the Sunshine State
Photo Credit AP

Is it just me, or do you hear the faint sounds of Republicans screaming in the distance?

From the St. Pete Times:

"Producing solar energy in the Sunshine State just makes sense," Crist told the crowd at at the Clinton Global Initiative, which draws world leaders, celebrities and scholars for three days of panel discussions and smaller working sessions on global issues and asks them to take concrete steps on those causes.

Crist thanked FPL and Clinton, one of the best-known Democrats in the nation, "for making the world better and helping my state. God bless you."

Thank-you Governor.


Netroots Calendar

I'm playing around with a free calendar from Bravenet. I've used Bravenet's web tools in the past (as in years ago) on a website I was running at the time. Back then the tools were useful, but they clearly didn't have a good revenue model because they kept adding more and more annoying ads to their free services, presumably in hopes people would pay to upgrade. However, the upgraded services were overpriced, so I (and many others) eventually moved on to one of their competitors.

Awhile ago I noticed that Build Florida's DEC's was using Bravenet for its mailing list, so while researching online calendar software for my Dad's website I decided to give Bravenet another look. So far, I'm impressed, although I reserve final judgement until I've had more time to play around with their tools.

However, if your short on cash or lack the expertise to create these tools yourself (or just lazy like me) and you think you could use a calendar, mailing list, chat room, photo album, email forms, etc. on your blog or website - its worth checking them out.

As for the calendar - there are a couple of events today:

Tallahassee - Meet Sean Shaw
Elect SEAN SHAW For State House Representative District 8 Monica Evans, Sha'Ron James, Emory Mayfield & Bennie Shaw request your presence at a meet and greet for Sean Michael Shaw Democrat, for House District 8.

5:30-8:30 The Mary Brogan Museum 350 South Duval Street (corner of Pensacola & Duval)

Miami - Meet Michael Calderin
Michael Calderin invites you to join him at Hooligan's Pub near Dadeland, as we start our campaign to change Tallahasse. There'll be food, fun and many other activities throughout the night! Come join us and meet the next Representative, who will bring real leadership and real solutions to our capitol. Price: $25 pp, $40 a couple Student Price: $10 pp, $15 a couple Buy ticket in advance at or pay at the door.

7:30 - 9:30 PM at Hooligan's Bar 9555 South Dixie Highway Miami, FL


Monday, September 24, 2007

Council on Efficient Government?

Is the name of this organization intended to be ironic?

The Council on Efficient Government's mission is to review, evaluate and provide advice on agency outsourcing and best practices, as well as to codify lessons learned to improve government accountability. It is the Council’s goal to define the process for reviewing business cases and implement standard processes for outsourcing initiatives.

Sounds more like it wants to improve the efficiency of the privitization process, rather than make government itself more efficient.

Anyone interested in Jeb!'s legacy of privatization should take a look at their report:

2007 CEG Annual Report

With incomplete data, the report identifies "289 projects currently being outsourced, with a lifetime value of over 5.5 billion dollars."

Now the rationale for privatization is that the private sector can do things better and cheaper than state government. Interestingly, in very few cases was a cost-benefit analysis completed to determine if privatization actually would be better and cheaper.

Also see Bill Cotterell's piece in the Tallahassee Democrat: Number show it's hard to rate privatization

Hat tip to FLA Politics


Florida Roundup

The latest news and bits about Florida:

Florida Primary

Larry Thorson of Miami Dade Dems reports Florida Democrats: Yes, please vote in Jan. 29 Primary

kansasr writes FL Dems Blow Off The Party

Limelite writes Florida Dems Defy DNC

In Other News

doorguy at FLA Politics writes Marco Rubio: Wealthy Condo Owners, Landlords Need More Taxpayer Support

Rimjob at Daily Kos asks Can A Homeowners Association Suspend The 1st Amendment? about an HOA in Sarasota.

Vera Lofaro at Daily Kos writes Seniors and Investment Firms about nursing home facilities in Florida acquired by investment firms whose profit motives conflict with the goal to provide care.

ccmask at Daily Kos writes Bush cuts Florida Everglades off Heritage Site List - a U.N. list of endangered places.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Florida Roundup

I just want to say, for the record, that getting your wisdom teeth pulled sucks and getting sick at the same time sucks even more. To make matters worse, I have to go back and do it all over again. See, they only pulled the ones on my right side. It is probably for the best as I can only imagine the misery that would've befallen me had I decided to have them all pulled at the same time.

Now, onto some news you may actually care about:

Now this is sick

Republican Federal Prosecutor, John David R. Atchison, from Gulf Breeze Florida was arrested for intent to have sex with a minor - a 5 year old girl. From Click On Detroit News:

According to authorities, Atchison made contact with a detective working undercover for the Macomb County Sheriff's department's.

The detective, acting as the child's mother, allegedly arranged a sexual encounter between Atchison and her 5-year-old daughter, police said.

In deposition, detectives said Atchison suggested the mother tell her daughter that "you found her a sweet boyfriend who will bring her presents."

The undercover detective expressed concern about physical injury to the 5-year-old girl as a result of the sexual activity. Detectives said Atchison responded, "I am always gentle and loving; not to worry, no damage ever, no rough stuff ever. I only like it soft and nice."

The undercover detective asked how Atchison can be certain of no injury. He responded, "Just gotta go slow and very easy. I've done it plenty," according to detectives.

To check out the criminal complaint, the indictment as well as a series of diaries on Daily Kos see ca democrat's post Republican Federal Prosecutor Sought Sex With 5 Year Old Girl.

In other news:

vrej over on Praxis continues to cover what's going on with PIP Politics

Over at Tampabay Blue they're covering the selection of a new Education Commissioner with Finalists for FL Education Commissioner Include Intelligent Design Advocate, Yecke

And congratulations goes out to Representative Tom Feeney - you've made CREW's list of the Most Corrupt Members of Congress for the second year in a row! Your constituents in Brevard, Orange, Seminole, and Volusia Counties must be so proud.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Special Session Scheduled

A special session of the Florida Legislature is now scheduled to convene October 3 - 12. Notice the date is after the October 1st expiration of PIP. Also the Republican leadership didn't cite any business other than budget cuts, so it appears calls to look into KidCare have fallen on deaf ears. Keep an eye out for the official agenda which is supposed to come out next week.

For more information see: Special Session Scheduled (Tallahassee Democrat), Legislators to hold special session Oct. 3-12 to trim $1.1 billion (Sun-Sentinel), Legislators reset special session to cut budget (Palm Beach Post), Legislature Calls Session for October (Miami Herald).


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Q&A with Sean Shaw

sean_shaw On Wednesday September 12th, Florida Netroots hosted a live chat with Sean Shaw candidate for Florida House of Representatives District 8.

The seat is currently occupied by Democratic Representative Curtis B. Richardson who is term limited. Other candidates running for this seat include: Hubert R. Brown (D), Rodney S. Moore (D), Anthony "Dr. V" Viegbesie (D), and Alan Williams (D).

District 8 is made up of most of Gadsden and parts of Leon County in the big bend region of Florida.

Florida Legislative District 8

I had the pleasure of interviewing Sean Shaw, candidate for Florida House District 8 covering parts of Gadsden and Leon Counties in the big bend region of Florida, and here is the transcript from our conversation:

[Jennifer] So, to get started ... what do you think the voters in District 8 should know about you?

[SeanShaw] That I am qualified and well-prepared to fight for the interests of those that often get pushed to the bottom

[SeanShaw] I want to live in a state where we place education, health care, state workers and law enforcement as TOP priorities

[SeanShaw] Florida is a prosperous state - and it is for this reason that we should be appaled at...

