New look coming

please-stand-by

As you’re probably noticing, we’re developing a new look here at Babalu Blog. You can look forward to:

  • A cleaner layout that makes for easier reading
  • A pleasant mobile experience
  • Easier sharing on social media
  • More commie busting commentary and the latest news from Cuba
  • Intransigence as usual
  • New font entitled “homenaje”

Your patience is greatly appreciated.

Don’t waste your time on “Cuban Chrome”

Discovery Channel recently premiered a new series “Cuban Chrome”, a reality show about Cuba’s vintage automobiles and the people who dedicate their lives to preserving them. The show’s claim to fame is that it’s the first American show filmed entirely in Cuba.

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After screening half of an episode there are really no surprises. It’s the typical “now you can see the forbidden land of Cuba” narrative that everyone from Conan to CNN have exploited in the past. How forbidden can it really be if all these people have been going down there and filming for more than two decades? What is really forbidden is showing real Cuban people being repressed by their government.

In any case, the show is the typical weak sauce recipe for reality TV. Actually it’s even weaker as the lack of any real storylines results in such thin drama so as to be laughable. The episode I watched is the story of a guy who wants to restore his Detroit dinosaur so that he can drive tourists around and make more money. The problem is he currently uses the car to drive Cubans around (a less profitable venture) and in order to get it up to snuff for the tourists he has to replace the diesel boat engine that’s been in the car for “decades”. Any downtime will cost him money. In capitalism we call this an “opportunity cost.” He gets a probationary membership in what we’re told is Cuba’s premiere auto club, “A lo Cubano” and hopes to use their resources to restore his car in six months.

The B story is about the president of the auto club who wants his son to succeed him but doesn’t have confidence that his prodigy has enough knowledge about cars yet. I wonder if this is some sort of metaphor for the monarchical succession that the Castro regime is no doubt planning. I mean why wouldn’t an auto club just elect its own damned president?

Along with the pretty pictures of quaint Cuba, we see plenty of the old cars which are really the star of the show. You know, those rolling exhibits demonstrating the superiority of capitalism. The irony is probably lost on most viewers.

The plight of the Cuban auto enthusiasts is heightened by the repeated narrative that parts in Cuba are hard to come by because of the US trade embargo on the island (hey, at least they didn’t call it the regime’s preferred term: blockade). This is, of course, a canard. There are vintage American cars in nearly every country in the world, including countries that Cuba is very close to economically like Brazil and Canada. The real problem is the lack of money to get parts. The narrator helpfully explains that “despite socialism” economic disparity does exist because some Cubans have “rich” relatives abroad that send them money.

And what would a show about Cuba be without regurgitating some of the dictator’s propaganda? Did you know Cuba spends 10% of its budget on education while in the US it’s something like 2%? I wonder who at Discovery verified these regime-supplied numbers. I’m sure they have a staff of economists and social scientists verifying things like this, right?

Even if the proportions are true (which I’m sure they are not) a quick google search turns up this:

The most recent OECD study — from 2014 using 2011 data — shows that the United States spends $12,731 per student on secondary education. Four countries — Austria, Luxembourg, Norway and Switzerland — spend more. Those same countries are also the only ones that spend more than the United States per student on primary schools.

Interesting, I don’t see Cuba up there. I guess the regime’s 10% doesn’t add up to a lot in the real world. But the ironic part of quoting the 10% statistic is that a reasonable person would ask, “If Cuba’s population is so educated why don’t they have good paying jobs that can afford them newer and more reliable cars?”

If you like to look at vintage cars and some beautiful landscapes and aren’t offended by communist propaganda or terrible acting then maybe you’ll find “Cuban Chrome” passable, otherwise don’t waste your time.

Hillary Clinton thinks idea of arresting Castro is a joke

Newly released emails to and from Hillary Clinton during her time as secretary of state reveal that Democrat candidate for president thinks the idea of arresting Fidel Castro is funny.

