Thursday November 30, 2006

Stuck on the Palmetto and Babalu: a reverse chronology of escalating hostility

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But first some background.

Babalu is Miami’s most famous, most widely read blog (especially if you don’t count Drudge). It’s been around for over three years, and is widely read and internationally respected as the premiere online voice of Cubans in exile. It’s a group blog, but editor Val Pietro is close to a celebrity, having frequently appeared on the radio and in print media.

Stuck on the Palmetto just celebrated its one-year anniversary, and what a year it’s been. It’s become Miami’s most-read omniblog, and, as the sidebar prominently reminds us on every visit, was named New Times Broward’s ‘Best Blog’ for 2006. It was a one-man shop until just recently, and is officially written anonymously, though Rick and Alex’s anonymity extends pretty much just to the point of leaving off their last names.

It may or may not be worth pointing out that Babalu’s Technorati stats are about an order of magnitude higher then SotP’s. Linkfight (possibly skewed by SotP’s blogspotness). Anyway, here’s the escalating clash of these two giants, in reverse order:

A fight between two inconsequential bloggers is not very interesting. A fight between two prominent bloggers is . . . well, still not very interesting, but interesting enough to make it worth collecting all these links in one place. Personally, I like them both, but I disagree with both often enough to make it utterly impossible to try to pick a favorite or assign any blame. It’s just two guys who don’t see the world the same way, and it’s all on the record. At least until Blogger crashes once and for all!


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  1. NicFitKid    Thu Nov 30, 11:26 AM #  

    Flamewar, flamewar, burning bright
    In the servers of the night

    In the spirit of this ridiculous (but fun!) rehashing of the local blogosphere’s least copacetic moments, let me point out that the show in question was TNT’s Saved and not NBC’s Law & Order. Although I’m sure if we all try hard enough, we can find the DGI’s sinister hand directing the creative choices of Dick Wolf as well.

  2. Rick    Thu Nov 30, 11:27 AM #  

    Alesh: “Mixed posts” prior to August 31st? I see them all as postive and complimentary to babalu. Maybe there’s something I’m missing.

    And I “got something wrong” in that August 31st post? I was asking a question.

    Val fired the first shot, out of the blue, on August 31st. Period.

    I have a lot of faults. And one of them is that I have a hard time forgetting an unprovoked and personal attack borne out of arrogance and ego.


  3. Dan    Thu Nov 30, 12:11 PM #  

    On my blog, I commented about the comments that were commented in your comments section on the 27th.

    Given that you, me, Val, Rick, Pulp, and seemingly everyone else in the South Florida-based blogosphere seem to be focusing on this, it is clearly the biggest story to hit South Florida since Hurricane Andrew, or at least Art Teele. OK, maybe Art Basel. OK, OK. It’s certainly bigger than, say, Britney Spears buying a house here, or maybe Burning Spears’ New Year’s Eve show here. ... Eh, never mind.

  4. j-j    Thu Nov 30, 01:48 PM #  

    Hey Dudes, could you pleasse get along? This is the reason why web communities die out. Flame wars are cool and all but they get so personal and boring that non-bloggers normal folk such as me get turned off by all he said- you said crapfest. I even regret my last comment in that one crazy never ending post of a few days ago.

    I mean it seems that this is a very personal problem betwen 2 or 3 people (who happen to have blogs)
    Why wont they just email each other and ger it done with. Instead I think that both are so hungry for attention that they just “play it up” in public .

    Is that why someone puts up a blog? For the fame and notoriety? I don’t know! But I know that I love Critical Miami( and sex on the beach too!), is the only MIami blog that doesnt feel like an ultra predictibable rant.

    Please alesh- don’t get to deeply involved in these things…Its cool to see and know what’s going on with Babalu and SonP but lets not loose track of other things…

    From someone who loves blogs, but doesnt yet have one :-)

  5. Miami reader    Thu Nov 30, 01:48 PM #  

    Not to go off-topic or start yet another flame war, but is it really possible an English-language blog like Babalu can be the “premiere online voice of Cubans in exile”?

  6. R.    Thu Nov 30, 01:51 PM #  

    a guilty pleasure!!!
    it feels like watching Jerr e-Springer.

  7. Manuel A. Tellechea    Thu Nov 30, 02:44 PM #  

    The most popular Miami blog by far was Oscar Corral’s “Miami’s Cuban Connection.” Despite Corral’s rather blasé attitude towards his blog, which included abandoning it for weeks on end while he went “underground,” it managed to achieve something which no local (and few national) blogs have — threads with 400+ posts.

