December 19, 2014

How many of the articles about Obama and Cuba mentioned cigars?

Like about 11,000.

100 comments:

MadisonMan said...

Journalists making the easy obvious point.

J. Farmer said...

Rum and cigars are obvious imports for the United States. But in the U.S., the real beneficiaries of ending the embargo would be the US agricultural industry. They could make billions exporting to Cuba.

Joe Schmoe said...

There's something about Democrat presidents and cigars...

Curious George said...

"J. Farmer said...
Rum and cigars are obvious imports for the United States. But in the U.S., the real beneficiaries of ending the embargo would be the US agricultural industry. They could make billions exporting to Cuba."

Who is going to pay those billions?

Curious George said...

There is almost a million about Clinton and cigars.

Joe Schmoe said...

All of these articles should include trigger warnings for Monica Lewinsky.

Fernandinande said...

"Like about 11,000."

Actually less than 250: try paging thru them.


J. Farmer said...

@Curious George:

Cuba already spends over $2 billion a year on food imports.

Daniel Richwine said...

Smoking is evil unless done by communists or with pot.

chickelit said...

J. Farmer said...
Rum and cigars are obvious imports for the United States. But in the U.S., the real beneficiaries of ending the embargo would be the US agricultural industry. They could make billions exporting to Cuba.

"Feed men, and then ask of them virtue!"

~Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Michael said...

J Farmer

How is Cuba going to provide billions in profit to US agriculture when it now only spends two billion? Do you assume the US will gain 100% market share and then the economy of Cuba will boom and provide the rest?

The average income in Cuba is two hundred and forty dollars a year. That is US$240. Per year.

I don't think you are particularly well schooled in economics.

donald said...

Not only that, but they're kinda famous for stiffing their vendors.

Nonapod said...

As for the regular Cuban people, their lot may improve marginally but unless the Castro Bros. decide to allow much more of a free market to exist (like the Chi-coms did with their "Special Economic Zones") the people of Cuba will continue to live in bleak misery.

PB said...

The maximum wage is $20/month (yes per month). How is that going to drive demand for US exports to Cuba?

Curious George said...

"J. Farmer said...
@Curious George:

Cuba already spends over $2 billion a year on food imports."

That's a rounding error to our Ag industry. If they got it all. Which they wouldn't.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael:

I am not talking about in a single year. I am talking about what the potential revenue is from agricultural trade with Cuba. When the Cato Institute argues for the economic benefit of US agriculture in trading with Cuba, are they also economically illiterate? Have you read any of their commentary on the subject? Cuba has a higher GDP per capita than the Dominican Republic, where we exported about $700 million worth of goods last year.

I am still waiting for an answer to my question from the previous thread. If trading with Cuba is such an obviously meaningless, futile enterprise, then why maintain an embargo?

Michael said...

J Farmer

I will ask you why do we maintain an embargo against N. Korea and how you would differentiate the treatment of the citizens of each country by their leadership.

I would raise the embargo when Cubans could travel freely outside their country. When they could be issued passports and get on airplanes and visit relatives in NY and Chicago and Madison. When they could apply to and attend colleges in the US. When they could apply for citizenship to the US.

In the meantime why would you want to interfere with their glorious system? They are communists and communism works. Trading with Cuba will bring out the bourgeois in them.

Curious George said...

"J. Farmer said...
I am still waiting for an answer to my question from the previous thread. If trading with Cuba is such an obviously meaningless, futile enterprise, then why maintain an embargo?"

You do understand that what might not be beneficial to us could be beneficial to those in power in Cuba to stay in power.

Don't you?

J. Farmer said...

By the way, Cuba is already allowed to purchase with cash certain US agricultural and medicinal supplies thanks to the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act. We are already selling them hundreds of millions of dollars in agricultural products. And getting rid of the embargo would make that number bigger. Here is a report from the US International Trade Commision:

http://www.usitc.gov/publications/332/pub3932.pdf

Bob Ellison said...

Michael said, "The average income in Cuba is two hundred and forty dollars a year. That is US$240. Per year."

It depends on how you count it.

Every American knows it's impossible to live on $240/year. That number is just silly. You'd starve.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael:

I am broadly libertarian in my economic philosophy, and I oppose communism and centralized economic planning. Your lame attempt at talking about communism is just lame grasping. If you think the conditions for the average North Korean and the average Cuban are similar, that only shows how little you know about either of those countries. I will add that one important distinction from a geostrategic point of view is that we are in a state of war with North Korea.

@Curious George:

It may very well do that. And? The billions of US dollars that flow to the Arab and gulf monarchies help keep those absolutist dictators in power, too. So why not argue for a trade embargo against Saudi Arabia and the UAE? Why don't we get the six fleet out of Bahrain? Once those kings hold elections and respect human rights, then maybe we will trade with them and have diplomatic relations.

mccullough said...

Yes, the Cato Institute is economically illiterate.

Curious George said...

