[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: October 2006

Monday, October 30, 2006

The Real Story - Iraq

Just saw this short video on the Glenn Beck show on CNN Headline News. Despite all the bad things going on in Iraq - no one can deny that - isn't it strange that we hardly ever get to hear about the good things that happen over there?

Well actually it's not strange in the least. That much is obvious. That's why I thought it would be nice to present the other side to the Iraq war, the one most MSM outlets will not cover except for the rare "feel-good" story. Does it justify the sacrifices we've made? You be the judge. But if we let the majority of the MSM answer that question for us, then we're at least half-blind.

Oh, and the first commenter to mention the "p" word gets 30 lashes across the wrist.

Misreading Dick Armey

Dick Armey has an excellent critique of the Republicans in yesterday's Washington Post. Armey's argument is misinterpreted by this self-proclaimed moderate and this social conservative, both of whom think that Armey is blaming social and religious conservatives (or unfairly singling out some religious conservatives) for the Party's current problems.

The Republican Party is a broad coalition of libertarians, social and religious conservatives, fiscal conservatives and pro-defense liberals. A broad coalition needs unifying ideas that transcend the differences between the coalition's subgroups. Armey is arguing for those unifying ideas. He is not saying that the issues that energize social conservatives do not matter. What he is saying is that by focusing too much on those particular issues, and by spending to the point of negating their historical focus on limited government, the Republicans abandoned the values which in the past unified them and allowed them to win elections.

The groups comprising the Republican Party disagree about many things but share fundamental beliefs in limited government and strong national defense. The conventional wisdom since 2000 has been that the Republican coalition is weakening because it no longer has a Democratic administration to oppose. That seems right, and it appears increasingly obvious that the limits of Republican political effectiveness have been reached. Spending and social-issues triangulation no longer work, if they ever did, to keep the coalition together. A new approach is needed. Perhaps now, for want of better alternatives, the Republican Party will return to its small-government roots.

(And perhaps one day the Democrats will provide effective competition in the form of alternative ideas to what the Republicans are offering. In the meantime the only choices we have are Republicans and anti-Republicans. The failure of the Republicans to dominate the political landscape in the face of such weak opposition shows how much they have drifted from their ideological roots.)

(via Instapundit)

Cross-posted at Chicago Boyz.

South Flori-weird?

Items surely to disappoint the "this can only happen in Miami" crowd.

- Orlando 15-year-old drives a city bus.

- St. Louis, Detroit, Flint, Compton. All more dangerous than Miami.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The Fall of the Mighty

Well, it's been a while since the Miami Dolphins were mighty, but my favorite pro franchise of all time has indeed lost a lot of its stature in recent years. The Herald's David J. Neal describes the Dolphins' losing popularity in this article.

That's OK. It leaves more room for the true fans.

26th Parallel Sports Update:

The Dolphins currently trail Bye Week 14-7 early in the 4th Quarter.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

I normally don't post many of the individual cases of injustice and lack of personal freedom in Cuba. They are so frequent in number that I would have to create another blog to dedicate simply for that purpose. Fortunately, there are several Cuban-American bloggers who do just that, and you can check them out on the blogroll to the right.

Having said that, the following from NetForCuba really struck me and I felt the need to post it. It is an account of a man who decided to sew his mouth shut in protest against the imprisonment of Juan Carlos Herrera, written by Oswaldo Paya, leading Cuban dissident, creator of the Varela Project and leader of the Christian Liberation Movement.
Man Sews his Mouth Shut Due to the Silence of Many in the Face of Injustice and Extreme Cruelty in Cuban Prison against Juan Carlos Herrera

Havana, October 24, 2006- It is 5:45 p.m. today, Tuesday, October 24th. At this moment my telephone conversation has just finished with the prisoner Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, a Varela Project organizer who is serving 20 years of unjust imprisonment in the dreary Kilo 8 prison in Camaguey province. He told me that the second in command of the State Security in this Province had allowed him to call me, which is extraordinary, considering that yesterday he was released from a punishment cell in which he had been confined for 21 days.

Juan Carlos had been dragged through the floor, beaten and locked up in the punishment cell living side by side with rats in the most inhumane conditions that one can imagine. Why? Because he had protested when they had prohibited him from speaking on the phone. The State Security and the prison authorities, the protagonists of these tortures, prohibited his use of the phone because he would denounce the abuses and inhumane conditions to which the political and common prisoners are subjected to. Juan Carlos states: "if there were no mistreatment and abuse I would not have to denounce them."

But the solution of the State Security is to punish him further and to isolate him. Now they have warned Juan Carlos that they will inspect his mail, something that they always do and that they never warn about. They have also warned him that he cannot speak about any political topics, nor about the inhumane abuses in this prison, nor issue denunciations, because if he does they will block his communication and he will be prohibited from speaking. Today he spoke with me to tell me that from this moment on he would sew his mouth. I have asked him not to do it- I am not ashamed to say that I begged it of him- telling him that it is us who still have the opportunity to speak out, that it is us who have to defend the dignity and the rights of those who are reduced to total disadvantage under truly perverse treatment. On other occasions, Juan Carlos has sewed his mouth- we do not want him to do it again. Let's not allow this to happen.

His sealed mouth will not only be a denunciation against his jailers, but also a shame upon those who in Cuba and around the world remain silent in the face of the cruel and degrading treatment in Cuban prisons. God willing he will not do it, but he has done it before, and he sews his mouth with a wire that he passes between his lips. I warned him that I was not going to support that, that this decision is against the will of all his brothers and that he does not have to go to such extremes, since we would denounce the violations that he and many other prisoners are suffering.

