Thursday, December 31, 2009

51 Greetings!

Greetings and felicitations to my brothers and sisters in Cuba as you celebrate the 51th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.

Beware of fake "new beginnings" and uninvited "contractors." The new emperor would like to swallow up Cuba. He is no different than his predecessesors.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Los Van Van return to the United States

Published December 29, 2009 12:12 PM

By Suzanne Kayian / LiveDaily Contributor

Cuba's Grammy-winning band Los Van Van will end a long absence from the United States with a Jan. 28 concert in Key West, FL, according to a Reuters report. The innovative salsa band will be welcomed to the country under new, relaxed Visa restrictions that are the result of a quiet resumption of Cuban cultural exchanges under the current US presidential administration.

Los Van Van driving force, band leader and bassist Juan Formell, told Reuters he hopes the appearance will exorcise memories of one of the group's last US appearances—a 1999 Miami gig during which anti-riot police were forced to keep angry Cuban exile protesters from harassing concert-goers.

Formell said the historic hostility against artists from the Communist-run island has eased in the US, specifically in Miami, the center of the Cuban exile community in the United States.

"Miami has changed a lot ... there is a new, younger generation that thinks differently," Formell told Reuters. "I was in Miami recently and nobody treated me poorly. On the contrary, people wanted to have pictures taken with me, they asked for autographs."

Los Van Van, often called the "Rolling Stones of salsa" reportedly will launch a full-scale, 70-date US Concert tour in April.

In related news, a new documentary film celebrating Los Van Van's 40th anniversary recently was released by film director Ian Padron. The film, "Eso que anda" ("The thing that moves"), follows the band performing across Cuba under the guidance of Formell.

Despite Formell's dedication, the 67-year-old band leader, who suffers from diabetes, is gradually stepping back from Los Van Van; his son Samuel is now leading a new batch of musicians as the current musical director of the band.

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JG: I was fortunate to attend a Los Van Van concert in Portland, Oregon. They brought down the house with their happy and mesmerizing beat. It was a huge success, and the applauding public did not have to deal with any of the idiocies of the anti-Cuba Miami fanatics.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cuban Pioneers re-create the Battle of Santa Clara


Granma

La Habana, martes 29 de diciembre de 2009.

Eduardo Luis Martín

Santa Clara.— Pioneros destacados iniciaron hoy la toma simbólica de esta ciudad con la escenificación de la Batalla de Santa Clara, que llevaron a cabo las tropas al mando del Comandante Ernesto Guevara hace 51 años.

Los pequeños barbudos, con banderas cubanas y del Movimiento 26 de Julio, partieron en horas tempranas desde la sala de Historia de la Universidad Central de Las Villas, donde fue situada la primera comandancia de la Columna Ocho Ciro Redondo, y se encaminaron a la urbe provincial.

El asalto al tren blindado que trasladaba tropas de refuerzo, armas y municiones de la tiranía, fue reeditado por miembros de la Organización de Pioneros José Martí en el monumento que recuerda una de las principales acciones de la histórica batalla acontecida en 1958.

En cada lugar significativo de la epopeya librada por el Ejército Rebelde acontecen actos de recordación a los mártires, como el sitio que perpetúa la memoria del capitán Roberto Rodríguez Fernández, El Vaquerito, en el parque El Carmen, a pocos metros de donde cayó peleando el jefe del pelotón suicida.

También depositan ofrendas florales en tarjas y monumentos relacionados con la ofensiva final de las tropas del Che, que contó con la participación y apoyo de la población en el centro de Cuba. (AIN)

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JG: After Santa Clara fell to the forces of the rebel column under the command of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, Batista's days were numbered. Knowing full well that he would face a firing squad, the dictator fled to Santo Domingo, and his henchmen flew to Miami. But before that they looted the treasury of the Republic of Cuba, taking millions of dollars with them. They were deposited in American banks. The imperialists never returned it.

Tropicana celebrates its 70th anniversary

JG: I remember very clearly the night when my parents went to see Nat King Cole perform at Cuba's largest and most famous nightclub: a paradise under the stars. They came back with great accounts of his performance and his unequaled voice. Later on, I would get most of his recordings, and while laying on my bed, I would imagine that I too was also at Tropicana.

I am extremely happy that the dark and sad era when American Mobsters Santos Trafficante Jr. and Meyer Lansky owned Havana came to an end with the triumph of the Cuban Revolution on January First, 1959. That sad era will never return. The Cuban people now own Tropicana.


Seattle Post Intelligencer

By PAUL HAVEN
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

Last updated December 29, 2009 12:25 p.m. PT

HAVANA -- When the Tropicana nightclub and casino opened its doors in a leafy Havana garden on Dec. 30, 1939, World War II was raging in Europe, "Gone With the Wind" had just hit U.S. theaters and a rebellious youngster named Fidel Castro had just turned 13.

So much has changed in the 70 years since - but not the Tropicana show, which offers those willing to pay the price an intoxicating peek at an era when Cuba was America's naughty island playground, a place where nearly anything was possible, and legal.

The club marked its big anniversary this week with the same celebration of glamour and kitsch, sin and sensuality, sequins, feathers, showgirls and Latin beats that has made it one of the world's most famous - and infamous - nightspots.

In a gala that stretched past midnight Monday, about 850 tourists, government officials and special invitees watched tributes to Tropicana legends such as Nat King Cole and Rita Montaner and listened to pulsating salsa, samba and son music. There was a big band, a contortionist act, an a-cappella rendition of "The Banana Boat Song" and a two-man acrobatics team in skintight leotards.

And then there were the showgirls.

Showgirls wearing elaborate butterfly costumes; showgirls dressed up like Spanish bullfighters; showgirls sporting faux crystal chandeliers (with working lights) on their heads, gold and silver sequined string bikinis on their bodies.

It was as it has always been at the Tropicana, which bills itself as a slice of "paradise under the stars."

The club "remains an iconic location that is known the world over," said Maria Elena Lopez, Cuba's vice tourism minister, who turned out for the show. "It is one of the most important tourist destinations in Cuba and ... it has no equal."

David Varela, who has been the Tropicana's director since 2003, said the club drew a record 200,000 visitors in 2008. He expects that to drop to about 150,000 this year as a result of falling tourism amid the world economic crisis and the global swine-flu pandemic.

The club can seat as many as 1,500 people, though the normal capacity is 850. Tickets to a show cost about $80 including dinner - by far the most expensive night out in Havana. Shows start about 10 p.m. and go late into the night.

The Tropicana club was started by Italian-Brazilian show-biz producer Victor de Correa and two casino operators, but it became famous about a decade later when it fell under the sway of American mobsters Santo Trafficante Jr. and Meyer Lansky, who along with their frontmen drew big-name talent and hired the voluptuous cabaret girls known the world over as "Goddesses of the Flesh."

Among the stars who played the main stage, under a lush canopy of trees: Celia Cruz, Paul Robeson, Liberace, Orfelia Fox, Carmen Miranda and Yma Sumac. Many nights the audience was just as famous. Marlon Brando, Sammy Davis, Jr., Greta Garbo and other Hollywood stars came to the Tropicana, making it the ideal place to see and be seen.

There was even a Cubana airlines plane with live music and a wet bar to take patrons from Miami for the show and return them early the next day.

Shortly after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution, the Tropicana and other famous Cuban hotels and casinos were nationalized, and many of the gaming houses, brothels and strip clubs never reopened. [JG: Hip! Hip! Hooray!]

But the Tropicana endured - minus the gambling - sticking with the showy costumes, cabaret dancers and exorbitant prices that it was founded on, even as Cuba embraced a new communist ethos of egalitarianism, efficiency and sacrifice.

Most of the club's patrons have always been deep-pocketed foreigners, but some lucky Cubans were able to get in at deeply discounted prices, usually as a reward for excelling at work. The practice continued until late 2008, when President Raul Castro said the cash-strapped government could no longer afford the subsidy and others like it.

Attendance is down at the club, but Cuba's tourism industry as a whole is strong. The government recently said about 2.4 million vacationers will visit the island by the end of 2009, up 3.3 percent over last year's record - though overall industry revenues have slumped due to package deals and travelers making shorter stays.

And despite its high prices and 70-year-old act, the Tropicana still attracts a pretty big crowd.

"I couldn't come to Cuba without seeing the Tropicana," said Italian tourist Antonio Conti, 47, who was at the show with his wife and some friends, all of whom clapped and shouted along with the rest of the audience. "To miss this would be impossible."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Yulieski Gourriel and Alfredo Despaigne continue their 'neck and neck duel'

Most teams in Cuba's 49th National Baseball Series have completed either 46, 47, or 49 games. That means that Cuba is at the halfway point of their 49th National Baseball Series, which consits of 90 games in the preliminary phase.

