pageok
pageok
pageok
Obama too far left? End the Cuba embargo? Right and Left bloggers disagree:

In this week's National Journal poll of political bloggers, the first question was: "What is your top concern in how President Obama has dealt with Congress in his first 100 days?" On the Left, 68 percent said, in effect, that he has not been strongenough with Congress -- either that he has not provided enough direction, or that he has been too accommodating. On the Right, the overwhelming vote was that Obama "has governed too much from the left."

That was my vote, along with this comment: "A bold and transformative agenda to use today's economic problems as a pretext for the federal government taking vastly greater control of American economic life."

Question 2 was "Should Congress repeal the trade embargo on Cuba this year?" One hundred percent on the Left thought so, as 35 percent on the right.

I voted No, with the explanation "Repeal if and only if repeal advocates can present a plan in which repeal can help lead to the destruction of the Castro tyranny, and the Obama administration is willing to implement the plan."

tdsj:
how about: "Maintain the embargo if and only if embargo advocates can present a plan in which it will help lead to the destruction of the Castro tyranny."
4.24.2009 1:08pm
Matthew K:

how about: "Maintain the embargo if and only if embargo advocates can present a plan in which it will help lead to the destruction of the Castro tyranny."

Seconded. It's been 50 years.
4.24.2009 1:09pm
NaG (mail):
Here's the Plan: allow increased access to commerce and outside ideas weaken the Castro hold over time, until the people of Cuba throw off the Castro yoke on their own accord, without the need for invasive action on the part of any foreign government.

Very simple.
4.24.2009 1:11pm
Oren:

Repeal if and only if repeal advocates can present a plan in which repeal can help lead to the destruction of the Castro tyranny, and the Obama administration is willing to implement the plan.

Isn't the burden on the proponents of a plan that, even after being given a fair change to work has very little objective evidence that it is working?

I support Obama's plan because hard currency that is disbursed outside State control strengthens the hand of citizens wrt he government.
4.24.2009 1:14pm
rosetta's stones:
If Castro would just take the dirt nap, this would probably all go away. That'd be the pretext for change.

Hard for many to let it go easily though. You youngsters weren't breathing when comrade Fidel told Kruschev to launch on the imperialist running dogs. Thankfully, Kruschev was made of smarter stuff, and we avoided that carnage, but the idiot Castro needs to just die off. This is still a blood feud, in many ways.
4.24.2009 1:14pm
Gabriel McCall (mail):
"Repeal if and only if repeal advocates can present a plan in which repeal can help lead to the destruction of the Castro tyranny, and the Obama administration is willing to implement the plan."

I'm with the first two posters: shouldn't the burden of proof be on embargo fans, not embargo opponents?
4.24.2009 1:15pm
Floridan:
Let's just allow those who want to boycott Cuba (no trade or travel) to not purchase items from Cuba or travel to the island. They can even refuse to transact business with U.S. companies that sell to Cuba, if that makes them feel better.

Let the rest of us make up our own minds and do as we please.
4.24.2009 1:20pm
Paleoboy:
Frankly my dear, I don't give a @&*! about foreign dictators. Let's turn in the World Police badge and hang up the guns.
4.24.2009 1:23pm
Curious:
Is it any better to trade with China than Cuba from a human rights perspective?
4.24.2009 1:27pm
Randy R. (mail):
Or how about this: We will embargo all countries whose leadership we disagree with, such as Cuba, China, N.Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, Moldova, Russia.

Or we have open trade with all.

Now, of course, we really shouldn't have a 'one size fits all' foreign policy. Sometimes there are good reasons to have embargos. But the fact remains that all embargos, to the extent the desire is for regime change, have failed. Furthermore, the larger the country, the less likelihood of success. (I really don't think Russia will throw over Putin or Medvedev if we stop trading with them.

Considering the fact that many other countries trade with cuba, it makes no sense to continue this silly policy.
4.24.2009 1:29pm
allan (mail):
An exercise.

Draw a line. Divide it into 100 equal parts. Label the left end of the line "govern from the left" and the right end of the line "govern from the right".

Bush would likely fit into a 85 or 90 on social issues and environmental issues and a 10 or 15 on economic issues.

Obama? Probably at 45 or so on both.

Kopel's ideal? 95 or 98 is ideal.

That is, even if Obama was governing at 70, Kopel would likely say he is governing from too far on the left.

For the embargo question, Kopel puts the burden on those changing the system. The embargo has not worked for 50 years. Nevertheless. despite the absence of any results, Kopel opposes a change unless there is plan to depose Castro. Insanity almost by definition. How about: "the current plan is not and will not achieve the purpose of toppling Castro and is, indeed entirely ineffective, let's try something, anything, else, because something else has to be more effective than what we are doing now."
4.24.2009 1:37pm
paul lukasiak (mail):
does anyone else find irony in one person who thinks its a good idea to prevent its citizens from trading with Cuba, but who also thinks that the current administration is trying to exercise too much control over our economic decisions?
4.24.2009 1:47pm
PC:
does anyone else find irony in one person who thinks its a good idea to prevent its citizens from trading with Cuba, but who also thinks that the current administration is trying to exercise too much control over our economic decisions?

Prof Kopel certainly doesn't, but others of us appreciate it.
4.24.2009 1:51pm
Dan28 (mail):

Repeal if and only if repeal advocates can present a plan in which repeal can help lead to the destruction of the Castro tyranny, and the Obama administration is willing to implement the plan

It's called free markets, open borders, and free exchange of ideas. I thought conspirators tended to believe in such things. Without the embargo, the Castro regime would have fallen decades ago.
4.24.2009 1:51pm
Simon P:
These two answers, taken together, suggest that government control of economic life is justified when it's intended to achieve some kinds of foreign policy objectives, but not with respect to certain kinds of domestic objectives more directly related to economic policy (like the Obama's health care initiative).

I'm not sure I can find a coherent theory behind these two positions.
4.24.2009 1:54pm
Angus:
The freer the markets, the freer the people?? Logical only everyplace on earth apart from Cuba, it seems.

