Monday, December 8, 2014

Artists Jam

For the second time this weekend, protestors in Miami blocked traffic on a major highway. Via Tim Elfrink at Miami New Times:

For downtown-area commuters, the peak weekend of Art Basel is ending this afternoon much like it began: With 195 shut in both directions by protesters participating in the #shutitdown movement against police violence.

The protesters marched from Wynwood onto the highway around 5 p.m. This time, police had apparently already blocked off traffic before the protesters arrived.

The protests are fueled by the lack of indictments in the police killings of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York, as well as local cases like the death of Israel “Reefa” Hernandez, a teenage graffiti artist, at the hands of Miami Beach police.

The Miami rallies have echoed similar moves in NYC, St. Louis and elsewhere to shut down local highways.

On Friday, traffic snarled for miles in both directions as evening commuters and those trying to get to and from Art Basel events were halted by the action.

Today’s protests look to be smaller in number, but no less disruptive to highway traffic.

There are pictures of the demonstration at the link above.

Interstate 195 is one of the major links to Miami Beach from the mainland; part of it is the Julia Tuttle Causeway, and it is always bumper-to-bumper during rush hour even without Art Basel or public displays of anger.  Therefore I’m not too sure if the people got their point across without pissing off a lot of people miles away who had no idea why they were inching along I-95 from U.S. 1 to the Golden Glades.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Miami-Dade Bans Trans Discrimination

Via WPLG-TV:

After a four-hour public hearing Tuesday and months of debate, the Miami-Dade County Commission voted 8-3 to add protections for transgender people to its four-decade old Human Rights Ordinance. The move extends legal protections prohibit discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment based on gender identity or gender expression.

[…]

Opposition groups, mostly from the religious right, launched a campaign to squash the ordinance that included scare-tactic fliers and accusations that Communists supported the amendment.

The opponents had to be grasping for straws if they had to whip out the old Commies-are-for-it trope.  It isn’t 1950 anymore.

Needless to say, good for the county commission.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Sunday Reading

Predicting the Inevitable — Jenali Brown in The New Yorker on the reaction in Ferguson to the grand jury finding.

New Yorker 11-30-14What transpired in Ferguson last night was entirely predictable, widely anticipated, and, yet, seemingly inevitable. Late last week, Michael Brown, Sr., released a video pleading for calm, his forlorn eyes conveying exhaustion born of not only shouldering grief but also of insisting on civic calm in the wake of his son’s death. One of the Brown family’s attorneys, Anthony Gray, held a press conference making the same request, and announced that a team of citizen peacekeepers would be present at any subsequent protests. Ninety minutes later, the St. Louis mayor, Francis Slay, held a press conference in which he pledged that the police would show restraint in the event of protests following the grand-jury decision. He promised that tear gas and armored vehicles would not be deployed to manage protests. The two conferences bore a disturbing symmetry, an inversion of pre-fight hype in which each side deprecated about possible violence but expressed skepticism that the other side was capable of doing the same. It’s possible that, recognizing that violence was all but certain, both sides were seeking to deflect the charge that they had encouraged it. Others offered no such pretense. Days ahead of the announcement, local businesses began boarding up their doors and windows like a coastal town anticipating a hurricane. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a preëmptive state of emergency a week before the grand jury concluded its work. His announcement was roughly akin to declaring it daytime at 3 A.M. because the sun will rise eventually.

From the outset, the great difficulty has been discerning whether the authorities are driven by malevolence or incompetence. The Ferguson police let Brown’s body lie in the street for four and a half hours, an act that either reflected callous disregard for him as a human being or an inability to manage the situation. The release of Darren Wilson’s name was paired with the release of a video purportedly showing Brown stealing a box of cigarillos from a convenience store, although Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson later admitted that Wilson was unaware of the incident when he confronted the young man. (McCulloch contradicted this in his statement on the non-indictment.) Last night, McCulloch made the inscrutable choice to announce the grand jury’s decision after darkness had fallen and the crowds had amassed in the streets, factors that many felt could only increase the risk of violence. Despite the sizable police presence, few officers were positioned on the stretch of West Florissant Avenue where Brown was killed. The result was that damage to the area around the police station was sporadic and short-lived, but Brown’s neighborhood burned. This was either bad strategy or further confirmation of the unimportance of that community in the eyes of Ferguson’s authorities.

The pleas of Michael Brown’s father and Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, were ultimately incapable of containing the violence that erupted last night, because in so many ways what happened here extended beyond their son. His death was a punctuation to a long, profane sentence, one which has insulted a great many, and with damning frequency of late. In his statement after the decision was announced, President Barack Obama took pains to point out that “there is never an excuse for violence.” The man who once told us that there was no black America or white America but only the United States of America has become a President whose statements on unpunished racial injustices are a genre unto themselves. Perhaps it only seems contradictory that the deaths of Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin, Ezell Ford and John Crawford and Michael Brown—all unarmed black men shot by men who faced no official sanction for their actions—came during the first black Presidency.* Or perhaps the message here is that American democracy has reached the limits of its elasticity—that the symbolic empowerment of individuals, while the great many remain citizen-outsiders, is the best that we can hope for. The air last night, thick with smoke and gunfire, suggested something damning of the President.

Artless Miami — Brett Sokol in the New York Times reports on why Art Basel hasn’t made Miami the art mecca it once dreamed of becoming.

MIAMI BEACH — “It was a really devastating message,” the Miami art dealer Fredric Snitzer said, recalling the personal impact when Emmanuel Perrotin’s 13,000-square-foot outpost closed in 2010. “If he couldn’t make a go of it, what I am doing here?”

The opening of the Perrotin gallery on the eve of the Art Basel Miami Beach fair in 2005 was a high-water mark for the city’s cultural scene, anticipating its imminent status as an art mecca second only to New York and Los Angeles. Art Basel itself was billed as the economic tide that would lift all artistic boats, not just for a week every December, but year-round, too. Why else would a top-tier contemporary-art player from Paris like Mr. Perrotin expand to Miami?

“This is Paris in the ’20s and that guy down the block is Picasso,” Mr. Snitzer said at the time.

Yet by 2009, Perrotin had ceased regular exhibitions in Miami, turning off the lights completely the following year. Several other leading galleries that opened in the wake of Art Basel’s 2002 arrival have also shut down, while many of the city’s most promising younger artists have decamped to New York and Los Angeles in search of greener career pastures.

More than a decade after Art Basel’s debut, the city’s cultural milieu has been undeniably transformed. But beyond the splashy galas surrounding the fair’s kickoff on Wednesday, and the expensive new centers for art like the waterfront Pérez Art Museum Miami and the planned home for the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, many local artists and art dealers remain deeply dissatisfied.

Some blame rising rents that have scattered a once-cohesive art community, while others point to a dearth of local collectors and visiting Basel-ites interested in owning their work. Without that bigger pool of buyers, they say, there’s no way to sustain artists amid the continued expansion of the art scene.

“I couldn’t support myself,” said Bert Rodriguez, a conceptual artist, in a phone call from his new home in Los Angeles. After appearing in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, Mr. Rodriguez became one of Miami’s hometown heroes.

Yet despite awards and commissions, he felt stuck. “All the collectors there who were going to support me had already bought my work,” said Mr. Rodriguez, known for prankish projects that include burying himself up to his neck on a museum’s front lawn. “I had tapped into every well I could, and it just wasn’t enough.”

But now that he’s in Los Angeles, he said, advertising agencies and Silicon Valley clients who once ignored him are lining up. This winter, he will get $50,000 from a company behind a new travel app to drive cross-country and “virtually” write his name across America. “I’ve made more money in the last three years in Los Angeles than in the previous 10 in Miami,” he said.

[…]

“Too many people are obsessed with chasing the next hippest, newest thing,” said Kristen Thiele, an ArtCenter board member as well as a former resident artist there. Ms. Thiele cited the core ideas first laid out by Mrs. Schneiderman: Artists need cheap studio space, the ability to sell their work — out of those same studios, if necessary — and, not least, “the genuine sense of community that comes from being surrounded by your fellow artists with trained eyes.”

There’s nothing especially revolutionary about Mrs. Schneiderman’s thinking. Still, for the Miami painter John Sanchez, it’s been more than he could have ever hoped for. Originally represented by Emerson Dorsch, he felt his rain-slicked urban landscapes were falling out of step with that gallery’s turn toward an art-theory laden program.

“I’m a realist painter,” he said. “I’m trying to paint everyday moments as beautifully as I can. It’s not rocket science.” By contrast, at the ArtCenter, just by dint of being on a heavily trafficked street, he said, “I got a vast amount of exposure to people from everywhere, not just those in the know.”

He’s since picked up both sales and fresh brushwork techniques. Having found a formula for survival as an artist, he’s hoping to move into the ArtCenter’s remaining Lincoln Road building.

“I want to be like mold,” he said, laughing. “I want to stay.”

Doonesbury — No deposit, no return.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Quiet in Miami

Miami, which knows a thing or two about the tense relationship between African Americans and law enforcement, had a quiet night after the news from Ferguson.  Via Michael E. Miller at Miami New Times:

A grand jury’s decision not to indict the cop who three months ago killed unarmed teenager Mike Brown sparked protests across the country last night.

Ferguson, Missouri is still smoldering this morning after looting, teargas, arson, armored vehicles, and gunshots turned the St. Louis suburb into something resembling a war zone. Despite demonstrations in other major American cities, Miami remained calm, however.

“No, nothing,” said a Miami Police sergeant reached at 1 a.m. “It’s actually been very quiet.”

Miami-Dade Police indicated that they also had no reports of riots or protests.

“I haven’t called out any PIOs in the last few hours,” said a MDPD officer. “That should tell you something.”

Perhaps anger has given way to resignation.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Reading

Please Sir, I Want Some War — Charles P. Pierce on the Senate voting to fund the war against IS and then beat it out of town.

The Congress did a ring-and-run on increased United States involvement in the whatever-the-hell-it-is against ISIS-or-ISIL-or-OASIS-or-whatever the hell it is. It took a vote. The Senate passed the bill to “arm and train” the Syrian rebels vetted personally by John McCain, and then everybody beat feet out of town for the homestretch of the campaign. To their eternal credit, both Edward Markey and Senator Professor Warren voted against the bill. (Nice job getting photographed in the Times walking into the Capitol with Bernie Sanders, Senator Professor. Very, very well-played.) If you’re keeping score at home, four “vulnerable” Democratic senators voted for the bill, including New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen, which can be seen as somewhat ominous. Mark Begich of Alaska voted against it, which can be seen as more than a little brave. Joe Manchin, who had serious doubts about the whole thing two days ago, felt very strongly both ways and voted for the bill, which can be seen as Being Joe Manchin.

(My favorite Informed Speculation is that Senator Professor Warren’s vote is a “good contrast” to Hillary Clinton’s vote for the Iraq War in 2002, and will help SPW with the party’s progressive base, wah-dee-doo-dah, when SPW runs for president, which she is going to do no matter how often she tells us she’s not. These people are worse than the old guys who used to hang out at the OTB on Eighth Avenue.)

And, because this is the Senate, and because the Republican party is insane, the vote for arming rebels in the Levant also was a vote against allowing the likes of Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions to have another tantrum and shut down the government over…immigration.

[…]

And then the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body took a powder. The permanent ruling council of brass hats, however, remains unconvinced. (Although The Washington Post story is very curiously sourced. The only on-the-record military dissenter it cites is a retired general who doesn’t work for the administration any more. There is an oblique reference to an incident involving a battle in Iraq a year ago, and a quote from Rep. Buck McKeon, who, as far as I know, is not a general. That General Martin Dempsey left open the possibility of ground troops at some future date is hardly proof of a permanent “rift,” and neither are a couple of quotes from former Secretaries of Defense and from elsewhere in the national-security peanut gallery. And, just so we’re all clear, when there’s a disagreement between the president and a current military commander, the president wins. Every time. Don’t like it? Move to Myanmar.) I think the whole notion is a trifle nutty as presented; we’re going to arm people to fight both the Assad government and ISIS? More guns to that part of the world? It feels to me like the mission has already begun to creep. And it also feels to me like foreign policy is being made from the precincts under Lindsey Graham’s bed.

A Poor Place to Live — Kyle Munzenrieder in the Miami New Times reports on the gap between rich and poor in Miami.

As Miami’s real estate market has boomed to glittering new heights of luxury since 2010, the area’s median household income remains the second lowest of any major metro area while poverty has continued to increase. It’s embarrassing, if not depressing.

According to new data released this week from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the median income for a household in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metro area is just $46,946 in 2013.

That’s the second lowest level in the nation’s top 25 metro areas. Only Tampa has a lower median household income. In fact, the two Florida metro areas are the only areas on the list where the median income is less than $50,000.

The median income is actually down from 2012, when it was $47,154. Though, it’s slightly up since 2010 when the median income was $45,352.

Meanwhile, poverty levels in the city have only gotten worse since 2010, with 17.7 percent of South Floridians now living below the poverty line.

In fact, 7.4 percent of South Floridians live on an income of less than half of what’s considered poverty (compare that to the national average of 7 percent). Another 10.3 percent live on an income that is 50 percent to 99.9 percent of the poverty line (compared to the national average 8.8). An additional 5.7 percent live above the poverty line, but make no more than 125 percent of the poverty threshold (nationally it’s 4.8 percent).

Miami has the second highest level of those living in poverty or near poverty, behind only Riverside, California.

In 2012, 17.5 percent of South Floridians lived in poverty. In 2010 that number was only 17.1 percent.

Miami certainly seems to be proving that old cliché: as the rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

The Queen Accepts — Andy Borowitz on Her Majesty’s largesse for an errant child.

LONDON (The Borowitz Report) – In the aftermath of Scotland’s “no” vote in the referendum on becoming an independent country, Queen Elizabeth II, of Great Britain, took to the airwaves on Friday morning to inform the people of Scotland that she “graciously and wholeheartedly” accepted their apology.

“Although the matter of independence has been settled, one question remains very much open,” she said in an address televised across Scotland. “And my answer to that question is this: yes, I forgive you.”

The Queen made only scant reference to her obscenity-laden tirade on Thursday, in which she reamed the Scots for even considering breaking away from the United Kingdom.

“Like any parent with a naughty child, I became a little cross,” she said. “I forgive you for provoking me.”

The Queen ended Friday’s address to the Scottish people on a conciliatory note. “Let us all, each and every one of us, move forward now as one great nation, enjoying the benefits and the history of our glorious and historic union,” she said. “Even the forty-five percent of you who are wankers.”

Doonesbury — Catching a break.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Miami Bids on Democratic Convention 2016

From New Times:

Miami may be the site of the first part of Hillary Clinton’s coronation …or as it’s officially known, the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

After local leaders officially let the DNC know that they would be interested in hosting the shindig, the DNC selected Miami as one of 15 cities that it sent a “request for proposal” late yesterday.

According to CNN, other cities in the running include Atlanta, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus (Ohio), Detroit, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Nashville, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, and Salt Lake City.Back in March, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, Miami Mayor Tomás P. Regalado, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and tourism bureau head William D. Talbert II all banded together to send DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz (whose Broward-based district dips into some northern parts of the county) a letter signaling their interest.

