Abstaining for Oliva

The Minnesota House has passed a resolution to end trade and financial restrictions to Cuba, on an 86-9 vote. Legislators don’t have to vote on resolutions, but that didn’t explain why 39 of them took a pass on an issue that, at least at first blush, doesn’t seem like something that’s going to bite them in the election-year behind. It’s not as if we’re Florida.

So I sent an email to a few dozen of them to see what i was missing.

I was missing Tony Oliva, the star of the Minnesota Twins in the ’60s.

Everyone’s boyhood hero (OK, not everyone’s, but he was one of mine, and I’m from Boston.) was in the House chambers. Oliva is a native of Cuba and favors an easing of the restrictions. Oliva didn’t want to leave his mother, father, and nine brothers and sisters when he was a kid. But his father told him to go to America and be “rich and famous.”

The only legislator to respond to my e-mail was Rep. Tom Emmer, the one legislator I was pretty sure would.


Bob, thanks for your note. I thought we had more important things to do & I didn’t agree with the res. Out of respect for Mr. Oliva, I chose not to vote rather than no.

You can’t say no to heroes.

  • GregS

    Why do these morons think anyone is interested in their opinions on foreign policy?

    What next a resolution on the Yak butter tax in Mongolia?

  • Bob Collins

    Minnesota has an interest in widening trade with Cuba… mostly farmers who do a fair amount of business with the nation now. Besides, if we’re in a global economy and if foreign policy reflects economic interests, doesn’t it logically follow that foreign policy does have an impact on Main Street?

    In other words, in a global economy, where is the line that separates stuff that is “our business” vs that which “isn’t.”

  • GregS

    Bob,

    Cuba has all economic whallup of Haiti. It is not even a bit player in the food export market. In a world where we can sell all the farm commodities we want to Asia…..the argument for Cuba is pretty lame.

    I think it has more to do with prehistoric DFL radicalism than anything of substance.

  • GregS

    (scratching head)

    If we are currently exporting food to Cuba, why is our legislature passing “resolutions” about opening up trade to Cuba for our “farmers”?

    Something there does not make a lot of sense, but then when did the legislature ever make sense?

    (Oh don’t mind me, I am home with a nasty head cold)

  • Bob Collins
  • GregS

    $18 million, huh? That is about the gross sales of a suburban used lot.

    I am not sure what the big deal is. If we exported $18 million worth of commodities to Cuba then apparently there is no barrier to exporting $18 million worth of commodities there.

    What there is a lack of in Cuba is freedom.

    Bob, you would be in jail there for the writing you have done here critisizing the government.

    I am glad you are here critisizing the government, I just wish the Cuban people had the same rights of expression as we do.

    Here is a list of 24 journalists currently in Cuban jails Imprisoned Journalists in Cuba.

    Maybe the legislature could find time in their busy schedule to pass a resolution callin for their freedom.

  • GregS

    Should have written “$18 million, huh? That is about the gross sales of a suburban used car lot.”

    You kinda have to wonder whether Cargil and ADM are hustling around the capital whispering “trade with Cuba, trade with Cuba”

    For Minnesota the impact of lower trade barriers would be negligible – for Cargil, now that is another story. Especially if they can tell Raul that they scratched his back.

  • Bob Collins

    //Bob, you would be in jail there for the writing you have done here criticizing the government.

    The same is true for Saudi Arabia and China. Are you suggesting we should have an opinion on foreign policy? (g)

  • JtB

    Isn’t this story the essence of the capitalistic society? The more trade, the more revenue for the people of Minnesota, and that brings more jobs…the ‘trickle down effect’. So even if that money is going towards a ‘Cargil’, it will end up going for the greater good of the state and a Cuba’s people will be helped by the trade of that product. The Cuban people outed from the power of Fidel should be embraced so they will not support a new leader such as Castrol. If the legislature, much less our state legislature, does not open up to them, what will change.

    ‘On the one hand, we complain that Minnesota isn’t business friendly, and on the other we sneeze at $18 million in the economy while lamenting the destructive effects of an additional 8 cents for a gallon of gas.’ Good point Bob.

