[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: October 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Where In The World Are The Miami Dolphins?

The Miami Dolphins couldn't find good fortune outside the U.S. today, losing 13-10 to the New York Giants. That makes the L-phins (no D, no O) oh and eight this season.

Sure, we can blame lack of offense, mistakes, bad execution, the wet pitch, etc., for today's loss. However, as this funny article on The Phinsider points out, perhaps it was just a case of some Dolphins not knowing where the heck they played today:

Let me start off by saying that I love Channing Crowder and think he's going to be one heck of a player. But man, his comments today make me really question the education that students receive at the University of Florida. Here's what he said today when talking about the upcoming trip to London:

"I couldn't find London on a map if they didn't have the names of the countries. I swear to God. I don't know what nothing is. I know Italy looks like a boot. I learned that. I know London Fletcher. We did a football camp together. So I know him. That's the closest thing I know to London. He's black, so I'm sure he's not from London. I'm sure that's a coincidental name."

Now that is good stuff right there. After these comments, he was reminded that Dolphins receiver Marvin Allen is from London. That's when Crowder asked, "He's from London?" He then went on to proclaim, "I don't want to say he didn't look the part because that's a stereotype, but he didn't look the part. I heard him talk, and I thought he had a recorder and was just mouthing."

We love you, Channing! If nothing else, you're providing us with some humor to get through these tough days.

H/T: loyal 26th Parallel reader Tim.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

SCHIP Up In Smoke

This morning's column by Herald politics columnist Beth Reinhard is so full of blog fodder that I just couldn't resist.
Tobacco tax clouds debate on kids' health

By Beth Reinhard

A cigar-store Indian and a pungent aroma greet customers at Miami's Sosa Cigars, next to the famed Versailles restaurant.

Boxes of cigars labeled Partagás, Cohiba and Padrón rise from floor to ceiling. A table for dominoes invites smokers with time to spare. Buy a humidor, bottle of wine or guayabera to complete the look of old Havana.

''Take a picture,'' quipped U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, one of three Miami Republicans who oppose legislation expanding a popular children's health-insurance program, partly because it relies on higher cigar taxes. ``They're not going to be around much longer.''

Under a plan to pump $35 billion into the so-called SCHIP program, federal taxes on cigars would soar from 5 cents to an average of $3 per cigar, an increase of about 6,000 percent. Cigarette taxes would rise 61 cents, to $1 per pack.

''Why are they picking on us?'' demanded Sergio Pereira, who owns the Don Sergio Ramar Cigars factory in Miami. ``Cuba is rum, sugar and cigars.''

In a flame-fanning tirade on Spanish-language radio last week, Díaz-Balart called the tax hike an ''attack on the Cuban-American community.'' He added: ``It would hurt an industry specifically in Miami-Dade, in South Florida, an industry that is almost entirely Hispanic: those who make cigars by hand, which is a cultural tradition. That industry will not survive.''

Let's pause for a moment here. I like Mario Diaz-Balart, but his sound byte calling the tax an attack on the Cuban-American community is nothing short of ridiculous. I realize politicians like to indulge in hyperbole, but that one takes the pastelito de guayaba, Mario.

Let's proceed.

But put aside the Chicken-Little warnings, the appeals to ethnic pride and the romantic image of the family-run storefront. Consider that the program would extend health benefits to 10 million children on the strapping back of a deadly industry.

Whoa, one second here. At the surface, who could argue with Reinhard? Of course, that's what proponents of the bill want you to do. They just want us to look at it on the surface, because once you start digging, the pitfalls become plainly evident.

''Raising the price may cause some individuals to stop smoking, which would be a good thing,'' said Bill Corr, executive director of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. ``We have a product that is designed to addict and kill, and we have to take steps to protect the public health.''

Corr is affiliated with a nonprofit that tracks tobacco industry contributions and found that members of Congress who opposed the SCHIP expansion have received ''four, five, six times as much'' money than those who supported it. Díaz-Balart, and U.S. Reps. Lincoln Díaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, have received tens of thousands of dollars from tobacco over the past decade.

