Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, kingmaker?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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.

Joe Crowley

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.

Tom Perez

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.

Abdul El-Sayed

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.

Patrick Colbeck

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.

Fidel Castro: Something wonderful?

Gal Gadot

On Tuesday we discussed Israeli actress Gal Gadot’s plans to make a movie about the romance between ABC correspondent Lisa Howard and Cuban chieftain Fidel Castro. As we noted, they met for the first time in a Havana nightclub in 1963. A few months later, they met in a hotel room in the same city. The boy kissed the girl. They went to bed together. But Fidel chose not to go all the way.

And of course that restraint was what did it. She was in love. Head over heels, the ABC correspondent sent the dictator a schoolgirlish letter in which she assured him that while some people viewed him as a “tyrant,” she could see that although he had indeed “destroyed thousands” of Cubans, he had not really “meant to hurt” anybody. Indeed, she had recognized that he possessed a “spark of divine fire,” a “humanity,” a “compassion,” a “deep knowledge and sense of justice,” a “genuine concern for the poor,” and that his “sacred duty” is to make all those deeply seated attributes “a reality for your people.”

In other words, she was sort of an Anna Leonowens to his King Mongkut in The King and I. She disapproved of the brutality of his one-man rule, but at the same time she felt that she saw certain “qualities” in him that she found immensely appealing. Of course, many women feel this way about the men they fall in love with, and these feelings are generally the product not of objective intellectual observation but of hormones. One is reminded of the verse of “Something Wonderful,” the tune sung in The King and I by the senior wife, Lady Thiang, as a way of explaining her own love for the bloodthirsty absolute monarch:

This is a man who thinks with his heart,

His heart is not always wise.

This is a man who stumbles and falls,

But this is a man who tries.

This is a man you’ll forgive and forgive

And help and protect, as long as you live…..

Lisa Howard and Fidel Castro

Gal Gadot, in explaining her decision to make a movie about the Lisa Howard-Fidel Castro romance, pronounced herself “entranced” by Peter Kornbluh’s “thrilling account of a complicated, fascinating woman…in the midst of a high-stakes, real-life drama.” As Humberto Fontova noted in reporting this story, Gadot appears either to be ignorant of, or to have decided to overlook, “Fidel Castro’s habitual references to Israel as ‘Fascist!’ ‘Nazi!’ and ‘Genocidal!’” Worse than that, Castro “sen[t] tanks and troops to Syria during the Yom Kippur War” in an effort to help “erase Israel.” Castro’s government also sponsored the UN resolution that equated Zionism with racism and that led to the departure of 90 percent of Cuba’s Jews. Fidel, observed Fontova, “drove out a higher percentage of Jews from Cuba than Czar Nicholas drove from Russian and even Hafez Assad drove out of Syria. Yet ‘Miss Israel’ seems as charmed by him as was Lisa Howard.”

Che Guevara

One question that will have to be answered when the script for Gadot’s film is written is whether to include her infatuation for Castro’s sidekick Che Guevara. Would that detract from the main love story, or would it make for an engaging subplot and also contribute tension and suspense? One consideration here would be that the gala reception Lisa Howard threw for Che at her glamorous Manhattan apartment while Che was in New York to address the UN would make for a great set piece, like the big party in The Great Gatsby. Imagine the production values! The fact that Che, during that trip, “was also plotting with the Black Liberation Front to blow up the Statue of Liberty” would also add drama.

We began on Tuesday by talking about the Genesis Prize Foundation, which had made the mistake of choosing actress Natalie Portman for what is basically a “friend of Israel” award, only to be kicked in the teeth by Portman because she dislikes Benjamin Netanyahu. After one observer suggested that the accolade should have been presented instead to actress Gal Gadot, she turned out to be capable of envisioning Fidel Castro as the hero of a Hollywood love story. Perhaps the Foundation should shut down entirely and give up on handing out these prizes. Or at least it should stop giving them to Hollywood people. There are, it seems, too many “friends of Israel” in La-La Land whose friendship is woefully conditional and whose attitude toward some of Israel’s worst enemies is altogether unconscionable.

Xavier Becerra’s California

Xavier Becerra

On Tuesday, we began discussing Xavier Becerra, who was named Attorney General of the State of California early last year by Governor Jerry Brown and who has made use of the powers of that office to stand up to President Trump’s policies on immigration and travel. Notably, he has challenged Trump’s attempt to restrict entry into the U.S. by people from certain foreign countries.   