Yulieski Gourriel (Sancti Spiritus) and Alfredo Despaigne (Granma) continue battling for the leadership position.

They both have accumnulated 54 Runs Batted In. Yuli has 19 home runs and a .380 batting average, while Alfredo has 16 home runs and a .394 batting average.

Will we have two new members of Cuba's 100/30 Club? Alexei Bell accumulated 111 RBI's and 31 homers in Cuba's 47 National Baseball Series. Alexei leads the 49th series with a .440 batting average (amazing!) and has 12 homers and 50 RBI's.

Let's all root for the two potential new members of the 100/30 club!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

None of the four are deserving of our votes

The Gusano Herald reported yesterday that the four candidates of the two major capitalist U.S. parties met in Coral Gables to see who among the four can get the most money from the fascist U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC. Dios los cria y el diablo los junta.

Marco Rubio, Charlie Crist, representing Tweedledee, and Kendrick Meek and the geriatric Maurice Ferre, representing Tweedledum, are all fanatically anti-Cuba, good capitalists that they are.

Come November of 2010, I will write-in NOTA, None of the Above, on the election for the U.S. Senate seat from the state of Florida.

I urge you to do the same. A vote for any from this crowd encourages them to continue with their hatred for la madre patria.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Raul Castro denounces Obama administration

In his annual address to the National Assembly of Peoples Power, Cuba's President of the Council of State and Council of Ministers, Raul Castro Ruz, declared:

"The enemy is as active as ever."

"In recent weeks, we have witnessed an increasing number of efforts by the new (US) administration with that objective."

On December 5th, Cuba arrested an undercover agent of the United States government. "[He] was involved in illegally supplying sophisticated means of communications to 'civil society' groups hoping to coalesce against our people," said Cuba's president.

"The fact is that the instruments of aggressive policy against Cuba remain intact; the US government has not given up on destroying the revolution, and on producing a change in our social and economic regime,"

Complete Raul Castro speech. (in Spanish)

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JG: There is no difference between George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama. They are both motivated by absolute hatred toward Cuba's Socialism. I will condemn Obama as forcefully and as strongly as I condemned Bush. Obama's "new beginning" was for the consumption of the gullible and the ignorant, who have no idea about how Capitalism truly operates. They will always oppose socially responsible governments throughout the world. Big Capital is their only concern.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

U.S. Travel Industry Gearing up for Return to Cuba

ABC News

By Anthony Boadle
December 16, 2009

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It's too soon for Americans to plan a Cuban vacation of beach, mambo and mojitos, but the U.S. travel industry is gearing up for a return to its largest Caribbean destination before Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution.

Tour operators held a video conference with Cuban tourism officials in Havana on Wednesday and asked them if they are ready for the "rush" of Americans if the U.S. travel ban is lifted as proposed by legislation now under consideration in the U.S. Congress.

"Americans really want to see Cuba," said Robert Whitely, president of the U.S. Tour Operators, which together with the National Tour Association also present at the event, handles 75 percent of all package tour business to the Caribbean.

"We predict that at least 850,000 Americans will go to Cuba in the first year," Whitely said.

That does not include an estimated 480,000 Americans who will go to Cuba on Caribbean cruises when U.S. ships are allowed to dock there, and another 480,000 Cuban American visiting family in Cuba each year, a Cuban official said.

Cuba plans to build 30 hotels over the next six years with the help of foreign investors, adding 10,000 rooms to the 48,600 that exist now, as well as golf courses, said Miguel Figueras, the top adviser to the Cuban tourism minister.

FAVORITE PLAYGROUND

Cuba was a favorite playground for Americans in the 1950s, when the Mafia ran casinos and brothels in Havana that were closed by Castro. As Cuba veered toward communism, Washington broke off diplomatic ties, imposed trade and travel bans and Cuba's tourist trade all but disappeared for three decades.

Some 2.5 million tourists visited Cuba this year, mostly from Canada and Europe, said Figueras, who indicated that U.S. companies are losing out to the tune of $1 billion a year.

According to Cuban estimates based on 2 million Americans visiting Cuba a year, U.S. airlines stand to earn $600 million and travel agencies $300 million annually, Figueras said.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fidel Castro's Message to President Hugo Chavez

Havana, Dec 15 (Prensa Latina) The United States is mobilizing the Latin American right-wing forces to strike Venezuela and the other member states of ALBA along with it, warned Cuban Revolution leader Fidel Castro in a letter addressed to President Hugo Chavez.

"If again the empire could seize the considerable oil and gas resources of Bolivar's homeland, the English-speaking Caribbean countries and others from Central America would lose the generous conditions of the supplies provided by revolutionary Venezuela," adds Fidel Castro.

President Chavez read himself the message last night during the closing ceremony of the 8th Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America (ALBA) after four days of sessions in Havana.

The text was read here by Chavez in the closing ceremony of the 8th Summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America.

Prensa Latina is posting below the full message of Fidel Castro's reflection.

REFLECTIONS BY COMRADE FIDEL

MESSAGE TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOLIVARIAN REPUBLIC OF VENEZUELA

Dear Hugo:

Fifteen years ago to this day, on December 14, 1994 we met at the Main Hall of the University of Havana. The previous night I had waited for you at the steps of the plane that brought you to Cuba.

I was aware of your armed uprising against the pro-Yankee government of Venezuela. We had learned of your ideas when you were still in prison devoting your time --the same as we had doneâ�öto delve deeper into the revolutionary ideas which had led you to the uprising of February 4, 1992.

At the University's Main Hall, you spontaneously let your Bolivarian ideas flow candidly. Under the specific conditions of your country and times, those ideas had led you to the struggle for the independence of Venezuela from the imperial tyranny. After all of the efforts made by Bolivar and other great men, who in pursuit of their dreams had fought against the Spanish colonial bondage, the independence of Venezuela was no more than a ridiculous pretence.

Not one minute in history is the same as any other; no idea or human event can be judged heedless of their own time. We both share concepts that evolved throughout millenniums but which have a lot in common with old and recent history in the sense that society's division in masters and slaves, exploiters and the exploited, oppressors and the oppressed was always unpleasant and hateful. In our times, it is the source of the deepest shame and the main cause of human suffering and unhappiness.

Today, when the support of science and technology has increased productivity ten times, one-hundred times and even one-thousand times, such unfair differences should disappear.

These ideas you and I sustain are shared by millions of Cubans and Venezuelans.

You started from the Christian principles you were brought up with and from a rebellious personality; I started from Marx's ideas and from a rebellious personality, too.

There are universally recognized ethical principles which are valid both for a Christian and a Marxist. Drawing from that, the revolutionary ideas can be continuously enriched with study and experience.

It would be worthwhile indicating that our sincere and revolutionary friendship goes back to the days when you were not the President of Venezuela. I never asked you for anything. When the Bolivarian movement won its victory in the 1999 elections the price of oil was less than 10 USD a barrel. I remember this very well because you invited me to your inauguration as president.

Your support to Cuba was spontaneous, the same as our cooperation with the fraternal people of Venezuela had always been.

During the Special Period, after the demise of the USSR, the empire tightened its brutal blockade against our people. At a certain point, the fuel prices climbed and it was difficult to obtain the necessary inputs. You then ensured our country a safe and steady commercial supply.

We do not forget that after the political coup of April 2002 against the Bolivarian Revolution, and your shinning victory over the oil coup at the end of that same year, the prices exceeded 60 USD a barrel; then, you offered us to supply the fuel with credit facilities. [George W.] Bush, the President of the United States at the time, was the mastermind of those illegal and treacherous actions against the Venezuelan people.

I remember that you were extremely annoyed by his demand that I left Mexico as a precondition for his landing in that long-suffering country, where we were both attending a United Nations international conference that he was also supposed to attend.

The Bolivarian Revolution will never be forgiven for its support to Cuba at a time when the empire believed that our people would again fall in their hands, after nearly half-a-century of heroic resistance. In Miami, the counterrevolution was asking for a three-day permit to kill revolutionaries as soon as the transition government demanded by Bush was established in Cuba.

Ten years of exemplary and fruitful cooperation between Venezuela and Cuba have passed. The ALBA was born in that period. The US-promoted FTAA had failed, but the empire was again on the offensive.

The coup d'etat in Honduras and the deployment of seven military bases in Colombia are recent events which have occurred after the inauguration of the new President of the United States. His predecessor had re-established the Fourth Fleet half-a-century after the latest world war had concluded, when the Cold War was over and the Soviet Union was no more. The real intentions of the empire are obvious this time behind Barack Obama's nice smile and Afro-American face.

Yesterday, Daniel Ortega explained how the coup in Honduras had weakened the members of the Central American Integration System and determined their behavior.

