Posts Tagged ‘Cuba’

The legacy of Fidel Castro

November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro died yesterday at the age of 90.  He ruled Cuba from 1959 to 2006 and was widely admired as a brave patriot and revolutionary who defied the power of the United States.

He was indeed a patriot and a brave man, but I never believed in him or what he stood for.

Fidel Castro in 1964 (Magnum)

Fidel Castro in 1964 (Magnum Photos)

Human beings cannot flourish under any system based on giving absolute power for life to a single person or small group of people can work.  Human life is too varied and complex to be subject to the will of a tiny elite of self-selected masterminds.

A number of people asked me at different times whether giving people bread was more important than freedom of the press or voting in contested elections.  I answered that I didn’t see the connection between giving people bread and denying them the right to ask for bread.

They asked me whether a nation has a right to change its political and economic system.  I answered that they do, and they have a right to change their minds if the first change doesn’t work out.

The Communist dictatorship was established supposedly to safeguard the ideals of socialism.  That was the purpose of all the suppression and regimentation.

Now the government of Cuba, like the governments of China and Vietnam before it, is renouncing socialism and opening itself to the capitalist world market, but the dictatorship remains.


Something I never knew about Cuba

January 5, 2016

Cuba has 2 percent of Latin America’s population but 11 percent of its scientists

Source: New Republic

The passing scene – links & comments 10/21/2015

October 21, 2015

The Secret to Winning the Nobel Peace Prize: Keep the U.S. military out by Rebecca Gordon for TomDispatch.

Tunisia was the one country where the Arab Spring movement succeeded.  Four Tunisian organizations devoted to human rights deservedly won the latest Nobel Peace Prize.

Tunisia was the one country in which the U.S. government did not interfere, either militarily or politically, and it is the one country where the Arab Spring movement resulted in a stable, democratic government.

Rebecca Gordon, after reviewing U.S. policy in Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and Syria, concludes that this is not a coincidence.  There’s a lesson to be learned here.

Obama Just Signed a Blank Check for Endless War in Afghanistan by John Nichols for The Nation.

Rep. Barbara Lee

Rep. Barbara Lee

Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, says it’s time to repeal the open-ended 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force and have Congress decide whether to continue military intervention in Afghanistan and other countries.

How Credit Scores Treat People Like Numbers by Frank Pasquale for The Atlantic.

I commented on how Chinese credit card companies and maybe the Chinese government are linking all kinds of human behaviors to credit scores, and how this can be a subtle means of suppressing nonconformity.  Well, it seems the same thing is going on in the United States—maybe not with that conscious intent, but with the same result.


The passing scene: January 3, 2015

January 3, 2015

Social Programs That Work by Ron Haskins in The New York Times.

Many social welfare programs fail.  The Obama administration has identified some that succeed.   While this does not change my unfavorable opinion of the President’s policies overall, I think he is entitled to credit for having this research done.

This City Eliminated Poverty and Nearly Everybody Forgot About It by Zi-Ann Lum for Huffington Post.

Between 1974 and 1979, the small city of Dauphin, Manitoba, guaranteed all residents a basic income—employed or not, able to work or not.  What was the ultimate outcome of this radical experiment?  Nobody ever bothered to check and find out.

What’s Wrong With Georgia? by Alana Semuels for The Atlantic.

Scott Walker has failed Wisconsin and Minnesota is the proof by Jimmy Anderson for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Georgia and Wisconsin are the latest American states to discover that a Third World economic strategy—low wages, low taxes, low services and low regulation—is not a successful formula for creating jobs and promoting economic growth.


The passing scene: November 14, 2014

November 14, 2014

China’s silky road to glory by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times.

 China for decades has been quietly building up its strength.  Now it is manifesting that strength, as Pepe Escobar reported from the 21-nation Asia Pacific Economic Conference in Beijing.

President Xi Jinping announced a plan for a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) which, according to Escobar, got a more favorable reception that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, proposed by the United States, which excludes China.

He also announced a $50 billion Asian Infrastructure Bank, providing an alternative to the International Monetary Fund and a $40 billion investment for a Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road, improving China’s connections with Central Asia, South Asia and Russia.

