Posted: November 27, 2016 Filed under: Mediasphere | Tags: Barack Obama, Cold War, Cuba, Cuban Missile Crisis, Fidel Castro, Havana, Little Havana, Miami, President of Cuba, Raúl Castro
North Korea and Cuba maintained close ties throughout the Cold War era. Havana has remained one of Pyongyang’s strongest international allies for over half of the century.
Vasudevan Sridharan reports: North Korea has declared three days of mourning beginning on Monday, 28 November to mark the death of Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Hailing the Cuban revolutionary as a “comrade and close friend” of North Korean people, the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has also penned a condolence letter to President Raul Castro.
“He was the close friend and comrade of the Korean people who made all efforts to strengthen the friendly and cooperative relations between the two parties, governments and peoples of our two countries and extended firm support and encouragement to our efforts for national reunification and just cause with the invariable revolutionary principle and obligation for over half a century.”
The ruling party’s central seat of power – the presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly and the cabinet had jointly decided that there will be a three-day mourning period – Pyongyang’s state-run mouthpieces say. According to the regime-backed Rodong Sinmun, the North Korea’s top political bodies have decided to “hoist flags at half-mast at major organisations and designated places”.
“Though he passed away, the precious feats he performed will remain forever in the hearts of the peoples of our two countries and the hearts of progressive mankind.”
The death of Castro, who came to power in 1959 ushering in a communist revolution, was announced on Friday, 25 November. Cuba had declared nine days of mourning to commemorate the 90-year-old. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: November 27, 2016 Filed under: Mediasphere | Tags: Barack Obama, Bay of Pigs Invasion, Central Intelligence Agency, Cuba, Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, Havana, Little Havana, Miami, President of Cuba, Raúl Castro, Soviet Union, United States
Maldonado had reportedly begun to spray-paint the words ‘he’s gone’ along the streets of Havana. Police are reportedly stationed outside his door, preventing anyone from entering the apartment. Maldonado’s mother fears police are planting evidence in his house to keep him detained on false charges.
Frances Martel reports: Cuban secret police have abducted the anti-communist artist Danilo Maldonado, according to his mother, who told the Spain-based Diario de Cuba that he had taken to the streets late Friday to celebrate the death of dictator Fidel Castro.
“They asked the landlady for his key, they broke into his house and took him away. We don’t know where,” María Victoria Machado González said of her son, calling his arrest an “abduction.” “He went out last night to celebrate Fidel Castro’s death, to place signs all over Havana,” she noted.
“They asked the landlady for his key, they broke into his house and took him away. We don’t know where… He went out last night to celebrate Fidel Castro’s death, to place signs all over Havana.”
— María Victoria Machado González
Maldonado had reportedly begun to spray-paint the words “he’s gone” along the streets of Havana. “The images are already circulating” in Cuba, his mother alleged. Police are reportedly stationed outside his door, preventing anyone from entering the apartment. Maldonado’s mother fears police are planting evidence in his house to keep him detained on false charges.
[Read the full story here, at Breitbart ]
Even if they do not plant any evidence, Maldonado’s mother says the artist kept a collection of about 30 political works, all of which could be punishable under communist law.
Maldonado became famous in Havana for his anti-communist street art and served time in prison in 2015 following an attempted art installation in public. In October 2015, Maldonado was arrested carrying two pigs painted with the names “Fidel” and “Raúl” on their backs, in an homage to the novel 1984. He planned to set them loose in a Havana square. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: November 27, 2016 Filed under: Crime & Corruption, Diplomacy, Global, History, Politics, Russia, Terrorism, War Room | Tags: Bay of Pigs Invasion, Che Guevara, Cold War, Cuba, Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuban Revolution, Cubans, Fidel Castro, Florida, Havana, Little Havana, Miami, President of Cuba, Raúl Castro, Soviet Union, United States
‘Pointing out to such believers that Castro imprisoned, tortured and murdered thousands more of his own people than any other Latin American dictator was usually futile. His well-documented cruelty made little difference, even when acknowledged, for he was judged according to some aberrant ethical code that defied logic.’
Carlos Eire writes: One of the most brutal dictators in modern history has just died. Oddly enough, some will mourn his passing, and many an obituary will praise him. Millions of Cubans who have been waiting impatiently for this moment for more than half a century will simply ponder his crimes and recall the pain and suffering he caused.
