Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Microsoft: Privacy Champion?

"Microsoft: Privacy Champion? The tech giant and others are getting serious about giving Web surfers more control over how information from their online behavior is used

Source: BusinessWeek Online 07/24/2007

In its haste to build software that gives computer users new ways to communicate, store data, and scour the Web for information, the tech industry has unleashed a raft of threats to consumer privacy. Recently, though, companies from across the tech spectrum have begun taking pains to rein in such risks amid a backlash from legislators, regulators and consumer advocates. Are the efforts lip service aimed at quelling the furor or might the tech industry finally be getting serious about protecting privacy?

One of the biggest strides comes from Microsoft (MSFT), which on July 23 will unveil a new privacy policy that gives users greater control over what the company does with information it gathers about their online behavior. Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, will let certain users decline to receive ads tailored to their Web surfing habits. The company will also sever the links between information about a computer and the Web searches carried out from that machine after 18 months.

What consumers do online and what companies do with that information strikes at the heart of the computing privacy debate. Companies are keen to cull and store such data so they can tailor products, services, and advertisements to a user's interests. But there's growing concern companies are learning too much about their customers' private lives and not doing enough to keep that information safe from prying eyes.

Senate Hearings Postponed Until Fall
Those worries will take center stage in Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on online marketing and a proposed acquisition that will give Google (GOOG) added control over the Internet advertising business. The proceedings had been scheduled for the week of July 23 but have been postponed until September or October. The committee will ask executives from Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! (YHOO) to appear, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Competitors and privacy groups say Google's planned $3.1 billion purchase of DoubleClick would concentrate too much knowledge about Internet users' searching and Web browsing habits in Google's hands. The Federal Trade Commission in May began an investigation into the proposed tieup [see BusinessWeek.com, 5/30/07, "Much Ado About DoubleClick"]. Amid that grousing, Google said July 16 it will reduce the shelf life of "cookies," the software that embeds itself on a computer and tracks a user's Net habits. Google will ensure cookies expire after two years. Google also said it would make records of users' searches and other behavior on its site anonymous after 18 months.

The privacy battlefront isn't limited to ads. The next version of Apple's (AAPL) Mac OS X operating system, called "Leopard," will include new controls that can help users specify files they don't want backed up because they're too private to share. Leopard, due to be released in October, includes a feature called Time Machine that can continuously back up a Mac's hard drive to a server on a corporate network or a disk drive that's shared by users on a home network. Apple will let users elide certain files during the backup process, says Bud Tribble, Apple's vice-president of software technology and a designer of the original Macintosh software.

Brave New World of Hypertargeted Ads
Fears about online surveillance and misuse of personal information have been amplified as tech companies pitch ads to users based on their behavior to gain a bigger share of a U.S. online ad market that research company eMarketer estimates will swell to $21.7 billion in Weave in the ability to track users' whereabouts by collecting information from their mobile phones, and privacy advocates are warning of an emerging era of hypertargeted ads that could leave consumers open to privacy abuses.

"The very idea of identity and privacy is changing really fast," says David Holtzman, chief executive officer of identity software startup Pseuds and author of the 2006 book Privacy Lost [Wiley]. For one, when software is delivered as a Web service, every computer on the network over which it's delivered can be a weak link in the chain.
Loss of Anonymity
Sites that learn about a user's behavior can also present problems. Amazon.com's (AMZN) product recommendation feature stores a profile of users' tastes and interests, and credit-card companies including Capital One Financial (COF) are building psychographic profiles of consumers based on their purchases. Both approaches could capture information of users' interests that many consider private, says Holtzman, who's consulted to both companies.

The rise in popularity of social networks like Facebook and News Corp.'s (NWS) MySpace.com means some Web users are contributing to their own loss of anonymity by disclosing more information than ever about their identities and tastes. Google Street Views has given Web browsers candid close-ups of people's daily lives [see BusinessWeek.com, 6/22/07, "Google Is Watching You"].

The need for tighter privacy is made all the more urgent by highly publicized cases of data loss. "If one company takes a step that looks like it protects privacy more, other companies feel the need to try to match it," says Joe Laszlo, an analyst at JupiterResearch. "If you're a company like Microsoft, Yahoo, or Google, the tradeoff has always been the more you know about the consumer, the more personalization you can give them. But you're also placing yourself in a position of trust. If you misuse that trust, consumers and regulators will come down hard on you."

Better Assessment of Web Ad Performance
Those concerns are at the crux of the policy changes at Microsoft and Google. In addition to setting time limits on its collection of private data, Microsoft on July 23 announced it's joining with Ask.com, a search engine owned by IAC/InterActive (IACI), to try to develop industry standards for data collection and online advertising. The standards could help ease consumer fears about disclosing too much personal information as Microsoft promotes new versions of its e-mail, photo gallery, and blogging software that combine data stored on users' PCs with software delivered over the Web, says Microsoft Chief Privacy Architect Jeffrey Friedberg. "This is where we focus a lot of our privacy energy," he says. "There's no such thing as a completely offline, contained product anymore."
Microsoft, too, must demonstrate privacy protection bona fides as it, like Google, pursues an acquisition aimed at garnering a bigger slice of online ads, while at the same time complaining that buying DoubleClick will give Google an unfair advantage. Microsoft is paying $6 billion for aQuantive to help it better place and measure the performance of ads [see BusinessWeek.com, 5/18/07, "Microsoft's Big Online Ad Buy"],
Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a public-interest research group, says she's pleased with some of the new policies being adopted by Microsoft and Google. Still, "these measures don't even begin to scratch the surface," she says. "We need substantive privacy protection." There's still considerable leeway for companies to assemble a lengthy dossier of information on consumers, she says. Why, for instance, do they need to retain information on servers for 18 months, she asks.
Questions like those will get plenty of air time amid ongoing scrutiny of the DoubleClick deal and other efforts by tech companies to mine customer data, and they'll keep up pressure on the industry to make consumer privacy paramount. "

U.S.A. Economy August 2007

Political, social and economic movement towards privation, capitalism purely in the pursuit of profit without regard for the public interest is precisely the trend, which has negatively set America’s economy on a downward spiral.

I predict the United States is due for several economic adjustments; Oil companies, Homeowner and health insurance and realtors just might in the end return the profit they greedily scooped up from trusting consumers.
It is time for the people and politicians to push for checks on corporate greed.

Hadithah Killings

The holding accountable of military officers for the killing of innocent civilians in my opinion possesses an absolute impossibility of being politically driven.


