A Chinese Slap to Obama

Saturday, November 14, 2009
Further evidence that dictatorships are not reasonable, rational or reliable partners.
 
According to the Financial Times:

China detains dissidents ahead of US visit

Chinese police have detained dozens of dissidents and political reform advocates ahead of US President Barack Obama's first visit to China, according to family members and human rights activists.

The crackdown comes as human rights groups worry that Mr Obama, who arrives in China on Sunday, will play down China's poor human rights record in order to get cooperation from Beijing on issues such as climate change, trade and the economy.

The Financial Times has independently confirmed the cases of four Chinese activists who have been detained over the past two days in preparation for Mr Obama's visit.

At least 30 other activists who were expected to join one dissident in applying for the right to protest have also likely been detained, according to activists. They provided more than a dozen names of people whom they said had been detained.

Spain's French Attitude Towards Cuba

A striking resemblance.

Just substitute "France" for "Spain," and "Africa" for "Cuba."

From yesterday's International Herald Tribune:

DAKAR, Senegal — A waiter, reacting to the mosquitoes plaguing a customer on a recent hot night here, said sharply, "Those aren't mosquitoes; those are French people!"

Two thousand miles away, in another coastal African capital, Libreville, in Gabon, a crowd yelled: "We're sick of the French! Let's kick them out! Let's kill them!" after learning this fall that their nation's reigning autocracy was staying in power.

It is not a good time to be French in Francophone Africa, except if you are a high official from Paris privately visiting a strongman's palace. As democracy slips in country after country in the region, France often quietly sides, once again, with the once-and-future autocrats.

All summer long, while African opposition figures were protesting, demonstrating and fleeing, men in power were coolly visiting Paris, or receiving visits in return.

Nicolas Sarkozy, now France's president, promised a departure in relations with Africa three years ago. Instead, the nation appears to be reverting to historic type, looking past unsavory rulers for the sake of a uranium mine in Niger, oil interests in Gabon and a deep-water port in Cameroon.

On the region's streets, where people have been clamoring for democracy, this choosing of sides — the side of power — by the region's old colonial ruler has led to attacks on French structures, rock-throwing at French people and warnings for French citizens to stay indoors or evacuate.

Simple Problems = Simple Solutions

Friday, November 13, 2009
The Castro regime has mastered the art of formulating complex solutions for simple problems, and thus, never resolving problems.

It's called ideological babble, for the sake of absolute power and control.

But one can almost expect this from an inefficient, absurd regime.

However, it's fascinating to watch pundits abroad try to actually rationalize this babble, and spinning themselves in circles, rather than simply calling a spade-a-spade.

Here's an example.

Just this week, the Castro regime's Granma newspaper blamed the island's agricultural woes on "an excess of nonproductive personnel."

The state-run newspaper reported that the island's agricultural sector, also run by the state, has 89,000 "nonproductive personnel," 26% of the total.

Immediately, pundits sought to rationalize this statement -- whether it was an excuse for layoffs, analyzing the cooperative model, dissecting the agricultural bureaucracy, etc.

Yet, here's a simple, novel solution:

How about allowing the Cuban people to freely produce what they want, whenever they want, wherever they want and at the price they want (which they will base on what customers are actually willing to pay)?

Nah, that's too simple.

Plus it kills the whole totalitarian thing.

Yoani Beating Condemned at (Not By) OAS

At this week's session of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) -- marking the 50th anniversary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights -- Lew Amselem, the Acting U.S. Permanent Representative stressed:

"Just last week, three young Cuban bloggers—Yoani Sanchez, Orlando Luis Pardo, and Claudia Cadelo—were detained by plain clothes state security personnel and beaten while en route to a peaceful demonstration in Havana. This sort of repression and violence against the voices of freedom reminds us why the government of Cuba does not have representation in this room and of the importance of this gathering and the work that remains to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all in our region."

Return of the Cuban Gentleman

According to the AP:

The husband of an internationally known dissident Cuban blogger is challenging the presumed state security agents who roughed up his wife to a verbal duel on a Havana street corner.

Reinaldo Escobar said Thursday he feels compelled both as a husband and open critic of the communist government to avenge an incident last week, when two men in plainclothes allegedly forced political blogger Yoani Sanchez into an unmarked sedan, pulled her hair and kicked her.

The confrontation was so violent, Sanchez said she thought the men might kill her, but instead they dropped her off near her apartment.

