Sunday, November 30, 2008

Help Jim Martin win Georgia Senate seate

In a minute I'm running over to work a phone bank for Jim Martin's last-days campaign against Saxy Chambliss in Georgia. This is organized by the victorious North Beach activists who worked for Obama, and then partied, and then worked for Obama lots more. And now we're working for that U.S. Senate seat occupied by Chambliss.

UPDATE: Another phone bank operation had to be canceled for technical reasons. Sorry for any inconvenience. My friends in the Democrats of South Dade Club, admirably ambitious, had scheduled phone operations for Monday and Tuesday but had to cancel.

Still want to call? Help awaits you at where the dear old phonebanking tool you know from the Obama campaign now is devoted to the Jim Martin campaign in Georgia. Do it.

Want to give money? I did the other day at this ActBlue page, which now is claiming over $600,000 raised for Jim Martin. Way to go!

How far we have come

Thanks to Bob Goldstein for pointing this out.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Foreclosure crisis and local action: Report from Miami Gardens

This morning an email came in from Andre Williams, a city councilman in Miami Gardens, about what he and his city are doing to combat the foreclosure crisis while the government in Washington flails about. Mr. Williams: today you're a guest blogger. Keep up the good work. Readers: click on the links he provides, and you'll be wiser and more motivated.

Here's his email:

I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving. Thanks for all of your hard work on behalf of the Democratic party in South Florida. As you may know, I am a proud Democrat and a hard working and productive City Councilman in Miami Gardens, the largest African American city in the state with a population of 115,000. We were very active with organizing the vote in our city for President-elect Obama.

I wanted to share some exciting, substantive news with you and the rest of our Democratic colleagues about the work that I am doing on behalf of our residents which has captured the attention of TIME magazine and our local media. I believe it is a great story the party can tell about one of its local elected Democratic officials.

TIME magazine continues to follow our extraordinary efforts in Miami Gardens to provide assistance to our residents facing foreclosure. This is the link to the most recent article:,8599,1860879,00.html.

The magazine has followed me for the past several months to chronicle my efforts to engage lenders on behalf of our residents who are in jeopardy of losing their home. The magazine's first article may be found here:,8599,1826970,00.html.

Local television and print media has also taken an interest in our work: and

While federal assistance has been largely inadequate, we are committed to saving as many homes as we can from foreclosure in Miami Gardens.

André L. Williams
City of Miami Gardens

The Onion tackles Halloween

With thanks to the Florida Progressive Coalition Blog:

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful for small things, like the Miami Herald business page

You may think I'm not having much of a Thanksgiving when I say I'm thankful for this piece in today's Miami Herald Investors wary of state pool - Business - I'm far more thankful for many other things including the feast coming later this afternoon. But for the moment I'm happy and thankful that I'm not the only one worried about health of the Florida state money market fund for local governments and their agencies.

Yes, faithful readers, this dense story is back, and I'm still wondering why Jeb Bush hasn't been called on the carpet over this one. This blog has hacked away on this story (a link here to a post a year ago, too prescient by far in predicting the global financial crisis that is falling into Barack Obama's lap), trying to keep the questions alive:
  • Why did Jeb Bush let crappy Lehman Brothers investments sneak into the fund backing up our school boards and police departments?
  • Why did Jeb Bush become a well-paid consultant to Lehman after leaving the governor's office two years ago?
  • Why hasn't he been called on the carpet? (Oh, sorry, already posed that one.)
So, yes, thank you, Miami Herald for keeping the story alive, though I'd appreciate your putting Jeb's name in it as one of the causitive agents in this rip-off of public money. Next time, huh?

As the Herald's story started:

Last fall, a state investment fund in which counties, cities and other local agencies parked extra cash temporarily was the largest in the country, at $26.1 billion.

There was a big run on that fund and it's now down to $5.7 billion, the Herald reports, and agencies can't pull all their money out anymore. Why? Because some of the investments are still crap. Thanks, Jeb. Were you planning to run for any other office anytime in this century?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Finally starting to understand what went wrong on Wall Street

If you comprehend that the crisis on Wall Street stems from decisions made decades ago, it's acceptable that it takes a couple months to start reading how it happened. In detail, I mean, with names of players and companies and officials, and dates when things happened, and narratives on the march of events.

