Saturday, February 2, 2013

Sen. Menendez Is America's Problem, Not Cuba's

Illustrates Failure Within U. S. Democracy
     The above photo by Doug Mills that depicts a concerned Senator Robert Menendez was used to illustrate a major article in the New York Times on Feb. 1-2013. It was entitled: "Senator Has Long Ties to Donor Under Scrutiny. The revelation saw the light of day this past week when the FBI raided the offices of an extremely wealthy Miami eye surgeon, Dr. Salomon E. Melgen. The New York Times reported, "Dr. Melgen...has always been happy to help out his friend, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey." Then the Times explained how Sen. Menendez has returned the favors with Senate bills that reward Dr. Melgen in his dealings with the Dominican Republic. It turns out that Sen. Menendez, conveniently, "is Chairman of the Senate subcommittee that holds sway over the Dominican Republic" and that, with such power, Sen. Menendez, for example, "subsequently urged officials in the State and Commerce Departments to intervene so the contract would be enforced, at an estimated value of $500 million." The "contract" was one involving the Dominican Republic that vastly enriched Dr. Melgen's fortune that, in turn, has richly backed Sen. Menendez's political career. Menendez, the former Mayor of the Cuban-exile bastion of Union City, New Jersey, was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives in 1993 from that district. He was then appointed to the U. S. Senate before being elected as an incumbent, with Dr. Melgen's hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds helping to explain how and why incumbents are almost unbeatable in the upper realms of the U. S. democracy. When it comes to the Dominican Republic and Sen. Menendez, even the Dominican Republic's own government is overwhelmed. The NY Times article pointed out that the $500 million largess for Dr. Melgen was described by Miguel Cocco as "an exorbitant giveaway" to Dr. Melgen.  {Cocco was the Dominican Republic's Customs Director who tried but failed to block the deal} The NY Times pointed out that the close ties between Sen. Menendez and Dr. Melgen "go back to the 1990s" when they spent holidays together at Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic where Dr. Melgen has a home in the "gated oceanfront resort where houses cost as much as $20 million." The NY Times says that "a super PAC" known as Majority PAC "poured $582,500 into New Jersey to support Mr. Menendez's re-election effort. One of the organization's biggest donors? Dr. Melgen's company, which donated $700,000 between June and October." The problem with such nefarious out-of-state money re-electing people like Senator Menendez in a district in the state of New Jersey is this: Once in the U. S. Congress, they can then make laws that affect people adversely in all 50 states, not to mention innocent people in other countries, such as Cuba or the Dominican Republic. The NY Times article included this sentence: "In Florida political circles, one Miami Democrat explained, it is understood that anyone seeking a federal appointment that requires Mr. Menendez's blessing should first get Dr. Melgen's backing. 'If you needed Bob, you had to see Melgen,' said the Democrat. 'Everybody in Miami knew that.'" Wow! A bit startling but not exactly a revelation to anyone who has the slightest knowledge of what the NY Times called "Florida political circles" or what is commonly referred to as "hardline Cuban exiles running amok and generally unchallenged in business or politics." 
         The above photo of Sen. Menendez -- by Alex Wong/Getty Images -- illustrated a Los Angeles Times article on Feb. 1-2013 that blared this headline: "Sen. Robert Menendez Under Growing Scrutiny Over Ethics Questions." This article indicated that a Dominican Republic contract benefiting Melgen and urged by Sen. Menendez was worth up to "$1 billion." The LA Times ended its long article with this sentence: "A review of records shows Menendez has at times used his role on the Foreign Relations Committee to advocate for Melgen." No kidding. But perhaps the first two sentences of the LA Times article is even more scary: "Sen. Robert Menendez, the powerful New Jersey Democrat who this week was named chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is facing a Senate ethics probe...the review comes on the heels of an FBI raid on Melgen's medical offices in West Palm Beach, Fla., on Tuesday night and Wednesday as part of an investigation into what sources called possible Medicaid fraud." USA Today has had front-page articles revealing South Florida as the "epicenter" and "ground zero" for Medicare fraud, prescription-pill fraud, etc., that costs all Americans dearly. And so, this very week Sen. Menendez becomes the "Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee." And guess what? Foreign Relations include the Dominican Republic and Cuba.
         And guess what? Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami -- another Bush-ordained Cuban-American -- has served a long stint as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the other congressional chamber, the House of Representatives! Born in Havana, she has been a member of the U. S. Congress since 1989 when Jeb Bush was her Campaign Manager. The U. S. Congress consists of just two chambers, with radical anti-Castro Cuban-Americans holding the Foreign Relations Chairmanships on both sides of the aisle! Now you ask, "Can things possibly get any worse?"
Yes! If Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio capture the White House in 2016 as some predict!!!
         So, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen has been around for decades and thus must have a huge collection of pens, like the one above, that she gets as souvenirs commemorating the most stringent anti-Cuban legislation signed into law by the Bush dynasty. I personally would not care if every chairmanship in the U. S. Congress and every chair in the Oval Office were held by Cuban-Americans but I would prefer Cuban-Americans other than those anointed by the Bush dynasty.
