The Magazine

CNN sugarcoats Fidel, Chaucer redux, etc.

Mar 3, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 24
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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:

From: Flexner, Allison

Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2008 7:46 AM

To: CNN Superdesk (TBS)

Cc: Neill, Morgan; Darlington, Shasta

Subject: Castro guidance

Some points on Castro - for adding to our anchor reads/reporting:

* Please say in our reporting that Castro stepped down in a letter he wrote to Granma (the communist party daily), as opposed to in a letter attributed to Fidel Castro. We have no reason to doubt he wrote his resignation letter, he has penned numerous articles over the past year and a half.

* Please note Fidel did bring social reforms to Cuba--namely free education and universal health care, and racial integration--in addition to being criticized for oppressing human rights and freedom of speech.

* Also the Cuban government blames a lot of Cuba's economic problems on the US embargo, and while that has caused some difficulties, (far less so than the collapse of the Soviet Union) the bulk of Cuba's economic problems are due to Cuba's failed economic polices. Some analysts would say the US embargo was a benefit to Castro politically--something to blame problems on, by what the Cubans call "the imperialist," meddling in their affairs.

* While despised by some, he is seen as a revolutionary hero, especially with leftists in Latin America, for standing up to the United States.
Any questions, please call the international desk.

Allison

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:

21 Heere was a hooly manne of peace

22 Withe bearyd of snow and wyld brows of fleece

23 Whilhom stoode athwart the Bush crusades

24 Withe peace march papier-mache paraydes.

25 Sayeth the pilgryms to Bishop Rowan,

26 "Father, we do not like howe thynges are goin'.

27 You know we are as Lefte as thee,

28 But of layte have beyn chaunced to see

29 From Edinburgh to London-towne

30 The Musslemans in burnoose gowne

31 Who beat theyr ownselfs with theyr knyves

32 Than goon home and beat theyr wyves

33 And slaye theyr daughtyrs in honour killlynge

34 Howe do we stoppe the bloode fromme spillynge?"

35 The Bishop sipped upon hys tea

36 And sayed, "an open mind must we

37 Keep, for know thee well the Mussel-man

38 Has hys own laws for hys own clan

39 So question not hys Muslim reason

40 And presaerve ye well social cohesion."

41 Sayth the libertine, " 'tis well and goode

42 But sharia goes now where nae it should;

43 I liketh bigge buttes and I cannot lye,

44 You othere faelows can't denye,

45 But the council closed my wenching pub,

46 To please the Imams, aye thaere's the rub."

47 Sayeth the Bishop, strokynge his chin,

48 "To the Mosque-man, sexe is sinne

49 So as to staye in his goode-graces

50 Cover well thy wenches' faces

51 And abstain ye Chavs from ribaldry

52 Welcome him to our communitie."

53 "But Father Williams," sayed the Gaye-manne

54 "Though I am but a layman

55 The Mussleman youthes hath smyte me so

56 Whan on streets I saunter wyth my beau."

57 Sayed the Bishop in a curt replye

58 "I am as toolrant as anye oothere guy,

59 But if Mussleman law sayes no packynge fudge,

60 Really nowe, who are we to judge?" .  .  .

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.)

Breindel Awards

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 gfebles@rubenstein.com, or go online to www.ericbreindel.org.