But get this: while fighting Trump’s proposed travel bans from countries that represent a real threat to American security, Xavier Becerra has imposed bans on state- funded or state-sponsored travel from California to Alabama, Kentucky, South Dakota, and Texas. Why? Because, he says, those states discriminate against LGBTQ people. Of course, some of the countries that would have been covered by Trump’s proposed travel bans execute gay people. But don’t try to view Becerra’s ideology through a lens of logic. He subscribes to the kind of leftist thinking whereby Americans who question the injection of puberty-delaying hormones into supposedly transgender children are vile bigots, whereas Muslims who throw gays off of the tops of buildings are acting upon the dictates of a culture that Westerners have no right to criticize. 

Kate Steinle

Becerra has, unsurprisingly, also stood up for the so-called “sanctuary cities,” suing the U.S. Department of Justice in August for limiting certain types of funding to municipalities that systematically refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, even harboring felons in order to protect them from deportation. (As it happens, California became a sanctuary state at the beginning of last year.) As federal officials have noted, sanctuary city policies have been responsible for the murders of several U.S. citizens, most famously Kate Steinle, killed in San Francisco on July 1, 2015, by a Mexican who at the time had seven felony convictions, had been deported from the U.S. five times, and was in San Francisco precisely because he knew that it was a sanctuary city whose government would help him evade federal immigration officials. Implicit in the arguments of Becerra and other champions of sanctuary city policies is that lives like Steinle’s are worth sacrificing in order to protect illegal aliens.     

Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Becerra hasn’t been exclusively preoccupied with immigration and travel issues. On March 28 of last year, he took action on those controversial videos in which Planned Parenthood officials were caught having chilling, unconscionable conversations about their practice of selling fetal body parts obtained through partial-birth abortions. Needless to say, Becerra didn’t go after these reprehensible Planned Parenthood officials – he went after the activists who had recorded the videos, whom he slapped with fifteen felony charges. (The charges were later dismissed by a Superior Court judge.)

Becerra’s California

But nothing Becerra has done as Attorney General approaches the chutzpah of his latest move. As the Washington Free Beacon reported on January 19, Becerra “warned employers in the state that they will face legal consequences if they voluntarily provide information on their employees’ immigration statuses to federal authorities.”

In other words, if you are a law-abiding citizen who dares to help federal law-enforcement officials carry out their legal obligations, you will be viewed as a criminal by the State of California. Meanwhile, actual criminals – people who have entered the U.S. illegally – will be protected from your efforts to help bring them to justice. Welcome to Xavier Berecca’s California, where the very meaning of the word justice has been turned upside down.

Foreign Policy: a despicable whitewash

Jonathan A.C. Brown

Back in March, we spent several days examining Jonathan A. C. Brown, a convert to Islam who runs Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and teaches in Georgetown’s Department of Arab and Islamic Studies. In particular, we paid attention to a February lecture by Brown entitled “Islam and the Problem of Slavery,” in which he did a masterful job of whitewashing his adopted faith. His lecture professed to address the question: “Is there slavery in Islam?” The answer to this question is clear: Yes. But Brown served up one ridiculous qualifier after another.

What, after all, he wondered aloud, do we mean by slavery? The line between a slave and some paid employees, he suggested, is not a clear one. (Ridiculous.) In many ways, people are “slaves” to their spouses and others whom they love. (Also ridiculous.) Slaves in Muslim households have traditionally been treated much better than prisoners on American chain gangs. (Prove it.) Unlike antebellum slavery in the American South, Muslim slavery has never been “racialized.” (An outright lie.) During the days of the Ottoman Empire, many slaves were well-treated and widely respected. (Again, prove it. And even if true, so what?) Brown waxed philosophical: “What does ownership mean?” “[W]hat does freedom mean?” After his talk, Brown entertained questions from the audience, and in reply to one of them he stated quite clearly: “It’s not immoral for one human to own another human.”

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian

Deservedly, Brown’s lecture drew widespread attention and condemnation. But others have rushed to his defense. Enter Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian, who, writing on March 16 under the aegis of the respected journal Foreign Policy (where she is an assistant editor), presented the reaction to Brown as an example of Islamophobia. The title of her piece was “The Making of Islamophobia Inc.,” and under the title was this summary: “A well-funded network is trying to strip the right to speak away from American Muslims and fanning the politics of fear.” Allen-Ebrahimian argued that while Brown’s work is largely “aimed at making Islamic thought more accessible to general audiences,” his “attempts to explain the faith have made him a hate figure for the American right.” In his February lecture, she claimed, Brown had “addressed slavery in Islam, hoping to combat the idea that Islam could ever condone the subjugation and exploitation of human beings.”

Robert Spencer

In response, according to Allen-Ebrahimian, right-wingers had come out in force, misrepresenting Brown’s arguments. Brown, she lamented, “is the victim of an increasingly empowered industry of Islamophobia that constricts the space for balanced and open dialogue, sidelining the very Muslims who are doing the most to promote peaceful, orthodox interpretations of Islam.” Allen-Ebrahimian compared these critics of Brown to “the McCarthyites of the 1950s.” Singling out one of those critics, the Islam expert Robert Spencer, Allen-Ebrahimian actually suggested that Spencer’s writings had inspired the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik. She also cited such websites as the Daily Caller, Heat Street, and Breitbart, calling them part of “a self-reinforcing online ecosystem that churns out frenzied headlines and constructs alternate online biographies…in which normal American Muslims are painted as Muslim Brotherhood-linked, jihad-loving, rape-defending threats to the American way of life. Brown’s lecture lasted like chum in shark-infested waters.”

Fortunately, Allen-Ebrahimian’s reprehensible, mendacious screed wasn’t allowed to stand. Tune in tomorrow.

Michael Pfleger, living saint?

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Fr. Michael Pfleger

For four decades he’s been the priest in charge at “Chicago’s largest African-American Catholic church.” He’s led more than his share of demonstrations and been arrested dozens of times. Barack Obama has praised his “heroic work.” His name: Father Michael Pfleger.

In February of last year, Evan Osnos wrote a love letter to him in the New Yorker. A sample:

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Spike Lee

Last year, when Spike Lee was preparing to make “Chi-Raq,” about violence in Chicago, he asked Pfleger to introduce him to gang members, parents of slain children, and others. “Father Pfleger is the great facilitator,” Lee told me. “He’s the point guard, with everything coming through him.” Lee copied sentences from Pfleger’s sermons in creating the character of a white priest played by John Cusack. “That character,” Lee said, “is a cross between Father Pfleger and the father that Karl Malden played in ‘On the Waterfront.’ ” When the film came out, Vic Mensa, a Chicago hip-hop artist, criticized the “white savior concept” as “hurtful to our power as dark-skinned people.” Lee responded that that might be true if Cusack’s character didn’t exist, and added, “He would not be there forty years if he’s not the real deal. He’s a living saint, and they’re lucky they got him.”

To be sure, a few paragraphs into the profile Osnos admitted that some Chicagoans “dismiss Pfleger as a huckster who is more interested in getting attention than in working to find solutions.” One top cop calls him “Pfather Pfaker.” Others say he’s “too cozy with City Hall, a moderate posing as a radical.”

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Jeremiah Wright

But there’s nothing fake about Pfleger’s longtime friendships with two notorious Chicago-based racists and anti-Semites: Obama’s former minister, Jeremiah Wright, and Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam. Wright, it will be recalled, became nationally famous during the 2008 election campaign, when the media pored through years of his sermons and found such statements as this: “White folks’ greed runs a world in need.” The Sunday after 9/11, Wright preached: “We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye….America’s chickens are coming home to roost.” Wright accused white scientists of creating the HIV virus in order to commit genocide against people of color. After Obama became president, Wright said his former parishioner hadn’t contacted him because “Them Jews aren’t going to let him talk to me.”

(Caption Information) Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, Leader, Nation of Islam is seen during his speech.Rosa Parks Funeral at Greater Grace Temple Church.Detroit, Mi, November 2, 2005, Detroit, MI. (The Detroit News/Clarence Tabb, Jr.)
Louis Farrakhan

As for Farrakhan, this is the man who famously called Judaism a “gutter religion” and has frequently referred to Jews as “killers.” “These false Jews,” he has preached, “promote the filth of Hollywood that is seeding the American people and the people of the world and bringing you down in moral strength and making evil fair seeming. It’s the wicked Jews, the false Jews that are promoting lesbianism, homosexuality. It’s wicked Jews, false Jews.” In 2015, Farrakhan called on his supporters to murder white people. Addressing Jews in one speech, Farrakhan said: “And don’t you forget, when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!” Even the far-left Southern Poverty Law Center considers the Nation of Islam a hate group.

Asked on TV about his two friends, Pfleger said: “I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back while you tear down Farrakhan and Jeremiah Wright. How dare you. How dare you. How dare you seek to reduce Jeremiah Wright, who’s one of the greatest Biblical scholars this nation has, to a 30-second sound bite and try to demonize him and trivialize him. You cannot do that.”

More tomorrow.

Bashing NATO: Stephen F. Cohen

Time to check in again with Stephen F. Cohen, the NYU prof (and hubby of limo-lefty Nation publisher Katrina van den Heuvel) who is America’s most prominent Kremlinologist – and Vladimir Putin’s most ardent and assiduous champion in the U.S.

