Archive for December, 2007

I don’t really need to explain my opposition to the illegal Cuban blockade to most readers here I am sure.  There are a great many reasons over a great period of time that go to expose the USA government’s double standards and hypocrisy,  some are more baffling than others but none more so perhaps in terms of petulance at the very least than the embargo preventing Cuba from being able to play in its first international cricket tournament.  

The basic situation is that since the tournament is funded by an American businessman, Allen Stanford (a Texan billionaire) he must seek approval from the US government in order to obtain “permission” to enter into a commercial arrangement with Cuba.  This permission was denied by the US government on Tuesday. Leaving aside the fact that the US government must still be smarting from its humiliating baseball defeats to the Cubans and consequently have probably been looking for an opportunity to get their own back for ages, one is struck by the ludicrous futility of such an action.  It is hardly likely to keep Raúl Castro awake at nights the fact that his flanneled boys will not be able to take the field against the other Caribbean island nations in Antigua in January.  In fact the only ones it is likely to effect is the Cubans who might be in the squad to play and the growth of the sport in Cuban schools.  It is of course possible that the US government think that cricket, rather than being a sport, is some elaborate oil agreement…  In truth this is likely to be a way for the US to derail Cuban attempts to be more allied and affiliated with other Caribbean nations, Cuba became an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council in 2002.  

Such a move would further entrench the Cuban move away from a more US-centric and dominated way of life something that the emigrées in Miami are likely to feel most strongly about. Initially cricket development was slow in Cuba (there was a history of games in the early 20th century brought by workers in the sugar industry but it had largely died out in recent times up to the early 1990’s) partially because with it not being an Olympic sport there was not the chance to play and humiliate the US as had been done with baseball, however support came from covert Alberto Juantorena, the former double gold-medallist at 400m and 800m, and now Leona Ford, a Babajan, is now President of the Commission of Rescue and Development of Cricket in Cuba, and now enjoys the support of the state sports ministry. There are now around 500 players including those in Havana and this easily outnumbers Bermuda who recently participated in the ICC World Cup. Cricket is being taught in 13 of Cuba’s 15 provinces and more than 20 teams took part in a national under-15 tournament in 2006, former Indian One-day all rounder Robin Singh, himself Caribbean-born, travelled to Cuba in 2007 forming a coaching team to train young players.

Cuban regime critics have noted that there is prize money at stake in the Stanford 20/20 competition as if this somehow exonerates the US government’s ridiculous decision. However they of course make no mention that in October this year the UN voted for the 16th successive year to recommend that the US stops its blockade of Cuba. The vote was 184 to 4 against with one abstention. The 4 votes were the US, Israel, Palau and the Marshal Islands with the abstention being Micronesia. Interestingly Palau, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands all obtained independence from US-administered UN protectorates and have since signed a Compact of Free Association. In 2003, the Compacts between the RMI and FSM were renewed for 20 years (Palau’s does not expire until 2009) and this provided US$3.5 billion in funding for both nations. This is a useful gauge to tell us exactly what the purchasable value of a UN vote is. [The combined population of these 3 territories is 191,305, add this to the estimated 303,018,000 in the US and 7,184,000 in Israel to get 310,393,305. Naturally this would not compare favourably with the population of all the countries against the blockade which stands at 6,360,832,695 but I’m no expert in democracy, and neither, clearly is the US government!] (If you’re interested the $3.5billion equates to a subsidy of $20,532 per person in the 2 territories but one must conceivably offset the fact that the area in the Marshall Islands was where the US tested its largest atomic weaponry.)

According to the Daily Telegraph (which must find itself in something of a quandry here!) Cuban cricketers are, like most converts from baseball, exceptional fielders and catchers, but have a tendency to bend the arm when bowling, drop their bats when running and cannot quite get the hang of the extra-cover drive! As a long-standing advocat and practitioner of the extra-cover drive I find that once again my support is for the Cubans in their endeavours against the evil Yanqui.

