Saturday, October 27, 2007

Literary Interlude: Myakka State Park

I think this week we'll have a bit of a Sarasota locale

Myakka State Park

A bird, heron, egret, osprey, I don’t know,
nameless those who live and unnumbered those who die here,
the bird wades in air, suspended over silver-gray waters,
while his elegant, white, impassive sister, cranelike
in repose, secrets herself in a blind of green reeds.
A few feet away, the thin leathered crest of alligator
head rises, shatters the brooding glimmerglass
serenity of unaccompanied bird calls. He is pursued
by the dogged tourist boat- out one more time for
the nine who came too late for the scheduled ride.
Deceptive liquid beauty of sea and sky, this pocket Eden.
I, in the painted green wooden boat, turn to look at you.
A storm rises, washes over us, catches us unawares-
those of us trapped in God’s fishbowl- the egret, the alligator and I.

The Real Rapid Response Teams

We all know these fine folks are dedicated to harassing and terrorizing dissidents in Cuba. I've taken the liberty of translating most of the article below which is the product of an independent journalist.

Rapid Response Brigades Acost Dissenter for Nearly 24 Hours
Ricardo Rodriguez

27 October 2007

Havana- Rapid Response Brigades (paramilitary mobs) commanded by State Security surrounded for almost 24 hours the house of Vladimir Alejo Miranda, President of the Popular Pro-Human Rights Movement “Miguel Valdés Tamayo”, affiliated with.....

According to this source, during this time, they used a subject who was drunk and another who is a banker in the illegal numbers game (la bolita) to paint Viva Fidel and Viva La Revolucion in red paint on the facade of his house, the same which was removed by Alejo Miranda in front of them.

From 10 PM on this past October 20 until the following day, the 21st, at 9:30 PM the family was prevented from leaving their home by threats of physical aggression.

The CDR (Committees for the defense of the revolution) co-ordinator for their block. named Jesus and an "outside" cow slaughterer, and the Delegate Irael Ravelo who sells gasoline illegally on the black market were among the principal accusers. With pieces of wood and offenses, they directed the repressive act...

These are the instruments the regime uses against the peaceful opposition, people with no morals or principals who call themselves revolutionaries in order to keep exercising in an illicit manner their bad behavior protected by the political police, concluded the source.

H/T Payo Libre

Rapid Response Teams

They're all atwitter, those MSM types, over Bush's speech the other day. Time magazine has leapt into the fray with this entry: " Keeping Up the Hard Line on Cuba."

You don't need to ask which way the piece is skewed when the only "expert" quoted is president of "USA Engage." Catch my drift? Speaking of "the same old bromides," he thinks lifting the travel ban will advance the cause of democracy. I guess the Brits, the Spaniards, the Canadians, the Mexicans, and the Chinese- just to name a few- aren't up to the task.

And fear not, the article includes not one but two swipes at Miami Cubans:

Bush may also be alienating the very people he is reaching out to by suggesting Washington will be Cuba's post-Castro arbiter. In the eyes of ordinary Cuban citizens, that is perceived as surrogacy for the Miami Cuban exile community — whose anti-Castro hardliners, with their dreams of resurrecting a pre-Castro Cuba, are as disliked by many Cubans on the island as the Castros themselves are.


What's more, by attaching his Administration to Cuba's dissidents so publicly, Bush may actually compromise the position of the Castro critics who remain on the island, whose credibility often rests on being seen as a movement independent of the Miami exiles.

I guess in the MSM, geography is destiny. Read it here.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Read: The Castro Gene

This week's read is The Castro Gene by Todd Buchholz. I've been passing it by in the new books at the library for weeks because I thought it was like a Robin Cook disease sort of book. And given the condition of el coma andante, it sounded a bit dated.

Overcome by guilt, young Luke Braden quits the boxing ring after killing an opponent and finds his dreams come true as he goes from security guard to financial hotshot. He learns too late that his success has a progressively steeper price when he finds himself at the center of international intrigues. I found his meteoric rise a bit implausible. Oh yeah, I thought, like someone's just going to be plucked from the blue collar ranks and be given the keys to the kingdom. Later I read Buchholz is himself a pretty formidable financial type, so I guess he knows of whence he speaks.

What he speaks as a foreign language is Cuban. This is definitely an Anglo and sometimes erroneous depiction of Cuban policy, Cuban Americans, Fidel, you name it. I guess it is interesting in showing an American perspective. Nothing too offensive, unless you count fifo's life being saved. All in all, not great literature, but some decent escapist literature. If you're a reader at loose ends and like David Baldacci novels, you should like this.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What's Goin' On Here?

