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Monday, March 21, 2016

Cruising the Web

Think of the Cuban dissidents who have had to suffer because President Obama wanted to visit Cuba. USA Today reports,
ust hours before President Obama landed Sunday in Cuba for his historic visit to the communist island, Cuban authorities arrested more than 50 dissidents who were marching to demand improved human rights.

Members of the group, known as the Ladies in White, are used to the routine. They march each Sunday after Mass at a church in a suburb of Havana called Miramar and usually get arrested and detained for hours or days.

Some in the group thought Cuban authorities would back off this Sunday out of respect for Obama's visit. Berta Soler, one of the founding members who has been marching since 2003, said while walking to the church Sunday morning that maybe they would be allowed to protest without getting arrested.

"Everything looks good so far," she said.

Despite dozens of international reporters in town for Obama's trip, the group was quickly rounded up in buses and police cars.
Oh, what a surprise. Obama granted Cuba recognition without negotiating for anything substantive in return. And so we are seeing Cuba continue its standard treatment of dissidents.
Obama is expected to embrace those changes during his trip, but the issue of human rights has been the most difficult negotiating point leading up to his visit. Secretary of State John Kerry was supposed to visit the island ahead of Obama's trip but canceled because of disagreements over whom he could meet with.

The White House has said that Obama will meet with a group of dissidents on Tuesday, but several have said they're unsure whether they'll be able to attend.

Guillermo Farinas, a leading voice in Cuba's civil rights movement who is part of the group that could meet Obama, is camped out at a friend's house this week because he said Cuban authorities have ordered him to be on house arrest. He said many other dissidents like him are being blockaded in their homes ahead of Obama's visit. Because of that, he said Obama has a "moral responsibility" to strongly criticize Cuba's human rights record and push the government to improve before the U.S. further expands its relationship with Cuba.
The NYT reports on the arrest of dissidents ahead of Obama's visit.
Mr. Sánchez, who spends much of his time tracking the kinds of detentions he was subjected to on Saturday, said the government had also intensified its campaign of intimidation, making more than 1,000 arrests each month in the run-up to Mr. Obama’s visit. In the first two weeks of March, there were 526 detentions, he said.

Generally, people are held for a few hours — for printing fliers, for staging a protest in the street, or if the authorities suspect they plan to protest in the street, Mr. Sánchez said. But he and other opponents of the government said Mr. Obama’s visit had set in motion a broader campaign to keep people in line.

“Right now what you see is preventive repression, so it does not occur to anyone to say anything to Obama while he is here,” he said. (Links via Hot Air)
This is typical behavior by the Cuban government before a very public visit.
The White House has said Obama would meet with dissidents and members of civil society of his choosing. White House officials bristled at the suggestion that Cuban authorities might try to impose limits.

But it appears that Cuba has resorted to a common technique, briefly detaining dissidents or ordering an ad hoc house arrest to prevent them from reaching meetings with visiting dignitaries. Several reported being subject to the same treatment ahead of Pope Francis’ arrival last year.

Sanchez was detained Saturday at the Havana airport upon returning from Miami with his wife. He said he is used to such treatment and was soon released.

“The threatening and detention of government critics prior to visits by foreign leaders has been standard practice in Cuba for years,” said Jose Miguel Vivanco, head of the Americas section for Human Rights Watch.
We'll see how much attention Obama truly pays to such behavior, especially after he leaves. Indications are that the treatment of dissidents hasn't changed, except symbolically, since Obama's overtures to Cuba.
uman Rights Watch said the situation for civil rights activists has not improved since the rapprochement began between Obama and Raúl Castro. They noted that during Pope Francis’s visit to the island last September, police detained between 100 and 150 dissidents. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported more than 8,500 cases of arbitrary detention in 2015, and more than 2,500 in the first two months of 2016.

Democracy activists in the one-party state are pushing for a range of reforms, including free elections, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and an end to repression of activists. They want Obama to lobby on their behalf.

