Vladimir, Joseph, and Mao

Has anybody here seen my old friend Vladimir?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.
You know, I just looked around and he’s gone.

Anybody here seen my old friend Mao?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.
I just looked around and he’s gone.

Anybody here seen my old friend Joseph?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
He freed a lot of people,
But it seems the good they die young.
I just looked ’round and he’s gone.

Didn’t you love the things that they stood for?
Didn’t they try to find some good for you and me?
And we’ll be free
Some day soon, and it’s a-gonna be one day…

Anybody here seen my old friend Fidel?
Can you tell me where he’s gone?
I thought I saw him walkin’ up over the hill,
With Vladimir, Joseph and Mao.


Staff Writer
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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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102 thoughts on “Vladimir, Joseph, and Mao

  1. Statement by the Prime Minister of Canada on the death of former Cuban President Fidel Castro

    The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today issued the following statement on the death of former Cuban President Fidel Castro:

    “It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President.

    “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.

    “While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for “el Comandante”.

    “I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.

    “On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.”

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  2. Statement by President Juncker on the passing away of Fidel Castro

    Fidel Castro was one of the historic figures of the past century and the embodiment of the Cuban Revolution. With the death of Fidel Castro, the world has lost a man who was a hero for many. He changed the course of his country and his influence reached far beyond. Fidel Castro remains one of the revolutionary figures of the 20th century. His legacy will be judged by history.

    I convey my condolences to the Cuban President Raúl Castro and his family and to the people of Cuba.

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  3. Sic transit ad ultimum communistae.

    It was at some point in the Clinton Administration that it occurred to me, “The embargo isn’t working, Castro is just laughing at us because the rest of the world will trade with Cuba no problem, even with the Soviets gone now. Meanwhile, the U.S. Government cuddles up to all sorts of really objectionable dictators and juntas and stuff, under the rationale that by having them as allies we can work with them to curb and eventually end their human rights abuses. So why the f[ish] are we still embargoing Cuba and pretending like that’s going to do anything meaningful?”

    Then, of course, the 2000 election happened and suddenly everyone cared a lot about Cuban Republicans.

    So what will Trump’s Cuba policy look like now? I’m guessing it looks a lot like “The Trump Havana.” It’s going to be a beautiful property, with only the best amenities and it’s going to create a lot of jobs for those Cuban workers. A lot of jobs.

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    • I’m envisioning a group of Trump casino investors gathered on a rooftop in Havana, celebrating with a cake the shape of Cuba.

      But this being a Steve Bannon affair, Hyman Roth will be not be invited.

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    • So what will Trump’s Cuba policy look like now? I’m guessing it looks a lot like “The Trump Havana.”

      Trump’s theory of international policy will be to expand the global presence of Trump Enterprises, in the form of golf courses and luxury hotels, with peace following therefrom. In that sense it will be a reversal of the Golden Arches theory of international policy, where peace follows from other countries acceptance of open markets. Our new reality is that peace will follow from and be predicated on embracing Trump’s Golden Toilet.

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    • So what will Trump’s Cuba policy look like now?

      I’m thinking about this… I heard noises that Trump would have wanted to re-instate the embargo but, now that (Fidel) Castro is dead, I’m pretty sure that the floodgates will open.

      Hundreds (thousands?) of classic-car collectors will now descend on Cuba and make a number of automobile owners overnight hundred-thousandaires. Tourism will now totally flood the island and there is going to be a huge spike in Cuban Cigar sales quickly followed by everybody wondering why in the heck everyone made such a big deal out of these things.

      Note to self: purchase Cuban cigar.

      Fidel needed the embargo.
      I’m wondering whether Raul needs it. I hope he doesn’t.

      Fidel’s death makes a lot of things possible, but, dang… a lot of damage was done to Cuba and it’s going to take years and years to fix. How long were there problems after German reunification?

      The good news: Cuba has its own mini-West Germany in the Cuban community in Florida. I hope that our government and Cuba’s government allow them to help.

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  4. Statement by the President on the Passing of Fidel Castro

    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. History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him.

