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"But they have great health care...!"

I was flying over Cuba the other day, looking out the window of my plane to see as much as I could of the country below. I didn't see much -- a patchwork of different shades of brown, bisected by the occasional large highway and punctuated with a handful of irrigation circles. I tried looking for baseball fields, but at forty thousand feet, they were impossible to discern if they were indeed there.

I was reminded of a recent Democratic Underground thread in which the DUmmies were positively fawning over Fidel Castro for raising the Cuban minimum wage to $9.40 a month. Yes, that's nine dollars and forty cents. Per month. I wish I were joking, but I'm not.

To be fair, there were a few voices of sanity in the thread, but it was dismaying to see opposition to U.S. policy manifest itself as a glorification of Castro. I had hoped that such damned nonsense would have gone out of style in the in 1960s.

Look, I could probably find some common ground with the DU crowd on this issue, because I feel that the Cuban embargo is a counterproductive, Cold War anachronism, that survives more because of domestic electoral politics than global geopolitics. Opposition to U.S. policy is one thing, but when it leads to the simple-minded Castrophilia, it is both offensive and perverse.

The Castrophiles should be asked to explain why so many Cubans routinely risk life and liberty to stack themselves like cordwood on an overturned house roof, or something equally unseaworthy, to brave 90 miles of shark-infested waters in a desperate bid to reach Key West. Have they merely been suckered into believing American propaganda? Do they simply not realize how much better they have it in their island paradise, with their vaunted health care system?

(There is, of course, ample evidence that Cuba's wonderful health care system is as mythical as a chimera. Even if it weren't, however, anyone who would willingly exchange his political freedom for a better PPO plan is a disgraceful, pathetic excuse for a human being.)

Even better, these Castrophiles should spend some time talking with actual Cubans. Whenever I meet a Cuban-American, I'm obviously tempted to discuss politics with him, but I avoid bringing up the subject out of politeness. I've found, however, that you typically don't have to wait very long before they venture into the topic themselves.

I've had all of this on my mind lately, because I've just finished a business deal in which I met and spoke with a number of people from this area's Cuban-American community. You don't have to spend much time around them to realize they're more repulsed by Castro than we are. With them, you see, it's personal.

There was one man in particular, a kindly, elderly man whom I'll call Mr. A. He is a gentle soul unless and until the subject of Castro comes up -- which with him, it inevitably does, even if it's a complete non sequitur. I've spent probably a grand total of 45 minutes in his presence my entire life, and the topic came up several times in conversation. Most recently, it was in the course of discussing the "lottery" system, by which certain Cubans may gain entry into the U.S. "When they kill Castro," Mr. A opined, "that will be the real lottery."

"Indeed," as you-know-who would say.