[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: September 2006

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Views on Teen's Escape to Cuba

Some reaction from fellow Miamians following the case of the Miami teen's fleeing to Cuba, via Miami Herald letters to the editor:

Re the Sept. 27 article Student, 14, flees to Cuba: It was disturbing to me that the article contained no mention of family values, paternal love for a son or any reason other than materialism for 14-year-old Alfredo Diaz to wish to remain in the United States.

I hope that material comforts are not the most important reason why the father is living in this country. I fear that many of our recent immigrants have come to the United States for a lifestyle based on material comforts. Perhaps the son needs more than Pizza Hut, the Dolphin Mall, computer privileges, an iPod and the ''other good things in life'' mentioned by the father.

Could it be that the young boy wants to be with his mother because of the love and values she bestows upon him? Perhaps this article should serve as a wake-up call for all of us to examine what's really important.


Let's see. There's no custody battle here. The boy appears to be a normal teen living in a home with a father and "stepmother" who care for him. Therefore, why doesn't Mr. Dobson sympathize with the father? Instead, he criticizes immigrants for coming to this country for "material comforts". What's wrong with that? Isn't that a right that we enjoy in a free country? Or is life in Cuba, where material comforts can be bought for a pretty penny but, like freedom, out of reach for the average citizen, better because materialism isn't prevalent? I could almost see his point if Alfredo was living under dire conditions, but it certainly doesn't appear that way from both a material and family perspective. The boy's father punished him for committing voter fraud in his school's elections. Doesn't sound like a father who doesn't care for his kid, does it?

I can only guess on which side of the political spectrum Mr. Dobson lies, but I'd say it's not on mine.

How should Alfredo be punished for what he's done, you may ask? An enlightened Herald reader came up with this:

First, Alfredo Diaz cheats in his classroom elections, then he sneaks back into his house and packs, breaks into his father's safe to get his passport and then uses his father's credit card to fraudulently buy an airline ticket to Cuba.

The best punishment would be for his father to make him stay in Cuba for about six months. Let him do without the amenities of life in Miami and see how he likes it down there.


Thank you Mr. Rodriguez.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mid-Week Quick Hits

- Just call him "Wrong-Way Alfredo".

- Looks like Venezuela's "Oil for Propaganda" program is starting to have its doubters.

- Read Carlos Frias' latest installment in his series on visiting Cuba.

- The boys gave it a good run. They (and we) should be proud.

And last but definitely not least:

- Hooray for the PAC (otherwise known as the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts)!!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Che's Memory Keeps Bringing Out the Moonbats

Almost a year ago, one of my co-bloggers at Chicago Boyz posted a debunking of the myth of Che Guevara, based on an article by Alvaro Vargos Llosa. There's nothing new in Vargos Llosa's article for anybody who has even the slightest historical knowledge about Guevara and the communist takeover of Cuba. What's interesting is that even a year later my friend's post continues to receive comments from people who take strong offense at any criticism of the legendary Che. It's also interesting how poorly written and reasoned almost every one of these pro-Guevara comments is. I don't know what to make of it other than that Google works in mysterious ways, and that there are many people whose critical faculties are so poorly developed that they believe life in Cuba has improved since the revolution. How does one even attempt to persuade such people that their cherished beliefs are all lies?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Seen in Cuba

Photo from When Night is Darkest - A Palm Beach Post Special Report.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Community Service

One of the main reasons for this blog's existence is to help spread the word about the situation in Cuba. We all know that there are plenty of myths which abound about conditions on the island and the reality people there face.

This became evident to me this morning when I read this doozy of a letter to the editor at the Miami Herald.

As a community service, I think we all should educate Luis Salazar a little. Perhaps point him to a few Cuba blogs that spend so much time and effort to bring light as to life really is in Cuba.

Following is the letter by Mr. Salazar, with a few of my comments interspersed.

Life in Cuba

Re the Sept. 14 article Cubans wary of a quick change: Fidel Castro is not entirely at fault for the low standard of living on the island. If he had more economic options and support, Cubans probably would have a more-decent standard.

In other words, it's the United States' fault due to the embargo.

People seem to overlook that the government in Cuba feeds, houses, educates and gives healthcare to more than 11 million people completely free. None of this comes from taxes or the people themselves, but from whatever the government can hustle from trade, tourism or any charity that may come its way.

So he admits that there is money being "hustled in" from other sources. People don't overlook the free education and health care. What Salazar is overlooking is the measly pay the average Cuban receives, as well as the quality of said education, housing and health care. Please refer to the above-linked sites for further information and examples.

The situation in Cuba is not because Castro is a bad man or because he is stealing from his people. It is simply that there is only so much he can do with what he has. Also, some people in Cuba in some way understand this and are not ready to give it up.

Castro IS a bad man. Ask him. And him. And here's what he DOES have.

There are people in much worse situations elsewhere in Latin America and the world. But people in Miami seem to overlook this just because Castro is communist and therefore "evil''.

Ahhh, those simpleton Miami Cubans strike again! Being communist doesn't help your status in the view of many democratically-minded people, but if the above examples don't prove his "evilness", Mr. Salazar, then you're more brainwashed than I thought. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Idiot Speaks. Idiots React

I won't waste too many bytes writing how much of an idiot Hugo Chavez is. That's common knowledge.

I probably shouldn't spend much time writing about the positive reaction to Hugo the Clown's speech. But I decided to pull out a few of the "highlights".

From the WaPo:

"Obviously people are pleased with what he said, but they cannot express themselves as frankly as he does, said one Arab ambassador, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to offend the United States.

