Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Short Takes

As noted below, Cuba and the U.S. re-opened their embassies in Washington and Havana.

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to support the Iran nuclear agreement; votes to lift sanctions.

The military plans to increase security at recruiting centers following the shooting in Chattanooga last week.

Greek banks re-opened on Monday for the first time in three weeks.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a restrictive abortion bill.

The Tigers beat the Mariners 5-4.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Short Takes

U.S. and Cuba set to re-open embassies today.

Keep it up, Trump; you’re doing great.

Hobby drones hinder California wilidfire-fighting efforts.

Former President George H.W. Bush leaves hospital.

The Tigers‘ annual mid-season slump continues after losing two of three to the Orioles.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Way Off Yonder in Vietnam

From the BBC:

President Obama has met the leader of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Secretary-General Nguyen Phu Trong, at the Oval Office in Washington.

It is the first meeting of its kind since the two countries normalised relations 20 years ago.

July 2015 marks 40 years since the end of the Vietnam war.

President Obama said the relationship was mutually beneficial.

America lost over 50,000 lives in the war to save South Vietnam from going communist and the world from the Red Menace.  We lost; that defeat has shaped our foreign policy ever since and still plays a large part in our politics; just ask President John Kerry.  Vietnam is still communist, their rulers still repress human rights, they still haven’t sent back all the remains of the MIA’s, and they haven’t paid us back for the expropriated property we left behind.  And now we sell them stuff and they crank out our t-shirts.  No one on Capitol Hill is raising a stink about us pandering to a tyrannical regime.

Cuba, too, is still communist; they repress human rights, and they haven’t paid us for the property they took over after the Revolution, all of which Marco Rubio and los historicos on Miami’s Calle Ocho say are deal-breakers for restoring diplomatic relations and ending the embargo.  Only until Cuba has democracy and white bread will they allow us to sell them iPads and Arby’s.  (As if Cuba was a model of Jeffersonian democracy before 1959, right?)

Why the disconnect?  Why is it good business to deal with our former enemies whose record on human rights is worse than Cuba’s and anathema to deal with Havana?

There are a number of reasons, but the most obvious one is simple: it’s personal.  A lot of the anti-Cuba sentiment is based not on ideology but on the vocal exiles who see the Castro brothers as the villains who marched into their homes, parked their butts on the sofa, ground out their cigars on the carpet and took over.  (I know many exiles who have all their old property titles and deeds carefully saved so that when Raul and Fidel finally check out they can go back and reclaim everything, including the DeSoto in the driveway.)  In some cases, it’s familial.  The Diaz-Balart brothers, Mario and Lincoln, who have been big dogs in South Florida politics and served in Congress, are — or were — related to Fidel Castro by marriage: their aunt was Fidel’s first wife.

It also has something to do with our own history with Cuba.  We engineered their liberation as a colony of Spain with the intent of making them one of our own, only to have them rebel against us.  That’s the thanks we get for setting up their mob-run casinos and corrupt dictators?

There’s no such connection with Vietnam; at least not to the degree that a small group of exiles with personal grudges and vendettas can block trade and isolate a country for half a century from America and Americans.

It also has to do with distance.  Vietnam is ten thousand miles from our shores.  Cuba is ninety miles from Key West and a constant reminder of the failure of manifest destiny.  As long as there’s a Castro to rub our nose in it — and grind out the cigar on the berber — there will be a blockade.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Memo To Marco: Nobody Cares

Every presidential candidate looks for a gimmick; something to run on that sets them apart from the millions of other people who are running in the GOP primary.  For Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), he’s decided to plant his flag on San Juan Hill.

President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that the U.S. and Cuba have struck a deal to open embassies in each other’s capitals and re-establish diplomatic relations for the first time in half a century.

“The progress we make today is another demonstration we don’t have to be imprisoned by the past,” Obama said.

Obama emphasized that the U.S. and Cuba have some shared interests, such as strong anti-terrorism policies and disaster response. But he acknowledged that the two nations still have “very serious differences” on issues like free speech.

“We won’t hesitate to speak out when we see contradiction to those values,” the president said.

The Republicans knee-jerked their opposition to normalizing relations with Cuba the same way they oppose anything President Obama does, so something something commie something whatever.  Then Mr. Rubio made it clear that this is his schtick.

