Governor Abbott and Covid. Texas USA

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The Governor is addressing a large group of Texans assembled in a convention hall in Austin.

Gov – What Mr Biden is doing with his vaccine mandates clearly violates our personal freedom…

Applause from the audience.

Gov – … but not only that, it is also slowing our economic recovery because his mandate leads to worker layoffs, responsible and hard working Americans who refuse to be controlled by the government…

More applause from the audience.

Gov – … I have thus issued an executive order this last Monday that forbids Texas companies to compel its employees to get vaccinated, so they are free to defy the president’s mandate and set their own compassionate policies, which must uphold, first and foremost, the freedom of all Texans to choose whether to get vaccinated or not, based on their conscience, religious beliefs or other personal reasons.

More applause.

Gov – … We, as a proud people, will not be constrained by dictatorial orders from Washington.

More applause and now shouts of ‘Abbott for president!!’ ‘Long live the state of Texas!!’ ‘Down with Socialism!!’ ‘Abolish all taxes!!’

Gov – The Biden mandate, which applies to businesses with 100 employees or more, is clearly federal overreach and thus unacceptable.

A lady in the audience raises her hand to speak.

Gov – (signaling to her) Please, the lady has a question. Go ahead Ms.

Lady – I am an executive with the Greater Houston Partnership representing over 900 businesses, including Exxon and Chevron, and we welcome president Biden’s mandate because it makes it easier to enforce workplace safety and helps prevent workers going to other companies with laxer rules.

Gov – That may be convenient to you but what about freedom?

Lady – Why should a coworker bear the burden of possible infection from someone who refuses to be vaccinated?

Gov – People who do not get vaccinated use masks… they practice social distancing… for they are prudent and responsible people…

Lady – No, governor, some may do but others do not, so it is not uniform and thus the lack of vaccination represents a threat to the welfare of others, a threat to their freedom to be at lower risk of contagion.

Gov – There is always a risk, isn’t it, but that is the price of freedom…

Applause from the audience. The lady sits down. Now another woman raises her hand asking to speak.

Gov – (signaling to her) The lady over there, please.

Lady 2 – I am a nurse at Houston Methodist Hospital, where we have taken an oath to do no harm, and that means doing everything possible to prevent the spread of the disease and that is why we fired those employees who refused to get vaccinated. We cannot afford to add risk to those who come to us in search of assistance. When we care for a patient, we may need to be very close to them, and we will not permit anything but the highest standards in exercising such care.

Gov – If health care workers are properly suited, with enough barriers against the transmission of the infection, they should be able to deliver the best care and still assert their freedom to not get vaccinated. Or they could get assigned to other duties.

Scattered applause from the audience.

Now a man in an Army uniform stands up. He doesn’t bother to raise his hand.

Man – Governor… I am an officer with the US Army. I served two tours of duty in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban, who gave shelter to Al Qaeda and allowed for the attacks on our nation on 9/11. While fighting the Taliban, if my commander ordered me to go out on patrol in the service of my country – to preserve our liberties – I did not turn around and say to him, ‘What about my freedom?’ No, I just did it. And I did it because I had enrolled in the armed forces to preserve the freedoms of this country… and preserving the freedoms of this country calls for sacrifices. Well, our nation has been at war with Covid, and there ought to be no room for people to say, ‘I don’t want to join in fighting the germ that is killing my fellow Americans.’ Fighting Covid calls for actions that we may not personally agree with, but given they are in the interests of the greater good then they should be followed.’

Gov – Officer, we all appreciate your service… your courage…

Man – Sir, as of yesterday, the average daily deaths from Covid in the state of Texas was 235.6, with a 52% vaccination rate. In the state of Florida, the average daily deaths came to 239.7, with a 58% vaccination rate. But in California, where mandates have been enforced, the average daily deaths was only 98.7, with a 60% vaccination rate. Those are figures taken from the virus tracker site at the NY Times so all of you are welcome to check them. Some of these dead folks may have been older, or immunocompromised, but they are fellow Americans… and they also have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of freedom. So, sir, for you to insist on defying our commander in chief’s mandate, which was meant to protect all Americans, is to deny that the protection of our liberties require everyone’s sacrifice. And that all of those who so loudly complain about preserving freedom, forget what it costs. You, sir, may have your reasons to push your view, but I hold you do so at the expense of American lives and that it is completely unnecessary because we have vaccines. We have the weapons to effectively combat the enemy. Thank you.

The room is silent.

Gov – I have heard you, officer… and I see how you were an excellent soldier. And yet, it is my strong belief that, as in war, the price we have paid is worth the freedom we preserve.

Other Man – (stands up in the back of the room) Do you realize, Governor, what would’ve happened to our economy and the world’s, if we hadn’t had vaccines, the chaos we would’ve been in?

Gov – Of course I do. And I and all of us here, thank all the scientists who have worked so hard to bring us the shots. But Texans should always have their freedom, first and foremost. Thank you, all, and good night.