"J. Farmer said...It may very well do that. And? The billions of US dollars that flow to the Arab and gulf monarchies help keep those absolutist dictators in power, too. So why not argue for a trade embargo against Saudi Arabia and the UAE? Why don't we get the six fleet out of Bahrain? Once those kings hold elections and respect human rights, then maybe we will trade with them and have diplomatic relations."

Uh, you don't know why we don't? Seriously?

Oil, Einstein. For us. And our allies.

buwaya puti said...

Nearly all agricultural imports are bulk commodities like wheat, which, while not quite as fungible and globally traded as petroleum, still are. Grains are one global market. Overall demand will not increase. So unless the Cuban market actually grows there will be no increase in overall demand for US food, just a bit of shifting around of trade.
Note that, absurdly, Cuba imports most of its food. That is a massively fertile country that is also massively under-tilled. They can very easily increase food production and feed themselves and export food as well, and still sell sugar. If they were to reform they would no longer be much of a food importer.

J. Farmer said...

@Curious George:

My questions were rhetorical. My point is that the US trades every day with despotic regimes who don't respect human rights. So those would be pretty silly arguments to make against trading with Cuba.

@Buwaya puti:

The current law allows for cash-only exports. The Cubans could buy more from the US if restrictions on export financing were lifted. According to the trade commission, that would bring in another $250 million or so to US farmers. If Cuba imported food from the US at the same rate that the Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and Guatemala did, they would be spending over a billion dollars a year on US agricultural products.

buwaya puti said...

Cuban personal income is funny money. That's because their prices are also funny, as most food, housing, and most services are rationed and subsidized. Its a very very socialist state so the idea is to minimize personal possessions.
The effect of all this together is to limit personal agency, as in the bulk of the population has little ability to participate in the market, the power being reserved to the state.

J. Farmer said...

@Buwaya puti:

I should add that I do, however, broadly agree with you. Cuba imports most of its food because of its horribly inefficient agricultural sector. But even with improving the system, they would still import somewhere between 10 and 15% of their food supplies.

Again, my point is simple. If someone believes that trade with Cuba would not amount to much, then how can a trade embargo accomplish much of anything? The logic seems pretty shaky to me: we have to keep the embargo because getting rid of it won't do anything anyway.

buwaya puti said...

What Cuba buys from the US would displaced what they were buying from elsewhere, likewise buyers of our commodities elsewhere will look for other suppliers. In the short term its a zero sum game in a highly efficient market. Have a look.

buwaya puti said...

The question is not stuff, it is money, that is, the ability to borrow it.
A trade embargo by just the US does very little damage to Cuba as nearly everything they could get from us they can easily get from elsewhere, as they already do. Its a big world.
What the US gives them is another bunch of bankers and would be investors they haven't burned out yet.

J. Farmer said...

@buwaya puti:

So why impose a trade embargo if there would be no real benefit to Cuba from trading with them?

buwaya puti said...

The Arab and Gulf monarchies sell petroleum globally. Thats their source of income, the US does not generously hand them $. Actual oil shipments from them do not go to the US either, they are a rather minor source of US petroleum imports.

jimbino said...

The big effect on Amerikans will be the opening of Medical Tourism to Cuba. Once it gets started, we will be able to get colonoscopies, catataract surgery and the like for pennies on the dollar, certainly much less than an Obamacare annual deductible. I can't wait.

J. Farmer said...

What is your opinion of US travel restrictions?

J. Farmer said...

@buwaya puti:

I agree with you about Middle Eastern oil. It's a relatively small part of US oil imports. My point in bringing them up is primarily rhetorical. We trade with and engage diplomatically with them and sell them military hardware despite the internal nature of their regime. Nobody is arguing for a trade embargo and halting diplomatic relations with these countries despite their despotic nature and abuse of human rights.

buwaya puti said...

A. Its a political gesture, like Cato the Elders "Carthago Delenda Est"
B. It keeps financing away from the regime because loans are the inevitable accompaniment of trade.
C. It reduces their tourism market denying them income from services.
D. It denies them US investment, or that limited amount that they would permit anyway.
E. It reduces their export market for that part of which consists of luxury goods.
F. It increases, somewhat, the political risk factor of anyone else's investment, though I don't see how that materially reduces actual investment there, as they have strictly limited it anyway.

JHapp said...

Cuba exports less than 2 billion and imports 6 billion. Top 10 exports include organs and blood. Not much of an economy.

J. Farmer said...

Agreed with everything you said. Are you for it or against it? Why or why not?

FleetUSA said...

Maybe Choom is going to change from smoking cigarettes to cigars.

Michael said...

J Farmer:

The average income in N. Korea is estimated at $1,000 to $2,000 per year. That compares unfavorably to the $2,400 annual income of Cubans, but not by much. I would prefer to not freeze my ass off in Korea with my fellow comrades when I could be in solidarity in the sunshine.

I have not been to N. Korea, J Farmer, but I have been to Cuba. I know more about Cuba than N. Korea.

What was your experience in either country?

J. Farmer said...

@Michael:

Good for you. I've never been to either. I was unaware that we were only allowed to have opinions of countries we traveled to personally. By that logic, I guess you have no basis for critiquing the life of North Koreans since you have never been there.