[SeanShaw] Education Spending

[SeanShaw] Teacher Pay

[SeanShaw] Law Enforcement and Firefighter pay

[SeanShaw] State Worker benefits

[SeanShaw] Health care for the uninsured and various other kinds of social programs

[SeanShaw] Florida consistently ranks in the bottom (nationally) in almost all of these categories

[SeanShaw] It's a matter of commitment and changing priorities...that is what this campaign revolves around

[SeanShaw] :-)

[Jennifer] Are there some unique concerns in any of those areas that are specific to Gadsden/Leon Counties?

[SeanShaw] Definitely Health care... the infant mortality rate in both Leon and Gadsden counties for black babies is at a third world level

[SeanShaw] And infant mortality is something that can be treated with proper health care, it is not complicated

[SeanShaw] There is a large population of state workers in the district as well that certainly deserve more than a $650 (after taxes) raise...

[Jennifer] absolutely ... I was shocked when I learned about that ... I'm not sure enough people realize that infant mortality is a problem anywhere in the U.S. - let alone right here.

[SeanShaw] Exactly. Terrible statistics in such a "progressive" state...

[SeanShaw] Florida needs to make a commitment to these sort of areas...economic incentives to big businesses will do nothing if we don't have healthy people to take advantage

[SeanShaw] and if we don't have an educated work force

[SeanShaw] The question is "What does our state value?"

[SeanShaw] Do we value our k-12 students? Teachers? Firefighters? Police? Uninsured?

[SeanShaw] Apparently not, when you look at our spending in these categories vs. the national data.

[Jennifer] exactly

[SeanShaw] I want to live in a state that values these basic needs

[SeanShaw] That is my vision.

[Jennifer] Is that why you decided to run for the Florida Legislature?

[SeanShaw] These are the first budgets to get cut, and the last to get a bump

[SeanShaw] It is, this is a district that needs a strong voice. And it must come from someone who believes in these inequities, and is not just spouting a slogan. But that is what campaigning is about, to convince the voters that you mean what you say are are ready and willing to fight.

[SeanShaw] I have always been very involved in the community and my involvement brought me face to face with a lot of these problems. I wanted to do something about it.

[SeanShaw] In addition, I always wanted to give back to my community in this way-through public service.

[Jennifer] Describe the kind of community work you've done.

[SeanShaw] I am on the Board of Directors for the Bond Community Health Clinic, NAACP, Capital Area Community Action Agency, Communities in Schools of Leon County, Tallahassee YMCA Minority Achievement Program, Leon High School Alumni Assoc., Tallahassee Bar Assoc, Young Lawyers Section...

[Jennifer] impressive list

[SeanShaw] I have been a mentor in various capacities as well, most recently through the Leon County Schools

[SeanShaw] thanks...

[SeanShaw] I don't have a wife or kids yet, so I have some time

[Jennifer] What sets you apart from the other candidates? I think there are 4 other Dems running for this seat.

[SeanShaw] I believe my community involvement for one - I have been working in the trenches with respect to these issues. In addition, it always helps to have a lawyer making the laws right? ;-) But to be serious, I can back to Tallahassee after College and Law School because specifically because I wanted to fight for those segments of the community that are too often ignored. I have shown that commitment for the long hall, and I have an understanding of the issues involved.

[Jennifer] It's one of the few safe Democratic seats in the Legislature. One of my main concerns is redistricting ... the gerrymandering in this state is ridiculous ... what needs to be done for the Democratic Party to gain more seats in the Legislature to ensure we have a say in drawing the maps next time around?

[SeanShaw] Non-Partisan Committee to Re-draw the Maps

[SeanShaw] but since that won't happen...perhaps a committee with appointees from all branches of Gov.

[SeanShaw] But you are exactly correct, the gerrymandering that has taken place (on both sides admittedly) is unfortunate.

