Monday, March 31, 2008

March 31: Ban Prescription Drug Advertisements

*Warning: Don't Advertise

President Bill Clinton made his share of bad decisions. One of the worst was allowing the greenlighting of prescription drug advertisements.

Here are two of the latest reasons why:

Both (along with Vioxx and others that have had trouble) have been heavily advertised, with all the bells and whistles. Even if there was nothing wrong, to advertise something a person can't buy without a doctor's prescription is stupid, anyway. Even with the little warnings at the end of the advertisements, there's no point.

Former Sen. John Edwards spoke of banning these advertisements from television, radio, Internet and print. Few politicians have stepped forward to join this call; after all, their pockets are heavily lined with campaign money from these drug companies to keep their cute little ads running.

But each new question about a prescription medication puts another dent in any honest advertising claims. Here's a new warning to all consumers: Pay no attention to those ads. It's time for whoever is the next president to appoint chiefs of the Food and Drug Administration and Federal Communications Commission who will preside over the abolition of those ads. The First Amendment is not an issue here when the public's safety is at stake.

*Gore's New Campaign (No, sorry, not that one....)

Former Vice President Al Gore is still running for climate change with a three-year, $300 million campaign. Even as some pundits suggest him as a compromise candidate to break the Clinton/Obama stalemate, Gore said in an interview with Lesley Stahl on CBS' "60 Minutes" that he doubts he will ever be a candidate for political office again:

Truthfully, he doesn't need to. The country needs him more than he needs the presidency (or in particular, the headaches of running and governing if he were to win and be allowed to take his seat in the Oval Office).

This writer has been a Gore fan since his first run for the presidency 20 years ago. This writer also believes the 2000 election was stolen from him. There is no telling the mental anguish that Gore and his wife, Tipper (who once discussed a bout with depression) went through in the months and years following that debacle - anguish that, no doubt, influences his views of American politics today.

No one in American politics today is more qualified to be president. Certainly not the current top two Democratic candidates and their naked ambition and ego. This country and the world need Gore for more than the single issue of climate change.

He will do plenty of good with his campaign. The question is whether he can do far more good in the White House, and whether it would be worth it for him to try again. At the moment, there is no one on the horizon with Gore's knowledge about national and world issues.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

March 27: Some "Nos" Needed in Tallahassee

*Say no to guns at workplace

If the Florida Senate and Gov. Charlie Crist agree with the Florida House, we may soon be seeing new versions of what happened at Virginia Tech at various businesses:

Shame on the three Democrats - Debbie Boyd of Newberry, Tony Sasso of Cocoa Beach and especially Ron Saunders of Key West, who lives in South Florida and has heard about local police officers murdered over the past year - who have followed the national party's lead in caving in to the National Rifle Association just to get a few more votes. Is it worth it to sell your souls? To sell the souls and lives of your children, or your co-workers?

Credit to Republicans Jim Frishe of St. Petersburg, Ed Hooper of Clearwater, Juan Carlos Planas of Miami and Dennis Ross of Lakeland for bucking their party leaders and the NRA and voting against this bill.

Never mind what's happened at two college campuses over the last year. Does anyone remember the gunman who went into the U.S. Capitol building - one of this country's seats of power - 10 years ago and killed two police officers?

The next step is the Florida Senate, which will consider SB 1130. To paraphrase Nancy Reagan: Just say no.

*Voters should say no to reversal of ban

``Individuals or entities may not be barred from participating in public programs because of religion.''

It sounds innocuous enough, but it will open up a set of constitutional problems if Florida voters approve it in November. That's because it will reverse a 140-year-0ld state ban on public money being spent on religious institutions.

Florida's Taxation and Budget Reform Commission has placed it on the November ballot:

Roberto Martinez' argument just doesn't make sense......The First Amendment and the U.S. Constitution are actually reasons not to support this.