US officials say the president, who will meet civil rights activists and give a speech on Tuesday, is not in Havana to make demands, but to encourage reforms that have already begun, particularly in the area of economic liberalisation. However, they say he will talk candidly about human rights and the need for participation in decision making.
I'm not saying that I'm opposed to regularization of relations with Cuba, but Obama could have gotten a lot more before just determining to go forward. It is rather like his deal with Iran - his desire for a big splashy deal overrode the importance of negotiating more concessions. He should listen to the what the dissidents are saying.
“We Cubans know what to do but we can’t do it alone because the Cuban government has weapons, and they are willing to use them – as we saw with the murder of my father,” Payá said. “We need the support of the international community.”

Before his detention, Rodiles argued Obama should stress political freedom and insist that the government in Havana ratify the United Nations Covenant on Human Rights.

“Raúl Castro has said he will move aside in 2018 and this has created the expectation of elections. But the real transfer is taking place right now so by the time Castro steps down, power will have already switched,” he said. “How can there be a proper referendum without freedom of expression, without access to a free TV and a free press? They will never allow me to go on television and debate the issues.”

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Donald Trump, in his typical immature fashion, lashed out against Mitt Romney for being a loser. Of course. Then he attacked Romney's religion, because why not?
"I have many friends that live in Salt Lake," the Republican front-runner told the crowd. "By the way, Mitt Romney is not one of them."

"Are you sure he’s a Mormon?" Trump asked the crowd. "Are we sure?"
He might claim it's a joke, but who makes jokes like that? Trump often seems to cast doubt on the religion of those who criticize him as he did for Ben Carson. Where does Trump even come up with doubting Romney's religion? It's just bizarre. There are plenty of things to criticize Romney for, but I don't know that anyone has doubted his religious beliefs. And Trump is certainly not the guy whose own faith is without question.

But what is the percentage in insulting Romney's Mormon beliefs ahead of a primary in Utah? Or even when there is one in Tuesday in Arizona? I don't know what the Mormon turnout will be in Arizona on Tuesday, but it was 11 percent of the GOP primary in 2008. I just don't think Trump is going to play well with the Mormons. Maybe they'll fall for him like some evangelicals have, but Romney is still a very popular figure among Mormons. Trump should have stuck with making fun of Romney's 2012 campaign or Romneycare. But it is almost as if Trump just can't help himself.

As Buzzfeed reports, Mormons just don't seem to like Trump and he's done poorly in states with large populations of Mormons.
National polling data focused on Mormon voters is hard to come by, but the election results speak for themselves. Even as Trump has steamrollered his way through the GOP primaries, he has repeatedly been trounced in places with large LDS populations.

In Wyoming, the third-most-heavily Mormon state in the country, Trump was able to muster just 70 votes in the low-turnout Republican caucuses there — losing to Ted Cruz by a whopping 59 points.

In Idaho, the country’s second most Mormon state, Trump lost the primary by 18 points.

And in the Mormon mecca of Utah, the most recent primary poll has Trump in third place — more than 40 points behind Cruz and 18 points behind Kasich.

The pattern holds at the county level as well. As New York Times data journalist Nate Cohn illustrated, the larger the proportion of Mormons in a given county, the worse Trump has generally performed in the primary contest there.
The Buzzfeed article goes on to report that Mormons are more likely to reject Trump's stands on immigration and Muslims.
Trump is off-putting to Mormons for more predictable reasons as well. His blatant religious illiteracy, his penchant for onstage cursing, his habit of flinging crude insults at women, his less-than-virtuous personal life and widely chronicled marital failures — all of this is anathema to the wholesome, family-first lifestyle that Mormonism promotes. And demographically speaking, Mormons tend to reside outside Trump’s base of support anyway. They have higher-than-average education levels, whereas Trump does best among voters without any college education; they are more likely to be weekly churchgoers, while Trump performs better with Christians who attend services infrequently.

LDS voters are not a political monolith — just ask BYU’s Bernie Sanders fan club — and Trump will no doubt be cheered on by a noisy minority of supporters in the Beehive State Tuesday. But it’s difficult to imagine a Republican presidential nominee more naturally repellent to Mormons than The Donald.

