More Cuba

Really nice piece by Ben Bishin in the Monkey Cage about the changing politics of Cuba within the United States.  There’s a lot of really good stuff in there, but one thing that really stands out to me is this:

For decades following Castro’s ascent, a relatively small group of intense and powerful Cuban exiles effectively dictated U.S. policy toward Cuba. [emphasis mine] Facing little opposition, they leveraged their political and economic resources along with the geographic advantage of being located in a key swing state to demand compliance from politicians of both parties. Fromtraining private militias to invade Cuba, and attacking those who spoke publicly against them, to threatening members of Congress with primary challenges if they did not support their positions, their goal was to bring down the Castro government by any means necessary.

As I explain every time I teach Intro to American Government, an intense political minority beats an apathetic political majority pretty much every time.  And that is exactly what we have seen with Cuba.  But fortunately, this intense minority has been getting smaller and smaller and literally dying off whereas the majority is growing, and maybe even growing in intensity.

NPR had a nice recent piece on the changing public opinion:

Florida International University in Miami has been polling Cuban-Americans since 1991. Back then, 87 percent of Cuban-Americans supported the embargo, but after President Obama was elected in 2008, that shifted completely. For the first time in the poll’s history, most Cuban-Americans said they disapproved of the U.S. embargo.

By 2011, that Obama effect had disappeared, Professor Guillermo J. Grenier, a co-principal investigator of the FIU Cuba Poll, told us. But in the 2014 poll, conducted this summer, a majority once again favored lifting the embargo.

Here’s a few numbers from that poll:

— 68 percent of respondents favor restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba.

— Among younger respondents, 90 percent of respondents favor restoring diplomatic ties. [emphasis mine]

— When you include only registered voters, 51 percent of them support continuing the embargo.

Paul Gronke shared this NYT story on FB and had the very appropriate comment:

Dueling stories in the NY Times. In the first, every single quote is from someone 65 years or older or an elected official. The second features Cubans in their 40s and 50s who already travel regularly to the island. Which is the future?

As for the NYT story, I loved this bit of analysis from a PS Professor:

“Much of the opposition is a knee-jerk reaction to change that plays to their political constituencies in Florida, especially the older generation,” said Bruce M. Bagley, a professor at the University of Miami whose specialty is United States-Latin America relations and who has visited Cuba on nine occasions.

While many of the exiles have good cause to be deeply upset with the Castros, Professor Bagley said, their anger has produced nothing tangible to alter the situation in Cuba.

“It is a visceral hatred on their part,” he said. “They lost their country, their property, their family status. This is what has motivated them since 1959, and it drives them still. They are impermeable on this. They simply cannot be reasoned with. Fifty-four years of failure doesn’t faze them a bit — their hatred remains alive and burning.”

A great example of how irrational politics can be– in this case irrational hatred which trumps all reasonable analysis of policy alternatives.

Getting back to Bishin, he also nicely elucidates the very smart politics for Obama and the Democrats on the issue:

Importantly, today’s political cleavages also serve to free Obama’s hand on the issue. Nationally, Republicans have been divided on the issue, as Midwestern agricultural interests along with some business-oriented Republicans support relaxing restrictions in order to open Cuban markets to U.S. agricultural products. (While foodstuffs can already be sold to Cuba under humanitarian exemptions to the embargo, restrictions precluding the issuance of credit have limited these sales as Cuban cash is in short supply). The recent elections likely lowered these costs even further as the Democrats lost Rep. Joe Garcia’s seat — the one Democrat who might conceivably be punished for the policy change.  In essence, Obama enacted a policy supported by most Democrats that should facilitate these more recent immigrants embrace of the Democratic Party, while making salient an issue that divides Republicans. In this sense, like his bold announcement of support for gay marriage, Obama got in front of an issue on which opinion had already flipped.

In the end, this is just a really great example of how even as political opinion has gradually shifted to the sensible policy, an entrenched minority and the politicians who kowtow to them have remained way disproportionately influential.  I don’t think this issue is going to lose elections for Republicans, but at this point the knee-jerk embrace of the position of the ever-smaller group of exiles is not going to do them any favors.

