The Absurd U.N. Results Are In

Saturday, November 27, 2010
This past summer, the U.S. volunteered itself for scrutiny by (and legitimization of) the U.N. Human Rights Council, led by such human rights "leaders" as Cuba, China, Iran and Libya.

Here are some of the self-assessments made by the U.N.'s human rights "leaders":

- China claimed that it "adheres to the principle that all ethnic groups are equal and implements a system of regional ethnic autonomy in areas with high concentrations of ethnic minorities" and that its elections are "democratic" and "competitive."

- Cuba claimed its "democratic system is based on the principle of 'government of the people, by the people and for the people.'" Cuba also claimed the rights to "freedom of opinion, expression and the press" are protected.

- North Korea claimed it "comprehensively provides" for fundamental rights and freedoms, including freedoms "of speech, the press, assembly, demonstration and association… work and relaxation, free medical care, education and social security."

And here are their assessments of the U.S.:

- From Cuba came a recommendation "to end the blockade against Cuba, which is described as a crime of genocide… to put on trial the perpetrators of torture… to halt the war crimes of their troops abroad… to put an end to the persecution and execution of mentally ill persons and minors and discrimination against persons of African origin." Additionally, the Cuban delegation insisted the U.S. "ensure realization of rights of food and health of all who live in their territory."

- From Iran was a call "to implement the following recommendations… to halt serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law… Legislate appropriate regulations to prevent the violation of individual privacy… to take effective measures to counter insults against Islam and the holy Quran as well as Islamophobia… and effectively combat violence against women."

- Nicaragua tagged the U.S. with the blame for, well, almost everything: "The United States of America, since its very origin, has used force indiscriminately as the central pillar of its policy of conquest and expansionism, causing death and destruction… The United States of America, which pretends to be the guardian of human rights in the world, questioning other countries, has been and continues to be the one which most systematically violates human rights. Nicaragua therefore makes the following recommendations: To immediately halt the unjustified arms race and to judge those responsible for all war crimes and massacres against unarmed civilians, women and children, as well as torture… Assume its responsibilities which have been caused by capitalism, causing natural disasters, particularly in the poorest countries."

- North Korea: "The DPRK remains gravely concerned by persistent reports of systematic and widespread human rights violations committed by the United States of America, and recommends as the following: Take legislation and administrative measures to address a wide range of racial discrimination and inequalities in housing, employment and education. Prohibiting and punishing the brutality… by law enforcement officials. Take effective measures to put an end to gross human rights abuse, including violence against women."

- Egypt: "We remain concerned about certain U.S. policies and practices in the field of human rights, and therefore Egypt presents the following recommendations to the United States: Review its laws at the federal and state levels with a view to bringing them in line with its international human rights obligations. To devise specific programs aimed at countering growing Islamaphobia and xenophobic trends in society. To end the use of military technology and weaponry that have proven to be indiscriminate and cause excessive and disproportionate damage to civilian life."

- Not to be outdone, China said: "We have also noticed with concern that there are gaps in the U.S. laws protecting human rights… there is also a serious discrimination against Muslims and minority racial groups… in the name of fighting terror. The United States is also monitoring the exercise of its citizens' freedom of expression and the right to free Internet access. We have the following recommendations… ending excessive use of force by law enforcement agents... modify the definition of discrimination in its laws to bring it in line with… international standards."

- Said Libya: "The United States need to accede to international human rights instruments… it should prosecute those responsible for violations of human rights in American prisons."

Somehow, this process is supposed to make tyrants less hostile by showing that the U.S. is "reasonable."

Yet, as abolitionist leader William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) wisely wrote:

"With reasonable men, I will reason; with humane men I will plead; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost."

Cuban Punk Band Detained and Threatened

Cuban punk rocker, Gorki Aguila, and his band, Porno Para Ricardo, have been detained by the Castro regime's police and threatened with prosecution if they proceed with their concert tonight.

