31 January 2009

Every Picture Tells A Story, Don’t It?

Fidel’s revolution has always been about images. The picture perfect dictatorship.

And that image has been successfully sold to the unsuspecting consumers in the market for a Utopia for half a century.

Fidel’s one and only talent has been to lie and sell slavery as revolutionary martyrdom-Patria o Muerte. He was able to tap into the Cuban unconscious and push all the right emotional buttons with symbols. The beards and crucifixes of the early revolution, the fatigues, four hour speeches, the Korda Che picture on t-shirts and cigars later and now the tracksuit and blog have all been part of the symbolic look of his revolution’s marketing campaign.

Castro’s 50 year propaganda campaign has managed to convince the world that even after 50 years Cuba is still undergoing a revolution that was over on Jan 8 1959. The world’s longest going out of business sale.

Ironically, this week that picture perfect dictatorship wasn’t exactly all that picture perfect thanks to a couple of pictures.

Fist off, Newspapers in Argentina and Venezuela as well as most of Miami were questioning the authenticity of the picture that showed the Argentine president next to a “rejuvenated” and some would say a fake Castro. Yawn.

But, I did show the high resolution digital photograph to a friend who uses photoshop and other software to legitimately “fix” photographs. I also told her the story of how a Cuban official “handed” the photo to the Argentine in public. When she finished laughing-she swore she wasn’t laughing at me and my Cuba obsession-she said that the high resolution digital image was that of a scan. So if someone took a digital photo, doctored it, printed it than scanned into a high resolution image, unless they were really bad at “photoshopping” the image, she couldn’t tell if it had been altered. And she said, what difference does it make, anyway?

OK, so it caused me the price of a latte to find out what I already knew.

The other not so perfect picture that caused a stir, especially on the island, according to Yoani Sanchez, was the Cuban Flag Picture in Granma, the official organ of the Cuban Communist Party.

In it, the white star on the Cuban flag was black. Doesn’t sound like a big deal in a country that’s been stuck in 1959 since well, 1959. But it was. It was such a big deal, The next day Granma printed an explanation. A translated Yoani comments:

There are errors that have much greater symbolic weight than hundreds of successes. Evasive stars and readers who interpret their escape; Islands that live dependent on prophesies and superstitions; days to remember the national hero and flags that dare to show what so many people keep silent about.

And all while the substitute dictator, who like the evasive star had left the scene of the crime and was in Moscow drinking Vodka, eating boar fat, (yuk), and nostalgically reliving the glory days of the USSR.

Every picture tells a story, don’t it?

24 January 2009

Even In Hindsight, Future Uncertain

Unlike others, I didn’t get a chance to “reflect” on the recent “changes” in the world this week.

Maybe that was a good thing because now I can do so with the benefit of hindsight.

But even looking back, things are a bit blurry and hard to make out in the distance. Hindsight is not always 20-20.

We started the week expecting the big announcement after the inauguration.

Did we get it?

I had a feeling that the latest rumors about the demise of Fidel, was the latest setup by the regime and that they were going to prop up the tracksuit tyrant for yet another gruesomely uncomfortable photo op. I figured they would have posed him next to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet because of her red pedigree, but in hindsight, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, made more sense because of her  bought and paid for- one $800k suitcase at a time-lack of pedigree.

The speculations all started with Chavez shooting of his mouth by delivering a eulogy for Fidel on his un-real(ity) TV show.

Chavez also compared Obama’s scent to that of Mr. Danger. And as repulsive and un-masculine as it is to compare the scents of your male enemies, it does give an insight into  Chavez’s very primal world. A world were where the big dogs mark their territory and he goes around sniffing the boundaries.

So, lo and behold, right after the inauguration, the brothers Castro decide to embrace President Obama, making Chavez the odd socialist new man out. Raúl wished President Obama luck and even said he “seemed like a good man.”

Then, President Fernandez de Kirchner, announces to the world that even Fidel is caught up in the Obamania sweeping the world and that he “believes” in Obama, all stenches aside. She also dispels the rumors, started by Chavez, that Fidel has one foot in the grave.

“Fidel” then gets reflexive in his blog and praises the “11th” American President, saying that “no one could doubt the sincerity of his words” and that President Obama is “the living symbol of the American dream.”