The empire is mobilizing the Latin American right-wing forces to strike Venezuela and the other member states of ALBA along with it. If again the empire could seize the considerable oil and gas resources of Bolivar's homeland, the English-speaking Caribbean countries and others from Central America would lose the generous conditions of the supplies provided by revolutionary Venezuela.

A few days ago, after President Barack Obama's remarks at the West Point military academy, where he announced a surge of 30,000 troops to the war in Afghanistan, I wrote a Reflection qualifying his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Price, after he had already made such decision, as a cynical action.

Last December 10, during his acceptance speech in Oslo, he made statements that put forward an example of the imperialist logic and thought. He said that he is responsible for sending thousands of young Americans to fight in a distant country where some will kill and others will be killed. It was an effort to present as a "just war" the brutal carnage against that distant country where most of those killed are helpless villagers struck by the bombs dropped from unpiloted planes.

After these phrases, which were among the first he spoke, more than 4,600 words were used to present his massacre of civilians as a just war. Then he said that in today's wars many more civilians die than soldiers.

In fact, more than a million non-combatant civilians have died by now in Iraq, Afghanistan and along the Pakistani border. In the same speech, he praises Nixon and Reagan as distinguished characters. He doesn't stop to remember that one of them dropped one million tons of bombs over Vietnam while the other had the Siberian gas-pipeline blown up by electronic means under the appearance of an accident. The explosion was so strong and devastating that the nuclear test monitoring equipment recorded it.

The speech made in Oslo is different from that of West Point because the latter was better phrased and recited. In the case of the one made at the Norwegian capital the speaker's face showed that he was aware of the falsehood in his words.

Neither the timing nor the circumstances were the same. Oslo is close to Copenhagen, the place where the extremely important Conference on Climate Change is being held, the same that I know you and Evo are planning to attend. The most important political battle of human history is being fought there at this very moment. There one can see the scope of the damage that developed capitalism has brought on humanity, which currently needs to fight desperately not only for justice but also for human survival.

I followed attentively the proceedings of the ALBA meeting. I offer my congratulations to you all. I really enjoyed seeing so many beloved friends working out ideas and struggling together; my congratulations to all.

Ever Onward To Victory!

My best regards,

Fidel Castro Ruz

December 14, 2009

Fidel Castro: American imperialism and Barack Obama are on the offensive

Castro says US on offensive in Latim America despite Obama

By WILL WEISSERT (AP) – December 14, 2009

HAVANA — Fidel Castro says President Barack Obama's "friendly smile and African-American face" are hiding Washington's sinister intentions for Latin America — more evidence of a new cooling in U.S.-Cuba relations after a thaw had seemed possible just months ago.

In a letter to Hugo Chavez that the Venezuelan president read at the close of a summit of leftist Latin American nations Monday, Castro said the U.S. "empire is on the offensive again" in the region.

He blamed Washington for a military coup that toppled leftist President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras in June and criticized a U.S. agreement with Colombia that allows U.S. troops greater access to seven of that country's military bases.

"They are obviously the real intentions of the empire, this time under the friendly smile and African-American face of Barack Obama," Castro said.

The 83-year-old former Cuban president heaped praise on Obama when he first took office, calling him intelligent, sincere, serene, courageous, honest and well-meaning. He later endorsed Obama's winning of the Nobel Peace Prize.

But Castro has turned on Obama, saying in an opinion piece in state media last week that the U.S. president's acceptance of the Nobel prize after deciding to send 30,000 more soldiers to Afghanistan was "a cynical act."

His letter to Chavez is the latest sign that reconciliation between the U.S. and the communist-governed island isn't likely soon. That had seemed a possibility as recently as the spring, when the White House eased restrictions on Cuban-Americans who want to travel and send money to this country and Obama spoke of a possible new beginning in relations.

On Saturday, the U.S. State Department said Cuba detained an American citizen Dec. 5 who had been working in Cuba as a subcontractor for a Maryland-based economic development organization.

Cuba's government has not commented, but word of the arrest came after both sides blamed each other for the postponement of meetings scheduled for this month to discuss immigration issues.

In November, the State Department denounced an assault — allegedly by plainclothes Cuban state security agents — on the island's top dissident blogger, Yoani Sanchez. Obama later sent a lengthy message praising Sanchez and answering a series of questions from her.

Prominent American blacks recently denounced racism in Cuba, which is a touchy subject for this nation, and the Cuban military conducted war games against a U.S. invasion, which authorities here still insist is a real possibility.

The idea that Washington is turning up the heat on the leftist governments in Latin America dominated the two-day meeting of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, a regional trade group known as ALBA that was founded by Chavez as an alternative to U.S.-backed, free-trade consortiums.

Bolivian President Evo Morales said that if the U.S. threatened Latin America militarily, the region would rise up and create "a second Vietnam." Chavez quipped that Obama was the winner of the "Nobel Prize of War."

The Venezuelan leader also responded to recent comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who warned Latin American governments to "think twice" about building ties with Iran.

"It's ridiculous, the threat of the secretary of state, and we aren't afraid of her," Chavez said.

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JG: Despite his 83 years, Fidel Castro's mind is extremely sharp and is right on target. Barack Obama has decided to follow the path of Bill Clinton, one of the most dishonest and immoral U.S. Presidents of the twentieth century.

Obama pretended to be one thing in 2008, but as soon as January 20, 2009 arrived he has done the opposite of what he promised the American people. That is why his polling numbers and popularity are dropping extremely fast. He was not an agent of change. He is a typically self-serving and cunning politician. This time around the Clinton model might not work for Obama and I dare to predict that Obama will not be reelected in 2012.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Another covert C.I.A. operation against Cuba?

It looks to me like Barack Obama was caught with his pants down in Cuba this week, when one of his "contractors" was arrested in Havana.

The stories reported in the Internet state that the U.S. government "contractor" was caught in fraganti while trying to distribute cell phones, computers and other electronic communications paraphernalia to his covert contacts in the island.

Immediately, Yoani Sanchez, Uncle Sam's favorite blogger in Havana said: "Damn it! I was hoping for a new laptop from my Santa Claus in the White House!"

A spoke-person for the National Endowment for Democracy [made in U.S.A.] declared that "they were trying to bring news about "democracy" and "libertad" to the long suffering Cuban masses."

The Cuban people collectively responded with Are these people stupid or what? followed by the renowned sound of a Cuban trompetilla.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

KKK: U.S.A's native terrorist group


Most people tend to think that terrorist groups direct their activities against established governments. Al-Qaeda and their infamous terrorist attack on the Twin Towers of New York on 9/11 is a perfect example. The anti-Cuba terrorist organizations of Miami, Florida are another good example.

But there are terrorists groups that direct their hate and violence activities against groups of people, like African-Americans, Jews, gays and immigrants. The KKK, which is native to the United States, is such a group.

According to the Anti Defamation League, the KKK has been expanding their activities in the continental U.S. as recently as 2006.

Here is what the ADL has to say:

New Klan groups emerging

A sign of the Klan resurgence is the appearance of new Klan groups in different parts of the country. A certain number of new Ku Klux Klan organizations always emerge in any given period of time, as groups split apart or reform. However, what was different in 2005-2006 was the rapid expansion in size of some of these newer Klan factions.

One of the best examples of this phenomenon involves the Empire Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The Empire Knights is a newer Klan group, formed in 2005 in part from former members of the Southern White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. From Florida, it expanded across the South, into the Mid-Atlantic, and even as far as Oregon. In January 2007, it boasted chapters in 18 states.

Texas has been a strong scene of Empire Knights activity. In early August 2006, members of the Empire Knights of Texas, based in San Angelo, held a heavily publicized anti-immigration rally in the northwest Texas city of Amarillo. It was only one of several recent Empire Knights events in Texas. In June 2006, over 20 Empire Knights held an anti-immigration rally in the west Texas city of Midland, while in November 2005, they held a protest against gay marriage in Austin. The Empire Knights also held an event in July 2006 in Leesville, South Carolina.

Another example occurred in the Midwest, where a group of Michigan Klansmen led by Phil Lawson broke away from the Ohio-based Mystic Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 2005 and formed a new group, the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The United Northern and Southern Knights rapidly expanded to nine states. Other new Klan groups have concentrated on expansion within a state rather than across state lines; in Georgia, for example, the Georgia Knight Riders of the Ku Klux Klan formed in 2006 with members in Ellijay, Bainbridge, and Norcross.

Not every attempt to jump-start the Klan has been successful. In the 1990s, Indiana was one of the centers of Klan activity, as two major Klan groups were based in that state. However, one of them, the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, largely collapsed after its leader, Jeff Berry, was convicted in 2001 for conspiracy to commit criminal confinement with a deadly weapon after holding two reporters at gunpoint. Following his 2004 release, however, an effort began to reinvigorate the Klan in northeastern Indiana, with contact post office boxes set up in Auburn and Albion. This attempt fizzled, however, after the organizers, Fred Wilson and Anthony Berry (son of Jeff Berry) were arrested in July 2006 for allegedly beating Jeff Berry almost to death during a party (the motive for the alleged attack is unclear).