The only reason we maintain the embargo is the voting bloc of Cuban exiles in Florida. The only reason they insist on the embargo is because they want to take over Cuba and install themselves as an oligarchy.
4.24.2009 1:56pm
Steve:
I guess everyone has already jumped on this point, but wow, the craziness of demanding that the burden should be on repeal advocates.
4.24.2009 1:56pm
Mike Keenan:
how about: "Maintain the embargo if and only if embargo advocates can present a plan in which it will help lead to the destruction of the Castro tyranny."

Exactly right. Maybe they will come up with something. Or is the embargo the natural state of things? Don't think so.
4.24.2009 1:56pm
Ugh (mail):
And David Kopel takes that lead from Jim Lindgren with this post. Good on ya' Dave!
4.24.2009 1:57pm
BGates:
I support Obama's plan because hard currency that is disbursed outside State control strengthens the hand of citizens wrt he government.

Fair enough. Ironically, that's why I oppose all of his domestic plans.

Bush...a 10 or 15 on economic issues. Obama? Probably at 45 or so

I get it - the number is the percent of GDP each man wants to bring under direct federal control.
4.24.2009 1:57pm
rosetta's stones:
Well, practically, nobody's preventing you from trading with Cuba. You want some Cubans? We can hook you up. You wanna sell them some cheap garbage? Step right over here to my offshore shell company. You wanna visit Havana? Just a quick hop to Toronto and you're in.

I knew a university commie professor that had been going to Cuba for decades. He laughed about it, thought he was sticking it to the man and it was a big thrill, I guess. Maybe we'll all be there in a while.

The embargo really isn't much of anything, as Castro can buy from everybody else, whatever he can pay for at least. What hurts Cubans is Castro banning dollar exchange. He opened it up for a bit a while back, then slammed the door shut after he saw the underground economy was likely gonna take off, and maybe take off his head.
4.24.2009 2:01pm
J.D. (mail):
I once heard an idiot is one who tries the same thing over and over expecting a new result.....the embargo seems to fit this thinking....
4.24.2009 2:07pm
Mike& (mail):
Should we stop trading with Saudi Arabia, too? That's a really bad country - worse than Castro. You know that, right?

Two ways to expose hypocrites on the Right: Bring up Cuba or Israel. Suddenly their policy views do a 180.
4.24.2009 2:12pm
Crust (mail):
Even rosetta's stones doesn't sound that keen on the embargo. Is there any commenter that agrees with Kopel that after half a century of not accomplishing anything positive with the embargo, we should keep trying?
4.24.2009 2:15pm
Mike& (mail):
Incidentally, isn't Kopel's post another way of saying: 65% of right-wing bloggers oppose free trade?

How is that view consistent with traditional right-wing thinking?

What disgusting hypocrisy from the Right.
4.24.2009 2:16pm
Recovering Law Grad:
Kopel's burden-shifting move isn't a position unique to him or to this issue - it's the dominant theme of the conservative opposition to Obama. This derangement assumes that everything Bush did was not only correct but the default policy position of America for all time. It further posits anyone who seeks to changes these policies as akin to a communist/facist/marxist because any changes to the default view is a change to the foundation of the nation. See, conservative positions aren't just policy choices eligible to be bent or changd with time, or, even more radically, with shifts in voter opinion. No, they are immutable truths that must be now and forever.
4.24.2009 2:27pm
paul lukasiak (mail):
And David Kopel takes that lead from Jim Lindgren with this post. Good on ya' Dave!

no fair. at least Kopel allows us to respond to his forays into absurdist politics.
4.24.2009 2:27pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Plan to end Castro Tyrrany:

Copy plan used by the US after Tienanmen Square in response to China:

1) No embargo
2) Smart sanctions
3) Encouraged trade elsewhere.

You get more with a kind word and a two-by-four than you do with either alone.
4.24.2009 2:32pm
rosetta's stones:

"...any changes to the default view is a change to the foundation of the nation."


And what's a few trillion dollars borrowed from the Chinese and thrown down onto the heads of children yet unborn, if not a small change to the default view?

Darn those conservatives anyway.
4.24.2009 2:33pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Rosetta's Stones is exactly right:

The embargo really isn't much of anything, as Castro can buy from everybody else, whatever he can pay for at least. What hurts Cubans is Castro banning dollar exchange.


Or controlling exchange rates.... This is becoming a huge issue in Venezuela too with Chavez adopting similar forced exchange rate standards.

Cuba is moderately insulated but hardly isolated from the US economy and Castro probably is helped more than hurt by cultural isolation......
4.24.2009 2:35pm
Ben P:

no fair. at least Kopel allows us to respond to his forays into absurdist politics.


I agree, except I'm not so sure this is absurd. I think the trade embargo ought to be dropped because free trade is going to cause a lot more harm to castro's power base than a continued embargo would. But it's clear that A good chunk of the people in the US obviously still at least support some sort of trade restraint on Cuba. I'd be much more interested in seeing the results prior to Obama having his "it's time for a beer" moment with regard to trade in Cuba. I'm willing to bet there's at least a small minority of those in the US who'd support keeping the sanctions on Castro.

Also, heck, if for nothing else as a long time resident of the southeast I support lifting the Embargo so I can see Havana become the Vegas off the Florida coast again.
4.24.2009 2:39pm
Ariel:
The embargo has not worked to end the Castro tyranny.

Free trade has not worked to end the Chinese tyranny.

What has worked? The various revolutions in Ukraine, etc., were mostly when the folks at the bottom got fed up with their rulers.

There may well be good arguments for free trade with Cuba, but freeing the people of the Castro tyranny is not one of them. The only that will happen is with a revolution - and given the Castro control of that island, it seems unlikely. It's a lot more isolated than, say, the Ukraine. And we have a lot more at stake, with, say, Iran. So regardless of whether the Cuban situation should be changed, it shouldn't be our top priority.

The reason it is appropriate to put the burden on those advocating free trade is that that's the change from the status quo.
4.24.2009 2:39pm
rosetta's stones:
einhverfr, you forgot:


4)Give the Chicoms Cray supercomputers so they can perfect ballistic missile technology, build compact nuclear warheads, hack into our IT networks and threaten cyberterrorism, and fully catalog their 1.3B population for proper subjugation.

5)Take laundered Chicom campaign money into our body politic.

