Sunday, December 20, 2009

The health care bill that became sick

This bill needs to either change or die.

Those who support the health care bill basically fall into two categories:
  1. You are a Democrat looking for reelection
  2. You are a Democrat who thinks that the merits of the bill outweigh the bad stuff
So, what are the bill's merits? Health insurance companies wouldn't be able to deny people based on preexisting conditions. More people would have health coverage when all is said and done. Government subsidies would help people who can't afford their plans.

BUT...the bad parts are striking. So striking, we need bullet points:
  • No public option or medicare buy-in. Medicare/Medicaid plans aren't expanded nearly enough for average people looking for federally-backed insurance to get what they want and need, and this fact will cost us $25 billion extra. Also, this hampers any plans for single-payer, which is what would get us on par with the rest of the industrialized world.
  • Mandated health insurance from private corporations. People are going to be forced to buy health care from private companies, feeding into the broken system we already have. This is exactly the opposite of what single-payer and even the public option was trying to accomplish. Although government subsidies would aid those who can't afford insurance, it will still be financially stressful on the underclass.
  • While the preexisting conditions part would apply to children immediately, adults would not be put under disease-discrimination protection until 2014. Health care expenses are the single biggest cause of bankruptcy in the United States, and with the economy the way it is, waiting five years is not an option for many people.
  • Insurance companies would be able to charge 300% more based on age. The bill leaves older people who are struggling financially with little help besides band-aid subsidies for payment for insurance. This is blatantly legalized ageism.
  • While it does not outlaw abortion, the bill significantly restricts a woman's right to choose because it mandates that no federal funding will help cover abortion procedures. Also, each state needs to offer at least one form of insurance through the exchange plan that does not include abortion coverage. Essentially, poor women will not be able to get abortions at the same rate that rich women can. Gender-class warfare anyone?
Women's rights are being exploited through the bill, but I think the main argument against it is that it equates getting more people covered with a path to universal health care. Just because someone is allowed to get health care doesn't mean they can afford it, and if they can't, it doesn't count as having affordable health insurance. It sounds obvious, but this is the same logic that George W. Bush used when he declared that Americans have universal health care (you can go to an emergency room for free!), and it's the same logic being used now by centrist Democrats.

I will leave you with this blog post from Glenn Greenwald. He does a great job connecting this bill with the steady corporatist culture in Washington, DC. Oh the city in which I live!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Suburban Radical Moves to the Big City

It's been a long time. Way too long.

OK, so the last time you saw me I was:
  • a high school student
  • still hopeful about Obama
  • a suburban resident
  • devastatingly handsome.
A few months later, some stuff has changed. Now I'm:
  • a college student
  • disillusioned to the point of despair about Obama
  • a resident of Washington, DC
  • devastatingly handsome and a little bit taller
But I'm still the same suburban radical at heart. You can take the Marxist out of the suburbs, but you can't take the suburbs out of the Marxist.

Actually, that's a little depressing. The suburbs suck. But anyway.

So where to begin now? It's been a while since I've posted, and there's so much to talk about! Whether it's the birthers, teabaggers, other white supremacist groups marching around, it's apparent that the ultra-right is having their way with the left-of-center mandate that was voted for last year. The Democrats are spineless as always, but I guess anyone could have seen that coming.

I suppose as a suburban radical, I'll talk about the suburbs for a bit--namely New Jersey, which is my home state. The governorship of Jon Corzine (D) wasn't a terribly successful one; in fact, he's mostly known for the motorcade accident he got in and the fact that he raised Turnpike taxes. He lost to the Republican candidate Chris Christie, who carried a strong majority even though the third party, relatively conservative Chris Daggett (I) could have acted as a spoiler. Obviously, the voters did not want Corzine, but of course, they'll soon realize that Christie, who is famous for tapping phone lines and forcibly gutting public schools to create charter schools, is no better. Shame it has to be this way. It's not like the Corzine campaign cared a whole lot. According to my suitemate, who canvassed for Corzine on a College Democrats trip, the campaign was one of the worst-run he's ever seen.

So the ultra-right won in Jersey and VA, they won when Maine and New York rejected gay marriage, and they won when Obama just escalated the war in Afghanistan. Same country, same politics, same reactionary forces, same bourgeois capitalism, same imperialism, different face.

This health care business has been a debacle, and the astroturf-teabag-Glenn-Beck-ites are getting in the way of progress. We can't even get a fucking public option. Unbelievable.

I suppose you'll want to know about my adventures within DC now, right? OK, well here it goes:
  • During the week of the National Equality March, I saw Cleve Jones and Sherry Wolf (from the ISO) talk about LGBT liberation and the new movement for equality. That same day I saw the Solar Decathlon and the HRC center where Obama gave his almost-equal-rights-for-gays speech. Also, I saw Bo the Dog Obama being walked.
  • The National Equality March was something else. Absolutely wonderful. So many people, so many groups--I even walked right in front of Lt. Dan Choi!
  • Guess who saw Michael Moore! He came to give a town hall about Capitalism: A Love Story, which has to be my new favorite documentary. Fantastic.
  • Oh, I totally met Amy Goodman and got a signed book from her! Then I asked her to shake my hand, forgetting that due to a degenerative disorder, she can't move her right hand that well. Oops!
There's so much more to say, but it's finals week and I'm really tired. I'll hopefully keep updating regularly. That was a hiatus that was much too long.

Oh, before I forget: I'm a Women's Studies major now! Feminism FTW!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Gender Equality and Religion: Using the Burqa Ban as a Jumping-Off Point

A little over a month ago, The Huffington Post put up an Associated Press article entitled “Sarkozy: Burqas Are ‘Not Welcome’ In France.” The gist of the article was that French President Nicolas Sarkozy used “some of the strongest language against burqas from a European leader at a time when some Western officials have been seeking to ease tensions with the Muslim world.” Burqas, for those unaware, are a type of Islamic religious garb for women that cover the entire body. Burqas have a nasty reputation for being a hindrance to female equality in the Muslim world, and also apparently in France. Thus, some in that country would like to see them banned from being worn.

I saw this as an affront to the basic human right of freedom of religion, or more importantly, freedom of expression. It was in this spirit that I wrote this in the comments section of the article:

This is absolutely ridiculous. A woman can choose to where [sic] whatever she wants. When a burqa is a symbol of subservience, it is when the woman is forced to wear one.

Sorry about the dumb spelling mistake. And using the word “the” before “woman” doesn’t sound right, deconstructively. My bad.

Anyway, now that I reexamine what I wrote, I think I only agree with about half of what I commented. I still think that the burqa ban is ridiculous, and that a woman has the right to wear whatever she damn well pleases. However, I think I’m going to have to take back the second half. The burqa is still a symbol of subservience, even if a woman is forced to wear it or not. This is because the religious institution it comes from is sexist.

Some of you are probably offended right now. Wait, keep reading.