''They chose cigar makers over kids and politics over children,'' said Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston. ``I think they made a grievous mistake.''

Alright Debbie. Join the hyperbole club. Not as bad as Mario's, but not too far behind.

The national Democratic Party and left-leaning special interest groups have seized on SCHIP as a club to browbeat the Miami Republicans and other potentially vulnerable members of Congress. Radio ads in their districts warned them to ''to choose our kids.'' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will be in South Florida next week to recruit potential challengers, including former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez.

The three Republican lawmakers have said repeatedly that they support the insurance program, but that the legislation doesn't go far enough to prioritize the poorest children, depends heavily on tax revenues from new smokers and enables 2 million children to replace their private health benefits with government subsidies.

Finally, all the way down near the end, we get some real substance behind the argument against SCHIP. Too bad only the patient reader would even get this far.

They voted no this week, contributing to the failure of Democratic leaders to muster enough votes to override President Bush's veto.

The cigar store Indian isn't going anywhere. The men in Little Havana will keep on smoking, and the children will keep on getting sick.

Bing! Reinhard wins the "drama queen" award of the week. Sorry Reps. Diaz-Balart and Wasserman-Schultz.

From reading this, it's obvious that I'm against the SCHIP expansion. Of course, that will also label me as being in favor of Big Tobacco instead of our children, right?

The SCHIP expansion would make families making up to $80,000 a year, much higher than the poverty level, eligible to receive the subsidy. It only takes a little common sense to figure out that a big chunk of those families in the upper end of that income scale already receive private health insurance for their children through their employers. It's also evident that those families making 60, 70 or $80,000 a year can afford a private health plan.

But wait! We're not taxing ordinary people, we're taxing smokers!

I have always been extremely skeptical of plans that depend on heavily taxing vices in order to fund well-intentioned projects. What happens when people kick a bad but perfectly legal tobacco habit because of a huge increase in taxes? Where then would the funding be for this bloated government subsidy? That's right. Those same people who are currently advocating so hard for children to not take up smoking will be seen banging on the doors of schools with cartons of cigarettes, begging kids to take up that nasty habit. After all, it's about children not getting sick.

I know, that last part was a bit of hyperbole on my part, too. Fits with the theme of the post, though.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

DREAM Act Fails

I'm a bit torn on the DREAM Act that failed to muster enough votes in the Senate to pass. I agree with the general concept that kids whose parents broke the law by entering the country illegally should not be punished. In an ideal sense, I feel these kids should get a shot to attend college in the United States and pursue their goals.

Unfortunately, it appears that the way the DREAM Act bill was written up has too many loopholes and open avenues for fraud.

This article and this one from The Heritage Foundation make good points for not supporting the version of the bill presented to the Senate. Yes, I'm sure the column writers would be opposed to just about anything that even smells remotely like amnesty. Too bad that politicians can't come up with a bill that gives opportunities to minors who had no say in their parents' actions.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


(Click the image to see a larger version in a new window.)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Raining on Wet Ground

I sure hope this is rock bottom for the 'Fins, because it really can't get much worse.

First, a spanking at the hands of the (gulp) best team in the NFL. Then, with the game already decided in the 3rd quarter, the star running back, the only guy consistently producing, blows out a knee trying to make a tackle. On an interception, of all things.

Somebody put a nasty mal de ojo on the Dolphins this year.

Remember fearless Dolfans: Adversity builds character.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pitts Lives Down To His Name

Leonard Pitts' latest column slamming Ann Coulter is shocking to me, not because of his criticism of Coulter's recent comments regarding Christianity and Jews (I mostly agree with Pitts), but because of his thinly veiled attempt to label mainstream conservatives as wackos.

Here's the part of the column I found so surprising:

While some of us are cheerfully assuring one another that They Don't Really Mean It, the Southern Poverty Law Center reports that the number of hate groups in this country has risen by a whopping 40 percent in just the last seven years. If you had spent those years, as I have, jousting in print the agents of intolerance, you would not be surprised. It would be all but impossible to quantify, but I've noted a definite spike, not simply in the hatefulness of some people, but in the willingness to speak that hatefulness openly and without shame. What used to be anonymous now comes with a name and address.