    For nearly six decades, the relationship between the United States and Cuba was marked by discord and profound political disagreements. During my presidency, we have worked hard to put the past behind us, pursuing a future in which the relationship between our two countries is defined not by our differences but by the many things that we share as neighbors and friends – bonds of family, culture, commerce, and common humanity. This engagement includes the contributions of Cuban Americans, who have done so much for our country and who care deeply about their loved ones in Cuba.

    Today, we offer condolences to Fidel Castro’s family, and our thoughts and prayers are with the Cuban people. In the days ahead, they will recall the past and also look to the future. As they do, the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.

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    • I’d call that a remarkable bit of prose for its careful neutrality regarding the numerous… unpleasantnesses of years past. But I also know that every President since Reagan has had the State Department tee up an obituary statement like this to be at the ready. For all we know, it’s been the same one sitting in the can all along, and the only challenge today was that someone had to remember how to start up the old CP/M OS down in Sub-Basement 2 in Langley to PIP C:/DOCS/PROTOCOL/FIDELOBI.TXT.

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  5. The telegram sent from the Vatican:
    Telegram for the death of Fidel Castro

    On receiving the sad news of the death of your dear brother, His Excellency Mister Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, former president of the State Council and of the Government of the Republic of Cuba, I express my sentiments of sorrow to Your Excellency and other family members of the deceased dignitary, as well as to the people of this beloved nation. At the same time, I offer prayers to the Lord for his rest and I entrust the whole Cuban people to the maternal intercession of our Lady of the Charity of El Cobre, patroness of that country.

    Francisco, PP.

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    • If you replace Fidel Castro for “random former head of state and brother of current head of state” and Pope Francis for “random head of state”, it doesn’t particularly feel out of place, except perhaps for the reference to our Lady of the Charity of Copper

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      • Francis is getting roasted for this online.

        That seems somewhat inappropriate given that it is arguably the job of the Pope to pray for recently deceased world leaders. (Well, his duties include that sort of thing, anyway.)

        It’s not like JPII’s statement would have been significantly different.

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      • Oooh, found it:

        Today, 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.

        While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks 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.

        Though the tragedies, deaths and pain caused by Fidel Castro cannot be erased, our administration will do all it can to ensure the Cuban people can finally begin their journey toward prosperity and liberty. I join the many Cuban Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me, with the hope of one day soon seeing a free Cuba.

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        • What’s always interesting to me about anti-Communist rhetoric or anti-left rhetoric in general is that it never seems how bad the regimes that came before the left were.

          The Tsars were bad and oppressive. The Nationalists in China were corrupt and bad and the old Emperor was decadent. Batista was bad and basically propped up by American agriculture and sugar corporations like United Fruit. A few were wealthy, most lived in dire poverty.

          Yet the Overton Window has moved so far to the right that we are not allowed to think “Maybe there was a reason that Lenin, Mao, Ho Chi Min, and Castro* were successful in their revolutions. What lessons can we learn about colonialism, corporate rule, and corruption?” Instead we just here “Communism is horrible. Down with the Communists!!”

          *Not a defense of Castro but merely an observation on how the right-wing has been successful in writing history. A few decades ago, you could have conversations about how bad the Tsars were and express sympathy for revolutions. Now it is Capitalism all the time, liberal democracy or not.

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            • I’m not impressed. I recently read a book on the 1850s by the British historian Ben Wilson. What really made the West mad about Asia was not the kind of government but the fact that large segments of the world were closed to them for trade and/or they could not think of anything that China wanted for their tea and porcelain until they came up with Opium or sent warships to Japan.

              I hear a lot of high-minded talk from libertarians and others on the right about how capitalism and liberal democracy go hand in hand but it seems to me that many business owners and corporations don’t really care about liberal democracy, they care about making money and will put up with any regime that gives them access to markets and cheap labor.

              I’d like to see libertarians and the right-wing be able to say “What came before Lenin was bad and anti-democratic and therefore immoral” and mean so seriously.

