Nextdoor – Are you using? If not, why?

Social media is here to stay.  Some of you remember Myspace and although very popular, in time it fizzled.   Are you familiar with Nextdoor?  Are you using it?  If not, why not?

Back to the Myspace comparison as it reminds me of the early stages of Yahoo.  Both, literally had the market to themselves but something happened and they were overtaken by competitors who capitalized on their uniqueness and the result is they no longer sit at the top of the throne.

Some of you may have poked around with Facebook in its early days?  You left and fast forward to improvements and better migration of how social media impacts our lives, you now find renewed interest in the way it allows you to connect to people and issues you care about.

In 2010, Nextdoor was launched with a very simple premise to allow neighbors to connect with other neighbors and communities to connect with other communities, on and on.  It is a powerful tool and since its launch they have built a cult-like following so that users can embrace the social media phenomenon to discuss a myriad of issues, specific to their neighborhood.  From the latest yard sale, to the most reliable handyman, to demolition projects and even connecting to public officials, it popularity is blazing trails connecting people and neighbors to same way Facebook allows personal interaction.




New and Updated Cuba-Related Frequently Asked Questions.

(c) Fred Thomas, III

Following up on Donald Trump’s mandate issued June 16, 2017 for the the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to issue updated restrictions for those traveling the CUBA, the following Frequently Asked Questions has been provided.

If  you will recall the unrealistic timeline to have something in place within 30 days of the announcement was missed.  The key to today’s update is guidelines have been FRAMED but until adopted/approved, it is business as usual.  However, if in doubt those traveling to Cuba should check OFAC or their congressional representative for any questions.