“Long live Texas!’ ‘Abbott for President!’ cry out two persons but there is tepid applause as the audience stands and starts to file out.

Another person shouts, ‘There’s a reason why Tesla is moving out of California.’

A couple of people laugh but no one else says anything.

Woman – I’m alive because of the vaccines.

The lights dim as people keep filing out.

Oscar Valdes.      Oscarvaldes.net

Guns and Abortion. Deep in Texas

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They’re sitting at a bench in a park. Pete and Joe, old friends who hadn’t seen each other in a while and met up at a nearby store.

Pete – I don’t get it.

Joe  – What’s that?

Pete – You are a staunch supporter of the right to bear arms, to be able to carry without a permit.

Joe – Got that right. Mark of my freedom. There isn’t a dark alley I can’t go into. There’s no man stronger than me. No man taller than me. No man meaner than me. So long as I have my gun at my side.

Pete – The equalizer?

Joe – That’s it.

Pete – Of course, I know you, Joe, and you wouldn’t hurt a fly.

Joe – Unless it decided to mess with me.

Pete – Right.

Joe – Freedom, Pete, that’s what it’s all about.

Pete – But Joe, I feel free and yet, I don’t feel the need to have a gun with me at all times. I mean, I keep one at home, just in case some nut wants to break in for whatever reason.

Joe – You ever fired it?

Pete – I haven’t.

Joe – You’d better practice or you’re liable to hurt yourself instead when the time comes to use it.

Pete – You’re right. I keep putting it off. But back to the main question. I don’t feel the need to have a gun when I’m out and about… not like you do.

Joe – Well, you and me are different. I like to cover every possibility.

Pete – Aren’t you being paranoid when you insist on always being armed?

Joe – I’ve thought about that. And maybe I am… a little… but stuff happens when you least expect it and that’s no paranoia. It’s the freedom, Pete, that’s what it’s all about. Freedom. Personal boundaries. No one bothers me. You should try it sometime. Clears your mind.

Pete – I’d be worried I’d overreact.

Joe – I don’t overreact. How do I know the other guy is not carrying too?

Pete – You have a lot of control.

Joe – Gun at my side reminds me of it.

Pete – Not carrying a gun reminds me to think of alternatives. Are there men, or women, meaner than me, stronger than me? Yes. And so be it. Every person, man or woman, has their power. I have mine.

Joe – You say it to yourself every day?

Pete – I do. I say it to myself all the time. And it helps me be more tolerant of others. More compassionate. And more careful.

Joe – I can do the exact same thing and still have the gun for insurance. Just in case the mental exercise doesn’t work. You said it before. Guns are the equalizer. I’m the master of my life.

Pete – I know you and I know you as a man of restraint. But not everyone with the right to carry a weapon is.

Joe – That’s true.

Pete – What about those who take advantage of the right to carry a gun and then go on to kill innocent people?

Joe – Messed up. Really messed up. But there are other ways to keep people from doing that.

Pete – There are, but it takes time and effort to spot and work with them and it’s so much easier to buy a gun and shoot away.

Joe – Pete… I understand it’s not fair… all those shootings… in fact it’s pretty messed up… but that’s not enough to justify depriving the rest of us law abiding citizens of the privilege to carry.

Pete – The cost in lives is huge. How many people died in Vegas in 2017?

Joe – Nearly 60 and over 500 injured. It pained me deeply to see that happen.

Pete – Freedom has a price?

Joe – Yes.

Pete – Did you ask yourself where was god in Vegas?

Joe shakes his head slowly as he looks down at the ground.

Joe – It could be… that my children will grow up not to think the same way I do. I mean, they will go to college in other states where the laws are different… but there’ll always be Texas. And if you don’t want to carry you don’t have to, but it’s there if you do. I don’t have the answer. I don’t think we should be selling guns to people we know will be using them to coerce or kill others. It’s messed up. I’m against that. Free enterprise ought to have some limits.

They look at each other.

Pete – You believe in abortion?

Joe – No. It’s not right to take a life God created.

Pete – But it’s not god creating the life, it’s a man and a woman coming together.

Joe – If they came together and she conceived it’s because God wanted it.

Pete – Didn’t you say a little while ago that you were the master of your life, that having a gun gave you that feeling?

Joe – Yes, I did.

Pete – Where does god come into it? Well, it’s the same with a woman. If she has sex with a man of her own free will, then she’s opening up the possibility of creating a life. She is. Not god.

Joe – But once you create it, that’s it. It should stay that way.

Pete – Wait up. When you carry a weapon, you’re giving yourself the right to end a life that threatens yours. You are acting as the master of your life. Why doesn’t that apply to a woman?
Maybe she just changed her mind, or didn’t intend to get pregnant and an accident happened. She has her right over the life creating capacities of her body, just like you have the right to put a stop to anything that threatens your life. No different.

Joe – Hmm.

Pete – You will fight for the right to deter or end the life of anyone threatening yours, but you don’t allow women the same choice.

