Another Winter's Day in Havana, 1-6-2003

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Mon Jan 6 05:55:55 MST 2003

by Walter Lippmann, CubaNews moderator

It's still winter here in Havana, Cuba, just as
it was yesterday, but the weather here varies
widely and (at least to me) unpredictably and
so, while at this hour yesterday I was here at
my computer shivering with cold, it's now a
nice moderate temperature today: 58 degrees
Fahrenheit. To me this is completely perfect.

One of the many ways Cuba differs from the
US is that it uses the more internationally
familiar Centigrade system for temperatures.
(But they use pounds at the agro-pecuarios
to measure food weights.)

Many readers have written in to me to say how
much they enjoyed my essay yesterday called
"A Perfect Wintry Day in Havana". Check it out:

Yesterday I took another early morning walk as
has been my practice here in Havana, and I'm
here to recommend Havana, perhaps the safest
big city on the planet, for such exercises.

Anyway, I took another long walk and went over
to the big bus terminal also located not far from
the Plaza of the Revolution. At 7:30 AM there
were hundreds of people lined up waiting to get
on the various inter-provincial buses, which were
lumbering out of the station. The depot has one
of the most beautiful murals in the area, with a
large political theme of people marching in the
struggle against the Batista dictatorship. I've
got pictures of that mural, but the mural is so
wide it wasn't possible to get it all into a single
image due to the perspective limitations of my
camera. (Most of the rest of the station does
NOT have lots of heavy political posters.)

The Cubans were lined up for peso buses
which are within the economic range of many
Cubans. I haven't used them, but the looked
comfortable from the outside. Foreigners like
myself have a more expensive (though not at
all VERY expensive) ViaAzul buses which
depart from the same terminal. Those are
fully modern buses with air conditioning and
bathrooms. (They are rather better than the
uncomfortable charter bus I rode on going
form Los Angeles to San Francisco for the
October 26th anti-war mobilization.)

Newspapers here can be difficult to come
by. Home delivery exists for those who have
a paid subscription, but the papers sometimes
come tightly rolled up about the thickness of a
cigar. Some papers are delivered by hand by
the letter carrier. Early in the morning, about
this time, you often see older people lining
up at newsstands to purchase the papers.

Retired people who are surviving on Cuban
pensions, which can be extremely low, will
sometimes purchase bundles of these
papers for 20 centavos each and then they
resell them for a peso (or more) if people are
inclined to give more. While I've never seen
what appears to me a homeless person in
Cuba, I do see people who look to be in
extremely difficult economic straits. The man
who was selling the papers at the bus station
yesterday only had one shoe on and over
his shirt was a blanket as he didn't evidently
have a jacket...

Some of these papers (Granma is an eight-
page - two sheets folded over - tabloid),
published six days a week. Then Juventud
Rebelde is published on alternative days.
JR is an eight-pager during the week and
a 12-pager on weekends when it also has
the television and movie program listings.
And there are many more newspapers
and magazines published here, all very,
very, very inexpensively.

These Cuban papers have all sorts of
coverage. It's not all political speeches
and documents. You'd be amazed at the
array of publications here for very low
prices. Consider this for example:

Juventud Rebelde even has sex advice
columns, some written by psychologists
and some that I've seen by David Reuben,
the author of "Any Woman Can" and other
titles along those lines. I don't know and
don't imagine Reuben is a columnist for
Juventud Rebelde, but they must thing
he has good advice which interested
individuals would want to read.

Then Trabajadores, the newspaper of the
CTC, the Cuban Trade Union Federation,
is weekly which comes out weekly and is
the most attractively laid-out paper of all.

It's a sixteen-pager, but also is sold for
only 20 centavos, which is the equivalent
of well under ONE U.S. PENNY. (I say
this because we're always reading in the
dominant corporate media about how
Cuban salaries are only $10-$20 US

The rest of my day yesterday was spent
quietly at home. Friends came to visit
and talk a bit. One asked me to print up
some pictures from the quinceanara of
the daughter of friends) on my Epson

In the evening, two of the three Cuban TV
channels featured Fidel Castro's address
opening a new school for higher education
in the Guanabacoa suburb of the city. This
talk took the place of the Mesa Redonda.

It's indeed inspring to see the leader of the
Cuban Revolution (a 76-year-old man whose
energy level I can only envy as a mere boy
at age 59 years) standing up before a large
audience discussing the issues of public
education in a socialist society. You know
Fidel speaks from written texts occasionally
and extemporaneously at others, but he
most always stands up, doesn't drink water
and never fumbles or misses a word. I can't
say I sit and listen to every word, but it's
quite a sight to see...

