Tuesday, December 30, 2008
It's no accident that Israel chose now to hit Hamas and hit hard. Come Jan. 20, their window of opportunity will close.
That's because a U.S. president who's actually interested in the peace process will be sworn in.
"Frozen" would be a charitable way to describe President George W. Bush and his work - or lack of it - in the Middle East. President-Elect Barack Obama, on the other hand, is likely interested in getting something constructive done there.
There must be at least one pragmatist in Hamas and Hezbollah who understands that they will eventually have to break down and recognize Israel's right to exist and live in peace and security. The Israelis know they will not get rid of these terrorist groups, but hope to break them down to a point where they understand it will be better to shed the terrorist label.
(And for all those people around the world protesting Israel's action: Try living day after day with rockets raining down on your homes, your schools, your businesses, for years. It's not so easy to criticize when you've lived in that situation.)
The late statesman Abba Eban said that men and nations behave wisely, once they have exhausted all other alternatives. Hopefully, the time for wisdom is coming to the Middle East, soon.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I'm going to take an almost two-week hiatus from this blog (barring something momentous), but first, a few sniglets to close out 2008:
*It's much of Miami-Dade County versus the State of Florida in the battle over the proposed constuction of an underwater, trucks-only tunnel to the Port of Miami.
I've always had questions about this project, mainly for environmental reasons (What would construction, and God forbid, potential accidents, do to Biscayne Bay?). The bad economy creates other issues.
If South Dade has a busway (another ill-advised project), how about designating one of the lanes on the port bridge for trucks only? The "road damage" excuse doesn't mean very much when one considers that trucks are coming from other roads on which they might do potential damage - and a tunnel isn't being built for that.
Better to take the tunnel project funds and redistribute them to projects the county needs much more urgently.
*In this bad economy, it's nice to know that members of the Florida Legislature don't seem to have problems getting jobs in higher education, as a Sunday Miami Herald report showed. Not that it's helped the state's colleges and universities, which have been hiking tuitions and cutting programs. All current lawmakers should disqualify themselves from such jobs while they serve. Period.
As for Florida House Speaker-Designate Ray Sansom's other job.....Resign one or the other, Sir.
*Just when it looked like the current Sunrise City Commission was bringing back John Lomelo's ghost, the city of Deerfield Beach seems to be outdoing Sunrise. Mayor Al Capellini has been arrested on a charge of felony corruption. When Commissioner Steve Gonot was arrested on an unrelated charge, he stepped down from his commission seat. Despite that, both men still plan to run for mayor next year. Oy vey.
Add to that Sylvia Poitier, who has taken over as mayor and doesn't exactly have the cleanest record herself. She's been defending Capellini and Gonot.
The one voice of reason seems to be Commissioner Pam Militello, who wants the city to have an ethics code. For the moment, at least, Poitier doesn't see the need.
That's exactly why Deerfield Beach needs one. They also need a close eye by the state to see if further action will be needed in the new year to clean up that city's government.
*Here's the first prediction for 2009, or maybe the last one for 2008: Caroline Kennedy bows out of the possibility of that Senate seat, saying "thanks, but no thanks."
If she thought it would be like being appointed to a special task force, well, it's not. One of the biggest obligations any public official has is communication with the press, and so far, Kennedy's been holding back. That's not a promising sign.
Would Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis have wanted her daughter in this position? Probably not.
With a disclaimer that prognostication is not my strong suit, here's what I predict: No Senate for Caroline Kennedy, but perhaps an ambassadorship or other post in which President-Elect Barack Obama can thank her for her assistance and endorsement, and not have to answer to the press.
That's it for now. Have a great holiday season, and a happy, healthy and peaceful 2009. See you in January.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
If you can't trust Laura Ingalls Wilder, who can you trust?
That would be actress Melissa Gilbert, whom America watched grow up in the 1970s and 80s on "Little House On the Prairie." Gilbert had an even more important role earlier this decade, as president of the Screen Actors Guild. In Wednesday's Los Angeles Times, Gilbert wrote an essay on why the organization should not take a strike vote now:
Currently, SAG President Alan Rosenberg has an ill-advised militancy on this issue. That would be OK if the economy was good, but it's not.
SAG isn't just a bunch of Hollywood actors and actresses on television and in the movies. It's members stretch all over the United States, and might be as likely to work in local commercials as in a major motion picture. If there is a strike, their chances of finding alternative work in this economy isn't great.
The same issues - DVD and Internet residuals, the shrinking television opportunities, and so forth - will still be there, waiting to be resolved, when the general economy does improve. And SAG's less affluent members will be in a better position to walk a picket line, knowing they do have some degree of backup.
Rosenberg's stance is dividing the union, and if there is a strike soon, could wreck it entirely. The word on a strike vote should be: Delay. Or two words: Long delay.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Maybe Sen. John McCain had something during the presidential campaign when he called for the firing of Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox.
At the very least, the SEC did not do its job in policing former NASDAQ Chairman Bernard Madoff. The cost is far more than the $50 billion in fraud he is accused of committing against, among others, small investors and charities. There will be no government bailout of those whose life savings or funds for their communities were taken. Perhaps a few lucky people can go to court and score a victory.
The biggest loser is the entire country, whether one invested with Madoff or not, because it was counting on the policing entities, including the SEC, created in the wake of the stock market crash of 1929. They all failed.
Politicians will make noises about reforms, but elected officials in both parties deserve plenty of the blame as well. That includes our last two presidents. Bill Clinton was as cozy with big business as he was with Monica Lewinsky. As for George W. Bush, the less said, the better for the temper.
Can President-Elect Barack Obama start turning the tide? Maybe, but he might want to consider doing so the way he ran his presidential campaign: From the ground up, starting with people like the small investors who lost their money. The insider's club in Washington had a major hand in this mess. They're too far in to know how to fix it.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Two states, two Senate seats, two different circumstances that aren't all that different.
In Illinois, the issue is the muddy political arena that may have prompted Gov. Rod Blagojevich to try to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama to the highest bidder. People are asking why the state that gave Abraham Lincoln to government service has not placed the needed reforms on the books to try to overcome questionable politics.
In New York, the issue is whether Caroline Kennedy will take the Senate seat Hillary Clinton will vacate if she is confirmed as secretary of state. Kennedy, an accomplished lawyer, author and children's advocate, seems to have been inspired by her involvement in Obama's presidential campaign. But a lot of Clinton supporters are suddenly back in presidential-primary mode, saying how dare Kennedy consider getting into politics when she has no experience.
Wasn't that what a lot of people were saying about First Lady Hillary Clinton when she was toying with the idea of running for senator almost a decade ago?
Kennedy knows something about politics, given her family legacy. She has the idealism that has marked the best her family has had to offer in public service. The Kennedys are public servants, who have paid a heavy price for what they've given to this country.
And last I checked, those who aspire to political office are not required to have held previous political offices. Given what's going on today, some might actually consider that an advantage
Americans are always saying they want the best of their leaders. They went to the polls Nov. 4 to try to make that happen. Illinois and New York owe their residents no less.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Like little kids who can't keep their hands away from the cookies, it seems the Florida Legislature, and possibly Gov. Charlie Crist, can't resist the lure of a trust fund in trying to prop up the state budget.
It's happened before, and now it's happening with a trust fund that honors the late Gov. Lawton Chiles. The fund was created with money the state gained in a settlement with Big Tobacco - a settlement from a fight Chiles spearheaded against the tobacco companies. It supports children's health care.
Earlier this year, the state borrowed from the fund with the Chiles family's permission - provided the money would be paid back. Not only hasn't that happened, but now the state wants more.
Rhea Chiles, the widow of Lawton Chiles, and their son, Lawton "Bud" Chiles III, are rightly threatening to take the state to court; they also say that if Crist and the legislature continue to raid the fund, they will ask that Lawton Chiles' name be taken off. What a terrible legacy that would be, 10 years after his death.
Here's hoping it doesn't come to that. Crist, who got elected to office making voters believe he knows better, needs to listen to the Chiles family and get his and state lawmakers' hands off those funds and other trust funds. This may be the holiday season, but trust funds aren't holiday treats.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Bravo to the Budget and Finance Committee of the Miami-Dade County Commission for deciding to maintain the "Cone Of Silence" that restricts lobbying during a bidding process. Commission Chairman Bruno Barreiro, whose strong suit apparently isn't government reform, wanted to eliminate it entirely, but wiser heads prevailed.
A word about the retirement of a class act in baseball, pitcher Greg Maddux. In addition to his glittering statistics on the pitcher's mound, he had the distinction of saying no to New York Yankees' owner George Steinbrenner - twice. Here's to Maddux for his stinginess with hitters (except when he was facing the Florida Marlins, of course), and to proving that there were things more important than money.