Department of the Treasury
Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

Frequently Asked Questions on President Trump’s Cuba Announcement

1. How will OFAC implement the changes to the Cuba sanctions program announced by the President on June 16, 2017? Are the changes effective immediately?
OFAC will implement the Treasury-specific changes via amendments to its Cuban Assets Control Regulations. The Department of Commerce will implement any necessary changes via amendments to its Export Administration Regulations. OFAC expects to issue its regulatory amendments in the coming months. The announced changes do not take effect until the new regulations are issued.
2. What is individual people-to-people travel, and how does the President’s announcement impact this travel authorization?
Individual people-to-people travel is educational travel that: (i) does not involve academic study pursuant to a degree program; and (ii) does not take place under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact. The President instructed Treasury to issue regulations that will end individual people-to-people travel. The announced changes do not take effect until the new regulations are issued.
3. Will group people-to-people travel still be authorized?
Yes. Group people-to-people travel is educational travel not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program that takes place under the auspices of an organization that is subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsors such exchanges to promote people-to-people contact. Travelers utilizing this travel authorization must: (i) maintain a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that are intended to enhance contact with the Cuban people, support civil society in Cuba, or promote the Cuban people’s independence from Cuban authorities, and that will result in meaningful interaction between the traveler and individuals in Cuba; and (ii) be accompanied by an employee, consultant, or agent of the sponsoring organization, who will ensure that each traveler maintains a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities. In addition, the predominant portion of the activities engaged in by individual travelers must not be with prohibited officials of the Government of Cuba or prohibited members of the Cuban Communist Party (as defined in the regulations). Once OFAC issues the new regulations, new individual people-to-people travel will not be authorized.
4. Will organizations subject to U.S. jurisdiction that sponsor exchanges to promote people-to-people contact be required to apply to OFAC for a specific license?
No. To the extent that proposed travel falls within the scope of an existing general license, including group people-to-people educational travel, persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction may proceed with sponsoring such travel without applying to OFAC for a Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)
specific license. It is OFAC’s policy not to grant applications for a specific license authorizing transactions where a general license is applicable.
Once the State Department publishes its list of entities and subentities with which direct transactions will not be authorized and OFAC issues its regulations, no new transactions, including travel-related transactions, may be initiated with these identified entities and subentities. Prior travel arrangements that may involve these entities or subentities will still be authorized. See FAQ 8.
5. How do the changes announced by the President on June 16, 2017 affect individual people-to-people travelers who have already begun making their travel arrangements (such as purchasing flights, hotels, or rental cars)?
The announced changes do not take effect until OFAC issues new regulations. Provided that the traveler has already completed at least one travel-related transaction (such as purchasing a flight or reserving accommodation) prior to the President’s announcement on June 16, 2017, all additional travel-related transactions for that trip would also be authorized, including if the trip occurs after OFAC issues new regulations, provided the travel-related transactions are consistent with OFAC’s regulations as of June 16, 2017. Once the State Department publishes its list of entities and subentities with which direct transactions will not be authorized and OFAC issues its regulations, no new transactions may be initiated with these identified entities and subentities. Prior travel arrangements that may involve these entities or subentities will still be authorized. See FAQ 8.
6. How does the new policy impact other authorized travel to Cuba by persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction?
The new policy will also impact certain categories of educational travel as well as travel under support for the Cuban people, as set forth in the National Security Presidential Memorandum signed by the President on June 16, 2017. In addition, following the issuance of OFAC’s regulatory changes, travel-related transactions with prohibited entities identified by the State Department will not be permitted, unless otherwise authorized by OFAC. Guidance will accompany the issuance of the new regulations.
7. Will persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction be required to apply to OFAC for a specific license to engage in Cuba-related travel and transactions consistent with the other authorized categories of travel?
To the extent that proposed travel falls within the scope of an existing general license, persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction may proceed with such travel without applying to OFAC for a specific license. It is OFAC’s policy not to grant applications for a specific license authorizing transactions where a general license is applicable. Once the State Department publishes its list of entities and subentities with which direct transactions will not be authorized and OFAC issues its regulations, no new transactions may be initiated with these identified entities and subentities. Prior travel arrangements that may involve these entities or subentities will still be authorized. See FAQ 8. Department of the Treasury
Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) 3
8. How do the changes announced by the President on June 16, 2017 affect authorized travelers to Cuba whose travel arrangements may include direct transactions with entities related to the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services that may be implicated by the new Cuba policy?
The announced changes do not take effect until OFAC issues new regulations. Consistent with the Administration’s interest to avoid negatively impacting Americans for arranging lawful travel to Cuba, any travel-related arrangements that include direct transactions with entities related to the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services that may be implicated by the new Cuba policy will be permitted provided that those travel arrangements were initiated prior to the State Department listing of the entity or subentity. Once the State Department adds an entity or subentity to the list, new direct financial transactions with the entity or subentity will not be permitted, unless authorized by OFAC.
9. How do the changes announced by the President on June 16, 2017 affect companies subject to U.S. jurisdiction that are already engaged in the Cuban market and that may undertake direct transactions with entities related to the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services that may be implicated by the new Cuba policy?
The announced changes do not take effect until OFAC issues new regulations. Consistent with the Administration’s interest in not negatively impacting American businesses for engaging in lawful commercial opportunities, Cuba-related commercial engagement that includes direct transactions with entities and subentities related to the Cuban military, intelligence, or security services that may be implicated by the new Cuba policy will be permitted after the issuance of new regulations by OFAC, provided that those commercial engagements were in place prior to the issuance of the forthcoming regulations. For example, businesses will be permitted to continue with transactions outlined in contingent or other types of contractual arrangements agreed to prior to the issuance of the new regulations, consistent with other CACR authorizations.
10. Does the new policy affect the means by which persons subject to U.S jurisdiction may purchase airline tickets for authorized travel to Cuba?
No. The new policy will not change the means by which persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction traveling to Cuba pursuant to the 12 categories of authorized travel may purchase their airline tickets.
11. Can I continue to send authorized remittances to Cuba?
Yes. The announced policy changes will not change the authorizations for sending remittances to Cuba. Additionally, the announced changes include an exception that will allow for transactions incidental to the sending, processing, and receipt of authorized remittances to the extent they would otherwise be restricted by the new policy limiting transactions with certain identified Cuban military, intelligence, or security
Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) 4
services. However, consistent with the President’s policy announcement, changes will be made to the definition of prohibited members of Government of Cuba that may exclude certain persons from receipt of such remittances.
12. How will the new policy impact existing OFAC specific licenses?
The forthcoming regulations will be prospective and thus will not affect authorized transactions under existing specific licenses, unless explicitly noted.
13. How will U.S. companies know if a Cuban counterpart is affiliated with a prohibited entity or subentity in Cuba?
The State Department will be publishing a list of entities and subentities with which direct transactions generally will not be permitted. Guidance will accompany the issuance of the new regulations. The announced changes do not take effect until the new regulations are issued.
14. Is authorized travel by cruise ship or passenger vessel to Cuba impacted by the new Cuba policy?
Persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction will still be able to engage in authorized travel to Cuba by cruise ship or passenger vessel.
Following the issuance of OFAC’s regulatory changes, travel-related transactions with prohibited entities and subentities identified by the State Department generally will not be permitted. Guidance will accompany the issuance of the new regulations.