Note: in May 2006, John Paul Rogers, a former high official of the KKK was elected city-councilman in Lake Wales, Polk County, Central Florida. Cuba Journal reproduced the article published by The Ledger. I called for a recall drive. The executive committees of the Republican and the Democratic Parties of Polk County yawned and looked the other way.

State Department says Cuba has detained US citizen

Associated Press – 31 minutes ago

WASHINGTON — The State Department says the Cuban government has arrested an American citizen and U.S. diplomats in Havana are trying learn more about the case.

Spokeswoman Megan Mattson says the Cuban government told the State Department that the American was detained on Dec. 5. She says the American is not a U.S. government employee.

She says the department can't release any more details, including the American's identity, because of federal privacy law.

The New York Times reported Saturday that the American is a U.S. government contractor who was working on behalf of the Obama administration distributing cell phones, laptops and other communications equipment in Cuba.

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JG: Cuba should charge this individual as a "spy" and send him to jail. The Cuban Five story works both ways. Obama is no friend of Cuba and he is not a trust worthy person. Like Dubbya before him, the audacious hope guy is still trying to destabilize the Caribbean island's legitimate government.

Obama's Big Sellout

Rollingstone.com

The president has packed his economic team with Wall Street insiders intent on turning the bailout into an all-out giveaway

MATT TAIBBI

Posted Dec 09, 2009 2:35 PM

Barack Obama ran for president as a man of the people, standing up to Wall Street as the global economy melted down in that fateful fall of 2008. He pushed a tax plan to soak the rich, ripped NAFTA for hurting the middle class and tore into John McCain for supporting a bankruptcy bill that sided with wealthy bankers "at the expense of hardworking Americans." Obama may not have run to the left of Samuel Gompers or Cesar Chavez, but it's not like you saw him on the campaign trail flanked by bankers from Citigroup and Goldman Sachs. What inspired supporters who pushed him to his historic win was the sense that a genuine outsider was finally breaking into an exclusive club, that walls were being torn down, that things were, for lack of a better or more specific term, changing.

Then he got elected.

What's taken place in the year since Obama won the presidency has turned out to be one of the most dramatic political about-faces in our history. Elected in the midst of a crushing economic crisis brought on by a decade of orgiastic deregulation and unchecked greed, Obama had a clear mandate to rein in Wall Street and remake the entire structure of the American economy. What he did instead was ship even his most marginally progressive campaign advisers off to various bureaucratic Siberias, while packing the key economic positions in his White House with the very people who caused the crisis in the first place. This new team of bubble-fattened ex-bankers and laissez-faire intellectuals then proceeded to sell us all out, instituting a massive, trickle-up bailout and systematically gutting regulatory reform from the inside.

How could Obama let this happen? Is he just a rookie in the political big leagues, hoodwinked by Beltway old-timers? Or is the vacillating, ineffectual servant of banking interests we've been seeing on TV this fall who Obama really is?

Whatever the president's real motives are, the extensive series of loophole-rich financial "reforms" that the Democrats are currently pushing may ultimately do more harm than good. In fact, some parts of the new reforms border on insanity, threatening to vastly amplify Wall Street's political power by institutionalizing the taxpayer's role as a welfare provider for the financial-services industry. At one point in the debate, Obama's top economic advisers demanded the power to award future bailouts without even going to Congress for approval — and without providing taxpayers a single dime in equity on the deals.

How did we get here? It started just moments after the election — and almost nobody noticed.

'Just look at the timeline of the Citigroup deal," says one leading Democratic consultant. "Just look at it. It's fucking amazing. Amazing! And nobody said a thing about it."

Barack Obama was still just the president-elect when it happened, but the revolting and inexcusable $306 billion bailout that Citigroup received was the first major act of his presidency. In order to grasp the full horror of what took place, however, one needs to go back a few weeks before the actual bailout — to November 5th, 2008, the day after Obama's election.

That was the day the jubilant Obama campaign announced its transition team. Though many of the names were familiar — former Bill Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, long-time Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett — the list was most notable for who was not on it, especially on the economic side. Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago economist who had served as one of Obama's chief advisers during the campaign, didn't make the cut. Neither did Karen Kornbluh, who had served as Obama's policy director and was instrumental in crafting the Democratic Party's platform. Both had emphasized populist themes during the campaign: Kornbluh was known for pushing Democrats to focus on the plight of the poor and middle class, while Goolsbee was an aggressive critic of Wall Street, declaring that AIG executives should receive "a Nobel Prize — for evil."

But come November 5th, both were banished from Obama's inner circle — and replaced with a group of Wall Street bankers. Leading the search for the president's new economic team was his close friend and Harvard Law classmate Michael Froman, a high-ranking executive at Citigroup. During the campaign, Froman had emerged as one of Obama's biggest fundraisers, bundling $200,000 in contributions and introducing the candidate to a host of heavy hitters — chief among them his mentor Bob Rubin, the former co-chairman of Goldman Sachs who served as Treasury secretary under Bill Clinton. Froman had served as chief of staff to Rubin at Treasury, and had followed his boss when Rubin left the Clinton administration to serve as a senior counselor to Citigroup (a massive new financial conglomerate created by deregulatory moves pushed through by Rubin himself).

Incredibly, Froman did not resign from the bank when he went to work for Obama: He remained in the employ of Citigroup for two more months, even as he helped appoint the very people who would shape the future of his own firm. And to help him pick Obama's economic team, Froman brought in none other than Jamie Rubin, a former Clinton diplomat who happens to be Bob Rubin's son. At the time, Jamie's dad was still earning roughly $15 million a year working for Citigroup, which was in the midst of a collapse brought on in part because Rubin had pushed the bank to invest heavily in mortgage-backed CDOs and other risky instruments.

Now here's where it gets really interesting. It's three weeks after the election. You have a lame-duck president in George W. Bush — still nominally in charge, but in reality already halfway to the golf-and-O'Doul's portion of his career and more than happy to vacate the scene. Left to deal with the still-reeling economy are lame-duck Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a former head of Goldman Sachs, and New York Fed chief Timothy Geithner, who served under Bob Rubin in the Clinton White House. Running Obama's economic team are a still-employed Citigroup executive and the son of another Citigroup executive, who himself joined Obama's transition team that same month.

So on November 23rd, 2008, a deal is announced in which the government will bail out Rubin's messes at Citigroup with a massive buffet of taxpayer-funded cash and guarantees. It is a terrible deal for the government, almost universally panned by all serious economists, an outrage to anyone who pays taxes. Under the deal, the bank gets $20 billion in cash, on top of the $25 billion it had already received just weeks before as part of the Troubled Asset Relief Program. But that's just the appetizer. The government also agrees to charge taxpayers for up to $277 billion in losses on troubled Citi assets, many of them those toxic CDOs that Rubin had pushed Citi to invest in. No Citi executives are replaced, and few restrictions are placed on their compensation. It's the sweetheart deal of the century, putting generations of working-stiff taxpayers on the hook to pay off Bob Rubin's fuck-up-rich tenure at Citi. "If you had any doubts at all about the primacy of Wall Street over Main Street," former labor secretary Robert Reich declares when the bailout is announced, "your doubts should be laid to rest."

It is bad enough that one of Bob Rubin's former protégés from the Clinton years, the New York Fed chief Geithner, is intimately involved in the negotiations, which unsurprisingly leave the Federal Reserve massively exposed to future Citi losses. But the real stunner comes only hours after the bailout deal is struck, when the Obama transition team makes a cheerful announcement: Timothy Geithner is going to be Barack Obama's Treasury secretary!

Geithner, in other words, is hired to head the U.S. Treasury by an executive from Citigroup — Michael Froman — before the ink is even dry on a massive government giveaway to Citigroup that Geithner himself was instrumental in delivering. In the annals of brazen political swindles, this one has to go in the all-time Fuck-the-Optics Hall of Fame.

Wall Street loved the Citi bailout and the Geithner nomination so much that the Dow immediately posted its biggest two-day jump since 1987, rising 11.8 percent. Citi shares jumped 58 percent in a single day, and JP Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley soared more than 20 percent, as Wall Street embraced the news that the government's bailout generosity would not die with George W. Bush and Hank Paulson. "Geithner assures a smooth transition between the Bush administration and that of Obama, because he's already co-managing what's happening now," observed Stephen Leeb, president of Leeb Capital Management.

Left unnoticed, however, was the fact that Geithner had been hired by a sitting Citigroup executive who still had a big bonus coming despite his proximity to Obama. In January 2009, just over a month after the bailout, Citigroup paid Froman a year-end bonus of $2.25 million. But as outrageous as it was, that payoff would prove to be chump change for the banker crowd, who were about to get everything they wanted — and more — from the new president.

