Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Dictator Doth Protest Too Much

In his latest reflection, "comrade fidel" complains of a BBC dispatch that has him allegedly locked in a room with Raul, screaming at each other over their differences. The aforementioned dispatch had made barely a ripple, but by denying it, castro only calls attention to his perceived differences with his brother.

And speaking of calling attention, he ends the reflection with the clause "but I have no reason to be ashamed of that." What he's not ashamed of is unclear; the reference is ambiguous. It may be that he is reduced to writing, or it could be the volumes of material he has produced. I just find it interesting that the concept of shame, even if it's in denial of same, is introduced there at the end in a position of power.

"Oh what a tangled web we weave,/When first we practise to deceive!"

I refuse to link, but you might want to read this one if only for the amusement of seeing him seize on the lastest fad, the green movement, as he desperately scrabbles for some legitimacy.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Going Bookish

I have been a bad girl, I confess. I've been reading escapist stuff for the past few weeks. Every once in a while, like a wine taster cleaning his palate, I have to read some pure entertainment and clear my brain. Among the better entries:

Lady in Blue by Javier Serra. This one is deceptive, opening as it does with mystical experiences in the Southwest. I'd probably like to say that the ending is disappointing, but that would not do justice to the book which I enjoyed quite a bit. It's a good read, almost engrossing, beginning as it does with a combination of narratives about different characters in different locales in different eras a la Ludlum. Unusual.

T is for Trespass by Sue Grafton. I never miss an installment in her alphabetical mystery series featuring Kinsey Millhone. As I checked it out, I was told it was a bit different from the others, a bit more complex. It is different in that Grafton gives away much of the ending in the first few chapters. The question is how she's going to get there. And while I enjoy Kinsey's family of choice, landlord Henry and the rest of the crew, they form the central story here. I prefer them more as local color. And where's the boyfriend?

Hand of Evil by JA Jance. This is the third in the Ali Reynolds series. For the unitiated, Jance has at least three mystery series. My absolute favorite are the JP Beaumont novels, set in Seattle. There's also a pretty nifty Joanna Brady series set in the Southwest. Ali is a newer introduction. Burned by life, Ali returns to her hometown where she finds herself embroiled in not one but two mysteries. Any Jance is excellent, fast-paced and enjoyable reading, but I particularly enjoyed the dysfunction aspect in this one. By the way, Ali keeps a blog. Speaking of blogging, Jance has one on Amazon. It appears that there have been rumors she died. She apprises us that she is alive and kicking here on her blog.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cuba News Round-up

There's been so much going on...

Which Raul? If you read the Babalublog post on the Newsmax article on Raul by Humberto Fontova, you might notice the slight omissions in the AP's bio of same. You know, his role as executioner, perhaps.

Again with the Snacks. I took exception to this one in an earlier incarnation. Fellas, the word snack implies in addition to three squares, a near impossibility in Cuba. To use this terminology creates and propagates a misunderstanding that can have serious ramifications for these same Cubans who haven't had a true snack in decades.

Who Stole the Cookie. For those of you that didn't know it, the US is to blame for Cuba's predicament. The many sins of the US apparently wipe out fifo's thievery, murder, nuclear threat, political oppression and economic mismanagement. Or so DeWayne Wickham seems to suggest, writing in USA Today. I've given up expecting anything factual from that source, but really. Read it. Know the enemy. Wickham also earns a lifetime membership in the tortured metaphor club with that book analogy.

Dear Jose. New York politician Jose Serrano, who was the only one of same who saw fit to issue a paean to a murderous dictator, might benefit from reading this open letter to the United States Congress by Rolando Jiménez Posada, one of those imprisoned in the Black Spring of 2003, particularly the part about asking for congressional support. Of course, he'll probably need a translator.

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

The bond Cubans share on and off the island through the generations has been in the fore the past few days. The entreprenurial bent evident in those who fled to the United States is so characteristic of the Cuban spirit that the assumption Raul is going to convert to one currency has led to an outbreak of money exchanges on the island. People are changing money on the speculation that the peso will rise. En el medio de la inopia, they think like Soros. Have to love my people. Unleash them, and we'll see about third world country.

Then there have been the remembrances for the Brothers to the Rescue pilots. This one I find particularly touching. In Cienfuegos, in Santa Clara, in Havana and other places, ceremonies were held to mark the day that the four were murdered in cold blood. Flowers were set adrift in the sea; a condolence book was started; a commemorative banner was displayed; and speeches were made. Of all of the tributes on February 24th, I suspect these would have been the most precious to those who lost their lives.

I suspect that they know that whatever our differences in approach, in the face of their abandonment by the world, the Vatican, that we have remained faithful. We, very nearly alone, have stood up for their dignity and their rights as human beings.