Please, Mr/Mrs Ambassador, go right ahead. It's not like you're the only one.

From the Miami Herald, actor/activist/commie Danny Glover said:

"Hugo Chavez is a very visionary man".

Visionary indeed. He sees fidel everywhere he goes.

More from the Herald:

CITGO CEO Félix Rodríguez told the Harlem gathering that the company was not acting out of political motivation (in offering discounted oil to poor Americans). It was a sincere gesture of
help and ''a small grain of sand'' that he hoped would motivate other oil companies to do the same.

Rumor has it Mr. Rodriguez had a gun to his head when he made this remark.

Eliseo Colón, a cook, said Chávez was trying to help the poor in a way ``Bush isn't trying to do.''

No, Bush isn't trying to take over major oil corporations or import doctors from a foreign country.

Arvetta Taylor, who came with a large group from the Harlem Addicts Rehabilitation Center, said she wished the United States had a president like Chávez. ''I love sharing,'' she said of the heating oil programs.

Fine Ms. Taylor, I'm sure Chavez will set you up nicely in a Caracas shantytown upon your arrival to Venezuela. Besides, we know how much he loves addicts.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

"Representing Castro as Cuba"

This is worth reading.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

What (Who) is White

Tere's cross-blog post over at White Dade yesterday touched on a very interesting and sometimes controversial topic: what and who is considered white?

Racial and ethnic identification can be a muddy and touchy subject, and it is no different here in the United States, and in particular Miami. Here in Miami, anyone who is not either Hispanic or Black and was born in the United States is considered an "Anglo", regardless of whether that person is of English, German, Italian, Russian or Greek ancestry. The term Anglo has been misinterpreted and misused to include what are essentially "non-ethnic" Americans (read: families who have been here several generations and exhibit little if any trace of their ethnic background). This may not be a perfectly correct description, but it captures the basic essence of it.

Another term widely used these days to describe this group of people, even by Anglos themselves, is "Gringo". Don't even get me started on how much I hate that term. It is, at its core, an offensive term used to deride those of English or English-speaking (i.e. "white") backgrounds. I remember as a kid, the only time that term was used was as an insult towards "anglos". Cubans rarely, if ever, used that term, instead opting for the more acceptable and correct "americano". Mexicans were the only ones that I recall ever using this term, and always disparagingly. Today everyone uses it, even Cubans. I've been even called a gringo myself, even by fellow Cubans, due to the fact that my physical appearance doesn't fit neatly into the Cuban/Pan-Hispanic stereotype. In other words, I look "white". More on this later.

What is white, and who can be considered white? The old term to describe the white race is Caucasian, but it has fallen out of favor due to the wide differences in physical appearances and traits which fall under it. Not many people realize that under the original definition, Middle-Eastern Arabs are as Caucasian as Scandinavians. This of course throws people for a loop because the typical Arab doesn't look anything like the typical Scandinavian. Therefore, Caucasian is now used to mean someone with a fair complexion, and Middle Easterners are who knows what (except white, of course).

Some of you may be wondering, what's the big deal with all this? Who cares what you're labeled or called?

I agree, it's no big deal. But I think it's an interesting subject strictly from a technical standpoint, although I will also say that the way that we view and (mis)interpret races and ethnicities shapes the way we see and treat people. That's why I think this is an important topic to address.

Here in the United States, in an attempt to bean-count all the different ethnic groups, the term "Hispanic" began to be used as a racial descriptor. Of course, Hispanic is most definitely not a race, instead an ethnic group used to lump together people of Spanish (from Spain) background or ancestry, whether through blood or language. Hispanics can be of several races, and often of mixed race. Also, Hispanics can and are frequently white. This throws a lot of people for a loop.

As a kid attending Miami public schools, I recall having to choose between White and Hispanic when filling in the race bubble on the standardized tests we would have to take every year. The same thing still happens when registering to vote. I was always tempted to fill in both, even though that wasn't allowed. Eventually I would fill in Hispanic as to acknowledge and distinguish my ethnic background. Still, I should never have had to make that choice. I, like many other Hispanics, am also white. We're a little better these days in making that distinction, but not by much.

As White Dade points out in the comment to Tere's post, white is more often used as a cultural determinant rather than a racial one. In other words, the original and correct meaning of the term has been replaced by one that describes people of a similar cultural background. Therefore, Hispanics, no matter how white they look, aren't white (the picture in Tere's post drives this point home).

Some of you may still be shaking your heads wondering: what's the big deal here Robert?

The big deal lies not in what color we are, because we have no choice in the matter. We are all human beings and we should all be treated as such. Again, the importance of it lies in how these descriptors shape our views and perception of others. Too often, White or Anglo is implied to mean American, while those who are Hispanic, Black, etc are something else.

Yes, we often foster this misperception when we label ourselves as Cuban-American, African-American, etc., but as the comment thread at yesterday's Transit Miami post indicated, these descriptions are used more as an enhancement of American, not as a replacement or even as a modifier. We're also forced to use these terms to a large extent due to the fact that many of us (Cuban-Americans) don't fit into the stereotypical definition of an "American", which again can be used in a negative way when it falls in the hands of the wrong people.

Before I wrap up this long-winded thesis up, I want to make clear that I am not pointing the finger at any one group of people here. Misperceptions of race and ethnicities transcend cultural and racial groups. How many Cuban-Americans out there have heard a parent or grandparent refer to Anglos as americanos and American-born blacks as, well, blacks? One of the episodes of Que Pasa, USA deals with this issue, where the American-born C-A calls his black Cuban friend "Cuban" and his other American black friend "black", even though they are both racially black.