“According to Castro and to his propagandists, the so-called revolution was not about creating a repressive totalitarian state and securing his rule as an absolute monarch, but rather about eliminating illiteracy, poverty, racism, class differences and every other ill known to humankind.”
Why this discrepancy? Because deceit was one of Fidel Castro’s greatest talents, and gullibility is one of the world’s greatest frailties. A genius at myth-making, Castro relied on the human thirst for myths and heroes.
[Read the full text here, at the Washington Post]
His lies were beautiful, and so appealing. According to Castro and to his propagandists, the so-called revolution was not about creating a repressive totalitarian state and securing his rule as an absolute monarch, but rather about eliminating illiteracy, poverty, racism, class differences and every other ill known to humankind. This bold lie became believable, thanks largely to Castro’s incessant boasting about free schools and medical care, which made his myth of the benevolent utopian revolution irresistible to many of the world’s poor.
Many intellectuals, journalists and educated people in the First World fell for this myth, too — though they would have been among the first to be jailed or killed by Castro in his own realm — and their assumptions acquired an intensity similar to that of religious convictions.
[ALSO SEE – Fidel Castro and dead utopianism]
[What Fidel Castro Taught Me About the Radical Left]
Pointing out to such believers that Castro imprisoned, tortured and murdered thousands more of his own people than any other Latin American dictator was usually futile. His well-documented cruelty made little difference, even when acknowledged, for he was judged according to some aberrant ethical code that defied logic.
If this were a just world, 13 facts would be etched on Castro’s tombstone and highlighted in every obituary, as bullet points — a fitting metaphor for someone who used firing squads to murder thousands of his own people.
●He turned Cuba into a colony of the Soviet Union and nearly caused a nuclear holocaust.
●He sponsored terrorism wherever he could and allied himself with many of the worst dictators on earth.
●He was responsible for so many thousands of executions and disappearances in Cuba that a precise number is hard to reckon.
●He brooked no dissent and built concentration camps and prisons at an unprecedented rate, filling them to capacity, incarcerating a higher percentage of his own people than most other modern dictators, including Stalin.
●He condoned and encouraged torture and extrajudicial killings.
[Read the full story here, at the Washington Post]
●He forced nearly 20 percent of his people into exile, and prompted thousands to meet their deaths at sea, unseen and uncounted, while fleeing from him in crude vessels.
●He claimed all property for himself and his henchmen, strangled food production and impoverished the vast majority of his people.
●He outlawed private enterprise and labor unions, wiped out Cuba’s large middle class and turned Cubans into slaves of the state.
●He persecuted gay people and tried to eradicate religion.
●He censored all means of expression and communication.
●He established a fraudulent school system that provided indoctrination rather than education, and created a two-tier health-care system, with inferior medical care for the majority of Cubans and superior care for himself and his oligarchy, and then claimed that all his repressive measures were absolutely necessary to ensure the survival of these two ostensibly “free” social welfare projects.
●He turned Cuba into a labyrinth of ruins and established an apartheid society in which millions of foreign visitors enjoyed rights and privileges forbidden to his people.
●He never apologized for any of his crimes and never stood trial for them.
“This bold lie became believable, thanks largely to Castro’s incessant boasting about free schools and medical care, which made his myth of the benevolent utopian revolution irresistible to many of the world’s poor.”
This Kafkaesque moral disequilibrium had a touch of magical realism, for sure, as outrageously implausible as anything that Castro’s close friend Gabriel García Márquez could dream up. For instance, in 1998, around the same time that Chile’s ruler Augusto Pinochet was arrested in London for his crimes against humanity, Cuba’s self-anointed “maximum leader” visited Spain with ample fanfare, unmolested, even though his human rights abuses dwarfed those of Pinochet.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: November 26, 2016 Filed under: Crime & Corruption, History, Humor, Mediasphere, Politics, White House | Tags: Belgium, Canada, Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, Cuba, Cuba–United States relations, Cuban exile, Cuban Missile Crisis, Cuban Revolution, Donald Tusk, European Union, Fidel Castro, Havana, Jean-Claude Juncker, Jeremy Corbyn, Justin Trudeau, Miami, President of Cuba, President of the European Commission, Prime Minister of Canada, Raúl Castro
CNN mourns: Fidel Castro Ruz, the political personality, has died. Fidel Castro, the historical persona, has been born. He passes from the present into the past, to serve as an enduring historical subject of debate and dispute, about whom dispassion will be impossible for years to come. Fidel Castro was not a man about whom one is likely to be neutral.