The main evening news cast (8 PM) followed.
Highlights included the murder of two Chavistas
in Caracas and the combative response to the
attacks by Venezuelan Vice-President Jose
Vicente Rangel. A feature on women in Cuban
society followed, in which a young woman from
the UJC (the Young Communists Union) was
interviewed on these issues, featuring the role
of women in teaching. (As you may be aware,
Cuba has achieved the incredible level of
having a 20-1 student-teacher ratio, a level
only dreamed of in many US classrooms.

To accomplish this, Cuba has had to recruit
some extremely young teenagers, some as
young as sixteen, to do this work. They are
called "Newly Emerging Teachers" which is
a way of distinguishing them from teachers
with long years of classroom experience here.

Finally, the news reported on the murder of
Conrado Benitez, a fifteen-year-old literacy
teacher, by the rightist opposition here in
Cuba in 1961. This has long been a theme
of Cuban public education showing how
highly the Revolution regards its teachers.

You can read more about Conrado Benitez
at the Ocean Press website. Ocean is one of
the leading publishers of books on Cuba here:

And finally, before I go off for my walk...

On my laptop I've been listening to WBAI
in New York City, my favorite of the Pacifica
stations whose morning show I often listen to
here through the miracle of the internet where
Bernard White is at the microphone. You can
listen to WBAI anywhere on the planet and
you should. At the moment I'm hearing about
police brutality on the morning show, a great
magazine show

By the way, did you know that Don Rojas,
who was formerly the spokesperson for the
President of Grenada, Maurice Bishop, back
during the days of the New Jewel Movement,
is now the General Manager of the station?
Listen to WBAI through the internet if you're
not in New York City where it's 99.5 FM.

This HAS to be the best news in the world
of electronic media since the rescue of the
Pacifica Radio Network from those who
were dumbing it down to an amateurish
imitation of NPR (Nearly Private Radio).

Rojas obviously continues to have the
same politics he did when working for the
Grenadian government so we can be very
hopeful for the electronic opening which
WBAI represents.

Viva BAI! Viva Rojas!

On the internet, you can listen to WBAI on
Real Audio at

Until next time, have a great day (AFTER
you read Don Rojas's inspiring speech!)

Walter Lippmann, Moderator, CubaNews

Don Rojas' address to the listeners of WBAI:

An Address to the Listeners of WBAI by General Manager Don

Sisters and Brothers of the WBAI family.

I am humbled and honored for having been chosen to lead WBAI
as its next general manager. To all who supported my
candidacy I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude.

 The selection of a new GM was, indeed, a long and tedious
process but it was, nonetheless, a necessary exercise in
participatory democracy and institutional transparency,
particularly in the wake of the recent crises at WBAI and
other Pacifica stations. Those crises are now behind us and
we are moving forward with new energy, momentum,
determination and renewed resolve.

 My first order of business today is to salute all of you in
the WBAI listener community for your past and present
contributions to this station and for your commitment to the
mission of the Pacifica Network. The valiant activism that
many of you in the listening community exhibited in recent
times helped rescue WBAI from impending peril two years ago.
Your energy and dedication, personal sacrifices and
unquenchable passion guaranteed that the station would be
returned to its founding principles and to its historical
mission. As we move forward in the New Year, I would hope
that our loyal listeners can once again muster the same
levels of passion and energy that would be required to
tackle the many tasks and challenges that lie ahead. New
mechanisms will be institutionalized to increase the levels
of listener involvement and democratic participation in all
aspects of the station's operations.  We are proud of our
unique status in the world of radio as a non-commercial,
listener-supported station dedicated to peace and justice
for all. We will remain unalterably committed to these
principles and to the propagation of free-speech radio
exercised with responsibility and consonant with our

 While there will be no attempt made to censor or gag anyone
's right to express themselves freely on the WBAI airwaves
we will nevertheless implore both our producers and our
listeners to respect the boundaries of free speech and to
refrain from engaging in obscenities or in the slander of
any one or any group based on their race, ethnicity,
religion or sexual preference. Any manifestation of racism,
racial profiling, race-baiting, sexism or anti-Semitism
should not be tolerated within the WBAI family. On the
contrary, WBAI must become a model of multicultural and
multiracial tolerance, understanding and co-operation.

