Obama to Lift Cuba Travel Restriction


Following in Jimmy Carter’s footsteps in yet another way, President Obama plans to lift travel restrictions to Cuba. In as far as it goes, this is a good thing. Unfortunately, Obama apparently doesn’t plan to call for an end to the U.S. trade embargo.


Following in Jimmy Carter’s footsteps in yet another way, President Obama plans to lift travel restrictions to Cuba.

President Barack Obama plans to lift longstanding U.S. restrictions on Cuba, a senior administration official said, allowing Cuban-Americans to visit families there as often as they like and to send them unlimited funds.

The gesture, which could herald more openness with the Castro regime, will fulfill a campaign promise and follows more modest action in Congress this year to loosen travel rules.

In as far as it goes, this is a good thing.  I can think of no worthwhile reason for the U.S. to restrict travel to and from Cuba, nor of any strategic objective that is served by keeping the country isolated and dirt poor.

Unfortunately, Obama apparently doesn’t plan to call for an end to the trade embargo with the island nation, site of President Kennedy’s abortive Bay of Pigs coup attempt.

Reaction to the expected policy shift was mixed. “The status quo has been unnatural and immoral,” said Julia Sweig, a Cuba specialist at the Council on Foreign Relations. “This will at least allow families to begin to normalize, if not the two countries.”

Some Cuban-American circles have pressed to maintain U.S. restrictions because of their antipathy for Fidel Castro and his brother, Raul, who replaced him as leader after Fidel became ill. “How do you help people speak out about human rights violations if you’re basically extending the dictatorship abroad?” said Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of U.S. Cuba Democracy PAC.

I hate to point it out, Mauricio, but the Castro boys have been in power for over 50 years.  Many countries have come and gone in shorter time spans. 

The fact that Fidel Castro and his ilk have held a nation hostage so close to U.S. borders is galling, certainly.  But it’s time to accept that this thing has happened in Cuba and move on, even if it means that Cuban-Americans have to accept that there’s not going to be a triumphant return home at the fall of the dictatorship.

There is also the question of whether flow of trade with Cuba would be more or less likely to lead to economic and governmental reforms there.  I think it opens the door to change because a people starved for trade and prosperity will demand it once it becomes possible. 

The Greatest Killer of All

Jobsanger, the Texas Liberal’s guest writer, says that religion was what killed 300+ Muslims – and an uncounted number of Christians – in Nigeria over the weekend.  The Nigerian conflict has been going on for some time and is at its core, as Jobsanger says, a religious war.  Religions have been the source of fighting back to the beginnings of civilization.  Surely if we did away with religion the world would be a safer, happier place, right?

Even a casual student of history can tell you the answer to that question is a resounding, "No!".  While the absence of Islam from the world would do wonders for peace, love, and understanding between different cultures at the moment, it’s a horrible mistake to believe that religion is the root of what’s wrong with mankind.

One need look no farther than our Russian friends to see an example of the ultimate evil.  Communism is to-date the world’s greatest killer, whether measured in terms of murders committed in communist regimes, the number of souls destroyed, or in the sheer loss of human potential.

Absolute equality, the endgame of communism and watered-down derivatives like socialism and liberalism, can only be achieved when those who strive to achieve, excel, and soar above the ordinary and mundane are brought down to the level of the dullard, the bully, and the jack-booted thug.  This has been demonstrated in country after country around the globe.  Similarly, witness the abject failure of Islam to create civilized, prosperous societies for its adherents.

I have often written that Islam is a cruel, backwards religion and political system that must be opposed by all people of good conscience because of its fascist tendencies, hatred of democracy, denial of women’s rights, and its agenda of world domination.  I still believe that is true.

But if we’re going to have a real discussion about governmental philosophies then secularists are going to have to explain the genocides that ultra-secular communist and fascist governments administered during the 20th century.

Nations that have renounced God have a track record of being far more cruel and barbarous that even the worst Islamic hell hole in the Middle East.  Anyone remember the Killing Fields of Cambodia, as one example?