Here's a quick rundown from IfItWereMyHome...

If North Korea were your home instead of Cuba you would...

have 8.8 times higher chance of dying in infancy
consume 95.42% less oil
make 80.41% less money
die 13.51 years sooner
spend 99.85% less money on health care
use 36.68% less electricity
have 32.3% more babies

Cuba's rank on the Human Development Index is 44. North Korea is ranked 156.

Joe Schmoe said...

Obama's economic team probably convinced him to normalize relations with Cuba so we could give them aid money. Then in turn Cuba will spend their aid money on American goods. "Just think of the boost to the US economy!"

They still think they can print their way to prosperity. Unfortunately, if low fuel prices kickstart an economic boom, they'll mistakenly think they were right.

J. Farmer said...

@Joe Schmo:

Wouldn't aid money have to come from Congress?

buwaya puti said...

The Castro regime are special enemies of the US.
- They betrayed US trust in that they switched sides to the Soviets during an existential struggle, in spite of the US tacitly licensing their revolution. Batista was not a US puppet, the US government had cut them off from support, and the US did not consider the new regime an enemy.
- They were extremely dangerous for a time, and materially contributed to a series of horrible wars in nations friendly to the US. Most such dangerous regimes have been destroyed. US vengeance grinds slowly, often, but it grinds fine.
It would look bad if the Castro regime, out of all of them, escapes.
- International relations are a balance of fear. Your enemies cannot be allowed victories, because present and potential enemies will misunderstand the risks they run. Your threats are credible when the world periodically sees your enemies ruined.
- International relations require trust. Allies need to know you will have their backs. The Cubans who fled were offered sanctuary and, tacitly, support in their internecine struggle. The US took a side in that struggle, in spite of the refugees not constuting a state (they are a people, an ethnic entity however) and dropping that support hurts US credibility as an ally. US power was tremendously weakened in the 1970's due to Vietnam, which led indirectly to a wave of collapses among allied regimes and grave threats to many more. Dominos indeed.

buwaya puti said...

Cuban statistics, (like many other countries on such rankings, to be fair) are very questionable.

Michael said...

J Framer

"I was unaware that we were only allowed to have opinions of countries we traveled to personally"

But, of course, I did not say or imply that. I noted I had been to a country you asserted I knew little about.

It appears clear that N. Korea is a cheaper paradise than Cuba and much more friendly to the environment if I read your comparison correctly.

How can Korea spend less on free health care than the Cubans who spend nothing on free health care. Best in the world, we are told. Absolutely splendid.

dmoelling said...

A simple comparison

Presidents since Cuban Missile Crisis:

Cuba: Fidel Castro

USA: Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama

I would think it would still be inappropriate to reward someone who was actively urging a nuclear attack on the USA who is still in power

traditionalguy said...

But the Pope said it's good to support the Castro gang's rape, robbery and murders. I guess that settles it.

buwaya puti said...

US government aid can come in many forms that may not have to go through Congress, for instance in the form of trade financing such as from the Ex-Im bank.
I don't know if there are laws already barring Ex-Im financing in this case.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael:

Being to Cuba has nothing to do with making a comparison between Cubans and North Koreans. Cuba has a better standard of living than North Korea. If you want to cite some data to show me I am wrong, I will be more than happy to reconsider my position. Your travel itinerary, however, is insufficient in this regard.

If you want to keep making sarcastic criticisms to your imaginary pro-Communist, pro-Castro interlocutor, you are more than welcome. It has nothing to do with anything I have said.

traditionalguy said...

Has Obama granted them 100 billion dollars for a high speed train to Cuba yet?

J. Farmer said...

@buwaya puti:

What would be the real-world negatives to the US for ending the embargo and reestablishing diplomatic relations? If Cuban refugees don't happen to like it, that's too bad. Never mind that a majority of Cuban-Americans favor an end to the embargo.

Thousands of Americans died in Vietnam supposedly to prevent the spread of Maoism in that country just a few years before Nixon went and smiled for a photo op with the chairman.

traditionalguy said...

The trouble with Cuba has been them chosing to be an open enemy of with the USA for 50 years. The criminal thugs running it were able to use a Marxist cover story to offer to sell the USSR Cuba's placement as an unsinkable platform for aircraft, drones and missiles launches 80 miles south of the US mainland. They also sold them mercenary troops for the USSR to use in Africa to spread world Communist influence by murder.

But now we learn that was what made them heroes in Obama's eyes and apparently in Pope Francis' eyes too.

buwaya puti said...

Real world negatives-
- We aren't dealing with specifics but a general perception. Statesmen judge risks largely in perceptions of intent, character and attitude. Castro getting away with it adds to the perception that the US can be waited out or will give up easily, that the US is a paper tiger and no longer the power it was in the previous generations. I'm not saying that this will trigger a Chinese blockade of the Philippines next year, or paratroopers over Taipei, or Russian tanks in Kiev, but it increases the risk and brings the day closer.
- It makes it more likely too that former allies or neutrals will consider playing games with US rivals. Chinese military base in Nicaragua?

J. Farmer said...

When was the US "the power that it was?" I think you vastly overestimate what American power is able to accomplish.

Trashhauler said...

I'm all in favor of lifting the trade embargo. The force of our economy will end communist rule there eventually. In any case, Cuba is no longer the threat it once was.

No need to be kneejerk about this. It will turn out to be a win-win.

buwaya puti said...

On the contrary, it seems to me you vastly underestimate US power and its role in the last 70 years.
We have a global economy with relative security of trade and investment due to the Pax Americana, even during the worst of the Cold War. This, while technology trends have been adding leverage to potential threats.
Its become so much part of the background that people often fail to perceive its effects. We will certainly notice when it weakens though.

J. Farmer said...

I think the degree to which Pax Americana has contributed to a stable international system has probably been a bit overblown. I think it probably has more to do with nuclear technology making the king of total war of the first half of the 20th century a bit of a non-starter. But I am open to persuasion on that front. If the Pax Americana of the past 70 years could withstand the Soviet invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia and a stalemate on the Korean peninsula, I think it could survive us trading with a small island nation of 11 million people 90 miles from our shore.

dave_WI said...

in mentioning cigars, I wonder if Bill Clinton's name comes up

traditionalguy said...

Query: If Venezuela now is trying to copy Cuba by welcoming Iranian military and its nukes, missiles and drones plus opening a base for the Russian Navy, than what has Cuba go left to offer.
Is it still the same stuff but much closer than Venezuela?

There is nothing except hope to believe that Castro will give up that gig to Venezuela and settle for tourists.

Michael said...

J Farmer

"Being to Cuba has nothing to do with making a comparison between Cubans and North Koreans."

No shit. Who said it did? You seem to have both a reading comprehension problem and an issue with reasoning. Both workers' paradises are horrible. Do you at least understand that?

J. Farmer said...

@Michael:

Yes, they are horrible. Quote one thing I have said to make you suggest that I believe anything different. Quote me where I have spoken positively about Cuban economics or politics. If you want to keep tilting at that particular windmill, you are more than welcome. But stop addressing your remarks to me, since I have not said anything to warrant them.

You made a remark that the lives of Cubans and North Koreans being comparable. I disagree and cited some data that I think support my point of view. What was your response? More childish sneering and petulance. You are the one who brought up your travels to Cuba and asked if I had been to either country, as if that had anything to do with the topic at hand. You earlier claimed that Cuba would not be a market for US agricultural products when they are already buying hundreds of millions of dollars of agricultural products from the US every year. Do you have any actual data to support your claims, or do you just rely on attitude?

Michael said...

J Farmer:
"You made a remark that the lives of Cubans and North Koreans being comparable"

Perhaps in your head, but on these pages I noted that their annual incomes are not that far apart. I would confine my reading to the words that others have written instead of writing in your own thoughts which are influenced by faulty reasoning.

You remarked that I knew nothing, or little, about Cuba or N. Korea. To that I responded that I had been to Cuba and knew more about that country than aboiut N.K. You read that in your head as a statement that unless you had been to a country you could not have opinions about the country. The actual words that I wrote said nothing of the kind.

You noted that Cuba imported 2 billion each year in agricultural products. In a following post you said that American agricultural interests could make billions (with an s). I called that into question.

You are over your head, dude. You have to read what people actually write. I never contended anything that requires a statistical rebuttal. I have simply challenged your bullshit which you appear accustomed to producing but not defending.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael:

You specifically asked, "how you would differentiate the treatment of the citizens of each country by their leadership." My remark is that is an absurd statement and cursory knowledge of either country would reveal that. If you want support for my contention, I can point you to several human rights reports and rankings on both countries. Just because both are bad does not mean they are indistinguishable. There are a myriad of ways to differentiate between rights of Cubans and the rights of North Koreans.

Since 2001, Cuba has already purchased billions of agricultural products from the US. There are any number of sources for this information.

Paco Wové said...

"Sales of U.S. agricultural products to Cuba peaked at over $710 million in 2008, before the recession, but fell to $350 million by 2013... Frozen chicken, soybeans and soy products, and corn are the main products Cuba now buys from the United States.

It's hard to quantify just how much of a boost the planned changes will give to U.S.-Cuban agricultural trade ... it could grow to $400 million to $450 million within a couple of years."

Michael said...

J Farmer:

"You specifically asked, "how you would differentiate the treatment of the citizens of each country by their leadership." My remark is that is an absurd statement and cursory knowledge of either country would reveal that."

This statement is a non-sequitur. Classically. My statement is in the form of a question. Can you or can you not differentiate? Item: the citizens of NK cannot travel from NK. The citizens of Cuba cannot travel from Cuba. Is there a difference?
The citizens of Cuba and the citizens of NK are paid, if at all, through a system of top-down wage setting. NK mandates membership in the sole union of the country. Cuba mandates membership in the sole union of the country. In Cuba the land is "owned "by nominal collectives. Ditto NK. I could, of course, go on forever with specific likenesses between the two countries.

