Saturday, October 1, 2016

Cashless Societies, Mexico, South Sudan, Cuba, Clinton & Trump

Bob Arias, Peace Corps volunteer par excellence, received the Peace Corps's J F Kennedy Award on September 23 in Washington, DC. Bob, who began his PC career as a young volunteer in Colombia, later became country director in Argentina and Uruguay, then in his retirement, volunteered for 4 Peace Corps Response assignments, 2 in Panama and one each in Colombia and and Paraguay. Bob is almost my age and still lives in Panama, where I visited him 7 years ago en route to my annual humanitarian visit to Honduras. And Bob may not be through yet, as he is now considering a PC Response assignment in Vietnam, which has just opened up to the Peace Corps. Way to go, Bob!

Modern-day cashless societies will not be exchanging animal skins and beads; rather electronic signals. Sweden and South Korea are moving aggressively toward a cashless society, as, indeed, the whole world is doing. Relying on electronic and banking systems reduces fraud and tax evasion, but leaves financial systems open to hacking.

A report by WOLA, the Washington Office on Latin America, calls out Mexico for overly harsh treatment of Central American migrants trying to cross its southern border:
What the above article does not mention that the US has offered financial assistance to Mexico to deter the migrants. 

A report was issued showing that Venezuelans are suffering more mental health problems under the current government and have been consulting psychiatrists and other counselors. I was reminded of the Venezuelan asylum applicant I assisted at Catholic Charities whose psychiatrist reported that she was suffering from PTSD because police attacks on her for disloyalty to the regime.

Also, in Venezuela, Maduro loyalists have been put in charge of food distribution, a means of control also used by the Castro regime, which has had government-controlled food rationing, pricing, and distribution for decades. When I was visiting Cuba in the 1990’s, getting enough to eat was a constant concern—I would almost call it an obsession— of most Cubans every single day.

More on what Machar’s absence means to the fragile South Sudan civil war peace process (my readers know I was in South Sudan in 2006 and was tempted to stay there to help them build their new country):
Apparently Machar and forces loyal to him are planning armed resistance:

Pres. Obama has formally announced his choice of ambassador to Cuba, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, who has been acting ambassador until now.  I did participate with him in a State Dept. meeting before he went to Cuba. He seemed to know much already about Cuba, having served in the Interests Section in Havana previously. Republicans are promising to block his appointment.

Yoani Sanchez, independent blogger, "Scholarships for Cuban Youth to Study in the US Enrage Cuban Government"

Frank interview with Yoani Sanchez in El Diario de Hoy, El Salvador—she is able to be pretty forthcoming outside of Cuba. Of course, there may be a reckoning when she goes back. She’s had her share of beatings and arrests.

Mexico, Brazil, and Uruguay denounce US Cuba embargo at the UN

Jon Lee Anderson, who has often written about Cuba, makes the case for cautious optimism regarding the future of Cuba after the US-Cuba accords in a recent New Yorker piece:

While he has not made his vote public himself, apparently someone else (Robert Kennedy’s daughter) has reported to the press that George HW Bush plans to vote for Hillary Clinton. Hope that her unauthorized revelation won’t cause him to change his mind, as he apparently had wanted his decision to remain private.

In a Facebook post, Robert Reich also makes the case for voting for Hillary.

Of course, I would agree, since, like it or not, the choice now is between Clinton and Trump as neither Sanders nor Johnson nor Stein is going to be elected president. Trump has more personality, if you will, and more charisma than Clinton and he is definitely the “change” candidate even though it’s unclear what sort of change might be in store. Some voters may be in a gambling mood, willing to throw caution to the winds. If he doesn’t keep flying off the handle and sticks to the script, he might yet pull off a win. He seems to be doing a little better under his new campaign manager, but sometimes breaks free of her control. He has great confidence in his own judgment, but doesn’t realize his own ignorance. He has a lot of apparent self-confidence, unaware of how other people see him. That he would attack a former beauty contestant for being “fat” is rather hypocritical since Trump himself is overweight.

If Trump should win the election, then he will probably want to "commute" to DC from his NYC penthouse. Melania is not likely to care to move to Washington and leave her current quiet, private life in NYC. Hillary will try to provoke Trump in the debates, but his handlers, including daughter Ivanka, whom he seems to listen to, must have warned him advance and maybe will even give him a tranquilizer before the next debate. But will he listen to handlers throughout a 4-year presidency? The idea of a Trump presidency is pretty scary. A lot is at stake. If Trump wins, cartoonists will have a field day. If he loses, as I certainly hope and pray happens, he’s unlikely to be a continuing force in Republican politics. He will blame the party and the crooked “rigged” electoral system for his loss. The party will want to jettison him ASAP. We will have a bitterly divided country, whoever wins. It was already divided, hence our election choices, but will be even more so after the election. Whew!