Source: San Jose Mercury News 06/08/2007

CAMP PENDLETON -- The prosecution of seven Marines accused in the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians in Al-Hadithah is so politically motivated they cannot be guaranteed a fair trial, a Marine officer said in testimony played in court Wednesday.
Capt. Jeffrey Dinsmore, who was the intelligence officer for the battalion accused in the Nov. 19, 2005, killings, was called as a witness at the preliminary hearing for Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, one of four officers charged with dereliction of duty for failing to investigate the deaths.
''You told me that politically, the Marine Corps had made a decision to hang Lieutenant Colonel Chessani out to dry,'' prosecutor Lt. Col. Sean Sullivan asked Dinsmore.
''Yes,'' he replied.
Dinsmore, whose testimony was videotaped in March, said he doubted prosecutors could be objective given the political climate surrounding the case, and said Chessani was ''above reproach.''
Sullivan said his job as a prosecutor was to ensure justice was done fairly.
The Al-Hadithah killings sparked the biggest criminal case against U.S. troops in the war in Iraq, with three enlisted Marines charged with murder and the four officers accused of dereliction.
The two dozen people were slain after a roadside bomb killed Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas, who was driving a Humvee. In the aftermath, Marines went house to house looking for insurgents.
They used fragmentation grenades and machine guns to clear the homes, but instead of hitting insurgents, they killed civilians.
Anti-war observers seized on the deaths as evidence that the troops killed indiscriminately. The Marines who fired the fatal shots say they reacted to a perceived threat the way they were trained, and the officers say they saw no evidence of a law-of-war violation.
Chessani's defense team called Dinsmore as a witness to describe what was happening around Al-Hadithah in the months leading up to the killings. He said insurgents regularly used hospitals and mosques to launch attacks. Men pretending to be asleep in a house shot and killed a Marine when he entered.
''They would exploit any hesitation in order to gain an advantage,'' Dinsmore said.
The bomb that killed Terrazas was only the first of a citywide series of attacks that left several other Marines injured and insurgents dead, Dinsmore said. He recalled Nov. 19 as being the busiest day of combat in the battalion's tour.
Dinsmore said the feeling among the Marine battalion at the end of the day was that they did well. The commanding general in charge of Marines in Al-Hadithah at the time, Maj. Gen. Richard A. Huck, was briefed about the day's combat actions three days later, including details about women and children dying in their homes.
Huck was ''congratulatory'' about the battalion's actions, Dinsmore testified.

At the end of Chessani's hearing, an investigating officer will make a recommendation about whether the charges should go to trial. "

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Shooting in Sarasota

"A workplace dispute turns deadly for two women Friday. Investigators say 51-year-old Jacquelyn Ferguson shot her boss to death before eventually turning the gun on herself. It happened in the 3000 block of Bee Ridge Road. Investigators say Ferguson was supposed to be fired from her job today, but instead fired shots first. 45-year-old Denise Keyworth, Ferguson's boss, was shot and killed. Ferguson escaped, but deputies found her at home a few hours later. She had turned the gun on herself. The shots rang out just after 8:30 Friday morning. "Two girls in the front office heard a couple of shots and a scream and a few more shots," says witness David Jones. Minutes after swat team members surrounded the doctor's office with snipers on rooftops and crouched behind cars. Deputies closed part of Bee Ridge Road during morning rush hour and evacuated nearby buildings. "We did have some people still in that building, we did get them out," says Sheriff Bill Balkwill. But deputies thought the shooter was still inside,” unfortunately when we went in, the suspect was not there." Instead they found the body of Denise Keyworth, witnesses say she was the Office Manager for Dr. Jeffrey Sack, she'd been shot and killed. Co-workers pointed to 51-year-old Jacquelyn Ferguson, a fellow employee investigators call disgruntled. They say Ferguson was supposed to be fired by the victim Friday morning, but an argument started, then gunfire, deputies launched a manhunt, the first stop Ferguson’s home. Deputies found Ferguson’s body on the lanai of her home the suspected killer dead from a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Neighbor’s say they never saw it coming, "I thought there was no way. It had to be someone else," says Jessie Laiken. Co-workers say Keyworth had been the Office Manager of Dr. Jeffrey Sack's practice for the last 10 years. They say Ferguson had only worked there for about 6 months."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Canada’s Healthcare model for America

Universal Healthcare in my opinion should be a socialized government right just as much as the ability to drive on the road. This is my strong stance on Healthcare which will never change. One right wing conservative radio pundit said that if you want healthcare “to get out your wallet”. Honestly, let it be known this perspective is not one held by the general public; observation proves this to be the view of those where issues of the wallet are of no concern.

I believe there are sectors where capitalism, totally driven by the pursuit of profit void of morals and concern for the public good serve no benefit to the citizens of the United States. Healthy workers produce a healthy economy.

The Healthcare model of Canada is the direction America must go.

“Building is underway for the new North Bay General Hospital in North Bay , Ontario , Canada , four hours north of Toronto . It will be a state-of the art facility and the first new hospital construction to top one billion dollars.”

Original Checks & Balances content

Friday, July 20, 2007

President Dick Cheney

Vice President Dick Cheney will temporally serve as President while President G.W. Bush undergoes a medical procedure tomorrow.

Oh No!!!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Impeachment of President G.W. Bush, Part II

Chatter on the topic of removing Dick Cheney from office and the Impeachment of President G.W. Bush is increasing everyday.

Such ideas however can only come to fruition if Congress is compelled to act on demand from the public simultaneously with bold independent legal investigations. The reality of such legislation movement is far out of reach. For example, one can look at the vast public call to end the War in Iraq. However, neither the President nor Congress has responded accordingly.

The leaders of the liberals have other agendas, are focus on money rather than organizing, and the younger members do not have the experience to funnel protest energy into political results. We see the harvest of liberal and Democratic efforts is an empty basket.

Therefore, the fragmented individuals, organizations especially activist whom form the base of these movements must put place second tier their agenda items and form one strong coalition to unify on this movement to impeach.

Senate Debates Deadline in Iraq

1. Senate sets all-night Iraq war debate, Reuters, 07/16/07

2. "Deadline in Iraq," Chicago Tribune, http://www.suntimes.com/news/commentary/469521,CST-EDT-edits16.article

Live Earth Pledge


  1. To demand that my country join an international treaty within the next 2 years that cuts global warming pollution by 90% in developed countries and by more than half worldwide in time for the next generation to inherit a healthy earth;

  2. To take personal action to help solve the climate crisis by reducing my own CO2 pollution as much as I can and offsetting the rest to become "carbon neutral;"

  3. To fight for a moratorium on the construction of any new generating facility that burns coal without the capacity to safely trap and store the CO2;

  4. To work for a dramatic increase in the energy efficiency of my home, workplace, school, place of worship, and means of transportation;

  5. To fight for laws and policies that expand the use of renewable energy sources and reduce dependence on oil and coal;

  6. To plant new trees and to join with others in preserving and protecting forests; and,

  7. To buy from businesses and support leaders who share my commitment to solving the climate crisis and building a sustainable, just, and prosperous world for the 21st century.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

2007 World's Most Ethical Companies

The best companies in the long run do in deed value ethics.

"Ethics are absolute. Business ethics are relational. And ethical leadership requires a position of influence.

What does that mean? Certainly there are absolutes to business ethics, such as respecting employees and stakeholders, competing fairly and within the law, and being a responsible corporate citizen.

Companies routinely compete for recognition for their “corporate citizenship” or “best place to work” award. And predictably, a select few pharmaceutical companies, a handful of consulting and high-tech firms, and a couple of retailers appear near the top of the list.These lists are based only upon absolutes.