As a reminder, in 1996 (while Clinton’s husband was President) the Cuban Air Force, under the authority of Fidel and Raul Castro shot down two American civilian aircraft over international waters, killing 4 people (3 of them American citizens).This in addition to known narcotrafficking that the regime has engaged in.

Now on to the emails.

On December 16, 2009 Undersecretary of State Richard Verma sends an email to Secretary Clinton advising her that the hold on a nominee had been removed by George Lemieux, the (then) Republican Senator from Florida. Clinton responds jokingly by saying:

What took them so long? Did you promise your first born?

Verma responds by saying:

Yes, I sold my soul to George Lemieux today. I am not proud of it.

Clinton then answers with doozie:

Does this mean you have to go to Cuba and arrest Castro or just shovel more $ into Little Havana?

So arresting Castro is something to make light of, not something that a serious person would ever consider. Just like “shoveling more $ into Little Havana.

They have ice cream in Cuba!

Michael Totten, blogging at Instapundit, brings us the amazing tale.

WORKER’S PARADISE. Cuba has ice cream. They have a chronic shortage of ice cream, but they do have some ice cream.

A couple of non-gullible journalists went down there with a video camera and recorded the state-run ice cream parlor. The line on a Sunday was two hours long. Only one flavor—strawberry—was available. It costs a little more than two dollars for a scoop. That’s more than ten percent of Cuba’s state-imposed Maximum wage of twenty dollars a month. Such is life when the dictator insists on “socialism or death.”

Note the tourist/journalist didn’t have to wait in the 2-hour line and had a choice of flavors. But hey, why should a Cuban have access to Baskin Robbins and its 31 flavors anyway? Get to Cuba quick before capitalism destroys the quaintness.

All in for Marco Rubio

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It’s a great day in South Florida. This evening, Marco Rubio will announce officially that he is running for president. Here at Babalu Blog we have never been shy about supporting Rubio in his elections and this one will be no different. As former editor I can’t speak officially for Babalu but I know that Alberto and Val are just as fond of Marco as I am. Yes, Marco is Cuban-American but that’s not why we like him. Identity politics is for fools.

Marco is articulate, charismatic, substantive, and conservative. Yes, the fact that he’s one of us makes us warm and fuzzy inside but Marco has proven that he can draw from a pool of voters far deeper than “intransigent right-wing Cuban exiles and their descendants” (of which I’m proud to be).

It’s worth taking a trip back in time to some major milestones of Marco’s as covered here at Babalu Blog.

Orgullo” as Marco was set to become Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives in 2005.

All politics are local… Marco held a town hall meeting in Coconut Grove back in 2007 in which he proposed doing away with Florida’s property tax on primary residences. This was the first time I saw him speak in person. The proposal passed the House but not the Senate. But in the process Marco demonstrated instincts for detecting what the real problems facing voters are and proposing innovative solutions.

Must See video In May of 2008 Marco Rubio was the warm-up speaker at Cuban American National Foundation luncheon where Democratic candidate for President, Senator Barack Obama, was the headliner. Watch Marco completely upstage Obama in the best 4 minutes and 45 seconds of video you will watch today. This speech galvanized our support Rubio when it comes to the issue of Cuba.

Why the editors of Babalu Blog endorse Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate In May of 2009 we formally endorsed Marco in his Senate run against Charlie Crist. This was at a time when Rubio was nowhere in the polls. We knew Marco had the goods.

A prediction Val calls it early. In January of 2010 to be exact. Marco eventually ran Crist out of the party.

Senator Elect Marco Rubio Val can’t contain himself and tells us the story of Edward Carrington and his famous words “LET ME BE BURIED ON THIS SPOT!”

Rubio for President in 2012 This was March of 2011. Of course I was delusional. But my frustration with the GOP field in 2012 and their inability to properly characterize the destructive nature of the Obama administration had me reaching for straws.

Well, here we are three years later. Stay tuned to Babalu. Much more to come!