As we'd previously posted, Porno Para Ricardo is launching a concert tour tonight of Havana's Committee's for Defense of the Revolution -- taking punk music to the censors.

The regime has threatened prosecution under the infamous Law 88, which is used to imprison dissidents and anyone deemed to "insult the Castro brothers."

Why is Castro afraid of punk rock?

Tyrants Will Never Play Nice

Friday, November 26, 2010
A must-read analysis of the current crisis in the Korean peninsula by B.R. Myers in The New York Times.

Click here for lessons and similarities regarding Cuba policy.

North Korea Will Never Play Nice

WHILE it is cowardly and foolish not to resist an act of aggression, the best way to deal with a provocation is to ignore it — or so we are taught. By refusing to be provoked, one frustrates and therefore "beats" the provoker; generations of bullied children have been consoled with this logic. And so it is that the South Korean and American governments usually refer to North Korea's acts of aggression as "provocations."

The North's artillery attack on a populated South Korean island is now getting the same treatment, with the South's president, Lee Myung-bak, vowing that Pyongyang will be "held responsible" and that "additional provocative acts" will be punished "several times over."

There is no reason that North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong-il, should take those words seriously. Mr. Lee made similar noises in March, when the North was accused of killing 46 South Korean sailors by torpedoing a naval vessel, the Cheonan, and what was the result? A pacifist South Korean electorate punished Mr. Lee's party in regional elections, and the attack faded from the headlines.

The North's attack on Yeonpyeong Island has been more shocking to South Koreans, but not much more. At my local train station the morning after the attack, a grinning crowd watched coverage of the Asian Games in China on a giant TV screen. The same ethno-nationalism that makes South Koreans such avid followers of international sports also dilutes their indignation at their Northern brethren. South Korea's left-wing press, which tends to shape young opinion, is describing the shelling of the island as the inevitable product of "misunderstandings" resulting from a lack of dialogue.

Sadly, South Korea's subdued response to such incidents makes them more likely to happen again. This poses a serious problem for the United States; we have already been drawn into one war on the peninsula because our ally seemed unlikely to defend itself.

Unfortunately, Washington shares to a certain degree the South Korean tendency to play down North Korean "provocations." In our usage, the word reflects the America-centric perception that everything Kim Jong-il does is aimed at eliciting a reaction from Washington. His actions are trivialized accordingly, to the extent that our top policymakers have publicly compared him to a squalling, attention-hungry child.

Not surprisingly, then, the artillery attack on Yeonpyeong is seen by many Americans as an effort to force us to make concessions, to reopen negotiations, and so on. Thus we can pretend that simply by leaving sanctions in place, we are really hanging tough, even pursuing a "hard-line" policy.

The provocation view of North Korea's actions also prevents us from seeing them in context. Since a first naval skirmish in the Yellow Sea near Yeonpyeong in 1999, there has been a steady escalation in North Korea's efforts to destabilize the peninsula. In 2002, another naval skirmish killed at least four South Korean sailors; in 2006 the North conducted an underground nuclear test; in 2009 it launched missiles over the Sea of Japan, had another nuclear test and declared the Korean War armistice invalid; and in March the Cheonan was sunk.

This behavior is fully in keeping with the ultramilitaristic ideology of a regime that remains publicly committed to uniting the peninsula by force: "Reunification is at the ends of our bayonets," as the omnipresent slogan in the North goes.

North Korea cannot hope to win an all-out war, but it may well believe that by incrementally escalating its aggression it can bully the South into giving up — or at least sharing power in a confederation.

The provocation view of North Korean behavior also distorts our understanding of the domestic situation. Analysts tend to focus too much on the succession issue; they interpret the attack on the island as an effort to bolster the reputation of Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il's son and anointed successor. Their conclusion is that North Korea will play nice once the young man is firmly in power.

In fact, as both its adversaries and supporters should realize, the North can never play nice. Just as our own economy-first governments must ensure growth to stay in power, a military-first regime must deliver a steady stream of victories or lose all reason to exist.