One possible exception to this rule is that of post-Nazi Europe.  Many European nations that were built on the foundation of Roman Catholic Christianity are now very secular, with numbers of self-reported Christians well below 50%.

Modern Europe is also a largely secular, pacifist society at the moment and serves as an inspiration to American liberals of how a secular, socialistic society should be ordered.

There’s only one small problem with Europe’s model: it’s dying.  Europeans, comfortable in their government-provided lifestyles, simply aren’t reproducing.  Birth rates are so low in Spain and Italy, for example, that populations will actually fall because not enough love is being made.  Europe is committing cultural suicide by not perpetuating its society to future generations.  Furthermore, they have gotten into the bad habit of supplementing the work force by importing Muslim immigrants by the millions.  These immigrants aren’t shy about reproducing their Islamic roots in Europe – they have more than twice as many children per capita as indigenous Europeans.  Net-net, modern, secular Europe is no model to follow, any more than Soviet or Nazi totalitarianism was.

Jobsanger says:

There are millions in America who would love to force others to accept their beliefs, even to the point of violence.

Really?  Where does this number come from?  None of the Christians I know in the United States have the slightest interest in forcing Jobsanger or anyone else to follow Jesus.  Don’t get me wrong – we’d like it if more people did accept Christ and we’d like American national morals to be improved upon using Jesus as a go-by.  But Jobsanger’s statement is unsubstantiated precisely because it is untrue.  There is no presently no threat whatsoever of religious civil war in this country.

Granted, that could change if America’s demographics shift to become more like those of Nigeria.  But that would say more about the predilection of followers of Islam to create conflict than those of the Christians who founded this country and have lived in an orderly, wealthy, peaceful American for more than 230 years, would it not?

Solzhenitsyn Dead, Lessons Remain

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, author of The Gulag Archipelago, has died at the age of 89.  Happily he lived to see the end of the Soviet regime that his books excoriated. Dry stuff, for those who haven’t read him, but his books revealed horrors that, by the end of Gulag, became completely banal as a result of their commonness.

It should be understood that the gulags Solzhenitsyn wrote about were the inevitable result of the concentration of power into the hands of a few.  It’s a lesson that we would do well to remember in a time in which an American president is unwisely taking the first steps down the road to a dictatorial executive office.

While a monopoly on power can and often does prove effective at achieving a set of goals in the short run, the good cannot last.  As George Paloczi-Horvath described in The Undefeated, the good achieved by first-generation leaders in such a system is usually undone by the corruption of those that follow, just as Lenin’s achievements, such as they were, were obliterated by the terror of Stalin and his 5 year plans.

While Solzhenitsyn was skeptical of western democracy, it remains the best system for ensuring that governmental actions conform to the public’s will.

The Left’s Pathological Fear of Reality

Lately some on the left have been working hard at revising downward Ronald Reagan’s legacy of ending the Cold War and creating the opportunity, since lost, for the first period of extended peace since WW II.  The Soviet Union, Kathy says, was never a threat at all.  In fact, the U.S. was the antagonist all the while. 

Ronald Reagan did not “win” the Cold War. If any one person can be credited with bringing the Cold War to an end, that person was Mikhail Gorbachev.

It’s true that the Soviet Union fell in large part because it was bankrupted by 40 years of the most unprecedented arms buildup in human history, but that’s nothing the United States should take pride in…

During the lead-in to Myth Busters, my kids’ favorite TV show, Adam Savage jokes that he rejects our reality and substitutes his own.  This would be a nice bit of juxtaposition, were it possible for mere mortals.  Yet it’s both possible and fashionable, in certain circles, to reject the reality of the past and substitute one’s own neo-liberal anti-Americanism in its place.

More from Kathy:

The entire Cold War was premised on two false beliefs: one, that the Soviet Union had a military arsenal equal or superior to our own, so that we always had to “catch up”; and two, that the Soviet government had global expansionist ambitions, and was willing to launch a first strike on the United States to achieve those ambitions. In fact, the Soviets were convinced that the U.S. government was planning to launch a first strike on them.

