Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sunday School

Learning Curve. From the Tampa Tribune, 50 things you could have learned in 2007. Dicover the increased risk for prostate cancer for the fathers of daughters only, the benefit of "artificial snot," and the deleterious health effects of second-hand toner.

Gender Studies. Two very popular books, The Daring Book for Girls and The Dangerous Book for Boys, which instruct children on old-fashioned pastimes, are subjected to 21st century feminist scrutiny here.

School Choice. An interesting article on a subject near and dear to my heart. A telephone interview with John Norquist, former four term mayor of Milwaukee and proponent of school choice. Note the system did not fall apart when they introduced vouchers.

Snow Day. What would any school year be without one? Here in Florida, we have the occasional Hurricane Day. A week or so ago, Baghdad experienced its first snowfall in about a hundred years. Can we say, "sign from God"? Article here.

Tell Me

What other group is treated so disrespectfully in the press. Granted, it's the Guardian.

Apart from the loud-mouthed Cuban-American right in Florida - whose threat of return and a CIA-fuelled menace of civil war has faded over time - there exists a less bellicose opposition within Cuba. And seeking it out over the years is like peeling an onion, as it passes from generation to generation.

Loud-mouthed? Really, what a lack of finesse. And if I've gotten the gist of the rest of the article correctly, Cubans really want to continue their socialist way of life, although they don't want to continue their way of life. Everyone is waiting for change, but the young are even more dedicated to the Revolution than the previous generation, but maybe that's not true. In other words, other than slandering a victimized people and a few jabs at the US, the author says nothing.

No one actually knows how the Cuban people feel, because they are not allowed to express their opinions. Oh, but that's alright. It's the US that's the bully. What's sad is that it circles the truth, but the author cannot get beyond his own frame of reference, his preconceived notions and his obvious distaste for the emotional nature of your average Cuban. What is "open" in Cuba is "loud-mouthed" in Florida. Self-serving and self-reinforcing leftist gobbledygook.

Literary Interlude: A Sonnet and a Prayer

An anonymous poem from the 16th century, roughly the same era as the Metaphysical Poets by my reckoning. I love the music of it, as well as its sentiment. It was one of my grandmother's favorites. From Antología de poesía española, a collection of Spanish Poetry on the web, put together by Fred Jehle who includes a number of English translations for this one.

Soneto a Cristo crucificado

No me mueve, mi Dios, para quererte
el cielo que me tienes prometido,
ni me mueve el infierno tan temido
para dejar por eso de ofenderte.

¡Tú me mueves, Señor! Muéveme el verte 5
clavado en una cruz y escarnecido;
muéveme ver tu cuerpo tan herido;
muévenme tus afrentas y tu muerte.

Muéveme en fin, tu amor, y en tal manera
que aunque no hubiera cielo, yo te amara, 10
y aunque no hubiera infierno, te temiera.

No me tienes que dar porque te quiera,
pues aunque lo que espero no esperara,
lo mismo que te quiero te quisiera

De: Floresta de rimas antiguas castellanas, por Juan Nicholas Böhl de Faber. Hamburgo: Perthes y Besser, 1821.

Fecha: siglo XVI

Friday, January 18, 2008


The two names the press touts as populists are Edwards and Huckabee. We already know about Edwards' $400 dollar haircuts, but I had a what's-wrong-with-this-picture-moment this morning. I got an invitation to a fund raiser for Huckabee. I can attend a reception for him on the 25th for the sum of $2,300 dollars, or I can join the great unwashed at the general reception for the nominal sum of $500 dollars per person. Whited sepulchre, anyone?

Now I've been toying with the idea of asking for a press pass for the Lincoln Dinner with Rudy as the speaker on the 25th, because I would prefer to not pay the more reasonable amount of $150 dollars. Anyway, I could have visited with Giuliani at Mel's Diner the other day for free. Interesting side note: the day after Rudy's visit the diner closed its doors forever, leaving employees and customers stunned. Hope it's not a sign of sorts.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

They Have Names

This Reuters article has been making the rounds. The gist is that the machinery of repression continues in Cuba. But that's only the lead in, because then we're informed that the number of political prisoners has actually decreased under Raul, a favorite media talking point.