So here are two freshly available links to aid in understanding this crisis:
Together they may be an hour or more of reading.

There's some summary available in today's NY Times, where the (former?) billionaire Tom Friedman features both long articles in his column. Thank you, Tom, for tipping us to two good things to read. But as usual, Friedman, who's not so rich nowadays, gets some of it wrong -- he starts off his catalog of blame with the poor people who "had no business" taking a mortgage for more house than they ought to have. You won't get that impression from reading the articles. Both put the blame on the highest levels of American finance.

The first article is by Michael Lewis, whose name rings from the 1980's as the author of "Liar's Poker," his book about his years as a Wall Street analyst. Who's to blame? "Wall Street had built a Doomsday machine," is one quote from Lewis that stood out to me.

The Sunday NY Times article blamed failure to police risk for the issues that have put Citigroup in the spotlight as the latest "too big to fail" company to be on the brink of collapse. One problem involved a senior trader and a senior risk manager who were great pals who spent much free time together. One example was said to be a fishing trip that ended with them "stuck on a lake after their boat ran out of gas."

Well, indulge me a moment. That reminded me of a little joke I heard 15 years ago in my previous life as an AP reporter, then based in Germany. I was attending a G-7 financial conference in Frankfurt along with George Soros and Larry Summers and many others, and Rudiger Dornbusch, economics prof at MIT, told this story to illustrate how hard it may be to get bankers to learn from mistakes:

Two bankers fly to Maine in a light bush plane to hunt moose. The pilot lands them in a remote place and says he'll be back in a week to get them, and they can bring out only one moose. They kill two moose, however, and when the plane returns, they convince the reluctant pilot to take off with both carcasses. The plane takes off, falters and crashes.

The bankers survive. Dazed, one asks, "Where are we?"

"Three hundred yards from where we crashed last year," the other banker replies.

We are being educated to believe that we can let Rubinomics creep back in to the highest rank of government supervision of the financial world. Have they learned, Summers, Rubin, etc.? Or will they take the chance of another moose and ...

Today's winner of the Most Appropriate Name in the News

This one should please those of us who appreciate food and read about it, a seasonal choice, in other words:

Michael Batterberry, editor and publisher of Food Arts magazine.

It appears in a newsy article in the Wednesday NY Times Style section, link below.

Gael Greene - Insatiable, and Also Dismissed -

Candidates’ forum for Miami-Dade Democrats’ elections

UPDATE: An updated post on this topic went up on Monday Dec. 1, at this link.

Dec. 3 is the date of our elections for officers in the Miami-Dade Democratic Party. The location is the Miami Association of Firefighters Local 587 at 2980 NW South River Drive in Miami, a balmy location on the lovely Miami River. Here's a Google Maps link to the address: 2980 nw s river drive miami fl - Google Search

Be there at 6 p.m. on Wednesday Dec. 3 for a careful sign-in procedure to make sure you’re a voting member of the DEC, our Democratic Executive Committee, and to receive ballots.

At stake are all the officers’ slots for the next four years: the chairman (only men are running this year), the first vice chair (who must be opposite gender of the chair, and thus only women are running), the state committeeman and state committeewoman, the vice chair for programs, the vice chair for outreach, the secretary and the treasurer.

A candidates’ forum was held Tuesday night at the American Legion hall in Miami, with some 50 people attending to hear candidates state their platforms and respond to written questions moderated by Wendy Sejour, president of Democracy for America Miami-Dade.

The forum will happen again on election night, so if you missed the first one, it’ll be on again, sort of like the presidential debates but with no ending time ordained by TV schedules. Bring a snack.

Your blogger is remaining neutral in this contest, so I’ll just name the candidates in alphabetical order and not try to avoid misquoting their campaign speeches by not quoting them at all.


--BJ Chiszar

--Eric Copeland

For First Vice Chair

--Daisy Black

--Bess McElroy

For State Committeeman

--Bret Berlin

--Dr. Thomas Pinder

For State Committeewoman

--Ann-Lynn Denker

--Teresa Gevalda

--Millie Herrera


--Charlotte Klieman

--Fanny Olmo

For Program Vice Chair

--Elizabeth Collins

For Outreach Vice Chair

--Henry Crespo Sr.

