With self-hating Jews like this, who needs anti-Semites?

Peter Beinart

On Tuesday, we saw how Peter Beinart struck out at Israel in a rather sensational 2010 article for the New York Review of Books. Two years later, he expanded his attack to book length in The Crisis of Zionism, which established him, once and for all, as a leading opponent of the Jewish state.

Sol Stern

Where to begin with The Crisis of Zionism? Beinart celebrates then-President Barack Obama as a model liberal Zionist. In a review for Commentary, Sol Stern noted that Obama, far from being a pal of the Jewish state, had in fact “cultivated friendships with notorious haters of Israel, such as Reverend Jeremiah Wright, the former Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, and University of Chicago professor and one-time PLO official Rashid Khalidi.” Beinart’s other hero is the American Jewish leader Stephen Wise (1874-1949), whose notorious betrayal of the Jews of Europe, Stern observed, goes without mention in Beinart’s book. At bottom, pronounced Stern, The Crisis of Zionism “is nothing more than a bald political tract designed to advance President Obama’s agenda on the Middle East conflict”; it’s a work in which Beinart “willfully ignores just about any testimony or source that might undermine his uncomplicated narrative of good liberal Zionism versus bad reactionary Zionism.”

Alana Newhouse

In a review for the Washington Post, Alana Newhouse, editor of the Jewish periodical Tablet and herself a liberal critic of Israel, described Beinart’s book as and “a political stump speech for an attractive young candidate who is seeking the job of spokesman for liberal American Jews.” Newhouse criticized his take on Palestinians (whom he depicts as “just the passive and helpless victims of Israeli sadism, with no historical agency; no politics, diplomacy or violence of their own; and no responsibility for the miserable impasse of the conflict”) as well as his dismissive view of other prominent American Jews (which, she surmised, allows Beinart to present himself as the only natural leader of Americans “who want to think of Israel as a decent place but who can’t stomach the conflict with the Palestinians and who of course don’t want anyone to think they are anti-Semites”).

Bret Stephens

Describing Beinart as “the self-appointed anguished conscience and angry scold of the Jewish state,” another reviewer, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, noted that a recent study had shot Beinart’s whole thesis to hell: “A whopping 82 percent of American Jews feel that U.S. support for Israel is either ‘just about right’ or ‘not supportive enough’ —and that’s just among those Jews who describe themselves as ‘liberal’ or ‘very liberal.’” As Stephens describes it, Beinart’s book is largely a mishmash of familiar anti-Israel arguments and glib belittling of the evil of Hamas and Hezbollah. “The real problem for Beinart’s argument,” Stephens writes, “is that, in word and deed, Palestinians have repeatedly furnished good reasons for the Israeli (and American) right to argue against further territorial withdrawals, at least until something fundamental changes in Palestinian political culture.” Alas, to Beinart, “no Israeli misdeed is too small that it can’t serve as an alibi for Palestinian malfeasance. And no Palestinian crime is so great that it can justify even a moment’s pause in Israel’s quest to do right by its neighbor.”

More on Tuesday.

The ACLU today: leftism and lies

In our last couple of postings, we’ve been preoccupied with the transformation of the American Civil Liberties Union from an objective defender of free speech and civil liberties into yet another partisan tool for the left. The most prominent critic of this development has been Alan Dershowitz, the high-profile – and liberal – lawyer.

Wendy Kaminer

But Dershowitz hasn’t been alone. In a June article for the Wall Street Journal, Wendy Kaminer – who, like Dershowitz, is a former ACLU board member – cited a leaked memo about the ACLU’s current guidelines for taking on free-speech cases. Under those guidelines, the organization takes into account “the potential effect” of speech limits “on marginalized communities” and the “structural and power inequalities in the community in which the speech will occur.” Kaminer shook her head over all this, arguing that such thinking amounts to “a demotion of free speech in the ACLU’s hierarchy of values.”

