Cuba

Many Cuban-Americans feel betrayed.    They wanted the  lifting of sanctions tied to some grand change from the Cuban government.   It didn’t happen.  But nothing the Cuban government could have done would have satisfied many ardent anti-Castro, anti-communism  supporters.

Cubans in Miami will tell you how Fidel destroyed their country and imprisoned their   people trying to reform the government.  Good, hardworking  and honest people went to jail or escaped Cuba.  Those that left Cuba had to  leave all their possessions behind.

According to Wikipedia:

The Republic of Cuba is one of the world’s last remaining socialist countries following the Marxist-Leninist ideology. The Constitution of 1976, which defined Cuba as a socialist republic, was replaced by the Constitution of 1992, which is “guided by the ideas of José Martí and the political and social ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin.”[4] The constitution describes the Communist Party of Cuba as the “leading force of society and of the state”.[4]

It might be in the Constitution, but by all reports, capitalism is far from dead in Cuba.  Increased tourism is creating a new economy.

Those supporters of  sanctions have a point- you can not have democratic reform with a one party system.   The economy was destroyed through government ownership of everything.  Those opposed to the embargo also have a point- this is a 50 year attempt to change Cuba and it  failed.  The other countries in South America and the EU do not support the sanctions.

There is no one more adamant on maintaining sanctions than Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,  representing Miami and Coral Gables, FL.   I have include a link to her speech to Congress below:

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen Speech to Congress, March 21, 2016

Actually, this is fairly tame attack on President Obama and his efforts to restore relationships with the Cuban regime.  Some 13 years ago, Cuba included as one  of a handful of countries in the infamous “axis of evil”  which included Iraq (under Saddam Hussein), Iran,  North Korea and Libya.  This inclusion was done on in May 2002, by the Undersecretary of State John Bolton, in the Bush Administration warning these rouge states including Cuba,    “state sponsors of terrorism that are pursuing or who have the potential to pursue weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or have the capability to do so in violation of their treaty obligations.”[5]

I think Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen statement  that ‘The image of President Obama in Cuba says ‘no human rights are being violated.’”  is not valid.  Didn’t the Congresswoman see the image of Pope Francis in Cuba in September 2015?  Did that also mean “no human rights are being violated.”  This bit of fiction came  from the mouth of Raul Castro- and not President Obama or Pope Francis.   Was Congresswoman upset when Nixon visited Chairman Mao  in China in 1972, or Gerald Ford in 1975?

I like the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) – they are very courageous women.   I want them to succeed. (see description below)  Raul Castro still has many political prisoners.   I don’t think Obama trip hurt their cause and likely helped them. The Castro government was harassing members of this group.  The police were seen tearing down their banner as Obama came to Havana.  They didn’t want the media to film what was on the banner, “Cuba’s dream is Cuba without the two Castros.”  It got reported anyway- and so did Cuba’s harassment of the Ladies in White.

Ladies in White (Spanish: Damas de Blanco) is an opposition movement in Cuba founded in 2003 by wives and other female relatives of jailed dissidents. The women protest the imprisonments by attending Mass each Sunday wearing white dresses and then silently walking through the streets dressed in white clothing.

In the future, it will hurt Raul Castro if he attempts to blame the failure of his government on the embargo and the supposed threat from  the US.  President Obama said in Cuba at the joint press conference with Raul Castro:

I’ve made it clear that the United States has neither the capacity nor the intention to impose change on Cuba. What changes come will depend upon the Cuban people.

We will not impose our political or economic system on you. We recognize that every country, every people must chart its own course and shape its own model. But having removed the shadow of history from our relationship, I must speak honestly about the things that I believe, the things that we as Americans believe.

What has been surprising is how muted the response has been from Republicans.   One would expect former Ambassador John Bolton to be all over Fox News.    Of course,  all Republicans are right now focused on the election, and candidate Trump is not out there blasting Obama for embracing communist Cuba, but just saying he could have cut an even better deal.   About pare for the Donald.  Rubio and Cruz announced they would reverse course.

Rubio and Cruz Skeptical on U.S.-Cuba Relations, Trump Wants to Improve Them

MIAMI – The Republican candidates for the White House, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, both of Cuban origin, would reverse the US openness towards Cuba, undertaken by President Barack Obama, while Donald Trump said that he “would improve it.”

During the twelfth Republican debate in the primaries, held in Miami on Thursday, Rubio, a Florida senator, who needs to win in his state in order to stay alive in the race, claimed that the new US policy toward Cuba is “an unrewarded exchange,” adding that Cuba “has not taken a single change in human rights.”

“I would love the relationship between Cuba and the United States to change. But today, Cuba has not changed,” Rubio said.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz said he would reverse the diplomatic relationship steps taken by Obama with Havana, just as he would reverse other steps taken by Obama’s government, like the Iran nuclear deal.

Trump when asked the same question said he believes that “50 years is enough” referring to the embargo imposed on the island, but noted that he would like to “improve the agreement”, however without delving into details.

Latin American Herald Tribune detailing comments made during the last debate.

Rand Paul with his Libertarian leanings thought the lifting of the embargo might be a good for Cuba.   Libertarians believe in less federal government interference abroad.

So,  Trump is being really clever. It is his answer to almost anything. Elect me, and I’ll have this wonderful deal I’ve negotiated with the Cuban government.   American will be great again.  (Applause sign).   Note that international support for the embargo has pretty much gone.

So  the real problem with what Representative Ros-Lehtinen is saying, is not her characterization of Cuba today, but whether to use the whip or carrot to move the cart forward.  After 50 years,  the carrot seems far more productive

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

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The Media

 

laugh fest

Image from Africanews.com on South Sudan Laugh Festival last week.

The  four axioms of media reporting are:

  1. If it bleeds, it leads.*
  2. Incidences closer to the viewing audience are far more important than further away.
  3. The more similar the victims are to the viewing audience, the more likely people will watch
  4. Commentary should  conform to long held beliefs of viewing audience.  Fox has conservative  commentators and MSNBC has liberal commentators.

A terrorist attack in a shopping mall in Iowa.  Hasn’t happened, but if it does,  you will have every reporter in the country swarming down to cover the story.  And every political candidate will have something to say with tweets and text messages flying around within milliseconds.

A 178 people have die from an epidemic of  yellow fever in Angola. Reported last week. It was on BBC, one of my favorite news channels. Relatively unimportant as it is in Africa.

A blend of happy and sad news is nice.  Obama dancing the tango is fine. Of course, if you’re Fox News,  everything can be Obama’s fault.  Instead of dancing the tango, our Chief-in-Commander should be flying to Brussels in Air Force 1 , dressed on combat gear,  on the phone to the Brussels’ police demanding two Muslim terrorists are caught right now.

There is a lot of  election year theatrics.  Interpol exists if  you don’t know.  Fox plays to its audience- like usual. If Obama did try to be involved,   Fox would have come down, full force, that he was grandstanding,  totally superficial and an attempt to score points from a tragic event.  But both Kerry and Biden went to Belgium. and I’m certain discussions are of a longer term strategy for defeating ISIL fanatics.

Reporting from China or Moscow, what six people on the street think about Donald Trump is not international news.

A lot of things happen in the past week.  How many reporters flew to South Sudan to participate in the first Laugh Festival?

South Sudan’s Laugh Festival

From the looks of it, some people were close to dying from laughter.   How in the world do you have a laugh festival in a country beset with so many problems?  South Sudan is one of the world’s newest country,  for 2 years has been in a terrible civil war.

Yes, dear – there are serious events occurring outside of the US – Europe, and the other three “newsworthy” countries Cuba, Canada and Mexico.  The Brazilian Congress has started impeachment proceedings against their president, Dilma Rouseff  this week and over 3 million people protested against the government in Sao Paulo.

And just last week,  South African police launch a graft probe against the President Duduzane Zuma’s son.

Volkswagen and the EPA were supposed to be in court this week to tell the judge if the problems with emissions were fixable.  They got a one month extension.  I think it’s their second extension.

Last week, we learned scientists believe the Zika virus has been around in Brazil for 2 years. To me that’s frightening.

From the country down under, the Great Barrier Reef is disappearing due to climate change:

Great Barrier Reef 

But like the news of South Sudan’s festival, there was plenty of positive news, of which 99% goes unreported.  The new funding for World Health Organization to combat yellow fever in Africa last week has to be one of them.  The agreement signed in Egypt  between defense ministers from 27 African and Arab countries, pledging  information sharing in combating terrorism is another.  Or how women farmers are making a big difference and the great work of the Rainforest Alliance.  Terrific news.

I like to watch BBC  and Al-Jazeera news.   I like One American News, but only for their reporting, not commentary.  They keep them separate.  I like Bloomberg News.   I watch Fareed Zakaria  on CNN which is good,  except he should let others give “their take” as the lead in to the program.

Perhaps, the media could have reported on South Sudan’s laugh fest as kind of a happy news filler.

Stay tuned.

Dave

  • quote from Marshall McCluhen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John McAfee and Cell Phone Security

John McAfee can break into the Apple’s iPhone 6 if they just give him a chance, but his claim  is certainly total bluster. The claim gets John McAfee his 15 minutes of fame, although today it has been cut to about 90 seconds on national television.   I explained the government’s problem with hacking through  the iPhone 6 in a separate blog- but it’s worth reviewing.

Apparently, law enforcement departments across the country have a large number of iPhone 6 they would like to open.  FBI Director Comey explained the problem best as they want Apple to remove the watchdog in front of the security system.  Apple’s iPhone 6 has built in  defenses when it suspects there is an intruder.  Entering the password too many times, initiates a delay in password attempts.  The user can activate another security measure which would wipe clean iPhone contents if too many attempts are made on the phone.  The phone is still functional in every respect, except the user’s content such as telephone numbers, pictures, etc is gone. These measures thwart an attempt to open the iPhone by simply trial and error iterations on the password.

So, what the government has been unable to do, is to find a means of calling off the watchdog, presumably by some code change in the operating system.  Once that is done, it could be days, months or years (or never) to hack through the phone by guessing at the password. The government is likely has experts working with other iPhone 6 so they don’t trigger the defense mechanisms on the San Bernadino phone.

Along with pictures, there is likely stored GPS information, useful in tracking the movements of the San Bernadino terrorists.  The contents of  cell phone these days is a phenomenal tool in solving crimes.  But search warrants are required.

Now what you need to know about John McAfee.    John McAfee founded McAfee and Associates,  but he sold out way too soon.  He credits the success of his company, to finding the best individuals to write the anti-virus software.   He has a long history of being an incredible promoter of his latest endeavors.   For decades, he separated himself from the computer technology world. As a great marketer that he is, he was involved in marketing various enterprises including yoga, ultalight flight, and anti-viral medicines based on plants grown in Belize.  With the wealth gained from the sale of McAfee, he built a number of beautiful homes and according to McAfee, had to unload them at a loss.  Now, he has founded Future Tense Central and announced he is running for president.   I don’t see much for sale at his website but a baby monitoring system.

Ok.  So why John McAfee is blowing hot air?  Because if what he is saying is true, he can at any moment,  demonstrate his company’s ability to open  iPhone 6. If he could do that,  I’m sure he will be in strong demand from law enforcement across the country, with much less publicized cases, such as theft and drug cases.  Of course, these would be cases where the police has valid search warrants to hack the phones based on probable cause.

He’s teasing the FBI- I know how to open the phone and you don’t. Ha ha ha.  And I can’t tell you unless you give me the San Bernadino iPhone, which the FBI can’t do, in case John McAfee sets off the watch dogs.

But, McAfee always sounds very good.  He gets invited as keynote speaker at computer security conferences.  And obviously, he knows how to get on MSNBC or Fox News in their attempts to  find commentators on any hot topic of the day.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

Garland- Just going with the best

Ok- I got it wrong.  I looked over the 3 nominations on Obama’s Supreme Court short list- and thought it would be Sri Srinvassen, because he was young and outstanding in every respect.  Obama liked the oldest on the list- Merrick Garland, who edged out the competition based on years of experience.    Obama just went with the best.  And this is exactly what myriad of court watchers are saying.

The judicial system has a kind of ladder, and it’s tough to get to the top rung of the Chief Justice of the Appellate Court for the DC circuit.   To get there, you have to get the approval of both Republicans and Democrats.  Our system of congressional approval really supports more practical centralist type of judges.

But,  the Republicans have made this their holy war,  against a “liberal” judge, so Obama selected someone,  who in the past was acceptable to many of the Republicans’ top leadership, including John McCain, when he was appointed to the DC Appellate Court.

Garland is regarded by court watchers as a centralist.     Judge Andrew Napolitano who appears regularly on Fox News, stated this is the most conservative nominee the Democrats have put forward in the modern era.   It is also been stated that some Democrats in the Senate, may feel disappointed by Obama’s nomination because he did not nominate someone with more  liberal credentials.

Garland could  side with Chief Justice Roberts or Kennedy on court decisions, both of whom were nominated by Republicans.   He is likely to be a strong defender of 1st (freedom of speech and religion) and 5th amendment (prohibiting unreasonable searches) rights, as was Justice Scalia.

What is totally absurd is the notion, that by refusing to go ahead with a hearing on the nomination, that this allows “the people of the US” to decide on the nomination.  Somehow,  to obstruct the normal process of filling a vacancy on the Supreme Court, through refusing to hold hearings,  has been lauded by conservative republicans, as in consistent with our democratic ideals of our country.

Pragmatism is not a quality you hear often- but it is vital to the functioning of the Supreme Court.  The principle of stare decisis, means justices respect prior decisions as final.   This is why decisions are not overturned when new justices are appointed.

The people of the US can vote on many issues- but not Supreme Court judges.  And thank God for this.  We elect our representatives and leaders to make decisions for us.   The makes us a republic.  On choosing a Supreme Court justice, it should never come down to a popular judge- or we are all in serious trouble.

In fact, it was the late Justice Scalia, who said the public does not have a sufficient understanding of the law, to be able to follow the logic behind their decisions, which must follow the interpretation of laws and prior decisions.  So, the public can not make an inform decision on who would be best for the Supreme Court.  This is why we have a Senate Judiciary Committee.

 

The Congress can reduce the power of the Presidency, by obstructing the normal process of government, but in the end,  it makes government less able to function.  The #1 obstructionist, is Mitch McConnell, the Senator from Kentucky, and Majority Leader of the Senate.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee

Suppose they held a Miss America contest, and the plan was, just after crowning the winner, they were either going to push her off the stage or mug her as she was leaving the pageant.   That’s exactly what’s going to happen to Obama’s nomination.

Well,  I stated on Feb 18  that I thought Judge Jacqueline Nguyen was likely going to be Obama’s choice, but I thought it could go to Sri Srinivasan.  Based on recent leaks,   I now think Obama will nominate  Sri  Srinivasan.   I rule out Merrick Garland because he is 63 years old, and Paul Watford, because of prior Republican opposition in the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  He was confirmed 61 to 34.

I also believe no hearing will take place.  If a hearing does take place, Republicans  will attempt to show the nominee is unqualified.  Ted Cruz would like the chance to tell the country that Obama has nominated the worst possible Supreme Court candidate ever.

The Republicans  will  not allow the nomination to go forward.   So, pushed off the stage, or mugged on the way out-  the Supreme Court will have 8 justices for at least a year, maybe longer.

It’s a terrible precedent.  It is not politics as usual- as it has never been done before.

Stay tuned,

Dave

 

 

 

 

Religious Freedom

I have been working on a series of posts on this topic.  First, I recognize this as a hot button issue in the current election.  Secondly, there are a lot of cases.

There are several freedoms which we enjoy.   The first is the freedom to practice the religion of our choice.  This sounds simple enough, but it is not.  Suppose the practice of our religion calls for killing goats or taking drugs- is that protected?

Suppose the practice of our religion means we can’t work on weekends- do companies have to make allowances in their policies?  Suppose our religion believes all wars are  evil  (actually they do!),  is forcing us to pay taxes a violation of our religion?

If a person is refused work because they wear a scarf in accordance with the Muslim religion,  is this a violation of their religious rights?  How far does a company have to go to accommodate the religious rights of individuals?  Their policies are supposed to be religion neutral- but if they need to know the religion of a person, in order to make exceptions- is that going too far?

There have been cases involving both the rights of individuals and churches.  A synagogue or mosque which is denied a building permit because of anti Jewish or Muslim seems immediately contrary to our values and laws.  But one case involved a church which wanted to expand it’s building into an area which was zoned as an historical area- does that sufficiently burden the right to practice one’s religion?

Obamacare has been contested in the past and will in the future because it requires companies and people to pay for services which may violate their beliefs- such as contraception and abortion.   But,  must the government or insurance companies carve our exceptions for every individual who claims that the medical insurance burdens their religion in some way?  If we  as a society bend over too far on religious liberties, we end up with individuals deciding which laws they have to follow,  or a legal system unto themselves.

All of the above, relates to freedom of religion.  There is also the freedom from religion generally known at the separation of church and state.   A lot of these cases were headline news-  but many have been decided.  The famous school prayer case (1962) was about the following prayer:

“Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessings upon us, our parents, our teachers and our country. Amen.”

It was unconstitutional.    A moment of silent meditation has replace school prayer for at least 54 years.  There have been a host of other cases, such as a prayer recited before a football game.

Can a monument be place in front of a state courthouse,  proclaiming all non-Christians to unworthy?  Of course not,  as this would be an obvious attempt to indoctrinate a religious practice.  But religious message were done in a more subtle manner- mixed in with non-secular quotes, is that a violation of the separation of church and state?  In 2005, there were 2 cases decided on religious monuments, one in favor of keeping the monument and the other one against.   And at least one judge concurred in both decisions.   So, it really gets down to what is on the monument.

The very interesting point of all religious freedom questions,  it that both liberals and conservatives on the court support religious rights- a strange outcome to most.

The Muslim woman that was refused her sales job won her case in 2015.  It was really more about the Equal  Opportunity act provisions than First Amendment.  Justice Scalia wrote the opinion, and all liberal justices concurred in an 8-1 decision.  Only Judge Thomas dissented- but maybe he was right, because companies now have the added burden of considering religious beliefs when they ask their sale personnel to dress properly for the job. This is exactly why these cases become messy, because the enforcement of a perceived individual right (in this case to wear a scarf) adds an immediate burden to someone else’s right (deciding appropriate dress codes).

It also becomes messy  because the Supreme Court can only decide based on the facts of the case, the laws passed by Congress and prior rulings of the court.   So- no points given to creative and innovative  solutions.      Nor are all decisions likely to be popular or easily understood by the public.  Nor should this be the case!   The decisions are the result of deep legal scrutiny involving hundreds of pages of briefs  and logic,  certainly not given to the whim of the public.  The justices on the court are highly intelligent legal scholars.

This is exactly the point made by Justice Scalia in an interview in 2009, and boy he right!

Stay tuned,

Dave