Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

November 28, 2016

Death of a Dictator

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 12:19 pm

Well, he’s dead. At last.

Fidel Castro (1926-2016) the longest-ruling dictator in the Western Hemisphere died on November 25.

The encomiums were every bit as sickening as I expected.

“Fidel Castro was a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire. Presente!” Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein wrote on Twitter.

“Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

British Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn called Castro, “a huge figure in modern history, national independence, and 20th-century socialism.”

President Barack Obama was somewhat more circumspect in his eulogizing.

“At this time of Fidel Castro’s passing, we extend a hand of friendship to the Cuban people. We know that this moment fills Cubans – in Cuba and in the United States – with powerful emotions, recalling the countless ways in which Fidel Castro altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation,” Obama said in a press release.

Though hedging his praise a bit Obama failed to mention that the way Castro “altered the course of individual lives, families, and of the Cuban nation,” was to imprison, torture, and execute people who disagreed with the Cuban socialist vision, impoverish a country that had a standard of living equal to the United States, and send untold thousands of people across shark-infested seas on makeshift rafts on the slim chance of arriving penniless on America’s shore as the better alternative to living in Cuba.

Contrary opinions came from thousands of Cuban-Americans dancing in the streets of Miami, Cuban-American politicians such as Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and President-Elect Donald Trump.

“The world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights,” Trump said.

Trump called for, “a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.”

One may hope.

Future generations may well wonder how and why a dictator not much different from any in the sad history of the 20th century was lionized by politicians, movie stars and media moguls who took tours of Cuban Potempkin villages and returned all aglow with the thrill of their brief proximity to absolute power.

Refugees and visitors who could evade their handlers reported magnificent works of architecture crumbing and decaying, mothers and housewives resorting to prostitution to feed themselves and their families, and the healthcare praised by Michael Moore doled out in filthy hospitals where patients had to bring their own bandages and bed linen.

Castro did defy the mighty United States from his little island, thus winning the admiration of America-haters around the world.

Though the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 is generally thought of as a win for President John F. Kennedy there are accounts that Nikita Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba when he realized Castro and Che Guevara actually intended to use them to start World War III.

And at that Castro and Khrushchev got a win for their side by getting an agreement from Kennedy not to invade Cuba, for all intents and purposes abandoning the Monroe Doctrine.

Remarkably he continued to do so after the collapse of his superpower patron the USSR.

Boldness often wins the admiration of the timid. But there is more I think.

Castro appealed to everything base in human nature, the desire for ultimate power. To take what we want, to bend others to our will, and to kill on a whim.

A reasonably free country can offer the chance to rise very high, to the heights of wealth and fame of those who flocked to sit at Castro’s feet, and often sleep in his bed. But it cannot offer that.

Some of the most privileged of our fat happy country revealed the darkness in their souls by whom they chose to admire.

November 23, 2016

Dear America – chill!

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:42 am

Dear America,

Well the most bitterly contested election in recent memory is past and we have a new president-elect.

This was followed immediately by riots, calls to abolish the Electoral College, petitions to have the Electoral College overturn the election, charges of massive voter fraud, and most recently people disrupting a theater performance to protest the cast calling out the vice-president-elect at an earlier performance.

College students have held “cry-ins” and college administrations have offered “safe spaces” for students traumatized by their failure to get their own way.

Some have talked about impeachment – without considering that Trump actually has to be president before he can be impeached, and the House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans so that’s not going anywhere.

In certain quarters there have been dark mutterings of secession and civil war.

In anticipation of potentially huge demonstrations against the president-elect at the inauguration, Bikers for Trump is planning a ride to Washington on the day. Joy forever unconfined!

America – chill!

I’ve spent some quality time in countries in the middle of regime change and civil war and I have to say that while the excitement was exhilarating I always knew I could wave my passport at the border and be gone when things got too tense.

We can’t do that here. Canada has made it plain they don’t want a herd of American refugees pouring across their border, Mexico would probably love the chance to laugh at us, and most of us don’t have passports anyway.

Take a deep breath (with or without preferred smoke) and calm down for heaven’s sake, because once you start down the road of violence it’s very hard to say you’re sorry and back off.

Now please consider a few things.

One is that the Electoral College is there for a reason. One of which is to insure a few densely populated areas don’t dominate the rest of the country. Another is to make it hard to steal an election by voter fraud.

And speaking of which, let’s investigate those charges of massive voter fraud. There are claims millions of non-citizens may have voted. Whether you believe that is true or not, let’s find out which and get that cloud of suspicion out of the way one way or another.

Both sides, remember that 46% of the electorate didn’t vote. That means nobody has a mandate. Only a little less than half of potential voters could muster enough enthusiasm to leave home and stand in a line for either candidate.

You on the losing side, you’re not helping your cause by behaving like spoiled children throwing a tantrum and breaking things.

You on the winning side, be humble. The job of “draining the swamp” in Washington is a daunting task that has so far been beyond the capability of any one man.

Losers, suck it up and consider giving the guy a chance. And ponder an expression used in England in the Mother of Parliaments. The expression is “the loyal opposition” and there is a world of meaning in it.

Winners, remember that your guy has unprecedented power to get things done by the previous assumption of power by a Democratic president and congress. Remember how corrupting the temptation of power is and consider exercising restraint rather than riding roughshod over the opposition. Because what goes around does indeed come around, as your opponents are just starting to realize.

