Saturday, October 6, 2007

Banned in Cuba

New video from Moneda Dura

Spanish in Miami

I was on CNN and found their Hispanic Heritage section. Of particular interest to my Miami brethren is this report on the use of Spanish in their fair city. Click here and enjoy.

Everything I Learned in High School Science

Why does it seem sometimes that everything they taught me in High School science was a lie? First it was that the atom consisted of three particles: electrons, proton, and neutrons. Then I grew up and found out about quarks: up, down, charm, strange, etc.... Now I find out in this article, that the appendix, which we were taught was a "vestigial organ" having something to do with cows and with no apparent purpose, really does have a function.

Won't even get into some of the discussions we had in Bio class with the very quirky Mr. D. Let's just say, atomic fusion hasn't come to rescue us, the ice age has not returned, and plutonium is not the answer.

Friday, October 5, 2007

What do Cubans in the United States Want?

A few things I've come across in the past few days, like this article on a study of the possibilities of redressing the illegal seizures of the Castro regime, have gotten me to thinking, always a potentially dangerous pursuit.

We all know the stereotype du jour that Cubans in the United States are an intransigent lot, just waiting to descend on Cuba, impose our will on the island, squeeze blood out of an economic stone, toss hapless Cubans out of their homes, and reclaim the vast holdings of our Batistiano forbears. I think I got it all.

Reminded me of a great old story, "Sir Gawaine and the Loathly Lady." One of King Arthur's knights ravishes a fair maiden. As punishment, he must find out what women want. Eventually, through marriage to a truly gruesome hag, he finds the answer: sovereignty.

Cuban Americans and Cubans make a virtual sport out of disagreement, but I think none would question that it is sovereignty we want for the Cuban people, the people, not the government. We want them to know what it is to have control over their lives, to earn through the sweat of their brows a decent wage to feed their families, to have the ability to improve their lot through their own enterprise, to be able to stand on any street corner and question the parentage of their leaders without repercussion. In short, what any American or Spaniard or Costa Rican or Turk has.

No one is interested in evicting Cubans from their humble homes. However, if a family had owned a sugar refinery, a home in Varadero where Melia has planted one of its hotels or a Commie bigwig has taken up residence, I would suspect that would be a different case.

The universe has been disturbed. Some judgement must be made, whether through the criminal legal system as in Nazi Germany and Iraq or the civil legal system as in the reunification of Germany...perhaps, at the very least, an acknowledgement of the wrong done to whole generations of Cubans. What form it will take, how dramatic an undertaking, is a question for the Cuban people. One could argue that part of the problem in Russia today is that there was no such cleansing, and the party apparatchiks shed their ideological cloaks and morphed into a gangster ruling class.

With no signs of democracy on the horizon for the poor, benighted island, discussing what we want may seem premature. But it is never a inopportune time to counter stereotypes designed to render us into objects of scorn and sap the moral strength of our arguments.

Che Sighting

Watch this video from It seems that a University of Maryland building, the youth civic center, has a mural which includes Che, and let's just say it's not called murderer's row.
Gird your loins, fellow bloggers, with the anniversary of Che's execution fast approaching-the eighth or the ninth- I suspect we will be busy. Who knows, the Mad Emailer might even make an appearance.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Media Matters

Fooled you. I bet you thought I was going to post about the brouhaha with O'Reilly or the one with Limbaugh. Well, I am, but only tangentially. Caught an interesting segment on O'Reilly tonight. He had Bernie Goldberg and J Hall on to talk about the media. Well, O'Reilly was ascribing the precipitous drop in ratings for CNN and MSNBC to the disgust of viewers with the recent antics. Goldberg had a different take. He ascribed it to the inclusion of minorities and women, as in they tend to be more liberal. From my perspective, he flubbed it. As he began, I thought, "he gets it." He mentioned how the news business used to be, how you had people from all walks, those who had gone to college and those who had worked their way up. That's the crux of the problem as I see it. There is no ideological diversity. What's missing is any perspective other than that of the Journalism professors at these schools.

The segment reminded me of an experience today as I was waiting in the Doctor's office. Having no book with me, I was limited to the magazines on hand. I picked up a fairly recent Newsweek and was dismayed at the blatant political agenda on the part of a "news" magazine. After subscribing for years, I had canceled when they started the steady diet of Bush bashing, but even I didn't realize just how far over to the Dark Side they had gone. Mind you this is not The New Republic or even The Weekly Standard.

To give you just a little example, I looked at their CW (Conventional Wisdom) table. They had the surge listed and gave it a neutral, something along the lines that it seemed to be working but the statistics were lies. Lies, or false, either was offensive. Nowhere have I seen proof that the statistics were not true. And even if they weren't, if you are going to make that claim in a news magazine, you had better prove it. Further, I find it a shocking lack of civility and proper respect to frame it in those terms. I kept reading, and there was an article on Hilary Clinton that was positively glowing in its admiring tone. No agenda here, huh. Oh, and by the way, Bernie, every Newsweek talking head I've seen is a white, aging, baby boomer male. But don't get me started on the boomers.

