October 20, 2011
By David Paulin
In between cancer treatments, Hugo Chávez is talking up a storm with Fidel Castro on some favorite subjects - the impending collapse of the United States and Venezuela's role as a "revolutionary model" for the world.
That's according to Castro himself, writing on Wednesday in his regular newspaper column, "Reflections of Fidel."
"I had long conversations with him (Chávez) yesterday and today," the 85-year-old Castro wrote in Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party. "I explained to him the intensity with which I am devoting my remaining energies to dreams of a better and more just world.
"It is not difficult to share dreams with the Bolivarian leader when the empire is already showing the symptoms of a terminal illness." ("Empire" is a reference to the U.S; the name "Granma" is taken from the name of the yacht on which Castro and fellow revolutionaries sailed to Cuba from Mexico in 1956.)
On Sunday, Venezuela's 57-year-old president arrived in Havana for a medical checkup, following four rounds of chemotherapy and surgery on the island to remove a cancerous tumor.
Castro didn't say anything about Chávez's illness, said to be terminal.
Nor did he comment on two interesting immigration trends -- the ongoing flow of Cubans fleeing to the "empire"; and the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who, during Chávez's 12 years as president, have immigrated to the U.S. and overseas. They include Venezuela's most educated citizens, including its best and brightest. They could have played a role in Venezuela's economic development, but Chávez saw them as part of Venezuela's problems. (In Monday's Wall Street Journal, an article by Venezuelan-born Ángel González discussed how the Venezuelan Diaspora has increased dramatically under Chávez'.)
Castro did at various point engage in his usual anti-American frothing, referring to "yankee plunder of oil, natural resources and the sweat of Venezuelans."
But not to worry, he noted, because the "Bolivarian people of Venezuela are organizing and uniting to confront and defeat the nauseating oligarchy in the service of the empire which is once again attempting to take government power in that country.
Regarding comrade Hugo, Castro wrote:
"I have observed him for 17 years, since he visited Cuba for the first time. He is a supremely humanitarian person and respectful of the law; he has never taken revenge against anyone. The poorest and most forgotten sectors of his country are profoundly grateful to him for responding - for the first time in history - to their dreams of social justice."
In Cuba, to be sure, there is no concept of private property. In Venezuela, Chávez has nationalized large swaths of the economy, and he recently pledged to take over private residences, hotels, and yachts on the resort island of Los Roques; the idea is to create a resort for poor Venezuelans.
In his recent book, "Civilization: The West and The Rest," British historian and Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson at various points discusses Hugo Chávez and Latin America. In particular, he focuses on why glaring social inequities pervade Latin American yet are nowhere nearly as evident in the United States. The answer is simple: a lack of respect for private property in Latin America.
Interestingly, in a recent article about Ferguson's book in Venezuelan newspaper El Universal, author Sara Carolina Díaz notes that Ferguson compares "the revolutions of Latin American countries with the U.S. revolution." Understanding the differences between these revolutions, Ferguson contends, is the key to understanding why social inequities pervade Latin American.
As Díaz notes in her paper's English-language edition:
"The main reason behind the differences between both revolutions, Ferguson explains, is that the system created in the United States (from its origin as a nation), deemed a success by the author, is based on property rights. In Latin America, however, land ownership was first claimed by the Spanish royalty and then passed on to an elite minority. This situation gave rise to significant socio-economic differences that, among other things, paved the way for the caudillo phenomenon."
And today, members of Venezuela's Diaspora in the U.S. are making their own contributions, with their brain power and entrepreneurial skills.
Cuba and Venezuela's losses have been American's gain.
Originally published in The American Thinker
October 19, 2011
Hugo Chavez: Sick in Mind and Body
By David Paulin
In a Havana cancer ward, as Hugo Chávez contemplates his final days, the truth about his medical condition -- mental and physical -- is coming out.
His face grotesquely bloated, Hugo Chávez has been fighting the biggest battle of his life: cancer. But the prognosis for Venezuela's increasingly reclusive president has been a highly guarded state secret. Besides distorting his features, the chemotherapy he's receiving has rendered him bald.
