[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: June 2007

Thursday, June 28, 2007

What Now?

So the immigration bill fell flat on its face today. Not surprising considering that seemingly the only people who were in favor of the bill were George W. Bush and Ted Kennedy (odd couple there).

So now what? We still have 12 or who-knows-how-many millions of illegal immigrants in this country. What do we do with them? Do we have strong enough laws currently in place that simply need to be better enforced? I don't know the answer to those questions, but I do know this:

- We need to secure our borders AHORA. No excuses. If we need to hire thousands more border patrol agents, fine. If we need to put a fence up, great.

- We can't just send the illegals that are already here back. That would only work in Fantasyland. Honestly, this aspect of the immigration problem is the one thing that the failed bill was on the right track with. Far from perfect, mind you, but at least it acknowledged that you have a recipe for disaster if you start rounding up illegals and send them back. If some people consider anything short of sending them all back "amnesty", then I'm guilty as charged.

One thing really pissed me off tonight. Watching the Miami TV show Polos Opuestos, host Maria Elvira Salazar had ex-Hialeah Cuban-American mayor Raul Martinez along with an immigration attorney and a Nicaraguan father and son, of whom the father I believe is here illegally. Anyway, Raul Martinez, a Democrat (go figure), and apparently still bitter over the failure of the immigration bill in the Senate, started lashing out at Americans for their bad treatment of Hispanics in this country. I have never heard anything more ridiculous. Martinez cited examples of Hispanic politicians in Pasco County, Florida with burning crosses set on their front lawns, as well as the (in)famous "Will the Last American Leaving Miami Please Bring the Flag" bumper stickers that were common in South Florida during the early 1980s. He really can't think that the country which generously adopted him as a child feels that way in the majority about Hispanics, right? Of course, he would never admit that in person, but his words spoke volumes and they really got to me. At best, it was pandering. At worst, an example of how polarized we have become. I don't care if he's "one of us", but Martinez is a mal agradecido (ungrateful) for making those comments tonight.

The issue here isn't how we feel about Hispanics or any other ethnic group. Goodness knows some Republicans are guilty of the same prejudice Martinez displayed, except in reverse. It's about what fair and just. Granting a freebie to illegals isn't going to solve our immigration problems and is a slap in the face to those who come here and seek to become residents the right and lawful way. Not only that, but those who advocate for true amnesty would never even think about properly securing our borders against the real menace...Al Qaeda.

Talk about real problems.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Real Sicko

Today's Sicko blogburst covers ground that has been well covered by Cuban-American bloggers.

I don't have anything new and revealing to present that we haven't already covered in past posts. Still, it's never a bad idea to remind people of the quality of that free Cuban health care that Michael Moore uses as an example of what U.S. health care should be more like.

How's this, Michael Moore: when U.S. hospitals start looking as bad as this one above, when U.S. hospitals start turning away emergency patients just because they're of a certain ethnicity or lack the money, then can you make a just comparison. Until then, shut your pie hole.

On second thought, keep opening your big fat mouth. All it's doing is giving much-needed publicity to the REAL status of health care in Cuba.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Redefining Liberals

Leonard Pitts in his latest column argues that our country is more liberal than many give it credit for. He tries to dispel the notion of a conservative nation at heart. Compared to that time 40 or 50 years ago, we are indeed more liberal.

In some ways, I agree with Leonard Pitts that liberalism these days is looked upon less favorably than it was 40 or 50 years ago. Back then, liberals stood for noble things such as civil rights and fairness for all. Nowadays in our polarized environment, too many (not ALL, but too many) otherwise reasonable and intelligent liberals have been afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) and allow it to cloud their opinions.

"Affirmative Action? If Bush and Limbaugh are against it, I'm for it."

"Fairness Doctrine? As long as it shuts up those morons on the right, great!"

No wonder liberalism is not as popular as it once was. Did I mention Michael Moore?

However, Pitts' arguments are flawed (you knew I wasn't going to let him off the hook).

