“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Democrats and Fellow Travelers to Syria and Cuba

On Wednesday, Senator Bill Nelson, D-Fl flipped George Bush the bird and met with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Nelson said that it was just one stop in his middle east fact finding mission. Unfortunately, his "one stop" in Damascus has sent the signal to middle eastern despots that the Democrat cavalry is on the way.

Today we learn that Arizona Republican Rep. Jeff Flake has put together a little junket of his own and so far, six Democrats and four Republicans have signed up for a trip to Cuba courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer via the House Foreign Relations Committee. Other than the Flake, the names of his fellow travelers are not revealed.

After years of setbacks, embargo opponents see glimmer of hope
By Pablo Bachelet, McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - The Democrats' capture of Congress and Cuban leader Fidel Castro's illness have dramatically altered the battle lines over Cuba policy and given new hope to opponents of U.S. sanctions.

"There's a re-energizing of the base of people who want to work to change this policy," said Mavis Anderson of Butterfield, Minn., the head of the Cuba program for the Latin America Working Group, a left-leaning advocacy organization based in Washington. "Outside of Congress, certainly people are excited that there may be some new openings. Inside the Congress, I think that will come."

"If you're a hard-liner on policy toward Cuba, things are not looking very good for you," said Tomas Bilbao, the executive director of the Cuba Study Group, a centrist nonpartisan organization in Miami and Washington that promotes new ideas on Cuba policy.

Congressional interest in Cuba is growing as the island continues to chart its course in the post-Fidel Castro era.

Six Democrats and four Republicans have signed up for a trip to Havana organized by the House International Relations Committee. The visit, which begins Friday, is an initiative of Arizona Republican Rep. Jeff Flake, a vocal supporter of more U.S. engagement with Cuba.

"People are talking about Cuba again," said Sarah Stephens, the director of the Freedom to Travel Campaign, an organization that seeks to overturn the travel ban against U.S. citizens. She said the group had confirmed meetings with Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon and Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque, and that it might meet with Cuba's interim leader, Raul Castro.

Few observers expect Congress to end the trade embargo on Cuba anytime soon, a decision that ultimately belongs to the legislative branch after the 1996 Helms-Burton Act said Cuba must initiate a democratic path as a condition for lifting sanctions.

But opponents are expected to challenge key portions of the Cuba policy, including funding levels for the South Florida-based Radio and TV Marti and the travel ban for most U.S. citizens. Observers say the 2004 restrictions on travel by Cuban-American citizens to the island - who now can go only once every three years instead of annually - are especially vulnerable.

Several Democrats who are skeptical of Bush's Cuba policies will chair committees that will give them a platform on Cuba matters, including New York Rep. Charles Rangel on the Ways and Means Committee, Michigan Rep. John Conyers on the House Judiciary Committee and Wisconsin Rep. David Obey on the House Appropriations Committee.

In the Senate, Delaware Sen. Joseph Biden is expected to head the Foreign Relations Committee and Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, who once held up Treasury Department nominations to protest restrictions on U.S. trade with Cuba, probably will chair the Finance Committee.

Who are these sources cited in the article?

The Cuba Study Group is an anti-Castro group. Tomas Bilbao, Executive Director, formerly served as director of operations for Mel Florida Republican Mel Martinez’ successful senate campaign.

Sarah Stephens is the director of the Freedom to Travel Campaign which is a project of the leftwing Center for International Policy. CIP is a “progressive organization” which according to its website is “Promoting a foreign policy based on cooperation, demilitarization and respect for human rights.”

It’s interesting to note that under Ms. Stephens' bio, the campaign is also referred to as the “Freedom to Travel to Cuba Campaign.” The McClatchey article omitted that tid-bit.

The Center for International Policy's Cuba program is headed by Wayne Smith. During his twenty-five years with the State Department (1957-82), he served as executive secretary of President Kennedy's Latin American Task Force and chief of mission at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana.

The Latin American Working Group appear to be even more left wing than the "Cuba Travelers."

The Latin America Working Group is one of the nation's longest standing coalitions dedicated to foreign policy. The Latin America Working Group and its sister organization, the Latin America Working Group Education Fund, carry out the coalition's mission to encourage US policies towards Latin America that promote human rights, justice, peace and sustainable development. As a coalition, LAWG represents the interests of over 60 major religious, humanitarian, grassroots and policy organizations to decision makers in Washington. We are a trusted voice in Congress, and provide reliable guidance to policymakers who want their decisions to be grounded in human rights.

