Another one bites the Embargo’s dust?

C.S. Lewis in the The Great Divorce:

There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.

Don’t worry, he’ll have visitors. Huber Matos, Reinaldo Arenas and Oswaldo Payá promised to pop in, they really can’t stay.

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Wired like Sgt. Carver about the Cuban embargo

There is more than a little Ellis Carver, part of Baltimore’s fictional finest in The Wire, in me about the recent Obama administration changes to U.S. policy towards Cuba. In a memorable rant atop an unmarked police car, [then] Sgt. Carver announced to teenage drug dealing trainees that were hiding from him, “you do not get to win, shitbird.”

Sgt. Carver wasn’t wrong that day, just ineffective. He would eventually adjust his tactics. Which is not to say that he then experienced success. What he eventually experienced was the satisfaction of acting in the most defensible manner possible and better able to live with the ambiguous results.

Similarly, for those of us born in Cuba, raised in el norte and on the right of the political spectrum, winning ‘Twitter-feed cycles’ or any other snippet arguments, has never been in the cards on the subject of the embargo, i.e., what U.S. foreign policy should be towards the government of Cuba. The reason is that the anti-embargo argument frequently comes attached with an irrefutable ace in the hole, knowledge as to the will of the Cuban people.

I have taken in recent years to attempt to see if the reading of wills phenomena extended to other populations, for example the will of those living in poverty in Appalachia. Perhaps there the insight from the reading of wills can prove to be more actionable, but no luck to date.

In my case, my thoughts on the embargo are moderated by the conversation[s] I expect to have at some point with people with whom I am related, including a half-brother, and whose parents enthusiastically remained, at least initially. I have never had substantive contact with them, in effect respecting the initial choice of the two sisters who remained regarding the two brothers who left.

You will assume that I was not heart-broken to hear of their regrets many years later, and you would be correct. But don’t assume too much. Those type of feelings did not survive the realization over time that my country address was a result of parental sacrifices made for me, not of my doing. John Bradford’s reflection, ‘there but for the grace of God go I,’ does not feel like a cliche.

We are soon to be bombarded with polls showing that a majority of Americans support the lifting of the Cuban embargo. Further, that even a majority of Hispanics in South Florida, especially those under the age of … pick a number, also support lifting the embargo.

Regarding my views on how Iowans [to select a generic Mid-America state] view the embargo, all I will ever have to say is thank you for your past generosity towards this immigrant turned grateful citizen and his tribe. But as to young South Florida Hispanics, that’s a crowd I was once a part of and have gotten to observe up close for many years. It is regarding their opinions on the subject of Cuba that I am spectacularly unmoved.

The reason is that I believe that their views on the subject reflect something other than an opinion regarding a U.S. foreign policy position. It would be hard to overstate the level of resentment towards ‘la guardia vieja,’ which I define as the Cuban exiles which began immigrating in the 1960’s.

If other parts of the U.S. have long been tired of the Cuba subject, imagine the feeling among young Hispanics whose families aren’t from Cuba, in effect being lectured about how the ‘greatest Hispanic generation’ paved the way for the opportunities they now experience. If you think a majority of them accept that formulation and are outwardly grateful, you would be mistaken.

Closer to home, consider those Cubans who immigrated beginning with Mariel and after. While it may seem a minor distinction from the outside, the divide is real here. Recent Cuban immigrants are consistently apolitical, and who can blame them, it’s the sorest of subjects. When you factor in that many of those post-1980 immigrants had parents who may have initially supported the revolution, or at least not sufficiently alarmed to upend their lives, the resentments get really complicated.

So when I hear about the polling results of young South Florida Hispanics, I have two reactions:

  1. For a majority of those polled, the actual verbal exchange during the polling constituted their longest conversation on the subject in years.
  2. Whatever they were asked, here’s what I believe they heard; “Tell us whether you agree with the U.S. foreign policy stance which is most important to the Cuban-American establishment?

That a majority, like the German barbarians response to Maximus, ‘say no,’ is predictable and uninstructive.

