Thursday, May 10, 2007

Guy who went to Cuba without proper paperwork in trouble with the state department.

Oh, wait, that guy was Michael Moore, so it must be a Republican conspiracy against him! Don't they understand that Micheal Moore doesn't have to do paperwork? He has a special pass!

More seriously, to me, this sounds like an obvious publicity stunt.

I find myself asking "Why on earth would a multimillionaire take ten people who got sick cleaning up after 9-11 to Cuba for treatment?"


"Because it would be great publicity and he could use the opportunity to make sweeping statements about US healthcare (see how cheap third world healthcare is?) and at the same time make it very likely he would get in trouble and be able to claim he's a guy worth conspiring against" is the only reasonable answer I can think of.

who doesn't want third world healthcare, no matter how good Moore makes it look for the purposes of his movie.


Anonymous said...

Actually, CC, he applied for a journalist pass but the administration held off on it, possibly "filibustering" it. In addition, I think Cuba has a really good health care system from what I remember.

Personally, why is anyone prohibited from traveling anywhere? Why are we all not free to travel where we choose? If someone wants to go to Cuda, why is that the feds' business to decide whether one can or can't. I can understand a country telling someone that he or she can't enter their country, but I think it is a violation of fundamental human decency for our government to tell us where we can and cannot travel.

Just because it is a rule, doesn't mean it is right. It used to be a rule that all blacks had to sit at the back of the bus so that whites could sit in the front.

In addition, how many people actually knew that traveling to Cuba was against the rules until Moore did it and got into trouble for it? So, maybe it was a productive publicity stunt on his dime.

I do not mean the tone of this response to be as harsh as it sounds. I am just offering my two cents (or maybe three) in disagreement.



Chalicechick said...

Cuba may have a good health care system,* but if you were a multi-millionare and wanted to help out some sick New Yorkers, wouldn't the kind approach be to treat them in New York? I mean, Havana health care actually might be good, but are you sure a rich New Yorker can't do better at one of the hospitals that has been treating people with lung problems from 9-11 dust since, well, 9-11?

But, gee, that wouldn't look good in his movie. And helping these people clearly isn't the point.

Moore had sought permission to travel there as a journalist.
I think even most liberals would admit that one was a stretch and I don't think the government saying "Umm... Every time you're accused of lying, you say you're an entertainer. Now you're a journalist?"

The Feds have a trade embargo against Cuba and have had one forever. It's not so much the going, it's that the going inherently involves spending money there. (Especially if you take ten people and a film crew.) Cuba is still run by a dictator who keeps the conditions pretty miserable, after all. It's the sort of place UUs would likely boycott if the US government weren't doing so already.

(Now, personally, I think if we want to take Castro out of power, we need to START trading with Cuba. Give them TVs that show Baywatch and Big Macs and they're ours. But I don't make the rules.)

Also, if Civil Disobediance is your goal, you have to take your punishment without whining or putting out press releases about what a martyr you are.

After the New York Yankees got fined for dealing with Cuba, it became national news. So I would think most people would know.

If the issue were simply Moore wanting to inform people about Cuba, he could have given a press conference. He's Micheal Moore, reporters would have shown up.

Doing it this way gives him the chance to pretend that his own unwillingness to do paperwork constitutes a government conspiracy, and judging by blogosphere reaction, everyone has fallen for it hook, line and sinker.


*If by that you mean "Good health care system, judging by the unverifed statistics the Cuban government gives to the World Health Organization that may well be made up given the way dictators often behave."

Anonymous said...

I saw something on 60 minutes a number of years ago about the health care system in Cuba and I remember then of having the impression that it was a really good system. But, it was a long time ago, and I do not remember the details.

But, on the other notes, coulda, woulda, shoulda. It is all a matter of opinion. There are numerous things that people can do in varying situations. Here, however, Moore's tactics are the way of things. His tactics don't make him any less credible than anyone else. But, if you want to believe that, that is your choice.

In addition, this was a CNN story, not a Michael Moore press release.

