[freedomtowernight_edited.jpg] 26th Parallel: October 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sunrise on Biscayne Bay

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Bob Griese's Politically Incorrect Taco Incident

Poor Bob Griese. The Hall-of-Famer, former Miami Dolphins QB and long-time ABC college football announcer gets a one-game suspension for stating that Colombian NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya was "out having a taco" during a college football broadcast this past weekend.

I won't bore my readers with all the reasons Griese's suspension is ridiculous. I'll just say that I wish it was me, not Montoya, Griese referenced as the taco-consumer. My public reply would then have been:

"Excuse me, Mr. Griese, but on my time off I choose to eat what any self-respecting Cuban-American would, a big, hearty plate of Cuban black beans and rice".

Monday, October 26, 2009

John Paul II Film Festival

Starting this weekend, the John Paul II Film Festival will be running in theaters all across Miami-Dade County.

Why I am bringing this up? Aside from the concept, which I think is fantastic, what makes me proud is the fact that the event organizers attend the same church I do. We've been following the progress of the festival since its creation early this year, and their faith, motivation and drive in putting this together has been nothing short of inspirational to me and my fellow parishoners.

The Miami Herald did a nice story on the festival which is included below in its entirety (thanks Herald). Further proof that faith, sacrifice and spirituality is alive and well in Miami:

There's no shortage of film festivals in Miami: Colombian, Black, Brazilian, and Gay and Lesbian, to name a few.

This week, a trio of young Miamians will bring something different to the region's big-screen scene: a religious, interfaith film festival modeled after the life of a popular pope. The John Paul II International Film Festival, which kicks off Thursday and runs through Nov. 7, includes films varying from God in the Streets of NYC, a short on Jesus on the streets of New York City, and God in China, a documentary on religion and politics among the Chinese, to The 13th Day, a feature on the memoirs of a 20th-century Portuguese nun.

``There seemed to be a hunger for films with meaning rather than just sex drugs and rock 'n' roll,'' said Laura Alvarado, a 25-year-old actress who teaches at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Coconut Grove. Alvarado and two friends from a youth group at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Kendall brainstormed the festival nine months ago and were able to raise $40,000 in donations.

``At first, we thought, `Oh man, our name is John Paul II, people are going to get turned off,' '' Alvarado said.

Instead, dozens of people, including rabbis and Protestant ministers, have been promoting the event around South Florida houses of worship. More than 100 films were submitted this summer by directors from Miami to the United Kingdom. Thirty were chosen to be shown at theaters across Miami-Dade, including a Jewish community center in Kendall. Organizers said they came together through their interest in the former pope, who was an actor and playwright as a young Polish man and was known for his interfaith accomplishments.


``It didn't matter what your background was for John Paul II. He was the first pope to really try to cross that bridge and reach out to all the faiths,'' said organizer Rafael Anrrich, a 39-year-old therapist from Kendall. ``We're trying to do the same.''

As a pope, John Paul II made strides by improving the Catholic church's relations with the Jewish community -- including his historical visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem -- and was the first pope to visit a mosque. He also met with Buddhist and Anglican leaders.

Festival submissions were not required to be about specific religions but did need to have a spiritual element. Many are about crossing boundaries, faith-related or otherwise. As We Forgive is about Rwandan women who attempt to confront and forgive the men who killed their families during a brutal genocide, while The Boy in the Striped Pajamas portrays a friendship that develops between a Jewish boy in a concentration camp and the son of a Nazi commander.

``People can get into theological arguments, but at the end, we're all human beings. We want to bring that idea to film and show how much love and passion there is in art,'' said Frank Brennan, a 24-year-old English major at Florida International University and an independent filmmaker. Brennan said he grew up in a nominally Catholic family and didn't begin to embrace his faith until three years ago when he attended a religious retreat on a whim. Now, he regularly attends Our Lady of Lourdes and helps organize monthly prayer sessions at the church for the film festival.


