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Friday, March 30, 2007

Broken immigration laws

Looking for a reason why our immigration laws need an overhaul? Read today's story on the process the recently arrived Haitians face in our legal system -- then compare it to others who face the same predicament. The wet foot/dry foot policy for Cubans is also an example of twisted legal logic.
But do our elected officials have the willpower to do what they were supposed to do or would they rather be posturing for the cameras?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The unwanted price of attention

Broward officials claim that the hoopla surrounding Anna Nicole Smith's death didn't cost taxpayers anything "outrageous." They say that costs were kept in check, that some people volunteered, that there were very few overtime hours.
I find that hard to believe. Moreover, it's also hard to fathom that there were not lots of extra costs associated with the courts, the media, and other hanger ons -- not to mention the kooky publicity South Florida received once again.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Solution to South Florida's congestion: global warming

A new study predicts that if global warming continues unchecked, temperatures in our area will go up and up -- 5 to 7 degrees in the summer. Can you imagine a typical 95 degree day in June?
The likely reaction might be to crank up the air conditioning, but I suspect we'll have reverse snowbirds. In other words, those who can afford it will abandon South Florida for cooler climes during summer. Can you say North Carolina a.k.a. Neo-Miami?
For the rest of us stewing in mid-July, this still might be good news.We can do some of our own reverse p.r. Advertise the growing heat and hope that people will move elsewhere. Goodbye, traffic.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The myth of Che

It's amazing how a flunky like Che Guevara has reached such cult status. We get a peak into the hype machine in this story about where his body is really buried: Bolivia.
Years ago, the Cuban government,needing an infusion of revolutionary fervor, claimed the body had been taken to Cuba, where "pilgrims" were led to believe they were venerating the bones of a hero. (A hero, by the way, who royally messed up the island's banking system and didn't do much of anything right.) Of course it isn't just Fidel Castro who has mined the allure of a man he sent to the jungles of Bolivia knowing full well the likelihood of his survival was nil. Writers, photographers and anyone wanting to make a buck have appropriated Che's image, and the people who have taken up his "cause" actually know very little about his ideas.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Paradise is too pricey

So for the first time in years and years Broward County is seeing more people leaving than people arriving from other states. I wouldn't doubt the same is true for Miami-Dade. Housing costs here are ridiculous, especially since salaries have not caught up.
Worse, those of us longtimers cannot afford to downsize or move neighborhoods because of the exorbitant tax bill we face. If we want to cut costs in retirement, we've got to leave the state.
I'm particularly concerned for my children. They were born and raised here and would like to stay but, even with good jobs, will be chained to huge mortgages -- not to mention tax and insurance escrows -- because real estate prices are so out of whack.
Some say that's the price you pay to live in paradise. I beg to differ, especially when I'm stuck on the Palmetto Expressway in the middle of the day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Cultural monument or boondoggle?

My friends seem equally divided about the benefit of the Carnival Center. Some are ecstatic that Miami finally has a center of this kind. Others think it's a white elephant built for the rich to show off. The latter group is now up in arms over the huge deficit the center has racked up because of miscalculations.
I'm not sure who's right. But I do know this: In a private company, if an employee was so way off with numbers, their job would be on the line.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

What kind of education is this?

A school board member is suing our school superintendent over a squabble about putting items on the agenda. Guess who is paying the legal costs?
Yep, you and me. The taxpayers of Miami-Dade are footing the bill, including a $450/hour charge for Superintendent Rudy Crew's lawyer. In the meantime, my kids are sitting in classrooms with 40-plus kids, teachers are paid a miserly salary, and booster clubs have to raise money 24/7 to buy the most basic equipment for their student members.
Maybe it's time parents march on the school board building.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Can you s-p-e-l-l?

The kids who compete in the bee are i-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-e. This year's first bee is today in Ft. Lauderdale. Next Monday it's in Miami. I've emceed these events for more than a decade and I'm always amazed how talented these kids are.
No spell check here.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Class trips: exhausting for parents

My niece had to be at school for her 10th grade trip at 4 a.m. My son, at a different school, had to be there at 5 a.m. They don't get back until 11 p.m.
I'm exhausted before I've started my work day. As I keep telling young parents, it's not only in infancy when you lose sleep. Wait until teenagehood.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Protecting the homeless

Surely attacks on the homeless are among the heinous crimes that turn my stomach when I read about them in the paper. What makes them even more reprehensible -- and scary -- is the fact that they are overwhelmingly committed by teenagers. Teenagers!! Now some legislators want to include them as part of a hate crime category.
I think that's an excellent idea.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

We don't learn, do we?

