¿Que bolá Cuba? Just touched down here, looking forward to meeting and hearing directly from the Cuban people.
— President Obama (@POTUS) March 20, 2016
President Obama is in Cuba and has met with Cuban President Raúl Castro, according to the NYT:
HAVANA — President Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba appeared together on Monday morning, kicking off the first official talks between their two governments after decades of Cold War hostility.
The discussions, to take place after a welcoming ceremony at the Palace of the Revolution, are viewed as a pivotal moment in the thaw that Mr. Obama and Mr. Castro agreed to set in motion 15 months ago.
The leaders are expected to discuss a path toward normalizing relations, and the profound differences that still divide them economically and politically, including the United States trade embargo on Cuba and human rights issues.
It’s kind of a big fucking deal.
Yes, indeed a BFD. Just watched it on the teevee machine. Cool.
MSNBC switched to cover the protests on Calle Ocho in Miami against the visit. There were more reporters than demonstrators, and most of them took off when the cafecito window opened at the restaurant next door.
PBO is awesome.
Seeing POTUS take his entire family to Cuba – wonderful.
That picture of AFO flying over Havana – instant classic.
@Mustang Bobby: Were the protesters mostly old folks?
@rikyrah: Yeah, that is a very cool photo.
Big Ol Hound
It will be a big deal when the trade embargo is lifted. Get off your ass Congress.
Apparently Malia is fluent in Spanish and has been doing some informal translating for her dad. I love that!
Hoping to go there this summer :-)
But Ted Cruz says this gives the Castros legitimacy.
You know, because they had no legitimacy until now, and the embargo was working so well….
What does “Que bola Cuba?” mean? Word by word it means “What ball Cuba?” which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. A baseball idiom of some sort?
MSNBC is terrible.
I remember when Senator Obama appeared before the Cuban American National Foundation & told them that he will meet with Castro “at a time and place of my choosing.” Another promise kept.
I’m going to miss President Obama. And YES I know he’s not perfect!
@Betty Cracker: “Old” is relative, but they appeared to be my age (63) and up. The younger generation either doesn’t give a un culo de raton or are waiting to go over there to open a Starbucks or NAPA Auto Parts store.
Welcome aboard RRS Boaty McBoatface, where science becomes hilarious.
@Big Ol Hound:
Another important election item. If a Republican is elected, look for an immediate reversal of almost all of the Cuban normalization efforts. I don’t know if either HRC or B San have been asked about this, but they should make their positions known and get it on the record.
I saw the early coverage of the president and his family coming down the stairs of Air Force One. Very cool. One BBC news story notes that the Cuban press is referring to Obama in warm, welcoming language, unlike the official view of prior presidents.
RRS Boaty McBoatface triggers moderation? The noive.
@dedc79: I saw on Twitter Cuban celebrities like Gloria Estefan tweeting about arrest of protestors in Cuba as soon as Air Force One landed. I mean…that’s a legit criticism because no other country in the world arrests protestors. This would never happen in the USA, right?
Why do Cuban Americans so obsessed with supporting a policy that didn’t work for 50 years? I don’t get it.
(looks at china, saudi arabia). right, ted, whatever you say.
It’s not like the anti-Castro Cuban groups in the US have ever been pals with Obama. They’ve been a favored group for a very long time, and all Democrats ever got from them has been contempt. Yes, politics matters here, and it’s about time it did.
@dedc79: It has always been America’s aspiration to side with poor, oppressed dictators like Pinochet, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Ferdinand Marcos, P.W. Botha, Suharto, and of course Batista, among many, many others.
I don’t know Spanish, but it apparently means “What’s up, Cuba?” or “What’s happening?” “What’s going on?”
Except a lot of Republicans are privately in favor of ending the embargo, especially those from farm states that have already been selling food to Cuba for cash. The Republicans also see 6 million people who want American stuff. The only hard-core embargoistas are here in South Florida and a few in New Jersey.
The only reason they’d reverse the changes would be to say “Fvck you, Obama.” In a reversal of Michael Corleone’s dictate, It’s not business, it’s personal.
@Anya: My understanding is that even among cuban americans, views are much less uniform these days than they were even a decade ago. Many among the younger generations of cuban americans support the lifting of the embargo.
