Tag Archives: Cuba

Nate Silver, Matthew Yglesias: 2020 Dem front-runner is Bernie Sanders

I wholeheartedly agree with Salon.com writer D. Watkins that the United States of America “is on pause.” 

He wrote recently:

Donald Trump supporters made their big cultural statement in 2016 by electing to the presidency a white-collar executive who’s never seen a day of hard work yet presents himself as the champion of blue-collar people. Now, as a result, America is on pause.

We have now been under the rule of Donald Trump for more than 170 days and nothing of substance has happened — other than multiple attempts to undo everything that had been accomplished by the previous administration, like Barack Obama’s special immigration program for foreign entrepreneurs, providing heating aid for some of our most vulnerable citizens, the defrosting of relations with Cuba and, of course, the GOP’s constant obsession — Obamacare.

Anything Obama touched in his eight years in office, from Planned Parenthood to climate change, has to go, apparently. What’s worse, many of these Obama undos are being under-reported overall, because Trump’s crass tweets and his campaign’s collection of Russia scandals makes for better TV. …

Agreed that while we’re all focused on Russia and “President” Pussygrabber’s latest outrageous tweet, the unelected Pussygrabber regime is dismantling everything good and, like a virus, is altering the main function of the federal government to that of making the rich even richer and the poor even poorer.

But it’s not like Obama was a progressive champion; he was not. He was a moderate, a centrist who far preferred working with the status quo than trying anything even remotely approaching radically progressive. Even his “signature” “achievement,” Obamacare, kept health care a for-profit enterprise (indeed, if you didn’t buy health insurance, you were — well, are — penalized).

As I have noted many times, Obama had an opportunity, in 2009 and 2010, when he still had a shitload of political capital behind him and before the House of Representatives reverted to the Repugnicans in November 2010, to push through a boldly progressive agenda. But he spectacularly squandered that one and only opportunity during his eight years in the White House.

I am happy that toward the end of his time in office Obama moved to open relations between the United States and Cuba — with the caveat that I really, really hope that Cuba doesn’t become the capitalist playground that capitalist exploiters had made it before the Castro revolution — but all in all, the Obama years were eight years that were mostly squandered, and after the eight disastrous years under “President” George W. Bush (and the many disastrous years before his, going back at least to Ronald Reagan), we couldn’t afford to squander yet another eight years.

And we can’t afford to squander these years that we are squandering under Pussygrabber (and under Mike Pence, if he ends up completing Pussygrabber’s term) — and it’s much worse than squandering, actually. To squander something is to fail to take good advantage of it; again, what Pussygrabber & Co. are doing now is dismantling everything that doesn’t immediately profit themselves and their super-rich cronies and converting it into a profiteering machine for themselves.

Enter, methinks, Bernie Sanders.

The Democratic Party establishment has shown little leadership during the Pussygrabber regime thus far because the establishment Democrats are funded by many if not most of the very same corporations that fund the Repugnicans. And these corporate funders are paying for an extension of the sociopoliticoeconomic status quo (which is the most that they will allow).

The Democratic establishment will try to front an Obama-esque fresh face for 2020, will try to punk us again. It could be corporate whore Cory Booker or it could be newbie Kamala Harris, who has been in the U.S. Senate for such a short period of time that I have to wonder if she has had time to discover where the women’s restroom is yet.

I voted for Harris, both for California’s U.S. senator to replace the retiring Barbara Boxer and when she was California’s attorney general, but it’s way too soon to be talking about President Harris. Let’s let her accomplish something before we give her that huge promotion.

True, Obama was in the U.S. Senate for only four years — not even for one full (six-year) term — before he ran for president, but that’s my point; we don’t need, in Kamala Harris, a female Barack Obama (who hadn’t accomplished anything in the Senate before he became president).

We need a bold progressive.

Thus far, for 2020 I’m staunchly supporting Bernie Sanders. Vox.com’s Matthew Yglesias wrote earlier this month (emphasis in bold is mine):

Amid a swirl of speculation about Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, and practically everyone else under the sun as potential Democratic presidential contenders, most of the political class is ignoring the elephant in the room.

Bernie Sanders is, by some measures the most popular politician in America, by far Democrats’ most in-demand public speaker, and the most prolific grassroots fundraiser in American history.

If he were 10 or 20 years younger, his absence from a 2020 cattle call held by the Center for American Progress back in May would have been glaring. As things stood, the whisper among everyone in the halls was simply that he’s too old and obviously won’t run.

But make no mistake: Sanders is the real 2020 Democratic front-runner.

He’s doing exactly what a candidate who fell short needs to do to run a second time. He’s established a national political organization, he’s improved his ties with colleagues on Capitol Hill, he’s maintained a heavy presence in national media, and he’s traveling the country talking about issues.

In subtle ways he’s shifted his policy commitments to the center, making himself a more broadly acceptable figure in the party. At the same time, he’s held on to a couple of signature issues — Medicare-for-all and tuition-free public college — that give him exactly the kind of clear-cut and broadly accessible agenda that mainstream Democrats lack.

Of course, if he were to run and win, he’d be 78 years old, the oldest president on record by some margin. And maybe he won’t run. But his recent moves suggest that he is both interested in the nomination and very much the candidate to beat for it. …

Yup. It’s fine if the Democratic establishment wishes to ignore Bernie (who, I surmise, hasn’t moved to the center nearly as much as he has moved the center point further to his side). We, the people, are the ones who will participate in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primary elections and caucuses. And it will be significantly harder for the Democratic National Committee to fuck over Bernie this time because we’re all well aware of how the Billarybots of the DNC fucked Bernie over last time.

Will the voters who were stoked over Bernie in 2016 — he won 46 percent of the pledged delegates (the delegates that actually had to be democratically won in the primary elections and the caucuses) to Billary’s paltry-for-her 54 percent — accept an Obama-esque empty shell like Cory Booker, all lame political platitudes but nothing to back them up?

I don’t think that they’ll be punk’d like that again.

Yes, it’s possible that Bernie won’t run in 2020, but he has been pretty active for someone who has ruled out a 2020 run. As I noted in April:

Bernie Sanders is, I think, going to run for the presidency again in 2020.

He hasn’t ruled it out, and he has remained in the public eye since the preventably disastrous November 2016 presidential election.

He put a book out in November (and his progressive comrade Elizabeth Warren has another book due out later this month), and while the establishment Democrats’ “plan” remains to just sit back and watch the Repugnican Tea Party, under the “leadership” of “President” Pussygrabber, implode (or explode, I suppose), Bernie is out there advocating for a progressive agenda that would improve millions of lives (as is Elizabeth).

Bernie will introduce legislation for single-payer health care, totally bypassing the bogus argument of corporate-friendly Obamacare vs. corporate-friendly Trumpcare (and necessarily so), and he and Warren have introduced legislation for free in-state community college and public four-year college tuition. …

Matthew Yglesias’ piece inspired Nate Silver and crew over at fivethirtyeight.com to weigh in on whether or not Bernie is actually the 2020 Democratic Party presidential front-runner.

In the rather meandering discussion, Silver (whose opinion at fivethirtyeight.com that I value the most) proclaims, “I say YES.”

Silver qualifies: “A ‘front-runner’ is the horse that jumps out to the front of the pack and dictates the action behind him.” He adds: “Bernie got 13 million votes in 2016. Isn’t he next in line for the Democratic nomination?”

Um, yes, he garnered 13.2 million popular votes to Billary’s 16.9 million, and he won 22 states, plus the Democrats abroad.

That would, if the Democratic Party establishment still weren’t anti-democratic, pro-corporate and anti-populist and corrupt, of course mean that he’s next in line.

As I’ve noted before, I can support Elizabeth Warren if Bernie doesn’t run again, but I prefer Bernie to her for 2020 for several reasons.

