Friday, February 11, 2005

Excerts from a (Rare) Fair Story on Cuba

Cuba - a place that is both strange and special, stirring and sad
The Dallas Morning News

I've wandered through Havana's roughest neighborhoods at 3 or 4 a.m. and have never been touched...

Even Cubans who are famous are unusually down-to-earth. I've seen baseball players stop on the streets and patiently sign autographs for fans, who pepper them with advice on how they can improve their games. And when I've needed to interview an Olympic medalist, salsa music star or soap opera diva, it's been easy: I just go to their homes and knock on the front door....

Human-rights activists occasionally report cases of police abuse, but the officers I've seen have been polite and professional, standing quietly while motorists insist they weren't speeding....

(talkng about the lack of police corruption) I started to argue (with the cop). He must have figured I wasn't worth his time and let me go. Grateful, I offered him $1. He wouldn't take it and walked away....

Castro loyalists say Cuba is free of serious government corruption. And while much remains unknown about the circles of power on the island, a Portugal diplomat told me he finds Cuban elites refreshingly innocent.

One night, (the portuguese ambassador) said, he and two of Fidel Castro's middle-aged sons went to the Habana Cafe nightclub to hear salsa star Issac Delgado. The doorman told them the club was full, and they turned to leave. Suddenly, someone yelled, "Hey, it's the Portuguese ambassador!" and the doorman immediately let them in. Incredibly, no one recognized the Castro sons. Nor did they try to use their father's name to get a table. I can't imagine that happening anywhere else in Latin America....

Hate crimes are another rarity in Cuba, one of the most intermixed nations in the world....

Contrary to what people must imagine, Cuban officials don't pressure me to write pro-government stories. They don't censor my work, and they don't limit my travel...

Of course, the bigger question is what will happen once Castro dies or is no longer in charge. If I had to go out on a limb, I'd go against conventional wisdom and say that the socialist government will endure, at least for now...

Michigan Missionaries fined $5,250 for travel to Cuba

Friday, February 11, 2005


An attorney for a Michigan couple fined $5,250 for traveling to Cuba said Friday they likely will appeal the ruling.

"The fine is pretty excessive. It's much higher than we expected," said Kurt Berggren, an attorney for Michael and Andrea McCarthy. "Their reason for going was certainly altruistic, and they got zapped."

The McCarthys, of Port Huron, went to Cuba through Canada in April 2001. They are devout Catholics who considered the trip a missionary effort as well as a vacation. They brought medicine to a group of nuns in Havana, as they had done on similar trips to Mexico and Haiti, and participated in religious services.

This law has been on the books for a while but just in the past 2 years has the Government actually enforced it with fines. I am glad I went just before that...

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Ineptness of Democrats on Iraq Elections

The left appeared to be very put aback by the Iraqi election. That maybe 60% of the population voted, (more than us!) and ONLY 50 Iraqis were killed, most Democrats were believing we might now be "turning the corner." The media is in awe of the majesticism of "the hug" between the Iraqi woman and US mother - who certainly should owe their hatred more towards the GOP than the Left.

All the hyperbole ("1776") might be true, had the Sunni's not boyctted the election and the insurgent's morale remain undiminished. It's worth noting that there was little violence in Sunni areas. It was a political choice, not fear, that kept people away in Ramadi, Falujah and other in the land of evil. So we will begin the democratic process trying to suficciently bribe Sunni leaders to join the religionization (and civil war) of the nation.

It appears from early reports that we'll soon have a political body full of Shiite fundamentalists and no-name indentured servents. We now have groups with terrorist and violent histories at all levels of iraqi power (allawi, al-dawa, badr brigades, etc). We are likely to see incompetance, nepotism and corruption on huge scale.

We had an election where voters didn't know who they were voting for, where there was zero debate, zero participation, zero deliberation, etc. We now know that significant areas lacked adequate ballots and perhaps hundreds of thousands were disenfranchised (millions in us terms), that there were no election monitors and that this solves really nothing.

As polls have found that 92% view us as occupiers and just 4% as liberators, I think that Iraqis have themselves shown their disagreement with Bush's assessment of the situation. The vote is seen by everyday Iraqis as the way to get us to leave. Truly that is what the Iraqi wants. But any such suggestion in the US is seen as complete foolardedness that is sooo pre- purple finger day.

The Go Go White Sox Are Back

There's a buzz among White Sox fans that I haven't felt in.... oh 2 or 3 years. Yes, we are an ever-hopeful - and forever disappointed - lot. But GM Kenny Williams has again shown he knows how to make lemonade.

