[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: April 2007

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Yes to War on Terror

From the Miami Herald, some lucid reasons why fighting terrorists is necessary:
Six Reasons Why We Need War on Terror

By Victor Davis Hanson
Tribune Media Services

Do we still need to fight a war on terror?

The answer seems to be no for an increasing number in the West who are weary over Afghanistan and Iraq or complacent from the absence of a major attack on the scale of 9/11.

The British Foreign Office has scrapped the phrase ''war on terror'' as inexact, inflammatory and counterproductive. U.S. Central Command has just dropped the term ''long war'' to describe the fight against radical Islam.

An influential book making the rounds -- Overblown: How Politicians and the Terrorism Industry Inflate National Security Threats, and Why We Believe Them -- argues that the threat from al Qaeda is vastly exaggerated.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter's national security advisor, goes further, assuring us that we are terrorized mostly by the false idea of a war on terror -- not the jihadists themselves.

Even onetime neo-conservative Francis Fukuyama, who in 1998 called for the preemptive removal of Saddam Hussein, believes ''war'' is the ''wrong metaphor'' for our struggle against the terrorists.

Others point out that motley Islamic terrorists lack the resources of the Nazi Wehrmacht or the Soviet Union.

This thinking may seem understandable given the ineffectiveness of al Qaeda to kill many Americans after 9/11. Or it may also reflect hopes that if we only leave Iraq, radical Islam will wither away. But it is dead wrong for a number of reasons.

First, Islamic terrorists plotting attacks are arrested periodically in both Europe and the United States. Just last week a leaked British report detailed al Qaeda's plans for future ''large-scale'' operations. We shouldn't be blamed for being alarmist when our alarmism has resulted in our safety at home for the past five years.

Second, have we forgotten that Nazi Germany was never able to kill 3,000 Americans in our homeland? Did Japan ever destroy 16 acres in Manhattan or hit the nerve center of the U.S. military? Even the Soviet Union couldn't inflict billions of dollars in damage to the U.S. economy in a single day.

Third, in some ways stateless terrorists can be more dangerous than past conventional threats. Autocrats in some Middle East countries allow indirect financial and psychological support for al Qaeda terrorists without leaving footprints of their intent. They must assume that a single terrorist strike could kill thousands of Americans without our ability to strike back at their capitals. This inability to tie a state to its support for terrorism is our greatest obstacle in this war -- and our enemies' greatest advantage.

Fourth, jihadists have already scored successes in all sorts of ways beyond altering the very nature of air travel. Cartoonists now lampoon everyone and everything -- except Muslims. The pope must weigh his words carefully. Otherwise, priests and nuns are attacked abroad. A single false Newsweek story about one flushed Koran led to riot and death.

The net result is that terrified millions in Western societies silently accept that for the first time in centuries they cannot talk or write honestly about what they think of Islam and the Koran.

Fifth, everything from our 401(k) plans to municipal water plants depends on computers and communications. And you don't need a missile to take them down. Two oceans no longer protect the United States -- not when the Internet knows no boundaries, our borders are relatively wide open and dozens of ships dock and hundreds of flights arrive daily.

A germ, some spent nuclear fuel or a vial of nerve gas could cause as much mayhem and calamity as an armored division in Hitler's army. The Soviets were considered rational enemies who accepted the bleak laws of nuclear deterrence. But the jihadists claim that they welcome death if their martyrdom results in thousands of dead Americans.

Finally, radical Islamists largely arise from the oil-rich Middle East. Since 9/11, the price of oil has skyrocketed, transferring trillions of dollars from successful Western, Indian and Chinese economies to unsuccessful Arab and Iranian autocracies.

Terrorists know that blowing up a Saudi oil field or getting control of Iraqi petroleum reserves -- and they attempt both all the time -- will alter the world economy.

This is a strange war. Our successes in avoiding attack convince some that the real danger has passed. And when we kill jihadists abroad, we are told it is peripheral to the war or only incites more terrorism.

