Saturday, September 22, 2007
Friday, September 21, 2007
My good friend Roosvelt
I don't know very English, but I know as much as write to you.
I like to hear the radio, and I am very happy because I heard in it that you will
be President for a new [periodo].
I am twelve years old. I am a boy but I think very much but I do not thing that
I am writing to the President of the United States.
[I]f you like, give me a ten dollars bill green american, in the letter, because
never, I have not seen a ten dollars bill green american and I would like to have one of them......
...If you want to make your sheaps, I will show to you the biggest (minas) of iron
of the land. They are in Mayari, Oriente Cuba.
Castro's reaction to whatever response he received:
"Yeah, well....He won the election. But the Americans are assholes. I asked for ten dollars and they didn't send me a cent."
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Elian Revisited- Hang onto your seats, boys and girls! Just when the present court case is coming to a close, this Wednesday the Discovery Times Channel is presenting a documentary on the Elian case. With the Times in the moniker, this cannot be good. Some days it just seems like we're trying to bail out the SS Cuban American with a leaky sieve.
The Great Left Wing Conspiracy- In the past, I have used the phrase, the Great Left Wing Conspiracy in jest. But today's news about Ted Stevens being investigated makes me wonder. Frankly, I couldn't care about Stevens, but am I the only one that is noticing a pattern here?Doesn't it seem that invariably during election season these days a scandal concerning a Republican politician hits the airwaves? I want to ask are only Republican pols corrupt? Let's not forget that exit polling in the last election showed that it was corruption, not the war, that fueled the Republican debacle. Remember Foleygate. A hint here, a leak there, it would be easy to do. Of course, the Dems have been caught with cashsicles in the freezer and fugitive fundraisers with no apparent consequences. One can only imagine what it would take to turn off their base.
My fears that Fidel and the Revolution would be glorified proved almost groundless. Yes, as one reviewer on Amazon indicated, he did get some historical fact wrong. For instance, his account of the Bay of Pigs doesn't quite jibe with other accounts, even the PBS version. His tiresome iteration about the boys at the school being children of privilege and the contrasting poverty and illiteracy of the countryside is too close to the revolutionary shibboleth. It is also something he seems to contradict when discussing the size of the middle class.
But the true genius of the book lies in Mr. Symmes ability to elicit the truth from those he interviews and, amazingly, from random Cubans he stumbles upon in his many travels through Cuba. It is no surprise that the only other book I've read that comes close to eliciting how people live and feel is Mi Moto Fidel. In both cases, these American authors avoided minders and took the time to really talk to Cubans. The result of which is that their depiction of Cuba is very different from the usual Snow jobs. All of the doble cara, the contempt, the hand gestures that make up the only free expression of average Cubans is here.
At the same time he conveys the present reality in Cuba, he tells the story of a very special Jesuit school in a unique time and place through the stories of those who would soon see their lives overthrown and the history of their nation changed. It is a story that he tracks back from the present, starting with a reunion in Miami. These early chapters are a lyrical, haunting portrayal of loss, as he visits with the survivors of the school in the waning years of their lives. It's an emotional punch in the gut.
The lyricism and the shuffling back and forth in time account for some slow going in the middle chapters. His descriptions of the school, the boys, the Jesuits exhibit a wealth of imagination, a gift for placing himself in their shoes, their world. Suddenly, however, the reader is hurled to the present, only to be sent back to the rituals of the school day. So, at times, reading this book feels like slogging through mud. Yet for those truly interested, it is worth the patience. It is an incredibly dense, incredibly rich book. It is perhaps too ambitious, but it does convey much- from the human face of political consequence, the lost world, the new world, the exile experience, and finally the character of the boy who would be king.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
"It says ohnah waiy," she answered. These are cute anecdotes but they mask what was a harsh reality.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
The parks were full of prostitutes, the houses full of liquor, and in this capital inmoral of the Revolution, even cocaine. I'd see colonels eating lobster with teenage girls at 3:00 A.M. English rock stars expounding on socialism from the lawn of the Nacional, Russian real estate mobsters on three-girls-a-day benders, Mexican guerrillas turned Marxtrepreneurs, Chilean assassins making a killing in fruit juice, and the astounding perverts of all nations, wallowing in it.
As a teenager, my daughter once asked, "Mom, when did you become a Republican?"
Facetiously, I replied, "when I started paying taxes."
She asked because the joke around here is that when I turned eighteen, I turned around and used my newly granted right to vote to cast a ballot for McGovern. I also voted for.... I'm going to say it...confession is good for the soul...I also voted for Jimmy Carter. Now, I'm a card carrying Republican.
It was Ronald Reagan who brought me back to my senses, back to the good learnin' my parents had given me. It's not that I liked Reagan. When he was elected President, I thought it showed that if you ran for the office often enough, you'd eventually make it.
But Reagan had one incredible gift. He was a true believer. He believed in this marvelous ideal of the United States of America. I have this theory that God watches over us and gives us exactly the President that we need at the time. Here, he was, after the stomach turning glee with which they went after Nixon, the despretigio of Vietnam, the enthusiasm for trashing those institutions we held dear, saying it was okay to believe. I could literally feel the morale of the emotionally bankrupt nation rise again.
