Saturday, August 25, 2007

In the Manda Madre! Department...

Cuba is celebrating what would have been Beny More's 88th birthday. According to the article, which is in Spanish, Beny died of cirrhosis of the liver at age 43, as if we didn't know he died of a beating for trying to escape Cuba.
Read it here.

Enlightened Liberals and Cubanophobia: Updated

This is the current comic at The Washington Post, brought to you by the same enlightened types who would not think of publishing a cartoon about African-Americans being sent back to Africa, or Jews being sent back to Nazi Germany. Heck, they wouldn't print one about Muslims being sent somewhere to the Middle East. But somehow, this is acceptable. Imus loses his job for using "nappy headed hos," yet this piece of detritus is published by one of the major newspapers in the United States.

I've often wondered why Cuban Americans are the only minority group that can be attacked with impunity. And, I suspect, there are many factors, envy, xenophobia, etc... But there's a clue in this abomination. Take a look at what the soon-to-be exiles are saying. They won't be allowed to "interfere' in the next election. It's about politics, folks. What they cannot forgive us is that we are in the main politically conservative, tend to vote Republican, and have the power of numbers in the very important state of Florida. Yup, that's it. We're not cool.

Why should it be a surprise that Cuban Americans vote Republican? Cubans arrive here fleeing a ubiquitous totalitarian state. They do not see government as the beneficent doler out of entitlements. It then makes sense that they would like to see the least government possible. And which party has traditionally stood for less government, for the right to bear arms? Then there is the question of taxes. Being of an entrepreneurial bent, firmly planted in the bourgeoisie, they are very sensitive to questions of taxes and regulations. Any question as to why they would be conservative? Finally, there is the question of history. I'd say at least half of Cuban Americans remember the men that were left to die on the beach at Playa Giron, facing Russian tanks, when the promised air support didn't arrive. Is that enough to keep voting Republican in perpetuam? No, but it doesn't make one feel very Democratic.

Mas Canosa once supported a Democrat, Bill Clinton. And how was he repaid? With Wet Foot/Dry Foot, with paratroopers busting into a family home, guns drawn, to forcibly send a child back to a Stalinist state to be with his father, the father who had suddenly desired custody of his son, AFTER Castro demanded Elian's return. And so it goes. I wouldn't count on a mass exodus to the Dems anytime soon.

By the way, Mr. Oliphant, the most wonderful thing is that I am as American as you are. I'm probably even more American than you since I live in the real world and not in the rarefied air of circles where no one has ever earned a buck by the sweat of his brow. And before, you put me in that row boat, you'd better get the Mayflower out of mothballs, honey.

Update: It is not enough to practice hate speech in the pages of the Washington Post, they have the offending scribble as the featured cartoon on Slate.

H/T Babalublog

Friday, August 24, 2007

Literary Interlude: Shakespearean Ruminations on Mortality

It was exciting and frustrating while it lasted, but alas it's last weekend redux. This weekend's literary interlude comes from Hamlet.

First, on the vanity of power:

No, faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with
modesty enough, and likelihood to lead it: as
thus: Alexander died, Alexander was buried,
Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of
earth we make loam; and why of that loam, whereto he
was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel?
Imperious Caesar, dead and turn'd to clay,
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away:
O, that that earth, which kept the world in awe,
Should patch a wall to expel the winter flaw! (Act 5, scene 1)

Then on the subject of death itself:

... If it be now,
'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now;
if it be not now, yet it will come:
the readiness is all.
(Act 5, scene 2)

All are taken out of context, but somehow they say something to the present situation.


Interesting article, but it is just a spoof

Cuba Sí

I feel like telling the story of my one and only foray into the world of protesting. I would have protested more, but I never had the opportunity. I think I was in my early twenties, just guessing here, when I heard that Cubans were protesting at the Cuban Mission to the UN. Even then, I felt the pull of my Cuban roots.