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                    • And his popularity is up. There is also this thing called the Democratic Party which actually is supposed to be finding people to run and doing strategy kind of stuff.

                      Obama is popular. The D’s are made several key mistakes. There are a lot of lessons to learn from this election. Not all the ones conservatives want to see.

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                                  • It was in response to the comment that said “I’d like to see libertarians and the right-wing be able to say “What came before Lenin was bad and anti-democratic and therefore immoral” and mean so seriously.”

                                    Instead of writing what I wrote, I could have also written something to the effect of “Fidel Castro died peacefully in his bed, unlike Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice.”

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                                    • There is something there, though — isn’t there?

                                      We do have a tendency to forgive some monsters their crimes against humanity while loudly declaring that others must always be thought of as Evil, and we do so in a way that has nothing to do with said crimes.

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                                      • Well, SlateStarCodex’s wonderful essay “I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup” has with a lovely little story comparing the responses to the deaths of Osama Bin Laden and Margaret Thatcher:

                                        The worst reaction I’ve ever gotten to a blog post was when I wrote about the death of Osama bin Laden. I’ve written all sorts of stuff about race and gender and politics and whatever, but that was the worst.

                                        I didn’t come out and say I was happy he was dead. But some people interpreted it that way, and there followed a bunch of comments and emails and Facebook messages about how could I possibly be happy about the death of another human being, even if he was a bad person? Everyone, even Osama, is a human being, and we should never rejoice in the death of a fellow man. One commenter came out and said:

                                        I’m surprised at your reaction. As far as people I casually stalk on the internet (ie, LJ and Facebook), you are the first out of the “intelligent, reasoned and thoughtful” group to be uncomplicatedly happy about this development and not to be, say, disgusted at the reactions of the other 90% or so.

                                        This commenter was right. Of the “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful” people I knew, the overwhelming emotion was conspicuous disgust that other people could be happy about his death. I hastily backtracked and said I wasn’t happy per se, just surprised and relieved that all of this was finally behind us.

                                        And I genuinely believed that day that I had found some unexpected good in people – that everyone I knew was so humane and compassionate that they were unable to rejoice even in the death of someone who hated them and everything they stood for.

                                        Then a few years later, Margaret Thatcher died. And on my Facebook wall – made of these same “intelligent, reasoned, and thoughtful” people – the most common response was to quote some portion of the song “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead”. Another popular response was to link the videos of British people spontaneously throwing parties in the street, with comments like “I wish I was there so I could join in”. From this exact same group of people, not a single expression of disgust or a “c’mon, guys, we’re all human beings here.”

                                        I gently pointed this out at the time, and mostly got a bunch of “yeah, so what?”, combined with links to an article claiming that “the demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure’s death is not just misguided but dangerous”.

                                        And here we are with Castro’s death.

                                        Is Castro more like Margaret Thatcher or more like Osama Bin Laden, do you think?

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                                        • I’ve seen this exact same thing in reverse, applied to living people. Eg., I was discussing the Diallo massacre shooting, claiming that the cops oughtashould been prosecuted for murder, and the liberalish I was conversing with kept insisting I wasn’t appreciating how each of those cops had their own experiential histories informing their own choices creating a complex nexus of sympathy-based reasoning my cold, dead heart was incapable of appreciating in a fully human way.

                                          I don’t know if she cheered Thatcher’s death or not.

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                                          • Watch for “well, you have to understand” when it comes to any explanation of… let’s use the word “controversial”… events.

                                            “Can you believe that this horrible thing happened?”
                                            “Well, you have to understand…”

                                            On whose behalf are you most likely to ask others to stand back and take a moment to understand?

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                                        • Thatcher vs Bin Laden? Now you’re just gaming the comparison to let everyone but liberals off easy.

                                          Here’s a better person and more topical person to compare Castro and the reactions people have to him: Putin.

                                          People who righteously cannot forgive one dictator’s torturing and disappearing people have a way with letting bygones be bygones with another because, you know, something something strong leader.

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                                          • Tod, I swear, I was quoting someone else and then going on and running with the examples that they gave.

