By Professor Al Mariam
“I am not a dictator, and I do not think I will become one. I will not maintain power with a machine gun,” said Fidel Castro in an interview in January 1959, shortly after he ousted President Fulgencio Batista. With that declaration, Castro established Cuba as the first communist state in the Western Hemisphere. For over one-half century, the Castro Brothers, Fidel and his brother Raul, have run Communist Cuba with an iron fist and index fingers on the triggers of machine guns.
In October 1960, the U.S. imposed the first set of sanctions against Communist Cuba. On January 3, 1961, the US withdrew diplomatic recognition of the Castro’s government and closed its embassy in Havana. For over one-half century, the U.S. has imposed various economic sanctions against Cuba, including restrictions on travel and commerce, inflicting a crippling toll on Cuban society.
On December 17, 2014, fifty-three years later, President Barack Obama announced the United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba. In a nationally televised statement from the White House, Obama said, “We will end an outdated approach that for decades has failed to advance our interests and instead we will begin to normalize relations between our two countries… These 50 years have shown that isolation has not worked. It’s time for a new approach… I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.”
I wondered why President Obama chose this particular moment to “normalize relations” with Cuba, especially as the proverbial “barbarians stand at the gate” rubbing their palms and licking their chops to take over the U.S. Senate. Obama had six years to “end the outdated approach and normalize relations” with Cuba when his party controlled the Senate. Is Obama merely grandstanding and showboating by announcing normalization of relations with Cuba to bring back luster to his faded presidency? Is he playing a game of in-your-face with the soon-to-be- Republican-controlled Congress? Is Obama drawing a line in the sand and telling the Republicans to get busy rowing up that famous creek without a paddle because he will be doing his own thing wiht Executive Orders for the next two years? Could Obama be using Cuba as a red herring to distract the power-drooling Republicans? Or could we be witnessing the dawn of an “Executive Presidency”? Is Obama trying to reinvent himself in his last two years in office as “Obama Invictus!”?
In 1936, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded (U.S. v. Curtiss-Wright) the U.S. president has broad powers to conduct foreign affairs. The Court held, “The President is the sole organ of the nation in its external relations, and its sole representative with foreign nations.” The Court reasoned the president’s exclusive power to negotiate treaties and conduct warfare gave him significant and extraordinary powers to conduct foreign affairs. Following the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Justice Department in confidential legal memos has emphatically reasserted this power claiming “the President [has] well-recognized inherent constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs.”
Last year, President Obama expressing his frustrations over the lack of Congressional cooperation on spending reductions said, “I am not a dictator… I am president, I am not king.” Does the fact that “the president is the sole organ of the nation in its external relations, and its sole representative with foreign nations” make him “a dictator, a king” in the field of foreign policy?
As a constitutional lawyer, I am intrigued by President Obama’s intended actions to normalize relations with Cuba. It seems he may be tiptoeing a minefield of constitutional and statutory controversies. How does he plan on navigating around six statutes that have straitjacketed and isolated Cuba for over one-half century including: the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 (which restricts trade with countries hostile to the United States); the 1933 Emergency Banking Relief Act (restricting any transactions in foreign exchange and banking between U.S. and Cuban financial institutions); the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (which authorizes the President to impose a total embargo on trade with Cuba); the Cuba Assets Control Regulations of 1963 (which broadly prohibits Cuba-travel related transactions); the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 (which prohibits foreign-based subsidiaries of U.S. companies from trading with Cuba, travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, and family remittances to Cuba); the Helms–Burton Act of 1996 (which restricts United States citizens from doing business in or with Cuba and mandates restrictions on giving public or private assistance to any successor government in Havana unless and until certain claims against the Cuban government are met); and the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (which restricts exports to Cuba on a cash only sales paid in advance and financed by third country financial institutions and prohibits credit and debit transactions). Will President Obama disregard and ignore these laws and simply bypass them with his Executive Orders?
