[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: April 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

About Time

So Barack Obama rightfully ripped into his pastor yesterday. It's about time.

Of course, one thing immediately came to mind:

Why didn't he do this earlier, like years ago?

We can only suspect, but it's a fairly safe bet that it was the following two things that set the official Obama/Wright separation in motion: 1) this time it was personal for Obama, and 2) His sweeping race speech in Philly (which understandably didn't do squat to answer any questions re Rev. Wright) didn't shut up the good reverend.

OK, I forgot there's a third. It was politically necessary. Obama's ship, if not sinking, is taking on water big time. The first two really don't matter. This one does.

As I've stated before, I believe Obama when he says he doesn't espouse the twisted views of Rev. Wright. But what does it say about Obama's character and guts when he waits until the 11th hour, until Rev. Wright makes it personal, until he sees his support slipping, to totally and completely denounce his anti-American and racist pastor and spiritual advisor?

Almost 20 years in his church and Obama didn't catch at least a whiff of the pastor's views? If you believe that...well there's not much I can say.

Obama's repudiation of Rev. Wright yesterday proved us lunatic conservatives correct on many different levels. Obama acknowledged that we were/are correct to care about his relationship with the pastor. Obama also made it painfully obvious to everyone that his relationship with Wright was a huge mistake, one that will not be totally forgotten come November.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Miami: City of the Future

In yesterday's Miami Herald, author T.D. Allman follows up on his 1987 book, Miami: City of the Future, with a spot-on article describing Miami's continuing role as leading the way for the America of the future.

Sorry, Tom "Miami is Third World" Tancredo.

People were surprised when I called my book Miami: City of the Future. In the aftermath of the Marielito invasion and the Liberty City riots, the conventional wisdom was that Miami was finished -- ''Paradise Lost,'' ''not really a part of America anymore.'' I had come to a different judgment, that Miami was a harbinger of the Americas to come.

Time has proven that to be the case. Today you find immigrants, drugs, globalization and service-sector economies in Northern suburbs and Midwestern farm towns, but the most striking proof is Orlando. Some people back then thought it possible to construct a Fortress Disney-America, where everyone would inhabit a Dick-and-Jane universe forever; Orlando was their anti-Miami, their escape ideal. Today, Orlando's Latin community is one of Central Florida's most dynamic groups, but Indians and Pakistanis are there, too. Whether it's finance or franchising, Orlando today is in the throes of the transformation Miami experienced decades ago, from a tourist ''attraction'' into a world city with the world's stimulations, problems and opportunities right there inside the city limits.


All of the things that made Miami seem so un-American were actually what made it America's newest great city -- a subtropical Chicago, a salsa-flavored New York. Contraband and violence, along with immigration and the dreams immigrants bring with them, however they arrive, have always been as American as apple pie. That seems obvious today. Back then it was a controversial proposition, but the big truth was that Miami was leading the way into a nationwide reinvention. It was the first major American city to be reshaped by the modern globalization of world population movements, as well as of money, commodities and products.

The most important aspect of Miami that my book caught was its resiliency. Since it was first published, Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Elián have swept over the city, prompting the oom-pah bands of doom to bleat out their usual ditties. Miami keeps going. It's currently in its second -- or third? -- big real-estate bust. As sure as people pretend it doesn't get chilly in Miami in the winter, once the sky finishes falling the crazy-frenzy will start over again.

There are many things about Miami I lament. They are as small as the loss of the Latin American Cafeteria on Coral Way and as immense as the devastation of great swaths of the city north of the Miami River and outside the central core. Rioters didn't do that. Crime didn't cause that. Our movers and shakers did. As Wynwood is the latest to show, all that is best in Miami -- from the Art Deco district to Calle Ocho -- came about because committees lost control, because people started reconstituting life as they wanted it on the human scale. When you get here, there's always a here here, and that's because of the guts and heterodoxy of the people Miami attracts, not the palm trees.


