Tyrants in arms: Tehran and Caracas

Nicolas Maduro

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

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

Qasem Soleimani,

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

Ayatollah Khomeini

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

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

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

Juan Guaidó

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

Nicolas Maduro

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

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

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

Code Pink embassy protesters

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

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

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

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

Britain’s high-culture Corbynistas

How could the Tories have won such a massive victory in the British parliamentary elections? After all, the Labour Party was headed by a man who speaks of Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”; who has praised Hugo Chavez and his successor as president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro; who is a longtime admirer of the Communist regime in Cuba; who is an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause; and who is widely viewed as a dyed-in-the-wool anti-Semite.

Jeremy Corbyn

Most sensible observers considered the mass defection of working-class voters from Labour – resulting in that party’s worst showing in an election since the 1930s – a thumbs-up for democracy and patriotism and a rejection of the far left. Not everybody cheered Jeremy Corbyn’s loss, however. In a post-election letter released by a group called the People’s Campaign for Corbyn, over 100 members of Britain’s artistic community, some of them quite high-profile, paid tribute to Corbyn, praising him for his “humanity, courage and insight” and for “raising political awareness in our country to a level not seen since the end of World War II.”

Ken Loach

Among the signers of the letter was film director Ken Loach, who, as we noted earlier this year, “has belonged to the Workers Revolutionary Party, the Socialist Workers Party, and the International Marxist Group, has been involved with Jeremy Corbyn and with the bilious Jew-hater George Galloway, has campaigned for a number of boycotts of Israel, and has condemned efforts to address anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.” In 2002, when 11 directors from around the world were asked to contribute a segment to a film, 11’09″01 September 11, about the reactions to the 9/11 atrocities in their own countries, Loach chose to diminish the jihadist attacks by focusing on another September 11 – namely, the US-backed Chilean coup of September 11, 1973, in which the Communist-allied Salvador Allende was ousted and replaced by Augusto Pinochet.

Brian Eno

Another signatory was musician Brian Eno, who has a long record of criticizing Israel and whose 1978 song “RAF,” as we noted in 2016, “incorporates ‘sound elements from a Baader Meinhof ransom message made by public telephone at the time of the Lufthansa Flight 181 hijacking.’”

Among the other signers: Nigel Kennedy, a violinist whose onstage image has been compared to that of Liberace and who condemned Israel during an appearance on a BBC Proms broadcast in 2013; Alexei Sayle, a standup comic who, after joining the pro-Soviet Young Communist League in his teens, decided that the USSR was “going soft” and thus switched to Maoism and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and, at 67, still says he holds to the politics of his youth; and John Rees, a leader of the Stop the War Coalition and of Respect, who at the time of the Iraq War called on his fellow socialists to “unconditionally stand with the oppressed against the oppressor, even if the people who run the oppressed country are undemocratic and persecute minorities, like Saddam Hussein.” In other words, Saddam, apparently by virtue of being a person of color and an enemy of the West, counted as an oppressed person, even if he was, in fact, one of the world’s most notorious oppressors.

Saddam Hussein, victim of oppression

Such is the kind of thinking that goes on in the heads of those who lined up to declare their solidarity with Jeremy Corbyn. As unsettling as it is to know that there are so many people with such ideologies in roles of cultural power in the UK, it is comforting to know that ordinary UK citizens, in overwhelming numbers, recognized these views as totalitarian and un-British and rejected them decisively on December 12.

Chavismo: one man’s tragic story

We’ve reported a lot here about the nightmare that Venezuela has become as a result of socialism, but nothing makes the point more vividly than a personal story. The January 2020 issue of Reason features an article entitled “Socialism Killed My Father” by one José Cordeiro. Cordeiro – who is from Venezuela, but lives in the Bay Area and works in Silicon Valley – tells of being summoned home to Caracas by his mother because his father had experienced kidney failure.

A scene from a Caracas hospital

First problem: getting there. Major US airlines used to fly frequently to Caracas from many US airports. Now he had to fly to Miami and “purchase a ticket for an exorbitant sum from Santa Barbara Airlines, a Venezuelan carrier that has since gone bankrupt.”

Second problem: health care. “Even in the best of the few remaining private clinics,” writes Cordeiro, “there was a chronic lack of basic supplies and equipment.” And of medicines. In some Venezuelan hospitals, electricity and water were both being rationed.

