[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: April 2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Awesome Comment of the Day

Watching the O'Reilly Factor last night following another snooze-fest of an Obama news conference which I only sat part of, Dennis Miller made a hilarious but sadly all-too-true comment:


"Perez Hilton asked Miss California a tougher question in a beauty pageant than the press corps asked Obama at the news conference."

Also, make sure to check out Miller's rant on tea-party bashing and Arlen Specter in the Miller Time section under "Featured Videos". The man was on a roll.

Blog Of The Day

The Sun-Sentinel has featured this blog as the "Blog of the Day" on its Community Blogs section online.

Thanks, S-S. I guess I need to post more!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Obama = The Man

So says South Florida, according to an article in yesterday's Miami Herald highlighting South Floridians reaction to President Obama's first 100 days. I have to say it was a pretty fair piece, all things considered.

There are several comments from South Florida residents sprinkled through the article, most in favor of Obama's performance thus far, but a few against, especially those pesky Tea Party attendees:

''The government is too big and getting bigger, and someone's going to have to pay for it,'' said Don Lovern, 83, a retired airline pilot who stood with his wife, Nancy, among some 800 people waving flags and homemade signs at motorists during the ''Tea Party'' protest in front of a Doral post office.

Lovern, a registered Democrat who voted for GOP presidential nominee John McCain, said Obama's bailouts are wasteful and increase the direct role of government in private enterprise to a risky degree.

''When the government gets into running private companies, we're treading on dangerous ground,'' Lovern said.

The last quote is quite telling for a couple of reasons:

Many Obama supporters dismiss the critics' cries as a backlash from conservatives in an unaccustomed position: out of tune with the majority.

After years in the political wilderness while the GOP dominated national politics, Barnett Hibnick, the Miami lawyer who describes herself as ''unabashedly liberal,'' sounds amazed to find that a president willing to undertake aggressive government action to correct social and economic problems has a majority of Americans behind him.

''I think he combines brilliance with pragmatism. He really is disarming the Republicans,'' Barnett Hibnick said, adding with a laugh: ``It's been quite a while since I've been in the mainstream.''

I'm amazed too, Ms. Hibnick. Then again, Americans are patient and fair-minded people who'll give most anything a shot. But if you think Republicans are being "disarmed" (it only took 100 days for Democrats to regain their cocky strut, eh?), just wait until Obama "amazing" government expansion really kicks in. That's when Americans' patience will come to an end, and you'll be back in the political wilderness before you know it.

Marlins Free Fall

Where art thou, Marlins magic? Or has baseball Karma caught up with our boys in pinstripes and teal?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mario Diaz-Balart is 100% Right (UPDATED)

(See bottom of post for update)

Mario Diaz-Balart's comments to the Naples Daily News regarding Cuba policy and comparing people doing business with Cuba with those who did the same with apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany, and the controversy it has generated courtesy of the illiterate and downright nasty denizens of Daily Kos Generation Miami, has been well covered by Babalu.

I'd just like to add my three quilos. I have no problem with someone disagreeing with Rep. Diaz-Balart. But why are so many people cynical about Diaz-Balart's motives and reasons for being in favor of Cuba sanctions? On second thought, it's understandable and perhaps even healthy to hold some skepticism (which is different from cynicism) of our elected officials.

Fair enough.

But where's that same skepticism and even cynicism toward those who favor a lifting of all sanctions, particularly people involved with or doing business with Cuba? It's one thing for a private citizen to desire to see his/her family. It's also one thing for someone to believe, however misguided it may be, that open relations is the fastest way to freedom for Cuba. I can accept those beliefs as part of an well-meaning, honest and reasonable debate of the issue, even if I don't agree. And to people such as myself and Mario Diaz-Balart, these individuals aren't the ones being compared to those who did business with previous oppressive and murderous regimes.

However, it's something totally different to be directly involved in the business of travel and other business endeavors to/with Cuba. This is what Diaz-Balart was referring to when he said:
Because, what the heck, let’s just do business with them because there’s a buck to be made.
The target of those words couldn't have been clearer. When the folks at Generation Miami try (and that's the operative word here) to accuse Diaz-Balart of drawing those comparisons with respect to ANYONE who disagrees with current Cuba policy, all they're doing is displaying their contempt for Diaz-Balart and those who think like him, instead of showing any evidence of intellectual honesty and unbiased thought.

Are Diaz-Balart's comparisons to doing business with apartheid-supporting and Nazi regimes that far off? Perhaps those who knee-jerk in reaction to every hard-liner thought and belief should seriously consider that, if they're at all intellectually honest with themselves.

(UPDATED 1030 PM): And I was 100% wrong for not catching this: I was under the assumption that the YouTube video Henry mentions in his Babalu post came courtesy of Daily Kos. Silly me for not connecting the dots Henry laid out. The misleading video which cuts out a significant part of Mario Diaz-Balart's controversial remark came courtesy of Generation Miami, the blog whose posts I also linked to above.

