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  Dear Jim:

I was greatly disturbed by the recent efforts of some city officials to ban Cuba's Los Van Van from playing in Miami, and was particularly appalled by how smug and self-righteous the mayor and several city commissioners seemed throughout the entire charade. Don't they realize they are behaving no better than the tyrant they claim to despise?

Sincerely,

Generalissimo Francisco Carollo?
Generalissimo Francisco Carollo?

Disappointed in Miami

Dear Disappointed:

It is apparent that for many Cuban Americans an understanding of irony, along with tolerance and a decent recipe for pot roast, is something they left behind when they fled Cuba. There is, however, reason for hope. According to a recent Miami Herald survey, Cuban Americans under the age of 50 comprehend and support the idea of free speech as embodied in the First Amendment. It is the over-50 crowd that is still causing trouble. And so in a strange way, we all have something in common: They are waiting for Castro to die so life can improve on the island, and we are waiting for them to die so life can improve here at home.

How's that for irony?

Dear Jim:

After reading the comments made by Miami Mayor Joe Carollo and Commissioners Tomas Regalado and Joe Sanchez regarding the Los Van Van concert, I was wondering: Would they be considered communists or fascists?

Sincerely,

Just Curious

Dear Curious:

Please, let's not get into name-calling. Personally I hate labels. They don't add anything to our understanding of issues and they tend to divide us as a community. But in answer to your question, with regard to Carollo and Regalado, I'd say neither word fits. A better term would be bully. They are just a couple of bullies.

To recap what these fine men said: Carollo went on Spanish-language radio and declared that Los Van Van was "the official communist band of Fidel Castro," while Regalado labeled the band's scheduled appearance in Miami "a political challenge" that the exile community must confront. Both comments were intended to endorse the city's efforts to ban the concert and agitate rather than enlighten the Cuban community. They also had the added bonus of offering support to those crazies out there who might employ physical violence to stop the concert from taking place.

On a positive note, this was the first time in about a year Carollo and Regalado agreed on something. Perhaps they'll find a way to set aside their other differences so they can continue to pander and promote ignorance more effectively. We'll just have to keep our fingers crossed.

As for Sanchez, it probably isn't fair to call him a bully. All he did was confess that he was "relieved" when the concert was initially canceled because, he said, "the city does not need any more controversy."

These remarks fall more accurately under the rubric of cowardice.

Political expediency is never a justification for discarding the Bill of Rights. Sanchez should know that. More important, he should be explaining the concept to his constituents. And I shouldn't have to shame him into doing so. In Sanchez's defense, he's really not very bright.

Perhaps Sanchez, Carollo, and Regalado have forgotten, but when they were sworn into office they took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. Preserve. Protect. Defend. Those are real words and they are supposed to have meaning -- even in Miami.

Dear Jim:

Since Carollo's nickname is Crazy Joe, would it be possible to have him committed to some sort of mental institution, or at the very least keep him heavily sedated until his term of office expires?

Sincerely,

Ready with the Blow Dart

Dear Blow Dart:

Having a mayor committed is never easy. Just look at all the problems we had with Xavier Suarez. If ever there were a politician who could have used a hefty dose of Thorazine it was the old Midnight Rambler himself. Nevertheless your point about Carollo is well taken. I called several mental-health facilities to see if I could have Carollo involuntarily committed, pointing out that the man is clearly a danger to the community. Unfortunately neither the courts nor medical science recognizes the rights of a newspaper columnist to have a politician held in a padded cell for observation. Pity.

Truth be told, Carollo isn't really "crazy." He's cunning, unprincipled, and driven by a Machiavellian lust for politics that is frightening. But he's not crazy. Which is why I've never liked the nickname Crazy Joe.

Insidious Joe. Malevolent Joe. Generalissimo Francisco Carollo. All these seem better suited to Carollo's personality. And that gives me an idea. Let's have a contest. Let's find a new handle for Joe Carollo.

Here are a few simple rules: In addition to offering the nickname, contestants should state in 50 words or less why that particular sobriquet best suits Carollo. Contestants should avoid the use of obscenity, as a profane nickname will have a harder time filtering its way into the mainstream media.

Contest deadline is September 30.

The best entry will win two tickets to the October 11 Los Van Van concert. And one runner-up will receive a copy of the band's latest CD, Llego Van Van (Van Van Is Here).

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