Tyrants in arms: Tehran and Caracas

Nicolas Maduro

The economic incompetence of the Nicolas Maduro administration in Venezuela – whose ability to hang on to power through to the end of 2019 and into 2020 has, as we noted the other day, surprised and impressed many observers – is matched only by its moral iniquity. The other day the Powerline blog drew the attention of readers to the following news report from Iran’s FARS news service:

The Venezuelan government offered condolences to the people of Iran for the assassination of Iran’s top general by a US airstrike in Baghdad and praised Iran’s resistance with this poster.

Qasem Soleimani,

The poster in question depicted Hugo Chavez, the late Venezuelan leader; Simon Bolivar, the early nineteenth century hero of Latin American liberty; General Soleimani, the bloodthirsty thug taken out by the US strike; and the two fathers of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. Accompanying this bizarre gallery was the statement: “Faces, times and countries change, but the goal is the same.” If nothing else, this poster provided a degree of insight into the chavista mentality. Yes, the Communist Revolution in Cuba and the chavista revolution in Venezuela were of a piece: both of them took affluent, relatively free countries and subordinated their peoples to brutal dictatorship and an economic program that plunged them into poverty. It’s not surprising, of course, to see the Maduro regime equating these revolutions with Simon Bolivar’s democratic revolt against Spanish imperialism: it was part of Chavez’s conceit that he was following in the footsteps of Bolivar, and when he rose to power he even changed his country’s name to “the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

Ayatollah Khomeini

What’s striking here, though, is the equation of these Communist revolutions with the revolution to which Soleimani dedicated his life – namely, the radical Islamic revolution that toppled the Shah in 1979 and subjected the Iranian people to a radical Islamic theocracy under the absolute control of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Yes, the result of that revolution was much the same as in Cuba and Venezuela: an affluent and relatively free country was transformed into a brutal dictatorship whose people have increasingly suffered economically. Needless to say, Communism and Islamic theocracy could scarcely be further apart ideologically; but to the chavista mind, that’s not what matters. What matters is that pre-revolutionary Venezuela, Cuba, and Iran were nations that looked to the West, and especially to the United States, as a social, economic, and political model, and central to the revolutions in those countries was the rejection of American power, friendship, and influence. For chavistas, the U.S. will always be the evil empire to the north, much as Spain was the evil empire for Bolivar, and this view of America is, needless to say, fully shared by the Iranian regime, for whom the U.S. is the Great Satan. This deep-rooted hostility to America is a central, defining factor in all these contemporary regimes, and makes possible the otherwise utterly counterintuitive alliance between the radical left and radical Islam that has been called the red-green axis.

As Powerline put it: since the wardrobes of several generations of misguided post-sixties American youths – youths who have been either ignorant of or indifferent to Che Guevara’s real legacy – have included t-shirts bearing the image of that murderous monster, will American students someday walk around “with pictures of Soleimani on their t-shirts?”

It’s 2020, and Maduro hasn’t gone away yet

Juan Guaidó

The early days of 2019 were a time of hope for freedom lovers in Venezuela. On January 5, Juan Guaidó, became President of the National Assembly; just a few days later, after chavista leader Nicolás Maduro was sworn in for a second term after an election that was widely viewed as suspicious, Guaidó told attendees at a huge rally that Maduro was a dictator and a usurper and that, in accordance with the Venezuelan Constitution, he, Guaidó, would assume the nation’s presidency and, as he wrote shortly thereafter in a Washington Post op-ed, “restore democracy in Venezuela.”

Nicolas Maduro

Things looked promising. On January 23, Guaidó declared himself president. He was quickly recognized as such by the U.S., Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, and the Organization of American States, as well as by sixty-odd other countries around the world. It was hoped that the Venezuelan military would act in accordance with the wishes of democratic-minded Venezuelans and of international supporters of liberty by compelling Maduro to step down and hand over power to Guaidó.