Referring to my admittedly shaky memory of history lessons long since learned, it seems to me that the Soviet Union overran, occupied, and ruled all of Eastern Europe for 4 decades after WW II.  The Soviets also agitated for and funded communist takeovers around the world, notably in Southeast Asia, the site of two wars against communist expansion.  The Soviets also helped fund and supply the Chinese communists in their fight against that country’s Nationalist government and worked closely with Mao for number of years after his victory.

It’s possible that the Soviet Union believed that the United States might preemptively strike out with it’s nuclear arsenal.  Possible, barely, but not rational.  Then again, Stalin, a man directly responsible for the murder and torture of hundreds of thousands of his own people, was hardly sane.  His megalomaniacal paranoia probably fueled the Cold War more than any other single factor.  The Soviet Union was formed in his image, according to his 5-year-plans, to be a democracy killing machine.

Even so it’s quite likely that most Soviet leaders understood that their country was in no danger of being attacked by the United States.  This had to become painfully obvious during the Vietnam era in which the U.S. was unable to pacify a tiny, poverty-stricken nation despite massive troop and equipment expenditures.  Invading the Soviet Union was impossible, nuclear war unthinkable save in response.  And the Soviets surely knew that.  Claiming otherwise is an attempt to subvert reality.

Yet minimizing Reagan’s accomplishment is essential if the left is to discredit current efforts to confront Islamic terrorism.  It’s therefore both a blessing and a curse when Barack Obama says things like this:

…the Soviet Union had thousands of nuclear weapons, and Iran doesn’t have a single one. But when the world was on the brink of nuclear holocaust, Kennedy talked to Khrushchev and he got those missiles out of Cuba. Why shouldn’t we have the same courage and the confidence to talk to our enemies?

The Soviet Union was a grave threat to the freedom of this nation as well as many others.  Those countries like Great Britain often had an even greater understanding and fear of the Soviets’ intentions.  Reagan’s push to break the Soviets’ economy was the right approach at the right time, as the results demonstrate.  Revisionist history should not try to alter that fact.

Neither should the lesson be lost on the left, as unpleasant as it may be to accept.  When dealing with enemies whose ideology demands the conquest of free people it is vitally important that we understand that they cannot be reasoned with on our terms.  Individual rights, economic opportunity, and social freedom mean nothing to Islamic terrorists, just as they meant nothing to the Soviet leadership who had already acquired those things for themselves.  From what position are we then to negotiate with the likes of Iran?  The only chip in our hands is to absent ourselves from their region of the world, something that would be a disaster for Israel and the world energy market.

Very few Americans are interested in pursuing war for war’s sake, whether conservative or liberal.  If an opportunity exists to establish a kind of peace with Iran we should investigate it.  But if the cost of such an agreement is the surrender of Israel, the one fully functioning nation in the Middle East, to the mullahs in Tehran then it’s an unacceptable trade. 

Every U.S. president from Truman to Bush 43, with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter, understood that America’s military strength helped to keep the peace more than it encouraged war.  Fantasies about disarming so that terrorists and the nations, like Iran, that sponsor them will feel secure enough to lay down their arms are just that – fantasies.

Taiwan to Seek U.N. Membership

Taiwan’s March 2008 referendum will evidently take place without much support from the United States.  Per the BBC:

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Washington is strongly opposed to Taiwan’s plan for a referendum on United Nations membership.

Ms Rice said applying to the UN in the name of “Taiwan” was a “provocative policy” – it raised tensions in the Taiwan Strait “unnecessarily”.

Taiwan has failed to join the UN under its formal name, Republic of China.

Beijing regards Taiwan as its territory and has blocked its bid to regain a UN membership the island lost in 1971.

It’s a sad thing to see one’s country fail to honor a friend and ally, even if circumstances make it seem necessary.


Communist China has claimed sovereignty over democratic Taiwan since the Chinese civil war ended in 1949, and Beijing has threatened to use force if the island formally declares statehood.