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The Cuban Embargo’s other purposes

People happy about the Obama administration’s change in policy towards Cuba had a remarkably consistent theme in their comments during the day, ‘the Cuban Embargo has failed.’

You won’t be surprised to learn that the actual current legislation — Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996 — offers only the following platitude in the introduction to the bill:

“… to plan for support of a transition government leading to a democratically elected government in Cuba, and for other purposes.”

Clearly part A has not occurred, but part B, “other purposes,” now that has been off the charts.

That’s why I don’t believe that the legislation’s one supposed intended effect is the reason for the change in policy. To believe that requires us to assume that this administration puts great stock in the precise language of legislation. Try and remember that when we read about the next Obamacare exemption.

But better to let the Washington Post’s editorial make the case about “other purposes”:

Mr. Obama argued that his sweeping change of policy was overdue because the strategy of isolating the Communist regime “has had little effect.” In fact, Cuba has been marginalized in the Americas for decades, and the regime has been deprived of financial resources it could have used to spread its malignant influence in the region, as Venezuela has done. That the embargo has not succeeded in destroying communism does not explain why all sanctions should be lifted without any meaningful political concessions by Cuba.

“Cuba has been marginalized in the Americas for decades,” … let the significance of that seep in.

If the Cuban Embargo legislation was a company, “other purposes” would be going public. If the Cuban Embargo legislation was an athlete, opponents would be begging for drug testing. If it wasn’t an incredibly effective piece of legislation, opponents wouldn’t be exalting 50 years later over cosmetic changes to a policy which cannot touch the heart of the legislation, which is to isolate a repressive regime.

Exiled Cuban-Americans vs communist sympathizers on the island … game, set, mismatch all along.

The Washington Post editorial is copied in full at end of post. Continue reading

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What to do when God appears to say no?

cslewisHow do we react when God does not seem to respond to our petitions? Do we become Morris Albert groupies?

A WSJ article by Gregory Cootsona gives us a glimpse into how the great C.S. Lewis navigated the issue:

Finally, Lewis took on crises that no human being can avoid—suffering, death and what one might call “the crisis of feeling.” The latter is that problem everyone faces when emotions simply don’t lead us to contentment. If life is supposed to feel good, what happens when it doesn’t? Feelings—particularly the emotional rush of life—remain for many the final arbiter of truth.

Yet Lewis found his own wisdom hard to take when his wife died. Not only had he lost a cherished spouse, but he saw his own life replayed—Joy had two young sons whom she left behind at almost the same age as Lewis and his brother at their mother’s death. His searing honesty remains the most arresting feature of “A Grief Observed,” the book he wrote after Joy’s death: “Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him.”

But later in the book he resolved that even God does not respond to every inquiry: “When I lay these questions before God I get no answer. But a rather special sort of ‘No answer.’ It is not the locked door. It is more like a silent, certainly not uncompassionate, gaze. As though He shook His head not in refusal but waiving the question. Like, ‘Peace, child; you don’t understand.’ ” Accepting that not every question receives an answer brought Lewis the resolution and peace that lie beyond human understanding.

Article is copied in full at end of post.

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The God Particle to Miami Marlins fans

Up with Carl Loria

Up with Carl Loria

Gary Nelson’s question to Jeffrey Loria properly identified what truly binds [aka ¹God Particle] Miami Marlins fans, he asked:

Your organization and you are, quite frankly, much despised among many in this community…. Can a deal like this wash that much bad blood away?

Nelson’s point was deliciously undeniable. Jeffrey Loria is [sports] despised by an overwhelming majority of Miami Marlins fans. It is an enmity earned by repeated lies and obfuscation. It will not go away until he goes away. It binds us.

Two great things have happened for us Miami Marlins fans as a result of the Stanton signing. First, given the way the contract is structured, heavily back-loaded after the first 3 years, we can now see the light at the end of the Loria ownership tunnel. Second, we get to have Giancarlo Stanton on our team for the next 6 years. In that order.

