April 15, 2012

Why the Left Loves the Titanic Disaster

Originally published at The American Thinker and FrontPage Magazine

By David Paulin

The Titanic sank exactly 100 years ago today – a disaster exploited over the years by Hollywood and the ideological left. Their narrative bears little resemblance to what in fact happened in the early-morning darkness of April 15, 1912.

The Titanic storyline embraced by left-leaning filmmakers, writers, and university professors is instead right out of “Das Kapital.” To them, the disaster happened because heartless capitalists put profits ahead of human lives. They falsely claim that this is why the Titanic had too few lifeboats. Above all, leftist ideologues vilify the Titanic's rich first-class passengers. They falsely claim they got first crack at lifeboats -- and as a consequence, passengers in second class and steerage died in large numbers. In this interpretation, the Titanic's legacy was not about women-and-children first. It was about first-class passengers going first.

This false narrative was embraced by filmmaker James Cameron in his 1997 epic “Titanic” -- a view that many impressionable movie goers now take as fact.

The truth was quite the opposite; and in other cases the truth continues to be elusive, the facts ambiguous.

The Hollywood narrative makes for good entertainment. But it ignores the fact that many of the Titanic's first-class passengers -- the “1 percenters” of their day -- voluntarily went down abroad the ship so that women and children could get aboard lifeboats.

Consider first-class passenger
Benjamin Guggenheim, 46, the scion of the Guggenheim fortune. After the Titanic hit an iceberg and ice-cold water flooded through a gash in its hull, he was overhead to say that he and other social elites had “dressed up in our best and are prepared to go down like gentlemen."

He passed along a message to a survivor, stating: "Tell my wife, if it should happen that my secretary and I both go down, tell her I played the game out straight to the end. No woman shall be left aboard this ship because Ben Guggenheim was a coward."

Among other rich and famous passengers who died: American John Jacob Astor IV; Irish businessman Thomas Andrews (who oversaw the ship's construction); and American owner of the Macy's department store, Isidor Straus, and his wife Ida.

Of the Titanic's approximately
2,223 passengers and crew, about 1,517 perished – and 706 survived. The ship's 20 lifeboats could only carry one third of the people on board.

For Titanic aficionados with a leftist agenda, the numbers and percentages of passengers who got to the lifeboats -- their sexes and social classes -- can be crunched to prove just about whatever one wants.

"The reality of class, selfishness, and altruism in the disaster is more ambiguous," observes Edward Tenner in his article "
Titanic and the 1%" published by the American Enterprise Institute. "As Titanic scholars acknowledge, the survival rate of passengers depended in part on proximity to the boat deck. So it is no wonder that nearly all the women and children in first class were saved. Conversely, complex passageways and language barriers further delayed evacuation of third-class passengers. In all classes, as the literary scholar Stephen Cox has underscored in an essay and an excellent book, moral choices cut across social lines.

"Individual responses aside, there are surprises in the statistics. For example, women in third class were significantly more likely to survive than first-class men: 46 versus 33 percent."

He adds: “The most surprising and least known statistic is that nearly twice as many third-class as second-class men survived – 16 percent versus 8 percent – despite the greater distance of the former from the boats. Were the second-class men the most dutiful and chivalrous of all, the true unsung heroes of the tragedy? Were the third-class men simply younger and more vigorous? Or were the second-class men the middle managers of the era, either fatally deferential to the upper crust or disfavored, consciously or not, by snobbish stewards? In any case, a larger proportion of the dogs on the Titanic survived, 4 out of 13, than second-class men.”

How come the chivalry of Titanic's richest passengers failed to get proper attention in the “Titanic” movie? Because today no one would believe the truth; so says Cuban-born author and historian Luis E. Aguilar in his
essay “The Titanic and The Decline of Western Ethnic.”

He explains: “The modern public; immersed in the moral relativism that justifies all conducts, bombarded by attacks on the hypocrisy of Western culture, will grasp base behavior more readily than self-sacrifice, all the faster if it denigrates the rich and the powerful. As in every Mexican TV soap opera, Titanic’s rich behave like pigs. So much so that when Chinese president Jiang Zemin watched the movie, he smiled, “Gentlemen, behold the enemy.” For him and many Americans, the movie’s cloying, cowardly first class passengers represent that capitalistic ethic.”