For more information on the National Security Presidential Memorandum visit:

The Juice (O.J.) is loose….again!

O.J.(Orenthal James Simpson)  was granted parole following today’s hearing held by the Nevada Correctional Board.  In a unanimous 4 to 0 decision, following approximately 45 minutes of various testimony, the board deliberated for about another hour before acknowledging in their opinion Simpson had earned to right for parole, thus they were granting his petition.

Yet, all these years later and for whatever the reason there remains a polarizing divide among people discussing the Simpson issue?  As the announcement was made, I tuned into cable news and was surprised at the vitriol of “professional” commentators who still show disdain for Simpson and refuse the separate the murder case from the property case?

As for the acquittal that Simpson won, the Supreme Court has been clear that in murder cases guilt can only be achieved when there is no doubt…….BASED ON THE EVIDENCE presented by the prosecution.  It’s not good enough for people to say “they know O.J. committed the murders and he is guilty!!”  The jurors saw it differently and to be quite frank their decision did not affirm Simpson guilty or not, they simply communicated that based on the evidence there was reasonable doubt, therefore OJ was not held guilty for the murders.

I know some remain furious, such as CNN’s Jeffrey Tobin and his panel of “expert” lawyers, but the parole hearing was about Simpson’s behavior since being held in custody by the Nevada Correctional System, not a re-letigation of the trial of which he was acquitted.

So for now, in a couple of months, the Juice will be loose again.

The AXE files featuring John Lewis

Some of you may have seen this hour clip from David Axelrod’s latest venture; “The AXE files.”  It featured a great interview with the iconic John Lewis, who is the Congressman from Atlanta.

The interview was conducted at the King Center in Atlanta, GA and gives you an idea of how Lewis got involved in the civil rights movement as well as his admonishment of Donald Trump’s behavior.  Interestingly, it also covers how he and George W. Bush developed a positive relationship which led to the opening of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

Trump administration yields 222,000 new jobs in June, in comparison Obama had negative 467,000



The bureau of labor statistics (BLS) released its monthly employment report this morning.  The Trump administration is all smiles as over 222,000 new jobs were reported for the month of June.  In comparison to the Obama administration at the same time (June 2009), 467,000 jobs were lost.   Some may have forgotten the details as there is always comparisons of the two leaders?  The big difference is despite being hounded for not moving the economy at a faster pace, even those subjected to a confessional would admit or remember the comparison of the Obama administration is like apples and oranges!   In June 2009, the country was reeling from a severe economic collapse.

Interestingly, once the Obama administration “pulled the car from the ditch” and got the economy moving forward, there was blistering criticism from the right that he was influencing or fudging the numbers.

Rev. Jesse Jackson once quipped about the obstruction and lack of support Obama had to endure as the United States of America was going through very perilous times,

“They (GOP) would rather sink the ship just to get the Captain!!”

The BLS is a non-partisan government agency who has been providing employment data for decades.  Yet, during the Obama administration tenure as the economy stabilized, it became regular political fodder to marginalize the BLS reporting and label it some type of hocus-pocus or unbelievable data.  Even then citizen, Donald Trump quickly jumped on the bandwagon to dismiss the authenticity of the report.  Instead the spin because verbal combat of stating the only reason the numbers were improving was because able body workers simply grew to frustration and stopped looking for work.