Obviously the U.S. is not in much of a position to help Taiwan militarily even if we were so inclined.  Are we?  I doubt it.  Even our obligations are unclear:

Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, recognizing “one China,” but remains Taiwan’s biggest ally and is obliged by the Taiwan Relations Act to help the island defend itself.

Ah, another glorious artifact of the Carter years.  I simply cannot understand so-called progressives’ mad desire to return to the glory days of military, political, and economic disaster their last president watched over.  But be that as it may…

In the present it certainly seems clear that the U.S. ought to back Taiwan’s bid for independence on principle alone.  The right to self-determination is, at both a personal and national levels, the most fundamental of all rights and the one on which the U.S. was founded.  I would have thought our president would have understood that.

After 60 years of living in the shadow of Communist China, Taiwan deserves to choose its own destiny with the support of all free people, President  Bush’s opinion notwithstanding, and without the brandishing of weapons on the part of its gargantuan, bellicose, bullying neighbor to the west.

Chavez Shot Down


The Venezuelan people emerged victorious after the referendum that would have granted President Hugo Chavez vast powers to further the conversion of the South American nation’s economy into full-fledged socialism.

In Caracas, Valencia, Maracaibo and other major cities, large crowds spilled into the streets, shouting, chanting, clapping and waving flags. One man carried a sign proclaiming, “Vota No,” which by Monday was more an exclamation than an imperative after voters the day before dismissed 69 proposed amendments to Venezuela’s 1999 constitution.

Chavez refuses to accept defeat gracefully, however, saying that he will keep pushing his agenda until voters get tired of rejecting him.

“Not a single comma of this proposal will be withdrawn,” he said, holding up a small red book containing the text of the proposed changes. “I will continue proposing this to the Venezuelan people. The proposal is alive, not dead.”

One of the more controversial proposed amendments would have abolished term limits, allowing Chavez to hold office indefinitely as long as he is re-elected.

The 53-year-old Venezuelan president, who was elected in 1998 as the country’s youngest-ever president, has twice been re-elected by large margins. However, the present law prohibits Chavez from seeking re-election when his term ends in 2012.

Another amendment on the ballot would have pushed the country more toward socialism. Chavez has said he should have full authority over the autonomous Central Bank as well as the nation’s economic policy. These measures, Chavez has said, are necessary to move the economy toward socialism.

The measures are indeed necessary because, as we’ve now seen, the Venezuelan people are not convinced that implementing an economic system that has failed miserably in every country in which it’s been tried is a good idea.  And some of them are smart enough to recognize that today’s triumph is not the end of the battle.

Many of Monday’s revelers were university students who had worked doggedly to defeat the proposals. They burst into singing the national anthem upon hearing news that their efforts paid off.

“This is not a moment only for students; it is for the whole country,” student Juan Andres Mejia said. “It’s time for us to start walking the same path to walking together, and I think this day could be the start of a new republic of a new Venezuela.”

It could be; however, that does not seem likely.  Chavez will undoubtedly cling to power and use his position to implement his ideas piecemeal now that the wholesale approach has been turned back. 

Indeed, one wonders if Chavez will now govern the country to the best of his ability given the outcome of the vote or if, like a dirty prize fighter betting the wrong way, he will take a dive in order to get a bit of payback out of those who voted against him.  A functioning economy creates no need for his preferred type of government.  Might he deliberately create circumstances in which the people find his kind of help appealing enough to pawn their freedom?

As of now there is no overt reason to think so.  Yet one thing is certain:  Venezuelans cannot afford to take more than a brief moment to enjoy the freedom they still enjoy before becoming vigilant once more.

Shove Off, Chavez


Not long ago the NY Times wrote about Hugo Chavez’s “extraordinary experiment” in oil-fueled socialism thusly:

In two weeks, Venezuela seems likely to start an extraordinary experiment in centralized, oil-fueled socialism. By law, the workday would be cut to six hours. Street vendors, homemakers and maids would have state-mandated pensions. And President Hugo Chávez would have significantly enhanced powers and be eligible for re-election for the rest of his life.