                                            Here’s a better person and more topical person to compare Castro and the reactions people have to him: Putin.

                                            I honestly don’t think that it is possible to have a topical person to use as a comparison point. Castro was the leader of one of the last “Communist” countries in the world.

                                            The best people we could use for comparisons are all dead. Many for decades.

                                            Castro (and Cuba, for that matter) have been trapped in amber. A dinky little throwback that demonstrates what happens when you don’t allow progress.

                                            Which should not be read as a defense of Putin. Heaven forbid.

                                            Just saying that comparing Castro to Putin doesn’t map well. Compare Castro to Brezhnev. Andropov, maybe. Chernenko.

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                                        • I was never that impressed by the comparison. One was targeted and killed by our government, and one died peacefully in bed. Does that makes no difference to your opinion of celebrating their death? Even if not, the distinction is well worth discussing.

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                                          • To be quite honest, this is the first time I’ve ever encountered the argument that one died in bed/one was shot and that distinction makes a difference when it comes to the appropriateness of celebrating a controversial political figure’s death.

                                            Castro died in bed, I presume.

                                            What rules apply?

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                                            • What rules apply?

                                              Good question, since we all appear confused on this topic.

                                              1. Violent deaths at the hands of gummint cannot be celebrated; peaceful deaths resulting from God’s Will can.

                                              2. If the person who dies is a political opponent, 1 does not hold.

                                              3. Non-partisan “critiquers” who are obviously “above the fray” can selectively criticize partisans for violating either 1 or 2.

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                                        • I’m still not convinced by this argument and I find it perplexing that people of a libertarian bent or former libertarian bent are so enamored by it. This argument is treated like it can shut down any liberal claim.

                                          Liberals: “I don’t think people should be denied economic services or job opportunities based on their race, religion, creed, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, etc.”

                                          Libertarians/Conservatives: “You are tolerant of everything but the out group.”

                                          Liberal reaction: “This is supposed to defeat us how? Part of modern liberalism is the belief that people are not truly free unless they have full access to civil and economic life. No one claimed that this was going to make everyone happy. Of course bigots are going to be opposed to civil rights legislation. Why should the rights of bigots be superior to the rights of minorities?”

                                          Suppose there was a conservative here saying “I don’t understand why liberals always support gay couples who are refused service at bakeries”; would you quote the Scott Alexander essay to them or are LBGT people too cultural elite to be an outgroup. Is there anywhere in your moral universe where conservatives are the in group and liberals are the out group?

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                • While it’s certainly true that Trump is bad, you have to look at Obama’s presidency to truly understand why Trump got elected.

                  {Jeff Foxworthy: “If you think Obama was SO BAD he made Donald Trump look good, you might be an ideological opportunist.”}

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                  • I think you’re missing the point:

                    Inferring that some predecessor of horrible X must have been worse because there could have been no other explanation for X is obviously mistaken. Trump, like the communists won because the proletariat tend to be suckers for charismatic populists.

                    Perhaps the Tsars were bad, but their badness does not explain the revolution. That;s because the revolution may have happened anyway. Notice that Trump won even though Obama has made things somewhat better. (in at least some areas if not all)

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          • Thats because the Communists were always much more oppressive than who ever they replaced by an order of magnitudes. Not even the most oppressive and authoritarian of the Tsars came up with anything matching Stalin’s regime of terror. The Bolsheviks didn’t even over throw the Tsars. They over through the Provisional Government led by Kerensky.

            The Nationalists in China might have been corrupt but Chiang Kai Shek did not kill tens of millions of people in man-made and devised sociological experiments. The island that Chiang Kai Shek took over after the Nationalists lost the Civil War is now a prosperous democracy while China is at best a semi-prosperous authoritarian dictatorship.

            The less said about North Korea and Cambodia the better.

            Castro was the least damaging of all the Communist dictators and even he managed to much more harm than Batista by staying in power decades longer than Batista. Cuba was one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America and the wealthiest Caribbean island when the Cuban Revolution happened. Now is one of the poorest and least democratic.

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            • Now is one of the poorest and least democratic.