In fact, a poll released Saturday by Y2 Analytics asked likely Republican caucusgoers in Utah how they would vote in the general election if Trump won the GOP nomination. Only 29% of these die-hard Republicans said they would pull the lever for Trump; 25% said they would write in another candidate, 15% said they would vote third-party, 8% said they would not cast a vote for president at all, and 7% said they would vote for the Democratic candidate.
Think of the possibility that Utah might go Democratic in a Trump-Clinton election. That's just amazing.

Kevin Williamson derides how every politician is trying to get in good with all the people out there who think that Wall Street is the source of all the nation's problems. Populism is the order of the day.
Everybody hates bankers, and they’re a hateable bunch: After making a series of insanely hubristic bets on the U.S. housing market, they created a credit crisis and helped set off an ugly recession. A few rat bastards lost their jobs, and for a couple of months the waiting list for a boat slip at the Greenwich marina went from a few hundred to a few dozen. The big banks took billions in bailout loans at sweetheart rates and used a fair bit of the subsequent profits to finance the presidential campaign of Barack Obama, with Goldman Sachs becoming the Democrats’ largest business donor in 2008.

Bernie Sanders hates Wall Street: “The business model of Wall Street,” he declares, “is fraud.” Hillary Rodham Clinton, who was paid $6,000 a minute to give speeches to Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and other Wall Street firms, threatens to break up the banks. John Kasich (R., Lehman Bros.) bemoans Wall Street’s lack of ethics and says there is “too much greed” there. Kasich was attacked for his Wall Street ties by a super PAC supporting Chris Christie — funded by the founder of SAC Capital Advisors, an investment firm that corporately pleaded guilty to insider trading and paid $1.8 billion in fines. Donald Trump, whose company went bankrupt after defaulting on its junk bonds, hates Wall Street, and that’s understandable: He owes hundreds of millions of dollars to practically every bank on the street, from Capital One and Deutsche Bank (he’s in hock at least $50 million to each, according to his financial filings) to BNY Mellon, Amboy, and UBS (between $5 million and $25 million each). Marco Rubio lambasts bankers for purportedly going around bragging about being too big to fail, Ted Cruz denounces Marco Rubio as a candidate with Wall Street Journal values, and Rand Paul blasted Ted Cruz as a pawn of Goldman Sachs, where Cruz’s wife worked. For five minutes, everybody was making a stink about the fact that Cruz took out a large loan from Goldman Sachs, until somebody (I think it might have been me) explained that Cruz’s margin loan — essentially a cash advance against investment assets on deposit with the bank — was an utterly ordinary transaction available to any old schmoe with a million or so in assets to use as collateral.
The WSJ reports on all the money that Trump owes to the banks that he criticizes.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump owes at least $250 million to banks for various real estate projects, according to his personal finance disclosure forms.
And most of the money he owes is to a German bank.
One of Donald Trump’s closest allies on Wall Street is a now-struggling German bank.

While many big banks have shunned him, Deutsche Bank AG has been a steadfast financial backer of the Republican presidential candidate’s business interests. Since 1998, the bank has led or participated in loans of at least $2.5 billion to companies affiliated with Mr. Trump, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of public records and people familiar with the matter.

That doesn’t include at least another $1 billion in loan commitments that Deutsche Bank made to Trump-affiliated entities.

The long-standing connection makes Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank, which has a large U.S. operation and has been grappling with reputational problems and an almost 50% stock-price decline, the financial institution with probably the strongest ties to the controversial New York businessman.
And of course, he's suing so that he doesn't have to pay back his loans.
In 2008, Mr. Trump failed to pay $334 million he owed on the Chicago loan because of lackluster sales of the building’s units. He then sued Deutsche Bank. His argument was that the economic crisis constituted a “force majeure”—an unforeseen event such as war or natural disaster—that should excuse the repayment until conditions improved.

His lawyers were inspired to invoke the clause after hearing former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan describe the crisis as a “once-in-a-century credit tsunami,” according to a person who worked on the case for Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump also attacked Deutsche Bank’s lending practices and said that as a big bank, it was partially responsible for causing the financial crisis. He sought $3 billion in damages.

Deutsche Bank in turn sued Mr. Trump, saying it was owed $40 million that the businessman had personally guaranteed in case his company was unable to repay the loan.

