Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cuban Democracy|Part Two

This is a continuation and hopefully a more dynamic post on Cuba from the title link. And first I want to look more throughly on point number 1 (all numbered points come from Five reasons why the people rule):
1. The system responds to the people’s demands
Right of legislative proposals Article #88(h) of the | Cuban constitution, adopted in 1976, provides for citizen proposals of law, prerequisite that the proposal be made by at least 10 000 citizens who are eligible to vote. In 2002 supporters of a movement known as the Varela Project submitted a citizen proposal of law with 11,000 signatures calling for a national referendum on political and economic reforms.The Cuban National Assembly Constitution and Legal Affairs Committee tabled the Varela Project citizens' initiative and responded with a counter initiative, the petition for which collected 8.1 million signatures, to request that Cuba's National Assembly amend the constitution to state "Socialism and the revolutionary political and social system...are irrevocable; and Cuba will never again return to capitalism."[4] The National Assembly vote was preceded by a massive march.[5] Critics argue that the alleged signatures of 99.5 percent of Cuba's eligible voters were collected by Castro's neighborhood watch committees, whose evaluations of each citizen's political behavior can make or break people's lives in a country where the government controls virtually all jobs.[6]Cuban Elections

So much for allowing the people to voice their demands. This also brings into question whether "5. Civil society is engaged in the process" is true. And now let us look into this Varela Project.
The Varela Project (Proyecto Varela in Spanish) was a project initiated by Cuban based dissidents in 1998. The project was led by Oswaldo Payá of the Christian Liberation Movement, reaching national and international recognition during 2002 and 2003.

The main objective of the project was to circulate a citizens' proposal of law advocating for liberal democratic political reforms within Cuba, such as the establishment of freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free elections, freedom of religion, freedom to start private businesses, and amnesty for political prisoners.

The citizens' proposal relied on Article #88(h) in the constitution, adopted in 1976, which provides for citizens' proposals of law, prerequisite that the proposal be made by at least 10,000 citizens who are eligible to vote.

As you read about Cuba you will notice that its form of government is nearly opposite of what we would consider a Liberal Democracy. Which is basically what was asked for in their list of reforms. But instead of listening to and sending up for a vote (as required by the constitution) they implemented their own referendum that was basically the opposite in tone. And if you have read my blog much you should recognize that I believe in democracy and the flavor I think is best is Liberal Democracy.
A BBC reporter noted that many Cubans said they felt pressured into signing the government's petition.[3] According to the United States State Department, "activists reported increased harassment by State Security agents. Authorities arrested and detained Varela activists, confiscated signatures, fined and threatened activists and signers, and forced signers to rescind signatures. State Security impersonated canvassing volunteers and increasingly infiltrated the ranks of activists. In May and June, Oswaldo Paya reported State Security agents visited and pressured more than 50 Varela Project signatories to retract their signatures and denounce the Varela Project activists who had collected their signatures."[4]

This does not sound like they are trying "4. Consensus and unity rather than contest and division is the basis of the system" to me. Is that where some consensus and unity is better that other c&u? And where some people are more equal than other people? (Yes that is a reference to Animal Farm.)
Oswaldo Payá, a long-time opponent of the Cuban government, remains free, but the resulting crackdown by the authorities has resulted in the incarceration of 75 political prisoners with terms from 6 to 28 years, after being charged and convicted of "acts against the independence or the territorial integrity of the State." Many of those arrested had no knowledge of the charges against them or access to attorneys until moments before a one-day trial, which was by a judge subordinate to the Communist Party.[12]TheUnited Nations High Commissioner for Human Rightsexpressed concern regarding the arrests and summary trials, as did many governments, international organizations, and public[13]

Sounds like a nice place to live to me...NOT. While yes, this is not a gulag, it does show that it is a totalitarian regime.
Next I want to bring up the Cotonou Agreement which was brought up in the last post as something discussed in 2002 during the National Assembly December 16-20.
The Cotonou Agreement is a treaty between the European Union and the group of African, Caribbean and Pacific states (ACP countries). It was signed in June 2000 in Cotonou , the capital of Benin, by 77 ACP countries and the then fifteen Member States of the European Union. It entered into force in 2002 and is the latest agreement in the history of ACP-EU Development Cooperation.