To establish full diplomatic relations with Cuba, President Obama will need to deal with the Senate which under Article 2, section 2 of the U.S. Constitution must give “advice and consent” to his ambassadorial nominee. He has about as much chance of getting his ambassadorial nominee approved by the Senate as has the proverbial man with a wooden leg escaping a forest fire. Last but not least, will Obama instruct his Secretary of State to remove Cuba from the list of “state sponsors of terrorism”. I would be tickled to know the legal justifications for removal of Cuba from the list! What’s good for the goose (Cuba) will have to be good for the ganders (Iran, Syria and North Korea [removed from list in 2008 during nuclear talks]).
Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the prospective chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, has vowed to derail any attempts at normalization of relations with Cuba. “I’m committed to doing everything I can to unravel as many of these changes as possible. This Congress is not going to lift the embargo.” Rubio, a Cuban-American, also said Cuban democracy activists “feel betrayed” by Obama. “He completely ignored them and threw them to the side in this whole process.”
First, I know exactly how Rubio feels. As an Ethiopian-American human rights advocate, I too feel betrayed by Obama. Though I wholeheartedly supported Obama in two elections to become the American commander-in-chief, I was deeply disappointed to find him the American diplocrat-in-chief. (I coined the word “diplocrisy” to describe the hypocrisy in American human rights diplomacy.) I trusted and believed Obama when he said, “Make no mistake: history is on the side of these brave Africans, and not with those who use coups or change Constitutions to stay in power.” But I did make a big mistake when I stood by Obama’s side!
Second, a big surprise for Rubio! This President is not only ready to lift the embargo, but is already doing so in various ways. It appears evident the President has decided to do an end-run on existing laws by immediately lifting restrictions on travel, commerce and financial activities with Cuba. New regulations are expected to be issued in the foreseeable future by the Treasury Department facilitating increased agricultural exports and banking. U.S. companies will be allowed, by Executive Order, to do business in Cuba and export previously prohibited machinery, equipment and other technologies. It is highly likely the State Department has already drafted the legal memos de-listing Cuba from the list of “state sponsors of terrorism”. The President is expected to authorize by Executive Order the establishment of an embassy in Havana, an act that does not require Congressional action or approval. Most likely, he will upgrade the U.S. Interest Section of the Embassy of Switzerland in Havana to a full-fledged embassy.
The Castro Brothers, the “African Brothers” and Brother Obama
I am not sure if Rubio’s rationale for opposing normalization of relations with Cuba disingenuous or naïve. He accused President Obama of being “naïve” in changing U.S. policy towards Cuba because of grave consequences for global U.S. human rights and U.S. national security. Rubio predicted normalizing relations with Cuba will make “America less safe. When America is unwilling to advocate for individual liberty and freedom of political expression 90 miles from our shores, it represents a terrible setback for the hopes of all oppressed people around the globe…”
It seems Rubio may be the naïve one, the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand. Brother Obama has been appeasing the “African Brothers” long before he began appeasing the “Castro Brothers”.
To be fair to President Obama, appeasement has been the backbone of U.S. human rights policy since Jimmy Carter left office. Rubio is either willfully ignorant or suffers from selective perception when he says normalizing relations with the Castro Brothers will only embolden other tyrants from Caracas to Tehran to Pyongyang. The fact of the matter is that America has been appeasing, coddling and in bed with the “African Brothers” — some of the bloodthirsty and ruthless killers from the African continent including the thug-tyrants in Addis Ababa, the criminals against humanity in Nairobi, the war criminals in Kinshasa, the genocidal killers in Kigali, the corrupt gangsters in Malabo (Equatorial Guinea) and Luanda (Angola), among others — for decades.
Rubio should know that there can be no beauty contest among warthogs. The “tyrants from Caracas to Tehran to Pyongyang” Rubio condemns are no worse than any of the African “S.O.B.s”; it is just that they are not our S.O.B.s, to paraphrase President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Rubio would have more credibility in his opposition to the Castro Brothers if he had raised his shrill voice against the African Brothers at the same time.
Rubio says Obama’s change in policy towards Cuba will not only make America less safe but sends the wrong signal to the rest of the world. By Rubio’s measure, and unbeknownst to him, America has been unsafe for decades. The U.S. stopped advocating for individual liberty and freedom of political expression not only 90 miles from our shores in the Caribbean but also 9,000 miles in Africa.
