Free Markets, Free People


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 30 Sep 16

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If this week’s podcast had a single thread running through all our topics…it would be interesting and listenable. But it doesn’t. So…Anyway, we talk about Donald Trump’s inability to forego responding to criticism. We know exactly what kind of horrific disaster a Hillary presidency will be, but we don’t know what kind of horrific calamity a Trump presidency would be, though we know it would be one. How can we protect Cuba’s unique culture of poverty and despair from being lost to tourism and money? Dale updates us on the status of his Volvo, and tells Michael what car to buy. We then just swap car stories for an hour. We finish up by discussing how women fail to understand that men live in a world where a smart mouth can get you punched.

This week’s podcast is up on the Podcast page.

Russia’s military not as bad as reported

Apparently not. Looking at the operations in Syria, the NYT says:

Taken together, the operations reflect what officials and analysts described as a little-noticed — and still incomplete — modernization that has been underway in Russia for several years, despite strains on the country’s budget. And that, as with Russia’s intervention in neighboring Ukraine, has raised alarms in the West.

In a report this month for the European Council on Foreign Relations, Gustav Gressel argued that Mr. Putin had overseen the most rapid transformation of the country’s armed forces since the 1930s. “Russia is now a military power that could overwhelm any of its neighbors, if they were isolated from Western support,” wrote Mr. Gressel, a former officer of the Austrian military.

Of course we’ve been advised, for years, that the Russian military was only a shadow of its former self under the USSR.  And while it certainly isn’t as potent as when Russia was the USSR, it is apparently vastly more potent than we’ve been led to believe.

Another factoid from the article:

Russia’s fighter jets are, for now at least, conducting nearly as many strikes in a typical day against rebel troops opposing the government of President Bashar al-Assad as the American-led coalition targeting the Islamic State has been carrying out each month this year.

The bottom line, of course, is we still have a much more powerful military – but we’re in the middle of cutting back on it both in manpower and spending.  And, of course, that sort of power is only important if your potential enemies know you’re willing to use it.  Russia is demonstrating that willingness.

Russia is also “field testing” its equipment and it is “blooding” its troops.

Not to mention rallying “allies” to the Russian cause.  China has sent forces to Syria.  And the latest?

On Wednesday, a U.S. official confirmed to Fox News that Cuban paramilitary and special forces units are on the ground in Syria, citing evidence from intelligence reports. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Cuban troops may have been training in Russia and may have arrived in Syria on Russian planes.

Isn’t normalization with Cuba wonderful? Isn’t that reset with Russia working out well?  It sure has been rewarding so far.


Hey Fidel, we don’t owe you a single centavo

Got to love how all this stuff blows up in Obama’s face.  Arrogance and naivety will do it every time.

Fidel Castro marked his 89th birthday Thursday by insisting the United States owes Cuba “many millions of dollars” because of the half-century-old American trade embargo.

Of course, given how poorly they negotiated the deal with Iran and understanding how willing they are to bow down to every enemy the nation has had, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that this is the reaction from a totalitarian – it’s your fault US that we’re an economic basket case and it is your duty to fix the problem.

And, my guess is he’ll find a sympathetic ear somewhere, even though the “embargo” was the loosest and most ineffective embargo in the history of embargoes. But in the era of blame shifting, what else would you expect from a failed dictator?

Castro wrote: “Cuba is owed compensation equivalent to damages, which total many millions of dollars, as our country has stated with irrefutable arguments and data in all of its speeches at the United Nations.”

Naturally no word on “compensation” for seized property when Castro took over Cuba.

As for timing – certainly it shows a lack of respect:

Castro spoke out in an essay published in local media a day before US Secretary of State John Kerry makes a historic visit to Cuba to reopen the US embassy as part of the countries’ restoration of diplomatic relations.

Not that this administration has done anything that has gained the respect of friend or foe alike.


Cuba allows people to exercise property rights again

You’re probably looking at the title and if you’re familiar with the story wondering why I announced it like that.

The story, if you’re not familiar with it, was reported today by AP in a story entitled “Cuba legalizes sale, purchase of private property”.

After the description of what Cuba will now allow, you run across this within the story:

"This is a very big step forward. With this action the state is granting property rights that didn’t exist before," said Philip J. Peters, a Cuba analyst at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Virginia.

Have you picked yourself up off the floor yet?   That’s the most ridiculous statement you’re likely to see in some time (which is a bit surprising coming from someone at the Lexington Institute).

Let’s make something perfectly clear – property rights existed prior to and during the communist regime’s takeover.  What the communists did was prevent the exercise of the right through the use of force.  That’s entirely different than what Peters contends.  In fact, the AP title comes closer to the truth than Peters.  The communist regime had simply made the exercise of the right “illegal” and had used force to prevent the people of Cuba from exercising that right.   The right didn’t go away, just the ability to exercise it.

Now, surprise surprise, the communist regime has all but admitted it was a foolish thing to do and has again made the right “legal”.  Or said another way, they will no longer use the force of the state to prevent people from exercising their inherent right to property.

Oh, and as a bonus for the income equality crowd?  If you want income equality, Cuba is your place.  Everyone makes about the same there.  Check it out.


Twitter: @McQandO

Hugo Chavez reportedly has cancer

Venezuelan socialist strong man Hugo Chavez is reported to have had cancer surgery in Cuba (how freakin’ bad is it when you have to go to Cuba for treatment).

The usually vivacious Chavez, 56, confirmed in a stern speech on Thursday he had surgery in Cuba to remove a cancerous tumor and was receiving more treatment. He said he needed time to recover before returning to Venezuela to run his self-styled revolution.

A fiery critic of the United States, Chavez will miss events marking Venezuela’s 200th anniversary of independence from Spain. He had to cancel a regional summit planned for the momentous July 5 date.

Markets have generally reacted positively to news of Chavez’s health problems, on the presumption they improve the chances of a more business-friendly government.

The last sentence says it all.   If ever there’s been a person to ruin the economic health of a country, it is Hugo Chavez.   He’s now vulnerable.  And as the article says, there’s a power vacuum forming and in most cases that’s not a good thing – in this case, it could be a good thing:

"Political vacuums are rarely to be encouraged, but this one could lead to a slowdown in public spending and could raise the likelihood of an opposition victory in the next elections, and thus a less confrontational governing style," said Richard Segal, an emerging markets analyst at Jefferies in London.

An interesting situation.  And the longer he remains in Cuba, the shakier his position in Venezuela becomes.  Nothing would do the world and Venezuela more good than to see another revolution which ousts him from power and returns the country to a real democracy and market based economy.


Twitter: @McQandO


Irony: Michael Moore’s "Sicko" was banned in Cuba

And why was the Oscar nominated 2007 “documentary” film banned?

Authorities feared footage of gleaming hospital in Michael Moore’s Oscar-nominated film would provoke a popular backlash.

Or said another way, it was propaganda that even those who were made to look good found so dishonest they refused to show it. A communist regime. One steeped in propaganda designed to make them look good.

Yup, Michael Moore’s work in a nutshell.

More irony?  This info was contained in a confidential cable released by Wikileaks and Moore just helped bail Wikileaks founder Julian Assange out of jail.



Observations: The QandO Podcast for 12 Sep 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Fidel Castro’s reported admission that Cuban economic system doesn’t work, and whether the upcoming election is a mandate for the Republicans, or something else entirely.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Fidel Castro – Socialism doesn’t work

We could have told him that 50 years ago:

Fidel Castro told a visiting American journalist that Cuba’s communist economic model doesn’t work, a rare comment on domestic affairs from a man who has conspicuously steered clear of local issues since stepping down four years ago.


Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for The Atlantic magazine, asked if Cuba’s economic system was still worth exporting to other countries, and Castro replied: "The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore" Goldberg wrote Wednesday in a post on his Atlantic blog.


The state controls well over 90 percent of the economy, paying workers salaries of about $20 a month in return for free health care and education, and nearly free transportation and housing. At least a portion of every citizen’s food needs are sold to them through ration books at heavily subsidized prices.

Of course the "Cuban model" only “worked” while the USSR existed. It was essentially based in heavy subsidies paid Cuba by the USSR for being its main proxy in the Americas. And the USSR’s woes most firmly underlined the problems with a centralized demand economy run by the state. Even so, Cuba continued on along that vein even after their greatest benefactor and financial supporter collapsed like a wet paper box. Now, finally, after pushing Cuba into poverty, Castro admits socialism is a bust.

China, while still totalitarian, recognized the economic problems soon enough to avert a similar disaster by loosening up economically. Cuba and North Korea, though, have continued to use the disastrous economic model and are basket cases (Cuba has instituted some modest economic changes, but not enough to break the dependency on the state the government of Cuba had ingrained on multiple generations of its population).

Of course Castro’s admission comes to late for the people of Venezuela who’ve been roped into a Cuba-style socialist government by strong man Hugo Chavez. Predictably, the Venezuelan economy is in shambles.

You have to wonder how many more ruined economies it will take before the socialists of the world (or wannabes) recognize that their brand of government and economics is a disaster and has probably ruined more lives than any other economic system in history.



Calling Michael “Sicko” Moore

I wonder if Michael Moore has seen this story about the Cuban health care system he so highly touted in his “documentary” about health care – “Sicko”?

Twenty-six patients at a mental hospital died during a cold snap this week, the government said Friday. A Health Ministry communiqué blamed “prolonged low temperatures that fell to 38 degrees,” but the ministry also said it was starting an investigation that could lead to criminal proceedings. The independent Cuban Commission on Human Rights said that at least 24 patients at the Psychiatric Hospital in Havana died of hypothermia, and that the hospital did not do enough to protect them because of problems like faulty windows.

Hypothermia? At 38 degrees? Look, it’s certainly possible as witnessed by these deaths, but hypothermia doesn’t happen at the snap of a finger at 38 degrees. It takes a while, and could most likely have been avoided by a little foresight, a blanket or two and some attention to the patients and their needs. Apparently that didn’t happen.  If 26 died, you have to wonder how many more came close.

Cuba claims the deaths were from natural causes, but CCHR disputes that:

Commission head Elizardo Sanchez said that so many patients dying of hypothermia was “absurd in a tropical country” and claimed the deaths could have been prevented if the government had granted long-standing requests from international aid groups to tour Cuba’s medical facilities, including the capital’s 2,500-bed mental hospital.

Yeah, not going to happen – only sickos like Moore get such tours. As usual, the Cuban government blames the problems on the “American embargo”, an embargo that has so many holes and is so laxly enforced that for anyone else in the world, it’s business as usual. Apparently Cuba would like you to believe it the the fault of the US that they didn’t have blankets or that they were unable to fix “faulty windows”.

Anyway, I’ll not hold my breath waiting for Moore to condemn the obvious negligence that was a major cause of these deaths. This is his preferred model when it comes to health care. I’m sure we won’t hear a peep from the man.


Cuba: “Vaccine? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Vaccine!”

Because Cuba has soldiers, a single-payer system and authoritarian rule.

Wasn’t this the health care system Michael Moore touted as so wonderful in “Sicko”?

Cuba is ready to use just about everything at its disposal, from its well-oiled civil defense system to the soldiers of a totalitarian government, to keep swine flu cases to a minimum.

Everything but a vaccine.

As the U.S. prepares an extensive health survey for side affects from its extensive inoculation plans, Cuba’s No. 2 health official says relying on a shot to contain a world pandemic is risky as best — and demoralizing at worst.

“Nobody knows if it would work,” said Dr. Luis Estruch. “How safe would it be?”

Yeah, how safe? Obviously if Cuba didn’t come up with it, well then it must be suspect. And beside they have a plan:

Swine flu plans for the new season involve all ministries, including the armed forces. If necessary, the government will isolate neighborhoods or entire villages, shut down highways and dispatch medical teams to communities affected by swine flu, Estruch said.

Soldiers can go door to door to enforce mandatory quarantines and evacuations — and authorities think nothing of severing areas from all contact with the outside world.

“In a matter of hours, we can determine what resources to send,” Estruch said. “We’ve thought it out.  . . .  We’ve considered what to do if we have to paralyze a town, if we have to stop public transit, if we have to close the schools.”

Hey, when you have an army, use it. Don’t let them sit around getting fat, dumb and lazy. Send them from door to door to become infected and spread the virus when the go back home or to the barracks to enforce quarantine and evacuations (to where, pray tell?).  Beats the heck out of spending money on vaccines doesn’t it?

Yup, when the government runs health care, you’re just covered up with options, aren’t you?