July 23, 2015

Revolution turns full circle as Cuba's youth get ready to take on the world

Posted in Irish Independent · 69 comments ·
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Every night outside the hotel where I stayed in Havana, hundreds of local teenagers gathered, jostling to try to access the hotel’s wi-fi service. Local entrepreneurs have sold them an app, fashioned by local programmers, that sometimes outwits the hotel’s internet security settings.

 

This hotel, right in the centre of Havana, is one of the very few hotels with wi-fi access. It is an obvious target for the information-hungry youngsters desperate to get a glimpse of the outside world. Each night I watched them waiting patiently for the faintest signal bars on their phones. Their unbridled happiness when they successfully logged on was a joy to watch.

 

Once connected, they then do what teenagers all over the world do. They chat on Facebook to friends outside Cuba, whether in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic or the US. They download music and share sites with each other.

These young Cubans are dressed in the universal uniform of the teenager with their baseball caps, Nikes and various labelled bits of Americana. They are like kids anywhere with the same hopes and dreams, the same yearning to travel, see the world, and rebel against their parents and authority.

Curiosity is the most elemental human reaction, and these Cuban teenagers are the same as the legions of Irish kids at Longitude last weekend except for one thing – they have no money. But all that might be about to change.

Unlike their parents and grandparents, those kids I spoke to, while respecting Fidel, Che and the Revolution, realise there is a big world waiting for them outside the island, and they all told me that the minute they are allowed to travel, they’ll be off. That moment might be coming very soon.

On Monday, Cuba opened its embassy in Washington, and for the first time in 52 years the Cuban flag flew in the USA. This is the beginning of a huge change for Cuba and no one is quite sure what comes next.

I am just back from my third fascinating visit to Cuba. It is a wonderful, beguiling country. It is clichéd to say, but the people are the most beautiful, gentle and optimistic islanders I have ever encountered.

Twenty years ago, the first time I landed in Jose Marti airport, the country was hungry. It had run out of petrol. There were food shortages everywhere. The Soviet Union, which had supported Fidel for years, couldn’t keep Cuba’s lights on during the transitional chaos of the Yeltsin years. Without its Russian backer, Cuba looked doomed. Not only did harvests collapse due to lack of fuel, fertiliser and machinery, but when food did grow, the Cubans simply couldn’t transport it from the countryside to the city. There was no evidence of small business, the shops were totally empty, and the only thing that seemed to be working was the Cuban baseball league.

It seemed only a matter of time before the regime fell.

But it didn’t; it adapted – somewhat.

Today one of the fastest growing businesses in Cuba is Airbnb – Havana is full of small restaurants and bars and the vibrancy of small-scale capitalism is evident.

But the country is still extremely poor and Havana is dilapidated. Although hard figures are difficult to access, according to excellent studies done by the Royal Bank of Canada, the average monthly salary has grown by roughly 13pc from 2008 to 2013 to $19.63 (€17.97) a month. The highest wages are earned in the construction sector at $24.25 a month and the lowest in retail, hotels and restaurants at $16.29 a month.

Some argue that the small changes allowing Cubans to open micro businesses are the main reason Cuba didn’t implode. But this isn’t credible. Communist Cuba was saved not by the explosion of luxuriant mini-capitalism, but by old-fashioned Leftist support.

In 1999, Venezuela stepped in. Hugo Chavez saved Fidel Castro. Venezuela is now Cuba’s number one trade partner, the main source of financing for Cuba and one of the top destinations for Cuban medical services, with tens of thousands of doctors, nurses, dentists and optometrists.

The influence of Venezuela is ubiquitous – which is hardly surprising as Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world. It is therefore a very rich country. And this Venezuelan angle may be the reason for the America’s speed in opening up to Cuba, having less to do with political altruism from the Obama government and more to do with shifting geo-politics.

The US has spent years trying to undermine the Venezuelan regime. This may now be working. However, the US knows that Cuba will look elsewhere for support in the meantime. The two countries most likely to come in and support the Cubans are China and Russia – Cuba’s second and third largest trading partners. The last thing the Americans want is a Sino/Russian satellite 90 miles off the coast of Florida.

The Chinese are building lots of selective infrastructure in Cuba and – in a move which contrasts dramatically with Germany’s attitude towards Greece – the Russian parliament ratified a deal to write-off 90pc of the Cuban debt. After a two-decade negotiation, Moscow agreed on October 2013 to waive $31.7bn (€29.1bn) of Cuba’s debt to the former Soviet Union. The remaining $3.5bn will be paid over the next 10 years to Russia’s Vnesheconombank account in the National Bank of Cuba. Interestingly, and again with one eye on the Eurozone’s treatment of Greek debts, these Russian funds will be exclusively used to finance Russian investment on the island, thus keeping the money in Cuba.

The Cubans are now worried about a massive brain drain if travel restrictions are removed and I’d expect them to drag their heels a bit on this. But for how long can they stop the inevitable human urge to move?

As I look at these young Cubans on their phones, bought incidentally in Haiti, it seems to me that there is a generation struggle about to be launched in Cuba. The older generations want to preserve what the revolution has achieved – the certainty, and the health and education system. They saw what happened to the elderly in Russia and know their lives will be negatively impacted by social change. On the other hand, the young want to have what the rest of the world has, and the internet is showing them all these possibilities.

The future of Cuba may well be a battle for the heart and soul of Cuban youth. Between Karl Marx and Nicki Minaj. Who’s your money on?


    • McCawber

      Twenty years to write of Cuba’s debt.
      They didn’t exactly rush to do it and rightly so.
      Ditto for Greece – The Greeks have to justify why their debt should be written off, how much debt should be written off and what they’re prepared to do to avoid another debt write off.
      That’s a lot of work just as a paper excercise and I doubt very much that the Greeks have either the belly for the paper excercise or the practical implementation.

