[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: August 2008

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Cuba Travel Ban Struck Down

Lisandro Perez, FIU professor, frequent visitor to Cuba and someone who's been, well, hesitant to criticize the castro regime, had this to say regarding the striking down of Florida's travel ban to Cuba:
''Increasingly what has happened is that this has become an agenda for some state legislators from the Miami area who want to stake their political careers on appearing to be tough on Cuba from Tallahassee,'' Perez said. ``This was an insult by David Rivera.''
This Herald article describes the specifics on the decision yesterday to strike down the law on the grounds of unconstitutionality. For the record, David Rivera's stated arguments for supporting the ban never totally convinced me. His spirit and heart are in the right place, and any freedom-loving person can understand why supporting travel to Cuba only hurts that cause. However, Rivera's mistake was to cloak the law under the guise of "protecting consumers". He should have just called it what it is, a principled stance against a murderous and tyrannical regime. Using "consumer protection" to pussy-foot around the issue and to get the law passed initially hurt him in the long run.

As critical as I am of Rivera here, it doesn't compare to my feelings for those such as Lisandro Perez who would largely benefit, economically AND ideologically, from the strike-down of the ban. The quote at the top exemplifies the moral abyss that people such as Perez love to revel in.

Of course, FIU stands firmly behind their guy:
''It was a mean-spirited bill,'' said FIU Faculty Senate Chairman Tom Breslin. ``It was made to turn back the clock. I'm glad it's gone for the sake of academic freedom." He adds: ''I think this law was a slap to Cubans in South Florida. More and more, there has been a failure by our state representatives to bring home the bacon from Tallahassee. This sort of grandstanding and demagoguery is a very ineffective use of political power.''
Rivera's comeback statement, although misguided in its stated target, perfectly captures the lack of principles and morals that Lisandro Perez displays on a regular basis in Miami:
''It's unfortunate that some believe that protecting taxpayer money from being used to subsidize travel to terrorist nations is demagoguery,'' Rivera said.

Friday, August 29, 2008

It's McCain/Palin

I'm taking a break from my work and self-imposed blog break to comment briefly on John McCain selection of Sarah Palin for VP.

I really like the pick. Honestly I don't know a ton about Gov. Palin, but what I do know sounds really good to me. This essentially takes the "change" mantle away from Obama/Biden, or least now they have to share it with the GOP. I'll go as far as saying that a McCain/Palin ticket is arguably more about true change than Obama/Biden.

Women voters whom either supported Hillary and are on the fence now, or already were leaning for McCain? You can bet Palin will draw them in even more, which could spell big problemas for the O/B team. It doesn't hurt the conservative base, either.

Until next time...whenever that'll be. Thanks for sticking around!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Funny Blog Of The Week

Now for this week's official 26th Parallel Funny Blog of the Week, we have a comment left by "voice of reason" at Herald Watch yesterday responding to Henry's post on the Herald's denial of Marifeli Perez-Stable as a Cuban agent.

Emphasis mine:
Just read the Herald piece. "McCarthyite tactics." Check. "Witch hunt." Check. "Baseless allegations." Check.

Well, there you have it. They forgot "exile hysteria," but maybe they're being, you know, tactful (at least in print). I guess we can all rest easy now. Nothing to worry about, so just move along. Simmons, after all, is no different from some ancient Versailles regular who wouldn't know a counterintelligence operation from a trip to Home Depot. Just some kook with a fancy title (Lieutenant Colonel, if you must know). That Ana Belen Montes thing was just a lucky fluke. Hell, she probably wanted to get caught.

Besides, if the Herald, given its immaculate record in handling Cuban issues and its exquisite sensitivity to the Cuban-American community, not to mention its unassailable wisdom, sees fit to employ Ms. Perez-Stable to enlighten us about Cuban matters, well, the only proper response is to bow in humble gratitude. So what if she has an unsavory past that even she acknowledges (not that she could deny it, since it's on record)? So what if a professional, high-level U.S. government intelligence officer publicly indicates she's extremely questionable? Trivial, petty stuff, surely. Just your garden-variety little indiscretion (you know, like Herald reporter Oscar Corral soliciting some teen-aged prostitute).