Joe – How’s pregnancy threatening a woman’s life?

Pete – It’s a life altering condition for a woman. Significantly so. Anything can happen. To their health or the baby can be deformed.

Joe -They can always give the baby away.

Pete – Don’t think that’s easy to do. But we should ask a woman. I find it difficult to comprehend that people can be so insistent on depriving others of the right to their bodies. And that those same people may be ardent believers in the right to bear weapons, which means the right to fire them and to injure or kill others. Those who oppose abortion are saying that women don’t have the right to enjoy the fullest of freedoms, the right to own their bodies, which you so proudly assert when you insist on the right to bear arms.

They are silent for a moment

Joe – Women can bear arms, too…

Pete – Yes… but can’t fire them to stop a law that forbids abortions.

They turn to look at each other.

Joe (cracking a smile) – There’s work to do.

They laugh.

Pete – Now, there are politicians… and other leaders… who will stir up feelings just to get elected… and do the least possible to make us think.

Joe – I can think of a few. I even fell for it, once or twice. Not proud of it, either.

Pete – But you’re willing to reflect, Joe… imagine all those who don’t bother. And if their numbers add up enough, they get to rule us.

Joe – It’s happened.

Joe takes off his hat. Holds it in his hands, looks at it.

Joe – How’s the wife?

Pete – We’re separated right now.

Joe – What?

Pete – Been together 25 years… only man she’s ever known. She’s a good woman. We love each other. But the kids are all grown and on their own… and she said she wanted to try something different.

Joe – I’m sorry, man. But that’s freedom for you.

Pete – Twenty five years is a long time…

Joe – The world is vast… and worth exploring.

Pete – Very true.

Joe – When did this happen?

Pete – 6 months ago.

Joe – You miss her?

Pete – Yes. I figure we get to learn how deep we went into each other.

Joe nods, puts his hat back on as he looks off.

Joe – It can happen to any of us. Hope she finds what she’s looking for. You ever need me, just give a holler.

Pete – Thanks.

Oscar Valdes.      Oscarvaldes.net

Chairman Xi Speaks to a Group of University Students

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It is a fair sized room in the university’s theatre – and it is packed with 500 elite students.

Xi begins. ‘If you have any doubts that we will defeat America, consider this: how many people have died from the coronavirus in China?’

Pause.

‘A little over 96 thousand. That is a lot, but we will do better next time if there is a next time. I say if, because we’re already working on preventing the spread of any other viral disease the moment it arrives.

Applause.

‘How many people have died in America because of the coronavirus?’

Silence.

‘Over 706 thousand… and counting’.

Gasp from the audience.

‘Which shows the ineptitude of that system. Put simply, the government in America lacks the capacity to persuade its citizens to do what needs to be done. And just what do some Americans say when they object to getting vaccinated?

“Oh, I have a right to my beliefs…”

Laughter from the audience.

“I have my principles…”

More laughter.

‘But no, you don’t – continues the chairman – because your not getting vaccinated puts a burden on all other citizens and the entire system, and if you become infected then you may transmit the virus to them. Plus the additional health costs that could be prevented.

Here in China we say No. No to anyone claiming the so called privilege of infecting anyone else.

So there it is. We, Chinese, believe strongly in the power of the collective, in the power of caring and respecting each other.

To do that we must surrender some of our individuality – not all – but most of it in the interest of the greater good.

While in America people are seen in the streets of every city lying on the sidewalk begging, hungry and ill, or abusing themselves with drugs as well dressed and well fed passersby don’t even glance at them, here in China we pick them up and give them shelter and medical care. And if they answer that it’s their right to lie there and kill themselves, we say no.’

Applause.

‘In the state of Texas in America, a very rich state, people over 21 years old now have the right to buy and carry a gun, concealed if they wish, no permit necessary, and go around all day doing so. And the thing is, they are very proud of that so called right. But I ask you, what is the purpose of it? To say to others “don’t look at me the wrong way because I may have a gun?”

Laughter.

‘I think people from Texas that do that must have very fragile egos…’

Laughter and applause.

‘… and are paranoid.’

More applause.

‘By the way, that state voted heavily for Donald Trump… one of their own.’

Laughter and applause.

‘And after Trump’s defeat, they complained loudly that the election was fraudulent.’

Silence.

‘In no developed country in the world is there such high number of mass killings as in America, people who are unhappy with their lives for one reason or another, deciding to buy a gun or machine gun or a cannon to fire on innocent people. And they can do it because all those weapons are for sale. Everything is for sale in America. Everything. There is no morality in America. Except for the one the dollar buys. Because if you make a lot of money, then you have arrived. Then you are a saint or a god. Never mind who you trampled on.

Silence.

Xi looks around the room. ‘There are a lot of women students here. But if you were in Texas, you would not have the right to have an abortion. That’s right. You would have to go to another state to have it done. So the same state that insists on the right to carry a gun to defend themselves from who knows what, denies women the right to their bodies.’

Boos from the audience.

‘There was an article in the American press the other day about judges who did not recuse themselves when hearing cases between parties when they had a financial interest in one of them. In most cases where they had a financial interest, they made a decision that favored their side. So corruption is everywhere, even in the courts.’

Boos from the audience.

‘So why do I say all of this? I do so to remind you that we are better than Americans.

That we will defeat them when the time comes. We are fighting that good fight as we speak. Their military and technology are presently better than ours, but we will soon surpass them. We will surpass them in science and technology and social organization, and we will because their individualism will keep them from organizing effectively.

We will defeat them while they play Tik Tok.’

Laughter

‘We will defeat them because they do not wish to learn to speak to each other.

If they did, then they would be harder to beat because they are a strong people. But we in the Communist Party believe Americans will fail to unite, and that alone will give us the power to surpass and conquer them.’

Standing applause.

‘Thank you. Thank you very much. Let us not take time for a few questions,’ continues Xi.

Student – Chairman, we here in China, have surrendered some of our personal freedom in the interest of the nation. In matters political we have to defer to the party at all times. How long is that to last?’

Xi – Good question. We must first dominate America. We must first be the uncontested leader of the world.

Other Student – Chairman, do you think we will need to go to war with America?

Xi – No. We will beat America with our markets, with our creativity and daring, with our superior intelligence, while they play video games. I am confident that America will implode from within. The Right and Left will not learn to speak to one another and slowly crumble as they kill each other.

Another Student – Chairman, how long do you think that will take?

Xi – 20 years. Maybe less. Our weapons to victory are our economic and scientific might. Though we keep strengthening our army and developing nuclear weapons to act as deterrent, our victory will be economic and scientific. Consider this, we have been able to send spacecraft to the other side of the moon entirely on our own. We were the first to do so.

America rejected our request to be part of the international space station, and yet, there we are in space. And we will keep building. And we will build a space station that will be the envy of the world.

Applause.

Xi – There is no need to hate America. They have helped us get started. So we are grateful for that, but we must rise to our rightful place as the most capable people on earth.

Here I add a historical note. If the Germans during WWII had not targeted the Jews, if they had left them alone and instead made them their own, they would have conquered all of Europe, and the United States would not have prospered from European markets as they did and a different balance of power would now exist.

If the Japanese would have done business with us instead of trying to slaughter and rape us all, then it would not have ignited in us the rage to fight back and Mao may not have had the strength to form the Communist Party.

So we must avoid the hate of others as a motivator, and instead let our markets conquer the world.

Another student – Chairman, which do you think will be better to negotiate with in America, a Democratic or Republican administration?

Xi – Democratic. Republicans are too elitist. And they still think of Ronald Reagan as the Second Coming.

Laughter.

Xi – The best president they have ever had was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who guided them during the depression and WWII and started much needed social programs.

Other student – Chairman, what about President Biden?

Xi – We’re still trying to figure him out.

Other Student – Chairman, you really think we are destined to rule the world?

Xi – Yes. And do so by example, not by force.

Student – Chairman, president Biden is saying the same thing to Americans, ‘Let us rule by the power of our example and not the example of our power.’

Xi – Yes, but to do that you must be able to speak to each other, and Republicans and Democrats are unable to do so and they will sink their nation. Which will help China rise faster.

So be patient and work hard. This is our time. This is China’s time.

All the students stand and give Chairman Xi a standing ovation.

All Students – in unison – Long Live China! Long Live Chairman Xi!’

Oscar Valdes       oscarvaldes.net

Transferring Power. Good Governance. Grandiosity.

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Mr Biden’s aplomb in addressing the pandemic differs markedly with that of his predecessor. And so it reflects his willingness to transfer power.

Pointing to the scientific evidence that the incidence of Covid infections is higher amongst the unvaccinated, he has taken charge and mandated that federal and other workers take the vaccine.

It was his duty, he said in a televised address, to protect all Americans and so he was issuing the edict. Right away, though, his detractors started to complain that their freedoms were being infringed. But what freedoms? The freedom to increase the likelihood that you transmit an infection that could be fatal? Is that a freedom? When there are means to prevent it?

The president countered his critics by saying that they were taking a cavalier attitude toward the infection and he is correct.

What stands out in the president’s firmness is his willingness to do what is right. This is what the science is saying and I stand with the science.

By doing so he is showing his willingness to transfer power to science. And to whomever speaks the truth.

The previous president was incapable of doing so. When Mr Trump held his televised appearances at the height of the pandemic, with his scientific advisors standing beside him, he couldn’t wait to get his hands on the mike to put his twist on the facts.

Had the previous president been a man willing to transfer power to the scientists and to let them do what they know how to do, then we would long ago been all vaccinated in this country and the economy would have been much farther along than it is now, let alone the lives that would have been spared.

But the previous president could not do it. The height of this incapacity showed when, after being soundly defeated at the polls, he insisted that it was not so. How could it be?

