There’s always a first time. Never in the history of this site have we felt called upon to revisit a subject only a couple of weeks after writing about it – or him, or her – but Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the charismatic 28-year-old who shook up the American political scene by beating a ten-term establishment Democrat, New York’s Joe Crowley, in a primary race for his House seat, has received so much media attention in the wake of her victory that we consider ourselves obliged to update our report on her.
As we noted, Ocasio-Cortez calls herself a Democratic-Socialist. Not too many years ago, she would have been considered too far left for a serious career in national politics. After Bernie Sanders, that’s no longer the case. Staggering percentages of millennial Americans tell pollsters that they prefer socialism or Communism to capitalism. It helps that the Soviet Union fell before they were born, and that they’re either uneducated about the reality of socialism or have been fed pro-socialist propaganda by their teachers. So it is that somebody like Ocasio-Cortez is being interviewed on national media – and getting cheers from studio audiences.
She’s also getting cheers from Democratic Party officials. She hasn’t even been elected to the House yet, but on July 3 Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, called her “the future of our party,” and Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett tweeted a thumbs-up for the ambitious young woman.
Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t just been collecting endorsements, but handing them out. The Daily Beast reported that her support for Kerri Harris, a candidate for the U.S. Senate from Delaware, and Ayanna Pressley, who is running for Congress from Massachusetts, has caused donations for both campaigns to soar. The same goes for Kaniela Ing and Brent Welder, who are running for Congress from Hawaii and Kansas respectively.
One of Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsements has gained particular attention. “Michigan is blessed to have Abdul El-Sayed as a candidate for Governor, and I am proud to support him,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted on July 2. Who is El-Sayed? A former public-health director for the city of Detroit, he is a Muslim who, as a college student, was a vice president of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Muslim Students Association. At a recent candidates’ forum, he refused to provide a direct answer to a query about sharia law – a perfectly reasonable question given his religious affiliation, and given the fact that courts in Michigan, which has America’s highest concentration of Muslims, is currently facing cases of female genital mutilation and honor killing.
When El-Sayed’s opponent in the governor’s race, Patrick Colbeck, replied to the question by speaking frankly and critically about sharia law, jihad, and the Muslim Brotherhood, El-Sayed went ballistic, accusing Republicans in general of racism and white supremacy. While Colbeck had made it clear that he was troubled by certain aspects of Islamic doctrine itself but had no personal animus against individual Muslims, a furious El-Sayed called Colbeck an Islamophobe, saying, “Now you may not hate Muslims, but I’ll tell you, Muslims definitely hate you!”
This, then, is a man whose political career Ocasio-Cortez is championing. Need we say more? Well, given the degree of attention she is receiving, and the amount of new information that is coming out about her by the day, we’ll probably find it necessary to revisit this rising socialist star yet again in the very near future.
She’s accused Israel of committing massacres of Palestinians. She’s called for the abolition of ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), charging that it’s on its way to becoming a “paramilitary” organization. She’s a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and a former organizer of Bernie Sanders’ presidential run.
Her name is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she’s 28 years old, and on June 26, in America’s biggest electoral upset since the 2016 presidential election itself, she won the Democratic primary in the race for New York State’s 14th Congressional district, defeating ten-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, who is head of the House Democratic Caucus, who had not faced a primary challenge since 2004, who was widely expected to replace Nancy Pelosi next year as Minority Leader, and whose seat pretty much everybody thought was safe. Since the district is heavily Democratic, it’s expected that she will sail to victory in the general election in November, becoming the youngest woman ever to sit in Congress.
Calling her victory “stunning” – she won by 15 points, after having been 36 points behind in the polls only three weeks earlier – the editors of New York Post suggested that it might signal that “the Democratic Party in New York is moving hard left.” The editors noted that Cynthia Nixon, Sex and the City actress who is mounting a radical-left primary challenge to Governor Andrew Cuomo, has supported Ocasio-Cortez and “plans to use every opportunity to link their campaigns in the public eye.”