Trump meets with Guiado’s wife, Fabiana Rosales, in March 2019

Alas, one country in the Western hemisphere was conspicuously missing from that list of Guaidó’s supporters: Cuba, of course. And thanks to Cuba, it proved harder to oust Maduro than some observers – and Guaidó himself – expected. For Maduro, it turned out, was not as dumb as he looks. During his presidency, the highest ranking officers in the Venezuelan military had been collaborating closely with Cuban officials who had been sent by the Castro regime and stationed in Venezuela to participate in an effort – a successful one, alas – to ruthlessly purge Maduro’s armed forces of anyone who was suspected of anything but total loyalty to the regime. So it was that the military on which Guaidó had counted for support did everything it could to prop up Maduro.

Code Pink embassy protesters

Meanwhile, allies of Maduro in the U.S. were doing everything they could to prevent democracy from coming to Venezuela. In the spring, the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, D.C., was occupied by members of Code Pink and other radical-left groups that, in the wake of the Trump administration’s recognition of Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela, sought to keep any diplomats appointed by Guaidó out of the embassy. This spectacle, played out on the leafy streets of Georgetown, was a disgraceful example of free people using their own freedom to help deny freedom to others.

Guaido tries to get to the Assembly by going over a fence

It was all quite dispiriting. With Maduro in firm control of the military – not to mention the apparatus of government, the judiciary, and the police – the only significant body that stood up against the power of the regime was the legislature, the National Assembly, of which Guaidó continued to serve as president. Only five days into 2020, Maduro made his move to squelch that last outpost of opposition. On his orders, as NPR’s Scott Neuman reported, Venezuelan National Guardsmen “in riot gear” physically prevented Guaidó and other anti-Maduro legislators from attending a special session of the Assembly, where the plan for the day was to elect a new Assembly president. Since Guaidó’s allies make up a majority of the Assembly, it was expected that he would be expeditiously re-elected to that post. Instead, he ended up in what Neuman described as a “scuffle” with Maduro’s thugs and walked away with his suit torn. With him and his allies missing from the conclave, the supporters of Maduro who were allowed to enter the chamber swore in one of their own, Luis Parra, as their new leader. Later the same day, however, members of the anti-Maduro parliamentary majority, meeting at the offices of the opposition newspaper El Nacional, overturned that outrageous action – which, Neuman noted, had been taken without a formal vote – and re-elected Guaidó.

“Sunday’s events,” wrote Neuman, “leave open the question of who controls the legislature, and the fight for control is likely to continue.” And needless to say it does not look as if the larger question – that of who controls Venezuela itself – will be settled anytime soon, either.

Exposed: A Sanders staffer’s dreams of terror

Bernie Sanders

We don’t see it as part of our mission on this site to take sides in American presidential races. But since our whole raison d’être is to call out the fans of totalitarianism, it’s impossible, in the year 2020, to close our eyes to a campaign in which one of the more successful major-party candidates is a self-identified socialist – a man who, for heaven’s sake, actually honeymooned in the Soviet Union and has expressed admiration for the Castro regime in Cuba. To some people who would never vote for him in a million years, Bernie Sanders may seem an innocuous enough figure – like a crazy but lovable grandpa who caught the “progressive” bug in his youth and whose one pleasure, in his dotage, is to rant about capitalism. To his unsettlingly large number of supporters, however, Sanders – who until running for the Democratic nomination was not a registered Democrat but an independent socialist – is a breath of fresh air, an outsider who, like Trump in the 2016 campaign, challenges the two-party system and promises to shake up the status quo. Moreover, it’s not just young people, born after the fall of the Soviet Union and taught by left-wing professors to despise America and admire socialism, who plan to cast their votes for Bernie: only recently, we were dismayed to see the actor and comedian Larry David, who is famous not only for creating Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm but also for playing Sanders (brilliantly) in skits on Saturday Night Live, telling an interviewer that he admires Bernie and that America would be a lot better off with him as president. We thought David – who is no spring chicken – was smarter than that.