Myself, I hope one day to watch a baseball game in Havana. My dream vacation is doing a Caribbean baseball tour, and it would be incomplete without a stop in Cuba.
@SiubhanDuinne: It’s Cuban slang, similar to the “Comouandas?” (sp) that I hear every day among my Cuban co-workers. It means literally, “How are you walking?”
I get funny looks among my colleagues when I use the Mexican greeting, “Que tal, vato?”
Ole Phat Stu
Wouldn’t it be great if Obama went to Guantanamo, threw open the gates personally, and siad “You’re all free to go now!” That’d blow the GOPs mind (for want of a better word) ;-)
@chopper: Exactly. And our old cuba policy was an outlier, even when compared to other communist countries (vietnam, china). Our North Korea policy is shaped more by the insanity/beligerence of the dictatorship than by its communism.
@Mustang Bobby: Would ‘fuck you, Obama’ have much sway after next January? I mean, he’ll be gone and the GOP will either have pivoted effortlessly to ‘fuck you, Hillary’ or it will be President Trump and we’re all doomed anyway.
@Brachiator: Trump supports the normalization but he would’ve got “a better deal.” He didn’t say what the deal will look like or what makes Obama’s deal bad but he would keep it in place.
The NYT pic of Air Force one about to land was fantastic.
@dmsilev: They carry a grudge like nobody’s business. They’d stomp on Obama even after he leaves office, and if Hillary Clinton is elected, they’ll add their residual hatred of Bill to their already hot mess of hatred for her. They’ll probably try to impeach him all over again.
Happy, happy day. I’m sure Obama would have preferred to wait until Fidel was in the ground, but the guy is obviously going to live to 100 despite all the cigars, so now was the time to do it.
Older Cuban Americans are the ones obsessed with a policy that didn’t work, younger ones’ politics are more mixed. Like their fellow old white americans the old cubans remember the civil war, the cold war, the missle showdown — still trapped in the past. Also, a significant number of those who fled Castro in the early days were wealthy and still dream of getting their Cuban money and property back before they will agree to a final settlement with Cuba. Some large American corporations are also had property taken and want recompense — and they have political power and long memories.
I went to Clarissa’s blog to see what she had to say, and of course she didn’t disappoint.
I sometimes visit to see how she manages to turn ice cream into poop, and she does it every time.
I don’t think she tries to be contrary, she just has a weird world view.
Even for those who don’t support lifting the embargo, it’s no longer a hill they want to die on. They’re Americans, not Cubans. Their main concerns are the same as they are for the rest of us. The story of big bad Fidel forcing people to flee the country has no more resonance for them than grandparents reminiscing about what it was like in the Dust Bowl days do for our generation of Anglos.
There are college activists who care, but as we know these people aren’t necessarily representative of the bigger community.
@Mnemosyne: He quit smoking cigars in 1985.
@SiubhanDuinne: It means “I am a jelly doughnut.”
@Amaranthine RBG: I found it terrifying. Doesn’t anybody else see that big, lumbering 747 and think about how damn vulnerable it is?
I live in the AF1 flight path for its descent into Andrews AFB. Coming over my house, the blue belly is distinctive and exciting as hell – but damn a plane coming in to land seems slow from the ground!
I’m sure that a lot of Republicans privately are in favor of many of Obama’s policies, but this unfortunately doesn’t say much about what the official GOP position might be.
It’s interesting to see that Trump apparently favors better relations with Cuba. This has got to upset the Republican Party grandees. Another example of Trump not sticking to the official script.
Yeah. And the fact that Cuba is an “outlier” even among communist nations makes our exceptionalist policy even more surreal. Cuba is an archetypical, middle-of-the-pack third world dictatorship. There’s nothing in either their human rights record or the national security threat they pose to justify the kind of hysteriawe treat them with, not the way they’re singled out in a world full of regimes that are as bad or worse.
Heck, grudges are their business.
From the Guardian UK:
@elmo: It’s actually a classic optical illusion– large objects seem to move slowly even if they’re not. It’s why people always underestimate how fast trains are traveling down the tracks towards them. And, of course, a 747 is… BIG.