My beef isn’t with Islam specifically. Rather, it’s with the Abrahamic religions in general. I’m not a Muslim, but I am a member of another Abrahamic religion—Judaism. The sexist commonality, at least for me, came in the realization of the similarities of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Most people point to specific verses in the Bible/Qur’an when they think of sexism (and homophobia and heterosexism) in the major monotheistic religions. From the Torah’s story of the fall of humankind from Eden due to woman, the execution of gays, the “impurities” of menstruation and seminal fluid, to the New Testament’s call for wives to “submit” to their husbands, and to the Qur’an’s implorations of women’s modesty. These are all pretty damning (yes, pun intended), but not what I see as the most basic cause of these religions’ problems with sexism.

Really, the dilemma is that all three religions seek to assign gender roles to how people should live. Wives are still sex objects, but only to their husbands. Husbands must fulfill the role of provider for the family. In each religion, this concrete separation evolved into intensely patriarchal systems. Oh, and don’t even think about trying to do anything differently, lest you be stoned to death.

Just like social superstructures imitate economic bases, so do specific aspects of religions imitate their simplest principles. Within the confines of religious law, burqas, as well as other religious clothing mandated only for women, like Jewish sheitels, are oppressive in nature.

The trick is, though, that you have to introduce choice into the matter, which is what feminism is all about. Women who are able to choose what they want to wear are not oppressed in that manner. Even though religious garb still may carry oppression symbolically, the woman who wears it is not necessarily oppressed in this particular area of her life, as long as she has chosen her outfit.

In conclusion: a burqa is still symbolically sexist, but a woman who chooses to wear one is not proclaiming subservience to men. This goes for all religions with gender-clothing. Religions are sexist when they assign gender roles, since overcoming sexism means choosing what role you want regardless of sex. France’s burqa ban eliminates that choice, and is thus a dumb law. I should never be allowed to ramble.

Hopefully no one is too mad over what I’ve written. Who knows, I may not agree with this entire post in a month.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A blogging surprise

If anyone out there actually reads this blog, I'm going to be posting on a certain more famous blog very, very soon. I'm really excited.

As soon as it's up, I'll link to it.

---------------------
OK, here's the link: http://thefbomb.org/2009/07/proclaiming-oneself-as-a-male-teenage-feminist/

The FBomb is a teenage feminist blog that has been featured on websites like Salon's Broadsheet and Jezebel, started by Julie Zeilinger, a teenage feminist who is not afraid to fight the patriarchy.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Capitalism: A Love Story

That's the name of Michael Moore's new movie.

I am REALLY EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Moore on the movie:

It’s got it all — lust, passion, romance and 14,000 jobs being eliminated every day. It’s a forbidden love, one that dare not speak its name. Heck, let’s just say it: It’s capitalism.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Tumblelog

I just realized I posted that I'd be creating a micro blog at Tumblr, but I never gave the URL.

It's TheSuburbanRadical.tumblr.com

Easy to remember. It's where I'll post things that don't always have to do with politics or current events. Maybe a random musing here or there.

BAM!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/05/biden-ignores-warnings-of_n_225888.html

WE ALL TOLD YOU SO! WE ALL TOLD YOU SO!

Honduras and The Shock Doctrine

Last year for my birthday my parents got me the Naomi Klein book The Shock Doctrine, which I asked for, since I'm a total Klein-geek. (I also got No Logo, but I haven't read that yet.) I finally got around to reading it, almost a year later. I'm only about 200 pages in, but it's blowing my mind. The basic premise of the book is this:

Free market capitalism as we know it today wasn't born out of peaceful reforms in welfare-state economies. Rather, whenever these countries wanted to radically change their economy into a laissez-faire structure, they had to shock their populations into accepting these changes, or use shocks to quickly restructure the economy. This was the philosophy of the most famous free market economist ever, Milton Friedman.

The scariest thing about this is that the shock treatments that the "disaster capitalists" use directly mimic the use of shock therapy, and later torture, to "remake" people.




People have never willingly subjected themselves to neoliberal policies, and they've mostly been enforced by brute force. There is, then, a discrepancy between the traditional notion of capitalism and freedom (coincidentally, Capitalism and Freedom is the name of Milton Friedman's most well-known book). Pure capitalism cannot exist in a democracy. It must be shocked into existence by quick action from governments when disasters happen.

Think someone like Friedman would never admit the incompatibility of capitalism and democracy? Well, think again:



Friedman's followers at the University of Chicago's school of economics (the "Chicago School") have had a long history of overthrowing Latin American democracies to institute radical free market military dictatorships, the only environment where capitalism can live undisturbed by protesting people. The "Chicago Boys," as they were later known, helped topple regimes in Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia, and others. This was always with some sort of American support, whether it was from American corporations, the CIA, or the White House.

That is why the military coup of the democratic Honduran government doesn't strike me as surprising, just disgusting. President Zelaya, ousted by the coup, wasn't exactly freedom-oriented, but his pro-union, anti-neoliberal stance would certainly be of some distress to the right wing.

I submit that the military coup in Honduras was nothing more than the execution of economic shock therapy. The reports of labor leaders being rounded up and the free press being shut down are clear indicators that a fascist Friedmanite free market revolution could be the goal in Honduras.

Now we just have to wait and see what happens.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

We must protect the sanctity of marriage!

You have to love politicians like Mark Sanford, governor of South Carolina. This guy might be king of the idiots in the way he tried to get away with his extramarital affair--by running off to Argentina without telling his staff where he was going, causing everyone to wonder what the hell happened to the governor of South Carolina. Here is what he had to say about that. AP:
"I've let down a lot of people, that's the bottom line," Sanford said at a news conference. He said he's known the woman about eight years, but their relationship turned into something more a year ago while he was on an economic development trip to Argentina.
I don't want to be unfair to Republicans. Democratic politicians have had their own share of cheating on their wives. But gosh darnit, it just feels good to say to them, "GOTCHA!"

Because for people like Sanford, protecting the sanctity of marriage has nothing to do with having a working marriage of your own. It has nothing to do with respecting the values of monogamy in a two-person setting of a relationship. No, for Mark Sanford, it means making sure that gay people can't get married, can't get civil unions, and can't adopt children.

As I said before, Sanford is an idiot. Who else would do this:
A former three-term congressman, Sanford most recently snared headlines for his unsuccessful fight to turn aside federal stimulus cash for his state's schools. His vocal battle against the Obama administration -- and libertarian, small-government leanings -- won praise from conservative pundits. Ultimately, a state court order required him to take the money.
Oh, believe it or not, the dolt also said this once: "It is my personal view that the largest proclamation of one's faith ought to be in how one lives his life."

Nice, Sanford, nice.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

This is not surprising.

So The New York Times just wrote an article about some newly-released audio from former President Richard Nixon. Like always, he's a jerk. But this time, he's being a really, really racist jerk. Really racist.
Nixon worried that greater access to abortions would foster "permissiveness," and said that "it breaks the family." But he also saw a need for abortion in some cases, such as interracial pregnancies.