Calling BS on Netflix and their fake Cuba announcement

I’ve written a piece for PJ Media about Monday’s announcement by Netflix that they will be offering streaming TV service to Cubans. Here’s a taste:

The Netflix/Cuba Announcement: Pure Propaganda
The good PR for Netflix feeds the false narrative of progress that ends up harming Cubans.

On Monday morning, Netflix put out a press release announcing Cubans would now have access to their streaming TV service. The press release was heavy on puffery and promises, but light on details. Yet most of the press dutifully repeated the headline.

Some accounts did at least acknowledge that the actual audience for Netflix in Cuba is, well … limited.

You see, in order to watch Netflix you need a device and a broadband Internet connection capable of handling streaming video. In the U.S. one can walk into a McDonald’s restaurant with a basic smartphone and have access to such a connection. Many of the media stories about the Netflix announcement state that in Cuba it is estimated that only 5% of the citizens have access to the internet that you and I can view, a number that is almost certainly a gross overestimate when it comes to a potential audience for Netflix.

The 5% number stems from a Freedom House report that includes any kind of Internet access, including expensive, black market, and slow access.

Yet the International Telecommunications Union estimates that in 2014 there were about .04 fixed broadband subscriptions for every 100 inhabitants of Cuba. That’s not 5%, that’s less than half of 1%.

Cuba’s population is 11 million — that translates into a total universe of potential Netflix subscribers that is perhaps 44,000.

On the infrastructure end, Netflix notably has had its issues about bandwidth with U.S.-based Internet service providers, complaining that its users are often getting a “poor customer experience.” I wonder which of the Castro brothers Netflix CEO Reed Hastings will complain to when the handful of Cuban subscribers complain of slow speeds. Or will it be their henchman Comandante Ramiro Valdes who, as minister of communications and informatics, once said that the Internet “is a wild colt that needs to be tamed”?

Continue reading at PJ Media.

It’s 2016 already

The calendar says it’s January 27, 2015 but there are many other signs that 2016 is upon us. Of course I’m referring to the Presidential election that’s still a good 22 months away. Perhaps a little early still but I figure it’s fair game since Obama (when he’s not busy making decisions to actively harm the country) has already mentally checked out.

It should come as no surprise that I am backing Marco Rubio’s nascent presidential campaign. It you’re a long time reader of this blog then you know we’ve followed Marco’s career from pretty much the very beginning.

We posted about Marco when he was elected Speaker of the Florida House back in 2005.

We posted about him in 2008 when he gave a phenomenal speech about Cuba and upstaged Senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama.

We supported him from the beginning of his Senatorial campaign when nobody gave him a chance.

And we rejoiced when won and in the process rid the Republican Party of Charlie Crist.

There many other moments I could add but I can tell you that since the first time I heard him speak at Ransom Everglades School (the subject was property taxes) I recognized that he is a no-nonsense conservative with vision for this country that was very reminiscent of Ronald Reagan. An articulate and polished speaker but with a substance beneath it that President Obama would kill for.

So we’re here and we’re ready for Rubio 2016. Tighten your seat belts, Babalu readers.

Exclusive: Rubio Says 2016 Decision Coming By Spring
Jan 27, 2015 5:45 AM EST
During a triumphant weekend, the Florida Republican shows why he should be taken seriously as a presidential contender.

President Obama Delivers State Of The Union Address

While hundreds of his supporters milled around a ritzy art deco hotel in Miami Beach on Saturday, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio lunched with his closest allies in a small conference room where he provided a detailed glimpse at how he’d approach the earliest stages of a presidential campaign. A day later, Rubio gave a commanding performance in California beside two potential rivals for the White House that showcased his ability to stand out in what may be a very crowded Republican field.

It made for a very good weekend for Florida’s junior senator, who is pushing ahead with plans for a White House run despite conventional political wisdom that has twice written him off. And Rubio’s backers are sounding increasingly optimistic about the future.

“There’s a lot of positive momentum right now,” said Scott Weaver, the co-chairman of Rubio’s steering committee in Washington. “Whether they’re in Florida, or in Palm Springs, or in Arkansas, people are really interested in his vision for the country.”

