Friday, December 19, 2014

Cruising the Web

The Washington Post explains pretty clearly what was wrong with the President's gift to the Castro regime.
Mr. Obama argued that his sweeping change of policy was overdue because the strategy of isolating the Communist regime “has had little effect.” In fact, Cuba has been marginalized in the Americas for decades, and the regime has been deprived of financial resources it could have used to spread its malignant influence in the region, as Venezuela has done. That the embargo has not succeeded in destroying communism does not explain why all sanctions should be lifted without any meaningful political concessions by Cuba.

U.S. officials said the regime agreed to release 53 political prisoners and allow more access to the Internet. But Raúl Castro promised four years ago to release all political prisoners, so the White House has purchased the same horse already sold to the Vatican and Spain.

The administration says its move will transform relations with Latin America, but that is naive. Countries that previously demanded an end to U.S. sanctions on Cuba will not now look to Havana for reforms; instead, they will press the Obama administration not to sanction Venezuela. Mr. Obama says normalizing relations will allow the United States to be more effective in promoting political change in Cuba. That is contrary to U.S. experience with Communist regimes such as Vietnam, where normalization has led to no improvements on human rights in two decades. Moreover, nothing in Mr. Obama’s record of lukewarm and inconstant support for democratic change across the globe can give Ms. Sánchez and her fellow freedom fighters confidence in this promise.

The Vietnam outcome is what the Castros are counting on: a flood of U.S. tourists and business investment that will allow the regime to maintain its totalitarian system indefinitely. Mr. Obama may claim that he has dismantled a 50-year-old failed policy; what he has really done is give a 50-year-old failed regime a new lease on life.

Sean Davis explains why the whole idea that free trade will lead to freedom for Cubans is a total fantasy.
Cuba’s economy is not normal by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it actually has two economies: the dollar economy, and the peso economy. Americans who are allowed to visit get to participate in the dollar economy, and only the dollar economy. Cubans who live there are required to participate in the peso economy, and only the peso economy. The markets are completely segregated.

So, when an American goes down there, he buys things with either the dollar, or the Cuban version of the dollar (CUC), which generally has a 1:1 conversion ratio. Cubans are forced to use only the peso (CUP), which has roughly a 25:1 conversion ratio to the dollar (for every 25 CUP, you get one dollar; or for every 1 CUP, you get about $0.04). That rate is set by the Cuban government. That leaves Cuban vendors who accept dollars with only two ways of using those dollars to get the things they need to survive: 1) purchase them on the black market using dollars, a risky proposition for obvious reasons, or 2) exchange the dollars for CUP.

There’s no trading the CUP on the open currency market. Apart from sentimental souvenir value, it’s worthless everywhere else in the world. Whenever a Cuban gets his hand on a dollar, he either has to put himself at risk by using it on the black market, or he has to turn the dollar into the government in order to receive a pittance which he can use to buy food for his family.

The Cuban government, in turn, has two ways of screwing its people out of their hard-earned money: 1) it can either tax them to death, or 2) it can just manipulate its exchange rate, a way to effectively tax them to death. Different means, same ends. Cuba’s communist, after all, and communism is not a system that has ever put the welfare of its people ahead of the welfare of its rulers.

The result of the Cuban two-currency economy — one of which is forbidden to its people — is that every dollar will eventually find its way into the hands of the Cuban government. Since their internal currency, the CUP, is worthless, it’s not like they can just exchange it for dollars on the open market, like most other countries do. No, if the Cuban government wants dollars and the wealth that comes with them, it has to import them. And more dollars don’t mean more prosperity for the people of Cuba; more dollars means more wealth and power concentrated in the hands of Cuba’s communist regime.

As Charles Lane explains why Obama traded our trump card for a pig in a poke.
Raúl Castro can live with that. He knows that when the hoopla over this week’s big policy move is over, when Obama has finished collecting kudos from foreign policy mavens who have been clamoring for a more “rational” U.S. Cuba policy, Obama and most of the rest of official Washington will move on to other things.

Meanwhile, Castro and his fellow military officers will remain in firm control of the political and economic levers of power in Cuba, including the little things — jobs, visas, building permits, export and import licenses, court cases — that really determine whether and how Cubans and Americans get to interact and how much freedom seeps in to the deeply traumatized society.

Castro can look forward to dealing with second-tier U.S. diplomats, torn between their belief in democracy and the bureaucratic imperative to keep their bosses’ “engagement” project on track. When needed, a new Cuba lobby in Washington will help explain why it would be counterproductive to press Havana for immediate reform.
So when you hear people today arguing that Obama's decision will lead to benefits for the Cuban people, they don't really understand what is going on in Cuba. But then ignorance about Cuba has fueled misunderstandings among many American elites for decades.

Andrew McCarthy clarifies how Obama has given up doing anything to improve human rights in Cuba.
In other words, it has been American policy for decades – the policy Obama says does not “work” – that the United States may and should provide significant aid as long as Cuba, in return, stops terrorizing its citizens, respects basic human and civil rights, respects democratic freedoms, refrains from arming terrorists and insurrectionists, liberalizes its economy, establishes a free press, and lays the groundwork for free and fair elections.

So, if that hasn’t “worked” to encourage Cuban reform, what is the president suggesting will “work”? Giving Cuba aid and legitimacy without requiring the regime to change? Why would we want to give an American taxpayer dime to, or help legitimize in any way, a regime that rejects these basic elements of a civilized society?