Media Matters and the Campaign For America's Future, a liberal activist group, have helpfully assembled said facts in a report released earlier this month, ''The Progressive Majority: Why A Conservative America Is A Myth.'' The report analyzes years of public opinion surveys from such respected and nonpartisan organizations as Gallup and the Pew Research Center. On issue after issue, those surveys present a picture starkly at odds with the conservative stereotype.

Abortion? Sixty-two percent of us oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.

Stem cells? Sixty-one percent of us support using them for research.

Guns? Sixty percent of us would like to see more government restriction.

These are not exactly conservative positions. To the contrary, they bespeak a fairly liberal electorate. So how is it we've come to think of ''liberal'' as a bad word?

Let's take it from the top. Abortion? As long as states keep their rights to set their own abortion laws, you're not going to hear too much massive complaining about Roe v Wade. After all, states rights is a largely conservative value.

Stem Cells? Pitts is broad-brushing a bit here. The issue isn't as much stem cells in general as it is the TYPE of stem cells used (a lot of conservatives are in favor of using adult stem cells). Besides, many conservatives, including Sen. Bill Frist, support greater stem cell research.

Guns? There's a big difference between more government restriction and outright elimination of the Second Amendment, which virtually all conservatives are strongly against.

So yes, Pitts really isn't wrong, per se, but he's not telling us the whole story. There's a vast middle ground out there where most of us reside. That middle ground has gotten more liberal over the last several decades, but by no means has it crossed the line to the left of center.

The problem I have with Pitts is that he fails to identify the real reason why the term liberal is often met with scorn. I already mentioned the BDS component of this earlier, but this quote from the column offers more perspective:
An anecdote by way of answer: In teaching on college campuses, I've noticed that my young female students tend to reject being called ''feminists.'' They happily accept the rights feminists have won for them, not least of which is the right to be college students. But the ''F-word'' itself repels them.
Why do you think the "F-word" is so repulsive, Mr. Pitts? Could it be because mainstream feminist groups such as NOW have hijacked a noble intention and have taken it to the extreme? Could it be because many groups that call themselves liberal have advocated for the elimination of public displays of Christian religious symbols under the guise of "separation of church and state"?

Therein lies the real issue. Conservatives, many moderates on both sides of the fence, and traditional liberals have seen what used to be fringe and radical elements of the left become more and more accepted in mainstream liberal culture, with the largely liberal MSM leading the charge. And we don't like it.

Far-right loonies are routinely hammered by the MSM, and rightly so. Why, then, isn't fidel-lover Medea Benjamin roasted over the coals for her blatant ignorance of human rights violations in Cuba? Why is someone like Rosie O'Donnell not heavily criticized by MSM outlets (save FOX) for her ridiculous anti-U.S. comments on national TV?

The bottom line: why do too many mainstream liberals allow this kind of crap to take place without serious indignation? Is it because they would rather see these people stick it to Public Enemy #1 (Bush, not Osama) rather than consider their insane views based on their merits, or lack thereof?

As long as this continues, the L-word will continue to carry a negative connotation among some. And conservative talk show hosts will continue to rule the radio waves while Air America falls flat on its face.

At least until the Dems take over in '09 and the Fairness Doctrine is implemented.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

And There's No Liberal Bias, You Say?

For those of you out there who are still in denial about the liberal tilt to the MSM, here's further proof for you via MSNBC (!).

In theory, I don't have a problem with journalists donating money to the candidates of their choice. They're human and they have every right to support candidates as anyone else. Still, the assertion that conservatives make and that liberals scoff at, that the MSM tilts towards the liberal and reflects itself in the way the story is told, couldn't be any truer.

After all, it's human nature to allow for your personal beliefs to show in your work, even journalists.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Our Money Down the Drain

For me, the debate about eliminating property taxes is centered around a simple theme: who do you trust with your hard-earned money: you or the government?

For those of you who may still be mulling over the choices, consider the recent uproar over the state of Downtown Miami. The "uproar" is over something that many lifelong Miamians have known for a very long time. Downtown Miami, despite it's slow improvements over the years, is still in pretty sad shape. It's no secret that the City of Miami has benefited and profited very nicely from the huge increases in property taxes the past several years. No wonder city leaders are more than eager to approve new high-rise developments everywhere you look downtown.

