The Island that Dared

The Island that Dared, Journeys in Cuba by Dervla Murphy. Murphy is an Irish grandmother who travels the world mostly by bicycle, sometimes by mule, train or by foot, and then writes fascinating books about her travels. For those wanting to learn more about Cuba, I can think of no better book about Cuba, a book untainted by US prejudice about the island. This is what I had to say in a previous post:

To Cuba and Back by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. of a visit in 1859 and The Island That Dared, Journeys in Cuba by Dervla Murphy published in 2008. The US has been interested in acquiring Cuba almost from the very birth of the Republic. Spain refused to sell, and the Spanish-American War in 1898 allowed the US to acquire the island as well as other Spanish possessions including the Philippines. We occupied Cuba on and off during the early 1900s. When we weren’t there as occupiers, we controlled much of the island’s economy and politics remotely. Finally in 1959, Fidel Castro led a successful revolution to change the status quo. Castro visited Washington, DC, seeking assistance and was given a cold shoulder. He then turned to the Soviet Union for assistance. JFK was attempting to better relations with Castro just before his death.

The US imposed an embargo on Cuba shortly after Castro came to power and maintains it still today. The embargo may have been justified when Castro was attempting to export his revolution to other countries by military force, but that is no longer the case. The vast majority of the Cuban people support their present form of government. Those who oppose it have emigrated to the US.

I suggest that the embargo has passed its use-by date and should be ended. Let us re-establish diplomatic relations with Cuba and end our hostility to the Cuban experiment. They have the right to choose their form of government and economic system. If we think our way of life is better (and they think that their’s is better), let us compete openly without any coercion. They and we will be better off with a free competition of ideas.

 

Violence in America

What is the root cause of violence in America? From Ferguson to Baltimore to Waco, Texas, why is the US such a violent place to live? Some blame guns which are certainly a factor as a force multiplier. Others blame the decline in church attendance, but countries in Europe have lower rates of church attendance and are much less violent. Is the violent content of movies and video games the source of our society’s violence? Not the source, but a contributing factor in my opinion. No, the source of America’s violence is the free-market capitalism economic system, so-called by its supporters. I label it cut-throat capitalism. As long as we value each other only or primarily by earnings or how much each of us contributes to profit will violence in our society continue and grow. To reduce violence, we must love each other and value each other as human beings, not as cogs in a machine, to be discarded when worn out and our useful economic lives are over.

National park fees

Entrance fees of national parks here in Utah are generally due to increase on July 1 by $5.00 or 20%. While in theory users should pay for their use, the fee increase is slated to be used in part for deferred maintenance. I believe that Congress should appropriate sufficient funds to adequately maintain the parks since they are national parks and belong to all of us. Increasing entrance fees hit the low-income users the hardest since the fees are a regressive tax. If the parks must rely on entrance fees to fund maintenance, then I believe that the fees should be progressive like the income tax and cost the wealthy more than the poorer citizens among us. That would be hard to administer at the entrance gate, so my fall back position is for Congress to appropriate the money necessary.

California oil spill

A pipeline breaks and oil spills on Santa Barbara coast line. I lived in Santa Barbara during the much larger spill in 1969. The current spill is tragic but not unique. The Santa Barbara Channel offshore is a fracture zone with more or less constant leakage from the local oil deposits. An essential part of the beach experience there is a bottle of baby oil to remove tar deposits from one’s hands and feet. I used to frequent the parking lot near City Hall and I noticed that for years after the 1969 spill, the mayor and council members had reserved slots in the city lot adjacent to City Hall. It was my position then that if the residents of Santa Barbara were serious about less oil drilling offshore, the mayor and council members would have their names on reserved slots in a bicycle rack, not on spaces for cars.

Veterans Administration

In their latest efforts to downsize government, cut costs and eliminate waste, the GOP want to privatize the Veterans Administration (VA). If they succeed, I suggest that the next step should be to privatize the biggest money waster in government, the Department of Defense (DOD). Then the next time we want to go to war, the government can solicit competitive bids from Blackwater, Halliburton et al. No more cost-plus contracts for defense contractors.