Saturday, February 2, 2008

A Culinary Cautionary Tale

Last night I was reminded that there is such a thing as being too American. Growing up, it seemed that everything I ate was coated in some variety of fat. Even when my mother made a Prime Rib, the only thing you could taste was the manteca which surrounded it. I didn't know it at the time, since we never went to restaurants although my father had worked at the Brass Rail, but it bore little resemblance to what is served under that name.

To make a long story short, last night I made a beef roast, using a rack to keep it out of the accumulated run off. I'd been meaning to try it for a long time. So everything is done. I'm sitting in front of the movie we're watching- some kill, kill thing- dish on lap with roast beef and gravy, a baked potato, and a cherry tomato or two for garnish, when I taste the thing. My God, it's my favorite cut, but it tastes like old cow! I ask my husband and a pal of ours who was over, "Is there something wrong with this meat?"
"Nope," they reply.
For a moment or two, I wonder if I'm gonna get food poisoning. Oh well, the dog was eating it. Try as I might, I couldn't find a hint of the usual beef flavor. Then it came to me: normally, the roast stews in its accumulated juices, read fat. "Cause, face it, the fat is where the flavor is.

And the roasting rack, it's stowed in the back of a cabinet. I might be able to use it for a cooling rack.

Cause du Jour for the Lobotomized

So now it's the Cuban Five, huh? Some celebrity types have lent their names to a billboard campaign agitating for the freedom of the Cuban Five, those fine upstanding citizens who were spying for Cuba and were caught, tried, and convicted in a court of law. How's that for audacity? Maybe I meant stupidity.
It does unleash the imagination, though. How about free the Cuban Seventy Five, unjustly held in Cuban prisons, or even Free the Cuban Eleven Million, unjustly held in Cuba prison?

H/T Henry at Babalublog

Friday, February 1, 2008

Let's Talk Legitimacy

In the post-Bush era, the bottom line is blunt and simple, Dunleavy [a political scientist at the London School of Economics] said. "People all around the world are pretty worried," he said. "They want a president who will restore a kind of U.S. legitimacy in the world."

This from an article on how the world is "captivated" by the Presidential race in the US. Forgive me for taking offense, but just who is going to be the first to presume to judge the legitimacy of the United States. What has the US actually done? Attacked a country that harbored the terrorists who killed thousands in America and wouldn't turn them over? Removed a bloodthirsty dictator and gave the people a shot at ruling themselves? Negotiated with the North Koreans? Refused to commit economic suicide by signing the Kyoto Protocol which exempted China and India from the rules and regulations binding on developed nations?

Perhaps if the United States had illegally traded with Saddam despite the sanctions, pretending not to notice his manifold human rights abuses; sold nuclear fuel to the Iranians, accepting that an oil rich nation with a history of fomenting terrorism is going to use it for peaceful purposes; or taken advantage of an enslaved people by turning their country into a Disneyland of debauchery, then perhaps we might have maintained legitimacy in the eyes of the world.

It would be easy to dismiss their elitism and presumption, but it has consequences. When I read that the Sunnis describe their shift in allegiance as the "Anbar Awakening," I have to wonder how much of our bad press they heard and believed. Self-interest might govern our actions, but we have a heck of a lot more legitimacy than our so respectable detractors.

How Big is Your Tent?

A few years ago, Christie Whitman wrote a book, the title of which was It's My Party, Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America. It seems timely in light of the reaction to McCain's Florida win. The verbiage unleashed in his direction, not from Democrats but from his own party, is a bit stunning. Reaction has ranged from the morose to the mordant, culminating in Ann Coulter's petulant declarations that she'd rather support Hillary.

Come on, Ann. Two words-universal healthcare- demonstrate the falseness of that position. If that doesn't work for you, try- tax hike. McCain, whatever his original vote, has signed on to extend the Bush tax cuts. Now I love Ann's fiery rhetoric, although at times her anti-immigration rants border on the bigoted, but she calls them as she sees them. Her candor and willingness to take on unpopular causes fills a need in our namby-pamby, politically correct society. But here, I think she's wrong.