They've Gotta Be Kidding

There's some question as to whether McCain, the son of a military officer born on a military base in Panama, is actually eligible to be President. Is he a natural born citizen? Seems Barry Goldwater had the same problem, having been born when Arizona when it was still a territory. I kid you not. Read it here.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Updated: Rest in Peace

                    William F Buckley (AP Photo)

Just learned via Drudge that one of my heroes has died. The man's mastery of the word was awe-inspiring. The languor of his presentation, a sharp contrast to anyone I knew, was deceptive and cloaked a rapier like keeness of intellect and expression. Rest in Peace.
Update: Here's a link to Ann Coulter's column. It contains some classic Buckley.

A Study in Contrast

Quienes nunca tuvieron miedo, sin que se lo dijeran el Papa ni el Cardenal, fueron aquellos hermosos jóvenes iluminados por los ideales del amor a la libertad y a nuestro Señor Jesucristo que se enfrentaron a las balas de los pelotones de fusilamiento al grito de “Viva Cristo Rey”.

The Ones who didn't have fear, without being told by the Pope or the Cardinal, were those beautiful young men illuminated by their ideals of love of liberty and our Lord Jesus Christ who confronted the hail of bullets with the calls of "Viva Cristo Rey," or "Long Live Christ the King."

Alfredo Cepero in a article on Misceláneas de Cuba, entitled "With God and the Devil" in which he contrasts the timidity of the Church to those who faced Fidel's firing squads. If you read Spanish, it's worth the visit here.

Martinez's Official Statement


February 19, 2008 - WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) today released the following statement regarding the resignation of Fidel Castro.

Martinez said:

“Today I am cautiously optimistic for the people of Cuba and another step is closing on a long, dark chapter in Cuban history. I look forward to the day that Cubans will be able to freely elect their own leaders. Unfortunately, today's news does not facilitate that yet. We must remember that Fidel Castro has resigned from a position he was never elected to in the first place.

“The goal of U.S. policy is clear and remains that we must see the unconditional release of all political prisoners; the respect and recognition of fundamental human rights; and a genuine transition towards political freedom, the rule of law and democracy.

“Cubans are calling for change. The responsibility of the international community is to stand in unequivocal solidarity with those courageous civil society leaders that despite tremendous repression work steadfast for the goal of a common dream: a free, sovereign and democratic Cuba.”

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How's This for Presumption?

In the International Herald Tribune, an article about how Raul is going to make changes, although the Cuban people don't yet believe it. Maybe, because like they know who they're dealing with here. Or maybe because all of the changes mentioned in the article are small economic ones, because maybe there is not a word about freedom of speech, freedom of association, elections with more than one candidate for an office. And where are the political prisoners in all of these changes? They're in the gulag, where they're apparently staying.

They did have one particularly good quote:

"Everyone is afraid to talk," said a student sitting on a park bench nearby who identified himself only as Alejandro. "This is the time when the people should go to the street, but they are afraid. My country is like a prison."

The Truth at Last

Here's one for all the condescending bigots out there who seem to think that preCastro Cuba was a third world country. In an article by Joachim Bamrud in the Latin Business Chronicle, we find this telling little detail.

... Cuba today is far worse than it was before the 1959 revolution that swept Castro to power. Adjusted for inflation, the GDP per capita of Cuba is now only five percent of the one enjoyed in 1958, according to calculations by Salazar-Carrillo.

The rest of the article is chock full of facts that might be surprising to some, not, of course, to those whose families lived it. Read the whole thing.

H/T Gusano at Babalublog

A Reason to Believe

A Reason to Believe
A few weeks ago, before the term became common coin, I was running around, thinking that this Obama thing was like the "cult of personality." To my chagrin, the idea struck a number of people. Oh well, pride goeth before the fall. I hadn’t posted right away, because I had the germ of an idea brewing, namely that the Obama mania is just one more indicator of a larger phenomenon.Despite our diverse ethnic and racial makeup, the character of our Puritan forbears has formed a current running through American society for centuries. The advent of the boomer generation brought under attack those institutions which channeled these inclinations. It made of morality and its attendant religious practices an irrelevancy and of governmental authority a subject fit for cynicism and mockery. Deprived of its natural venues in civics and religion, this puritan zeal has manifested in a number of intriguing ways.

We now have civic “sins” like smoking and transfats, the denunciation of which at times rivals the oratory of Jonathan Edwards. The topic of global warming, for instance, has taken on quasi religious overtones with all of the characteristic sanctimoniousness on the part of believers. And then there is Obama. For all I know, he may be a marvelous person and might make a decent president. I don’t think so, but it’s within the realm of possibility. What I fail to see and hear is the cause for all of this devotion.