Megan McArdle

That wasn’t all. On June 26, the Washington Post website ran a piece by Megan McArdle headlined “The ACLU’s divided heart.” McArdle began by paying tribute to the ACLU’s history: “Born out of the prosecutions of antiwar speech during World War I, the American Civil Liberties Union has spent the succeeding decades litigating and lobbying to protect speech rights for everyone, from communists to Nazis. Without the ACLU, Americans wouldn’t have some of the most robust civil liberties in the world.” McArdle also made a point that cannot be considered anything short of vital: “If the ACLU steps back from speech cases, no other organization is ready to pick up the torch, in part because the ACLU is so synonymous with free speech that it attracts much of the donor interest and legal talent in this area.” McArdle then summed up the problematic new guidelines that Kaminer had written about in the Journal.

Nadine Strossen

One might have expected that the leaking of these guidelines to the public would have caused David Cole, the ACLU’s legal director, to miss his stride. But he didn’t. Absurdly, he insisted that these kinds of considerations had entered into decision-making at the ACLU ever since its founding. Nonsense. Nadine Strossen, a former head of the ACLU who has been especially strident lately in her pretense that it’s the same organization it always has been (see, for example, her recent turn on Dave Rubin’s podcast), also stood her ground. But Ira Glasser, Strossen’s predecessor, called B.S. on her: “To deny that this departure from free speech policy is a departure is intellectually dishonest, an Orwellian smokescreen thrown up to obscure what they are doing.” McArdle agreed: the ACLU’s politically drenched new criteria are “inimical to the very ideals the ACLU was founded to protect.” Yep.

In the “Republic of Samsung,” it’s (corrupt) business as usual

Lee Jae-young

For many people in South Korea, the arrest, trial, conviction, and imprisonment last year of Lee Jae-young – that country’s richest man and the de facto head of Samsung, the country’s largest business – signaled the start of a bright new era. After decades of corruption in the chaebols, the powerful family-run conglomerates that have dominated the postwar South Korean economy, the ouster last year of President Park Geun-hye and her replacement by Moon Jae-in, who promised that the traditionally well-connected leaders of these firms would no longer operate with impunity, seemed indeed to represent radical and long hoped-for change.

Park Geung-hye

Yet, as we discussed on Tuesday, all hopes for revolutionary reform were crushed last month when a High Court judge abruptly ordered Lee (known in the West as Jay Y. Lee) freed from prison.

Lee, according to Bloomberg News, “appeared stunned.” So, reported the Wall Street Journal, were “some South Korean lawmakers and legal experts.” The South Korean public was stunned, too. And angry. Street protests ensued. Moon had promised change, but this was business as usual. Over the decades, one chaebol honcho after another had been tried on corruption charges only to be found not guilty, or convicted and then pardoned, or – as happened with Lee’s father in 2008 – given a suspended sentence. Meanwhile, as the New York Times has noted, South Korean courts have “routinely sentenced lesser-known white-collar criminals to far longer terms for lesser offenses.”

Here it was all over again. “The ‘Republic of Samsung’ lives on,” griped Professor Kwon Young-june of Kyung Hee University. The judge’s decision, complained Park Yong-jin, a member of the National Assembly, only “confirmed once again that Samsung is above the law and the court.”

A view of the site of the Pyeongchang Olympics

Indeed. The High Court’s ruling – which came only days before the opening of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea – is absurd on its face. Among the items of evidence that senior judge Cheong Hyung-sik chose to drop down the memory hole was a set of 39 handwritten notebooks in which an economic adviser to President Park recorded specifics about bribes paid to Park by Lee. Other exhibits in the trial included documentation of exchanges between Park to Lee that made clear the nature of the quid-pro-quo between them.

Samsung headquarters, Seoul

Many commentators had been arguing that South Korea is in the process of changing its stripes; nobody can seriously make that argument now. Lee is a criminal for whom prosecutors sought a sentence of 12 years in prison: that’s how serious they considered his transgressions to be. The prosecutors demonstrated that Lee had committed embezzlement, illegally hidden assets overseas, and lied to the parliament under oath. They proved definitively that he had paid bribes in return for government support for a merger that, as the Financial Times put it, “was crucial for Mr. Lee to cement his hold on the organisation, but was widely criticised for not benefiting shareholders.” As one politician observed, by way of underscoring the absurdity of the High Court’s ruling, Judge Cheong appeared to expect the world to believe that Lee had handed over a fortune to President Park in return for absolutely nothing whatsoever.

So it stands, then. For a brief shining moment there, it looked as though South Korea had experienced a new birth of justice and equal treatment under the law. Alas, Lee’s release shows that under Moon, the old rules remain in place.