Finally, a thought about NBC's move to put Jay Leno at 10 p.m. I happen to think it's a smart move. I do understand the complaints of drama producers that it takes away five potential hours for them, but is the network really going to take a chance anyway with a costly drama that doesn't have franchise potential these days? (It used to be that the network in last place would roll the dice; that's how ABC got out of last place, with dramas like "Desperate Housewives," "Lost" and "Grey's Anatomy." But NBC isn't going to spend that kind of money in this economy.)
Here's a reality check about dramas: During the 1970s, on average, networks would produce 24 episodes of dramas. It was even more during the 1960s. Today, viewers are lucky to get half a season, whether on cable or network. That's not good for gaining loyal viewers. Also, they can now catch shows on DVD or online - both new and classic shows.
At the very least, Leno's will retain viewers who are turned off by Conan O'Brien. Let's face it, to go from Allen, Paar and Carson to Triumph the Insult Dog is a major letdown.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Well, suddenly, that sit-in isn't Chicago's biggest story. Neither is the bankruptcy of Tribune, whom I worked for until last January. And neither is President-Elect Barack Obama's Cabinet selections.
That's thanks to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat who has apparently claimed President Richard Nixon as his role model.
This morning, Blagojevich and his chief of staff were arrested on various corruption charges related to the selection of Obama's replacement in the U.S. Senate. Basically, the Feds say the governor was ready to sell the Senate seat to the highest bidder:
Judging by what U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and others have said about the transcripts, Blagojevich sounds like Nixon during Watergate, with profanity, loose statements and insults of various people, including Obama. The irony is that Blagojevich was elected in 2003 with a promise to clean up Illinois politics in the wake of his predecessor, Gov. George Ryan, now serving a prison sentence for racketeering and fraud.
In the twists and turns of Illinois politics, Blagojevich could still appoint Obama's successor from jail, if he's still governor. The state legislature is moving quickly to impeach him, but Blagojevich should beat them all - and resign.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Full disclosure: I covered the city of Sunrise, Florida in 2004 for the Sunrise Forum. At the time, I thought Commissioners Don Rosen and Sheila Alu were voices of reason and reform.
Alu, Rosen and Commissioner Roger Wishner now seem to be Sunrise's very own "Gang of Three." They were the ones who approved hiring Stuart Michelson last summer as the city attorney without opening the job up for bids. Michelson has returned the favor by ruling that Wishner, Sunrise's deputy mayor, can succeed Steven Feren as mayor when Feren takes his judicial seat next month and stay the mayor until 2010, instead of having to stand for election in March, because of Michelson's interpretation of a city law about a deadline for holding elections.
So, where are Rosen and Alu in calling for some justice for Sunrise voters, the way they did when former City Manager Pat Salerno ran the show? Amazingly silent.
Commissioner Joseph Scuotto wants to run for mayor, but will apparently have to wait, unless the many Sunrise residents who will be at the next commission meeting can get a majority of commissioners to change their minds - or unless someone takes this to court, which could happen.
The 13th item on the agenda for tomorrow night's City Commission meeting would put two commission seats, but not the mayor's post, on the March 10 ballot. Sunrise residents should make their voices heard tomorrow night. A word to the commission - either listen to them now, or pay later.
And a special word to Commissioners Alu and Rosen: You spent a lot of time in commission meetings saying that you represent the best interests of the city. Prove it.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Remember when Americans frustrated with the results of the 2000 election were talking about fleeing to Canada?
Don't be surprised if Canadians start moving in the opposite direction. The country is in as difficult a crisis of leadership as any free country can have.
It began in October, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper kept his post, but his Conservative Party did not win a majority in Parliament. Harper has proceeded to lose the confidence of members of Parliament with inaction on the economic crisis and a move to eliminate public funding of elections.
That last one, which Harper has since backed down on, was a breaking point for the leaders and many members of three parties: Liberal, New Democrat and Bloc Quebecois. They planned to give a no-confidence vote to Harper's government next Monday and form their own coalition, with Liberal leader Stephane Dion as the provisional head until the spring.
No action for now: With the permission of Canada's Governor General Michaelle Jean - the direct representative of Queen Elizabeth II to the Commonwealth country - Harper suspended Parliament for the next month and a half.
Jean did the right thing. Tensions need to cool.
The action shows signs of bringing an end to the Odd Trio that would have potentially governed Canada. Dion's party lost more than 30 seats in the October elections, he's not popular and he will step down from his Liberal leadership post in May. Bloc Quebecois advocates Quebec becoming a country, separate from Canada.
Harper has plenty of flaws, including his agreement with too many policies of U.S. President George W. Bush. But the coalition would have been potentially more disastrous for Canada, which needs one leader to work with U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama on relevant issues for North America. Harper, Dion and Canada's other political leaders need to take the next month-and-a-half to mend fences with the people of Canada, not continue to snipe at each other.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
For those who carp that many of President-Elect Barack Obama's Cabinet selections worked for the Clinton Administration, that they don't represent change, there's this:
They do represent results.
Remember the Clinton Administration? No, not the scandals. The other Clinton Administration, the one that made progress in foreign relations and gave this country a good economy and a budget surplus.
Obama remembers. That's why he's picked so many people who worked in Washington during the 1990s. Technology may change, but know-how generally doesn't. Obama is counting on them to get the country back on track. So are Americans, who have generally greeted the selections with a thumbs-up.
Obama seems, above all, a pragmatist. That's something the United States desperately needs. So if he's stacking the deck with Clintonites, it's because they've been succesful.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Miami-Dade County Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman finally set it out: The state of Florida's ban on homosexual couples adopting children is unconstitutional. Her ruling should be commended - and upheld.
But now, a new battle will start - one that will very likely make it to the United States Supreme Court before it's done. No doubt many state lawmakers and people who spearheaded the unfortunate Amendment 2 approved by Florida voters Nov. 4 are at it again, trying to figure out how to keep the supposed wolf at the door. For the real wolf, they just need to look in the mirror. They are basing their arguments against adoptions by gays on outmoded and untrue theories.
Lederman's ruling shows that science, common sense and good, solid personal experience are beginning to overcome ideology. We are finding out that the quality of the parent - regardless of sexual orientation - is what counts. As it should.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Is President-Elect Barack Obama's "Cabinet Of Rivals" going to leave this world a better place than they're finding it?
Assuming the confirmation process goes smoothly for all, those rivals will include current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (who does not need to be re-confirmed), Homeland Security Secretary-Designate Janet Napolitano - and oh, yes, Secretary of State-Designate Hillary Clinton.
Napolitano and Clinton, as well as Gen. James Jones, Obama's pick for national security adviser, and Susan Rice, Obama's pick as the United States ambassador to the United Nations, face a world much changed from the one President Bill Clinton left.
One symptom of that change is the tragedy last week in Mumbai. The terrorists, wherever they are from and whoever trained them, clearly targeted Americans, Jews, Britons and anyone sympathetic to the causes of those people. While India is busy pointing a finger at Pakistan, it has to take into account its own failings in ensuring the security of its people and its visitors.
The United States may have to play referee once again - and does have to keep an extra eye on Pakistan for its possible harboring of terrorists of many stripes, including Al Qaida.
There is the issue of the U.S. image overseas during the last eight years, which has triggered everything from disdain to outright hatred and a re-awakening of Cold War-style matters that Clinton and his predecessors thought they had resolved.
There is also the War On Terror. The way it's been fought by the Bush Administration does not work. Period.
What India must go through now is not dissimilar to the soul-searching this country still needs to go through, seven years after 9/11 - about security, about relations with the rest of the world and about the future.
It's soul-searching President George W. Bush and many around him haven't participated in. One trusts that Obama and his "Cabinet Of Rivals" will finally do so.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Florida Atlantic University student Slavi Gorgoski had it right when he asked Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm, ''They're going to raise our tuition 15 percent. Does that mean the college programs will be improved 15 percent?''
No, but it likely means the state of Florida will shirk its responsibility to its higher education students by 15 percent.
A low-to-moderate tuition increase - between three to seven percent - might be necessary. Fifteen percent in this economic climate is outrageous.
Gov. Charlie Crist proposed the increase, plus a plan that would shift tuition responsibility more from the Florida Legislature to the Board of Governors - that's the good news - but would also allow as much as a 40-percent hike in tuition over a three-year period.
Former Sen. Bob Graham, who has been a champion of better higher education, is rightfully worried that tuition increases will prompt the Legislature to play its usual game of cost-shifting.
So, Governor Crist, would you like to explain where the students, many of whom attend these schools because they can't afford any others, are going to get the money to pay for such hikes in a bad economy? And after such moves as Florida International University slashing 22 programs, are you going to explain why it's even worth paying that much more? It's certainly not going to improve the quality of education, or the salaries of any faculty members who don't coach football teams.
(Full disclosure: I am an FIU alumnus.)
Monday, November 24, 2008
Maybe this is where New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg can use his vaunted expertise.
That's because, let's face it, there is no way Citigroup should still be contributing financially to the New York Mets' new stadium if it's so far in the hole that it requires a $326 billion federal bailout. For the time being, Citigroup is still in the partnership.
