Monday, December 14, 2009

The Measure of a Man

This morning, “Morning Joe” referred to an earlier visit by Sting. I’m mad at Sting. I’m mad at the Pope, too. Their behavior and that of others glosses over of a multitude of mortal sins committed against the people of Cuba by the ruling military junta. It is a betrayal that says it is acceptable to oppress Cubans, as long as you loosen up a little, like complementing a mugger kneeling on a victim for easing the pressure on the hapless individual’s chest.

The offense here is beyond political; it is more catholic (couldn’t resist). It is the denial of the humanity of the poor benighted souls who languish in the island prison. The framers of the American Constitution tallied a slave as three-fifths of a man. The question that occurs to me is what fractional percentage of a human being is a Cuban? When rock stars sally on down, does it occur to them that the pool boy with the MD slinging towels does not have the same right to visit, say, Pasadena? When Carlos Santana wears his Che shirt is he reminded of the young people harassed and threatened for wearing one with Cambio written on it, imagine an emblazoned Ronald Reagan? Does it ever occur to Sting that if he were an ordinary Cuban, “Socialista” would be owned by the Socialistas? And Spielberg, who has ensured that the Holocaust stays in the public consciousness, sits across from the charismatic sociopath for hours. When he later says Cuban Americans should get over it, even as the embers of the Cuban variant continue to smolder, does he not recognize the contradiction?

Of course not. There is an insidious relativism that infects the perceptions of each and every one of those who serve as apologists for the revolution. Achievements in literacy and healthcare are touted ad inifintum. Current conditions are seen as an improvement over those in the bad old days. For the sake of argument, let us agree to these, although inaccurate. Even if everything they perceive is true, even if the evil Bastianos in Miami were oppressing the mass of Cuban humanity, further, even if Batista was a Caribbean Pol Pot, can there be any justification for the denial of the most basic of human rights now? Did Cubans sell their birthright as human beings for a bowl of ration card soup? Are they human beings or trained chimps to be fed a plate of scraps, treated by the vet, and kept in a cage? Not a single one of the enlightened who criticize US policy would want to live under the boot of the Cuban system. Yet these seemingly well-intentioned people accept the denial of the same rights they enjoy. Does it then follow that Cubans are less than they are?

In the end, there is no reasoning with evil. No amount of diplomacy or pussyfooting, American tourism or credit, is going to occasion the regime to self-immolate. Until it does, any affirmation of the ruling cadre is, in effect, a denial of the humanity of the Cuban people.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Literary Interlude: A Bit of The Bard

...I am a Jew.
Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs,
dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with
the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject
to the same diseases, healed by the same means,
warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as
a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?
if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison
us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not
revenge? If we are like you in the rest, we will
resemble you in that. If a Jew wrong a Christian,
what is his humility? Revenge. If a Christian
wrong a Jew, what should his sufferance be by
Christian example? Why, revenge. The villany you
teach me, I will execute, and it shall go hard but I
will better the instruction.

from Merchant of Venice, Act 3, sc.1

Developments yesterday brought to mind Shylock's speech and the long painful and ongoing struggle of the Jewish people. So to my Jewish friends and family I extend a heartfelt "Happy Holiday!"

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Of Tragedies and Travesties

In Cuba today, small numbers of dissidents attempted to mark International Human Rights Day with a demonstration as has been their custom these past few years. As in past years, they were confronted by government organized mobs whose sole purpose is to heckle and beat the hardy souls. This year a key figure, Dr. Darsi Ferrer, was absent having been earlier imprisoned- ostensibly for buying black market building materials. His wife fully intended to complete their yearly circuit of the park, running the gauntlet of taunts and blows. Apparently, her plans were short circuited by State Security. As of this writing, it is unknown whether this was just an instance of catch, threaten, and release or whether like her husband she is to be held under trumped up charges.

Even as this was goin' down we might say, the Pontiff in Rome was welcoming the new Cuban Ambassador to the Vatican and extolling the growing religious freedom in the country, advocating reconciliation with the United States and lamenting the embargo. Reading news reports was an exercise in dramatic irony.

Here's the movie version. The scene opens, picture like an Angels and Demons backdrop, all the pomp and regalia of mother church. The Holy Father approaches, greets the dignitary. Cut to the crumbling facade of a small home in Havana. A woman emerges, her clothing threadbare; a car swooops in; State Security operatives seize her despite protests, and drive away in a scene worthy of Z. Back at the Vatican, the Pope remarks on growing religious freedom in Cuba, sees an opening for reconciliation with the United States. Cut to the park in Havana, scenes of a handful of individuals attempting only to circuit the park once in order to mark Human Rights Day. There is jostling, haranguing, hitting as they are overwhelmed by the hundreds trucked in for the occasion.

As half a world away the prelate proffers his sympathy to the Cuban people for their suffering not because of the Stalinist dictatorship they have endured for half a century, not for the deprivation of their freedoms, not for the perpetual misery brought on by economic mismanagement; but for economic downturns, natural disasters, and even the embargo. The embargo on human rights goes unnoted. Back to the park in Havana, where the mob handlers have denied their stooges bathroom privileges, so needed are their acting abilities. Key in on the growing stain of menstrual blood on one of the "socialism or death" crowd. Fade that red into the red ecclesiastical sash of a prelate at the Vatican.
Whatcha think? Am I on to somethin'?

*I have taken much dramatic license, but the facts are just that- facts.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Read: A (Young) Teen Title

If you have an adolescent in your home, you might find yourself in my position, that is beating the bushes for a book that does not involve intimacy with the living dead. I have nothing against vampires per se. As a librarian, I read an early copy of Twilight and passed it on to others, although I have to say that had I known there would be another umpteen books with less savory plot lines, I might have hesitated in sending it to my niece.

So here I am, trying to find a decent title for this year's Christmas present. In this context I come across a new (to me) genre: steampunk. If you want a definition, look it up 'cause I can't explain it. It kinda reminds me of the modernist movement, lots of machinery. Anyway, to make a long story short I pick up Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld. The first fifty pages I almost put it down, thinking "I'm too old for this...." There's a young prince Alek whose parents have been murdered forcing him to flee for his life in a "walker," which is fitting since he is Austrian and a "Clanker." Switch to England, home of the "Darwinists," and a variety of misbegotten creatures, as well as young Deryn Sharp, a young girl masquerading as a boy so she can be a midshipman. From there the plot thickens. And you begin to realize it all sounds a bit like the beginnings of WWI. You get the point.

Suddenly I am interested and I realize that this is "alternative history" as the author terms it, at the same time that it is a story about growing up. By the end I'm waiting for the next installment, 'cause you know one is down the pike somewhere. Loved the illustrations by Keith Thompson, too. By the way, the Leviathan of the title is a huge inflatable whale of sorts, a species (pardon the pun) of zeppelin.

It's listed most places as a young adult book. I'd peg it on the lower part of that range, although I enjoyed it. For what it's worth.

Pithy Observation of the Eve

After seeing photos of Obama's jobs summit and getting a gander at who was-SEIU- and was not invited-the Chamber of Commerce- one has to conjecture that the entire proceeding might have been a tad more productive had the attendees actually created a job or two in the past. Just a thought. Was that Thomas L Friedman I saw?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Of Kangaroos and Courts

Let's see here.... The administration maintains that the 9/11 mastermind et al can be ably tried by our justice system. The President says that KSM will be convicted and sentenced to death. Huh? If there is no doubt of the outcome, what function does providing this opportunity for the opposition to spout their hateful ideology serve? Silly me. I forgot. It placates the ACLU and provides a marvelous distraction in the form of Bush bashing.

Now when a liberal judge hurls the charges from his courtroom as fruit of the poisoned waterboard, although they won't introduce that evidence, we are not to worry that the malefactors will be released. I did notice that Holder today used the terms that KSM would not walk our streets, which leads me to wonder whether he will walk the dusty streets of Peshawar and plot anew. Conversely, perhaps they can prosecute him for jaywalking in Guantanamo or violating the civil rights of those Americans pulverized by his machinations. Holy Doublespeak.

In any case, isn't there something Castroesque, Hitleresque, Stalinesque out of trying someone for show when the result is foreordained? I mean if the administration's point is that they, like good lawyers, believe in the legal system, why don't they trust it? I have not the smallest iota of an iota of compassion for the 9/11 crowd, but I'm seriously perturbed by a proceeding that smacks of cynicism. Much better, at least more honest, to haul them up before the military as enemy combatants who murdered three thousand American citizens and put them out of our misery forthwith.