In closing, it doesn't matter what we are, and it may not even matter what we call ourselves. I believe, however, that we must be as accurate as possible when describing other people, because it allows for greater understanding, and eventually acceptance, of different backgrounds and cultures.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Miamian - First Generation Cuban American

26th Parallel is happy to be a part of today's Miami Cross Blogination. You can check out our contribution to this wacky event by visiting Stuck on the Palmetto.

I am privileged to bring you the following post by Gabriel J. Lopez-Bernal of Transit Miami. Please make him feel at home and leave a comment.

As one of the many first generation Cuban-Americans, I am glad to say that I along with many others in my same position, see things differently than our Cuban born Cuban-American relatives. First generation Cuban Americans aren’t in a state of limbo like our older relatives who were born in Cuba but moved to the United States later on in life. We also aren’t filled with the false notions of ever returning to a free Cuba, the Cuba that once existed but is now only left as a relic in our memories by the pictures painted to us by our grandparents and such. The peculiarity behind it is that at the same time, we don’t fully align ourselves as Americans either; this is when my term Miamian comes into play because Miami is with where we best identify ourselves with. Miamians have been able to take full advantage of the hard work and struggles that our elder relatives endured while reestablishing themselves in a new lifestyle, culture, and country. Hence, this is the reason why many Miamians tend to see things so differently; we simply haven’t had to adapt midlife to new social circumstances. In any case, we are grateful for the choices our relatives made and difficulties they have had to overcome when settling abroad.

Miamians long for a drastic change to occur in Cuba, sooner rather than later, much like any other Cuban born Cuban-American does. However, unlike many of our ancestors, we believe that if a change is ever to occur, it will have to come from within; a revolution of sorts must happen to begin to topple the years of tyranny and oppression which have plagued our island nation for so many years. Typically, upon mentioning this to any Cuban bred Cuban-American, they point out how dissent or civil disobedience of any kind isn’t tolerated on the island and is often met with a swift measures or the execution of “guilty” parties. Granted, but there is only so much of this that could occur before the Cuban government creates a crisis for itself economically and within the international community. Revolutions don’t have to be bloody to be successful either. I reference the Velvet Revolution as successful example, as was much of the toppling of the USSR in the 1980’s. The point is that most Cuban Born Cuban-Americans fail to realize that if change is to ever occur, it must be initiated by actual Cubans rather than the dissidents who have fled since.

I digressed. Many Cuban born Cuban-Americans believe that the natural death of Fidel Castro will serve as the tipping point for the end of the communist regime in Cuba. Although this could in fact serve as a catalyst if the right steps are taken by the Cuban people, I fear that the death of an 80 year old man would not be sufficient to cause such a drastic change. The desire for change must be inherently found within the Cuban people. This is why ideas such as Radio Marti, the aerial flyering by the Basulto brothers, or even the latest mirror scheme have proven to be ineffective tools in bringing about change on the island. Most Cuban-Americans still fail to see that Radio Marti is nothing but a mere political tool created by American policy writers to try and appease the Cuban-American voter base. Although, a growing number of people within the Cuban American community are beginning to focus their attention on American public policy rather than the happenings on the island. The post Castro Cuba will likely look much as the communist Cuba we have all grown to know. Sadly, the safeguards of the current false regime are designed to keep power distributed among a dedicated and privileged few in a very un-communist sort of way.

Miamians have a different set of interests than our island born relatives. While many of our elder relatives continue to long for the country they left behind, Miamians have the fortune of being able to look into the future without any of the struggles that our families endured. We understand the kinship our relatives have for their former home, based on their nostalgic recollections of the blue waters of Varadero Beach, the cobblestone streets of Havana, and the green pastures of el campo. And, although we genuinely care about our roots and our culture, we have also begun to create a strong affinity for the city which has raised us; we are the first generation of Miamians

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Israeli Government's Continuing Ineptitude

From comments by the Israeli foreign minister:

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Sunday that the world may have as little as “A few months” to avoid a nuclear Iran and called for sanctions.

I don't understand this. Iran is a few months away from being able to produce enough fissionable material to build nuclear bombs, with which it has threatened to attack Israel, and the Israeli response is to call for multilateral sanctions that everybody knows will not work? This is Israel's strongest diplomatic response to a straightforward threat of annihilation? It would have been much better if Livni had said nothing. Whatever military action Israel or the USA may (let us hope) be planning behind the scenes, this kind of public kabuki dance by western governments, and particularly by Israel, can only encourage the mullahs. Livni should say that Israel will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran and leave it at that.

UPDATE: Here's a finer-grained discussion of some of the diplomatic issues.

(Cross posted at Chicago Boyz.)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Another Question About the Press: Why Didn't Novak Help Libby?

Re: Recent revelations about the Plame affair (via Rachel).

So if Armitage behaved so dishonorably, why did Novak feel bound to continue to honor Armitage's anonymity? Armitage is by far the bigger villain here -- though not as big a villain as Fitzgerald, the prosecutor, but that's another issue -- but doesn't Novak deserve criticism for not revealing Armitage's identity when Libby and Rove were twisting in the wind and he, Novak, might have been able to help get them off the hook?