Photo of the day

From part 2 of In Focus‘ year in photos:

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth looks at the Iron Throne as she meets members of the cast on the set of the television series “Game of Thrones” in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast, Northern Ireland, on June 24, 2014. (Reuters/Phil Noble)

Mega quick hits (part II)

1) The cluelessness of an NYPD police precinct tweeting out Jack Nicholson’s “you can’t handle the truth” speech is sadly telling about mindset of too many police.

2) Matt Yglesias wrote a nice piece about all that Obama has accomplished despite the fact that he is unpopular.  Seth Masket hypothesizes that Obama is unpopular because of all he has accomplished:

3a) So, this Bill Nye thing explaining evolution with emojis is mildly entertaining, but this headline claiming he “annihilates” creationists with the video is preposterous.  Ummm, no.  This didn’t even strike me as a particularly good summary of how evolution works.

3b) Speaking of evolution, Darwin was awesome, but his speculation on the mechanism was spectacularly wrong.

4) Love this collection of posters about the dangers of giving women the right to vote.

5) Apparently not knowing the difference between screening tests and diagnostic tests is leading some people to abort healthy fetuses.  Pretty disturbing.

6) My  first ever post from Modern Farmer!  Interesting story about the problem of invasive Asian Carp and the various efforts to try and address the problem.

7) PPP on football fandom in NC.  This result on college football particularly struck me– Duke is now more popular than NC State!  Wow, nothing like winning:

When it comes to college football loyalties in the state, little has changed from a year ago. 26% of North Carolinians say they’re UNC fans to 15% for Duke, 14% for NC State, 9% each for Appalachian State and East Carolina, and 4% f0r Wake Forest.

8) I had never thought about the issue of the lack of body hair on women in post-apocalyptic movies and TV, but it really does say something interesting about our society and gender.

9) I’m strongly considering switching over to T-Mobile at some point for my Iphone.  More than anything, I love how they are trying to disrupt the very consumer-unfriendly practices of the cell phone industry.  And so does David Pogue.

10) Really, really good piece by Tom Edsall on “welfare chauvinism.”  Like most all Edsall, long, but very educational:

The current failings of the American system are less the fault of politics per se than of the irreconcilability of the conflicts that politicians are forced to reckon with. Globalization and technological advance are driving punitive employment practices that no one has figured out how to address. Illegal immigration by men and women determined to raise their living standards is difficult if not impossible to restrain. Social-cultural issues like abortion and same-sex marriage involve competing moral absolutes that do not lend themselves to compromise. Perhaps even more significant, the causes of poverty and inequality remain bitterly disputed.

11) Looking back at former Colorado football coach Bill McCartney’s decision 20 years ago to leave coaching at the height of professional success to devote all his energy to Promisekeepers.

12) A nice piece on the Sony hack and why we should all be very afraid.  I also liked Chait’s take that defending American culture from North Korean attack is a job for the US Government– not a private corporation.

13) Took me a week to finally getting around to watching the brilliant Office: Middle Earth skit from SNL starring Martin Freeman.  As a fan of the British Office and an enjoyer (not really a fan) of Jackson’s Hobbit movies, this was oh, so good.

14) Speaking of which, really enjoyed this take– Peter Jackson must be stopped.  I’ll see the final Hobbit movie because I’ve seen the first two, but I’m not particularly looking forward to it.

15) No, you don’t really want to boost your immune system.

16) Watched Edge of Tomorrow yesterday.  Loved it.  Very much agree with these two reviews.  Also, David really loved it– I’ve got to watch Groundhog Day with him.

17) Jamelle Bouie on how America’s prison system makes it quite clear that, as a country, we are okay with torture.

18) Yet another fine NYT piece on the absolute insanity of medical prices (echocardiogram edition).

19) Wisconsin has put a pregnant woman in jail for using drugs before she knew she was pregnant.  Sometimes like is far too like The Handmaid’s Tale.

20) Really meant to give this it’s own post, but since it’s just sat there in an open tab for a month… Anyway, really nice article on the science of willpower and self control.