Some things in the book have come true to an extent I never anticipated. In the prologue, I called Miami an aleph of a metropolis. I presented Miracle Mile in Coral Gables as a kind of introductory display case of Miami's possibilities. Imagine my pleasure, years later, to find that Miracle Mile has become, several nights a month, a giant block party where thousands gather to celebrate the city's possibilities. In the book's epilogue, I related Miami to quantum physics and the stained-glass windows at the Cathedral of Chartres. Miami, like light, is both a particle and a wave, a process and a thing. Where waves interconnect, nodal points arise. I still think of Miami, whether I'm thinking of its glass towers or its social relations, as a series of peaks and troughs the interference patterns create. We all know the pleasures and terrors that wind and water bring to Miami. It's the intersloshing waves of people that make me love the place, but which from time to time also make it scary.

Since my book was published, our country has become more Miami-like each year. It is going to continue becoming more like Miami for as long as I can foresee. In many ways, this is for the good -- in some ways, not. The important thing to understand is that, when it comes to the future, you can't pick and choose. You can make the best of the changes overtaking you, and also learn from them, and enjoy them.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Another Elian Anniversary

I'm not really big on commemorating anniversaries, but I guess they can be a way of looking back at something and seeing where everyone stands years later.

Today is the eighth anniversary of Elian's seizure at the hands of Reno's Army. Instead of writing a long, drawn-out post on my feelings of that day, I'll take you back to not one, but two long and drawn-out posts from April 2005 which describe in sometimes gory detail my feelings on April 22nd, 2000 and the days, weeks, months and years that followed. For the most part these posts still represent my feelings today on what happened to that little boy eight years ago.

Elian Part 1
Elian Part 2


Chop A Tree, Plant A Tree

In keeping with the environmental theme of my last post, here's an article on a drive to help save some ficus trees from being chopped down at Coral Way K-8 Center in Miami.

Some "interesting" thoughts to follow the article.

Don't Cut Down Our Trees, School Officials Are Urged

People passing by Coral Way Bilingual K-8 Center Monday must have thought the group standing in front of the school, chanting ''Save Our Trees,'' was confused.

Earth Day wasn't Monday -- it's Tuesday.

But the four dozen students, parents and alumni of the school weren't celebrating Earth Day, or even Arbor Day. They were gathered in front of the school to protest the removal of about half dozen trees.

The Miami-Dade County school district plans to construct two buildings, which would include 32 classrooms and a new media center. Some large trees stand in the way.

The protesters gathered at the school, built in 1936, which sits on seven acres of land at 1950 SW 13th Ave. They demanded that the plans be downsized or the planned buildings moved to save the trees.

Caterina Castellanos, 3, held a sign that read, ``Don't cut down our trees, they are older than my grandmother.''

Her grandmother, Josefina Sanchez-Pando, an 80-year-old former Coral Way Elementary School teacher, said the school's plans should be retooled to protect the massive ficus trees in jeopardy.

''They have space for two buildings,'' she said. ``Go back to the drawing board.''

The plans have already been reduced to save some trees, said Victor Alonso, a design officer with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Two classrooms in one building were eliminated to save a few trees, and six badly-needed parking spaces were canceled to save another two trees, he said.

Alonso said 14 trees were originally considered for removal. That number has now been reduced to six, including two ficus trees -- one with a termite problem.

''If we go any further, it would directly impact the educational quality at this school,'' Alonso said.

After adding sixth, seventh and eighth grades during the last three years, the school is now overcrowded, Alonso said. More than 1,600 students attend the school, which has a capacity of about 900. The school now has 17 portable classrooms on its playing fields, and 200 pre-K and kindergarten students housed in 10 portables at Shenandoah Middle School.

But some said the school board should have planned better when it expanded the school to a K-8 and built a new building about five years ago.

Others said that during a week that includes Arbor Day and Earth Day, the school board should be setting a better example.

School alumnus and neighborhood activist Joe Wilkins said scores of trees have been removed already from the school since he graduated in the 1960s. He shook his head and said, ``Absolutely the wrong lesson.''

My solution to this: chop down the invasive, non-native ficus trees and make the city and/or the school board replace them with mature-sized native shade trees such as Live Oak, Gumbo Limbo or Mahoganies.

Ficus trees, besides being non-native and invasive, have extremely shallow root systems that sprawl very far away from the main part of the tree and break sidewalks, streets, and have even been known to mess up the foundations of buildings. Despite their huge, sprawling nature, they topple like a deck of cards in hurricanes (it's a minor miracle the ones at the school have been around as long as they have). When they come down, they take down power lines and buildings with them.

