News Releases

Is U.S. Policy the Ultimate Cause of Cuban Repression?

LOUIS PEREZ,  perez [at] ad.unc.edu
Professor of history at the University of North Carolina and editor of Cuban JournalPerez is author of several books including Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution.

He said today: “There’s tremendous ignorance about Cuba in the U.S. — and a real lack of self-reflection. People rightly talk about the deplorable state of the Cuban economy, without acknowledging the ways that decades-long punitive U.S. embargo contributed to the condition of the Cuban economy. The purpose of the embargo was in fact to induce hardship as a way to provoke the Cuban people to rise up and obtain the regime change desired in Washington.

“Most everyone is subscribing to the ‘great man thesis,’ which is fine up to a point. But Fidel Castro resonates because the Cuban revolution resonates, and the revolution resonates because millions of Cubans responded to a historical appeal of national sovereignty and self-determination.

“It has long been the policy of the U.S. to overthrow the Cuban government. President Obama pursues similar goals. He has just changed the means, not the ultimate objective. The U.S. demands open elections, democratic systems, freedom of the press — processes all very easy to subvert if the intention is regime change.

“The Cuban government has spawned a surveillance system, arrest and harassment on a national scale in the name of national security. Cuba offers a cautionary tale to those who would pursue policies of national security at the expense of civil liberties and due process.

“Cuba under Castro in 1959 inaugurated liberal reforms, like land reform — and there was immediate push-back by the U.S. government. It became apparent that the U.S. would not acquiesce to liberal reforms by the new government. By the autumn of 1959, when Che Guevara became minister of the economy, the Cuban government went forward with some of the most radical reforms in the history of Latin America.

“The Cubans had the whole history of Latin American to study, and the U.S. response to reforms. They were not going to go quietly into the night. It became apparent early that liberal reforms would not be workable in Cuba due to U.S. opposition. Reform governments — democratic governments, whether in Chile or Guyana, or Guatemala — are readily circumscribed in their freedom of actions. Cubans in 1959 did not need to have a prophetic gift to see that what was coming in the immediate future. They had a history.”

KEITH BOLENDER, bolodive [at] gmail.com
Bolender is author of Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba and Cuba Under Siege: American Policy, the Revolution and Its People. He is currently in Europe. He notes that while the U.S. government for years had Cuba on its “terrorism list,” that in fact, “the Cuban side has claimed more than 3,000 of its citizens have been victimized by acts of terrorism dating back to the 1960s, conducted in the majority by violent anti-revolutionary Cuban-American organizations based in Florida, often with the backing of the American government.

“Acts include the destruction of Cubana Airlines flight 455 in 1976, resulting in the deaths of all 72 on board, as well as the bombing campaign against Cuban tourist facilities in 1997. Cuban-American Luis Posada Carriles, the acknowledged mastermind of the Cubana Airlines and tourist bombings, continues to reside in Miami, despite requests for his extradition to Havana. Other acts of terrorism against Cuban civilian targets include the torture and killing of Cuban students for teaching adults to read and write during the Literacy Campaign in 1961; the introduction of biological germs such as Dengue 2 that resulted in the death of more than 100 children; attacks on small villages and the psychological terror program known as Operation Peter Pan that convinced thousands of Cuban parents to send their children out of country.”

An Education Secretary to Dismantle Public Education?

trump-a79b0-0354The Washington Post reports in “Trump picks billionaire Betsy DeVos, school voucher advocate, as education secretary” that “proponents of public schools immediately decried DeVos’s nomination as a catastrophic attack on public education. Some conservative groups are also likely to be unhappy; they have argued that choosing DeVos signals that Trump is wavering on his vehement opposition to the Common Core State Standards.”

KEVIN KUMASHIRO, kkumashiro[at]usfca.edu, 
@kevinkumashiro
Kumashiro is dean of the University of San Francisco School of Education and author of Bad Teacher! How Blaming Teachers Distorts the Bigger Picture. He said today: “DeVos has not taught or worked in public schools, or been a parent of public-school children, or earned experience or expertise as a leader, scholar, or teacher educator in public school districts. Nor was she a supporter of candidate Trump. But to advance Trump’s call to deregulate and privatize, she would be ideal.

“Through her family foundation (funded by the Amway fortune), and through her personal role on boards for such advocacy organizations as Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Excellence in Education, she has effectively leveraged her wealth to shape policy, including the expansion of school-choice and voucher programs, alongside the deregulation of charter schools, and even the expansion of the Common Core State Standards, which has been derided by Trump but which has figured centrally in the proliferation of high-stakes testing and privatization of testing. These so-called ‘reforms’ have been variously embraced and rejected by members of both major political parties, and yet, the research is clear: none of these ‘reforms’ will strengthen public education overall, and instead, have already proven to indirectly or even directly exacerbate inequities.