Several unconfirmed reports -- all from anonymous sources -- have claimed in recent months that Chávez's cancer is very bad. Yet during his increasingly irregular and brief public appearances, the leftist 57-year-old leader has remained upbeat -- seemingly defying the worst-case scenarios put forth about his health.
Now, Chávez's former Venezuelan physician has dropped a bombshell: Chávez's cancer is terminal, and he has "no more than two years left."
"President Chávez has a tumor in the pelvis called sarcoma," said Dr. Salvador Navarrete, during a lengthy interview published Sunday in Mexican newspaper Milenio Semanal. He added: "The information I have from the family is that he has a sarcoma, an aggressive tumor with a poor prognosis and I'm pretty sure that's the reality."
Navarrete's revelations offer the most intriguing information yet about Chávez's health -- and perhaps the most credible. So why is the prominent Venezuelan surgeon breaking a hallowed oath of doctor-patient confidentiality? It's a question many Venezuelans are asking.
"Traitor or Good Citizen?" That was the title of an article published Monday at analitica.com by Gustavo Coronel -- a Chávez opponent and former top Venezuelan executive in the South American country's state oil company. Coronel's conclusion regarding Navarrete's "complex ethical situation": he's a good citizen, because knowing the truth about Chávez is vital to Venezuela's future political health.
Interestingly, Navarrete described himself as a former Chávez supporter, the only "ideological" member of a Venezuelan team of physicians who started treating Chávez in 2002. Months ago, however, Chávez dismissed his circle of Venezuelan physicians, having grown increasingly suspicious of everybody around him, Navarette said. "In Venezuela, President Chávez does not trust anyone, only Cubans," he added. Navarrete, for his part, said he's finished with militant leftist politics.
Citing information provided by Chávez's family -- but not naming specific family members -- Navarrete said Chávez's cancer is being treated with "aggressive chemotherapy."
Asked if Chavez had prostate cancer, he replied: "It is not a tumor of the prostate. It is a tumor that is very close to the prostate and probably invading the bladder. Or it's a tumor that originates in the bladder that is invading the pelvis. In any case, it's a tumor that originates in the bottom of the pelvis, which is considered the anatomical region that is within the hips."
Chávez is Bipolar
In revealing information he'd obtained from Chávez's family members, Navarrete may not have been violating patient-physician confidentiality, Coronel noted. That surely wasn't the case, on the other hand, in respect to intriguing details Navarrete revealed about Chávez's precarious mental health in early 2002 -- a period of seething political turmoil in Venezuela that was taking an emotional toll on Chávez.
Chávez at the time was "very distressed," Navarrete said, and "under intense pressure and physical exhaustion." Accordingly, a team of psychiatrist began treating him.
Chávez had reason to be anxious, for his grip on power was becoming increasingly tenuous. At the time, tens of thousands of anti-Chávez protesters -- on the eve of a March coup against him -- marched regularly in the streets, demonstrating against Chávez's autocratic style and leftist agenda.
Yet it wasn't political turmoil alone that was provoking stress-related problems in Chávez. It was much more serious: Chávez is a "manic-depressive," Navarrete said. He explained that Chávez's "unstable mental states turn from euphoria to sadness -- states in which the personality becomes dissociated and has episodes of loosing contact with reality. It is a very common disease in today's world, described as bipolar disorder. President Chávez oscillates between these poles, more prone to euphoria, to hyperactivity and mania."
Over the years, Chávez has been described as a narcissist by many, an observation reflecting his desire to be the center of attention. When he was in good health, he regularly gave rambling speeches on the radio and TV that went on for three or more hours. But the diagnosis of bipolar disorder gives physiological underpinnings to Chávez's high-energy and rambling monologues and governance.
Regarding Chávez's personal habits, Navarrete said Chávez pays a great deal of attention to his personal appearance, keeping himself "very, very clean," and this includes careful "nail care for his hands and feet." He noted: "He thought he was not going to get sick -- ever."
As for health-related vices, Navarrete said Chávez "drinks too much coffee, a lot, consuming countless cups of coffee a day[.]" He also smokes "under stress or pleasure, in private, never in public."
