Off Key

| June 1, 2017

By Bob Frederickson

From Fancy Kitchens to Ruffled Feathers

I Got Thumped…”

That was Martin Hyde’s reaction in the press after his out-of-the-money finish in the recent Sarasota city commission race that pitted him against eventual winners Jen Ahearn-Koch and Hagen Brody in a three-way race for two open at large seats on the board. 

“It’s better to get thrashed than to get beat by 26 votes,” Hyde was quoted as saying in the Herald Tribune last week. “It doesn’t leave a lot of doubt.”

Hyde’s ‘thumping’ was yet another blow to the ‘Citizens United’ argument that contends money is the dominant factor in deciding elections; Hyde committed a record amount of cash for a Sarasota city commission race, over $74,000, most of it from his own holdings…more than his two opponents combined.

It didn’t matter.

Hyde brushed off criticism of his campaign spending, saying: “I spent the price of a fancy kitchen or a modest boat, so what..?” Adding: “I’ll make the money back.”

Sorry, but that’s not an especially good sound bite, perhaps hinting at a bit of arrogance voters may have picked up on. And some probably questioned the fiscal wisdom of raising and spending such big bucks on a commission seat with an annual salary of just $26,000.

Why, that’s barely enough for a down payment on a new kitchen, right?

Visit Florida Violates Travel Ban?

Was Florida’s tourism agency trying to make a trendy political statement by signing a contract with a European advertising agency to market the state as a vacation destination in Syria and nine other Middle Eastern Countries (as reported by the Naples Daily News)…or simply exercising the kind of prodigal, bone headed judgment that led Florida Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran to slash the agency’s budget in the final annual spending package sent to Governor Scott for his signature last week?

Neither scenario helps Scott advance his argument that fully funding Visit Florida is critical to creating and maintaining jobs across the state.

The Trump administration’s travel ban was designed to prohibit travel from Syria, not encourage it. So what were the folks at Visit Florida really thinking?

Apparently they weren’t thinking at all.

The agency said it was a ‘clerical error’ that led to the addition of Syria to a list of countries it planned to advertise in, adding the mistake has now been corrected.

Bumper Sticker of the Day…

Honk If any Kids Fall Out.”’

Pass the Salt Please?

Some readers may recall the Woody Allen film “Sleeper” about a Greenwich Village health food store owner living in the 1970s – played by Allen – who wakes up 200 years in the future only to discover that his supposedly healthy eating habits are anything but. After ordering a breakfast of wheat germ, organic honey and tiger’s milk, two medical technicians in lab coats monitoring his adjustment to their brave new world have a brief conversation about his breakfast request:

“Ah yes,” says the first: “those are substances that years ago were thought to have life preserving properties.”

To which a colleague replies incredulously:

“You mean there was no deep fat, steaks, cream pies or hot fudge?”

“Those were thought to be unhealthy…” replies the first, “…precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true!”

Which brings us to yet the latest example of the enduring wisdom in Oscar Wilde’s quip about life imitating art far more than art imitating life.

The New York Times ran a story on May 8th under the following headline:

Why Everything We Know About Salt May Be Wrong…”

Yes, science may be on the verge of back-peddling once again:

Oops…Listen up everyone. You know that stuff we told you about the earth being flat? Well, our bad!”

When it comes to salt, it seems the body has the ability to regulate sodium levels in ways heretofore not fully appreciated according to the Times’ piece; and in some cases, a higher intake of salt may actually improve one’s overall health by helping promote weight loss.

Caveat: This story was from The New York Times, which means it should be taken with…errr…a grain of salt? Please check with your doctor before changing any dietary recommendations he or she may have prescribed for you!

Attack of the Sacred Goose!

Oh the injustice of it all…

An Indiana man was ticketed for attacking a goose with a bat after it allegedly threatened his four-year-old son.

James McDaniel told a local Indiana television station the goose came across a field and chased his boy; so he did what any good father would: he stepped in to protect the terrified youngster. It should be noted, the bat was plastic, not a full-fledged hardwood variety Louisville slugger; and the goose apparently survived the encounter, though a few feathers were likely ruffled…especially among animal rights advocates.

Who knew? India has its sacred cows and now we learn Indiana has its sacred geese. Good to know if you’re ever passing through.

But four-year-olds? Well, they apparently hold no such exalted status…

A Sign We Can Live With…

A while back in this space we bemoaned the proliferation of signs popping up like weeds around the rowing lake at Benderson park, comparing the scene to the visual assault of billboards in both directions along I-95 in North and South Carolina advertising Pedro’s famous (infamous?) roadside attraction South of the Border.

We also pointed out that in the aftermath of an alligator attack that resulted in the death of a three-year-old visiting with his family at Disney World in Orlando a while back, the folks in charge there probably wish they had posted some signs around the lake where the attack took place warning that there were gators in the area. We suggested Sarasota County might want to learn from that mistake and post such signs around Benderson Lake, lest the upcoming World Rowing Championship become the subject of a Lifetime Channel disaster movie with Sarasota in a starring role.

Well, two such signs have popped up at the park recently, one on the south end of the park by the boat ramp and another on the east side where I have seen a healthy looking six footer sunning from time-to-time along the bank during bike rides around the lake.

So kudos to the county for these latest constructive additions to the park’s landscape, though I would point out that most of the spectators will be on the opposite side of the lake from where the signs are posted when viewing the big event this fall; and in case park officials have forgotten, gators can swim. So perhaps a few more signs might be advisable, even if no sightings of the reptiles have been noted recently on the west side of the lake.

Oh, and one more thing: tourists don’t always think clearly when on vacation; they often give their judgment time off for the duration of their travels. So with that in mind, it might be wise to keep the signs back a bit from the lake. I happened to see a smiling couple composing a selfie standing next to one of the warning signs last week with their backs to the water and their attention fully focused on the composition of their digital masterpiece (an activity that could have put the kabash on their vacation fun had a gator been intent on photo-bombing their effort).

Embracing Our Differences?

That’s the name of the colorful, long-running art exhibit currently underway along the bayfront downtown. It’s worth a look if for no other reason than to gain a better understanding of the current sway of identity politics over Millennials and many if not most arbiters of politically correct popular culture in today’s entertainment industry.

How refreshing would it be to actually see an exhibit titled “Embracing our Commonality,” focused on those things we share in common instead of those things that define us as different from one another? Such an exhibit might reacquaint those who have forgotten – or never learned in the first place – with the uniqueness of a form of government that allows for the redress of any grievance by any citizen, and features corrective mechanisms designed to counterbalance and roll back inevitable abuses of power, understood as such by the lesson of history that absolute power corrupts absolutely. Look no further than the sad state of affairs today in Venezuela.

No, this nation is not perfect and never will be, because mankind itself will never reach that lofty plane. But there has never been a system of government that better equips ordinary citizens with the tools necessary to counteract those dark forces of greed and oppression that are every bit as much a part of the human condition as compassion, hope and love.

The folks who scare me the most? Those who would claim to know the secret for creating a perfect world.

Such a place may exist somewhere, I don’t profess to know; but not here, not in this world.

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