Thursday, February 26, 2009

Feb. 26: The Republicans' Hope (Just Not the One They Figured On)

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal did a Bill Clinton Vintage 1988 the other night in his response to President Barack Obama's speech. (To recall, Clinton bit the dust during the 1988 Democratic National Convention while he was introducing that year's presidential nominee, Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts.)

The speech probably won't hurt Jindal in the long run, as Clinton's speech didn't. Jindal's ideas and ideology might affect him, however.

But another alternative has come up as a leader for the Republican Party. He may not be the one they're counting on, because many are angry at him just now. Still, he may be a potential leader to take them out of that rut.

He has a familiar name: Charlie Crist.

That's not to say the governor of Florida is the ideal political leader. My friend and former colleague Michael Putney wrote a very good column about Crist earlier this week in The Miami Herald:

As Michael points out, Crist is extremely popular and personable. Kind of reminds folks of another guy who was popular and personable. Name of Reagan.

Reagan did have a major advantage over Crist: Agree with him or not, Americans always knew where he stood.

As popular as Crist is with Floridians, he's managed to infuriate a number of them over flip-flops on certain issues, particularly offshore oil drilling, which he opposed when he ran for governor in 2006, but now seems to support. High approval ratings and all, there is room for an effective opponent to hit him hard on that and other matters.

Right-wing Republicans aren't exactly crazy about him either at the moment, given his support of Obama's stimulus package. Guess what, though: Crist's path may be the way for them to go.

Last fall, those Republicans took a popular man with generally moderate beliefs - Sen. John McCain - and managed, with ideological pressure, to turn him into the loser of the presidential election. Waffler or not, Crist has shown some spine with these people.

That spine may be why the governor of Florida - not Louisiana or Alaska - may be the "it" person for the G.O.P. in 2012.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Feb. 25: Stronger Advocates Needed For Little Havana Ballpark

By Sylvia Gurinsky

To hear some of the crying over the plan for a baseball stadium on the old Orange Bowl site, one would think they'd torn down a hospital or a school to plan for the new facility.

Not quite.

It's true the plan needs financial tweaking, and better PR people than Jeffrey Loria and David Samson. But to suggest it's a bad place for a ballpark is absurd.

What has the site been used for since the 1930s, after all?

A new ballpark would sustain that reputation as a sporting community, and might give a shot in the arm to efforts to revitalize Little Havana, a great neighborhood (Full disclosure: I grew up there.) that has fallen on hard times.

I remember hearing cheers from the OB during the 1979 Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys. I remember all those Saturdays and Sundays when local residents would rake in the bucks from people who parked in their yards. What's all that about a new ballpark not being good for the local economy?

I remember events other than Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes football games - high school tournaments. Soccer matches. Concerts. What's all this squawking about a new ballpark not being a good place for concerts? Remember, the Marlins will only occupy the place between 85 - 100 days a year.

I remember the OB playground, where kids could play even when there was nothing going on inside the stadium. That could be done again.

I remember the OB being used as a voting precinct (So does my mother, who lost an umbrella while she was doing her civic duty.).

If a ballpark isn't built there, what would be? Another strip shopping mall that would be half-vacant? Or heaven forbid, another condominium most of the neighborhood couldn't afford anyway?

Seems like the most practical thing to build there is the one that's already in the plans - a baseball stadium. Just get it done, Miami and Miami-Dade.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Feb. 24: He's Showing Them the Money; What More Do They Want?

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Some people you just can't please.

President Barack Obama is taking the steps he should be taking to put the economy back on track, literally starting with the roads and the bridges and other infrastructure that will attract money and jobs. Tonight, he will address Congress and the nation, and provide more details.

There are still squabblers, from Republican governors who say they won't take the stimulus money to Wall Street to CNBC reporter/commentators who have acted recently as if they've been bitten by rabid dogs.

What do they want?

Obama is carrying out what he said all through the presidential campaign when he pointed out that the biggest problems are on Main Street. He is helping Main Street. Ultimately, according to the laws of economics, that helps Wall Street.

The economy took years to collapse. It won't turn around in one day, in one Dow Jones session or with one governor trying to polish a 2012 run for the presidency.

And it won't turn around with Obama's actions alone. As he has also said since last fall, he needs everyone's help. Wall Street could help by acting less like Las Vegas. Governors could remember the people they represent, who need the jobs and the money. As for CNBC....literally, the less said, the better.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Feb. 23: No Hooray For Hollywood Films On Oscar Night

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Hollywood finally got the Academy Awards telecast right. Can it do the same with its movies?