Giancarlo, if you're behind the "edited" video posted on YouTube, shame on you! Just goes to show that you don't have a case to make when you have to resort to blatant distortion of someone's statement and message. Here's some friendly advice: The campaign's over. Your man lost, OK? Spend your time looking forward rather than fight old battles with misleading videos.

Hitting The Nail on the Head

I was going to include this as an update to the post below, but this post by Jorge Costales, which I unfortunately didn't read until just a few minutes ago, describes to a tee the attitude behind the common arguments against the embargo and general hard-line positions that are so "in" these days. Therefore, it deserves its own post.

Jorge also gives credit where credit is due. Us hardliners are sometimes prone to criticize MSM outlets like the Miami Herald without acknowledging when they're actually right about something, which the Miami Herald editorial board usually is when it comes to Cuba. Jorge's acknowledgment of this is something we shouldn't ignore or brush off as insignificant just because we may not agree with some of the Herald's reporting and columns. Bravo.

Check Jorge's post out here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Herald: U.S. and Cuba Need To Talk

Here's a fairly good editorial in the Herald today. It's included in it's entirety below, with my reactions interspersed.

The momentum coming out of the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad has created a buzz about what comes next in U.S.-Cuba relations, with much speculation focusing on a prisoner swap. Such talk not only is premature but ill-considered. Trading criminals convicted in an open and fair judicial process for dissidents whose activities would not be considered a crime in any democratic society is not a fair deal.

Indeed, no single action is likely to produce a big change in U.S.-Cuba relations overnight, but that does not foreclose the possibility of improvement. At this point, however, neither side knows what is possible, and that is the candid conversation that the administration of President Barack Obama must have with Cuban leaders before it embarks on any concrete negotiation. If the way to progress appears open, it should be guided by the following considerations:

Avoid preconditions. Getting started is hard enough without making peremptory demands. The normalization of relations with Vietnam, it should be recalled, was achieved without calling for changes in the country's political or economic system.

Just because something worked in Vietnam or anywhere else doesn't mean it's going to work in Cuba. History has proven this.

Focus on confidence-building measures at the outset. The Obama administration has already eased travel and gift restrictions for Americans with relatives on the island. Cuba can reciprocate by reducing the amount of money it pockets from remittances and thus denies to the intended recipients.

Wishful thinking that Cuba would cave in. fidel already pretty much said so.

Don't expect too much. Improving diplomatic relations would be a major accomplishment, but real normalization is a process that will require years, if not decades to complete.


Ask other leaders in Latin America to do their part. Cuba is more likely to respond to pressure to change its human-rights posture if the push comes from other leaders in the region like Brazil's Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva or Chile's Michelle Bachelet than from Washington. Now is the time for them to weigh in and make a difference if they mean what they say about wanting to end Cuba's isolation in the hemisphere.

Also agree. But I'm not holding my breath here, either. Lula and Bachelet aren't exactly on my favorite persons list for not standing up to the Cuban regime. If they were to change their attitudes, who knows?

Finally, and perhaps most important, consult those individuals who have been harmed the most over the years. This includes both the dissident community in Cuba (which opposes the spies-for political prisoners idea) and exiles who have a stake in the future of Cuba. Polls show that a majority of Cuban Americans are open to talking with a Castro-led Cuba. However, bad faith by the Cuban government and a naive approach by U.S. negotiators could stop the momentum in its tracks.

The last sentence pretty much describes the last few decades.

No one should be blind to the many obstacles that lie ahead, but there is reason to hope that Cuba may be ready to turn the page. In the past, Fidel Castro has offered to talk without preconditions, but only in the last few days has Raúl Castro volunteered that the most important issues for many Cuban Americans -- human rights, freedom of the press and political prisoners -- would be on the table. Whether Cuba's president has room to maneuver with Big Brother looking over his shoulder remains an imponderable, but it's worth finding out.

For half a century, the United States and Cuba have been separated by far more than the 90-mile stretch of the Florida Straits. Politically, the two countries remain oceans apart, separated by deep-seated suspicion and mutual hostility. The estrangement has always seemed a bit unnatural, given the ties of history and geography that connect the two countries, but it must be recognized that it is based on real differences and real grievances.

It would be an error to believe that differences will be overcome easily, if that is possible at all. It would be a tragedy not to try.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Miami Cubans Drugged After Obama Policy Shift

The title of this post should've been the title of this AP piece that comes close to expressing a sense of shock that Cuban-American reaction to a possible policy shift fell short of a riot. It's almost laughable that the AP considers normal reaction by normal people that occurs on any normal day in Miami as a "muted" response. As if the normal response was throwing stones, hurling spears and public hangings.
Just a few years ago, any U.S. president who suggested restoring relations with Fidel Castro's Cuban government would have been loudly called a communist or worse on the streets and airwaves of Miami. Protests would have sprung up, and Cuban-Americans who offered their support would have feared being blacklisted.

But when President Barack Obama last week made the most significant gesture in decades toward opening dialogue with the communist island, reaction from the nation's largest Cuban exile community and anti-Castro hub was barely a whisper.

