Saturday, September 6, 2008

Things Cuban in Nature

Storm Stories. Even as Cuba attempts to come to terms with the hurricane damage they have already sustained, Hurricane Ike seems intent on bearing down on the already stricken country. Not surprisingly, the Cuban government has politely refused an the American offer to send an assessment team. They have, however, just as politely accepted an American offer of one hundred thousand dollars, a number that given the devastation seems woefully inadequate, near insulting. For some video of just that devastation, link provided by The Real Cuba, click here.

Aid is a ticklish proposition in that in order to make sure it reaches the victims it is necessary to circumvent the government. The regime has suggested that it is best to lift limits on remittances and visits to family. Read right front paw of the same camel that managed to infiltrate its head years ago after a hurricane where humanitarian aid led to our becoming one of Cuba's major suppliers and a growing chorus of "lift the embargo." But now as then the immediate disaster would seem to trump the chronic one.

Dissidents have also sent the President an open letter asking him to lift the same restrictions for at least two months. Members of the Agenda for Transition, noting the regime's hesitancy in dealing with the US government, asked that non governmental agencies be allowed to send help as well. Personally, I would love to see the marines land, as they did in Myanmar, bearing huge rice sacks with USA stamped all over them. But then, that's me.

Speaking of dissidents, it seems Cuban economist, dissident, and one time political prisoner, Oscar Espinosa Chepe is not only rooting for Obama but has also been reading the Times. The leaning toward Obama was to be expected- Chepe is one who favors engagement- but I was floored when I read Joe Garcia's talking points coming from Cuba. These include the Cuban demographic in Miami is changing, as younger generations- not as hate-filled as the old intransigents- take their place. You know the drill. The story in Spanish here, courtesy of Penultimos Dias.

Also at Penultimos Dias is a link to a magazine story about Naty Revuelta, Castro I's former lover and mother of his daughter Alina Fernandez. Terribly sad, alone and still deluded at 82, she relives the past in this story. Herejias Y Caprinhas has the whole thing posted. It's in Spanish. Just click on the pages for the text. For the whole back story in English read Wendy Gimbel's Havana Dreams: The Story of a Cuban family. You can also read my impressions of said book here.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Literary Interlude: from Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

The populist overtones this campaign have taken remind me of one of my favorite poems. It's pretty long, so I've only taken an excerpt. Read the whole thing here, particularly the next few stanzas. There is so much more. From his vantage point, the speaker looks about him at the graves where the humbler folk are buried, no church crypts for them.

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree’s shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid, 15
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.
The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
The swallow twittering from the straw-built
The cock’s shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed. 20
For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire’s return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.
Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy
Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure; 30
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor.
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour. 35
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.
Nor you, ye Proud, impute to These the fault,
If Memory o’er their Tomb no Trophies raise,
Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise. 40
Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honor’s voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flattery sooth the dull cold ear of Death?

Thomas Gray

About the Economy...

The release of the unemployment figures today and the soaring foreclosure rates have drawn attention to the state of the economy. Although the bread lines some political oratory would seem to paint have yet to materialize, our economy is not particularly robust, and it looks like things are probably going to worsen before they get better.

Here is what no politician is going to say. "We are suffering from a national hangover after a Real Estate bender, one fueled by our profligate habits. The greed and excesses of lenders and individuals have brought this on us. Now although there are ways to stimulate the economy and stave off utter disaster, there is no magic remedy government can administer. The economy will work itself out eventually, but in the interim people will suffer, families will suffer. That is the way of economies."

Instead Obama is going to tax us out of an economic slowdown and McCain is going to tax cut us out of it. Of the two, the tax cut would seem to be the more stimulative. One of the perks of getting older* is living through things, so that you realize that the best government can do is make a recession shallower and possibly shorter.

* That is to say that I have no particular expertise in this matter, but having grown up in a small business, I've had a certain exposure to the ups and downs of the American economy.

Strange Bedfellows, Indeed

This has been some election season! As the pack descended on Gov. Palin, some pounced because that is what they do: scavenge the underside of people's lives- their families, their peccadillo's, and their schoolyard infractions- ever looking for the sensational. Others had a more ideological bone to chew. Some of the most vitriolic and contemptuous pieces emanated from feminists themselves. I suppose I should not have expected any different. After all, did we hear one feminist voice denounce a middle aged executive who took up with an young female intern? But that's history.

