Maggie Alarcón

Posts Tagged ‘US Politics’

President Hugo Chavez, a Non-MSM Primer

In Politics, Press, Social Justice, US on January 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm


By Vivien Lesnik Weisman


Originally published in the Huffington Post

In order to understand the media coverage of the situation in Venezuela one must look at the antecedents. It is instructive to revisit this NYTeditorial on the occasion of the 2002 coup.

April 13, 2002 “Hugo Chavez Departs”
With yesterday’s resignation of President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan democracy is no longer threatened by a would-be dictator. Mr. Chávez, a ruinous demagogue, stepped down after the military intervened and handed power to a respected business leader, Pedro Carmona.


The U.S. quickly recognized the coup leaders as the legitimate government of Venezuela in spite of the fact that their first acts where to dissolve the legislature and judiciary and suspend the Constitution. After all, the perpetrator of the coup was not a charismatic self-proclaimed socialist mestizo but a “respected business leader” who was also not incidentally of European extraction and a member of the ruling oligarchy. The constitution in question had recently been created by a Constitutional Assembly which the people had called for with a 92 percent mandate and ratified by popular referendum with 71.8 percent of the vote; not exactly an undemocratic document.

Leaving aside the substantial evidence that the coup was U.S. hatched with ample evidence hereand here, what crimes did the democratically elected president of Venezuela commit to deserve such a description and the ire of the U.S.?

Well for one, Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, Saudi Arabia has the second and it is the fourth most important U.S. supplier. Yes, largest reserves in the world. And Venezuela is not far away in the Middle East, but in our hemisphere, in what has traditionally been considered our “sphere of influence” (read: with a government and an oligarchy that puts the interests of the United States and the U.S. corporations before that of their people).

Put simply, oil rich Venezuela under Chavez refused to conform to the Latin American model of the client state. No matter how many times President Chavez is elected and re-elected and given mandates by popular referendums, refusing to bow down to U.S. interests is his capital crime and that crime is never forgiven; Cuba being a case in point.

Speaking of capital, what did President Chavez do with all that oil money? Surely he did the traditional thing and divided it up nicely between his friends and cronies and sent the rest to Citibank. Wrong. First he payed back the Venezuelan debt to the IMF and asked them to get out of town, and next he helped pay down his friend’s debt, Argentina. Next he helped Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador pay down their debt. Thanks to Chavez the IMF’s portfolio is down in the region to less than 1 percent from 80 percent in 2005. With no IMF and its partner institution, the World Bank, in the region the sway of policies such as unfettered markets with limited government spending greatly restricting social programs is kept to a minimum. In other words, the policies of the Washington Consensus that has been so detrimental to the economies and the people of developing nations in Latin America and so lucrative for the U.S. and transnational corporations is no more.

He also set up a regional exchange — Banco del Sur or Bank of the South — where partner nations can borrow money for social projects and infrastructure development funded by Venezuela, and the member countries. And of course there is the all important Mercosur, a kind of Latin American European Union to integrate the markets and work together rather than in isolation like in the past, making it easier to be pressured by external forces, i.e. the U.S. Oh, and the discounted oil to Cuba alleviating the sting of the 50-year-old U.S. embargo really rubs us the wrong way. WTF, this guy is really messing with the world order now.

But, the most capital of his offenses is his innovative social experiment, that goes by the name of the Bolivarian Revolution. God we hate that R word. You see this has a transcendence beyond their borders, beyond the region, right smack to our front yard; or should I say Zuccotti Park? A charismatic leader is in many ways the antithesis of the horizontal anarchic structure of the Occupy movement, but still the experiment in collectivization and citizen participation, direct democracy, and worker and neighborhood councils that many in the Occupy movement are working toward and that we find so very difficult to organize in the U.S. is being lived in Venezuela.

rally of hundreds of thousands is easily mobilized, as was in evidence on January 10th as Vice President Nicolas Maduro and officials from around the world, including several presidents of Latin America, turned out. The people wore the presidential sash and chanted “We are all Chavez now” in solidarity with their absent president. This degree of participation and engagement is not unusual in Venezuela where voting is usually in the 90 percent range. And they don’t vote every four years and go home as is often the case here with our low voter turnout and where many of us feel we are voting for the lesser of two evils. The opposition party, the party of the oligarchy, offers a clear political and economic alternative but there seems to be no turning back this social revolution.

Venezuelan civil society is not only highly politicized but the people feel that they are participants in the decision-making process and in the affairs that concern their lives.

MSM fueled ignorance of this exciting and innovative social justice oriented society that is being created in Venezuela as well as other Latin American countries seems purposeful and targeted at keeping us tethered not only to cruel but failed economic models. The lack of accurate information on alternatives to market capitalism — or whatever this unfair, un-engaging, unfriendly system is called — keeps us in despair, balkanized and directionless, anesthetized by junk culture and television; spectators rather than participants in our own lives.

The Venezuelan example of bringing resources under public control and using the revenue for the betterment of all offers a model that cannot be replicated everywhere. But it is seen as a dangerous model because one of the places it can be replicated is in the United States. We too have vast oil and gas reserves and vast natural resources. We too could have free higher education and health care, not to mention student debt forgiveness. How about a truly democratic form of government where the citizenry decides not just whether to vote for Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee, but whether to go to war or live in peace and go to college; whether to have clean air and water and non-GMO pesticide free foods and sustainable agriculture or Big Agra.