And the last media matter, the ascent of Rick Sanchez. I know he has his detractors, but I have always liked him and followed him since his MSNBC days. After serving as Anderson Cooper's lackey for a while, he now has his own show: "Out in the Open." As I watched him dealing with the topic of immigration recently, I was struck with the possibilities of having a Hispanic or Latino voice in English as the anchor of a national evening news show. After his run in with O'Reilly over the Media Matters thing and his pointed questioning of Ann Coulter about the 9/11 widows, I have to worry, though, that he will be co-opted by CNN. Think Joe Scarborough.

Enough! Good night and good luck.

In Fiction, Veritas

This week's read is Comrades in Miami by Joseph LaTour. It was the newest title by the author I could find. Interestingly enough, as I scanned the publication dates and the covers, the earlier titles indicated he lived in Havana. By the time this particular book was published, 2005, he "resides in Toronto." Any guesses?

On the front cover, Martin Cruz Smith is quoted as saying that LaTour is a master of the Cuban noir, which genre I am sad to say I've only discovered fairly recently. Frankly, I thought the book a bit more Elmore Leonard than Raymond Chandler. It chronicles the travails of one Eliot Steil, supposed Cuban balsero made good, as he gets inveigled into a FBI investigation/spy scam with critical input from the Cuban Miami bureau chief/spymaster. Victoria aka Micaela. Remember the five. There are plenty where they came from. Sorry to be so general, but I'm trying not to give the plot away. It's important here.

As far as I'm concerned, the best parts of the novel rest in its examination of the mindset of the Cuban apparatchiks. I know it's fiction, but to those of us even vaguely familiar, it has the ring of truth.

Here she meditates on "the Chief" as she calls the government head.

He would proclaim over and over again that most Latin American governments were lackeys of US imperialism, Cuba was the finest democracy the world had ever known, the Revolution had the best human rights record on the planet. Victoria and many other well-informed government officials, civil servants, and party bureaucrats watching him from their homes closed their eyes and slapped their foreheads in desperation. Had the man taken leave of his senses? Who was he trying to fool?

Later she comes to her own conclusions

First: the system was falling to pieces in slow mo. Second: Considering his genetic background and the medical care he got, the Chief had probably ten or more years to live and would most likely die of natural causes. Third: He would remain in power until the last day because those who could end his rule overnight would not move a finger. They feared (a) losing their privileges and (b) retaliation for having executed or sent anticommunists to prison. Fourth: her husband was 100% right.

Need I say more?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Sarasota: The Devolution of Paradise

Before I moved to Sarasota, I had gone over forty years without ever realizing that I was a peon. I knew I was a second-class citizen because I was Cuban, Hispanic, Latino. (I answer to all three, as well as American.) But by the time I reached adulthood that was a thing of the past. The world had changed; the culture had become more accepting. I married and lost the surname. I still use it in place of a middle name, perhaps because it is so charged. My looks are generic brunette, making me of indeterminate ethnic origin. And having lived in NYC for decades, I had the New Yorker's native aplomb and egalitarian perspective.

When I moved to Sarasota, it was a town that didn't quite realize it had morphed into a city. Once a week, I'd go downtown to Main Street, visit the library, frequent the sleepy stores, and have a coffee at the depot. Despite the city's many pretensions to culture, I soon found that any cultural pursuit involved being the only one in the audience who didn't have blue hair. Further, I soon realized that unlike in New York City where people of all socioeconomic and sartorial levels mingle at cultural venues, in Sarasota attending any of the arts was an exercise in social climbing. I should have gotten the hint then.

Soon in the guise of development, the city commission sold the soul of Sarasota, not to the highest bidder, but to the most well-heeled one. One after another luxury buildings went up downtown. It was not unusual for the politicians to throw 6 million tax dollars at a private project. The result of which is that the poor and middle class were edged out. Now they run around carrying on about "affordable housing." The housing projects in town are in a dismal state, but there is no money to fix them. The federal government has had to step in and take them over. Yet on two luxury condominium projects alone, they subsidized the rich to the tune of 12 million tax dollars.

At the time, when they were all giddy with glee that Whole Foods and its patrons were coming, I was a voice in the wilderness. I pointed out that they were trying to turn downtown into Park Place, but that New York also had Broadway and Chelsea and the Village. By the time the locals figured out what was going on and booted a couple commissioners out. It was too late. All the funky little places and just about all the local color is gone.