Appeasement as U.S. human rights policy
The core of American human rights policy since Carter has been appeasement, which simply defined means moral capitulation to human rights violations and shameless political expediency in dealing with bloodthirsty thugs. “America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, it is the other way round. Human rights invented America,” said Carter in his 1981 farewell speech. In a New York Times op-ed piece in June 2012, former President Jimmy Carter cautioned, “At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.”
In a very real sense, I have been asking myself, “Is America Disinventing Human Rights?” by getting in bed with bloodthirsty thugs in three-piece suits and alienating the tens of millions of people around the globe yearning to breathe free? Despite my disagreements with Carter over what he did and did not do in his engagement in Ethiopia, including the role of the Carter Center in 2005 Ethiopian election, there is no question in my mind that his heart and policies were in the right places when it came to human rights.
Under the Obama Administration, the U.S. has been in full retreat on human rights. We have heard a lot of fancy human rights talk, but little action.
President Obama travelled to Africa in July 2009 to chastise “African strongmen” for being “on the wrong side of history”. In August 2014, he invited all of the African strongmen (except two or three) including one indicted criminal against humanity facing trial at the International Criminal Court to the White House. He wined, dined, hugged and promised to give the panhandling strongmen billions of U.S. tax dollars so they can do what they have been doing all along.
When push came to shove, the President who moralized and pontificated about human rights and being on the right side of history ended up being on the dead wrong side of history. I was not happy by Obama’s betrayal of the cause of human rights in Africa and his double-talk about the “right side of history” as I explained in my commentary “Cirque d’Afrique: 2014 U.S-Africa Leaders Summit”.
Secretary of State John Kerry has been telling the world that the U.S. is watching all of the nasty human rights violators; just watching not doing anything. In his remarks on the U.S. State Department’s Annual Human Rights Report for 2013, Kerry said, “…[These] reports show brave citizens around the world and those who would abuse them that America is watching…” Who is watching whom?
I have been watching U.S. human rights policy and reading U.S. State Department reports for many years. What I have seen is American human rights hypocrisy, not diplomacy. In my April 2013 commentary, “Watching American Diplocrisy in Ethiopia,” I said it was not only America who is watching. “When America is watching, those being watched in Ethiopia are watching America watching them. They watch America waffling and shuffling, double-talking, flip-flopping and dithering, equivocating, pretending, hemming and hawing and hedging and dodging.” In short, the thug regimes in Africa are watching America appease them, excuse them and aid them with billions of dollars.
The right and wrong side of history and the strongmen of Africa and Cuba
I am for an evenhanded U.S. human rights policy. Fair is fair. What is good for African thugtators should be good for Cuban strongmen, Iranian strongmen, Syrian strongmen and North Korean strongmen. However, I will not be a judge at a warthog beauty pageant.
But I will let some of the facts speaks for themselves. Are the Castro Brothers worse than the “African Brothers”? How does Cuba actually rank on human rights?
According to the 2014 International Human Rights Rank Indicator, Cuba ranks 115 out of 216 countries and jurisdictions on human rights issues.Ethiopia ranks 210 out of 216 countries! Yet, the thugs running Ethiopia into the ground are America’s BFFs (best friends forever). Cuba has been the most sanctioned country in world history!
The 2014 Transparency International Corruption Index ranked Cuba 63rd out of 177 countries, tied with Ghana. In Africa, Ghana is an exemplar of free and fair elections and good governance. President Obama chose to visit Ghana in 2009 in his very first visit to Africa, instead of Kenya or South Africa, for that reason. He chose Ghana to give his “Africa does not need strongmen but strong institutions” speech sending millions of Africans into euphoria.
By current standards, Cuba is as “good” as the Ghana, arguably Africa’s “best governed” country today. Yet the people of Cuba have been cut off from America while African thugtators make America their playground, literally that is. (See my November 2011 commentary, “To Catch Africa’s Biggest Thieves Hiding in America!”