Not only are his favorability numbers among all American voters significantly higher than are hers, so it would be much less of an uphill battle for him than it would be for her, but he has run a presidential campaign already and thus has a lot of infrastructure and supporters already in place. Warren, of course, does not.

And on that note, while Warren declined to run in 2016 — I still surmise that she was too cowardly to step on Queen Billary’s royal cape — Bernie went ahead and ran against Billary instead of allowing her to coast to a coronation, as did all of the cowards who comprise the Democratic Party establishment.

I admire that Bernie fucking did that. It showed leadership and it showed gigantic balls. He knew what he was up against — the corrupt, anti-democratic and anti-Democratic Billary juggernaut — but he did it anyway.

And in the admittedly very early polls of 2020 Democratic Party presidential preference, Bernie is leading, inspiring Nate Silver to proclaim, “Sanders is really well liked among Democrats. He was second last time. He’s leading in the polls now. Isn’t it obvious that he’s the front-runner?”

To me it is. And I’m in good company with Silver and Yglesias.

Will his age (75) harm Bernie? I don’t think so. As long as he remains active and alert on the campaign trail, as he did in 2015 and 2016, he should be fine. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California is 84 years old and is expected to run for re-election in 2018 — and is expected win handily (unfortunately; she really needs to go). And to me she has shown a lot more signs of advanced age than has Bernie, including mental fogginess.

Feinstein is the oldest member of the U.S. Senate, followed by six other current senators who are at least 80 years old, including the fossil John McCainosaurus.

So no, age isn’t necessarily a campaign killer.

Will the drummed-up “scandal” regarding Bernie’s wife and the funding of Burlington College — a “scandal” drummed up by “President” Pussygrabber’s campaign chairman for Vermont — be a problem for Bernie?

No.

Only those who never would have supported democratic socialist Bernie anyway will give the “scandal” any credence, and at any rate, the “scandal” doesn’t involve Bernie (he hasn’t been shown to have done anything illegal or even unethical), and anyone with two brain cells to rub together will consider the source: “President” Pussygrabber’s campaign chairman for Vermont.

Um, yeah. It’s an obvious smear campaign, and I might argue that the smear campaign is a good sign, because you don’t smear those who are weak, but those who pose a threat.

The 2020 cycle is better for Bernie than was 2016 in many ways. Queen Billary is out of the picture (finally), and in the wake of Billary’s loss in November 2016, the brand of “Democratic” Party that the center-right, sellout Clintons started and that Obama perpetuated is weakened.

As I’ve noted before, not only did Bernie win 46 percent of the pledged delegates to Billary’s 54 percent, but in February we saw that familiar 46-54 split in the election of the new chair of the Democratic National Committee, with Clinton-Obama establishmentarian Democrat (“Democrat”?) Tom Perez garnering 54 percent of the vote to Bernie-backed progressive Keith Ellison’s 46 percent.

We progressives — we true Democrats — are within striking distance of taking over the party. It’s clear that the “Democratic” Party establishment under Perez, et. al. still doesn’t have a clue or a plan (other than, as I noted in April, watching the “Pussygrabber” regime destroy itself).

Not being Pussygrabber won’t be enough for the Dems in 2018 or in 2020.

And had Bernie become president in November 2016, he probably would have faced a Repugnican-controlled Senate and a Repugnican-controlled House in January 2017. He would have been able to get nothing done, very most likely, and this Repugnican obstructionism unfairly and untruthfully would have been attributed to the inherent failure of his brand of politics.

Bernie’s chance of having at least one of the two houses of Congress controlled by the Democrats in January 2021 is pretty good, given that colossal failure “President” Pussygrabber in most polls can’t maintain an approval rating of even 40 percent, and if both houses were controlled by the Dems in 2021 under a President Sanders, you can be sure that President Sanders wouldn’t waste his political capital trying to hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” with the treasonous Repugnicans in Congress, as President Obama incredibly stupidly did in 2009 and 2010, when both houses of Congress last were held by the Dems.

We indeed are a nation on pause — at best — and to make up for that lost precious time, we need someone who is boldly progressive, someone who very actively will make up for that lost time by pushing through a sane, unabashedly progressive agenda — someone who will do what Obama failed to do in 2009 and in 2010 — and that someone is Bernie Sanders.

P.S. Matthew Yglesias mentioned Joe Biden and Kirsten Gillibrand as potential 2020 presidential candidates.

Yeah, um, no way in hell can I support has-been Joe Biden, who is too aligned with the Clinton-Obama brand of the party. Plus, if he were so fucking popular, why didn’t Biden become president by now? (Or at least the Democratic Party presidential candidate in a general presidential election by now?)

And Gillibrand — what is her appeal, other than her XX chromosomes? I have nothing particularly against her, as for the most part I know very little about her, but what’s so special about her, other than that she was elected to Billary’s U.S. Senate seat for New York after Billary became Obama’s secretary of state? Is she supposed to be Billary’s mini-me? (That was rhetorical, but the answer is yes.)

Biden, Gillibrand, Booker, Harris — all are candidates for those who have no vision and no imagination, but who think that the bullshit of the past is going to work in the future. They have learned nothing from Billary’s failure in November.

P.P.S. I just saw this on Slate.com:

A Bloomberg poll released [today] shows that eight months after November’s election and nearly half a year into the new administration, Hillary Clinton is a touch less popular than Donald Trump. From Bloomberg:

Trump’s 2016 Democratic rival is viewed favorably by just 39 percent of Americans in the latest Bloomberg National Poll, two points lower than the president. It’s the second-lowest score for Clinton since the poll started tracking her in September 2009.

The former secretary of state has always been a polarizing figure, but this survey shows she’s even lost popularity among those who voted for her in November.

According to Bloomberg, more than a fifth of Clinton voters now say they view her unfavorably compared with only 8 percent of likely Clinton voters saying the same in Bloomberg’s last poll before the election.

Bloomberg’s John McCormick writes that interviews with some of those polled suggest that the decline has less to do with Clinton losing than it does with the Democratic Party’s identity crisis.

“Many said they wished Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont had won the Democratic nomination,” he writes, “or that they never liked Clinton and only voted for her because she was the lesser of two bad choices.” [Emphasis mine.]

This is (more) vindication, not only of the fact that even those who voted for Billary in November didn’t like her, but also of the fact that it was a colossal fuck-up for the Dems to have allowed Billary & Co. to steal the nomination from the much more popular and much more liked Bernie.

It is also more evidence of the fact that Clintonism is done and that we can stick a big ol’ fork in it.

(Lest you think that the Bloomberg poll is wrong, know that the Huffington Post’s Pollster [a poll aggregator] right now has Billary’s favorability rating at only 40.3 percent — which is very close to the 40.1 percent approval rating that HuffPo Pollster now gives Pussygrabber.

Pussygrabber and Billary both are despised now just like they were on Election Day in November, while HuffPo Pollster puts Bernie Sanders’ favorability rating at 57 percent.

Hindsight indeed is 2020.)

 

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RIP, Fidel; if you were a monster, the United States of America created you

Image result for fidel castro

Fidel Castro, the “dictator” next door to the United States for decades, died yesterday. If Castro was a monster — and like almost all human beings are, he was, of course, neither a devil nor an angel but a mixed bag — then the United States of America created him.

As I’ve written before, love him or hate him, Cuban leader Fidel Castro was a survivor. He made it to 90 years before he died yesterday.

Within the United States, Castro very mostly was a bogeyman — but rarely have we Americans been given much, if any, detail as to why we’re supposed to hate him blindly obediently. (At most, we’re told simplistically that he’s a “bad” man, a “Commie,” a “dictator,” a “tyrant” who “hates the United States of America,” “hates freedom,” etc., etc.* Even to question this knee-jerk, right-wing narrative is to risk being called anti-American.)

