Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sunday Morning Rolls Around

Book Drive. The Sunday Times(UK) has come out with its "best" books lists. Finally, a list that includes books I've actually read. It's interesting that the Brit version would contain names such as Patricia Cornwell, Maeve Binchy, and Terry Pratchett, while the American (yawn)...

Deer in the Headlights. President Bush has signed a law phasing out incandescent bulbs. Read article here. Flourescents, however, are extremely unkind to Cuban complexions. A passing glance in the bathroom mirror one day scared the bejesus out of me. I looked like The Ugly Geisha. My cadaveric pallor made of all sorts of life threatening possibilites dance before my eyes. After a few uneasy days, I realized it was the light bulb. I tell you: they can't do it. It's discrimination. By the bye, the new bulbs also contain mercury.

Wrong Turn? Wal-mart has been front and center in the drive to exterminate the incandescent bulb, according to this report as a form of societal expiation for their generally perceived sins. All this leads to Lee Scott being named one of the five worst CEO's of 2007 in this article, which distinction he shares with Jeff Immelt of GE. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. GE makes the incandescents. Also recognized for their contributions, the CEO's of BP, Pepsico, and Caterpillar. It all goes to show that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Detour. Speaking (metaphorically, of course) of Geishas, how about an article on the deleterious effects of cosmetics throughout history, the short form? Most seem to have arisen from the heavy metals in make-up. The article does hint that our lipsticks might not be quite as safe as they seem. Well, without makeup, being yellow in the new light will be the least of my problems.


One of the joys of living in a seasonal resort town is the sudden influx after the holidays, when the population swells to double its size. So yesterday, as I waited out the second light at the same interchange, I experienced some unexpected relief. The perfectly ordinary hatchback stopped directly in front of me was plastered with all sorts of bumper stickers. There was the old NRA "Charlton Heston is my president" and the somewhat sexist "I brake for saucy wenches." That one started me looking for the male counterpart to wench. Yeoman really pertains to occupation. I guess it would be churl, but that really refers to socioeconomic status, not to mention it's more ill-mannered connotations. Varlet is too villainous. I knew there was a word hovering on the edge of my mental stratosphere, but alas it refused to make itself known.

Returning to my perusal of the car, I noted the snide, "Got brains?" The philosophical, "Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in his moccasins. That way if he gets mad, he'll be a mile away with no shoes." And the outstanding, "I'd rather go hunting with Dick Cheney than riding in a car with Ted Kennedy."

It was with disappointment, I noticed the third light change and the traffic beginning to move. Ah, what would life be without serendipitous moments of grace.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Of Detours and Desperation

From The Dallas Observer, an article online about a relatively new wrinkle in the exodus from Cuba- the flight of refugees to Mexico and eventually Texas. Despite its global approach, the article succeeds in conveying the culture shock of Texans at the advent of these Hispanics with the funny accents. It also conveys the difficulties faced by these newcomers, the travails they undergo to make it to the States.

I leave you to read the article for yourselves. There is just too much to do an adequate job of commentary. I will point out what for me was the most striking part of the six-pages, the description of the sheer desperation of those who flee Cuba in general. If anything is indicative of the “wrongness” of the wet foot/dry foot policy and the essential difference between Cubans and those who come for purely economic reasons, it is this:

"We've had cases where...they've poured gasoline on themselves and threatened to light themselves on fire," says Chief Dana Warr, an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard in Miami. "People will stab themselves or cut their wrists to be evacuated by helicopter to a U.S. hospital, and as soon as they touch down, they're 'dry foot.' It's almost like the wild, wild west out there, except on the water."

Cross-posted at Babalublog

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Git Along Little Doggies

Here are some strays:

Cuba has announced that it is resurrecting a past program to bring culture to its penal institutions. Forgive me, but it brings to mind scenes from A Clockwork Orange. What was that? Beethoven’s Ninth? Such luminaries as Silvio Rodriguez, Amauri Pérez, Vicente Feliú, and the seemingly ubiquitous Eusebio Leal have enlisted (or been enlisted) in the program, slated to start in the middle of January. Article in Spanish here.