In the Committee to Protect Journalist’s (CPJ) 2014 “Top Ten Worst Jailers”, China is described as “the world’s worst jailer of the press.” Among the top ten worst jailers of journalists include Ethiopia (at no. 4), Vietnam, Egypt, Burma, Azerbaijan, and Turkey; all highly valued “partners” and friends of America. Cuba is not in the top ten list of worst jailers of journalists!!!
In its December 7, 2014 “Freedom on the Net “ report, Freedom House concluded, “Coupled with highly repressive laws and tactics aimed at restricting freedom of expression and access to information, internet freedom in Ethiopia is consistently rated the worst in sub-Saharan Africa and among the worst in the world.”According to Internet World Stats, as of December 2013, Ethiopia had 1,836,035 Internet users (1.9% of the population). For the same period, Cuba had 2,840,248 users with a 25.7% penetration rate. Again, I am not a judge at a warthog pageant contest.
On the issue of corruption, the Castro Brothers seem to be doing much better than the “African Brothers.” I do not doubt there is institutionalized corruption in Cuba with government monopolies, widespread lack of political and judicial accountability. I do not doubt ruling party members and members of the military in Cuba enjoy privileges that ordinary Cubans can only dream of.
However, I have never heard of the Castro Brothers stashing billions of dollars in Western banks for their private use. There is proof the “African Brothers” have stashed billions in Western banks and laundering money every year like Colombian drug cartels. According to Global Financial Integrity, “Ethiopia lost US$11.7 billion to illicit financial outflows between 2000 and 2009. More worrying is that the study shows Ethiopia’s losses due to illicit capital flows are on the rise.” It is the Brotherhood of the Tigrean Peoples Liberation Front (B-TPLF) that has illicitly stashed billions of dollars in the West, not the Castro Brothers.
In September 2014, Obama lavished the Ethiopian thugtatroship with praise: “… Terrorism… That’s an area where the cooperation and leadership on the part of Ethiopia is making a difference as we speak…. So our counterterrorism cooperation and the partnerships that we have formed with countries like Ethiopia are going to be critical to our overall efforts to defeat terrorism. And also, the Prime Minister and the government is going to be organizing elections in Ethiopia this year. I know something about that… “
The U.S. State Department has designated Cuba as “state sponsor of terrorism”; and President Obama has described the thugs in Ethiopia as “partners in counterterrorism”. When the late Meles Zenawi sent his troops in 2006 for a “Blitzkrieg-style assault toward Mogadishu [Somalia supported by] with some 50,000 Ethiopian troops, T-55 tanks, Hind helicopters and Su-27 jet fighters”, that was not state-sponsored terrorism?! One need only examine the evidence in the Human Rights Watch 104-page report, “‘So Much to Fear’: War Crimes and the Devastation of Somalia,’” to determine whether the regime of the Castro Brothers or the TPLF Brotherhood is the real state-sponsors of terrorism.
In the past couple of years, North Korea has been issuing regular threats of nuclear attacks terrorizing the people of South Korea and U.S. forces in the Pacific. In July 2014, North Korea had the gall to threaten a preemptive nuclear strike on the White House and Pentagon. Yet, North Korea has NOT been put back on the list of state-sponsors of terrorism. Today, North Korea feels free to coordinate cyber-terrorism attacks on the U.S. inflicting massive financial losses on SONY. President Obama said, “They caused a lot of damage. We will respond proportionally and in a place and time and manner that we choose.” I am not sure what that means.
No beauty contest among warthogs
The human rights record of the Castro Brothers is no worse than any of the members of the African Brotherhood of Thugtators in power today. In my view, Fidel Castro’s human rights record is no worse or better than Idi Amin, Meles Zenawi, Mengistu Hailemariam, Omar al-Bashir, Charles Taylor, Paul Biya, Moamar Gadhafi and the rest. I will not pontificate on whether the Castro Brothers are more virtuous than the African Brothers’ or whether the Castro Brothers should be singled out and condemned for any particular vice.To me, Tweedle Dee Castro Brothers and Tweedle Dum African Brothers are exactly the same.
I do not want to leave the impression with my readers that I am taking a position of moral relativism with the Castro Brothers. I believe in the existence of absolute evil. For me, evil doers are not defined by nationality, religion, language or geography. They are defined by what they do and do not.