I must be immune or something. As I see it, all he’s proposed so far involves the disbursements of huge amounts of money, money which has to come from somewhere. And read his counter to McCain’s criticism of his approach to Cuba. I’m starting to form the impression that he’s going to feed us lip service all the way to Havana as he prepares to sit down with the Dons.

So as I watch these mass rallies that have taken on the aura of revival meetings, the messianic overtones with which he is imbued by his followers and see nothing to merit it, I have to find some way to make sense of it all. I’ve come to the conclusion that the faith, its natural course denied, has deviated course into other outlets, because as human beings we need to believe in something greater than ourselves. Therein lies the great mistake of the boomers, and I count myself as one: hubris.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Without Comment

Los obispos de Cuba en reunión ordinaria con el cardenal Tarcisio Bertone, secretario de Estado del Vaticano, dieron hoy "un voto de confianza" al nuevo presidente cubano, Raúl Castro, en sus objetivos de paz y en la aplicación de cambios "en bienestar del pueblo cubano".

The Bishops of Cuba in a meeting with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, today gave "a vote of confidence" to the new Cuban President, Raul Castro, in his objectives of peace and in the application of changes "in the wellbeing of the Cuban people."
from La

H/T penúltimos días

The Changing of the Guard

No, not that one. The Times has an article about the declining Cuban population in Union City. Although I never heard it called "Little Little Havana," I did spend quite a bit of time there in my youth. It's where we went to visit relatives, eat sandwiches, and buy those nylon T-shirts to send to Cuba at El Waterloo. So the news that it is losing its Cuban character and becoming more multiethnic is just one more loss to add on top of loss. I'll have to check with Rafael Martel to see how true it all is.

Meantime as Victor Bas, whose father first opened Waterloo, is quoted as saying:

There’s a lot of ‘used to be’ around here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Closet of Curiosities

Michelle Obama has made her thesis available online here, ending the mystery. Princeton had refused to release it until after the election. Entitled "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community," it is surprisingly personal for a senior thesis. It seems to have been written under the auspices of one of the social sciences, and as an English major I don't think I'm qualified to critique it. I could comment on the writing, but I won't: that would be petty, wouldn't it?

But all of that aside, I think that her thesis should be irrelevant to her husband's run for the presidency. What are they gonna do next, dig up his daughters' preschool drawings? And I don't even like the guy. I think he's the AntiChrist. But fair play is fair play.

looting in beograd

Here's the video. The link from the article doesn't seem to exist, but this is the footage. According to hubby, who knows these things, the dialogue at the end consists mainly of curses.

Sunday News

Falcons and Filchers. In one of the oddest developments this week, two young female looters in Kosovo have become counterparts to the Obama Girl on YouTube. As one of the perps put it, "We looted because we are poor, not because we are rich." Read about it. If you think the Cuba situation is hard to discern, try the Balkans. Books highly recommended on the topic: Balkan Ghosts By Robert D Kaplan and Black Lamb and Grey Falcon by Rebecca West, this last if you are a history buff with the patience to read two volumes.
via Drudge

Superbugs and Soldiers. In a frightening twist to military injuries, at least 20% of returning casualties will face a highly resistant bacteria. Doctors are in a quandary as to how to respond. Meanwhile here's another story about antibiotic resistant bacteria wreaking havoc with one woman's life stateside.

Dogs and Divas. News comes that the Dog the Bounty Hunter Show will resume production. Don't watch it myself, but it's nice to see him back. Speaking of nice things, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony are the proud parents of a matched set, born on Friday in Long Island. Read it. Bienvenidos, twins!

Nibs and Nips. One of those things you didn't know here. Apparently, there is a myth in England that the queen owns all the swans. One little girl, bitten by one of these beautiful but foul-tempered creatures, wrote to the Queen for an apology. Despite not owning the offending fowl, the Queen complied. Only here.

The "Eyes" Have It

Here are some responses to the Great Stepdown from around the web.

from The Beast of Havana , an editorial at NRO online:

Fidel Castro has been one of the cruelest dictators in living memory. He has also been the longest-“serving.” What has Castro served? Repression, torture, and murder. He seized power in January 1959. He is now “retiring,” just short of his 50th year in power. His golden jubilee will surely be marked, regardless; seldom have 50 years been less golden or more awful.

from Elmer Smith: "It's past time: Normalize relations with Cuba now" in Philadelphia Daily News:

Embarrassing is a kind way to describe it. Hypocritical, counter-productive, duplicitous and short-sighted are a few equally apt descriptions.
(Describing US Policy, not the obvious)

from After Fidel, an interview with Brian Latell, author of the tome by the same title, in Newsweek.

On Tuesday, the State Department called Raul "dictator lite." Is that a fair assessment?

Well, Fidel and Raul are dictators. They've never been subjected to a fair, democratic process.

And so it goes...