Friday, December 24, 2010

Dec. 24: Keeping the Kennedy Spirit

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The end of an era will come in two weeks when U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-Rhode Island, leaves his Congressional post. It will end a 63-year tradition of Kennedys in Congress that began with his uncle, John F. Kennedy, serving Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Kennedy story is well known - probably the best-known story in American politics. Aside from their years of service, however, is the type of service they've engaged in.

Those who have held federal public office - John F. Kennedy, who became the country's 35th president; Robert F. Kennedy, attorney general and senator from New York; Edward M. Kennedy, senator from Massachusetts from 1963 until his death last year; and Patrick, congressman since 1995 - and many other family members have ingrained the ideas of public service to help others in many members of the last few generations. The family motto may just as well be "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country," JFK's most famous line from his 1961 presidential inaugural address.

It's not a motto that seems to be shared, at least so far, by many of the newly elected people heading for federal and state office, including Florida office, in two weeks.

Those who oppose the Kennedy philosophy have even tried to insult it by labeling it - "liberalism" is one example. Well, if the opposite of liberalism includes meanness, selfishness and bigotry, then the Kennedys are true liberals.

Members of the Kennedy family continue the legacy of public service through countless projects and non-profit organizations. Eventually, members of the "fourth generation" and beyond - the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of John, Bobby and Teddy, as they were known - will likely run for Congress and the Senate again some day.

The question now is how to return the spirit of public service and progressivism to the body family members served for so long. It will be up to those who remember the greatest Kennedy legacy to honor it - and compel their elected officials to do the same.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dec. 22: Is $4.5 Million (Etc.) Worth It?

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Economics, Miami-Dade County style:

Protest a 12 percent property tax increase by collecting signatures to recall the county mayor and some commissioners by agreeing to chip in $4.5 million for trying to do so.

That's apparently what a special election to vote on the recall of County Mayor Carlos Alvarez and various commissioners will cost.

That's not counting how much yet another special election will cost if voters decide to dump Alvarez and commissioners. In fact, the cost will likely turn out to be a lot more than it would be to just let them serve their terms. Alvarez has less than two years left in his.

Alvarez and commissioners do deserve criticism for what they've done with the county budget. But with one, maybe two, special elections coming up, constituents who support their instant ouster aren't doing much better.

UPDATE: Does Norman Braman, who is leading this tar-and-feather quest, protest too much? Here's a link to Transit Miami. Check out the lead item:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dec. 21: DREAMS Denied (Again)

By Sylvia Gurinsky

One of the great head-scratchers of the 111th Congress will be how a United States Senate that repealed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" managed to vote down the DREAM Act.

Among the "No" votes was Sen. George LeMieux of Florida, who is making noises about challenging his fellow Florida senator, Bill Nelson, who voted Yes, in 2012.

The legislation was bipartisan and meant to help the young children and teenagers in this country who are classified as illegal immigrants. Their parents brought them here. Those children have done nothing wrong; they've grown up here, gone to school here and are ready to give back to the United States. This is the only country they know.

But in 2010, hatred and meanness seems to be the only sentiment many senators know; that's certainly true for those who voted against providing assistance for these young people. It will only get worse as Congress turns over in two weeks.

Immigrant advocates are already putting bull's-eyes on senators who voted No who are up for election in 2012. More voices are needed, though. One should come from the White House, where President Barack Obama certainly has the right to issue executive orders to help youths who would have been assisted by the DREAM act.

Come on, Mr. President. Congress will have little compassion the next two years. This country and its children need you to show more of yours.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dec. 20: Sniglets On Congress And Almost-Congress

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Democratic members of Congress doth protest too much. They have short memories.

When we read or hear their recent criticisms of President Barack Obama for his compromise on the so-called "Bush tax cuts," let us recall the number of times the Democratic-controlled Congress could have given President George W. Bush the business on domestic and foreign matters in 2007 and 2008 - and didn't.

Where were their spines?


Most members of Congress wait until they're actually in Congress to be investigated for something.

David Rivera hasn't even been sworn in yet, and there are already questions about him.

Rivera won the race in the 25th Congressional district for two reasons: The national anti-Obama mood and an intelligent, capable opponent, Joe Garcia, who ran a lousy campaign.

But now Rivera is under scrutiny for possible ties to a parimutuel, as Scott Hiaasen and Patricia Mazzei have reported:

This issue isn't going away soon. Rivera might want to come clean quickly - or face political and legal winds blowing in an opposite direction in two years, if not earlier.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dec. 2: Assange Is No Daniel Ellsberg

By Sylvia Gurinsky

There's probably no way for the United States to ever make WikiLeaks creator Julian Assange face justice for any treasonous acts concerning recent posts on the site - not without help from other countries. Assange isn't American, for one thing.

That means the court of public opinion will weigh in on him. Some have called him a traitor. Others have compared him to Daniel Ellsberg, the one-time military analyst who passed along the so-called Pentagon Papers - a look at most of the United States involvement in Vietnam during the 1950s and 60s - to the New York Times and the Washington Post, which published them in 1971.

Calling Assange a traitor may be stretching it, although those who have been leaking to him may certainly deserve the term.

Comparing Assange to Ellsberg is really stretching it. Ellsberg, who is American, paid a heavy price for coming forward with the Pentagon Papers.

Julian Assange may be a criminal, but he's certainly a smart alec, interested less in writing wrongs than in publicity for himself. He is no Daniel Ellsberg.