Bourdain’s “unspoiled” Havana

Anthony Bourdain

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.

Unspoiled Havana

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!”

Inside one of those world-class Cuban hospitals

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.

Cathy Areu, pinheaded pundit

Cathy Areu

Who is Cathy Areu? “From debating Bill O’Reilly about the ‘war on women’ to discussing border issues with Anderson Cooper,” her website trumpets, “Cathy has been analyzing the hottest topics of the day, on the best cable TV news shows in the U.S. and beyond, for over a decade.” In other words, she’s a cable-TV talking head, who for years now has appeared frequently on the Big Three: CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. She’s also the editor of Catalina Magazine, founded in 2001 “to break the stereotypes of Hispanics in the US media and entertainment.”

Nancy Pelosi

She’s celebrated the misbegotten, indefensible Diversity Visa Program, which allows immigrants into the U.S. essentially at random. Opposition to the program, she has charged, is “anti-American.” She’s also argued that 77-year-old Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi should stay on as Democratic leader in the House for no other reason than that Pelosi is a woman.

In recent months Areu has been a staple on the Tucker Carlson Show. In one exchange with Carlson, she held forth on “toxic masculinity,” for which she blamed mass shootings. “Women are better,” she stated flatly. “We are not the murderers in our society…Men are not as good as women.” Women are “the better gender.” As for men, “maybe we’re just not raising them right.” Asked whether there is such a thing as toxic femininity, she said no: “Women can do no wrong….We’re just the smarter gender.” In other words, she feels the same way about her sex as Hitler felt about his ethnic group.

White supremacy in action

On another episode, Carlson took on a professor’s accusation in a magazine article that when Westerners practice yoga, they are being racists. Areu agreed that they were. In the West, she stated, yoga is practiced mainly by white women (“not Latinos, not immigrants”) who have appropriated an activity with a rich cultural history that they don’t know about or care to understand. It’s “white supremacy,” she explained. When Carlson asked whether, by the same token, it would be wrong for people outside the West to use the Internet, a product of Western civilization. No, she said, because the Internet lacks the long, rich history that yoga has.

What, Carlson asked, about another product of Western civilization – namely, democracy, which does have a long, rich history? Areu dismissed his argument, contending that “yoga was a way for the Indians to show their colonizers that they were intelligent.” Carlson laughed: “Where do you get your history? Yoga predates the British by quite a bit.”

Areu enjoys posing for pictures backstage at her media appearances

But the whole point of Areu’s ideology is that real history is irrelevant. As Carlson himself has explained to viewers, he is presenting Areu on his show as a guide to the Brave New World in which we now live. It’s a world in which all kinds of actions or statements that a few years ago would have been considered innocuous are now virulently condemned as racist or sexist; a world in which all men are potential rapists and women, by definition, “can do no wrong”; a world, in short, in which the rules of the road have changed entirely and in which history can be rewritten at will to conform to the new rules. Areu’s entire schtick is that she’s internalized those new rules to a remarkable extent, and can defend even the most ridiculous of them without the slightest sign of intellectual embarrassment. It’s quite an accomplishment.

More on Thursday.

Catching up with Sally Kohn, consummate hater

Of all the people who make a living these days spouting opinions, perhaps none are dumber and more clueless than Sally Kohn.

Sally Kohn

We discussed Sally, a community organizer turned CNN commentator, in September of last year. Over the course of a week, we learned that she’s incredibly ignorant of a staggering range of things, from the fundamental tenets of Islam to basic facts of European history and geography. She didn’t know Amsterdam was in the Netherlands. She bragged that if she had an adopted Moroccan son, she’d raise him as a Muslim, not grasping that a devout Muslim male might disapprove of her lesbianism, her Judaism, her failure to wear a head covering and subordinate herself to men. It’s shocking to discover that she actually has a law degree, because she gives no indication of ever having studied anything. She knows nothing but politics and never has anything to say that isn’t right out of the PC handbook.