I dragged my mother, on the assumption that the more bodies the better, hopped on the Staten Island Ferry, and off we went. We never got near the UN. New York's Finest held us back blocks from the mission. So there we were, hundreds, maybe a thousand or two strong, corralled on a side street, hidden from view and away from the UN and its missions. I couldn't figure out how people got to demonstrate across the street from the UN. I mean, it seemed like there were always three Cambodians with placards in front of the place. I guess the powers that were didn't like us.

No matter, it was a boost anyway. We stood and chanted "Cuba , Rusia No" over and over again, the catalyst for said demonstration having been something the Russians had done. Alpha 66 was there with a flatbed truck, which was a good thing, because they had a sound system. It was intoxicating. For the first time in my life, I was in an assemblage of people who shared my pain, people like me. I cannot tell you how empowering it was. Yes, they had tucked us away out of sight in that canyon, but we were together, and we were angry. For a fleeting moment we were telling the world we existed. In the end, we all went home, having accomplished nothing tangible. New York being the way it is, I don't even think we got press coverage.

Yet within me was a certain satisfaction, a taste of what it was to matter. I had no military skills, no money, no connections. If truth be told, I was not particularly brave unless angry- that might be a national trait. I wasn't going to go tumbar Fidel. The only thing I could do then is what I try to do now, bear witness to the truth. And maybe, just maybe, someday the truth will set us free.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

El Baracko & Dissension in the Ranks

I could not resist that variation of Obama's name I found in the comments section somewhere. For the English speakers among us, the word sounds like another word for comemierda or dope.
But enough of word play.

The reaction to Obama's op-ed piece in the Miami Herald yesterday in the Cuban community was everything the regime could have desired, as Cubans in the blogosphere and elsewhere engaged in heated debates involving assertions of cowardice and testicular impairment. No wonder the Cuban government was delighted with his proposal, not only will it enrich their coffers and relieve pressure, but it's already fostering dissension in the Cuban/Cuban American community.

The discussions have made evident hairline fractures in a fairly monolithic community. Folks, we have differences in perspective. It don't make us bad people. We are in this together. Already, I see signs of progress as some of the posts get more conciliatory. In actuality, this is an opportunity for us. Some of us stand on the deck of the HMS Principle and are willing to go down with the ship if that's what it takes. Others are more pragmatic and will deal with the Devil if it will help. Unfortunately, we've all read those stories about dealing with the devil.

In the end, we all want the same thing: a free and well-fed Cuba. So what can we take from the discussions? These are some points I've been seeing repeated.

Position A-
  • Tourist travel to Cuba is done at the expense of the Cuban people. The bulk of the money goes into government (in this case military) coffers. Cuban workers are paid a pittance.
  • Exile travel aids the government in two ways: the revenue from the logistics, and the alleviation of pressure by subsidizing family members.
  • When family travel and money transfer were less retricted, it became for some, an abuso, making parts of the American public question whether they were in actuality economic refugees, say like the Haitians, and demand their own access to Varadero. It was also a source of resentment for those on the island who don't have relatives to send them money or build them a new house.
  • Lifting the rest of the faux embargo will further enrich the government by giving it access to American markets and credit. You know someone's greed will overmaster their business sense.
  • All other qualms aside, there can be no lifting of anything until political prisoners are freed and democracy reinstituted.

Position B-

  • The pittance earned by working in the tourist sector makes a major difference in the lives of ordinary Cubans. Witness the doctors working as taxi drivers and the engineers as pool boys.
  • Exposure to Americans and American values, the people to people exchange, will make the populace hungry for the same.
  • Exiles should be allowed to go and see their dying mothers, ailing relatives, etc... More importantly they should be allowed to help them out of their abject misery.
  • Forty odd years of these restrictions have not worked, if by success you mean the fall of the regime. It seems no amount of hunger is enough to make enough people take on the machinery of repression.

