Samuel L. Jackson, Twitter militant

Samuel L. Jackson

We have to admit that we misinterpreted the headline at the Fox News website the other day. “Samuel L. Jackson,” it read, “doesn’t care if his Trump stance costs him fans.” Given that virtually everybody in Hollywood these days is an open, all-out, full-throated, full-time critic of President Trump, we assumed that Jackson must be an exception. Nope! He’s a member of the chorus, accusing Trump of “ruining the planet” and comparing him to a plantation owner.

It’s not clear why this is suddenly news, because a little research shows that Jackson, in addition to being an big Hollywood movie star known for such films as Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Django Unchained, has been pursuing something of a side career as a dyspeptic political commentator for a long time.

Stokely Carmichael

And before he was an actor, he wasn’t just a man of words – he was a man of action. At Morehouse College in the Sixties, he was a real live student radical. In 1969, he and several confrères held some of the college’s trustees hostage – yes, you read that right – in an effort to force the administration to make curricular changes. Later he got involved with Black Power leaders like Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown. “I was in that radical faction,” Jackson told People magazine in 2008. “We were buying guns, getting ready for armed struggle.”

H. Rap Brown

Fortunately for Jackson, his mother slapped some sense in him. He ended up studying drama and “decided that theater would now be my politics.” So instead of ending up in prison, like H. Rap Brown, he now lives in the gated community of Beverly Park, California, in a Tudor-style house that’s been profiled in Architectural Digest, and until last year also owned an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that was listed for $13 million. Now, instead of armed struggle, his personal revolution takes the form of political rants delivered via Twitter or in media interviews.

Back in 2012, for example, he told Politico that he’d voted for Barack Obama in 2008 “because he was black.” But in the end Obama hadn’t proven to be black enough for him. “Because, what’s a [N-word]? A [N-word] is scary. Obama ain’t scary at all. [N-words] don’t have beers at the White House. [N-words] don’t let some white dude, while you in the middle of a speech, call [him] a liar. A [N-word] would have stopped the meeting right there and said, ‘Who the **** said that?’”

Too black, or not black enough?

In an interview the next year, however, Jackson seemed to feel that Obama had become too black. According to The Independent, he“took issue with the US President dropping the ‘G’s at the end of his words.” Jackson offered the President this advice: “stop trying to ‘relate’. Be a leader. Be ****ing presidential.” He went on: “Look, I grew up in a society where I could say ‘I ain’t’ or ‘what it be’ to my friends. But when I’m out presenting myself to the world as me, who graduated from college, who had family who cared about me, who has a well-read background, I ****ing conjugate.” Jackson also predicted that “If Hillary Clinton decides to run, she’s going to kick their ****ing asses, and those mother****ers” – the Republicans – “would rather see the country go down in flames than let the times change.”

P.T. Barnum?

When Donald Trump stepped onto the political stage, Jackson was quick to compare him to P.T. Barnum. There ensued a Twitter war between the actor and the real-estate mogul, who in more congenial times, it turned out, had been golf buddies. Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Jackson said that “If that mother****er becomes president, I’m moving my black [posterior] to South Africa.” (After Election Day 2016, however, he said he wasn’t moving anyplace.) Visiting Dubai in December 2016, Jackson expressed concern that Trump would “destroy Hollywood.” Yes, destroy Hollywood. “Hopefully we will be able to keep working and he won’t shut Hollywood down,” he said. “You know he could say, ‘Hollywood didn’t support me,’ so that’s it. Who knows what could happen.” There was no sign that Jackson was kidding.

In an April 2017 ad for a congressional candidate in Georgia, Jackson said: “Stop Donald Trump, the man who encourages racial and religious discrimination and sexism.” Last June, the actor sent the President a sarcastic happy-birthday tweet in which he implied that Trump and several of his closest associates, including Rudy Giuliani, were gay. In other tweets, Jackson has called Trump a “Hemorrhoid,” a “Busted Condom,” and a “canker sore.”

Lying Fratboy?

People with a connection to Trump have also incurred Jackson’s wrath. During the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, Jackson tweeted about the judge’s “Lying Fratboy [Posterior].” He’s also harsh on black conservatives, comparing his character in Django Unchained, a house slave who believes in slavery and loves his master, to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Jackson poses as a tough-talking, street-smart guy who’s saying the gutsy things that nobody else dares say. In fact, nothing that he says about politics deviates in the slightest from the Hollywood party line. Nothing he says will ruffle the feathers of any of the friends and colleagues whom he encounters on movie sets and at awards ceremonies and at chic Beverly Hills eateries. But of course he’s not just another Tinseltown robot: he’s a guy who came frighteningly close to having a short and sanguinary career of beating people up and killing cops. So Donald Trump, and others whom Jackson despises, should count themselves lucky that his weapon of choice these days is not a 12-gauge shotgun and a Twitter account.

