Saturday: Hili dialogue (and Leon monologue)

Well, FIDEL CASTRO DIED LAST NIGHT AT THE AGE OF 90. The New York Times has a comprehensive obituary that, given Castro’s failing health, was obviously in the works for some time. I can’t add much to that: the guy towered over his country for fifty years, was a masterful military strategist and a ruthless dictator, yet he brought free health care and education to a Cuba ruled by another dictator.  What will change in Cuba now? Not much for a while: it’s already on the way to becoming another Caribbean vacation island, though it will take some time. I will mourn the coming change, as I never got to see the “real” Cuba, and can’t do so even now (there are still restrictions), but it’s better for the Cuban people to live in freedom, even amidst the throngs of camera-toting Americans sure to descend on the island.  And Fidel hasn’t been in charge for several years; one rarely saw him in the past ten years.

I’ll add one bit: Castro smoked Cuban cigars until the last few years (doctors’ orders), and he favored the Cohiba Lancero, a slim vitola (shape) that is one of Cuba’s finest. I have two boxes of these in my collection, and perhaps I’ll smoke one tonight—not in his honor, but in remembrance of a man, both good and bad, who towered over the last half century.


Castro with a Cohiba Lancero

Today is November 26, 2016, proclaimed as Anti Obesity Day. On that day in 1942, the movie Casablanca premiered in New York City. And, in 2000, George W. Bush was certified as having won Florida by the controversial Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a Republican, giving Bush the election (later affirmed by the Supreme Court). Now the Democrats are trying to contest Trump’s election, and while I hope she wins, I think that hope is slim.

Notables born on this day include Bat Masterson (1853), Tina Turner (1939), John McVie (1945), and Roz Chast (1954). Those who died on this day include Sojourner Truth (1883) and Tommy Dorsey (1956). Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is once again touting her philosophical superiority on the windowsill (actually, she’s waiting to be carried inside):

Hili: You have to look on all of it from the right perspective.
A: And that means?
Hili: From above.

In Polish:
Hili: Trzeba na to wszystko patrzeć z właściwej perspektywy.
Ja: To znaczy?
Hili: Najlepiej z góry.

And in nearby Wloclawek, tabby Leon does not welcome the onset of winter (it snowed there):

Leon: I think it’s too cold for any walks.



  1. Lennart Pettersson
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Den lör 26 nov. 2016 13:37Why Evolution Is True skrev:

    > whyevolutionistrue posted: “Well, FIDEL CASTRO DIED LAST NIGHT AT THE AGE > OF 90. The New York Times has a comprehensive obituary that, given Castro’s > failing health, was obviously been in the works for some time. I can’t add > much to that: the guy towered over his country for fifty y” >

  2. bric
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    A couple of Castro-related tweets today
    ‘well he nearly outlived the United States’

    ‘at least he lived to see Russia get their man in the White House’

    • Scientifik
      Posted November 26, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      • Black_Rose
        Posted November 26, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

        There is no evidence that communism killed tens of millions. Certainly, one could also say that the British Empire also killed millions in famines, such as the Irish Potato Famine, the various famines in India in the 1800s, the Bengali famine. You’ll probably tried to exonerate the British through the fallacy of psychologizing: ascribing benign intentions of the colonial British, while attributing the most sinister intentions to the communists. It is certainly pathetic.

        You have no evidence that Soviets killed tens of millions. There was no Holodomor (an intentional genocide), but only a pan-Soviet famine in 1932-33 (that killed millions). Hundreds of thousands were murdered by the NKVD run by Nikolai Yezhov in 1936-38. Even if you blame Stalin or communism for the Yezhovschina, you still cannot get your vaunted nine figures.

        BTW, it is totally irrelevant to Castro. Where’s the evidence that he tortured or killed as many people as Pinochet or various US sponsored proxies? I doubt you would have any enthusiasm for condemning Pinochet.

        I have no quarrel towards Coyne. It is fine to call Castro “authoritarian”, and he is knowledgeable enough to acknowledge Cuban accomplishments. I disagree that Castro was “ruthless”.