“Public education can and should be treated as a centerpiece for strengthening any democratic nation, and what the U.S. needs now is not the heralding of silver bullets but instead the investment in systemic reforms that draw on both a sound body of research and a compelling vision of the promises of public schools. The narrow and ill-informed vision and rhetoric put forth by Trump and DeVos take us in the wrong direction.”

“Exit Polls Sow Doubt About the Vote Count”

New York magazine reports: “Hillary Clinton’s campaign is being urged by a number of top computer scientists to call for a recount of vote totals in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to a source with knowledge of the request.

“The computer scientists believe they have found evidence that vote totals in the three states could have been manipulated or hacked and presented their findings to top Clinton aides on a call last Thursday.”

DAVID W. MOORE, dmoore62 [at] comcast.net
Moore is a senior fellow with the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire. He is a former vice president of the Gallup Organization and managing editor of the Gallup Poll, where he worked from 1993 until 2006. His books include The Opinion Makers: An Insider Exposes the Truth Behind the Polls.

Moore is now polling director at iMediaEthics, where he recently wrote the piece “Why the Exit Polls Sow Doubt About the Vote Count,” which states: “The sample sizes for the battleground states are all quite large, so the discrepancies (the ‘red shifts’) for North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin are all statistically significant….

“Had Clinton won the three states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, as the exit polls (and pre-election polls) suggested, she would have won with 277 electoral votes. And much of the outrage at the polling industry (as well as at Clinton and her campaign) would have been obviated. …

“So, what does it mean that the exit polls — like the pre-election polls — predicted a Clinton victory, while the vote count came to the opposite conclusion? One meaning seems obvious: We cannot be confident that the declared winner of the Electoral Vote is the real winner.”

STEVE ROSENFELD, steven [at] alternet.org
Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet. He is the author of Count My Vote: A Citizen’s Guide to Voting. He just wrote the piece “Pressure Builds for Presidential Recounts in a Key 2016 Swing State.”

He said today: “There’s already more than enough evidence out there raising serious questions about the vote counts in the states that delivered the presidency to Donald Trump. These include discrepancies between the media’s unadjusted exit polls and the later reported winners; the pattern of Trump winning by the largest margins in counties using paperless machines in Wisconsin; some of these same counties report turnout at 85 percent or more; screenshots of county vote totals show the total votes tallied as several thousand more than ballots cast.

“These example are concrete instances where satisfying explanations have yet to be given. There are theories everywhere about who voted, who didn’t and why, and swift denunciations by pollsters like Nate Silver when academics and others question the unofficial vote counts. That’s unfortunate. When the presidency is at stake, the public has a right to know and understand what happened. The vote count should be verified to convey public confidence.”

Confronting White Supremacists

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USA Today reports in “Video: White nationalists celebrate Trump’s victory at conference” that “Members of the D.C. Antifascist Coalition protested the conference and an anti-Semitic dinner hosted at Maggiano’s on Saturday.”

LACY MacAULEY,
lacymacauley[at]gmail.com, @lacymacauley
MacAuley is a Washington-D.C.-based media activist and a member of the D.C. Antifascist Coalition. She just wrote the piece “What Next? White Supremacists in Suits and Ties in Washington,” which states: “I was outside the building with a crowd of about 500 protesters. Our chants included, ‘Racists eating creme brûlée? You’re still the KKK.’ … It was a diverse group of people from many backgrounds, identities, and ideologies. We held a dance protest on the sidewalk outside the restaurant hosting their meet-and-greet on Friday, after about 30 people protested inside the restaurant. We also occupied the street in an energized, spontaneous march outside of their conference on Saturday. …

“I had started organizing the weekend’s protests months ago with a small group of committed antifascists. None of us thought then that we would be facing a Trump presidency. None of us thought then that a person who was so openly racist and sexist could be elected. None of us would have expected that Steve Bannon, who has said that his website Breitbart has been a platform for the Alt Right, could wind up a close advisor to president.”The conference was organized by the blandly-named ‘National Policy Institute,’ a white supremacist organization. …

“The philosophy that the National Policy Institute promotes sounds to me like the worldview of an antisocial, insecure hermit. Spencer, who coined the term Alt Right, promotes separating people based upon their identity, as if he were sorting laundry. The worldview he articulates is one of genetic determinism. It is a view that says that people who identify as white have genes that are somehow better than those of people of color. Using previously-debunked science on IQ test results and racial identity, books promoted on the institute’s site claim that white people are more intelligent than people of color. An article by Spencer on his own site depicts white culture as embattled, and says that ‘white culture’ should have ‘the right to maintain its traditions, culture, and heritage.’ And, in his own words, Spencer proposes doing all of this by force.”