James O’Keefe

Is there any chance that a significant number of Bernie’s fans will peel off after they see the sensational video that was released on January 14 by James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas? O’Keefe and his team specialize in hidden-camera exposés of teachers’ unions, media organizations, groups like ACORN and Planned Parenthood, and, not least, political campaigns. In one instance after another, they have shed light on the actual – which is to say, often shabby, corrupt, and reprehensible – agendas behind the anodyne public rhetoric. In the case of the Sanders campaign, they captured on camera Kyle Jurek, an Iowa field organizer for Sanders, calling Trump supporters fascists and saying that “The only thing that fascists understand is violence. So the only way you can confront them is with violence.” If Trump gets reelected, Jurek said, cities will “burn,” because “we have to save f***ing human civilization.” If Bernie doesn’t get nominated at the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Jurek promised, he and his cronies will beat up police, because “we” will have “nothing left to lose.”

Kyle Jurek

And if Sanders is elected? Jurek promised a “Reign of Terror.” Even leftist MSNBC isn’t leftist enough for him: he spoke enthusiastically of dragging MSNBC journalists out of their studios and “light[ing] them on fire in the streets.” Mere liberals, he promised, will be sent to a “Gulag”; they’ll “get the f***ing wall first.” Meaning, of course, that they will be lined up against a wall and gunned down, Che Guevara style. “In Cuba, what did they do to reactionaries?” he asked. “They shot them on the beach. Do you want to fight against the revolution? You’re gonna die for it, mother***er.” In a commentary at the end of this explosive video, O’Keefe asked: “Is Kyle Jurek the true but hidden face of the Sanders campaign?” He added that this was only the first of multiple videos about Jurek that Project Veritas would be releasing, and that those to come would be even worse.

Scene from an Antifa riot

Does Sanders share Jurek’s views and aspirations? Well, of course Sanders has never promised a “Reign of Terror.” Then again, he’s expressed fondness for regimes that have engaged in reigns of terror. In any case, one thing is certain: Jurek is not alone. Others who have lined up behind Bernie share Jurek’s extreme politics. And of course the promise of violence is not just talk: groups like Antifa, which are pretty much on the same page politically as Jurek, have staged riots around the U.S., causing physical harm to their political opponents and serious damage to private property. They are cut from the same cloth as the Bolsheviks who murdered the Romanovs, filled the Gulags, and carried out the Holodomor; cut from the same cloth as the Maoists who staged the Cultural Revolution in China; cut from the same cloth as the SS and Gestapo officers who herded Jews onto trains to Auschwitz. The thirst for terror, violence, and tyrannical power never dies; the price of freedom is, as ever, eternal vigilance against aspiring Stalins, Castros, and Che Guevaras. Kudos to Project Veritas for showing us that one of these aspiring Ches can be found performing a not inconsiderable job within a major presidential campaign.

Another Teflon Communist

Its one thing for political naïfs to condemn capitalism and celebrate Communism, but it’s another for reputable media to publish their nonsense.

Andray Domise

Recently, Macleans – Canada’s leading newsmagazine – actually published a column headlined “The left must stand against capitalism. Now.” The author, Andray Domise, began by explaining that an environmental activist had recently asked him to recommend books about working-class rights, decolonization, and other issues. Domise suggested The Communist Manifesto. The activist, however, did not respond with enthusiasm. This bugged Domise, who saw it as typical of many members of the left, who, alas, “cannot quit kidding themselves by believing that capitalism exists as a benevolent or even neutral social arrangement.”

Marx and Engels

His argument was that if the left wants to triumph, it “must stand in principled opposition to capitalism.” As far as Domise is concerned, capitalism is at the root of pretty much every problem on earth: capitalists “pollute oceans with plastic, fill the air with smog and accelerate climate change via carbon emissions.” They warp environmental policies “to the point of immorality.” They make housing unaffordable. They cause income inequality to increase. They have no concern for working-class people. How to put an end to it? Only through “organized, large-scale resistance” to the “capricious free market.” Fortunately, maintained Domise, “58 per cent of Canadians have a favourable view of socialism,” which bodes well toward the possibility of encouraging them to “expand” their “political vision…beyond capitalism” by embracing Communism wholesale.

And that was pretty much all he had to say. Bottom line: one more fool who’s willing to drop the entire bloody history of the twentieth century down the memory hole, turn his gaze away from the nightmares that are today’s Venezuela and North Korea, and plunge right back into the maelstrom.

2014 campaign poster

Who is Andray Domise? Well, for one thing, he was arrested in 2016 and charged with one count of mischief and three counts of domestic assault, all of them involving alleged physical abuse of his then girlfriend. An article about the case, which was settled out of court, described Domise as a “darling of the progressive scene in Toronto” who, despite a reputation as a stalwart supporter of feminism, “is known to have harassed and attacked feminists online for years, particularly those who speak out against male violence, misogyny, pornography, objectification, and the sex industry.” The response of Macleans to this courtroom episode was to suspend Domise’s column for a week.

Another commentator on Domise’s brush with the law described him as a “self-celebrating prat” (British and Canadian for “idiot”) whose “self-promotion drive” had ended up in a “ditch” as a result of his arrest. The commentator provided some info on Domise’s background: born Andre, Domise “switched to the more Caribana-inflected ‘Andray’ when he realized that ‘Andre’ comes with all sorts of inferences, none of them flattering.” When he ran for a Toronto city council seat, he served up a “fable about being raised in poverty” by a “single mother in a social housing complex”; in fact, his mother divorced and remarried and the family moved to West Palm Beach, and shortly after their relocation to Toronto Domise was a university student. As for his arrest, both Macleans and The Toronto Star knew about it at the time, but kept mum; not until months later did the National Post find out and break the news.

So it goes. Another day, another shameless apologist for the evils of Marxism being protected by his leftist media cronies – even when it becomes clear to everyone that he’s the very opposite of the pillar of honesty and virtue that he pretends to be.

Princess Isabel and her father: they’re no saints

Isabel dos Santos

You remember the name Isabel dos Santos, don’t you? If not, here’s a reminder. In 2014, songstress Mariah Carey took a million dollars to sing in Angola. The next year, fellow chanteuse Nicki Minaj was paid twice that much to perform in the same country. Both of these big paydays – these big, dirty paydays – were courtesy of a conglomerate called Unitel, which was controlled by one Isabel dos Santos, the daughter of the country’s then dictator, José Eduardo dos Santos, one of the most corrupt leaders on earth.

Paris Hilton

Unitel, headquartered in the Netherlands, was only a small part of Isabel’s empire, which, after the Angolan parliament passed a law prohibiting the president himself from having business interests, grew even larger because the prez responded to the law by transferring his own extensive holdings – which he had acquired mostly through good, old-fashioned embezzlement – to Isabel. As we have noted, Isabel, thanks to her father’s love of money and of family, became the wealthiest woman in all of Africa, with a fortune of over $2 billion, a “superyacht” worth just under $50 million, luxurious residences in London, Monaco, and Portugal, and a social circle that includes Paris Hilton, Harvey Weinstein, and Lindsay Lohan. In her home country, she’s known as “the princess.”

Nicki Minaj

Anyway, Isabel’s readiness to hand out big bucks to big-name American pop artists resulted in big news headlines around the world. Carey got so much heat in the press for taking cash from the dos Santos clan that she ended up issuing an ardent apology and claiming that she had acted out of ignorance. Minaj was also criticized by the media, but she replied by lashing out at her critics and taking a cozy Instagram photo with Isabel, whom Minaj described as follows: “she’s just the 8th richest woman in the world….GIRL POWER!!!!! This motivates me soooooooooo much!!!!”

Jose Eduardo dos Santos

Ah, those were the days. In 2017, after 38 years in power, dos Santos retired from the presidency, although he stayed on as head of the ruling party, while Isabel and her brother José Filomeno retained the high-ranking government positions to which he had appointed them, reflecting the fact that the family had no plans of actually relinquishing power or giving up large-scale corruption. Alas for them, things didn’t work out quite the way they had planned. Once papa was out of office, his successor, President João Lourenço, fired the dos Santos children and spearheaded a serious government effort to trace and recover some of the former ruling clan’s ill-gotten gains. The Angolan government’s corruption probe targeted not only the ex-president himself but also Isabel, her husband, and her brother José Filomeno.