Fast forward to today, the numbers are the numbers and the Trump administration earned the positive report and the word to the wise is to “be careful what you criticize today, as tomorrow it may be an attribute which allows you to be viewed in a positive manner.

Also as the health care debate rages forward regarding how bad the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how it was the worse law anybody could pass.  The rhetoric about the “job killer” that it is, on and on is almost as laughable as those who are demanding health care remain in place, not knowing it is called “Obama care,” or perhaps they too have come to accept the reality?

It will be interesting to see how the spin of the employment report is communicated.  Not surprising is one of the tenants of the ACA was the revolution of job growth.  So, it is no secret that, health care was the leading industry of the 222,000 new jobs?

Mortgage rates climb back towards 4 percent

rates 762017


As predicted, mortgage rates climbed eight basis points in week over week reported and now sit at 3.960%.  The move was expected and based on the shortened trading factoring the July 4th holiday.  Therefore, the two-point gain from last week was wiped out.


Overall rates are very attractive for home buyers as well as those seeking to refinance their existing mortgage.  The key for most consumers to take advantage of rates is positioning or being able to make a formal application and having the ability close within a reasonable period of time.  Refinancing can be trickier as many lenders lock in the rate for 60 days at time of preliminary approval.  Consumers completing a purchase transaction are guided by the close of escrow, so locking before that time might be unavailable.

Supply and Demand

While the 10-year treasury bond is the key instrument in gauging mortgage movement, there are other factors to consider such as the overall economy and even world events.  Supply is demand triggers movement up or down.

credit – Freddie Mac

Mortgage applications have been stable, however should there be a surge the result may be higher rates.  Just this month, lenders are preparing for more applications as underwriting guidelines have changed which may motivate more borrowers to consider a transaction.

Rate Recap here

The Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®) has evolved since its inception in April 1971 into the foremost reliable, representative source of regional and national mortgage rate trends and is relied upon by the mortgage industry and the public in gauging market conditions and evaluating mortgage loan options.

Mortgage applicant’s catch a break

Embed from Getty Images


If you are trying to purchase a home or refinance your existing mortgage, starting this month the break you may have been hoping for is here.  At least for those on the margins who may have lower credit scores or excessive debt to income.

Tax liens and civil penalties may be dropped from your credit report, thus allowing your score to increase.  Additionally, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac who are the two largest institutional mortgage providers who purchase mortgages from their large cadre of lenders will allow borrowers debt to income ratio to move from 45 percent to 50 percent.

The impact

Tax liens and civil penalties can be a thorn for borrowers who sometimes don’t find out about them until late in a transaction.  The issue is sometimes they are not 100% complete or may contain erroneous information.  If that is your circumstance and you can document your position, the three credit reporting bureaus cannot report them as being authentically delinquently, thus your credit score will not reflect them as negative.

Again, this is critical if you are at the margins of being defined as having great credit versus good credit, or good credit versus poor credit.  As an example, most lenders use risk based pricing to determine which interest rates borrowers will be afforded.

Using a first-time buyer for the sake of illustration on a $200,000 mortgage, using today’s benchmark 30-year mortgage at zero discount points, equals 3.875%.

Great credit, FICO above 720. payment is $940 per month.

Good credit, FICO below 720 but higher than 680, rate is 4.125% or to obtain 3.875% discount points of 1.250% must be applied.  Payment is $969 per month or to achieve $940 payment, discount points of $2,500 must be paid.

$29 difference does not seem like a lot of money but over time you are paying more than necessary.

This is just a crude example but as you can see your credit score will determine which rate you are offered and before the announcement, lenders were required to put the information on your credit report as it was assumed to be accurate.

The other component where borrowers may get some breathing room is the increase of the debt to income ratio.