Wasserman Schultz told CNN that in addition to logistical concerns, the committee would also take into account a city’s relationship with organized labor and key constituencies.

[…]

Local leaders have indicated that their plan would call to host the convention at the American Airlines Arena.

That’s about five blocks from my office.  Parking will be a nightmare.

The last time there was a national political convention in the Miami area, it was 1972 and it was a two-fer: both Democrats and Republicans held them at the Miami Beach Convention Center.  From them we got McGovern/Eagleton Shriver and Nixon/Angew redux.  Both ended badly.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Vindication

Sometimes the wheels of justice grind slowly and they can be aggravating, but every once in a while, things work out for the best.

This week saw full vindication for attorneys Michael Tein and Guy Lewis as the Florida Bar closed out the complaints with a no probable cause finding and began an investigation into the attorneys for the Miccosukee tribe. The comparison in criminal court is like getting a not guilty and then having the cops arrested for lying. It was a truly remarkable feat of lawyering and one worthy of praise.

So there you have it. A few lessons learned, two lawyers have their reputations restored, and one damn fine job of lawyering. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Full disclosure: Mr. Lewis is my attorney and a good friend.  That doesn’t mean I can’t say that I think he and his partner got screwed royally by some members of the legal community and the press (*cough The Miami Herald cough*).

I never doubted for a minute that he and Michael would be exonerated, but it’s nice to see at least some people acknowledge their vindication.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Boring Job

The initial work on building the tunnels to the Port of Miami was completed yesterday when Harriet, the tunnel-boring machine, emerged on Watson Island, back where it started in 2011.

The tunnel project should be completed within a year, which will be a great relief to those of us who have to contend with truck traffic on the streets of downtown Miami as they make their way to and from the port.  And I’m sure the truck drivers will be happy, too.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Push Polling

The Miami Dolphins want to renovate their football arena, now known as Sunlife Stadium.  (It has been called several different names because it seems that they will sell the naming rights to anybody.)  They want the state and the taxpayers to come up with some of the money, promising that the newly-refurbished venue will attract a lot more tourism and a lot more business.

I haven’t been keeping up with all the machinations to make this happen, but apparently the team owners feel that it’s necessary to poll the residents of Miami-Dade County in order to find out how we feel about it.  I got the second of two such poll calls last night, and it’s clear that they are pushing us voters to back the proposal.

I endured the call, but I think I made it pretty clear to the pollster that I’m not in favor of taxpayers coughing up a part of the cost unless a few things happen:

  • Every citizen of Miami-Dade County gets into a football game for a reduced price since we’re already paying for the fix-up.  Make it a flat $5 for any seat.
  • Make the Dolphins refund some of the money to the county if they have a losing season.
  • Change the name of the stadium back to the original name it had when it was built: Joe Robbie Stadium.  After all, Mr. Robbie built it all by himself without any help from the taxpayers other than them coming to see a game.

Oh, and tell the polling company that not everyone is awake at whatever hour it was that they called.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Short Takes

Grenade attack in Pakistan kills ten.

The first funerals for the Sandy Hook victims were held yesterday.

Pro-gun Democrats are moving towards tighter controls.

Meanwhile, the NRA Facebook and Twitter accounts are virtually blank.

Slight progress is reported on the cliff talks.

Rep. Tim Scott is appointed to fill Jim DeMint’s senate slot.

Gas prices keep falling.

So long — The on-line version of the Miami Herald goes behind a paywall.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Short Takes

Israel plans new settlements on the West Bank.

Egyptians protest after the vote on the new constitution.

Syria — Airport reopens; internet still down.

Mexico gets a new president today.

Train derailment in New Jersey sickens dozens.

Miami may have to choose boats over football in the Superbowl bid.

Hurricane Season is officially over, so this little Invest doesn’t really exist.

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Short Takes

Hezbollah fighters have been killed in Syria.

Two car bombs hit the main square in Aleppo.

U.S. is tracking killers in the attack on the Libya mission.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent was shot and killed in Arizona.