But he has already done it once. God willing he will not do it again. I also said to him: “we are not your judges, but your brothers!” That is why, all those who read this denunciation, before questioning Juan Carlos psychologically, before daring to judge him, should ask themselves: “What have I done in the face of this horror that so many human beings live through day to day in Cuban jails? ”

Juan Carlos, you do not have to sew your mouth closed, but rather the hearts of your jailers should open so that some humanity can enter them. It is not your mouth which needs to sewed, but rather those whom human prudence advised towards silence should free their ears and remove their gags.

Oswaldo Jose Paya Sardiñas
Christian Liberation Movement
October 24, 2006

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Arza - Worth the Blogging?

Rick is puzzled and disappointed at the relative lack of coverage in Cuban-American blogs concerning Ralph Arza and his derogatory remark towards school superintendent Rudy Crew, who is black. The comments from several others to the above-linked post are also critical of lack of C-A bloggage.

For the record, I did make a brief post about Arza here.

Also for the record, in case anyone is wondering, this Cuban-American blogger thinks Arza is a useless jerk. He doesn't represent Cuban-Americans. He doesn't even represents the Hialeah street he played ball in. He just represents Ralph Arza.

That above paragraph should be obvious to all reasonably intelligent people. No explanation is required.

Apparently, state representative Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall isn't one of those people. No explanation is required here, either.

Why hasn't this story been covered more by C-A bloggers? I can't and won't speak for my fellow bloggers whom I respect greatly. I won't even venture a guess. Honestly, I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to blog about a stupid local politician who happens to be Cuban-American refer to a high-profile black man as a n----r. Maybe there's such a deep and deserved disillusionment of all politicians these days, that comments such as the one Arza made illicit a mere shrug from most people. I don't know, that's just a hunch.

I will say (and ask) this: Why should any C-A, blogger, politician or otherwise, be expected to make a comment on Arza as some sort of an "official" Cuban-American reaction? Do C-A's have something to prove vis-a-vis race relations that I'm not aware of?

With all due respect, I think Rick and others are focusing too much on the lack of C-A Arza blogging. Comparing this to the Tom Fiedler "chihuahua" comment is flawed on several levels.

First of all, the dynamics and facts involved in each case are totally different. In reality, they are two totally different stories about two totally different things.

Secondly, if one is going to erroneously use the Fiedler case as a comparison, it would help if they were similarly indignant of Fiedler's comment. Instead, some Cuban-American bloggers were criticized for taking the chihuahua reference personally. I wasn't offended by Fiedler's remark, but I understood why some C-As felt offended. Similarly, I understand why blacks would be offended by Arza's comments.

Honestly, and this is just my personal opinion, I would have liked to have seen Rick deliver as strong a criticism of Bendross-Mindingall's irresponsible statement as he did towards the lack of C-A reaction to Arza.

Finally, and at the risk of falling into the flawed comparison trap myself, no one in the Cuban community demanded a wholesale "anglo" apology after the Fiedler incident. Therefore, why isn't Bendross-Mindingall being grilled for demanding one from the C-A community? To not give equal time and criticism to the representative implies a double standard, whether intentional or not.

Herald Opinions on Iraq Issues

The Herald editorial board weighed in today on Alberto Fernandez's comments about the United States' arrogant and stupid actions in Iraq to Al-Jazeera, saying that Fernandez doesn't need to apologize for telling the truth.

Perhaps Joe Schmoe in Altoona wouldn't have to apologize for making the same remark, but a U.S. diplomat on a network notorious for its anti-Americanism ought to be much more responsible.

Memo to the Herald: one can express his/her true feelings, but people such as Fernandez who are in a position of representing their country and it's policies in foreign territories have a responsibility and the expectation of doing so with respect. Is that too much to ask for these days?

Secondly, this column by Jonah Goldberg on our decision to go to war in Iraq is very thought-provoking.

Here's an excerpt:

But truth is truth. And the Iraq war was a mistake by the most obvious criteria: If we had known then what we know now, we would never have gone to war with Iraq -- at least not the way we did. I do think that Congress (including Democrats Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Jay Rockefeller and John Murtha) was right to vote for the war given what was known -- or what was believed to have been known -- in 2003. The claims from some former pro-war Dems that they were lied to strike me as nothing more than cowardly buck-passing.

The failure to find weapons of mass destruction is a side issue. The WMD fiasco was a global intelligence failure, though calling Saddam Hussein's bluff after 9/11 was the right thing to do. Washington's more important intelligence failure lay in underestimating what would be required to rebuild and restore post-Hussein Iraq. The White House did not anticipate a low-intensity civil war in Iraq, never planned for it and would not have deemed it in the U.S. interest to pay this high a price in prestige, treasure and, of course, lives.

There something in Goldberg's column to please, and displease, everyone. That's why it's so good. It makes people on both sides of the Iraq debate dig deep to think about their stance and why they believe the way they do. If not, then you're not thinking about it enough. It offers a perspective that has been totally lost these days with both sides screaming at each other and making baseless accusations. Politicians, take note.

Goldberg's column does lose a bit of luster at the end with his suggestion of an Iraqi vote to keep or send the troops back home, but I'll forgive this one slip up because the rest of it is recommended reading.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Air Marti (UPDATE)

In a story published in El Nuevo Herald (and NOT published in The Miami Herald, BTW), Rui Ferreira tells us about the latest attempt by the Office of Cuba Broadcasting to bring its programming to Cuban homes.

UPDATE: The Miami Herald published their version of the story the following day here.

Looks like this one will be much harder for the Cuban regime to foil.

Article translated by yours truly.
First it was Radio Martí, then TV Martí, and now we have Air Martí. The last incorporation of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) is a modern, twin-engine Gulfstream G-1 plane, through which it attempts to bring Cubans all the action from the World Series and to begin broadcasting its programming in prime time.

With the plane, whose inaugural flight left yesterday from Key West, the federal government is pursuing to avoid the electronic interference that the Cuban government has maintained against the TV and radio transmissions since the early 1990s.

"The transmission from this modern and totally equipped airplane represents an opportunity for TV Martí to fulfill its mission of breaking the information blockade imposed by the Cuban dictatorship, offering live to the Cuban people accurate and objective news as well as high-quality programming at this crucial moment in Cuba's history", Pedro Roig, director of OCB, said yesterday in a discreet ceremony in Key West, according to a press release.

The terms of agreement for the plane's service to OCB include renting flight hours with a company called Phoenix Air, and will fly six days a week in prime time between 6 PM and 11 PM. Roig added in a conversation to El Nuevo Herald that, for the first time, the airplane has the capability to make live transmissions, unlike the previous aerial platform which only had the capabilitycity to transmit recorded programming.

The renting of an airplane for OCB transmissions was a process that dragged on for over five years, and involved innumerable negotiations in Congress, where the State Dwpartment and the Department of Defense competed for the use of the previous aerial platform, a Hercules C-130 called "Comando Solo" belonging to the Pentagon.

OCB managed the obtain the committment to obtain its own airplane after the White House gave the green light to the include the necessary funding for the acquisition in last year's budget.

Initially, the idea was to buy an airplane, but at the last minute OCB chose to rent flight hours in the current aircraft, with eyes set on renting a second plane in the near future.

"Our additional budget of $10 million not only enabled us to obtain the equipment currently on board the airplane, but also to rent the flight hours, including a second plane soon", added Roig.

The annual cost of operation by taxpayers for the two transmitting airplanes is $5 million.

According to Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, the start of daily trasmisiones in prime time and the renting of the airplanes "was a promise by President Bush that, with his aid, could be included in the budget. The moment could not be more favorable for this new technology in order to break the information blockade of the Cuban tyranny".

In agreement with international law, the Gulfstream will have to fly within American airspace, where it will catch the satellite signals transmitted by TV Martí and turn them into a UHF signal destined for the island. In the past, the Cuban government has complained that "Commando Solo" made transmissions from international waters, adjacent with the Cuban airspace, but have not contributed details to these complaints.

The plane -- whose identification number N820CB curiously matches the year in which the Reagan administration approved the creation of Radio Martí as well as the initials of the federal organization responsible for transmissions to the island -- has 4 TV transmitters installed with a total power of 4,500 watts.

The footprint of the transmissions is mainly oriented towards the western part of Cuba, stated OCB.

It's Lonely At the Bottom Too

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


That's the sound South Floridians made this morning as they walked out their front doors. Fall has finally arrived in these neck of the woods, and besides the comfortable temperatures, we get to turn off the A/C and save a little money as well.

A great morning to stick Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony in your car's CD player, forget about the traffic and enjoy the weather!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Coming Back To An Old Friend

The U.S. embargo on Cuba has been the recent topic of discussion and interest not only in the MSM, but also in the blogosphere, as these recent postings by Henry "Conductor" Gomez illustrate.

Also, Val posted an open discussion of sorts on the embargo the other day which has attracted over 150 comments (BTW, anyone who thinks Val shuts out opposing viewpoints should read the comments to the post and reconsider that thought).

I admit to being a bit weary and, shall I say, tired of the subject. My normal reaction to this is, "what embargo?" However, there's no doubt that it is a key element of Cuba relations and it is worthy of occasional thought and reanalysis.

Here's an editorial by the Sacramento Bee which was published in the Sun-Sentinel today. Emphasis and comments mine.

As surely as autumn carpets the land with leaves of red and gold, the Bush administration is tightening enforcement of the U.S. embargo against Cuba as an election nears. Not that it would admit there's a connection.

So the issue has a political nature to it. Big deal. Doesn't every issue?

Indeed, a Justice Department official in Miami said this seemed "an appropriate time to make clear … that we seek to enforce this law aggressively." And to underline the point, he said prosecutions will be "much more than a slap on the wrist."

The law, dating back to 1962, makes it illegal for Americans to do business with Cuba, whether traveling there (except by narrowly defined groups) or sending money to relatives above a limit that this administration has reduced. And promising rigorous enforcement is sure to please many Cuban-Americans who have a visceral hatred of Fidel Castro.

Gotta love the choice of adjective here. Visceral? Sure. Rational? Logical? Understandable? Even more so. But I digress.

It's been obvious for decades that the embargo hurts ordinary Cubans and not their repressive rulers. Yet to placate a dwindling constituency of Cuban exiles, nine U.S. administrations have persisted with the fantasy that somehow economic pressure will bring down Castro, now 80 and ailing and likelier to expire of natural causes than to be ousted.

It is true that the regime isn't hurt by the embargo. But here's where the Bee's argument starts to lose credibility. It pulls out the tired-but-true arguments of "it's the embargo's fault" and "it's an antiquated policy to please the 20 people in Miami who still support the hard-line against castro". Okay, that last quote was a blatant rip-off of Tom Fiedler's dismissal of Radio Mambi, but the Bee is using the same general line of thought to dismiss a contrary point of view which actually make some sense to reasonable and intelligent folks.

Sorry Sacramento Bee, I don't buy it.

That the administration may not really believe its own propaganda is suggested by its relaxation of the embargo to allow the sale of U.S. farm products to Cuba, which accounted for much of the $7.7 billion two-way trade last year. And the Cuban economy, which was depressed for years after its aid lifeline from the Soviet Union dried up, is growing at 8 percent a year. Add to that a report from the U.S. Geological Survey saying there's enough oil and natural gas under Cuba's offshore waters to make it a major producer.

Make up your mind, Bee. You indict the embargo and blame Cuba's ills on it. You then follow that up by stating that the embargo has been "relaxed" to allow for trade and that Cuba's economy has grown by 8 percent. Any reasonable person who might be reading this and not know a thing about the embargo would say, "Cuba trades with the U.S. (not to mention other countries), their economy has grown 8 percent, and the Cuban economy is still in shambles?"