    Then Corral, of course, self-destructed; implemented moderation; and turned his blog into the “Oscar Corral Connection.”

  8. Manuel A. Tellechea    Thu Nov 30, 03:13 PM #  


    You are to be commended for bringing all the pieces of this puzzle together. It must have given you quite a headache.

  9. mkh    Thu Nov 30, 05:53 PM #  

    Here’s something for consideration. It takes a significant surplus of ego to start a blog at all, let along publicize it. Also, intrinsic to Internet culture is a tendency toward overstatement, rudeness, and unwarranted arrogance in debate (see also, USENET). Mix these two factors and stir in political opinions and you’ve got the main reason older journalists don’t take bloggers seriously.

  10. Alex    Thu Nov 30, 06:08 PM #  

    Wow Alesh! Slow news day? But in all seriousness, thanks for all the work tracking links and so on. As far as the stats… well if we must… a blog more or less limited to local happenings is not the same as a blog covering a very controversial topic like Cuba. But give us two more years…

    Miami Reader: Babalu is the definite blog about Cuba and Cubans in exile, at least those of the hardline persuasion. The stats speak by themselves and altough I only agree with Val in that we both like roasted pig and “turrones”; I recognize all the work and dedication he has put into it. The fact that it’s in English means nothing IMO.

    I don’t know of a blog written in Spanish that represents the Cuban exile. My vote would be the excellent Tumiami (, but it’s more of an arts and literature blog, not a general interest or politics blog.

  11. circuitmouse    Thu Nov 30, 06:59 PM #  

    Wouldn’t be Miami if at any given time anyone from the two bestest of friends to the worst of enemies were firing verbal mortars at each other. And as anyone below the Palm Beach county line knows, it is frequently those that we agree with that we often argue with the most.

    Re the Sept 5th post: An unfortunate reality check is that, outside of SoFla, t shirts with the bearded one, Che, Mao, Stalin, Ho Chi Minh, gosh, and probably now even Marie Antoinette, are found in every shop, bazaar or souk and on every college campus all over the planet. And don’t get me started on those f-ing “stars-and-bars.”

    Coming from one of those families with relatives representing almost every continent (and both sides of various conflicts), part of us coming to an enlightened discourse is learning how to agreeably disagree. How bland it would be if there was but one voice, one allowed style. I love to get three New Yorkers to tell me how to get from Midtown Manhattan to JFK; I’m certain to get five answers back.

  12. alesh    Thu Nov 30, 09:19 PM #  

    Rick~ I don’t know. Click the link labeled “one.” read the last paragraph. Click the link labeled “mentions”:

    for my money, there is nothing more entertaining than watching a self-touted conservative try to reconcile their supposedly genuine conservatism with what the Bush Administration has done

    While I agree with the thought behind the sentiment, I’d have a hard time arguing with someone who took those statements as negative.

    j-j~ Another thing — doing a blog is hard work. If you see something that might be worth writing about, you go for it. Especially if you’re writing as consistently as Rick. A big-time blogger in your town? I think that if I disagreed with Val as often as Rick seems to, I’d be writing about it too. Same way I write about it when I think the Herald’s screwing something up. I just don’t disagree with Babalu nearly as much as Rick.

    For myself, I like to do shit I’ve never done before. As it pertains to this site, that sometimes means doing a brand new type of rant, and that’s what this post is, I guess. I’m not particularly proud of it, but again — when you have an idea, you tend to roll with it. Sending an e-mail is more noble, but when you’re trying to write something every day, you feel a pull to do it in public more often then in private. (This morning I sent a pretty long e-mail with some suggestions to someone, which would have maybe made a decent post, fwiw.)

    Drop me a line if you ever feel like contributing something to Critical.

    Dan~ In some ways, it’s not the importance of this conflict that makes it worth writing about for me. It’s that the idea of it is interesting. Sort of.

    Miami reader~ is it really possible an English-language blog like Babalu can be the “premiere online voice of Cubans in exile”?


    R~ It is sort of fun. I’d like to think that even when it’s at its most unplesant, Rick and Val enjoy going at it with each other in a way. It’s like an argument where you get to stop between every line and really consider the perfect response.