Gasp! The Guardian tells the truth about Mao

Mao Zedong

When we glance at the Guardian, the favored newspaper of Britain’s left-wing elites, we’re used to seeing nonstop demonizing of moderates, libertarians, and conservatives alongside articles in which the virtue of socialism is taken for granted and out-and-out Communism is whitewashed. So it came as something of a shock, last Saturday, to encounter a more than 3,000-word essay in the Guardian that presented a sane and sober view of Maoism. The author, Julia Lovell, whose book Maoism: A History has just been published, began by referencing “the strange, looming presence of Mao in contemporary China,” which, despite its radical economic changes over the past few decades, is, she explained, “still held together by the legacies of Maoism.” Even though the utopianism of the Cultural Revolution era has been replaced by authoritarian capitalism, wrote Lovell, the ghost of Mao still hovers over the nation of one billion-plus, and can be found in, among other things, “the deep politicisation of its judiciary; the supremacy of the one-party state; the intolerance of dissident voices.” Moreover, Xi Jinping has resurrected the long-dormant personality cult of Mao.

Xi Jinping

And the West, warns Lovell, has largely failed to notice. For decades, observing China’s economic success from afar, many Westerners have assumed that China has been gradually changing, that it has been becoming a place less alien to us, a nation more like our own. Wrong, insists Lovell. “The opposite has happened,” she writes. She points out – and this hadn’t even occurred to us – that if the Chinese Communist Party is still in charge five years from now, it will have outlasted the reign of its Soviet counterpart.

But you don’t have to go to China to find Maoism. You never did. Maoism, Lovell reminds us, has inspired revolts in countries ranging from Cambodia Peru – revolts in which, as she admirably underscores, millions of people died. For eight decades, Maoist thought has been “a pivotal influence on global insubordination and intolerance.”

Julia Lovell

And what is Maoism, as opposed to Soviet-style Marxism? Lovell is helpful here. Unlike Stalin, Mao presided over “guerrilla wars deep in the countryside.” He preached “revolutionary zeal” and “anarchic insubordination” and “a pathological suspicion of the educated.” Stalin was no less evil and bloodthirsty than Mao, but the USSR never had an equivalent to Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The most radical ’68ers in the West looked not to the Kremlin but to Mao, especially his “message to his youthful Red Guards that it was ‘right to rebel.’” Mao posters adored dorm rooms in American college; copies of The Little Red Book abounded. In fact, the Black Panthers – that terrorist group now celebrated in chic leftist circles – “sold Little Red Books to generate funds to buy their first guns.” In West Germany, the violent but trendy Red Army Faction (also known as the Baader-Meinhof group) parroted lines from Mao, such as “imperialism and all reactionaries [are] paper tigers.” Today, Maoist insurgents threaten peace and freedom in 20 of India’s 28 states, and “self-avowed Maoists” now rule Nepal. So much for Francis Fukuyama’s declaration after the fall of the Iron Curtain that “the end of history” was at hand. “Write Maoism back into the global history of the 20th century,” emphasizes Lovell,, then, and you get a “different narrative from the standard one in which communism loses the cold war in 1989.” With China now challenging America’s economic superiority and global power, it makes no sense whatsoever to pretend that Communism lost out to capitalism thirty years ago.

Letting Ilhan slide

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Rashida Tlaib. Ilhan Omar. Among the many things that this callow, determined, and dangerously fanatical trio of high-profile freshman House members have in common is an undisguised anti-Semitism.

Ilhan Omar

But if at this point you had to single out one of these young women for her Jew-hatred, it would have to be Omar, the hijab-wearing Gentlelady from Minnesota. Posting on Twitter in 2012, Omar expressed the wish that Allah would “awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

Later, while serving in the Minnesota state legislature, Omar compared Israel to apartheid South Africa and stood up for the BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement, which uniquely targets Israel for punishment for its purported human-rights offenses.

House of Representatives

During her 2016 campaign for the U.S. House, Omar denied supporting the BDS movement. Not long after her election, in an interview with a Muslim publication, she affirmed her support for it. In Islam there is a word for lying to the infidel in the service of Allah: taqiyya.

