Santana: Confronting the Little Fidels That Surround Us All

I awoke on my 50th birthday this weekend to find I had gotten a historic shave without even noticing it.

Fidel Castro is dead.

As a Cuban American, this tyrant (the bad president, as my eight year old boy now calls him) has towered over me since my birth in California.

Like shaving off any beard, it feels really refreshing to not feel him there anymore.

Now, as a Catholic, I respect the Pope’s historic call to forgive decades of pain and won’t celebrate another’s demise.

But unlike Secretary of State John Kerry, I won’t be offering condolences to anyone, especially not the Cuban people, on the death of a tyrant.

The Cuban Revolution could have been so much more instead of a eccentric dictatorship, systematically abusing its people. Those leaders took over a nation with brand new infrastructure in 1959. Today, it lies in ruins despite billions in economic aid from places like the former Soviet Union and Venezuela.

And basic human rights, like the need to talk freely, still don’t exist on the island.

Even with the recent so-called opening, most Cubans still live with one goal: leaving.

I agree with President-elect Donald Trump that it is time for the Cuban government to start really opening up and easing up on dissidents (something they have yet to do) since the United States has agreed to soften its stance on the dictatorship – as distasteful as that might be.

Openness at Home?

Yet it’s not just abroad that we as American citizens should be defending the ideals and institutions of democracy.

Given my family’s immigrant experience, I was raised understanding the fact that democracy is fragile. It’s a do-it-yourself system that, like weeding a garden, requires a lot of work, virtually every day.

It’s up to us to hold our elected leaders accountable. And that’s never an easy job.

Consider that here in Orange County, on Election Day, county supervisors severely restricted public comments at their twice-monthly public meetings.

Note that on any given week, out of three million Orange County residents, there are less than five people who show up to the public comment period.

Even that’s too much questioning for supervisors, who run through public meetings like a quick dash, approving millions in public spending each week with limited questioning or changes.

Instead, under the direction of board Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett, county supervisors have systematically reduced their meetings as well as opportunities for public questioning.

Orange County supervisors used to meet each week, with meetings often times going into the late afternoon. Bartlett changed that, opting for bi-weekly meetings that so far typically don’t last beyond the noon hour.

Lets hope that get’s a rethinking under our next chairwoman in January, when current vice chair Michelle Steel is expected to take over the reigns of government.

A $6 billion county budget should trigger more public discussion that just two times a month for a few hours.

Illegal Jail Interrogations?

If restricting public speech isn’t enough for concern, consider a recent ruling by our local appellate court that shamed our sheriff and district attorney.

When Judge Thomas Goethals essentially fired District Attorney Tony Rackauckas from prosecuting the death penalty phase of a mass-murderer’s trial last year after discovering a secret interrogation program in our jails, his action was appealed by Attorney General Kamala Harris, who just won a U.S. Senate seat in last month’s election.

Harris wanted to avoid looking into the matter, saying violations were inconsequential.

Our courts system slapped that down.

“The recusable conflict of interest…is based on the [district attorney’s intentional or negligent participation in a covert [confidential informant] program to obtain statements from represented defendants in violation of their constitutional rights.” the recent appellate decision concluded. “And to withhold that information from those defendants.”

Justices called the conflict “real” and “grave,” adding it “goes well beyond simply “distasteful or improper” prosecutorial actions.

Apparently, our grand jury – a great local beacon of citizen democracy – has also launched it’s own review.

Yet to this date, Orange County supervisors have said very little about the scandal or it’s impact on our justice system.

Only one supervisor, Todd Spitzer, has even raised the scandal publicly. Yet so far, he’s only framed his concerns with regard to his expected challenge of Rackauckas in 2018.

Handcuffing Journalists

Spitzer himself is leading the county into a deeply troubling area of attacking journalists in interrogations to ferret out unpublished information.

This Tuesday, Voice of OC heads into court to defend itself in an expensive legal action brought by county supervisors – who are seeking to depose me to ask me questions about a reporters’ public records request.

