Letters from the Issue of November 20, 2003
Meanwhile, free weekly frolics in frivolity: As I scanned through New Times's tongue-in-cheek delineation of the upcoming FTAA ministerial meeting ("Free Trade Miami: Your Essential Guide to the FTAA," November 13), the frightening question on the minds of many thoughtful people occurred to me: Does anyone really care?
As the American people rush headlong (like lemmings to the sea) toward a social and economic apocalypse brought on by the crimes of capitalism, it is "lite" reportage such as yours that aids and abets the blind march to frivolous diversions and placating addictions.
Even as the disease of capitalistic greed devours all but the corporate-political elite, I fear most of New Times's readership was frantically looking for the week's installment of "Savage Love." Sadly, after a few pages of reading, so was I.
Free weekly cuts loose, leaves dailies dizzy: While having breakfast this past Saturday morning at Einstein's on Miracle Mile, I grabbed a copy of New Times out of the rack because of my interest in the FTAA ministerial meeting this week. I am not a regular reader of the paper, although I enjoy it occasionally.
I want you to know that I read every article in "Free Trade Miami" and found the coverage informative, comprehensive, and entertaining. I think New Times has done a better job in one issue than some of your better-known daily newspaper competitors. Congratulations.
FTAA: Caution -- Keep Away from Open Flame
America's Poorest City is ready to blow: Having lived in Seattle during the 1999 WTO riots, I have to ask Miami: What were you thinking when you agreed to host the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit?
There are many protest groups who disagree with globalization and free trade, and many other groups who will use this platform to voice their opinions. Expect to see everything from Greenpeace, women's rights groups, and Free Tibet, to the NRA and Save the Manatees. If they have a cause they will be in Miami this week. There will also be outlaw groups such as the now-famous anarchists, who are just waiting to feed off the first inevitable sign of police aggression. Then there will be the thousands of "neutral" onlookers.
What happened in Seattle and what will likely happen in America's Poorest City is that these neutral thousands will tend to justifiably sympathize with the victims of one or more global injustices; you would have to be heartless not to. Combine that with the already abhorrent class division in Miami-Dade County (one of the few places you can see a Lamborghini swerve to miss a homeless person), and you have a very passionate combination of anger, frustration, and rebellion.
Miami is a powder keg, more so than Seattle was. One wrong move by law enforcement and it won't be the anarchists who shut down Miami, but the thousands of "normal" people who will turn against everything they think is wrong in the world.
Provocateurs in the house -- who you gonna call? On November 13, the Miami City Commission approved a restrictive new law aimed at protesters who plan to express their opinions at the FTAA summit. Commissioner Tomas Regalado stated, "This will send a message to those groups who want to come here and create chaos." Question: Why didn't Regalado and the other commissioners enact a similar law aimed at hard-line Cuban protesters before or even after the Los Van Van concert of October 9, 1999? Some of us who attended the concert had rocks, broken glass, and bottles of urine thrown at us.
At an antiwar rally I attended before the start of the war in Iraq, city police told protesters anyone who was using an object to hold up a sign or flag had to separate the two and discard the wood or metal extension. I asked one police officer who was standing near me: "Why aren't the same rules applied to right-wing Cuban protesters?" His response: "Their protests are too large to enforce the rule."
So in Miami, if you can produce a large number of protesters, restrictions that apply to others don't apply to you. The ACLU needs to see to it that all protest groups are treated alike, regardless of size. That's the American way.
We thought it'd be temporary, but many books later we see we were wrong: Great article about Miami authors by Brett Sokol ("In Search of the Great Miami Novel," November 6). If you wonder why the theme of exile is ever-present among Cuban writers, consider this: 800,000 of us have come here over 40 years. We hadn't expected to leave Cuba and didn't expect to stay in Miami. We were just buying time to save our lives from firing squads, lynchings, and jails. Now it turns out we've been here for a whole lifetime, the longest exile in the history of the Western Hemisphere. We're still trying to figure the whole thing out!
In those 40 years, some 800,000-plus exiles have written and published more than the 11 million people we left behind in Cuba. And the Cubans claim to have such a fabulous educational system under Castro!
Out and Slaps You
I once was a big fan of WLRN-FM: Regarding John Anderson's story about the music programs dropped from WLRN-FM ("Tune Out," October 23), it is my understanding that a 24-hour, toll-free 800 number was in place during the station's recent pledge drive but it was never shared with the nightly programs. Why?
Considering the reason provided by management for the cancellation of The Modern School of Modern Jazz (Sunday 12:00-2:00 a.m.) and Sounds of the Caribbean (Sunday 2:00-7:00 a.m., Monday 12:00-5:00 a.m.), you would think if they wanted to give the programs a fair chance to prove their "worth," they would have at least made the 800 number available. Someone who patronizes a nighttime show that runs from 12:00 to 6:00 a.m. usually will not be thinking of calling the radio station during the day to make a contribution, and if they happen to do so, many will simply figure that contributions apply to all programming. I listen to various programming on WLRN-FM and therefore when I contribute, I figure it does apply to all programming.
I also think it is a big slap in the face to the West Indian community and all the others who have listened to these two shows over the years. I have been a big fan of public radio, but after seeing how the WLRN management has handled this, my opinion has changed. According to WLRN-FM management, it was their diverse and high-quality programming that distinguished them in the first place.