And has it occurred to the media and the president’s other apologists that American law and policy have not relentlessly mandated a blockade on and isolation of Cuba for all these years? All that had to happen to eliminate the restrictions, without any congressional action, was a halt to the persecution of the Cuban people by the Castro dictatorship.

The blockade is still in place because the Castro regime will not change and therefore Obama cannot make the required representations.

So, since the dictator will not change, what will “work” is for us to change? What will “work” is to give the dictator the recognition, the legitimacy, the aid, and the trade money in exchange for no reforms?
Stephen Miller ponders the extraordinary life of President Obama's imaginary son, a child that Obama keeps mentioning whenever he feels it convenient to make some sort of statement on whatever the topic of the day is.
Once again, Barack Obama’s imaginary son has found himself unfairly in trouble with the law. If you recall, his imaginary son was also shot by an imaginary neighborhood watch guard in the same style as Trayvon Martin. But Obama’s imaginary son is plucky and resilient and has lived a hard life in the hood so he keeps bouncing back.

In his life, Obama’s imaginary son has been shot at, concussed out of football, and racially profiled. Yet he keeps picking himself up and carrying on. Obama’s imaginary son should be an example to us all. No matter what kind of imaginary circumstances we find ourselves in, we can continue on with our imaginary lives....

The President of the United States seems more comfortable citing the struggles of his imaginary son than the privileged successes of his real daughters. In truth, Obama’s son would have attended private schools in Chicago, just like his daughters. He would then be attending Sidwell Private School in DC, just like his real daughters. Obama’s imaginary son would get his pick of any college in the world, just like his real daughters. His imaginary son would then go on to any career he chose, in medicine, law, Hollywood, or Wall Street, just like his real daughters. But that doesn’t fit the divisive racial narrative — so his son lives the hard-knock life.

David Frum explains why Jeb Bush's entry into the 2016 race for the nomination is bad for Hillary. Every criticism that can be made about Bush can be made more strongly about Hillary.

Charles Krauthammer explains why fighting against lone-wolf attacks depends on defeating ISIS in the Middle East.
The first line of defense against lone wolves is, of course, protective measures: identification, tracking and preemption. But given the sheer number of the disturbed, unstable and potentially impressionable among us, and given the strictures that civil liberties have placed on prior restraint, that defensive posture can take us only so far.

The Islamic State has discovered that the projection of terror does not depend, al-Qaeda-style, on sending expeditionary cells to kill infidels abroad. It can do so long distance by inspiration, by wire, as it were. Which is why the ultimate line of defense against lone wolves is to turn the fortunes of the warrior tribes themselves, the script writers of jihad.

The great new specter is the homegrown terrorist. But he is less homegrown than we imagine. He is fed from abroad. Which is where, as ever since 9/11, the battle must be fought.

John Hinderaker notes that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee just sent out an email thanking Stephen Colbert for his TV show. That prompts a reasonable question.
I am not in favor of restricting anyone’s right to free speech, but if federal law is going to bar a businessman from contributing enough to buy more than a minimal amount of television time on behalf of his party or his candidates, why shouldn’t Stephen Colbert and Comedy Central be prohibited from airing millions of dollars worth of pro-Democratic Party propaganda?

Steven Hayward wonders what there is that we can still safely joke about without offending some group of people. He narrows it down to we can joke only about Jewish mothers and that's it. I would add that comedians can still joke about rednecks and most well-to-do white people. He includes a video of John Cleese on Bill Maher's show bemoaning what political correctness and fears of violent backlashes from Muslims has done to comedy.

If Elizabeth Warren doesn't run, progressives really have no fallback candidate. And if Hillary Clinton doesn't run, does the entire Democratic Party have a fallback candidate?

If you've been driving an electric car and feeling rather righteous about how you're protecting the environment, think again.

Timothy Carney reminds us of how some members on the left spent the Cold War preferring the Soviets to the U.S. Few might be aware now of what Edward Kennedy was doing during the Cold War.
While many Democratic politicians throughout the Cold War sought to defeat the communists, others sought to partner with them.

“In 1978," a KGB report to the Communist Party stated, "American Sen. Edward Kennedy requested the assistance of the KGB to establish a relationship” between the KGB and a firm run by Kennedy's former colleague, former Sen. John Tunney a California Democrat. During the 1980 election, as Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter in the Democratic primary, Tunney traveled to Moscow on Kennedy’s behalf to help devise a strategy to counter what he saw as Carter’s excessive bellicosity towards the USSR.

In May 1983, Kennedy sent Tunney to Moscow on a confidential mission to undermine Reagan. As a Soviet agent wrote it in a contemporaneous letter, Kennedy asked for Soviet help “to counter the militaristic politics of Reagan.”

Kennedy wanted to visit the Soviet Premier, Yuri Andropov, in order “to arm Soviet officials with explanations regarding problems of nuclear disarmament so they may be better prepared and more convincing during appearances in the USA.”

Gee, the administration is sure taking a different approach to "The Interview" and North Korea's objections to it than they took to the Mohammed video they blamed for the attack on our consulate in Benghazi. And the State Department won't apply the logic that they're using to open up relations with Cuba to opening up relations with North Korea. Or the Sudan.