[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: August 2006

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bye Bye Ernesto

Hardly got to know you, which is just as well.  Is anyone disappointed that the storm didn't live up to its forecast?

In other news...all the Ernesto prep has made us forget that the Florida Marlins are on fire and within reach of the wild card lead.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

What Miami Is

Reading this post over at Stuck on the Palmetto reminds me of the amazingly negative attitude many South Floridians have of their own area and their fellow residents.

I am not ashamed to say that I am proud to be a product of South Florida, and specifically Miami. I actually LIKE living here (novel concept, eh?). I'm not blind nor ignorant to the problems we face as a community. I have lived here for virtually all of my nearly 40 years, and I have seen many changes...both good and bad.

Sometimes I think we like to criticize South Florida because it makes us feel superior to the masses. You know, those stupid immigrants have no clue on how to assimilate and behave like Americans, right? Those superficial types over on South Beach are sooooo low on the food chain. It makes us average joes feel important and justified, and lifts our insecure souls to heights never seen before.

If that's how many South Floridians want to see their neighbors, more power to them. If you want to spend your time here complaining about your neighbors, go ahead. However, let me warn you...complaining won't do any good. Understanding people, reaching out and establishing personal relationships is the key to getting along. I bet that the people who complain the most about this area don't know more than 5 people outside their work.

It's tough here in South Florida due to the different cultures mixing and occasionally clashing. It's not easy to live here. South Florida is not for the weak of heart or for the inflexible. And yes, some can't hack the pressures that come with the unique problems we face. That's fine. But I have learned that once you "get it" here, the rewards are invaluable. You learn to fit in. You learn that you're just a small part of the fascinating tapestry that makes our area special.

You want to know what I consider to be a "classic Miami story"? It's the hard work, sweat and dedication of most of our residents. It's getting off a plane or arriving on a raft with nothing but the clothes on your back and rebuilding your life so your kids will be infinitely more successful than you ever dreamed of. It's the sons and daughters of refugees who become doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, etc., and can speak several languages flawlessly. It's being in a room with 20 other people, each with totally different backgrounds, customs and life experiences who are united for a purpose. It's not blinking an eye when seeing and meeting racially and ethnically-mixed couples. It's smiling, instead of smirking, when hearing a melange of different languages. Miami represents the total freedom that so many of our neighbors seek and find here.

If you want to focus only on the bad seeds in the community and consider that to be "quintessentially Miami"...that's your prerogative. But you're missing a lot. You're missing an essential part of what Miami really is to most of us. The boat is passing you by.

Do you want my specific example of "quintessential Miami"? Here it is.

Enjoy, open your eyes and minds, and learn.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Who Are The True Progressives?

Here's an interesting letter to the editor published in the Miami Herald op-ed page today.

Liberalism misunderstood

It's sad and ironic that lately, during each election cycle, we read and listen to people bad-mouthing Democrats and liberals. Liberalism is what made this country what it is. Our Constitution is a liberal one. To my Cuban compatriots, the 1940 Constitution we dream about is extremely liberal. Fidel Castro, the Iranians and most of the fundamentalist dictators of the world, are conservatives because they want to maintain the status quo.

Most people who call themselves conservative have little idea what it means. Being a conservative means not changing anything, while progressives are open to change and new ideas. Without progressives, we would still be in the Middle Ages.


Don't stop with just the liberals being misunderstood, Mr. Rodriguez. How many times have you heard conservatives bashed as simple-minded, ignorant, intolerant boors? And not just during election cycles either.

On to what I want to discuss regarding the labels we use to describe someone's views.

Let's address liberalism first. According to the Houghton Mifflin online dictionary, liberalism is defined as: A political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of the individual and favoring civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority.

Mr. Rodriguez is right, the basic values that this country upholds are traditionally liberal. Liberalism at its core is a good thing. I have a healthy respect for traditional liberals, whom I like to refer to as old-school liberals, because they uphold these values. They also understand the need to use force in order to defend oneself, or the country as a whole. In other words, they do what they have to do to keep our basic values intact.

What I just describes sounds a lot like most conservatives, right?

It's no coincidence. Conservatism, as defined by Houghton-Mifflin, is:
  1. The inclination, especially in politics, to maintain the existing or traditional order.
  2. A political philosophy or attitude emphasizing respect for traditional institutions, distrust of government activism, and opposition to sudden change in the established order.
There are obvious differences between liberalism and conservatism, but they are more similarities than one might think. I find that a lot of the old-school liberals end up becoming conservatives, mainly in that they want to maintain the traditional liberal values that founded this great nation of ours.

Speaking of conservatives, there are quite a few who don't live up to the traditional values that conservatives are supposed to uphold. At worst, they discriminate and exclude certain groups and ideas merely for being different from the values they believe in.

The above paragraph can be used to say the exact same thing about many liberals today. This is of course a huge contradiction from what liberalism is supposed to be, but that's what's becoming increasingly common in mainstream political liberalism today. I can't begin to tell you how many times this conservative was ridiculed and talked down to leading up to the 2004 elections by liberals who are supposed to be tolerant and compassionate. They couldn't tolerate someone with different views, at least not without being condescending and downright rude. Yes, conservatives can be nasty as well, but this observer saw it much more coming from the left than from the right in personal interaction. Disagree if you wish.