Like Coulter, many of those people find intellectual cover under the cloak of conservatism. It is a development that thoughtful conservatives (the very need to use that qualifier makes the case) ought to view with alarm. For all that Colin Powell, J.C. Watts, the presidents Bush and others have done to posit a friendly new ''big tent'' conservatism, Coulter and others have done even more to drag the movement back toward open intolerance.

That will be read as criticism of conservatism, but I intend a larger point. After all, liberalism has had its own unfortunate extremes -- the drug use of the '60s, the Weather Underground, the Symbionese Liberation Army and the like. The difference is, say what you will about Michael Moore or Jesse Jackson, they are not pushing back toward that which has been discredited. Coulter is.

If this came from just any pinhead far lefty out there, I would understand. But Pitts won a Pulitzer Prize 3 years ago, so we should hold him to a higher standard.

To imply that conservatives have to label themselves as "thoughtful" tells me that he thinks that most conservatives really are a bunch of extremists. Yes, Mr. Pitts, I do read that as not just a criticism of conservatives, but a very biased and naive view as well. God forbid for me to say that conservatives can be just as reasonable and normal as anyone else.

Pitts' attempt at balance by bringing up extreme liberal groups would have been fine, except he didn't stop while he was ahead. By invoking Jesse Jackson and Michael Moore (he brought them up, not me), and claiming that their record and previous statements aren't "pushing back toward that which has been discredited" is nothing short of flawed thinking. Has Pitts forgotten about Jackson's "Heimy Town" remarks? Jackson's friendly meetings with fidel castro, shouting "viva fidel"? If this hack can remember, so can a Pulitzer Prize winner. If the sentiments behind those statements haven't been discredited by now, they never will.

Michael Moore? Let's not even go there.

Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that an honored member of the MSM can expose his biases so openly. On the other hand, this is a good thing because it brings to light and justifies many of our claims against previous Pitts columns.

In the end, Coulter, Pitts, and everyone in between have a right to express themselves freely. It also shows us who to believe and who not to.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Make A Difference

The following article by David Lawrence Jr. (former Miami Herald publisher and president of the Early Childhood Education Initiative Foundation) really struck a nerve with me, in a good way.

Brief comments to follow.

We live in a community where a newcomer has a special opportunity to do almost anything -- good or not so good. So many other places, one will wait a decade or more before beginning to make great contributions of time and talent and treasure. Here, most of us came from someplace else, and all of us now live in a place that underscores the pluralism and opportunity of the United States.

We are on the very cutting edge of America: 60 percent Hispanic, 21 percent African American or black (not interchangeable as they would be most places in this country), 19 percent non-Hispanic white (but just 15 percent of the 32,000 babies who are born each year here).

Miami-Dade is a community larger than 16 states in the Union. More than half of us were born in another country -- the highest such percentage in urban America. Ours is the fourth-largest school system in the country. And yet for all our challenges of bigness and poverty and language and culture, the people of Greater Miami have found a way to rally around children -- all children.

Now, to do well -- and good -- here, you must have an adventurous spirit. (There are two kinds of people in Miami, I would tell you: One, those people who reach out in wonder and excitement at the opportunities here who are not offended by being around so many people who are different, and indeed, welcome that and welcome them and, two, those who live in seemingly daily sufferance about all the change here. Only the former really ought to live here because life is so short and community so important.)

Only a century ago, it's worth remembering, Miami was not much more than a fishing village and trading post. And only in the 1990s did The Miami Herald run the obituary of the very first child born in Miami -- in the summer of 1896. That is how young we are still.

Progress is most always the province of optimists, and mine is an optimistic soul about people and the place where we live. We have the good fortune -- and sometimes the pain -- of being part of a community that serves as a testing ground for just about every social challenge and opportunity facing the country.