        Thanks for the article:

        It is probably the best case against Castro. 8,600 politically motivated detentions. I don’t see much evidence for pervasive torture.

        • Posted November 26, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

          “There is no evidence that communism killed tens of millions.”

          There is also no evidence for evolution, is there?
          Even in China alone, communism killed tens of millions. In my country (Bulgaria), the victims are estimated to be “only” about 20,000, but they were the elite and their slaughter castrated the state, as the chief prosecutor in the 1944-45 boasted. In Ukraine, at least 3 millions were starved to death in the Holodomor and then were replaced with brainwashed Russian settlers, paving the way for today’s attack on the country.

          • Black_Rose
            Posted November 26, 2016 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

            Well, you cannot prove mass torture, or any particular case of torture in Cuba. You cannot prove any case of disappearance.

          • Black_Rose
            Posted November 26, 2016 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

            I didn’t deny the famine and the millions it killed; I denied the Holodomor. There is no definite evidence to show that the famine was a planned genocide.

            Few people thinks of those who died in Bengali Famine or India as victims of a political system (such as communism). Few people want to even blame “British imperialism” on it.

            • Posted November 27, 2016 at 6:17 am | Permalink

              I do blame British imperialism for the Bengali famine. Every single case when people are starving while government is collecting the crops by force and exporting them is a planned genocide. This was exactly the case in the Holodomor. You can deny it as much as you like – there are people who deny the Holocaust as well. I know it is pointless to argue with them.

            • Tim Harris
              Posted November 27, 2016 at 7:47 am | Permalink

              I find myself agreeing, unusually, with mayamarkov. I am British and I certainly blame British imperialism for the Bengal famine. As for life under Stalin, of whom mayamarkov once accused me of being a supporter, read, among others, Mikhail Bulgakov, or Kolakowski’s great history of Marxism.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted November 28, 2016 at 5:08 am | Permalink

                And in connexion, particularly, with the Irish potato famine, what was largely responsible, apart from potato blight, for the mass starvation was a quasi-religious belief in the ‘science’ of economics which taught that government shouldn’t interfere with the workings of economics. In the words of Karl Polanyi, politicians ‘steeled themselves with science’ (or what was thought to be science) – just as they did in the case of Communism – and, in the belief that the divine and historically determined workings of the economy should not be meddled with, allowed wheat etc to be exported from Ireland even as the people there were starving. And this was done in good conscience, just as Communists allowed, in accordance with their beliefs and so in good conscience, famine to destroy the kulaks in the Ukraine – there are stories of young officials feeling pity for the peasants whose dwellings they checked for food to confiscate, but it had to be done. (Similarly, Ernst Junger, when stationed in Paris in World War II, described in his diaries the attitude of German officials who felt sorry for individual Jews but nevertheless felt duty had to be done because of ‘scientific’ racism.)Pace mayamarkov, ‘capitalism’ is no single thing and does not lead inexorably to democracy, as she suggests elsewhere. Both Communism & neoliberalism share a 19th-century provenance, and both are destructive because of their belief that politics is a mere epiphenomenon of economics, and that if you take care of the dollar, the rouble, the pound, the politics will somehow take care of itself. The introduction of the Chicago boys’ beliefs into Russia has not led to democracy, but to Putin.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted November 28, 2016 at 8:10 am | Permalink

                Or read Arthur Koestler’s novel Darkness at Noon.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted November 29, 2016 at 4:35 am | Permalink

                Or Czeslaw Milosz’s ‘The Captive Mind’, which describes brilliantly what a strong dose of dogma does to the mind. And there is always Shalamov’s ‘Kolyma Tales’.

        • Scientifik
          Posted November 26, 2016 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

          “There is no evidence that communism killed tens of millions.”

          There is still debate on the exact number of communist killings but most talk about at least several millions of victims.

          • W.Benson
            Posted November 26, 2016 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

            Communisms has a long way to go to match either Christianity or Islamism. Take for example China’s Taiping Rebellion from 1850-1864 when Christian millenarians inspired by missionaries fought the Qing empire with the view to establish a Christian kingdom. According to our friends at Wikipedia, casualties on both sides summed somewhere between 20 and 70 million Chinese. In comparison, all deaths in World War 2, civilian and military, on all fronts, and including ‘incidental’ deaths from disease and starvation, was around 50 million, and perhaps reaching 80 million at most.
            The dictatorial government of Vietnam is one of the U.S.’s greatest friends at present, practically bedfellows, apparently because the economy is free market, at least for members of the “Communist” Party and foreign investors.

        • Posted November 27, 2016 at 6:59 am | Permalink

          I do condemn Pinochet for the mass murders, torture and suppression of freedoms under his regime.
          This does not make Castro any better; Castro did the same, plus destroyed the economy.

          ” In The Black Book of Communism in chapter 25 “Communism in Latin America” by Pascal Fontaine states that in Cuba between 1959 through the late 1990s “between 15,000 and 17,000 people were shot.”… In 1972 Fidel Castro goes to the Berlin Wall and praises border guards who shot and killed fleeing, unarmed civilians who just wanted to live in freedom. During his visit to East Germany Castro compared the Berlin Wall with the defenses his regime had near the Guantanamo Naval Base. Eleven years later a front page story in The Miami Herald on July 7, 1993 described what US soldiers at Guantanamo had witnessed: Cuban marine patrols, determined to stop refugees from reaching the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, have repeatedly tossed grenades and shot at fleeing swimmers and recovered some bodies with gaff hooks, U.S. officials charged Tuesday. At least three Cubans have been killed in the past month as Cuban patrol boats attacked swimmers within sight of U.S. Navy personnel at Guantanamo. These acts of brutality led to a formal diplomatic note to the Cuban government by the Clinton Administration. One year and six days later the Cuban tugboat “13 de Marzo” was attacked and sunk on July 13, 1994 claiming 37 lives, mainly women and children.”

          The tugboat sinking has a Wikipedia page:

          I think these murders at sea are good evidence not only of the savage nature of the Castro regime but also of the “happiness” of its victims.

    • Scientifik
      Posted November 26, 2016 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      And one more…

      • Scientifik
        Posted November 26, 2016 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        Sorry, I should have just linked the Spectator article to which the tw**t points. My bad.

      • W.Benson
        Posted November 26, 2016 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

        The Spectator article tells us that Andrew Roberts “is a visiting professor of the war studies department of King’s College, London.” He is obviously a neutral source [add sarcasm].

  3. Andy
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    So it seems that the one thing that kept Fidel Castro going was a burning desire to destroy the US government, and as soon as Trump “wins” the election, what happens?


  4. Rita
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    I can never think about Fidel Castro without also thinking about how the CIA propped up the Batista regime that tortured its citizens, and how it was thought by the US that anything was fine as long as the evil communism wasn’t tolerated.

    • Posted November 26, 2016 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      My older compatriots that had lived through both a non-communist regime that tortured its citizens and a communist regime that (of course) also tortured its citizens, whole-heartedly preferred the former.

      • Black_Rose
        Posted November 26, 2016 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        Why don’t you say which regime did that?

        It may have been Mengistu that you are talking about (who is still alive), but there is not much evidence that Castro did it.

        • Posted November 28, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

          From the Washington Post:

          ” Fidel’s Cuba boasted a previously unknown degree of sovereign separation from the United States. Under his rule, too, Cuban public health and literacy indicators were significantly better than those of many other Latin American states (though that was also true pre-revolution).

          For those “achievements,” however, the Cuban people paid a terrible price — far higher than they could have expected when Mr. Castro roared into Havana, promising to restore political freedoms lost under the U.S.-backed dictatorship that he ousted. Though counterproductive to his ostensibly humane social policies, Mr. Castro’s political repression reached an extreme that would have made his predecessor, Fulgencio Batista, blush. It began with mass summary executions of Batista officials and soon progressed to internment of thousands of gay men and lesbians; systematic, block-by-block surveillance of the entire citizenry; repeated purges, complete with show trials and executions, of the ruling party… Cuba’s pre-Castro economy was overly reliant on sugar exports and left many in poverty, and the post-1961 U.S. trade embargo did not help the revolution prosper. But Mr. Castro himself did by far the lion’s share of damage, impoverishing the island through a program of total state control, occasionally punctuated by his own grandiose schemes… Today, Cuba lives off Venezuelan oil and money sent home by the millions who fled Mr. Castro’s rule; it also depends on tourists, including an increasing number of Americans — many of whom, alas, are drawn by the officially tolerated sex trade. In that sense, the revolution has simply brought Cuba full circle to the Batista days.”