The Cotonou Agreement is aimed at the reduction and eventual eradication of poverty while contributing to sustainable development and to the gradual integration of ACP countries into the world economy.

Very noble.
Furthermore, the element of good governance has been included as a 'fundamental element' of the Cotonou Agreement, the violation of which may lead to the partial or complete suspension of development cooperation between the EU and the country in violation. It was furthermore agreed that serious cases of corruption, including acts of bribery, could trigger a consultation process and possibly lead to a suspension of aid.

I passed over the Main Points (which are very important) and wanted to touch on some specific points as in the paragraph above. Yes aid has too often ended up hurting the people it was meant to help. And just like the World Bank and the IMF good governance can have a dramatic impact on people's wellbeing whether with aid or not.
The Cotonou Agreement focuses especially on the private sector as an instrument for sustainable economic development. A new comprehensive programme has been introduced in Cotonou in order to support the private sectors of the ACP countries with new tools such as access to funding via the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Do you notice anything ironic about this? That was one of the things that the Varela Project asked for (freedom to start private businesses).
Trade Cooperation
Probably the most radical change introduced by the Cotonou Agreement concerns trade cooperation. Since the First Lomé Convention in 1975, the EU has granted non-reciprocal trade preferences to their ACP partners. Under the Cotonou Agreement, however, this system will be replaced by a new scheme which is to take effect in 2008: the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). These new arrangement provide for reciprocal trade agreements, meaning that not only the EU provides duty-free access to its markets for ACP exports, but ACP countries also provide duty-free access to their own markets for EU exports.

True to the Cotonou principle of differentiation, however, not all ACP countries have to open their markets to EU products after 2008. The group of least developed countries is able to either continue cooperation under the arrangements made in Lomé or the "Everything But Arms" regulation.

That's GREAT! This is exactly what I have advocated (on Thom's forum) the USA do in regard to most of the "Third World" or LDCs. Although I would not time it to have it reciprocate in any specific time frame. And if we want to have the reciprocation it should be based on per capita GDP (PPP) or some other gauge as to when their economy is stable enough. AND even then under a gradual change.

Every time I read more about the EU, it looks more like an empire. But does anyone else see this? Why is it only the USA is the evil empire?

And the next link is complements of Loganthor: Allegations of tourist apartheid in Cuba.
Allegations that Cuban policies towards its citizens are comparable to those of apartheid era South Africa are captured in the popular terms [1] tourist apartheid, tourism apartheid, and sometimes economic apartheid. [2] Human Rights Watch states "Cuban nationals are routinely barred from enjoying amenities open to foreigners. In a phenomenon popularly known as 'tourist apartheid,' the best hotels, resorts, beaches, and restaurants are off limits to most Cubans, as are certain government health institutions," and contrasts this practise with the Constitution of Cuba, which "bars discrimination based on 'race, skin color, sex, national origin, religious creeds, and any other type [of discrimination] offending human dignity.'" [3] Dr. Gillian Gunn, former fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies goes further, stating "The exclusion also flatly contradicts Article 43 of the Cuban constitution, which guarantees all Cubans, 'without regard to race, skin color, religious belief, or national origin,' the right to 'lodge themselves in any hotel,' 'be attended in all restaurants and establishments serving the public,' and 'enjoy the same spas, beaches, social clubs, and other centers of sport, recreation, and leisure'." [4]

In response, Cuban president Fidel Castro has described Cuba's tourism policies as an economic necessity and such analysis as a "perfidious, perverse, cynical" campaign to present the current situation as "a case of discrimination." [5]

So for all the high ideals of "Continuous Revolution" when cash comes to cash those ideals are swept aside. So how is this discrimination explained:
In 1992, as Cuba entered the period of severe economic austerity, Cuban President Fidel Castro defended the newly instituted policies in a speech to the Cuban National Assembly. He described the moves as an economic necessity that would need to be maintained for as long as the country had a need for foreign currency. According to Castro, the government was "pondering formulas" that would allow Cubans to use some of the tourist facilities as a reward for outstanding work, but believed that giving Cubans access to amenities at the expense of paying foreign tourists would ultimately be a counterproductive move for the economy; "For every five Cubans staying two or three days in one of those hotels, the country would have one less ton of meat to distribute to the people,"

