Thursday, July 31, 2008

July 31: What I Wish The Candidates Would Say

By Sylvia Gurinsky

I never want to run for President of the United States. I truly don't understand why anyone would want that job, even with the salary and benefits. No other job has bigger headaches.

But there are a number of people campaigning for it. One of them is Sen. John McCain, who has served this country long and honorably, but who is currently in attack mode against Sen. Barack Obama. The topper is the inexplicable ad comparing Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton (I like the blog note on the Los Angeles Times Web site that indicates Rick Hilton, Paris' dad, has been supporting McCain. To quote the first word of a Spears song, Oops.).

In the middle of this campaign tomorrow will come the movie "Swing Vote." (Full disclosure: I am the author of the "Costner Cinema Chat" blog, which includes news and reviews of Kevin Costner's films.) In the film, Kevin Costner plays an extremely apolitical man who is thrown by circumstances, and his 12-year-old, civic-minded daughter (played by Madeline Carroll) into being the deciding vote in a presidential election. I haven't seen the film yet, but I suspect Costner's character will learn his lesson.

I also suspect both McCain and Obama will see the movie. What will they learn?

Here's what I wish they'd say to the American people:

McCain: I want to come right out and say I've goofed by having these negative attacks against Sen. Obama's character. It goes against the promises I've made in the past about clean campaigning. I disagree with a lot of Sen. Obama's positions on the issues, and that is what I will target for the remainder of the campaign.

Obama: I've promised change this election year. I want to stick to that by not countering any personal attacks against me with personal attacks of my own. I respect Sen. McCain, and my issue is with his ideas of how to run the country.

Here's what I wish they'd both say about the media:

Candidates: So far, many of the reporters and all of the pundits have played us back and forth, like a match at the Roman Coliseum, instead of looking at our programs, taking apart the details and really trying to figure out which of our proposals on the important issues is better for the American people. Did it ever occur to them that one reason journalism is in so much trouble in this country is because they no longer practice it, that they've turned elections into a more dignified-looking form of the WWF?

And by the way.....Enough already with the daily polls!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July 30: Sniglets on Ehud Olmert and Bob Butterworth

By Sylvia Gurinsky

*What an utter disappointment Ehud Olmert has been as the prime minister of Israel. Olmert, whom so many had counted on when he took over after Ariel Sharon's incapacitating stroke in 2006, wound up essentially being Israel's version of George W. Bush.
He wound up in a fiasco in Lebanon that only gave muscle to the terrorist group Hezbollah. He didn't do enough to stop the Palestinian terrorists in Gaza who continue to lob missiles into the Negev. And he wound up the latest Israeli politician to be caught up in a scandal.
At least, unlike Bush, Olmert has an exit strategy: He will step down in September. If foreign minister Tzipi Livni succeeds him, hopefully she'll do a lot better. It's hard to do much worse.

*On the other hand, Floridians who value good government are very unhappy to see Bob Butterworth leaving his job as the head of the Department of Children and Family Services. The department, formerly the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services, has seen so much scandal and just plain incompetence for more than two decades that when someone comes along who knows how to get the job done, that person should be encouraged to stay.
More than a decade ago, Jim Towey, appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles, was forced to leave by a state Senate that badgered him. This time, Butterworth ran up against a Florida Legislature in a mood to cut any budget item not directly convenient to their reelection hopes.
It will be difficult for Gov. Charlie Crist, whose mind has been on becoming John McCain's running mate, to find someone as good as Butterworth, but he'd better try and try hard. DCF has had enough problems.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

July 29: Why Isn't Norman Braman Opposing This Project?

By Sylvia Gurinsky

With the title, I'm only speaking figuratively. Given Braman's utter contempt for the current Florida Marlins ballpark project at the Orange Bowl site, I'm surprised he's not absolutely beside himself about the idea of a Wal-Mart across the street from Miami-Dade County's performing arts center:

I would imagine when city leaders envision business, they hark back to the halcyon days when the late, great Jordan Marsh ruled the roost on Biscayne Boulevard, down the street from the Arsht Center (In fact, Jordan Marsh was also part of the original Omni Mall until Federated Department Stores killed the store chain in the early 1990s.). City leaders are certainly not thinking of a Wal-Mart.

Update: According to this Miami Today article, city leaders apparently didn't think in approving the permit for the proposed City Square center, period:

How did that one get past them?

The Shops at Midtown Miami mall, with Target, Marshalls and so forth, is in an appropriate place - on North Miami Avenue, just south of the Interstate 195 exit. That's an area that lends itself to middle-of-the-road retail. But that complex wouldn't be appropriate for across the street from the Arsht Center any more than Wal-Mart would.

People who are going to an arts center aren't going to shop at the same time. If anything, they're more likely to eat, before or after the show. Mark Siffin, who would develop the proposed City Square, should think meals....not malls. And certainly not Wal-Mart.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

July 22: Marlins Should Have Come Clean On Money

By Sylvia Gurinsky

There is no excuse for an economist to go into a court of law and not know what he's talking about.