As for Ocasio-Cortez herself, she instantly became, in the words of John Cassidy in The New Yorker, “a national political sensation.” Never mind her radical views. Never mind that she’s in bed with the far-left group Move On and the deep-pink Working Families Party (which in turn is cozy with the Communist Party USA) and that she wants to impeach Trump. Never mind that during the campaign she sold herself as a working-class girl from the Bronx when, in fact, although born in that borough, she is the daughter of an architect and actually grew up, from age five onward, in the affluent Westchester community of Yorktown Heights.
No, in today’s mainstream American culture, far-left – and even borderline Communist – views have become normalized, while opinions (such as a belief in strong borders) that only a decade or two ago were taken for granted as reasonable on both sides of the aisle are now widely smeared as inhuman.
So it was that two days after her victory Ocasio-Cortez turned up on Stephen Colbert’s show, where the host – who, of course, makes a career of mocking everything the President says and does – slathered her with praise. Even before Colbert explained that she identifies as a “Democratic Socialist,” the audience responded to her account of her victory with several bouts of fervent, mindless applause, it appearently being enough for them, in these days when identity labels trump all else, that she was young, female, and Latina. (And pretty.)
But then, as noted, Colbert mentioned the “Democratic Socialist” label, and asked her what those words mean to her. She proceeded to answer the question with a Sanders-like laundry list of free stuff that everybody should get from the government, and with each new item, the audience rewarded her with yet another round of eager applause and cheers. Colbert told her that her list was a worthy one, and then proceeded to wax sarcastic – not about Ocasio-Cortez herself, heaven forbid, but about – who else? – President Trump, whose tweet about Crowley’s loss he read aloud. Trump’s take was that Crowley should have “been more respectful to his president.” Do you, Colbert asked Ocasio-Cortez, plan to be respectful to Trump? Her reply: “I don’t think he knows how to deal with a girl from the Bronx.” Lusty cheers all around. Welcome to 2018 America, where an ever-growing percentage of the population thinks socialism is just plain peachy keen.
Bjørn Kjos is one of the most prominent figures in Norway today, and has led one of contemporary Norway’s most colorful, versatile, and productive lives.
Following two years of training in the U.S., he served as a Cold War-era pilot in the Royal Norwegian Air Force. After studying law in Oslo, he became an attorney and then a judge. At one point he even performed seismological studies in the North Sea for oil companies.
But the accomplishment for which he is famous, rich, and justifiably honored is the founding and development of Norwegian Air Shuttle, a budget airline that has advanced from triumph to triumph. Since Kjos founded it in 1993 as a small regional carrier that transported passengers between obscure burgs up and down Norway’s mountainous west coast, it has grown steadily. First it expanded its operations to include Oslo and major Scandinavian destinations outside of Norway; then it introduced regular flights from Oslo to New York and Bangkok. Soon it was flying all over Europe – and, shortly thereafter, to places like Singapore, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
In short, it’s a spectacular capitalist success story. It’s created thousands of jobs, paid untold dividends to shareholders, and enabled travelers on modest incomes to fly to places they otherwise couldn’t afford.
Here’s the question, then: why, in the June number of its in-flight magazine, n, does Kjos’s airline choose to celebrate a Communist murderer who was, to the very end of his life, a bitter, brutal, and bloodthirsty enemy of capitalism, and a gleeful executor of the innocent?
The June number of n is billed as its “Argentina issue.” Produced, as are all issues of n, by a London-based firm called Ink (ink-live.com), and edited by one Sarah Warwick (who received a degree in development studies from the lefty University of London and a degree in anthropology from the arguably even more lefty London School of Economics), this issue includes articles about a range of Argentina-related topics: a new luxury hotel at Iguazú Falls; the Villa Crespo neighborhood of Buenos Aires; Patagonia.
So far, so good. But beginning on page 88, the reader – the captive passenger – is thrown a curve ball in the form of a tribute to Che Guevara.