So when you type "My remark is that is an absurd statement and cursory knowledge of either country would reveal that." Both pieces of that "sentence" are wrong. It is not an absurd question and, in fact, a cursory knowledge of either country reveals many many similarities.

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J. Farmer said...

I am not sure why you would be sensitive to non sequiturs. They seem to be your stock and trade. I asked you a question in the comments, "If trading with Cuba is such an obviously meaningless, futile enterprise, then why maintain an embargo?" Your response was to ask how would I differentiate between the treatment of North Koreans versus Cubans. First, Cubans are permitted to travel much more freely than North Koreans. Travel restrictions have been eased under Raul Castro. The fact that there are similarities between two countries with nominally similar economic systems is not in question. The question is can they be differentiated. Yes, they can be differentiated. Plus, regime treatment of citizens is not the primary motive in our stance towards North Korea. For one, we are in a state of war with North Korea. Not so Cuba. Second, North Korea is attempting to develop and proliferate nuclear weapons technology. Again, I'll ask, if trade with Cuba does not amount to much, why is an embargo an effective tool?

On the issue of billions of dollars in agricultural sales, I'll use a simple example. If Company A sells Company B $500,000 worth of widgets, and I say that Company A could make millions of dollars in dealing with B, would you scoff and say, "How can they make millions when they only sold $500,000 for the whole year?" Before you lecture people about being out of depth in the face of your superior reasoning, you might want to check your own faulty logic.

Michael said...

J Farmer

LOL. Love your example. Finance must be your game. LOL

Company A can lose its ass by selling $500,000 in widgets if it costs them $500,001 to make them. Company A can also sell Company B a billion dollars of widgets on credit and end up with a billion dollar write down.

You also, of course, know the difference between gross and net?

LOL

J. Farmer said...

Once again, snide sneering instead of anything even remotely resembling an argument. My original comment to this post was that US agriculture stands to make billions trading with Cuba. This is demonstrably, empirically true. And no matter how many lame attempts you make to insult me, this will remain true. Will you concede that you were wrong in believing that trade with Cuba is not worth billions of dollars to US agriculture?

Michael said...

J Farmer

Here is the argument. Gross revenues do not mean profits. Billions in sales do not mean billions in profits.

I have no earthly idea what piece of the $2 billion market share Americans will be able to corner should all trade restrictions be removed. Cuba is a tiny market and will remain so. Anyone trading with them, especially perishables, will want to be paid on delivery.

It is not "demonstrably, empirically true" inasmuch as it is an event in the future. It cannot be demonstrated and it is not empirical since there is not data from the future. You have an hypothesis. Not the same thing.

J. Farmer said...

You are wrong. The U.S. has already sold billions of dollars in agriculture to Cuba since 2001.

Michael said...

J Farmer

Your contention is then that there will be no increase in sales to Cuba? If we are selling billions now do you believe we will be selling, what, four billion in four years? Two billion?

If you can demonstrate the demonstrable future what is the number?

Back that with empirical data.

You do know that sales have been in cash and that there is no banking system in Cuba and no counterparties in the US?

J. Farmer said...

Oh, give me a break. You are still grasping. Do you think the budget deficit is a problem? Why? That's the future, and you can't predict the future.

I posted a link to a report by the US International Trade Commission regarding agricultural sales to Cuba. Read it, and then tell me why it's wrong. You first scoffed at the very idea of selling billions of dollars in agricultural products to Cuba. I told you that we already have, and your response was to say I can't predict the future. You're right. I cannot. I have to do what everyone else in the world does. Rely on pattern and trends to make educated guesses about the future. I could be totally wrong. Trade with Cuba could end up being a total bust. But I, unlike you, want to actually try it before declaring it a failure.

buwaya puti said...

Er, go back again to the fact of commodities markets. These are commodities, they are interchangable and substitutable, with only marginal effects of transport costs and transaction costs. Its one market in aggregate. There is no larger potential market for US agriculture because the global demand for these products will be impacted not at all. OK, maybe trivially so if the Cubans buy a bit more because the US government loans them money. They will be eating better for a while, our treat.

J. Farmer said...

@buwaya puti:

Read the US International Trade Commission report and tell me why it is wrong. I am more than willing to listen to your opinion.

Let's see if I understand your position. Trade with Cuba is meaningless. Therefore, an embargo is meaningless. But we need to keep the embargo because lifting it would be seen as a defeat and would embolden our enemies and threaten Pax Americana. How is it Pax Americana could survive tens of thousands of dead Americans for a stalemate on the Korean peninsula and a defeat in Indochina but is threatened by trading with a tiny island nation of 11 million people?

Michael said...

J Farmer

It must be exhausting for you to have these arguments with yourself. Where did I declare this trade would be a failure? Point out the post and I will revise it and apologize. Except I never said that. If you trouble to read what I wrote you will see only that I have questioned your assertions. You made the ridiculous claim that future sales are demonstrable and empirically proven. I called you on that. Maybe you have a box with words in it and pull them out according to subject matter and toss them around as if they have a meaning you assign them versus their definitions and normal usage. But that is not how it works.