To an extent, that happened to Tony Villamil yesterday in the case of auto dealer Norman Braman vs. the Florida Marlins. Braman wants the financing of the Marlins' proposed ballpark put to a public vote, and has filed suit to do so.

Villamil is the man Miami-Dade County has entrusted to discuss the economic benefits a new ballpark would bring. But yesterday, he was going on old figures because the Marlins wouldn't give him new ones:

Villamil, who was an economic adviser to former Gov. Jeb Bush, clearly looked uncomfortable.
Blame Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria (and Major League Baseball) for putting him on the spot by not coming clean about the team's finances. It's not a good way to win support for a project - particularly if that project goes to a public vote.

The Marlins are winning hearts on the field this year. But once again, their ownership may have blown the contest that really counts - to preserve their future in South Florida.

Monday, July 21, 2008

July 21: The intangible in Iraq

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Regarding the debate by the presidential candidates over the war in Iraq: There is an intangible that neither Barack Obama or John McCain will mention, of course, but it is there.

The intangible is how much the rest of the world will get involved in helping the United States clean up the mess President George W. Bush made in Iraq.

The idea, of course, will not be to get troops from other nations into Iraq. The point will have to be getting the rest of the world involved in diplomacy and obtaining and maintaining the peace.

So far, at least, McCain publicly mentions staying Bush's course in Iraq as far as U.S. troop commitment. The question is whether McCain is more willing than Bush to wave an olive branch to the countries (U.S. allies, that is) Bush ticked off during the invasion. McCain has to be more specific about how he intends to mend foreign fences. Obama certainly is willing to reach out, and is showing it during his travels this week.

Isolation has never done the United States much good - especially during the last eight years. The next president needs to take the steps to put the intangible of international support into play - on Iraq, and other matters.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

July 10: No Nukes, Sen. Graham

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Call me someone who remembers Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and someone who is alarmed at Iran's saber (or missile) rattling, but I still don't believe nuclear power is a good thing in the long term.

Earlier this week, former Sen. Bob Graham of Florida had this column in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:,0,5374423.story

He does fine until he gets to number 4. Graham has been a champion of Florida's environment, but he must also remember the two nuclear disasters mentioned at the beginning of this piece.

Where is this emphasis on nuclear power coming from (besides the nuclear industry)? Since when is something that can do and has done so much damage regarded as a "clean" energy?

And what has happened to solar energy? For all the mistakes former President Jimmy Carter made during his presidential term, the effort he made on solar power is not one of them. The sun will be with us for a while. It's been turned into a viable power source by those who choose to use it. And, if my Economics 101 lessons from two decades ago are correct, plentiful supplies should bring lower costs.

It's not a "phobia," Senator, that Americans have of nuclear power. It's a concern brought on by history - a history that, doubtless, many in political power have not learned from. Sen. Graham should know better. And a place with the nickname "The Sunshine State" needs to do better in bringing solar (and wind) power to its people.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

July 9: Always Assume the Mike Is On, Rev. Jackson

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Officially, we still haven't found out, as of this minute, exactly what Rev. Jesse Jackson said that was so crudely critical of Sen. Barack Obama. But it's probably safe to say it wasn't, "Gee, I agree with what Obama had to say about the responsibility of black males!"

In his statement apologizing to Obama for his comments, Jackson said he wanted the presumptive Democratic nominee for president to address the issue of government responsibility to the African American community.

There is a need for everyone's responsibility - both the government's, and the black community's.

Obama seems to recognize both. Jackson, whose son is the national co-chair of Obama's campaign, apparently needs to recognize more of the latter, and why Obama made his speech.

Jackson also needs to sit down and have a conversation with Obama. And he needs to remember an old rule for public figures, particularly in this age of YouTube: Always assume the microphone is on.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

July 8: More (War) Power To 'Em

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The War Powers Act was an attempt to prevent future messes like the Vietnam War. But the act was, itself, a mess. It certainly didn't do anything to prevent the ongoing disaster in Iraq.

Two former U.S. secretaries of state, James Baker (President George H.W. Bush Administration) and Warren Christopher (Clinton Administration) headed a yearlong study of what might be done. Here's a link to their column in today's New York Times:

Basically, it requires the president to do what John F. Kennedy did with congressional leaders during the Cuban Missile Crisis - talk to them, and give them specifics. It establishes who in Congress must be consulted and gives them access to full information. The decision to take military action still rests with the Commander-in-Chief.

Of course, it's not necessarily the kind of proposal that would have compelled Sen. Hillary Clinton to read the intelligence reports that then-Sen. Bob Graham of Florida made available before President George W. Bush took action in Iraq. But it could make the decisionmaking process more transparent to the American people, which it should be, and make clear who is making a serious choice and who is covering their political hide (which a lot of senators, including Clinton, apparently did with Iraq).

Consideration of these changes will likely rest with whoever gets elected in November. Baker and Christopher and company have gotten them off to a good start.


A note about the Times article discussing the proposal. This section is disturbing:

"In a Republican presidential debate last October, Senator John McCain, the likely Republican presidential candidate, said he would take military action without going to Congress first, “if the situation is that it requires immediate action to ensure the security of the United States of America.”
“That’s what you take your oath to do when you’re inaugurated as president,” Mr. McCain said. But he also said that he would seek the approval of Congress if there were time to assess the threat and debate possible courses of action."