Get a load of this: "Part of Bush speech broadcast in Cuba." It was apparently the last fifteen minutes and was followed by an hour long response by Roque. The article quotes a dissident as saying many Cubans missed it, "because they ''had lost interest'' in the program Mesa Redonda. Unofficial estimates of its audience stand at about 3 percent." So it played to the "Patria o Muerte" crowd. Interestinger and interestinger.

According to the article, this is the text of the speech which was broadcast:

At this moment, my words are being transmitted into — live into Cuba by media outlets in the free world — including Radio and TV Marti. To those Cubans who are listening — perhaps at great risk — I would like to speak to you directly.
Some of you are members of the Cuban military, or the police, or officials in the government. You may have once believed in the revolution. Now you can see its failure. When Cubans rise up to demand their liberty, they — they — the liberty they deserve, you've got to make a choice. Will you defend a disgraced and dying order by using force against your own people? Or will you embrace your people's desire for change? There is a place for you in the free Cuba. You can share the hope found in the song that has become a rallying cry for freedom-loving Cubans on and off the island: "Nuestro Dia Ya Viene Llegando." Our day is coming soon. (Applause.)
To the ordinary Cubans who are listening: You have the power to shape your own destiny. You can bring about a future where your leaders answer to you, where you can freely express your beliefs and where your children can grow up in peace. Many experts once said that that day could never come to Eastern Europe, or Spain or Chile. Those experts were wrong. When the Holy Father came to Cuba and offered God's blessings, he reminded you that you hold your country's future in your hands. And you can carry this refrain in your heart: Su dia ya viene llegando. Your day is coming soon. (Applause.)
To the schoolchildren of Cuba: You have a lot in common with young people in the United States. You both dream of hopeful futures, and you both have the optimism to make those dreams come true. Do not believe the tired lies you are told about America. We want nothing from you except to welcome you to the hope and joy of freedom. Do not fear the future. Su dia ya viene llegando. Your day is coming soon. (Applause.)
Until that day, you and your suffering are never far from our hearts and prayers. The American people care about you. And until we stand together as free men and women, I leave you with a hope, a dream, and a mission: Viva Cuba Libre. (Applause.)

I left the applauses for fun, and I refuse to use the block quote on Blogger.
Click here for the article.

Cuban Painting 2

Sorry about the quality of the photo, but this is one strange painting. I found this in a consignment shop. I think it's glorious. I love the energy of it. Doesn't it look like an angry ocean? Yet up close you realize that it's two craggy hills enshrouded in mist.

Unfortunately, it was a little too energetic when I had it by the side of my bed. In the interests of getting some sleep, I had to stow it away until I can find some other place to display it. I took two pictures of it when I was taking pictures of Packrat's acquisition next door. Neither picture appeared on my computer, although all the others did. Today, I managed to get the pictures, if somewhat skewed. When I went to upload it on the blog the first time, it wouldn't work. I see the germs of a scary story here. I was half afraid that I'd see a face in the picture. Yup, I'm a superstitious Cuban.

Alberto Falcon, the artist, was born in Havana in 1935 and, surprise, later lived in the states. Other than places he exhibited, etc..., I have very little information.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Gang of Four

Ever get the feeling that there are only four people in the world writing stories about Cuba and thousands parroting them? I realize there are structural reasons for this, but the thought struck me as I was scrolling through news reports about the speech. Try a couple of headlines.

Bush piles pressure on Cuba transition AFP
Bush piles pressure on Cuba transition Malaysia News
Bush piles pressure on Cuba transition Channel News Asia
Bush piles pressure on Cuba transition UK & Ireland News

Cuba defiant in face of Bush speech AP
Cuba defiant in face of Bush speech KTRE-TV East Texas
Cuba remains defiant in face of Bush speech Naples Daily News
Castro, Cuba defiant in face of Bush speech Miami Herald
Cuba remains defiant in face of Bush speech Sun-Sentinel

Bush to warn Cuba on plan for transition International Herald Tribune
Bush to Warn Cuba on Plan for Transition New York Times
President to warn Cuba Albuquerque Tribune

Bush Urges Allies To Help Cuba Be Free KDKA Pittsburgh
Bush Urges Allies To Help Cuba Be Free CBS 13 Sacramento
Bush Urges Allies To Help Cuba Be Free WCCO Minneapolis/St. Paul
Bush urges world to help Cuba become free
Bush Challenges Nations to Help Bring Democracy to Cuba Washington Post
Bush Rallies Nations To Help Cuba Move Toward Democracy NBC 6 Miami
Bush rallies nations to help Cuba move toward democracy San Diego Union-Tribune
Bush rallies nations to help Cuba move toward democracy Sun-Sentinel
Bush rallies nations to help Cuba move toward democracy Miami Herald
Bush rallies nations to help Cuba move toward democracy The Daily Comet
Bush Rallies Support for Post-Castro Democracy NPR

Ain't it grand!