Again, using the $200,000 mortgage as an example and a purchase price of $250,000, assume taxes and insurance are $300, so the total mortgage payment would $1,240.  Assuming you have $1,000 in debt, so your total housing debt based using basic underwriting guidelines would be $2,240, thus you would need a gross household income of $5,600 per month to gain mortgage approval.  With the new guidelines, you now would need just $4,480 per month.  The difference is a whopping $1,120 per month and that could represent the opportunity to qualify for a larger mortgage which is crucial as home prices continue to rise or you simply could easier qualify for the mortgage of your liking.

Of course, there are critics to these two changes as some reflect back to the housing crisis of 2008 as well as the core reasons which led to the downfall.

At the same time, many lenders feel their portfolios are healthier and the benefits outweigh the risk, particularly as application production has been tepid, if not flat.

If you are in these two categories the best advice is:

  1. Present your documentation or your dispute to the three major credit reporting agencies Equifax, TransUnion and Experian.
  2. Check with your lender or mortgage originator to make sure the mortgage is based on Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac underwriting guidelines, and to determine if the new debt to income levels are in place.


Fannie Mae

Freddie Mac





MLB’s interest in baseball players from Cuba

Fred at the Cuba's famous Latinoamericano Estado
Fred at the Cuba’s famous Estadio Latinoamericano (c) Fred Thomas, III

It has been no secret that Major League Baseball may have finally found the combination to the vault!  Inside the vault was the treasure trove of players who hail from the Caribbean’s largest country known as CUBA.

Contrary to some who are just discovering or re-discovering this “forbidden” country, baseball has long been a trademark of the island.  Competition dates back to December 27, 1874.  Even as the Negro Leagues were building legendary status; due to legalized segregation practiced in the United States players were forbidden to join Major League teams.  It was during their heyday they found a welcomed ally and a fan base in Cuba who appreciated their style of play.  Those who remember the movie 42 may recall the scene when the Los Angeles Dodgers were trying to transition Jackie Robinson to first base?  It actually took place during a time when some of the Dodgers trained in Cuba.


“I have found memories of Cuba.  While with the Dodgers I pitched down there about six years.  I don’t like the government but I love the game of baseball.”  Tommy Lasorda, Los Angeles Dodgers

Once the Cuban revolutionist took place, baseball was banned, although temporarily.  The new regime understood the impact sport plays in our society, thus the Cuban national team took on a new dimension.  They became a powerhouse and a powerful tool for the country.  The fact players were paid a pittance (in capitalist terms) is important, but not as important as the pride players took in being a part of the team.


During the last 15 years or so there has been an escalation of baseball players from Cuba who had the aspiration to play in the Major Leagues.  Those who arrived, although through very dangerous circumstances were welcomed.  Some eventually achieved success, but many more did not.

Major League’s interest in Cuban players is somewhat of an unknown topic.  However, those familiar with the sport simply know those players who are part of Cuba’s national baseball program are better trained and ready to transition at a quicker rate than other countries.  Thus, the floodgates have been cracked open so expect this number to increase, especially with Major League Baseball’s strategy to internationalize the sport.

Current Lineup

Currently, or as of this writing there are 21 players who are playing in Major League Baseball.  While 25 players make up the official roster, teams are allowed to stretch that number to 40 representing its active roster, so for the sake of argument of the 1,200 players, 22 or less than two percent are from Cuba.

