Communism’s great, if you’re a Castro

Havana

Earlier this month, the world was reminded that even though Communism is a great way to destroy an economy and to impoverish a nation’s inhabitants, there are always a few people who live luxuriously under the system: namely, the rulers, their cronies, and their families.

Tony Castro, who is a grandson of Fidel Castro, is on Instagram, where he has about 1300 followers. Until recently, ordinary citizens of Cuba weren’t allowed Internet access at all. But those rules don’t apply, of course, to members of the ruling dynasty.

Tony Castro at sea

Recently, the Miami Herald and other south Florida media published some photographs that young Tony (he’s reportedly in his twenties) has posted on his Instagram account. One of them shows Tony sunbathing on a yacht. Of course, ordinary Cubans can’t afford yachts – and if they boarded one, they’d be arrested pronto because the assumption would be that they were about to escape the island prison set up by Tony’s grandfather sixty years ago.

Another of Tony’s Instagram snaps showed him celebrating the birthday of an uncle at what looks like a pretty swanky bistro. He and his uncle raise a toast with champagne glasses. We’re talking here, of course, about the princeling of a country where basic food items are in extremely short supply.

Driving the BMW

In yet another picture we can see Tony at the wheel of a BMW. Need we comment?

Other pictures show him in Panama City, Panama; in Barcelona and Madrid; and at a Mexican beach resort, Ciudad del Carmen, which is located on the Gulf of Mexico and is known as “the pearl of the Gulf.” Needless to say, ordinary Cubans aren’t allowed to exit their own country under any circumstances, and certainly could never afford to visit places like these.

In Madrid

It’s been a long time since the Castros took over Cuba, but the rhetoric of revolution has never ceased. The people of Cuba may not get much in the way of good food, but they’re fed a huge daily diet of propaganda about the wonderful benefits of their glorious revolution and about the evils of capitalism. And more than a few suckers in the democratic capitalist world – some of them working for major media organizations – buy into this baloney.

Karl Vick

Take Karl Vick of Time Magazine, whom we wrote about in August 2015. This credulous jackass describes Cuba as a “security state” in order to avoid such unpleasant terms as “dictatorship” or “police state.” He has written: “People enjoy life in Cuba as in few other places.” When he claimed in a radio interview that Cuba could boast of certain achievements, he was asked to name one such achievement. “Social equity,” Vick said, and went on to assert that nobody in Cuba is “much higher than anybody else.”

“The pearl of the Gulf”

Vick isn’t alone in believing that – and in thinking that this supposed equity is enough to justify any disagreeable aspects of the Cuban regime. Of course, over the decades there has been ample testimony to the fact that the Castros live like kings and that the whole equity thing is a sham. But Tony Castro’s pictures – coming to light only days after the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution, and at a time when a frightening number of young Americans consider socialism cool – provide a neat reminder of just what a lie Communism is.

AFP whitewashes the Castros

Exotic Havana

From time to time on this site, we’ve examined various public figures who had a soft spot for the Castro regime in Cuba and media organizations whose reports from Cuba routinely focused on its purported charms rather than its totalitarian government. We’ve written about director Bob Yari, who filmed a movie in Cuba; designer Karl Lagerfeld, who used Havana’s crumbling buildings as a backdrop for a glamorous fashion show; and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, who, notwithstanding his own wealth, made a point of castigation capitalism while celebrating the Castros. We’ve told the tale of Fidel’s affair with compliant ABC reporter Lisa Howard, noted the chummy relationship between Jesse Jackson and the Castros, and, not least, the shamelessness and fatuity with which Time Magazine, again and again, has glorified the island prison.

Jair Bolsonaro

On January 2, Agence France Press demonstrated that the perverse impulse to whitewash the Cuban regime is not dead in 2019. Under the headline “Cuba celebrates 60 years of revolution amid challenges and change,” AFP described Cuba as a longtime “source of inspiration for leftist Latin American governments,” but added that the nation faces “increasing isolation in a region dominated by a resurgent right,” notably the new Brazilian government led by “far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.”

AFP reported that Bolsonaro had “made a point of not inviting” the new Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro to his inauguration, a decision that some of us might consider principled but that AFP seemed to want readers to regard as churlish.

Nicolas Maduro

Typically, AFP labeled Bolsonaro – a pro-American, pro-Israeli conservative who has been dubbed the Latin American Trump – as “far-right,” and characterized Argentina, Chile and Peru as having “all swung to the right in recent years, unseating leftist governments.” A more objective media outlet might have put it a bit differently – might have said, that is, that the voters of those countries have rejected socialism in favor of democratic capitalism.