  1. McCawber

    Totally off thread but still current.
    It’s Enda’s turn today.
    A few questions and points that the government of the day should have been asked to address.

    1. What is the long term annual requirement for completed building units.
    Would 30,000 be a reasonable number including some allowance for catch up?
    2. What was the peak number of annual completions during the boom.
    About 90,000 say. That’s three times, three times the annual requirement.
    3. Were you aware that a number of years before the crash that some banks started asking for parents to guarantee their children’s mortgage repayments.
    Obviously the above questions would require some follow on Q and A.

    Second last Question
    This would be specific to one individual.
    Have you asked anybody to consider committing suicide recently?
    And if the answer is No then rhetorically – so you are now prepared to listen to those naysayers and doomsday merchants who were proven so right.
    Last Question.
    Did you happen to read the Popes Children by any chance.
    And again if the answer is No then “That’s a Pity”

    • DB4545

      McCawber

      Enda wasn’t exactly forthcoming when asked if he was transported around the Country in planes trains and automobiles by various vested interests. I couldn’t state with precision that he was lying but to quote Churchill I’ve rarely heard the opposite of the truth stated with such precision. Bert & Ernie are puppets. Bertie & Enda? Not so different.

      • McCawber

        Agree with you, but what that line of questioning had to do with the bank enquiry, I’ve no idea.
        It was total distraction.
        And BD4545 you fell for it.
        Which only goes to reinforce what I said early.
        The politicians are not interest on taking any blame for the collapse.

        • DB4545

          McCawber

          Of course it was a distraction.I didn’t watch it expecting to hear the truth from a politician. I expect my dog to tell me he can perform heart transplants before that’ll ever happen. When a politician is speaking he’s telling you what he wants you to hear not what you need to know. It’s pure PR.It’s just another circus and entertainment for the masses. The interesting part was the way in which FF set out their stall. FF baited Enda a little bit and bluntly implied that if Enda wanted to grandstand and throw dirt in public FF had plenty of dirt/information to throw back. Enda got the message and promptly backed off. They then both agreed to engage in a little bit of bitch slapping for public entertainment but nothing that will draw blood or involve airing dirty laundry in a public forum. Charlie pulled a similar stunt with Garret the good about 30 years ago. Politics and business as usual.

          DB

  2. Mike Lucey

    I know a few Cubans, nice people with a happy outlook also well educated. Other than great health care for all Cubans the high levels of education didn’t do as much as was expected, how could it in such a small ring fenced economy.

    This reservoir of well educated people will be the key to their success when they integrate with the World and start doing business with it.

    Rather than making it difficult for them to travel and work abroad the government should encourage it under a well thought out policy possibly subsidising them and at the same time keeping benevolent ‘ties’ in tact which should result in homeland patriotism when abroad.

    Most emigrants have no real initial desires to leave their homeland on a full-time basis if its a ‘happy’ place, which Cuba is overall. Look at the Irish that went to UK in the late 40s and 50s! Many came back to Ireland and never left again however their grand children are a different matter.

    Cubans will not be easily seduced by the ’1%’. They have always ploughed their own furrow since the revolution, most of the time under huge disadvantage and external pressures that would have crushed many other peoples but as David says, they adapted to whatever was thrown at them and made it work.

    It will be interesting to see how things pan out for them. Maybe we will see them developing a system that takes the best of socialism and capitalism that comes up with a mix that we could all learn from.

    I have no doubt that the ’1%’ will try their hardest to ‘control’ the economy and we now see the first moves happening but they may find it difficult, the old adage, “You can’t cheat an honest man”?, comes to mind. I hope Cubans remain honest to their beliefs.

  3. Writing off debt is a short term solution just to prolong the agony as the debts are reoccurring.

    Better to reform the money system so we do not have a debt based system which is the cause of all the problems in the first place.

    Interesting that there is a dead silence on that particular discussion.

    If Cuba is wise they will retain their own currency issued from Treasury and not adopt the function of a central bank.

    FAT CHANCE

    • One perspective

      http://www.fourwinds10.net/siterun_data/government/banking_and_taxation_irs_and_insurance/social_security/news.php?q=1320062234

      “”The only countries left in 2003 without a Central Bank owned by the Rothschild Family were:
      Sudan
      Libya
      Cuba
      North Korea
      Iran
      The Attacks of September 11th were an inside job to invade Afghanistan and Iraq to then establish a Central Bank in those countries.
      The only countries left in 2011 without a Central Bank owned by the Rothschild Family are:
      Cuba
      North Korea
      Iran
      After the instigated protests and riots in the Arab countries the Rothschild finally paved their way into establishing Central Banks, and getting rid of many leaders, which put them into more power.
      http://bigvalleydiscountstore.blogspot.com/2011/10/only-3-countries-left-wo-rothschild.html “”

      • It looks as if Cuba and Iran are being processed for central banking by other methods than direct invasion.

        Wonder how North Korea will be addressed.

          • Mike Lucey

            ‘News Beacon Ireland’
            http://news-beacon-ireland.info/?p=17990

            In a letter  published in the Irish Examiner on April 11 2014 Barry Fitzgerald wrote

            ‘On July 17, 1942, in Dáil Éireann with only five deputies in the chamber, the final of five debates on the introduction of the Central Bank played out. Seán T O’Kelly as Minister for Finance, who guided the motion through the chamber, revealed that the owner of the credit issued by the Central Bank of Ireland should be the private property of the joint stock banker and not the property of the people of Ireland.’

