Lazy Saturday Reads

Cuban-Americans celebrate upon hearing about the death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Fla., on Saturday. AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Cuban-Americans celebrate upon hearing about the death of longtime Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the Little Havana neighborhood of Miami, Fla., on Saturday.
AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Good Morning!!

The big news this morning is the death of Fidel Castro. From the AP via the NYT: Cuba’s Fidel Castro, Who Defied US for 50 Years, Dies at 90.

Former President Fidel Castro, who led a rebel army to improbable victory in Cuba, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 10 U.S. presidents during his half century rule, has died at age 90.

With a shaking voice, President Raul Castro said on state television that his older brother died at 10:29 p.m. Friday. He ended the announcement by shouting the revolutionary slogan: “Toward victory, always!”

Castro’s reign over the island-nation 90 miles (145 kilometers) from Florida was marked by the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. The bearded revolutionary, who survived a crippling U.S. trade embargo as well as dozens, possibly hundreds, of assassination plots, died 10 years after ill health forced him to hand power over to Raul.

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Castro overcame imprisonment at the hands of dictator Fulgencio Batista, exile in Mexico and a disastrous start to his rebellion before triumphantly riding into Havana in January 1959 to become, at age 32, the youngest leader in Latin America. For decades, he served as an inspiration and source of support to revolutionaries from Latin America to Africa.

His commitment to socialism was unwavering, though his power finally began to fade in mid-2006 when a gastrointestinal ailment forced him to hand over the presidency to Raul in 2008, provisionally at first and then permanently. His defiant image lingered long after he gave up his trademark Cohiba cigars for health reasons and his tall frame grew stooped.

“Socialism or death” remained Castro’s rallying cry even as Western-style democracy swept the globe and other communist regimes in China and Vietnam embraced capitalism, leaving this island of 11 million people an economically crippled Marxist curiosity.

The Times also has a lengthy obituary: Fidel Castro, Cuban Revolutionary Who Defied U.S., Dies at 90.

Fidel Castro, the fiery apostle of revolution who brought the Cold War to the Western Hemisphere in 1959 and then defied the United States for nearly half a century as Cuba’s maximum leader, bedeviling 11 American presidents and briefly pushing the world to the brink of nuclear war, died Friday. He was 90….

In declining health for several years, Mr. Castro had orchestrated what he hoped would be the continuation of his Communist revolution, stepping aside in 2006 when he was felled by a serious illness. He provisionally ceded much of his power to his younger brother Raúl, now 85, and two years later formally resigned as president. Raúl Castro, who had fought alongside Fidel Castro from the earliest days of the insurrection and remained minister of defense and his brother’s closest confidant, has ruled Cuba since then, although he has told the Cuban people he intends to resign in 2018.

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Fidel Castro had held on to power longer than any other living national leader except Queen Elizabeth II. He became a towering international figure whose importance in the 20th century far exceeded what might have been expected from the head of state of a Caribbean island nation of 11 million people.

He dominated his country with strength and symbolism from the day he triumphantly entered Havana on Jan. 8, 1959, and completed his overthrow of Fulgencio Batista by delivering his first major speech in the capital before tens of thousands of admirers at the vanquished dictator’s military headquarters.

A spotlight shone on him as he swaggered and spoke with passion until dawn. Finally, white doves were released to signal Cuba’s new peace. When one landed on Mr. Castro, perching on a shoulder, the crowd erupted, chanting “Fidel! Fidel!” To the war-weary Cubans gathered there and those watching on television, it was an electrifying sign that their young, bearded guerrilla leader was destined to be their savior.

Much more at the link.

Meanwhile, we’re in the midst of a shocking revolution here at home. Our government has been essentially taken over by a hostile foreign state, and it appears that no one in power is doing anything about it. It looks like we are going to be ruled by billionaires–are we really going to allow our country to become a Russian oligarchy?

The Washington Post: Americans keep looking away from the election’s most alarming story, by Eric Chenowith.

