Saturday, August 30, 2008

Gorki and the Convergence of Forces

The Good News is that Gorki has been released, after being charged not with "dangerousness" but with "disobedience," and fined 600 pesos. By my calculations, that's still a substantial amount for a Cuban. I couldn't write that he's been freed, because as someone* pointed out having been born and raised in Cuba, Gorki has never been "free" in his whole life. Think about that.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the whole episode is the coming together of a number of disparate voices in his defense. His band mates, his associates and friends outside the country put out the word. The news was picked up by bloggers, the Mainstream Media (Yup), the international press, Amnesty International. There was a concert/vigil for Gorki held opposite the interests section with well-known blogger Yoani Sanchez in attendance. Narrowly missing a beating, she managed to get the word out. Contacted by media, Hector Elizardo also took up the cause. This is but a brief summary of what went on. I am sure that there was more in the fusion of action and technology.

That said. If past history is indicative of anything, it is that world opinion will only go so far. If the government truly felt threatened, they might well ignore international outcry. Let's not forget the Black Spring round up which led to all sorts of consequences for Cuba. Yet there is another possibility here. Could it be that given the present conditions, the disappointed hopes, further privations looming, the "government" fears that any incident could set the tinderbox aflame? Food for thought.

*It was Gusano in a pair of moving posts.

Literary Interlude: Women and Politics

CNN's John Roberts committed the faux pas of suggesting that Palin might neglect her child. Something about the ensuing brouhaha reminded me of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Here's an excerpt from her address to a congressional committee in 1892. The whole text here. The more things change; the more they stay the same.

Mr. Chairman and gentlemen of the committee: We have been speaking before Committees of the Judiciary for the last twenty years, and we have gone over all the arguments in favor of a sixteenth amendment which are familiar to all you gentlemen; therefore, it will not be necessary that I should repeat them again.

The point I wish plainly to bring before you on this occasion is the individuality of each human soul; our Protestant idea, the right of individual conscience and judgment-our republican idea, individual citizenship. In discussing the rights of woman, we are to consider, first, what belongs to her as an individual, in a world of her own, the arbiter of her own destiny, an imaginary Robinson Crusoe with her woman Friday on a solitary island. Her rights under such circumstances are to use all her faculties for her own safety and happiness.

Secondly, if we consider her as a citizen, as a member of a great nation, she must have the same rights as all other members, according to the fundamental principles of our Government.

Thirdly, viewed as a woman, an equal factor in civilization, her rights and duties are still the same-individual happiness and development.

Fourthly, it is only the incidental relations of life, such as mother, wife, sister, daughter, that may involve some special duties and training. In the usual discussion in regard to woman's sphere, such as men as Herbert Spencer, Frederic Harrison, and Grant Allen uniformly subordinate her rights and duties as an individual, as a citizen, as a woman, to the necessities of these incidental relations, some of which a large class of woman may never assume. In discussing the sphere of man we do not decide his rights as an individual, as a citizen, as a man by his duties as a father, a husband, a brother, or a son, relations some of which he may never fill. Moreover he would be better fitted for these very relations and whatever special work he might choose to do to earn his bread by the complete development of all his faculties as an individual.

The Palin Pick: So When do we Start Burning Our Bras?

"Did you hear? Good news. McCain has picked a woman, Sarah Palin, the Governor of Alaska." The speaker was a dyed in the wool Bush hater and Obama supporter.

"I'm not so sure, it's good news," I replied. And I wasn't. I confess that my first thought was "a neophyte one heartbeat away from the presidency?"

Then, I started learning about Sarah Palin. What I learned lifted my spirits. Here was a gracious, yet no nonsense broad. Originally, I had suspected McCain of pandering to women, but by the time I finished the short course, Palin's gender was just an added bonus. Here is a ticket with two mavericks. You can see how her reformist stance, her willingness to take on the oil companies, as well as the entrenched Republican machine, would appeal to Ol' Mac.

And, here's the best, the woman is a populist. Yup, finally, someone not from the ranks of the moneyed or political class. Here's a family, an honest to goodness family, not the photo op variety. Here's a woman who knows how many houses she has, doesn't mingle in elite circles,knows what it is to be middle class. C'mon, she's not even a soccer mom. She's a hockey mom.

