Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Two different situations involving two different centers of history indicate that the Miami City Commission has recently become neglectful of that history.
In one case, there's the possible construction of a skateboard park in the Omni neighborhood. That wouldn't be such a bad idea, except for the park's two neighbors: Temple Israel of Greater Miami, founded in 1926, and the Miami City Cemetery, where the remains of Julia Tuttle, John B. Reilly - Miami's first mayor - and many other pioneers rest.
Consider skateboarders on the weekends - during hours coinciding with Temple Israel's Shabbat services - and at night, a possible threat to the sanctity of the cemetery, which has only recently begun to recover from years of vandalism and neglect.
There are other vacant lots in the Omni neighborhood that would be more appropriate for a skateboard park. City Commissioner and Omni Community Redevelopment Agency Chair Marc Sarnoff should talk to local business leaders about engineering a land swap or other deal that would keep things serene next to the temple and the cemetery.
Then there's the matter of the famed Gusman Center in Downtown Miami, which opened in 1925. Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado is threatening not to include any funding for the theater in his upcoming budget for the city. He's depending on the private sector.
Well, Mr. Mayor, the private sector is having trouble, too. Not enough money will mean the shuttering of that theater, which is in the National Register of Historic Places. Neither Gusman, which hosts the Miami Film Festival, nor the downtown area can afford that.
Architecturally and artistically, the Gusman Center is Downtown Miami's crown jewel. At the moment, there isn't another Maurice Gusman, the philanthropist who first saved the crumbling Olympia Theater in 1972, or Sylvester Stallone, the actor who paid for the theater's renovations during the 1990s.
What exists is a mayor and commission who need to remember that respecting and preserving Miami's history is part of their responsibility, too.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Yesterday, while five members of the United States Supreme Court were ignoring public safety concerns in yet another pro-gun ruling, City of Miami officials and police officers were having a press conference at Sherdavia Jenkins Peace Park.
The subject of the conference: Pleas with Miami residents not to "celebrate" the Fourth of July by firing guns.
Sherdavia Jenkins was a 9-year-old girl playing in her yard when she was killed by a stray bullet in 2006.
There are many other Sherdavias in Miami - and Chicago and Washington, whose city governments tried to pass gun control laws to make those children safer.
But Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito haven't supported those Sherdavias - at least not yet.
The recent rulings and the cowardice of politicians to stand up for gun control are a message that those who want safer streets need to put public safety up for court rule. The debate needs to change from gun rights to public safety rights.
The Brady Center To Prevent Gun Violence estimates 3,218 children die from gun violence, while 20,702 children survive gun injuries each year.
Where are their rights?
Monday, June 28, 2010
It is possible to change for the better. Sen. Robert Byrd, who died overnight at 92, did so many times.
First, he changed the circumstances of his background. He came from poor West Virginia and became a highly educated man, a scholar of both the Constitution and the history of the United States Senate. More than anyone else in the recent history of the United States Congress, he linked the American tradition of democracy with that of Ancient Greece.
He had the courage to go against presidents, whether it was Lyndon Johnson on Vietnam, Bill Clinton on the line-item veto or George W. Bush on Iraq.
Perhaps his biggest change came on the subject of civil rights. During the 1940s, Byrd was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. During the 1960s, as a senator, he voted no on the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American on the court. His evolution started during the 1970s; no less a figure than President Barack Obama now calls Byrd a mentor.
Above all, Byrd intensely disliked the partisan bickering that has become the norm in American politics. He is being remembered in many ways. The one that might have given him most pride is "gentleman" - one who had the guts to evolve.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Until recently, the biggest noise from most of Hollywood concerning the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was the lack of noise. The biggest news has come from the success of the cleanup machine actor-director Kevin Costner developed many years ago.
The thousands of people along the Gulf whose jobs have been lost, livelihoods upset and so forth need help with rent, groceries, medical and insurance expenses and soon, clothing and school supplies for kids.
Where are you, Mr. Clooney? Mr. Pitt? Mr. Hanks? Where are your telethon-organizing skills?
Is "sunshine" just that yellow ball in the sky that the Pembroke Pines City Commission sees on the way into its offices at the corner of Pines Boulevard and Palm Avenue?
Evidently. Because commissioners forgot that in Florida, they have to mix "sunshine" with another word - "law."
