Communism’s great, if you’re a Castro


Earlier this month, the world was reminded that even though Communism is a great way to destroy an economy and to impoverish a nation’s inhabitants, there are always a few people who live luxuriously under the system: namely, the rulers, their cronies, and their families.

Tony Castro, who is a grandson of Fidel Castro, is on Instagram, where he has about 1300 followers. Until recently, ordinary citizens of Cuba weren’t allowed Internet access at all. But those rules don’t apply, of course, to members of the ruling dynasty.

Tony Castro at sea

Recently, the Miami Herald and other south Florida media published some photographs that young Tony (he’s reportedly in his twenties) has posted on his Instagram account. One of them shows Tony sunbathing on a yacht. Of course, ordinary Cubans can’t afford yachts – and if they boarded one, they’d be arrested pronto because the assumption would be that they were about to escape the island prison set up by Tony’s grandfather sixty years ago.

Another of Tony’s Instagram snaps showed him celebrating the birthday of an uncle at what looks like a pretty swanky bistro. He and his uncle raise a toast with champagne glasses. We’re talking here, of course, about the princeling of a country where basic food items are in extremely short supply.

Driving the BMW

In yet another picture we can see Tony at the wheel of a BMW. Need we comment?

Other pictures show him in Panama City, Panama; in Barcelona and Madrid; and at a Mexican beach resort, Ciudad del Carmen, which is located on the Gulf of Mexico and is known as “the pearl of the Gulf.” Needless to say, ordinary Cubans aren’t allowed to exit their own country under any circumstances, and certainly could never afford to visit places like these.

In Madrid

It’s been a long time since the Castros took over Cuba, but the rhetoric of revolution has never ceased. The people of Cuba may not get much in the way of good food, but they’re fed a huge daily diet of propaganda about the wonderful benefits of their glorious revolution and about the evils of capitalism. And more than a few suckers in the democratic capitalist world – some of them working for major media organizations – buy into this baloney.

Karl Vick

Take Karl Vick of Time Magazine, whom we wrote about in August 2015. This credulous jackass describes Cuba as a “security state” in order to avoid such unpleasant terms as “dictatorship” or “police state.” He has written: “People enjoy life in Cuba as in few other places.” When he claimed in a radio interview that Cuba could boast of certain achievements, he was asked to name one such achievement. “Social equity,” Vick said, and went on to assert that nobody in Cuba is “much higher than anybody else.”

“The pearl of the Gulf”

Vick isn’t alone in believing that – and in thinking that this supposed equity is enough to justify any disagreeable aspects of the Cuban regime. Of course, over the decades there has been ample testimony to the fact that the Castros live like kings and that the whole equity thing is a sham. But Tony Castro’s pictures – coming to light only days after the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, and at a time when a frightening number of young Americans consider socialism cool – provide a neat reminder of just what a lie Communism is.

Catching up with tyranny-loving Karl Vick

Karl Vick

Where to start with longtime Time magazine fixture Karl Vick?

With his breathtaking enthusiasm for Cuba’s Castro regime? As we noted in August 2015, this is a guy who, in describing the political system on that island, prefers to say “security state” rather than “police state” or “dictatorship” or “totalitarian prison.” Of all the idiots who find Cuba’s crumbling buildings and deteriorated infrastructure appealingly exotic, he’s one of the most high-profile and outspoken, celebrating the old cars and lousy plumbing in one of the stupidest cover stories ever to be run by a major newsmagazine. When he gushed in a radio interview over Havana’s “decaying glory,” his interviewer asked how decay could be glorious, and Vick, bubblehead that he is, fumfered around, finally answering the question with a synonym: “faded grandeur.”


Or should we focus on Vick’s consistently starry-eyed take on all things Islamic – his thumbs-up for the “Arab Spring,” his insistence that the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are moderate – and his equally consistent hostility toward Israel? For a 2010 cover story arguing that Israel is anti-peace, he won a “Dishonest Reporting Award” from Honest Reporting (HR) and was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League for echoing the stereotype that Jews are preoccupied with money. In later articles, Vick stuck to his guns, absurdly depicting Palestinians (in HR’s words) as “Gandhian acolytes” and describing Hamas’s commitment to the destruction of Israel as only “[n]ominal.”