There is no easy solution to the North Korea problem, but to begin to solve it, we must realize that its behavior is aggressive, not provocative, and that its aggression is ideologically built in. Pyongyang is thus virtually predestined to push Seoul and Washington too far, thereby bringing about its own ruin.

The Chinese should take note of this, since their rationalization for continuing to support North Korea derives from the vain hope that they can prop it up indefinitely. The military-first state is going to collapse at some stage; let's do what we can to make that happen sooner rather than later.

Cardinal Ortega Snubs Prisoners (He Exiled)

Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega was in Spain yesterday, where he met with Foreign Minister, Trinidad Jimenez, and paid a visit to his old partner in Castro negotiations, (dismissed former Foreign Minister) Miguel Angel Moratinos.

As you'll recall, in July, Ortega and Moratinos negotiated the "release" of 52 political prisoners with Cuban dictator, Raul Castro. Yet, Ortega and Moratinos conveniently failed to divulge that the condition for the "releases" would be forced exile to Spain.

Thirty-nine (39) of the 52 accepted this condition and are now in Spain. Thus, they have requested a meeting with Cardinal Ortega during his visit.

Yet, Ortega has arrogantly refused to acknowledge their request.

Apparently, Ortega has no problem negotiating their destiny "from above" -- and dealing with them as captives -- but doesn't want to have to actually listen to their opinions in the free world. That would be "beneath" him.

Meanwhile, almost six months later, 12 of the 52 political prisoners remain languishing in Castro's prisons because they refuse to be forcibly exiled, while only one has been released within Cuba.

That's quite a deal (for Castro).

UPDATE: It appears Cardinal Ortega has had a change of heart.

Was Sending Elian Back the "Right Thing To Do"?

Thursday, November 25, 2010
Today marks the 11th year anniversary of the rescue at sea of Cuban rafter Elian Gonzalez.

As such, the Sun-Sentinel's William Gibson wrote an interesting post about Elian's impact on Florida politics, including this thought-provoking comment:

"Elian's mother had died on the journey from Cuba when their boat sank. For many Cuban-Americans, including some who had risked their lives to come to this country, sending Elian back to Cuba was unthinkable. But to the rest of the country and much of the world, the right thing to do was reunite Elian with his Cuban father."

Was sending a 6-year old back to a repressive regime, where he's had no say about his future, has been isolated in a guarded house that is only accessible by regime officials and solely appears publicly at official events in which he's paraded out in military garb to declare Fidel as his "Father," the right thing to do?

Regardless of what anyone thought back then, it's difficult to argue today that it was "right thing to do."

Ironically, now-a-days, child protection advocates in the U.S. -- many of whom lobbied for Elian's return to Cuba a decade ago -- and even courts of law, consider much less to be "child abuse" (such as feeding children fatty foods at McDonalds).

History has shown that Elian's father -- both the biological and self-imposed dictator -- didn't know best (while tragically, his mother lost her life to no avail).

We Give Thanks

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson, American poet, 1803-1882

The Myth of "Raul the Reformer"

By Daniel Allott in The Washington Times:

Premature thanks in Cuba

It has been more than four years since Raul Castro assumed the duties of the presidency of Cuba and more than 2 1/2 years since he officially took over for his older brother, Fidel.

In that time, words like "pragmatic," "practical" and "reformer" have often been attached to Raul as a way of contrasting his governing philosophy with his brother's and to signal that major political and economic reforms may be imminent.

But a sober analysis suggests that meaningful change has not occurred. In fact, given the conclusions of several reports on human rights in Cuba, and based on our conversations with dozens of Cuba experts and Cubans both inside and outside Cuba, it is clear that the regime's tyranny is as entrenched as ever.

The Raul-as-reformer narrative began when he announced modest economic changes early in his reign. These included privatizing some farmland, denationalizing small beauty parlors and taxi-driving enterprises and loosening restrictions on the use of cell phones and other electronics.