Song Of The Day ~ Pink Floyd – High Hopes



Look – I got a ROAR courtesy of Genosse Haddock .  I was touched and pleased, I mean no-one expects a puse lion do they?!.  No matter how one might talk of the integrity of not writing for others and staying true to what I’m here for it is always very moving to know that there are others who read what I have written whether or not they agree with what I say. I believe the convention is to give 3 tips on writing from one’s own perspective and then to nominate 3 other writers of note that deserve such an award.  The latter is a relatively simple affair in all but narrowing down to just 3, I have been blessed to find many writers out there with unique styles and perspectives.  The former is a little more presumptuous I cannot tell others how to write only that they should do so.  In my view the internet has become the potential to realise Walther Benjamin’s vision of the democratisation of the media that he originally perceived for film.  There will always be dross but that pervades any media and is of course a very subjective concept.  The fact is that now more than ever this medium is, as has been pointed out by Sister Spikey Mace, the Fourth Estate whether one chooses to see oneself more as the Fifth Column or not. The hegemony of the modern media and politics is so all-pervasive that it is attempting to be entirely prescriptive of public opinion rather than in any way representative of it. This is something that we few here have the chance to show, if our voices reache another one then the job has been worthwhile. “Write it damn you, what else are you good for?”– James Joyce.

  • 1. Write what you want to write and not what you feel will appeal to others.  If you are true to yourself you will not worry about the approval of others and this would be an added bonus should it come.  In the words of WH Auden who knew a bit about writing. “Some writers confuse authenticity which they should always strive for with originality which they shouldn’t bother about.
  • 2. Write about something you are interested in, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know a great deal about it provided you are willing to learn.  You may find your opinions tested and this is the only way for any of us to ascertain whether what we believe is correct.
  • 3. Keep writing, if you are writing for yourself and what you believe in then at the very least what you leave behind is a monologue of personal progression.  However it may end up being something of great note such of still much missed friend and comrade the great Cass Brown.

As regards those I have come across and read and even to an extent admire there are many but a core of whom I would regularly be interested in reading. Of those 3 I believe the following would be worthy of note in addition to my urging readers to look at the many others on the list who turn out pieces of merit day after day andAs for my fellow scribes I have cogitated long and hard, because one is always going to offend someone! I have decided to go for my 3 on the grounds of their content alone and not simply because they are mates. Ok they are mates but that’s not the point I have other mates who write too!

  • 1. Rayts of The Phillipines – Rayts offers a really quite aesthetically touching blog from the Eastern regions. The quality of her photography is easy to see and she has that eye that can make an interesting subject out of the mundane. It is a gift and as someone who doesn’t have that gift I have learnt to appreciate those who have it. (Not without a good deal of jealousy on the way!). Rayts’ blog has archives of pictures that you can browse back through and look at all day, lovely composition and suffused with colour. I offer it as something for people to do in order to appreciate beauty again, it’s so easy to become lost in the ephemera of the mundane.
  • 2. Big John – Now the Big Man has been honoured before in his appearance in The Guardian so I know the fame of another award won’t go to his head! I like John’s blog because it is well-written and regularly updated, I only have to go away for a few days and there’s a plethora of stuff to catch up on. To my mind John’s blog is the very epitome of what diary blogging is about. There is no pretension or presumption it is the view of someone who has observed much and shares his opinion which is often insightful, usually humorous and quite frequently irreverent.
  • 3. Craig Murray – Ok Craig Murray isn’t a mate, but I have met him at a pre- G8 protest meeting in Edinburgh in 2005 and a very nice chap he is too. For those not in the know Craig was the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan and stood up for the dispossessed and disenfranchised in the country and the region rather than cow-towing to the politics of the US and UK government who had earmarked Uzbekistan as a useful ally and place to build airbases for forays into the Middle East. Craig is a courageous man of great integrity and principle and I admire him. I do not agree with all of his politics Craig is more what I would call a liberal in the not insulting sense(!) but I respect his views enormously and having the conviction of standing up for them no matter what the personal cost. I recommend people consider buying his book Murder In Samarkand which is excellent and sort of like an embedded John Pilger.

So that’s that then. I hope this may spur me on to at least attempt to write more often, I do have a number of things in draft, I have not gone soft in my old age but through a combination of lethargy and codeine-induced hazes brought about by abject back pain my writing has not been of the frequency I would desire.  I will do my best to rectify this parlous state of affairs.

Song Of The Day ~ Ghosts – The World Is Outside