Saturday, November 07, 2009

Beer, Ice cream and Beaten Bloggers

Thanks to Val from Babalublog I learned yesterday that Yoani Sanchez and other Cuban bloggers were temporarily detained and beaten on her way to a peace protest against violence. I've been since following Claudia Cadelo on twitter, and today I checked Generacion Y to see Yoani's point of view. It can only be said that the Cuba Governement is afraid, and that these heirs to Cuba's future are extremely brave. For more details on this Babalublog pretty much has it covered with updates.

After reading the various blogs, I perused the news websites to see what they had to say. The only thing CNN is covering on Cuba is how Miller Beer and Haagen Dazs ice cream may be sold in Cuba --for a premium nonetheless. As Cuban citizens are sequestered and beaten for their exercising of free speech, Chicago food (and other companies) are negotiating how beer and ice cream are to be sold on the island. Given that it is a premium, the target audience is not the everyday Cuban citizen. Given that it is ice cream and beer, the target audience is not the hungry poor of the nation. Given that the Cuba government is still communist, any premium commodity that will come from America, goes through the tourist, and ends up in Castro's pocket. The Cuban people have once again been ignored.

"We're in this for the long haul as well," said Paul Johnson of Chicago Foods. "Like I said before, we're thinking about today as well as tomorrow."

A tomorrow that would have U.S. tourists sipping American beer on Cuban beaches. --CNN

The truth is that any attempt to lift the embargo will only satiate the appetite of the visitor, the tourist, while filling the pockets of an oppressive government regime through inflated taxes. With no embargo, the everyday Cuban citizen will be left as hungry and oppressed as they were with the embargo. Since 2000, the US is the number one provider of food to Cuba and yet the hunger persists. If the Cuban government cannot use the resources it is given to aid its own people on a small scale (restricted donations), then it is clear that it will not do so on a large scale (the lifting of the embargo.) Period.

For those who claim that a new era has dawned on Cuba should take a close look at the incident that happened with a peaceful group of Cuban bloggers. Nothing has changed. Oppression remains in the cities while luxury and freedom exudes in the resorts.

I don't know about you, but I'm no longer eating Hagen Dazs ice cream nor drinking Miller beer.

UPDATE: CNN FINALLY writes an article about this.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hey Juanes

Hey Juanes, I have a few questions.

Here are two Cuban musicans in Cuba that I'm sure would love the chance to play at your peace concert. Why not invite them?

Why import musicians who don't even deal with the day to day suffering of Cuba? Flying them in on planes is a waste of money that can go to feeding the Cuban people. A full belly is a closer step to peace than noisy propaganda.

Why bother bringing Cuban expats to play with you (like Orishas), when you can have your fill with local rock and rap artists?

Jose Marti said: "Everything that divides men, everything that specified, separates or pens them, is a sin against humanity." Having some musicians play and not inviting others because their views are contrary to the government is divisive, sinful and separates one from the other. This is contrary to the meaning of peace, which always seeks equilibrium.

Jose Marti also said: "Peace demands of Nature the recognition of human rights." Not recognizing the rights of the local Cuban musicians to play at the concert simply because the Cuban government sees these musicians as deviant is a slap at their human right to free speech. In other words, not extending the invitation to these musicians who sing for a better homeland is a slap to the very nature of peace itself.

How can you sing for peace when your actions don't reflect your song?

Friday, September 04, 2009

When will the irony end?

"I think anyone who buys a t-shirt of Che has gotta be cool. If I see someone with a Che t-shirt, I think, 'He's got good taste'."
— Benicio Del Toro

As we know the Che shirt is a delicious irony. A man against capitalism and commodities becomes a commodity sold for capital. As for Del Toro’s quote, taste is an aesthetic that has little to do with fact, and the fact is Che was a murderer. Taste is also irrelevant when it comes to wearing the image of an assassin. Wearing a Che shirt is either a bonafide proof of ignorance, or a possible declaration of hatred for human life.

Che: a man against capitalism and commodities becomes a commodity sold for capital. For a while I thought the Che shirt was the epitome of this irony, but then a greater irony developed –the Che movie. The American Che movie phenomena of the new millennium are unprecedented. In the past 7 years we have seen 8 different versions of Che in the US alone. The attention is nauseating and some of his portrayals are indeed myopic. Nevertheless, the irony is all the more exquisite; after all, nothing says capitalism like Hollywood.