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Stephen F. Cohen

Over the last few months, we’ve spent a good deal of time probing Cohen’s reprehensible views. One example: instead of denouncing Russia’s antigay laws, Cohen has condemned Western gays for complaining about them. Surely Cohen, a card-carrying member of the leftist establishment, is a fan of the Freedom Riders who went to the American South to march for black civil rights; surely he supported folks who traveled to South Africa to protest apartheid; and without a doubt, like the rest of the Nation gang, he cheers Westerners who go to Gaza to savage Israel. But Western gays calling for gay rights in Russia? “How is that our concern?” Cohen asked a Newsweek interviewer, his irritation palpable. “Why is it America’s job to go over there and sort out the gay problem when 85 percent of Russians think they should have no rights?”

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Gilbert Doctorow, co-founder of ACEWA

The last time we looked in on Cohen, back in November, he was busy co-founding a pro-Russia propaganda scam called the American Committee for East-West Accord. Think of it as a 21st-century version of all those Cold War-era international “peace organizations” and “peace congresses” that were actually Soviet fronts and you’ll get the idea. Cohen is, after all, a guy who, in Soviet days, wasn’t just a Kremlin expert but a Kremlin fan, the sort of leftist who blamed the downside of Soviet life on Stalin (not Communism itself, which he defended) and blamed the Cold War on America.

So what’s the latest with Cohen? In a February interview with his favorite TV channel, Putin’s own RT America (formerly Russia Today), Cohen went on a rant about NATO. Hardly the first time, to be sure. But this interview – conducted by Ed Schultz, the former MSNBC hack who’s now on Putin’s payroll – was particularly worth listening to, given that it provided a tidy summing-up of Cohen’s thinking on the topic. Sample: NATO – that means Washington and that means Obama administration – has decided to quadruple its military forces on Russia’s borders or near Russia’s borders.” This equation of NATO with the U.S. speaks volumes: for him, NATO isn’t a group of sovereign nations that have pulled together in the cause of common defense; it’s an instrument of American imperialism, period.

schultz
Ed Schultz

“The last time there was this kind of Western hostile military force on Russia’s borders,” complained Cohen, “is when the Nazis invaded Russia in 1941.” Yes, there it was: a comparison of NATO to the Nazis. Cohen went on: “During the 40-year Cold War there was this vast buffer zone that ran from the Soviet borders all the way to Berlin. There were no NATO or American troops there. So this is a very radical departure on the part of the administration.” Some euphemism: “buffer zone”! Of course, Cohen’s referring to the countries of Eastern Europe that the Red Army overran at the end of World War II and turned into Communist satellites. Those countries were no “buffer zone”; they were captive nations, their people unfree, their governments Kremlin puppets. When Hungary tried to break away in 1956, it was invaded by Soviet tanks. Ditto Czechoslovakia in 1968.

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Cohen with his wife (and publisher) Katrina van den Heuvel

Today, those countries are free. All of them, at the first opportunity, rushed to join NATO – not, as Cohen implies, because they wanted to subject themselves to another imperial master, but because they wanted to protect their freedom in the face of what they recognized as the continued Kremlin threat. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which had been absorbed into the USSR during World War II and which gained their independence after it dissolved, joined NATO too. And Putin’s actions against Georgia in 2008, plus his later intervention in Ukraine and annexation of Crimea, made it clear that these nations’ concerns were well-founded.

Not in Cohen’s world, however. “Russia is not threatening any country on its border,” he told Schultz. Yes, he said, there is a threat – but it’s coming from the U.S., which had sparked “a new Cold War” beginning with “the proxy American-Russian war in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia in 2008.” Yes, Cohen actually rewrote Russia’s bullying of Georgia into a “proxy…war” with the U.S. And he went on to call NATO activity “very dangerous and reckless” because under “Russian doctrine,” born of “their weakness after the end of the Soviet Union,” the Kremlin has committed itself to “use tactical nuclear weapons” in response to any threat by “overwhelming conventional force.” So we should view Putin’s apparent readiness to use nukes – yes, nukes – as a legitimate response to the “threat” represented by NATO defense preparations.

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Just a reminder: these two are the Boris and Natasha of our time

In Cohen-land, in short, reality is turned upside down: it’s not Russia that’s rattling sabers at its neighbors and former vassals, thus compelling them to participate in a mutual-defense pact; it’s the U.S. that’s brandishing the dogs of war in the form of countries that, Cohen would have us believe, are not free and sovereign nations but American vassals – thus compelling Putin to risk playing the nuclear card. Got that? Of course you do. Believe it? Of course you don’t. Only among the type of people who read the Nation does such twisted nonsense pass muster as legitimate geopolitical analysis.