The late, lamented Fidel Castro

As you ponder the mystery of whether God chooses to act directly on human affairs, the case of Fidel Castro presents a challenging question: Why would God allow Castro to live 90 years, oppressing and brutalizing the Cuban people for 57 of those years?

The Cuban people may find a degree of liberation soon, or they may have to wait even longer.  But one thing is clear: there would be no relief while Castro lived and ruled.  There was only a steady escalation of tyranny in the old Soviet Union until Stalin died; the same with Mao Tse-tung and other totalitarian beasts and butchers.

JFK was very clear in his opinion of Fidel Castro. So were LBJ, Nixon, and Ford.  Carter was, of course, an exception: he never met a totalitarian dictator he didn’t embrace. But then Reagan and Bush and Clinton renewed and maintained the bipartisan agreement that Fidel was a first-class bastard.

That was then, and this is now.  Still-President Obama embraced Castro, recognized his gangster government, eliminated trade sanctions, and invited Americans to bring their cash to sunny Havana.   He neglected to mention the political prisoners still languishing (ie, not yet shot) in Fidel’s island prison.

And his response to the dictator’s death notice was, well, somberly neutral:

“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.”

The same could have been said of Hitler’s passing.

President-to-be Trump was somewhat less tactful:

“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.”

Still, Obama is surely correct: Historians will have to take some time to judge a legacy of “firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights.  We certainly cannot judge!

But here is a piece of history that is less widely known but may still be relevant.  In the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, Castro was extremely upset that the crisis was resolved without war.  He implored his protector and nuclear muscleman Nikita Khrushchev to attack the US with atomic weapons.  K turned him down, as gently as he could:

“In your cable of October 27 you proposed that we be the first to carry out a nuclear strike against the enemy’s territory. Naturally you understand where that would lead us. It would not be a simple strike, but the start of a thermonuclear world war. Dear Comrade Fidel Castro, I find your proposal to be wrong, even though I understand your reasons.”

His buddy Che even bragged about it later:

“Here is the electrifying example of a people prepared to suffer nuclear immolation so that is ashes may serve as a foundation for new societies. [I wonder how many of the heroic human people know that they voted to immolate themselves?] When an agreement was reached whereby the atomic missiles were removed… we were not relieved or thankful…”

Think about this the next time you see some uneducated moron wearing a CHE shirt or hear some leftist buffoon pontificate on Castro’s many good deeds: They, alone in the entire world, actually WANTED to start a nuclear war that would have killed their own people! 

If what Obama called “the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him” hadn’t been foiled by his Russian protector, we might have had a much more exciting 1962 and a lot less to write about since.

Much more on all this at the National Review blog “The Corner”, here. Also see, surprisingly, the PBS website for reference to a documentary they ran as part of “The Presidents”. Here is the entire Khrushchev letter.



Climate Change Dishonesty on Nuclear Power

Let’s start with some facts. (The source links are below.)

The US generates 38% of our electricity from coal-fired power plants, and another 30% from other fossil fuels (oil and natural gas). That accounts for 37% of our total CO2 emissions. CO2 emissions are the primary cause of man-made climate change.

We generate 19% of our electricity from nuclear power plants, which produce no CO2. Zero.

France generates 77% of its electricity from nuclear power plants, which produces no CO2. Zero.

If the US had built nuclear power plants at the rate France did in the 1970’s and 80’s, we could shut now down every single coal-fired power plant in the country, as well as a third of our gas/oil power plants.

We would be producing 30% less CO2 than we are now.

The 1997 Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change called on the US (and other developed countries) to reduce CO2 output by 7%.

By comparison, total “renewable” energy sources (wind, solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric) generate less than 12% of our electricity (more than half of that from hydro). We can’t easily increase our hydropower – in fact we are in the process of removing dams in many places, resulting in less of this carbon-free power. To eliminate as many fossil fuel power plants with other “renewables” would require a tenfold increase in wind/solar/geothermal power plants. Yet such plants are more costly than nuclear or fossil fuel power plants, and require permanent government (taxpayer) subsidies.
Given these facts, you might assume that those most concerned about the threat of global warming and climate change would be demanding a national and global-scale program to expand nuclear power generation. Of course, you would be wrong.

The pious preaching of politicians and the noisy chants of activists are alike silent on the use of nuclear power. Read the climate change speeches of presidents, former vice-presidents, popes, and pundits; count the number of times they advocate nuclear power expansion. The subject never seems to come up.

Of course, there are problems with nuclear power. It creates nuclear waste which must be stored, and nobody wants it stored near them. In serious accidents, it can release radioactive material into the atmosphere. Real problems, real risks.

But the rhetoric consistently suggests that climate change from CO2 production is the greatest threat the world now faces. Do we really expect to address such a threat through zero-problem, risk-free means?

The preferred environmentalist solution is de-industrialization; shrink the developed-world economy until it can run on clean renewables that cause no environmental risk. So wind power, if we can keep from killing birds; solar, if we can build their arrays without disrupting habitats; geothermal, as long as we don’t disrupt groundwater. Hydroelectric dams are, of course, off the table.

What all this points to is a disturbing level of hypocrisy and downright dishonesty among the climate-change activist community, and the politicians who pander to them.
This is most clearly demonstrated by the shifting use of various terms for “good” energy: “renewables” and “clean energy”. “Renewable” was the watchword of the movement to replace fossil fuels before we run out of them. Wind and solar were the prime renewables. But we don’t seem to be running out of fossil fuels, owing to new extraction technology like fracking. “Clean energy” combined the idea of renewability with the prevention of pollution from fossil fuels. Technology like smokestack scrubbers made some progress with coal, while catalytic converters and better automotive efficiency improved our use of petroleum. And cleaner natural gas has replaced much use of dirtier fuels. By and large, our air in the US is now cleaner than it was thirty or fifty or even a hundred years ago.

Yet our public discussion of climate change is filled with these terms from another time, another issue, from a battle we are winning. Why?

The proper terminology for climate-change-fighting energy use is “Zero Carbon Emission” or “Carbon-Free”. So why do activists and politicians continue to use the old term “renewable”? Because of the facts above. Nuclear power generation is the only Carbon-free or Zero-Carbon-Emission power source that is affordably within our reach, now or even in the foreseeable future.

Environmentalists have for decades stigmatized nuclear power as risky, dirty and dangerous. They don’t want to consider its use, even to counter “the greatest threat of our time, or of all time”. The problem with nuclear energy is not that it is not renewable (it is), or dirty (much cleaner than fossil fuels), or even dangerous (compared with other sources).

The OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency, in a 2010 report “Comparing Nuclear Accident Risks with Those from Other Energy Sources”, calculated the chances of a major accident (causing 100 or more latent fatalities) for various power sources. They found the danger from nuclear power is less than 10% of the danger from coal, oil, natural gas, or hydropower.

Environmentalists (the older ones) grew up in the fight against nuclear power plants like Seabrook, N.H. It was the perfect fight. Nuclear power plants seemed somehow connected to nuclear weapons. They would experience catastrophic meltdowns, as we learned from Jane Fonda in “The China Syndrome” (1979). Their nuclear waste would pollute our drinking water. Millions would die!

And the anti-nuclear campaign developed two new tactics for obstruction. Picketing and demonstrations got publicity, but regulatory reviews created entanglements that added years to construction and millions of dollars to the cost. And the NIMBY phenomenon (Not In My Back Yard) put pressure on local state and national politicians to throw up their own roadblocks.

These tactics effectively ended most energy companies’ enthusiasm for building nuclear plants. More than 100 orders for nuclear power reactors, many already under construction, were canceled in the 1970s and 1980s, bankrupting some companies. Since then, US power companies have been reluctant to consider nuclear power plants. And activists continue to lobby for the removal of present ones.

What about France? How did they manage to convert to nuclear power?

Let me quote liberally from Wikipedia:

“The present situation is due to the French government deciding in 1974, just after the first oil shock, to expand rapidly the country’s nuclear power capacity, using Westinghouse technology. This decision was taken in the context of France having substantial heavy engineering expertise but few known indigenous energy resources. Nuclear energy, with the fuel cost being a relatively small part of the overall cost, made good sense in minimizing imports and achieving greater energy security.”

“As a result of the 1974 decision, France now claims a substantial level of energy independence and almost the lowest cost electricity in Europe. It also has an extremely low level of CO2 emissions per capita from electricity generation, since over 90% of its electricity is nuclear or hydro.”

Another critical point is that France addressed the issue with a national plan directed by the government. They decided on a single type of reactor (Westinghouse) and set safety standards. And the government commitment meant that regulatory delaying tactics were unsuccessful. The private sector played a role, but not the lead role. Government shared the risk.

In the US, by contrast, the power companies bore the entire risk, and the government was anything but a partner. The US has multiple models from different manufacturers. While this has its benefits (competition yielding improvements), they are vastly outweighed by the united leadership and commitment, along with standardization, afforded by the French model.

In other words, a program of rapid development of nuclear power would need to look more like our Apollo Moon program than like the auto industry.

Government would have to take the lead. But Republicans are suspicious that the whole climate change issue is just another front in the enviros’ war on industrialization. And Democrats count on the enviros as a crucial voting bloc and money source.

This could change, of course, if the environmental left were to face up honestly to the challenge presented by this issue. It could happen. Maybe. I think.

Until then, one must assume that those who speak of “renewable energy” or “clean energy” or “wind and solar” as the solution to global warming, you must regard them as ignorant or dishonest.

If these guys really want to prevent global warming and put coal out of business, here’s the way to do it without putting the rest of us out of business.


EPA Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report 1990-2014
(CO2 production by source, among other facts)

“Nuclear Power in US”
“Nuclear Power in France”

OECD Report
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency 2010 report Comparing Nuclear Accident Risks with Those from Other Energy Sources,, “Summary”

US Energy Information Agency
FAQ page:
“In 2014, the United States generated about 4,093 billion kilowatt hours of electricity. About 67% of the electricity generated was from fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and petroleum).
Major energy sources and percent share of total U.S. electricity generation in 2014:
• Coal = 39%
• Natural gas = 27%
• Nuclear = 19%
• Hydropower = 6%
• Other renewables = 7% • Biomass = 1.7%
• Geothermal = 0.4%
• Solar = 0.4%
• Wind = 4.4%
• Petroleum = 1%
• Other gases < 1%”

Are YOU a Science Denier?

Take this simple test and find out!

There is much concern these days about the current scourge of “science deniers,” people who refuse to accept factual truth as defined by a consensus of scientists. Of course, you don’t think you are one of “those people”. But can you be  sure?

Take this simple test and find out.


Section 1:   Organic Food

Scientific consensus, as reflected by the US Department of Agriculture findings, says that organic foods are not safer or healthier than those grown conventionally. In the biggest meta-study to date, researchers at Stanford University conducted a systematic review to determine if organically produced foods are safer or healthier than conventionally produced foods. Overall, the published literature does not suggest health benefits from consuming organic rather than conventional foods.

Organic agriculture does, however, use far more of earth’s precious land and water resources than conventional farming.

Do you AGREE with this consensus? (no points)

Are you skeptical or unsure about this consensus? (1 point)


Section 2: Vitamins

Scientific consensus, as reflected in the US Food and Drug Administration, finds that “There are many good reasons to consider taking vitamin supplements, such as over-the-counter multivitamins. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), a doctor may recommend that you take them for certain health problems, or if you eat a vegetarian or vegan diet, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.” Otherwise, multivitamins are not needed by anyone eating a balanced diet.

Do you AGREE with this consensus? (no points)

Do you take a multivitamins without having been advised by your doctor to do so? (1 point)


Section 3:  GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms)

The scientific consensus has resulted in determinations by the FDA: “Nutritional assessments for foods from genetically engineered plants that have been evaluated by FDA through the consultation process have shown that such foods are generally as nutritious as foods from comparable traditionally bred plants.” And “Foods from genetically engineered plants must meet the same requirements, including safety requirements, as foods from traditionally bred plants.” No GMO foods go to market without FDA approval.

In addition, the EPA requires verification that the GMO is safe for the environment and conduct a food-safety analysis to ensure that it is not allergenic.