So for us Marlins fans, Nelson’s question during the televised press conference carried the emotional equivalent of D’Angelo Barksdale asking Stringer Bell, “where Wallace at?”

Like Stringer, who must have assumed he could con D’Angelo one more time, so too Loria must have thought that the Stanton signing would at least provide a temporary respite from the enmity. While listening to the question, and no doubt noting the mortified straight-ahead gazes of his employees, the unlikelihood of any PR rehabilitation must have registered deep in an area other humans refer to as a soul.

Yo Jeffrey, where Miggy at?

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Pop culture vs. Reality, aka #GWC

There was a time when the images of those on the bus below dominated pop culture. [Their image, as usual, was best captured by Tom Wolfe]. Who knew that the engineers who founded Fairchild Semiconductor were the ones who would bring great change to society?  Actually Gordon Moore knew.

Moore was one of those engineers. In 1968 he went on to co-found Intel Corp. Commenting in 1974 about the impact Intel and Silicon Valley would have, he noted, “I’d like to think that we were the real revolutionaries in the world [that year, 1968].”


With respect to the subjects which pop culture chooses to focus on, as opposed to those with real impact, the more things change, the more they stay the same.


An article by Kerry Close of the Sun Sentinel highlights the efforts of the Girls Who Code classes being held in Miami this summer. The Girls Who Code program attempts to inspire, educate, and equip girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities.

The reality is that we are likely be hearing much more from those girls who are now learning to code, just not next reality season.

The complete article is copied below.

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The offer Santos Perez couldn’t refuse

A great friend, Santos Perez, was inducted into the Florida Boxing Hall of Fame a month ago. The achievement was recognized in a Miami Herald article by Greg Auman which noted that Santos “has written for the Herald since 1995 and spent another 15 years before that writing on boxing for the Miami News and the Associated Press.”

The history between Santos and I dates back from our Citrus Grove Elementary days and stretches through Miami Senior High, a bizarre early morning post-McDuffie verdict drive through Downtown Miami after a night out, a mutual ‘come to Jesus’ moment on the receiving end of a pointed .22 caliber gun [either of us would have earned the distinction of being the 1st person shot during a discussion of Gilligan’s Island trivia], Catholic schooling our kids, and Duffy’s Tavern [not the chain dammit]  discussions. I hope and trust we are all lucky enough to have at least one friend who could accurately be described as the ‘nicest person you could ever meet.’ The only negative I associate with Santos is that he has so many friends that many Miamians could answer that affirmatively and yet only be referring to one person.

Photo_120508_002[1]In the introduction to his characteristically humble induction speech [see below], fellow HOF’er Bob Alexander noted that “[Santos] sitting ringside with his laptop has virtually been a guarantee at any South Florida boxing show.” The photo to the right indicates that Bob is a reliable source.

I took that picture on my Palm back in 2008 [as the incredibly useful date stamp¹ indicates]. I had pestered Santos enough to allow me to tag along not just to the actual boxing matches, but to the weekday promotion held at a local restaurant. It was great fun as I blogged about the press conference and then the actual boxing matches at Miccosukee.

I made new friends with people I had much in common with, people like Jerry del Castillo and Jose [El Chamby] Campos who continue their work on the Spanish language sports scene. I met the promoter who was also inducted in the HOF with Santos, Tuto Zabal Jr. Hanging with Santos was like being granted an ‘he’s OK cloak,’ which means that I got to sit in on their wide-ranging and often hilarious discussions as though I was one of them. What more could an outsider ask more? Spreadsheets did not beckon that day. Gee I wonder whatever happened to that skinny red-headed Mexican kid?

In his speech, Santos gave a special mention to one of his mentors. In the attached link, I copy his 2008 article in remembrance of Hank Kaplan.

Santos Perez induction speech, June 22, 2014:

Please use scroll bar to scan through playlist — was #17 during July 2014 – will be further down list

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Dear Cleveland fans, #sorryifwetookthebest4

IMG_0362Who would have thunk it. The Miami Heat’s dynastic run was ultimately doomed by well meaning Abuelitas. Oh they look innocent enough, I know.