Deep in his mind a voice kept resounding, ‘why should I transfer power?’

And there were enough gullible people to buy into it that they marched on one of our highest symbols of democracy, Capitol Hill, just as the electoral ballots were being counted.

Their aim was clear. Disrupt the process.

They did not do it. Barely. But their intention was clear.

Notice how when Mr Biden speaks to us he is not surrounded by other officials. He stands alone when he addresses us. It is symbolic of his wish to convey that the final responsibility is his and he will exercise it fully. He will not run from it. But he is also willing to acknowledge his limits.

And because of it he can transfer power.

People who are able to do so are freer people. They think better. More clearly. For they are not burdened by grandiosity.

They are people who know themselves to be flawed but are willing to carry the burden of full responsibility for their decisions. Mr Biden will seek the opinion of experts in matters which are not of his competence but he will make the final choices, painful as they may be, as he did in Afghanistan.

Because, as all men, he is flawed, Mr Biden will make his mistakes, but it won’t be because he was careless or didn’t seek the best expert advice. A myriad other factors may intervene to make what appears to be a good choice go bad. But he will have tried his best.

And so he will stand alone behind that lectern and say as he did when announcing the vaccine mandates, ‘this is what I believe is the right thing to do for all Americans.’

And you can say what you want about him, but he gives you the sense he is doing the best he knows how to do.

The impulse to grandiosity lives in all of us. And all of us have to wrestle with it and try as hard as we can to pin it down so it won’t let us run in the wrong direction.

Some world leaders succumb to its allure.

Name any world leader who is diligently working to extend his hold on power beyond the legal limits that brought him to it, and we’re seeing an example of grandiosity not being confronted and restrained. And it belongs to all of us to not let it happen.

Unlike Mr Trump, Mr Biden is fully aware of his mortality. Because of it he is the competent leader that he is.

And so I thank him for being forthright, full of candor and decisiveness.

Keep it up, Mr President.

A final note: My take is that Jerome Powell is doing a great job as Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank and you ought to reappoint him. He’s a most talented man and it will help maintain economic stability.

And on the matter of Latin America, should you choose to lift the embargo on Cuba, the spirit of that decision will put a smile in the hearts of all Latin Americans.

You’d be saying, ‘I’m transferring power to you. Now see what you can do with it. I’m getting out of the way.’

Good night, Mr President.

Oscar Valdes.     Oscarvaldes.net.

Afghanistan, Cuba, China, Venezuela and President Biden

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Getting out of Afghanistan was a hard choice to make. It was painful.

Twenty years we stayed there and many relationships were formed. But we had to pull out. It was time to redirect our efforts elsewhere, including doing much needed work here at home.

The pain will take time to heal.

A parade of critics have decried president Biden’s decision, complaining bitterly as the pullout took place and then after. And yes, it was messy, but that was hard to avoid. Meanwhile, the president will continue to do whatever he can to assist those left behind and wanting to get out.

We made mistakes in Afghanistan. For one, our effort there was steadily undermined by Pakistan who did not hesitate to give shelter to the Taliban while calling themselves our allies.

And then, we did not make it a high priority to insist with the Afghans themselves, from the outset, that we had not gone to their land to stay. We did not make it a high priority to insist that, sooner or later, we would be leaving, and it would be up to them to put up the fight to defend their land.

That’s not to say that there are not thousands of courageous and talented Afghans, men and women, who did the best they could to stand up for their country against the Taliban.

The struggle for the soul of Afghanistan continues but, for now, the Taliban have gained the upper hand.

Turning to our hemisphere and immediately south of us, there is Cuba. For the longest time we have avoided making an important decision there as well. It is time we did so.

We have had an economic embargo on Cuba for 60 years. Has it worked?

No.

I suppose some can say, ‘we won, just look at how impoverished Cuba is?’ But I ask you, What kind of victory is that, to help run a country into poverty?

The poverty they sank into is not directly our fault because the government they have tolerated strangled personal freedom and private economic initiative, but the embargo didn’t help either.

But what was it about Cuba that made us be so inflexible? I mean, to stick to a policy that has not worked for 60 years is simply atrocious political thinking.

Was it because Cuba is so physically close to us, or because there are Cuban refugees in Florida with outsized influence in our foreign policy? Not that such influence has ever helped a democratic administration. Florida gave the presidency to Bush over Al Gore in 2000 and the likelihood is that, under a Gore presidency, 9/11 may not have happened, and even if it had, Gore would not have made the horrible decision to invade Iraq in 2003 claiming they had weapons of mass destruction, a choice made with insufficient evidence and defying reality. How could it be that a third world country like Iraq, would have weapons of mass destruction capable of threatening us? It is not that we didn’t have satellite imagery to monitor them. And yet we ignored the most basic facts. The poor judgement was plain to a multitude of Americans. I remember standing in a park with a lit candle in my hand as I joined in protest of the anticipated invasion. And demonstrations as such sprang up all over the nation. But the war mongers prevailed. Imagine all the lives spared if we had been more prudent?