That cracking sound you hear is the Bee's anti-embargo argument coming apart at the seams.

With non-U.S. oil companies signing deals to develop Cuba's energy sector, how soon will President Bush's friends in the oil industry join the farmers by demanding an exemption from an embargo that makes no sense and does nothing to hasten the end of communism on the island?

Sacramento Bee

Ignoring their obviously political comment about "Bush and his friends in the oil industry", the contradictions in this brief editorial are striking. Unfortunately, this is where many anti-embargo arguments end up. It's not because being against the embargo doesn't make sense. In fact, many good arguments can be made against the embargo (not to mention the current travel restrictions). The problem is, those who argue most vehemently against the embargo and advocate free trade don't have any solid theories or concrete evidence to show how it would begin to solve Cuba's problems. They fail to see the hard evidence and logic which clearly shows that years of tourism, trade and business deals with the rest of the world hasn't done a thing to help the situation. At worst, some of these folks (including the editors at the Sacramento Bee) fail to blame the true source of the problem and the only constant in the past 47 years.

Any guess as to what that might be?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Even More on UM - FIU Aftermath

In what I hope is the last post on this subject, I thought I'd mention and post an excellent article in today's Miami Herald by Michelle Kaufman which perfectly encapsulates my thoughts on the whole incident, particularly the media angle (emphasis below mine).
Media Reaction Irresponsible

By Michelle Kaufman

Yes, The Brawl was disgraceful, ugly, sad and reprehensible. And yes, everyone involved deserves to be punished. Nobody but Lamar Thomas would dispute that.

But the overheated, hysterical reaction from the national media is unfair and irresponsible.

Like most University of Miami graduates and law-abiding citizens, I cringed at the sight of Anthony Reddick swinging his helmet like a sledgehammer over a Florida International University player. It was totally offensive, and he deserves to sit out the rest of the season, as do the FIU players who started the fight by body-slamming and kicking a UM player.

I continued to cringe during the next three days as TV commentators and columnists from around the country -- some of whom I admire greatly and call friends -- dredged up 20-year-old Hurricanes-Wore-Fatigues-to-the-Fiesta Bowl stories as fodder to dump all over the UM program of 2006 and call for mass firings of Donna Shalala, Paul Dee and Larry Coker. Woody Paige of ESPN's Around the Horn went so far as to suggest the abolishment of the entire UM football program.


Did these same journalists call for the dismantling of the South Carolina and Clemson programs when they had their ugly brawl in 2004? Have they called for the head of Florida State's Bobby Bowden, who in the past five years has had players arrested for felony grand theft, drunk driving and soliciting sex from an undercover police officer?

Did they care that former University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins went years with a zero percent graduation rate?

And where was the coverage of the on-field brawl last weekend at the end of the Dartmouth-Holy Cross game? Holy Cross players, after winning the game 24-21 in overtime, stomped and danced on the Dartmouth ''D,'' fueling a melee that required police officers to intervene.

There is no question UM football players were out of line when they fought with LSU players at the Peach Bowl last year, and they looked foolish dancing on Louisville's logo earlier this year. But they are not criminals. Butch Davis, Coker, Dee and Shalala have worked extremely hard to spruce up the program during the past 10 years, and they should not be skewered for indiscretions of the past.


Wednesday was basketball media day at UM, and you would be hard-pressed to find two classier coaches than Frank Haith and Katie Meier. Their programs don't deserve to be stained in the national media, but by lumping together all UM athletes and making fun of the school, that is exactly what has happened.

''Thug U is Back, Minus the Titles,'' screamed the ESPN.com headline over a column written by Pat Forde, one of my favorite college writers.

''Come on back, Butch Davis,'' Forde wrote. ``All the work you did scrubbing clean the image of the University of Miami, and now it's been stained by a fresh coat of scum. It looks like you're the only guy capable of winning with some modicum of class in Coral Gables -- Larry Coker continued your good work. For a while. But it's seemed to get away from Coker the past two seasons -- it got away so far that Coker should be forcibly unemployed by season's end -- at the latest. And you can take do-nothing athletic director Paul Dee out with him.''

Bill Plaschke, a terrific Los Angeles Times columnist, called Shalala ``a very weak president of a very poor university.''

Anybody who has spent five minutes in the presence of Shalala knows she is not weak, and while UM is not Harvard, it hardly is a very poor university. I sat in highly challenging English, History and Journalism classes in that university, and I learned an awful lot from intelligent, engaging professors -- some of whom still are there.

It's easy to sit in California, New York and Denver and throw tomatoes at UM, but is it fair? It's easy to rant and rave on talk radio about people you have never met, but is it fair? Truth is, people love to bash UM, just like they love to bash the city of Miami. We're an easy target. It gets tiring and irritating.

Strike up a conversation with somebody on an airplane, mention you're from Miami, and they look at you as if they feel sorry for you. ''Aren't you afraid?'' I've been asked. ''Is it safe to raise your daughter there?'' Their image of Miami is Tubbs and Crockett, racing through the streets, chasing cocaine dealers with machine guns.


Sadly, their image of UM athletics is equally outdated. There were 85 Hurricane players on the field last Saturday, 13 of them did something really stupid, and they are being punished. Argue, if you wish, about the severity of the punishments, but to suggest that the entire program is a disgrace to college athletics is ridiculous.