              And still ranks right next to the USA in terms of healthcare!

              OK, that aside, good comment. I’m not sure arguing that going outa the frying pan and into the fire constitutes an improvement is all that compelling.

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              • United Fruit was a banana company and not very involved in Cuba. Their bailiwick was Central America. The Cuban economy at the time of Batista was based on sugar, tobacco, rum, and tourism and some mining and industry.

                According to Cuban historian Louis A. Perez, Jr. in Cuba: Between Reform and Revolution, pgs. 224-225, Cuba had 5.8 million people in 1953. 220,000 were peasants engaged in small scale farming. 575,000 were paid agricultural workers, 500,000 in manufacturing, commerce, or transportation, and 200,000 in the services. The middle class consisted of about 621,000 people. In 1957, Cuba had the second highest per capita income in Latin America. Was third in radio ownership in Latin America but first in telephones, newspapers, private motor vehicles per individual and rail mileage per square mile. 58% of all households had electricity. 76% of the population was literate, the fourth highest literacy rate in Latin America.

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            • Thats because the Communists were always much more oppressive than who ever they replaced by an order of magnitudes. Not even the most oppressive and authoritarian of the Tsars came up with anything matching Stalin’s regime of terror.

              Just because I’m a stickler for historical accuracy, you should check Nicholas I (1825-1855) (*)

              I grant you that technological advances allowed Stalin to reach economies of scale on oppression that dwarve what was available in very backward’s Nicholas I Russia.

              The sad part is that Nicholas I was personally a good, extremely hard working, man, who did what he did out of a complete lack of imagination, and a total conviction that he was working tirelessly for Russia.

              (*) You could say (ok, I’m saying it) that Nicholas I not only created the repression tools (secret police, internal exile, Siberian prisons). He also created the totalitarian concept that every decission, no matter how small, belonged to the Tsar alone (later to the Secretary General), that any independent thinking on any matter was rebellious per se. Nicholas I created Leninism (**). And that’s why Leninism took root in Russia first.

              (**) Vladimir’s (the Vladimir in the post’s title) elder brother Alexander was studying at Saint Petersburg University. Involved in political agitation against the absolute monarchy of the Tsar Alexander III (Nicholas I’s grandson), he studied the writings of banned leftists and organised anti-government protests. He joined a revolutionary cell bent on assassinating the Tsar and was selected to construct a bomb. Before the attack could take place the conspirators were arrested and tried, and in May 1886, his brother Alexander was executed by hanging.

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              • The idea of the right of the Tsar to rule alone dates back to at least Peter I if not earlier to Ivan the Terrible. The ultimate root is that the Russians received their concept of monarchy from the Byzantine Empire and the Byzantines believed that the Emperor was God’s vice-regent on Earth. Many of the tools of Russian authoritarianism also go back long before Michael Romanov became Tsar of All Russia. The idea of sending trouble makers to Siberia is just as old as Russia’s conquest of Siberia.

                I agree that technological limitations and a relatively un-imaginitive civil service provided a blunted the ability of the Tsars to be as brutal as the latter Soviet Secretary Generals. Interestingly enough, Das Kapital was allowed to be translated into Russian and published because a Tsarist censor thought it was such a dry and boring work that it was safe to let people read.

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        • “I join the many Cuban Americans who supported me so greatly in the presidential campaign, including the Brigade 2506 Veterans Association that endorsed me…”

          Never let a thing like death and powerful emotions on all sides get in the way of reminding everyone how well liked you are.

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  6. I’m with Burt on the ineffectiveness of the Cuban Embargo. It shows the distorted power of American politics that it lasted for so long because everyone wanted the Cuban vote in Florida every four years. More if you were a Florida politician perhaps.

    Anyway, I prefer Communist by John Berryman:

    ‘O tell me of the Russians, Communist, my son!
    Tell me of the Russians, my honest young man!’
    ‘They are moving for the people, mother; let me alone,
    For I’m worn out with reading and want to lie down.’

