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By Ron Taylor:
- School lunches for each of Hillsborough County’s 87,448 elementary school students for 356 days.
- Four years of in-state tuition for 3,486 students to attend the University of Florida …
The last time I was in Cairo, I had dinner with a young Egyptian man who had lived for a time in Atlanta and studied with his wife at Georgia State University. He pulled out his cellphone and showed me several photos of their beaming boy, then about 3, born soon after they moved back to Egypt. The proud papa beamed, too …
Now fathers in Cairo patrol the dangerous darkness with sticks and swords and baseball bats — this in a country where almost nobody plays baseball — to protect family and property from looters … Watching revolution on CNN is more fun when you don’t know some of the people caught in the crossfire.
Want clean air and water? Well, you’re probably going to hell. While many Christian evangelicals have embraced the environmental cause, the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, headquartered in Burke, Virginia, refuses to throw in with what it calls the Cult of the Green Dragon. In a promotional video for the group, reports The Tennessean, Christian radio host Janet Parshall says the Green Dragon is “deadly to human prosperity, deadly to human life, deadly to human freedom. And deadly to the gospel of Jesus Christ.” So, put that in your filtered water.
I never learned to ice skate, so I cut through a dimly lit parking garage in the middle of an awful, freezing night to rest my legs from the slipping and sliding on my way from the late shift at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to my snow-covered car. I felt the presence before I saw it, then I glimpsed the shadow moving toward me, growing bigger and bigger. There are times throughout life we have to prepare to die, and I suppose I was as ready then as I’ll ever be. Out of a deep, dark corner the man came. Then, he shouted, “Hey, man, what’s up?” It was Big Al, My Personal Wino.
Germans trapped in Tennessee are finding that not even economic wheeling and dealing can save them from America’s education system.
Volkswagen agreed to put a $1 billion Volkswagen assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in part, because local officials promised the German auto maker that children of employees transferring from Germany would get at least one hour of schooling a day in their native language. Now, the state Department of Education says no state or federal money can be spent on such instruction and that the program, therefore, can be offered only after school hours or weekends.
The Worship Center Christian Church in suburban Birmingham, Alabama, gave away 2,000 Thanksgiving turkeys in three hours last week, but that wasn’t enough to meet the demand from needy families. People were still stopping by hours later after all the turkeys and bags of nonperishable food were gone, according to The Birmingham News.
While some economic indicators were beginning to point to a recovery at last, many families in the South were still suffering hard times headed into the holiday season …
In Montgomery, Alabama, the nationally syndicated radio hosts of the Rick & Bubba Show do their part to help feed the poor not by handing out turkeys but by seeing who can throw a frozen turkey the farthest.
Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino may have put the best spin yet on full-body scans at the airport: Why not add a “medical application?” “After all, it would be quite a feat if we could somehow combine two of our major national concerns – the spiraling cost of health care and the fight against terrorism – into one tidy solution,” he wrote.
Dew Drops: For the owners of Sunset Scooters in Clearwater, Florida, the demand came first: People convicted of driving under the influence who had lost their driver’s licenses streamed into the store looking for legal transportation. Then, Doug Vitello and Gary Parr found the supply: A Chinese-made electric scooter with a maximum speed of 20 mph and pedals, like a gas-powered moped, that was legal to drive without a license. They advertised with a sign in the window: “DUI SCOOTERS.”
Todd Rosenbaum, executive director of the Northwest Florida chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told the St. Petersburg Times, “Certainly, if people need transportation, electric bikes are a good option. But calling them DUI scooters sends the wrong message to the community. It’s telling people the DUI is not a big deal. It is a big deal.”
State Republican Party Chairman John Thrasher told GOP nominee Rick Scott that “we will be the first party to elect a bald guy to governor” of Florida. Not so, says the Truth-O-Meter at PolitiFact Florida, operated by the St. Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald.
PolitiFact checked with the curator of the official portraits exhibit at the Museum of Florida History and learned that the first bald governor of Florida was, in fact, Harrison Reed, the state’s 15th governor, who served from 1868 to 1873. PolitiFact even turned up a passage in a book describing Reed as “a little man, slightly built, with a big, bald head and a bushy beard.” So, PolitiFact declared that Scott would not be Florida’s first bald governor.
Pastor Terry Jones may be billed by the Gainesville Police Department for the security it has been providing for his media circus. Before Jones put on hold his plan to burn 200 Qu’rans on the lawn of his Dove World Outreach Center in the hometown of the University of Florida, City Manager Russ Blackburn told the Gainesville Sun, “We definitely plan on sending him a bill.” The expense could be far more than Jones is making on the “Islam is of The Devil” book, T-shirts and coffee mugs Dove World sells. The Gainesville city manager estimated that security for a volatile Qu’ran burning would have cost tens of thousands of dollars. Even though Jones canceled — then un-canceled, then re-canceled — the stunt, Gainesville police and other law enforcement agencies have steadily beefed up security around Dove World, swarmed by TV trucks, reporters, protesters and sight-seers. Jones may have some […]
The Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay, a rhesus macaque on the run for more than a year, popped up in the Pinellas Point neighborhood on Labor Day and was photographed admiring himself in a mirror. The St. Petersburg Times speculated that, with no fellow macaques on the run with him, he has become lonely.
