Sunday, December 8, 2013
The two Algerians had been imprisoned in that black hole without charges for over 11 years by the government which likes to prance around the globe touting the sanctity of human rights and uses the issue as a political tool in its little box of propaganda that is employed against those whose "standards" just aren't the same as Washington's. Never mind that the Guantanamo base is basically a piece of occupied territory in a nation which has made it clear that it does not want the base there. Its use in the supposed war on terror was cleverly devised as some sort of loophole to the US Constitution so that lawyers could construct arguments somewhat along the lines that it somehow is outside the reach of the judicial branch. That alone isn't a "standard" that anyone should be proud of.
The United States in this situation hasn't failed its own standard of being consistently inconsistent. The US certainly strives to be a world leader in hypocrisy. The two men were sent against their will to Algeria where they feared persecution by militants. No big deal since they must have been terrorists since we decided to keep them in GITMO for so long and who thinks that prisoners should get to decide on their place of retirement, right? But it's not that simple. The United States had other options. Luxembourg was willing to accept them and allow them to resettle there. They would likely be safer in that country since it really hasn't been known as a hotbed for militant groups. But alas, that would make too much sense so off to Algeria they go.
But here's the kicker. The State Department's report on Algeria claims that their are many concerns that may cause Washington to reconsider it as a destination for these deportees. The report states Algerian security forces operated "unrecognized detention centers where detainees were at risk of torture or other ill treatment." It's no secret that throughout this war on terror that the US has sent people to countries known to employ torture so that information could be extracted by others with "lower standards" for Washington's benefit. But this all leads to the inconsistencies of US actions, consistently.
US actions are far removed from the lofty declarations about human rights, democracy, and everything else beautiful. Luis Posada Carriles, an boastful terrorist who has bombed civilian airliners and hotels and has been involved in countless other unconscionable acts, is living freely in Miami although his extradition has been requested by Venezuela. To its credit, the US government has allegedly sought to send him somewhere, anywhere, but not to the country that is requesting him! Why not Venezuela one might ask? The obvious reason is international politics and the fact that Venezuela's independent government isn't willing to bend to the will of Washington and has pursued its own path. (You could make the argument that Washington is tortured by this fact!) Posada Carriles is not eligible for asylum since the US doesn't grant it to terrorist suspects so he should be deported to Venezuela, but the US has refused to do so citing their concern that he might be tortured there by Venezuelan authorities. The same State Department that claims that torture goes on in Algeria also claims that torture is carried out in Venezuela.
I personally don't put full faith in the State Department since it is highly politicized. But wouldn't the US government have faith in its own departments? If the US finds it too risky to send a man, ineligible for asylum based on him being a terrorist suspect, to a country that it claims employs torture, how does it decide to send two men who it must have believed to be terrorist suspects (having imprisoned them for 11 years for just that) to another country that it claims employs torture?
The only logical explanation for such a decision would be the unwavering US policy of consistent inconsistency.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
There is no doubt that the President's speech has caused some anti-Castro hardliners, who have supported punishing the Cuban people on the island and abroad, to be concerned. Those hateful people who have made a living as "experts" explaining why causing hardships for Cubans everywhere makes sense and is actually the humane thing to do. Separating families, depriving people of medical advancements developed in both countries, and countless other cruel consequences of US policy towards the island are all of the "achievements" that the hateful people can claim as the fruits of their labor. They have grown quite uncomfortable in recent years as their once decrepit yet prevalent ideology has been diminished in its importance as a feeling of reconciliation has grown and ,according to some surveys, become more popular. What are they to do but dig in their heals and repeat themselves as if what they've said already is something new and not the very nonsense that has become unpopular?
Jaime Suchlicki wrote an article about why the United States needs to maintain the sanctions on Cuba. In it he goes on about how increasing American tourism isn't going to to lead to economic and political changes on the island. I'll actually agree with him on that. Cuba has embarked upon a transformation of its economic system already. It was a very bureaucratized system and it still is, yet it has taken upon itself to begin to lessen the bureaucracy and open a lot of space for individuals to begin their own personal economic activity in the forms of self-proprietors and cooperatives. This has nothing to do with capitalists determining government policies as what happens in many other countries. It has a lot to do with lessening the burden of the state of creating a job for every single person even if jobs become redundant as the Cuban government has explained. The state is freed up form some of its activity such as running barber shops and restaurants, as some commonly used examples, and direct more of its attention to larger endeavors which in turn can improve their efficiency and put the country in a better position to strengthen its achievements like housing, health, and education. None of these achievements are of any concern to Mr. Suchlicki or else he wouldn't be in favor of strangling the Cuban economy from outside as much as possible. Why is it that he wants to deprive Cuba of tourist dollars? Would he perhaps like to make it more difficult to purchase goods from abroad, goods that will be consumed by the Cuban people? Or maybe he doesn't want Cuba to pay its debts more easily so that he can write an article about how Cuba isn't a reliable nation when it comes to paying debt? Pick one. He seems happy to pretend that the influence of our policies don't really have much to do with the troubles that Cuba has faced. Just imagine how many Cuban cigars and how much Cuban rum would be sold in Miami alone if our laws didn't prevent their access to the US market. If he would discount that from happening he should take a look at the table at US Customs after a flight arrives from Havana. It looks like a liquor store or tobacco shop. Surely Mr. Suchlicki wouldn't want to deny supply and demand?!
Furthermore, he claims that ending sanctions would send the wrong message to Latin America. Is he completely mad?? He has mistaken a coffee shop in Little Havana during a Batista happy hour for Latin America! Latin American countries have all stated their opposition to the embargo on the record. If he considers Cuba a dictatorship, that's his prerogative (although I would contend that it's actually his job). But doesn't he realize that every country in the world knows that the United States has no qualms about having great relations with countries which are dictatorships and even kingdoms? Don't Latin American countries know that most of the dictatorships that have existed in their countries were actually supported by the "democracy loving" US administrations? Come on Jaime Suchlicki, do you even understand how foolish of a suggestion you've made by saying that relations with Cuba would send the wrong message to Latin America?