Lets be clear.

Deposing me has nothing to do with the legal question of whether Spitzer’s email communications to the county public information officer – about an incident last year where he handcuffed an evangelist at a restaurant while armed – are a matter of public record.

They either are or aren’t.

Conversations between Spitzer and myself have nothing to do with that legal question.

Deposing me has everything to do with an elected official being incensed about public questioning.

When powerful interests are uncomfortable with public questions, they attack.

Even in a democracy.

They reduce chances to debate or protest. They alter judicial trials with illegal interrogations. And even react against the press when questioned.

This is why citizens and residents must stay ever vigilant and involved.

Democracy doesn’t just get threatened in far away places.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Voice of OC legal hearing was Wednesday.

  • Jasenn

    Your rigid condemnation of Castro and what he did for Cuba sounds like so many of the Miami immigrants, cheering in the streets, who had their property confiscated and wealthy lifestyle ended in the 50’s when the barbudos marched into Havana. Makes one wonder about your roots and the stories you were told by your parents. Your narrow depiction of Fidel belies an ignorance of Cuban history and exactly what this transformative figure did for Cuba and the world. He actively redistributed wealth and enhanced many peasant lives, taking them from the impoverished classes to the middle class. He actively confronted and exposed the imperialist and murderous ambitions of the US right wing, continuing today. He displayed our imperialist ambitions and political manipulations for all the world to see. He sent troops to Africa to confront fascist regimes that were exploiting and repressing the people. He greatly improved health care and agriculture in Cuba. While his grasp of economics may not have been good (he was a lawyer by trade), he did acknowledge his failures. Even still, it was the US embargo and their imperialist anger at being thwarted in their murderous plots, that kept Cuba from progressing. The Cuban revolution created hope in many an impoverished Cuban, who, under Batista, saw no way out. Please inform yourself of accurate history before you rhetoricize on limited or cherry picked information. As a journalist, truth should be the hallmark of your ethics, not slanted distortions, as you wrote here. If I am in error, then why do we so so many Cubanos in tears, praising Castro for what he did for the country?

    • David Zenger

      What a load of Grade A horse manure.

  • annomouse

    “I agree with President-elect Donald Trump that it is time for the Cuban government to start really opening up and easing up on dissidents (something they have yet to do) since the United States has agreed to soften its stance on the dictatorship – as distasteful as that might be.”

    Yeah, Cuba should be easing up just as The Donald starts cracking down:

    “Donald J. Trump ✔ @realDonaldTrump
    Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag – if they do, there must be consequences – perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!
    3:55 AM – 29 Nov 2016”

    Hasta la vista free speech, we’ve got a new dictator in town!

    • LFOldTimer

      Don’t forget about the DNC and Hillary operatives paid to infiltrate Trump’s constitutionally protected campaign rallies and shut them down with violent disruptions or threatened violence.

      Constitutionally protected campaign rallies had to be cancelled as a result.

      I watched the progressives terrorize Trump supporters as they left the CM Amphitheater with my own eyes.

      So there’s more to the picture than meets the eye. Let’s tell both sides to the story.

      • annomouse

        Of course, this has NOTHING to do with the election or Hillary Clinton, but good effort on trying to change the subject away from the ignorant and hideously unfit moron YOU supported.
        Maybe you need to consult BeeBee, so the two of you can triangulate a way to blame Herr Drumpf’s idiocy on Obama, lol.

        • LFOldTimer

          Oh yeah. Obama. The one who conspired with NSA to spy on millions of innocent citizens until Ed Snowden caught the louse red-handed and turned the information over to the people. ha.

          Naturally Obama wants Snowden tried for treason as he gives Hillary the email bleacher who as SOS sold America down the river to tyrant nations that murder gays and treat women like chattel for sport a big fat pass! ha.

          Your political hacks make Trump look like Mother Teresa.