All of that is because intellectually and ethically honest detail would reveal how the United States of America has meddled anti-democratically in Latin American affairs for decades, having imperialistically and anti-democratically considered the entire Western hemisphere subject to its own jurisdiction at least since the Monroe Doctrine was issued in 1823.

There were so many attempts by the United States to assassinate or otherwise topple Castro — we’re talking not just the Bay of Pigs (the miserably failed U.S.-backed attempt to overthrow Castro in April 1961), but also numerous unsuccessful assassination attempts that were perpetrated by the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. State Department — as well as by the American Mafia — that it’s no fucking wonder that over the years Castro became more autocratic.

You’re not paranoid if they really are trying to kill you or oust you, and had Castro not ruled Cuba with an iron fist, no doubt his greedy, self-serving detractors would have done their damnedest to turn the sovereign nation of Cuba into an American colony for corporate profiteering once again.

We saw the dynamic with Fidel Castro repeated with the late socialist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez; a U.S.-backed anti-democratic coup attempt against Chavez in April 2002 failed (Chavez was only briefly deposed and replaced with an unelected right-wing oil magnate before the people of Venezuela took to the streets and demanded Chavez’s return), and that failed anti-democratic coup attempt (which was a bit like a Bay of Pigs 2.0) no doubt made Chavez more autocratic, and of course Chavez’s detractors conveniently acted thereafter as though the failed 2002 coup attempt by anti-democratic right-wingers had never happened at all.

The United States made Chavez, and before him it had made Castro.

If a Latin American nation wants a left-of-center, truly democratic government that, entirely unlike the U.S. government, actually does its job — which is to serve the needs and wishes of its people instead of the greed of American and transnational corporations and the treasonous plutocrats and kleptocrats who own them and profiteer from them — then it must protect itself from anti-democratic, toxic capitalist infiltration from abroad.

American wingnuts criticize Latin America for simply defending itself from foreign invasion and infiltration, although of course the United States always reserves the right to protect itself from such. Latin America is to disarm unilaterally, you see, and just allow American and other corporate robber barons to destroy it.

Fidel Castro stood up to the foreign anti-democratic and capitalist invasion and infiltration of his nation for decades. He was so hated because he was so successful; he was so hated because he refused to simply hand over his nation’s resources and well-being to the American and transnational corporations in exchange for for his own selfish, treasonous enrichment, like a “good” Latin American leader “should.”*

None of this is to simply and wholly overlook Castro’s wrongdoings.

Amnesty International’s nutshell on Cuba is this:

Government critics continue to be imprisoned; many report that they were beaten during arrest. Restrictions on freedom of expression is widespread. The government curtails freedom of association and assembly. The U.S. embargo against Cuba remains, despite increasing opposition to it within and outside the U.S.A.

Human Rights Watch’s nutshell on Cuba is similar:

The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and discourage public criticism. It now relies less on long-term prison sentences to punish its critics, but short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and others have increased dramatically in recent years. Other repressive tactics employed by the government include beatings, public acts of shaming, and the termination of employment.

I don’t defend all of this, but at the same time it’s not ethically or intellectually honest to strip Cuba from its historical, sociopolitical context, including having the world’s most imperialist nation ever-lurking and ever-looming just to its north.

If Castro had governed Cuba with a laissez-faire philosophy, as the capitalists always have claimed that he should have, how long would Cuba have been free from foreign corporate domination?

Um, yeah.

We Americans can hate Fidel Castro all that we want, but we can’t deny that we created him.

Cuba’s first struggle was to free itself from imperialist Spain; then its struggle was to free itself from the imperialist United States of America.

And Cuba still struggles to be free, because the “freedom” that the United States would impose upon it — and yes, the United States ironically and hypocritically believes in imposing “freedom” — would only once again make it a slave to the United States.

P.S. I would be remiss of me not to note Cuba’s world-class education and health-care systems.

Cuba’s literacy rate of 99.8 percent and high-school graduation rate of 94 percent is higher than the United States’ official literacy rate of 99 percent (which some believe is quite inflated) and high-school graduation rate of 82 percent, and Cuba’s life expectancy of 79.1 years puts it just behind the United States’ life expectancy of 79.3 years.

Castro’s Cuba achieved this despite the United States’ having tried to destroy it (again, in the name of “freedom,” ironically and hypocritically) — and having desired to turn it back into a subservient slave state — for decades.

*And let’s fucking face it: Whether the American right wing calls you a “dictator” or a “tyrant” or the like depends not upon whether you were democratically elected, but depends entirely upon whether you have done the bidding of the American right wing.

Brutal Chilean dictator Augosto Pinochet, for instance, was a mass murderer and torturer who most definitely was not elected but who — with the help of the U.S. government (surprise, surprise!) — overthrew the actually democratically elected socialist Chilean President Salvador Allende in 1973 and ruled Chile until 1990.

However, the American right wing (as well as the fascist Margaret Thatcher) loved Pinochet because he did their bidding.

The right wing hated Castro because unlike Pinochet did, Castro refused to be their lapdog.

May the sovereign nation of Cuba continue to resist colonization by the rapacious, imperialist United States of America — and work on improving human rights while preserving the gains of the Cuban Revolution.

P.S. I didn’t even need to mention Pinochet, although he’s a textbook example of a U.S.-backed dictator in Latin America. I could have stayed within Cuba itself.

Most “news” write-ups of Fidel Castro’s death conveniently ignore the fact that Castro overthrew the U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, who ruled Cuba in the 1950s while unelected.

Wikipedia notes of Batista’s reign (links are Wikipedia’s):

… Back in power, and receiving financial, military, and logistical support from the United States government, Batista suspended the 1940 Constitution and revoked most political liberties, including the right to strike. He then aligned with the wealthiest landowners who owned the largest sugar plantations, and presided over a stagnating economy that widened the gap between rich and poor Cubans.

Eventually it reached the point where most of the sugar industry was in U.S. hands, and foreigners owned 70 percent of the arable land. As such, Batista’s increasingly corrupt and repressive government then began to systematically profit from the exploitation of Cuba’s commercial interests, by negotiating lucrative relationships with both the American Mafia, who controlled the drug, gambling, and prostitution businesses in Havana, and with large U.S.-based multinational companies who were awarded lucrative contracts.

To quell the growing discontent among the populace — which was subsequently displayed through frequent student riots and demonstrations — Batista established tighter censorship of the media, while also utilizing his Bureau for the Repression of Communist Activities secret police to carry out wide-scale violence, torture and public executions; ultimately killing anywhere from hundreds to 20,000 people. …

Again: In the right-wing United States of America, drunk on toxic capitalism, a dictator is called a dictator only if he isn’t a right-wing dictator and doesn’t do what the American right wing wants him to do. Treasonously selling out his own nation to American profiteers makes him a “good” dictator (only, of course, in that event, we don’t even call him a dictator).

It doesn’t matter in and of itself if a dictator suspends his nation’s constitution, revokes his nation’s citizens’ rights, tortures and kills his political dissidents, refuses to stand for election, etc.; all that matters is whether or not he does the bidding of the hypocritical assholes of the United States of America.

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88 years for a U.S. president to travel 90 miles; Cubans still have more to lose

President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez as first lady Michelle Obama stands behind, right, upon arrival to the airport in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, March 20, 2016. Obama's trip is a crowning moment in his and Cuban President Raul Castro's ambitious effort to restore normal relations between their countries. (Cubadebate/Ismael Francisco via AP)

Associated Press photo

The caption for the AP news photo above reads: “President Barack Obama, right, shakes hands with Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez as first lady Michelle Obama stands behind, right, upon arrival to the airport in Havana, Cuba, [today]. Obama’s trip is a crowning moment in his and Cuban President Raul Castro’s ambitious effort to restore normal relations between their countries.”

The caption for the AP news photo below reads: “A poster features portraits of Cuba’s President Raul Castro, left, and U.S. President Barack Obama and reads in Spanish, ‘Welcome to Cuba’ outside a restaurant in Havana, Cuba, [on Thursday]. Obama is scheduled to travel to the island [today], the first U.S. presidential trip to Havana in nearly 90 years.”

