Tuesday, February 22, 2011

February 22: New Feature at Twitter

By Sylvia Gurinsky

I'm adding a new feature for Sunshine Statements: SunStates, which will be Twitter-only posts.

More extensive and detailed commentaries will still be published here at Sunshine Statements from time to time.

But SunStates will be published four times a week. Look for them starting tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Feb. 15: Clean Up Red-Light Mess

By Sylvia Gurinsky

One red-light camera at a dangerous intersection is safety at work. Four within a three-mile area is ridiculous.

Miami Gardens is among the South Florida cities that have gone straight to ridiculous, with those four cameras in an area along 27th avenue ranging from what I call Joe Robbie Stadium (199th Street) to the messy entrance to the Palmetto Expressway at 167th Street. That's not counting the camera in next-door Opa-Locka at 135th Street.

A public notice by Miami Gardens states, "The City’s goal is to prevent serious injuries or deaths as a result of motorists running red lights in the City of Miami Gardens."

Fine and good, but the city has other traffic safety problems - like those jaywalkers who've been running for their lives across 27th avenue for decades. Does Miami Gardens have any plan to deal with them?

In any case, Miami Gardens' actions are symbolic of the actions of most cities that are posting red-light cameras at many intersections, major or not: While arguing that it's for safety, it's really for the money brought by those who run red lights.

At least those who haven't gone to court to challenge their tickets. Many of those who have, particularly in Miami-Dade County, have been getting those tickets thrown out for various reasons.

One of those reasons could theoretically be taxation without representation. The biggest campaigners for the red light cameras have been municipal governments struggling with their budgets. There is no conclusive proof as yet that the presence of the cameras has improved safety at intersections.

The Florida Legislature needs to go ahead and pull the plug on red-light cameras - for now. The problem is not that they exist. It's how cities are using them.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February 8: Problem Is Anthem, Not Aguilera

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Christina Aguilera was not the first singer, nor will she be the last, to struggle publicly with "The Star Spangled Banner." She doesn't deserve the ridicule she's getting.

Rather, Aguilera's issues with the anthem at the Super Bowl reflect yet again that, while "The Star Spangled Banner" isn't going anywhere, it's a flawed national anthem.

Attorney Francis Scott Key wrote it as part of a larger poem about the Battle of Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812, so the words don't cover the bigger themes of what it means to be an American. The tune is from a British drinking song and the words are about seeing the American flag in the middle of a war.

For more than a century, the Army and Navy adopted it as a national anthem. It became the official national anthem during World War I, declared by President Woodrow Wilson through an executive order, and then was signed into law by President Herbert Hoover in 1931.

It sounds best either when it's performed by a military band or classical orchestra, or when it's sung by a classically trained singer. One of the critiques of Aguilera's version came from a writer who indicated that pop singers get in trouble when they try to perform a pop-style version of "The Star Spangled Banner."

Alternatives have been discussed, but there are problems. "America," better known as "My Country 'Tis of Thee," has the same tune as the British national anthem. "America the Beautiful" is seen as too pastoral.

But there is a song that is more personal for Americans, already an unofficial national anthem during World War II and after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 - Irving Berlin's "God Bless America."

It is a quintessentially American anthem - written by a Russian immigrant who became an American citizen, first performed during World War I - it makes reference to the "storm clouds...far across the sea" - and when the preamble is sung, refers to freedom. If atheists have a problem with the title, well, it's no different from the reference in "O Canada."

Most Americans know the words. And it's a difficult song for a pop singer to mess up; Berlin himself sang it with Boy and Girl Scouts, who receive proceeds from it, on "The Ed Sullivan Show" during his 80th birthday in 1968.

It's certainly a better representation of what we want our country to be than "bombs bursting in air."

Monday, February 7, 2011

Feb. 7: Israel Must Get Its Own House In Order

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Obviously, Israel can't forget the constantly changing situation in Egypt. But the Jewish state has its own messes to clean up.

Never mind the 11 years of denial that center-right and hard-right governments have been living through with regard to their need to deal properly with the Palestinian issue and their place in the Middle East. If the Likud Party were to have an animal as its symbol the way American parties do, the ostrich wouldn't be inappropriate.

Until the past few years, Israel had never faced the steady stream of political scandals it now can't seem to shake. Since 2006, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, former President Moshe Katsav and current Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have faced various investigations; Katsav has been found guilty of rape.

Now, when tension over Egypt's future is high, Israel has a political drama that more closely resembles the Three Stooges than "The West Wing." The country has leadership problems in its two most critical entities, the Israel Defense Forces and Mossad, its main intelligence agency.

Both agencies are trying to get new leaders; the IDF has had problems with its previous selection having to withdraw over land zoning issues. The Mossad, known as a crackerjack intelligence agency, is having to deal with criticism for not predicting in advance what was about to happen next door. Meanwhile, Defense Minister and former Prime Minsiter Ehud Barak recently had a divorce with the Labor Party over his continued tenure in the government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Not exactly the kind of actions to inspire confidence in Israel at this moment.

Netanyahu has expressed concerns about the leadership crisis in Egypt and the future of the 1979 peace treaty between the two nations. He should turn his attention, instead, to getting Israel's house in order. Whether that happens has just as much of a bearing on the peace process.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Feb. 1: Presenting.... the Tallahassee Circus!!!

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Recent events should teach Florida voters not to elect circus workers to state office.

How else to explain some of the ridiculous moves recently by the man in the governor's mansion and some others in the Florida Legislature?

In the first circus ring is Rick Scott, who either doesn't know or doesn't seem to care that his job is to pass along the voter-approved redistricting amendments to the federal government for review. He's holding off for the time being. He isn't winning friends across the aisle for unveiling his state budget in a Tea Party-friendly atmosphere, either. Remember, Mr. Scott: There may not be many Democrats in the Legislature, but there are plenty of them and Independents across the state.

In the second ring is State Sen. Greg Evers, R-Baker, in Florida's Panhandle, who thinks the shooting deaths of four police officers across the state are an excuse to loosen, not tighten, gun control restrictions. He's sponsoring three bills that would do just that, including one that says local communities can't pass gun control laws.

(Three cheers to Palm Beach Post columnist Frank Cerabino for suggesting an obvious place to loosen gun control restrictions:

http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/cerabino-let-lawmakers-enjoy-the-fruits-of-gun-1207060.html )

And in the third ring is State Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, who is sponsoring a bill to sell naming rights for the state's roads, beaches and other facilities to bring in budget money.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Florida Capitol, anyone? It's perfect for a bunch who obviously think they got accepted to Clown College, not elected to wisely govern Florida.