Finally, Mr. Suchlicki pretends that the sanctions is a powerful negotiating tool for the United States. To this all I have to say is that their are no negotiations. Part of the problem is that the US has ignored repeated calls by Cuba to engage in negotiations. If the sanctions are supposedly a tool, I would ask Mr. Suchlicki what and where is the negotiation that it is helpful for? If it is any type of tool at all it would be a wrecking ball constantly swinging back and forth making negotiations nearly impossible for a US administration to seriously negotiate with Cuba.
The Miami Herald has taken a different approach. I can only imagine that since it is the news paper that speaks directly to the Cuban community in Miami, that it has to deal with the fact that the opinion of its audience has changed quite a bit so it must be more clever when thinking of ways to oppose relations with Cuba. It goes as far as calling the President's remarks "encouraging". They instead choose to create a parallel reality, a world which doesn't exist. They claim that Raul Castro has shown that he is determined to hold on to power. In the real world where most of us live, Raul Castro has already given a date when he will no longer be President and has actually supported term limits for the future. Quite different I'd say. Then they urge people to keep in mind the dissidents and the difficulties they face. What they don't want in your mind at all is the fact that the "dissidents" that they highlight on a regular basis are basically creations of the US government itself. Documents accidentally exposed just days ago and others in the past have shown just how involved the US government is involved in the existence and promotion of these chosen ones. Coincidentally, the these "dissidents" have been travelling all over the globe and the US government provides funds for travel to some unknown people. If funds are making their way to the pockets of these famous "dissidents", it would be a stretch to assume that they have a pretty sizable interest in maintaining the current policies!
The Miami Herald makes its common complaints about short term detentions and stifled protesters and delayed trials for a few individuals. But I find it hard to comprehend why we wouldn't sanction ourselves for the treatment of some of our protesters. Plus, we could probably bring something up in the United Nations about our own torture programs, drone assassinations, and probable war criminals that we are responsible for. I'm just saying that we don't exactly have the high ground on these types of issues, but in the parallel universe of the Miami Herald, none of those are serious issues.
Look, since the early days of the Cuban revolution Washington has had one goal, eliminate the Cuban revolution and replace it with a government that bends to the will of Washington. It's a simple idea and one that has no regard for what would happen to the Cuban people and at this point what would happen to the achievements that they have made despite the policy by Washington. But accomplishing this idea has been a headache for policy makers in the United States and after 50 years it is nice at the very least to hear a US president acknowledge publicly that it is an outdated policy that really isn't so useful for anybody. I have no illusions and I understand that as Obama is the figurehead for US interests he simply gets to set the tactics used to achieve US goals. Being that in this matter US goals haven't changed, to me his announcements amount to a tactical change and not so much a realization that Cuba's right to self determination is as real as ours. Perhaps he believes that the US can kill them with kindness or something like that, but regardless of what he thinks any openings in relations or dialogue or friendly contact is a step in the right direction. So many opportunities have been missed so maybe he can make something of the moment and change the policy of isolation which has backfired and isolated the United States and people like Jaime Suchlicki and the editorial board of the Miami Herald.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Sunday, August 18, 2013
Just as are most of the anti-Cuba commentators in Miami unable to recognize that changes are going on in the island, Fabiola Santiago seemed to not be able to figure them in to her prepackaged ideology, quite probably blocking her view of the chess match. Metaphors aside, she is either unwilling or unable to factor in everything so her ability to formulate useful analysis of the situation is hampered by selective choice of information rendering it useless or just plain propaganda.
She passes off some statistics about the number of Cubans who have received visas in the recent period which shows an increase so high that the total exceeds the number the US agreed to in 1994. That's impressive, I mean let's look at the good will of the United States to surpass its agreements. Or, since the US often fell way short of meeting its agreed number, could the US just be trying to catch up? She notes that the Obama administration has expanded tourist visas for Cubans to be valid for five years. She failed to explain that on the other side of the chess board, the Cuban government had eliminated the "white paper" requirement for Cubans to travel. Looking at the chess game as a whole, Obama's move might be considered a defensive one to protect himself from such a difficult situation in which Cubans, who had always been supposedly "trapped" on the island suddenly found themselves free to leave only to be prevented by visa denials by the United States. Fabiola probably missed that one.
Even Ileana Ros-Lehtinen gets in on the confusion by saying that more or less even though anti-Cuba policy is the basis for her career "I don't know what to make of it." Try looking at the entire game mam. "It's a free for all," laments the most out of touch expert on the issue, failing to realize that the policy which allows any Cuban who touches our shores to get political asylum even though that might include Cubans who you don't approve of. For years the policy was used as a way of padding the statistics to show how many people were "fleeing" Cuba. Now some people don't know what to do about all of those "refugees" who want better relations with the island and have diluted the hard line narrative of South Florida.
For the fading hard liners, what may be even more troubling than the refugee "snitches and state security officers" living in Miami and other US cities, are the former hard liners who have been watching the whole chess board. They are lining themselves up and are ready and willing to engage with Cubans on the island, some even wanting to grant loans for the small businesses that have been created on the island. My goodness, if that were to happen the chances of the only acceptable change on the island, one which ushers in a return of pre-revolutionary Cuba with its corruption and domination a the capitalist elites at the expense of almost everyone else is likely never to happen! It wouldn't happen anyway with or without the economic blockade, but the hard liners have to have some kind of hope.
Fabiola resorts to her expertise on international law to remind readers that besides the facts, Cuba remains a danger to the security of the United States. In her infinite wisdom and ahead of the United Nations' experts who are looking in to the North Korean ship carrying out dated military equipment, she has declared it from her side of the chess board in Miami "a violation of international regulations."
Let's not forget that as long as there are people like Fabiola Santiago, the US funded dissidents on the island, and a press always willing to question things no matter how absurd, all things Cuban are "questionable."
Yes, as she said in her article, "a checkmate seems a long way off." I'll add that when there is a checkmate, Fabiola Santiago may be one of the last people to learn of it.