            I notice that these types of bills are always slipped through when the chamber is nearly empty. If I remember correctly, wasn’t this the case with the FED?

            It look the only TD in the Dail fighting against this Bill was a Mr (James?) Dillon.

            Mr. Dillon: I am out to prove now (1) that credit money exists; and (2) that that credit money belongs to us and not to the joint stock banks, and that we and not the board of directors of the joint stock banks should be the authority to determine what is to be done with that asset.

          • To Mike L

            Yes Mike. Indentured financial slavery snuck in to leech the people without their realization.

          • To Mike L

            Yes Mike. Indentured financial slavery snuck in to leech the people without their realization.

            Your link above should be read by all
            To repeat
            http://news-beacon-ireland.info/?p=17990

          • Mike Lucey

            Tony,

            I doubt very much that I would have been able to search and locate that article without the Internet.

            The Internet is the key to getting the ordinary man and woman up to speed on how the money system works.

            In my own case I was blissfully ignorant about its working up until 7 to 8 years ago.

            I find it amazing how clever and intelligent people that I interact with have no clue about fractional-reserve banking and when explained they think I am pulling their leg!

          • Mike

            I have the same reactions from the majority.
            i think the net is the salvation in the long run. You and I would not be talking without it.

            I spent 40 plus years wondering why I did not understand the financial pages. One day someone, noe a good friend, walked into my office at 10.30pm and started to talk. The light switched on.

            The is a comment I like used by Bill Murphy, Midas du Metropole, lemetropolecafe.com, who say Price action makes market commentary.
            In other words the financial page scribes and the financial consultants have to explain what just happened. Mostly they do not have a clue and just parrot Reuters etc also owned by Rothschilds.

            Keep plugging away, and illuminate one person at a time. Maybe we will even illuminate our gracious host. Take care.

  4. Meanwhile –Back at the ranch

    WORLDWIDE ECONOMIC COLLAPSE ACCELERATING – AT A FRIGHTENING PACE – See more at: http://thedailycoin.org/?p=37421#sthash.ovJUbSgB.dpuf

  5. I clicked the box to have comments emailed to me both on this article and the previous one as I submitted commentary. In neither case have I received any emails. Now that box is not available. Does anyone have any suggestions on how to activate that service.

  6. Deco

    Next step for Cuba, will be to get a corrupt business oligarch trying to shove his mobile phone empire onto their island.

    With the enthusiastic support of the Champagne Socialist party in Kildare Street.

    In fact Ireland’s Champagne Socialist party might even be able to give instructions to the regime in Havana on how to control the internet and make sure that nobody dares speak critically of the political class.

    Cuba is moving towards freedom. Ireland is moving towards political repression, and enabling political insiders to become even less unaccountable.

    • DB4545

      Deco
      How can you be so cynical about oligarchs? Can you give any clear examples where oligarchs collude with corrupt politicians and the Institutional State on sleepy little Islands with wild west style financial regulation? Surely that type of behaviour only happens in Latin America or the Caribbean? Not in well regulated Northern Europe?

    • coldblow

      I was trapped in a car journey yesterday with no escape from Radio 1. It’s hard to say what was the best bit, Ray Darcy and his guests or the weather forecast. In fact it was Joan Burton refusing to answer a straight question at the bank enquiry. Were Labours policies at the time pro-cyclical? Yes or no. Reply: waffle about taking advice from the Dept. of Finance and the ESRI. Even Drivetime were sick of her. At least Rabbitte admitted that he thought it would all last for ever (though I bet he regrets getting caught on the record saying it).

  7. Deco

    Wow. Even Cuba is better at getting debt write downs than the FF/FG/LP clowns.

    Of course, they are good at “giving” debt write downs to their backers.

    The story of Lorraine Higgins is inspirational. Never elected to anything. She even had a social media assault on Ming last year, calling him a turkey, and comparing him to a puppet. [ the irony of her being appointed to the Seanad, by Merkel's puppet, after failing to be elected despite the instructions of the LP leader is clearly lost on her].

    And now she is bringing in legislation to effectively shut people up.

    Even the party in Cuba has more respect for the common people than Ireland’s champagne socialist party.

    what next ? Well the Irish media will try again to get her elected. And if that fails she will be inline for a directorship like Cowen, or a column for rolling out clichés like Liz O’Donnell.

    Ireland – a country that is very forgiving, and that discriminates positively in favour of bland mediocrities that serve the wealthy and the well connected.

    • coldblow

      The last time I bought the Observer, two or years ago, there was quite a bit in it about on-line trolls who were harrying women because they were feminists and unafraid to stand up and tell the truth. I commented at the time that this was a crime in the making. I half expect a push at some stage to ban ‘pseudo-medicine’ and ‘pseudo-science’ in general. Stephen Fry is a good weather-vane:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6QrMj_LPbRs

  8. Deco

    Main headline this morning. Amazon is now worth more than Walmart.

    The Nasdaq is clearly losing the plot. Dot Com 2.0 all over again.

    Facebook, Twitter, etc, are all, also highly overvalued. Apple is faltering, and competitors are continually gaining market share. Smartphones will be commodity products in a few short years.

    Ready for the crash in social media stocks ?

    • Mike Lucey

      @Deco

      Yeah, it looks about due any day now. The spring is full compressed or extended depending on which way you look at things.

      I also see that gold is taking a hammering as expected with the strong dollar but it seems that 10% of global gold is being produced at a loss which probably means that a lot more mining companies are just barely ticking over.

      ‘About 10% of global gold output being produced at a loss’
      http://www.mining.com/about-10-percent-of-global-gold-output-being-produced-at-a-loss/

      Many mining companies are going bust and if this ‘link’ to the ‘dollar’ in not broken soon many more companies will go bust. Maybe this suits the 1% as the stock could be snapped up using the interest free money available to them.

