Saturday, July 12, 2008

It's Axiomatic!

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
Karl Marx

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his work."
Raul Castro

"Socialism means social justice and equality, but equality of rights, of opportunities, not of income..." Raul Castro

"All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. "
George Orwell

Elegy for a Dictatorship?

This month’s Condé Nast Traveler boasts an article about Cuba entitled “Remains of the Revolution.” And it certainly lives up to the allusion of the title, as author John Graham provides not only a travelogue of sorts, but also a requiem for an era and a regime. His is not a look-at-the-reforms type of piece: these he treats with skepticism. No, rather the impression, unstated, is one of inevitability, like the fate of those multi-storied Havana buildings, decayed and crumbling under the weight of time.

Starting at the Floridita where he finds himself drinking with the likes of Padura, he never loses sight of those Cuban realities most mojito swilling tourists seem to miss. For instance, after telling us he loves Cuba, he feels the need to qualify the statement-

But lest you regard me as a sentimental fool, let me couch my amour in a little pragmatism. Unlike Jack Nicholson, who arrived here in 1998 and proclaimed Fidel "a genius," I see a place that possesses a magnificent legacy architecturally, culturally, and spiritually but that has been suppressed and held back by fifty years of Socialist torpor. Far from being a genius, Fidel was a political anachronism for decades before he resigned. Holding on to l'illusion lyrique (the early, idealistic phase of the revolution) far beyond its sell-by date, he has dragged his talented, free-spirited people down with him.

The sound you hear is yet another chink in the Great Wall of Denial that has shielded the Castroite regime. Are there things he writes that I don’t like? Sure, but I am impressed by just how much he gets right. Read it here.

Cross-posted at Babalublog

Friday, July 11, 2008

Quote of the Day

"It just seems like another racial move on their part," Tejada said. "They know how many lower-income families live in the neighborhood and how much it will impact them. There are a lot of big families here."

Gillespie Park resident Maritzabel Tejada on the parking ban.

The War Against the Poor: More of the Same in Sarasota

For decades, there has been a tension in Sarasota between the haves and the have nots, leading to the anecdote often tossed into discussions that many years ago when one of the former was queried as to who would cut their lawns if the latter could not afford to live in the city, he supposedly responded with "Let them live in Bradenton," the Gulf Coast equivalent to "Let them eat cake," one supposes.

One of the first things I noticed when I moved to this town were the gated developments rising all over the county. My Northern brain could not comprehend the wall upon wall before me when there was so little crime. Alas, at the time I was blissfully oblivious to the wannabe factor. A town of aspiring social climbers, many of whose entire capital resulted from the sale of the Long Island Cape Cod and others whose only endowment is a decided talent for self-aggrandizement, has no room for real people, for the gritty, messy, unraveled ends of humanity.

It strikes me that if this crew has its way, and it has taken over the centers of legal authority, all of Sarasota will morph into a over-sized Longboat Key. For the uninitiated, there is not a single foot of undeveloped, unobstructed beachfront not in private hands on Longboat, unless you include the small patch of public beach with no parking for miles. That'll keep the riff-raff out. There is also nary a poor person on the island. But it is the grass that seizes my imagination. Mile after mile of lawn is so manicured and uniform in color that it resembles nothing more than a carpet, as if no blade of grass would dare defy the strictures of the place by growing wild or unevenly.

So where are we now? Well, we have the use of public funds in the name of parking spaces for development projects of near million dollar condos. Then there are the temperance society smoking laws: no smoking on the beaches, no county employment for smokers. And now apparently we have the parking laws. The latest front in the war against the poor is the parking ban in Gillespie Park, a working class neighborhood, too close to the gentrified downtown for its own good. From now on, parking is limited to driveways and the streets. It is hinted that the same will befall the rest of Sarasota. Sounds logical, doesn't it? I mean, nobody wants to live next to the Jukes with the rusting hulks on the lawn or the immigrants of questionable legal status who live dorm style in a two bedroom cottage.