  • GregS

    Looking at the Committee to Protect Journalists website, I see no reporter being held in Saudi Arabia.

    China is the leader with 29 journalists behind bars. Cuba comes in second with 24. Given the difference in population between those two countries, Cuba is definitly ahead.

    But there is a huge difference between China and Cuba, China is reforming….though slowly. Cuba, like North Korea, has not acknowledged that reform is needed.

    It still clings to Stalinism.

  • GregS

    Isn’t this story the essence of the capitalistic society? The more trade, the more revenue for the people of Minnesota, and that brings more jobs…the ‘trickle down effect’

    Think back to day one of Economics 101. Remeber the “opportunity curve”?

    Where did this assumption “if we ain’t trad’n wit Cuba, we ain’t trad’n wit nobody” come from?

    There is a big world out there bidding for our commodities. Cargil ain’t interested in selling “Minnesota Corn”, they want the state department off their backs so they can broker food stuffs from around the world to Cuba.

    By the way, isn’t anyone asking what a rural based economy like Cuba is doing IMPORTING food?

  • Bob Collins

    Greg, you’re such a literalist. Let’s take…Afghanistan. They’re “our” guys now. There’s a journalist there who is sentenced to death for downloading information about women and Islam.

    I mean, seriously, you’re not really going to talk about some sort of purity test that nations who DO have relationships with the U.S. have passed, right? Because otherwise you’ll have to explain why we have trade with Saudi Arabia, where a woman was arrested at a Starbuck’s a month or so ago because she wasn’t in the company of a man.

    The U.S. looks the other way with regard to human rights ALL THE TIME if there is an economic interest that’s more important. All the time.

  • GregS

    Excuse me, but I think you are being the literalist here.

    Governments are sanctioned for government policy and government action.

    Cuba’s sanctions were earned because of a systematic policy to deny Cuban basic rights.

    In the case of Afghanistan, the journalist you cited, Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh, was charged in a local religious court and he has been moved to federal court where his case is being appealed.

    That is a long shot from what goes down in Cuba under the Castro regime.

    Should be tougher on Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iraq and China sure……but none of them hold a candle to the offical policy in Cuba.

  • Bob Collins

    So you’re saying there’s no human rights violations — or a systemic policy of violating human rights — in countries with which the United States trades?

    Becuase your original assertion didn’t appear to be based on a sliding scale of human rights.

    And your China comment is interesting. One reason that no U.N. action has taken place on Darfur, for example, is that China has or will veto it in the security council.

    In the Freedom House report on textbooks in Saudi Arabia, it said they “command Muslims to hate Christians, Jews, polytheists and other “unbelievers”, and teach that the Crusades never ended, and identify Western social service providers, media outlets, centers for academic studies, and campaigns for women’s rights as part of the modern phase of the Crusades.

    I’m not sure how to measure the holding of the candle here but you seem to suggest the degree to which human violates are violated as a matter of policy is a sliding scale. So if you were the Minister of Trade for the U.S. (a new position I just created for you), how would you defend a policy based on punishing countries for human rights violations? 1,000 people? 10,000 people? A milliion? 1?

  • GregS

    I’m not sure how to measure the holding of the candle here but you seem to suggest the degree to which human violates are violated as a matter of policy is a sliding scale. So if you were the Minister of Trade for the U.S. (a new position I just created for you), how would you defend a policy based on punishing countries for human rights violations? 1,000 people? 10,000 people? A milliion? 1?

    You go by the policy of the government. I am not saying that China and Saudi Arabia are freedom loving countries, but I am saying that the policies of the Cuban government are qualitatively and quantitatively worse.

    So what to do?

    Do we give a bad guy a break because we gave other bad guys a break?

    That sounds like a race to the bottom.

    I think what happened to China over Tibet was a great thing. They should get a whack in the nose, maybe even tighten up on trade…..(please)

    Same with the Saudis (please)

    But don’t lighten up on Cuba until it lightens up on its own people.