Hmmm… I’m liking this. Develop alternative forms of energy and ban fracking forever? Stimulate the economy by building new roads and cool schools, music centers, hospitals, theatre, animation and computer clubs, relaxation centers, urban gardens, water parks, beach clubs and fun centers rather than stimulating the economy by making war and selling weapons? How about meaningful work and leisurely time rather than wage slavery? I can hear all the detractors screaming idealist, dreamer. I’ll take that. But really, if ordinary Venezuelans can displace the ruling oligarchy and be the architects of their own destiny then why can’t we too overturn the oligarchical structures of the corporate state? Why are we the only significant oil producing country that does not own the oil and gas on our land? Nationalization of natural resources such as oil and natural gas is not only just; it’s practical. If Venezuela can cut poverty in half and offer higher education gratis and healthcare for all, imagine what we can do with all that oil in Texas.

______This post focused on the astonishing expansion of economic rights, citizen participation and the democratization of Venezuela under President Hugo Chavez; his effects on the region and what we can learn from it. Venezuela is a society in the throes of transformation and factors contributing toward centralization rather than evolving into decentralization are said to be undermining the independence of separate branches of government and the media. Here too there is much disinformation and will be the subject of separate posts.

A legal sling for David

In Blockade, CAFE, CENESEX, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Cuban Americans, Cuban Embargo, Politics, US on June 12, 2012 at 12:57 pm

Margarita Alarcón Perea

Benjamin Willis, a musician living in Queens, founding member of C.A.F.E (Cuban Americans for Engagement) and proud first time father, wrote a very good eloquent piece published in Counterpunch.

Members of C.A.F.E and other US based organizations such as the LAWG have stood up to a recent proposal of change to legislation put forth by Junior Congressman David Rivera. Congressman Rivera wants to amend H.R. 2831 which pretty much translates for those readers unfamiliar with laws within the Senate to re-adjust the Cuban Adjustment Act, where by any Cuban arriving on US soil is automatically eligible for permanent residency (USCIS). Rivera wants to change this. He wants to modify it in the most misrepresented way. Under Rivera’s proposal, any Cuban living in the US under the Cuban Adjustment Act who has yet to become a citizen would be automatically considered illegal upon returning to the US if he or she visits his or her family in Cuba after having emigrated from the island.

I agree with Mr. Rivera, the “misrepresenter”. Here’s my rationale: if Rivera has his way, the only option for Cuban Americans living in the US under current residency status and hence without the right to vote, will be to become citizens in order to travel legally to Cuba and then return legally back to their new home the United States. If we can force them through this ingeniously diabolical legal proposal, then they will have to become citizens in order to visit their families and then and only then will the ball start to roll in the right direction. Cuban Americans living in the US, the growing majority of which no longer have serious political issues with the Cuban Revolution, – NOT to be confused with the so called “Miami Mafia” – will be able to vote and vote people like Rivera right out of Congress and back to where ever it is that will best suit their needs.

Let’s face it, as Bob Dylan once said, “the times they are a changing,” and these Cuban American legislators aren’t legislating for “the Cuban people”, they legislate for their salaries and other amenities along the way.

So I say, go for it Rivera! Once again, your namesake David will defeat the huge Goliath; the growing number of coherent Cuban Americans of a new intelligent generation will defeat you on your own turf.

Please read the very eloquent piece by Benjamin Willis here.

Cuba Meets the Challenges of the 21st Century Part II

In Asamblea Nacional/National Assembly, Blockade, CELAC, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban Embargo, Economics, Politics, US on April 3, 2012 at 2:10 pm


By Salim Lamrani

Originally published in The Huffington Post

 An interview with Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban Parliament


President of the Cuban Parliament since 1992, and member of the Political Bureau of the Cuban Communist Party, Ricardo Alarcon de Quesada is, after President Raul Castro and First Vice-President Antonio Machado Ventura, third in line in the Cuban government. Professor of philosophy and a career diplomat, Alarcon spent nearly 12 years in the United States as the Cuban ambassador to the United Nations. Over time, he has become a spokesperson for the Havana government. In this long interview, one that lasted nearly two hours, Alarcon did not seek to evade a single question. He comments on the role of Fidel Castro after his retirement from political life and explains the presence of Raul Castro at the center of power. He also speaks about the reform of the Cuban economic and social model as well as the challenges facing the Cuban nation. Alarcon then discusses the question of emigration and Cuban relations with the United States under the Obama administration. He also takes on the thorny question of human rights and political prisoners and does not hesitate to talk about Alan Gross, the American sub-contractor imprisoned in Cuba, as well as the case of the five Cuban agents detained in the United States. Alarcon then turns to the important question of oil deposits in the Gulf of Mexico and the potential consequences of their exploitation. The interview concludes with a discussion of the relationship of Cuba with the Catholic church and the Vatican, the imminent visit to Cuba of Pope Benedict XVI, Cuban relations with the European Union and the new Latin America and finally the future of Cuba after Fidel and Raul Castro.