Deutsche Bank argued that Mr. Trump had a cavalier history toward banks, quoting from his 2007 book, “Think Big And Kick Ass In Business And Life.”

“I figured it was the bank’s problem, not mine,” Mr. Trump wrote, according to the lawsuit. “What the hell did I care? I actually told one bank, ‘I told you you shouldn’t have loaned me that money. I told you that goddamn deal was no good.’”

The court rejected Mr. Trump’s arguments but the suit forced Deutsche Bank to the negotiating table. The two sides agreed to settle their suits out of court in 2009. The following year, they extended the original loan by five years. It was paid off in 2012—with the help of a loan from the German firm’s private bank.
It would certainly be an interesting situation to have a president who owes so much to a foreign bank. He made fun of the loan that Ted Cruz took out from Goldman Sachs to finance his campaign. I think that Trump's loans that he sued to not pay back to Deutsche Bank might be a bigger deal by far - and not in the sense that Trump means deals.

The Washington Post has some trouble trying to figure out if Trump is lying about his position on H-1B visas because he keeps changing it.
Trump is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. He has used the H-1B program as an employer, and supports bringing talented, educated workers into the country. But he also wants to end the H-1B program because he believes it’s full of abuse. He proposes restricting the program so that the industry that most relies on it —– the tech industry — can’t use it to shut Americans out from jobs in Silicon Valley. Yet he says he supports Silicon Valley taking measures to retain talented and educated foreign workers.

We don’t know exactly what to make of his stance — and it’s unclear if Trump even knows himself. However, what unequivocally can say is that Trump deserves a handful of Upside-Down Pinocchios for his flip-floppery.

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A historian laments how little military history is taught in the nation's colleges.
War defines the United States. Domestically, it is the country’s greatest budgetary priority: $598 billion, 54 per cent of discretionary spending, in fiscal year 2015. Globally, we have more than 800 bases in some 80 countries, and spend more than the next nine nations combined. Yet academic historians, especially those at the nation’s most richly endowed research universities, largely ignore the history of the US military. This year, historians at the Ivy League schools, plus Stanford, the University of Chicago, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – who collectively offered instruction on hundreds of scintillating subjects from Puritan New England to women in the workforce – provided just six that directly examined the US military.

This is a tragedy. Knowledge is power, as Francis Bacon observed. Insofar as we neglect to study our military, we reduce our ability to understand it, and weaken ourselves.
He is so right And it's not just our universities that neglect military history. I teach both A.P. United States history and A.P. European history. For both of them, the military aspects of history are almost nonexistent. College Board is much more interested in the social, economic, political, and cultural impact of wars than to discuss how the wars were actually fought and won. In all the time I've taught A.P. U.S. History since 2002, there has only been one essay question that even touched on military history when students had to address why America won the Revolutionary War. And they didn't need to know military history to answer it. They could have talked about diplomacy and the aid of the French or social and political reasons based on how the country put together an army and a government. They could have written that the Americans had the advantage fighting on their home turf, but didn't need to know any actual battles where such knowledge would have made the difference.

And for European history, just forget about the military history of the Napoleonic Wars or the World Wars, much less more distant wars like the Thirty Years War or the other religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries. Pfft. Except for a bit on the World Wars, you would hardly know that those wars existed if you just looked at the questions asked on the test.

It really pains me because I'm interested in military history. My first year teaching American history in middle school, I soon realized that eighth-grade students, particularly the boys would sit still to learn military history. I didn't know much at the time and embarked on a crash course teaching myself about American military history so I could share stories with my students. And I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the girls enjoyed it too. So much of our nation's history has been determined by wars, that it seems such an abdication of my pedagogical responsibilities to leave that history out.

But these days when I'm trying to crowd in centuries of material to prepare my students for the test on May 6, I just don't have much time to discuss a topic that is not going to appear on the test even though I and my students enjoy it. Ignoring military history while adding in a whole new focus on environmental history is just one of the many reasons why I despise College Board.