Background: “Video: With Nazi Salutes, White Nationalists ‘Hail Trump’ at D.C. Conference.”

Republicans Targeting Medicare

NANCY ALTMAN, naltman [at] socialsecurityworks.org, via Linda Benesch, lbenesch [at] socialsecurityworks.org, @ssworks

Altman is co-director of Social Security Works. She just wrote the piece “Medicare Will Be Gone By Next Thanksgiving If Republicans Have Their Way.”

She writes: “Today’s Republicans are not just threatening to end Obamacare. Ironically, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is threatening to convert Medicare into Obamacare. He is plotting to end government-provided health insurance and force those with Medicare to buy insurance on the private market, with only subsidies to offset the cost of what the private sector wants to charge. If the Republicans succeed, I and my fellow Medicare policy holders will be on our own, forced to negotiate on our own with for-profit companies, rather than enjoy the protections of our government. Thanks, but no thanks.

“Ryan is using two lies to support his radical agenda. First, he claims that ‘because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke,’ when in fact Obamacare strengthened Medicare’s financing. Second, as he does with Social Security, Ryan claims his motive is to save, not destroy, Medicare.

“How ironic! After railing against Obamacare for years, Ryan and his fellow Republicans want to turn Medicare into Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act was better than nothing but far inferior to Medicare. Medicare-For-All is easy to explain, easy to understand, and far superior, in virtually every way, to Obamacare. Despite the fact that Medicare covers those with the greatest health needs — old people and people with disabilities — it has lower administrative costs, per capita, than private insurance. We could cover everyone and save money, as a society! …

“Donald Trump ran on a promise NOT to cut Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid. …

“Democrats should propose Medicare-For-All as a substitute for Republican plans to repeal Obamacare and destroy Medicare. And all of us should call our members daily to protest Ryan’s proposed gutting of our successful and popular Medicare. I urge everyone — Trump supporters, Clinton supporters, and everyone else — to join the fight. The message is simple: Keep your hands off our Medicare!”

Trump Advisor Who Played Key Role in Iraq Occupation

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TIM SHORROCK, timshorrock [at] gmail.com, @TimothyS
Shorrock is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist and the author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing.

He recently wrote the piece “One of Trump’s Top Military Advisers Played a Key Role in the Disastrous Iraq Occupation,” which states: “So far, little attention has been paid to a retired Army lieutenant general, Joseph ‘Keith’ Kellogg, one of Trump’s closest military and foreign-policy advisers. Kellogg is a former contracting executive who is considered a front-runner for a senior position at the Pentagon. He has been among the small group of advisers seen entering and leaving Trump Tower this week. …

“Kellogg played a critical role in the disastrous U.S. occupation of Iraq as the director of operations of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which ran the country after the 2003 invasion. Since leaving the military, he has been deeply involved in the high-tech, computer-driven style of warfare that has spawned the enormous business complex of contractors and suppliers that ring Washington, D.C, from the CIA to the National Security Agency. …

“Until recently, Kellogg worked as vice president of strategic initiatives for Cubic Corp., which provides ground combat training and other technical support to the Pentagon. Before that, Kellogg was the president of Abraxas, a highly secretive subsidiary of Cubic that was founded by retired CIA operatives. …

“From 2005 to 2009, Kellogg was a top executive with CACI International, one of the companies that supplied interrogators who abused and tortured Iraqi prisoners at the U.S. military prison at Abu Ghraib. …

“Last February, in a widely quoted interview on Fox, Trump called the U.S. invasion of Iraq “the worst decision ever made in the history of our country.” In the months that followed, he repeatedly blasted Clinton for supporting the invasion, which — as he rightly argued — planted the seeds for the rise of ISIS, the Islamist terrorist army that U.S., Iraqi, and Kurdish forces are now trying to dislodge from Iraq and Syria. …

“Yet, as a top CPA official, Kellogg played a critical role in the disastrous occupation that helped spawn the insurgent army that later morphed into ISIS. At the CPA, he was the chief operating officer for reconstruction for Paul Bremer, the associate of Henry Kissinger appointed by Bush and Rumsfeld to run the occupation. In that post, Kellogg hired dozens of contractors and staffers — many of them young right-wing ideologues from Washington — to award construction contracts.”