But despite the current efforts at denial, the war against Islamic terrorism remains real and deadly. We can't wish it away until Middle Eastern dictatorships reform -- or we end their oil stranglehold over the world economy.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and author, most recently, of A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War.

©2007 Tribune Media Services


The Draft and the Dolphins

I must be the only Dolfan who's not ready to jump ship after yesterday's first round pick of Ted Ginn.

Based on the reaction of Dolfans everywhere, from the media to the blogosphere, to the draft "experts" out there...you would think that the Dolphins passed up on the Second Coming in order to draft Ginn.

Granted, the Dolphins have greater needs than at wide receiver, especially an undersized one at that. A big offensive lineman would have been nice.

However (and yes you knew this was coming)...

No one is asking why Brady Quinn dropped all the way to number 22. Allow me to splash a little dose of reality amidst the usual draft day chest-thumping hyperbole:

The Dolphins tried Quinn out for a month, under the watchful eyes of their quarterback coach. A MONTH. Any reasonable person could then conclude that there was a decent chance, a decent chance mind you, that Quinn just might not be all that he's cracked up to be. Frankly, and I know this is a stretch...I would give professional coaches the benefit of the doubt over Joe Beer Belly at the Hooters at the corner of Pines and University, and definitely over draft guru Mel Kiper.

Add to this the fact that head coach Cam Cameron built his reputation on evaluating and coaching quarterbacks. Anyone heard of Drew Brees? Philip Rivers?

Am I crazy to suggest that perhaps the Dolphins had good reasons for passing on Quinn? I can understand people questioning picking the diminutive and fragile Ginn, but what's the big deal about Brady Quinn? Are we THAT desperate for the next Marino that we're willing to look in places where he won't be found?

As proof that perhaps I haven't totally lost it yet:

Dave Hyde, the Sun-Sentinel's saving grace, agrees with me.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Experience at the Carnival Center - Part Deux

In a previous post on my initial experience at the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts, I focused on the Opera and Ballet House and the acoustics. My review of the hall and the sound was definitely positive, and the employees polite and mostly enthusiastic.

My wife and I visited the CCPA again last Saturday to see the Florida Grand Opera's performance of Samson et Dalila (Samson and Delilah for you non-French speaking peoples out there). Same quality sound and performance as the first time for Swan Lake, but this time I want to talk about an issue the CCPA has been criticized heavily for: parking.

In brief: Parking was nowhere near as bad as the stories you've heard and read.

We arrived at the $15 parking lot right on NE 2nd Ave right across the street from the Ballet Opera House about half an hour before the start time. Getting in was no problem, and the walk to the center was quite literally a breeze. Granted, it wasn't a packed house last Saturday (I would estimate about two-thirds full at most), but I was very pleasantly surprised at how easy the parking and walk was to the center.

The next test was leaving. Getting through the valet area was a chore...the negative stories about the valet parking are 100% correct. Once we got through, however, another easy walk across the street to the parking lot. In all, it took 15 minutes from the time we started down the stairs to the time we left the lot. From there to the Dolphin Expressway was very quick and easy.

Bottom line: even on full nights, if you arrive early, you should have no problem finding a parking spot one block away from the center (two blocks to the Concert Hall). If you want to arrive at the last minute like so many people tend to do, then you'll likely have to park farther away or deal with the mess that is the valet parking.

So, stop complaining and arrive early!

Michael Hardy, CEO of the CCPA, added his thoughts a couple of weeks ago. His comments on the valet and parking agree with mine.


Nuclear Valdez - Summer

Continuing the musical nostalgia of some of my recent posts, I present to you another song from the 80s with a political bent to it.

Nuclear Valdez - Summer

For those of you who may not remember, Nuclear Valdez is a Miami rock band that released a couple of albums in the late 80s and early 90s, then went into obscurity until a few years ago when they resurfaced and released a new studio CD.

Comprised mainly of Cuban-Americans, their first single and video, Summer, received plenty of airplay on South Florida radio. They even caught the attention of MTV, which played the video on fairly heavy rotation, as well as featuring the band in one of their "Unplugged" programs.