Were the elites of the Titanic different from the elites today? It's a question Fareed Zakaria tackled in his book “The Future of Freedom – Illiberal Democracy at Home & Abroad.” In 1912, he contends, elites were more likely to exercise power with responsibility.

The Titanic's crew, to be sure, also were well-trained and thus facilitated the ship's evacuation as best they could. In contrast, there's the alleged misconduct of the captain and some crew members aboard Italian cruise ship Concordia, a name synonymous with cowardice and incompetence. But was that ship's entire evacuation a disgrace? There's another side to the Concordia story: Hundreds of passengers, for instance, are shown in photos waiting in an
orderly manner in the ship's corridors; and there were reports the ship's staff and passengers rising to the occasion to help with the evacuation.

Consider as well the conduct of passengers aboard the “Miracle on the Hudson” flight, the US Airways jet that ditched in New York's Hudson River. Even as water flooded into the jet, the jet's evacuation was orderly -- a fact that played a significant role in all passengers and crew members surviving. Many of the jet's passengers were upper-middle-class business travelers. In a sense, it was a triumph of a well-trained crew and the shared
middle-class values of the jet's passengers.

It took the Titanic two and one-half hours to sink. Order prevailed in contrast to what happened abroad the Lusitania during the 20 minutes it took to sink after being torpedoed.

"If you've got an event that lasts two-and-a half hours, social order will take over and everybody will behave in a social manner. If you're going down in under 17 minutes, basically it's instinctual," says
David Savage, an economist and Queensland University in Australia, who has studied witness testimony from the Titanic.

And what about those lifeboats? In James Cameron's film, the ship was not fitted with an adequate number of lifeboats due to a concern for aesthetics: it was thought the deck would look cluttered with too many lifeboats.

In fact, the Titanic complied with existing maritime rules. And as a recent
Op-Ed article by Chris Berg in the Wall Street Journal observed: It was thought at the time that lifeboats, rather than accommodating every passenger abroad the ship, would instead by used to transport passengers to ships coming to the rescue. "Had Titanic sunk more slowly, it would have been surrounded by the Frankfurt, the Mount Temple, the Birma, the Virginian, the Olympic, the Baltic and the first on the scene, the Carpathia," according to Berg's article "The Real Reason for the Tragedy of the Titanic." "The North Atlantic was a busy stretch of sea. Or, had the Californian (within visual range of the unfolding tragedy) responded to distress calls, the lifeboats would have been adequate for the purpose they were intended—to ferry passengers to safety."

Hollywood and leftist ideologues make lousy historians. Their retelling of the Titanic disaster offers abundant proof of that – and in a way their tall tales are part of the poisonous effect of leftist ideology in the postmodern world.

April 11, 2012

Dems to Apple: Hire the 'economically disadvantaged'

By David Paulin

Apple Inc. is getting a lesson in liberal social engineering in Austin, Texas. The hi-tech giant is considering a new facility there, but haggling over various tax breaks has taken a strange turn. Some Democratic officials are demanding that Apple -- in exchange for millions of dollars in tax breaks from Travis County -- hire residents who are "economically disadvantaged."

Austin is a liberal mecca and a high-tech one. But it's not the only place Apple might go. It's also debating whether to locate its new facility in Phoenix.

Officials in Texas have been working hard to woo Apple, with the state-run Texas Enterprise Fund reportedly proposing a $21 million incentive package. Travis County, for its part, "is considering giving Apple an 80 percent rebate on its tax bill for 10 years -- up to $7.4 million with a potential five-year extension -- if the company locates a facility here that could create up to 3,600 jobs," reports the Austin American-Statesman.

As for the city of Austin: it has pledged $8.6 million in breaks in property taxes, report local media outlets.

Getting Apple to Austin, however, could hinge on the demand from some Travis County Democrats that Apple's tax breaks be contingent on it hiring a certain percentage of economically disadvantaged residents. Local TV station YNN explained that Apple would have to "give preference to qualified applicants who are at or below the poverty line rather than those who may come across as the most attractive job candidates."