AIG, which is quickly becoming the poster company for how not to behave after a federal bailout, is keeping its corporate partnership with the British soccer team Manchester United.
Last week, members of Congress got very upset at the chief executive officers of the Big Three U.S. automakers for flying to Washington in separate corporate jets. O.K., Congress, how about turning that anger into action? How about holding CEOs to a higher standard of behavior?
More than a century ago, Congress began to crack down on abusive businesses with antitrust laws, child labor laws and more. Other regulations were put in place a few years ago, after the collapse of Enron. Congress shouldn't be shy about stepping in again - and reigning in the companies that are still living it up at the public's expense.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Nov. 20: Sniglets On Private Jets, Celebrity Children, Christmas Carols - and the Presidential Puppy
The question of the week comes from U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman of California:
Shame on Forbes, or at least its Web site, for picking up the media craze with the children of celebrities. They've put out a "Top 10" list of the best-looking celebrity tykes.
Since when did those children become public figures, unless they're doing a movie? It's a violation of their privacy - and an invitation to possible harm.
A little something on the lighter side: Christmas carols.
I like Christmas carols - when they're played after Thanksgiving.
I understand people want a little cheerfulness in their lives. But please, can't we - or at least radio stations - wait another week?
I don't know whether this would fit President-Elect Barack Obama's criteria for a puppy for his daughters, but here's a shout-out for the dachshund:
And they look so cute walking around in the backyard.....
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Oh, those Republican members of the Florida Legislature.
How sweet must be the oblivion of knowing they still have a massive majority in both state houses, and that they're still free to do whatever they please. How sweet must be the oblivion of believing that Floridians who are losing their homes and their jobs won't care if their state senators and representatives spend several days at the WaterColor Inn & Resort - not exactly Econo-Lodge - in Destin:
And how ironic that they talk about the economy:
Isn't it awful, how those poor Florida residents suffer, while we come to a resort with snorkeling and spa treatments?
Isn't it nice to know that they get it?
And wouldn't Florida voters like to go back two weeks and really give it to them at the ballot box?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Who has the blame for the U.S. auto industry drowning? Try everyone.
That would include the politicians who spent the 1980s taking away energy and mileage standards for cars, the car executives who worried about today's bottom line and their bonuses instead of the future of their companies, and motorists who spent the 1990s and most of this decade buying polluting, gas-guzzling SUVs.
Now, General Motors, Ford and Chrysler are asking to be part of the federal government's bailout package. Advocates have a point when they say the wipeout of the auto industry would do further damage to the economy. But those who say the companies need to start from scratch also have a point. The chances seem to be better that it will snow in South Florida this week than that Congress will approve $25 billion of the bailout money for the Big Three in its lame-duck session.
(Of course, Republican members of Congress who are now balking at giving money to the car companies weren't so particular when the workers they were bailing out were on Wall Street.)
The automakers had enough imagination to duck and dodge those who were trying to better their standards, both in carmaking and treatment of their employees. Here's one thought that they can find enough imagination to make it to January relatively intact. And when they do, that's when Congress should craft a well-thought out package that helps the auto industry survive - but holds them to specific standards on cars that are well-made and energy-efficient, as well as better treatment of industry workers.
The American auto industry practically invented U.S. industrial success in the 20th century. It needs to reinvent itself for the 21st.
Today, an American and world icon celebrates his 80th birthday. Here's a link to his greatest performance:
Happy Birthday, Mickey.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Last week's meeting of the Republican Governors Association looked a little bit like a family reunion in which the family members don't really want to be together.
They all had different ideas about what it would take for them to get back on track after this year's election. In fact, if the late, great humorist Will Rogers had seen them, he might have changed his description of an unorganized political party from Democrat to Republican.
There were tiffs over strategy, focus and ideology. And there was Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.
One firm conclusion from Palin's appearance: Her ego is as big as her hairstyle. She has already begun her presidential campaign for 2012, at least in her own mind. She is now what Sen. John McCain, who picked her as his running mate, accused President-Elect Barack Obama of being: A celebrity.
And that leads to another conclusion: The G.O.P. has to work on its female bench strength in the post-baby boomer generation. If Palin, who counters the big ego with a lack of intellectual curiosity, is the best they've got, they're in more trouble than they realize.
Many people have made the point that the Republicans lack diversity. Want proof? Look in the special election issue of Newsweek at the picture of Sen. John McCain's concession speech. Just about every face is white. That's why the Republicans hold up Gov. Bobby Jindal, of Indian descent, as their version of Obama.
Jindal, Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist may really represent the future the Republicans want - pragmatic workers who reach across party lines. That's what Obama did in winning the presidential election. If this year's results mean that the era of red states and blue states and selective campaigning and governing is at an end in both parties, so much the better.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
A couple of years ago, "flipping" was being reported as a phenomenon. A person buys a house, apartment or townhouse and then turns around and sells it, at a profit.
The question is: How much has the abuse of flipping contributed to the current housing market crisis?
It's a legitimate question for one reason: The effect flipping has on the value of other properties in an area, possibly artificially inflating the value of other homes and making it more difficult for homeowners, or prospective buyers, to afford those places.
In drafting laws to help those whose homes have been foreclosed, local, state and federal governments must take a close look at the process of flipping, and implement reforms that protect all homeowners from the profiteering of some.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had a strange way of congratulating U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama last week: He did so at the same time he announced plans to base short-range missiles near Poland.
Actually, this is less of a response to Obama than a continuing game of one-upmanship between Russia's real leader, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and President George W. Bush. The Bush Administration has now attempted to placate the Russians by saying that its proposal for a missile defense system in Poland and elsewhere is an effort to protect those countries from an Iranian threat. So far, and to no one's surprise, it's to no avail.
What's less clear is what Obama plans to do about Russia. Sadly, not one reporter asked him about the issue at last week's press conference. But it is as serious a threat as the economy, and it points to the truth of Vice President-Elect Joe Biden's statement during the campaign that Obama would be tested early.
It's true that, as Obama has said, there's one president at a time, and until Jan. 20, that president is Bush. But the time will come soon for Obama to state his plans about the reforming Iron Curtain. Russia must be addressed, and quickly.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Run, do not walk, to the public hearing planned for this Thursday night at Florida Atlantic University's Davie campus. The subject: Proposed toll hikes for Alligator Alley as the State of Florida aims to have a private company manage the road.
These would be Hikes with a capital "H," since tolls would go up every year for 50 years. According to The Miami Herald, tolls would rise each year at either three percent or the rate of inflation - whichever is higher. That's ridiculous.
The state has come up with a lot of schemes in its time, but this one takes the cake. For starters, it's going to force more drivers without the dough onto Tamiami Trail to travel across the state. That will put more stress on the historic road, which is set to undergo a renovation in four years that would restore more water flow in Everglades National Park. Think of the traffic nightmares if there's an accident.
Thursday night's hearing is at the Liberal Arts Building at 2912 College Ave., Davie. It starts with an open house at 6 p.m. Be there - and shout out a big "NO" to this plan.
Monday, November 10, 2008
During the Jan. 29 presidential primary, voters in Miami-Dade County approved a measure to make the county property appraiser's position elected, rather than appointed.
County commissioners could have put the race on the ballot in August, which would have meant the runoff would have occurred last Tuesday. Instead, they put it on last Tuesday's ballot. Because they did, Dade voters will probably have to schlep to the polls for the fourth time this year - for a runoff next month that will cost the county up to $3.5 million at a time when every dollar counts.
The runoff may be a moot point if candidate Gwen Margolis wins her lawsuit to be declared the winner of last Tuesday's contest:
But the scheduling illustrates that Miami-Dade still has a ways to go to make sure the election process is 100 percent efficient - and cost-effective.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I'll divide this into categories....
It was on last week's "Saturday Night Live" that John McCain may have been obliquely waving the white flag and pointing to troubles with his running mate. In the very funny opening skit of McCain hawking items on QVC with Sarah Palin, once again played by Tina Fey, there was a moment in which Fey began "quietly" hawking "Palin in 2012" shirts. Would McCain have agreed to that skit if he'd thought he was going to win, or if he didn't want to air out some issues with Palin?
The SNL McCain was the one who didn't run for president after the summer, as was the classy McCain in the concession speech Tuesday night. That was the John McCain people respected.
As for Palin, some have compared her to Ronald Reagan in 1976. Uh, not yet. Reagan had loads more experience and was a better campaigner, and definitely better at reaching out to the other side. She may have miles to go before she runs - beginning with the current sniping McCain staffers are doing.
As for Barack Obama, it's all been said about the campaign. Well, most of it has been said. The biggest surprise here was the 77 percent vote from the Jewish community - higher than what Sen. John Kerry, who has Judaism in his family history, received in 2004. Quite an accomplishment, considering that some early polls had his support between 50 and 60 percent. The People of the Book obviously read Obama's.