Yes, Che Guevara. In large black letters centered on an all-white page – the presentation suggestive of a deeply respectful and thoughtful epitaph for a truly great man – we read the following:
Had he lived, Che Guevara would have been 90 this month. The guerrilla fighter, doctor, writer and idealist found fame as a hero of the Cuban revolution. Long before all that though, he was Ernesto Guevara – an Argentine youth who grew up in Rosario and Córdoba Province. In the month of his birthday, we go in search of the man and the legend.
Idealist? Hero? Legend? Keep those words in mind as we read on. For that preposterous paean on page 88 is only prelude to a full-bore profile – written by one Sam Harrison – that romanticizes Che in the most breathtakingly inexcusable fashion:
In a small side street in Buenos Aires’ old town, San Telmo, a worn image of Che Guevara stares out from a chipped and fading mural. His dark eyes gaze at passers-by from under painted black brows, and his wavy hair is topped with trademark beret….
Oh, those eyes! Those brows! That hair! And on it goes. Dreamily, Harrison quotes an Argentinian Che fan on Che’s “wild childhood, under the open sky.” He waxes poetic about Che’s youthful “love of reading.” He accuses the FBI of treating Che “condescendingly.” And he applauds Che’s “strong political conscience.”
All this about an evil monster, who, as we wrote here in 2016, “quickly ran the value of the Cuban peso into the ground” when he served as Castro’s Economics Minister; who, as warden of La Cabaña Fortress prison, made that lockup the Cuban equivalent of Stalin’s notorious Lubyanka; and who, acting as Fidel’s chief executioner, ordered at least several hundred (and more likely thousands) of “firing-squad executions of opponents and potential opponents.” The victims included men, women, and children. Some were eliminated for being gay; some were offed for being devout Christians; and some were done in for being soldiers in the army of Fulgencio Batista, whom Castro overthrew. (Even Hitler obeyed the Geneva accords on prisoners of war. Che did not.) As the distinguished Peruvian-Spanish writer Alvaro Vargas Llosa has written, Che’s victims included “proven enemies, suspected enemies, and those who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Che often committed the executions himself. Or, after others had done the killing, he would shoot an extra bullet into the corpse: he particularly enjoyed that part. To quote Vargas Llosa, “Guevara might have been enamored of his own death, but he was much more enamored of other people’s deaths.” That’s for sure. One priest who witnessed many of Che’s executions later remembered: “We called him ‘the butcher’ because he enjoyed giving the order to shoot. I pleaded many times with Che on behalf of prisoners. I remember especially the case of Ariel Lima, a young boy. Che did not budge.”
As we noted in 2016, killing a few hundred of Cuba’s seven million inhabitants back then “was equivalent to liquidating millions of Americans.” We also underscored that by obliterating so many people, Che was out “not just to exterminate the victims but to terrorize everyone else – to make it clear to all of Cuba that Castro & co. meant business and were not to be trifled with.”
Harrison mentions none of this. He doesn’t even hint at it. The closest he comes to acknowledging the true dimensions of Che’s iniquity is to say that Che’s legacy is “not entirely favourable” and to serve up the following masterpiece of euphemism and evasion: “a guerrilla fighter who dreamed of an egalitarian society, Guevara believed armed struggle was the only way to achieve his aims. For every person who sees him as a symbol of hope – even a secular saint – there’s one who sees a murderer who lost sight of his ideals.” Oh, and here’s one more feeble gesture by Harrison in the direction of reality: Che, he wrote, is “a polarising figure.”
Sorry, but no sale. Simply put, the piece on Che Guevara that’s served up in the current issue of n is a reprehensible whitewash of a cold-blooded butcher. In the year 2018, there is no excuse for such a sick tribute. There is simply too much indisputable evidence now of the demonic, homicidal reality of Che’s monstrous thuggery. To sentimentalize his memory in the pages of a glossy in-flight magazine, read by heaven knows how many impressionable travelers who don’t know the facts of the matter, is an act of profound intellectual mischief and moral irresponsibility.
And let’s not overlook the fact that a very significant part of the objective of the article is to sell airline tickets to Argentina so that readers can walk in this giant’s footsteps. Excuse us, Mr. Kjos, but may we ask: Exactly where does this obscenity stop?
To be sure, we suspect that Bjørn Kjos is too busy a man to pay close attention to what goes into the pages of his airline’s in-flight magazine. But the fact remains that n bears the name of his company. At the beginning of each issue is one of those “welcome aboard” pieces signed by Kjos himself. In short, he gives every issue his imprimatur. That being the case, he’s responsible for n magazine’s thoroughly despicable glorification of Che Guevara.
It seems to us that if Mr. Kjos sincerely wishes to make amends for his magazine’s action, nothing short of a thorough housecleaning is in order. Mr. Kjos, it amounts to this: cut off your deal with Ink. Fire Sarah Warwick. Find some other team to publish your magazine – a team that, when taking in the spectacle of a murdering Communist like Che and a job-creating capitalist like yourself, knows whom to celebrate and whom to execrate. Such people are really not that hard to find. Believe us.
Please do it – or, alternatively, let the millions of people who enjoy flying your airline think that you actually approve of the lionization of a child-killing savage like Che Guevara.
On Tuesday we contemplated Anthony Bourdain, whose recent self-slaughter inspired hundreds of heartfelt eulogies by foodies – and others – around the globe. The smart set had lost one of its own, and the mood of the day was one of profound mourning. What torments, everyone wondered, had plagued the culinary genius? There was endless hand-wringing about the psychological anguish he must have suffered. Interestingly, very few of his necrologists so much as mentioned his 11-year-old daughter, Ariane, let alone paused to contemplate the very special and profoundly destructive kind of psychic affliction it is for a child, especially one around 11 years old, to lose a parent to suicide.
But that’s neither here nor there. We were talking about Bourdain’s superior attitude toward fellow celebrity cooks who made money in ways of which he disapproved. Over the course of his lifetime he worked for any number of major corporations – but in his view that was different than the kind of deals that people like Paula Deen made with major corporations.
Of course, Bourdain’s professed contempt for capitalism was the purest hypocrisy. Few practiced capitalism more successfully than he did. If he enjoyed sneering at capitalism, it was because he knew that such B.S. would only enhance his image with his fan base.
Meanwhile, however, as Humberto Fontova reminded us the other day, Bourdain had no such qualms about promoting Communism. He did multiple shows from Cuba for CNN and the Travel Channel (capitalism, anyone?). On the Travel Channel website, he had a page headlined Tony Bourdain’s Guide to Cuba. He led “junkets” to Cuba. All these activities, of course, put hard currency in the pockets of the Castro regime, thus helping it to hang on to life – and to continue to harass, jail, beat, torture, and execute political “enemies,” gays, and others. As Fontova noted, Bourdain concluded one 2011 Cuba program by telling the audience: “Yes, Go to Cuba!”
In his CNN episode on Cuba, he described Havana, whose dilapidated ruins testify to the destructiveness of Communism, as “unspoiled.” He went further than that, saying that it was “one of the more beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.” He claimed to dislike Communism but the most critical thing he would say about Castro was that he had “decidedly mixed emotions” about him. He also regurgitated the usual Cuban propaganda about the country’s supposedly great schools and first-class medical care (yes, for the nomenklatura). “In Cuba the religion is baseball,” he said. No mention of the fact that for decades after the Cuban Revolution, actual religious practice was suppressed.
“If only Bourdain had demonstrated 1/100 of his vaunted ‘spunk’ and ‘feistiness’ against a regime that jailed political prisoners at a higher rate than Stalin during the Great Terror, murdered more Cubans than Hitler murdered Germans during the Night of Long Knives, and craved to nuke his homeland,” commented Fontova. Bingo.
When Anthony Bourdain chose to off himself on June 8, millions mourned. He was a member of that ever-growing tribe, the celebrity chefs – people who have used books and TV to turn themselves into superstars and millionaires, all the while introducing their fans to culinary experiences from around the world.
It all began with his bestselling 2000 book Kitchen Confidential, following not too long thereafter by the first of several TV series that combined food with travel. Well, actually, of course, it began before the book – with stints as top chef at several leading restaurants in New York City. His signature gig was at the Manhattan branch of Brasserie Les Halles, where he started working as executive chef in 1998 and with which he maintained a relationship until it closed its doors last year.
For some folks, that career would’ve been enough. But not Bourdain. He also wrote fiction. In 2011, Ecco Press gave him his own publishing line. He produced and starred in his own movie. To his admirers, he was not just one more globetrotting guy sampling exotic fare on camera – he was a “rock star,” a “culinary bad boy,” a – well, you get the idea.
But as Gore Vidal once said, “It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.” Among the other celebrity chefs who felt the sharp edge of his carving knife was Guy Fieri. Bourdain dismissed Rachael Ray as a no-talent. He trashed Wolfgang Puck’s “shitty pizza restaurants.” We don’t even know who Sandra Lee is, but he called her “pure evil.” We do know who Alice Waters is – she runs the legendary Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley California, and made her name by promoting fresh, locally sources foods. Her crime, in Bourdain’s book? Her agenda isn’t PC enough – it doesn’t take into account either poor people or sustainability.
Bourdain’s take on Paula Deen was also partly rooted in PC considerations. Bourdain called Deen “the worst, most dangerous person to America.” Why? Well, one reason was that her recipes were too high-calorie. Another reason: “her food sucks.” Reason #3 – and here’s the PC part: “She revels in unholy connections with evil corporations…she’s unconscionable, cynical, and greedy.”
Then there’s this: “I will never eat in his [Donald Trump’s] restaurant. I have utter contempt for him, utter and complete contempt… I’m not going. I’m not going.” Last year, when asked what he would serve if asked to cater a peace summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un, Bourdain said: “Hemlock.” How courageous of Bourdain to express a political view that he had to know 99% of his fans would cheer.
A few years back, Waters came up with a terrific way of getting back at this pompous fool: she started a pseudonymous Twitter account under the name “Ruth Bourdain.” After the secret came out, she explained: “Well, Tony has always been something of an ass to me. So there’s that. But he also represents this tremendous dark-side of the human psyche. He is drugs, and sex, and rock music.”
He was also, as his comments on Deen makes clear, a world-class hypocrite – a man who got rich on capitalism but was quick to demonize others who dared to try to make a buck. Meanwhile, as Humberto Fontova pointed out after Bourdain’s suicide, this man who “wore his ‘anti-corporate hipness’ on his shirtsleeve, always smirking and snarking that ‘evil corporations’ and ‘crass commercialism’ repelled him,” was at the same time “a shameless tourism agent for the Castro-Family-and-Military Crony-Crime Syndicate, a thieving, murdering criminal-corporate empire that makes the Mafia look like Boy Scouts of America.”
On Tuesday we revisited the story of Yvette Felarca, the Berkeley middle-school humanities teacher who moonlights as a Communist storm trooper – and who, despite multiple arrests for committing acts of violence, and calls for her dismissal by the parents of at lease some of her students, has retained her job in the classroom.
Even after she went on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program and accused conservative activist Milo Yiannopouous of leading “a movement of genocide” and stirring up a “lynch mob mentality” – accusations so far from the truth that they only underscored the intensity of her own fantaticism – she kept her job. Although she is a humanities teacher, she was insistent that Yiannapoulos, and others whose views she deemed to be unacceptable, needed to be deprived of their First Amendment rights.
On Sepember 26 of last year, Felarca was at it again. A group of conservative Christians held a small prayer rally in Berkeley – only to be heckled and harassed by Felarca and company. Again she was arrested – and again she kept her job.
A few months went by. Then, in May, Felarca finally faced justice. A felony case against her, arising from her involvement in a Sacramento riot in July 2016, was moved forward by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Savage. Felarca and her fellow rioters had been violently protesting a white-supremacist rally. As we noted on Tuesday, Felarca and other members of her Trotskyite terrorist organization, By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), committed acts that day that ended up with ten stab-wound victims being rushed to the hospital and the arrest of over 200 BAMN thugs.
According to media reports, Felarca herself “shoved a man to the ground,” punched another man in the stomach, and yelled “Get the fuck off our streets.” The case against her included “a felony charge of assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and two misdemeanor charges of rioting and inciting a riot.”
Judge Savage ordered that the charges be moved forward despite a request by Felarca’s lawyer, Shanta Driver, that they be dropped. “I think the judge’s decision was politically motivated; I don’t think it was valid,” said Driver (who, by the way, is not only Felarca’s lawyer but the head of BAMN). “I think that this decision is regarded by all as being really outrageous.”
Felarca, for her part, called the charges “completely false and politically motivated” and described herself as the victim of a “witch-hunt.”
Now, as we’ve seen in our previous coverage of Felarca, absolutely nothing that this woman says can be believed. She genuinely appears to perceive statements that she disagrees with as acts of violence – in her own words, literally “genocidal” – and to regard her own physically violent responses to those acts as thoroughly justified. She has, in other words, the soul of a totalitarian.
As it happens, her claim that the charges against her are “completely false” is disproved by a video of Felarca punching a man that day in Sacramento.
As this case moves forward, it will be fascinating to see if Sacramento County justice is a little saner than Berkeley justice.
We first reported on Yvette Felarca on April 17. She’s a leader of By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), a gang of Trotskyite thugs – and associates of the Revolutionary Communist Party – who keep themselves busy by rallying, rioting, brawling, making noise, setting fires, breaking stuff, and, on occasion, engaging in activities that both the FBI and Defense Department have labeled acts of terrorism. She’s also a teacher at the Martin Luther King, Jr., Middle School in the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) in Berkeley, California.
In June 2016, when white supremacists held a rally outside the California State Capitol in Sacramento, Felarca took part in a mass counter-protest that sent ten people to the hospital with stab wounds and led to over 200 arrests. According to media reports, Felarca herself “shoved a man to the ground,” punched a man in the stomach, and yelled “Get the fuck off our streets.” She was arrested, and outraged parents of kids at her school called for her dismissal, but of course the school kept her on, with a BUSD spokesman explaining, “We don’t have any authority or business to judge what an employee does in her off time.”
So Felarca kept her Berkeley job. If anyone hoped she had learned a lesson from the parental complaints, that hope was dashed in February of last year when she and other BAMN members rioted and rampaged in Berkeley itself. Their goal was to shut down a planned speech by conservative Milo Yiannopoulos, whom they accused of trying “to shut up and put in our places women or Muslims or minorities” and “trying to assert their power, threaten us, intimidate us, rape us, kill us.”
In reality, Yiannopoulos is just a man with opinions who goes around giving speeches. He does not commit acts of violence. So far as we know, he has never threatened anyone or raised his hand against anyone, let alone tried to rape or kill. Felarca and her crew are the ones who act like savages. And that’s what they did in Berkeley that day – they destroyed property, threw stuff at cops, and, in fact, ultimately forced the cancellation of Yiannopoulos’s speech.
But Felarca still kept her job.
For anyone who knows Berkeley, the refusal of local officials to fire this dangerous Communist firebrand was not really all that surprising. As it turned out, indeed, the mayor of Berkeley himself, Jesse Arreguín, is a member of BAMN and a friend of Felarca’s.
Shortly after her big day in Berkeley, Felarca appeared on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program. On the show, she charged Yiannopoulos, a gay man (who, as it happens, is now married to a black man), with telling “racist, misogynistic, and homophobic lies,” with organizing “a movement of genocide,” and with stirring up a “lynch mob mentality.”
Felarca herself routinely commits actual violence, but here she was raising the spectre of lynching and genocide in her attacks on a man whose only weapon is his voice. In an apparent call for the suspension of the First Amendment, she insisted that Yiannapoulos needed to be “shut down.”