The long-running battle over the future of the Coconut Grove Playhouse may be at hand.

Tropical Update: Nadine still chugs away; Invest 96L is aiming for Europe.

The Tigers lost to K.C.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Short Takes

Rioting is still going on in the Middle East.

Libya: “President Barack Obama led a solemn tribute on Friday to America’s slain ambassador to Libya and three diplomatic aides as their remains arrived on U.S. soil days after the bloody attack that claimed their lives.”

A judge in Wisconsin has thrown out the union-busting law.

The teachers’ strike in Chicago may be over by Monday.

The birther challenge to President Obama’s name on the ballot in Kansas has been dropped.

A couple in Miami are going to the big house for scamming Medicare to the tune of $45 million.

Tropical Update: Hurricane Nadine may give the Azores a look; Typhoon Sanba is a Category 3 heading for the islands south of Japan and Korea.

The Tigers beat the Indians.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sunday Reading

Left Out — Frank Bruni on the GOP exclusion of the LGBTQ community at their Tampa convention.

What the Republicans painstakingly constructed here was meant to look like the biggest of tents. And still they couldn’t spare so much as a sleeping bag’s worth of space for the likes of me.

Women were welcomed. During the prime evening television hours, the convention stage was festooned with them, and when they weren’t at the microphone, they were front and center in men’s remarks. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney both gushed about their moms in tributes as tactical as they were teary.

Latinos were plentiful and flexed their Spanish — “En América, todo es posible,” said Susana Martinez, the New Mexico governor — despite an “English First” plank in the party’s regressive platform.

And while one preconvention poll suggested that roughly zero percent of African-Americans support Romney, Republicans found several prominent black leaders to testify for him. Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, delivered what will surely be remembered as the convention’s most stirring and substantive remarks, purged of catcalls and devoid of slickly rendered fibs.

But you certainly didn’t see anyone openly gay on the stage in Tampa. More to the point, you didn’t hear mention of gays and lesbians. Scratch that: Mike Huckabee, who has completed a ratings-minded transformation from genial pol to dyspeptic pundit, made a derisive reference to President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage. We were thus allowed a fleeting moment inside the tent, only to be flogged and sent back out into the cold.

It was striking not because a convention or political party should make a list of minority groups and dutifully put a check mark beside each. That’s an often hollow bow to political correctness.

It was striking because the Republicans went so emphatically far, in terms of stagecraft and storytelling, to profess inclusiveness, and because we gays have been in the news rather a lot over the last year or so, as the march toward marriage equality picked up considerable velocity. We’re a part of the conversation. And our exile from it in Tampa contradicted the high-minded “we’re one America” sentiments that pretty much every speaker spouted.

Spare Me — Leonard Pitts, Jr. isn’t impressed with the way either party talks about race.

Lord help us, they’re talking race again.

“They” meaning Republicans and Democrats. Race is a critical, sensitive and sometimes painful issue with relevance to everything from environmental policy to education reform to criminal justice to media to healthcare. To address it requires political courage.

That’s why politicians do not address it. Usually. That changes during the campaign season when a given pol calculates that breaking his customary silence might net some tactical advantage.

Which is how we come to find Newt Gingrich last week on MSNBC piously lamenting how “racist” the network’s Chris Matthews is. The former House speaker displayed this previously unknown sensitivity while defending himself against charges of same.

It seems Matthews had the temerity to suggest that Gingrich, in calling Barack Obama a “food stamp president” during the GOP primary, had engaged in dog-whistle politics designed to rouse racial resentment among white working-class voters. Gingrich was shocked – shocked! – at the notion.

“Why do you assume food stamp refers to black?” he asked. “What kind of racist thinking do you have?”

It is apparently news to Gingrich that politicians sometimes speak in code, that when, for example, Ronald Reagan referenced his made-up “welfare queens” he was really promising white voters he’d make those lazy blacks get up off their behinds and work.