And everybody keep in mind though we have deeply divisive disagreements on a whole lot of issues, disagree is what free men do.

November 15, 2016

Where do we go from here?

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 10:36 pm

Well this most contentious election in recent memory is over, and I’ll say it turned out kind of like I expected.

That is, I voted for Gary Johnson because I wanted to encourage the third party movement but had no illusions on that outcome.

I’ve never liked Donald Trump personally and haven’t since I saw him put his first wife down during an interview many years ago. I didn’t watch a single video of him during the entire campaign because I find his manner irritating and abrasive.

Nonetheless I’ve been warming to him quite against my will. I was jubilant when he won, and have been chortling with glee ever since.

Because Trump’s victory is a slap in the face for every snobby, self-righteous, holier-than-thou lefty who every issued those vile insults “racist,” fascist,” or “group-of-your-choice-phobe.”

Now I’m going to cease my chortling and offer some advice free of charge, to disconsolate Democrats on how to do better next time.

Hint 1: The insult “racist” wouldn’t sting so much if the target really was a racist. Real racists aren’t the least bit ashamed of being racist and freely call themselves racists.

Hint 2: It really isn’t a good idea to call someone a Nazi or fascist who has seen Auschwitz and whose children are considered in Nazi racist ideology to be half-Slav untermenschen unworthy of life.

Hint 3: When you nominate a candidate who is proven corrupt to the core and criminally careless with national security, by a pile of evidence Helen Keller could read from beyond the grave, and then insist she is not merely the lesser of two evils but pure as the driven snow and unfairly maligned by a 30-year campaign of slander – it’s scary. The kind of scary you feel when you’re alone
in a room with someone who appears normal then starts calmly stating things of breathtaking absurdity while going through the knives in the silverware drawer.

Hint 4: It does nothing to allay the suspicions of your fellow-countrymen when thousands of disappointed partisans assault their opponents, hold “cry-ins” on campuses across the country, riot and destroy property. Not to mention calling for the rules of the game to be changed after losing to overturn the election.

Yes there is a hateful fringe on the other side, but to date their hatefulness seems confined to graffiti and some taunting. Not to mention the reported assaults that turned out to be hoaxes.

You want to know how you could possibly have lost with almost the entire media and academic establishment on your side and a huge (excuse me YUGE!) war chest?

Are you willing to look in the mirror and see where the fault lies, or are you going to blame the FBI, the media (!!!), or Facebook? Do you really want to do better next time?

Here are my suggestions.

OK my Democrat friends, pull yourself out of your funk, and stop crying doom and gloom about being taken to the Camps in boxcars. Stop insulting your fellow citizens for disagreeing with you, and face the reality that you brought this on yourself with your insulting, self-righteous behavior.

Because we need you – and I mean that.

Republicans now have control of the top two tiers of government, the federal and the states – and yes that’s dangerous.

Because it’s dangerous for ANY party to have too much power for too long. One would have thought you’d have learned that by now. It was dangerous when you had it, and it’s not any less dangerous when they have it.

Drop the insults, stop the riots, get some sound arguments for your positions and present them like rational human beings!

Re-learn how to love your country and respect your fellow-Americans in spite of her flaws and your disagreement.

Because disagree, is what free men do.

November 7, 2016

Getting through this election, and beyond

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:56 am

I write this a day before Election Day. It will go to press the day after.

There are three possible outcomes: Trump wins, Clinton wins, or we have a contested election. That last one is in my opinion the worst possibility.

We’ve been here before, during the Florida recount of the Bush-Gore election of 2000.

I was living in Poland at the time and one of the few English-language news channels I could get was the BBC, which gave me the interesting perspective of seeing the news from my country reported from another country.

I remember the Beeb showed a video of a polling station in Florida with a line of yellow police tape around it and a newsreader announcing with glee, “Looking more like a banana republic than the world’s greatest democracy…”

What occurred to me at the time was that in their joy at finding something to criticize about the U.S. (a very common reaction in the European press by the way) they had completely missed the point that it was a line of flimsy plastic tape protecting this site crucial to the election. Not a line of heavily armed men, as would have been the case in a great many countries, and not just repressive tyrannies either.

An expat colleague of mine said, “Hey, we’ll get through this like we always do.”

I wish I shared her optimism now.

There are already mutterings of a stolen election. On the right people talk about fraudulent votes from ineligible voters, people voting multiple times, the graveyard vote, and rigged machines.

On the left they accuse the right of supporting voter identification and periodic purging of the voter rolls as a method of suppressing minority votes.

I have my own opinions about which of these charges are likely, and how significant they might be. My opinions don’t matter though. What matters is what people believe the day after the election.

If a critical number of people are sure the election was stolen, belief in the legitimacy of the government may collapse with consequences we cannot foresee, but are sure to be bad.

If the issue doesn’t arise in this election, it is nonetheless not going away.

Unless we can reach an agreement that satisfies both sides as to the integrity of the electoral process.

So here is my question for both sides.

What would you agree on to satisfy the objections of the other side?

For the left: What would you agree to, to satisfy the suspicions of the right, however unfounded you believe them to be, that ballot boxes are not being stuffed with fraudulent votes?

For the right: What would you agree to, to satisfy the suspicions on the left, however unfounded you believe them to be, that eligible voters are not being disenfranchised?

And please keep in mind, if you dismiss the question as I’ve heard some do already, the other side can justly conclude you are not acting in good faith.

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