Trump is very good at knowing what heresies the Republican voter base will let him get away with. And this is one of them. Nobody really cares about Cuba anymore, except in a Cleek’s Law kind of way. With the Cold War 25 years in the past and Hispanic immigration the bogeyman of the day, most of the GOP’s Anglo voters are probably a hair’s breadth from deciding that the Miami Cubans are just another subspecies of these whiny, mooching parasites who came over the border expecting America to solve all their problems and who’re unjustly coddled by the system.
I was born in 1968 and really wasn’t sure I would ever see this.
@Chris: And it also does a number on Cruz (as well as Rubio).
Here are some picture of Day one of the visit from the official whitehouse photographer. One of the pictures is Malia acting as a translator between her dad and a local restaurant owner.
So proud of our President. Wish we could elect him again (no disrespect intended to either of the current Dem candidates for Pres).
@ET: Yes. Politically, a wart on a dog’s tail has been wagging the dog for several generations.
O/T but I nearly fell out of my chair laughing at this.
Wow. So Obama is willing to meet with communists but not (insert name of random soldier injured in Iraq/Afganistan)?? Outrageous!!
Oh, you’re always so literal-minded about everything.
Paul in KY
@Calouste: I remember the poor, oppressed Shah. So oppressed we allowed him into US. Can’t remember how that turned out…
@Anya: Just a wild guess. Maybe Cuban Americans are waiting to get their property back. Slaves and all.
Paul in KY
@Tokyokie: Would want to do a stop at Santurce, in the PR. Roberto’s old team.
@Chris: Obama is going to Vietnam later this spring, I think. They are just as brutal a dictatorship as Cuba or China, and we lost over 50,000 American lives to keep it from going Commie. But are we going to see wall-to-wall coverage of the president in Hanoi? I kinda doubt it.
The difference is that Ho Chi Minh has been dead for almost fifty years so there’s no personal vendetta that so many Cubans feel for the Castros, and the Vietnamese refugees who came here after the war got down to living their new lives here without carrying on like a banshee about reclaiming their homeland.
Villago Delenda Est
Someone please tell me that Lil’Marco and Rafael are on their second or third aneurysms by now…
@retiredeng: It’s not surprisingly, many on the right think that Cuban Americans deserve reparations, but not the blacks in our own country.
@Anya: Beautiful pictures.
Or Trump is not welded to all of the standard GOP bullshit. He would still be a crappy president, and electing him would be a huuuuge mistake, but I’m not sure that it is correct to posit that Trump worries what the GOP base might let him get away with.
Paul in KY
@ET: Born in 59 & very exciting to me!!
@retiredeng: I know people who have all their documents and deeds, house keys and the title to the De Soto in the driveway so that when they go back, it’s December 31, 1958 all over again. Seriously deluded.
Not that I’m all that familiar with the blogosphere, apart from our little community here and a couple of others I check out, but I have to say I never heard of Clarissa’s Blog. And judging by what I saw when I clicked the link, I don’t think I’ve missed much. Doubt I’ll bother going back, although I do kind of understand your scientific interest in seeing how she “manages to turn ice cream into poop … every time.”
Paul in KY
@Anya: Thank you for that link.
Paul in KY
@retiredeng: United Fruit sure is.
Paul in KY
@Mustang Bobby: Those people are nuts!!!
Paul in KY
@SiubhanDuinne: Glad I didn’t go there.
@Anya: Maybe because some of them have relatives in jail for speaking up against the regime? Let’s not forget that until very recently gays and writers could be jailed at will. Still are.
I am happy that the relations between the countries are stabilizing. The embargo is a joke violated both by corporations and individuals for years. But I don’t forget what’s happening there.
a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q)
@Mustang Bobby: Thank you for that insight; it’s easy for us in areas away from where you are to just. not. get . it. It’s remarkable how differently Vietnamese refugees have approached life in the US.
Is any part of it the proximity to the “homeland” and the difference in wealth status of the two refugee groups? It’s just such a dramatic difference.
Also, too – does your Mexican slang mean “what’s up dude/man?” or some equivalent familiar term for a person that we’d use in English?.
@Germy: Never heard of this person before. Clicked through; a real find!
FWIW – While it makes for a good title, using the Greene novel Our Man in Havana as a reference to Obama is not flattering. The character referred to as “our man” is a british spy who pretends he has a network of agents and fakes his reports, creating a giant mess.
Don’t know if he is still out there (and I do mean out there) but one of my all-time faves was a guy who vlogged advocating the US convert to a Catholic Monarchical gvt.
These are some great photographs. Of course, they will never show up on Fox News, where Obama is neither respected nor liked by people outside the US.
The friendliness exhibited in one beautiful photo does not really exist: “Patrons at a Havana hotel wave as President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia and Sasha walk past in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, March 20, 2016. ”
I heard about this on the BBC news. Boaty Mcboatface. Just great.
@Joel: Someone just asked her if she’s in favor of the Cuban embargo. And she replied “The embargo is such a non-issue. Let’s not waste our lives discussing it.”
She’s of the “If I can’t see it from my front lawn it isn’t important” school of blogging.
I think she reached peak Clarissa back when it was reported Carter was being treated for cancer. She devoted an entire blog post to the question: “Why bother? He’s 90 years old.”
@a hip hop artist from Idaho (fka Bella Q):
According to Unit 1.1 of the Spanish self-instruction pack I have been using, ¿Qué tal? is standard Castilian (i.e. Old World) Spanish for “How do you do?”
@Germy: Who is this person?
@schrodinger’s cat: She’s an academic with some unconventional opinions. She’s a Hillary supporter, but she has blogged that the refugees are a menace. She says the media only focuses on the cute children and women, but that the mass majority of them are in fact young men. Violent, sexist young men.
I don’t remember how I stumbled upon her, but I like to read now and then for the curious entertainment of it. She also has some diehard RW commenters who add pepper to her broth.
And why does she bother having a blog at all?
Funny you should mention. I have a FB “friend” (the musician friend of musician friends) who is — unlike his parents — a rabid monarchist and wannabe Catholic. I don’t think he has a blog per se but I believe he has a website. I have never unfriended him but I generally block him from my feed because his pro-monarchy anti-everything-else rants are too much to see a dozen times a day. I’ll periodically go have a look at what he has to say about music, but even that line of commentary is getting so authoritarian and strident that I expect I’ll just quietly ignore him.
It’s always a tricky question, though — do you get governments to change their behavior via punishment only, or is a combination of rewards and punishments more effective? We’ve been trying “punishment only” for over 60 years and it doesn’t seem to have done much good. It may be time to try giving the Cuban government a few incentives to stop jailing people. You can’t remove privileges for bad behavior if you haven’t granted any in the first place.
So Betty, you have the Floridian perspective of this. What do the Cubans in Florida think of the visit?
@Emma: Isn’t one of the goals to bring Cuba up to date on human rights? Sure would be easier to do that and a lot more when we’re at least on speaking terms. It’s about time to at least try to patch things up.
FYWP won’t let me edit my own comment at #78, but of course I’m wondering now if your blogger and my FB person are one and the same.
Mike in NC
Trump wanting to deal with Cuba just means he knows the old saying, “Money talks, bullshit walks”.
@Amir Khalid: Well as a cat that has opinions and a blog, that I understand.
I’ve heard wild speculation that MLB would move the Marlins to Havanna, so MLB would have a new market to conquer.
@trollhattan: They ran an online poll to name the mascot for the Commonwealth Games held in Glasgow in 2014. “Stabbity McFuckface” was in the lead for a while (because Glasgow) until that entry fell off the charts for some reason. I suspect sore loser effect in the new poll to name the research vessel.
Old Glasgow joke — a young man is going into a Glasgow club one night when he gets stopped by the hulking doorman.
“Huv ye goat ony knives, razors, hatchets or chibs oan ye?”
“Dae ye waant tae rent some?”
@gene108: The Marlins would do that right after they built that huge turd of a new baseball park — with taxpayer money — on the site of the beloved Orange Bowl. Hell, I would pay money to send the Marlins packing to Pyongyang and replace them with a real team.
That’s no boat. A vessel of that size should be called Shippy McShipface.
@Germy: So a winger in Dem clothing?
@SiubhanDuinne: Tried to find a link in g and utube search. Can’t find the specific person, but there’s more ‘Monarchy in the USA’ stuff out there than I thought. Kinda-haveta admire the true cranks of this world.
I don’t know. I think she bases her opinions on her own experiences exclusively. For example, I think she was whistled at on the street by a swarthy guy, and so this forms her opinion of the refugees. She’s all over the place politically. I check in once a week or so, to see how weird her blog can get.
In the BBC story, there’s a mocked-up picture of the ship sailing in icbergy waters, with NAME OF VESSEL on its side. I rather like the idea of RSS Name of Vessel, myself …
Just who would get to be King Whatsisname I?
OT: Will conservatives stop using Google?
No surprises here:
@Germy: She sounds like my Yoga teacher friend, who voted for Obama twice but now is Sanders curious and listens to Limbaugh for balance.
@schrodinger’s cat: Listening to Limbaugh for balance is like drinking a glass of antifreeze to cure an ice cream headache.
@Brachiator: Wouldn’t surprise me! And she is a student in a DC public school too boot! Of course doing so would be looking like a real meanie – not that they care.
Seems like there’s a lot of that going around.
@Germy: After I tried to call her out on some of her inconsistencies she has stopped responding to my emails.
There was a GOP senator in his delegation.
@schrodinger’s cat: Were any of her replies convincing? She seems to lack the empathy gene, that’s as close as I can get to understanding her viewpoint…
In fairness and full disclosure, I have been a fan of the British Royals — and particularly the Queen — since I was five years old, at the time of then-Princess Elizabeth’s wedding in 1947. But while a constitutional monarchy seems to work well for the handful of countries that have it, including the U.K., it is purely daft to think that imposing a monarchical system on the U.S or any number of republics and democracies would suddenly make everything work just fine. I suspect the Queen herself, and most of the remaining sovereigns around the world, are considerably less monarchist in governmental philosophy than my FB friend.
So Clarissa didn’t explain it all, eh?
@kindness: I’ve only heard a handful of opinions about it, but it seems to break down by age — older folks are upset about it, younger folks don’t care.
@Germy: I am speaking about my friend, as for the blogger you linked to, I heard of her for the first time this morning. As for my friend, she has too much empathy. When she lived in a college town she was very blue leaning. Ever since she moved to a blood red state to care for her mom, she has become more receptive to Republican claptrap. She is also pretty isolated since she no longer teaches.
Many years ago, when President Obama won the Nobel peace prize, the award was criticized as being premature and Obama as a lightweight token. Now, with openings to really long-term “enemies” like Iran and Cuba, countries the US could not come close to dealing with because of their leaders’ hatred of us, Obama is showing that the Nobel committee was prescient.
Best president in my memory, which extends back to mid-Truman.
@p.a.: Doesn’t this all tie into the Mencius Moldbug-style neo-reactionary movement? There’s some overlap with Gamergate. With their intellectual pretensions and their base in tech-nerd culture they almost freak me out more than the Trumpists, except that there are undoubtedly fewer of them.
Sometimes people lament the loss of true conservatism in favor of whatever radicalism calls itself the conservative movement. I don’t, because I feel like these scary guys are the true conservatives. They feel like the last thousand years were a wrong turning, a dangerous innovation, that we should go back to the year 1016 or sometime around then.
There are also Canadians who believe that if we switched to a Westminster parliamentary monarchy like they have, it would solve all our problems. I find them naive but harmless. The separation of symbolic head of state and administrative head of government is an interesting idea, but if we had a figurehead it wouldn’t have to be a King or Queen. There are parliamentary republics.
@retiredeng: I thought my message had been clear. I am in full favor of these moves by BHO. But I also know that attempts have been made before by others and as soon as the regime gets what it wants, it backs out of the deal. So, we’ll see.
@SiubhanDuinne: Maybe he meant “Ebola Cuba.”
Where’s the LIKE button for this?
I just want Obama to bring back toys like an agreement for open elections in Cuba’s parliament, the end of blanket arrests of dissidents, a reparations plan for Cubans who can claim loss of property when they fled into exile, back pay by the United States to Cuba for leased lands (ie Gitmo) (the US has reportedly been paying into an escrow because the Cuban gov’t refuses to accept it out of protest), a trade deal favorable to CUBA for the first ten years (we can afford it), and a promise by the Cuban government to detain Donald Trump for us for the rest of his natural life.
