It may not be Al Capone's thugs, but it's still extortion: I was glad to see New Times had the guts to print Rebecca Wakefield's story about the corrupt taxi industry ("Cabbie's Crusade," February 27). I think this "buying of the doors" involving cab drivers and hotel valets and concierges has gone beyond local law enforcement. It's a rip-off that has moved into big-buck payoffs and should be referred to the FBI since it's "organized crime."
It reminds me of the old days in Chicago, when thugs would say, "Pay me weekly and we'll protect you." Now it's: "Pay me and I'll give you the better fares." Either way it is extortion, plain and simple.
While Spielberg grovels, Cuba's filmmakers starve: Brett Sokol's pithy "Kulchur" commentary on Hollywood in Havana was good but didn't go far enough ("Cuba's Screen Dreams," February 27). To anyone who has even the slightest acquaintance with Cuban film and filmmakers, it is bitterly disappointing to see the onanistic spewing of Spielberg et al. over how great Havana is for them -- while Cuban cinema disintegrates and the filmmakers can barely survive. At this very moment one of Cuba's greatest directors is here in New York without even the resources to stay in a hotel or go to a restaurant.
Not one of the hundreds of actors, directors, producers, and promoters who have visited Cuba and received ICAIC's hospitality during film festivals, and whooped it up in Havana with comped hotels and lavish parties, has ever reciprocated with even an invitation to dinner. To Spielberg and the other friends of Fidel, Havana is a backdrop for self-promotion and nothing more.
Can you spell colonialism?
New York, New York
You don't have to go to Kingston, mon: I just read with interest Judy Cantor's story from Jamaica about sound systems and dancehall ("City Slackers," February 27). It would be interesting to see a story written about the dancehall scene here in South Florida. I can say there is a vibrant scene here, with various clubs and other venues promoting dances. Some appeal to uptown and some to downtown folks.
Then I moved away and the veil was lifted: Thanks to Kirk Nielsen for the great article "Dialogue: The Final Frontier" (February 20). Growing up in Miami, I was always confused about the Cuban-exile situation. But I've since moved and have had a chance to look at it without the shrill voices that dominate Miami's political scene.
I thought Jimmy Carter's journey to Cuba would bring about dialogue, but his visit only served to strengthen the American embargo, which is a joke. It is not working in terms of speeding Castro's demise. In fact it has done the exact opposite. It also plays a big role in American politics, especially among the Bush clan.
The original purpose of the embargo is now a distant memory. The horse is dead. Quit beating it. It's high time to try a different approach. Give dialogue a chance!
Maybe in the minds of media morons: It continues to amaze me how members of the media urge exile groups to engage in dialogue with the dictatorship of Fidel Castro, who himself will not engage in dialogue with exiles or anyone else opposed to him. He has already rounded up and detained several members of the Varela Project (Oswaldo Payá's people), sending a clear message: no elections and no dialogue.
So why don't you ask Castro this: Can he remake himself as a kinder, gentler force through talks with Payá and exiles -- instead of persecuting them?
You too would be obsessed if you lost everything: Not all those who oppose Castro are in agreement with some of the tactics utilized by so-called exile leaders from the Cuban American National Foundation and the Cuban Liberty Council. In fact the percentage of Cuban exiles and Cuban Americans who actually support the hard-line radio stations is small and composed of older individuals rather than younger, American-influenced South Florida residents.
The Varela Project is opposed by a great percentage of Cuban exiles because it excludes Cuban citizens residing in exile from participating in Cuba's political future. The Varela Project also accepts Cuba's 1976 constitution as a legitimate document. Such conditions are unacceptable to most of those who had relatives executed or incarcerated or had their properties seized by Castro's rogue regime.
If the Cuban-exile community seems stuck in the past, it is because the lives of most Cuban exiles were deeply scarred by Castro and his cohorts. When was the last time New Times readers had a family member executed or had properties and valuables taken for merely opposing a tyrant? If they had suffered such experiences, they too would likely be stuck in the past.
The drugs must have kicked in somewhere between the appetizer and the entrée: This is in response to Lee Klein's review of Vin Amante ("Days of Wine and Poseurs," February 20). When the heart of table conversation is amazement at "just how many crummy dining establishments could be crammed into one street" [Española Way in Miami Beach], and when his "better half" is constantly nagging and complaining about "that guy smoking a cigar" -- well, you can imagine the fun at that table! You can see it as a cartoon with this caption: "Grumpy Old Couple."
Criticizing is one thing. Whining and complaining are totally different.
Vin Amante is a European wine and cheese bar that offers culinary delights to complement a vast and very affordable wine list. It is a place for locals to relax in comfort and enjoy good friends and great wine. Leave the pretentiousness at home. Or go somewhere else and take Lee Klein with you -- please!
Mr. Klein mentioned a bad acid trip. Maybe he was already on a bad acid trip when he arrived at Vin Amante. Regardless, I think he should be aware if it is his "time of the month." If so, he should stay home where no one is allowed to enjoy himself.
Maria Cristina Velasquez
Though rarely seen in public, they represent a lucrative source of revenue for cosmetic surgeons: I would like to express my indignation about an advertisement in your paper concerning labia minora reduction.
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The implied condescension of defining labia minora seems to indicate a belief that most residents of Miami have a gluteus maximus between their ears. I therefore suggest that in order to put perspective on such a view, New Times should conduct a promotional contest in which entrants would be asked to explain what part of the anatomy "labia minora" refers to. The entrant with the most amusing response would win a free lap dance at Club Madonna.
I would also like to suggest that an entertaining jingle be used in future advertisements instead of the present offense. Something like: "When your labia minora become a majora problem, we can help!"