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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%”

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.

The “BDS” Movement: A 3-Question Test for Antisemitism

“BDS” (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) is an international movement of Western leftists, primarily university faculty and students, claiming to be human rights activists protesting Israel’s illegal occupation of lands claimed by Palestinians. The land was occupied in a series of three wars begun by Israel’s enemies, of course. And Israel has given back occupied lands in the past, when the other party (Egypt) agreed to cease making war against Israel.

Israel’s enemies never quite say what Israel must do to be accepted back into the community of non-boycotted nations. Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and much of the rest of the region (including the “moderate” Palestinian Authority) have a clear answer: they want Israel to cease to exist. “Please commit national suicide, and we will drop the boycott.”

But still, if Israel is illegally occupying Palestinian lands against the wishes of the inhabitants, isn’t it simple fairness to protest? Shouldn’t we give the BDS-ers the benefit of the doubt as to their good, non-racist intentions?

If you meet one and want to find out for yourself, ask them these questions.

1) Are you also proposing a boycott of Russia over its illegal occupation of Ukrainian national territory (Crimea), in violation of Russian-signed treaties; or its incredibly brutal occupation of Chechnya? If not, why not? (25 words or less, please.)

2) Are you proposing divestment from Chinese companies over China’s particularly brutal and illegal occupation of Tibet?

3) Are you working to impose sanctions on Turkey over its illegal occupation of half of Cyprus, not to mention Kurdistan?

If you want to drag this out, you can ask them about Serbia’s occupation of North Kosovo, or Morocco’s occupation of Western Sahara, or countless other cases.

No, the BDS Movement has no interest in China or Russia or Turkey or Serbia or Morocco. There seems to be something missing from those situations, some element that makes them somehow not particularly objectionable to those folks. What could it be that makes Israel’s unwilling occupation so especially awful?

The answer is: JEWS!

QED: BDS is straight-line Antisemitism.   Any denial is just BS.

Criticism, Self-Criticism, and Antisemitism

[My friend Ben Finiti has posted yet another interesting piece. Check out his other stuff at]


A common thread of modern leftist anti-Israel antisemitism is the claim that Israel has only itself to blame for Jew-hatred. If only they had been “nicer” to the Arab armies and terrorists committed to their annihilation! A preposterous but familiar excuse for leftist racism.

But in another sense, antisemitism does indeed have roots in Jewish history. For Israel, in addition to discovering monotheism and the concept of a meaningful history, also invented self-criticism. The first references to Jews as a stiff-necked, materialistic, ungrateful people may be found in the words of the prophets of ancient Israel, quoted in the Jewish (and Christian) bible.

In a PBS series on Jewish history, host Simon Schama (a respected historian) cited as proof of St. Paul’s anti-semitism his claim that the Jews had often slain their own prophets. Schama seemed unaware that Paul was quoting Jesus, and Jesus was quoting the Prophets Nehemiah and Elijah, criticizing Hebrew ingratitude:

“They were disobedient and rebelled against Thee, and cast thy laws behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.” (Nehemiah 9:26)

“They children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword.” (1 Kings 19:10, quoting Elijah)

The prophets lambasted their own people in order to turn them to repentance. When Christian antisemites began seeking excuses to hate this strange “other” people, they found plenty of ammunition in their shared holy books.

In a similar vein, Protestants criticized the Catholic Church in order to purify and save it. The Enlightenment took the Protestant critique and used it to overthrow all of Christianity.

And it may be noted that some Jewish critics of the state of Israel, both on the left and right, find themselves perilously close to this danger point. Their well-intended (in some cases) criticisms of Israeli government policy are immediately embraced by those who openly seek the annihilation of the Jewish state. They are touted as especially valid because they come from the Jews themselves!

Conclusion: Honest self-criticism (or acceptance of the criticism of others) is a risky business. It will invariably empower one’s enemies, so it must be approached in the most serious spirit and with only the highest purpose, as was the case with the Prophets. And one must always consider the likelyhood of intentional misuse of one’s words.

The Ayaan Hirsi Ali Monument at Brandeis

[The Death Throes of Western Civilization, Part 98]

By now, most of you (unless you get your news from PBS or CBS, who seem to have missed it) will have heard of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the courageous battler for women’s rights who was “disinvited” by ultra-liberal Brandeis University as its 2014 commencement speaker.

Her story is an amazing story of courage in the face of oppression, brutality, murder, cowardice and hypocrisy.  Brandeis’ shunning of her in deference to Islamist pressure is the most shameful chapter in the history of this Jewish institution founded as a place of post-Holocaust tolerance.

After fleeing her Somali homeland for refuge in Holland, she became a feminist leader and was elected to the Dutch parliament. She wrote the script for a movie critical of Islamic repression of women (Submission); the filmmaker (Theo Van Gogh) was brutally murdered by an Islamist assassin, and a note threatening Ali was pinned to the dead man’s chest – with a knife. You can read the note here. (Scroll down for the English translation, which begins “Open letter to Hirshi Ali: In the name of Allah – the Beneficent – the Merciful…”.  I guess it really IS a religion of peace!)

The Dutch government – of which she was a member –  encouraged her to resign from parliament and to flee to the US. The late Christopher Hitchens wrote about her here.

She is a black woman, a battling feminist, and an atheist. You would think she would be the toast of Brandeis.  But Brandeis president Frederick Lawrence explained that some of her statements about Islamic treatment of women were “inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.” (Past honorees and speakers include retired terrorist Bill Ayers and Israel-hater Tony Kushner.)

So know we know what Brandeis’ “core values” consist of: “Speak no evil of Islam.” Is this from pro-Islamism, or from sheer cowardice in the face of Islamist violence?  Does it really matter which?

Here, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, is the speech that she would have delivered to the Brandeis commencement, if she had not been silenced by the Islamist/PC thought police.  You ought to read it. School children ought to be reciting it (if such things were still done in schools).

In fact…

A Proposal: On a location as close as possible to the Brandeis campus (perhaps within sight of the Brandeis/Roberts MBTA station on South Street in Waltham, Mass.), a monument should be erected to this great, brave lady.  On the base, her speech should be inscribed in full.  Along with that statement about Brandeis’ “core values”.

If somebody is already working on it, I will contribute my retiree’s mite.  And I’ll serve on the fund-raising committee.


“Blind, pitiless indifference”

[My friend Ben Finiti’s latest bit of soul-searching. Read more of this sort of thing at]

As I have written below, I have spent many years trying to find God.  I have found much Judeo-Christian theology coherent, consistent with reality, and therefore highly plausible.

But I still cannot convince myself that the other coherent, consistent worldview, atheistic materialism, is not also plausible.

Many authors have helped me along; I will list and discuss them sometime.  But nothing so far has been quite so compelling as this quote from atheist guru Richard Dawkins:

“The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.”

This chilling statement, offered in support of Dawkins’ atheism, is from his book Rivers of Eden, which I found quoted in Francis Collins’ The Language of God.  (I recommend Collins’ book highly.  He was the director of the Human Genome Project as well as a Christian.)

I expect to be contemplating this for a long time.

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