    Manuel~ Thanks. But you’re wrong to equate long comment threads with popularity. Oscar’s blog is an attractive forum for trolls to fight each other, since it gains prominence through its association with the herald. There are many ways to judge the significance of a site, but I don’t think long threads are very important.

    mkh~ I was having a conversation with someone in the newspaper industry a few days ago, and I was explaining why I wasn’t a journalist. I was ranting and raving, it was great. It started with the idea of a press pass, and how I should have one, and how the idea of a blogger press pass makes a mockery of the very distinction between a “real” press pass and a “fake” one. Right? I said something like:

    Journalists go to school for four years. They learn things like journalistic ethics. They learn about making a story fair and balanced. They’re trained to have scruples. Me? No attempt at balance. No attempt to quote sources. In fact, I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve picked up the phone to find out something for a post I was working on. Me? No fucking scrupules — it’s my blog, and i’ll do as I please.

    I was sort of joking, but then there’s the “there’s no such thing as an objective opinion anyway, so why pretend” line. Anyway. Your points are good, except for this: reporters — some of them, anyway — DO take blogs seriously. People read them, right? People are sure as hell reading this one. Beats me as to why, sometimes.

    Alex~ Yes, good points: a blog more or less limited to local happenings is not the same as a blog covering a very controversial topic like Cuba. But give us two more years

    I was going to say something like that, but I wanted to cut to the chase, and not get bogged down in peripheral arguments. I could do another 500 words about stuff I hate about SotP and Balabu’s layout, design and redability/usability. But I won’t. Good grief!

    By the way, I think it’s actually extremely significant that Babalu is in English, but I haven’t quite worked out why yet.

    Circuitmouse~ Yes. But. Being an immigrant from a Communist country is different. It’s a very distinct type of despair and sadness and anger, and anyone who does anything that appears in support of said communism gets unconditional scorn. It almost becomes not ABOUT rationality sometimes.

  13. Alex    Thu Nov 30, 10:39 PM #  

    I don’t want to speak for Val, but I think the reason is simple; a big portion of Babalu’s intended readership, the people he wants to educate about Cuba, doesn’t speak Spanish.

    And btw, the reason journalists hate blogs is because they steal readership. People have demonstrated over and over they’ll go for the infotainment over the real thing. Witness the success of talk radio and cable junk. Balanced and unbiased is not sexy nowadays. Just the same, I think blogs will be another fad.

  14. Rick    Thu Nov 30, 11:03 PM #  

    I don’t know. Click the link labeled “one.” read the last paragraph.

    I am totally lost, man. There is nothing there that resembles what you’re talking about. But, hey, you just picked up 4 page views with me trying.

  15. alesh    Fri Dec 1, 07:04 AM #  

    I think a reasonable question is what happens to Babalu when Cuba is liberated. What does a blog that spends the majority of its time being anti-Castro become when Castro is no longer around?

    Is the graf I was talking bout. While you're clicking around furiously, why don't you click a couple of my ads, too? ;)


    Just the same, I think blogs will be another fad.

    No doubt. This whole internet thing will blow over soon, I’m sure.

  16. mkh    Fri Dec 1, 07:25 AM #  

    Alesh, that’s why I said “older journalists.” I know there are exceptions, but just like any other new medium, the highest concentration of disdain is found among the old guard.

  17. Manuel A. Tellechea    Fri Dec 1, 07:38 AM #  

    The answer, Alesh, is pro-Cuban. That’s what all enemies of Fidel Castro’s regime will become once the regime, not Castro, is dead. That is in fact what we have always been because it has always been in Cuba’s interest to oppose Castro.

    And, of course, we shall also be occupied for many years in exposing the real extent of his crimes (which can’t even be guessed) and clearing the mess that he has made.

  18. Val Prieto    Fri Dec 1, 08:48 AM #  

    I heard they were serving lechon and turrones here. Where’s my plate?

  19. alesh    Fri Dec 1, 10:35 AM #  

    Uh oh — i have a feeling we’re being treated to an idiomatic expression.

    Manuel~ I was quoting Rick’s question. When Cuba is liberated I’m sure Babalu will change, but will be as popular as ever.

  20. nonee moose    Fri Dec 1, 10:05 PM #  

    Virtual beer anyone? I’m buying…

  21. Miamista    Sat Dec 2, 03:52 PM #  

    This is Fuuuuuhhhny. I’m glad I’m not in the middle of it. I would then have to get out of the way so it could keep going. Actually it seems to shake up what was becoming a very stale and inbred scene imo. I want to comment more of course but I have a backlog of Miami fun and dysfunction that is so long that I’ll never get around to to finishing, much less commenting on this. I’m international for a few weeks instead…

    Great work in outlining everything Alesh. I must admit you does what you do real good man…