Summer deals with the Cuban revolution, from the perspective of Cuban-Americans. Most of us can certainly relate to these lyrics:
War fell upon an island
When a single handed man
Raped the land of simple men

In the year 1959
Red was more than just a stain
It became hunger pains

As they flew away up high
Tears fell from the sky
And it rained and it rained and it rained all summer
It rained and it rained and it rained all night

Hope soon becomes a poison
Working in a factory
Sewing dreams to memories

Far away, in a dying place
A wife will miss her husband's face
Curse her race for their disgrace

As they flew away up high
Tears fell from the sky
And it rained and it rained and it rained all summer
It rained and it rained and it rained all night
Simple but direct and heartfelt lyrics sung with tons of emotion by Fro Sosa. I love the melancholic urgency (there's a phrase for you!) of the music, which conveys both the sadness and frustration that Cuban-Americans feel.

Check out the video below (chock full with domino fichas being slapped down by cigar-chomping, cafe-drinking viejitos...most certainly Ana Menendez's worst nightmare!). The title which appears on the video incorrect labels the band name as Nuclear Assault. :)

The full version of the video with a couple of extra seconds at the beginning can be found here.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Russians - Sting

Regarding the recent controversy surrounding The Police and their scheduled concert in Havana later this year, lots of interesting commentary has been thrown back and forth, especially in these posts at Babalu.

Sting has obviously never shied away from expressing his political views via his music, so in this context he can certainly be judged for his band's appearance in Cuba. It would be great if he indeed used that stage to express a sincere and clear desire for a free Cuba, and I'll hold out a little hope for that, but I'm not holding my breath.

This debate got me thinking of a song Sting recorded back in the mid 80s which got plenty of air time on MTV. Titled "Russians", the song deals with the Cold War between the USSR and the United States, and expresses a sincere desire to halt the arms race going on at that time. Sting's lyrics are interesting to say the least, and probably could be interpreted several different ways.

Here's a sample:

How can I save my little boy from Oppenheimer's deadly toy
There is no monopoly in common sense
On either side of the political fence
We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
Believe me when I say to you
I hope the Russians love their children too

Basically, Sting appears to take the middle ground in the Cold War, faulting both sides for their roles. Of course, I don't necessarily subscribe to that stance, and I think the results a few years later proved that the right side was victorious. Still, "Russians" may offer a hint as to Sting's views on the current struggle with the Middle East, and perhaps even his views vis a vis Cuba.

Aside from their hit songs, I can't say that I was a huge fan of The Police although I always respected their musical talent. However, I always found "Russians" to be a great, haunting tune and video, with the main melody inspired by a piece from Russian composer Prokofiev (I've always been a sucker for classical Russian melodies).

Anyway, here's the video courtesy of YouTube:


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Spies? What Spies?

Scott Carmichael knows that Cuban spies are definitely among us. Of course, unless you don't pay much attention to the news, you already know that this isn't exactly "breaking news". Carlos and Elsa Alvarez, the Cuban Five and Ana Belen Montes immediately pop to mind when you think of Cuban spies.

Mr. Carmichael's account of his experiences with these spies, True Believer, was featured at Books and Books in Coral Gables last night.

I haven't read the book, but I get the feeling that there's none of the "misguided moderates" BS we've heard before.

Read more here.


The Tribe of Cuba

This piece by Alberto De La Cruz over at Claudia4Libertad (BTW...her site has a new URL and the blogroll has been updated to reflect it) is one of the best description of the differences between Cubans and other Hispanics that I've ever read or heard.

Required reading for those who can't quite understand why Cubans think and vote the way they do.


Friday, April 20, 2007

More on VT Aftermath

A couple of good columns in today's Herald that caught my attention:

- Cal Thomas wonders "what if" one student had been armed at Virginia Tech.

Sounds crazy, you say? Am I advocating that everyone be armed and our college campuses be turned into potential shooting galleries? No. In this instance, one armed student, or professor, or campus police officer stationed in the building might have been enough. Self-defense is an ancient tradition, but these students never had a chance to defend themselves. They were easy targets for a deranged man who then turned his gun on himself. Wouldn't it have been preferable if someone had stopped him before he could murder anyone?