    ‘But what of the Pact, the Pact, Communist, my son?
    What of the Pact, the Pact, my honest young man?’
    ‘It was necessary, mother; let me alone,
    For I am worn out with reading and want to lie down.’

    ‘Why are they now in Poland, Communist, my son?
    Why are they now in Poland, my honest young man?’
    ‘For the people of Poland, mother; let me alone,
    For I’m worn out with reading and want to lie down.’

    ‘But what of the Baltic States, Communist, my son?
    What of the Baltic States, my honest young man?’
    ‘Nothing can be proven, mother; let me alone,
    For I’m worn out with reading and want to lie down.’

    ‘O I fear for your future, Communist, my son!
    I fear for your future, my honest young man!’
    ‘I cannot speak or think, mother; let me alone,
    For I’m sick at my heart and I want to to lie down.’

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  7. The admiration or hatred that many had for Castro perplexes me. It’s true that he overthrow an authoritarian dictatorship but he replaced it with his own. He build a decent healthcare system but made one of the most prosperous countries in Latin America poor. He wasn’t that murderous though. His dictatorship ruled with a lighter touch than many others at the time. The emotions Castro could muster in people seem disproportionate to his actual worth.

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    • As with most foreign leaders, Americans usually sort them into our own political camps like sort of a draft pick.

      Every event on the world stage gets translated into our own framework to stand as a totem of our own issues and concerns. Even if we have to hammer them all out of shape to do so.

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  8. Amnesty International:

    Fidel Castro’s human rights legacy: A tale of two worlds

    Fidel Castro’s achievements in improving access to public services for millions of Cubans were tempered by a systemic repression of basic freedoms during his time in power, Amnesty International said following the death of the former Cuban leader.

    “There are few more polarizing political figures than Fidel Castro, a progressive but deeply flawed leader,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    After his accession to power following the 1959 revolution in Cuba, Castro oversaw dramatic improvements in access to human rights such as health and housing. This was accompanied by an unprecedented drive to improve literacy rates across the country.

    “Access to public services such as health and education for Cubans were substantially improved by the Cuban revolution and for this, his leadership must be applauded. However, despite these achievements in areas of social policy, Fidel Castro’s forty nine year reign was characterised by a ruthless suppression of freedom of expression,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

    “The state of freedom of expression in Cuba, where activists continue to face arrest and harassment for speaking out against the government, is Fidel Castro’s darkest legacy.”

    Over more than five decades documenting the state of human rights in Cuba, Amnesty International has recorded a relentless campaign against those who dare to speak out against the Cuban government’s policies and practices. Over the years, the organization has documented hundreds of stories of “prisoners of conscience”, people detained by the government solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

    Repressive tactics used by the authorities have changed in the last years with fewer people sentenced to long-term prison for politically motivated reasons, but the control of the state over all the aspects of Cubans’ life remain a reality. Repression takes new forms in today’s Cuba, including the wide use of short-term arrests and ongoing harassment of people who dare to publish their opinions, defending human rights, or challenging the arbitrary arrest of a relative.

    The government continues to limit access to the internet as a key way of controlling both access to information and freedom of expression. Only 25% of the Cuban population is able to get online and only 5% of homes have internet access.

    Upon establishing his provisional government in 1959, Castro organised trials of members of the previous government that resulted in hundreds of summary executions. In response to an international outcry and amid accusations that many of the trials were unfair, Castro responded:

    “Revolutionary justice is not based on legal precepts, but on moral conviction… we are not executing innocent people or political opponents. We are executing murderers and they deserve it.”

    Cuba retains the death penalty for serious crimes although its use declined over the course of his leadership. The death penalty is the ultimate form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and should be abolished.

    “Fidel Castro’s legacy is a tale of two worlds. The question now is what human rights will look like in a future Cuba. The lives of many depend on it,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

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  9. This discussion makes it clear to me why I describe myself politically as being a dialecticist. (I’m not sure that’s a word, but I’m using it anyway). The things I want, the things I love, are praised in one regime and condemned in another because of other factors that don’t mean much to me. Castro did terrible things to maintain his regime, and so did those who came before him. Those things were terrible things no matter who did them. Freedom that is freedom only for people who belong to The Party, and who say the right things, is not freedom. Crushing poverty with reasonable housing and healthcare is better than crushing poverty without those things, but it’s still crushing poverty.

