The Twitter-verse other social media and right-wing blogs are abuzz over the handshake President Obama extended to Cuban Prime Minister Raul Castro.
Right-wing politicians are the most vociferous of the lot. It’s funny though because at least Mr. Castro accepted the gratuitous handshake. Some GOP pols have expressed their disdain of simply being in the same room with the POTUS.
We are inevitably drawn to pictures over words, to the image and not the meaning, the shadow and not the substance.
So the abiding takeaway of President Obama’s appearance and tribute to Nelson Mandela today, for some, might not be what the president said but what he did: Shake hands with Cuban president/strongman Raul Castro.
If that’s all that some people talk about, they missed the speech and its meanings. It’s a sad commentary on how some would rather see what they want to see rather than also listen to what was said.
Obama’s tribute was one of the most-inspiring speeches from a U.S. president in years. Picking a great quote is almost impossible because there are so many:
It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well…
“I’m not a saint,” he said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”…
In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness; persistence and faith. He tells us what’s possible not just in the pages of dusty history books, but in our own lives as well.
Tucked in all of this, however, was a focused backhanded slap against repressive regimes like the one Castro presides over:
Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs; and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship, or who they love.
We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.
But many aren’t talking about any of this.
Most didn’t hear the speech broadcast in the U.S. this morning. They won’t read it. And there’s a far better chance they’ll see the photo or video of the handshake. Twitter is abuzz. The partisans have donned their armor of lazy talking points, hoisted their tired 140-character standards of dysfunction.
A few have noted the president “bowed” to Castro. It’s a function of the president being so much taller than the little dictator, and being decorous at an event on the world stage. The encounter just didn’t look like an act of obeisance by Obama.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about the handshake. That doesn’t mean Obama shouldn’t have said more to Castro or criticize him face to face when he had a chance. But we should consider the text of the speech as well.
There’s some historical significance to the greeting, as CNN points out, but reporter Christiane Amanpour’s reaction was as instructive as it was over-wrought: “Castro! He’s shaking hands with Raul Castro!”
Kerry: “No. Absolutely not.”
To be clear: The Cuban leader attended the memorial because, of the few shortcomings in Mandela’s praiseworthy life, he was a friend of the Castros.
The great South African leader never forcefully advocated for freedom in the spy-state of an island of Cuba. Gays are beaten there. Even rappers are imprisoned. An American, Alan Gross, is unfairly jailed and held as collateral in a spy-vs-spy tit-for-tat.
So how could Castro be a friend to Mandela? He and brother Fidel Castro, along with the Soviet Union, were loyal to Mandela and the cause of South African freedom when the U.S. wasn’t. That was a stain on our nation’s history and it was writ large in Miami when the city, fueled by justifiably angry Cuban exiles, unjustifiably snubbed Mandela’s visit in 1990.
But today, there’s a greater understanding of the greatness of Mandela, even here and in the exile community. Mauricio Claver-Carone said it best on his Capitol Hill Cubans blog where he noted that Mandela essentially repudiated the Castros through his actions.
Obama, in his speech, hit on similar notes. And the president puzzled over the greatness of Mandela and how we can continue his work.
The questions we face today – how to promote equality and justice; to uphold freedom and human rights; to end conflict and sectarian war – do not have easy answers.
Should Obama have said something more to Castro in those few moments of a handshake? Perhaps. Would it have made a difference? Probably not.
It’s not easy to defend this president for problems at home and abroad. But at least Obama is challenging us and himself to be better. Chances are, we’ll all come up short. We already are.
- Obama shakes hands with Raul Castro (israelmatzav.blogspot.com)
- Obama And Castro Handshake At Mandela Tribute (news.sky.com)
- A brief but important handshake between Obama, Castro (security.blogs.cnn.com)
- Obama shakes hands with Cuba’s Raul Castro (politico.com)
- About that handshake… (pullingtotheleft.wordpress.com)
We’re still sorting out the crazies…
Stephen Viramontes, the interim state director of the tea party group FreedomWorks in Arizona, canceled plans to distribute Valentine’s Day cards to lawmakers featuring various dictators who opposed anti-union legislation — but not before tweeting about the cards, the Arizona Capitol Times reports.
Viramontes deleted those tweets, but not before the Times published them.