This is the flip side of the gun-control argument. Deterrence and self-defense can work better than fruitless attempts at preempting evil intent. Let's say that stronger gun laws had made it more difficult for the shooter to purchase a gun. Instead, he might have easily acquired a bomb and blown himself and the others up, as is frequently done in the Middle East. Would there then have been calls for more bomb control?

- Susan Estrich says no.

Everyone will find someone to blame. Most people will find more than one person or thing. The person who is obviously most to blame is dead, leaving us to search for other scapegoats. The lawyers will find a way to sue. The screamers will have much to say.


No Kool-Aid in Davie

Remember my Kool-Aid post a few days back?

Looks like someone agreed with me, not that I was unusually enlightened in my opinion, but at least the Herald decided to publish it.
Pelosi misreads us

Re the April 17 letter Pelosi on target: The writer's admitted love for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi needs a reality check. He describes her as carrying out the will of the American people. But this does not include me or any Americans I know.

To say that Pelosi combines the elegance of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and the resolve of Margaret Thatcher is a shaky half truth. I concede that Pelosi and Onassis are both admirable fashion divas, but to bring Thatcher into the comparison is an insult to America's strongest ally.

Pelosi does have something in common with a British prime minister -- Neville Chamberlain.


Looks like Miami Kool-Aid hasn't made it all the way to Cowboy Town yet.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reaction to Virginia Tech Shooting

Yesterday's massacre at Virginia Tech has me feeling plenty of emotions, some which are conflicting others. Besides the sorrow and sympathy felt towards the victims' families and friends, however, my main reaction to this tragedy is one of trying to maintain a semblance of perspective.

It's obvious and even understandable that there would be a strong gun-control reaction. My question is: would it had made a difference if ownership of firearms were illegal in this country? Does repealing the Second Amendment change the story here?

No. And No.

As someone who has never owned a firearm, I respect and support the Second Amendment. I do, however, think that there needs to be greater scrutiny and more comprehensive background checks for those purchasing firearms. The killer at Virginia Tech had a history of mental illness. Do we sell a gun to someone like that? I don't think we should.

In the end, imposing gun control would not prevent what happened yesterday from happening again. It doesn't even ensure lower societal crime rates, as evidenced in Great Britain. All gun control would prevent is you and I from having the ability to protect ourselves in the event a lone psychopath such as the guy who went on yesterday's killing spree decides that life has been too unfair and takes it out on innocent people.

Virginia Tech, like most campuses nationwide, are firearm-free zones. Didn't do much good yesterday.

The simple, sad fact is: preventing the vast majority of law-abiding citizens from owning guns will absolutely, positively ensure that the ONLY people possessing guns will be the bad guys. Does that really make us any safer?

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Greener Miami in Herald

Fellow Miami blogger Rebecca Carter has a nice article in today's Herald about her blog greenerMiami.

I've always liked greenerMiami because of it's unwavering focus towards eco-friendly tips and events. Besides, I met Rebecca at a Miami blogger gathering last summer and she was very pleasant.

Go check the article out here. Congrats Rebecca!


Kool-Aid, Miami Style

The Kool-Aid must taste real good in parts of Miami, as evidenced by the following letter to the editor. Amusing and baffling to say the least.

Pelosi on target

I absolutely love House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. While the rest of Washington wrings its hands and politicizes every action, Pelosi is using her position to further the will of Americans.

It is refreshing to see an elected official take the bull by the horns and move forward to get us out of the quagmire in Iraq.

Let President Bush's supporters criticize and condemn all they like; no one is listening to their lies anymore. America wants action, and Pelosi, with the elegant demeanor of Jackie Onassis and the steely resolve of Margaret Thatcher, is delivering. Let's hope the Nobel Peace Prize committee is not missing her actions.

Let's see: Pelosi, Onassis, Thatcher. Pelosi, Onassis, Thatcher.

Sorry, still don't see it.