I understand the attachment to old, large trees. But what good to the environment do ficus trees really do? The real lesson should be in choosing the correct trees to grow in our landscape, not keep the wrong ones.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Trail Across the Glades (UPDATE)

This is my first real idea for a post in a week, since I last posted. Spring is the busiest time for me, both personally and at work, and I think these long breaks without any posts are going to be the norm for a while. Almost hate to say this, but I really didn't miss the blog all that much. Don't worry, oh loyal readers, I'm not going to shut this place down just yet.

I caught the Escape to Dreamland documentary on WLRN last night. Escape documents the history of Tamiami Trail as we approach the 80th anniversary of the road's opening. Glenn Garvin has a lengthy review of the documentary at the Herald site.

Sure, the Trail wouldn't be as interesting or colorful if it wasn't for the unique places and characters that dot it. I've always wanted to stop in at the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters in Ochopee (after dropping off a letter just down the road at the world's smallest post office - or so they claim) just for the hell of it and buy a quirky t-shirt, followed by dinner at Joanie's Blue Crab Cafe. And sure, some of the motivations of the people behind the building of the road were less than ethical.

Still, I felt the documentary focused a bit too much on the quirky and shady history aspect, and just a wee bit too little on its main asset: the natural beauty. Nevertheless, it was an interesting documentary that generally captured the essence of the Trail's charm and beauty.

I'm fortunate enough to get to travel the Trail about once a month on business. I could take Alligator Alley to Naples, I suppose, but talk about a horrifically boring drive. Besides, you can get to Naples almost as fast on the Trail, providing you don't get stuck behind a long row of trucks.

Growing up in South Florida, I used to see the Trail as many other locals do: a boring, dangerous two-lane road that you wouldn't dare get stranded on at any time of the day. Nowhere to stop, no real destination/attraction until you reached Naples or the turn-off to Marco Island. I believe it was Cigar Mike that lamented in a recent post at Babalu about the lack of locals visiting the Everglades. I guess it's part of what I described above and part "backyard" syndrome. Anyway, the Everglades is a place that has to grow on you to really appreciate it. It wasn't until recently that I began to understand the charm and downright beauty of the Everglades. I think the fact that the Everglades doesn't really have that "wow" factor at first glance is a good thing, it makes one appreciate it that much more in the end.

Driving those lonely drives up and down the Trail, I have grown to love the way the landscape changes as you go from the sawgrass of the Miccosukee Reservation to the cypress and pines of the Big Cypress Preserve, then back to sawgrass as you approach Ochopee, Everglades City and Port of the Islands. Subtle, but magical. My favorite part of the Trail has to be the part between Ochopee and Marco Island, where the road passes within about 5 miles of the Gulf. The landscape is low and marshy, and the late afternoon light flickering off the randomly solitaire strands of Royal Palms absolutely mesmerizing.

If you've never taken the Loop Road from Monroe Station to the western fringe of the Miccosukee Village, please do so (but only in winter when the road is dry).

Clyde Butcher was right all along. The Glades is a wonder to be seen and felt, and there's no better way to see it than along the Tamiami Trail.

Make sure you slow down for those Skunk Apes.

UPDATE: Courtesy of Srcohiba, here are some great pics of the Trail and the Everglades. Thanks Sr!

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Common Ground

Alex's recent post criticizing the open letter to Joe Garcia by Belen graduates is centered on the principle that those who signed the letter have no right to claim "absolute authority" over the feelings of the community.

I'm not a Belen grad, so I don't have any biases one way or the other about that school or any of its rivals, other than the recognition that Belen has pumped out some pretty sharp men in its time (as well as a few not-so-sharp).

Regarding the letter Henry posted at Babalu, I don't get the impression that these guys think they're the only authority in town. They're merely stating an obvious point, which is that "our community" stands for the advancement of freedom in Cuba and the desire for Cubans to enjoy the same freedoms we are fortunate to have in this country. On that I believe all of us, liberals and conservatives, can find some common ground on. That's all they're trying to say. Their (legitimate) beef is that Garcia, by accepting a fundraising event hosted by Charlie Rangel, is compromising his principles and those of the community at large in which he was raised in. Well, when you align yourself with someone who is a friend of fidel castro, you leave yourself open for criticism.