There was a study in the ’90s in which people were asked to envision a drug user, then describe that person. Ninety-five percent envisioned someone black. This, even though only about 15 percent of drug users actually are black. The point being that in the public mind, certain terms — “urban,” “poverty,” “crime” — carry racial weight, often at odds with reality. They are ways of saying “black” without saying “black.”

The idea that Gingrich — a 69-year-old career politician — does not know this, or realize that “food stamp president” is such a term, strains credulity. If he’s really that much of a naif, let us hope no one has told him the truth about the Tooth Fairy. It would break the poor man’s heart.

Where race is concerned, Newt Gingrich is a disingenuous hypocrite. And Joe Biden is just a fool.

Did the vice president really tell a largely black audience two weeks back that if Mitt Romney is elected, the GOP will “put y’all back in chains.” Y’all? Really? A slavery joke?

Lord, have mercy.

Why didn’t Biden just show up with his pants sagging while gnawing a chicken bone? It couldn’t have been any less subtle.

Adios — Francisco Alvarado at Miami New Times on the slow death of Cuban radio in Miami.

Some observers say a move toward more moderate Spanish-language radio would be healthy for a town too long obsessed with the lives of two strong-arm brothers on an island a few hundred miles away.

“On Cuban-American radio, you hear things that happened 50 years ago as if it was happening right now,” says John De Leon, an ACLU attorney and Miami native. “It’s highly nostalgic, but it is not conducive for change and progress in the community.”

But anyone who appreciates Miami’s unique history should feel a sting of regret if the kind of radio broadcast every day at La Poderosa fades to static; this is a format, after all, that El Exilio has used for 53 years to undermine Castro’s revolution and amass political power in South Florida.

These frequencies have hailed alleged terrorists such as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles as freedom fighters and condoned bombing cars and offices to defy El Exilio’s enemies. They’ve fomented mob rule against those acquiescing to Fidel Castro, especially during the battle to keep Elián González in Miami. And thanks to pressure from the stations, Miami-Dade politicians have been forced to pander to listeners by banning Cuban musicians and ordering boycotts of Cuban-friendly businesses.

Those days might just be gone for good. “It is not like it used to be in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, when it was overwhelmingly Cuban-American,” former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo says of the stations’ influence. “It doesn’t have the same impact anymore.”

Doonesbury — The Ayes have it.

Jim Morin at the Miami Herald.

Sunday Reading

Left Out — Frank Bruni on the GOP exclusion of the LGBTQ community at their Tampa convention.

What the Republicans painstakingly constructed here was meant to look like the biggest of tents. And still they couldn’t spare so much as a sleeping bag’s worth of space for the likes of me.

Women were welcomed. During the prime evening television hours, the convention stage was festooned with them, and when they weren’t at the microphone, they were front and center in men’s remarks. Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney both gushed about their moms in tributes as tactical as they were teary.

Latinos were plentiful and flexed their Spanish — “En América, todo es posible,” said Susana Martinez, the New Mexico governor — despite an “English First” plank in the party’s regressive platform.

And while one preconvention poll suggested that roughly zero percent of African-Americans support Romney, Republicans found several prominent black leaders to testify for him. Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state, delivered what will surely be remembered as the convention’s most stirring and substantive remarks, purged of catcalls and devoid of slickly rendered fibs.

But you certainly didn’t see anyone openly gay on the stage in Tampa. More to the point, you didn’t hear mention of gays and lesbians. Scratch that: Mike Huckabee, who has completed a ratings-minded transformation from genial pol to dyspeptic pundit, made a derisive reference to President Obama’s support for same-sex marriage. We were thus allowed a fleeting moment inside the tent, only to be flogged and sent back out into the cold.

It was striking not because a convention or political party should make a list of minority groups and dutifully put a check mark beside each. That’s an often hollow bow to political correctness.