So please, let's all be reasonable and adult about this. We can't continue to keep upsetting the powers that be at the Herald with this eternal refusal to roll over and play nice little exiles. You know how schoolkids in Cuba have to recite the mantra "We will be like Che (Guevara)"? Our motto should be "We will be like Ana Menendez" (I'd have said Carl Hiaasen, but that would set the bar too high; after all, we're only Cubans).

We should learn to respect our betters at Herald Plaza and understand that they're just doing this for our own good. It only LOOKS like they don't respect us and are sticking it to us yet again. I mean, if you were Herald management, and you wanted an "expert" to pontificate on Cuba topics, wouldn't you find someone like Ms. Perez-Stable the best conceivable choice, the most trustworthy, the most credible and acceptable one to the Cuban-American commnunity? Of course you would! If you don't believe me, just ak Joe Oglesby, head of the Herald's editorial page. I expect he'd set you straight.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Blanket Of Dirt Over Beijing Olympics (UPDATED)

The Beijing 2008 Olympics are set to begin in less than 24 hours. I consider myself a fan of the Olympics, although I don't necessarily stay glued to the TV set for the entire games. This time around, I just can't get excited about the Games.

I'll take it a step further: I'm quite disgusted that China gets to host the Games and be the center of attention for 2 weeks or so. I have absolutely nothing against the Chinese people, but it's disturbing that the Chinese government will most definitely and justifiably consider this to be a huge PR boost. Sure, there have been and will continue to be protests with people asking to free Tibet, for example. But most people won't notice that. They'll instead notice the big show put on by the government (let's not pretend that China is just like any other country).

Journalists covering the Games not having full internet access in China...it's par for the course for a regime as oppressive as the smog that's covering Beijing. Perhaps it's idealist of me to think of the Olympics as an example of all people coming together for a common cause. After all, the Olympic Committee didn't have a problem in picking China to host these games. Perhaps I shouldn't mix politics and sports. But it's happened before, especially in countries where the powers-that-be are more interested in self-promotion than in freedom and democracy.

I wish the U.S. athletes all the best. Too bad my heart won't be totally into it.

UPDATE 12:50 PM 8/8: The Miami Herald's Linda Robertson, whom I'm not exactly crazy about, explains in her column why politics and sports aren't separate. Aside from a weak attempt at moral equivalence early in the column, it's a well-written piece. Read it here.

Community Responds to Tragedy

The news that the alleged killer of the federal agent in Pembroke Pines on Tuesday has been caught is great news in the midst of this tragedy.

I really can't add anything of value regarding the impact of the murder on Donald Pettit's family, however I would like to comment on the state of society in the wake of something as tragic as this. Every time an incident like this occurs, a common reaction is something to the effect of "What has our society come down to"?

It's tempting to think there there really is something wrong with modern society when someone is shot and killed over a traffic dispute with his daughter in full presence. I would rather focus on the community's response to the incident, which was nothing short of overwhelming support for Donald Pettit's family. Hundreds of tips were received by law enforcement agencies in the 24 hours following the murder, and no doubt led to the capture of the individual at a dialysis center.

To me, when a community responds like it did in support of a crushed family, it maintains my assertion in the common decency and humanity of our modern society.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Herald Says No To Drilling

Despite bipartisan support and the support of most Americans, not to mention common sense, the Miami Herald comes out in an editorial today strongly opposing oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, calling the latest plan a "hoax".

Webster defines fraud as ''deceit, trickery, cheating.'' By that standard, the latest proposal to open the waters off Florida's Gulf coast to oil drilling certainly qualifies for that label. It is more than a little disheartening to see both presidential candidates buy into a harmful, discredited idea that smacks of pure politics and will produce no relief from the pain at the pump. Last week, just before the start of the official summer recess, a group of senators floated a plan to lift a ban on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf in return for repeal of tax breaks for oil companies and spending $20 billion on alternative-fuel research. Apparently, the people of Florida would have no say in this.