Read the rest at Bloomberg.

What to expect when you’re expecting an HDP to die

With rumors once again circulating that fidel “hijo de puta” castro is dead I thought it important to temper our expectations about how the news media will cover it, when in fact it does happen.

The first thing people need to understand is that media has never been interested in covering what really happens in Cuba. Despite the fact that Cuba has more foreign news bureaus than any other Latin American country, no real news gets reported. This is because the media censors itself to avoid having those bureaus closed. Why have a bureau if you can’t report the news? Because you are waiting for the “big” story. You want to be on the ground to cover it. The big story in this case is the death of fidel “hijo de puta” castro. I documented this extensively for PJ Media. I expect that funeral and post-death coverage won’t be much different than what we’ve become accustomed to.

The second clue as to how the media will cover the death of fidel “hijo de puta” castro is a leaked CNN memo from 2008 when “fidel is dead” rumors were out there. This memo was sent to key CNN staff with “guidance” on how to talk about fidel “hijo de puta” castro:

From: Flexner, Allison
Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2008 7:46 AM
To: *CNN Superdesk (TBS)
Cc: Neill, Morgan; Darlington, Shasta
Subject: Castro guidance

Some points on Castro – for adding to our anchor reads/reporting:

* Please say in our reporting that Castro stepped down in a letter he wrote to Granma (the communist party daily), as opposed to in a letter attributed to Fidel Castro.
We have no reason to doubt he wrote his resignation letter, he has penned numerous articles over the past year and a half.

* Please note Fidel did bring social reforms to Cuba – namely free education and universal health care, and racial integration.
in addition to being criticized for oppressing human rights and freedom of speech.

* Also the Cuban government blames a lot of Cuba’s economic problems on the US embargo, and while
that has caused some difficulties, (far less so than the collapse of the Soviet Union) the bulk of Cuba’s
economic problems are due to Cuba’s failed economic polices. Some analysts would say the US embargo
was a benefit to Castro politically – something to blame problems on, by what the Cubans call
“the imperialist,” meddling in their affairs.

* While despised by some, he is seen as a revolutionary hero, especially with leftist in Latin America, for standing up to the United States.

Any questions, please call the international desk.

Allison

Because unfortunately most of the media are unoriginal herd beasts I expect the coverage will be very similar to that of CNN (castro news network).

That said, I can guarantee that there will be at least one honest obituary. I know because I wrote it, for PJ Media several years ago. It’s in their file, waiting to be published. I will actually be paid at that time so I’ll have more than one reason to celebrate the death of fidel “hijo de puta” castro.

Cuba’s dissidents and the new normal

As Professor Carlos Eire recently pointed out to NPR, most of the dissidents in Cuba feel betrayed by President Obama’s recent announcement regarding Cuba policy. Truth be told, however, most of these same dissidents, with a few notable exceptions, had previously made statements against the embargo and US non-recognition of Cuba’s government. Many of the the high-profile critics of the castro regime almost unanimously favored “normalization” between the two countries.

It becomes clear that once the clashing cymbals of the news media heralding the new era of relations between the two countries quiets down, as if often the case with announcements made by this president, the reality of “normal” begins to set in. Things in Cuba are already back to “normal” and the repression continues, except now the one country that marginally said anything about it will be silent for the sake of normalcy.

Moving forward these dissidents must accept that, in the eyes of US policy, being arrested and imprisoned for expressing opposition to the dictator of Cuba is considered normal. That being paid $20 a month by the Cuban state for work that would be much more valuable in a free market is normal. That the arbitrary enforcement of laws which keeps the citizenry constantly off-balance is normal.

To me it’s almost as if these people hadn’t thought their positions out to their logical conclusions. It is difficult for me to criticize the people who are brave enough to openly defy the castro brothers but it should serve as a reminder to all of us about one of the most important life lessons we hear from the time we are children, “be careful what you wish for.”

