Saturday, April 25, 2009

Taxation Without Representation

Up until now I have been decrying the Democrat Congress for raising cigarette taxes on me to fund healthcare insurance for the children of families making up to $84,000 dollars a year. You can imagine my shock to find that not only Senator Bill Nelson, expected, but also Senator Mel Martinez voted for the bill. This was topped off by Rep. Vern Buchanan voting for it in the House. Essentially then, if you are a smoker who lives in my part of South Florida, there is no one who represents your interests.

And don't give me the bullshit about quitting. If the threat of dying is not enough to get people to quit, your shitty little taxes won't. I also don't want to hear about costs. As a collective we fund healthcare for illegal aliens, whole classes of people who wouldn't know a job if it bit them on the ass, but in society's eyes it is apparently better to copulate with every Tom Dick and Harry, endowing each of them with a child to be supported by the general weal than to be a smoker.
Frankly, it sucks.

If you'd like to know how your senators voted, here. If you'd like to know how your representative voted, here. I would suggest to my fellow smokers that we remember come election time. I intend to do so.

Literary Allusion for Today

Gotta love the title of this Forbes piece about the now infamous Latin American summit: "Obama in Lilliput." The diction in this piece by Tunku Varadarajan is outstanding. Take a gander at the first sentence:

Reading of the manner in which Barack Obama has been harangued by a motley assortment of caciques and panjandrums at the summit meeting of the Organization of American States, I am put in mind of Gulliver in Lilliput.

Oh, harangued, most excellent word for Ortega's diatribe. My favorites for flair and accuracy-
caciques and panjandrums. Surgical strike there, not to mention the whole concept. Bravo!

There's Money to be Made: He's Not My Brother

I guess one should not expect morality from a business publication, but one would expect some business savvy. First off, this piece from Businessweek would seem to be designed to appeal to the angels of our basest nature. It's all there: how Americans' rights are curtailed by the restrictions, how the rest of the world has beaten us to the Caribbean trough, yada, yada, yada. Oh, and the "experts" quoted are expert apologists for the ruling military junta. The answer here: Mr Obama should just short circuit the legislative process and do an end run around the congress, and, one might hazard, the constitution.

The biggest stupidity, however, is the lament that American ability to do business with Cuba is limited by the inability to extend credit. The suggestion: give them ninety days. Considering that Cuba is essentially a scofflaw nation, and the next-to-the-worst debtor at that, the suggestion would be laughable, if the continued repression of 11 million souls were not at stake. Talk about your unfunded bailouts. Stupidity.

Is It the Pandemic?

It looks like the outbreak of swine flu in Mexico is spreading. To read Drudge is enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck. So far there have been no deaths in the US. In Mexico, however, the dead were between 25 and 45 years old, not a good sign. It seems there's a bit of media hysteria already. Still, the situation bears watching. A pretty informative report here.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mr. Shakespeare

Almost forgot for a moment there. Don't know how. In my earlier incarnation as a teacher, I would have the students celebrate with costumes, quotes, and grub. To help you celebrate the occasion, go over to the National Review where they have contributors offering their favorites.
Gotta say, I'm hard pressed to pick one.

How about a question: In what play is there more to a pie than meets the eye?

Clueless or Callous?

In this must read column, Nat Hentoff seizes on a moment which crystallizes the seemingly wilful blindness of the Congressional Black Caucus on their Cuban jaunt. These notables laid a wreath at a memorial to Martin Luther King, even as a follower of King lay imprisoned not so many miles away.

As Hentoff writes,

In a cruel irony, the Caucus visitors laying flowers at the King memorial appear utterly unaware of this inspiration to many silenced Cubans in Castroland, although Biscet has been internationally covered by reporters, including myself. Nor were these visiting admirers of Fidel and Raul seemingly aware that a biography of Martin Luther King Jr. – seized during the 2003 crackdown raids on independent libraries – was, among other subversive books, ordered burned by Castro's judges in one-day trials.