The muted response, from the heart of Little Havana to the elegant suburbs of Coral Gables, crystalized the generational and demographic shift in Cuban-American politics long coming to Miami and the nation, a shift that has in part fueled the president's ability to push U.S. policy in a new direction.

There were no anti-Obama rallies, few protests. Even Armando Perez Roura, the hardline host of the Spanish-language exile broadcast Radio Mambi, began his drive-time morning show talking baseball.

Perez Roura talking about Hanley Ramirez's OBP or Anibal Sanchez's WHIP instead of whipping some anti-hardliner butt? The horror!

Even those in the younger generation who opposed the president's policies were restrained.

"It's naive of him, and I think it's kind of insulting. It's 'You're a dictator, but I want to talk to you,'" said Maday Rodriguez, 33, a small business owner, who came to the U.S. from Cuba with her family in 1984.

"But to each his own. Everyone has their own opinion," she added — including her husband, who voted for Obama.

How about that? A young Cuban-American expressing her opinion and acknowledging the rights of others to do the same. Incredible.

I don't know what I find more objectionable, the article's silly sense of surprise or its condescending tone.

Monday, April 20, 2009

That's More Like It

Today, 23 EU delegatations stood up and walked out of a speech delivered by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I guess Europe isn't lost after all. Yet.

Also, Obama adminstration makes tough statement against Iran and Mahmoud. Here are statements made by State Department spokesman Robert Wood

"If Iran wants a different relationship with the international community, it has to stop this horrible rhetoric."

"This type of rhetoric is unhelpful, it's counter-productive and it just feeds racial hatred. This is not rhetoric that should be used in the 21st century."


Obama: Be Like W

Maria Anastasia O'Grady's piece posted over at Babalu yesterday brought up many great points regarding President Obama at the recently-concluded Summit of the Americas.

Please allow me to briefly focus on something O'Grady touched on: vocal support for Cuban dissidents. Obama and his supporters constantly reminded us that his campaign - his mere existence even - was about CHANGE. CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN. I'm not going to get into the many ways this has been a lie, but there's one area where I wish he would have stood up and been like his predecessor: speak out directly and forcefully against the unjust and inhumane treatment of Cuban dissidents at the hand of the castro regime. In other words, a little more Cowboy W and a little less Obama Cool in front of leaders such as Lula and Bachelet and Ortega and Chavez who don't seem to understand the whole Cuban dissident concept. The difference is that Obama currently has the respect of his peers abroad, and can utilize this as a bully pulpit of sorts to aggressively advocate for Cuba's dissidents. Bush had the gumption and nerve but not the popularity to disseminate the message. Obama may be the exact opposite.

Obama could have mentioned people such as Oscar Elias Biscet and Antunez by name. He could have related their tragic stories for the world to understand, much like President Bush did on several occasions. Cuba considers "everything on the table"? OK, let's start with these two individuals and continue on.

Of course, that would have knocked Mr. Obama's precious halo off in the eyes of many of the Summit attendees. In the light of who the real leaders are, however, that wouldn't have been such a bad thing. And it would have garnered much respect from freedom-loving Americans. Obama had a great opportunity to place a huge chip on the negotiating table by using his popularity to get people on our side when it comes to Cuban dissidents. Too bad he didn't take advantage of this.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Miami Tea Party - 04/19/09

I had the opportunity to go to the Tea Party held in downtown Miami earlier today. Right in front of the Dade County Courthouse, an estimated crowd of about 200-250 people gathered on both sides of Flagler Street for a couple of hours between Noon and 2 PM. Young and old, English and Spanish, but one thing in common was a concern for the massive spending and general direction our country is headed toward. Lots of signs and flags, cars honking their horns, but a very respectful and courteous crowd with nary an offensive sign or display in sight.

The organizer of the event, Marcos Sendon, did a great job considering this was a pure grassroots effort. As far as I could tell, only NBC 6/Telemundo brought out a cameraman to tape the event.

Here are a few pictures I snapped from the Tea Party:

You Know What?

I can definitely get used to the Marlins winning a game in their last at-bat.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

You Know...

I can get used to the Marlins keeping on winning...

¿Como Estás?

That's what President Obama asked Hugo Chavez during a brief but cordial exchange at the Summit of the Americas yesterday. Politicians are used to two-faced talk, so I'll put on my optimist hat and assume that Obama just wanted to get his initial greeting with Chavez out of the way. The AP article linked here described Obama's approach as having "modesty and a touch of humor". OK. Whatever.

Of greater importance is what Obama said yesterday at the Summit, according to the AP piece:
"We have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms," Obama said to loud applause. "But I pledge to you that we seek an equal partnership. There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations."
Is this more of the apologizing that has marked Obama's foreign meet-and-greets? Kind of sounds like it. And about this "equal partnership" thing, Mr. President: you're not using a one-size-fits-all approach, are you? Because not all those leaders down there are exactly on equal footing with us, you know?