 Talk about a stench. Something smells fishy-very fishy.

While I can see what Fidel sees in President Obama: a bit of himself, it is totally out of character for Fidel to talk about the American Dream.

Castro’s dream society is one where the individual is totally subjugated and the state, Castro, is omnipotent, His is the Nazi and Soviet dream, not the American Dream where individuals are free to pursue their own life, liberty and happiness. That is his nightmare, the  kryptonite to Che’s super new man, the holy water to his demon.

There was much talk of the announcement of Fidel’s death after President Obama’s inauguration.

I have no idea about Fidel’s health, but I doubt that Castro wrote this last reflection, where he embraces the embodiment of the American Dream.

Whoever wrote this reflection could be signaling the end of the revolution-which is like announcing the death of Fidel. Fidel is the revolution and the revolution was the antithesis to the American Dream.

In this online essay, Fidel has been cast aside as a an obstacle that “gets in the way of the comrades from the Party and the State as they are called to make constant decisions to tackle the objective difficulties derived from the world economic crisis.”

They could very well have just announced the end of an epic 50 years of “struggle” and “resistance” to an idea by embracing its embodiment-a truce in the “battle of ideas.” Or do they sense that America’s dream has been forever changed by its embodiment?

Time and hindsight will tell.

But it does seem that the regime has decided to embrace the embodiment of the American dream, President Obama, as the way to objectively tackle its economic difficulties. The embrace doesn’t have to be out of love, but in communist Cuba’s jineterismo tradition, out of necessity-American credit, American tourists and American dollars. This “reflection” attributed to Fidel and the full court press campaign against the embargo by the regime’s sympathizers, apologists, fellow travelers and all round useful idiots are definite clues to its goal.

This can only be achieved by burying Fidel.

I think they just might have.



21 January 2009

… And the Devil says :

Do you believe in a God that satisfies
Do you believe in a God that opens eyes
Do you believe in a God that tells you lies
Or do you believe in me?

Do you believe in a God that brings you down
Do you believe in a God that wears a crown
Do you believe in a God that makes you bow
Or do you believe in me?

..the leap of faith...

16 January 2009

An Arm, A Leg And A…

Freedom is expensive.

Historically, it has been literarily been paid for with blood.

Some would give an arm and a leg to be free and have.

And some men in Cuba are willing to part with a piece of something that’s very dear and near to them in order to have the opportunity to join a very exclusive club and leave Castro’s dungeon.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Like many young Cubans, 23-year-old Yosniel Castro wants an opportunity to leave this Communist-ruled island for a better life. Unlike many of his peers, he may have found a way out: Judaism.

The journey from Havana to Jerusalem, however, isn't easy. The process of converting to Judaism takes years and includes being approved by a council of elders at the synagogue and then an ordained rabbi. Since Cuba has none, usually converts have to wait for a visiting rabbi from Israel, Argentina or Chile. Last but not least, male converts have to submit to a ritual circumcision. In 2007, dozens of adult Cuban men underwent circumcision as part of their conversion process.

Since 1992, Bet Shalom has had a rotating troupe of mentors from Argentina, often rabbinical students, who usually commit to a two-year stint, instructing younger members of the congregation as well as conversos. The latest mentor, Fernando Lapiduz, hails from Rosario, in Argentina's grain belt.
In 2007, his first year in Havana, Mr. Lapiduz converted 71 Jews, including nearly two dozen adult men. They were required to submit to ritual circumcision by an ordained mohel whom Mr. Lapiduz imported from Argentina. "He did them all in one week," says Mr. Lapiduz proudly.
Mr. Zabicki was lucky -- he was circumcised in Mexico a week after his birth. "For those older guys...Well, it was a pretty complicated operation," he says with a grimace.
A complicated operation and an ironic situation to say the least.
While Castro’s role model, Hitler, was persecuting, incarcerating and slaughtering Jews in Europe, many Jews either converted to or pretended to be Christian in order to escape the his concentration camps.
And now in Cuba people convert to Judaism in order to escape Castro’s island concentration camp.

14 January 2009

Some Socialists Are Better Than Others

I’ve got a wound in my soul. It’s called Elian.