--Dave Patlak

Nominations remain open until the voting, so this list is not complete. No one spoke up for treasurer, for instance. The election process is fluid and someone who loses an early contest can run for an office contested later on election night. This is your hint to read the Bylaws, which are on the website.

Voting members of the DEC are hearing from some of the candidates by phone, mail and email. Those who weren’t at the candidates’ forum and don’t know the candidates may email this blog, and I’ll try to put them in touch with the candidates directly.

This may be risky but I’m going to suggest also that candidates can post platform info by adding a comment to this blog post. Please limit comments to 250 words. To get started on a comment, click on the hotlink at the end of the post where it says "0 comment" or "1 comment," etc. The editor reserves the power to remove and stop comments.

Good luck to all!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008 can't happen fast enough

This morning I attended one of the unsung institutions of democracy, the Miami Beach Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club. First-term Commissioner Ed Tobin awed the capacity crowd in David’s CafĂ© with story after story of waste and over-spending he’s found in the city’s operations.

A remedy he’s backing is to put the city’s checkbook online. “Yes!” chorused his listeners, distracted from their perico (eggs and chopped peppers).

Can this be done? What impact would the Florida Sunshine Law have on such openness? If enacted, it could mean a commissioner wouldn’t have to wait weeks or months to learn simple details about how money was spent on projects, and when it was spent.

I’m bringing this up to introduce the Obama transition website,, where some of this sort of activity already is promised. Including a blog where the president-elect’s appointees speak to the camera and explain themselves. And you can offer a comment.

Oh, there is going to be a mountain of potential in this new government, and I can only rue our antiquated Constitution that makes us wait almost three months after an election until we get what we voted for. We have a government that runs on an 18th-century schedule, and I think it’s foolish to continue like this. Maybe we can’t quite have a transition like the British style, where voters choose members of Parliament who have campaigned with a slate of prospective cabinet officers. When the votes are counted, the winners form a government and march into No. 10 Downing Street where the prime minister lives and works – right away. Shocking, isn’t it? Our counterpart activity would be to have the winner take a break and then start to announce who’s going to be in which office when the White House gets a new occupant in a couple months, on Jan. 20. And we’re lucky that it’s that early – it used to be only in March that the new administration took charge, and that’s why the Great Depression of the ‘30s was so hard to resolve, as FDR couldn’t start new initiatives for months.

A proposal for Obama’s second term, building on his background in constitutional law: Shrink the transition period as far as possible – one day is my goal. This requires amending the Constitution. Campaigning should by custom include a shadow government for the challenger, and laws if necessary should be changed to permit presumptive cabinet members to take office while accelerated confirmation processes are under way.

Meanwhile we have the speeded-up thing called and its blog and other outgrowths of the way the Obama campaign subdued all opponents with the help of great Internet sites. Coming next, we shall hope, is a Wiki for the White House, which you can read about in this yeasty piece by Dan Froomkin.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Meet the Obama volunteer from Italy: Andrea Liberati

Andrea Liberati with Shelly Simmons

Andrea Liberati came into focus slowly over several brief meetings until late August, when I was flying from Miami to Denver. Joe Garcia was on the flight too, and as the plane was taxiing to the terminal I was plotting to catch up with him and hear how his congressional candidacy was developing. I glanced across the aisle and linked gaze with this young man whose face was a little familiar … from, as it turned out, a meeting of the Miami Beach Democratic Club, and from registering new citizens as voters after naturalization ceremonies.

We exchanged surprised greetings and got our names straight. Andrea Liberati and I were both in Denver as lightly accredited observers of the Democratic National Convention, I as one of about 10 bloggers from the Florida Progressive Coalition sharing one media credential, and Andrea as an Italian citizen intending to write a book about pitching in on the Barack Obama campaign, and having no credential at all.

My cousin Kim Papka, my host in Denver, picked me up at DIA and graciously let Andrea come along. She dropped us at a Light Rail station where we rode into the center of Denver and plunged into the fringe of the convention, already in its second day.

