Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A long read on Scientology

Your blogger was out of town and missed this huge report on Scientology when it was published a week ago in the St. Petersburg Times. Worth your time to understand more of a strange phenomenon rooted across Florida in Clearwater.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Notable in media catching my attention this weekend:

!. The cover of the June 29 New Yorker is a masterpiece of subtlety. A young woman looking at a punch card. No, a young woman with a head scarf looking at a voting record. No, a young Iranian woman raising her eyeglasses like the vote-counters in Broward County in 2000 to better fix her dubious stare on a paper record of a lost chance for better government.

Here’s a link to the New Yorker contents page where you can admire Barry Blitt’s artwork with the brilliant title ”Hanging Chador.” Wasn’t there a letter in a recent Miami Herald comparing our election two terms ago with what the Iranians now have to endure?

2. The Sunday NY Times Book Review section had a fine surprise on p. 14, with a photo of the lovely former Miami Herald columnist Ana Menendez and, under the headline “Sleeping with the Enemy,” a review of her new novel, “The Last War.” We’ve missed your column, Ana Menendez, but will trot out and get your book that may be about your wandering NY Times war correspondent husband, Dexter Filkins, and the life that adds temptations galore to married people living apart.

Miami’s big day of community service for Health Care Reform

A video report on one aspect of the Health Care day of community service by Organizing for America in Miami. There were numerous events in Miami-Dade County on Saturday, and around Florida perhaps 100. Wow, great participation!

Your blogger also dropped in on an informational event run by the Miami Beach Democratic Club in South Beach, in which the main tactic was to find local families enjoying a day on the beach and to give them data on how to sign up kids and adults for reasonably priced health care. Another useful event aimed at making our neighbors aware of the Democratic Party’s drive to reform health care in the United States. Bravo!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Why Floridians should be calling their reps in Washington

This link is Florida-specific. THE HEALTH CARE STATUS QUO:

You can arm yourself with facts on why we need health care reform and why Florida is deficient in providing good health care for all. At the top of the list was that you'd have to work all year full-time at minimum wage to earn enough to pay the premiums for a family health insurance plan.

Fine, the neo-cons will say: They are young and healthy and don't need health care. But what about the ones that are injured in a car wreck? The ones who get pregnant? The ones who catch swine flu? Those who need counseling for obesity, substance abuse, family abuse? Those who should get a checkup every few years to confirm that they're healthy and that their vision is sharp?

This link comes from the federal secretary of health, and it's time to be dialing your reps in Washington to demand a strong public option in the new legislation.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael Jackson was a Democrat

That is the import of the photo caption showing him airborne while performing at a DNC benefit concert. This link is to a New York Times slide show on his career.


I’m too old to have been a big fan of the Jackson Five or Michael Jackson, but I remember the disco craze that I joined into heartily and danced like crazy for some decades in lounges and living rooms in three or four foreign countries, in addition to the United States. Some of that was Michael Jackson’s music, wasn’t it, my fellow disco-dancers? So I take his passing as a moment to turn away from the lurid stuff of his life and to appreciate the enjoyment he provided to millions, perhaps billions.

There are a lot of videos out there. This one was the most fun for me.

That video came to light by following links in this illuminating post at Huffington Post by Deepak Chopra, who was a friend of Michael Jackson’s. Therein find a link to a Huffington post by his son Gotham who at a tender age also was a friend of Michael Jackson and traveled with him. Chopra father and son seem to be saying that Michael Jackson was after song lyrics and friendship, enough said.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

On the road again

Greetings from Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota, part of the
Black Hills. Where the buffalo roam.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Whence comes the federal deficit?

Here's a link to a terrific summary by the NY Times economics writer, David Leonhardt, of the makeup of the federal deficit. Your neo-con friends will be impressed as you rattle off the facts that the giant and continuing federal deficit breaks down as follows:
  1. 37 percent is due to the business cycle, so we can look forward to some of that going away when the economy finally turns up again.
  2. 33 percent is largely a creation of George W. Bush (who also can be blamed for the depth of the business cycle) in such legislation as tax cuts.
  3. 20 percent comes from President Obama's continuation of some Bush policies such as the Iraq war and some tax cuts.
  4. 10 percent from new Obama policies, which break down as 7 percent for the stimulus plan and only 3 percent for such proposals as health care, education, energy. etc.
Footnote: The NY Times style is to use two words for health care, unlike quite a few media outlets. I enthusiastically agree.

