Sunday, December 21, 2014
By Alan Caruba
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 the Cold War that had existed between it and the U.S. since the end of World War Two came to an end, but there was ditritus, loose ends like Cuba and it has taken until now for an end to the diplomatic obstacles whose roots reach back to the Eisenhower administration. In 1960 it had approved a CIA plan to arm and train a group of Cuban refugees to overthrow the Castro regime.
The Cuban dictator, Flugencio Batista, fled Havana on January 1, 1959 and Fidel Castro and his rebels entered the capital a week later on January 8. One sees the world through the prism of one’s own life and, that event was six months prior to my graduating from the University of Miami.
Among my friends in college were young men who were the children of well-to-do Cubans, so I was more aware of what was occurring than most my age when Castro took over. In 1960 I was inducted into the army and it was big news when the Bay of Pigs invasion occurred on April 14, 1961. President Kennedy had moved ahead on the CIA plan, but it was a failure and it was followed by the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. The nation was literally on the edge of nuclear confrontation.
In the lead up to that the Second Infantry Division of which my unit was a part ceased its training mission and converted to one of battle readiness. In my case, however, I had already been discharged in April 1962. Kennedy declared a blockage of Cuba which had installed the Soviet missiles. Wisely, the Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev agreed to remove them.Cuba was and is the classic Soviet-style Communist regime. During the 1970s Fidel Castro dispatched troops to Soviet-supported wars in Africa. Cuba’s economy was always lean and its workers make about twenty dollars a month in U.S. dollars. In 1962 Cuba was suspended from the Organization of American States (OAS) that imposed sanctions against Cuba, but 1975 the OAS lifted its sanctions with the approval of sixteen member states and the U.S. but the U.S. has maintained its own sanctions from the days of the missile crisis.
Suffice to say Cuba has a long history of human rights abuses. It represses any political dissent and life for Cubans is devoid of free speech, free association, privacy, and due process of law; rights which Americans and others in free nations take for granted.
For some 53 years, the U.S has had no direct diplomatic relations with Cuba and when President Obama made the announcement that he was moving to normalize relations it was big news. It had been preceded by 18 months of secret negotiations about which, reportedly, no member of Congress was informed about. While it infuriated the Cuban-American communities most people, inside and outside of government agreed it was time, if not overdue, for this action.
There will be much speculation that normalization will be good news for the Cuban people and one can surely hope so, but until the brothers, Fidel and Raul—declared the new president in 2008 when Fidel resigned—are dead, the likelihood for any real improvement in their lives is distant.
In a similar fashion, many American business and agricultural interests are no doubt making plans to become a part of the Cuban economy, but they had better proceed with care. Cuba is still Communist in most respects despite Raul Castro’s efforts to portray himself as a reformer and Cuba a place where foreign business are welcome and can thrive. In 2012 he relaxed property rights, expanded land leases, and licensed businesses from pizza joints to private gyms.
In reality, Raul Castro has, as reported in McClean’s magazine in 2012, “scared off more joint ventures than he has attracted, jeopardizing the investment Cuba needs to succeed. Spanish oil giant Repsol quit the country. Canada’s Pizza Nova, which had six Cuban locations, packed its bags, as did Telecom Italia.” In one case after another, those who hoped to do business in Cuba were disappointed. In 2013 a British company, one of the biggest and most important business partners of Castro’s military and a key investor in the tourism industry was suddenly confiscated and its principals were imprisoned.
One dramatic example is Stephen Purvis, a British architect who, since 2000 had developed tourism projects, factories and docks through his company that was financed by private European backers. After living in Cuba for ten years with his family and investing heavily in it, he was rewarded by being imprisoned after being accused of spying. He would spend 16 months in Cuban jails until being able to flee. Everything his company owned was confiscated. He has since warned others against doing business with the Castros.
Since 1959, more than one million Cubans, about ten percent of the population, have fled Cuba, many of whom found a new home in America. When that many people wanted to leave, it tells you something is terribly wrong with life in Cuba. The tentative steps toward normalization after all this time are necessary, but the American government should proceed with care in the years ahead.