Here's some more of that classic Obama humor:
"I'm grateful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was three months old," Obama said, to laughter and applause from the other leaders.
Yuckity yuk. Bill Ayers must have gotten a real kick out of that one.

Of course, the biggest news was the "thawing of relations" between the U.S. and Cuba. I put that in quotation marks because it doesn't take a genius to realize that when the Cuban regime promises to "put everything on the table", you have to be extremely careful of what they're doing UNDER the table. Talk is talk, and the castros are great at it. Color me a skeptic in this case.

Of course, if President Obama goes too far with this frame of mind:
"I didn't come here to debate the past," Obama said. "I came here to deal with the future ... We must learn from history. But we can't be trapped by it."
then I'm afraid anything is possible.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Leftwing vs. Rightwing Extremism

The latest controversy involving the DHS report on rightwing extremism, and its resulting reaction on both sides of the political spectrum, peaked my interest enough to want to look at this issue closer. Fortunately, The Schnitt Show's website has links to not just the original pdf document on rightwing extremism, but the one on leftwing extremism issued by the very same DHS back in January.

The "key findings" shape up like this:

For the leftwingers it's "the potential for economic damage, the individually-initiated and anonymous nature of cyber attacks, and the perception that cyber attacks are nonviolent align well with the ideological beliefs, strategic objectives, and tactics of many leftwing extremists". The core source of these leftwing extremists, according to the report, are extremist elements from animal rights, environmentalist and anarchist movement groups.

For the rightwingers, it's a combination of economic and social factors, the possibility of firearm restrictions, returning military veterans, illegal immigration and an African-American president that are key indicators. The report offers up this example:
A recent example of the potential violence associated with a rise in rightwing extremism may be found in the shooting deaths of three police officers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 4 April 2009. The alleged gunman’s reaction reportedly was influenced by his racist ideology and belief in antigovernment conspiracy theories related to gun confiscations, citizen detention camps, and a Jewish-controlled “one world government.”
On the left side, we have:
In October 2005, animal rights extremists launched an e-mail attack against a Milwaukee, Wisconsin firm that held stock in an animal testing laboratory. The firm subsequently sold its shares in the laboratory, with losses it estimated at approximately $1.4 million.
How do I see this? Frankly, I think many on the right are somewhat exaggerating the anti-right-wing bias aspect of this. As we can see, a report was issued for leftwing extremists three months before the rightwing one came out. There's even a mention of some of these groups resorting to bombings and arson. So to point out that the leftwingers were painted out to be benign, well-meaning folks isn't completely accurate.

Where I DO think those on the right have a case to make lies in the organizations and methods the findings focus on for each group. For the left, it's primarily "non-violent" cyber attacks by fringe elements animal rights, environmentalist and anarchist groups. Sounds relatively harmless and it gives the impression that these folks live in some strange land far far away. For the right, the implication one can draw is that it's regular folks that get pushed into white supremacist and anti-government groups by a combination of economic and social factors, as well as a latent racism of sorts against President Obama. Among these regular folks: our military. In other words, it could be your neighbor next door who could decide to blow up a building. It could be that brave soldier who returns home, doesn't have a job and murders a bunch of minorities or plots to assassinate the President of the United States.

In other words, one can say the report pits leftwing nut cases targeting rich folks versus Average Joe who gets "recruited" and goes off the deep end because he has a propensity for disliking blacks and immigrants and can't find a job. While I don't totally buy into this as the intent of the reports, it's not an unreasonable conclusion to draw, IMO.

Perhaps the wording was clumsier in the rightwing report. But an honest analysis of both documents does seem to suggest a more pessimistic, threatening and downright scary scenario for the rightwing extremists, one that can come from just about anywhere and from anyone that has a beef against President Obama, whereas the leftwing report focused on specific fringe groups targeting banks and corporations using "non-violent" means.

Are the reports' conclusions based on reality of some sort? Sure (Timothy McVeigh rings a bell). But the perception that anyone could fall into the rightwing extremist trap is one that bothers me. Especially when "anyone" is either veterans or anyone not affiliated with fringe groups.

Tea Party Summary

Our neighbors to the north at East Central Florida Gazette have a good account of yesterday's Tea Party events. Not strictly a blow-by-blow account of the proceedings, but instead a balanced description of the meaning and purpose behind the events - which have been largely distorted (not surprisingly) by the MSM.
If you visit any of the echoing chattering nodes of the Left, you will be greeted by a circular shouting match that goes something like this: "Rightwingers, Rethugs, Repiggies, etc...are crazy, delusional and in denial about taxes, Obama and the War on Islamic Terrorism." The common Dailykos/HuffPo/DemocratUnderground assessment of these rallies is either A) These Americans are crazy or B) If they are not crazy, then they are stupid and/or greedy because taxes are low already.