The reform of the Cuban economic model
            SL: In April of 2011, the Communist Party Congress decided to reform the Cuban economic model. What brought about this change? What is it exactly?
            RAQ: As Cubans, we realized that we had to introduce important changes in the social and economic functioning of our nation in order to save socialism, to improve it, to make it better. In doing so, we took an objective look at our society. Cuban socialism had, for a very long time, been closely linked to that of the Soviet Union. Clearly, it can no longer continue like this. It was also necessary to take into account certain global factors present on the international scene. Furthermore, we need to rectify aspects of the social and economic model that undoubtedly made sense at the time they were adopted, but can no longer be justified. Certain policies elaborated in the past can be explained by conditions that existed then, but today they have no reason for being.
            What are we seeking exactly? We are attempting to obtain a higher level of economic efficiency, a more rational use of our limited natural, material and financial resources. In so doing, we take into account the primary external factors that impinge upon Cuba, certainly the economic sanctions that the United States imposes upon us, sanctions that have been tightened over the past number of years. But, it is also important to take into account certain positive changes, for example, those occurring in Latin America and the Caribbean. After having analyzed the problems faced by the Cuban society, after reflecting collectively upon them, we arrived at the conclusion that it would be necessary to introduce certain changes not only in order to cope with the objective realities we face, but also because we are convinced that there is a better way to go about constructing a more just society.
            SL: That is to say?
            RAQ: The state is not giving up its role, and it is not putting our society’s social gains in jeopardy. But, in order to maintain access to free universal health care, free universal education, and to guarantee everyone the right to these services, the right to retirement benefits, to social assistance, it is essential that we reach the highest level of efficiency possible in their implementation. We have worked hard to provide higher quality services at a lower cost, not by reducing the salary of the teacher, but rather by eliminating the unnecessary costs that are inherent in a bureaucracy. This is the general approach we took for the rest of the economy as well.
            SL: One goal therefore is to put an end to bureaucratic obstacles, and a withdrawal of the state from non-strategic sectors, hairdressing salons, for example.
            RAQ: Raul Castro has often cited the case of hairdressing salons. When was it that Karl Marx suggested that socialism consisted of collectivizing hairdressing salons? When was it that he said that this activity, like many others, ought to be administered and controlled by the state? The idea of socialism has always been the collectivization of the fundamental means of production. It is clear that the term “fundamental” may be interpreted more or less broadly. As far as we are concerned, we are convinced that it is impossible to renounce certain things. Nevertheless, it is essential that we reduce the role of the state in certain tasks and activities that people can so better, both by themselves and cooperatively.  This would allow the state to cut costs enormously and still guarantee what we consider to be basic human rights. To do this, we need to unleash new productive forces and enable personal initiatives, in the city as well as in the countryside. In this way, we will establish a Cuban socialism that, ultimately, does not simply respond to established dogma, follow another’s example, or copy a predetermined template.
            SL: A socialism that would therefore be uniquely Cuban.
            RAQ: What characterizes Latin America at the present moment is the fact that a number of countries, each in its own way, are constructing their own versions of socialism. For a long while now, one of the fundamental errors of socialist and revolutionary movements has been the belief that a socialist model exists. In reality, we should not be talking about socialism, but rather about socialisms in the plural. There is no socialism that is similar to another. As Mariategui said, socialism is a “heroic creation”. If socialism is to be created, it must respond to realities, motivations, cultures, situations, contexts, all of which are objectives that are different from each other, not identical.
            SL: How was the reform of the economic model decided upon?
            RAQ: We are in an experimental phase using a methodology that is very Cuban and, I think, very socialist, that is to say, a process of broad, continual and authentic public consultation. The Party proposed a plan to reform the economic system. This plan has been debated throughout the country, not only among Party militants, but also among all citizens who chose to participate. Furthermore, the plan has been significantly modified following these discussions. Certain items have been changed, new items have been proposed, and yet others have been rejected. Over 70 percent of the original document was modified following discussions with citizen groups and only then was it presented to the Communist Party Congress. Several commissions were created to work and reflect upon the final document and to analyze the proposals that emerged from this great national debate. In the long run, a new document that contains 311 proposals for change was presented to and approved by Parliament. Certain measures have already been implemented, others are in the process of being implemented and others are still under discussion, not on their content, that has already been approved, but on how best to implement them.
            I am not sure that there are many governments around the world that would take the trouble of consulting the public before adopting a policy aimed at transforming their economic system. Neither am I certain that governments that have implemented drastic austerity measures, that have reduced their health and education budgets, that have raised the retirement age, all because of the systemic neoliberal crisis that now envelops many nations, might have sought out the advice of their citizens before making profound changes that promise to affect their daily lives.
            Out of all of this experimentation a new socialism will emerge, different from that we have now, but it will still be socialism and it will be without a doubt more authentic.
            SL: Is this not a return to capitalism?
            RAQ: I don’t think so, even if it is true that there will be a greater presence of market mechanisms in Cuban society, mechanisms that characterize the market economy, or capitalism if you prefer.
            SL: Since November 2011, Cubans can buy and sell housing and automobiles. Why was something that is the norm in the rest of the world banned or highly regulated in Cuba?
            RAQ: Allow me to give you a historical explanation. In the 1960s, when these measures were taken, the objective was to prevent capitalist restoration through the accumulation of goods. Take, for example, the Mexican revolution. It implemented a great agrarian reform, but a short time later the latifundio reappeared. The Cuban Revolution did not wish to commit the same error. If a farmer who, through the agrarian reform program, came to possess even a small piece of land and then decided to sell it to the richest landowner, he would undermine the very foundation of the agrarian reform, because he was once again contributing to the accumulation of property and to the resurgence of the latifundio.
