Saturday, January 31, 2015
The giant step of official recognition has already been made and it will be etched in stone once each nation has replaced their respective Interests Sections with Embassies. Much has been made about the counties beginning the process of normalizing relations and rightfully so. And such a situation would be possible only if each country actually decides to have respect as a foundation of the relationship. This is the first time that the United States has announced publicly this type of desire so it sort of binds itself to trying. Given the history of aggression towards the island dating back to its independence from Spain, it seems pretty hard to believe, but we don't have crystal balls.
The US media has perpetuated a particular narrative that goes some thing like this: every time the US has reached out to the Cuban government, the Cuban government has created a situation to prevent mending relations. Basically we are supposed to be believing that the government of Cuba prefers the blockade, or embargo, remains in place so it has something to blame for its problems. Actually, if the US media is supposed to be honest and fair, then laziness can be the only reason for telling this story. It would have been noticed long ago that what the Cuban government blames on US is policy IS the results of US policy. US law does prevent the sale of numerous medical devices to benefit the Cuban people. US law does prevent the global financial institutions from handling Cuban transactions in a ways that would be considered as remotely usual. The powerful and very real threat of huge fines keeps institutions from engaging many from even trying. These are just some examples that would easily prove both that the complaints by Cuban officials have made are legitimate and that they would prefer that the embargo would be eliminated should be believed completely.
The new claim or half-baked question being raised in the media, something that apparently follows the age old story about roadblocks erected by the Cuban government have to do with the speech made by Raul Castro this week at the meeting of CELAC. He is said to have made demands that would prevent normalization of relations. What he said was actually exactly what has been said since Cuba has acted independently in 1959, something that hadn't been fully realized since ceasing to be a colony of Spain. A valid question would be "how much independence was exercised when its constitution was first written under US military occupation?" And the same question can be posed when considering the treaty that allowed Guantanamo Bay to remain occupied by US military. It doesn't take much thought to realize that those decisions were made to satisfy US interests much more than anything that would benefit Cuba. There are international laws that can call into question the validity of that treaty as well as certain uses of the Guantanamo base that also may invalidate the agreement.
Should the United States keep occupy another nation's territory, especially if the nation demands that it leaves? Of course not and it it very reasonable for the end of the Guantanamo occupation to be necessary for truly normal relations to exist. But Raul Castro himself stated that working towards that end wouldn't impede the steps being taken currently between the US and Cuban governments. So it shouldn't be seen as a roadblock. Besides, how would we have to redefine the word normal to coincide with a relationship in which one country continues to try and impose its will on the other? I'd go as far as saying the largest roadblock to normalization may ultimately be the US attitude which has shown so far to be almost inflexible.
We need to keep these types of things in mind and ask ourselves who and what is reasonable. And we should't compromise language any more than we have and know what normalization should be..
Friday, January 16, 2015
Now that the most sweeping changes in restrictive policies regarding Cuba have been made official, it's important that we pay close attention to what is going on. Although all of rhe decisions made by President Obama are correct and completely justified, one thing needs to not be overlooked. In announcing the changes the president, along with a sizeable portion of the press, were clear in their explanation of the shift; the policies didn't achieve the goal. What was the goal? Reversing the Cuban revolution itself and re-asserting US dominance of Cuba.
The job of the US government is not to dictate to other nations, each just as sovereign as the other, what or how a government should be. This particular "goal" must be denounced and any uninvited interference in Cuba by the United States should not be something that anyone in the United States should support. The reverse wouldn't be tolerated and has never been even attempted.
This is not a secret. Domination of the island has been contemplated for way more than a century by politicians in Washington, sometimes in the past openly. Now fancy catch phrases are used such as "expanding democracy" and "supporting human rights".
As the politicians in our capital expand "freedom" around the world, actual lives are made worse. Just look at some recent "successes" in Libya or in Iraq. It seems that an appearance of democratic happenings regardless of its credibility suffices.
Tall tales of history claim that the United States help Cuba gain her independence from Spain. The treaty of Paris actually handed control over the island to the US and away from Spain. The newly "independent" Cuba's constitution was written basically under military occupation. In 1906 the then president T. Roosevelt signed an executive order giving the Secretary of War, Taft, the role of provisional governor of Cuba and again occupied the island. The fact that this happened is obvious evidence that independence wasn't truly achieved.
Over time certain treaties were changed allowing more independence but until 1959, a government of Cuba never did exercise actual independence with the the main goal of putting the Cuban people first. That was the only "offense" that was committed by the government of Cuba. And for that the punishment of the last half century is explained.
Whether a person is of the mind that the US has some sort of right to intervention or not, as Obama said the policy pursued was fruitless. Realizing this was politically easy given the desire of American companies to do business with the island. What Obama hasn't renounced is an intention to attempt to change the government on the island. He likely prefers to allow the business opportunities to be pleased while Washington searches for a new tactic for an old goal.
We can debate how free a people may be until the end of time, faults can be found, and improvements can be made everywhere. But we need to understand that the new language being used by our politicians is to justify the policy change as well as it will be used to justify continued interference. Congress needs to deal the actual death blow to the outdated legal restrictions written in to our laws. But we need to demand from our own government a respect for the sovereignty of our neighbor. That is the true change that will be most welcomed if it is to come.
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Sunday, December 15, 2013
Mr. Zakaria never struck me as one of the boisterous TV personalities who foams at the mouth while being offensive to his guests. And he has always been a gentleman in his defense of capitalism and the imagined rights of the powerful nations to impose on others their own ideas about how things should be. While his recent view supporting the idea of changing US policy towards Cuba is welcome, his interpretations and characterization of Cuba's economic difficulties are severely off.