Democrat Sarah Eckhardt, a Travis County commissioner, complained to YNN that Apple will thus have to change its hiring practices. "They will-hire the low-hanging fruit, and the low-hanging fruit in our community don't need the hiring preference."

Austin has much to lose if Apple decides not to allow Democratic officials to dictate whom it must hire. As the Statesman reports: "Apple's project would be built in two phases in Northwest Austin, near its current customer support center, first with a $56.5 million, 200,000-square-foot office, then a $226 million office up to 800,000 square feet. The 3,600 jobs are expected to be filled over the course of 10 years, with county officials saying the average salary for those jobs would range from $54,000 to $73,500."

Those sounds like pretty nice hi-tech jobs -- not what you'd expect somebody at or below the poverty line to jump right into. Some Apple executives must be thinking about now that some of Austin's Democrats are a little over the top -- clueless about how a business operates. It would be no surprise to learn that Apple is taking a closer look at Phoenix.

Originally published at The American Thinker

Uproar over student newspaper's politically incorrect Trayvon Martin cartoon

By David Paulin

Tensions are simmering between liberal and conservative students at the University of Texas in Austin. At issue: A politically incorrect editorial cartoon in the student newspaper, The Daily Texan, lampooning the media's coverage of the Trayvon Martin case.

Student Stephanie Eisner, a sophomore, used to be a cartoonist at the newspaper, but she was fired for having drawn the cartoon. Her ouster followed protests from outraged liberal students, many of them blacks and Hispanics, who accused editorial board members of being racists for having allowed the cartoon. The Daily Texan subsequently pulled the cartoon, titled "The Media," from its website and it apologized profusely for publishing it.

Now, Eisner and conservative students are fighting back by circulating a petition: It demands that Eisner get her job back.

Her cartoon depicts a woman reading a children's book to a shocked little girl. The book's title: "Trevyon Martin and The Case of Yellow Journalism."

In a corner of the cartoon is an excerpt from the book: "AND THEN the BIG BAD WHITE man killed the handsome, sweet, innocent COLORED BOY." Big arrows point to the words "white" and "colored," which also are boldly underlined -- reflecting the media's breathless bad white/good black storyline.

Eisner, a scholarship student who grew up near Houston, explained: "I feel the news should be unbiased. And in the retelling of this particular event, I felt that that was not the case. My story compared this situation to yellow journalism in the past, where aspects of news stories were blown out of proportion with the intention of selling papers and enticing emotions."

In its apology, on the other hand, The Daily Texan noted that Eisner had been fired, and it explained that "the decision to run the cartoon showed a failure in judgment on the part of the editorial board. We have engaged in meaningful dialogue with many people who shared their concerns and outrage with us."

Thomas Lifson adds:

Yesterday, in The Story Unravels: New Questions about Trayvon Martin's Final Hour, Jeff Lipkes used the same fairy tale metaphor to describe the media's spinning of a narrative congenial to their political goal of racial grievance.

Originally published at The American Thinker

April 2, 2012

Obama's Ship of Fools at U.S. Embassy in Jamaica

The U.S. Embassy in Jamaica has honored a Stalin propagandist. Is it part of Obama's "reset" in America's foreign policy?

By David Paulin

In a ceremony befitting President Obama’s vision of a repentant postmodern America, a section of the U.S. Embassy in Kingston, Jamaica has been named after a propagandist for Stalinist Russia and darling of the international left – the controversial African-American stage actor and social activist Paul Robeson.

The Embassy’s Information Resource Center which boasts housing the definitive collection of Americana in Jamaica is now named the “Paul Robeson Information Resource Center.” During the renaming ceremony, U.S. Ambassador to Jamaica Pamela E. Bridgewater called Robeson a patriotic American.

Her remarks surely pleased Jamaica’s left-leaning government and its many anti-American elites. They regard Robeson as a kindred spirit — a famous ideologue of the old left who blazed a trail for them: stalwart members of today’s postmodern left. In recent years, they have pushed for slave reparations from Britain, promoted a chummy relationship with Cuba, and proven problematic partners in the war on Islamic-inspired terrorism.

Ultimately, the renaming appears to be part of President Obama’s reset of America’s foreign policy – and how a postmodern America ought to interact with the world and be perceived by it.