Here's a link to a column my friend and former colleague Michael Putney wrote for the Miami Herald earlier this week. Michael also had his "Putney Perspective" about it on his weekly program, "This Week in South Florida," on WPLG-Channel 10:

He says it a lot better than I do.

*Florida apologizes for slavery

And it only took almost a century and a half:

Where's the next step - reparations?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

March 26: Remembering Richard Widmark

*Richard Widmark, 1914-2008

One of the great ones is gone:

What the obituary doesn't mention is that he could have fun from time to time. "I Love Lucy" fans will remember his appearance during the episodes in which the Ricardos and Mertzes were in Hollywood. He played straight man to Lucille Ball, a dog and a bearskin rug in a hilarious scene.

That obituary and others do mention his dedication to his craft. He not only played a straight shooter frequently, but he also was one in real life.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

March 25: State should approve tougher crane standards

*Let crane safety become law in Miami-Dade and Florida

The decision by the Miami-Dade Commission last week to approve tougher standards for construction cranes did not come in time to save the two people killed in today's accident in Miami. Hopefully, the tragedy will prompt the Florida Legislature to approve its own measure.

Two people were killed and five injured when a crane fell at a 40-story tower next to Biscayne Bay:

Last week, Dade commissioners approved the ordinance, which toughens standards for crane inspection and regulation. The approval followed the tragedy in New York City two weeks ago, when seven people were killed by a crane that fell. However, it takes 10 days for such an ordinance to go into effect.

Florida Senate Bill 1316, co-sponsored by Don Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach and Mike Fasano of New Port Richey, and House Bill 609, sponsored by Greg Evers of Milton, would require certification and training for crane operators. Both bills are moving through committees in their respective houses. Once the differences are hammered out, the full legislature should approve the measure, and Gov. Charlie Crist should sign it.

Florida has toughened its building standards in the wake of hurricanes. There's no excuse for the cranes used in construction - which hang over offices, streets and homes - not to be subject to similar standards.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

March 18: Obama Gets It

*Obama Did What He Needed To

Here's a link to Sen. Barack Obama's speech yesterday in Philadelphia:

He gets it.

He had been trying to put the struggles of the civil rights movement in the past and be the post-movement candidate, but finally came to the realization that it's impossible. For many of the generations before him and his contemporaries, the struggle still goes on. The struggle also goes on for many to move beyond viewing the world through the parameters of their own races or religions. (Obama alluded to this in an interview with ABC yesterday, in which he mentioned the very different reactions among blacks and whites to the verdict in the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995.)

Reality caught up with Obama, and he addressed it. He said that people decide now where to go from here; the way things work, he will have to keep addressing it.

*More About Sexism and the Election

Another article about the issues of sexism and racism in the election:

*More About Florida and the Election

In two words, the view of Florida Democrats if the party doesn't count their primary votes: President McCain.

I have five more words to add: Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean. He will surely lose his job after this debacle - maybe even if a Democrat wins the White House in November.

Will the lessons from this be so pronounced that future Democratic leaders will never make this mistake again? One can only hope.

*You Go, Governor's Girls

A column about the "long-suffering" politician's wife:

My day will be made when one of them decides, in full view of the cameras, to walk out on hubby and tell him to go to....well, you know.

This isn't just about politics. This is about women in general having self-respect - and respect for their children, because it's not respecting the children if they're kept in a marriage in which Mom and Dad don't respect each other.

*Curley: Let the Sunshine In

Here's an article about what the head of the Associated Press had to say about open government:

And let us say: Amen.

*Pick Up a Paper, Don Fehr

Sniffle, sniffle....No one wants Barry Bonds:

Uh, does Players' Union head Don Fehr read a newspaper? Does he not know Bonds is under federal indictment for lying and is a likely steroid cheat? Is it possible that teams don't offer Bonds a contract because - GULP - they don't want that poison?

Monday, March 17, 2008

March 17: Don't Send Me a Letter....