Third problem: air travel again. Cordeiro and his mother decided that old dad would be better off getting treatment in a hospital in Spain, his home country. But the earliest available flight to Spain was three weeks away. Alas, it proved to be too long a wait: “Just two days before he was scheduled to leave his adopted country, my father died because of its disastrous policies.”

Hugo Chavez

When did that happen? In August of 2013 – more than six years ago, not long after the death of Hugo Chávez and the ascent to the presidency of Chavez’s chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro. In other words, it was long before everyday life had gotten so terrible in Venezuela that the mainstream media around the world had actually begun to report on it, and long before outspoken international fans of chavismo had finally been shamed into silence.

“Things have gotten much worse since then,” Cordeiro writes. But even six years ago they were bad enough that Cordeiro’s father died when, in a country with a halfway decent economy, he would have been saved. And this was a man of relative privilege – a man who could afford to be treated a private clinic.

Cordeiro explains that he’s written his article because he’s concerned about “[t]he growing number of people in the West who say they prefer socialism” because it would mean “universal health care.” He notes that when he was a child in the 1960s and 70s, Venezuela “was a land of opportunity, with relatively free markets, low inflation, little foreign debt, and something close to full employment. The local currency, the bolivar, was considered one of the strongest and most stable in the world.” During that period, “Venezuela became the wealthiest country in all of Latin America” with a GDP close to that of Texas. “Some pundits even foresaw the Venezuelan economy eclipsing the Lone Star State’s by the 1980s.”

Nicolas Maduro

Then came socialism. The foreign oil companies were nationalized. When Hugo Chávez came to power in 1998, socialism in Venezuela deteriorated into something closer to Communism. The result: an “economic crisis” worse than any that has taken place “in a peacetime country since World War II,” with an inflation rate that could reach “anywhere between 1 million and 10 million percent by the end of 2019” and citizens who earn “the lowest average minimum salary in the world.” The number of refugees fleeing this country with 32 million inhabitants may reach 5 million by the end of this year, and the annual number of murders has climbed to around 25,000.

Cordeiro recalls that when he was a kid, he and his friends calls Caracas, with no irony whatsoever, the “capital of Heaven.” But now, he laments, thanks to chavismo, it “has no gas, no light, no food, no water, no jobs, no money, no medicine, and no hope.” In sum: “Socialism kills in Venezuela, like everywhere else it has been implemented. It kills regardless of local flavoring or whatever branding the individual dictator employs. It is beyond reason that this ideology, which has led to the deaths of more people than any other during modern history, which was thoroughly and tragically discredited in the 20th century, is still racking up body counts in 2019. May we finally learn this tragic lesson.” Amen.

Bye, Evo!

Jair Bolsonaro

After being ruled by a series of socialist crooks – such as Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who ended up in prison for money laundering, and Dilma Rousseff, who was removed from office for corruption – Brazil opted for Jair Bolsonaro, a conservative admirer of Donald Trump who believes in cultivating alliances with democracies and spurning dictators. Argentina, after years of rule by “progressives” and Peronists, most notably the left-wing, sticky-fingered Kirschner clan, elected Mauricio Macri who, after high-profile defaults on the nation’s sovereign debt, seeks to reintegrate his country into the international market economy. In Venezuela, where chavismo succeeded in turning a highly prosperous oil-exporting country into a nightmare of hyperinflation where people are eating their pets or fleeing to Colombia, Hugo Chavez’s personally chosen successor, the mendacious Marxist mediocrity Nicolas Maduro, continues to cling to power thanks only to the backing of a ruthless Cuban-trained military even as the admirable Juan Guaido – a fan of liberty, friend of America, admirer of the free market, and potential rescuer of the so-called Bolivarian Republic – waits in the wings, desperate to set things right.

Evo Morales

In these South American nations, then, things seem to be moving in the right direction. Now another one has joined the pack. In Bolivia, Evo Morales, who since his ascent to the presidency in 2006 has become more and more of an authoritarian, finally went too far this year, triggering, in the words of the Atlantic‘s Yascha Mounk, “weeks of mass protests in La Paz and other Bolivian cities, and the rapid crumbling of his support both within law enforcement and his own political party.” In the end, writes Mounk, “his loss of legitimacy among the majority of his own countrymen…forced Morales to resign” on November 10.