It’s not that Robeson’s resume lacks some stellar achievements, a fact that Bridgewater – an African-American whose father was a jazz trumpeter – surely had in mind. A famous stage actor and singer in the 1920s and 30s, Robeson was an all-American athlete and class valedictorian at Rutgers University. He subsequently earned a law degree from Columbia University, and though he briefly practiced law it’s said he ended his legal career because of limited opportunities for black lawyers, and an alleged incident in which a white legal secretary refused to take dictation from him.

Many regard Robeson as a 20th Century Renaissance man. Yet like many among the morally confused left during the 1940s and 50s, Robeson embraced communism. And while most black Americans stood by their country, Robeson stood against it by serving as a high-profile propagandist for Stalinist Russia — a dangerous existential enemy of America and the West. He was controversial and polarizing. In 1949, when Robeson declared that African-Americans should refuse to take up arms against Stalinist Russia, American boxer Sugar Ray Robinson was quoted as saying that although he’d never met Robeson, he would “punch him in the mouth” if they ever met.

Like Hollywood’s outspoken leftist celebrities, Robeson traveled the world to promote his odious political views. This included high-profile trips behind the Iron Curtain, to Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe, to demonstrate solidarity with Joseph Stalin and the communist cause. He spoke and sang at large rallies and gatherings – high-visibility events generating newspaper headlines and featured on Pathe’s newsreels.

Robeson fashioned himself as a man of the people. Yet when Hungarians revolted against their Soviet masters, he likened them to fascists. Referring to politically-motivated killings in Stalinist Russia, he observed: “From what I have already seen of the workings of the Soviet government, I can only say that anybody who lifts his hand against it ought to be shot!”

When Stalin died in 1953, Robeson – winner of the Stalin Peace Prize a year earlier – praised him in a glowing eulogy as a great man. “One reverently speaks of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin – the shapers of humanity’s richest present and future,” he wrote.

Many of Robeson’s fellow leftists were horrified at Stalin’s crimes in Russia and aggression abroad. They publicly condemned what was happening — even to the point of renouncing communism. But not Robeson. Appearing in 1956 before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, he refused to condemn Russia’s labor camps where millions perished – yet in the same breath he bitterly condemned his own country’s legacy of slavery. Robeson’s outrage was selective. He was enraged by every lynching that ever occurred in the Jim Crow South – yet he never raised his voice against millions of state-sponsored lynchings in Russia, China, and Eastern Europe. He regarded them as color-blind societies where social justice and egalitarianism prevailed.

Rewriting History

Robeson’s outspoken political views were repugnant, a fact even acknowledged today by some leftists. “Yes, Paul Robeson Was an Unrepentant Stalinist,” declared a Robeson-bashing article in the left-wing Daily Kos. Yet U.S. Ambassador Bridgewater nevertheless praised Robeson as a great American during the embassy’s renaming ceremony that coincided with the 36th anniversary of his death on January 23, 1976, at age 77. “Paul Robeson faced many challenges throughout his life, but he remained a sterling and shining example of patriotism, pride, elegance and humility,” said Bridgewater, 64, a 32-year veteran of the foreign service.

The renaming generated much positive publicity in Jamaica, a country with a love-hate relationship with the United States. Robeson’s granddaughter Susan Robeson, a filmmaker and activist, was among more than 150 visitors on hand, including a number of students. One newspaper headline declared: “Robeson’s Shining Example Lights Up U.S. Embassy.” Now, many young Jamaicans are learning for the first time about Robeson; and no doubt they’re learning a narrative that’s popular among Jamaica’s influential leftist political class: Paul Robeson was a black man who sought social justice for America’s oppressed blacks, and as a result he was blacklisted and persecuted by America’s racist and reactionary government. A former British colony, the island of 2.7 million is overwhelmingly of African descent.

The story behind the Robeson renaming is purely Obamaesque, and is perhaps an indication of what’s been quietly happening at U.S. Embassies around the globe. Early last year, in observance of Black History Month, the U.S. Embassy in Kingston launched an essay contest for high school students, asking them to propose a historical figure after which the the Embassy’s popular Information Resource Center should be named.