Novak seems to set great store by his commitment to maintain the confidentiality of his "sources," but shouldn't he have acted otherwise in this case? It looks as though Novak was more concerned with not scaring off the government leakers who are his bread and butter than he was with saving innocent men from disgrace, great expense and possible (actual in Libby's case) prosecution. I don't see how Novak's position was different in principle from that of a psychiatrist who learns that one of his patients plans to commit a serious crime. In such a case the psychiatrist's professional duty to maintain patient confidentiality is outweighed by the need to prevent great harm to others.

Of course there was no reason why Fitzgerald couldn't have subpoenaed Novak long ago and asked him to reveal his source, as more than one blogger long ago pointed out. But was there any reason, besides professional self-interest, for Novak not to reveal that information on his own?

(cross posted at Chicago Boyz)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Long Day - And An Awakening

Today didn't turn out like I expected. I spent most of my off-day catching up on work stuff, and to top it off, the starter in my car crapped out and I had to take it in to the dealer. After fixing the starter and doing all the other maintenance stuff I should have done 20,000 miles ago, I'll end up paying more than my mortgage. Oh well, it had to get done sooner or later.

I managed to find time to follow the latest involving the Marti Moonlighters, and the more I read, the more I feel that the Herald really botched this whole thing. I initially came out defending the Herald for following their ethical codes while feeling a little uneasy about it. However when word got out that the Herald knew about this for at least four years, I started to question the Herald's decision. My eyes started to open.

Oscar Corral's hatchet job on journalists such as Carlos Alberto Montaner who don't even work for the paper really put a bad taste in my mouth. Then came the reluctance of the Miami Herald to publish articles and letters written by the others implicated in the controversy, all this while El Nuevo Herald published them immediately. This all points to a newspaper who claims to be ethically correct, yet refuses to acknowledge its own mistakes and does not publish the rebuttals of all the moonlighters (they did slip Montaner's letter through the cracks - three days later). Instead of having an open, unbiased discussion about the ethics involved in the case - certainly good arguments can be made on both sides - they get on their high horse and proclaim themselves to be kings. That's what happens when you're the only game in town.

I won't cite particular posts as they are too many, but you can find these and more at the following blogs:

- Babalu Blog (in particular, check out Fontova's post).
- Cuban-American Pundits
- Herald Watch

A big part of me wants to cancel my subscription. Actually, it's something I've been thinking about for a while now. Still, I don't know what I'm going to do. Reading the paper first thing in the morning while having breakfast is a ritual of mine, something I've done for most of my adult life. These things are hard to break. Also, I consider it a civic duty to stay informed as to what's going on in my community. The Herald does this for me, if flawed most of the time.

Then again, my blood pressure could stand being a few points lower if it means I don't have to read articles from Ana Menendez and Leonard Pitts that have at times made me almost choke on my breakfast.

Our Blogs Like You've Never Seen Before

Next Tuesday, the Miami blogosphere will be all screwed up. Myself and several other local bloggers will be posting on other blogs, thanks to Rebecca of Greener Miami's idea of "Cross Blogination, a blog-switch like you've never seen". Thanks Rebecca!

She used a random number generator to come up with the combinations, and Gabriel of Transit Miami will have the honor of posting here at 26th Parallel. I look forward to Gabriel's post. In turn, I'll be posting at Stuck on the Palmetto (I can hear Rick cringe now).

It should be fun, and I promise to be nice. Make sure to tune in to the Miami blogs next Tuesday.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

DeFede Reacts to Marti Moonlighters

Two nights ago I posted about how the Marti Moonlighters case parallels the firing of Jim DeFede over a year ago by the Herald. I also wondered what DeFede's reaction to this would be.

Yesterday, DeFede responded with a rant on his morning radio show at 940 AM (I mistakenly had written 790 AM earlier, but being a sports station I doubt they have much of an opinion on this except perhaps Dan LeBatard. Dan, feel free to chip in!)

I'll summarize what he said. DeFede started off by saying that he was "deeply troubled" by the fact that Herald reporters were being paid by TV/Radio Marti. Then he proceeded to blast the Herald, and in particular Jesus Diaz and Herald General Counsel Robert Beattie. He referred to the firings as "summary executions" and "cowardly", and called Diaz and Beattie "idiots and incompetent".

Obviously, DeFede has an axe to grind. He remembers his own dismissal from the Herald, by the very same Jesus Diaz. He wondered why there were no investigations done, and concluded that the Herald wanted to avoid a big stink in the papers without them taking immediate action.

DeFede even went as far as saying that if the editors of El Nuevo Herald knew about their reporters being paid by Marti four years ago, why this now, and that the issue of journalists being paid by U.S. government entities was "open to discussion". Interesting.

DeFede's firing last year triggered an avalanche of support from fellow journalists, including Herald employees, who blasted the Herald's decision. The Herald was accused of appeasing the ever-present "Miami Mafia".

These latest firings, on the other hand, have been followed by utter silence from the same journalists who expressed their indignation so loudly last year. Are they confused by all this? Or do they think it's OK to fire a bunch of supposed right-wing Cuban-Americans who specialized in "propaganda" without some kind of due process?

My question to them is: who's the Herald appeasing now?

I stated in my initial post on this issue that I agreed with the Herald for doing what they thought was appropriate based on their ethical code. However, that was BEFORE news leaked out that El Nuevo Herald editors knew and approved of the practice as early as 2002. You can argue that it's ethically wrong for journalists to take money from the government. But if their bosses knew about this, then at the very least the reporters in question deserved a hearing. That's what DeFede said and that's what a lot of his loud supporters are NOT saying this time around.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Is the Herald Anti-Cuban?