Viramontes explained who would be getting the cards in a second tweet, which was also deleted. “All those needing some help in supporting and passing #PaycheckProtection,” he wrote.
According to the Capitol Times, other cards featured Fidel Castro, Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong as well as Karl Marx and Leon Trotsky. Viramontes told the Times that FreedomWorks is planning a big push for legislation that will limit the ability of public sector unions to collect money from their members for use in political efforts.
This ill-fated Valentine’s Day stint comes on the same day that Mother Jones reported that FreedomWorks executives in Washington, D.C. made a video — which they almost showed at a tea party conference — in which a fake panda performs oral sex on a woman impersonating then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
- Report: Tea Party group made Hillary-panda sex video (tv.msnbc.com)
- FreedomWorks used female interns to film fake sex scene of a panda having sex with Hillary Clinton (dailykos.com)
- Conservatives Have….Issues, Part One Million (rawstory.com)
- Report: FreedomWorks made fake Hillary Clinton sex video (politico.com)
- Four Frugal Valentine’s Day Date Ideas (cashnetusa.com)
The man who wants Piers Morgan deported for advocating gun control faced off with the CNN host on Morgan’s show Monday night, denouncing Morgan as “a hatchet man of the New World Order” and warning of a new American revolution.
Radio talk show host Alex Jones backed a petition on the White House website calling on Morgan, a British citizen, to be deported “for his effort to undermine the Bill of Rights and for exploiting his position as a national network television host to stage attacks against the rights of American citizens.”
“We did (this) to point out that this is globalism, and the megabanks that control the planet and brag they have taken over in Bloomberg, AP, Reuters, you name it — brag they’re going to get our guns as well,” said Jones, who said his show is carried on 140 U.S. stations. “They have taken everybody’s guns but the Swiss and the American people. When they get our guns, they can have their world tyranny while the government buys 1.6 billion bullets, armored vehicles, tanks, helicopters. Predator drones, armed, now in U.S. skies, being used to arrest people in North Dakota.”
Morgan has been outspoken in calling for restrictions of semi-automatic rifles like the kind used in last year’s mass killings in Newtown, Connecticut, and Aurora, Colorado. But Jones said the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of a right to bear arms “isn’t there for duck hunting. It’s there to protect us from tyrannical government and street thugs.”
“Hitler took the guns. Stalin took the guns. Mao took the guns. Fidel Castro took the guns. Hugo Chavez took the guns. And I’m here to tell you, 1776 will commence again if you try to take our firearms,” Jones shouted.
“You’re a very loud man. You make a loud noise,” Morgan said at another point, as he attempted to quiz Jones about the comparative difference in firearm homicides between the United States and the United Kingdom, where 35 people were killed in shootings in 2012, compared to more than 11,000 in the United States.
Jones replied that Britain was “a total police state.”
“England has a lot lower gun crime rate, because you took all the guns,” Jones said. “But you’ve got hordes of people burning down cities and beating old ladies’ brains out every day.”
- ‘1776 Will Commence Again If You Try to Take Our Firearms!’: Watch Alex Jones Lose His Mind on Piers Morgan’s Show (gawker.com)
- Pro-Gun Advocate Alex Jones Goes Completely Berserk On Piers Morgan’s Show: ‘1776 Will Commence Again!’ (businessinsider.com)
- Top News: Piers Morgan, radio host who wants him deported face off (cnn.com)
- Pro-Gun Advocate Alex Jones Goes Completely Berserk On Piers Morgan’s Show: ‘1776 Will Commence Again!’ (ibtimes.com)
- ‘Deport Piers Morgan’ Creator Flips Out On Morgan’s Show: ‘1776 Will Commence Again’ If Guns Taken Away (mediaite.com)
- Watch: Jones On Fire: “1776 Will Commence Again If You Try To Take Our Firearms” (FULL CNN INTERVIEW) (shtfplan.com)
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Another case of Obama Derangement Syndrome…
When the State Department granted the head of Cuba’s National Center for Sex Education, Mariela Castro Espín, a visa to chair a panel on LGBT issues at the Latin American Studies Association in San Francisco later this week, the Republican response was as obvious as the Cuban LGBT activist’s relations to the Caribbean island’s Communist dictators. Her father is Cuban President Raúl Castro, her uncle is revolutionary leader and longtime dictator Fidel Castro, and the Republicans were “appalled.”
