Presidential Election 2001 Redux? (by Jack)


With the recent tightening of the presidential contest I began to think about our last close presidential election (the Gore-Bush 2000 election) and I was struck by the emerging similarities. Here are just a few:

  • Going into the month of September both Gore (in 2000) as well as Clinton (in 2016) had substantial leads in the polls. Clinton’s lead was around 8% while Gore’s lead was around 10%. By the end of September Gore was in a statistical tie with Bush; Clinton is now virtually tied with Trump.




  • In 2000, after a long drawn-out impeachment disaster people were experiencing “Clinton fatigue” (Bill that is). Today voters are experiencing their own version of “Clinton fatigue”—this time it’s Hillary.
  • In 2000 voters rated Gore higher than Bush in terms of competence and being prepared to be president. It didn’t matter all that much. Likewise, voters rate Hillary higher in terms of competence and being prepared to be president. It doesn’t seem to matter.
  • In 2000 the economy was doing quite well—growing and producing jobs. Gore was unable to take advantage of that. Today the economy is also doing quite well—growing and producing jobs—but people are convinced otherwise and Hillary doesn’t seem to be able to take advantage of a relatively healthy economy.
  • images
    analyzing the “hanging chads” of Florida ballots; from

    In 2000 Florida proved to be the critical swing state (I won’t dredge up those hanging chads and that horrendous Supreme Court decision). According to poll analyst Nate Silver Florida is the state with the highest probability of being the key swing state in the 2016 election (an 18.1% chance).

  • In 2000 the voter registration rolls in Florida were artificially (and illegally) depressed by state officials as they purged thousands of voters who should have been allowed to vote. Today Florida leads the nation in disenfranchising voters by denying ex-felons the right to vote. Slightly less the 7% of the voting age population is denied the vote in Florida, the highest disenfranchisement of ex-felons in the nation. (Note: Vermont and Maine allow people in prison to vote in presidential elections).
  • In 2000 Al Gore was framed by the media as “dull” and “wooden.” In 2016 Hillary Clinton is framed by the media as “uninspiring” and “unable to generate enthusiasm.”
  • In 2000 the Democrats surprised many by creating an effective get-out-the-vote campaign (unusual for Democrats). In 2016 it is commonly believed that one of Hillary’s advantages is her “ground game” where she has thousands of offices focused on turning out the vote.
  • Media analysts were in agreement that the coverage of the 2000 campaign, with its emphasis on scandals and negative politics, undermined journalistic credibility. Coverage of scandals and negative politics in 2016 pales by comparison and the media is attacked by both Trump and Clinton as being unfair.
  • In 2000 there were two minor party candidates in the race, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan, who probably cost Gore the election. In 2016 we have Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, both of whom will probably draw more votes away from Clinton than Trump.


So in 2000 George W. Bush won the election although he received more than half a million fewer votes nation-wide than Al Gore. Nate Silver gives the odds of a similar result happening in 2016 only at a 6.4% chance.

But, hey, we live in Florida where weird things happen all the time.

Looking into my crystal ball I see  a winner vaguely coming into view. It seems to be an image of a blond woman. My hunch is that Hillary will improve her support among young people and Hispanics and her ground game will be able to turn out the necessary votes to win a close one (yet again) in Florida. Floridians will breathe a sigh of relief and feel free to name their sons “Chad” without fear that they will be laughed at when they get to junior high.

What’s your prediction?

U.S. Constitution Day 9/17/16 (by Sasha)


As the Founders of the Republic would have done….grab a friend and a tankard of your favorite brew and take the following Quiz and discuss it in celebration of the day that commemorates the signing of the U.S. Constitution:



True or False (a.k.a. “I’ve got a 50/50 chance”):

1) The Constitution opens with this line from the Preamble: “When in the course of human events…”

2) The revolutionaries Thomas Paine (author of Common Sense) and Patrick Henry (he of “give me liberty or give me death” fame) put in place the limits on the Executive power.

3) The rights of the people are found only in the Amendments to the Constitution.

4) The Constitution does not contain the word “slave.”

5) Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were among the 39 men who signed the Constitution.


6) The President’s State of the Union Address is required by the Constitution.

7) At the Constitutional Convention, James Madison argued against adding a Bill of Rights to the proposed Constitution.

8) Alexander Hamilton of NY supported offering an American kingship to a foreign prince.




9) The First Amendment is the 1st listed in the Bill of Rights because it declares the most important fundamental rights.



10) Members of Congress cannot be arrested except for treason, felony and breach of the peace, during their attendance at Congress and in going to and returning from Congress.

EXTRA CREDIT:   Where does an explicitly intended reference to a person’s sex appear in the Constitution and/or its Amendments? (Ignore all the references, if you can, to the usage of the hes, hims, his, etc.)

Continue reading “U.S. Constitution Day 9/17/16 (by Sasha)”

The Salty Dog: Why Carpets Rule over Tiles (by Karma)

img_1966On an evening dark and queasy

I crawl upon my doggy kneesies

beyond a vast expanse of tile

to the tiny oasis of soft beige pile.