``If I had something like this sort of festival when I was younger, I think I would feel more comfortable with learning about different faiths,'' he said.

In 1987, John Paul II made a historical visit to South Florida and spoke to tens of thousands of locals and pilgrims at Tamiami Park near Florida International University, where a handful of the film festival screenings will take place.

``Now,'' said Anrrich, ``he's coming back.''

Obscene Profits Not So Obscene After All

I'm glad to see this fact-check report come out from AP indicating that the bluster being raised by Democrats regarding the profits cashed in by health insurance companies is much to do about not so much.

Don't believe that the average profit margin for health plans is less than obscene? Check it out here. Of course, this implies that people critical of health insurance company profits actually understand what a profit margin is. When it comes to the Obama administration, they understand perfectly.

I don't have any personal vested interest in any money insurance companies make or don't make, but facts are facts and in the endless health care debate, too many fabrications on both sides have been put out. It's nice for once to see the MSM challenge the administration's rhetoric and falsehoods.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Liberals Take Note of Media Bias

As a silver lining kind of guy, I see the White House's latest bully-swipe at an independent news organization (Fox News) as being good for one reason (no, it's not Fox's skyrocketing ratings):

Liberals are finally taking notice of bias in the media. Of course, they're totally blind to where the vast majority of the bias lies, but a start is a start. Baby steps...

Friday, October 23, 2009


Alberto's post at Babalu yesterday deals with Marifeli Perez-Stable's response letter to the Miami Herald in which she calls for Cubans to "honor the fallen on both sides". Central to this issue is the question of reconciliation. Is it acceptable and desirable to reach out to those on the other side, forgive past transgressions, and work toward a better future for Cuba?

My answer would have to be yes, but only if there is a conversion and the conversion is sincere and complete. Read that last part again. Sincere and complete. Granted, few people are going to have a Paul-like conversion and by the sheer grace of God turn from fierce foe to "Apostle of the Gentiles" over the course of a long weekend, but complete conversions can and do happen and we need to recognize and accept those individuals who have managed to accomplish this.

Where the Perez-Stables of the world are misguided is in their desire to automatically excuse the so-called good intentioned people who fought on the side of and/or defended the regime. This mentality seems to misunderstand a key component of reconciliation, which is that forgiveness has to be asked for, not automatically granted. Besides, would an intransigent and unrepentant supporter of the regime even WANT our forgiveness after his side goes down in defeat? Probably not. Only those who see the error of their ways and take strides to work for positive change are deserving of forgiveness for past acts.

Folks who passively support the regime and refuse or fail to support those who seek positive change don't deserve our forgiveness, either. BTW, this group does NOT include those who are undoubtedly against the regime but do not fall under the exile hard-liner category because of their differing views on how to achieve change in Cuba. While I may have my sharp differences with these individuals, never would I turn my back on them if their hearts are in the right place.

Is there a bit of gray area we're dealing with here? Absolutely, but in the end we have to trust our well formed conscience and know who we feel is genuine and who isn't.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cyclists on Rickenbacker Causeway

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Shared Assumptions

Reader Steve left this excellent comment to my "crazy letter" post the other day:
I think what some people (like the letter writer) forget is that the basis of a deal is a set of shared assumptions and objectives. For example the negotiation of a real estate purchase has a presupposition that the buyer wants to buy and the seller wants to sell!