The irony here, though, is dramatic. A number of high-powered, career women found themselves in the position of decrying Gov. Palin's potential neglect of her family. Whited Sepulchre, anyone? Sally Quinn- to be fair- has decided that she might have reacted too rashly in her column and had the integrity to go on O'Reilly to own up to it. But how do you explain the email to Working Mother magazine running 2 to 1 that Palin should have put her family first? After all, these are working mothers. Exactly. They know you cannot have it all. Someone always pays the freight.

On the other side, we have the likes of Pat Buchanan praising the wouldbe Veep and manning the barricades for women's rights. The exchange between Chris Matthews and Buchanan the other day was hilarious. Matthews, whose program I was watching, resorting to the expedient of turning the channel every time Olbermann's face appeared, because when not overcome by liberal fumes Matthews is the best political maven, finally could not keep a straight face.

Who knows? If this keeps up, we may yet see David Duke standing up for Civil Rights. Naw, that would be too much. Still....

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

They Just Don't Get It

This election cycle has given us glimpses of how those in our ruling elites really feel about the "little people." Apparently in their rarefied circles, they have not only forgotten homely values, but find them quaint, humorous.

"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them...And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

First there was the implied superiority apparent in these rather injudicious comments on Obama's part, which at least were uttered with some expectation of privacy. But the reaction to the Palin nomination on the part of the Doyennes of the Liberal Media is not only cynical itself, but vitriolic.

Try this from Sally Quinn for cynicism:

McCain claims he knew about the pregnancy, and was not at all concerned. Why not? Not only do we have a woman with five children, including an infant with special needs, but a woman whose 17-year-old child will need her even more in the coming months. Not to mention the grandchild. This would inevitably be an enormous distraction for a new vice president (or president) in a time of global turmoil. Not only in terms of her job, but from a media standpoint as well.

Holy double standard, Batman! If such is the case, JFK's ailments, drug use, philandering and loss of a child would have precluded his candidacy. I suppose running for office should be limited to men and post menopausal liberal women. I had to read it twice to make sure it wasn't irony.

But even Quinn's blogpost pales in comparison to the Dowd column, which demonstrates all the cattiness which, I confess, the female of the species is sometimes heir to, and which should never, ever, be demonstrated in a national news venue. Imagine if a male pundit of any persuasion had written the following:

The movie ends with the former beauty queen shaking out her pinned-up hair, taking off her glasses, slipping on ruby red peep-toe platform heels that reveal a pink French-style pedicure, and facing down Vladimir Putin in an island in the Bering Strait. Putting away her breast pump, she points her rifle and informs him frostily that she has some expertise in Russia because it's close to Alaska. "Back off, Commie dude," she says. "I'm a much better shot than Cheney"...

..."The PTA is great preparation for dealing with the KGB," President Palin murmurs to Todd, as they kiss in the final scene while she changes Trig's diaper. "Now that Georgia's safe, how 'bout I cook you up some caribou hot dogs and moose stew for dinner, babe?"

It never occurs to them that there could be legitimate values other than their own, because as Bernie Goldberg has pointed out, they only socialize with their own. Consequently, like Obama, they have a tin ear when it comes to real people and the values they hold dear. You know, things like family, religion, guns, stew.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Updated: The Experience Question: A Response

Here's a head to head matchup between Palin and Obama which I came across through the Bookworm Room. It's a definite must read.

Update: The comparison page has been changed, alas, alack. I can't find it, so here another comparison for you.

Please Don't Drink the Kool Aid

Received the following from a member of the other side of the family, the non Cuban, slightly socialist branch. This person knows very well my political proclivities, so I can only speculate that he was so moved by this missive that he felt I would surely agree. I confess that I was stunned that his spouse is a Moveon member.

Dear MoveOn member, Yesterday was John McCain's 72nd birthday. If elected, he'd be the oldest president ever inaugurated. And after months of slamming Barack Obama for "inexperience," here's who John McCain has chosen to be one heartbeat away from the presidency: a right-wing religious conservative with no foreign policy experience, who until recently was mayor of a town of 9,000 people.