There is no limit to what can be done in this community -- and has been done in this community -- one good example being Miami's becoming a national model of what can be accomplished in building a ''school readiness'' movement. That means high-quality education, care and development. But good deeds happen only when people realize the power within themselves to make a difference. The greatest stories in human history are of individuals who realized what they had within themselves to make a difference.

What's really prized here -- who's really prized here -- is the person who speaks up to say: ''How can I help?'' It's up to each of us. There is no shortage of opportunities.

Quite optimistic and positive. Perhaps a bit too "pie in the sky" for many. However, Mr. Lawrence is dead-on about his assessment of the two groups of people that inhabit South Florida. I would add a third group: the whiners who care just enough to complain but don't care enough to fix it.

You can argue about Mr. Lawrence's ideas, but at least we have someone who cares about our community and is willing to put his reputation on the line to make improvements. How refreshing. He's right, Miami is full of potential for those willing to seize the opportunity. Our history has no doubt proven that. Miami isn't for the faint of heart or inflexible, and it's perfectly normal for some to feel out of place in this kind of environment. Ironically enough, people in other parts of the country are starting to deal with issues that we have been dealing with here for decades (immigration, for starters).

The true measure of character and purpose, in my book, is the impact that one is willing to make in our community. If you are committed to live here, for whatever reason, the least you can do is to get involved in any way you can. It doesn't have to be anything huge. What we need are less whiners and more people willing to make a difference.

Next time you feel frustrated about something that happened (or didn't happen) in Miami, ask yourself: "What can I do to improve the situation? How can I make a difference?"

Friday, October 12, 2007


Around town on business today, and I had an unexpected but pleasant run-in with none other than Jim "Mad Dog" Mandich. OK, I realize most of you are asking yourselves, "who the heck is Jim 'Mad Dog" Mandich?"

Jim Mandich is an ex-Miami Dolphins player, AM sports radio personality and color commentator on Dolphins' radio broadcasts. He has a pretty loyal following among us sports weenies. He's also known for his fan-like exuberance while calling games on the radio.

Check out one of his signature calls here. I asked him if the Dolphins were going to get a W this weekend, and he chuckled and muttered "Alright Miami". Oh well, even the die-hards are having a hard time getting excited about the winless Dolphins.

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Coulter "Metio La Pata"

When Ann Coulter opens her mouth, aside from feet attempting to fly into the opened orifice, even card-carrying conservatives like myself hold their breath. Case in point: the recent controversy over her comments on Donny Deutsch's MSNBC show that Christians are "perfected Jews" and that Christians are on the "fast track".

Here's the You Tube link in case you missed it.

I've seen the video and read the transcript of her conversation with Deutsch. Ann stepped in a big pile of doo-doo. Really. A woman of her intelligence should never have allowed herself to say what she did, but after all it IS Ann Coulter.

I'm not going to make a huge deal out of this, except to say a couple of things. One, as a Christian, I found Coulter's remarks to be incredibly stupid, selfish, unnecessary and damaging to most conservative Christians (and conservative Jews I might add). The fact that she stayed after the break to attempt to clarify her comments means that she knew that she screwed up, and no amount of giggling or sparkle in her eye would get her out of it. Donny Deutsch? Why, Ann? Was it really worth it? It's perfectly OK to be proud of being Christian and thinking that it is the best way to attain salvation. But please, you don't have to drag down Judaism. I mean, since when are the Jews our enemies?

Second, Ann Coulter is NOT anti-semitic despite the comments. She did say shortly before her doo-doo moment that a version of a perfect America would include Joe Lieberman, a practicing Jew, as representative of the Democratic Party. She also tried to let Deutsch off the hook a little by saying that he "could be a practicing Jew".

All this does is provide fodder for liberals to make arguments against conservatives, using Coulter as a proxy. We know the fallacy of that strategy, but unfortunately it works because too many conservatives spend too much time making excuses for Coulter's inane comments.