Oh so foreign currency is more important. It is interesting to note that Castro believes in trade also. Let us see how 1. The system responds to the people’s demands...
Cuba's swing to tourism is bringing in vital hard currency, but the accompanying bitterness among Cubans denied access to the lures laid out for foreigners has grown to the point that President Fidel Castro is on the stump in defense. The resentment, coming as Cuba's economic crisis deepens and the standard of living drops sharply, has given rise to a new phrase here to describe the gulf that exists between tourists and Cubans -- "tourism apartheid." [20]

Complaints of a tourist apartheid are not unfounded as Cubans are moved off tourist beaches, refused entrance to tourist hotels, and asked to wait in queues while tourists are ushered to the front – even walking the streets with foreign visitors is likely to get a young Cuban pulled over by the police. The health service itself has become an instrument of tourism, luring foreign patients with some of its specialist treatments, whilst transport services deteriorate for Cubans and improve for tourists. With such large numbers of relatively wealthy tourists travelling in and out of the country, Cubans have become more acutely aware of the restrictions on their freedom of movement and material wealth. Interestingly, these frustrations are not vented at tourists but at the government, though almost always behind closed doors. [21]

They rubbed their chins, a common reference to the bearded Castro, and ran a finger across their throats: They are waiting for Castro to die... The cousin and his friends talked about the places they cannot go, the hotels and beaches, the discos that now require dollars. "It's like South Africa," the cousin's friend said. "It's apartheid," the cousin said.

I understand the need for the Cuban government for following this trade policy as well as its putting aside assets for the accumulation of foreign capital. And to be honest many LDCs resorts places become too expensive for native populations. But nothing prevents natives from paying for the services and using the facilities as anyone else. Now if all assets are controlled by the state then to set aside assets for a certain class flies in the face of the rhetoric (Cuban constitution and in a supposedly pure egalitarian nation). Tourist apartheid also seems to violate #3. The delegates are answerable to their constituents
and #5. Civil society is engaged in the process.

PS: What Determines
Long-Run Macroeconomic Stability? Democratic Institutions
is a great article from the IMF that shows that democratic institutions have a large and significant aspect in Macroeconomic Stability.

Cuban Democracy?

Cuba is almost invariably portrayed as a totalitarian regime, a veritable "gulag" guided and controlled by one man: Fidel Castro. However, this position cannot be sustained once the reality of Cuba is assessed on its own merits. Extensive democratic popular participation in decision-making is at the centre of the Cuban model of governance.

This is the opening paragraph of the article: Five reasons why the people rule. I agree that Cuba is a totalitarian regime:
Totalitarianism is a term employed by political scientists, especially those in the field of comparative politics, to describe modern regimes in which the state regulates nearly every aspect of public and private behavior. (Totalitarian Regime)
And by this we can see that not all aspects of life are controlled to be a totalitarian regime. Many regimes allow certain sectors to flourish even if they don't have a love for it. But I can agree with it not being a Gulag, at least in a true Gulag major numbers of citizens are killed. And thus even our base in Cuba is not a Gulag. And now to go through the points:
1. The system responds to the people’s demands
First, Cubans are not preoccupied with a mere mechanical implementation of a rigid, unchanging model. Contrary to dominant misconceptions, the Cuban political system is not a static entity. Cubans are involved in an intense learning process whose hallmark has been experimentation and willingness to correct mistakes and missteps by periodic renovation of their democratic project. Thus, the system responds to popular demands for adjustment.

I don't see that it responds to their needs. Obviously it does not respond to some people's demands as witnessed in the boat people. Are the Cubans in a learning process or a brainwashing scheme?
2. The Communist Party takes no part
Second, the function of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) is significantly circumscribed, as it does not operate as an electoral party. It is proscribed by law from playing any role in the nomination of candidates.

But there is no real opposition party so this is a vacuous phrase. But what about other parties...
Next to the Communist Party of Cuba, various political parties are illegally active in the country. The most important of these are the Christian Democratic Party of Cuba, the Cuban Socialist Democratic Current, the Democratic Social-Revolutionary Party of Cuba, the Democratic Solidarity Party, the Liberal Party of Cuba and the Social Democratic Co-ordination of Cuba.