[SeanShaw] You know, the democratic message is simply a better message. We just need to build a bench of strong young candidates that can articulate it

[Jennifer] its definately not limited to Republicans ... but its certainly drawn in their favor at the moment.

[SeanShaw] The Rep. have young strong leaders who will be around for a while. We should find strong candidates as well.

[SeanShaw] Correct, they are certainly benefiting from the current configuration!

[Jennifer] Those of us in the Netroots (and grassroots) are certainly working to help get out the Democratic message, but is there anything we can do to help encourage more people like you to run for office?

[SeanShaw] You know, all candidates who are not heavily involved in the political "process" as opposed to politics are intimidated by $$

[SeanShaw] The connections and contacts to raise the requisite $ to finance a campaign can be daunting.

[SeanShaw] I believe that we need to get young Dem. involved in campaigns early so that they know what yo expect. When you don't know it can be daunting, however once you get a feel for it, it's doable.

[SeanShaw] When a candidate that appears to be a good one rises up, offer the grass roots support and other intangibles that can negate $$

[SeanShaw] That's my advice.

[Jennifer] Is there anything you wanted to let people know that I didn't ask you?

[SeanShaw] Well, my contact info. in on your site, but I would encourage them to go to to get a feel of my campaign. And to certainly contact me to learn more.

[SeanShaw] And yes, I attended the University of Florida in Gainesville for Law School. That got me killed in my most recent internet interview!

[Jennifer] I have two brothers who are Gators ... so I don't hold it against you.

[SeanShaw] But I certainly want the people to know that I know the issues, am prepared to fight, and will work tirelessly to advocate on behalf of District 8.

[SeanShaw] Go Gators!

Jennifer] It was a pleasure chatting with you and I wish you the best with your campaign.

[SeanShaw] Thank you, I appreciate the opportunity to be interviewed.

Mr. Shaw was also interviewed by our friends over at Florida Progressive Radio, you may want to listen to his interview there as well.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Blogging Florida Roundup

Word from the blogosphere:

Limelite on Daily Kos writes: New Blue Florida: Voters Speak & It's Rough Times for Republicans.

Gatordem at Florida Kossacks writes: Suzan Franks to Run Again for Florida State Senate in District 3.

Larry Thorson of Miami-Dade Dems writes: Good News for the blogosphere about a recent ruling by the FEC about sites like Daily Kos and what it could mean here in Florida.

Vrej at Praxis writes: PIP Session? regarding the possibility of the Florida Legislature having a special session just on personal injury insurance.

And finally, I want to highlight a series on the site Planting Liberally called Using the Internet to Strengthen Labor Unions:

Part 1 - Organizing workers, Part 2 - Attracting potential members, Part 3 - Enlisting progressive activists and Part 4 - servicing members


Thursday, September 6, 2007

Florida's Legislative Session Postponed

Legislative leaders announced that they are postponing the special session scheduled to begin September 18. A lack of consensus between the House, Senate and Governor on how to make the required budget cuts is to blame.

In the letter released by Senate President Ken Pruitt and House Speaker Marco Rubio, they indicate that no "agreement on a framework for action" has been reached, but state that they "remain confident that an agreement will be reached and that we will have a fall session."

See article in the St. Petersburg Times

Please sign Civic Concern's Petition pressuring the Legislature to act on PIP and Kidare: Sign Petition


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Netroots 101: Q and A

Last week I wrote about Netroots Panels at the State Convention and asked people to fill out a survey on what they'd like to see covered. The survey is open until Friday at Noon, so there's still time to send us your suggestions, but I thought I'd start addressing some of the items submitted for the Netroots 101 panel because 1) not all of you will be able to attend the state convention and 2) I'm on that panel so writing about stuff now will help me figure out what to say when I get there.

So, let's start with one of the submitted questions: blog or web site? which is better and whats the difference?

Well, first it is important to understand that the terms website and blog mean.