© Alan Caruba
Thursday, December 18, 2014
By Alan Caruba
If there is one thing various experts and pundits like to do most it is to worry about all manner of speculative threats. I can recall when much of their focus was on the Soviet Union until 1991 when it collapsed along with the decline in the cost of oil. The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 signaled that it was no longer the feared power it had been.
Despite its invasion of Ukraine to annex the Crimea, the Russian Republic is in the same position its predecessor was because, once again, the price of a barrel of oil is falling. Turns out that the fracking technology that many environmentalists fear has also produced large increases in both oil and natural gas here in the U.S., that have created an oil glut that is driving its price down.
Largely unnoticed, however, have been the growing ties between Russia and China. They haven’t been this friendly for a very long time. Even so, Communist China does not give any indication that it regards the U.S. as an “enemy” in the way Vladimir Putin does the European Union and NATO.
China has recently emerged as a larger economic power than the U.S., earning $17.8 trillion in terms of goods and services, compared to the U.S. $17.4 trillion. Not a great difference, but surely a symbolic one. China is a curiosity in that it has an authoritative Communist government and a burgeoning capitalist economy.
In 2013, China took steps to expand property rights (something that does not exist in Communist nations), expand fair and transparent market regulation, and prices set by the market.
When you have to govern more than 1.3 billion people, you have to find a way to lift as many as possible out of poverty. China’s problem is that many of them are elderly thanks to its one-child policy. In 2013, China took tentative steps to loosen its one-child policy and it’s a good guess they will get rid of it entirely at some point in the near future.
Examples of its economic power often make page one of The Wall Street Journal such as a December 9 article reporting that “In the past two years, Chinese investors have bought stakes in New York’s most valuable office power, one of its largest development projects and the country’s most expensive hotel ever sold.” Should we worry about this? No, a few decades ago, such stories were about Japan’s purchases of American properties and that nation has been in an economic stagnation for quite a while.
Back in 2008, Robert Samuelson, a Washington Post columnist, was worrying that “The real threat from China lies elsewhere. It is that China will destabilize the world economy. It will distort trade, foster huge financial imbalances, and tripper a contentious competition for scare raw materials.” That’s a pretty good description of what is being said about the United States today!
A new study by the Rand Corporation, “Blinders, Blunders, and Wars: What America and China Can Learn”, devotes a chapter to U.S.-China relations saying “Whether and how the United States and China can settle their differences without war is among the most important questions of the twenty-first century.” That has got to be one of the most presumptuous questions asked by the respected think tank. It borders on foolishness because there is no good reason why either nation would engage in a war on one another.
There is no question that China, the largest nation in Asia, has been flexing its muscles, building up its military capabilities, and seeking to expand its authority over the China Sea and adjacent areas. Any nation of its size would be expected to do the same thing. Even Russia is keeping its neighbors on edge with its Ukraine incursion, knowing perhaps that neither NATO nor the European Union would go to war over its complete takeover. The threat is there, but that does not mean it will occur.
The good news from Rand is their observation that war between the U.S. and China “could be catastrophic” and therefore “both powers are strongly inhibited from starting one.” You do not need to be a think tank expert to figure that out, but the Rand study also says “The danger of Sino-U.S. war by misjudgment is related to but different from that of Sino-U.S. war by accident.”
The study’s reason for this is that “China sees America’s East Asian alliances as throwback to Cold War thinking and, more alarmingly, as indicative of America’s new intent to align the region against China.” That’s think tank talk for China’s paranoia based on centuries of control and exploitation by outside forces such as the former British Empire, subjugation by the former Empire of Japan, and its fear of America’s longtime naval presence in the Pacific.
China most certainly has nothing to fear regarding war with the current U.S. administration that doesn’t want to even admit that it has reengaged in the war occurring in Iraq. In a similar way, the U.S. has no reason to disturb its financial dependence on a China that owns much of its debt.
Think tanks like Rand will not cease to worry about all the options and events that affect the China-U.S. relationship, but for the near future, there are other factors such as the threat the Islamic jihad represents. The only constant in international affairs is change.
© Alan Caruba, 2014
By Alan Caruba
Most of the people of the world have concluded that the decades of warnings about “global warming” and its successor, “climate change”, is just idiotic nonsense. Few believe that humans ever had or ever will have any role in what the weather will be tomorrow or a thousand years from now. They are right.