NRO‘s Andrew Stuttaford writes:
Fidel is a metaphor. He is a Rorschach blot upon which to project fears or hopes. A prism in which the spectrum of colors refracted out has to do with light that went in. He is a point of view, loaded with ideological purport and political meaning. A David who survived Goliath. A symbol of Third World intransigence against First World domination.
But it is also possible to discuss the historical “essences” of Fidel Castro. He emerged out of a history shaped by a century of Cuban national frustration, heir to a legacy of unfulfilled hopes for national sovereignty and self-determination, aspirations that put Cuba on a collision course with the United States. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: December 19, 2014 Filed under: Breaking News, White House | Tags: Americans, Baby boomer, Barack Obama, Cuba, Cuban Missile Crisis, Duke of Cambridge, Havana, John F. Kennedy, Oval Office, Photography
Barack Obama’s historic peace-deal with Cuba after 50 years of cold war hostility was a breakthrough not to be sniffed at.
But that didn’t stop the US president having a try, when he got close and personal to a Cuban on Wednesday … not a citizen, but a cigar.
Significantly, it was the first time in 52 years that a US president has officially savoured the Cuban delicacy since John F. Kennedy stockpiled a secret stash of his favourite Havanas in the hours before he imposed a trade embargo on the Communist state in 1962.
Obama was attending one of two White House receptions to welcome the start of Hanukkah when a guest handed him a large stogie.
He took it in his hand and waved it in the air before running it under his nose for a whiff.
The room fell near-silent as he paused to take in its aroma, before declaring it ‘pretty good’ to everyone’s relief. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: January 2, 2014 Filed under: Mediasphere, Politics, Reading Room, U.S. News | Tags: Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, New York, Political philosophy, Rational ignorance, Soviet Union, Stanford University Press, Winston Churchill
Geroge F. Will writes: It was naughty of Winston Churchill to say, if he really did, that “the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” Nevertheless, many voters’ paucity of information about politics and government, although arguably rational, raises awkward questions about concepts central to democratic theory, including consent, representation, public opinion, electoral mandates and officials’ accountability.
In “Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter” (Stanford University Press), Ilya Somin of George Mason University law school argues that an individual’s ignorance of public affairs is rational because the likelihood of his or her vote being decisive in an election is vanishingly small. The small incentives to become informed include reducing one’s susceptibility to deceptions, misinformation and propaganda. And if remaining ignorant is rational individual behavior, it has likely destructive collective outcomes.
Somin says that during the Cold War in 1964, two years after the Cuban missile crisis, only 38 percent of Americans knew the Soviet Union was not a member of NATO. In 2003, about 70 percent was unaware of enactment of the prescription drug entitlement, then the largest welfare-state expansion since Medicare (1965). In a 2006 Zogby poll, only 42 percent could name the three branches of the federal government.
Voters cannot hold officials responsible if they do not know what government is doing, or which parts of government are doing what. Given that 20 percent thinks the sun revolves around the Earth, it is unsurprising that a majority is unable to locate major states such as New York on a map. Usually only 30 percent of Americans can name their two senators. The average American expends more time becoming informed about choosing a car than choosing a candidate. But, then, the consequences of the former choice are immediate and discernible.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: November 24, 2013 Filed under: History, Politics, War Room, White House | Tags: Assassination of John F. Kennedy, Cuba, Cuban Missile Crisis, ExComm, John F. Kennedy, Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Soviet, United States
(Photo By Douglas Graham/Roll Call via Getty Images)
Morton Kondracke displays some funny logic. My commentary is in italics.
I didn’t read or watch every observation of the anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination (who could?) but the ones I did gave short shrift to his signal accomplishment — saving the world from a nuclear holocaust.
Could it be because JFK played a provocative role in the nuclear confrontation in the first place? And other observers are more informed and realistic about this? The fact that JFK managed to back out of a nuclear crisis that he helped start is a “Signal Accomplishment”? Just a thought, Morton. Credit is due, Kennedy did act honorably, and skillfully, this is true. History records that. It’s been explored by scholars ever since. But let’s not pretend Kennedy swept in and saved the world.
The other view is that Kennedy brought the USA to the brink of a global nuclear war, then successfully avoided it. That might be the reason others haven’t touted it as a signal accomplishment.