He added: "He works late into the night every day, is a night owl, and makes his ministers work at the same rhythm. He rises at six-thirty or seven o'clock, sleeping an average of three or four hours a day, no more than that, and sleeps very little. He's a strong man, although he's now deformed by the effects of chemotherapy.
A recent article in El Nuevo Herald (sister publication of The Miami Herald) described Chávez as being in grave condition when he was recently rushed to a military hospital. But Navarrete said Chávez underwent kidney dialysis treatment due to complications associated with his chemotherapy and its negative effect on his kidneys. The kidneys cleanse the body of toxins.
Navarrete's remarks about Chávez's prognosis echo those of Roger F. Noriega, assistant secretary of state under George W. Bush and a former ambassador to the Organization of the American States. In a column last July in The Miami Herald, he wrote: "Doctors treating Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez for cancer told him weeks ago that he has only a 50 percent chance of living another 18 months, according to sources close to his medical team in Cuba."
It was a little over two and a half months ago that Chávez, during a national television address, told stunned Venezuelans that he'd undergone two surgeries in Cuba to remove a pelvic abscess and cancerous tumor. Speculation has been rife since then about what a post-Chávez Venezuela will look like. Last month, early elections for next year were called for October as opposed to December.
To date, however, Chávez has no credible successor. But he does have his fanatic supporters, Chavistas, along with plenty of help from Cuba. Large numbers of Cuban intelligence agents now operate in Venezuela in support of Chávez's regime.
Venezuela has provided Cuba with economic largess and regular shipments of oil; accordingly, Cuba can be counted on to do all it can to make sure Venezuela remains an ideological and economic alley.
Unfortunately, Chávez has so completely polarized his country that it will be difficult for Venezuelans to repair the damage he has done. He has taken three bad ideas from Venezuela's past -- statism, authoritarianism, and populism -- and taken them to epic levels. Anti-Americanism has become more prevalent than ever. Large swaths of Venezuela's economy have been nationalized. And hundreds of thousands of middle-class Venezuelans -- including many of the country's best and brightest -- have immigrated to the U.S. and overseas. They could have been part of the solution to Venezuela's economic development, but Chávez viewed them as part of Venezuela's problems.
The opposition will have much work to do to find a candidate to appeal to Venezuela's poor majority; and even if an opposition candidate prevails, a new government will face an epic task to undo Chávez's damage -- soaring levels of corruption, crime, and dysfunctional governance. Venezuela's state oil company, critical to government revenues, is a shadow of itself thanks to Chávez's mismanagement.Even without Chávez (or a Chávez clone), Venezuela will take years to recover from the damage Chávez has done with his leftist and anti-American agenda.
Originally published at The American Thinker
October 12, 2011
By David Paulin
In a case of journalistic malpractice aided by big-mouthed federal law-enforcement officials, The Boston Globe has outed the tipster who told the FBI where to find James "Whitey" Bulger, the former South Boston crime boss.
The Globe, in a long and riveting article on Sunday, revealed that the tipster and recipient of a $2 million award for information leading to Bulger's capture was Anna Bjornsdottir of Reykjavík, Iceland. She was Miss Iceland in 1974, and went onto work as an actress in movies and TV commercials. The Icelandic beauty, now 57, is famous for her role as one of the sexy blonds in the Noxzema shaving-cream TV ads, who tells viewers to "take it off, take it all off."
Her name was supposed to have been kept a secret by law-enforcement officials. But The Globe, after figuring out who she was, felt it had a duty to reveal her identify. When Globe reporters approached her on two occasions outside her Reykjavík apartment, she ran back inside. Later, her husband sent The Globe an e-mail, saying she wouldn't talk about the Bulger case.
Most of the Globe's story, "Whitey in Exile," deals with Bulger's life on the lam for 16 years -- living for much of that time in a rent-controlled Santa Monica apartment. He had some $800,000 of cash stuffed in the walls along with an arsenal of guns and knives.