I know its never going to heal, but it doesn’t hurt as much as when I was injured.

Elian was every Cuban. We were all a scared refugee at some point saved from the jaws of the sharks. Some figuratively, others all too literally.

I’m glad they didn’t throw me back into the shark tank, but would they have? Would they have been that blind, that cruel?

Obviously yes.

When the people, the system, the society you look up to let you down by doing something immoral it hurts, especially if they hurt a child in the process.

The mantra back in ‘00 was that “the boy belonged with his father.”

No argument, no explanation, no anecdote, no picture, no nothing could convince some people that to send a child back to some parents was child abuse. It was my hatred of Fidel blinding me. I could not see.

Indoctrinating a child into a cult of hate, lies and immorality even with their parent’s consent doesn’t make it right. It is still child abuse. Especially in a totalitarian country where everyone belongs to the state and Papa Fidel has parental rights over all the children, their parents and their pet dogs. Even in the child-welfare community where I worked at the time, this logic was rejected in favor of the “the boy belongs with his father” bumper sticker rationale.

So now I read that Adolf Hitler, the birthday cake boy from Jersey, has been taken away from his neo-nazi parents by the State. It seems that naming a child Adolph Hitler is considered child abuse or is it the environment of hate that the parents are instilling in this child that’s considered child abuse by the Garden State?

Now I’m confused. I thought children belonged with their parents.

Maybe Cuban children are to be measured by a different yardstick than the lily white supremacists?

What’s also troubling is that no ShopRite bakery employee would have batted an eyelash if it had been a birthday cake for a kid named Che or Fidel Castro or Mao Zedung or Pol Pot or Joseph Stalin. Much less would NJ’s DYFS have taken any child named after a communist away from their parents because of the environment of hate that the children may be exposed to in a communist household could be considered child abuse.

The same crowd that defends socialism and the communist murderers who have been responsible for the deaths of 100,000,000 people in socialist states, have turned on one of their own: Adolph Hitler.

Hitler is the pariah even though his body count is considerably less than Stalin’s or Mao’s. Nazis, you see, are far right, the opposite of a communist-or so they would have you believe.

But Hitler was one of them, a socialist. "Nazi" was an abbreviation for "der Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiters Partei —the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Clearly in Nazi Germany, the individual interests were subjugated for the common good and Hitler and his thugs ran the German economy by deciding what would be produced at what price, etc. In a word: Socialism.

I guess some socialists are better than others.

The Rerun

The show is about to start.

The rerun.

They should call this movie Déjà vu … They should call this movie Déjà vu … They should call this movie Déjà vu …

They’re setting the stage and props, going over security. You know, the usual.

Fidel’s demise is the talk of the media. And yet it seems that in the place that would welcome that news the most the news, Miami, it’s being received with a shrug and a smile. And as much as the media would like to see Cuban youths banging on pots on the street, by chumming the waters, it just doesn’t seem to be happening.

My kids will probably celebrate Fidel’s death because they think that it will probably mark the end of the dinner time lectures on the evils of Fidel, communism, the left and baggy pants. Yes, baggy pants are a communist plot.

Dr. Mario thinks that they might make the announcement on the 20th to compete with Obama.

I think that once Chilean President Bachalet arrives in Cuba, she will get her chance to kiss Castro’s colostomy bag in front of the cameras. And the regime will have fooled those gusanos in Miami on last time.

But that’s a rerun too. And the emotional response the second or third time you see the movie isn’t the same.

And I've seen this movie before.

13 January 2009


Apparently Fidel Castro hasn’t reflected on anything since December 15. And he hasn’t been reflected in a camera lens for even longer.

And not too many people have noticed.

I think if Hugo Chavez hadn’t opened his mouth about the world never being able to see Fidel walking around the countryside in his uniform again, no one would have really noticed.

I certainly didn’t. I did find it odd that his half brother Raúl was traveling around Latin America for the first time since he took over and there weren’t any comments from the colostomy gallery.

But now the speculation about his health and mortality are staring up again.

It’s amazing to see how much Fidel’s star has faded since he took ill.

Unlike his pal Che, who died young, his star burning out fast and bright, Fidel’s is fading.