There is no threat posed by Cuba. I have seen no one on this thread say anything suggesting they do. Not military, not financial. None. The embargo does not hurt us but hurts Cuba who we wish to punish for its treatment of its citizens. Cuba can trade with the whole world. It trades with us on a humanitarian basis. To lift the embargo will be to help them with little or no corresponding benefit to us. That is the point of an embargo: to punish those embargoed. If they do not change their behavior why would we reward them?

Michael said...

J Farmer

My visits to Cuba have been for business. Here is a factoid you might ponder. Foreign hotels are built with foreign capital but Cuba takes a huge share of profits. The hotels pay $300 or so per month to the government for each employee. The govt pays the hotel employees $15 a month. See how that works? Neat, huh? American hotel companies will have to play by these rules as well.

buwaya puti said...

The report does not take commodities markets into account. It is an exercise in missing the point, or ignoring context, which is typical of these things. Read it. Of course the US can sell food to Cuba. The US can also sell food to Venezuela, or Egypt, whatever. Brazil or Argentina, whoever, can take up the slack. Its a boring game of musical chairs, where all the chairs stay between rounds and who sits on one chair or another is decided by very slim differences in marginal costs. You won't see much cheering at ADM or Cargill, unless they feel the need to suck up to the US administration and pretend enthusiasm. I wouldn't put it past them, at that.

Pax Americana was heavily impacted by defeat in Vietnam.
Several US allies and disputed countries in the global conflict went down shortly after the Vietnam disaster. It took more than a decade to recover.

The US strategic position does not really depend on caring about the welfare of anyone, that is mere sentiment. As a practical matter that sort of thing is only good for propaganda and the US will never benefit from that because of its fatal flaw, the internal fifth column that has always poisoned its moral selling points. Most international anti-Americans, that matter, are made that way by American anti-Americans, because they are fashionable because they are Americans. Paradoxes abound. A proper US strategist needs to be a cynic and recognize facts.

Michael said...

Buwaya puti

Exactly.

There also seem to be those who would like to cast the President's move as being a potential boon to US businesses. Those holding this view may not appreciate how business works or the fact that on the Cuban side these trades are unlikely to benefit the people while very much benefiting the Cuban government.

Unknown said...

How can North Korea use multiples of electrical kilowatts over the Cubans when from space their country looks like this at night?

http://images.travelpod.com/tw_slides/ta01/232/e50/north-korea-at-night-sokcho.jpg#North%20korea%20at%20night


How can North Korea have more food than the Cubans when their famines have been devastating?

Out of a total population of approximately 22 million, somewhere between 240,000 and 3,500,000 North Koreans died from starvation or hunger-related illnesses, with the deaths peaking in 1997.[6][7] Recent research suggests the likely range of excess deaths between 1993 and 2000 was between 500,000 and 600,000.[8]

Though the worst of the famine has since passed, North Korea still relies heavily on foreign aid and has not resumed food self-sufficiency. Bouts of food shortage continue to occur, and malnutrition is still widespread.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Korean_famine

buwaya puti said...

No famine in Cuba ?
There certainly was widespread malnutrition in the 90s.
Not quite as bad a risk of famine as NK, because unlike NK Cuba is extremely fertile and rural populations, at least, would have to try hard to starve. It was always SK that was Koreas ricebowl. The North had mountains and coal mines.

David Hampton said...


Dave_Wi; Bill is warming up his 'BIC' in eager anticipation of Cuban cigars. Can he get carpal tunnel from flicking his bic?

jr565 said...

J Farmer why do you want to prop up communism in Cuba? They control all business. So if we trade with Cuba we prop up the regime. Their previous benefactors are broke so can't fund them anymore, and now you want US to do it without getting a single concession from them?
Are libertarians dumb, or evil?

jr565 said...

By the way J Farmer, we are already the 6th largest exporter into Cuba now despite the embargo. We just don't provide them with credit and make them pay cash.
I suppose now you want us to provide them with credit?
How well have they paid back their other creditors? Like Russia and Venezuela.?

There may be a case for lifting the embargo, but it should involve Cuba making concessions. Not us. Cuba is the one that nationalized all its businesses and backed the soviets. I'm sorry it didn't work out for them. Backing communism up usually doesn't. But if they want the embargo lifted, they should concede to basic demands.
They want something for nothing. They get to keep,communism and still call us the imperialists. And you want to give them thwt something for nothing.

just like Obama.

jr565 said...

j.Farmer wrote:
Again, my point is simple. If someone believes that trade with Cuba would not amount to much, then how can a trade embargo accomplish much of anything? The logic seems pretty shaky to me: we have to keep the embargo because getting rid of it won't do anything anyway.

getting rid of it would strengthen the Cuba regime with infusions of cash. What incentive is their for Cuba to reform its system? We'd just become Cuba's next benefactor pumping in cash to a bankrupt system, and extending credit to a country that would have no cash to pay us back. And we'd get not a single concession from them for the privilege.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael:

I was responding to another commenter, not you. Practice some of that reading comprehension you keep lecturing me about. It was buwaya puti who argued that we need to maintain the embargo lest we lose credibility and embolden enemies. That's typical hawkish boilerplate and in my opinion nonsensical. But back to your very first response to me:

"How is Cuba going to provide billions in profit to US agriculture when it now only spends two billion? Do you assume the US will gain 100% market share and then the economy of Cuba will boom and provide the rest?