The latest involving the Marti Moonlighters case, and subsequent comments left on several blogs, have brought out an opinion that appears to be gaining some steam: The Miami Herald is anti-Cuban-American.

I've been reading the Herald for a long time, so I think I'm qualified enough to make a reasonably educated opinion on this. I do NOT think the Herald has a systematic bias against Cuban-Americans.

I know this opinion isn't popular amongst many of my esteemed Cuban-American cohorts. I may be accused of being naive (that's OK, I can think of worse things to be called). I might even be accused of being on the inside with the Herald. Before I continue, let me say that the Herald is a below-average paper. It's been going downhill faster than an 18-wheeler without breaks going down Mount Everest. In short, it's crappy. But it's the best we got in this town, sad to say, so we have to put up with it whether we like it or not.

By systematic bias, I mean something that has become institutionalized from the top down, at the Herald. I don't see it. To those skeptics out there, remember that last year when Jim DeFede got fired, many people were accusing the Herald of bowing to pressure from the "Miami Mafia". Have they pulled a reverse on us? I doubt it.

This past year, they have published several editorials, two of which can be found here and here, which have been very critical of the Cuban regime, much more critical than what you would find in 95% of American MSM outlets. Does this exonerate them when they publish bad stories about Cuban-Americans. Absolutely not. But it does put this issue in some perspective. Another perspective to consider: two of the top people of both editions of the Herald, Jesus Diaz and Humberto Castello, are on the advisory board for the Cuba Transition Project, an influential organization which is funded via a grant by a U.S. government agency and can hardly be considered sympathetic to the castro regime.

I do believe that several reporters, and most definitely several of their columnists, have an anti-Cuban-American (read: right-wing Cuban Americans) slant. I think we can agree on that. But does that automatically implicate the organization? How about the Herald's parent company...are they anti-Cuban-American?

I don't know, but we need to make sure we have our ducks in a row if we're going to make that accusation.

Monday, September 11, 2006


(Cross-posted from Babalu):

As the case with the majority of Americans, I was at work on the morning of 9/11. I had just come back from some mundane meeting about a mundane subject when a few co-workers commented that a plane had hit one of the towers. At the time, we thought it was some horrible accident. TVs were tuned to the news, but no one understood the reality of what was happening. A few minutes later, news arrived of the second tower being struck, and at that point it was painfully obvious as to what was happening. We were being attacked. I did not see the second plane hitting the tower unlike many others who saw it live, but my wife did see it, and she was affected in a way that I wasn't.

During the several days of hazy reality that followed 9/11, my wife, seven-plus months pregnant with our oldest daughter, wondered what kind of world we were bringing our daughter into. I didn't have a good answer to that question, except that bad things had happened in this world before, and somehow we had found a way to get through. I'm not sure I believed those words myself, but it sounded comforting at the time.

Looking back five years later, I truly believe what I said. Americans are a tough bunch, despite our slipping confidence in the war on terror. When push comes to shove, we know how to respond. Still, too many of our own have forgotten this. We've forgotten that war isn't easy, especially when we're fighting a cowardly enemy who prefers to immolate himself and not face the consequences of his actions. We're fighting a moral battle - don't be misguided by those who insist on setting moral equivalency bounds.

As President Bush has said so many times, we will win. We must win.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Jim DeFede Reaction?

Photo courtesy of jimdefede.com

The controversy over the firing of the El Nuevo Herald journalists made me think at least briefly about what happened last year with the Herald's firing of columnist Jim DeFede over ethics violations.

Obviously, the specifics involving the DeFede case and this latest case are different, but the commonality between them is that they both violated ethical codes.

Still, I was curious as to what DeFede's reaction is to this latest firing(s). A look at his web site doesn't reveal anything, the last information is from Friday, the day after the firings. Also, no huge reaction from the local journalistic community, in stark contrast to DeFede's case where even a blog was started with signatures from hundreds of journalists supporting him.

Anyway, I'll be checking out DeFede's site at "Progressive Talk" 940 AM, as well as his page over at CBS-4 to see if he says something.

Watching the Herald

Conductor of Cuban-American Pundits and Babalu fame has started a new blog called Herald Watch.

Many local bloggers, myself included, often quote and critique Miami Herald articles and columns. This has been no more evident in the past few days with the story of the El Nuevo Herald reporters being fired over a conflict of interest. However, I believe Conductor's new blog is the first one to actually focus on "taking a peek over the Herald's shoulder".

It's a welcome addition to the local blogosphere, and a blog that can catch on pretty quickly as well as serve an important role in the community.

Sunday Recap

Back on Wednesday I posted an analysis of the Alex Villalobos victory versus Frank Bolaños for the State Senate in which I showed that the majority of Villalobos supporters were from heavily Hispanic, and likely Cuban, areas. At the end of the post, I asked how long it would take the media to catch on to this.

It took the Miami Herald 4 days. The Herald agrees with my analysis, indicating that elderly Hispanic voters carried Villalobos to victory. They credit the abuelitas, or grannies. More than likely, the majority of those were Cuban-Americans.

It's always nice, but not surprising, to see voters vote for someone based on integrity over someone whose campaign relied on extensive character-smearing and a man dressed as a chicken.

Now for one more "pat on the back..."

It appears that the Marlins fans who stay home and watch games on TV heeded my advice and have made their presence known at the ballpark this weekend for the big series against the Phillies. Attendance the last 2 nights has been well over 20,000, which is more than double the season average. Not ideal, but much better than usual and a positive sign that the Marlins' front office should build on (fat chance of that, however).