What about the promises from said city leaders to fix up downtown? Those new streetlights on Flagler Street look nice, don't they? What have city leaders done to significantly improve downtown?

Did I mention how nice those new streetlights on Flagler Street look?

I realize that there's enough blame to go around for the sad state of our downtown, including business owners not willing to work with their neighbors and the general population of South Florida that too often only cares just enough to do little more than whine, complain and point their fingers at others.

However, I'm here to point a big fat finger at the bayfront building on Bayshore Drive. You know, Miami City Hall. They bear the lion's share of the blame here. For a long time, Manny Diaz and his cohorts have promised to clean up downtown. Despite whatever they might say as justification for their efforts, the truth is as plain and simple as a trip to downtown. It needs a lot of work. Fast. With all the money the city has been able to receive in tax revenues, there's absolutely and positively no excuse whatsoever for the lack of progress to rejuvenate downtown.

When citizens cynically complain that all Manny Diaz cares about is more and more high-rise developments to fill up city coffers, it's hard to argue with them despite whatever good intentions Mayor Diaz expresses.

I am fully aware of the Miami Downtown Development Authority which has taken on the responsibility of coming up with answers and solutions to fixing up downtown. Despite their noble efforts, the results have fallen short of expectations. I'm far from an expert on this matter and thus my opinion may be flawed.

This is but one example of Miami government ineptitude. The Orange Bowl renovations are another. More on that topic in a future post.

The criticism of downtown leveled recently by Macy's Florida CEO was only newsworthy because it was said in front of a meeting of city business leaders. What Julie Greiner said was nothing new or earth-shattering. Yet, it took someone of stature to make the statement to get people's attention AND to motivate change. I'm not optimistic that government will suddenly respond, because they won't. What hopefully WILL happen is that the MDDA will start taking a more assertive role in making sure progress is made. In other words, pressuring politicians to help to provide changes, or else. Or else meaning: bye-bye downtown, we'll take our business somewhere else.

Better yet, it's going to take a dedicated grass-roots effort to make changes. South Beach didn't transform itself from a deteriorating retirement community as recent as the early 80s to the bustling world-class destination it is now because of government initiative. It was started by citizen activists who had vision and care for their community. Government later jumped on the bandwagon. This is the kind of thing that needs to happen downtown.

This fall, when the property tax issue comes up for vote, keep in mind what the government has been doing, or not doing, with your money.

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Monday, June 18, 2007

No Cubans Allowed

(Cross-posted at Babalu)

Photo courtesy of mabut via Google Earth

Representing the west side...

Of Cuba that is. The Viñales Valley of Pinar Del Rio in all its glory. The strange rock-like masses sticking up like huge thumbs from the red pinareño earth are called mogotes. They are limestone formations, each with its own micro-environment.

Only 20 miles away from my grandfather's birthplace, you can bet that this will be at the top of the list of places I will visit in a free Cuba. A FREE Cuba, no sooner.

Why? As Val and Firefly pointed out in the comments to the Babalu post, Viñales, as all tourist attractions in Cuba, is off-limits to Cubans. You can blame the embargo and travel restrictions for everything your heart desires, but when the Cuban government denies its own people from travelling freely and seeing whatever they want, there's something seriously wrong that has absolutely nothing to do with United States policy, or lack thereof.


Friday, June 15, 2007

That Scratching Sound You Hear

That sound, my loyal readers, is the sound of nervous politicians' and bureaucrats' feet and hands in the wake of the tax cuts approved by the Florida Legislature yesterday.

Frankly, big government getting nervous about the future of bloated bureaucracy is music to my ears. Perhaps they should concentrate on cutting fat, not scaring people into thinking that basic services will be eliminated.

Of course, that would mean their jobs are in jeopardy. Remember, politicians and bureaucrats are always looking out for Numero Uno, and that doesn't mean you and I.