"Negotiating" with the Taliban to "cut a deal" is a joke. What are we going to offer the Taliban? What are they going to offer us? In reality, we can either stay and fight or we leave with our tail between our legs. We know that and they know that. Does the writer believe we can negotiate with them so they support Democracy when we leave? Or that they will support women's rights when we leave? If we leave it is their show, they can do what they want.
Reading this comment made me immediately think of the debate regarding negotiations with those who don't share the same views we do. Case in point: Cuba. It would not be an impossible task if the parties involved were honest and decent, with any differences merely rooted in ideology. Sure, it still wouldn't be easy, but at least you know there is a "shared objective" that can be considered to be desirable for the common good. However, this is certainly not the case when dealing with Cuba. Time and time again, overtures have been rejected because of "meddling" over human rights and other pesky issues which Cuba (and many of the regime's supporters) claims is the right of a sovereign state to follow or reject without outside interference. Unfortunately, there are too many folks like the letter writer in the original post who live in the world of moral equivalence who fail or simply refuse to see that when you're dealing with rogue states like Cuba or the Taliban, one side is infinitely superior to the other.

Defending Rush

Once again, I feel compelled to defend Rush Limbaugh, despite the fact that I'm not a big fan of his, I don't listen to him regularly and I don't think what he says represents the entire vast "right-wing conspiracy" (sarcasm).

Why, then? 1) Because it smacks of extreme bias and hypocrisy, and 2) It shows how completely laughable journalism is today. Also, it sucks to be called a racist for no real reason.

This blog post by Toby Harnden at the Daily Telegraph contains ample information an honest person needs to refute or at least put in serious doubt any and all of the racist comments attributed to Rush Limbaugh over the years. With all the attention given to Rush on a daily basis, wouldn't you think that something, anything, concrete and undeniable would have been unearthed by now? The smoking gun, if you will? Of course, but we're talking about folks who have no problem using conjecture (at best) to trash the man.

The only comment that's well publicized and 100% verifiable which bothered people was Rush's comment in 2003 about Donovan McNabb being overrated because he's black. A poor, inaccurate statement? Sure! Does that make him a racist? No. To use that comment as a springboard for the Limbaugh-is-a-racist accusations shows the extreme dishonesty and hypocrisy that exemplifies too many people on the left.

While you peruse Toby Harnden's post, please make sure to click on the video link to Rick Sanchez's comments/interview. If you need an example why journalism isn't trusted these days, Hialeah Rick is a prime example.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Classic Miami Story

For those of you who are tired of reading the same old "Miami sucks" stories, here's an classic example of a story which could (and should) be heard every day in Miami if we just put aside our preconceived notions and start to get to know our neighbors better:

When I arrived in Miami in the early 1970s, I never could imagine that I would end up calling Miami home.

Nor could I imagine that, years later, I would be one of eight individuals in this great nation tapped to create a new examination for immigrants applying to become U.S. citizens.

We came to Miami after a short stay in Spain. I came with my parents, Isabel and Ramon Santos, and my younger sister, Ana. Like many young children, we were excited about moving into a new place, learning a new language and making new friends.

We did not understand that my mother's quiet cries and my dad's despondency at the lack of jobs meant we were in exile. As we left Cuba, my dad had prohibited us from looking back to wave goodbye to our grandmothers and aunt as we walked through the tarmac. He knew it was the point of no return.

Miami was difficult for my parents, who had to learn English and work in fields outside of their expertise. My mother worked at the employees' cafeteria at Mercy Hospital in Coconut Grove, while my dad, who had worked in the furniture business in Cuba, worked at many jobs before starting his interior design business. He is still active today at 75.

My mother was another story.

Even though she had a university degree and she had been a school principal for 21 years in her native Cuba, she was the silent sacrificial lamb. She worked at Mercy for more than 15 years while attending night school to revalidate her university studies. She did this so we had health insurance.

Once she finished school, she secured a teaching position at Westview Elementary. From there, she taught at South Hialeah Elementary, until she retired in 2000.

My mother's resiliency must have worn off because I firmly believe education is the stepping stone to improve my community. A product of Miami-Dade public schools, I attended the University of Miami, where I graduated with a bachelor's degree in arts and science and a master's of science in education. I graduated from Florida State University with a juris doctorate and I am attending Nova University to complete my doctoral degree in education.