Arrange a meeting with leaders who support terrorism, get a Nobel Prize. Sounds easy enough. And probably not far off the mark, either. That's about the only thing that even remotely accurate in Mr. Van Cel's letter.

(Kool-Aid man image idea shamelessly stolen from Bill O'Reilly)

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Menendez on Deported Haitians

Ana Menendez's is on a Haiti kick these days. Here's the latest in a series of columns on Haitians and what she considers the injustice of being deported back to Haiti. This one was on the front page of the Sunday paper and has a nice three-page spread with several color pictures.

Some "money" quotes from the column:

PORT-AU-PRINCE -- At 30, Watson Navarin already is living the end of his story. The boy who left Haiti for the hope of America returned 11 years later as a convicted felon. His forced homecoming held none of the sentimental promise of the exile's return and all the bitterness that his family tried and failed to deliver him from.

Exploitation, cruelty, indifference. Haiti offers its poor many reasons for leaving and very few for returning. Those who do often come back against their will.


Navarin was deported to Haiti in 2004 after a drug conviction, but he still talks and dresses like the teenager from Asbury Park, N.J. Last Thursday, he was wearing long baggy pants, a jersey and a cap -- a light blue ensemble dedicated to the glory of the Lakers and the Clippers.

Tall, strong and foreign, he stood out in the hardscrabble streets of the capital where his presence was greeted with a kind of unfriendly curiosity. The outfit, the big silver chain and his English marked him as DP, a member of the shadow diaspora of deportees that even Haitian leaders are blaming for the crime and violence here.

Ana feels bad for Navarin because he gets harrassed for what amounts to being a show-off. I can't gather the sympathy for him, I'm sorry.

Jean Destin left Haiti for Miami when he was five years old. He says he was arrested for drug possession, jailed and deported in 2001 at the age of 25. He arrived, disoriented, at his aunt's house in Petite Place Cazeau, a Port-au-Prince suburb.

''I'd forgotten the language,'' he said. ``My own family couldn't communicate with me. I didn't know how to ask for a glass of water.''

Today, he lives in a concrete addition to his aunt's house. The 8-by-8-foot space is protected by security bars. On weekends, the space becomes ''Jean's Cine,'' where he plays Haitian movies on a television set powered by a Delco generator. Last week the hand-painted marquee announced Friday's offer: Love Has Limits. Destin charges the equivalent of 25 cents per person, and goud by goud is trying to make an honest living.

''I'm in my country, I'm not starving,'' he said. ``But there's nothing like the U.S.''

That's right...not only is Destin not starving, but he attempts to make an honest living. Try doing that in Cuba.

Here's the grand finale:

Few seriously challenge the right of the United States to deport another country's criminals, but it's naive to think that the consequences of that decision affect only Haiti.

The idea of a world divided into neat, autonomous nation-states is for children and maps. Reality offers few flat comforts. The streets of Port-au-Prince point to all the ways countries interconnect, the way a decision in Washington ricochets in a Port-au-Prince slum.

And the way America's failure in its own inner cities echoes back into even more desperate places where castaways from the dream struggle to survive with whatever rough skills experience lent them.

That's right folks, it's America's fault. It always is for people like Menendez. And while we're at it, let's forget about things such as sovereign nations and borders, and things that, you know, ensure a country's identity and independence.

My oh my.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Reliving the 80's

Here's a fun little quiz I found on Local 10's website. For you 30 and even 40-somethings out there, it's a fun stroll down memory lane.

I am proud to say (believe it or not), that I got them all right except for one. That's a testament to the power of MTV for an impressionable teen some twenty years ago.

As much as these "hair bands" were maligned (in some cases deservedly so) a lot of them are still around touring and even recording original material. That's more than can be said for the majority of the grunge bands which popped up in the early-mid 90's.

Can you guess the name of the band pictured below? Brownie points will be distributed for all correct answers.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Demagoguery - Morin Style


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Local News Roundup

Some local stories which have caught my attention the past few days:

- Almost three-quarters of a million traffic tickets remain unpaid in Miami-Dade County. This story appeared in this past Sunday's El Nuevo Herald.

