Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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June 5, 2006

'A PARADISE OF SCANDALS'....Having been born and raised in Miami, I feel it's my duty to point out reports that help to show just how bizarre a place Florida really is. Take, for example, last night's 60 Minutes interview with Carl Hiaasen. (C&L has video.)

Whether he's writing fiction or journalism, Carl Hiaasen's main character is always Florida, that axis of weirdness that gave us the sagas of Elian Gonzales, and dimpled "chads." It's also where developers build homes around gravel pits advertised as "lakefront property," and where marijuana falls out of the sky.

This is how Hiaasen describes Florida: "The Sunshine State is a paradise of scandals teeming with drifters, deadbeats, and misfits drawn here by some dark primordial calling like demented trout. And you'd be surprised how many of them decide to run for public office."

Still true? "Yeah, very true. More true than ever I think. The opportunities for corruption are many here," says Hiaasen. "But the one thing about Florida politicians, the crooked ones that I still find somewhat heartwarming, is that they're not very sophisticated."

Of course they're still true. Hiaasen novels deal with fictitious characters and scenarios, but locals know that there's nothing in his books that couldn't, or hasn't, happened in real life. Hiaasen shared some anecdotal gems with Steve Kroft -- I'm particularly fond of the South Florida mayor who tried to hire City Hall workers to kill her husband -- all of which are hilarious, or depressing, depending on one's perspective.

I have this theory that almost all the bad things that happen in this country have an almost direct connection to Florida. The Elian Gonzalez controversy, the 2000 election debacle, the original anthrax letters, the flying lessons for the 9/11 terrorists, the Terri Schiavo matter, the Abramoff deals, the worst drivers in the country ... what else am I supposed to think?

I now invite residents of California, Texas, or (enter your state here) to tell me how Florida can't hold a candle to the insanity you've seen. Given Florida's record, I'd say you have a tough case to make.

Steve Benen 10:03 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (88)

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Comments

Well, as far as corruption goes, I'm not sure how Florida can hold a candle to Louisiana.

Posted by: Fides on June 5, 2006 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Funny post--should attract some great responses. Hiaasen's books are so hilarious because they're so believable...and not all of his scenarios are fictional, either.

Posted by: shortstop on June 5, 2006 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Gotta love those Scanals.

Posted by: Bah Humbug on June 5, 2006 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

"Where the nuns wear guns". Dave Barry.

Posted by: Humble blogger on June 5, 2006 at 10:16 AM | PERMALINK

Repeat...

Posted by: KevStar on June 5, 2006 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

South America, take 'er away!

Posted by: Bugs Bunny on June 5, 2006 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

For anyone who wants to read about the real Florida, check out John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series of novels. Hiassen's stuff is great, and he will be the first to tell you that he follows in MacDonald's footsteps.

Posted by: DH in DC on June 5, 2006 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

Please could you select policy wonks of your calibre to hold down the fort while you vacation.

These kinds of fatuous posts are a waste of your readers' time.

Posted by: Name on June 5, 2006 at 10:26 AM | PERMALINK

The souther you go, the dumber they get.

Posted by: Vincent on June 5, 2006 at 10:29 AM | PERMALINK

A PARADISE OF SCANALS'

CB, Is that the Floridian spelling?

Posted by: rege on June 5, 2006 at 10:32 AM | PERMALINK

Richard "Operation Explodable Boot" Reid was en route to Miami.
At this point, of course, I should quote the late Giblets:

Stand Tall, Florida!

Yes Californians get an earthquake now and then, yes it snows up north. But only you have decided to shuffle off to an enormous foul poisonous bog afflicted with giant man-eating lizards which is routinely punched from the sky by storm titans who seek to blot it from the very sight of God!

If you liked sunny weather you could have moved to Arizona. If you liked tourist traps you could have moved to Las Vegas. If you liked vast political corruption you could have moved to Chicago. But your Faustian striving for a ranch home in a noxious wind-battered wasteland has driven you to boldly live where no one else would ever want to before!

Posted by: ajay on June 5, 2006 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

"... drifters, deadbeats, and misfits drawn here by some dark primordial calling like demented trout."

Must be drawn by the lure of the Gusanos...

Which reminds me...

Everything bad derives from Florida:

You forgot to mention the Watergate burglers, Bebe Rebozo, AND the terrorist-Gusano who blew up the Cuban airliner (Orlando Bosch) with the Cuban Fencing Team aboard.

Posted by: koreyel on June 5, 2006 at 10:38 AM | PERMALINK

I grew up in Tampa and live in California now. Me and my best friend, also from Florida, play a little game. We read the newspaper without checking the datelines. The weirdest and most depraved stories come from Florida a shockingingly high percentage of the time.