My question, why not see if these points can serve as guidelines for a position? As opposite as they seem, I think it is possible, and I would love to see us play with possibilities, although I don't think now is the time to propose anything. I would have loved to have seen some sweeping gesture made upon the announcement of the tyrant's death (It sounds so Shakespearean, doesn't it.) But it is too late, I think. Who knows what Faustian bargains have already been struck? So why bother now? Because once the announcement is made, if it is to be more of the same, I think we need to provide a united front and a new perspective.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

More Fifth Columnists: The Military History Channel? (Updated)

Watching the Spy Stories today on the Military History Channel, when they go to commercial. No, wait, it's one of those mini-documentaries they do. This time it's about Reagan and the contras. They end it just before the commercial on a decidedly upbeat note for Daniel Ortega. While things might be upbeat for Ortega now, at the time the Sandinistas were eventually kicked out, granted not by the contras. Some note here is off. The presentation of the data is skewed.

This reminds me of an earlier problem I had with another one of those just-before-the- commercial-break docs, this one a mini-biography of Che. At the time, I emailed them.
Below is a highlight:

The only attempt to be objectively historical came with the lip service at the end. Not for nothing is Che known as the "Butcher of the Cabaña" (a prison). Is that supposed to be answered by the sixteen year old saying, "It was a revolution, and in revolutions, people die."

So what was the upshot? I received a very snippy reply to the effect that they had no program "Sea Stories," although they did have a "Sea Tales," and she had no idea what I was talking about. Now I may be absent-minded, but I am not stupid. I knew what I had seen. Alas, in a fit of Cuban pique, I deleted it.

After today's installment, I realized it. The Military History Channel would seem to be if anything prone to flag waving, so what explains it? Simple, the liberal elite control all forms of media. Apparently, someone at The Military History Channel, limited by the patriotic tone of those WWII documentaries, has found an outlet by putting in these leftist leaning mini-docs.

My problem here is the same as that with the Smithsonian. The minute they advertise themselves as The Military History Channel, they have an obligation to adhere to fact. There are many ways to manipulate opinion: one way is to present opinions as facts; another is to selectively cull facts. In those mini-documentaries, The Military History Channel is guilty of both.

Update: They did it again. This time it was the Che biography penned by Castro's propaganda machine, the one where Che is the selfless liberator. AAAARGH!

Woe is me! Where Have All The Readers Gone?

O, woe is me,
To have seen what I have seen, see what I see!
Shakespeare, Hamlet
The sound you hear is my teacher's heart breaking. On MSNBC this morning is confirmation of my worst fears: 1 in 4 Americans did not read a single book last year. You can say it's part of an evolution in the presentation of information. But think about it: 25% of the American population gets its information from the MSM and the internet, if they are interested in information at all.
Read it here

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The European Effect: Part 2 (Updated)

I promised to talk about the author's response, and here it is. I am cherry picking here, I admit, but there are a few points here I want to address:

While not wishing to offend any individual Americans, I was refering to the American big businesses who according to every book I have ever read (and there have been many) about Cuba, owned much of the Island's wealth. I am refering to the companies who owned the oil refineries,who controlled the banks, who controlled, bought and sold the sugar, who owned the hotels, the trains, the casinos, the telephone companies and just about everything else that one can think of...

“ is very doubtful whether Cuba would have reached even the relative prosperity which it did in fact achieve had it not been for large American investments.”

With all its problems, the most important of which was political, Cuba in
1958 remained one of the more advanced and successful Latin American societies.
The revolutionary version of pre-Castro history has been so widely diffused
in the American and European media during the last four decades that
such an assertion seems preposterous on its face. It is not, however, an opinion
confined to disaffected Cuban exiles or Anglo-Saxon conservatives. No less an
authority than veteran Communist Party chieftain Aníbal Escalante is on
record as avowing that “Cuba was not one of the countries with the lowest standard
of living of the masses in Latin America, but on the contrary one of those
with the highest standard of living.”