Away from downtown, development after development sprang up behind walls, despite the lack of crime, an exercise in elitism. Each cookie cutter, faux Mediterranean was surrounded by perfectly manicured, over-watered, over-fertilized lawn.

Well, what's done is done. Still, what is most insidious to me is the culture that has developed. There was always a snobbish element in this town, but it was a small circle. In fact, I was oblivious to it, until I volunteered for a benefit and realized that who I was and what talents I brought to the table were irrelevant because I did not have or pretend to have copious amounts of money. Unfortunately, that mind set is now the norm. These are not high society types, nor are they culture mavens. They are well to do people who have sold their homes up North for ungodly sums and invested these in condominiums. Now they have arrived. They are somebody. Add in the poseurs and shameless self-promoters who come to town and take it by storm, only to be exposed at some point down the line, sprinkle in some of the truly wealthy, and you have a town that worships money and nothing else. In short, you have a town without a soul, a town of Philistines.

It really saddens me, because for a long time, this really was paradise. There is almost no place that rivals Sarasota for natural beauty. It is, however, a natural beauty that is rapidly becoming the province of those than can afford it. Why, they've been angling for the past few years to install parking meters at the beach. Imagine.

The Perfidy of the Press

On Babalublog, Val takes on The New Republic and the MSM. The New Republic article is a must read for being behind the 8 ball. It naively maintains among other idiocies

The Cuban government has acquired an image as adept at lies and cover-ups. Though the reputation has stuck, it's in large part a myth of the government's own making.


Another reason the Cuban government isn't going to pretend he's alive when he's not is that his ministers believe that the Cuban people will need a chance to mourn him before moving forward.

Val's post, however, is notable in how very well he expresses my sentiments and those of many, many others in reference to the role of the MSM:

The Mainstream Media has not only been instrumental in the lack of information regarding the death or "aliveness" recently of fidel castro, but reporters very much like Ms. Barclay are responsible for bringing fidel castro into power; ignoring the apartheid system in place in Cuba; ignoring the human rights abuses in Cuba; ignoring political and ideological prisoners in Cuba; ignoring the systematic repression of dissenting opinions in Cuba; ignoring dissidents; ignoring actos de repudio; ignoring the abysmal state of healthcare for the average Cuban Jose...etc. So, not only are MSM journalists, who kowtow to the castro regimes whims and regulations so that they not be expelled from the island and allowed to remain to cover "the big story", instrumental but complicit in the subjugation of the Cuban people, and not just in the "covering up" of fidel castro's "death." One need only look at the facts and the history of the castro regime's manipulation of the media.

By the way, am I the only one who remembers the original post in which Val said it could be a rumor?

Forgive me, but...

I have some questions:

Look at the news from Cuba. It seems a hundred flowers have bloomed forth in Cuba's relations with the distaff side of world governments. Why?

Should I be surprised that both Mexico and Spain are approaching a rapprochement with the regime? As far back as I can remember, Mexico has been Fidel's enabler, why would they change now? It was unusual that Fox took them on. And Spain, well, I have read many apologists for the Spaniards who say it is the Zapatero government. But who was in charge when they rescued the dictatorship at precisely the point when it was on its knees with their investments in tourism, when they built hotels on stolen land verboten to Cubans, and when huge numbers of tourists availed themselves of same with nary a thought to the populace?

And what about all those news reports coming out about ordinary Cubans being allowed to complain about their lot? Gee, why don't any of those reports reference the round up of up to 200 dissidents? Oh, right, this is the kinder, gentler dictatorship. They were released, and the MSM are apologists for the revolution. Is that why they don't point out that criticism is fine for the moment, as long as the regime is not directly threatened, that wanting freedom is illegal?

If the judge in the Izquierdo/Elenita case once suggested that crime in Miami would be eliminated by sending all Cubans back, why didn't she recuse herself? Why was she allowed to preside over the case?

Speaking of which, if the lawyers in this case falsified evidence, as it is alleged they did, how come there is no word of an investigation?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Cane Not: The New TV Season

I'm sitting here posting and missing the next episode of Cane. I had to give it up since I made Packrat, Sr watch Bones and House instead of The National Geographic Channel. I think he's a little miffed that he missed the 12 deadliest animals in Africa of something to that effect.

Speaking of House, I'm glad to see that Chase and Allison are back in the picture, even if indirectly. The competition to fill their old positions is pretty amusing and generally works. It's looking good, and not a single reference to drug addiction.

In the supernatural being category, just when I was feeling overwhelmed at the loss of Saving Grace, comes Moonlight about a crime fighting, private eye vampire. Yup, a bit campy, particularly his rich boy fellow vampire pal, but it's fun. As one reviewer pointed out, he's got a great kitchen. It's all gonna depend on the writing here.