Donald Trump: the truth hurts

In short, he’s a fool. And nothing has changed. For now, just one example. Last December, after Donald Trump’s election but before the inauguration, he warned that the president-elect was “making terrorist attacks more likely.” How? By taking a “them-against-us” approach. You’ve likely heard this argument before: when we’re honest about the nature of the jihadist enemy, we alienate “moderate Muslims,” perhaps even turning some of them into mass murderers. Vick quoted a Darmouth professor and former State Department grind who warned that ISIS was “now in a much better position to make the case that the West really is determined to destroy Islam.” Vick praised George W. Bush for having said, less than a week after 9/11, that “Islam is peace.”

ISIS, Trump: two sides of the same coin?

Does Vick think this is true? He doesn’t say. His argument is that, true or not, if you’re a president you’d better say such things. One is reminded of the familiar joke: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say otherwise, we’ll kill you. In a classic example of moral equivalency, Vick essentially cast Trump and ISIS as two sides of the same coin, both determined to drive Muslims and non-Muslims apart. Vick served up what should by now be a long-discredited canard that jihadist “extremism” is driven by “feelings of aggrievement.” No, it’s driven by a determination to conquer that is rooted in Islamic texts.

After the terrorist attack on Breitscheidplatz square in Berlin, December 19, 2016

Vick slammed Trump for reacting to last December’s terrorist attack in Berlin – the one that involved a truck and took 12 lives – by making the purely factual statement that “ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad.” In Vick’s view, apparently, if we want peace with Islam, we’ve got to keep mum about what is being done to Christians in the Middle East in the name of Allah. The one “glimmer of hope” (to use Vick’s own words) in the article was that “Trump may be educable.” In other words, he may yet learn from the MSM and Foggy Bottom hacks to tell supposedly strategic untruths.

Top ten stooges of 2015: part two

Yesterday we looked at the first five of our top ten useful stooges of 2015. Here are the rest. Again, these aren’t necessarily the very worst creeps we’ve written about here; they’re just a few of the people whose stoogery during the last year stood out in ways that we thought made them worth another quick look before we move on into 2016. 

vickKarl Vick  The dopey Time scribe gushed more than once in 2015 over Cuba’s “decaying glory” and “social equality” – by which he meant that every Cuban who’s not a member of the political elite is dirt-poor – and expressed concern that capitalism-friendly changes in that island prison might end this precious “equality” by actually raising the standard of living. This is the same guy who in 2010 won a “Dishonest Reporting Award” for a cover story, “Why Israel Doesn’t Care about Peace,” in which he vilified Israel and whitewashed Hamas, professing that its official commitment to destroying the Jewish state was only “nominal.”

cohen4Stephen F. Cohen  How could we leave Stephen F. Cohen out of this? He’s Putin’s most high-profile apologist, who – usually in league with his wife, moneyed Nation doyenne Katrina vanden Heuvel – keeps coming up with new ways to sell his hero in Moscow. In 2015, he co-founded the American Committee for East-West Accord, which pretends to promote “open, civilized, informed debate” on U.S.-Russian relations but, in the grand tradition of “committees” dedicated to U.S.-Soviet “peace,” “friendship,” and “understanding,” is patently nothing more or less than a pro-Kremlin propaganda operation. This is, after all, a dude who, in a June article, painted Ukraine’s leaders as savages and Putin as a gentle soul responding with restraint to their violent provocations. 

redfordRobert Redford  He’s directed movies crudely savaging capitalism (The Milagro Beanfield War) and lustily celebrating the despicable Maoists of the Weather Underground (The Company You Keep), and he produced The Motorcycle Diaries, a shameless hagiography of Che Guevara. In 2015 he played the lead role in Truth, one of the great cinematic falsehoods (and, fortunately, flops) in the entire history of Hollywood. Turning the facts of the 2004 Rathergate scandal upside down, the film transforms CBS Evening News anchorman Dan Rather – who lost his job for trying to sell the public on forged documents – into a hero who was fired for defending the truth. When this dreck was released in October, Redford, now 79, was out there promoting not only the picture but its profoundly mendacious message.  

seumas-milneSeumas Milne  The British Labour Party’s Executive Director of Strategy and Communications (i.e., spokesman), who was named to the post in October, is a famously poisonous critic of the U.S., capitalism, and Israel, and an ardent defender of Communism, Stalin, Castro, Che, Ahmadinejad, and Putin. Oh, and jihadists. A longtime reporter and commentator for The Guardian, Milne has praised the Soviet bloc for its “genuine idealism” and lamented West Germany’s annexation of East Germany because it meant “a loss of women’s rights, closure of free nurseries and mass unemployment.” Journalist Kate Godfrey, herself a Labourite, condemned Milne’s appointment as “morally and ethically wrong,” saying it “devalues everything that Labour stands for, and everything that Labour is.”

roger_waters1Roger Waters  For years, the former Pink Floyd front man has publicly compared Israel to Nazi Germany and severely chastized fellow celebrities for performing there. In 2013, his concerts featured “a pig-shaped balloon adorned with Jewish symbols, including a Star of David.” This October, in a particularly vicious open letter in Salon (where else?), he told Bon Jovi that by accepting an invitation to Israel they were allying themselves with child-killers. Ignoring his demand that they change their mind about the trip, Bon Jovi went ahead with their plans and went onstage before a Tel Aviv audience of 50,000 only minutes after two people were killed in a Jerusalem terrorist attack.

Che, an inspiration?

Time’s special Cuba issue, published earlier this year

Back in August we flipped through Time Magazine’s special summer issue about Cuba, in which Karl Vick and other writers sang the praises of that country and its people – and even, in some cases, of the Castro regime (which, Vick assured us, isn’t really totalitarian). In a follow-up piece, we quoted a mind-boggling statement made by Vick about the Castros’ island prison in an essay he’d written for Time a few months earlier: “Their country is poor and, without doubt, a security state, but also safe, literate and healthy. People enjoy life in Cuba as in few other places.”

As we commented at the time, “’security state’ is itself something of a euphemism: it sounds nicer than ‘police state’ or ‘dictatorship,’ and is, to say the least, a rather tame way of describing a country that will imprison and torture you for criticizing its leaders or advocating for democracy.” For good measure, we cited a radio interview with Vick by Warren Olney, whose sharp questioning showed up the inanity of Vick’s starry-eyed views about Cuba under the Castros – and about the country’s post-Castro prospects. As we put it, Vick actually seemed to believe that “Cubans are worried that as a result of changes to come, some of them will no longer be destitute.”


You might think that Time has already given Cuba’s jailers more than enough friendly ink this year. But apparently the magazine’s editors just can’t bring themselves to stop paying tribute to Cuba’s leaders and the heroes of its revolution. So it was that on October 9, the forty-eighth anniversary of Che Guevara’s death, Time‘s website ran a piece by Jennifer Latson headlined “How Che Guevara Didn’t Let Asthma Affect His Ambitions.” It began:

Che Guevara might have considered the United States his worst enemy, but he faced an even greater threat to his revolutionary ambitions: asthma.

Latson tells us that “Che was born premature—tiny and sickly” and that “his father took a rough approach to infant rearing,” leaving the diapered baby out on a balcony in cold winter weather. “Instead of toughening him up, however,” Latson recounts, this tough love left Che “with a persistent cough and severe asthma.”

Jennifer Latson

But did Che let this stop him? No. He “embrac[ed] the rowdiness of youth,” pausing in his fast-paced rugby games only to use his inhaler. And he followed the “rugged revolutionary road to Cuba,” where an explosion of rage over U.S. imperialism once sent him into a “terrifying” two-hour asthma attack.