This conservative will not make any excuses. Ann Coulter: you have a brain, a pretty sharp one. Use it every once in a while. You're screwing it up for the rest of us. Coño!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Balance is Served (UPDATED)

I have to make a confession before I get to the meat of this post. I stopped visiting Stuck on the Palmetto almost 5 months ago. I quit cold turkey. It's not because I disagree with many, if not most, of the authors' posts. That would be too easy. Quite simply, I got tired of the same old discussions and disagreements that went absolutely nowhere. One thing is to have healthy debate that make you feel as if you may have actually learned something, another is to participate in an endless series of roundabout discussions whose aim is in making the debaters look bad rather than making an honest and sound point.

Having said all this, in light of Henry's Babalu post today regarding reaction to George's slam dunk on TV yesterday, I visited Stuck on the Palmetto for the first time in a long while.

This is what I read. Quite a reminder of why I stopped visiting that blog.

Now, a personal and public note to Rick:

Rick: I have disagreed with you on many occasions, and despite the occasional less than flattering or downright insensitive posts about Cuban-American conservatives that you have authored in the past 2 years, I'd like to think that you're an intelligent person who's capable of seeing beyond the rhetoric and chest-thumping and call a spade and spade.

Your post which I linked above was a huge disappointment. Yes, you acknowledged that the video shown yesterday was legitimate and "needs to be seen by the world", but only in the comments and only after you were challenged by several readers (not just Henry and Val). All your post mentioned is a need to present a balanced story, with a picture of a scale for emphasis.

Your assertion that Babalu has never presented the other side of the story is blatantly wrong. I can't tell you how many times we (yes, I am a part of Babalu) have brought up the apartheid-like health care system in Cuba, where good hospitals and care do indeed exist but only for tourists and the regime and NOT for ordinary Cubans.

The other side of the story, yes the other side that ABC refused to dive into, is what you and I saw last night on Channel 41 and Fox News Channel. No propaganda, Rick. Brave, courageous men risked their livelihoods to bring us those videos straight to our HDTV sets in air-conditioned comfort. Now that's balance for you, not brought to you by the MSM save for Fox of course.

All Michael Moore had to do in Sicko was lie and misrepresent by parroting the regime's line. Any coward can do that. That is propaganda and having an agenda. The vast majority of MSM outlets lapped it up.

You should be ashamed of yourself for placing words such as "truth" and "real Cuba" in quotes instead of waiting until challenged to acknowledge the legitimacy of the videos. Men with more courage than you or I could ever imagine having, placed themselves on the line to bring to light those videos, and you resort to pitiful quotation marks.

Deep inside, you must realize that the pathetic level of health care presented in the videos is much more representative of what Cubans have to deal with than the BS Moore wants us to believe. In other words, the real story.

I get it, Rick. You don't like us Cuban-American conservatives. You don't agree with our ideology. You don't like our style. You don't like hardliners like "us".

Fair enough.

However, if you're going to take the high road and express a desire to be balanced and fair regarding health care in Cuba, you need to be fair to your readers and to us by acknowledging WITHOUT caveats, WITHOUT quotation marks around key words, and WITHOUT the same bias which you denounce, that what was presented on national TV and posted on Babalu yesterday and today was a factual, raw, and accurate representation of what happens in Cuba, free of agenda other than to bring light to the severe injustices and hardships that occur daily in Cuba.

Yes, Rick. Free of agenda. You ought to realize that. You can start your fairness campaign by focusing and passing judgement on the idea, not the person or people who present it. Otherwise, your own bias is transparent and we are right to call you out on it.

Rick, you asked for balance? It was staring right at you last night.

And it's about time.

UPDATE: Alex from Stuck on the Palmetto deserves praise for setting the record straight in an update to Rick's post. Quite simply, this needs to be acknowledged as well.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Truth Hurts

In light of the evidence presented by George of The Real Cuba on no less than 2 television shows tonight - A Mano Limpia (local) and FOX's Hannity and Colmes about the criminal condition of Cuban hospitals for, you know, Cubans, I present to you this dandy of a letter to the editor by Mr. Al Stola of beautiful Sunrise (home of Sawgrass Mills Mall and your Florida Panthers hockey team):

Cuban aid to Bolivia

The Oct. 7 article Doctors in the shadow of Che reports that Cuba has sent more than 800 doctors to Bolivia and that it will have financed the construction of 44 hospitals by year's end. Of course, there will always be skeptics when it comes to Cuba's humanism. However, as one Cuban doctor said, ``We give the most precious gift, healthcare, without barriers or frontiers based on color or wealth or status.''