In a tease for its story, The Globe explained: "It is a portrait of the gangster as a grumpy old man, hunkered down in a Santa Monica flat with his girlfriend. Neighbors liked them, but no one got close -- or, rather, almost no one. And that was their undoing."
In its story, The Globe explains that Bulger's undoing began about six years ago with a scene fit for a Hollywood script - an abandoned tiger-stripped cat roaming outside Bulger and Greig's Santa Monica apartment. Greig went outside twice a day to the feed the hungry tabby whose name was "Tiger."
Globe reporters were led to Reykjavík and Bjornsdottir by two things. First, big-mouthed law-enforcement officials -- apparently in the FBI or U.S. Attorney's office - had let loose an intriguing detail last September: Bulger's tipster was a woman living in Iceland.
Bulger's downfall came on June 20. That's when the FBI started running TV commercials seeking information about the whereabouts of Bulger's girlfriend, figuring the best way to catch Bulger was through her. In Reykjavík, Bjornsdottir saw a news item about the ads on CNN. She phoned the FBI. The next day, FBI agents arrested Bulger and Greig at their Santa Monica apartment, near where the wayward tabby used to roam.
Bjornsdottir now works as a graphic designer and yoga instructor, and some in Iceland are wondering if her life is safe, according to an article in Monday's Boston Herald. An arch rival of The Boston Globe, The Herald said it won't be revealing Bjornsdottir's name. It offered no explanation, but it appears that it felt this was a case of journalistic ethics and responsibility, and it also was a way of keep their heads high after being scooped by The Globe.
Many of Bulger's gangland pals are now dead or too old to do anybody much harm. But that surely is no comfort to Bjornsdottir, who had thought her privacy would be protected when she contacted the FBI. That she was outed may well deter other potential informants from coming forward in high-profile cases.
Now, somebody in the FBI or U.S. Attorney's office has inadvertently helped the Boston Globe reveal the name of a person who had been promised anonymity. It will be interesting to watch the finger-pointing that is sure to start in the coming days over the latest wrinkle in the sordid case of Whitey Bulger.
Originally published at The American Thinker
October 11, 2011
By David Paulin
"Socialism or death" is taking on a new meaning for Venezuelan air travelers. Recently, a spate of incidents and emergency landings by some of Venezuela's domestic air carriers -- including two emergency landings occurring hours apart -- prompted Hugo Chavez's government to open an inquiry concerning the causes of the latest in-flight emergencies.
In one incident, an Aeropostal DC-9 carrying 125 passengers reported problems with both engines. It made a hard landing in Puerto Ordaz. Photos of the DC-9 and its damaged engines -- both torn loose and hanging from the fuselage -- may be seen at The Aviation Herald and Noticas 24. In another incident, an Acerca Airlines DC-9 carrying 90 passengers made an emergency landing at Carlos Piar airport after smoke was detected in the cabin. No injuries were reported during either incident involving the aging DC-9s.
These incidents and others have raised the usual questions about maintenance standards. But other observers say there may be other problems involved -- specifically, Venezuela's draconian currency exchange controls and their effect upon Venezuela's domestic airlines. Exchange controls are a cornerstone of Chavez's command-and-control economic policies.
As well as a general problem of oversight, there is a consensus that the fundamental cause is a widespread lack of maintenance. And shoddy maintenance is largely due to the fact that getting spare parts in this country, as any Venezuelan will tell you with a weary sigh, can be a traumatic exercise, not to mention time-consuming and costly, if it is possible at all.
The problem is, access to dollars is severely restricted in Venezuela – in part to prevent capital flight and in part also because of an exchange rate that is seriously overvalued — which means that dollars are unusually cheap, and hence demand for them is unusually high.
At the same time, more cynical observes speculate that good old-fashioned Venezuelan corruption and sloppiness also may have played a role in the spate of aviation incidents. There are about 17 private airlines in Venezuela, a number that includes charter and scheduled carriers.
Hugo Chavez has no reason to fear for his own safety when taking to Venezuela's skies. He flies in his Airbus A-319, the most modern presidential jet in Latin America. Amid much criticism, it was purchased to replace an aging Boeing 707 used by previous Venezuelan presidents.