Monday, November 16, 2009

That's Gratitude for You!

Just finished reading a letter from Citibank regarding my credit card, the interest rate of which they are raising to 18.99%. In the old days a rate like that was near usury. The hubster, having read a similar missive earlier in the day, called to complain. From what I gather he used the "we bailed you out and this is what we get" approach, followed by "the interest is 0" stratagem. When the young man at the other end of the line maintained that they paid considerably more, the hubster quickly countered with "You don't pay me that on my savings." Alas, all his sallies produced nothing, not even sympathy. So he cancelled the account. Easy for him: he owes like 14 dollars.

I'm in a slightly different situation, but I can transfer or pay off the balance- uncomfortable as the latter alternative might be- which I intend to do. What happens to people without resources?
If they are charging me with my nifty credit score this rate, just how much are they charging more marginal types? By the bye, hubby's rate was two points lower, despite his paying both bills.

A close friend of my Dad's, unashamedly alcoholic, could always be counted on for a snarky saying or two. He used to say that if you saw someone drowning, you should step on him to make sure, 'cause that sucker is going to take you down, too. I always considered it a horrendous thought. In the case of Citi, maybe he was on to something. Obscene.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Is Obama American?

No, no, this isn't about the infamous phantom birth certificate. Nor am I implying that the President is un-American in the stereotypical perjorative sense. No, this is deeper.

In a conversation a while back someone told me, "I don't consider him an American. Look where he grew up. Look at the people who surrounded him. He doesn't know what it is to go to little league games...." Now I don't know if he ever played little league, although he does make rather a show of playing basketball, but I do know that the President, the reputedly great orator, demonstrates a certain tone deafness when it comes to Mom, flag, and apple pie. Ms. Calabaza points out a faux pas here, not the first one, I might add.

Another case in point is the apparently lukewarm nature of his comments on the Fort Hood Massacre. My own observations of the response were similar: Clinton would have felt their pain; Bush would have been hugging the families of the fallen, while vowing to see justice done; Obama, however, strangely removed, almost wooden, treats it as a parenthetical element in a shoutout to Native Americans. It can be argued that his reaction was a function of geography and personality. Northerner Mr. Obama would seem to live more in his head than the other two more emotive leaders with their Southern ties.

Whatever the case, El Presidente demonstrated an inability to gin up the emotion his churchgoing, gun-toting fellow Americans expect of their leader, and a tin ear when it came to just what those expectations were. Shouldn't need a weatherman.... (no pun intended.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Medicare for All And for All Not Quite Enough

It boggles the mind that this two thousand page abomination of a health care bill is still being rammed down our throats. Is it not somehow unethical for politicians to push a sweeping overhaul of a system which affects all when a majority of the populace rejects the same? Do they think the public will forget, or are they that wedded to their ideology? Is it rank paternalism? They know better than the people who pay the premiums and receive the services?

Anyway in order to make the force feeding a bit more palatable, the Dems have hit on the happy expedient of calling the public option, "Medicare for all," seeking to comfort with the security of of the government. My own observation of Medicare in action, that is covering real people in real situations, is that the coverage like that of a not quite big enough blanket leads to considerable exposure. Deductibles, co-pays, and the twenty percent patient responsibility, as well as reimbursement rates that lead to additional physician bills, all add up when you get sick.

Since our elected officials have their own marvy insurance plan, when they extol Medicare, they know not of what they speak. I propose that congressional members be stripped of their insurance and required to participate in Medicare for one year before they are allowed pronounce on the subject. Just a thought.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Holy Minimizing, Batman!

By now I should be inured to the apologias for the Cuban ruling military junta purporting to be news reports, but this AP effort is a pip. Its treatment of the violent apprehension, detention, and intimidation of Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez on Friday is a study in understatement. Ms. Sanchez, it reports, was "briefly detained" and "warned," about her activities as she was "stopped" by agents of state security.

Brevity is a relative thing, particularly when one is dragged off the street, thrown into a car headfirst, beaten, and informed that this is as far as you go. The warning consisted of threats carrying all of the weight of a capricious totalitarian state with a population of dissenters languishing in fetid jails, wasting away from malign neglect. The report, however, makes it all seem so civilized that by the time they quote Ms. Sanchez we can picture her in a wing chair, plopping a sugar cube in her tea, and uttering in upper class British accents- "It was very violent."

Of course, we are informed, none of this can be corroborated. Is the implication here that Yoani is pulling a Tawana Brawley? Well since they seem to have developed a belated sense of journalistic ethics, in the future maybe the AP can attempt to corroborate the claims of the regime before bruiting them as truth.

For a slightly different take on the incident, here's a poem inspired by the event and penned by the other victim of the security apparatus.

H/T Ziva

Friday, November 6, 2009

Greeting Card Wisdom

Spotted on a birthday card:

Cover: "The Democrats took your birthday cake"

Inside: "They sliced it up and gave it to others who don't have a birthday today."

No lie.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Meanderings: The Coming of the Cold

There's a slight nip in the air tonight, the same air, if not the same molecules, which earlier radiated heat worthy of a blast furnace in the Amazon. For a few days last week, the temperature plummeted, not with the seasonal relief of tonight's breezes, but with that bone chilling Northern cold. Of course, the temperature never went below 40, 60 during the day.
We're not used to it, but then Northerners have never endured 40 with our humidity, the experience like that of being massaged by icy fingers. It is not unusual to go to bed cold in such a case, since heat is a touch and go sort of thing here, usually attached to the central air.

Such is possible because there are years here in Sarasota when you don't even get to wear a sweater. Even in a bad year, sweater weather days can be counted on the fingers of your hands. When the temperature does dip, the locals emerge, a riotous and improvised display of jarring wardrobe don'ts. It could be that by throwing a pullover sweater over our shorts-clad bodies and flip-flopped feet we deny the coming reality of winter, at the same time we celebrate the relief in the incessant heat that is our daily portion. (Northerners, just think how you feel on the first warm day of Spring.) Then once we get used to the idea of winter, we start wearing pants, sometimes even socks. (If you ever want to spot the tourists in December, just look for the shorts.) On the rare occasion when coats are called for, it's really easy to spot the locals. A really cold day sets in motion of fashion show of styles from the 60's on, an exhibition worthy of the Costume Institute, as no one has purchased a coat here since the day the moving van drove away.

Tonight's air is merely soothing, long-sleeve weather, not much. It excites, enlivens, but that's it. By noon tomorrow, it will be on the sweaty side of balmy, and maybe, just maybe, by nightfall the air conditioner will get a long-deferred, but well-earned rest. One can hope.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Read: A Colossal Failure of Common Sense; The Inside Story of the Collapse of Lehman Brothers

Just put down Lawrence G. McDonald's post mortem on the once great investment firm. I had a bit of interest in the topic to begin with, having read an exhaustive New York Times article about firm years before when it got in major trouble. Like that pivotal moment in a Greek tragedy, it would seem that the seeds of the firm's destruction were sown in the years when trader Lewis Glucksman wrested control of the company from the patrician Peter G. Peterson. It was Glucksman's protege Richard Fuld who would later steer the firm into a rather large iceberg, a collision from which there could be no recovery.

McDonald's portrayal of "King Richard" is scathing. The book portrays him as arrogant, bullying, out of touch, and intellectually incapable of grasping the new math of securitization. In perhaps part of the strongest parts of the book, McDonald makes clear the various steps along the path to the nation's, the world's, economic breakdown in his attempt to chronicle the demise of Lehman. The success of this aspect of the book was readily apparent when my eyes only crossed two or three times during explanations of the alphabet soup of credit vehicles.

Ghost writer Patrick Robinson outdoes himself. The book is nicely written and fascinating, combining McDonald's early years, the Lehman debacle, and government policy. Overall, though, there is the faintest aroma of sour grapes here. Every trader is described as brilliant and sagacious. The equation seems to be "Traders good; head guys bad." Finally, although I've heard the theory before, McDonald's implied assertion that Paulson's letting Lehman die set off the financial collapse is not something that is axiomatic. The weight of all the bad paper only made it a question of when. And sorry, I can't feel too sorry for the losses of people who made in one year more than I will earn in a lifetime.

All that being said, it is an eminently readable book and an excellent primer on the currents which led to the maelstrom which almost sank us all.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


"Did you hear the one about Obama?"