            As for housing, the urban reform gave all Cubans the right to housing by limiting the concentration of ownership. Walk around Havana and you will never find a person living in the street or sleeping under a bridge, something that is not the case in numerous western capitals. There may be a problem of overcrowding, with several generations living under the same roof, but no one is abandoned to his fate. We did not wish to once again find ourselves with owners of multiple properties and this is the reasons that restrictions–not a total ban–were imposed.
            SL: And what about automobiles?
            RAQ: In the case of automobiles, the question is more complex because it concerns an imported product upon which the nation is dependent. Never in the history of the country has Cuba had an automobile industry. Cuba has produced some means of collective transportation, but automobiles have never been produced here. There is also another key element at play, gasoline, the fuel that has always been the Achilles heel of the Cuban economy. It was necessary, therefore, to establish controls and certain restrictions.
            It is also well to recall that certain of these controls predate the idea of Cuban socialism. I often refer to an extremely interesting document dated February 1959, the point at which in Cuba we established control over foreign exchange and imports. Up until February of 1959, the Cuban bourgeoisie would go to a bank to buy dollars in order to import cars, perfume or other luxury goods. With the triumph of the Revolution, a part of the elite that had been linked to the old regime took the path of exile and, among them, was the president of the Cuban national bank.
            The provisional government, directed by Manuel Urrutia, then named Dr. Felipe Pazos as head of this bank. Pazos had been the founder and first president of this national financial institution when it was established in 1950 under the government of Carlos Prio Socarras. He directed the bank from 1950 until March of 1952, the date that marked the coup d’état of Fulgencio Batista. When he once again took over the bank, he wrote a report that he submitted to President Urrutia–Fidel Castro was only chief of the Armed forces at the time–in which he described the state of Cuban finances and revealed the extent of the pillaging of the reserves by the leaders of the old order before they had fled the country.
            It was Pazos, not Che Guevara, Raul Castro or any other radical of the 26th of July Movement, an emblematic representative of the leisured classes and highly respected by the bourgeoisie of the period, who decided to establish exchange controls, stop the sale of dollars, and impose strict control over imports. As president of the National bank, he had informed Urrutia that it was imperative that measures be taken, given the financial disaster that had befallen the nation. Cuba’ economic situation was dramatic and it was important to recognize that certain elements of tension that existed in the Cuban economy had not yet disappeared.
            Also, beginning in the 1960s, strong restrictions were placed upon the importation of products including automobiles and, for economic reasons, this policy continues today. This decision, I would remind you, was made by a renowned economist, Felipe Pazos, who was neither a radical nor a communist, but was in fact a conservative.
            Two types of situations existed. First, those who owned an automobile before the triumph of the Revolution could use it as they wished, sell it, etc. But, given that the state held a monopoly on imports, imported automobiles were to be sold only to government workers, or to deserving parties, at subsidized prices, often at little more than 10 percent of their real value. It was therefore no longer possible to sell automobiles simply in order to make a profit.
            So clearly, limits were placed upon owning automobiles as personal property unless they were to serve a social function. Had unregulated sale of cars been legalized, ownership would not go to those for whom cars served a social function, or to those who by their own merits had acquired them, but rather to those with the most money. In any case, that was the justification at the time. It was important to avoid speculation in automobiles, because it was evident that the country did not have sufficient resources to massively import them, nor to furnish the fuel necessary to their functioning. So, there again, the state imposed certain restrictions.
SL: So what about now?
            RAQ: We now see this from a different perspective. If you are a homeowner–and some 85 percent of Cubans are–it is possible to sell. Why? Take the case of a growing family that needs to acquire a larger place, and the case of a household that is shrinking and needs a smaller place because the children have grown up and married. From here on out, it will be possible to exchange or to sell. It is now also possible to leave property to someone, loan it, rent it, etc. Before, only the exchange of property and the renting of rooms was authorized. Now, this type of transaction is facilitated by the elimination of these bureaucratic obstacles.
            SL: What were the obstacles?
            RAQ: In the past, in order to buy, sell, or exchange properties, it was necessary to obtain an administrative decision from the National Housing Institute. To get them to make a decision, an agreement from the Municipal Department of Housing was required. One then needed to obtain authorization at both the provincial and national levels. There was an enormous bureaucracy involved and given that administrative decisions were required, it was the source of corruption and bribes.
            Now, since the first of December 2011, two parties who wish to exchange their homes have only to present the titles to their properties to a public notary. All of the bureaucratic hurtles have been eliminated. Of course, public notaries have always been involved, but one saw them only after both the buyer and seller had received all of the necessary administrative authorizations.
            SL: What happens if there is a dispute?
            RAQ: In the case of litigation, if one party claims certain rights after a transaction has been completed either through sale or exchange, the courts will decide the case and have the last word. The bureaucracies will no longer have a voice in the matter. You can see, therefore, that in this one area alone, we have managed to reduce drastically administrative and bureaucratic involvement by eliminating unnecessary steps. These reforms have resolved a number of problems linked to housing by simplifying sales and exchanges.
            As far as automobiles are concerned, this has been even easier because vehicle registration has existed for a long time. We are working to eliminate bureaucracy in our society. The biggest remaining limitation resides in the fact that individuals cannot import vehicles and, at the risk of repeating myself, this was a decision taken fifty years ago, not by Fidel Castro but rather by Felipe Pazos, long before the United States imposed a commercial embargo on our nation, long before the Torricelli Act of 1992, the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 and the two reports of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba of 2004 and 2006, which strengthened these economic sanctions. As you can imagine, these sanctions have exacerbated our national economic problems and led to the imposition of strict controls on personal imports.
            In the same way, a candidate for emigration will now be able to sell his home before leaving the country or leave it to his family up through the fourth degree of consanguinity. Before, the state took possession of abandoned housing and gave it to other families. This will no longer be the case.

“Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone” (John 8:2-11 KJV)

In Asamblea Nacional/National Assembly, CENESEX, Cuba, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Cuban Americans, Human Rights/Derechos Humanos, Politics on February 27, 2012 at 11:46 am


Margarita Alarcón Perea

Famous words one might say. They are also words that although often pronounced out of context, since not always are we referring to a woman committing adultery, have the incredible added plus that they may be applied to practically every scenario in modern life.

I am not a religious person but I do subscribe to much of what is contained in the Bible. I also agree with almost everything that was spoken – or said to have been spoken lest my atheist friends feel betrayed – by Jesus Christ. After all He was the first true revolutionary of modern times.

I heard this phrase once again today during the answers to questions by Professor Salim Lamrani to Dr Eusebio Leal, the head of the restoration project of Old Havana in Cuba’s capitol. Professor Lamrani was asking Leal about Cuba’s human rights record.  Leal, a catholic himself, began his answer with the phrase.  He continued with another phrase often seen on billboards in Havana and all across the country, “of the thousands of children in world living on the streets, not one of them is Cuban.” This phrase is not Biblical, it is actually a sentence used by UNICEF to explain the situation on the island regarding the healthcare, education and general well being of Cuban children. The head of the UNICEF offices here in Havana repeats the same sentence in every interview he gives whether it be about human rights or not.

Every single country in the world violates the Human Rights Charter in one way or another, every single person on the planet has at one given moment of their lives “violated” the rights of another person, whether it be a co-worker, an employee, a parent a sibling a neighbor, a passerby or even ones own children. In all honesty, is it not a violation of ones own child’s rights at the age of seven to force upon them the terrible act of eating peas?

The European Union has chastised the government of Cuba for violating the Human Rights of its citizens because as they say, there is no free press. I guess that makes sense when you look at Rupert Murdochs track record. The government of the United States will repeatedly state that it will not establish normal relations with the government of Cuba until the island abides by US standards regarding Human Rights. Also a logical point, given the island has complete universal health care and education and a much lower per capita percentage rate of its prison population and has never needed affirmative action in order to sustain a rational level of blacks and women in the work force or Universities.

Am I being too ironic? Let’s see who throws the first stone…

How a Nuclear War Would Start in the Middle East

In History, Israel, Politics, US on January 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm



By Jeffrey Goldberg

from The Atlantic

How would a nuclear exchange in the Middle East come to pass?

There is always a chance, of course, that the mullahs in Tehran would decide, while sitting around one day cursing the Jews, that since they now have a nuclear weapon, why not just drop it on Israel and be done with it? I’ve always believed that, all things being equal, it would be better to see atheists in charge of nuclear weapons, rather than religious fundamentalists. Men who profess belief in the glories of the afterlife might not mind their own nuclear obliteration quite as much as I would like. And it is also true that the Iranian regime is rhetorically genocidal, describing Israel, and Jews, in Hitlerian terms: as cancer and tumors in need of eradication.

But the mullahs are also men interested in keeping hold of temporal power, and it seems unlikely that they would immediately deploy their weapons against the Jewish state. But, as I point out in my Bloomberg View column this week, it might not matter. Put aside all the other good reasons the current Iranian leadership shouldn’t be considered appropriate stewards of nuclear weapons. The main threat posed by a nuclear Iran is that, based on its past behavior — and assuming it will be even more adventurous and provocative once it has gone nuclear — it will almost inevitably trigger a crisis that will escalate into a nuclear confrontation with Israel:

The experts who study this depressing issue seem to agree that a Middle East in which Iran has four or five nuclear weapons would be dangerously unstable and prone to warp-speed escalation.

Here’s one possible scenario for the not-so-distant future: Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese proxy, launches a cross-border attack into Israel, or kills a sizable number of Israeli civilians with conventional rockets. Israel responds by invading southern Lebanon, and promises, as it has in the past, to destroy Hezbollah. Iran, coming to the defense of its proxy, warns Israel to cease hostilities, and leaves open the question of what it will do if Israel refuses to heed its demand.

Dennis Ross, who until recently served as President Barack Obama’s Iran point man on the National Security Council, notes Hezbollah’s political importance to Tehran. “The only place to which the Iranian government successfully exported the revolution is to Hezbollah in Lebanon,” Ross told me. “If it looks as if the Israelis are going to destroy Hezbollah, you can see Iran threatening Israel, and they begin to change the readiness of their forces. This could set in motion a chain of events that would be like ‘Guns of August’ on steroids.”
Imagine that Israel detects a mobilization of Iran’s rocket force or the sudden movement of mobile missile launchers. Does Israel assume the Iranians are bluffing, or that they are not? And would Israel have time to figure this out? Or imagine the opposite: Might Iran, which will have no second-strike capability for many years — that is, no reserve of nuclear weapons to respond with in an exchange — feel compelled to attack Israel first, knowing that it has no second chance?

 The nuclear experts I respect most, including Bruce Blair, of Global Zero, and David Albright, of the Institute for Science and International Security, both call a Middle East in which Iran possesses a small number of nuclear weapons a dangerously unstable place. Here is what Albright told me Monday about Iran’s particular challenges in an escalating confrontation — the no second-strike conundrum: “In a crisis, you don’t want to go first, but you don’t want to go second, either. It ends up in an unstable situation. Miscalculations can result in nuclear weapons being used. Iran may feel it doesn’t have second-strike capability and so would, in an escalating crisis, feel it has to use what it has first.” Iran, he explained, will be hampered, for many years after it crosses the nuclear threshold (assuming it is allowed to cross), by a small arsenal of comparatively modest bombs.

“Our estimate of their warhead design, based on internal documentation from  the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) is that they would be building low-yield fission weapons of a few kilotons each” — “Fat Man,” dropped on Nagasaki, was roughly a 20-kiloton bomb — “because they’re forced to miniaturize to make it smaller for delivery,” Albright said.

The Israelis, on the other hand, have a much larger arsenal than the Iranians could hope for for many years, and much more varied and sophisticated delivery systems. It is, from any angle, a hellish problem. Albright believes that the Middle East with a nuclearized Iran (and a nuclearized Israel, and, presumably, Iran’s regional adversaries, including Saudi Arabia, seeking their own nuclear weapons) would be much more unstable than South Asia. “The governments of Pakistan and India don’t necessarily see each other as mortal enemies. The relationship between Israel and Iran would be worse.”


"Silly game, the best move is NOT to play..."

So, what to do? Not attack. There’s plenty of time for war. Right now, the focus should be on convincing Iran, through sanctions, and a     promise, if it gives up its nuclear ambitions, to rejoin the international community. Will this work? Probably not, but it has to be pursued. Here’s Bruce Blair on the efficacy of a preemptive attack: “The liabilities of preemptive attack on Iran’s nuclear program vastly outweigh the benefits. But certainly Iran’s program must be stopped before it reaches fruition with a nuclear weapons delivery capability.” I would argue that it needs to be stopped before delivery systems are in place. The chance is small, but not vanishingly so, that an Iranian nuclear weapon could be delivered by sea or land, not by air.


Alan Gross imprisonment a result of misguided US rhetoric?

In Alan Gross, Cuba/US, Cuban 5, Cuban Americans, Politics, US on January 24, 2012 at 1:06 pm


Published in

By Anya Landau French

Cuba said last month it would release 2,900 prisoners ahead of the pope’s visit this spring, but US prisoner Alan Gross is not to be one of them.

The phrase “exercise in futility” can easily be applied to the United States’ half-century old embargo of Cuba. But lately there is an even more disconcerting trend among US policymakers, which can best be described as conducting our fruitless policy toward Cuba with “eyes wide shut.”

 How else to describe the recent comments from senior USAID and State Department officials in response to a blistering – and vital – critique of US taxpayer-funded democracy programming in Cuba?

 The critique was published in The Miami Herald by Fulton Armstrong, a former senior staff member to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry. USAID’s Mark Feierstein and State’s Michael Posner responded to the criticism, which they have the right and responsibility to do, but their response is another disappointing indication that this administration remains inexplicably committed to a policy of willful ignorance when it comes to Cuba.

Exactly why is an insider battle over US programs in Cuba being waged outside, on the pages of The Miami Herald? At the heart of this debate is the continuing imprisonment of an American citizen, Alan Gross, who was working on an USAID subcontract when Cuban authorities apprehended him two years ago, and after a long investigation, convicted him of crimes against the Cuban state.

Armstrong and other critics of the USAID program point out that it amounts to a semi-covert regime change program that should never be carried out by an aid agency and that it ill-equipped Gross for the risk he was taking. The program is authorized under the 1996 Helms-Burton Act which seeks to help hasten a “transition” in Cuba.

It’s not that Cuba is a dangerous place for Americans – on the contrary, it’s one of the safest places we could visit. But when an American visits Cuba five times in one year on a tourist visa, but actually on a US government subcontract and with high-tech communications equipment in tow, he isn’t just violating Cuban immigration law, he’s violating its national security laws as well. That’s because when the US Passed the Helms-Burton Act the Cuban government, which viewed the Act as a threat to its national security, responded with a law of its own which criminalized dissemination or receipt of materials or funds, or taking direction from, the US Government under Helms-Burton.

It’s not clear whether Mr. Gross, who has said he was “duped” (by whom he hasn’t said), was adequately warned about this law. Judy Gross, Alan Gross’s wife, has said that her husband at one point wanted to inform Cuban authorities of his work but that his employer, Development Alternatives Inc., told him not to, and that even if he were picked up, he’d be questioned and then released. If true, they were wrong.

Ordinarily, the State Department warns all American travelers abroad, “when you are in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws.” (Whether we like them or not.) But, in the defense of USAID’s Cuba program, and with an American citizen’s freedom on the line, Feierstein and Posner are forced to break from this most obvious truism. They continue to insist that Mr. Gross broke no law in Cuba, intimating that we can ignore Cuban law, and to demand Gross’s release as if the Cubans are actually listening. But he did, we can’t, and they’re not.

It’s one thing for US officials, surrounded by unsatisfiable critics on all sides, to quietly grumble about Armstrong’s tough and public critique of a program that doesn’t work but can’t be dumped. But it’s intellectually dishonest – and diplomatically counterproductive to achieving Gross’s release – to come strutting out with a defense that so willfully ignores reality.

Bottomline, don’t travel to Cuba on a tourist visa unless you’re actually a tourist, and definitely don’t accept a US government contract to work in Cuba.