Finally, there may be an embargo that has been in place for years but that doesn't make it right for the government to tell U.S. citizens where they can or cannot go, or what they can or cannot spend their own money on. The feds don't like Cuba so they are forcing every U.S. citizen to dislike Cuba.

Why are Cuban cigars illegal? Is it because they are dangerous? No. It is because of the embargo. Just because one disapproves of the Cuban government's political structure does not mean that their cigars are dangerous.

I am not too sure UUs as a whole would feel the way you claim. There may be a dictatorship there, but we do not know what the conditions are there. All we know is what we are being told that they are. I have learned to be a bit skeptical.

There maybe folks wanting to escape from there to come here, but, I know of an ex-Illinois republican governor that liked to take vacations in Cuba. Why was it ok for him to go there? I know there are people that are not happy here and would like to go somewhere else. And, I am sure that there are citizens in every country that would like to go somewhere else. There are a number of Mexicans that want to come here too but we don't have such an embargo with Mexico.

Plus, do we as UUs not mostly believe in tolerance of other beliefs and cultures, and believe that everyone is worthy of respect and dignity? If so, why the rush to judgment?

But, I do like your idea about opening trade with Cuba and giving them all TVs. :)

Chalicechick said...

I do think "If Cuba's so great, then why do so many Cubans risk their lives to come here?" is a valid question.

I mean, there are times when I'm less than happy with America, but I've never had the slightest urge to build a boat out of household objects and take to the ocean to see if I can sail a hundred miles or so in the correct direction. My guess is that one has to be pretty desperate to do that.

Given that Castro does not allow unrestricted internet access, harshly regulates which religions can practice and has administrative problems leading to shortages in the rationing system that means people often have to get their food off the black market, your complaints that Americans aren't allowed to have expensive Cuban cigars and take Vacations there without filling out some paperwork seems a little odd.

We don't know what would have happened if Micheal Moore had applied for a tourist Visa. He didn't, though.

I'm skeptical of the media, too. I'm just more skeptical of Castro.

I mean, we could have a better idea of their human rights record if they would let Amnesty International or the Red Cross inspect.

But they won't.

Michael Moore's press release about the Bush Administration's conspiracy is right there.

Anonymous said...

Paragraph 1: Now, CC, I did not say that anything you said was invalid. I may disagree with you but I never said that you arguments or questions were invalid. In addition, that was not what I said. I was cutting off the "then why do they want to leave their country and come here" argument.

Paragraph 2: You may not want to do that but maybe others do. Does your logic here apply to Mexicans who risk their lives to come here too? If so, why do we not have an embargo against Mexico?

Paragraph 3: Are you describing China here? China is exactly the same. I did not complain about not being able to buy cigars or taking vacations. I don't smoke them. I was making the point that the reasoning is ridiculous. Plus, it was not problem that a republican governor go on vacation to Cuba, but MM can't go film there. So, you economic argument did not match the facts.

Three more:

I got the impression that a Visa wasn't possible if it is illegal to travel there.

Again, you are describing China but we don't have an embargo against it.

You initially linked to the CNN story in your post, not the press release.

PG said...

As z implies, Castro is no worse than the Chinese government is, so unless UUs are boycotting China (which would explain the Wal-Mart avoidance ;-), I find the claim that Cuba is the kind of place UUs would boycott sans embargo to be kind of weak. If you want to talk about desperation to leave the country, check out the Chinese people who die in airless trucks in both the US and UK. Or Mexicans who do, for that matter. There's probably less of that coming from Cuba than from several countries we don't boycott. You can get some sense of that from the difference between old Cuban refugees (people who immigrated 1980 or earlier) and more recent immigrants.

As for Cuba's healthcare, they indisputably have a lot of doctors. I don't know if some of these are like China's barefoot doctors (who, according to the public health majors I know, actually gave much better service to the rural populations than they get nowadays), but I imagine traveling to Cuba helps to give some idea of this. It's not like Castro puts up Potemkin villages for visiting Americans. I had dinner Tuesday night with someone who went to Cuba in college before the crackdown and seems to have gotten a realistic view of it. You don't want thirdworld healthcare, but I bet you have health insurance -- the view of someone who doesn't might be different.