6)Watch as the Chicoms, like Castro, refuse to allow dollar exchange for their people, ensuring their continued subjugation. Tack on the phoney exchange rates the Chicoms keep in place, with resultant trade imbalances which effect the US negatively.


These things are always a bit more complex than the easy platitudes.
4.24.2009 2:40pm
Guest12345:

Incidentally, isn't Kopel's post another way of saying: 65% of right-wing bloggers oppose free trade?

How is that view consistent with traditional right-wing thinking?


I think it's kind of like being against murder and in favor of private property and free trade. I'd say it's "nuanced" but it's not that subtle of an idea.

Also, please keep in mind that in Cuba there are basically two embargoes: 1) the US embargo, and 2) the Castro embargo. Opening up "free trade" with Cuba isn't suddenly going to put dollars in the hands of the populace. Similar to the problems delivering aid to a lot of the African trouble spots.
4.24.2009 2:54pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Plan to end Castro tyranny:

Open the market. Show people more clearly what they're missing. Wait for him to die.

Since the rest of the civilized world trades with Cuba, and since we trade with the far more draconian China (and thus have no morally principled stance), the present effect on ending the tyranny is about zero.
4.24.2009 2:55pm
Allan Walstad (mail):
I don't think it's the job of the US government to get rid of bad governments around the world. The idea of helping people by impoverishing them (or trying to) for generations is pretty absurd. Cuba is no longer an outpost of the Soviet Empire. Whatever strategic rationale there might have been for the embargo several decades ago is gone. The burden of demonstration should always fall upon those who would restrict free trade. "Peace, friendship, and commerce with other nations"--wasn't that the Founders' vision?
4.24.2009 2:56pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
rosetta's stones:

Chinese Communists today are a far cry from Mao or even Deng ..... Still tyranny but not to the same degree.

The issue of banned dollar exchanges is a problem....

However phased normalization of trade in exchange for some of these problems being addressed could be quite helpful.
4.24.2009 3:29pm
Alberto Vázquez (mail) (www):
Obama knows that Cuba is the key of an understanding between The United States and Latin America. It is the key that can join both political current axes.
I recommend http://blogdealbertovazquez.blogspot.com
Regards
4.24.2009 3:35pm
trad and anon (mail):
It's been 47 years, and the Castro dictatorship remains as strong as ever. How exactly is sticking with the same policy leading to the "destruction of the Castro tyranny?"

If we keep doing more of what doesn't work, we shouldn't be surprised when it doesn't work.
4.24.2009 4:32pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
The trade embargo is largely a red herring. The US is already Cuba's biggest food supplier and fourth largest trading partner. This is all about credit. Under current policy, the United States Export-Import Bank cannot extend credit to Cuba to purchase US products. Castro is free to buy as much as he wants from ADM, but he has to pay for it-- in cash. The French and Mexican ExIm banks have cut off credit to Cuba because he stiffed them. Now Castro needs credit and Obama is coming to the rescue. Look for a policy change at ExIm. This whole chatter about the embargo is designed to distract the public from the real issue: subsidizing Cuba at the expense of the American taxpay-- a bailout.

All those in favor of trade with Cuba: do want US ExIm to extend credit to Cuba?

The idea that the embargo was originally designed to end the Castro regime is also another strawman. When Dean Rusk spoke before the Organization of American States at Punta del Este Uruguay on January, 21, 1962, he made it clear that regime change was not the purpose of the embargo
"The United States objects to Cuba's activities an policies in the international arena not its internal system or arrangements."
The embargo and denial of credit function to weaken the Castro regime and those who think the embargo strengthens him have the burden of proof.
4.24.2009 4:59pm
Kazinski:
It's not the trade embargo that keeps Cuba a poor stagnant backwater, its Communism. But I think we should lift the trade embargo which would allow us to enslave the Cubans, the same way we've enslaved the Chinese, forcing them to turn out cheap consumer goods for our ravenous Capitalist appetites.
4.24.2009 5:04pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Kazinski:

"But I think we should lift the trade embargo which would allow us to enslave the Cubans, the same way we've enslaved the Chinese,..."

Here's the difference. The Chinese extend credit to the US, and lots of it ($1 trillion?) to buy Chinese products. Compare and contrast: Obama wants the US to extend credit to Cuba to buy US products.
4.24.2009 5:14pm
Derrick (mail):
no fair. at least Kopel allows us to respond to his forays into absurdist politics.


Good point, Jim never seems to disappoint with his cowardly snipes at Obama and Democrats without accepting any open forum for critiques. He's kind of like Cheney that way.
4.24.2009 5:18pm
nutbump (mail):
I have heard that the real reson that americans are not allowed to go to Cuba is to save Dominican Republic, Mexico and other resorts area from competition in tourist business. Once ban on travel to Cuba it will cause a devastating effect on all resorts in Carribean.
4.24.2009 5:24pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
A. Zarkov:


Here's the difference. The Chinese extend credit to the US, and lots of it ($1 trillion?) to buy Chinese products. Compare and contrast: Obama wants the US to extend credit to Cuba to buy US products.


Assuming you are right, am I the only one who would rather have the US being the creditor rather than the debtor to countries which don't share our ideology or interest?
4.24.2009 5:32pm
Oren:

Tack on the phoney exchange rates the Chicoms keep in place, with resultant trade imbalances which effect the US negatively.

You mean the one where they devalue their currency and thus sell us their exports for less than their true value and import our goods for more than their true value? Terrible deal that. Who would want to pay less for the goods they buy and, at the same time, get paid more for the goods they sell?!
4.24.2009 6:20pm
Seamus (mail):

The only reason we maintain the embargo is the voting bloc of Cuban exiles in Florida. The only reason they insist on the embargo is because they want to take over Cuba and install themselves as an oligarchy.



And the embargo serves that end exactly how?


When Dean Rusk spoke before the Organization of American States at Punta del Este Uruguay on January, 21, 1962, he made it clear that regime change was not the purpose of the embargo

"The United States objects to Cuba's activities an policies in the international arena not its internal system or arrangements."


News flash: Cuba is no longer doing bad stuff in the international arena. It's not subverting the government of Venezuela (as it did back when Betancourt was president), nor is it sending mercenaries to Angola.
4.24.2009 6:41pm
John Moore (mail) (www):
Cuba, under Fidel, is the only country that ever tried to start a nuclear war with the US.