The Sunshine Law requires open meetings. That didn't happen May 24, when commissioners conferred with City Manager Charles Dodge in a meeting away from the public and press about a plan to outsource 200 jobs. After an outcry by both public and press, and a deal with the city's unions, commissioners reversed themselves and scrapped the outsourcing plan.
Commissioner Angelo Castillo told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that commissioners "handled this in a totally legal manner from start to finish," and that they were allowed to meet behind closed doors since there was no vote taken.
Try again, Commissioner. State law says you're supposed to meet in the open when "official acts are to be taken." That doesn't have to mean there's a vote.
It does mean the city I live in needs to improve its conduct of business in the open - by actually doing so in the open.
The outcry over the firing of Florida Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez has managed to top the noise of those ridiculous vuvuzelas that helped cost the team last Saturday's game.
I was one of those who thought that it was only a matter of time before the trigger got pulled on Gonzalez, even though he's not to blame for a shoddy bullpen, not entirely to blame for sporadic hitting (though hitting coach Jim Presley was also sacked), and certainly not to blame for ownership that's too cheap to truly invest in this team.
Jeffrey Loria, the guy responsible for firing Gonzalez, Presley and bench coach Carlos Tosca (and presumably the guy who signed off on the vuvuzelas), may now be looking to Bobby Valentine. Yikes.
If it was only about won-loss record, Valentine, whose New York Mets went to the World Series in 2000 and who won a championship in Japan with the Chiba Lotte Marines, wouldn't be a bad choice. Unfortunately, Valentine has showboat tendencies; it's hard to forget his pseudo-Groucho disguise after an ejection from a game in 1999. And he didn't always have smooth relationships with his players in New York. One wonders if he would discipline Hanley Ramirez in the same way Gonzalez did a few weeks ago when Ramirez loafed on a play.
Another manager, Bobby Cox of the Atlanta Braves, criticized Loria for the revolving door he has had in the manager's office. It's not expected to stop anytime soon, sadly.
One wonders whether, despite the skillful work of Larry Beinfest, Dan Jennings and Mike Hill in getting impressive young talent for the team, the Marlins can ever again shine as they did in 1997 and 2003 (a team mostly put together by previous GM Dave Dombrowski) as long as penny-pinching Loria owns the team.
Team President David Samson keeps talking about the team ending up "in a pile." They're there, all right.
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Gen. Stanley McChrystal had not shown grace under fire.
In firing him today, President Barack Obama did.
McChrystal, a graduate of West Point and the leader of United States military efforts in Afghanistan, likely had enough schooling about military insubordination to know that you don't diss your commander in chief and other top decision makers in Rolling Stone magazine. That didn't stop him from doing so.
After that, there was only one recourse left for both McChrystal and Obama.
Afghanistan was one of the headaches Obama inherited from President George W. Bush - a war that should have been put to bed long ago but wasn't, because of Bush's decision to invade Iraq.
Obama has set a timetable for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, but things have not been going well recently. McChrystal had to answer to that, as well as to what he said in the Rolling Stone interview.
Other than a reference to the article, Obama had nothing but praise for McChrystal in making the decision. He is also actively discouraging anyone in his administration from gloating about McChrystal's departure.
Obama has never served in the military. But today, he acted the way a commander in chief should act.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Forget for a moment that U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman made a lousy ruling this morning in overturning the Obama Administration's six-month moratorium on offshore oil drilling - a ruling the administration will appeal.
He may have bigger problems. The Associated Press reports that in 2008, Feldman's financial disclosure report showed investments in eight companies that either produce or are in some way connected to oil. One of them was Transocean, owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig.
If that's the case, why was he allowed to rule on this case? And why didn't the Obama Administration balk at the judicial selection before?
They're certainly balking now, and Feldman should have recused himself from the beginning. His ruling should be overturned on several grounds - including possible conflict of interest.
Monday, June 21, 2010
We've all heard about the young president of the United States who listened to what he thought was the best advice, went forward with his decision and wound up with a disaster.
No, not President Barack Obama with his now-abandoned decision to expand offshore oil drilling and his response during the first weeks after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
This reference is to President John F. Kennedy and his decision in 1961 to go ahead with the Bay of Pigs invasion.