That is the problem. Each proposal sounds reasonable but carries with it more and more erosion of the live and let live atmosphere that once characterized the place. To many people, it is just code for another measure to make it more difficult for the working class, many of whom have about five feet of driveway and at least two cars of whatever vintage. If nothing else, it is symptomatic of the prissiness that is taking over our lives, here in Paradise.

I stand to gain nothing in this discussion, as I have no garage or driveway. Lucky for me, I don't live in Gillespie Park, either. But they will come for me, fear not.

The Sarasota Herald Tribune has done some solid reporting here. Good column here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Life as Art

You can blame this post on Obama, because going by the leading bookstore indicators, Obama fatigue has set in. That is not to say he will not win, but no longer does his mug on the cover of anything guarantee swift sales. Noting this reminds me of the infamous Warhol quote about "15 minutes" of fame. I'll grant Obama more than 15 minutes, but his star is dimming just the same.
Roundabout this time, I come across the book pictured above. It occurs to me that I know very few people who love Hemingway's writing. Those that do seem to be either advanced in years or male or both. Yet Hemingway as a character himself is almost universally beloved. I wonder how the great man would feel that it is his colorful career rather than his spartan prose that excites many readers?
Fertile ground for rumination, here. After all, there have been a plethora of autobiographies by people who are essentially nobodies. They haven't crossed the Delaware, cured polio, or even performed Hamlet on stage. True, in the modern purview even Willie Loman was worthy of a work of literature. "Could it be that there is something more to this, though?" I ask myself. So...
Deep, deep thought of the day: In a world in which we deny the existence of great men and women... even Mother Teresa came in for criticism and had her faith questioned... in a world that is increasingly less literate... the average adult American reads four books a year and when was the last time a book of poetry by anyone other than a talented dying boy who appeared on Larry King was a best seller... centered more and more on the ego... could it be that in a stark, post modern world, stripped of furbelows and flounces, our creative impulses have turned inward and we look upon our lives as just so much clay to make a statement? It could explain the inauthenticity which surrounds us. Verry Interresting.
By the way, the book looks interesting. More here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Airlines Fighting Back

The little one who is a frequent flier received this today from an airline. Thought it might be of interest.

An Open Letter to All Airline Customers

Our country is facing a possible sharp economic downturn because of
oil and fuel prices, but by pulling together, we can all do something
to help now.

For airlines, ultra-expensive fuel means thousands of lost jobs and
severe reductions in air service to both large and small communities.
To the broader economy, oil prices mean slower activity and widespread
economic pain. This pain can be alleviated, and that is why we are
taking the extraordinary step of writing this joint letter to our

Since high oil prices are partly a response to normal market forces,
the nation needs to focus on increased energy supplies and
conservation. However, there is another side to this story because
normal market forces are being dangerously amplified by poorly
regulated market speculation.

Twenty years ago, 21 percent of oil contracts were purchased by
speculators who trade oil on paper with no intention of ever taking
delivery. Today, oil speculators purchase 66 percent of all oil
futures contracts, and that reflects just the transactions that are

Speculators buy up large amounts of oil and then sell it to each
other again and again. A barrel of oil may trade 20-plus times before
it is delivered and used; the price goes up with each trade and
consumers pick up the final tab. Some market experts estimate that
current prices reflect as much as $30 to $60 per barrel in unnecessary
speculative costs.

Over seventy years ago, Congress established regulations to control
excessive, largely unchecked market speculation and manipulation.
However, over the past two decades, these regulatory limits have been
weakened or removed. We believe that restoring and enforcing these
limits, along with several other modest measures, will provide more
disclosure, transparency and sound market oversight. Together, these
reforms will help cool the over-heated oil market and permit the
economy to prosper.

The nation needs to pull together to reform the oil markets and solve
this growing problem.

We need your help. Get more information and contact Congress by


Robert Fornaro
Chairman, President and CEO
AirTran Airways, Inc.

