Sunday, January 31, 2010

Fact Sheet: High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program: Tampa - Orlando - Miami

The White House Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release January 28, 2010
Fact Sheet: High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program: Tampa - Orlando - Miami

Awardees : Florida Department of Transportation
Total Approximate Funding (entire corridor) : $1,250,000,000
Benefiting State : Florida
Miles of Track : New - 84, Planned - 240, Total - 324 miles

Grants from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will go toward the creation of a new high-speed rail corridor that connects Tampa Bay, Orlando, Miami and other communities in central and south Florida.

This region has experienced signi ficant population growth in recent decades, as well as increases in the volume of visitors, leading to strains on area roadways and airports. Currently, the region is almost entirely reliant on automobiles for transportation between these metro areas, which together have a population of over 10 million people and account for two of the nation’s 20 largest metro areas.

The new high-speed rail service will provide an attractive and competitive transportation alternative for residents and visitors in the area. The first phase of the service will connect Orlando to Tampa, with intermediate service to several of central Florida’s major tourist destinations. The second phase will connect Orlando to Miami, following either an inland or coastal route.

It is estimated that these investments in high-speed rail will create thousands of jobs throughout Florida, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

Summary of Corridor Investments
Tampa - Orlando: This investment will initiate the development of the Tampa to Orlando segment, with speeds reaching 168mph and 16 round trips per day on brand new track dedicated solely to high-speed rail. Trip time between the two cities on the new line will be less than one hour, compared to around 90 minutes by car. This project will create jobs and generate economic activity as 84 miles of track are constructed, stations are built or enhanced, and equipment is purchased. Completion of this phase is anticipated in 2014.

Orlando - Miami: Scheduled for completion in 2017, the 230-mile Orlando to Miami line is expected to operate at speeds up to 186mph, reducing travel time between these two cities to approximately two hours, or roughly half as long as it takes to drive the same route. Ultimately, 20 round trips per day between Orlando and Miami are planned. Although no ARRA funding will be used for this segment, significant planning activities are on-going to prepare for this second phase of Florida’s high-speed rail vision.

One Step Closer to the Future on High-Speed Rail

Posted by Jesse Lee on January 29, 2010 at 12:33 PM EST

It's not often that the President and the Vice President get together for a town hall, but the occasion yesterday was something special for Vice President Biden. They were in Florida, one of the sites just announced for a massive down payment on high-speed rail, the future of transportation, and a great source of jobs in the here-and-now. See a map of the full web of high-speed rail, and emerging high-speed rail projects being funded by the nearly $8 billion investment in the Recovery Act.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Ladies and gentlemen, we're determined to restore America to its rightful place at the leading edge of innovation, with bold ideas that will create jobs immediately and serve as the foundation, a new platform -- (applause) -- a new platform to build this economy on that will serve not just our immediate needs but future generations; ideas like wind power, solar energy, a smart grid, broadband -- (applause) -- and high-speed rail. And that's why we're here today. (Applause.)

Having made over 7,900 round trips, literally, on Amtrak, 250 miles a day, I am very familiar with rail. (Laughter.) And today you have no idea how pleased I am to talk about the announcement that we made yesterday awarding -- in total, nationwide -- nearly $8 billion from the Recovery Act, funding to move us in the direction of developing a high-speed rail service in 13 travel corridors covering 31 states all across this country. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, these investments -- these investments have several goals: first, to improve existing rail lines to make train service faster, more reliable; two, to pull cars off the road, reducing congestion, cutting pollution, and increasing productivity; and three, to begin to develop new corridors for high-speed trains that will go from 169 to 230 miles an hour. (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, like a corridor, right here from Tampa to Orlando -- (applause) -- so you'll be able to get on a train here to Orlando in less than an hour, without battling traffic and congestion, arrive at your destination. Ladies and gentlemen, this single investment is not going to solve all our transportation issues overnight. Instead, with more than $55 billion of proposals from 50 states all across the country, we're providing $8 billion in seed money. And today's awards provide only initial funding for the rail system. Like Tampa and Orlando route, more funding is going to come in the future as progress is made.

We have committed to another $5 billion in funding over the next five years. It's a down payment on a truly national program that's going to reshape the way we travel. It will change the way which we go from place to place, change the ways we work and live, and will connect communities to each other in a way that in the past was impossible. Just like the Interstate Highway structure did back in the mid-'50s, it will have far-reaching consequences.

Let me ask you a question: How can we, the leading nation in the world, be in a position where China, Spain, France -- and name all the other countries who have rail systems that are far superior to ours?

Ladies and gentlemen, it's about time we move. But this time -- but this time, we're not only going to be providing a better way to transport; we're going to be taking cars off of congested highways, reducing carbon emissions, and saving billions of dollars in human productivity lost just sitting in traffic jams, as studies point out.
Most important, we're creating jobs -- good jobs. (Applause.) Construction jobs. Manufacturing jobs. And we're going to be creating them right now. We're going to spur economic development in the future and we're making our communities more livable all in the process.

Support the President’s plan to fight for the middle class and create new, high-paying jobs.

Support the President’s plan to fight for the middle class and create new, high-paying jobs:

Historic help for small businesses: $30 billion to community banks to increase lending to small businesses, tax credits for more than one million small businesses who hire new workers or raise wages, and and end to capital gains taxes for small businesses.

Innovation and investments to create jobs and spur growth: New investments to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and update it with new projects like high-speed railroads and comprehensive energy and climate reform with incentives that will help make the production of clean energy more profitable and job-producing.