Quotes from Cuba: The Morning After by Mark Falcoff

Before I go any further I must add that my article which was not intended to be political but which has obviously upset some of you, used the phrase about rich Americans exploiting Cuba because that is quite simply the way that it is portrayed in Britain and Europe.

Ah, my point exactly, this is the European perspective that is making its way back to Cuba.

My mother witnessed at first hand the barbarity and repression of Batista's police and the poverty which many Cubans lived with at the time. She witnessed a small boy of no more than 8 years old being shot by Batista's police in cold blood and yet you say that Cuba was more tolerant than Britain before 1959, people were not being murdered by the police in 1950's Britain!

My first source (see above) does a more than adequate job of discussing Batista.

I don't know about you, but my mother brought me up with a saying that had there been no ---------- (can't remember the date of Batista's coup), there would have been no 26th of July. But Basista's regime was a far cry from what replaced it.

One of the many books that I have read and which goes into detail about the living standards of Cubans before Castro is Dr Eric William's `From Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean 1492-1969. The late Dr Williams was the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago and no communist or apologist for Castro but a well respected democraticaly elected politician and Historian. Perhaps you should read this book and the many others like it, that will tell you of what living standards Cubans had before Castro.

Here's a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) report on Cuba circa 1957 : "One feature of the Cuban social structure is a large middle class," it starts. "Cuban workers are more unionized (proportional to the population) than U.S. workers. The average wage for an 8 hour day in Cuba in 1957 is higher than for workers in Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany. Cuban labor receives 66.6 per cent of gross national income. In the U.S. the figure is 70 per cent, in Switzerland 64 per cent. 44 per cent of Cubans are covered by Social legislation, a higher percentage then in the U.S." (Movie Critics Aghast at Andy Garcia's The Lost City by Humberto Fontova)

My father was an exile from Batista and from what my parents have told me, the ones who fled the Island in the immediate aftermath of Castro's revolution were the crooks of the Batista government and US criminals whom the FBI were arresting as they got off of planes in Miami.

Here, I take offense. Is this meant to imply that people who got out early when they saw the writing on the wall were criminals of supporters of Batista? While a striking vignette, I assure you, my parents weren't.

On the subject of de Valera, the Irish writer Tim Pat Coogan who wrote a recent biography failed to find any verification of de Valera's father's identity, although he quite possibly was a Cuban. Another connection between Cuba and Ireland that you failed to mention although there might be a reason for this is that Che Guevara's mother's family came from Co. Galway.

The father of the modern Irish republic was Eamon de Valera, who was born in New York in 1882. His father, Juan de Valera, although technically a Spaniard, was really a Cuban, born in Cuba (which was part of Spain back then), the son of a Cuban sugar planter and escaped to New York during the Independence Wars with Spain. There he earned his living as a piano teacher. He met and married Irish immigrant Catherine Coll. Juan died shortly after the birth of their son Eduardo. After Juan's death, his wife sent Eduardo to Ireland, where her family changed his name to the Gaelic version of Eduardo: Eamon. (found this quote here While not intended to be scholarly, it jibes the with what I read years ago in a Catholic publication, and the blogger picked it up in Cuba.)

Read the whole discussion on Cubanology

I'm happy to report that we came to a rapprochement of sorts in the comments section. So, if I was too harsh in this post, I apologize. Cuban Americans spend so much time battling the inaccuracies propounded as truth that we tend to get a tad strident. What, Cubans passionate? Nah.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The European Effect: Part 1

This week, Cubanology published a moving, almost haunting essay by a Cuban, born and raised in exile in Britain. The palpable sense of loss that runs throughout is something I feel myself. In the course of the essay, he mentions how Cuba was "exploited" by Americans. Immediately, comments began to fly.

"Gee," I thought, "look how they're missing the point of the essay." Well, they must have picked up a scent I missed, because when the author of the essay replied, I was floored. Never shy about commenting, I immediately set about enlightening said author. But then I was so disillusioned, thinking what I had to say would fall on deaf ears that I desisted.

