Friday, April 30, 2010

Halle:Is It Time To Admit That You Have Issues (With Keeping A Man)?

Halle Berry has taken another trip to Splitsville.

You get no argument from me girl - yes you are cute.

Its those eyes.  Within those eyes is a woman with a temper - at least as I see it.

What looks good on the outside for lustful brothers (like me) appears to turn into a "Let me out of this relationship with this woman".  This is happening time and time again.

I thought that this time was "the one".

Why not go in the other direction and get a dark chocolate brother?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Petition: Give The "New Avenues" Babe A Name On The Commercial

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If there is "Wolfman and Donna" on the old furniture store commercials why doesn't "New Avenues" allow the fine chocolate sista in the commercial to present her name along with the Mike Moore, president of the company?

In fact - let her do the commercials herself.

(Place Holder. Let me go find videos for the other two commercials that got me interested in renting some furniture all of a sudden)

Monday, April 12, 2010

My Journey To Cuba - My Arrival In Cuba - Part III

I made it to the passenger lounge of the airport in Nassau Bahamas.  The new terminal was for passengers bound for the USA.  This older terminal was for the rest of the world.  There was a sea of Europeans returning to other places around the world.  I happened to notice that more often than not mother, father and child was either reading something or using a computer.

I heard "Last call for Cubana Airlines".  My heart dropped as I thought that I was about to miss my flight.  The long line of people going to Amsterdam blocked my view of the shorter line that was going to Cuba.

Finally I was allowed to board the Cubana Airlines turbo prop plane into Cuba.

(Note to self:  There were two Black lesbians two seats in front of me.  They were nice people.)

We landed in Cuba.
I observed an airport with the standard runway markings and signage as expected in the United States.  These are international aviation standards so Cuba's relative isolation to the United States had no bearing upon these standards.

We deplaned and there was an array of Cuban personnel who directed us toward the shuttle bus that was waiting for us.  We were driven to the main terminal.

My stereotypes of Cuba put me on full alert.  First there was an immigration agent who inspected my passport and boarding pass.  They spoke English.  I told them "no stamp on the passport".  They gave me a visa card instead.  

My passport was retained and I was asked to pass through a door that had an electric lock.   Another woman who was standing on the other side of the door directed me to the luggage scanner and metal detector.  She held onto my passport.

The lobby was dark.  Instead of the large florescent lights and/or open air windows that you might see at an American airport - this area had circular lights which barely illuminated the area and cameras dangling from the ceiling.

Why are you all holding onto my passport?

I was told to move to the right.  I had to hand in my "H1N1" form to a row of nurses that were waiting for me.  I asked one female passenger who was on my plane if they had taken her passport?  She did not speak English.   Another woman overheard my question and said "Yes.  You have to go through an interview".

I retrieved my duffel bag from the luggage conveyor.  The thing was loud and squeaky as it rubbled round and a round.

I walked through the lobby about to exit through a final set of metal detectors as I asked the guard where I could exchange my money.  Then a young male customs agent tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to come with him.

  • Why are you in Cuba?   Vacation
  • Where are you staying?  El Presidente Hotel
  • What do you do in America?  I am a consultant for cellphones
  • How long are you staying in Cuba?  For 3 days
  • Do you have a computer with you?  No
  • Do you have a camera?  Yes - its in my bag
  • Do you have any family in Cuba?  No
  • Have you ever been to Cuba before?  No
Then he took me over to a metal table where he ruffled through my duffel bag and my backpack.  I had a bunch of magazines and newspapers.  I wondered if he thought that I was an insurgent who was smuggling news from the outside world into the county.

Throughout the interview process he went over to his supervisor at least 4 times, seeking his council.  

Finally after the last discussion with this other guy he waved me along.

As soon as I set foot into the terminal a lady who was a hospitality agent engaged me.  She took me to the currency exchange.   What?  The Cuban Peso is equal to the US dollar with a 20% hit?   The Euro doesn't have the same 20% penalty.  It appears to be traded at market rates.