Let me be clear by stating that I believe Garcia 100% when he says he disagrees with Rangel on Cuba. This isn't about demonizing him as a "communist". Sorry, libs, ain't gonna happen. It IS about going to bed politically with Charlie Rangel. Yes, I realize this is politics and that it's a dirty game, but I have absolutely no problem with a group of people who share a common bond with Joe Garcia calling him out for putting politics over the principles many in our community sacrificed much too much for.


Not Chicken

Miami Fire Dept.

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Miami Mayoral Elections and Ethnicity

I read a recent Herald editorial column by Michael Putney in which he criticizes Miami-Dade mayor Carlos Alvarez for his lack of effectiveness. Although I have my opinions about that, I want to concentrate this post on something Putney mentions near the end of his column while speculating on who would run against Alvarez in the 2008 mayoral election:

So who will run for Miami-Dade mayor beyond the guy who has the job? Miami Beach businessman Phil Levine, who's got lots of dough and has given away some of it to Bill and Hillary Clinton, is said to be thinking about running. He'd waste his money if he does. Not only is he not known beyond his circle of wealthy friends; there's just no way an Anglo can be elected countywide.

Putney may be right to think that an "Anglo" would never win a countywide election. Of course, he could also be very wrong. Not even considering that each race has its own characteristics and nuances that can heavily influence voting patterns, we can look back at a hotly contested Miami mayoral race back in 1993 to dispute Putney's assertion that "Anglos" have no chance of

In 1993, Steve Clark ran against Miriam Alonso in a race in which Alonso tried to capitalize on ethnic politics and stated to the effect that the Miami mayor should be a Cuban. How could she go wrong in the city of Miami with that kind of remark, right?

Wrong. She lost by a 59 to 41 percent margin.

In most cases and under "normal" circumstances, Putney is PROBABLY right. But it surprises me that someone with the extensive knowledge of local politics that Putney has would make such an off-the-cuff remark. I very much think an "Anglo" could win a county mayor race, especially if its a well-respected person with lots of cross-ethnic connections such as Steve Clark had back in the day.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Just Your Average Joe Politician

It's not every day that I agree with the gist of an Ana Menendez column. In fact, it must be a little chilly in Hell right about now, because her column today, while splattered with the usual Menendez pomposity, arrives at the right conclusion regarding Joe Garcia and his experience as a seasoned politico.

I briefly alluded to this at the end of the previous post, but while Joe is campaigning as the outsider who's bringing long-needed change in Washington to South Florida politics, reality tells a whole 'nother story. Garcia has been playing politics since the early 1990s, both in a run for a county commission seat and as a prominent member of CANF. He is just as good as anyone in the back-and-forth "red-baiting" that is common in today's political landscape. Garcia supporters are certainly entitled to their opinion and their candidate. But I hope they're not naive enough to think that Garcia brings something new to the table of local politics. The man's got a LOT of baggage.
Garcia Reaping Hysteria He Helped Cultivate

By Ana Menendez

Fidel Castro is out of power and brother Raúl is preoccupied with Cuba's delicate transition, but in Miami, island politics can still resonate as if it were 1992.

Take last week's news that a congressman who has met with Fidel would attend a fundraiser for Democratic candidate Joe Garcia.

The announcement, a boring political footnote anywhere else, was greeted here with the hysteria, glee and indignation that is the mark of manufactured scandal.


Charles Rangel, the Democrat from New York, has traveled to Cuba as Fidel's guest and repeatedly called for an end to the embargo. Not surprisingly, he's earned the hatred of many conservative exiles.

By Thursday, Rangel's support for Garcia had become a minor, easy-to-digest controversy.

Some of Garcia's fellow graduates from Belen Jesuit Preparatory School asked him to cancel the fundraiser. The hosts on Spanish-language stations amused themselves by rhyming Rangel with Fidel.

And Garcia's opponent Mario Diaz-Balart, invoking his own inner poet, contributed the catchy school-yard taunt: ``Left-wing birds of a feather tax and spend together.''