My favorite new show is Chuck. It's about a geek whose life is turned upside down when he is infected with superspy software by the guy who got him thrown out of school and stole his last girlfriend five years before. How cool is that "Herd of Nerds' car?

Next Cuban Contemporary Art Exhibit at the Ringling Museum

I posted earlier that there was another Cuban-themed exhibit coming to town. Check it out here. At the time, I expressed some reservations. In my experience, many well-meaning and some nefarious types almost inevitably get it wrong and feed into the great propaganda machine. So lots of times, I just wish they would base their programs on "Art in Samoa" or "The Cinema of the Australian Outback," as they do more damage to the cause of freedom in Cuba than anything else.

So it was that this article appeared in Sunday's "Ticket" from The Sarasota Herald Tribune. On the surface, it seems innocuous enough. So I'm reading about the upcoming exhibit with suspended breath, looking for tells.

The article opens with the assertion that the show, which includes works from Cuban artists both on and off the island, transcends politics. As the Ringling curator indicates:

"It's here because it's important art, not because it's politically charged."

Fair enough, but can you really divorce politics from Cuban anything? How big a step is it to say as the curator of the exhibit does-

For Kerry Oliver-Smith, who curated the show for the Harn Museum, the difference between art created by artists still living in Cuba and those who have emigrated to other places is not immediately apparent.

-to the we're all the same; let's forget about the oppression and repression of the Cuban people.

Well, even the collector, a Howard Farber, notes the tensions that surround the topic. He tells the Miami Herald

Farber told the Miami Herald that his passion for Cuban art doesn't carry a political message. "People have to realize that not everybody that has the ability to collect Cuban art is involved in politics!" he said

Here is a statement indeed. Perhaps because I have witnessed the "chichification" of Sarasota, I am hypersensitive, but let's parse the statement. "...not everybody that has the ability to collect Cuban art" is an interesting formulation. Does that mean has the money to buy the art, unlike Martha Stewart's "little people"? Maybe it means has the ability to go to Cuba. This I researched, because it is generally illegal to go to Cuba. It appears he went on a Metropolitan Museum junket, doubtless one of those educational programs, now curtailed, with his wife, who is described as a "great patron of dance," bringing with them "shopping bags of powder" for the feet of Cuban ballet dancers. Pardon me while I avail myself of the barf bag. Someday soon I will get into the Sarasota scene, and you will understand my perspective.

To be fair, so far the Ringling has kept an aesthetic perspective, and I am delighted to be able to see the stuff. Anyway, your humble correspondent plans to go on Monday. I'll report back then.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Religion in Cuba

Here's an interesting example of the vagaries of getting information about Cuba. A few days ago, I read an article from Christian Today, entitled Archbishop: Religion Growing in Cuba. Yesterday, I'm combing through the news and find another, this one under the headline, Catholic Church Losing Strength in Cuba from the Sun-Sentinel.

In first, Ethan Cole quotes Archbishop Dionisio Guillermo Garcia Ibanez of Santiago

“The faith of our community has manifested, it has been reborn,” said Garcia, during a recent visit to Miami, according to The Associated Press. “The Catholic faith in our community has resurrected.”

Garcia cited the ability to knock on doors to share the gospel, hold religious processions in streets, and the ability to broadcast Catholic radio programmes as indicators that progress had been made in securing religious freedom in Cuba’s religious freedom

This would seem to contradict the Sanchez article, which quotes now retired Archbishop Pedro Meurice

"In the end, we have not accomplished what we're entitled to; the Catholic Church has not been granted the right to evangelize and spread without fear of losing its religious freedom," Meurice said in a recent interview.

Sanchez expands on this citing the fate of workshops and a Catholic magazine editor, Dagoberto Valdes. According to whom

"What has happened with Vitral and the civic center … demonstrates that significant restrictions are now being applied," Valdes said. "I'm being prudent in using the word 'restrictions.' I think these services are being eliminated."

Where is truth, then? Well, even Garcia's host, another prelate, tempers his optimistic comments.

“That is a society that is not pluralistic, it is unidimensional and somehow they have to live with that reality,” said Bishop Felipe Estevez, an auxiliary bishop with the Archbishop of Miami. “They are kind of talking out of adversity.”

A sentiment echoed in the second article by Meurice

Meurice said: "Below the surface, very little has changed. While the state is no longer officially atheist, there is still only one party, the Communist Party."

In the eyes of this jaded observer, it would seem that after the Pope's visit there was significant loosening of religious restrictions, read that as the churches were not outlawed. The people responded as they respond to any lifting, no matter how small, of the governmental yoke. True to form, however, the government, threatened, has begun pulling back just as they did with small private enterprises. Read both and come to your own conclusions.

What was that about a riddle wrapped inside an enigma?


Couldn't resist this one, especially after the post below.