At no point does Latson remind us that Che was a bloodthirsty monster who said Americans were “hyenas…fit only for extermination”; who confessed that he “liked killing”; who demanded that the rabble think as a “mass,” not as individuals, and that they obey the regime unquestioningly; who despised freedom of the press; who said, “When in doubt, execute.” No, Latson’s story follows a familiar journalistic formula – the inspirational story of how a great man or woman overcame youthful obstacles. Teddy Roosevelt growing from a sickly and (yes) asthmatic child into the very picture of brave, heroic manliness. FDR triumphing over polio. Helen Keller transcending blindness and deafness.

(FILES) In this 04 September1999 file photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro discusses his request to the president of the International Olympic Committee in Havana for an investigation into the treatment of certain Cuban atheletes. Castro said the communist nation is not afraid of dialogue with the United States -- and not interested in continued confrontation with its powerful neighbor. The comments came as a group of US lawmakers visited Cuba this weekend to try to end nearly half a century of mutual distrust and amid reports that President Barack Obama was planning to ease economic sanctions on the island, including travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans. "We're not afraid to talk with the United States. We also don't need confrontation to exist, like some fools like to think," Castro, 82, said in an article on the Cubadebate website on April 5, 2009. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE /FILES (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images) Original Filename: Was672139.jpg

Latson winds up her piece with what’s meant as a charming, amusing coda. At a cabinet meeting, Castro said he needed a new head of the National Bank and asked his fellow gangsters if any of them was an economist. Che raised his hand, but after the meeting it became clear that there’d been some confusion:

“Say, I never knew you were an economist,” said Fidel. “Economist!” said Che, astounded. “I thought you said Communist!”

Adorable, no?

Karl Vick, Hamas apologist

We’ve studied a few examples of Time correspondent Karl Vick‘s useful stoogery on behalf of the Castro regime as well as of sundry nefarious, primitive, and belligerent entities in the Middle East. But these efforts pale alongside his attempts to whitewash Hamas.

Karl Vick

In a November 2011 piece entitled “Hamas Edges Closer to the Mainstream: Agreeing to Nonviolence, Opening the Door to Recognizing Israel,” Vick wrote that on the Gaza Strip, Hamas had “largely enforced a truce with Israel since January 2009.” To be sure, Hamas had “signed a paper committing itself to ‘popular resistance’ against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories,” but Vick added: “That’s ‘popular’ in contrast to ‘violent’ or ‘military’ resistance. We’re talking marches here. Chanting and signs, not booby traps or suicide bombs.” But there was no reason whatsoever for Vick to interpret the word “popular” that way. As Pesach Benson of Honest Reporting (HR) commented at the time:

The peace-loving boys and girls of Hamas

When Palestinians say “popular” Vick hears “non-violent.” But what they mean is grassroots.

In the Palestinian dictionary, kids throwing stones at Israelis is grassroots “popular” resistance no less than adults holding a grassroots “popular” candlelight vigil.

Gilad Shalit wasn’t kidnapped by any old resistance committees. He was snatched and held captive by the Popular Resistance Committees. Their popularity comes from promising to kidnap more soldiers, not holding marches, witty chants, or clever signs.

A Hamas candlelight vigil

Vick served up more of the same nonsense in February 2012. “The mainstreaming of Hamas continues,” wrote Benson, “thanks to the obtuse dispatches of journos like Time’s Karl Vick.” The reference was to Vick’s article entitled “The Mainstreaming of Hamas Continues as Palestinian Unity Gains Steam.” In the piece, Vick unskeptically reported that Hamas, “which the West knows chiefly for its suicide attacks on Israel,” was putting violence behind it. Yes, Hamas remained “committed to the eradication of the Jewish State,” but Vick described this commitment as only “[n]ominal.” If Hamas had really changed its mind, why not publicly renounce its commitment to crushing Israel? Vick’s answer: “that’s an awful lot to expect of a militant group in the space of a few months.”

