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.