Trump’s Threat to Liberty, Enabled by Bush and Obama

EVAN GREER,  press [at] fightforthefuture.org, @evan_greer
Greer is campaign director for the digital rights group Fight for the Future and a transgender activist. TIME magazine recently published her piece “President Obama Should Shut Down the NSA’s Mass Spying Before It’s Too Late.” See also: UnPlugTheNSA.org.

PETER VAN BUREN, petermarkvanburen [at] yahoo.com, @WeMeantWell
Van Buren is a 24-year veteran of the State Department and author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People. He just wrote the piece “What Trump Could Do With Executive Power” for The American Conservative.

He writes: “The dangers many are now predicting under the Trump administration did not start on November 8. The near-unrestrained executive power claimed by the Obama administration, and issues left unresolved from the Bush administration, will be handed to the president-elect. Here’s what that means.

Torture: Obama did not prosecute or discipline anyone for torturing people on behalf of the people of the United States. He did not hold any truth commissions, and ensured almost all of the significant government documents on the torture program remain classified. He did not prosecute the Central Intelligence Agency official who willfully destroyed video tapes of the torture scenes. The president has not specifically outlawed secret prisons and renditions, just suspended their use. …

Assassinations: Obama legalized, formalized, and normalized drone assassinations on a global scale, including the killing of American citizens without due process in direct violation of the Fifth Amendment, on the president’s order alone. The only real restraint he imposed was self-restraint. But when you leave a door open, you never know who will walk in. …

Guantanamo: Obama never closed the extra-legal prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as he promised. He could have, simply by depopulating it regardless of what Congress might have said. …

Espionage Act: Obama prosecuted more federal whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all previous United States presidents combined. He sent to jail people who exposed torture and people who allegedly leaked information to journalists showing American complicity in dangerous acts abroad. He had Chelsea Manning prosecuted for exposing war crimes in Iraq. He used the Espionage Act to destroy the lives of others who under any definition except his own would be considered political heroes. …

Freedom of Information Act: The Obama administration set a record (77 percent) for redacting government files or denying access to them in fiscal year 2014 under the Freedom of Information Act. …

National Security Agency: Obama never realistically reigned in the National Security Agency after the Bush-era Patriot Act allowed them to turn surveillance tools on the homeland. The president, following his predecessor, kept this spying largely secret until whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed it.”

Pompeo at CIA: Iran Belligerence, Pro-Torture, Pro-Surveillance

congress-benghazi2-1Donald Trump’s reported nominee for CIA director, Rep. Mike Pompeo, tweeted on Thursday about Iran: “I look forward to rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”

McClatchy reports that “Rep. Mike Pompeo wants to revive mass surveillance program.” McClatchy also reports: “In a statement after the 2014 release of the Senate’s report on the CIA’s interrogation practices, Pompeo said they were lawful, and sharply criticized the report’s author, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, then chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. … Pompeo has also served on the special House committee that investigated the September 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. … Pompeo helped prepare Pence for the vice presidential debate with Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.” The Intercept reports: “Obama Refuses to Pardon Edward Snowden. Trump’s New CIA Pick Wants Him Dead” and “Donald Trump Hopes to Abolish Intelligence Chief Position, Reverse CIA Reforms.”

[Trump is also reportedly nominating Sen. Jeff Sessions for Attorney General. In “The Sessions Nomination and the ‘Emergency Exception,’” Marcy Wheeler notes that Sessions backed legislation that “would have created a black hole of surveillance, in which authorities could obtain content simply by declaring an emergency. … All Trump’s named nominees thus far save Reince Preibus couch their racism in terms of claims of ’emergency.’ Those claims, tied to Sessions’ views on legal process, would make for an unchecked executive.”]

MELVIN GOODMAN, goody789[at]verizon.net
Goodman is author of the forthcoming Whistleblower at the CIA. Goodman is director of the National Security Project at the Center for International Policy. He was an analyst at the CIA for 24 years, including as chief and senior analyst at the Office of Soviet Affairs for a decade. His books include Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. He has been featured on prior Institute for Public Accuracy news releases, including “Benghazi: Was the Consulate a CIA Front?

Climate Talks and Cities

DAPHNE WYSHAM, [in Marrakech], daphne.wysham [at] gmail.com, also via [in New York], Stephen Kent, skent [at] kentcom.com
Currently at the climate talks in Morocco at the COP22 (Conference of the Parties), Wysham is an Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow, and is the director of the Center for Sustainable Economy’s climate and energy program in Portland, Oregon.