The plan is deceitful in a variety of ways. Under the guise of doing something worthwhile, like investing in renewable energy -- shouldn't Congress be doing this anyway? -- it would put Florida's beaches and the state's $65 billion tourism industry at enormous risk. And all for nothing, given the consensus that a green light to drill in the Gulf won't bring prices down. As Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens has said, we cannot drill our way out of this problem -- not when the United States represents 4 percent of the world's population and uses 25 percent of the oil.

Don't be fooled by assurances that drilling would occur so far from the beaches that they would be safe from harm. Accidents occur in moving and shipping the oil, as was the case with the recent barge accident on the Mississippi River. That puts every beach near any port or river on the Gulf Coast -- maybe the Atlantic Coast, too -- at risk.

The sudden stampede to promote coastal drilling falls far short of the leadership that Americans have a right to expect from their elected representatives. Instead of offering a hasty scheme designed to appease angry voters, lawmakers should be devising a careful strategy that will move the country away from the addiction to oil. This would include developing long-term sources of energy and dropping the tariff on ethanol produced in countries like Brazil.

Sen. John McCain, who was once against drilling off the coast, abandoned his opposition in June. Sen. Barack Obama has also opposed drilling, but he appeared close to endorsing the latest proposal last week. We hope he holds to his original position. A bad idea is a bad idea, even when it is dressed up as a bipartisan compromise. Supporting oil exploration in the eastern Gulf just because it's more popular these days isn't leadership. It is a mistake.

Why it is automatically implied that drilling won't provide relief at the pump? The recent drop in oil prices has been largely attributed to decrease in demand. I'm no economist, but it only makes sense that if you increase supply, even marginally, while keeping demand relatively stable, prices will tend to come down. Not to mention the fact that more oil pulled up by the United States means less money sent to foreign countries for their oil. The Herald editorial board is stuck in the same mentality of the past 5, 10, 15, 20 years when it comes to oil.

Of course, there's no guarantee that there won't be spills or accidents. I don't know about you, but I trust our technology and manpower to safely drill for oil than sit around and do nothing while China and Cuba are chomping at the bit to drill in the same oil fields. Do we trust China and Cuba to use state of the art and safe methods in OUR backyard? I don't.

The Herald's alternative solutions include "developing long-term sources of energy and dropping the tariff on ethanol produced in countries like Brazil." That "sounds" good, and we should definitely be aggressively pursuing alternative energy sources. However, a check of the Herald archives shows that this is no easy task, at least when compared to the efficiency and availability of oil. Here's an article from last month about solar energy being a "tough sell".

Sugar for ethanol production in Florida? Well, we do have lots of sugar. At least until the state completes the buyout of the sugarcane fields south of Lake Okeechobee, thanks to Gov. Crist. So much for locally produced sugar and ethanol.

Nuclear? Ask FPL how their efforts to expand their nuclear plant program is going.

Wind power? Apparently we don't get enough wind in Florida for it to efficiently work.

The bottom line is that it's shortsighted to be against oil drilling because even if we can pull up a relatively small amount from the Gulf, it's a step towards energy independence. We should also be pursuing all the other alternatives, which as illustrated won't be easy, but in the end it's a worthwhile endeavor. Perhaps the Herald can explain this in future editorials.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Quick Takes

I was unexpectedly without internet access last week while out of town, thus the complete lack of posts on my part.

Now that I'm back, let's get to it! Thanks for hanging in there.

- I've been reading new Herald metro columnist Myriam Marquez's columns with interest, and up to now I've been quite impressed with her despite no clear bias in favor of Cubans' superiority or justification for supporting terrorists. You know, silly right-wing Cuban stuff.

- That pesky John McCain just won't go away. It says here that this spells big trouble for the globetrotting Barack Obama. Take that for what it's worth.

- I'm happy the Florida Marlins did not acquire Manny Ramirez. Not because of a potential disruption in team chemistry, but because they would have given up a decent chunk of their future for a 2-month rental. The Marlins have a team they can build on (I HOPE), and sacrificing a part of that with no guarantee of a pennant was too much to ask for. Good non-move by the front office.

- In the midst of the housing slump, this Sun-Sentinel article fortells a boom in South Florida right around the corner. Based on history alone, who can argue with this?

- Finally, courtesy of Babalu, a picture from the area my grandfather was born.