Steps Obama has taken to ease US restrictions on Cuba

Associated Press photo

If I can’t say much that’s positive about the Obama years — and I can’t* we at least can note that today Barack Obama historically became the first sitting U.S. president in 88 years to visit our island neighbor of Cuba. (Before today, Calvin Coolidge last visited Cuba, in 1928...)

It is pathetic that the United States remains so largely inimical to a nation only 90 miles away from it, but the history of Cuba and the United States (and Spain, too) is, um, complicated.

In its report on Cuba for 2015, Human Rights Watch noted:

The Cuban government continues to repress dissent and discourage public criticism. It now relies less on long-term prison sentences to punish its critics, but short-term arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders, independent journalists, and others have increased dramatically in recent years. Other repressive tactics employed by the government include beatings, public acts of shaming, and the termination of employment.

There are elections in Cuba, in which those 16 years and older may vote, but as only the Communist Party is allowed to exist, these elections are fairly bullshit; Cubans are allowed to chose only from those who pay fealty to the Communist Party (again, the only party that there is).

That said, here in the United States of America we have elections, but since the corporations give most of our elected officials obscene amounts of campaign cash and other monetary rewards to do their bidding instead of to act in the public good, and since this treasonous bullshit has been going on at least since the first (and hopefully the last) President Clinton, our corporately owned and controlled parties have become pretty indistinguishable — the Coke Party and the Pepsi Party, I think of them lovingly — and so our so-called democracy is pretty fucking hollow, too.

For all intents and purposes, we Americans pretty much have one-party rule, as do the Cubans.

How else to explain that the lives of us American commoners never get better? If we had an actual democracy — a socialist democracy — instead of a corporatocracy/kleptocracy, our lives would actually improve.

Wingnuts, who want to turn Cuba into a wage-slave capitalist nation like the United States is (and who also, of course, want to turn Cuba into an island resort for wealthier Americans, as it used to be), routinely uber-hyperbolically claim that the Castro regime routinely executes its political opponents, but I see no mention in the Human Rights Watch report on Cuba linked to above that executions continue there.

(And, of course, our buddy Saudi Arabia continues to execute people — by public beheading, no less — and we Americans are perfectly fine with that, because we want fuel for our gas-guzzlers.

Also, I should add, the Cuban government since 2001 has had a moratorium on capital punishment, from which it made one exception in 2003, when it executed three people. The United States executed 22 people alone in 2015. [Texas is the most bloodthirsty state, having executed more than 525 people since 1976, whereas since 1976, 16 states have executed fewer than eight people each.])

Wikipedia does report that in the early years of the Castro regime there apparently were executions, with estimates ranging from around 220 executions from 1959 to 1987 (per Amnesty International) to many thousands (most of these latter accusers are anti-Castro wingnuts with an ax to grind, I surmise).

Wikipedia notes that

The Cuban government justified such measures on the grounds that the application of the death penalty in Cuba against war criminals and others followed the same procedure as that seen in the trials by the Allies in the Nuremberg trials.

Some Cuban scholars maintain that had the government not applied severe legislation against the torturers, terrorists, and other criminals employed by the Batista regime, the people themselves would have taken justice into their own hands.

and that

The vast majority of those executed following the 1959 [Castro] revolution were policemen, politicians and informers of the [Fulgencio] Batista regime accused of crimes such as torture and murder, and their public trials and executions had widespread popular support among the Cuban population.

Scholars generally agree that those executed were probably guilty as accused, but that the trials did not follow due process.

Fulgencio Batista, the U.S.-backed, right-wing dictator whom Fidel Castro and crew overthrew in 1959, is credited with having executed anywhere from 1,000 to 20,000 of his political opponents, but because he was right-wing, the right wing doesn’t talk about that.

Besides, to the wingnuts, right-wing dictators aren’t really dictators, since they are right-wing — as long as they obey American capitalists, that is (usually, this means handing over their nations’ natural resources [and human resources, in terms of very cheap labor] to American corporations for their profiteering, no matter how much this harms the host [“host” as in the victim of a parasite] nations) — and surely the left-wing rabble whom right-wing dictators have slaughtered had it coming.

So Cuba has a long way to go in terms of human rights — it must move to allow freer speech and political dissent, including allowing the existence of opposition parties and holding real, meaningful elections — but I understand, I believe, why the Cuban government is so closed off and so authoritarian: It knows that if the capitalists from the north can get their greedy fingers on the island and turn it into a wage-slave nation in which only a few prosper while the working-poor masses suffer from the obscene profiteering of the few, they will.

For this reason, as I have written**, while I welcome at least some opening up of Cuba (where I’d like to visit one day), I fear for the people of Cuba, too, lest the virulent pestilence that is anti-democratic wage-slave capitalism (masquerading as “democracy” and “freedom”) infect their sovereign island nation from the north.

The Cuban people would fare worse as wage slaves to American (and other) corporations than they fare now. 

Capitalistic oppression is no better, in terms of what it does to the human spirit, than is (big-“C”) Communist oppression.

*As I’ve noted here a million times, he had the opportunity and the political capital in 2009 and 2010 to push through a progressive agenda, and he spectacularly declined to do so, and once the Repugnican Tea Party traitors took back the House in 2010, that meant gridlock for the remainder of Obama’s presidency (and “Obamacare,” his “signature” “achievement,” contains virtually nothing that the for-profit health-insurance industry didn’t want it to contain).

**I wrote back in December 2014:

One of U.S. President Barack Obama’s best moves is his decision to open diplomatic relations with the government of Cuba after more than 50 years of a pointless cold war with the island nation.

For all of the selfish whining of the tiny but loud minority of Cuban-American wingnuts — who always have been a bunch of fucking ingrates who believe that they should control U.S. foreign policy — ironically, Cubans have a lot more to lose than do Americans should the United States and Cuba ever become super-cozy.

The typical Cuban, after all, has better access to higher education and health care than does the average American. The typical Cuban’s life expectancy is close behind the typical American’s and Cubans’ life expectancy ranks No. 1 among the Latin American nations.

Cuba has universal health care (yes, health care is a human right, and shouldn’tbe an opportunity for profiteering) and Cuba’s literacy rate of 99.8 percent beats the United States’ rate of 99 percent.

Not that Cuba is perfect, perhaps especially on the measure of freedom of speech, but, of course, the United States, which, among other things, calls torture “enhanced interrogation” (someone recently remarked that that’s like calling rape “enhanced dating”) and slaughters scores of innocent civilians by drones in the name of “democracy,” isn’t exactly a paragon of human rights itself, is it?

However, would it benefit most Cubans for American corporations to muscle back into the nation and turn most Cubans into wage slaves, like most Americans are? (Capitalism is, after all, wage slavery that of course creates insane socioeconomic inequality.) Are Cubans really just itching for such wonderful imported American “freedoms” as crushing student-loan debt, wage slavery and bankruptcy from insane health-care costs?

You’d think the rabidly wingnutty Cuban Americans would salivate over the idea of turning Cuba into a cash cow for the corporations again, as it was when darling-of-the-right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista, who couldn’t sell out the people of Cuba enough to American corporations for his own benefit and the benefit of his fellow elites, was in power.

But what’s up the right-wing Cuban-American ingrates’ asses is that they expect the U.S. government to maintain a cold war with Cuba on their behalf for eternity. They believe that their bitterness against Fidel Castro, who overthrew dictator Batista in the Cuban Revolution of the 1950s, should be reflected by U.S. governmental policy toward Cuba in perpetuity.

(Batista, by the way, fled Cuba on January 1, 1959, with hundreds of millions of dollars he’d taken through obscene corruption and after having slaughtered as many as 20,000 of his political opponents. This is the kind of man, like murderous Chilean dictator Agosto Pinochet, who gets the support of the right wing.