I won't elaborate on some of the actions taken by liberal activists and "civil liberty" groups such as the ACLU to ensure that mainstream conservative thought and ideas be suppressed as much as possible.

The bottom line is, Mr. Rodriguez is right in pointing out that some conservatives have lost sight of what it really means to be a conservative. What he fails to point out is that the exact same can be said of liberals and true liberalism. Mr. Rodriguez also incorrectly assumes that liberals are naturally progressive in nature. True progression transcends liberalism and conservatism. It has more to do with using good sense and compassion in order to judiciously determine what needs to be changed for the good of all, and what should remain the same to ensure order and civility. That's what moves society forward, not change for the sake of change and at the expense of others.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

14 Years Ago Today

Photo Courtesy AP and Sun-Sentinel

Today is the 14th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew devastating parts of South Florida.

Where were you on August 24th, 1992?

While I Was Gone...

Here's what I missed while I was out of town:

- Miami-Dade School Board Votes to Appeal Decision to Keep Controversial Book on School Library Shelves.

Wake me up when this saga is over.

- raul says he's ready to try diplomatic relations with the U.S. on an "equal plane".

Yeah Riiiiiiiiiiight.

- Not only are the Florida Marlins NOT leaving South Florida, but Major League Baseball is pushing a particular local stadium site.

- The tropics are heating up.

- Pluto Gets Dissed

No, not this Pluto:

This one:

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Lost City

I finally got to see The Lost City, Andy Garcia's story of life in Cuba circa 1959, on DVD the other night. I had wanted to see it since it came out in the theatres a while back, but with 2 small kids and a tight schedule, going to the movies isn't the easiest thing to plan.

About the movie...I'll start off by saying that it is far from a cinematic masterpiece. The acting was mostly uninspired and lacked fire, most of the characters could have used more depth, and appearances by Dustin Hoffman as mobster Meyer Lansky, and by pre-1959 dictator Fulgencio Batista (to name a few) were awkward and oddly-timed.

Enough of the negative. The scenery and colors were fantastic, and the music set the mood as well as providing an odd but appropriate dissonance to the sometimes violent scenes. Most of all, Garcia deserves credit for making a movie which exposed the injustices of castro's cuba without sugar-coating the problems which led to castro's revolution. He also properly captured the naivete of many Cubans who either thought that castro was the solution or that he wouldn't last long. I won't give away details about the movie for those of you who decided to wait even longer than me to see it.

I recommend The Lost City, even with its flaws. One thing to keep in mind, it's not a documentary. It's a film which represents the experiences many Cubans lived through in the late 50s and early 60s. It's fiction interspersed with real-life events.

Conductor, inspired by the movie, started writing a series of continuing chapters which I finally was able to read after seeing the movie. I must say he's doing a heck of a job, and it's a must read for those of you have already seen the movie (warning, if you haven't seen the movie, don't read the continuing chapters as there are many spoilers). Conductor adds some much-needed depth to the main characters and their evolution in a new world.

Who knows, maybe Andy Garcia will come knocking on Conductor's door to help out with the sequel.

You can read the continuing chapters here.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

File This Under "W"

For Whatever.
And I, to this day, believe that if that would have happened in Orange County, California, if that would have happened in South Beach, Miami, it would have been a different response.
Nawlins Mayor Ray Nagin, commenting on his belief that the post-Katrina aid has been slowed by racism.

Read the article here.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Cuban-Americans: Still Exiles?

In light of the uncertainty over the castro regime's future, a frequent subject of the media in recent days has been the issue of whether Cuban-Americans will return to live in a democratic Cuba.

I have remarked both online and in person that the number of CAs who would return for good would be very small, probably 10% at most. This is based purely on my own observations and conclusions, not on any scientific poll. Speaking of polls, a 2004 poll conducted by Florida International University supports my estimate. It showed that only 17.1% percent of those surveyed would very likely return to Cuba, while almost 48% were not at all likely to return to live. The rest of the participants were either somewhat or not likely not return, which tells me that they are inclined to stay. This is in sharp contrast to many people, mostly non-Cubans, who feel that there would be a significant exodus back to Cuba.

One can conclude, then, that CAs are no longer true exiles, since being in exile implies a temporary state of being away from one's native land.

Leonard Pitts, in his Herald column today, talks about the future of the Cuban "exile" community once castro is gone. I have no big problems with Pitts' views, besides of course the obligatory comments about "misguided attacks on free speech; a rationale for keeping Elian Gonzalez away from his father".

However, I do think Pitts is out of touch with the community (after all, he doesn't live in South Florida). He mentions a potential for "dislocation" and "loss of mission" among Cuban-Americans after castro. I don't see that at all. We already discussed dislocation. Pitts also repeatedly refers to Cuban-Americans as exiles, which is outdated as suggested by the poll results.

Cuban-Americans will be even more committed to Cuba's future, and perhaps more united than ever. Once the shackles from both sides of the straits are unlocked, then there can finally be the positive interaction between separated families, between fellow Cubans, that has so long been desired, despite warnings from some about revengeful exiles returning to reclaim their lost properties. This is the mission that Cuban-Americans would clearly undertake in a democratic post-castro world.

Read Pitts' column here.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Jesus Not Allowed In Public School?

