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Marco Rubio Plays with Cuban Balls

Cuba Highlights (4 of 243)After more than fifty years of shear idiocy, President Obama has taken a giant step toward normalizing relations with Cuba. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has publically opposed the action. He’s definitely got more chutzpa than I could muster even after my fifth Cuba Libre. He actually stands before the cameras and spews his rubbish with a straight face. It’s a performance worthy of an Academy Award or maybe even a seat in the U.S. Senate. He’s not alone. Other two-faced politicians (John McCain for one) have expressed opposition to the move.

“It rewards the oppressive and brutal dictatorial regime of the Castro brothers” sayeth the Rubio types. “We must intensify the embargo so they’ll move toward democracy” intones the straight faced senatorial comedian. “The people of Cuba want the same freedoms we have here and without the embargo, they won’t get them” he says.

His arguments carry a lot of weight with me because I know he stands firm in his conviction that we should not do business with countries that don’t have an appropriate level of freedom and democracy. Oppress your people and you’re not doing business with us. Continue reading

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Tis the Season

Yard-SignsWith the elections nearly upon us, some neighbors have decorated their yards with political signs showing their support for one candidate or another. One neighbor has nearly a dozen different signs encircling her yard. Some people consider them ugly distractions. Others don’t notice they exist. But in my mind, it raises the question: “What is the purpose of putting political signs in your yard?

How many citizens select their candidates on Election Day on the basis of the number of yard signs they’ve seen in the neighborhood? My knee jerk answer is “zero”. If this is how democracy works, maybe there’s a better system.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m inclined to believe they do have an impact.

In some arenas, it is said that any publicity is good publicity. When I went to work for Chevron forty years ago, I was told that if I wanted to move up, I needed to get my name in front of the big guns. They’d soon forget how they got to know my name, but they’d remember my name. I discovered there was more than an element of truth to the saying. I have to wonder how many people are ready to mark their ballots and amidst the flood of names and issues rolling over in their minds, they’re confused about which candidate has most earned their favor. The subconscious mind takes over, remembers the yard sign and inadvertently checks that box. Mission accomplished. Continue reading

Corruption – It Couldn’t Happen Here

San Miguel de Allende (73 of 1220)“There’s too much corruption” said the cab driver. “It’s everywhere. People like me don’t stand a chance.”

We conversed in Spanish as Lalo wound his way through the narrow streets of San Miguel de Allende in the mountains of Central Mexico. Between heavy traffic and an excess of tourist for the holiday weekend, it was apparent we’d have plenty of time for our discussion of the life of a small business person in this beautiful city.

A cab driver in this and other cities in the area rents the cab. He has to put his own gas in the car, wash it and do the minor maintenance. The company takes care of any major repairs. Depending upon the demand for cabs on any given day, Lalo might or might not clear enough to pay the company. It’s in his last hours of work that he gets enough business to feed himself and his family. Lalo works twelve hours per day, six days per week.

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A Source of (American) Embarrassment

San Miguel SunsetWell, here I sit, embarrassed and ashamed. As I pen this missive, I’m enjoying a beautiful day in San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico. My countrymen (from the United States) make me hang my head in shame.

Before you go getting all pissy, let me clarify that not all of my fellow Americans cause me to hang my head. But a big percentage of them wear their arrogance like Easter bonnets, haughty and proud. If only they had earned the right to such arrogance, I could at least understand it, but they haven’t.

Admittedly, I have a slight edge on many of them. Although I’m a native of Michigan, I am fairly fluent in Spanish. I haven’t attained the level of eloquence of an Octavio Paz, but I’m more than comfortable speaking with the locals in their home tongue. My wife, Liz, understands a great deal of the language and can piece together statements when her survival depends upon it, but she still finds herself falling back to English more often than not.

When we walk the streets of San Miguel, we obviously come face-to-face with a great many people. In a crowd, only the deranged attempt to greet everyone on the street. But when more or less alone, when coming face-to-face with someone, even my less than polished Michigan upbringing taught me it is only common courtesy to say “Hello”.