Oh, one more thing. Shalala is meeting with FIU president Mitch Maidique today to decide whether they should play next year's scheduled football game. When they first agreed to this series, I thought it was a stupid move by UM because the Hurricanes had nothing to gain and everything to lose by playing their lesser-known neighbors. But things are different now. UM needs to regain respect, and refusing to play the Golden Panthers would be suggesting the Hurricanes are an out-of-control team that can't handle the rivalry. UM not only should play FIU again. It must.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

More on UM - FIU

Some more thoughts concerning the post-brawl events:

- Perhaps UM should have been a little harsher on its penalties/suspensions. But who are we to judge what's the appropriate penalty in this case? This is something that should be totally left up to the University officials and trust that they know the players and coaches. Let's give Donna Shalala the room to deem what is appropriate punishment.

- At the meeting between Shalala and Mitch Maidique tomorrow to discuss the future of the series, here's hoping that they decide to continue it. There are a few key reasons why. One is that a healthy and competitive series between the two schools will only benefit both programs as well as college football and sports in South Florida. There's little doubt in my mind that it won't take very long for FIU to be competitive with the big boys like UM and others. A city rivalry of high stature would be great. In order to accomplish this, both schools need to cut out the garbage that led them to the fiasco last weekend. Perhaps it took something of that magnitude to open people's eyes. Let's hope that's the case here.

- It would be a great PR move not only for both universities, but for Miami as a whole. It would make a nice story, if the media opened up to it, if both schools were able to put this ugly incident aside and pull off a successful, incident-free game next year. It will take a lot of effort on both schools, and very extensive PR work. Something along the lines of donating revenue from the game to local charities, joint and active participation in promoting not only their own game but other community atheltic events. In short, good will and trust need to be restored between the universities and the community.

As far as what the national media thinks of all this, they would probably pass on covering a positive story involving the University of Miami anyway, so UM (and FIU) needs to do what it thinks is right and proper.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Comments on UM - FIU Brawl Saturday (UPDATE)

I decided to wait until the dust has settled a bit to offer my comments on the brawl in the Orange Bowl between University of Miami and Florida International University players.

While I root for University of Miami athletic teams, I have no direct allegiance to that institution other than the fact that its name represents the city I live in. Same goes for FIU. Actually, I was looking forward to a good clean rivalry between the schools' teams and an FIU victory would have provided an instant and intense rival for UM right off the bat. It's safe to say that I don't live and die by each team's successes and failures. It just doesn't matter THAT much to me, but I do care enough to provide the following opinion.

Let's get the obvious out of the way: it was an ugly and unfortunate scene and both schools should be terribly embarrassed.

Now let's get to the messy stuff.

It DOES matter who started it. And by all accounts, it was FIU who started this whole mess. Their woofing and trash-talking the days leading to the game is one thing (big deal, every school does its share), but FIU players took it much further by going into a group of UM players before the game and inticing them. Miraculously, nothing happened. The woofing continued during the early part of the game. Nothing happened. UM scores a touchdown to break open a close game...the player who scores the touchdown directs a mild taunt towards the FIU sideline, and all hell breaks loose. A taunt that, while showing little in the way of sportsmanship and class, is not much different than other things that occur in practically every NCAA football game (if you don't agree, look closely at the next game and it should become obvious). Again, it was FIU players who started the actual scuffle on the field.

Sadly and predictably, the national media jumps on UM. No one cares about FIU, so the media ignores them. How many people across the nation even know they exist?

Once again, the media crows, UM shows how classless and out of control its football team is. Miami (the city) rears it's ugly head to the nation once again! Hooray, many rabid anti-UM fans exclaim! As an aside, last year two UM players were knocked unconscious by LSU players swinging helmets after their Peach Bowl game last year (which LSU romped), and the media basically categorizes this as a bad day for UM gone worse. Where was the media's indignation towards LSU's part in that fight? UM deserved it, right?

To think that condemning the entire UM program for this incident is an overreaction is not a stretch. I'm not saying that their players are squeaky clean, because they aren't. Recent examples have shown that. But the implication that Head Coach Larry Coker has lost control of the team is a sign that people have no clue about what really happens at UM. Coker has suspended several players (including starters) already this season, not to mention in previous years. The enviornment surrounding the program these days is vastly different than what it was in the late 80s and early 90s when the coaching staff virtually encouraged thuggish behavior.

I REALLY hate to say this, but same thing can't be said about Coker's counterpart at my alma mater, Florida State University. Bobby Bowden, for all the wonderful things he's done to that school's football program, is notoriously soft on his players. Anyone remember his "boys will be boys" remark a few years back? Before the UM game early this season, he could (and should) have sat a few starters for published team violations. He decided instead to wait until the following week. Coker suspends his guys for that first game, which by the way UM loses.

To reiterate, UM should be ashamed and embarrassed for its part in the brawl. UM President Donna Shalala stated as much in this open letter today. I'd love to hear something official from FIU, I really do.

Stepping back and taking a little perspective is always good idea. Herald sports columnist Greg Cote, who normally exhibits a better sense of humor than actual journalistic and writing skills, hit the nail on the head with this column.

In the aftermath, it's easy for many Miami-bashers to overlook the fact that aside for a couple of fights in the stands (which again is not exactly a rare occurrence), there were no widespread instances of fan violence. I'm sure the police presence had something to do with that, but does one really think that a couple hundred police officers could contain 50,000 fans if they decided to let all hell break loose in the stands? I don't think so. The bottom line is, the many UM and FIU fans in attendance should be commended for keeping their cool while the players who represent them didn't. This could have easily turned into a full-scale European-style sports riot if not for the civilized manner in which the vast majority of fans acted.

Let's hope officials from both schools meet, get their act together, and continue the series. It has the potential of being a classic city rivalry one day.

UPDATE: Looks like FIU officials have taken tough measures against the players involved, and even coaches. Good move on their part and UM should follow suit.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Kumbaya!!!!! (UPDATE)

Re the comment thread in this earlier post, producer David Zucker, the man behind such hilarious films such as Airplane and Naked Gun, reminds us in this video why it's hopeless to try to appease our enemies.