“Throughout this entire negotiation, as the Castro regime has stepped up its repression of the Cuban people, the Obama administration has continued to look the other way and offer concession after concession,” Rubio said in a statement. “The administration’s reported plan to restore diplomatic relations is one such prized concession to the Castro regime.”

Rubio said he intends to oppose confirmation of an ambassador to Cuba until there is a resolution on such issues as “the return of U.S. fugitives being harbored in Cuba, settling outstanding legal claims to U.S. citizens for properties confiscated by the regime, and in obtaining the unequivocal right of our diplomats to travel freely throughout Cuba and meet with any dissidents, and most importantly, securing greater political freedoms for the Cuban people.”

Other than a dwindling group of domino players on Calle Ocho here in Miami, no one actually will decide to vote for someone because of their views on restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba.  In fact, I’ve talked to a number of Cuban-Americans, many who were either born there or are the children of exiles, and they all, including hard-core Republicans, think the embargo is pointless, ineffective, and should never have been put in place.  We have full diplomatic relations with countries that have far worse records on human rights, but unless Mr. Rubio is looking out for some old buddies of Chiang Kai-Shek playing mah-jongg, he’s not going to object to trading with Beijing.

It takes an act of Congress to end the embargo, so my guess is that it won’t happen as long as Barack Obama is in the White House, but I’m pretty sure that by the time the next president marks their 100th day in office, there will be a NAPA Auto Parts store in Havana and Marco Rubio will be the kid behind the counter looking for a gas cap for a 1957 Ford Fairlane.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Monday, April 13, 2015

Short Takes

Handshake between Presidents Obama and Castro.

President Obama: Partisanship over Iran deal has gone “too far.”

Pope calls 1915 Armenian massacre “genocide.”

Gander sauce for anti-gay legislators in North Dakota coffee shop.

Jordan Spieth wins the Masters.

The Tigers swept the Indians this weekend, and the Perfect Season continues.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Short Takes

Iran’s supreme leader has some tough conditions for the nuclear agreement.

Canada conducted its first strikes against ISIS in Syria.

Cuba’s status on the state-sponsored terrorist list may be decided soon.

New video released in South Carolina shooting.

The Tigers sweep the Twins 7-1.  The Perfect Season goes on.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Short Takes

South Carolina police officer charged with murder in shooting death.

Rahm Emanuel wins 2nd term in Chicago mayoral race.

Kansas basically outlaws abortion.

Russia hacked the White House computer system.

Secretary of State Kerry will meet his Cuban counterpart at Latin American summit.

R.I.P. Stan Freberg, 88, one of the funniest men in the world.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Short Takes

U.S. to equip moderate Syrian rebels.  (Define “moderate.”)

Taliban suicide bombers struck a police station in Afghanistan.

Ukraine — It’s not really a “cease fire” if people are still getting shot at.

The derailed train carrying crude oil in West Virginia kept burning.

A delegation of House Democrats led by Nancy Pelosi traveled to Cuba.

Oregon gets a new governor today.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Revolution Will Be On Netflix

Via Riptide:

Cubans will soon get to watch shows about corrupt, conniving politicians and the inadequacies of America’s prison system.

Yes, Netflix has officially launched in Cuba, bringing shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black to the island. The move also means that Netflix now offers its services in every single country in the Americas.

“We are delighted to finally be able to offer Netflix to the people of Cuba, connecting them with stories they will love from all over the world,” said Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings in a statement. “Cuba has great filmmakers and a robust arts culture and one day we hope to be able to bring their work to our global audience of over 57 million members.”

Granted, at the moment very few Cubans will actually be able to access the service. As of 2012, only about 25.6 percent of the population has access to the internet, and many have to rely on access through hotels, internet cafes, embassies and at work. It’s estimated that only 5 percent of the population has unrestricted, private access to the internet, and even then speeds are slow.

We’ve gone from reruns of Kate & Allie on TV Marti to House of Cards.  Forget about opening embassies and lifting the travel ban; this more than anything else signals the big thaw between Cuba and the U.S.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

Short Takes

Horrifying — Boko Haram is using scorched earth in Nigeria; cities destroyed, people massacred.