San Miguel de Allende has more gringos than many towns in the American southwest. Like us, many of them wander the streets taking in the sights, sounds and smells of Mexico. The noticeable difference with many of them is that when coming face-to-face with a local, they refuse to speak, even if spoken to. Their stone cold countenances, betray their arrogance. They look away as if eye contact will give them an incurable disease. Somehow, it’s as if their hosts are far below them.

My curiosity began to get the best of me. When I saw what appeared to be an American coming my way, I would load up my smile and say, “Hello. How are you?” Three quarters of them would refuse to respond. They’d do their best to look away and pretend I wasn’t there. After all, I could have been one of those dreaded Mexicans. I have been playing a lot of golf and have a pretty dark color in my cheeks.

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Global Climate Change and the Future of the Domesticated Turkey

pollutionThere’s an old wives’ tale that turkeys are so stupid that when it rains, they’ll look up in fascination with their mouths open and drown. Much to the dismay of old wives everywhere, this is false. The turkey has been given a bad rap in the folk tale channel. The truth is the domesticated turkey isn’t the brightest bird in the barnyard, but it’s not that stupid. You’ve never seen one watching Fox News have you? Case closed.

Unlike the turkey, other animals have been awarded a falsely elevated status where it comes to intelligence. It’s unfair, but once rumor turns into avalanche, there’s just no stopping it. There is no question in my mind that the single animal with the most overrated brain is your common, run-of-the-mill, garden variety homo sapien. Mankind has spent much of its history trying to exterminate itself. If it hasn’t been through warfare, it has been through soiling its own nest. A common house cat has the innate smarts to use kitty-litter and bury its waste. Mankind’s not that smart. The fact is the species isn’t bright enough to save itself.

Looking for evidence for my claim that humans are grossly overrated in the intelligence department? This one seems to be incontrovertible – there are still people who don’t believe we have a serious problem with global climate change. As a scientist, I find this beyond stunning. It amounts to an indictment of the human mental machinery that is without defense. The mere fact that there remains one person on the planet who hasn’t spent the past quarter century living in a cave in Borneo that doesn’t have at least some grasp of the problem proves, “Mankind is too dumb to save himself from his own self-induced calamity.”

The scientific evidence keeps piling up and up and up. But even if someone’s not “scientifically inclined”, how sharp does he have to be to conclude that if a half dozen kids spend an afternoon in a swimming pool, there’s a good chance there’s an element of “pollution” in the mix? With the obvious in every corner, there are those who still cite the claims of their preachers and Foxite talking heads to deny the phenomena exists.

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Election Time

With that season of insanity upon us, with Rick Santorum flitting about uttering some of the most diabolical and divisive rhetoric imaginable, with Romney floundering about trying to  guess what his listeners want to hear (without much success), with Gingrich doing his politcal immitation of Don Rickles, with Ron Paul wandering about like the Mad Hatter, with Super Pacs undermining the strength of a once great nation, maybe it’s time just to look at a pretty picture. After all, there was a dance band on the Titanic.

Six Weeks of Communists, Libertarians, Capitalists and Socialists

I’ll avoid the conclusions; they are for you to reach. I’ll just present the observations. Over a period of six weeks, I spent my time in roughly equal parts in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

Cuba proudly proclaims itself a communist state. For fifty years, it has delighted in being the booger on the lapel of Uncle Sam’s fine and festive coat. Billboards all across the island remind Cubans of their communist and socialist heritage and strength.

The Dominican Republic appears to be as libertarian as any state in our hemisphere. Government regulation is minimal. The regulation that does exist doesn’t seem to be strictly enforced unless it serves to protect the individual rights of those in power. The common man in the D.R. has individual freedom whether he likes it or not.

Puerto Rico is a “possession” of the United States and shares our capitalistic ethos, system of government and economic structure (whether the people want it or not). It is exactly as it is in any other part of the United States except that the climate and geography are completely different, the history and heritage bear little similarity the rest of the U.S., its culture, music, dance, food, etc. are Latin, it is more racially homogenous and the people speak a different language. Other than that, it’s Ames, Iowa all over again.

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