One of the most distinguishing factors about the Anthropogenic Global Warming theory has been the way its advocates have always predicted major changes decades into the future. When the future arrived, as it has since the first doomsday predictions were made in the late 1980s, they simply push off the next arrival date for another couple of decades. A classic example is the prediction that that Arctic and Antarctic sea ice would have all melted by now. Instead the global cold weather have been making new records of late.
Delegates from two hundred nations attended the 20th session of the Conference of the Parties and the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol which took place from December 1 through 12. COP 20/CMP 10 was hosted by the Government of Peru in Lima. The event is part of the United Nations agenda that began with the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988.
The Kyoto Protocol dates back to 1997 and sets limits on how much “greenhouse gas” emissions, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2), nations could permit. The theory, now long since debunked, that CO2 was rising and would cause the Earth to warm too much was right in only one respect. There is more CO2, but the Earth has been in a cooling cycle for some 19 years at this point. The U.S. did not ratify, i.e. sign onto the Protocol. The Senate unanimously rejected it. Canada later withdrew from it. China and India were both exempted from it!
So what we have been witnessing have been a bunch of international officials wrangling over something that did not happen and will not happen.
The hard core “Warmists” wanted the climate change agreement to be legally binding under international law. They were led by those from the European Union. They and others wanted more money to be spent on renewable energy, wind and solar, and money given to poor countries to help them deal with climate change.
The COP20 conference was not about the climate. It was about funding wind and solar energy projects that have proven globally to be huge, expensive failures, and about providing money to poor countries that, as often as not, are poor because they are poorly governed. It’s a scheme based on totally false “science.”
As to the “science” proclaiming a warming Earth and that “greenhouse gas emissions” are responsible, the easiest and most entertaining way to learn the real science is to read Anthony Bright-Paul’s new book, “Climate for the Layman.”
Bright applies the known knowledge of the universe in which we live with the kind of logic you are not likely to hear from the likes of Al Gore or Bill Nye the “science guy.” Add to them the blissfully ignorant legions of “leaders” of various nations who have signed off on “global warming” without a lick of knowledge with which to refute the lies and you get idiotic conferences and demands to end the beneficial use of fossil fuels which improved our lives long before and since the IPCC was created.
“So how does one measure the temperature of something that has a multiplicity of temperatures and is constantly on the move?” asks Bright-Paul. “It is clearly impossible.” How difficult is that to understand?
“In my dictionary,” says Bright-Paul, “’Global’ is defined as ‘worldwide’. So let us ask ourselves the question—has there been a worldwide warming of 0.07 degrees Celsius? Has there been a uniform increase in temperatures worldwide? The answer is simple. It is utterly impossible to make such declaration”, adding that “It is completely impossible to measure the temperature of the atmosphere which is 100 kilometers high and which has a huge range of temperatures in a continuous state of flux.”
If it cannot be measured then years from now the climate cannot be predicted. The weather—what is happening where you live—can only be predicted in general terms for the next few days and that is largely thanks to modern satellites. Moreover, the weather is never exactly the same from day to day. Meteorologists focus on what’s happening now, but climatologists measure the climate in units of decades, the smallest of which is thirty years. The largest take in millions of years.
Carbon dioxide is such a minor “trace” gas—0.04% of the Earth’s atmosphere--that most people are astonished to learn that it is Nitrogen and Oxygen that make up 99% of the atmosphere. Both are transparent to incoming and outgoing radiation. It is the Earth that acts as a conductor of heat, affected as always by solar radiation. It is the Sun along with the actions of the oceans and volcanic activity that determines the weather and, long term, the climate.
Virtually everything you have heard or been told about “greenhouse gas emissions” is pure bunkum.
The Earth is not a greenhouse closed in by heat trapping gases. It is the mass of the Earth that absorbs the Sun’s radiation and reflects it into the atmosphere. The process is so dynamic that there is no way to accurately predict what the temperature anywhere on any day.
The IPCC and its idiotic “climate change” conference wants you to believe it can predict the climate of the entire world! And control it.
Not a single dime of U.S. taxpayer’s money should be devoted to either the U.N. or any bogus “global warming” claims. We could begin by defunding the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations to limit “greenhouse gas emissions”, the reason they give for closing coal-fired plants to produce electricity.