Andrea is a story to be blogged, I decided. He agreed, and we’ve talked a few times in interview fashion, and he’s supplied some text laying out how he came to be a line Obama volunteer in Florida.

Some profile: He’s 31, single, a university graduate. Worked for nine years for the Umbria regional government in central Italy, was assistant to Enrico Melasecche, whom he describes as a “superhonest and passionate politician.” ( Very adept at the Blackberry. Quick to respond to calls and text and email. He’s an unpublished memoir writer.

Here’s how he came to be an Obama supporter:

· Starting with a lean toward Rudy Giuliani, back in 2007. Yes, because of Rudy’s half-Italian ancestry. “My reasoning was small -- ‘This man could help the interest of Italy, too’ -- without considering the real problems of ordinary people here in America. It was egotistical, nationalistic reasoning.”

· Watching the campaign through the lens of Italian TV and newspapers, he became impressed with Obama, while Hillary Clinton was “too much silent” about the Iraq war. “Obama reminded me of the real problems of America – and American problems are the world’s problems: the war, bad international relationships, the expensive health care system, foreclosures, the price of gas, and the relationship between our need for energy and the environment.”

· “Obama was the unique answer, especially for a European citizen who couldn’t just watch, who couldn’t stand the risk of the sunset of a culture, American culture: It was my own culture, it was me.”

· “I grew up with Walt Disney comics, with the emotions and imagination and tears of such movies as ‘ET,’ ‘Ghost’ and many others, with the songs of Simon and Garfunkel. And at the university I had discovered American law, human rights, freedom and the real meaning of the American dream.”

· “I had to do something.”

· “I had to go to America … I wanted to meet my future, even build it with American people if it was possible … I wanted to give a hand to the Obama campaign, right there in America.”

At the end of June he resigned from his job and a few days later was in Florida, chosen because it is a swing state and difficult for Democrats. “But I am ready – in my region we were opposition.”

Through a lucky encounter with an Obama supporter festooned with campaign buttons, Shelly Simmons, he joined the Miami Beach Democratic Club and – like thousands of others around the country, including a scattering of other visiting foreigners – began volunteering for everything. I kept seeing Andrea at meetings or places where volunteers were pitching in. He also helped the Congressional campaign of Annette Taddeo in FL-18.

“I am learning many, many things, above all about American people, so different and so incredibly welcoming, so far from the stereotypes in European media.”

Some of his notes about the Obama juggernaut in Florida: 160,000 volunteers in the state, 3,000 lawyers working on election day, 350 paid staffers (against 30 in John Kerry’s 2004 campaign), starting from nothing in July when the campaign was launched without a computer or an office for an Italian volunteer to walk into.

From somewhere an image of Sarah Palin leaps to mind, one showing her never having had a passport until recently. How can she think she knows about the world without having looked at it, and I mean close up, not from across a body of water? How much better a citizen of the world is Andrea Liberati, for having had the curiosity to venture out and take part?

He was not alone, and his notes mention South Americans, Asians, Canadians and a dozen Danes who turned up as volunteers. He ventures into speculation that the “more perfect union” enshrined as a goal in the Constitution was created on election day, and that it’s a worldwide property: “It is also ours, in some part; today we are all really American.”

Back in September Andrea wrote to me, “Obama is one of us: his story, his personal story, so simple, difficult and moving, is our story. His dream for another America, better than this, is our dream. This is also my commitment here: to serve America. Paraphrasing the great JFK, We are all Americans, We are all Obamas.”

Now that Obama is elected, Andrea Liberati is returning to Italy soon, to complete his diary/book about his American campaign, feeling that his American dream came true.

Another of his notes: “There will be a before-Obama and an after-Obama, not only at macro levels (for the destiny of the whole planet and for the innovative approach to politics) but also at micro levels: new friendships and love stories born between public initiatives and ringing doorbells, and which tied very different people and volunteers making all people united in a country which is not foreign anymore – and not only for me. Maybe it has never been a foreign country to me.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

New Executive Committee members to hold orientation meeting

The eager Democrats who will form the core of activists for the next four years meet tonight for orientation. It’s at the American Legion, 6:30-8:30 p.m, 6445 NW 7th Ave., Miami 33137. That's the official street address, and to get there drive on Biscayne Boulevard to 64th Street, and turn east until you reach the Legion.

