Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Retraction from Babalú


On June 5, a post was published on Babalú regarding Purdue university professor Alfredo Lopez and an accusation of alleged plagiarism made against him by Dr. Tony de la Cova concerning images contained in Mr. Lopez's book Jose Marti: A revolutionary life. However, since the publishing of the post, Mr. Lopez has contacted Babalú and vehemently denied the accusation. In addition, Mr. Lopez  has provided information that disputes the allegation that he committed plagiarism.
While the Editoral Board of Babalú Blog strongly and confidently feels its post simply reported information received from a reliable source, which at best constituted pure opinion protected by the 1st Amendment, at no time did we intend to cause harm to anyone. Nevertheless, in light of the information received after the post in question's publication, we have decided it is in everyone's best interest to retract that post and any allegations of plagiarism against Mr. Alfredo Lopez that may be construed by its publication on our part. Based on the information we have received, we have found there is not sufficient evidence to substantiate the accusation of plagiarism against Mr. Lopez and therefore, the post has been removed from the blog and is no longer available.
Since 2003, Babalú has been dedicated to fighting for the freedom of the Cuban people and the truth about Cuba. Everyone who works on the blog and contributes postings to it does so on a volunteer basis. This is not a business, but a labor of love in which we all chip in from our own pockets to keep open and running on a daily basis. Our focus is solely on Cuba, its people, and achieving their freedom from the chains of tyranny and slavery. Babalú neither has the time nor the desire to involve itself in disputes between individuals, and even less so to offend the innocent. We have no interest in causing anyone harm, but only to expose the injustices and misery suffered by the Cuban people at the hands of their oppressors.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Professor Alfred López Responds to Babalú's Charges of "Plagiarism"

June 6, 2015

Mr. Alberto de la Cruz
Managing Editor
Babalú Blog

Mr. de la Cruz:

I am writing in response to your libelous article of June 5 entitled “Publisher of Purdue University professor’s book on José Martí cuts check for plagiarized images.” The text of the article includes scans of a check issued by the University of Texas at Austin, publishers of my most recent book, to one Antonio de la Cova, instructor at the University of South Carolina. In the email from Dr. de la Cova that you include in your article, he cites said check as proof of my “theft”, of having “plagiarized” his work. Dr. de la Cova further crows about his (no doubt for him substantial) payday as a commenter to your article.

I will contact Dr. de la Cova separately. This letter is for you, both in your capacity as Managing Editor of Babalú Blog and as author of the above-referenced article. Had you titled said article slightly differently—had you, say, included the qualifier “alleged” or “accused,” rather than describing the images in question outright as “plagiarized”—you would of course not be liable in this matter, since the rest of your article consists of a one-sentence introduction to Dr. de la Cova’s scanned check and email. Had you done that, you would be guilty only of bad judgment in allowing someone else to post libelous statements on your blog without knowing the full story.

But you did not include any such qualifier in your title. And so you too are now compromised by Mr. de la Cova’s reckless defamation of my professional reputation as a writer and scholar.

Because I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, I am writing under the assumption that Dr. de la Cova has misled you about the true nature of his interaction with University of Texas Press. I think that may be the case, given that Dr. de la Cova did not also post the letter from the Press that accompanied the check. In that letter, the Press states in no uncertain terms that they do not agree with Dr. de la Cova’s charge of “violation of intellectual property rights,” and that their payment does not constitute any such admission.

I think that Dr. de la Cova must have withheld this information from you, because I believe—I would hope—that had you also seen the letter to Dr. de la Cova from the Press you would not have published your article. In other words, I want to believe that you would not deliberately publish a defamatory article that you suspect may be false. I cannot believe that any responsible Managing Editor would knowingly place himself and his organization in legal jeopardy by doing so.

And so, on the assumption that you have acted without full knowledge regarding this matter, my purpose in writing you is twofold. In what remains of this letter I will: (1) explain to you why my use of the documents in question does not, and could never, constitute plagiarism; and (2) offer a way to reasonably resolve this matter in order to avoid further action on my part, as well as by the University of Texas Press and Purdue University, whom you also libel by including them in the title of your article.

Every college and university publishes a statement defining plagiarism, which they universally consider a serious act of academic misconduct. At Purdue it is the individual colleges (and some departments) that issue their own discipline-specific guidelines, which the Office of the Dean of Students neatly summarizes in the following statement:

Plagiarism is a special kind of academic dishonesty in which one person steals another person’s ideas or words and falsely presents them as the plagiarist’s own product. This is most likely to occur in the following ways: 

(1) using the exact language of someone else without the use of quotation marks and without giving proper credit to the author 

(2) presenting the sequence of ideas or arranging the material of someone else even though such is expressed in one’s own words, without giving appropriate acknowledgment

(3) submitting a document written by someone else but representing it as one’s own

Purdue’s University Copyright Office further clarifies:

Copyright infringement and plagiarism are two different issues.  Copyright is a federal law that protects original works from being copied and distributed without the author’s permission unless one of the exceptions applies.  Plagiarism is passing off someone else’s work as one’s own or lack of attribution.  There is no federal or state plagiarism law but there can certainly be severe repercussions for plagiarizing.

Copyright infringement example: Incorporating an entire poem by Maya Angelou into a published work without her permission.  The poem is property attributed to Ms. Angelou.

Plagiarism example: Using a line or even an entire poem by Maya Angelou in a paper and not attributing the poem to the author or citing the source.  It would appear that the poem is the creation of the person writing the paper and not Maya Angelou.

We might neatly summarize these texts this way: Plagiarism is the theft of another’s intellectual work as one’s own, while copyright infringement is the copying or distribution of works owned by someone else.

Dr. de la Cova cannot plausibly claim that I have committed either plagiarism or copyright infringement, since he is neither the author nor owner of the documents in question. I have not used his written work, published or unpublished, in my own book without attribution. In fact, the only work of his that I have ever read is his 2003 article “Fernandina Filibuster Fiasco,” which—as he is fond of pointing out—I made extensive use of in my book and cited accordingly. You will find Dr. de la Cova’s name and the title of his article in my Works Cited, on p. 387.

Dr. de la Cova’s claim of plagiarism stems from my use of two documents: Manuel Mantilla’s 1885 death certificate (p. 199 of my book) and Maria Mantilla’s 1880 birth certificate (p. 200). I found these two documents at www.latinamericanstudies.org, a website created in 1997 and still apparently operated by him. In the book I attribute each of those documents to their respective sources: the City of New York and the City of Brooklyn. Both are public documents, available to anyone who wishes to ask for them. Dr. de la Cova does not, could not possibly, own those documents, any more than I could own your birth certificate by acquiring a copy from your place of birth, or on Ancestry.com. Let me make this as plain as I can for you: Neither Manuel Mantilla’s death certificate nor Maria Mantilla’s birth certificate belong to Dr. de la Cova.

Thus, according to the definitions of plagiarism and copyright infringement I have cited in this letter—really, by any definition of these—I am guilty of nothing more than a bit of expedience, because using the scans from Dr. de la Cova’s website saved me an additional trip to New York City. I want you to understand this with complete clarity: By any reasonable definition of the terms, I am not guilty of either plagiarism or copyright infringement. And again, this is for one simple reason: Dr. de la Cova can make no legal claim to ownership of documents in the public domain simply by posting them on a website. Even if he was the first to publish them.

But for at least one of those documents Dr. de la Cova cannot make that claim either. You see, a far more accomplished scholar than either myself or Dr. de la Cova, the late and eminent Dr. Carlos Ripoll, first published Manuel Mantilla's Certificate of Death in "Martí: La esposa y la amante," published in Diario las Américas on Sunday, May 15, 1988. That particular article, as well as the reproduction of the Certificate of Death, also appeared in Ripoll's book La vida íntima y secreta de José Martí (1995), which you will find at:

But you don’t have to take my word for it. On p. 12, footnote 3 of the Anuario del Centro de Estudios Martianos 12 (1989), we find this (emphasis mine):

Carlos Ripoll, de quien se ha dicho, con razón, que su habilidad para encontrar datos significativos de la vida de Martí es superada por su tenaz vocación de traicionar el legado del héroe de nuestra América, publicó el 15 de mayo de 1988 — y en periódico afín a su condición de contrarevolucionario: Diario de las Américas, editado en Miamiel facsímil del certificado de defunción de Manuel Mantilla."

So you see, even Dr. Ripoll's enemies in Cuba agree that he was the first to reproduce Mantilla's death certificate. Dr. de la Cova either does not know this, or he found them in Ripoll’s writings himself and scanned them to his own website.

I have not yet been able to locate Maria Mantilla’s birth certificate among Ripoll’s publications, but I am nearly certain that he published that document first as well. But of course that is a side issue, since publishing the documents first would give Dr. Ripoll no more claim to ownership than it does Dr. de la Cova.

I could continue, but I trust that by now you take my point: No plagiarism, no infringement, no “theft” of any kind has occurred, because I have stolen neither Dr. de la Cova’s words or ideas—or anything else to which he can honestly claim ownership.

I have no reason to doubt that you published your libelous June 5 article in the full belief that Dr. de la Cova’s claims were true. I also genuinely believe, now that you have read my lengthy and detailed reply to his accusations, that you will realize it is you who have wronged me.

I am not an attorney, but in my professional opinion as a scholar, in your June 5 article you committed libel against me and, without grounds or provocation, defamed my character and threatened my professional reputation. Although having to deal with your libel has caused me a great deal of mental and emotional anguish, and wasted much time that I could have spent more productively, I bear you no ill will. Now that I have shown you that Dr. de la Cova’s claims are in fact false, I will extend to you in good faith the opportunity to withdraw this libelous article and publish a clear and unambiguous retraction. Do that, and I will consider the matter between myself and you, and Babalu Blog, closed.

You need to understand, however, that I cannot permit your defamatory article to remain, its presence every day spreading its false claims about my professionalism, my honesty, and my character to more and more people. If you choose to stand by your June 5 article after receipt of this letter, and allow it to remain on your website, I am prepared to take any and all actions available to me to protect myself, my character, my reputation, and my career from this defamatory assault.

You have my permission to publish this letter on your blog if you so desire, but only in its entirety.

Sincerely yours,

Alfred J. López
Professor of English and Comparative Literature
Department of English
Purdue University

Alfred J. López is the author of José Martí: A Revolutionary Life

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Did José Martí Live and Die in Vain?

Was José Martí's life lived in vain and was its sacrifice to no purpose? There are questions which one would prefer not to answer because it is better not to answer them: better in the sense that more harm would be done by answering them than by leaving them unanswered. This is not such a question.

Martí's life and death matters to our country as no other event in our history does. Without Martí, Cubans might be anything, but they wouldn't be Cubans. Our national character is an extension of his idealized conception of us. We see ourselves through his eyes and he only saw the best in us. The confidence that he instilled in us has remained unshaken even as everything that once supported it has collapsed in a heap around us. But for Martí we could not bear to look one another in the face. Thanks to him, we have reason enough  to believe that we are not defined by our current circumstances, that our destiny will transcend the void of our existence and deliver us safe to a new life. That we have persisted in that belief in the face of unrelieved disappointment  proves that Martí did not live in vain.

But even if Martí had lived and died in vain, it would not mean, however, that he was a failure; for he is no way responsible for the acts of those who betrayed our country and his legacy. Our enemies credit him with their crimes and failures, calling him the "intellectual author" of their anti-Cuban Revolution. They claim his inspiration in order to disparage him by laying the blame for their misdeeds at his feet, as if by this putrid offering they could acquit themselves of the blame and transfer it to him. Castro has reinvented Martí as our national scapegoat in opposition to his rightful place as our national savior.

We who are true to his legacy want for our country exactly what he wanted. We know that the only way to honor Martí is to believe, as he always did, that our people aspire to liberty and require only the means and the opportunity to assert their rights. The indifference, or, rather, the complicity of the world in their enslavement — which is even more the case today than in Martí's day —  is the greatest obstacle facing our people and the only bulwark left to our enemies.

Only the greatest disdain for the Cuban people would maintain that an inhuman existence is what they desire or deserve, or that their unrelenting degradation is preferable to questioning the actions and motives of those who have enslaved them.

Martí's life and death is a negation of that position, and as long as the Cuban people remain stateless within their own country, Martí shall be as relevant and indispensable in forging our future as any living man.

Martí did not die in vain, nor does he live in vain. "A man must be useful even after he is dead; therefore, I write." And his writings, which do not require any historical context because his words are as timely now as when he wrote them, speak to us across the decades of the same hunger for liberty and thirst for justice which is not lessened because it remains unsatisfied, nor can ever disappear till it is assuaged.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Barack Obama and Raúl Castro: Perfect Together

Some may have experienced a "Woe is Me!" moment when the putative leader of the Free World shook hands with the world's oldest tyrant and pledged him his troth, but not me. Barack Obama and Raúl Castro do not meet on different moral planes; neither do they represent the polarities of good and evil. Barack Obama, who was the only U.S. senator to vote on three distinct occasions for partial birth abortion — the murder of babies that have completely exited the birth canal, since banned by the U.S. Supreme Court — and Raúl Castro, who has always been his brother's enforcer and relished that role since his days as a teenage serial killer in the Sierra Maestra Mountains, are not on opposite sides of humanity's struggle for freedom and human rights. Obama aspires to the "glory" of Neville Chamberlain and will sacrifice the honor of his country and the lives of 11 million Cubans to obtain this worse than empty prize.

The Castros have waited 50 years for a sucker of Obama's magnitude to be elected president, and then six years more for him to be in a position to surrender unconditionally to them, as they have always demanded. Barack Obama is truly their messiah: the dim light that signaled to them their hour of redemption. Raúl Castro has said it: it was in Obama's book that he first took the measure of the man. And the first thing that Raúl learned was to massage Obama's ego: praise him to the skies and cheat him while he's not looking at his cards but tracking his own trajectory in the heavens, otherwise known as his "legacy."

It should be pointed out, however, that what Obama has done is to codify a longstanding U.S. policy towards Cuba which no U.S. president before had dared to articulate but which could not be more evident: the Americans prefer a stable Cuba that is not free to a Cuba that is free but not stable. As the guarantors of stability on the island (and nothing is more stable than a cemetery), the Castros long ago became "our sons of bitches" in the eyes of U.S. policymakers.

Castro and Obama: Practicing Genocide as Statecraft

Sunday, March 29, 2015

"Fidel Castro Sent to Siberia"

According to the Siberian Times, it's a typical news day in Siberia. Former Ukraine president's son Viktor Yanukovych's "mysteriously" drowned when his vehicle fell through the ice on Lake Baikal which "he should have known was too dangerous to drive on." There's a story about a father who threw his infant son out the window of his apartment while under the influence of a new synthetic drug which caused the man to hallucinate that his home was filled with gas (a passerby broke the child's fall and he survived). And Shilka, the first polar bear born in Siberia in 40 years, is headed for a zoo in Osaka, Japan because the local zoo in Navosibirsk didn't have the 110 million rubles ($1.6 million dollars) to construct a suitable habitat for her (would't Lake Baikal have been suitable enough or is it too filled with humans?).

None of these stories, however, was the leader in today's Siberian Times. The top story was: "Fidel Castro Sent to Siberia." Oh, consummation devoutly to be wished! In permafrost, I thought for a moment, waiting to be resurrected with other mastodons? No, alas, it is his son, namesake and spitting image, Cuba's premier niño bitongo, now 66 years old. (Coincidentally, that is also Prince Charles' age. Well, at least Charles is still the heir apparent; Fidelito is not even the heir presumptive).

Fidel Castro Díaz-Balart, scientific adviser to the Council of State and former head of Cuba's (failed) nuclear program, was supposedly sent to Siberia to strengthen "economic and academic" ties between Cuba and Siberia. The story noted Fidel père's special interest in this project.

The story did not, however, mention Cuba's historical ties to Siberia, which actually do exist thanks to that amazing artificer of ties between unrelated countries which nonetheless share totalitarian affinities, the real basis of all "solidarity" and "internationalism" in the Communist underworld. During the 1980s, Cuba sent 30,000 Cuban lumberjacks to Siberia to replace the aging denizens of the Gulag and complete the great work of deforestation begun by Stalin and replicated by Castro in Cuba. That, at least, was the official version of the story. How apt Cubans were for such work in subzero temperatures has yet to be explained, or whether Cuba's prevailing interest in this fraternal enterprise was disposing of yews or disposing of "Jews" (i.e. Cubans).

"Fidel Castro Sent to Siberia" from Siberian Times

Sunday, March 08, 2015

"José Martí: A Revolutionary Life" by Alfred J. López

Let not this be mistaken as my review of Alfred J. López's José Martí: A Revolutionary Life (University of Texas Press, 2014). This work which became, immediately upon publication, the first and only professional biography of Martí, deserves better of me than this cursory note. To have reached that preeminence before López's biography required little more than to include an index, footnotes and bibliography. All these are missing without exception from previous attempts in Spanish and understandably so, since most of Martí's so-called biographies are prose poems that chronicle the author's particular devotion to him and do not require that fact to be documented. In English, there have been biographies which contained the requisite academic apparatus but whose text made it abundantly clear that these resources, if consulted at all, had been misunderstood or subordinated to a grand plan to distort Martí's life and thought and drive him into a political rut which he had always consciously avoided. López's effort is notable, and, indeed, singular, because it is neither hagiographic nor tendentious; it gathers the facts, from the widest range of sources, and presents them objectively and in concert. No aspect of Martí's life is slighted in favor of another. No subject is avoided because it does not rise to the gravitas which is usually imposed on Martí. The facts are enough to give Martí his proper stature and they do. It is not López's driving concern to instill in you love and admiration for Martí; but love and admiration you will feel, after reading this book, even if you had never heard of Martí before.

It is remarkable that no friend or close acquaintance of Martí's — not even Gonzalo de Quesada, who was nearest to being his Boswell — ever attempted to write his biography. We owe to his disciples only reminiscences of Martí short on facts and long on praise, which assure us of the reverence which he inspired in life but do not bring us closer to the man himself. This is indeed most unfortunate but perhaps inevitable: those who viewed him at the closest proximity were most aware of how truly daunting was the task of capturing for posterity the full extent of his genius and his humanity. To have attempted and failed to do him justice was simply a risk that none of them wished to take out of regard for him and fear of damaging their own reputations.

It is also to be lamented — and López laments it, too — that Carlos Ripoll, who wrote more than 20 books on Martí and hundreds of articles and pamphlets on every imaginable aspect of his life, never attempted a comprehensive one-volume biography. It was not from want of encouragement. All his friends, including me, suggested it to him. Indeed, I tried to convince him that he had already written such a biography and published it serially, if not sequentially, over 40 years. All he had to do was to put all his articles in chronological order, eliminate any repetitions and create transitions when necessary, and the biography would be a fait accompli. Of course, such a task of condensation would have baffled if not defeated even the editors of Reader's Digest. But time was precious to him and he wanted to use what little remained to continue exploring other facets of Martí's life and searching for the new and unknown, which was his life's passion. Ripoll was always too occupied making new discoveries about Martí — that is, changing and augmenting the facts of his biography — to actually write his biography, or, rather, to take a cache image of something that was always in flux thanks to him. But now that his pen is stilled, it is possible, indeed essential, for someone to synthesize his discoveries and give us a biography of Martí that incorporates them, which, by virtue of that fact, will be the definitive biography.

I will not say that this is the biography that Ripoll would have written if he had had the time and inclination. I will say, however, that it is the closest approach that we will ever have to a one-volume biography by Ripoll. Moreover, López's admiration for Ripoll is the surest guarantee of his intellectual honesty and his impeccable lineage as a martiano. We quote from the Acknowledgments page of his book: "Astute readers will note one particular name that figures prominently in this book's bibliography. Carlos Ripoll (1922-2011) was the preeminent Martí scholar of his time, a tirelessly prolific researcher whose work on Martí remains unmatched for quality and range of vision. Although I have not always agreed with Ripoll's conclusions regarding certain aspects of Martí's life, I owe him a great debt for the substantial contribution his lifetime of work has made to this book."

No one who knows how vilified Carlos Ripoll was and still is among the official falsifiers of Martí's legacy in Cuba could imagine that praising him in such terms would ingratiate López to Ripoll's enemies and allow him free access to Cuban archives, which cannot be consulted without prior authorization from the Council of State. In fact, López, who was born in the United States, has never set foot in Cuba. And it is just as well, because the regime has decimated those archives, selling their choicest items to collectors abroad and not even bothering to preserve Xerox copies which would be proof of their sordid business. Ashes and sackcloth is all that awaits future historians in Cuba. To write about Cuba's past they will have to search the world for documentary evidence because nothing of value will remain in Cuba (fortunately, much of our history is in foreign archives).

Castro, quite literally, has robbed us of our present and our past; and those who have reconstructed that past, like Ripoll and López, have performed a service for our country. Of course, there have also been opportunists, like Louis Pérez and Laura Lomas, who, without compunction of any kind, have placed themselves at the service of the Castro regime and been rewarded for their obeisance (Pérez with a medal and Lomas by having her error-filled book mercifully ignored in Cuba). López should not be classed with them. Certainly his detractors should not announce before judging him that they have not and will not read his book, nor should they condemn him by association because they dislike some of his old college professors. They should read the book so that they can realize that a pernicious influence is harmless to a superior mind, and that the truth remains the truth even if mishandled by others before finally reaching unsullied hands. We are condemning ourselves to irrelevance if we dismiss by intuition what merits cognition, and what's more, recognition.

Before the publication of his book, López confided to me that he feared that it would become a target for hardliners on either side of the Florida Straits. I assured him that no reaction would be the most likely reaction. The official historians on the island, whose greatest shame is that in 56 years they have not been able to produce even one original biography of Martí, will likely remain silent if only not to call attention to that fact. As for the exile community, we have no official body to regulate the dissemination of Martí's works, as in Communist Cuba. I told López that he was free to write whatever he wanted without fear of retribution or even of criticism, since our veneration of Martí is too ingrained to take seriously anybody else's affirmation or denial. He was surprised that his book has indeed received a most cordial reception among Cuban exiles in Miami, not the death threats and firebombs which he expected (his old college professors, who lived in fear of assassination for reasons which they alone know, had no doubt warned him not to put himself in the crosshairs of their erstwhile bogeymen). So all had indeed gone exactly as I predicted to him, and López was convinced that toleration was now the order of the day among Cuban exiles, contrary to all he had heard from our critics, when, like a bad dream, the old specters from the past came out for one last bow.

It was my old nemesis Babalú which chose to dump on López's biography, after making it clear as a point of honor that the author of the blog post as well as the commenters had not read the book under review (except for perusing the illustrations). It is at times like this that I feel I did not waste two years of my life documenting in a thousand essays the shortcomings of that blog (which, incidentally, are much less today because I shamed all its principal writers into retirement). But I, like Ripoll, must move on, now only stopping to right the injustices that literally roll at my feet, as this one did.

Please note the crazy spelling of the URL below:


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

El Grito de Baire (1895-2015)

"120 years removed from that February 24th, which was as redolent with hope for our country as the present is bereft of it, Cuba finds herself in a more deplorable state than she did in 1895: then Cuba was a colony of Spain, now she is the fiefdom of one transplanted Spanish family whose patriarch fought with Weyler's forces against our independence. His sons, who head the criminal enterprise which has despoiled our country and enslaved her people for more than half a century, have attempted to co-opt Martí's legacy, proclaiming him the "intellectual architect" of their anti-Cuban Revolution though it is the negation of everything Martí lived and died for."

Continue reading here.