Up until today I thought that Hollywood would be the apex of the Che irony, and I was proven wrong. To my surprise, this latest bit of irony has been going on long before the Che shirt and the Che movie. This bit of irony surpasses any shirt, movie, or clueless comment.

In Vallegrande, Bolivia Che is known as San Ernesto de La Higuera

Every October 9th there is a tribute to Che with flowers, candles, and invocations. That’s right, there are people who actually pray to Che Guevara. Now, I know for some of you this may be old news, but this is mind blowing for me. They actually pray to Che for a miracle. Che was a self-proclaimed atheist and he has become a deity for these peasants! I am not one to judge any person’s religious experience, but contradiction is contradiction, and I have to ask what history do these peasants know? It’s not like these peasants are learning about foco theory or arming themselves against the bourgeois. They’re praying to him for help in their day-to-day farm life: a murderer has become the patron saint of farming. Here we find a religious icon without historic grounding. Saint Che is hagiography at it’s worst. Anytime we read about a local’s encounter with Che, it’s never the philosophy that attracted them, but his appearance that wins favor. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: if Che had the looks of Ghandi, Che would’ve been long forgotten.

The substance of Che is that of a human butcher who did not believe in God, who fought against capitalism, and who found hatred as the key element for his revolution. Today his image makes money on T-Shirts and in movies, his contradictory quote on love is found on bumper stickers, and somewhere in the little town of Vallegrande peasants pray to the atheist for rain and good harvest.

When will the irony end?

For more information about San Ernesto de La Higuera you can check here: | San Ernesto de la higuera y el hombre nuevo

If you google San Ernesto de la Higuera then you’ll get plenty more links. (A strong stomach may be required.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Come one and come all and come quickly before it’s gone!

That’s right, you too should visit the world’s finest circus that is Cuba before Fidel is dead and Obama drops the embargo! Hurry. Yes, hurry! Come to the paradise of car collectors. The haven of Anti-American sentiment. The center of cigar aficionados. The tropical hub of human meat marketing, where flesh thirsty tourists can have their fill of sultry, sexy, and lets not forget savage, Cuban prostitutes.

And what about the artistically inclined?

Fear not! There is still room for you as the decrepit and poorly cared for remnants of the colonial old world stands on rotting wood and broken concrete. After all, isn’t any art best with age? Isn’t the finest of wines the oldest of wines? Does it really matter that these two analogies don’t fit, because in the end you're really visiting the most original work in the tropics: Castro communism in all its damning glory.

If that is not appeasing enough, you can visit the Cuban music halls sipping Son like some deep overproof rum. Perhaps Trova is more your thing? Maybe you like the raw and raunchy Rumba of la calle! Whatever your preference, whatever you desire, know that all art in Cuba is too created by the original artist that is Castro who inseminates the expression of the Cuban people into one collective communistic catastrophe.

And speaking of communism let’s not forget la revolucion!

On every corner. Down every street. On every entry door and living room there is the static reminder of a time long past. A reminder of a nation so thoroughly duped by grandiose lies and merciless assassinations. That’s right, these are the images of Fidel and the images of Che--the architects of what Cuba is today. These are the two men who were brave enough to seek a helping hand from the USA to stand up against the mob-encrusted Batista, only to then become the greatest cowards in history hiding behind senseless acts of violence, collective mental abuse, and giving blame to the one country that helped these bearded ones into power--America.

Come one and come all and come quickly before it’s gone. Cuba is a paradise for anyone who desires to sip exotic Anti-American and Anti-Democratic vintage at its finest.

And what of the colorful, always smiling, people on this esoteric oasis?

What does it matter to you! Take their pictures and wave your holas. Their struggle, political desensitization, and cultural asphyxiation will have no affect with your walks on the white sandy beaches and flirty sips of mojitos. Cuba was made for you! You are Cuba's true citizen. Cuban’s love tourists and you will be accommodated accordingly.

Come one and come all and come quickly before it's gone! Though Cuban oppression isn’t going to change anytime soon, your trip may lose all its far away flavor as the political environment turns with Obama now on the scene and Fidel soon to walk off.

Don’t miss out!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The day after

I read Granma the day after the election, you know, the dirty mouthpiece of Castro they call news. Yes, I read it from time to time looking for what is said, and more importantly, I look for what isn’t said. For many of us, the election of 2008 was a surprise. I was shocked to see Obama win, and knowing the praise that Castro has given him, I wanted to read what filth Granma was spewing.

One article. One homely article was given in homage to the President Elect. In many ways, Bush made more news on Granma than Obama did. For the first time, in a long time, in Granma I read an article on the US that did not mention the “Miami Mafia.” Nor was there mention of the US greedily and secretly wanting Cuba. Nothing. The favor, or shock, of Obama’s victory is so great that there are no canned complaints or exaggerated exaltations.

Interestingly enough, I found an archived article from the day before that was classic Granma. It was the bashing of McCain if he would win the Presidency. The article closed with the subheading: un voto que no vale gran cosa (a vote that is worthless). Reference was made to the 2000 election and how Gore had the White House stolen from him. This was the Popular vote vs. the Electoral vote schema, and how our electoral system is allegedly corrupt. There is no mention of this in Obama’s victory article. There is no Granma press coverage as there was when Bush won both times. The single article in Granma is sober. And as I think about it, isn’t it clear that though Castro may find su media naranja in Obama, having a black man as a US President spits in the eye of Castro’s Revolution. I’m postulating that Granma’s initial reaction is sober because it shows that in the US we can have a black president, while the Cuba after Castro is still run by old white men. Granted this scenario would have been sweeter for me had Alan Keyes, and not Obama, been the first African-American president.

The US was at one time was more racist than Cuba. In the fifties US racism was at a height and yet Cuba had a mulatto President. Castro came with a promise to uplift the colored in Cuba, and instead he equally oppressed everyone. Now the Cuban cabinet is mainly white, and in the US we have a mulatto President elect. Let’s not be fooled by Castro’s past acclaims for Obama. This is not the scenario he had hoped for in the election. Any mulatto oppressed in Cuba can now look at the US and question why a white bearded man has Governed and oppressed him and his family for almost 50 years. Also, Obama’s openness to relations with Cuba is something that Castro does not want. As crucial as the Embargo has been to hurt Castro, Castro has been using the Embargo to scapegoat his failure. The threat of an Embargo lifting leaves Castro without an excuse. It would have been easier to have a Republican to throw blame on and expose how “corrupt” is the US electoral system. Yet Obama’s win shows how our democracy works. It’s not about the few in Miami; it’s about the American people and how this country is handled. Bush failed to handle his presidency well, and because of that many people threw the blame on the party and voted against Republican. Castro has failed Cuba and no matter how many “elections” happen on the island it is clear for the Cuban people that their vote is, un voto que no vale gran cosa.

Many are skeptical and fearful about Obama. However, Obama became President through our system and our political system is greater than any individual. Our voice, our action, and our resolve is what guides this nation –not the whim of one man. America is where the cutting edge of history happens, and it happens because the people have a voice. This is something that Castro could never grasp, and something that no President can ever take away from us unless we allow it with closed mouths. Obama will have it tough –we will not be quiet on issues that endanger our country and our people. And let’s not be so sure of Castro’s acceptance of Obama; our President elect can easily become a figure for Castro’s failure in Cuba.

It is silence, and not one man, that will be the death of our democracy.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

McCain vs. McCain

By now everyone is familiar with the multiple narratives that John McCain has written for himself. He’s effectively positioned himself as a no-holds-barred corruption fighter. Agree or not with the McCain-Feingold Act it’s clear that McCain’s intent was to remove some of what he considers to be the corrupting influence of money in the political process. It’s arguable that the bill sent money underground to so-called 527 groups that really aren’t accountable to anyone, but that’s really beside the point. McCain really does want to clean up politics.

The other major character trait that McCain promotes about himself is his willingness to put party interests aside and reach across the aisle to engage Democrats for the good of the country. This trait irritates many Republicans because he seems to accept many of the premises set forth by liberal Democrats such as the devout belief that humans are causing global warming. But it’s undeniable that McCain has (much more than Obama) has collaborated with members of the opposing party to sponsor legislation. The aforementioned McCain-Feingold Act along with McCain-Kennedy and McCain-Lieberman bills attest to that fact. John McCain has made it a point to reach out to Democratic voters and tell them “it’s not a party thing, it’s an America thing.”