"There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white," he told an aide, before adding: "Or a rape."
I wouldn't put it past Nixon to think that he associated interracial love with the old, hateful notion that black men were always after white women.

Oh, Tricky Dick. When will history ever vindicate you?

Tumblr

Let's try out a micro blogging platform.
Nobody reads this, but I'll still post on here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Or does it explode?


"Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?


Over the past two days, I'm pretty sure the world exploded. Or at least Iran did. If you've been following (at least as best as reporters can in a counry that went to hell in a day), then you've seen that the re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the current president, was most likely a sham. So that's when crowds supporting the opposition candidate Mousavi started burning everything.

Ahmadinejad didn't exactly make it hidden that he planned to disrupt democracy. Mousavi's text messaging networks were jammed hours before the election. He even had to migrate his website to a Google Sites address to avoid censorship in Iran.

Israel's government's reaction to this hasn't been stellar, to say the least. Via The Australian:

However, in the run-up to the Iranian polls, Mr Ahmadinejad's re-election has come to be seen as a strategic advantage. "There is no one who has served Israel's information program better than him," wrote columnist Ben Caspi in the daily Ma'ariv yesterday.

Israeli security officials note that decisions regarding major issues such as the nuclear program are made in Iran not by the president, regardless of who he is, but by Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and a small group of senior clerics.

They have a good point in that last sentence. Khamenei is the man behind the curtain for every political move in Iran, which is a theocratic republic (emphasis on theocratic). The only way to overcome such an oppressive state of affairs is for an internal people's revolution, which is why regardless of who wins the elections, the Iranian people need to take a stand against the Supreme Leader. Easier said than done, but it has to be done if they want progress.

Biden "doubts" the election. Hopefully the U.S. will do more diplomatically to see that this thing resolve itself peacefully. But hopefully we take a hard stand against theocracy. That most likely will not happen though.

On a different topic, a far-right terrorist shot and killed George Tiller, the late-term abortion doctor who saved countless women's lives. Everyone immediately, and rightly so, pointed their fingers at Bill O'Reilly, the man who helped provoke the violent acts by going on long and often nonsensical diatribes about Tiller, who he calls "The Baby Killer."

Joan Walsh went on The O'Reilly Factor to debate this, and I think it's safe to say that Bill O'Reilly almost collapsed near the end under his own denseness.




It's important to note that no matter how often O'Reilly says that Tiller has "blood on his hands," it is really O'Reilly that is an accomplice to murder. Walsh points that out numerous times throughout the debate.

More right wing violence happened at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., which is a tragedy, plain and simple. But the shooting can be linked to right wing media pundits showing their anger and coaxing their viewers into dangerous and insane actions. Shephard Smith, of all people, points this out:



The left needs a Michael Moore film right about now.
Wait, there's one coming out soon! Yay!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The best Democracy Now! episode in a while

Amy Goodman has on Naomi Klein and friends about worker takeovers of abandoned factories. Watch it, it's really good.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I guess innocent civilians are S.O.L.

Via a Newsweek article:

Running for president in last year's Democratic primaries, Barack Obama promised to restore a federal ban on certain semiautomatic assault guns—a position that's still on the White House Web site. The ban was originally passed by the Democratic-controlled Congress in 1994 and lapsed five years ago. In recent years the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has also lifted virtually all restrictions on imports of foreign-made assault weapons, permitting a flood of cheap Romanian, Bulgarian and other Eastern European AK-47s to enter the country, according to gun-control groups. "There's been an absolute deluge of these weapons," says Kristen Rand of the Violence Policy Center.

But Obama and top White House aides have all but abandoned the issue. Emanuel helped orchestrate passage of the original assault-weapons ban when he worked in the Clinton White House. Now he and other White House strategists have decided they can't afford to tangle with the National Rifle Association at a time when they're pushing other priorities, like economic renewal and health-care reform, say congressional officials who have raised the matter. (According to his office, Emanuel couldn't be reached for comment because he was observing the Passover holiday.) A White House official, who asked not to be identified discussing internal strategy, says, "There isn't support in Congress for such a ban at this time." Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesman, says, "The president supports the Second Amendment, respects the tradition of gun ownership in this country, and he believes we can take common-sense steps to keep our streets safe," pointing to $2 billion in new funding for state and local law enforcement in the stimulus package.

I never wrote about Hitchens on Marx

Because I don't really care. I haven't read The Atlantic in weeks. No time anymore.

However, if there is one thing I can say about the article, what bothered me was the conclusion. Hitchens mentions that it appears that capitalism and Marxism are symbiotic. This might appear to be true at first glance (after all, what's a revolution without something to revolt against), but Marxists have a vision for society after a capitalist state. Also, Hitchens uses evidence from the Austrian school to criticize Marx, but the fall of Milton Friedman's followers shows that libertarian economists shouldn't be regarded as economic heavyweights.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hitchens on Marx

The Atlantic Monthly: Christopher Hitchen's article on Karl Marx.

I suppose I'll write something on it soon.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Goodman and Krugman, feminist perspective, and letting Geithner fail

Amy Goodman had Paul Krugman on Democracy Now! today, and they talked about the Geithner plan--or as Krugman calls it, "cash for trash."

I actually discovered something about Paul Krugman in this interview that I didn't like, which was only inevitable. He supports NAFTA vehemently...something that I guess I was too young to know that he supported. It makes no difference in what he says on NAFTA, I suppose.

Suburban radicals don't support NAFTA. His beard still rocks though.

Questions. People need to start asking questions. Why will a toxic asset suddenly be worth more in the near future? Who's to say that investors will want to buy them in the first place? Why are we even proposing a plan that punishes taxpayers more than investors in the worst-case scenario? Why do we insist on letting the market play a part in the solution?
A couple of coments from the comments section of the most recent Tom Tomorrow cartoon on Salon.com:

I think the invisible hand

Is very visibly jerkin' us off..

The Invisible Hand is wacking off...that's what got it in trouble

Yup...and we're all going to go blind because the Invisible Hand did it way too often, against the wishes/demands of his nanny, i.e., regulations.

This sexual metaphor can be taken further too. With the times so tough, many women are turning to the sex industry as a last resort for joblessness. Melissa McEwan over at Shakesville gives a great analysis of this, and brings up the masculine-centric aspect of the mainstream media's coverage of this crisis:
In a good economy, choosing to work in the sex industry as a last resort isn't nearly as acceptable as it is when the entire country is shit-toiling (except the men dropping thousands of dollars on strippers and porn). But now that the economy's in the toilet, it's acceptable for women to sell their bodies even if they don't really want to!
Fianancial crises suck and they make my head hurt. I'm going to sleep. But I leave you with more from Salon:
But all the Sturm und Drang expressed hither and yon about how the Obama administration is damning us all to a decade or more of economic doldrums by not pursuing immediate bank nationalization today is just a bit overwrought. The U.S. economy is not going to stop shedding a half-million jobs a month if we nationalize Citigroup today, instead of two months from now. We are deep in a recession and it will be quite a while before we crawl out of it. Two months of caution do not mandate a "lost decade." Indeed, we will know in a matter of months whether the Obama administration's current efforts are gaining any traction, and if they aren't, then there will be no other alternatives. Perhaps the smartest thing that Geithner's critics could do is just step aside and let him fail.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot--happy belated sixth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A blogging hiatus, Geithner, AIG, and Suburbia

It's been almost a month since I last wrote anything on here, which is in bad form for a political blog.