A while back I watched a segment on Fox's Hannity and Colmes on a controversy in a West Virginia high school regarding its display of a portrait of Jesus in a main hallway. A lawsuit was filed by the ACLU on behalf of Harold Sklar, parent of an ex-student of Bridgeport High, after the local school board voted 2-2 to keep the picture. At issue here, of course, is the matter of separation of church and state.

My first reaction upon hearing this was: what's the big deal with a picture of Jesus hanging on a school wall? I support the separation of church and state. I don't think it's government's job to force ANY religion upon its people, nor to promote one church or belief over others. The job of educating religious beliefs is best left to individuals and places of worship.

Now that I got that out of the way, let me reiterate: What's the big deal with a picture of Jesus hanging on a school wall? By displaying a devotional portrait of Jesus, is the school actively promoting Christianity? This can be argued from a technical perspective all day long and I don't think we'd ever reach agreement.

But let's think about this rationally. Let's approach this from a common-sense point of view.

Clarksburg, West Virginia is a town of about 7500 people in an area which can safely be considered an extension of the Bible Belt. I could understand the concern if the picture was displayed in a high school in more diverse areas such as South Florida. But in an area where the vast majority of people are Christian? It didn't escape me that the local school board was split, so even in Clarksburg there appears to be some difference in opinion on this matter. But if you look at the ACLU's main argument here, there's the impression that the portrait is actually hindering students' rights to freely express their religious beliefs.
"The Constitution's ban on government endorsement of religion is good for both government and religion. It keeps religion free and allows government to represent us all," said Andrew Schneider, Executive Director of the ACLU of West Virginia. "In violating that ban, Bridgeport High School is interfering with the right of all students to freely express their religious beliefs." (emphasis mine)
Is that what's really happening at Bridgeport High? Is the portrait a goverment endorsement of religion, or is it just a carry-over of a tradition that has been carried over at the school for over 30 years? Common sense tells me the school is merely continuing a tradition and not pushing Christianity at the expense of other religions. Then, of course, there's the issue of Bridgeport High's own right to freely express a religious belief, something the ACLU is fighting here against their own supposed beliefs and the First Amendment which they so vehemently defend.

I'm pretty sure that the Founding Fathers were sharp, reasonable men who possessed greater-than-average common sense. The Amendments were written to be interpreted wisely, not to be used to promote personal agendas or to be misinterpreted at the expense of someone else's liberties. Perhaps they would side with the ACLU in this case, but a hunch tells me otherwise.

Some argue that the picture, as a devotional piece of art, is in fact "preaching" and "evangelizing", and as such should be removed. I find that highly questionable. The same unreasonable argument can be made when public schools cover subjects pertaining to other religions. My public high school Sociology class spent an entire quarter-year covering all of the world's major religions. Is that a form of "preaching"? I don't think so, and neither is a picture of Jesus on the wall whose purpose, by all accounts, is not to convert anyone.

The ACLU and other groups have already succeeded in removing prayer from public schools (even the watered-down general kind) as well as removing other religious displays from public places. These groups claim to be simply promoting tolerance and respect of other religious views. They are willing to apply this even to cases such as in Bridgeport High where there is no apparent intent to inhibit or ban other religious views.

Tolerance of different beliefs is wonderful. But let's make sure we respect and tolerate ALL beliefs, not just those that are perceived to be oppressed or victimized by that of the majority.

I'll finish with this thought: if perhaps the picture of Jesus at Bridgeport High can subtely serve to promote or enhance a teenager's religious views, is that a BAD thing for our society? Maybe that's what bothers the ACLU so much.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Both Sides Debate castro on BBC Site

I was going through a few of the comments to the BBC News "Have Your Say" page in which the question was: Castro at 80. What's Next For Cuba?

As is normally the case, there were about an equal number of pro vs. anti castro comments. Actually a lot of the pro-castro comments were more indictments of U.S. policy than anything else.

Here's the latest comment, as of this writing:

Some say that the Castro model is nothing more than a brutal dictatorship, where its people live in poverty. So the Castro regime needs to be destroyed and replaced by capitalism and democracy. As a Haitian, I know full well the results of US-style democracy and capitalism. I also had a little experience of what REAL poverty is and how it feels to be repressed by the very same people that promote "capitalism and democracy". So I say Happy Birthday Castro may you live for many more years to come, because I don't wish Cubans to be in the same situation as us Haitians.

Marie, New York by way of Haiti

Marie, who hates capitalism so much that she lives in New York, feels that democracy and capitalism (US style? What other style is there) is bad. Whatever. What really cracks me up is that if Marie is assuming that Cuba is a better model for Haiti than the US, then why do boats filled with Haitian immigrants bypass an island which is literally a few dozen miles away for the long treacherous trip to the U.S.?

The fact that there are those who sympathize with castro is no big revelation. The point of this post is that it's amazing to me how two people can see something and have totally opposite interpretations. Comments like Marie's above make me sad that there are those out there who choose to ignore real injustices just because of personal biases that cloud their ability to reason properly.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Confirmed: castro alive

raul castro, that is. AP, and also Fox News from what I've read, report that raul greeted hugo chavez upon mini-me's arrival in Havana today.

I would still be very skeptical of reports that this means fidel is dead and that an announcement is upcoming. fidel is "supposed" to be in the hospital and the next logical step is for chavez to visit his daddy there. We'll see if any pictures are published of this. If not, then the doubt level rises significantly.

In the case fidel IS dead, please stay tuned to Babalu as I'll be out of the house the rest of the day.