Kennedy gave the green light to a Central Intelligence Agency plan to invade Cuba that was developed while his predecessor, President Dwight Eisenhower, was still in office. But there was plenty wrong with the plan. More than 100 members of Brigade 2506 were killed; more than 1,000 were captured and held as political prisoners for a year and a half. In a speech to the nation, Kennedy took full responsibility; he showed how much he'd learned his lesson a year and a half later, during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Obama's bad advice in crafting the expansion of oil drilling came both from his own Department of the Interior and from Big Oil. It also came from his attempts to appease Republicans. During the first month after the Deepwater Horizon spill, Obama relied too closely on the idea that BP executives were showing good sense - despite persistent evidence to the contrary.
But Obama needed to learn the same lesson here that he learned during the health care battle: Give 'em hell, Barry. He needed to show leadership and forget about bipartisanship. Sometimes they don't go together.
He seems to be starting to get it, given his Oval Office speech last week.
Presidents don't often get either learning curves or credit for learning lessons - except from historians. But they're not perfect; they do make mistakes - and the country ultimately benefits when they do learn their lessons. Hopefully, Obama has learned his.
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Chris Isidore of CNN Money reports this:
It's legal - right now, at least. But it's also discrimination.
As Judy Conti of the National Employment Law Project pointed out in the article, recruiters could be missing out on the best candidates. In addition, such a requirement forces workers who are employed to stay in jobs they don't want - which can cut productivity and ultimately make those workers bad job candidates.
Local, state and federal entities should make it illegal for employers to use employment status - unless there is confirmation of fraud, mismanagement or discipline issues - as criteria in hiring.
Being the victim of an economic layoff - as so many Americans currently are - does not and should not disqualify anyone from work. The best and the brightest are among those losing their jobs.
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Apparently, the photos are no longer the ugliest part of a United States passport, as ABC News investigative reporter Brian Ross has revealed:
Only in an America that's battling terrorism can the Government Printing Office be incompetent enough to outsource the production of a computer chip that's put in U.S. passports.
Members of Congress in both houses are starting to call for that production to be brought back to the United States. Agreed.
Congress should also hold hearings to bring to public light how such a center of access for Americans could be made so vulnerable to security breaches - or worse. Passports are a symbol of openness, but they should not be open to terrorists.
Monday, June 14, 2010
Quite a few people across the Atlantic are a wee bit sensitive about the criticism BP (full name: British Petroleum) is getting for its Keystone Kops handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
It's nothing personal.
There are some politicians who would choose to posture against a country (remember "Freedom" Fries?) because it benefits them with constituents who have an IQ of about 5. But most Americans understand that BP's behavior and the behavior of its chief executive officer, Tony Hayward, have nothing to do with Great Britain or the British people.
Hayward and his fellow BP executives seem to have a tone-deafness about cleaning up the spill and addressing the individual concerns of Gulf communities that are threatened. Time magazine's website is reporting that residents in the Florida Keys, who are known for their independence, may go ahead with their own version of the cleanup, whether BP and the federal government OK it or not:
Clearly, the main problem rests with British Petroleum. If there is any government to blame, it's the United States government. No one else.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
What can Florida's schools do on their summer vacation? Make sure all vending machines with unhealthy snacks are gone by the time students return:
It's been a few years since the American Beverage Association made a deal with the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation to limit shipments of sodas to schools. It's been successful in getting children across the United States to choose healthier alternatives.
Some in the Sunshine State don't seem to be getting the message yet, including members of Florida's Board of Education:
It shouldn't even be taking this long to implement the standards of the national deal that was reached, much less to create standards for Florida.
In caving in to the industries that produce the sugary sodas and snacks, the Board of Education has, so far, ignored evidence of how excessive consumption of those items can lead to poor health and obesity among children.
Roberto Martinez wants to see the evidence? It's been out for years.
The concern over flavored milk is understandable; in this corner is someone who's never particularly liked the taste of plain milk, either. Perhaps a compromise is possible: Allow the option of flavored milk or ice cream on Fridays, for example. Have other milk alternatives, such as cottage cheese and cheese slices.
As for financial issues, vending machines can be filled with nutritious and tasty alternatives.
Good eating habits start at a young age. Florida's schools have as much obligation as Florida's parents to get children into those habits.
Monday, June 7, 2010
Where to start......
Start with Helen Thomas, whose stellar career of more than a half-century as a journalist covering the White House ended with comments that were at least, misguided and at most, anti-Semitic.
Thomas has retired, undoubtedly under pressure from Hearst, her most recent employer, after statements last week to RabbiLive.com - ironically, at a Jewish American Heritage Month celebration at the White House - that Israel "should get the hell out of Palestine" and that Jews should "go home" to Germany, Poland, America "and everywhere else."