          • annomouse

            Ha,ha,ha I knew you’d be DODGING the subject at hand and turning to your fake right-wing ‘news’ to muddy the waters.

            What’s the matter, haven’t they figured out how to spin Herr Drumpf’s latest twitter rant, thus you are rendered mum on the subject?

          • LFOldTimer

            No dodge at all.

            You complained that Trump was advocating the violation of civil rights.

            I simply turned the tables on you and showed you that you’re supporting evil monsters who have trampled all over the civil rights of innocents, both here and abroad.

            Did Trump ever order drone attacks on hospitals and schools that resulted in the deaths of doctors, sick patients and children? Link that article for me, won’t you?

            But I know it’s hard to swallow the same medicine that you prescribe for the rest of us 🙂

          • annomouse

            FYI: I did reply yesterday, but I have no idea whether or not my comment will show up at all or maybe it will in 3-4 days, whatever.

            Suffice it to say if Obama or Hillary had said anything remotely as provocative as what Herr Drumpf tweeted your conspiratorial heads would’ve exploded. Ditto for his egregious conflicts of interest and Wall Street appointees.

            The fact that these aren’t even issues for you just proves how much the right-wing media leads you around like a trained ponies. They dictate what you find alarming and it always has a D behind it.

            Gullible, ignorant hypocrites …. see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil that will be your new mantra under Herr Drumpf.

          • LFOldTimer

            For some odd reason you’re still are unable to connect the dots…..

            Read carefully: Trump tweeted. Obama and Hillary made willful decisions that resulted in the deaths of innocent human beings. IOW’s there’s blood on their hands. Which is worse? Trump is Snow White compared to those 2 tyrants. lol.

            You libbies got taken to the cleaners by the DNC who supported an obviously tainted candidate who wasn’t morally qualified to run for dog catcher.

            Then the DNC willfully rigged the system against Bernie Sanders so he never had a snowball’s chance in hades of winning the dem nomination.

            Now they have their greasy hands in the lib pockets taking MILLIONS in lib donations for a recount scam that has the same chance of succeeding as flatulence in a wind tunnel. ha. They are robbing the same ones who support their failed causes! ha. And the libs being robbed don’t have a clue. $7 million so far!!! ha. Go watch the old movie Flim Flam Man w/George C. Scott. A perfect analogy of what’s happening today between the lib leaders and their lemming followers!

            Even though I believed the lib movement was based upon false premises and ideological gobbledygook, I still felt many libs were perceptive and intelligent.

            But in the last 6 months I’ve come to the conclusion that most are useful idiots.

            Based on the sequence of events, how could you blame me?

          • annomouse

            What are you going to do without Hillary and Obama to blame for everything?

            You’re like broken record repeating over and over your spoon fed fake news.

            I find it very amusing how you can’t address Herr Drumpf’s betrayal, lol. Oh yeah, “he’s going to drain the swamp” nah, he was just kidding, he put out a welcome mat for Wall Street.
            And isn’t it funny how they keep altering his campaign website promises, he was going to protect Social Security and MediCare, but now he’s going to “modernize” those programs. Ha, ha, ha “modernize” just a euphemism for bend over suckers!!!!

          • LFOldTimer

            Trump is not even President yet.

            You haven’t a clue how he or his appointed cabinet members will perform. You hate him so much you are making wild speculations.

            So his Treasury Secretary worked for GS? Big deal. Trump never took money from GS like Hillary did. Trump never took $225,000 payments for hour long speeches from all the Wall Street banks. Trump owes Wall Street nothing.

            I guess you have a short memory. Wall Street wanted Trump defeated. Why? Because Wall Street doesn’t own him. But they did own Hillary. See the difference yet?

            Have you seen the stock market go straight up after Trump was elected? That means Trump is great for the economy. If fact, Trump just convinced the Carrier Corporation not to move to Mexico and to keep their jobs in America.