In 2018, when someone dug up her 2012 tweet about Israel’s evildoings, she was widely criticized and apologized for it – kind of. But before long she was at it again. In a mid February tweet about the pro-Israel Beltway lobby, she hinted at stereotypical notions of Jewish avarice, thereby crossing a line that used to be respected by politicians of both parties on Capitol Hill. There ensued more criticism – and another sort-of-apology.

Rashida Tlaib, current runner-up in the House anti-Semitic sweepstakes

Days later, she essentially took the apology back. At a bookstore appearance on February 27, Omar told her audience that she considers it important to talk about the divided national loyalties of some political operatives and complained that those accusing her of anti-Semitism were just trying to keep her from introducing that discussion. Yet again Omar was in hot water: accusing American Jews of double allegiance is an old and familiar anti-Semitic trope. In any event, while concerned about the political influence of American Jews, she showed no interest in the powerful Washington lobbies of countries like Saudi Arabia.

Nancy Pelosi

By this point, Democratic Party leaders may or may not have been genuinely upset by Omar’s manifest anti-Semitism, but they were definitely concerned about its impact on the party’s fortunes. With that in mind, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that a resolution condemning anti-Semitism would be put to a vote in the House on Wednesday, March 6.

The resolution was apparently a lame piece of work to begin with: in a draft that circulated on March 5, Omar wasn’t even mentioned by name. Even so, it turned out that the leaders couldn’t scrape together enough votes. New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote that while “older House Democrats” deplored Omar’s remarks about Jews, “their young liberal colleagues” felt that Omar was “being singled out for unfair treatment.”

Eliot Engel

On March 5, Pelosi and company announced a postponement: at the behest of the House Progressive Caucus, the resolution would be rewritten to condemn Islamophobia as well. As for Omar’s prized seat on the powerful House Foreign Affairs Committee – an appointment that was indefensible to begin with – the chairman of that committee, Eliot Engel of New York, told CNN’s Erin Burnett that he wasn’t even “close to” taking it away. “I’m looking to get rid of anti-Semitism, not looking to punish anybody,” said Engel, who himself is Jewish. Early on March 7, it appeared that the whole resolution thing had totally fizzled. That night, by a vote of 407-23, the House passed an anti-hate resolution that was so absurdly broad that Omar herself was able to support it. During the vote she was seen in the House chamber sharing a laugh with a colleague.

So it was that this lame, half-hearted effort to respond to Ilhan Omar’s Jew-hatred only underscored, in the end, just how devoid of backbone the Democratic Party has become on what should be the most clear-cut of moral issues.

Kentucky Fried Communism

Colonel Harlan David Sanders (1890-1980), KFC founder

We’ve criticized the New York Times frequently enough on this site for its readiness to soft-pedal the evils of Communism, to sentimentalize the enduring devotion of aging Stalinists, and to assert that in some ways the ideology that gave us the Gulag, the Killing Fields, and the Cultural Revolution was, quite simply, preferable to our own.

But we have to give credit where it’s due, and the Times did deserve a thumbs-up when, in April of last year, it ran a piece by Alexandra Stevenson about the ominous way in which the Chinese Communist Party is asserting its power over international firms doing business within its borders.

Even more ominous is the alacrity with which the firms are knuckling under.

A display of some Cummins products

Stevenson provided some specifics: “Honda, the Japanese automaker, changed its legal documents to give the party a say in how its Chinese factories are run.” When Cummins, an engine manufacturer based in Indiana, named a new manager for one of its Chinese subsidiaries, Beijing put the kibosh on the appointment, and Cummins obediently agreed to new “articles of association” with the Communist state.

A KFC in China

Since Stevenson’s article appeared, things seem to have gone from bad to worse. At least that’s the impression one gets from a recent Associated Pressstory about Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). On March 5, according to the report, the fried-chicken empire opened a new restaurant in the city of Changsha in the province of Hunan that is specifically dedicated to the memory of its local hero, Lei Feng.

You may have heard of Horst Wessel, the storm trooper who died at age 22 and who was thereafter transformed into the center of a Nazi personality cult. The official anthem of the Nazi Party was called the “Horst Wessel Song.”

Some images of Lei Feng by Chinese children

Think of Feng, who coincidentally also died at age 22, as Communist China’s answer to Horst Wessel. After his death in 1962 when a telephone pole fell on him, he began, at the direction of Mao himself, to be officially celebrated as the perfect embodiment of Communist virtue. As one Guardian reporter has put it, he was depicted as “the epitome of selflessness, socialist spirit and devotion to Mao.”