And none of those parties sound like right wing groups. Now back to the article:
The elections at the municipal level are competitive and the casting of ballots is secret.

Sounds good, but as a centralized government what decisions are made at the local level? And from Wiki:
Municipal elections are officially non-partisan, but as with National Assembly elections, critics maintain that no candidate can express overt opposition to the Castro government or to the communist system.

Back to the article:
At the provincial and national levels, candidacy commissions select and sift through thousands of people. The commissions are comprised of representatives from the various mass and grassroots organizations and are presided over by workers’ representatives chosen by the unions. The PCC is prohibited from participation in the work of the commissions.

Thus, it is the norm for ordinary working people to be both nominated and elected. The commissions’ recommendations are then presented to the municipal assemblies for final approval.

But if all members of the candidacy commissions are selected as members of the PCC then it does not matter if prohibited or not. Many other communist regimes also use a circular power of control to not get feedback but reinforce group-think. Back to Wiki:
Candidates for the National Assembly are chosen by Candidacy Commissions chaired by local trade union officials and composed of elected representatives of "mass organisations" representing workers, youth, women, students and farmers. The Candidacy Commissions produce slates of recommended candidates for each electoral district. The final list of candidates, one for each district, is drawn up by the National Candidacy Commission, taking into account criteria such as candidates’ popularity, merit, patriotism, ethical values and “revolutionary history.”

So that sounds great, instead of the people deciding the best candidate, the commission gets to decide who is good enough to be elected. Wiki:
Cuba justifies the existence of only one political party by arguing that the PCC “is not a political party in the traditional sense… it is not an electoral party; it does not decide on the formation or composition of the government. It is not only forbidden to nominate candidates but also to be involved in any other stage of the electoral process… The CPC’s role is one of guidance, supervision and of guarantor of participatory democracy.”

And let us not forget to perpetuate the communist party ideology through groupthink and brainwashing. I can not imagine that people that talk about participatory democracy would consider Cuba an ideal candidate. Wiki:
Candidates for the National Assembly are chosen by Candidacy Commissions chaired by local trade union officials and composed of elected representatives of "mass organisations" representing workers, youth, women, students and farmers. The Candidacy Commissions produce slates of recommended candidates for each electoral district. The final list of candidates, one for each district, is drawn up by the National Candidacy Commission, taking into account criteria such as candidates’ popularity, merit, patriotism, ethical values and “revolutionary history.”[2].

Right of legislative proposalsArticle #88(h) of the| Cuban constitution, adopted in1976, provides for citizen proposals of law, prerequisite that the proposal be made by at least 10 000 citizens who are eligible to vote. In 2002 supporters of a movement known as theVarela Projectsubmitted a citizen proposal of law with 11,000 signatures calling for a national referendum on political and economic reforms.The Cuban National Assembly Constitution and Legal Affairs Committee tabled the Varela Project citizens' initative and responded with a counter initative, the petition for which collected 8.1 million signatures, to request that Cuba's National Assembly amend the constitution to state "Socialism and the revolutionary political and social system...are irrevocable; and Cuba will never again return to capitalism."[4]The National Assembly vote was preceded by a massive march.[5]Critics argue that the alleged signatures of 99.5 percent of Cuba's eligible voters were collected by Castro's neighborhood watch committees, whose evaluations of each citizen's political behavior can make or break people's lives in a country where the government controls virtually all jobs.[6]

Castro continued “Those who want to see people’s democracy let them come here and see this. We can speak to America and the world because we speak in names of a whole nation.” Castro has also been critical of liberal democracies, describing them as a “Pretense of democracy”.[7]

"Candidates for provincial and national office must be approved in advance by mass organizations controlled by the government. In practice a small group of leaders, under the direction of the president, selected the members of the highest policy-making bodies of the CP, the Politburo, and the Central Committee."

While the law allows citizens not to vote, CDRs often pressured neighborhood residents to cast ballots. According to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights, the government blacklisted those who did not vote. Although not a formal requirement, in practice CP membership was a prerequisite for high-level official positions and professional advancement."

When the National Assembly, which meets twice-yearly, is not in session the 31-member Council of State wields legislative power. The Council of Ministers, through its 9-member executive committee, exercises executive and administrative power. Although the Constitution provides for independent judiciary, it explicitly subordinates it to the National Assembly and to the Council of State. Involvement in decision-making and implementation through non-political actors has been institutionalised through national organisations, linked to the Communist Party, representing farmers, youth groups, students, women, industrial workers, etc."