The hospitality agent got me a cab and sent me onto my hotel.  I gave her a $5 peso tip.  The first thing that I realized I needed to figure out is the proper index for tipping.  Even though they make the peso nearly equal to the dollar the Cuban wage rates are not equal to that of the American worker.  If the average wage is about $30 per month then a $5 tip from one passenger is a goldmine in relative terms.

The Cuban taxi driver was European in ancestry.  He didn't say a word throughout the trip.  I was amazed as I passed through large cement apartment buildings with the same water storage containers on the roof that I am used to seeing in Jamaica.  I also noticed that each had window unit air conditioners dangling from them - a sign of no central HVAC system within.  

There was some type of old manufacturing plant near the airport that was shut down.  The large buildings were still present but grass and weeds had taken over where work used to be conducted.

The streets were abuzz with human activity.  There were masses of people waiting for buses.  I swore that my driver was going to hit someone.  As a person crossed the street while he decelerated at a red light he never yielded to allow them to pass in front of his car.  They had to walk behind.  Finally we arrived at the El Presidente Hotel.  It took my bag out of the minivan and I gave him a $5 peso tip.

I entered the lobby of the hotel to check in.  They asked for my passport.  
I told them that my friend had arrived the day before and that I needed to check into the same room.  The lady remembered: "Ahh you are the one who he told us about.  You'll have to sign this as evidence that we gave you a key to the room".   

As I stood at the front desk the "lobby man" came over to me as said "Please sir, have a seat on the couch.  She will be with you in a minute".   (WHERE IS MY PASSPORT?  Why do you all keep taking my passport in Cuba?)

I noticed that there was a man standing at the doorway at all times.  He was there to keep an eye out on those who entered the lobby.  No native Cuban was allowed into the hotel unless they had official business with the hotel or was escorted by a guest.

I noticed that there was a restaurant on both ends of the lobby.  There was an Internet cafe there (cool).  There was a bar on the other side of the check in desk.

Finally I was given the key and told to go to my room.  The bellhop would bring me my bags.

I went to my room.   About 10 minutes later my bag arrived.  The bellhop asked if there was anything else that he could do for me.  He waited for me to tip him.  I gave him a $3 peso and he left.

I browsed the television channels and relaxed.  
I wondered where my crazy friend was at the time.  
I had no means of contacting him.  The Cubacel cellphone network does not have a roaming agreement with any American telecom carriers thus none of our phones work there unless we get a Cuban SIM card.  

Saturday, April 10, 2010

My Journey To Cuba - Damn My Passport Has Expired - Part III

I was so happy on Tuesday.  I kept reminding myself to find my passport and put it on the dresser so that I would not forget it.   I looked through my wife's stash where I found my passport along with the others.  I left it out as planned and put it into my backpack for my trip on Sunday.

As my buddy and I backed out of my driveway I asked that we both double check that we had our passports. 
When I looked more closely at mine my heart sunk.  Expiration Date  08 April 09.

We drove to the airport to see if there was a means of getting a temporary passport for immediate travel.  No luck.  Not only was it "Sunday" it was "Easter Sunday".   The lady at the passport services office (a private company) stated that they have a 2 day express service for $450.   She said that I could go to one of the passport offices for a face to face interview but it still would require overnight processing.

My buddy agreed to go forward to the Bahamas and then to Cuba.  I figured that Cuba had slipped away. 

I was mad and depressed at this point.  It was all my fault for not more closely inspecting my passport beforehand.  Now this oversight is going to cost me dearly.

If I went to Miami, Philly or Washington DC on Monday I would not get my passport till Tuesday.  I would miss my connecting flight for that day and would not get into Cuba until Wednesday.  A one day trip.  I was not worth it.

Then I figured that it would be best to have my passport in hand just in case my buddy got in trouble in Cuba.  My options for obtaining a passport were:
  • Miami - No appointments available until Tuesday
  • Philly -  Fly up on Monday morning for a 11am appointment, wait until Tuesday, fly back
  • New Orleans - They have appointments on Monday morning but I'd have to drive 7 hours down
I chose to drive to New Orleans.  Driving gave me more control of my own schedule than did flying.    I left my house on Monday at 2am.   I remembered that they are on central time and thus I had more time to take a nap along the way.