All these measures would tie neighboring countries closer to China.  These amounts are relatively small, but could be the start of something big.

Why Cuba Is So Good at Fighting Ebola by Alexandra Sifferlin for Time.

Cuba sends medical teams that are expert in tropic diseases to countries in peril.  The USA sends troops.

I once wrote a post saying Cuba is an economic failure.  I don’t approve of dictatorship and I don’t think centrally planned economies work well, but I have to say that Cuba puts the USA to shame in its response to emergencies (the Cubans were better prepared for the Katrina hurricane than we Americans were) and its help to other countries.


The passing scene: Links & comments 7/14/14

July 14, 2014

Economix Explains Social Security

Economix Explains the Transpacific Partnership

Economix Explains Net Neutrality

Cartoonist Michael Goodwin uses words and pictures to give clear explanations of three important, and often misunderstood, issue.

Crimea Annexation Spurs Some Russians to Emigrate by Yekaterina Kravtsova for the Moscow Times.

Amid heightened nationalist passions over the Ukraine crisis,  President Vladimir Putin is cracking down on independent journalists and opposition politicians.

The United Nations estimates that 40,000 Russians asked for political asylum in other countries last year, the highest number from any country except Syria.  This year Russian requests for asylum are running ahead of last year’s.

Putin’s Russia is not a free country.

Russia wipes out Cuban debt by Aljazeera America.

President Putin agreed to cancel Cuba’s debt to the old Soviet Union, while Cuba plans more offshore oil concessions for Russian companies.  The USA could have had equivalent deals any time during the past 50 years if not for the ongoing U.S. embargo against Cuba.

The Real Reason Pot Is Still Illegal by Lee Fang for The Nation.

Marijuana is a cheap substitute for prescription painkillers, and may be less addictive.   The big pharmaceutical companies would lose a lot of sales if marijuana were legalized.

The Fire This Time:  A look at the religious violence in Burma by Hozan Alan Senauke for Buddhadharma.

The vice-abbot of the Berkeley Zen Center says that violence against Burma’s Muslim minority is contrary to the teachings of Buddha.


Castro’s failure and Cuba’s future

July 1, 2011

As concerned and even angry as I sometimes am about the U.S. drift into plutocracy, I never have been tempted to think of Communism as an answer.  The people of the world have always voted with their feet against Communism.  Governments of Communist countries have to take measures to prevent people from fleeing.  It is rare for anyone to clamor to get in.

Fidel Castro

Cuba is probably the best of the Communist countries, as North Korea is the worst.  Fidel Castro’s government did good things.  Cuba’s health system and medical education is, by all accounts, excellent for a Third World country.  Its aid to other Latin American countries in setting up public health and basic medical services is admirable.  The government of Cuba is well-organized to deal with disaster.  Its response to Hurricane Katrina highlighted the inadequacy of the U.S. response; President George W. Bush would have done well to accept Cuba’s offer of aid.

Against Cuba’s achievements, you have to balance economic stagnation produced by failed central planning, and a police state that makes it impossible to discuss Cuba’s economic failures openly.  Over the years many Cubans have found this intolerable. Like Elian Gonzalez’s mother in 1999, they have been willing to risk drowning on the high seas rather than endure life in this supposed utopia.

Recall the origin of the Mariel boatlift in 1980.  It started with a rumor that it was possible to emigrate to Peru.  I don’t think anybody believes the streets of Lima are paved with gold, or living in Peru gives you a shot at being a top baseball player or rock star.  It was more a matter of “anything but this.”  The Peruvian embassy grounds were filled to overflowing with visa applicants, who by so doing had defined themselves as enemies of the state; President Jimmy Carter then offered them asylum in the United States, and then Castro decided to embarrass the U.S. by emptying his jails and metal institutions, and casting the inmates adrift on the high seas.

True, not all Cubans dissatisfied.  Some are strong supporters of the regime.  But Fidel Castro was never willing to risk a contested election to determine whether they are in the majority.  That is a good indication that they may not be.