João Lourenço

The case is proceeding apace. On January 4, the Daily Mail reported that an Angolan court had frozen £750 million of Isabel’s assets “in an attempt to recover state funds.” Also, Portuguese police “intercepted £8.5million that Isabel tried to transfer to Russia to protect her assets.” Isabel, now in exile in Portugal, isn’t happy about the court’s action, accusing it of carrying out what she called a “witch hunt” – “a politically motivated attack which is part of a wider strategy to discredit the legacy of President dos Santos.” Of course, one part of her father’s “legacy” is Angola’s rating as 165th out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s corruption perception index. Is it possible that Angolan authorities, with international cooperation of the sort Portugal is providing, will turn that legacy around? If dos Santos ends up broke, will Paris Hilton and her other showbiz pals keep taking her calls?

The stripper was a Stalinist

Ludwig von Mises

An article that was recently posted at the website mises.org, named for and dedicated to the intellectual legacy of Ludwig von Mises, the Austrian School economist (1881-1973) pointed out that people in showbiz – actors, producers, screenwriters, playwrights – who make a great living and whom you might therefore expect to have some appreciation for capitalism turn out, all too often, to have bought into the lies of socialism – or worse: “Hollywood and Broadway, the world-famous centers of the entertainment industry, are hotbeds of communism. Authors and performers are to be found among the most bigoted supporters of Sovietism.

Sovietism? When was this written? And who wrote it? In fact, although the author’s observations are perfectly valid today, this article was written by Mises himself – it’s an excerpt from his 1956 book The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, published at the height of the Hollywood blacklist.

Joe McCarthy

Today it’s the received opinion that the interrogation of famous movie people by House and Senate committees was a disgrace; the name of Joe McCarthy, the Democrat from Wisconsin who chaired the Senate committee, has become a byword for fascist tyranny. Yes, it was decidedly unfair that a few Tinseltown innocents who thought they were standing up for the First Amendment got dragged onto the blacklist and had their careers damaged. But the fact is that there were Communists in Hollywood; every last one of the Hollywood Ten, a group of screenwriters who were cited for contempt of Congress, was in fact a card-carrying Communist.

Mr and Mrs Dalton Trumbo

They are now viewed as heroes – witness (among many other cinematic tributes to them) the movie Trumbo, about which we wrote some time back. But as members of the Communist Party, which took its orders directly from the Kremlin, they were agents of a totalitarian enemy and tools of a mass-murdering dictator, Stalin, who was very consciously using them to influence American opinion about the USSR and thereby undermine American freedom.

Why were – and are – so many showbiz people Communists? Mises’s theory was that those who toil in the entertainment industry are “always agitated by anxiety,” fearing the fickleness of the audience and worrying that they will soon be dislodged from their thrones by vigorous young competitors; hence they turn to Communism, which, they think, “will bring their deliverance” because it “makes all people happy.” Mises added that “ a future historian…should not neglect to mention the role which the world’s most famous strip-tease artist played in the American radical movement.”

Gypsy Rose Lee

The world’s most famous strip-tease artist? In 1956, Mises could only have meant one person: Gypsy Rose Lee. Was she a Communist too? That was a new one on us: like most people nowadays, our knowledge of Lee is pretty much limited to the biographical information communicated in Gypsy, the first-rate Broadway musical that follows her from girlhood – when she was overshadowed by her sister, June, a child star in vaudeville, and largely ignored by their mother, Rose, the quintessential stage mother from hell – to the threshold of burlesque stardom. There was no hint of Communist ties in Gypsy.