Then, in July, the Cuban government announced that it would release the remaining 52 political prisoners it had imprisoned during the "Black Spring," a mass arrest of nonviolent activists in March 2003. As of Nov. 12, 39 prisoners had been released and exiled to Spain.

In September, the Cuban labor federation announced a government plan to fire more than 500,000 state employees between October and March. It would mark the biggest shift of jobs from the public to the private sector in nearly 50 years.

All of this has convinced many of the major players in Cuba's relationship with the outside world that Raul is someone they can work with.

Even before the recent changes, President Obama talked about forging "a new beginning" with Cuba. After a July meeting with Raul in Havana, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos proclaimed the opening of "a new phase in Cuba" and insisted "there is no longer any reason to maintain the [European Union's] Common Position on Cuba," which calls for normalizing relations with the regime once progress is made on human rights and democracy issues.

Even the beleaguered Cuban Catholic Church - whose leaders were given the cold shoulder by Fidel, who preferred to negotiate directly with the Vatican on church matters - sees an opening. Cardinal Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, Archbishop of Havana, announced a "magnificent beginning" to a new relationship with the regime after talks with Raul last spring.

Journalists, too, see change they can believe in with Raul. The prisoner releases promptedNewsweek's Patrick Symmes to write, "A half century of repression [in Cuba] appears to be ending."

Such claims are contradicted by the findings of numerous human rights groups. In a November 2009 study titled "New Castro, Same Cuba: Political Prisoners in the Post-Fidel Era," Human Rights Watch documented more than 40 cases of Cubans imprisoned for "dangerousness" under a Cuban law that allows authorities to imprison persons they suspect might commit a crime in the future.

Scores of other Cubans have been sentenced under Raul for violating laws that criminalize free expression and association. Cubans have been imprisoned for failing to attend government rallies, for not belonging to official party organizations and even for being unemployed.

Non-Cubans are not immune to such treatment. One of this piece's authors, Jordan Allott, was detained briefly and interrogated by Cuban police during a trip across Cuba in 2009 merely for asking a couple of Cubans to talk about the Cuban Revolution on a street in Camaguey.

American contractor Alan Gross has been imprisoned in Cuba for nearly a year. He is accused of trying to provide unauthorized satellite Internet connections to Cuba's tiny Jewish community.

In its report, Human Rights Watch concluded that rather than dismantle Fidel's "system of abusive laws and institutions," Raul "has kept it firmly in place and fully active."

Freedom House's 2010 Freedom in the World survey again designated Cuba as the sole "not free" country in the Americas. It also placed Cuba among its "worst of the worst" countries, which kept it on the shortlist of "the world's most repressive regimes."

In an October 2009 report, the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor rebuked Cuba for its lack of religious freedom. "The Government continued to exert control over all aspects of societal life, including religious expression," the report stated. Violations of religious freedom included efforts to control and monitor religious activities and fines against unregistered religious groups.

The Cuban government continues to be one of the few in the world that prohibit the International Committee of the Red Cross access to their prisons. The condition of those prisons was highlighted in February with the hunger-strike death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Zapata, imprisoned for nonviolent political activism, undertook the strike to protest prison conditions. The international outcry after his death was partially responsible for prompting the regime to agree to release prisoners willing to be exiled.

The continued mistreatment of nonviolent political activists comes as no surprise to those who remember Raul as the official who oversaw thousands of executions of political prisoners in the early years of the revolution.

As with most tyrants, the Castros are skilled at sending mixed signals about their intentions. It was months into the revolution before many democrats realized that Fidel's repeated declarations that his revolution was informed not by Marxism but by democratic and Christian principles were lies.

Last year, the Cuban government invited Manfred Novak, the United Nations' special investigator on torture, to inspect Cuba's prisons. The invitation drew praise from the international community. But the government rescinded the invitation last month, stating that an outside investigation was not needed.

In spring, Raul was lauded for agreeing to end persecution of the Ladies in White, a group of wives, mothers and other female relatives of Cuban political prisoners who were being harassed, beaten and prevented by government security agents from making their weekly peaceful protests.

