Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Castro steps down

Wise comments from Dave Osler, a British leftist who spent time in Cuba last year

Stay in one of the five star hotels, and Cuba is a fabulous place for a holiday. Sit down by that swimming pool and bask in the Caribbean sunshine, light up a cigar from beyond the wilder shores of Freudian symbolism and knock back cocktails blended from the finest rum on earth. And if it’s nightlife you want, there’s hot jazz and salsa clubs that stay open until four am. That’s on the weeknights. Convertible pesos only, of course.

But for most ordinary Cubans, life is pretty damn grim. I saw that for myself two years ago, when I spent four weeks in an ordinary home in Havana while studying Spanish. Even such basic foodstuffs as rice are rationed. Water supplies are sporadic, and power cuts regular occurrences. The housing stock is badly run down. Many everyday items are simply unobtainable.

Yes, of course the US blockade and the economic effects of the collapse of the USSR are part - although by no means all - of the explanation. But there is no getting away from the conclusion that Cuban society is deeply polarised.

Beyond a layer of older people who lived through the revolution in the late fifties, there are few strong supporters of the government. The younger a person is - and the darker the colour of their skin - the more likely they are to be hostile. Many of those at the sharp end of the multiple hardships would rather be living in Miami, and don’t think twice about saying that to a foreign journalist.

David Corn on the Mother Jones blog

Please, no tears for Comrade Castro, as he finally gives up power in Cuba. It's a good thing he's going. But his departure has taken far too long (in fact, decades too long) and, alas, in all that time he did little to ease the transition to the free society that Cuba will eventually be. His exit leaves Cuba a repressive state and a nation not prepared for the future.
Sam Farber, in an interview last year in Solidarity, detailed the indications that after Fidel Castro's death Cuba may follow the path towards the world capitalist market initiated by Deng Xiaoping in China.

Farber reported that Raul Castro (Fidel's presumed successor) has praised the "Chinese model", and notes "the role of the Cuban army, Raul's stronghold, as a big player in joint enterprises, including the tourist industry."

Message of the Kansas Caucuses

Everybody knows that Barack Obamma and Mike Huckabee were the big winners in the Kansas caucuses last week, but there were some other winners and losers.

Big losers were citizens of Kansas who were denied the opportunity to vote in a primary. Secretary of State Ron Thornburg estimated that 800,000 would have voted in a primary. That's 20 times that number that took part in the caucuses. The projected cost to taxpayers was a measly $ 2 million.

Looking at the caucus data shows that Democrats may have been big winners and Republicans big losers.

Nearly twice as many Democrats as Republicans caucused in Kansas--and the Democrats did it on a weekday night in the middle of a snowstorm instead of a warm-for- winter Saturday morning.

In raw numbers that was 37,089 Democrats versus 19,432 Republicans. The State GOP had predicted a turnout of 35,000. State Senator Phil Journey, a leader in the Republican right-wing went even further saying he expected a turnout of 50,000. This may have been more spin than real expectations; some caucus sites were overwhelmed and said they had many more than expected.

The contrast is even more striking when compared to party registration. 8.4 percent of Demorats participated as compared to 2.6 percent of Republicans. That's 1 of 12 Democrats and 1 of 38 Republicans.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Blog humor

Every once in a while, I stumble across some humorous posts on blogs. Here's some recent one's

Taner Edis writes a "cynic's guide to academic departments" on Secular Outpost

The Official Judeosphere Drinking Game (TM)

Requirements: A bottle of your favorite libation


Drink one shot whenever...

• An opinion piece opens with the declaration, “You can’t criticize Israel without being accused of anti-semitism” (Note: Drink a second shot when the rest of the article inevitably degenerates into anti-semitism)

• Someone mentions the “cover-up” of the attack on the USS Liberty

• An author of a best-selling book criticizing Israel says that it’s impossible to publish a book or article criticizing Israel

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bigotry in Kansas athletics

It's no longer our state Board of Education which is giving Kansas a black eye, now it's our sports teams which are giving the state a bad reputation.

First, a "traditionalist Catholic" high school refuses to play if a women serves as referee. ("Traditionalist Catholics" regard the Catholic Church as having gone the wrong track ever since Vatican II.)

Then, the winning basketball coach at Heston College, a small Mennonite college, is reportedly told that his team with seven African American players looks "too much like a community college team and not enough like a Mennonite college team." The coach is told his contract won't be renewed. There are 14 African American students among the 430 at Heston.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cain's Ballroom celebrates Bob Wills birthday

This is great. Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa has two special shows on Feb 29 and March 1 to celebrate Bob Wills birthday. Cains was--and is--known as the home of Bob Wills. His actual birthday was March 6.

Bob Wills is one of the giants of American music. Not quite the creator of Western swing, but certainly its most prominent and enduring pioneer.

I just recently got the 2-CD set Boot Hill Drag: the MGM Years. This 50 track set from 1947-1954 is really great stuff, though not rated his best.

And, if you can't make the drive to Tulsa, Ray Price, who kept Western Swing alive and evolving, though sometimes straying to other styles, will be at Wichita's Cotillion on April April 18. I don't know much about Price's shows. He's one of the great singers in American--not just country--music--so it ought to be very worthwhile.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Kansas Caucus Report

Wow. It was an amazing evening. Turnout at my caucus was about six times the 2004 turnout. And this was with very bad weather. The picture to the right is at the end of the night. It was this bad when the evening began. My candidate John Edwards dropped out of the race before Super Tuesday. I decided to go to the caucus anyway, even though I haven't yet been persuaded to back either Hillary or Barack.

Four years ago, on a Saturday afternoon, there were about 80 people who turned out for the 28th Senate District caucus. It was held at a mid-sized church. This year, our caucus was moved to the Machinist Hall on south Meridian.

And good thing it was. There were 502 people registered to participate. There were a handful of die-hard Edwards supporters--and some other folks I know who told me the had been Edwards supporters but had decided to caucus with one of the big candidates.

We had a very close caucus 253 Barack 249 Clinton (if I wrote it down correctly). Barack got 4 delegates to the next level, and Clinton got three.