"I had many options, like throwing two molotov cocktails at the Interior Ministry or keeping quiet like a coward," Escobar said in a phone interview.

He said challenging the assailants to a duel is the most decent way to respond, since he doesn't have their names or addresses.
Escobar posted a photo on his blog Thursday of a security agent at another event who he thinks was involved.

For over half a century, the Castro regime has indiscriminately humiliated, beaten and imprisoned the best and brightest of the Cuban people. In the case of Yoani, they violently assaulted a 110 lb. woman.

Contrast this barbaric behavior by the Castro regime to the non-violent civility of Cuba's future, young pro-democracy advocates like Reinaldo and Yoani.

My bet is on the future.

See the English version of Yoani's latest post, Shadow Beings, here.

Dissident Leader Near Death

Thursday, November 12, 2009
Cuban dissident leader, Martha Beatriz Roque, founder of the Association of Independent Economists, is in extremely frail health due to a hunger strike she began 35 days ago to protest the Castro regime's human rights abuses.

From 1997-2000, Roque was imprisoned by the Castro regime for her publication of the critical essay "The Homeland Belongs to All." She was again imprisoned -- along with 75 other democracy activists -- pursuant to the Black Spring crackdown of 2003. While sentenced to a 20-year prison term, she was subsequently released due to health reasons.

Constantly harassed by the regime, she began this most recent hunger strike, along with six other democracy activists, to protest the systemic repression they are subjected to. The hunger strikers have remained together in the home of Vladimiro Roca, himself a leading dissident.

In order to disperse the hunger strikers, the regime's authorities have organized mobs to surround the home, yelling insults, vandalizing the property and even attacking Roque physically.

Please see the following clip of the activities surrounding the protest, hunger strike and harassment by the regime's mobs.

Where's the Oil?

According to Reuters:

Cuba has ordered all state enterprises to adopt "extreme measures" to cut energy usage through the end of the year in hopes of avoiding the dreaded blackouts that plagued the country following the 1991 collapse of its then-top ally, the Soviet Union.

"The energy situation we face is critical and if we do not adopt extreme measures we will have to revert to planned blackouts affecting the population," said a recently circulated message from the Council of Ministers.

Energy shortage in Cuba?

There must be something wrong.

What happened to the 100,000 barrels of oil per day that the Castro regime receives from Venezuela's Hugo Chavez?

Our educated guess: the regime has been selling it on the spot market for hard currency.

What happened to the urgent need to allow U.S. oil companies to drill off Cuba's shores?

Remember that -- for years -- U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and U.S. Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona have been raising the red-flag regarding substantial quantities of undiscovered oil that the Russians and Chinese are supposedly beating us to.

Our educated guess: it's the same lie the regime has been spreading since the USSR discovered some oil off Varadero in 1971 (yet the USSR had to continue massively subsidizing oil shipments to Cuba until its demise).

Old habits die hard.

Get Ready for Gorki!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The New York Times had an inspiring article over the weekend entitled, "Musicians Who Poked at the Iron Curtain."

Here are some excerpts:

Guitars, keyboards and drums did not topple the Berlin Wall. But for the young people who helped bring down Communist regimes across Eastern Europe in the fall of 1989, pop music was a profoundly subversive force, inspiration and vital tool of protest for challenging and undermining a totalitarian state stricter than any parent.

"There was a cultural opposition, a movement all over Eastern Europe, an underground network," said Peter Sziami Müller, one of three lead singers of Kontroll Csoport, which was founded in 1980. "We all wanted to bring together those who belonged together, and to liberate the soul." The reward, said the saxophonist Arpad Hajnoczy, was to be officially labeled an "ultra-right-wing group" and "always have a white Lada at the corner, watching and following us."

When change finally came late in 1989, it was swift and full of surprises. "In the course of a single day, Dec. 22, 1989, we went from being underground to mainstream," said Adrian Plesca, lead singer of the new-wave Romanian band Timpuri Noi, referring to the day the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu collapsed. "The same guys remained in charge of the state cultural apparatus," Mr. Plesca said, so to prove their democratic bona fides in the new political context, "they asked, 'Who do we have around here who is anti-Communist?,' which turned out to be us."

But those euphoric new times, which is what Timpuri Noi means in Romanian, eventually faded. One of Timpuri Noi's biggest post-1989 hits, "Victory," contains these lyrics: "I ask myself if I see any change/ I'm asking you if there's any change/ in the people around." Dezerter continues to perform a 1987 song called "Swindle," which rages that "A new swindle is prepared/ Again they want to get into your head."

