Cuba admits failure to pay farmers on time

If you want to lift the embargo on Cuba, that’s fine. Just don’t extend credit to the Castro regime and require payment in cash, in-advance prior to delivery of any good or service. The AP reports on the dictatorship’s inability to pay its own farmers, in the following article:

HAVANA — Cuba on Monday acknowledged a failure to pay cash-strapped farmers on time and said some local officials lied to cover up the problem — a blunt admission from the communist government that crucial agriculture reforms lauded by President Raul Castro have so far fallen short.

The public mea culpa came in a full page spread Monday in the state-run Granma newspaper, which acknowledged that the issue is a main cause of discontent in the countryside.

It said that after an enormous effort to repay farmers that began in 2004, the problem has come up again.

“We ought to admit that provincial agriculture officials, local governments and the Agriculture Ministry itself have not taken responsibility,” Agriculture Minister Ulises Rosales de Toro is quoted as saying.

The minister said that some local officials have falsified records to hide the lack of payments, something that he described as “unconscionable.”

“Anybody who acts in this way calls into question his moral authority to lead,” the report quoted him as saying.

Despite a warm climate and rich soil, Cuba lacks the ability to feed itself and must import more than $2 billion worth of food a year, much of it from the United States.

Cuban markets offer a grim selection of basic products, and often run out. Many complain that it is hard to get by on government ration books that grant only about 15 days worth of food for an entire month.

Raul Castro, who took over from his elder brother Fidel in February 2008, has made agriculture reform one of the main goals of his administration. He has handed over 80,000 parcels of fallow government land to private farmers and exhorted his countrymen to produce more.

The government says the program is working, although it acknowledges progress is slow. Farmers say they often lack the equipment and fertilizer to plow the new fields, and that inefficiency has caused some food to rot before it can reach supermarket shelves.

According to the Granma report, the government owes farmers about $95,000 — not much by international standards, but a windfall in a country where farmers get by on well under $100 a month and must sell most of their production back to the state.

The payment problems “constitute an immorality in that they make producers think that the state is not willing to pay them,” the newspaper said.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Photo © 2005 Chris Milliman.

Note to the NY Times: Will You Shoot Down Chinese Aces?

From today’s NY Times:

“We were pleased to see the House join the Senate in voting to end the F-22 jet fighter program.”

Well, like my boy says: “Ending the F-22 program to save $5-6 billion when hundreds of billions are being squandered by this administration is incredibly flawed thinking.

The United States must consider longer time horizons than the current security climate to ensure its security as well the security of the wider world. Yes, the F-22 is designed for state warfare and has not been used in the current era of asymmetric warfare against non-state actors. However, any student of history will tell that assuming the end of state warfare is incredibly naive and, ultimately, dangerous. In fact, part of the reason we are so lucky to live in an era of diminished risk of state warfare is precisely that the US has held such an overwhelming military edge in such warfare.

By cutting on $6-7 billion of spending — which in and of itself represents a form of stimulus like the Las Vegas museum to the mafia stuffed into Obama’s stimulus bill — we also shuttered our capability to create such high tech pieces of security for the future. All in all, penny wise and pound foolish.

Unless of course, the Obama Administration’s disproportionate focus on what is ultimately a few cents of security out many dollars of truly wasteful federal spending betrays a wider goal of downsizing the American military and intelligence establishments. In that case, the Administration’s focus on this issue makes much more sense — however, it is unlikely to play well with ordinary Americans once they realize their security is being weakened simply to satisfy an ideological agenda which sees the US military and intelligence establishments in an unfavorable light.”

The WSJ isn’t keen on the demise of the F-22, either.

USA vs. UBS – Gooooo Swiss!

“…ZURICH/MIAMI, July 8 (Reuters) – A judge ordered the U.S. government to say whether it was prepared to shut Swiss bank UBS AG in the United States as part of a battle to learn the identity of 52,000 secret accounts suspected of being used by Americans to avoid taxes.

