The new year is well underway and with it comes new beginnings. My new beginning as a Pinellas County commissioner is also well underway, having taken office last November. I have a host of objectives for the new year including expanding human services, increasing services to our veterans and, in the spirit of new beginnings, promoting recycling for the good of everyone in Pinellas County.
Recycling is a choice and a habit. Every day Pinellas County residents make a choice right at their kitchen trash can that has an ever-increasing impact on our future quality of life. What’s the choice? Whether to put that unwanted item down a path to our Waste-to-Energy facility or directing appropriate items to the recycling bin.
When we choose to place a recyclable item into the kitchen trash can we are sending it to be incinerated at our Waste-to-Energy plant. Although the process generates electricity, which the county sells back to Duke Energy, we also are slowly but surely, filling our one and only landfill with the resulting ashes. Once we reach our landfill capacity, Pinellas County will bear the expense of transporting the ashes to another landfill in another community. With that scenario comes many financial and, possibly, political issues.
Here are three surefire ways to make sure someone cares about you and sends you letters and emails by the dozen.
(1) Give money to a religious group. Any amount, any group. From that day forward, you will never lack for mail. Each day the message will arrive: “God loves you, and He wants you to send us more money.”
(2) Give money to a political party. Any amount, any party. The incoming message will always be the same: “We love you, but if you don’t send us more money the no-good, rotten other guys will win, and you will die in chains and ignominy!”
Dinosaurs of all sizes and shapes were alive and well millions of years ago. Scientists plan to clone the formidable reptiles through DNA collected from their fossils, and from insects that long ago vanished from the face of the earth.
This is not a plot for another Steven Spielberg movie. It’s the real deal. One scientist even predicted that we mortals will one day surrender our cocker spaniels and felines and replace them with diminutive dino pets.
Picture future humans taking their adorable sauropods for a walk around the neighborhood.
When is the last time you took to the streets to protest, to vent your anger, to lend your support to a cause? If “never” is your answer, let’s kick the can down the street and ask, “What would it take in the future to make you join a protest such as the ones that have swept cities throughout the world, following the slaughter of 12 French employees of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine on Jan. 7?”
Those questions, and others, must surely be in the minds of people who have followed this story. By the time you read this, perhaps leading thinkers (whoever they may be) will have begun to analyze the amazing response to the Charlie Hebdo attack and the killing by police of the suspected terrorists behind it.
Although I don’t have any special insights or answers, a number of thoughts are rattling around in my mind. Such as:
I once knew a city councilman who dubbed pre-election frolics as “silly season.”
It’s a time when bogus promises are made and wild accusations are soaring against candidates by candidates. Unfortunately, too many citizens with voting privileges truly believe those obtuse television ads and other propaganda.
The fact is that some politicians will do almost anything to earn a vote.
The last time you were invited to a formal dinner party, did you take time to notice the exact spacing of the knives, forks and spoons at each place setting? Were they carefully in line, with the lower end of each utensil the same distance from the edge of the table?
Those were one or two of the 2,178 questions that aristocratic hostesses asked during the Edwardian era in England, to make sure that rules and standards were being upheld. If too many of such regulations were ignored or violated, the duke or duchess giving the dinner would be placed on a “Cast these people into the outer darkness!” list, and were never allowed to be seen in public again.
I’m exaggerating, of course, but that’s the feeling I was left with a few nights ago when I watched a Downton Abbey documentary devoted to the manners of the upper classes that ruled England from Queen Victoria’s time until World War I began to spoil it all. What a delightful and horrible time those people must have had, bundled and handcuffed and sheltered by their wealth and rulebooks.
Where’s Otter when we need him? America should seek wisdom from the classic movie “Animal House” to deal diplomatically with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and his rabble-rousers’ displeasure over the film “The Interview.”
When “Otter,” Eric Stratton, and his fraternity brothers were kicked out of college in “Animal House,” Stratton wasn’t going to take it lying down.
“I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture to be done on somebody’s part,” Stratton said.
My bosom companion Carolina Moon and I recently were listening to a piece by the renowned Hungarian pianist and composer Franz Liszt. The music required the performer to play dozens of high notes with his right hand, while at the same time playing a related low-note tune with his left hand.
I asked Carolina, “How does he manage to do that?” She sweetly replied, “It’s known as multi-tasking, bright boy. It happens all the time. Now shut up and listen.”
Later I did some research on multi-tasking. I learned that it has dozens of forms. One of the most common varieties is the act of walking while also chewing gum. A number of American presidents have been accused of being too dumb to do that. Their defenders replied, “That accusation is a base canard.” To which the presidents said, “What does ‘base canard’ mean?”
The needle already was in the haystack. That essentially is the message embedded in the Democrats’ Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on CIA interrogations and detentions, approved with one lonely Republican vote, that of former Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, and released by committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein of California.