Democrats’ state-level problem

I was going to pull out a long quote from this excellent Jamelle Bouie piece for quick hits, but it’s just too long, so it gets it’s own post.  It’s an important problem:

With that said, there are more costs to Democratic weakness in the states than just House elections. States are where parties build talent and try new ideas. Here, the GOP is instructive. Its brightest stars are either governors (Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Chris Christie) or former state officeholders (Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Joni Ernst). And Republican-controlled statehouses have been incubators for conservative ideas, from experiments in tax cutting (Bobby Jindal’s Louisiana and Sam Brownback’s Kansas) to full-fledged assaults on public-sector unions (Walker’s Wisconsin and Christie’s New Jersey). In all likelihood, the next Republican president will either come from the states, or will borrow his approach from the present generation of GOP governors. Likewise, if Democrats win the White House for a third term, they’ll face opposition from Congress and empowered Republican majorities at the state level. Indeed, if not for statehouse Republicans, the Affordable Care Act would be a smoother project, with broader buy-in for exchanges and the Medicaid expansion.

Democrats might have strong national prospects in the form of Hillary Clinton, but they have little to look to in the states. Only a few places stand as incubators for progressive strategies and ideas, and nationwide, Democrats have close to nothing in the way of a bench for federal and statewide office. The liberal counterparts to Walker, Christie, Brownback, and Mike Pence—ideologically motivated governors with national profiles—don’t exist. And as a result, liberals can’t point to a forward-looking agenda that exists outside the bounds of the presidency.

Good and concerning points.  And there’s more in the whole thing.

Zinc, colds, and capitalism

So, several members of my family have had a really nasty cold this week (as in miss three days of HS or hardly get up off the couch sick).  So, I’ve been determined to avoid it and have been taking Zinc Gluconate lozenges prophylactically  So far, so good.  Though, it could just be a healthy immune system.

Back in the day, I used to use Zicam intranasal Zing gel.  It was amazing at reducing the severity of a cold.  Scientifically, it made sense– the rhinoviruses proliferate in the tip of your nose, so that’s where you squirt the gel.  Alas, a number of people could not follow instructions and snorted the gel.  Turns out that can destroy your sense of smell.  Sometimes permanently.  So, this awesomely effective product was pulled because people couldn’t follow directions.

Anyway, the evidence on Zinc lozenges appears to be somewhat mixed, but the NYT ran a story back in 2011 about a comprehensive review suggesting that particular forms of Zinc quite likely are effective in reducing cold symptoms.   Interestingly, the most effective Zinc is only available in Eby’s Cold Cure which is pricey and can only be purchased on-line.  You’d think that since this major endorsement in 2014, Eby’s or at least Zinc Acetetate (as opposed to Zinc Gluconate) would go widespread and be available in Walgreen’s, CVS, etc.  But no.  If you want the Zinc Acetate, Eby’s website is still your only source.  Capitalism has let me down!  A better mousetrap and it’s still a very limited product.  Interesting story in the Austin American-Statesman about Eby and how his great “invention” just won’t catch on.

And after writing all this, I decided to go ahead and order a bottle of Eby’s for next time.  I’ll report back to you next time I get a cold.

Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s animal photos of the week:

A fox goes about its business in Downing Street shortly before the Prime Minister leaves for the Houses of Parliament

A fox goes about its business in Downing Street shortly before the Prime Minister leaves for the Houses of ParliamentPicture: Rex

Mega quick hits (part I)

Surprisingly busy week this week (I worked hard on my syllabi for next semester and had grading to finish) means less blogging but more quick hits.  Here goes…

1) Chris Kromm (who should know) gives four reasons the Democrats should not forget about the South.

2) David Cole with a terrific piece on the torture nicely summed up in the headline, “If those techniques were approved, why did the CIA still lie about torture?”

