Thursday, April 30, 2009

Technology Thursday. Stuff to blow minds

This blog doesn’t often devote itself to technology. I’m interested but way behind the times and figure anything I say would be old hat. Nonetheless …

Last night, thanks to a chance meeting the day before with Alex de Carvalho organized by tireless Obama campaigner Brad Schenck to toast the conversion of Arlen Specter, I went to a meeting of Refresh Miami and was plunged into a hundred people who are at a much higher level of Internet understanding than I am and for at least a while here I’m Tweeting and Facebooking at speed and ricocheting around cyberspace where new things reside and are announced.

Look at this: Something better than Google, and coming soon. It’s called Wolfram Alpha.

Now, I remember having had a change to invest in Google at the beginning and passing it up. Will the same thing happen with Wolfram Alpha? Yes, I had more money then.

A few clicks further, and I’ve been captured by yet another microblogging service that promises to hit close to home. Take a look at Here’s a rundown by the creator of it all ( think), Dave Harper.

This could speed up our campaigning in ’10, which brings me back to earth.

UPDATE: Thanks to Alex and Twitter for letting me know about this link to a slide show of pix from the Refresh Miami event Wednesday night.

Your blogger can be seen in several pix wearing a long-sleeved white T-shirt, with Flip camera in hand.

Crist will face this and worse

The Democrats are getting ready for Charlie Crist to go in either direction.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A US death from swine flu

It has been announced today. Not a good development. Advice on what to do comes from the Department of Health and Human Services, which is telling me to stock up on supplies in case it’s not safe to go out. I read this on Daily Kos this morning, clicked on the link, and yes, there it was on the government website, the following script for a public service announcement:

Health officials are concerned about a new influenza virus of swine origin that’s spreading from person to person. Officials are acting to combat this threat, but the outbreak might grow. So be prepared.

Store a two-week supply of food and water. Have two weeks of your regular prescription drugs at home. Keep health supplies on hand, including pain relievers and cold medicines.

For more details, visit or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

A message from HHS.

Have you heard it on your favorite radio station?

By coincidence I’m seeing one of my doctors this afternoon and will be asking for his input.

Stray thought intrudes: It’s great to see the powers rise up all over the world to deal with this public health threat. Would that we’d decide to tackle gun violence with equal resolve.

As in an anti-flu campaign, we’d acknowledge at the start that people will die of this because it’s a tough bug and some people are old and weak and some are young and weak. That still leaves us responsible to try to reduce the danger as much as possible. It is costly in human life, thwarted hopes and economic stability. Aren’t guns and flu similar?

Read some of the costs in Bob Herbert’s recent column on our culture of blood: 30,000 dead a year in this beloved country (gun suicides included), and non-fatal gunshot wounds are said to be the biggest uninsured cost for emergency rooms. Now, there's a way to try to reduce unproductive health spending.

Friday, April 24, 2009

“Slight brouhaha?” Looks like Marlins attempted theft

Buried in a story on page 3b in Friday’s Herald is something that should have been on the crime blotter and prominently displayed.

Seems pretty clear to me from the last paragraph that the Marlins and their coconspirators were planning a heist of $4.1 million. Call it daylight robbery, to be carried out in the glare of the lights at a city commission meeting. Simply ask for $4.1 million even though it “wasn’t needed,” in the phrase of the blasé Herald reporter, who must get this all the time at city meetings. Man, then that money is gone, gone, gone.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Miami thinker lays out a tough argument on torture and the Bush administration

Michael Froomkin, law professor at the University of Miami, has been writing extremely pointedly on torture for quite a while, and his argument now is honed to perfection. It’s on his superb blog,, and here’s the first paragraph:

An important part of the war crimes defense strategy employed by US torturers has been to plead advice of counsel. This modern version of the ‘just following orders’ defense has had two strands. Both are unraveling.

Read it and become wise. Takes only a few minutes. Are the judges listening?

Did you see that? – objections to the torture memo were suppressed. As in Watergate, it’s the coverup that is fatal.