Can't the Guy Do Anything Right?

No sooner had the lights dimmed on President Bush's speech than the usual suspects were back at work. First, perhaps it is because I am Cuban American, I found it beautiful, not that it is going to accomplish anything concrete. I don't know who wrote it, but it was masterful.

Having missed it live, I found the text on Killcastro. Thank you, Charlie Bravo. Then I turn to see how the media framed it and find only one article as of yet. Here's the title: "Bush offers oddly timed attack on Cuba's Castro brothers."

Read the text here. Read the article here.

A Reflection: A Whimper

Maybe it's the weather, but it occurred to me that although we would much prefer that he had make his exit forthwith, there is something poetic about fifo's lingering death. Look at the pathetic figure in the previous post. This is how his world ends. In the greatest of possible punishments, he who would have changed the world is an irrelevancy in a Nike track suit surrounded by the ruins resultant from his life's work. On some level, despite the protestations of sycophants, he realizes it. Else, why the dispatches from the deathbed, if not in vain gesture to assert himself beyond the confines of his sickroom, his home for over a year? I don't believe he has written them all, in whole or in part. But there are touches of fifo in the last few.

Many have written about his latest missive, the one about how Bush is going to starve the world and start World War III, so I will forgo dissecting it. But note, it is brief. How galling it must be to the man who would impose eight hours speeches on his subjects. If he actually wrote it, it is the sound of steam escaping; if he did not, he has become so superfluous that his minders are slowly turning back the throttle. After nearly a half century of acting on the world stage, he is reduced to acting for the world from stage left. He has come full circle, again the young Cuban boy whose vainglorious, inflated estimation of himself prompted him to write to the President of the United States for money and advise him on the procurement of metals.

I could almost feel sorry for the guy, if it were not for the untold millions who have suffered at his hands, for the lives ruined, the lives lost. Yes, I could almost feel sorry for him, almost, but not quite.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Communist Library

Look at the upper right hand corner of the book. It is a 30% discount from Barnes and Nobles. h/t Babalu

On the Lighter Side

Yesterday, I'm standing in line at Winn Dixie. The cashier is a septuagenarian in a blue beehive. She scans the order ahead of me, ending on a suitcase of beer. She turns to the octogenarian purchasing it and asks for his his driver's license. Amusement, incredulity, and exasperation mingle in his expression as he demands, "Are you checking to see if I'm old enough ?" I'm rolling at this point, so I miss most of the explanation which, of course, involves stopping underage teens from buying alcohol. Oh, brave new world!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Update: Oh, My Gosh! They're All Pod People

Update: has risen to the occasion. When I posted yesterday, I emailed them and explained. The picture was changed today. Thanks especially to Mary Katherine Ham. Sometimes we just need to raise their consciousness, I guess.
Children walk through the streets while banging on makeshift drums in Old Havana September 29, 2007. Cubans are celebrating the 47th anniversary of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). The CDRs are assigned to every block of houses in Cuba to take care of medical assistance if needed and to guard neighbourhoods by controlling people's movements and activities. REUTERS/Claudia Daut (CUBA)

In a reprise of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the conservatives at, a web site I really enjoy, seem to have been replaced with by left wing clones. Of course, the more likely explanation is that damage wrought by the propaganda machine is more pervasive and more insidious than even I thought.
Anyone who clicked on the link to "Elian II: The Sequel" by Kathleen Parker in the post below was treated to some dillies:

Projecting our own values, it's easy to imagine that E would be materially better off in America. We'd all prefer to live among prosperity in a free country than in relative poverty under a communist dictatorship.
Just whose values are we supposed to use in deciding? Osama bin Laden's? And what values would those be? I mean, aren't we using our values when we decide that the father's rights are paramount. Try the next sentence. It seems that while we prefer to live in prosperity, those little brown people down there don't. They must like waking each day with the knowledge that they must somehow improvise to find food to eat that evening. And then there's the "prosperity" versus "relative poverty." Please note that it's not poverty per se. I'm sure it reassuring for Cubans to learn that the abject misery in which they live is not poverty. It only seems that way in comparison to the living standard in the United States.
The sad truth is that E should have been put on a plane back to Cuba as soon as her mother was determined unfit.
E had a father then. She has one now.