    I feel like the course I want a government to pursue is a river cutting its valley between two peaks of ideology. The valley wanders and jags a bit. The turns are not always gentle, either. But the river stays in the valley between the peaks, and the people live there, and not on the mountaintops.

    Does Castro’s death change anything for the people of Cuba? I am ready to celebrate an improvement of their lives, and I think a change of regime might do that. Is the regime changing? Meanwhile there is a human level. Someone must have loved him, someone must mourn him. Does his death affect my life at all? Do I have any personal reason to mourn or celebrate?

    I have listened to Chinese people tell me why they loved Mao so much. It seemed genuine to me, and not particularly ideological. And the system of censorship and party privilege he spawned is clearly damaging to China and to the world. Is it so difficult to hold on to both these thoughts?

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  10. Paul Ryan’s Statement on the Death of Fidel Castro

    Now that Fidel Castro is dead, the cruelty and oppression of his regime should die with him. Sadly, much work remains to secure the freedom of the Cuban people, and the United States must be fully committed to that work. Today let us reflect on the memory and sacrifices of all those who have suffered under the Castros.

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  11. FWIW regarding smugness and wing nuttery and such, the wife of one of my right wing cousins is just sure all liberals must just be crushed with the death of the F Man who is one of our heroes.

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  12. Nancy Pelosi’s statement:

    “The death of Fidel Castro marks the end of an era for Cuba and the Cuban people. After decades under Fidel’s doctrine of oppression and antagonism, there is hope that a new path for Cuba is opening.

    “In recent years, we have seen both the opportunity and the responsibility to break free of the past and build new bonds of friendship. With the bold leadership of President Obama, the U.S. and Cuba have already taken historic steps toward a new, forward-looking relationship between our peoples. We are hopeful this progress will continue under the new Administration.

    “Still, we meet this day with clear eyes. Generations of Cuban political prisoners, democracy activists and families suffered under Fidel Castro’s rule. In their name, we will continue to press the Cuban regime to embrace the political, social, and economic dreams of the Cuban people.”

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  13. Weird how JFK had a more sober response to Castro 53 years ago than people today.

    http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=25660

    “First, we refused to help Cuba meet its desperate need for economic progress. In 1953 the average Cuban family had an income of $6 a week. Fifteen to twenty percent of the labor force was chronically unemployed.

    Only a third of the homes in the island even had running water, and in the years which preceded the Castro revolution this abysmal standard of living was driven still lower as population expansion out-distanced economic growth.

    Only 90 miles away stood the United States – their good neighbor – the richest Nation on earth – its radios and newspapers and movies spreading the story of America’s material wealth and surplus crops.

    But instead of holding out a helping hand of friendship to the desperate people of Cuba, nearly all our aid was in the form of weapons assistance – assistance which merely strengthened the Batista dictatorship – assistance which completely failed to advance the economic welfare of the Cuban people – assistance which enabled Castro and the Communists to encourage the growing belief that America was indifferent to Cuban aspirations for a decent life.”

    Also, I hope I can find somewhere on this site being just as upset about the US saying nice things about the dictators we favor – http://www.vox.com/2015/1/23/7877395/king-abdullah-reformer

    “Saudi Arabia’s deceased King Abdullah, according to just about every obituary in major Western publications, was a reformer. The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, and NPR all describe Abdullah as a ruler committed to reforming Saudi Arabia’s notoriously repressive practices. Sen. John McCain called Abdullah an advocate for peace; IMF head Christine Lagarde called him a “strong advocate for women.””

    But, I guess King Abdullah was OK with capitalism so there’s no need for 50 posts on the topic. Weird.

    Guess what, Castro was shitty. Abdullah was shitty. Lots of leaders have done shitty things and good things. We can point out both. I mean, after all, Friedman gave Pinochet good advice on economic reforms, right?

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