GMO foods are also essential for addressing the issues of world food production, especially in the famine-prone Third World where the “Green Revolution has radically increased crops.

Do you AGREE with this consensus? (no points)

Or do you prefer to buy foods that are certified non-GMO, “just in case,” even if they cost a little more? (1 point)

Extra points: Do you think GMO foods should be labelled to assist science deniers when shopping? (2 points)


Section 4: Global Warming

Scientific consensus has determined that potentially disastrous Global Warming is resulting from human use of hydrocarbon fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. The two fuels that provide the bulk of the industrialized nations’ energy production are nuclear power plants (10%) and hydroelectric dams (2.3%).  All other non-carbon fuels (wind, solar, and geothermal) together add up to less energy than is produced by hydroelectric dams.

France alone provides 80% of its total electricity needs by nuclear power plants. Worldwide 69 new plants are under construction, a third of them in China, only 5 in the US.

Only nuclear power has the potential economically to replace fossil fuel use in the near future. Al Gore (voice of the scientific consensus) says ”The future of human civilization is at stake.”

Do you AGREE with the scientific consensus that only the rapid expansion of nuclear power generation can replace fossil fuels in the near- to mid-term? (no points)

Or do you think nuclear power is too dangerous (even more dangerous than global warming which puts the future of human civilization at stake)? (1 point)

Bonus Questions:

Do you think hydroelectric power dams should be built wherever possible, to increase our supply of clean, renewable energy? (no points)

Or do you think hydroelectric power dams are too environmentally harmful (even more harmful than global warming which puts the future of human civilization is at stake)? (1 point)

Extra Points: Do you think existing hydropower dams should be dismantled, so rivers can run free? (2 points)


TEST OVER:  How Did You Do?

Add up your score to see how scientifically inclined you are.

0 points? Congratulations! You are a good scientific-consensus follower! Tell all your friends. Give them the test and see how THEY do.

1 or more points? You are a SCIENCE DENIER! SHAME ON YOU! You might as well skulk off to a trailer in backwoods Alabama, since you are unfit for enlightened society.

Herr Nietzsche and Mr. Finiti

My philosophical friend Ben Finiti has some interesting thoughts on the corruption of science by power. In “It Starts an Ends with Nietzsche“, he blames the famous German philosopher/nutcase for unleashing and legitimizing the pursuit of power over truth and morality.  Like Danton’s head, it is worth a look.

The “Higher Education” Bubble: An Update

Many have written about the scandalous rate of inflation in college and university tuition. Tuition has risen faster than overall inflation. Total higher ed costs (including state support) have risen even faster than medical costs, and medical care has gotten much better even as higher education has gotten much worse! Now, a remarkable proposal has arisen from a remarkable man: Mitch Daniels, former governor of Indiana and current President of Purdue University. This fellow (who was passed over for serious consideration as GOP presidential nominee in 2012 because of his charisma deficiency) has not only suggested, but actually implemented this amazing concept: Freeze tuition and require administrators to cut costs! Continue reading ‘The “Higher Education” Bubble: An Update’

Not “Mothers’ Day” Again?

[Note: I first posted this piece a year (or two?) ago, when it first dawned on me that “Mothers’ Day” is an abhorrent, anachronistic vestige… Well, here it is again. I will keep posting it as a yearly reminder, until enlightened thinking progresses to the point that my satire comes true.]


It is time to put an end to this outrage. “Mother’s” Day is an abhorrent, anachronistic vestige of heterosexist oppression. In barely concealed homophobic code, it implies that a child needs and/or benefits from having a mother, and that motherhood is something other than an outdated social construct.

Sure, motherhood may have been revered in the Dark Ages. But as Enlightenment has spread across the land in recent years, social scientists and learned judges have patiently explained to us that “mothers” are now quite redundant.

Wise judges such as Vaughn Walker, ruling that the voters of California have no right to decide so important a question, wrote:

“The gender of a child’s parent is not a factor in a child’s adjustment… The research supporting this conclusion is accepted beyond serious debate in the field of developmental psychology…Children do not need to be raised by a male parent and a female parent to be well-adjusted, and having both a male and a female parent does not increase the likelihood that a child will be well-adjusted.”

