It came as no surprise to see the kneejerk Republican response to President Obama's decision to open relations with Cuba after more than half-a-century of isolation and sanctions. Clearly, 54 years isn't quite enough time for this ridiculous policy to work, and if you ever wondered how long a series of Republican presidential administrations might have kept our military fighting the war in Iraq without "cutting and running," let this be a solid indicator of their futile tenacity.
Jeb Bush called it Obama's "latest foreign policy misstep." Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said, "It’s part of a long record of coddling dictators and tyrants that this administration has established." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) pledged, "I will do all in my power to block the use of funds to open an embassy in Cuba. Normalizing relations with Cuba is bad idea at a bad time."
The most hilarious GOP reaction came from Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) who tweeted the following:
Why is this hilarious? One glance at Boehner's assets portfolio via Open Secrets reveals that Boehner is making a bundle from corporations that are actively exploiting workers and racking up human rights violations in China, a nation led by communists with a long history of human rights abuses, as well as other countries such as Burma and perhaps even Iran. In other words, it really doesn't seem as if Boehner is all that concerned about people enjoying freedom.
1) Walmart. Boehner owns somewhere between $15,000 and $50,000 in Walmart stock, despite the fact that it's arguably one of the worst offenders in terms of sweatshops and labor violations in China. In addition to running shoddy factories, workers were paid less than the 41-cents-per-hour minimum wage. In 2008, The New York Timesreported:
In December, two nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs, documented what they said were abuse and labor violations at 15 factories that produce or supply goods for Wal-Mart — including the use of child labor at Huanya Gifts, a factory here in Guangzhou that makes Christmas tree ornaments.
Liu also found that Chun Si's 900 workers were locked in the walled factory compound for all but a total of 60 minutes a day for meals. Guards regularly punched and hit workers for talking back to managers or even for walking too fast, he says. And they fined them up to $1 for infractions such as taking too long in the bathroom. Liu left the factory for good in December, after he and about 60 other workers descended on the local labor office to protest Chun Si's latest offenses: requiring cash payments for dinner and a phony factory it set up to dupe Wal-Mart's auditors. In his pocket was a total of $6 for three months of 90-hour weeks--an average of about one-half cent an hour. ''Workers there face a life of fines and beating,'' says Liu.
2) Apple. I wonder if Boehner used an iPhone to send out his tweet about Cuba. It doesn't really matter because at the end of the day, Boehner owns up to $50,000 in Apple holdings. And unless you haven't read any news for the last three years, you probably already know about this story:
The spate of suicides made headlines around the world. Last May, seven young Chinese workers producing Apple iPads for consumers across the globe took their own lives, prompting an investigation into working conditions at the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, southern China.
Nine Chinese sociologists wrote an open letter to the media calling for an end to regimented and restrictive work practices which they condemned as "a model where fundamental human dignity is sacrificed for development".
One year on, swaths of anti-suicide netting surround the huge worker dormitories in Shenzhen. But an investigation by two NGOs reveals that many workers making iPhones and iPads for eager world markets are exploited and living a dismal life.
People enjoying freedom?
3) Dell. Boehner also owns a pile of Dell stock. What's Dell doing in China?
Undercover filming by China Labour Watch and DanWatch reveals a number of apparent breaches of Chinese labour laws at Dell subcontractor Mingshuo Computers, which operates a 156,000m2 factory in Jiangsu province, south of Shanghai. [...]
The report claims that “tens of thousands” of underage workers are employed by Pegatron, Mingshuo’s parent company, and that over a third of the workers on the floor where the investigator worked were between the ages of 16 and 18.
Tens of thousands.
4) Chevron. Boehner also holds five-figures worth of stock in this energy company. In addition to doing business in China, it might interest Boehner to know that Chevron has been desperately trying to circumvent U.S. sanctions in order to work with with "evil empire" nation Iran.
Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX) negotiated with the Iranian government about developing Iraq-Iran cross-border oilfield, in direct violation of U.S. sanctions against Tehran, according to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
The plaintiffs were Burmese peasants who suffered a variety of egregious violations at the hands of Burmese army units that were securing the pipeline route. These abuses included forced relocation, forced labor, rape, torture, and murder. In addition to EarthRights International (ERI), counsel for the plaintiffs included Paul Hoffman, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Hadsell & Stormer, and Judith Brown Chomsky.
After Chevron merged with Unocal, the violations continued. From 2010:
In a report published on Monday, the NGO EarthRights International accuses the firms of being implicated in human-rights violations in Burma, claiming that soldiers guarding Chevron and Total's natural-gas pipeline in the country have murdered locals and forced others to do backbreaking, unpaid labor in order to keep the gas exports flowing smoothly.
5) Exxon-Mobil. Yes, Boehner is also heavily invested in these guys, too. And which nation with a colossally awful human rights record is Exxon-Mobil doing business with? Saudi Arabia, of course. The Daily Banter's Michael Luciano wrote the following about the Saudis:
Women are prohibited from driving an automobiles, and those who are caught doing so are arrested. In August, at least eight people were beheaded, mostly for crimes such as “drug trafficking, adultery, apostasy and ‘sorcery.'”
But we totally can't open an embassy in Havana because of... what again, Mr. Boehner? Oh, that's right. Freedom.