The winning essay by Kathy Smith, “The Soul of a Continent,” put forth Paul Robeson with whom Smith identified, in part, out of a sense of racial solidarity. “Robeson sung songs of equality and anti-hate, as if spurred by the soul of a continent,” Smith wrote – with her reference to “continent” being a reference to Africa. “His baritone voice told the truths of a man desperate to retain his thought-soul, his identity and African spirit.”

Smith, now a law student at the University of West Indies in Jamaica, is correct about one thing: Robeson’s rich baritone voice is indeed associated with a number of memorable American songs including “Old Man River,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” and “Let My People Go.” Yet Robeson also is famous for singing an English-language version of the Soviet National Anthem – a powerful and heartfelt rendition that may be heard on the YouTube clip reproduced here.

The U.S. Embassy in Jamaica failed to respond to an e-mail query regarding the renaming — and who approved it. But Ambassador Bridgewater certainly had a major role in it. So did whoever in the State Department gave her a green-light – an approval no doubt reflecting President Obama’s reset of U.S. foreign policy. In this reset, America no longer defines who it is to the world. That would be arrogant. Instead, the world is allowed to decide who America’s heroes ought to be.

How times change. During the Bush years – when I was a journalist based in Kingston, Jamaica’s capital, the U.S. Embassy sought to counter the island’s anti-Americanism, which went into a chest-thumping rage over Bush’s post-9/11 war on terrorism and invasion of Iraq. Those efforts were described in an article of mine for theWashington Times, “Answering Anti-Americanism.” Now, Ambassador Bridgewater and her State Department facilitators appear to be throwing a bone to Jamaica’s left-leaning People’s National Party and its anti-American cheerleaders: people, to be sure, who don’t represent the views of most ordinary Jamaicans.


Words and deeds matter. By honoring Paul Robeson, the U.S Embassy may be giving a boost to anti-Americanism and in turn Jamaica’s potential for Islamic-inspired terrorism by young men attracted to jihad’s anti-Western message. It’s a strange fact: Jamaica has only a tiny Muslim population; yet it has links to a unusually large number of Islamic-inspired terror outrages and plots. These include the London subway bombings; Washington’s beltway sniper shootings; and “shoe bomber” Richard Reed’s aborted attempt to blow up an American Airlines jet.

Could the anti-Western worldview propagated by Jamaica’s leftist elites be serving as an incubator for Islamic-inspired terrorism? That possibility was discussed in my personal blog in 2007 and, low and behold, the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica on February 25, 2010 issued a secret diplomatic cable: “Jamaica: Fertile Soil for Terrorism?” that was released by anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks.

Written by Deputy Chief of Mission Isiah Parnell, the cable attributed Jamaica’s potential for Islamic-inspired terrorism to the island’s large number of disaffected youths and unstable families with absent fathers. There was no mention of my main points; that Jamaica’s grievance-mongering elites may be providing a worldview from which Islamic-inspired terrorists could emerge in an overwhelming Christian culture. The cable was sent to the CIA, FBI, State Department, and Department of Homeland Security among others. Why it was classified as “secret” is perplexing. Perhaps it was to avoid embarrassing Jamaica’s government.

In 1950, the State Department declined to renew Robeson’s passport unless he signed an affidavit stating that he wasn’t a Communist Party member and was loyal citizen. Robeson refused. Rightly or wrongly, the State Department’s actions reflected the realities of the era – a dangerous cold war pitting Stalinist Russia against America and the West; a conflict in which Robeson sided with the enemy with considerable gusto. U.S. authorities decided they’d had enough of Robeson’s antics on the international stage during a perilous period of nuclear brinkmanship between America and the U.S.S.R..

Robeson sued to regain his passport and in 1956, in connection with that lawsuit, he appeared before the by-partisan House Committee of Un-American Activities. The confrontation featured some memorable exchanges between Robeson and committee members, including Robeson’s incredible assertion that the Soviet Union was a color-blind society (which was undoubtedly the case for high-profile useful idiots visiting there). Here are some excerpts from the hearing:

Mr. ROBESON: In Russia I felt for the first time like a full human being. No color prejudice like in Mississippi, no color prejudice like in Washington. It was the first time I felt like a human being. Where I did not feel the pressure of color as I feel [it] in this Committee today.