Adding Fuel to the Fire

Many Most liberals think Rush Limbaugh is a big gas bag who always complains about them. Well, all this story does is give Limbaugh even more reasons and justifications to base his opinions around.
Battered By Criticism, Broward May Keep Deal with Rush Limbaugh Radio Station

(Ed. terrible headline, BTW. I didn't know WIOD was "Limbaugh's Radio Station").

Radio station WIOD likely will remain Broward County's official channel for emergency information despite concerns it is also home to conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

County commissioners said they were deluged with complaints from throughout the country Wednesday after they questioned whether to cut their ties with the station because of their dislike for Limbaugh. By the end of the day, a majority of commissioners vowed to renew WIOD's agreement next week.

The deal with WIOD, AM 610, would ensure news conferences and other critical announcements are broadcast live during hurricanes and other emergencies.

Kristin Jacobs and Ilene Lieberman, commissioners who served as mayor during hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, came to the defense of WIOD. They were absent from Tuesday's meeting because they were in Tallahassee talking to state lawmakers about tax reform legislation.

"If your roof gets blown off, do you really care if the radio station that is giving you the information that you need also carries Rush Limbaugh?" Jacobs asked. "I don't think so. I don't agree with that man's philosophy and I don't listen to him, but I'm not going to not choose WIOD because of it."

Limbaugh responded to the commissioners Wednesday on his radio show, saying the qualms about WIOD were a sign of out-of-control partisanship in the nation.

"They are politicizing the delivery of emergency news, which is non-partisan," Limbaugh said.

The all-Democrat commission was on the verge of rejecting the WIOD contract when it instead delayed a decision to get more information about why its staff favored the station and what its other options are. The firestorm began when Commissioner Stacy Ritter said she didn't want to patronize the station because of Limbaugh and other conservative programming.

County communications administrators recommended WIOD over two other stations interested in the deal.

They said WIOD has a strong signal, sister FM stations that simulcast news during emergencies and was willing to guarantee live coverage.

Commissioner Ken Keechl initially said he shared Ritter's concerns, but said Wednesday that he will now support WIOD because of the staff's advice. Commissioners John Rodstrom and Lois Wexler earlier said they want WIOD.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Courage Defined

It's been a while since I've posted the infamous Letters to the Editors that we all love so much.

Today comes a good one from Miamian John Cruz:

Freedom in exile

Once again, Ana Menendez is taken to task for her painfully honest views about the Cuban-exile community. Frank Calzon accuses her of hating freedom-loving Cubans (Showing disdain for exiles' fight, June 5).

However, freedom-loving people don't engage in censorship or restrict the right of others to travel where they please. Communists do; any fight involves risk. It doesn't take a whole lot of courage or risk to run to the United States, live in relative comfort and expect the United States to fight the battle; and any Cuban who has become an American citizen is no longer an exile. He or she is an immigrant.

I won't criticize his agreement with Ana Menendez regarding the "mafiosoness" of Cuban exiles, nor will I get on him about what he considers censorship.

I will, however, take Mr. Cruz to task about his perceived lack of courage amongst Cuban exiles.

I don't know if Mr. Cruz had to make the gut-wrenching decision to leave his country of birth (my gut feeling is no). Fortunately, I've never had to make that terrible decision. Anyone who plays down the choice that's been made by so many people (Cubans and otherwise) has absolutely no concept of what it's like to leave everything you've known for your entire life behind, let alone being separated from your family.

I would love for Mr. Cruz to make his statement to a Pedro Pan exile, or a balsero, or to those who volunteered to fight in the Bay of Pigs.

I would also love for Mr. Cruz to speak in front of a group of Cuban-American Vietnam Veterans and tell them that it doesn't take a whole lot of courage to come to the United States, voice your beliefs and even risk their lives for their country of adoption so that people like you have the right to have even the most outlandish statements printed in a newspaper for everyone to read.

Doing THAT, Mr. Cruz, would take true courage on your part.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

To Tax Or Not To Tax

Back on Saturday The Miami Herald released the results of a Zogby poll of Florida residents regarding the proposed property tax reform.

The results are as confusing as last night's Sopranos finale (OK, enough with the Sopranos).