The star of the new Spanish, as in being presented in Spain, musical based on The Diary of Anne Frank is a young Cuban exile. 13 year old Isabella Castillo fled the island with her mother, hid out in Honduras, and eventually ended up in- you guessed it- Miami. Read it here. has a post that the movie Shoot Down about the shooting down of two unarmed Brothers to the Rescue planes by the Cuban regime will premiere on January 18th in Miami. No details as to location. The film opens on January 25th.

The Leamington Post advises that Ruby Rose, a scaup duck fitted with a transponder, has left the chill climes of Canada and taken up residence near Florencia, Cuba (near the large indentation on the North coast). Ciego de Avila duck, anyone? Go here and click on the link and you, too, can follow Ruby’s progress.
For all you Key West party animals, there is a celebration of the 80th anniversary of the first flight from Key West to Cuba, incidentally also the first ever international flight over water, on January 16 at 5. The Conch Flyer Restaurant will be doing the catering. Don't ask me, I live in staid Sarasota. Read all about it here.
And finally, I've been waiting to fit this one in all week. At La Contra Revolución, Gusano advocates for the dignity of the Cuban people. Even if you overlook the matter of human rights, of hunger, or scarcity, he suggests, any government that cannot provide toilet paper for its people after 50 years does not deserve to rule. I think he may have a point. Read it in Spanish and weep here.
Bye the bye, the title comes from the old cowboy song, "Green Grow the Lilacs," which some have posited as the origin of the term "Gringo."
(Sometimes I hate Blogger.)

Wow! The Truth

You gotta read this at Accuracy in Media. David Landau writes a few home truths. First and foremost, he points out the obsession the embargo lifters seem to have with Cuba. That we should be accused of obsession is understandable, but why these perverse individuals can't leave Cuba alone is unfathomable.

The most important part of the article is the withering denunciation of the regime, and indirectly of those who would do business with it:

Decades of history have now shown the bitter fruits of Castro’s rule. In all that time, the U.S. embargo has achieved exactly what it set out to do. It has simply stated, for everyone to hear, that Americans do not wish to have trade with Cuba’s overlords and slave-masters.

It is such a clear, and concise statement of the rationale for not lifting the embargo that it should be reprinted everywhere.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


This one got lost in the shuffle. Helen Thomas, one of my least favorite “journalists” with a logic reminiscent of one of fifo’s missives attacked bloggers, blaming them for getting us into war and cheapening “journalistic standards.” As if!

Read about it here. You’ll enjoy it.

In a Word

I am a recovering political junkie. Over the past eight years, I’ve managed to tame my addiction. What with the depressing partisan politics and the disgusting media bias to the left, what’s a girl to do? Add this year’s lackluster slate of candidates. Hillary and Edwards are wealthy wouldbe socialists. Obama is untried and naïve when it comes to foreign policy. On the other side, Romney is too polished; Rudy, too possibly tainted (unless he runs against Hillary); Paul, too nutty. Thompson lacks energy and is into unfortunate suitcase metaphors, and McCain and Huckabee can’t win. That being said I do have my favorites.

Still, yesterday I had the NH primary news on all day, as a kind of backdrop. And the word that kept cropping up was change. I would hear it in passing as I went about my business. Seems that change is the word of moment. Hearing it repeated like a mantra, I thought of the parallel. Americans want change, the media tell us. So they turn out in droves to vote for the candidate they think will effect that change.

Not so far away is another country where the people want change ever so much more desperately than Americans. They, too, can vote, and they vote in droves… or face the consequences. However, they can only vote for the status quo. That’s like one of those if a tree falls in the forest riddles. If you have to vote and can only vote for one party is the vote heard? Regardless, in that country simply wearing the word change on your body will get you hauled off and detained, if not arrested.

Bear that thought in mind next time you see the media wringing their hands about the unhappiness of the American people.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Times, They are a-Changing!

The discussion is slowly but surely being reframed. Today, The Times Online published an article entitled "Good riddance to Castro. But what next?" Let's place aside the tepid criticism of the US policy; the Europeans come in for worse. But I have to share some highlights:

"History will absolve me,” declared Fidel Castro from the dock in 1953....With half a century's hindsight, we can predict that history will withhold the absolution he expected. Cuba's revolution has deformed international relations and subjugated the people in whose name it is implausibly proclaimed. Castro's legacy is a stagnating, dysfunctional one-party state.

and in perhaps the most succinct summary of what Castro has wrought, there is this:

Castro's defenders cite the iniquities of the US economic embargo and the successes of Cuba's welfare policies. There is, in both cases, less than meets the eye. Cuba is literally in ruins: Havana's colonial architecture is in crumbling disrepair. The economy is sclerotic. Production of sugar, once the island's primary industry, has collapsed. National income largely depends on tourism, remittances from families living in the US and subsidies from Venezuela. For the leader who launched a “Great Revolutionary Offensive” in emulation of Mao's Great Leap Forward, it is an ignominious outcome.

and this gem:

The most perverse aspect of Western attitudes towards Cuba is not a misconceived US embargo, but a widespread romanticism towards its target. Today's antiwar campaigners appear unaware that the historical figure who more nearly than anyone brought the world to nuclear destruction was Fidel Castro.

Although I obviously disagree with the antiembargo rhetoric, however toned down, the article proposes a policy direction.

Our Government [the UK] ought to be urging a common approach among the EU, the US and the Organisation of American States. US economic sanctions are discredited and should discreetly be replaced: not by rapprochement and normalised relations with Cuba, as the Spanish Government urges, but by emphasising the political aims that those sanctions are supposed to advance and have not achieved. Pressing for free and fair elections in Cuba is a minimal diplomatic stance.


If we press for the relaxation of an arbitrary US embargo, we must also insist that Castro allow ordinary Cubans to travel abroad. Normal relations should be introduced in stages, depending on political and economic reforms. Under the current regime, these are a remote prospect but we shall at least have marked out a strategy for the introduction of democracy.

Call me crazy, but the embargo is not arbitrary. And in essence, his proposals are just a kinder, gentler version of US policy. However, the article is correct about the need for concerted action, as is the call for a graduated policy of lifting restrictions. But that's just my opinion. What is most striking is the drubbing fifo receives. You gotta love it.

The 8th at 8

Today is the day of the audio protest in Cuba. How many participate is anyone's guess. The Cuban population lives in fear of stepping out of line. They also have very little access to information, so it will also depend on how far and how fast Radio Bemba (Lip Radio) can spread it.

For my English-speaking readers, I'll include the translation of the sidebar here again.

Secretos de Cuba is asking all websites related to Cuba and who are in favor of freedom to publish this message on the front page. In Cuba, on January 8 at 8PM raise the volume on your music, the TV, the radio. It doesn't matter what you are putting on, nor what type of music it is, the news, even if it's Mesa Redonda, whatever, raise the volume. If you have a party that day, so much the better.

If you are afraid, be quiet and listen at your window at how others will do it. The only thing we ask of those who have blogs, forums, etc... is to publish this message prominently until January 8 at 8PM.

Be heard. Join up. We want changes to benefit the people. Better salaries, more rights than the tourists, Freedom.

It is we, the people, who have to take back our rights.

New Entry into the Fray

The administrator, who does a yeoman's job of choreographing-can't think of another word to describe what he does- Cubanology, apprises us of the debut of his new biweekly. Try it. You'll like it. Go here.

Monday, January 7, 2008

High Finance

An interesting financial story today. Siboney Corporation, an educational software company, filed with the SEC in December that it is selling its Cuban oil exploration rights to Clarinbridge LLC. I had come across the company as a children’s librarian. At the time, I thought there had to be a Cuban connection, but promptly forgot about it. Today’s news had me questioning what the connection was between software and Cuban oil rights.

Here’s the scoop. In 1955, Siboney Caribbean Petroleum was formed to explore for oil in Cuba. After the revolution, the Cuban assets were seized. The company then underwent a number of changes, including buying a software company. Eventually, the new company divested itself of the other businesses, remaining in learning software.

After nearly fifty years, Siboney sold the rights for over a million in order to pay company debt. Of course, at the moment, this all seems a bit moot, as the present Cuban government owns just about everything at the moment.

For some general background, here.

Three Degrees of Separation

Maybe the reason, OlHil seemed a bit lachrymose today had to do with her multiplying troubles. Not that the FEC complaint filed by Peter Paul is gonna cause her to lose sleep. Paul has been making the same allegations for a while. Now I’m sure some of you know more of the details, but it is too delicious a maze to ignore.