Linda Sarsour

We thought we’d do an update on old Sally. First we should mention her support for sharia devotee and sham feminist Linda Sarsour, an organizer of the Women’s March on the day after this U.S. year’s presidential inauguration. In April, we included Sally on a list of Sarsour’s admirers but we didn’t quote any of her tweets in Sarsour’s defense. Here you go: “#IStandWithLinda today & always! Her every word is being picked apart and contorted. I know @lsarsour to be a defender of justice FOR ALL!” This wasn’t exactly a surprise: Sally has consistently stood up for sharia law and has refused to listen to reason about it. On some mental level she has to be aware that she’s misrepresenting it, but her determination to be foursquare PC in every possible way makes it impossible for her to criticize it.

Kurt Schlichter

One person she has been able to criticize is one Kurt Schlichter. When Schlichter tried to explain to her, via Twitter, that Sarsour is “an Islamic fanatic,” Kohn replied: “I feel sad for you and everyone who thinks like you. It must be hard having your heart filled with so much blind hatred.” Schlichter, a retired Army colonel, replied with a photograph of himself, in uniform, presumably in Iraq or Afghanistan, in the company of several Muslim youths, all of them smiling and happy. Schlichter’s comment: “Here’s me showing my ‘blind hatred’ while deployed away from my family protecting Muslims from genocide. Where’s your pic?”

Sally has also called Donald Trump a fascist and totalitarian, has charged Dana Loesch (entirely without justification) with inciting violence, and has accused Paul Ryan of murder (for supporting repeal of Obamacare). Even as she has poured out all this bile, she has repeatedly posed as a model of civility, calling on her ideological opponents to avoid name-calling and stick to respectable lines of argument. She assailed Republicans for using the so-called “nuclear option” to get Judge Neil Gorsuch onto the Supreme Court, tweeting: “Are we really surprised that after Democrats DIDN’T use #NuclearOption, Republicans DID? Perpetual high-road/low-road distinction.” In fact, the Democrats had used the “nuclear option” in 2013 to confirm several Obama judicial appointees.

Corey Lewandowski

Her obnoxiousness is through the roof. On the day of the presidential election, she tweeted that she’d run into former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski in a CNN makeup room “and offered my condolences in advance.” A couple of weeks before the election, she published a supposed letter to her eight-year-old daughter in which she described Trump as “a mirror reflecting a dark and dangerous part of our history” and characterized Trump voters as viewing “the equal treatment of women and people of color as a bad thing.”

Donald Trump

Linking Trump and his supporters to slavery, to lynching, and to what she described as the “genocide” of Native Americans,” Sally told her daughter: “As you grow up, it will be easier for you to get into college and get a job and buy a home than it will be for your black friends.” No, not if Affirmative Action is still in effect. Sally went on to write: “You’ve said that if Donald Trump wins, you want to move to India.” She asked her not to do that. (But how did such an idea get into the head of an eight-year-old to begin with?) No, if Trump wins, Sally asserted, “we will not only march in the streets, but we will use our bodies to stop his forces from entering mosques or raiding homes of immigrants.” If Trump symbolized the worst of America, a vote for Hillary Clinton would serve “to uplift the best of America’s values,” including “justice and inclusion and fairness and kindness and equal opportunity for all.”

According to her website, Sally is currently writing “a book about hate – why there’s so much hate in our world today, why it’s getting worse, and what we can do to stop it.” She seems totally blind to the fact that she herself is a geyser of hate, unfairly smearing as haters tens of millions of Americans who hate no one but who are justifiably weary of the obsessive identity politics that are what Sally and her ilk have in place of a mind and a moral compass.

Outdoing Duranty? The AP in Nazi Germany

Matti Friedman

In June, the Tablet provided a useful reminder that major news media based in free countries have engaged in silent collaboration with dictatorships, covering up the latter’s crimes in order to retain “access.” “Is it better to cooperate with dictatorships and authoritarian regimes and tell half the story with hands tied—or not tell the story at all?” asked the Tablet piece by Matti Friedman, who took as his case in point the all-too-cozy relationship that the Associated Press developed with the Nazis. Citing a 2016 paper by German historian Harriet Scharnberg entitled “The A and P of Propaganda,” Friedman, himself a former AP reporter, noted that “the AP’s photo office in Germany made compromise after compromise to keep reporting under Nazi rule, obeying successive orders from the Hitler regime until it ended up as a Nazi information arm in all but name.” While other Western news organizations left Hitler’s Germany in 1935, the AP stayed on, “an arrangement the New York-based agency was eager to preserve—even if it meant removing all of its Jewish photographers in keeping with Nazi race laws, for example, and even if it meant issuing a statement to the official SS magazine swearing that the photo bureau was pure Aryan.”

Harriet Scharnberg

How close was the AP to the Nazis? Well, among the consequences of the special relationship was the use of AP photographs “in some of the vilest racial propaganda produced by the Nazi state,” such as a book called The Jews in the USA. The head of AP’s photography service in Berlin ended up as a Nazi censor; one photographer, Franz Roth, was simultaneously working for the AP and the SS. So it was that AP photos of the Wehrmacht’s advance on the Eastern front – pictures that ended up in newspapers around the U.S. – made the Nazis look like heroes and made Soviet prisoners, for example, look like “ugly human specimens.” In short, while the AP claimed to be an independent and objective news organization, it was in bed with the Nazis, covering up the reality of life in the Third Reich, the true nature of the Nazi war machine, and of course the horror of the death camps.

As Friedman points out, the AP is far from the only major news organization to have been guilty of such practices:

Western news organizations that maintain a presence in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, for example, make compromises in return for access and almost never tell readers what those compromises are. The result, in many cases, is something worse than no coverage—it’s something that looks like coverage, but is actually misinformation, giving people the illusion that they know what’s going on instead of telling them outright that they’re getting information shaped by regimes trying to mislead them.

Peter Arnett

We wrote about this topic here at Useful Stooges last year, noting that “[w]hen it comes to oppressive regimes – the type that shutter opposition media and imprison honest journalists – CNN’s policy has routinely been to retain access at all costs. Back in 1991, during the first Gulf War, CNN’s Peter Arnett was the only Western TV reporter in Baghdad, and, as such, according to Newsweek, provided “rare glimpses from inside Iraq,” even as he “provoked criticism that he and his network [were] being used as a conduit for Iraqi propaganda.”

Christiane Amanpour

After 9/11, we further observed, CNN, unlike many other news outfits, was able to keep its reporters in Baghdad for one reason and one reason alone: its “systematic refusal to report on the dark side of Saddam’s regime,” a policy that CNN news exec Eason Jordan copped to in a 2003 New York Times op-ed. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when CNN’s Christiane Amanpour sneered that Fox News reporters were Bush administration’s “foot soldiers,” Fox replied: “It’s better to be viewed as a foot soldier for Bush than a spokeswoman for al-Qaeda.”

More tomorrow.

From Ohio to Occupy Wall Street: Caleb Maupin

Yesterday we met Caleb Maupin, who became a Communist as a fifth grader in a small Ohio town and by 2010 was a prominent rabble-rouser in Cleveland and a leading local voice in the Workers World Party (WWP).

Maupin at a 2007 WWP conference

But the big city beckoned. A year later, Maupin was living in New York, and still an active WWP member. A July 2011 piece at the website of the International Communist Youth League (Fourth International) mentions Maupin’s attendance at a recent event held by the Spartacus Youth Club at the City College of New York. Maupin, identified in the article as “a writer for Workers World newspaper, the party organ of the reformist, pro-Democratic Party outfit of the same name,” was called upon at the event by Spartacists “to defend his party’s fawning over Obama and support to Democratic city councilman Charles Barron.”

Maupin did so by accusing the Spartacists of seeking “to be an isolated sect,” pure in its ideology but barren in its impact, whereas the WWP, in his view, were out to bring together diverse Leninist forces in an authentically productive class struggle “against a common enemy.” (The conflict, interestingly, is reminiscent of that which raged for many decades between strict Protestant fundamentalists – who out of a sense of theological purity chose to keep their distance from politics – and evangelicals, such as Jerry Falwell, who allied with Catholics, Jews, mainline Protestants, and others in the Republican Party in an effect to exert a degree of power in the mainstream culture.)

A 2011 Occupy Wall Street rally in New York

In New York, Maupin was involved in the 2011 planning of the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and was also working, according to his profile at RT – the media empire run by the Putin regime in Russia – as “a youth organizer for the International Action Center.”