So I am a Republican. I don't subscribe to all the party positions. But then, I don't agree with most of the Democrat positions. I am not a small-minded, mean person. But, I've seen the other side, and I want no part in a world where political expediency dictates policy, where there is no respect for the authority of office, the sanctity of marriage, the right of self-determination, where national morality is determined by what new fad is in vogue with the majority, and smoking is pursued with more zeal than terrorism. A world where scurrilous and unproved accusations are leveled at my President nightly, but the propaganda of a murderous regime is accepted verbatim.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Given to the occasional Shakespearean allusion myself, I could overlook the stretch here. And I was so mellowed by my stroll down memory lane that my blood pressure remained relatively stable as I read
I'm not going to give you monotonous and overstated examples of how Cuba has had some relevant improvements under Fidel Castro, like the "best education in Latin America" argument or even the innovative and environmentally-friendly agricultural system (which happens to be not only sustainable but also an example to follow for many nations).
Besides, he writes he's not going to do this, although he does manage to sneak it in, fallacious as it may be. I guess he didn't read the book about how Castro has trashed the environment. No, it seems his argument is basically that a "free" Cuba would fall to the all the economic and social ills of the Caribbean and Latin America. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, he makes statements such as
Just like Jamaica or Haiti, political freedom would prevail and economic advancement would finally be a reality. I can picture La Havana with American-owned casinos, Bentleys and Ferraris parked outside the five-star hotels, nightclubs pumping techno until sunrise and University of Miami students eating McDonalds at 7 a.m. right after a long night of spring break partying.
Now, I ask you, is that such a dire fate? Let me spell it out: E M P L O Y M E N T.
But, no, apparently it is better to keep Cuba as a third world theme park. Oh, that's right. Those little brown natives don't really want to have just a fraction of what the developed world has.
In Cuba, American corporations will not pay menial wages and Chinese companies will not destroy the local industries. Cuba will not be transformed into a dependent and rotten economy under the flags of globalization.
Speaking of employment, how much more menial can the wages of Cubans get than the twenty dollars a month they presently get, especially since their ration books don't begin to cover a minimal diet and the rest must be purchased dearly on the black market. My favorite is the implication that Cuba now has an independent and healthy economy. I must have imagined that they were propped up first by the Russians and now by Venezuelan oil, that the sugar harvest is now at depression era levels. The list of their present successes is endless.
... And if you're one of those leftists who believe Latin America did not prosper from neo-liberalism, let me prove you wrong. Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Paraguay and other countries did extremely well in the '90s when neo-liberalism was at its best. Their economies boomed (and then heavily crashed), investments soared (and all the profits left the country), states underwent privatization (only to be bought by foreign companies) and most importantly, poverty was a big concern (but nothing much changed, other than an exponential growth in inequality).
These are real concerns, but they get lost in the hyperbole. And why assume that Cuba would not go the route of say Costa Rica, the United States? And what is the alternative?
So we should all chant "let's free Cuba" and remember that Cuba will be different because no frenetic capitalism will invade the island. More importantly, when advocating its freedom, remember that it will all be done in the name of destroying communism once and for all. As for the ideals of valor, solidarity and the spirit of a once-true social revolution, remember them the most, because soon they will be replaced by our dear consumerist values.
That's a straw man. There is no need to destroy communism; it has destroyed itself. What you have in Cuba is the rotting carcass of a dead beast. This is the sad part, whatever the people might have been led to believe, there was no "once-true revolution," because it's very leaders didn't believe it. It was all a big fat LIE.
I think the writer's heart was in the right place, but it takes getting knocked around a bit to learn that maybe situations are a lot more complex than they would seem to be. Parting questions, how many would trade our dear consumerist values for repression and want? Imagine if you could not publish this editorial because it was not in keeping with the government's interests and that by the very act of writing it, you had signalled yourself as a dissident, opening yourself up to imprisonment under conditions that make Guantanamo look like a sleepaway camp?
I've quoted most of it, but you can read it here
Don't argue with them, ever. Cubans are born inherently wise. They don't need to read, they know everything. They don't need to travel, they have seen everything. The Cubans are the chosen people...chosen by the themselves. they pass among lesser peoples like a ghost passing over water.
Cubans are characterized individually by their sympathy and intelligence and as a group by their shouting and passion. Every one of them carries the spark of genius and no geniuses are tolerated. That's why it is easy to reunite Cubans, and impossible to unite them.
from "El Profeta," an article written in 1986, by Lundy Aguilar, retired Georgetown professor and quoted in The Boys from Dolores by Patrick Symmes.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
On Wednesday, August 1st, H.R. 3162 which included at $4.50 per carton federal cigarette exercise tax increase was passed by the US House of Representatives by a vote of 225-204. On Thursday, August 2nd, H.R. 976 which included as $6.10 per carton federal cigarette exercise tax increase was passed by the US Senate by a vote of 68-31. Both bills also included increases in the federal exercise tax on other tobacco products.
Now before you start feeling smug that you might not be a smoker and self-righteous that smokers deserve what they get, remember that this mentality may be aimed at you someday. Now say it: transfat!
As for me, I fail to see that my unfortunate addiction should make me a cash cow for the government. And don't give me the hooey about health costs. Smokers die young. They actually cost society less. Not to mention, the majority of smokers come from low income brackets which makes this a regressive tax. Of course, that didn't seem to bother my Democrat Senator.
Anyway, if you are a smoker, or just a person who believes in fair play, you can click here to let your reps know. Surprise, surprise, Phillip Morris is spearheading the campaign against the legislation.