Catching up with Stalin apologist Ben Norton

In July of last year, we spent a week covering the oeuvre of Ben Norton, who after only three years as a professional scribe had already compiled an extensive body of work – and made a name for himself as a high-profile fan of socialism and Islam and enemy of the U.S. and Israel.

Ben Norton

To say he’s a fan of socialism, to be sure, is to soft-pedal his ideological allegiances. In fact he’s a full-throated defender of Communism, as witnessed by a piece he published at AlterNet on November 22. In it, he accused the Trump administration and others, including the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, of marking the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution by “demoniz[ing] communism.”

Singling out a Post article in which Marc Thiessen pointed out that “Communist regimes killed some 100 million people — roughly four times the number killed by the Nazis — making communism the most murderous ideology in human history,” Norton called the piece a “diatribe” and denounced Thiessen for “whitewashing the Nazi regime’s uniquely murderous crimes.” Because, you see, if you dare to tell the whole truth about the destructive evil of Communism, and acknowledge that Communism, in its century-long history, has indeed claimed more lives than Nazism did during its decade or so in power, you must be a Nazi sympathizer.

Marc Thiessen

In his screed, Norton played the same kind of numbers game in which Holocaust deniers like to indulge. Rejecting the claim that Communist regimes had killed 100 million people, he complained that that figure included Russians killed during the Nazi invasion of the USSR. He also criticized Thiessen and others for relying on statistics from The Black Book of Communism, a solid reference work that Norton dismissed as a “propagandistic tract” – “a collection of right-wing essays published in France in 1997” – and charged with “trivializing the Holocaust.”

Josef Stalin

Of course, it’s possible to tell the whole truth about Communism without being a fan of Nazism. Evil is evil. Totalitarianism is totalitarianism. Surely the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal don’t think Hitler was peachy keen. Norton’s whole line of argument here is disingenuous – in fact, he’s the one who greatly prefers one kind of totalitarianism to the other, and who is determined not to see them placed anywhere near on the same level. He claims that The Black Book of Communism had been used “to diminish the crimes of fascism and portray it as a lesser evil compared to communism.” That admirers of one brand of tyranny can use the facts about another brand of tyranny to suit their own purposes does not mean that those facts aren’t facts.

Noam Chomsky

Norton goes further: borrowing from Noam Chomsky, he serves up the suggestion that the logic of The Black Book of Communism could be used to blame capitalism for the death of tens of millions of people in India alone. He also tries to sell the notion that, because “the Soviet Union’s meticulously kept archives” show that “799,455 people were executed under the rule of Joseph Stalin between 1921 and 1953,” this number should be accepted as the sum total of lives lost as a result of Communism during the Stalin era. Forget, then, the Gulag and the Holodomor.

Mao Zedong

Norton also tries to drastically slash the number of people who died as a consequence of Mao’s tyranny, arguing that millions of them were, rather, victims of famine, and pointing out that deadly famines have been a regular part of Chinese history for centuries. In short, in addition to dropping the Gulag and Holodomor down the memory hole, Norton also deep-sixes the depredations of the so-called Cultural Revolution.

But that’s not all. Norton implies that instead of demonizing Communism, we should celebrate it – after all, it was the Soviets who experienced most of the battlefront casualties in “the fight against fascism.” Fine – the problem is that, again, they were fighting one form of totalitarianism in the name of another form of totalitarianism. He describes the USSR as having “liberated Auschwitz and Berlin.” But how can you speak of “liberation” when the people “liberated” ended up living under a fiercely illiberal dictatorship?

The Red Cross and the Nazis: a dark chapter

Gerald Steinacher

Sometimes the people who end up being useful stooges can be those who have – or who think they have – the noblest of intentions. A new book by University of Nebraska historian Gerald Steinacher, Humanitarians at War, draws attention to the lamentable conduct of the International Committee of the Red Cross during World War II. Founded in 1863, the ICRC was responsible for the conference that first formulated the Geneva Conventions, and during the wars that followed was permitted by all belligerents to operate behind their lines and take care of wounded soldiers and prisoners of war. The Red Cross, it must be said, was a remarkably modern and humanitarian conception.

