Fidel Was No Hero

I have a mathematician colleague, a leftist, who, for many years, proudly displayed the collected works of Stalin on his office shelf. I am pretty sure this fellow actually admired Stalin for the way he transformed the Soviet Union from an agricultural country to an industrial power — an admiration I find completely incomprehensible, in the same way that I find admiration of other murderous totalitarians incomprehensible. Che Guevara is another one that, to my mind, does not deserve to be revered. When I see someone wearing a Che t-shirt, I want to shake them and say, “Do you actually know what this guy did?”

Now that Fidel Castro is dead, I am sure there will be a lot of Castro hagiography on the left. Castro, we will be told, was responsible for universal health care, literacy, and improved education in Cuba. But probably few will talk about the thousands killed by Castro, killed simply because they opposed him politically. Few will talk about his mass imprisonment of dissidents, or about the hundreds of thousands that fled his illegitimate regime. Cuban refugees are celebrating today because Castro was a tyrant, a megalomaniac, a mass murderer, and a thug. I believe on judging a person on their complete record, but Castro’s evil deeds far outweighed any positive effects he may have had on Cuba.

For those who want to read the stories of the murdered and imprisoned, visit the Cuba Archive.

What is Coming

Congratulations, America. You elected a racist, sexist, admitted sexual assaulter, and a petty, vindictive, con man and pathological liar to the highest office in the land. You elected a man who claims to be a Christian first, a conservative second, and a Republican third to the 2nd highest office (an American didn’t even figure in the list). I think we have seen enough of D***** T**** and Mike Pence to know what is coming.

It is not pretty.

Here are my predictions. After eight or (hopefully) four years from now, you can see how many I got right. I hope to be wrong on all of them, but I don’t think so.

1. Attacks on minorities of all kinds will go through the roof compared to previous years. I expect the rise of the Klan, neo-Nazis, and similar vigilante organizations. Jews, Muslims, black people, gay people, Latinos: all will be targets. Non-white and non-Christian students will be harassed in schools. Muslims will be attacked in the streets. At first it will be minor, like hijabs being pulled off, and orthodox Jews being beaten up. But the Justice Department will respond only tepidly to such attacks. There will be no effort at all to monitor the far Right. This stuff has been bubbling just below the surface for years (remember Alan Berg?) and now it will achieve legitimacy, or at least not outright disapproval, under the new president.

2. The full force of the federal government will be brought against critics. At first this will be in minor ways: direct criticism from the president via twitter, or reporters being shut out of press conferences. Reporters will be harassed and attacked. However, it will quickly escalate once Kim Jong T**** takes office. We will see the IRS used as a routine tool to harass and investigate individual critics and larger organizations, such as the ACLU and the FFRF. Existing tax exemptions will be removed for these groups. We will see passports of critics being denied renewal, or being confiscated at the border. We will see US citizens and (particularly) permanent residents denied re-entry into the country on bogus grounds. US citizens living abroad will be easy targets because they have little or no representation; the tax treaties with other countries can be abrogated and such citizens will end up paying double taxes. Kim Jong T**** has shown to be petty and vindictive and to hold a grudge for decades (remember Rosie O’Donnell)? Now he has the power to get revenge.

3. Intellectuals — always a target of authoritarians — will come under attack. At first it will be minor things, like withholding federal funds from institutions who employ intellectuals disliked by the administration. Later, it will progress to outright harassment through tax law changes and immigration. Permanent residents will have their right to stay revoked. Perhaps some people will be jailed under bogus terrorism charges for their controversial opinions. The Department of Education will be destroyed. There will be a renewed push for creationism, intelligent design, denial of human-caused global warming, and other crackpot theories in the public school curriculum. Educational institutions will suffer because excellent people from other countries will not want to come to the US where they might be targets. Graduate study will suffer. Pure research will suffer. NSF priorities will be shifted to things like exploration and exploitation of fossil fuels. Federal funding for research into alternative energy sources will dry up.

4. The Federal government will be turned into a money machine for Trump and his cronies. Once a grifter, always a grifter. Kim Jong T*** and his millionaire and billionaire friends will get huge tax cuts, while taxes for the poor and lower middle class will go up. The deficit will skyrocket. Friends of Kim Jong T**** will amass huge fortunes because of tax law changes and biased infrastructure allocation, while all critics will be shut out of participation. Cities traditionally run by Democrats will get shut out of funding for infrastructure projects.

5. Extremists will be appointed to the Supreme Court. They will make rulings that will significantly reduce access to abortion. Religion will be allowed as an excuse to disobey almost any law (as long as you are white). Advocating creationism will be allowed and even encouraged in public schools. Textbooks will be altered to remove discussion of evolution. Voting rights will be under attack, with bogus allegations of fraud as the justification. Redistricting will occur and strongly favor Republicans.

6. Blacks, Jews, Muslims, and gays will not sit by silently as these changes occur. I predict the rise of radical groups, much like the Black Panthers of the 1960’s, that will retaliate in increasingly violent ways. There will be more street protests and violence. If you thought Black Lives Matter protests were violent (they were not, as a rule), you ain’t seen nothing yet. Probably there will be bombings by groups like these. The need for crackdowns on these groups will be used by Kim Jong T**** as excuses to violate civil liberties. New intrusive laws allowing surveillance will be passed.

7. Finally, and this is the least likely (but the warning signs are all there), the US will degenerate into a fascist dictatorship, perhaps after some sort of Reichstag incident, with Kim Jong T**** as supreme leader. He will start by having the Republican-controlled Congress vote him some emergency powers. In an ironic reversal, the only country in Europe (after Marine Le Pen is elected) that will stand against Kim Jong T**** and stand for freedom and democracy will be Germany. They remember the last fascist dictator to take power and what happened.

I don’t want any of these things to happen, but I predict many of them will.

For the moment, Canada is safe.  Probably there will be an exodus of intellectuals and minorities from the US to Canada rivalling the Vietnam war days.  But with the world’s most powerful country becoming the fascist dictatorship next door, I don’t know how long that safety can last.