Which of course reminds of……

My my, hey hey
Rock and roll is here to stay
It's better to burn out
Than to fade away
My my, hey hey.
Out of the blue and into the black
They give you this,
but you pay for that
And once you're gone,
you can never come back
When you're out of the blue
and into the black.
The king is gone but he's not forgotten
This is the story of a johnny rotten
It's better to burn out than it is to rust
The king is gone but he's not forgotten.
Hey hey, my my
Rock and roll can never die
There's more to the picture
Than meets the eye.
Hey hey, my my.

12 January 2009

I had a few good head scratchers last week. No, no tengo piojos.

Cubans are now allowed to build shelters to protect themselves from the elements.

Now, if I were a cynic, I would say that what is really going on here is that the regime sees a money making opportunity. They can take all the construction material donations sent in from foreign countries after the hurricanes and sell them to Cubans at Castro Depot who will pay for them with the $300 a month they get from tia Cuca in Hialeah now and the even more they will get later when President Obama opens up the remittance faucet, as promised, once he takes office.

Or I could say that the regime has finally come to grips with the abject failure of their policies and are giving up trying to provide housing for the Cuban people-as if they ever intended to.

Or I could say that all that building “your little home with whatever you can” is just going to exacerbate Cuba’s third world status by turning it into one big giant shanty town.

But that’s not the kind of guy I am. I’m not that deep.

What I can’t get past is how the media reports the news without admitting just how enslaved Cubans are.

Not only that, they make it sound like allowing humans to build a structure to shelter themselves from the elements with their own money is some kind of grandiose gesture of magnanimous compassion by Generalissimo Raúl Castro!

11 January 2009


So I had a pretty hectic week and though I couldn’t update the blog, I was able to keep up with the “50th Anniversary” of the Revolution through news alert and Babalú.

At what point is a revolution over, anyway? Once you establish a new “order” the revolution is done-over. But they don’t celebrate that moment in Cuba, they celebrate a perpetual revolution that has struggled for 50 years to establish a new order and still hasn’t. I guess because they’re still revolting and according to Generalisimo Raúl they plan to continue revolting for at least another 50 years. Are they revolting against themselves or just revolting for the sake of revolt? I would argue that they are celebrating a perpetual failure, and although it sounds like I may be nit picking the semantics, a matter of linguistics, that is how they win the argument by dictating the words.

At the stroke of midnight every year, I usually revolt everyone by saying “another year down the tubes”. I say that because of the revolt in Cuba in 1959. This year I said “50 years down the tubes” bracing myself for the barrage of revolting hoopla, celebrations and parades.

Surprisingly, the celebrations on the island were pretty moot even by revolting revolutionary standards. I was more like a wake where nobody really liked the stiff. Let us pray.

The international free press, though, had to play homage to the revolting mythical barbudos who brought free education and healthcare to an island, that as they tell it, had one hospital, two schools, a million casinos and a million and one brothels-all run by mobsters and about 250 rich guys, who by the looks of it, owned about 500 ’57 Chevys apiece. That’s why it has taken 50 years to teach everyone how to read and write and set up a state-run HMO-that, and the embargo.

In next fifty years of revolt we will probably see the reintroduction of toilet paper into Cuban society.
Talk about fifty years down the tubes!

01 January 2009

Miami 2009*

So last night, or rather early this morning, I was walking home from a neighbor's house and there were a few house parties still going on.

From somewhere in the dark, came an old melody that made us feel alright-an old Billy Joel song I hadn’t heard in years

It was the song about the lights going out on Broadway. Only, I knew that’s not the name of the song. We knew it had a name that had nothing to do with the lyrics but couldn’t think of it.

I remembered to look it up tonight (What did we ever do before Google?).The name of the song is Miami 2017. That’s only a few miles and 8 years away.

And so here’s the last stanza Miami 2017-with an asterisk like Happy New Year* because it reminds me of Cuba and because I changed one of the words,

Miami 2017*

...You know those lights were bright on El Malecon
That was so many years ago
Before we all lived here in Florida
Before the Mafia took over Mexico
There are not many who rememberT
hey say a handful still survive
To tell the world about
The way the lights went out
And keep the memory alive...

Billy Singing in concert with great pictures of The City: