Breaking the status quo

Author Archives: William Vidal

Here’s some fresh reinforcement for the ol’ “embargo only gives the Castros an excuse for their failures” argument:

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Havana (CNN) – Cuban officials have accused the U.S. government of bizarre plots over the years, such as trying to kill Fidel Castro with exploding cigars. On Wednesday, they said Washington is using a new weapon against the island: spam.

“It’s overloading the networks, which creates bad service and affects our customers,” said Daniel Ramos Fernandez, chief of security operations at the Cuban government-run telecommunications company ETECSA.

At a news conference Wednesday, Cuban officials said text messaging platforms run by the U.S. government threatened to overwhelm Cuba’s creaky communications system and violated international conventions against junk messages.

The spam, officials claim, comes in the form of a barrage of unwanted text messages, some political in nature.

So USAID paid “tens of thousands of dollars” for a program that it couldn’t sustain because it violated our own embargo, and all it got in return was zero civil unrest and a PR victory for the Cubans.

Now as the Cubans update their telecoms infrastructure to provide home and mobile internet access, they can blame any and all interruptions or delays on covert US spamming platforms aimed at toppling the regime.

Yep, sounds like our Cuba policy alright. Says who it ain’t working?

Third Rail? What Third Rail?

March 14th, 2014 | Posted by William Vidal in Cuba policy | Hard-line hijinks | US Politics - (1 Comments)

Hardliners made a whole lot of hullabaloo a few weeks ago when Charlie Crist unequivocally came out against the embargo. “Political suicide!” they hollered. Yet the numbers paint a drastically different picture. From Marc Caputo’s Sunday story on Florida’s gubernatorial race for The Miami Herald:

But many of Scott’s fellow Republicans were paying attention to a different set of numbers: a raft of poll data-points that make the GOP queasy because it shows Democrat Charlie Crist has broad support across Florida right now. The highlights:

• 34 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, according to one business interest’s statewide survey. This margin is 12 points greater than Democrat Alex Sink’s in the 2010 governor’s race. If she had earned Crist’s poll numbers in just these two counties, Sink would have won.

• 10 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in another business interest’s statewide poll.

• 8 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in two other business interests’ statewide polls.

• 7 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in a fourth business interest’s statewide poll.

• 6 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in a poll of Republican-controlled state House districts across Florida.

• 4 percentage points — the margin Crist beats Scott by in North Florida, a Republican stronghold. The number is well within the poll’s error margin. But it’s a cumulative 17-point shift in favor of Democrats compared to 2010, and Sink would have won the governor’s race with this North Florida margin.

• 2 percentage points — the margin Scott beats Crist by in a poll of Republican-controlled state Senate districts in North Florida. Again, it’s within the error margin. But again: If Sink had had this margin, she probably would have won the governor’s race.

• 1 percentage point — the margin Crist beats Scott by overall in that poll of Republican-controlled state Senate districts. The poll was paid for by the Republican Party of Florida.

Crist also has a better image than Scott overall, with 48 percent having a favorable impression of the Democrat and 39 percent an unfavorable impression in these Republican-held seats.

Put another way: Crist has a favorability index of +9.

Scott’s index: only +1.

36 flippin’ percentage points in Miami-Dade!  If this doesn’t shatter the myth that the embargo is the third rail of Florida politics, nothing can.

On the Futility of Sanctions

March 10th, 2014 | Posted by William Vidal in Cuba policy - (0 Comments)

From “The Futility of Sanctions on Russia“, by conservative columnist, Steve Chapman:

Economic sanctions exert a perennial appeal during geopolitical crises because they spill no blood and cost little money, at least compared to the toll of war. These virtues are enough to make everyone forget that they rarely accomplish anything beyond allowing our leaders to posture.

A revealing example is the U.S. economic embargo of Cuba, which was imposed in 1960 with the goal of driving Fidel Castro’s communist government from power. The boycott is still in place, more than a half-century later, and so is the regime.


Experts on the subject are divided into two groups: those who think sanctions usually fail and those who think they almost always fail. Gary Hufbauer, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, says sanctions have been effective in about 30 percent of the cases they’ve been used. But he doubts the steps taken by Obama — what he calls “light” sanctions — will make any difference in Ukraine.

“The success rates for symbolic or ‘light’ sanctions, for sanctions against autocratic governments, and for sanctions seeking territorial concessions are lower,” he said by email. For anyone hoping to get the Russians out of Crimea, he said, “these findings are not auspicious.”

Pessimists are even gloomier. University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape calculates that sanctions have worked less than 5 percent of the time. The intractable obstacle, he has written, is that modern governments are “willing to endure considerable punishment rather than abandon what are seen as the interests of the nation.”


I don’t really need to comment much on this one. Check out Mario Diaz-Balart’s bravura — and entirely unconvincing — performance defending the embargo in an interview with the New York Times. Lil’ bro gets stuck in a sad and inarticulately endless loop of “Hurt the regime/help the dissidents” that reveals just how bankrupt and out of touch he is on Cuba policy.

It is highly recommended reading. You might be tempted to shrug it off as more of the same ol’ tired B.S. from the Diaz-Balarts (and it is), but you’ve never seen one of them come completely unhinged in such a spectacular fashion.



In a rousing speech on the Senate floor yesterday, Rubio argued that embargoes against repressive societies are futile and that targeted sanctions may hold more promise. Too bad he wasn’t talking about Cuba.

On embargoes:

“We don’t have an embargo against Venezuela,” he said. “They have a shortage of toilet paper and tooth paste. Why? Because they are incompetent. Because communism doesn’t work. They look more and more like Cuba economically and politically every single day.”

On targeted sanctions:

Over the next few days, Rubio said, he’d propose sanctions “we should be pursuing against the individuals responsible for these atrocities [in Venezuela].”

And then he went on to defend the Cuban embargo.

If only the Senator could explain why his policy views apply to Venezuela but not Cuba?

Ileana and Menendez:
Protests in Venezuela? SANCTIONS
Protests in Ukraine? SANCTIONS!
Cuba has sanctions? MORE SANCTIONS!!!
I stubbed my toe against a stupid table. SANCTIONS! SANCTIONS! WE LIVE FOR SANCTIONS!!!!
At least with Ukraine they finally learned that targeted sanctions make more sense. So that’s progress for ya’, America.
Speaking of targeted sanctions, it looks like that’s what the UN will use as punishment against individuals and enterprises in Cuba and North Korea for violating its weapons embargo on the Asian country.

Cuba, a Real Threat to the United States. Like For Real.

February 17th, 2014 | Posted by William Vidal in WTF? - (0 Comments)

For no discernible reason other than to back up their yella’belly horseturd of a pro-embargo editorial (which sorta kinda says that maybe Cuba policy should be reviewed, but only a little bit), The Miami Herald just published a Pulitzer-worthy exposé about a Cuban spy station that still sends messages to their spooks in U.S., proving just how much of a threat those evil Cubans pose to the national security of the United States:

Sixteen years after the arrests in Miami of five Cuban spies who got their secret orders by short wave transmissions, Havana is still using a system that fell out of favor in the cloak-and-dagger world with the end of the Cold War.

There are many more modern and efficient ways of communicating secrets by using satellites, burst transmissions, one-time emails and other means, said Chris Simmons, a retired Pentagon counter-intelligence officer who specialized on Cuban affairs.

“But these Cuban transmissions may be for old spies, dinosaurs who have been listening to (short wave) for so long, long term agents, that they are comfortable with it and don’t want or need a change,” Simmons added.

Smolinski says he laughs when he talks about the [Cuban] Atención station because it was infamous as one of the worst-run spy stations in the spook world. Its transmissions often started late, its signal drifted across frequencies and a buzz would make the messages unintelligible, he said.

The station once mistakenly broadcast part of a regular Radio Havana program, a no-no for a spy station trying to conceal its country’s identity, Smolinski said. In another broadcast, a rooster could be clearly heard in the background.

“I guess most things there don’t run very well,” he chuckled.

The only thing the Cuban government does right is pick its enemies.