The average income in Cuba is two hundred and forty dollars a year. That is US$240. Per year.

I don't think you are particularly well schooled in economics."

We have exported over $4 billion in goods to Cuba since 2001. US agriculture has already sold billions of dollars in goods to Cuba after a loosening of the trade restrictions. Is it your contention that if we lift the embargo completely, this figure will go down? Even if we maintained the status quo, US agriculture would continue to sell hundreds of millions of dollars in goods to Cuba every year. You have not provided a scintilla of evidence to dispute this. I am waiting.

@jr565:

By trading with China, we enrich communist oligarchs in a single-party state with no rule of law that requires its citizens to seek government approval for emigration. Would you support closing our embassy in Beijing and imposing a trade embargo on China until the have elections and release political prisoners? Why is diplomatic relations with Cuba unthinkable, but it's okay for us to be close allies of the Saudis, an absolute monarchy and one of the most totalitarian, chauvinistic regimes on the planet?

Michael said...

J Farmer

I repeat. Foreign hotel owners pay the Cuban government $300 per month for each worker in their hotels on the island.

The Cuban government then pays those Union workers $15 per month.

This is what you support.

jr565 said...

J farmer, we have an embargo in place. What is the incentive for lifting it? Yes there are other countries thwt also have issues, and maybe we should've be embargos get them too. but if we have an embargo, why strengthen the regime by lifting it if we get nothing for it?
There's a reason why Michael Moore congratulates Cuba on winning the long game.
They get to keep the regime, not reform it and we get to give it cash and become the benefactor of Cuba. Why?

Michael said...

J Farmer

Four billion in exports over thirteen years is less than four hundred million a year. The US ag production is about 400 billion. Whip out your calculator.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael:

Pathetic. I accurately describe the current status of trade with Cuba, and your response is that I support the regime.

If you want to make the case that we should close embassies, recall ambassadors, and impose trade embargoes against every regime that abuses its citizens' human rights, go ahead. If you do not wish to make that argument, is that equivalent to supporting those regimes? Do the millions of Americans who walk into a Walmart everyday "support" human rights abuses and lack of political rights in China?

J. Farmer said...

@Michael:

"Four billion in exports over thirteen years is less than four hundred million a year. The US ag production is about 400 billion. Whip out your calculator."

That statement does not refute anything I have said.

J. Farmer said...

@jr565:

There is an argument that lifting the embargo and ending the travel restrictions will put more money in the hands of Cuban citizens and that diplomatic engagement will give us more leverage to influence the regime. I am not entirely convinced that this is true, given the regimes' absurd commitment to a centralized planned economy, but I am for giving it a shot. An aggressive, hard-line stance towards Cuba makes little sense in a post-Cold War political order, and the human rights argument seems pretty hollow given that we maintain not just diplomatic engagement but close alliances with a number of regimes with awful human rights records.

Our stance towards Cuba has gone on for 50 years and achieved none of its intended goals.

Michael said...

J Farmer

You are long on platitudes. It is impossible to refute platitudes.

Yes Cuba imports Ag products from the US. Genius point. Irrefutable.

"Rum and cigars are obvious imports for the United States. But in the U.S., the real beneficiaries of ending the embargo would be the US agricultural industry. They could make billions exporting to Cuba.

12/19/14, 8:25 AM"

The real beneficiaries will be the leaders of Cuba. They control all enterprise. They pay the workers a pittance. The US ag industry will make, at the margin, little more than they are making now. Arithmetic. Irrefutable.

If gross sales are half a billion the net on those sales is a pittance on commodities. It would take a long time to "make" billions. Unless, of course, you do not know the difference between sales and profits.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael:

"Yes Cuba imports Ag products from the US. Genius point. Irrefutable."

Translation: the point I made in my initial comment which you scoffed at and criticized was accurate. Thank you for that concession.

"Unless, of course, you do not know the difference between sales and profits."

I have been a small business owner for 14 years. I am aware of the difference. I do not know what the profit from sales are. And neither do you. Your contention that it's a "pittance" is just something you pulled out of your ass. Source, please? Instead of focusing solely on agricultural products, let's look at trade with Cuba in general. According to the US International Trade Commission, the embargo costs the US about $1.2 billion in revenue per year. Obviously, Cuba is never going to be a huge trading partner for the US. It has about the same population as Ohio. The fact that the business community wants to sell their products to Cuba leads me to think that they believe they will make a profit doing so, whether you believe such profit is merely a "pittance" or not.

"You are long on platitudes. It is impossible to refute platitudes."