Okay, follow me here. Paul, a former partner of Spiderman creator Stan Lee, charges that he hosted a fund raiser for Hillary’s 2000 Senate Campaign as a sort of quid pro quo to get Bill’s services for their new venture. Anyway, her campaign reported the cost as $500,000. Her campaign director was acquitted of charges he lied about the amount, although the FEC fined the campaign for understating the cost of $750,000. Peter Paul puts the amount at more like $2 million. George at Babalublog had posted on the whole affair here.

What’s interesting is that in a version of the six degrees of separation, Paul had earlier in his life been convicted of attempting to defraud the Cuban government. In a shades of Chuck Barris interview in 2002, though, he maintained:

"Twenty-three years ago, I had been approached to work with anti-Communist and anti-Castro forces," Paul told the Journal. On behalf of those forces, he became involved in what Freund described as a "politically connected and government-sanctioned activity." When the scheme fell through, Paul said he took the rap and pleaded Guilty to conspiring to defraud the Cuban government and possession of cocaine.

The truth, as Paul explained it, was far stranger than fiction. "By the time I was 27 years old, I was president of the World Trade Center. I had represented the president and government of Peru, the president of Panama [and several other heads of Central and South American states]. I represented every major anti-Communist participant in the Bay of Pigs. I had worked for four major intelligence agencies, and I was recruited by operatives of our government for a plan to embarrass Castro." According to Paul, the target of the fraudulent scam, which apparently involved scuttling an empty freighter and claiming it was full of coffee, was Castro himself and the Cuban coffee market, which at that time was subsidized by Russia. No shareholders were involved...

For today's article. For the 2002 interview. Yup, I'm sending you to the Comics Journal for info. It's really a fascinating story.

Update: Christmas Present

Florida rancher John Parke Wright, not one of my favorite people with his anti-embargo-let's-all get-along-and-get-rich position, demonstrated his largess by dressing up as Santa Claus and giving about 150 of those poor little Cuban children presents at a Havana convent. The visit, while not officially sanctioned, did have the presence of Ramon Castro. It was a nice gesture, but I was more moved with another toy giveaway.

In a more poignant event, the children of political prisoners also had a visit from Santa in the guise of 11 year old Rocio de Jesus Viso Bello whose father is imprisoned. Held in the home of Laura Pollan of the Women in White, the giveaway was sponsored by CANF, the Cuban American National Foundation. Yeah, those intransigent exiles again.

Read it here.

Update: Los Miquis de Miami has pictures of the second event here.
H/T Penultimos Dias

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Stop the Presses!

But don't get too excited, yet. We've been down this road before.

According to an article at Payo Libre by Alberto Muller, sources close to the Castro progeny are reporting that the coma andante has taken a turn for the worse and is suffering from respiratory distress. Although I’ve long ago given up trying to figure out the condition of he whose name must not be mentioned, I did find an interesting morsel with just a hint of justice about it. Apparently, however, in his rare moments of lucidity, he is overwhelmed by depression and has extended crying fits. They ascribe it to senility. I'd like to believe it is remorse.

The family is expecting his death “imminently,” as well as a funeral worthy of a pharaoh. When we would find out about it is anyone’s guess.
Okay, I guess it's officially Sunday, so here goes...

All is Vanity. Word comes that Tom Wolfe is working on a new book, a sort of Bonfire of the Vanidades set in Miami. Containing crime, sex, and corruption, it's characters are said to include a Cuban nurse, French sex doctor, and a journalist on the trail of the Russian mob in Dade. Don't run to place your order yet, though. He expects to be finished in four years. Read about it here.

Believe it or not. There's providence in the fall of a sparrow and incredible luck in the fall of this window washer who survived a 47 story plunge. "Doctors have never seen anything like it," the report tells us. 37 year old Alcides Moreno is expected to recover and even walk again. Reminds me of a story years back of a woman who fell from the Empire State Building but was blown back in a few stories down.

One Step Forward. Fox's Bill O'Reilly was involved in something of an altercation according to this tidbit picked up by Drudge. O'Reilly was trying to get Obama's attention, in order to invite him on his show, but was blocked by an Obama staffer, whom he jostled out of the way. O'Reilly denies any scuffle here, saying that he gently removed the obtrusive staffer.

What a way to go. In yet another green extreme. Now they're worrying about the toxic effects of burial practices. You, too, can be buried in a kayak-shaped coffin made of recycled newspapers. As the owner of The Natural Burial Company, Cynthia Beal describes it as "composting at its best." Article here.