Not surprisingly, the companies that appear on those lists usually are from high net margin industries that can afford to invest in self-promotion, and may have a more vested interest in the awards than other companies. For example, the consulting firm that knows it will help them in the ‘war for talent’; the pharmaceutical company that wants to blunt criticism over patent practices or high prices; or the retailer that wants to attract the higher spending ‘ethical’ demographic shopper.

Yes, many of those companies truly are ‘ethical’—but those industries represent only a minority (less than 20%) of the overall industry of global business, commerce and workforce.

What about the rest of the economy? How can we accurately examine and compare business ethics practices and leadership when we only look at a small portion of the economic landscape?

Frankly, we can’t. We need to look at the relational context.
The absolutes are the necessary grounding for a company to have strong core values to build upon. The context is the environment in which a company operates, both geographically as well as industrially.
The best lens through which to view a company’s ethical leadership behavior is to examine a company compared to other companies in the same industry. Are they leading, are they following, or are they ignoring? And to be a leader, the company needs to have or build a competitive edge, such as size or technology, which allows it to be influential.

In assembling the 2007 rankings of the World’s Most Ethical Companies, the researchers and editors of Ethisphere examined more than 5,000 companies across 30 separate industries looking for true ethical leadership.

We looked for absolutes. We examined companies in relational context of their industries. And we looked for influential leadership that moved others to change or follow.

Companies were measured in a rigorous eight-step process and then scored against nine distinct ethical leadership criteria.Some may ask, “How can McDonald’s be on the list?” The answer is that the food service industry is the largest industry in the world—and McDonald’s has clearly stood apart in introducinghealthier food fare, sustainable packaging, food safety, and ethical purchasing practices.

The winners of the World’s Most Ethical Companies are the standouts. Each of these companies has materially higher scores versus competitors in their industries. Each forces other companies to follow its leadership or fall behind. Each uses ethical leadership as a profit driver. And each of these companies embodies the true spirit of Ethisphere’s credo: Good. Smart. Business. Profit."

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Giuliani Support Hints at Shift

Source: The Wall Street Journal 07/05/2007

DES MOINES -- HE IS A PRO-CHOICE, thrice-married New Yorker. So why is Rudy Giuliani the leading presidential candidate in a Republican Party long dominated by pro-life, family-values voters in the South and West?

Iowa state legislator Mary Lundby, who calls herself a liberal Republican, offers one possibility. "Many Republicans have questioned whether our entire party focus should be on social issues," says Ms. Lundby, who has signed onto Mr. Giuliani's Iowa presidential campaign as a co-chairwoman. This year, she is increasingly hearing from Republicans whose greater interest is the economy or national defense, she says. "Is it a groundswell? No," she concedes. "But we didn't get where we are in a day, either."
Don't look for the party to make a sudden leap to the middle, or to turn its back on its religious and social conservatives. But Mr. Giuliani's lead in the polls -- and in the latest round of fund raising, according to new reports Tuesday -- may hint at the declining clout of those voters and their issues within the Republican party, and perhaps a shift back toward a more libertarian emphasis.

If so, Mr. Giuliani's candidacy could be helping to redefine the Republican party, just as Ronald Reagan's did in 1980, when pundits initially dismissed Mr. Reagan as too conservative for his party's mainstream.
Former Iowa Republican Rep. James Leach now sees the party divided between "individual-rights conservatives versus social-issue conservatives. This is an exceptionally interesting phenomenon," he adds. He himself earned the enmity of the religious right in 2006 after he criticized it for attacking his opponent over gay rights, and he lost his seat. He hasn't endorsed any candidate yet in the 2008 race.

There are other reasons for Mr. Giuliani's lead, of course. The war in Iraq and spending scandals in Washington focus on Mr. Giuliani's perceived strengths -- fiscally conservative and hawkish on national security. "Different issues come to the forefront at different times. Those are his issues, and those are the times," says Jeff Lamberti, an Iowa Republican Party official who has endorsed Arizona Sen. John McCain.

It is also still early in the campaign cycle, and Mr. Giuliani's nomination is far from assured. He hasn't defied the religious right as much as he has skirted social issues that are important to them by promising, for example, to appoint "strict constructionist" judges -- a term often used as code for jurists who would favor curbs on abortion.

Only 43% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters could identify him as the pro-choice candidate in a recent Pew Research Center poll. Even those who said abortion is "very important" to them weren't aware of his stand.

That won't last long: Mr. Giuliani's Republican opponents all are running on pro-life platforms. The same week Mr. Giuliani was in Des Moines recently, Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback was making his own swing through eastern Iowa, where he talked in passing about immigration, a flat tax and cancer research. But what his audience clearly wanted to hear about was Mr. Brownback's opposition to abortion, an issue he compared to slavery as "a moral struggle." "We gotta get life right, we got to get marriage right," he told a small but wildly cheering crowd.

Mr. Giuliani's campaign also has benefited from the lack of a prominent Southern social conservative in the race, although that would change with the expected entry of former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson. In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, Mr. Giuliani leads the Republican field, but with only 29% compared with 20% for Mr. Thompson.
Quarterly fund-raising reports released this week show Mr. Giuliani also led in the three months ended June 30, raising $15 million for the nomination contest, ahead of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's $14 million and Mr. McCain's $11 million. In the first quarter, Mr. Romney bested the former New York mayor on this front.

In Iowa, a Des Moines Register poll of likely Iowa caucus goers -- who tend by a wide margin to be conservative -- shows Mr. Romney ahead of Mr. Giuliani, 30% to 17%. But those same voters ranked terrorism and national security as their leading concerns, above sixth-place abortion.
Mr. Giuliani regularly tells audiences that "keeping America on offense against terrorism" is his first concern, a line that draws applause and refocuses attention on his national-security stance. But he is also now honing his message on the economy, where his record is less well known. In a speech in Des Moines recently, he tackled such nitty-gritty as government accounting methods.

"This is the way a president has to think," he told the rapt audience after explaining how he would save $21 billion a year by trimming the federal work force.

He also disarmingly gives audiences permission to disagree with him on some issues -- a trait rarely evinced during his mayoral terms -- but still support his campaign. "I don't agree with us on everything," he regularly adds. That message appeals to Republicans who fear a 2008 drubbing if the party focuses too narrowly on family-values issues, as it did in the past two presidential races.

"We need a more moderate party that concentrates on economic issues," said Thomas Brady, a computer programmer and Army reservist who attended a recent $10-a-head campaign breakfast for Mr. Giuliani in Wilmington, Del. "Nothing got me more angry" than the party's focus on social issues in 2000 and 2004, he added.

Iowa state Sen. Jeff Angelo describes himself as a pro-life evangelical but signed on to the Giuliani campaign after concluding that the former mayor is the only Republican who could beat New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton if she were to win the Democratic nomination.
"The Republican party is beginning to realize it can't win without coalitions," he says. In any event, Mr. Giuliani's policies are "75% in step with the party," he adds.