The giant flaw in this scintillating logic is that the protests were primarily about spending and the role of government in each American's life. The Left is correct in that taxes are historically low, as a percentage of GDP. They are dishonest in describing what the scope of government intrusion into each American's life will be under the proposals offered by the Obama White House and the Pelosi/Reid Congress. They are also disconnected from a more serious problem than income inequality, and that is tax burden inequality. The bottom 40% of Americans effectively pay no income taxes at all, while the top 20% shoulder 75% of the total tax burden. We have become a society where many have no interest in taxes as they do not pay them, or at least enough to be concerned. These non-burdened Americans will always be predisposed to ask for higher taxes and more government, while an ever dwindling share of the populace foots the bill for the whole country. Aside from the economic deficiencies that attend a narrow tax base, there are moral ones as well. No country in history has ever survived where the majority of its people did not contribute to the maintneance of their country.

Cuba-Related Thought of the Day

How many times have we heard smart and reasonable people make this remark as a way of explaining why the U.S./Cuba policy has failed:

"The castros have outlasted 10 U.S. Presidents!"

As Bill O'Reilly accurately pointed out last night (to paraphrase):

"It's easy to last 50 years in power on an island where the boot is pressed firmly against the neck of the people".

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tea Parties

The Sun-Sentinel has coverage of the Tea Party held in Fort Lauderdale today. The Miami Herald has a story on tea parties across the country, but nothing on the local ones (way to go Herald!).

Meanwhile, some of our local southpaw (ideologically-speaking) bloggers are marking the occasion by making fun of the whole thing, namely here and here.

That's OK, my left-of-center fellow bloggers. Go right ahead and ridicule ordinary Americans who are expressing a legitimate concern in a civilized, respectful and lawful manner. Unfortunately, it says a lot more about your tolerance and respect for diverse points of view than it does about the merits of the tea parties themselves.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Carl Hiaasen - Broken Down

Here's your (almost) weekly 2 Think Good link, this one breaking down Carl Hiaasen's CANF-worship piece from two days ago as only Jorge can.


Kendrick Meek Stands Up For Cubans

Here's what Rep. Meek had to say about the lifting of limits on remittances to Cuba:
free-flowing remittances would amount to ``further propping up a regime that suppresses human rights, freedoms and personal mobility. . . . To have remittances meant for family members in Cuba siphoned off by the regime in Havana would be a deep insult to Cuban Americans everywhere.''
Right on. The travel part of the restrictions being lifted doesn't bother me nearly as much as the remittances for two reasons: one which Meek mentions above (the 20% "tax"), and the other being that a large portion of the Cuban population that doesn't have relatives in Cuba get even more screwed.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Lot About Little

The news of the lifting of Cuba travel restrictions for Cuban-Americans is met with a sort of a shrug from me. Not a shrug of one who's been debunked or proven wrong, but a shrug of realization that this is "a lot to do about little". I am in favor of looser restrictions (not a total lifting) for Cuban-American travel, simply because it's the humanitarian thing to do, not because of any change it will have on the regime or on the lives of most Cubans - especially those who don't have immediate access to family in the United States. As Alberto accurately points out, as long as the regime is in control, we can blast all the satellite signals we want, we can text message our Tio Pepe in Marianao to our heart's content...what difference will it make when the boot is still firmly pressing against the neck?

It's that simple, and that tragic. Which leads to my next point. Many "pragmatists" will justify the reasoning for lifting of restrictions as eliminating one of the excuses Cuba uses for their problems. I just heard it on local Spanish radio a few minutes ago. It's the old "Cuba will have no one else to blame for their problems" argument. That's a bunch of baloney. Facts are facts, plain and simple. Those who fail to see this aren't pragmatic as much as they are deluded.

Cuba's problems begin and end with the regime, and many world leaders that prefer to point the finger at the United States, aside from being morally empty, are far from the ideal any reasonable person should follow. Does anyone think that Hugo Chavez will finally be convinced that it was Cuba's fault all along? Lula? Zapatero? These folks would much rather be against the United States than for the Cuban people.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Just want to wish everyone a Happy Easter and Passover.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bipartisanship In The Era of Hope and Change

This short snippet by Charles Schumer over at Paul Ibrahim's blog made me shudder just a little.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Sousa: Cuba Travel A Right

This kind of slipped under the radar in the wake of the reaction to the Clueless Seven's visit to Cuba to genuflect before fidel castro, but Jackie Bueno Sousa wrote a column a few days ago supporting unrestricted travel to Cuba:

It's easy to see why anyone would think that a recent U.S. Senate bill to end the ban on Americans traveling to Cuba is a guise to loosen the embargo against the island.

It's true that the measure is more than what it seems, but not for the reasons one might think. Instead, its hidden depth says more about us as a nation than it could ever say about Cuba.


There are many reasons to empathize with arguments on both sides of the Cuba issue. For all their differences, however, the arguments often have one thing in common: they are laden with emotion. There's retributive anger on one side, misguided compassion on the other.