      • Scientifik
        Posted November 26, 2016 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

        A great Polish hero of WW2, Captain Witold Pilecki, who spent two and a half years in the Auschwitz concentration camp in the most horrific conditions that nearly cost him his life, and who was later arrested by the communists and tortured by them for months, said these words to his wife, shortly before being executed NKVD-style with a shot to the back of the head:

        “I cannot live. They killed me. Because Auschwitz compared with them was just a trifle.”

        They really were heartless savages, completely possessed by the communist ideology.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted November 28, 2016 at 12:08 am | Permalink

          Auschwitz might have been a trifle for Pilecki, but it was not a trifle for a great many other people.

          • Scientifik
            Posted November 28, 2016 at 8:34 am | Permalink

            Pilecki NEARLY died at Auschwitz! It was a trifle for him only in comparison with the bestial torture he suffered at the hands of the communists.

            • Tim Harris
              Posted November 28, 2016 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

              Yes, he nearly DIED at Auschwitz. Thank you. What I was drawing attention to was the implied generalisation in your comment. Perhaps you were unaware of it?

              • Scientifik
                Posted November 28, 2016 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

                It looks like you didn’t understand Pilecki’s words, so here they are once more:

                “I cannot live. They killed me. Because Auschwitz compared with them was just a trifle.”

                He’s clearly talking about his own experience with both Nazi and Communist regimes, so I don’t know what kind of ‘implied generalisation’ you’re talking about.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted November 29, 2016 at 1:09 am | Permalink

                Yes, I understand very well Pilecki’s words. The implied generalisation, in the context of surrounding comments, seemed to me to be yours – that the Communist treatment of those groups and individuals it singled out for such treatment was more terrible than that of the Nazis. I see little to admire in drawing-room or web-site competitions as to who was worse. If you were not making that suggestion, I apologise for suggesting that you were.

              • Scientifik
                Posted November 29, 2016 at 6:50 am | Permalink

                In the case of Pilecki, the treatment he suffered in the communist jail was indeed more terrible. This are his own words, his own experience with both Nazis and Communists.

                Now, as for the subject of broader generalisation about who was worse, which you yourself started, we would need to look at the Katyń massacre, where 22,000 Polish officers, landowners, factory owners, lawyers, officials, and priests were exterminated, the 200,000 exterminated Poles in the NKVD’s anti-Polish Action of 1937-38, we would need to look at the 1.6 million Polish civilians who were sent to gulags in cattle tracks, as well as millions of Ukrainians, Russians and others who lost their lives under the Soviet communist regime…

                I think that the historical evidence amply shows that both Nazi and Communist regimes were genocidal regimes. At their worst, both the Nazis and Communists resorted to genocide and forced labor camps which cost millions of innocent people their lives.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted November 29, 2016 at 7:13 am | Permalink

                ‘I think that the historical evidence amply shows that both Nazi and Communist regimes were genocidal regimes. At their worst, both the Nazis and Communists resorted to genocide and forced labor camps which cost millions of innocent people their lives.’

                Which is precisely why I wrote the following:

                ‘I see little to admire in drawing-room or web-site competitions as to who was worse.’

              • Scientifik
                Posted November 29, 2016 at 8:12 am | Permalink

                I think you will find people arguing both ways, that communism was more deadly than fascism, especially when you take into account the fact that the communist cancer spread out to other countries, like China (Mao) and Cambodia (Pol Pot); and vice versa. But the sole fact that such comparisons can even be made speaks to the scale of communist murder and terror.