      The Chinese certainly appear to be snapping mines up over the past few years and will probably get more active now once with loads of cheap mines coming on the market! They might also look on it as a great way of getting rid of all those $$$$ they have piled up!

      Is there a ‘reset’ linked to some form of gold standard around the corner? If the 1% have a good stake (read control) in physical gold It would not surprise me if there was!

      According to many sources, the next few months will tell a lot about what the future holds for the global economy.

    • Gives a perspective on the disaffection of youth with the expectations compared with the realities of life. Ditto for the under developed and developing world. Plus a lot more!!

      • McCawber

        Nail on head.
        The media and politicians put it out there that the world is everyone’s oyster.
        It may be if you are prepared to work hard, behave responsibly etc but both the politicians and media are very light on detail.
        The nanny state will/should provide all.
        And furthermore it will do it NOW.

        Lads YOU have to EARN it, try saying/printing that as well and for god sake STOP using that awful word ENTITLED.

    • coldblow

      I took up your challenge, Adam, but found it waffly and much too long. He has picked up a few ideas here and there it seems but shows little understanding of history and human nature. Still, this doesn’t stop him from dismissing the opinions of others. Top of the list for ISIS is surely Saudi money and Palestine, followed by destructive US and European policy in the Middle East. Has he even noticed that their policy in Syria has done an absurd U turn? Only last year Obama and Dave very nearly sent in the bombers against Assad and now they are set to set them upon their allies of last year.

      He then goes onto Dostoevsky and does a little bit of a literary tour. Nothing wrong with that, except he really doesn’t have any insight. There is plenty of material there in the History of the Novel but he walks straight past it!

      If he were posting on this blog he wouldn’t compete with most of the posters (well, with any of them probably) let alone David.

      • McCawber

        All true but better to admit a mistake and try to correct it than to keep digging.
        This is an issue dear to my heart.
        Politicians aren’t allowed make mistakes never mind admit to making a mistake.
        When they do everyone comes out of the woodwork and takes a potshot thereby reinforcing the unwillingness to admit said mistake.
        Not sticking up for politicians but like everyone else who isn’t a politician I Never Ever Ever make a mistake.

      • Cheers coldblow.

        What did you think of this effort from Paul Mason (also quite long)?:

        http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jul/17/postcapitalism-end-of-capitalism-begun

        • Hi Adam
          To berate capitalism and talk about post capitalism one must have a definition so we know what is being talked about.

          Capitalism is loosely defined and means different things to different people.

          “The word comes from “capital”, meaning something of value. This can be money (“financial capital”) or any other goods that can be traded. The word “capital” originally comes from the Latin word caput, meaning “head.” It was used to mean how many “head” of cattle a rich person owned, in days long ago when cattle were used as money. In fact, the words “capital” and “cattle” both come from caput.”
          https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capitalism

          Capitalism as defined has been with us for ever but as a word to describe an economy is a recent usage of less than 200 years. Regardless of the ruminations of many it is likely to be with us for ever more.

          Ancient Egyptians grew rich after acquiring capital. It was called grain and in a famine became so valuable that it enslaved millions who had none.

          What needs to be discussed is how to remove the corruption that allows capital to be accrued by the few at the expense of many.

          Mason says that in previous times usury and credit was despised but now is used. Perhaps that is something to examine. It seems to me that the major problem of today is the use of credit to excess.

          The compound interest and debt accumulated is killing society. The result of a cartel controlling the same. Like the Egyptians they will enslave those who are indebted.

          Few yet including Mason have put their finger on this little hot spot. This is what has to be addressed before all other problems can be considered.

          • Grzegorz Kolodziej

            “To berate capitalism and talk about post capitalism one must have a definition so we know what is being talked about.”

            You nailed it Tony. People who talk about wild capitalism without properly defining it and talk about its regulation without asking themselves who is going to regulate the regulators are like someone who would brabble about unregulated sex without ever having sex.

        • DB4545

          Adam Byrne

          They’re both deep and long articles Adam. Sometimes you just can’t reduce or over simplify to give a meaningful or thoughtful explanation. Great if you have the time at college and you’re going through the intellectual phase of studenthood in between drinking and trying to get laid. In the real world I like people to get to the f**king point and fast. Newton made the point well. Apples fall to the ground. Gravity is the explanation for now. If you want to know more study physics. Can I eat, drink, f**k it or read it and make a profit from it and pay my bills. There’s a great little book called “How to get your point across in 30 seconds or less” by Milo O. Frank. It should be required reading for Guardian writers and definitely should be on the Polish curriculum.

          DB

          • Well, I work at home, for myself. I work from 10am to midnight usually. 14 hours. Still working now, just about to knock off. So this is the kind of shit I read when I need a break. No need to rush it. I am my own master. Leading myself as you might say DB. I’m only half a man if I have to work for some other asshole making him rich – never! I thought Mason’s article was great and looking forward to his book. The other article was so so but as I said ‘worth a read’. How would you know if you didn’t try?

          • Grzegorz Kolodziej

            :-) :-) lol

            On the other hand the best speaker in the European Parliament thinks that the British elite would have been better of studying economics in Poland and learning from top Polish students how to articulate their thoughts properly:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZ9DY_btNsU

          • Grzegorz Kolodziej

            This was regarding DB4545′s comment (“and definitely should be on the Polish curriculum”), which I partly agree with, hence my smileys:

            I do agree though with your opinion on the article in the Guardian. The Guardian’s history by the way (i.e. their censorship on the great famine on the Ukraine – they sacked a journalist who wrote about it) makes this newspaper as credible for me as the Voelkischer Beobachter on the whole, although I read it from time to time and they have good investigating team. This is what the Soviet defector Oleg Gordievsky said on the Soviet Union recruiting agents at The Guardian during the Cold War.. “The KGB loved the Guardian. It was deemed highly susceptible to penetration.”
            Bear in mind that Guardian’s literary editor Richard Gott was a KGB agent.
            I guess this is still way better than French papers in the 1940s where according to Soviet sources around 50pc of their journalists were on KGB payroll (was the rest in Grand Orient ;-)?)

            There are bits in Mason’s article that are worth digesting but in general he comes across as someone who lacks proper economic education. “Late capitalism” is a concept which is as scientifically backward (and I am not claiming that economy is a proper science, but then again neither is the string theory) as “the Aryan race”

          • DB4545

            Grzegorz

            That’s fair comment Grzegorz. We may have a few polyglots on the Island but sadly I’m not one of them and it’s my loss. It would be nice to have that level of cultural depth and range because it seems to me to produce people like yourself who have a unique cross cultural perspective and something original or novel to say.

            But you have to quickly grab and then hold someone’s attention to communicate your message or all your hard work is lost. I think Americans are really good at communication.It may be the product of the melting pot society where for many English was not the mother tongue and they’ve found a way to cut through the noise to communicate effectively.

            Pull the pin, drop the hand grenade in their lap and suddenly you have their undivided attention.Get your message across quickly and then get the f**k out of there. As Milo O. Frank said the average human attention span is 30 seconds, don’t waste it.

            DB

          • Grzegorz Kolodziej

            DB4545,

            I fully agree with your comment on the Americans being very good at communication and them finding “a way to cut through the noise to communicate effectively”. Perhaps, as you point out, it was the result of their society being a melting pot. I think that this is not a coincidence that in philosophy most of the analytical philosophy moved to the US after WWII while most of continental Europe descended into Derrida-style brabbling; now they are slowly catching up the with what happened in philosophy of science, language, mind and logic in the last century (with notable exceptions of England, Poland, Austria and partly Scandinavia; obviously I am talking about past century, not the current neo-barbarism, particularly with Sweden’s uncontrolled immigration from Africa, supported by Israeli organizations such as Paideia, which resulted in their clean country climbing up to first place in the world when it comes to rapes per capita, over twice as much as in the second country on the list!).

            I remember watching a BBC documentary on the history of English which propounded the view that 18th century Americans were better communicators and spoke better English than people in England; the evidence corroborating that notion was sending some young aristocrats to schools in America (was it because they talk a little bit more slowly? – they certainly spoke differently than filmmakers think they did: here is the voice of a guy born in America who would have been young during the Great Famine:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yBX2L_Re5Cc).

            In my contacts with the Americans I have noticed that the gap between those who went to good and bad schools is probably larger than anywhere else – the top students of the Ivory League combine the continental erudition with the American ability to compress their arguments to 1 minute while smiling at you while the inability to think independently of the rest sometimes beggars belief, which was actually predicted by Tocqueville almost two centuries ago (it’s important to bear in mind that although he wrote about America, today it describes the democratic state of mind in any European country, including Poland; I am curious how you would rate Tocqueville as communicator):

            “The authority of a king is physical and controls the actions of men without subduing their will. But the majority possesses a power that is physical and moral at the same time, which acts upon the will as much as upon the actions and represses not only all contest, but all controversy. [...] In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them. Not that he is in danger of an auto-da-f‚, but he is exposed to continued obloquy and persecution. His political career is closed forever, since he has offended the only authority that is able to open it. Every sort of compensation, even that of celebrity, is refused to him. Before making public his opinions he thought he had sympathizers; now it seems to him that he has none any more since he has revealed himself to everyone; then those who blame him criticize loudly and those who think as he does keep quiet and move away without courage. He yields at length, overcome by the daily effort which he has to make, and subsides into silence, as if he felt remorse for having spoken the truth.

            I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.”

            By the way, one of my former lecturers, Prof. Legutko (he speaks Latin, French, Italian and German and reads ancient Greek, apart from speaking English! – he translated Plato’s dialogue from Greek into Polish) wrote a column in the 1990′s where he basically provided ample support for some valid points you have made (he specifically referred to media and some academia in Poland).

            He is known for caustic speeches in the European Parliament in which he mocks EU officials for their inability to articulate their thoughts, but also for their buffoonery and hectoring tone (privately he is a rather warm person with a great sense of humour):

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJZZfyhRJxw

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jT7RRMUEySk

          • DB4545

            Grzegorz

            Like I said Grzegorz I can only defer to your wide spectrum of cultural reference. I’ll take it as given you can go from Alighieri to Zola and all points in between.But we’re moving off topic. To answer David’s question I’ve always preferred the wisdom of Groucho to Karl but I think Nicki Minaj will have the edge with Cuban youth.

            DB

          • Grzegorz Kolodziej

            We are, DB4545. But I simply do not have enough knowledge of Cuba or the Cuban system to answer David’s question. I only met one Cuban in my life (I have met a few Venezuelans though) and he was saying that state-of-art hospitals in Cuba are for show only to lull naive Westerners, that no normal Cuban would be ever allowed into them and that while food in Irish hospitals is very unhealthy and scarce, in Cuban hospital you would only eat what your relatives would bring you.
            But this was only one person and it is a democratic superstition that everyone has to have an opinion on everything, so I do not have any on Cuba; albeit what he said would be in keeping with what I know about hospitals beyond Iron Curtain (where some of them were also among the most advanced in the world, but you would need to give an equivalent of your 6-monthly salary to find yourself in them on time if you know what I mean).
            There are some people on this blog who are better suited to comment on Cuba than me; and I am not willing to base my view on just one person.