We should laugh Secretary of State John Kerry off the stage every time in claims that climate change is the greatest threat to life on Earth.
© Alan Caruba, 2014
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
By Alan Caruba
The news from Sydney, Australia was of another incident in which a lone Islamic fascist took civilians hostage to fulfill a demented notion of a “holy war” on non-believers. After a siege by police two of the hostages he had taken were dead along with the gunman.
These attacks are becoming more frequent, referred to as “lone wolf” events, but in a larger context, they represent an effort by al Qaeda and the Islamic State, ISIS, to recruit individuals to wage a war of terror everywhere.
Looking back over the year, in May Mehdi Nemmouche who had returned to France after fighting for ISIS, entered the Jewish museum in Brussels and killed four people. In October Martin Couture Rouleau ran down two Canadian soldiers in Quebec, killing one of them. The same month, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau killed a soldier at the Canadian parliament in Ottawa. Also in October, Zale Thompson attacked four New York police officers with an axe, injuring two in an incident that was deemed to be an Islamist attack.
In the wake of these attacks police everywhere are grappling with what they can do to anticipate and respond. In the attacks that have occurred, the perpetrators were all known to law enforcement authorities for their extremist views. In September, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI put out a joint intelligence bulletin that the Islamic State has the capacity to mount attacks on U.S. targets overseas with little or no warning. Presumably the warning also included domestic attacks as well.
At a time when the threat is real and growing, there are forces in America that have deliberately sought to undermine public support and trust in the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, both on the front line of defense against the Islamist menace. The release of a report by Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Senate Intelligence Committee chair, was widely denounced for its evident failure to interview those named as engaging in “torture” to deter further attacks. This 20-20 hindsight and reinterpretation of events is an offense on many levels.
One has to ask why it is always liberals who are unable to acknowledge an actual threat and defame those charged with preventing them. It is as if they live in a parallel universe, a make-believe world where our enemies do not exist.
This is the mind-set that led the President to remove our troops from Iraq, creating a vacuum that ISIS filled. He is now lowering our role in Afghanistan and the news of the day is a barbaric attack by the Taliban in Pakistan that has killed 130, mostly school children. Can liberals grasp the barbarity of the Islamist enemies of our nation and the whole of humanity?
Most serious, though, are the negotiations with Iran, led by the Obama administration, that are sure to permit a leading sponsor of terrorism to acquire its own nuclear weapons.
This is why many cringed when the anticipated Democratic Party candidate for President, Hillary Clinton, a former Secretary of State, recently touted an approach she calls “smart power,” urging America to use “every possible tool and partner” to advance peace. This, she said, includes “leaving no one on the sidelines, showing respect even for one’s enemies, trying to understand and insofar as psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective and point of view.”
This is the classic liberal excuse and attitude for not taking our enemies seriously when they say they want to destroy America. There isn’t a single justification for empathizing with people who want to kill you!
I frankly find the outcry against the nation’s police corps curious and outrageous. In the Ferguson incident, it was a case of self-defense that got Michael Brown killed. In Staten Island, it was the unanticipated death of Erik Garner who had resisted arrest and had a long record of similar offenses. The police did not set out to kill him, but a combination of his ill health and the takedown triggered his death.
The response of the communist Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, was not to defend his police force, but to join in the condemnation. Around the nation thousands marched, repeating the lies about Brown’s innocence and the claims about Garner’s death. The marches, held in a number of U.S. cities, were organized by groups with an agenda and it was aimed at undermining public support and trust in our police corps.
Remember, too, liberals are also opposed to the Second Amendment which empowers Americans to “keep and bear arms.” There is no way to misinterpret or not understand the limit this puts on government from the federal to the local level. Even so, the calls for such limits are constant.
Reportedly, “according to the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey – the leading source of international public information about firearms – the U.S. has the best-armed civilian population in the world, with an estimated 270 million total guns. That’s an average of 89 firearms for every 100 residents.” Liberals translate this as an invitation to mass murder in the streets and homes of America, but the reality is that gun ownership prevents criminal mayhem and protects lives. In states that permit concealed carry, the crime rate is less than in those that do not.
Liberals, though, would have you fear your local police force and those agencies that are tasked with protecting the nation, the CIA and the NSA. And, yes, the FBI too.