Such pleas for flexibility aren't necessarily going to play with the party's social right as Mr. Giuliani's views and record become more widely known. Rick Scarborough, a politically active Texas evangelist, says the Christian right is dismayed by government spending and the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq war. But because of what he calls Mr. Giuliani's "radical leftist" social stands, "we will not rally around him," he adds.
In solidly Republican southwestern Iowa, Joni Ernst, the Montgomery County auditor and a Republican Party activist who is backing Mr. Romney, said Mr. Giuliani's refusal to set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq "might sway some. But abortion is a lot to overcome."

But Ms. Lundby, the Republican lawmaker, sees Mr. Giuliani piquing the interest of women, urbanites and Republican-leaning independents, who she says lost interest in the party because of its focus on social issues. Those voters are most concerned with pocketbook issues, she says, and many "think the party lost its way."

A New take on microtargeting

Democratic strategist should take a page from the micro targeting playbook. I would advise however to use this tool to target swing voters, increasing ones base of supporters, which is only way candidates such as Hilary Clinton can win the presidency.

"Romney's Data Cruncher; A pioneer in 'microtargeting,' he sounds part marketer and part political strategist -- and maybe even part Big Brother.

Source: The Washington Post 07/05/2007

In late 2002, Alex Gage sold his share of a well-established polling firm and set about convincing Karl Rove that he had the answer to ensuring President Bush's reelection.

His pitch was simple: Take corporate America's love affair with learning everything it can about its customers, and its obsession with carving up the country into smaller and smaller clusters of like-minded consumers, and turn those trends into a political strategy. The Bush majority would be made up of thousands of groups of like-minded voters whom the campaign could reach with precisely the right message on the issues they considered most important.

At first, Rove and campaign manager Ken Mehlman had doubts about the potential of microtargeting, according to Bush pollster Matthew Dowd.
"I had to really sell Karl on it, and Ken to a degree," said Dowd, who said the skepticism was rooted in whether the investment in databases and computer modeling would yield better results than the traditional precinct-by-precinct targeting of likely supporters. "I told them it was going to a major expense on the front end to save money on the back end."
As a test, Gage was asked to produce targeted messages in several Pennsylvania judicial races in the fall of 2003. Why? The state offered a diverse mix of geography and ethnicity, and it almost certainly would be a battleground for both parties in 2004.

When the election was over, the Republican National Committee commissioned a poll to figure out whether Gage's suppositions about why people voted were accurate. Gage's models predicted voters' tendencies with 90 percent accuracy, according to Dowd, and Gage was hired to microtarget the 16 or so battleground states in the 2004 election.
It wasn't long before this new, more sophisticated form of data mining became part of the mythology surrounding Rove and his role as "the architect" of Bush's reelection. Its use in Ohio, in particular, was credited with unearthing Bush supporters and delivering the state and the election to him.

Now Gage is working for another Republican presidential candidate entranced by the possibilities of microtargeting -- Mitt Romney. A Harvard Business School graduate who went on to head Bain Capital, Romney has made a point of adapting modern business techniques to politics, and it was in his successful 2002 campaign to be governor of Massachusetts that Gage's methods were first tried.

"The governor believes in accountability, benchmarks and metrics," said Beth Myers, Romney's campaign manager, explaining his interest in microtargeting. "He believes in using data when it comes to making decisions."

Describing what he does, Gage, 57, sounds part marketer, part political strategist -- and more than a little Big Brother. "Microtargeting is trying to unravel your political DNA," he said. "The more information I have about you, the better."

The more information he has, the better he can group people into "target clusters" with names such as "Flag and Family Republicans" or "Tax and Terrorism Moderates." Once a person is defined, finding the right message from the campaign becomes fairly simple.
" 'Flag and Family Republicans' might receive literature on a flag-burning amendment from its sponsor, while 'Tax and Terrorism Moderates' get an automated call from [former New York mayor] Rudy Giuliani talking about the war on terror, even if they lived right next door to one another," Alex Lundry, the senior research director of TargetPoint -- the firm Gage founded in 2003 -- wrote recently in Winning Campaigns magazine.
Some people are not convinced. Skeptics think that splicing the electorate into small subgroups does not tell a campaign anything it can't learn from a traditional poll.

"It's harder and harder to reach voters these days, so the desire to cut corners is understandable," said Steve Murphy, a Democratic media consultant and campaign manager for former congressman Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.) during the 2004 presidential campaign. "But it still comes down to shoe leather. I have NASCAR's Hot Pass on DirecTV, and I read the New York Post. What microtargeting category does that put me in?"

And in a presidential primary, in which voters are far more homogenous than in a general election, can microtargeting find meaningful distinctions between groups? Gage and Romney are convinced that it can.

From Business to Politics
Using consumer data to predict buying behavior is nothing new in the business world. Bruce I. Newman, a professor at DePaul University and editor of the Journal of Political Marketing, said the term "microtargeting" began popping up in marketing textbooks in the 1960s, when the field of consumer behavior began gaining popularity.

Pat Caddell, pollster for Jimmy Carter, employed a rudimentary form of microtargeting during the 1976 presidential campaign when he set up a chart with issues on one axis and regions of the country on the other. Caddell used the chart to advise Carter on what issues to emphasize as he stumped across the nation.

Today, companies of every size use microtargeting on a "very regular basis" to make basic decisions about how to market and sell their products, Newman said. Also, whereas the political world has long copied the techniques of the business world, that dynamic is changing.
"What's beginning to happen now is that the commercial side is looking at the political side," said Newman, asking such questions as "We would like to know what you did with George W. Bush in 2004."

Gage said that when he pitched microtargeting to the Harvard MBAs advising Romney in his gubernatorial campaign, they were stunned that the idea had never been used in politics. "You guys don't do this already?" they asked, according to Gage.

For Gage, using the same consumer information employed by corporate marketers to figure out voter behavior was a logical step. His career had been spent crunching numbers as a pollster, much of it with two pillars of the Republican survey research establishment -- Robert M. Teeter and Fred Steeper.

By the 1990s, Gage was spending most of his time on corporate work. "I was pretty burned out" on politics, he acknowledged. But Gage had also begun to mull the rudimentary elements of political microtargeting.
Working with a few Michigan-based operatives -- direct-mail consultant Fred Wszolek; Michael Meyers, executive director of the state GOP; and Brent Seaborn, who is now director of strategy for Giuliani's presidential campaign -- he came up with a methodology he called "supersegmentation." Later, they borrowed the term "microtargeting."
Around that time, Michael Murphy, then Romney's campaign strategist, became intrigued by the high number of independent voters in Massachusetts, seeing them as the key to winning in a Democratic stronghold. He sought out Gage for help.

"I wanted to break the independent-voter file into target segments and Alex's approach was the best way to do it, so I reached out to Alex and we, along with Tagg Romney and Alex Dunn of the Romney staff, sort of invented microtargeting in that race," Murphy said.
What did they find?

That a 32-year-old white Protestant woman with two children and a retired Roman Catholic male engineer -- while both independents -- were driven by often contradictory issues, Murphy said. "Some independents are more base Republican -- like, some are pure fiscal [voters], some are focused on education," he added.