But I've noticed that since I've become angrier and angrier as this financial mess drags on, it's been harder to verbalize my rage. So I took a break from blogging. I hoped that maybe there would be some progress. I was naive.

Jon Steward crushed Jim Cramer on The Daily Show, but there hasn't been a change in the corporate media's attitude towards cheer-leading the banks.

The Obama administration has finally revealed itself to be anti-progressive, and their financial plan has Paul Krugman saying this:

To this end the plan proposes to create funds in which private investors put in a small amount of their own money, and in return get large, non-recourse loans from the taxpayer, with which to buy bad — I mean misunderstood — assets. This is supposed to lead to fair prices because the funds will engage in competitive bidding.

But it’s immediately obvious, if you think about it, that these funds will have skewed incentives. In effect, Treasury will be creating — deliberately! — the functional equivalent of Texas S&Ls in the 1980s: financial operations with very little capital but lots of government-guaranteed liabilities. For the private investors, this is an open invitation to play heads I win, tails the taxpayers lose. So sure, these investors will be ready to pay high prices for toxic waste. After all, the stuff might be worth something; and if it isn’t, that’s someone else’s problem.
I could write about my disappointment with Obama on not listening to sane economists, but this music video does it for me:



And AIG. It's time to call bullshit on their "contractual obligations" to pay millions of dollars in bonuses. They knew damn well where their company was headed at this time, and now taxpayers are accounting for greed.

But Geithner helped them do it of course. Chris Dodd should have taken more of a stand against it, but I suppose with the President and the Treasury-Secretary against you, you do what they say. From FactCheck.Org:
The public record shows Dodd authored an amendment that would have prevented "any bonus" being paid to top executives of firms getting bailout money. It was the White House and the Treasury Department that insisted Dodd's amendment be watered down to apply only to bonuses paid under agreements signed in the past five weeks. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has taken public responsibility for that.
It's so cliche, but the Democrats and Republicans really are two sides of the same coin, which happens to be in the pocket of...the banks? the corporations in general?
The capitalist superstructure.

Obama's appeal to populist rage was the perfect example of a government's manipulation of people's collective feelings through the prevailing hegemony. He can go on Leno all he wants, but the public is going to see through this smokescreen. We have to.

On a completely different note, I wasn't sure if I should bring in my personal feelings about suburbia into this blog, but since I am a suburban radical, it wouldn't make sense not to. I recently experienced a revelation that makes me remebmer why I call myself a Marxist in the first place.

I am in a half-year economics course in my high school, which basically serves as an introduction to modern capitalism. We have briefly studied the "supply" side of things and the "demand" side. I am forced to argue on Keynesian talking points, because there is no room, I realize, for a "labor" side of things. That's why Marx was and is so important. There is no branch of economics that doesn't reify workers except for those influenced by Marx.

Suburban schools are the most obvious products of capitalism and the false consciousness that accompanies it.

Just a thought.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

More cartoons

This Mr. Fish cartoon really speaks to me, but probably because I really hate "The Family Circus":
http://harpers.org/archive/2009/02/hbc-90004467

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The end of print media

I don't want to think that it's true. But with the advent of The Rocky Mountain News closing, I'm getting very afraid.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/26/rocky-mountain-news-last_n_170291.html

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Monday, February 23, 2009

Speaking of the morality of privatization...

Two judges in Pennsylvania were getting paid by a private prison to jail thousands of children. Amy Goodman had brought this to my attention via her blog, and this piece from a CNN article sums up the atrociousness of the situation:

Ciavarella, 58, along with Conahan, 56, corruptly and fraudulently "created the potential for an increased number of juvenile offenders to be sent to juvenile detention facilities," federal court documents alleged. Children would be placed in private detention centers, under contract with the court, to increase the head count. In exchange, the two judges would receive kickbacks.

The Juvenile Law Center said it plans to file a class-action lawsuit this week representing what they say are victims of corruption. Juvenile Law Center attorneys cite a few examples of harsh penalties Judge Ciavarella meted out for relatively petty offenses:

  • Ciavarvella sent 15-year-old Hillary Transue to a wilderness camp for mocking an assistant principal on a MySpace page.
  • He whisked 13-year-old Shane Bly, who was accused of trespassing in a vacant building, from his parents and confined him in a boot camp for two weekends.
  • He sentenced Kurt Kruger, 17, to detention and five months of boot camp for helping a friend steal DVDs from Wal-Mart.
  • Several other lawsuits on behalf of the juveniles who have appeared in Ciavarella's courtroom have emerged.

    The private juvenile detention centers, owned by Mid Atlantic Youth Services Corp., are still operating and are not a target of the federal investigation, according court documents.

    This is a lesson about the capitalist superstructure in general. Capitalism's immoralities can only breed more immoralities in the society that it controls. The judges who did this to these children are criminals, but the environment that allowed such actions was the privatized prison system, a natural extension of the free market.

    The free market is only free to some. The rest are bound by wage-slavery, or quite literally locked up in jail.

    Krugman does it again!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/23/opinion/23krugman.html?_r=1

    But the only thing I disagree with Krugman on, and something that we have to ask ourselves, is whether it's moral, considering the human-cost in livelihood, to ever go back to a private banking system.

    I think we all know the answer.

    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    Tom Tomorrow gets it.

    Of course he does, he's Tom Tomorrow. But never has he so eloquently expressed how I, and other progressives, feel as in this cartoon.

    NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!! OBAMA STOP!!!

    From the AP:

    WASHINGTON — Defense and congressional officials say President Barack Obama has approved an increase in U.S. forces for the flagging war in Afghanistan. The Obama administration is expected to announce on Tuesday or Wednesday that it will send one additional Army brigade and an unknown number of Marines to Afghanistan this spring. One official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the total is about 17,000 troops.

    That would be the first installment on a larger influx of U.S. forces that have been widely expected this year. It would get a few thousand troops in place in time for the increase in fighting that usually comes with warmer weather and ahead of national elections this summer.


    Sunday, February 15, 2009

    LOL at Bush

    George W. Bush is Fundraising Personally for His Library

    February 14, 2009 01:21 PM ET | Paul Bedard | Permanent Link | Print

    By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

    Don't say that former President Bush hasn't been hit by the crumbling economy he handed off to President Obama. Friends tell us that it has slowed the drive to raise some $500 million to build and endow the George W. Bush Presidential Center at Dallas's Southern Methodist University. "It's a bad environment," says one. Bush is taking no chances: He's making donor calls himself, and even his dad, the 41st president, is helping out, as are former aides like Karl Rove. In the future, say associates, look for Bush to host fundraising events in order to meet a goal of completing construction in 2013. But for now, "he's laying low," says one.