            Or...Cuban-Americans not propped up by extremely rich men like Saloman Melgen {left} from South Florida using ungodly amounts of apparently ill-gotten money to fund the political campaigns of people like Sen. Menendez {right} in another state. Such schemes circumvent the democratic process in which voters from Menendez's own district should predicate the election without the interference of bushels of outside money, a situation not allowed by any other pro-democracy nation. Melgen and Menendez, in other words, help explain why the approval rating of Congress languishes in the single digits but yet it is almost impossible to vote them out of office!
Thus, we can expect more Melgens and Menendezes!
       The democracy-loving Sarah Stephens {above) is the Executive Director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas. Her Cuba Central column this week stated:
        "In public, Senator Bob Menendez is never a shy skeptic about certain kinds of travel. He bitterly opposed reforms in 2009 to allow Cuban Americans unfettered travel rights to Cuba, and later teamed up with Senator Marco Rubio to oppose opening up people-to-people travel for most other Americans. When the Center for Democracy in the Americas was organizing a Cuba trip for Senate chiefs of staff, he...warned all of their colleagues not to allow their staffs to go. At John Kerry;s confirmation hearing, he scolded Senator Jeff Flake, who joked about using 'spring break' to disrupt the Cuban government's hold on the island. Like other hardliners, Menendez suggested that travel to Cuba was about little more than sexual tourism, as he did in his speech against Cuban American family travel four years ago. Had Senator Menendez heeded his publicly expressed doubts about travel in private, he might not be in the hot water he finds himself today. His story has moved swiftly from a lurid set of accusations. According to NBC News, the raid ostensibly 'concerned a separate criminal probe conducted by the FBI and the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, which typically investigates Medicare fraud. However, agents were also looking for evidence in the other case concerning the alleged under-aged prostitutes' and two airplane rides Menendez and Melgen took to the Dominican Republic."
          In other words, Americans concerned about their democracy should tune out the likes of Fox News and tune in truthful sources such as the Center for Democracy in the Americas.
         And in other words, Sen. Menendez is against the freedom to travel for others but not for himself. His office admits he took two illegal trips to and from the Dominican Republic on jets owned by Melgen. Whether or not the trips involved prostitution with under-aged Dominican Republic girls, as various sources including the Miami New Times are alleging, they were illegal because Sen. Menendez did not report them or pay for them as required by Senate rules. After the quid pro quo scandal broke, Sen. Menendez wrote Mr. Melgen a check for just under $60,000 to pay for those airplane trips to the Dominican Republic. But the Melgen stain is one the Senator can't wash out.
        This week's Menendez-Melgen-Dominican Republic saga reminds Cuban watchers that two of the most visceral anti-Castro haters were Richard Nixon and Rafael Trujillo. The photo above shows Nixon lovingly reminding Trujillo how much Washington loved and appreciated him. At the time, of course, Trujillo was in the midst of his three-decades run as the brutal, thieving dictator of the Dominican Republic. Before and after he supported the U. S./Cuban-exile Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba in April of 1961, Trujillo himself had tried to overthrow the Cuban Revolution and on at least three well-known times sent agents to Cuba to kill Fidel Castro. Countless magazines and books, then and now, have documented just how brutal Trujillo was. He once famously murdered about 22,000 Haitian men, women, and children on a whim. That atrocity alarmed all of the Caribbean and Latin American nations, but not Trujillo's prime supporter, the United States. In fact, the official U. S. reaction to the uproar caused by the murders of the Haitians produced one of history's most famous quotes.
      Cordell Hull {above} was the U. S. Secretary of State when Trujillo murdered the Haitians. Hull's official reaction is recorded for history: "Trujillo is a son-of-a-bitch. But he's our son-of-a-bitch." And so he was. People throughout the Caribbean and Latin America still cringe when they are reminded of that quotation, and many of them were reminded of it this week as they learned about the Dominican Republic connection to the Menendez-Melgen saga. The problem, however, is: Americans don't seem to care enough about their democracy to cringe at even the most egregious anti-democracy policies of their government. For example, Americans seem not quite smart enough to ponder: "Uh, let's see. The U. S. supported fiends like Trujillo, who hated Castro. The U. S. teamed with the Mafia to support the fiendish Batista, and both the Mafia and Batista hated Castro. Uh, what if Castro and not the U. S. was aligned with Trujillo, Batista, the Mafia, and other such fiends. Huh? Now, hey! If we could tie Castro to the likes of Trujillo, Batista, and the Mafia...then...uh, huh...we could, uh, send over a, uh, drone to fix him for, uh, good!" Such a lack of "smarts" hurts a lot of people, including innocents in places like Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba and...the United States of America.
Cuba and the USA are next-door neighbors.
And the bible says the mighty wolf doesn't have to devour the little lamb.

On a gentler topic, the little guy above is the prettiest bird I've seen this week.

No comments:

cubaninsider: "The Country That Raped Me" (A True Story)

cubaninsider: "The Country That Raped Me" (A True Story) : Note : This particular essay on  Ana Margarita Martinez  was first ...