Actually, the one thing clear from the poll is that despite the fact that the vast majority of South Floridians think that the cost of living is too high, with property taxes among the top culprits, only a slight majority seem concerned enough about it to favor property tax reform. In other words, it's unlikely that a 60% vote would be able to pass if the referendum were to be held today.

As pollster John Zogby said,

''I don't get a sense from my look at this poll that things are going to hell in a handbasket, that there is a crisis situation."

Either that or people don't know what the solution is, and many are simply willing to stick it out until someone comes up with one they like.

I think there are other issues at play here that were not addressed in the poll, such as salaries and wages that are too low compared to the cost of living. However, I have to side slightly with Zogby's assessment that the situation is probably not as bleak as it's made out to be.

Of course, I would still like to see the property taxes eliminated in favor of higher sales taxes, but most people don't seem to be willing to stomach that dramatic a shift.

Let's see what the state legislature can come up with this month.


What Happened?

The Sopranos ended the series last night with 8 seconds of...nothing but a blank screen.

I'm going to have to watch the final episode again and check for hints (there were a few), but it's quite possible that they are just teases. In other words, the ending was truly open-ended and I think that's the way David Chase intended it to be.

Checking out the bulletin boards, most people are upset at the ending, and I can understand to a certain extent why they would be.

Personally, I thought it was masterful. It makes you think about what might have happened, which in turn makes you go back and recollect all the pieces from the previous episodes and from the last episode itself to come up with possible clues. The ending makes the fan of the show feel like they're part of the experience. Not giving away the ending forces the viewer
to dive in and dig for the answer, making him/her an integral part of the experience.

Or maybe Chase is setting up for a movie sequel.


Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Sopranos Comes To An End

Although I'm not necessarily a big fan of mobster movies, I love The Sopranos. Go figure.

Tomorrow night is the last episode, and I'm very much looking forward to it as much as I'm disappointed that the series is coming to an end.

For you Sopranos fans out there: how do you think it's going to end? Will Tony get whacked? How about Phil? Do both bosses get killed with Paulie Walnuts walking away as the unlikely man left standing?

One thing is likely to be true: David Chase usually comes up with the unpredictable.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Flamboyan

It's early June in South Florida, and that means it's the season when the Royal Poinciana, or Flamboyan in Spanish, is in full bloom. It's impossible to miss these trees with their brilliant red flowers while driving around, and many roads in the Miami area have nice Poinciana canopies.

For those of you who think that there are no changes of season in South Florida, you need to look around for changes that are unique to the subtropics. The bloom of the Royal Poinciana is one of them.

Being a tropical tree, the flamboyan is also common in Cuba, and thus many Cubans have a special attachment to them. I can't help but wonder how many bittersweet memories the red blooms bring back: childhood memories, memories of loss, heartbreak, exile, etc. Anyway, this post really isn't to accentuate the negative feelings the tree can evoke. However, the tree is probably another thing that's keeping Val busy these days.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

NBC Live in Havana (UPDATE)

Just finished watching 2 segments of the NBC Today Show live from Havana, and as many of us feared, the words coming out of the mouths of Matt Lauer and Andrea Mitchell are all too predictable and sad:

"Business is booming"

"Stability in Cuba with Raul"

"The Cuban Rivero family caught in the middle of a battle between the U.S. and Cuba (with a dinner table filled with food, mind you)"

"Miami Cubans want to go back and reclaim their properties"

"Free education and healthcare"

No mention of dissidents, of political prisoners. Lauer briefly stated (and I mean briefly), that dissent is not tolerated in Cuba, but that was quickly followed up by a mention of the Cuban resolver spirit. He finished the segment by stating that Cubans wear their "no es facil" (it's not easy) attitude as a source of pride.

Tell that to those that have decided that a trip through shark-infested waters in a makeshift raft is better than having pride in "no es facil".

Lauer did do a little better in the segment that just finished, interviewing Sen. Bob Menendez, but pairing him with moron Kirby Jones, who contradicts himself so much that even anti-embargo folks here must be cringing when they hear him talk. Give Lauer this much, he did ask Jones about the political prisoners that "we hear so much about".