            I will however use this opportunity to mention that the Cuban Capablanca is my favourite chess world champion in terms of his style based on patient maneuvering and counter-attacking (in fact I translated some bits of his book into Polish) and speaking of Nicki Minaj, he once refuse to pose for a photo with a Hollywood star (I think it was Greta Garbo, but I would need to check) saying “why should I give her publicity?”
            ;-).

            Will it be Miss Minaj or Karl Marx in Cuba?
            I think it depends who wins the election in the US, although frankly speaking I think the US is already to weak to stop the Chinese expansion and David was quick to notice that “The Chinese are building lots of selective infrastructure in Cuba and – in a move which contrasts dramatically with Germany’s attitude towards Greece” – and, I should add, the EU/US attitude in Africa: they fuck up the African agriculture with CAP giving them condensed milk and forcing democracy and tariffs instead (as if democracy was to drag them out of poverty, contrary to everything we know about the Asian tigers history of success; a propos democracy, I am still curious what you think of the quote from Tocqueville).

            It would be interesting for Cuba if the Cuban Marco Rubio won, but he won’t. It will be either the Skull&Bones Bush junior or the paradoxically most hawkish Hillary who unlike self-centered Bush seems to believe in all platitudes she says.

            In fact Nicki Minaj seems to sing about Hillary Clinton in her song “Feeling Myself”, where she sings and I quote:

            “Bitches ain’t got punchlines or flow
            I have both, and an empire, also”

            Yo.

          • coldblow

            Grzegorz

            ‘I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America.’

            As you say, De Toqueville could be referring to any liberal Western country of today, but ‘Ireland’ is what jumped to my mind on reading that.
            Fennell quotes De Toqueville at some length in his The Postwestern Condition. I like this bit:

            ‘…the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of societ with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd.’

            On American use of English, at a French class in Dublin years ago I provoked disbelief and laughter when I claimed that they speak far more clearly and correctly than people do here.

          • coldblow

            Desmond Fennell comments on de Toqueville: ‘It is fascinating to read those passages carefully, checking how much he got right, how much wrong… In his frustrated search for a different, less loaded word than ‘despotism’ or ‘tyranny’, he did not have have ‘superpower’ available. And he could not have known, though he would probably have guessed, that its dominion would be called ‘freedom’, ‘land of the free’, ‘free world’, and described as ‘liberal’. Unlike him, we are experiencing the phenomenon; we have the advantage of being able to observe how the thing actually operates.’

          • coldblow

            I should have finished Fennell’s quote, in the light of what I wrote earlier here about Paul Mason and Utopia:

            ‘The twentieth century has not been marked by a struggle between freedom and totalitarianism. Its central feature has been a competitive attempt to found, in the name of freedom, justice and the People, an all-pervasive Utopia – a totalitariain system – which, by fulfilling history, would end it.’

          • DB4545

            Grzegorz

            On de Tocqueville and the US that’s a hard one to call. I think a quote from Ho Chi Minh might be useful. He was asked what he thought about the French revolution. He replied “It’s too early to tell”.

            I lived in the US and you really can go from the 17th century (Amish) to the 21st century (Silicon Valley) and many points in between. The left right spectrum however is much narrower and individualism trumps collectivism in the US mindset. The best of America is truly brilliant and worst can be savagely shocking.

            The brilliance and the ability to leverage that via consumerism means that we’re communicating via ipads or laptops. Whatever its faults US culture is aspirational and I don’t see the West gravitating towards societal models offered by Africa, the Middle East,Asia or the Russian Federation. Many of the brands you’re wearing or a branded item within 12 feet of you originates from the US. It’s an experiment and it’s still ongoing.

            DB

          • Grzegorz Kolodziej

            “Whatever its faults US culture is aspirational and I don’t see the West gravitating towards societal models offered by Africa, the Middle East,Asia or the Russian Federation.”

            But what worries me is whether what was aspirational in US culture has any chance to survive or I should rather say, stage a comeback? Because from what I see is the gradual retreat from all those freedoms which made America great. I have some family in Chicago for example (which I do not know if you guys know but it is the second largest Polish city after Warsaw), who ended up there in Reagan’s times. They say that since Clinton, and certainly now, most of their neighbours could not have stayed and worked there (in an unlikely event they would not have been deported) because Reagan announced 3 tax amnesties which you can only dream of now. They themselves were lucky to win the greencard, but many of their friends stayed there illegally and in the 80s there were even banks that would lent you money based on your (illegal) work (how funny is that – banks would not give you a loan now if you are illegal working two jobs, but they would have in 2006 if you are NINJA with US passport).

            They also say that the inflation statistics are totally bogus, that clothing and toys got cheaper but not services (so what will happen if America is unable to export their inflation? – they estimate the real inflation is 7-8pc and that’s without the stock bubble). You probably know that Obama’s unemployment success was mainly based on changing the definition of unemployment. Even in recession-stricken Ireland they have noticed that people here drive 3-5 year old cars whereas in Chicago suburbs 10 year old would be more normal, so they say (I know this is not shown on movies).

            I won’t even mention the limitations on personal freedom since G.W.Bush and Obama (Obama is worse than Bush in that respect; I am tempted to say in every respect but that would suggest I would vote Bush whereas I’d rather toss a coin).