I’m reading this after having had my poor brain assaulted by Sean Hannity and Oliver North this evening. It was, as usual, via the car radio and I was driving, so I made no notes, and what follows is mere paraphrasing. Hannity let convicted felon North rip with raving: That what Obama is doing will be the absolute end of the United States, that this will lead to the collapse of the intelligence services and the military, and all morale will crumble, and on and on.

Any wingnut listening out there must hear the trumpets calling: Rise up, take arms. Don’t they understand the drive of their words? Violence.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Call the governor on voting bill in Tallahassee

I just did it and the staffer said she'd be glad to pass it along.

There's a story out that Gov. Crist is thinking of vetoing this retrograde bill, and now is the time to encourage him in that direction.

Call 850 488-4441.

Facebook and emails are alive with concern about the Republican drive to restrict voting rights -- and solidify Florida as the laughingstock of the nation. It's wonderful to see the Netroots in action!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Two good guys on the Miami-Herald op-ed: Barack and Joe

A pleasant surprise to find two fine Democrats on the Miami-Herald's op-ed page on Thursday, our President Barack Obama and a local author who joined the Obama campaign last fall and did great work in the grass-roots of Miami Beach, Joseph Contreras.

As the president heads off to Mexico en route to the summit in Trinidad, it was good to read Joe Contreras' wise analysis of Mexico and our relations with that very large neighbor to the south -- population around 110 million. Contreras is a former Newsweek journalist with a book out on Mexico, where he was bureau chief. I should get it, since most of my recent reading on Mexico is from the realm of fiction (I think), in the massive novel "2666" by Roberto Bolano. The title of Contreras' book is "In the Shadow of the Giant: The Americanization of Modern Mexico."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Republican way of talking has gone completely uncivilized. Y'all know how Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity go wild at the slightest provocation. They're paid entertainers but still will have to pay the price when they get to the Pearly Gates. But why should one of our local Reps go over the top while talking about a modest change in Cuba policy?

You get that? "Bowing down to dictators." It's like Chamberlain capitulating to Hitler. Is there any sense of proportion in their brains?

Thanks goodness we have a reasonable guy like Joe Garcia to represent Miami Democrats.


To heck with the pooch. I like to see the president taking flight.

Welcome new members to Miami-Dade Democratic Party

The swearing in:

More loyal Democrats came on board the Miami-Dade Democratic Party Monday as they were sworn in to membership in the Democratic Executive Committee.

Gotta say that some were on the verge of leaving a meeting repeatedly made dreary by objections to the agenda. Is this a way to enliven the party?

Worrying about the "institutional gravities of Congress"

This explained something for me. To give it a little context, it’s from a radio program featuring a story about U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement, and why he was – unaccountably – in favor of military spending even though he had been against it.

For Rep. Lewis, the institutional gravities of Congress and the corporate-sponsored Democratic party were stronger than the living will of his constituents and the memory of the Freedom Movement combined. So the question for Black America now is, if a black congressman near the end of his career with a safe seat and the historical stature of a John Lewis could not speak and would not vote for truth against power in the Bush era, what can we expect from elected black Democrats now that a black face is in the White House?

This came to my attention in a daily email from, a valuable aggregator website that prowls for news and comment useful to us progressive thinkers. You can sign up for it too.

As I said at the top, this explained something for me. One of the mysteries of political observing in South Florida is why our two Democratic members of the U.S. House, Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20) and Kendrick Meek (FL-17), fall so neatly in line with their local Republican colleagues, the Diaz-Balart brothers (FL-21 and FL-25) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL-18), on Cuba issues such as the travel ban. This shows up in these days of changes in Cuba policy when both Meek and Wasserman Schultz are dubious about the modest changes ordered by Barack Obama. While the Diaz-Balarts put out a statement calling it a “serious mistake,” outgoing Republican Sen. Mel Martinez curiously was a little milder, at least in his recognition that the policy change would be good for Cuban families now permitted more contact between their branches in Cuba and the United States.