Sisters and Brothers, I would be remiss if I did not use
this occasion to recognize the many years of dedicated
service to WBAI rendered by my predecessor Sister Valerie
Van Isler.  She has kept this ship afloat through many
turbulent storms and we thank her for the steady hand. I
want to offer my best wishes to Valerie as she moves on to
new endeavors, new battles and new victories. I want to also
express my eagerness to work closely in the days ahead with
our program director Bernard White, with the various
department heads, with the Local Advisory Board and with the
various listener activist groups.

Today, I don't intend to outline a detailed work program or
action agenda. I promise that will come early next year
after completing a process of bi-lateral meetings and
consultations over the next few weeks with members of staff
and with the various BAI constituencies.

But I do want to share with you on this occasion some of the
priorities that I'd like us to work on collectively over the
next 6-12 months:

a.   significantly expand BAI's news and public affairs
capacity beginning with the introduction of news headlines
and guest commentaries at the top of each hour. Many
listeners have asked us to add a local sports report to our
daily newscast and so we will be looking into the
feasibility of such an addition. We will also be making
positive changes to the morning program 'Wake Up Call', and
in consultation with the Program Council we will be
examining ways in which we can improve the quality and
relevance to our mission of the entire program line-up.

b.   completely overhaul and enhance BAI's Web site and
position the station as a pioneer in the new media of
Internet radio. Bandwidth will be significantly expanded to
accommodate many more simultaneous listeners to our live
stream. News and information will be updated daily on the
site. Programs will be archived on the Internet for up to
seven days and each program will be given a page on the
station's Web site. The site will be re-designed to maximize
the interactivity and communications flow between the
station's staff and its listeners. We will add Web-based
polls and surveys on station programs and station policies
as well as on the issues that we cover in our news and
public affairs. Listeners will be able to communicate with
BAI management and staff regularly by email. And, as we move
to greater transparency of the station's finances we will be
posting the annual WBAI budget and other important financial
documents on the station's Web site.

c.   explore the possibilities of having select WBAI
programs distributed across the country via satellite radio

d.   re-establish the Folio as a regular BAI newsletter in
both printed and electronic formats,

e.   increase the amount of live remote broadcasts of
important events in the tri-state area,

f.    better serve the peace, justice and labor movements
with expanded air time allocated to announcements of
non-profit community events and with a community events
calendar on the station's expanded Web site,

g.   expand the station's outreach efforts into the
multi-cultural communities of the tri-state area with more
BAI sponsored forums,

h.   establish BAI support groups on tri-state area campuses
and in local labor unions,

i.    explore the feasibility of adding some
Spanish-language programming to the line-up,

j.    institute a mandatory technical training program for
all staff and an apprentice training program for young radio
journalists and producers,

k.   produce more programming that documents the histories
of the peace, justice, labor and national liberation
movements in the USA and around the world,

l.   strengthen strategic partnerships with other
alternative and progressive media entities.

m. more fully utilize the station's performance studio for
live broadcasts of musical performances, poetry-reading
sessions, radio dramas, public policy debates and
discussions etc.

To be sure, this is a fairly ambitious agenda but it is all
designed to bring our listeners a better radio service.
Nothing on this agenda can be accomplished without your
support. Its worth reiterating here that WBAI is not owned
by some corporate media conglomerate and it does not
generate millions of dollars in advertising revenues. We are
owned by the Pacifica Foundation, a modest non-profit
entity, and the vast majority of our financial support comes
from you in the listening community. This reality will not
change and so we will continue to call on our listeners to
provide the financial sustenance for our survival and our
growth in the months ahead. Your pledges to WBAI are
investments that you make in alternative media and it is our
responsibility to give you a decent return on your
investment in the form of quality programming.

Sisters and Brothers, let me state unequivocally that under
my stewardship there will be no victimizations, no
favoritism, no vendettas and no hidden agendas. I carry no
brief for any faction or clique or camp.

I fully intend to respect and honor the principle of fair
representation for the various branches of the larger WBAI
family on the station's staff and also in the content of its

 One of the great strengths of this radio station is the
on-air talent, a beautiful rainbow of voices representing a
universe of ideas and interests. Under my watch, WBAI will
continue to be a platform for the free expression of New
York's rich diversity but in utilizing that sometimes
intoxicating tool we call a microphone, we must always be
mindful of the sanctity of the WBAI airtime. It's an
invaluable asset. Let's not squander it. Let's not abuse or
violate this asset to wage personal battles against each
other or to posture and profile our egos. Apart from
legitimate concerns for FCC regulations, the trifling use of
airtime to malign people we don't like or have disagreements
with is not the exercise of free speech but rather the
irresponsible use of the airwaves. Leave that to the trashy
right-wing talk shows. It is below the dignity of this
institution. Also, WBAI's airtime should not be used for
promoting the commercial interests of producers or their
guests. After all, this is still non-commercial,
listener-supported radio. However, we will explore ways in
which we may be able to support the legitimate commercial
activities of our producers and listeners with ads in the
Folio and on the Web site, but not on the air.