A Lei Feng propaganda poster

The problem is that even ordinary Chinese citizens recognize the whole thing as a crock. Feng’s published “diary,” a book-length paean to the virtues of Mao, is said to be an obvious posthumous forgery. Also fishy, to quote the Guardian, are “the numerous, professional-quality photographs that mysteriously captured every good deed by a then anonymous soldier.”

But who cares about the truth when you’re out to make a buck? KFC, like other international companies in love with Chinese cash (it has some 6000 restaurants in the People’s Republic), has decided to go along with the Party propaganda. “Lei Feng has been the role model for generations of Chinese,” KFC’s Hunan honcho, He Min, told the Xinhua News Agency, adding that the new KFC branch “will spare no effort to promote his spirit.”

The date of the KFC branch opening was no coincidence: in China, March 5 is Lei Feng Day.

Now Roger Waters is supporting Maduro

Roger Waters

Here at Useful Stooges, we call Roger Waters “Old Reliable.” Heaven knows there are plenty of useful stooges in show business. Some of them adore the Castro regime in Cuba. Some hate Israel and want to see its Jewish inhabitants driven into the sea. Some speak of burning down the White House. Some support Antifa vandalism and the violent closing down of the free speech of people with whom they disagree. Some blindly follow hijab-wearing “feminist” leaders with histories of defending Islamic gender apartheid.

Robbie Williams

Roger Waters, the 75-year-old rocker and former Pink Floyd front man, put almost all of them in the shade. He’s spoken up for Hamas, painted Iran as a victim, and served as a member of the UN’s discredited Russell Tribunal. He’s not only compared Israel to Nazi Germany but also accused it of “apartheid” and “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” and held concerts featuring a large, airborne “pig-shaped balloon adorned with Jewish symbols, including a Star of David.” He’s such a fierce enemy of Israel that he’s written accusatory open letters to other entertainers, such as Robbie Williams and Bon Jovi, trying to browbeat them into canceling gigs in Israel and telling them that, if they didn’t obey, they had the blood of children on their hands.

Last November, we reported on a new wrinkle: Waters, it turned out, was part of a shady campaign to shake down Chevron to the tune of billions of dollars.

Jair Bolsonaro

Now Waters is at it again. As Marcelo Duclos put it last month in an article for the Panam Post, he’s “always on the same side: the wrong one.” Namely, the side of totalitarianism. Performing last year in Brazil, he told his audiences that Jair Bolsonaro, the anti-Marxist who was then running for president and is now in office, represented the “resurgence of fascism.” While he presumably expected his fans to cheer, many of them booed.

Jon Guaido

Not that he learned a lesson from it. On February 3, Waters took to Twitter to offer his two cents on the current developments in Venezuela. As readers of this site well know, most of the democratic countries of the Western Hemisphere have supported the claim of National Assembly leader Juan Guaido to be the legitimate president of that country; only Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Bolivia, and three small Caribbean island nations have stuck by the incompetent Marxist dictator Nicolas Maduro – along with such stellar international players as Iran, Belarus, Russia, China, Syria, and Equatorial Guinea. No points for guessing which side Waters is on.

Nicolas Maduro

In his February 3 tweet, Waters told the U.S. to “LEAVE THE VENEZUELAN PEOPLE ALONE” and claimed that Venezuela, under Maduro, enjoys a “REAL DEMOCRACY” superior to those of the United Kingdom and United States. He added the hashtag #STOPTRUMPSCOUPINVENEZUELA. Duclos quoted a reply by one of Waters’s fans: “I’m crying. My biggest musical idol has just defended the government that ruined my country and my family, which forced me to leave my own country to seek a better quality of life. Roger, you have no idea what is happening in Venezuela.” This fan was not alone in chiding Waters for his ignorance and his unconcern for Maduro’s victims.

Will he listen? There is no reason to expect him to. “Tho[ugh] his lyrics routinely decry authoritarianism, government power, and assaults on freedom,” Duclos pointed out, “it seems these things receive a pass from Waters when a left-wing government is the culprit.”

Kamala’s Castroite conquest

Sen. Kamala Harris

In the view of CNN, the news amounted to a triumph for Kamala Harris. In an “analysis” posted on February 14, Nia-Malika Henderson, the news network’s Senior Political Reporter, said that the just-announced endorsement of the first-term California senator by Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) was the presidential candidate’s “biggest endorsement to date” and represented “an undeniable boost.” Lee, noted Henderson, had not only thrown her support to Harris but also agreed to co-chair her California campaign.