"No, what happened?"

"Oh, he got the Nobush Prize."

Monday, October 12, 2009

Meanderings: Isn't It Somethin'?

Just got my internet connection restored this very minute. Kinda moved yesterday, not quite in the new place, not quite outta the old. Got me to thinkin'. In the old days when you moved, you got to your new home and plugged the TV in and presto- there it was. Telephone took forever, but we actually survived without having the same attached to our ears, so we were used to it. There was no internet.

So last night the hubster and I are looking at each other. Part of getting older, at least for him, seems to consist of being resistant to change. So there we are, looking at each other, with no TV and no internet. I had one book left in my arsenal, but out of fellow feeling I joined him as he finally got around to checking out the scads of CD's he brings home 'cause he's gonna listen someday. The important thing to note here is that not a single label on one of these sports not a single recognizable moniker. In point of fact, a considerable number of them seem to be the offspring of the superannuated folky who sings at the local fish house on Sundays. The selection last night was a bit more diverse. First Classical was rejected; then I put the kibosh on some Cumbia via Mexico; finally he settled on some variation of techno.

Somehow we got through the eve, and here I am, posting. Can't help but think, however, that our forbears were a tad more resourceful. Just thinkin'.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Read: Havana Fever

Just coming off of a primo reading experience. I've always enjoyed Leonardo Padura's crime novels; but Havana Fever (2003), the latest to be translated into English, transcends the genre and launches into realms he's just hinted at in earlier efforts.

This one takes place years after Mario Conde has left the police force. The onetime ace sleuth pursues books for a living these days. Plagued by misgivings and guilt, wary of taking advantage of desperate people selling off the remains of their legacy, he acts as a middle man in selling off the family library. It is in this context that he stumbles across the library of Alcides Monte De Ocas, discovers a clipping about a long lost Cuban chanteuse, and becomes the prime suspect in a murder.

Intrigued, one might say obsessed, he investigates the fate of Bolero singer Violeta del Rio. This quest in and of itself becomes a vehicle for exploring the Cuba that once was. The novel is a study in contrasts, the mythical past which has to be painstakingly pieced together against the
desperate and debauched backdrop of Cuba's present at the end of "the special period," if it can truly be said to have ended.

Famed for his mastery of the noir genre, the only light in this very dark novel comes from the human relationships that will not bow to circumstance. The joy evoked by Conde's windfall and it subsequent use in preparing veritable banquets for him and his longtime friends speaks volumes.

It's ironic really. I have been worrying of late. Propaganda, pedagogy, and prejudice threaten to erase whole swaths of Cuban history. It's as if the world expropriated physically has now been obliterated even in memory, so it is reassuring to see that flame still burning, however tenuous.

The Wheels on the Bus....

That undercarriage must be getting pretty crowded by now with the addition of the Dalai Lama. Dis the Dalai Lama? A sad day in deed.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Trio of Quickies

There's no mystery here. As Obamaites scramble to essplain the great Denmark Debacle, it's really a no brainer. Where would you rather spend a week? Rio? Chicago?

The best man is a woman. In a display of metaphorical cojones , Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen on a trip to Honduras noted that despite the administration's refusal to recognize Roberto Micheletti as such, she had no doubt that she was sitting with the legal President of same. You, go, girl!

Twelve is the loneliest number. In today's media moment, President Obama was surrounded by 100 (oops!) physician/disciples, suitably garbed for the cameras in pristine white lab coats meant to symbolize the support of the medical community. Talk about your transparency.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Clearing Out The Favorites

Here's a passel of stuff I've been meaning to share:

I'll start with this entry by Thomas Sowell ostensibly about rooting for the underdog. Somewhere along the way, he makes us question the definition of the underdog, praises public schools of the past, and makes a pitch for perseverance.

As to the mass demonstration in Washington, read Chris Burgard's first person account over at Big Hollywood. The impression he takes away is one I share. I remember remarking that whatever the individual cause, those big yellow flags said it all: "Don't' tread on me." Funny the media didn't notice them.

And I can't miss commenting on this Sarasota Herald Tribune article about the "civility" of our local town hall meeting. It's probably true. Before they set about regulating us to death, attempting to do to human nature what was done to nature on Longboat Key, this great little city was characterized by its graciousness and tolerance.

Someone should tell ImPOTUS there ain't no winning. The rest of the world is never going to like us. Try the harsh tone of this commentary which manages to insult the President and our system of government, even as it rings a death knell for our standing in the world. Granted it is in the Guardian, but one would think they would be kinder to a kindred spirit.

Finally on a bittersweet note, check this out.

Passing Thought

The word is that the President, faced with the request for additional troops in Afghanistan, is contemplating changing strategy. The new strategy, purportedly put together by Vice President Biden, involves the reverse, essentially reducing our military footprint. Question arises as to whether this is the same Joe Biden who advocated turning Iraq into three different countries.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Updated: Juanes And The Language of Subtlety

Update: For other perspectives, try Babalu here and here. And if a cartoon is worth a thousand words, try this.

Like many I was affronted and very cynical as to why Juanes was holding a "Peace Concert" in Havana, perceiving him as yet another stooge. I still find the motive dubious, but the event itself turned out to be not quite what anyone envisioned.

We in the United States are so accustomed to speaking frankly that we miss the nuances of what those on the island call "doble cara." We cannot truly understand the lexicon of gesture and symbol that envelops the lives of people who live at the whim of an all powerful state and who have been fed with the mother's milk of indoctrination by that same entity.

So while the embargo lifters will have a field day using the concert to bash those recalcitrant exiles, they may be missing an important subtext. Knowing the Cuban temperament, the multitudes came out for a good time, but were they there for something more? Is it the first time they went to that plaza, the plaza of mandatory revolutionary pagentry, of their own volition in a country where free assembly is forbidden? Is it possible that when Olga Tañon sang- as reported by the Herald- "Es mentiroso ese hombre," or "That man is a liar" and brought the house down, the crowd might have their own candidate in mind? The point was reinforced by a fellow Cuban, who posted this reminiscence. Remember the role music has played in demonstrating disaffection with the regime, whether the rock and roleros of the past or Gorki in the present day.

Could be the opening whimper. If nothing else, to his credit Juanes shouted the words "Cuba Libre," albeit couched in conciliatory thoughts. In my experience, a good number of Cubans are not political. They have had enough of incessant propaganda. But no amount of repression or refrain can cover up the absolute debacle the revolution has created. What Cubans do know is that their lives are untenable and that they want something different, jama being primary on their wish list.

As more information emerges, I may yet change my mind. For right now, it seems that ordinary Cubans massed at the venue and made it their own. What would seem something of a blow to those who want so much more for them, may in fact be a triumph delivered in the language of subtlety.

*doble cara - double face or two-faced
*Cuba libre- free Cuba
*jama- food

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Meanderings: A Tapestry of Sorts

The evening started with a most enlightening view of Chicago inbreeding on Beck's show, followed by a Lifetime movie. I'm sure you know the kind. You're channel surfing, and you pass LMN. Don't pause, not even for a moment, otherwise you wind up watching a two hour potboiler about some woman being abused by her husband, lover, or in tonight's movie, her shrink.

Afterward, one channel away was a movie about Georgia O'Keefe. This week's opus followed one last week about Dorothy Parker. Initially, I envied them both, not their talent, but the entree into circles with interesting people, the achievement. I've been on the what-have-I-done-with-my-life kick lately, or more to the point- what haven't I done with my life. I console myself with a thought I picked up reading Woolf's To the Lighthouse that somehow domesticity, the pull of family, hampers achievement. Only as I learn more about O'Keefe's painful marriage, I have to rethink my previous supposition.

The other day I discovered that someone I know in passing is in an unhappy situation. My first thought was to blurt out "Leave him now when you are young, so you won't realize thirty years down the road that you sacrificed your life to his dysfunction and are left with ashes of the life you could have led." I didn't say anything, however, because as Sherwood Anderson realized, "whatever I said would have been a lie."

That, I guess, is the truth. It is such a nebulous thing. I have friends who envy me for essentially dropping out of the rat race. At the same time I envy their success, their independence. Who knows what choices we make, should make? Of one thing I'm sure, we are called upon to make such life shaping decisions when we are least suited to, when the fever is in the blood and reality is yet to bare its teeth.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Art of Politics

New George Will column on the NEA brouhaha as symptomatic of "the Obama administration's incontinent lust to politicize everything." What a turn of phrase! How true.