So, why am I not nervous about her relative inexperience? Well, unlike Obama, she has actually presided over and administered a budget, that of a state government. In fact, a look at the variety of issues she's faced make her style and her beliefs clear. Unlike Obama, she is not running for the top spot where inexperience in the White House is a guarantee. She might be a rabble rouser, but she is not an "organizer" with all that entails. She does not in her inexperience seek to change the world, part the waters, or even stem global warming. Her political philosophy precludes big government. In this instance, less is more. Thus, if you were to parse it fairly, she is less liable to cause disaster than the "One," not to mention voters have a far better idea of what she would do in office. As far as I can tell, she never voted "present." So what's not to like?

What this choice makes evident is that Hillary should have been the nominee with an apprentice Obama. And I'm not even a Democrat. Hillary, I can respect. That's why they're all steaming. Gotta hand it to McCain.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book in Hand and Stormclouds on the Horizon

Among the books I've been reading in the last few weeks, the latest Jance, Kaminsky, and Hall, as well as the final entry in Padura's The Havana Quartet, two have become timely. The Swamps of Bayou Teche (A Tony Boudreaux Mystery) by Kent Conwell and Crawfish Mountain: A Novel by Ken Wells are both set in Cajun country in Louisiana, and both touch upon a situation that is particularly relevant with Gustav bearing down on the Gulf. As the latter in particular details, between the lack of alluvial sediments caused by flood mitigation efforts on the Mississippi and the intrusion of salt water from poorly planned dredging, much of the swampy barrier which would protect New Orleans is being eroded. Caught in the cross hairs is not only land but a culture and way of life. For more particulars, read the article here.

DNC Convention: What's Wrong with this Picture?

So far to this jaded observer, the most striking aspect of the festivities has been the rank narcissism. Was a time, you got a nice little bio of the presidential nominee; nowadays, you get both a panegyric to and a loving portrait of the nominee, his spouse, the also ran he defeated, his vice presidential nominee, and the family cat, not to mention the slightly tarnished lion of the party. I'm struck by the lack of issues- with the exception of universal health coverage.

Do not kid yourself, the nomination of Obama signifies the triumph of the entitlement generation. The other day, I caught him on TV saying that his mother had received government assistance-food stamps, maybe- because she was a single mother trying to work and go to school to make a better life for Obama and his siblings. At first, I accepted it at face value. How nice. Then I got to thinking. So my father was working the overnight shift six days a week in a textile factory to give not only his family a better life, but also Obama's? That didn't sit as well.

It's the same with this much vaunted healthcare coverage which will, in essence, be asking someone who makes forty thousand a year to shoulder the burden for someone who makes eighty thousand. We won't even go into the potential abuses once something is free, like the midnight ride in an ambulance to the hospital for a sore throat. Sure, reform is need, but once we add another head to the government entitlement hydra, who knows? And once passed, however unfortunate the consequences, there is no going back.

I am a populist at heart, but there is a difference between believing in the inherent dignity of the individual and a level playing field and having a "soak the rich" mentality. I believe that there should be checks to power. I believe that there should be a social safety net, but only for the truly hard-pressed. It should be for people who will fall through without assistance. But there is also hard luck and there are also bad decisions in life. The question is how far the government is supposed to extend its helping hand and who is going to pay for that reach. The answer here is becoming increasingly apparent. At a time when Western European governments are pulling back from such socialist tendencies, this party would have us go toward them.

I look at all of these people on the convention floor: some who will benefit, some who have so much they can easily afford to subsidize whole towns, and some who are letting their partisanship and/or antipathy for Bush lead them in a direction they will come to regret. So tonight the one will pronounce from the Olympian heights. I probably won't watch, although the fascination of the train wreck may overcome me. If not I'm sure there's a Law & Order rerun somewhere. I can only hope that in the long run common sense and not the increased enervation of this country will prevail.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Updated: Repression in Cuba Continues: Gorki Arrested

Update: Gorki's predicament has received attention from the mainstream media, from AP, AFP, to Drudge. Let's see if it has any effect.