Chavez, meanwhile, continues to battle cancer. Its type and prognosis is a highly guarded state secret. One thing that's certain about El Presidente's health: He's not on his death bed as El Nuevo Herald (sister publication of The Miami Herald) recently reported, citing unnamed sources. Chavez, to be sure, quickly dismissed that news report and on Saturday, looking reasonably fit, he announced at the presidential palace that he would return to Cuba yet again for a series of medical exams next week. "We are going to confirm what I believe is the case; no more cancer cells...with the blessing of God, that will be the news," Chavez said. (For a video of the news conference, click here.)
Originally published at The American Thinker
October 5, 2011
By David Paulin
"Nigger go home."
So read the ugly note. It was left in the mid-'70s on the desk of a young black woman -- a college intern.
Where did this happen? Not, to be sure, in the deep South; nor in the part of West Texas where Gov. Rick Perry grew up, during a time when the Lone Star State was segregated. It happened in sophisticated and liberal Boston -- and at a mainstream newspaper: the Boston Herald American (now the Boston Herald).
The young black woman claiming to have found the note was Gwen Ifill -- now PBS NewsHour's senior reporter and news anchor.
The mainstream media and fellow travelers in the lefty blogosphere have a hypocrisy problem -- one underscored by the Washington Post's recent race-hustling piece on Gov. Perry: "At Rick Perry’s Texas hunting spot, camp’s old racially charged name lingered."
In her disingenuous article, young reporter Stephanie McCrummen cleverly suggests that Perry suffers a potential character deficiency: He grew up in a "segregated era" and "mostly white world."
Even worse, she writes, his family has a sprawling hunting camp in West Texas that some locals once called "niggerhead" -- a name that even used to be painted on a rock, though Perry's father had the rock painted over when he joined the property's lease, according to Gov. Perry. He told the Washington Post that “niggerhead” is “an offensive name that has no place in the modern world.”
Interestingly, the Washington Post notes the name “niggerhead” is not unlike many names of other geographic sites across the U.S. in years past; sites named long ago with variations of the "n-word" that were renamed over the years.
However, the Washington Post fails to stress that this underscores that the word “nigger” has undergone various metamorphosis over the years. It has meant different things to different people at different times, as Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy notes in his book, "Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word."
The Washington Post nevertheless hints at this during an interview with Haskell County Judge David Davis. He looks out a window and says of the hunting camp once called niggerhead: "It's just a name. Like those are vertical blinds. It’s just what it was called. There was no significance other than as a hunting deal.”
So what to make of the "niggerhead" scandal that's casting Perry as a something of a racist? Well, it's really "much ado about nothing," says Wallace Jefferson, the first black chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court -- and a Perry appointee.
Jefferson, during an interview with the Texas Tribune, said that Perry "appreciates the role diversity plays in our state and nation. To imply that the governor condoned either the use of that word or that sentiment, I find false."
Yet the white liberals at the Washington Post, together with other liberal race-baiting journalists, are nevertheless uncomfortable about Perry having grown up in a "white world.”
This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. After all, when Perry was growing up in a "white world," America's mainstream journalists worked in overwhelmingly white newsrooms. Indeed, up until the late 1980s and early 1990s, it would have been hard to find many blacks and Hispanics in newsrooms -- a fact that changed in the late 1990s due to aggressive affirmative action efforts by the nation's major news organizations, which had grown embarrassed over their lack of diversity. Yet even today, not enough integration has occurred, according to diversity advocates.
Liberals and conservatives debate the reasons for the problem of "whiteness" in the newsroom, as one journalism professor snidely put it in an article in trade magazine Editor and Publisher. (Conservative media analysts contend it's due to a lack of qualified blacks and Hispanics in a highly competitive field.) But one thing is certain: If you use the standards that liberals themselves use, you have to conclude that the reason the nation's newsrooms are mainly white (in the past and even today) is because they are, well, racist. Or at least racist in the way that liberals now define racism – that the ethnic and racial composition of America's newsrooms fails to reflect the communities they serve; that there is not, in other words, appropriate “diversity” in them.