I think the embargo was as much a lesson to other countries as a policy aimed only at Cuba - the lesson: the US can and *will* hurt you really badly if you do something really dangerous to us.

All that being said, it would seem to be time to drop the embargo (I say this as a conservative Republican). We should do it in a way that doesn't allow subsidization of Cuba as long as the Castro regime (not just Fidel) is in power. But free travel and relatively free trade is something we may as well do.
4.24.2009 6:55pm
PlugInMonster:
I don't understand, Obama has all the power. Why doesn't he just issue an executive order lifting the embargo right now?
4.24.2009 7:00pm
trad and anon (mail):
I don't understand, Obama has all the power. Why doesn't he just issue an executive order lifting the embargo right now?

I think the plan is to extract concessions from Raoul in exchange for lifting the embargo.
4.24.2009 7:18pm
Steve:
The idea that the embargo was originally designed to end the Castro regime is also another strawman. When Dean Rusk spoke before the Organization of American States at Punta del Este Uruguay on January, 21, 1962, he made it clear that regime change was not the purpose of the embargo

Uh, yes, because of course when the US has a policy of regime change we always admit it openly in front of the world. In other news, US officials publicly denied any plot to assassinate Castro, ergo the suggestion that we tried must be a strawman!
4.24.2009 7:26pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
einhverfr:

" ... am I the only one who would rather have the US being the creditor rather than the debtor to countries which don't share our ideology or interest?"


I think you might. I don't see the benefit to the US taxpayer from subsidizing Cuba. Do you really think Castro won't default to a creditor US when he has already defaulted on credit from other countries? Unless you stand to personally gain by selling products to Cuba, I don't see why you would support granting credit to Cuba.
4.24.2009 8:08pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"News flash: Cuba is no longer doing bad stuff in the international arena."

How do you know that? In any case, the issue is the strawman argument.
4.24.2009 8:10pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Steve:

"Uh, yes, because of course when the US has a policy of regime change we always admit it openly in front of the world."

Sometimes the US does as Iraq shows. "Regime change" was the declared policy there. Now if you are privy to secret State Department memos that say the embargo was all about regime change, then share them with us.

In any case I don't see the benefit to the US from subsidizing Cuba at the expense of the American taxpayer. Will you go on record as opposing granting credit to the Cuba from the US ExIm bank and other institutions likely to get bailed out if the debt goes sour?

If you love Cuba so much then lend them your own money.
4.24.2009 8:16pm
Steve:
Sometimes the US does as Iraq shows.

Yes, and sometimes we don't. Ergo it is a complete fallacy to attempt to prove that regime change is a strawman simply by quoting a US official who said we weren't after regime change.
4.24.2009 8:41pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
A Zarkov:

I think you might. I don't see the benefit to the US taxpayer from subsidizing Cuba.


I see even less benefit to the taxpayer for China owning our debt.

I am not saying either is good. I am saying given the choice, it is better to be the lender than the borrower.
4.24.2009 8:49pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"I am not saying either is good. I am saying given the choice, it is better to be the lender than the borrower."

Not for making loans to Cuba. This is like a sub-prime. Why lend to someone who is not going to pay you back? Cuba has no credit rating to lose.
4.24.2009 8:56pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
Ben P:

Also, heck, if for nothing else as a long time resident of the southeast I support lifting the Embargo so I can see Havana become the Vegas off the Florida coast again.

... and the cigars.

I also harbor a romantic nostalgia for the Cuba of Meyer Lansky (not that I ever saw it personally -- my parents did). That said, and I'm sure many here will disagree, the one thing I'd say in the Castros' defense is that their Cuba has been at least marginally less crushingly oppressive than the one they replaced.
4.24.2009 9:02pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
... talk about "damning with faint praise."
4.24.2009 9:03pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"... simply by quoting a US official who said we weren't after regime change."

The embargo came from the State Department. Dean Rusk was Secretary of State, and could speak with authority. This is different than some random congressman saying the purpose of the embargo was regime change. Thus far you have provided no evidence that the sole intent of the embargo was to remove Castro from power and anything short of that must be a complete failure. The embargo was not failure-- it did at least weaken him, which is why he has been so anxious to get it lifted. It also explains why domestic communists bring it up all the time and advance the strawman argument that the embargo has been a complete failure.

BTW do you support credit for Cuba from the ExIm bank and other institutions? Yes or no. Put your cards on the table.
4.24.2009 9:04pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Leo Marvin:

"... and the cigars."

You can get Cuban cigars. A tobacco store in Canada said they would repackage and mail me [in the US] all the Cuban cigars I wanted. I actually don't think Cuban cigars are all that great, but that's just my own taste.

"I'd say in the Castros' defense is that their Cuba has been at least marginally less crushingly oppressive than the one they replaced."

So who was Batista's Huber Matos? You can't be serious in that appraisal.
4.24.2009 9:09pm
Steve:
I'm certain that Dean Rusk knew whether the goal of US foreign policy was regime change. That doesn't mean we can conclude that he must have spoken honestly at the time in question, not on a topic that is so often the subject of dissembling by government officials. Like I said, pure fallacy to think you've proven anything conclusively.

As for the ExIm bank, I have no earthly idea what you're talking about, so go change the subject with someone else.
4.24.2009 9:11pm
ArthurKirkland:
If I saw some evidence that the treatment of Cuba had exhibited any positive consequences, or that it was consistent of American treatment of other bad regimes (in South America, Central America, Eastern Europe, Asia . . ) I would consider an argument that the Cuban embargo is moral and/or effective. At the moment, I chalk it up mainly to discredited ideology and the political influence of Florida-based zealots.

Some nasty governments we surround by an invisible fence. Others we sells arms to and train death squads for. Others we send prisoners to for torture. Foreign policy becomes very confusing when principle is not involved.
4.24.2009 9:16pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Steve:

"As for the ExIm bank, I have no earthly idea what you're talking about, so go change the subject with someone else."

Oh come on. You know or should know what the ExIm bank is by context alone. Try reading this. Or go to their website. The bank is part of the executive branch and extends loans to foreigners to buy US goods. Without ExIm many countries like Cuba couldn't buy certain US goods because the sellers won't take the risk. ExIm puts the risk on the taxpayer.