Further reflection led me to thinking about the European perspective. You must understand I'm pretty contemptuous of Europeans in Cuba. But something resonated. Not too long ago, a relative of mine, one of the reasons I write under a pseudonym, mentioned a new phenomenon in Cuba. Intellectuals, virulently against the government, are becoming increasingly pro-European and anti-American. Then I read an article in The New York Times about the growing number of musicians leaving Cuba and electing to stay in Spain. Even given the exigencies of getting out of Cuba and the Times' bias, there is a "there" there.

I've come to the conclusion that the travel restrictions, imposed with the best of intentions, are creating "unintended consequences." Face it, the only contact with the outside world Cubans, the lucky ones have is with tourists. Europeans and Canadians make up the bulk of these. Are they taking their opinions of Americans and Cuban Americans from these tourists? They know better than to believe their own government, after all.

Have we essentially shot ourselves in the foot by limiting travel? I think you can tell from my previous posts how little respect I have for people who go disport themselves in Cuba while the population languishes in indentured servitude. I know 80% of every dollar spent by tourists goes to the coffers of the military which keeps the people oppressed. I don't have any answers, but I think it may be time to reexamine our position.

Oh, and the essay and the author, more on that next time.

The Case of the Homicidal Camel

Sad as it is, I couldn't resist this one. I've heard that camels are foul tempered and prone to spitting, but life threateningly dangerous is a new one. All observations aside, a sixty year old woman was killed by her pet camel when he apparently sat on her. Investigators think it was some sort of mating behavior on his part. It all presents Joe Camel in a new light.
The article here.


I've mentioned how Fidel's death has been a bittersweet symphony since he was never brought to justice for the crimes he has committed, such as Pinochet was hounded in his final years. However I came across this quote by Marti and it made me feel better. There is no denying that the way he has handled his death has been an obvious example of the coward he is. He may think that hiding in his retreat he has died with dignity. I beg to differ. Cobarde!

Jose Marti said: "Es mejor morir a pie que vivir arrodillado." i.e., "It is better to die standing up than to live kneeling down

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Don't Take Your Eyes Off the Ball: Media Manipulation

Since waiting for Godot has taken up all my time and attention this weekend, I almost let one of the MSM media moments pass me by. For obvious reasons, I've been running the 24hr cable news as background music in the house for the past few days. An ad for one of those CNN Presents specials comes on in the middle of the war report. Gee, Christiane Amanpour is reporting on "God's Warriors."

They launch into a teaser. I barely pay attention, figuring it's another one of those Muslim Jihad type specials. But, wait, that's San Francisco. Those are Christians. Oh, my God, this is political correctness run amok! No kidding!

When you click on the link below, you will see that they have broken the special into three installments: Judaism, Islam, Christianity. Excuse me here. I don't even have to see the special to know it is manipulative. Let's see, by breaking it into three, CNN is automatically implying equivalency betweem Islamicist bombers and some metaphorical teenybopper Christian soldiers in the US. Is the implication that these wouldbe warriors are going to establish training camps, strap bombs to their bodies and kill innocents, take up arms? To top it all off, it is the Christian Right they choose to highlight in the promo. I'm not even going to touch the Jewish angle. Just one question, how many pizza joints has a rabid Hassid blown up?

They don't fool me. This is part of the great left-wing conspiracy to paint anyone who is offended at the crass materialism, moral laxity, and general decay that has come to constitute the norm in this country as Taliban of a different stripe. And, I guess, to the "Progressives," as they like to style themselves, the Christian Right is more dangerous that any Jihadi.

How can I take exception to a documentary I have never seen? Easy. By its very structure, it implies a moral equivalency which is not possible unless you are in a mirror universe. I generally respect the work Amanpour has done. I would be less prone to take exception if the documentary was simply as it purports to be about the "intersection" between religion and politics. However as presented-with the Warrior label- all bets are off.

Click here for the promo.