Even the Fourth Estate's aggressive affirmative action and "diversity efforts" have failed to resolve this "problem," although they have brought into newsrooms people like journalistic huckster Jayson Blair, the former disgraced New York Times reporter.
In the mainstream media's Perry-is-a-racist narrative, a contradiction emerges. It's a case of do as I say, not as I do. In the mid-1970s, newsrooms where overwhelmingly white. Yet while America's journalists worked in white worlds, that definitely was not the case in respect to Rick Perry and the world he inhabited.
In the mid-1970s, Perry left behind the “white world” of West Texas. After graduating from Texas A&M University, he was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force -- an institution that like other branches of the armed forces was integrated to an extent that America's newsrooms were not integrated -- and are still not integrated
A friend of mine is a former Air Force F-16 senior pilot and captain. He flew nearly 15 years, including during about the same time that Perry was an Air Force pilot. In an e-mail to me, he provided these observations about racial integration in the Air Force:
"It's very fair to say that at least a quarter of the entire USAF manpower was made up of African-Americans. You had to look long and hard to find a true blue racist among us. And when you did, he usually stuck out like a sore thumb. This went both ways. When it became apparent you disliked someone merely because of the color of their skin, your circle of friends shrank dramatically, as did your chance for advancement."
So how did Perry distinguish himself in the Air Force, an institution far more integrated than most of the nation's newsrooms have ever been? He was, according to a recent article in the Austin American-Statesman, regarded as a good pilot and officer, one with a "magnetic personality." After five years, Perry left the Air Force with the rank of captain. The Statesman's article was based on interviews with six men who served with Perry. If Perry had any major character issues as an officer, it's likely the Statesman would have dug them up.
As Texas' governor, Perry also distinguished himself in another respect. He appointed large numbers of blacks and Hispanics to top positions on state commissions, courts, and colleges and universities. And according to an interview Perry gave to an African-American newspaper, these appointments were based on merit – not on “the color of your skin or the sound of your last name." On the other hand, skin color and ethnicity are the criteria used by many newsroom editors in their hiring decisions -- a fact explored by William McGowan in his book, "Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism."
"Perry’s appointments of African-Americans are significant and in some ways ground-breaking, and they can and should be applauded," a black-oriented website called “ThyBlackman.com” grudgingly acknowledged.
The mainstream media has a double standard. It finds racism where none exist in respect to Rick Perry; yet during Sen. Barack Obama's presidential run, it failed to vet candidate Obama's curious relationship with racist preacher Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Now, it's ignoring another emerging scandal: Obama's relationship with the New Black Panthers that was recently revealed by Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website.
Speaking on Fox News Tuesday morning, black presidential candidate Herman Cain clarified earlier remarks about the controversy over "niggerhead." It's a hateful word, he said, and has nothing to do with who Rick Perry is.
If history is anything to go by, expect the Washington Post and others to engage in lots more race-baiting of Republican presidential candidates.
Originally published by The American Thinker
By David Paulin
In another case of anti-Western grievance-mongering at the United Nations, the leaders of two Caribbean nations are calling for slave reparations from Western nations that profited from the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Recently, the U.N. General Assembly heard from the prime ministers of two twin-island Caribbean nations: Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In separate speeches, the Caribbean leaders declared that reparations were needed to remedy the barbaric injustices of slavery that Western nations loosed upon the world -- and whose legacies continue to this day, according to Caribbean news outlets.
"Antigua and Barbuda has long argued that the legacy of slavery, segregation, and racial violence against peoples of African descent have severely impaired our advancement as nations, communities and individuals across the economical, social and political spectra," Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer told the General Assembly.
For his part, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines said: "Racial discrimination was justified and became itself the justification for a brutal, exploitative and dehumanizing system of production that was perfected during the trans-Atlantic slave trade and ingrained over the course of colonial domination."
"The structure of our modern world is still firmly rooted in a past of slavers and colonialist exploitation," he added. "While we celebrate the noble heroism of the famous and the faceless who resisted racist colonial hegemony, we must continue to confront the legacy of this barbarism and continuing injustice."