Florida’s Mystery Monkey — no one is sure where it came from — has become an international celebrity. It has more than 80,500 friends on Facebook in America. A recent entry on his behalf: “Enjoyed all of the fan fare today over the picture in the paper of me admiring my great looks but why print the exact address of where the picture was taken? Are you trying to get me caught? Snitches get stitches!” Now, there’s also a Korean Facebook page devoted to him.
What if campaign money was spent instead on something worthwhile? How many people could have been helped, for instance, by the $70 million spent by Republicans Rick Scott and Bill McCollum in the Florida governor’s race? According to calculations by the St. Petersburg Times, $70 million would have paid for any of the following:
JoJo, a lab mix, was tied to a pickup trailer hitch and dragged. Katie, a lab, and Petey, a Boston terrier, were stung to death by honey bees. Grace, an Australian sheperd, was pumped full of pellets from a 12-gauge shotgun. Fox, a sheriff’s department canine officer, died of heat stroke. An old, ailing Chihuahua was smothered to death by a pillow in Florida.
Dog Days are supposed to be when dogs lie around in the shade, waiting for autumn and some relief from the heat. The time of dreaded July and August heat has been marked as Dog Days since Ancient Rome, but this year seems to be a particularly cruel time for some dogs in the South.
Beginning in October, Tennessee and Northwest Georgia will see the first of a new kind of filling station aimed at answering the 220-volt question of the electric car age: Where do I plug this sucker in? According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, 1,535 public battery charging stations will be scattered across the area at interstate highway rest areas and welcome centers and at malls and big-box stores.
Tennessee’s effort is part of its tie-in with Nissan, makers of the Leaf electric car, which is opening a lithium-ion battery plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.
Clanton, Alabama, residents spooked by odd-dog sightings, have discovered that at least one of them was a “coydog” — half coyote, half dog. Animal Control Officer Bobby Tucker, who trapped the creature, believes it was the offspring of a coyote and a German Shepherd, according to the Clanton Advertiser, and he thinks there are other “coydogs” out there.
“There are a lot of elderly people in the area concerned with seeing them,” Tucker told the Advertiser. “We don’t know a lot about them or what they’re capable of.” This particular “coydog” was euthanized after Humane Society officials decided it was too aggressive toward humans to be socialized.
The BP oil spill could decide who wins Florida’s U.S. Senate race, and Gov. Charlie Crist, one of the candidates, wants to let Florida voters decide whether to ban offshore drilling forever in a constitutional amendment. To that end, Crist has called a special session of the legislature beginning July 20 and is pushing his former Republican allies to approve the referendum.
“The rightness of this is so clear, especially dealing with what we’ve experienced in the past 80 days or so in the Gulf of Mexico,” Crist said in announcing the special session. But Senate President Jeff Atwater, a North Palm Beach Republican, called the move “political contrivance.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed a bill allowing concealed guns in church, but the folks tucking pistols into their Sunday best won’t be just any believer wandering in off the street. No, Louisiana’s packing worshipers will be trained professionals, a “security force” for God, as it were. The new law authorizes people already qualified to carry concealed weapons to bring them to church and other houses of worship if they have passed eight hours of “tactical” training and cleared background checks. The law also requires pastors or other leaders of houses of worship to announce verbally or in weekly newsletters or bulletins that there will be individuals armed on the property as “members of the security force.” The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Henry Burns, a Haughton Republican, had argued that churches, mosques, synagogues or other houses of worship in crime-ridden or “declining neighborhoods” needed the added protection to ward […]
Tourists are flocking to Woldenberg Park in New Orleans to watch CNN’s Anderson Cooper report his nightly “AC360” take on the BP oil spill. Referring to Cooper as “the blue-eyed heartthrob of CNN fame,” the Times-Picayune reported that about 40 people showed up one recent evening to watch Cooper tape his introduction for the cablecast.
Cathy Parnell and her husband, from Peachtree City, Georgia, took time out from their New Orleans vacation to track down Cooper. “I knew he was here because I watch him every night and I recognized the bridge,” Cathy Parnell told the Times-Picayune. Her husband added, “She just kept saying, ‘That’s the bridge, that’s the bridge.'”
The renewed fight over electronic bingo divided judges and candidates for governor in Alabama and put 16 protesters, including two Greene County commissioners and a state senator, in jail. The state Supreme Court cleared the way Thursday afternoon for troopers and police to begin removing 825 bingo machines from Greenetrack casino.