OWS at its height

Maupin turned up in a 2012 Reuters report about OWS’s first anniversary. It quoted Maupin, described as living in Queens, as follows: “A lot of media is saying that Occupy is dying down, but I think the fact that over 100 people were arrested this morning shows that Occupy is still part of the conversation.” He added: “We’ve been locked out, people my age don’t have much chance of getting a job, so we have to do something to get people’s attention.” A year later, Allison Kilkenny of The Nation took note of the second anniversary of OWS, which by this point was being described in the past tense. Again Maupin made an appearance, with Kilkenny describing him as having been “arrested during a couple Occupy Wall Street protests and participated in the original General Assemblies.”

Death and desperation in Venezuela

Nicolas Maduro

The weeks go by, and Venezuela continues to plunge toward toward chaos. One reads the stories and looks at the pictures, and things can hardly seem to get worse; and yet they keep getting worse. Last month, President Nicolás Maduro dissolved the National Assembly, leading to day after day of street protests by outraged citizens some of whom called Maduro “a ‘Bolivarian’ version of Vladimir Putin” and accused him of engineering a “socialist nightmare.” On April 28, we quoted The Week to the effect that “the economy shrank by 18 percent last year, with unemployment at 25 percent, and inflation slated to be 750 percent this year and 2,000 percent the next.” Chavismo has taken a particularly big toll on the nation’s health: according to The Week, “children are suffering from malnourishment for the first time in the country’s modern history” and “hospitals are running out of even basic drugs.”

May 3, 2017 in Caracas: in the foreground, Bolivarian National Guards; in the background, anti-government protesters

Now come reports that anti-government protesters are being tried by military tribunals, where they may be sent to prison for up to 30 years. In the city of Coro, noted the Associated Press, medical students and music students who were guilty of nothing but public assembly had been thrown in a military jail even though they are all civilians – a violation of the Venezuelan Constitution. As of May 10, over 250 protesters had reportedly been brought before military courts during the previous week (although some sources said the number was much higher).

Luisa Ortega

Maduro has defended the use of the military courts as “emergency measures” that are necessitated by what he describes as an effort by foreign powers (guess who?) to bring down his socialist government. “Some opposition leaders,” reported the AP, “believe the use of the military tribunals reflects Maduro’s weakening grip on power and a desire to circumvent someone who’s become a surprising irritant: Venezuela’s semi-autonomous chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who has shown signs of unusual independence.”

On May 11, Agence France Presse brought even more sobering news. In 2016, 11,466 infants under the age of one died in Venezuela, as compared with 8,812 the year before – a 30% increase. This crisis has occurred during a time when the collapse of that country’s economy has resulted in a drastic shortage in basic items required by hospitals. (To quote AFP, Venezuelan doctors say that “hospitals have only three percent of the medicines and supplies that they need to operate normally.”) At the same time, the country experienced a 76% rise in malaria – the raw number of cases being no less than 240,000.

In the meantime, on May 10, CNN reported that Maduro’s three stepsons had gone skydiving with our professional athletes, Amy Chmelecki, Mike Swanson, Jon DeVore, and Noah Bahnson, who are sponsored by Red Bull and whose escapade with the Maduro boys was paid for by an outfit called SkyDive Caribbean.

In the midst of all this horror, the destruction by protesters of a statue of Hugo Chavez was cited as an illustration of the fact that the Venezuelan people’s rage is, in many instances, overcoming their fear. The only thing that’s sure here is that this story is not yet over.

Thugs at Berkeley

Yvette Felarca

Yesterday we met Yvette Felarca, a leader of the California-based violent radical group By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), which calls itself anti-fascist but whose own rhetoric and tactics are right out of the fascist playbook. Last June, she led a violent BAMN action in Sacramento that would have lost her her middle-school teaching job if the district administrators had any backbone. But that event pales alongside BAMN’s biggest operation ever, which took place on February 1 of this year. It was on that date that BAMN, employing physical violence and destroying property, succeeded in closing down a planned speech at UC Berkeley by conservative writer Milo Yiannopoulos.