If not resisted, liberals would cause us all to be killed by our nation’s very real foreign enemies and the domestic perpetrators and criminals who prey on our society. Next time you see a police man or woman, take a moment to tell them how much you appreciate their service.
© Alan Caruba, 2014
Monday, December 15, 2014
By Alan Caruba
Sometimes I think that Jews are going to have to arm themselves in order to celebrate Chanukah. These days, merely praying in a synagogue, whether it is in Jerusalem or Brooklyn has become hazardous.
Of course, those who hate Jews don’t really need an excuse to attack them. In November, Palestinian attackers killed five Israelis, four of whom were rabbis, in a Jerusalem synagogue. On December 8, a lunatic shouting “I want to kill the Jews” stabbed an Israeli student in the Chabad-Lubavitch synagogue in Brooklyn. The student survived the attack. Police killed the attacker.
December 16 through 24 marks this year’s celebration and one can only hope that it will be enjoyed without providing an excuse to attack Jews around the world. Chanukah celebrates an ancient military victory.
Known also as the Festival of Lights, the menorah that holds nine candles is the widely recognized symbol of the holiday; eight for the days and one to light the others. It celebrates the overthrow of an oppressive Greek ruler, Antiochus IV, and the rededication of the temple. Chanukah is not mentioned in formal Jewish scripture though the story is related in the book of the Maccabees. In 1948, Jews restored the nation of Israel.
Chanukah is a relatively minor Jewish holiday compared to the holy days of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur or Passover. Because it falls close to Christmas, American Jews have incorporated it into their celebration and one suspects that most are likely to exchange gifts on December 25th to blend both holidays together as one
Of the estimated 14 million Jews worldwide approximately 5.5 million live in America. An estimated 6.2 million live in Israel, with 2 million in Europe, and about 100,000 in Africa, most of whom live in the nation of South Africa.
Fourteen million Jews may sound like a lot, but they represent about 0.2% of the world’s population. You could put them all in Texas and few would notice.
In the Middle East, Christians and Jews have been driven from their homes where many families had lived for centuries. In Syria and Iraq these days Christians are being crucified and beheaded for their faith. Muslims divided by whether they are Sunni or Shiite are also dying. It all seems so pointless.
Worldwide, religious and other forms of bigotry continue during this Chanukah and Christmas season as ever before.
One need look no farther than the United Nations which, on December 10, celebrated the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. In 2014 the UN General Assembly adopted twenty more resolutions against Israel than any other nation for alleged violations of human rights. To put this in perspective, not one resolution was directed at China, Russia, or Saudi Arabia, among a long list of nations that deserve criticism.
Citing the Religious Freedom in the World Report 2014, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks noted that “Freedom of religion has deteriorated in almost half the nations of the world and sectarian violence is at a six-year high.”
Here in America, as the first Chanukah candle is lighted this year we are days from celebrating Christmas. These holidays are a good time to remind ourselves to resist those for whom religion is a reason to hate others as well as those who reject spiritual faith and seek to deny its message and joy to everyone.
These holidays are a time to rededicate ourselves.
These holidays are a time to rededicate ourselves.
© Alan Caruba, 2014
Sunday, December 14, 2014
How’s this for a great way to celebrate the end of 2014? Warning Signs has now passed 3.9 MILLION VISITS and I anticipate reaching 4 million not too long into 2015.
As 2014 draws to an end, permit me to ask for A DONATION to finish up the year and get us going onto a new one. The blog has all the usual office and IT expenses. Donations help considerably in paying them.
More importantly, though, your donation is a way to express your support for the effort that goes from Sunday through Thursday every week, providing information and opinion that helps visitors get beyond the often biased and inaccurate reporting in the mainstream media.
That’s my “job” even though I don’t draw a salary for it. It is, however, my obligation to put my years of experience as a business and science writer to work for you.
And here’s a THANK YOU to those who have made donations this year, some of whom have engaged a monthly payment PayPal payment plan. The money is welcome, but the appreciation it expresses is priceless.
So, it’s onto 4 million visits, a mark we shall achieve in just a month or two. Tell your family, friends, and coworkers about Warning Signs and we’ll get there even faster!