Two dead, one injured in Belgium counter-terrorist attack.

Trade and travel restrictions against Cuba are being relaxed as of today.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder vetoes concealed-carry bill.

Here are the very white and very male Oscar nominations.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Short Takes

Search continues for last of the the suspects in Charlie Hebdo massacre.

The U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts were hacked.

Attacks against ISIS continue.

Cuba released 53 political prisoners as promised as part of the thaw in U.S. relations.

South Dakota’s ban on same-sex marriage is struck down, but the order is immediately stayed.

Paul Ryan isn’t running for president.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Looking Back/Looking Forward

The tradition continues:  it’s time for my annual re-cap and prognostication for the past year and the year coming up.  Let’s see how I did a year ago.

– Despite the terrible roll-out and start-up of Obamacare and the opportunity it handed the Republican campaign strategists, the healthcare law will not be as big an issue in the 2014 mid-terms that all the Villagers say it will be.  By the time the campaign hits the final stretch, the law will be so entrenched that even the people who claim they hate it — even though they support what it does — will have a hard time trying to run candidates who promise to repeal it.  Still, the GOP noise machine and Tea Party hard-core is locked in on re-electing their safe base and the morning after the 2014 mid-terms will show a House still in the hands of the GOP and the Senate closer to 50-50.

I got most of that right: Obamacare was not a campaign issue but I didn’t count on the Democrats running away from it like it was an Ebola-soaked sponge.  The Republicans didn’t win the Senate so much as the Democrats lost it.

– Immigration reform and gun control will go nowhere because it’s the same Congress we had in 2013 and they didn’t do jack-shit.

Too easy, more’s the pity.

– By December 31, 2014 it will be a foregone conclusion that Hillary Clinton will be running for president.  Joe Biden will play coy with the Villagers about running, but in the end he’ll demur to Ms. Clinton.  The Benghazi! non-scandal will be long gone except for the nutsery who still think Barack Obama was born in Kenya.  The GOP will be lining up its merry band that includes Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, and just for laughs, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee.  President Obama’s approval numbers will be back up in the 50% range.

Nailed that one.  Even the GOP House report says Benghazi! is a nothingburger, and President Obama’s approval numbers are going up.

– Florida Gov. Rick Scott will lose his re-election bid to Charlie Crist, the newly minted Democrat, and Marco Rubio’s star will be as faded in GOP national politics as Pauly Shore’s is among Oscar voters.  He’ll pick up a primary challenge from the far right, but he’ll be safe in 2016 because the Democrats have nobody to run against him.

– Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Snyder of Michigan, and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania will all face tough re-election campaigns, but Mr. Kasich and Mr. Snyder will probably squeak by.  Mr. Corbett is out, and just for laughs, the people of Maine will toss their gaffe-prone Tea Party guv Paul LePage.

Still pissed that Florida and Maine re-elected those clowns.

– The national economy will continue to expand and the drive for the living wage movement will take hold.  The unemployment numbers will finally get below 7.0% and stay there.

Yeah, that was an easy call.  The minimum wage is going up all over the country.

– Marriage equality will spread to more states as more cases based on the ruling by the Supreme Court in 2013 are heard.  Indiana will vote on a ban on same-sex marriage in November 2014, and it will lose narrowly. But same-sex won’t be the law of the land yet, and I predict that unless the Supreme Court issues a sweeping ruling, Texas will be the last hold-out.

– The Supreme Court will rule 5-4 that Hobby Lobby or any for-profit non-religious corporation does not have the right “to deny its employees the health coverage of contraceptives to which the employees are otherwise entitled by federal law, based on the religious objections of the corporation’s owners.”

Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that marriage equality would take hold like it did this year.  Thirty-five states now allow same-sex marriage, many based on rulings by courts that hold that banning marriage equality violates the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution.  There are several cases that are making their way to the United States Supreme Court.  But the court may have tipped its hand.  In October the Court declined to take action on five cases submitted for hearing during the 2014-2015 session.  This allowed the lower court rulings that struck down the bans in those states to stand.

Feh on the Hobby Lobby ruling.

