Cuba: seeking a road back from serfdom? 0

From Newsmax:

President Raul Castro …  called for a national dialogue on the future of the country’s socialist system in an August speech.

Since then, authorities have set up discussions at universities, government workplaces and under the glow of street lamps. Community organizations called Committees for the Defense of the Revolution — created in part to root out anti-government activity — are now tasked with collecting criticism of the socialist system, along with suggestions for how to reform it.

Declining revenues and mounting debts have stretched the Cuban government to the point that it must trim some of its longstanding entitlement programs, Castro told the National Assembly during the August speech.

“Nobody, no individual nor country, can indefinitely spend more than she or he earns. Two plus two always adds up to four, never five,” he said. “Within the conditions of our imperfect socialism, due to our own shortcomings, two plus two often adds up to three.”

That losing formula has the Cuban government increasingly exhorting its citizens to work harder, expect less and come up with solutions to their own problems.

The input is funneled upward to Cuba’s leaders and will ostensibly be used to guide the reform process. Similar discussions soliciting criticism and ideas were gathered during a round of open-air discussions called by Castro in 2007. The government collected 1.3 million opinions from residents during that period, Castro said, nearly half of which were criticisms of one problem or another.

While Cuban authorities have made it clear that major political and economic reforms to the country’s one-party system are not on the discussion agenda, participants at the meetings are being encouraged to speak freely and openly about problems in their daily lives.

Many Cubans simmer with frustration brought by chronic transportation and housing shortages, a gargantuan state bureaucracy and salaries that average roughly $20 a month, even though most consumer goods in state-run stores are priced above what they would cost in the United States.

Subsidies for food, utilities and other basics offset those meager earnings, but as the government’s fortunes decline, authorities are increasingly telling Cubans to tackle their own problems. One high-ranking party official recently said Cubans can’t expect for the “daddy state” to fix everything, waiting with open mouths “like baby birds.”

Such a statement is “offensive” to the Cuban people, said dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe, who has spent time in prison for his opposition to the government.

This system was designed to control everyone, so it’s absurd that the official propaganda talks about the ‘daddy state,’” he said, referring to Cuba’s government-run media. “It’s as if the Cuban people were to blame for this economic debacle, and not the government. The government is to blame for the way Cubans behave, because this is the system it created.”

Espinosa Chepe said Cubans would gladly solve their own problems if the government would allow for more small businesses and other forms of economic independence. …

Two major rollbacks of the island’s socialist system are now under consideration, and both involve major government programs that, though often criticized, deliver basic nutrition staples to all Cubans. The first proposed reform would gradually eliminate the workplace cafeterias that provide nearly-free lunches to a third of the island’s population each weekday, at a cost of more than $350 million a year. Instead, workers will receive a cash stipend, doubling the average workers’ salary.

The second major reform threatens to eliminate the ration-card system that provides every Cuban with about two weeks’ worth of food at highly subsidized prices, but is beset by inefficiencies. In the name of egalitarianism, the program doles out the same amount of food to everyone, even to those who don’t need it. [Who could those be? – JB]

Earlier this month in a much-discussed editorial that appeared in the communist party daily Granma, editor Lazaro Barredo Medina said the ration book had become a drag on the state’s struggling finances and reform efforts. “The ration booklet was a necessity at one time, but it has become an impediment to the collective decisions the nation must take,” he said.

His words touched off rampant speculation about the imminent demise of the ration system. But it’s not clear how the Cuban government would be able to quickly implement such a measure, since so many seniors and low-income families depend heavily on it. Cuba has no income-tax system and a vast black market economy, so ascertaining citizens’ real earnings for the purpose of welfare eligibility would be extremely difficult.

Then there is the threat of inflation.

“Getting rid of the ration book seems like a good move, but only if salaries can keep pace with the price of food,” said Aurelio Alonso, deputy editor of Cuba’s Casa de las Americas journal.

For Cubans to be able to pay market prices for food, worker salaries would have to double or triple, he said, and that would bring inflation if food supplies remain the same. “And that would be a big problem,” he said.

Still, Alonso said he sees the younger Castro as a practical man who understands economics, and he expects further reforms to follow. “You can’t have social justice and social goods if you don’t have an economy capable of sustaining it.”

And if you have an economy capable of sustaining ‘social justice’ and ‘social goods’, you’ll wreck it if you put it to that use.

The choice is freedom or collectivism. You cannot have both. They are mutually exclusive. Freedom brings plenty, collectivism brings want. Will the ‘practical man who understands economics’ – Raul Castro – ever get to understand that?

America disgraced by its own president 2

From Redstate:

You are probably not surprised to find that Poland and the Czech Republic are not the only loyal and faithful American allies getting screwed by the Obama Administration these days. The ongoing drama in Honduras is an outrage and a disgrace, but not because the Hondurans have done anything wrong. It’s because the Obama administration is actively intervening on behalf of a thug would-be dictator whom the Hondurans properly and legally drove from power.