By contrast, the presence of incumbent U.S. representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lincoln Diaz-Balart at a rally attended by militant Luis Posada-Carriles Sunday prompted just a mildly worded letter to the editor.

The lesson: If you're going to hang out with controversial people, make sure their anti-Castro credentials are solid.

Friday, a frustrated Garcia called a news conference.

''I'm not going to be afraid of meeting with Charlie Rangel,'' he told me after.

I agree with Garcia and share many of his political values. But in many ways, he's caught in a culture of intimidation that he helped nurture.

In 1992, The Miami Herald published an editorial that argued against tightening the U.S. embargo against Cuba.


The tone was respectful, the arguments solid. But The Cuban American National Foundation, then led by Jorge Mas Canosa, immediately went on the offensive. Mas Canosa, who died in 1997, told Spanish-language radio listeners that The Herald manipulated information ``just like Granma.''

Within weeks, billboards and bumper stickers went up around the city: ``I don't believe The Herald.''

The campaign -- which generated vandalism and death threats that CANF disavowed -- lasted for months. It was run by an ambitious 28-year-old at the foundation named Joe Garcia.

Today Garcia stands by his youthful adventure, saying he didn't think The Herald had treated the community fairly at the time. ''I wasn't an advocate to anything but one issue,'' he said. ``My job then was to represent the Cuban American community.''

At 44, Garcia remains the ambitious in-your-face fighter, the kind of guy who prefers an argumentative dinner guest to a sweet, friendly one.


Last year, supporters of a Democratic candidate on Miami Beach attacked a Republican rival for working for a company that once did business in Cuba.

It was the kind of red-baiting that Democrats ought to avoid. But Garcia, the local party chief, refused to condemn anyone.

''This is part of politics in South Florida,'' he told me at the time.

Friday, Garcia went after the GOP with the same tactics, accusing his opponents of hypocrisy for taking money from backers who do business with Cuba.

It's part of the way politics is waged here. And Garcia is a veteran.


Friday, April 11, 2008

Joe Garcia vs Diaz-Balart

I have a keen interest in the Florida District 25 Congress race between Mario Diaz-Balart and Joe Garcia, mainly because I live in said district. Also, it involves two Cuban-Americans and is a seat that the Democratic Party and its supporters are desperately seeking.

I figured it would be interesting to analyze some key issues and where the candidates stand. In doing this, I primarily used the information provided at their respective web sites, with frequent links provided. Keep in mind that aside from a couple of issues, neither candidate has offered many specifics (we do have MDB's voting record, however), and as such it's hard to make any clear opinions at this early stage.

Consider this post a preliminary look of sorts.

Let's start.

- Iraq

Garcia offers some goals and ideas, such as a "safe and responsible end" to the Iraq war; not building any permanent bases in Iraq to avoid "fanning the flames of anti-American sentiment"; engaging in "vigorous diplomatic talks" with all sectors of Iraqi society; and engaging all of Iraq's neighbors in "extensive and principled diplomatic talks".

Diaz-Balart provides little detail other than "I voted for establishing the Department of Homeland Security and for military action against Iraq because I believe these were necessary steps to improve our national security." As a rank and file Republican in Congress, it's safe to assume that he's in line with the current strategy being employed in the region.

However, he does give what could be considered by some to be a somewhat moderate view of the Patriot Act: "While we must be proactive and diligent in the fight against terrorism, we must be careful to balance security concerns with civil liberties. Attempting to provide absolute security to law-abiding American citizens could undermine the freedoms that have made America the sole global superpower."

My analysis: a clear demarcation along party lines and ideologies, the best-defined difference between the two candidates.

- Economy:

Garcia offers nothing in the way of specific ideas, just general points such as lower taxes for working families, tax credits for small businesses, creating better jobs for South Florida and promoting investment in South Florida.

Diaz-Balart has his economic plan broken up into separate categories, making it hard to put together into a concise package. Regarding affordable housing, Diaz-Balart favors "down payment assistance" and recently voted in favor of the Section 8 Voucher Adjustment Act of 2007 sponsored by Democrat Maxine Waters of California (in fact, the Florida Republican contingent was split on this vote, with MDB voting in line with the Democrats). He did, however, vote against funding $70 million for the Section 8 program back in 2006.