I'll make sure to listen for the sound of honking horns and banging pots, however.

Miami Bloggers Gather

Last night, a group of Miami bloggers, yours truly included, attended a gathering at one of Miami's most venerable institutions: Tobacco Road.

I haven't checked the other bloggers' postings this morning because I wanted to write this post purely from my perspective.

First and foremost, thanks to Alesh of Critical Miami for putting this event together. Much like a blind date, initial meeting the bloggers was a little awkward. However, unlike most blind dates, the end result was quite rewarding.

I won't mention anyone specifically by name since I don't want to leave anyone out, but I honestly enjoyed meeting and talking to every single one of you. Despite our differences in opinion on many subjects, a camaraderie was evident. When the veil is lifted on the person behind the blog, you get to see the whole person, not just words and names on a computer screen. You begin to picture the motivation behind their opinions and thoughts. Most importantly, you realize that they are just like you: someone who wants to communicate and connect with others via this strange and wonderful thing called blogging.

One thing is for sure: I'll never see the Miami bloggers and their web sites the same way again.

Here's to more gatherings in the not too distant future!

Fixation on fidel...Not Just For Mafiosos

Ana Menendez has another column in the Herald today about Cuba and Cuban-Americans.

My faithful readers already know what that means, so I won't spell it out in agonizing detail.

I will, however, point out some highlights from the column (emphasis mine):

Another world figure celebrates a birthday today, a coincidence that might have escaped my notice were it not for advanced warning from an astute reader, Republican U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

''Castro's 80th birthday is this upcoming Sunday, August 13th,'' announced an Aug. 8 press release that featured the congresswoman's thoughts on her favorite dictator:

'For far too long, the words `Cuba' and 'Fidel' have been interchangeable,'' said Ros-Lehtinen, too modest to point out her own tireless efforts to keep it that way.

"The time for change is long overdue. How much longer can one single man stand between the aspirations of an entire nation? How much longer must 11 million Cubans suffer under his tyrannical rule."

Upon reading this, I immediately grabbed the phone, woke up my weekend skeleton crew staff at 26th Parallel and told them to do a little research: How many times has Ana written columns which included the words "Cuba" and "Fidel".

The Lexis/Nexis search...OK OK it was me going back and skimming through Ana's columns the past 3 months...revealed an interesting fact: 8 out of her last 18 columns have included those two words. That's almost 50%.

Pot, meet Kettle.

Ana gives some hints here about her personal feelings once fidel dies:

It's been two weeks since Castro's stunning public bow.

The rest of the world waits patiently for news of the Cuban romantic, who may or may not be just resting.

But here in Miami, the barely suppressed horror is: ``What will we ever do without him?

For 47 years he's been the black sun everything revolves around, Miami's unofficial, all-powerful anti-deity.

He brought meaning to so many lives.

Without Fidel, who will we be?

Ana, WHERE will YOU be when fidel kicks the bucket?

Another fair question, perhaps, is: what will 26th Parallel write about when Ana runs out of ways to denigrate and put down ordinary Cuban-Americans whose heartfelt desire is to see a tyrant disappear and democracy and human rights restored to Cuba?

I guess I'll have to find other people to pick on!

fidel turns 80

Sorry folks, he's not dead despite persistent rumors to the contrary.

A few stories of note to mention here:

- A statement attributed to fidel states that Cubans should be "prepared to confront any adverse news". Also note a comfortable-looking fidel proudly holding a Granma headline in his hospital room (doesn't he look like the dead character from the film Weekend at Bernie's?). Well, close enough.

- fidel mini-me hugo chavez is scheduled to arrive in Cuba today to celebrate his daddy's birthday.
"I'm taking him a nice gift, a good cake and we will celebrate the 80 years of that great figure of America and our history,'' Chávez said.
Rumor has it chavez's gift is 1,000 barrels of Venezuelan crude.

Finally, follow the link at the end of the sentence for some well-wishes from the exile community courtesy of Val and Babalu.

Friday, August 11, 2006

MSM and Cuban-Americans

My last few posts have dealt with the media, its poor handling of the situation in Cuba and the image it often portrays of Cuban-Americans.

Something that has bothered me quite a bit in the past and present, is the often negative light in which the MSM casts the Cuban-American community in. To get to the bottom of the reason why this is the case, we need to look at ourselves as Cuban-Americans, but also recognizing the environment which we're surrounded by.

A lot of people believe that Cuban-Americans (C-A's) as a whole have done a bad PR job when it comes to expressing their beliefs and attitudes. I believe this is true to a large extent, but it doesn't tell the whole story nor lets the MSM off the hook. By bad PR, I mean falling into the traps that our opponents place, occasional overreaction and overemphasis on relatively minor issues instead of focusing on the big picture, etc. Another reason for the bad PR is a basic misunderstanding of C-A's by the prevailing Anglo-Saxon environment that surrounds us. There is a cultural divide that many even in Miami have not grown accustomed to. C-A's passionately but peaceful protests get misinterpreted as wild-eyed craziness bordering on violence. Anyone who knows C-A's understands that they tend to be passionate and express themselves that way. C-A's are an enigma to many outsiders: a minority group from Latin America that is mostly Caucasian which has achieved a high level of success in a very short time, and are primarily Republicans. They certainly don't fit the typical Hispanic minority stereotype.

Note that I mentioned "peaceful" when referring to protests by C-A's. Skeptics will quickly point out that there have been instances where C-A's have committed violent acts against those with opposing views. That is true, and inexcusable. For a moment, let's assume that every one of those violent acts committed in the past 40 years have been done by anti-castro exiles (something that is very much in doubt, BTW). I ask the skeptics this: does the behavior of a minority represent the views of the entire community? It can influence it, yes. But I ask again: should everyone be painted with the same broad brush? The answer should be clear.

On the WGNU (St. Louis) talk show yesterday, Francisco Aruca disgustingly trashed Cuban-Americans and Miami with the usual rhetoric about oppression of dissenting views, violence, you name it. It's not the first time he's done this in interviews with the media. For someone who has lived in Miami all his life and understands the true nature of C-A's, I found it to be incredulous. I thought to myself: this person must live in a different Miami, perhaps in some evil parallel universe. Thank goodness for the people of St Louis that Conductor came up afterwards and cleaned up the mess Aruca left behind. Conductor absolutely nailed it on all key points, particularly the issue of C-A's and how we're (mis)perceived. For this, Conductor is congratulated.

Why do I bring up Aruca? Aside from being a open castro apologist, he is a successful businessman who has lived in Miami over 20 years. Let's go back and analyze this more closely. Aruca owns a Miami business which deals with travel to Cuba, a sore point amongst many C-A's. Aruca also runs a Miami radio station - Radio Progreso - which is openly and vehemently left-of-center and does not disguise its apologetic stance towards castro nor its contempt for freedom-loving right-of-center C-A's. In light of this, Aruca's complaints of intolerance and oppression of diverse views is laughable at best, and defaming at worst. It's very easy to see the extreme bias that Aruca is dealing with when he trashes the entire community.

Aruca isn't the only one who reaps the benefits of an open society in Miami despite having very questionable views with respect to the castro regime. I won't go over the list, but suffice it to say that they are not hard to find whatsoever.

Back to the MSM and the issue of their misrepresentation of Cuban-Americans. Why? Is it the natural tendency towards liberal bias that most journalists exhibit? Is it lazy journalism? I think it's a bit of both. I'll tell you also what it's NOT: lack of information from the mainstream C-A point of view. Certainly with 3 C-A representatives in Congress and 2 Senators, these smart and talented individuals have represented the views of many if not most C-A's for a long time now. Add to this the presence of many talented professional C-A's in Miami and elsewhere from all sides of the political spectrum who have ably and honorably represented the community. And let's not forget the blogosphere, either.

The MSM can tap into any and all of those resources for a fair and balanced view of Cuban-Americans. Yet they don't, except in rare cases which are very few and very far between. They tend to buy into the Aruca view more than the mainstream C-A view. The MSM's difficulty in understanding C-A's should be a motivator for them to work harder to understand us better, not simply to rely on rhetoric and stereotypes.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Listen to Babalu Live

Tonight at 9 PM...fellow Babalu contributing writer Henry "Conductor" Gomez of Cuban-American Pundits will be on WGNU in St. Louis to talk about Cuban issues.

The host of the show, Dave Francis, has asked for readers to call in to the show and participate. He will have Francisco Aruca on from 9 to 9:30 PM, followed by Conductor.

It's good that Aruca, probably the biggest public fidel apologist in Miami, will not have the last word. Then again, it's too bad Aruca and Conductor won't face off, because Conductor would stomp him.

Listen live here, and the number to call in is 314-454-0400.

More on the MSM and Cuba (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Corrected link in first paragraph.

Two days ago I posted an article in Time about Cuban-Americans wanting to go back to Cuba and reclaiming property taken away from them by the castro regime. Although the article was balanced in that it leveled criticism against castro and che, it also took shots at Cuban-Americans which for the most part were unwarranted.

In the comments, I expressed my displeasure at Cuban-Americans being once again shown in an unfavorable light by the MSM. Granted, the Time article wasn't exactly exhibit A, but simply one in a long list of articles which, in my humble opinion, take unnecessary shots at a group of people who simply want to see their homeland free.

Responses to my comment by Gansibele mention that I am being oversensitive to this particular article, and that Cuban-Americans are in part responsible for the bad press we receive due to our criticism of the press for not reporting the truth about today's Cuba.

Am I oversensitive? Yes, and I have no problem admitting it. It means I care, for whatever that's worth.

Gansibele goes on to say that Cuban-Americans are naive for demanding that the press should be impartial and report the truth. Isn't that what the press is supposed to be and do? If that's considered naive thinking these days, then we as a society are in worse shape than I thought.

Whatever happened to demanding that people be honest and do their job? Reality aside, asking that people in powerful positions, such as journalists, act ethically is our duty.

I would typically say much more about this, but Val was similarly inspired this morning and wrote a great calling-out piece to the MSM.

Read it and let it marinate for a while.

Spies Won't Get New Trial

In what had to be one of the easiest decisions the 11th Court of Appeals has ever made, they ruled that the five Cuban spies convicted in 2001 of conspiring to enter U.S. military bases will not get a retrial. Last year, a 3-judge panel decided that there was enough evidence of community bias (read: Cuban-Americans being bullies) to pressure the jury to rule against the spies.

Here's a key paragraph from the ruling opinion:
Miami-Dade County is a widely diverse, multi-racial community of more than two million people. Nothing in the trial record suggests that twelve fair and impartial jurors could not be assembled by the trial judge to try the defendants impartially and fairly. The broad discretion the law reposes in the trial judge to make the complex calibrations necessary to determine whether an impartial jury can be drawn from a cross-section of the community to ensure a fair trial was not abused in this case. Although it is conceivable that, under a certain set of facts, a court might have to change venue to ensure a fair trial, the threshold for such a change is rightfully a high one. The defendants have not satisfied it.
By the way, none of the 12 jurors were Cuban-Americans.

Read more about this here.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Big Bad Exiles Itching to Take Back Properties

Just ran across a Time article on Miami Cuban exiles "clutching yellowing deeds and titles".

Be warned, the article subtly takes a few shots at Cuban-Americans, especially at those who understandably feel bitter about having their properties taken away from them and who want to be justly compensated.

The implication that exiles would storm Cuba and automatically kick people out of their homes is disturbing.
If Cuban-Americans show up in even a democratized Cuba demanding those dwellings, they're likely to face the wrath of Cubans who tend to resent imperious exiles as much as they disdain Fidel. Says the Pentagon analyst, "The Cubans say, Screw you. You're not getting this property back."
Read the rest here.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Cuba: Either Very Rich or Very Poor

The Miami Herald ran an interesting series of articles today on the present-day Cuban economy.

Here are some highlights:
Nearly half a century after Fidel Castro took power, the Cuban economy is such a study in jarring contrasts that few images can capture its reality.

There are showrooms where you can buy a Mercedes or Peugeot, sparkling hotels built and managed by foreigners, and a budding cellphone culture. There is oil, nickel and mineral ore, such as limestone and iron. China is investing, and Venezuela plowed in $900 million in 2004.

Yet the prosperous, modern pockets are mostly outposts of foreign corporations. Cubans still live in crumbling buildings with broken-down appliances. And the eight-million-ton sugar harvest of 1989 is just a memory -- only 1.3 million tons were cut last year.

Pretty sad. Here's more:

The construction and transportation sectors are expected to climb 15 percent this year, according to a report from the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. The commission said the country is expected to construct 150,000 homes by the end of the year.

Tourism income will rise 8 percent. The sector brought in $2.1 million last year. And high nickel prices have helped Cuba participate in the commodities boom that has lifted the rest of Latin America, with nickel exports worth about $800 million.

Despite that money coming in, the country has an energy shortage:

The infrastructure is extensive, if in need of repair. Consultant Babun said he was surprised by how much money was invested in building power-line distribution in remote areas -- although access to energy is still tricky because of the country's energy shortage. Leaky water lines, paint-starved buildings and aging electricity poles sit side by side with road, bridge and cable construction.
Yep. That's what 47 years of the tropical "worker's paradise" has done to a country that was once had the second-highest per capita income in Latin America.

Is the solution to give Cuba more money and pour American tourists into Cuba? That's what anti-embargo folks claim. The article will throw serious doubts to those claims.

Want an idea of how things were B.C. (before castro)? Check this, this, and this from The Real Cuba. And check out Alberto's site dedicated to B.C. life: Havana 1950-1960.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

State of Havami (UPDATED)

Photo courtesy of Cuaderno de Cuba

You just have to laugh at this picture. Forget about the fact that it will never happen, nor do we want it to happen. Let's just take this moment to find the humor in this.

First, the guy looks dead serious. Perhaps he would run for governor of the Miami province.

Second, and what really made me laugh, is the attention to detail. If you look very closely, it appears that our future governor included the southern half of Broward County in Havami.

Imagine the reaction from Broward folks. It's almost worth the effort to annex Cuba, isn't it?!

H/T: El Confeti

UPDATE 8/7/06: Palm Beach Post reporter Liz Balmaseda has this to say about Havami:

Havami stretches from Cuba into South Florida. You think it must be a joke, but then the owners show you their proposal to Congress for the annexation of Cuba.

"I mean, how do you go back to Cuba now?" says Cuban-born, New York-raised owner Jackie Sarracino, 41, whose husband Maximo, 45, came up with the Havami idea.

Here's their reasoning:

You realize they're dead serious. They want to bring back the Platt Amendment. Cubans, they insist, are simply too corruptible for sovereignty.

"We believe the Anglo laws are the only ones that can bring order to Cuba," she says. "We don't believe we are as effective at governing ourselves."


Read the rest of Balmaseda's article here.

H/T: Rick

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Rep. Rangel Shocked at Exile Reaction

New York U.S. House Representative Charles Rangel is a big fan of fidel.

I mention this because of a letter to the editor that Mr. Rangel wrote to the Miami Herald, published today.

Here it is, with comments to follow:

I have been shocked at the sight of people dancing in the streets over reports of Cuban President Fidel Castro's illness. It is unseemly, and even un-American, to publicly wish for someone's death.

We all hope to see a free and open democracy in Cuba. But the way to achieve that is not by attempting to dictate who runs for office or who doesn't, as we have done under the Helms-Burton law. Rather, we should be opening doors to Cuba by promoting free trade and cultural, scientific and academic exchanges and encouraging travel between the two countries.