All of those trash talking Mr. McCain really need to think about a fallacious underlying assumption in all of their criticism. The Republican Party is not the Conservative Party. At times their interests and their candidates conincide, but not always. Before Reagan, who not only advocated amnesty for illegals but granted it, there were Republicans with a full spectrum of view points. Remember Nelson Rockefeller, Jacob Javits?

As far as I can remember the less conservative wing of the party did not have public fits of apoplexy over Reagan's emergence. It was accepted with apparent good grace. Time proved that stance correct, but it took a willing suspension of disbelief to support him the first time.

Instead of conservative litmus tests, try asking about McCain's unpredicatbility. Ask whether you would trust him with this finger on the button? Now that gives me reservations. You can raise the issue of age also. It does have real potential consequences. But when you consider the alternatives, the choice is clear. I like Romney, but can he really stand up to the Billary machine or the Obama magic?

My view is simple. Forget about not washing our dirty laundry in public; we shouldn't eat our own, or we'll have our heads handed to us for breakfast.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Reads: Sweetheart Deal by Claire Matturro

A while back I found myself at loose ends between books and in the New Books section at the library. We stop for the obligatory plug for the Sarasota Library System. Anyway, I spotted a book titled Bone Valley. Reading the inside flap, I realized it was set in Sarasota, so I had to check it out. I remember liking it, so this week I picked up Sweetheart Deal by the same author.

Although this one starts out in Sarasota, most of it takes place in Bugfest, GA. I leave it to the reader to imagine the locale. There, it takes on the overtones of the daughter of the Deep South whodunits, complete with oddball relatives and ne'er do well, slightly felonious neighbors, like those of the Carolyn Haines "Southern Belle" mysteries. (If you haven't read these and like mysteries, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. They're well-written and fun.)

The plot is nicely constructed and unravels slowly. Her character, Lilly, the sophisticated Florida lawyer saves the day despite being assaulted by murderers, mosquitos, and Southern cooking. My only complaint about the book concerns her fixation with healthy food. By the end of the book, her culinary travails have become amusing. But there's something forced about their introduction in the beginning.

Overall, I enjoyed it, especially when Lilly ponders the following:

Well, that was an old story, those who wanted to hold on to what was versus those who wanted something new. Everybody in the country could talk it to death if they wanted to, but I'd seen what had happened in Sarasota, and knew in the end there wasn't any stopping of the development.


Why McCain?

McCain won the Florida Primary with the help of defecting Cuban American Giuliani supporters. The question is why these voters broke for McCain and not Romney. Or perhaps a better question would be why they supported Rudy in the first place.

On Tues, the Weekly Standard suggested that the initial support for Rudy came from his tenure as “America’s Mayor” and his harsh stance against castro when the latter was in NYC. Can you hear it now: “el tipo no tiene pelo en la lengua,” uttered in admiring accents? Faced with his probable loss, huge numbers of primary voters then switched their allegiance to McCain. So why McCain and not Romney or Huckabee or even Paul?

The standard credits McCain’s military experience. I have my own theory, which is it was “the hair,” not McCain’s bald pate or Romney’s luxuriant, seemingly numerically arranged mane, but rather the metaphorical hair on McCain’s chest. McCain, whether you support him or not, most definitely does not have hair on his tongue and comes across as an hombre de pelo en pecho.
When he says he will follow Osama to the gates of Hell, he thrills Cuban hearts. When he imagines a meeting with the Cuban torturers who instructed his own North Vietnamese captors and hints, ever so dryly, that he would take matters into his own hands, it is a sentiment, that thirst for justice, or even revenge, they share.

So, it’s not surprising to me that the majority of Cuban American voters went for McCain, conservative or not. Faced with two viable candidates, neither of who had impeccable conservative credentials, I am sure that many made a reasoned choice; but I suspect that for a substantial number, the choice came down to one sentence-“el tipo tiene cojones.” All of which begs the question, how much have we really learned…

Disclaimer: The preceding does not constitute an endorsement or condemnation of any kind.