A foundation for sustained prosperity: New reforms to curb the reckless practices by the big banks which put our entire financial system at risk, new aid for students to help educate the work force of tomorrow, and real health care reform that reins in out-of-control costs that are squeezing our families and businesses.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Someone should be asking Rubio is he’s still big on “citizen journalism”

Now that the dissembler who got notoriety for attacking ACORN has been unmasked as something like a burglar, would someone please ask Marco Rubio if he’s still enthusiastic about what he called “citizen journalism?” Does the Republican candidate for the US Senate (along with Charlie Crist) approve of intruding into US Senate offices and messing with the phone?
This is a video I did last September after Rubio spoke at my sailing club in Key Largo.
It was one of four videos in a blog post about Rubio linked here. Love the way he calls me a gentleman.

Memo to Miami Herald: Need story on our losses on Stuyvesant Town

Where’s the Miami Herald on this story? Referring to the fiasco now two years old with the Florida State Board of Administration and the way it lost money – taxpayers’ money that was supposed to be held in close and careful trust for pension funds, hospitals and the like.

This blog has been mad as hell and not standing for it any more for some time with main focus on Jeb Bush and his well-paid gig with Lehman Brothers after he left the governor’s office, whereupon Lehman went belly-up and the Lehman investments Jeb pushed on us became worthless.

There’s another famous episode, however, that’s now maturing to Florida’s detriment, and I don’t see it properly explicated in the Herald. It surfaced in New York early this week when Tishman Speyer caved on the $5.4 billion developments at Stuyvesant Town and Cooper Village. This cost Florida $250 million plus spare change amounting to millions, and you can read about it in the Jacksonville newspaper. But not in the Herald.

Is this a political decision, or is the Herald’s financial investigative staff overwhelmed?

Anyway, we need to have the Herald nag the perpetrators until they lay out their roles in this. And they are Charlie Crist and Jeb Bush. Meanwhile, you can read about it in the Jacksonville paper and in the New York Times today, which is looking at how the Democrat Andrew Cuomo is getting tons of campaign money from real estate interests, including Tishman.

A recent post on this topic can be found at this link. Or look up Jeb Bush on the tags list on the right.

What did Alito say?

We're reached a pretty point when the Supremes are giving the President the Bronx cheer (even if sotto voce) during the State of the Union.

What did he say? Some think he was mouthing "Not true." I just saw on the Jimmy Kimmel show on ABC that he was saying "Nachos."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Sent from my iPhone 3GS

Begin forwarded message:

From: "White House Media Affairs Office" <>
Date: January 27, 2010 7:07:47 PM EST



Office of the Press Secretary



January 27, 2010





We face big and difficult challenges.  And what the American people hope ‚Äì what they deserve ‚Äì is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics.  For while the people who sent us here have different backgrounds and different stories and different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same.  The aspirations they hold are shared.  A job that pays the bill.  A chance to get ahead.  Most of all, the ability to give their children a better life. 


You know what else they share?  They share a stubborn resilience in the face of adversity.  After one of the most difficult years in our history, they remain busy building cars and teaching kids; starting businesses and going back to school.  They are coaching little league and helping their neighbors.  As one woman wrote to me, ‚ÄúWe are strained but hopeful, struggling but encouraged.‚Äù 


It is because of this spirit ‚Äì this great decency and great strength ‚Äì that I have never been more hopeful about America‚Äôs future than I am tonight.  Despite our hardships, our union is strong.  We do not give up.  We do not quit.  We don‚Äôt allow fear or division to break our spirit.  In this new decade, it‚Äôs time the American people get a government that matches their decency; that embodies their strength.   And tonight, I‚Äôd like to talk about how together, we can deliver on that promise.    




By the time I‚Äôm finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance.  Millions will lose it this year.  Our deficit will grow.  Premiums will go up.  Co-pays will go up.  Patients will be denied the care they need.  Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether.  I will not walk away from these Americans.  And neither should the people in this chamber.




Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it‚Äôs time for something new.  Let‚Äôs try common sense.  Let‚Äôs invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let‚Äôs meet our responsibility to the people who sent us here.


To do that, we have to recognize that we face more than a deficit of dollars right now. We face a deficit of trust – deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years. To close that credibility gap we must take action on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue to end the outsized influence of lobbyists; to do our work openly; and to give our people the government they deserve.


That’s what I came to Washington to do. That’s why – for the first time in history – my Administration posts our White House visitors online. And that’s why we’ve excluded lobbyists from policy-making jobs or seats on federal boards and commissions.


But we cannot stop there. It‚Äôs time to require lobbyists to disclose each contact they make on behalf of a client with my Administration or Congress.  And it‚Äôs time to put strict limits on the contributions that lobbyists give to candidates for federal office. Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests ‚Äì including foreign companies ‚Äì to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don‚Äôt think American elections should be bankrolled by America‚Äôs most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities.  They should be decided by the American people, and that‚Äôs why I‚Äôm urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.


I‚Äôm also calling on Congress to continue down the path of earmark reform. You have trimmed some of this spending and embraced some meaningful change.  But restoring the public trust demands more. For example, some members of Congress post some earmark requests online. Tonight, I‚Äôm calling on Congress to publish all earmark requests on a single website before there‚Äôs a vote so that the American people can see how their money is being spent.





bãö≠Á.Æ∑ß∂\¨πªÆ&fiv⁄0Ü+^Üã¨zöfi≤«Âj…¢jhõyß!ï™Î  öäW(ô:.ûÀõ± ‚mÎù÷õ爫zf¢ñ⁄%y´fi¬≠z.±ÍkzÀóm∂„]˜BX¨∑bµËh∫«†¢

Monday, January 25, 2010

Kendrick Meek video'd a rescue in Haiti. Thanks to Miami Dade rescue team!

This just in. Though I'm a week late with this, it still moves me.

Kendrick Meek, now running for US Senator, represents District 17 in the US House, and has the largest number of Haitian people in any congressional district, I've heard.

Musical interlude: How the economy raps

This was on NPR Monday afternoon.

Is this a little like the musical turndown service featured over on South Florida Daily Blog? (And others.)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

David Plouffe to Democrats: "Fight like hell... and do what the American people sent us to Washington to do"

By Christopher Hass - Jan 24th, 2010 at 1:03 pm EST
In today's Washington Post, Obama for America campaign manager David Plouffe penned an op-ed in which he admits that the Democratic Party received a resounding "wake-up call" from the Massachusetts special election on Tuesday, but he argues that the way forward is to continue to fight, and to show American people that they are capable of doing the hard things that voters sent them to Washington to do.
"[The 2010 midterms] will be a tough election for our party and for many Republican incumbents as well. Instead of fearing what may happen, let's prove that we have more than just the brains to govern -- that we have the guts to govern. Let's fight like hell, not because we want to preserve our status, but because we sincerely believe too many everyday Americans will continue to lose if Republicans and special interests win."
Plouffe also outlines a few key principles the Democrats can use to be successful in this November, the first of which is passing a meaningful health insurance reform package without delay. He also urges Democrats to focus on job creation, and to do a better job articulating the positive impact American Recovery and Reinvestment Act on the economy.
Finally, Plouffe urges Democratic candidates to "run great campaigns," citing many of the same core organizing principles that proved to be so effective during the Obama campaign:
"Our campaigns can leave no stone unturned, from believing in the power of grass-roots volunteers and voter registration, to using technology and data innovatively, to raising money -- especially with big corporate interests now freed up to dump hundreds of millions of dollars to elect those who will do their bidding. Democratic candidates must do everything well. Each one must make sure that the first-time voters from 2008 living in your state or district -- more than 15 million nationwide -- are in their sights. Build a relationship with those voters, organize them and educate them. On Nov. 3, many races are sure to be decided by just a few thousand if not a few hundred votes. These voters can make the difference. We have to show them that their 2008 votes mattered, and passing health insurance reform is one way to start.
...If Democrats will show the country we can lead when it's hard, we may not have perfect election results, but November will be nothing like the nightmare that talking heads have forecast."
Read the full op-ed...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Redistricting amendments on the ballot: Florida voters earn historic chance to vote to stop politicians from rigging districts

After November passage voters will choose elected officials – not the other way around

Tallahassee, FL – Today, Floridians took a giant step towards ending the incumbent and political party protection plan that masquerades as legislative and Congressional redistricting. The non-partisan group gathered more than 1,650,000 petitions signed by Florida Republicans, Democrats and Independents from the Panhandle to the Keys. As a result, today the Secretary of State certified Constitutional Amendment 5 for the November 2, 2010 ballot, and is expected to soon certify its partner, Amendment 6. Florida voters now have a powerful opportunity to stop legislators from rigging and manipulating district boundaries in order to stifle competition while perpetuating their own political power.

“These critical reforms will finally end the legalized conflict of interest that allows legislators to design their districts and those of Congress for their own political purposes,” said Bob Milligan, who was elected State Comptroller during the Lawton Chiles and Jeb Bush administrations.

Under our present system, there are no rules that limit legislators from drawing districts to favor themselves or their parties. Districts in Florida are bizarrely shaped, often meandering for hundreds of miles or from coast to coast. Communities are carved up so that voters living in the same neighborhood are often represented by different members of Congress or state representatives.

As a result, incumbent legislators almost never lose their re-election bids. Only three (out of 140 up for election each cycle) were defeated in the last six years. How could this happen? Because legislators draw up their own districts for one purpose: to ensure that they stay in office!

Former Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham said, “Florida’s legislators are choosing their voters instead of voters choosing their representatives. There are presently no rules to stop this self protection plan. And when this happens, the voters don’t have a real choice! These amendments will change that.”

With voter approval in November, Amendments 5 and 6 will establish constitutional rules that will:
Prohibit politicians from designing districts to favor themselves or their parties;
Require them to make the districts compact and community based; and
Make it impossible for legislators to draw districts to diminish the ability of minority voters to elect representatives.
“I am so happy that the voters of Florida will finally have the opportunity to vote to put these fairness standards in the Florida constitution. These amendments provide new protections for all voters and especially minorities,” added Representative Perry Thurston of Broward County.

State Representative Darren Soto, Orange County, said, “Today’s certification bodes well for achieving fair districts in the state of Florida. I think that these new protections will be very popular with my constituents as well as all of the voters of our great state.”

For additional information and the exact language of Amendments 5 and 6, please visit

Massachusetts lesson for Florida Dems: Wall Street will be our foe

What was going on in Massachusetts? It was hard to tell from South Florida, so with the hindsight of knowing who won, let’s just look ahead to Florida and November of this year when we are electing a US Senator, and ask ourselves, Who will be behind the Republican candidate? Especially if it’s Marco Rubio.
The answer is in my email today in a jolly call from Club for Growth for a “knockout blow” to “big government,” which is said to be “the issue on everyone’s minds.”
Set aside the fact that big government is not on everyone’s mind when the job is gone or endangered, the mortgage is under water, and the health insurer is waiting to get your last penny and then deny you coverage.
And where does Chris Chocola, speaking for Club for Growth, want to swing and land that knockout blow? In Florida, in the Marco Rubio campaign.
That’s all laid out in his email, and below you’ll find excerpts to prove it. But before that, let’s consider the Club for Growth. Call it Wall Street. Call it Goldman Sachs. A front group.
Read what our friends at Think Progress and Daily Kos lay out on who funds the Club for Growth and who will fund Marco Rubio in Florida. It will be Wall Street, even as the handsome former speaker of the Florida House trots around the state playing to the teabagger crowd, which is deeply suspicious of Wall Street.
This is the irony underlying the Rubio campaign. It’s what our friend FlaDem describes in his Daily Kos post as the lesson from Massachusetts: “ … the Massachusetts race teaches that a Wall Street funded anti-Wall Street politician is a formidable foe.”