Greene County Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway Jr. had issued an injunction Tuesday against a move by Republican Gov. Bob Riley’s anti-gambling task force to raid Greenetrack. The Supreme Court lifted the injunction on Thursday and removed Hardaway from any further jurisdiction over the case.
The Democratic nominee for governor, state Commissioner of Agriculture Ron Sparks, joined 10 members of the Legislative Black Caucus and more than 100 casino workers, now out of work, in a protest outside the casino …
You know you’re old when … Gregg Allman returned to Jacksonville, Florida, this week not to play music in the town where the Allman Brothers Band got its start but to get a liver transplant. Meanwhile, KnoxNews.com dubbed Al Gore the “hottest bod” on the political scene after he made the National Enquirer over rumors he had tried to seduce a Portland, Oregon, masseuse.
Unless Democrat Vincent Sheheen can prove he had sex with her, Republican Nikki Haley likely will become South Carolina’s first woman governor. Haley survived claims by two men that they had “inappropriate physical” relationships with the married, family-values state representative to slam her runoff opponent, U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, nearly 2-1. With all but one county reporting Tuesday night, she led 65 percent to 35 percent.
A poll just before the runoff election showed Haley with a 55-34 percent advantage over the Democrat’s nominee for governor, State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, a Camden, South Carolina, attorney and environmentalist who worked to create a conservation land bank that has preserved thousands of acres in South Carolina. Of course, in South Carolina’s bizarre politics in a particularly bizarre election year, a lot can change between now and November.
South Carolina State Sen. Jake Knotts of “raghead” fame has declared himself a proud “redneck” and called his Republican colleagues “hypocrites” for not admitting they wouldn’t be pushing for him to resign if he had called only President Barack Obama “raghead.” “They make much worse racial and religious statements in private company, some that would even make me or you blush,” Knotts said in a speech from the well of the Senate.
The Lexington County Republican Party voted last week to censure Knotts and asked for his resignation after Knotts referred to both President Obama and State Rep. Nikki Haley, a Republican candidate for governor also from Lexington, as ragheads in a Podcast interview. Haley is Indian-American.
Giving some honest perspective to the matter, Knotts told his fellow senators, “If all of us rednecks leave the Republican Party, the party is going to have one hell of a void.”
Vic Rawl, the former judge and legislator from Charleston who lost by nearly 20 percentage points to Alvin Greene, the unemployed military veteran who didn’t campaign, wants a recount in South Carolina’s Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. The Post and Courier reports that state Sen. Phil Leventis sent a letter to the state election commission asking that the voting machines used for the election be impounded and an audit conducted.
Clearwater High School in Clearwater, Florida, is switching from traditional texbooks to e-readers and is negotiating with Amazon.com to supply all 2,100 students with Kindles by next school year. Principal Keith Mastorides told the St. Petersburg Times he was inspired to make the switch after campus surveys revealed a desire to integrate more technology with classroom instruction. John Just, assistant superintendent for the district’s management information systems, told the Times that Kindle officials said that no other high school had embarked on such an effort. Schools elsewhere have used e-readers, but mostly on a per class basis. The e-readers wouldl be fully loaded with all the textbooks students need, minus all the paper. Just said Clearwater is prepared to spend about $600,000 on the project. More oddities and entities: In case they come to collect our debt: The Iberville Parish public school system in Louisiana plans to offer online Mandarin […]
Despite claims the married, family-values Republican had affairs with two political aides, state Rep. Nikki Haley screwed three men out of any likelihood of becoming governor but fell just a hair short of winning the GOP nomination without a runoff in Tuesday’s South Carolina primary.
However, the heat is likely to last through the June 22 runoff and probably into November, if Haley wins and goes on to the general election. One of the men claiming an “inappropriate physical relationship” with Haley, political blogger and consultant Will Folks, continued to sound like a spurned lover.
When South Carolina Republicans go to the polls on Tuesday to nominate a party candidate for governor, many of them will be choosing between State Rep. Nikki Haley, a Lexington account executive, and Will Folks, a political consultant who isn’t on the ballot but has mounted a campaign to prove he had sex with Haley.
But Haley, who has been endorsed by Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney and Gov. Mark Sanford’s immediate past wife, Jenny Sanford, claims the only person she has had sex with the past 13 years is her husband, Michael Haley, father of her two children. She calls the accusations “disgusting politics.”
Alabama and Louisiana — and, oh yeah, South Carolina — may feel slighted, but Tennessee is the most corrupt state in the nation, according to a survey by The Daily Beast. And it wasn’t the Tea Party Convention or the birthers or the guns-in-bars law or even the notoriously corrupt politics in Memphis that earned Tennessee the title. The Beast focused instead on a stolen car and drugs ring in Cocke County that involved a former cop and 22 other citizens of the area — and the collective high rankings in fraud, embezzlement, counterfeiting and racketeering.