— Anya Landau French blogs for The Havana Note, a project of the “US-Cuba Policy Initiative,” directed by Ms. Landau French, at the New America Foundation/American Strategy Program.

10 Reasons Not To Vote For Ron Paul

In Economics, General, History, Politics, US on January 9, 2012 at 11:54 am

AjiacoMix recently reposted an article entitled  Reality Check: Under President Obama the Economy is Growing  which stirred up a bit of positive discussion amongst readers. Here is a follow up to the topic. – MAP


January 4th, 2012

By Summer Ludwig

Addicting Info posted an article several months ago regarding Ron Paul and his ties to white supremacy, and we were barraged with pleas and “stories” to win us over. In honor of Ron Paul’s obsessive fans we’re publishing the following article, showing his history of discrimination.

As anyone with a blog, YouTube account, MySpace page, or web site knows Ron Paul supporters are everywhere! The internet is filled with them. The frightening thing that I have witnessed is that many liberal voters are giving some credence to Ron Paul’s campaign and message. He somehow comes across as different or better than the run of the mill conservatives filling the Republican ticket.

I do not support Ron Paul in ANY and I find his Congressional record and policies to be, at times, even scarier than his counterparts. The only thing that I have found to agree with him on is the fact that he does not support the war in Iraq. After extensive research I have compiled a list of 10 reasons NOT to vote for Ron Paul!

1. Ron Paul does not value equal rights for minorities. Ron Paul has sponsored legislation that would repeal affirmative action, keep the IRS from investigating private schools who may have used race as a factor in denying entrance, thus losing their tax exempt status, would limit the scope of Brown versus Board of Education, and would deny citizenship for those born in the US if their parents are not citizens. Here are links to these bills: H.R.3863, H.R.5909, H.J.RES.46, and H.J.RES.42.

2. Ron Paul would deny women control of their bodies and reproductive rights.Ron Paul makes it very clear that one of his aims is to repeal Roe v. Wade. He has also co sponsored 4 separate bills to “To provide that human life shall be deemed to exist from conception.” This, of course, goes against current medical and scientific information as well as our existing laws and precedents. Please see these links: H.R.2597 and H.R.392

3. Ron Paul would be disastrous for the working class. He supports abolishing the Federal minimum wage, has twice introduced legislation to repeal OSHA, or the Occupational Safety and Health Act and would deal devastating blows to Social Security including repealing the act that makes it mandatory for employees of nonprofits, to make “coverage completely optional for both present and future workers”, and would “freeze benefit levels”. He has also twice sponsored legislation seeking to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act and the Copeland Act which among other things provide that contractors for the federal government must provide the prevailing wage and prohibits corporate “kick backs.” Here are the related legislative links: H.R.2030, H.R.4604, H.R.736, and H.R.2720

4. Ron Paul’s tax plan is unfair to lower earners and would greatly benefit those with the highest incomes.He has repeatedly submitted amendments to the tax code that would get rid of the estate and gift taxes, tax all earners at 10%, disallow income tax credits to individuals who are not corporations, repeal the elderly tax credit, child care credit, earned income credit, and other common credits for working class citizens. Please see this link for more information: H.R.05484 Summary

5. Ron Paul’s policies would cause irreparable damage to our already strained environment. Among other travesties he supports off shore drilling, building more oil refineries, mining on federal lands, no taxes on the production of fuel, and would stop conservation efforts that could be a “Federal obstacle” to building and maintaining refineries. He has also sought to amend the Clean Air Act, repeal the Soil and Water Conservation Act of 1977, and to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to “restrict the jurisdiction of the United States over the discharge of dredged or fill material to discharges into waters”. To see for yourself the possible extent of the damage to the environment that would happen under a Paul administration please follow these links: H.R.2504, H.R.7079, H.R.7245, H.R.2415, H.R.393, H.R.4639, H.R.5293, and H.R.6936

6. A Ron Paul administration would continue to proliferate the negative image of the US among other nations. Ron Paul supports withdrawing the US from the UN, when that has not happened he has fought to at least have the US withdrawn from the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. He has introduced legislation to keep the US from giving any funds to the UN. He also submitted that the US funds should not be used in any UN peacekeeping mission or any UN program at all. He has sponsored a bill calling for us to “terminate all participation by the United States in the United Nations, and to remove all privileges, exemptions, and immunities of the United Nations.”Ron Paul twice supported stopping the destruction of intercontinental ballistic missile silos in the United States. He also would continue with Bush’s plan of ignoring international laws by maintaining an insistence that the International Criminal Court does not apply to the US, despite President Clinton’s signature on the original treaty. The International Criminal Court is used for, among other things, prosecution of war crimes. Please see the following links: H.R.3891, H.AMDT.191, H.AMDT.190, H.R.3769, H.R.1665, H.CON.RES.23, and H.R.1154

7. Ron Paul discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation and would not provide equal rights and protections to glbt citizens. This is an issue that Paul sort of dances around. He has been praised for stating that the federal government should not regulate who a person marries. This has been construed by some to mean that he is somewhat open to the idea of same sex marriage, he is not. Paul was an original co sponsor of the Marriage Protection Act in the House in 2004. Among other things this discriminatory piece of legislation placed a prohibition on the recognition of a same sex marriage across state borders. He said in 2004 that if he was in the Texas legislature he would not allow judges to come up with “new definitions” of marriage. Paul is a very religious conservative and though he is careful with his words his record shows that he is not a supporter of same sex marriage. In 1980 he introduced a particularly bigoted bill entitled “A bill to strengthen the American family and promote the virtues of family life.” or H.R.7955 A direct quote from the legislation “Prohibits the expenditure of Federal funds to any organization which presents male or female homosexuality as an acceptable alternative life style or which suggest that it can be an acceptable life style.” shows that he is unequivocally opposed to lifestyles other than heterosexual.