"The nomination of candidates for election to the Municipal Assemblies is done by nominating assemblies, in which all voters are entitled to propose candidates. In practice, however, these district assemblies are usually organized by the Committees for the Defence of the Revolution or the Communist Party, which makes the selection of an opponent of the regime most unlikely."

In 2002 former U.S. PresidentJimmy Carterspoke in Havana with support fromHuman Rights Watchand representing theCarter Center. Whilst calling for democratic change, Carter also stressed that he was not using a U.S. definition of “democracy.” he explained that “the term is embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Cuba signed in 1948. It is based on some simple premises: all citizens are born with the right to choose their own leaders, to define their own destiny, to speak freely, to organize political parties, trade unions and non-governmental groups, and to have fair and open trials.”

Critics argue that whatever the merits of the system for electing the National Assembly, that body is itself a facade for the reality of PCC rule in Cuba. The Assembly meets only twice a year for a few days. The 31-member Council of State, in theory elected by the Assembly but in practice appointed by the PCC, wields effective state power, and the PCCPolitburo, as in all communists states, is the ultimate political authority. Although the Assembly has eight standing committees, they do not exercise any effective authority over legislation. During its biannual plenums, the Assembly plays a passive role as audience for various government speakers. Once the Council of State's legislative proposals have been presented, they are summarily ratified by unanimous or near unanimous vote of the Assembly.[9]"Local elections candidates are nominated in open meetings run by the CDR (Committees to Defend the Revolution) that are closely linked to police and security forces. They report and sanction dissent. Prison terms of 4 years threaten those that openly oppose the regime in that public meeting filled withinformants. People not supporting can be threatened with losing their home and jobs."

3. The delegates are answerable to their constituents

Third, a rare closeness exists between the elected municipal delegates and the people they serve. Each delegate must live in the electoral district (usually comprising a maximum of two thousand people).

Again as a centralized government, does this translate into a better government of all?
4. Consensus and unity rather than contest and division is the basis of the system
Fourth, the Cuban system eschews the adversarial approach that dominates the western political processes. In the work and meetings of the provincial assemblies and the National Assembly, the goal of achieving unity and consensus is central.

Yes, and most of the most democratic states in my opinion (Great Britain/Canada) have the most heated debates anywhere. No one is expected to be happy, only satisfaction that there was a debate and in the end to live by it. This more looks like groupthink and programming than having a debate on the direction of their country.
The National Assembly has ten permanent commissions. At the end of 2002, for example, it met from December 16th to 20th to discuss more than forty topics, including the fishing industry, the environment, the restructuring of the sugar sector, the production of medicine and links between Cuba and the European Union, particularly Cuba’s decision to apply to join the Cotonou Agreement, an economic accord between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific states.

So am I suppose to believe that unity and consensus building only takes 4 days on 40 topics?

5. Civil society is engaged in the process
These organizations have very specific functions and responsibilities. In addition to the Communist Party, the Young Communist League and the Confederation of Cuban Workers, there are the Cuban Federation of Women, the Committees to Defend the Revolution, the National Association of Small Farmers and the Federation of University Students...
[From earlier in text.]
National Assembly are persons from every sphere of Cuban society: the arts, sports, science, religion etc.

But what about those organizations that are not approved?
Mass organizations, unlike the Communist Party, are granted through Article 88 (c) of the Constitution the right to propose legislation in the areas that fall under their jurisdiction.

But not the outlawed ones.

Now this is probably long enough and too many quotes, so next time a look at some more interesting aspects of Cuba's politics.
Five reasons why the people rule
Contonou Agreement
Elections in Cuba
Allegations of tourist apartheid in Cuba

List of countries by life expectancy
Another Bush Brings Hell to Haiti
Jean-Claude Duvalier
Toussaint L'Ouverture

Thursday, January 25, 2007

How Many of Me (or you)?/Uncle Jim's Common Sense I. Q. Test

On the Uncle Jim's Common Sense I. Q. Test I got 9 out of 11. How did you do?