So, no, the state of Florida has contributed nothing to elect democratic administrations and the likelihood is that, even if Pope Francis, Mr Biden’s friend, were to recommend him for sainthood, Florida would still vote Republican this next election and the next 10 subsequent ones also. Just like Texas with their love of guns and anti abortion sentiment and restrictive voting laws.

So, Mr Biden, never mind the votes, what’s important here is to do the right thing, just like you did in Afghanistan.

We embraced China, didn’t we? We said, let’s do business and let’s see how we both benefit. And we have. Even if now that country is choosing to further strangle political freedoms for their citizens while challenging us politically on the global stage.

But the Chinese have risen out of poverty.

Cuba, meantime, is stuck in it.

And just south of it, in Venezuela, a bankrupt political system under heavy Cuban influence is spreading misery everywhere.

Venezuela used to be a powerhouse in the oil industry. But their leaders managed to destroy that, too.

Cuba’s leadership has played a heavy hand in all those failed decisions.

But if you chose to lift the embargo on Cuba, Mr Biden, is it not possible that economic improvements would follow, in both nations?

Never mind political success. Leave that to the Cubans and Venezuelans.

Focus only on the economic benefits.

If you were to lift the embargo, Cubans, and then Venezuelans, would see their standard of living rise because they would likely be freer to take the initiative to do business and improve their lives.

And if they chose to stay communist or socialist, who cares, but they wouldn’t be poor and their suffering would be lessened.

We’re all well aware that people and nations can only be influenced up to a point.

Take the Chinese. Even after their outstanding economic success, they are still willing to let Xi Jinping run their lives, now even telling them how many hours of video games a week their children should play.

We keep hoping that one day the Chinese people will tell chairman Xi Jinping to go to hell, but in the meantime, the irrefutable fact is that they are becoming richer and richer.

Wouldn’t it be well worth it, Mr Biden, to give a chance to Cubans and Venezuelans to do the same by lifting the embargo?

You’re a risk taker.

You took a chance in Afghanistan.

Now it is Cuba’s turn.

Oscar Valdes.     Oscarvaldes.net

Afghanistan. Now Cuba

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Mr Biden, you got us out of Afghanistan. It took courage and determination but you got it done.

Thank you. And you are right. History will show you made the right decision.

It is very hard to make smooth transitions under any circumstances, and Afghanistan was a rough one from the start.

Critics of your choice abounded, and they relished what they saw as a chance to diminish you but in the end diminished themselves.

So we now turn that page and open this next one, Cuba.

We can’t rely on the old tactic of the embargo. That won’t do. It hasn’t worked.

Whereas in Afghanistan there were many calculations to make, Cuba is markedly different.

What we need is to lift the embargo. That is it.

Will lifting the embargo prolong the life of the dictatorial elite? Maybe. But lifting the embargo will more likely be a greater bonus for the people of Cuba, who will then be better prepared to eventually do away with that cruel and oppressive regime.

The Cuban system is destined to crumble from within, not from externally imposed sanctions.

No protest in Cuba has a chance to overthrow the regime because it stands well armed by China or Russia or both, and will not hesitate to fire upon fellow Cubans to crush whatever menace is on the rise.

Lifting the embargo, on the other hand, offers the chance of broadening and deepening the productive capacity and initiative of the Cuban people, and then they will come up with the ideas and the timing to oust the government.

Please think of the image you will be projecting to the rest of South America and the world. ‘We will not stand in the way of men and women seeking their freedom.’

Holding on to the embargo has only brought misery to the people.

You have the unique chance of following the success of Afghanistan with the opportunity to enlarge the lives of all Cubans and by extension the lives of other men and women in the world.

Yesterday, I read that Mikhail Gorbachev is now 90 years old. A play has opened in Moscow to celebrate his life. It’s a two person play, Gorbachev and his wife Raisa. I had the great pleasure of seeing him and even asking him a question at a forum in downtown Los Angeles shortly after being replaced by Boris Yeltsin in 1991.

Recently, he attended a rehearsal of the play in his honor and at the end stood up to an ovation. The article said he had nothing to add to the play. The only thing he said was, ‘It’s all about freedom.’

To Gorbachev alone belongs the enormous distinction of having broken up the Soviet Union.

Cuba, Mr Biden, offers you a wonderful opportunity to enlighten the minds of men and women throughout the world.

In the same way that you freed us from the onerous burden of Afghanistan, you have the unique opportunity to say to the Cuban people, ‘Let not an embargo stand in your way, take from free markets what you must, find your strength in the power of ideas, and fight to gain your freedom. We Americans will be rooting for you.’

Oscar Valdes.      Oscarvaldes.net

Afghanistan. Biden Has the Guts. Issue 2

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We should have left long ago, but it took a President Biden to say, ‘enough is enough.’

It took a man like Biden to say, ‘I was elected president of the American people, and will do what I must to improve their lot.’

That takes guts.