I do find a moral equivalency in the evils done by the Castro Brothers and the African Brothers. The Cuban regime arbitrarily jails and persecutes individuals and groups who criticize the leaders and official policies, and particularly those calling for basic human rights protection for the Cuban people. The Cuban regime abuses dissidents politically, legally and socially. There are tens of thousands of political prisoners in Cuba. The Cuban regime does not know the meaning of due process or free and fair elections. But…
How many African countries are open air prisons? Police states? Which election in Africa in the past three decades has not been rigged or stolen? How many thousands of political prisoners are held in Ethiopia? How many thousands are tortured and killed every year by thug regimes in Africa? How many African states are single-party systems?
Cuba is a single-party state with the Cuban Communist Party totally dominating all aspects of society. So are the vast majority of African states despite pretensions to pluralism. The ruling party in Ethiopia laughably “won” 99.6 percent of the seats in “parliament” in 2010 in a country with some 80 registered political parties. The Cubans at least have the decency and self-respect not to publish the percentage of votes they get at every “election” to declare themselves perpetual victors and sole rulers of Cuba.
U.S. human rights double-standard diplocrisy is evident even among African thugtators. In June 2013, President Obama lectured and lambasted the senile and buffoonish Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe speaking to a South African audience. “Just look at your neighbor, Zimbabwe, where the promise of liberation gave way to the corruption of power and then the collapse of the economy… Zimbabweans have a new constitution, the economy is beginning to recover. So there is an opportunity to move forward — but only if there is an election that is free, and fair, and peaceful, so that Zimbabweans can determine their future without fear of intimidation and retribution. And after elections, there must be respect for the universal rights upon which democracy depends.”
After Mugabe “won” the 2013 election by 61 percent, Secretary Kerry complained, “Make no mistake: in light of substantial electoral irregularities reported by domestic and regional observers, the United States does not believe that the results announced today represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people.” When the regime in Ethiopia declared election victory by 99.6 percent in 2010, President Obama apparently did not believe the thugs who “won” that election inflicted suffering on the Ethiopian people with impunity.
Following the 2008 Zimbabwe elections, the U.S. declared Zimbabwe an “outpost of tyranny,” and accused Robert Mugabe and his ruling party of rigging the election and orchestrating the violence in that election. In 2005, when the late Meles Zenawi massacred hundreds of people, the U.S. said nothing about his crimes against humanity. White House National Security Spokesman Mike Hammer could only express polite “concern” and muted “disappointment”: We acknowledge the conclusion of Ethiopia’s parliamentary elections on May 23, 2010… We are concerned that international observers found that the elections fell short of international commitments… The limitation of independent observation and the harassment of independent media representatives are deeply troubling.”
The U.S. did not impose crippling sanctions following the 2005 Meles Massacres. The U.S. showered the Meles regime with billions of dollars in aid and loans. When that same regime now holds thousands of political prisoners in its jails, described in the U.S. State Department’s annual human rights report as posing “life-threatening conditions”, and young bloggers are jailed without cause or evidence, President Obama has chosen to proclaim his partnership with the thugs in power and turned a blind eye to the thousands of political prisoners languishing and suffering in subhuman prisons.
In another shameless display of diplocrisy, Secretary John Kerry expressed grave reservations about the legitimacy of the 2013 election of Nicolás Maduro as president of Venezuela, a regime Senator Rubio in his opposition to normalization of relations with Cuba singles out as singularly bad. Maduro won that election by a razor thin margin of 50.66 percent of the votes. Secretary Kerry supported demands for a recount. “We think there ought to be a recount… Obviously, if there are huge irregularities, we are going to have serious questions about the viability of that [Maduro] government.” White House spokesman Jay Carney also issued a statement calling for a recount of all the votes.
An election victory by 50.66 percent deserves a “recount” but one with a 99.6 percent merely raises “concern”. American diplocrisy at its finest!