It should come as no surprise that the delinquency rate on mortgages is climbing and foreclosures are a'popping. Too many people stretched themselves thin buying houses they couldn't afford or speculating by flipping condos. Now the piper has come calling.
We only have ourselves to blame. We're like lemmings when it comes to financial matters, following the boom without analyzing the consequences. The mortgage industry isn't off the hook either. I have a relative who worked as a broker during the peak of the market and he was closing deals for people who had no proof of income or dubious credit records. They should've never been approved.
I wonder: Do the rest of us who play it safe and pay our mortgages religiously end up subsidizing the others?

Monday, March 12, 2007

Hate the time change

Every year the time changes forward or back my body goes out of whack. Couldn't get the kids out of bed either, and they took the bus in deep darkness.
I wish those who control the collective clock would decide on one time and stick to it.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Rollback in taxes: Boon or bane?

The Florida Legislature is working on cutting back property taxes and one of the House's proposed ways will cost counties and cities lots of their revenues. Local governments are, of course, complaining.
But let's face it: There has been plenty of waste in government for a long time, so I doubt that their warnings will be met with any sympathy. Nonetheless, these measures are being shoved through, and we won't know the consequences -- and how deep the cuts -- until it's too late.
I will benefit considerably from the Republicans' plan to cut back on property taxes, yet I'm not in favor of their proposals as they stand. Businesses and second home owners (I'm of the latter) will rake in savings, but I worry that the rollback plan will be an undue burden on those who are less fortunate.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Two winners woke up this morning to the news that they were multi-millionaires in a mega-lotto drawing. Their lives will certainly change, hopefully for the better. Yet, there have been studies -- and news stories -- that "better" is not always what we think. Lots of money attracts all kinds of problems.
Nonetheless, I wouldn't mind having different kinds of problems. I wouldn't mind being able to do the things I've always wanted to do -- not only travel but also some charity work. I probably would also continue working,fewer hours with lots of vacations in between. Is that crazy?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Astronaut story is from outer space

The story of Astronaut Lisa Nowak gets more bizarre each time. Now it has been revealed that she discovered steamy emails to her boyfriend/fellow astronaut from her romantic rival, the woman she tried to attack after a 900 mile trip to Florida. (Police believe the emails pushed her over the edge.) Surely more than love possessed this obviously talented and bright woman to do what she did.
So where was NASA while she was falling apart? Where were the astronaut corps when the romantic rival was sending these emails to the mission captain -- while he was flying around in a space capsule?
I don't feel sorry for Nowak. Apparently she had been carrying an extramarital affair with this fellow astronaut since 2004, or so he claims. I feel sorry for her husband and three children. They surely deserve our sympathy.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The yo-yo pricing of gasoline

If you drive a car, you've probably noticed the climb of gas prices just in time for spring vacations. There are all kinds of explanations from the oil producers, but it strikes me as supremely strange that the cost at the gas pump seems to rise in direct correlation with traditional vacation time, when many people take to their cars to drive long distances.
I will be in the market for a new car in a couple of months, when my 22-year-old graduates and takes over my 1998 Toyota Avalon with 135,000 miles. The Honda Civic is looking better and better. Small car or no, I think pain at the pump while oil companies make huge profits spells trouble for America.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Enough already -- goodbye, Anna Nicole

Three weeks of constant updates about Anna Nicole Smith is about as low as the media can go. Now we have live coverage of her funeral escort. Isn't there a war in Iraq? In Afghanistan? Aren't Iran and North Korea threatening our way of life?
Media outlets -- and I obviously (and happily) work for one of those companies -- say they are offering the news their audiences want,fluff and celebrity stuff. I wonder how true that is. Plenty of people I know say they're completely turned off by the coverage and just switch channels or turn the page.
Are we appealing to the lowest common denominator or actually performing a public service called entertainment?
If any good will come from Anna Nicole's spectacle, perhaps it might be that people will rush over to their attorneys to draft a will, including detail instructions about burial.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Does gender matter?

The city manager of Largo, near Tampa, has lost his job because he is planning on having a sex change. By all accounts, he has done a good job for the past 14 years.
So I have a question for the commissioners who voted against him: Does it matter who runs the city, a man or a woman, as long as he/she is competent?