All of this seems somewhat straightforward -- after all, anyone with even a passing interest in politics knows that a mother of two and a retired widower are probably motivated by different issues.

Wszolek, the Michigan-based direct-mail consultant, has known Gage since 1984 and worked closely with him to fine-tune a theory of political microtargeting. Wszolek acknowledged that "what you're doing is putting a very fine point on the obvious."

But, he added, the key insight of political microtargeting is that, rather than simply determining whether married men are more likely than unmarried women to support a candidate, a campaign can identify segments within larger demographic groups and tailor messages down to the household level -- an extraordinary amount of precision that helps turn a guessing game into a series of targeted strikes. If television advertising is painting with broad brush strokes, microtargeting is political pointillism.
The first step in doing this is conducting a large survey of voters. By matching up their political views with detailed information about their consumer habits, a model is established that can be applied to the population as a whole.

A campaign would then know which issues are important to an unmarried woman who subscribes to Outside magazine and is a frequent flier, and how they are different from issues important to an unmarried woman who has two grown children, uses corrective lenses and is an AARP member -- even if they are next-door neighbors.

"A lot of people were skeptical that a big sample would tell you anything different than a small sample," Wszolek said. "What we found with large-sample research [is] you see something totally different. That was Alex's central revelation."

Winning for Bush in 2004
It took TargetPoint six months -- and cost the Bush campaign $3.25 million -- to conduct surveys, overlay them with thousands of data points and break down the electorate into unique segments.
To Mehlman, having the information meant the campaign was fundamentally different from the one before. "In 2000, we very broadly talked to people on broad issues," he said. "In 2004, instead of talking about what we thought was most important, we talked about what the voters thought was most important."
In Ohio, the key battleground of the 2004 campaign, Gage's microtargeting showed that black voters -- who had traditionally not been drawn to the GOP -- wanted to hear candidates talk about education and health care. As a result, they received a series of contacts -- direct mail and phone calls, primarily -- emphasizing Bush's accomplishments on just those two issues. It was a much different message from the president's broader attempt to cast the election as a choice between staying the course in Iraq and the anti-terrorism effort or switching teams in midstream.
It worked. Nationwide, Bush won 11 percent of the black vote, a two-point increase from 2000; in Ohio, he won 16 percent, an improvement of seven percentage points. Bush won Ohio by 118,601 votes, or approximately 2 percent of the more than 5.6 million votes cast for the two major-party nominees.

In New Mexico, Gage's microtargeting discovered a segment of 19,000 lower- and middle-class, middle-aged Hispanic women whose children attended public schools. That group was strongly resistant to Republican candidates -- just one in five said they would back a GOP candidate -- but about half said they would back Bush. Why? Because 80 percent of the group were strongly supportive of his No Child Left Behind education legislation.
The Bush campaign made a targeted strike with a message focused on his push for testing and standards in public schools. It focused particularly on the 6,000 women in the group who were all but certain to vote. Again, the goal was not to win Hispanics or even Hispanic women but rather to minimize the Bush campaign's losses in this particular demographic.
On Election Day 2004, Bush carried New Mexico by 5,988 votes. It was the only state that he lost in 2000 and won four years later.

In response to Gage's success, Democrats have made their own attempts at microtargeting, and they think they have caught up in the technology, if not the organization, needed to apply it. Republicans worked to hone their microtargeting techniques under the single roof of the RNC-Bush campaign, but Democrats have been experimenting with a patchwork of smaller, less centralized efforts, according to Ken Strasma, founder of Strategic Telemetry, a Democratic firm.

Gage doesn't sound worried. What he does is as much art as science, and he never stops tinkering with his models. "Part of the challenge is to constantly attack what you're doing and try to do it better," he said.
Targeting Iowa for Romney in '08
Eighteen months ago, Gage made the trip up to Boston to meet with Myers. At a Beacon Hill restaurant, the two old friends chatted about Romney's potential as a presidential candidate and microtargeting's ability to help deliver him the GOP nomination.
Over the next months, Gage and Myers talked from time to time about how microtargeting might best be used to make a difference in a presidential primary. One Saturday last fall, Myers, Gage and Will Feltus, a member of National Media Inc., the company that handles Romney's advertising, gathered for a final bull session.

At issue was whether microtargeting could find meaningful -- and measurable -- differences in a primary electorate that was Republican to begin with and similar in its demographic and ideological traits. After hashing out the details on maps and graphs, Myers and the rest of the Romney team reached a decision. "The question was whether you could differentiate between the eight kinds of chocolate," she said. "I became convinced that the power of microtargeting was enhanced by segregating a generally homogenous universe."

Myers's conversation, like that of her candidate, is more from the business world than from the political one. She likes to talk about the "seamless web" that allows the campaign not only to "see at any given time what the left hand is doing" but also to use the "right hand [to] tell us what impact it has."

But the Romney campaign is decidedly circumspect when it comes to divulging details of exactly what Gage and his team are doing, other than to say the process of interviewing individuals has begun in Iowa.
Romney communications director Matt Rhoades is only slightly more specific when asked about the campaign's plans for microtargeting. "Our microtargeting strategy is tied to the calendar, and we have developed microtargeting models in Iowa," he said.

Developing that strategy has placed Gage in a central role in the campaign. Myers describes Gage as its "strategic orchestra leader" -- he oversees polling, media and online operations and works to ensure that every part of the Romney operation is working in concert.

Gage is more humble about his role, calling himself a "planner." He said, "I have always believed in Eisenhower's observation: 'In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.' " "
McCain scales back Florida staff; Sen. John McCain pulled at least six people off his 2008 campaign in Florida, a sign the primary might cater only to deep-pocketed candidates. CAMPAIGN 2008

