Thursday, July 28, 2011

July 28: Obama Should Update Manned Spaceflight Plan

By Sylvia Gurinsky

President Obama's 2009 plan phasing out the Space Shuttle left many disappointed because of the lack of a specific future plan for manned spaceflight. Now that the shuttle program has formally come to a close, Obama needs to revise the spaceflight plan - even including the private sector.

In 2009, Obama let both the bleak state of the economy and his inexperience in his new job influence his plan. And for a man who frequently speaks inspiring words, Obama doesn't have a significant understanding of symbolism in American life - at least regarding manned spaceflight.

Yes, it's expensive and frequently ignored. But it's also important to American morale. Someone who is mentioned as an astronaut immediately gets the conversation changed - especially in a room full of schoolchildren looking for heroes.

Obama doesn't have to increase NASA's budget - not that he could right now, anyway. He does need to find the right private partners to announce the next generation of manned space flight.

Recently, The Christian Science Monitor published a number of articles about the privitization of flight:

Ideally, the next generation of manned spaceflight should be public-private. And Obama should get specific on it as soon as possible.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

July 26: Obama Should Go It Alone If He Has To On Debt Ceiling

By Sylvia Gurinsky

"The American people may have voted for divided government, but they didn't vote for a dysfunctional government."
-President Barack Obama, last night

You'd better believe it, Mr. President.

While Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives practice their debt ceiling strategy, unofficially titled "Make Sure Obama Doesn't Get Re-Elected At Any Cost," Obama will have a decision to make at deadline time.

If he has to, he should go it alone.

Actually, he's not alone in the type of solution he wants. He supports the plan approved by the United States Senate.

But during the last few days, House Speaker John Boehner proved he's more interested in keeping his job and raising his "street cred" with the Tea Party than he is in saving the country a lot of financial pain.

Such a strategy is even causing a split in the House, where Boehner seems not to have enough votes for his own plan. Meanwhile, the Senate waits. So does Obama.

So do the American people, whom Obama implored to contact Congress before next week. They will. The question is whether Boehner and Congress will listen.

Many House members who were elected last November came with the idea of blocking government. That's what they're doing.

Meanwhile, many who voted for them - or didn't vote at all last November - are waking up to the reality that blocking government isn't necessarily a good thing. Quite the contrary.

Meanwhile, Obama's job is to govern. He's had a lot of patience with those kindergarteners in the House, but he's given every indication his patience has run out. He should act on it.

Monday, July 25, 2011

July 25, 2011: How the War Against Terrorism Needs To Be Fought

By Sylvia Gurinsky

This time, it's Norway's turn for tears.

The hatred that resulted in last Friday's bombing in Oslo and murder of dozens of youths at an island camp about 25 miles away came from within. But it points to the need, in Norway and around the world, for everyone to grasp how the war against any kind of terrorism must be fought and won.

First, Norway needs to come to terms with its own security holes. Threats have been made against the country by Al Quaida and domestic extremists in the past. There was no excuse to have a situation on a street in front of important government buildings in which any non-official vehicle could be parked. Americans learned that the hard way after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

The excuse for this terrorism was the growing Muslim population in Europe. Muslims are certainly not to blame for these attacks; in fact, some speculation during Friday's news coverage was reminiscent of the speculation after the Oklahoma City bombings.

It's been said before that conventional war tactics go only so far against terrorists. The common thread of most of them, whatever they support or oppose, is hatred.

That means those who are targeted - especially Muslims, who haven't done nearly enough to fight against the violence generated by radicals in the name of Islam - need to do more to speak out against it and act against it.

A majority of Muslims who move to other parts of the world do so because of the conditions - politically and economically repressive - in their countries of origin. They need to campaign to improve the situations in those countries, and make sure the so-called "Arab Spring" truly does blossom into openness across the region. European nations that once colonized many of those countries have an obligation to help in the campaign to fully liberate them.

Politicians worldwide who perpetuate hatred are also to blame (Yes, U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Not Living In His District, that includes you.).

Norweigian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and many of that country's residents made a good start over the weekend in paying tribute to the victims of Friday's attacks. Stoltenberg said, "We will retaliate with more democracy."

More democracy and more education. The best weapons for everyone in this 21st Century war.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wednesday July 13: Keep Miami Central & Miami Edison Open

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Here's a chance for Gov. Rick Scott to raise that horrible 29 percent approval rating: By joining the campaign to keep Miami Central and Miami Edison high schools open.

Since 2008, both schools have been on what amounts to a probationary list by the state of Florida for consecutive FCAT scores of "F." Both schools have improved to a "C" by changing administrators, teachers and teaching policies. Miami Central even got a high-profile visit earlier this year from President Barack Obama, who was accompanied by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

Both schools are historic: Miami Edison's origins in Lemon City predate the incorporation of the City of Miami; its alumni include former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham. Miami Central's opening coincided with the beginning of the Space Age; its sports teams are named the Rockets.

The schools apparently had some FCAT fallback this year because of guideline changes.

Alternatives for the schools include closing them, privatizing them or turning them into charter schools. Entrepreneurs of the latter two are probably licking their chops at the possibilities, while parents, students, teachers, administrators and community members are agonizing at the possible marginalization of two central places in the Liberty City and Little Haiti communities.

