Who knew? Mayor Mike likes China

Mayor Mike

Michael Bloomberg is not only the former mayor of New York City and a recently announced candidate for president of the United States; he is also the richest person in New York State and the fourteenth richest person on earth. This wealth, however, has not prevented him from praising Communist China. To be sure, Bloomberg refuses to admit that China is, in fact, Communist. Well, yes, he acknowledged that it’s run by something called the Communist Party, but, in a September 27 interview with PBS, he was quick to add that the Party “wants to stay in power in China, and they listen to the public. When the public says I can’t breathe the air, Xi Jinping is not a dictator; he has to satisfy his constituents or he’s not going to survive.”

Beijing

Politically correct though PBS may be, Bloomberg’s interviewer, Margaret Hoover, was, to her credit, so taken aback by Bloomberg’s claim that she actually responded by saying, with obvious astonishment: “He’s not a dictator?” “No,” replied Bloomberg. “He has a constituency to answer to.” Hoover, admirably, wasn’t buying this fantasy: “He doesn’t have a vote. He doesn’t have a democracy. He’s not held accountable by voters.”

Bloomberg went on to defend China’s environmental policies. Note that we’re speaking of a country that is such a serious polluter that a large percentage of its people walk the streets wearing masks to prevent them from inhaling deadly particles.

Beijing at street level

Is Bloomberg dumb? Of course not. You don’t get to be a billionaire by being an idiot. The fact is that few Americans who are as rich as he is don’t have financial interests in China. While the billionaire currently in the White House feels he owes it to the American people to take on the hefty Chinese tariffs that have contributed to that country’s swift economic growth and to the destruction of much of the American manufacturing sector, other U.S. billionaires, such as Bloomberg, prefer not to rock the boat and thereby protect their own financial interests at the expense of American factory workers. As New York magazine noted when reporting on Bloomberg’s remarks earlier this month, “The billionaire has vast financial interests in China, and those interests have allegedly compromised his civic-minded endeavors in the past. In 2013, the New York Times reported that Bloomberg News had killed an investigation that had threatened to upset Chinese officials.

Xi Jinping

As Kim Hirsch asked on December 3 at the Victory Girls Blog, “What is it about billionaires when dollar signs mean more to them than oppression of other humans? Or even the security of their own nation?” Hirsch noted that China has not only “organized mass detentions of Uighur Muslims in the western Xinjiang province” but that the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), in November, “exposed China’s operating manuals that use data analysis to select whom they will detain. Not criminal activity. Just algorithms. As a result, people randomly disappear.” Hirsch quoted an Australian analyst who explained: “That’s how state terror works. Part of the fear that this instills is that you don’t know when you’re not OK.” But what should any of this matter to the fourteenth richest person on earth, who, as Hirsch reported, is “financing Chinese companies through US investor dollars he sends to the Chinese bond market.”

Trump

It’s funny how these things work. Bloomberg is 77 years old, and has $54 billion in assets. You might think that at this stage of his life, he’d figure he had enough money and, like Trump (who has lost billions in net worth since he became president), decide to give back. Well, Bloomberg seems to be the poster boy for the fact that some people, no matter how rich, just aren’t interested in giving back. Trump, whatever you think of him, is at least a regulation-cutter driven by a core belief in individual freedom: Bloomberg, famous for banning large sodas while mayor of New York, is a control freak, a man who craves power, and a man whose love of power and control are palpably driven by a desire to ensure that his bank balance keeps rising until he meets his maker – to whom, if that event actually takes place, he will have to explain his readiness to whitewash Chinese Communism, sell out American labor, and pick up more money than one man could ever spend in a hundred lifetimes.

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.

Hellman’s charmed afterlife

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Lillian Hellman

If she had supported Hitler, she’d have had no career whatsoever once the war was over, and would have been remembered posthumously as a reprehensible aider and abetter of murderous totalitarianism. But since the murderous totalitarian favored by playwright Lillian Hellman was Josef Stalin, her death in 1984 occasioned rhapsodies throughout the major media.

And in the years that followed, the praise kept flowing. There were several biographies, a couple of which treated her poisonous politics and perpetual prevarication seriously but most of which sought to find excuses for her and even to demonize her critics. There were plays about her, and a TV movie – described by one critic as “fawning” – about her relationship with mystery writer and fellow Stalinist Dashiell Hammett.

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The TV movie, with Judy Davis as Hellman and Sam Shepard as Hammett

In 2001, the PBS series American Masters celebrated Hellman as “a woman who stood against an unjust government and was able to maintain her dignity and artistic vision.” How did PBS handle her lie-ridden memoirs? Like this (emphasis ours): “Though criticized for inaccuracies, these books were influential not only for their depiction of an exceptional and exciting artistic time, but for their tone, which many associated with the beginnings of the feminist movement.”

Not only was she a pioneering feminist, she was a serious political player: “her political involvement was integral in the fight against fascism at home and abroad.” Really?

In sum, PBS’s Lillian Hellman was “a woman who could overcome the hurdles of her time and succeed on her own terms.” Maureen Corrigan seconded the claim for Hellman as a feminist, calling her “an icon for women of my generation, coming to feminist consciousness in the 1970s,” and praising her for remaining “a bold creature of the 1920s long after Betty Boop became domesticated into June Cleaver.”

Better, apparently, to be a “bold” Stalinist than just another Fifties housewife.

pentimentoAnd so it went. Lesley McDowell, writing in The Independent in 2010, excused her lying with the argument that all writers “make myths out of people’s lives, especially their own.” In 2011, Sarah Churchwell spun Hellman’s chronic mendacity by saying that her memoirs “helped to usher in the era of postmodern autobiography that…reflects on memory, truth, authenticity and fact: instead of confident assertions of mastery over her own experience, Hellman’s autobiographies are unstable, shifting, questioning.”

In other words, to view her lies as lies is so old-fashioned; rather, we should see her as exploring “the tricks that memory and consciousness play.”

In a 2012 tribute entitled “Profile in Courage,” The Economist focused not on her Stalinism and prevarication but on her crucial function as “a role model to feminists in the 1970s” and her noble belief that “it was the duty of engaged citizens to fight racism, alleviate poverty and protect civil liberties.” Here’s how The Economist dealt with the Stalinism and lying: “She made some foolish choices [our emphasis], but Lillian Hellman was often on the right side of history.”

hellman9Balderdash. This is a woman who spent the first part of her adult life promoting one of the most bloodthirsty monsters in human history and who spent the second part of her adult life rewriting the story of the first part.

Let it never be forgotten, moreover, that the Stalinism and the deception were of a piece: elaborate misrepresentation (such as the establishment of fake “peace organizations” and the holding of fake “peace conferences”) and the systematic rewriting of history are fundamental elements of Stalinism. So is the habit of viewing one’s political opponents as enemies and of seeking not just to defeat them in elections but to bring about their utter ruin. To quote Carl Rollyson: “She presented herself as an independent woman, but what independence is there in a political position that amounts to fealty to the party of a foreign power?”

“More pro-Kremlin” than Stephen F. Cohen

Yesterday we were introduced to the American Committee for East-West Accord (ACEWA), which is yet another brainchild of NYU Kremlinologist Stephen F. Cohen and his heiress wife Katrina vanden Heuvel, and which is obviously meant to be a vehicle for spreading pro-Putin propaganda far and wide. We also met Gilbert Doctorow, who, with Cohen, is listed as the group’s co-founder, and who, as it turns out, is even more fervent an apologist for Putin than Cohen.

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Gilbert Doctorow

Since November, Doctorow has been writing regularly for a website called Russia Insider. His contributions, not to put too fine a point on it, read like Kremlin press releases. Last November, for example, he attributed the European Parliament’s overwhelming vote in favor of two resolutions condemning Russia to “a Cold War mentality that never faded since 1989.”

A week later, Doctorow blamed anti-Putin attitudes among left-wing U.S. peace activists on “years of denigration and information warfare coming from Washington,” including “propaganda about an authoritarian regime that allegedly jails dissent, about homophobia and about conservative family values of Russia’s silent majority, not to mention about greedy, raw capitalism.” Doctorow argued that Putin has in fact promoted “peace and international cooperation, justice and indeed human rights,” and is the only head of government on the planet who’s “directly challeng[ing] American global hegemony.” For these reasons, he argued, Putin should be treated by sensible stateside peace-lovers not as a bad guy but as a hero.  

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Anne Applebaum

In January, Doctorow penned a column that was one long, drawn-out sneer. The topic: a book called Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? by Karen Dawisha. He smeared Russia expert Anne Applebaum, author of the magisterial, Pulitzer Prize-winning Gulag: A History, as a “blowhard” for the crime of favorably reviewing Dawisha’s book in the Washington Post. And he made a mocking reference to “the saintly Khodorkovsky” – meaning human-rights activist and former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Mikhail Khodorkovsky, whom Putin robbed of billions of dollars and then tossed into prison on trumped-up charges. Doctorow lamented that once reliably left-wing American media, such as the New York Review of Books and PBS, have now “join[ed] the jackals” who engage in “Putin bashing.” 

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Moscow Victory Day Parade, 9 May 2015

And on and on it goes. In May, after attending the Moscow parade marking the 70th anniversary of victory in World War II, Doctorow gushed exuberantly over what he described as Putin’s ascent to the very “heights of statesmanship”: by allowing ordinary citizens to march in the parade while holding up photographs of their relatives who’d died in the war, the Russian leader had driven home “the point that this is a day for every Russian family and not just a pompous show of military capability for the high and mighty to strut on the stage.”

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Sochi Olympics opening ceremony, 7 February 2014

If at the Sochi Olympics, enthused Doctorow, Vlad had sent a message “that Russia has its own traditions of both popular and high culture but is open to the world and hospitable to all,” in Moscow, his people had pulled off the parade at “a supremely professional level” and shown “very great respect for the spectators, both those on the Square and the others watching it on their television as I did.”

Ugh. It’s the kind of cringeworthy bootlicking that’s rarely found outside of the propaganda organs of totalitarian states. And it raises certain questions. Such as: can this guy really be such a convinced disciple of Putin? Or is he on the payroll? Have Stephen F. Cohen of NYU and Princeton, Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation, her rich dad, Bill Bradley, and others in fact chosen to hitch their wagons to a paid Kremlin operative?

We don’t know the answers to these questions. But we can say one thing, for which we’ll provide more evidence tomorrow: when it comes to propagandizing for Putin, Doctorow churns it out as naturally as a slug leaves a slime trail.