Last year's obviously top-heavy (slow) power linupe is gone, replaced by some of the fastest, most all-around players in baseball. And the pitching's certain to be top-rate now that the dreaded 5th spot is filled (by the aquisisitions of the both Cuban hurlers - El Duque and Contrerasalong with Freddy Garcia - who take back seat to #1 Mark Burhle). The team has been completely re-tooled, losing (tragically) Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee, but keeping big Frank Thomas (coming back from injury), Carl Everett, Paul Konerko (41 HR), Juan Uribe and Aaron Rowand (batted 310 last year). Key pick-ups include Jermaine Dye, Scott Podesnik (70 sb), sox-killer AJ Pierzynski (career 294). Last week we signed the latest Japanese sensation 2b - Tadahito Iguchi.

Should be interesting for sure. I am counting the 14 days to spring training beginning, then seeing the Sox v Cubs in Mesa in March, then opening day.

Lavalas Will Boycott Haitian Election

Haiti’s Upcoming Elections: Fanmi Lavalas opts out unless Latortue halts State-sponsored Terrorism

On 1 February 2005, nearly one year after the de-facto coup against Haiti's democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, the AP reported that the Lavalas party will not participate in the local and municipal elections scheduled for October, or the legislative and presidential elections scheduled for November.

Lavalas' decision to not participate is a direct result of the suppression carried out against party supporters by paramilitary factions and gang leaders who get their marching orders from the Latortue government. New evidence reveals interim Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue's de-facto policy of restoring "Duvalierism without Duvalier."

Since the first day Washington installed him in power, Latortue has taken a fiercely adversarial position towards Aristide's Fanmi Lavalas political party. By working with the anti-Aristide opposition to extinguish Lavalas, he repudiates his claim that he is for free, fair and open elections.

Where did Latortue obtain the funds to buy off the ex-military, and how can U.S. and Canadian taxpayers know that the funds their governments donated to the Haitian Provisional Electoral Council (CEP) will not be used as payments for military renegades?

The ex-military and former death squads are engaging in terrorist tactics similar to those that were used by Iraqi insurgents to keep the majority from the polls. But unlike the situation in Iraq, the anti-democracy forces in Haiti have the tacit backing of the state.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Sudan - The Other War Against Insurgents

No one can deny the suffering of the people of Darfur. However it is important for everyone not to get caught up in Bush's strategy on the issue. This was made perfectly clear to me this morning when reading about Bush's use of the Sudan issue in wooing black religious people to their ranks. It should also be abundantly clear to the world now that the lines have been drawn (US versus the world) in how to deal with the issue.

One must understand the United States has a long-standing bias against the present Sudanese Government. We would like to see it's not sufficiently pro-US government gone. This is the reason most of us are spoon-fed simple descriptions of the crisis as a case of murderous government-backed Arab militias, called Janjaweed, slaughtering helpless blacks. It is also the reason Colin Powell came back from Sudan after some refugee interviews with a "genocide" verdict when the rest of the world, after studying more closely, has not come to that conclusion.

The reality is more complex. One must understand the anti-authoritarianism history of the region, as well as the two Darfur-based Civil Wars in the last 30 years backed by pro-US regimes in Chad and Eritrea. One must question where the arms and weaponry came from in the latest salvo of Darfur rebel attacks on Khartoum airports and garrisons - there are reports of CIA involvement. One must also wonder if the Sudan Government's giving in to Southern rebel demands for self-determination and control over resources influenced the Darfur rebel's decision to pick up the fight when it was dying down in the South. Maybe there were real grievances, but is killing 100 police officers as the Darfur rebels did to begin this war, the answer we want to reward?

Far from a case of Arab whites versus African blacks, all concerned are dark-skinned Sudanese Muslims. The main enmity is between rebels, nomads, and farmers, tribes and clans. As in southern Sudan, much of the violence stems from land grabs, banditry, cattle-rustling, women stealing, and local vendettas. This is the Janjaweed - common criminals taking advantage of the impunity of insurrection. Now yes, the government armed some militias in the area because their army is insufficient. There have been abuses that should be punished.

So what can be done? The UN has just finished an impressive report full of undisclosed names along with their alleged criminal activities. Let's arrest them and try ‘em. The obvious venue for such trials is the newly minted International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, which was designed expressly for situations like this. Everyone agrees except (ahem) the US, who doesn't like this plan because we don't want to give the ICC one iota of legitimacy.

So the bankruptcy of the US position becomes clear. We go out of our way to publicize and politicize the disaster in Darfur, but stand in the way of something constructive being done. The contradictions of Empire become clear. We must stand up to this hypocrisy - and stand up for international justice and accountability.

Iraq 2005 and Vietnam 1967

U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote :
Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror

by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times (9/4/1967: p. 2)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3-- United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.

The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.

...and we know that the next seven years wasn't exactly a walk in the park.