“The State Department needs to wake up from its delusional love fest with the dictators in Havana,” said right-wing House Foreign Affairs chair Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). Republican Members of Congress released web videos and organized conference callsdenouncing the visa as “outrageous.”
Even presumptive GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney got in on the action, releasing a statement accusing the Obama administration of “a slap in the face to all those brave individuals in Cuba who are enduring relentless persecution.”
Ros-Lehtinen and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), David Rivera (R-FL) and Albio Sires (R-NJ) wrote a strongly-worded letter to the State Department saying:
The administration’s appalling decision to allow regime agents into the U.S. directly contradicts Congressional intent and longstanding U.S. foreign policy.
If it’s “longstanding U.S. foreign policy” to deny Mariela Castro a visa to enter the U.S., someone forgot to tell President George W. Bush. The Bush administration granted Castro not one but three visas to enter the U.S. in 2001 and 2002. State Department spokesman William Ostick told the Miami Herald:
Mariela Castro visited once in 2001 and twice in 2002. I can’t discuss her visas specifically, but you can assume she needed one to travel.
An Obama surrogate, Freddy Balsera, told the Herald:
In fact, the top State Department Official in charge of Latin America at the time was a Cuban American. Where was their criticism then? Nowhere, because ultimately this is all about politics for them.
A ThinkProgress search of the Lexis Nexis news database for Mariela Castro’s name during 2001 and 2002 returned no results relevant to her trips to the U.S.
Former attendees at the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) said that Cuba has long been a presence at LASA conferences. This year, the State Department accepted 60 visas, denied 11, and is still processing 6. A State spokesman said visas couldn’t be rejected simply because “we don’t like you.”
LASA’s president told the Associated Press that Castro’s appearance at the conference was “an academic issue, not a political issue,” and that she’d answered a call for papers like any other conference speaker.
- Cuban president’s daughter Mariela Castro gets U.S. visa (usatoday.com)
- Rubio, Menendez, Ros-Lehtinen Blast Visa Award for Raul Castro’s Daughter (heritage.org)
- Cuba’s first daughter lands in Bay Area (mercurynews.com)
- U.S. visa for Raul Castro’s daughter Mariela sparks protests (kansascity.com)
- U.S. visa to Mariela Castro sparks angry complaints (miamiherald.com)
- Daughter of Cuban leader Raul Castro to visit U.S. (vancouverdesi.com)
Marco Rubio is a Tea Party darling and they are looking forward to him becoming the VP pick to whatever GOP nominee wins the nomination at their convention. Thus, Rubio has to tow the party line.
These programs actually weakened us as a people. You see, almost forever, it was institutions in society that assumed the role of taking care of one another. If someone was sick in your family, you took care of them. If a neighbor met misfortune, you took care of them. You saved for your retirement and your future because you had to. We took these things upon ourselves in our communities, our families, and our homes, and our churches and our synagogues. But all that changed when the government began to assume those responsibilities. All of a sudden, for an increasing number of people in our nation, it was no longer necessary to worry about saving for security because that was the government’s job.
Yeah, exactly. And if Marco Rubio’s grandfather had known about those programs, and how they were weakening us as a people, he’d never have fled to America from Fidel Castro’s Cuba. Or at least he’d have waited until we had a president wise enough to understand that an America without sick and poor seniors is a weak America. A president like Rick Perry.
- Rubio: Social Security Harmed America (talkingpointsmemo.com)
- inothernews: This is Senator Marco Rubio (R- Florida) catching… (shortformblog.tumblr.com)
- Rubio: Social Security Harmed America (browardsblog.blogspot.com)
- The Caucus: Marco Rubio Says No to Ticket, but Finds Skeptics (thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Rubio Insists He’s Not Interested in Veep (politicalwire.com)
- Marco Rubio (ynative77.wordpress.com)
- Rubio denies VP interest in speech at Reagan library (thehill.com)
About a week ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared to the United Nations that most people in the world believe the United States was behind the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
To many people in the West, the statement was ludicrous, almost laughable if it weren’t so incendiary. And surveys show that a majority of the world does not in fact believe that the U.S. orchestrated the attacks.
However, the belief persists strongly among a minority, even with U.S. allies like Turkey or in the U.S. itself. And it cannot be dismissed because it reflects a gulf in politics and perception, especially between the West and many Muslims.
“That theory might be true,” said Ugur Tezer, a 48-year-old businessman who sells floor tiles in the Turkish capital, Ankara. “When I first heard about the attack I thought, ‘Osama,’ but then I thought the U.S. might have done it to suppress the rise of Muslims.”
Compassion for the United States swept the globe right after the attacks, but conspiracy theories were circulating even then. It wasn’t al-Qaida, they said, but the United States or Israel that downed the towers. Weeks after the strikes, at the United Nations, President George W. Bush urged the world not to tolerate “outrageous conspiracy theories” that deflected blame from the culprits.
However, the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan provided fodder for the damning claim that the U.S. killed its own citizens, supposedly to justify military action in the Middle East and to protect Israel. A 2006 survey by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found that significant majorities in Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan and Turkey – all among the most moderate nations in the Islamic world – said they did not believe Arabs carried out the attacks.
Two years later, a poll of 17 nations by WorldPublicOpinion.org, an international research project, found majorities in nine of them believed al-Qaida was behind the attacks. However, the U.S. government was blamed by 36 percent of Turks and 27 percent of Palestinians.
Such beliefs have currency even in the United States. In 2006, a Scripps Howard poll of 1,010 Americans found 36 percent thought it somewhat or very likely that U.S. officials either participated in the attacks or took no action to stop them.
Those who say the attacks might have been an “inside job” usually share antipathy toward the U.S. government, and often a maverick sensibility. Besides Ahmadinejad, high-profile doubters include Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Former Minnesota governor and pro wrestler Jesse Ventura has questioned the official account. Conspiracy theorists have heckled former President Bill Clinton and other prominent Americans during speeches.
- 9/11 conspiracy theories rife in Muslim world (sfgate.com)
- Why majority of Muslims believe that 9/11 was a Conspiracy created by the US Government (english.martinvarsavsky.net)
- 9/11 Conspiracy Theory Not as Popular as Ahmadinejad Says (thelede.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Ahmadinejad U.N. Speech: U.S. Walks Out Over 9/11 Conspiracy Theories (huffingtonpost.com)
- US government behind Sept 11 attacks, Ahmadinejad says (telegraph.co.uk)
- US walks out on Ahmadinejad UN speech (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
(AP) HAVANA (AP) – Fidel Castro says al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is a bought-and-paid-for CIA agent who always popped up when former President George W. Bush needed to scare the world, arguing that documents recently posted on the Internet prove it.
“Any time Bush would stir up fear and make a big speech, bin Laden would appear threatening people with a story about what he was going to do,” Castro told state media during a meeting with a Lithuanian-born writer known for advancing conspiracy theories about world domination. “Bush never lacked for bin Laden’s support. He was a subordinate.”
Castro said documents posted on WikiLeaks.org – a website that recently released thousands of pages of classified documents from the Afghan war – “effectively proved he was a CIA agent.” He did not elaborate.
The comments, published in the Communist Party daily Granma on Friday, were the latest in a series of provocative statements by the 84-year-old revolutionary, who has emerged from seclusion to warn that the planet is on the brink of nuclear war.
Castro even predicted the global conflict would mean cancellation of the final rounds of the World Cup last month in South Africa. He later apologized for jumping the gun. Last week, he began highlighting the work of Daniel Estulin, who wrote a trilogy of books highlighting the Bilderberg Club, whose prominent members meet once a year behind closed doors.
The secretive nature of the meetings and prominence of some members – including former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, senior U.S. and European officials, and major international business and media executives – have led some to speculate that it operates as a kind of global government, controlling not only international politics and economics, but even culture.
During the meeting, Estulin told Castro that the real voice of bin Laden was last heard in late 2001, not long after the Sept. 11 attacks. He said the person heard making warnings about terror attacks after that was a “bad actor.”
Castro stepped down due to ill health in 2006 – first temporarily, then permanently – and handed power over to his younger brother Raul. He has remained head of the Cuban Communist party but stayed out of view for four years after falling sick before returning to the spotlight in July.
Castro did take exception with one of Estulin’s major theses: that the human race must move to another habitable planet or face extinction.
Castro said it would be better to fix things on Earth then abandon the planet altogether.
“Humanity ought to take care of itself if it wants to live thousands more years,” Castro told the writer.