Presidents came and went but it took Biden to say, ‘it’s time. We have to leave.’

And no one, no one, could in their right mind, expect a tidy exit.

The same way that no one had thought that the Afghan army, stronger in numbers than the Taliban, would choose to lay down their arms as the mujahideen advanced.

Was their country not worth fighting for?

That will be on the consciences of Afghans to deal with.

As to the chaos at the airport in Kabul, it will soon settle down as evacuations come to an end in the next few days. And if it doesn’t, so be it.

We need to rebuild our nation. We need to work on improving the skills level of our citizens, their education and health, all of which will result in greater wellbeing and productivity.

Many of our cities and rural areas are in desperate need of attention and assistance.

President Biden sees that. But the whole lot of his critics, both Republicans and Democrats, who claim to be aghast at the messy exit and the tragic scenes of Afghans clinging to a moving airplane on the tarmac of the Kabul airport, instead of empty blabber, should take a good look at themselves and ask if they’re not being unfair with Biden.

Afghanistan had long ago ceased to be geopolitically important and yet we stayed and stayed.

Almost 2500 American soldiers have died in the effort.

It has taken a president like Biden, who is mindful of our people’s needs, to put things in perspective and better allocate our resources.

It was time to leave. And it is time to reassess our role in defense of others around the world.

Here in our nation, we, the citizens, have a right to not be the victims of senseless violence. We, the citizens, have a right to have the opportunity to be the best we can be.

We can and will help others in need elsewhere in the world, even when it takes something that we ourselves don’t have enough of, but we cannot be careless with how we use our resources.

For we have also a duty to remind those we help, that they must do all they can to help themselves.

Our interventions abroad must be time limited. Are we in northern Syria to support the Kurds? Then we must make it clear that the arrangement is not permanent. Same with Iraq.

We have a large military base in Qatar, which should be enough as far as the Middle East is concerned.

The wide political divide here at home is a glaring sign of long standing neglect.

What is the use of sending troops all over the world if we don’t manage our problems here at home?

Working hard to improve our people, will help us project an image of strength that is fully grounded in reality.

Oscar Valdes.    Oscarvaldes.net

Afghanistan is Lost

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Recently, in the wake of the surging Taliban offensive which soon will lead to the final assault on Kabul, the capital, an Afghan man was quoted as saying, ‘You didn’t fix the problem.’

He was angry that America was leaving his land. 

America had come and stayed for 20 years but now was leaving and the Taliban would take over again.

Women would once again be forced to marry and wear the all-enveloping burqas, their possibilities for personal development deeply curtailed.

‘You didn’t fix the problem,’ said the man. 

There is passivity in those words. The expectation that others are to fix the problem. The problem, of course, is the Taliban. The brutally rigid group of Afghans who wish to return to rule the country in the name of Islam. 

Did America fail? 

Yes, we did. Failed to fire up in Afghans who are open to change, the will and power needed to fight off the repressive Taliban and rebuild the nation.

But Afghans knew all along that America and their NATO allies would not stay forever. We had gone there to root out the terrorist group Al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks and then stayed to boost the country’s modernization.

Afghans had to know that the foreigners would not stay forever – it was not their land – but failed to use that opportunity to summon up their own courage and work steadily to overcome their national differences and be prepared to fight the enemy.

‘You didn’t fix the problem’ is the lament of a frustrated man who, having seen how much different life can be, now will have to abide by whatever the Taliban says.

If he has a daughter over 15, then she is ready for marriage to a Taliban fighter if they so wish. Her choice is irrelevant. And truncated are her possibilities as a full human being.  

‘You didn’t fix the problem,’ is the cry of Afghans who didn’t band together to stop the forces of darkness they knew were just waiting for the foreigners to leave.

But can Afghans still rise in defense of their land? I don’t think so. Of course, miracles can happen. But the likelihood is that the world has to prepare itself to read report after report of people executed because they were enemies of the Taliban. 

And as soon as the dust and smoke settles after fighters on the ground capture Kabul and take over the entire country, the Taliban’s supreme leaders, now in comfortable settings in Qatar and under that government’s protection, will make their triumphant return.

The number of the executed will keep growing and we will be reminded of Myanmar’s tragedy.

Yes, America had to leave. It was time. We had to leave because we have to rebuild our nation. 

Rebuild because we are not united and if we remain so we will lose our land.

But we should ask ourselves, how hard did we try to get Afghans to say, ‘We must fix our problem. It is our problem. Others can help us and we will be most grateful, but it is our problem to fix.’

Oscar Valdes.     Oscarvaldes.net

What Biden Could be Saying to Americans as Afghanistan Falls

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‘Fellow Americans… it is with a sad heart that we witness the gradual fall of Afghanistan.

We went there 20 years ago to root out Al Qaeda and find Osama Bin Laden. In the process we connected with the Afghan people. Heard their stories, their fears of being ruled by a repressive regime. We opened schools and a university and tried our best to share our values, the right of every human being to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We spent an enormous amount of money building up their armed forces, and our brave soldiers fought shoulder to shoulder with them against the Taliban. 