Milo Yiannopoulos giving one of his campus speeches in drag

“This is not about free speech,” Felarca told her followers before the big event. She described Yiannopoulos and his crew as “not people who are interested in any genuine debate. They hide behind that hypocritically to try to shut up and put in our places women or Muslims or minorities or oppressed groups. But what they are really trying to do is they’re trying to assert their power, threaten us, intimidate us, rape us, kill us.” For those unfamiliar with Yiannopoulos’s standard act, it may be necessary to say that he and his cohorts are not out to rape or kill anyone – they are out to restore some semblance of sanity to a largely campus-based subculture that has been infected by the kind of demented rhetoric in which Felarca specializes, smearing anyone who disagrees with her fanatical views as Nazis, fascists, racists, and so on.

These and following pictures: the Berkeley riot

“This is real,” she continued. “This is life and death…. We can shut this fucker down, we can get rid of Donald Trump….when the Nazis tried to kill some of us, after we recovered, some of them threatened me and students at my school and tried to get me fired. But they didn’t succeed, and the students and the parents and the community rallied together and not only got me my job back but we’re stronger now, so we have got to stay united.”

There ensued – at the flagship campus of the University of California system – a spectacle out of warn-torn Beirut or Sarajevo. Felarca’s disciples behaved like storm troopers. Destruction was rampant. The image of the free exchange of ideas at an American college being shut down by jackbooted thugs was chilling.

As one news source put it: “Those who came to hear Yiannopoulos speak were beaten fists and flag poles by protesters, who also doused attendees with pepper spray….Several folks at the event posted videos online highlighting the violence, as well as protesters yelling ‘fuck you racists’ and other profanities. Others, wearing masks and dressed in all black, hurled Molotov cocktails, smashed out windows at a student center where Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak, threw fireworks and rocks at police, blocked traffic, and caused other mayhem.” CNN wrote: “The violent protesters tore down metal barriers, set fires near the campus bookstore and damaged the construction site of a new dorm. One woman wearing a red Trump hat was pepper sprayed in the face while being interviewed by CNN affiliate KGO. She was able to respond that she was OK after the attack.”

More tomorrow.

Van Jones, 9/11 traitor

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Van Jones

If you’ve ever watched CNN, you almost certainly know who Van Jones is. He’s a regular contributor to the network who has also served in the Obama White House, taught at Princeton, and worked at John Podesta’s Center for American Progress. Born in small-town Tennessee to a schoolteacher mother and a school principal father, he attended the University of Tennessee and Yale Law School. During the years that followed his 1993 graduation from the latter institution, he worked for, founded, or co-founded a wide range of NGOs, activist groups, grassroots organizations, advocacy projects, initiatives, social enterprises, and the like. His causes have ranged from “racial justice” to “environmental justice” to “economic justice.”

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President Trump addressing Congress

As presented on sites like Wikipedia, his career comes off as that of an admirable liberal who has spent his life crusading for the betterment of American society. On CNN, he comes off as a hardcore man of the left but also exhibits a charm and humor that take the edge off his politics. After Donald Trump’s address to Congress in March, Jones earned the ire of some of his Democratic friends and colleagues when he praised the speech and – in reference to remarks that Trump addressed to the widow of a Navy SEAL – said that Trump “became President of the United States in that moment, period.” It seemed a moment of laudable honesty that transcended ideology and partisan rancor.

But there’s more to Jones than meets the eye. Arrested in 1992 as part of a San Francisco mob protesting the acquittal of the cops who’d beaten Rodney King, he was jailed alongside Communists and anarchists. “This is what I need to be a part of,” he thought. Next thing he knew, he was a Communist. In 1994, he founded a Marxist collective called Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement, or STORM.

He was involved in STORM for a decade. Then he moved on. Soon he was in the mainstream. Was he still a Communist? Hard to say. On the one hand, he no longer publicly identified as one. On the other hand, he never explicitly renounced Communism.

On September 12, 2001, in Oakland, Jones took part in a “solidarity” gathering for “people of color”– solidarity, that is, not with the victims of 9/11, but with Arab and Muslim Americans who during the previous 24 hours had supposedly been subjected to a massive wave of bigotry and violence all over the country. (This, of course, was either a conscious lie or a fantasy.)