UPDATE: Just noticed that Babalu posted this video a couple of days ago. Oh well, as usual I'm a day late with everything. That's OK, the video's good enough to be on more than one site.

Enjoy it, again.

H/T: Echuta 66

Thursday, October 12, 2006

More Fun Ahead

According to Henry and Val, looks like another major Herald exposé involving Cuba and a major Cuban institution in Miami is in the works.

Looks like some "fun" days are ahead.

Cuban Exiles and Dissidents Sign Plan

From today's Miami Herald:
Hard-line Cuban exile organizations worked with dissident groups in Cuba to implement a democracy action plan.

By Frances Robles

Cuban exile organizations in South Florida working together with dissidents on the island this week launched a five-point plan designed to bring democracy to Cuba -- without budging on controversial issues like negotiating with the current leadership.

The document is an important historic step, because it demonstrates an unusual level of cooperation between dissidents and prominent Cuban exile groups, its signers said.

The resolution was signed by the Cuban Patriotic Forum, an umbrella exile group, and the dissident Cuban organization Assembly to Promote Civil Society. The Patriotic Forum includes the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association, the Cuban Liberty Council, Cuban Municipalities in Exile and others.

''This document is the beginning of the end of communism,'' said Roberto Martín Pérez, spokesman of the Association of Cuban Political Prisoners. ``The forum's mentality is not to be against one man, but the principles these men have held for 48 years.''

The exile groups represented traditional hard-line organizations that shun any kind of negotiation with the Cuban government. They worked with prominent dissident Martha Beatriz Roque, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Cuban-American legislators Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Lincoln Díaz-Balart and Mario Díaz-Balart attended an event presenting the document Tuesday in Little Havana, and heralded it as a sign of a united Cuban exile community.

The resolution advocates:

Freedom for all political prisoners and an end to harassment of all kinds to internal opposition.

Installment of a transition government that establishes democracy in Cuba, that respects human rights and offers the following freedoms: economic, press, religion, to associate, to assemble and to protest peacefully.

Establishment of a constituent assembly that provides a new constitution submitted to a popular vote.

Recognition of political parties and multiparty elections.

Reestablishment of the rule of law, making sure that ``every Cuban is protected from whimsical decisions that could lead to social discontent.''

''This is a strong document endorsed by all freedom-loving people,'' Ros-Lehtinen said. ``We're going to work hard to make sure all these points come true.''

One thought came to mind when I read the article. The adjective used to describe the exile groups participating in this is "hard-line". We know the connotations that typically accompany this tag.

If "hard-line" means being an advocate for freedom, human rights, free elections and rule of law....then sign me up.

Monday, October 09, 2006

English-Only Rears Ugly Head

After reading this USA Today article today, I ask myself once again:


Rising concern over immigration has prompted a wave of cities and states this year to try to make English the official language.

A ballot measure is pending in Arizona. Related bills have passed houses of representatives in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Michigan; the state senates have not taken them up. At least five cities and towns have approved ordinances; eight are considering them. The U.S. Senate included a provision in a pending immigration bill. Gubernatorial candidates in Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Arizona and Idaho have debated the idea.

"This is the most action we've seen in about 10 years," says Rob Toonkel of U.S. English, a group promoting English as the official language. "People are split on immigration. But on matters of assimilation, they agree immigrants should be on the road to learning English." If immigrants don't learn the language soon after arrival, he says, many never will.

"We make it easy for people to come (to the USA) and never speak English," says Louis Barletta, mayor of Hazleton, Pa., which passed an English-only ordinance last month. "We think we're helping them, but we're not."

Barletta says the measures are not anti-immigrant. Critics disagree. "They're a way of putting immigrants in their place," says Ruben Rumbaut, a sociology professor at the University of California, Irvine. He co-wrote a study that found third-generation Americans of any ethnicity are rarely fluent in their ancestors' native tongue. What's threatened isn't English, he says, but Spanish.

Proposals vary but generally say government business must be conducted in English, with exceptions for emergency services. Federal law requires that election information be available in other languages.

"People know the key to getting ahead in this country is learning English," says John Trasvina, interim president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which opposes the official-English measures. He says they deprive people of the right to information about things such as prenatal classes and patient billing records in a language they understand.

Such proposals have been rejected in Kennewick, Wash.; Arcadia, Wis.; Avon Park, Fla.; and Clarksville, Tenn.

Some measures, several of which also set penalties for people who hire or rent to undocumented immigrants, have been challenged in court. Last month, an English referendum sought by Mayor Steve Lonegan of Bogota, N.J., died after the Bergen County clerk said Bogota had no authority to set an official language and the state Supreme Court declined to intervene.

Twenty-seven states already have laws making English their official language. According to the Census Bureau, eight in 10 U.S. residents speak only English.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Problem: We Aren't Serious

Glenn Reynolds (and Mohammed) and TM Lutas are both right: the USA has lost momentum in the war AND the USA is doing the best it can. There is no contradiction. The problem is not military but political. The Bush administration lacks sufficient domestic support to prosecute the war at the pace favored by those of us who think Syria and Iran should be next (and should have been next a long time ago). We lack the resources to do much more than we are doing.

There is plenty of blame to go around for this situation. Bush and his staff must be faulted for their chronic ineptitude at explaining his program to the American people, and for not doing much to compensate for the President's known rhetorical weakness. He means well but he could have done much more to get the message out. The Democratic leadership must be faulted for its cynicism and intellectual corruption in lying about the war, and about its own previously held positions, in order to divide Americans and enhance its own political leverage at a time of national crisis. Congressional Republicans must be faulted for spending recklessly on all kinds of frivolous junk instead of concentrating on winning the war. (Why not cut some of that pork and instead allocate the funds to increased troop levels and more armored vehicles -- so that we won't have to ignore Iran because we're already maxed out in Iraq? Those are the kinds of earmarks many of us could support.) And a plurality of American voters must be faulted for insisting on business as usual from our elected representatives instead of demanding bipartisan support to win the war. Too many of us have deluded ourselves into believing that our national problem with Islamic extremism will go away if we hunker down and stop poking the hornets' nest. It won't: the Islamists always interpret any hunkering down by us or our allies as weakness.

