Sunday, June 25, 2017

Without Due Consideration

Democrats and, most Republicans, can agree that Medicaid is more than the answer to the question, how do you give the wealthiest among us a one trillion dollar tax cut?  Medicaid is the thickest webbing in the safety net.  According to statistics on the ‘Rachel Maddow Show,’ Medicaid covers 49% of births, and 30% of children.   Medicaid funds the care that allows so many disabled to stay in their homes, go to work, and lead productive lives. 

Medicaid is a big ticket item.  Review is certainly appropriate.  Dramatic cuts without hearings is not.  Congress must take testimony from stakeholders and experts.  The disabled community, economists, medical professionals, and social workers, to name but a few, should be consulted. 

Republicans will not get boffo reviews for acting in ignorance.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Like Moses

Nancy Pelosi has been a great Speaker of the House and Leader.  She muscled Obamacare through Congress, and has given Democrats power, even in the minority, by holding them in unison against a divided GOP.  She is a prodigious fundraiser.

But even Moses was denied the promised land, passing leadership to a new generation.  Nancy Pelosi has been, through no fault of her own, branded.  Her visage is a turnout machine for Republicans.  Despite her unrelenting progressivism, she is viewed as the old guard by many in the Trump resistance movement.

Her graceful exit, will help her party take center stage in 2018.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A President Without Rhythm

President Obama could move his feet to a Latin beat.  His Cuba policy put the United States in step with Latin America.  Venezuela was a wallflower,  left out of the line dance, shunned by the other 33 member nations of the Organization of American States ("OAS").

President Trump has stepped on his own feet.  His Cuba Policy broke the formation.  Yesterday, the OAS refused to support the United States proposal condemning Venezuela.  Obama's sizzling salsa has been replaced by a blundering box step.

Larry Stein, author of '4 Americans in Cuba: A Traveler on a Rope Guidebook'

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Lesson of the Special Elections

Three of the four special elections were special for the Democrats, even in defeat.  The anti-Trump movement is generating turnout.  In Montana, Kansas, and South Carolina the Democrat exceeded Hillary's total in the district as well as that of the former incumbent.

Georgia's 6th was different.  Unlike the other 3 elections, the Democrats went all in.   Indifferent Republicans clearly dislike the National Democratic Party.  Inadvertently the national party did for Handel, what Trump did for Ossoff.

In the future, in Republican districts, Democrats must be like a thief in the night, taking advantage of favorable conditions without setting off alarms.

Trump in Cubaland

As with Alice, down is up, and up is down.  One pill makes you fatter.  It is the only pill.  Trump trumpets on the dismal human rights record of the Castro Brothers.  But we all know that if his extensive Saudi business interests were mirrored in Havana, he would be embracing any Cuban orb in sight.

The policy objective is to starve the government, and help the people.  The policy does the opposite.  The embargo has actually starved the people leading to thousands of deaths, before Venezuela stepped in to provide aid.  Clearly any policy that gave Venezuela a foot hold 90 miles from our shore was questionable.  The new policy will renew the Russian presence.

Under the Trump proposal, group tours will continue, but independent travel will be blocked.  Tours book government hotels, fly on government owned airlines, and are organized by government owned agencies.  Prices are absurd, one thousand dollars, and up, per couple per day.

Independent travelers spend more of their dollars directly with Cubans.  With hotels overpriced, and pre-booked by tour groups, independent travelers stay in cases particulares, the Cuban equivalent of B&Bs.  Such travelers are also more apt to eat at family owned restaurants.

His billionaire friends like Cuban cigars and rum.  Both industries are completely owned by the government.  Rich friends matter.  Those traveling to Cuba may bring back unrestricted amounts of each, subject only to duty limits.

Only partly visible, Putin has a cheshire cat grin.  Russia plans to open a military base in Cuba.  With dollars going down the rabbit hole, Castro will need rubles.

Larry Stein, author of '4 Americans in Cuba: A Traveler on a Rope Guidebook'

Pastoral Perfection

Vinales has a dual personality. With more rooms for rent than downtown residents, the main street caters to tourists with restaurants, nightspots and travel agents. But Finales is also blessed by nature with the conditions for growing tobacco and coffee, and with stunning vistas.

Vista Al Valley combines the best of both worlds.  It  is a short walk to town, while having the best view in the valley, including a working tobacco farm in your backyard. By the way, Osiris' smooth tasting cigars are a bargain for 2 CUC. Osiris and his wife are excellent hosts. His English is fluent. 

The 3 rooms were built for tourists. The beds are comfortable, and everything works, A great shower, a quiet toilet and plenty of outlets. Couple this with excellent food, strong drinks, and you have my definition of perfection. Reserve early.

Larry Stein, author of '4 Americans in Cuba: A Traveler on a Rope Guidebook'

Friday, June 16, 2017

Told You So

I hope you took my advice issued on May 30 to immediately plan a trip to Cuba.  As ABC News reported:  "The Treasury Department said individuals who bought an airline ticket or rented a room or car before Trump's announcement could make additional travel-related purchases for that travel under the Obama policy, even if their trip to Cuba takes place after the new, stricter Trump regulations go into effect."

The window may be closed, although enforcement may be spotty until regulations are issued.  Agents may have difficulty determining if you booked a room before Trump's pronouncement.

The new rules will be a nightmare.  Trump has two competing visions.  He will continue to allow the licensed tour groups which preceded Obama's liberalization, but with a twist.  They cannot use government owned entities.  That eliminates all tour buses, such as Transtur most hotels, and all air travel.  Even if they can find private transportation that can handle the tour group, all gas stations are government owned.  If all this can be circumvented, the outrageous price tag of roughly one thousand dollars per day for a couple will likely remain

He is banning all individual travel, unless specifically covered under restrictive treasury regulations.  Ironically, individual travelers almost always stayed in rooms in privately owned casa particulares, the Cuban version of B&Bs.  Individuals were also more prone to eat at private, rather than government owned, restaurants.  The cost of individual travel was generally one hundred to three hundred per day for a couple.

Larry Stein

Author of '4 Americans in Cuba:  A Traveler on a Rope Guidebook'