Thomas, the daughter of Lebanese immigrants, had broken gender barriers and, in these eyes, had always demonstrated fairness and professionalism in her coverage of the White House. Who knows what made her cross this line?
The fact that she did - and the result - are tragic.
The press coverage that has followed the separation of former Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, has suggested that Baby Boomers are seeking something else later in life, etc., when they part, and that's a good thing.
Here's a Generation X-er with parents married more than 57 years (kina hora) with a somewhat different view: It's giving up. It's throwing in the towel. It's saying you're not interested in the long haul.
If that's the way the Baby Boomers really think - that impermanence and "whatever feels good" are productive ways to live - maybe it is time for some different ideas. Theirs seem to be ruining everything from the environment, politics and business to family life.
The Poor Sport of the week is Florida Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria. Boo to him for taking unsold tickets from the May 29 game against the Phillies - the one in which Roy Halliday of the Phillies pitched a perfect game against the Marlins - and selling them at face value so he can tweak the Marlins' profits and attendance figures.
Bud Selig, the man who occupies the commissioner's office, should have called Loria out on that. It's basically a legal form of scalping. And it sure isn't in the best interests of baseball, sportsmanship or the Marlins' efforts to gain fans.
Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga, Tigers (and former Marlins) manager Jim Leyland and umpire Jim Joyce win the Great Sports of the week award.
Joyce botched a call at first base in the Tigers-Cleveland Indians game last Tuesday, officially costing Galarraga a perfect game. To his credit, Joyce admitted the mistake. To their credit, Galarraga and Leyland reacted with grace.
Should instant replay have been a factor? Perhaps it's time for Selig to consider expanding the technology to situations where something like a perfect game is on the line.
Speaking of sportsmanship, John Wooden, who died at age 99 last Friday, had it in droves - as well as intelligence and integrity. It was more important to Wooden for the basketball players he led at UCLA - who included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor in school) and Bill Walton - to be good men, rather than champion athletes.
The New York Times obituary of Wooden indicates that he carried a piece of paper from his father that read: "Be true to yourself. Make each day a masterpiece. Help others. Drink deeply from good books. Make friendship a fine art. Build a shelter against a rainy day."
Fine advice, taken by a fine gentleman.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
The chief chutzpadik of the Florida House of Representatives, Speaker Larry Cretul, has taken his sweet time about sending that infamous ultrasound bill to Gov. Charlie Crist, wrote Steve Bosquet and John Frank:
It's a gutless act by Cretul, and one that circumvents the legislative process.
Aside from vetoing the bill, Crist should take Cretul to the Florida Supreme Court and let justices rule on whether Cretul or any legislator has the right to delay an approved bill from heading to the governor.
In this corner, it looks like Cretul and his colleagues are taking a hard right turn around state law.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
With the exception of the year-and-a-half that Ehud Barak was prime minister, members of the Likud party have led - or rather, misled - the state of Israel for the last 14 years. (That includes Ariel Sharon, who left Likud for Kadima before he suffered his debilitating stroke in 2006.)
Here's what they've managed:
-Political and personal scandals, including a president and prime minister who had to resign and a foreign minister who can't visit any foreign countries and who may be the next politician indicted.
-Increasing the socio-economic divide between rich and poor.
-Setting back standards for women.
-Antagonistic behavior both within Israel and in the world community.
-A deterioration in quality of its entities, including the Israel Defense Forces, the intelligence community and the ability to communicate clearly with the rest of the world.
Every time Israel takes a step forward, as with its relief workers efforts in Haiti last January or its recent naming to the Organization For Economic Cooperation and Development, it takes three steps backward - whether with its announcement of the building of settlements while Vice President Joe Biden was on a state visit, or its clumsy and tragic efforts yesterday in preventing that flotilla from reaching Gaza.
In all of this, the peace process has taken many steps backward. Granted, it isn't all Israel's fault; former President George W. Bush's 2005 green light for Palestinian elections that brought Hamas into power in Gaza didn't help.
Ultimately, though, Israel faces responsibility within its own borders and with the rest of the world as to how it deals with important issues.
The country is failing, both inside and out. That means it's time for change - within Israel's government.
American voters are throwing out politicians with whom they disagree. British voters tossed out the Labour party after things soured.
It's time for Likud and its right-wing allies to leave as well.
Israel needs hope, promise and peace - three things that will not come from Benjamin Netanyahu and his government.