Evo Morales

Meanwhile, in its references to Cuba’s leaders, AFP was careful to avoid the word “dictator,” obediently referring to Raul Castro as “[e]x-president” and as “first secretary of the Communist Party,” identifying the late Fidel Castro as “Cuba’s revolutionary leader,” and giving the current thug-in-chief, Miguel Diaz-Canel, his official title of “President.” AFP also reported that Maduro had “paid tribute to the ‘heroic Cuban people,’” whom he praised for their “’resistance and dignity’ in the face of ’60 years of sacrifices, struggles and blockade.’” In addition, according to AFP, “[a]nother surviving leftist leader, Bolivia’s Evo Morales, said Cuba’s revolution gave birth to ‘the light of hope and invincible will for the liberation of the people.’” This effusive rhetoric by Maduro and Morales was presented by AFP without context, so that an ill-informed reader would never know that the Cuban people have spent the last six decades not as stalwart patriots who have bravely resisted a U.S. blockade but as downtrodden subjects of a totalitarian tyranny.

Fidel Castro

To be sure, the word “dictator” did eventually appear in the AFP article – but only as a means of describing Castro’s predessor, Fulgencio Batista. To its credit, moreover, AFP also mentioned, toward the end of its article, that Cuba is a communist state. It also quoted a dissident, but that dissident, as it happened, was not an anti-Communist who opposed the Cuban Revolution from the start but a diehard Communist named Vladimiro Roca, whose father was a sidekick of Fidel Castro, who himself had run afoul of authorities and spent several years in prison, and whose complaint was therefore that the Cuban Revolution “died a long time ago.”

Donald Trump

Moreover, while AFP acknowledged that Cuba “has faced heavy criticism” abroad, it presented the Cuban people not as decades-long victims of a brutal autocracy but as having “had to contend with an increasingly hostile administration under Trump these last two years.” There’s no hint that the Trump administration is hostile not to the Cuban people but to their unelected masters. In 2019, alas, such full-scale misrepresentation continues to be par for the course for all too many Western media.

What creep isn’t pals with Linda Sarsour?

 

Linda Sarsour

We first wrote about Linda Sarsour on April 13 of last year. A few weeks earlier, on the day after President Trump’s inauguration, the Women’s March on Washington had turned Linda Sarsour, one of the event’s organizers and lead speakers, into a household name. She was the one in hijab, the one who began her speech with the words “as-salāmu ʿalaykum,” the one who told the crowd that she was “unapologetically Muslim-American,” and the one who vowed: “I will respect the presidency, but I will not respect this President of the United States of America.” Why? Because Trump had “won the election on the backs of Muslims,” a group that had been “suffering in silence for the past fifteen years.”

Women’s March on Washington, January 21, 2017

And what had happened fifteen years earlier? 9/11. “For her,” we noted, “the history of the last fifteen years has been a history not of one barbaric mass murder after another performed in the name of Islam, but of a silent epidemic of cruel, soul-crushing Islamophobia.”

Sarsour, of course, presented herself as a feminist. Soon, however, it emerged that she was a zealous supporter of sharia law. She was also fiercely hostile to women, such as Brigitte Gabriel and the former Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who are critical of the unequal and often brutal treatment of women under sharia. Unable to answer their charges, Sarsour attacked them personally, tweeting that they were “asking 4 an a$$ whippin’” and that “they don’t deserve to be women.”

Sarsour with Keith Ellison

Reprehensible. Nonetheless, Sarsour enjoys the support of Bernie Sanders, Keith Ellison, Van Jones, Amnesty International, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and a number of other left-wing individuals and institutions. When we caught up with her in November, Time and Glamour had joined the list. We also discovered that in addition to playing a role in the decision of Brandeis University to decide against giving an honorary degree to Hirsi Ali, Sarsour had also influenced New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to stop monitoring mosques – a move that made it possible for at least one jihadist, Saypullo Saipov, to take eight lives.

Abdul El-Sayed

Yet her star continues to climb. Earlier this summer it was reported that Abdul El-Sayed, one of the Democratic candidates for governor of Michigan (he lost the August 7 primary, thank goodness), is close to Sarsour. This didn’t come as a huge surprise. El-Sayed, a Muslim, received the endorsements of two prominent self-identified socialists, Senator Sanders and media darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Still, as former prosecutor Ari Lieberman wrote, El-Sayed’s “association with Sarsour should raise alarm bells.”