Carl Jacob Burckhardt

But the execution has not always matched the conception. The ICRC’s record is not spotless, and the worst chapter in its entire history undoubtedly came during the Holocaust, when the ICRC was under the de facto leadership of its official second-in-command, Carl Jacob Burckhardt (its president, Max Huber, was largely out of commission during that period), a Swiss diplomat and anti-Semite. As Samuel Moyn, a professor of law and history at Yale, notes in a recent review of Steinacher’s book for the Wall Street Journal, Burckhardt’s fear of Communism caused him to view Nazism “as a bulwark of civilization and a necessary evil.” Although the ICRC, since 1933, had been receiving letters from German concentration camps making it clear just how horrible the treatment of inmates was, Burckhardt was determined to keep a lid on it all, praising the commandant of Dachau, for example, “for his discipline and decency.”

That was just the beginning. Not long after the January 1942 Wannsee Conference, at which Nazi leaders agreed on the objective of exterminating the Jews of Europe, the ICRC became aware of this resolution. But it said nothing about it and did nothing about it.

Samuel Moyn

To be sure, it could be argued that there was little or nothing the ICRC could have done to prevent the execution of Hitler’s Final Solution. But Burckhardt’s problematic attitude persisted after the war. Silent on the Holocaust, he spoke up against the Nuremberg trials, calling them “Jewish revenge.” “Red Cross officials,” writes Moyn, “attempted to whitewash the record of Nuremberg defendant and high-ranking Nazi diplomat Ernst von Weizsäcker. After the Holocaust, the ICRC—by then helmed by Burckhardt—even abetted the flight of Nazis such as Adolf Eichmann and Josef Mengele by providing them with travel papers.”

Adolf Eichmann

It has been known for a long time that the ICRC helped Nazis escape Europe; at first, the ICRC’s excuse was that a relatively small number of Nazis had successfully misrepresented themselves as innocent refugees and taken advantage of an overburdened Red Cross bureaucracy to evade justice. But Steinacher’s research on the subject, published in his 2011 book Nazis on the Run, showed that the numbers of Nazis helped in this fashion by the ICRC – as well as by the Vatican – were “much higher than thought.” Thanks to the ICRC, in fact, no fewer than “90% of ex-Nazis fled via Italy, mostly to Spain, and North and South America – notably Argentina.” As Steinacher has documented, individual ICRC officials and local ICRC delegations in Europe knowingly held out a helping hand to Hitler’s former henchmen. Their motives varied: some were acting “out of sympathy for individuals”; others had sympathy for the Nazi cause. Whatever the case, the Nazi chapter of the ICRC’s history is a profoundly tainted one, serving as a salutary reminder that even the most pristine of images can be seriously deceptive.

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.

Fronting for the DPRK: The Kaufman Music Center

The Ureuk Symphony Orchestra

Last October, we wrote about the Ureuk Symphony Orchestra, an ensemble that had performed before an enthusiastic crowd at the Kaufman Music Center, a major New York City concert venue, on September 22. Five days after the concert, the Wall Street Journal published a bombshell of an article which revealed that the event, billed as a “Peace Korea Concert,” had in fact been pure North Korean propaganda. In addition to standard items from the classical repertoire, the evening’s program had included North Korean works celebrating the Kim dynasty, praising Kim Jong-un, and calling for the absorption of South Korea into North Korea.

That’s Christopher Joonmoo Lee in the middle

Since the words were all in Korean, of course, many audience members didn’t really know what they were listening to. There were exceptions, though: among those in attendance were several North Korean diplomats, including Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho. The orchestra conductor, Christopher Joonmoo Lee, also understood every word. For, as it turned out, Lee, whose Korean name is Ri Jun Mu, isn’t just any musician: he’s a crony and operative of the Pyongyang regime. He spends a lot of time in North Korea and appears regularly on North Korean TV. As if all this weren’t explosive enough, the Journal pointed out that the orchestra had been performing at the Kaufman Music Center several times a year for over a decade – and in the city that may be the hub of the international news media, no reporter, apparently, had ever put it all together.

The Journal‘s revelations came as a surprise not only to most of the people who’d attended its September 22 concert but also to some of the musicians in the orchestra. The piece was, in fact, so devastating that we assumed – or, at least, hoped – that it would bring an end to this chapter in the history of North Korean propaganda. Nope! On February 4, an article in the New York Post brought the news that the Ureuk Symphony Orchestra was coming back to the Kaufman Music Center on that very day. This time around, the concert was entitled “February Spring” – a phrase used in North Korea to refer to Kim Jong-il’s birthday on February 16. The program, as always, would mix classical chestnuts with “North Korean cult songs praising the regime and its dictators, presented innocently as simply ‘Korean folk tunes,’ ‘music from a North Korean composer,’ etc.”

Lee surrounded by friends and fans

As the Post observed, what mattered here was not “that some unsuspecting Upper West Side 1-percenters are listening to militaristic songs,” but that “back in North Korea the concerts are touted as a triumph in the land of the ‘American bastards.’ It’s cultural warfare at its finest.” Indeed. The Post also added several details that were new to us. For one thing, the Ureuk concerts are underwritten by the Korean American National Coordinating Council, “a fanatically pro-Pyongyang front group once reportedly investigated by the US government for tax evasion and for serving as agents of North Korea.” For another, Lee, the orchestra conductor, is “a KANCC board member and a zealous supporter of the North Korean dictatorship.” He’s taken part in the “April Spring Friendship Art Festival,” an annual event in Pyongyang, and has written a poem celebrating the idea that North Korean nuclear bombs “could be the ‘death rattle’ of the ‘big-nosed’ Americans.” This from the man who wields the baton at “Peace Concerts”!

No, it’s no surprise that fanatical North Korean loyalists are doing their best to spread the Kim regime’s propaganda in the evil West. But why is the Kaufman Music Center providing them with a hall? Why didn’t the Wall Street Journal exposé put an end to this outrage once and for all? Why are people buying tickets to these things? Are Manhattanites that starved for classical music offerings?

PewDiePie, Nazi?

pew
Felix Kjellberg, aka PewDiePie

It’s hard to know which is more embarrassing to have to write: the words “YouTube star” or the silly name “PewDiePie.” As it happens, the latter is an example – indeed, the prime example – of the former: PewDiePie, a 27-year-old Swede whose real moniker is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, is the biggest of all YouTube stars.

It happened fast. A drop-out from a technology college, he tried unsuccessfully to get an apprenticeship at an ad agency. Then, six years ago, while working at a hot-dog stand, he posted the first of his homemade videos, of which he’s now made several hundred. By August 2013 he was the most subscribed user on all of YouTube. His videos routinely get millions, if not tens of millions, of views. He’s now accumulated a total of over 14 billion views. He makes tens of millions of dollars a year off of this stuff.

pewdiepie-400x240Now, many a discerning adult, if confronted with one of Kjellberg’s videos, might scratch his or her head over the young Swede’s success. It’s not exactly witty or sophisticated fare – and that’s putting it mildly. But his followers (largely teens and tweens) love him. In any case, his immense success led the folks at Disney to sign him in 2014 to a lucrative contract.

For a while there, he seemed to be moving from triumph to triumph.

pewdiepie-e1484319246136But his smooth ride hit a bump – at the very least – on February 14, when Rolfe Winkler, Jack Nicas, and Ben Fritz published a report in the Wall Street Journal about Kjellberg’s videos. Their investigation had been spurred by a recent incident that had caused a brief and limited flurry of controversy. On January 11, Kjellberg posted a video on which he explained that he had found two young Indian guys online who offered to display a message while dancing in the jungle – all for the price of five dollars. He sent them five dollars, and, doing what he had paid them to do, they danced and laughed on camera while holding up a banner reading “Death to All Jews.”

After showing the footage, Kjellberg told viewers: “I didn’t think they’d actually do it. I feel partially [!] responsible…” He then broke into giggles and said he had to give the guys “five stars” for doing what he’d asked. “Let me know if I should do more of these,” he said. “I don’t feel good….I’m not anti-Semitic…It was a funny meme…I swear I love Jews, I love ’em.” But the contrition, if that’s what it was, lasted two seconds. He did, after all, post the video – which to date has logged more than ten million views.