Let us not forget also that each of us - staff member and
listener activist alike - is an ambassador for WBAI. We are
representatives of the station, of its mission, its ideals,
and our conduct both on and off the air reflects an image to
the world outside the station's boundaries. Let us therefore
conduct ourselves with the dignity and integrity of good

Today is as good a day as any other to celebrate WBAI's
proud and rich history and to herald its many noteworthy
achievements spanning four decades. But I am convinced that
the value and relevance of BAI and Pacifica is not a thing
of the past - our best days are ahead of us, not behind us.
The future is bright for this institution. I am hopeful and
optimistic and I am confident that you are too.

Sisters and Brothers, the members of the WBAI radio
community are a wonderful collection of racially and
culturally diverse individuals, talented and committed folk.
There's nothing quite like this community in New York.  I
sincerely believe that this community is now being called
upon to perform a historic task for the New York
metropolitan area and for the country as a whole. We all
have an opportunity and an obligation to build and foster
multi-cultural solidarity and multi-racial collaboration as
the antidote to the increased balkanization of this city's
communities. We have before us an unprecedented opportunity
to build bridges of dialogue and co-operation that are
designed to break down these polarizations. We all hail from
communities that are rich in heritage and culture, none of
which is superior to the other.

 But underlying these cultural differences there are
commonalities based upon similar economic interests and
aspirations. Working people of all ethnicities---African
American, Latino, Jewish, Asian, Italian, Irish, Polish,
Greek, Haitian, Caribbean-are all seeking the same
fundamentals for themselves and their families, all
struggling to realize the potential that US capitalism has
promised them, the promise of equality of opportunity and
the possibility of prosperity. Irrespective of their
ethnicity or cultural background they are all striving for
secure jobs with decent wages, safe neighborhoods, good
schools for their children and affordable health care, to
name a few.

I believe that on the basis of these commonalities an
independent progressive movement can construct multicultural
solidarity in this city and WBAI, as a vanguard institution
of the progressive movement, has a critical role to play in
this arena. Only on WBAI can New York's working people find
the kinds of ideas and discussions that can inform, educate
and unite them around their common interests. Commercial
media on the other hand serves to mystify, misinform,
mislead and obfuscate. Only on WBAI can New York's
multicultural working people find a message that there can
be no peace and social progress without social justice and
economic equality. Together, we can strengthen WBAI as a
catalyst for multi-racial solidarity, as an instrument to
organize and mobilize a united opposition to the forces that
are blocking the realization of the American Dream for
countless millions. And who are these forces? They are the
political and economic elites that continue to prostitute
the political process, rape the US constitution, subvert
real democracy and rip off the wealth produced by the
working people. Some have called them the permanent and
invisible government that operates in New York and

 These ruling elites perpetuate the structural inequalities
in US capitalism and they cleverly use institutionalized
racism and sexism to keep us divided and constantly fighting
each other over turf, over prerogatives, over privileges.

 In order to meet this historic challenge of building a
united front of many cultures and ethnicities, we in the
WBAI community must put our own house in order. The time has
come for an end to recriminations and internecine battles.
Let us put all the internal negativities behind us and
replace them with positive words and constructive actions.
Now is the time for team building, for re-conciliation, for
healing inside the WBAI family.

 In the weeks ahead, I intend to take this message on the
road in meetings with listeners in all the boroughs of New
York City and in various communities in New Jersey, Long
Island, Connecticut, and the surrounding areas. To those
communities not yet familiar with WBAI, we will take a
message of a people's radio station with a vision and a
mission; a vision to fully utilize radio as a mass medium
that gives voice to the voiceless and power to the powerless
and a mission to promote and advocate for a city, a country
and a world of peace and justice for all. I look forward to
meeting many of our listeners at these upcoming meetings.

At the end of 2002, we are witnessing tens of thousands of
people of all ethnicities, religions and political
affiliations, cutting across the generations, mobilizing
around this country and the world against an impending war
in the Middle East.

Tens of thousands of youths continue to take to the streets
in cities around the world in anti-corporate globalization
and anti-racism protests.

Thousands of Americans, alarmed at what's being done to them
in the name of fighting terrorism are beginning to organize
a fight back to Washington's assaults on our civil

In the months ahead, these forces will turn to BAI and
Pacifica for information, for inspiration, for analysis, for

It is therefore imperative that we prepare ourselves to more
effectively serve the needs of these growing social
movements. How do we do that?

