Cuba Libre

Jose MartiOk, first of all, it’s not an original post title, I agree, but I like it and it’s appropriate and, as they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Anyway, today, President Obama, the supposed defeated, lame duck President showed again why he continues to play “eleventy-level chess” against the GOP when he wants to, which hasn’t been often enough in my opinion.

He did away with the 53 year old, utterly pointless, Cuban political and economic embargo today. A small island only 90 miles away from Florida, which was once seriously considered for inclusion as a US state has been a “major enemy” for nearly 55 years. For most of that time, it has actually been a major enemy of just a small community of south Florida Cuban emigres, which have manipulated the easily manipulated GOP into being perceived as a giant enemy of the state. The vast majority of Americans could care less.

The original reason for Castro’s Cuba was overthrowing a brutal dictator supported by the US Mafia and the US government (see “Godfather II”). So Castro was basically the Thomas Jefferson of Cuba with a good curve ball since Jose Marti (pictured above) was meant to be the George Washington more than 60 years earlier. Castro the lawyer (and pretty good baseball pitcher) wanted to bring a real social-democratic government to Cuba. Of course, the Republican Eisenhower administration immediately rebuffed the new government, especially after they nationalized the neo-colonial American businesses on the island and he drifted to the Soviet Union. As a result, he did create a economically dysfunctional dictatorship eventually.  And the new government also quickly learned the common tools of political oppression, which both right-wing and left-wing governments used during the 1960s through the 1980s.

Of course, Castro’s government also was the first to eliminate illiteracy in Latin America, created the best health care system in Latin America and eliminated income inequality and has a well-developed foreign aid program. But this also came at a big political and economic cost for the country since the embargo limited development of the economy in addition to the government’s own weaknesses. So, if we say the Cuban economy failed, in large measure we made sure that it failed.

I’m not trying to justify the Cuban dictatorship. But it represented an easy opportunity to win since Cubans were already Americanized during the same time we were busy overthrowing other democratically elected governments that we didn’t happen to agree with (Iran, Guatemala, Chile, the DR, etc.). But, no, we decided to create another enemy. (The Dulles brothers were really, truly awful.)

So the end of this ridiculous politico-economic embargo against a small island republic posing no threat whatsoever to the US when we have deep political-economic relationships with communist dictatorships like China (second largest global economy thanks to us) and Vietnam (a former “enemy” and economic powerhouse) not to mention major human rights violators like Saudi Arabia is long past ridiculous.

US farmers already benefit from exports to Cuba. All we are doing is formalizing what was always a natural socio-economic relationship before 1959. Only the rabid right-wingers don’t get this because they are always just about the hate.

Hillary Clinton’s Problem

As maHillary Clinton 2014ny commentators have noted, Hillary Clinton seems to be sleep-walking to the 2016 Presidential nomination. The absurdity of U.S. Presidential campaigns nowadays is one in which candidates seem to feel they must begin their soft campaigns years ahead of their actual declared campaigns, including all the fund-raising and ass-kissing involved.

As we know, this ruinously expensive process ends up floating up the well-known pols and largely sinking the serious candidates that don’t fit the predominant messaging of either party. The GOP, especially since the Reagan Era is particularly vulnerable to rigid ideological posturing, which, as we know, is hostile to the values of much of the American public but which can work in gerrymandered, conservative, predominantly white districts. As a result, the Congress has become polarized and paralyzed in a divided government.  So states are becoming ever more dissonant from each other in their policies and laws. This is the GOP policy of enabling the 10th Amendment.  They know it won’t work in the states which aren’t GOP dominated but in those that are it is all about bringing back “Jim Crow” and medieval social and labor practices.  Whoopee.

In this ferocious context, for Hillary to offer a candidacy of “I am the first woman president” but otherwise it’s business as usual won’t work.  Worse still, she seems to be staking out a position of being the Illinois “Gold Meir”, i.e., I am a bad ass military-oriented  woman don’t mess with me.  This, of course, is music to our military-industrial, war-as-theatre elite.

Unfortunately, back in early 2009, our genius current President (“first African American President”) immediately abandoned the progressives that voted for him and became a moderate conservative to the astonishment of many who had elected him to do otherwise. The White House did lead the stimulus but the health care reform and financial reforms were all really led by the Democratic Congress and Obama did little to help the ball game and, in fact, abandoned climate change pretty much right away.

This is not to say he hasn’t done progressive things. He right away signed the Lily Ledbetter bill and he tried to end Guantanamo. He has faced an unrelentingly racist and reactionary GOP, which is determined to give him nothing even if it hurts the Republic.  They have unrelentingly opposed him from his first day in office.  The Neo-Confederacy now lives like it hasn’t in more than 50 years.

Given the GOP’s decision, upon losing the 2008 general election to resurrect the 1950’s-1960’s massive resistance (to integration) strategy, Basically, as soon as he tried to do something constructive, his Presidency was doomed. This was partly a failure of his Administration. They had an awesome campaign outreach and communication system the likes of which have never been seen before. But once elected, the “professionals” took over and must outreach and involvement of the public simply disappeared. The GOP, sensing the vacuum, mobilized its awesome domination of the media to arouse fear and spread disinformation. This allowed the third factor: American voter apathy and stupidity to create an unnecessary wave election in 2010 that will have negative repercussions for generations for the vast majority of Americans, at least.

So this is a long-winded way of saying that the Democrats have to get their sh*t together on communicating and messaging.  I get at least 60 pleading emails from various dem folks literally every day.  I can give money but the democrats need to figure out an effective GOTV strategy and a way to personalize messages, especially to the 18-34s.  Otherwise, the GOP will succeed in turning this country into a bought and paid-for oligarchy.

Corporate Oligarchy as a Ruling System: A Lesson

Vladimir-Putin-horsebackThere is not much doubt that the eastern Ukraine ethnic Russian insurgents shot down a Malaysian commercial airliner with Russian assistance, since this was a highly technical operation. That much is clear. What is not clear is…Why?

Anyone paying attention to the world’s news has seen the ongoing drama starting from last Fall in Ukraine, which has culminated some nine months now in the birth of the criminal Ukrainian Russian insurgency. One that very clearly shot out of the sky, at 33,000 feet, 298 innocent people in a Malaysian Airline (MAS).

And it ultimately goes back to this particular criminal, this ex-KGB operative, currently Russia’s President who has clearly never been able to envision a future for his country other than a frigid version of Nigeria with nukes. Because he is an ex-KGB thug who likes to ride bare-chested on horses because he has masculine issues, evidently. I mean, who even does that who is not on a comedy show?

I worked in Russia, in the 90s, for USAID. I mainly worked in the Russian Far East (Primorsky and Khabarovsky krai) on environmental matters and I worked simultaneously with some of the best Russian technical people and artists I ever met but also some classic, leftover, Soviet bureaucrats, utterly uninterested in doing something good for their region. Also spent some time in Moscow, which was a whole different trip.

Russia is in a long-term transition. It is a giant, resource-rich region with an utterly medieval governance regime, which guarantees an utter waste of valuable human capital; a true tragedy. A lot of that human capital is working in criminal software development, tragically. Putin is the poison that has prevented the democratic governance transition and is also strangling the younger generation from blooming and also fomenting these pointless wars to recreate the Soviet Union, which will never happen – absolutely but which he hopes will be able to recast himself as the next Peter the Great or maybe Stalin.

More to the point, I believe the Koch Brothers and other right-wing Oligarchs in America probably have a real envy of modern day Russia and would impose such a regime on this country if they thought they could. And I believe this is on their agenda.

SCOTUS Beats Up on Women’s Rights

AlitoToday, the SCOTUS delivered a despicable but unfortunately predictable decision in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby deciding that “closely held” corporations’ “religious beliefs” (undefined in this country, of course) could trump the healthcare law and (by logical extension) just about any law or regulation if it violated the “religious beliefs” of said “privately held corporation”.

This is truly awful law. It opens up the judicial system potentially to a huge number of lawsuits and chaos in the labor market and corporate regulations generally. Religion is one of the biggest “third rails” of American politics along with race and guns so expect corporations to exploit ti to the extreme for their benefit, ideologically or profit-wise. Yes, it is unlikely GM will deprive women of contraceptive coverage but maybe they will suddenly discover some other “religious” objection to get out of another mandate.  This decision just adds another scalp to the corporate right wing’s long game of rolling back eventually all of the human, civil and economic rights that Americans struggled to achieve all through the 20th century.

Appropriately, the extremist Justice Alito delivered the majority opinion and basically declared that women really have no rights in law, as far as the extremist right-wing male majority is concerned.

Elections have consequences.  I hope Ralph Nader is happy with this one.


A Life Milestone

My son Kevin graduates from college today. Of course, millions of parents have experienced this milestone in a (usually) young person’s life. And yet each event is also the culmination of a lifetime of intense interactions we call education and parenting and just growing up together that is an ongoing voyage of mutual discovery and so very interesting for that reason alone.

Kevin is an interesting physical combination of mine and my wife’s genes but his personality is really what is intriguing and still emerging for us and, presumably, for him too. He has elements of my sense of humor and his mother’s analytical mind but also her poetic sensitivity and my artistic sense.

I am not a professional artist rather a reluctant economist and my wife is a scientist – but also a poetess and a manager. We all have layers of talents and inclinations that may or may not be expressed in our own lives in various ways but unexpectedly pop up in our children in often strange and interesting ways. So, Kevin, from a very early age – proficient with computers and software – tried to compile a software program for “happiness” when he was 10 years old.

The point of all this is that we are celebrating a moment in a long and convoluted stream of many souls including ours but all who came before and all of his close friends and teachers, of course. The stream rushes on and changes all the time. But congratulations, Kevin, well done!  And now back to the life stream…

The Future of Obamacare

There has been a blizzard of surveys, opinion-bloviating and other analysis about the verity of Obamacare sign-ups. Of course, these rants pile on the ongoing, largely right-wing critique about Obamacare being a socialist nightmare.

The fact is that Obamacare/ACA is too big a change in our dysfunctional, profit-centered and cost-bloated health care system and the changes are still too new and still evolving (especially the future cost savings) to have major impacts now. So, John/Mary Q. Public can hardly have a coherent view of it right now, which is why we are seeing this “hate it-not good enough” dichotomy, based on very little information. The whole healthcare system – never mind how we pay for it – will continue to evolve in dramatic ways over the next 10 years at least. The wingers have lost and so have the health insurance parasites; it’s just a matter of time and education. And the Obama Administration’s communication team has been just awful on public education for years (except during campaigns). Weird.

End of the world economics

skidroadNobody will read this but the fact is that the US economy is drifting steadily from a post-war, pseudo-Capitalism model to a Third World formal-informal sector economic model. So, you have formal sector, registered corporations ranging from all the huge corporations we know about to small neighborhood businesses.

But, post economic crisis, and the New Savage Economy, increasingly we will see an ever larger unregistered economy of people who have no hope of any other employment in the economy I described above. What we will see increasingly are a large number of businesses created under the radar which won’t be IPOs or anything resembling Wall Street. None of which are being tracked now – except by the NSA, of course.  Welcome to the New Post-Depression.