In a way, some of the musicians said, the situation has come full circle. As in the 1980s, they can no longer get their music played on the air, not because of government censors but because their countries are now so fully integrated into the global pop machine that stations prefer to play the same Britney Spears and Beyoncé songs and MTV videos as everyone else.

Yet the musicians and their fans continue to believe in the transformative power of music. At the New School event audience members from countries still under oppressive rule, like Iran and Cuba, asked the Eastern Europeans what they learned from the 1980s and what strategies they would recommend.

"I continue to say that 1989 was a miracle," Mr. Kascak said. "I fully expected to have to live the rest of my life under Communism, unable to travel or play as a professional. I don't care about the radio. I feel free now. If you were to have told me 20 years ago that in 2009 I would be playing in New York, I would have told you that you needed a psychiatrist."

Ever heard of Gorki Aguila?

If not, you should.

By the way, Happy Birthday Gorki!

Havel Warns Against Appeasement

This morning, former Czech dissident leader, and President upon the fall of Communism, Vaclav Havel, addressed the European Parliament to mark the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

In his remarks, Havel warned that economic interests should not hinder European solidarity or weaken opposition to totalitarian regimes:

"One must not retreat in the face of evil, because it is in the nature of evil to take advantage of every concession. Europe has already had its own unfortunate experience of appeasement policies. Our support can help open-minded people or outspoken witnesses to the situation in North Korea, Burma, Iran, Tibet, Belarus, Cuba or anywhere else, much more than we think."

A Cuban Reason to Tighten Iran Sanctions

The Iranian regime has agreed to expand its existing line of credit to Cuba from 200 million euros to 500 euros, the equivalent of a $445 million increase, said Iran's minister of Industries and Mines Ali-Akbar Mehrabian.

According to PressTV, the additional credit is meant to finance "quick-return projects."

It should be concerning that the Iranian regime has sufficient income to hand out to other antagonistic tyrannies throughout the world, particularly one just 90-miles from the U.S.

This is exactly what the Castro regime used to do when it received billionaire subsidies from the former U.S.S.R. (which ironically, some Members of Congress want to now substitute with billionaire subsidies from U.S. tourism -- the most prized commodity for the Castro regime).

Fortunately, the House Foreign Affairs Committee recently marked-up legislation to expand sanctions towards Iran.

The Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act targets companies involved in financing Iran's petroleum sector and gasoline imports.

Although a major oil producer, Iran must import most of its gasoline because of a lack of refining capacity.

The legislation crafted by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman, like a similar bill in the Senate, would prohibit non-U.S. companies selling, or enabling the sale or transport of refined petroleum products to Iran, from doing business in the United States.

We hope this legislation passes the full House of Representatives and quickly proceeds through the Senate.

A World of Gratitude

Invaluable Graffiti Wisdom

Tuesday, November 10, 2009
"Presidents and diapers should be changed frequently, both for the same reason."

Not to mention it prevents dictatorships.

Senators Strongly Condemn Attack on Yoani

Bipartisan Group of Senators Condemned Brutal Attack of Blogger by Cuban Regime

WASHINGTON – On Friday, Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez and several colleagues were viciously attacked, beaten and thrown into waiting cars by plain-clothes state security agents as they walked to join a peaceful march against violence.

Today, U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Senator George LeMieux (R-FL), Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), Senator Ted Kaufman (D-DE), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), condemned the attacks.

"I'm sure the irony of viciously beating a pacifist dissident on the way to a march for non-violence was lost entirely on the Castro regime," said Senator Menendez. "Once again, the dictatorship rears its ugly head in the form of physical violence and the suppression of human rights against its own people. This is yet another indication that despite all of the hope for change on the island, the regime continues to rule with an iron fist that crushes any seed of free speech or human rights. The Castro regime wants to have it both ways – they want a new relationship with the United States, but they also want to keep attacking their own people, silencing free speech and imprisoning dissidents just as they always have. This should not and cannot be. The Castro regime can't continue to expect to get something without giving something in return, plain and simple."

"This is yet another unfortunate reminder that appeasing the Castro regime will not work. We must continue standing with Cuban heroes like Yoani Sanchez and Oscar Elias Biscet and not with their oppressors," said Senator George LeMieux.

"The United States and the international community must stand together in support of those who peacefully exercise their basic rights and freedom of expression. We must have zero tolerance for repressive regimes and the tactics of intimidation," said Senator Bill Nelson.

