Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel está muerto

So there is a reason to cheer, the death of Fidel Castro, should be a cause of celebration and reflection for everyone who believes in individual freedom, world peace, human rights and has both liberal and conservative values.  For the regime he founded continues to be one marked by violence, intimidation, intolerance and denial.

Castro interrogating a farmer as private property rights get abolished

Castro was a thug, a murderer and a warmongerer.  He urged Khrushchev to attack the US with nuclear weapons, which would have triggered World War Three.  

He incarcerated political opponents, labelling anyone who opposed the regime as "mentally ill" so they could be locked up indefinitely for not realising how lucky they are to be under socialism.  

He imprisoned Cubans who had HIV, he ran a prison state that saw Cubans flee at their own risk by boat to the United States.  Americans didn't flee to Cuba to embrace socialism.

Cuba under Castro was propped up by the USSR, in effect, poor Russians helped keep Castro's revolution alive.  A policy that ended with the collapse of the USSR, but from then on Cuba's rhetoric was that it was poor because the US embargo hindered it.  How a socialist state can claim that its prosperity is dependent on trading with a capitalist liberal democracy remains a mystery.

Cuba's joke is the large numbers of vintage American cars roaming the streets, only recently supplemented by Chinese vehicles.  This is seen as quaint, but is reflects poverty. 

One of the great claims about Cuba's "successes" is statistics around education and healthcare, because it claims low levels of child poverty and life expectancy that is high compared to other Latin American countries.  Yet the source of these statistics is entirely the Cuban one-party state, which imprisons its critics, so has to be at least treated with a high degree of scepticism.   Whenever foreigners inspect the Cuban healthcare system, they get to see what the regime wants them to see.   The UN may take the reported statistics from all member states on face value, but that's naive and absurd.  Only once Cuba is free will the veracity of these claims be clear, for now it is at best opaque. 

Of course, the usual suspects have come out singing paeans over Cuba.  Red Ken Livingstone couldn't help himself on BBC Radio 4 today saying that Cuba was "open and relaxed", even though it is a criminal offence for anyone other than the state to publish or broadcast, and when confronted with the regime's intolerance he said that in the UK anyone supporting Hitler was imprisoned. Odious little worm.

Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn said he was a "champion of social justice" and dismissed imprisonment of dissenters and continued authoritarianism as saying "there are problems of excesses by all regimes",  confirming the man is a moral relativistic sympathiser with dictatorship.

Vladimir Putin said he made his country free, well maybe by his standards..

President of the EU, Jean Claude Juncker said Castro was a "hero to many", which indicates the quisling relativist tolerance of a man and an organisation that ought to be celebrating the end of a man, whose regime provided support and succour for brutal regimes that impoverished and denied the human rights of citizens of 12 current EU Member States.  

Canadian Prime Minister, the illiberal Justin Trudeau lionised him as having "deep and lasting affection" for the Cuban people, including those he killed for opposing him.

Sinn Fein, which until recently lionised terrorism as a legitimate technique to change minds and power, is commemorating him as a hero.

The position people take on Castro should be your litmus test for their morality.

Castro used violence against those who opposed him.  He criminalise anyone who published or broadcast any criticism of his regime, so he was intolerant and authoritarian.   Dismissing any politicians whose core strategy is to do violence to his opponents is appeasement of dictatorship, rejection of any liberal values whatsoever, and places his supporters in the same mould as fascist apologists.  

To claim that "well he gave them education and healthcare" justifies a system of terror for anyone criticising the government or any of its policies or any of those with the privileges and trappings of power, is the justification of a fascist.   For "he" gave them nothing.  He ran a prison slave state which forced teachers and doctors to do the bidding of the party, he used his comrades of another slave state - the USSR- to supply the equipment, technology and training - to deliver a system that could have been delivered under liberal democracy.   Indeed, Chile's post-Pinochet success demonstrates that a liberal free-market democratic government can deliver the prosperity, including high standards of education and healthcare, without pointing guns at its citizens for criticising the regime.  

The best that can be said of Castro is he replaced another vile dictatorship - the Batista regime - and that he could have been worse.  However, pardon me if I don't think reaching the abominable barbarities of Kim Il Sung, Enver Hoxha or Nicolae Ceaucescu is an "achievement".

So to hell with Castro.  Some of the people who claimed with Donald Trump being elected, he is the "new Hitler" are mourning the loss of a man who was much closer to Hitler than Trump is ever likely to be.  

If someone is an apologist for Castro, or says he "made mistakes" or " his human rights were dreadful but", then they are excusing the blood spilt, the poverty, the propaganda, the utter denial of human liberty, and the politics of fear, terror and the jackboot, over the politics of debate, diversity and tolerance.

Treat the apologists of Castro accordingly.  The people in Miami celebrating his death lived under him, or have relatives who do.  The people elsewhere mourning are exercising the freedoms that Castro never tolerated and Cuba doesn't tolerate today.