I thought that I would have to spend the night in New Orleans as I waited for my passport to be processed.  As fate would have it - THEY DID "SAME DAY SERVICE"!!!     They told me that I could come back at 2:30pm to obtain my passport.   This was an important piece of the puzzle.   With no passport the flight schedules to the Bahamas would be irrelevant.

As I waited for my passport I did what I always do while in the Big Easy:  Purchase a copy of the "Louisiana Weekly" - the most biased newspaper in the nation!!

No time to read the paper though.  I went to lunch and pulled out my laptop, trying to find a flight to the Bahamas by 12 noon on Tuesday.   My option was to find a flight from some city in Florida where I would drive from N.O.  or drive back to Atlanta and take the earliest flight.  The problem with Florida is that I would have to go and retrieve my car.  More money!

Airtran had a flight that departed Atlanta at 12noon.  This would cause me to miss the 2:30pm flight to Cuba on Tuesday.   I also learned that I had enough frequent flier miles on Airtran to leave from Atlanta to some city in Florida.  I would need to find a flight from FL to the Bahamas that left early enough for me to make the Cuba flight.

Turns out that Delta has an 8:45am flight to Nassau and there were seats available.  The lady even told me that I had enough Skymiles to pay for the ticket.  This was going too good at this point.  I could fly to Cuba on Tuesday instead of Wednesday.

After she booked the flight she asked me for a credit card.  WTF?    "Why do you need a credit card?  I thought I had the miles to pay for it?"

  • $150 Emergency Booking Fee
  • $20 since you talked to an agent instead of booking on line
 I now needed to make sure that I got back to Atlanta and did not miss my early morning flight.
I hauled it back to Atlanta, getting in at 11pm.   I left extra early to make sure that I was at the gate when the flight to the Bahamas pushed back.

I arrived in Nassau, Bahamas and had a two hour wait for my flight to Cuba. 

I noticed a few things while in the Bahamas:
  • The airport pay phone - They wanted $28 for a 3 minute call to Cuba with $5 per minute afterward.  No thank you.  I am not giving you my credit card number lady
  • Wendy's:  While I was standing in line I observed the accent spoken by many of the young Black male workers around the airport.  It sounds like they have some Dutch influence to their English.
  • Internet Cafe - The Bahamas has fast Internet connectivity to the USA, just as does Jamaica
I checked into my flight to Cuba.
  • $60 change fee
  • $42 departure tax
All of the tickets done in handwritten form.  No computer printed boarding passes.

I boarded my Russian made turbo prop plane and headed toward Cuba.

I was only one day late.
The original plan was to spend the night in Nassau and catch the Monday afternoon plane.  I caught the Tuesday afternoon plane.

Friday, April 9, 2010

My Trip To Cuba - The Reasons For My Trip - Part II

A good friend of mine and I took a trip to Cuba.
We have a long running discussion about politics, race, and economics.

He sees Fidel Castro as his "BFF".
I am more critical and skeptical about Castro, Cuba, leftist dogma and the notion of a "Permanent Revolution".
Instead of continuing our discussion in abstract - we both decided that we should take a trip into the land in question to see for ourselves.

My friend is a perfect depiction of the term I coined "Anti-America American".   He is an educated man and does substantial research about how the world arrived at its present state.  The two most common subjects for his indictment are "American Imperialism" and the "Jew".  Thus it comes as no surprise when I hear other left wing individuals come to the same conclusion during my frequent debates with them.  I typically heard it all before.

"Poverty Politics", "Military Interventionism" and Race are the three key issues underneath all of these debates.   My friend is well versed in history.  He takes a cut and dry view regarding the bloodshed and outright exploitation that was executed in the founding of America.  History proves to be the greatest indictment of America, Europe and the Jew - per his reading.

I take a far more pragmatic approach.  I am fully aware of the history of the world but I am not as dismissive about the present complicity of all who claim to be "history's victim".  There needs to be more than an "indictment" rendered as you find out "I know who did this to us".  If these same forces which are indicted were to separate themselves and agree to limit themselves to their own continental borders - many of those who claim continued molestation would be the main one's opposing the departure of the force so much of their own ideology is counterbalanced against at its foundation.