"Yoani Sanchez has been a symbol of courage in one of the most dangerous press environments in the world, and I strongly condemn attempts by the government of Cuba to silence her. If Cuba is ever to improve its standing with the community of nations, it must protect human rights for all people, including political dissidents, members of the press, and bloggers. I hope the Cuban government realizes that this act violates freedom of expression, and it is critical that the perpetrators of this crime are punished and justice is served," said Senator Kaufman.

"The best judge of political freedom is for dissenting points of view to be freely expressed. Senseless acts like this make it difficult to believe that the Castro regime is willing to allow political and economic freedom for its people. It's time the Castro brothers allow the people of this rich nation to enjoy the civil rights and liberties that billions across the world already have," said Senator Chuck Grassley.

"The anti-freedom message sent by the Cuban government with last month's denial of Ms. Sanchez' exit request has been multiplied with the vicious physical attack on this internationally respected blogger. Last month, I wrote to the Cuban Interests Section to ask the Cuban Government to allow Ms. Sanchez to come to the United States to accept Columbia University's Maria Moors Cabot Prize, which is awarded for outstanding reporting on Latin America and the Caribbean. Now, more than ever, I call on the Cuban Government to treat its journalists with respect," said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

"Freedom of speech is a basic human right that Cuba must respect if it wants a future relationship with the United States. Government-sponsored violence and intimidation cannot be tolerated and we have an obligation to speak out against these actions by the Cuban Government," said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg.

State Department Reacts to Yoani's Assault

Monday, November 9, 2009
Assault on Cuban Bloggers

Ian Kelly
Department Spokesman
Washington, DC

The U.S. government strongly deplores the assault on bloggers Yoani Sanchez, Orlando Luis Pardo, and Claudia Cadelo. On November 6, these three activists were forcibly detained by plain clothes security personnel and beaten while en route to a peaceful demonstration in Havana.

The President has proclaimed November 9 World Freedom Day. It is precisely this sort of repression and violence against the voices of freedom and reconciliation that World Freedom Day is meant to expose. We call on the Government of Cuba to ensure the full respect of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all its citizens.

We have expressed to the Cuban government our deep concern with the assaults, and we are following up with inquiries to Yoani Sanchez, Orlando Luis Pardo, and Claudia Cadelo regarding their personal well-being and access to medical care.

In My Humble Opinion, Pt. 14

From this weekend's Miami Herald:
 
More than 50 House Democrats sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi supporting current Cuba policy, which embargo-supporters say effectively means that a bill to open Cuba to tourists is dead.

With 218 votes needed for passage and 258 Democrats in the House, pro-embargo lobbyist Mauricio Claver-Carone said the numbers just are not there.

"Democrats alone can not pass any legislation to unconditionally lift the ban," he said.

What's the Going Rate for Ignoring Human Rights?

The Spanish government has set its rate, for ignoring the human rights of the Cuban people, at:

"Apart from Cuba's 2-billion-Euro official debt to Spain, with 700 million in arrears and various payment commitments not honored by Havana, there are 600 million in arrears to [Spanish] commercial enterprises that provide products to the island. These figures do not include the freezing of the accounts of Spanish businesses with investments in Cuba, nor the commitments to joint ventures." (EFE)

This was confirmed by a personal statement from Spain's President, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, which was read at Havana's recent International Trade Fair, stressing:

"We feel proud of the work our businesses undertake on the island, for which they have the gratitude and respect of the Government of Spain."

Caveat: Let's not forget that the Cuban dictatorship has an absolute monopoly over the island's economic activity. Therefore, the work that Spanish businesses "undertake on the island" is solely with the Castro regime.

Coincidentally, or not so coincidentally, where's the Spanish government's condemnation of Yoani's abduction and beating?

"Self-interest is the enemy of all true affection."

- Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd U.S. President, 1882-1945.

An Unforgettable 20th Anniversary

The Audacity of Insensitivity

Sunday, November 8, 2009
Marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Media Research Center (MRC) has put together an amazing compilation of quotes showing the mainstream media's historic insensitivity (or bias) towards Soviet-style communism during the Cold War.

You be the judge.

The MRC's archives reveal:

- Before it collapsed, these journalists insisted those enslaved by communism actually feared capitalism more. "Despite what many Americans think, most Soviets do not yearn for capitalism or Western-style democracy," CBS anchor Dan Rather asserted in 1987.