(12-18-06)In the spirit of interesting sites about 'How Nerdy are You', Machiavelli Personality Test, and least but not least Surname Profiler, I present "How Many of Me (or You)?

Ronald Rutherford
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

How many of Ronald Rutherford
HT: Julie R Neidlinger at LonePrairie

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Brilliant Chomsky: South America: Toward an Alternative Future

Yes, more words of wisdom from Noam himself. This seems pretty obvious this was one of his "oral writings" that lacks any facts to back it up. It assumes that the reader has already a set mindset and that keywords will provoke an emotional response instead of a logical train of thought. Well let the spinning begin...

The former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet died even as leaders of South American nations concluded a two-day summit meeting in Cochabamba, Bolivia, hosted by President Evo Morales, at which the participants and the agenda represented the antithesis of Pinochet and his era.

Excelllent, hopefully our author will tell us what their thesis is and how it is the antithesis of Pinochet!
In the Cochabamba Declaration, the presidents and envoys of 12 countries agreed to study the idea of forming a continent-wide community similar to the European Union.

Sounds good, we need more Monetary Unions. Is anyone opposing this?
The declaration marks another stage toward regional integration in South America, 500 years after the European conquests. The subcontinent, from Venezuela to Argentina, may yet present an example to the world on how to create an alternative future from a legacy of empire and terror.

Yeah, hold on, is this man just spinning and we need to get out our code cracking special decoder rings? Why not say the EU took two thousand years to form? Of course this contrasts with a legacy of empire and terror in Asia and Eastern Europe.
To the United States, the real enemy has always been independent nationalism, particularly when it threatens to become a "contagious example," to borrow Henry Kissinger's characterization of democratic socialism in Chile.

More of that framing by placing words that are meant to provoke an emotion. So when has nationalism been a threat to the USA?
The official death toll for the coup is 3,200; the actual toll is commonly estimated at double that figure. An official inquiry 30 years after the coup found evidence of approximately 30,000 cases of torture during the Pinochet regime. Among the leaders at Cochabamba was the Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet. Like Allende, she is a socialist and a physician. She also is a former exile and political prisoner. Her father was a general who died in prison after being tortured.

I actually saw an estimate over 10,000. But of course we could not compare it to a good socialist like Saddam. The 10k or 30 k of torture is only a fraction of what Saddam did.
Venezuela is already the only Latin American member of OPEC, with by far the largest proven oil reserves outside the Middle East. Chávez envisions Petroamerica, an integrated energy system of the kind that China is trying to initiate in Asia.

The new Ecuadorian president, Rafael Correa, proposed a land-and-river trade link from the Brazilian Amazon rain forest to Ecuador's Pacific Coast — a South American equivalent of the Panama Canal.

So where is the problem. Oh that's it. Implied that the evil empire will stop this.
Other promising developments include Telesur, a new pan-Latin American TV channel based in Venezuela and an effort to break the Western media monopoly.

Well, the author should be happy that there is now a little less competition for this plan.
The Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, called on fellow leaders to overcome historical differences and unite the continent, however difficult the task.

Integration is a prerequisite for genuine independence. The colonial history — Spain, Britain, other European powers, the United States — not only divided countries from one another but also left a sharp internal division within the countries, between a wealthy small elite and a mass of impoverished people.

Sounds good like what any politician says.
So who is standing in the way of integration? Shit the imperialist could not even leave a country correctly. I am sure there was some major conspiracy for this. Of course integration has to be giving up some independence so the author is framing a good independence with a bad independence.
The main economic controls in recent years have come from the International Monetary Fund, which is virtually a branch of the U.S. Treasury Department. But Argentina, Brazil and now Bolivia have moved to free themselves of IMF strictures.

Good more debtor nation (to the IMF) are leaving. I wonder if they need help in their application for the SDRs (special drawing rights) back. As far as control, talk about that tomorrow.
Because of the new developments in South America, the United States has been forced to adjust policy. The governments that now have U.S. support — like Brazil under Lula — might well have been overthrown in the past, as was President João Goulart of Brazil in a U.S.-backed coup in 1964.

To maintain Washington's party line, though, it's necessary to finesse some of the facts. For example, when Lula was re- elected in October, one of his first acts was to fly to Caracas to support Chávez's electoral campaign. Also, Lula dedicated a Brazilian project in Venezuela, a bridge over the Orinoco River, and discussed other joint ventures.