In my experience, sanctions usually are advocated against places with policies against specific groups (e.g., South African apartheid, Darfur genocide), not places with just generally crappy governments. Pakistan historically has treated Hindus so badly that even aside from the mass transition on both sides after Partition, there are very few Hindus still willing to live there, yet it was a client state of the U.S. during the Cold War while India was stupidly trying to follow Soviet 5-year plans.

As for the visa issue, Bush cracked down on all connections to Cuba -- travel, remittances, trade, etc. -- a few years ago. I suspect that's what my history prof -- not particularly liberal as academics go, and in fact now the head of Richard Nixon's library) was foreseeing when he urged me in college to travel to Cuba while I still might qualify for education and/or journalistic purpose. (He wrote a highly acclaimed book on the Missile Crisis, so presumably he knows something about US-Cuba relations, and in early 2002 he thought I could get a visa as a student journalist for my college paper.)

Anonymous said...

i don't know anything about the Cuban health care system, but I have heard ours is now pretty far down in the modern world -- most countries are supposed to be better.

Joel Monka said...

I have used the healthcare systems in England and France. they are *NOT*, with a capital NOT, better than the good ole USA. I can't vouch for the rest of the world, but of the three I have experience with, the US is head, shoulders, breast, and upper diaphragm above the next best.

Chalicechick said...

My understanding is that for simple stuff the european health care system is cheaper and perhaps better, but if you get anything serious, you want to be in America.

And if the state of Cuban medicine is so great, one wonders why it's the Americans that are actually finding cures for things. As far as I can tell, the countries with nationalized health care pretty much rely on the US to keep finding cures and making discoveries.

I don't love that medicine is about profit in America, I just don't see any country where it is socialized making much progress.


Mark said...

Canadian journalist Robert Fulford had an excellent anecdote about Cuban health care and why he never votes for Canada's socialist party, the NDP.

He went on a tour of Cuba with a group of NDP politicians. At one point they were at a hospital and the doctor prouldly proclaimed to the horror of everyone in the group that the hospital performed more lobotomies than anywhere else in Cuba. It had been known for about a decade outside Cuba that lobotomies had absolutely no medical value.

Everybody in the group was stunned. Than one of the NDP politicians said, "Socialist lobotomies are better than capitalist lobotomies."

And the group went on their merry way...

Anonymous said...

(Now, personally, I think if we want to take Castro out of power, we need to START trading with Cuba. Give them TVs that show Baywatch and Big Macs and they're ours. But I don't make the rules.)

I've been to Cuba, and can state without a doubt that plenty of people there have televisions. They just don't have a 1000 channels to watch.

I am not a Castro fan, but I am also not in favor of Cuba becoming (again) an exploited tropical playground of the American middle and upper glass (see: most other countries of the Caribbean).

For me it all boils down to self-determination. Right now Cubans basically have two choices: isolation from the outside world (which is probably a huge part of the reason Cuban doctors aren't coming up with lots of breakthroughs), and subjugation by the capitalist corporations.

What bothers me most is that there ARE other options, but our country and the corporations that run it pretty much make it an either/or situation. I think Castro is the way he is in large part because it's the only way he could survive.

It's not like our government actually encourages or supports democratically elected leaders who are trying to improve the lives of their people.

Anonymous said...

Note: I should add to that last sentence, "It's not like our government actually supports democratically elected leaders of third world nations that are trying to improve the lives of their people."

And by the way, the current embargo situation is garbage. I'm half Cuban, and am not even permitted to visit according to the current guidelines! I personally refuse to visit illegally because I'm not going to put myself in the position of being arrested, fined $100K or put in JAIL for traveling there.

Anonymous said...

Can an American travel from Canada or Europe to Cuba safely? I've heard there are educational programs one can do for a week to a month throught he U of Havanna.