We'll know tomorrow whether the success of India's "Slumdog Millionaire" at the Oscars and Hugh Jackman's great job as host translated into higher ratings for ABC. But another year has gone by without a Hollywood-made film that can be both a commercial and awards standard movie fans will want to see many years from now.

The last pure, made-by-Hollywood Oscar winner that probably meets the standard is 1997's "Titanic." Except for 2002's "Chicago," which was adapted from the Broadway hit, most American-made Best Picture winners in recent years haven't exactly had universally embracable themes, generated memorable box office or shown the promise of aging well. Because of that, ratings for Oscar telecasts have been sinking in recent years.

The movie industry has split itself in two. Major studios are no longer individual entities, but part of corporate conglomorates that concentrate only on the balance sheet for the next quarter. Therefore, their main focus is moneymaking franchises, superheroes and adaptations of Broadway hits and other things that have been successful elsewhere. Result: A lack of creative movies that can clean up both at the box office and the Oscars. Another result has been a waste and abuse by big studios of major - and famous - talents in acting, directing and screenwriting - talents that can get those studios back in both box office and Oscars with the right projects and support.

It's no accident that the Independent Spirit Awards, created as an alternative to the Academy Awards, now seem to have the same winners as the Oscars. That means the big Hollywood studios aren't doing their jobs when it comes to making memorable films. The independently made films are cleaning up with international talent and awards. But while word-of-mouth can put those movies on the red carpet and sometimes give them good box office, they still lack the promotional muscle of major studios.

How much longer is Hollywood going to tolerate having its biggest honor outsourced? Probably, and sadly, until the franchises stop making money. Until then, there's no Hooray for Hollywood's creativity.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Feb. 19: Two States Are the Only Solution In Mideast

By Sylvia Gurinsky

A one-state solution in the Middle East is impossible. Period.

Not only would lumping Israelis and Palestinians together undermine Israel's identity as the Jewish state and Palestinians' right to a nation of their own, but it would lead to new conflicts from which there would be no end.

Those who are talking about a one-state solution argue the two-state solution doesn't work. They forget there haven't really been two states.

First of all, there has been no official Palestinian state. There is currently the two-sectioned stalemate controlled by Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza.

Israel has its own problems, with a government that threatens to turn increasingly racist and sexist towards the Arab population within its own borders, not to mention toward members of the Jewish population, such as women and those who are not religious. Civil conflict within Israel's Jewish community is not out of the realm of possibility.

One-state advocates expect these groups to live together in peace? They're dreaming.

The only positive thing the one-state idea might do is make a two-state solution more palatable to those who have opposed it so far. If that happens, then the one-state theory has served a viable purpose. The goal should still be two nations, two countries - and one hope for peace between them.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Feb. 17: Long Lines For Miami Job Could Have Been Avoided

By Sylvia Gurinsky

If life happens when one makes other plans, news happens when one has plans to write about one item.

That item is from two weeks ago: The very long line of people lined up to apply for a firefighter's position with the city of Miami. There were an estimated 1,000 people for roughly three dozen positions. It was not hard to know why: The tough economic times.

But many of those people camped there for an entire cold weekend before the doors opened Monday morning - when it would have been so much easier for them to head to a computer at home, or at their local library or job training or recruitment center, and apply directly on the city's Web site. But they can't do that yet.

The following came from the city's employee relations department, via Miami's Communications Director Kelly Penton:

"1) Applicants can always download the City’s employment application from the City’s website. The link for same is It should be noted that the City does not accept applications for employment in the classified service unless a job announcement has been posted and we are actively recruiting for the position. The positions we are actively recruiting for are listed on our website.
2) The city does not yet have an automated system in place that allows submission of applications online; however, as a part of the ERP project that is in progress, this capability is anticipated to be rolled out before the end of the year.
3) For legal/compliance reasons, the City does not accept resumes in lieu of applications for employment consideration. The City of Miami ‘s standard application process for the classified service can be referenced on the City’s website at the following link:
4) The background process does not occur until much further into the process – after the applicant has applied, been qualified, taken and passed the written examination, been certified to the operating department in accordance with established Civil Service Rules, and selected by the Fire Chief to compete in the rest of the process (Physical Ability Test and Structured Interview)."

Number 2 is the problematic one. If there are applications online, why can't someone apply via computer yet, roughly 15 years after the Internet became available to the masses and at a time when it is possible to apply for thousands of government and private jobs online? Between Miami's fiscal crises of the mid-1990s and the current economic difficulties, the city had a period of some financial success. They couldn't redesign the Web site during that time so people could apply for jobs via the Web?