The irony of Bob Rubin: He's an unapologetic arch-capitalist demagogue whose very career is proof that a free-market meritocracy is a myth. Much like Alan Greenspan, a staggeringly incompetent economic forecaster who was worshipped by four decades of politicians because he once dated Barbara Walters, Rubin has been held in awe by the American political elite for nearly 20 years despite having fucked up virtually every project he ever got his hands on. He went from running Goldman Sachs (1990-1992) to the Clinton White House (1993-1999) to Citigroup (1999-2009), leaving behind a trail of historic gaffes that somehow boosted his stature every step of the way.

As Treasury secretary under Clinton, Rubin was the driving force behind two monstrous deregulatory actions that would be primary causes of last year's financial crisis: the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act (passed specifically to legalize the Citigroup megamerger) and the deregulation of the derivatives market. Having set that time bomb, Rubin left government to join Citi, which promptly expressed its gratitude by giving him $126 million in compensation over the next eight years (they don't call it bribery in this country when they give you the money post factum). After urging management to amp up its risky investments in toxic vehicles, a strategy that very nearly destroyed the company, Rubin blamed Citi's board for his screw-ups and complained that he had been underpaid to boot. "I bet there's not a single year where I couldn't have gone somewhere else and made more," he said.

Despite being perhaps more responsible for last year's crash than any other single living person — his colossally stupid decisions at both the highest levels of government and the management of a private financial superpower make him unique — Rubin was the man Barack Obama chose to build his White House around.

There are four main ways to be connected to Bob Rubin: through Goldman Sachs, the Clinton administration, Citigroup and, finally, the Hamilton Project, a think tank Rubin spearheaded under the auspices of the Brookings Institute to promote his philosophy of balanced budgets, free trade and financial deregulation. The team Obama put in place to run his economic policy after his inauguration was dominated by people who boasted connections to at least one of these four institutions — so much so that the White House now looks like a backstage party for an episode of Bob Rubin, This Is Your Life!

At Treasury, there is Geithner, who worked under Rubin in the Clinton years. Serving as Geithner's "counselor" — a made-up post not subject to Senate confirmation — is Lewis Alexander, the former chief economist of Citigroup, who advised Citi back in 2007 that the upcoming housing crash was nothing to worry about. Two other top Geithner "counselors" — Gene Sperling and Lael Brainard — worked under Rubin at the National Economic Council, the key group that coordinates all economic policymaking for the White House.

As director of the NEC, meanwhile, Obama installed economic czar Larry Summers, who had served as Rubin's protégé at Treasury. Just below Summers is Jason Furman, who worked for Rubin in the Clinton White House and was one of the first directors of Rubin's Hamilton Project. The appointment of Furman — a persistent advocate of free-trade agreements like NAFTA and the author of droolingly pro-globalization reports with titles like "Walmart: A Progressive Success Story" — provided one of the first clues that Obama had only been posturing when he promised crowds of struggling Midwesterners during the campaign that he would renegotiate NAFTA, which facilitated the flight of blue-collar jobs to other countries. "NAFTA's shortcomings were evident when signed, and we must now amend the agreement to fix them," Obama declared. A few months after hiring Furman to help shape its economic policy, however, the White House quietly quashed any talk of renegotiating the trade deal. "The president has said we will look at all of our options, but I think they can be addressed without having to reopen the agreement," U.S. Trade Representative Ronald Kirk told reporters in a little-publicized conference call last April.

The announcement was not so surprising, given who Obama hired to serve alongside Furman at the NEC: management consultant Diana Farrell, who worked under Rubin at Goldman Sachs. In 2003, Farrell was the author of an infamous paper in which she argued that sending American jobs overseas might be "as beneficial to the U.S. as to the destination country, probably more so."

Joining Summers, Furman and Farrell at the NEC is Froman, who by then had been formally appointed to a unique position: He is not only Obama's international finance adviser at the National Economic Council, he simultaneously serves as deputy national security adviser at the National Security Council. The twin posts give Froman a direct line to the president, putting him in a position to coordinate Obama's international economic policy during a crisis. He'll have help from David Lipton, another joint appointee to the economics and security councils who worked with Rubin at Treasury and Citigroup, and from Jacob Lew, a former Citi colleague of Rubin's whom Obama named as deputy director at the State Department to focus on international finance.

Over at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, which is supposed to regulate derivatives trading, Obama appointed Gary Gensler, a former Goldman banker who worked under Rubin in the Clinton White House. Gensler had been instrumental in helping to pass the infamous Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000, which prevented deregulation of derivative instruments like CDOs and credit-default swaps that played such a big role in cratering the economy last year. And as head of the powerful Office of Management and Budget, Obama named Peter Orszag, who served as the first director of Rubin's Hamilton Project. Orszag once succinctly summed up the project's ideology as a sort of liberal spin on trickle-down Reaganomics: "Market competition and globalization generate significant economic benefits."

Taken together, the rash of appointments with ties to Bob Rubin may well represent the most sweeping influence by a single Wall Street insider in the history of government. "Rather than having a team of rivals, they've got a team of Rubins," says Steven Clemons, director of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation. "You see that in policy choices that have resuscitated — but not reformed — Wall Street."
While Rubin's allies and acolytes got all the important jobs in the Obama administration, the academics and progressives got banished to semi-meaningless, even comical roles. Kornbluh was rewarded for being the chief policy architect of Obama's meteoric rise by being outfitted with a pith helmet and booted across the ocean to Paris, where she now serves as America's never-again-to-be-seen-on-TV ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Goolsbee, meanwhile, was appointed as staff director of the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, a kind of dumping ground for Wall Street critics who had assisted Obama during the campaign; one top Democrat calls the panel "Siberia."

Joining Goolsbee as chairman of the PERAB gulag is former Fed chief Paul Volcker, who back in March 2008 helped candidate Obama write a speech declaring that the deregulatory efforts of the Eighties and Nineties had "excused and even embraced an ethic of greed, corner-cutting, insider dealing, things that have always threatened the long-term stability of our economic system." That speech met with rapturous applause, but the commission Obama gave Volcker to manage is so toothless that it didn't even meet for the first time until last May. The lone progressive in the White House, economist Jared Bernstein, holds the impressive-sounding title of chief economist and national policy adviser — except that the man he is advising is Joe Biden, who seems more interested in foreign policy than financial reform.

The significance of all of these appointments isn't that the Wall Street types are now in a position to provide direct favors to their former employers. It's that, with one or two exceptions, they collectively offer a microcosm of what the Democratic Party has come to stand for in the 21st century. Virtually all of the Rubinites brought in to manage the economy under Obama share the same fundamental political philosophy carefully articulated for years by the Hamilton Project: Expand the safety net to protect the poor, but let Wall Street do whatever it wants. "Bob Rubin, these guys, they're classic limousine liberals," says David Sirota, a former Democratic strategist. "These are basically people who have made shitloads of money in the speculative economy, but they want to call themselves good Democrats because they're willing to give a little more to the poor. That's the model for this Democratic Party: Let the rich do their thing, but give a fraction more to everyone else."

Even the members of Obama's economic team who have spent most of their lives in public office have managed to make small fortunes on Wall Street. The president's economic czar, Larry Summers, was paid more than $5.2 million in 2008 alone as a managing director of the hedge fund D.E. Shaw, and pocketed an additional $2.7 million in speaking fees from a smorgasbord of future bailout recipients, including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. At Treasury, Geithner's aide Gene Sperling earned a staggering $887,727 from Goldman Sachs last year for performing the punch-line-worthy service of "advice on charitable giving." Sperling's fellow Treasury appointee, Mark Patterson, received $637,492 as a full-time lobbyist for Goldman Sachs, and another top Geithner aide, Lee Sachs, made more than $3 million working for a New York hedge fund called Mariner Investment Group. The list goes on and on. Even Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, who has been out of government for only 30 months of his adult life, managed to collect $18 million during his private-sector stint with a Wall Street firm called Wasserstein-Perella.

The point is that an economic team made up exclusively of callous millionaire-assholes has absolutely zero interest in reforming the gamed system that made them rich in the first place. "You can't expect these people to do anything other than protect Wall Street," says Rep. Cliff Stearns, a Republican from Florida. That thinking was clear from Obama's first address to Congress, when he stressed the importance of getting Americans to borrow like crazy again. "Credit is the lifeblood of the economy," he declared, pledging "the full force of the federal government to ensure that the major banks that Americans depend on have enough confidence and enough money." A president elected on a platform of change was announcing, in so many words, that he planned to change nothing fundamental when it came to the economy. Rather than doing what FDR had done during the Great Depression and institute stringent new rules to curb financial abuses, Obama planned to institutionalize the policy, firmly established during the Bush years, of keeping a few megafirms rich at the expense of everyone else.

