Saturday, 6 March 2010

Wistful about a time and place I never knew.

Florida became a State within these United States on 3rd March 1845.  From my perspective that date is just over 99 years before I was born!  We are a young State.

Nonetheless Florida does have a history, albeit brief. Thanks to the excellent Library system in Sarasota County I am reading about it. It is sad, bad, and glad!  

I have just read a charming book with the title “Ybor City Chronicles”.  It was published in 1994 by the University Press of Florida. The author is Ferdie Pacheco. 

“Ybor City” is the local name for a district in Tampa, FL. It was for many years was home to many people from Spain, Cuba and Italy, and was famous for its many cigar factories. 

Amongst the heroes of Ybor City none is greater than Jose Marti – the author of Cuban independence from the colonial power – Spain.

Ferdie Pacheco’s memoir is about his life in Ybor City as he moved from childhood into young adulthood, 1935 – 1945. 

He tells of the fabled Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City at which he was a teenaged waiter. See

Pacheco writes about some of the great Ybor City characters of that era.

There was Don Victoriano, known as Ybor City’s resident intellectual. Victoriano was a Lector in one of the many cigar factories. Cigar factory lectors sat on a very high chair and read aloud to theworkers. Victoriano would read in flawless Spanish from such greats as Cervantes and Zola.

Ybor City had a clinic (in truth a small hospital) run and owned by Dr. Jorge Trelles with his beautiful and much younger second wife Concolita, who was also the anesthetist. When Pacheco was an adolescent he witnessed a surgical operation at the clinic.   

Concolita once had a fainting fit and Pacheco was called upon to massage her neck with rubbing alcohol.  She insisted that he should also massage her lovely breasts: - heady stuff for a 14/15 year old!

Ferdie Pacheco’s father, “J.B.”   (Joseph Balthazar) owned a drug store “La Economica”. There the young man learned to compound various medications/medicines. “Working medicines” were in great demand for many ailments.  (Working medicines were laxatives!)

Ferdie writes of his loving memories of his grand-mother who had been born of French and Spanish parents in La Coruma, Spain.  His “abuelita” (affectionate term for grand-mother) was his source for great wisdom and delicious food.  Her husband had been the Spanish consul in Tampa up until the Franco dictatorship.

Ferdie’s book also tells of Sam, the African American man who worked for J.B. as a delivery man.  When Ferdie was ten years old he spent a summer “helping” Sam who taught him his first “big” words such as procrastinate, succulent, and delectable.

Ferdie’s  book many includes many other wonderful memories of his coming of age in Ybor City. He is anxious to remind us that his writings are not a definitive history – but they are “his history”.

The Ybor City of Pacheco’s youth no longer exists. It is now a “National Historic Area”.   But his book caused me to be nostalgic for a time and place I never knew.

Ferdie Pacheco went on to be Ferdinand Pacheco M.D.  He was Muhammed Ali’s personal physician from 1963 until 1970.  He was also a boxing commentator for NBC television.

Friday, 5 March 2010


Nopology is a word I coined today to describe the public apologies which are frequent in these United States and in the United Kingdom.

They are written in that well known but esoteric language known as bureaucratese”. In the world of nopologies the word “wrong” is never used.

Here are two examples from the United Kingdom.

1. A spokesman for WH Smith said: “Customer safety is of paramount importance to us. 

“To that end we insist our staff complete regular training updates to remind them of their obligations both legally and in accordance with our own policies. 

“On this occasion a staff member may have been a little overzealous in their interpretation of that training and we apologise for any inconvenience or embarrassment that may have been caused.” 

That nopology referred to the actions of a W.H.Smith  “staff member”  [in the old days known as a shop assistant (U.K.) or a shop clerk (U.S.A.)]. 

A mother and her three year old daughter took a pair of children’s plastic scissors from the rack, but the child carried then and placed them in the counter. The “staff member” refused to sell the scissors because the child had carried them, which meant that the mother could not be trusted to supervise the little girl as she used the scissors at home. (The packing was marked “3 years old and up”).

2.Ron Odunaiya, Executive Director of City Services (Sunderland U.K.)   said: "We regret that on this occasion a decision was taken not to display the poster and we fully accept that the poster would not have caused any concern to other individuals. 

"We will be reviewing our guidelines to ensure this situation is not repeated. Sunderland Public Libraries would be happy to display the poster at any of its service points as space permits. We apologise for any upset that this decision may have caused the customer." 

This story was about the refusal of a Sunderland librarian to display a poster advertising the “Women’s World Day of Prayer” (an ecumenical and international event for christian women). The poster simply announced the event. It could not in any way be construed as proselytizing, or as offensive to non-Christians. 

Note that in Mr. Odunaiya’s world there are no longer “libraries” but “service points”.


jmp says:

Those who truly apologize for word or action, silence or inaction say “I was wrong, and I am sorry”. They do not ask for forgiveness. 

The act of forgiving is the free gift of the one who was wronged.

It should never depend upon the request of the person who apologizes.


Thursday, 4 March 2010

Tea Party (3) The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,

The United States of America is going through another of its periods of national navel gazing. (This is a generalization, I know!) We are indeed a very young nation, in our early youth compared with ancient nations such as Egypt, China or Persia (Iran), and as such, filled with the insecurity and self-doubt of adolescence.

At this time we are an angry people.

For some that anger is rooted in an understanding that all the old landmarks have disappeared. Gay-rights, women’s rights, the rights of ethnic minorities, the recognition that we are a multi-faith nation etc, etc, have begotten an America which is vastly changed from the one of their memory.

The election of a black President (unthinkable just a few years ago) has signaled that “the times they are a-changin’”.