Here's hoping some of those people who got in line two weeks ago and didn't get jobs didn't get colds or flu, either. Applying for a city job should be as easy as a computer click - not as hard as camping in line for sports playoff tickets.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Feb. 12: The Full Measure Of Devoted Sniglets

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Happy 200th Birthday, Abraham Lincoln. Here are four score and seven (OK, not that many) sniglets:

*Why didn't the Miami-Dade County School Board consider cutting the budget when it was deciding whether to put the book "Vamos a Cuba" on school library shelves in the first place? Then, this would never have become an issue that's cost the board a quarter of a million dollars, according to School Library Journal.
The United States Supreme Court, which ruled against banning books on the basis of disagreement with ideas 27 years ago, may hear this case. The Court's ideological demographics have changed considerably, but let's see what happens.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals blundered with this decision.

*Bravo to Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Rosa Rodriguez for denying bail to Gabriel Delrisco, who faces three counts of DUI manslaughter in the deaths of three children during a Jan. 25 crash. According to The Miami Herald, Delrisco's gotten 26 tickets in eight years, including a drunk driving conviction in 2001. Finally, someone in Dade's justice system did the right thing with this guy.

*Perhaps swimmer Jennifer Figge needed the water equivalent of a pedometer to count the number of miles she swam in the Atlantic Ocean? Until she gets one, she might want to avoid saying she swam across the Atlantic.

*Finally, an achievement to applaud: Three cheers and a bone for Stump, the Sussex spaniel who won the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Life truly does begin at 70 in dog years. And he's so cute.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Feb. 11: Israel's Other Demographic Problem

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Israel 2009 is the United States of America 2000, more or less.

The country is probably the most divided it's ever been. That was reflected in yesterday's elections.

Blame Jewish demographics.

For the first 30 or so of the state of Israel's 60 years, its leadership and constituency was made up largely of first- and second-generation Jews from Europe and Russia - many of whom escaped the Holocaust and Russia pogroms. They were the people who came of age working on Israel's kibbutzim, the communal farms where they shared the jobs and the goods. Some idealists came by way of America, where they learned about the ways of democracy.

Even through ongoing wars with Arab nations and more recently Hamas and Hezbollah, Israel became a success in agriculture, health care, technology and energy, among other things.

What John Steinbeck once wrote about the United States can apply to Israel as well:

"Now we face the danger which in the past has been most destructive to the human: success-plenty, comfort, and ever-increasing leisure. No dynamic people has ever survived these dangers."

And these are Jews, who have survived almost everything.

There is a domestic population shift taking place in Israel. The Jews who built the country are dying or have shifted careers. The hopes of many went with the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.

Israel's immigrants over the last 30 years have included a mix of Soviet Refuseniks, refugees from Arab countries and Orthodox Jews from the United States. That combination tends to be more right-wing and less sympathetic or open-minded to Arabs, secular Jews or anything resembling a peace process.

Get ready for Israel's version of the George W. Bush administration - and further delay in the peace process, just as the United States is beginning to get its own act together on foreign policy.

Is there an Israeli version of Barack Obama in the house?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Feb. 10: The Truly Guilty - Selig, Fehr, Orza, Owners

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Forget about the 103 so-far anonymous baseball players who flunked tests for banned substances in 2003. The truly guilty in Major League Baseball's steroids mess amount to three men and a group that includes several dozen men and one woman.

Their names: Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Gene Orza, the association's chief operating officer. All the others are or were owners of baseball teams. (The woman was the late Marge Schott, who owned the Cincinnati Reds.)

They are all complicit in not doing what was required to stop the flow of steroids in baseball. Perhaps the first source of blame rests with those who owned teams in 1993, when they deposed Commissioner Fay Vincent and installed Selig, who proceeded to spend the next decade ignoring the growing steroid problem until Congress started breathing down his neck.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reports that Selig, probably the worst baseball commissioner in the sport's history - maybe the worst commissioner ever in any American professional sport - earns $17.5 million a year. For what?

Then there are Fehr and Orza, who have been the Abbott and Costello of the players' union for more than 25 years and ruined the hard work Marvin Miller did to give the organization credibility. They have been obstructionists at every turn, fighting every effort at testing and possibly covering up for players as well.

That's not counting the dozens of front office employees and managers who have allowed many of baseball's superstars privileges, including opening the clubhouse doors to unsavory lackeys who supplied these supposed gods with steroids, HGH and other banned substances.

Baseball has been as leaky during the Steroid Era as America was with liquor during the days of Prohibition.

The only way the game is truly going to shed this mess is with new leadership on all ends - a new, reform-minded commissioner and a players' union chief who has at least some knowledge of the real world.