*Dems' Dead Letter Office

The Florida Democratic Party has decided against a mail-in vote to appease the national party. Good. Also good that some local Democratic fundraisers have decided: No delegates, no money for the nominee.

What next? How about seating Florida's delegates? Florida voters got to see all the names on the ballot Jan. 29. They chose Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Michigan does need a revote, because most of the Democratic candidates at the time of the original vote were taken off the ballot. Florida does not. A formula is in place if the Democratic National Committee wants to re-allocate delegates. Any other method will cost lots of tax dollars to Floridians. Of course, add Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's support of Sen. John McCain to the equation - right now, Crist is the most popular politician in the state - and the Dems can put Florida in the loss column (to quote one-time Florida Marlins broadcaster Joe Angel) come November.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

March 13: Remembering Howard Metzenbaum

*Metzenbaum was his own man

Former Sen. Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio died yesterday:

Not always the easiest politician to get along with, he made many political enemies - including, for a while, his fellow Democratic senator, John Glenn. But in his later years, Metzenbaum developed a reputation as a staunch consumer advocate.

*It's who you know....or maybe not

Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune writes:

Which leads to a new question: Is it truly possible anymore to be self-made and become president? Well, Bill Clinton did it. Perhaps Obama will, too.

*No mischief

Time magazine has an article about the Florida vote mess:,8599,1721291,00.html

I disagree that Gov. Charlie Crist and the Republicans are making mischief by not paying for a revote; a lot of Florida Democrats also don't want state funds being used for this - especially in a budget crisis. The mischief was by DNC chair Howard Dean and other party leaders who don't want to let Florida's Jan. 29 vote count. They join the long list of political leaders who have forgotten it is about the people.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

March 12: Is Race the Fourth Rail of American Politics?

*Commentary: Not By the Color of their Skin, Or Their Gender?

Candidate A has two years in the United States Senate, with a not particularly eye-catching voting record. Candidate A won the seat because of various problems with that candidate's opponents, and didn't have to run a particularly challenging campaign. Candidate A's most attractive attribute is as a speaker. The candidate's speeches inspire.

The candidate then decides to run for President of the United States.

Let's suppose the candidate's name is Raymond Jones, and he's white. Or Sarah Brown, and she's white. Or black. Is that candidate qualified for the presidency?

Now let's suppose the candidate's name is Barack Obama, who is of mixed race and dark-skinned. Is he qualified? Does that make a difference? Should it?

It's been discussed ever since Obama entered the presidential race, and the discussion is heating up again because of former U.S. Rep. Geraldine Ferraro's comments that Obama would not be where he is if he wasn't "black." Ferraro, once the first woman to run for vice president, resigned from an honorary post in U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign because of the comment.

But it brings up a legitimate question: Is Obama getting different consideration because of the color of his skin? Is Clinton getting different consideration because she's a woman?

They shouldn't, but evidently they are - because the question is being brought up, period. If someone says it's an issue, it is. That doesn't change just because Ferraro's taking heat for the comment.

The question is: Now what? Does this country finally have the no-holds-barred, open discussion on race and gender it needs? This campaign is the perfect opportunity. We should all take it.

The two top Democratic candidates are the closest this country has come to realizing Martin Luther King's dream. Is that dream going to turn into a nightmare because of barriers that still exist? Are we still judging Obama and Clinton by color or gender, and not truly by their records or their character? If we are, we haven't advanced as much as we thought.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

March 11: Resign, Gov. Spitzer

1*Spitzer should step down

Sometimes, it is more about the principle than the legality.

