Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Rationale for Restrictions

Like I hate to be mean and all because they are young and foolish, but please explain to me what possible good came out of this little junket?

My favorite quote-

Before I went, I had some doubts because my parents and my friends were like, ‘You shouldn’t go there because it’s a Communist country,’ and all that stuff. But it was actually really friendly, and really safe.

I being the center of the universe, of course. Check it out in the NY Times here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Battle of Ideas

Of all of the vitriolic verbiage that is hurled at Exiles and Cuban Americans, there is one that stings. Over time, I've grown accustomed to hardline and rightwing, even intransigent. And Miami mafia is laughable. What comes close to tender places is the assertion, "Face it. You lost; they won. Deal with it." That is the general gist. It comes close that spot in the psyche where the child's objection- "That's not fair"- yet lingers.

But then I came across this opinion by a Rafael Rojas, a Cuban exiled in Mexico, in El Pais. In it, aside from highlighting the reality that revolutions have a beginning and an end, despite the pretensions to ongoing process the regime has maintained for near a half century, he asks, "When is an exile over?" In this discussion, he raises an interesting notion. To look at the Cuban population in exile all over the world and compare its lot to that of those in Cuba itself is to realize that it is the exiles who have won the battle of ideas.

I realized he was speaking true. Through their achievements, by their very lives, each and every day, those in exile- who have had nothing handed to them other than opportunity and sometimes not much of that- demonstrate the falsity and fallacy of those grandiose claims of the interminable revolution.

So in part, as one writer said recently, we cannot return to the past. That is over and done. In that our critics are correct. What's lost will not be found. But as we see the tide turning against us in the propaganda wars; in the arena where it counts, that of reality we have the small consolation of knowing we have won. They have presided over not a revolution but the devolution of a country; they have been a force of destruction, and exiles have created new identities, new lives, new families, new realities.

That is little or no comfort to those who suffer under the present regime, but it should motivate us to continue the good fight, until someday our brethren on the island can enjoy the same blessings we do.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Pair of Short-Shorts

First is more of the genealogy of outstanding claims by American Corporations against the Cuban government for the seizure of assets. According to the Fortune story on CNN, claims now total 20 billion dollars.

Then on the heels of all those articles gushing about the long lines of Cubans waiting to buy the newly liberated cell phones, etc., comes this info from the only game in telephone town. In the first 10 days, Cubans bought 7,400 phones. Query: what percentage of a population of 11 million is 7,400?

Telling Truth

May’s Harper’s magazine boasts an article on Cuba entitled “Searching for the Cuban Opposition.” Written by the author of The Boys from Dolores, Patrick Symmes, the article in a way represents the author’s journey into the heart of darkness. For those of us who read his book, the article- the tone of which is still one of careful detachment, although he does allow himself one “dictatorship lite”- represents a further way station in Symmes’ immersion in Cuban reality, a peeling back of yet another layer of regime mythology.

If every American journalist, scholar, author who visited Cuba took the time to do the due diligence that Symmes has, the world would have a much different perception of the Cuban system. I confess that I approached the article with some trepidation, as Cuban Americans are wont to do, but figuring that with his earlier book, his opinions had earned some respect. What I found was truth. Symmes undertakes an odyssey throughout Cuba, visiting with Elizardo Sanchez, Hector Palacios, “Coco” Fariñas, and Oswaldo Paya, among many others.

The article is exhaustive. It’s all there in the pages of Harpers: the independent libraries, the Ladies in White, the Varela Project, the Church, and more. More importantly, also front and center are the grinding poverty, repression, acts of repudio, the arrests of Black Spring, and the imprisonment of many he seeks out. And truth be told, because it is impossible to read it without seeing it as a good faith effort to tell the same, Symmes finds only pockets of open opposition. Time and time again he is told that the overwhelming mass of the Cuban people are against the government, but time and time again he is told that x, y, or z group consists of a dozen or so members. The reason for the small numbers, he is informed, is fear; some say terror. Symmes takes no position on the why. His is a search.

His portrait of the opposition leads to a no-holds barred picture of life in Cuba. Isn’t it a statement about those who cover and write about Cuba that to find a single writer who takes the time and effort to find the reality behind the veil evokes gratitude? Symmes has mine.

The article is available online only to subscribers.

Cross-posted at Babalublog

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Book Thoughts

Posts on books have been scarce as of late because I have been battling my way through Desert Queen by Janet Wallach. It came highly recommended, but I've been slogging through it for the past few weeks. I may yet abandon it. The story of the life of Gertrude Bell, billed in the subtitle as "Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia," it sounds promising enough. Right now, though, I'm in the middle of this trip to the Middle East and that trip to the Middle East. It's all very Victorian and very tedious.