As the Journal reporters discovered, this was not an isolated case. Several of the videos posted by Kjellberg during the last six months, it turned out, contained “either antisemitic jokes or Nazi imagery.” If he had any real regret about the “Death to All Jews” incident, it had dissipated by January 22, when he posted a video showing “a man dressed as Jesus saying, ‘Hitler did absolutely nothing wrong.’” In another video, Kjellberg wears a Nazi uniform while watching a video of Hitler. At least once, he invited viewers to draw swastikas.

pewdiepieAfter the Journal‘s article came out, Disney cancelled its deal with Kjellberg. He didn’t have much to offer by way of a defense. All his “jokes,” he insisted, were offered in a spirit of innocent fun. The “Death to all Jews” thing was an effort to show “how crazy the modern world is.” One chilling revelation was that the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, according to The Guardian, had “run a series of articles about the YouTuber, describing him as ‘our guy’” and praising his work because “it normalizes Nazism, and marginalizes our enemies.”

gustav_v_of_sweden_in_the_1940s
Gustav V of Sweden

Is Kjellberg a Jew-hater? Maybe, maybe not. But the ease and reflexivity with which he resorts to Nazi and anti-Semitic tropes reflects a mindset that has prevailed in his country throughout its modern history. During World War II, Sweden, which was officially neutral, aided the Nazis in a number of ways. Also, while the wartime king of Denmark famously stood up for his Jewish subjects against the Nazi occupiers and his Norwegian counterpart, Haakon VII, went into exile in Britain for the duration, Sweden’s king, Gustav V, happily socialized with Hitler. Today, Swedish Jews are routinely terrorized by anti-Semitic Muslim immigrants, and many of those Jews are fleeing the country to save their skins – a disgraceful state of affairs that very few gentile Swedes bother to speak up about, and that the Swedish media largely ignore.

Which raises the question: does Kjellberg ever “joke” about Islam? We suspect not.

The economic Rasputin behind Venezuela’s collapse

alfredo-serrano-mancilla
Alfredo Serrano Mancilla

On this website we’ve covered the ongoing and ever worsening nightmare that is chavismo frequently and from a number of angles. One name we’ve failed to mention so far, however, is that of Alfredo Serrano Mancilla, who was described recently as “the man behind Venezuela’s economic mess” – not exactly the most coveted label of our time. The Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional said that it’s “entirely” thanks to Serrano that the nation “continues to insist on the economic models of socialism in the 21st century, despite the queues, shortages, and inflation.”

diputado-jose-guerra
José Guerra

Who is Serrano? A native Spaniard, he studied economics in Barcelona and Quebec, then relocated to Latin America along with several other anti-capitalist economists in search of the opportunity of putting their theories into action. According to the Wall Street Journal, they were soon “advising leftist leaders in Bolivia and Ecuador on economics, setting up social programs and the drafting of new constitutions.” José Guerra, an opposition legislator and economist, told the Journal that “Serrano is a typical European leftist who came to Latin America to experiment with things no one wants at home: state domination, price controls and fixed exchange rates.” In 2014, Serrano “established a think tank in Ecuador called the Latin American Strategic Center of Geopolitic.” (Although its think tank identifies him as “a professor at eight universities across Spain and Latin America,” the Journal managed to establish that he was not on the staff of any of them.) He also reportedly holds the title of coordinator at a Spain-based group called the Center for Political and Social Studies (CEPS).

VENEZUELA-ELECTIONS
Hugo Chávez

His contribution to the trainwreck of Venezuela began relatively recently. In his 2014 book, The Economic Thought of Hugo Chávez, he lavished praise upon the late president’s social and economic planning. His view, as summed up by the PanAm Post, is that “the socialist economic model of the 21st century is unquestionable, and that any failure is the result of attacks from the opposition.” Pause to contemplate that one for a minute: in 2014, by which time the writing was already on the wall for the Venezuelan economy, this guy – a professional economic consultant – was prepared to get up and say that the solution to the country’s problems lay not in changing course but in doubling down. It was beyond idiotic – but it impressed Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, himself an idiot, who has called Serrano “a man of great courage” and “a very intelligent, very qualified man who’s building new concepts for a new economy of the 21st century.” He’s even dubbed Serrano “the Jesus Christ of the economy.”