Time is not on our side. How many Pearl Harbors will it take for us to become serious about winning this war? The sooner we retake the initiative, the better.

(Initially posted on Chicago Boyz.)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

It's Columbus Day Weekend!

For many in South Florida, Columbus Day weekend means one thing: the Columbus Day Regatta.

The twist to it is: the sailboat races are secondary.

The Regatta has become an event for thousands of amateur boaters to spend a weekend of partying out on the boats on Biscayne Bay. The one thing that has made this event unique over the years is that many of the revelers decide to celebrate in the buff.

One word of advice to those of you who are planning to join the masses on the bay this weekend:

Bring sunblock. Lots of it.

Fox News Turns Ten

Much to the dismay of many liberals and elitists out there, Fox News remains strong as the number one cable news channel, despite slipping ratings as of late.

We've all heard the pokes from the left criticizing Fox's "Fair and Balanced" slogan, as well some of its hosts. I wonder how many of those who make fun of Fair and Balanced also question CNN's slogan - "The Most Trusted and Most Honored Name in News"? Not many, I would venture to say.

I also wonder if those who criticize Fox the most have ever watched an entire program on that channel? I would bet that the amount of criticism and scorn levied against Fox is inversely proportional to the amount of time having actually watched the channel (no, taped Fox segments aired on parody shows such as Colbert Report don't count...sorry). So many people I know who hate Fox hem and haw when I ask them how often they watch the channel.

The fact is, like it or not, Fox fills a huge void in network and cable news. The void they are filling is news and commentary that is sensitive to conservative and common-man viewpoints. There's no denying that, and there's nothing wrong with that. Fox's success hasn't escaped its competitors, either. Notice how CNN has brought the very good and conservative radio talk show host Glenn Beck into its fold. Coincidence? Hardly. And it's working, at least in my house.

Actually, I'm not a daily Fox viewer. I may watch it a couple of times a week, mainly for Special Report and O'Reilly Factor. I watch Glenn Beck more often these days. But I watch Fox more than enough to know that it is not the Anti-Christ many liberals paint them as. I also watch the other cable news networks such as CNN and MSNBC, for good measure.

Enough rambling. If you've gotten this far, then I strongly recommend reading this column by Brian Anderson published in today's Miami Herald which shatters many liberals' perceptions of the network. It speaks for itself.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Republicans in Trouble?

Re the Mark Foley case, can someone please tell me why morally responsible conservatives should give up on Republicans just because of the actions of a few?

If the Republican happens to be a scumbag like Foley, the answer is obvious. But some MSM stories seem to be taking this case as an opportunity to sound the alarm on Republicans in general. Take this Sun-Sentinel story as an example. Even George Will chips in here.

No doubt the Republican Party is at a sort of a crossroads right now. Many of its members are looking inward in order to identify problems with the party and trying to resolve the chasm that appears to have opened up from within. I don't see that as a bad omen for the Republican Party. I see it as a natural and healthy reaction to the apparent dominance of the more extreme factions within the party.

Lots of liberals are pouncing on the Foley incident to and pointing out the hypocrisy of the "Moral Party". If they want to focus on those individuals who have broken the law or committed unethical acts, go right ahead.

In the meantime, this conservative will vote for the people he feels will serve our country the best. Chances are, there will be a lot of good Republicans on that list.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fiedler's Foot in Mouth Problem

Let me get straight to the point:

I don't think Fiedler directed his "chihuahua" comment directly at all Cuban-Americans. I did not take it personally as an insult. By only focusing on this, however, we're missing the point which is Fiedler's flippant attitude in this case.

Fiedler, because of his important position as executive editor of a major newspaper, ought to be held to higher standards. He's upset because Radio Mambi, which undoubtedly has much more than 22 listeners, thinks the Herald is in cahoots with the Cuban regime. The hosts of Mambi are probably full of it for all I know, but why did Fiedler have to react the way he did? Mambi feels that they have a reason to believe that the Herald and the Cuban regime acted jointly in this story. Fiedler definitely has a right to be bothered by that accusation, so why doesn't he lift his head above the muck and debate these points with said radio station instead of brushing them aside.

So he was talking shop with his crew in the newsroom. He was using "locker-room talk" in his speech to his employees. Still, he needs to be much more careful with his choice of words. He apologized, which is good, but is it enough? In an e-mail to a Babalu reader which was posted in the comments here, Fiedler writes the following:

I want to repeat my sincere apologies for my ill-chosen metaphor and hyperbolic comments characterizing our critics who take their cues from a particular Spanish-language radio station. I understood the question to be a reference to Radio Mambi, which has relentlessly attacked this newsroom for the past several weeks and stoked the ridiculous charge that we are in league with the Cuban government.

The metaphor I groped for was that these critics should bother us no more than pesky little dogs that yip and nip at ankles. Next time I'll use Boston terriers.

I wasn't aware that when I spoke I would be giving insult to Hispanics.


Tom Fiedler

Here's a chance for Fiedler to make good with a concerned citizen, but instead makes the comment about "using Boston Terriers instead". I don't care if he was being sarcastic (which is a thinly veiled disguise of someone's true feelings) or humorous, it was stupid nonetheless.

By reacting this way, Fiedler is actually giving a certain amount of credence to Mambi's charges.