But we must approach the LeBron James departure autopsy with the cold-bloodlessness of an NBA executive deciding the fate of white Mid-American conference players on 10-day contracts right before they are guaranteed for remainder of the season. Emotion and sentimentality, like James now, are not our friends.

What were we thinking? We Miami Heat fans allowed the most talented NBA player of his generation, a player with obvious separation anxiety disorder issues, to wander freely in our city teeming with voluntary and involuntary transplants from Caribbean islands to major ¹continents, from upper Northeast America to the southern-most tip of South America, all speaking in one accented voice, on a worn-out string if you will, with one eventual message, ‘ay Lebroncito, if shoo c’only see my contree.’

imageIn effect, we brought a homesick guy riddled with guilt into a community where everybody’s seemingly from somewhere else and are downright enthusiastic to inform all that their former homesteads are much superior to our community, save for their particular circumstances. Then we get blind-sided by his desire to return home. That’s some flat circle shit right there.

haslemAt first, I will admit that the news of his departure kinda blew me away. The Bosh signing was like a revitalizing [from a non-pet] chicken soup. By the time I watched Maria Bamford’s impression of Bosh [see below], I was almost ready to move on. Almost. I started having thoughts like, why can’t Jeffrey Loria get homesick? What will Pepe Billete do now? Eventually, the thoughts turned trivial.

LeBron Cleveland kitI certainly wish the great LeBron James all the best. Especially that he continue his remarkable streak of avoiding major injuries given all the minutes logged that come with 4 straight NBA Finals appearances and his other conglomerate responsibilities [said to be terribly taxing]. While no one should wish injury [e.g., ACL tear to left knee, takeoff leg] on an opponent, but neither should getting opposing fans to focus on morbid facts be considered beyond the pale. Unless of course, the people offended actually believe that the mere mention can cause the injury. I elegua not to believe in such things.

My point is that Cleveland fans will naturally fear injury more than any opponent. That are right to do so given the increasing likelihood of at least one major injury occurring in the career of a player who has logged as many minutes as James has. As opposing fans, it is our duty to promote their discomfort.

My favorite line after Brazil was routed in the World Cup rout was the observation, ‘I wish there were a German word for Schadenfreude.’ Pleasure in the failures of opponents is a big part of my sports enjoyment. From a practical point of view, such failures are a much more reliable source of pleasure than the success of your own team, unless you were a Miami Heat fan between 2010 and 2014.

So what represents the most responsible stance of opposing fans towards the good people of Cleveland. To begin preparing them now, or to allow their hopes to grow and be dashed yet again. I choose not to merely witness. Please join me in my twitter campaign, #sorryifwetookthebest4

¹- For those who asked, Asia is one of the continents I am referring to. While actual Asians are typically too busy studying or working to engage in nostalgia, that’s what I keep hearing from my Asian sources, i.e., people close to them, in their camp, with reason to know, people I don’t think would lie to me, people I hope are right so I can write this.

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LeBron’s Kidd play

Part of the hagiography that comes with star NBA players is the notion that every off-season they attempt to improve a part of their game. I think LeBron James decided to focus on his General Manager skills this summer. Except that the brand conscious player-mogul was smart enough to not to want to appear to be as power hungry as Jason Kidd, who fellow narcissists now resent for damaging their image.

James likely gave Pat Riley an ultimatum in their year-end meeting. Major changes, including coaching, would be required for him to come back. The Corleone Godfather would have given James his answer right then and there, perhaps ominously repositioning the Haslem bobblehead. The Heat’s Godfather opted for a more public response.

In effect James had threatened Riley and Mickey Arison, two individuals who have experienced great success, wealth — multi-generational in the former and unable to recall what it’s like to worry about money in the latter — and the respect of their peers. Difficult, but not impossible James assumed.