Excuse me, but I don't remember the presidential oath of office saying that. It does say the president swears or affirms to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." McCain's slip-up does not give comfort to those hoping for a successor who has more respect for the Constitution than Bush has had.

Monday, July 7, 2008

July 7: Put the "181" Back in Tchaikovsky's 1812

By Sylvia Gurinsky

I am sick of hearing the "2" overture on July 4.

You know Tchaikovsky's "2" overture, don't you? It's what's left at televised concerts when fine orchestras such as the National Symphony Orchestra or the Boston Pops are forced to cut roughly eight minutes out of the entire 1812 Overture.

Heaven forbid Americans should actually hear a rich piece of classical music in its entirety - even, apparently, on PBS.

Well, for those who wanted to hear the entire piece, here's a link to the Boston Symphony, posted in January of last year:

Part 1:

And Part 2:

The piece actually commemorates Russia's victory over France, but has been used by American orchestras as part of the July 4 celebration for many years. So if they're going to play it, they should play it right.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

July 3: Yes, I clicked on Ralph Renick, Harvey Korman and now, Charles Kuralt

Tomorrow is Independence Day, not April Fool's Day.

But that didn't stop United States District Court Judge Louis L. Stanton from a ridiculous and potentially privacy-violating ruling requiring Google to turn over to Viacom a database linking YouTube users with every clip they've ever watched at the video site.

Come on. It's not that tough for Viacom to figure out where it's stuff is on YouTube. All someone at Viacom has to do is go to the YouTube search button and click on Viacom properties. ("Hawaii Five-O," a CBS program, for example. Two episodes of the series were removed some months ago, but there are still little clips. Book 'em, Danno!)

Certainly, that would be a lot easier and a lot less privacy invading than this ruling.

Google should appeal.

By the way, in honor of July 4, here's a link (before the legal eagles remove it from YouTube) to a 1970s report by Charles Kuralt, a great television writer and reporter, about Mark Twain, a great book writer, and his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri:

Kuralt died July 4, 1997. It's a good day to remember this reporter, who was a champion of the First Amendment and rights for all, as well as a brilliant wordsmith.

Yesterday's blog about the rescue of hostages in Colombia had an incorrect number of hostages rescued. There were 15.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

July 2: Around the World in Bits and Pieces

By Sylvia Gurinsky

There is a lot to write about today:

*The stunning news from Colombia of the rescue of four of the hostages, including one-time Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt and three Americans:
Betancourt was in Miami shortly before her abduction in 2002; one of her visits was to Channel 10, where I worked at the time as a co-producer of "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney." Glenna Milberg interviewed her for the program, and I remember her with such hope.
Her son referred to the rescue as "the most beautiful news of my life." The families of Americans Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell - not to mention anyone in Colombia and elsewhere who values life and freedom - certainly agree.

*Sadly, the horrific attack by a Palestinian with his bulldozer in Jerusalem, an attack that killed 3 and injured at least 55:
What can be done about the hatred that can frequently go both ways? (Arab to Jew and Jew to Arab) That has to be addressed first, before any more land is given, before any more treaties are signed.

*On tonight's "NBC Nightly News," Brian Williams made a brief reference to Osama Bin Laden mentioning, years ago, that when the price of oil was at around $144 (the current level), it would weaken the West. Is the skyrocketing price some sort of subliminal terrorist attack? Tough to believe, but we've seen too much of the unbelievable in recent years.

*Could General Motors, the giant of American industry, not to mention the auto industry, go out of business? There's plenty of blame to go around; I still can't forgive them for eliminating a number of Buick models that got pretty good gas mileage and building those gas guzzling SUVs and Hummers. Now, their workers may pay the price.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

July 1: Key To Downtown Miami Is In the Night

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Macy's and other Downtown Miami businesses are still pointing fingers at each other as to who gets the blame for the area's continued struggles:

For Julie Greiner of Macy's Florida and for anyone who remembers the glory years of downtown, the key may lie in restoring the neighborhood's nightlife. After being the "in" place for Miami families for most of the 20th century, downtown began a decline following various crises of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, and a move to the suburbs and their shopping malls.

Some businesses have started to stay open after dark. But for most people, Downtown Miami is still like Washington, D.C.'s Mall area at night: Stay away, at least from central downtown - the area surrounding the city's origins at Flagler Street and Miami Avenue.

Elected, civic and business leaders may have to swallow their pride and look across Biscayne Bay for the answer. For Miami Beach, the preservation of the Art Deco District was only the first step in its comeback as the "in" place to be.

If Miami leaders can't bear to talk to the folks across the bay, they might try looking north, to Delray Beach. Once, not so long ago, Delray's downtown (or Downtown Delray, as it's frequently called) was also a place people feared to be. Today, the downtown is thriving, with shops and new apartment buildings. Historic Swinton Avenue is the city's pride.

The birthplace of the City of Miami, and what surrounds it, should be the Magic City's pride. Those who have a vested interest should stop finger-pointing and learn the secrets of other downtowns' successes.