Wednesday, May 26, 2010

May 26: Caveat Voter

By Sylvia Gurinsky

There's change. And then there's CHANGE.

There are lots of "newbies" running for political office this year.

Frustrated voters are looking at people who are new to the political process and seeing them as viable alternatives to veteran elected officials. They're looking at people who have had their seats - or political office - for years and saying, "Enough."

That's understandable. But wanting new faces and new ideas increases voters' responsibility to learn more about who they're voting for - or against.

Elected officials have voting records that can be checked at sites like Project Vote Smart ( and campaign finance records that can be checked at and the Federal Election Commission (

For others......It's a lot tougher. The businessman or businesswoman with the snazzy ads? The teacher running for the local office? The doctor running for the legislature?

What's a confused voter to do?

Beware. And beseech.

Find candidates' websites. If they don't have answers to your questions, pressure them for more. Get in touch with your local media outlets and make sure they ask the tough questions, too. If a profession is listed, or if a candidate makes a statement about history, check it out.

Look for the "Politifact"-style sections of your local newspaper, which will usually examine candidate ads for truth or falsehoods.

Above all, make sure the candidate who sounds impressive is, in fact, the best one for the job. Your future depends on it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

May 25: Why No Plan For Oil Spill Emergencies? Two Reasons....

By Sylvia Gurinsky

During one of his presidential debates with Sen. John McCain in 2008, Barack Obama said the unexpected things would be the ones that would test a president.

Was a major oil spill really that unexpected? Especially by now-President Obama?

There have certainly been enough oil spills that dealing with them should be fundamental. The last thing expected from the April 20 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico would be that both British Petroleum and the federal government would be stumbling around looking for answers, and that they'd both be asking for almost any advice or solution to clean up the spill.

Decades after the Exxon Valdez, the Santa Barbara oil spill and various other spills off coasts around the world, why is that the case?

Two reasons: Greed and complacency.

Not just the greed of Big Oil, whose companies make millions, but also of politicians in both major political parties who rake in their dollars for campaigns. Given that greed, the politicians let oil companies get away with lax standards - even while British Petroleum and others are being fined for them.

Not only that, but there seems to be no provision in place for the federal government to take over the cleanup if a company falls down on the job - which is clearly happenening here with BP.

The Coast Guard, the branch of the military entrusted with saving lives, has been overseeing BP's Keystone Kops imitation. As brilliant as the Coast Guard was in rescuing stranded New Orleans residents after Hurricane Katrina, it hasn't been able to do much here.

That's because this shouldn't be the Guard's responsibility. Obama should be stating whose responsibility it should be, but he hasn't so far.

If BP can't make one more fix this week, Obama, who has already announced a task force that includes former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham to review the disaster, needs to get federal agencies involved. Then, Obama and the task force must come out with a firm plan for the government and the oil companies to address potential future disasters.

Our elected officials - including the president - must learn to expect the unexpected.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

May 18: Take Your $25 Million, BP, And......

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Tarballs from the gulf oil spill are starting to wash up in Key West. British Petroleum's solution? Spend $25 million to tell the world in ads that everything is fine.

Not that viewers will give any credibility at this point to a company whose ineptness and unethical behavior, with the blessings of the United States government and plenty of politicians fortified by campaign cash, created this disaster. Like Toyota, BP wants to use the "smiley-face solution" instead of accepting blame.

Most Floridians would doubtless like to tell BP where they can stick that $25 million. What the company should do is use it to clean up the spill and prevent future ones. That's the best PR of all.

Monday, May 17, 2010

May 17: What 1980 Can Teach In 2010

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Mariel. McDuffie. A place and a name that will forever be linked not just by a year - 1980- but also by a region's consciousness.

Whether one was 11 (which I was), 41 or 91, it was hard to fathom the rapid succession of events in both the boatlift of thousands of Cubans from the port of Mariel and the verdict in the beating death of Arthur McDuffie that led to several days of deadly riots in Miami's black community. The two are connected to each other because the assistance many Mariel refugees got played a role in the anger African-Americans felt over not getting a fair shake.

Then, Miami was already considered "Paradise Lost," though Time would not use the term in its cover story until two years - and another riot - later. This community would have to go through many more bumps before the work on healing began.

Two generations have been born since that year. Those generations, too young to know the full force of the anger and anxiety this community felt in 1980, have seen things get better in many ways. Those generations stand to be the leaders who can continue that improvement in the future - by learning the lessons of 30 years ago.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

May 13: Setoodeh Doesn't Get It

By Sylvia Gurinsky

In reading obituaries about the death of Lena Horne, I noticed one that mentioned the double-edged sword of Horne being called "a credit to her race." The description insults African-Americans by categorizing them.

Speaking of insults, there was Ramin Setoodeh, a writer who is homosexual, penning a column for last week's Newsweek and saying that gays and lesbians aren't convincing to him when they play heterosexual roles. He focused specifically on actor Sean Hayes, who has been starring in the revival of "Promises, Promises," a musicalized version of "The Apartment," on Broadway.

Setoodeh got a lot of people upset, especially Hayes' co-star, actress Kristin Chenoweth.

This week, Setoodeh writes an online column, crying "poor me" for all the criticism thrown at him.

Setoodeh brings up one valid point: The question of whether a mega-movie star perceived as heterosexual would be just as embraced if that star came out. Otherwise, he is guilty of the same kind of categorizing of gay actors and actresses as those who labelled Lena Horne as "a credit to her race" were.

There's a perceptive scene in "Giant," a classic film that starred Rock Hudson. In the film, Hudson, who was homosexual in real life, is married to Elizabeth Taylor's character - and starts the film as prejudiced against Mexicans. In the scene, Hudson's character has a memorable fistfight to protect the honor of his granddaughter - a Mexican-American.

As Hudson lies, bloodied, on the floor of the cafe, Taylor goes to him and says "You never stood taller."

By the way: Hudson was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor for the film. Obviously, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and movie fans know something Ramin Setoodeh doesn't.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

May 12: Baseball Needs To Remove All Star Game From Phoenix

By Sylvia Gurinsky

What is currently a case of heartburn for Bud Selig, who presides over Major League Baseball, may turn into something far worse if the Arizona law allowing police to stop whomever they wish to ask for papers isn't reversed before July, 2011.

That's when baseball's All Star Game is scheduled to be played in Chase Field (formerly Bank One Ballpark) in Phoenix. It's the showcase for many of the game's biggest stars. These days, many of those stars come from Latin America.

Meanwhile, team executives are growing nervous about their first test with the new law: The Fall Instructional League, which attracts many of the game's future stars - young men who are busy with too many things to constantly have their visas available. Then there's spring training next February.

More than any other sport, baseball will be affected by this law. More than anything else, baseball can turn the tide of this law.

More than 15 years ago, the National Football League's decision to yank the Super Bowl from Arizona led to the state adopting Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Baseball is successful today in large part because of immigrants. Selig and the sport can make a loud statement about that - and Arizona's ill-crafted laws, including one signed today that puts a wrench in the teaching of ethnic history in the state. Major League Baseball needs to remove the 2011 All Star Game from Phoenix.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

May 11: Not Learning To Say "I'm Sorry"

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Now British Petroleum, Halliburton and Transocean, all together now:

Say "I'm sorry."

Say "I screwed up."

Anything but the pathetic show you put on this morning in front of the United States Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee - and the entire country.

Anything but the weaselly finger-pointing you did regarding the April 20 oil spill that you're all responsible for.

History is full of people and companies perceived at a much higher level after they took responsibility for making mistakes.

So why do corporations such as this terrible trio keep passing the buck?

Monday, May 10, 2010

May 10: Publix's BP Deal Turns Oily

By Sylvia Gurinsky

This is lousy timing: Early in April, Publix Supermarkets began offering discounts on gift cards for BP gasoline. No different from many of the deals Publix offers.

Then came the worst Earth Day ever.

April 20 was the day British Petroleum's Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, apparently killing 11 people and starting an oil spill that, at least so far, has no end in sight.

The Miami Herald and other publications have been chronicling how BP and other oil companies have not kept up safety standards in their operation and maintenance of oil rigs. The articles state that Big Oil has had a partner in their "Drill, Baby, Drill" operations - the federal government.

Meanwhile, BP is facing lawsuits in various corners for this disaster. And at the end of the current weekly ad, Publix advertises a discount on a BP gas card.

For more than 75 years, Publix has been successful by being a smart and good corporate citizen. Holding on to a business deal with BP at this time is the opposite of that.

BP's got some cleanup to do - and not just in the gulf. Until it does, Publix should put an end to this deal, which has suddenly turned oily.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

May 6: Arizona Can Take Ideas From Florida

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The influx of illegal immigrants and illegal drugs results in a high crime and murder rate and the deaths of law enforcement officials.

That's not Arizona, 2010. That's Florida, specifically South Florida, during the 1980s.

Then, elected officials from Florida and its cities agonized over what to do. What they did not do was anything knee-jerk. (It helped that Florida's governors during that period included Bob Graham, a Democrat, and Bob Martinez, a moderate Republican, and that the Florida Legislature was in control of Democratic hands that were not reactionary.)

The state worked with then-Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush on solutions that included increased law enforcement. Local governments and courts worked on improved programs both for processing immigrants and for rehabilitating those addicted to drugs.

That's the strategy Arizona should pursue - working with the federal government - instead of continuing with its new profiling law that will only lead to a fight with the Feds.

The answer to Arizona's future lies in Florida's past.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May 5: Sniglets On Pat Riley and Ernie Harwell

By Sylvia Gurinsky

No, Pat. Not again. Please.

Don't do to Erik Spoelstra what you did to Jeff Van Gundy.

The Miami Heat needs better players and a new contract for Dwyane Wade, not a new coach - or, rather, an old coach who keeps coming back from his front office post.


Ernie Harwell, the legendary broadcaster of the Detroit Tigers, had the chance to say goodbye.

That doesn't make the news of his death yesterday at age 92 any easier. Harwell's fan base went beyond Tiger Town because of his years calling postseason games on CBS Radio, and taking part in other projects.

Harwell started his big league announcing career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, eventually being followed by a kid named Vin Scully, who still works with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Arguably, there have not been two better voices in baseball during the last 60 years.

While Tiger management's treatment of Harwell could sometimes be inexplicable, Harwell was all class during the 42 years he spent in the team's broadcast booth. He was part of the team's glory seasons in 1968 and 1984, when the Tigers won the World Series. He was part of millions of fans' nightly plans during the baseball season - fans who would take radios to the ballpark or elsewhere.

Harwell received many honors, including induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981. When the Tigers honored Harwell last year, he said "Thank you."

No, Ernie. Thank you.

Monday, May 3, 2010

May 3: Hard Right Is Hard For Florida and Crist

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The move of Gov. Charlie Crist from Republican to independent and the worst session of the Florida Legislature in recent memory (and that's saying something) both come from the same source: The hard-right ideological turn by the GOP.

The party leadership has become increasingly invasive, with bills such as a presposterous measure requiring women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound and listen to a description of the fetus (a bill Crist should veto), and a school prayer bill that could bring back the days when people of non-Christian religions were subject to coercion.

There are a combination of reasons for this, including the gerrymandering games of lawmakers over districts, the death and retirement of moderate Republican leaders in Tallahassee and a general frustration that the first year-and-a-half of the Obama presidency hasn't put all of America back to work yet. In addition, there's the looming shadow of former Gov. Jeb Bush, who isn't actively running for anything at the moment, but is making plenty of trouble.

Crist couldn't take it anymore. The more he attempted to veer to the right to save himself with U.S. Senate Republican primary voters, the less natural he looked.

Now that he's divorced the GOP, it's the hard-righters who look ridiculous. Senate polls indicate that the majority of Florida voters, about 60 percent, aren't interested in extremist candidates or positions.

It's the same breakdown typical of this state. So why are the legislative leaders governing as if they were in the old Soviet Kremlin?