Source: The Miami Herald 07/06/2007

A cash crunch has forced Republican John McCain to gut his presidential campaign in Florida, an early sign that only a few, extremely flush contenders will be able to compete in a state hosting one of the nation's first primaries.
Supporters of moving Florida's primary from mid-March to Jan. 29 had argued the change would bring a presidential ground game to a state traditionally viewed as a stopover for raising money to be spent elsewhere. But McCain's retrenchment suggests most of the field will continue to focus on earlier, smaller states where their limited resources can go much farther.
While a scrappy candidate can potentially make headway in New Hampshire living rooms and Iowa coffee shops, a television run in the nation's fourth-largest state costs more than $1 million a week.
''Moving up the presidential primary in Florida certainly gives it more attention than other states, but the path to the presidency still leads through Iowa and New Hampshire,'' said Justin Sayfie, a top Florida fundraiser for President Bush.
Florida will still have a bigger say than in past primaries, in which the nominees were foregone conclusions by the time voters went to the polls, said state Rep. David Rivera of Miami, who sponsored the early-primary bill. Mixed results in the earliest states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada could make Florida a decisive step on the way to the nomination.
Battered over his support for the war and a controversial immigration overhaul, McCain announced this week that he has only $2 million in the bank -- a pittance by the standards of a modern-day national race.
McCain laid off dozens of staff members across the country, including his regional press secretary responsible for Florida and other states. A Miami consulting firm, the campaign's state coordinator, and the assistant to the finance director are off the Florida payroll, leaving only McCain's finance director. A political director for Florida and other southeastern states moved to South Carolina full time.
''It seems as if they are moving their resources out of Florida and refocusing them on smaller, early states,'' said consultant Carlos Curbelo, who helped organize McCain's visits to Miami.
His chief rivals, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, have nearly a dozen staff members each in Florida. McCain's campaign said he will continue to visit Florida.
''It's obviously a little upsetting that he doesn't have the staff here to build the infrastructure, because I think that's important for grass-roots support,'' said state Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, who is serving as McCain's Southeast legislative co-chairwoman. ``You can't build a grass-roots operation overnight and, unfortunately, McCain is already behind the eight ball.''
Allison DeFoor, a member of McCain's advisory committee in Florida and a former vice chairman of the state GOP, said: ``Obviously, this is not good news. Those of us in Florida have been advocating more boots on the ground, not less.''
McCain has burned through most of the more than $24 million he has raised so far with little to show for it in the polls. In contrast, Giuliani has $18 million on hand, while Romney has $12 million.
In a sign of how much money matters, Romney's television advertising has been credited with helping the little-known former governor of Massachusetts rise to the top of the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire. He has run the most television ads of any presidential candidate, including 319 spots in Florida, according to a recent survey by The Nielsen Co.
Giuliani is favored by Republican voters in Florida, followed by unofficial candidate Fred Thompson, in the latest survey by Quinnipiac University. Thompson is expected to make his first Florida appearance Saturday at the Young Republican National Convention in Hollywood, potentially creating even more competition for McCain.
McCain supporters said there's plenty of time for the self-proclaimed maverick to wage a comeback. Unlike some of the lesser-known candidates who depend on advertising and grass-roots organization to raise their profiles, McCain is a former presidential contender, a well-known U.S. senator from Arizona and a decorated Vietnam veteran.
In a conference call on Monday, McCain's top campaign officials blamed the campaign's downturn partly on his support for a controversial immigration plan that collapsed in the Senate last month. McCain came to immigrant-rich South Florida a month ago to deliver his most extensive remarks championing the revisions, which would allow millions of illegal immigrants to earn citizenship.
''The immigration bill has been a distraction, and it's been an ugly, divisive debate that he was in the middle of,'' said Republican fundraiser Ana Navarro, who lobbied for the plan in Washington. ``He's been courageous, but it had a huge political cost.''

Jabs at Clinton Play Well With GOP

"Jabs at Clinton Play Well With GOP Base

Source: Associated Press Newswires 07/06/2007
WASHINGTON (AP) - Forget Bill. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic presidential leader, has become the Republican candidates' favorite punching bag.

Mitt Romney argues she would turn the United States into a "big government, big taxation, welfare state." John McCain calls the New York senator an irresponsible guardian of taxpayer dollars. Rudy Giuliani claims she'd put the country "on defense against terrorism." And all three lambast her on Iraq.

At every turn, the leading GOP contenders are criticizing Clinton even as they are entangled in their own turbulent race for the Republican nomination.

"They see her not only as the clear Democratic front-runner but also as the most formidable potential opponent," said Joseph Marbach, a Seton Hall University political science professor. Thus, Marbach and others say, each is trying to prove he is the strongest Republican to challenge Clinton in November 2008 -- and damage her in the process.

The two-term New York senator leads the Democratic field but faces fierce challenges from Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and ex-Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. GOP candidates have harped on them, too, but to a lesser extent.

It's standard campaign fare for Republicans to castigate Clinton's husband and his administration -- and they still do. They also have assailed her sporadically since 1992. Now, she is a White House candidate in her own right, and as such, is increasingly in the GOP candidates' crosshairs.
For good reason, analysts say.

"This gives them a way for their supporters to measure whether they're tough enough to take her on in a general election," said Ed Rollins, a Republican who was a White House political director under President Reagan. Plus, Clinton-bashing is a surefire way for Romney, McCain and Giuliani to energize the dispirited GOP base that votes in primaries, he said.

"She is hated by the core," Rollins said.
Polls show Clinton is incredibly popular with Democrats but extraordinarily unpopular with Republicans. Half the country views her favorably and half unfavorably.

Beating up on Clinton now also could pay dividends for Republicans come next fall by driving up her already high negatives, hampering her effort to win the primary and leaving her wounded for the general election -- or perhaps deprive her of the nomination altogether.

"They are trying to weaken her at the outset knowing she's the one to beat," said Donna Brazile, a Democrat who ran Al Gore's campaign in 2000. She doubted Republicans would succeed, adding that Clinton has proven time and again "she can stand up to the right-wing slime machine."

Clinton spokesman Phil Singer dismissed the GOP onslaught, saying, "Republicans are clearly nervous because they know that Senator Clinton is the candidate with the strength and experience to win the general election and become president."

The White House got into the Clinton-criticizing act Thursday, making fun of the couple for assailing Bush's decision to erase the prison sentence of former aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Clinton himself commuted the sentences of 36 people and pardoned 140 people, many of them controversial, in the final hours of his presidency.

"I don't know what Arkansan is for chutzpah, but this is a gigantic case of it," said Tony Snow, the presidential spokesman.
Jabs at Clinton from those looking to succeed Bush guarantee applause from the party faithful.

In Los Angeles, McCain criticized her for backing $150 million in projects he considered wasteful and unnecessary in wartime. Earlier, at a debate in Manchester, N.H., the Arizona senator needled her on Iraq, intoning: "When Senator Clinton says this is Mr. Bush's war, President Bush's war," she is wrong.

In Sioux City, Iowa, Romney claimed that Clinton would push the country off course economically, militarily and socially, and he cracked that her platform wouldn't get her elected in France. "Her view is the old, classic, European caricature that we describe of big government, big taxation, welfare state," said to former Massachusetts governor.

In a debate in Columbia, S.C., Giuliani argued that Clinton was an apostle of big government. "The leading Democratic candidate for president of the United States has said that the unfettered free market is the most disastrous thing in modern America," the former New York mayor said.
And, the trio piled on when Clinton voted against a war-funding bill. Giuliani said she had "gone from an anti-war position to an anti-military, anti-troops position." McCain accused her of embracing "the policy of surrender," while Romney claimed she "abandons principle in favor of political positioning." "

Saturday, July 07, 2007

New breed of evangelical leaders

"The new breed on the right The Rev. Joel Hunter seems emblematic of a kinder, gentler generation of evangelical leaders.

Source: Orlando Sentinel 07/02/2007
he abortion question had to be asked. In a broadcast where the leading Democratic presidential candidates talked about faith, the preachers and CNN producers agreed, it was arguably the single most important issue to America's evangelical voters.

So the Rev. Joel Hunter, pastor of the Longwood congregation at Northland Church and a strong opponent of abortion, volunteered. He acknowledged Hillary Clinton's pro-choice position but asked whether she could envision any common ground with an anti-abortion community that seeks to reduce the number of abortions "to zero."

Clinton leapt at the opportunity to give her standard response that abortion should be "safe, legal and rare. And, by rare, I mean rare."
The nondenominational minister passed up the opportunity to attack a favorite evangelical target -- and instead, reached out to an opponent.
"Our focus on arguments and opponents is not working," said Hunter, 59, "and it prevents even incremental progress."

It was vintage Joel Hunter. And that's what made him the natural choice to ask such a tough question on national television. In the past 18 months, he has become emblematic of a new generation of evangelical leaders: younger mega-church pastors putting a kinder, gentler face on a conservative religious movement known for strident and sometimes divisive rhetoric.

Since the death of the Rev. Jerry Falwell, Hunter has become a face in this emerging cohort. He has been cited in front-page articles in The New York Times and Washington Post, in op-ed columns in the Los Angeles Times, and he has been interviewed by National Public Radio, BBC programs, CNN and ABC's Nightline.

Hunter's provocative book -- Right Wing, Wrong Bird: Why the Tactics of the Religious Right Won't Fly With Most Conservative Christians, which was published by the church -- has been picked up by a commercial publisher and will be rereleased next year.

But it will have a different title: A New Kind of Conservative.
"Hunter exemplifies the New Guard of American evangelical leaders," said Jeff Sheler, author of Believers: A Journey of Evangelical America. "This is a group of successful pastors, mostly, who are more centrist and less partisan than the Old Guard of the Religious Right, and who present a more winsome and moderate face of evangelical Christianity."

A wider range of issues In Hunter's church, there is no fire and brimstone.
Instead, the message and the presentation are the same: clear, practical, reasonable, upbeat and Bible-based. Hunter's success in the Sunbelt is an anomaly in some ways. He is a funny, folksy Midwesterner in a congregation that is largely Southern. A Hoosier, he is a storyteller as much as a preacher, often using self-deprecating anecdotes.
"I don't want to bore myself," said Hunter, a compact, energetic man with a reflexive, sometimes impish smile. He reads widely and deeply, including publications such as The Economist and Foreign Affairs.

Hunter and others in this new breed of church leaders want to push the evangelical agenda beyond the traditional opposition to abortion, gay marriage and stem-cell research. They endorse those positions but also want to be involved in the national dialogue about immigration, global warming, AIDS, war and peace, the genocide in Darfur, human trafficking and concern for the poor. Hunter also opposes the death penalty.
And, he does not want the Republican Party to take for granted the evangelical vote.

In the 2008 campaign, the conservative Christian vote will be a "jump ball," Hunter said, especially if the choice in the voting booth is between faith and competence. "If it's not possible to have both, you go for competence every time."

Experts disagree whether mega-church pastors such as Hunter, T.D. Jakes and Rick Warren are leading their flocks or simply understanding that many worshippers now appreciate a more toned-down approach.
"Clearly Rick Warren and Joel Hunter are trying to put a new public face on American evangelicalism," said Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based Ethics and Public Policy Center. "That is, a faith that isn't predictably knee-jerk right wing, that wants to look at a wider range of issues."

The Rev. Jim Wallis, of the liberal Sojourners community, said the pastors are responding to "dramatic changes in the evangelical world, especially in the younger generation."

And that generation, more than others, cares about the environment, global warming and matters of war and peace.
Until recently, the national evangelical leadership included those who denied the scientific consensus that global warming exists. They rejected the notion that climate change is primarily a result of human activity and feared that significant remedies would cost too many jobs.
Hunter and his allies reject these notions and have adopted the term "Creation Care" as an evangelical euphemism for environmentalism. "We're approaching it with a biblical agenda rather than a political agenda," he said. "The church should be about replenishing as much as repenting."
This should have been obvious, said the Rev. Fred Morris, former executive director of the Florida Council of Churches, who has long urged Hunter to become involved in environmental issues.

"Anyone who professes to believe in a Creator God has a moral and spiritual obligation to care for and defend God's Creation," Morris said. "I think he is going to get into hotter and hotter water with his evangelical colleagues, but he is willing to do that, because he knows it is a crucial issue."

Making waves if Hunter ends up in hot water, it won't be the first time.
His most public misstep came in 2006, when he accepted an invitation to lead the Christian Coalition. It soon became apparent that it was a mismatch; the organization built by Pat Robertson was not willing to move toward a broader political agenda.

"The whole thing was a mystery," said Cromartie, of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, "that they asked him, and that he accepted."
In any event, Hunter said, the experience was, for him, "a clear signal that there has to be a new voice for the evangelical community."

Toward that end, Hunter works tirelessly in his church community.
In a typical week, he teaches a nighttime class on Creation Care, meets with a visiting Turkish minister who has been beaten for his beliefs, then swoops into Florida Hospital South to see two ailing parishioners.
His schedule is punctuated by frequent visits across the parking lot to Northland's new 3,200-seat, state-of-the-art sanctuary, which will be dedicated in August. The hall will enable Hunter to move out of the converted skating rink where he now leads worship and reduce the number of weekend services from seven to five.
Those in the 7,000-member congregation seem supportive of their pastor's higher profile.

"It wasn't until we listened to Joel Hunter preaching that we were drawn back into the church," said Marie Carling, 57, of Sanford. "I heard him addressing social needs. He was speaking as a leader of the church about working together with government, with civic organizations."
Still, Hunter acknowledges that not everyone is pleased with his emergence.

"There is some push-back on issues," he said, "from a very small but emotional percentage of the congregation."

And Hunter is not blinded by his growing prominence.
"It could all go away tomorrow, and I wouldn't miss it," he said. "Things are only seductive if you're not satisfied with what you have. I'm satisfied with my church, with my family and with my life. The rest is kind of icing." "

777-Lucky Day

"Its not luck that creates miracles, but it is the power of hope"
-A.T. Brooks

Friday, July 06, 2007

Liberals Could Move to Retake USA

“A little less conversation and more action.”

It is apparent that the public must elect even more liberals to Congress not for the purposes of moving the country toward the left but in order to bring balance and moderation upon these radically conservative incompetent Republicans now abusing the powers of the White House.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Gridlock in Orlando

""CREATING GRIDLOCK Development is supposed to stop when roads get too congested. But politicians and developers are finding exceptions to the rules.

Source: Orlando Sentinel 06/25/2007
Traffic jams madden drivers throughout Central Florida because many roads handle more cars than they are supposed to, or close to it.

A policy called concurrency is supposed to stop development if the roads are too crowded. But that rarely happens.
Many policymakers argue that concurrency is a failure because it encourages sprawl. In theory, it forces development outward to where roads haven't been congested yet. That "consumes unspoiled land and requires that you have to build roads to get there," said Jon Peck, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Community Affairs, which regulates growth.