Compare this to what the richest nation in the world is implementing -- death, destruction and chaotic conditions worldwide. While spending billions on war and giveaways to the rich, the U.S. Congress can't even agree on healthcare for poor children.

AL STOLA, Sunrise

"Of course, there will always be skeptics", says Mr. Stola. Of course, there will always be those that either turn a blind eye or just don't see the truth. All those wonderful doctors Cuba exports to countries like Bolivia and Venezuela? It's castro's way of exporting his poison via superficially noble means. But forget about that...

Just imagine if those doctors could stay home and take care of their own? Then again, with the criminally deplorable conditions of the hospitals and the next-to-nothing pay doctors get in Cuba, why would they turn down an offer to get the hell out of hell?

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Long Descent Continues

In Venezuela, hugo chavez wants to clamp down on vices.

An excerpt:

(chavez's) government announced increased taxes on alcohol and tobacco on Monday, and Chavez also plans steep new taxes on luxury items such as fancy cars and artwork.

It's all part of Chavez's efforts to encourage Venezuelans to adopt the psyche of the "New Man," a socialist revolutionary with a monk-like purity of purpose. Chavez often cites the life of Cuba's iconic hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara as an ideal example - and complains that many Venezuelans' values are not up to par.

"We're one of the countries that consumes the most whisky per capita in the world. We should be ashamed," Chavez said recently on national television. "I'm not willing to continue offering dollars to import whisky in these quantities. What kind of revolution is this? The Whisky Revolution? The Hummer Revolution? No, this is a real revolution!"

It would be funny if it wasn't so sad.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Standing Up for Values

Some posts are so right on the money, that they need to be copied and pasted as much as possible.

This one by Henry at Babalu is one of those.

On our values and them

As we grow up we are taught many valuable lessons. Our teachers, our parents, our relatives, our spiritual leaders and our friends all contribute to the process that hopefully makes us into upright and moral people. But in this upside-down world, all of a sudden, right is wrong and wrong is right.

We were taught to work hard and that good things would follow. But when we do, they use our wealth against us in an attempt to discredit us.

We were taught to respect and learn from our elders. But when we do, they say that our elders are doddering old fools who shouldn’t be listened to.

We were taught the value of democratic institutions and the value of one’s vote. But when we use them to our advantage, they say that we have an unfair stranglehold on policy.

We were taught the value of organizing and speaking out for what we believe is true and correct. But when we do, they say that we are an angry, irrational and loud mob.

We were taught the value of maintaining firm uncompromising convictions rooted in respect for the inalienable rights of mankind. But when we do, they say that we are intransigent and closed-minded.

We were taught that some things are simply too important and must be fought for, even with force of arms if necessary. But when we try, they want to throw us in jail and say we are warmongers.

We were taught that one’s property is sacred and should never be stolen. But when we try to reclaim our stolen property, or even talk about reclaiming it, they characterize us as greedy and without empathy.

Perhaps it’s time we stopped listening to them.


Letters To The Editor - Columbus Day Weekend Edition

For a change, here are some really good ones published in yesterday's Herald:

First one deals with the custody issue:
Custody vs. Cuba

The natural father of the 5-year-old Cuban refugee might have overcome the evidence of both abandonment and lack of fitness as a parent. But he cannot overcome the totalitarian regime of Cuba.

The principles of favoring the natural parent in child-custody cases are founded in natural law. The Cuban regime, however, is founded and operates upon a cruel denial of natural law and its basic human freedoms and rights.

It is not just a consideration of the best interest of the child, which can be overcome by the presumption in favor of the natural parent. History demonstrates that a life under the Cuban regime is certain to ``cause harm to the child.''