Here's a sample from their website:

The Congress caved in to President Bush’s unconscionable demand for the right to torture. The law on military commissions, passed at the end of September, allows the President to interpret Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention on the definition of torture and suspends the rights of non-U.S. citizens to habeas corpus – the right to challenge the legality of their detention. But we can’t accept this.


  1. Mr Flake comes from a northern AZ ranching family. The town of Snowflake was not named after percipitation, but the names of the founding families. Flakesnow does not roll off the tongue.

    Remeber Bob Barr, a GOP Congressman, back in the day?
    A former Georgia congressman who helped spark President Clinton's impeachment has quit the Republican Party to become a Libertarian, saying he is disillusioned with the GOP on issues such as spending and privacy.
    Bob Barr, who served eight years as a Republican congressman before losing his seat in 2002, announced Friday that he is now a "proud, card-carrying Libertarian." And he encouraged others to join him.

    "It's something that's been bothering me for quite some time, the direction in which the party has been going more and more toward big government and disregard toward privacy and civil liberties," said Barr, 58, a lawyer and consultant living in Atlanta. "In terms of where the country needs to be going to get back to our constitutional roots ... I've come to the conclusion that the only way to do that is to work with a party that practices what it preaches, and that is the Libertarian Party."

    Beeezarr behaviour.

  2. I'm not much of a joiner, doug.
    Just a voter

    Mr Negroponte, says that Mr Castro is not long for this world.
    Does he really get the big bucks for that kind of analysis? Then FOX treats it like some kind of a revelation. Just look at some of the latest "proof of life" photos.
    Old Fidel, deadman walkin'

  3. First Came the Fosberry Flop.
    Then the Photoshop Prop.

  4. Is there much of a market in train wreck tickets?

  5. It's Dumbo Mumbo Jumbo to me.

  6. Maybe Super Woman Catholic is on the Hood Saving the Fools From Paradise?

  7. enthymeme said,...

    Woman catholic why are you always the first bloody comment in every thread? Always ready with some platitude, inanity, or other.

    If it helps to curb your effervescence, I believe Wretchard is married.

    The Belmont Club is an excellent blog. Pity its commentariat is so dull.

    12/12/2006 06:58:54 PM

  8. Let's see if I can rouse Trish:
    (Ledeen's a sure fire way to get under her skin)

    Michael Ledeen, a confidant of Vice President Cheney, laments that the most powerful people in the White House are the women who are in love with George W. Bush—Condi, Karen, Harriet, and Laura. In the neocons’ heyday, he formulated what Jonah Goldberg admiringly called the “Ledeen Doctrine”:

    Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.
    Doug said...
    Trish, Why couldn't we have had limited bombing raids in Syria w/o provoking WWIII?

    Thu Dec 14, 04:47:43 PM EST
    I mean, if we can't threaten, and occasionally *actually* bomb Tin Horned Dictators of third rate powers, what's the point of having an Air Force?

  9. WC has gone Dark:
    Them Boys Chose Prime Time for their Performance:

    Million could spend days in dark after storms

    SEATTLE, Washington (AP) -- More than a million people still were without power Friday night after the worst windstorm in more than a decade tore through the Pacific Northwest on Thursday night.

    At least four people died as a result of the howling windstorms and heavy rains.

    Puget Sound Energy, Washington's largest private utility, had 700,000 customers without power on Friday. Some won't have their lights back on for days, spokesman Roger Thompson said.

    In Oregon, about 350,000 customers lost power, and repairs to restore all of them could stretch into next week, utility officials said.

    Winds gusted to a record 69 mph about 1 a.m. at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, breaking the old mark of 65 mph set in 1993. Winds were clocked at 90 mph near Westport on the coast.

    The Seattle Post-Intelligencer went unpublished for the first time since a 1936 labor strike, because electricity was knocked out to its printing presses, managing editor David McCumber said. The Seattle Times, which shares the presses, had only about 13,000 copies available Friday morning.

    It was the most intense storm to hit the region since the Inauguration Day storm of January 20, 1993, which killed five people and caused about $130 million in damage, said Clifford F. Mass, a University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor.

  10. Charles is the Mouse at Play while the Cat is away.
    More like Charles is on fire.
    Scrupulously avoided by Buddy Larsen.

  11. W:
    How may we oppose evil if we must commit it ourselves?

    EB Boys Choral/Coral:
    "Big Stick Wins"

  12. Dear Proprietors:
    I propose you construct a post on Charle's excellent pastes and links, then have a half price special night for those showing a concealed carry permit at the door.
    Free Drinks for the Women, of course.