See? It is “accepted beyond serious debate”. As Al Gore likes to say, the debate is over, we know all we need to know.

The judge did admit that things were different in the Dark Ages: “When California became a state in 1850, marriage was understood to require a husband and a wife.” But, as they say in California, that was then and this is now. (On retiring soon after ruling against Prop 8 (and coming out as gay), Judge Walker said ““I have done my part.” Indeed he has.)

The Iowa Supreme Court was equally patient in dismissing the folly of mother-fixation.

“The research appears to strongly support the conclusion that same-sex couples foster the same wholesome environment as opposite-sex couples and suggests that the traditional notion that children need a mother and father to be raised into healthy, well-adjusted adults is based more on stereotype than anything else.”

There you have it. This whole motherhood thing is just a stereotype.

And think of the emotional pain inflicted. Every “M-word” Day is a gross offense to the self-esteem of gay male couples who are thinking about raising children.

It reminds one of a heart-breaking episode from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Stan, a young rebel with gender issues, announces that he wants to have a baby:

Stan (also known as Loretta): It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.

Reg: But you can’t have babies.

Stan: Don’t you oppress me.

Reg: Where’s the fetus going to gestate? You going to keep it in a box?

Well, Reg, modern science has finally come up with effective gestation boxes, so Stan’s dream (actually Loretta’s dream) can now come true. And the courts have said that gay adoption is OK, because all that a child needs is “parents”.

So we can leave this motherhood fetish back in ancient Judea where it belongs.

The obvious thing to do is to rename the holiday. Federal and state governments are quickly replacing the anachronistic “Mother” and “Father” lines on government forms and birth certificates with the more sensitive “Parent #1” and “Parent #2”.

The calendar can and should do the same thing. May 11 is Parent #1 Day, with Parent #2 to be celebrated later. (Don’t get me started on the whole “Fatherhood” outrage. That can wait until P2 Day.) Boycott Hallmark until they correct this archaic macro-aggression against the differently gendered parent!

Reminder: Did you call your Parent #1 today?

Thoughts on Police Killings

Three thoughts inspired by the recent assassination of two NYPD officers:

First, the assassin was named Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley.  As the name suggests, he was a Muslim. His website had pages from the Koran, justifying revenge.  Yet the major media reports NEVER mentioned the Islamist issue.  They decided that the narrative was Black American rage over Ferguson and other police shootings.  Again, for the media, “Islam” is considered mentionable only in regard to supposed victims of anti-Muslim American bigots.

Second, some interesting Statistics from the FBI’s detailed file, “Law Enforcement Officers Feloniously Killed”.

Over the past 6 years, 292 police officers were murdered in the US, for an average of 49 every year. This does not include those killed in accidents. Most are killed by gunfire.   In 2014, 59 were murdered. Of these, 47 were shot, 10 were victims of vehicular assault (run down when they got out of their cars), and 2 died from non-gunfire assaults. You may remember reading about a handful of cases, but most were only local stories.

An average of 49 per year equals about .01% of the half million or so officers in America. Depending on your perspective, one one-hundredth of a percent may not seem like many.

Far more startling are the numbers of officers assaulted in the line of duty: over 50,000 most years, for about 10%. Every police officer in America knows that there is one chance in 10 that someone will attack him this year.   In the course of a career, the odds in the cop’s favor decrease steadily.

You may never have heard these facts. But most police are well aware of the general risks, even if not the precise statistics. They must face every interaction with a suspicious or misbehaving person, even every traffic stop, as a potential assault in the making. And whenever an assault appears to be developing, the cop must wonder if he or she is about to be the next of the 49.

These are the facts that the haters and race-baiters like Al Sharpton, and even the presumably well-intentioned (?) police critics of the media, fail to recognize or acknowledge.

Third, anyone who advocates the withdrawal of police officers from assertive law enforcement should read this analysis (in the excellent City JournaI) by the NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton, “Why We Need Broken Windows Policing: It has saved countless New York lives—most of them minority—cut the jail population, and reknit the social fabric.

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