This is not a change of subject because a policy change on the embargo will almost surely involve credit to Cuba. Otherwise the change won't make much of a difference because Cuba already buys from the US. You just want to avoid an honest answer.
4.24.2009 9:35pm
Allan Walstad (mail):
Whatever the case was 40 or 50 years ago, what significant threat can Castro be said to offer us now? Such that we have to keep trying to strangle his country?
4.24.2009 9:36pm
Henry Gomez (mail) (www):
Anyone who peddles the idea that greater trade with Cuba will corrode the regime ignores one important fact. The Cuban economy is at least 90% state controlled. Nothing goes in or out of the country without the regime's approval. There's no free market for labor, no private property, etc. All foreign entities doing business in Cuba must be minority partners to state controlled companies. The result is any liberalizing effects of trade are removed. It's like taking a bee's stinger away. Have any doubts? Take a look at the situation in Cuba since foreign trade with western democracies began in earnest in the early 90s. That's right folks, we're not the only capitalist country in the world that would be doing business with Cuba, we'd be the last actually (although we are already Cuba's largest food supplier due to a loophole in the embargo). None of this "free trade" has liberalized Cuba. All it does is prop up the regime that skims all profits off the top and shares none with the people. It's a shake-down racket, plain and simple.
4.24.2009 9:38pm
Henry Gomez (mail) (www):
Allan,

Do you know the name Ana Belen Montes? Google it.

Have you heard of something called Brothers to the Rescue? Google it.
4.24.2009 9:46pm
Henry Gomez (mail) (www):
Arthur,

I'm a "Florida based zealot" (there's a lot of us, we voted for McCain by a margin of 68% to 32%). The embargo restricts the amount of cash the regime (fidel, raul, the military and the repressive apparatus) have at their disposal to do what they always do when they get a few extra bucks. And that is export revolution to other countries and crackdown at home. I guess only a zealot would know about El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, Angola, Bolivia and other countries that Cuba has interfered in. Let's not forget that the goons that rule Cuba today are the same ones that have been ruling for 50 years. It's not like the U.S. where we've changed leadership 10 times during that span. We've tried different approaches. The constant here is the brutal nature of the dictatorship. You can help them out by giving them free money (subsidized by U.S. taxpayers) or you can freeze them out. I prefer the latter, but I'm an unreasonable zealot.
4.24.2009 9:56pm
Allan Walstad (mail):
Henry Gomez, if you have something to share,by all means share it. I'm not going on some wild google chase just because you say so. The US is a country of over 300 million people, with massive armed forces and nuclear weapons. What the hell threat is Cuba that we have to try to strangle it? I'm not interested in subsidizing Cuba or lending to it. Nor am I interested in the US trying to control every regime and every outcome around the globe. I am interested in letting people trade freely.
4.24.2009 10:00pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
A. Zarkov,

I actually don't think Cuban cigars are all that great, but that's just my own taste.

I gave up cigars when I had to admit to myself there were healthier ways to repel women and annoy almost everyone else. But every great cigar I ever had was Cuban.

"I'd say in the Castros' defense is that their Cuba has been at least marginally less crushingly oppressive than the one they replaced."

So who was Batista's Huber Matos? You can't be serious in that appraisal.

You're right. I can't name a single political prisoner Batista set free at the end of his sentence so he could become a celebrated ex-patriot dissident who regales sympathizers with his 20 year diary of tortured imprisonment. What conclusion am I supposed to draw from that?
4.24.2009 11:48pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
A Zarkov:

Oh come on. You know or should know what the ExIm bank is by context alone. Try reading this. Or go to their website. The bank is part of the executive branch and extends loans to foreigners to buy US goods.

I suppose even if we don't loan directly, you are afraid for loan insurance to US businesses selling goods to Cuba?

But not, say, Ecuador or the Seychelles?
4.25.2009 12:00am
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Henry Gomez:

FIrst I am not at all sure how slightly insulating Cuba from the American economy does much to hurt the Cuban economy. I can drink Cuban rum when I am out of the country, for example, and I can even help to start businesses that can do business in Cuba without having to worry about Treasury Dept reservations (suppose I start a business in Canada and own 49% of it).

Heck I can even export my software to Cuba directly from the US legally without worrying about any export licenses (technically it doesn't count as export, and there is a minor and also ineffectual exception regarding encryption[1]). The thing is, my software is open source, and publication of source code IS NOT EXPORT under the EAR regime.

Cuba has active trading relations with 75% of the world's economy. The embargo has a small impact in terms of tourism, but I don't think it is very big. There are also the ExIm bank issues but those are also overblown. Far bigger reasons the Cuban economy sucks are:

1: 90%+ of the jobs are government jobs.
2: Rigid forex controls.
3: Laws regarding mingling with tourists.

In general when one looks at all three of these, the embargo helps Castro out by fortifying nos 2-3, and hence securing no 1. The embargo in so far as it avoids free market currency exchanges in the US helps lock people into Castro's currency exchange rates (Venezuelan associates of mine take that strategy to avoid Chavez's control over exchange rates). And of course fewer tourists means fewer probems controlling the ideological impact of tourists.

I do favor selective sanctions, btw. Just not embargo.

[1] For encryption, one can't actively facilitate folks in Cuba downloading your code, but you are under no obligation to prevent them from doing so or control re-export, or anything like this. My reading is one is not even barred from collaborating on software development with developers in Cuba since informational documents can be freely imported...
4.25.2009 12:53am
TokyoTom (mail):
David, there is no libertarian argument for allowing the US government to continue to limit the freedom of Americans to travel to and trade with Cubans; the arguments, indeed, all run the other way.

The embargo has served the interests of Cuba`s leaders and "strong on defense" US politicians at the expense of average Americans and Cubans for decades. Likewise, our embargoes of Iran and North Korea do a great job of providing despots with ways to posture before and continue to misgovern their own peoples, and of stifling the domestic wealth creation and competing power bases that would accompany international trade.

Shall we cut off our noses to spite our faces further, by clamping down on trade with Russia and China, in order to enhance our pull with them and their willingness to behave in ways we find acceptable?

Such impoverished thought we see in this post!
4.25.2009 1:48am
Ryan Waxx (mail):
The embargo has not worked for 50 years. Nevertheless. despite the absence of any results...