In assessing Donald Trump’s presidential victory, Americans continue to look away from this election’s most alarming story: the successful effort by a hostile foreign power to manipulate public opinion before the vote.

U.S. intelligence agencies determined that the Russian government actively interfered in our elections. Russian state propaganda gave little doubt that this was done to support President-elect Trump, who repeatedly praised Vladimir Putin and excused the Russian president’s foreign aggression and domestic repression. Most significantly, U.S. intelligence agencies have affirmed that the Russian government directedthe illegal hacking of private email accounts of the Democratic National Committee and prominent individuals. The emails were then released by WikiLeaks, which has benefited financially from a Russian state propaganda arm, used Russian operatives for security and made clear an intent to harm the candidacy of Hillary Clinton.

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From the Russian perspective, the success of this operation can hardly be overstated. News stories on the DNC emails released in July served to disrupt the Democratic National Convention, instigate political infighting and suggest for some supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — without any real proof — that the Democratic primary had been “rigged” against their candidate. On Oct. 7, WikiLeaks began near dailydumps from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email account, generating a month of largely negative reporting on Clinton, her campaign staff, her husband and their foundation. With some exceptions, there was little news in the email beyond political gossip and things the media had covered before, now revisited from a seemingly “hidden” viewpoint.
Russian (and former communist) propaganda has traditionally worked exactly this way: The more you “report” something negatively, the more the negative is true. Trump and supportive media outlets adopted the technique and reveled in information gained from the illegal Russian hacking (as well as many “fake news” stories that evidencesuggestswere generated by Russian intelligence operations) to make exaggerated claims (“Hillary wants to open borders to 600 million people!”) or to accuse Clinton of illegality, corruption and, ironically, treasonous behavior.
Does anyone in the Obama administration have serious concerns about this? And what about possible connections between Russia and factions in FBI? I can only hope that efforts to deal with the situation are going on behind the scenes, but it sure doesn’t seem that way. Instead, it looks like the Obama administration is focused on making things easier for Trump and his Russian oligarch pals.

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NYT: U.S. Officials Defend Integrity of Vote, Despite Hacking Fears.

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said on Friday that despite Russian attempts to undermine the presidential election, it has concluded that the results “accurately reflect the will of the American people.”

The statement came as liberal opponents of Donald J. Trump, some citing fears of vote hacking, are seeking recounts in three states — Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — where his margin of victory was extremely thin.

A drive by Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, for recounts in those states had brought in more than $5 million by midday on Friday, her campaign said, and had increased its goal to $7 million. She filed for a recount in Wisconsin on Friday, about an hour before the deadline.

In its statement, the administration said, “The Kremlin probably expected that publicity surrounding the disclosures that followed the Russian government-directed compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations, would raise questions about the integrity of the election process that could have undermined the legitimacy of the president-elect.”

That was a reference to the breach of the Democratic National Committee’s email system, and the leak of emails from figures like John D. Podesta, Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.

“Nevertheless, we stand behind our election results, which accurately reflect the will of the American people,” it added.

I don’t get it. So President Obama really isn’t that interested in fighting for his legacy anymore? And there’s this from The Hill: Obama urged Clinton to concede on election night.

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President Barack Obama called Hillary Clinton to persuade her to concede the White House on election night, according to a forthcoming book on Clinton’s defeat.

Authors Amie Parnes, The Hill’s senior White House correspondent, and Jonathan Allen cite three Clintonworld sources familiar with the election-night request in the unreleased book from Crown Publishing.

“You need to concede,” Obama told his former secretary of State as she, her family, and her top aides continued to watch results trickle in from the key Rust Belt states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The latter state, called after 1:30 a.m. by The Associated Press, was the clear tipping point for the White House race, ensuring Trump would crest over the 270 electoral-vote threshold needed to win.

Clinton ultimately heeded Obama’s advice and called Trump to acknowledge her defeat in the early morning hours Wednesday….