Let's hope Mugabe doesn't see out the year as well.

Let's hope Cubans in the New Year gain the freedom to speak openly and honestly about the past 55 years of their country, even though thousands of so-called "liberals" in the West couldn't really care less.

UPDATE:  In 2008 I wrote the Top Ten Reasons Castro should be hated.

In 2010 I wrote on how the Green Party of NZ appeased the Cuban dictatorship

Read Katherine Hirschfeld's critical review of Cuba's healthcare system, including how much of it is "informal" and how it is illegal to refuse any healthcare including abortions. 

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Trump or Clinton or damn them all?

I've thought a good deal about the US election today.   It is difficult to think of two people who were both about the worst candidates either major party has put forward in recent history.  Oh yes there have been some lousy ones, but both lousy and so incredibly awful in their own ways? No.

So in some ways I'll treat the election as a reason to gloat about whoever is defeated, whilst ignoring the gloating of the victor.  

Hillary Clinton oozes entitlement, is a shape shifter on issues time and time again (remember when she was against gay marriage until it became popular?).  Her ambition for power should be a sure sign of someone who should be kept as far away from power as possible.  The vast fortune the Clintons have amassed from speeches and running their Foundation, travelling first class, staying at five star hotels "for the people who need our help", indicates the usual concern of powerful socialists for those in need.   If she is elected, she'll demonstrate not that she has broken the "glass ceiling", but that First Ladies have a chance at becoming President.  She is not an example to other women, except those women whose ambitions at the jobs their husbands have had.   It's clear her tolerance for Bill's extra-curriculur activities (which are frankly neither here nor there to me) resemble more the wife of Francis Underwood/Urquhart in House of Cards, for the trappings of power and money matter more than anything else.   Hillary has been pro more-trade (never "free trade", she's never want to let go of influence by removing controls) and anti-trade, she is a traditional populist.  However, little goes past what is obvious, that when she says she has been "fighting for families" all her life, the family she fights the most for is her own, and it has benefited royally from it.

The only bright side to Hillary is that she may partially reverse Obama's isolationism, which has seen Russia fill the gap left by Obama's (empty) moral posturing.  Few would have thought after the end of the Cold War that a government could use chemical weapons against its own population again, with impunity.  Yet it has and Obama's words that it would cross a "red line" were proven as vacuous as his "hope" and "change" electioneering slogans.

Trump has had so much said about him that I needn't say much.  He and Hillary both lie as frequently as they use cutlery.  His stance on trade is economic lunacy,  his spending promises are loose and careless.  His utterances about Mexico (and almost all foreign policy) are ludicrous and about the only thing good thing is his interest in cutting taxes.   He's a rank populist who is a classic cardboard cutout celebrity politician.  Some may say he would take advice if he were President, and much of what he says is attention seeking. 

Both Trump and Clinton are the epitome of the airhead age of politics, where identity politics is fanned as much as it ever was.  Hillary Clinton, who has expressed her utter contempt for the 30% core support for Trump, and Donald Trump, who has talked generally about Mexican migrants being rapists.  Hillary knows her place in history is assured if she becomes the first female President of the United States.  About the only reason to celebrate a Trump victory is knowing how angry she would be if she lost,  but then what?  A Trump-Putin pact to divide the world into spheres of influence?  The utter destruction of the international trading environment?

Of course most media coverage is fairly one-sided.  Trump is irredeemable and all major media outlets share and express the same contempt for him, with much less contempt for Clinton.   The left-wing liberal bias is palpable, yet Clinton is such a heavily flawed candidate they both deserve contempt.

Yet the likelihood is that, unless the Democrats sweep through both Houses of Congress, Hillary will find her big empty expensive promises difficult to fulfill,  but even if the Republicans hung onto the Senate, it is much less clear that Trump could rely on a Republican Congress to facilitate his agenda unimpeded.  However, on foreign policy, the President has much more autonomy and power.  On that front, Trump seems a little unsettling, given his penchance for threatening US allies to pay up or lose support from the US. 

Sadly, the hope that Gary Johnson could break through and be a more significant third party candidate seems forlorn. 

I expect, given the polling, Hillary will win and there will be a nauseating display of faux humility and sloganeering, as she sinks her claws into the prize she long sought.   Yet the United States was not founded on nepotism or some sort of familial succession (and yes the Bush family started that, but this was rejected the third time round).  If Trump wins, watch the panic and doom and gloom emerging, but this too will be hysterical posturing, although he is obviously the less certain quantity.

The USA is going to get an utter arsehole as President, but I'll be cheering for the other arsehole losing.  What's utterly astonishing is that millions are willing to give moral endorsement to one of these vile entities.

Yes, it's been a while.  For the want of a better term, 2016 is "annus horribilis" for my family, with an uncle diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer in February and dead in May, then my mother passing away unexpectedly in September, weeks before her birthday after months of a nuisance, but not anything like a life-threatening condition.  Let's just say some things matter more than a rant about politics.