I know many Cuban-Americans dislike Mambi with a passion (you know, "typical hard-line rhetoric"), and that station isn't exactly my cup of tea either. However, if we brush them aside just as Fiedler is trying to do, we're falling into the same arrogant trap Fiedler seems to revel in. They have hosts who happen to be very intelligent, and even if you don't agree with them or their accusations, I don't think referring to them as Chihuahuas or any other canine species is exactly the smart thing to do.

Remember, Fiedler is in a position in which his editorial decisions, choice of words, etc., shape the impression and perception of a major newspaper that represents an entire community.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Exit Girardi. Enter Fredi

As expected, the Marlins fired manager Joe Girardi today.

He deserved better, in my opinion. Best of luck to him.

Also, best of luck to Miami's own Fredi Gonzalez, a Cuban-American who also happened to grow up in the Marlins system, first as a minor-league manager then as a third-base coach for the big club.

World Series in '07, how does that sound? Or, how about a new stadium deal this off-season?

Polls, Cuban-Americans and Stereotypes

The results of a recent poll of Cuban-Americans published yesterday by the Miami Herald revealed numbers that were surprising to some. As Alex mentioned in this post at Stuck on the Palmetto, there really isn't much of a reason to be surprised, unless you fall for the classic negative stereotypes of Cuban-Americans, especially conservative Cuban-Americans.

The poll shows that only 20% oppose any kind of dialogue with a new Cuban government that is willing to help improve relations with exiles and the United States, and an overwhelming 77% feel that the transition to democracy should be gradual and non-violent. Kind of shatters the myth that all Cuban exiles want is for the U.S. to invade Cuba and take over the country. The key here, of course, is that the improvement in relations would occur hand-in-hand with the Cuban government agreeing to meet certain conditions such as freedom of the press, free elections and other things that we can only dream of happening in Cuba under the castros right now. The sentiments reflected in these numbers couldn't be more mainstream in the conservative Cuban-American community. This is just my view and I could be wrong with this analysis.

Barely more than half, 51% to be exact, approve of George W. Bush's handling of the situation in Cuba. The fact that a survey in which almost three-fourths of the participants are Republican is split down the middle on Bush's job performance may seem shocking to some, but this is another one of those "what's the big deal" figures. The numbers were virtually identical among older and younger exiles. I have stated before that a lot of Cuban-Americans are unhappy with Bush's performance vis a vis Cuba, just as many Republicans all across the country are dissatisfied with Bush. Contrary to popular belief, Cuban-Americans don't just sit back and agree with everything Bush says or does. The problem for Democrats is, most Cuban-Americans trust them even less.

Other interesting results:

- 80% would stay and live in the United States even after democracy is restored in Cuba.

- Only 20% believe that property should go back to those who have titles predating the castro revolution.

- The only areas in which older and younger exiles disagreed was regarding the embargo and the travel restrictions. This is to be expected due primarily to the fact that younger exiles are more likely to have close relatives in Cuba as opposed to the older exiles.

Anyone who's read this blog even for a short time knows that a frequent topic of mine is the way the Cuban-American community is viewed and perceived by others. These results illustrate my fervent belief that it is important to avoid generalizations whenever possible. It also illustrates that the Cuban exile community is just like any other community: it evolves, it changes in subtle ways and in ways not so subtle. Most importantly, it's not the mean, monolithic monster it is sometimes portrayed as.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Knowing the Truth

For those of you who may have missed it, the Palm Beach Post finished running a five-part series last week on Post sports writer Carlos Frias' trip to Cuba to visit relatives.

I had never heard of Frias until this series began, and I must say that I was extremely impressed with his writing. The series is a gut-wrenching, heartbreaking account of Frias' experiences while visiting his family and friends in the country of his parents and grandparents. An unfortunate side-effect of this blog and reading so many stories on Cuba from other media outlets is the sense of frustration, and eventually jadedness, from reading so many articles and stories which totally miss - or turn the other cheek to - the sad reality most Cubans face today.

Honestly, when I started reading Frias' series, I was expecting the eventual dig at the "embargo" and the "Miami Mafia". It never came. How wrong and negative I was to even expect it.

You see, Frias wrote this series from the heart. He wrote it from the perspective of a Cuban-American who saw the place of his parents' upbringing and eventual heartache for the first time. It could have been many of us. It could have been me. Because of this, I totally related to his story, although I have never visited Cuba myself. What Frias, and I, felt was all the painful stories of our parents, uncles, grandparents and cousins all rolled up into one.

The most impressive thing about the series is that it is virtually devoid of any politics and rhetoric. There are obviously references to the hardships that Cubans face as a result of the regime, but not once was fidel's name mentioned as far as I can recall. The fact that Frias managed to keep it a personal account while at the same time painting an accurate picture of today's Cuba as too few MSM outlets do is commendable. So many of us, myself included, get so wrapped up in the politics that we sometimes lose sight of why we do this, of why we want our voices to be heard. This series served as a much-needed reminder.

This excerpt from the very end of the series says all you have to know about the way so many Cuban-Americans feel about a land that many of us have never seen:

We are having cafe con leche, milk with Cuban coffee, and toasty buttered Cuban bread at my parents' house on the morning I begin to write.

My mother is saying something about the roof that is about to fall in at my Aunt Sofi­a's house. She wants to ask my cousin how much it will cost to fix, so she can send money to help pay for it.

My father is going down memory lane. It's a rough road, from the restaurants at La Plaza to the jail cells at La Cabaña. He is not crying, not emotional. It is just a truth.

A truth I now know.

They are speaking to me differently now. Not like the day I told my father I was going to Cuba amid Castro's illness, and he later blurted out to my wife, "How can the newspaper dare to send a boy into a situation like that?"

I know them deeper now. I understand them in a way I never have.

And they look at me, like I, too, know a deeper truth.

"No one can tell you stories, anymore," my mother says. "You've seen Cuba. Now, you know how things are."

You can catch a narration and slide show of the series here.

Gracias Carlos.