They were elected (or were unopposed) in the Aug. 26 primary to membership in the Democratic Executive Committee, or DEC, the leadership body of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party. The term is four years.

Now we have a big victory under our belts, and it’s time to expand into the more difficult local tasks. My #1 nomination is to tackle gerrymandering. Why does Florida have more Democrats than Republicans but still has a state legislature almost two-thirds Republican? Our electoral districts are crazily formed to favor the incumbents who drew the district lines. This must be curbed, and I won’t be surprised to see people handing out petitions to end gerrymandering.

UPDATE: Mark your calendars for Wednesday Dec. 3: the date of the first meeting of the newly elected Executive Committee. This is our election day, to choose officers and set the course for a more Democratic future. (DEC Chairman Bret Berlin announced this date in a newsletter sent on Nov. 23.)

Those running for office are encouraged to send platform/profile information to this blog and it will be published.

A candidates forum will be held on Tuesday Nov. 25 at the American Legion. 

Thursday, November 06, 2008

You can check results in your home precinct at this link, though you’ll need WinZip to unlock the statistics after you download them from the Miami-Dade Election Department. I chose to download the Excel version (marked as Details XLS) after finding the text version to be incomprehensible.

My home Precinct (lucky) 13 in the far northern and eastern blocks of Miami Beach: 2,168 registered voters, of whom 1,448 voted, a turnout rate of 67 percent, which is just what the county as a whole showed.

How about the Obama-McCain breakdown: 893 for Obama, 548 for McCain.

Absentee? McCain got 148, Obama 140 (including me).

Early? Obama 495, McCain 268

Election Day? Obama 258, McCain 132.

Those who voted absentee or early were 1,051, or 73.4 percent of the voting population.

My figures for Election Day are off by a few. I discovered late in the game that one of the columns for Election Day was for the very small number of people who voted by the Ivotronic touch-screen method rather than the optical scan fill-in-bubbles method. And I hadn’t included them in my total, as my Excel skills are pretty low.

MORE: The results for Congressional District 18 for Precinct 13 may show how (though not why) Annette Taddeo lost to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, which I regret very much.

Totals: Taddeo 734, Ros-Lehtinen 617. It's a nice margin for the Democratic challenger but not nearly enough to offset the incumbent's totals in more-Republican precincts. Taddeo's total of 734 is well under Obama's 893.

Still, a tip o' the hat to Taddeo's visit to the voting site on Sunday, the last day of early voting, when she greeted hundreds of people waiting in line. They will remember her charm and intelligence for the next time.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Miami-Dade campaigners have big share in Obama victory

Big crowd still waiting to vote on Election Day, late morning, at Uleta Community Center in North Miami Beach.

Just talking arithmetic here.

Barack Obama won Florida’s 27 electoral votes by a margin of 198,888 votes. That’s with 4,062,977 votes against 3,864,089 for McCain.

Miami-Dade County gave Obama a margin of 139,733 votes, so I’m declaring that we campaigners in Miami-Dade had a lot to do with Obama’s victory in Florida and in the overall electoral college.

There much more arithmetic to ponder, but for now this is very satisfying.

Note: Dade votes were 491,195 for Obama against 351,462 for McCain. Numbers from Miami Herald. Too tired to do own research.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Voter problems: Do you hear a blogger's teeth gnashing all the way across Florida?

I found this old and familiar story on, apparently sent from a blogging colleague's cellphone out in the field way over around Tampa.

Got a problem voting? Sorry, I'd like to help but I can't reach the right office. The phone is busy. Here's a provisional ballot.

In tampa the clerks are supposed to call the County Elections Office to confirm the voter is registered in Florida. The problem is that none of the clerks can get through - so people are being forced to take provision ballots - which is outrageous.

Due to administrative incompetence people's rights are being violated.

I can't tell you how disgusting it is to witness.

That's from Seffner, just south of I-4 near Tampa. Hey, that's the famous "I-4 Corridor" where we Democrats have trouble getting votes. Wonder why?