U.S. District Judge Alan Gold, set to preside over a hearing Monday of a suit seeking to force UBS to provide the information, asked specifically Wednesday about ‘receivership and/or seizure of UBS’ assets within the United States.’…”

Full Story

Go Team Swiss!

Sales — when done right — is more than a job. It is an art.

From the NY Times:

“…Sales — when done right — is more than a job. It is an art. It is a high-wire act. It is, as Arthur Miller immortally said, being out there “on a smile and a shoe shine.” It is learning the product you are selling, learning it so well that you can describe it while doing a pirouette of smiles for the customer and talking about the latest football scores. It is knowing human nature so well that you can align the attributes of your product or service cleanly with the needs and wants of your customers.

At its best, selling is taking a doubt and turning it, jujitsu style, into a powerful push…”

Hey! Quit pushing! lol

Death and Taxes

Death and Taxes” is a large representational graph and poster of the federal budget. It contains over 500 programs and departments and almost every program that receives over 200 million dollars annually. The data is straight from the president’s 2009 budget request and will be debated, amended, and approved by Congress to begin the fiscal year. All of the item circles are proportional in size to their spending totals and the percentage change from 2008 is included to spot trends and disproportion.

($24 per poster, 5000+ posters sold, revenue of over $120,000…wonder how much of the income generated by sales of “Death and Taxes” went to the government in the form of taxes?)

Thoughts on the Crisis, in an email to a Friend

…If you’re not familiar with the details of Political Risk Analysis, there is a good background piece here. I don’t trust politicians in the least, which is why there will always be a need for political risk analysis. I hope to specialize in the Latin American markets, though with the current Obama administration in the USA, one could argue that investors here would be wise to consider political risk b/c of this new government’s penchant for voiding contracts (AIG) and forcing-out CEO’s from public companies (GM). It is a strange time we live in.

Here [Pittsburgh] the effects of the econ-fin. crisis are not as apparent as in other parts of the USA. For example, there was little speculative action in the housing market in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, unlike California or Florida, so there are relatively few foreclosures compared to those areas. Pittsburgh was previously dependent on its manufacturing base (steel) but in the early 1980’s had to completely reinvent itself to survive economically…we’re now a regional leader in the field of health care and university research.

In time, though, the recession will become more significant in its effects. Unfortunately, the people – both the citizens and the elected officials – want to pretend that everything is OK, rather than preparing for the inevitable crisis. SO that is why I buy this pen now, while I can still kind of “afford” it, because I believe that the worst is yet to come. My friend has lost 40% of the value of his retirement account, and is every day worried about his position…but he is in a different part of the country. He works for the firm xxxx and they are seeing a NOTICEABLE slow-down in business. 😦

Not good times.

I am scared for the country, and for the global economic system in general. I am very moderate in my political beliefs, and I am an economic liberal (meaning that I support capitalism with few interventions by the state and certainly not in the form we’re now seeing), but I fear that there will be a POPULIST BACKLASH and the government will regulate and regulate and tax and tax to the point that they strangle the economy and impede world trade. A great crisis is brewing.

What are your thoughts and experiences on this?



I’m Glad my Mom Didn’t Buy a Car Yet

From the Boston Herald:

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama says the federal government is preparing to offer several incentives to get Americans to buy more U.S.-made cars.

In a White House speech, Obama said the IRS will start notifying consumers who purchased cars after Feb. 16 that they can deduct the cost of any sales and excise taxes. The program would remain in effect till year’s end.

Obama says he wants to work with Congress to use parts of the economic stimulus package to fund a program that would allow consumers to get a “generous credit” when they replace an older, less fuel-efficient car and buy a new, cleaner car.

The president says he wants to make the program retroactive starting Monday. It’s meant to boost car sales in the U.S., which have seen their worst decline in 27 years.

Obama also said the government will guarantee warranties on any GM or Chrysler vehicles.