- As the Soviet system began to totter, a few journalists claimed it as proof that the threat of totalitarian communism had never existed. "Gorbachev is helping the West by showing that the Soviet threat isn't what it used to be, and what's more, that it never was," Time's Strobe Talbott argued in a January 1, 1990 piece.

- After Eastern Europe was liberated, these leftist journalists attacked capitalism for "exploiting" the newly-freed workers. A Los Angeles Times reporter touted "communism's 'good old days,' when the hand of the state crushed personal freedom but ensured that people were housed, employed and had enough to eat."

- Some journalists refused to connect the economic misery caused by communism with communism itself. As the Soviet coup unraveled in 1991, NBC's John Chancellor lectured how "the problem isn't communism; nobody even talked about communism this week. The problem is shortages."

- Viewers heard perverse arguments that the end of communism was a setback for human rights. "Yes, somehow, Soviet citizens are freer these days — freer to kill one another, freer to hate Jews," CBS's Harry Smith deplored in 1990: "Doing away with totalitarianism and adding a dash of democracy seems an unlikely cure for all that ails the Soviet system."

- The Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev was treated with more respect than the dissidents and freedom fighters who had opposed communism all along. CNN founder Ted Turner said Gorbachev was "moving faster than Jesus Christ did," while Time magazine fawningly described him as both "the communist Pope and the Soviet Martin Luther."

Unfortunately, the insensitivity (or bias) continues to this very day:

- Even after communism's failure in Europe, journalists continued to shower Cuba's communist dictatorship with good press. "For all its flaws, life in Cuba has its comforts," the Associated Press insisted in 2006: "Many Cubans take pride in their free education system, high literacy rates and top-notch doctors. Ardent Castro supporters say life in the United States, in contrast, seems selfish, superficial, and — despite its riches — ultimately unsatisfying."

-Few in the media offered the same praise for the lunatic regime in North Korea, but in 2005 Ted Turner went on CNN to lamely defend dictator Kim Jong-il's treatment of his citizens. "I saw a lot of people over there. They were thin and they were riding bicycles instead of driving in cars," Turner obtusely related. Anchor Wolf Blitzer informed him: "A lot of those people are starving," but Turner insisted: "I didn't see any brutality."

- The one-party dictatorship that still rules China seems to bother many reporters less than the regime's move away from a communist economic system. "Workers' Rights Suffering as China Goes Capitalist," claimed a 2001 New York Times headline. In 2009, Times columnist Thomas Friedman admitted that "one-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages."

European Engagement Failed Yoani

Two weeks ago, Spain's Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, visited the Castro regime in Cuba and refused to meet, interact or even recognize the island's courageous civil society and pro-democracy movement.

One week ago, the European Union's Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Karel de Gucht, did the same.

One day ago, the Castro regime's political police felt emboldened enough to intercept, detain and violently beat Cuba's Generation Y blogger, Yoani Sanchez, a 110 lb. woman whose critical blog receives over 1 million international visits per month.

Allow us to translate embolden for Mr. Moratinos -- envalentonar (Sp.).

For Mr. de Gucht -- enhardir (Fr.).

Human Rights Watch on Yoani's Assault

Cuba: Prominent Blogger Abducted, Beaten

International Community Should Condemn Government Attacks

Washington, DC – Cuban authorities should cease all attacks on human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers and civic activists, Human Rights Watch said today. The international community should condemn attacks on those who peacefully exercise their basic rights to freedom of expression, opinion, and assembly in the strongest terms.

On November 6, Cuba's most prominent blogger, Yoani Sánchez, together with blogger Orlando Luís Pardo Lazo, were abducted by three men. Sánchez and Pardo were forced into an unmarked vehicle, beaten, and threatened by their captors before being released onto the street.

"The Cuban authorities are using brute force to try to silence Yoani Sánchez's only weapon: her ideas," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director of Human Rights Watch. "The international community must send a firm message to Raul Castro that such attacks on independent voices are completely unacceptable."

Sánchez and Pardo had been walking to attend a "march against violence" in Havana when they were abducted. When Sánchez called for help and bystanders started to intervene, one of the captors warned the other civilians, "Don't get involved, these people are counterrevolutionaries."

Sánchez wrote that, while in the car, "one man put his knee on my chest and the other, from the seat next to me, was punching me in the face." The captors told Sanchez that her "clowning around" was finished.

Cuba is the only country in the region that continues to repress virtually all forms of political dissent.

"This brazen attack makes clear that no one in Cuba who voices dissent is safe from violent reprisals," said Vivanco.