MDB is more specific on taxes, such as favoring the elimination of the marriage penalty and death tax, and pledged for American for Tax Reform.

My analysis: We'll wait for Garcia to offer more specifics. In the meantime, Diaz-Balart's record doesn't offer any major surprises. Hopefully the debates will provide a clearer distinction.

- Healthcare:

This one's a bit more contentious, although at first glance the differences really aren't all that big. For example: both Garcia and Diaz-Balart state that affordable healthcare should be accessible to all. Diaz-Balart focuses on seniors and small businesses while Garcia specifically mentions those between jobs, working families and small businesses. Both advocate greater choice. Garcia, however, mentions that people should "always have healthcare". I'm not sure if this is an indication of support for universal health care, but it does sound like it.

The main disagreement lies with the vetoed S-CHIP bill. Garcia goes as far as illustrating the differences in his "factcheck" section. He criticizes the South Florida GOP contingent for voting against the S-CHIP bill, stating that it would have helped thousands of immigrant children. He mentions a comment by MDB which I myself was critical of back in October in response to the effect of a proposed tax increase on cigars that S-CHIP would have brought about. Mario stated that the cigar tax increase was an "attack" on the Cuban-American community. While I still believe that statement was a bit over the top and a poor choice of words, I agree with the general sentiment that taxing tobacco to fund S-CHIP is wrong, and President Bush was correct to veto the bill. Garcia also points out apparent contradictions in subsequent statements made by MDB

I'm sure this is something that will come out and become clearer as we get closer to the election.

- Education:

Garcia hits a lot of the right notes here, and is probably the issue that he's most specific and passionate about on the web site. I found it surprising that he favors No Child Left Behind, which puts him at odds with the traditional Democratic opinion.

Diaz-Balart is more general, although he clearly expresses favoring school vouchers, as well as parental involvement and local involvement in decisions on school funding, all good ideas in my book.

My analysis: again, no apparent big difference here. Too early, I guess.

- Cuba:

Neither candidate has a Cuba section on their web sites, but it's well known that the main differences between the two is that Garcia favors lifting travel restrictions by Cuban-Americans as well as allowing more remittances to go directly to dissidents. All in all, the differences really aren't as stark as Garcia and Diaz-Balart make them out to be, although what differences exist are important.

Garcia points out a comment MDB made on Maria Elvira Live about castro allies' interest in the defeat of MDB and the other GOPers Congress members from South Florida, insinuating that MDB accuses Garcia of being one of those castro allies/appeasers. I would have to see the full transcript of that interview, not just a select sound byte before passing judgment on that accusation.

Even if Diaz-Balart meant to say that Garcia is a castro appeaser, that doesn't exactly absolve Garcia from making equally ridiculous comments about his opponents. In this Washington Times editorial, Garcia is mentioned as berating MDB's brother Lincoln for helping nine disabled Ukranian kids obtain prosthetic limbs.

This is shaping up to be quite an interesting race, not necessarily because it MAY be a close one, but because of the obvious interest by Democrats to win the seat. Also, it's MDB's first serious challenge since he was first elected in 2002.

More on this in future posts, you can be sure of that!


Monday, April 07, 2008

A Race Editorial With Substance

In keeping with the race relations theme of last two posts, here's an interesting and thought-provoking editorial by Marvin Dunn, former chair of the psychology department at Florida International University. His ideas on what Florida should do about its history of slavery and exactly what should any reparations consist of are concise and quite logical. Unlike Barack Obama's recent sweeping race speech which was long on "feel good" words but short on substance, Dunn's editorial actually attempts to get to the heart of the issue of how to solve our complex racial issues. Dunn doesn't point fingers or pound on the pulpit about today's American white man who mostly had nothing to do whatsoever with slavery, but instead looks to ways to make sure that the sad history of slavery is not forgotten while ensuring that African-Americans are given opportunities to succeed just as anyone else.
Make the apology meaningful

t last, Florida apologized for the enslavement of African Americans within its borders. My grandmother's father was a slave in Gadsden County; so, why don't I feel better?