Duh. Like maybe because nowadays, anyone who doesn't toe the party line gets whisked away to thoughtpolice headquarters, is read the riot act complete with the obligatory threats and the occasional beating, and is usually, not always, released. Then again it might be because the combination of brutality, poor nutrition, medical neglect and "suicide" in the gulag don't make for longevity, thereby helping to reduce numbers.

In this case, though, the words get in the way. All those abstractions like civil and human rights insulate us against the reality of what happens to flesh and blood. Reading, I remembered a Cuba Archives research report for 2007, the very same time period covered in the article.

I reproduce it in its entirety for obvious reasons.

Despite persecution, fear of reprisals, and limitations, Cuba’s human rights’ activists and independent journalists manage to issue reports from the island, from which the following information has been taken.

2007: SUMMARY OF REPORTED DEATHS ATTRIBUTED TO THE CUBAN STATE 16 Victims from January 1 to December 24, 2007

9 Presumed Extrajudicial Killings
Lázaro Baró Montalvo (alias 'Pita'), Age 27, died January 8, 2007 at the Combinado del Sur prison in Matanzas province for reasons that remain unexplained.

Jeile Rodríguez Aguilar, Age 19, died on January 25, 2007 of an alleged “suicide” after a beating by prison guards at the Kilo 9 prison, Camagüey province.

Rangel Enrique Pons, Age 34, was shot by police on March 20, 2007 at his home in Cárdenas, Matanzas province, when a policeman tired to blackmail him to take his motorcycle.

Manuel Acosta Larena, Age 47, opposition member, was reported to have committed suicide by hanging on June 24, 2007 at the police station at Aguada de Pasajeros, Cienfuegos province. He had been arrested four days earlier for “pre-criminal social dangerousness” for leading a campaign to collect signatures requesting the release of political prisoners.

Cecilio Echevarría Hernández, Age 54, opposition member under investigation, was reported to have committed suicide by hanging on July 22, 2007 at the police station at Aguada de Pasajeros, Cienfuegos province. The Chief of Police, Miguel López Santana, was promoted after his death and that of Manuel Acosta Larena the previous month.

Amaury Medina Puig, Carlos Rodríguez Labrada, Age 24, and another prisoner of unknown name, beat to death with metal bars and other objects in July 2007 at the ¨Kilo 8¨ maximum security prison in Camagüey after a prison melee.

Manuel Diende Rosa, common prisoner, was reported to have committed suicide by hanging on September 2, 2007 in his punishment cell at the Kilo 7 prison in Camagüey. He was on a hunger strike to demand his rights.

5 Deaths of Prisoners for Medical Negligence

Manuel Valdés Tamayo, Age 50, died on January 10, 2007. Political prisoner released shortly before his death for health problems exacerbated by prison conditions and denied permission to travel abroad for medical treatment.

Alexis Gómez Pérez, Age 32 años, died on March 28, 2007, at the Ariza prison, province of Cienfuegos, after he was denied medical care.

Jorge Betancourt, Age 52, died on July 30, 2007 of a reported heart attack at a police investigation unit in Havana ten days after his arrest at home for suspected drug trafficking. A week after his arrest, his wife had found him in a much deteriorated physical and emotional condition after being submitted to intense interrogations. The family had requested domiciliary arrest due to his heart condition, but it had been denied.

Norbert Jorrín Ortega, Age 20, died on April 25, 2007, at the “Miguel Enríquez” Hospital after being denied medical care by prison authorities at the Combinado del Este prison of Havana.

Geovany Figueroa Rodríguez, Age 28, died on September 3, 2007 at the Nieves Morejón prison of Sancti Spíritus province after prison authorities refused to give him his medication for high blood pressure for one month.

2 Suicides of a Political Nature

Ricardo Pérez Hernández, a prisoner with HIV/AIDS, reportedly committed suicide on January 25, 2007 at the Santa Clara prison after he was put in a punishment cell despite his precarious mental state.