Will has hit the nail on the head. Was it objectionable that the President was to address school children and exhort them to do well in their studies? No. But the accompanying study materials, put out by the Department of Education, made clear a political agenda. In the case Will cites, powers at the National Endowment for the Arts sought to use the recipients of their largess to advance the Obamian agenda. It is amazing that none of those in charge at the NEA seem to grasp that turning their organization into the propaganda wing of the administration was not only unseemly, but wrong.

This tone deafness is symptomatic of this administration, which seems to be unable to see beyond the person of the President, which assumes that no one could object to the glorification of same. It is this cult of personality thing, the insidious infusion of all things Obama into all things, that is truly scary, that has thousands massing at the Capitol.

So read the column....just the swipes at the art world make it worthwhile. Ever been to the top floor at MOMA?

Patrick Swayze: End of an Era

Contrast the media treatment of Patrick Swayze's death to that of Michael Jackson: disappointingly little appeared on the news about Swayze's death compared to the wall to wall coverage of Jacko's. Too little vs too much.

Yet to the cuspers, I suspect, Swayze's death was more personal. Although it came out in '87 something about Dirty Dancing was emblematic of our generation. It could be that Baby's travails, her movement toward adulthood with its attendant loss of innocence, reflected our own. Never great art, it has stood the test of time.

And Mr. Swayze? His courage and determination to live make his demise all the more poignant. RIP.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Healthcare: Riddle Me This

There are lots of things about the present healthcare situation that confoose me. For instance, as good ol' gal Coulter points out in her umpteenth column about liberal healthcare lies, why can my employer deduct the cost of my health care on his taxes; but if I have to pay my own, I cannot? Or in the marketplace, why is it that if I cannot afford health insurance or if I pay my own, that is... have more of a catastrophic plan, I have to pay out of pocket, say, $200 for a procedure. If, however, I am fortunate enough to have an employer type plan in which I pay 20% of the very same procedure, I pay not $40 but $20, because the insurance provider deems the procedure to be worth $100. I understand they negotiate, but in effect the people with the least coverage are charged twice as much. Maybe these are some of the things that need remedy. Duh.

Bearing Witness

I am reminded that Jung did not believe in co-incidence when I mull the events of the past week. The theme emergent there is one of remembrance. There was first and foremost the anniversary of the 9/11. Then there was that rather odd day when I had the encounter with the gentleman dying to visit Cuba "before it changes." That evening as I started to regale the hubster with the story, he stopped me. "Don't tell me," he said. "I can top that."

Seems he was at a job in a tres exclusive building. The condo was being renovated, so the electrician was there, so was his wife. At first, he was elated to discover they were Cubans from the island. In the course of the conversation, she must have raised the issue of my visiting the benighted island. My beautifully trained husband said, "Oh, no, she won't go as long as the dictatorship is in power." She not only countered with "She's wrong. The Spaniards have done wonderful things, beautiful hotels...," but more importantly that her family supported the system. Precataclysm they had nothing.

"And what do they have now?" I interrupt. "What are they doing here anyway?' You know the drill. Remembering my own experience that day the larger point dawned on me and depressed me to no end. Of all the things that have been lost in this night that never sees the day is the truth. The generations which lived and worked in the old Cuba are dead or dying, both here and on the island. The propaganda machine has been working full tilt for over a century.

It's as if a huge chunk of Cuban reality has been excised. Those who grew up in the system know nothing else. Those outside can not possibly imagine that Hispanics were capable of creating a country which, despite its very real problems, rivaled many Western European nations. No one cares about those very credible statistics Fontova cites. Their bigotry colors their perceptions. To their eyes, Cuba was a third world country, not Cuba was a developing nation that has been dragged relentessly backward.

It was in this context that I came across some mail from the Cuba Archive. Now that provided some comfort. Visit here. Thanks to their efforts at least some truth of what took place will be told. It reminds me of I Was Cuba, the volume of photos from the Ramiro Fernandez collection, which was started at his grandmother's suggestion as a way to keep his Cuba alive. For in the end all we can do to carry on the legacy of our parents is to bear witness.

Friday, September 11, 2009

He Did Keep Us Safe

Gotta read this nice little tribute to President Bush over at Big Hollywood. It is still early, but I maintain that Bush's basic decency and "grit," as Editor in Chief John Nolte terms it, will be remembered long after the slings and arrows of the self-important pseudo intelligentsia are forgotten.

Literary Interlude: "The Soldier"

Given the nature of today's remembrance, I offer the well-known Rupert Brooke poem. There is something in that notion of a corner that is "forever England" that resonates with the video of the World Trade Center site that the networks are running. Without further ado:

The Soldier    
by Rupert Brooke

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England's, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

I Remember Keith Roma

(The following is my, hopefully humble, tribute to one of the victims of 9/11, a former student, undertaken as part of Project 2,996. Go to the website and use the links to learn about the real live human beings lost. )

The Keith Roma who called his father from Fire Patrol 2 in Greenwich Village on 9/11 was not the one I once knew. He was not a high school boy with a sheepish grin and an impish glint in his eye, a bright student always up for a bit of fun. The Keith Roma who picked up that phone on the last morning of his life to tell his Dad that the unthinkable had happened was a 27 year old man in the prime of life.

Responding to the World Trade Center after the first plane hit, Keith, who according to coworkers already had a reputation for being there when things got rough, was captured in a photograph as he helped evacuees to safety. According to Sgt. John Sheehan, his superior, Keith undertook another three trips into Tower 1. At one point, he is reported to have carried a woman with no shoes down glass-strewn stairs. The last time he was seen, he was with a group evacuating an overweight woman. Reports indicate that when his remains were found that Christmas, it was with those of another eight or nine people, leading to the supposition that he was assisting in yet another evacuation.

Initially, his name did not appear on the Fire Department tally of those lost because Keith worked for the Fire Patrol, an entity encharged with salvage at commercial fires. But in 2006, the New York Fire Department paid official tribute to his memory in a bronze plaque. Firefighters across the country have honored him as one of their own. Not all tributes have been that formal. His hometown paper reports that the week after the tragedy, his family was approached at the station house by a young woman bearing flowers. She explained that one afternoon, Keith had spotted her crying and learning that she was grieving the loss of her mother had ducked into a store only to reappear with a bouquet. It was a kindness she did not forget and which she sought to return. A former coworker at a second job also attests to his kindness and concern. All remember his ready smile and enthusiasm, particularly for sports.

There is a picture at a memorial website of Keith holding his daughter as an infant. There is the same expression I remember, that trademark grin. There is no indication in the photo that it is the face of a young man who would race into a burning building to rescue others, who would perish in the line of duty. In short, that it is the face of heroism. Vaya con Dios, Keith, you have not been forgotten.

Quip for Today, Or What We Put Up With Daily

As I was going out of my way yesterday to help a member of the public, the gentleman- who is married to a Costa Rican lady- inquired as to my heritage. When I replied that I was Cuban, he remarked that he was desperate to visit Cuba "before it changed."

"Oh," I inquired with as much insouciance as I could muster, "You mean while the people are still impoverished and oppressed?"

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Very Late Rendition

As ImPOTUS keeps running for President on the telly, I'll play some catch-up.

Slicing. While I'm on wordplay, I have to highlight Paco's "Purge" post, notable not only for its point, but also for its incisive diction. I'll leave you to pick your own favorite. I can't decide between the stolen hubcap and the metaphorical pike. But then there's the tin foil hat. Oh, well.

Dicing. An interesting read at the Heritage Foundation as to why unions are backing healthcare reform. I was wondering. But with the recent transmogrification of unions, who knows?

Cutting. I love Big Hollywood. In this, Lou Aguilar makes the leap from cinema to the political arena when he maintains that the magnitude of the error in electing the present administration makes it that much easier to correct. From his keyboard to God's ears.

Chewing. Just as a point of interest, this CNN report about some more holiday visitors to the Cape.... Cape Cod, that is. Nothing special, just brings back memories of the "Summer of the Shark." Ah, remember when.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Read: Between Bestsellers

If like me, you're all read up on your favorite writers, just salivating for the next novel; then, you are also in search of writers yet to be discovered. I stumbled on Les Roberts' Milan Jacovich series during a dry spell. Milan is a Slovenski detective in Cleveland. By the way, great detective fare.