2017 protests against Evo’s switcheroo on term limits

Evo’s offenses were many: he violated the two-term presidential limit and got his rubber-stamp Supreme Court to give this move the OK. When he ran for a third term in October and it became clear that the public vote count was going against him, “the vote tally suddenly froze. For 24 hours, the website of Bolivia’s electoral commission offered no more updates. Then the official result was finally announced: Morales had supposedly won 47.1 percent to Carlos Mesa’s 35.5 percent, winning the election outright.” Evo had so obviously pulled a fast one that millions took to the streets in protest. Their reward: threats and beatings by Evo’s thugs. But Evo’s effort to rule by pure force collapsed. An impressive number of cops and soldiers stood up against his gangsterism, saying they wouldn’t do his dirty work for him. They didn’t want to use violence to uphold an autocracy. They wanted freedom. The last straw was an OAS audit of the election; when it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Evo had cheated, his last few scummy hangers-on scattered, leaving Evo with no alternative other than to give up. The whole story speaks well of the Ecuadoran people, and especially of the members of a military and a police force who, unlike their counterparts in some Latin American countries, didn’t want to be bullies in the service of despotism.

Chavismo: one man’s story

Over the last few years we’ve covered the steady descent of socialist Venezuela into the maelstrom. What more is there to say? Well, there used to be an old anthology TV series set in New York City. It was called Naked City, and every episode ended with a voice intoning: “there are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”

Dining al fresco in Caracas

Well, there are 28 million stories in Venezuela. One of them is that of a fellow named Christian K. Caruzo, who recounted his own experiences recently at the Breitbart website under the headline “My Socialist Hell: 20 Years of Decay in Venezuela.” “Hell”? “Decay”? Is he exaggerating? In his opening sentences he also uses the word “tragedy.” And he sums up the country’s current conditions in the bleakest of terms: “toilet paper shortages, desperate people scavenging through garbage to find food for their families, bread lines, a systemic failure of our public utilities, dogs flayed in broad daylight for meat, corruption, lack of proper medicine and health access, weighing stacks of cash, and so much more.” Its all true, he says, and it’s all “a product of 20 years of socialism.”

Hugo in his heyday

Eleven years old when Hugo Chávez took power, Caruzo has spent his adult life under chavismo. Chávez, he writes, turned Venezuela into a country where “you’re no longer a citizen — you’re merely a survivor.” A country where he’s “a lesser version of what I could’ve been.” A country where you stand in line for bread and where you barter for the meds you need. “Socialism,” he writes, “has slowly eroded the functional existence of every aspect of our lives, from our freedom of speech to our economic liberties, our access to healthcare and personal documents to our water supply.” Yes, the same socialism that, thanks to disinformation by media and faculty ideologues, has millions of young American fans.

Caruzo recalls how, around the year 2007, Chávez’s title morphed from “President” to “Commander-President”; and how, after the caudillo’s death, he officially came to be known as “Supreme and Eternal Commander of the Bolivarian Revolution.” Today, Chávez is a semi-divine figure. Reruns of his old TV show are still broadcast and are treated as “gospel.”

Nicolas Maduro

Meanwhile, Chávez’s successor Nicolas Maduro has introduced something called the “Fatherland Card” program, which was created with the help of Communist Chinese experts and based on China’s own “Social Credit System.” The program employs a massive database containing detailed personal data about Venezuela’s citizens, and the idea is that unless your personal record is perfect by chavista standards you’ll be denied access to job bonuses, welfare benefits, medicines, and the like.

Venezuelan refugees pouring into Colombia

In Venezuela, even as you’re forced to endure shortages of almost everything, you’re being fed massive doses of propaganda telling you that the system that’s starving you is, in fact, saving you, and that what they’re saving you from is American-style capitalism – which, of course, is exactly what is needed to turn your grinding deprivation into prosperity and your oppression into liberty. It’s pure Orwell, of course – war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.

Congratulations, Venezuela! Your inflation rate is down to 135,000%!

Havana

Over the years, we’ve written a good deal here about the western hemisphere’s cozy Commie tag team. We’re referring, of course, to the so-called Republic of Cuba and the so-called Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, each of which, through various actions, helps keep the other’s totalitarian system in place. Now, however, both of these tyrannies are undergoing dramatic changes. On September 13, Reuters reported that Cuba was experiencing a fuel shortage. “Cubans,” wrote Nelson Acosta, “queued for hours for public transport on Friday at peak times in Havana, sweating in the heavy heat, while queues at gas stations snaked several blocks long.”