His cool restraint during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis — resisting many advisers who were calling for bombing Soviet missile sites in Cuba — ought to earn him the top-of-the-heap public approval ratings he enjoys (90 percent in a CNN poll).
I doubt the ratings are based on that, though. His celebrated grace, glamour, wit, eloquence, inspiration of a generation to public service, his (belated) support for civil rights, the Camelot myth created by his widow — and, above all, his martyrdom — most likely are the major factors.
Grace, glamour, wit, eloquence…morbidly brazen womanizing, medical dependence on steroids and regular injections of powerful amphetamines to mask grave health problems….and recklessly bringing the USA to the brink of nuclear war. Okay, got it. Glamorous.
Historians rate him lower than the public does. If you look at the excellent Wikipedia site, Historical Rankings of Presidents of the United States, he rates in the middle-upper tier in a dozen surveys of historians — 14th in a 2002 Sienna College survey.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: November 23, 2013 Filed under: History, Politics, Reading Room, White House | Tags: Bay of Pigs Invasion, Cuban Missile Crisis, E.J. Dionne, John F. Kennedy, John Lewis Gaddis, Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, Nikita Khrushchev, Ronald Reagan, Soviet
John F. Kennedy was many things, but a great president was not among them. (Associated Press)
I meant to wrap up our multi-volume series on Kennedy yesterday, but a this one caught my eye. It fits in with the contrarian view–a reality check on Kennedy myth–to counter the Kennedy inflation that characterized much of the coverage of the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination this month. If you’re a Kennedy skeptic, this is for you. If you’re a Kennedy admirer, the Washington Posts’s WonkBlog‘s Dylan Matthews is here to rain on your parade.
Dylan Matthews writes: Fifty years ago Friday, Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. The assassination was a tragedy — and it turned the target into something of a secular political saint. There are few modern presidents about whom The Post’s own George Will and E.J. Dionne can agree, but JFK appears to be one.
“It tells us a great deal about the meaning of John F. Kennedy in our history that liberals and conservatives alike are eager to pronounce him as one of their own,” Dionne notes. A Gallup poll last week found that Americans rate him more highly than any of the other 11 presidents since Eisenhower. A 2011 Gallup poll found that he came in fourth when Americans were asked to name the greatest president of all time, behind Ronald Reagan, Abraham Lincoln, and Bill Clinton, but ahead of George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson.
Some of that reputation is hard to argue with. Kennedy was a brilliant rhetorician who inspired a generation of young Americans, and his death left a lingering scar on the American psyche. But it’s important that his presidency be evaluated on its actual merits. And on the merits, John F. Kennedy was not a good president. Here are six reasons why.
1. The Cuban Missile Crisis was his fault
Soviet strategic missile sites under construction in Cuba in 1962. (National Security Agency)
Historians disagree on what exactly lead to the October 1962 crisis that almost ended in a nuclear exchange. But basically every interpretation suggests that, had the Eastern Seaboard been wiped out that month, it would have been the result of Kennedy’s fecklessness.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: November 19, 2013 Filed under: History, Think Tank, White House | Tags: Cuban Missile Crisis, John F. Kennedy, John Kerry, John McCain, Kennedy, McCarthyism, Nikita Khrushchev, United States
A so-so president, a deeply flawed man
By almost any measure, John F. Kennedy was a middling president at best, and an occasionally disastrous one. The Bay of Pigs fiasco, the Cuban missile crisis, setting the nation on the wrong course in Vietnam, his nepotism, the spying on political rivals — all must weigh heavily in our judgment of his presidency. And while Kennedy the president was a middle-of-the-range performer at best, Kennedy the man has been relentlessly diminished by the eventual revealing of the facts of his day-to-day life.
Conservatives who see in Kennedy a committed combatant in the Cold War and a supply-side tax-cutter must keep in mind his bungling at home and abroad. Liberals who see in Kennedy a receptacle for all they hold holy must keep in mind his calculating cynicism — for example, his opposition to civil-rights legislation when he believed its passage would strengthen the Republican president proposing it. Kennedy’s virtues — his vocal anti-Communism, his assertive sense of the American national interest, his tax-cutting — would hardly make him a welcome figure among those who today claim his mantle. His vices, on the other hand, are timeless.