It was striking because the Republicans went so emphatically far, in terms of stagecraft and storytelling, to profess inclusiveness, and because we gays have been in the news rather a lot over the last year or so, as the march toward marriage equality picked up considerable velocity. We’re a part of the conversation. And our exile from it in Tampa contradicted the high-minded “we’re one America” sentiments that pretty much every speaker spouted.

Spare Me — Leonard Pitts, Jr. isn’t impressed with the way either party talks about race.

Lord help us, they’re talking race again.

“They” meaning Republicans and Democrats. Race is a critical, sensitive and sometimes painful issue with relevance to everything from environmental policy to education reform to criminal justice to media to healthcare. To address it requires political courage.

That’s why politicians do not address it. Usually. That changes during the campaign season when a given pol calculates that breaking his customary silence might net some tactical advantage.

Which is how we come to find Newt Gingrich last week on MSNBC piously lamenting how “racist” the network’s Chris Matthews is. The former House speaker displayed this previously unknown sensitivity while defending himself against charges of same.

It seems Matthews had the temerity to suggest that Gingrich, in calling Barack Obama a “food stamp president” during the GOP primary, had engaged in dog-whistle politics designed to rouse racial resentment among white working-class voters. Gingrich was shocked – shocked! – at the notion.

“Why do you assume food stamp refers to black?” he asked. “What kind of racist thinking do you have?”

It is apparently news to Gingrich that politicians sometimes speak in code, that when, for example, Ronald Reagan referenced his made-up “welfare queens” he was really promising white voters he’d make those lazy blacks get up off their behinds and work.

There was a study in the ’90s in which people were asked to envision a drug user, then describe that person. Ninety-five percent envisioned someone black. This, even though only about 15 percent of drug users actually are black. The point being that in the public mind, certain terms — “urban,” “poverty,” “crime” — carry racial weight, often at odds with reality. They are ways of saying “black” without saying “black.”

The idea that Gingrich — a 69-year-old career politician — does not know this, or realize that “food stamp president” is such a term, strains credulity. If he’s really that much of a naif, let us hope no one has told him the truth about the Tooth Fairy. It would break the poor man’s heart.

Where race is concerned, Newt Gingrich is a disingenuous hypocrite. And Joe Biden is just a fool.

Did the vice president really tell a largely black audience two weeks back that if Mitt Romney is elected, the GOP will “put y’all back in chains.” Y’all? Really? A slavery joke?

Lord, have mercy.

Why didn’t Biden just show up with his pants sagging while gnawing a chicken bone? It couldn’t have been any less subtle.

Adios — Francisco Alvarado at Miami New Times on the slow death of Cuban radio in Miami.

Some observers say a move toward more moderate Spanish-language radio would be healthy for a town too long obsessed with the lives of two strong-arm brothers on an island a few hundred miles away.

“On Cuban-American radio, you hear things that happened 50 years ago as if it was happening right now,” says John De Leon, an ACLU attorney and Miami native. “It’s highly nostalgic, but it is not conducive for change and progress in the community.”

But anyone who appreciates Miami’s unique history should feel a sting of regret if the kind of radio broadcast every day at La Poderosa fades to static; this is a format, after all, that El Exilio has used for 53 years to undermine Castro’s revolution and amass political power in South Florida.

These frequencies have hailed alleged terrorists such as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles as freedom fighters and condoned bombing cars and offices to defy El Exilio’s enemies. They’ve fomented mob rule against those acquiescing to Fidel Castro, especially during the battle to keep Elián González in Miami. And thanks to pressure from the stations, Miami-Dade politicians have been forced to pander to listeners by banning Cuban musicians and ordering boycotts of Cuban-friendly businesses.

Those days might just be gone for good. “It is not like it used to be in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, when it was overwhelmingly Cuban-American,” former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo says of the stations’ influence. “It doesn’t have the same impact anymore.”

Doonesbury — The Ayes have it.

Jim Morin at the Miami Herald.

Saturday, July 28, 2012