7 Reasons The Nonsensical Cuba Embargo Has Got To Go

February 13th, 2014 | Posted by William Vidal in Cuba policy - (0 Comments)

The Huffington Post lays out the entire argument for lifting the embargo in seven paragraphs with big colorful pictures, and sums it all up with this simple truth:

The policy, first partially implemented in 1960, has survived 11 U.S. presidents with nothing to show. Give it a rest.

This guy. Yesterday, pro-embargo lobbyist Mauricio Claver Carone threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Atlantic Council poll – ”its a push poll, they polled the wrong people, its biased, its ‘sloppy and shameless’, it was conducted by ignoramuses, it gets everything wrong” — that is of course, until he finds one morsel of data he likey and now trumps it as CONCLUSIVE PROOF that Americans still support current US policy to Cuba. That’s it! I’m done! Make sure to tip your waitress!

See our comments after Maury’s revelation.

What the Media Ignored: Americans Support Cuba Policy

at 9:36 AM Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Scouring through news stories about the Arsht Center’s Flake-Leahypoll, not a single media organization mentioned a key take-away:That Americans support U.S. policy toward Cuba.U.S. policy toward Cuba, as codified into law by the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act (LIBERTAD), sets forth a host of democratic and human rights preconditions for the lifting of sanctions and the normalization of relations.Despite the pollster’s targeting low-information individuals and manipulating samples from the general population, when informed about the Castro regime’s human rights abuses, Americans favored keeping current U.S. policy — and reject further engagement — by a 50-43 margin.

In other words, no matter how hard pollsters push, when Americans are informed about the democratic and human rights conditions in U.S. law, they clearly favor current U.S. policy toward Cuba.The more Americans learn about Castro’s human rights abuses, the more they favor current U.S. policy.

OTS Comment: as we mentioned in our takedown yesterday of Mauricio’s desperate jihad against the Atlantic Council’s Cuba poll:

Mauricio’s claim that support for engagement declines is not accurate.  When the question about human rights abuses is asked in a vacuum by itself, a majority of respondents do regard the regime’s human rights record as reason to keep the current policy in place.  However, after hearing all statements both in support and against changing U.S. policy towards Cuba, there is no decline in the original proportion of Americans who favor normalizing or engaging with Cuba: 55 percent

Again Mauricio, Americans get the Castro’s are bad people. You know this because last week you posted a link to a recent CNN poll that found that “Fidel Castro is the most disliked foreign tyrant among Americans.”  They just disagree with you on how the US should respond to the Castros’ rule over Cuba. The entire world disagrees with you.

This is why hardliners try so hard to silence other voices. They were attacking this poll a two weeks before the results were even published. They attack Adrienne Arsht, Fanjul, Crist and anyone else who offered a position different from their own. And they do so because they know that once Americans receive the full picture — one they’ve heard all arguments pro and against normalization — they still support normalization with Cuba. It’s the same reason why they don’t want people to travel to the island. Because they know that once people see the reality of Cuba with their own eyes, they return convinced that the embargo has done nothing to to end the Castro regime or help the Cuban people.

Thanks for playing “Spinopoly”. Please try again.

Last year we ripped apart Jaime Suchlicki’s entire argument for why the US should not lift the travel ban or embargo on Cuba, and it it is still our most popular post ever. Let’s see if we can break that record by dissecting Mauricio’s critique of the Atlantic Council’s poll (if you haven’t read the poll yet, check it out here. It’s a scorcher).

This one is a little more technical, since the poll itself was so well prepared that Mauricio has to jump all kinds of hoops to find fault with it.

Mauricio’s post is in regular type and our comments are in bold.

What You Won’t Read About Arsht’s Cuba Push-Poll

at 12:09 AM Tuesday, February 11, 2014
The anticipated push-poll by The Atlantic Council‘s Adrienne Arsht Center will be released this morning.Here’s what you probably won’t read in most news stories about its results.

First, the entire release is biased and agenda-driven.  No dissenting voices have been invited to participate. As we noted earlier, U.S. Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Congress’ biggest supporters of unconditionally engaging the Castro regime, worked hand-in-hand with the pollsters and organizers. To the point that Flake-Leahy wrote a Miami Herald oped — citing figures from the poll — that was published the day before its official release.