Quotes from the Club for Growth email:

It's a new year. Campaigns have begun in earnest.

After a year of liberal tax-and-spend politics, big government is the issue on everyone's minds.

Even in Massachusetts, voters have rejected Barack Obama's out-of-control liberalism, leaving the tax-and-spend Democrat leadership in Congress reeling.

Well, it's time to deal them the knockout blow.

And there's no better place for you and me to focus right now than the Florida U.S. Senate Republican Primary.

There's no doubt about it, this will be the most critical and closely-watched Republican primary in 2010.

The stakes could hardly be higher.

In one corner of the ring stands our endorsed candidate, Marco Rubio.

But his opponent -- in the far left corner - stands [sic] Governor Charlie Crist.

Polls have been tightening over the past few months, as Marco Rubio has dramatically closed the gap. In fact, according a December Rasmussen Poll, he's now neck and neck with Charlie Crist!

That means this race will likely come down to money. Plain and simple. 

As you may imagine, the email is replete with links to donate money to Rubio. Any questions? Remember, the Club for Growth has been one of the biggest backers of the economic policies that drove the US economy -- and much of the world -- to the brink of destruction. They are no one's friend. And their vision is seriously skewed if they think Charlie Crist is "far left."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Test Q: Could Florida go the way of Massachusetts? Discuss

Here's the way it's outlined in today's Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times. We scroll down to the comments for some good description of how Florida and Massachusetts are NOT alike. And we shouldn't have the same outcome as Tuesday's rout in Massachusetts. But we will have to work hard.

Smart comment to the effect that Floridians, unlike the good people of Massachusetts, know what it's like to be governed by Republicans. And are not likely to make the same mistake.

First requirement is to view this as a multiyear task -- to think about not only the November 2010 election but also beyond to 2012 when redistricting will have taken place. That, in turn, means we have to think back to this year and make sure that the anti-gerrymandering referendum passes. Thank you for getting this up and running, Fair Districts Florida!

Do you love your printer?

Put this in the category of Life in the Computer Age:

I solved part of this by pulling the plug on the color printer (Brother MFC3420C) and getting an HP b-w printer (Laser Jet 1020), a pretty simple thing, and printing everything in black and white. Now all I have to worry about is the wireless network and whether the laptop in the next room can print to the darn thing ...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

What to do on Facebook: Be with the Little Haiti Cultural Center

Over on Facebook I'm suggesting that people become fans of the Little Haiti Cultural Center. Solidarity, you know. Plus it looks like a terrific new place.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund

Support the Earthquake Recovery Efforts in Haiti
The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund:
On January 12, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti just outside the capital city of Port-au-Prince. The devastation – in lives lost, property destroyed, and families displaced – is immense.
At the request of President Obama, we are partnering to help the Haitian people reclaim their country and rebuild their lives.
Our immediate priority is to save lives. The critical needs in Haiti are great, but they are also simple: food, water, shelter, and first-aid supplies. The best way concerned citizens can help is to donate funds that will go directly to supplying these material needs.
Through the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, we will work to provide immediate relief and long-term support to earthquake survivors. We will channel the collective goodwill around the globe to help the people of Haiti rebuild their cities, their neighborhoods, and their families.
We ask each of you to give what you can to help ensure the people of Haiti can build back stronger and better than ever.
Both of us have personally witnessed the tremendous generosity and goodwill of the American people and of our friends around the world to help in times of great need. There is no greater rallying cry for our common humanity than witnessing our neighbors in distress. And, like any good neighbor, we have an obligation and desire to come to their aid.
Thank you for taking the time to visit, and we hope you will donate to this worthwhile cause. The people of Haiti now need our assistance more than ever.
President William J. Clinton 
President George W. Bush

The earthquake that rocked the coast of Haiti killed or injured a devastating number of people. Even more were left in need of aid, making this is one of the great humanitarian emergencies in the history of the Americas. In the aftermath of the disaster, President Barack Obama asked President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush to raise funds for immediate relief and long-term recovery efforts to help those who are most in need of food, water, shelter, medical care, and support. In response, the two Presidents established the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund (CBHF) to identify and fulfill unmet needs in the region, foster economic opportunity, improve the quality of life of those affected over the long term, and assist the people of Haiti as they rebuild their lives and country. Presidents Clinton and Bush oversee the CBHF through their respective nonprofit organizations, the William J. Clinton Foundation and Communities Foundation of Texas. One hundred percent of the donations made to the Clinton Foundation go directly to relief efforts. Ninety-nine percent of the donations made to the Communities Foundation of Texas go directly to relief efforts.
You can contribute in any of three ways:
Web: visit our secure online donation page:
Mobile Giving: Text the word "QUAKE" to 20222 to donate $10 to the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, charged to your cell phone bill.
Mail: The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund 
c/o William J. Clinton Foundation 
Donations Department 
610 President Clinton Avenue 
Little Rock, AR 72201 
The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund 
c/o Communities Foundation of Texas 
5500 Caruth Haven Lane 
Dallas, TX 75225

Presidential Proclamation--Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2010