At first glance, the numbers are striking: 714,000 unpaid tickets. A look at the stats provided in the print version of the paper shows that since 2002, a total of 3.1 million tickets have been issued in Miami-Dade County. During the same time period, the number of unpaid tickets increased from 619,000 to 714,000, which amounts to a 15% increase. If we assume that the entire 15% increase comes from tickets issued since 2002 (not a correct assumption since many pre-2002 delinquent tickets were likely paid during this time), a quick mathematical calculation shows that 3 percent of all tickets issued since 2002 are unpaid. That's the lowest possible figure, and the percentage is probably closer to 15% (the rate of increase since 2002).

Not an "epidemic", but pretty bad nonetheless. Traffic enforcement can only go so far if delinquent offenders aren't caught. Here's are two solutions: 1) less speed traps and greater enforcement of offenses such as red light running, which is much more dangerous than going 10 miles over the speed limit. This could result in a more efficient traffic law enforcement.
2) immediately suspend the licenses of all drivers with delinquent tickets for 6 months, after which a comprehensive driving test is required to get a new driver's license. Draconian measures? Perhaps. But imagine how much better the morning commute on the Dolphin would be without all those delinquent drivers clogging up the roads.

- Turning our attention to the School Board, Superintendent Rudy Crew is getting heat from some Board members for being a mean guy. Now there are rumors that Crew, who is being courted by several school systems nationwide, may be getting fed up with the fussing and might be thinking about leaving Miami-Dade schools before his contract runs out in 2010.

I'll admit to not being terribly familiar with the situation, but it appears to me that Crew's tough, no-nonsense management style rubs some people the wrong way. However, the end results are what matters, and it's hard to dispute that under Crew's leadership test scores have increased and new seats have been added. The fact that Crew has ruffled some feathers and made remarks that some consider to be racist doesn't bother me. After years of gross mismanagement and declining schools, Crew is putting the emphasis on accountability and performance. He has stood up to the corrupt establishment, not totally unlike what Mayor Carlos Alvarez has done.

At least that's this outsider's impression. Alex from SotP shares his thoughts which I happen to agree with. Also check out Herald reporter Matthew Pinzur's defunct education blog.

- Last but not least, it looks like the CCPA will finally get some much-needed parking spaces. Why in the world wasn't this thought of before the center was built? Regardless, better late than never.


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Pure Evil

That's right. I said it.

The individuals running the Iranian government are pure evil. Too bad President Bush is one of the few world leaders with the guts to call a spade a spade.
Lined up against a dank stone wall, the captured British naval team steeled themselves for the end as masked guards cocked their weapons.

"Someone said, I quote: 'Lads, lads, I think we're going to get executed'," Royal Marine Joe Tindell said Friday, recounting events on the second night of what turned into a 13-day ordeal in Iranian custody.

The 21-year-old said the prisoners had believed they were being taken to the British Embassy in Tehran to be released, but were instead herded into a cell.

"We had a blindfold and plastic cuffs, hands behind our backs, heads against the wall. ... There were weapons cocking," Tindell told British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

One shaken sailor became sick. In his own fright, Tindell mistook the sound from his crew mate. "As far as I was concerned he had just had his throat cut," Tindell said.

Remember those "honest confessions" made by the British sailors? Yeah right.

And, yes, remember that Iran "pardoned" the sailors for entering their waters, despite data which indicate that the sailors were in Iraqi waters when captured.

In the end, diplomacy worked this time. Maybe.

How many more times will Iran continue to provoke, incite and push the boundaries?

Better yet, how many more times will we have to put up with it?


Thursday, April 05, 2007

Some Leaving, More Coming

Despite several articles in the past few months highlighting the seemingly large number of people moving out of South Florida, the Miami Herald reports that the area's population has increased 9 percent since 2000. That puts us in the top 10 growth areas in the nation.

Curiously enough, the Sun-Sentinel, who has also written plenty on migration out of South Florida, has not published this story.

Immigrants are providing the biggest boost to the population increase.

