Monday, June 30, 2008

June 30: HOT Signs Bring Back Bad Memories

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Whew, I feel better. Sort of.

So those gargantuan signs actually deal with only a couple of lanes on I-95:

Actually, I already knew that, but the size of that sign at I-95 northbound and the Dolphin Expressway eastbound almost fooled me. And it will fool plenty of other drivers into thinking they're being charged for driving on ANY lane of I-95.

It brings back bad memories of the "Sunburst" signs. Remember those? It was Dade County's $2.7 million boondoggle in the mid-1990s to keep tourists from heading into areas considered dangerous after the murder of a German tourist. The signs worked so "well" that they're no longer in use.

Money from the gas tax was diverted from road improvements. What could $2.7 million have paid for back then?

(And speaking of road improvements, when is FDOT going to repair, or at least put a barricade, on that piece of I-95 barrier just north of the Dolphin that looks like it's going to collapse completely?)

Anyway, FDOT is getting ready to explain all the changes to the public (including the "metered" lanes at I-95 exits, which makes it sound like motorists will be charged for those, too, even though they won't).

They'd better explain - over and over. They might start with why such a large sign that covers all of I-95 is needed for what amounts to two lanes. And how much that will cost.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

June 26: Supremes Don't Surprise

By Sylvia Gurinsky

I don't agree with the five Supreme Court justices that said Amendment 2 of the United States Constitution goes beyond a militia, but I'm not surprised by their decision:

They do leave room for gun control regulations, but no blanket laws like the one that prohibited Washington, D.C. residents from owning handguns.

Keep in mind the problems Washington has had for years with its homicide rate; that's the atmosphere that prompted the ban in 1976. The homicide rate had been going down before going back up last year, and one must wonder whether the bad economy might play a role in that rate staying up for a while - and not just in Washington.

At the U.S. Conference of Mayors convention in Miami last weekend, a number of mayors, and Sen. Barack Obama, stressed the decline in support by the federal government of the cities. This includes less funding for measures that could prevent homicides.

The decision of five Supreme Court justices will not, by itself, prompt someone to go to a gun shop or gun show. But it creates an atmosphere that makes it tougher to eliminate ridiculous laws, like the new one in Florida allowing people to take guns to the workplace if they keep them in their cars.

Once again, victims of gun violence are the losers today.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

June 25: More Sniglets on Zimbabwe, Florida's Environment and George Carlin

*Slamming the Door in Zimbabwe

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's strong-arming of that country's elections have earned world outrage to the point where Queen Elizabeth has stripped him of an honorary knighthood. The last time she did that was in 1989, with Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

At the time, the people of Romania revolted against Ceausescu, ultimately killing him and his wife. A warning to Mugabe: Those who forget the past......

*Whose Side Are They On?

What generous folk, U.S. Sugar and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Just a week after the governor's disastrous about-face on offshore oil drilling, he sat down to sign an agreement for the state to purchase land from U.S. Sugar for Everglades restoration for $1.75 billion.

It's not even possible to recommend not looking a gift horse in the mouth. It's no gift from U.S. Sugar, which is reaping profits - and no gift to the company's workers, who are worried about their economic futures.

As for Crist, he's having his second summit on climate change this week. He's certainly an expert on political climate change.

*Celebrating George Carlin's Other Words

It's too bad that George Carlin's "Seven Bad Words" routine is getting so much attention after his death, because he knew how to use the rest of the English language so well. Here's a link to his classic monologue on baseball versus football:

You're safe at home now, George.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

June 19: Sniglets on Carlton Moore, Sunrise and Cyd Charisse

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Sniglets are mini-commentaries on items in the news.

*Sniglet 1: Choose A or B, Commissioner Moore

Fort Lauderdale City Commissioner Carlton Moore plans to leave his post in November as he runs for the Broward County Commission against incumbent John Rodstrom:,0,5260421.story?track=rss

The suggestion that he might come back and run for another city commission term if he loses to Rodstrom is troubling. Public office should not be used as a fallback position - particularly when someone has held it for two decades. Give someone else a chance in Fort Lauderdale, Commissioner Moore.

*Sniglet 2: Cut The Cords in Sunrise

Speaking of troubling:

The more they keep saying there's no ethical problem, the more it looks like an ethical problem. At the very least, it is a perception problem. The Sunrise City Commission should put the kibosh on naming Michelson and conduct a national search for a new city attorney instead.

*Sniglet 3: Oh, How She Danced

We've lost too many great ones recently. The latest is actress/dancer Cyd Charisse.
Her greatest achievements came in her movie pairings with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. Here's a link to one of her best with Astaire, "Dancing in the Dark," from the 1952 MGM musical "The Band Wagon":

Thank goodness for film, which can preserve such grace forever.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

June 18: Shame On You, Governor Chameleon

By Sylvia Gurinsky

According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, a chameleon is:

1: any of a family (Chamaeleontidae) of chiefly arboreal Old World lizards with prehensile tail, independently movable eyeballs, and unusual ability to change the color of the skin

2 a: a person given to often expedient or facile change in ideas or character
b: one that is subject to quick or frequent change especially in appearance

3: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist

OK, I added that last one. But Crist is unquestionably a political chameleon (See 2a), having changed positions to suit his constantly changing political resume.

He took his latest shameful turn yesterday, when he changed his stance on offshore oil drilling. He now supports letting the states decide, after having completely opposed drilling off Florida in his run for governor (and saying so to a number of journalists, including me, in 2006).

Is there anyone who doesn't believe he did this to try to raise his favor on Sen. John McCain's short list for vice president?

Mark Bubriski, the spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party, had an excellent comment: "If John McCain jumps off a cliff, will Charlie Crist jump, too?"

They've both jumped. McCain also changed his mind on offshore oil drilling and now favors letting states decide.

In today's Miami Herald:

"Despite the questions, Crist cited recent polls that he says show 'people are much more favorably inclined to this idea so long as it's done safely, it protects our state and if that could help us lower the price of gas at the pump.'"

Wrong, Governor. People favor "going green," and that includes ways to reduce the dependence on gasoline. Offshore oil drilling doesn't go with that pattern.

Recently, McCain has been trying to make overtures towards Sen. Hillary Clinton's female supporters in the Democratic primary. But he, and now Crist, seem to have forgotten an old political rule (With apologies to Nike): Chicks dig the environment.

A lot of evangelical Christians who have voted Republican dig the environment, too. Have McCain and Crist forgotten that, too? Apparently.

The shame extends to the entire Republican Party leadership, including President George W. Bush, who pushed for more offshore oil drilling in a speech today. I applaud any Republicans who are still gutsy enough, after this, to maintain their opposition towards such a move, and still support the environment. It's disgraceful, and embarassing to Florida voters who expected better, that Charlie Crist can no longer be counted among them.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

June 17: Dade Commission Elections Need Reform

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Instead of spending his money to stop a project on land that's hosted sports for more than 70 years, or spending money to halt a needed (if currently mismanaged) source of funding for Miami-Dade County's public transportation system, perhaps businessman Norman Braman could spend it on something more useful.

My suggestion: A way to recruit intelligent, honest and fiscally responsible candidates to run for the county commission.

Currently, three commission incumbents - Natacha Seijas, Barbara Jordan and Carlos Gimenez - have not drawn opposition. There's no excuse for that. At least Gimenez has a solid record. Seijas and Jordan have been mediocre at best.

Incumbents can spend lots of money to discourage challengers, and do. Here's an article from Sunday's Miami Herald:

Why doesn't Braman campaign to change the system to create a fair playing field for those who want to run? If money is misspent, it's not the money that's the problem; it's the people spending it. That's where change is needed in Dade.

Monday, June 16, 2008

June 16: Tim Russert's new legacy

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Much progress has been made in preventing, fighting and treating heart disease, in both men and women. But there are still new lessons to learn, as this Newsweek article about the death of "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert states:

Public figures who survive heart problems - former President Bill Clinton, entertainers David Letterman and Regis Philbin and journalist Charlie Rose come to mind - have been forthcoming and have worked hard to educate the public about preventing and treating those problems.