Talk About Insult to Injury

As a child, one of the men at my father’s factory was given to wearing fatigues, was rumored to carry a machete around during the overnight shift, and was something of an eccentric. The other workers, Cubans also, would shrug and whisper, “He was never the same after he was taken prisoner at Bahia de Cochinos.” So I asked Mom what a Bahia de Cochinos was. I didn’t quite see what pigs had to do with somebody’s behavior. So Mom told me about the Bay of Pigs. In her version, John F. Kennedy was not the man the sisters at my school idolized. Instead, he was the president who left the men on the beaches. He had changed his mind about providing air cover on the advice of his brother Robert. Later at school, I was taught that the airplanes didn’t materialize because there was a problem with time zones and watches. I kid you not.

Of course, the truth came out, as it always does. I learned then that maybe Mom knew something the historians didn’t. So you can imagine my reaction when I read this today.
Manda madre. If there’s something we don’t need, it’s advice from a Kennedy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Meanderings: Cigarette Complaints and Automotive Reveries

So I'm standing outside in the beautiful weather enoying my rationed cigarette.... What? There is no rationing here, you might say. Ah, but there is. There is de jure and de facto rationing. It is to the latter I refer, the price of indulging having ballooned to the point where an expensive addiction has become prohibitive.

Now, there is no one past the age of reason who doesn't realize how bad smoking is for the health, so smokers tend to have feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, guilt over their inability to quit. This guilt coupled with the open contempt of the politically correct.... reminds me of the time I was on line at the post office when the woman two people behind me demanded to know if I smoked, whereupon she launched into a spiel about how allergic she was, sped directly to the front of the line which snaked around the room twice, all the time full-throatedly declaiming what a source of pollution I was. While I did not begrudge her her health, she really could have been a tad more discreet, particularly since there was no open hole in the ground where I could crawl.

Harsh experiences like this.... Oh, that reminds me of little Miss Microwave, one of the local flakes at my last job, who also had an aversion to the smell of smoke so strong that she launched herself into the middle of the street in front of an oncoming car. Note: I was around the corner of the building on the smoking side where no one need venture. For a while I fantasized about coming up with a rejoinder for just such occasions. But then I read Miss Manners who points out that there is never an excuse for rudeness. I guess I can't mention John Travolta's bubble. So I have learned. I now smoke in plein air at quite a distance from any building, where I will, doubtless, one day be accosted.

Leaning on the railing gives me access to the sun, the breeze, and an excellent view of the parking lot where today I spotted a Gordini. Yes, a Renault Gordini. I think the actual number was the 17. When I was young and foolish, my then boyfriend, now husband of thirty years, and I tooled around town in the purple sports car. I remember it had a funny kind of roof, not a convertible top, not a T, not your typical sun roof. You would push a button and most of the roof overhead would disappear. I think it may have been a moon roof. Of course, the association could be because I remember riding at night and looking up at the stars and the aforementioned moon. We once saw a UFO, at least that's what hubby swears. The Renault went the way of the Fiat, and the Peugeot (We had one of those, too).

Beautiful as it was, it was a pretty ill-fated automobile. I remember once following him on the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) when he swerved off the road. I pulled off and looked only to see him open the hood and throw handfuls of that kind of gray urban snow that lingers along the side of the road onto the smoking engine, stifling the flames. We had it repaired, but not long after I woke one morning, having borrowed the car the day before, and looked out upon a small river where the street once was. Of the Gordini, there was no trace, probably because it was completely immersed. The introduction of muddy water into its fuel injectors sealed its fate.

Now my father-in-law who has that old world inventiveness inherited the hulk. He devised the strategem of adding a carbuerator- remember those- and bypassing the injectors. Since there wasn't enough room for such under the hood, he cut an approximate square in the same. Alas, the newly tricked out Gordini had a penchant for popping off the carburetor, sending it flying, which it once did on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge at rush hour. But enough. The Gordini sparked its last in a parking lot, where he returned one night to find the inside of the car noticeably dark and the visibility out of front windshield considerably diminished. Sometime in the week he was working, the dashboard- in a burst of seemingly spontaneous combustion- had ignited. The Gordini had defeated even him.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday Specials

Bittersweet Meats. Marking this year's anniversary of the attempt to liberate Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, I was doing a bit of research and came across this site. I have no information about the organization, but there is an interesting duo of interactive maps in addition to some other information here. Just scroll down.

Jellied Tripe. Although I can't quite remember why, I know I've been miffed at the Financial Times, or is that The Economist, or both? Still this discussion of an idea raised by an MITite in The Atlantic Monthly is pretty intriguing. The central question, seemingly, is whether the US at the moment parallels the state of post Communist collapse Russia? I leave it to the reader to decide the relative ideological grounds of each. Start here.

Roti de Boeuf. Leaks from the Sarkozy administration intimate that the intrepid French prez saved the day, and the glib American one is full of hot air. Not too far from my own estimation. Still, the article in the Brit Times Online goes on to cast it as a case of sour grapes originating from the wine capital, more of a fit of pique on Sarkozy's part.

Canned Fruit. In this, USA Today labels them "economic survivalists," and the more extreme might well be. The report is of interest because it notes a beneficial aspect of the current downturn, namely, the examination of our values.

Cooked Goose. In ongoing stories, the latest threat of a pre emerging pandemic is an outbreak of Bird Flu in Egypt chronicled over at the Independent. And we round off the week with some wacky product warnings courtesy of Foxnews.

An Apology Too Far

In reference to Cuba, I have been hitherto surprised and somewhat relieved by the Presidential palaver that has talked nicely while Presidential action, it could be argued, has wielded the same big stick, mayhap clad in a bit of fleece. Until this moment, this same President has plucked the low-hanging fruit of familial remittances- throwing a bone to his constituents on the left, as well as pleasing elements of the Cuban American Miami voting bloc. Talk about your political win-win situations.

Still the pressure to rip off the suit, don love beads, and start strumming kum-ba-ya on the man are enormous. Yet, Mr. Obama has not only kept in place the embargo and travel restrictions on the masses, he has also raised the issue of human rights in Cuba. Sad that our country has reached the point at which one should have to be elated that an American administration raises the specter of half a century of Stalinist repression on the island.

Although he was true to form in his opening remarks to the Summit of the Americas- Every one of our nations has a right to follow its own path. But we all have a responsibility to see that the people of the Americans [sic] have the ability to pursue their own dreams in democratic societies- speaking out of both sides of his gob, the overall tenor of the speech really left a metallic taste in mine.

Perhaps as result of the mea culpas throughout the European progress, I confess that for the first time in my life I have felt shame for my country to see my President (whether I agree with him or not, he is such) groveling before such as Hugo Chavez, and Daniel Ortega and the like. Perhaps if he had not just sat through a 50 minute diatribe by this last before this address, it would not have been quite as bad. I doubt it.

While the United States has done much to promote peace and prosperity in the hemisphere, we have at times been disengaged, and at times we sought to dictate our terms.
-We have been naughty

There is no senior partner and junior partner in our relations; there is simply engagement based on mutual respect and common interests and shared values.
-The three hundred pound gorilla in the room is the same as the howler monkey.

And we've heard all these arguments before, these debates that would have us make a false choice between rigid, state-run economies or unbridled and unregulated capitalism; between blame for right-wing paramilitaries or left-wing insurgents; between sticking to inflexible policies with regard to Cuba or denying the full human rights that are owed to the Cuban people.
-We've been naughty, again.

We will now allow Cuban Americans to visit the islands whenever they choose and provide resources to their families -- the same way that so many people in my country send money back to their families in your countries to pay for everyday needs.
-Cubans are just Mexicans by another name.

I think it's important to recognize, given historic suspicions, that the United States' policy should not be interference in other countries, but that also means that we can't blame the United States for every problem that arises in the hemisphere. That's part of the bargain.
-We've been naughty, revisited.

The United States will be willing to acknowledge past errors where those errors have been made. We will be partners in helping to alleviate poverty.
-We've been naughty, a fourth time. And we haven't tried to alleviate poverty before the advent of the Obama?

Every nation has been on its own journey.
- The same could have been said of Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, Cambodia, etc., but are they equivalent?

To be fair, he did remind these countries of their own responsibilities. And, yes, our behavior toward the lower part of our hemisphere has been less than stellar. Yet nothing we have done equals what these countries have done to themselves, to what the very men in that room, as well as the elephant in the living room, are presently engaged in doing to their countries. To see the President of the United States, equating the United States, Costa Rica, and others to such as Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia is not only specious but shameful.