Rep. Barbara Lee

To underscore the importance of Lee’s backing, Henderson described Lee as an “all-around anti-war and social justice activist star” and “progressive icon” and observed that she “has been called ‘the House’s lefty conscience.’” She was, Henderson pointed out, “the only member of Congress to vote against authorization for the use of force in the days after 9/11.” By teaming up with Harris, Lee was helping the senator to “burnish her progressive credentials.” Moreover, Lee’s announcement “might also foreshadow a show of force” by other “progressive stalwarts” such as Maxine Waters.

The tone of Henderson’s “analysis” of the Lee endorsement was not unique. Other mainstream news media also depicted it as a great leap forward for Harris, and described Lee in similarly glowing terms.

What Henderson omitted, and what many other media reports also chose not to mention, was the – shall we say – complex reality behind the carefully cultivated image of Lee as “icon” and “conscience” and “star.”

Armed Black Panthers at the State Capitol in Sacramento on May 2, 1967

For one thing, this is a woman who began her career as a member of the Black Panthers – and who, as recently as 2017, supported the use of funds from the National Park Services (NPS) budget to pay tribute to the Panthers’ memory with something called the Black Panther Party Research, Interpretation & Memory Project. When the NPS decided not to spend its resources on the project, Lee issued a livid statement that described the Black Panther Party – that violent group of murderous revolutionary thugs – as “an integral part of the civil rights movement.”

Judge Richard Goldstone

Lee also voted against condemning the so-called Goldstone Report, that scandalous United Nations document that whitewashed Palestinian terrorism while falsely accusing the Israeli Defense Forces of deliberately targeting Arab civilians. Even the report’s lead author, South African judge Richard Goldstone, ultimately withdrew his imprimatur from it – but not Lee.

Perhaps most appalling, Lee has been a stalwart supporter of the Cuban Communist regime and was personally chummy with Fidel Castro. Over the years, she visited Cuba more than twenty times and met with Fidel on eight of those occasions.

The now infamous picture of Elian Gonzales being removed by U.S. federal agents from the home of his Miami relatives on April 22, 2000, so that he could be retuned to Cuba.

It was Lee who played the key role in the reprehensible return to Cuba, in the year 2000, of six-year-old Elian Gonzales, whose mother had perished at sea in her effort to bring him to freedom in the U.S.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2014 on a 2009 memo by Fidel documenting a five-hour meeting at his Havana home with Lee, who was there to serve as a liaison with the new Obama administration.

“We need to stop and pause and mourn his loss.”

When Fidel died in November 2016, Lee said that she was “very sad for the Cuban people” and claimed that Fidel had brought “social improvements” to the island. Yes, she admitted, Cubans had experienced hard times, but Lee put a bright face on them: gasoline rationing forced them to ride bikes, and that brought down “their rates of diabetes and high blood pressure.” Calling Fidel “a smart man” and a “historian,” Lee said: “We need to stop and pause and mourn his loss.”

But that wasn’t all: when then President-elect Trump issued a statement calling Castro “a brutal dictator” whose “legacy” was “one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights,” Lee lit into him, saying his comments on Castro were “not presidential at all….This not how you react as a world leader.”

This, then, is the “icon” who has now joined up with the presidential campaign of Kamala Harris. Make of that development what you will.

In Seoul, a waning Moon

Moon Jae-in

On February 5, The Diplomat ran an article by Tae-jun Kang whose headline asked the question: “Is Moon Jae-in Becoming a Lame Duck?” Noting that presidents of South Korea serve five-year terms and are ineligible for re-election, Kang explained that there’s a saying in that country: “the nightmare of the third year makes the president a lame duck.” As it happens, President Moon, the incumbent, will begin his third year in office in May – and “signs of the ‘nightmare’ for Moon and his government,” wrote Kang, “have already begun to emerge.”

It sounds fatalistic – as if Moon’s “nightmare” were foreordained. In fact, as Kang goes on to explain, Moon would appear to have surrounded himself with a bunch of crooks. There are so many of them that it can be hard to keep track of them all.

Sohn Hye-won

One of them is legislator Sohn Hye-won, who is suspected of covert involvement in the purchase of properties that were later officially designated as cultural assets, thus automatically enhancing their values. In late January, in a bizarre effort to prove her innocence, she offered to donate her collection of lacquerware to the government.

