CNN sugarcoats Fidel, Chaucer redux, etc.
Mar 3, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 24
The Castro News Network
The mainstream media's soft spot for Fidel Castro was a constant feature of his thuggish half-century in power. So it was altogether fitting that when the Cuban dictator announced his departure last week, CNN was caught stage-managing their on-air "talent" lest something overly critical be said about the Communist kingpin. The following memo from a producer at the cable network is reproduced verbatim:
It's worth repeating--happily, we won't have many more occasions to do so--that these clichéd claims for Fidel's vaunted "social reforms" were hooey. Nicholas Eberstadt's excellent 1988 book The Poverty of Communism is careful and devastating in its deconstruction of Castro's supposed contributions to lowering Cuba's literacy and infant mortality rates. An excerpt: "According to Cuba's own life tables, infant mortality fell by about 32 percent between 1960 and 1974. Over roughly that same period, according to their life tables, infant mortality fell 40 percent in Panama, 46 percent in Puerto Rico, 47 percent in Chile, 47 percent in Barbados, and 55 percent in Costa Rica. If [the] National Academy of Sciences reconstructions are correct, infant mortality in Cuba would have fallen by only 25 percent between 1960 and 1978. If [these] estimates are reliable, the revolutionary Cuban experience would represent not the most rapid, but instead virtually the slowest, measured rate of progress against infant mortality in Latin America and the Caribbean for that period."
It's also worth repeating, because sadly it never goes without saying, that the mortality rate for Cuban critics of the departed "social reformer" was alarmingly and unnaturally elevated.
The New Canterbury Tales
Finally, something good has come from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams's ill-considered suggestion that multiculti Britain someday formally recognize sharia. It has provoked the blogger known as "Iowahawk" to lampoon the churchman while paying homage to Chaucer, with the "Tale of the Asse-Hatte." A sample:
THE SCRAPBOOK heartily recommends that you take the soonest opportunity to read the entire work--as well as Iowahawk's many other fine parodies--at iowahawk.typepad.com.
Saint Barack (cont.)
"Waiting to hear what Obama has to say--win, lose or tie--has become the most anticipated event of any given primary night. The man's use of pronouns (never I), of inspirational language and of poetic meter--'WE are the CHANGE that we SEEK'--is unprecedented in recent memory. Yes, Ronald Reagan could give great set-piece -speeches on grand occasions, and so could John F. Kennedy, but Obama's ability to toss one off, different each week, is simply breathtaking. His New Hampshire concession speech, with the refrain 'Yes, We Can,' was turned into a brilliant music video featuring an array of young, hip, talented and beautiful celebrities. The video, stark in black-and-white, raised an existential question for Democrats: How can you not be moved by this? How can you vote against the future?" (Joe Klein, "Inspiration vs. Substance," Time, February 7, 2008.)
Applications are being accepted for the tenth annual Eric Breindel Award for Excellence in Journalism. The $20,000 prize is named for longtime New York Post editor and columnist (and WEEKLY STANDARD contributor) Eric Breindel, who died in 1998. It is presented to the columnist, editorialist, or reporter whose work best reflects the spirit of Breindel's too-short career: love of country, concern for the preservation and integrity of democratic institutions, and resistance to the evils of totalitarianism. Submissions are also welcome for the third annual $10,000 collegiate award for the undergraduate whose journalistic work best reflects the themes that animated Breindel's writing. Contact Germaine Febles at 212-843-8031 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or go online to www.ericbreindel.org.