On second thought, your neo-con pals may not be pleased to see this breakdown.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Dan Gelber announces for attorney general

Here it is from Youtube:

The state senator from Miami Beach (representing me, District 35) is the second entry in this race for attorney general, following state Sen. Dave Aronberg's announcement last week. Aronberg represents District 27, West Palm Beach. Both will have to resign from the state Senate at some point, according to state law.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Biscayne Times Online sees big municipal pay in Miami

Ah, to work for Miami city government and get rich. Here the Biscayne
Times reveals itself to be a big investigator.


Sent from my iPhone

Friday, June 05, 2009

Florida: 9.6% unemployment

We're a hair higher than the national rate of 9.4% in Friday's report.

Click on this link to a roll-over map to show each state's jobs situation. It's on the fine ProPublica blog.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Dave Aronberg announces for attorney general

Now we have one Democratic state senator announcing for attorney general and another saying he’ll announce in a few days. So, careful readers, that stuff from a few days ago about avoiding primaries and being all united as a happy family – no longer in effect. That car’s not in gear. That idea is inoperative, to borrow a 35-year-old usage made famous in the doomed administration of Richard Nixon.

We’re gonna be Democrats. Will we have slugfests like that between the 2006 candidates for governor, Jim Davis and Rod Smith? That will be up to Sen. Dave Aronberg of Greenacres (District 27), who announced on Thursday, and Sen. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach (District 35), who said in an email, “I expect to be making my own announcement of my intentions within a few days.”

Let us fervently wish that they don’t spend all their money and venom on each other for the primary to be held in August 2010, and that the winner will be in good shape to defeat a Republican in November next year.

UPDATE: Both would have to resign their Senate seats to run for attorney general, under Florida's so-called "resign to run" law, text at this link. The state law does not apply to the federal office that Gelber sought, the US Senate.

Meanwhile, there’s confirmation that Democratic U.S. Rep Corrine Brown of Jacksonville (FL-3) is considering a run for the U.S. Senate nomination. In that race, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami (FL-17) has a strong start, with North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns saying he likes primaries. Gelber said last weekend he was stepping back from his declared run for the nomination for senator to avoid the chance of a divisive primary.

Alex Sink, now the state chief financial officer, is the mainstream announced candidate for the governorship that Charlie Crist will not run again for, instead running for the U.S. Senate nomination against Marco Rubio, former speaker of the state House of Representatives.

If you think this story is getting cluttered with political names, be glad I’m not talking about those announced Democrats for Kendrick Meek’s seat. They number six already. You may click on this link to the Florida Division of Elections list of who is running for everything. Note that Charlie Crist also has six announced Republican contenders for the U.S. Senate nomination.
This looks like a good two years for political consultants. Something to think about for those whose jobs have gone south.

Here’s the text of Gelber’s email.
“A few days ago I receded from the U.S. Senate race in order to avoid the circular firing squad that has characterized too many past Democratic efforts. My hope was that with the opening up of every cabinet office (for the first time in 140 years) that Democratic hopefuls – like me -- would take a step back to give all of us time to reach a thoughtful judgment on how best to unify our party in a year when real change is finally within reach. In fact, over the last few weeks many of the potential candidates had been in dialogue with each other and with others hoping to avoid the type of divisions that damage our ability to present a winning slate in November. I am grateful to have heard that so many of you share my concern and were also hopeful that our party could break free of its past missteps. This afternoon my friend Dave Aronberg let me know that he was not waiting any longer and announced his candidacy for Attorney General. While I would have preferred a different timeline, I expect to be making my own announcement of my intentions within a few days. While part of me worries that this is déjà vu all over again, I am still optimistic that ultimately we will be able to deliver the change Floridians so desperately need.”

And here’s a link to Aronberg’s campaign site, which was under construction a few days ago but now is well populated with content. He plans to talk a lot about consumer protection in his campaign.

Footnote: Nixon was the first president I covered in my years with Associated Press. Does that make me a big-deal White House correspondent? No, my first AP job was in Philadelphia, and Nixon came there (probably 1971) to give a speech on education; the AP traveling White House staffer was generous and let me write the second-cycle story on the speech.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Local plans rising for June 27 day of national action on health reform

Miami Beach Democratic Club members discussing plans for action on June 27 to support health reform legislation.

First, good news from the White House: President Obama spoke strongly in support of the public option when he met with Democratic senators. This is from a New York Times story today.

It’s good news because I (and not only I) had started to doubt whether Obama felt strong enough to push for the public option against all the lobbying for little fixes to the status quo.