Obama’s call left a sour taste in the mouths of some Clinton allies who believe she should have waited longer, and there’s now a fight playing out between the Obama and Clinton camps over whether to support an effort to force the Rust Belt states to recount their votes.

Meanwhile, efforts to get recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania are moving forward. The Wisconsin Election Commission: Wisconsin Elections Commission Receives Two Presidential Election Recount Petitions.

MADISON, WI – The Wisconsin Elections Commission today received two recount petitions from the Jill Stein for President Campaign and from Rocky Roque De La Fuente, Administrator Michael Haas announced.

“The Commission is preparing to move forward with a statewide recount of votes for President of the United States, as requested by these candidates,” Haas said.

“We have assembled an internal team to direct the recount, we have been in close consultation with our county clerk partners, and have arranged for legal representation by the Wisconsin Department of Justice,” Haas said. “We plan to hold a teleconference meeting for county clerks next week and anticipate the recount will begin late in the week after the Stein campaign has paid the recount fee, which we are still calculating.”

The last statewide recount was of the Supreme Court election in 2011.  At that time, the Associated Press surveyed county clerks and reported that costs to the counties exceeded $520,000, though several counties did not respond to the AP’s survey.  That election had 1.5 million votes, and Haas said the Commission expects the costs to be higher for an election with 2.975 million votes.  “The Commission is in the process of obtaining cost estimates from county clerks so that we can calculate the fee which the campaigns will need to pay before the recount can start,” Haas said. The Commission will need to determine how the recount costs will be assessed to the campaigns.

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The state is working under a federal deadline of December 13 to complete the recount. As a result, county boards of canvassers may need to work evenings and weekends to meet the deadlines. “The recount process is very detail-oriented, and this deadline will certainly challenge some counties to finish on time,” Haas said.

A recount is different than an audit and is more rigorous, Haas explained.  More than 100 reporting units across the state were randomly selected for a separate audit of their voting equipment as required by state law, and that process has already begun.  Electronic voting equipment audits determine whether all properly-marked ballots are accurately tabulated by the equipment.  In a recount, all ballots (including those that were originally hand counted) are examined to determine voter intent before being retabulated. In addition, the county boards of canvassers will examine other documents, including poll lists, written absentee applications, rejected absentee ballots, and provisional ballots before counting the votes.

Haas noted that the Commission’s role is to order the recount, to provide legal guidance to the counties during the recount, and to certify the results.  If the candidates disagree with the results of the recount, the law gives them the right to appeal in circuit court within five business days after the recount is completed.  The circuit court is where issues are resolved that may be discovered during the recount but are not resolved to the satisfaction of the candidates.

The Detroit News: Mich. readies for presidential recount as cutoff looms.

Lansing — Elections officials are preparing for a possible presidential election recount in Michigan that could begin as soon as next week, state Director of Elections Chris Thomas said Friday.

Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein has indicated she plans to jumpstart a recount in the Great Lakes state over fears that Michigan’s election results could have been manipulated by hackers. Republican President-elect Donald won the state by 10,704 votes over Democrat Hillary Clinton, according to unofficial updated resultsposted Wednesday.

By Friday afternoon, Stein had raised more than $5 million of her $7 million goal to cover the cost of a recount in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan “to ensure the integrity of our elections” because “there is a significant need to verify machine-counted vote totals,” according to her campaign website. Stein finished nearly 2.3 million votes behind Trump in Michigan and received 1.1 percent of the vote.

Michigan’s deadline for initiating a recount is Wednesday. “We have not heard from anybody,” Thomas said about a Stein recount request. “We’re just trying to be proactive, make sure we have plans.”

Thomas said officials “could probably begin by the end of the week,” although it will be “a huge undertaking in a very short period of time” if it happens.

That’s all I have for you today. I admit that I’ve been sinking into depression and despair over the past few days. I don’t know how to deal with this nightmare. I’m not giving up; I’m just in a state of extreme confusion and not sure how to come out of it yet.

Take care Sky Dancers! I love you all.