But the government resumed its harassment in August. It deployed large mobs to intimidate Reina Luisa Tamayo, mother of deceased hunger striker Zapata, preventing her from marching and attending Mass.

Even the prisoner releases are less than they appear. The Cuban government pledged to release all its political prisoners without any conditions by Nov. 7. But that deadline has passed, and 13 prisoners who refuse to be exiled from the island remain incarcerated.

Last month, Berta Soler of the Ladies in White accused the government of "applying psychological pressure to those remaining in prison because they want to see them out of the country."

The prisoner releases and economic changes are not meaningful and lasting steps toward reform. Instead, they are short-term measures designed to extract economic concessions from the United States and Europe.

As Susan Kaufman Purcell, director of the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami, put it to us in an interview, "It's wrong to think that [Cuba is] now on this one-way road toward openness and democracy. That's not the case at all. Cuba needs something. What the regime is hoping for is to get some economic help."

Cuba's economy is in abysmal shape. Food production has slowed, and tourism, foreign remittances and subsidies from Venezuela have plunged with the global economy.

The Cuban government is laying off 500,000 workers not because it wants to move toward a free-market capitalist system. It is doing so because it can no longer afford to pay those workers' monthly $20 wages.

Similarly, the regime is exiling some of its political prisoners not because it suddenly has seen the light on human rights and democracy. Rather, it's exiling them because it's desperate for America and the EU to relax economic sanctions, which both have made conditional principally on the release of political prisoners.

The Castro brothers are experts at easing their grip on Cuba just enough and just long enough to get what they want. On many occasions throughout the Castro regime's 51 years, it has freed or exiled political prisoners or made other "reforms" only to reverse course once it got what it needed.

Ms. Kaufman Purcell says, "The way [authoritarian regimes] often work is that when things get bad, when there's a lot of external pressure, what happens is that they release [prisoners], and at some point they get new ones."

Armando Valladares, a Cuban-born former political prisoner and former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission, told us, "The liberation of groups of political prisoners is a frequent practice in Cuba. It has happened many times for the revolution's interests. [The prisoner releases] absolutely should not be interpreted ... as a change in the tyranny's repressive structure."

After foreign aid from the Soviet Union was cut off with the fall of communism in the early 1990s, the Cuban government loosened controls on private enterprise, allowing 200,000 workers to earn money as street vendors and taxi drivers. But as soon as the economy recovered, many of the new businesses were shut down.

When the government wanted some good publicity ahead of Pope John Paul II's visit in 1998, it released 300 political prisoners. As soon as the press attention subsided, the prisons were filled again with political opponents.

If fundamental political and economic reforms are to be made in Cuba, the government's repressive legal system and security apparatus must be dismantled. That didn't happen for more than four decades under Fidel. And it's not happening under Raul.

Does Obama Administration Support Cuba's Dissidents?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010
From The Daily Caller:

Obama admin accused of not supporting Cuban dissidents, pursuing policy of 'aggressive niceness' toward communist country

The United States has long stood for democracy and freedom, but in Cuba, a dissident who opposes Fidel and Raul Castro's communist regime tells The Daily Caller that he and his compatriots are feeling an icy breeze from the Obama administration. Democracy advocates say the lack of support can be attributed to the Obama administration's strategy of "aggressive niceness" toward the communist country.

Officially, the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Cuba. Instead of an embassy in the country, the United States maintains an Interests Section (USINTS) in Havana, which is part of the Swiss embassy. While official U.S. policy is to promote democracy in Cuba through the USINTS, sentiment in the community of Cuban dissidents, both in Cuba and abroad, is that this is no longer happening.

"Now there is disdain, and bad treatment," said Juan Carlos González Leiva, a lawyer who is a prominent Cuban dissident. "Also there is lots of reluctance, lots of disinterest — no interest in working with the dissidents now. Before, never."

"I had been working very closely with the Department of Press and Culture of the Interests Section and with the office of human rights. I had a strong friendship with all of the officials who passed through," he continued. "It is really inconceivable the extents of disdain and humiliation and poor treatment on the part of the officials towards the Cuban dissidents."