The U.S. has selectively applied crippling sanctions against Zimbabwe, not unlike Cuba. President Obama explained, “The situation in Zimbabwe is somewhat unique. The challenge for us in the United States has been how do we balance our desire to help the people of Zimbabwe with what has, frankly, been a repeated violation of basic democratic practices and human rights inside of Zimbabwe. And we think it is very important to send clear signals (to Robert Mugabe) about how we expect elections to be conducted, governments to be conducted – because if we don’t, then all too often, with impunity, the people of those countries can suffer…”
It is ironic that President Obama has made a partner of President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, a man on trial at the International Criminal Court for committing crimes against humanity after the 2007 Kenya election resulting in the deaths of over 1200 people and displacement of over 700 thousand. President Obama wined and dined Kenyatta at the White House in August 2014, but did not even bother to extend an invitation to Mugabe (or at least alternatively pushing for Mugabe’s indictment by the ICC Prosecutor). Who is more virtuous? For me, there is no beauty contest among warthogs.
The litmus test for U.S. human rights policy for dictators throughout the world is not observance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or compliance with international human rights law. The test is whether these dictators, for the price of U.S. aid, international loans and the U.S. turning a blind eye, deaf ears and muted lips in the face of their crimes against humanity, will do the U.S.’s bidding. More bluntly, the litmus test is not whether these dictators are nasty and repulsive “S.O.B.s” in their own right, but whether they are “our nasty and repulsive S.O.B.’s” . That has been the case since the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who reportedly remarked on the ruthless Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, “He may be an S.O.B., but he’s our “S.O.B.” The Castro Brothers were once Soviet “S.O.B.s’”, but could they now be our “S.O.B.s” after one-half century?
The U.S. knows exactly what to do to promote good governance in countries where there are massive human rights violations. The President does not need authority from Congress to crackdown on regimes and foreign officials suspected of or known to be guilty of human rights abuses and crimes against humanity. He has all the tools, including suspension of aid, blocking of multilateral loans and even economic sanctions, to promote good governance in Africa. With a stroke of his pen, he can issue Executive Orders and selectively administer just the right dose of disapprobation against thug regimes. Now, Obama has chosen to use the stroke of his pen to unpen Cuba from decades of sanctions and embargoes.
President Obama is not “naïve” for normalizing relations with Cuba as Rubio claimed. President Obama is just being President Obama. I don’t think Obama has ever met a dictator he did not like. If I were a humorous man, I would have said President Obama is a dictator manqué (wannabe).
As for Senator Rubio, he is indeed naïve. He should know there is no Cuban human rights, American human rights, Ethiopian human rights, Kenyan… French… Brazilian… Japanese human rights. There is only the Universal Declaration of Human Rights!
So long as the U.S. seeks to make distinctions between gross violators of human rights and embrace some and reject others based on their subservience to U.S.’s bidding, U.S. human rights policy will remain morally bankrupt. The U.S. should remember all warthogs are butt ugly (save for their mothers).
I support President Obama’s normalization of relations with Cuba simply because I believe the people of Cuba have suffered sanctions-driven privation beyond the limits of human endurance. As Africans like to say, “When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” More accurately, when a big elephant and a small elephant fight, it is still the grass that suffers. I am with the “grass”, the masses of Cubans who have suffered and held as pawns from a bygone Cold War.
If I had a chance to give a piece of advice to President Obama, it would be this: “Appeasement of dictators and rewarding them for bad behavior only emboldens them to inflict more pain and suffering on their victims. Appeasement does not humanize dictators; it galvanizes them to brutalize more victims.”
While giving advice, I might even impart a few lines to President Obama from Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors”:
Teach me, dear creature, how to think and speak.
Lay open to my earthy-gross conceit,
Smothered in errors, feeble, shallow, weak,
The folded meaning of your words’ deceit.
If I had a chance to say a word or two to the Castro Brothers, it would be this: “Move over. Get out of the way. The Cuban people have been left out in the cold for one-half century as you fought a long forgotten Cold War. Let the Cuban people come on in from the cold.”
A long time ago Fidel said, “A revolution is not a trail of roses.… A revolution is a struggle to the death between the future and the past.” As the Castro Brothers wake up from a one-half century sanctions-imposed slumber to smell the roses and rise up to greet the brave new world of the future, I would gently remind them to hearken back to Karl Marx’s admonition: “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.”