In simple terms, a web site is a collection of pages, images, videos, and other digital assets that are arranged under a common address and located on one or more computers known as servers which host all the aforementioned content. The content is then viewable by the public via web browsers (i.e. Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera) and Internet enabled PDA's and cell phones.

A blog (short for web log) is simply a way of publishing content on a website that is organized in such a way that the most recent entries are listed first. Early blogs were manually updated and primarily took the form of online journals of people’s personal lives, hence the reason posts or articles written on blogs are referred to as diaries even though blogs today are used more for news and commentary.

Since the creation of blogware (software tools that provide content management functions to automate the maintenance of blogs) they've become much more accessible, require less technical knowledge and have opened the door to a larger population of users. Drupal, Wordpress, Blogger, Moveable Type, etc., are all examples of blogware.

In essence, a blog is just one of several different types of software applications or programs that can run on a website. Examples of other web applications include: chat rooms, contact management (email list), calendars, message boards, wiki, shopping cart, fundraising tools, newsletters, polls and photo albums.

If you have a blog – its located on a website somewhere – its just a matter of how you have it hosted online.

There are several options for setting up a blog:

1. Developer-Hosted - the blogware is operated by and hosted on the providers own equipment, requiring no installation by the person who will be authoring the blog.

All you do is go to their website, create an account, follow some very simple step by step instructions, and you have a blog up and running in no time.

Pros (+) and Cons (-)

+ free or relatively inexpensive
+ very easy to use, you don't have to be tech savvy
- may not allow you to use your own domain name
- may have to upload images or other files on a separate host

Examples: Blogger, LiveJournal, Typepad, Soap Blox

2. User Hosted - you or your web developer download the software and install it on your own server or the server of your web hosting provider.

Pros (+) and Cons (-)

+ much of the software is open-source and free
+ you can add additional features to your site beyond what the blogware provides
+ you'll have space on the server to upload your own images and other files
- you'll need to be tech savvy or use a web developer to set it up
- you'll have to pay for a domain name and hosting fees

Examples: Drupal, Scoop, BlogEngine, Wordpress

3. Specialized Blog Hosting - a web host that specializes in hosting a particular type of blogware.

Pros (+) and Cons (-)

+ the web host will set up and install the blog for you
+ you may add additional features to your site beyond what the blogware provides
+ you'll have space on the server to upload your own images and other files
- you may have to do some customizations on your own, requiring some tech knowledge
- you'll have to pay for a domain name and hosting fees

For example, Wordpress lists a bunch of hosts who specialize in running their blogware.

4. Hybrid Solution - works like the developer-hosted in that the blogware resides on the provider’s equipment and the author doesn’t have to install anything, but it allows you to publish the files to your own server or web host. Blogger has this option, although you have to revert to their basic templates. Under publishing options, simply provide them with the address of your site, the username & password your web host gave you to login to your site, and the directory under your site where you want the blog published.

Pros (+) and Cons (-)

+ free or relatively inexpensive
+ very easy to use, you don't have to be tech savvy
+ you can use your own domain name
+ you can upload images or other files to your web host
+ you may add additional features to your site beyond what the blogware provides
- you'll have to pay for a domain name and hosting fees

If you're using a developer-hosted solution with no access to upload your own images or other files onto their system, there are some option available to you.

Image Hosting - these services have a simple interface to allow you to upload images from your computer onto their system and then provides you with the code that you can copy/paste to display those images on your blog: Flickr, ImageShack, Photobucket.

File Hosting - if you want to share files like word documents or pdfs you can use services like these: Media Fire or File Den.

Another thing to keep in mind, if you plan to have blogware installed on your own server or web host make sure to check the server requirements to make sure that it is compatatible.

Many of the blogging software services have extended their offerings beyond just offering you the ability to blog - you'll find that many of them come with lots of other intergrated features. So you may be able to find a complete package that meets all your needs.

As for what is best, that depends on the objective of the site.