8. Ron Paul has an unnatural obsession with guns. One of Paul’s loudest gripes is that the second amendment of the constitution is being eroded. In fact, he believes that September 11 would not have happened if that wasn’t true. He advocates for there to be no restrictions on personal ownership of semi-automatic weaponry or large capacity ammunition feeding devices, would repeal the Gun-Free School Zones Act (because we all know our schools are just missing more guns), wants guns to be allowed in our National Parks, and repeal the Gun Control Act of 1968. Now, I’m pretty damn certain that when the Constitution was written our founding fathers never intended for people to be walking around the streets with AK47′s and “large capacity ammunition feeding devices.” (That just sounds scary.) Throughout the years our Constitution has been amended and is indeed a living document needing changes to stay relevant in our society. Paul has no problem changing the Constitution when it fits his needs, such as no longer allowing those born in the US to be citizens if their parents are not. On the gun issue though he is no holds barred. I know he’s from Texas but really, common sense tells us that the amendments he is seeking to repeal have their place. In fact, the gun control act was put into place after the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Robert Kennedy. Please view the following links: H.R.2424, H.R.1897, H.R.1096, H.R.407, H.R.1147, and H.R.3892.

9. Ron Paul would butcher our already sad educational system. The fact is that Ron Paul wants to privatize everything and that includes education. Where we run into problems is that it has been shown (think our current health care system) that this doesn’t work so well in practice. Ron Paul has introduced legislation that would keep the Federal Government “from planning, developing, implementing, or administering any national teacher test or method of certification and from withholding funds from States or local educational agencies that fail to adopt a specific method of teacher certification.” In a separate piece of legislation he seeks to “prohibit the payment of Federal Education assistance in States which require the licensing or certification of private schools or private school teachers.” So basically the federal government can’t regulate teaching credentials and if states opt to require them for private schools they get no aid. That sounds like a marvelous idea teachers with no certification teaching in private schools that are allowed to discriminate on the basis of race. He is certainly moving forward with these proposals!Remember his “bill to strengthen the American family and promote the virtues of family life.” or H.R.7955? Guess what? He basically advocates for segregation in schools once again. It “Forbids any court of the United States from requiring the attendance at a particular school of any student because of race, color, creed, or sex.” Without thinking about this statement it doesn’t sound bad at all. But remember, when desegregating schools that this is done by having children go to different schools, often after a court decision as in Brown Vs. Board of Education. If this were a bill that passed, schools would no longer be compelled to comply and the schools would go back to segregation based on their locations. Ron Paul is really starting to look like a pretty bigoted guy don’t you think?

10. Ron Paul is opposed to the separation of church and state. This reason is probably behind every other thing that I disagree with in regards to Paul’s positions. Ron Paul is among those who believes that there is a war on religion, he stated “Through perverse court decisions and years of cultural indoctrination, the elitist, secular Left has managed to convince many in our nation that religion must be driven from public view.” (( Koyaanisqatsi Blog: Wrong Paul Why I Do Not Want Ron Paul to be My President )) Though he talks a good talk, at times, Ron Paul can’t get away from his far right, conservative views. He would support “alternative views” to evolution taught in public schools (i.e. Intelligent Design.) We’ve already taken a look at his “bill to strengthen the American family and promote the virtues of family life.” or H.R.7955Besides hating the gays he takes a very religious stance on many other things. He is attempting to force his beliefs on the rest of America, exactly what he would do as president.

So there you have it, my 10 reasons not to vote for Ron Paul. Please take the time to thoroughly review the records of the people running for office so you know where they really stand. Ron Paul has good rhetoric and he opposes the war but he’s not a good man in the human rights sense of the phrase. He is pretty much like every other Republican but more insidious. Here is a video that you should watch after reading this article. Really listen to what he says and how he says it. Watch out for the sneaky ones and RESEARCH! ((Orcinus: Ron Paul’s Record in Congress ))


Winds of Change….

In Economics, History, Politics, US on January 4, 2012 at 12:31 pm

“A good friend of mine, cuban american, sent me this via email. I will resend to at least 20 people per the request at the bottom, but i also wanted to help out a bit more by posting it on AjiacoMix because i agree with what Mr Buffet is saying. If you do too, then pass it along and thanks. MAP


Warren Buffet is asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.

In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message. This is one idea that really should be passed

_*Congressional Reform Act of 2011*_

1. No Tenure / No Pension.

A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no
pay when they’re out of office.

2. Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social

All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the
Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into
the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the
American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.

3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan, just as all
Americans do.

4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.
Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.

5. Congress loses their current health care system and
participates in the same health care system as the American people.

6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the
American people.

7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void
effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this
contract with Congressmen/women.

Congressmen/women made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in
Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers
envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their
term(s), then go home and back to work.

If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will
only take three days for most people (in the U.S. ) to receive
the message. Don’t you think it’s time?


If you agree with the above, pass it on. If not, just delete.
You are one of my 20+ – Please keep it going, and thanks.