A sweeping revision of the Constitution, expected to be approved by referendum on Dec. 2, is both bolstering Mr. Chávez’s popularity here among people who would benefit and stirring contempt from economists who declare it demagogy.

That popularity, referred to by many other papers and web sites and undoubtedly boosted by the inevitable human response to the promise of free stuff, seemed undeniable and undefeatable.

Yet today that seems to have changed as over a hundred thousand protesters came out of the shadows to demonstrate against the sweeping consolidation of power that Chavez proposes to make his legacy to Venezuela.

The crowds gathered in Caracas oppose the planned changes, which include the removal of presidential term limits.

They accuse Mr Chavez of a power grab but supporters say the changes will deepen Venezuela’s democracy.

It is the latest in a series of student-led rallies, ahead of the “yes” campaign’s final march on Friday.

However, correspondents say the “no” campaign is gaining force.

No official crowd estimates were available but an opposition politician put the figure at about 160,000.

What do the student protesters want?

One female demonstrator told the BBC: “Although I don’t think that all the things that President Chavez has done are bad… I don’t like when the government imposes things.”

The students say they want the referendum postponed to give voters more time to study the plans.

The Chavez government isn’t interested in their opinion, nor does it want the voters to study the plans or think too much about the long-term negatives of a socialist economy.

…the government has described the demonstrations as an opposition effort to destabilise the country ahead of the referendum on 2 December.

Earlier this month troops used tear gas and water cannon to disperse a rally, and last week gunmen opened fire on a peaceful protest march.

Students preparing to march from the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas were undeterred, and said they would do all they could to defeat the referendum.

Good for them.  While I hope that none of them are maimed or killed for opposing the megalomaniacal Chavez, it’s necessary for them to inject their views into the debate now, while there’s still a slim chance of affecting the outcome.

On a fortune cookie I recently received the following was inscribed:

It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end

I think the cookie maker must have had some insight into Venezuelan politics.

Venezuelans Queue Up for Food


Reuters reports that the inevitable result of market price controls has occurred in Venezuela:

Venezuelan consumers are increasingly facing periodic shortages of basic food products as the economy shows signs of overheating amid record revenues from an oil boom.

The shortages have increased skepticism of Chavez’s economic policies and provided a political backdrop to campaigning this month for a referendum on a new constitution that he says is needed to make Venezuela a socialist state.

Businesses say price controls on staple foods are so low they discourage investment and force stores to sell at a loss.

The result?

Venezuelan construction worker Gustavo Arteaga has no trouble finding jobs in this OPEC nation’s booming economy, but on a recent Monday morning he skipped work as part of a more complicated search — for milk.

The 37-year-old father-of-two has for months scrambled to find basic products like cooking oil, beef and milk, despite leftist President Hugo Chavez’s social program that promises to provide low-cost groceries to the majority poor.

"It takes a miracle to find milk," said Arteaga, who spent two hours in line outside a store in the poor Caracas neighborhood of Eucaliptus. "Don’t you see I’m here slaving away to see if I can get even one or two of those (containers)?"

Of course Chavez’s cronies blame everyone and everything except for their own foolish policies:

The government says the problem is caused by growing demand by poor citizens who benefit from social programs, exaggerated media hype and food hoarding by unscrupulous businesses.

Supermarket shelves remain stocked with aged whiskey and imported wine, but for up to 25 percent of staple food products this year supplies have been irregular, according to public opinion and economic research group Datanalisis.

The group says Venezuelans waste several hours a week trawling for food. Retailers ration their supplies, and some even stamp customers’ hands so they do not line up twice.

Strange, it’s almost like the lessons that most of the world learned from the failure of the Soviets and the rest of their Communist Bloc have been lost on Mr. Chavez.

The last ninety years of Communism summed up:  Force someone to sell a product of at a price that’s less than what it takes them to make it and they’ll stop producing.