Originally, I wanted to practice law, but when I found a part-time teaching position to supplement my income as a paralegal at the Miami-Dade State Attorney's office, I fell in love with teaching. I returned to school to get my credentials and have been teaching for more than 20 years.

I got my start at Brownsville Middle. Today, I work in the communications department of Miami-Dade Schools and teach part-time at Miami High's adult education center. It was in my adult education classroom, where I was preparing immigrants to become American citizens, that I got the call to join a think tank of experts who would be charged with creating a standardized test for citizenship applicants in 2006. It was the first such test.

I live in Kendall with my husband Carlos Catire and our 13-year-old son Francis. My parents and sister still live in the same home that I grew up in West Miami.

I am a volunteer with United Way, Hands on Miami, the Junior League of Miami, Hearing and Speech Center and other professional organizations.

It is my way of saying, ``Thank you, Miami,'' for opening your arms to us many years ago.

They Get (Crazy) Letters

...like this one:

Leave Afghanistan

The only way out of Afghanistan for the United States is to send a diplomat with significant negotiating skills there to negotiate a coalition of major Taliban sects.

The Taliban must run the country. There will never be a ``representative'' government. Afghanistan will be an Islamic republic like Iran, and that's OK. We just need to cut a deal that they will no longer harbor world-class terrorists. The Karzai government should be removed before we leave. Don't send any more U.S. troops.


Have some of us already forgotten what the Taliban helped do to us after years of planning? "Just cutting a deal" is just insane.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Latest Healthcare Polling

A cursory look at the results of a recent poll according to this AP article reveals some contradictory signals. While I'm perfectly aware that polls can often indicate mixed signals, it's still noteworthy to point these out.
Months of Republican attacks on President Barack Obama’s health-care proposals appear to have hurt the party, according to a Quinnipiac University poll.

The survey found 64 percent of voters disapproving of the way Republicans in Congress are doing their jobs, with 25 percent approving. Also, 53 percent had an unfavorable opinion of the party in general, while 25 percent rated it favorably.

The performance of Democratic lawmakers was disapproved of by 56 percent, with 33 expressing approval. For the party in general, 46 percent expressed disapproval, 38 percent approval.

Asked who they trusted to do a better job on the health-care issue, 47 percent said Obama, 31 percent said the Republicans. The president’s overall approval rating was 50 percent, unchanged from a similar survey in late July and early August.

So basically, neither party is popular these days (no surprise there). Obama's approval ratings have stopped falling and are hovering around 50 percent. Honestly, that's a good sign for the president. What that means for us may be a different story. Stay tuned.

Here's where the contradictions come in:

At the same time, voters disapproved of the way Obama was handling health care, 51 percent to 41 percent. His health-care plan was opposed by 47 percent, supported by 40 percent.

The poll found voters support a government-run plan to compete with private insurers 61 percent to 34 percent. Obama backs creating such a program, which has been the focus of much of the health-care debate in Congress. House and Senate Democrats are divided over the proposal, known as the public option, while most Republicans oppose it.


The survey found voters support having businesses pay for employee health insurance, 73 percent to 23 percent. The poll respondents were more closely divided on whether Americans should be required to buy health insurance, as Obama wants. The proposal was backed by 50 percent, opposed by 45 percent.

Obama has said he won’t sign a health-care bill if it is projected to add to the federal budget deficit. In the poll, 71 percent said they expect any measure that emerges from Congress would increase the deficit, while 19 percent said they believe it wouldn’t.


The survey of 2,630 voters was conducted Sept. 29-Oct. 5 and has an error margin of plus-or-minus 1.9 percentage points.

A majority (51 percent) disapprove of Obama's handling of healthcare, and a plurality (47 percent) are flatly opposed to Obama's plan, but a larger majority (61 percent) support a government-run plan. Since this is a centerpiece of Obama's overall plan, the disparity is a little surprising.