Coolest music since VoteFest

Here's the Miami Workers Center showing how all the smart people in this country are not in Washington or on Wall Street. They are creative and persuasive and right here in Miami, and with equal opportunity they will help save this country.

"Sex and City" star gets out the vote

Cynthia Nixon with (l-r) Michael Graham, Shonnda Smith, Joe Mojica and
Tevin Ramsey and a lot of waiting voters at the Uleta community center
in northern Miami-Dade County.

One-hour wait to vote in North Beach

On Sunday the line was five times as long even before the start of
that last session of early voting.

Fired up, ready to go for Obama

Staging office for North Beach volunteers is humming with well
prepared people heading out before 7 a.m. Election Day.

Monday, November 03, 2008

37% in Florida already voted

About a year ago I was groaning about the poor turnout in Miami-Dade County municipal elections. What a turnabout!

Already in Florida we've got 37 percent of registered voters in the bank, with 2.6 million voting early and 1.6 million absentee. That's out of 11.2 million registered in the entire state.

Checking statistics at the Miami-Dade County Elections Department website, your blogger sees that some 63,000 absentee ballots in the county had not been returned as of Saturday. This is worrisome. Where are those ballots, anyway? There were 207,667 sent out, and only 144,296 returned.

If yours is among those unreturned, I believe you can hand it in on Election Day at any polling place -- without waiting in line. Deadline: 7 p.m.

Waiting five minutes or so on the phone at 3-1-1, your blogger asked how many polling places there are in the county. Answer: 764 -- way more than the 20 early-voting sites that were so packed. There are more precincts, because some precincts vote together with one or two others at the same place.

For the record, turnout was 16.7 percent in the county municipal elections a year ago. It's so much better to see enthusiastic turnout now for president and congress, plus all the ballot initiatives. It's a real puzzle why we have to separate the local and national elections. This isn't the way it's done in many places.

Bottom line at this link: McCain ran a losing campaign

There's a link here to a nice story in the U. of Florida newspaper, about a rally where Joe Biden was the featured speaker. There were some Republicans in the audience showing pro-McCain signs, but if you read to the end, you'll meet the former chairman of the Gators for McCain group, who was alienated to the point of resignation by the McCain campaign.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Kudos to the iron people waiting forever to vote!

Annette Taddeo (in blue), Democratic challenger for U.S. House District 18, meets people in a long line waiting to vote at North Shore Branch Library in Miami Beach Sunday afternoon.

There was this headline on the Miami Herald's website, main page, saying "Early voting has closed." It was about 8 p.m. when I saw it. Then I called my friend Erika Brigham in the South Beach storefront of the Miami Beach Democratic Club. She asked around and was told that people were still voting at Miami Beach City Hall. Wow, that was three hours after the line closed.

The Herald was a little premature in the tense it chose for the verb in that Internet headline. Maybe the lines had closed, but voting was still at full throttle.

I hopped in my car and drove to the North Shore Branch Library, the other place where people can early-vote in Miami Beach, and the last people were soon to finish voting at about 8:45 p.m. Wow, these were people I saw getting on line just at 5 p.m. after I had spent most of the four-hour day there.

Then I called Michael Calderin, candidate for Florida House of Representatives in District 119, and he was still on line waiting to vote at the West Kendall Library on Hammocks Road and 102nd Avenue. He expected he might finish about 9:30 p.m. but couldn't be sure, as the line was snaking through rows of bookshelves. Wow, that would be 4 1/2 hours on line.

Will they be finished by midnight? It could be close. The longest wait time on was five hours at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami. That was posted just before 5 p.m., so they most likely will be finishing around 10 p.m. Wow.

The early turnout is stunning. The crowds on Miami Beach were overwhelmingly pro-Obama, though some crazies came out from their caves with bizarre signs and shouts, so it's clear that Democrats won't get all the votes.

Michael Calderin said he'd seen tremendous lines at at least three early-vote sites on Sunday, and he thought almost half of the expected votes in his Florida House district had already been cast.

So I'm just saying, maybe Election Day won't be too crowded, if such a large number have voted already.