    Sunday, February 8, 2009

    This is ridiculous

    Every sane economist knows that when the economy is in trouble, the federal government has to go into deficit spending. This isn't just Keynesian economics, it's common sense.

    So why, then, do Republicans feel like cutting so much from Obama's stimulus bill? To please ideologues like Rush Limbaugh? Sure, not everything the stimulus does might seem like a dire need, but deficit spending requires a lot of things on which to spend money.

    Republicans: please take your heads out of your asses. We're in deep trouble right now.

    What got cut from the stimulus package, via CNN:

    Partially cut:

    • $3.5 billion for energy-efficient federal buildings (original bill $7 billion)

    • $75 million from Smithsonian (original bill $150 million)

    • $200 million from Environmental Protection Agency Superfund (original bill $800 million)

    • $100 million from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (original bill $427 million)

    • $100 million from law enforcement wireless (original bill $200 million)

    • $300 million from federal fleet of hybrid vehicles (original bill $600 million)

    • $100 million from FBI construction (original bill $400 million)

    Fully eliminated

    • $55 million for historic preservation

    • $122 million for Coast Guard polar icebreaker/cutters

    • $100 million for Farm Service Agency modernization

    • $50 million for Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service

    • $65 million for watershed rehabilitation

    • $100 million for distance learning

    • $98 million for school nutrition

    • $50 million for aquaculture

    • $2 billion for broadband

    • $100 million for National Institute of Standards and Technology

    • $50 million for detention trustee

    • $25 million for Marshalls Construction

    • $300 million for federal prisons

    • $300 million for BYRNE Formula grant program

    • $140 million for BYRNE Competitive grant program

    • $10 million state and local law enforcement

    • $50 million for NASA

    • $50 million for aeronautics

    • $50 million for exploration

    • $50 million for Cross Agency Support

    • $200 million for National Science Foundation

    • $100 million for science

    • $1 billion for Energy Loan Guarantees

    • $4.5 billion for General Services Administration

    • $89 million General Services Administration operations

    • $50 million from Department of Homeland Security

    • $200 million Transportation Security Administration

    • $122 million for Coast Guard Cutters, modifies use

    • $25 million for Fish and Wildlife

    • $55 million for historic preservation

    • $20 million for working capital fund

    • $165 million for Forest Service capital improvement

    • $90 million for State and Private Wildlife Fire Management

    • $1 billion for Head Start/Early Start

    • $5.8 billion for Health Prevention Activity

    • $2 billion for Health Information Technology Grants

    • $600 million for Title I (No Child Left Behind)

    • $16 billion for school construction

    • $3.5 billion for higher education construction

    • $1.25 billion for project based rental

    • $2.25 billion for Neighborhood Stabilization

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    • $1.2 billion for retrofitting Project 8 housing

    Friday, January 30, 2009

    George W. Bush didn’t do anything wrong

    Look what you’ve done. Look at the mess you’ve made. Who the hell is going to clean up your mess?

    One of the great aspects of the American political system is that it provides a kind of scientific way of going about implementing policy. If it doesn’t work, we can eliminate that method from ever being used again. Here is a list of some failed policies and institutions that the United States has supposedly gotten rid of:
    •Imperialism
    •Slavery
    •Civil totalitarianism
    •Lawful bigotry

    The U.S. has been a struggling for over two-hundred years to erase all of these monstrous things. Alas, they all exist in this country today, and they have all shown their failings continually, most recently under the Bush administration.

    But some would say that to accuse the Bush ideology of being one that supports something like slavery would be irrational. In the twenty-first century, how can there be any group of people (excluding the fringes) that supports anything so archaic and hideous? Support for these ideas has not died; it has merely evolved.

    The problem is in conservatism inherently, whether it is neoconservatism, neoliberalism, libertarianism, or any other system that glorifies the past. History has repeatedly shown that a tradition of expansion and free markets fosters growth to the elite class, but sets up the marginalized for long periods of intense suffering. There is a danger in looking to the past, then, as the basis for an ideology, because the past, especially the American one, is filled with persecution, genocide, and oppression.

    When Bush and his cronies lied to the country about the reasons for the invasion of Iraq, they had a long tradition of preemptive invasions to support their action. Besides continuous land-snatching from Native Americans, we stole land from Mexico to increase slave-owning territory, went to war with Spain to gain their colonies, dropped two atomic bombs to scare the Soviets, and sent troops into Latin American countries to topple democratic regimes in favor of right-wing dictatorships. Conservatism vindicated Bush because the past vindicated the imperialism he employed. Only now, the imperialism is called “nation-building.”

    Democratic imperialism would be nowhere, though, without the help of some government-supported multinational corporations. Conservative free trade policies allow companies to practically enslave their workers and exploit them for every penny. But Bush could have cared less. It is the American tradition to exploit the poor and to allow corporations to hijack other countries’ resources for self-gain. Bush was merely acting on that tradition of widespread wage-slavery as a tenet of conservatism.

    The impingement on our civil liberties created a civil totalitarian society, whether through the Patriot Act, faith-based programs, or anti-gay and anti-choice policies. America has an obvious history of oppressing minorities, from the genocide of Native Americans to the enslavement of African Americans to the subjugation of women. Limited rights has turned us into a statist state in the most basic sense, since the partnership of corporations and government has taken away freedoms of expression and enforced policies that keep down minorities. “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” because it is intrinsically impossible for American conservatives to care about oppression and freedom, especially when there’s money to be made.

    Conservatism in general is filled with mistakes, but the biggest one is the lack of vision. Those who revere Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand imagine a world where capitalism drives all aspects of life, though like Stalinist and Maoist communism—two systems that depended on pragmatism rather than vision—this has proven to be a failure. George W. Bush certainly was no visionary, and he was doomed from the beginning to make terrible mistakes that conservatism set him up for.

    The Bush administration showed the country the dangers of looking to the past, and all it cost us was our entire economic system, our civil liberties, our environment, and our national security. For all intents and purposes, Bush did not do anything wrong. The American people did, though, by accepting the spoon-fed information offered by the government and corporate media. Our system of government can be scientifically analyzed, but we first have to make sure we are analyzing the right specimen. Like it or not, we looked to past messes and created a new one. It’s time to clean it up.

    Thursday, January 29, 2009

    DICK Armey

    Republicans apparently love the sexism. Watch this whole clip from Hardball. Joan Walsh should be commended for diving into this chauvinist shark tank (the most outrageous comments start at about nine minutes in):

    Thursday, January 22, 2009

    He's not perfect by any means, but if he does for the rest of his presidency what he's doing with closing Gitmo now, I think I'll be O.K.

    Monday, January 19, 2009

    Bush commutes sentences of former US border agents

    WASHINGTON (AP) — In his final acts of clemency, President George W. Bush on Monday granted early prison releases to two former U.S. Border Patrol agents whose convictions for shooting a Mexican drug dealer fueled the national debate over illegal immigration.