In an article this week by Nelson P. Valdes about Fidel's 87th birthday, he stated one of the most logical and accurate analysis that can pertain to these types of handicapped chess players. He asked "How come talking heads, editorial writers and wishful thinkers were so wrong about a post Fidel or a post Castro’s Cuba?" Then astutely answers "One basic reason is that attention has not been paid to the real developments in the island. Wishful thinking and lies dominated the debate." Well said.
Friday, August 2, 2013
A lot of people here in the United States have a problem recognizing some uncomfortable truths about our government. Sometimes an outsider can help point things out for us. Russia had a great opportunity to lend us a hand in this regard.
With Edward Snowden being granted asylum in Russia, we have a great opportunity to refocus ourselves away from the drama about "where in the world is Snowden" and more towards the issues that his selfless actions brought to light.
The secrets brought to our attention are serious enough that quite quickly even our deeply corrupted congress felt the need to address the issue by attempting to pass legislation which would have virtually ended these offensive and probably unconstitutional programs. In their first attempt they almost succeeded. The formerly secret programs aren't exactly winning the approval of a big chunk of the public.
As the Obama administration spent recent weeks huffing and puffing and flexing its muscles by having the great "democracies" of Europe force the plane of Bolivia's president, Evo Morales, to land after refusing entry to their air space, and making it abundantly clear which countries are more independent than others, it has become obvious that the empire doesn't wield the power that it imagines.
Our Attorney General, Eric Holder, finally tried a less aggressive act by sending a letter to his Russian counterpart promising that if returned, Snowden wouldn't face the death penalty nor would he be tortured. What an amazing fact that this country would have to clarify such a thing!
As far as I know, a direct response wasn't offered to Holder, but in the end asylum was granted to Snowden by Russia. Perhaps that was the response. But if a response would have been given, it could have said the following:
The Russian government appreciates the seriousness of the situation that we find ourselves in. Although it is likely that Edward Snowden has violated certain laws in the United States, and you have given your personal assurances that Mr. Snowden will be treated fairly by your legal system, also not facing the death penalty or torture, the latter being illegal, we prefer to exercise caution in this matter.
Given the recent history, we cannot be sure that your government's definition of torture meets the standards of the international community. As we've witnessed your treatment of another of your citizens in a similar situation, Bradley Manning, we know that your courts ruled after the fact that he was indeed subjected to some of the kinds of things which may have been partly the grounds on which Mr. Snowden has requested asylum.
Along with that example, there are other instances which give us pause such as the descriptions of the treatment of prisoners of yours in Guantanamo Bay. Also, the statements by some former government officials explaining the kinds of treatment they believed to be legal under your laws cause us to question exactly what may be your definition of torture.
We hope that the government of the United States understands and respects our decision on this matter.
The Government of the Russian Federation
Monday, April 22, 2013
Also, you've been busy explaining to your former colleagues in the Senate about our "backyard" which is not only offensive and arrogant, but an imaginary scenario believed by some sold out politicians working on a hill named "Capital" in Washington DC.
In the suit that you dress yourself up in every morning, is there anything left of that John Kerry who long ago spoke so eloquently of the abuses committed by our government against the Vietnamese people? Kind of like the twisted buffoons who you campaigned against for the presidency in 2004, can I ask you if you are a flip flopper? Did you stand against the abuses of our government before you helped perpetuate them?
Soon you'll send a recommendation to President Obama whether or not to include Cuba on your department's list of nations that support terror. In case you've been to steeped in politics to be aware of the first line about the subject on the State Department's website, I'll repeat them for you here: " In order to designate a country as a State Sponsor of Terrorism, the Secretary of State must determine that the government of such country has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism."
Let's review last years report. As you'll notice, it quite frankly defies logic as to why Cuba remains on such a short list.
The Cuban government continued to permit fugitives wanted in the United States to reside in Cuba and also provided support such as housing, food ration books, and medical care for these individuals.
The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has identified Cuba as having strategic AML/CFT deficiencies. Despite sustained and consistent overtures, Cuba has refused to substantively engage directly with the FATF. It has not committed to FATF standards and it is not a member of a FATF-style regional body, although in 2011 it did attend a Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering in South America meeting as a guest and prepared an informal document describing its anti-money laundering/counterterrorist financing system."
For a nation of such prominence like the United States, after a report like this, it should be embarrassing to have continued making the claim that Cuba is a state sponsor of terrorism.
But the past is the past and as much as people may wish it were different, all we can do is deal with the present so that the future can be better. An intelligent decision from you on this issue is what many people hope for.
Having your own department's report seeming to admit that Cuba has distanced itself from the handful of members of ETA should be enough to conclude that the requisite that a country can be shown to repeatedly provide support for ETA's acts of international terrorism. Forget the fact that the report never claimed that Cuba was supporting terrorism by ETA anyhow.
The connections between Cuba and the FARC are a bit more interesting this year to say the least. It turns out that not only isn't Cuba sponsoring FARC terror, Cuba is actually sponsoring peace talks between that group and the government of Colombia! Isn't that a gem?! (If you do decide to keep Cuba on the list, I'm certain that the report will be a bit shorter this time!) Obama himself said that he supports the peace talks, although I'm certain that the whereabouts of the talks has caused him to wince. The Colombian president has also stated his appreciation for Cuba's help in making the talks possible. How do you feel, Mr. Kerry?
As for the FATF and it's claim of "strategic deficiencies" on the part of Cuba, things are also quite different than a year ago. Although it was brushed off earlier this year by the State Department, the FATF stated publicly last October that since June 2011 "Cuba has significantly enhanced its engagement and co-operation with the FATF and made a request to join GAFISUD. However, the FATF urges Cuba to continue its engagement with the FATF and to work with the FATF to develop and agree on an action plan in order to address its AML/CFT deficiencies." There words, not mine. Straight from the group your department decided to rely heavily on in it's determination last year to keep Cuba on that list.