My mom and dad just recently retired after working for the city of Tampa for years, also, so over the years I've been privy to many of the machinations of that city's government. Not a pretty picture.

And "Name," get a f***ing grip. Kevin does cat blogging posts, for Christ's sake. Steve has done about 10 posts thus far on substantive issues before this one. And this one's not even completely OT as far as policy blogging goes. Things don't have to stick to whatever you presume the "policy wonk" canon to be. Your kind of vacuous, judgmental dickheaded comments are a waste of your time and the people reading these comments. And you're a jackass.

Posted by: Rick on June 5, 2006 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

New York is making a good claim for the top (or is it bottom?) spot when it comes to statewide insanity, what with the total abortion that the World Trade Center reconstruction has become. My prediction: on the tenth anniversary, September 11, 2011, it'll still be a hole in the ground with no construction in sight.
And then there's the Second Avenue Subway fiasco - planned in the 1920's, two elevated lines demolished in anticipation of its construction, paid for twice over by bond issues, and - as you can guess - never actually built.

Posted by: Peter on June 5, 2006 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

Please.

In Louisiana, you had people driving around with bumper-stickers imploring "Vote for the Crook, It's Important". And they were right, it was important.

I grew up in Florida and lived in Tejas for 4 years, and now live in Louisiana.

There's just no comparison in terms of bizarre strangeness-- it's been cultivated and perfected for hundreds of years here.

Posted by: oyster on June 5, 2006 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

There's just no comparison in terms of bizarre strangeness-- it's been cultivated and perfected for hundreds of years here.

Yes, but apples and oranges. Louisiana bizarre strangeness is dark and gothic, while Florida bizarre strangeness has a sunburn, an eating disorder and a chip on its shoulder.

Posted by: shortstop collects weird states for fun on June 5, 2006 at 10:54 AM | PERMALINK

Global warming should take care of the bottom half of Florida as well as the southern third of Louisiana shortly, if not sooner.

Posted by: Sky-Ho on June 5, 2006 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Global warming should take care of the bottom half of Florida as well as the southern third of Louisiana shortly, if not sooner.

No doubt. Just let me get a couple more Lower Keys dives and plates of etouffee in first!

Posted by: shortstop on June 5, 2006 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

I've also lived in FL, LA (my current domicile) and TX.

I think Tejas is the hand's down winner overall, but FL wins on creativity, with LA a dishonorable mention for pervasiveness.

TX and LA at least have the vast global corruption conveyor belt that is the oil bidness at the bottom of 99% of the funny business, whereas Florida has managed to become a magnet for corruption from the whole Western hemisphere. What they can't breed domestically, they import from the world at large.

Posted by: CFShep on June 5, 2006 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK

>>For anyone who wants to read about the real Florida, check out John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series of novels. Hiassen's stuff is great, and he will be the first to tell you that he follows in MacDonald's footsteps.
Posted by: DH in DC

And don't neglect Tim Dorsey.

Posted by: CFShep on June 5, 2006 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

And don't neglect Tim Dorsey.

I was just going to say that, CFShep! Superb mind candy.

Posted by: shortstop on June 5, 2006 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Don't forget San Diego and the Southern California, the home of the Dick and the Duke and Duncan and Dana Rorbacher.

Posted by: lib on June 5, 2006 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Florida cannot hold a candle to California.....

Electric power companies ripping off the entire state and then the recall the governor who was trying to do something about the rip off and replacing him with a stupid actor.

Posted by: SweettP2063 on June 5, 2006 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

There is a grand bit of difference between your typical gothic (or would it be better termed baroque?), strange, bizarre, southern style darkness and corruption--something straight out of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil variety. That sort would include Louisiana, ma chere. As incroyable is that is, it is all dog bites man news.

What gives Florida grift and cheese and its sociological interest--man bites dog vibe-- is that the state is such a microcosm of America en toto. A melting pot of sleaze from which a new strain emerges from the ooze. All wrapped up in Disney cheerfulness and a patina of Christian family values. It is top flight bizarro.

Think about it. It is full to the gills with transplants from all over our fair land. The Atlantic coast full with folks from Joisey and Noo Yawk, the Gulf coast full with folks from Chicahgah and the fruited plains of the midwestern red states. The Little Havana folks living in a time/culture warp. The small town indigenous redneckery of northern FL. The tacky, filthy rich "silicon valley" of Florida (Rodeo Drive-worthy, grossly enhanced) "beautiful" people with full wallets, full bosoms and empty heads of say, Bota Raton ("rat's mouth" in Spanish)to name just one. The Eurotrash in Speedos. Disney. South Beach.