On Tuesday, we examined the 1963-64 meeting, mutual seduction, and unconsummated hotel-room encounter between ABC News reporter Lisa Howard and Fidel Castro. It was, as they say, hot stuff. Today, our focus will be on what Howard did back home in the U.S.: publicly, on ABC News, she did her best to improve Castro’s image in America; secretly, as Politico reported recently, she served as a channel between Castro and JFK, and then between Castro and LBJ, urging both U.S. presidents to sit down with Castro and soften their line on his dictatorship.
When a ten-page letter to JFK got no response, she turned it into an article urging negotiations. She huddle with Adlai Stevenson and one of his U.N. flunkies in an effort to win Kennedy’s approval for a meeting between the flunky and Cuba’s U.N. guy. That ended up happening – at Howard’s own residence, which “became the hub for secret communications between the U.S. and Cuba.”
When she finally managing to put together a phone call between a high-level American official and a Castro sidekick in Havana, she confided to her diary: “At last! At last! That first halting step. Contact has been established!…A long, frustrating, tension-filled, but exciting experience lies ahead.” More than once in Politico‘s article on the Castro-Howard connection, one gets the distinct impression that serving as a diplomatic go-between was positively aphrodisiacal for the ABC talking head.
She later did a TV special from Cuba – which, from Politico‘s description, sounds exactly like every mainstream TV report about the island prison that has been aired in the decades since: “Howard and her crew traipsed around Cuba with the energetic Castro, filming him playing baseball, visiting a cattle farm and interacting with peasants. As much as Howard believed Castro was a dictator, the overwhelming public adoration he generated impressed her. ‘They mob him, they scream ‘Fidel, Fidel,’ children kiss him, mothers touch him,’ she wrote. ‘They are awed, thrilled … ecstatic, but mostly passionate. There is no doubt in my mind that the emotion Fidel inspires in all women is sheer undiluted sexual desire. He is the most physical animal man I have ever known.’”
This time when they went to bed, they went all the way. She later described it as “thrilling and ecstatic—as much as anything I have ever experienced.” Even so, she recognized that “so much of what he was doing was truly evil.”
What’s a poor girl to do? Well, in this case, she kept pushing the White House to talk to Castro. Nothing came of it. (The LBJ aide she lobbied was no dummy: he concluded that it was “likely” she was getting it on with the cigar-chomping Comandante.)
But again Adlai pitched in, and Howard was sent as a secret emissary to Cuba, where “Castro arranged for Howard to stay in one of the confiscated mansions that now served as a protocol house. The house came with a Cadillac and chauffeur, a butler and cook, air-conditioned bedrooms and a sunken bathtub.”
Next thing she knew, however, Howard was discarded as a U.S.-Cuba bridge. Frustrated, she “seized on the visit of Che Guevara” to the UN to restore her bona fides: she “shepherded Guevara around town—together they attended a premiere of a new documentary film commemorating the life of Kennedy—and organized a soiree for him at her New York apartment.” She offered to arrange a meeting between Che and some LBJ honcho, but her days as a power broker were over. So was her TV career: largely because of her positive portrayal of Castro, ABC fired her. On July 4, 1965, age 39, she died of a drug overdose, having loved a brutal tyrant not wisely but too well.
It’s a story that is only now being told, in Politico, “thanks to declassified official documents and, most important, Howard’s own unpublished diaries and letters.”
Lisa Howard, an ABC News reporter, first met Fidel Castro at a Havana nightclub in 1963. They talked for hours. Their conversation was wide-ranging. She came away “impressed by Castro’s breadth of knowledge” and later wrote in a letter: “Never, never have I found a Communist interested in the sentiments of Albert Camus.”
Months later, they met again, this time in a Havana hotel room. Again, they talked for hours. She took El Comandante to task for his regime’s social repression.
“To make an honorable revolution,” she told him, “you must give up the notion of wanting to be prime minister for as long as you live.” “Lisa,” Castro asked, “you really think I run a police state?” “Yes,” she answered. “I do.”