            “Many of the brands you’re wearing or a branded item within 12 feet of you originates from the US”

            The problem is that 100 years ago the most talented Americans tend to gravitate towards engineering but now they are soaked by pettyfogging law companies and hedgefunds. I remember reading that in the 80s Tokyo had something like 1400 lawyers and Chicago had 70,000.
            All of it just makes everything more expensive and inflexible (and as Ludwig von Mises said,

            “The so-called liberals of today have the very popular idea that freedom of speech, of thought of the press, freedom of religion, freedom from imprisonment without trial — that all these freedoms can be preserved in the absence of what is called economic freedom. They do not realize that, in a system where there is no market, where the government directs everything, all those other freedoms are illusory, even if they are made into laws and written up in constitutions.”).

            I personally would have much preferred Ireland hooked up with pre-1913 America than with China, but they way America is now, I do not know. David is totally right when he rights about Ireland’s recovery being driven by the anglo-saxon world and Ireland being part of that world rather than the continent, but he inexplicable does not seem to notice that the Anglo-Saxon world is driven by China propping up the US stock bubble and Australias mining industry. As to the Brits, they are keeping their options open and I would not bet on them being forever allied with the US (so what you are allowed to have nukes if you have to ask the Big Brother to use them?; why do you think German has been wasting money on French farmers? – what does France have that no other European country has and what Germans would love to get their fingers on?).

            Chinese multi-billion nuclear investment in the UK I wrote about so many times is a serious thing; yet absent in David’s latest article (I agree with the rest). If you fork off 50bn on nuclear power plants in a country it means you are probably ready to use weapons to defend that investment and I am surprised that element is missing in David’s thinking about Ireland-UK relations (and what if there was a choice Ireland-US or Ireland-UK-China?).

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUPpQz7pDbc

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qyCMjo80qlg

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cLFwR-S3Ve0

          • Grzegorz Kolodziej

            The tax amnesties, I should have been more precise, were not tax amnesties per se, but rather one off bills that you could legalize your status in Reagan’s America if you paid all the taxes since you worked illegally. Some of their friends availed of that. I suppose with Irish citizens it was much easier because they had the avenue of, I cannot remember now, Morrison visas or how they called them?

            When they built the Empire State Building, it took them less than a year and half, from excavation to cutting the ribbon and the TRAFFIC WAS NOT STOPPED on that street.

            The Chinese built an entire underground system for a city larger than Dublin in two years.

            Could China be the new America (all things considering – of course I prefer New Orleans to Chinese pop?). My friend thinks so and he made sure his daughter would speak fluent Chinese (apart from English, Irish and Polish)…

          • Grzegorz Kolodziej

            Coldblow,

            “I provoked disbelief and laughter when I claimed that they speak far more clearly and correctly than people do here.”

            Tell them to watch this documentary from 17:30 and it will wipe the smiles of their faces:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkBjuzNzJr8&list=PL0679IGx8w0jYPMuWGwwo3ysEZQbD6zo-&index=2

            Many a tear has been shed by graduates of English courses in Poland who were taught RP, burnt the midnight oil learning words such as “preponderance”, went to Britain and discovered that only 3pc of British population speak RP and they cannot understand the remaining 97pc (I have to admit that when I first came to Ireland, and this was having lived in Britain prior to my arrival so I thought I was good at picking up accents – the hubris of the youth; I was on 45a going through Donnybrook and I was wondering why all young people on that bus are American lol)!

            A propos correctness, thou shall hearken unto those extracts which show that according to latest research, Shakespire sounded like an Irish immigrant to West Country in Britain working as a subbie in Yorkshire ;-)

            http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/9143302/How-should-Shakespeare-really-sound.html

        • coldblow

          This is better but again not really worth the long read. I suppose the Guardian are responsible for that. I learnt a few things and got further confirmation for my Grand Theory of Psychology (work in progress).

          His obsession with IT is right up David’s street.

          Looking at his early three points involving how IT has ‘revolutionized’ the world the following struck me.

          1 Automation means we get to work less (and most of us to eat less) – didn’t Keyne’s say that the big problem now is how to manage all our free time? Whatever.

          2 I thought the failure of price discovery was nothing to do with an information surplus but with old-fashioned political manipulation.

          3 New spontaneous grass-roots co-operatative ‘initiatives’, for example in Greece. Among his list he includes ‘squats’. Just like the Young Ones?

          He discusses possible attempts by govts to control the social media. He doesn’t seem to grasp that the social media are a big part of the problem in that there is little more irrational than an on-line mob. I have mentioned that here once or twice (and I added a comment last night to the YouTube full version of Fairytale of Katmandu, another of those defining coming-of-age moments for Modern Ireland).

          I am not the only one who suspects that (perhaps because of, perhaps in spite of, all this ‘information’ sloshing around) people are less informed than before. I have made only a couple of positive suggestions here over the years. One of them (taken up by DB) was to have full disclosure of all income, expenditure and assets for everyone in Ireland. (I am not really serious because I don’t think it is the business of the state, but it would be interesting even so.) The other was to have on the spot ‘informational assessments’ (aka general knowledge tests) – ‘Just a few quick questions, sir’. As Kevin Keegan once said, I’d just love it.

          Mason talks a bit about feudalism. Crotty’s analysis is much better.

          ‘breaking down 20th century barriers around sexuality, work, creativity and the self’ Ha ha! I can imagine Kunstler handling that one (and what would he make of the Late Late Show’s continuing obsession with tattoos?). I hear that Facebook recognizes 50-odd sexual orientations (so far discovered), yet my GPT (work in progress) insists that there are only two significant dimensions for humanoids, and these have nothing at all to do with gender.

          He makes an interesting point about Shakespeare and Dickens. Speaking for myself, I don’t like the idea of the the market and the economic system dictating morality, but if you are not a conservative then who better (or who else) to do it?