– This will be a rebuilding year for the Detroit Tigers now that Jim Leyland has retired.  They’ll do respectably well and may even win the division again, but it’s time for a breather.

Yep.

– Fidel Castro will finally hop the twig, and the slow thaw between the U.S. and Cuba will begin as the generation that is as old as Castro continues to fade away.

Fidel is still alive, but Alan Gross is free and diplomatic relations are being restored.  About time, too.

– We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

Losing Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman, both by their own hand, made this year especially painful.

– Personally, life will continue at its gentle pace in good health and good spirits.  In September I will turn 62 and begin the first steps towards eventual retirement, but that won’t be for a long time yet.  I’ve already started on my paper for the William Inge Theatre Festival in March, and I continue to write and produce blog posts.  My parents are happily settled into their “life enrichment community,” and I hope to visit them this summer.  I might even get a smartphone this year, but don’t bet on it.

I’m already working on my paper for the William Inge Festival in April, and I had two one-act plays produced, including one entitled A Life Enriching Community, thanks to my visit to my folks in Cincinnati.  No, I don’t have a smartphone.

Now the predictions:

– Now that we have a Republican House and Senate and a president who isn’t running for re-election, get out the popcorn, and I mean the good stuff.  The GOP will try to do everything they can to destroy the legacy of Barack Obama, but they will end up looking even more foolish, petulant, infantile, and borderline nuts than they have for the last two years, and that’s saying something.  Repeals of Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and recharged attempts to investigate Benghazi!, the IRS, and the VA will be like the three rings of Barnum & Bailey, all of which President Obama will gleefully veto.  As Zandar noted at Balloon Juice, “Over/under on when a Republican declares on FOX that Obama’s veto is  “illegal”, Feb 8.”

– Hillary Clinton will announce that she is running for president by March 2015 at the latest.  Elizabeth Warren will not run, but Bernie Sanders, the Gene McCarthy of this generation, will announce as an independent and become a frequent guest on MSNBC.  Jeb Bush, after “actively exploring” a run in 2016, will announce that he is running and quickly fade to the single digits when the GOP base gets a taste of his views on immigration and Common Core.  He may be popular in Republican polls, but those people don’t vote in primaries.  The frontrunners for the Iowa caucuses a year from now will be Rand Paul and Chris Christie.

– The war in Afghanistan is officially over as of December 2014, but there will be U.S. troops actively engaged in combat in what is left of Syria and Iraq in 2015.

– The U.S. economy will continue to improve at a galloping pace.  The Dow will hit 19,000 at some point in 2015 and oil will continue to flood the market, keeping the price below $60 a barrel and gasoline will sell for under $2 a gallon, and finally wages will start to catch up with the improving economy.  I blame Obama.

– The Supreme Court will rule that bans on same-sex marriage violate the Constitution.  They will also narrowly uphold Obamacare again.

– The embargo against Cuba will end on a narrow vote in the Senate thanks to the overwhelming influence of Republican donors who see 11 million Cubans starving for Dunkin Donuts and car parts and don’t care what a bunch of domino-playing dreamers on Calle Ocho think.

– The Tigers will win their division again.

– We will lose the requisite number of celebrities and friends as life goes on. As I always say, it’s important to cherish them while they are with us.

– I technically retired on September 1, 2014, but my last day at work will be August 30, 2019.  (It’s complicated.)  I’m planning a return trip to Stratford this summer — more on that later — and I’ll get more plays produced.  I will finish at least one novel in 2015.

– And of course, the usual prediction: One year from now I’ll write a post just like this one, look back at this one, and think, “Gee, that was dumb.” Or not.

Okay, readers, it’s your turn.  What do you predict will befall us in 2015?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sunday Reading

Vamos á Cuba? — How the restoration of diplomatic relations will change travel plans.  Vauhini Vara in The New Yorker looks at one travel agency that already goes there.

Cuba PosterOn Wednesday morning, Tom Popper was driving to work at InsightCuba, the travel organization that he runs out of New Rochelle, New York, when he heard a familiar name on the radio. Alan Gross, the American contractor for U.S.A.I.D. who had been imprisoned in Cuba for five years, had been released and was on a flight home. “I kind of forgot I was in the car,” Popper said. “All of a sudden, I saw myself veering off to the shoulder.” Popper, who is forty-seven years old, makes his living helping Americans travel to Cuba without running afoul of the law. His organization is one of a small number that are authorized by the U.S. government, through Treasury Department licenses, to do so. For months, he and his colleagues had speculated that the Obama Administration would loosen travel restrictions on Americans going to Cuba—an idea that Popper has supported—but they knew that Gross’s imprisonment had been an impediment.

So, when Popper heard about the release, his thoughts had turned to what it could mean for InsightCuba. He straightened the car and got himself to work. Once there, he tried calling the Treasury Department and the State Department, but he couldn’t get through to anyone who could tell him more. Finally, he turned on the TV and, at noon, got the next round of news like everyone else. In an address from the White House, Obama announced that, after more than fifty years of tension, the United States and Cuba were reëstablishing diplomatic relations. The new measures would include the easing of some restrictions on commerce and travel. For years, anyone who wanted to go to Cuba had to be travelling for one of several specific reasons. Some of these purposes, like visiting close relatives or doing academic research, were covered by a “general” license that let people travel without having to fill out a special application. But others, like going on educational trips to promote “people-to-people contact” among Americans and Cubans—the category under which organizations like InsightCuba set up many of their trips—required case-by-case approval by the Treasury Department, which could be an onerous process and needed to be conducted by approved tour organizers. (One organizer of people-to-people trips, Friendly Planet, notes on its Web site that travellers should keep a journal as a record of their travels in Cuba and retain it for five years as “proof of the educational nature of your trip.”) Under the new rules, people will still have to travel for one of twelve pre-approved purposes, but these, including educational trips, will all be covered by general licenses. It’s unclear exactly what this will mean for travellers—the Obama Administration has said that it will be weeks before the details become available—but Popper and others expect that, at the very least, it will open up travel to Cuba to more Americans.

He’s Ready to Rumble — Charlie Pierce on the re-energized Barack Obama.

If, in 2008, you walked through the Iowa snows, or knocked on doors in New Hampshire, or caucused in Nevada, or drove the old folks to the polls in Ohio, the guy from today was the one you did all that for and more. In his year-end press conference Friday afternoon, the president turned in a bravura performance, a master class in cool. He laid Sony out flat, and did so by summoning up the fact that they ran the Boston Marathon again this year, even though there were people who were killed at that event in 2013 by actual bombs. (Sorry, Sony, but George Clooney, the Official Movie Star Of Esquire: The Magazine — non-Charlize Theron Division — is absolutely right.) And, just for fun, he did the worst thing you can do to lunatic bullies like the current regime in North Korea. He mocked them, directly and loudly.

“It says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to stage an all-out assault because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen…I love Seth. And I love James (Franco). But the notion that that this was a threat to them” was ridiculous.

I think it’s time now to enlist the president into Team America: World Police.

He is not spoiling for a fight come January, but he is clearly anticipating one. He minced no words reminding people of how he came to issue his executive order on immigration. (Hint: It’s a word that begins with “ob” and ends with “struction.”) He told the incoming Republican majority that, if he has to adjust to them, then they have to adjust to him as well, and that he knows where in the drawer the veto stamp is.

“There’s a very simple solution, and that’s pass bills and work with me to make sure I’m willing to sign those bills…Because both sides are going to have to compromise. On most issues, in order for their initiatives to become law, I’m going to have to sign off, and that means they have to take into account the issues that I care about, just as I’m going have to take into account the issues that they care about.”

Translation: don’t bring that weak shit in my kitchen. President Mutombo!

It seemed to me, anyway, that the president was liberated, not so much by the fact that he doesn’t have to run again, or by the clarifying event of Republican congressional majority throughout the last two years of his presidency, but by the fact that he doesn’t have to tailor his remarks to a Democratic Senatorial majority that depended on the likes of Mark Begich or Mary Landrieu. And nowhere was this more clear, and nowhere was his newfound confidence more clear, than in his answer on the future of that Republican fetish object, the Keystone XL pipeline, the continent-spanning death funnel that would bring the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel down through the agricultural heartland of the United States from the environmental dead zone of northern Alberta. He still could swing the other way on this issue, but today, he made it clear that the death-funnel’s benefits belong to foreigners, and that its benefits to people in this country were, as he said, “nominal.” I suspect that he will veto the bill that Mitch McConnell says will be the first one to come out of the newly refurbished monkeyhouse come January.