A local democratic party, a political campaign, or an online activist may have very different goals and therefore utilize a different set of online tools. To determine what is best for your situation, you need a clear vision of what the site is intended to do, then write down a list of requirements that will help you get the job done. You may need a blog or you may not.

Here are a few non-blog specific options that serve political objectives: CivicRM, Civic Space, AdvoKit, Dems Link, Campaign Site Builder

I'm not recommending any particular products or services, but rather giving you an idea of what types of things are out there.

This is my first stab at this question. So any comments/suggestions on how to improve upon my answer are welcome. Also, if you have any further questions feel free to ask.


Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Florida's Workers

Florida International University's Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy (RISEP) at the Center for Labor Research and Studies issued its annual report: The State of Working Florida.

I encourage you to take a look at the full report, but since we just celebrated Labor Day I'll highlight the section on Labor Unions:

Union presence in the United States has historically been strongest in industries such as transportation, manufacturing, construction, and government. As our economy shifts away from production towards services unionization rates in the private sector workforce have declined. Large Florida industries such as Leisure and Hospitality and Retail Trade have a very small union presence, which is related to Florida’s poor standing in benefits and protections for workers. Florida ranks 45th in union membership among all workers out of the 50 states and the District of Colombia, with only 5.2% of workers members of unions, compared with 12% in the U.S. Public sector unionization rates are much higher than private sector– 22.6% in Florida compared with 36.2% in the U.S. for public sector, and 2.3% vs. 7.4% for private sector.

In addition, the state government’s public policies are not friendly to unions. Florida is one of eight states with a ban on negotiated requirements of union membership for employees in unionized establishments (also known as a “right-to-work” provision) built into the state constitution. Twenty-two states have such provisions, but most are merely state laws, not constitutional requirements that are much harder to change. “Right-to-work” provisions of this nature hurt unions by allowing workers covered by a union contract to not pay their union dues, i.e., be “free riders” accepting the benefits of a union contract without paying for it. Thus, union coverage in Florida in 2006 was 6.5% even though union membership was only 5.2%. Unions are hurt financially and are unable to represent members (and non-members) as effectively when 20% of those they represent do not pay their dues, as is the case in Florida.

Through collective bargaining, unions help workers to secure good wages and benefits from their work. Unionized workers consistently earn higher wages than non-union workers, and this difference is remarkable given that the highest paid workers, such as managers and executives, are not union members. Union members are teachers, police and firefighters, tradespersons, manufacturing workers, truck drivers, and nurses and but unions are making inroads among janitors and food service workers as well. In 2006 unionized workers in Florida earned 1.35 times what non-union workers earned, making $18.94 per hour compared with $14.02 per hour for non-union workers. The ratio is fairly consistent in Florida, the South, and the U.S.

The RISEP site has data on a variety of topics that may be of interest to my fellow bloggers - so check it out and add to your bookmarks as a research resource.


Blogging Florida Roundup

Around the blogs this week:

The Florida Primary is still a hot topic with posts varying from hysteria to calls to take everything in stride: Ismay wrote: Breaking: Dems CAN'T Win Florida 2008!, davidkc wrote: Dems give up on Florida, Sunny wrote: Kiss My Chad, Howard, Gatordem wrote: Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory (cross-posted at Florida Kossacks), T Rex wrote: The Reality of the Florida Primary Fight (cross-posted at Florida Progressive Coalition), Tally wrote: The Florida Primary Mess (cross-posted at FLA Politics) and Susan S wrote: Pleading our case (FL) but not what you think.

My take: Our votes will have more influence this year than previous election years, period. It is more important than ever for Democrats in the state to show up and vote. To hell with the egos in the party and the political pundits - this is still a people-powered race.

On to other things:

Florida Politics: The Annual "Labor Day" Insult

Be Think: The Sacrifice: Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) Costs

On Praxis vrej writes about the proposed Budget Cuts state agencies are required to submits detailing 10% reduction in expenditures.