The White House - Office of the Press Secretary - January 15, 2010
Presidential Proclamation--Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., challenged our Nation to recognize that our individual liberty relies upon our common equality. In communities marred by division and injustice, the movement he built from the ground up forced open doors to negotiation. The strength of his leadership was matched only by the power of his words, which still call on us to perfect those sacred ideals enshrined in our founding documents.
"We have an opportunity to make America a better Nation," Dr. King said on the eve of his death. "I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land." Though we have made great strides since the turbulent era of Dr. King's movement, his work and our journey remain unfinished. Only when our children are free to pursue their full measure of success -- unhindered by the color of their skin, their gender, the faith in their heart, the people they love, or the fortune of their birth -- will we have reached our destination.
Today, we are closer to fulfilling America's promise of economic and social justice because we stand on the shoulders of giants like Dr. King, yet our future progress will depend on how we prepare our next generation of leaders. We must fortify their ladders of opportunity by correcting social injustice, breaking the cycle of poverty in struggling communities, and reinvesting in our schools. Education can unlock a child's potential and remains our strongest weapon against injustice and inequality.
Recognizing that our Nation has yet to reach Dr. King's promised land is not an admission of defeat, but a call to action. In these challenging times, too many Americans face limited opportunities, but our capacity to support each other remains limitless. Today, let us ask ourselves what Dr. King believed to be life's most urgent and persistent question: "What are you doing for others?" Visit to find Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service projects across our country.
Dr. King devoted his life to serving others, and his message transcends national borders. The devastating earthquake in Haiti, and the urgent need for humanitarian support, reminds us that our service and generosity of spirit must also extend beyond our immediate communities. As our Government continues to bring our resources to bear on the international emergency in Haiti, I ask all Americans who want to contribute to this effort to visit
By lifting up our brothers and sisters through dedication and service -- both at home and around the world -- we honor Dr. King's memory and reaffirm our common humanity.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim January 18, 2010, as the Martin Luther King, Jr., Federal Holiday. I encourage all Americans to observe this day with appropriate civic, community, and service programs in honor of Dr. King's life and lasting legacy.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of January, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Haiti aid: More volunteers needed to handle relief supplies

The call is being issued even more loudly: More volunteers needed.

“This is the time to answer Dr. King’s call to service,” said Brad Schenck, field director for Organizing for America. He’s working out of a modest donated warehouse in Little Haiti where donated goods are collected from around Miami.

It’s at 7220 N. Miami Ave., and that’s where volunteers are needed.

In three hours I spent there Friday morning there were traffic jams of City of Miami pickups full of water, groceries, tons of rice, clothes and other donations that had been left at fire stations and elsewhere around the city.

Schenck expertly drove a fork-lift – “One of my secret talents,” he said – to move pallets of goods to where they will be taken for shipment to Haiti.

When? Hard to say immediately, but one of the volunteers was a pilot with a twin-engine plane he’s willing to lend to the delivery effort. Things are happening, and everyone is conscious of the dire conditions faced by millions in Haiti, as aid workers try to put vital goods in the pipeline.

This link takes you to the Miami Herald roundup of aid efforts in South Florida.

This short video shows a collection point at a Walmart on 163rd Street in North Miami Beach, as well as the central warehouse on the 7200 block of North Miami Avenue.

Please note my earlier short posts on the kind of goods that are high on the list of priorities now. That is, don’t send your old clothes – send fresh medical supplies, baby formula, water, big bags of rice. Canned goods are better kept for your own hurricane reserve. Money to help rebuild is a good idea.

Helping Haiti: OFA in action

Brad Schenk, left, of Organizing for America with Miami city workers at warehouse assembling relief supplies for Haiti on Friday.

For Haiti: Send big bandages

This is high on wanted list: medical supplies. No small bandages --
they can cut up a big one for a small wound.

For Haiti: High on wanted list

If you're unsure what to donate, hold the clothing items and send
infant food instead.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No surprises in Miami: Spence-Jones wins

With all precincts reporting, the tallies show walk-away wins for both Michelle Spence-Jones in District 5 and Wilie Gort in District 1. Both fields were crowded, with nine candidates apiece. And after $300,000 expended by the citizens of Miami, the only change from last November's result is that even fewer people voted (11.9% county-wide, or about 4,268 people in District 1, and 3,820 people in District 5 today vs. 4,854 in D5 last November 3rd), and this time Spence-Jones only got 53 percent, not 83 percent, of the vote. Rev. Richard Dunn, who gave Spence-Jones a run for her money in the "bad vs. worse" election of 2005, got just 601 votes, or just under 16%. David Chiverton did even worse this time than he did last November, getting just 3.6 percent of the vote, and attorney Erica Wright, who won the Herald endorsement, received just 284 votes, or 7.4 percent of the vote.) The Spence-Jones tally is below:


25 of 25 Precincts Reporting

Candidate Percent Votes
Yashica Brown-Rogne 0.76% 29
David Chiverton 3.61% 138
Richard P. Dunn II 15.73% 601
Robert Malone Jr. 4.95% 189
Dufirstson Neree 1.73% 66
Pierre E. Rutledge 8.35% 319
Michelle Spence-Jones 53.48% 2,043
Georges William 3.95% 151
Erica Wright 7.43% 284

So now, we await word from Governor Crist. Somehow I doubt he really wants this fight -- the people of District 5 knew what they were voting for this time, for sure. And the word I'm hearing is that Spence-Jones would have a strong case that without being convicted at this point, of the crimes she's accused of, there may be no constitutional basis to remove her. (Still, to be honest, the nerd in me would love to see that fight go to the Florida Supreme Court. Talk about great political theater!) Meanwhile, the devastation in Haiti will be reverberating in the Little Haiti portion of the District tonight.