The Sunshine State can elect an African-American as president, but can't get other things right in terms of equality for all. Voters said no to Amendment One and yes to Amendment Two. The first one, an effort to repeal a discriminatory anti-immigrant law dating from the 1920s, was probably misinterpreted as a modern-day anti-immigrant amendment, so two slaps on the wrist for voters, for not educating themselves and for actually supporting keeping the law on the books.
Ironically, an ad by Florida Red and Blue opposing Amendment 2 may have helped contribute to its passage. The ad featured a heterosexual couple in a domestic partnership; they are not married because she would have lost the Social Security benefits of her late husband. It may have been "Harry and Louise" in reverse.
Florida's most Democratic Party-oriented county still kept Republican incumbents, including Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti, in office. Lamberti squeaked by challenger Scott Israel. Ultimately, Lamberti's BSO career and his success in quieting down a police department beset by scandal and shootings may have played more of a role in his victory than any party politics.
Voters approved most reforms in the mayor's job and petition initiatives. But yet again, they said no to a living wage for county commissioners. Maybe next time, someone should try adding term limits to the ballot question.
And then there's the issue of the runoff for property appraiser.....I'll deal with that next week.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
To baseball fans, the number 44 has real significance. It's been worn by some of the very best, including Willie McCovey and Reggie Jackson.
And it played a role in one of the most memorable days in American history, April 8, 1974. That was the day Henry Aaron broke Babe Ruth's all-time home run record by hitting number 715. Aaron's uniform number was 44.
Aaron is African-American (as are McCovey and Jackson, incidentally). He broke Ruth's record through unyielding pressure, not just because of the sacredness of baseball records, but also because of the resistance of some Americans who didn't want to see that record broken by a black man. Aaron broke the record with class and grace.
Therefore, the fact that Barack Obama, the first African-American to be elected president of the United States, will be the 44th president of this nation seems appropriate. As a baseball fan, Obama will likely take time to think about that other number 44, and number 42, Jackie Robinson, just two of the many men and women who blazed the trail Obama has followed. Obama now blazes his own trail for many others, including women, Hispanics, Asian Americans and other Americans of different races, religions and creeds.
"Yes we can" is no longer just a campaign slogan. Yesterday, almost 64 million voters gave it a whole new meaning. And because of them, number 44, already important, took on a much greater significance.
Here's a link to the speech that brought the new president-elect into the minds and hearts of Americans; Barack Obama's speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention:
Last night went a long way toward turning red states and blue states back into the United States.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
We'll know the "What" later. Now, a discussion of the "How."
Election 2008 attracted the most voter attention in many years, primarily because of dynamic candidates and new ways for people to participate in the process. The first interesting result will be nationwide voter turnout; it could break records.
Someone is going to break a barrier, whether it's the first black president or the oldest elected president and the first female vice president. The presence of candidates such as Barack Obama, John McCain and Sarah Palin, and Hillary Clinton (during the primaries) helped engage the public.
This campaign depended on a combination of the old and new: Multitudes of Internet sites combined with shoe leather and door-knocking; questions asked by Bob Schieffer and David Letterman. (And two things I never thought I'd see together in a sentence, from this morning's Miami Herald, PBS and Twitter.)
And now, the bad news.....
The ambient anger of the last 15 years or so remains. Aspects of the campaigns brought out hateful sides of some supporters of candidates from both sides of the political spectrum. Whoever becomes the next president - and vice president - will have to address this.
For the first time, it felt like the most challenging questions of the candidates didn't come from the one profession that's protected in the U.S. Constitution - the press. While newspapers, radio and television continued to suffer from staff and quality shrinkage, comedians Letterman and Jon Stewart asked some of the best questions.
Talk radio and cable channels were a disaster, spreading as much propaganda as any political ads and contributing to climates of hatred. Sadly, some mainstream journalists started picking up cues from them.
On the voting front, there still hasn't been enough progress to make sure that voter rights, access and technology are the best everywhere. When The New York Times reports a snafu when the actor and activist Tim Robbins tried to vote this morning, what's the status of millions of other Americans?
Here's a link, incidentally, to the article about Robbins:
There's reassurance in knowing that tradition and democracy continue in Dixville Notch and Hart's Location in New Hampshire, where they cast the first Election Day ballots just after midnight. The towns pride themselves on 100 percent turnout, and presumably a well-informed electorate.
The rest of this country deserves no less. So there's work to be done in how we vote - and how we learn.
Monday, November 3, 2008
As a Florida Marlins fan who was rooting for the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series, I give a grudging congratulations to the Marlins' National League Eastern Division rivals, the Philadelphia Phillies.
I would like to warmly applaud singer John Oates, of Hall and Oates, for being the only singer during the Fall Classic who delivered a National Anthem that was worthy of the title.
Yes, I am picky about how the "Star-Spangled Banner" is sung. It is difficult, but singer after singer moves around notes, messes up the words, and generally makes it painful to listen to time after time. My favorite vocal versions have come from opera singers, including the late Robert Merrill, who sang it so many times at Yankee Stadium, and Marilyn Horne.
If sports franchises, etc., can't find anyone to sing it properly, just play a recording, let the organist perform, or let the fans/audience sing a cappella. That's the best way.
I tried to find a good recording, but couldn't. So here's the next best thing: Kate Smith singing "God Bless America," from the 1943 movie version of Irving Berlin's "This Is the Army." The sequence includes a then-future U.S. president named Ronald Reagan:
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
While you were out focusing on the presidential campaign, you may have forgotten that there's still an incumbent, and that he's still on his version of the job.
The latest question is how that job involves Syria. Last week, eight people were killed in Syria in an airstrike. One of them is reported to have been an Al Qaeda leader. During the last few days, the U.S. and Syria have engaged in the usual diplomatic playground name-calling that's done in a situation like this.
Some have asked the question: Why attack now? Why indeed, when a new president is about to be elected and Syria has made noises about peace talks with Israel. In fact, increasing diplomacy had recently been part of the George W. Bush playbook as well.
Neither John McCain nor Barack Obama has commented publicly. For one of them, this situation is going to be among the many headaches they inherit from Bush. For sure, both of them, and their congressional colleagues, should demand an explanation on the circumstances and the timing from Defense Secretary Robert Gates when Congress comes back after the election.
*It's about time, Governor Crist.
Florida Governor Charlie Crist finally saw the light and issued an executive order extending early voting hours.
It's true that most elections won't generate (sadly) the kind of interest this one has. But voters should always be given due consideration. Voting is a right, not a privilege, and it's a right millions worldwide have died for.
*Just about any good journalism teacher will show WFTV-Channel 9 (Orlando) anchor Barbara West's inquisition - it's unfair to call it an interview - of vice presidential candidate Joe Biden to students with the statement: Don't let this happen to you.
West broke every rule of good interviewing. She put an ideological slant on her questions, she dealt with innuendo instead of doing research of hard facts, and she didn't ask any questions that were truly relevant to Central Florida viewers, who are as affected by the bad economy as anyone else.
What would Peter Jennings, with whom West used to work, say?
*For once, Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was right.
Selig decided that if the Tampa Bay Rays hadn't scored that tying run in the top of the sixth inning the other night, the game would have been suspended regardless, and would not have been a rain-shortened game. Amen.
The World Series is a different situation altogether from the regular season. Selig, who blundered with the end to the 2002 All Star Game and almost had the same situation with this year's All Star Game, understood the specialness of the Fall Classic in making his decision.
How many times does a politician make the honest choice instead of the expedient one? Not often.
Certainly, it would have been a lot easier for Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the new head of the Kadima party, to give in to the demands of Shas and other right-wing parties and say Jerusalem wouldn't be a negotiating point in future peace talks, become prime minister, form a government and say later that she'd changed her mind.
Instead, Livni was honest. She said she could not rule out Jerusalem as a negotiating point, and thus could not form a government in order to become prime minister of Israel now. Therefore, it looks like Israeli President Shimon Peres will call elections next February.
Early polls were expected to heavily favor former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the head of the Likud party. But a surprise emerged: Israeli polls have Livni slightly ahead of Netanyahu at this point. They also say if the election took place today, neither person would have the party seats needed to become prime minister without forming a coalition with other parties. There is also always another factor: Ehud Barak, the Labor Party leader and another former prime minister.
Think the U.S. presidential election has been interesting? Take a look at what's about to happen in Israel. And it will happen because of Livni, who added one more reason Israelis call her "Mrs. Clean."
Monday, October 27, 2008
Miami-Dade County voters will decide six county charter questions.
The first would complete an evolution to the strong mayor form of government by transferring duties of the county manager to the mayor and providing for the mayor's oversight of the county manager position. Voters should say Yes, and may it never be abused.
The second amendment would require county commissioners to be full-time and would raise their salaries from the $6,000 they've gotten for 51 years to the living wage provided by state formula - currently almost $92,000. Voters should say Yes; perhaps the quality would increase if salaries and responsibilities did.