Rachel Corrie

It was Vick, too, who filed Time‘s 2012 report on the verdict in the case of Rachel Corrie, an American member of the radical International Solidarity Movement who was run over by an Israeli bulldozer during a 2003 protest, becoming a martyr to the anti-Israeli cause. The bulldozer driver said he hadn’t even seen Corrie; the judge agreed it was an accident. Vick’s take was predictable. Even the headline was tendentious: “Court Rebuffs Case of Slain U.S. Activist.” (As Honest Reporting’s Simon Plosker observed, “The usage of the adjective ‘slain’ or the verb ‘to slay’ usually means the violent killing of someone intentionally, the exact opposite of the Israeli court ruling.”) The judge, Vick wrote, “stood with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Israelis overwhelmingly do.” The implication, plainly, was that the verdict had had nothing to do with justice or the facts, but only with blind loyalty to the IDF.

No Time reader who’d been paying attention over the years to Vick’s reports from Jerusalem would be terribly surprised by his admission, in his article on the Corrie verdict, that his wife had actually worked as a volunteer helping Corrie’s parents while they were in Israel for the trial. That his editors knew about this connection and still let Vick report on the verdict – as if he could possibly write about it with any detachment – made it clear that not Karl Vick’s not the only Hamas stooge at Time. Or in the Vick household. 

Karl Vick, dishonest reporter

Karl Vick

In our last couple of outings, we met Karl Vick of Time Magazine, who in recent months has made a fool of himself gushing over the “charm” of Havana’s rubble and enthusing over Cuba’s “social equality” – meaning, of course, that everybody there except for members of the top brass is dirt-poor.

But in fact Vick’s role as a useful stooge for Castro is a new one. For the past few years, serving as Time‘s Jerusalem bureau chief, he’s served in the same capacity in relation to various armed entities in the Mideast which, despite their unwavering hatred and violence, he continually represents as having turned over a new leaf. He assured readers that the reformist rhetoric of the “Arab Spring” was totally legit; he’s insisted repeatedly that the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate force; and for years he’s been claiming that Hamas has turned friendly (or is about to turn friendly any minute now) toward Israel.

Meanwhile he routinely smears Israel.

Time cover-resizeTake his 2010 Time cover story “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace.” The article’s premise: while the world views Israel through the prism of “the blood feud with the Arabs whose families used to live on this land,” Israelis themselves are too busy “making money,” hanging around Tel Aviv cafes, and lying on the beach to care about the peace process. The Honest Reporting (HR) website gave Vick a “Dishonest Reporting Award” for the piece, noting that he “appears to subtly reject Israel’s historic claims to the land and to imply that Israelis are at fault in the conflict, since the land really belongs to the Arabs.” Also, he “distorts Israeli resilience in the face of a decade of rocket attacks and terrorism into an image of decadence.” While Israel, argued HR, had made numerous peace moves – “Ehud Barak’s offer of a state at Camp David, Ariel Sharon’s withdrawal from Gaza, Binyamin Netanyahu’s settlement freeze” – Vick “blame[d] Israel for years of stalemate”; at the same time, “[w]hile there have been no parallel moves from the Palestinians to advance the peace process, only ever-increasing demands on Israel, Vick gives the impression that the Palestinians have been doing everything they can to make peace possible.”

HR wasn’t the only outfit to criticize Vick’s article; the Anti-Defamation League protested too, saying that Vick’s “insidious subtext of Israeli Jews being obsessed with money echoes the age-old anti-Semitic falsehood that Jews care about money above any other interest, in this case achieving peace with the Palestinians.”

The article “Why Israel Doesn’t Care about Peace” featured this photo, captioned “Israelis at the beach in Tel Aviv”

A few months after Vick’s cover story, violent Syrians on the Golan Heights tried to charge across the Israeli border; Israel denied Syrian state media’s claim that IDF troops killed 22 of them. Vick reported it this way:

Television images on Sunday…showed apparently unarmed Palestinian civilians marching peacefully down a hill toward Israeli soldiers who had assumed firing positions. Then came a crackle of gunshots; bloodied bodies were then carried back up the hill. It went on for hours, with 20 people reported dead according to Syrian state television. The human cost was high but for a Palestinian movement trying to reframe itself, the footage at least set it on a course along on the lines of Birmingham, Soweto and Gandhi’s Salt March….