    Bush, responding to heavy pressure from Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike, commuted the prison sentences of Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean. The two guards from El Paso, Texas, each were sentenced to more than 10 years for the shooting, which they tried to cover up. They will be released within two months.

    Opposition to their convictions, sentencing and firings has simmered ever since the shooting occurred in 2005.

    "After four years of fighting this, it's taken a toll on me and my daughter, and really the whole family," said Joe Loya, Ramos' father-in law, who has received tens of thousands of supportive e-mails and spent much of the past two years traveling the country to speak about the case. "We wouldn't give up. ... I knew sooner or later God would come through — that finally it would happen."

    He said his daughter, Monica Ramos, called from New York after learning the news that her husband soon would be released from a federal prison just outside Phoenix.

    "She could hardly speak," Loya said.

    The border agents' case became a rallying cause for conservatives concerned about border protection. On talk shows, people sympathetic with the agents argued that the men were just doing their jobs, defending the U.S.-Mexico border against criminals.

    Bob Baskett, Compean's attorney in Dallas, cited widespread congressional support from the bipartisan congressional delegation from Texas. "I think the president did the right thing," he said. "An awful lot of people did an awful lot of work to get this done."

    David Botsford, a lawyer for Ramos in Austin, Texas, said he had been guardedly optimistic that the commutations would be granted because of the support from Congress and the thousands of people who had sent letters of concern. The president has shown "he's a compassionate man," Botsford said.

    Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, who called the agents' convictions a "grotesque injustice," said he and other lawmakers initially had hoped to have the agents pardoned. "When it became evident there was resistance at the White House to a pardon, that's when we shifted gears to ask for a commutation," he said.

    Culberson helped gather signatures from 31 of the 34 current members of the Texas congressional delegation and two former delegation members for a letter asking Bush for the commutations. Culberson hand-delivered the letter to the White House last week.

    "I was beginning to really be concerned that with literally only hours left in the president's term, this might not happen," he said. "With this one decision, President Bush has done more to improve his popularity than any single thing he could do."

    Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, applauded the president's decision: "I do not condone the actions of these two men, but I believe the mandatory 10-year sentencing guidelines used in this case were excessive."

    Compean and Ramos were convicted of shooting admitted drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete Davila in the buttocks as he fled across the Rio Grande, away from an abandoned van load of marijuana. He remains in a low-security prison in Fort Worth, Texas.

    The border agents claimed at their trials that they believed the smuggler was armed and that they shot him in self defense. The prosecutor in the case, a U.S. attorney who was appointed by Bush in 2001, said there was no evidence linking the smuggler to the van of marijuana. The prosecutor also said the border agents didn't report the shooting and tampered with evidence by picking up several spent shell casings.

    White House officials said Bush didn't pardon the men for their crimes, but commuted their sentences because he believed they were excessive and that they had already suffered the loss of their jobs, freedom and reputations.

    Compean, 32, and Ramos, 39, were sentenced to 12 years and 11 years in prison, respectively. They each have served about two years. Under the terms of Bush's commutation, their prison sentences will expire on March 20, but their three-year terms of supervised release and the fines will remain intact.

    During his presidency, Bush has granted a total of 189 pardons and 11 commutations. That's fewer than half as many as Presidents Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan issued during their two-term tenures. Bush technically has until noon on Tuesday when President-elect Barack Obama is sworn into office to exercise his executive pardon authority, but presidential advisers said no more were forthcoming.

    In an earlier high-profile official act of forgiveness, Bush saved Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, from serving prison time in the case of the 2003 leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. Libby was convicted of perjury and obstructing justice. Bush could still grant him a full pardon, although Libby has not applied for one.

    Clinton issued a total of 457 pardons or commutations in eight years in office. Bush's father, George H. W. Bush, issued 77 in four years. Reagan issued 406 in eight years, and President Jimmy Carter issued 563 in four years. Since World War II, the largest number of pardons and commutations — 2,031 — came from President Harry Truman, who served 82 days short of eight years.

    Saturday, January 17, 2009

    About time

    From the AP:
    Israel declared a unilateral cease-fire Saturday in its 22-day offensive that turned Gaza neighborhoods into battlegrounds and dealt a stinging blow to the Islamic militants of Hamas. But Israeli troops will stay in the Palestinian territory for now and Hamas threatened to keep fighting until they leave.

    Monday, January 12, 2009

    The elite in this country are disgusting

    If you haven't read already, Bernard Madoff is going to be allowed to live under house arrest because, according to Judge Ronald Ellis, “The government has failed to articulate any flaw in the current conditions of release."

    There are people starving in the streets right outside of Madoff's multi-million-dollar apartment, and the legal system has the gall to let ol' Bernie live like a king.

    From the AP:
    In a separate decision, another magistrate signed off on an extension for the deadline to indict Madoff until Feb. 11. That means Madoff will remain free for at least another month, provided he does not violate conditions of the bail.
    Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

    Sunday, January 11, 2009

    This is comforting (not)

    From The Washington Post:
    Iran in the past two years has acquired numerous banned items -- including circuit boards, software and Global Positioning System devices -- that are used to make sophisticated versions of the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that continue to kill U.S. troops in Iraq, according to documents released by the Justice Department and a new study by a Washington research institute. The deadly trade was briefly disrupted after the moves against Dubai companies in 2006, but it quickly resumed with a few changes in shipping routes and company names, the officials said.
    This should be the last straw for people who think that a free market will help the security of any nation. It should also put to rest the myth that Bush has kept us safe for the past eight years.
    Just ask the troops who were killed by the bombs sold to Iran under his watch.

    Saturday, January 10, 2009

    Here it comes...

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/10/israel-tells-gazans-prepa_n_156792.html

    Sunday, January 4, 2009

    The long road to realization

    The Jed Report put out a fantastic video documenting Bush's persistent denial that we are in a recession, no matter how many people realized our economy was spiraling out of control.




    I can't wait until this guy is out of office. What astounds me is that he and Cheney put on their blinders and kept them on even after the country went to hell.
    See Paul Krugman's latest column about how the GOP is a party of whiners: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/02/opinion/02krugman.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

    Thursday, January 1, 2009

    Happy birthday, dear revolution, happy birthday to you

    Here is an article from Digital Granma Internacional about the 50-year anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, entitled "50 years on...and the same challenge of making a Revolution":

    "THE dictatorship has been defeated. The joy is immense. And yet, there still remains much to do. We won’t deceive ourselves by believing that everything will be much easier from now on; perhaps it will be much more difficult."

    This is what Commander in Chief Fidel Castro told the people on January 8, 1959, the day of his entry into Havana. Many people could never imagine the immense challenge that they would live to experience.

    Suffice it to say that just a few days later, Fidel proclaimed the right to self-determination in terms of relations with the United States and immediately, the aggressions, attempts on his life and anger on the part of U.S. politicians began, evidence of which can be seen in speeches and articles of the time, as in an editorial of Time magazine, the mouthpiece of the most conservative sectors, entitled: "Fidel Castro’s neutralism is a challenge for the United States."