For some of you, this is old news. But for others, there is this CNN report. Cuban Punk Rocker Gorki Aguila, lead singer of Porno Para Ricardo and known for his profane anti-government lyrics, was arrested Monday at his home. Word is that he will be tried on Thursday when he faces 1-4 years on the charge of "dangerousness." I'd like to see Charlie Rangel justify this one.
You can go to the band's website here where there is a link to the info in Spanish.

H/T Babalublog

Post Olympics Buyers Remorse

Reflective by nature, I was fairly ambivalent about the Olympics in China. I rationalized into temporary abeyance my loathing for their fairly atrocious human rights record by thinking that it was an opportunity for the Chinese people to feel proud of their achievements, to celebrate their advances. And in the economic realm, China has achieved much, as anyone who has studied Chinese history or even read The Good Earth can attest. (By the bye you can forget the Cuba parallels here. In Cuba, infant was never on the menu due to famine. Cuba has been brought into the third world not out of it.)

I watched the opening ceremonies which were impressive and quaint, shocked at the co-ordination of thousands of performers. But maybe that's just it. Where other countries would have used the magic of hydraulics, they used people. With the drums pounding, it was reminiscent of the Sherwood Anderson story about the belt. People as machines. But that thought came later, later as I found out that the actual young singer had been deemed too "ugly" to perform. Later, when the single-minded pursuit of Olympic medals was apparent, when remarkably youthful gymnasts, some of whom had not seen their parents in a year, skirted legality, when table tennis was not a game. Later when two elderly ladies filed for a protest permit and were arrested, when others engaging in the same faux pas were sent to labor camps.

It was then that I realized that the Olympic face of China was just the face of the caged tiger. I, too, had been guilty of relativism. It was an impression heightened by Edwin Cody's fine piece in the Washington Post on how the Olympics may have strengthened the hand of the totalitarian State. One has to wonder. It is a consideration those who choose Olympic venues would do well to keep in mind.

Answer Me This: Dem Convention Questions

If you were a national party, and you really wanted to win the presidential election, would you have as speakers at your present convention the last candidate you ran for the office who was defeated, the one before him who was defeated, and a past President essentially booted out of office, Messrs. Kerry, Gore, and Carter?

And while we're on the subject of speakers, what was all the folderol about Michelle Obama? Did I miss something? Is she running for office? Not only is she a keynote speaker, but I channel surf right into her biography, lovingly narrated by her mother. What's with that? Are we going to get a night of Cindy McCain, too, at the RNC convention? Who cares? Please spare me spouses.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Telling It Like It Is

Cuba's nomenklatura does not believe that there is an inherent human right to political liberty and self-government. Raúl Castro and his inner circle are not closet democrats waiting for an opportune moment to express their Jeffersonian ideals
-José Azel in "Cuba's future: Democratic reforms key to real change" here.

Sunday at the Polls

Leadership. Now Ted Nugent is not usually my look to guy for political insight. I turn to him when I feel like asserting my rugged individualism. But this piece, posted on Townhall, ostensibly about "whiners" is spot on. His take: McCain is more "presidential." Besides the man has a point about whining.

Canvas. The incomparable Peggy Noonan weighs in with her take on why the election has turned into a horse race: the American people are paying attention. Particularly amusing is the anecdote she recounts about McCain's speech at the 2004 Republican convention. While sometimes unfortunate, Mr. McCain's sense of humor is part of his charm. Read it here.

Folly. Here's two to lighten up the morning. Seems the Obama camp couldn't resist a little payback. According to this, the 3AM Veep choice text message was taken as a dig at Hillary Clinton. Talk about adding insult to injury. You decide. And I've decided that this is the political cartoon of the week.

Character. Cuba's Angel Matos earned himself a lifetime ban from the Olympics by kicking the referee when disqualified at his Taekwondo match. Wonder what he earned himself back home? Oh well, at least he didn't defect. Read about it and watch it here.

Libations. I'm heartened to see one of the beers of my youth making a comeback. Pabst is making Schlitz again. Speaking of which, do they still sell Pabst Blue Ribbon? I can still hear the sibilations of my Dad saying, Scheeltssss.