The plot thickens.

Cross-posted at The Reid Report.

Also, click here for updates on the devastating earthquake in Haiti including info on how you can help.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Jeb alert! Report on re- emergence of Jeb Bush

Reporters are reminded to ask him how much Lehman paid him to get
Florida to buy crap investments.

Sent from my iPhone 3GS
Blogging at

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Manatee cam

Our dear friends at FPL are nice to manatees. Here's a link to the live shot of manatees enjoying warm water from an FPL plant's outflow.

And thanks to our friends at the Miami Herald for their story on this oddity. The manatees can been seen even in the middle of the night, so there are lights on the scene.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Water main breaks in North Beach

This was reported to Miami Beach public works department Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday the pipe burst and water was turned off, a big hole was dug and after a few hours the pipe was fixed and water was on again. The crew chief rejected my theory that our infrastructure was in poor shape. His verdict: "It's the cold weather."

This was in the 8600 block of Byron Avenue in Miami Beach. The crew had three other breaks to attend to, they said. Is that healthy infrastructure?

Movie time: "Sherlock Holmes" and the bridge scene, stuff explained

Put this in the category of tooting my own horn.

Have you seen “Sherlock Holmes?” I almost avoided it, thanks to the Miami Herald review by Rene Rodriguez (“over-plotted,” “murky,” “elephant-footed”) but a few days ago I went and, man, glad I did. Glad the Imax “Avatar” was sold out third time I’ve tried to see it the second time, and so I had a nice dose of one of my favorite themes; i.e. that the United States is corrupt and ripe for a takeover by evil Lord Blackwood.

I’m trying here not to give away a lot about the movie, unlike the Wikipedia entry -- it gives all ALL away. In fact, corruption in the United States is only a tiny amount of the motivation behind the plot line. But, like hearing the villain in “Avatar” utter “shock and awe” as a battle cry, I can be touched politically by today’s movies.

The real reason for opening this can of non-political worms was to provide the readers with a little background on one of the fight scenes in “Sherlock Holmes.” Not giving away too much, I hope, to say it takes place on Tower Bridge when it’s under construction. Leaving the theater, I thought, I know some stuff about Tower Bridge, and so at home I’ve dug into the morgue from my years as a reporter working in London and here’s the Denver Post’s clip of a light feature I did on Tower Bridge in 1986.

Note: Click on the image for a readable enlargement.

Beyond that, you can get a live webcam view of the bridge at its own website, and at Twitter you can see when it opens and closes to let the occasional vessel pass. Seems to take about 10 minutes, so it’s sort of like living here on the beach and dealing with drawbridges.

Cheers! See you at the movies!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Guest blogger makes sense of US economy and politics

The author, Santiago Leon, is chair of the Issues Committee of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party

By Santiago Leon
Happy New Year!
Like most of us, I have been giving some thought to how our economy was run into the ditch. I thought you might be interested in some of my conclusions.

Over the years, it has been the pattern that Republicans got more campaign contributions from business, and Democrats from other sources. In recent times, however, both parties have been bankrolled by business interests, the difference being that the Democrats got more money from Wall Street, and the Republicans from the oil industry. This was certainly the case in the most recent presidential election. See for example:

For a long time I thought it was nice that the Democrats got money from Wall Street -- my interpretation was that there were progressive people on Wall Street who understood the need for responsible government. I am sure that many progressive Democrats would not have shared this perspective in the first place, and in the last year or so I have come to look at things differently. It is now apparent that the economic policies of both the Democratic and the Republican parties, and perhaps those of the Democrats more than those of the Republicans, have been guided in major part by the influence of Wall Street, which has centered on the expansion of its own profits.

Moreover, it has become apparent that the economic policies designed by Wall Street have done serious damage to the American economy, damage which will not easily be repaired. This damage takes numerous forms including the loss of income and competitive position, but also lasting damage to individuals in the form of both short-term and long-term impacts on health. See for example:

The direct damage which our political leadership has inflicted on our economy falls into two categories: the offshoring of manufacturing and the deregulation of the financial system. These two developments interacted to produce our recent financial disasters.

How did this happen?

First, the offshoring of manufacturing led to enormous trade deficits and lower real incomes for American middle-class families. Families took a number of steps to maintain their standard of living: first women returned to the work force, and then families went into debt using credit cards and mortgages. The federal government also got into the act: as families' financial situation deteriorated, people demanded tax cuts. In addition, declining real incomes meant that recessions were recurrent, and the federal government found itself under pressure to engage in deficit spending to keep the economy going, with the result that the cumulative federal deficit rose (of course, George W. Bush waging wars in the Middle East while cutting taxes did not help).

Lower real incomes and higher household debt would have been bad enough by themselves. However, an increasingly concentrated and deregulated financial system added to the problem. First, the mortgage market became much more volatile. In the past, home mortgages were made by local lenders who kept the loans in their portfolios. As a result, lenders were careful about whom they lent to and about the value of the properties that secured the loans. In recent years, however, those who were originating the mortgage loans sold them immediately to wholesalers who repackaged the individual mortgages into securities.

The buyers of the mortgage-based securities were sure that home prices would never fall, and that homeowners would almost never fail to make their mortgage payments. As a result, the demand for the securities was so strong that the wholesalers asked few questions about what they were buying. The resulting strong market for mortgage-based securities had two effects: it lowered the quality of the mortgage loans and also fueled a run-up in the prices of real estate. The mortgage-based securities were bought in large blocks, which concentrated the risk of default. Ultimately, the real estate price bubble burst, with predictable consequences for the holders of the securities and for companies such as AIG which had issued guarantees on those securities. The federal government then bailed out all the investors and speculators (on the pretext that they were "too big to fail"), massively increasing its own debt in the process.