Adeiny Hechavarria
Adeiny Hechavarria Tampa Bay Rays
Adonis Garcia
Adonis Garcia

Atlanta Braves

Aledmys Diaz
Aledmys Diaz

St. Louis Cardinals

Ariel Miranda
Ariel Miranda

Seattle Mariners

Armando Rivero
Armando Rivero

Atlanta Braves

Albertin Aroldis Chapman

New York Yankees

Guillermo Heredia
Guillermo Heredia

Seattle Mariners

Jorge Carlos Soler
Jorge Carlos Soler

Kansas City Royals

Jose Antonio Iglesias
Jose Antonio Iglesias

Detriot Tigers

José Dariel Abreu
José Dariel Abreu

Chicago White Sox

Odrisamer Despaigne
Odrisamer Despaigne

Miami Marlins

Raisel Iglesias
Raisel Iglesias

Cincinnati Reds

Roenis Elias
Roenis Elias

Boston Red Sox

Yandy Diaz
Yandy Diaz

Cleveland Indians

Yasiel Puig
Yasiel Puig

Los Angeles Dodgers

Yasmani Grandal
Yasmani Grandal

Los Angeles Dodgers

Yasmany Tomás
Yasmany Tomás

Arizona Diamondbacks

Yoan Moncada
Yoan Moncada

Chicago White Sox

Yoenis Céspedes
Yoenis Céspedes

New York Mets

Yonder Alonso
Yonder Alonso

Oakland Athletics

Yunel Almenares Escobar
Yunel Almenares Escobar

Los Angeles Angeles

Major League Baseball returns to Cuba as part of Goodwill Tour

Bibliography/Additional References

The Last Out (Doc)

The Last Out | POV (

Last Seasons in Havana: The Castro Revolution and the End of Professional Baseball in Cuba

Brioso, César

The Pride of Havana: A History of Cuban Baseball

Gonzalez Echevarria, Roberto

Major League Cuban (Doc)

Island Baseball

Jailed for Smuggling Players

Frederick Douglass and his 4th of July or Independence Day speech

America’s Independence Day, commonly known as the 4th of July brings pride and jubilee to those who call the United States home.  The day marks a critical point in history as freedom and independence is celebrated.

Race is one of those words commonly used in discussing the United States or America. Unfortunately, some prefer to dismiss it because it can be an uncomfortable topic or they feel it is inconsequential?  The late Rev. E.V. Hill who was a distinguished pastor in Los Angeles had a way of admonishing those who spoke about historical facts.  “A historian must tell it all!!!  He can’t pick and choose what he thinks is right.”

Douglass’ mansion in Washington, D.C.

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery.  Miraculously he rose out of slavery, became educated and took on the role as an abolitionist.  He was noted for his great oratorical skills.   He became an official of the United States government and earned the respect as a patriot and an American icon.

No doubt Douglass’ life was remarkable.  His commentary regarding the need to end slavery was controversial.  Many even viewed him as disrespectful or ungrateful based on the positions he spoke about.

One of his most famous speeches he gave was titled, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” which was given on July 5, 1852 at the famous Rochester Corinthian Hall.  The event was commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

No doubt, much as changed regarding race relations in the United States.  Slavery ended 152 years ago.  Douglass’ speech was 165 years ago, but we are sharing the full speech today as in the context of history, signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, offered stark contradictions that Douglass had the courage to point out.  All men did not enjoy the freedom and independence which was proclaimed.

During the time period of Douglass’ speech, those of African descent who lived in America were called Negroes.  Today, they are commonly identified as African-Americans.  Like most Americans, they too enthusiastically partake in 4th of July celebrations.  The point is, Douglass’ words are worthy to understand, if nothing more than for historical context to appreciate the ideals of full independence.

taken from The Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass, Volume II
Pre-Civil War Decade 1850-1860
Philip S. Foner
International Publishers Co., Inc., New York, 1950

 “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” by Frederick Douglass

Fellow Citizens, I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men, too Ñ great enough to give frame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory….

…Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

Would to God, both for your sakes and ours, that an affirmative answer could be truthfully returned to these questions! Then would my task be light, and my burden easy and delightful. For who is there so cold, that a nation’s sympathy could not warm him? Who so obdurate and dead to the claims of gratitude, that would not thankfully acknowledge such priceless benefits? Who so stolid and selfish, that would not give his voice to swell the hallelujahs of a nation’s jubilee, when the chains of servitude had been torn from his limbs? I am not that man. In a case like that, the dumb might eloquently speak, and the “lame man leap as an hart.”

But such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common.ÑThe rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought light and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, towering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrevocable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yea! we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there, they that carried us away captive, required of us a song; and they who wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth.”

Fellow-citizens, above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then, fellow-citizens, is American slavery. I shall see this day and its popular characteristics from the slave’s point of view. Standing there identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery Ñ the great sin and shame of America! “I will not equivocate; I will not excuse”; I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just.