The Cuban missile crisis is generally presented as the great episode of Kennedy’s hanging tough in the face of Communist aggression, but, like so much about Kennedy’s life, that story represents a triumph of public relations over substance. Kennedy gave up much more than he let on to resolve the crisis, agreeing to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey — on the condition that the concession remain secret, so as not to undermine his political career or his brother’s. And the Cuban missile crisis was brought on in no small part by Kennedy’s inviting displays of weakness: His performance at the 1961 Vienna summit made little impression on Nikita Khrushchev, and within a few months the Berlin Wall was under construction. After the Bay of Pigs, the Soviets had little reason to suppose that Cuba was anything but a safe port for them.
But Kennedy had a gift for spinning gold out of goof-ups.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted: November 10, 2013 Filed under: History, U.S. News | Tags: Atomic Age, Austin American-Statesman, Civil defense, Cuban Missile Crisis, Denham, Fallout shelter, San Antonio, Texas, West Lake Hills Texas
(AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Rodolfo Gonzalez
Michael Barnes writes: With effort, Craig Denham heaves open the heavy metal door.
He heads down the steep, thick concrete steps that are set in solid limestone. He takes a sharp left into the darkness, then another, before revealing an astounding time capsule preserved from the height of the Atomic Age.
In the backyard of the creative director’s mid-century modern home in West Lake Hills is a 1961 fallout shelter in near-mint condition.
Two retractable cots hang from one wall in a cramped room that is illuminated by a single light bulb. Nearby is a crank for the air shaft; across the way are spigots for water stored in tanks.
In one corner is a low, odd-looking toilet sheltered behind a plastic shower curtain.
“Probably leads right into the aquifer,” Denham, 44, joked to the Austin American-Statesman before pointing out a disabled periscope near the stairwell. “Perfect for the zombie apocalypse if it comes.”
Large tin can of crackers found in a 1960’s era bomb shelter found in the back yard of Craig Denham’s back yard in West Lake Hills, Texas. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Rodolfo Gonzalez)
Lined on shelves of the shelter — built by a retired Air Force colonel who was also something of an inventor — are supplies and equipment for surviving a week or two underground. That was the length of time civil defense officials estimated — at least for public consumption — necessary for radioactive fallout from a nuclear bomb to clear away.
Craig Denham holds a Geiger counter standing in a 1960’s era bomb shelter built in the ground of the families back yard in West Lake Hills, Texas. (AP Photo/Austin American-Statesman, Rodolfo Gonzalez)
Among the most chilling artifacts: a Texas highway map posted on the wall. The shelter owner had carefully drawn cross hairs over San Antonio — where U.S. military forces were concentrated — along with what appear to be trajectories for fallout drift. (Oddly, the lines fan out to the southeast, defying the prevailing Texas winds.)
“He was privy to information the public wasn’t,” Denham says of Col. E.V. Robnett Jr., who died in 1984. “And even he built one in his backyard. There must have been real concern with people’s safety.”
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Posted: October 27, 2013 Filed under: History, Space & Aviation, White House | Tags: Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Cold War, Cuban Missile Crisis, John F. Kennedy, Kennedy family, United States
On September 12, 1962, President Kennedy proclaimed “we choose to go to the Moon in this decade,” setting in motion the race to land humans on the Moon. But no one has gone back in 4 decades.
Posted: October 12, 2013 Filed under: History, Reading Room | Tags: Carlyle Hotel, Cecil B. DeMille, Cuban Missile Crisis, John F. Kennedy, Kennedy, Max Jacobson, Richard Nixon, Truman Capote, United States
In 1962, at the Carlyle Hotel in New York, a man “peeled off his clothing and began prancing around his hotel suite.” His bodyguards were cautiously amused, until the man “left the suite and began roaming through the corridor of the Carlyle.”
The man in question was delusional, paranoid and suffering a “psychotic break” from the effects of an overdose of methamphetamine.
He was also the president of the United States.
The reason for John F. Kennedy’s bizarre behavior was that, according to an explosive new book, the president was — unbeknownst to him, at first — a meth addict.
The man who supposedly made him so was Max Jacobson, a doctor who had invented a secret vitamin formula that gave people renewed energy and cured their pain, and was given the code name “Dr. Feelgood” by Kennedy’s Secret Service detail.
This formula was actually methamphetamine, and over the course of a decades-long practice, Jacobson became doctor to the stars, making unknowing drug addicts out of a long list of the famous and distinguished, including JFK and his wife, Jackie, Marilyn Monroe, Mickey Mantle, Eddie Fisher, Truman Capote and many more.
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