OTS Comment: CLAIM # 1, “the entire release is biased and agenda-driven”

  • The “biased” push-poll was conducted by three-time winner of the “Republican Pollster of the Year” award from the American Association of Political Consultants, Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies along with Democratic pollster Paul Maslin of FM3. (See Page 7 of the report). 
  • Moreover, one of the panelists, Republican strategist Alex Castellanos said time and again that though he doubted it was the right time to engage with Cuba due to its human rights situation, he believed the time had come for America to have a serious debate on its policy toward the island. 
  • But no, Mauricio says the poll is biased so it’s biased.

It is not a poll of voters. It’s a general population poll, in which they could have polled Honey-Boo-Boo and it would have been reflected in the results.

OTS: CLAIM #2, “It’s a general population poll”

  • Are there national polls that don’t target the general population? Over 90% of respondents in this poll are registered voters. According to the polls findings, if you take out the less than 10% of non-registered voters, favorability for normalization actually increases. Though had they polled Honey-Boo-Boo, I’m sure she would have sided with the hardliners. They both have a simplistic view of the world that’s unhinged from reality.

The push-poll’s “big news” is that 56% of Americans purportedly support “normalizing relations or engaging directly” with Castro. Note how broad that is. Moreover, they don’t ask about the “embargo” specifically — for they know there’s no support in Congress for lifting the embargo. This push-poll is aimed at the Obama Administration. Yet, based on the results, more Americans support repealing Obamacare than engaging with Castro. And we know the Obamacare numbers don’t influence the President.

OTS: CLAIM #3, “big news’” is that 56% of American purportedly support ‘normalizing relations or engaging directly’ with Castro”.

  • While it is big news that 56% of American support normalization nationally, the really news is that only 35% oppose it, and of that percentage only 22% strongly oppose (versus 30% who strongly support). This shows much higher voter intensity for normalization than for maintaining the status quo. Of course, the real news is in Florida, where those numbers rise up to 62%.

CLAIM #4: “they don’t ask about the embargo”

  • The second question in the poll after demographic info is: “Since 1961 the United States has had no diplomatic relations with Cuba and restricts trade and travel with Cuba for the vast majority of American citizens and American businesses. Would you favor or oppose normalization/engagement?” I guess Mauricio expects the surveyor to read the entire Helms-Burton Act, plus another 16 laws to each respondent while on the phone. (See Question #9 in the poll)

Since the 56% isn’t particularly moving, they ridiculously claim Floridians favor engagement by an even greater number — 63%. Of course, there’s no sampling structure or breakdown of how they polled Florida. We’d note that neither of the pollsters have any experience in Florida politics, let alone the Senators from Arizona and Vermont. Anyone that has actually won a race in the State of Florida, including the Obama Administration, knows that is silliness.

OTS: CLAIM #5 (one of our favorites), “neither pollsters have any experience in Florida politics”

  • Glen Bolger (Republican Pollster): has completed 828 research projects in Florida since 1991, interviewing 352,084 Floridians since the 1991. He has polled 21 of the 27 Congressional Districts in the state and over four dozen State legislative districts. His clients include: Congressman Vern Buchanan, Congressman Jeff Miller, Attorney General Pam Bondi, State Sen. Anitere Flores, Miami Dade County Commissioner Juan Zapata, the Florida Republican Party, the Florida Republican Senate Caucus, Former Gov. Jeb Bush, Former Gov. Charlie Crist (until he switched), Former Congressman Ric Keller, Former Congresswoman Sandy Adams, Former Congressman Joe Scarborough and Former Congressman Allen West, and that’s just to name a few for sweet Honey Boo-Boo.
  • Paul Maslin (Democratic Pollster): I suppose that Mauricio’s heard of one or his clients, former Senator Bob Graham? Hello? Bueller? Bueller?
  • This is a good opportunity to mention that Mauricio was born in Spain, raised in Orlando, lives in DC, and has never worked on a campaign anywhere, much less in Miami or anywhere else in Florida. But who are we to question his authority?