But I fancy I hear some one of my audience say, “It is just in this circumstance that you and your brother abolitionists fail to make a favorable impression on the public mind. Would you argue more, an denounce less; would you persuade more, and rebuke less; your cause would be much more likely to succeed.” But, I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the anti-slavery creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. The slaveholders themselves acknowledge it in the enactment of laws for their government. They acknowledge it when they punish disobedience on the part of the slave. There are seventy-two crimes in the State of Virginia which, if committed by a black man (no matter how ignorant he be), subject him to the punishment of death; while only two of the same crimes will subject a white man to the like punishment. What is this but the acknowledgment that the slave is a moral, intellectual, and responsible being? The manhood of the slave is conceded. It is admitted in the fact that Southern statute books are covered with enactments forbidding, under severe fines and penalties, the teaching of the slave to read or to write. When you can point to any such laws in reference to the beasts of the field, then I may consent to argue the manhood of the slave. When the dogs in your streets, when the fowls of the air, when the cattle on your hills, when the fish of the sea, and the reptiles that crawl, shall be unable to distinguish the slave from a brute, then will I argue with you that the slave is a man!

For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian’s God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!

Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? that he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. Must I argue the wrongfulness of slavery? Is that a question for Republicans? Is it to be settled by the rules of logic and argumentation, as a matter beset with great difficulty, involving a doubtful application of the principle of justice, hard to be understood? How should I look to-day, in the presence of Amercans, dividing, and subdividing a discourse, to show that men have a natural right to freedom? speaking of it relatively and positively, negatively and affirmatively. To do so, would be to make myself ridiculous, and to offer an insult to your understanding. There is not a man beneath the canopy of heaven that does not know that slavery is wrong for him.

What, am I to argue that it is wrong to make men brutes, to rob them of their liberty, to work them without wages, to keep them ignorant of their relations to their fellow men, to beat them with sticks, to flay their flesh with the lash, to load their limbs with irons, to hunt them with dogs, to sell them at auction, to sunder their families, to knock out their teeth, to burn their flesh, to starve them into obedience and submission to their mastcrs? Must I argue that a system thus marked with blood, and stained with pollution, is wrong? No! I will not. I have better employment for my time and strength than such arguments would imply.

What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman, cannot be divine! Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may; I cannot. The time for such argument is passed.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival….

…Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented, of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. “The arm of the Lord is not shortened,” and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from “the Declaration of Independence,” the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. — Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are distinctly heard on the other.

The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, “Let there be Light,” has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment. ‘Ethiopia, shall, stretch. out her hand unto Ood.” In the fervent aspirations of William Lloyd Garrison, I say, and let every heart join in saying it:

God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o’er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom’s reign,
To man his plundered rights again

God speed the day when human blood
Shall cease to flow!
In every clime be understood,
The claims of human brotherhood,
And each return for evil, good,
Not blow for blow;
That day will come all feuds to end,
And change into a faithful friend
Each foe.

God speed the hour, the glorious hour,
When none on earth
Shall exercise a lordly power,
Nor in a tyrant’s presence cower;
But to all manhood’s stature tower,
By equal birth!
That hour will come, to each, to all,
And from his Prison-house, to thrall
Go forth.

Until that year, day, hour, arrive,
With head, and heart, and hand I’ll strive,
To break the rod, and rend the gyve,
The spoiler of his prey deprive —
So witness Heaven!
And never from my chosen post,
Whate’er the peril or the cost,
Be driven.

CUBA and Trump’s travel ban

Trump signs Cuba order 

Despite much fanfare during the June 2017 ceremony of yet another Trump executive order, this one focusing on United States and Cuba relations. It took direct aim at limiting United States citizens desire to travel to the Caribbean’s largest country known as Cuba, in the disguise of clamping down on the Castro regime and their “oppressive” government. Some wonder who really are the winners or losers?

Until the promised new proposals are approved and the official start date is announced, current guidelines last updated by the Obama administration remain in force. To travel to Cuba and secure your “self-service” license from the United States Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets, you must fit into one of these 12 approved categories:
1.  Family visits
2.  Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations
3.  Journalistic activity
4.  Professional research and professional meetings
5.  Educational activities
6.  Religious activities
7.  Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions
8.  Support for the Cuban people
9.  Humanitarian projects
10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes
11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials
12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

Why the rush to change the policy?