    But the Cuban people could not be neutral in the face of the United States. The triumph of the Revolution that January 1959 signified for the Cuban nation, for the first time in its history, the real possibility of exercising the right to self-determination. From that moment on, neither the U.S. president, Congress nor its ambassadors could continue making decisions on what could or could not be done in Cuba. The bitter dependence had been brought to an end; a dependence that saw U.S. governors and ambassadors enjoying a degree of power in Cuba that was far greater than the actual power that they had – with respect to decision-making – within the U.S. federal government or in relation to any of the 50 states that make up the U.S.A.

    When full national independence was achieved, the Revolution began to exercise that right by immediately applying the program that Fidel had announced during the Moncada trial of 1953 and which is contained in his historic self-defense speech History Will Absolve Me.

    Cuba established the economic and social regime that it believed was most just and established a socialist state with participatory democracy, equality and social justice.

    The country’s economy was characterized by limited industrial development, essentially depending on sugar production and a latifundia agricultural economy, where landowners controlled 75% of the total arable land.

    Most of the country’s economic activity and its mineral resources were managed by U.S. capital, which controlled 1.2 million hectares of land (a quarter of the productive territory) and most of the sugar industry, nickel production, oil refineries, the electricity and telephone services and the majority of bank credits. Likewise, the U.S. market controlled approximately 70% of Cuban imports and exports, within a system of highly dependent volumes of exchange: in 1958, Cuba exported products worth 733 million pesos and imported 777 million pesos worth of goods.

    The prevailing social picture was characterized by a high unemployment and illiteracy, a precarious healthcare, social assistance and housing system for the vast majority of the population, as well as abysmal differences in living conditions between urban and rural populations. There was a high degree of polarization and unequal distribution of income; in 1958, 50% of the population earned just 11% of total income, while a 5% minority controlled 26%. Racial and gender discrimination, begging, prostitution and social and administrative corruption were widespread.

    Addressing the social and economic problems in Cuban society could no longer be put off and could only be resolved if the Cuban people had control of their own wealth and natural resources. Thus, using the 1940 Constitution and in line with international law, Cuba exercised its right to take control of these resources and assumed total responsibility for this action. The island paid compensation to all nationals from third countries (Canada, Spain, Britain, etc.) with the exception of U.S. nationals, given that that government rejected the provisions outright and transformed the Cuban government’s decision into a pretext for unleashing a war unprecedented in the history of bilateral relations between the two nations.

    Not only did the Revolution hand over land to campesinos who, up until then, had been subjected to semi-feudal conditions of production and forced to live in extreme poverty, but it also determined that that all the country’s resources should be allocated to national economic development and improving the material and living conditions of the population. To give just one example, in the 1980s alone, approximately 60 billion pesos were allocated to the construction of productive and social facilities.

    The process of industrialization underway paved the way for economic and productive diversification. Under the Revolution and up until the economic crisis which began with the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the East European socialist bloc between 1989 and 1991 – what we in Cuba call the Special Period – the country’s capacity for producing steel grew 14-fold, fertilizer increased six-fold, the oil refining industry quadrupled (not counting the new refinery in Cienfuegos), the textile industry grew seven-fold, tourism three-fold, to mention but a few. The state also created complete ranges and new industries such as machinery, mechanics, electronics, the production of medical equipment, a pharmaceutical industry, construction materials, a glass industry and ceramics, as well as making investments to increase and upgrade the sugar, food and light industries. In addition to these endeavors, we have the development of biotechnology, genetic engineering and other branches of science.

    The country has also made great efforts in terms of improving its infrastructure. Electricity generation has risen eight-fold and water storage capacity has increased 310 times, from 29 million cubic meters in 1958 to nine billion-plus cubic meters today. There has been diversification with respect to roads and freeways and modernization of ports and other areas. Social needs have been covered fairly well, except for housing, which has been Cuba’s biggest problem.

    The progressive growth and diversification of productive potential and the application of a widespread social program has allowed the nation to confront the problem of unemployment. In 1958, with a population of six million inhabitants, approximately one third of the economically active population was unemployed. Of this figure, 45% of the unemployed lived in rural areas while, out of 200,000 women in work, 70% were employed as domestic servants. Today, with 11 million inhabitants, the number of people in work is in excess of 4.5 million. Over 40% of workers are women and today they represent more than 60% of the nation’s technical and professional sectors.

    In 1958, the number of illiterate and semi-illiterate people in Cuba stood at two million. The average academic level of 15-plus year-olds was third grade, more than 600,000 children did not attend school and 58% of teachers were unemployed. Just 45.9% of school-age children were enrolled and half of them did not attend classes. Only 6% of those enrolled finished elementary education. Universities were available to just 20,000 students.

    The education sector received immediate attention from the revolutionary government. Its first task was to develop a masse literacy campaign with the participation of the population. An extensive network of schools was constructed throughout the country and more than 300,000 teachers and professors were in fulltime employment in this sector. The average academic level for those aged 15-plus year-olds rose to ninth grade. One hundred per cent of school age children are enrolled in schools, some 98% complete elementary education and 91% complete junior high. One in every 11 citizens is a university graduate and one in eight has technical-professional qualifications. There are 650,000 students in the country’s universities today and all education is free of charge. Education and vocational skills are also guaranteed for 100% of children with physical or mental disabilities, who attend special schools.

    The precarious situation in 1958 with respect to public health was characterized by an infant mortality rate of 60 per 1,000 live births and a maternal mortality rate of 118 per 10,000. The mortality rate for those suffering from gastroenteritis was 41.2 per 100,000, and from tuberculosis, 15.9 per 100,000. In rural areas, 36% of the population suffered from intestinal parasites, 31% from malaria, 14% from tuberculosis and 13% from typhoid. Life expectancy at birth was estimated at 58.8 years.

    Around 61% of hospital beds and 65% of the nation’s 6,500 doctors were concentrated in the capital. In the other provinces, medical coverage was one doctor for every 2,378 inhabitants and there was just one hospital for all the country’s rural areas.

    Today, healthcare is free of charge and Cuba has more than 70,000 doctors, providing coverage of one for every 194 inhabitants. Almost 30,000 of them are providing services in over 60 different countries. A national network of more than 700 hospitals and polyclinics has been created. Thanks to a widespread vaccination campaign (every child currently receives vaccines against 13 different illnesses) diseases such as polio, diphtheria, measles, whooping cough, tetanus, rubella, mumps and hepatitis B have been almost entirely eradicated. The infant mortality rate is 5.3 for every 1,000 live births and life expectancy exceeds 77 years.

    There is also a series of advanced medical services that are not considered as "basic" in the international arena, and are provided completely free of charge, such as intensive care units in pediatric and general hospitals, cardiovascular surgery, transplant services, special perinatal care, treatment for chronic renal failure, and special services for occupational and physical rehabilitation.

