READ.THE.REPORTS: Jameis Winston is (almost certainly) innocent; and his accuser was (almost certainly) a victim

If you want to speak intelligently or responsibly about the Jameis Winston rape allegations — and thus the whole domino string of character assumption that come along with it — you owe it to decency to do the work of reading the case reports. If you haven’t, you should shut up about it. Until very […]

“Have you looked over your shoulder lately or behind you…”: Steve Wade sends me a note

This showed up in my Facebook message inbox Wednesday morning. As I mentioned a couple of weeks back, Steve Wade had contacted me on Facebook to object to/talk about the piece I wrote about his presentation at the Lakeland City Commission. He seemed to approach me in good faith. I responded in good faith. We […]

Yes on My Ride/My Roads; or Play-it-Again is no Publix

My kid plays a lot of sports. I like to play sports. And I also do a lot of coaching. Consequently, I often need to buy sporting goods — shoes, cups, $200 bats, gloves, basketballs, football, tennis balls, etc. etc. In the last year, I’ve spent probably $500 on gear at Play-it-Again-Sports, a national new/used […]

End Wadegate now: Let’s talk mercy, despair, honesty, and the future

Steve Wade is not the repository of all our sins. One need look exactly no further than the racial, class, and “achievement” segregation that we happily tolerate amongst our choice-driven school system to see that the core of his message to the Lakeland City Commission is widely held. He just made the mistake of saying […]

Defend the honor of your constituents and their children, city commissioners

I can be a tiresome person. I tend to repeat things that matter to me. Quite often. It’s a brute force effort to make them matter to you. One of these is the plunging American and Polk County teen pregnancy rate. Yes, you read that right. Across the country, including our very own teeming pit […]

All policy is personal: Why Obamacare is here to stay and Common Core is imploding

Some of you may remember Pierre Tristam and his career with The Ledger. He covered the Polk County Commission in the late 1990s — a couple of years before I came to town in 1999 to take the same job. By that time, Pierre had moved to the editorial page, where he wrote beautifully idiosyncratic […]

#Ferguson, Lakeland, and the Johnson Avenue shootout you didn’t hear about

[Update: Just had a very productive and welcome discussion with an LPD detective.] I was sitting in my interior living room Saturday evening, sipping a gin and tonic, absently watching “Angels and Demons”, and trying to avoid compulsively thumbing through Twitter for #Ferguson tweets. It’s always more soothing to watch fictional ritual torture and murder […]

The decency and moral courage of Charlie Ward

So, I wrote this giant essay a few weeks ago called “The Grace of Shame.” I wanted to work out for myself how to better reckon with the eternal questions of rape and abuse of sexual power that plague our species. About a third of it focused on the Jameis Winston case. And I ended […]

Of “bad” parents and “bad” schools, Part 2: When “choice” really means “blackmail”

Occasionally, a small story cuts through our national haze of abstract moral bullshit to reveal clearly the reality of life on the ground for much of America. So meet Debra Harrell, the South Carolina McDonalds-within-a-Walmart worker the state arrested at work for allowing her 9-year-old to play alone in a nearby park for two consecutive […]

Of “bad” parents and “bad” schools, Part 1: You have no idea what your school grade means

Quick. Can you explain to me how the state calculated your school’s grade? I didn’t think so. There’s a metaphor in that I’ll be exploring in the next couple/few posts. But I want to start with the grades themselves, which came out not long ago with mercifully little ado. I do think we’ve reached peak […]

Thanks for Nothing, Glenn: Behold the Conservative Values of Your Community Newspaper

Throughout the Lakeland police and government scandal, Ledger Editorial Page Editor Glenn Marston consistently synthesized and distilled for easy consumption the key moral points contained in the massive volume of official reports and news gathering. In a world of derpy, tired, fake ideological punditry, Glenn’s analytical strength and elegant writing stood out. The Ledger proudly […]

The grace of shame: Re-imagining the fight against humanity’s eternal rape culture

Run an ugly thought experiment with me. Replay your sexual history. You know you can. Run it back to young adulthood, to college, to high school. Run it back to 19 or 17. Look past the pornography. This isn’t about arousal or joy. Look past even the superficial embarrassment of nudity and awkwardness. Find what […]

The Unbearable Importance of Being Gow

I never intended to write about Gow Fields again. Really, I didn’t. But there he was Friday, six months out of office, headlining my Kiwanis Club with a 20-minute speech about the awesomeness of his time on the Lakeland City Commission and as mayor. I feel like I need a shower. So bear with me […]

Lakeland City Commission Adds Fairness and Inclusion to List of Principles and Values

Commissioner Walker saying that breakdown of principles & values have resulted in the decline of this country. #lkld — Lakeland, Florida (@lakelandgov) June 2, 2014 In some respects, I agree with Commissioner Walker. The breakdown of principles and values cause the decline of many countries. We may not agree about that exact list of principles […]

Now is the Time

There comes a time in every community to say “What was good enough before, is no longer good enough.” 25 years ago I stood in front of a city council, similar to Lakeland’s, and said “I am a breeder for Fairness.” I made a compelling argument for the City of Louisville to add a law […]

They Promised There’d be Stone Crabs Here!

photo credit: Tom Hagerty for Lakeland Local

Benefit equality: Enjoy a jubilee — and travel costs

With respect to new Ledger city reporter Ryan Little, who seems quite diligent and enterprising, I think he buried the lead in his same sex benefits story last week. Whether or not Keith Merritt supports benefits for unmarried couples isn’t remotely as important as this sentence, which started the third paragraph: Federal law already requires […]

Of corruption and customer service: Putting a bow on 11 months of City Hall critiques

I’m in a confessional mood these days. I’ve got longish essays in various stages of development about the Jameis Winston case, Lakeland’s “gangs”, and the manifold ways in which I’ve benefitted from my 400 slave-owning great great grandfather’s ill-gotten wealth. All of them will have a confessional air if I can ever finish them. Other […]

Gaming out The Ledger’s “change in our editorial position”

You may or may not have seen new Ledger Publisher Kevin Drake’s “Open Letter to Readers” editorial on Sunday. If you missed it, you’ll be relieved to know that during his month as publisher, “it has become obvious to me that Polk County is a special place.” We can all breathe a little easier knowing […]

Charge the Ball

photo credit: Tom Hagerty for Polk State College — Special to Lakeland Local