Rep. GORDON H. SCHERER : Why do you not stay in Russia?

Mr. ROBESON: Because my father was a slave, and my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay here, and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear? I am for peace with the Soviet Union, and I am for peace with China, and I am not for peace or friendship with the Fascist Franco, and I am not for peace with Fascist Nazi Germans. I am for peace with decent people.

Rep. SCHERER: You are here because you are promoting the Communist cause.

Mr. ROBESON: I am here because I am opposing the neo-Fascist cause which I see arising in these committees. You are like the Alien [and] Sedition Act, and Jefferson could be sitting here, and Frederick Douglass could be sitting here, and Eugene Debs could be here.

. . . .

Rep. FRANCIS E. WALTER: Now, what prejudice are you talking about? You were graduated from Rutgers and you were graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. I remember seeing you play football at Lehigh.

Mr. ROBESON: We beat Lehigh.

Rep. WALTER: And we had a lot of trouble with you.

Mr. ROBESON: That is right. DeWysocki was playing in my team.

Rep. WALTER: There was no prejudice against you. Why did you not send your son to Rutgers?

Mr. ROBESON: Just a moment. This is something that I challenge very deeply, and very sincerely: that the success of a few Negroes, including myself or Jackie Robinson can make up — and here is a study from Columbia University — for seven hundred dollars a year for thousands of Negro families in the South. My father was a slave, and I have cousins who are sharecroppers, and I do not see my success in terms of myself. That is the reason my own success has not meant what it should mean: I have sacrificed literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars for what I believe in.

STAFF DIRECTOR RICHARD ARENS: While you were in Moscow, did you make a speech lauding Stalin?

Mr. ROBESON: I do not know.

Mr. ARENS: Did you say, in effect, that Stalin was a great man, and Stalin had done much for the Russian people, for all of the nations of the world, for all working people of the earth? Did you say something to that effect about Stalin when you were in Moscow?

Mr. ROBESON: I cannot remember.

Mr. ARENS: Do you have a recollection of praising Stalin?

Mr. ROBESON: I said a lot about Soviet people, fighting for the peoples of the earth.

Mr. ARENS: Did you praise Stalin?

Mr. ROBESON: I do not remember.

Mr. ARENS: Have you recently changed your mind about Stalin?

Mr. ROBESON: Whatever has happened to Stalin, gentlemen, is a question for the Soviet Union, and I would not argue with a representative of the people who, in building America, wasted sixty to a hundred million lives of my people, black people drawn from Africa on the plantations. You are responsible, and your forebears, for sixty million to one hundred million black people dying in the slave ships and on the plantations, and don’t ask me about anybody, please.

Mr. ARENS: I am glad you called our attention to that slave problem. While you were in Soviet Russia, did you ask them there to show you the slave labor camps?

Rep. WALTER: You have been so greatly interested in slaves, I should think that you would want to see that.

Mr. ROBESON: The slaves I see are still in a kind of semi-serfdom. I am interested in the place I am, and in the country that can do something about it. As far as I know, about the slave camps, they were fascist prisoners who had murdered millions of the Jewish people, and who would have wiped out millions of the Negro people, could they have gotten a hold of them. That is all I know about that.

Mr. ARENS: Tell us whether or not you have changed your opinion in the recent past about Stalin.

Mr. ROBESON: I have told you, mister, that I would not discuss anything with the people who have murdered sixty million of my people, and I will not discuss Stalin with you.

Mr. ARENS: You would not, of course, discuss with us the slave labor camps in Soviet Russia.

Mr. ROBESON: I will discuss Stalin when I may be among the Russian people some day, singing for them, I will discuss it there. It is their problem.