Lauer, why don't you visit those prisoners "we hear so much about"? That's OK, I know the answer.

We didn't expect much from NBC, and we're not getting much.

Stay tuned. On second thought, I have more productive things to do, like go to work in a free society.

UPDATE: Babalu did a live blogging of the show here.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Cuba's Greatest Export

As viewers all over America get ready to watch Matt Lauer of NBC's Today Show broadcast from Havana tomorrow, most of us in the Cuban-American blogosphere are dreading the typical MSM treatment of Cuba using the all-too-familiar themes:

Throwback to another time, old cars, cigars, free healthcare, free education, simple lives of Cubans, the venerable old dictator, victims of the U.S. embargo....

Time will tell. Is this a case of us knee-jerking at the MSM's mere mention of Cuba? Again, we'll let time be the judge. However, based on NBC's track record of this issue, it's hard for us to be optimistic.

Anyway, the purpose of the Today Show Blogburst is to reveal truths about Cuba, post-castro. This post will focus on, well, the reason I'm here right now...Cuban Emigration.

Before we discuss Cuban emigration, it's both interesting and ironic to look back at Cuba's history and the make-up of its people. Cuba, very much like the United States, was a land of immigrants. Starting with the Spaniards, of course, who then brought black slaves. While the indigenous Tainos and Ciboneys were wiped out, white Spaniards and black African slaves, and the mixed mulatos resulting from intermarriage, made up the vast majority of the population.

One thing that set Cuba apart from most Latin American countries was the sustained Spanish emigration to the island even well into the 20th century. From 1901-1930, almost 750,000 Spaniards emigrated to Cuba, mainly from the northern Spanish regions. Many of these came from Galicia, hence the term gallego as a reference to any Spaniard in Cuba (never mind the many Spanish immigrants from Asturias, Catalonia and the Canary Islands who likely bristled at being called a Galician).

As this site points out, it wasn't just the gallegos who formed part of the Cuban immigrant community. Chinese (chinos), Middle Eastern Arabs (referred to as Lebanese - libaneses - or Turks - turcos - regardless of their actual origin), Americans (over 30,000 between 1901 and 1930), and Jews (Ashkenazi and Sephardic), which Cubans often referred to as polacos.

In turn, very few Cubans left their country for good before 1959. Sure, there were some who emigrated to the United States, but compared to the masses from Europe it was a very small group per capita.

If you've stuck with me thus far, what comes next should be obvious. Simply put, after castro and his bandits took over in 1959, the boats and airplanes changed directions. They began leaving instead of arriving in Cuba. Estimates place the Cuban-American emigration to the United States at over a million. From a population of 6 million in 1959, that's staggering. This doesn't count the many Cubans who emigrated elsewhere in Latin America, as well as to Europe and even Australia. A country of immigrants became a country better known for its human export. A country which boasted sugar among its exports now spits out its own flesh and blood.

Waves of Cubans leaving; the early emigrants of the late 50s and early 60s, the Freedom Flights from the mid 60s through the mid 70s, the Mariel boatlift of 1980 and the Balseros of the 90s through the present day. Sustained, and both heartlifting and tragic at the same time.

Probably the most telling stat I'll throw out, over 14,000 sets of parents thought that Cuba was so bad that they decided to send their children to the U.S. unaccompanied. These are the Pedro Pan children. Ever heard of Senator Mel Martinez? Willy Chirino? They were Pedro Pans. You parents out there, let those numbers soak in. Convinced?

If the Cuban Revolution is indeed a righteous success for the poor, then why is human traffic a one-way street in Cuba? We can argue about foreign policy all we want, but the bottom line is that Cubans have voted with their feet. A little island that absorbed so many people from so many different places has lost so many in return.

Lost them to exile, as well as to heaven.


Saturday, June 02, 2007

Briefly Back

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, but the beginning of hurricane season and a wimp by the name of Barry have kept me occupied.

Have faith and hang in there, coastal residents. Only 15 more storms to go until the 2007 season is over!