And through the decades of debate, we've been so focused on Cuba that we've overlooked our own principles, trapping them in the abyss that lies between opposing passions, like a child forgotten in the heat of a messy divorce. In more than 40 years of discourse, I've heard only one argument solid enough to justify the impediment of legitimate business activity and an individual's natural-born inclination to explore the world.

Interestingly enough, it came from our very own government, which decades ago successfully argued that it had the right to deny its citizens trade and travel as a matter of national security.

The current policy ultimately derives its legal powers from the Trading with the Enemy Act and President Harry Truman's declaration in 1950 of a national emergency to stem the threatening spread of communism. As a result, any justification for the embargo and travel ban centers on whether Cuba poses a threat sufficient enough to curtail our rights.

Obviously I was disappointed in Sousa's opinion. In an ideal world, we should be able to travel where we'd like. And for the most part, we do. But actions matter. If travel to a country mainly serves to fill the pockets of oppressors, we have a moral obligation to not contribute to the filling of said pockets. That's my opinion, naturally...and your mileage may vary.

I wrote a letter to Ms. Sousa stating my reasons for supporting the travel ban. It was a respectful letter but one that left no doubt where I stand. Here's how I concluded my letter:

I would rather be wrong and be on the side of innocent men, women and children who are deprived of their freedoms every day of their lives, than be right for technical reasons and help support tyrants and murderers. The United States is the only country that stands up for the Cuban dissidents, their families and their cause. Do we want to lose that distinction? Do you want us to lose that distinction?

In light of the Clueless Seven's visit, can there be any doubt about which side we should be on? BTW, haven't received a response from Ms. Sousa.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Ms. Marquez, get ready for the onslaught.

Clueless Seven indeed. I have to disagree with the title of Marquez's excellent piece, however. The Clueless Seven's Cuba concerns aren't misguided in the least. They are perfectly in line with their own racist and blatantly un-American views.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Liberal Talk Radio Off Air in South Florida

WINZ 940 AM, South Florida's radio link to Air America and liberal talk, was replaced by sports talk last Friday. Believe it or not, this news doesn't exactly thrill me. In fact, in a market already super-saturated with sports talk, an alternative talk station, even a liberal one, is/was welcome. This is of course my personal view. Others may be throwing wild parties at the news that Air America can no longer be heard in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market.

Via SFDB comes this blog saddened by the demise of liberal talk 940 AM. The blog, Radio or Not, is authored by Nicole Sandler, a radio veteran who had a morning show on 940 AM before being dropped last summer. Sandler makes some points which I would like to comment on:
(The loss of liberal talk) hurts because, even though the Democrats control both houses of Congress and the White House, the giant corporation and conglomerates that own and operate the majority of the radio stations in the country continue to push the fallacy that liberal talk radio can't work.

The fact is that it can. In cities where the signals of the "liberal" and the "conservative" stations are on par with each other, and where the stations are also on an equal footing when it comes to resources, they are quite competitive.
Let me refute the competitive angle by stating that in the case of WIOD (conservative talk) and 940 AM in South Florida, both stations are owned by the same entity, Clear Channel. Both transmitters have plenty of juice, with 940 able to heard as far away as Fort Myers on the west coast. For a little background, please click here for a post back in February which covered talk radio in South Florida, and click here for the ratings for the past year. The ratings show that WIOD beat 940 by more than double, despite being owned by the same company and having the same geographical reach. This is even more noteworthy considering that English-speaking South Florida isn't exactly a bastion of conservatism. Comparing apples to apples, liberal talk in South Florida was roundly defeated.

Sandler continues by railing on "big business" which is "best served" by Republicans:
But let's look at it another way... Most radio stations are operated by BIG business. As much as the right likes to label the media as liberal, the fact is that most media outlets are owned by BIG corporations, whose interests are best served by the Republican agenda. Deregulation, tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, tax loopholes for those same BIG businesses... you get the idea.

It's no wonder that 90% of the stations that air political talk opt to promote their conservative/Republican ideology.

Do they have an audience? Yes. Is there an audience for an opposing viewpoint? YES!
BIG business is interested in one thing, making BIG money, not spreading their ideology, whichever that might be. How they arrive at making said BIG money depends solely on one thing, the consumer. If liberal talk was such a big success (which naturally it's not), Clear Channel and other media conglomerates would be making sure that Air America remains a healthy entity. However, those pesky ratings prove otherwise, which goes back to the consumer thing.

South Florida's ratings for conservative vs. liberal talk is the sole argument one needs to present to show why Clear Channel dumped the liberal talk format. In TV and print media, where liberals DO dominate (sorry Ms. Sandler), "BIG business" is equally concerned with one thing: ratings. TV gets a large part of their ratings via their prime time lineup, fueled by liberal Hollywood. TV news coverage leans left, especially on the networks and all cable channels except FOX. On the print side: New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, Chicago Tribune.....the country's biggest newspapers all lean left, as do the vast majority of papers nationwide.

The liberal viewpoint is heard every single hour of every single day via various formats. If talk radio, the only media outlet where conservatives have established a foothold, hasn't embraced liberal talk, it's not because of "Republican BIG Business". It's because of a lack of quality talent as well as an over-saturation of left-leaning news and viewpoints in our media which don't necessarily represent a large part of America.

Sorry, Ms. Sandler. Your argument that media conglomerates are purposely holding down liberal talk radio is flawed on many levels. I think the points presented here easily dispatch this assertion.

I believe Clear Channel wants to test the South Florida sports talk waters, where until now they weren't an active participant in. They probably think they can knock off competitor WQAM and get better ratings than they did with the liberal talk format (it's interesting to note that liberal talk 940 edged out WQAM's ratings). Again, it's all about ratings.

As well-intentioned and passionate as Nicole Sandler appears to be about her business, as well as my understanding of her disappointment at the loss of her preferred radio format in South Florida, her concluding paragraph raised my eyebrows:
I do appreciate the extra effort it takes to listen to the Radio or Not Podcast. I know that the day will come, in the not-too-distant future, when listening to a podcast in your car will be as easy as pushing a button. Unfortunately, timing is not on our side in South Florida today, where at 6:00 this evening, the option of pushing a button and hearing someone who is politically in line with the people who run our country will be lost. Somehow, that seems very un-American!
I think it's safe to say Ms. Sandler would embrace the Fairness Doctrine like a long, long lost friend. That, my friends, is what's truly un-American.


Monday, April 06, 2009

Note to Congressional Black Caucus: Visit Political Prisoners in Cuba

I'm very proud to be a campaign sponsor for BUCL's efforts to raise awareness of Cuba's black political prisoners. It's time that our black congressional leaders (Congressional Black Caucus) currently touring Cuba in an effort to open diplomatic relations with a brutal dictatorship speak out in support of brave individuals who have suffered at the hands of a brutal regime.

Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and Jorge Luis Perez Garcia, also known as Antunez. Remember these two names, these individuals and their struggle for freedom. While the Congressional Black Caucus enjoy the fine hospitality offered to them by the castro regime, the least they can do is to acknowledge the severe injustice imposed on these two individuals and others of their own race on that very island where they're being wined and dined for the next few days.

Play Ball!!

Let's Go Marlins!

Hope it isn't too hot for those going out to the game today. Don't worry. In three years we'll be in comfort at the stadium.

Let's Talk, fidel Says

File this one under the Yeah. Right. category:
Fidel Castro said Monday that Cuba is not afraid to talk to the United States and that the communist government does not thrive on confrontation as its detractors claim.
Naturally, the Congressional Black Caucus fell over themselves in reply to fidel's "column":

Seven members of the Congressional Black Caucus are in Havana this week to discuss ways to improve relations. Democratic Rep. Mel Watt of North Carolina said Fidel Castro's column made it "clear that both countries can exist without either dialogue or adversity to each other."

"But wouldn't it be so wonderful if we struck a dialogue and found the things that were mutually advantageous and mutually of interest to our two countries," he added, "and stopped the historical divisions that have separated us (though we are) so close geographically?"


No. But. Yes.

Rick, it would be more genuine of you if you just came out and said that right-wingers' support of the Second Amendment caused this. Your "whiles", "ors" and "coulds" wouldn't sound so incredibly dishonest and ridiculous, either.

Congratulations on garnering attention by way of this incredibly unfortunate and misguided opinion of yours.


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Back to Basics on Cuba Policy

Sometimes, the easiest way to explain a rather complex position such as the ban on travel to Cuba is by going back to basics.

Marc Masferrer does just this in a post last week:

I know Americans are special — at least most of us like to think so — but why exactly do so many feel that the key to Cuban freedom is the right of Americans to freely travel to the island? After all, people from the rest of the world are free to visit Cuba and spend their money, and yet Cuba is still an economic and moral basket case.

Isn't the real problem with Cuba that Cubans are not allowed to travel freely from the island? Any politician, Democrat or Republican, who fails to recognize that, does not recognize, nor care, about what Cuba really needs.

Yes, Americans are special. We stand for freedom, and with those who share our faith in liberty and in their fellow man. If that means we are the only ones to stand up against the Castro dictatorship and with the freedom fighters in Cuba like Oscar Elias Biscet and Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez," than at least we know we are on the right side.

We shouldn't be so quick to give up our high ground just so we can have more vacation options when Cubans still don't have the same, and so much more.

Friday, April 03, 2009

U.S. Delegation Visits Cuba

As the drums gradually beat louder and louder regarding a move by Congress to allow unfettered travel to Cuba, I present to you on this Friday morning one of the leaders of this effort, Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, California, who is in Cuba today:

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will be heading to Cuba today with a congressional delegation to discuss thawing relations between the United States and the Caribbean island.

The diplomatic overture signals a possible easing off policies that had hardened under the Republican administration of former President George W. Bush.

"The election of President Barack Obama presents a great new opportunity to rethink U.S. foreign policy in many regions of the world," Lee said.