                And I get the impression from reading some communist apologists that this scale of communist crimes is still largely under-appreciated by them…

              • Tim Harris
                Posted November 30, 2016 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

                And, yes, here we go again on the this little parlour game of who was worse… It would be of small comfort to the Jews, the gypsies, the Poles, the homosexuals and others who were murdered by the Nazis to be told, if they could be,that people had it worse under the Communists – or vice versa. And small comfort to those survivors whose families were destroyed by the Nazis or by the Arentinian junta to be told that, well, it was worse in Soviet Russia or Cuba, and that, after all, right-wing thugs leave the economy in good shape, so they should temper their grief. I think that what disturbs me about this parlour game is that it seems to have as an unspoken corollary the idea that the US and its allies are justified in supporting murderous thugs such as Saddam Hussein or Pinochet or the Argentinian junta, or the other murderous thugs that have been supported over the years (and not only recent years), and have been justified in overthrowing legally elected governments, fomenting insurrection, and aiding and abetting torture and massacres – as, for example, in Indonesia, not to mention Salvador and Nicaragua.

    • W.Benson
      Posted November 26, 2016 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      Thank you Rita. I agree.

  5. rickflick
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    I’m with Hili this morning. View this eventful and chaotic world from a safe distance…say 50,000 feet.

  6. bluemaas
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    I have no idea anymore from where some years ago I either heard or read this (likely, npr, though); but the piece was on how major media outlets including the New York Times (I recall the piece particularly cited the Times) employ folks, whose assignments they are, to have readied re (in)famed persons these persons’ obituaries — — nearly completed on in to their entireties. It does not matter the persons’ ages: that is for instantiation, if someone young(er) happens to have an extreme diagnosis made publicly known, then the writers, as well, crank up their biographical skills on these (fairly ill) people, too.

    Once dead — then — why, all that needs doing in order to get a specific obituary stat out the door and into print or onto air is to fill in the very few blanks with those very few details re the specific deceased’s actual dying day.


  7. Mattapult
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    “I will mourn the coming change, as I never got to see the “real” Cuba, and can’t do so even now (there are still restrictions), ”
    My uncle went last summer on an approved photography tour and brought back amazing pictures and stories. Here’s the best summary I can give:

    The people are content, happy, and proud. It’s easy for us to think Communism is bad, but they love it. Everybody make the equivalent of $10 per month, except professionals make $30. But a lot of necessities are given free. One host my uncle visited just received a new refrigerator.

    There is no advertising except government propaganda billboards. They take pride in their surroundings, so it’s clean and well maintained. Paints are expensive though so painting doesn’t happen to often. They treasure their culture and food.

    Interestingly, there is one job that out-earns all the others: taxi driver, because they can earn tips. The taxis are amazing. Immaculately maintained cars from the 50’s. They hoard parts from just about anything, so when they have mechanical problems, they find something closer and make it work somehow.

    • Jacob
      Posted November 26, 2016 at 10:12 am | Permalink

      That’s why so many people are trying to leave, right?

      Yes, Fidel Castro was bad. He is directly responsible for the deaths of many thousands ( and likely the root cause of countless more.

      Free health care sounds great, until you realize that it’s a myth:

      I’ve never understood how people are so quick to justify atrocities.

      • Posted November 26, 2016 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

        + 1. This comment thread makes me sick!

        • Scientifik
          Posted November 27, 2016 at 5:08 am | Permalink

          It is indeed dispiriting to find the supposed liberal champions of democracy being apologists for (or ambivalent about) “a man who held no free nor fair elections for half a century, imprisoned his political opponents after trials presided over by crony judges, completely controlled all the national media and installed his brother as his successor”.

    • Walt Jones
      Posted November 26, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Scott Simon of NPR had a similar experience as your uncle, but has a different take on the experience.

    • Posted November 26, 2016 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      Subfects of totalitarian regimes and even members of totalitarian families (such as the Duggars) often look happy and proud. They are intensively pressed to look like this, and they are often so brainwashed that really think their family/country is The Best. Like the young Nazi supporters on this book cover:

      • W.Benson
        Posted November 26, 2016 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

        I think you underestimate the intelligence of the people of Cuba. If they have a different world view, and are happy with it, who are we to say they are wrong, and persecute them?