UPDATE: Now on Wednesday I have the letter the president sent to Sens. Kennedy and Baucus about his reform ideas. The link is from WhiteHouse.gov. Read it and tell me if you think the public option is much of a competitor to private insurance. Seems rather modest to me. We'll see. Health insurance exchange ...

Down here on the local level, we’re starting to organize to help pass a good health reform bill this year. Two days of action already this week, and more to come. On Monday we had the Miami-Dade Democratic Party forum on health care (the link is to the story following here), and Tuesday evening the Miami Beach Democratic Club sketched out a plan for action on June 27 – the national day of action summoned by the White House (in the form of Organizing for America).

The Beach Dems Club had a good turnout for its kickoff meeting, the first in the county. Tentative plans call for setting up information tables/health fair activities at public parks on that day, which is the last Saturday in June. Keep an eye on my.barackobama.com for developments.

Tonight, Wednesday night, there’s another kickoff meeting, 7 pm at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE 2nd Ave in Miami, and there’s more scheduled. As I say, keep checking my.barackobama.com to find what you need.

You do want to make a difference, right?

Back to the White House. In that NY Times story we learn that Obama wants legislation to emerge this summer and to be through conference in time to be signed in the fall. Now is the time to be fired up.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Health Care Forum is a hit. So is the Public Option

This is one of the sure ways to draw an energized crowd: talk about health care reform.

The Miami-Dade Democratic Party has done it now twice recently, first back in December when we had to split into five groups to have manageable talk sessions on personal problems with the health care providing system. And again Monday evening when over 50 people came to hear a great roster of experts on public health describe our local problems and possible solutions.

The national health-care environment, of course, is what the U.S. Congress is at work on now. It seems certain that this summer there will be legislation to expand health coverage. What will its content be? “We don’t know yet,” said Dr. Olveen Carrasquillo, chief of general internal medicine at the University of Miami. He was the panelist charged with outlining the progress of legislation in Washington, where it can be said that it’s all still in committee. It’s clear that the big lobbying interests have a lot of influence, and they are fighting to retain as much of the status quo as possible.

“How we get our message to Washington is going to be our concern,” Carrasquillo said.

From the public comments after the panelists spoke, it was clear that our crowd, anyway, wants something like Medicare for all, at least a strong public option to compete against the entrenched insurance industry.

Former state Rep. Elaine Bloom: “Let the insurance companies try to compete against the public option. … If we can have Medicare for everyone, why not?”

This short video shows Elaine Bloom, followed by Paris Walker, of the AFSCME union.

Participants were given a list of suggestions for action, starting with lobbying their members of Congress on behalf of the public option. Also, use the Facebook group set up for the forum (search for Miami-Dade Health Forum) as a resource and sounding board. Best may be to use Organizing for America as the tool to set up events and campaigns to influence Congress.

State Rep. Ron Brise of Miami-Dade outlined what’s going on in Tallahassee, and Lillian Rivera, administrator of the Miami-Dade County Health Department, focused on local needs, pointing out that Florida has 3.6 million uninsured among its 18 million people and public health facilities are being hit hard by budget cuts in this hard economy.

She and others described how the public health sector is streamlining its act in useful ways including more public health clinics. Marisel Losa of the Health Council of South Florida told of the Miami-Dade Health Action Network, a new partnership of public and free providers that is increasing access to primary health care for the uninsured.

Mental health needs are, in some ways, being cared for as in the 19th century, said Dr. Janetta Dominic Cureton, forensic psychiatry fellow at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Good ideas abound but legislators repeatedly haven't funded them, she said, and described how the jails are crowded with people suffering from mental illness. “I can’t believe that in 2009 we want to look like 1809. We can’t leave these people in jail,” she said.

Dr. Carrasquillo also covered the needs of the undocumented, a big issue in Florida. Half of the undocumented in the United States are in four states, California, Texas, New York and Florida.

He said there were four main reasons to cover the health needs of the undocumented: humanitarian, egalitarian, businesses will save money with healthy workers, and it’s not expensive. One argument on the other side, he said, was that “some people do not listen to common sense.” Another is that some on the far right are so mean that they will pay more than health care would cost to screw them – the undocumented.

A late addition to the panel was the topic of oral health, covered by Thomas H. Ward, a retired dentist and trustee of the Florida Dental Association. He said one fascinating thing after another, starting with our ratio of 2,400 people per active dentist in Miami-Dade -- rather high. The key to good oral health is preventive care, he said, starting with prenatal care so that women do not pass dental problems to their newborn.

Dr. Ward said Miami-Dade County has several good programs to improve dental health among school children. But the state and federal levels have “zero solutions” for dental needs, he said.