Here she betrays an ignorance of the facts of the case that is hinted at throughout the article. The point is that the child did not have a father. As in the Elian case, it was only when it became a means of scoring political points for the regime that the impulse of fatherhood overcame him.

As if that weren't enough, the article is accompanied by the picture and caption above. Here the culprit is Townhall itself. The happy natives are celebrating the 47th anniversary of the Committees for the defense of the revolution, you know the kindly folks who help in local medical emergencies and guard neighborhoods. I would like to know in what part of their anatomies their brains were reposing when they published this. It is the equivalent of celebrating the anniversary of the SS or the Stasi. The committees are the ground troups of the machinery of repression. Their primary reason for existence is to spy on their neighbors.

That Reuters would publish it does not surprise me, but that Townhall would does. They don't get it. I can only surmise that they can't see the colonialist bias and ignorance because they share in it.
For the article, click here.

WWYD: the Elian 2 Case

I've hitherto avoided taking this one on for pragmatic and, in hindsight, naive, reasons. First, the Elian case cost the Cuban American community just about all of the good will it had taken decades to build, a stunning blow. And I'm sorry, but as a community I do not believe it is a moral imperative to stand on the deck of the SS Principle as it slowly sinks into the sea. There may come a time when we have no other choice, but this is not it.

So when this case came up, I reasoned that it was being heard in a court of law. The facts pertaining to the father were particularly damning, I thought. Let's review some. The little girl is the product of Izquierdo, the father, cheating on his present common law wife. I think this is important. For her entire life, he had no problem leaving her with the mother, both in Cuba and in the United States, with full knowledge that the mother was abusive. The child's thirteen year old brother has testified to this and given the mother's established instability such treatment would seem credible. He, himself, was supposedly abusive to the mother. Finally, he made no effort to contact his daughter or inquire as to her well being in the entire year she was in this country.

It seemed to me that as far as the interests of the child, this was a clear cut case. But, no, I find out that the judge hearing the case once said publicly that the crime problem in Miami would be solved if Cubans were sent back. This is obviously a judge that has a dim view of Cuban Americans. Should she have been assigned this case? Should she have taken it? The defense was accused of falsifying evidence, i.e. letters or pictures that demonstrated some iota of interest on the part of the father. They were accused of trying to get her to say she wanted to go to Cuba. Finally, the foregone conclusion of the ruling: the little girl receives a life sentence.

Unfortunately, the American public sees Cuban Americans as intransigently putting their political agenda before the interests of a young child. They see it as a case of the good life versus the humble life. Their knee jerk reaction is to think of their own children and how they would feel if they were taken away. Such a reaction is so universal that it has reached as far as where Kathleen Parker has written this article which was picked up by the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

I have a close personal friend who was also born illegitimately, this time in the bad old days. His childhood was make-a-movie-out-of-it bad, so much so that it bruised his soul and has haunted him his whole adult life. Can you imagine how he felt when he recently found out that he could have been spared the hardship, the rejection and the abandonment, that when he was born his mother rejected the town doctor and his childless wife who had offered to adopt him? The enormity of that yawning possibility was overwhelming. Was it love, or was it narcissism?

So I ask you, as a mother, say you died or were incapacitated, would you want your child placed with a man, the birth father, who had not shown the slightest interest in her for a year? Would you want your child to grow up, not just in poverty, but in absolute penury? Would you want your child to go hungry? They do not starve to death in Cuba, but finding food is a daily battle. The child is of the age when she will not see milk again until she is 65. Would you want her exposed to a whole host of diseases brought on by poor public health, sanitation, and nutrition? Would you want her to grow up in an environment where she constantly has to measure her words, where she is subject to arbitrary imprisonment and worse, where as she grows up, prostituting herself with aging European tourists is often the only expedient left to young women. Here's the kicker for me, would you want her to live under the roof of the woman you had wronged by sleeping with her common law husband?

As a father, many of the same questions apply. Now picture the life your child can lead. She can be brought up with her brother in the arms of a well-to-do family who wants her. She can grow up free. She will enjoy protections you don't even dream of. She can be spared many of life's hardships. She will not know the hunger and privation and repression you face daily. You do not have to bring her into the home of the woman you have wronged, to be a daily reminder of your infidelity. What would a father who truly loves his child do?

Solomon knew the answer to this one. Apparently, we no longer do.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Literary Interlude: Those Winter Sundays

It seemed kind of fitting to use this one after writing about Hijuelos' book.

Those Winter Sundays

Sundays too my father go up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly, I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house.

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
of love's austere and lonely offices?

Robert Hayden