More recent finds include two detective series set in Britain between the wars. Both provide a sense of life in the interval. First is the "Her Royal Spyness" Series by Rhys Bowen which chronicles the adventures of the genteelly impoverished Lady Georgiana, 34Th in line for the throne who finds herself enmeshed in murders while struggling to stay afloat. The latest- Royal Flush- has Wallis Simpson in an unflattering cameo. Enjoyable. Set slightly earlier in the same era, though in more plebeian circles are Jacqueline Winspear's Maisie Dobbs novels. A bit more serious than the Bowen, centered on the the after effects of WWI.

Just waiting for the new Conroy to hit my library shelves.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Literary Interlude: Shakespeare for All Occasions

I had posted the last entry at Babalu yesterday eve when the theme of the week came to me. There was Beck; there was Fontova's reminder of the abomination of the UN's d'Escoto naming the tyrant "a Hero of Solidarity"; and that last petulant comment about a "cosmetic coat of paint." So, here goes:

Lay not that flattering unction to your soul,
That not your trespass but my madness speaks;
It will but skin and film the ulcerous place,
Whiles rank corruption, mining all within,
Infects unseen.
Hamlet, Act III, Scene 4

What an image! Gotta love the Bard.

It's The Embargo, Stupid!

The AFP informs that Thursday's State Department easing of remittance and family travel restrictions didn't go far enough for the Cuban dictatorship. The tone of the denunciation decrying the move as a "cosmetic coat of paint," something they know a thing or two about, would seem to strike a harsh note.

Of course, it is not unusual for an American President to have his outstretched hand slapped away. Still, some clues to the frenetic tone of the response can be found here. It's the embargo they want lifted, d'ya think?

Cross-posted at Babalublog

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Caller to an AM radio show about Congress: "Sometimes I think we might be better off with the first 535 names in the jury pool."
Caught Laura Ingraham, filling in for O'Reilly on Tues night, debating Dr. Lamont Hill about healthcare in Cuba. Anyone who still believes in the great Cuban healthcare hoax is invited to visit The Real Cuba here. Access to what? Of course, if you are a foreigner, that's another whole kettle of fish.
As me old mum used to say, "A santo de que" is it necessary for Herr Obama to speak to the tr...oops...children. I might almost believe Mr. Beck is onto something. Now if they start asking the children to close their eyes and ask the President for candy, I'll really smell a rat.
An elegant suggestion for parents, whatever your persuasion, keep your kid home that day. If Mr. Obama were truly interested in teaching a civics lesson, he should have included the opposition. Hey, you think this might be an exercise in desensitization?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Brunch

Scrambled. On Townhall this week is an insightful and damning column about Obamian policy toward Latin America, particularly valuable for it's coverage of the latest goings on in Venezuela. Couple it with the threats of cutting off aid to Honduras that have been coming out of State, and you are left to conclude that Mona Charen is right. They just don't know who our friends are.

Revoltillo. On the domestic front, last Friday's column by Don Gainor is a must read, if only for its opener. Yes there is revolt in the air, Kennedy demise or no Kennedy demise, and the internet helps fuel and foment it. It seems that the Dems taught bloody instructions when they went after Bush with the long knives. (Allusions, anyone?) Payback is no lady.

Benedict. I've brought up the great question as to what's killing the honeybees, a more immediate concern than global warming. From the AP via Fox comes the latest installment in the mystery. Stay tuned. Even the last installment from Laurie King, The Language of Bees, set in the Victorian world of Sherlock Holmes has as a central motif the dying off of hives.

Poached. Although the core of this effort by Stanley Fish in the New York Times revolves around a report by ACTA, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, as to what should be taught in colleges, including a discussion of his differences over the specific content to be taught in literature classes, it is worthy of a read if only because of what it conveys about the teaching of writing. Brain food.

Hard-Boiled. Every once in a while, I promise myself that I'll read something of note, something deep. I carry around in my purse a dog-eared list of CS Lewis' titles I mean to read some day. Guess I'll have to add another one from this book review in The Weekly Standard. Guess I should start with the Chesterton book; I've only ever read Father Brown (?). Geesh, they're so erudite over there.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"He Who Controls the Present...

...controls the past" was the party slogan in George Orwell's 1984. Witness the travesty of Eric Holder's Department of Justice: charges of intimidation against three Black Panthers, at least one of whom carried a weapon, at a Philly polling station dropped, Gov. Bill Richardson, being investigated in a pay for play scandal in New Mexico, not to be charged, to be investigated with full bells and whistles, however, is the CIA for abuses against prisoners. It occurs to me Mr. Holder might want to expand his prosecutor's inquiry into such abuses as storming a private residence in the wee hours of the night and brandishing a rather large gun in the face of a terrified 7 year old. Yup, Elian. For Mr. Holder's state of contrition, read here.

As to the elaborate political ballet of President Obama's reluctance to pursue this line of inquiry, a Cuban wit might be tempted to say, "No quiero, no quiero, hechamelo en el sombrero.*"

*translates metaphorically to "Not that, not that, put it in my hat!"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


No offense, the man may be a genius, but how exactly does a Bachelor's Degree from a school of Labor Studies lead to the head of the New York Fed? Sounds pretty Castrian to me.

The Importance of Glenn Beck

Maybe he is a bit too histrionic; perhaps some of his views are reminiscent of the lone gunmen; whatever, Mr. Beck serves an important function as a counterweight to all the weight and mass of a media that is remiss in its obligations at best and either credulous or squarely partisan at worst. For instance, all this week, Beck is lifting the veil and outing the mess of radicals, cronies, and what not who serve in the Obama administration. The web of associations alone is enough to lead even the most reasonable to a degree of unease. It is also information I have yet to come across anywhere else in the Cable News world.

Not surprisingly, then, there is quite a bit of pressure to silence him. After he described President Obama as a racist who hates white people, orchestrated a campaign which purportedly resulted in at least 30 sponsors asking their spots not be shown during the program. I don't particularly agree with the comment, and I sorta wish he hadn't said it, but..... Gee, I don't remember that happening to Olbermann when he foamed at the mouth about Bush.

Although news accounts are bruiting the success of the organization in making sponsors run for the hills, a bit of research shows that some major corporations such as Clorox have actually pulled their advertising from political programming on all the cable networks. I pass the information along, including two websites that have been created in support of Beck here and here. Article here.

By the bye, one of the founders of is supposedly Van Jones, the green jobs Czar in the current administration.

Mr. Jones about the effect of being arrested after the Rodney King verdict:

"I met all these young radical people of color -- I mean really radical, communists and anarchists. And it was, like, 'This is what I need to be a part of.' I spent the next ten years of my life working with a lot of those people I met in jail, trying to be a revolutionary. I was a rowdy nationalist on April 28th, and then the verdicts came down on April 29th. By August, I was a communist."

The head of the White House Council on Environmental Quality about Mr. Jones:

Van Jones has been a strong voice for green jobs and we look forward to having him work with departments and agencies to advance the President’s agenda of creating 21st century jobs that improve energy efficiency and utilize renewable resources. Jones will also help to shape and advance the Administration’s energy and climate initiatives with a specific interest in improvements and opportunities for vulnerable communities.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Meanderings: Losses of All Kinds

The other day, Val at Babalu linked to an interview with one of the grand ladies of Cuban song, Olga Guillot. Listening was a bittersweet experience for me, as the people who introduced me to Olga in the form of a "longplain," my parents, are no longer around. Olga's very Cuban speech evoked my very real sense of loss.

I've lost much in the past few years, whether the last vestiges of youth, or the daughter who followed her dream out to the West Coast. The loss of my mother, painful as it still is, signalled yet another loss. My house, which for decades rang with the sounds of family- the loudest, Cuban- is strangely silent. And if you can be said to rattle around in four rooms, I do so. There is no one to cook for, no one to take care of, no one with whom to speak Spanish in a natural, spontaneous way. There is no one to bathe my kitchen within a three foot radius of the stove in oil from cooking masitas de puerco.

You see, I not only lost my mother, but I lost a part of myself. As a child, growing up in a world which judged me and mine, I hated being different. I thought there would be nothing better in the world than to be named Holly or something equally Anglo, to have parents with freckles who didn't think the Girl Scouts were a potentially life-threatening organization (something about lakes) and who didn't roll their r's. And now, here I am in white bread Sarasota, just about the entire older generation gone, my contemporaries like me, more comfortable in English, and terribly diminished. I have no more immediate Cuban ties, other than those to the relatives left behind. In a weird irony, I have realized a childhood dream only to find it is more of a pesadilla* from which I will not wake up and be comforted by Mami.