3) Speaking off which, Jane Mayer on the unidentified CIA woman who may have done as much to harm America as any terrorist:

The NBC News investigative reporter Matthew Cole has pieced together aremarkable story revealing that a single senior officer, who is still in a position of high authority over counterterrorism at the C.I.A.—a woman who he does not name—appears to have been a source of years’ worth of terrible judgment, with tragic consequences for the United States. Her story runs through the entire report. She dropped the ball when the C.I.A. was given information that might very well have prevented the 9/11 attacks; she gleefully participated in torture sessions afterward; she misinterpreted intelligence in such a way that it sent the C.I.A. on an absurd chase for Al Qaeda sleeper cells in Montana. And then she falsely told congressional overseers that the torture worked.

Oh, and she keeps being promoted and she’s a general now.  Yeah, America.  If you have the time, read this one.

4) Now that the National Bank of Abu Dhabi has invested heavily in Real Madrid, they have removed the cross from the crown on their logo.  George Black uses this as a jumping off point for a nice piece on money and international soccer.

5) A visualization of wikipedia rabbit holes.  I have definitely spent far too much time in Wikipedia rabbit holes myself (one evening I learned all about every Boeing passenger jet ever).

6) What Slate learned in a year of attempting (and failing) to record every gun death in America.

7) The head of the correctional officers union at Rikers is super powerful and a huge impediment to meaningful reform.  He might as well be the prison abuser in chief.  Fortunately, the US Government is stepping up with a lawsuit– though it’s unfortunate it has to come to that.

8) It is one thing if Cheney wants to go Orwellian and call torture “EIT” but the newsmedia damn sure should not follow along (they’ve already done enough damage in pretending like torture is “enhanced interrogation”).  Great short piece on the matter from Yglesias.

9) What do Angelina Jolie and I have in common.  We both recently had chicken pox.  Fortunatetly for me, did not prevent me from attending the premier of a movie I was directing.

10) The NYT writers’ video appreciation of Colbert.  I’m going to have to watch that last episode on-line this weekend.  I did learn that he ended his last show with one of my very favorite songs ever.  I’ve always loved the lyrics of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Holland 1945” even though they lack the same personal resonance for me they have for Colbert.

11) I love that this Spanish language reporter left my joke in on this interview about 2016.  Does not really come across well with Google translate.

12) Perhaps George Washington would not have died when he did if “doctors” had not removed 40% of his blood volume in their attempts to cure him.  Really interesting piece on his final hours.

13) The continued use of polygraphs is just nuts.  There’s really almost no meaningful science behind them.  Vox is on the case:

Related is the belief that polygraphs might be useful as a deterrent: if a sex offender believes he or she is going to be regularly subjected to accurate lie detection tests, committing a crime suddenly looks like a guarantee of heading back to prison. For both of these uses, it doesn’t matter whether the test actually works or not, just that it’s perceived as effective.

But Saxe believes that, for some people, there may be a less cynical factor involved — something that more closely resembles myth or religion than science.

“People want to believe in a just world. And in a just world, people can’t get away with lying,” he says. “My impression from speaking with some polygraphers is that they believe what they’re doing is accurate. Some even say things like, ‘god gave us this tool to make a better world.'”

14) Ayn Rand reviews children’s movies.  This is brilliant.  Just read it.

15) Don’t know all that much about Andrew Luck or follow him closely, but I love how his genuine niceness totally messes with his opponents’ heads.

16) Very nice Monkey Cage post on the insidious effects of money on politics (it’s the lobbying):

This is why focusing on corporate campaign contributions misses the real story.  The bigger, and more important money, is in lobbying. Appelbaum and I actually agree on this point. By my calculations, the ratio of corporate lobbying spending to campaign spending is 13-to-1.

17) As if Stephen Pinker isn’t awesome enough, he even gives totally fun, creative tests to his undergrads that feature questions based on Calvin and Hobbes and Dilbert.  He makes me feel like a failure.  On the bright side, I did pretty good on the test– 9/10.

18) How Europe is learning to live with restored populations of large carnivores.

19) I had never read this price-of-oil based take on the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Interesting!

20) Wonkblog on why climate change is bringing more environmentalists to support nuclear power.  This one has been pretty obvious to me for years– glad more environmentalists are catching on.  Sure, there’s always risk, but newer designs have come a long way and we need to compare this risk to the costs of carbon-based energy.

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