    The revolutionary state did not focus its attention solely on economic and social measures. It also embarked on efforts to establish an internal legal system to facilitate the right to self-determination via the population’s direct participation in discussions, analyses and the passing of the country’s principal laws. The most notable of these was the 1976 Constitution, supported by 97% of Cubans aged 16 and over through a referendum, as well as other momentous laws like the Penal Code, the Civil Code, the Family Code, the Children and Young People’s Code, the Labor and Social Security Code and many others.

    Likewise, the self-determination of the Cuban people is expressed through the right to defend the nation against foreign aggression. Today, more than four million Cubans – workers, campesinos, and university students – are organized in militia groups have access to weapons in their campuses, factories and in rural areas.

    However, since 1959, Cuba has had to confront the hostility of 10 U.S. administrations that have attempted to limit its right to self-determination through the use of aggression and the unilateral imposition of a criminal economic, commercial and financial blockade.

    One of the universally accepted principles of international law is that state cannot be allowed to coerce another in order to deny it the right to exercise its sovereign rights. Article 24 of the UN Charter states that, in the context of international relations, nations must refrain from using threats or force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.

    Over the past 45 years, the United States has prohibited any trade with Cuba, including foodstuffs and medicines; it cancelled the Cuban sugar quota; prohibited its citizens from traveling to Cuba via the imposition of heavy sanctions; prohibited the re-export of U.S. products or items containing U.S. components or technology to Cuba from third countries; prescribed that banks in third countries should maintain Cuban bank accounts in dollars or use that currency in their transactions with the Cuban nation; has systematically intervened to prevent or hinder trade with or financial assistance to Cuba on the part of governments, institutions and citizens from other countries and international organizations.

    In the 1960s these reprisals forced Cuba to structurally reconstitute its economic relations when and establish its essential markets in countries in the former East European bloc – specifically in the Soviet Union – which meant that the country had to embark on an almost total re-conversion of its industrial technology, means of transport, and provisions, etc.

    When Cuba lost its natural markets in Eastern Europe, the U.S. government intensified its blockade via the 1992 Torricelli Act, which used the pretext of "democracy and human rights" to prohibit U.S. subsidiaries located in third countries and subject to the laws of those nations from engaging in commercial or financial operations with Cuba (particularly in respect to food and medicines), and punishing these by prohibiting the entry into U.S. ports for 180 days of vessels transporting goods to or from Cuba or on behalf of Cuba, measures that – given their extraterritorial nature – do not just prejudice Cuba but also harm the sovereignty of other nations and the international freedom of transportation.

    On March 12, 1996, the U.S. government passed the Helms-Burton Ac, further aggravating relations between the two countries and assuming the right to sanction citizens of third countries in U.S. courts, as well as determining their expulsion or denying them and their families entry visas into the United States, with the aim of hindering Cuba’s efforts to recover its economy and hampering its possibilities of securing a greater insertion in the international market. That was also a way of attempting to pressure the Cuban people into relinquishing their efforts of self-determination.

    More recently, it has adopted the Bush Plan, an attempt to transform Cuba into a colony through an annexationist program and the sibylline intention to intervene via a pretext of "transition," a scenario in which the State Department would entrust one of its leaders as "governor," when the Cuban revolutionary state disappears. This plan, with which George W. Bush decided "to precipitate the day when Cuba becomes a free country," has intensified the blockade and pressure on the Cuban people by repressing family relations between Cubans resident in the United States and their families on the island; grants million-dollar resources to terrorist groups in Miami, as well as to mercenary subordinates in the U.S. Interests Sections in Havana; and promotes formulas to destabilize the country and redouble international pressure on the island.

    That hostility on the part of the U.S. has included other notorious manifestations of aggression, ranging from the military aggression through the Bay of Pigs in 1961, the dirty war carried out by counterrevolutionary gangs heavily supplied by the U.S. CIA, bacteriological warfare on agricultural crops (sugar, tobacco, and citric fruits), animals (swine fever), and humans (hemorrhagic dengue), to sabotage plans, bombings using pirate planes, and assassination attempts on the country’s principal leaders.

    The actions of terrorist organizations executing military attacks on Cuba from U.S. territory are notorious, and are publicized and fomented by the Miami media. Groups are constantly recruiting adventurers who are willing to head off to Cuba as agents and saboteurs, who openly declare that they have no fear whatsoever of being brought to justice in U.S. courts.

    That is why Cuban patriots have had to leave aside their personal interests to serve those of the nation, even sacrificing their family relationships, in order to infiltrate the ranks of those terrorist groups in order to discover their activities and, with this information, prevent the bloodshed of Cuban and U.S. people. They are willing to pay the price of the political irrationality of the U.S. government, as is the case of the five Cuban heroes unjustly incarcerated in U.S. jails for combating terrorism.

    The above is compounded by the heavy military mechanism created by the United States around Cuba and its constant tension-generating activities, as well as the illegal occupation of the Guantánamo Naval Base on Cuban territory (today converted into a horrific prison camp), a part of Cuba rented out by force to the United States in the early 20th century and which the U.S. government refuses to return.

    In the early 90’s, with the disappearance of the Soviet Union, isolated and reviled by the international reaction, Cuba absorbed the terrible blow of losing the bulk of its markets in a matter of months and an abrupt descent in its gross domestic product. But the island confirmed that it shone with its own light and that it had never been a satellite of anyone, given that it was able to face that juncture on account of the extraordinary resistance of the majority of Cubans, who have acted on the basis of authentic motivations, values and ethical principles.

    The Cuban people have made a conscious decision to support the country’s leadership, not only because they identify the system with their own interests, but also because of the responsible manner in which the state took on the crisis, reorganized its forces and designed a recovery strategy, despite the U.S. blockade and conditions imposed by its European allies.

    The sacrifices provoked by that situation have been hard, but it has been possible to endure them because of the undisputed social advances attained, because of the confidence deposited in the country’s leading institutions and because of people’s appreciation that their government is not a decadent one or one that is in management crisis or lacking in strategies, but has confirmed that the population has remained at the center of all its work, even in the most difficult circumstances.

    Fifty years have gone by and the liberation process has reached this point following the same direction indicated that night, 50 years ago, when Fidel, speaking to the huge crowd awaiting him in what was the dictatorship’s headquarters, affirmed that everything could be more difficult in the future, because we would have to fight to make the Revolution.

    That is the challenge of the struggle currently underway to eradicate vices and exalt virtues, with Fidel as a soldier of ideas serving as a compass in the fight for freedom and independence.

    Cuba’s enemies are backing their all on the opposite of that. In this world, where politics is a caricature, they cannot comprehend that, in its thinking and action, this Revolution is a process of continuity, and that Fidel will continue to be the leader of the Revolution of today and tomorrow, because, beyond responsibilities and titles, he will continue to be the counselor of ideas to which we will always have recourse, because he has transcended political life to insert himself in an intimate way in the family life of the vast majority of Cubans.
    --
    Lázaro Barredo Medina