"Let's begin by asking whether the existing policy is working. In 1960, the United States enacted an embargo against Cuba. Its purpose was simple and explicit: regime change. Did it work? Well, until he retired from the presidency in 2008, Fidel Castro was the longest serving head of government in the world. Surely that's about as powerful evidence as one can get that the policy did not work and is not working." He is sincere in pointing out the reason behind the US policy and certainly Fidel Castro was the man in Cuba who could have borrowed a sign for his desk from an American president which said 'The Buck Stops Here'. Then the man with a GPS goes on to say "The truth is that Cuba's miserable economy is almost entirely its own fault." Had he been holding a compass, he would have been led to a much different analysis.
The suggestion that the main problems are Cuba's own fault is one of those half-truths that leads an honest attempts of analysis astray. Certainly Cuba chose its own course and decide upon creating a particular economic system. But it did so at a time when there were two major blocs of international trade. Being forced out of one by the imposition of an embargo, it made the logical decision to form itself in a way that maintained its newly won independence and became integrated in to the socialist trading bloc. Not only was it based on survival and independence, but it allowed the nation to achieve what so many others couldn't in regards to education and medical advances. Since the disappearance of the socialist bloc, Cuba found itself in a very difficult spot having an economy set up for a world which no longer existed. So yes, it is how it is because of their own decisions. But the bulk of the problems it faces now, along with transforming its system, is the set of obstacles created by laws, extra-territorial laws, created in Washington with the precise reason of trying to strangle the Cuban economy. In that sense, US policy has been quite successful.
Surely Mr. Zakaria understands the effects of sanctions as he has explained them so well in regards to the damages they have caused to Iran's economy. To ignore or overlook them in the case of Cuba is either sloppy analysis or just dishonest.
He wants the US to "give capitalism a chance". I think the US should give capitalists a chance, but they would have to do so by playing by the rules that Cuba chooses if the are to participate there. Also more importantly, Cuba has not asked for capitalism to be given a chance. What they have asked for is a chance for free trade. Commercial exchanges to be allowed in practice, not in name only like the many "free trade" agreements that we like to tout. Businesses would be allowed to operate according to the laws of the places in which they do business. That's all and it shouldn't be too much to ask. Free trade between nations is impossible if the US maintains its current and long standing policy of preventing it. The vengeful policy has long worn out its welcome and even its goals are recognized by many as offensive.
He sticks with his imperialist attitude by saying that Washington should offer some relaxations in the policies but only if Cuba does what the United States thinks it should do. That just simply wouldn't be any fundamental change in the current policy! He must truly believe that the US has the right to judge another nation's political system. That just isn't a right, it's an assumption, but one that isn't even applied uniformly, only in some cases arbitrarily. Has the United States demanded political reforms in all countries? Of course not. It only make those calculated demands of some nations and it's almost always based on a strategy that hopes that reforms would lead to a political system subservient to US interests. There is nothing humanitarian or idealistic about it.
So Fareed Zakaria's GPS has led him to the same place he started, some sort of glitch in the technology that may have been avoided by using a simple old fashion compass.
Saturday, December 14, 2013
Coverage of the passing of the South African revolutionary, Nelson Mandela, filled the airwaves this past week. But at his memorial, a handshake between Presidents Obama and Castro caused another news flurry which almost competed for space in the press.
Now at a high profile memorial service being broadcast worldwide, it would make sense that etiquette and common courtesy would be the main reason for this Obama/Castro handshake. It really shouldn't be a controversial situation and despite the inflammatory rhetoric of folks like John McCain, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and company. One-time Cuban exile Marco Rubio (who never really was an exile) went as far as saying that he would have taken the opportunity to pose idiotic questions to Raul Castro had he found himself in that situation. I find that hard to believe that he would ever find himself in that situation and if he ever was in the presence of a true revolutionary, given the amount of water Rubio is known to drink, he would probably piss in his pants.
I don't think that as some of the right-wing has suggested that the handshake was a propaganda coup by Cuba. If there is any coup it would be one against the folks who tremble at the idea of engagement between Cuba and the United States. To me, the handshake was a mere diplomatic courtesy and not much else.
But if we put the handshake in the context of the President's recent statements about needing to find a more logical way of dealing with the Cuba issue, it could be in essence a metaphorical doorway. Obama finds himself standing at the doorway of a neighbor who has invited him over for coffee but the past frictions make him unsure if he should knock or turn and walk away. He has the invitation, he would have support, and if he were to strike up a conversation with the neighbor he would likely find out that all those fears that kept him away for so long were unjustified.
A lot depends on what the Presidents decides to do at the doorway. Separated people would begin to reconnect, even more than they are already. The sugar that one neighbor could ask the other for could be shared and conversely the other neighbor could use the other's tools to help repair his house. The neighbors could cooperate in ways they haven't in decades.
Not to mention that the same fears that have prevented any polite conversations in the past could be confronted to easily bring home an elderly American to his family and four Cubans home to theirs.
By pure chance so much weight has been placed on this handshake when it was never probably meant to be anything more than a courteous gesture at a memorial service for a giant of world history. An unexpected occurrence can sometimes be among the most meaningful. Or opportunities can be squandered.
President Obama, have the coffee. Go inside. Both neighbors have a lot of catching up to do.
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,