People laugh at Florida's "southern redneck" alligator farm impresarios but it is the pasty-white, superior, northern yahoos who happily lay down good cash money for that scam. Yup. Goober is just "letting the market decide", folks. Taste and high quality does not sell well in America.

Florida! I give you your American huddled masses yearning for a suntan and some elusive paradise and fountain of youth. A mirror on America. Step right up, folks. It isn't coincidence that Barnum had winter HQs in Florida. What could be more All- American?!

Posted by: greatest show on earth on June 5, 2006 at 11:30 AM | PERMALINK

For top-drawer corruption in California, you have to go back to the water wars in the '20s, and our weirdness is really more a terminal form of shallowness - except in Orange County, where it seems to be just plain meanness. But, hey, two of the worst-ever presidents came from our state: Nixon and Reagan. That oughta count for something.

Posted by: cmac on June 5, 2006 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Hoo boy - if you want see Boca blasted in all it's artificially enhanced splendor it's in in that book about a psycho Golden Retriever...

Too bad he didn't also take on Palm Beach.

Hint: We didn't call William Jefferson (slum lord and rent-to-own swindles a specialty) 'Dollar Bill' for no good reason...

Posted by: CFShep on June 5, 2006 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Montana is pretty good. We don't have a large population, but we do have the Unabomber, the Freemen, Russ Weston (the capital shooter), and Conrad Burns!

A few years ago, members of our state legislature were drinking and driving, got in a terrible accident where someone was killed, and then went to the governor's house, where she proceeded to wash the blood off their clothes. That's what I call unsophisticated corruption.

Posted by: BRussell on June 5, 2006 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

'it's' - replace with 'its'. Arrgh.

Sorry.

Posted by: CFShep on June 5, 2006 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

My home state of Wisconsin gave the world Joe McCarthy, Jim Sensenbrenner, Ed Gein, and Jeffrey Dahmer. Oh, and a little organization known as the Republican Party was founded here.

Posted by: Greg on June 5, 2006 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Here in L.A. we have our share of flakes, kooks, and all types of eccentrics. Plenty of corruption, once you scratch the surface of things.

But what I know about Florida (have relatives there), they got us beat in the bizarre sweepstakes. They seem to be a lot more brazen, and a lot more dumb.

Posted by: JJF on June 5, 2006 at 12:01 PM | PERMALINK

I dissent.

As a Massachusetts native, I'm proud to say that Massachusetts has the very worst drivers in the country. It's ingrained. My high school on-the-road driver-ed teacher taught us that speed limits were "advisory." The first time I drove out on the West Coast, I felt like a wolf among the sheep - can you believe it, they actually stopped for pedestrians in cross walks! Pedestrians actually used cross walks! Shocking!

Posted by: DBL on June 5, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

The best example of Philly political insanity I can think of is the woman who was in a close race for a citywide office - I forget which one - and lost the first count by a small percentage of the total. The election judge performed a recount, she came out ahead, and that was the total that got certified.

The judge was the candidate's mother, and she performed the recount alone, without supervision.

Even that kind of pales against the mayor who hired her own bureaucrats as hitmen, though.

Posted by: Viserys on June 5, 2006 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

I've gotta put Ohio somewhere in the top five. Ya got:

  • Ken Blackwell. (I haven't yet read the RFK Jr. story in Rolling Stone, so I have no comments on its validity, except to say that as a lifetime Ohio resident there's nothing I wouldn't put past him.)

  • Coingate berlord Tom Noe.

  • Dead Man Campaigning Bob Ney.

  • Worst Governor in America Bob Taft.

  • Being out in front on denying not just gay couples, but all unmarried couples partnership rights.

And then you've got these blasts from the past, pretty much all of which involve the SW Ohio/Cincinnati area:
  • The Mappelthorpe controversy, various skirmishes with Larry Flint, and generally beyond-the-pale levels of uptightness and bluenosery.

  • Racial tensions involving perceived (not without merit) police brutality.

  • Marge Schott.

Posted by: Foobarski on June 5, 2006 at 12:16 PM | PERMALINK

>>Worst Governor in America Bob Taft.

Oh, please! Raise you one Edwin Edwards and a Huey Long.

Huey's son attempting to fire the head of the mental hospital wherein he was currently resident...

Then there was O.K. Allen of whom it was said that if a leaf happened to blow onto O.K.'s desk, he'd sign it.

Posted by: CFShep on June 5, 2006 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, and ooops, a U.S. Army occupation installed black governor during Reconstruction who could neither read not write.

Go ahead, top that one.