This canard is repeated over and over... but is it really true?

Taking a moment to examine what's actually been happening reveals that it is not. Only the U.S. has been enforcing any sort of embargo, the rest of the world has not.

An embargo by one country isn't an embargo. Period. So when you consider the whole world's actions, it is NO EMBARGO which has been tried for decades with no results. What level of provincial American-centric blinders does it take to not see this immediately?

That said, we aren't missing out much on the latest technology hot off the shelves of the premiere communist country in the N. American area. For all its vaunted healthcare and education, the only thing Cuba mass-produces well is victims.
4.25.2009 8:06am
rosetta's stones:
einhverfr
"...am I the only one who would rather have the US being the creditor rather than the debtor to countries which don't share our ideology or interest?"


einhverfr,

I'd probably prefer neither, but if you force me to choose, I vote for the debtor option. The Chinese will be very unlikely to initiate hostilities with the US while they're holding truckloads of our paper, as I think you'd agree. While I expect the US to honorably repay that debt, the equation shifts considerably if relations deteriorate.

But as I say, neither a debtor or a lender be. The US government has a habit of bailing out the wrong people, and a habit of indebting itself in doing so. Both are wrong.
4.25.2009 9:14am
rosetta's stones:


"Tack on the phoney exchange rates the Chicoms keep in place, with resultant trade imbalances which effect the US negatively."




Oren:"You mean the one where they devalue their currency and thus sell us their exports for less than their true value and import our goods for more than their true value? Terrible deal that. Who would want to pay less for the goods they buy and, at the same time, get paid more for the goods they sell?!"


Oren,

Getting paid more for exports means you're selling less of them, as should be intuitively obvious.

Additionally intuitively obvious is that these particular Chicom money practices (illegitimately?) promote foreign capital investment in China, which might otherwise be made in other countries. The capital buys more in China dontchayaknow, because of those exchange rates. That's how totalitarians do it. That's how Castro's been doing it forever, and is likely gonna continue to do it, soon on the US taxpayers' dime as it seems some prefer.
4.25.2009 9:25am
Some Other Guy (mail):
The embargo is Castro's #1 excuse for the dismal condition of the Cuban economy. Take that away from him, and he'll have a lot of explaining to do. Also, the more Cubans see fat American tourists, the less support communism will have in Cuba.
4.25.2009 9:53am
Some Other Guy (mail):
Rosetta,

Speaking as someone who knows a thing or two about high-performance computing, I'll let you know that the days when keeping Cray computers out of Chinese hands made any kind of difference are long gone. Anyone can put together a cluster of consumer PCs with mid-range graphics processors, and get all the computing power they can afford. Those PCs are being made in China in the tens of millions, for Dell, Apple, HP, and everybody else.
4.25.2009 9:56am
rosetta's stones:
SOG,

Agreed, technology will out, as you mention.

But remember, that Cray supercomputer technology was given to the Chicoms in the early/mid-90's. I'll defer to your experience on this, but this interconnection process you describe didn't come along until just recently, meaning the Chicoms used the previous technology for at least a decade of their good works, which likely couldn't have progressed as rapidly without that technology.

We could hand the Chicoms our latest fire control systems on the F-35, too. Should we? They'll have it 10 years from now, of course, but I don't see it a productive for us to hand it over today.
4.25.2009 12:17pm
rosetta's stones:
SOG,

One question. In the simple system you described, do interconnected consumer PC's function precisely and seamlessly as one large system?
4.25.2009 12:23pm
Allan Walstad (mail):

An embargo by one country isn't an embargo. Period. So when you consider the whole world's actions, it is NO EMBARGO which has been tried for decades with no results. What level of provincial American-centric blinders does it take to not see this immediately?

So, the US embargo hasn't worked, in part, because others are not going along with it. So, what's next--a naval blockade that turns away merchant ships from dozens of other countries, including industrialized democratic friends of ours, at gunpoint? Just to change Castro's ways? The Castro brothers have made it to old age ruling Cuba for 50 years, and you still think the embargo makes sense??
4.25.2009 12:24pm
bushbasher:
americans are so cute when they're idiotic about cuba.
4.25.2009 12:32pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Rossetta's Stones:

Are you aware that some sort of foreign force broke into the DoD's computer systems and downloaded massive amounts of data on the JSF project? Apparently USAF air-traffic control systems were also compromised.

I would actually be surprised if China didn't have the information on the firing control system for the F-35 already.....
4.25.2009 12:43pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Also on Crays etc....

The early 1990's also saw the rise in "Beowulf Clusters," and the first of these was built by NASA as a budget supercomputer (1 Gigaflop) out of 16 80486-based PC's along with some ethernet (iirc 10baseT) and such. Thus began the rise of massively multiparallel computing. Since the source code was publically available, we can assume China had access to it too.

Now, as far as raw number crunching, beowulf clusters do as well as top-of-the-line vector-processing supercomputers. In some tasks they do better, though, and in some tasks they do worse. This is why today, Cray is focusing on both MMP and Vector-based supercomputing. The questions are those of latency and how critical latency on the interconnect is. MMP works by passing messages back and forth, while VB relies on rapid access to cache and RAM.

I hope this helps.
4.25.2009 12:51pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
cite for the F-35 data breaches.
4.25.2009 12:55pm
ArthurKirkland:
The American embargo with respect to Cuba has accomplished nothing -- in 50 years -- except to make the United States look silly. It likely has been counterproductive, and most people would reassess after five decades of futility, but zealots don't pay attention to "talking points" such as 50 years of lack of success. They also don't genuinely object to distasteful governments, or they would have found a moment by now to criticize their government's support of brutal right-wing dictators, opposition entities, and death squauds. They don't care about the principle of "interference in the affairs of other countries, such as Nicaragua," or they would be criticizing the United States just as loudly as they criticize Cuba.