Louis Farrakhan

For one thing, there’s her enthusiasm for sharia law. For another, she’s “an anti-Semite to her core and is on record making a number of disparaging comments about the ‘Jewish media,’ Zionism and Israel.” Then there’s her “support for Assata Shakur, a murderer who killed a New Jersey state trooper in a 1973 shootout.” (When CNN’s Jake Tapper, a card-carrying liberal, questioned her defense of Shakur, Sarsour “bizarrely accused Tapper of being a member of the ‘alt-right.’”) And let’s not forget “her unabashed support for the unrepentant Judeophobe, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.” Once upon a time Farrakhan was the third rail of American politics; no more, apparently.

“Aspiring Democratic politicians like El-Sayed,” lamented Lieberman, “no longer shy away from toxic bigots like Sarsour. Sadly, they embrace them.” No sooner had El-Sayed lost the primary, however, than another connection to Sarsour made the news. We’ll get to that next time. 

Catching up with Mlle. Knowles & Mr. Kaepernick

Superstar

Beyoncé! Her life has been an American Dream. In addition to every other glorious accomplishment in her career – her 22 Grammys, her two-time listing as one of the “100 most influential people” by Time Magazine, her serenading of Barack Obama at one of his 2009 inaugural balls, her lip-synching of the national anthem at his second inauguration, her #1 ranking in Forbes’ Celebrity 100 List, and her naming by Forbes this year as the most powerful woman in entertainment – she was the star of halftime at the Super Bowl in February 2016. At that event, America’s biggest TV event of the year, she repaid America’s bounteous gift to her by paying tribute. To whom? The Black Panthers.

Enough Black Power salutes for you?

As we wrote here a few days later, the show, which featured her new song “Formation,” was “an exercise in what one critic called ‘Black Panther chic.’” With its Black Power salutes and its slap at the police, the Guardian suggested it might be “the most radical political statement from the superstar in her 20-year career.” The audience held up “rainbow-colored placards” that read Believe in Love. “Does Beyoncé sincerely believe that the Black Panther movement has, or ever had, anything whatsoever to do with love?” we asked. “If she does, then she can only be described as a thoroughgoing historical ignoramus, and thus a useful stooge of the first order. For the fact is that the Black Panthers were, quite simply, hate set in system. They were racists, terrorists, homophobes, anti-Semites, proud disciples of the cruelest and most remorseless totalitarian despots of the twentieth century. Nothing could be more Orwellian than the notion that they were ever driven, in any sense of the word, by love.”

Setting the Super Bowl on fire

Perhaps Beyoncé was simply ignorant – perhaps she just didn’t know better. Born in 1981, she’s too young to have experience the evil heyday of the Black Panthers firsthand. But someone with so much power owes it to her public to educate herself. That wouldn’t have been too hard or time-consuming. All the information is out there, at her fingertips. One of her innumerable handlers and hangers-on could’ve done the research for her and handed her a file.

That, at least, is what we told ourselves after her Super Bowl fiasco. We were prepared to give Beyoncé the benefit of the doubt. But how can there be much doubt after what she did this past December 5?

Magic Johnson

The setting: the annual Sportsperson of the Year Award Show in New York. One of the awards presented that evening was Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. It is supposed to go to “individuals whose dedication to the ideals of sportsmanship has spanned decades and whose career in athletics has directly or indirectly impacted the world.” The 2014 winner was longtime L.A. Laker Magic Johnson, one of the great basketball players ever – a three-time NBA MVP, a 12-time NBA All-Star, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and of the gold-winning 1992 U.S. Olympics team. He has also proven to be a terrific businessman, with an eponymous conglomerate worth $700 million, and has been a devoted AIDS activist.

Kaepernick (center) doing what he does best – not playing football

In 2015, the winner was golfer Jack Nicklaus, of whom we could supply an equally impressive résumé. In 2016, the honor was shared by a trio of glittering names from athletic history: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, and Bill Russell. This year, the prize went to Colin Kaepernick, who spent five years as a middling player for the San Francisco 49ers. Most Americans had not heard of him until August 26 of last year, when he took a knee during the pre-game playing of National Anthem. This became a habit. And it grew infectious. It spread to other football teams, and other professional sports, and even to college and youth games.

In his stupid t-shirt

Kaepernick’s explanation for the action, as we noted a year ago, was that Kaepernick, “whose biological father was black and biological mother white,” and who “was raised in Wisconsin by adoptive white parents,” was protesting the supposedly systematic mistreatment of blacks in America. We pointed out that Kaepernick, this self-styled victim of racial oppression, lives in a mansion, and that at the press conference at which he explained his knee-taking, he wore a t-shirt featuring pictures of Malcolm X with Fidel Castro.