The third amendment would amend the county charter to permit candidates for mayor or commissioner to qualify for office through petition or a qualifying fee. Voters should say Yes to this measure that improves the democratic process.
The fourth and fifth amendments would have the county clerk, instead of commissioners, approve initiative petitions; the fourth also would require the county commission to hold a public hearing on any such petition. Voters should say Yes to these measures that would do a lot to de-politicize the petition process.
The final amendment would require the county to provide a uniform fire-rescue service for unincorporated Miami-Dade and all cities except for Miami, Miami Beach, Hialeah, Coral Gables and Key Biscayne. Voters should say No, because it is unclear that other cities would be able to opt out if they chose.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Broward County voters will decide 10 charter initiatives this year. The initiatives will include a projected financial impact to taxpayers.
*There are three initiatives that deal with the creation of organizations: an ethics commission, a metropolitan transit authority and a housing council. Of the three, only the ethics commission should get a Yes vote.
Right now, the commission is slated to prepare a code of ethics. It's certainly a start, but much more will be needed; such a commission will need to be independent and have true power to punish those who flout or break the law.
Voters need only to look at the disaster in Miami-Dade County for a reason to vote No on creating a metropolitan transit authority. As for a housing authority, it's throwing money toward a new board when the money is needed elsewhere. In both cases, it's also an issue of trust, and Broward residents don't trust their county government right now.
*Two ballot questions relate to the behavior of county commissioners. The first would require commissioners not to interfere with the job of the county administrator or with county employees, unless there is a formal inquiry or investigation that is needed. The second would prohibit commissioners from participating in a discussion on any issue on which they've already decided not to vote because of a conflict of interest. Voters should say Yes to both measures.
*Two ballot questions relate to the environment. The first would designate, by law, county parks as either natural area or regional parks and forbid their sale, transfer or change of use without the approval of 60 percent of county voters. The second question would add an environmental policy statement to the county charter. Voters should say Yes to both measures.
*The remaining three questions deal with general government. One would add a policy statement to the charter concerning the county's duty to develop programs and policies with a look toward the region, as well as the county. Regional thinking should have been part of the county's policy long ago.
One would have an independent redistricting consultant develop plans and standards for redistricting. Definitely. It's a first step to independently drawn districts.
And the final measure would move up the next meeting of the Management and Efficiency Study Committee, which meets every six years, to next year, to avoid a conflict with the Charter Review Commission in 2010.
Voters should say Yes to these three measures.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
(With apologies to Hans Christian Andersen)
Once upon a time, there was a woman who ran for governor of Alaska by veering from the status quo. She told the voters, "I'm not like the big-spending establishment." And they were pleased and elected her. Two years later, this woman was picked as the Republican nominee for vice president.
But she had gaps in her knowledge of the constitutional requirements for the job, and in her knowledge of foreign policy. A former beauty queen, she tried to gain the approval of the populace with winks and turns of phrase. Her public efforts to tell voters "I'm one of you" and say she was a "hockey mom" won many fans, even with concern about her lack of political experience and controversial opinions on many issues.
She traveled thousands of miles on the campaign trail. Questions started popping up about her spending as the governor of Alaska. But still, she was welcomed as regular folk.
Then, someone got the not-so-bright idea to get campaign clothes for the governor from the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. Before long, the bill for the Republican National Committee totalled $150,000. It was a far cry from Pat Nixon's "Respectable Republican Cloth Coat."
$150,000 on clothes, when millions of Americans are losing their homes, their jobs, their 401Ks and their health insurance. $150,000 on clothes, when millions of Americans don't know where their next meal or shelter will come from.
One day, the governor, whose disconnect from the realities of most of the American people was now plain to see, went to a campaign rally.
And in front of everyone, a voter cried out:
"Look! The governor has no clothes!"
(Updated: Correcting fourth paragraph to include the word "respectable")
This is the last in a series of blogs on where Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain stand concerning major issues.
Again, information comes from the candidates' Web sites and background on their votes from Project Vote Smart.
-Borders: Obama supports more personnel and technology at the borders and places of entry.
-Undocumented immigrants: Obama plans to crack down on employers who hire those immigrants. He favors a plan to allow undocumented immigrants in good standing to pay a fine but also to "get in line" regarding the right to enter the country.
Last March, Obama voted No on an amendment that would allow the increase of certain spending levels for border security and immigration enforcement programs. He voted Yes on a similar amendment that was intended not to increase the budget deficit. In October, 2007, he did not vote on a measure that included a fence, more agents, more technology and the detention of immigrants. In July, 2007, he did not vote on a measure appropriating $3 billion for fences and customs requirements on the U.S. - Mexico border. In June, 2007, Obama voted No on an amendment prohibiting undocumented immigrants convicted of certain felonies from gaining legal status. The same month, he voted No on an amendment that would require information from renewable 3-year worker visas to be turned over to law enforcement under certain circumstances. He voted Yes to sunset the Y-1 guest worker program after five years.
In October, 2006, Obama voted Yes on a bill to authorize the construction of 700 miles of additional fencing between the U.S. and Mexico. In May, 2006, Obama voted Yes on the immigration reform bill.
-Other countries: Obama wants to work with Mexico to improve the economic situation in that country to lower the number of people coming to the United States illegally.
-Applications: Obama's Web site indicates that he and Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois have introduced the Citizenship Promotion Act for fair application fees, and Obama introduced legislation to improve the accuracy and speed of FBI background checks.
-Misc.: In June, 2007, Obama voted No on an amendment to declare English the official language of the business of the federal government.
For more information: http://www.barackobama.com/issues/immigration/
-Borders: McCain wants to improve training for border workers, better funding for U.S. Attorney's offices in border states, better technology, unmanned aircraft in border regions and continue the US-VISIT program.
-Undocumented immigrants: McCain wants to introduce a new Electronic Employment Verification System that would check worker identities, protect their privacy and weed out employers looking to take advantage of the system.
From McCain's Web site: "All undocumented workers will be required to enroll in a program to resolve their status." The program will include background checks. Immigrants will have to pass a citizenship course, pay back fines and taxes and learn English. They must either leave the country or follow the proper path to citizenship.
The program will attempt to unify families and quickly clear up the issue of children.
Last March, McCain did not vote on an amendment that would allow the increase of certain spending levels for border security and immigration enforcement programs. He did not vote on a similar amendment that was intended not to increase the budget deficit. In October, 2007, he did not vote on a measure that included a fence, more agents, more technology and the detention of immigrants. In July, 2007, he did not vote on a measure appropriating $3 billion for fences and customs requirements on the U.S. - Mexico border. In June, 2007, McCain voted No on an amendment prohibiting undocumented immigrants convicted of certain felonies from gaining legal status. The same month, he voted Yes on an amendment that would require information from renewable 3-year worker visas to be turned over to law enforcement under certain circumstances. He voted No to sunset the Y-1 guest worker program after five years.
In October, 2006, McCain voted Yes on a bill to authorize the construction of 700 miles of additional fencing between the U.S. and Mexico. In May, 2006, McCain voted Yes on the immigration reform bill.
-Workers: McCain supports making it easier for high-skilled workers educated in the U.S. to stay and work in the U.S. after graduation. He wants to reduce bureaucracy and waiting times for workers to come to the U.S., to increase the number of available green cards and make sure the application procedure is fair for American workers.
McCain proposes a market-based system for low-skilled workers to enter the U.S. He advocates worker protection to guard against employer abuse and wants workers to return to their home countries after a temporary period in the United States.
-Misc.: In June, 2007, McCain voted Yes on an amendment to declare English the official language of the business of the federal government.
For more information:
Monday, October 20, 2008
This is a continuation of a look at the stands and voting records of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, with an emphasis on Social Security and Medicare. Information and votes come from the candidates' Web sites and Project Vote Smart.
-Medicare payment system: From the Web site: "We must reform the payment systems in Medicaid and Medicare to compensate providers for diagnosis, prevention and care coordination. Medicaid and Medicare should not pay for preventable medical errors or mismanagement."
In July, McCain did not vote on a Medicare expansion bill.
In February, 2006, McCain voted No on an amendment to expand the enrollment period for the Prescription Drug Benefit Program and allow changes without penalty. He voted No on similar legislation in November, 2005.
-Drug benefits: In June, 2003, McCain voted No on a bill to provide a voluntary prescription drug benefit under Medicare.
-Costs: In June, 2000, McCain voted Yes on an amendment to protect Social Security and Medicare surpluses through "budgetary enforcement mechanisms."
-Long-Term Care: McCain is interested in state programs that provide a monthly stipend for care and have seniors designate a caregiver.
-Social Security: In March, 2000, McCain voted Yes on a bill allowing seniors ages 65 through 69 to continue to earn money without a reduction in their Social Security benefits.
For more information: http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/
-Medicare Advantage: Obama's Web site says the private plan is actually more expensive to the government than traditional Medicare. Obama wants to eliminate additional subsidies and put the program on even footing with traditional Medicare.
-Drugs under Medicare: Obama would repeal the ban on the government negotiating for lower drug costs for consumers.
-Spending: In July, Obama did not vote on a Medicare expansion bill.
In February, 2006, Obama voted Yes on an amendment to expand the enrollment period for the Prescription Drug Benefit Program and allows changes without penalty. He voted Yes on similar legislation in November, 2005.
-Transparency: Obama would require companies to send Medicare beneficiaries a full list of the drugs and fees they paid the previous year.
-Social Security retirement age: Obama opposes raising the retirement age.
-Social Security privitization: Obama opposes the privatizing of Social Security.
-Social Security support: Obama proposes asking those making more than $250,000 to contribute between 2 and 4 percent more.
For more information:
Friday, October 17, 2008
Why did it take David Letterman to bring up G. Gordon Liddy?
While the Republican Party keeps attacking Sen. Barack Obama about a board association with William Ayers, and the media keeps covering it, many have ignored some of John McCain's associations, which go beyond just serving on a board together:
On Newsweek's Web site, Ellis Cose nominates Letterman for journalist of the year. I second the motion:
Remember when a Madonna divorce would have gotten front-page headlines? One of the rewards of serious issues, like the economy and the presidential campaign, being in the news is that celebrities aren't. Amen. Long may it last.
Finally, last night's amazing comeback victory for the Boston Red Sox shows the full idiocy of Major League Baseball's splitting of the League Championship Series between commercial and cable television. Other than a near-fight in Game 3, the National League Championship Series between the winning Philadelphia Phillies and the Los Angeles Dodgers, televised on Fox, was Dullsville. The American League Championship series between the Red Sox and the Tampa Bay Rays, televised on TBS, seems to be getting interesting. Sadly, roughly 30 percent of the country can't see it.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Never mind the enemies; Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama may need protection from their allies.
In McCain's case, it was the hatred expressed last week at various rallies for him and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Palin didn't help matters by accusing Obama of "palling around with terrorists," though there's no evidence of that at all. Obama once served on a board with William Ayers, a founder of the Weather Underground movement in the 1960s.
Mike Scott is the sheriff one of one Florida's most beautiful areas - Lee County. But he may have had some ugly thoughts on his mind last week during a rally for Palin in Estero in which Scott used Obama's middle name, Hussein, in a derogatory tone. A lot of Lee County residents have written letters and e-mails to the Fort Myers News-Press and other publications to denounce Scott, and good for them.The final straw in the McCain camp came when some in the crowd at a McCain rally over the weekend started suggesting Obama was dangerous. To his credit, McCain defended Obama.
Now comes the question of what Rev. Jesse Jackson said to the World Policy Forum and the New York Post about Obama and Israel:
Jackson is a Democrat who twice ran for president in the 1980s. He has no ties to Obama's campaign. Jackson is now saying his comments were misrepresented:
Obama has been very clear about his support of Israel, and that of his running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden, is unquestioned. In my posting last week of the candidates' stands on foreign policy, I found Obama's policy toward Israel to be quite detailed. Obama's site also makes a reference to Israel's progress on energy issues. That's impressive.
It's a positive counterpoint to the persistence of those practicing hate, and disguising it as a campaign tactic. There are no winners when bigotry is shown. Obama and McCain have been very good about discussing the economy, health care, the war in Iraq and other important issues. Shame on some around them for injecting hatred into the mix.
Monday, October 13, 2008
The look at the presidential candidates continues with a focus on energy issues, again with reference to the candidates' Web sites and Project Vote Smart.
-Obama proposes investing $150 billion over the next decade for a "clean energy future." He wants 10 percent of U.S. electricity to come from renewable sources within the next four years, and 25 percent by 2025. He proposes a cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.
In July, 2005, Obama voted Yes on an appropriations bill for energy and water development for fiscal year 2006. Last July, Obama did not vote on a low-income energy assistance bill. Last April, he did not vote on an amendment to extend tax credits and deductions for renewable energy development. Last December, he did not vote on a bill to increase fuel economy or the production of renewable fuels, but in June, 2007, he voted Yes on the Energy Act of 2007 bill. In March, Obama voted No on an amendment to increase spending on natural gas development off the Virginia coast and the development of oil shale resources on public lands and Yes on an amendment that permitted development in areas not covered by a moratorium.
-He proposes 1 million domestically built plug-in hybrid cars that get 150 miles per gallon on the roads in the next seven years. He plans to increase fuel economy standards by four percent a year, eliminate current imports from the Middle East and Venezuela within 10 years, establish a standard to reduce carbon in fuels and require 60 billion gallons of advanced biofuels in the U.S. fuel supply by 2030.
-Obama advocates a windfall profits tax to provide a $1,000 emergency energy rebate to families. He has a goal to weatherize at least 1 million low-income houses a year for the next decade to save energy.
-Obama will require oil companies to develop the land they already have leases on, or lose it. He advocates the development of "clean coal" technology and the construction of a natural gas pipeline in Alaska.
In August, 2006, Obama voted No on a bill to expand exploration and drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. In June, 2005, he voted Yes on an amendment to reduce dependence on foreign oil by 40 percent by 2025. In November, 2005, he voted Yes to strike sections of a bill allowing an oil and gas leasing program in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.
-Obama plans to work with the United Nations and create a Global Energy Forum of the world's largest emitters to work on energy and the environment.
For more information: http://my.barackobama.com/page/content/newenergy
-McCain supports expanding domestic exploration of oil and natural gas. In August, 2006, he voted Yes on a bill to expand exploration and drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. In June, 2005, he voted No on an amendment to reduce dependence on foreign oil by 40 percent by 2025.
In November, 2005, he voted Yes to strike sections of a bill allowing an oil and gas leasing program in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). In March, 2003, McCain voted Yes on a measure to prevent consideration of drilling in ANWR. In June, 2003, he voted Yes on an amendment to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign petroleum.
-McCain proposes a Clean Car Challenge, a $5,000 tax credit for everyone who buys a zero carbon emission car. There will also be graduated tax credits for vehicles with lower emissions. He proposes a $300 million prize for the development of a battery package for cars. He is a supporter of more Flex-Fuel vehicles and fuels such as ethanol. He proposes eliminating mandates, tariffs and price supports that focus on just corn-based ethanol.
Last July, McCain did not vote on a low-income energy assistance bill. Last April, he did not vote on an amendment to extend tax credits and deductions for renewable energy development. Last December, he did not vote on a bill to increase fuel economy and the production of renewable fuels, nor did he vote on the June, 2007 version of the Energy Act of 2007. In March, McCain did not vote on an amendment to increase spending on natural gas development off the Virginia coast and the development of oil shale resources on public lands, or on an amendment that permitted development in areas not covered by a moratorium.
-McCain endorses existing mileage standards.
-McCain proposes committing $2 billion a year to advance clean coal technology. He supports the construction of 45 new nuclear power plants by 2030. He will, his Web site says, "encourage the market" for solar, wind and other alternative fuels.
In July, 2005, McCain voted No on an appropriations bill for energy and water development for fiscal year 2006.
-McCain also proposes a cap-and-trade system to set limits on greenhouse gas emissions, to make them 66 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.
-McCain proposes an upgrade of the national electricity grid.
-McCain opposes a windfall profits tax.
-In 1996 and 1997, McCain voted Yes on legislation to improve the cleanup and storage of nuclear waste and set improved standards. In 2003, he voted Yes on the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003.
For more information:
Friday, October 10, 2008
My look at the presidential candidates' stands on issues continues with foreign policy. Information comes from Project Vote Smart and the candidates' Web sites.
-War on Terror: McCain was an advocate for the creation of the 9/11 Commission, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Northern Command. Wants to streamline congressional oversight over DHS, calling it "inefficient," and supports single oversight committee. He advocates stronger partnerships with local governments and the private sector. He supports modernization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and reform of intelligence gathering efforts. Advocates funding to state and local governments on a risk assessment basis. He co-sponsored the "Border Security First Act of 2007," which provided funding for fencing, more and better trained border patrol agents, vehicles, detention of immigrants who overstay their visas.
McCain advocates improving security screening for those entering the U.S. through seaports and airports. He wants to improve the access to communication and training of first responders and create a Public Safety network. He supports increased protection of water and storage systems, chemical plants, cybersecurity and public transportation.
He supports the Military Commissions Act as a way to bring those accused of terrorism to trial.
In July, McCain did not vote on a measure amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to define who could be targeted for surveillance. In August, 2007, he did not vote on a bill amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. In September, 2006, he voted No on an amendment for stronger congressional oversight of CIA interrogation, rendition and detention programs.
Last July, McCain did not vote on a bill striking telecom immunity from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Bill, nor did he vote on an August, 2007 bill authorizing the United States to monitor foreign electronic communications to and in the United States.