*bad dream, not quite as dramatic as a nightmare.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

In Which I am Confused and Horrified over Healthcare

Since there is no clear outline of the details of the various healthcare bills being considered (maybe I'm crazy, but I have this thought that in the dim mists of my youth the Daily News would have had the competing bills broken down to bullet points) in their absence I am left to contemplate all sorts of things. I object to any one of the bills first and foremost because, overdrawn as we are, this is not the time to get into a massive spending program. We seem to have done enough of that in the past half year or so.

But the other night, I was shocked to hear Dick Morris indicate that the Medicare HMO's will be gone under the overhaul. I lived this with my now deceased mother, who was hemorrhaging money until Bush upped the reimbursement rate and the HMO's returned to Sarasota. Have you ever noticed that the very same politicians who vaunt the public school system all the while they send their own children to private schools are the same ones who hail Medicare? Memo: Medicare pays 80% of what they decree a medical service is worth which is not usually what the provider charges. Unless the provider accepts assignment, which not everyone does, the senior pays the 20% balance plus the difference. It adds up, as seniors are prone to a range of illnesses and conditions.

Of course, not having read them, I'm not sure what's in any of the bills. I'm not alone, though, seems the pols haven't either.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Where's the Beef?

Watching the Dems attempting to wrest control of these town halls from screaming geriatric mobs, I am struck by the dearth of details about this plan. While they accuse the opposition of spreading misinformation, they provide little of the details, that well-known habitation of the devil. It's the details that are telling. The President assures us that there are no "death panels." I believe him. But given the huge amounts of money involved, you can bet that there will be some mechanism to tamp costs down, else the country goes bankrupt. One man's review committee is another's death panel. Much of the discussion such as it is seems a tad disingenuous.

Then there are the angry ones. One senator, attempting to control the crowd, asks whether they think they are persuading anyone. The point she misses is that this is not about persuasion; it is about being heard. Healthcare reform is just the catalyst for voicing the growing disaffection of many. I'd venture to guess that a lot of people are very nervous about the huge amounts of deficit spending and the seeming incompetence of the present Congress. They have no voice, however. Dems seem hell bent on pursuing their agenda, constituents be damned. The media chooses to ignore or belittle those who don't agree with the present administration. Is it any wonder that there is frustration?

Yes, elections have consequences, but no administration gets everything it wants. In fact, one could argue that it is because of the scope of what they have rushed through up until now that there is resistance to having an amorphous blob of a thousand page bill rammed through. The great plans of Presidents are subject to the will of the people. The people are worried. Some are even angry. Does anyone even know what's in this bill? Or is the public being asked to accept another pig in a poke?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Low Human Being of the Month Award: Updated

For years I've watched Bono's philanthropic efforts with suspicion, waiting for the shoe to drop. Well, last week the recording superstar demonstrated his true caliber. Good thing I stopped listening to U2 since The Joshua Tree. That he should have differences with President Bush and seek to avoid his overtures discreetly is, I guess, within the pale. One has to wonder given Bono's ostensible devotion to Africa why he would turn his back on the President who has done the most for that benighted continent. But then if he were a brain surgeon, he wouldn't be a rock star. That he should feel the need to demonstrate how cool he is by showing off about the slight is petty and base. What, are we in high school?

You can say whatever you want about George Bush, but the man has class, which is more than you can say about the majority of his detractors.

Update: Got a hold of the YouTube of the original interview. Although he calls himself a coward for dodging the Bush hug and acknowledges what Bush did, I leave it for you to decide. It's interesting to see the variation in how this story was reported in the different media outlets.

Meanderings: The Lady or the Tiger

I've been toying with the notion of posting on the brouhaha over the arrest of the Harvard professor of color and the President's unwise foray into the melee. Let's start with the initial incident. Do read some of the reports as to the specifics. "You don't know who you're dealing with" Harvard professor indicates to responding policeman in all his erudite glory, that "Yo momma" is going to go outside to speak to same officer. Now anyone past the age of puberty can tell you that reference to an officer of the law's progenitrix is a sure invitation to the pokey.

Since, affirmative action or not, a Harvard academic is presumably intelligent, one can only suppose that Gates was so irate that his valor overcame his discretion. In short, he lost it. So far I've been having a bit of fun, but it bears thinking on. What is it that would affect him so? To the professor's mind, this situation was but a variant of the "driving while black," a phenomenon occurring just often enough to keep it in the back of every African-American mind. For it is the sad truth, whether discrimination or probability, every law abiding person of color is subject to false assumptions in a way his or her white brother is not.

Members of minority groups can be hypersensitive when it comes to a perceived slight, but at the same time, in some cases perception is reality. I can remember my parents with their Hispanic names and accents at the bank where they would be forced to provide all sorts of identification. Of course, they would ascribe it to discrimination. I used to think they were being hypersensitive until I noticed that when I went alone, I wasn't asked for anything of the sort.

All of this rambling leads me to my own brush with the sometime arbitrary exercise of police power, or the time when I was stopped for "driving while in a white Escort." So there I was, middle-aged friend in tow, driving in my little white Ford Escort when I was pulled over by flashing lights, etc... "What did I do?" I asked the officer with the sunglasses, doubtless affected to look cool but which looked more like he had cut them out of cellophane. I received no answer but was instead required to provide all of my papers. All this while the partner leaning over the passenger window was shaking his head and stifling a giggle. Me, I was horrified. I knew I hadn't done anything. Was there a mass murderer, drug dealer, or even teenage thief, even now making his getaway in a stolen white Ford Escort? Nah.

I decided the guy was a horse's ass. I, following operative rule number one while dealing with an officer of the law with equine tendencies, refrained from pointing out this fact. Later my friend and I decided he pulled us over thinking we were two little chippies. So while I never got any satisfaction, neither did he.

Friday, July 24, 2009

So Sad

When the Congressional Black Caucus took its junket to Cuba earlier this year, they were criticised by Conservative pundits for failing to include a visit to the prison cell of Oscar Elias Biscet in their itinerary. The Capos in Havana are quite good at hiding the true face of their regime from the rest of the world. The case of Dr. Biscet, however, is one that speaks volumes about the true nature of their crimes.

Jailed as a threat to the government, sentenced to 25 years in a hell hole, Biscet's crime was to believe in the dignity of the human being and to demand that the government respect that dignity. For this crime, he has been jailed since 2003. Recently, Rudy Mayor over at The Politics of Freedom has posted some of a letter written by Dr. Biscet. Those words speak volumes about the man:

"Today, on the eve of my 48th birthday, I write these lines from prison cell #1232. If this testimony from the box where I have been unjustly forced to live for almost 10 years now is of some interest to mankind, then publish it.

When I began advocating the philosophies of Gandhi and Thoreau, I remember those who commented that I would soon begin walking through the streets of Havana in a loincloth like Gandhi. Upon hearing these insults, I'd simply smile, as surely I would soon be subjected to this condition -- not in the streets of Havana, but in the indefinite confinement that I would face for such advocacy. Those that resorted to such insults, seeking to humiliate me, would not be mistaken after all, but it is through the humiliation of a man in loincloth that human dignity is reflected over barbarism.

When you ask me how I am doing, and I tell you that I am resisting, it is because the environment I find myself in is too brutal for any civilized man imprisoned for promoting ideas of love, the respect for human rights and the defense of life. Yet, I thank God as I awake every day, for in this dark and lonely cell, I know He is with me."

- Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Cuban pro-democracy leader and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience serving a 25-year sentence, in a letter to his wife and the world.

Tomorrow students in Washington DC will be doing their part to help. Read about it here.

h/t Jose at Cubanology

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday Morning Miscellanea

Facts and Figures. In this WSJ article, Mort Zuckerman- a man I respect- informs us that things are worse than they seem. Aside from backing up Biden's assessment of the economy, he sees the need for a real stimulus, one that consists of infrastructure projects. You decide.

Fact and Fallacy. Bill O'Reilly takes on Palin critics over at Townhall, arguing that the attacks are meant to marginalize Palin, but more importantly to neutralize growing criticism of the growing government takeover of everything. I know he didn't just realize it's a left/media braintrust at work. I suspect he was trying to be fair to the new administration, but he's a little late to the fair, nonetheless. Read it here.