Président just said its the largest delegation on any foreign trip of his presidency. Of the congressional delegation he said both Republicans and Democrats. I’ll be interested to see the entire list.
IIRC, one of the biggest obstacles to reconciliation has been the corporations who insist on receiving current full market value for their lost property even though, in many cases, those corporations no longer exist as they did in the 1950s. The Cuban government might be able to swing reparations to individuals, but they definitely don’t have the tens of billions of dollars that multiple corporations have been demanding. If the US can get the corporations to agree to settle for less, that would go a long way.
The Donald has yet to start a natural life, so no telling how long one might last. Could give him the run of Gitmo to make it over in his image, you know, yuuuge! Classy!
Will add that as a tot who did duck-and-cover drills at school during the Cuban Missile Crisis (even if we were out of range) this is a yuuge improvement. Set a million Ricky Ricardos free!
Paul in KY
@Germy: That’s a damn good analogy.
Paul in KY
@SiubhanDuinne: I’m a fan of Edward IV. Would have been a blast to party with.
Edit: By all accounts, Edward V and Edward VI were both fine young men.
I think Cuba’s nearness has had a lot to do with why we have had such an extreme policy about them for so long. First lets not take the Cuban missile crisis too lightly. It certainly scared a lot of people living in Florida like my father. It was pretty scarey to have that kind of serious weapon that close to the US and there was no realistic defense from that. For that reason the US was never never going to accept a powerful military in Cuba even if it had some serious costs in blood to prevent.
There were a lot of other things too. My father’s generation used to go to Cuba for high school trips. It is actually close enough to Florida that a strong swimmer can get here. Then there is the fact that Castro really fooled a lot of people and when he turned out Communist, those people were angry. Important political people, important businesses and ordinary people too, some of them actually fought for Castro, Baptista was know to be a brutal dictator and getting rid of him seemed to be a nice thing. Castro really did lie at first about what his beliefs were. My father had a high school friend who went to help Castro under the impression Castro was democratic and was never heard from again. So non hispanic Floridian’s had an early grudge against Castro. I don’t know how the rest of the country saw him, but around here there was a lot more detail in anti Castro positions than simple reflex anti. Doesn’t mean most people didn’t recognize that the embargo wasn’t working years ago though.
Paul in KY
@Ben Cisco: I’m surprised it took that long for that comment :-)
Paul in KY
@exregis: Best president in my memory, which extends back to very late Kennedy.
Paul in KY
@PaulWartenberg2016: The reparations for Cubans who ‘lost’ property will never happen. Maybe, maybe a token ‘payment’ by the Cuban government & something suitable for framing.
Paul in KY
@Mnemosyne: When Castro nationalized them, he paid them the amounts they claimed on their books. Problem was, those books were cooked up to avoid paying taxes (with the Bautista government’s connivance, as he was getting kickbacks).
I’ll be interested to see who brings back Cuban cigars.
Obama just intervened with Raul so that Mrs. Greenspan could get a question in. She’ll love him for that…
Know what would be really crazy (fun crazy)? If next January we swear in VP Castro.
@gvg: one hell of a strong swimmer…50 + miles from key west.
King is soooo modest. We’re yuge. Has to be Emperor. We can pad it like the Brits. His/Her Most Catholic Highness, Lord of the Federal District and All Federal Lands, Sovereign of the Seas and Space, Emperor/ess So-and-So.
Chosen by pope, or annoint nearest living relative to Geo Washington (converts to the OTC of course).
@Matt McIrvin: I’m not too concerned about actual Monarchists standing on the shore yelling “STOP!” at the tide.
@Matt McIrvin: I’ve seen some on the American left wish for a parliamentary system. Not advocate for a constitutional change, just in a ‘wouldn’t it be nice…’ way.
While the Republicans are obsessed with a microscopic area of their own navels, Obama has his eye on a bigger — much, much bigger — picture. Kudos to him for ending the decades long isolation of Cuba.