It appears to me that anti-Castro zealots lost contact with sensible judgment long ago, and today merely cling to stale grievances and tactics with respect to Castro and Cuba, oblivious to the point that they are Castro's best friend in several ways, just as Bush Jr. and bin Laden developed a bizarre co-dependency in which each was the other's best recruiter for a pointless crusade.
4.25.2009 12:58pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
The idea that ending the embargo in the sense of opening up more American tourism and extending US credit to Cuba will weaken the regime and lead to liberalization is contradicted by past experience. Let's be clear, there is plenty of non-American tourism to Cuba, and in total it exceeds the amount during the Batista regime. There has been trade with and credit to Cuba from all over the world. None of this has either ousted Castro from power or even weakened his hold over Cuba. Not only that, the proposition is absurd on its face. Why would Castro press for something that would weaken him? Why would all the communists in the US and the rest of the world wage a propaganda war to get the US to eliminate the embargo? Do the friends of the regime desire it to be weaker?

To repeat, the real issue is US credit to Cuba, not trade.
4.25.2009 1:08pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"The American embargo with respect to Cuba has accomplished nothing -- in 50 years -- except to make the United States look silly."

Do you think Castro and his supporters, both domestic and foreign, want the US to stop looking silly? Unless you believe that Castro is really a US friend, why would he promote lifting the embargo if it does nothing but harm the US?

Your whole argument is a strawman.
4.25.2009 1:13pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
A Zarkov:

Would you be OK with a total lifting of US imports from Cuba, and a reasonable lifting of exports to Cuba provided that the current ExIm bank country restrictions remain in place?
4.25.2009 1:41pm
rosetta's stones:
Careful there, einhverfr, those US sugar manufacturers might just have you whacked, if you and Fidel start messing around with their territory!
4.25.2009 2:12pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
RS:

Trying to clarify Mr Zarkov's position.

However the sugar market is a global one and Cuba imports more food than they export. I don't see how direct trade would impact this.
4.25.2009 2:22pm
rosetta's stones:
ein,

Yeah, Castro's economy is a mess, but I believe you might find that the historical roots for the embargo have at least some branches leading into the US sugar industry, which we've protected for many years in this country. If we were to suddenly accept Cuban imports, presumably those would or would eventually include sugar, putting some politicians at risk of targeted campaign "assasination".

It's not as simple as it seems, there are other forces at work here, as I implied in another segment of the discussion above.
4.25.2009 3:04pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Would you be OK with a total lifting of US imports from Cuba, and a reasonable lifting of exports to Cuba provided that the current ExIm bank country restrictions remain in place?"

There is no way to guarantee such limitation on the ExIm bank. As a practical matter once more and more exporters get the opportunity to sell Cuba their products they will pressure the government to lift the restrictions on ExIm. Again we will get private gain at public risk. So the answer is "no."
4.25.2009 3:27pm
Oren:

Getting paid more for exports means you're selling less of them, as should be intuitively obvious.

So if I sell 50 barrels of wheat at $1 a barrel, that's better for me that selling 40 barrels of wheat at $1.25? This way I have 10 barrels left over to sell to someone else or use myself. Getting paid more for my exports is in my interest. Nobody in their right mind tries to cheapen their own assets.



Additionally intuitively obvious is that these particular Chicom money practices (illegitimately?) promote foreign capital investment in China, which might otherwise be made in other countries. The capital buys more in China dontchayaknow, because of those exchange rates. That's how totalitarians do it. That's how Castro's been doing it forever, and is likely gonna continue to do it, soon on the US taxpayers' dime as it seems some prefer.

So, they are selling us their factories (or a stake in their factories, whatever) for less then they are really worth. Sure, that distorts capital investment towards China but it also lets us buy their country at bargain prices.
4.25.2009 3:55pm
TGGP (mail) (www):
I am disgusted by every proponent of embargoes. Doesn't matter if you're a righty regime-changer or lefty divester: YOU ARE NOT HELPING BUT HURTING.
4.25.2009 5:29pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
A. Zarkov:

Would you be OK with lifting all restrictions on tourists importing duty-free things from Cuba and travelling there, but leaving the rest of the embargo in place?
4.25.2009 6:27pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
RS:

I am sure the sugar industry has a close connection to the embargo, but I am just as sure that those interests have changed substantially since it was put in place.
4.25.2009 6:28pm
rosetta's stones:

Oren:
So if I sell 50 barrels of wheat at $1 a barrel, that's better for me that selling 40 barrels of wheat at $1.25? This way I have 10 barrels left over to sell to someone else or use myself. Getting paid more for my exports is in my interest. Nobody in their right mind tries to cheapen their own assets.


Except that this is caused by a manipulated currency exchange, and while the micro view is that your one wheat guy might break even either way, the macro resultant is that total volume of US exports to China will fall, and the total volumes of trade will be imbalanced, as we've experienced. That gets us into the cycle we've been in... sending mucho dollars over there, which we then borrow back, increasing the national debt. Not a good cycle.

You'd likely point out that these are uniquely soluble issues, and you'd be right. But, as we've engaged in robust discussions with other nations over currency exchange, killing multiple birds with that stone, it would seem that we could do likewise with the Chicoms. We haven't been able to do so, unfortunately.


So, they are selling us their factories (or a stake in their factories, whatever) for less then they are really worth. Sure, that distorts capital investment towards China but it also lets us buy their country at bargain prices.


Maybe you are, but I'm not buying a dang thing... some multinational company is. I'm just commenting on the multinationals making capital investment decisions which are influenced by manipulated exchange rates, which if absent, might lead those multinationals to invest elsewhere, perhaps down the street from me, which I dang well favor.

This is just being neighborly, and I can't understand why the Chicoms don't act a bit more neighborly. They do appear to be moving their currency reserves into something besides dollars, so maybe they are about to help us with our debt issues, albeit out of fear of hyperinflation, or defacto default.
4.25.2009 6:58pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Would you be OK with lifting all restrictions on tourists importing duty-free things from Cuba and travelling there, but leaving the rest of the embargo in place?"

For that we should demand some actions by Castro. Release political prisoners and allow an independent agency to inspect the jails. Cuba must stop threatening US news agencies as they did with (I think ABC) to cancel the 20-20 program on the actual Cuban medical system.
4.25.2009 11:43pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
Oren:

I think you miss the problems with manipulated currency exchanges. As I say, I have colleagues who have personal experience with this sort of problem in Venezuela, though in that case the opposite problem (overvalued rather than undervalued).