HR commented: “Aside from falsely presenting Palestinians as Gandhian acolytes, this description certainly does not correspond with other media reports that confirmed that the IDF had issued clear warnings in Arabic and fired tear gas before firing over the heads of the Palestinians in an attempt to convince them to halt. The use of live fire and then, only used selectively, was solely a last resort.”

A Palestinian woman and a child walk together on their way to a celebration for land that was recently returned to the Palestinians after Israel rerouted a section of it's controversial barrier which separates the Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit (seen in the background) and the West Bank village of Bilin, near Ramallah July 1, 2011. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman (WEST BANK - Tags: POLITICS)
This picture of a woman and child accompanied one of Vick’s articles on Palestinians

Not long afterward, a poll of Palestinians showed that 62% supported the kidnapping of IDF soldiers, 53% thought it was a good idea to teach children songs about hating Jews, and 73% approved of the indiscriminate killing of Jews. Most media reports on the poll downplayed these disturbing numbers, but Vick, according to HR, was the “[w]orst offender.” Recalling Vick’s article “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace,” based on “anecdotal street interviews with a few unrepresentative Israelis,” HR’s Simon Plosker asked: “what happened when Vick was presented with statistical evidence that it may be Palestinians and not Israelis who have issues with peace?” What happened was that Vick wrote the following:

Vick’s articles about Palestinians are rarely if ever accompanied by pictures like this

Palestinians are trudging down the same long road as Israelis. Yes, they want peace. No, they don’t think the other side will play ball. So for now their priority is private life: Getting food on the table and keeping the kids safe.

As Plosker observed, this was quite a contrast to Vick’s portrait of Israelis in his 2010 cover story: When a few random Israelis prioritized private issues over diplomacy, they aren’t interested in peace according to Vick’s previous article. But in his latest offering, when Palestinians say the same thing, they are presented as pro-peace despite rejecting a two-state solution and expounding Jew hatred.”

We’re not done. More tomorrow.

Karl Vick, Castro stooge

Karl Vick

Last week, we took a look at Time Magazine’s new special issue on Cuba, and in particular at the work of Time correspondent Karl Vick, who, in what we described as a “classic ‘to be sure’ sentence,” admitted that there’s some truth in Cuban exiles’ criticisms of the Castro regime, but maintained nonetheless that the country is not totalitarian.

As it turns out, Vick is a past master at those “to be sure” sentences about Cuba. A cover story he wrote about Cuba for a March issue of Time contains the following passage about Cubans: “Their country is poor and, without doubt, a security state, but also safe, literate and healthy. People enjoy life in Cuba as in few other places.” Of course, “security state” is itself something of a euphemism: it sounds nicer than “police state” or “dictatorship,” and is, to say the least, a rather tame way of describing a country that will imprison and torture you for criticizing its leaders or advocating for democracy.


Even more inane, however, were the remarks made by Vick in an April 1 interview with Warren Olney on the public-radio program To the Point.  Calling Cuba a “really intriguing place,” “the island that time forgot,” and a “really dynamic, really warm and convivial” country where the people “enjoy life,” etc., etc., Vick gushed over Havana’s “decaying glory” – in response to which Olney quite sensibly asked: “How is decay glorious?”

Vick didn’t know how to answer. “That’s a really good question,” he said. Plainly, it was a question he’d never asked himself while he was strolling around Havana breathlessly taking notes on the squalor or sitting at his desk banging out his fatuous cover story. He paused. Then he resumed talking, sounding lost, uncertain. He tried to paint the kind of picture of Havana that he’d painted in his article, but nothing he said remotely answered Olney’s question. In the end, after stumbling around for a while, all he managed to do was to cough up a synonym for “decaying glory”: “faded grandeur.”

There’s no kind way of saying it: he sounded like a first-rate fool.