Fact and Feature. Over at National Review, David Kahane presents a series of comparisons that range from Entourage to Gone With The Wind, culminating in a parallel between the One and Evita of "Don't cry for me, Argentina" fame as the basis for a remake of the original show. Somewhere in "their," he manages a few well-aimed swipes at Sotomayor. Most notable for the prodigious number of modifiers. Silly, but point well-taken.

Fact and Fancy. Looking for something to do? Hop on a plane to Afghanistan, take a dangerous 7 hour car ride, and visit the Bamiyan, the site of the blown up Buddhas. Kid you not, according to FoxNews here, the government is gearing up, hoping to lure tourists the well-known site. They've got something there, but one can't help thinking they may have jumped the gun a bit.

Fact and Freak. It's alive! Yup, a mysterious blob up in Arctic waters, which stretches for miles, has turned out to be living, a massive bloom of algae. Read about it at Time. Also of interest is the nugget that the Maine coastline has been besieged by Red Tide, another algal bloom, one I know something about.

Fact and Factoid. Reading McCourt's obit, I came across this list of "100 all-Time Best Novels." For once, I've read a fair number of them. My vote for one and two positions, All The King's Men and Crime and Punishment. I'm pretty catholic in my tastes. (This last is an allusion to one of my favorite plays.) Tata.

Frank McCourt: Sad News

News is that Frank McCourt, author of Angela's Ashes, has passed away. I can still remember the God awful scenes in the book when his father would wake up the children in the middle of the night upon his return from the local pub and make them sing the Irish National Anthem or some such. I remember my mother, who read the book twice before she died, saying that it seemed like fiction, the way one calamity after another would befall the family.

May he be in heaven a half an hour before the devil knows he's dead.

Quote for the Evening

This one in which he describes his an encounter with Walter Cronkite from Kevin D Williamson in the National Review Media Blog.

It was the sort of experience that is tediously familiar to conservatives: You meet somebody who starts ranting in the most intemperate fashion about conservatives and/or Republicans, and it is clear that they cannot imagine that they might be speaking to one. (Harry Stein has a book out about this curious phenomenon.) Mr. Cronkite took it for granted that his opinions were shared, and shared because they were self-evidently true, and that seems to me to be the main defect of the media culture that holds him up as a hero.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Meanderings: On Elitism

So the hubster and I are watching O'Reilly being hosted by Laura Ingraham when there is a Special News Bulletin, the kind they have when an airplane goes down or Jacko bites the big one. This time, however, the interruption is due to the death, hardly surprising, of a 92 year old Walter Cronkite. Fox now launches into long and lauditory coverage.

Only the press thinks that the death of one of their own merits the kind of coverage given to, say, assasinated presidents. As for me, I remember my Cuban-American father who absolutely loathed the man, saw him as emblematic of the reason we lost in Vietnam. This much is sure: at some point during those years, the objective stance of the reporter began to shift. The results are all too obvious today. But that's old news. So just before hubby, cursing, changed the channel to Modern Marvels or some such, I caught an interesting tidbit: Cronkite only did two years of college. What?

Coming at the end of a week of Sotomayor hearings when we were supposed to prostrate ourselves before the altars of Princeton and Yale Law, which in and of itself echoed the required response to Obama's academic pedigree, it seemed paradoxical. The question is natural. Would Cronkite have stood a chance at a journalism career today without that journalism degree, or some variety of previously established celebrity?

The answer leads to all sorts of ruminations. There is at present on the airwaves a near veneration of the Ivy degree. The extension of this academic worship is that no one without that particular variant of sheepskin is to be taken seriously, a view that might be true if there were enough seats and scholarships for the truly deserving in these institutions.

Each year, these bastions of higher learning turn down thousands of valedictorians who do not need to perfect their English and who can actually write a serious, meaty thesis, and who might not be near Olympic swimmers with B averages, or serious ballerinas. They are, however, no less intellectually gifted than those invited into the inner sanctum.

So while I take nothing away from Sotomayor, or Obama for that matter- both have ably demonstrated their intellectual gifts- they were lucky. For those who are born into families without connections, this is about the only way to gain entree into elite circles. That the possession of a degree from Harvard or Yale or Princeton, etc. is the only indicator of a superior intellect, I reject. The pervasiveness of the belief itself is yet another example of the ossification of our society.

Think of a past in which you could start out sweeping in the newsroom and work your way up, or you could finish your novel and dash it off to a publisher who would actually read it, or better yet start off as a haberdasher and rise to the presidency. Do these scenarios seem likely in the present? How would Abe Lincoln fare?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What is That Smell?

We're all familiar with the army of operatives that swarmed Alaska when Palin was first nominated. We witnessed the savaging of Joe the Plumber last summer. The latest victim was to be Frank Ricci, one of the plaintiffs in the New Haven firefighter case. Not that Ricci could add that much, but his sheer presence, along with that of his fully uniformed fellow firefighters, is itself a rebuke, legal ruling made flesh.

Now let's ratchet up the analysis a notch. Not to be one of the lone gunmen, those flaky conspiracy theorists on the X Files, recent developments in the news do seem rather- how shall we say- interesting. Pelosi says she was not briefed about waterboarding. She further intimates the CIA lies all the time. The CIA says she was and they don't. Former Vice President Dick Cheney goes on a media offensive criticising Obamian policy and gains traction. Then last week, Pelosi proxies raise a hue and cry over a now defunct, never-made-it-out-of-the-starting-gate program, about which they were never briefed. Then accusations are made that it was Cheney who directed the CIA not to inform congress. Two foes at one blow? Call me crazy, but it all smells of payback to me. Of course, the program in question which was classified and discussed in a closed meeting has been front page stuff for days. Gotta love it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Must Read: Palin as President?

I don't know how I dropped this one yesterday. David Harsanyi does a masterful job visualizing the objections to a Palin presidency. Watch for the twist at the end.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Literary Reminder

Remember "The Hangman" by Ogden Nash? Read the excerpt (complete text here); feel the vibrations.

Into our town the hangman came,

smelling of gold and blood and flame.
He paced our bricks with a different air,
and built his frame on the courthouse square.

The scaffold stood by the courthouse side,
only as wide as the door was wide
with a frame as tall, or a little more,
than the capping sill of the courthouse door.

And we wondered whenever we had the time,
Who the criminal? What the crime?
The hangman judged with the yellow twist
of knotted hemp in his busy fist.

And innocent though we were with dread,
we passed those eyes of buckshot lead.
Till one cried, "Hangman, who is he,
for whom you raised the gallows-tree?"

Then a twinkle grew in his buckshot eye
and he gave a riddle instead of reply.
"He who serves me best," said he
"Shall earn the rope on the gallows-tree."

And he stepped down and laid his hand
on a man who came from another land.
And we breathed again, for anothers grief
at the hangmans hand, was our relief.

And the gallows frame on the courthouse lawn
by tomorrow's sun would be struck and gone.
So we gave him way and no one spoke
out of respect for his hangmans cloak.

The next day's sun looked mildly down
on roof and street in our quiet town;
and stark and black in the morning air
the gallows-tree on the courthouse square.

And the hangman stood at his usual stand
with the yellow hemp in his busy hand.
With his buckshot eye and his jaw like a pike,
and his air so knowing and business-like.

And we cried, "Hangman, have you not done,
yesterday with the alien one?"
Then we fell silent and stood amazed.
"Oh, not for him was the gallows raised."

Late Edition

Better Late.... Thank you, Republicans for lambasting our dearly elected leader for labeling events in Honduras a coup, thereby aligning himself on the side not of angels but of Chavez, Ortega, Castro(2), et al. Secondly, designating the Honduran military action, undertaken under orders from the Honduran Supreme Court to the approbation of the Honduran legislature, as such obscures the illegal actions of the former Honduran President which brought about the crisis in the first place. Read it at Breitbart.

Lagging Indicators. Christian Solidarity Worldwide has mildly denounced the sentencing of Cuban Pastor Omar Gude Perez to six years imprisonment. The CSW sees the conviction as a result of his leadership position in a Christian movement, and not on either the original human trafficking charges, nor the "counterrevolutionary conduct and attitudes" on which he was convicted. Meanwhile, Pastors (Posers?) for peace continues their traveling show on the way to Cuba to support the same government that sentenced Gude Perez. Read about it.