Obama hasn't always toed the Rubin line when it comes to economic policy. Despite being surrounded by a team that is powerfully opposed to deficit spending — balanced budgets and deficit reduction have always been central to the Rubin way of thinking — Obama came out of the gate with a huge stimulus plan designed to kick-start the economy and address the job losses brought on by the 2008 crisis. "You have to give him credit there," says Sen. Bernie Sanders, an advocate of using government resources to address unemployment. "It's a very significant piece of legislation, and $787 billion is a lot of money."

But whatever jobs the stimulus has created or preserved so far — 640,329, according to an absurdly precise and already debunked calculation by the White House — the aid that Obama has provided to real people has been dwarfed in size and scope by the taxpayer money that has been handed over to America's financial giants. "They spent $75 billion on mortgage relief, but come on — look at how much they gave Wall Street," says a leading Democratic strategist. Neil Barofsky, the inspector general charged with overseeing TARP, estimates that the total cost of the Wall Street bailouts could eventually reach $23.7 trillion. And while the government continues to dole out big money to big banks, Obama and his team of Rubinites have done almost nothing to reform the warped financial system responsible for imploding the global economy in the first place.

The push for reform seemed to get off to a promising start. In the House, the charge was led by Rep. Barney Frank, the outspoken chair of the House Financial Services Committee, who emerged during last year's Bush bailouts as a sharp-tongued critic of Wall Street. Back when Obama was still a senator, he and Frank even worked together to introduce a populist bill targeting executive compensation. Last spring, with the economy shattered, Frank began to hold hearings on a host of reforms, crafted with significant input from the White House, that initially contained some very good elements. There were measures to curb abusive credit-card lending, prevent banks from charging excessive fees, force publicly traded firms to conduct meaningful risk assessment and allow shareholders to vote on executive compensation. There were even measures to crack down on risky derivatives and to bar firms like AIG from picking their own regulators.

Then the committee went to work — and the loopholes started to appear.

The most notable of these came in the proposal to regulate derivatives like credit-default swaps. Even Gary Gensler, the former Goldmanite whom Obama put in charge of commodities regulation, was pushing to make these normally obscure investments more transparent, enabling regulators and investors to identify speculative bubbles sooner. But in August, a month after Gensler came out in favor of reform, Geithner slapped him down by issuing a 115-page paper called "Improvements to Regulation of Over-the-Counter Derivatives Markets" that called for a series of exemptions for "end users" — i.e., almost all of the clients who buy derivatives from banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Even more stunning, Frank's bill included a blanket exception to the rules for currency swaps traded on foreign exchanges — the very instruments that had triggered the Long-Term Capital Management meltdown in the late 1990s.

Given that derivatives were at the heart of the financial meltdown last year, the decision to gut derivatives reform sent some legislators howling with disgust. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington, who estimates that as much as 90 percent of all derivatives could remain unregulated under the new rules, went so far as to say the new laws would make things worse. "Current law with its loopholes might actually be better than these loopholes," she said.

An even bigger loophole could do far worse damage to the economy. Under the original bill, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission were granted the power to ban any credit swaps deemed to be "detrimental to the stability of a financial market or of participants in a financial market." By the time Frank's committee was done with the bill, however, the SEC and the CFTC were left with no authority to do anything about abusive derivatives other than to send a report to Congress. The move, in effect, would leave the kind of credit-default swaps that brought down AIG largely unregulated.

Why would leading congressional Democrats, working closely with the Obama administration, agree to leave one of the riskiest of all financial instruments unregulated, even before the issue could be debated by the House? "There was concern that a broad grant to ban abusive swaps would be unsettling," Frank explained.

Unsettling to whom? Certainly not to you and me — but then again, actual people are not really part of the calculus when it comes to finance reform. According to those close to the markup process, Frank's committee inserted loopholes under pressure from "constituents" — by which they mean anyone "who can afford a lobbyist," says Michael Greenberger, the former head of trading at the CFTC under Clinton.

This pattern would repeat itself over and over again throughout the fall. Take the centerpiece of Obama's reform proposal: the much-ballyhooed creation of a Consumer Finance Protection Agency to protect the little guy from abusive bank practices. Like the derivatives bill, the debate over the CFPA ended up being dominated by horse-trading for loopholes. In the end, Frank not only agreed to exempt some 8,000 of the nation's 8,200 banks from oversight by the castrated-in-advance agency, leaving most consumers unprotected, he allowed the committee to pass the exemption by voice vote, meaning that congressmen could side with the banks without actually attaching their name to their "Aye."

To win the support of conservative Democrats, Frank also backed down on another issue that seemed like a slam-dunk: a requirement that all banks offer so-called "plain vanilla" products, such as no-frills mortgages, to give consumers an alternative to deceptive, "fully loaded" deals like adjustable-rate loans. Frank's last-minute reversal — made in consultation with Geithner — was such a transparent giveaway to the banks that even an economics writer for Reuters, hardly a far-left source, called it "the beginning of the end of meaningful regulatory reform."

But the real kicker came when Frank's committee took up what is known as "resolution authority" — government-speak for "Who the hell is in charge the next time somebody at AIG or Lehman Brothers decides to vaporize the economy?" What the committee initially introduced bore a striking resemblance to a proposal written by Geithner earlier in the summer. A masterpiece of legislative chicanery, the measure would have given the White House permanent and unlimited authority to execute future bailouts of megaconglomerates like Citigroup and Bear Stearns.

Democrats pushed the move as politically uncontroversial, claiming that the bill will force Wall Street to pay for any future bailouts and "doesn't use taxpayer money." In reality, that was complete bullshit. The way the bill was written, the FDIC would basically borrow money from the Treasury — i.e., from ordinary taxpayers — to bail out any of the nation's two dozen or so largest financial companies that the president deems in need of government assistance. After the bailout is executed, the president would then levy a tax on financial firms with assets of more than $10 billion to repay the Treasury within 60 months — unless, that is, the president decides he doesn't want to! "They can wait indefinitely to repay," says Rep. Brad Sherman of California, who dubbed the early version of the bill "TARP on steroids."

The new bailout authority also mandated that future bailouts would not include an exchange of equity "in any form" — meaning that taxpayers would get nothing in return for underwriting Wall Street's mistakes. Even more outrageous, it specifically prohibited Congress from rejecting tax giveaways to Wall Street, as it did last year, by removing all congressional oversight of future bailouts. In fact, the resolution authority proposed by Frank was such a slurpingly obvious blow job of Wall Street that it provoked a revolt among his own committee members, with junior Democrats waging a spirited fight that restored congressional oversight to future bailouts, requires equity for taxpayer money and caps assistance to troubled firms at $150 billion. Another amendment to force companies with more than $50 billion in assets to pay into a rainy-day fund for bailouts passed by a resounding vote of 52 to 17 — with the "Nays" all coming from Frank and other senior Democrats loyal to the administration.

Even as amended, however, resolution authority still has the potential to be truly revolutionary legislation. The Senate version still grants the president unlimited power over equity-free bailouts, and the amended House bill still institutionalizes a system of taxpayer support for the 20 to 25 biggest banks in the country. It would essentially grant economic immortality to those top few megafirms, who will continually gobble up greater and greater slices of market share as money becomes cheaper and cheaper for them to borrow (after all, who wouldn't lend to a company permanently backstopped by the federal government?). It would also formalize the government's role in the global economy and turn the presidential-appointment process into an important part of every big firm's business strategy. "If this passes, the very first thing these companies are going to do in the future is ask themselves, 'How do we make sure that one of our executives becomes assistant Treasury secretary?'" says Sherman.

On the Senate side, finance reform has yet to make it through the markup process, but there's every reason to believe that its final bill will be as watered down as the House version by the time it comes to a vote. The original measure, drafted by chairman Christopher Dodd of the Senate Banking Committee, is surprisingly tough on Wall Street — a fact that almost everyone in town chalks up to Dodd's desperation to shake the bad publicity he incurred by accepting a sweetheart mortgage from the notorious lender Countrywide. "He's got to do the shake-his-fist-at-Wall Street thing because of his, you know, problems," says a Democratic Senate aide. "So that's why the bill is starting out kind of tough."

The aide pauses. "The question is, though, what will it end up looking like?"

He's right — that is the question. Because the way it works is that all of these great-sounding reforms get whittled down bit by bit as they move through the committee markup process, until finally there's nothing left but the exceptions. In one example, a measure that would have forced financial companies to be more accountable to shareholders by holding elections for their entire boards every year has already been watered down to preserve the current system of staggered votes. In other cases, this being the Senate, loopholes were inserted before the debate even began: The Dodd bill included the exemption for foreign-currency swaps — a gift to Wall Street that only appeared in the Frank bill during the course of hearings — from the very outset.

