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Vamos a La Habana

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The 2006 Capablanca Memorial will be held in Cuba from Nov 19-30. It's usually in May, but had to move because of the unusually early Olympiad this year. The Elite event is a six-player double round robin and a Cuban news site has released the field. Last year's dominant winner, Vassily Ivanchuk, the world #6, is back. Next is Evgeny Bareev, Poland's Kamil Miton, Argentina's Ruben Felgaer, and then the perpetual Cuban dupla of Lenier Dominguez and Lazaro Bruzon. That's a 2660 average. There will also be a special tribute to Fidel Castro, who may or may not still be alive, for the 40th anniversary of the famous 1966 Havana Olympiad.


It looks like a classy field. It certainly won't be a cakewalk for Ivanchuk this time around, given the presence of Bareev, and the recent superb play of Lenier Dominguez. In the past, Ivanchuk has usually been able to export ELO points from Cuba at a favorable rate of exchange. Perhaps one or both of the Cubans will be especially motivated by the fact that the tournament is in tribute to Castro. It would be fitting if one of the Cubans could win the event.

¡Viva Cuba! I'll be rooting for Dominguez and Bruzon for sure.

Maybe the tournament will put Castro in such a good mood that he'll allow Amnesty International into Cuba.

true, in Guantanamo

The U.S. military authorities have allowed representatives from the Red Cross and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to visit those detained at Guantanamo and provided documents about them to the American Civil Liberties Union. Representatives from the UN were invited to observe the conditions there but declined, citing differences over private access to detainees.

Can you provide any instance of the Castro regime allowing similar access to the Cuban people to independent international human rights organizations?

For the record, I hope the Capa Memorial goes well and we see some interesting games from it. Best of luck to the Cuban masters and the other participants.


Are you trying to imply no abuse went on in Guantanamo? How long did the U.S. delay these visits? 2-years? We often hear about Castro being vilified by America, but I hope you're not suggesting that the U.S. human rights record is a unblemished. No... not at home nor abroad.

Heard of the movie, "Road to Guantanamo?"
Check it out...


I am trying to imply that the U.S. has provided as much, if not more, information about the human rights situation in Guantanamo to independent international groups as the Castro regime has provided about the human rights situation in the parts of Cuba under its control.

And I am trying to determine if you can say that the Castro regime has provided any better access to people in those areas, including Cuban dissidents, political prisoners, etc., to independent international human rights groups than the U.S. has provided about the prisoners it holds in Guantanamo.

From your answer, I gather not. So, unless you can come up with something, I am content to let the matter and the discussion rest there.

Amnesty International has been barred from Cuba since 1988.

Chess is a favorite pastime in prison. So if Daaim's comparison of the nation of Cuba to a prison camp is at all accurate, the only mystery is why there aren't a lot more grandmasters from Cuba.


There is no need to argue for President Castro. These human rights organizations are controlled by the the west anyway. If Castro is implicated in human rights abuses, then how many other countries would have to be under scrutiny? The U.S. has pages of abuses they've committed on different websites. U.S. invasion of Iraq will go down as one of the worst human rights abuse cases in history.


Also rent, "Iraq for Sale."


You may not have understood my post. That wasn't my analogy.

Also, the AI reports did not say "barred."

Amnesty International and others are not powerful enough to do anything about America, but they can pick on Cuba and developing nations. If they expose America's abuses, so what?

America illegally invades (and destroys) a country, but who will stand up and sanction the U.S. for human rights abuses? The AI and Human Rights Watch are "paper tigers" against powerful nations. They mostly beat up on smaller, developing nations and lecture to them about how they should behave.


"...but who will stand up and sanction the U.S. for human rights abuses?" I nominate you, Daaim. Maybe you could demonstrate your outrage by boycotting U.S.-based chess websites.

"They mostly beat up on smaller, developing nations and lecture to them about how they should behave." Take a few moments to read the Amnesty International reports on such "small developing nations" as the U.S., China, and Russia.

Isn't it odd that you're siding with repressive governments of every size around the world and against the thousands of chess-playing political prisoners who are their victims?

If Daaim Shabazz was thrown into some hole somewhere, many mean-spirited Dirt posters (not me) would probably open champagne; and you'd be damned glad that there were bright-eyed Amnesty International activists around the world agitating for your release.

The most repressive government on earth today is the Bush/Rumsfeld/Cheney regime. Never read that Daaim Shabazz was siding with them.

The second most repressive government on earth today is Israel. No, actually never heard him siding with them either!

Giannis, acirce,

Daaim should probably praise the U.S. and Israel; where women can play chess in public while listening to rock music, and without wearing headscarves.

You know better, Greg.

Chess is not a bad standard for judging regimes: which regimes impinge upon this sacred right the least?

acirce, surely the governments of USA and Israel can't be nearly as repressive as the Stockholm police force, can they?

Incidentally, does the name of this reviewer ring a bell: http://tinyurl.com/ygdkca ?


Why would I boycott U.S. based chess websites? I run one.

Oh... women can play chess in the open without headscarves... so what? What do you understand about culture and religion? Why judge others by western standards? If listening to rock music in public while playing chess is your standard of freedom, then I don't know of many places where you can do that. In the U.S., they'd probably tell her to turn that damned music off!

My point was that countries like the U.S. have a long list of human rights abuses, but does this list result in sanctions against the U.S.? No. So what good is it? We saw how impotent the U.N. was in their attempt to stop the U.S. from illegally invading Iraq. These non-governmental organizations are controlled by rich nations and have no power... except over smaller nations. Smaller nations are routinely punished with political and economic sanctions.

Neither China, nor Russia are sanctioned for their alleged human rights abuses. U.S. says little to China except where intellectual property piracy is concerned... double standard. Of course Cuba is only 90 miles away and has a bad history with the U.S., doesn't have the size of China, doesn't have the economic potential of China and doesn't have a seat on the UN Security Council.

So... the U.S. sides with China and tries to push Cuba around with embargoes, illegally funding opposition groups and various attempts at overthrowing Castro. This is such a hypocritical foreign policy.

"Why judge others by Western standards?"

By "Western standards" do you mean the right for females to play chess while listening to rock music on headphones, without wearing headscarves, and without fear of genital mutilation, bride burning, or forced infanticide?

Then I judge others by "Western standards" because those standards most encourage the freedom and dignity of the individual human being.

Why would anyone but a thug or a tyrant oppose Amnesty International's efforts to expose governmental infringements upon the right of individuals to play chess in conditions of freedom and dignity in the U.S., Israel, Cuba, and throughout the world?


Again... you've missed the whole point. My point is that these organizations are ineffectual and biased... not that they shouldn't exist. They should be reformed.

Are a large number of nations who are not adhering to western standards guilty of those trangressions you mention? No. Name me three nations that practice bride-burning TODAY. Name me three nations that practice FGM TODAY. Name me three nations that practice force infanticide TODAY. Can you do it on the spot?

Western standards DO NOT most encourage freedom and dignity of individual human being... case in point... Iraq. Western standards are also home to the highest crime rates, highest prison populations, highest incidences of rapes, highest incidences of divorce, highest incidences of illegally invading countries and colonizing them. What kind of freedom is this?

I would also like you to examine America's democracy where people's right to vote is still not guaranteed. Only in 1965 did every American (of age) have the right to vote and even now there are irregularities and vote-tampering.

Your ethnocentrism is laughable. Your idea of 'western standards' does not hold. I believe we can look at any given society and pick out the good and the bad, but to suggest western nations have a monopoly on what is good is viewing the world with tunnel vision.

I don't see your point about not being able to freely play chess in Cuba. Cuba is one of the strongest chess nations on the planet... and it is a mere island.

"I don't see your point about not being able to freely play chess in Cuba."

Fly your chessboard and yourself to three nations: the U.S., Israel, and Cuba. Set up in a park. Talk to your opponents and any interested bystanders about how you'd like to set up an alternate political party which advocates freedom of speech, assembly, religion, the press, etc. Talk about how you believe that human rights organizations ought to be allowed into every country.

If and when you make it out of Cuba, give us a full report on your findings.

"If and when you make it out of Cuba, give us a full report on your findings."

I bet he would not even think of making it out of Cuba. And why should he? The hateful "Western standards" are nowhere to be found. Prisons, rapes, etc. are probably non-existent - surely it is the next best thing to paradise.

I find it rather hilarious that these vehement opponents of the Western values still prefer to set up shop in the devil's den. Daaim, isn't it time to vote with your feet? That is unless FBI (or some other oppressor's tentacle) has confiscated your passport, of course...


You perhaps do not realize the extent to which freedoms are routinely violated in this country. Using your example... let's say I were an Arab in that park, would the same freedoms be granted for a new political party that is Arab-inspired? No. The word "freedom" that Bush has brainwashed so many people with is a smoke screen. He once used the word 47 times in a 30-minute speech and the populace have bought his rhetoric. "People hate our freedoms" is his most profound reasoning for his foreign policy.


Missed the point. The issue is that you cannot use western standards and apply them with a paint brush across the world. America has tried to do that by "democratizing" Iraq. It has been an utter failure and has stirred a bee's nest in that region. I'm merely pointing out stats to show that the U.S. is no model by which to judge other nations.

No society is near perfect and no society can serve as a model given that each society is based on different history, culture, traditions, has different resources and possess other social dynamics that make them unique. Any book on comparative politics will show this.

To say "western standards" are the model by which other nations should follow, is exceedingly ethnocentric and naive. It took America how long to build this "democracy"? Yet this country wants Cuba, Iraq and Afghanistan to accept these standards and make it work (within an entirely different context) in a few years. As I said, Blacks were not granted the right to vote in America until 1965. With the history of disenfranchisement of women (1920) and Blacks (1965) is that a good model to follow? Besides in the 200+ years it took America to establish its flawed democracy (rent "American Blackout"), the world did not have the multitude of geopolitical dynamics existing today.

I was born and raised in what you refer to as the "devil's den." Because I don't agree with many aspects of America's social and foreign policy does not mean that everything here is broken. Some things work well. It also doesn't mean that everything in Cuba is wrong, or broken. They have among the best doctors in the world, have the highest of literacy rates in the world, are hard-working, disciplined and simply do not want to become another satellite of American influence.

Buried under an avalanche of statements lacking a shred of supporting evidence, I plead nolo contendere...

Just one example (of many):

"have the highest of literacy rates in the world"

56th of 175 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_literacy_rate

Daaim, have you ever heard of a search engine, such as google, for example? You might find it a helpful tool...

Borat triumphs! Kazakhstan is more literate than the US, according to dz's list drawn from that impeccably research paragon of literacy and accuracy, Wikipedia. So too are Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia, and St. Kitts/Nevis.

But Israel -- where a large part of the medical research is conducted that fuels the pharmaceutical and medical equipment industries here in the US and Europe -- Israel is LESS literate than the US (and therefore also less literate than Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and all those other countries), according to Wikipedia.

Now, THERE's something Daaim probably will be happy to see.

Borat rules, I agree.

I did not claim that wikipedia is an impeccable source, would in fact welcome a better one. My point was that Daaim's data is unsubstantiated (to put it politely.)

As far as Israel is concerned, my guess would be that the literacy rate varies noticeably between Jews and Arabs (the latter constituting about 20% of the country's population).

I cannot believe how many Castro lovers there are out there. You know how Castro controlled the AIDS outbreeak in Cuba? Sent all infected to "treatment" camps, nothing more than a prison camp, where they waited to die. Know how Castro brainwashes you when you are 6, 7 ,8 years old? Your teacher asks you if you like cake and cookies and ice cream. your teacher says go home ask your parents for cake and cookies and ice cream. Of course, they have none so you don't get it and the teacher says "gee, maybe your parents don't love you, but thats ok, close your eyes, ask God for them". Of course you pray but you don't get any. Then teacher says ok, now close your eyes, ask the spirit of Che Guevara, ask the revolution, ask Papi Fidel for cake and cookies and ice cream and all of a sudden a army man appears with all the freakin ice cream and cookies and cake. Yeah, viva Fidel and the revolutiuon and Che. Whatever.


Let's pursue your "thought experiment" to determine which nation's regime is most repressive. Place your humble chessplayer in a park with an anti-government placard:

In NYC -- "Bush is a drunken, cocaine-head moron. Long live the 911 hijackers."

In Havana -- "Down with Castro. Free speech for Cuba."

and monitor the response of the police/state agents in each city.


Chances are you'd be pretty stuffed in both cases?
This is like arguing whether Hitler or Stalin was more repressive. Simple thing is that in their time, Russia was a better place for some and Germany for others. Same as Cuba and the US today.

Despite what Fox News tells you, there is good and bad in every country and that also means that there is some good in Cuba (for instance they offered the help of some of their world-famous medical staff during Hurricane Katrina), believe it or not, some bad in the US.

Instead of spouting about another country that you have never visited and probably don't know much about, how about checking that your own house is in order first. People in glass houses etc...

And I'm not trying to be superior here- hell, I live in Tony Blair's Britain...

No, Al,

In NYC, the cops would not bother him. Fearing bad publicity should anything happen to the chess-playing placard-waver, they might even go out to the park and protect him.


Thanks for making MY point (if we accept Wikipedia).

I did not say Cuba had the highest literacy rate. I said it had OF the highest literacy rates in the world. Read carefully. Don't try to discredit someone by picking on one aspect in a litany of points. That's really cheap.

Then you say the Jews literacy rate is different than the Arabs... that is also true in the U.S. among ethnic groups, but one does not measure literacy rates of a country that way.


Are you really FROM Cuba? Have you ever been there? Your ice cream story sounds like a fairy tale in some anti-Castro propaganda literature. I have not seen any "Castro lovers" here. Just people who want to see people be honest and to quit making comments as if America is some "holier than thou" place on the planet.


Yep... and do you know the U.S. had the arrogance to reject help from Cuba while they bungled the whole Katrina operation? I personally knew people who lost everything including relatives... it was a horrible tragedy.

Yes I am, would you like me to give you a personal tour after Castro dies and his brother is rotting as well? Sadly it is the truth, ask anyone raised in a communist dictatorship. I was raised in La Vibora, a district of Havanna. Wanna see El Cinema Yare, how about a visit to la Copeia. I can show you where El Encanto used to be. The fairy tale is the one about health care. There are two systems one for tourists with dollars and euros, another for Cubans. The hotels are off limits to Cubans. Why do so many people try to leave Cuba? No one tries to enter Cuba to live there, but alot of people die trying to leave. Think about it. If it's such a paradise, why leave?



However, I must say that people immigrating to other places says very little and the place they are leaving. People typically migrate to places where they can find better economic opportunities and higher upward mobility. Nothing wrong with that. However, if you have a huge economic power in your backyard then the lure of an American lifestyle has to be very strong. Many islands in the Caribbean are bombarded with the same lure of wealth and fame in America. You can see this when you turn on the TV on a Caribbean island.

I remember the Elian Gonzalez case when the media showed Elian with a new swing set in every photo op. He was always playing with new toys and being shown basking the sunshine of prosperity. He was being used a political pawn and it was unfair. I was glad he was reunited with his father.

What you point out about two systems is true in most tourist havens in the Caribbean. The all-inclusive resorts are often off limits to locals. There is nothing unusual about that. It is a matter of economics. The idea is to attract the "hard" currencies from tourists to increase the countries economic health and financial reserves.

There is an interesting movie titled, "I am Cuba" which deals with pre-Castro Cuba. It's basically pro-Castro, but it shows how Cuba was exploited by western interests. Whatever changes occur after the Castros are no longer at the helm, I would hope Cubans are able to create their own vision and identity.

Very interesting, your reply. I too would like to see the future of Cuba decided by Cubans themselves, not influenced by other interests. The problem with the two systems is that that is NOT what "communism" and "socialism" are SUPPOSED to be about. The whole point was equality for all wasn't it? In the pre-Castro days, the hotels were segregated to a degree, among wealth/ class lines. Fidel said he would put an end to that, the prostitution, etc.
Yet today he has reverted to it, has been for years. And this is not even getting into the human rights issue. There is no freedom of press, no wide internet access. Did you know you need a special permit for a reunion or meeting of more than three people? You have a squealer on every block to "protect and defend" the revolution and they run to the authorities if you do anything remotely against the revolution. I am simply saying these things because many people think Cuba and think cigars, beaches, and this ridiculous idea of free health care and education, and do not know the reality of what living under that system is like. Remember the begining of SCARFACE when Montana says "they tell you what to think where to go when to go to the bathroom", something along those lines, well yes that is what it is like. HYPOTHETICAL: you kill every illeterate person in a country, well, that country has 100% literacy doesn't it? Will you claim that country has a wonderful educational system? It is like they say in the Wizard of Oz, smoke and mirrors. Castro has done a great job of fooling people.


Al's right... you'd be stuffed in both cases... no question. You chose a bad example, but that's your own doing. If that person waving a placard reading "Long Live 9-11 hijackers" were not cited for "causing a public nuisance" or "inciting a riot," they most certainly would be beaten, choked or attacked. I'm surprised you'd tell such a tale... about New York of all places.

Daaim, thank you for your clarification that "have the highest of literacy rates in the world" means ranked 56-57 of 175. I suppose every country down to #174 on the list (Niger --- 14.4%) would qualify as well.

I also suppose that your other valuable contributions to this discussion, such as "Cuba is one of the strongest chess nations on the planet" or "They have among the best doctors in the world" should be interpreted in s similar way. Or are they perhaps a pure waste of bandwidth?