As a result, he says, he no longer goes to the USINTS anymore.

González Leiva told TheDC that the guards outside the USINTS now treat dissidents coming to visit poorly, and in his own case, said that they have kept him waiting a full hour past his appointment time. "They had me there for almost an hour, going through controls and humiliating body checks," he said.

Another time, when he went to the USINTS to discuss ways in which he could work with U.S. officials to promote shared goals, he said "they said that the only thing they could do were some English classes." Ultimately, neither the English classes nor another project he suggested, "a cultural gallery" of Cuban art, ever got off the ground. Additionally, the USINTS did not fix his computer as he requested, though that is a service that the USINTS formerly provided.

Mauricio Claver-Carone, the executive director of Cuba Democracy Public Advocacy, and a member of the board of directors of U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, says this is not an isolated incident.

"The feedback that we continue getting from Cuban dissidents on the island is that essentially the United States Interests Section has become hostile," he said. Dissidents say "they don't even feel comfortable going there anymore, because they just really feel like they're not wanted."

It was not always like this. In 1996, Congress passed the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act, which provided for U.S. government aid to Cuban dissidents. According to the act, "the president is authorized to furnish assistance and provide other support for individuals and independent nongovernmental organizations to support democracy-building efforts for Cuba" through distribution of information, "humanitarian assistance," "support for democratic and human rights groups" and monitoring human rights.

But as Frank Calzon, executive director of the Center for Free Cuba, says, "personnel is policy, and the same policy implemented by different people sometimes comes out differently." Indeed, the interpretation of the USINTS' role has varied over the years.

From 2002 to 2005, dissidents had a strong ally in Ambassador James Cason, then the lead American official at the USINTS.

"I never got instructions," Cason told TheDC in a phone interview. "I was just told 'you know, what you need to do. Let them know what's going on in the world and let the world know what's going on in Cuba.'"

So, Cason said, "I took my cues from the dissidents. I said 'how can I help you? We can't give you money. That would be counterproductive and besides that's not what you need.' They said to me logistic support and information and moral support."

Cason was very proactive in helping the dissidents and promoting the cause of democracy in Cuba. "The first 3 months, I traveled about 7,000 miles around the island and visited in their homes, and I took them shortwave radios and books and cameras and things — a lot for the independent journalists and the independent libraries," he said.

Cason instituted journalism training for dissidents in the interest of getting information out of the country. In Cuba, the internet is censored, and there is little access, so to enable the dissidents to have access to information, "we put in 24 internet terminals at the Interests Section where they could use them for two hour blocks, and send whatever they wanted to send out and get whatever information they wanted," Cason said. "And that was always solidly booked. We taught them also how to use computers and do research."

Another component of Cason's efforts was getting the international press to pay attention, in order to make the plight of Cuban dissidents known to the world. "Our actual press did not want to cover what was going on in Cuba," Cason said. "They said it was not in the news." So Cason gave them "hooks." He set up elaborate displays of Christmas lights around the USINTS, with images of Santa Claus and the Statue of Liberty. When the Cuban government arrested 75 dissidents, Cason put the number "75" in the lights, which angered the government so much that they put up a row of flags to block the view.

Cason earned the respect and trust of the dissidents. "James Cason is a very good person, and did very good work," González Leiva said.

But Cason corroborates the testimony of Claver-Carone and González Leiva of what happened after he left to become ambassador to Paraguay. Now, he said, "people say, 'well who's the head of the Interests Section these days?' So it doesn't seem as if they at least have the perception that they're as welcome as they were when I was there."

Some of this was personnel change, but according to González Leiva, the situation reached a new low under President Obama. "I have a bad opinion of the office of Interests since approximately two years ago, after Obama took office," he said. Though the situation declined after Cason left the post, González Leiva pinpoints the beginning of President Obama's term as the moment when the situation went from bad to worse.