The White House's refusal to push for real reform stands in stark contrast to what it should be doing. It was left to Rep. Pete Kanjorski in the House and Bernie Sanders in the Senate to propose bills to break up the so-called "too big to fail" banks. Both measures would give Congress the power to dismantle those pseudomonopolies controlling almost the entire derivatives market (Goldman, Citi, Chase, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America control 95 percent of the $290 trillion over-the-counter market) and the consumer-lending market (Citi, Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo issue one of every two mortgages, and two of every three credit cards). On November 18th, in a move that demonstrates just how nervous Democrats are getting about the growing outrage over taxpayer giveaways, Barney Frank's committee actually passed Kanjorski's measure. "It's a beginning," Kanjorski says hopefully. "We're on our way." But even if the Senate follows suit, big banks could well survive — depending on whom the president appoints to sit on the new regulatory board mandated by the measure. An oversight body filled with executives of the type Obama has favored to date from Citi and Goldman Sachs hardly seems like a strong bet to start taking an ax to concentrated wealth. And given the new bailout provisions that provide these megafirms a market advantage over smaller banks (those Paul Volcker calls "too small to save"), the failure to break them up qualifies as a major policy decision with potentially disastrous consequences.

"They should be doing what Teddy Roosevelt did," says Sanders. "They should be busting the trusts."

That probably won't happen anytime soon. But at a minimum, Obama should start on the road back to sanity by making a long-overdue move: firing Geithner. Not only are the mop-headed weenie of a Treasury secretary's fingerprints on virtually all the gross giveaways in the new reform legislation, he's a living symbol of the Rubinite gangrene crawling up the leg of this administration. Putting Geithner against the wall and replacing him with an actual human being not recently employed by a Wall Street megabank would do a lot to prove that Obama was listening this past Election Day. And while there are some who think Geithner is about to go — "he almost has to," says one Democratic strategist — at the moment, the president is still letting Wall Street do his talking.

Morning, the National Mall, November 5th. A year to the day after Obama named Michael Froman to his transition team, his political "opposition" has descended upon the city. Republican teabaggers from all 50 states have showed up, a vast horde of frowning, pissed-off middle-aged white people with their idiot placards in hand, ready to do cultural battle. They are here to protest Obama's "socialist" health care bill — you know, the one that even a bloodsucking capitalist interest group like Big Pharma spent $150 million to get passed.

These teabaggers don't know that, however. All they know is that a big government program might end up using tax dollars to pay the medical bills of rapidly breeding Dominican immigrants. So they hate it. They're also in a groove, knowing that at the polls a few days earlier, people like themselves had a big hand in ousting several Obama-allied Democrats, including a governor of New Jersey who just happened to be the former CEO of Goldman Sachs. A sign held up by New Jersey protesters bears the warning, "If You Vote For Obamacare, We Will Corzine You."

I approach a woman named Pat Defillipis from Toms River, New Jersey, and ask her why she's here. "To protest health care," she answers. "And then amnesty. You know, immigration amnesty."

I ask her if she's aware that there's a big hearing going on in the House today, where Barney Frank's committee is marking up a bill to reform the financial regulatory system. She recognizes Frank's name, wincing, but the rest of my question leaves her staring at me like I'm an alien.

"Do you care at all about economic regulation?" I ask. "There was sort of a big economic collapse last year. Do you have any ideas about how that whole deal should be fixed?"

"We got to slow down on spending," she says. "We can't afford it."

"But what do we do about the rules governing Wall Street . . ."

She walks away. She doesn't give a fuck. People like Pat aren't aware of it, but they're the best friends Obama has. They hate him, sure, but they don't hate him for any reasons that make sense. When it comes down to it, most of them hate the president for all the usual reasons they hate "liberals" — because he uses big words, doesn't believe in hell and doesn't flip out at the sight of gay people holding hands. Additionally, of course, he's black, and wasn't born in America, and is married to a woman who secretly hates our country.

These are the kinds of voters whom Obama's gang of Wall Street advisers is counting on: idiots. People whose votes depend not on whether the party in power delivers them jobs or protects them from economic villains, but on what cultural markers the candidate flashes on TV. Finance reform has become to Obama what Iraq War coffins were to Bush: something to be tucked safely out of sight.

Around the same time that finance reform was being watered down in Congress at the behest of his Treasury secretary, Obama was making a pit stop to raise money from Wall Street. On October 20th, the president went to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York and addressed some 200 financiers and business moguls, each of whom paid the maximum allowable contribution of $30,400 to the Democratic Party. But an organizer of the event, Daniel Fass, announced in advance that support for the president might be lighter than expected — bailed-out firms like JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs were expected to contribute a meager $91,000 to the event — because bankers were tired of being lectured about their misdeeds.

"The investment community feels very put-upon," Fass explained. "They feel there is no reason why they shouldn't earn $1 million to $200 million a year, and they don't want to be held responsible for the global financial meltdown."

Which makes sense. Shit, who could blame the investment community for the meltdown? What kind of assholes are we to put any of this on them?

This is the kind of person who is working for the Obama administration, which makes it unsurprising that we're getting no real reform of the finance industry. There's no other way to say it: Barack Obama, a once-in-a-generation political talent whose graceful conquest of America's racial dragons en route to the White House inspired the entire world, has for some reason allowed his presidency to be hijacked by sniveling, low-rent shitheads. Instead of reining in Wall Street, Obama has allowed himself to be seduced by it, leaving even his erstwhile campaign adviser, ex-Fed chief Paul Volcker, concerned about a "moral hazard" creeping over his administration.

"The obvious danger is that with the passage of time, risk-taking will be encouraged and efforts at prudential restraint will be resisted," Volcker told Congress in September, expressing concerns about all the regulatory loopholes in Frank's bill. "Ultimately, the possibility of further crises — even greater crises — will increase."

What's most troubling is that we don't know if Obama has changed, or if the influence of Wall Street is simply a fundamental and ineradicable element of our electoral system. What we do know is that Barack Obama pulled a bait-and-switch on us. If it were any other politician, we wouldn't be surprised. Maybe it's our fault, for thinking he was different.

Watch Matt Taibbi discuss "The Big Sellout" in a video on his blog, Taibblog.

[From Issue 1093 — December 10, 2009]

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JG: Barack Obama has been the biggest disappointment of the century since he got elected and moved into the White House. On the Cuba issue, there is no difference between him and George W. Bush. He continues to promote the failed and genocidal Cuba embargo, despite the 187-3 vote at the United Nations. Like Bill Clinton, he has become a servant of Wall Street and a rabid war monger who does not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize.

I will not vote for him in 2012. But then, if the Republicans nominate Sarah Pahlin or Newt Gingrigh, I will either reluctantly cast my vote for him as the lesser of two evils, or better yet, write in NOTA (none of the above).

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Sentences of two of the Cuban Five reduced

Ramon Labanino and Fernando Gonzalez sentences have been reduced, reports the BBC.

Labanino's life sentence has been reduced to 30 years and Gonzalez's by one year to 18 years.

The two are part of a group of five Cubans who were sentenced to extremely harsh prison terms by the so-called justice system of the Yankee imperialists in an extremely prejudicial and farcical "trial" in Miami, Florida.

They did not steal any U.S. state secrets, so their labeling as "spies" is nothing more than the effects on Uncle Sam when he smokes some very potent Mawi Wawi.

Any country has a right to defend itself against the terrorist activities of groups that are headquartered in a foreign country. The Cuban government sent five Cuban-born persons to infiltrate the Miami terrorist groups that are directed and financed by the United States government.

In the island, the Cuban Five are heroes, and rightly so. The imperialists, including Barack Obama, have not given up on their machinations to try to return to the Caribbean island as masters and rulers.

Laying the groundwork for another 1912

Alberto N. Jones
12/8/09
 
Approximately fifteen years ago, a well funded campaign organized by the US-AID, NED, right-wing Cuban-American groups in south Florida and elsewhere, was poised to create an Afro-Cuban/anti-Castro leadership corps, charged with fomenting oppositions groups inside Cuba, disguised as Independent Journalists, Farmers, Librarians, Healthcare and others and to dilute the historical Afro-American support of Cuba. Evidently December 1, 2009 was their chosen D-Day.

After an intensive lobbying campaign of phone calls, e-mails, letters to the editor and Human Rights Organization’s fraudulent assessments, an explosive letter entitled “Afro-American Group Challenges Cuba on Race” scathingly described the brutal government-imposed racism in Cuba, which captured the signature of over 60 prominent Afro-American and Caribbean scholars and social researchers.