Fundamentally, we must recognize the gravity of such a
responsibility. Secondly, we need to modify our programming
model to meet the  requirements of the movement and thirdly
we must allocate resources to training the staff in the
skills and competencies that the times demand.

The super-power ideology emanating from Washington is an
ideology that seeks peace and global stability through
coercion, not through justice and fairness. It is an
ideology of dominance, control, aggression, acquisition at
the expense of others, disrespect for the sovereignty of
whole peoples and nations, subjugation of other cultures,
the foisting of a Western value system and way of life on
others who have no interest or need for it. Such an ideology
is life destroying, not life affirming.

This post cold war ideology of the sole super-power is
exemplified in US foreign policy on two fronts: the doctrine
of pre-emptive strike and unrivaled supremacy and the
bullying of the United Nations. This pre-emptive doctrine is
unprecedented in the annals of imperial arrogance. It is
Uncle Sam's ego writ large. It not only dismisses the basic
tenets of international law but, more ominously, it
represents a dangerous threat to world peace in our

There is no countervailing force at the level of state power
to be found, no effective checks and balances originating
from the capitals of the world. The once mighty Russian bear
has been de-fanged. The Chinese star is rising in the East
but it will be years before it reaches its optimum strength
and Europe, while grumbling about Washington acting as an
overly aggressive cop, has no appetite for confronting this
type of global police brutality. Besides, the European
elites understand quite clearly that the doctrine of
pre-emptive strike is not directed at them but at those
"unruly" people of color, the vast majority of whom were
once colonized by Europe itself.

The corporate media, which is becoming less diverse each day
thanks to the free-market policies of the FCC, has been
cowed into genuflecting to this super-power ideology. Look
at how it deliberately under-reports and discredits the
peace movement or the actions of working people struggling
for economic justice.

But there is an emerging force coming from the streets in
cities and towns across the USA and the world, a populist
force that is justifiably alarmed and wants to do something
to reverse this perilous course.

In domestic policy, this ideology manifests itself in the
emphasis on homeland security and tax cuts for the wealthy.
It is precisely this super-power arrogance that has bred so
much hatred for the US government around the world and which
fuels the terrorism that takes so many innocent lives in
acts of mindless violence. I submit that the first step in
making the homeland more secure is to make the homeland more
compassionate. Giving the government the right to spy on
every American and to gather data on their personal affairs
is more than a blatant violation of privacy. It is the
beginning of high-tech fascism in America.

This ideology is in contradiction to all of our vital
interests, no matter if we're Black or White or Latino or
Asian, straight or gay, believers or non-believers. The epic
magnitude of this struggle commands us all to rise above
petty differences, to sublimate our egos and personal
agendas and instead to work in collaboration with each other
and with this rising populism.

To not struggle against this menace would be irresponsible.
The stakes are too high. As serious progressives we have a
duty to both expose and oppose this madness in all aspects
of our radio programming from news and public affairs to
arts and culture as well as in our various community
outreach activities. To dissipate our energy in sandbox
fights over secondary contradictions is to render a
disservice to the oppressed communities that we come from
and to short-change the growing peace and justice movement
that WBAI is part and parcel of.

In the weeks and months ahead, with unity and resolve, let
the collective voice of BAI say to the critics and the
nay -sayers-

We will henceforth struggle mightily for life, liberty,
democracy and the pursuit of happiness for all, not just for
a few, and that we will steadfastly oppose the conservation
of a political and economic order that benefits a small
minority at the expense of a vast majority.

This, dear friends, is the unique historical task of
progressive institutions like WBAI.  Our programming,
therefore, must not only reflect our principled protest to
this hegemonic agenda but also it must articulate an
alternative vision for our listeners, an uplifting,
liberating and empowering vision.

In conclusion, let me reiterate that I bring one simple
agenda to this job - to work with all of you in a dynamic
collective that grows WBAI into the most influential and
respected alternative media institution in this country. I
carry no water for any political party or political
orthodoxy. All I seek is your support and co-operation and I
pledge to you my best efforts.

Sisters and Brothers, working in harmony, I am convinced we
can achieve our lofty objectives. Let us now link hands and
hearts and minds and let us march forward shoulder to
shoulder towards the noble goal of using radio and new media
to construct a better city, a better country and a better
world for our children, our families, our friends, and
ultimately, for all humanity

Long Live WBAI

Long Live the Pacifica Network

Forward Ever, Backward Never


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