PDVSA headquarters

The Cuban government blamed this crisis on the Trump Administration’s enhancement of U.S. efforts to block imports into Cuba – including oil shipments from Venezuela – and Trump’s new sanctions on Venezuela’s famously corrupt national oil company, PDVSA. Acosta noted, however, that it can’t all be blamed on Trump: Venezuelan oil imports into Cuba have been on the decline for years, obliging the Havana government to ration energy. Which means, among other things, shutting off streetlights and reducing “the use of electricity in state-run institutions,” whatever that entails.

Nicolas Maduro

Meanwhile, what’s up in Venezuela? According to a September 17 article in the Wall Street Journal, the Maduro government has responded to that country’s economic death spiral – a consequence of socialist policies introduced by the late Hugo Chavez – by “quietly and cautiously begun implementing free-market policies” in order to “correct an economic contraction worse than America’s Great Depression.” That’s putting it mildly: the situation in Venezuela makes The Grapes of Wrath look like Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

What exactly has the Maduro regime done? It’s “scaled back its once frenzied printing of money, nearly ended frequent salary hikes, and largely stopped enforcing the price controls that had led to dire food shortages and a thriving black market.” As the Journal ‘s Kejal Vyas observes, these are significant actions “for a government that has publicly championed its state-led, socialist economic model as the country’s only salvation from greedy capitalists.”

Venezuelans in a supermarket queue

In any event, the new policies are having an impact – kind of. The hyperinflation rate, wrote Vyas, has dropped “from seven to six figures.” To be specific, “Inflation has fallen from a peak 12-month rate of 2.6 million percent in January to 135,000% in August.” Now, that kind of inflation rate is still terrifying, but, okay, it’s better than seven figures. Just like it’s presumably better to be hit by a car going 60 miles an hour than by a train going 200.

To be sure, it’s news that the Maduro gang is finally seeing the light – sort of. It remains to be seen whether this implicit acknowledgment of the power of the free market will lead to changes in the regime’s rhetoric. Somehow we doubt it. Maduro has been rhapsodizing over chavista ideology so ardently for so many years that it’s hard to imagine him actually admitting that he’s been wrong all along.

Sergi Lanau

In any event, Vyas quotes Sergi Lanau of the Institute of International Finance in Washington to the effect that Maduro’s new measures aren’t exactly leading Venezuela out of the woods. “Is this a turning point? I would say no, definitely not,” said Lanau. “Who knows in a few months if the decision will be ‘Well, we need money again. Let’s print some more.’” In any event, despite the significant drop, Venezuela’s inflation rate remains the world’s highest. Even as America’s economy goes from strength to strength, the economies of the two totalitarian enemies on its doorstep continue to be basket cases.

Ill will and bad grace

The cast of Will and Grace

The NBC sitcom Will and Grace, which ran from 1998 to 2006, and returned to TV in 2017, profited from its timing. It centers on the friendship between Will, a gay man, and Grace, his straight best friend. Coming along at a time when gay rights was making immense strides, Will and Grace was widely viewed as helping to mainstream gay people in the minds of ordinary Americans and was thus described as “groundbreaking” and “revolutionary.” Its supposedly pivotal role in a major social movement helped overshadow the fact that it was, in fact, a third-rate, highly formulaic piece of work awash in gay stereotypes.

Eric McCormack

None of which, of course, mattered. Like Ellen Degeneres, whose own mediocre sitcom had made history when her character came out as a lesbian at the same time as Degeneres herself did so, the stars of Will and Grace, Eric McCormack (who is actually straight) and Debra Messing, came to be regarded in Hollywood circles – and by showbiz-obsessed gay-establishment groups such as GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign – as heroes of the gay-rights movement. And McCormack and Messing themselves, both middling actors whose lucky success on Will and Grace failed to translate into major careers in film or TV for either one of them, took in all the praise and eventually came to see themselves as heroes, too. Heroes – for playing roles on a sitcom! They also apparently became convinced that they are far more important – and far more intelligent – than they actually are.