Three former CIA directors contend that enhanced interrogation techniques, approved under President George W. Bush and prohibited by President Barack Obama, yielded key information that saved lives and led to Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. These claims go against Democratic rhetoric about what President Obama calls “the false choice between our security and our ideals.” Democrats need to believe that what Feinstein calls “torture” doesn’t actually yield information. So in 2009, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to study CIA interrogations.
Feinstein has urged critics to read the report. I read the 500-page executive summary and finished with more questions than answers. It was like reading a bureaucratic version of Mad magazine’s onetime cartoon “Spy vs. Spy.” Clearly, there are rifts in the intelligence community. There was the FBI vs. the CIA - part turf war, part mission divide. Within the CIA, there were officers who believed in rapport building and officers who believed that shows of force deliver the goods. My guess is that both methods work, although one can be faster. Each side of that divide thinks its approach teased out the information that led to bin Laden.
Ceilidhs, traditional Gaelic social gatherings Ceilidhs, traditional Gaelic social gatherings, are held every Friday night from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Scottish American Society of Dunedin, 917 Louden Ave.
The cost is $3 and $5 for nonmembers. The social club is dedicated to the preservation of Scottish culture, offering Scottish country dancing, line dancing, holiday dinners and parties.
Crop Till You Drop LARGO – Join fellow scrappers to crop, trim, and embellish at this year’s Crop Till You Drop Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 at the Highland Recreation Complex, 400 Highland Ave.
The scrapbook extravaganza begins Friday, Jan. 30, 4 p.m., and will continue until Sunday, Feb. 1, 5 p.m., closing from midnight until 8 a.m. each morning. Scrappers will enjoy prize drawings, giveaways and fresh new ideas from fellow scrapbookers.
The cost is $100 per person for the weekend or $60 for Saturday only for those who register by Jan. 1. After that, the price is $125 for the weekend or $75 for Saturday.
The full weekend includes six meals, snacks, drinks and a giveaway.
Friday Morning Market TREASURE ISLAND – The Treasure Island and Madeira Beach Chamber of Commerce has resumed its annual Friday Morning Market at the Treasure Island Community Center behind Walgreens. Hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The market is a weekly event through April 24 featuring produce, food, arts and crafts, collectibles and jewelry.
For more information, call 360-4121.
GriefShare group meeting ST. PETERSBURG – A GriefShare group will meet Fridays, Jan. 9 through April 3, 10 a.m. to noon, at Cornerstone Community Church, 6745 38th Ave. N.
Childcare is not provided at this time.
For information, call 343-7747.
Marco Rubio’s mobile office U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's mobile office" is scheduled to be in Clearwater on Friday, Jan. 30, 1 to 3 p.m., at the Hispanic Republican Club and Outreach of Pinellas County, 1161 Woodlawn St.
A member of Rubio's staff will meet with constituents who have an issue with Social Security, Medicare, Veterans Affairs, immigration, the IRS or any federal agency.
For more information, call Charlotte Smith, executive director PCREC, at 727-539-6009.
Quilting Under the Palms CLEARWATER – The Quilter’s Crossing Quilt Guild of Palm Harbor will present its 14th Biennial Quilt Show, Quilting Under the Palms, Friday and Saturday, Jan. 30-31 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Countryside Recreation Center, 2640 Sabal Palms Drive.
Admission for the event is $7 for one day or $10 for both days.
There will be 200 traditional and contemporary quilts on display. In addition, there will be a small quilt auction, a boutique exhibit, vendors, door prizes, raffle baskets and a drawing for a free sewing machine courtesy of Sue’s Bay Area Sewing.
Opportunity quilt ticket sales proceeds benefit The Wounded Warriors Project. Tickets for the quilt may be purchased at the show for $1 each.
Scottish American Society social gatherings Ceilidhs, traditional Gaelic social gatherings, are held every Friday night from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Scottish American Society of Dunedin, 917 Louden Ave., Dunedin.
The cost is $5 for nonmembers. The social club is dedicated to the preservation of Scottish culture, offering Scottish country dancing, line dancing, holiday dinners and parties.
Sunset Market LARGO – Sunset Market is open every Friday through May, 3 to 7 p.m., in Largo Central Park’s parking lot No. 1, at southwest corner of East Bay and Central Park drives.
Vendors will offer vegetables, fruits, raw local honey, herbal teas and wild-caught seafood as well as organic body products, essential oils, arts and crafts. The focus will be on produce and organic products with about 40 percent of the market dedicated to art and craft vendors.
The market offers several ways for commercial business to advertise as well as two free spaces per market reserved for nonprofit entities.
Winter book sale LARGO – The Friends of the Largo Library is holding a winter book sale Friday, Jan. 30, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday, Jan. 31, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Jenkins Room of the library.
All books are 50 cents at this semi-annual event. Buy two and get one free.
Sign up to be a Friends member and get access to the book sale preview Thursday, Jan. 29, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Members need to show their membership card or be listed on the Friends membership list. Nonmembers can join the Friends for an annual fee of $10 or can pay $10 and be admitted to the preview.
All proceeds will benefit the library. For more information, call the library bookstore at 586-9372 or visit www.LargoPublicLibrary.org.