If these dissidents were literally and figuratively on an island before, well now they are on another planet. We here at Babalu have always been clear-eyed about what “normalization” means. We’ve written millions of words, read by millions of readers, trying to do the impossible in a war of words against the nation’s left wing media, starting with the despicable New York Times but also including CNN, NBC, ABC and CBS.

Tonight Barack Obama will sleep in his comfortable bed, as normal. The journalists who have been actively amplifying the calls for these changes will set their alarm clocks to go to work in the morning as normal. And Cuba’s people will sleep without hope of the new era they were promised. Everything will be back to normal.

Polls about policy toward Cuba.

This morning I was greeted by a news story stating that 64% of Americans back the establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. My first thought was what percentage of those have ever had a spontaneous thought about Cuba much less studied the matter to form an opinion?

Over at Hot Air Noah Rothman tackles this exact issue. Here’s the money quote that stood out to me:

“…That is just one element that serves to demonstrate how thoroughly the national political press has failed to educate the public on the issues relating to Cuban-American relations. If you are not self-educated on the myriad obstacles preventing the immediate normalization of relations between these two countries, you could be forgiven for thinking that America’s present policy toward Cuba is arbitrary and unthinking. The fact that the press prefers this oversimplified narrative is evident in that that so many appear to share it.”

Read the whole thing HERE.

My prescience will be proven…

Almost five years ago I wrote a piece for this here blog predicting what would happen if the US unilaterally changed course on Cuba policy. Very soon you will be amazed by my ability to see the future. Am I psychic? Hardly. I’m awake and paying attention.

Visions of a post-embargo Cuba
By Henry Louis Gomez, on February 25, 2010, at 10:38 am

It seems that the U.S. trade embargo on Cuba is the constant thread of the narrative here at Babalu Blog and wherever the issue of Cuba and its dictatorship is discussed. It feels like every day someone new comes along and says, “well it hasn’t worked in fifty years so isn’t time to try something new?” The purpose of this post is not to discuss the origins or intent of the embargo, we’ve discussed that ad nauseam, but rather to look into our crystal ball and see what a post-embargo Cuba would look like without the regime first making any significant changes to its economic and political systems. In other words, giving the castro brothers exactly what they have been asking for since the Soviet Union collapsed.

Tourism
The first implication of lifting the embargo is that Cuba will be legally open to U.S. tourists for the first time in half a century. Now it’s interesting to ponder the fact that the castro regime’s creation myth begins with Cuba as a tourist playground for wealthy Americans who frolicked on Cuba’s beaches and gambled at tables of Cuba’s casinos while a dictator oppressed the Cuban people during the 1950s. Certainly it was not U.S. tourists that “liberated” Cuba from Batista. But now somehow American tourists possess some magical power to bring about change, at least that’s what embargo opponents would have you believe.

So what would a Cuba full of American tourists look like? Not too different than Cuba today. How can I say that with such certainty? Well because Cuba plays host to more than 2.3 million international tourists annually today, far more than ever went to Cuba during the 50s. The fact is that hotel capacity is currently limited to about 2.5 million visitors per year so the influx of American tourists will only increase the total number of visitors marginally. What it will do however is drive the price of hotel room nights up as demand temporarily outstrips supply.

So you’ll have a few more tourists visiting Cuba with all of them paying a premium to do it. What will they do there? Well certainly they’ll be staying at all-inclusive resorts like this one where the employees are selected by the regime and paid a fixed wage of roughly $20 a month by law. They’ll also be taking “cultural tours” like this one and enjoying the Jet Skiis and motorboats. They’ll be photographing all of the pre-castro landmarks (because nobody ever comes back from Cuba showing off their snapshots of Soviet Era apartment blocks) and getting drunk. The point here is that all of this already taking place yet the much ballyhooed people-to-people exchanges have not resulted in any significant change in the day-to-day lives of the Cuban people.

Additionally, American tourists will find Cuba’s resorts and hotels to be substandard when compared with other Caribbean destinations. At least that’s what Canadian and European tourists have found. They shouldn’t be surprised that facilities are not maintained and service is shoddy, after all it is a communist dictatorship.

Continue reading HERE.