Maybe it's because the apology is a meaningless act that only a dolt or outright racist would oppose. It cost the state nothing and of course, there was not a word about the thorny question of reparations. As one of the African Americans to whom the apology was aimed, it was not enough. Frankly, I would love to get a reparations check but how is the state to determine who gets paid and who does not? The complexity of the issue is sufficient grounds for the state to recoil at the very thought of reparations. Beyond the messiness of it, any white legislator who voted for reparations would be road kill back at home. Florida whites today are unwilling to pay for the sins of their fathers, especially since they may not even have been the sins of their fathers, given that so many whites have migrated to Florida from some place else.

In light of these obstacles, not to mention the cost of reparations, what Florida and other states of the Old South should be considering is how to pay reparations to African Americans as a whole, rather than to individuals. Gov. Charlie Crist says he is open to reasonable ideas regarding reparations. Here are some suggestions:

First, help us to find out about our slave ancestry in Florida. Since the state and the various counties have detailed records of who was owned by whom those records should be digitized and made available to anyone who wishes to research his or her ancestral history in Florida during the time of slavery. These records exist in great detail in tax records, wills, estate records, probate court records, etc. In order to accomplish this, the state should fund a permanent position for an archivist at Florida A&M University whose sole duty would be to digitize and make those records available to the public.

Second, Florida should erect a monument in Tallahassee commemorating and honoring enslaved African Americans who contributed, albeit under the whip, mightily to the early growth of the state. Most people in the state may prefer to bury slavery rather than memorialize it but monuments are erected to many horrible things including the Holocaust, wars and epidemics. Why not to slavery?

Third, Florida should ensure that this uncomfortable past of its history is not lost nor the contributions of those who suffered under it forgotten. The state should sponsor the making of a broadcast-quality documentary film such as those done by noted documentary filmmaker Ken Burns on the history of slavery in the state. The film in DVD form should be placed in every public school in Florida.

Finally, education is the great equalizer. Given that it was illegal in Florida to teach slaves to read, 1,000 fully-paid college scholarships to Florida colleges and universities should be made available each year to African-American students who can establish that their ancestry was enslaved in Florida. Those students would be required to meet the same admissions criteria as other applicants.

We African Americans have some emotional work to do, too. Bury the anger. Don't hold whites who had nothing to do with slavery responsible for happened to our ancestors. I know the counter argument, ''They may not have owned slaves but they are the direct beneficiaries of those who did.'' True, but to quote Vice-President Dick Cheney: ''So?'' Meaning, what are they to do about that? Change color? The open wound on Florida's soul that was slavery can never be excised by any means other than exposure to the clear light of day. The apology provides a whiff of fresh air but like most deep infections, true healing requires a continuous breeze.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

In Spite of Everything

Staying on the topic of Barack Obama and cults of personality, following is a translation of a great letter to the editor published in El Nuevo Herald by Fernando J. Milanés MD of Miami titled A pesar de los pesares (in spite of everything).

It's a fairly loose translation, but it gets the message across. (Click here for the original letter in Spanish).
It is said that in Cuba there was a very colorful town judge. As the story goes, at the end of a trial in which a youth was accused of stealing hens, the judge made the following summary of the case:

- We've heard declarations by the owner of the hens, of witnesses who saw the accused enter and leave the hen house with a bag, and of others who saw the accused eating an exquisite chicken with rice (arroz con pollo). After evaluating everything, I absolve the accused of all matters.

Upon reading a recent letter in El Nuevo Herald and listening to my Democrat friends justify their passion for Barack Obama, I would suggest that for greater credibility they say the following:

- In spite of the lies expressed by Rev. Jeremiah Wright such as AIDS being spread by the U.S. government to kill blacks and that 9/11 was the United States' fault; that 9/11 was the subject of many anti-American and racially divisive sermons; that Rev. Wright belongs to a radical religious doctrine which is not representative of the majority of African-American churches; in spite of the fact that Obama, after attending his church for 20 years and having declared that the reverend was his spiritual advisor and friend, initially denied knowing about the sermons and only out of necessity for his political ambitions did he separated himself from them after they were leaked out by the media; in spite of the fact that Obama, who doesn't control the reverend but does control which religious service and which religious philosophy he wants to expose his family to, doesn't explain why he never left that church (ed. Obama DID explain, which makes it worse); in spite of the fact that in his eloquent rhetoric he preaches change and an ability to work with members of the Republican Party when nothing in his brief history as senator has demonstrated that he's accomplished such things, I'll still vote for Obama anyway.