Iraq: McCain supports the surge and has voted No on efforts to bring the troops home within a fixed timetable. He says the Iraqis are moving toward reconciliation, but says improvements are needed, including job creation. He said the United Nations needs to provide strong support for upcoming elections. Advocates Iraq using its budget surplus to employ Iraqis in infrastructure projects and restore basic services.
From McCain's Web site: "The international community should bolster proven microfinance programs to spur local-level entrepreneurship throughout the country. Iraq's Arab neighbors, in particular, should promote regional stability by directly investing the fruits of their oil exports in Iraq. As these efforts begin to take hold in Iraq, the private sector, as always, will create the jobs and propel the growth that will end reliance on outside aid. Iraq’s government needs support to better deliver basic services—clean water, garbage collection, abundant electricity, and, above all, a basic level of security—that create a climate where the Iraqi economy creation can flourish."
He also calls for pressure on Syria and Iran to back down from aiding the violence in Iraq.
-Iran: Supports tougher sanctions, even going beyond United Nations sanctions, including sanctions to restrict Iran's ability to import refined petroleum products. Supports encouraging U.S. allies to also impose sanctions, including visas, the Central Bank of Iran and launching a worldwide divestment campaign.
-Israel: Supports increase in federal aid. Advocates better support to Lebanon to undermine Hezbollah.
-Military: McCain supports the expansion of the armed forces, and modernization of their training. He believes spending should be taken care of in the regular budget appropriations process and not emergency supplementals. He has advocated improved military pay and benefits, and supports bringing pay and benefits for members of the National Guard in line with other branches of service. He advocates veterans and disabled veterans receiving health care and benefits comparable to that of federal employees, and supports increased benefits for reservists and improving veterans' access to health care. He supports repealing the ban on veterans receiving both disability and retirement pay. He also supports transitional and job training programs for veterans adjusting to civilian life, and assistance for homeless veterans, and protection for active personnel from being denied bankruptcy claims.
In September, 2007, McCain voted No on an amendment to mandate a rest period for troops between deployments.
In June, McCain did not vote on a measure that appropriated money for Iraq and Afghanistan and provided education funding for certain veterans.
In November, 2005, McCain voted against more funding for health care for veterans, including mental health. In October, 2005, he voted against taking into account changes in population and inflation in funding health care for veterans.
-Misc.: McCain supports the development of a missile defense system. He advocates a Joint Chiefs of Staff review of U.S. nuclear strategy and policy, and supports further arms reductions, including a new arms control treaty with Russia. He supports a nuclear dialogue with China.
In 1999, he voted against the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty. In March, 2006, McCain voted Yes on a bill to deny funding to the United Nations Human Rights Council on the basis that human rights-violating countries are eligible for council membership. In 2005, McCain voted Yes on CAFTA.
For more information: http://www.johnmccain.com/Informing/Issues/
Subtopics include National Security, Iraq, Homeland Security and Veterans.
-War on Terror: Obama advocates better integration of federal agencies "in stabilization and aid efforts," improved intelligence gathering, a Shared Security Partnership Program with other countries, an end to nuclear smuggling, increased diplomacy and foreign aid to reduce the root causes for terrorist recruitment, a Global Education Fund, a public diplomacy effort, including "America Houses" modeled on what was established in Germany after World War II. He wants to revise the Patriot Act to increase oversight so civil liberties are not violated, restore Habeas Corpus and eliminate warrantless wiretaps. Homeland security funding should be allocated according to risk, homeland security should be reviewed every four years, as the Pentagon is. Obama also advocates secure chemical plants, energy centers and ports, revising the list of what's at risk, giving more support to first responders and better communications systems, and improving information sharing and analysis. He also wants to increase cybersecurity and improve math and science education for national security.
In July, Obama voted Yes on amending the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.
In September, 2006, he voted Yes to provide congressional oversight for certain CIA interrogation, rendition and detention programs. He also voted No on the Military Commissions Act.
Last July, he voted Yes on an amendment striking telecom immunity from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Bill. In August, 2007, Obama voted No on a bill authorizing the United States to monitor foreign electronic communications in the U.S.
-Afghanistan: Obama's plan includes an end to the war in Iraq, a redeployment of troops to Afghanistan and increased NATO involvement in Afghanistan, increased non-military aid and training of the country's army and police.
-Pakistan: Obama advocates increased pressure on Pakistan to shut down Al Quaida training camps and, as he has said recently, might use military force if necessary.
-Iraq: Obama supports a phased withdrawal from Iraq, pressure on the Iraqi government to take more responsibility, regional diplomacy and support for reconstruction and development.
In September, 2007, Obama voted Yes on an amendment to begin withdrawing troops. In May, Obama voted No on an amendment appropriating funds for Iraq and establishing regulations regarding U.S. activities in Iraq and other countries.
-Iran: From Obama's Web site: "Obama supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions. Now is the time to pressure Iran directly to change their troubling behavior. Obama and Biden would offer the Iranian regime a choice. If Iran abandons its nuclear program and support for terrorism, we will offer incentives like membership in the World Trade Organization, economic investments, and a move toward normal diplomatic relations. If Iran continues its troubling behavior, we will step up our economic pressure and political isolation. Seeking this kind of comprehensive settlement with Iran is our best way to make progress."
-Israel: Obama supports full foreign financial and defensive support to Israel. Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joseph Biden, co-sponsored the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, which says that no financial assistance goes to the part of the Palestinian Authority controlled by Hamas unless it renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel and abides by all previous agreements. Obama also cosponsored the U.S.-Israel Energy Cooperation Act, which promotes joint research by the two countries.
-Russia: Obama plans to support the nations around Russia, including helping them to lower dependence on Russian energy, and (from the Web site) "Engaging directly with the Russian government on issues of mutual interest, such as countering nuclear proliferation, reducing our nuclear arsenals, expanding trade and investment opportunities, and fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban; and also reaching out directly to the Russian people to promote our common values; and, Keeping the door open to fuller integration into the global system for all states in the region, including Russia, that demonstrates a commitment to act as responsible, law-abiding members of the international community."
-Africa: Obama plans to increase pressure on Sudan to end the genocide in Darfur. He plans to double foreign assistance, support debt cancellation for poor countries and provide more funding to fight HIV/AIDS. He also plans an Add Value To Agriculture initiative and a Global Energy and Environment Initiative to allow Africans to become more self-sufficient, and strengthen the African Growth and Opportunity Act to increase trade between African nations and the U.S.
-Latin America: Obama supports a normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba if Cuba, post-Fidel Castro, takes "significant steps" towards democracy. Obama also supports an Energy Partnership for the Americas and increase foreign assistance to cut poverty. He also supports a hemispheric security initiative that fights drug trafficking, among other things.
-Europe: Obama wants to strengthen partnerships with the European Union, including on the issue of climate change. He wants to restore a strategic partnership with Turkey.
-Asia: Obama advocates "candid dialogue" with China, rebalancing the economic partnership and making China a partner on environmental and energy issues, and pressuring that country on human rights at home and in other countries.
-Military: Obama supports the end of torture and extreme rendition, and wants to close down the detention center in Guantanamo. He wants to improve training, including language training, improve care for wounded veterans at military hospitals, create a Military Families Advisory Board, end the "back door draft," establish regular deployment schedules, repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," improve National Guard readiness and improve transition services from military to civilian life, including better mental health services.
In November, 2005, Obama voted for more funding for health care for veterans, including mental health. In October, 2005, he voted for taking into account changes in population and inflation in funding health care for veterans.
In June, Obama voted Yes on a measure that appropriated money for Iraq and Afghanistan and provided education funding for certain veterans.
Misc.: In March, 2006, Obama voted No on a concurrent resolution to deny 2007 funds to the United Nations Rights Council on the basis that human rights-violating countries are eligible for council membership. In 2005, Obama voted No on CAFTA.
For more information: http://origin.barackobama.com/issues/foreign_policy/
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
In 1992, as South Florida staggered after Hurricane Andrew, Dade County voters went to the polls and approved a half-penny increase in the sales tax to support Miami-Dade Community College. It was a successful initiative for the school.
On Nov. 4, Florida voters have a chance to allow its community colleges and the communities they serve to do the same thing. Amendment 8 would allow counties to place ballot measures that would let voters decide sales tax initiatives to support colleges for five years, when the provisions would sunset, unless voters approve them again.
This is a win-win situation for Florida and its community colleges, whose influence has increased with the state's population, but whose funding support from the Florida Legislature is usually arbitrary. Eduardo Padron, the president of what is now known as Miami-Dade College, advocated the placement of this measure on the ballot.
Given the current bad economy, the importance of Florida's public colleges will increase even more. Voters should prepare for that by saying Yes to Amendment 8.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
No more. Please, no more.
Alberto Carvalho should say a polite "thank you" to the Miami-Dade School Board and also say that, for the good of the school district, he will step aside and let them choose someone else as superintendent.