Equine Arrears. According to Newsweek- which I predict will have to fold if it keeps printing this tripe- against President Obama's wishes, Ag Holder absolutely must investigate the Bush atrocities. (Psst. Wanna buy a bridge?) Coming as it does in the middle of a dismal news cycle and skidding approval ratings, the timing smells.

Arrested Development. Floored yesterday at this one. There is talk of banning tobacco in the military, even in combat situations. Yessirree, you can get blown to smithereens for your country, but don't light up. Kinda gives the lie to fighting for freedom. Ludicrous.

Left Behind. It's that time of year again. The ubiquitous summer reading lists. Here's the NRO version, ponderous in the main. I can confess that few of these titles will find their way into my beachbag. Of course, none of Oprah's are going to be in there either.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Heads Up: Article About Palin's Resignation

The Alaska governor's resignation seem to come out of nowhere. It was surprising that after enduring a brutal series of attacks during the campaign, Palin would cave now. A new article by Matthew Continetti over at The Weekly Standard provides an insight into what went in to her decision and makes it all more understandable:

The attacks did not stop when McCain and Palin lost the election. To the contrary: They shifted location and emphasis. Palin returned to a changed Alaska. Her first year in office had been remarkably successful because she governed with an ad hoc legislative coalition of Democrats and antiestablishment Republicans. That coalition broke down the moment Palin became a force in national politics and the most famous woman (probably the most famous person) in the Republican party. The Democrats in the legislature defected en masse. Compounding the problem: Because she had unseated it, the GOP establishment never liked Palin and wanted her to go away.

Suddenly "people were confronted with policy differences with the governor," Alaska state senator and Palin ally Gene Therriault told me. "The call went out from the national Democratic party to take her down. Some of the Democrats who worked with her previously took their marching orders." Gridlock ensued. Bipartisan comity was no more.

Anybody who had the opportunity to score political points against Palin took a shot. The Alaska judicial council, a body that recommends jurists to the governor, forced the pro-life Palin to appoint a pro-choice judge to the state supreme court. The legislature rejected Palin's choice for state attorney general. The governor and the legislature fought protracted battles over the replacement for Democratic state senator Kim Elton (appointed to the Obama administration) and stimulus money from the federal government. Civility with the legislature became untenable. John Coale, the Washington, D.C.-based Democratic lawyer who set up Palin's political action committee and legal defense fund, told me, "Something had to change."

Read the whole thing. It's worth it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Read: Coming Soon

Some of my very favorite authors:

Rain Gods by James Lee Burke circa July 13. Just watched Electric Mist over the weekend, based on Burke's In the Electric Mist with the Confederate Dead. Hate to say it, but I wasn't crazy about Tommy Lee's portrayal. Best Burke-based movie I've seen starred Alec Baldwin(?) and Eric Roberts. Just my opinion.

The Defector by Daniel Silva on July 20 or so. This one is purportedly a sequel to Moscow Rules and also features Israeli operative/art restorer Gabriel Allon.

Also on July 20 comes Fire and Ice, the newest entry in the Joanna Brady series, the 14th. Rumor has it that it will also involve JA Jance's other sleuth, JP Beaumont.

South of Broad by Pat Conroy sometime in August. Excited about this one, his first in many years. To give you an idea, I once forced the family into vacationing on Daufuskie Island, SC, setting of The Water is Wide, or Conrack in the film version with Jon Voight. The daughter got food poisoning, insists she was cured by a ghostly witchy woman in a nightmare, and has never let me live it down.

Finally, one to keep an eye out for in August is Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. It's by Jon Krakauer who's written some good stuff. My favorite: Into Thin Air.

A Quote for Today

Right intention, transparency, and the search for positive results are mutually compatible and must never be detached from one another. If love is wise, it can find ways of working in accordance with provident and just expediency, as is illustrated in a significant way by much of the experience of credit unions.

from Charity in Truth by Pope Benedict

Another Quarter Heard From

Yesterday the Pope weighed in on the economic morass. On Fox Business, the encyclical was treated as if it inveighed against capitalism. Not true. Read the text. The Holy Father goes out of his way to establish that markets in and of themselves are not bad things. It is the lack of ethics, according to the prelate, which is the problem. I ask you, what is wrong with the head of a Church urging that we exercise morality in our commercial dealings? Nothing. It was an eminently reasonable argument. Reaction to it does expose the edges of a pervasive, usually hidden, prejudice against Catholicism that exists in many elite circles.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Meanderings: There ain't no winnin'

I started my day with a call to United Healthcare which runs the medical plan at my company.

"Hey," I said, "I'm calling because there's got to be some mistake here. I went for my annual Gyn exam, and it cost me six hundred dollars."

"It sure does sound like there's something off." the lady on the other end replies.

"Well, when I got to the doctor," I tell her, "I found out my doctor doesn't take your insurance. But heck, I'm really quite attached to her, so I figured I'd pay out of pocket. But then she sent me for a mammogram which was in network, but I get a bill from the hospital. So I figure that's that. But it's not, 'cause then I get another bill from the guy who read the mammogram."

"Did the hospital charge you the agreed upon amount?" she asks.

"What's that?"

"95 dollars. And I see the radiologist charged 54. But don't worry because it all goes to your 300 dollar deductible."

"Okay, but I'm not finished. Then I get a bill for 142 dollars for my pap smear. Lady, I am 51 years old. In all my life, I've never paid more than 25 dollars for a pap smear. I thought it was like a rule that a yearly mammogram and pap smear was part of a health insurance policy. You know, all that bullshit about preventative medicine and all. Are you telling me that 142 dollars is the discount price you negotiated? We're not talking about brain surgery here, you know."

"Well, that's the policy your company arranged. And as I said, it does go toward the deductible." Now she's not sounding quite as nice. You might even say she sounds a bit exasperated.

"All right," I counter. "That's why I sent in an out of network claim for the doctor."

"Oh, that's the one for 200 dollars. We were missing some information. Let me transfer you to someone who can help you with that."

My next customer service rep is Christina. "Oh," she tells me, "There was some information missing."

"What was missing?" I ask.

"The doctor's name, address..."

"Wait a minute, I attached her pre-printed receipt as instructed."

"Well, we need the codes."

"Ma'am, it was all on the receipt. I saw it."

"Was the the doctor's taxpayer ID on the receipt?" Christina's getting a little defensive. "We need it to pay the claim."

"Lady," now I'm losing it, " You don't need her number. You have to pay me, and you have my number."

"It's a federal law."

"It's federal law that you need her tax id to pay me? Okay, what do I need to do? After all, I should satisfy the 400 dollar out of network deductible and get some money back."

"Oh no," she informs me, "that's a separate deductible. You have to spend 400 dollars with the out of network doctor."

" You gotta be kidding. Well, I'm going to complain to my company. Better yet, I'm going to write to your CEO. Scams like this are exactly why we are going to wind up with Obamacare. And you know what, Christina you ain't gonna have a job."

The moral of the story: check your insurance before you go to the doctor.

My morning entertainment done, I spend the rest of my day off attempting to quit smoking. Of course, since I'm trying to quit for the umpteenth time, I smoke double. Here's a primer. Before the bleeding heart Democrats got in power, I paid 2.69 for a pack of cigarettes. Today, thanks to them and the other misbegotten offspring of randomly copulating camels who call themselves the Florida legislature, I pay $5.35. Let me 'splain. At a pack a day, that comes out roughly to $160.00 a month. At two packs, that's $320.00 So at my house that translates to about $600.00 a month. Since I can't afford that, but I can't quit, I am freaking.

But they don't care about me. Even worse the prating hypocrite Dems don't care about the poor. It is the poor who smoke. These cigarette increases represent what is surely the most regressive tax ever passed. What was that Mr. Obama about not raising taxes on those earning less than 200 thou? Unfuckingbelievable.

I console myself. As I was on the beach at Manatee County over the weekend, where I go because the upscale elitists who run Sarasota want the beach all to their nonsmoking selves, I was struck by a thought. It is an observation I first made as I sat in the waiting room at the hospital where my mother was dying and where smoking was not allowed on the grounds of the entire campus. If there were ever a time for a cigarette.... I was looking at the photos of the ladies who run the hospital, each more porcine than the other, as if vying for the Petunia Pig award.

Well, the beach yesterday was full of fat, white flesh. And they're coming for you next, baby. And you know what, I ain't gonna give a damn. What was that Shirley Jackson story? See ya.