This corrosive document was most likely conceived, structured and promoted by Dr. Carlos Moore from Brazil, in a grand finale of his 50 year old, visceral hatred against the Cuban government; forcing the Afro-American community and others, to take sides in this thorny, divisive issue.

Documenting real or bogus statistics describing the existence of slavery, racism, segregation, white supremacists or lynching resonates immediately with blacks everywhere, who have had the unique experience of being victims of this human scourge.

Therefore, it was not necessary for some willing to sign this spurious document, to be knowledgeable of Cuba’s very complex, intractable 500 year old history of slavery and its aftermath or to have ever been in Cuba for that matter, to align themselves with such a vivid and painful part of our lives. This document was simply talking about a rope, where a family member had been hanged!

Publishing this open letter has been a treacherous attack on hundreds of Afro-Cubans intellectuals inside Cuba, who for the past twenty years or more, have waged an honorable and discreet struggle in defense of the plight of the Afro-Cuban people, as they walked a tight rope, not to be perceived as agents of foreign governments our mouthpieces of this and other Afro-Cuban groups, bent on subverting the Cuban government.

In every opportunity I have had, I willingly shared with Dr. Moore and others, the dangers of disrupting this ongoing process in Cuba, which has exhibited signs of progress, albeit much too slow for most of us. We emphasized the importance of unity and a uniform approach in presenting our peoples need.

Yet, it seems, personal ego, financial gains or international recognition means more to some, than solving the injustices they are denouncing.

Although I am not a historian, anthropologist, psychologist, writer or researcher, I have been forced since the late 80’s to become part of this discourse, notwithstanding my simple, ordinary writing and frequent brutalization of the English language, in order to express my concerns and potential consequences of the slippery slope we were entering.

Some of these concerns can be found in more than 500 articles in afrocubaweb, Cuba Journal, Cubanews, the Cuban Nation, blogs, letters to the editors in the US and the Caribbean, speaking engagements in Churches, Schools, Arts Festivals, Universities, Social Groups, Local, County Government, the US Congress and Senate.

For these reasons, we have been aiding Guantanamo province with its very large Afro-Cuban population, who are the prime target of the US Embargo/Blockade because of their limited family foreign remittances, no joint ventures/corporations paying wages in hard currencies and literally a non-existent tourist industry with access to hard currency, our humanitarian groups have pumped millions of dollars in health, education, physically challenged and sports donations, intended to mitigate their basic sufferings.

Tens of pleas for help for the elderly, infirmed, children or after natural disasters of this region, have gone unheard by these grieving Afro-Cubans, engaged in writing letters and books.

How do they expect to stop a hungry baby from crying, an elderly in pain, an infirmed without adequate medication or a physically challenged without a prosthesis to make his life bearable?

Not even technical/professional literature for medical schools, they have been willing to provide and would rather label those extending a helping hand as Castroites.

The contradictory behavior of these individuals, interested in increasing the suffering of the same people they gladly provide with a Flash Memory to hear their diatribe, religious or double edged literature, hopes of a better future while starving, has never made sense to me.

Nor have I ever bought into their extreme, paternalistic Africanism, when communities ravaged by unemployment, drug addition, violence, prostitution, murder or ignorance, lie a few miles away from their gated communities and they are oblivious to their hopelessness and solely interested in what is taking place in Cuba.

I am not disputing the existence of a pervasive inequality, poverty, segregation and the overdue need for preferential treatment of Afro-Cubans to be instituted immediately in order to level the playing field. No one on the other hand can deny how much progress Afro-Cuban have achieved in the past 50 years, but that is beyond the point.

Thousands fought, were injured and died in an effort to create an egalitarian society, which for most, is yet to be achieved. Whites in Cuba continue to monopolize government, administration, management, education, best neighborhoods, travel, cars and every possible social development of Cuban life. This is an irrefutable fact!
 
Blacks to a great extent continue to live in marginal, overcrowded neighborhoods, with high prevalence of illegalities, incarceration on lower educational levels. Cuba is different than most other countries and can not therefore mimic those societies in which the wealth of the nation is concentrated in the hands of the selected few.

This is and must be the cause of our struggle, not to undermine and hopefully create a system similar to our places of residence, where these glaring inequalities are beyond repair.

As it was partially stated in the response of Afro-Cuban intellectuals, Cuba has done more than all nations together to liberate countries in Africa under Apartheid. Cuba has educated more sons and daughters of Africa than anyone else. Cuba has provided more healthcare and education to the underdeveloped world than the rest of nations combined.

But this cannot be a cop out; this is a failed argument, not to confront blatant abuses that subsist in our country. Cuba is maybe the only country in the world that can exhibit and have the courage to do what all others have ran away and hidden from.

The time has come, for our government and others around the world to come clean, admit publicly that everything visible and invisible in our countries and in Europe, was built and exists with tons of tears, sweat, blood and millions of lives of brutalized blacks.

Millions of Africans ripped away from our homeland, were not only deprived of our language, culture, religion, we were forced to create billions to enrich Europe and cities that are today world heritages, while their descendents are still living in slums of the XIX Century.

Beautiful cathedrals in Spain are adorned with the finest woods of our continent, while natives in our countries are being buried in makeshift coffins, because all of our forests were ravished.

It is no accident that many still are angry at President Barack Obama for accepting President Hugo Chavez gift, The Open Veins of Latin America, which depicts like no other what these God Fearing, Democratic posturing, Election demanding folks did to our peaceful natives and our enslaved forefathers.

Cuba was a model, a symbol to the world, when it demonstrated that Batista, his Mafia friends and the US government backing could be defeated in 1959.

Cuba was and continues to be a model to the third world for what it has done since for its people and millions around the world. Therefore, nothing can justify keeping this nation from wiping its slate clean of all vestiges of racism, inequalities and segregation, that puts our country on the same social level as its neighbors and allows the worst human rights violators to attempt to take our country to court.

Worst yet, is that Afro-Cubans have been educated, they have been thought to think critically and they are able to discern right from wrong. These factors make it impossible for any one in government in Cuba, to pretend this burning issue can be placed on the back burner or swept under the rug.

Our country will never achieve its rightful place in history as it deserves, as long as the majority of its population, has not been transformed and Cuba is not allowed to become the society with the highest per capita of educated Blacks in the world.

If we did that, there will never be another 1912 in Cuba or in our region.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Fidel Castro's son elected to world baseball body

Mon Dec 7, 2009 3:31pm EST

HAVANA (Reuters) - One of former Cuban leader Fidel Castro's sons will help lead world baseball's drive to get the sport back in the Olympics after being elected as a vice president of the game's governing body.

Antonio "Tony" Castro, 39, is one of Fidel Castro's better-known sons due to his role as team doctor for the national baseball squad in the Caribbean island, where the game is a sporting obsession.

The International Baseball Federation (IBAF) said Antonio Castro was elected as one of its vice presidents at a weekend meeting in Switzerland.

"His presence in the IBAF could be a big influence on baseball's future return to the Olympic Games," a source at Cuba's INDER sports institute said on Monday, asking not be named.

Baseball, known among Cubans as "pelota," the Spanish word for ball, is a source of national pride in Cuba and the country's successes on the field have been used as a promotional tool for its one-party socialist system.

The sport was brought to the Caribbean nation from the United States in the 1860s and many Cubans follow the U.S. game despite five decades of bitter relations between Cuba and Washington.

After nearly five decades as Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, 83, himself a baseball fan, handed over the presidency of the country to his brother Raul last year due to poor health and has not been seen in public since July 2006.

The International Olympic Committee decided earlier this year that baseball's next chance to be part of the Olympics would be in 2020. Baseball was cut from the Olympic program for the 2012 games in London and also won't appear in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

(Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Writing by Helen Popper; Editing by Eric Beech)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

53rd Anniversary of the Granma Landing

Today, Cubans celebrate the landing on December 2, 1956 of the Granma in Oriente province. The last chapter of the Cuban revolution started on that day.

General Fulgencio Batista y Zaldivar had an army of 80,000 men who were extremely well supplied by the Yankee imperialists to the north. Only 82 men came ashore on that historic day. Led by Fidel Castro, they had what Batista and his henchmen did not have, courage and the support of the Cuban people.

Two years and 29 days latter dictator Batista and the American Mafia left the island -- with their tails between their legs -- to seek refuge with the dictator of the Dominican Republic. Some went to Miami. They are still there, waiting for the Yankees to restore them to power. Batista's forces were thoroughly defeated, proving one more time that the slogan "El pueblo unido jamas sera vencido" is not just empty words.

Since that day the Yankee imperialists have tried every dirty trick and many criminal activities to try to destroy the legitimate government of the Cuban people. They failed and they will continue to fail in the future. Neither Bush nor Obama can destroy a united and proud people.

Thank you to all the Granma martyrs who shed their blood so Cuba could have freedom and liberty. Your sacrifices were not in vain.