Another of Moon’s party hacks is legislator Seo Young-kyo, who purportedly asked a judge to reduce the punishment for a crony’s son accused of attempted sexual abuse. Yet another member of the party, Moon’s economic advisor Kim Hyun-chul, resigned on January 29 over some remarks about South Korean retirees and allies that were deemed offensive.

Moon Da-hye

Then there’s Moon’s daughter, Moon Da-hye, who recently moved out of the country with her husband and children, the supposed reason for which was that her husband had embezzled $2.7 million of a government subsidy received by his employer and left the country to protect his assets from seizure.

Finally, there’s Kim Kyung-soo, governor of the South Gyeongsang province and a former Moon campaign aide, who was sentenced on January 30 to two years behind bars for helping to rig an opinion survey.

As a result of all this, Moon’s approval rating has dropped from a high of over 70 percent to below 50 percent.

Kim Kyung-Soo

In a January 22 piece for the East Asia Forum, Kim Kee-seok, a political scientist at Kangwon National University, was even blunter than Kang. Whereas Kang’s headline ended in a question mark, Kim’s made a firm statement: “Moon’s popularity wanes as South Korea’s economy stalls.” As the headline indicates, Kim, unlike Kang, cited the nation’s faltering economy as a reason for Moon’s declining fortunes. Kim also mentioned the failure of the North Korea peace initiative to bear any fruit thus far.

But Kim, like Kang, also focused on corruption. Whereas Kang itemized the sleazy presidential sidekicks and family members who are dropping like flies, Kim attended not to these specifics but to the general issue of reform.

As Kim put it, South Korean voters who “demanded fundamental innovation of the political system,” including changes in the constitution, electoral process, and judicial system, become “sceptical of the prospects for innovations of this kind as the Moon administration continues to lose golden time.” We could hardly put it better ourselves. In 2017, Moon Jae-in made big promises to an electorate that’s increasingly sick of routine corruption at the highest levels of politics and business – and he’s utterly failed to deliver on them.

No, Cuba is not getting better

Fidel Castro

One country we haven’t neglected on this site is Cuba. We’ve written about American TV reporter Lisa Howard’s romance with Fidel Castro, about Israeli actress Gal Gadot’s plans to make a movie about their liaison, about the late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s affection for Fidel Castro, about a celebration of Che Guevara in Norwegian Air’s inflight magazine, about a big, splashy fashion show held by Karl Lagerfeld in Havana, about a movie about Hemingway that whitewashed Cuban Communism, about a USA Today whitewash of Cuban Communism, about an Agence France Press whitewash of Cuban Communism, about a Time Magazine whitewash of Cuban Communism…and so on.

Obama in Havana

If we’re particularly attentive to Cuba, it’s partly because it’s so close to the U.S. and partly because its Communist regime has long been an object of affection for many stateside useful stooges. Many people on the left who would readily acknowledge that the Soviet Union and Mao’s China were unworthy of admiration nonetheless had a soft spot for Castro and his cronies. These same people warmed to one of the major initiatives of Barack Obama’s presidency, the opening to Cuba, which they presented as evidence that the island nation was transitioning, slowly but surely, to something resembling democracy.

Jose Marti International Airport in Havana

Obama may have reneged on his promise to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, but he made a great show of opening the first U.S. Embassy in Havana since the Cuban Revolution. He authorized the resumption of commercial air flights, holiday cruises, and mail service between the U.S. and Cuba. He allowed the Cuban government to open bank accounts in the U.S. and removed it from the official list of state sponsors of terrorism. And in March 2016 he made a high-profile visit to the island.

U.S. Embassy in Havana

At first Obama had said he would make such a visit only if there were real signs that Cubans were being given more freedom. But he ended up going even though such indicators as the number of arrests of political dissidents turned out to be on the rise. A Boston Globe headline in February 2016 read “Obama Breaks Pledge – Will Visit Cuba Despite Worsening Human Rights.” His Deputy National Security Advisor, Ben Rhodes, even went so far as to dispel suggestions that Obama was out to encourage an end to, or softening of, Cuban Communism: if past U.S. policies had sent the message “that the United States was seeking to pursue regime change” on the island, said Rhodes, “Obama will make clear that the United States is not a hostile nation seeking regime change.” Well, full points for honesty, if for nothing else.