Showing off the American way of life is the best way to influence the choices that the Cuban people -- not American politicians in Florida -- must eventually make. The Bush administration would be better served by rethinking a policy that has failed to achieve its ends after almost 50 years. The U.S. embargo, which I and many of my colleagues in Congress have opposed for years, has only hurt the Cuban people and economy, but done nothing to advance democracy.

I feel for Cuban Americans who have relatives in Cuba whom they can visit only once every three years because of the tightening of the embargo. The policy, which is dividing Cuban families, was not devised by the Cuban government. It is the American government's misguided policies that have erected walls between Cuban Americans and their families on the island.

CHARLES B. RANGEL, representative, U.S. House, 15th Congressional District, New York

One can reasonably argue about the travel restrictions, the "embargo", and other issues involving U.S.-Cuba relations. That's not my beef here. And he's far from the only person in the U.S. who sympathizes with fidel. That's not it either.

I bring this up because Rangel isn't just some freshman representative getting his feet wet in Washington. He happens to be the ranking Democrat in the House Ways and Means Committee, which means that if the Democrats take control of the House this fall, he becomes the chair of the committee.

A fidel sympathizer in control of an important committee in the United States House. Does that disturb anyone? It should.

Some might say, "What's the big deal, Robert? What does him liking fidel have anything to do with the United States and the Ways and Means Committee".

When someone is a fan of a person who has vowed with our worst enemies to "put the U.S. on its knees", and that individual is in a high position in our government, I worry. What are Rangel's true interests? Is he being honest when he says he wants a "free and democratic Cuba"? Those are fair question to ask considering who his friends are. And I won't even bring up Rangel's trip to Cuba in 2003 which was funded by fidel.

Rangel is upset that Cuban-Americans are wishing for fidel's death. Perhaps Rangel should also be upset at fidel for his record as a murderer, oppressor, human rights violator, and for publicly stating that he wishes harm on the United States. No, that would be too honest for a hypocrite such as Rangel.

Some people wonder why Cuban-Americans are mostly Republican. Focusing solely on Cuban issues (there are many reasons that transcend Cuban issues), politicians such as Rangel make it obvious. As a conservative, I'll be the first to say that Republicans are far from perfect when it comes to Cuba issues (examples: Bush refusing to revoke the wet foot/dry foot policy, the inability for leading Republicans to come up with real and constructive ways to deal with fidel). In fact, I'm sure many if not most Cubans agree with certain core Democratic issues.

But as long as the Democrats have Rangel and others in their ranks, Cuban-Americans will have good reasons to be more skeptical of Democrats than Republicans when it comes to Cuba.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Menendez on Cuba's Future

Ana Menendez is back from vacation, and not a moment too soon.

My comments interspersed in italics and also following the column below:
Time to Rebuild Relationships, For Cuba's Sake

Not the exploding cigar or the hallucinogenic aerosol, not snipers, mafia assassins or contaminated diving suits, not four decades of embargo, travel bans, threats, bluster, bullying or wishful thinking. Not plots, but time's relentless plodding has nudged Fidel Castro closer to the history he hoped would absolve him.

A bleeding stomach. In the end, removing Castro from power was easier than imagined. All it took was a serious case of common mortality.

''Acute intestinal crisis,'' is how Castro described his usurper in a note to the nation Monday. And not 24 hours later, Miami crackled with speculation that the message was delivered from beyond the grave.

Fidel might be dead, incapacitated or just testing the Styx's waters. But after years of failed predictions and premature announcements, he is -- by his own admission -- no longer in power.

We are at the beginning of the end, the moment Fidel himself unconsciously described when he said that revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past.

We in Miami know a great deal about the past, having steeped ourselves in all its comforting trappings for the better part of half a century. What we're still unsteady on is the future. What that future looks like and who gets to shape it depends on the choices we make today.

First, the rhetoric of hate and bitterness has to die with Fidel. Time is passing all the old demagogues by. Acknowledging the pain and terror of Castro's rule does not grant license to wallow eternally in victimhood. Now is the time to apply creativity and understanding to the problem of Cuba so the country can begin to escape the cycle of dictatorship and exile.

''We are witnessing a new chapter in Cuban history,'' said exile Silvia Wilhelm. ``I pray to God that we have the discipline and common sense to tread very lightly.''

Wilhelm, a bruised and battered veteran of Miami's ideology wars, wonders: ``Can we for once in our life look at something and make it an opportunity instead of a fiasco?''

Oh, brother! Can you hear the violins in the background? Wilhelm, a long-time basher of conservative Cuban-Americans and downright fidel apologist, is telling us to tread lightly, like if we were some kind of rabid wild dog species. Wilhelm, the instigator of many an ideological war, should have a higher opinion of her fellow Cuban-Americans and their accomplishments. I mean, look around, will you. But why should I be surprised by her smug remarks?

We can begin by banishing the word ''transition'' from the discussion. What took place this week is a succession, one the Cuban government has obviously been planning for a long time, as evidenced by the amount of detail in Fidel's (or his ''ghost'' writer's) letter.

What happens now in Cuba is not up to the United States -- the Bush administration's condescending fairy tale of a ''Cuba plan'' notwithstanding. Cuba's future is up to the Cuban people. And that's exactly as it should be.

Condescending fairy tale - well there you have it. I wonder her opinion of it if Clinton would have come up with it instead of Bush? Oh yeah, that's right, Clinton didn't have a plan.