Posted by: CFShep on June 5, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

greatest show on earth:

Wonderful post. "Goober is letting the market decide, folks." ROTFL ! Let's also recall that the supermarket tabloid industry -- including the indespensible Weekly World News -- is run out of Florida by a colony of expat Brits.

But we Northeasterners can take solace in Long Island, at least. Another storm-ravaged area of the planet that should never have been settled by humans, the surburban despoilization of which has proceeded at a truly frightening pace. And it's the home of the original Levittown.

I mean, who could ever forget Joey Buttafuoco (the name alone is worth bonus points out the wazoo) and Amy "Long Island Lolita" Fisher?

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on June 5, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

I have to insist on my state of Rhode Island. We have the most corrupt political culture per capita! The last mayor of Providence, the "lovable rogue" Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, is currently in the pen for his habit of requiring large "campaign donations" to get city business. A former Republican governor, Ed DiPrete, beat Rowland to the pen. A highlight of his trial was the description of DiPrete scrambling through a garbage can at a sandwich shop to recover the envelope with a bribe he accidently threw away. The legislature is dominated by the Democratic Party, and most of the legislators are attorneys, whose major income is either from partners in their firms working as lobbyists, or as attorneys for the towns. Florida may have more stories, but it's based on a population 17 times as large. I will admit, we haven't had a Kathleen Harris yet.....

Our drivers are worse than Massachusetts, despite DBL's post above. We stop when we have the right of way, and don't stop at stop signs. ( I too was shocked when driving in LA: all those empty breakdown lanes, and no one using them to pass backed up traffic! )

Posted by: PetervE on June 5, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

I won't say it tops Florida, but my adopted state of Rhode Island probably has the most weirdness per square mile. Most notably, the mayor of the largest city is now in jail for racketeering (this is after he won re-election following a conviction for assaulting his ex-wife's boyfriend). The former speaker of the state House lost his seat after he gave a state job to a woman who had accused him of sexual harassment--not to mention the fact that a British firm that runs a dog track was convicted of bribery for paying his law firm a $1 million bonus. Recently, the Senate president neglected to point out in his financial disclosure form that he had been receiving retainers from a town that was trying to get the legislature to approve an amendment that would allow a casino.

And, oh yes, we do have the worst drivers--according to a AAA survey, Rhode Island drivers came in last in knowledge of rules of the road.

Posted by: Bob on June 5, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

I knew this would be a highly entertaining thread.

Posted by: shortstop on June 5, 2006 at 12:42 PM | PERMALINK

Insanity abounds in Bush loving Texas ...after all he made millions on the Texas Rangers/The Ballpark deal built on the backs of redneck taxpayers who still have insanity to proudly display "W the president" stickers on their pick-up trucks....

Posted by: neil on June 5, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

Damn, I'm feeling left-out. I'm from Minnesota, the land of morally upright Scandinavians.

One claim to fame, though: both Minneapolis and St. Paul (St. Paul especially) were run by gangsters until the mid-1930s. St. Paul crooks had a deal with the police: check in at the city borders, do your crimes elsewhere, cut us in on the proceeds of said crimes, and we won't arrest you.

Posted by: Norsecats on June 5, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Can't do it. We're a much less crazy state than Florida up in MN. Also, while the Fargo/Moorhead drivers are mostly Grade A-holes, I've always maintained that down in Minneapolis people actually follow unwritten "rules of the road" so that everything runs more smooth.

Posted by: MNPundit on June 5, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

And in another vote for my home team, Long Island had the unforgettable Al "Senator Pothole" D'Amato :) There's a really creepy muscle and collector car culture in the middle of the island (of paunchy post-midlife crisis types) and all the decadent wealth trash of the Hamptons and Montauk ...

Another book that mines the particular (and I'd agree ultimately unique) insanity of Florida is Russell Banks' Continental Drift -- though it's hardly played for laughs.

In fact, that's probably its weakness. Whatever Florida signifies in America's subconscious -- it is decidedly too absurd to take quite seriously -- despite the human rights atrocities of smuggling illegals as a plot climax.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on June 5, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

In LA we've had our last three - count 'em three - insurance commisioners sent to Club Fed - one of whom ran for and was reelected while still serving his term.

Posted by: CFShep on June 5, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

CFShep:

And in fairness to LA, they'll never be another book (or author) like A Confederacy of Dunces and John Kennedy Toole.

Gothic black humor -- who'd a thunk it :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on June 5, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

haven't seen anyone mention New Jersey yet: gay governor, unusually corrupt senator (Torricelli), " Street Fight" for the mayoral election of largest city, Sopranos (fictional, but I think it's still worth mentioning), Atlantic City, Bon Jovi, the turnpike (the reststops of which aforementioned gay governor used for anonymous sexual encounters). I still don't think it competes with Florida though. At least we're a blue state.