Yes, the USA is alway shifting its policies. Nothing strange about that. The bridge sounds good. Who is opposed to it and why mention the USA when you have no point. Maybe a google bomb?
The tempo is picking up. Also last month, Mercosur, the South American trading bloc, continued the dialogue on South American unity at its semiannual meeting in Brazil, where Lula inaugurated the Mercosur Parliament — another promising sign of deliverance from the demons of the past.

Yes, we can never guess what that demon is, can we?

Edit (1-10-07): Going back to this point:
The main economic controls in recent years have come from the International Monetary Fund, which is virtually a branch of the U.S. Treasury Department.

From Challenges to the World Bank and IMF
"The region with the greatest number of representatives on the Board is Europe, which currently holds nine chairs, and a vote some 82 per cent greater than the USA (while the GNP of the EU is smaller than that of the USA). Moreover, constituencies headed by European EDs at present control 40.8% of total votes."
"The large intra EU trade had the effect of increasing the quotas of EU countries. Since the adoption of a single currency makes this akin to domestic trade, if [the] Euro zone quotas were adjusted for this, their decline should be 9.2 percent of total quotas."

So instead of going after a real empire, Noam wants to attack the USA. Why bother with facts when spin works so much better...
(3.) Buira, Ariel (Ed.) (2003) Challenges to the World Bank and IMF – Developing
Country Perspectives, London: Anthem Press.

And through this all, we still did not learn about what their thesis is and how it is the antithesis of Pinochet!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


I usually don't post one liners, but I was moved by the video in the title link to post it here. For all to think that Universal Health Care is the answer to everything on health issues.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Toxin-free cotton could feed the poor
Researchers have genetically engineered cotton plants that produce toxin-free seeds, potentially unlocking enough nutritional content to feed half a billion people worldwide each year.

Cotton is grown in more than 80 countries and is a primary source of fibre for textiles, providing an important cash crop to some 20 million farmers in Asia and Africa. But a little-known characteristic of the cotton plant is that for every kilogram of fibre that is produced, it also yields 1.65 kilograms of seed packed with high-quality protein. So cotton plants have the ability to meet the protein requirements of millions with no reduction to the output of cotton fibres.

Cottonseed is underutilized due to the presence of gossypol, a toxic molecule belonging to a class of organic chemicals known as terpenoids. Gossypol is found in glands throughout the leaves, stems and floral tissues of cotton plants and lends crops protection from insects and pathogens. Only ruminant animals such as cattle can safely digest the toxin.

Now, using RNA interference (RNAi) technology, researchers have managed to disrupt a key enzyme and cut the gossypol content in cottonseeds by 98%, while leaving the chemical defences of the rest of the plant intact. The team shows that the absence of the toxin is heritable and that plants lacking gossypol could be suitable for large-scale agricultural use. The results are reported this week in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science1.

Food for all

Normal (top) and engineered toxin-free (bottom) cottonseeds.
"What the research does is open up that vast amount of underutilized resource for either direct use as human food or indirect use by making this cottonseed non-toxic to say, chickens, pigs or fish," says Keerti Rathore of the Institute for Plant Genomics and Biotechnology at Texas A&M University in College Station, and the paper's lead author.

Rathore notes that feed goes much further in chickens, pigs and fish than in cows: it takes about 6 kilograms of animal feed to produce one kilogram of beef, whereas the ratio for chicken is closer to two to one.

Deborah Delmer, associate director of the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City and an expert in agricultural food safety, points out that a benefit of using RNAi technology is that it turns off a gene process rather than switching on a novel function. "So instead of introducing a new foreign protein, you're just shutting down one process," Delmer says. "In that sense, I think that the safety concerns should be far less than other GM technologies."

Delmer noted that one yet-unknown aspect of the research is how stable the suppression will be over many generations. The team plans to conduct extensive field trials to find out.

Dry roasted or ready salted?

Researchers first attempted to unlock the nutritional content of cottonseed more than 50 years ago. By breeding a glandless mutant cotton plant, they were able to successfully eliminate the presence of gossypol throughout all tissues of the plant. But the plants quickly fell prey to disease and were unsuitable for farming.