Fernando J. Milanés MD


Friday, April 04, 2008

He Said What?

If this is reflective of the mindset of intelligent liberals out there circa 2008 (someone please tell me it's not), then they deserve every poor candidate they get to represent their ideology and political party:

As commented by Rick on South Florida Daily Kos Blog:
The sad thing is, Senor (ed. Sr. Cohiba, a.k.a Cigar Mike), you actually subscribe to that garbage. You truly believe it. A hard core 19%'er like you only wishes they could be half inspired by a POS the likes of John McCain.

No, I think thing the real problem here is that whenever a Republican attempts to sincerely speak about race relations in America, people see right through the hypocrisy.
At least it's worth a chuckle or two. LOL!

Thursday, April 03, 2008

More Information For Tough Decision

I'm in favor of the Florida House's passing of legislation to require ultrasounds in the first trimester of a pregnancy for women who are considering an abortion.

I see it as another piece of data, additional information that can help someone make a very tough decision. If it's already required in the second and third trimesters, it's only natural to extend it to any stage of the pregnancy.

Some will say that it's government intruding on rights. As conservatives, we're supposed to be against that. And we are. But we're talking about a procedure to end a life here (yes, fetuses are living). This isn't the same as having to get government permission to eat a cheeseburger or buy a car. This isn't some trivial matter.

The argument I'm seeing from pro-choicers is that the state is trying to put another obstacle in the way of women who want to have the abortion, along with the thought that it's "the next step to banning abortions altogether". I have no problem with the obstacle argument, because that's one of things the bill would obviously represent. The obstacle, in this case, is largely about making extra sure that someone wants to end a life. The choice to have the abortion is still there, and the bill doesn't even require that the patient see the ultrasound image. This could perhaps evolve into an educational tool for women thinking about an abortion.

Another argument, that many women already know what they're dealing with and don't need to be educated further, may be true. But many do not realize the impact, as hard to believe as that may seem. Do we keep them blind when a life is at stake?

It's not about taking away the right to choose to have an abortion because that's NOT what the bill would do. As I stated at the top, it's about having an additional and powerful piece of information available for the woman in order for her to make an important decision. It's not a perfect bill by any stretch, but it's a step in the right direction for those of us who believe that a fetus is a living creature who deserves every chance to survive and flourish.

BTW, Alex has a different view of this issue at his new blog, Miami & Beyond.


New Property Tax Proposal and Schools

The latest stab at Florida property tax reform looks to be gaining steam towards a November referendum.

At stake: funding for public school districts.

Here's a pretty balanced article from a couple of weeks ago in the Palm Beach Post. Basically, the proposed amendment would raise sales taxes by 1% to partially offset the anticipated lost tax revenue to schools. Property taxes could be cut by 25-30%, according to some estimates.

As much as I am in favor of property tax reform, this plan doesn't sit right with me. I agree that raising the sales tax by 1% shouldn't be looked at as an increased burden on the poor. Sales tax is a consumption tax, and items such as food and medicine would continue to not be taxed under the latest proposal. However, cutting about 25-30% off our property taxes via eliminating the portion of the tax that goes to schools is cause for concern. Is it really good to shift the burden of revenue from the locals to the state? I don't know. I would much rather have locals control where our school money is going than to relinquish it to a state entity.

As an example, consider that the Florida Legislature is proposing to cut $219 million in spending for the 2008-2009 school year. According to this Sun-Sentinel article, 60 percent of that amount will come from the three-most populous counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, which combined educate 30% of the state's public school students.

Uneven burden? You bet.

Of course, our local school districts haven't always been good stewards of our money. Teachers are perennially under-paid while many administrators make six-figures and get perks such as vehicles. In this day when politicians are looking to make broad cuts in education, is it right for administrators to drive around in taxpayer-funded Ford Explorers while teachers pay out of their pockets for classroom materials?

On top of this, the Miami Herald is reporting today that bonuses for nationally certified teachers could be cut next school year. Talk about eliminating any incentive for teachers to not only make more money, but to become better at their profession.

Who can we trust with school funding? Anyone have any ideas?

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