The next day Riley delivered his unambiguous response in a nationally televised press conference about how it was time to show some guts and stick around, not shop around. The media were thrilled with the quotes but perplexed over the strategy, given that he was dealing with a player who had all the leverage. They overlooked Riley’s real target, James the budding GM, not James the player.  Just as James had overlooked the difference between Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert vs Pat Riley and Mickey Arison.

Yesterday Terry Pluto, a Cleveland-based writer, had an article with an interesting perspective. Pluto notes that during James last 4 seasons in Cleveland, the Cavs had paid more in salaries and luxury taxes then the Heat did in his 4 seasons in Miami. Pluto’s point is that the Cavs were willing to do whatever James asked of them, unlike the Heat, as best illustrated by their handling of Mike Miller.

I took away something different than Pluto intended. The Cavs problem was their inability to say no to James, as opposed to not doing enough. As a Cav, James the player could not overcome the moves dictated by James the pseudo-GM.

At least back then James had an established coach to contend with in Cleveland in Mike Brown. If James goes back now, with a rookie coach and new GM, he will own it all. That’s Riley’s cautionary tale to James, along with the FU press conference reminder about the futility of threatening those who have already experienced great success.

At the end of yesterday’s reported meeting meeting between Riley and James, I hope that Riley left a max contract on the table and dispassionately added as he walked away, “If that thing is signed in the morning, I’ll know I have a partner. If not, you need to learn the difference between hiring Moe Greene and Mo Williams. Only one is dangerous, but both can be deadly. But you already knew that.”

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Unlike Cain and Abel

CementaryI visited my father Adolfo’s gravesite on Fathers Day with his grown grandkids whom he never met. Our next stop was to visit his 92-year-old younger brother and my dear uncle, Ramiro, who is in a Hialeah rehabilitation facility. He is not well and speaks in a whisper, but thankfully is coherent. It’s emotional to see him now, more so on the occasion.

We parked ourselves in front of a large screen TV and hijacked the remote control, exchanging an infomercial for the Spanish language telecast of the World Cup. The announcers persistent excitement highlighted the stillness on our end, as other patients and staff look on unaffected.

As we all sat I commit the most forgivable of conversational transgressions, the lazy “como estas?” What is the man supposed to say? Up until that moment, I could have scripted the visit without having been there. The quiet, the underlying sadness of the facility and my consciously subdued emotions towards a loved one who has been a source of constant goodness throughout my life. Not to mention my hopes that the visit be seared into the psyche of my kids.

“Aquí, pasando las de Caín” was my uncle’s response. I didn’t get it at first, had to ask him to repeat or explain. “Caín y Abel, de la Biblia,” he said with a quick ironic half-smile, momentarily looking right at me to ensure it registered properly. Oh … ohhh. The Spanish saying is meant to convey those having an especially hard time, reflecting the fate of Cain in Genesis:

The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.”

With that look, real life trumped my unimaginative expectations. I felt what the two men traveling to Emmaus with Jesus experienced at the breaking of the bread, recognition. The moment before the look I would have told you that my uncle Ramiro was humble, funny, quick to laugh. His Caín reference and look changed the ‘was’ to an ‘is.’

With it another layer of sympathy. He and his brother lived through much. The death of their father at a young age, boarding schools operated by Salesians, a printing business partnership, an almost decade-long separation due to exile,  the physical and emotional separation from their two sisters due to political upheaval, age and illness being the last two major obstacles. A degree of good fortune is required to even get to the last two, where the ‘wandering’ meets the road.

dante_paradiso_The families of these two brothers have watched it unfold with gratitude for the lives well led. Along with my belief that there will be more to their story. The rehabilitation facility is but a footnote, regardless of what happens there. I pray for their eventual reunion. At that I would be joyous, but unsurprised, imagination finally kicking in on a ‘real life’ subject.

Knowing my uncle, if I get to see him again in one of Dante’s sphere’s, the conversation’s opening is already scripted. I will be compelled to inquire, “como estas?” His response, barely getting the words out before we come together in laughter, “Aquí, pasando las de Gabriel.”


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