Fidel with Muhammad Ali

Now, maybe in some sense Kaepernick is a perfect winner for an award named for Muhammad Ali, because the legendary heavyweight was also a fan – indeed, a friend – of Fidel Castro and Malcolm X. But his selection was a slap in the face to athletes who are real role models, and Beyoncé’s involvement in the awards ceremony was yet more proof of her ignorance about the world and ingratitude for American freedom. Presenting the prize to Kaepernick, she said: “Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion, only hope to change the world for the better. To change the way we treat each other – especially people of color. We’re still waiting for the world to catch up. It’s been said that racism is so American that when we protest racism, some assume we’re protesting America.”

The award presentation

On the contrary, study after study has shown that America is among the least racist of all countries. Young Americans nowadays are so ill-educated that many of them think America was the only nation ever to have slavery; in fact, its distinction is that it was the one major country that fought a civil war to free slaves. In any event, a question: in exactly which way has Kaepernick changed the world for the better? What has he done except to take the U.S. flag, a symbol of unity amid diversity – e pluribus unum – and turned it into an occasion for destructive dissension and unfounded accusation.

It is good to report that this handing over of a presumably important award by one fool to another did not go uncriticized. “They just turned Muhammad Ali’s Legacy Award into toilet paper,” said Kevin Jackson on Fox News. And another Fox News contributor, Tomi Lahren, tweeted: “Police-hating Beyoncé presents police and America-hating Kappy with a ‘legacy’ award. This is how far we’ve fallen.”

Catching up with terror enabler Linda Sarsour

Women’s March on Washington

Linda Sarsour shot to fame on January 21 of this year, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration as president. On that day, feminists marched down the major thoroughfares of several American cities; in Washington, at the main Women’s March, stars of film and TV and music and cable news and professional feminism (Gloria Steinem) took turns giving speeches. Madonna spoke of burning down the White House. Ashley Judd read a poem about being a “nasty woman.”

Linda Sarsour

Joining these superstars on the list of speakers was an obscure woman in hijab. Linda Sarsour, head of the Arab American Association of New York, was one of the event’s organizers, and she used her moment in the sun to say that she would “respect the presidency,” but not Trump himself. She said that Trump had been elected “on the backs of Muslims.” And she said that American Muslims had been “suffering in silence for the past fifteen years.” She didn’t mention the suffering of the many non-Muslim Americans – and non-Muslims elsewhere around the world – who had experienced suffering as a result of suicide bombings, planes being piloted into buildings, gunmen opening fire at concerts and discos, and truck drivers mowing down pedestrians.

Rachel Maddow, lesbian Islam apologist

Sarsour was cheered. A star was born. Rachel Maddow had her on. Sarsour made outrageous claims about the supposed oppression of Muslims in the U.S., and Maddow didn’t question a thing she said. Nor did Maddow ask Sarsour how a woman who supports sharia law and openly praises Hamas, as Sarsour does, could call herself a progressive feminist.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

There are real feminists with Arab or Muslim backgrounds. Among them are Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Brigitte Gabriel. Sarsour has smeared both of them. She has said that they deserve as “ass-whipping.” It is well known that Hirsi Ali, as as girl, was subjected to the brutal practice known as female genital mutilation. This didn’t keep Sarsour from saying that she wished she could take away Hirsi Ali’s and Gabriel’s vaginas because “they don’t deserve to be women.”

Sarsour is not just a woman of words. She is a woman of action. When Brandeis University announced plans to award Hirsi Ali an honorary degree, Sarsour participated in a successful effort to get Brandeis to change its mind.

Sarsour and friends

We wrote about all this in April. We devoted two days to Sarsour. We hoped that perhaps her fifteen minutes of fame would soon be over. Alas, no. Sarsour ended up being named to Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” list. Earlier this month, Glamour Magazine included her and the other Women’s March organizers on its list of women of the year. Publications around the country, ignoring Sarsour’s own ugly views, have portrayed her as the virtuous victim of irrational Islamophobic hatred.

The scene of the Halloween attack

In late October, Sarsour tweeted a photo of her new Democratic Socialists of America membership card. A few days later, after the Halloween terror attack in lower Manhattan, she was heavily quoted in an AOL News story headlined “Muslim New Yorkers Are Bracing for Hate Crimes after Terror Attack” – one of those absurd “backlash” articles that always follow jihadist attacks and that seek to distract attention from the real victims of actual Muslim atrocities to imaginary Muslim victims of non-existent infidel atrocities.

That mosque in Paterson

After the Halloween massacre, Sarsour complained on Twitter that such events are always being used to paint all Muslims with a broad brush. As it turned out, she had more than a passing connection to the jihadist of the day, Saypullo Saipov. As was discovered soon after his arrest, Saipov had attended a mosque in Paterson, New Jersey, that the NYPD’s Demographics Unit, under Mayor Bloomberg, had monitored closely. But the current mayor, Bill de Blasio, who is less worried about terrorism than about “Islamophobia,” listened to a certain individual who told him that monitoring mosques was an anti-Islamic act, and closed down the Demographics Unit. Who was that individual who got the mayor to stop the monitoring of mosques? Linda Sarsour. If not for her, in short, the New York police might have fingered Saipov as a potential terrorist and prevented eight deaths.