Cross posted at Babalublog.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Cuban "Results"

Raul Castro- 99.4%
Fidel Castro-98% (approx)

giggle, giggle, snort, snicker, snicker, snigger, chortle, guffaw, cackle, snort!

Everyone Celebrates in his Own Way

From el Coma Andante:

January 28, 2008
A Tribute to Martí
FIVE years ago, Cuba’s capital hosted the International Conference "For World Equilibrium", which was attended by delegates from 43 countries of all continents, to honor Martí on the occasion of his 150th birthday.

I talked to them all on the evening of January 29 of that year 2003. By a mere chance – or rather, by more than a single chance – that moment of 1953 repeated itself, although under significantly different circumstances. Back in 1953 we had to honor Martí’s memory by liberating our homeland from the imperialist yoke. This time it was necessary to wage our struggle in the field of ideas to counter the threats against humanity openly implied in the words of the U.S. president in his speech at the West Point Academy. What I said on that day, which is consistent with my deepest convictions, has become a starting point for most of the reflections I wrote during the stage of convalescence I was obliged to go through. It is my modest tribute to the maestro. I likewise salute the hundreds of intellectuals, men and women of thought, who once again gather with the same purpose of paying tribute to José Martí on the occasion of his155th birthday. I could not find any better words to honor him! I would request our press to publish it, if possible, in the inner pages, to avoid taking space from other important news about this commemoration.
Fidel Castro Ruz

To el coma andante:

On this birthday anniversary of one of the greatest Cubans, Jose Marti, I enjoyed a Montecristo No2 (alleged to be one of the greatest Cuban smokes), and I reflected on the past forty years. Sitting here with my Cambio bracelet on (which I will never remove), I’m feeling philosophical. I ask, would Marti be proud of what has become of Cuba today? The answer is obvious, I think. So while we honor Marti, we owe a debt of gratitude to you.

Thank you, Fidel, for showing us how to single handedly unravel an economy, an achievement many Democrats seem ready to emulate in an election year. Thank you, Fidel, for showing us how to establish a system of apartheid ninety miles away from one of the greatest bastions of freedom. Thank you for showing us how to live on rations rather that cooking entire pigs and washing them down with a few bottles of Bacardi.

Thank you for showing the world how resolute and entrepreneurial the Cuban people are. Adversaries can call the Miami Cubans the mafia, but the truth is that there are unbelievable numbers of Cuban businessmen and women, artists and politicians who have brought that city to an incredible height, beyond our wildest dreams. Thank you for showing me that my father and other Cubans came here with no money and were able to create businesses worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions or billions. Thank you…thank you…thank you.

Thank you for showing me that Cuban Americans are a minority in the United States, but not entitled to the freebees which other minorities get. For example, when I applied to medical school, I found out the some Latinos received special consideration, not Cubans, though, because they are not underrepresented in medical school

Thank you for Cuban politicians that you have put in your government such as Lage and Alarcon, without them, we would not know the fine art of brownnosing and how to scramble when the golden goose is frying. Thank you for not even giving your beloved people the decency to decide their political fate when you are on your death bed.

Thank you, Fidel, for making me the Republican, Capitalist Pig that I am. I am grateful, my family is grateful. And I look forward to the day that I may drink a rum ‘n coke in Habana and scream Cuba Libre! Viva Marti! Fuck you, Fidel!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Primary Day

Although I was efficient and did my voting early, someone else in the family did not. So it was that I found myself sitting in a chair thoughtfully provided by the election people at my polling station and observing. As I sat there, I was filled with pride. While I watched the mother with her baby, the middle-aged gentleman obviously come from work, the older women in warm-up suits, the poll workers, it occurred to me that this was the greatness of America. Each entered the room, calmly signed in and then voted for the candidate he or she thought would lead the nation. If such a thing were possible, there was a feeling of doing one's civic duty in the air. Such a simple thing, really. Yet how many countries in how many parts of the world seem to be unable to accomplish such a routine.

Yeah, I know, the tax question on the ballot probably provided a bit of an incentive to be a good citizen, but it was a beautiful moment, nonetheless.