To his credit, Miami-Dade School Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has vowed to fight to keep Miami Edison and Miami Central open as public schools. Will any of this influence Florida's Board of Education and interim Education Commissioner John Winn?

Some heavier hitters will be needed. For sure, Bush and Graham need to get involved in saving these schools. Miami New Times' recommendation of a student sit-in isn't a bad idea. Some legal help might be needed, too; the question of whether closing or altering the schools might be considered a discriminatory move in these communities is relevant.

But the person with the biggest influence currently lives at 10 Adams Street in Tallahassee. Rick Scott can gain a lot of goodwill if he persuades Winn and the board to keep the doors fully open at Miami Central and Miami Edison.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thursday July 7: Dodgers Mess Is More Proof of Baseball's Mess

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Perhaps for the first time, Bud Selig, the man who sits in the baseball commissioner's office, did the right thing in trying to take control of the Los Angeles Dodgers from Frank McCourt. But the Dodgers soap opera illustrates once again the messes that Selig and Major League Baseball have made.

Giving a pass to McCourt, who came up short in his quest to buy the Boston Red Sox, by letting him have the Dodgers even though the financing wasn't fully in place was not the best idea in the world. It happened because Fox, which owned the Dodgers at the time, wanted to stick to televising baseball.

Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers played musical chairs with its ownership. Jeffrey Loria, a man whose management style would have gotten him tossed out of many businesses, has gone from nailing the coffin on the Montreal Expos to causing Florida Marlins fans plenty of misery.

No one is discussing the ownership of either the Dodgers or the New York Mets - whose boss, Fred Wilpon, is also in trouble - as an opportunity to diversify the collection of owners. Baseball needs more females in the top spot. And why can't the team that broke the color line on the field also break it in the owner's office?
The full details of both the Dodgers' and Major League Baseball's messes could be aired in a court battle between McCourt and MLB. Since public embarrassment - usually by Congress - has nudged baseball to clean up messes regarding steroids and labor issues, will it do the same for the ownership issue?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wednesday, July 6: The Village - Not the Jury - Failed Caylee Anthony

By Sylvia Gurinsky

If it does take a village to raise a child, as the old saying goes, that village - in fact, several villages - failed in the case of Caylee Anthony.

First, the local village: Besides the little girl's family, that includes anyone who came in contact with the family while Caylee was alive who could have reported any issues and didn't. Caylee was not entered into any day-care program or school in which a teacher might have seen evidence of any neglect. Florida's Department of Children and Families was never called about anything regarding the girl.

During the trial, the local village included a medical examiner, police and prosecutors in Central Florida who couldn't close those links that would have tied Caylee's death to her mother or anyone else in a conclusive way - or would have otherwise resolved how Caylee died.

Then, there's the global village - that teeming mass of hysteria in both public and media that spent weeks glued to the television set watching what, for them, is another reality television show. It's the people who physically fought for a seat in the courtroom as if they were fighting for a spot on a lifeboat. It's the snakes who will now offer everyone directly affected by the trial big money to spill their guts, the people who will cash in and the members of the public who will watch the show.

They did fail Caylee Anthony. The jury that reached a verdict yesterday did not.

If they'd been instructed to find Casey Anthony guilty or not guilty of being a bad mother, their verdict probably would have been unanimous for "guilty."

But they were instructed on a murder or manslaughter charge. And despite the lynch mob led by Nancy Grace and others, the evidence simply wasn't there beyond the legal definition of reasonable doubt.

For every person obsessed with a single verdict, there are, thankfully, many others who spend their lives as child advocates, trying to protect children like Caylee. Perhaps everyone who's wasting energy screaming about the unfairness of yesterday's verdict should turn that energy to helping those people. That would be the ultimate tribute to Caylee.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tuesday, July 5: Regalado In the Lead On Bad Financial Decisions In Miami

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Norman Braman might want to turn his government reform attention to the City of Miami.

Mayor Tomas Regalado has been leading a recent collection of unwise spending decisions - especially when city policy dictates the opposite should be happening.

Want to get ahead in this bad economy? Just work as Miami city manager for a few months, then leave. That's what Tony Crapp did. After a forgettable six months in the post, he left to take a job at GrayRobinson law firm. Regalado made a lucrative offer, which Crapp turned down:

Of course, it wasn't like Crapp had much of a choice in saying no, since he was taking heat for the package he was giving to the city's chief financial officer, Larry Spring, who was also leaving. Of course, with eight years on the job - most of it under former Mayor Manny Diaz, whose leadership was productive - Spring made a better case for such a package.

Then there's the downright cowardice both Regalado and Crapp have shown regarding Police Chief Miguel Exposito after a series of shootings and other problems.

After a wishy-washy report regarding Exposito's actions as police chief, Crapp could have made the decision to fire him on the spot. Instead, he and Regalado offered Exposito money - at least $200,000, judging by a check made public; Exposito says it was $400,000 - to quit. Exposito refused to do so.

Meanwhile, the city has posted the police chief job as available, while Exposito vows to stay on. It's a situation that's unacceptable and demoralizing to the police department.

Miami needs leadership. Right now, the city isn't getting it - and not just because of the revolving door in the city manager's office since Regalado became mayor.

He took office with a promise to have a clean, open and fully accountable city government. He's got a ways to go to keep that promise.