If the currency is officially overvalued, then this makes it very difficult to export services, makes it easy to import goods, but if you can buy the currency on the free market, you can export/re-import your same goods and services and a profit. This effectively drives out of business the exporters, and as a result Venezuela really has no mid-size businesses left!

If the currency is undervalued you get the opposite problem. You can easily export but imports become a problem. On the positive side, it encourages multi-national corporations to build factories in China, and it encourages export-oriented businesses, but it traps the population into buying Chinese goods even if they are unsafe (milk products for example, or dogfood, childrens' toys, etc). This creates a captive market.

BTW, one big issue that is occurring in China at the moment is rising corruption. While even the Chinese I have met who didn't agree with Communism said that Mao was largely above taking bribes and did not believe that he should have special treatment, the current country pretty much runs on bribes. If trends continue, I wouldn't be surprised to see China end up on the top 10 list of most corrupt countries within a few years.
4.26.2009 11:37am
A. Zarkov (mail):
einhverfr:

"While even the Chinese I have met who didn't agree with Communism said that Mao was largely above taking bribes..."

That's not the impression of Mao one get from reading the book Mao: The Unknown Story. As the emperor, Mao didn't need to take bribes. During his rise to power, he would do anything. Like Castro, Mao was a thug.
4.26.2009 12:42pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
A Zarkov:


That's not the impression of Mao one get from reading the book Mao: The Unknown Story. As the emperor, Mao didn't need to take bribes. During his rise to power, he would do anything. Like Castro, Mao was a thug.


Sure, but a thug who wasn't terribly corrupt. Iirc, Mao sent his son into battle as a soldier (not officer) in Korea.

Mao was a dictator whose brutality put Hitler to shame. But he was still above taking bribes or accepting special favors.
4.26.2009 3:21pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Mao was a dictator whose brutality put Hitler to shame. But he was still above taking bribes or accepting special favors."

Not according to the the book I referenced. Mao lived in great luxury in a poor country. He had special villas constructed for him with swimming pools. When he flew in his personal plane every other flight in China was canceled.

Mao had the army select young women from entertainment groups to provide him with sex. He used his unlimited power to create a pool of women from which he could choose.

Mao also had a secret account, The Special Account where he stashed his book royalties. These royalties came from the books the population was forced to buy.

How can you not say these activities are not corrupt? How can you say he did not receive "special favors."
4.26.2009 4:18pm
geokstr (mail):

"Mao was a dictator whose brutality put Hitler to shame. But he was still above taking bribes or accepting special favors."

Human beings will strive to accumulate wealth and power, no matter what economic or political system they are under. When Lord Acton said "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely" more than 130 years ago, he didn't have a particular system in mind, just human nature.

One of the big differences between the major forms of government is simply about how these human aggressions are channeled.

In the old Soviet Union (just as in China under Mao as AZ notes above), the Politburo didn't make a whole lot more "money" than the worker. Money was irrelevant, political power was the medium of exchange. If you were in favor, you got to spend your money in state stores with stocked shelves while the average Soviet worker lined up in hours long queues to fight over the last potato in a store full of empty shelves. The party members got nicer apartments, state cars, the ability to travel outside the country, and the elite even got tailor made suits and summer dachas on the Caspian, free of "monetary" cost. I'll bet Castro hasn't had to "pay" for anything since at least 1960, likely doesn't even get a salary, but lives far beyond the means of any of his subjects.

The capitalist system recoqnizes that human self-interest is a given and attempts to incentivize it without government direction, in a way that benefits the society even as the individual becomes wealthy. You want to have lots of money in America, then satisfy consumer demand - a win, win. It even has the advantage of decentralizing power. But when the incentives shift to gaining wealth and power by bribery, corruption, vote-buying, sophistry and demagoguery, all that human effort is channeled into non-productive activity instead.

As government here has grown out of control, the incentives have shifted - power and wealth can be more readily obtained by using government than actually doing anything productive. Thus, the influx of money into the political system has gone wild, despite McCain-Feingold, and who has benefitted most from that? The so-called "socialists" and even big-government "conservatives", most of whom go into public service with modest means and leave in luxury.

At the 1972 Democratic convention, 70% of the delegates got all or most of their income via government, directly or indirectly. It's got to be much worse now, and the Republicans probably aren't a whole lot better.

Economics 101.

It ain't going to change until the power and scope of government goes way down. And that's not going to happen until it gets a lot worse first.
4.27.2009 12:13pm
Oren:


Except that this is caused by a manipulated currency exchange, and while the micro view is that your one wheat guy might break even either way, the macro resultant is that total volume of US exports to China will fall, and the total volumes of trade will be imbalanced, as we've experienced.

So, we get more stuff from them and they get less stuff from us. Sounds good to me -- I like to get stuff and I don't like to give my stuff to others.
4.27.2009 12:38pm
Oren:
Captive market? We don't have to buy cheap crap from China, we chose to because those goods satisfy our wants.
4.27.2009 12:38pm
neurodoc:
Yes, Oren, it's great to get cheap stuff from China, and who really cares about the decline of American manufacturing, job loss, and our $trillion debt to China, which we can rest assured the Chinese will never use to lever us. [Since I'm not 98% snark like sarcrasto, should I bracket that which I intend as snark, lest it otherwise be misunderstood?]
4.27.2009 1:15pm

Post as: [Register] [Log In]

Account:
Password:
Remember info?

If you have a comment about spelling, typos, or format errors, please e-mail the poster directly rather than posting a comment.

Comment Policy: We reserve the right to edit or delete comments, and in extreme cases to ban commenters, at our discretion. Comments must be relevant and civil (and, especially, free of name-calling). We think of comment threads like dinner parties at our homes. If you make the party unpleasant for us or for others, we'd rather you went elsewhere. We're happy to see a wide range of viewpoints, but we want all of them to be expressed as politely as possible.

We realize that such a comment policy can never be evenly enforced, because we can't possibly monitor every comment equally well. Hundreds of comments are posted every day here, and we don't read them all. Those we read, we read with different degrees of attention, and in different moods. We try to be fair, but we make no promises.

And remember, it's a big Internet. If you think we were mistaken in removing your post (or, in extreme cases, in removing you) -- or if you prefer a more free-for-all approach -- there are surely plenty of ways you can still get your views out.