Some readers may take issue with Alabama ranking a mere 12th, behind No. 11 Georgia, no less. And does any Southerner really believe that Louisiana, the state that gave us Gov. Edwin Edwards, deserves to be a mere No. 19?
BP is leaking $70 million to four Southern coastal states to promote tourism while oil floats toward their shores from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Florida planned to use its $25 million share to begin an advertising blitz this weekend. Florida officials claim it will be the biggest promotion since the 9/11 terrorist attacks made everybody want to stay home.
Applying lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana plans to use its $15 million share to tell would-be visitors that, while the coast may be threatened with tar balls and grease, the rest of the state is doing just fine. Also getting $15 million each are Mississippi and Alabama.
Southern oddities and entities:
How would TSA screeners react if they were the ones being subjected to the full body screenings coming to America’s airports? Not very well, if a test at Miami International Airport is any indication. The Sun Sentinel reports that security officer Rolando Negrin snapped after weeks of jokes from colleagues about the size of his genitals exposed by the body scanner. He was arrested after hitting a fellow officer with his baton — the one he wore at his side — in a parking lot …
Alabama Attorney General Troy King said BP was circulating settlement agreements among coastal Alabamians in which they would give up the right to sue over the Gulf oil spill in exchange for payment of up to $5,000. BP told the Mobile Press-Register it simply was trying to round up 500 fishing boats in Alabama, Mississippi and Florida to deploy booms and that the contracts had included a standard right-to-sue waiver, as well as a confidentiality clause.
A BP spokesman told the Press-Register the waiver has been removed and will not be enforced.
President Barack Obama enjoyed the food and the golf and the old books in Asheville, North Carolina, during his visit last weekend. But Bill Cecil, president and CEO of the Biltmore Estate, told the Asheville Citizen-Times about one particular Obama fascination: “He also probably spent 10 minutes looking at the globe in the library and talking about all the changes in nations’ names from the 1890s.”
The president and First Lady Michelle Obama also took time to anoint two Asheville restaurants: 12 Bones Smokehouse and Corner Kitchen.
Southern oddities and entities:
Mohamed Atta had only a box cutter when he helped hijack American Airlines Flight 11 and crash it into the World Trade Center. Soon, Georgians will be allowed to carry guns inside the terminal at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport under a law passed by the state House 120-37 Tuesday evening and headed for Gov. Sonny Perdue’s signature.
Getting your gun very far into the terminal could be difficult, however. The law allows you to take your piece only up to federally controlled security checkpoints. Beyond that, you may have to shoot your way in, and there’s still a chance TSA agents will make you take off your belt and shoes.
Candidates for county commissioner in Bradley County, Tennessee, are catching the violent talk wave in today’s uncivil politics. Candidate T. Stacy Hayes declared at a commission meeting Monday that he had been threatened with physical harm. He later told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that the threat came from his opponent, incumbent Jim Smith, and that Smith had threatened to whip his daddy, too. Still later, another candidate, J. Adam Lowe, remembered that he, also, had been threatened by Smith.
Smith told reporters he never told Hayes that he was “going to whip him and his daddy.” However, he did admit to some pretty harsh words to candidate Lowe.
President Barack Obama will visit Asheville, North Carolina, this weekend for a little rest and relaxation, and locals are full of suggestions for stuff he should do. Citizen-Times.com columnist Jason Sanford suggests the president stop off at Bruisin’ Ales beer store for some of the city’s award-winning craft beer and catch the Blue Ridge Roller Girls at one of their roller derby bouts.
For a Friday night stroll, Sanford suggests the drum circle in Pritchard Park, then dinner at either of two farm-to-table restaurants, Table or The Marketplace.
Southern oddities and entities:
Tennessee State Sen. Doug Jackson, a Dickson Democrat, has gotten approval from a Senate committee for his bill to make it illegal to sell fake urine. The aim of the bill is to prevent people from using fake urine to falsify drug tests. However, the bill apparently doesn’t outlaw the sale of real urine. The legislation also provides an exception for making fake pee for “bona fide educational, medical, and scientific purposes.”
Who would sell fake urine, you may ask. One company, QuickFix, advertises “premixed laboratory urine” that “provides a non toxic testing medium that mimics the characteristics of normal human urine.”
Palm Beach, Florida, school administrators want to lift limits on cellphone use by students and embrace cellphones as part of classroom instruction. Valdosta, Georgia, school administrators want to ban cellphones, declaring them instruments of cheating, pornography and “beat-ins.”
Southern schools are clearly divided on how much technology to let students play with. In the global scheme of things, that may not be good news. In India, the place where our outsourced service calls land, some schools are handing out iPods and iPhones equipped with reading, writing and arithmetic apps …
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