            How many companies did Obama convince to remain in America? Answer: Z-E-R-O!!! Obama sent all our corporations and jobs overseas. Trump isn’t even President yet and he’s already saved more US jobs that Obama has in the last 8 years! ha.

            I realize you still have lots of butthurt following Nov 08. But the sooner you let it go and get on board with Trump the quicker the pain will go away. Hillary and the DNC betrayed you. Once you let go of your resentment and see things clearly you’ll realize that.

          • annomouse

            “Trump owes Wall Street nothing.”

            Except money, ha,ha,ha!

            “Have you seen the stock market go straight up after Trump was elected? ”

            So, under Obama the Stock market was nothing, but under Herr Drumpf it means … wait it’s still Obama’s stock market ‘cuz like you said he ain’t POTUS yet. Three cheers for Obama!!!

            And those Carrier jobs, well the devil is in the details, just what did he GIVE AWAY for what less than a 1,000 jobs. Oh and flashback: Obama saved the Auto Industry where your party, including Herr Drumpf would’ve let it go under.

            I’m not “butthurt” but you WILL BE, better stock up on lube, lol. Herr Drumpf is going to have his way with you chumps.

          • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

            Dow Jones Industrial rally continues at a 120 year high, 19,000 since DJT elected, LFOT.

            “Strength begets strength. The more we can continue to rally, the more people who are on the sidelines want to jump in especially because there’s so much cash on the sidelines. The market going up is the single best advertisement for the market.”

            If we can believe Forbes …


            As for some cabinet picks, hmmm, I am going to go with Art of War strategies. Especially the strategy of converting to get inside the mindset of what, who you want to conquer. Gotta know the devil to beat the devil at his own game, right?

          • annomouse

            The “Art of War” my *ss, more like “The Big Con”, but don’t worry Trumpsters he’ll still give you free rein to bash minorities and that’s what you REALLY wanted anyway.

            “Hedge fund manager Whitney Tilson was feeling happy Wednesday morning.

            After Donald Trump ridiculed Wall Street on the campaign trail, the President-elect tapped former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive Steven Mnuchin to be his Treasury secretary and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross to lead the Commerce Department. Trump even met with Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn inside Trump Tower.

            It would suit Tilson just fine if voters who backed Trump because he promised to rein in Wall Street are furious now that he’s surrounding himself with bankers and billionaires.

            “I can take glee in that — I think Donald Trump conned them,” said Tilson, who runs Kase Capital Management. “I worried that he was going to do crazy things that would blow the system up. So the fact that he’s appointing people from within the system is a good thing.”


          • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

            Bleh. Bleh.

          • annomouse

            “Bleh. Bleh.”

            I take it that’s BeeBee speak for: Everything I believe has been proven false, but I don’t care because I’m really living in LaLa land anyway.

            Keep singing your new Herr Drumpf song ……..Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows…Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows ….Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows….Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows….Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows…..Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.Sunshine, lollipops and rainbows……….Make sure no facts enter your happy space, lol!

          • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

            And unicorns. Don’t forget those.
            Howz da charity work coming along for ya?

          • annomouse

            Bernie on Herr Drump’s Carrier ‘deal’:

            “Trump has endangered the jobs of workers who were previously safe in the United States. Why? Because he has signaled to every corporation in America that they can threaten to offshore jobs in exchange for business-friendly tax benefits and incentives,” Sanders wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published Thursday morning. “Even corporations that weren’t thinking of offshoring jobs will most probably be re-evaluating their stance this morning. And who would pay for the high cost for tax cuts that go to the richest businessmen in America? The working class of America.”


            Good job Trumpsters, get ready to take one for the team, lol!

          • BeeBee.BeeLeaves


          • annomouse

            Reality check time:

            “After a decade in the wilderness, Wall Street’s most powerful firm, Goldman Sachs, is dominating the early days of the incoming Trump administration.” …

            …”It’s a stunning reversal of fortune for Goldman, a long-time Washington power that fell out of favor following the financial crisis. CEO Lloyd Blankfein got hauled before Congress along with other Wall Street executives to account for their behavior. And Trump, who ran as a populist and bashed Wall Street on the campaign trail, featured Blankfein as a shady and dangerous character in his final campaign ad.

            Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi famously labeled Goldman the “great Vampire Squid” on the face of America.”

            “Had Hillary Clinton won the White House, Goldman faced a virtual lock-out from Washington with Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders poised to block any major picks from the bank or any other firm on Wall Street.”


          • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

            And Hillary who asked the military if “we can drone that guy”, meaning Assange, WikiLeaks. Blood thirsty or what?

      • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

        My cousin is mounted enforcement and one of those operatives threw a rock at our horse. I will not forgive. Hurting animals crosses 10 red lines.

        Today it was announced that bipartisan legislation is being introduced on burning the American flag. Lose your citizenship and a year in jail. Let’s see how that one flies.

        Also, a Thank You Tour begins Thursday. Make America Grateful Again.

        My favorite Roseanne Barr quote for the day is today’s … edited for naughty words …

        “… losers don’t understand that words mean things. f em. we won. NANANANANANANANANA! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! bye bye PC a holes.”

        Yes, she is right on now, left the left.

        The ignored middle class, the warmongering, pizzagate, anti-Israel sentiments, war times seven with 7 countries being bombed now, now, now..

        The scheduled “long war” if HRC had won which was to escalate in in the Middle East, spring of 2017, draft would be back, and it would go on until a scheduled end in 2020 before next elections … she turned right. Yes, I said, wrote, scheduled. Funded by Saudis, Qatar, and others. That was the deal made that happily will not happen now. No “Long War”. Many of these protesters would have been drafted in. And yet, they are free to be pawns in the chaos not realizing the dodged a bullet. Or Stinger missile. Or a beheading.

        • LFOldTimer

          Those libs who forked over $7M to scam artist Jill Stein for the recount that has already failed (vis-a-vis the missed deadline) must be livid. ha.

          I WANT MY MONEY BACK!!!! ha. WAH!!!!

          Hopefully the orchestrated recount scam (supported by Hillary) will be enough to take the lib’s wrath off Trump and turn it on their masters.

          Wouldn’t it be great to watch the libs start to eat some of their own for once?

          • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

            Tyranny can be so complicated. Cuba, a perfect example. Good, with the really awful no good bad. The local farmers, local gardens, amazing. Doctors, arts, ballet, baseball, the best. No one was really fat. Many seemed happy. Willing to share but also cautious in what was said. When USSR cut of their petroleum based products, chemical fertilizers, they had to make do with organic, self reliant farming. Dare I say that it is sustainable development that can be a model for hard hit inner cities here at home. Dare I say, for the world. I hope Ben Carson as HUD Secretary will be able to visit, or at least see the documentaries that show this.

            Seriously so, LFOT, about recount by green party. Ugh. I suppose cash IS green. Soliciting funds between 11/22 to present is fraud. Even though the money was really flowing from one Chicago source. And I think after the get out of jail for now statement that Trump was giving HRC “time to heal”, even tho its not his call the AG and DOJ to decide, incoming ones of course, not the colluding ones we have now, all bets might be off on compassion and pokey might be in the horizon.

            And now that we are not funding the Syrian “revolution” as heavily, this, 12 hours ago …

            “Dramatic unfolding situation in E #Aleppo with 507 armed fighters putting down their arms and surrendering to #SyrianArmy”

            I hope Assad understands that these human beings were used, pawned by current US leaders for their banksters. Collaterals, “useful idiots” as per the Rules for Radicals married into these neoliberal oil wars. I want to believe he does since he has offered a hand, calling Trump a “natural ally” in a fight against terrorists which he created. Here, in the NYT, which lies and doesn’t lie. Depending on journalist, paid off, or not paid off …


            One man’s tyrannt leader is another man’s ticket to a better life. Who is really right? The only common evil to both is the blood that is shed as enormous price in either one.