Catching up with tyranny-loving Karl Vick

Karl Vick

Where to start with longtime Time magazine fixture Karl Vick?

With his breathtaking enthusiasm for Cuba’s Castro regime? As we noted in August 2015, this is a guy who, in describing the political system on that island, prefers to say “security state” rather than “police state” or “dictatorship” or “totalitarian prison.” Of all the idiots who find Cuba’s crumbling buildings and deteriorated infrastructure appealingly exotic, he’s one of the most high-profile and outspoken, celebrating the old cars and lousy plumbing in one of the stupidest cover stories ever to be run by a major newsmagazine. When he gushed in a radio interview over Havana’s “decaying glory,” his interviewer asked how decay could be glorious, and Vick, bubblehead that he is, fumfered around, finally answering the question with a synonym: “faded grandeur.”

Moderate?

Or should we focus on Vick’s consistently starry-eyed take on all things Islamic – his thumbs-up for the “Arab Spring,” his insistence that the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are moderate – and his equally consistent hostility toward Israel? For a 2010 cover story arguing that Israel is anti-peace, he won a “Dishonest Reporting Award” from Honest Reporting (HR) and was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League for echoing the stereotype that Jews are preoccupied with money. In later articles, Vick stuck to his guns, absurdly depicting Palestinians (in HR’s words) as “Gandhian acolytes” and describing Hamas’s commitment to the destruction of Israel as only “[n]ominal.”

Donald Trump: the truth hurts

In short, he’s a fool. And nothing has changed. For now, just one example. Last December, after Donald Trump’s election but before the inauguration, he warned that the president-elect was “making terrorist attacks more likely.” How? By taking a “them-against-us” approach. You’ve likely heard this argument before: when we’re honest about the nature of the jihadist enemy, we alienate “moderate Muslims,” perhaps even turning some of them into mass murderers. Vick quoted a Darmouth professor and former State Department grind who warned that ISIS was “now in a much better position to make the case that the West really is determined to destroy Islam.” Vick praised George W. Bush for having said, less than a week after 9/11, that “Islam is peace.”

ISIS, Trump: two sides of the same coin?

Does Vick think this is true? He doesn’t say. His argument is that, true or not, if you’re a president you’d better say such things. One is reminded of the familiar joke: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say otherwise, we’ll kill you. In a classic example of moral equivalency, Vick essentially cast Trump and ISIS as two sides of the same coin, both determined to drive Muslims and non-Muslims apart. Vick served up what should by now be a long-discredited canard that jihadist “extremism” is driven by “feelings of aggrievement.” No, it’s driven by a determination to conquer that is rooted in Islamic texts.

After the terrorist attack on Breitscheidplatz square in Berlin, December 19, 2016

Vick slammed Trump for reacting to last December’s terrorist attack in Berlin – the one that involved a truck and took 12 lives – by making the purely factual statement that “ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad.” In Vick’s view, apparently, if we want peace with Islam, we’ve got to keep mum about what is being done to Christians in the Middle East in the name of Allah. The one “glimmer of hope” (to use Vick’s own words) in the article was that “Trump may be educable.” In other words, he may yet learn from the MSM and Foggy Bottom hacks to tell supposedly strategic untruths.

Venezuela continues its descent toward the ninth circle of socialist hell

Protesters in Caracas

In the wake of the March 29 dissolution of Venezuela’s National Assembly, an act that was widely condemned as a coup by President Nicolás Maduro, the economy of that poor, socialism-ravaged country has continued to circle the drain even as opponents of Maduro have taken to the streets day by day to demand their nation back, shouting “No more dictatorship!” Hundreds of thousands of protesters have filled the streets of Caracas and other cities; on Wednesday of last week, which saw the country’s largest protests in years, over 300 protesters were arrested, and pro-Maduro cops, gangsters, and soldiers have caused several deaths. (As of last Friday, the number of fatalities had risen to at least twenty.) Increasing, the capital has resembled a battle zone, with protesters setting up “burning barricades in several neighborhoods” and the military patrolling the night streets in “light-armored vehicles.”

Nicolas Maduro

Maduro himself, who has rejected the idea that the dissolution of the legislature constituted a coup, has said that, on the contrary, the protests against him – which in any free country, of course, would be protected by the right of assembly – amounted to a coup attempt. Vice President Tarek El Aissami has called Maduro’s opponents “terrorist leaders” and accused their followers of “fascist violence.” Another recent Maduro move was barring Henrique Capriles, the top opposition leader, whom Maduro has called “trash,” from running for public office.

Henrique Capriles

Late last week, engineering student David Marval, one of the protesters in Caracas, told Bloomberg News: “Everyone is asking what the plan is….For me, you have to paralyze the entire city.” Informed observers ventured that “Maduro’s grip on power is weakening.” At a press conference, opposition legislator Freddy Guevara said: “Twenty days of resistance and we feel newly born.” Raquel Belfort told Time Magazine: This is the moment….People are sick of this….we’ve touched rock bottom. I think if we take to the streets every day we’ll end this government.”

Yet in an April 21 article for The Week, Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry suggested that an end to Maduro’s tyranny is not yet in sight. Venezuela, Gobry lamented, “cannot wake up from its socialist nightmare.” Maduro, he maintained “increasingly looks like a ‘Bolivarian’ version of Vladimir Putin, holding power through corrupt patronage, fear, and the smothering of alternative voices and power centers.”

Father of the revolution: Hugo Chavez

Gobry served up a welter of chilling statistics about Venezuela’s “rotting” economy: “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.” The very real human toll of this socialist disaster is reflected in the fact that during the past year, “74 percent of Venezuelans lost an average of nearly 20 pounds each.” Also, “children are suffering from malnourishment for the first time in the country’s modern history” and “hospitals are running out of even basic drugs.” On April 20, the Wall Street Journal reported that many Venezuelans are, quite simply, too hungry to join in the protests. 

Among the recent casualties of the economic free-fall was an announcement on that same date that General Motors, in reaction to a government seizure of one of its factories, was withdrawing entirely from the country, where it has thousands of employees. Oh, and let’s not forget that Caracas is now “the murder capital of the world.” All this in a country with extraordinary human and natural resources that was once, hard as it may now be to believe, on the verge of having a First World economy.

Deep thoughts with Will Smith

Yesterday we took a gander at movie star Will Smith, who aside from being a huge movie star is a legend in his own mind – a thinker of deep thoughts, a preacher and teacher who, along with his equally evolved wife Jada Pinkett Smith, seeks to help the rest of us to approach his own sky-high level of enlightenment. (As radio personality Robin Quivers put it: “They have this attitude that they know everything and nobody else knows anything.”)

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With Ellen Degeneres

This is a guy who has spent much of his career telling people like Ellen Degeneres and Charlie Rose about his philosophy of life. Some choice excerpts from these interviews can be viewed on a You Tube video entitled (what else?) “Will Smith’s Philosophy of Life.” Samples:

“Greatness is not this wonderful, esoteric, elusive, godlike feature that only the special among us will ever taste. It’s something that truly exists among all of us.”

“Being realistic is the most commonly traveled road to mediocrity.”

“Our thoughts, our feelings, our dreams, our ideas are physical in the universe. If we dream something, if we picture something, if we commit ourselves to it, that is a physical thrust toward realization that we put into the universe.”

“There’s a flow of the universe that I’ve grown to know just how to go with it.”

As we noted yesterday, Will and Jada have passed their wisdom – and their prophetic calling – onto their children, Willow and Jaden. The result: both kids, still in their teens, are, like their father, eager to do their part to alter human consciousness. In 2013, Time magazine ran a tongue-in-cheek piece, “Is Jaden Smith the World’s Next Great Philosopher?”, in which reporter Ed Dodds analyzed recent Twitter musings by the then 15-year-old (“All The Rules In This World Were Made By Someone No Smarter Than You. So Make Your Own”; “If Newborn Babies Could Speak They Would Be The Most Intelligent Beings On Planet Earth”; “If Everybody In The World Dropped Out Of School We Would Have A Much More Intelligent Society”) in light of the writings of Kant, Locke, and other great thinkers. 

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Jaden and Willow

In 2014, Vice magazine had a similar stratagem, consulting a philosophy professor to help decipher Willow and Jaden’s pronouncements in a recent interview with the New York Times. (Some of their comments, to be sure, didn’t require much interpretation. Jaden: “We don’t think a lot of the music out there is that cool. So we make our own music.” Willow: “There’re no novels that I like to read so I write my own novels, and then I read them again, and it’s the best thing.”)

Last December, a friend of Jaden’s told Us Weekly that “Jaden sees himself as a modern-day prophet and is working on a collection of essays….They’re new takes on string theory and chaos theory, but more mystical….Jaden thinks he has spiritual ties to people in other dimensions and galaxies, and they are helping him write….He hopes to have a spiritual following when he releases these.” (Let us underscore that our intention here isn’t to mock these teenagers; it’s to note the nature of the impact that Will and Jada’s homemade metaphysics has had on their offspring.)