        • Posted November 27, 2016 at 6:23 am | Permalink

          I am, as a survivor of communism. We were also said to have a different world view and to be happy with it. No normal person is happy without property, free speech and all other sorts of freedom. Of course, people born under communism hardly qualify for the “normal” label; as I already wrote, they need 2 decades of rehabilitation.
          (I know that the claim “no normal person is happy without property” is difficult to sell to Americans, because they rationalized their loss in the Vietnam War by assuming that yellow people are different from whites and are happy without property.)

          • Tim Harris
            Posted November 28, 2016 at 1:40 am | Permalink

            ‘…(Americans) rationalized their loss in the Vietnam War by assuming that yellow people are different from whites and are happy without property.’ Really? Chapter & verse, please.

            • Posted November 28, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

              Of course, nobody except rogues like me will state this in plane text. You have to infer. From the Wikipedia page on the Vietnam War:

              “Some advocates within the peace movement… wanted to show solidarity with the people of Vietnam, such as Norman Morrison emulating the actions of Thích Quảng Đức.”

              (You see, the “people of Vietnam” here are identified with opponents of South Vietnamese government. Thich was a Buddhist monk who immolated himself in protest against said government. Morrison, a Quaker, did the same in solidarity. Of course, when “with the fall of Saigon in 1975, the whole nation came under Communist rule; many religious practices including Buddhism were discouraged… The Sangha leadership was thus arrested and imprisoned; Sangha properties were seized and the Sangha itself was outlawed” (Wikipedia again), nobody in the West gave a rat’s ass. That is, Buddhist monks matter only when they are pro-Communist.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted November 29, 2016 at 4:38 am | Permalink

                Well, that is scarcely an adequate response, is it?

              • Posted November 29, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

                I often think that maybe we the scientifically literate people are wrong in constantly providing arguments why evolution is true – arguments that, of course, are never enough for our opponents. Maybe we should instead start asking them which component of germ cells (that is absent in somatic cells) carries the soul, and what a result we’d get if we could karyotype Jesus.

                So, in the same line: What argument, other than some form of bigotry, could account for the puzzling conviction of Americans that the Vietnamese wanted to own nothing? I can see no principal difference between “Asians prefer to have no property” and statements such as “Asians are more resistant to pain than Europeans” and “Asians thrive on a bowl of boiled rice per day”.

              • Posted November 29, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

                A relevant quote from Spencer (I learned it from a recent comment by Prof. Coyne):

                “Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution, as not adequately supported by facts, seem quite to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all. Like the majority of men who are born to a given belief, they demand the most rigorous proof of any adverse belief, but assume that their own needs none.”

        • Posted November 27, 2016 at 6:25 am | Permalink

          “I think you underestimate the intelligence of the people of Cuba.”

          Had the Russians, the nation of Tolstoy and Mendeleev, a reputation of being stupid? Or the Japanese? Or the Germans? Intelligence has nothing to do with falling prey to a totalitarian regime.

          • Tim Harris
            Posted November 28, 2016 at 12:09 am | Permalink


  8. Rick Graham
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Thus, the American left begins the rehabilitation of the dead tyrant whose regime none of them chose to live under and the real life monster who actually performed all the atrocities that they accuse Trump of planning.

    As for visiting the *real* Cuba? You mean before it was ruined?

    There’s still Venezuela…

    • Christopher
      Posted November 26, 2016 at 8:54 am | Permalink

      Good grief. Who pissed in your Cheerios this morning?

      It’s clear that PCC(E) wasn’t praising Castro or his many human rights violations, violent suppression of civil rights or any number of things that one can find grievous fault with, only that he wished to visit the country before it turned into yet another holiday resort island for vacationers with more money than brains, like all the others in the Caribbean. Is there something wrong with being socio-culturally and historically curious? To perhaps wish to see the landscape before the bulldozers and the Trumps and Hiltons invade with their overpriced and culturally sterile resort hotels?