Elaine Stritch performing “Zip”

But sure enough, it turns out that Gypsy Rose Lee was indeed a Red. In interview with Publishers Weekly, Karen Abbott, whose biography of the stripper came out in 2011, said that “Gypsy soon learned that every stripper needed a gimmick and decided to incorporate her exceptional intelligence into her act, to become the ‘intellectual stripper.’ To that end. she read the latest books, magazines, and newspapers voraciously.” Well, we happen to know that because of the lyrics of the Rodgers and Hart song “Zip” (from the 1940 musical Pal Joey), which parodies Rose’s intellectual pretensions. Anyway, Abbott continues: “She became politically active, and supported Spanish Loyalists during Spain’s Civil War. She also became a fixture at Communist United Front meetings, and was investigated by the House Committee on un-American activities.”

Josef Stalin

Curiously, a previous biographer of Lee, Noralee Frankel, seems to deny that Lee was a Communist; a review of Frankel’s book, which came out in 2009, refers to Lee as having “convinced the McCarthyites that her having supported Spanish loyalists against Franco in the 1930s and entertained at the New York Council of the Arts, Sciences and Professions did not make her a communist.” There is no mention in the review, or presumably in the book, of her being a regular attendee of Communist meetings, which, of course, does seem to make her a Communist. Which shouldn’t have surprised us, aware as we are of how many showbiz folk in the 1950s were puppets of Stalin, but somehow it never occurred to us that the highbrow ecdysiast, whom Larry Hart’s lyric depicts as a reader of Saroyan and Schopenhauer, was also a fan of Stalin.

Will Owen Jones ever get it?

As we noted back in April, Owen Jones, perhaps the best known leftist commentator in Britain, “still looks like a high-school kid” even though he’s 34. Maybe it’s because his brow hasn’t been furrowed by deep thoughts. Although he is considered highly influential, it’s impossible, we wrote, to grasp why “anyone, anywhere, could possibly be influenced by him.”

Owen Jones

But there he is, this Oxford grad who is the son and grandson of Communists, constantly pontificating in the pages of the Guardian and all over British TV, endlessly reiterating his one-dimensional, ideologically lockstep message that “capitalism is a sham” and “socialism is our only hope.” He is constantly condemning Islamophobia, which he has called “a European pandemic” and “the most widespread…form of bigotry of our times,” but won’t breathe a word in criticism of Islam or in acknowledgment of the ongoing worldwide oppression of Christians Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, women, gays, and others in the name of Allah.

A gay man, Jones is eternally on the lookout for the slightest hint of right-wing homophobia, but simply refuses to talk about the fact that sharia law orders the execution of gays. Appearing on Sky News after the June 12, 2016, jihadist massacre at the gay Pulse nightclub in Orlando, he was mainly concerned with shutting down any mention by his host and fellow panelist of the atrocity’s Islamic roots, and when they refused to be silenced, he walked off in a now-famous huff.

Jeremy Corbyn

Jones was also a devout fan of Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro. And – oh, yes – he’s an ardent follower of Jeremy Corbyn, the anti-Semite who led the Labour Party to a historic defeat in the UK’s December 12 parliamentary elections. In the hours after the loss, Jones tweeted that voters had abandoned Labour because of its wishy-washy position. A few days later, in his post-election column, Jones presented a longer list of reasons for the loss, citing a series of misguided strategies and tactics. This supposedly influential voice of the left had utterly failed to recognize that the problem was a pure matter of ideology: the sometime reformist party of the working class had, quite simply, been taken over by radical elites who live in a north London bubble, who look down on the proles, and who love the idea of socialism even though they’ve never, of course, lived in a socialist country or seriously studied the subject.

British PM Boris Johnson

And Jones is one of them. Which is the only reason any of these people read him and take him seriously: because he shares, and affirms, their own shallow, puerile worldview. “I don’t think anyone on the left should regret our enthusiasm for the transformative programme on offer,” Jones wrote in his column. “These are the right policies for the country and the planet, and a bad campaign hasn’t changed that.” While Labour, he asserted, needed to win back elderly voters, it must not give up “the progressive social values that are articles of faith to its young supporters.” Which is to say the hip, privileged, urban young, many of whom have never had a job, run a business, or paid income taxes, and who have embraced a certain set of political propositions not because they know anything about the actual lessons of modern history and economics but because adherence to those propositions is de rigueur in their social circle.