It is always a pleasure to have an intelligent conversation with someone who stands behind his/her courageous statements.


I have heard a couple of different sides to the Cuban story... some favorable, some not. I've heard the beach stories... I've heard the spy stories. I've also heard about the propaganda stories.

Each country also has a way of shaping public opinion to conform to a generalized body of knowledge. The U.S. uses its powerful media as it main tool, not the classroom (as may be the case in Cuba).

In terms of the use of American media...

The media is often called the 4th branch of the American system, or "fourth estate." The type of knowledge will differ in importance, but it will be based on critical national interests... even if the truth is twisted. The post 9-11 propaganda made every Arab and Muslim a potential enemy of "America's way of life," or "freedom." The word association between "Arab" and "terrorist" is made far too often in the media.

America has a different more subtle way of dealing with its threats. They don't arrest you. They discredit you through association. In the documentary, "American Blackout," they accused Cynthia McKinney for having ties to terrorist organizations because she accepted money from people with Muslim names (in fact, one was an Atlanta-born NBA player, Shareef Abdur-Rahim). It was laughable attempt to play off the fears fomented by the American media.

I digress.

If the only system Cuban people have to compare with is 90 miles away, then it is likely to some skittish about the system they are living in. I don't believe the issue is about democracy vs. socialism. The U.S. has tolerated and befriended socialist leaders in the past. The most famous is Saddam Hussein's Socialist Baath Party. China is not a democracy, but they have leveraged their economic power into tangible advantages for their nation. They remain a socialist nation.

I once attended a lecture of the late Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley who said, if Cuba would have been left alone, it would have been a hemispheric equivalent of Japan. Cubans are resilient and resourceful whom I have great respect for. Hopefully they will find the forumula that will work the best for the people.


Having a literacy rate of 97% is excellent... especially for a developing nation. You may look at the rankings, but Cuba is amongst the most literate nations on the planet at 97%... a lot higher percent that 14.4%.

BTW, would it surprise you that the U.S. is also amongst the most literate nations JUST ahead of Cuba?


NYC and every other American city has layer upon layer of governmental institutions devoted to protecting the right of our chess-player to wave his placard.

I just phoned the 1st police precinct in Manhattan and was told, "There's no law against being an idiot. If people attacked your guy we'd have to arrest THEM. But we couldn't touch your guy. Free speech, you know."

Every cop in the chain of command knows that if he messes with our chessplayer he's looking for trouble with his superiors, the courts and the newspapers.


Interesting, but you said "Long live the 9-11 hijackers." To me, that has to be an exceptional case... if we're in New York. That person is causing a public nuisance and could incite a riot.

The thing I notice here is that the police said such a person would be an "idiot" and that they would "have" to arrest the assailants... as if they would do it grudgingly. That tells me that one still has to worry about such expressions in public. Is that freedom?

However, I would think that if the placard-waving person in Washington Sqaure Park were causing too many tensions to rise and refused to leave, they'd cite him for the codes I mentioned above. Having lived in New York for a short time and having frequented WSP during my stay, I know that guy would at least be confronted with a verbal jousting an inch from his face.

I'll tell you what. Would you go out to WSP with that placard? That way we'll know what will happen for sure. If we hear back from you, then you'll be right. If we don't hear back from you, then we know you're either in some hole or recovering from a concussion caused by a Timberland boot. I'll call Amnesty International for you. (smile)

"Cubans are resilient and resourceful"

This is absolutely right, beyond any doubt. Otherwise they could not survive in a totalitarian dictatorship. I would imagine that North Koreans are equally (if not more) resilient and resourceful.


"That person is causing a public nuisance and could incite a riot."

"However, I would think that if the placard waving person in Washington Square Park were causing too many tensions to rise and refused to leave, they'd cite him for the codes I mentioned above."

Daaim, take a course on Constitutional law: our chessplayer is not accountable for the rioting; the rioters are.

Your dissertations on the 2004 election, Iraq, literacy rates, mortality rates, and Hurricane Katrina have little to do with our placard-holding chessplayer's right to play chess in WSP. Let's try to get back to the original point:

The U.S. has a system which bends over backward to protect the speech of people who criticize the government. Cuba arrests people who criticize the government. I prefer the U.S. system in this respect. What about you?


OK... inciting to riot is on the rioters, but it appears as if it could also apply to the one provoking the action.

INCITING TO RIOT (A Misdemeanor)PENAL LAW 240.08(Committed on or after Sept. 1, 1967)The _____ count is Inciting to Riot. Under our law, a person is guilty of Inciting to Riot when he or she urges ten or more persons to engage in tumultuous and violent conduct of a kind likely to create public alarm.

greg, I have never lived in Cuba. However, I can vouch for many infringements on the Civil Rights of American citizens throughout history... even today. I don't think you want to go there. What system you or I would rather live under is not relevant.

Answer my question... if a chess-playing Arab-American in WSP, could he hold up a placard, denounce the government and say "Long live the 9-11 hijackers"? You may say yes and truly believe that. Technically you'd be right. Your police friends will say yes (they have sworn to). What would ACTUALLY happens may be very different.

That guy will be beaten to within an inch of his life long before any officers could (or decide to) get there. If you believe this government will be hard on someone that beats up an Arab praising the 9-11 attacks, then you may not understand how serious this government is about national security.

There have already been many people fired AND arrested for making statements "supportive" of 9-11. Many charges are concocted against Muslim organizations and accounts frozen on superficial evidence. One guy was even accused of supporting terrorism after buying 100 cell phones. Is it against the law to buy 100 cell phones? Where's the freedom?

Many people are oblivious to how this legal system works (maybe not you). We really want to believe it goes straight by the book. I can tell you some stories of civil rights injustice (past and present) that will make your head spin.

Sorry greg,

It was 1000 phones and there were three Arab men arrested for purchasing them.


Just in today... more freedom for Muslims. Case in point...


Yeah, I have been wondering too, why everyone seems to be after all these Muslim chaps? Anybody got a clue?


Seems you are stretching the point with the placard business. Freedom of expression is clearly greater in the US than in Cuba, but far from absolute.

Holding an inflammatory placard is not 'incitement to riot'. Incitement means saying something like 'brave comrades, pick up rocks and attack the authorities'.

Of course members of the public would have the integrity and sense to beat you up if you held up a sign with mocking and insulting slogans. Just like Zidane will head butt you if you insult his sister.

You are legally free to say a lot of things, and people are morally required to act accordingly even if the police have to act against them.


Seems so unfair. I struggle too with my irrational desires to carefully scrutinize any moslem/middle eastern looking person I ever share democratic space with on an airplane. And I would be shocked if I though they were looking at me with the same suspicions.


You got that right... Although, I feel that by the time I board the plane, it is a little too late. My struggles with those "irrational desires" usually take place in the check in / security control lines.


One fundamental feature of the western tradition is the technique of pursuing an argument step-by-step to its conclusion. I'm a product of this tradition and can't operate any other way.

Our placard-holding chess-playing friend waits for us to tell him whether government agents will be more likely to repress him in NYC or Havana. But you insist on talking about
--presidential elections
--non-governmental individuals
and now
--cell phones and
--Muslim airline passengers

You've declined several invitations to stay on point and I decline to discuss a dozen topics simultaneously.

But there was never any question where our placard-holding chess player would be better treated by government agents, so there's no great loss if this "argument" comes to an end.


We've already spent several posts discussing the issue, but you want to continue talking about the same point? You even asked where would I rather live??? Cuba or the U.S.? Strange question, but I answered it.

Here is how all of the topics you listed fits in. Those issues were addressing incidences where civil rights were violated or not protected in U.S. Sorry you couldn't follow the flow, but look at my comments in context. You even started with some scenario about a headscarf and playing rock music. You were all over the map giving different scenarios and raising different points. I'm trying to get you to understand that certain freedoms are not guaranteed in the U.S.A.... at least not for everyone. I know of many cases.

Given your scenarios, you asked to compare the protection of rights in Cuba vs. U.S.("Down with Castro" vs. "9-11 placard") and I ANSWERED that you that you'd be endangered in both cases. Then you widened the argument to discuss the generalities of safety in U.S. vs. Cuba. (e.g., where would you rather live?)

In your case, you are only limiting the argument to freedom granted by authorities, but societal freedom is much wider than that. Citizens can violate one's freedoms as well (it's even more common). I should have pointed this out. Your argument was that the authorities would arrest them after he got beat to a pulp. His rights were still violated. If one has to be concerned about repurcussions, then is there really freedom?

All the topics you listed were cases where civil freedoms were violated. As in the case of the Muslim travelers. (my last post)

You are saying Cuba is not a champion of freedom, but I'm trying to show you that this country is not the champion of freedom that it claims to be. You may compare the U.S. with Cuba, but it would be better to compare the U.S. with another democratic nation (at a similar economic level) and see where we stand. Comparing U.S. with Cuba is apples and oranges.