The two phrases – “the institutional gravities of Congress” and “the corporate-sponsored Democratic Party” – were apt and evocative in describing what we constituents are up against in the wishes we beam to our members of Congress. They sit up there stewing in the same office buildings and dining halls and debate chambers and grow away from their constituents, and then they go party with the lobbyists and big corporate donors and grow even further away from us. As John Lewis grows away from his anti-war constituents.

We need some help to break through these lines of thought that live in the minds of our members of Congress. These are issues of framing, how to word arguments. We’re not too far from the start of campaigning for the 2010 Congressional elections, which will be bigger than ever in Florida with an open Senate seat (Mel Martinez’) and the possibility of wholesale change in state government if Charlie Crist goes for Senate rather than re-election as governor. Time to be thinking not only of who will run but also how to help shape the candidates’ platforms, and how to reduce the importance of money in campaigning – now that we’re all so much poorer.

Will you have as much money to give to political candidates next year as you did in 2008? Not I.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Kendrick Meek gathering petitions

This blog is neutral in the race among three Democrats for the nomination to run for U.S. Senate in 2010, but will post occasional news from their campaigns. Today Kendrick Meek had an event in Hallandale to gather signature for his petition to be on the ballot, and here's some video of the event:

Currently in the U.S. House of Representatives (FL-17), Meek needs 112,000 signed petitions to get on the ballot.

The other two candidates are state Sen. Dan Gelber and North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns. Hot links to their websites are in a box on the right side of this blog.

Cuba policy loosened a little

Finally, the Obama administration has unleashed its modest changes in Cuba policy. Yes, let’s have Cuban Americans be our grassroots diplomats. I nominate Joe Garcia to lead the soft invasion. Joe, are you going? Well, you might not be welcome to the leadership over there.

The Miami Herald was ready for this. Its website already has travel tips (Carry lots of cash!), plus a place for people to upload their videos of trips to see their family. Reminds me that I have a Cuba video up, though it was taken here in Miami almost two years ago, when Barack Obama made a speech declaring his Cuba policy changes.
Here it is, from Aug. 25, 2007:

Policy in this country moves at glacial speed. This should have been done long ago.
UPDATE: Click here for the White House fact sheet on this policy shift.

Meanwhile, I, too, was preparing for this and have some stuff ready to amaze you. Weeks ago I started wondering what we were supposed to make of all the Cuba stuff in the news.

On April 8 the front page of the Miami Herald reported a federal indictment linking the aged Luis Posada Carriles to tourist-site bombings in Cuba in 1997. Didn’t say he did it. No, they say he lied when he denied being part of it. Such weasely indictments have plagued the American machinery of justice at least since Al Capone was run up for tax evasion rather than murder and mayhem. But I guess we will take what we get.

The timing, however, was what intrigued your blogger. This Posada is one of the most prominent bugaboos of the Castro regime, and for the U.S. to indict him could be seen as a gesture to the Cuban government. Or maybe it’s just the result of the slow grind of the wheel of justice.

Still, it emerged as President Obama was preparing to relax Cuba policy at least a little bit in advance of the Summit of the Americas to be held in Trinidad April 17-19. All we’ve been led to expect is that Cuban Americans will be able to make family visits to Cuba more easily and to send remittances more often – that is, to remove harsh rules imposed by George W. Bush at urging of the old guard Miami exiles. But much more is possible, and there’s the usual crescendo in Congress of talk about a more general easing of the Cuba embargo.

To declare an interest, your blogger reveals ownership of a sailboat – small but Havana-capable – as well as a strong belief that his human rights include travel anywhere. And not a speck of Cuba in my family background (though I do have a shirt inscribed Democrata Cubano – Y que?)

The Cuba travel bug hit a couple weeks ago with several news stories about the Havana Biennial:
It was on the front page of the Miami Herald, along with a riveting video showing Cubans yelling for freedom as part of an art happening. That’s what I want to go to Havana to see. Spare me the cigars and rum, get me some politics!

Also, in the NY Times was an arts-section story on all the artists and gallery people who can traipse over to Havana – while I can’t. WTF? At Havana Biennial, Chelsea Takes a Field Trip to Cuba -

As I say, so much is going on that it must make our Republican members of the U.S. House dizzy with despair. They are so yesterday.