Luis Ángel Lima Machado, Age 47, committed suicide by hanging on October 23, 2007 in Havana. A member of two peaceful opposition groups, authorities had repeatedly threatened and harassed him despite his precarious emotional state.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Recently my cousins came to town. It had been years since the three of us had been together, so I thought it might be fun to pop in a DVD of Dad’s old home movies in which they figured prominently. I’ve been having them transferred from film in the past few years.

Dad loved the new technology. He bought the absolute latest 8mm home movie camera when I was little more than a toddler. I remember cumbersome black cases with lights that screwed onto the base of the handheld camera, light meters, you name it. He was Louie B. De Mille.

What I hadn’t realized was how fond he was of taking sweeping views of whatever town he happened to find himself in. I have absolutely marvelous footage of South Beach and Lincoln Road Mall in 1965 which I will someday post.

I tell you the story because one of the movies was from about 1961. There I am at three years old. We live in a three room apartment, where I usually sleep on the couch. But my aunt and my two cousins are living with us, because my uncle was taken off the plane from Cuba to make room for Alicia Alonso, and Castro has decreed no more flights, and she’s alone with two children and no skills. So we set up a cot in the living room, and my cousins sleep on either side of the sectional. I don’t even know where I sleep.

But the night of the movie, it’s a big Noche Buena celebration. The house is packed with relatives and friends. It’s late- we children are coming in from the street, only to discover Santa has been there. As we open our gifts with that wholehearted childhood glee, the camera pans to my aunt, so young and so beautiful and so terribly haunted.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Now Wait a Minute

Here's a new one from fifo. On the heels of his clean bill of health from Lula, comes this via an AP report:

"I am not physically able to speak directly to the citizens of the municipality where I was nominated for our elections next Sunday," the ailing 81-year-old wrote in an essay published Wednesday by state news media.

Lula in LuLuLand

Whass up wit' dis? When Lula was first elected in Brazil, he was described as a leftist. But since the election, he has been low key and even helpful. Suddenly he is front and center in the fifo follies. Get a gander at these quotes from the AP report:

"He has incredible lucidity and impeccable health," the Brazilian president said. "He's as lucid as in his best moments."


Silva said politicians were like athletes, possessing a need to stay active. He said he felt Castro "would soon take on a political role in Cuba"

If he were in impeccable health, fifo would have met him at the airport with a full brass band and a phalanx of photographers. As to lucidity, all one has to do is read his ramblings. And any future political role would have to be as a totem pole. So why is the President of Brazil uttering these patent untruths? Why is he following the script so slavishly?

Suspicious minds might ask bribery or blackmail? Perhaps Brazil's much vaunted ethanol could use a boost from some cut rate Venezuelan crude? Or what else? Something seems rotten in the state of Brazil.

"It's ALIVE!"

Or so it would seem, as Babalu reports via Michelle Malkin. Read the comments section on Malkin's original post, as the various commentors seek to answer the question- real or wax?
But first take a look at the picture above. The AP report describes the aging and infirm tyrant as "frail, alert, and playful." Since fifo is no wooly lamb, I assume that's code for "out of his ever loving mind." The fascination with the camera, which appears in a few of the fotos, has childlike overtones. He does not just point it at the photographer but also plays with it beforehand.
The true story of his health, if it is him is told by his hands. Note the clawlike aspect of the fingers, the pallor of the hands in contrast to the face. Guess makeup central forgot about them.
Anyway, what shape he is in is irrelevant to the greater questions. The infernal machine, the crime family he-the capo de tutti capo- created continues to roll on without him at the wheel.
(forgive the format-blogger is possessed again.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Picture of the Day Award

Goes to for this entry.

For those of you who might have missed the story. Code Pink came to town in Miami, or should I say to the symbolic heart of the Cuban exile/Cuban American community- the Versailles- to protest what they termed the harboring of a terrorist. The combined Cuban community begged to differ, as they see Posada Carriles as a freedom fighter, whether or not they agree with whatever methods he has employed. The crowd of two hundred irate Cubans was waiting for the six gatos or, more accurately, gatas and the more aggressive stripped their pinkmobile of assorted flounces, essentially running them out of town on a rail.