Ambassador Cason, Calzon, and Claver-Carone, similarly, all cite a point at the beginning of the Obama administration when aides to Republican Sen. Dick Lugar of Indiana and Democratic Rep. Howard Berman of California visited Cuba. They spoke to the Cuban government about what could be done to improve relations between the U.S. and Cuba, and the Cuban government said that the U.S. should stop the democracy programs.

A process, Cason said, "curiously began several months later, and a lot of the traditional groups…who were providing the support that I had were cut off… Lots of the groups were gagged, were all cut off, were no longer funded."

The U.S. State Department says it is still committed to promoting democracy in Cuba.

"We're committed to supporting improved human rights conditions and increased respect for fundamental freedoms in Cuba, including through support for civil society and prisoners of conscience," said a State Department statement dictated to TheDC. "We consistently express our support of the Cuban people and call on the Cuban government to improve its human rights practices and release all prisoners of conscience."

But González Leiva, and democracy advocates like Calzon, Cason, and Claver-Carone, have a different impression. Claver-Carone calls the USINTS's reported unfriendliness toward dissidents an attempt at "appeasement."

"My impression," said Cason, "is that if in fact it's true that it's a distancing, a coldness towards the traditional opposition, that it's because it's a policy position to be nice to the Cubans and remove an irritant."

Calzon and Cason refer to the policy as "aggressive niceness," which Cason defines as "if you're just nice to them, then somehow things will work out, and they'll come around to our point of view."

Neither makes a secret of their feelings about such a policy. "You don't deal with the mafia through 'aggressive niceness,'" Calzon said.

"They have to understand that there's some steel that they cannot ignore."

The Punkest Concert Tour in History

Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Since the Castro regime won't let Cuban punk rock group, Porno Para Ricardo, play concerts in public arenas.

And since the regime's neighborhood watch units, known as Committee's for Defense of the Revolution (CDR), won't let regular Cubans listen to Porno Para Ricardo's music.

Then, Porno Para Ricardo is taking their music to the CDR's.

That's right. This Saturday, Porno Para Ricardo begins a city-wide concert tour of the Castro regime's CDRs -- neighborhood by neighborhood. It's sure to be the best (and longest) concert tour in Cuban history.

It's called the "I'm Breaking My CDR's Heart" tour.

Now that's punk!

Nobody is Safe in Castro's Circle

During last March's hearing in the House Agriculture Committee, U.S. Congressman Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa) gleefully stated:

"I, too, have been down there, Mr. Presidents (of the American Farm Bureau and National Farmers Union), both of you. I appreciate that but assume that you know who Mr. Alvarez is. I spent a lot of time with him. I spent quite a bit of time with Mr. Castro. Sometimes we would be entertained. I can tell you about that a little bit."

Mr. Alvarez is Pedro Alvarez, the (now former) head of the Castro's food and trade monopoly, called Alimport.

As the only company in Cuba permitted to transact agricultural purchases from the U.S., Alvarez spent a lot of time wining and dining U.S. Governors, Senators, Congressmen and agri-business executives (while the Cuban people are repressed).

We hope Alvarez had a good time, for he's now been repeatedly detained and is being investigated for corruption.

In other words, he either stopped producing for the Castro brothers, or dipped his hand into their (absolute and whimsical) cut.

Online Poll Doesn't Pass Laugh Test

Monday, November 22, 2010
Proponents of business ties with the Castro regime remain dismayed about the election of Marco Rubio to the U.S. Senate, David Rivera to the U.S. House of Representatives and the upcoming Chairmanship of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in the Foreign Affairs Committee.

So we knew it was just a matter of time before they'd conjure up a push-poll looking to lessen the impact of the elections.

Well, here it is. The website, Cuba Standard, has commissioned a poll claiming that Americans support unconditionally lifting sanctions towards the Castro regime.

However, instead of a traditional push-poll -- which we're used to -- they've resorted to an (even more absurd) online poll.

That's right, an online poll. Needless to say, online polls (also referred to as "voodoo polls") don't pass any laugh test.