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted November 26, 2016 at 11:16 am | Permalink

        I’m inclined to think that the Cuban people ought to be the ones to decide whether they prefer landscapes or construction jobs, a handful of liberal intellectuals or hordes of free-spending vacationers.

        I’m sure Jerry didn’t mean to imply that Cuba should remain stuck in the 1950s in order to satisfy his socio-cultural curiosity. But let’s not forget that the “real” Cuba he’s pining for exists only because progress has been suppressed for decades.

      • Posted November 26, 2016 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

        PCC wasn’t praising Castro, but quite a few commenters were.

    • Posted November 26, 2016 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      Lay off; I’m not rehabilitating Castro at all. He was a dictator, but he did some good stuff that Batista didn’t, and we have to recognize that.

      • Tim Harris
        Posted November 28, 2016 at 12:40 am | Permalink

        I do think the phenomenon of Castro needs to be looked at in terms of the semi-colonial American policies towards Latin America that have been perpetrated (I choose the word advisedly) over the years. Apart from the support offered the Argentinian junta, which included helpful advice on torture, and the interventions in Nicaragua and Salvador (among other examples), there was, and has been, this (from Wikipedia):

        ‘From the mid to late 19th century, Guatemala experienced chronic instability and civil strife. Beginning in the early 20th century, it was ruled by a series of dictators backed by the United Fruit Company and the United States government. In 1944, authoritarian leader Jorge Ubico was overthrown by a pro-democratic military coup, initiating a decade-long revolution that led to sweeping social and economic reforms. A U.S.-backed military coup in 1954 ended the revolution and installed a dictatorship.

        ‘From 1960 to 1996, Guatemala endured a bloody civil war fought between the US-backed government and leftist rebels, including genocidal massacres of the Maya population perpetrated by the military. Since a United Nations-negotiated peace accord, Guatemala has witnessed both economic growth and successful democratic elections, though it continues to struggle with high rates of poverty, crime, drug trade, and instability.’

        It is all very well for people to rehearse the self-interested doctrine that right-wing dictators are better than anything on the left, but a succession of military strongmen such as have afflicted many Latin American countries — have these really been better than Castro…?

        I recommend the novel ‘The Feast of the Goat’, which is based on the career of Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, by Mario Vargas Llosa, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and a man who can hardly be accused of being a Marxist or even of sentimental leftism. There is also ‘The President’, by the Guatemalan diplomat and writer Miguel Angel Asturias, another winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

  9. Rick Graham
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    The Castro legacy!

    How could this happen? How can the health care system be in such disarray? Bad luck I guess?

  10. Posted November 26, 2016 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I’m in two minds about Castro and I know Jerry isn’t making excuses for him but I am seeing defences of Castro popping up everywhere.

    Yes, he was infinitely better than Batista – but Batista wouldn’t have still been running the country decades later. Worse regimes transitioned to democracy comparatively quickly. Communist revolutions never transition to the democracy they promise; at best they collapse after decades of suppression.

    Universal healthcare is regarded as a right throughout the developed world but – with the exception of the USA – few countries found it incompatible with democracy.

    High levels of literacy are great – but what’s the point if the government tells you what you can and cannot read? Literacy just becomes a means of transmitting propaganda.

    Some of this might be down to sanctions but they are precisely the kind of sanctions many of us once called for against South Africa.

    • Scientifik
      Posted November 26, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      If you’re still on the fence about Castro’s regime…

      • Black_Rose
        Posted November 26, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        Applebaum is a virulent anti-communist.

        I don’t trust Cuba Archive. I doubt that it could account for four thousands deaths. Its methodology involves having at least “independent” accounts of someone who died. However, those accounts may not be independent since they are likely propagated in the exile community as rumor, and people just repeat details and embellishment.

        • Posted November 26, 2016 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

          Every remotely decent person is an anti-communist; and to be a “virulent” anti-communist is a honorable distinction.

        • Scientifik
          Posted November 26, 2016 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

          “Applebaum is a virulent anti-communist.”

          She wrote two highly-acclaimed books on Communism, “The Gulag,” and “The Iron Curtain”, so she has deep knowledge about the myriad communist crimes and abuses. Once you become aware of them, you can’t be anything else than an anti-communist.