The exact time or circumstance is not known but some suggest it was at the Correspondent’s dinner in 2011 when President Obama publicly skewered Donald Trump while debunking his ridiculous “birther” claim. What is known is that once Trump secured the presidency he has been hell-bent on wiping away any legislative accomplishments executed by the Obama administration.

Trump found an ally in Rubio

Once political opponents tossed in a campaign to become the Republican nominee for the 2016 presidential race, Trump and United States Senator Marco Rubio were known for their aggressive attacks on each other. However, in the world of politics today’s foe might become tomorrow’s friend?

One group which became a campaign opportunity for Trump was the Cuban nationals who have built an impressive political power base in Miami. Many of them were displaced and exiled during the 60’s Cuban revolution and despise the Castro regime. Their leader was none other than Marco Rubio who had built an impressive coalition representing dissenting voices of the regime. They were very vocal and vowed revenge for the policies and guidelines enacted by President Obama towards Cuba.

Rubio’s group promised Trump support, including votes from the Cuban community in his exchange for dismantling what Obama had accomplished.   More importantly, Trump found a political opportunity or another issue where he could retaliate against Obama.. Unfortunately Hillary Clinton beat him in the Miami-Dade or Little Havana communities by over 290,000 votes.

Nevertheless a deal was a deal!  During that afternoon on June 16th, Rubio’s team consisted of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, along with Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Gov. Rick Scott and Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Rubio, Diaz-Balart and Alex Acosta. They joined Trump while he proclaimed, “Last year I promised to be a voice against oppression … and a voice for the freedom of the Cuban people,” he said. “You heard that pledge. You exercised the right you have to vote. You went out and voted and here I am like I promised.”

The Impact

Done with great fanfare, the announcement by Donald Trump resulted in two specific guideline changes:
Make it illegal for Americans to patronize facilities related to the Cuban military, and
• Make individual travel to Cuba far more difficult for Americans. Currently this is through a program known as people-to-people.

“President Trump’s clownish, red-meat speech to the aging remnants of the Bay of Pigs fiasco should not mislead us into believing—as much of the media did—that Senator Marco Rubio re-wrote Cuba strategy,” Richard Feinberg—Nonresident Senior Fellow, Latin America Initiative

The Twist

The unknown is when will the guidelines be announced, let alone ready to be enforced?

This presidential directive reveals a regrettable point of view. However, the policy itself (although based on the erroneous logic that coercion will produce policy change in Havana) fails to reverse the process of normalization, as it does not significantly interrupt the relations reached during the last two years.”  Roberto Veiga Gonzalez, General Coordinator, Cuba Posible

In the past few years several Cuban nationals have voiced direct comments regarding Cuba and the United States relations. Their names shall remain anonymous but their comments are accurate as told directly to me.

“I love my country but I can’t keep fighting a battle that has long been decided! What does it gain? My life and health is too valuable. I can’t live for yesterday, I must live for today.”

“Once the revolution started, you either accepted the regime or you didn’t! I accept what our government did. I am so happy President Obama opened up relationship.”

“This embargo is laughable. Every nation of mankind is visiting Cuba, except the United States and that is a shame!”

“We are a socialist country which was supported by a communist country. That does not change the ideals we have as far as creating a system that we support. No country is perfect!”

Key Facts

  • January 1, 1959, Fidel Castro’s 28th of July Movement ousted the Batista regime and took control of the Cuban Government.
  • February 2, 1962, The United States imposed an enhanced embargo.
  • December 17, 2014, President Obama and President Raul Castro agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations.
  • July 20, 2015 Cuba Embassy reopened in Washington, DC. United States Embassy reopened in Cuba.
  • September 2015 President Obama and President Raul Castro held first face to face meeting.
  • June, 16, 2017 President Trump signed executive order amending policy/guidelines towards Cuba.
  • July 17, 2017 Federal agencies affected by the Trump order are to have policy guidelines submitted for review.