Rathore thinks that RNAi opens great promise for other crops that also contain harmful compounds. A hardy legume plant called grasspea (Lathyrus sativus), for example, could also provide a huge source of nutrition from seeds if it were not for the presence of a neurotoxin. Many poor people in Asia and parts of Africa already resort to eating this so-called famine crop, and sometimes suffer from paralysis and other health problems as a consequence.

Cottonseeds have a nutty flavour, says Rathore. The gossypol-free seeds could be roasted and salted, he says, much like soybeans. The meal could also be mixed with flour from wheat, corn, millet or sorghum to provide a protein source in bread.

The authors, who declare no financial interests in the cotton industry, are hopeful that the crop will catch on, despite current social resistance to genetically modified crops. "Not right away, but at least 10 or 20 years down the line, I think people will accept it," Rathore says.

Friday, January 05, 2007

War Profiteers

Now that I have run across some discussions about Spinning and Cracking the Codes and Framing and other concepts of some supposed right wing conspiracy to control peoples minds, I have thought more about how the left/liberals also try to manipulate conversations also. So when watching Olbermann's Special Comment on "Sacrifice" (Jan. 2, 2007) I could not help but notice all the spinning of information. The one that struck out at me was "War Profiteer". I know we often hear this term but what is so bad about Profits? Can other industries not claim the same desire to create profits out of misery?
First what is War Profiteer:
A war profiteer is any person or organization that makes profits from warfare or by selling weapons and other goods to parties at war. The term has strongly negative implications. War Profiteer

Now let's think about profiteers of bad things:
Death Profiteer
well this category is too big!!! There are morgues and funeral parlors and caskets and a bunch of other products for deceased people.
Sickness Profiteer
Well before death then we have institutions that take care of the sick and dying, and most notably hospitals. Don't they get paid no matter if the patient lives or dies? When you think about it that way then we have to wonder what their incentive is to do good?
Accident Profiteer
All I can say is Maaco.
Overweight Profiteer
Can anyone say "WeightWatchers"?
Baby Killer Profiteer
Yes we are talking about abortion.
Drug Profiteer
Rehab centers are usually not free.
Clogged Drains Profiteer
Roto Rooter.
Ugliness Profiteer
And no plastic surgery is cheap!
Porno Profiteer
Yes, we can all ask to have that put out of business. But if history taught us anything prohibition does not work.

Well I am sure there are hundreds more.

But you may say you are using the standard definition and not what we really mean. So we need more defining:
Furthermore, one can distinguish passive war profiteers from active war profiteers:
* Passive war profiteers make profits from a war without influencing the duration and/or outcome of a war.
* Active war profiteers, in addition to making profits from a war, have a vital interest in starting and prolonging wars in order to make or increase their profits. Basil Zaharoff's Vickers Company sold weapons to all the parties involved in the Chaco War.

So most of the Profiteering is the passive type as I have suggested in this post. And clearly the left is not referring to selling to both sides. Although weapons may end up on both sides of a conflict the USA would be mighty upset if it was doing it at the same time. Because at various times we have traded with nearly every country in arms and weapons but the USA government will issue a retraction if the situation warrants.

Now with my liberal rose colored glasses on I could see how they could see the USA has had War Profiteers try to get us into war. But don't we also have Peace Profiteers that would benefit more from peace than war. Including that most markets do not like war (Stocks, Housing...).

hank_F_M said...

Of course there is nothing wrong with profits.

But actually “war profiteer” when not being used as polemical mud, usually refers to people or organizations who take advantage of a sellers market in war time to make a profit several times above the return on investment for equivalent non-war investments or to companies that deliver below standard murendise. Both can be a plague on a war effort. Which is why military organizations have been shifting (until the last decade or so) to doing as much logistics possible in house. It’s obligated to show up when needed and does not renegotiate price with the enemy at the gates.

The current left wing practice of revitalizing all terms, so that in this case compnies that provide good service with at reasonable prices get lumped in with scum destroys important distinctions that make reasonable discussion imposable, and punishes the innocednt with the guilty.
1/05/2007 9:23 PM

That was my point that words are used beyond what the original intentions are in the word(s). Although, even extra ordinary profits only tend to be temporary (in a free market) and tell other business to shift resources to the production of more valuable (as society deems it) products.