Now a fairer question would be "if you had to choose between Cuba and the U.S. to play in one chess tournament, which would you choose?"
Cuba of course!

Is the UK much freer than the US? (this question is addressed to Daaim).

I ask because while playing in some big out-of-town tourney (the HB?) I have a vivid memory of watching a TV news story while in the hotel snack shop. It was about a huge, vehement, hate-spewing Muslim demonstration in central London.

I'm a former journalist myself, and I've seen a lot, but these images were truly stunning and terrifying. Many of the placards (and if my memory serves, some of the speeches too) explicitly urged Muslims to take up suicide bombings within Britain and the US. They praised the 9-11 bombers, bin Laden, and the train bombers in Spain, and called for similar measures against the "infidels" in Britain. (The commuter train bombings in London hadn't happened yet.)

The real shock, which the newscaster voiced while presenting the footage, was that this "demonstration" was actually being allowed and tolerated -- presumably even PROTECTED -- by the London authorities.

The implication was that sometimes there CAN be TOO MUCH "freedom of speech."

And one irony is that in the 1980s/90s in the US, it was people on Daaim's side of the spectrum who used to advocate codes (on campus and elsewhere) banning "hate speech." I guess they meant those codes to apply against people who hate their kind, not the people they themselves hate.

I'm sure anyone reading this can look up the news stories about the particular demonstration I referred to.


The footage of this demo led to several arrests and at least a couple of convictions.

The trouble is that the government is using this to increase the surveillance of people for no good reason- today it has been revealed that police are trialling handheld fingerprint devices in the street. It is frightening that these policies are being thrown in without much thought (e.g. The biometric passports have been cracked in less than 48 hoursand this will open a new can of worms) and also that there is so little protest against it.

I do not believe for a second that we are any freer than the US and even if we are, our "freedom is nothing to be proud of.

A final quotation which may make us think:

"[T]he people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and then denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country" - Herman Goering

Why on earth would anyone have a problem with handheld fingerprinting devices? I’ve had my fingerprints taken and it was a damned bore having to schlep down to some police station. What objection could I possibly have to a device for doing it on the spot?

I can see that a sincere civil libertarian (please forgive my naievete in assuming that such a thing exists) would worry that handheld fingerprint devices could be abused by the police, to fingerprint many people on flimsy pretexts (i.e. in the absence of any proximate cause for arrest: such as the quite frequent "driving while black" and "walking while black" stops). It is generally considered a violation of privacy to take a person's fingerprints thereby making them available to law enforcement for future use, if that person has never been a crime suspect nor has ever applied for a sensitive position (i.e. chess coach) that would require fingerprinting as part of a mandated criminal background check.

Of course, absent such potential abuse, mobile fingerprint devices are a boon to the public as well as the police, as rdh points out.

Turning to Al's quote from Hitler lieutenant Hermann Goering, applying it in this context is very revealing, in a way that Al probably didn't intend.

Much criticism of the war on terrorism, in both Britain and the US, relies heavily on an embedded assumption (made explicit in the Goering quote), "All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked..."

Indeed, from what I've read here on Dirt and elsewhere, it is pretty obvious that Al and those of his stripe believe that everything that happened in the US after 9-11 stemmed from Bush's use of this maxim: "Tell them they are being attacked..."

From that, the Al's and the Daaim's of the world go on to deduce that the attack itself was either imaginary, or actually happened but was also carried out on the orders of Bush (or his father, or Rumsfeld, or the Mossad...whoever your favorite villain happens to be).

In other words, Americans and (a few) Britons responded not because we WERE attacked, but because our leaders somehow hoodwinked us into believing that we were being attacked.

The circle of self-delusion is then completed when the Al's and Daaim's of the world then postulate that Bush (and Blair?) must have "stolen" the (2004) election. Because, once alerted by Bush's opponents that we had been cruelly deceived into thinking that we had been attacked by foreign enemies within our own homeland, how could any reasonable person have gone ahead and voted for Bush? Ergo, the election must have been stolen.

The posts by Jon Jacobs raises some intriguing issues, although all this may be of greater interest in policy circles than to chess players.

The Cold War dominated Western thinking from the late 1940s onward, but was a relatively recent conflict. With the breakup of the Soviet Union and the transition to market economies in both Russia and China, this conflict has become obsolete. Most likely, Cuba will move in the same direction in coming years.

The conflict between Islam and the West is much older, going back about 1300 years. Within 200 years after the founding of Islam, the Moors had pushed the Byzantines out of the Middle East (although they continued to hold the Balkans until the 14th century), and had also conquered North Africa and swept up into Spain, displacing the Visigoths. The crusades are remembered in the Islamic world for the atrocities committed at the time, particularly during the first crusade. By the early 1600s, the Ottomans had conquered the Balkans, and were actually threatening Vienna, although they were repulsed. The most recent blows in this long-standing conflict occurred during the 19th century, when European powers colonized North Africa, and in 1918 when England defeated the Ottoman Empire, and occupied substantial parts of it, notably what is now Iraq.

The West had to some degree “forgotten” about this history before the most recent flare-up. Instead, the West has to a large degree framed its foreign policy in terms of World War II and the Cold War, i.e., in terms of democracy versus dictatorship. One can theorize, however, that forces such as nationalism and religious allegiances, rather than the dichotomy between dictatorship and democracy, will dominate the current conflict, until it has played itself out.

Well that's a different matter: if the police's powers to take fingerprints were widened one can see that issues arise in the minds of some. But nothing in al's post suggested that.

Frankly, out of the two I find it more frightening that anyone would make a fuss about having their fingerprints taken. The sooner we compulsorily fingerprint everyone who can't prove they earn some respectable income or other (and maybe the rest of us as well, just for show) and then use that information to hang the bastards the next time they burgle my house, the better.


A few points.

1) I do not believe that 9/11 was imaginary and I really hope that it was not planned by Bush and his crew- that would be too sick for words.

2) My take on the "tell them they are being attacked" (the reference to today’s situation was intentional – in the case of both sides) is an economic one. Two of the main drivers of the US economy are the defence/arms industry and the need for cheap oil. If there is no enemy, the defence/arms/reconstruction industry (e.g. Halliburton) is not going to make money. In a lot of cases it is self interest- e.g. Castro's ego wanting to cling to power and Bush/Cheney driven by money.

3) My cynicism is directed both left and right- to be honest, there is not a single politician that I trust. Jeremy Paxman, the BBC interviewer approaches each interview with the maxim "Why is this lying b@st@rd lying to me?" - I think he is spot on. Yes Minister, the BBC Comedy Series, was spot on when it suggested that if a leader was doing badly in the polls, he should start a war. (Thatcher said this series was scarily accurate)

4) The current situation (and the Cold War and other conflicts -e.g. Northern Ireland where I grew up) suits both sets of protagonists. I'm not going to be cynical enough to suggest that they arranged it, but it suits them just fine and they have no need to change the status quo. Bush can claim to be a wartime president- “if you’re not with us you’re against us”- and the Islamic Extremists can stir people up using martyrs. It's a vicious circle and very hard to get out of. It takes real vision and there are few cases where it happened (Reagan-Gorbachev - see Jon, I can see that Republicans have done some good :-) Mandela-De Klerk, John Hume tried extensively in Northern Ireland and it took Clinton's intervention to make real progress)

rdh, my reasoning behind saying that the fingerprints scanning is disgusting, is that which was described by Jon as "a sincere civil libertarian" in his first paragraph. I didn't explain it as I thought it was so bleeding obvious, that it wouldn't be necessary. I was obviously wrong.

I've experienced corrupt policing in several countries on several continents and believe that a healthy distrust is the best way to deal with them. Why should the state snoop in on me and what I'm doing?

Also, can the state be trusted to retain the data securely? From your experience of living in the UK, can you name one successful Government IT project? Why should enough information to steal my identity be held together in one place, which I wouldn't trust to keep it safe?

I have no objection to small amounts being held where it is necessary, but this whole creeping Big Brother scenario (based on the "tell them they are being attacked" premise) is extremely scary.

Oh, I knew the sort of thing you’d say, to be sure. But the way to deal with you civil libertarians is always to get you to say exactly what it is you’re afraid of – as best you can – because you make your own arguments sound ridiculous so much better than I could.

In the present case, your objection seems to be that the police will take your fingerprints, store them on their computer along with your name and shoe size, and that some hacker or other will then log in and, armed with the information that your Fred Smith of Acacia Avenue has fingerprints which look like so, start going round pretending to be you. I’m not quite sure what you think will happen after that, but I think we’ve heard enough.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on November 15, 2006 11:52 PM.

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