So in between, I 've rewarded myself with a perfectly delightful Rhys Bowen mystery and, yesterday, with Dean Koontz's The Darkest Day of the Year. It's everything you've come to expect from Koontz- well-plotted and exciting. Still, I've enjoyed the Odd Thomas books more. Can't beat the King's presence. But tonight, I look forward to an Ann Perry. More about that one later.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Blog Alert!

Just discovered that one of my favorite Cuban independent journalists, Oswaldo Yañez, has a blog. He is learned, accurate and witty. His trademark is dating his reports in the year of imminent freedom. Alas, the blog is in Spanish, as are his reports. Today he amplifies his dispatch with a video of events yesterday, the forcible breakup of the Women in White demonstration in Havana. Take a look see here.

Credits for Video

which I forgot to include in the original post. I came across it at It is the product of AB Special Productions.

The Bum Rap over Elian

See for yourselves. I fantasize that when he reaches maturity, Elian will hop on a raft to the United States, write a book, and hopefully make lots of money. Then we'll get the truth.

Monday, April 21, 2008

It's the groceries, stupid!

A while back I wrote about the hyperincreases in the price of corn, wheat, and then rice. I was thinking at the time of the Asian countries where rice is a large part of the diet and where much of the population is on a subsistence level. Little did I imagine then that in scenes reminiscent of South Florida before a hurricane, people in the United States would be racing out to stockpile rice. According to the New York Sun, that's what's happening in parts of the country. They even used the "r" word: rationing.

While they who would be president are running around decrying Iraq, the lack of affordable health care, global warming, and who knows what all, there is an insidious threat out there- grocery creep-going on unremarked. There are millions upon millions of people in the United States who either rent or did not go beyond their means in purchasing a home, but every single household in the country has to buy groceries. The substantial increase in the same amounts to a regressive tax on the poor. After housing, food is their largest expense. What can the government do?

Let's start by forgetting this corn ethanol nonsense. It is a negative proposition to begin with. It sounds sexy in this politically correct world of global warming, but take a look at it. First it takes more to create than the energy produced. It is physically impossible to plant enough corn to cover our energy needs, even if we had the infrastructure in place to distribute the ethanol, which we do not, and the cars capable of using it as fuel, which we do not. Let's get real. All we are doing at the moment is allowing the vilest element in our markets to speculate at the expense of the global population, much of which can ill afford it.

What else can be done should form the topic of political discourse, not the tired old hobbyhorses which each party trots out every election year. How about true bread and butter issues, guys and gals?

Article here. By the way, rice hoarders, a reminder: gorgojos.

Reform of the Day?

"They are dying, they are dying,
-about the political prisoners in Cuba.
It was the lament of one of the handful of women in white who attempted to demonstrate peacefully in Havana today for the release of their husbands and fathers and sisters but were forcibly removed by a busload of party apparatchiks. Read the Reuters article here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday Cinematics

Return to the Future. Perhaps Obama's bittergate difficulties stem from what Jonah Goldberg sees as Obama stuck in the 80's. Yup, Goldberg writes here that Obama is essentially a holdover, self-hating Yuppie. Lends a different interpretation to Biden's "well-groomed" comment, don't it?

Invasion of the Body Snatchers. In keeping with the political theme, here's an odd report from Dana Milbank over at the Washington Post which maintains John McCain received a box of donuts and a standing ovation from a group of newspaper editors convened at an AP luncheon. Obama did not. Lends credence to the shibboleth that McCain is the "media" candidate. What happened to elitism?

Grapes of Wrath. On the economic front, the view is grim for retailers according to this one via the New York Times online. Caught up in the housing woes and tightening credit markets, such longtime retailers as Fortunoff and Sharper Image have found themselves in trouble, and Bombay is already sold off. A bit scary.

The Trial. In a bureaucratic snafu P.P. James served 50 years in in Sri Lanka for the crime of killing his father. Sent to an asylum for the criminally insane in 1958 when he was found unfit to stand trial, he spent decades in the institution, despite doctors' recommendations he be released. Lost apparently was his file. But, wait, it gets better. Had he been convicted of the crime, he would have served half the time. Biggest problem: his father was alive. The stuff of fiction. Read the AP story here.

The Omen. From Drudge, the world population will be 6,666,666,666 on May 10. Keep track here at the Census Bureau