Let’s Go Galt at the Movies — Mallory Ortberg on how Ayn Rand would review favorite movies for children.

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

An industrious young woman neglects to charge for her housekeeping services and is rightly exploited for her naïveté. She dies without ever having sought her own happiness as the highest moral aim. I did not finish watching this movie, finding it impossible to sympathize with the main character. —No stars.

“Bambi”

The biggest and the strongest are the fittest to rule. This is the way things have always been. —Four stars.

“Old Yeller”

A farm animal ceases to be useful and is disposed of humanely. A valuable lesson for children. —Four stars.

“Lady and the Tramp”

A ridiculous movie. What could a restaurant owner possibly have to gain by giving away a perfectly good meal to dogs, when he could sell it at a reasonable price to human beings? A dog cannot pay for spaghetti, and payment is the only honest way to express appreciation for value. —One star.

“101 Dalmatians”

A wealthy woman attempts to do her impoverished school friend Anita a favor by purchasing some of her many dogs and putting them to sensible use. Her generosity is repulsed at every turn, and Anita foolishly and irresponsibly begins acquiring even more animals, none of which are used to make a practical winter coat. Altruism is pointless. So are dogs. A cat is a far more sensible pet. A cat is objectively valuable. —No stars.

“Mary Poppins”

A woman takes a job with a wealthy family without asking for money in exchange for her services. An absurd premise. Later, her employer leaves a lucrative career in banking in order to play a children’s game. —No stars.

Doonesbury — Get the hook.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cuba Si

This is something a lot of people have been waiting for.

The United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century after the release of an American contractor held in prison for five years, President Obama announced on Wednesday.

In a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, who hosted a final meeting at the Vatican, Mr. Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba agreed in a telephone call to put aside decades of hostility to find a new relationship between the United States and the island nation just 90 miles off the American coast.

“We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries,” Mr. Obama said in a nationally televised statement from the White House. The deal will “begin a new chapter among the nations of the Americas” and move beyond a “rigid policy that’s rooted in events that took place before most of us were born.”

The contractor, Alan P. Gross, traveled on an American government plane to the United States late Wednesday morning, and the United States sent back three Cuban spies who had been in an American prison since 2001. American officials said the Cuban spies were swapped for a United States intelligence agent who had been in a Cuban prison for nearly 20 years, and said Mr. Gross was not technically part of the swap, but was released separately on “humanitarian grounds.”

In addition, the United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking relations, and Cuba will release 53 Cuban prisoners identified as political prisoners by the United States government. Although the decades-old American embargo on Cuba will remain in place for now, the president called for an “honest and serious debate about lifting” it.

“These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s time for a new approach.”

If the reaction of the people in my office who have Cuban ties or are Cuban-American is any indication, it’s a stunning move.  Some are still holding on to the idea that if we just kept tightening the grip, the Castro brothers would finally give up and install Jeffersonian democracy.  Others — especially the younger ones who have no connection to the island other than through a parent or relative — see it as the beginning of the end of a policy that never worked and wasn’t intended to do much more than exact revenge for the Castros tossing out the capitalist exploiters and the Mafia.  They have been hoping for an end to the freeze not out of nostalgia but out of a promise of normalization…and the prospect of selling 11 million Cubans McDonald’s and car parts.

Not being Cuban or having any connection to the island, I have never understood the embargo.  I don’t have the visceral feeling that the Cuban revolution caused in the people who left everything behind and the hatred they have for the men who they hold personally responsible for upending their lives and killing people they knew.  But now, more than fifty years after the revolution and an embargo that did nothing but harm to the average Cuban and served as the excuse for further crackdowns, all that has come of it is the burning hatred that has consumed lives and torn families apart.

Hate only destroys.  Nothing good would come from continuing the mistrust and rhetoric. If reconciliation with Vietnam, where we fought a war that killed millions and caused a permanent scar across our nation, can happen, so it can with Cuba if we put hatred aside and show the world and ourselves that we can do it.