Debra Messing

Predictably, both McCormack and Messing slavishly adhere to Tinseltown political orthodoxy – which is to say that they’re reliable Democratic partisans and reflexive Trump haters. So it is that on August 30, after news came of a Beverly Hills fundraiser for President Trump that was scheduled for September 17, McCormack took to Twitter to ask that the Hollywood Reporter “kindly report on everyone attending this event, so the rest of us can be clear about who we don’t wanna work with.” Messing echoed his call. Doubtless both of them expected their showbiz friends and colleagues to rally round them and do the cyber-equivalent of patting them on the back – a response to which they are both surely accustomed, living as they do in the echo chamber that is LaLaLand.

Whoopi Goldberg

Instead, they actually got backlash. Not only did the right react. People on the left – including members of the showbiz elite – expressed their disagreement with McCormack and Messing. Now, as it happens, the powers that be in today’s TV and movie business do have something of an informal blacklist; actors, writers, directors, and others who have publicly identified as Republicans or conservatives do find it tougher to find work than it was before they outed themselves politically. But for showbiz leftists who have repeatedly denied the existence of this informal blacklist, McCormack and Messing were letting the cat out of the bag – openly calling, in effect, for the freezing out of Trump supporters in Hollywood. Even actress Whoopi Goldberg, who is famous for her consistently left-wing politics, served up a genuinely stirring speech on The View explaining just why McCormack and Messing were so off-base: “The last time people did this, it did not end well.…We had something called a blacklist, and a lot of really good people were accused of stuff. Nobody cared whether it was true or not. They were accused. And they lost their right to work.…In this country, people can vote for who they want to. That is one of the great rights of this country. You don’t have to like it, but we don’t go after people because we don’t like who they voted for. We don’t go after them that way. We can talk about issues and stuff, but we don’t print out lists.”

Tammy Bruce

So strong was the reaction that McCormack backed down – sort of. No, he didn’t withdraw his demand; he just insisted that he had been misunderstood. “I want to be clear about my social media post from last week, which has been misinterpreted in a very upsetting way,” he wrote in a statement. “I absolutely do not support blacklists or discrimination of any kind, as anyone who knows me would attest.” Messing concurred. In an op-ed for the Washington Times, Tammy Bruce thanked the two actors, “best known for a television sitcom that aired more than a decade ago,” for having “expos[ed] for all of us of the totalitarian instincts of liberals.” We don’t agree that all liberals are totalitarians, deep down, but it is definitely the case – as we’ve noted over and over again on this website – that many self-identified American “progressives,” including a number of big-name Hollywood types, are totalitarians in their hearts, knocking American liberties while praising and socializing with people like Fidel Castro and Nicolas Maduro. By revealing their totalitarian instincts, both McCormack and Messing did indeed do American a favor.

The Cuba-chavista connection

Hugo Chavez

For those fans of the so-called Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela who have denied that chavismo is basically a Spanish word for Communism, the intimate ties between the revolutionary government of Hugo Chavez – and, subsequently, of his hand-picked successor, Nicolas Maduro – with the frankly totalitarian Castro regime in Cuba has always been something of a stumbling block. In a recent article for Reuters, Angus Berwick provided a fascinating new trove of information that substantiated that nefarious link. “The Cuban government has relied on Venezuela for economic and political support for two decades,” Berwick wrote. “In return, Cuba has provided Venezuela with training and support that has allowed Hugo Chavez and now Nicolas Maduro to keep a tight grip on the military — and on power.”

Fidel Castro

Berwick revealed that in 2007, when Chavez lost a referendum that would have allowed him to keep running for re-election, he turned for advice to “a close confidant” – namely, Fidel Castro, who told him that if he wanted to stay in power indefinitely, whatever the results of elections, he should assume “absolute control of the military.” Chavez listened, and as a result ordered that Venezuelan troops be spied on. With the help of advisors supplied by Castro, Chavez oversaw the refashioning of a government agency that now goes by the name Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM), and that had previously been tasked to spy abroad, into an organization whose primary mission was to conduct espionage within Venezuela’s own armed forces.

Nicolas Maduro

To this end, members of Cuba’s armed forces were brought into Venezuela to restructure the military and train spies. Under the instruction of its Cuban tutors, the DGCIM “embedded agents…within barracks,” tapped the phones of senior officers, put together “dossiers on perceived troublemakers,” and reported “any signs of disloyalty.” Non-chavista officers and enlisted men were duly arrested, imprisoned, tortured; one organization says that the number of former military personnel now in detention as a result of DGCIM investigations is over 300. Since its transformation, the DGCIM has been “accused by soldiers, opposition lawmakers, human rights groups and many foreign governments of abuses including torture and the recent death of a detained navy captain.”

