Tuesday, January 24, 2017

January 24, 2017--Cortaditos at Bohio

Back to the road trip breakfast stories. This is the last in the series--

We were up at Bohio in Lantana, our favorite Cuban breakfast place where they serve a world-class cortadito--a scalding mix of dark Cuban espresso topped by a layer of steamed milk. It's worth the 10-mile drive up Federal Highway.

Before I could take my first sip, from the next table I heard someone say, "The news these days, man, is all about entertainment and distracting us from what's really going on."

Ah, I thought, there might be some good political conversation to go along with the cortadito.

"I couldn't agree with you more," I said, turning toward two men who were sharing the scrambled eggs special. "And I like your choice of food," I smiled to break the ice, "That’s my favorite. The onions and peppers and tomatoes and crisp pieces of bacon mixed in the eggs are wonderful."

"Man, what are they feeding us?" From his serious tone I knew he wasn't talking about the food. "And what do they take us for? They think we're children or something? I wish they'd treat us serious." I was nodding. "Now it's the Whitney Houston business. And contraception. How long do they think they can get away with those?"

"Until they have the toxicology report or gasoline is $5.00 a gallon," I suggested.

"In the meantime, man, look at Whitney’s record sales. Off the charts. And you know what?" He didn't pause for me to jump in, "they jacked up the prices. Doubled them. Can you believe that?"

"That I can believe."

"I'm all for capitalism, man. I don't have a problem with any of that, but I do have a problem with what the media are up to."

"What's that?" Rona asked.

"To keep us from knowing what's really going on." Neither of us said anything. "I'm in IT, man, I mean I used to be. I got laid off more than a year ago—it’s tough out there--but the things I learned I'm not sure you want to hear about on a beautiful morning like this." He gestured toward the east where the sun was shining through Bohio's wide-open windows.

"For example," he slapped his cell phone on the table, "they know where you are. From this." He tapped the phone. "Wherever you are on the planet. And I mean the whole planet, man.

"Why would . . . ?" Rona began to ask.

"Obvious, man. To control us better. Like I told you, I had this IT job. A big job down in Miami. Evaluating mortgage applications for a bank. One of the really big ones, man. No need for you to know just which. One day my boss called me in to let me know what the bank was really about. He said to me, 'Man, you've been here long enough and have proven yourself. I trust you, man, so you should know what’s going on.’ He told me my job, the bank's job, was to gain all kinds of information about everyone. Everyone, man. From the Social number and bank statements and taxes. From all of that and then to pass it along to the government, To a part of the government that you never heard of." He gestured toward me. "As I said, man, you don't want to know. You just want to enjoy the rest of the time allotted to you. To enjoy the sunshine and the good food and your lovely lady." He was smiling broadly.

"I can tell you from experience that the government knows everything,” he went on, “and I mean everything. And with that they control you and everything else."

"I find this hard . . ."

"I know, man, ‘to believe.’ Right?" I nodded again. "At first I too didn’t believe what they were telling me. So let me give you an example."

"I was just going to ask if you could do that."

"No problem, amigo. Do you remember the savings and loan scandal? From back in the 80s? You seem to be up on things. To most folks it looked like your typical banking scandal. The big boys, man, and this including a half-dozen senators, taking advantage of the government cutting regulations on the banks. And what happened? I mean from what you read in the papers?"

I tried to recall but while I was struggling to do so, he continued, now in part propelled by the two Cuban espressos he had downed, "Well, like recently, when these banks came crashing down and seemed to threaten the whole system, what happened?"

"The government stepped in to bail them out."

"That’s what they wanted you to think. The government I mean."

"I'm confused," I said. I truly was. "What did they want us to think?"

"That it was just another bail out. That's what they wanted you to believe. The truth is that this gave the government a chance to look into everyone's bank account. I mean of all these banks’ customers."

Squinting at him, Rona asked, "For what purpose?"

"It's part of a much bigger thing. About the government wanting to know, man, where we are every minute, who we're with, what we're reading, soon even what we're thinking. One of these days they’ll be able to plant a tiny chip in your brain,” he tapped his temple, “so they can know what you’re thinking. This isn’t science fiction, man. Remember, I’m from IT."

"Why do they want to know all this?"

"To sell us things. You got to realize that's government's main job. To make it easy for those corporations to get their hands on what’s left of our money. That's the whole point, man. I know you're skeptical. I used to be too until I looked into what's really behind all the new technology--these phones, our computers, our TVs, our GPSs, everything electronic, man. It's all about controlling us by taking away our freedom. Freedom is the most powerful thing. To take control of us they have to take it away. In ways, man, so that we don't notice it’s disappearing."

He paused to gulp down another shot of espresso. "Let me give you another example. Remember that Ted Kozinski Unabomber guy?"

"I do," I said.

"Well, man, what do you think his real story is? And I'll throw in something else for you to think about, man, since you're looking at me that way again. To fill out the picture. There's also that Timothy McVeigh. The Oklahoma City bomber. Remember him? Supposedly these two dudes acted alone. OK, McVeigh had that stooge Terry Nichols, or whatever, working for him. At least that's the cover story that they want you to believe. If you really look into his case, McVeigh’s, you'll discover that he was part of a big network. Guys who supposedly hated the federal government because of Waco, man, and Ruby Ridge. Remember them?"

"I do."

"And did you read the long confession he wrote while he was waiting for them to execute him?”

“I have a vague memory of that.”

“I recommend it to you. But in the meantime, I can tell you that the official stories in their cases are about these terrorist types--supposedly American terrorists--acting on their own. Unabomber, right? You know, man, what una means. One or alone, right?"

"About that I don't know," I confessed.

"Well, you can trust me on that one. But here's the real story, man,” he looked around and then leaned forward to whisper, “they were actually working for the government."

"Really? I find that hard . . ."

He put a finger up to shush me, "I know you do. That’s the whole point. For you not to believe this. As I said, trust me on this one, amigo. I know from where I speak. It was the plan for the government to make it look like these were militia-types. Hating the federal government. Acting on their own. And after doing their deeds they gave the feds the justification they needed to take away more of our freedom. They provided the excuse to order up more surveillance.”

“This seems s little far fetched to me,” I offered.

Waving me off, he said. “And if you think this is far out, do you know that McVeigh and Kozinski were both working with the al Qaeda terrorists?” He paused for that to sink in and then continued, “I can tell by the way you’re both looking at me that you don’t believe this.” He was right about that.

“As I said, man, at first neither did I. But I came around because what I’m saying is true. It's all tied together because after al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11 what happened?" Rona and I just looked back at him. "Well you know about that Patriot Act, don't you? That let’s the government listen in on our telephone calls and emails. You think Bush could have gotten away with that one if he hadn't allowed the Israelis to attack us?"

"The Israelis? Now you're going too far," I said. “Actually, that's been charged before, investigated, and dismissed as, frankly, anti-Semitic."

"That's not who I am, man. I love the Israelis and the Jews. To me they're the best people in this world. I wish we here in this country were more like them."

"But you just said the Israelis were behind 9/11." Quoting him back to himself, I asked, "How does that make them 'the best people in the world'?"

"Well, some of them, man, are involved in what I'm trying to explain to you. Like I said, Americans for the most part are good. And most Israelis too, But all these good people here--and that includes all of us--and in Israel are at the mercy of their governments. It's the governments that I have my problem with. Not the people, man. Get me?"

"I think I do," Rona said, wanting to begin to bring the conversation to a conclusion and to get back to her cortadito. It was getting cold. “I know we have our problems, but about what you’re saying I’m not so sure.” She picked up her cup and turned back to her eggs.

“Sorry if I got you all upset, man” he said, extending his hand to me. I shook it.

“That’s OK,” I said, “We like hearing all points of view.”

“One last thing,” he winked, “If you haven’t, you should read Kozinski’s Manifesto. Some of it’s crazy, that I’ll admit to you, but most of it's worth taking seriously. Especially how technology is taking away our freedom. And that McVeigh, who was in Desert Storm, was pretty liberal about foreign policy. He was against all these wars in the Middle East. Check them out, man.”

One the drive home, Rona wondered out loud, “How does someone as well informed as he come to such conspiratorial conclusions? You would think that after spending so much time reading he would see things in a much more balanced way. Sure there are problems with the government. Even most liberals would agree with that. But to see us and the Israelis conspiring to attack the World Trade Center just to help corporations make more money? I don’t get how someone that well informed would believe that.”

“I agree. We hear all sorts of anti-government things from people who really don’t know what they’re talking about. Who simply make things up and won’t accept any facts that contradict their beliefs.”

“Maybe the next time we run into him we’ll ask him about that—how he gets to his conclusions.”

“As for me,” I said, “the next time I think I’ll just pay attention to my cortadito.”

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