At one point, Robeson attacked the patriotism of the committee members, saying that “you are the un-Americans, and you ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”

Nearly 20 years later, James Baldwin, the great African-American novelist and essayist, criticized Robeson’s moral blindness in a widely-cited essay, writing: “It is personally painful to me to realize that so gifted a man as Robeson should have been tricked by his own bitterness and by a total inability to understand the nature of political power in general, or Communist aims in particular, into missing the point of his own critique, which is worth a great deal of thought: that there are a great many ways of being un-American, some of them nearly as old as the country itself…”

This isn’t the first time Robeson’s fans succeeded in their efforts to rehabilitate him. Eight years ago, the United States Postal Service issued a Paul Robeson commemorative postage stamp that was part of its Black Heritage Series of stamps. Interestingly, Robeson was first honored with a postage stamp issued in 1982 by the German Democratic Republic (i.e. communist East Germany).

Undeniably, Robeson was a remarkable talent and intellect – yet he was ultimately a tragic figure because of the political views he chose to promote. In the end, his achievements must then be considered against the morally flawed universe that he inhabited.

Robeson’s name obviously has no place on the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica, a place that is supposed to represent America’s values and interests. Ambassador Bridgewater and whoever in Washington gave her a green-light ought to be ashamed of themselves. But don’t count on President Obama or Hillary Clinton ordering any inquiries into this matter. Undoubtedly, they can be included among the ship of fools at the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica and at embassies around the world that are putting forth an Obamaesque view of America’s place in the world.

Originally published at The American Thinker and FrontPage Magazine.

The Bloody Hands of Syria's First Lady

By David Paulin

A year ago, Syria's First Lady Asma al-Assad was the darling of New York's trend-setting editors at Vogue magazine who described her in a fawning profile as a "rose in the desert."

Now, according to hacked e-mails published by the London Telegraph and other news outlets, the photogenic British-born Asma is not exactly the woman portrayed in Vogue: "glamorous, young, and very chic, the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies."

Rather, Asma al-Assad -- the daughter of a Syrian cardiologist and diplomat mother -- is a stalwart supporter of her husband's butchery. "I am the REAL dictator...", she writes in one of some 3,000 e-mails from the Assads' private accounts which were distributed to The Telegraph and other media outlets by opposition activists.

"If we are strong together, we will overcome this together ... I love you ...", she writes in another e-mail.

As The Telegraph reports:

Despite the ambitions she expressed for liberalizing Syria before the uprising, Mrs Assad, 36, displays no misgivings about the regime's bloody crackdown, which has accounted for most of the estimated 8,000 lives lost.

Her correspondence with Bashar al-Assad, his aides, friends and family portray her as highly supportive of her husband.

In an email to a family friend on Jan 10, she praised a speech the president gave for conveying a sense of being "very strong, no more messing around".

In another, she complains that ABC News unfavorably edited an interview with him.

On Jan 17, she circulated an email cracking a joke at the expense of the people of Homs, shortly before a regime onslaught that would claim hundreds of lives.

What must film stars Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt think of this in light of their 2009 visit to Syria in behalf of the United Nations, during which they hobnobbed with the first lady and her dictator husband and were oh so very impressed, as the Vogue article by Joan Juliet Buck pointed out. How strange at the way liberal elites, especially of the Hollywood and New York varieties, go all gushy over exotic strongmen and their women.

Compared to the dark portrait now emerging of Asma al-Assad, incidentally, Vogue described her as Western-style Democrat trying hard to engender "polite" manners in others.

"The household is run on wildly democratic principles. "We all vote on what we want, and where," she says. The chandelier over the dining table is made of cut-up comic books. "They outvoted us three to two on that."

A grid is drawn on a blackboard, with ticks for each member of the family. "We were having trouble with politeness, so we made a chart: ticks for when they spoke as they should, and a cross if they didn't." There's a cross next to Asma's name. "I shouted," she confesses. "I can't talk about empowering young people, encouraging them to be creative and take responsibility, if I'm not like that with my own children."

That Vogue article was removed from the magazine's website months ago but it can be accessed here. Not only does it provide a glimpse into the strange and deranged world of Asma al-Assad, but also into the world of some trend-setting liberal elites who hold such women in high esteem.