The leaders' comments, during a Saturday session, were made one day after another case of grievance-mongering and grandstanding before the General Assembly: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's call for Palestinian statehood.
The reparations racket has been around for years. It has attracted a motley bunch -- from jive-talking hustlers to erudite professors of academic disciplines like African-American history and post-colonial studies. But only in recent years have whole countries joined the reparations racket. Besides having large black populations, they share common traits: leftist leaders, ailing economies, and a host of anti-Western grievances propagated by leftist elites.
How should descendents of African slaves be compensated according to reparations advocates? Spencer called for formal apologies from former slave-trading Western nations, after which these offenders must "back up their apologies with new commitments to the economic development of the nations that have suffered from this human tragedy." The Caribbean region, to be sure, is already a major recipient of U.S. foreign aid, a fact the speakers failed to mention.
Neither of men, moreover, mentioned an awkward detail: their own African ancestors may have owned slaves and participated in the slave trade (though they never did as well, of course, as Westerners, who were not doing anything illegal at the time).
Ten years ago, the anti-Western reparations movement was energized by the United Nations' racism conference in Durban, South Africa; that was the infamous UNESCO-sponsored event in 2001 that equated Zionism with racism. It also offered tacit support to the idea of slave reparations.
Regarding Durban, Spencer was full of pride, calling it "an innovative and action-oriented agenda to combat all forms of racism and racial discrimination."
It's a view shared by the United Nations. Just five days after Spencer and Gonsalves made their reparations pitches, the U.N. held a high-level meeting to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action.
Spencer and Gonsalves are not the first Caribbean leaders to jump on the reparations bandwagon. Four years ago, Jamaica's political leaders were angling to shake down Britain for slave reparations.
The left-leaning People's National Party was then in charge on the island, a hotbed of leftist politics with a population of 2.7 million. Struggling to reverse years of economic decline, leftist political leaders and elites started beating the drum for a regional campaign to convince Britain to provide compensation for its role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
"We owe reparations to ourselves and our ancestors," Rupert Lewis, a lecturer in government at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica, told a gathering of schoolchildren in Kingston, the capital. The occasion was part of activities associated with Jamaica's commemoration of Britain's 200-year-old Abolition of the Slave Trade Act, adopted March 25, 1807. At the time, the case for reparations was being made to ordinary Jamaicans with lectures and the airing of the pro-reparations documentary film The Empire Pays Back. The message: the source of the island's problems is indeed the legacy of slavery and British colonialism -- not the misguided leftist policies that have guided Jamaica since it gained independence from Britain in 1962.
"In the medium term, the goal is to mobilize all those who have been working in the [reparations] field for a long time, and to sensitize those who have dismissed the work of the movement for lack of knowledge," Jamaica's minister of tourism, entertainment, and culture, Aloun Assamba, told the Jamaica Observer.
Curiously, the Caribbean's reparations hustlers single out only Western nations in their demands. They ignore the slavery that existed elsewhere in the world -- the Middle East, Africa, and South America -- and while they mourn Africans caught up in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, they shed no tears for the millions of Africans who disappeared into the Muslim slave trade. Nor do they condemn slavery that persists in Africa today, nor the human trafficking that's a problem in many parts of the world, including Jamaica.
Slavery, in other words, doesn't bother these people nearly as much as all their frothing suggests. How come? Some are obviously racists. And all are leftists; for them, reparations are the means by which they can achieve the Marxist redistribution of wealth they dream about.
In recent years, they've adopted a postmodern form of Marxism -- what might be called "cultural Marxism." In this view, the villains are no longer capitalists and bourgeoisie, as espoused in economic Marxism. Now the villain is "white male privilege" -- a privilege supposedly made possible by the head start that black African slaves gave to white Western nations. Indeed, as Cambridge University senior lecturer Richard Drayton wrote in an upbeat review of The Empire Pays Back, "Africa underpins a modern experience of (white) British privilege." The documentary was produced by Jamaica-born producer Robert Beckford, a lecturer in African Diaspora Religions and Cultures at England's University of Birmingham.