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Will Smith at his Dubai presser

Anyway, as we noted yesterday, Will recently went to the UAE to promote a new movie, Suicide Squad – and to spread his special brand of enlightenment to the people of Dubai. At a press conference, he was asked some questions about America. He proceeded to brutalize Donald Trump and his admirers, whose vocal support for the businessman’s presidential candidacy Smith welcomed as an opportunity to “get to know who people are” so that they can then be “cleanse[d]…out of our country.”

Yes, you read that right: Will Smith – this highly evolved being who presumably views as utterly immoral Trump’s intention to ban foreign Islamic extremists from the U.S. and to curb mass illegal immigration through Mexico – has no problem talking about “cleansing” America of natural-born citizens whose politics differ from his own.

But that was just the beginning of his press conference. More tomorrow.

Amsterwhat?

“When I first found out I was going to Amsterdam, I thought I had been there before, even though I hadn’t, because I’m not very good at geography, and I thought Amsterdam was in Belgium. It’s not. It’s in the Netherlands.”

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Sally Kohn

That’s a direct quote from an article that jejune CNN pundit Sally Kohn wrote last year for a travel website. Her honesty about her ignorance is almost charming. But the ignorance itself is so staggering, on the part of somebody in her position, that it totally cancels out the charm.

This is, after all, as we saw yesterday, a commentator who’s been described as one of “the 100 most influential pundits on television” and as “the 35th most influential LGBT person in the media.” Her professional background, as we further observed yesterday, has been entirely in activism and political commentary. As far as we can tell from her CV, she has spent little or no time studying such topics as history or (as she herself admitted in that travel article) geography.

nethThe thing is this: if Kohn didn’t know that Amsterdam is in the Netherlands, imagine how much else she doesn’t know. It’s one thing not to be able to explain the difference between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, or between Guinea and Guinea-Bissau. But Amsterdam and the Netherlands play a central role in modern history, in Western history, and – indeed – in American history. If she didn’t know that Amsterdam is in the Netherlands, that means that there’s a whole swath of basic Western historical fact that must be a total mystery to her.

sally8Put it this way: if you don’t know that Amsterdam is in the Netherlands, then you can’t possibly have even a vague awareness of the crucial role of the Netherlands in the settling of the New World and the founding of the United States. You can’t possibly be aware of the place of the Dutch Republic in the rise of modern freedom, modern capitalism, and modern commerce – at least not aware enough to deserve a job spouting opinions on CNN. Because if you want to even start to try to understand how the world works today, and why some parts of it work so much better than others, and how things came to be this way, you need to know enough history to be aware, at the very least, that Amsterdam is, in fact, in the Netherlands.

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Belgium?

This is not to suggest that Kohn is alone at the top in her woeful ignorance. All too many young (and not so young) reporters and pundits nowadays seem to know remarkably little about what happened in history before they were, say, in high school. (Kohn’s CNN colleague Wolf Blitzer, for example, is a certified buffoon who put in one of the most humiliating performances ever on a dumbed-down celebrity edition of Jeopardy.) But even in this crowd, Kohn seems to be a special kind of ignorant. In July, she tweeted angrily about “white guys with AK-15s conducting mass shootings.” When some of her followers pointed out that there’s no such thing as an AK-15, she insisted it was a typo and doubled down on the ranting.

In May, Kohn wrote an article for Time complaining about what she called the “Bernie Bros” – in other words, male Bernie Sanders enthusiasts who were being unruly at public events. She couldn’t figure out why Bernie boosters, most of whom by definition, in her view, have “a deep commitment to non-violence,” should be conducting themselves in such a barbaric fashion. After all, she argued, it’s the Donald Trump camp that is “not entirely but definitely largely based on implicitly violent denigration of Mexicans and Muslims.”

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Kohn tweeted this picture in April when she endorsed Sanders’ White House bid

How can a person in her position be so historically unaware? Before the Sanders campaign fizzled out, Kohn was an all-out supporter of the senator from Vermont – a dyed-in-the-wool socialist who’s repeatedly praised the Castro regime in Cuba, who’s hailed the Chávez and Maduro governments (and refused to comment on their utter destruction of the Venezuelan economy), and who, so deep was his faith, even honeymooned in the Soviet Union. The nature of Sanders’s convictions is, and has been throughout his political journey, crystal clear. But instead of recognizing the simple fact that the tenets of Sanders’s ideology have always been utterly inextricable from the most monstrous kind of violence, Kohn embraced in her Time article the absurd claim – which that ideology has always made for itself – that it is ardently anti-violence.