And then it happened: after the flunky who’d accompanied him was swept out of the room, Castro “slipped his arms around the American journalist, and the two lay on the bed, where, as Howard recalled in her diary, Castro ‘kissed and caressed me … expertly with restrained passion.’” They didn’t go all the way, not because she refused but because Castro chose not to: “You have done much for us, you have written a lot, spoken a lot about us. But if we go to bed then it will be complicated and our relationship will be destroyed.”
The next morning “a huge bouquet of flowers” was delivered to her room. She sent a four-page thank-you letter. “I wanted to give you something to express my gratitude for the time you granted me; for the interview; for the beautiful flowers,” it began. “I have decided to give you the most valuable possession I have to offer. Namely: my faith in your honor. My faith in the form of a letter, which, if revealed, could destroy me in the United States.”
In the letter, which she described as “a tribute, a poem to you—the man,” she told him: “I do not want you destroyed.…You possess what George Bernard Shaw called ‘that spark of divine fire.’” He was not a “ruthless, cynical tyrant,” she insisted. “I do not believe you have meant to hurt people, though, in all candor, I am both saddened and outraged that you have destroyed thousands and harmed many more without just cause.” She urged Castro to be true to his heart, as she perceived it:
What you have to offer the world that is meaningful and universally applicable is not some capricious brand of tropical Marxism (the world scarcely needs that), but your humanity; your compassion; your deep knowledge and sense of justice; your genuine concern for the poor; the sick; the oppressed; the defenseless; the lost; the despairing.…And your sacred duty, your solemn obligation to mankind is to make that quality ever stronger, to make it a reality for your people—all your people, every class and sector. Let flow in the most untrammeled way the goodness that is your substance and can be your salvation.
She closed the letter by addressing him as “my dearest Fidel.” She then returned to the U.S. And it’s what she did in the U.S. that really matters.
Karl Marx would have turned 200 on May 5, and during the last couple of weeks we’ve been noting that more than a few bien pensant types on both sides of the Atlantic manage to ignore – or explain away – the disastrous history of the twentieth century and to view Marx’s legacy with fondness. On Tuesday we examined a recent piece in the Independent, the British broadsheet, arguing that Marx’s time has finally come; today we’ll look at another contribution to the Independent, this one by Kaleem Aftab, who interviews celebrated director Raoul Peck about his new film The Young Karl Marx.
The film is, by Aftab’s account, a hagiography – a loving account of the close friendship between Marx and Friedrich Engels, his collaborator on The Communist Manifesto. Aftab likens the movie to Walter Salles’s 2004 biopic TheMotorcycleDiaries, a cinematic billet doux to Che Guevara. “Both films,” Aftab explains, “are more interested in the youthful antics of the protagonists than their later work and exploits.”
This makes sense, if you think about it: such films are intended not for mature, serious audiences who have faced the truth about Communism but for those who still romanticize it. The better, then, to view these figures in their early years, through the pink lens of youthful idealism and intellectual excitement. Better to observe the germination of the ideas than the bloody results thereof.
The other people we’ve been profiling during the past two weeks see Karl Marx as being more relevant now than he ever was. Peck agrees. Like others, he cites the 2008 financial crisis as definitive evidence of capitalism’s unworkability and inevitable failure, even as he refuses to recognize that the deterioration and collapse of one Communist regime after another demonstrates anything whatsoever. “You sum up the articles [by Marx] and it is exactly the description of the 2008 crisis,” says Peck, who was nominated for an Oscar for his 2016 documentary feature I Am Not Your Negro, about the author James Baldwin. “It’s like the children’s book of the history of capitalism and you can trace it until today. So what other proof do you need?”
Peck’s “desire to connect to the present,” writes Aftab, “has led to him make a movie that at times seems like an overly theoretical political analysis, and in other moments like a fun bromance, capturing the hijinks of ordinary young men.” Terrific – a totalitarian buddy movie! Peck’s hope is “that young people will recognise themselves in the film” and take inspiration from it in their efforts to “fight back.” And precisely what, Aftab asks, is crying out “to be fought against right now?” Like others whom we’ve discussed this week, Peck’s answer can be reduced to a single word: Trump.