Who is Sarah Palin? Here's some basic background:

She was elected Alaska's governor a little over a year and a half ago. Her previous office was mayor of Wasilla, a small town outside Anchorage. She has no foreign policy experience.1

Palin is strongly anti-choice, opposing abortion even in the case of rape or incest.2

She supported right-wing extremist Pat Buchanan for president in 2000. 3

Palin thinks creationism should be taught in public schools.4

She's doesn't think humans are the cause of climate change.5

She's solidly in line with John McCain's "Big Oil first" energy policy. She's pushed hard for more oil drilling and says renewables won't be ready for years. She also sued the Bush administration for listing polar bears as an endangered species—she was worried it would interfere with more oil drilling in Alaska.6

How closely did John McCain vet this choice? He met Sarah Palin once at a meeting. They spoke a second time, last Sunday, when he called her about being vice-president. Then he offered her the position.7

This is information the American people need to see. Please take a moment to forward this email to your friends and family.We also asked Alaska MoveOn members what the rest of us should know about their governor. The response was striking. Here's a sample:

She is really just a mayor from a small town outside Anchorage who has been a governor for only 1.5 years, and has ZERO national and international experience. I shudder to think that she could be the person taking that 3AM call on the White House hotline, and the one who could potentially be charged with leading the US in the volatile international scene that exists today. —Rose M., Fairbanks, AK

She is VERY, VERY conservative, and far from perfect. She's a hunter and fisherwoman, but votes against the environment again and again. She ran on ethics reform, but is currently under investigation for several charges involving hiring and firing of state officials. She has NO experience beyond Alaska. —Christine B., Denali Park, AK

As an Alaskan and a feminist, I am beyond words at this announcement. Palin is not a feminist, and she is not the reformer she claims to be. —Karen L., Anchorage, AK

Alaskans, collectively, are just as stunned as the rest of the nation. She is doing well running our State, but is totally inexperienced on the national level, and very much unequipped to run the nation, if it came to that. She is as far right as one can get, which has already been communicated on the news. In our office of thirty employees (dems, republicans, and nonpartisans), not one person feels she is ready for the V.P. position.—Sherry C., Anchorage, AK

She's vehemently anti-choice and doesn't care about protecting our natural resources, even though she has worked as a fisherman. McCain chose her to pick up the Hillary voters, but Palin is no Hillary. —Marina L., Juneau, AK

I think she's far too inexperienced to be in this position. I'm all for a woman in the White House, but not one who hasn't done anything to deserve it. There are far many other women who have worked their way up and have much more experience that would have been better choices. This is a patronizing decision on John McCain's part- and insulting to females everywhere that he would assume he'll get our vote by putting "A Woman" in that position.—Jennifer M., Anchorage, AK

So Governor Palin is a staunch anti-choice religious conservative. She's a global warming denier who shares John McCain's commitment to Big Oil. And she's dramatically inexperienced.In picking Sarah Palin, John McCain has made the religious right very happy. And he's made a very dangerous decision for our country.In the next few days, many Americans will be wondering what McCain's vice-presidential choice means. Please pass this information along to your friends and family.

So let me see if I've got this right? Because she is pro-life, pro-drilling, a onetime supporter of Pat Buchanan and only met McCain once, she is "dangerous."? My response in the next post.

Vile, Viler, Vilest

The first is the word Mary Matalin used to characterize the apparent blog brouhaha over Sarah Palin's daughter. I would extend the term to cover the major media outlets that picked up the story. Ms. Palin's 17 year old daughter is not running for any office, to trot out her teen pregnancy and impending marriage in the guise of clarifying rumor is despicable. As for those who started the original rumors that Palin's baby was really her grandson, truly despicable.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Sunday Hobbyhorse Ride

International Politics. Using the reputed fate-a labor camp- of the two elderly wouldbe protesters, here is another installment in the Olympics condoned the militaristic, totalitarian rule of the Chinese State vein.

Social Criticism. In this one Kathryn Jean Lopez highlights the litany of personal tragedies that comprised so much of the oratory in Denver. Her point: how about self-reliance? Oh, and if you don't have any bootstraps, you just yank on the boot, duh.

Books. Joe Eszterhas of Basic Instinct fame has penned a religious tome. After a cancer diagnosis, he underwent a religious experience which changed his life. I always wonder about these experiences, since they never happen to me. Read all about it here. Also in the book department, our Sarasota Herald Tribune carried a review of Mel Martinez's new book, A Sense of Belonging. Alas, it's not online.

Popular Culture. Next, in the how shallow can we get? department is this slide show from the Today Show which accompanied an article about how ugly is the new beautiful. Sorry, but they don't seem so ugly to me. Ever take a gander at the mugs on some of those high fashion models?

Weather. For a good part of today, I was a bit worried that the storm was going to head our way. That's how ominous our weather was. We've had more wind from this one than from others in the past that were much closer. My thoughts are with those directly in its sights. God bless.