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Paul Mirengoff looks at the possibility that Hillary Clinton will be indicted for her clearly illegal use of a private email server that contained classified information. The problem is that the FBI needs to take time to do a scrupulous investigation, but the political timeline demands that the investigation be finished as soon as possible so we don't nominate or elect someone who has committed a federal felony.
The potential problem exists even in the absence of bad faith or foot dragging by bureaucrats eager to help Clinton run out the clock. The FBI prides itself in conducting thorough investigations. It doesn’t want to be less than exhaustive when conducting a high profile investigation of a presidential contender. Thus, it naturally will be disinclined to rush. Its inclination will be to conduct a gold-plated investigation — to dot every “i” and cross every “t.”

To make matters worse, the Justice Department is looking over the FBI’s investigation and must approve any prosecution of Clinton. Here’s where the possibility of bad faith compounds the problem.

Justice Department lawyers can drag the process out by constantly asking new questions. The questions may be of interest; they may even be one’s the FBI would answer if time were not of the essence. But answering them might well be unnecessary for purposes of determining whether Clinton violated the Espionage Act.

In any complex investigation, there are always loose ends. Attempting to tie them all up can tie an investigative agency in knots.

Given the need to determine sooner rather than later whether Hillary Clinton is a felon, it would be tragic if the FBI tied itself in knots going down every bunny trail associated with this matter. The perfect should not become the enemy of the good in an investigation of this urgency.

Yet there is reason to fear that it might.

Donald Trump is rather disturbingly focused on Megyn Kelly. He keeps tweeting about her show and now calls her "Crazy Megyn" even as he criticizes her. Mediate tries to explain to Trump that the purpose of a news organization is, contrary to all appearances, to pump up his campaign. They're supposed to be tough on all candidates.
Lastly, and this is the most crucial part, if Trump so hates and despises Kelly, and has tweeted several different times that people should boycott her show, why in God’s name does he still watch? He tweets about her show so much, it’s clear he keeps watching. Why? That’s just weird. Is it a “keep your eye on your enemies” kind of thing?

I mean, it’s possible that Trump is just an unapologetic media whore who loves to hear people talk about him, even in a negative context, and he only gets mad for the sake of attention, but that would be insane behavior from someone who wants to be President of the United States, right?

Right?
Fox is sick of his behavior.
Donald Trump’s vitriolic attacks against Megyn Kelly and his extreme, sick obsession with her is beneath the dignity of a presidential candidate who wants to occupy the highest office in the land. Megyn is an exemplary journalist and one of the leading anchors in America — we’re extremely proud of her phenomenal work and continue to fully support her throughout every day of Trump’s endless barrage of crude and sexist verbal assaults. As the mother of three young children, with a successful law career and the second highest rated show in cable news, it’s especially deplorable for her to be repeatedly abused just for doing her job.
Sonny Bunch of The Free Beacon ponders Donald Trump's use of the word "riots" to refer to the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests that led to hundreds or more people being killed. As Bunch notes, these are never called riots. They were peaceful protests that the CHinese gunned down. But in Trump's view, they were riots and the Chinese put them down with "strength."
Now, I’m sure Donald Trump hasn’t given much thought to his locution, because I don’t think Donald Trump takes a great deal of time to think about human rights. It’s not really his bag. But I do think it’s a telling one. And one that actually scares me a bit. As I’ve noted elsewhere, Trump thrives on conflict—leftist protestors and rightwing media alike are just as likely to suffer attacks. He doesn’t know how to deescalate, nor does he really want to. All that happens when he heightens tensions—when he tells people at his rallies that he wants to punch protestors [sic]; when he yearns for a better time when agitators left on stretchers; when he tells his supporters that he’ll pay for their legal bills if they fight back on his behalf; when one of his supporters sucker-punches a protestor and doesn’t earn a proper rebuke; when he praises a staffer who assaults a friendly journalist; when one of his rallies is shut down by aggressive leftist protestors; when he threatens riots if the GOP doesn’t hand him the nomination at the convention—is that he goes up in the polls.

And that’s, honestly, what concerns me the most about a Trump presidency.