There are ways around it.
Some cities have chosen to establish "transportation concurrency exception areas." More than 30 communities across Florida have designated portions of land -- sometimes, huge ones -- as TCEAs.
Even though roads are congested, development can continue as long as planners encourage transportation alternatives such as buses and carpooling and plan for dense development.
Orlando planners say the city's exception area has allowed big downtown redevelopment projects that might not have otherwise existed because, realistically, there's no way to widen the streets.
"All of this high-rise development downtown probably would have had trouble," said Kevin Tyjeski, Orlando's chief planning manager.
The exception area takes up almost half the city limits, but Tyjeski said it makes sense because so much of the city has been densely developed.
TCEAs took hold in 1990s
The exception areas were designed in the mid-1990s after it became apparent that there were many problems with tying development to road capacity, said Tom Pelham, secretary of Florida's Department of Community Affairs.

Among the problems Pelham cited: Traffic-study numbers can be manipulated. Also, policies allow developers to buy their way out by paying for partial transportation improvements.
There are many ways to measure whether roads are too crowded, and different agencies use different methods -- sometimes yielding conflicting results.
What it all means is that despite so many crowded roads, concurrency rarely puts a stop to growth, said Pelham, who was recently in Orlando for his agency's growth-management summit.
While at times project sizes might get reduced, Pelham said, "I think in practice, the players generally find a way to get approval" of their developments.
Proponents of the exception areas say they instead require cities to consider other ways of moving people around besides simply widening roads. Many exception areas are in places where the city is trying to encourage redevelopment, often downtowns.
Widening roads to allow more cars to travel comfortably often isn't the answer in those places, many say.
"The great cities of the world get to a point where the automobile is no longer the preferred method of transportation," said Charles Lee, director of advocacy for Audubon of Florida.
Sanford already has an exception area in its downtown along Lake Monroe. Now the city, along with Seminole County, is trying to create another one along U.S. Highway 17-92 south of downtown, an aging road where officials hope to attract vibrant new businesses.
Altamonte Springs is having public hearings on the exception area it will create for the city's central core. That includes the Uptown Altamonte development of high-rise apartments and condominiums, shops and offices.

Maitland also wants to establish an exception area for the portion of U.S. 17-92 that it wants to redevelop.
There has also been informal talk of exception areas in Tavares and Casselberry.
While many "smart-growth" proponents say it's advantageous to allow parts of cities to opt out of the road-capacity requirements, others say things have gone too far.
Have cities overreached?
Many governments have very small exception areas, but other planners have exempted huge portions of their cities.
In Tampa, where planners say more than 30 percent of the roads are operating at failing levels, one member of the local transportation-advisory board wants the exception area scaled back from its current size of more than 40,000 acres.
"That's a horrible thing," said Margaret Vizzi, a Tampa resident. "All of this development is occurring, and they don't have to pay a bit of attention to traffic."
Cities say they have encountered little resistance from residents or state officials when establishing exception areas. Peck could not cite an instance when the DCA, which oversees growth management, had blocked an attempt for one.
But officials said requirements for exception areas have become tougher since the Legislature enacted a growth-management overhaul in 2005.
Not just anything can get exempted. There are limits on amounts of vacant land and requirements for dense development.
And "you don't just forget about mobility," said Mike McDaniel, chief of comprehensive planning for DCA. Programs must be in place to encourage other modes of transportation, he said.
Putting onus on employers

In Sanford's first exception area along Lake Monroe, commercial developments with 50 or more employees will have to help pay for transit or create a program that details how employers will reduce employees' time on the road. That could include plans for on-site day care or incentives for carpooling.

Still, Sanford principal planner Antonia Gerli said it's uncertain how the city will make sure employers follow their plans. "Those are issues that probably need to be worked out still," she said.
And other goals have not been met. For example, the city was to encourage Lynx to start Sunday service and increase its frequency in the area by 2006, but the service has stayed the same, city officials said.

Many of the roads within Central Florida's exception areas aren't yet over capacity, but they can still be miserable to drive on during the wrong times -- namely, rush hour. And the roads are expected to get increasingly crowded as time goes on. Many more major roads will be over capacity, transportation officials say, unless there are radical changes in planning and more emphasis on alternate ways of getting around.
In Altamonte Springs, where State Road 436's capacity is considered close to a failing level, much of the development in its core commercial and business area doesn't have to meet concurrency standards because plans were approved in the 1980s, before current policies went into place. But having an exception area would likely make approval of land-use changes easier.

In the meantime, other cities are looking at variations on the theme.
In Kissimmee, officials are considering a similar type of district for downtown. Concurrency isn't ignored, but it has a more flexible definition.
City officials must fix transportation problems "with alternate modes of transportation," said Craig Holland, the city's development-services director. "Walking is the big one. Bicycle paths, buses." "

Clinton urges Bush to talk to Iran

"Clinton, Richardson urge Bush administration to continue talking to Iran
Associated Press Newswires 06/27/2007

WASHINGTON (AP) - Democratic presidential contenders Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bill Richardson on Wednesday urged the Bush administration to continue a dialogue with Iran as the U.S. tries to thwart the country's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In separate speeches, the candidates offered a broad indictment of President Bush's foreign policies, from the Iraq war to the use of unilateral force to relations with Iran and North Korea.
Clinton said the administration has given Iran "six years of the silent treatment."

"In this vacuum, Tehran continues its progress toward developing nuclear weapons and increasing its influence in the region," she told the Center for a New American Security. "After initial talks with Iran and Syria on Iraq, the administration says it isn't sure that we need any more discussions with either of them. I think we should keep talking."

Richardson, who served as U.N. ambassador for Clinton's husband, said that instead of lecturing Iran's leadership, the United States should talk with them without preconditions. And instead of using inflammatory names, such as "Axis of Evil," the U.S. and its allies should seek and find common ground, particularly with moderates unhappy with the current leadership.

"If we want Iran to improve its behavior, we would do well to stop threatening to attack them," he told the Center for National Policy. "We must remember that no nation has ever been forced to renounce nukes -- but many have been persuaded to do so with a combination of carrots and sticks."
Richardson, the New Mexico governor, said he would not seek immediate face-to-face negotiations with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a hardliner elected in 2005, but with others around him.
The administration has rejected direct negotiations with Ahmadinejad and has instead pursued international economic sanctions to stop the country's nuclear weapons development.

Meanwhile, nearly all the Republicans vying to replace Bush said during a recent debate they would not rule out using nuclear weapons to halt the program. Vice President Dick Cheney has repeatedly said the administration is keeping all options on the table for dealing with Iran, even as efforts continue to resolve the dispute diplomatically.

The New York senator said U.S. priorities should be bringing troops home from Iraq, demanding that Iraqis take responsibility for their country or lose U.S. aid and intensive diplomacy to restore frayed relationships.
"We have a long road ahead to repair the damage that has been done these past six years," she said.

She said she would introduce legislation soon to deal with nuclear terrorism. She said the administration has abandoned nonproliferation efforts, cutting off dialogue with Iran and allowing North Korea to reprocess enough material to make nuclear bombs and test a nuclear weapon.

Clinton said she would increase funds for the global threat reduction initiative, ensure the removal of highly enriched uranium from research reactors around the world and create a senior adviser to the president for nuclear terrorism. "

Visiting the North East

Vacation is over, back to the work of Checks & Balances. “Loyal to the Struggle of Restoring balance and integrity in government.”