Ben Rhodes

In point of fact, Obama’s Cuba policy gave a great deal to the Cuban regime and asked virtually nothing of it. U.S. officials admitted that the thinking behind Obama’s one-way generosity was that it would somehow encourage reforms – an assumption that was, at best, remarkably naïve and ill-informed. Among the critics of Obama’s new approach was Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who in a passionate speech on the floor of the Senate said that the sight of the U.S. President “laughing and shaking hands with the only dictatorship in the western Hemisphere” made him think of Cuban dissident “Berta Soler of the Ladies in White and her fellow human rights and democracy advocates.”

Elliott Abrams

Elliott Abrams, who has held major diplomatic posts under several presidents, agreed with Menendez, writing that Obama’s visit to Cuba “weakens the chances for freedom in Cuba because it is organized around encouraging the current regime rather than pressuring it for change.” Abrams added: “There is no evidence that the president will meet with the key–and incredibly courageous–dissidents who struggle at enormous sacrifice for freedom in Cuba. There is no evidence he even comprehends that most of the economic benefits of his opening to Cuba are accruing to the regime and the armed forces.”

Miguel Diaz-Canel

President Trump reversed many of Obama’s Cuba policies – and was criticized severely for it by those who shared Obama’s view that the way to make dictators nice is to make nice with dictators. Unfortunately, many blinkered folks in the U.S. and elsewhere actually believe that Cuba is undergoing serious reforms. As evidence of this proposition, they point to the selection of a new Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, in April of last year. The fact that Díaz-Canel is not a member of the Castro family is cited as a sign of hope – although the fact is that Raul Castro remains head of the Communist Party and thus the nation’s de facto leader.

Diaz-Canel with Maduro

In reality Díaz-Canel’s ascent to the presidency means nothing. The first foreign leader he met with after his inauguration was Nicolás Maduro. On February 4 the Madrid-based Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (COHR) reported that at least 179 arbitrary detentions had taken place in Cuba during the month of January. While the already horrible economic situation in Cuba is deteriorating, oppression is intensifying. A new Constitution – which is presented by the government as some kind of advance over its predecessor but which makes only cosmetic alterations while reaffirming the Communist system of government – has been a focus of protest, and the COHR expressed concern in its report “about the increasing aggressiveness of the police against activists who peacefully demonstrate NO to the Constitution” and about the more general effort to “crush any dissent surrounding the new Constitution.”

More dire news arrived on February 10. Cuban activists announced on social media that Claudio Fuentes Madan, a photographer and campaigner for freedom in Cuba, had been missing for two days. One report stated that he had been arrested. Also missing was Antonio G. Rodiles, founder of a dissident think tank. So much for the callow belief on the part of Obama & co. that their Cuban counterparts were committed to gradual democratization.

South Korea’s top judge is behind bars

Samsung HQ, Seoul

In our ongoing coverage of corruption in South Korea, we’ve focused mainly on the leaders of the chaebols – Samsung, Hyundai, and the other massive family-run conglomerates that are the engines of that country’s economy – and on the top politicians with whom they routinely exchange illegal bribes for illegal favors. As we’ve noted, the politicians who get caught participating in these shady shenanigans often end up with long prison terms, while the members of chaebol royalty either escape prosecution, evade incarceration, or – at worst – spend brief periods behind bars before being magically released by court order.

Which brings us to a sphere of South Korean activity that we’ve touched on in passing here but haven’t focused on: namely, judicial corruption. When a President and a chaebol CEO are discovered to be engaged in a some kind of corrupt trade-off, one would expect both to receive the same punishment; but, as noted, that rarely turns out to be the case. How can that be? Well, think about it: who is in a better position to generously grease the hand of a judge – a politician or the head of one of the world’s richest corporations?

Yang Sung Tae

The reality of high-level judicial corruption in South Korea was exposed in late January, when Yang Sung Tae, who was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 2011 to 2017, was arrested on more than forty criminal charges. South Korea is a country where people are used to seeing their former presidents arrested, but this was a first.

Since last autumn, Yang had been under investigation for abuse of judicial authority. In September it was reported that various unions and other groups that had been involved in legal actions during his tenure had accused him of shady dealing. One of those groups, the Korean Metal Workers’ Union, charged that Yang had reversed lower court rulings in several cases not for legitimate judicial reasons but because he had agreed to do so in under-the-table deals with the Blue House (South Korea’s equivalent to the White House).

Park Geun-hye

Prior to his arrest, it was further reported that that the National Court Administration, at Yang’s behest, had allegedly “sought to use politically sensitive trials as bargaining chips to win former President Park Geun-hye’s support for his long-cherished wish to establish a new court of appeals.” Also, he was suspected of having “amassed slush funds with the budget set aside for running court spokespersons’ offices.”