Ideologically McCain cannot be called a conservative. His brand of politics is a personal one that blends some conservative elements, populist elements and even liberal elements. McCain has not been afraid to play the class warfare card that conservatives despise and often talks about greed in corporate America. American business has had much better friends over the years than John McCain. McCain voted against both Bush tax cuts because he said they disproportionately helped the wealthy. Don’t tell that to the wealthy though because their proportional burden has actually increased since 2002.

But what happens when McCain’s multiple narratives collide?

As we have seen in recent weeks the financial market in America is in the midst of a catastrophe. It’s a very complicated issue and not one that materialized overnight, not even in the last eight years. The seeds of this crisis were planted during the Carter administration signed the Community Reinvestment Act into law. Without getting into too much detail, because others have already reported on this much better than I could, the crisis really began to take shape when, prompted by the Clinton administration, two Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac started to grow dramatically, ultimately controlling about 50% of the U.S. mortgage market. This was a government-protected monopoly that set the pace and tone for the entire mortgage industry.

There were warning signs along the way that many ignored. Articles like this one in the New York Times (1999) and this one (2000) in City Journal attest to that. But Fannie and Freddie had become a major lobby in Washington. A weak regulator was not able to rein them in and when he tried to ask congress for help, some members of the committee responsible for overseeing them browbeat him.

John McCain himself proposed increased regulation on Fannie and Freddie and it was blocked.

In last Friday’s presidential debate, Barack Obama blamed the crisis on conservative ideology of deregulation and eight years of the Bush administration pushing that agenda. There’s only one problem with that point of view. It’s totally backward. As quasi-public institutions conservatives were screaming for more regulation of Fannie and Freddie. This crisis is not a failure of a market economy running wild; it’s a failure of government intervention in what had previously been mainly a private market, combined with too little oversight. While Barack Obama was playing the partisan blame game and getting it wrong, McCain stood there and took the punch and didn’t swing back. The question for many observers was: why?

Fannie and Freddie are probably the most graphic examples of the type of government corruption that John McCain detests. These two GSEs spent fortunes on lobbying and were protected by members of the House and Senate that were supposed to be their watchdogs. The problem for John McCain is that the guilty were almost all Democrats. Democrats like Barney Frank and Senate colleagues of McCain’s like Chris Dodd. Remember McCain is supposed to be the guy who doesn’t take cheap shots at his congressional pals.

John McCain’s narratives that once seemed to peacefully coexist suddenly came into conflict. Would McCain the corruption fighter come out and give Americans some straight talk? Would he explain that Democrats (with the aid of some Republicans) were influenced by big dollar contributions from Freddie and Fannie where executives made multimillion-dollar fortunes as they quietly destroyed the American economy? Would he explain that it was well intended liberal ideology that led to inevitable unintended consequences? Would he explain that conservatives want less regulation in private business but tons of accountability and oversight in the public sector, which is where Fannie and Freddie really resided despite protestations to the contrary? Or would the non-ideological bipartisan McCain win the internal struggle and allow this golden opportunity to set the record straight pass?

Until now it's been the collegial McCain that we've seen and no straight talk about the depth of corruption that exacerbated the crisis.

One blogger suspects that McCain has been holding back while waiting for passage of the bailout bill out of fear of derailing it and that now that’s is been passed that he will finally take Obama to the mat. After all, Franklin Raines, one of Obama’s economic advisers cashed in to the tune of $90 million for his time as Fannie Mae’s CEO.

McCain’s campaign has released one new TV commercial that begins to tackle the issue of placing blame where it rightfully belongs, but to date the candidate has been silent. Sarah Palin has done her part reassuring America of her aptitude and energized the conservative base of the Republican Party. Now it’s McCain’s turn to tell the moderate Americans who are undecided what the true differences would be between a McCain administration and an Obama administration. If McCain the corruption fighter doesn’t start making the corrupt Democrats such as Barney Frank, who aided in the creation of this mess, famous (as he's promised to do with earmark spenders) then the election is lost, and those responsible for this crisis will never be held accountable because nobody will be there to hold their feet to the fire.