Look: I imagine that he’ll govern similarly to Hillary Clinton, Great Wall of Trump and disastrous trade wars aside. He’ll keep Obamacare in place and do little to solve the entitlement crisis headed our way while doing nothing to shrink the size of government elsewhere. Maybe the judges he’d pick for the Supreme Court would be better, who knows. He doesn’t, like, have a track record on the issue.

That being said, a Trump presidency is almost certain to spark protest movements the likes of which we haven’t seen since the start of the Iraq War. People in the streets, marching, shouting, whatever. Not really making a difference, of course, but certainly making themselves feel better. In other words: doing something altogether American! What I fear about a Trump presidency is how he will respond to these movements. Does anyone doubt that he’ll take them as a personal affront? That he’ll use the slightest pretext to send in armed forces to “maintain order”? That he’ll escalate in the hopes of using televised division to solidify his support? That he’ll be more than happy to use violence against American protestors on a scale unlike what we’ve seen in living memory? That he sees China’s “strength” during the “Tiananmen Square riots” as an example to emulate rather than an action to be abhorred?

That’s not a chance I’m particularly interested in taking, thanks.

This is the sad situation of young blacks growing up in fatherless homes in America.
A 17-year-old Miami teen named Trevon Johnson, a student at D. A. Dorsey Technical College, was shot and killed by a female homeowner who encountered him after he had broken into her house.

But Johnson’s relatives were very upset, saying he didn’t deserve it. As his cousin Nautika Harris commented, “I don’t care if she have her gun license or any of that. That is way beyond the law - way beyond.”

She also said – and this is the quote that is so shocking – “You have to look at it from every child’s point of view that was raised in the hood. You have to understand… how he going to get his money to have clothes to go to school? You have to look at it from his point-of-view.”

What a tragic indictment on the state of America in 2016.

Can you imagine another time in our history when words like this could have been spoken? And has there been anything quite like “the hood” that this woman describes, a place where the family is so shattered that burglary is considered a natural way for a child to get money for his school clothes?

3 comments:

mark said...

Who makes jokes like that?

Actually, a lot of repubs have made jokes like that.
Rick Perry said it was fun "to poke" at Obama regarding his birthplace and religion. Ironic that Perry and Romney and others played along with Trump when it served them. Not so much now.


http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2011/10/25/perry-on-obama-its-fun-to-poke-at-him/

Suvy Boyina said...

It's not just military history, but financial history and other kinds of history. The problem is this Marxist bullshit that's taken over so many humanities and social science classrooms. I've read a lot of Marx and I've gotta say that Marx is an idiot. I don't get how anyone could look at that guy and call him intelligent. He contradicts himself repeatedly (I've read Volume I of Capital and half of Volume II, it's a completely useless piece of filth that's completely useless for today's world).

I'm actually really glad I spent an entire summer getting a general overview of world history. I frequent the blog of a scholar whom I deeply respect (his name is Michael Pettis and his blog is called China's Financial Markets, he's a former Wall Street veteran who's now a American professor at Peking University) and he told me to read every single financial history book I could get my hands on. I decided to take his advice. It was one of the best things I ever did. The thing about financial history is that there's a lot of overlap with military history because finance must be mobilized to fight the war. I'm actually of the opinion that wars are won, more often than not, due to financial systems than they are due to pure military prowess alone. Alexander Hamilton actually recognized this, which is why he's probably my favorite person and character in American history.

Suvy Boyina said...

In high school, I don't know why I didn't like history. I think it may have been the way it was taught or something. I'm not quite sure. I always felt like there was lots of memorization and I think that much of the way history is taught in school today really turns people off from wanting to really dig into it. Now, I love history. I've got more history books (in the hundreds) than books of any other kind (it's not close). Hell, I've got more history books than math books. If I just look through the books laying around in my room, I can see at least 40-50 history books laying around. If you told me I'd have this kind of interest in history 5 years ago, I'd laugh at you. History is exciting. The way it's taught in school always came off to me as boring.

It's really sad that the College Board doesn't discuss military history at all. I feel like what usually determines what ends up happening is who's got the money and the guns. Guns allow you to blow people up and kick ass, but if you have guns and no money, some guy can win via a war of attrition (ex. the British Empire in both the Napoleonic Wars and the Great Game or the US in the Cold War or many other examples).