It has nothing to do with platitudes. It has to do with some semblance of logical consistency and coherence. In 2012, the US imported $52 billion in goods from Saudi Arabia. That money disproportionately benefits a dynastic, absolute monarchy that routinely violates basic human rights. We imported $440 billion worth of goods from China, and that money benefits a single-party state that violates basic human rights.

Michael said...

J Farmer

Despite your name you should at least know that commodity margins are quite low. Profits, if any, depend mightily on cash prices, any hedges entered, etc. Farming is not a high margin business. You can look it up.

Not sure why you insist on posing the argument that since we now deal with dictators we must deal with all dictators. It is a logical failure on stilts.

You have unfortunately conflated an economic proposition as supportive of a political one. It fails on that basis. The idea is not that we can gain by doing business with Cuba but rather is that gain of any value to the Cuban people which has been the point of the embargo. Raoul made it clear a few hours ago that Cuba won big and will remain communist.

American hotel and travel companies stand to make magnitudes more than agricultural producers. Unlike Ag they have had no finger hold in Cuba. They will do well. Their workers will not.

Tough.

J. Farmer said...

@Michael:

The US could close its embassy in Riyadh tomorrow and impose a trade embargo. I would not support that, and I presume you would not either. Does taking that position mean we support the Saudi regime or how it treats its citizens?

Profit margins in farming vary widely depending on the scale and nature of the farm. Large-scale non-family farms often have profit margins of more than 20%. Farmers have been selling their products to Cuba for more than a decade because they make money doing it. The Texas legislature, that bastion of leftist pro-Castroism, passed a resolution in 2001 urging the federal government to ease the embargo. The business community lobbied hard for this out of a profit motive. Pittance not withstanding.

According to the International Human Rights Rank indicator, the 10 worse countries for human rights violations (granted the difficulties in quantifying such an amorphous concept) were Nigeria, Yemen, Burma, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Syria. The US trades with every single one of these countries and imports more than $18 billion a year in total from them. Do you believe if the US severed diplomatic relations with these countries and imposed a trade embargo, it would have a positive effect on the internal structure of their regimes. Why or why not?

Michael said...

j Farmer

The great thing about my life and work is that I rarely have to intersect with people who are not smart. It is more or less a rule with me. I break it occasionally on the Internet on sites like this and with people like you because it amuses me. But at some point it becomes clear to me why I have such a rule and why the world is so utterly fucked up. You do not get the argument at hand. You miss the point entirely. it is not about the US denying itself access to this fantastic market.


our president urges us to keep our sanctions against Iran because, as he says, these things take time.

If we stopped trading with the others on your list they would descend further into anarchy. Trading with them has not exactly improved their lots now has it? It has enriched their leadership and their leaderships' Swiss bankers that is for sure. Ditto the Castros.

Face it Farmer, you do not give one shit about US exports. You are just cheering on our president and the Cuban leaders.

J. Farmer said...

You're a joke. You lack any substantive response to any of the points I made, so you fall back on (surprise!) more lame, churlish insults. I have said multiple times that I am ambivalent about the potential for trade and ending travel restrictions to reform the regime, but since we trade with any number of odious regimes, it does not make much sense to deny trade with and travel to Cuba. Especially considering that our 50-year-old policy has been an abject failure.

I also happen to oppose sanctions on Iran and disagree with Obama on his handling of that situation, as I have disagreed with the majority of his foreign policy. I have also agreed with you that the regime in Cuba is "horrible" and that its planned economy is "absurd." But right, I am just cheering on the president and the Cuban leadership.

I am surprised that such a superior intellect as yours relies on such boring left/right dichotomies to make sense of the world. The American Conservative, the Cato Institute, and the Texas legislature all agree with me. They must be cheerleaders for Obama and the Castros, right?

Michael said...

J Farmer

"I am surprised that such a superior intellect as yours relies on such boring left/right dichotomies to make sense of the world. The American Conservative, the Cato Institute, and the Texas legislature all agree with me. They must be cheerleaders for Obama and the Castros, right?"

The second sentence contradicts the first. That is part of the reason you struggle.

J. Farmer said...

It doesn't at all. The pro-Obama, pro-Castro leftist you have been eager to argue with in several posts now is a figment of your imagination. I did not invoke political parties or ideologies in any of my opinions on Cuba. Your notion that anti-embargo = pro-Castro is logically incoherent. One can quite easily be anti-embargo and anti-Castro. As I have pointed it in several posts, I oppose all sorts of regimes that we trade with, but I would not support a trade embargo against those regimes. Do people generally on the left broadly agree with me on this particular issue? Yes. Me citing people whose outlook is broadly conservative who are also anti-embargo was support for my contention that the left/right framework is not particularly useful when discussing this issue.

But this is all really a waste of pixels. You don't engage any of the arguments I actually make. You simply dismiss them out of hand and then move on to another subject. The general pattern seems to be (a) you make a factually incorrect claim (b) I make a counterargument and cite data and real-world examples to support my position (c) you call me stupid. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.