I've watched our government's impotence when it comes to standing up to powerful lobbies in Washington and I'm aware of how disproportionately strong the anti-Cuba lobby is so I really have no idea which John Kerry will be showing up to work on the day that your recommendation is made. For the sake of honesty, credibility, and justice, I do hope that John Kerry who stood for those things will be the one wearing your suit.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Thr Senate has opposed logic. The Senate has opposed the majority os the people. The Senate represents someone, but not us.
Around 90% of the people support more background checks for gun purchases, but despite this the Senate has decided not to support them. The Senate has represented the lobbyists.
For how long will this charade of democracy be accepted? It's gone on far to long. Are democratic institutions enough? Or should we demand more?
I'm tired of the excuses. Commentators speak about protecting the minority. When it's convenient, some people say that we don't have a democracy, but a representative republic. When it's time to change the filibuster, they don't. Obviously the "representatives" are representing someone.
It's not only the gun control issue. We have a Democrat president offering to cut social security. He has the nerve to ask "Who are we here to represent?"
Mr. President, we know who you are there to represent. Haven't you bargained a tax hike for on many middle class people? Aren't you offering to cut social security? Aren't you proposing a cut to heating oil subsidies for the poorest among us? Have you proposed anything to fix our tax system which allows some of the largest corporations to not pay one cent of taxes? Come on Mr. President, who are you guys there to represent? I think you know the answer to that.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Dot #1: Gun control debate.
Dot #2: Serious tensions with North Korea.
(As we run through this dot connecting exercise, we'll notice the low quality of our policy makers in Washington, and the low quality intellect of some press agencies.)
Dot #1 contains the debate over what the Second Amendment actually means and how to try and reduce the amount of gun crimes that are committed in the country. During the back and forth, our vice-president, Joe Biden trying to show the lack of necessity of using assault weapons for personal defense, told a story. "[I said to Jill] if there's ever a problem here, just walk out on the balcony, here, walk out, put that double barrel shotgun and just fire two blasts outside the house. You don't need an [assault rifle]."
Thanks for the advice Joe.
Dot #2 is the situation in which the United States and South Korea, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to play war games off the coast of North Korea. These two countries are technically at war having failed to sign a peace treaty since 1953. (Talk about lack of initiative!) Expectedly, North Korea has decided to get itself on war footing since a mock war will be going on off it's coast by it's enemies. Of course, the U.S. is offended by the "provocative" nature of North Korea's decision, and our press has hyped the story as if an insane North Korea is acting improperly. Does anyone question that it may be irresponsible or provocative to carry out this show of force on the part of the U.S. and South Korea?
Now let's connect the two dots....
What if North Korea thinks like Vice-President Biden? What if North Korea, from within it's house, notices a problem outside? What if North Korea decided to cock it's shotgun as a warning? They haven't fired two blasts like Biden advised his wife to in a similar event. If Biden's wife actually fired the blasts she would actually be violating the laws according to the police in her neighborhood.
To me, it all seems like a lot of ignorant chest thumping. Blasting off shots and playing war games. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Of course, Washington thinks of itself a a special goose so nobody is willing to connect those dots.
Friday, April 5, 2013
In the discourse involving gun control, something to me seems illogical. People who oppose any more gun laws often make the claim that we should just enforce existing laws. Yeah, we should.
But what doesn't make sense to me at all is that given the fact that a person can avoid a background check by purchasing a fire arm at a gun show or from another individual, existing law doesn't seem to prevent someone who shouldn't be able to purchase a gun from doing so. Call it a loophole if you'd like, but it's a damn big one.
The opponents to new laws, or better laws, make the argument that a criminal will break the law anyway and buy one and law abiding citizens, well aren't breaking the law so we shouldn't burden them.
By making it law that every gun purchase must require a background check on the purchaser, at least every legitimate gun sale would prevent someone not eligible to buy one from doing so. It's pretty solid logic. The burden wouldn't be on the buyer, but the seller. And if someone is selling a lethal weapon, let them be a bit more burdened. It's not as if we would be preventing them from selling it. They would just be prevented from selling it to someone who shouldn't be buying it.
No, this kind of law wouldn't prevent illegal gun sales, but it would ensure that all legal sales are legitimate. Can we consider a sale legitimate now if a person unable to purchase a gun in a gun shop does buy one from a gun show? Come on, that's not logical nor intelligent. Leaving this kind of "grey area" in the business of selling arms is just plain irresponsible.
If our politicians can't even take obvious steps to minimally address the situation then they really don't deserve to receive a salary paid by us. They can go work for an industry that they do the bidding for and stay the hell away from public business.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
For Hugo Chavez, empowering his countrymen, the masses of ignored people, the players in a game run by elites both Venezuelan and foreign, was the beginning of a revolution. A revolution which was fought in the political arena of the enemies' of true democracy. Although that arena and its rules were stacked in favor of the elites, it had a fatal flaw. That flaw was that the desires of the forgotten masses could not be contained forever and their awakening, the election of Chavez became a reality.
I remember watching the news the day of the coup against him. The news was upsetting. Flashes of historical leaders being forced from power against the will of the people came to mind and for a little while I thought that the "champions of democracy" had been successful once again at destroying it. But they weren't. The Venezuelan people were alert and came out in support of their president and against the corrupt plotters and within a short period of time their democracy was restored. The people had won again.
Pay attention to the people who so easily label Chavez a "dictator". Pay attention to who they are. Take note of the fact that their use of the word "dictator" is as slanderous as their use of the word "democracy". When these people who attempt to portray the way things are in a way that just doesn't match how they really are, they are either inventing a new language or just plain liars. Our societies are filled with people like this.
We must understand that these people cannot be trusted. Leaders of the most advanced nations are most often nothing more than hypocrites. They are more than willing to deal with real dictators and not only deal with them, but enable them, support them. The only requisite to be on the good side of the leaders and "champions of democracy" is that one's interests must be aligned with theirs. One can squash protests, teargas the public, disappear individuals, or even inherit a kingdom and not even recognize even the slightest appearance of a democratic mechanism. There exist too many excuses why this is the case for us to believe such incoherence.
What is even more inspiring than just the awakening of the Venezuelan people and the multiple elections won by Chavez is that they aren't alone in their awakening. More "dictators" were elected by the people in country after country in Latin America. More elites were rejected by the populations that they had suffocated. Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Argentina, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru, all in their own way found ways to use their deformed democratic institutions to do the unlikely. They have all chosen paths much different, to varying degrees, than the one prescribed by international bankers and multinational corporations. Many have earned the label "dictator" and given its new meaning are proud of the paths they've chosen. Much of this may not have happened if it hadn't been for the revolutionary Hugo Chavez.
So let those undeserving leaders dripping in hypocrisy and arrogance feel revulsion. Let the people yearning for justice feel liberated from the ignorance and arrogance.
There is no end of history. There always is the desire to fight for and feel dignified. Hugo Chavez passed away because his is human. But what he embodied was the struggle of a people. With his passing, it is no doubt a sad day. But his passing doesn't mean that people will give up their struggle. He represented not only his people, but all people who strive to create a better world. He will be missed but what he left behind is a people much greater, much stronger, much more conscious, and much more determined than most elected leaders can claim.
Hugo Chavez, thank you for inspiring a continent and beyond. Comandante Chavez can rest in peace knowing that millions of people are doing the work that he believed they are capable of. Hugo Chavez is a true champion of democracy.
Monday, March 4, 2013
When will we realize that we need to get our act together and recognize what's going on? Earlier today, I was reading something Albert Einstein wrote decades ago. I'm sure we can agree that he was no fool. What he wrote was the following:
"Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights."
He wrote these words in 1949. The situation was clear to the genius then and if it wasn't yet clear to most people then, it should be more than clear by now.
Under the guise of "freedom of speech", money has been allowed to enter our political system recently in the most obnoxious way thanks to a group of political appointees who are unchecked by the public and face no consequences of their decisions. We are left to deal with the consequences of the decisions of the Supreme Court. Only nature followed by more political appointments can change the make up of this body of "justices". How discouraging it is to know that those people who make the appointments are only to become even more corrupted by the outrageous amounts of money that got them their jobs. What a terrible situation we are facing thanks to being distracted and divided by such strange issues. Until when will we allow this detestable group of liars and wolves in sheeps' clothing to make promises with phrases so carefully worded that they lack the meaning that we hope they contain?
We workers have had our taxes raised and that's after we bailed out a group of capitalists who are responsible for not only the current crisis that we are in, but the conditions leading up to the crisis which left us weaker and worse off with every adventure that they had "our" politicians allow them to embark upon. Adding insult to injury, these capitalist corporations have found ways to avoid paying taxes in many cases, and in some have even gotten tax refunds. Of course they have found these "loopholes" since they are the ones who influenced the authors of the loopholes, "our" politicians. The same groups have entered us in to trade deals which send our jobs away in search for cheap labor which in most cases is as unprotected as the laborers in our country a century ago!
We have been bombarded by and conditioned by "news" which mostly comes from giant corporations. We have been convinced of the sanctity of private property and the wonders of the "free market". So much so that we've almost forgotten that the "free market" is actually a market which is governed by a set of rules put in place by people we elect and that we do have the right to have people of our choosing decide the rules by which the market can function. We have either forgotten or been unaware that the oil and natural resources that are extracted often times from public lands leased to the corporations......who get enormous wealth while paying almost nothing for exploiting our commons. We have squandered our airwaves as we've leased them to media corporations who then sell our air time to advertisers like pharmaceutical companies who benefit from our tax dollars so that they can research drugs to then sell us....wait, they have money to advertise but need money for research? See what kind of nonsense we accept?
We are not beyond repair, but we have yet to try anything more than placing our hopes in someone with a nice smile, words that sound too good to be true, and excuses for why they can't deliver. As Einstein suggested, it is extremely difficult to make use of political rights, but if we don't face the fact that those people to who we have ceded political power are not and will not act in our interest, we will continue in our frustration. We must look for alternatives other than the two parties who are taken for granted as our only viable options. They have proven not to be viable options and not fit to represent us. They have proven to be more than willing to represent those forces which are actually detrimental to our nation and society. We must move beyond the Democrat or Republican debate. If we don't, we have already seen what is in store for our future. Degradation of our environment, insufficient wages, an ineffective healthcare system, an uneven under-performing education system, wars which cannot be rationalized, and a parasitic class which loves to complain about "parasites".
With such glaring contradictions between what we have been told to believe and what is actually occurring, there has never been a time so ripe for our discontent to be used in powerful ways to reject the current system and create an alternative together, for the benefit of the masses of people who have been abused and manipulated under the current social relations.
Friday, February 22, 2013
It is a reference to the Financial Action Task Force report about "High Risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions". In a public statement in October 2012, this organization said about Cuba the following:
" In June 2011, the FATF identified Cuba as having strategic AML/CFT deficiencies and it had not engaged with the FATF. Since then, Cuba has significantly enhanced its engagement and co-operation with the FATF and made a request to join GAFISUD. However, the FATF urges Cuba to continue its engagement with the FATF and to work with the FATF to develop and agree on an action plan in order to address its AML/CFT deficiencies."
So there it is, according to the group itself. :Cuba has significantly enhanced its engagement and co-operation with the FATF and made a request to join GAFISUD." If we were to listen without knowing what the State Department is actually talking about, we might come away with the idea that Cuba is actively not doing anything to try and "address those deficiencies that pose a risk to the international financial system." (those are the FATF's reasons for working with nations). Quite the opposite of what is suggested by our State Department!
The only deficiencies that I am aware of in this situation is the lack of good and meaningful reasons on the part of the U.S. government to have Cuba on such a list and I think they are aware of this. The connections with the FARC have actually proved to be useful given that because of those links the Colombian government has been able to engage in a dialogue with the armed group, a dialogue with a goal of peace.
To me, deficiency in strategy better describes a problem facing Washington officials who would like to improve relations with Latin America yet find themselves being increasing viewed negatively by those nations for sticking with an unjustifiable policy towards Cuba. As Washington tries to isolate Cuba, it finds itself becoming more isolated instead. That is a strategic deficiency and it has nothing to do with the myth of Cuba being involved with terrorism.
I'm sure that the "high level diplomats" who made the suggestion that the U.S. has concluded to take Cuba off this list have come to the conclusion based on reality, not based on the obvious nonsense spewed by anti-Cuba "think tanks".
Note: FAFT (Financial Action Task Force)
AML/CFT (Anti-Money Laundering/ Combating the Financing of Terrorism)
GAFISUD (Grupo de Accion Financiera de Sudamerica) or (Financial Action Task Force on Money
Laundering in South America)
(Thanks to Cuba Journal for asking me to be more clear about the acronyms I used. I highly recommend reading http://cubajournal.blogspot.com/ for information about the injustices committed by the "regime" in Washington against the "regime" in Cuba and isn't as lazy and uninformative as the corporate press and highlights many of the accomplishments of the Cuban people. Why only use the term "regime" when talking about the government of Cuba except to belittle a sovereign nation which is recognized to be as legitimate as the government of the United States?)
Sunday, February 3, 2013
We tend to believe that we live in a democracy. But we live in a country that has a democratic action on the federal level once every 4 years. Is there any wonder why we feel, and I don't care where you are on the political spectrum, that the elected officials are not really acting in our best interests? Who is it that our elected officials are listening to? Not us. Not ordinary people.
The people who have the attention of the elected politicians are the very ones who seem to have the least frustration. While we're clocking in at our jobs doing the exact same things we did yesterday, some people are busy at work writing or proposing legislation for our representatives to pass.
As far as I can tell, if what we've been doing is going to work everyday, we haven't been participating much in our democracy!
Excuse me for my ignorance, I failed to remember that we do often choose between Coke or Pepsi and Burger King or McDonalds. Like I said, we don't take our democracy lightly.
This morning, while taking my 8 year old son to baseball practice, I decided to use the time in the car to practice with him some simple math. He got a little more than math practice out of it.
I gave him an example. But first I asked him if he knew what he wage was. He didn't, so I explained to him.
Here's have the example went:
Let's say that a man works in a baseball factory. This man makes 2 baseballs in an hour. The wage that he is paid is 2 dollars every hour. And let's say that the owner of the factory needs to pay 1 dollar for the materials to make 2 baseballs. How much does it cost the owner to have 2 baseballs made?
He thought about it and answered correctly. "3 dollars because it's 2 dollars for the worker plus 1 more dollar for the materials."
Then I said, "let's say the boss sells each ball for 2 dollars. How much does he make after paying for the materials and the worker?" I reminded him that the 1 dollar of materials was for making 2 baseballs and the worker makes 2 balls in 1 hour. He thought about it and said "50 cents if he sells 1 ball for 2 dollars." That's right.
I gave him a few more mathematical possibilities and for the most part he got them right. Then I asked him, "how many hours does a person need to work if he wants to buy 1 of the balls that he made it work?" His answer was 1 hour.
I asked him what he thought about someone having to make 2 balls in order to earn enough money to buy 1 ball. He realized the strange nature of the situation any told me, "he's getting ripped off!"
It's interesting how clear things are sometimes to an unconditioned mind of a child.
Saturday, January 26, 2013
I did not vote for you in 2012. The change I knew your were capable of after voting for you in 2008, I quickly realized was just going to be someone else's to bring one day. I'm certain that you are aware of what you have not done and could have so I don't feel the need to waste anyone's time here. I also can assume, based on watching how you've governed, that you really don't care. This should be especially true since your political competitions (elections) are something of the past.
I know that you are some kind of an expert on constitutional law and not a rocket scientist. It's not a problem since what I'm going to write here is definitely not rocket science. You are a politician so it should all make sense to you. You've done a remarkable job at maintaining tremendous support despite the fact that you haven't done much to help the people who give you their support and likely have done more harm than good.
Mr. President, can I ask you something? How did it feel when you showed up at the Summit of the Americas and found out that you no longer came to the table as a master, but as someone who endured almost unanimous condemnation for our nation's attitude and policies towards Cuba? You know that there was a time that Uncle Sam could twist the arms of some nations' governments and have them go along with his ideas. You know that Uncle Sam had installed dictators who did his bidding, destroying a continent's peoples desires for democracy and justice. If you didn't know, you do know now that those people are also aware of those things. And those people have raised their heads and voices and have taken their destinies' in the own hands. They are struggling, democratically, to recreate their societies that have been so deformed thanks to Uncle Sam's actions and they are succeeding. Tell me, how does it feel when the desire for democracy starts to shake up a hemisphere that had for so long been dominated by people from the same institutions that you are a part of? If you're at all an understanding man, you should feel a bit humbled but still excited about what possibilities the people of Latin America are experiencing.
How, Mr. President will you tackle the future? Will you fight a losing battle to try to impose your will, or the will of Uncle Sam? Will you accept this new reality gracefully and try to fit in this new equation? You still have a lot of potential to become a very positive influence in Washington, but you only have this one term left. How much do you care about people? How much do you care about Alan Gross? Do you care for him in human way? Or do you instead use Alan Gross as a number in some sort of political calculation? Do you count on the fact that most Americans do not have the slightest idea who he is so that, politically, he becomes a convenient excuse not to pursue the inevitable path of restoring relations with Cuba? As unknown as Alan Gross is to most Americans, so are the Cuban five. Like I said earlier, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to solve this puzzle of how to resolve this sad situation.
Your own administration has stated that Alan Gross' imprisonment is a major obstacle to any progress on the issue of Cuba. That's why I question how you view him. A simple solution exists and only escapes those who either can't speak outside the typical rhetoric or those who tend to analyze situations to death. Up until now, you've seemed to fall in the first category with some minor exceptions. But not only does that leave you with bad or no options to resolve the situation involving Alan Gross but also leaves our nation further isolated in hemispheric affairs.
Take the Cuban five for example. Let's imagine for the sake of argument, that their sentences are fair. Under normal circumstances do states prefer to maintain prisoners for decades instead of using them as possible chips to be traded for their own imprisoned assets? There are countless examples of swaps between enemies throughout history. Even if one were to view the crimes of the Cuban five as being much worse than the crimes committed by Mr. Gross, the possibility for a trade still exists as opposed to leaving Alan Gross in his predicament based on some imagined principle. Even more perplexing is the case of one of the five's being forced to serve out his parole here when we can both pretty much expect that once it is completed he will not ask to continue living here nor would we allow him to for that matter.
The irrationality of the embargo that we insist on keeping in place is obvious to the world around us. No one expects that changing that policy would be a sign of weakness, but instead an example of the United States finally not insisting on such an absurd and punitive policy based on a powerful nation's arrogance in believing that it should have a say in another less powerful yet sovereign nation's affairs. It's very difficult for you or any other administration to sit at the table with any other Latin American countries' leaders with this hanging over our heads and pretend that we have respect for their sovereignty. If you want to be able to accomplish anything tangible at future hemispheric conferences, as it was made clear to you at the last Summit of the Americas, you must begin to seriously begin to address the issue of Cuba intelligently and fairly.
Who knows what the history between the two countries would be today had President Kennedy been able to receive news from the man he secretly sent to discuss things with Castro. Perhaps your job would be easier today and what I'm writing now would have never entered my mind. But this isn't the case. It's your time and your responsibility to find a way to resolve what is probably our nation's biggest stumbling block to normal equitable relations with all of our southern neighbors. Show the world, show the American people that your abilities extend beyond the infantile politicking with the Republican machinery. You can be sure that Cuba is a ripe fruit, not one for us to devour and enjoy its sweetness, but one which you can reach for and pull from the tree of seemingly unreachable political heights.
Thanks for your time,
Friday, January 25, 2013
Why would this good senator be under investigation? Could it be that the FBI is interested in corruption, something that so many of us feel is going on in Washington regularly but it never seems to interest investigators much? Nope. It involves Sen. Menendez possible involvement with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. Now let's put this in to perspective. This is a very serious charge. I can appreciate that given the fact that Sen. Menendez will be assuming the chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it's nice to know that he has shown an interest in travel to foreign countries. But how does a guy who travels abroad for sex with underage girls look if he would hold such a prestigious position in the government? Hopefully his colleagues are whispering to him something about assuming a less prominent role at the very least! Forget about his obvious dishonesty. His moral character seems to be an issue here. we all know that politicians are often less that honest.
What dishonesty? well let me point out the most recent example. As he attempted some sort of rebuttal to Sen. Flake's suggestion to allow Americans to travel to Cuba, he decided to repeat the known lie about Alan Gross' actions in Cuba. It has been exposed that he wasn't simply helping the Jewish community in Cuba get a little internet access, but actually carrying out a contract which is part of a government program to destabilize Cuba. Sen. Menendez, having nothing much left of legitimate examples to defend his policy positions regarding Cuba, just has to resort to outright lies.
In my opinion, this lowlife should have his ego deflated. If he is actually guilty of having sex with underage prostitutes in other countries, he should be dealt with according to the law. He should until then hide his head in the sand and hope this is all just a nightmare. But either way, he should be called out for being the liar he is. I do hope he is the next link of an ever shrinking chain of hard liners protecting the status quo of the embargo against Cuba. The chain is weak and someone should break it already.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
As 2012 closes, we have seen another year go by and another 365 days wasted by Washington politicians as the official line about Cuba has remained the same... idiotic.
Cuba remains inexplicably on our list of terrorist nations. We still fund programs aimed at subverting its government. And the U.S. remains virtually isolated internationally in regards to the embargo, which has not only failed at its objective, but continues to put constraints on Cuba's economy and its people making everyday life more difficult than it need be. And let's not forget that the deadly Wet-foot/Dry-foot policy remains in effect despite all of the talk of immigration that has gone on.
Let's hope that the new year brings new ideas and attitudes and we begin to see actual changes in not only rhetoric but policies. As we all know, time has come for Washington to get over its Cuba complex and find the strength to do the right thing. END THE EMBARGO AND RESPECT CUBA.
Happy New Year to all.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
I watched again and again, issue after issue, the president not only cede negotiating positions to the Republican party, but never even had starting points in negotiations that his supporters imagined he would. The key word here is "imagined".
I had never imagined that we were on the brink of a true universal health care system. I just thought he might at least bring it up. I never imagined that he would truly bring U.S.troops home from Iraq. I just didn't think he would actually try to extend the deadline that Bush had set. The one thing that I did expect him to do he did. He did allow unlimited travel to Cuba by people with relatives there. But unfortunately, he has maintained all of the programs that we spend millions of dollars on to undermine the Cuban government. I think it would be easier than most people think to go a lot farther and establish relations with Cuba since the times of Kennedy. There would be no personal political risk, which of course is the main calculation in the minds of politicians like him.
But what we are witnessing this week should turn the stomachs of decent people. The absolutely unbalanced military pounding being applied to the Palestinian people in Gaza. Hamas apparently has a military wing because its chief was assassinated by an Israeli air strike earlier this week, but I've not seen any images of an actual Palestinian military. Rockets and some machine guns can hardly be called a military in today's world and anyone who tries to claim that the fight is balanced is simply lying.
Watching Obama's administration answer the questions of violence by Israel by stating that they stand by Israel's right to defend themselves, as if the violent occupiers have been sucker punched and become victims by the people they seem to be determined to occupy. It's disgusting and disgraceful. It's also why Israel acts as disconnected to reality as the Obama administration when the United Nations votes to condemn the embargo of Cuba... another embarrassing stance that Obama decides to stick with.
Obama inspired me and these are events that reinforce my certainty. He inspired me to finally un-register from the Democrat party, which I had already believed for some time had not been a good fit for me. He also inspired me to vote for the Green party candidate for president on November 6 of this year.
He has done so much as president to have left me quite inspired. Hopefully others will be inspired too. For that I say to President Obama, "Great job."
Monday, September 10, 2012
Our shit stinks. The U.S. government, not the Constitution, but the people who have the responsibility of governing are embarrassingly hypocritical. They all profess their love and belief in democracy. They all invoke democracy and open government every chance they get. They all use it as an issue to judge other countries. And almost everyone is obviously full of shit.
A great example of the utter disregard for the idea of democracy is what happened at the Democrat's convention. When delegates were voting on and amendment for the party platform, the event went past the boundaries of absurdity. What the amendment itself contained isn't the issue here. What is the issue was how the vote actually happened. A voice vote of yeas and nays was held and a two thirds majority was needed for passage of the amendment. When the vote was made, apparently the desired result wasn't clearly the winner. So the vote was held again. For a second time, their was no clear two thirds winner. Incredibly, the vote was done for a third time. Both the yeas and nays grew louder with each vote, but not even on the third vote was there a clear majority. I suppose that the mayor of Los Angeles decided that continuing to vote would just increase the embarrassment of the situation, so he declared the yeas the winner, just as the teleprompter prompted him to, and the amendment was adopted. What a slap in the face for democracy! Their shit stinks.
Why is it that we have another party which through state legislatures attempt to make it more difficult for people to vote? How can these people keep a straight face when they talk of the importance and strength of democracy, yet actually pass laws which are based on a disdain for voter participation? These "gentleman" are hypocrites. They don't give a damn about democratic process. They are interested in manipulating the election system in ways that help their own party. Nothing more, nothing less. Their shit stinks.
Both parties file law suits in state courts against some candidates from other parties trying to prevent them from earning a spot on the ballots. Whether or not the legal arguments have merritt, the two ruling parties have deep enough pockets to drag the court process on long enough to make it financially impossible to continue for the other candidates to continue. The two parties do what they can to restrict the context of whatever democracy we might have. Their shit stinks.
In the election of 2000, Ralph Nader was called a spoiler as the Democrats tried to rationalize Al Gore's loss to George W. Bush. Well, many people who preferred Nader's ideas, voted for Gore because the idea of voting for a better candidate from a third party seemed like an impossible choice since everyone knows that there are only two parties that can win a presidential election. The way I see it, the spoiler for the American people was Al Gore and the Democrat party. Had they stepped out of the way, maybe Ralph Nader could have become our president. And why not? Is the Green Party not allowed to beat the Republican Party? While Al Gore was busy trying to appear like an "alpha-male" for the news media, the party itself was making sure that Ralph Nader wouldn't be able to embarrass the "legitimate" participants in the debates. So Ralph Nader was kept outside of the debates, marginalized by the "free press" as somewhat of a joke, and we ended up having the Supreme an interesting thing about our "independent" judiciary in that Bush vs. Gore decision is the fact that all of the judges who supported state's rights actually voted against the state court's decision and those judges supposedly in favor of more federal power over the states voted in support of the state's decision. Even our Supreme Court's shit stinks.
So everyone make sure you're registered to vote. It's an important election. Most people will go and exercise their one moment of democracy and cast their ballot for the lesser of two evils once again. We'll try and protect the little we have and hope for the best. Probably President Obama will win reelection and Mitt Romney will fade away soon after. Maybe one day we will get a chance to vote for a candidate who is able to rise to a level above our shitty political games and our potential will not continue to be squandered. Good luck. (And remember to flush...our shit stinks too.)
Saturday, August 4, 2012
From that point on, things were rushed. My grandfather came along for two reasons. He's 90 years old and in pretty damn good shape. His brother is 96 years old and isn't so he wanted to get to see him since he had the opportunity. The other reason is that his grandmother had built a chapel back in the 1880's in Pinar del Rio and he wanted to go there while he is still able. He hasn't been to the chapel in over 60 years and nothing was going to stop him from going there now. He had contacted the priest prior to the trip so he knew my grandfather was coming. Oh yeah, the priest turned out to be a relative. Now I'm not religious at all, not even a bit (I'm pretty sure the term is atheist). I understand that religion is important to some people so for my grandfather, going to the chapel was fantastic.
The plan was originally to leave the first morning, Sunday, and drive straight to San Juan y Martinez in Pinar del Rio and go to the chapel. But the priest wanted us to give him two days to clear the path to the chapel first, which was overgrown with marabu. So instead we went to Las Terrazas, where the late musician Polo Montanez lived. We stayed the night there and headed off to Vinales the next morning. We stayed the night there and caught some of the baseball game between the U.S. team and Cuba. Basically my kids wanted to be in the pool in both places and we didn't get to see much, but what we did see was beautiful.
The third morning we finally headed to San Juan y Martinez. We met the preist there at the church in that city. He's the person who had the keys to the chapel and had the path cleaned up to make the trip possible. The scratches on his arms from the marabu showed us that plenty of work had been done. We followed him to a house where we waited for him to get a truck and a chorus to sing during a mass he was to give for my grandfather. We hopped in the truck and made our way 12 kilometers up a hill that would have been impossible to scale with a regular car. And when we got to the top, my grandfather was finally able to see the chapel that he hasn't visited in over 60 years. As he said, "mission accomplished"!
The preist gave a mass and the chorus sang. After that, he asked my grandfather to say a few words which was pretty difficult since he was pretty chocked up and emotional. Like I said before, I'm not at all religious, but it was truly a beautiful moment seeing the happiness of my grandfather. There is a plaque on the wall dedicated to his grandmother who died in 1925 when he was only three years old. Things got cut a bit short because a storm was coming and we had to make it back down the hill and the chorus had their instruments with them and wouldn't want them to get destroyed in the rain.
We made it back to the church in San Juan y Martinez, dropped the preist off, got some gas, and then we were off to la Ciudad Pinar del Rio. We ate lunch at the top of the tallest building in the city. (Our taxi driver most certainly made his commission for bringing us there which was fine by us since that was his only chance during the trip to bring us to a place that didn't bring us a menu with prices!) Then we were off to La Habana.