Several recent articles have done an excellent job of clarifying the process by which the American economy has been damaged. One set of articles relates to the offshoring of our manufacturing base. This is a special report of The American Prospect entitled "Made in the USA: Reviving American Manufacturing Before It Is Too Late." You can see all the articles at:

I would particularly recommend two articles. The first, "The Plight of American Manufacturing," by Richard McCormack, sums up where we are.

Here is an excerpt:
America's economic elite has long argued that the country does not need an industrial base. The economies in states such as California and Michigan that have lost their industrial base, however, belie that claim. Without an industrial base, an increase in consumer spending, which pulled the country out of past recessions, will not put Americans back to work [because the consumer dollars will be spent in China]. Without an industrial base, the nation's trade deficit will continue to grow. Without an industrial base, there will be no economic ladder for a generation of immigrants, stranded in low-paying service-sector jobs. Without an industrial base, the United States will be increasingly dependent on foreign manufacturers even for its key military technology.

For American manufacturers, the bad years didn't begin with the banking crisis of 2008. Indeed, the U.S. manufacturing sector never emerged from the 2001 recession, which coincided with China's entry into the World Trade Organization. Since 2001, the country has lost 42,400 factories, including 36 percent of factories that employ more than 1,000 workers (which declined from 1,479 to 947), and 38 percent of factories that employ between 500 and 999 employees (from 3,198 to 1,972). An additional 90,000
manufacturing companies are now at risk of going out of business.

[Of course, even with Miami's trade- and service-based economy, we have experienced the offshoring of manufacturing as the garment and medical device industries have moved jobs to other countries.]

A second article, "Industrial Policy: The Road Not Taken," by Jeff Faux, helps us to understand the politics of how we got here.

Here is an excerpt, which summarizes not only the policy debate but the relationship between Wall Street, economics departments and "free trade" views :
Over the next decade [starting in 1976], a widening circle elaborated the case for a conscious nurturing of a high-wage road to future prosperity as an alternative to the low-wage road on which the country was traveling. Analysts at the Business Roundtable on the International Economy at the University of California, Berkeley, insisted that we had something to learn from the Japanese. Robert Reich, a lawyer, and Ira Magaziner, a business consultant, argued that sectoral policies were essential for growth. Labor economists at the Economic Policy Institute showed how the erosion of wages from the manufacturing sector was spreading throughout the labor force. Economists Barry Bluestone and Bennett Harrison wrote a book whose title, “The Deindustrialization of America,” became the iconic phrase in the policy debate.

But policy debates are rarely settled on their philosophical merits alone. To a large degree, the conflict within the policy class was a proxy for the conflict of interests among those with power and money at stake. For example, the State Department, representing the foreign-policy establishment, which favored helping foreign industries to capture U.S. markets as a way to gain Cold War allies, was opposed.

More important was the hostility of the Treasury Department, which represented the interests of financiers [i.e. Wall Street] who were against giving the government power to guide private investment in ways that would serve the interests of American producers, rather than American global investors. It was one thing for the government to subsidize capital with tax breaks, loan guarantees, and bondholder bailouts. But for the government to do it on some systematic and thought-out basis -- that was the road to socialism, if not worse. America's financial elite was also aware that if manufacturing industries were to shrink, so would the political power of the strongest American unions.

The industrial-policy debate consummated the marriage of Wall Street and the mainstream economics profession that continues today. For believers in the neoclassical synthesis, financial markets are easy to romanticize; buyers and sellers reacting almost instantaneously to minute price changes that are supposed to reflect all of the available information on businesses, about which neither buyer nor seller has to know anything at all. This simulated perfect market lent itself to the mathematical models needed to gain tenure and win Nobel Prizes in economics. And global investors, like neoclassical economists, are free-traders, indifferent to where exactly investment goes, so long as it maximizes what economists call efficiency -- and financiers call profit.

A dowry helped. Wall Street firms contributed funding to friendly economics departments and think tanks and gave consultant contracts to economists to build models showing that their exotic derivatives were low-risk bargains.


The best article I have seen on the deregulation of the financial system is a profile of John Dugan, of whom I had never heard before, but who turns out to have played a leading role in that process. The article is "A Master of Disaster," by Zach Carter, and appears on The Nation magazine's web site at:

Dugan, while employed at the Treasury Department under George H. W. Bush, oversaw the preparation of a 750-page book which advocated, among other policy changes, allowing banks to expand into multiple states without incurring additional regulatory oversight, allowing relatively safe commercial banks to merge with riskier investment banks and insurance companies, and allowing commercial firms such as General Electric to own a bank. (Of course, we have experienced the effects of interstate banking here in Miami, where the majority of bank deposits have moved from local or regional banks to national banks. Among the effects have been reduced local employment in the banking sector and a diminishing pool of local institutions with a vested interest in the community to provide civic leadership and charitable contributions.)

Dugan's recommendations were ultimately enacted by a Democratic Congress under Bill Clinton's leadership and laid the groundwork for our recent financial disasters. One aspect of the results is summarized in the following excerpt:

"There were two pieces of legislation that facilitated our migration toward too big to fail... Interstate Banking and Branching Efficiency Act of 1994, which permitted banks to grow across state lines, and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which eliminated the separation of commercial and investment banking," said Kansas City Federal Reserve president Thomas Hoenig in an August 6 speech before the Kansas Bankers Association. "Since 1990, the largest twenty institutions grew from controlling about 35 percent of industry assets to controlling 70 percent of assets today."