We're here to help both: Humberto Guida's article about Parrot Jungle's practice of selling exotic birds in its gift shop was very well done ("Our Feathered Friends," October 30). I receive two to three requests each week from unhappy people who want to place their very unhappy parrots with us at our bird sanctuary.
We have had some inquiries as a result of the article and would appreciate it if you would make it easier for people to contact us by printing the following information: Wings of Love Foundation can be reached at 305-246-5683.
Regina Levy Cussell
Wings of Love Foundation
Are Not Pets
So why are they for sale in the Parrot Jungle gift shop? "Our Feathered Friends" focused on an important point. As co-founder of an organization dealing with the growing number of displaced exotic birds, I'm all too familiar with the problems brought on by the indiscriminate marketing of exotic birds as "pets."
People are fascinated by the idea of having an exotic bird, but few really grasp the realities and demands of living with an undomesticated animal physically and psychologically adapted to live in the wild. Many acquire parrots simply because they become enamored of trained birds at venues like Parrot Jungle and mistakenly assume that a "pet" parrot will perform similarly in their home. Sadly, thousands of exotic birds end up relinquished to shelter facilities each year when their natural behaviors clash with human expectations.
Selling parrots as trinkets in the gift shop of Parrot Jungle is unethical. But to target an audience just entertained by performing birds is irresponsible because it is an open invitation to encourage impulse buying that will put more birds into the hands of those who are neither prepared nor qualified to care for them properly.
Parrots were not meant to be pets. They are wild animals who perform best when flying freely in the skies of their native habitats, as nature intended them to do.
The Avian Welfare Coalition
New York, New York
Squawk: Wild Things
Which you'll discover soon enough: Humberto Guida's "Our Feathered Friends" is a groundbreaking article that successfully summarized the very reasons parrot-rescue sanctuaries such as Foster Parrots are forced into existence. There are roughly 200 facilities specializing in avian rescue, many of which have surfaced within the last few years.
Organizations like Foster Parrots see birds come into the sanctuary for any number of reasons -- death, illness, or lifestyle changes. Birds can destroy furniture, scream incessantly, and have been known to frequently send people to the hospital as a result of physical attacks. The bottom line is this: These are displaced wild animals that simply do not belong in captivity.
Unfortunately the pet trade downplays the complexities of parrots in captivity and routinely leads customers to believe they are easy to care for as domesticated pets. We need to face this fact: You can take the birds out of the wild, but you can never take the wild out of the birds.
Thanks to New Times for publishing such an accurate account of the problems inherent in the trade in exotic creatures.
Foster Parrots, Ltd.
from Pet Stores?
An especially bad idea: Miami New Times should be commended for Humberto Guida's informative article about Parrot Jungle and the plight of captive birds. Birds are complex, highly social, intelligent creatures, ill-suited to the sort of life that the vast majority of impulse purchasers are willing to provide.
Often the captive birds sold at places like Parrot Jungle and pet stores come from deplorable breeding mills, similar to puppy mills. The breeder birds are treated as mere commodities and are rarely removed from their nest boxes. A bird that cannot choose his or her mate may become depressed, especially if separated from a previous partner.
There isn't just an overpopulation crisis with dogs and cats. Animal shelters and bird-rescue groups are overwhelmed with discarded, lonely, neurotic, mistreated pet-shop birds -- birds that Parrot Jungle, Petco, and other similar stores continue to sell.
Birds in these pet stores may also be infected with psittacosis, a disease that can easily be spread from bird to bird and also to human beings. Young children, the elderly, and people with impaired immune systems are especially vulnerable to the virus.
It is both inhumane and unsafe to buy a bird from a pet store. Anyone wanting more information can visit www.PETA.org.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Squawk: The Parrots of Old Pinecrest
They're gone, along with other good things: I've truly enjoyed Humberto Guida's pieces on Parrot Jungle ("Our Feathered Friends," October 30, and "For the Birds," July 10). I grew up in Pinecrest, went to Epiphany Catholic School with the daughters of one of the original owners (the Scherr family), and even worked one summer (back in 1976) in the box-office booth. Parrot Jungle was always so special and unique, so beautiful. I was saddened to hear they were leaving because of the poor birds.
Humberto wrote exactly what I had imagined would be the new jungle. It's awful, the setting is awful, everything about it is awful. This just proves again the new trend in Pinecrest and all over Miami to tear down our natural foliage and replace it with tacky, concrete McMansions. ¡Olé! to him for writing the truth. That's why I love New Times. Keep up the good reporting.
Squawk: Pay to
Not after reading about shackles and dirt: Thanks to Humberto Guida for the brutal account of the "improved" Parrot Jungle. As a guardian to eight birds, including a macaw and a cockatoo, I was appalled at the picture he painted of the horrific conditions. Shackles? How barbaric! Filth? Deplorable!
Many of us who are "owned" by birds are doing our best to educate people about how to care for birds properly, while those with money but no sense destroy our efforts. If this is what Parrot Jungle offers to visitors, is it no wonder that those wonderful creatures are neglected and abused each year by seemingly superior humans?
Thanks for the story -- it saved us money and heartbreak.
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