There has been much discussion as to whether this was the appropriate move. I am reminded of one of my all time favorite movies, the rather shlocky The Wind and the Lion. In it, Sheik Mohammed El Rasuli (Sean Connery) has kidnapped an American missionary(Candice Bergen) raising the ire of Teddy Roosevelt (Brian Keith) who dispatches the marines, forcing El Rasulito flee for his life.

The last scene features two riders in silhoutte by the seashore. The shorter one says, "El Rasuli, we have lost everything!" Then comes the voice of El Rasuli in its luxuriant Scottish tones saying something like "Ah, but Hadjii is there nothing in your life that was worth losing everything?"

So it is that there is a certain satisfaction in stopping the "ladies" in mid antic. Theirs was an act of sheer provocation, somewhat tantamount to demanding Mandela be kept in jail as a terrorist in the Soweto township of old. You don't taunt an aggreived people. As Henry Gomez has pointed out, they should more logically have protested at the places where the decisions were actually made. I don't think that much damage was done to the perception of Cubans. The numbers were too small; and the Pinkers, too freaky. As a matter of fact, a Code Pink attack is perhaps the only thing the Cuban American community and Hillary Clinton have in common.

However, the point is well taken. We do have to be careful. Our passion and zeal can be off-putting to the American Public. A better response would perhaps have been something like the one in the picture. Maybe, we should have a rapid response team. We could show up in costume with the cubichemobile. We could even blast some music, turn it into a party.... Naw, we are too respectable...and we work for a living.

Reads: The Chase by Clive Cussler

I haven't written about books recently because I've been plowing through a book about meaning in the second half of life. It's good and it's meaningful, but it takes a while. Such is not true of Clive Cussler's novels, which I devour in a single sitting.

So I was thrilled to see a new entry by Cussler. Although I tend to stay away from coauthored efforts, I make an exception for his Numa Files novels written with Paul Kemprecos. Still, I was especially happy to see this was a Cussler only effort. Cussler's original Dirk Pitt novels are probably some of the best written entertainment around. Alas, I was to be disappointed. There's no Dirk Pitt. Actually most of The Chase takes place in the American West of 1906, and as interesting a character as Isaac Bell is, he is no Dirk Pitt or even Kurt Austin. Of course, who can compete with the underwater antics of the same?

After an intial scene of the 1950 recovery of a locomotive, etc... from the frigid waters of a Montana Lake, the reader is treated to the back story which revolves around the hunt for the "Butcher Bandit," bank robber and prototype of the modern serial killer. Erstwhile and successful investigator Isaac Bell is charged with the task. Throw in the San Francisco earthquake, and you have the gist of the plot.

The Chase makes for interesting and suspenseful, if not thoroughly outstanding, reading. And the ambivalence of the personal angle is one of its most outstanding features. So if you're at loose ends some Friday afternoon, you might want to pick up a copy. You won't be sorry. But if you haven't read any of the other Cussler novels, start there. You'll be really happy.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Quote of the Day

“A single personal despot can prolong obsolete ideas beyond their natural term, but the change of generations must ultimately carry them away.”

Historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, approx. 40 years ago, quoted in this Times article about the parliament in Spain allowing relatives to reclaim their republican dead from mass graves.

You Can't Fool All of the People....

From a poll by the Sacred Heart University:

“The fact that an astonishing percentage of Americans see biases and partisanship in their mainstream news sources suggests an active and critical consumer of information in the U.S.” stated James Castonguay, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of SHU’s Department of Media Studies & Digital Culture. “The availability of alternative viewpoints and news sources through the Internet no doubt contributes to the increased skepticism about the objectivity of profit-driven news outlets owned by large conglomerates,” he continued.


“Americans know bias and imbalance when they see it and they don’t like it. When most service organizations strive for consumer satisfaction ratings in the high eighties to low nineties, an overall positive rating of 40.7% is dismal,” said Jerry C. Lindsley, director of the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute. He added, “Americans know that it’s just not that hard to present both sides and keep personal bias at home.”

The results? The most trusted news outlet is no longer CNN. It is the much villified Fox News organization. And 86% of those surveyed felt strongly that the media attempted to influence the news.

Let's see how they're going to spin this one. Article here.

H/T RafaelMartel