Not ''transition'' and not ''reparation'' -- what should immediately concern us in Miami is rebuilding the relationships that the politics of paranoia and vengeance worked so assiduously to destroy.

I propose a series of town hall meetings (perhaps sponsored by this paper). Not for politicians, but for all those who haven't been heard. Let's trade ideas, dream, argue. Rehash the past and move on. Let's open up travel to Cuba, pair young students with one another. Let's begin the reconciliation. Even if Castro returns, his rule won't be the same. For the first time in 47 years, we have a real chance to shape the future. Let's not blow it.

Speaking of the future: A few months ago in this column, psychic Elaine Ferretti predicted Castro's demise in 2006. I caught up with her again Tuesday.

''I'm not surprised at all,'' she said. ``He's a Leo, and Saturn is in the sign of Leo. Saturn is the lord of karma and it's his time now.''

Not the CIA or exiled voodoo dolls. With apologies to Ms. Ferretti, not even the planets. What will finally bring down Fidel is just ordinary old age, the one enemy that all the rhetoric and black magic in the world cannot defeat.

May the future continue to triumph.

Despite the inevitable bias which permeates every single one of her columns, Menendez is right in her main message here. It's just the condescending way in which she delivers it that rubs me the wrong way.

Memo to Ana: Cubans in Cuba have never had a problem with Cubans in exile. In fact, family ties are as strong as they've ever been between the Straits. How do you explain the massive amount of money we send down there in remittances? Reconciliation with our families is not necessary. They will open their doors to us as we have to them.

The only enemy of the Cuban exiles is the same enemy of the Cubans who stayed behind - fidel and his cronies.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Cuba's Future with Raul - And Beyond?

Just finished watching a very interesting A Mano Limpia on Channel 41. The guests were Carlos Alberto Montaner, who needs no introduction, an ex-member of Raul Castro's cabinet in Cuba by the name of Alcibiedes (can't remember his last name), and a doctor specializing in colorectal surgery.

Here are the highlights:

- The show opened with a segment from the Cuban TV show Mesa Redonda in which castro mouthpiece Randy Alonso read a statement allegedly made by fidel, apologizing to his friends and sympathizers for the condition he's in, and that the reason the state of his health couldn't be divulged was because of the "Imperialists" who are out to get Cuba. No real doctor was used to give any kind of statement on fidel's condition, of course. See the second paragraph below for further explanation.

- The ex-Raul Castro cabinet member said that Raul doesn't have the charisma nor the influence of fidel. That's not surprising. But the implication is that the minions below will be less likely to blindly follow him the way they follow fidel. Montaner supported this by stating that Raul would not be able to pull of some kind of economic opening similar to China or Vietnam. He added that many Cubans, including those within the regime, are tired of Venezuelan subsidies and the other humiliations the country has suffered, but have put up with it due to blind loyalty to fidel. The same wouldn't happen with Raul, and those people would be more apt to rebel. Very interesting and logical analysis.

- The doctor stated that the long-term prognosis for fidel isn't good, due to his advanced age and the long recovery time for a surgery such as the one he had. This is, of course, assuming he's still alive which I believe he is. He also said that it was very unlikely that fidel could be coherent enough following surgery to write down the statement that was attributed to him in Mesa Redonda. For him to have actually said it is even less probable due to the likelihood of fidel being connected to tubes making him unable to talk. Bottom line - the statement Randy Alonso made was written by someone within the regime, not fidel.

- Finally, Montaner stated that the fears of Cuban exiles taking over the island in a transitional period are unfounded. The U.S. has no interest in annexing Cuba, for the potential wave of millions of immigrants it would cause. He said that exiles would be a positive force in a rebuilding Cuba and that Cubans on the island would quickly realize that the exiles would be there to help, not to take over.

As If News of fidel's Health Wasn't Enough

The Countdown is On (UPDATED)

Seems like there are 3 camps of thought in the fidel handing the reigns over to raul story.

One camp is taking the news at face value...fidel is sick and is getting surgery. Meanwhile raul is running the show.

Another camp is suspecting that fidel is already dead and that this is just buying time until everything is settled within the regime.

A third camp, full of conspiracy theorists, thinks that this is a ploy by the regime in order to "test the waters" and see who within the regime is loyal and who isn't.

I'm in the first camp. Cubans can't keep a secret even if their life depended on it.

I won't write THE POST. Not yet. But a little celebration is not out of the order right now, if only as a ray of hope that is the first small step towards freedom in Cuba. Everyone knows that even fidel's death won't signal the end of the suffering.

As Val noted:
Let's all keep in mind that this "transition" has not taken place overnight. The Cuban government have slowly been weaning the Cuban people of fidel castro for weeks now, publishing numerous articles and editorials in Granma, Prensa Latina, and all other government news sources, getting the public ready for the change in leadership.
This has been in the works for a while now. The transition will appear to be seamless.

What this CAN do is motivate those who have been fixated with fidel for 47 years. Perhaps give them an idea to take advantage of this change in order to start anew. No doubt, the apparatus will be ready to combat any dissenters. But WE need to be ready to seize the moment.

The moment may be arriving soon. Sooner than we think.

Carpe Diem.

UPDATE 215 PM - I sense a temporary "calm within the storm" here in Miami right now, Spanish talk radio is talking about fidel, but it's not the uberhyper 24-hour coverage one sees during hurricanes, for example. Regular programming with commercials, even.

Stay tuned....