How should Britain's monstrous historical theft and injustice be remedied? In a word: reparations -- by redistributing wealth from whites to the descendants of black African slaves. Ultimately, reparations advocates say this is all about healing. "These [reparations] proposals are not intended to be divisive or confrontational, but rather form part of a process to heal the wounds of the past," explained Jamaica's Ambassador to the United Nations, Stafford Neil, during Durban's racism conference.
And no matter that few if any whites are around anymore with any connection whatsoever to the slave trade hundreds of years ago -- yet whites as a group are nevertheless cast as modern-day beneficiaries of slavery.
Ultimately, reparations advocates distort the realities of the ancient slave trade, according to Ohio State University Professor Robert Davis. "We cannot think of slavery as something that only white people did to black people," says Davis, author of Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters (Palgrave Macmillan, 2003). In his book, Davis documents that Muslim slavers off North Africa's Barbary Coast enslaved one million or more white Europeans between 1530 and 1780 -- a number greater than Africans enslaved during the same period.
Why is the enslavement of white Europeans ignored? Because, says Davis, it fails to echo the scholarship favored today -- that history is all about European conquest and colonization.
In this version of history, Britain and America get no credit for leading international efforts to end the profitable trans-Atlantic slave trade -- even using their warships to stop it. Both countries are portrayed in the worst light possible; whatever they did, it was too little, too late.
Not surprisingly, reparations advocates who claim that the West's prosperity is founded upon slave labor overlook the obvious reasons for the West's prosperity: its political and economic life are organized around democracy, free markets, and the rule of law.
Dedicated leftists won't admit this. This includes the Caribbean's leftist rulers, who ambivalently embrace free markets and look for their inspiration to Cuba -- a place where you won't find any of the 2.6 million members of the Jamaican Diaspora living.
Besides slavery, Jamaica's leftist elites obsess endlessly over British colonialism, but there's a glaring irony with this grievance-mongering: Jamaica's dramatic decline over the years -- crime, gangs, political corruption -- occurred when black Jamaicans, not their former masters, were running their country. Jamaica's problems, in other words, have all been related to specific decision made by Jamaica's politicians and elites.
Jamaica vs. the Bahamas
Jamaica's blame-it-on-slavery argument becomes especially problematic when the country's dysfunction is contrasted against the prosperity enjoyed by the Bahamas. A former British colony, the Bahamas also has a legacy of slavery. Yet it has no crippling debt, no history of serious political violence, and no out-of-control crime rate. It has one of the region's highest per capita incomes: $19,000, nearly five times more than Jamaica's. There's no huge Bahamian Diaspora.
Why is the Bahamas a success? Because its political leaders and voters look forward, not backward -- and they unashamedly look to America as an example. They have for the most part embraced business-friendly policies and a low-tax philosophy.
Four years ago, for instance, an interesting political phenomena occurred in the Bahamas. Its ruling left-leaning political party suffered a stunning election defeat, despite having overseen an expanding economy and an unprecedented development boom. Interestingly, the main campaign issues were good management and honesty in government -- not racial issues (such as which candidate had the darker skin color). It's an example of the Bahamas' good governance and civic culture -- traits not as apparent in Jamaica and other Caribbean island-nations with similar histories of racism and colonialism.
Notably, in the Bahamas, the bicentennial of the slave trade's abolition got circumspect media coverage -- and was consigned to the inside pages of the main newspapers. In Jamaica, on the other hand, The Observer -- a popular left-leaning daily owned by Sandal's resort owner Gordon "Butch" Stewart -- ran a chest-thumping front-page article in which Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller paid lip service to reparations, telling schoolchildren to honor their slave ancestors by respecting one another. "My request for honoring them is that for every child that is raped and is left to soak in the rapist's semen and her own blood, you are perpetuating, Mr. Rapist, the action of the slave master."
It's hard to imagine political leaders in the Bahamas making such lurid comments to schoolchildren. Nor are Bahamian political leaders grandstanding before the U.N. General Assembly, demanding slave reparations based on a leftist post-modern view of history.
They're too busy looking forward, not backward.
Originally published at The American Thinker