The UN General Assembly and the Castro dictatorship

People like to say USA economic sanctions on the Castro dictatorship should end because they don't work, or because the USA lacks the moral standing to criticize and punish human rights abusers. 

I started out to write about the United Nations' yearly vote condemning the economic sanctions, to argue that a vote should be held condemning the dictatorship. But then I realized the UN isn't too focused on freedom of the individual. It's a nations' club, focused on what's good for each nation's ruling class. And this means the UN will never vote to condemn the Castro family dictatorship. 

The actions taken by any power, including the USA, to condemn or punish the Castro dictatorship will be driven by the Cuban people, be It Cubans living abroad or in Cuba, and their allies. This is a war, but the sides are both Cuban. 

Yoani Sanchez, blogger for freedom

The senile dinosaur, Fidel Castro 

One side is the dictatorship, the military and communist party oligarchs, allied with corporate interests and the international left.


Buena Vista Social Club plays for Obama

On October 15, 2015, the Cuban band "Buena Vista Social Club" played for President Obama at the White House. The band included Omara Portuondo, seen in this photograph holding the microphone: 

As we know, President Obama has been quite proactive trying to establish a close relationship with the Castro family dictatorship. At first I thought he intended to establish diplomatic relations (which is fine, the USA has diplomatic relations with lots of fairly hostile nations which abuse human rights).  But Obama is going beyond having relations and is actively endorsing the Castro regime, and its past and continuous human rights abuses with a series of very poor moves. This includes decrees to gut economic sanctions, as well as very chummy photo ops with Raúl Castro: 

                                                Raul Castro  with Barack Obama 

I bring up the White House event because Portuondo happens to be one of the "high profile" individuals who signed an open letter supporting the Black Spring in Cuba (this refers to a wave of arrests carried out in 2003, while the world was distracted by the US blunder in Iraq). Portuondo is seen as a high profile defender of that garbage regime, there was no need whatsoever to put her up in the White House, period. Doing that on top of those chummy loving looks  amounts to a "f**k you" to the hundreds of thousands of people robbed, jailed, tortured, exiled, murdered, and destroyed by the dictatorship. 

Laura Pollan with the Ladies in White


Article by Yoani Sanchez about Laura Pollan, the deceased leader of the Ladies in White (winners of the 2005 Sakharov Prize)

Buena Vista Social Club visit

The black spring

The letter Portuondo signed


My personal pledge to reduce my emissions

I hear the UN is having a meeting in Paris, something they call COP21 run by the UNFCC, with IPCC, WMO, and SMERSH consultants. The meeting has been going well, most nations  pledged to reduce their emissions. This included large CO2 polluters like China, India, the EU, and the United States of Obama. 

Trying to figure out the climate mess is complicated 

However, although the meals are great and the side shows very entertaining, the 200 nations participating in this conference can't agree on the punishments the UN will use to enforce the CO2 emissions. This is seen as a top priority by meeting leadership (Christiana Figueres, and a French guy sent by President Hollande to represent him). 

Christiana Figueres, a professional UN bureaucrat, former Costa Rican embassy secretary who graduated from Wellesley in Renaissance Poetry, has given up on her knowledge of science to convince participants they need to give the UN much more power, to punish each of them individually, if they emit too much CO2.

 She is so frustrated she seems to be advocating Chinese style dictatorship, which she feels offers a better system to give the world cleaner air and redistribute income (I guess she didn't get the memo that China is now run by ruthless capitalists and has more billionaires than the USA?). 

Therefore, whereas the nations of the world aren't likely to agree on anything practical, and whereas we need to reduce greenhouse emissions, I hereby pledge to reduce my personal emission from my "business as usual" case, by taking the following steps: 

1. I will not heat my swimming pool, the plans to install the pool heaters in 2018 is hereby cancelled. Instead I will use the heated pool at the club. 

2. I will reduce the private jet travel by 50 %, travel business class on trips shorter than four hours.

3. I will drive a manual transmission diesel engine powered BMW. 

4. I will end all of my personal methane emissions by 2100.

Note: my Business as Usual case assumes I own a home with a 25 meter heated swimming pool, ride my personal jet 30 times a year, drive a 2005 Hummer, and live an additional 87 years. 


Four unusual child custody cases

Case #1. Taken from Wikipedia. 
In June 1858, police arrived at the Bologna home of a Jewish couple, Salomone and Marianna Padovani Mortara, to take one of their eight children, six-year-old Edgardo, and transport him to Rome to be raised as a ward of the state. The police had orders from the Catholic Church's Holy Office, authorized by Pope Pius IX. 