Ten years ago, President Bill Clinton made two mistakes - first, by lying to his family and to the American public about Monica Lewinsky, then, by not calming the waters by not resigning and allowing Vice President Albert Gore to take over.
The sordid details that were to follow and the partisan bickering did major damage to Clinton's presidency, had 2000 election fallout for Gore, who had done nothing wrong, and was at least partially responsible for what was to follow both in this country and the world. The short-term view that Clinton was right to fight for his job has turned into a long-term view that it may have started the damage that George W. Bush has continued.
People need to have confidence in their elected leaders. New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who had a reputation as a crusader against corruption, has apparently compromised both that reputation and the public's confidence with his behavior. He gave the typical politician's non-apology apology yesterday.
What he should do is say: I resign.
New York's business cannot be conducted peacefully or productively while Spitzer's involvement with a prostitution ring is chronicled in the tabloids, in newscasts or by David Letterman, Jay Leno, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. It is a distraction to the state and its people.
Therefore, for the good of New York, Eliot Spitzer should step down.

*How Spitzer affects Hillary Clinton

A Washington Post blog chronicles how Sen. Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign might be affected:

Incidentally, I'll always wonder if she would have run for political office if her husband hadn't done what he did. I don't think so.

*A matter of, uh, full disclosure

I'll let the link speak for itself:

OK, I'll say a little bit: CNN should have come clean about Coffey's past.

*Full disclosure, Part 2

USA Today editorial says candidates need to come clean on records:


*Breaking barriers

New York Lt. Gov. David Paterson has broken his share of barriers. He'd be breaking a pair if he steps to the top job:

By the way, technically, he'd be the second New York governor with a disability to serve. The first, of course, was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who used a wheelchair because of paralysis from polio. He was to go on to greater things.....

*Why I now support a federal shield law

It's because of former USA Today reporter Toni Locy. On Sunday, the Wall Street Journal reported she will have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars of fines out of her own pocket for not revealing her sources in her stories about the anthrax attacks. Federal Court Judge Reggie B. Walton did the sentencing, and won't even allow her to have a legal defense fund to raise money on her behalf.
Every politician and business bigwig who breaks the law can have a legal defense fund, but a journalist doing her job can't?
Walton is the judge who sentenced Scooter Libby to do time, and rightly criticized President George W. Bush's pardon of Libby. But Walton is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG in this case.
The Locy case has done something else. Until now, I've been skittish on the issue of a federal shield law, mainly because of the red tape (Who is a journalist? Should non-journalists be protected? Should bloggers be protected whether they work for a media outlet or not?). This case has turned me solidly in favor of a law allowing journalists, bloggers, etc. to protect their sources. Here's a link to the Society of Professional Journalists' press release about its support of Locy:\

Congress may have to wait for a President Clinton, Obama or McCain to sign it into law, but it should approve a federal shield law.

*Save Clinton and McCain from their friends

First, a radio talk show host. Now, a member of Congress:

Between McCain supporters shooting their mouths off about Obama and Clinton supporters shooting their mouths off about Obama, who does it help? Obama.

*Bring your dominoes (and some Cafe Cubano)

Let's end this on a high note. Miami's Calle Ocho celebration, which once set a record for the longest conga line, is aiming for another one:,0,7239046.story

As a domino player, I say: Go for it!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

March 5: Analyzing the State of the State

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist's State of the State speech was relatively short and sweet, but not a major call to action as last year's was:

Some have criticized him for not paying more attention to the state's economic problems, though he addressed them briefly. (Considering that he's recommending a re-vote for the Florida Democratic presidential primary, he may really not be paying attention to the state's economic problems; how's Florida going to pay for a re-vote?)

In one of the two Democratic responses, though, State Sen. Steve Geller of Hallandale Beach, the Senate minority leader, did talk about the economy:

And House Minority Leader Dan Gelber of Miami Beach discussed education; I haven't found the text of his speech yet, but he pointed to Florida's dead-last ranking in a number of education categories and discussed what the FCAT's role should be - NOT as a be-all and end-all for schools. Amen.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

March 4: Renewed gun control campaign needed

*And another victim of gun violence.....

Palm Beach County paramedic Rafael Vazquez died yesterday and four people were wounded when a gunman fired a 9 mm Glock handgun in a West Palm Beach Wendy's restaurant.

It seems the gunman, Alburn Edward Blake, who also killed himself, had violence in his past:

Once again, people are dying, and once again, most national leaders, their pockets rife with National Rifle Association money, don't seem to care.

Do the people who care so much about their interpretation of the Second Amendment give a damn about the lives of the people who have been the victims of handguns and automatic weapons? Apparently not, and politicians have followed. This should be a national issue. It should be an issue for the presidential election, but so far it hasn't gotten beyond the local level.

Reminder: The majority of Americans FAVOR stricter gun control laws.

*Hillary Clinton and sexism, continued....

Another article:

I would never say another woman will never come along. More women will and should run for president. Eventually, there will be other female presidential candidates taken seriously. But women young and old need to unite to encourage it.

I've said I know the goal will be reached when more men are interested in what a female presidential candidate has to say than in the women in a Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

From what I regarded as an era of some enlightenment beginning during the 1970s, I think the movement toward equality has gone backwards, even as women have taken on more roles in public, corporate and military life. As a whole, the mass media (including television and film) treats women with less respect and lacks top female executives. As an example, all one has to do is look at the actresses who are nominated for Oscars and Emmys today and the roles they play, as compared to 20 or 30 years ago. In addition, in budget-cutting mode, colleges and high schools have been cutting back on both mens' and womens' sports programs as a way of getting around Title IX.

Today's younger female generation has never experienced the overt discrimination grandmothers, and some mothers, had to experience, but young women should become aware of it and the problems that still exist, with unequal pay for equal work topping the list. Even if a female president gets elected, this fight ain't over. Women will always have to battle for equal treatment.

*Does the media need a "bad guy" (or gal)?

There is the question of whether media coverage of Sen. Barack Obama will turn more negative/hard hitting if he is the Democratic presidential nominee, or whether Sen. John McCain will receive rougher coverage as well.

They, and anyone who runs for office, should always be given critical coverage of their records and policy views. That's been true in some cases during this election season. For the most part, however, there has been a "good guy/bad guy (or gal)" slant to a lot of stories and commentaries involving candidates in both parties. It won't get any better whether the nominees are decided today or not.

*Was embargo on Prince Harry story right?

Bob Steele of the Poynter Institute doesn't think so:

Read the responses, which are just as interesting as Steele's column. I don't agree with Steele for the same reason a couple of the responders mention: Minimizing harm (which is also part of the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics). Prince Harry is a bigger target because of who he is. From what I've seen of him, he seems to want very much to do a duty bigger than that to the British crown.

I also think Steele's comments about the prince not having any special abilities, etc. that require him to be in Afghanistan are a cheap shot. At a time when the privileged duck civic, military and other duties, it's good to see someone who doesn't.

*Link to Martin Fletcher interview

TV Newser has an interview with NBC correspondent Martin Fletcher, one of the truly skilled foreign correspondents of the last few decades. He has a new book:

It's not easy to cover the Middle East, and he does so with true professionalism.

Monday, March 3, 2008

March 3: Before the Florida Legislature begins its shenanigans

*Here they come....

Ah, yes.....The Florida Legislature is back to do its thing. Everyone run and hide.

Last year, neither lawmakers nor Gov. Charlie Crist were satisfied with what House Speaker Marco Rubio of Miami was trying to do in slicing and dicing the state's tax base, so they softened it. Rubio's back to try to do his damage again.

Rubio wants to eliminate property taxes and focus on a state sales tax. No. No, no and no.

Rubio obviously lives on a different street than Floridians who have to live from paycheck to paycheck, so here's the reality; a sales tax is regressive. It hits those who are poor/working class the hardest, because they're the ones who have to buy the most products that include a sales tax.

Rubio might want to speak to his fellow Republican, former Florida Senate President John McKay, and compare notes. I wasn't a total fan of McKay's proposal either (The elimination of the intangibles tax has helped throw Florida and its municipalities into the current budget crisis.), but he aimed to lower the state sales tax.

My proposal, of course, will never be adopted: A state income tax. But I think that would help more than anything else.