Venezuelan acting President Nicolas Maduro raises his fist during a campaign rally in San Carlos, Cojedes State, on April 4, 2013. The presidential campaign to replace Venezuela's Hugo Chavez formally kicked off Tuesday, with Maduro -- Chavez's hand-picked successor -- battling opposition leader Henrique Capriles for the forthcoming April 14 vote. AFP PHOTO / JUAN BARRETOJUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images
Nicolás Maduro

Next thing you knew, Maduro was slavishly following every last one of Serrano’s aggressively radical prescriptions. Among them: the government expropriation of private property and seizure of private businesses, the promotion of “urban agriculture” on people’s apartment balconies, the inauguration of a Soviet-style system for supplying goods to consumers, and the Maoist-style practice of forcing city residents to work on state-owned farms.

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Grigori Rasputin in 1916

In addition to formulating all these suicidal policies, Serrano wrote speeches for Maduro in which the president vigorously defended them and refused to let humanitarian aid into the country (a position apparently rooted in a good old Stalinist-style desire to “hide the crisis” from the outside world). And while Maduro has followed this Rasputin’s advice, he’s utterly ignored other insiders who’ve urged him to undertake more conventional, market-friendly reforms to halt economic collapse. We can only hope that when Venezuelans finally do take their country back, Serrano – along with Maduro – will get the payback he deserves. Unfortunately, like so many other Western socialists who love enjoying their own prosperity and privilege as much as they love engineering other people’s poverty, he’ll probably get away with his destruction, beating a hasty retreat back to Spain, where he can continue to spread his terrible ideas in academic books and university lecture halls.

Will Samsung’s Lee be in handcuffs tomorrow?

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Samsung headquarters in Seoul

When we last left our South Korean friends in the Blue House and the chaebol boardrooms, the probe into Samsung’s cash transfers to foundations linked to presidential chum Choi Soon-sil – apparently in exchange for support for a merger between two Samsung subsidiaries – had entered a new phase. Documents had been confiscated at several locations, including the homes of several Samsung executives; the independent counsel had issued an arrest warrant for Choi’s daughter; and Samsung vice-chairman Lee Jae-yong, who is the firm’s de facto top dog and the son of its founder and chairman, Lee Kung-hee, had been barred from leaving the country.

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Lee Jae-yong

The latest update came on Monday in the Wall Street Journal. The special prosecutors, reported Eun-Young Jeong, Jonathan Cheng, and Timothy W. Martin, were seeking an arrest warrant for Lee on charges of bribery, embezzlement, and perjury. In order to be able to issue the warrant, they need to solicit approval from a South Korean court, which is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow to entertain that request. If approval is granted, Lee – who spent 22 hours last week being interrogated – will be taken into custody while the prosecutors continue to pursue their investigation. Samsung was quick to reply to the prosecutors’ request for an arrest warrant, repeating previous denials that it had made contributions in exchange for favors or made any “improper requests related to the merger of Samsung affiliates or the leadership transition.”

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Lee Kun-hee

The Journal noted that if Lee is indeed incarcerated for any length of time, the conglomerate “could face a leadership vacuum while smartphone maker Samsung Electronics Co. is also reeling from a massive recall of its Galaxy Note 7 device. It could also put on hold any further attempts to reorganize one of the world’s most complex business empires.” Indeed, it would almost certainly have a significant impact on the South Korean economy, given that Samsung alone, as the Journal pointed out, “accounts for nearly one-third of South Korea’s stock-market value.”

Meanwhile President Park Geun-hye’s fate also lies in the balance. Last month the National Assembly voted to impeach her, and the Constitutional Court is debating whether to unseat her from the office she has held since February 2013. If the evidence proves that Lee is guilty of the charges leveled against him, it is more likely that the same evidence will help convict Park as well.

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Park Geun-hye

It should be underscored that the current Samsung probe is far from the first to target one of the chaebol – the massive, family-run conglomerates that have formed the foundation of the postwar South Korean economy. Over the years, other chaebol executives – including Lee’s father, who reportedly pocketed $8.9 billion in Samsung funds – have been indicted and convicted on corruption charges. But almost all of them have received presidential pardons that kept them out of jail. The history of brazen, high-level corruption at the conglomerates has underscored the special privileges enjoyed by the clans that own and run them as well as the intimate, one-hand-washes-the-other relationship that has long existed between them and the office of the president.

This time, however, the story may take a fresh turn: the #1 man at the nation’s #1 company may end up going down for good, and when he does, he may very well take the president down with him. Stay tuned.