The harm to the child that is certain to occur as a result of her forced return to the Cuban gulag requires that she remain here with her half brother.


It's perfectly possible for a Cuban parent to raise good children. I've seen it myself. The argument here, however, is that in Cuba the parent really doesn't have a lot of choices when it comes to the raising of his/her children. The state, on the other hand, does and freely exercises them. In the case of Cuba, that's a very bad thing. Food for thought.

And here's a letter responding to Ana Menendez's latest column which I commented on the other day.

Poverty prevention

Re Ana Menendez's Oct. 3 column, Let's rethink our strategies to fight poverty: When will people such as Menendez realize that government can, at best, only deal with the issues of poverty at the margins? No amount of handouts, programs or entitlements will eliminate poverty.

What is needed is two-parent households, the teaching of positive values and, most important, self-discipline. These things government cannot mandate.


Mr. Schertzer said in two small paragraphs what it took me a whole post to explain. Bravo!


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Menendez on Poverty

Ana Menendez, champion of the disadvantaged, addresses the latest Herald scandal involving the Empowerment Trust in her latest column.

Menendez laments the lack of support for programs to help the poor:

Nicholas Lemann, in a prescient 1994 cover story for The New York Times Magazine, outlined the case against the Clinton program at a time when few people even knew what empowerment zones were.

''For three decades, Administration after Administration has pondered the ghettos and then settled on the idea of trying to revitalize them economically -- even though there is almost no evidence that this can work,'' he wrote. 'The old cliché about ghetto life is that it's `a cycle of despair.'

Actually, it's ghetto policymaking that's a cycle of despair.''The most obvious way to help the poor, Lemann suggested, was ``simply to provide for poor people's material needs, through cash grants, vouchers like food stamps and services like Medicaid.''

Those programs have proved effective, but many voters mistrust them. So politicians flee them.

Examples like the corruption with the Empowerment Trust is what turns people off. It's also the idea that our hard-earned money is being wasted by government. What a shocker!

More from Ana:

The reticence has something to do with the idea Americans have of themselves: self-sufficient, up-by-the-bootstraps folks. Vouchers and cash grants smack of charity. Economic ''empowerment'' speaks to the myth of the self-made man.

But the causes of poverty are too complex to be solved by a single ambitious program. What good is a biotech park in the middle of the inner city if schools are so bad and training so scarce that no one can get hired there?

Effectiveprograms work with the living reality of inner-city life: poor housing, poor schools, racism and crime. Those need to be addressed before the cure-all of ''business activity'' can take hold.

Vouchers and cash grants don't smack of charity, they unfortunately smack of government handouts. Speaking of charity, a good chunk of wealthy people already willfully give their money and time to charity and other causes for the poor. All government involvement seems to do is invite corruption and fraud. When will we learn?

Yes, programs dealing with reality need to be explored. But in this day of political correctness, the issues addressed will likely once again deal with blacks being portrayed as the victims to white racism, while ignoring self-inflicted wounds. That's what impeding real progress in the inner city, in my view.

Gorby in Miami on Cuba

It didn't get the same attention, nor was it anywhere near the level of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's speech at Columbia University last week. Nevertheless, yesterday Mikhail Gorbachev spoke to students and teachers at Ransom Everglades School in Miami.

Here's some of what he had to say:
"The way to go is to try to end the confrontation.'' "Americans should not seek revenge toward Cuba.''
Afterwards, he held a news conference in which he made the following statements regarding Cuba and fidel:
Cuba's healthcare and education systems are great achievements, Gorbachev said in a press conference after his speech to students. Americans should not ''demonize'' Castro, he added. "He is a person and a capable leader.''
One more thing:
"And I think Cubans outside should take the right attitude. They should seek ways of cooperation.''
OK. Have any ideas on how to "cooperate", Mr. Gorbachev? Nyet, didn't think so.

View from Bill Baggs State Park on Key Biscayne

Click here to see a larger version of the photo. Or click here to see a giant version in a new window.