The purpose of the delegation is to review trade and commerce policies with Cuba and discuss cultural, health and academic exchanges, which are complicated by a ban on travel to Cuba for most U.S. citizens — the only country in the world to bar its citizens from visiting the island.

Lee also has joined Democratic and Republican House members in supporting a bill introduced Thursday to lift the travel restrictions.

Critics of the ban estimate that U.S. tourism to Cuba — just 90 miles from the southernmost point of the 48 contiguous states — could generate as much as $1.6 billion annually.

But there are fears that an influx of U.S. tourism would lead Cuba in an unwanted direction. Others oppose the move because they say it would bolster the Communist regime headed by Raul Castro.

Cuba's official response to the bill to lift travel restrictions has been cool, according to press accounts. The reason for the response may be that the bill does not advocate ending the economic, financial and commercial embargo that has been in place for 45 years.

The U.S. government imposed the blockade after Fidel Castro, who led the 1959 revolution that ousted the U.S.-backed Batista regime, took control of U.S. properties, particularly the American Fruit Co. Raul Castro, his brother, took over leadership in 2008.

Lee said she wants to send a message to Cubans that the U.S. public is interested in "building a new relationship."

"America's harsh approach toward our nearest Caribbean neighbor divides families, closes an important market to struggling U.S. farmers, harasses our allies, and is based on antiquated Cold War-era thinking," Lee said.

That last paragraph should tell you everything you have to know about where Barbara Lee stands. It's America's fault poor little Cuba has succommed to a brutal dictatorship. It's America's fault that countries like Venezuela are so offended by our harsh treatment of the castro brothers.

(insert Billy Mays voice) But wait! That's not all!!

This particular quote by Rep. Lee really takes the cake and should send shivers down your spine:

"The election of President Barack Obama presents a great new opportunity to rethink U.S. foreign policy in many regions of the world," Lee said.

This from the only person in Congress that voted against the authorization of use of force after 9/11. And this individual is representing our country in Cuba right now.

Marc shares his excellent thoughts here.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Et Tu, Lincoln, Ileana and Mario?

Our three esteemed Republican Cuban-American congressmen and woman were among 10 Republicans to vote in favor of imposing government limits on compensation and bonuses to bailed-out bank employees. The measures, according to the proposed bill, would cover non-performance based compensation.

That last sentence is important. Non-performance based compensation. Can anyone explain exactly what constitutes non-performance based compensation? OK, I guess it could be giving someone a bonus because, heck, he's a real nice guy despite the fact he's totally incompetent. Doesn't sound too bad on the surface, does it? However, this section from the linked article is quite revealing:

"The Pay for Performance Act is based on two simple concepts. One, no one has the right to get rich off taxpayer money, and two, no one should get rich off abject failure," said one of the bill's authors, Representative Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat who co-authored the measure. "We should not pay an arsonist to put out his own fire, and we should not be paying an executive to ruin his own bank."

The measure is largely expected to sideline a bill previously passed by the House of Representatives that aimed to impose a 90 percent tax on bonuses for certain executives at companies that receive taxpayer bailouts. That measure appeared to be losing momentum in the Senate.

The new and less aggressive approach would authorize the Treasury to provide the guidance on what is unreasonable or excessive, and what constitutes performance-based pay. Firms that pay back their government funds or set up a repayment schedule with the Treasury will no longer have to comply with the limits.

I'm a career federal government employee, and I have seen poor performance rewarded. That's your taxpayer dollars going to someone who barely meets minimum performance standards on a good day. Let me stress, this is NOT the norm in my organization, nor is it agreeable to the vast majority of the employees or management, but it's happened enough that it should disturb anyone. I'm positive my particular organization isn't the only one that's been guilty of this. It's a well-earned reputation our government has when it comes to treating its own employees at the expense of poor service. I wonder what Mr. Grayson would have to say about that? I'm sure - based on his key quote above - that he would be equally outraged and begin to take steps to impose the same standards on federal employees.

Uh. Huh. Dream on.

You see, the government, and many of our politicians in particular, have no firm ground to stand on telling private companies what is good performance, what isn't and what should and shouldn't be compensated. Not because it's our money on the line, but because they've proven many times that they have no clue nor any real concern for how they constantly misspend our money. Mr. Grayson and his colleagues can sound righteous all they want, but this American isn't buying it. Or maybe I have no choice with regards to that last sentence.

Michelle Malkin pretty much nails it here:
Yes, I believe that taxpayer money should come with strings attached. Go ahead: Force them to disclose how they spend the money. But dictating compensation for the sake of mollifying the mob? Is that fiscally conservative? What do “excessive” and “unreasonable” mean? Who defines it?

If you don’t want companies spending our money on “excessive” bonuses, do not give them the money in the first place. Period.

The descent down the slippery slope continues...

(Cross-posted at Babalu)

Marlins Take Another Step

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

It's About Time

It's largely symbolic, but by Republicans in Congress finally unveiling an "alternative" budget plan, they finally have a starting point with which to counter Obama on.

La Ventanita has a graph to go along with her analysis here.