In their first debate, the expectations for Clinton were higher than for Trump and also the public knew less about him, The Apprentice notwithstanding. To me, Trump sounded adolescent, immature, and disorganized. He seemed uncomfortable, perhaps because of his famously short attention span (he prefers tweets) and the debate went on for a full hour and a half. Giuliani has now advised Trump not to participate in any more debates, probably a wise suggestion. Clearly, being one-on-one talking in public without a teleprompter is not his forte. And he doesn’t know when to shut up, as he kept on talking after the debate, digging an even deeper hole criticizing a woman’s weight, when he is not any lightweight himself. He also gratuitously lashed out at the Pope. You almost have to feel sorry for Trump and his supporters, as he and they are so clueless about how he appears to the rest of us—and to the whole wide world. Or maybe they don’t care, so sure they are “right,” them and Donald Trump against the world. He has gotten away so long with bluster, bravado, and trickery that he's using the same tactics in the presidential race with less success. Mainstream Republicans must be tearing their hair, worried about Trump’s effect down-ticket. It will take a while for the Republican Party to recover from Donald Trump—let’s hope the party becomes more open to bipartisan compromise as a result.

During the debate, Clinton sounded relaxed and sure of herself, but not too arrogant—she hit a good balance. But, of course, I may be biased. If I could choose anyone in the world to be our next president, I might not choose her, but I do think she can do a workmanlike job. She certainly has aspired to and prepared for the office for long enough.

At a Campaign Rally in Fort Pierce, Florida, Hillary Clinton announced her plan to create a National Service Reserve and also outlined plans to increase participation in AmeriCorps and Peace Corps.
Peace Corps! @HIllaryClinton speaks to the value of Peace Corps.

As for the Trump Foundation’s expenditures, here’s a commentary:
A few things that the head of a reputable foundation would not do:
·         He wouldn't use foundation money to buy a six-foot-tall portrait of himself to hang in the lobby of one of his resorts.
·         He wouldn't write checks to a committee backing the Florida attorney general who was considering whether or not to investigate his sham "university."
·         And he damn sure wouldn't spend more than a quarter of a million dollars of the foundation's money to settle lawsuits against his businesses.

“President Trump: What would he do?” is a detailed article by frequent contributor Evan Osnos in the New Yorker (Sept. 26, 2016). Among the predictions of scholarly observers is that a Trump victory would (could?) result in a protracted recession within 18 months. If, indeed, Trump should be elected and a recession occurs as the result of his presidential decisions, he would, no doubt, blame others for the failure. Maybe he would be impeached like Richard Nixon? His victory may be unthinkable to many of us, but is not impossible. All it takes is a single vote by many people. (A pundit with a good track record is actually predicting a Trump victory.) Remember, many of us never thought he would get this far. It could happen because of some voters’ aversion to Hillary that propels them to vote for a 3rd party or not vote at all. So then we will be able blame them, even though they will say later “I didn’t vote for Trump.” On late-night talk shows, it’s been speculated that, if elected, Trump will resign, having proved to the world that he could win. Then Pence would become president.

I remember being shocked when GWBush won his second term (I was in Honduras the first time he ran, marked by the hanging chads in Florida). Kerry seemed so much more in tune with what was actually going on in the world after Bush’s disastrous incursion into Iraq. And even Kerry’s daughters were much more articulate than the vapid Bush daughters. Dick Chaney was such a nefarious character working behind the scenes, seeming to manipulate the hapless Bush, who liked to ride his bike and go to bed early. But Bush won anyway, not by an overwhelming margin, yet he still won apparently legitimately that time. So with the antipathy and apathy toward Hillary, could Trump win? Many people seem to feel it doesn’t matter, that our country is in trouble either way, so they are just not voting.

Although the movie “Snowden” apparently makes a pitch for the man’s heroism and even Amnesty Int’l activists are pressing for a presidential pardon, I’m not campaigning for that. I don’t regard Edward Snowden as a hero and consider that his “leaks” have done more harm than good.

While racial and ethnic profiling may do an injustice to many individuals, profiling is not totally arbitrary. And that goes for gender and age profiling as well—most crime, especially violent crime, is perpetrated by men, mostly young men. Is that due to profiling or just a matter of statistical verification? The reasons may be both cultural and hormonal. It’s also true that African American crime rates are disproportionately high, even though most members of that ethnicity are law abiding and police may be unfairly targeting some blacks as suspects. Actions and perceptions both reinforce each other. (Remember, I’m speaking as someone with African American family members.) A 90-year-old white Christian woman would seldom be the suspect in a crime—maybe shoplifting?—though she might conceivably be guilty of murder. (A 78-year-old Caucasian nun actually made headlines recently for petty shoplifting.) 
Likewise, we are not surprised that the attacks in NY, NJ, and Minnesota are all attributable to Muslims. That’s a fact, not a matter of arbitrary racial profiling. Certainly, Trump and his followers will be pointing that out as a reason to bar future Muslim immigrants and refugees. 

More mass shootings in public places, showing that gun-rights often take precedence over the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” I also observed that while the Minnesota attacks were carried out by a young man wielding a knife, hence no one was fatally injured as would have been likely if he had had a gun, none-the-less, a bystander carrying a firearm actually stopped his killing spree by killing him. So having an armed person in the right place at the right time can be protective. It’s unfortunate that so many gun owners are not super-careful with their weapons, either handling them carelessly or allowing children and others to have to access them. Apparently, a shrinking number of gun enthusiasts own an ever-growing personal arsenal; an estimated 3% of the population owns half of all guns. Some may have inherited some of them or simply be collectors who keep them locked up. The largest number of gun deaths is attributable to suicide.

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