Cuba Si!

Yesterday, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the Cold War embargo between the United States and Cuba is coming to an end. Normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations will enter a brand new era. Truth be told, hints of the thaw, were apparent in 2008 even in Little Havana. And oppositiono about the announcement will begin to sound like the crotchety old guy yelling “get off my lawn!”

The bulk of the GOP comments suggested that, for now at least, the conservative base remains firmly committed to keeping relations with Cuba in the deep-freeze where they have been for half a century. That position, however, is increasingly at odds with the view of the electorate at large.

Washington Post

Even the Pope has given his blessing after making a divine intervention. Others played parts too both secular and sacred leading up to this moment.

Questions still remain re prisoner exchanges. For one American (Alan Gross), Cuba welcomes back three nationals arrested for spying in the U.S. Two more Cubans remain in custody. Will there be another prisoner exchange? Or an exchange of prisoners for U.S. political fugitives. The next chapter is yet to be written.

Something tells me the last 2 years of the Obama Presidency will not have a lame-duck finish. Fasten your seatbelts….

Marion Barry…He built this!


a film by Dana Flor and Toby Oppenheimer

still01DC’s 4-term Mayor Marion Barry’s footprint is everywhere in Washington, DC. U Street revival started with the Reeves Center. Marion Barry’s name is on the building. DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities started by Marion Barry. Senior services and senior housing for fixed incomes initiated by Marion Barry. The city’s first subway, Metro, dug in during the Barry years. Verizon Center. Guess who started that conversation? Conventions in Washington, DC? That came to life with a convention center. Barry. Barry identified talent. Tony Williams, who became the golden Mayor of DC, was a Barry appointee to handle the city’s budget (Williams took over when the control board was put in place). Tax incentives for first-time home owners in the district – I took advantage of that one as well as the summer jobs program for youth. The program placed us in jobs that set us on career tracks (not office day care set ups to keep us off the street).

But Barry will forever be defined by his fall. Even when I was visting London, months later I was asked to explain that hotel incident and Marion Barry. “He isn’t my cousin!” I wanted to say. We were members of the same Unitarian church for a time when his fellow SNCC member and friend Rev. David H. Eaton was minister.

Perhaps I should’ve quoted Shakespeare:

The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones

Anthony, Act 3, scene ii of Julius Caesar

Marion Barry was Shakespearian with a 6th and even 7th Act. Like him or not, you can’t deny that for that former sleepy southern city called Washington Marion Barry was for DC, in the words of my blogging brother E. Ethelbert Miller, “our Spring. A man who tried to bring a little warmth to so many left out in the cold.”

Mayor Marion Barry, Jr., civil rights veteran, and councilmember for Ward 8, died today in Washington, DC at the age of 78.

Can Resilience Rebuild?

IMG_05421The day before the 2nd anniversary of the Hurricane Sandy disaster, I attended a reception and screening of the documentary THIS TIME NEXT YEAR at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. Though the film website opens with a word about “climate change,” the film itself makes no mention or claims about “why” Sandy happened, but what happened after in the community of Long Beach Island. Filmmakers Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman were present for the Q&A. Also joining them was Joe Mangino, a businessman and subject in the film, who “stepped up” and initiated a community rebuilding effort on Long Beach Island that’s now evolved into a non-profit. This event was an opportunity to reinforce a message about “resilience.” Resilience is actually the theme of the documentary and part of an impact campaign to get coastal communities via schools thinking about and acting on preparing for a natural disaster. [That goes for any community. Washington, DC, usually on the tail end of tropical storms and hurricanes, is now a candidate for earthquakes.]

The filmmakers, who took up residency at Long Beach Island to make the film, seem keenly aware of the precarious situation that can happen at any moment to any person. Reichert remembers the family trips, holidays and vacations on Long Beach Island; Zaman is originally from Bangladesh.

Long Beach Island is located along the New Jersey shore. It’s the place for summer flings and all the recreational activities that a beach community provides. In fact, before Sandy, life was a beach for many of the residents. It’s a different reality today. The people are still recovering from the hurricane damage. Resilience, which is part of a community effort, has helped them through the worst. And ironically Sandy created a bridge between some of the more affluent north island residents, and their middle class neighbors on the other end.

Hurricane Sandy hit the northeastern coast including New York City with such a force, it put the whole nation on notice and exposed the vulnerability of our infrastructure in one of its most densely populated areas. The American Society of Engineers has given the U.S. an overall D+ on their infrastructure report card. They estimate that $3.6 trillion is needed for investment. If the infrastructure is weak in normal situations, what about during natural disasters. Are we ready for that? Are we “on our own”?