If you think that I’m full of shit, know that President John Kennedy said of Batista that his was “one of the most bloody and repressive dictatorships in the long history of Latin American repression” and that Kennedy wrote this:

I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the Batista regime.

I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption.

I will even go further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins.

In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear.

Um, yeah.)

To open diplomatic relations with another nation is not to agree with everything that nation does and has done. Certainly the U.S. government and the governments of China and Russia don’t agree on everything, but they maintain diplomatic relations nonetheless.

The teeny-tiny minority of right-wing Cuban-Americans and their supporters (including, of course, the craven politicians who want right-wing Cuban-Americans’ money and votes, such as right-wing Cuban-American scumbags U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida) need to shut the fuck up and put the greater good of the American people and the Cuban people above their own selfish political agendas, and they need to wake the fuck up and stop expecting the rest of us, the vast majority, to maintain their insane cold war of more than five decades.

I support diplomatic relations with Cuba because Cuba has much to teach the United States, which, of course, just might be just what the Cuban-American wingnuts fear most.

But, again, it is Cubans, not Americans, who have the most to lose in significantly close ties between the two nations.

The specter of Cubans once again being oppressed by the craven corporate America is, in fact, the only reason that I would or could oppose diplomatic relations with Cuba.

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The Obama years 7/8 the way through: He’s been our caretaker in chief

Note: I’ll probably be tinkering with this post over the next several days (mostly, adding new thoughts and new points and details). After all, it’s difficult to include everything significant that transpired (or didn’t transpire) in seven years of a presidency.

Obama's executive actions could open a door for successors

Associated Press photo

President Barack Obama is shown above in Washington, D.C., on December 10. Salon.com writer Walker Bragman has deemed Obama “the first liberal (not progressive) Democrat to be president in years,” and that’s probably an apt short summary of the Obama years, if by that Bragman means that Obama has espoused liberal ideals but has done little to nothing to move the nation forward to ensure greater socioeconomic equity and greater opportunity for all (which is progressivism).

In November 2008, when I went to my polling place, it was going to be Barack Obama or independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader* whose oval I would blacken with my ballpoint pen on my paper ballot to be scanned.

In the end, I voted for Barack Obama. He would win my state of California and all of its electoral votes anyway, and I was happy to be one of the millions of American voters who had the opportunity, for the first time in the nation’s history, to vote for a presidential candidate who is not a (full) white man. That was long past due.

I strongly had supported Obama over Billary Clinton in the primary. I’d donated hundreds of dollars to his campaign to help him knock Billary out of the primary, which he did.

But I didn’t support Obama over Billary because he’s half-white and half-black. I supported him over her because I’d believed his ubiquitous presidential campaign promises of “hope” and “change.” I viewed him as the most progressive yet still viable presidential candidate (as I view Bernie Sanders now). That is why I supported him in the 2008 Democratic primary and why I voted for him in November 2008.

I believe in actually holding an elected official to his or her campaign promises, and so when Obama spectacularly squandered his huge amount of political capital in 2009 and 2010 by trying to sing “Kumbaya” with the Repugnican Tea Party traitors in Congress who never were going to cooperate with him in the first place because he’s a Democrat and because he’s half-black, I was incredibly disappointed.

In 2009 and 2010, when both houses of Congress were in the Democrats’ control, Obama could have accomplished a lot more than he actually did. He pushed “bipartisanship,” which always had been a non-starter, instead of pushing a progressive agenda.

And in 2009 and 2010 getting “Obamacare” pushed through Congress took all of the oxygen in the room, and, in the end, “Obamacare,” supposedly Obama’s “signature” “achievement,” apparently contained nothing that the lobbyists for the wealth-care industry didn’t want it to contain. (Indeed, “Obamacare’s” individual mandate requires everyone to have health insurance; what mostly-for-profit industry wouldn’t love such a requirement?**)

Then, in November 2010, the Dems lost control of the House of Representatives, and then, in November 2014, they lost control of the Senate (and lost even more seats in the House).

There are at least a few reasons for those losses, including the incredibly shitty “leadership” of Democratic National Committee head Debbie Wasserman Schultz, but I still believe that had Obama pushed the progressive agenda that he at least indirectly had promised with his “hope” and “change” slogans, the Democrats would have kept the House and the Senate.

Indeed, it primarily was Obama’s dithering in 2009 and 2010 that lost the Dems the House in 2010, I believe, thus crippling any progressive agenda for the remainder of Obama’s two terms, since the Repugnican Tea Party traitors in Congress have held on to the House since January 2011.

Since January 2011, with the House controlled by the Repugnican Tea Party traitors and the White House controlled by Obama, we’ve had nothing but even more gridlock, and since both houses of Congress fell to Repugnican Tea Party control after the election of November 2014, Obama was guaranteed a final two years of more whimper than bang.

I give Obama faint praise for being the first U.S. president to jump on board with same-sex marriage in 2012, although that was overdue and was coming sooner or later anyway. And as with Billary Clinton, it did take Obama a long time to “evolve” on the issue, even though the U.S. Supreme Court this past June finally ruled that same-sex marriage is a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Something is a constitutional right or it is not; the recognition of a constitutional right might be denied and delayed for even generations, but nonetheless it remains a constitutional right, and further, constitutional rights are not up for a vote or even for a public-opinion poll. Again, same-sex marriage inherently was a constitutional right long before the foot-dragging U.S. Supreme Court finally ruled that it is, so yes, Obama fairly led from behind on that issue; history led Obama more than Obama led history.

(That said, I can’t imagine that Obama’s having been the first president to voice his support for same-sex marriage wasn’t a significant factor in the U.S. Supreme Court finally following suit three years later. Wikipedia notes that Obama’s second inaugural address in January 2013 marked “the first time that a president mentioned gay rights or the word ‘gay’ in an inaugural address.”)

I applaud Obama for his work in opening up Cuba after decades. It’s beyond ridiculous that a Latin American nation 90 miles away from the United States should remain locked in a perpetual cold war with the U.S., which is what the right-wing traitors have wanted.

However, as I wrote a year ago, Cubans have much more to lose in closer ties with the United States than vice-versa. (As I wrote, “would it benefit most Cubans for American corporations to muscle back into the nation and turn most Cubans into wage slaves, like most Americans are? … Are Cubans really just itching for such wonderful imported American ‘freedoms’ as crushing student-loan debt, wage slavery and bankruptcy from insane health-care costs?”)

Obama’s other notable accomplishments include seating our first Latina or Latino U.S. Supreme Court justice, Sonia Sotomayor, in 2009, and, with the seating of Elena Kagan in 2010, Obama gave us the first Supreme Court with three female justices (we need at least one or two more of them).

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 also was an accomplishment, even if it again seems that history led and that our politicians finally caught up. Ditto for the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010. (And it’s hard to say that the abolishment of something hateful and unconstitutional that never should have been instituted in the first place is an “accomplishment,” but we’ll call it one, I suppose.)

Obama hasn’t been able to accomplish enough on climate change, in no small part because his dithering in 2009 and 2010 lost the Democrats control of Congress. And with “Democrats” like the former Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, Big Oil, with its Big Money to politicians who sell us out to them, combatting climate change remains a political mountain to overcome.

But/and on that note, Obama was stunningly ineffectual in confronting British Petroleum when its underwater oil well belched an estimated 5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico over almost three months in 2010. It was his first huge test of his campaign promises of environmental protection, and he failed miserably.

Perhaps at least in part because of his failure to deal with the BP oil disaster effectively, Obama did veto the Keystone XL oil pipeline earlier this year, in what Wikipedia calls “his first major veto.” That would be in the “plus” column of Obama’s environmental record, but overall, has Obama done enough in combatting climate change and otherwise protecting the environment? Of course not.

