mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Obama’s Visit Will Hasten Freedom In Cuba”: The Culmination Of Common-Sense Revamping Of U.S. Policy Toward Cuba

The historic visit of a sitting U.S. president to Havana — which should have come a half-century sooner — will almost surely hasten the day when Cubans are free from the Castro government’s suffocating repression.

President Obama’s whirlwind trip is the culmination of his common-sense revamping of U.S. policy toward Cuba. One outdated, counterproductive relic of the Cold War remains — the economic embargo forbidding most business ties with the island nation — and the Republican-controlled Congress won’t even consider repealing it. But Obama, using his executive powers, has been able to reestablish full diplomatic relations, practically eliminate travel restrictions and substantially weaken the embargo’s grip.

All of which is long overdue. The United States first began to squeeze the Castro government, with the hope of forcing regime change, in 1960. It should be a rule of thumb that if a policy is an utter failure for more than 50 years, it’s time to try something else.

I say this as someone with no illusions about President Raúl Castro, the spectral but still-powerful Fidel Castro or the authoritarian system they created and wish to perpetuate.

Hours before Obama’s arrival Sunday, police and security agents roughly arrested and hauled away members of the Ladies in White dissident group as they conducted their weekly protest march; this time, U.S. network news crews happened to be on hand to witness the ritualized crackdown.

I wrote a book about Cuba, and each time I went to the island for research I gained more respect and admiration for the Cuban people — and more contempt for the regime that so cynically and capriciously smothers their dreams. Those 10 trips convinced me, however, that the U.S. policy of prohibiting economic and social contact between Americans and Cubans was, to the Castro brothers, the gift that kept on giving.

I saw how the “menace” of an aggressive, threatening neighbor to the north was used as a justification for repression. We’d love to have freedom of the press, freedom of association and freedom of assembly, the government would say, but how can we leave our beloved nation so open, and so vulnerable, when the greatest superpower on earth is trying to destroy our heroic revolution?

Most of the Cubans I met were not fooled by such doublespeak. But they did have a nationalistic love for their country, and their nation was, indeed, under economic siege.

There are those who argue that Obama could have won more concessions from the Castro regime in exchange for improved relations. But this view ignores the fact that our posture of unmitigated hostility toward Cuba did more harm to U.S. interests than good. Relaxing travel restrictions for U.S. citizens can only help flood the island with American ideas and values. Permitting such an influx could be the biggest risk the Castro brothers have taken since they led a ragtag band of guerrillas into the Sierra Maestra Mountains to make a revolution.

Why would they now take this gamble? Because they have no choice. The Castro regime survived the collapse of the Soviet Union — and the end of huge annual subsidies from the Eastern Bloc — but the Cuban economy sank into depression. Copious quantities of Venezuelan oil, provided by strongman Hugo Chávez (who was Fidel Castro’s protege), provided a respite. But now Chávez is gone, Venezuela is an economic ruin and Cuba has no choice but to monetize the resource it has in greatest abundance, human capital. From the Castros’ point of view, better relations with the United States must now seem unavoidable.

It is possible that Raúl Castro, who has promised to resign in 2018, will seek to move the country toward the Chinese model: a free-market economic system overseen by an authoritarian one-party government. Would this fully satisfy those who want to see a free Cuba? No. Would it be a tremendous improvement over the poverty and oppression Cubans suffer today? Absolutely.

Fidel Castro will be 90 in August; Raúl is just five years younger. At some point in the not-too-distant future, we will see whether Castroism can survive without a living Castro. Anyone who wants U.S. policymakers to have influence when that question arises should applaud Obama’s initiatives.

And speaking of applause, did you see the rapturous welcome the president and his family received in Havana? Cubans seem to have a much more clear-eyed — and hopeful — view than Obama’s shortsighted critics.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 21, 2016

March 23, 2016 Posted by | Cuba, President Obama, Raul Castro | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Politics Of Fear, Getting Worse”: Scott Brown Combines ISIS, Ebola, And Border Security

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was dismissive yesterday of an unfounded concern: Islamic State terrorists using the Ebola virus. In remarks to the Association of the United States Army, Johnson specifically said, “We’ve seen no specific credible intelligence that [ISIS] is attempting to use any sort of disease or virus to attack our homeland.”

That’s good to hear, of course, but the fact that it was necessary for the DHS secretary to make these comments was itself rather striking.

As a friend reminded me yesterday, we’ve heard quite a bit about possible threats from ISIS terrorists; and we’ve heard plenty about the dangers of Ebola; but we’ve apparently entered a new phase in which ISIS may strike with Ebola.

And where is such talk coming from? Greg Sargent reported yesterday on the latest remarks from former Sen. Scott Brown (R), now running in New Hampshire after losing two years ago in Massachusetts. In this case, the Republican was asked whether he supports travel restrictions on countries in West Africa. Brown replied:

“We need a comprehensive approach and I think that should be part of it. I think it’s all connected. For example, we have people coming into our country by legal means bringing in diseases and other potential challenges. Yet we have a border that’s so porous that anyone can walk across it. I think it’s naive to think that people aren’t going to be walking through here who have those types of diseases and/or other types of intent, criminal or terrorist. And yet we do nothing to secure our border.”

Brown has dabbled in this before, but I think this was the most direct he’s been to date to tie together the disparate threads of terrorism, Ebola, and border security, all at the same time, all in the hopes of exploiting public anxiety to advance his personal ambitions. (North Carolina’s Thom Tillis recently pushed a similar tack, though he didn’t go for the full trifecta.)

The politics of fear isn’t pretty, and as Brown makes clear, it’s getting worse. The public can, however, take at least some comfort in the fact that the New England Republican doesn’t seem to have any idea what he’s talking about.

For example, Brown believes “that anyone can walk across” the border because “we do nothing to secure” it. For an issue the Republican claims to take seriously, he’s badly confused – border security is actually at an all-time high.

But the more amusing takeaway is the degree to which the right wants to connect every story to its unrelated goal. Want to improve the economy? Secure the border. Want to fight terrorism? Secure the border. Worried about public health? Secure the border. Worried about crime? Secure the border.

If you’ve got a problem, Republicans have a border that needs securing.

It’s reminiscent of the Bush/Cheney era, when just about every possible challenge – economy, energy policy, terrorism, health care – was met with a call to cut taxes.

Of course, the difference is, when it comes to immigration, Democrats are fully prepared to give Republicans the exact border-security measures the GOP wants as part of a comprehensive reform package. It’s a shame Republicans won’t consider a compromise.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 15, 2014

October 16, 2014 Posted by | Border Security, Ebola, ISIS | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Ebola Doesn’t Abide By Borders”: Ensuring Our Public Health System Is Adequately Funded And Allowed To Do Its Job Is Key

The U.S. should not implement travel restrictions on countries impacted by the Ebola crisis and here is why. The Ebola outbreak has reminded the world what public health officials have known for centuries: Infectious disease does not respect geographical borders.

There was a time when we travelled the globe in ships and across land. In those days travel took months and diseases died out or were easy to contain using quarantine measures and broad travel restrictions.

We now live in a global society during a time when the variables we are trying to compute are numerous and complex. The vast number of people traveling around the world, the speed of travel, the large number of conveyances and the presence of multiple ports of entry into our country argues for a focused, well-tested and science-based approach to reducing the risk of exposure to this highly lethal infectious disease.

I’ve just returned from South Africa with a connection through Amsterdam, Netherlands. While this is far from West Africa, I saw a system of health and customs officials on high alert looking for ill passengers, passenger screenings using temperature monitors at airports and health advisories in airports to inform passengers how to protect themselves. What I saw, in fact, was a responsive, competent public health approach at work.

Preventing travel from affected countries is an inadequate measure. Not only do we need to ensure rapid passage of people in and out of the area for response purposes, but we also need to ensure the continued flow of supplies desperately needed to address the outbreak at its source, which is the best way to break the chain of infection. With the number of people passing through airports all over the world, identifying those who could have come into contact with people from affected countries is an impossible task. Multiply this by the number of connecting flights through European or other international hubs and it becomes even harder.

While we are appropriately worried about Ebola, enterovirus-68 has sickened more than 628 people in 44 states and the District of Columbia, a severe coronavirus – the Middle East respiratory syndrome – is circulating in the Middle East and chikungunya virus has entered our country. We have many significant biological threats, and they are all managed best through proven public health measures.

I have yet to hear calls to quarantine our borders between states while these serious diseases are already here because such a measure, of course, would be ineffective. Sound disease surveillance, case finding, monitoring and treatment is the appropriate approach. Ebola, although highly lethal, can be managed using these proven methods. We know its epidemiology, its biology and how to defeat it.

A strong, well-developed and adequately funded public health system is the key to containing Ebola and all of these other infectious threats. Unfortunately, ongoing budget cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies continue to put a strain on resources. Policymakers who want to be part of the solution need only to support ensuring our public health system is adequately funded and allowed to do its job.

Yes, we should screen travelers, but restricting travel is not the solution. A focused, robust and science-based public health response is.

 

By: Georges Benjamin, M.D., Executive Director, American Public Health Association; Publisher, Control of Communicable Diseases Manuel; Debate Club, U. S. News and World Report, October 10, 2014

October 13, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Ebola, Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: