Sunday, July 24, 2016

At Home, New HP Cuba Article, Kaine, "Electile" Disfunction, Clinton & Trump, Ginsberg, Gun Laws & Terrorism, FGM, Turkey, Haiti, Cuba, US Parents

                     Boniface from Kenya (where he has returned) giving GAO graduation keynote address

                                           Boniface with GAO graduation certificate

Morning (L) and evening vistas out my bedroom window

Neighbor mixing dirt with sand from my kids' old sandbox to fill in holes in local soccer fields

Daughter Stephanie visiting from Hawaii, by late brother Andrew's gravestone in our backyard

 Daughters Melanie and Stephanie with great-grandson De'Andre in my kitchen and home

Boniface, my visitor from Kenya, has left, but I attended his graduation at GAO, where he was the keynote speaker. There I met two Argentine fellows who knew a woman from Argentina who stayed with me a few years ago.

Civic-minded neighbors, helping me with yardwork, have mixed dirt with sand from a defunct sandbox that my kids used to play in and taken it to fill up inundations in local soccer fields.

Here’s the 5th and latest in my Huffington Post Cuba series:

All my Huffington Post Cuba articles are available at this address:

Hillary Clinton’s choice of Tim Kaine as a running mate seems like a safe, wise choice. Kaine has been called a “Pope Francis” Catholic. He did Jesuit service in northern Honduras in areas where I've worked and the little Spanish I've heard him speak sounds pretty good, a lot better than George Bush or even Jeb, who has a Hispanic wife, not that that is the most important qualification in a VP. He might also appeal to some of those white male voters whom Trump has been courting. Some people find him too cautious or conservative. Well, it’s hard to find candidates for office that agree 100% on all issues with a majority of voters, including with me and thee. Some voters will prefer to throw caution to the winds, shake up the entire system, and vote on faith or emotion for Trump, which, if he wins, they will no doubt come to regret.

The late Libya Ambassador Chris Stevens’ mother has a letter in the NYTimes, asking Republicans and Donald Trump to stop using her son’s name and memory in their political campaigns. Stevens was a former Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, also, according to people I've met who knew him, a guy who was often independent and dismissive of advice, such the advice he was given not to go to the Benghazi outpost (not an embassy) on that fateful anniversary (we don’t like to blame the victim). 

According to some recent pollster estimates, Trump has a 25% chance of winning the presidential election, which is not zero and is actually a pretty frightening figure, especially since some other polls show him neck-n-neck with Clinton.

Talk about negative campaigns, Trump and his surrogates are saying, vote for Donald Trump to prevent (Crooked, Lying) Hillary from becoming president, while Clinton’s supporters are saying that it’s imperative to vote for her to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president. Trump’s supporters are even saying to jail or shoot her. (If anyone has engaged in lies and crooked deals, it’s Trump.) Trump may have given diehard Republicans a reason to support him by choosing a staid conservative running mate with a track record like Pence’s. They are certainly the odd couple. But for people who genuinely feel unable to vote for either Trump or Hillary, although knowing that one of them is bound to win, yet considering them equivalent evils, can either not vote the top of the ticket or vote for a protest candidate.

Electile Dysfunction is a parodic neologism making the rounds on social media. The Urban Dictionary defines Electile Dysfunction as “The inability of voters to become aroused over any of the choices for President put forth by either party during an election year.” July 25 is the start of the Democratic convention in Philadelphia.

Yet, I don’t consider Trump and Clinton equivalent extremes. Trump is extremely extreme, unpredictable, and uninformed, whereas (my bias showing?), Clinton, with her obvious faults, is more predictable, moderate, and centrist, more like a normal human being, although with more single-minded ambition and drive than most of us, especially than us women. I’m wondering if her alleged untrustworthiness is real or a media exaggeration, based partly on her gender? Trump is so over-the-top, showing such crass braggadocio that you almost feel sorry for him and wonder if he is compensating for feelings of inferiority—maybe impressing his late father in the hereafter, who had originally gifted him with enormous wealth, or maybe Rubio was right about a certain body part? It’s said that Hitler had an undescended testicle about which he was ashamed. I don’t know what psychiatric diagnosis might be applied to Trump; he’s certainly not normal—he seems perpetually manic, overcompensating for something, and completely lacking in empathy—he delights in tricking people, getting rich at others’ expense and bragging about it. Why do so many voters identify with him? Because they’d like to be in his shoes—or think that he help them get there? True believers don’t care if Melania’s speech was plagiarized, to an extent that if a college student did it, he or she would be out. Of course, Melania is saying she wrote every word herself--her command of English then is very good! Apparently there was a part of Donald Trump Jr.’s speech that was also cribbed—Trump should tell those lazy speech writers “You’re fired!”

Breaking news: Trump staffer fesses up: I cribbed Michelle Obama speech

Actually, listening to the Republican Convention speakers on the radio almost made me sick to my stomach—I’ve never had a physical reaction before to a political event and I’ve witnessed a lot of them in many different countries, including as an election observer. .

The choice between the two presidential candidates is not between individual unbridled freedom and strict government-controlled socialism or ironfisted communism, but between chaos and a middle ground allowing and protecting basic personal freedoms, yet still implementing restraint and organizing economic and national life to benefit a majority of citizens.

The NYTimes reported a recent poll showing Trump and Clinton running at a dead heat, which is really scary, given that Brexit polls showed a similar 50-50 pattern, with “stay” supposedly winning slightly. Was that pollsters’ wishful thinking? Do voting and democracy really provide the best form of government? An autocracy or even a dictatorship is certainly more stable and predictable, as well as more traditional throughout history. Is voting by uninformed and easily misled voters really the best way to choose leaders? Apparently a majority of Russians support Putin. Dictators like the Castro brothers, as well as the leaders of Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China, and Vietnam, may have a point. At least, they provide stability and predictability.  

A Trump victory is definitely possible, as unthinkable as that may seem to so many of us. There are unhappy voters who will just say “Let’s throw all the bums out and start over completely, fresh and brand-new with Trump.” He’s exciting, certainly different—Hillary is someone we know only too well, maybe like the new suitor versus the tired old familiar spouse. Trump, with his get-rich-quick huckster message, appeals to those struggling to make ends meet, which is most people. Remember, who would have thought that the British, generally considered more thoughtful and less impulsive than Americans, would have voted for Brexit?  And that vote was not as momentous as the US presidency. 

In this election, perhaps more than in any other, many voters seem more motivated by hatred (not too strong a word) of the other party’s candidate than by love of their own.

Amnesty International USA is sending observers to the political conventions.

I must agree with the Washington Post and NYTimes editorial boards that although it might not have been illegal for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg to state aloud what many of us are thinking about Trump, that he’s a faker, still, certainly it was unwise of her to do so. Maybe at age 83, she is losing some of her marbles? That’s what people often think about older folks. Or maybe she just feels free at her age to speak her mind? In light of her statement, if Hillary wins, it may be time for Ginsberg to gracefully retire. She has only given Hillary’s detractors more ammunition to use against her. However, under pressure, Ginsberg later admitted that it had been unwise to have said what she did, but she did not really retract her statement.

Leave it to a smirking GWBush to do something inappropriate at the Dallas officers’ memorial service. After giving a pretty good prepared speech in Dallas, he pulled a surprised Michelle Obama out to do a jig, not exactly called for during such a solemn occasion. The man seems to be impulsively goofy, lacking in common sense and a basic understanding of accepted political etiquette, and not for the first time either. His wife looked on horrified—she must often try to guide and calm him. Was he trying to show solidarity with black people or what? He has 2 left feet and shows a deficit of social skills—maybe the poor guy has a cognitive abnormality?

In Idaho, a man dressed as woman, who said he identifies as female, was found taking photos of a woman in a department store dressing room, the worst nightmare of the whole transgender bathroom debate. Of course, regardless of gender, a person should not be taking unauthorized photos of someone else dressing or undressing. .

The young German mall shooter looks like his was a copy-cat crime, perhaps partially motivated by his Iranian heritage. Lone wolf guys like him are very hard to detect in advance. And where did he get a gun?

Two courthouse employees and the shooter were killed in Michigan—he was apparently a jail inmate trying to escape, who, though handcuffed, managed to grab a guard’s gun. In Baton Rouge, several police officers shot, three killed. A civil war with real bullets seems to be underway. A patient and a hospital employee shot and killed in Florida. A three-year-old policeman’s son killed himself with his father’s gun in Colorado. Either reduce the sheer number of guns in circulation or prevent some people from getting them, which is much harder. I foresee a time when Americans will look back on the gun culture as a historical anomaly.