Profound income inequality persists under Obama. It’s yet another critical national problem that became fairly insoluble after the Dems lost control of Congress in the election of 2010, and it’s ironic that the nation’s first (half-)black president has done so little to improve the lot of black Americans (who, for the most part, support him steadfastly nonetheless, apparently more out of identity politics than for his actual accomplishments for them).

Obama hasn’t done a lot more for black Americans for many reasons, that I can tell. One, he’s never wanted to come off as an “angry” black man, knowing that he couldn’t have won the presidency had he done so. (I can’t say that that has been his fault, but that that has been the cards that he has been dealt in this still-racist nation.) Two, Obama was raised by his white mother and her side of the family, so his experience growing up was different than has been the experience of most black Americans. (That’s not some sort of a slam; it’s just the truth as far as I can discern it.) And three, again, after the Dems lost the House in the election of 2010, Obama’s ability to do much for black Americans and other Americans in need was seriously weakened anyway.

On foreign policy, which could be its own blog post — and I think that a heavy focus on foreign policy too often is just a distraction from our disastrous domestic policies — I need only point out, I think (aside from my earlier remarks on Cuba), that while 9/11 happened on the unelected “President” George W. Bush’s watch, the United States has not sustained a large terrorist attack from abroad under Obama’s watch.

So desperate have been the uber-hypocritical Repugnican Tea Party traitors to try to claim that Obama hasn’t kept us safe from the Big Bad Terrorists that they have focused on the four Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012, while they wholly ignore the fact that almost 3,000 Americans died on 9/11 and that more than 4,000 of our troops died pointlessly in the unelected, treasonous Bush regime’s illegal, immoral, unjust, unprovoked and wholly bogus Vietraq War.

Those 7,000 or so deaths on George W. Bush’s watch are nothing, you see, but those four deaths in Benghazi on Obama’s watch are everything. (Indeed, racism is behind this; a white, right-wing president is responsible for thousands of preventable deaths of Americans — almost 2,000 Americans, disproportionately black Americans, died in Hurricane Katrina in 2005, so we can add them also to the body count under George W. Bush — and he is excused, yet four deaths under a black president is an inexcusable travesty!)

Obama also received less public praise than George W. Bush would have received had 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden been exterminated by Bush when he still occupied the White House instead of by Obama in 2011. Don’t get me wrong; the whole bin Laden extermination affair remains fishy (pun intended), as bin Laden would have been more valuable alive than dead, and the supposed disposal of his body in the ocean was unnecessary and, dare I say, weird and therefore suspect.

The Middle East remains a mess, of course, and while I always have opposed Obama’s use of killer drones, and the use of killer drones in general (and the United States’ over-militarization in general), the bloodshed in the Middle East on Obama’s watch has been much, much less than it was on George W. Bush’s.

(If you say that Well, 9/11!, then I say that On August 6, 2001, while he was on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Bush had been given a presidential daily briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US.” Um, yeah. [Similarly, there had been plenty of warning that Hurricane Katrina might hit land and kill scores of people. Bush in effect had been issued a presidential daily briefing titled “Katrina Determined to Strike in US,” but he ignored that warning, too. After all, on the day that Katrina made landfall, he was too busy celebrating John McCainosaurus’ 69th birthday in Arizona.)

I acknowledge, of course, that the president of the United States of America can do only so much, that much is beyond his (or her) control, such as congressional gridlock and the separation of powers (which would include a center-right U.S. Supreme Court that has done such things as pick George W. Bush as president even though Al Gore had won the presidential election of 2000 and proclaim that corporations have the First Amendment right to make unlimited monetary contributions to political campaigns [corporations are not people and therefore don’t have First Amendment rights that even actual people don’t even have].)

But given Obama’s limitations of the presidency, I still don’t see that he much tried to deliver very substantially upon his promises of “hope” and “change,” and that would be his fault. He has had some restrictions, we must acknowledge, but has he maximized what he has been able to do around those restrictions? Methinks not.

And yes, of course Obama has been head and shoulders (and torso and legs) above the unelected George W. Bush, but I refuse to allow Bush II to have set the bar for the presidency that low; besides, he never legitimately was elected anyway, so, although death and destruction (including the collapse of the nation’s economy) were the result of his having stolen the 2000 presidential election, I don’t really even count Bush. He never should have happened in the first fucking place.

An aggregate of historians’ (and political scientists’ and political pundits’) rankings of the U.S. presidents puts President Obama at No. 17 out of 43. (Obama is called No. 44, but Grover Cleveland had two non-consecutive terms as president, and thus is called our 22nd and our 24th president, so we’ve actually had only 43 presidents.) Obama ranks in the top half, but for “hope” and “change” I expected much better. (George W. Bush, if you were wondering, ranks at No. 34, in the bottom 10, where he belongs, although I’d put him lower. Ronald Reagan ranks two notches above Obama, with which I disagree, and Bill Clinton ranks three notches below Obama.)

Obama’s race has never mattered to me. While history probably will most remark that he was our first non-all-white president, to me his presidency mostly has represented squandered opportunity; to me he mostly has been, at best, a caretaker in chief. I came to that conclusion no later than the close of 2010, when the Democrats lost the House.

And that is why I could not bring myself to vote for Obama again in November 2012. (I voted instead for the Green Party presidential candidate, which is something that I’d done before and something that I would do again; I owe the Democratic Party nothing.) I’d felt quite punk’d by those ubiquitous promises of “hope” and “change,” and to continue to vote for politicians who don’t follow through on their campaign promises is only to contribute to even more such broken campaign promises. If there is no penalty, how will it stop?

That and I knew that in November 2012 Obama was going to win California and all of its electoral votes anyway. (Yes, many Americans, ignorant of how their own nation and government function, don’t understand the Electoral College, under which if you live in a solidly blue or red state, as I do, your vote for president pretty much doesn’t count; we need a popular vote for the presidency, just as we have for the governorships, for the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate and for every other elected office in the nation.)

I still believe that Obama, although overall he has been a rather disappointing, rather lackluster president, more of a caretaking president than a groundbreaking president, has made a better president than Repugnican Lite Billary Clinton would have, and because my principles haven’t changed — among which, I don’t support Democrats in name only, as that doesn’t solve the persistent problem of Democrats in name only — I cannot and will not support DINO Billary Clinton in any way.

(Again, if she wins the 2016 Democratic Party presidential nomination, she’ll win all of California’s electoral votes in November 2016 anyway, regardless of whether I vote for her or not, so save your misinformed, dead-wrong assertion that if I don’t vote for DINO Billary I have helped whomever the Repugnican Tea Party presidential candidate will be.)

So Barack Obama goes out in his final year not with a bang, but with a whimper. Already we’re looking ahead of him, with incessant media coverage of Donald Trump and to a lesser degree Billary Clinton.

I began with words from Salon.com’s Walker Bragman and I’ll end with more of his wise words:

… If Hillary gets the nomination, and is elected, she will inadequately address the problems this country faces, [problems] that are angering people, by negotiating from the center/right and then moving right as a compromise, to give us mere half-measures or quarter measures. I fear, given her New Democrat background, that she will likely use social programs and financial reform as bargaining chips.

I strongly believe that Hillary will kill the momentum that has been generated over the last eight years by Barack Obama, the first liberal (not progressive) Democrat to be president in years – and that will do more damage to the Democratic brand than four years of a Republican president would do to the country.

I am not saying that four years of a Republican would not be worse for the country than four years of Hillary in the immediate; I am saying that four years of Hillary will do more long-term damage by prolonging the Democratic realignment. [Absolutely agreed.]

Americans want real change – and they’re looking to the Democrats to provide it. But if we only put a Band-Aid on issues like the wealth gap and financial reform, which is essentially Hillary’s plan, Americans will not be satisfied. As much as politically minded people remind us that change is slow, what Hillary offers is too slow. Her kind of change is weakness.

If the New Deal taught us anything, it’s that unprecedented sweeping government action can happen quickly. FDR achieved significant reforms within the first hundred days of his presidency. Hillary’s supporters have not learned from Obama’s biggest blunder: negotiating from the middle with opponents on the far right. These people insist that we have to just keep making slow progress because all we can hope for are small gains.

They point to the weakness of the Democratic Party since the 1970s as evidence of their position. However, this is a common misunderstanding of history and the lesson of the Democrats’ decline from the 1970s to the 2000s. …

Yup.

FDR is listed as the second-best president on that aggregate of presidential rankings that I mentioned (he’s just behind Abraham Lincoln). Again, Bill Clinton is ranked at No. 20. We don’t need another President Clinton.

We need another FDR, and the closest that we have to that is Bernie Sanders.

*I had voted for Nader when he ran as the Green Party presidential candidate in November 2000, something that I’ve never regretted, and it’s not my fault that Americans just allowed BushCheneyCorp to steal the 2000 presidential election. They should have been rioting in the streets over that treasonously, blatantly stolen election, but they did not. And, of course, Team Gore should have fought much, much harder than it did instead of wanting to appear to be above the fray.

**My general stance on health care is that it is a human right and that no one should have to pay for it (or, minimally, that it should be free of cost to those whose annual income falls below a certain amount) and that health care never should be allowed to be delivered on a for-profit basis. “Obamacare” did nothing, to my knowledge, to solve the overarching problem of health care having fallen victim to profiteering, to greed — and thus having become wealth care.

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Cubans have much more to lose in closer ties with the United States

FILE - In this July 31, 2004 file photo, Cuba's President Fidel Castro, left, and his brother, Minister of Defense Raul Castro, attend a Parliament session in Havana, Cuba. The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union devastated the Cuban economy, but the country limped along, first under Fidel and then, after he fell ill in 2006, under his brother Raul, head of the Cuban military. On Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, the U.S. and Cuba agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations and open economic and travel ties, marking a historic shift in U.S. policy toward the communist island after a half-century of enmity dating back to the Cold War. (AP Photo/Cristobal Herrera, File)

Associated Press photo

The 88-year-old Fidel Castro won’t live forever, and Cuba is about a lot more than Fidel Castro. (Castro is shown above in 2004 with his brother, Raul Castro, who took over as the leader of the island nation in 2008 due to Fidel Castro’s failing health.) The United States should have restored diplomatic relations with Cuba decades ago, and the tiny but loud minority of right-wing Cuban Americans need to shut the fuck up and for once put the greater good of Americans and Cubans above their own bitterness and selfishness — and humble themselves and remind themselves that the majority of the American people twice elected President Barack Obama to represent the United States on the global stage.

One of U.S. President Barack Obama’s best moves is his decision to open diplomatic relations with the government of Cuba after more than 50 years of a pointless cold war with the island nation.

For all of the selfish whining of the tiny but loud minority of Cuban-American wingnuts — who always have been a bunch of fucking ingrates who believe that they should control U.S. foreign policy — ironically, Cubans have a lot more to lose than do Americans should the United States and Cuba ever become super-cozy.

The typical Cuban, after all, has better access to higher education and health care than does the average American. The typical Cuban’s life expectancy is close behind the typical American’s and Cubans’ life expectancy ranks No. 1 among the Latin American nations.

Cuba has universal health care (yes, health care is a human right, and shouldn’t be an opportunity for profiteering) and Cuba’s literacy rate of 99.8 percent beats the United States’ rate of 99 percent.

Not that Cuba is perfect, perhaps especially on the measure of freedom of speech, but, of course, the United States, which, among other things, calls torture “enhanced interrogation” (someone recently remarked that that’s like calling rape “enhanced dating”) and slaughters scores of innocent civilians by drones in the name of “democracy,” isn’t exactly a paragon of human rights itself, is it?

However, would it benefit most Cubans for American corporations to muscle back into the nation and turn most Cubans into wage slaves, like most Americans are? (Capitalism is, after all, wage slavery that of course creates insane socioeconomic inequality.) Are Cubans really just itching for such wonderful imported American “freedoms” as crushing student-loan debt, wage slavery and bankruptcy from insane health-care costs?

You’d think the rabidly wingnutty Cuban Americans would salivate over the idea of turning Cuba into a cash cow for the corporations again, as it was when darling-of-the-right-wing dictator Fulgencio Batista, who couldn’t sell out the people of Cuba enough to American corporations for his own benefit and the benefit of his fellow elites, was in power.

But what’s up the right-wing Cuban-American ingrates’ asses is that they expect the U.S. government to maintain a cold war with Cuba on their behalf for eternity. They believe that their bitterness against Fidel Castro, who overthrew dictator Batista in the Cuban Revolution of the 1950s, should be reflected by U.S. governmental policy toward Cuba in perpetuity.

(Batista, by the way, fled Cuba on January 1, 1959, with hundreds of millions of dollars he’d taken through obscene corruption and after having slaughtered as many as 20,000 of his political opponents. This is the kind of man, like murderous Chilean dictator Agosto Pinochet, who gets the support of the right wing.

If you think that I’m full of shit, know that President John Kennedy said of Batista that his was “one of the most bloody and repressive dictatorships in the long history of Latin American repression” and that Kennedy wrote this:

I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country’s policies during the Batista regime. I approved the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will even go further: to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear.

Um, yeah.)

To open diplomatic relations with another nation is not to agree with everything that nation does and has done. Certainly the U.S. government and the governments of China and Russia don’t agree on everything, but they maintain diplomatic relations nonetheless.

The teeny-tiny minority of right-wing Cuban-Americans and their supporters (including, of course, the craven politicians who want right-wing Cuban-Americans’ money and votes, such as right-wing Cuban-American scumbags U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida) need to shut the fuck up and put the greater good of the American people and the Cuban people above their own selfish political agendas, and they need to wake the fuck up and stop expecting the rest of us, the vast majority, to maintain their insane cold war of more than five decades.

I support diplomatic relations with Cuba because Cuba has much to teach the United States, which, of course, just might be just what the Cuban-American wingnuts fear most.

But, again, it is Cubans, not Americans, who have the most to lose in significantly close ties between the two nations.

The specter of Cubans once again being oppressed by the craven corporate America is, in fact, the only reason that I would or could oppose diplomatic relations with Cuba.

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Citizen Cruz promotes xenophobia

The Canadian birth certificate of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz is seen in this 1970 document

Reuters image

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want Repugnican Tea Party U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas ever to be president of the United States of America any more than I want his physical and ideological doppelganger, the late Repugnican fascist (redundant…) U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy, to be brought back from the dead from his DNA so that he can run for the White House.

But this “birtherism” bullshit really needs to stop.

Here’s the deal: If you were born to at least one parent who at the time of your birth was a U.S. citizen, regardless of where on the planet you were born and regardless of where you grew up, you are a U.S. citizen (unless, of course, you for some reason renounced your U.S. citizenship), and therefore, you meet the Constitution’s citizenship requirement for the presidency. Period.

Ted Cruz apparently was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, in 1970 to a mother who had U.S. citizenship. (We know this because Cruz apparently felt the need to make public his birth certificate [photographed above] on Sunday.) Apparently Cruz’ mother was born in Delaware and his father was born in Cuba. Cruz says that his family moved to Houston, Texas, when he was four years old. He has held dual (American and Canadian) citizenship.

Until now.

Cruz stupidly announced that he stupidly has renounced his Canadian citizenship, reportedly stating that it is “only appropriate” to be “only an American.”

Cruz reportedly stated that “there’s been a lot of silliness on this issue,” yet he played into the hands of the “birthers” by not only having released his birth certificate, but much worse, by having renounced his dual citizenship, which he had no legal, moral or ethical obligation to do.

Plenty of Americans have dual citizenship. They are no less American for it — legally, at the very least — and, by essentially proclaiming that there was something wrong with having possessed dual citizenship, Cruz has only stoked the fires of xenophobia and nativism and jingoism by having renounced his Canadian citizenship.

And it’s ironic that Cruz wants to lead the fascistic, jingoistic party comprised of many knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers who don’t want him because, in their rabid nativism and xenophobia, they don’t consider him to be American enough.

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Patriot Ed Snowden evokes Nuremberg in his ongoing fight for freedom

Snowden wants Russia asylum, lawmaker says

Associated Press image

American patriot Edward Snowden during a press conference at a Moscow airport today stated that he has been following “the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: ‘Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.'” Amen. The U.S. government does not own us. We own it. Ultimately, all of us, every single human being, is a citizen of the world — and not the property of any one nation. (The full transcript of Snowden’s remarks of today are below; I recommend that you read every word.)

I was just asking to be rescued from the ocean of freedom in which I’m drowning (U-S-A! U-S-A!), but I’m still drowning in all of that freedom!

Very apparently, the elites in D.C., who stopped representing our interests long, long ago, believe that they have the right to restrict our right to travel freely.

To me, the right to travel freely — until and unless one has been demonstrated in a fair trial in a court of law to pose an actual (and not a hypothetical) threat to others — is a universal human right, and if we bash certain other nations for restricting their citizens’ right to travel freely (and we do), then we’re fucking hypocrites (as usual) when we do the same.

To wit: The Repugnican-Tea-Party-controlled U.S. House of Representatives — and remember, these very same wingnuts claim that they’re all about “freedom” — apparently want to put further restrictions on American citizens’ right to travel to Cuba.

The pro-capitalist/pro-feudalism wingnuts hate the anti-capitalist Cuba, you see, and they want the continued monetary support of Cuban Americans, the majority of whom (like Florida’s Marco Rubio and Texas’ Ted Cruz) are wingnuts, so, to keep the tiny minority of Americans who are of Cuban descent happy and to keep their campaign contributions (well, their bribes) flowing, the wingnuts want to tell us Americans which nations we may visit and which nations we may not.

Where Cuba is concerned, this is for purely political/ideological reasons, and therefore it is a blatant violation of our human rights. We Americans essentially are to be political prisoners of the right wing. Yes, to me, restricting someone’s free travel is in same league as false imprisonment: You are unjustly restricting someone’s freedom of movement from one place to another.

This isn’t just a Repugnican Tea Party thing.

American patriot Edward Snowden’s latest pronouncement (which he made during a press conference in Russia today) is that (as we already knew) the U.S. government is doing its damnedest to keep him virtually imprisoned in Russia. Snowden has asked for temporary asylum in Russia while he figures out how to travel to one of the Latin American nations, including Venezuela, that have offered him permanent asylum.

Snowden should be able to travel anywhere on the planet, but the U.S. government, the biggest bully on the planet, has been strong-arming weaker nations into preventing Snowden from flying over their airspace; these weakers nations fear that if they don’t succumb tot he U.S. government’s demands, the U.S. government will retaliate against them.

That’s called bullying, and bullying comes from a space of cowardice, not of strength. A strong nation doesn’t need to violate a single individual’s human rights. We say this all the time of individuals: If you have nothing to hide, then what are you worried about? I say the same thing to the treasonous elites of the U.S. government: If you have no wrongdoing to hide, then why the hell are you working so hard to persecute Edward Snowden?

It’s obvious that Snowden can’t get a fair trial in the U.S., not when the American “justice” system is controlled by the same treasonous elites who want his head on a silver platter. Therefore, because he is the victim of political persecution, his application for political asylum in another nation is apt.

While the treasonous elites in D.C. more or less have stopped calling Snowden a “traitor,” they’re still doing what they can to snare him, and if we allow them to persecute him, then we are enabling them to expand their net until one day, sooner rather than later, any of us commoners who have embarrassed and/or pissed off the treasonous elites can be branded as “traitors” — not because we actually harmed the nation in any way, of course, but only because we dared to cross our overlords.

Of course, perhaps the reason that the treasonous elites in D.C. more or less have stopped calling Snowden a “traitor” — aside from the fact that such pronouncements have demonstrated already that he cannot get a fair trial in the U.S. — is that Snowden’s status as a “traitor” is the minority view.

While the results of the Quinnipiac University poll of more than 2,000 registered voters nationwide that was taken from June 28 through July 8 admittedly are a bit schizophrenic, the answer to at least one of the questions seems fairly clear. That question was “Do you regard Edward Snowden — the national security consultant who released information to the media about the phone-scanning program [that’s not exactly all of it, but whatever ] — as more of a traitor, or more of a whistleblower?”

Only 34 percent of the poll respondents were willing to brand Snowden a “traitor,” while 55 percent deemed him a “whistleblower,” and 11 percent (for some reason) were “unsure.”

So entrapped are they in their Big Bubble of Privilege that the treasonous elites in D.C. from both of the duopolistic, pro-plutocratic, pro-corporate parties casually pronounced Snowden a “traitor,” when only about a third of the Americans whose interests these elites actually claim to represent agree with that assessment, while more than half of them — of us — disagree with that assessment. (Can you say “Out of fucking touch”?)

It seems to me that the elites in D.C. need to tread with caution. Maybe, just maybe, Americans are waking up to the fact that it’s our over-privileged overlords, and not young patriots like Edward Snowden, who are the real traitors who are doing the real damage to this nation and to the rest of the world.

P.S. Thus far Edward Snowden’s legal defense fund through the Progressive Change Campaign Committee has raised more than $37,000. I’ve given $30 thus far; if you wish, you can contribute here (be sure to give to the “PCCC Strategic Fund”).

Here is the transcript of Snowden’s remarks of today:

Hello. My name is Ed Snowden. A little over one month ago, I had family, a home in paradise, and I lived in great comfort. I also had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize and read your communications. Anyone’s communications at any time. That is the power to change people’s fates.

It is also a serious violation of the law. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance.

While the U.S. Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair. These rulings simply corrupt the most basic notion of justice – that it must be seen to be done. The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret law.

I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: “Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”

Accordingly, I did what I believed right and began a campaign to correct this wrongdoing. I did not seek to enrich myself. I did not seek to sell U.S. secrets. I did not partner with any foreign government to guarantee my safety. Instead, I took what I knew to the public, so what affects all of us can be discussed by all of us in the light of day, and I asked the world for justice.

That moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects all of us has been costly, but it was the right thing to do and I have no regrets.

Since that time, the government and intelligence services of the United States of America have attempted to make an example of me, a warning to all others who might speak out as I have. I have been made stateless and hounded for my act of political expression.

The United States Government has placed me on no-fly lists. It demanded Hong Kong return me outside of the framework of its laws, in direct violation of the principle of non-refoulement – the Law of Nations. It has threatened with sanctions countries who would stand up for my human rights and the [United Nations] asylum system. It has even taken the unprecedented step of ordering military allies to ground a Latin American president’s plane in search for a political refugee.

These dangerous escalations represent a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America, but to the basic rights shared by every person, every nation, to live free from persecution, and to seek and enjoy asylum.

Yet even in the face of this historically disproportionate aggression, countries around the world have offered support and asylum. These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador have my gratitude and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless. By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world. It is my intention to travel to each of these countries to extend my personal thanks to their people and leaders.

I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future. With, for example, the grant of asylum provided by Venezuela’s President Maduro, my asylee status is now formal, and no state has a basis by which to limit or interfere with my right to enjoy that asylum.

As we have seen, however, some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law, and this behavior persists today. This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights.

This willingness by powerful states to act extra-legally represents a threat to all of us, and must not be allowed to succeed. Accordingly, I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted. I will be submitting my request to Russia today, and hope it will be accepted favorably.

If you have any questions, I will answer what I can.

Thank you.

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