And if that isn't funny enough, their analysis of the election results is:

"A continuous drop in popularity of the U.S. sanctions, including among Cuban Americans, has begun to erode the hard-line positioning of political candidates, even in Florida. Both Charlie Crist and Joe Garcia relied on fundraising by pro-normalization groups during their campaigns. In June, a Miami-based anti-embargo group raised funds for Crist, and Joe Garcia collected funds from pro-normalizers in Tampa. Neither Crist nor Garcia, though, took a public stance in favor of normalization."

Newsflash: Both Garcia and Crist lost their respective races -- badly -- to candidates with very strong positions in favor of U.S. sanctions policy.

Plus, if they lost -- that badly -- on the mere suspicion of their "soft" positions -- based on campaign contributions -- then imagine how much worse it would have been if they'd actually taken a public stance in favor of unconditional "normalization."

Does Trickle-Down Work in Totalitarianism?

In yesterday's ABC "This Week," billionaire investor Warren Buffet argued:

"The rich are always going to say that, you know, just give us more money and we'll go out and spend more and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you. But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on."

Trickle-down effect is one of the most hotly debated economic theories of the late 20th century -- and obviously the early 21st century, as well.

While proponents and detractors can argue about its effectiveness, they all agree on one thing:

For trickle-down to succeed at any level, it requires the free movement of capital.

Thus, while it is arguable whether trickle-down works in a free market, capitalist society -- it is inarguable, that it does not work in a closed, totalitarian society, i.e., Cuba.

But that hasn't stopped advocates of normalizing trade and tourism with the Castro regime, who like to argue about its potential trickle-down effects. (Ironically, most advocates of trickle-down in Castro's Cuba are critics of the same theory in the U.S.)

As one pro-normalization advocate told The New York Times (about tourism travel to Cuba) this summer:

"Of course it benefits the regime, but it benefits the people more. There is a very clear trickle down, especially in the tourism industry."

So where does all the tourism and other hard currency that enters Cuba end up?

Not with the Cuban people, or even with U.S. farmers (as the Farm Bureau would like for you to believe).

It ends up at the top -- and with its security forces.

Cuba Cuts Workers, Expands Security Forces

Sunday, November 21, 2010
Who's Castro afraid of?

From The Miami Herald:

As Cuba cuts back, security appears to grow

As 500,000 workers are trimmed from Cuba's public payrolls, public security sectors appear to be expanding.

A brutal economic crisis is forcing the Cuban government to lay off half a million workers, slash imports and subsidized food sales and even trim its keystone health services.

Yet the government has given no sign it will reduce its domestic or national security agencies - the Ministries of Interior and Revolutionary Armed Forces - and appears instead to be expanding them [...]

The criminal and traffic police, meanwhile, have launched unusually public recruitment drives, Cuba's defense and security budget has been rising and the government has bought riot-control and light military equipment abroad.

Castro Endorses Homophobic Policy

Whatever happened to Mariela Castro's (Raul's daughter) "efforts" on behalf of Cuba's gay community?

Or Fidel Castro's mea culpa regarding the brutal persecution and internment of gays in concentration camps?

Obviously, it's just more lies and "reforms" you can't believe in.

This week, the Castro regime endorsed an amendment to a U.N. resolution (along with homophobic African and Middle Eastern nations) that exposes gays to arbitrary executions.

The U.S. strongly opposed the amendment.

Here are the details:

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people were once again subject to the whims of homophobia and religious and cultural extremism this week, thanks to a United Nations vote [on an amendment] that removed "sexual orientation" from a resolution that protects people from arbitrary executions. In other words, the UN General Assembly this week voted to allow LGBT people to be executed without cause.

According to the International Gay and Lesbians Human Rights Commission, the UN General Assembly's Third Committee on Social, Cultural and Humanitarian issues removed "sexual orientation" from a resolution addressing extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions this past week in a vote that was overwhelming represented by a majority of African, Middle East and Caribbean [led by Cuba] nations.