Posted by: ibid on June 5, 2006 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

ibid:

Nahh, I live in central NJ. It's only garden-variety absurd compared to the inbred Gothic craziness of the Deep South, or the natural-wonderland-turned-to-shit-and-ice-cream-wrappers quality of Florida and Long Island.

Our political culture is corrupt to be sure, but so's a lotta places -- and if McGay-vey is the most colorful scandal, well, it's still nothing like using city employees to put a hit on your ex-wife :)

Although, truthfully, Golan Cipel's screaming insistence that he's a straight guy (while hiding out somewhere in Israel) was worth a few deep dish belly laughs, to be sure.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on June 5, 2006 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

It's because Florida looks like a weiner.

Posted by: W. Clinton on June 5, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

I'm from Texas, but I'm not even going to try to compete with either Louisiana or Florida on that. And I would have said the same thing about California just three years ago.

Posted by: BarrettBrown on June 5, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

W. Clinton:

B. Kliban cartoon:

Drawing of the contiguous US with a thought bubble coming out of New England:

"Hey Europe! Eat my Florida!"

Caption: Map Filth

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on June 5, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

BTW, don't forget that the same Arlington, Texas (my home town) idiots that bent over and took it in the you-know-where for George Bush and the Rangers have now done it again for Jerry Jones and the Cowboys. Gotta be the dumbest 350,000 people in the country.

Posted by: Blue Blue Texan on June 5, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Well, my 2cents worth would be for Florida. I lived in TX for a long time and most of the corruption there is plain boring business (that would be mostly oil-related) corruption--it doesn't hold a candle to the hyperbizarro weird-as-shit stuff that goes on in Florida.

Posted by: Catcher on June 5, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Dade County, Florida has a Voodoo Patrol.
Every Monday morning they have to go to the courthouse steps and clean all the burnt offerings and chicken bones that the Santeria practicioners have left over the weekend in hopes of influencing their upcoming trials.

Does your state have that? No? OK then.

Posted by: cazart on June 5, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

It's gotta be Florida. They take their corruption out on the road, cell phone in hand, mafia guy holding onto a rope on roller-blades, talking through a loud speaker in spanish to an orangatang on his way to sing at a wedding on a gambling boat for a couple who just collected insurance money on their mother in law who got eaten by an alligator hired with personal credit card by the state party chair - all captured on video and that's just the morning news.

Texas and CA and LA may have more depth or scale of corruption, but they just dont seem to have the total wackiness. Efforts at satire by someone like Dave Barry are sooner or later discovered to be events that actually happened or are happening. [I highly recomend Dave's Florida "comedy" crime novels]

Posted by: ChetBob on June 5, 2006 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

Having just said Florida does seem to have more insanity and corruption than Texas, I did just remember the Cheerleader Mom and the Woman Who Ran Over Her Husband with Her Meredes. Both those stories are from the Houston area, I think. And yes indeedy Louisiana ranks right up with the Florida. Maybe the mind-melting humidity in Houston, south Louisiana and south Florida causes people to go bizarrely insane.

Posted by: Catcher on June 5, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

PS-pardon all the types in my post. Must get some lunch...

Posted by: Catcher on June 5, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

cazart wins

Posted by: evening on June 5, 2006 at 2:05 PM | PERMALINK

I have to mock your attempts to out-wierd Southern Florida. Where the highest parts of land are called "Mount Trashmore" since they're landfills.

The souther you go, the dumber they get.
Except that The South ends north of Southern Florida. I routinely pissed off "southerner" acquaintances by stating that "if I wanted to visit the South, I'd drive up north."

As for the first Anthrax letters, that was about 2 miles from where I lived, and it was the parent company that owned the National Enquirer that got it. You remember them at the check out lane: Elvis Marries Bigfoot in Gay Wedding! UFO Brings Best-Men!

Part of the reason for the conartistry so prevalent in FL has to do with the "snowbirds." That seasonal migration of money attracts the grifters, some who stay for the rest of the year. And there is something about seeing fat, hairy male snowbirds, wearing buttfloss bikini bottoms that, well, makes one want to reach for a fork to poke out one's eyes.

Where the license plates let crooks know which cars were rentals: you may as well have put Please Rob Me! on the car. ~250,000 concealed weapon permits in the state, so crooks calculate that tourists won't be carrying.

And some of it is just plain The Onion-grade craziness. Tearing down $8,000,000 homes to replace them with $20,000,000 homes. Or the feds finishing off some drug dealer's mansion because they thought they'd get more money (hah, they wish) selling it finished than not finished. Or the sheer number of cars that end up driving into canals each year (over 1500), some of which turn out to be full of H2/L2 visa farm slaves as the van was locked drowning all the Haitians inside. Or the spanish language stations interupting broadcasts to show boats racing the Coast Guard to shore, like the LA car chases. Wet-foot, dry-foot you know: get one foot above the high tide line and you can stay, only if you're Cuban.

My ex's family (Cubans, the lot of them) was into Santeria (cousin of Voodoo), and at the family shindings, I'd be silently cheering the livestock as they escaped. Do you want to know who are into Santeria? Just drive around and look for the Catholicky statues in the front yard.

Posted by: Peter on June 5, 2006 at 2:40 PM | PERMALINK

Florida attracts the yahoos for several reasons. Perverts come because of proliferation of tits that comes with year-round warmth. Crooks come for the generous homestead exemption. Con artists come b/c retirees are easy prey. Plus, it's historically as far as you could get from New York without leaving "civilization." 'Nuf said.

Posted by: Dan-O on June 5, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Louisiana may be more corrupt than Florida, but it gets a pass on redeeming musical values. After all, Louis Armstrong, the Boswell Sisters, Fats Domino and the Nevilles trump K.C. and the Sunshine Band anytime.

Posted by: Vincent on June 5, 2006 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

I lived in Texas for 17 years, and I don't know about political wierdness (Ma & Pa Fergueson, LBJ?), but for wierd and crazy murders, you can't beat Texas.

Posted by: matt on June 5, 2006 at 3:49 PM | PERMALINK

Just one story.

The Scranton, Pennsylvania city zoo (now closed) had a paddock that was the home of Tilly the elephant and Gus the donkey. Both had been there for years and were very friendly, among the favorites in the zoo.

Tilly died in the October of a year when there was an election for Mayor of Scranton. The incumbant mayor, a Democrat, was runnig for re-election. The Republican candidate, who had been behind, charged that the incumbant hated Tilly because she was the symbol of the Republicans, and that he had let her die -- or worse, caused her to die.

The Republican won.

This incident is briefly mentioned in the Broadway play THAT CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON, whose author grew up in Scranton.

Posted by: Lew Wolkoff on June 5, 2006 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

In the Louisiana vs. Florida debate, I think Hiassen hits the nail on the head in that the distinguishing characteristic of Florida corruption is that "they're not very sophisticated." That's true -- there's a "country come to town" aspect to all of the Florida corruption stories I've read. In contrast, in Louisiana they tend to be very sophisticated. It's really unfair to compare them -- the whole "professionals vs. amateurs" thing.

Posted by: dp on June 5, 2006 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Louisiana may be more corrupt than Florida, but it gets a pass on redeeming musical values. After all, Louis Armstrong, the Boswell Sisters, Fats Domino and the Nevilles trump K.C. and the Sunshine Band anytime.
Posted by: Vincent

Dr. John, Keb Mo', Leadbelly, Louis Prima, Sidney Bechet, Buddy Guy, The New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra (which used to be a moon-lighting gig for members of the New Orleans Symphony) Sonny Landreth, Marcia Ball, Clifton Chenier, Rockin' Dopsie....and we still haven't but hardly scratched the surface...

And then there the issue of food...

Posted by: CFShep on June 5, 2006 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

And let's not forget Ernie K-Doe, Bobby Charles, Tommy McLain, Dale and Grace...

Posted by: Vincent on June 5, 2006 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

And, please, ya'll...Emeril Lagasse is from CONNECTICUT. Of Portugeuse descent and a Yankee!!!

Food Network yesterday introduced a grilling segment by calling that over-the-top recipe kleptomaniac the 'king of New Orleans'.

'Bout gagged.

We'll take the fall for Fast Eddie, but Emeril's not one the things we're responsible for. That's Miz Ella Brennan's fault.

Posted by: CFShep on June 5, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

Who was that incredibly crooked old time yahoo who used to do cajun recipes on pbs? Just one glance from that guy could balance the scales of corruption for half the nation.

Posted by: cld on June 5, 2006 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Our drivers [in Rhode Island] are worse than Massachusetts, despite DBL's post above. We stop when we have the right of way, and don't stop at stop signs."

Reposted for truth. I was raised in RI (from 5yrs old to 18, when I left for college). People will actually stop on main roads when no stop signs or lights are present to let you turn out of a side road. Stop signs tend to be optional though. I still say Long Island drivers are the worst.