For me - Cuba was a test of the theories that I hold.  I have long said that "abstract leftist theory" is not organic.  It is merely a mental exercise of retaining one's "moral high ground" and indicting others.  Cuba proves to be an instantiation of said theory.   It proves that in putting this theory into action, indeed some of those moral high ground points had to be compromised because now they are dealing with actual human beings and painful economic truth.  As there is "no such thing as a free lunch" - the contradictions that I spoke of earlier prove that this is the case for those who are forced to make their theories work.

I did not travel to Cuba to prove my friend wrong.  This series will not be a "hit piece" against Cuba.  I will, however, evaluate the island from the perspective of American standards but also in reference to its contemporaries within the Caribbean basin.

My Journey To Cuba - Overview Part I

I have so much to talk about regarding my recent trip to the island paradise of Cuba.
I carried a notebook and digital camera to remind me about the salient points that I need to discuss.

All I can say is that Cuba is a land of contradictions. Some surprisingly good and others terminally bad.

I have decided to break my posts down into a series of posts over time using the following structure:

* Motivations For My Trip
* Great You Found Your Passport - Did You Check To See If It Had Expired?
* My Trip To The Bahamas And To Cuba
* The Return Trip


* Telecommunications/Water/Electricity
* Roads/Sidewalks/Buildings/Airport
* Contrasts w/ Jamaica, Bahamas, Trinidad and Puerto Rico
* Automobiles and Pollution

Politics and Nationalism
* Cuban Elections
* The Police State
* Abundance Of Propaganda - "Remember The Alamo"
* US Embassy - The Most Protected Building In Cuba - To Prevent Defection

* Cuban Food
* Sports - Sandlot Baseball
* The Personality Of The People
* Spanish Language
* Idle Time and Long Lines

* Blacks, Whites and Mulattoes
* Obesity
* Educational System
* Tourism
* Standard of Beauty In Advertising
* Where The People Live
* Juan - The Horse Tour Guide And His Crackers

* Wealth
* Vice
* Exchange Rate
* Poverty

* Interaction with Two Worlds
* Grocery Store Choices
* Permanent Revolution
* The Impact of Opening Cuba

The Great Debates
* Me versus 3 Anti-America Americans
* My Friend - Socialism Is In America Already
* A Conversation With A Bohemian At The Airport
* The US Customs Inspector

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Half Of Americans Pay No Federal Taxes - And Want To Know How They Can Get An Even Better Deal From Taxes Upon Others

Half Of All Americans Pay No Federal Taxes

WASHINGTON - Tax Day is a dreaded deadline for millions, but for nearly half of U.S. households it's simply somebody else's problem.

About 47 percent will pay no federal income taxes at all for 2009. Either their incomes were too low, or they qualified for enough credits, deductions and exemptions to eliminate their liability. That's according to projections by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington research organization.

Most people still are required to file returns by the April 15 deadline. The penalty for skipping it is limited to the amount of taxes owed, but it's still almost always better to file: That's the only way to get a refund of all the income taxes withheld by employers.

In recent years, credits for low- and middle-income families have grown so much that a family of four making as much as $50,000 will owe no federal income tax for 2009, as long as there are two children younger than 17, according to a separate analysis by the consulting firm Deloitte Tax.

Tax cuts enacted in the past decade have been generous to wealthy taxpayers, too, making them a target for President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. Less noticed were tax cuts for low- and middle-income families, which were expanded when Obama signed the massive economic recovery package last year.

The result is a tax system that exempts almost half the country from paying for programs that benefit everyone, including national defense, public safety, infrastructure and education. It is a system in which the top 10 percent of earners — households making an average of $366,400 in 2006 — paid about 73 percent of the income taxes collected by the federal government.

The bottom 40 percent, on average, make a profit from the federal income tax, meaning they get more money in tax credits than they would otherwise owe in taxes. For those people, the government sends them a payment.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Capital Punishment Around The World

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Funny how the United States shines despite the contextual attacks that it receives by her own citizens.