9-11There could hardly have been a more revolting event that day anywhere in the U.S. Instead of reviling the terrorist attacks, the speakers condemned the U.S. government for its internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, for its historic mistreatment of blacks and American Indians, and for its bombing and abuse of people in Kosovo, Palestine, Iraq, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere around the globe. The people at the World Trade Center, said one speaker, died “because of our government’s inhumane foreign policy.” Another speaker expressed “satisfaction” at the attack on the Pentagon. Jones was the last to speak. “It’s the bombs that the government has been dropping around the world that are now blowing up inside the U.S. borders,” he said. “We’ve got something stronger than bombs. We’ve got solidarity. That dream of revolutionary solidarity is stronger than bombs.”

By 2008, Jones was identifying not as a Communist radical but as an environmental activist. In an interview that year, he explained that for him, the green movement’s demand for “eco-capitalism” was just a small step on the way to eradicating all “systems of exploitation and oppression.” In other words, for Jones, as for many other environmentalists, the green movement seems to serve as a useful, popular means of fighting democratic capitalism without being burdened by the unpopular label of “Marxist” or “Communist.”

More tomorrow.

Top ten stooges, part two

Yesterday we revisited five of our top ten useful stooges of 2016. Here are the other five, who happen to have one thing in common: a readiness to defend Islam, the premier totalitarian force of our time. 

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Ben Norton

He hates Israel, calls the U.S. a “rogue state,” celebrates the legacy of the Black Panthers, and reflexively responds to each new act of terrorism by fretting about anti-Muslim backlash and smearing critics of Islam. He’s boy scribe Ben Norton, who when he’s not writing for Salon – an execrable enough venue – can be found at such vile pro-jihad sites as Electronic Intifada and Middle East Monitor. Instead of condemning the murderers of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in January 2015, Norton slammed the victims as racists. Instead of writing about the massacres in Boston, San Bernardino, and Orlando (media attention to such events, he argues, only boosts bigotry), he penned an entire article about a white lady who’d jumped a hijab-clad woman on a Washington, D.C., sidewalk.

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Laurie Penny

Laurie Penny was born into a prosperous family (both her parents were lawyers), went to a posh English public school, studied at Oxford, and was soon a highly successful journalist and author. But she’s still (as she constantly whines) a victim of sexism, a member of an “oppressed class.” And every man’s an oppressor – except, note well, for those Muslim males who act on the permission their religion gives them to beat, rape, and even kill women with impunity. So it was that when gangs of “refugees” committed mass rape in Cologne last New Year’s Eve, Penny turned her ire not on the rapists, but on the “racists” who responded to this crime by criticizing Islam. 

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Sally Kohn

It sounds like a set-up for a bad joke: a Jewish lesbian defending sharia law. But it’s no joke – it’s Sally Kohn, who after holding a series of jobs as a sleazy political operator and PR flack is now a CNN talking head. Even worse than her utter lack of a decent education is her utter lack of embarrassment about it: when an editor commissioned her to write about Amsterdam, she admitted she didn’t even know what country it was in – but that didn’t keep her from visiting it for a few days and banging out a piece accusing the natives of (what else?) Islamophobia.

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Owen Jones

“Modern capitalism is a sham,” advises British lad Owen Jones, and “democratic socialism is our only hope.” A Guardian columnist, Oxford grad, and son of Trotskyite parents, Jones is a consistent whitewasher of Islam who turns every act of jihadist terror into an excuse to denounce critics of Islam.

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Will Smith

Finally, there’s movie star Will Smith, who this year called for “cleans[ing]” America by eliminating Trump supporters. (He didn’t say how we should do it.) He also condemned America’s “Islamophobia” and extolled Dubai, which, he claimed, “dreams the way I dream.” Never mind that the UAE, where Dubai is located, is a sharia-ruled country where you can get stoned to death for being gay: Smith, a self-styled “student of world religion,” claimed that if Americans have a bad image of the place, it’s entirely the fault of Fox News.

Happy New Year!