It’s there upon my beloved carpet

my stomach heaves and then I barf it

across six feet of woolen lawn;

Now relieved, I relax and yawn.


When suddenly my humans begin to shriek

“Get off the rug, you [bleepidty bleep!]”

They descend with sprays and thirsty towels;

Their distress causes loosening of my bowels.


Now I’m up in the air and out the door

To the doghouse; but why, I’m not really sure.

The Salt Life: Access (denied) to the Sun Coast Beaches (by Jack)

According to Trip Advisor, Florida and Hawaii have 17 of the top 25 beaches in America, with Florida sporting 10 and Hawaii trailing with 7. Our own Siesta Key beach is 3rd in the latest rankings, although it has come in first in rankings in the not so distant past. Anyone who has spent any amount of time at either Siesta or Lido can understand why our beaches rank high. While the amenities are good and getting better, it’s the incredible powder-sugar-like sand (actually quartz) that makes them unique. Hanging out at these beaches means never having to burn your feet.

But Hawaii does have us beat on one important beach characteristic—all beaches in Hawaii are open to the public (the exceptions are the beaches that are owned by the federal government and used by the military). What’s more, you will actually find numerous public access points on the islands with parking that allow you to actually get to those beaches. How do they do that, you ask? Simple. The local government requires that developers provide not just beach access points, but parking areas as well. They make it convenient for the public to be able to get to the public beaches.



What Hawaii embraces is not just the concept of a public beach, but the concept of shared space–an understanding that underpins the National Park System (that celebrates its 100th anniversary this summer). No one, even if they have the means to pay for it, has a right to own natural treasures or to deny others access to them. In putting this philosophy into practice, Hawaii has determined that beaches are public lands to be shared by all and therefore, the public must have access to them.

Needless to say, things are different in the Sunshine State. Florida has about 1,200 miles of beaches and of those 60 percent are private, and others which are technically public are, for all intents and purposes, private. The rules defining what is public and what is private are a little tricky. Even where beaches are legally public the public part of the beaches is defined as the “foreshore region,” that part of the beach that falls between the mean high and low water lines. But what it really boils down to is that local governments have allowed developers and homeowners to exclude the public from having access to the dry sand of the beach.


Although Florida law requires the state to ensure “the public’s right to reasonable access to beaches” in many places it is difficult to actually find and use that access. Unfortunately, the Sun Coast is no exception to the privatization pattern. For example, you can drive for more than 5 miles on Longboat Key and not find any public access to the beautiful Gulf beach (I assume it’s beautiful, I can’t get to it to see). Not all that atypical of the strategy that homeowners and developers use is the lovely little access point on Anna Maria that is an unmarked three-foot wide path with no parking that technically qualifies as “public access.” It’s one of those hidden treasures. About as easy to find as the Treasure of Sierra Madre!

Sarasota’s most recent beach-front controversy involves the battle over a 230 foot public right-of-way along Beach Road on Siesta Key. The Sarasota County Commissioners recently voted to “vacate” the road and, in effect, give it to three local property owners who want to then demolish their rental properties and build bigger condos that extend closer to the beach line. In exchange the Commissioners insist that a 60-foot-wide right-of-way will be guaranteed. But local resident Mike Cosentino isn’t buying it. He has filed a lawsuit against the county saying that the commissioners violated their own comprehensive plan. He wants them to follow through with a 2013 plan that would improve, reinforce and preserve the road, and he is rallying Sarasota County citizens to sign a petition that would forbid local governments from vacating or selling waterfront rights of way. (Go to:

I support his cause, but my guess is that in a few years this controversy will be moot (maybe even before the lawsuit has run its course). As was pointed out in a recent New York Times article, climate change is already beginning to inundate beach roads and parts of some beach communities in the United States. Climate change—a concept which is taboo in Governor Scott’s Florida—has arrived! If those property owners on Beach Road were smart they would be building houseboats.


From the Salt Mines: “Flexible” Florida Employees (by Sasha)


Anyone looking for a part-time job in Sarasota, needs to understand the conflict over the meaning of the term “flexible.”

There is the employee definition: yes, I can work 20 hours spread over days, evenings, and weekends. I am flexible: just give me a schedule and I’ll be there.

And then there is the employer definition: yes, you must always be available, at our whim, and with little notice. You must be flexible: we own you.


So even though you may be scheduled to work Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays (for an embarrassing wage like $10.50 an hour), management can call a mandatory one-hour meeting on a Monday morning, or a required 8-hour training session on a Tuesday, or demand that you fill-in for another employee for 4 hours on Wednesday, or assign you to a different location miles away from your normal workplace, or shift you from working in one unit to another in the name of the “best practice” businesses call “cross training.” If you protest, you will be reminded that you stated at hiring that you were “flexible,” and that there are 100 other people who also applied for the job.