And the former mayor of Providence, Buddy Cianci Jr., was plenty corrupt. Managed to get back into office after serving time in prison, if memory serves me right. Lots of kickbacks and bribes.

I live in Phoenix, AZ right now. There's a sheriff in the northern edges of the city that runs a prison in the middle of the desert and makes inmates wear pink uniforms--in addition to other forms of punishment, some of which exceed that which I consider fair or humane. The fire chief in my part of the city (Mesa, southeast valley) got caught screwing a farm animal. And Mesa has a population of 450,000, so we're not talking about a backwoods place! That's all I got, though I'm sure there's tons more.

Posted by: Bolo on June 5, 2006 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

Bolo: I live in Phoenix, AZ right now. There's a sheriff in the northern edges of the city that runs a prison in the middle of the desert and makes inmates wear pink uniforms--in addition to other forms of punishment, some of which exceed that which I consider fair or humane.

The one who feeds them solely on corn dogs at 1 1/2 cents each and makes them sleep in tents in the desert? What's his name...I can't remember!

Posted by: shortstop on June 5, 2006 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

does hiassen have a new novel out?

Posted by: daveminnj on June 5, 2006 at 6:22 PM | PERMALINK

I believe you're thinking of Joe Arpaio, the most popular U.S. sheriff in the Netherlands. (That is really true. He has a fan club there.)

Honestly, though I lived in Florida for only a year, I have never seen anything like it in my life. Everyone there was bizarre. Mohammed Atta picked the perfect place to take his flying lessons, because you'd have to have 8 heads to attract more than passing interest down there. Just when you think Floridians have hit the roof in weirdness, they just raise the ceiling. I saw car accidents there that defied the laws of physics. And who can forget the experience of people reversing at top speed on the highway because they missed their exit?

Arizona has been basically a political snooze ever since we got rid of the governor who cancelled MLK Day and the one after him who kept getting indicted until Clinton pardoned him.

Posted by: sophronia on June 5, 2006 at 6:38 PM | PERMALINK

As a third-generation Floridian, I'd say definitely Florida. We don't have the food and music of Lousiana, nor the sheer idiocy of Texas, but our beaches are better, and our weirdness more weird.

And a bad day in Florida beats a good day north of the Mason-Dixon anyday. Rednecks and provincialism is not exclusive to the South, y'all.

Posted by: a_retrogrouch on June 5, 2006 at 7:15 PM | PERMALINK

And a bad day in Florida beats a good day north of the Mason-Dixon anyday.

Well, not in June. In January, hell, yeah.

Posted by: shortstop on June 5, 2006 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

By most people who consider themselves southern, Florida is north of the mason-dixon line. Floridians are not considered southerners, at least by other southerners.

The difference between Floridian wierdness and weirdness from Lousiana (or those "silly, silly" Chicagoans) is that Florida weirdness is strangeness lacking style.

I had always thought of Florida as the pool skimmer of america - all the detrius floats into it and can't find its way out.

Plus, its the top tourist destination from europe, which always makes me wonder what europeans really think that we're doing over here.

Posted by: Bob on June 5, 2006 at 8:33 PM | PERMALINK

oh come on, seventy-some comments in and no one has mentioned Illinois? Books have been written about Chicago. How many governors--including the most recent one, both a hero, for effectively stopping the death penalty in Illinois, and a villian, for handing out CDLs for campaign contributions--(not just minor officials) have gone to jail. There is probably a whole federal prison just reserved for Chicago Aldermen. Not to mention the Secretary of State who died and they found his attic full of shoeboxes full of cash.

I live in New Orleans now, and the corrupt politicians down here are amateurs compared to, and would not stand a chance to those in Illinois.

Posted by: Freder Frederson on June 5, 2006 at 8:37 PM | PERMALINK

Another in the line of Florida as penis analogy.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/US_election_race/graphic/0,5543,397276,00.html

Sorry I can't do hyperlinks.

Posted by: ukmatt on June 5, 2006 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

oh come on, seventy-some comments in and no one has mentioned Illinois? Books have been written about Chicago.

It just seemed so obvious...why point it out? Plus, our graft and corruption are like stinking carcasses of evil; there's hardly ever anything actually funny about them.* Florida hardly does anything that isn't funny.

*Naturally, I exclude Republican Jack Ryan, family values candidate for the Senate, trying to make his wife have sex with him in public.

Posted by: shortstop on June 5, 2006 at 11:40 PM | PERMALINK

From CA...... Ain't FL

Check out the links. (not necessarily in chronological order)


Berkeley bar: believe it or not.

http://www.tvrundown.com/9042.htm

Loma Prieta quake:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loma_Prieta_earthquake

Oakland hills fire:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oakland_Hills_firestorm

Rodney King:

http://www.tvrundown.com/9042.htm

I lived through them all.