Adeste fideles

(FILES) In this 04 September1999 file photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro discusses his request to the president of the International Olympic Committee in Havana for an investigation into the treatment of certain Cuban atheletes. Castro said the communist nation is not afraid of dialogue with the United States -- and not interested in continued confrontation with its powerful neighbor. The comments came as a group of US lawmakers visited Cuba this weekend to try to end nearly half a century of mutual distrust and amid reports that President Barack Obama was planning to ease economic sanctions on the island, including travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans. "We're not afraid to talk with the United States. We also don't need confrontation to exist, like some fools like to think," Castro, 82, said in an article on the Cubadebate website on April 5, 2009. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE /FILES (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images) Original Filename: Was672139.jpg

Yesterday we lamented the New York Times‘s nauseating Castro obit. Unsurprisingly, the Times wasn’t the only newspaper to praise the old thug. While the Washington Post, in the headline of its obituary, honestly – and admirably – labeled Fidel a “dictator,” a slew of other mainstream media honored him with the title of “president” (Bloomberg, Daily Mail) or “leader” (CNN, PBS, Daily Mirror). The BBC went with “icon.” And while U.S. President-elect Donald Trump frankly called Castro a “brutal dictator,” other eminent figures around the world queued up to ooze praise. A quick round-up:

NA-TRUDEAU-EDBOARD5 The editorial board met with Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau on April 5, 2013. CARLOS OSORIO/TORONTO STAR
Justin Trudeau

Jill Stein. The Green Party presidential candidate tweeted: “Fidel Castro was a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire. Presente!”

Justin Trudeau. Applauding Castro’s “love for the Cuban people,” Canada’s PM said that the tyrant’s demise caused him “deep sorrow,” noted that his father (late PM Pierre Trudeau) “was very proud to call [Castro] a friend,” and mourned “the loss of this remarkable leader.”

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Jean-Claude Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker. The EU Commission president tweeted: “With the death of #FidelCastro, the world has lost a man who was a hero for many.”

George Galloway. The former British MP tweeted: “You were the greatest man I ever met Comandante Fidel. You were the man of the century.”

Michael D. Higgins. Ireland’s president gushed that “equality and poverty are much less pronounced in Cuba than in surrounding nations” and that Castro stood not only for “freedom for his people but for all of the oppressed and excluded peoples on the planet.”

June 26-27, 1984, Havana, Cuba --- Jesse Jackson smokes Cuban cigars with Fidel Castro during a controversial visit to Havana in June 1984. Jackson, a candidate for President of the United States, caused a stir in the U.S. government and press by visiting with the Communist leader. --- Image by © Jacques M. Chenet/CORBIS
Jesse Jackson with Castro, 1984

Jesse Jackson. The veteran shakedown artist cheered  Castro the “freedom fighter,” “poor people’s hero,” and “liberator.”

Jimmy Carter. The retired peanut farmer wrote: “Rosalynn and I share our sympathies with the Castro family and the Cuban people….We remember fondly our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country.”

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Ban Ki-Moon

Ban Ki-Moon. The UN honcho professed to be “saddened” by the death of Castro, whom he credited with “advances…in the fields of education, literacy and health” and touted as “a strong voice for social justice.”

Jeremy Corbyn. The head of the British Labour Party hailed Castro as a “champion of social justice.”

MANDATORY CREDIT People in Miami celebrate the death of Cuba's Fidel Castro in front of Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana, early Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. Within half an hour of the Cuban government’s official announcement that former President Fidel Castro had died, Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, at age 90, Miami’s Little Havana teemed with life - and cheers. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP)
Celebrating in Miami

Obscene, all of it. Any reader who is tempted to believe these plaudits need only watch TV coverage of the exultant celebrations by Cuban exiles in the streets of Miami. In those crowds are people who have firsthand knowledge of Castro’s evil. Many of them, because of Castro, have experienced cruelty, brutality, and suffering beyond description. Castro robbed their freedom, their homes, their land. And, in many cases, imprisoned, tortured, or executed their fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters.

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Reynaldo Arenas

If viewing those videos isn’t enough to make the truth sink in, read one or more of the better-informed obits, such as this one in the Independent and this one in the Miami Herald. Or buy the haunting, masterly memoir Before Night Falls by Reynaldo Arenas. No man or woman of conscience can peruse these writings and emerge with the belief that Castro was anything but one of the great totalitarian monsters of the last century, or that his passing is anything but a welcome end to a nightmarish chapter of human history.