She recently wrote the piece “In Bleak Times, This City Is an Example for the World,” which states: “With Donald Trump’s ascendancy, and his pledge to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the world is back to an uncertain climate future.

“While some mourn the possibility that the Paris Agreement will be undone, it’s important to remember that it was always aspirational.

“After all, the deal offers no timetable for ratcheting down consumption of fossil fuels, and no sanctions for countries that fail to meet targets. The deal promises a small amount of assistance to developing countries fighting climate change, but most of that is merely repackaged development aid.

“More frighteningly still, the world’s existing fossil fuel infrastructure and proven wells and mines will sail us right past the 2 degree upper limit if they’re all exploited.

“So what’s to be done?

“One path forward is emerging from the clear-eyed citizens of Portland, Oregon, who are pioneering a more proactive, locally-led path forward.

“A year ago, Portland’s city council unanimously voted to “actively oppose expansion of infrastructure whose primary purpose is transporting or storing fossil fuels in or through Portland or adjacent waterways.”

“Its city leaders took this step as much out of a desire to protect their own health and safety as out of a desire to act on climate change.

“Much of Portland’s fossil fuel infrastructure lies in an industrial zone that, should an earthquake come, would rapidly turn to Jell-O. And oil train derailments — like the one earlier this year in nearby Mosier, Oregon — can cause out-of-control blazes.

“Respect for indigenous communities is another factor. The Standing Rock Sioux’s protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline is a reminder that Native treaty rights are routinely flouted by the fossil fuel industry. It happens here in the Northwest, too.

“But climate science is the central piece. A recent study found that if we are to maintain a mere 66 percent chance to avoid passing that 2 degree limit, no more new major fossil fuel infrastructure can be built.”

Will Trump Keep Promise to Get Rid of “Common Core”?

DIANE RAVITCH, gardendr [at] gmail.com, @DianeRavitch
Ravitch is author of many books, including Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools and The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. She is a research professor of education at New York University and served as Assistant Secretary of Education and Counselor to the Secretary of Education from 1991-1993 under the George H. W. Bush administration. She now blogs at dianeravitch.net.

She just wrote the piece “Trump Education Policy,” which states: “Education was not a subject of great importance during the recent Presidential campaign. It did not come up during the debates and was not often mentioned during the general election. Hillary Clinton ran with the strong support of the two national teachers’ unions and promised to support schools and teachers. Donald Trump announced his education policy while visiting a for-profit charter school in Ohio. He pledged to divert $20 billion in federal funds for school choice, whether charters or vouchers for religious schools. He also promised on several occasions to ‘get rid of’ Common Core, the controversial standards that were widely adopted by the states during Obama’s second term.”There has been widespread speculation about who might be picked as Secretary of Education. And there has been widespread speculation about whether the Trump administration would either trim the Department of Education or eliminate it altogether.

“Some of the names that have been prominently mentioned are Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the public schools of the District of Columbia; Eva Moskowitz, chief executive officer of the Success Academy charter schools in New York City; and Williamson (Bill) Evers of the Hoover Institution. …

“The Common Core divides these three candidates. Rhee and Moskowitz are strong supporters of the Common Core, which they implemented in the schools they have commanded. Breitbart News has already reported that parents who supported Trump are worried that he might back down on his opposition to Common Core by appointing either of them.

“If President-elect Trump wants to take a swat at the teachers’ unions and supporters of public schools, he can’t go wrong with Rhee or Moskowitz. If he wants to show his determination to remove federal support for Common Core, Evers is a good bet. …

“Trump has declared his determination to privatize public schools, to the extent that federal funds can encourage that outcome. No high-performing nation in the world has privatized its public schools; all have strong and equitably resourced public schools, staffed by certified teachers, not well-meaning amateurs. The two nations that did buy into the free-market privatization ideology — Sweden and Chile — have regretted it. Instead of better education, they got greater segregation of students by race, income, religion, and social status.

“The threat to public schools is real under a Trump administration. In the recent election, voters in Massachusetts and Georgia overwhelmingly defeated ballot measures to increase the number of charter schools. Trump won Georgia, but the voters of Georgia turned down the same education proposal that Trump wants to fund.

“Under the terms of current law, states have the power to decide how to use federal funds that are not tied to a mandatory program. If Trump releases $20 billion to the states, it will be left to governors and legislatures to decide whether to protect their public schools. Some deeply conservative states might decide to side with privatization, but it is not at all clear that the parents and local school districts will go along, even in Republican-controlled states.” See Ravitch’s full piece at accuracy.org/blog.

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