Without a doubt, these practices are oppressive. They prevent the part-time employee from holding two jobs, make arranging for child care nearly impossible, override the employee’s choice to apply for one job but then be assigned to another, and interrupt the employee’s outside life with little notice—and all this while working for a low paying hourly wage without vital benefits like health care. Some employers don’t even guarantee a set number of hours, so your paycheck with rise and fall like the stock market.

Work Life Balance signpost from

A proposal, by a coalition of worker advocates based in New York State, is about to take on some of these oppressive practices. On Tuesday September 6 (nicely timed as the day following Labor Day), they announced in Albany, NY the start of a national campaign, The Fair Workweek Initiative, to change the work environment for the approximate 75 million (not a typo) workers who are paid hourly, many of whom are part-time.

The changes sought:

  • No more calling in employees for work without a guarantee of four hours of paid time (this is already illegal under NYS law);
  • No more forcing employees to stay beyond their assigned shift;
  • No more on-call scheduling; scheduling needs to be done two weeks in advance.

Before you feel sorry for the hapless employer trying to make this work, consider that the biggest offenders are from the biggest corporate brands:  American Eagle, Aeropostale, Payless, Disney, Coach, PacSun, Forever 21, and more.

Some of the other corporate giants have already agreed to reform their practices: Pier 1 Imports, Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, J. Crew, Urban Outfitters, Bath & Body Works, and Victoria’s Secret.

But retailers, restaurants, and companies are not the only offenders.

City, county, and state governments are also large employers and some of them are equally guilty of these practices—and they should be ashamed. One should expect governments to treat their citizen employees fairly.


During my experiences as a government employee in Florida, mandatory educational sessions were regularly held outside of my scheduled work hours; I was called in on days off for mandatory one hour meetings; when supervisory positions were vacant, the workload was distributed among the workforce without the additional pay; other employees felt they had no choice but to agree to being transferred to locations further from their homes; and when I questioned the fairness of these practices I was reminded that I could go work somewhere else.

True. Now I’m truly flexible—I am unemployed.

But the person who should be unemployed is Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi, who did not join the AGs from the eight states and District of Columbia who have called upon retailers who do business in their states to embrace a fair workweek.

Sources:  “Coalition Makes Push for Reliable Schedules,” Michael Virtanen, Associated Press, 9-7-16. Reprinted in the Herald-Tribune, p. A2.

From the Salt Mines:The Plight of Labor, Florida Style (by Jack)



On Labor Day, it is fun to go to outdoor barbeques and to listen to horror stories workers tell about how they are abused by management, and so I think a few comments about the plight of the American laborer are in order. I won’t dwell on how you can be fired for being the “wrong fit,” or having a “poor attitude,” or even for not agreeing with the boss’s political views. Or how in a city that relies on tourism like Sarasota, many people must work on Labor Day. Instead, let’s look at some statistics (don’t worry this doesn’t get too nerdy.)

For instance, according to the Economic Policy Institute the productivity of the average non-supervisory worker in the private sector increased by 73.4% since 1973. Some of that increase can be attributed to improvements in technology of course. But much of it has to do with the quality and dedication of workers themselves. Although many companies may not deserve it, American workers are incredibly loyal and hard-working and when management “down-sizes” they simply suck it up and work even harder.

Unfortunately, although productivity is up substantially, pay has not kept pace. Over the same period the average pay for those workers increased only 11.1%. Workers who are members of labor unions make more than those who are not members, but, guess what? Labor union membership has declined from about 20% of the work force in 1983 to 11% in 2013. Whisper the word “union” in Florida and you will be shown the door. [Disclaimer: my father was a Teamster steward]. Today the federal minimum wage is $7.25. Adjusted for inflation it means that it has declined about $3 per hour since 1968. Let’s face it, if you work for wages today you are probably “skewered.”


Pretty grim, huh? Here in Florida the minimum wage is higher than the national minimum at $8.05. And, hey, we don’t have a state income tax! But what are the overall numbers? The median family income in Florida ranks us 37th in the nation. The living wage is calculated at slightly less than $17 per hour; 61% of the jobs in Florida don’t pay enough to qualify as a living wage and 54% pay less than $15 an hour. For the most part, the only states that do worse than Florida are poorer states in the South (thank God for Mississippi!).

Did I mention there’s no state income tax in Florida? You hear it a lot to justify the low pay. So if there’s no state income tax where does Florida get the money to operate state programs? The largest amount of tax revenue in the Florida budget comes from various kinds of sales and excise taxes. These taxes are inherently regressive, which means those who make less pay a higher proportion of their income on tax than those who make a lot. If you are a worker who makes $48,000 or less you can expect to pay between 9% and 13% of your income on taxes. The very poorest are in the 13% tax bracket. But if you make $180,000 or more (the upper 5% in Florida) your Florida tax burden is between 2% and 4%. I don’t want to shock you but that’s way out of line compared with most other states. Even in a country where wealth is unequally distributed Florida is an outlier.


So enjoy your barbeque, but the next time somebody tells you that our wages are lower because we don’t have a state income tax tell them you would like a state income tax so that everyone—labor, management, and investors—pay their fair share.