For others, there is an anger based on a sense that the governmental response to 9/11 has led to a fearsome reduction of our civil liberties. Or that government is no longer responsive to the average Joe or Jane, but that it is beholden to big business, bigger banks, and biggest wallets.

I understand the anger, and I share some of it. (Guess which, will you?!)

I rejoice in some of the changes which could well lead us to a “more perfect union”. (Guess which, will you?!)

It is my understanding that the “Tea Party” movements (and they are movements, not a movement), have arisen from the seed-bed of much of the current American anger.

But it is also my conviction, very strongly held, that the remedies which those movements propose are inadequate.

For they are rooted in an immature “us and them” view of life.

Tea-party folks see the problems as the fault of “them”. In my opinion that can all too easily lead to the scapegoating of “them” (whoever the “them” are).

I, as a believer in government “of the people, by the people, and for the people”, see these problems as the responsibility of “us”.

I am reminded that the second paragraph of the American Declaration of Independence begins with the pronoun “We”.

Note also that the preamble of our Constitution begins with these words: “We the People of the United States”

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

No Tea Party stuff tonight

I've had a good and tiring day.

At Resurrection House for the Prayer service this morning.

At All Angels Church on Longboat Key for their Lent program this afternoon.

At St. Boniface Church on Siesta Key to preside and preach at the 5:30 p.m. Eucharist, then to attend the supper and evening programme.

So it's off to bed, and I'll write my final article about the Tea Party movement tomorrow.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Tea Party (2) Have you no sense of shame?

The election of Barack Obama as President of these United States brought to the surface those currents of populism which had been swirling for many a year
Populists of the right had no truck with the Republican Party or with President George W. Bush but they held their fire. They believed that if they attacked the G.O.P. and the President too soon, their own critique would lead to the election of a Democratic Party President.

Nonetheless, Barack Obama was elected.  That election signaled populists with the message “big Government is back”.  If there is one thing that unites all populists it is a hatred of “Big Government” – identified by the popular media as the province of the Democratic Party.

Anti big-government populists were joined by others such as the so-called “birthers” – those who believe that Obama is not a born citizen, and probably by some racists who were flying under the radar.

These disparate groups coalesced into what is called the “Tea Party” movement.  One of the Tea Party leaders, one Debra Medina of Texas want to be the Republican candidate for Governor of Texas -  see your Wednesday newspaper to see how she fared in the Texas Republican primary election.
Debra Medina issues dire warnings that President Obama is taking America down a slippery slope to Soviet-style communism”   (See )

That sounds so implausible as to be laughable, and there is not a scintilla of evidence which supports her claim.

Yet it is a claim which is accepted as “fact” by many populists.

In the face of this absurd claim there is silence from national politicians, both Democratic and Republican.

One might hope that some national leaders might emulate Army Attorney Joseph Welch who in the face of Senator Joe McCarthy’s populism and “anti-communist crusade” said: .“Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”

Sadly there is not one U.S. Senator, Democratic or Republican who has the courage to expose the lies of the Tea Party gang, and ask “have you no sense of decency?”

Republicans are busy co-opting Tea Part sentiments into their own platforms.
Democrats have no vision except to save their hides when they next face the electorate.

I’ll write some more on Wednesday 3rd or Thursday 4th about why I understand the sentiments of Tea Party members, even while I disagree with their “solutions”.

Words about the "Tea Party" (1)

American history is replete with what we call “Populist” movements.   These are movements of the “people” in the face of the government, and of changes in society.
Perhaps the revolution itself was a populist movement directed against King George III and his governing of the 13 colonies without them being represented in the House of Commons.
Some populism has been of the left, e.g. William Jennings Bryan and Franklin D Roosevelt.

Some populism has been of the right, e.g. the “nativist” and “know- nothing” movements of the 19th Century, or the 20th Century anti-Semitic sentiments of Henry Ford or the depression era anti-Semitic Roman Catholic Priest,  Father Charles E. Coughlin.

Within the living memory of some of the readers of this blog there was the right-wing anti-communist movement spearheaded by Senator Joseph McCarthy.  He was unrelenting in his crusade against those he said were communists: in Hollywood, in the State Department; in the Army; and in the Legal profession. He destroyed many lives.
McCarthy was eventually brought down by an Army attorney, Joseph Welch.
In one famous interchange, McCarthy responded to aggressive questioning from the Army's attorney, Joseph Welch. On June 9, 1954, the 30th day of the hearings, Welch challenged Roy Cohn to give the Attorney General McCarthy's list of 130 Communists or subversives in defense plants "before the sun goes down." McCarthy responded, sounding noticeably intoxicated, by saying that if Welch was so concerned about persons aiding the Communist Party, he should check on a man in his Boston law office named Fred Fisher, who had once belonged to the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), a group which U.S. Attorney General Herbert Brownell, Jr. had called "the legal mouthpiece of the Communist Party."[10] At the time Brownell was seeking to designate the NLG as a Communist front organization. This was a violation of a pre-hearing agreement not to raise the issue because the designation was being litigated. Welch responded:
"Until this moment, Senator, I think I never gauged your cruelty or recklessness...."
When McCarthy resumed his attack, Welch cut him short:
"Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator.... You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"  ( italicised via Wikepedia)

Sunday, 28 February 2010


Here are two statements, followed by a question.

Statement 1. "Some folks are too good/nice/ethical/caring etc  to be effective agents of change".

Statement 2. "Leadership for change requires passion and ruthlessness, as well as truth"

Question.  "Do the above statements give you any clue as to how I regard President Obama?"


Of course I would vote again for him in a heartbeat!