Tag Archives: Latin America

Trump is toast

As an American politician or political candidate you can get away with saying all manner of vile, oppressive, even dangerous things in a “nice,” “polite” way, but a sex scandal always can bring you down like a ton of bricks in the hypocritically Victorian U.S. of A. Yesterday, The Washington Post released a video of Donald Trump in 2005 braggadociously reporting that he had tried, unsuccessfully, to “fuck” a married woman although at the time he already was married to his third wife, Melania. Trump, in Yoda-like fashion, also advised that with women whom you want to fuck, if “you’re a star,” you simply “Grab them by the pussy.”

We all already knew that Der Fuhrer Donald Trump is boorish, but the recording of him proclaiming in 2005 that “when you’re a star, they [(attractive) women] let you do … anything,” such as “Grab them by the pussy” just makes that knowledge so real. (The audio-video recording of Trump’s remarks about “do[ing] anything” to women whom you desire “when you’re a star” is here.)

This very most likely is the end of Trump’s campaign for president (although of course he has proclaimed that he won’t drop out; only someone who possesses a modicum of shame would do that).

I generally don’t believe in the public release of private remarks, but I don’t know that you really can call this case an invasion of privacy. I mean, Trump was openly talking to a TV show host and his remarks were picked up by a hot microphone. He wasn’t chatting at home or talking on the telephone.

And just as we needed to know about Clarence Thomas’ character before he incredibly stupidly was put on the U.S. Supreme Court, we need to know about Trump’s before he incredibly stupidly is put in the Oval Office.

Trump already was on a downward trajectory anyway after his shitty first presidential debate performance and the news that he apparently hasn’t paid federal income taxes in many years — fivethirtyeight.com right now puts his chances of winning the White House at only only 18.6 percent to Billary Clinton’s 81.4 percent, and I expect his chances to continue to dwindle — but it’s really over for him now.

“No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever,” Repugnican National Committee head Reince Preibus was forced to declare just a month and a day before the presidential election, and 2012 Repugnican Tea Party presidential candidate Mittens Romney similarly proclaimed, “Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.”

Pretty Boy Paul Ryan, Mittens’ running mate in 2012 and speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, called the recording “sickening” and stated, “I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests.”

In his own “defense,” Trump proclaimed, “This was locker-room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.”

Wow.

“Locker-room banter,” yes, indeed, but Trump wants to be president of the United States of America, and this banter didn’t stay inside of the locker room. And while 2005 was a bit over a decade ago, Trump is 70 years old now, so he was plenty old enough to know better in 2005. His claim that today he is a changed man is incredible; he didn’t make these remarks when he was in his teens or 20s.

I’m sure that we’ve had plenty of lechers in the White House, but, again, we haven’t heard recordings of their lecherous words; their lechery has remained, for the most part, an abstraction.

And when Trump tries to bring in Bill Clinton — who no doubt indeed was one of the former lechers in the White House, replete with semen-stained intern’s dress and all —  Trump reminds me of his opponent Billary Clinton, who frequently tries to throw someone else under the bus or tries to use someone else as a political human shield (Barack Obama, usually) when she is cornered.

It’s no wonder that both Trump and Billary are the most hated U.S. presidential candidates in modern history.

Speaking of Billary, I will note (to be, you know, fair and balanced) that some of the remarks that she reportedly made to Wall Street weasels in her highly paid speeches to them (you know, the transcripts of which she has refused to release) have been leaked by WikiLeaks, and while some of them are unflattering, in terms of political scandals, they’re nothing on the level of Pussygrabgate. (On that note, maybe it’s because I’m gay, but how, exactly, do you grab a woman by the pussy? You can grab a man by his junk, I suppose, especially if he’s gifted in that area, but there’s not much of a woman’s crotch to grab, is there?)

Anyway, let’s see: Billary allegedly stated that “politics is like sausage being made,” adding, that “if everybody’s watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position.”

Like El Trumpo’s presidential proclamation about pussy-grabbing, this statement about sausage-making isn’t exactly shocking coming from Billary. For instance, I’ve always believed that she personally supported same-sex marriage long before she finally publicly came out for it in March 2013 (after Barack Obama finally had done so in May 2012), for fuck’s sake. And when NPR’s Terry Gross grilled Billary on it in June 2014, she reacted in such a hyper-defensive way as to reveal that she indeed has a public face and a private face, that she’s shamelessly two-faced.

Billary also allegedly stated, in the material in the latest WikiLeaks dump, “My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders, sometime in the future with energy that is as green and sustainable as we can get it, powering growth and opportunity for every person in the hemisphere.”

Slate.com notes that “This may thrill the [progressive] editors at Voxbut presumably not white working-class voters in Ohio. Point Trump.”

I would be fine with open trade and “a hemispheric common market” if they were run by us commoners instead of by corporate weasels; my problem with globalization and “free” trade thus far isn’t with the concepts of them, but with the execution of them thus far: by corporate weasels who care only about profiteering and not at all about people and not at all about the planet. The treasonous corporate weasels can and will pervert any good idea on which they can get their greedy little grubbies.

I’m also fine with a significantly more porous border between the United States and Mexico and the rest of Latin America. We Americans have more to gain than we have to lose from such a more open exchange of culture, ideas, goods and services.

But let’s face it: What’s preventing such a more open exchange between the United States and Latin America is that Americans are economically richer, as a whole, than are Latin Americans, and most Americans don’t want that socioeconomic inequity to change any decade soon. This is why even many (if not even most) who identify as Democrats don’t want a significantly more permeable southern border (and a wholly open border is an uber-non-starter for the vast majority of Americans, I’m confident).

Speaking of the southern border, Donald Trump this past week made a comment that I find more offensive and harmful than his frat-boy pussy-grabbing comment from 2005: This past week Trump alleged that the federal government is allowing “illegals” from Mexico to come into the United States to vote for Democrats.

Not only is this a fucking lie — The Washington Post notes that “There’s no evidence … that immigrants (a) come to the country illegally to vote, (b) register to vote illegally and (c) cast votes in federal elections on any substantive scale” and that “There’s essentially no in-person voter fraud in American politics” — but demagogue Der Fuhrer Trump really needs to get his anti-Mexican rhetoric straight:

Do Mexican “illegals” come to the United States to rape, murder, pillage and plunder, as he and his xenophobic, nationalist, fascist, white-supremacist supporters repeatedly have alleged — or do they come here to vote?

Because, you know, when I think of hard-core criminals, I just don’t think of them as being committed voters. (Seriously: For sure, right after a man has raped and murdered and done some drug-running, he wants nothing more than to go vote illegally!)

Trump’s fucking fascist lie that Mexican “illegals” are crossing the border in droves in order to vote illegally is meant to accomplish at least two evil things:

(1) To bolster the fascist wingnuts’ delusion that the majority of us Americans actually agree with their hateful, ignorant, bigoted, demented, basket-of-deplorables worldview, and therefore, when the wingnuts lose elections, it only can mean that the elections were rigged (and therefore, any election results that don’t favor the wingnuts should be disregarded). This mindset is a grave threat to our democracy.

and

(2) To continue, for political and personal gain, to demonize and dehumanize the brown-skinned denizens from south of the border, much how the Nazis demonized and dehumanized Jews (and many, many others) for political and personal gain. We know what happened to the Jews and to the other victims of the Nazis.

Donald Trump is a fascist piece of shit who must never become president, and who, should he actually make it that far (which at this point is highly unlikely but not absolutely impossible, I suppose), must be relieved of the office by whatever means necessary. The republic is more important than is any one individual, especially a fascistic, pussy-grabbing, Latin-American-bashing piece of shit like Donald John Trump.

Thankfully, while fivethirtyeight.com puts Trump’s chances of becoming president at not even a full one in five, I put it at about one in a hundred (one in fifty would be charitable).

Bloodshed over Der Fuhrer Trump most likely won’t be necessary, but if the fascist traitors who support Der Fuhrer Trump want a rematch of the Civil War, my standing response remains: Bring it, bitches!

P.S. Oh, yeah (duh): The second presidential debate is scheduled for tomorrow night. There is a pretty good chance that I’ll live-blog it. Especially now.

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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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To plutocratic traitor Trump and his racist ilk, Latinos are the new Jews

A Mexican client who lives in the U.S., looks at a pinata depicting U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump hanging outside a workshop in Reynosa

Reuters photo

A pinata of racist scumbag and Repugnican Tea Party presidential candidate Donald Trump hangs in front of a pinata shop in Reynosa, Mexico, last month, in response to Trump’s recent derogatory statements about Mexicans who come to the United States. Can’t we string up and beat the holy living shit out of the real thing?

Repugnican Tea Party presidential aspirant Donald Trump infamously said this in his big presidential campaign announcement speech last month:

… The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. [Applause from his audience, which apparently included individuals who were paid $50 a piece to hoot and holler and cheer. There’s nothing that money can’t buy, including “grass-roots” “supporters.”] Thank you. It’s true… When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. … [“You,” I presume, would be (mostly if not entirely) white people who are “good” because they support Trump (or are willing to be paid to “support” Trump).] They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems [with them]. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. …

You know, asserting that “some … are good people” doesn’t make up for the fact that you essentially just called an entire class of people drug dealers, criminals and rapists. (And of course Mexico isn’t “send[ing] its people” to the United States; they are coming here on their own.)

Of course Donald Trump speaks for the majority of the white-supremacist Repugnican Tea Party set, who view Mexicans and others from Latin America (whom they usually just lump all together as “Mexicans”) as The Brown Menace from South of the Border.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Here in California, one of four states that share the border with Mexico, not only are there more Latinos (citizens and non-citizens) than there are in any other state in the nation (Texas comes in at a distant second place and Florida at an even more distant third place), but recently the number of Latinos has surpassed the number of whites in California, by about 14.99 million Latinos to about 14.92 million whites.

Yet here in California, we — the majority of us of all races — don’t believe that we have a “Latino problem.” If any state could claim to have such a “problem,” it would be California, but again, to us it’s not a “problem.”

Of course with the sheer number of Latinos in California, some, a minority of them, are going to commit some crimes — just as all members of all races in California commit crimes. So it is unfortunate that so soon after Trump’s racist, anti-Mexican comments, a 45-year-old man from Mexico who had been deported from the United States five times, reportedly, on Wednesday bizarrely shot and killed a 32-year-old white woman at a popular tourist spot in San Francisco in broad daylight for no apparent reason other than that he wanted to kill someone.

As was predictable, Trump yesterday shamelessly used this rare, bizarre incident to retroactively justify his anti-Mexican comments of last month. He added that “The American people deserve a wall” along the U.S. border with Mexico, so that, presumably, the United States would be like One Huge Gated Community, which the white supremacists among us would love.

However, having lived in northern California since 1998, I can tell you that we do not have an epidemic of undocumented (or documented) Mexicans (or other Latinos) shooting to death our precious young white women (in broad daylight or under the cover of darkness). Or raping them, either.

Quite presumably the 45-year-old Mexican man is mentally ill, and a sufficiently mentally ill person of any demographic can kill someone. You don’t point to one incident as “proof” that an entire race of people are guilty as you have charged.

I mean, certainly, because white-supremacist punk-ass Dylann Storm Roof premeditatedly gunned down nine black Americans in their own church in Charleston, South Carolina, last month, that doesn’t mean that all white men are cold-blooded mass murderers — does it?

No, to racists and white supremacists like Donald Trump and his ilk and those who love and support them, it’s always members of other races who are the “criminals” and the “rapists” and the “drug dealers.”

But I get it: The treasonous plutocrats’ and corporatocrats’ worst nightmare is that the American masses finally wake up, realize that our true enemies are the plutocrats and corporatocrats among us — the mostly-hidden-from-view 1 percent (which includes, of course, billionaire Trump) who treasonously have been decimating the American middle class and the working class for decades now — and that we will come for them.

So these plutocratic traitors like Trump must demonize relatively powerless minority groups as the “true” “enemy,” the “truly” “evil” “other.” We saw this dynamic in Nazi Germany. (More recently, we saw it with the unelected George W. Bush regime’s demonization of Middle Easterners [as well as of non-heterosexuals and non-gender-conforming individuals, who also were a target of the Nazis, of course].)

And that’s why I stand up for my Latino brothers and sisters when they are bashed: I won’t let them become the neo-Nazis’ next Jews.

The vast majority of Latinos in the United States of America are law-abiding, hard-working, productive individuals (citizens or not) without whom the United States would be in deep shit.

The United States of America’s biggest problems — including climate change; gross income inequality that further shrinks what’s left of the middle class day by day; plutocracy (including, of course, elections that are bought and paid for by the billionaires [like Trump]); unaffordable, for-profit health care; unaffordable, for-profit higher education; and a crumbling infrastructure (due in no small part because the plutocrats treasonouly refuse to pay their fair share of taxes) — aren’t caused by the impoverished peoples who come from south of the border seeking better lives for themselves and their loved ones.

No, the lion’s share of our nation’s problems are caused by the greedy, treasonous, mostly white, filthy-rich fucks from within — like Donald Trump — who have been bleeding us dry for decades. If we’re going to build protective walls, let’s build such walls entirely around them to protect ourselves from them.

A better idea, of course, comes from Mexico: stringing the treasonous plutocrats up like pinatas and beating them until their brains spill out on the ground like pieces of candy.

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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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An Astroturf uprising in Venezuela

Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez speaks to supporters before handing himself over in Caracas

Reuters photo

The U.S.-educated, right-wing, pro-plutocratic Venezuelan Leopoldo Lopez is no revolutionary — he is a traitor who actively participated in the anti-democratic, treasonous right wing’s failed treasonous attempt to unseat duly democratically elected Venezuela President Hugo Chavez in 2002. Lopez’s pro-plutocratic supporters likewise hardly are revolutionaries, unless we now are defining the overprivileged, anti-democratic 1 percent as “revolutionaries.”

I’m no expert on Venezuela, but not being an expert on a topic often has not stopped me from talking or writing about it before, and my intuition about a person and/or situation is usually spot-on.

So in the news coverage of the street fracases that are being reported in Venezuela right now, my main question has been: Is this really a populist uprising of the typical Venezuelan against socialist President Nicolas Maduro, or is this yet another show put on by right-wingers with a political agenda?

Then I spotted these tidbits of information in a Reuters news story from today:

… Tensions [in Venezuela] have escalated since opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, a 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist, turned himself in to [government] troops this week. He is being held in Caracas’ Ramo Verde military jail on charges of fomenting the violence.

“Change depends on every one of us. Don’t give up!” Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, said on Twitter.

Local TV channels are providing almost no live coverage of the unrest, so Venezuelans are turning to social media to swap information and images, though falsified photos are circulating.

Both sides rolled out competing evidence of the latest violence [today], with ruling Socialist Party governors showing photos and video of charred streets and torched vehicles, while the opposition posted footage of brutal behavior which they said was by national guard troops.

Maduro, elected last year to succeed [the late] socialist leader Hugo Chavez, says Lopez and “small fascist groups” are in league with the U.S. government and want a coup. …

Street protests were the backdrop to a short-lived coup against Chavez in 2002 before military loyalists and supporters helped bring him back. There is no evidence the military, which was the decisive factor in 2002, may turn on Maduro now. …

Detractors call Lopez a dangerous hothead. He has frequently squabbled with fellow opposition leaders and was involved in the 2002 coup, even helping arrest a minister. [Emphasis mine.]

Though the majority of demonstrators have been peaceful, an increasingly prominent radical fringe has been attacking police, blocking roads and vandalizing buildings. …

Sounds like textbook right-wing thuggery to me: start a fight, provoke a response, and then blame the leftists whom you oppose for their “oppression” of you.

Leopoldo Lopez is lucky to still be alive. Had he been a leftist who had participated in a failed coup of a right-wing leader in Latin America, the right-wingers most likely would have executed him for his treason, or at least imprisoned him for life. But despite the late Hugo Chavez’s having relentlessly been called a murderous dictator by his detractors, even after his political opponents quite treasonously tried to overthrow the duly democratically elected Chavez in 2002, he had not one of the traitors executed.

So here is anti-democratic, right-wing traitor Leopoldo Lopez, back again, trying to subvert the will of the majority of the voters of Venezuela. He and his right-wing cohorts can’t win presidential elections in Venezuela, and so they’ll try to treasonously and anti-democrtically seize power again, just like they did in 2002.

Lopez doesn’t deserve to be allowed to continue to draw breath, since he’s a fucking traitor, but here he is, trying to commit even more treason.

The world — including, of course, the Obama White House — needs to recognize this tattered and faded old page from the right-wing playbook for what it is; when the wingnuts stir up shit abroad in order to try to get sympathy from abroad by playing the “innocent” “victims,” we need to open our eyes, not be taken in by superficial appearances or rumors, and examine the facts, and see them, clearly, for what they are.

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HELP MEEE!!! I’m DROWNING in all of this FREEDOM!

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters as he arrives for a national assembly in Caracas

NSA whistleblower Snowden, an analyst with a U.S. defence contractor, is interviewed by The Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong

Reuters images

To smug Americans for whom freedom is only a word and for whom “freedom” is defined by our corporate and plutocratic overlords, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and American patriot Edward Snowden are easy targets to bash in order to feel better about their small, pathetic selves, so should Venezuela take Snowden in, predictably, the hypocritical rhetoric about how “free” and “good” the United States is and how “unfree” and “bad” Venezuela is will freely flow.

My best guess is that “Public Enemy Number One” Edward Snowden will end up in Venezuela, which, predictably, is going to result in a maelstrom of even more Venezuela bashing here in the United States. (The government of Venezuela, you see, has the audacity to govern the nation as a sovereign nation and not as a satellite of the United States, as a “good” nation “should.”)

Even so-called members of the so-called U.S. left wing mindlessly engage in Venezuela bashing, as though the United States — with its stolen presidential elections, its bloated-beyond-belief military-corporate complex and its bogus wars, its killer drones and its extralegal executions, its Abu Ghraib House of Horrors (and other acts of torture and crimes against humanity), its ridiculous income gap between the rich and the poor, its right-wing Supreme Court that routinely rules against the people and for the plutocrats (gay marriage doesn’t harm anyone’s profits, you see), its bought-and-paid-for-by-the-corporations Congress, and its government’s gargantuan electronic storage of the records of much or most or even almost all of our phone calls, e-mails, Internet activity, and even our snail mail — were the paragon of a truly free and open nation.

Salon.com, for instance, in “seriously” examining Edward Snowden’s options for political asylum, helpfully notes that on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 being the most free and 7 being the least free, Venezuela ranks only a 5, according to some organization called Freedom House, which conveniently gives the United States a 1 for freedom.

Wow. Especially after I just learned that apparently all of the snail mail that I receive is photographed* and the images of my snail mail are stored by the federal government (along with my phone-call records, e-mails, Internet activity, etc.), I, for one, don’t feel that the U.S. is No. 1 in terms of freedom. (In Freedom House’s defense, maybe they gave the U.S. a 1 for freedom before NSAgate broke, but I am confident that they’d still give the U.S. a 1, regardless.)

I wonder if Salon.com’s writer even bothered to look up Freedom House on Wikipedia, for fuck’s sake. Wikipedia notes of Freedom House (all emphases are mine):

Freedom House is a U.S.-based non-governmental organization that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights. Freedom House was founded in October 1941, and Wendell Willkie and Eleanor Roosevelt served as its first honorary chairpersons. It describes itself as a “clear voice for democracy and freedom around the world.”

The organization’s annual Freedom in the World report, which assesses each country’s degree of political freedoms and civil liberties, is frequently cited by political scientists, journalists, and policy-makers. Freedom of the Press and Freedom of the Net, which monitor censorship, intimidation and violence against journalists, and public access to information, are among its other signature reports.

As of 2010, grants awarded from the U.S. government accounted for most of Freedom House’s funding; the grants were not earmarked by the government but allocated through a competitive process. Freedom House is widely regarded as a reliable source. Nonetheless, some critics have accused Freedom House’s reports of bias or of promoting U.S. government interests abroad.

Well, yeah. Duh. If the U.S. government is funding you, could you give the U.S. government anything but the highest mark possible? I mean, who is going to pay for a report that is unflattering?

That and we need to define “freedom” and truly examine how much freedom a nation’s citizens actually have.

Freedom of the press, for instance — sure, Americans at least in theory have freedom of the press, but unless you are very wealthy, how can you possibly even remotely compete with the corporate media machine, which pumps out pro-corporate and pro-plutocratic and pro-status-quo messages relentlessly? Sure, at least in theory, you can say whatever you want — but who will ever hear you?

Democracy, too — sure, in theory you could run for political office, even for the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate or even for U.S. president, but, regardless of how bright and talented you are, how successful are you actually going to be in your quest for political office without a shitload of money?

About half of the members of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives are millionaires. The median net worth of the typical American household, by comparison, is not even $70K. (And if you think that the Democrats are on your side, know that the typical Democrat in Congress is even richer than is the typical Repugnican. Really, you’re so fucked. We’re so fucked.)

So — can the average American really run for political office? Or, like freedom of speech is, is it a rich person’s game? Are hundreds of millionaires in D.C. truly representative of the average American’s interests?

What we have in the United States is the veneer of freedom. “Freedom” is defined for us by the plutocrats, and so therefore in the U.S., “freedom” is pretty much synonymous with “capitalism.” We Americans are free (if we have the money) to buy shit that we don’t need. We are free to go into debt (if the all-powerful credit-reporting agencies deem us worthy enough) in order to buy shit that we don’t need. We are free to pick a wage-slave job (McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Bell, etc.). We are free to go to college in order to be in student-loan debt for life while there aren’t any jobs for which we can even use our college degrees for which we can’t afford to pay. We are free to be inundated with corporately produced propaganda telling us how “free” we are, and we are free to vote for pro-corporate candidates, at least around half of whom are millionaires.

So much fucking freedom!

It’s a fucking joke to hear and read Americans boasting about how free and wonderful the United States of America is when there are mountain ranges of evidence to the contrary.

I don’t maintain that other, Latin American nations that even a supposedly left-wing website like Salon.com has bashed recently, including Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, are perfect nations, are Utopias, but so smug are we Americans, the planet’s biggest fucking assholes, that we apparently are completely oblivious to our own glaringly obvious flaws while we (even those of us who call ourselves “liberals” or “progressives” or the like) gleefully bash other nations as supposedly being less free than we are (“free” according to our plutocratic overlords, of course).

Sick fucking shit.

Venezuela is looking pretty fucking good to me right about now.

P.S. In case you are wondering, on the so-called Freedom House’s “freedom scale” of 1 to 7, I’d give the U.S. a rating of 3.5, maybe 3.0, at best. And from what I know of Venezuela, I’d give it no worse a rating than the U.S.

*We’re “assured” that our snail mail isn’t ever actually opened without a court order allowing it, but that only the outside of our snail mail is photographed. I, however, don’t trust “my” government at all. Human beings tend to abuse their power whenever and wherever they can get away with doing so, and Edward Snowden’s biggest “crime” is exposing such ubiquitous abuse of power here in the land of the so-called “free.”

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New pope, same as the last pope

Pope Benedict and Argentina's Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, the one-two finishers in 2005, meet again at the Vatican in 2007.

Reuters photo

Then-Pope Palpatine is shown with then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) in 2007. The new pope, who is Italian, only technically is Latin American.

When I saw the initial headline that the newly minted pope is from Argentina, I thought: Yes! They picked a pope from Latin America!

But only technically did they.

When I saw the new pope’s birth name — Jorge Mario Bergoglio (he’s going by Pope Francis) — I thought, Wait a minute: Bergoglio doesn’t sound Spanish

Indeed, his entry on Wikipedia says that the 76-year-old Pope Francis was born in Buenos Aires in 1936 to Italian parents.

I was hoping for a native Latin American pope, but that was too much to hope for, apparently. We very apparently got yet another pope whose blood is that of the European white man. And as though we haven’t had enough Italian popes.

With his having been born and raised in Argentina, I’m not saying that the new pope isn’t acculturated as an Argentinian (he speaks Spanish as well as Italian, for instance), but let’s not be fooled into thinking that the Catholick church finally picked its first pope of color. It has not.

The Catholick church gets to say that it picked its “first Latin American pope” when, in fact, the Eurocentric church picked a guy with white European blood who only was born in Latin America.

That doesn’t count, in my book.

And I have to wonder if that’s why Bergoglio was picked: because of his appeal as a twofer. He could be called “the first Latin American pope,” on a technicality, but at the same time his selection did not break the looong chain of white-male popes.

Of course, no woman may head the Catholick church, so that’s discrimination against at least half of the human population, so maybe I’m splitting hairs here with the race thing.

Speaking of women, Pope Francis, although he looks like he’s a lot nicer than Pope Palpatine ever looked —

(indeed, in the photo above he kind of looks like Woody Allen playing a cardinal) —  toes the Catholick church’s lines on the issues of abortion (no), contraception (n0) and same-sex marriage (hell no).

Indeed, the former Cardinal Bergoglio had come in at second place when Pope Palpatine was selected in 2005.

Expect no significant changes in the backasswards Catholick church, which I would say changes at a glacial pace, but since the glaciers are all melting, I’ll say at a geological (as in “geological time”) pace.

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