Nearly 2500 of our soldiers died in the struggle. 

I wish I could now tell you that what we did was enough. I wish I could now tell you that what we did has a chance to grow into something lasting. I wish.

The reality, however, appears to be different… and we have to face it.

The Taliban keeps making steady advances and conquering city after city.

We continue to assist the Afghan Army by providing aerial support from our bases in the region, but it is not enough.

What happened?

We accomplished our goal of tracking down Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the 9/11 attack on our nation. We accomplished our goal of putting a check on Al Qaeda. But we were not able to change the core of that country in a way that makes it unlikely Al Qaeda will mount another attack on us. So, as always, we must be on guard.

What I have to say now is not easy for me. In spite of all our efforts, we could not instill in the majority of the Afghan people the will to unite, to overcome their differences and present a solid front to fight and defend themselves against the Taliban. 

Twenty years we spent there and we now are leaving. We have to. It pains us to do so because unless the Afghan army and the people push back and mount a strong defense, Afghanistan will fall to the Taliban and so many Afghans will find their dreams and aspirations ruthlessly trampled upon. 

But why do we have to leave? 

Because we have to rebuild our nation. Yes. Our nation. 

We have to raise the level of productivity in our citizens. The level of education. We have to change the social conditions that foster so much dysfunction and animosity in our land. 

How is it possible that, on January 6th, a group of our fellow citizens felt entitled to plunder our Capitol in violation of our basic rules? What led us there? 

We have to invest in better caring for each other so we stop those senseless acts, and the senseless killings in our cities and towns. 

I know we can, if we put our hearts and minds to it. As we do, we will grow stronger and wiser.

The road ahead is long and arduous but the good news is that we are on our way.

As the world watches, our standing must be a reflection of how free we are to be the best we can be.

My administration is committed to laying down the foundation to achieve that goal. 

And with the help of our fellow Republicans, it is well within our reach if we stay on task.

We can do it, I assure you. It is urgent that we do. United we rise, divided we fall.

The story of Afghanistan teaches us a great deal. 

We have to constantly keep building bridges to each other. We cannot stop.

Build bridges from the urban to the rural. From the wealthy to the poor, from the well educated to the less educated, from people of one color to people of another. Build bridges from the Right to the Center and to the Left, for we are all Americans who need each other and have to trust each other to confront the challenges that life will continually bring us.

There is no time to rest. We must act.

It remains my fervent hope and prayer, that the Afghan people and their Army, will find in themselves the needed strength to resist and overcome the forces of repression and darkness that the Taliban represent. But it is up to them.

Meanwhile, we will continue to provide aerial and tactical support.

My fellow Americans, let us pull together… strive with all our might… and I assure you our nation will lead by the power of our example.

Good night.

Oscar Valdes.       Oscarvaldes.net

Afghanistan. The Last Stand

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What sometimes seems inevitable may not be. Afghanistan may not have to fall to the Taliban advance. But extraordinary measures will have to be taken.

By whom?

By the Afghan people.

I recently read a report where the top American commander for the Middle East and Afghanistan, reassured President Ashraf Ghani of continued American air support. But by the end of August those attacks would be pulled back to focus only on Al Qaeda, if they represented a threat to the US itself.

That’s it.

Why is the rest of the world watching and not going to the assistance of the Afghan people as they face the mounting threat of total occupation and virtual enslavement by the Taliban?

Because they’re not seeing Afghans themselves putting an all out effort to defend their space.

Kandahar – the country’s second largest city – will soon be under siege by the encroaching Taliban. Is this not the time for all Afghans to put aside their differences and make defending their cities their number one priority ? Why can’t all able men and women request arms and step forward, ready to do battle?

Why can’t they form a circle around each of their cities and post images to the rest of the world that it is do or die for them? Post images that they are saying ‘no’ to submitting to a repressive and murderous theocracy. Post pictures and messages that they value what the West has done for them during the last 20 years and no, they will not surrender to the forces of intolerance.

Now is the time. Not when the Taliban come knocking on your door asking for you to bend to their will.

Using the internet, then broadcast to the rest of the world all that you’re doing, and the rest of the world is more than likely to join in support. But you have to put yourself out first.

Afghans have to arm the barricades to defend with their lives their right to choose how to live. 

Americans or anyone else cannot do it for them. 

What freedoms Afghans will have, must be defended with their own blood. With their own sacrifice. And if they are not willing to do so, then they will not have a land they can call their own. 

Every piece of land on this earth that is rightly claimed by a proud people has a history written with blood. Those of us who have been fortunate enough not to spill blood in defense of our land are grateful for what our ancestors and our brothers and sisters did. And we honor them with our own efforts to build a better nation.

But never must we forget that it will take blood to defend what is most dear to us.

So let the brave Afghans step forward. 

The world may yet listen and go to your side.

Oscar Valdes.     Oscarvaldes.net