"The Kidnapping of Edgardo Montara" 
by Moritz Daniel Oppenheimer 
In those days, the city of Bologna was ruled by the pope. Under church law, baptism may be administered to a person in danger of imminent death by anyone, man or woman, even a non-Christian, and is considered a valid baptism as long as it is done in the manner in which the Catholic Church baptizes. Originally intended as a relief for Catholic families suffering high infant mortality rates, it had not been intended to be used for Jewish families. This rule allowed anyone to perform emergency baptism so the infant would not die unbaptised. Its use in the case of very ill Jewish children was accepted by the Christian population.
As it turned out, six year old Edgardo had been baptized by a servant without his parents' consent. After he was baptized, as attested by the girl, he was Catholic in accordance with Church law.  This law said non-Christians could not raise a Christian child even if the child was their own.

Note: I read Steven Spielberg is working on a movie about this case. 
Case #4. Inserted here because it's a new case, about a mother who may lose her four children, who can stay in Australia as she's deported back to Venezuela.


Case #2.  Taken from PBS and my own memory.
In November 1999 two Florida fishermen found a six year old boy, Elian Gonzalez,  on a raft floating offshore some 60 miles north of Miami. Elian had been brought aboard the raft by his divorced mother, who died during the trip together with all the other adults. 


Climate Models are very large Qberts

Climate models are like the old children's video game, Qbert (see Figure 1). I learned this secret after watching climate videos and looking up stuff on the Internet. 

Figure 1. Qbert grid. The little figures jump 
back and forth from cube to cube. 

Climate model developers lack my external perspective. And I have an advantage over them: I observed, and was victimized by*, the evolution of oil reservoir models over the last 40 years. As it turns out, oil reservoir models are simpler versions of climate models. Lately they look like the picture in Figure 2. 

Figure 2. Oil reservoir model. This diagram 
shows a fine grid depicting geology and 
geometry, the little lines are the wells.

Oil reservoir models are much simpler than their climate counterparts, but they both share the same basic architecture: climate models are like a multilayered bunch of flat dominoes wrapped around a spinning sphere. So it's hard to draw one.


Letter to Daniel

The problem remains the inability of the middle class to understand that total ruin and destruction are inevitable when communists gain power. So the choice you face is reaching absolute misery and despair in the future, or taking a risk and facing more danger now in exchange for a possible way out. 

The only way out is to stop economic activity and hunker down, be willing to die at the end. There's a chance the total lack of economic activity will convince a faction within the Maduro dictatorship to dump him and change course. 

Peaceful protests don't work against a 
regime willing to use shock troops (the
 colectivos), national guard, secret police 
shooters, arbitrary arrests, torture and 
murder as needed to hold on to power. 

The inability to move in this direction keeps you on a conveyor belt that takes you down as you try to crawl up. This applies to the majority of Venezuelans, who don't understand the conveyor belt isn't about to stop, and efforts to crawl up that belt won't move you fast enough. The communists rely on your ignorance of their true intentions and the outcome they visualize. What's even worse what they visualize is utopian, based on resentment and hatred, and/or complete disregard for human rights. 

As long as you don't understand you face 
monsters you won't act. And when 
you act it's too late, or you are not united. 

This is what I saw many years ago. At that time I warned Venezuelans I knew to get out, because I didn't see in them the fighting spirit nor the awareness of the enemy they face. Right now getting out of Venezuela is much harder than six years ago, and six years ago it was harder than 12 years ago. So imagine what it will be like 6 years from now. In other words, I hate to be so brutally honest, but in six years those of you who remain will wish you were dead unless you fight for your freedom now. This is your last chance. Otherwise, leave.


A town where cattle are worth more than people

The minister has arrived. The motorcade fills the unpaved street. Policemen who were slumbering in the early autumn midday heat stir, straighten, then spring into action, clearing the way with their canes for this most important visitor. Mahesh Sharma, India’s minister of culture, is preceded by a small aide in a purple shirt and followed by a large grey-suited bodyguard.
Sharma has come to “condole” the family of Mohammed Akhlaq, a 50-year-old labourer beaten to death by a mob in his small two-storey home in the centre of Bishara village, about an hour’s drive beyond the outskirts of Delhi, India’s capital, last Monday night.
The mob that killed him believed that Akhlaq and his family, who are Muslim, had eaten meat from a cow, an animal considered sacred by the 80% of the Indian population who follow the Hindu faith.
Happy cow
 Akhlaq and his son were dragged from their beds and beaten with bricks. The father died; the son is fighting for his life in hospital.