Shame on you, Barack.

Follow closely, because this is an extremely important and telling example of the kind of foreign policy we are getting from Barack Obama. Let’s review what’s been going on in Honduras this year, and how the Obama administration has come down completely on the side of tyrants, cheaters, and marxists They’ve done it deliberately, and in keeping with their overall global policy of rejecting freedom and snuggling up to the thugs and bandits of the world [remember Iranian protesters after the fraud election? remember soldiers shooting them? remember Obama’s reaction?]…

Honduras is one of the most impoverished countries in central America, but it has been and remains a democratic republic in a region currently overshadowed by several evil dictators who are intent on spreading the evils of drug-money fueled marxism and tyranny to the entire region: Fidel & Raul Castro of Cuba, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Rafael Correa of Ecuador, and most of all, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. [A cynic like me might add Daniel Ortega in neighboring Nicaragua to the list, as he’s lobbying to change their constitution to allow him to run for president again.]

Morales, Correa, and Chavez were ALL elected in free elections, then seized power by one means or another, and turned republics into their personal tin-pot dictatorships. In the crisis currently underway, Zelaya tried to do the same thing…

Read the rest of it here.

Yes, we could 0

Today it is officially announced that Obama has broken America’s promise to Poland and the Czech Republic to supply them with anti-missile defense shields – as we said he would two weeks ago (Obama abandons Poland and Czech republic to the enemy, September 3). Why is he doing it? The Russians were furiously against the plan, so that’s one poor reason. But the main and outrageous reason is, of course, that Obama is not interested in defending America or its allies or the free(-ish) world.

At ‘the corner’ of the National Review Online, Jay Nordlinger writes:

I thought Barack Obama would be a poor and troublesome president. Did I think he would yuk it up with Hugo Chávez, smirk with Daniel Ortega about the Bay of Pigs, turn his wrath on a Central American country trying to follow its constitution, denounce President Bush abroad, bow to the king of Saudi Arabia, endorse a radical Middle Eastern view of how Israel came into being, knock Western countries that try to protect Muslim girls from unwanted shrouding, invite the Iranian regime to our Fourth of July parties, stay essentially mute in the face of counterrevolution in Iran, squeeze and panic Israel, cold-shoulder the Cuban democrats in order to warm to the Cuban dictatorship, scrap missile defense in Eastern Europe, and refuse to meet with the Dalai Lama [this item doesn’t annoy us as much – JB] — in addition to his attempts to have government eat great portions of American society? No, I did not. You?

Yes, we did. We said so, in generalized prediction. We only don’t understand why the whole country couldn’t see what Obama would set about trying to do: at home, turn America into an impoverished socialist country, and abroad, ally America with its enemies and alienate its friends.

Spreading anti-democracy 1

Ralph Peters writes (read the whole article here):

In June, the elected legislators and the Honduran Supreme Court had enough. As Zelaya aligned with Chavez, the Castro regime, Nicaraguan caudillo Daniel Ortega and other extreme leftists, the Honduran government gave the would-be dictator the boot. Acting under legal orders, the army peacefully arrested Zelaya and shipped him out of the country. No murders, no Chavez-style imprisonments. It was not a military coup. An elected congress and interim president, not a general, run the country today.

But the Obama administration has decided that this “violation” is so dreadful that we won’t even recognize future free elections in Honduras.

Well, President Obama’s taste in elections is finicky:

* He’ll recognize the utterly bogus results of Afghanistan’s corrupt election.

* He initially blessed the results of Iran’s rigged election. (He was for it before he was against it.)

* He hasn’t spoken one word of criticism as Chavez continues to strangle Venezuelan democracy.

* He hasn’t questioned the divisive, racist politics of Presidente Evo Morales in Bolivia.

* He hasn’t demanded free elections in Cuba — instead, he’s easing up on the Castro regime.

But we’re going to show those wicked Hondurans, by George! They can’t boot out a crazy leftwing president just because he’s trying to subvert their Constitution.

Honduras is a small country. But the principle and precedent loom hugely. Have we abandoned democracy entirely? In favor of backing anti-American dictators?

When it is writ so large what Obama’s ideology is (Marxist), and where his sympathies lie (with collectivist regimes, Islam, the Greens), why is anyone surprised by each successive manifestation of his political convictions?  (Though to be fair to clear-sighted Ralph Peters, I don’t think he’s really surprised at all.)

And by the way, what’s happened to Hillary Clinton? Wasn’t she made Secretary of State by Obama? Is she still in that position? Is she still alive? If so, has she been gagged?

Posted under Commentary, communism, Diplomacy, Latin America, Socialism, Totalitarianism, United States by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, September 9, 2009

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The mass-murderer seal of approval 0

 The San Francisco Chronicle reports: 

Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland, who led a historic trip of members of Congress to Cuba this week, met with Fidel Castro at his home and says the former Cuban president sees President Obama as "a good person and good for America."

Does it make all Americans feel proud?

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, April 8, 2009

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How dangerous is Russia? 4

The population of Russia is shrinking rapidly. The global economic downturn has hit Russia hard. Is this declining nation a serious threat to the US? It shows signs of wanting to seem menacing, but is it in fact a toothless old tiger?  Is it modernizing its armament, or letting its military striking power degrade?   

 Consider this piece of information (Debkafile) –

The Russian Kommersant reported Tuesday, Dec. 16 that Gen. Vladimir Popovkin, head of Russia’s armed forces, visited Israel in November for talks on the purchase of a first batch of the unmanned reconnaissance drones which Georgia used successfully in its conflict with Russia last August.

– along with this (AP):

Russian warships have been plying the waters off Venezuela and Panama in recent weeks and are now heading for Cuba, but U.S. officials are not so much wringing their hands as yawning. Asked about a Russian warship transiting the Panama Canal earlier this month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — who saw the ship while crossing the canal last week — told The Associated Press: "I guess they’re on R&R. It’s fine."

The Pentagon, while puzzled by the Russians’ actions, also is taking a ho-hum attitude. The U.S. military commander for the region, Adm. James Stavridis, head of the U.S. Southern Command, said that from his vantage point, there is no reason to be concerned about the Russian naval activity." They pose no military threat to the U.S.," Stavridis said in an e-mail to the AP on Tuesday. It was the first such passage by a Russian or Soviet warship since World War II.

There is no suggestion of a military confrontation, but the Russian moves are notable in part because they appear to reflect an effort by Moscow to flex some muscle in America’s backyard in response to Washington’s support for the former Soviet republic of Georgia and elsewhere on the Russian periphery. That includes U.S. missile defense bases to be erected in Poland and the Czech Republic. The Russians were unhappy with a U.S. decision to send a state-of-the-art warship into the Black Sea as part of an American humanitarian aid mission for Georgia in the aftermath of last August’s war with Russia. The Russians also are angry about the Bush administration’s push to add Georgia and the former Soviet republic of Ukraine as members of the NATO military alliance.

Under the gaze of the U.S. Southern Command, Russian ships this fall held joint exercises with the navy of Venezuela, whose president, Hugo Chavez, is a fierce U.S. critic. Navy Rear Adm. Tom Meek, the deputy director for security and intelligence at Southern Command, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he sees little chance of Russia teaming up with Venezuela in a militarily meaningful way."I don’t think that Russia and Venezuela are really serious about putting together a military coalition that would give them any kind of aggregate military capability to oppose anybody," Meek said. "Frankly, the maneuvers they conducted down here were so basic and rudimentary that they did not amount to anything, in my opinion."

And it’s not just the Russian navy that is showing up in the West. In September, two Tu-160 long-range bombers, known in the West as Blackjacks, landed in Venezuela — the first landing in the Western Hemisphere by Russian military aircraft since the Cold War ended. Rice shrugs it off. "A few aging Blackjacks flying unarmed along the coast of Venezuela is — I don’t know why one would do it, but I’m not particularly going to lose sleep over that," she said in the AP interview Monday. She said Russia is welcome to have relations with countries in the West. "I don’t think anybody’s confused about the preponderance of power in the Western Hemisphere," Rice said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has made no effort to hide his irritation at what he considers American arrogance."God forbid from engaging in any kind of controversy in the American continent," he said, referring to his Blackjack bombers flying to Venezuela for a training exercise. "This is considered the ‘holiest of the holy,’" he said during a meeting with Western political scholars at his Black Sea residence in Sochi. "And they drive ships with weapons to a place just 10 kilometers from where we’re at? Is this normal? Is this an equitable move?"

On Monday, the Russian navy announced that a destroyer and two support vessels will visit Cuba for the first time since the Soviet era. The ships are from a squadron that has been on a lengthy visit to Latin America; they are scheduled to put in at Havana on Friday for a five-day stay, navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said. Moscow’s support for Cuba fell sharply after the 1991 Soviet collapse, but the Russians have bolstered ties recently.

The joint naval exercises with Venezuela were Russia’s way of "demonstrating to the U.S. that it has a foothold in a region traditionally dominated by the U.S.," said analyst Anna Gilmour at Jane’s Intelligence Review. Still, she and many Russian analysts say Moscow’s deployments of warships are largely for show. Russia’s navy is a shadow of its Soviet-era force, having suffered from a serious lack of investment since the 1991 Soviet collapse. Many ships and submarines have rusted away at their berths, and deadly accidents occur regularly.

Posted under Commentary by Jillian Becker on Wednesday, December 17, 2008

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A mass, a mess, a war of ‘spiritualities’ 0

Read here about an anti-America symposium, held by the World Council of Churches and other organizations of the Religious Left in the paradise state of Cuba, where, they say, the people live in joy.

Posted under Uncategorized by Jillian Becker on Friday, May 30, 2008

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