Bill Ayer
Chairman, President and CEO
Alaska Airlines, Inc.

Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman, President and CEO
American Airlines, Inc.

Lawrence W. Kellner
Chairman and CEO
Continental Airlines, Inc.

Richard Anderson
Delta Air Lines, Inc.

Mark B. Dunkerley
President and CEO
Hawaiian Airlines, Inc.

Dave Barger
JetBlue Airways Corporation

Timothy E. Hoeksema
Chairman, President and CEO
Midwest Airlines

Douglas M. Steenland
President and CEO
Northwest Airlines, Inc.

Gary Kelly
Chairman and CEO
Southwest Airlines Co.

Glenn F. Tilton
Chairman, President and CEO
United Airlines, Inc.

Douglas Parker
Chairman and CEO
US Airways Group, Inc.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

About That Silver Lining...

A few days ago, I posted about the potential positives in our current economic situation. This week's Time has "10 Things You Can Like About $4 Gas." That last point kinda reminds me of all those studies that say hunger was healthy for Cubans during "the special period." For what it's worth.

You say "Village"...

Cuba's village of Camaguey, settled in 1528, contains large and small squares, serpentine streets, alleys and irregular urban blacks[blocks?], which make it "highly exceptional for Latin American colonial towns" located on the plains, the world heritage committee said late Monday.

I'm sure that in the 1500's, it was a village. But by the 20th century, my mother would have said "city." That's because Camaguey was the provincial capital, the place to go for upscale shopping and high brow ladies, girdled up to their sternums. Be that as it may, word is out today that Unesco has designated Camaguey as a World Heritage Site. You can read about it here.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Telex Reviewed: Updated

Update: A kindly anonymous comment indicates that Kushner has put up a website associated with the book. It is quite lovely. Just click on the circles for some slide shows and more.

A while back I posted on Telex from Cuba. Well, some of the reviews are in. Both the San Francisco Chronicle and the LA Times have write-ups here and here. The latter includes some author's commentary. Perhaps the prettiest review comes from the International Herald Tribune. The New York Times has the first chapter . As for your humble correspondent, my earlier impressions.

Whose Wiser?

Here's an interesting angle to the proposed hostile takeover of Anheuser-Busch by Belgian InBev. Among the machinations afoot is a move to replace the board which turned down InBev's offer. The Budsters have countered with a number of moves. In this Reuters article the embattled company discloses an eye opening fact about their unwanted suitor:

Anheuser also made a political jab at InBev. It said that InBev, through a subsidiary, has a partnership with the government of Cuba to produce and distribute products in Cuba.

Gee, that's illegal, isn't it?

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sunday Song

What's it all about? BO professes himself a bit flummoxed by the uproar caused by his "refining" his Iraq policy according to this Reuters' report on MSNBC. I would agree with him that it is a good thing to adapt to circumstances. Only problem is that had we followed his earlier prescription we would have lost the war. Bit of a problem, there.

Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear.... While on the topic of MSNBC, I've read in a few venues- most of them conservative- that there is a struggle going on for the soul of the NBC network. The latest entry is from Jed Babbin at Human Events. Sad thing is I really miss the network of old, even MSNBC which before its hosts went off the reservation had the most interesting political coverage. Website is still pretty good.

Let's call the whole thing off. Robert Samuelson in Newsweek informs us that the effects of speculation in the commodities markets have been exaggerated. After all, it's pension funds and school endowments dabbling in futures. Question, if they are in the market are they not increasing demand? Still, it's worth reading.

Fly me to the moon. If you've ever wondered how much of a difference one person can make, read this and see how a single goat was enough to change a young woman's life. The requisite heart-warming human interest story here.

Why? Being intimately acquainted with Slovenians, or Slovenskis, as they call themselves, this tragic story does not surprise. An officially organized last trip down the river turned tragic as two canoes were sucked into the soon to be opened dam. Among the eight lost, the mayor and member of parliament. Read about it here.