Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Normalizing Relations with Cuba

I have thought for years that we ought to normalize relations with Cuba.  Perhaps it is my ignorant, flyover country upbringing, but I've always seen it as being counter-productive, for one big, fat, juicy reason:

Cuba was using the US trade embargo as an excuse, and to the extent that their populace bought that excuse, our embargo was helping them keep power.

The rationing of virtually all food products in Cuba has been in effect since 12 March 1962. The official Castro government position on the reason for imposing a food rationing system in peace time and for the past 45 years is to blame the economic trade sanctions imposed by the U.S. which it insists on characterizing as a "blockade".... 
... Although Cuba is not blockaded and is able to trade freely with over 195 nations, the food crisis is the fault of the U.S. government...
... It is unclear how much time Mr. Moore spent inspecting the health care systems (yes, that's plural) in Cuba but it is likely that his government minders insured that he viewed only the facilities accessed by hard currency paying foreigners and Communist Party aparatchiks and not the system which ordinary Cubans are forced to endure. ...
Helping them, by providing them with an excuse for their incompetence.  After all, it is very, very difficult to get wood for tomato crates from Russia, so when the tomatoes rot on the vines in the field, why, that's all America's fault!  When they have to get permission to sell a head of lettuce, why, it's because of rationing put in place because of the American embargo!

A shop at the marina selling items such as imported beer and canned goods to foreigners for hard currency had some lettuce which they refused to sell us saying that the scale to weigh it was broken. I estimated that the weight was 1 kilo and offered to buy it for the price of 2 kilos and this was refused. We returned on each of the next 2 days to buy the lettuce which was beginning to wilt. On the 3rd day with the scale still not repaired I asked to negotiate with the manager. Two phone calls were made to Havana and the merchant finally got permission to sell the head of lettuce for the 2 kilo price. No tomatoes were available in spite of viewing fields of ripe tomatoes on the TV. I asked why, and was advised that the tomatoes were rotting in the fields as the Russians had failed to send the wood necessary to make shipping crates. An apparently insoluable problem to the party leaders. When I advised that I had seen tomatoes transported in California in dump trucks and other tublike containers the informant looked at me as if I were insane.  
Thanks to the amazing Leonidas over at "Fighting in the Shade", who spent the better part of a decade sailing around the Caribbean, and had a stop or two in Cuba during that time, we get an outsider's view, from the inside, which is a rare thing, given the prohibitions on travel to Cuba placed on American Citizens.

He shared his experiences via blog post back in the halcyon days of 2005, nearly a decade ago now, in the following three blog posts.  I do not know when he was actually in Cuba, but I estimate that it was the 1980's.  I've provided links to them for your enjoyment.  Go.  Read.

Fighting in the Shade - "The Real Cuba I"
Fighting in the Shade - "The Real Cuba II"
Fighting in the Shade - "The Real Cuba III"
Fighting in the Shade - "The Real Cuba IV"

In any case, my desire to normalize relations with Cuba has existed since I was very young, hearing stories from my Cuban ex-pat neighbor, Martin.  Martin used to tell me all about how the government lied to them, and controlled information in such a way that most of the populace truly believed that there was, indeed, a US blockade, as opposed to just a trade embargo, which prevented Cuba from trading with any country, as opposed to just not being able to trade with the US.

When he found out that it was a lie, it was truly a shock to his system, because it exposed a very stark truth to him:

His country wasn't poor because they were being bullied by their stronger neighbor - they were poor because the centralized government that was in charge of making every decision, including selling a head of lettuce for twice what it was worth (as detailed above), was woefully and criminally incompetent.

Communism had, once again, failed miserably.  Or, if bringing want and misery to all is your goal, it succeeded, depending on your outlook.

"At least everyone is equal there, though, right man?"

Our goal should not only be to normalize trade with Cuba, post haste, but also to make sure that the Cuban people know that, not only was there never a blockade, but that even the ineffective trade embargo has now been lifted.

So now, when a head of lettuce rots instead of being sold, because a decision couldn't be made, and when tomatoes rot on the vine because some party apparatchik didn't order wood for the crates, there will be no one else to blame.  One wonders how long the people of Cuba will choose to put up with this once their masters have no one else to blame.

One wonders if the brutality that installed this regime in the first place, will be enough to maintain it after it no longer has a convenient excuse.

Che Guevara, practicing Communist "equality"

Monday, December 15, 2014

Scared and Confused

The more I think about my having lost my job, the more convinced I am that I got fired for having health issues.

It was a small business.  I'd only been there for 18 months when my problems started.  It affected my performance, yes, but also...

...the conspiracy-monger in me wonders how much the cost of their health plans went up as a result of my troubles.

Because there was no warning.  No attempt to counsel.  No attempt to help, despite my having asked for help in the preceding months (which was not easy for me, and if you know me, you'll understand how hard it was for me to ask for that help).

Guys like me are not easy to find.  Guys with my skill set don't grow on trees.  You'd think that they would have at least tried to work things out with me, but there wasn't anything.

And now I'm at a cross-roads.  I have fallen apart physically twice now, as a result of my job.  Once, back in 07 when my psoriatic arthritis first appeared and it nearly crippled me for four months, keeping me from being able to function normally, and necessitating my co-workers to step in and take over my duties for a month while I underwent treatment.

And now, in 2014 when my heart caused me to be a functioning zombie for 8 months, exhausted, constantly fighting arrhythmia and poor circulation, and feeling for the world like getting out of bed in the morning was equivalent to a full 8-hour workday.

But I can't help but notice that they kept piling on the whole time.  The same month that I went in for my heart surgery, for which i should have been out recovering fro two weeks, they dumped another 9 million dollars worth of work on my desk, when I already had 43 million to do (which is sort of borderline Herculean in this industry, and certainly not what I would expect from an unwell employee who was not firing on all 8 cylinders).

I'm pissed, and hurt, and scared now, too, because I have a family to support.  We have a new baby due in April, to make things even more fun.

So what the hell do I do now?  I am still wondering if General Contracting might not be a good job for me, given my propensity to stress-induced health issues (and the subsequent performance drop).  So I'm looking into subcontracting, or industry product tech rep, or any number of other things.  It will be a cut in pay to do any of these things, but maybe that's okay.

My dream job would be to start a pheasant hunting preserve and guide service like the Miller Ranch or Double Barrel Ranch, but the barriers to entry there would be so high - a guy needs to own a million dollars worth of land, alone, to build one of these.  Maybe I'll start talking to local farmers about a long term lease...

Aussie Cafe Troubles.

I thought Australia had gun control?  How did this happen?

Could it be that perhaps men bent on committing MURDER don't care about a gun felony?

Nah...  Couldn't be!

I do notice that we once again get a front row seat to the religion of peace, doing it's peaceful best to get attention.  This guy was on trial already for setting his wife on fire and then stabbing her to death.  What a sweetheart.

I know that I am very glad that I'm not the judge who granted him bail, I can tell you that much right now.

Friday, December 5, 2014


Throughout my problems with my heart, through the surgery and afterwards when I've felt worse than I've ever felt in my entire life, my boss kept piling on.
The month that I had my heart surgery, he handed me another 9 million dollar project to do.

End of story, one of my jobs went south.  Way south.

And I just got fired.

Small mercies, I guess, because I was about to quit.  I talked it over with Mrs. Goober, and we decided that if I couldn't get some help and relief at the office, that I needed to tender my resignation.  They merely beat me to it.

So, I'm going to take some time to get well again.  I think that's possible now that I'm not working 60 hour weeks and stressing until I'm vomiting up blood (as I was all day Wednesday - goddamned blood thinners).

Anyway, I'm going to convalesce over the holidays, and start looking for work after New Years.  Given my repeated health issues, exacerbated by stress at work (construction project management is in the top ten most difficult and stressful jobs in America), I think I'm seeking a lifestyle change.  I won't make it to 50 at this rate.

Time to search for a new career.  This is scary for me.  I need to stop fearing change and embrace it.

Beyond that, however, I need suggestions - what should a 15 year construction project manager with a Bachelor's Degree in Construction Management be looking to switch over to?

Maybe subcontracting, to keep it more simple?

Maybe work on becoming a product rep?

Maybe become an owner's representative for some major outfit that's always building stuff (local hospitals or possibly a university)?

Or should I truly just retire, and get a job in the building department of the local munis?

I have swallowed my ego - I understand that my physical condition precludes me from setting the world on fire in a high stress career.  I'm done with that.

But what's next?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Officer Darren Wilson, the Mossad Agent?

It's reflexive with these people, I swear to gorn...  

Every one of the world's problems boils down to one of their little pet issues.  No opportunity to bring up some shibboleth is ignored.  

Apparently, Officer Wilson shot Mike Brown because...

Picture shamelessly stolen from Tam.  Like a boss.

...wait, what?  

Because Israel, I guess?  

I will note that while this IS in Washington State, it is on the "other side" from where I live.  I take no ownership of this mess, and do not claim these people as my own. 

Big thanks to Tam, as always, for venturing out into the valley of the shadow to read about these things and bring them back for those of us not brave enough to venture there to consume and...

...enjoy, I guess?  

On the Proper Way to Protest

It pisses me right off that these things always devolve into looting and vandalism.

If you're pissed at the government, take it out on the government, not the local pizzeria.

Go throw rocks at the cops, with my blessing*.  But you start burning down buildings, that's not "protest".  That's ARSON.

You start stealing TV sets from the electronics store, that's not "anger at the police having shot an unarmed man".  That's "rank opportunism".

If you want to be perceived as having morality and ethics, and to have people take you seriously, then act morally and ethically, and be serious about it.

Burning down your neighbor's store is not the way to show "the man" that you're angry.  It's just a damn good way to hurt your neighbor, and make sure he leaves and takes his store with him.

*On second thought, let me clarify.  Yeah, don't do that.  Don't throw rocks at the cops.  The point I MEANT to make was that if you're mad at the government, take it out on the government.  At least that makes sense.  The point could have been made without approving of doing bodily harm to someone's Dad.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bill Cosby

Doing a little looking into this thing today.  The upshot is that I'm convinced that Bill Cosby is a dirtbag rapist.  I don't really think, after doing the research that I did last night. that you can honestly conclude otherwise.

I think it's pretty clear that he got away with raping quite a few women in his time, and will continue to get away with it, legally.  But privately, and in the court of public opinion, he's ruined.

Fine.  It's probably just.

But that's the problem, then, isn't it?


That's a word that, when it comes to criminal justice, and the ruining of a man over his criminal activity, I really, really hate.  It doesn't feel right, piling on like this.  Without a trial.  Without a presentation of evidence and deliberation.

Everyone deserves that.  Even dirt-bag rapists.

So while this is meant primarily as a screed against Cosby, for his betrayal of all of our trust, I also want to make another point.

Feminists will tell you why none of these women are responsible for their having been sexually assaulted.  Why it isn't their fault.  Why to examine their actions in context, and to list the ways that they acted stupidly and participated in their own sexual assault is "perpetuating rape culture" and "blaming the victim."

Let's get this straight, okay?  A white guy in polished wingtips and a three piece suit, counting a huge fat stack of cash, visibly, as he walks un-escorted through the dark streets of Detroit DOES NOT DESERVE TO BE ROBBED.  Got it?

But he is sure as hel a dumb fucker for doing that, and I think it is a smart thing for all of us to examine this man, and see what he did wrong, so that we can avoid being robbed, ourselves.

Having this discussion in no way excuses the acts of his assailant.  He is a robber and a thief, and regardless of circumstances, he should be tried as such.

Fair enough?

Okay, so here goes.  I'm donning my flame suit for the inevitable accusations of "victim blaming".

But that's not my intent.  What I'm fixing to do here is make one point, to which you MUST agree if you are intellectually honest, and then create a quick list of things that these women did that I will advise my daughter to never, ever do.

Okay, first, my point.

I saw a news article today in the local paper, about students at Gonzaga who were protesting the GU policy on sex assault.  One young woman was picketing with a sign that said something along the lines of "Stop Teaching Young Women How Not To Be Raped, and Start Teaching Men Not to Rape".

Or something of the sort.

The entire concept behind this is horribly offensive to me, because it assumes that every man needs to be taught how not to take advantage of someone who is physically weaker than them, and how not to violently assault them.  It's fucking bullshit.  If there as a campaign going around about "teaching black men not to be thugs" it would be universally decried as the most racist, awful, offensive thing out there, and yet, a higher percentage of black men are thugs, than men are rapists.

I do not need to be educated on how not to harm other people.  I'm a human being, with empathy to other human beings, and it never even occurs to me that I could gain anything by hurting other people.

Which brings me to my point - rapists don't give a fuck about your education campaign.  You could educate them all you want, and you know what they are going to continue to do?


Is it really your theory that a man like Bill Cosby, who is by all metrics a very smart man, didn't know that he was doing wrong?  That when he (allegedly - trying not to get sued here) drugged and raped those women, that he did it because he had been denied the information at some point in his life that what he was doing was illegal, immoral, and wrong?  That if only he'd been "educated" on how not to rape women, he would never have done what he did?

Give me a break.  Seriously?

Rapists are going to rape.  Regardless of how many classes you force men into.  Rapists are going to keep raping.

Knowing this fact, (and I think you really have to admit that it's true, if you're being honest) isn't it a smart thing to do to instruct young women on the things that they should probably be guarded about when they interact with people?

Is it too much to ask?

From the stories I've read, every one of these women took pills that Cosby gave them, or accepted a drink from him that he made not in their presence, after they'd agreed to go to a private apartment/hotel room with him alone.  Every one of these women willfully went with him to the private apartment/hotel room alone.

The only one that was only assaulted, and not raped, refused to take any pills that he offered, and ran away once he started trying to force himself on her.  She also didn't go to a private room with him, alone.

So here's my take-away:

Women, if you don't want to get raped:

  1. Don't take drugs that strangers give you;
  2. Don't go into private rooms with a man, alone;
  3. Stay reasonably sober and capable of handling yourself in public (don't get black out drunk;
  4. Don't accept drinks that other people made you, especially if that drink was made by a man that went into a private room with alone;
And finally, my parting shot.  

These allegations have lit up a massive debate on the internet, about whether these women are telling the truth or not.  Whether they are really victims, or just fame whores, trying to get their 15 minutes in the spotlight.  This is fuel, added to the fire lit by false rape allegations, like the Duke Lacrosse case, and others.  

These allegations hurt other victims of rape.  They make it impossible for them to be taken seriously.  The public sees the damage done by false rape allegations, and the more false rape allegations that happen, the more they get jaded.  These allegations are not false, but they are also 100% un-provable.  The reason that they are 100% un-provable is because none of these women went to the police.  

So the lines are blurred.  It is up to the public to decide whether Cosby is guilty or not.  The public sees Cosby's career taking a hit, and they wonder if that's fair and just.  They wonder if he really deserves it.  They wonder if maybe, just maybe, an innocent man is getting railroaded by a bunch of opportunistic fame whores.      

Even if he isn't, the doubt is there.  Maybe these women are truly victims of a sociopathic rapist, but the concern that maybe they are not is right there.  The fear that maybe an injustice is being done sits in the minds of every decent citizen.  And that doubt will continue to erode away at their resolve when it comes to these "he said, she said" situations.  It will erode away at the credibility of every woman that comes forward and says "he raped me."  

So my final bit of advice to women - stop making excuses.  Stop letting fear rule you.  If you were raped, the only course of action is to go to the police, immediately.  If for no other reason than to stop your rapist from raping others, but also to lend credibility to other rape victims in the future.