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Some Changes

After almost 18 months of being the sole administrator and writer of this blog, I have decided to make a few changes.

First and foremost, I have added a new member to the staff. Please welcome Jonathan to the 26th Parallel team. Jonathan is a resident of Miami and has a nice photoblog with plenty of pcitures of South Florida scenery. He is a frequent commenter to this and other local blogs, as well as a contributing writer to the conservative blog Chicago Boyz, which I wholeheartedly recommend checking out.

It's time to give this humble blog a little kick in the butt, and I think Jonathan will help provide that with his smart commentary on a variety of topics. He likely won't be posting on a daily basis, but occasionally mixing things up a bit here.

Other changes will be pretty much cosmetic, as I'll be changing the personal information from the top right, as well as other minor changes.

TV/Radio Marti - Herald Conflict No Secret

One of the many good points that have been raised about the Herald/Marti conflict of interest story is: why did it take 5 years for the Herald to catch on and take action against their reporters?

Excellent question, and one that raises doubts about the Herald's intentions, even if you agree that the Herald took the right course of action. If the fired reporters' integrity can be questioned because of their work with Marti, then certainly the Herald's actions can be scrutinized similarly.

Check out this link from Jorge at The Real Cuba, and this link from Cubanet which dig up an article written in The Miami Herald on March 31, 2002 by staff writer Elaine de Valle in which she openly writes about Herald employees working for TV/Radio Marti.

(To access the article in the Real Cuba link, go about halfway down to page 68 where the article begins).

Jorge and others think that there's a possibility that the Herald received their cues from castro crony Reinaldo Taladrid, who has stated recently on-air in Cuba about Miami journalists being paid by the U.S. Government. Maybe, maybe not. I do have to say, however, that the Cuban government has been making these allegations for a long time now, so this is really nothing new on the part of the regime.

Ask Oscar Haza, the excellent journalist for Miami radio station WQBA and Channel 41. In the past he's been directly accused on Cuban TV show Mesa Redonda of taking payments from the U.S. government. Haza, a Dominican who is outspokenly anti-castro, has categorically denied this.

Basically, the Cuban government has known something that has been public for a long time now. Maybe the top brass at the Herald really didn't know until recently. A reasonable person could think that.

However, a reasonable person could also think that an institution such as the Herald, which prides itself on integrity, would always be alert to such a conflict of interest, right? That's a very fair question to ask at this point in the game.

Montaner Reacts to Conflict of Interest Accusation

There's plenty of fallout from yesterday's story regarding the firing of 3 Nuevo Herald reporters. Conductor wrote a piece at Babalu yesterday which deserves to be read and contemplated as it brings up some valid points about reporters vs. columnists. I plan on posting something later today as well.

In the meantime, Cuban-exile syndicated columnist-extraordinaire Carlos Alberto Montaner, one of the 10 journalists mentioned in the story, wrote a letter to the director of El Nuevo Herald in which he expresses his lack of understand as to why he would be mentioned as one of the 10.

I won't translate the entire letter, but here's the money quote:
Why has my name been included in this information? I don't live in Miami (ed. Montaner lives in Madrid), I don't work for the Miami Herald nor for El Nuevo Herald, nor am I subject to their regulations. I'm not even a freelancer for those companies. The Herald, like sixty other publications in Europe, the United States and Latin America, among them several radio stations, purchase my column from Firmas Press, the agency which distributes my columns.
I must admit, Montaner's inclusion in the list puzzled me when I first saw it because I didn't recall him being an official columnist for the paper, but I didn't pursue this further.

It's pretty obvious to me that Oscar Corral's anxiousness to net the big fish in what he probably hopes is his big journalistic break led him to overlook some not-so-subtle and important details. Sloppy journalism all for the sake of breaking the big story, if you ask me.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Nuevo Herald Journalists Fired

It appears that Oscar Corral has come out of his hole with his big story (if I'm wrong, someone please correct me here).

The Miami Herald has fired 3 Nuevo Herald reporters for a conflict of interest involving payments received by the U.S. Government for reporting and broadcasting the truth about Cuba on TV and Radio Marti.

I'm with Marc here, it's an obvious conflict of interest which should not be permitted or condoned, regardless of the fact that the message they were transmitting was DEFINITELY the right message.

Let me make this perfectly clear: The reporters violated the ethical codes of their company and profession, and they deserved to get fired.

Still, I can't help but feel a little strange about this. Yes, it was a conflict of interest to what is supposed to be a free and independent press. However, let's not even think about moral equivalency here. Cuba's government press gets paid to disseminate lies and cover-ups about their employer's criminal deeds. The Nuevo Herald reporters got paid by the U.S. government to report the truth about injustices in Cuba and to promote democratic ideals.

I also wonder how much of this goes on unnoticed in the U.S. media, and not just during the Bush administration. (Florida Masochist wonders as well).

All this is very unfortunate because it once again shifts the focus from the evil castro regime to the acts of a few journalists and the big, bad imperialist United States. Smart people would of course not let this deter them from focusing on the real bad guys here. However, many more out there will see this as another example of the "Miami Mafia" sticking its big ugly nose where it doesn't belong.

It's unfortunate because in the overall scheme of things, "we're" right and "they're" wrong.

By extension, is suspicion raised of anti-castro bloggers as well, as Marc mentions? Of course, there will be those who will say yes. If that's the case, then we might as well indict the entire blogging community, especially political bloggers on BOTH sides of the American political spectrum. If we're going to mention this possibility, let's not just stop at anti-castro bloggers who type away at keyboards for free while sacrificing the rest of their private lives in order to bring light to the reality in Cuba.