  • David Zenger

    The Board won’t touch the jailhouse scandal because they don’t have the courage to confront the “public safety” apparatus – no matter how corrupt it is. Spitzer may badmouth Rackaukas for his own purposes (justice for the accused not being one of them), but he’ll never confront the Sheriff or the deputies over their role in this mess.

    • LFOldTimer

      They wanted to crucify Judge M. Marc Kelly. But Hutchens has a safe place with the BoS, being a club member and all.

      AOCDS floated $86,000 for Do’s campaign. There’s probably more where that came from. So OCSD is good as gold.

      Friends protect friends. What’s justice got to do with it?

      • David Zenger

        Remember the Great Escape? That was all about damage control, not about the public’s safety.

        That’s a pretty good motto: “public safety” isn’t about the public’s safety.

        • LFOldTimer

          We never got the rest of that story, did we?

          Buried. lol.

  • LFOldTimer

    Nice transition from Fidel Castro to county government, Norberto.

    Castro was adept at shutting people up via authoritarian means. Apparently by a 4-1 vote the supervisors studied his playbook. That old adage “What happens in Cuba stays in Cuba” no longer applies. So I guess cigars aren’t the only product we’re importing across the Straits of Florida.

    It’s ironic that the county’s public gag rule came down on Nov 08 – the same day Americans went to the polls to exercise a right that exemplified our cherished freedom and democracy. Then out of the other sides of their mouths those 4 Supervisors would look you in the eye and purport to be big advocates of public engagement. lol. Not a proud day in the County of Orange. Final score: Klubnikan 2 – Orange County Supervisors/Residents 0.

    Fidel was an easy target to kick around. Always has been. It’s much harder to look within at our own homegrown tyrants who have ordered attacks on other sovereign nations based on lies and at times even in violation of international treaties that our forefathers negotiated killing hundreds of thousands of innocents in the process. When’s the last time Cuba attacked and occupied another nation?

    As a kid my teachers told me we had to stop the communists because they were nation builders and occupiers. Back in the day they called it the “domino theory”. Now fast forward 55 years. We even have a guy who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize who is one of the biggest provocative warmongers in modern history. Guess who?

    We have a big problem in America, Norberto. The very moral fiber and traditional patriotic practices (Champions of the US Constitution) that made us one of the greatest nations this world has ever known has seen dramatic declines of late. The rot is contagious and OC has been infected.

    My comments are not meant to criticize. I’m only waving a red flag in attempt to save my beloved country for the generations that follow.

    Don’t shoot the messenger.

    • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

      And even here at home, on American soil, right now, right this minute we, LEOs are being sent in from different States and are attacking a sovereign American Indian nation. I don’t use native American because Russell Means made it very clear to me that he hated American Indians being called native because anyone born in the United States is native. Hence, his American Indian Movement. On behalf of an oil company, civil servants are being used against American Indians. The 1851 Ft. Laramie Treaty on Sioux Land violated. By non other than of course, Chief Warmonger Obama. Seven wars overseas, one here. He told the Sioux in 2014 he would have their backs. The Water Protectors have been viciously attacked by government forces. Obama, hush, hush.

      Very symbolic. Hope? Change? Nope. Deranged.
      CitiGroup aka CitiCorp aka CitiBank, funders of DAPL, were also the ones who handpicked the Obama cabinet for him in Sept, Oct 2008 before he was event elected. And he thanked them with a share of the bail out, to the tune of 25B. Vets, homeless, inner cities, tree planters, park creators, street fixers … be mad. Be very mad.

      Fidel was a ruthless SOB. Everyone saw it, knew it. It was in your face that he would kill you and then he did. That picture of Che, Raul and Fidel with a blindfolded man at the tree and each of them with a pistol they just used to kill him, stays with you. Once upon a time in a jungle in Cuba.

      A greater threat is the one in the comfort of your home that sells you hope for a vote, and then leaves you hanging.