Fareed Zakaria: No toilet paper in Cuba

Fareed ZakariaOn August 16, 2009, Fareed Zakaria showcased Cuba's toilet paper crisis during his "What in the world?" segment on his Fareed Zakaria GPS Sunday program. Before I left Cuba I well remember when toilet paper stopped being the soft paper we were used to and became something closer to that of a paper bag consistency. Not pleasant to use. Now, years later, we hear that even low quality toilet paper may join the list of scarce items on the island.

In the following video clip, Zakaria tells us that, "the government has warned its citizens in recent days that they are facing a toilet paper shortage...that may last until the end of the year."

It's not as if Cuba had an abundance of toilet paper to begin with. Our family friends, when they travel to Cuba, take their own toilet paper with them...and often have it taken away by Cuban custom officers once they land on the island. For the government to make an announcement that there is going to be shortage of toilet paper just means there will be little or no toilet paper to be had.

Cubans, as Zakaria mentions in the video clip above, are saying this shortage has to do with the global economic crisis. But have you heard of toilet paper shortages in other countries of the world, all of which are also going through hard economic crisis? I agree with Zakaria when he says this latest in a long list of items in short supply in Cuba has to do with Cuba's penchant for hanging on to communism as its form of government. I've transcribed below the 2nd part of Zakaria's comments:

"Just two weeks ago, Raul Castro vowed yet again to keep communism alive in Cuba, to make sure capitalism doesn't return. In a world of flux, I suppose it is comforting to know that some things stay the same. Cuba's disastrous economy would be a joke were it not for the poverty it has perpetuated among millions of Cubans. The whole country is stagnating. Fifty percent of its arable fields are going unfarmed. First and second year college students now work one month out of the year in agriculture. Its insane farm policies lead to frequent shortages of fruit, vegetables and other basic food needs, shortages even more serious than toilet paper. And all those programs that held up for years as successes of the communist revolution, free education for all through college, universal health care, well Raul Castro just announced they're going to have to make cuts in all of these. Meawhile the average Cuban still earns the equivalent of less than $20 per month. Now, capitalism has its problems as we have all seen, but at least we are not running out of toilet paper."
Hasta cuando, Dios mio, how much longer, Dear God, until Cuba once more not only has enough toilet paper, and food, and medicine but also for its citizens to have freedoms we take for granted here in the USA... freedom to be and to think and to dream and to follow our hearts into a future of our own choosing.


The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold

A book I consider to be a "must read" for young and old alike is coming out as a movie this December. The book is The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, and the trailer promises us a movie that will be a good depiction of this Young Adult title.

In The Lovely Bones, Sebold gives us a story of a young girl's life, terminated much too early, at the age of 14, at the hands of a murderer.

We learn this from the very first pages of the story. The trailer shows us that as well. But this is just the beginning of what turns out to be a heartbreaking and compelling read. We feel we must stay with Susie Salmon, the 14-year old protagonist. Her voice and life, even after death, carries us forward. We feel her bliss as she first goes to heaven, and find ourselves urging her on to bring her murderer to justice when she decides this is what she must do.

In order to accomplish her goal, Susie will leave her perfect world in the heaven she finds herself in after she's killed. She'll also have to get her loved ones involved. How and why she does it will keep the reader turning page after page until the very end of the novel. Dreamworks is bringing out the movie version of this novel on December 2009, with Academy Award Winning Director Peter Jackson at the helm. I hope movie goers will be rewarded with the same powerful emotions that the book elicited for its countless readers. Come back and let me know how you like the movie once it comes out. And if you read the book,  also tell me what you thought about it.


GOP members should be more than rabble-rousers

In order to have our voices heard, there is a difference between energizing citizens to get involved and inciting mobs to riot. Obama and his team did the former during this past presidential campaign. GOP members, to their shame, are doing the latter at health care reform town hall meetings. Even worse, they're relishing their actions.

Shame on GOP members for cheering and applauding Congressman Todd Akin of Missouri when he said that, "Different people from Washington, D.C. have come back to their districts and had town hall meetings and they almost got lynched." [from the transcript of the Rachel Maddow show on 8/6/09]. Does this Republican congressman and his audience understand what it is they're saying and applauding? How can Republicans be for disrupting the democratic process of a town hall meeting? Senator John McCain, to his credit, has come out against this type of behavior.

Rachel Maddow said on her August 6th show that, "Public figures have two options when political circumstances reach a point that's somewhere between extreme rhetoric and physical violence. You can condone the threats and then risk being seen as complicit to whatever comes next, or you can step up and be an adult, try to do something to restore civility."

My hope is that Republicans will do just that. That they'll energize GOP members not just to be active participants in the national health care reform conversation but to encourage them to do it constructively. We are better than what's being shown of us on national TV these days. We can and should be coherent in our ideas, our questions, our concerns.

Perhaps the problem lies in the reality that everyday Republicans are not necessarily the ones showing up and disrupting the town hall meetings. In the following clip, Rachel Maddow talks with Chris Hayes, of The Nation, and they comment on the disruptive behavior being shown by Republicans at these meetings. As the clips log-line states, in this clip you'll see Maddow reviewing the history of fake conservative protests.

According to this clip, the current rabble-rousers do not represent the best and highest the Republican party has to offer. It might be good for everyday Republicans to join the national conversation and bring their thoughts, ideas, questions, and concerns to the meetings, rather than allow counter-productive self-serving parties to send their hand-picked representatives to speak on their behalf.


Happy Birthday to Prez Obama despite the birthers

Today is President Obama's birthday. Our 44th president turns 48 today. I find myself singing "Happy Birthday, Prez Obama" and silently wishing him many more birthdays to come. At the same time I have to wonder about the folks Eugene Robinson talks about in his article on The Washington Post, "The Berserk 'Birthers'." The article is about people who still believe that President Obama was not born in the USA and, therefore, is not elegible to be President.

It's easy to want to dismiss the Birthers as some lunatic fringe. The problem with doing this is that, in his article, Robinson tells us that according to Research 2000, "28 percent of Republicans actually think that Obama was not born in the United States and a separate 30 percent are 'not sure'." That's 58% of GOP members. Wow. I've been a GOP member all my life. Lately I've been calling myself "a thinking Republican," in an effort to distance myself from what is surely becoming a lunatic segment in the GOP. How in the world could 58% of Republicans not be sure of Obama's birthplace?

On the Morning Joe video clip above, Robinson says that, "Trying to analyze the "birther" phenomenon would mean taking it seriously, and taking it seriously would be like arguing about the color of unicorns. About all that can be said is that a bunch of lost, confused and frightened people have decided to seek refuge in conspiratorial make-believe. I hope they're harmless. And I hope they seek help."

I agree with Robinson. In Spanish we have a saying that summarizes things and declares the subject is closed, in the same way a period at the end of a sentence closes that thought, that sentence. "Punto y aparte," is what we say, "Period. End of discussion." And after listening to Robinson on Morning Joe, and reading his Washington Post article, punto y aparte is what I say to the whole birthers phenomenon.

On a separate note...and not to take anything away from the seriousness of Robinson's writing...we all know unicorns are white. Don't we? :-)