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One of the “Bernie Bros” being arrested

So ideology-bound is Kohn, in other words, that in her piece for Time she simply couldn’t put leftism and violence together and make it compute. So what did she do? She reached for the closest ideologically acceptable explanation for the violence of the “Bernie Bros,” and attributed it to that comfortable bogeyman, “white male anger.”

Here’s how she put it: “in the past and present of America it is impossible to disentangle white male anger from gender and racial bias and resentment.”

Ah, there we go. How sweet, to feel that tension dissipate! How easy, when you consistently place ideology above reality, to be able to sweep away the plain and simple facts with the same old comforting, reassuring lies!

But we’ve only begun to plumb the depths of Sally Kohn’s superficiality. More tomorrow.

Stooge in a clerical collar: Daniel Berrigan

When the Catholic priest Daniel Berrigan died on April 30 at age 95, the mainstream media painted him as a well-nigh heroic figure. This was, we were told, a man of deep and contemplative faith, a crusader for peace, a consoler of the sick, an advocate for the poor, and – on top of it all – a gifted poet.

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Daniel Berrigan

Not until a couple of dozen paragraphs into its obituary did the New York Times bother to note Berrigan’s anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian slants (he was so ugly about Israel that Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg accused him of “old-fashioned theological anti-Semitism”), his reprehensible silence on the scandal surrounding sexual abuse of children by his fellow clergy, and his apparently congenital failure to criticize Communism.  A follow-up profile in the Times by Jim Dwyer omitted these unpleasant details entirely, painting Berrigan as a veritable saint who “filled his life to the brim with poetry and protest, preaching and witness” and spoke “from a distinctly Catholic perspective against war, capital punishment, abortion, bigotry and indifference to the poor.” 

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With his brother on the cover of Time

Other mainstream media took more or less the same approach, either overlooking his views on Jews, child abuse, and the USSR or treating them as minor flaws in an otherwise stellar character. On the contrary, Berrigan’s softness on Communism, in particular, was utterly inextricable from the ideology that motivated him throughout his career. A founder of what became known as the Catholic New Left, Berrigan – along with his brother, Philip, who was also a priest (and who died in 2002) – raided draft boards during the Vietnam War, pouring blood on some selective-service records while burning others with homemade napalm. (For the latter act, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced, only to take it on the lam; the law eventually caught up with him and he spent two years in the slammer.)

Berrigan’s protest activities, legal and otherwise, invariably involved vicious rhetoric about America – rhetoric which, as the historian Michael B. Friedland has written, “did nothing to dispel the image of activist priests as fuzzy-headed moralists.” By contrast, when asked about the Communist threat, Berrigan dismissed it outright: “communism as an issue in the Vietnam war is a myth,” he insisted.

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With Zinn in Hanoi

What exactly was Berrigan’s view of Communism? More than a few observers maintain that he was a Communist himself. “Daniel romanticized the North Vietnamese,” one commentator has written. To revisit his writings about them is to conclude that that’s putting it mildly. One thing is for sure: he was no fan of any aspect of American culture or the American political and economic system; routinely, he condemned his own country as violent, genocidal, and imperialistic, a nation bereft of spirit, of virtue.

We do know this: in 1968, Berrigan traveled to Hanoi with Howard Zinn, who would later become famous as the author of the 1980 propaganda tract-cum-bestselling textbook The People’s History of the United States. In Hanoi, the two men met with North Vietnamese officials, who handed over to them three U.S. Air Force POWs to take home with them to America, supposedly as tokens of good will and as a first step toward a negotiated peace.

berriganbookIt is interesting that of all the people Berrigan could have had as travel companions, he went with Zinn. As has been well established in recent years by FBI files and multiple other records, Zinn was at the time an active member of the U.S. Communist Party. He had joined the Party at the height of Stalin’s postwar power, and when interviewed by the FBI in 1953 he flat-out lied about his Party membership. Zinn later openly supported the Castro regime in Cuba and, during the Vietnam War, cheered unequivocally for the Communists to win.

No, Berrigan’s readiness to link arms with Zinn doesn’t necessary indicate that he, too, was a card-carrying Communist. At the very least, however, it shows that he had no problem associating himself and his cause with that of a man who was explicitly rooting not for peace but for the enemy’s victory. Indeed, in Night Flight to Hanoi, the memoir Berrigan later published about their “peace mission,” Berrigan calls Zinn “my cherished brother and friend and Old Testament man of heart and guts.” Zinn wrote the introduction to the book, which provides a fascinating window on Berrigan’s mindset; we’ll riffle through a bit of it tomorrow.