Interestingly enough, even in a push-poll, when an explanation of the human rights abuses by the Castro regime preceded the question, the number of Americans that support engagement went down from 56% to 43%. Even their Florida numbers went down from 63% to 43%. This wide swing shows that those polled knew little about Cuba, particularly those in Florida. Odd right? Not really, that’s exactly who the pollsters were targeting. It’s laughable to think Floridians are less aware of human rights abuses in Cuba than non-Floridians. It also shows why Castro’s U.S. advocates are constantly trying to “white-wash” the regime’s abuses.

*Note that the question that most accurately reflects the human rights and democratic conditions codified in U.S. law — as prerequisites for lifting sanctions — is the one that throws off their “engagement” narrative.

OTS: CLAIM #6, “when an explanation of the human rights abuses by the Castro regime preceded the question, the number of American that support engagement went down from 56% to 43%”

  • Mauricio’s claim that support for engagement declines is not accurate.  When asked in a vacuum by itself, a majority of respondents do regard the regime’s human rights record as reason to keep the current policy in place.  However, after hearing statements both in support and opposed to changing U.S. policy towards Cuba there is no decline in the original proportion of Americans who favor normalizing or engaging with Cuba: 55 percent. 

The poll purports that 64% of Miami-Dade County supports “normalization” with Castro. Once again, no breakdown of who was polled in Miami-Dade County. Yet, the fact remains every single Cuban-American elected official — in any position — in Miami-Dade County supports the embargo. So the facts speak for themselves.

OTS: CLAIM #7, “no breakdown of who was polled in Miami-Dade County”

  • I suppose Mauricio is just hoping to get a lists of names he can add to his hit list of attacks, because the very first line on Page 7 of the report titled “Methodology and About the [evil, commie, biased] Pollsters” states that, “The survey was conducted in English and Spanish from January 7 to 22, 2014, with a nationwide margin of error of +/- 2.1 percent (Florida +/- 4.0 percent and latinos +/- 4.4 percent) at the 95 percent confidence interval. Respondents were interviewed on landlines and cell phones. In addition to a benchmark sample of 1,024 randomly-selected US adults age 18 and over, the survey includes additional over-samples with notable results from the 617 Florida residents and the 525 Latinos interviewed.”
  • See buddy, that is how three-time Republican Pollster of the Year award recipients conduct a poll!
  • It’s worth noting that Cuban-American Rep. Joe Garcia is in favor of the Obama Administration’s policy of family and people to people travel and remittances, and has stated that the administration should open travel and remittance support even further.
  • Also worth noting, local Republican politicians in Miami are quickly flipping sides to Democrat, and with that you can expect them to embrace their gubernatorial candidate’s message to some degree, along with local Dems already in office. I’ll bet Mauricio a New York Strip at Bulla that he’ll have to swallow that statement come election night.

Of course, with the push-poll aimed at the Obama Administration, they asked about the “state-sponsors of terrorism” list and were surprised that it was originally split. So they claim that after more “information” (literally telling respondents “Cuba poses no threat”), the numbers of those wanting Cuba off the list went up to 61%. This was the neatest jedi trick since Obi Wan Kenobi at the Star Wars Cantina. Needless to say, they didn’t “inform” about arms-trafficking to North Korea, the harboring of U.S. Most Wanted Terrorists, the support provided to Treasury-designated terrorist groups, money laundering concerns, subverting democracy in the Western Hemisphere, etc.

OTS: CLAIM #8: “They asked about the ‘state sponsors of terrorism” list and were surprised it was originally split. So they claim that after more “information” (literally telling respondents “Cuba poses no threat), the number of those wanting Cuba off the list went up to 61%”

  • Just because you write checks for candidates doesn’t mean you’ve worked a campaign. If you had, you would know that you don’t pay for a poll, read the results and then go back into the field with follow-up questions. So let’s just look at the “originally split” numbers on the terrorism designation: nationally, 52% say Cuba doesn’t belong on the list versus 40% and in Florida, 61% say Cuba doesn’t belong versus 31%. I guess it’s a good thing Mauricio doesn’t work campaigns, because he doesn’t even understand the meaning of “split.”
  • And the name of the Cantina is Chalmun’s, not Star Wars. Gawd can you get anything right?!

Sloppy and shameless.

OTS: Something here is sloppy and shameless alright, and it sure ain’t the poll. Smells like sulfur, too.