A slowdown in population gains during the past two years is a momentary lull, planners said. Census numbers released last month showed that between July 2005 and July 2006 the number of people moving into Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties from other states -- known as domestic migration -- was less than the number moving out. South Florida's growth is fueled almost entirely by foreign immigration, a trend the new Census report says is happening in large metro areas across the country.

Without immigrants pouring into the nation's big metro areas, cities like New York, Los Angeles and Boston would have shrinking populations as native-born Americans move out of big cities.

In the South Florida metro area, there were 409,426 new immigrants during the period covered by the Census report.

Not all of these immigrants are either rich or poor. Plenty of these are middle class professionals leaving unstable countries such as Colombia, Venezuela and Argentina. That's a personal observation, but one that has been verified for several years now.

As far as the net loss in "domestic migration", the Herald article says this:
''The slowdown or plateau we've seen in the domestic migration is not a break,'' said (Ted) Leonard (senior planner for Broward County). I wouldn't be surprised if we see it for another year or so until the housing market straightens out and housing costs and income achieve more equilibrium. But it's just waiting to take off again, and it will happen.''

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In Their Words

An editorial courtesy of El Nuevo Herald and translated by yours truly:
The Spanish government has just demonstrated that, with respect to the situation in Cuba, it is not a good interlocutor.

During his visit to Cuba, (Spanish) Foreign Affairs Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos refused to meet with dissidents.

Spanish diplomats based in Havana decided to meet with the dissidents after Moratinos departed, an act which resulted in a failure due to the lack of participation from the peaceful opponents of the Cuban regime who considered the attitude of the Madrid delegation as lacking in respect.

The re-launching of diplomatic relations with Cuba, brought on by Moratinos' visit, can be considered to be a momentary victory for the castro regime, but it was a treason to the cause of freedom and provoked the refusal on the part of the dissidents. Even in Havana, accredited European diplomats working on the island showed their reservations over the results of the trip.

If Spain wants to become a true interlocutor, it has to listen to both sides: the dissidents as well as the regime.

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Ya No Mas!

Looks like the Biscet campaign picture didn't last more than a day, due to the wishes of his wife.

In the meantime, go here and learn about Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet.

And the old image will go back on the sidebar, as relevant and applicable as ever.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Widening Our Roads For Profit

An interesting article came out in today's Sun-Sentinel regarding a plan which would widen I-595, Broward County's main east-west thoroughfare, with privately-operated toll "express" lanes.

For those of us who have grown accustomed to the government running our highways, this is quite a shift. Can we be surprised, however, to think that a project overseen by a private venture would get completed in about a third of the time as a government-run operation, at the same cost?

Me neither.
Drivers using the express lanes would pay a toll that would go up at rush hour to keep the lanes from clogging. The concept, called "congestion pricing," relies on simple economics: The higher the price, the more likely some drivers are likely to use the regular travel lanes or drive at a less congested time of day.

I-595's toll express lanes would feature high-tech overhead sensors that eliminate the need for gridlocked toll plazas. The regular lanes of I-595 would remain toll-free but more crammed than the free-flowing express lanes.
Although I would love the idea of a well-developed mass transit system covering all of South Florida, the government doesn't exactly have the best track record in this regard. The express lane concept is appealing simply because it gives us a choice. If we're in a hurry, we can pay a little extra. If not, then take the slow scenic route. No need to pay mandatory tolls every 5 miles if that's your preference.
While Donna Guthrie likes the idea of having the option of paying a toll for a swifter drive, she's not so sure about letting a private company control the road's purse strings.

"I'm not too keen on a private entity owning something that is traditionally a government responsibility," said Guthrie, who uses I-595 in her daily commute from Fort Lauderdale to Coral Springs.

"I would take advantage of the express lanes, but I wouldn't use them all the time if it's going to cost me. If I'm late to work or if I'm headed to the airport, then I might use them."
That's the point.

There's always a risk of private companies over-charging and taking advantage of the consumers, but that's where competition comes into play.
If the state gets a favorable reaction from investors and contractors in May, then it could hold a public hearing this summer and begin the process of seeking qualified firms. By February 2009, a firm could be chosen and construction would begin that year.