States with “open carry” laws are finding that pretty frightening when it’s being practiced by a group of black men either participating in a demonstration or when just being out and about. Nor were firearms allowed inside the Republic Convention. Why not, if they are so protective and a constitutional right that the party so strongly supports? And Ohio is an open-carry state. The police asked for a suspension of open-carry for the duration of the convention, a request that was denied. Fortunately, nothing accidental or deliberately harmful happened.

Estimates are that the US suicide rate could fall by one-third if there were more gun restrictions.

Germany, even with its strict gun laws, has seen a mass shooting. And now there is a new copycat terrorist weapon, a truck, which, combined with firearms, managed to kill and injure a lot of people in France. And, of course, social media brings these ideas much closer to home. A disgruntled “lone wolf” with no direct ties to other terrorists can carry out shootings or vehicular manslaughter without any forewarning communications with anyone else, making such attacks hard to prevent. A vicious cycle is created. Young black or Muslim men are feared and feel ostracized and alienated, propelling them to plan revenge, thus, in turn, making other young men who look like them seem dangerous, causing them to feel them resentful, creating a vicious cycle. Someone who has been robbed by a young black man is going to cross the street if one approaches, so a perfectly innocent man feels stereotyped. But how is the observer to know his intentions? Even black taxi drivers hesitate to pick up young black men.

Here’s Adriano, cousin of the Dominican Espaillat family profiled in my Cuba book, who came close to beating Rangel before, but now has a good chance since Rangel is retiring. I’ve had falling out with the family over disagreement about the DR government’s anti-Haitian descendants’ policy.
ere’s the Espaillat cousin H

The UN has recognized Female Genital Mutilation, which an estimated 200 million women have undergone, typically before puberty, to be “child abuse.” It’s obviously painful, may result in death, dampens sexual pleasure which is apparently its aim, may interfere with urination, and complicates childbirth in areas of the world where that’s already complicated enough. A few female supporters of the practice argue that it’s part of their culture. If so, and a woman over 21 really wants to have it done, then that’s her right, just as some women put themselves through painful and unnecessary plastic surgery. Eradicating the practice will require convincing both men and women that a woman’s fidelity does not require FMG and that women who have been mutilated may still stray. If some other cultural marker is required, ritual scarring would be less harmful, though even that should be allowed only by a consenting adult. In one South Sudan tribe, whose members I met in 2006, the cultural marker for both genders is pulling out the 2 front bottom teeth. That seems somewhat harmful and painful, but is still better than FGM.

The number of migrants under 18 traveling alone is increasing all over the world.

As for Turkey, Erdogan has become increasingly autocratic and even despotic, but he was elected and re-elected (with irregularities and suppression?) and now will become even more so.

More bad news from Honduras:

US official confronts Haiti impasse, but friends who know Haiti say many resent such interference:

In Haiti, UN peacekeepers, post-earthquake, not only unleashed cholera, but also left babies behind, as often happens,

Article about former AI Cuban POC El Sexto:

25 Cuban migrants come ashore at the Keys (unlike those unlucky rafters who landed on a lighthouse and were ordered returned to Cuba by a judge)

On the lighter side in Cuba, daiquiri contests—for foreign visitors only, it goes without saying-

The Cuban government has opened a bulk goods store, maybe not yet Costco, but along those lines, selling toilet paper, tomato sauce, and cooking oil in quantity to small licensed home enterprises.

Article below about the reassignment (and apparent downgrading) of Cuban economics minister Marino Murillo. Incidentally, Murillo’s daughter crossed the border in Texas a while back, asking for political asylum (as per my book).

See below, about the functioning of the black market in Cuba, which has been around for decades, despite draconian sanctions against those who are caught. But it’s so pervasive

Cuba’s human rights abuses worse despite US ties, Andres Oppenheimer
Story below is about Jose Daniel Ferrer, a Cuban dissident who spent 8 years in prison as one of the Cuban Five, now on the first trip he was allowed outside of Cuba since his release in 2011.

Another Black Spring prisoner recently allowed to leave Cuba for the first time, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, was here in DC with his wife, also in my Cuba book on p.171.

Parents, in polls, typically report less satisfaction than non-parents. But, as it turns out, this is true only in America, not in other countries where parents have more moral and material support.

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