  11. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Just do like the Americans who Canadians run into in Cuba when we vacation there and fly out of Canada to go to Cuba. My Aunt, an American and NZ citizen, uses her Kiwi passport to go. I keep threatening to tell on her. 🙂

  12. Posted November 26, 2016 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    I’m hoping Obama’s lifting of the embargo will allow me a chance to enjoy a few recherché stogies. All we are saying, is give Cohiba’s a chance.

  13. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Castro was no worse, nor more corrupt than any number of dictators and heads of state throughout the world. He got a lot of play here because the place in 90 miles away. If Cuba were 500 miles south of it’s current location we would rarely talk about it.

    Besides, what went wrong for Cuba and Castro was the support from a crumbling communist Russia. That and our still in place boycott to make the Cuban people of Miami feel good.

    • Posted November 26, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

      Other things equal, communist dictators are worse that non-communist ones because, besides oppressing people, they destroy the economy and sound economic ideas. After the dictatorship suffers its inevitable bankruptcy, the entire nation needs some 20 years of rehabilitation that includes conditioning to basic truths such as “Your neighbor has the right to own more than you, if he has acquired his property legally”, “You cannot make something out of nothing” and “Incomes in a country are determined by the productivity of labor”.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted November 26, 2016 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

        Really do not like to argue economics but I don’t think dictators are any better at destroying the economy than other types including elected officials. Trump is yet to be see on this issue but 2nd Bush did a pretty good job of it in only 8 years. Before the disaster of 2008 we could look at the late 1920s and after several republican terms we had 1929 and all of the 30s to get over that.

        As we speak there is a clown down in Kansas who has been governor there for just a few years and has managed to turn the economic condition of that state into pure shit. I do not think Brownback is a dictator but he might want to look into it after they throw him out of Kansas.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted November 27, 2016 at 7:53 am | Permalink

          I do not recall the Argentinian economy being in splendid shape after the fervent efforts of the junta… but perhaps you know better, mm.

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    They’re partyin’ hard here in south Florida over the demise of The Beard — though I think it’s subdued compared to what it would’ve been a few years ago, when the Bay-of-Pigs generation was still alive and kickin’, the guys from Brigade 2506 who had been slaughtered and taken prisoner on Playa Girón.

  15. nicky
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

    There is no doubt that Castro was a dictator, but (the deplored but) compared to the regime’s in Latin America supported by the US over the decades, he is nearly an angel.
    Reasonably good health care at a fraction of the costs in the US, virtual irradication of deep poverty, those kind of things. No mean achievements.
    I’ve known many Chileans and Cubans, there is really no comparison, Pinochet was a very bloody dictator doing nothing for the ‘people’, but with US support, while Castro made great efforts, without much of any support.
    Look, I’m not a fan of dictators, but as far as dictatures go, Cuba was far, very far, from the worst.

    • Posted November 26, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

      Pinochet was a very bloody dictator, but (the deplored but) he put the economy on the right track. And capitalism eventually brought democracy, as usual. If someone forces me into exile and offers me a choice between Chile and Cuba, I’d immediately choose Chile. I’d also choose Pinochet’s Chile over Castro’s Cuba.

  16. Diego Johnson
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

    I highly recommend reading this Chomsky essay on Cuba, Castro and US policy toward both.

    • W.Benson
      Posted November 26, 2016 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

      Cui bono? As they say, follow the money.

  17. Black_Rose
    Posted November 26, 2016 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    I guess the blog deleted this link.

    • Posted November 26, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

      You have tried to post seven comments on this thread; read the Roolz. I will not let one person dominate the discussion. Enough here!

      • Black_Rose
        Posted November 26, 2016 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

        I apologize. You were doing what was necessary to moderate the thread.

  18. Posted November 28, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    The NYT forgot to mention Castro and Cuba’s role in helping to end apartheid in South Africa. Whatever their motivation, this seems to have been a useful accomplishment. This is one area why Canada was more friendly than the US to the Cuban government and people.


    Leiter’s post also points out how not-Marxist the regime was/is, for better or for (largely) worse.

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