My hope is that the dismissed reporters get hired full-time by TV and Radio Marti, with no conflict whatsoever.

George Moneo = The Man (EDITED)

Some major props to "The Pitbull" for this slammin' post over at Babalu about liberal hypocrisy. (thanks for the grammar correction Conductor!)

George's comments remind me of exactly 2 years ago when the nation (and world) was riveted to the Bush/Kerry presidential race. Working with mostly outspoken Democratic "liberal" types, I heard plenty of derisive comments directed towards Republicans and conservatives, many of which cannot be printed here. The same can be said about many other liberals all over this great country, based on media commentary from both journalists and average citizens.

Yes, I know Republicans dished it out too. I'm perfectly aware of this. But that's not the point.

The same people who supposedly stand for fairness, compassion, tolerance and righteousness had a very difficult time holding back their arrogance, contempt and disrespect for those who have a different set of values. Actually, they didn't hold it back at all. The lack of respect I felt personally towards me and those who think like me was staggering. I personally witnessed rational and smart discussions about politics being turned into idealogical attacks which were most definitely one-sided (left to right). Michael Moore became their hero, their example...clearly one of the early and classic symptoms of BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome).

There have been periods in my life when I have questioned my values, when I've wondered whether I should switch to the "other side". As I've gotten older, I've become much more confident and assured in mycore beliefs.

The lead-up to the 2004 elections, and the attitude I saw in many of those who claim to stand for the average man, solidified it for me.

Go Get 'Em, Henry

Here's a letter to the editor I can agree with:

Poor in Miami

The Sept. 1 story Despite boom, high poverty rate persists describes Miami as ''third-worst in the nation among major cities in the level of poverty.'' This is only true about the city of Miami, not Miami-Dade County.

The real news is that the county's most famous municipality has become a stepping-stone community.

Miami long has been the first stop for recent arrivals from Latin America. When Miami residents prosper, they tend to move to other cities and villages or to unincorporated neighborhoods of the county.

Interesting how the Herald chose to edit Henry's original letter, which he posted here. No huge deal as Henry's main points were kept intact. They did choose to remove his statements which cautions about mischaracterizing statistics being non-constructive.

Perhaps the Herald didn't want to print Henry's comments calling them out for not analyzing the stats further?

I don't want to jump to conclusions, but it does make me wonder.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Analyzing Bolaños vs. Villalobos

I was looking over the stats from the hotly-contested Bolaños/Villalobos State Senate race yesterday, and some pretty interesting stuff came out of it which I would like to discuss.

First of all, everyone locally knows that Bolaños had the full (and I mean full) support from the most powerful Republican in the state, Jeb Bush. This alone would typically lead to a close race, but there's more.

Senate District 38 covers central and southern Miami-Dade County. The district is split in half roughly along Kendall Drive. For those of you not familiar with the local demographics, areas north of Kendall Drive are largely Cuban-American neighborhoods, while areas to the south are mixed with no one single ethnic group dominating. If you take into consideration the fact that only Republicans voted in this race, the above demographics are amplified even more. Therefore, I will make the rather safe assumption that most voters in this race from north of Kendall were Cuban-American Republicans, with a mixed bag to the south (which includes yours truly and other illustrious C-A bloggers, BTW). Miami-Dade County usually comes up with a demographic breakdown of each race some days after the elections, and if I'm proven wrong, I'll mention it.

So as they say on TV...let's look at the map.

I initially linked to the map in a comment to this post on Stuck on the Palmetto, and it shows that most of the precincts to the north - dominated by Cuban-Americans - were won by Villalobos, while most of the southern ones - with less C-A voters - were taken by Bolaños.

Granted, it was a very close race overall, but given all the background "politicking" that went on, such as the connection to the controversial Cuba book ban, many people, including Jeb himself, were banking on the monolithic Cuban-American Republicans to vote their hearts and pick Bolaños, and by proxy their favorite state governor of all-time, Jeb. They figured all Bolaños had to do was put his name on the ballot (which is pretty much all he did) and, voila, he wins.

Something happened to this theory held to be gospel by so many: it was flawed. The areas that were supposed to be Bolaños strongholds turned against him.

The reason it was flawed? That's easy. People assume that Cuban-Americans, especially the hard-line, cigar-chomping types who are registered Republicans, are single-minded and do not comprehend the nuances of a particular issue or race, and at worst are vulnerable to demagogues. I think this race has gone a long way towards proving this wrong.

Of course, many of us have known the reality for a long time, but continually shake our heads whenever we see our community misportrayed over and over again.

Another relevant note: this is also much of the same area that voted in a Colombian-American Republican state representative, Juan Zapata, over a Cuban-American Republican a few years back.

We'll see how long it takes for the media to catch on to this. Some advice: don't hold your breath. Old stereotypes are hard to eliminate.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

How 'Bout Those Marlins?!

Yes, the Florida Marlins...with their $15 million payroll and their cast of rookies, are seriously challenging for a spot in the playoffs.

It's arguably the best sports story in the country right now. I must admit, although I have been a fan since the beginning of the franchise, that I have been somewhat detached from the team this season. Most of this (actually ALL of this) has to do with the team's ownership and their lack of loyalty to the true fans of the team. Their failed but sneaky attempts to court other cities and their ineptitude at arriving at a local stadium deal speaks volumes as to the way they've treated their most loyal fans (God knows there's too few of them...wonder why?). Add to this the annoying micromanaging of owner Jeff Loria (he almost fired manager Joe Girardi a few weeks back just because of a disagreement), and I've had to hold my nose a little while I cheer the team on.