In short, the fellow seems to have been quite prolific and versatile in his crookedness. As the Straits Times pointed out, he’s in good company: both the president who appointed him to the top judicial spot, Lee Myung-bak, and the aforementioned Park Geun-hye, who succeeded Lee, “are now wearing prison garb.” The Times described this as “a poignant reminder of problems surrounding the highest echelon of the nation’s governing system.” What an elegant way of saying that South Korea’s corridors of power stink of corruption.

Britain’s top Jew-haters

Netta

When Netta, a performer from Israel, won the annual Eurovision Song Contest on May 12, 2018, in Portugal’s Lisbon Arena, meaning that this year’s competition would be held in her home country, one thing was beyond doubt: that before the day appointed for Eurovision 2019 rolled around, Israel-haters from every corner of Europe would raise a stink about the venue.

Sure enough, in a letter published on January 29 in the Guardian, fifty members of “the creative industries” complained that although “Eurovision may be light entertainment…it is not exempt from human rights considerations – and we cannot ignore Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian human rights.” Because of this violation, they argued, the BBC – which airs Eurovision in Britain – “should act on its principles and press for Eurovision to be relocated to a country where crimes against…freedom are not being committed.”

Jeremy Corbyn

The fifty people, most of them British, who signed this reprehensible document are a mixed bunch. Some are relatively obscure writers or musicians who have no prominent record of this kind of activism. Others are pretty famous actors or directors and have long histories of far-left political activity. Several are ardent Communists or former Communists. A number of them are involved in pro-Palestinian causes. Many are fervent supporters of Labour Party leader and notorious anti-Semite Jeremy Corbyn. Here are some of the more familiar names.

Julie Christie

Roy Battersby, a film and TV director, is the stepfather of actress Kate Beckinsale and a former Communist who was active in the Workers Revolutionary Party (so we know that he has good judgment about human rights). Maxine Peake, star of a number of BBC series, is a sometime member of the Communist Party of Britain, won a 2014 award for an Outstanding Contribution to Socialism, and calls Jeremy Corbyn a “beacon of hope.” Alexei Sayle, a stand-up comedian and author, is also a former member of the Communist Party of Britain who still considers himself a Communist and considers Corbyn “morally incorruptible.” Actress Miriam Margolyes is a pro-Palestinian activist who has been active in a group called Jews for Justice for Palestinians. Actress Julie Christie, now 78, won an Oscar for Darling (1965) and is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).


Caryl Churchill

Among the letter’s signatories, playwright and PSC patron Caryl Churchill has one of the most impressive records of hard-core Jew-hatred. In 2009, she banged out her play Seven Jewish Children in record time so it could be staged while that year’s Gaza crisis was still underway. Writing in The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg described it as “anti-Jewish agitprop” and “a drive-by shooting of a play” that contains a “not-entirely veiled blood libel” and seeks “to demonize the Jewish people.” In the Spectator, Melanie Phillips called it “despicable,” “a direct attack on the Jews” that denies the “Jewish claim to the land of Israel” and depicts Jews as “kill[ing] and persecut[ing] the Arabs out of some kind of strutting power complex.”

Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel, formerly of the rock band Genesis, is no slouch either. Associated with Amnesty International for decades, he’s a co-founder of his own human-rights group, Witness, and, along with Jimmy Carter and others, is a member of a group called The Elders that seeks to resolve conflicts around the world. In 1992, along with such left-wing politicians as Jeremy Corbyn and Tony Benn, he called for British withdrawal from Northern Ireland; in 2014, he contributed songs to an album intended to aid Gaza. Film director Ken Loach has belonged to the Workers Revolutionary Party, the Socialist Workers Party, and the International Marxist Group, has been involved with Jeremy Corbyn and with the bilious Jew-hater George Galloway, has campaigned for a number of boycotts of Israel, and has condemned efforts to address anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood is also a Corbyn supporter. And last but not least there’s Roger Waters, whose virulent anti-Semitism we’ve written about at length on this site.

In short, this campaign to steal Eurovision from Israel is an effort by the usual suspects. When one scans through the letter and picks out the familiar names at the end of it, it’s no surprise to see any of them there. This is what these people are. This is what they’re about. Together, they form an unsavory grab-bag, consisting of fervent fans of Corbyn and Galloway, of longtime card-carrying Communists, of committed Jew-haters. If you’re in search of a gallery of British useful stooges, look no further than this shameful roster of signatories.