The firm would design, build and finance the entire project. Over the course of the lease, the firm would be responsible for any maintenance or improvements necessary to keep traffic moving at acceptable speeds.


Although the firm would retain the ability to raise tolls on the express lanes, the contract could include penalties if the road isn't maintained to state standards. It could also include language that provides a way for the state to share in the profits generated by the tolls, said Robert Poole, a Broward resident who heads the transportation studies division of the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation, a libertarian think-tank.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Bilinguals Are Americans Too

Mr. Gingrich, with all due respect, you've got it all wrong.

The ex-Speaker of the House was quoted in several news stories as stating that bilingual education is "dangerous" and equivalent to "living in a ghetto". It's hard for me to believe that someone such as Gingrich who understands the true nature of our real enemies would make such an irresponsible statement.

Anyone who has followed this blog knows my feelings on this issue.

People such as Newt Gingrich and Tom "Third-World" Tancredo don't get it. They are completely and thoroughly out of touch with immigrant communities. Frankly, this is a side of the Republican Party that often disturbs me. To these folks, speaking any language other than English (even if they're bilingual) is the same as not being an American.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As Peter Zamora is quoted as saying in the linked article above,
(Zamora) said research has shown that bilingual education is the best method of teaching English to non-English speakers. Spanish-speakers, he said, know they need to learn English. "There's no resistance to learning English, really, among immigrants, among native-born citizens. Everyone wants to learn English because it's what you need to thrive in this country."
I don't need to see the research to believe Zamora. I have seen it with my own two eyes. Those relative few that don't learn English don't do so because of other pressing issues such as working multiple jobs, for example. However, those same people would freely admit that they would be better off by learning English. If learning English wasn't such a strong motivator, then why are night English classes at schools such as Miami-Dade College jam-packed with students?

That's not the point of this post, however.

People such as Gingrich and Tancredo are afraid that being bilingual makes someone less apt to be American, and therefore embrace the values that make our country great. Perhaps they only see extremists such as La Raza and apply that group's mindset to all bilingual Hispanics. Perhaps they should visit cities such as Miami or New York or even Los Angeles and see how people of different cultures and, yes, languages, can come together in one place and incorporate themselves into America. Not the Gingrich/Tancredo vision of America, but the real spirit of America. The spirit of earning your living and living in a free society.

The spirit of defending and laying your life for this country, as so many immigrants have done.

As the Zamora quote illustrates, English will never be replaced as the primary language of this country. Bilinguals don't have a secret agenda to undermine American values. Only extremists do.

I'm sure I speak for my fellow bilinguals when I say that the ability to speak two languages is a huge plus. It doesn't make me better than a monolingual, but it does open doors. More importantly, it enhances the vibrant and diverse fabric that is America.

Mr. Gingrich: open your mind. It's not hard to do.

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Debate is Good

Yesterday's debate on U.S. Cuba policy in Little Havana was well covered by Henry, who attended the event and blogged about it here. I won't add much to what Henry has already mentioned, but there was a quote in the Herald article linked above attributed to FIU Professor Lisandro Perez which struck me as very revealing:
Let's not put U.S. policy at the level of the Cuban government.
Surprising that Perez, a dialogue advocate, would say that. What's the purpose of dialogue if it isn't to attempt to compromise two different vantage points at a relatively level plane?

Perez's comment also illustrates his lack of desire for Cuba to change. Of course, we shouldn't expect Cuba to be at the same level as the United States, he says. So what if Cuba oppresses its people and denies basic human rights? So what if they don't live up to our (U.S.) standards? Remember, they're a sovereign nation. What right do we have to impose our standards on them?

At least that's my translation of what academics like Perez are trying to say when they give every impression of apologizing for the atrocities of the castro regime.

Debates like this are great, perhaps we need to have these public debates on a more regular basis. Not only are they the hallmarks of a free society, but they serve a key purpose which is to expose the feelings and interests of both sides of an issue. In the case of yesterday's debate, it's clear where people such as Lisandro Perez stand.

That's a good thing.

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