Whew. And you thought Berekeley was a crazy time during the 60s!

(oh, and I forgot the Peoples Park riots pussies!)

Dont have any crazy gators (or sharks) out here.

ELMO

Posted by: ELMO on June 6, 2006 at 12:44 AM | PERMALINK

I grew up in Florida and lived for 6 years in Boston, and let me tell you, New England drivers, be they in Maine, Boston, Rhode Island, wherever, have NOTHING on Miami drivers for sheer lunacy. Miami has the casual Latin American indifference for the rules of the road, plus the senile elderly drivers who should have had their licenses torn up a decade ago, plus a pervasive machismo ethic that turns every stoplight into a competition and every minor traffic dispute into an excuse to get out and beat the shit out of the other driver, or worse. Turn signals are for the weak. Functioning headlights and taillights are strictly optional. By local rule, cars making a left turn off the highway have 4 extra seconds to complete said turn once the light has turned red. Passing on the right is a sign of a real man. Doing 30 or below in the far left lane on the expressway: in other cities, a once-every-few-months annoyance. In Miami, the preferred method for semi-elderly Cuban women to get from point A to point B. Changing lanes smack in the middle of an intersection? I guarantee you'll see it happen at least once on any drive of more than 6 miles on South Dixie Highway.

Don't even get me started on the social/political stuff...

Posted by: B on June 6, 2006 at 1:52 AM | PERMALINK

If we are nominating states for exceptional politicians, I would like to nominate my birthstate, Oklahoma, for stupidest congressional delegation. I'm pretty sure the senators are dumber than Kansas's, but I'm not sure about the representatives.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on June 6, 2006 at 2:53 AM | PERMALINK

Oh and on the meekness of Boston drivers. I usually taxi when travelling, but the reputation of Boston drivers tempted me into a Logan car rental. Having coming of driving age in Ft.Worth, El Paso, and Juarez, I found Boston drivers to be very courteous and disappointingly passive. And the percentage of dented 1 or 2 year old cars was much less than in NYC.

Posted by: Craig Nelson on June 6, 2006 at 3:12 AM | PERMALINK

Fastest I've ever been in an automobile was a taxi ride to the Miami airport at 5am.

Posted by: dawgs or d34th. on June 6, 2006 at 5:48 AM | PERMALINK

>>>>Worst Governor in America Bob Taft.

>>Oh, please! Raise you one Edwin Edwards and a Huey Long.

OK, perhaps Least Popular (Sitting) Governor in America would be more accurate.

Posted by: Foobarski on June 6, 2006 at 10:24 AM | PERMALINK

OK, perhaps Least Popular (Sitting) Governor in America would be more accurate.
Posted by: Foobarski

Okay. I'll accept the revision with demur.

But only because Mike Foster (R) was finally thrown out so as to ride his motorcycle and blast defenseless birds out of the sky at his leisure.

Posted by: CFShep on June 6, 2006 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

Who was that incredibly crooked old time yahoo who used to do cajun recipes on pbs? Just one glance from that guy could balance the scales of corruption for half the nation.
Posted by: cld

I assume you don't mean Paul Prudhomme (only chef who's so big he gets his own zip code) who at least does have the distinction of being from a genuinely French Louisiana family, however much his restaurant food was a product of miscegenation between New Orleans Creole Italian with real Cajun Triangle cuisine.

(Hint: New Orleans is not now nor ever has been 'Cajun', although you do find a small population on the West Bank - Marrero and Westwego.)

If you mean that old fraud Justin Wilson, well, don't look to me to defend him. A friend from Jackson MS once invited us to dinner and cooked something from one of Justin's cookbooks that was so nasty that I was forced to take possession of the offending cookbook on the grounds that it should be regarded as a Weapon of Mass Culinary Destruction.

Justin Wilson is a retired safety engineer who has never held elective office. His sideline was as an obviously 'faux Cajun' 'humorist'. I 'guarantee' that no here as ever mistaken him for the real article.

He happened to come to the bank where I was trust Officer to see to an esatate dispute concerning one of his nieces and he has no trace whatsoever of a 'Cajun' accent in his ordinary speech.

Posted by: CFShep on June 6, 2006 at 10:58 AM | PERMALINK

Oh, and by way of postscript: Miz Ella Brennan, who hired Paul to be head chef at Commander's Palace (a position later held by Emeril - it's why he moved to NOLA) is indirectly responsible for the near total collapse of the redfish population.

She's got a lot to answer for.

Posted by: CFShep on June 6, 2006 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

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