However, Dugan's contributions to the current catastrophe are not merely intellectual:  "As head of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency [to which he was appointed by George W. Bush in 2005], Dugan played a leading role in gutting the consumer protection system, allowing big banks to take outrageous risks on the predatory mortgages that led to millions of foreclosures." The details of how he did this, which included asserting federal pre-emption to prevent states from regulating mortgage lenders and enacting consumer protections, are morbidly fascinating.

It is astonishing that in view of all the damage he has done, Dugan still has his job (this seems comparable to keeping Brownie at FEMA after New Orleans). Dugan's term expires in 2010; however, Barack Obama has the power to remove him at any time. The fact that Obama has not done so is indicative of the degree of influence exercised by Citigroup and its ilk.


I have no hope for the Republican Party for the time being: it has, for example, played no constructive role in anything that has happened in Washington for the past year. I am hopeful, however, that the grass roots of the Democratic Party can push the party and its elected officials to take a more responsible approach to managing our economy, and to escape the gravitational pull of Wall Street.

I think that the effort to re-orient our politics to the needs of the average American will be made much easier if we can reform our system of campaign financing, so that our elected officials of both parties do not have to depend on Wall Street (or the oil industry) to finance their campaigns. A bill has been introduced in Congress and the Senate to provide for public financing of congressional campaigns. You can read about it at:

Public financing is necessary, but not sufficient. Clearly, in Miami as elsewhere, the electorate has a long way to go before it understands the issues well enough to hold its officials to account. Perhaps in the course of making the case for public campaign financing, we can bring more voters up to speed on the high cost of privately financed elections and their results in the form of national economic policies determined by, and
for the short-term benefit of, a small segment of our society.

Turkey Point: The news doesn't get better

Living on Miami Beach, in North Beach, am I far enough from Turkey Point? This question forms in my mind while reading the Miami Herald’s story today fleshing out incidents at the nuclear power plant that already were known. The control-rod indicators that were old and stuck – you had to tap the dial face to see where the all-important control rods were. The valued supervisor who resigned in mid-shift rather than take action he deemed unsafe.

The long story ends with this paragraph:

The October FPL report also said, ``Employees perceive that management has created an urgency to implement change and react immediately to issues without considering resources and work environment impact.'' FPL said it was taking strong corrective actions through mid-summer 2010 to improve employees' attitudes.
So, please advise: is the “corrective action” aimed to operate a safe plant or aimed to improve employees” attitudes?

Reminds of a conversation over the holidays with a lady friend who’s a veteran airline pilot, the topic was the “miracle on the Hudson” and the new book about Capt. Chesley Sullenberger and the Airbus 320 that he ditched in the Hudson River a year ago. It was possible for a superb pilot and a wonderful airplane to combine for a no-fatalities escape from catastrophe. With a lot of luck, too, in the form of the boats that quickly rescued people standing on the wings but partly in the icy river.

It just doesn’t sound like what we’ve got in Turkey Point. Hope our luck is good.

Footnote: The new book is “Fly by Wire: The Geese, the Glide, the Miracle on the Hudson,” by William Langewiesche.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

More dirty money -- ripoff followed by coverup

This is an unsung scandal of our state government, and though the Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times have done spadework to unearth details, the ripoff of the State Board of Administration is not known as widely as it should be.

The Herald is part of the problem. In this instance Alex Sink, the Florida chief financial officer and leading Democratic candidate for governor, is reduced to complaining in a letter to the editor – as if she’s only a reader of the state’s putative flagship newspaper. And in her letter the key details are buried in the 6th paragraph. There she names her likely Republican opponent for governor, Attorney General Bill McCollum, and Gov. Charlie Crist as the ones not taking appropriate action.

Let’s call it by its proper name – they are conspiring in a coverup. Coverup of what? “Lost billions for taxpayers.” Billions. With BBBB. And who did it? This blog repeatedly has named former Gov. Jeb Bush as a leading suspect, since he was a paid consultant for Lehman Brothers after leaving office in 2006, and Lehman investments are among the biggest reasons for the losses.

(This link is to a blog post last Tuesday on the St. Petersburg Times story – also published in the Herald – that occasioned Sink’s letter, and down in the 4th paragraph is a link to an earlier post on the SBA scandal.)

Lehman, you’ll please remember, is an ex-resident of Wall Street, now that the bubble there has burst.

And Crist, well, he was attorney general when some of the shenanigans in the State Board of Administration happened, and thus he would have been one of the three trustees overseeing that board, along with the governor (Bush) and the chief financial officer, then Tom Gallagher, a veteran Republican politician who lost to Crist for the 2006 gubernatorial nomination.

Plenty of reason for Crist and McCollum to want to keep this scandal quiet. Would Crist’s bid for the US Senate have any life left at all if this scandal got its due exposure? Would McCollum’s bid for governor need a wheelchair?

Jeb Bush never has stood still for a question on this now almost two-year-old scandal. Jeb, tell us – How much did Lehman pay you to “consult” on having Florida buy their crap investments? Why should Florida taxpayers not consider that a delayed bribe payment?

But back to 2010. This is a complicated story, yet it should be rising to the top of Alex Sink’s drumbeat of campaign talk in this election year. The voters are fed up with corruption and dirty money in politics, and when they go to vote in November they should know that Republicans were the ones ripping them off in Tallahassee. Time for a clean sweep.

With a grit of the teeth: I browsed over to the St. Pete Times to see whether Sink’s letter also was published there, since the investigative piece originated in the Times. No, but the Times had an editorial  worrying that Sink’s office might have favored one law firm over another because of political donations. That’s understandable. I have worried about the same question. My conclusion is that we must get money out of politics. Check out for a bill in Congress that would do it.