Most telling (and confusing) is the overwhelming number (71 percent) that expects the deficit to increase as a result of a healthcare bill. Assuming everyone thinks an increasing deficit is a negative, one would expect overall support of a healthcare bill, Obama's plan in general and his overall handling of the issue to be more in line with the 71 percent figure above. A lot of this depends on exactly what was asked and the choices given, so unless we read into that closer it's impossible to pin down the reasons for the disparity. Nevertheless, interesting stuff.

Monday, October 05, 2009

No Time For Hardball

This quote jumped at me regarding the Obama/McChrystal situation:
An adviser to the administration said: "People aren't sure whether McChrystal is being naïve or an upstart. To my mind he doesn't seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly."
I understand President Obama being upset at General McChrystal for not following the chain of command and taking his complaints directly to his superiors. But now is definitely not the time for "Washington hard-ball". Not when we're involved in a war where Americans are being killed in record numbers. Perhaps McChrystal wanted a little one-on-one with Obama, any way he could get it (since he can't seem to get it otherwise). Or perhaps he's seeing what's happening on the ground and realizes that we need more troops, not less, and he's getting nothing but hard-ball from Washington.

Obama never had a problem with the war in Afghanistan, so he told us during the campaign. That was the just war, we were told. OK, Mr. President. Your general in Afghanistan, perhaps in a moment of understandable human frustration, misspoke. But, surely, you understand what it's like to be under pressure and have the lives of countless numbers of men in your hands, right? Leadership means you sometimes have to "step in it" every once in a while for the sake of your cause. Unfortunately, our president only steps in it to defend his indefensible friends, but that's another story.

Give the man what our troops need for victory. Now.

(Via Drudge)

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Fredi Did Good

The Florida Marlins concluded its 2009 season today, finishing the season in 2nd place in the National League East with a record of 87-75. If you're the Yankees, Red Sox or Mets, that record would not be acceptable. However, for the Marlins of 2009, I say that's a pretty good record, all things considered.

I mention this because the latest rumor is that Manager Fredi Gonzalez's job may be on shaky ground. Several news reports, including this one by the Herald's Clark Spencer, indicate that Marlins ownership is considering replacing the entire coaching staff. One possibility mentioned: Ex-Met manager Bobby Valentine. Oh boy.

This would be a bad move by Loria/Samson. Fredi Gonzalez took a team with the lowest payroll in the majors and they ended up winning only 4 games less than the 2003 World Champion Marlins team won. That's right. Only 4 games less (the 1997 WS champ Marlins won 92 games). Gonzalez had a team with a good bats, but limited speed, a limited defense (to say the least) and a mediocre closer. The Marlins don't have a catcher (Baker/Paulino) who can regularly throw people out on the bases, their second baseman (Dan Uggla) is average on a good day, a third baseman (Emilio Bonifacio) playing out of position and who couldn't get on base as a leadoff hitter, and an infielder playing left field (Chris Coughlan - who was a revelation in 2009).

With all that and despite injuries and some poor performances in the strength of the team - starting pitching, the Marlins finished 6 games behind the defending world champs. As former Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator Gary Stevens was famously quoted as saying upon his firing after the 1997 season for the sub-par running attacks of the early and mid 1990s: You can't make chicken salad out of chicken shit.

(An aside: wouldn't he and Dan Marino have killed to have a Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams in their backfield?).

Not that the 2009 Marlins were necessarily fowl excrement, but there's little doubt that Gonzalez squeezed out just about every drop he could from the team. His strategic decisions are usually solid and he rarely gets "out-managed", IMO.

Perhaps the Marlins front office needs to look at other coaches to replace, but these days coaching staffs seem to come in packages. Or perhaps, Loria/Samson need to loosen the purse strings just a little and invest in a good catcher and second baseman.

Early-Morning Storm on Biscayne Bay

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Thursday, October 01, 2009

FOX Rising

All of you Olbermann and Maddow fans out there: better enjoy them while their shows last.

Here's Glenn Garvin with the latest Nielsen ratings for cable news.