Sunday, December 28, 2014

Ari Shavit is a favorite among the superstitious and despairing

At a Shabbat service in August, Zemel’s 22-year-old daughter, Ronit, a senior at Macalester College in St. Paul, sat in the front row of Micah’s sanctuary. She listened to her father say, “What is needed to make peace between the peoples of these two lands is probably more than humans can summon,” which is from “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel,” a history of the country’s ethical struggle since its independence, by Ari Shavit, a columnist for the left-leaning Israeli paper Haaretz.

(New York Times : 12/21/2014 : Jason Horowitz)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Democracy" and "communism" in Cuba and the United States

As the Obama administration argues for changing US policy toward Cuba, US professors and newspaper editors are putting the focus on telling us we're the heroes, introducing the pagans to what the Brooking's Institution calls "a rainbow of international investors who will be more respectful of Cuban political sovereignty." Secretary John Kerry hailed the breaking of "ideological cement" that "isolated the United States instead of isolating Cuba"  and says with US help we can expect to "promote a prosperous, democratic and stable Cuba" with the official support of powerful healthcare and telecommunications  companies that have been banned by Haiti and Mexico.

But heroes need villains. These elites who are pushing to end the sanctions (because they will "never work") are warning us that Cubans like to put their greedy little paws on our business. Paolo Spadoni, a Very Serious Person quoted in Reuters, says that Cuba needs to stop "attempting to seize greater control of businesses once they prove successful." Without turning over their phones and hospitals to US multinational investment their economy will not be able to "show substantial improvement." However, what they aren't telling us is this is the very policy of the US business environment. In the World Economic Forum's recent report on infrastructure they highlight "two common distinctions in projects," the "greenfield" investments, where the investors must pay for new construction, and the preferred "brownfield type" in which the wealthy simply buy "existing infrastructure assets that have been operating, and frequently
have a demand history." In other words, taxpayer-funded roads, schools and hospitals.

Moreover, US investors actually celebrate spending millions of dollars to undermine democracy through propaganda:

In a referendum in 1997, voters in Denver in the United States rejected a measure to fund a massive expansion of the city’s transit system, called Guide the Ride. But seven years later, Denver voters agreed to fund a redesigned and rebranded “FasTracks” programme – the largest voter-approved, all-transit expansion in the country at the time.
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To win support, the city government had proactively engaged with the public and local businesses in the planning of FasTracks and clarified the benefits. It also hired a political consulting firm and conducted a US$ 3.5 million television ad campaign featuring Denver’s mayor. A Citizens Advisory Committee was later established to provide input and advice on implementation to the board of directors of FasTracks.
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Whether this deal will end up helping Cuban democracy and health is beyond me but it's very far from what US elites are trying to see happen.