Sadly, the quest to educate got a new, posthumous figure last Friday. But for all the awards and acclaim he received at NBC, Russert will leave something else behind. Like Peter Jennings, who died of lung cancer in 2005, Russert's biggest legacy will be other lives that are saved.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

June 12: A victory for the Constitution

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Five United States Supreme Court justices got it right today:

Recall that there is a presumption of innocence until one is proven guilty in a court of law, and now this will also apply to anyone - the Guantanamo detainees and beyond - who is tried by any kind of American court.

There are the many detainees the U.S. keeps holding, but hasn't brought charges against or brought to trial. Whether guilty or innocent, this ruling gives them the chance to finally have their day in court, as is their constitutional right.

President George W. Bush said he doesn't have to agree with the court, but he will abide by their ruling. Let's hope so. This president has been rather contemptuous of the Constitution. Today, the Supreme Court reminded us that it is still the law of the land. Thank goodness.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

June 11: Tip of the Cap to McKay

By Sylvia Gurinsky

I was away for a few days, so here's a belated salute to a great sportscaster, Jim McKay, who truly did span the globe to bring the constant variety of sports. This link to YouTube accesses numerous clips, including interviews:

Thursday, June 5, 2008

June 5: Remembering RFK

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Today and tomorrow, America commemorates the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Robert Francis Kennedy. His personal and political evolution during the 1960s and many of his words inspired millions of Americans.

(Note and update: Kennedy was shot late in the day on June 5, 1968. He died in the early hours of June 6.)

Here is a link to one of his speeches, about violence, at the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Web site. The speech, given just days after Martin Luther King's assassination and two months before his own, is just as relevant today:

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

June 4: SUEZ Shouldn't Have Been Surprised

By Sylvia Gurinsky

From last Friday's Miami Herald article by Roberto Santiago about a proposal by SUEZ Energy North America to put together a gas pipeline project off the Broward County coast:

"Dan McGinnis, vice president and project manager, said safety and security fears are unwarranted.
He said his company will address specifics regarding worse-case scenarios in scheduled public hearings next month. 'The concerns about safety issues surprised us,' said McGinnis, who said SUEZ Energy will have two security vessels circling a quarter-mile away from any tanker moored in the Atlantic. The project has been in the works over five years, he said."

Concerns surprised them? Oh, come on.

They were surprised after not getting a natural gas port built on Grand Bahama Island? Surprised to the point that, as blogs on both the Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post's Web sites indicate, they've donated campaign money to U.S. Reps. Robert Wexler and Ron Klein, both Boca Raton Democrats?

Would they be surprised to know that FPL, which is a lot closer to home than the Houston-based SUEZ, already had this fight and decided not to build a pipeline?

Local residents and government leaders are right to be concerned about this project and its possible effects.

SUEZ leaders should come prepared to those public hearings. See, South Floridians are particular about protecting the environment. And that should come as no surprise.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

June 3: What About Purdum's, Vanity Fair's Ethics?

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The focus by the political press on former President Bill Clinton's comments about an article by Todd S. Purdum for Vanity Fair is on the heat:

I have a question about the light, though. What is Vanity Fair doing having Purdum, the husband of one of Clinton's former press secretaries, write this article? In my Journalism 101 class, I believe they called that a "Conflict of Interest."

Monday, June 2, 2008

June 2: Another Laugh From Harvey Korman

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Heaven has opened the portals wide over the last few days for fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, musician Bo Diddley and "Star Trek" composer Alexander Courage, director Joseph Pevney and producer Robert H. Justman.

But let's pay tribute here to another - comedian Harvey Korman, who was such an important part of "The Carol Burnett Show" and "The Danny Kaye Show" before that. Korman was a pro - but it didn't keep him from having fun with his coworkers. Burnett once said cast and crew members used to take bets not on whether Korman would laugh during a skit, but how far into the skit he would laugh.

Here's a link, via YouTube, to a classic from early in the show's run, with Korman and Tim Conway, who could make the presidents on Mount Rushmore laugh:

Rest in peace, Mr. Korman. And thanks for the laughter.