Californians are probably the most astute people in terms of disaster preparedness. They know “The big one’s comin’” It’s just a matter of when. I have friends with barrels of supplies including canned food, some cash, and water stored without being labeled as a paranoid survivalist waiting for the apocalypse. The east coast, not so much. Some of us in the urban areas may own a shovel for snow, kitty litter, duct tape, a piggy bank full of nickels, maybe a flashlight and a few candles.

[See THIS TIME NEXT YEAR – 10 Tips for Disaster Preparedness and Resiliency]

IMG_05441It’s no accident THIS TIME NEXT YEAR was screened while down the hall was the National Building Museum’s DESIGNING FOR DISASTER exhibit. The exhibit includes objects, similations, and testimonies from major U.S. natural disasters – reminders to us all that it’s not a question of “if” but “when.” In addition to the loss of live, another tragedy is the loss of community connection.

The evening couldn’t end without a word about “climate change” or the NGO’s and government’s abilities to effectively respond to persons devistated by natural disasters. During the Q&A Mangino’s FEMA and Red Cross stories resemble anyone’s encounters with relief programs and initiatives. It takes resilience to rise above it in order for a community to get through the worst. Re-building alone does not always solve the problem.

Re-building brings its share of opportunists and profiteers. But the good news is there are solutions, and engineers are putting them into action in various locations. The rest may be up to the resilience of communities. But that depends on communities knowing that their infrastructure is strong, that help and support are available without the enormous hassles, and somebody really cares.

Oddly, some of the Long Beach Island residents in the film have taken on a Zen-like perspective about the impermanence of the island as sea levels continue to rise. “Will our grandchildren be able to live on Long Beach Island?” These residents may not say “climate change” in the film, but they acknowledge it for now as an almost intimate reality.

Resilience may simply mean being prepared for the worst while living within the realities of the moment.

Less than a month before the Nov. 4 elections, and DC still has a voter machine problem

The D.C. Board of Elections says that the city’s voting machines are outdated and in need of replacement, an admission that comes only weeks before what could be a close mayoral election.
–Source: WAMU

I always use a paper ballot. I like to leave a paper trail when I vote. But for some reason it’s hard for me to convince others to use the paper ballot. It’s like I’m asking to dump your electric lights for candles. How did the touch screen voting machine, a device that doesn’t produce material evidence to the voter, earn the trust of so many? Is it fear of being labeled “old school” or 20th century? Or does the machine guarantee you’ll know election results before your bedtime?

Lest we forget the DC primaries in April. It was the electronic voting machines that fueled the delay in getting the results of the primary elections.

In an interview, Clifford Tatum, the board’s executive director, said that some of the problems stemmed from the fact that it had increased the number of electronic voting machines throughout the city from 143 in 2012 to 306 on Tuesday. That caused delays at some precincts, he said. — WAMU

This is an unusual year in DC politics. it may be the first time the Democratic nominee for Mayor is not the de-facto winner. This may also be a year where identity politics won’t hold sway as no Mayoral candidate can be assured of votes from persons who resemble their personal demographics — by race, gender, age, or party. When it comes to effectiveness and results, Councilmember-At-Large David Cantania’s record stands out; whereas Councilmember Muriel Bowser appears stronger on personality — at least that’s the framing from the politicos.

How can a victory happen for DC Democrats November 4 on their machine’s watch? As the race and the poll numbers tighten from double to single digits between Muriel Bowser (D) and former Republican David Catania (I), Democrats will need to give “D-Day” its military meaning. This will be a ground offense to get out the vote. And in light of corruption charges, verdicts, and investigations of members in the local party, the Ds have to show proof of a clean election. They also have the weight of the Democratic party to shoulder for if DC goes, so goes the Democratic party’s confidence in its ability to hold onto its own. And Independents come in all political shades.

[I should mention former Republican Councilmember Carol Schwartz (I) who gives the “old-timers” a “choice” but with no strong case or platform for moving the city forward unless the other two candidates fumble miserably in the next few weeks.]

Tight polling numbers, voter apathy, and questionable voting machines are the ingredients for a questionable election. Will the outdated touch screen voting machines be replaced by November 4?

My father used to say “they’ll rob you with a pencil.” At least with the pencil, you know how you was robbed. Maybe it’s time to call in Jimmy Carter?

source: The Carter Center

Early voting in the District of Columbia opens October 20 – November 1. More information is at Let’s hope DC’s BOE has enough paper ballots.

1 2 3 148