Juan Guaido

For years, Cuban and Venezuelan officials have denied that the relationship between their militaries was anywhere near this intimate. But they were lying. While Venezuelan oil kept Cuba’s economy going, Cuban involvement in the Venezuelan military has kept the chavista government in power. It’s because of this arrangement, this deal between devils, that Juan Guaido’s bid to replace Maduro – a key factor of which was his expectation that many members of the armed forces would take his side – failed so ignominiously. Military officers and enlisted men who might indeed have been supporters of Guaido have long since been culled from the ranks, with the help of Maduro’s ruthless Cuban allies.

Sanders: praising China

The other day we wrote here about a prominent psychiatrist who, in an interview on CNN, maintained that President Trump is worse than Mao, Stalin, or Hitler. As we observed, to make such comparisons is irresponsible beyond measure, because it diminishes the scale of those tyrants’ destructiveness at a time when many Americans – especially young people – are poorly educated about twentieth-century totalitarianism.

Bernie Sanders

A few days later, a far more famous person than that psychiatrist made an equally outrageous statement. In a late August interview with The Hill, Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, while acknowledging that China is growing “more authoritarian” in many ways, claimed that the Communist dictatorship has “made more progress in addressing extreme poverty than any country in the history of civilization.”

Mao Zedong

Is this true? Well, first of all, let’s make two things clear: China is a massive country (it’s by far the most populous on earth, and has been for a very long time) and it has long been a very poor country as well. Yes, it has undergone a major economic transformation. But because it started at almost zero, in the wake of Mao’s disastrous Cultural Revolution, even achieving a middling level of prosperity per capita would have been a big deal. Yes, thanks to its gigantic population, China has managed in the course of a few decades to develop an economy that rivals the size of America’s; but that still means that the average inhabitant of China is nowhere near as affluent as his counterparts in the West.

Deng Xiaoping

In any event,what exactly changed? Well, let’s recall, to begin with, that Bernie Sanders loves Communism, and that when he celebrates Chinese accomplishment he is implicitly cheering on Communism. But China has experienced an economic boom not because it has clung to its Communist ideology and systems of social control but because, under Mao’s successor, Deng Xiaoping, it abandoned its fierce devotion to Marxist economics and introduced elements of capitalism even as it remained a Communist dictatorship. It helped enrich itself, furthermore, by underpaying factory workers and selling its products abroad at dirt-cheap prices. This policy, which continued under Deng’s successors, was aided by the refusal of Western countries to impose tariffs on Chinese imports – a refusal that resulted in profound damage to large portions of the industrial base of the U.S. and other countries and great suffering on the part of blue-collar Western workers. China’s success also owed a great deal to its currency manipulation and its shameless theft of intellectual property from Western countries. Oh, and it also killed a lot of poor people, which of course is one easy way of eliminating poverty.

Xi Jinping

Hence, yes, poverty in China has declined to a considerable degree. Thanks to the spectacular growth of Chinese industries, the country now has a great many more very rich people than it had a few decades ago. But while its biggest cities now teem with gleaming skyscrapers and its richest citizens travel the world and send their kids to Harvard and Oxford, tens of millions of people in rural areas continue to live at a level of poverty that brings to mind the 1931 Pearl Buck novel The Good Earth. Indeed, the changes that Sanders so enthusiastically extols have resulted in what may well be the most formidable case of economic equality – a topic he frets over endlessly when talking about the American economy – in the history of human civilization. And let’s not forget this small detail: everyone in China is still unfree.

Nicolas Maduro

But of course that doesn’t matter to Sanders. He was a fan of the USSR. He loves Castro’s Cuba. Until recently, anyway, he was defending the Maduro regime in Venezuela. As Jim Geraghty noted in National Review, this is a presidential candidate who in 1985, while the USSR was still around, commented: “It’s funny, sometimes American journalists talk about how bad a country is, that people are lining up for food. That is a good thing! In other countries people don’t line up for food: The rich get the food, and the poor starve to death.” Well, the fact is that in cities like Shanghai and Beijing and Guangzhou, the new Party-connected super-rich managerial class enjoys a whole lot of first-class cuisine, while out in the sticks there are still millions who are, yes, starving.