Petty, Mean-Spirited, Disgusting, Presumptuous and Elitist

A liberal advocacy group plans to spend $8.5 million in a drive to ensure that President Bush's public approval doesn't improve as his days in the White House come to an end....
..."Framing his legacy helps us in the '08 elections, there is no doubt about that," Woodhouse said. "But our principal mission would be defining the failures of Bush and the ideology he represents."
Article here.

MSM: Some Change, More of the Same

It has become noticeable that there is a certain sea change in the coverage of Cuba by the mainstream news services. It is but a slight shift, but it is there. The new pattern to reports seems to be to begin with Cuban government pronouncements and fictions. In the past that would be end of story. Lately, the middle of the piece will turn to a noted dissident or anti government activist, the spokesman for one of the alphabet soup of organizations dedicated to change. So it is with this story.

A while back, I posted on the regime's revival of a program to bring some sweetness and light into Cuba's prisons, not humane treatment, but song and dance and architecture. Yesterday, the AP reported on singer Silvio Rodriguez's part in this program. In what has to be considered a sign of progress, the article cites an opposing point of view:

Human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez criticized the program as propaganda designed to whitewash the image of Cuban lockups abroad. Sanchez's Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation regularly describes the island's prison conditions as "subhuman."

Still, the AP missed a major part of the story. They neglected to mention that political prisoners who have refused to attend Rodriguez's appearances have been severely punished and now are whisked away beforehand to avoid the appearance of Cuban reality. You would think that news organizations would read the dispatches written by independent journalists from the island, non?

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Cuban Voter

Tomorrow is Primary Day, so tonight my phone is ringing off the hook with political recordings. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised to get a phone call from the late John Paul endorsing some candidate or other. Politicians have been hitting town like a bad smell, and the media have been touting the changing Cuban and/or Latino vote.

Some points being made in articles like that in today's El Pais are verifiably true. That is to say, Miami Cubans tend Republican; Orlando Puerto Ricans, Democrat. Of course, like all sweeping generalizations, they are subject to error. Overall, Florida is a pretty conservative state. Other assertions like this one are less certain. (my translation)

Los hijos del exilio ya no tienen tan en mente los libros de historia, sino nuevos problemas que les afectan como ciudadanos estadounidenses.

The children of exiles no longer have their minds in history books, but rather the new problems which affect them as United States citizens.

This is true to an extent. We are more American than our parents. But for years, the press and the Democrats have been running around like Chicken Little heralding the demise of the Cuban American Republican bloc. A favorite corollary is that younger Cubans tend to care about Cuba less. In response to this one, I'd like to share a little story to illustrate a point.

Recently, I met up with a cousin of mine I hadn't seen in years, probably the member of the family most likely to vote Democrat. I told him, as I do anyone who asks, that I write a right wing, reactionary, Cuban American blog. I was surprised when he asked, "When did you get so Cuban? I don't remember you being particularly that...." At that moment in the way of Cuban families, everyone was talking at the same time, and I never got to answer. Later, when I tried, he said, "No, it's all right. I have, too."

I offer this little story as a caveat of sorts to all those who are counting on the younger generation being more liberal. Beneath our shiny American exteriors, we carry all of the baggage of our fathers. I can prove the point. Let a candidate who favors normal relations with Cuba and who praises the "achievements" in literacy and healthcare of the regime run for anything and see how many votes he or she garners from Miami Cuban Americans of any age.

I wish I could remember college philosophy. Then I might say that for us a strong Cuba stance is a necessary but not sufficient condition.

H/T Penultimos Dias

In Honor of the Great Man's Birthdate

If we needed any proof of his influence.... No, I don't mean Pavarotti. Jose Marti was born on January 28, 1853. Those are the dulcet tones of Celia Cruz you hear singing Marti's verse set to music.

Guantanamera, Japanese Style

Here is the requisite Japanese Youtube video.

Dr. Who?

I thought the study about chronically underfed Cubans being healthy demonstrated science divorced from humanity, but this one takes the cake for both insensitivity and blind stupidity. What is to Cubans a way to resolver so that they can eat, growing food in any urban nook and cranny without the benefit of any of the advances of the last century, becomes a marvelous environmentally friendly government program to the author, complete with happy brown natives.

Let me just present a few snippets:

Jason Marks writes [6]: “Despite the tropical heat, it doesn't look like drudgery. Among organoponico employees, there is a palpable pride in their creation. The atmosphere is cooperative and congeniaL There is no boss in sight, and each person seems to understand well their role and what’s expected of them. The work occurs fluidly, with a quiet grace.”


The hybrid public-private partnership appears to work well. In return for providing the land, the government receives a portion of the produce, usually about one-fifth of the harvest, to use at state-run daycare centres, schools and hospitals. The workers get to keep the rest to sell at produce stands located right at the farm. It is more than fair trade.


Joe Kovach, an entomologist from Ohio State University who visited Cuba on a 2006 research delegation sums up the situation: “ In 25 years of working with farmers, these are the happiest, most optimistic, and best-paid farmers I have ever met


The success of urban agriculture is put down to the average Cuban citizen’s commitment to the ideal of local food production [7]. There is so much for the world to learn from the Cuban experience, not least of which, agriculture without fossil fuels is not only possible but also highly productive and health promoting in more ways than one.

Alternate Reality. I won't even link to this piece of trash. You can Google it under "Organic Cuba without Fossil Fuels."

Beyond the Gates lies Death and Disgrace

Warning: I give the plot away in this post.

As I was making my way down the aisle at the local Hollywood Video, hubby came up clutching Beyond the Gates. I hesitated, pointing out that it would be the third Rwandan Genocide movie I've endured. But if it says Africa on the case....

The film covers the events at a Catholic school in Rwanda, the Ecole Technique Officielle, where over 2,500 Rwandan Tutsi's sought shelter when the killing began. They were seeking the protection of a contingent of UN soldiers who had been stationed there. In the film, as the days wear on, the true nature of the UN becomes apparent. When a group of white people is brought in, the officer demands rooms with bathrooms for them. Apparently the great outdoors was fine for the Black Rwandans but not for the white Bwanas. Then as mobs of thugs begin to gather outside the gates, the French military sends trucks to rescue only the French. After much arguing, all whites are taken out of the danger zone, leaving a few thousand blacks.

With the machete wielding thugs massed outside, the only thing preventing a massacre is the presence of the UN soldiers, although they can only fire when fired upon. The climax of the movie comes when the soldiers are ordered to evacuate to the airport, leaving thousands of Rwandans to certain death.

All along, I kept thinking of Hotel Rwanda. I waited for the head officer to flout his orders, or for the BBC reporter to publicize events and bring pressure to bear. Neither happened. The people left behind were all murdered; the UN did nothing to stop it. And sadly, it's a true story.

As the movie ended and the credits rolled, it became apparent that members of the film crew had lived through the Genocide. One had actually taken refuge at the school and only survived by hiding under the dead bodies of his family. Brutal.

Here is the movie website for more info.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday Syllogisms

Moral Evolution. A pretty hefty piece from the Times. I'm still working my way through it but definitely of interest. Not surprisingly the author is a Harvard professor. Read it if you're in the mood to wrestle with great questions of biology and ethics.

Moral Economy. On a completely different plane, Victor Davis Hansen dissects our current economic problems in light of the election year and proposes, gasp, that we spend only what we can afford.

Whited Sepulchre? In another entry from, Larry Kudlow takes Bill Gates to task for putting down capitalism. You don't fool me, Billy Boy, I watched the The Pirates of Silicon Valley.

Soul Food. Forbes via MSNBC provides us with a how-to on maintaining our nutrition standards in the ten busiest airports. Obviously the author has never eaten at La Carreta at MIA, although her name is Rebecca Ruiz.

And for fun, click here to see the Swiss Alps more or less live. Foxnews has this nifty feature, a link up to webcams all over the world. Having trouble getting Old Faithful, though.