After the Black Sox scandal of 1919, baseball owners of the time understood a clean sweep was needed. It came in Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis; for Landis' major flaw of racism, he did clean up baseball of its problems with gambling.

A boost may be needed from the outside - perhaps the U.S. Department of Justice. As soon as Attorney General Eric Holder gets a moment on his calendar, he might want to launch an investigation into Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association. The game needs cleaning up. Its leaders need to be tossed out.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Feb. 9: Keep Only "The Light" On At UM And Give ARod Back His Money

By Sylvia Gurinsky

University of Miami President Donna Shalala - former secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services - should say "thanks, but no thanks" to Alex Rodriguez, give him back his money, cancel Friday's dedication ceremony and leave Mark Light's name as the only one at UM's baseball stadium.

Here's a link to UM's page about what is set to be renamed Mark Light Field:

Assuming what Sports Illustrated, an excellent magazine, reports about Rodriguez is true, it's not in keeping with the spirit the Light family had about the school or its baseball program. Nor is it keeping with the high standards head coaches like Ron Fraser and Jim Morris have set for the program.

Neither is it in keeping with Shalala's history; just a year after Mark McGwire, who is now generally acknowledged to have used steroids, supposedly broke Roger Maris' single-season home run record, Shalala launched an investigation at HHS of the effects of steroids on youths. A lot more is known now, a decade later.

And Shalala should know enough to bring UM's partership with Rodriguez to an end.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Feb. 5: Give Jimmy Ryce's Killer His Punishment

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The pain goes on for Don Ryce, the father of Jimmy Ryce, the 9-year-old boy murdered in south Miami-Dade County in 1995. It's been only two weeks since Ryce lost his wife, Claudine. Now, Juan Carlos Chavez, who was found guilty of murdering Jimmy, has filed yet another appeal to his death sentence.

Enough. It's time for Chavez to receive his punishment.

His case illustrates perfectly what is wrong with the appeals process for those who have been sentenced to death in Florida. At taxpayer expense, these people can spend up to two or three decades on death row before they are executed. Efforts by both Florida voters and the legislature to speed up the process haven't worked.

After one such effort, the Death Penalty Reform Act approved by the Florida Legislature in 2000, the Florida Supreme Court issued a ruling overturning a good portion of it. The bill had serious problems - it would have lumped most appeals together.

The court ruling gives a good background of the problems with the appeals process, which include (naturally) politics and money:

Fixing this matter is going to require justices to sit down with lawmakers and hash out something that can meet constitutional guidelines - and respect the rights of crime victims and their families. Florida's judicial and political leaders need to do so, as quickly as possible.

Jimmy Ryce and his family deserve no less.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Feb. 4: Jobs Must Come First

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Tax credits for first-time homebuyers are very nice, thank you. But Republican senators trying to force their hands on the stimulus package seem to forget one thing:

If people don't have work, they can't buy homes. Or cars. Or other things to get the economy moving again.

So here's a four-letter word for the GOP to remember: J-O-B-S. Senators, do yours, so that other people can do theirs.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Feb. 3: Where Were the Teachers At South Broward High?

By Sylvia Gurinsky

In the press accounts of last week's fight that got 23 students arrested at South Broward High School, a word was missing.

That word was "teachers."

Where were they?

Weren't there any in the cafeteria - it was a lunch period - to try to ensure that cooler heads would prevail before it came to the police getting involved?

Did anyone monitor the students early on to try to head off trouble, particularly since there had been previous fights?

What are the guidelines for faculty to prevent and punish disruptive behavior? We know this for some Broward schools, mostly elementary and middle, that post those guidelines at their Web sites. We don't know this for South Broward.

A report by WFOR-Channel 4 late last year shows violence has been increasing in Broward schools. South Broward High makes those lists:

School grounds are supposed to be safe zones. South Broward's school community and the Broward County School District have a way to go to meet that label.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Feb. 2: Legislature Should Kick Samson Out Of Speaker's Post

By Sylvia Gurinsky

At 9 p.m. tonight, the Republicans who represent the people of Florida in its legislature should say "No more" to Ray Sansom.

Sansom took half a step out the Florida House Speaker's door last Friday, hedging his bets in case he's cleared anytime soon. But a number of legislative leaders, mindful of the headlines coming from Illinois over former Gov. Rod Blagojevich - and mindful that the Democrats gained legislative seats in last November's election - want no part of Sansom in the speaker's chair. At the G.O.P. caucus meeting at 9 tonight, they should say enough - and strip Sansom of his leadership post.

Yes, Americans are innocent until proven guilty. But Americans who hold political office and are under investigation are under an ethical cloud. Sansom took the half-step; he should have taken the full one. Now, his fellow Republicans need to push him to it.