After the toxic relationship between the board and former superintendent Rudy Crew, the last thing that's needed is yet another problematic relationship. The issue of the reported e-mails between Carvalho and former Miami Herald reporter Tania deLuzuriaga will not go away. Because it will not go away, it will be a distraction to a school district that needs to fix its budget and its relationship with the community.
Friday's planned school board vote on Carvalho's contract could turn into yet another soap opera.
For the students, teachers and families, Carvalho should walk away.
Monday, October 6, 2008
A trio of tax reduction amendments on the Nov. 4 ballot in Florida are all common sense and could encourage Floridians to get a lot greener, in more ways than one.
Amendment 3 would provide tax exemptions to homeowners who do more to protect their homes from hurricanes or make them energy efficient. Amendment 4 would provide a property tax exemption for landowners who decide to conserve their land and not develop it. Amendment 6 would assess the tax rates for waterfront businesses based on their current use, rather than best projected use.
Amendment 4 provides the most opportunity for mischief. Florida Trend reports that the Florida Legislature, which will write the details if voters approve the measure, could define conserved land in any number of ways. Floridians will have to guard against that. The publication also says that Amendment 6 could put more of a crimp in municipal budgets. But current use is a more sensible move than projected use.
All three amendments could help with a difficult economic situation for Floridians. Voters should say Yes to Amendments 3, 4 and 6.
Friday, October 3, 2008
Let's get this straight: In the middle of a bad economy he didn't directly cause, but has done nothing so far to fix for his city despite his financial history, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants the city council to amend the term limits law so he can run for a third term.
To quote the television cop Steve McGarrett, "Now that's what I call chutzpah."
The legislation will be introduced:
For now, a majority of those polled by Quinnipiac University would support Bloomberg running for a third term:
But the devil may be in the details, and New Yorkers may change their minds once the nuts and bolts of the campaign start next year. For starters, many people are upset that the city council, and not New York citizens, are making this decision on whether to extend term limits not just for the mayor, but for many others, from two to three. They should be.
Bloomberg says he wants the third term to help steer New York out of the financial crisis, but what's he done so far? Does he have a magic bullet we haven't heard about? Evidently not, or he would have been in Washington at the budget negotiations, wouldn't he?
Yet another New York Times article indicates his motivations for wanting to run again:
Spare the people from political egos. Or at least let the people of New York City decide whether term limits should be extended before Bloomberg tries to stoke his ego.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Florida voters have a chance to take two stands against discrimination - by saying Yes to Amendment 1 and No to Amendment 2.
Amendment 1 was placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature in order to abolish an "alien land law" that dates to the 1920s, according to Florida Trend. The original law was to ban Asians from owning land, and Florida is still the only state with such a law. There are anti-immigration people who might want to use it in regard to some of today's immigrants, but other laws already cover that issue. The alien land law is yesterday's news, and voters should say Yes to abolishing it.
Amendment 2 is the so-called Florida Marriage Protection Amendment that would sanction a union between one man and one woman as the only kind of legal union in the state. In other words, it's the "anti gay marriage" act. Besides being discriminatory, it could put domestic benefits for gay couples in doubt. One other question: What happens to a foreign visitor who comes here in either a gay or a polygamous marriage?
Florida's courts may be on the verge of declaring the state's ban on adoptions by gay couples unconstitutional, so now is the wrong time to approve a measure that's based on old and disproven fears, just as any discriminatory measure is. Voters should say No to Amendment 2.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Continuing with the stands of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, this time on education issues. Again, resources include Project Vote Smart and the candidates' Web sites.
*No Child Left Behind: Supports the measure, and voted for it in 2001, but calls it "the beginning of education reform."
*Early Childhood: Proposes as much as $200,000 each year to specified Head Start Centers of Excellence in each state. Supports no federal prohibitions against preschool programs offering health screening to children.
*Teachers: From McCain's Web site: "John McCain will devote five percent of Title II funding to states to recruit teachers who graduate in the top 25 percent of their class or who participate in an alternative teacher recruitment program such as Teach for America, the New York City Teaching Fellowship Program, the New Teacher Project, or excellent university initiatives." He proposes 60 percent of Title II funding for teacher bonuses and 35 percent for professional teacher development.
*Afterschool programs: In October, 2005, McCain voted No on an amendment to increase funding for afterschool programs through community learning centers.
*Other education issues: McCain supports putting school funding in the control of school principals, expanding school choice and providing federal money to tutoring providers. He also advocates $500 million in federal money for online schooling, and a $250 million competitive grant program for states that support online education. In March, 2006, McCain voted No on a non-binding resolution to increase funding for Title 1 grants and close corporate tax loopholes. Last May, McCain did not vote on a measure to provide funding for education for members of the armed forces. In May, 2004, McCain voted Yes on a bill to reauthorize the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. In May, 1998, McCain voted Yes on a measure to authorize three block grants for vocational and technological education, adult education and literacy and job training for disadvantaged young people.
*Higher Education: McCain supports improving the federal information database for parents. He proposes simplifying the financial aid application process, and eliminating earmarks to protect university research budgets. In July, McCain did not vote on the extension of the Higher Education Act bill. In July, 2007, he voted No on a bill to change the standards and funding of financial aid. In October, 2005, he voted No on an Amendment to increase the maximum federal Pell grant.
For more information:
*No Child Left Behind: Says the law has been poorly implemented. He wants to improve accountability and tracking systems for students.
*Early childhood: Obama supports a "Zero To Five Plan" that would improve education for infants and include challenge grants and promotion of universal, voluntary pre-K programs such as the one now in Florida. Obama also plans to quadruple funding for Early Head Start and increase Head Start funding.
*Charter schools: Obama supports expanded charter school funding and interventions and closings of charter schools that are struggling.
*Dropouts: Obama proposes funding for middle schools for programs to address the issue.
*Teachers: Obama plans to create Teacher Service Scholarships, require all schools of education to be accredited and create a voluntary national assessment of performance.
*Higher education: Obama proposes the American Opportunity Tax Credit to help students pay for college, and wants to simplify the process for applying for financial aid. In July, 2007, Obama did not vote on a measure to make changes to financial aid regulations and funding. Last July, he did not vote on a measure to amend and extend the Higher Education Act of 1965. In October, 2005, he voted Yes on an amendment to increase the maximum federal Pell grant.
Afterschool programs: In October, 2005, Obama voted Yes on an amendment to increase appropriations for afterschool programs through 21st century community learning centers.
Other education issues: In March, 2006, Obama voted Yes on a non-binding resolution to increase funding for Title 1 grants that would improve education for the disadvantaged. The bill was also meant to close corporate tax loopholes. In March, 2005, he voted Yes on an amendment to restore and increase assorted education funding while again closing corporate tax loopholes. Last May, Obama voted Yes on a measure to provide funding for education for eligible members of the armed forces. In July, 2006, Obama voted Yes on an amendment to authorize grants for education on preventing teen pregnancies.
For more information: http://www.barackobama.com/issues/education/
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Sep. 24: Sniglets On McCain's "Non" Campaign Strategy, CEO Salaries, McCain and Stem Cells and Warren Buffett
*When is campaign strategy not campaign strategy? Or when is a "non" campaign strategy really campaign strategy? When it's Sen. John McCain saying he's suspending his campaign to return to Washington to deal with the issue of the Wall Street bailout:
McCain does well with these "Hail Mary" decisions. But Sen. Barack Obama is right: Friday's debate should go on - with one change. Flip the topics so this one deals with the economy and the third one with foreign policy. Obama, who got the debate order he wanted, should make that concession.
Of course, if Obama does plan to show up and McCain doesn't.......
*Government regulation of CEO pay? It's an understandable knee-jerk reaction to the outrageous disparity between executive compensation and employee salaries. But it should not happen, though Lee Iacocca, who brought Chrysler out of the doghouse 29 years ago, is cited as an example:
However, Iacocca made that choice. And he is one of those rare executives who has the common touch.
The real problem is that the ballooning executive perks are happening while they are freezing worker pay, laying off employees and cutting benefits. Why and how? That's the part that needs to be scrutinized and dealt with by government. It's not kosher for Joe Boss to pile up the dough while he's firing John and Jane Worker because of shrinking revenues.
*A new ad by the Obama campaign claims McCain opposes stem cell research. Does he? To quote Samantha Stephens of "Bewitched," "Weeeeeeelllllll......."
McCain doesn't oppose the legislation; he voted for it last year, when most Republicans didn't. However, it is true his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, does oppose embryonic stem cell research.
It's one message Obama should have checked more closely before approving.
*For those questioning Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway for his move to bail out Goldman Sachs: It's not new for him. Just read "Personal History," the autobiography of Katharine Graham, late chair of the Washington Post Company (and my former boss of bosses). In the early 1970s, when Graham was still establishing her footing as the company's boss and was being squeezed by President Richard Nixon and Company, Buffett came to the rescue by investing in the company; he's still on the board today.
Contrary to CNN.com's headline, it's not out of character at all.