But Olney wasn’t done with him. He asked: Isn’t the average wage in Cuba $25 a month? Vick admitted that it is, but was quick to add that “rent is free” and that using “dollar amounts” was “a bit misleading.” When Olney pointed out that even professionals in Cuba often need to hold menial jobs in the tourist industry to make ends meet, Vick again acknowledged that Olney was right. With a baffling chuckle, he recalled that during a visit to Cuba 17 years ago he’d been served by a waiter who was also a heart surgeon. Once again, however, he was quick to whitewash the problem: he actually seemed to imply that the doctor had taken the job waiting tables because he enjoyed meeting tourists. Besides, he told Olney, even though “everybody’s poor in dollars, in material ways,” the Cubans can boast of “some real social achievement.” What kind of achievement? “Social equity,” Vick said, explaining that nobody in Cuba is “much higher than anybody else.”

Social equality

In other words, they’re all paupers (except, he neglected to add, for the Castros themselves and other high-level officials). This equality, claimed Vick, “is one of the things that people are worried about losing with change.”

Yes, that’s a Time Magazine correspondent speaking: according to him, Cubans are worried that as a result of changes to come, some of them will no longer be destitute.

Warren Olney

Olney’s program – which also featured a travel agent specializing in Cuba, a spokeswoman for Roots of Hope, a U.S.-based group that works for change in Cuba, and (live from the island nation itself) a Cuban diplomat – was broadcast on Santa Monica station KCRW. At its website, a listener whose mother was from Cuba, and who vowed she would “never set foot in my mom’s homeland…until the people there are free,” praised Olney for pointing out Cubans’ poverty and lack of freedom. But she wasn’t impressed by Vick, to say the least. Reacting to his bizarre enthusiasm for an “equality” based on the fact that “everyone is dirt poor,” the listener pronounced, with admirable simplicity: “That’s some morality.”  And she made a salient point that somehow hadn’t come up at all on the program: she’d “have loved to hear some commentary from a Cuban dissident,” she wrote, “but they’re rather hard to reach because they live in a brutal police state.”

We’re done with Cuba for now, but not with Vick. Tune in tomorrow.

Time‘s love letter to Cuba

time-cuba-coverThe problem with Time Magazine‘s just-released special issue begins with the title. It’s called “Inside the New Cuba: Discovering the Charm of a Once-Forbidden Island: The People, The Culture, The Paradise.”

“Charm”? “Paradise”?

Yes, there’s certainly a great deal of natural beauty in Cuba. But the title of this special issue seems designed to suggest that Cuba, under its present management, is some kind of Eden to which Americans, until now, have been denied entry.

Much of the issue is the usual travel-reportage fluff with little political content. In one pieceKarl Vick poses that burning question: “When long-forbidden Cuban cigars become more available to Americans, will they maintain their aroma of glamour?” Vick, a cigar aficionado who spends several paragraphs recounting his own experiences with “Cedros” and “Lanceros” and “Bolivar Gigantes” (these are different types of Cuban cigars), fears that those stogies will lose a “certain cachet,” “the mystique of the forbidden.” The key paradox of this special issue is that even as Time‘s authors fret about the impact that American tourists and businesses and capitalist-style materialism will have on Fidel’s island paradise, the whole product is explicitly designed to be purchased by potential American tourists, whom it encourages in every sentence to book a flight to Havana and consume away.

Fidel Castro

But the issue does touch on politics from time to time – and when it does, it’s not pretty. In one article, Vick actually dismisses the notion that the Castro regime is totalitarian and that the Cuban people are victims – a view he attributes to Cuban exiles who live in Miami and whose opinions can’t be taken seriously because they’re giving voice to their own personal frustrations and resentments. While admitting, in a classic “to be sure” sentence, that there are facts that support the exiles’ arguments about the Castro regime, Vick insists that the Miami Cubans toward the Castros is “at heart a neighborhood grudge match.” The statement is breathtaking in its glibness and moral blindness – an insult to every free-thinking Cuban writer, artist, democracy activist, and gay person ever imprisoned, tortured, or executed in the name of the Revolution.

Let’s hope the American tourists don’t ruin this

But then, as Joel Pollak observed after perusing Time‘s special issue, the people who put it together seem less interested in entertaining the pleasant possibility that the coming years may bring greater freedom for the people of Cuba than in fretting over the supposed likelihood of “a different kind of change – namely, the prospect of thousands of rich American tourists arriving and demanding creature comforts that will ruin the island’s charm.”

More next time.