          At the end Mason makes his expected utopian recommendations. This reminds me of a scene in Desmond Fennell’s The Turning Point: My Sweden Year where some time in the early 60s earnest young Swedes were drawing up the blueprint for a brave new world (that would be a good phrase for the title of a novel). I think he uses the word ‘rational’ or ‘rationality’. From what we have seen so far, where does he expect this to suddently pop out from?

        • StephenKenny

          Given it’s paucity of content (machines will do all the work, and we’ll all sit around being happy) it really is rather absurdly long.

          As well as that, it’s an argument that’s no more convincing than the old socialist arguments – in fact, in many ways, they are the old socialist arguments.

          All you’ve ever had to do is to consider even the most basic administrative processes required in running any society. Remove the alignment of people from the core elements of the success of a society (products and services) and all you’re left with is a political & administrative hierarchy.

          On top of that, the mere idea of ‘plenty’ is equally absurd. It doesn’t matter what the machines do, people will always want what is scarce. Just as there is a new fashion in hand made, artisan, apricot and mango, truffles, there will be an explosion in equally absurd and nonsensical ‘products’ that are attractive simply because they claim not to be made by machines. Artificial scarcity will be in demand.

          As pretty much every sci-fi writer for a 100 years as warned, as the alignment & engagement of the people with the fabric of society/economy disappears, the decision making criteria of the political administration becomes increasingly arbitrary and ludicrous, and eventually, the whole mess runs off a cliff.

      • Grzegorz Kolodziej

        Coldblow,
        Did you ever hear of the Tangier VA and Outer Banks accents?
        These are extremely rare American accents spoken by only few hundred people in the world and are basically frozen accents of first settlers in the US:

        Tangier VA:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AIZgw09CG9E

        Outer Banks:

        https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Outer+Banks+English

        • DB4545

          Grzegorz

          If language/accents is an interest check out the “Newfie” accent from Newfoundland on youtube ” A Newfoundland language lesson Mark Critch”. It has examples of West Waterford,Offaly,Cork and English West Country accents perfectly preserved and still spoken in that region today. The guy does a perfect Brian Cowen accent and probably has never left Canada.If only the real one had f**ked off over there and left us in peace.

          With reference to the US I’ve never understood how a Country that was built on tooth and claw competition and so much choice for consumer goods ended up with just two political parties. Bizarre.

          DB

          • Grzegorz Kolodziej

            I have heard of the Newfoundland accent (I even watched a documentary), but I did not know there are is a video with lessons. I’ll definitely watch it in my spare time. Accents and their origins fascinate me.
            P.S. Pennsylvania was very close to have German as their official language in 18th century. I have met a fellow from Pennsylvania here in Ireland and he said they use a Polish word kielbasa and have their own word for a doughnut…

  9. “Once again tonight this documentation will be sent to many major financial news organizations around the world. Of course it has been sent to them many times already and they have ignored it studiously. But if you are not yet completely demoralized about living on a planet that is quickly succumbing to totalitarianism, send this dispatch to some of them yourself and ask cordially why the documentation cited is not worthy of their inquiry. You just might shame somebody for the aspirations he had when he got into journalism. If you receive a response from anyone, please forward it to me. Maybe we can shame him some more.”

    http://www.gata.org/node/15586

  10. http://news.goldseek.com/GoldSeek/1437757954.php

    “We are already in WW III. It is because of and being waged in financial assets. It is clear to me the U.S. is in panic mode and trying to break the long term bull trend in gold. If the trend cannot be broken, the dollar will be zeroed out. Unfortunately, both sides know this full well. The military warnings of late from both Russia and China have become much louder and the actions and movements by the U.S. (staging in Turkey for Syrian raids for example) much more dangerous. As I see it, the U.S. “needs” war to cover many dirty financial tracks. China/Russia on the other hand may try to prevent war by releasing “the truth” and thus crippling the U.S. financially and thus the ability to wage aggression.”" Bill Holter

  11. If Cuba has any sense, they’ll visit islands like Ireland & Iceland to learn what NOT to do!

    I’m on Santorini ruminating on the. coming Eurozone implosion as I wander the Caldera watching Chinese newlyweds posing for pics beside an ancient exploded volcano.

    After a few days here, only one question :Where did all that money go? Not into Infrastructure, this place is STILLa mess. The FEB let Gilman Sachs Cook the Greek Accounts Book. Germany and France will never be paid Greek debt. They threw Billions on the bonfire of vanities that is Greek debt.

    Greece wants debt written off but to stay in Euro? Santa Claus comes to Athens.

    I paid more for lunch here than some Cubans earn in a month? Euro cost -base will destroy Greece after 3/4 bailouts fail. Cheap holidays in other people’s misery? Greece isn’t cheap! Might try Cuba before it’s ‘developed ‘

    Google Cuba Peak Oil….

    • ECB! Goldman Sachs tiny phone -fat fingers -predictive text AND

      Power cut to half the island yesterday -portent? Ides of July! Patchy wi -fi, hot desert -crass mass tourism -ecological devastation, abandoned construction sites? Ireland -Sicily /Santorini in The Rain? No, at least Ireland got joined up road network out of Euro. Clusterfeck.

    • coldblow

      I heard about this a few weeks ago and it is ridiculous. What drives people to do the snitching? (Well, actually I think I know.0

      It reminds me of the man who killed a pet rabbit in in his back garden in Dublin last year because it had bitten the children. A neighbour rang the guards or whatever and there were cars outside from them, the social services and the NSPCA. They even dug up the rabbit as part of their investigation. These are the state power and the myriad of tiny rules de Toqueville wrote of nearly 200 years ago in America.

  12. Cuban youth may be better off sticking with the generic Cuban economy as the rest of the world goes into a tail spin.

    http://www.gold-eagle.com/article/july-2015-bull-market%E2%80%99s-high-water-mark

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