Simply put, Loria and his ex-stepson David Samson don't deserve the success the team has had this season.

I will tell you who does deserve it: General Manager Larry Beinfest. His mastery in acquiring talented but unproven players and having them excel is nothing short of marvelous. He helped orchestrate the 2003 championship, and he's fully in control of this season's impressive run.

Girardi deserves huge praise as well for managing a team of inexperienced players and for having to put up with his bosses.

The players deserve our praise too, of course.

So despite ownership's obnoxious behavior, despite their previous intentions to leave town, baseball fans in South Florida must support this team. Good TV ratings aren't enough, we need to show up at the stadium and let the players know that there really are fans out there. 11,000 a game is just not right.

Is it raining right before game time? Grab a poncho or umbrella. South Florida rain is warm so you won't catch a cold.

Too much traffic? That's OK. For the stretch run, go to one game during the week, and one on weekends when there's less traffic. Arrive late if you must, but at least show up.

Yankees or Red Sox fan? : Let go of your foreign allegiances for one month and support your hometown team for a change.

The Florida Marlins deserve our support. They have surprised us once again. It's time for us to step up.

(This message NOT brought to you by Jeff Loria or MLB).

Monday, September 04, 2006

Traffic Congestion in South Florida (UPDATED)

We all know about South Florida traffic, but we do we do about it? That's the question no one's been able to provide a good answer for.

In today's Miami Herald, "Steetwise" reporter Larry Lebowitz writes about a report by the Libertarian nonprofit Reason Foundation which states that during the next 25 years, Miami and other areas will face traffic worse than what is currently seen in Los Angeles.

This fact is not surprising, but what did surprise me about the report was the Reason Foundation's recommendation to solve the problem: Add more roadway capacity.

I don't buy it. All you have to do is look at what has occurred in the past 20-30 years. All of our major arteries have been expanded, in some cases they have doubled their capacity. What has the result been? More congestion. The simple fact is, our population has grown, and will continue to grow, too fast for us to keep up simply by adding lanes to our major arteries.

Imagine the Palmetto or Dolphin Expressways with 16 lanes instead of the current 8. Or how about double or triple-decking those roads. Pretty disgusting if you ask me, and in another 20 years they'll be jammed up worse than anything we experience today.

The Reason Foundation, being the libertarians that they are, appear to want to put individuals in control by expanding roadways and encouraging individuals' right to their cars. The problem with this is, who's going to administer the roadway expansions? Government...and more of it, not less. This seems to go against libertarians' basic belief in less government. And how about the prospect of possession of private property via eminent domain which would absolutely certainly be necessary in order to expand certain roadways? What would libertarians think of that?

My solution is to strategically pick a few roadways which could be expanded with minimal impact, but stick with the mass transit plans as well. The long-standing excuse that South Florida is not built for mass transit is an old and tired one that needs to be put to rest. We can build a solid, functional mass transit system here if we put our minds to it.

The real question and issue as I see it is: Is our community ready to come up with these solutions instead of whine and complain about the current state of affairs?

The jury is still out on this one.

UPDATE 11:00 AM 9/5: Gabriel from Transit Miami offers his thoughts on the Reason Foundation study.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Media Bias?

Of course there is. 

Here's Ike Seamans from local NBC-6 doing a little spanking of his colleagues for siding with Israel's enemies, and for not knowing a thing about Middle East relations.

He also manages to throw in a compliment for bloggers.

Read it here.

Poverty in Miami

A Miami Herald editorial on Miami ranking third-worst in the nation in poverty does a good job of covering the basic reasons why The Magic City ranks so high. 

Here they are, in the order of mention in the editorial:
  • Low wages
  • Cost of living
  • Lack of good education
  • Steady stream of immigrants
  • Competition for low-paying jobs
All valid reasons.  My number one reason is:

Steady stream of immigrants.

All the other reasons, for the most part, can be tied to this.  This is not an indictment or criticism of immigrants.  Far from it.  I am the product of immigrants.  But it's obvious that large, continuous waves of mostly poor people from Latin America with little if any English language skills and probably little quality education in their home country arriving in the same city will assuredly keep poverty numbers high. Lack of a good education can be attributed to the fact that these people have a lot of catching up to do...it's no coincidence that the poorest-performing schools in Miami-Dade County have a disproportionately high number of recently-arrived immigrants with little English skills. 

The competition for low wages does two things, it keeps wages low because of high demand for any job and keeps those workers from rapidly gaining wealth.

There's not much we can do about stopping immigrants from coming here, nor do I think we should do anything to stop them. Miami has had tons of great contributions from them. But we need to pay these people more to make their transition easier.  They could "only" work 2 jobs and have time to go to school to learn English (night English classes are already in high demand and well-attended).
The editorial accurately points out that despite the high poverty level, those who come here with good skills and a good education move up quickly.   We could fix the mess in the Housing Agency and make affordable housing easier to find.  There's lots we can do.

Still, every time the poverty numbers come out with Miami near the top, I can't help but think of where these people really are. Perhaps they're well-disguised in the late-model cars and SUVs that clog our roads. I go to some of the poorer parts of town enough to wonder.  One would think that if they are indeed living beyond their means, you would start seeing them and their cars disappear left and right. However, traffic and congestion aren't decreasing.

Seriously, I know poor people are out there. But it is as bad as the Census Report makes it out to be?  Food for thought.