Originally published at The American Thinker blog

The U.N.'s Bloody Hands in Haiti's Cholera Epidemic

By David Paulin

Cholera was unheard of in Haiti not so long ago. That changed when hundreds of United Nation's peacekeeping troops from Nepal arrived following Haiti's deadly earthquake on January 12, 2010. Since then, a deadly cholera epidemic has been ravaging Haiti - an epidemic linked months ago to sewage spilled from a poorly constructed Nepali U.N. base and into a river tributary. The scientific evidence has been irrefutable on that.
Yet today, 17 months after the first case of cholera, the U.N. remains in a denial mode about its role in the world's worst cholera epidemic. Tens of thousands of Haitians have died or been sickened, many as they went to streams to bathe, wash clothes, or brush their teeth. Yet the U.N.'s attitude has been like what you'd expect from, say, a despotic Third World despot who is accountable to nobody.

"We don't think the cholera outbreak is attributable to any single factor," Anthony Banbury, a United Nations assistant secretary general, told the The New York Times in an article on Sunday, "In Haiti, Global Failures on a Cholera Epidemic."

The U.N.'s haughty attitude has outraged Haitians and, as The Times explains, has helped to undermine international efforts to stop the cholera epidemic. Stonewalling by U.N. officials about the epidemic's cause also has provoked unrest in Haiti at some points. As The Times explains:
"Haitians were genuinely incensed - and fearful. Some wanted an explanation, others a scapegoat. Voodoo priests were being lynched for their supposed role in bringing the curse of cholera on Haiti, the government said."
Much of the lengthy front-page article deals with the muddle-through approach taken by beleaguered NGOs and others in dealing with an epidemic that caught them off guard: one that, as The Times explains, has spread into every corner of Haiti -- killing more than 7,050 Haitians and sickening more than 531,000, or 5 percent of the population. "The world rallied to confront cholera...but the mission was muddled by the United Nations' apparent role in igniting the epidemic and its unwillingness to acknowledge it," The Times notes.

Beyond that, U.N. officials have taken a blame-the-victim attitude regarding the epidemic -- claiming that even if Nepali peacekeeping troops did start it, the U.N. couldn't be held responsible. As The Times explains:
U.N. experts claimed that "the introduction of this cholera strain as a result of environmental contamination with feces could not have been the source of such an outbreak without simultaneous water and sanitation and health care system deficiencies."
Interestingly, The British left-wing medical Journal The Lancet -- which hyped civilian causalities in Iraq -- rushed to the U.N.'s defense, writing an editorial cited by The Times:
"Although interest in how the outbreak originated may be a matter of scientific curiosity for the future, apportioning blame for the outbreak now is neither fair to people working to improve a dire situation, nor helpful in combating the disease."
Ordinary Haitians, of course, might disagree. Among other things, lawyers representing cholera victims and survivors have filed a legal claim with the U.N. seeking reparations.
If the Haiti's cholera outbreak had been caused by U.S. soldiers, imagine the anti-Americanism and flag-burning that would be erupting all over the world. To date, however, the world seems to be giving the U.N. a pass - everybody, that is, except Haiti's cholera victims and survivors.

Originally published at The American Thinker blog
Outgoing McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner credits success to bricklayer father

By David Paulin

McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner, 67, recently announced his retirement after a 41-year career with the all-American fast-food purveyor -- a fantastically successful company that, besides providing entry-level jobs to millions of young Americans, is a positive cultural icon and employer to millions of people overseas.

What was the secret of Skinner's success? It wasn't college (he never finished), but his bricklayer father and the "Midwestern values" he acquired growing up in Davenport, Iowa – during which he flipped burgers as a teen at a local McDonald's.

As the Quad-City Times explains:

In a 2008 interview with the Quad-City Times, Skinner, a 1962 graduate of Davenport West High School, called his story a prime example of “the American dream,” which he said is still possible for anyone flipping burgers at McDonald’s.

“It’s not only possible, it’s a reality,” Skinner said at the time. “This is the American dream in an American company that is not exactly ‘what you see is what you get.’”

Skinner began working his way to the top after serving 10 years in the U.S. Navy.

Calling Davenport a “strong-shouldered Midwestern city with Midwestern values,” Skinner credits his success to learning those values in the Quad-Cities, where his family moved from New York City when he was just a few years old.

His father was a bricklayer by trade, and Skinner thinks the family moved to follow work opportunities for him. At West, Skinner was on the wrestling team.

“I really got my work ethic from my father,” Skinner said. “He was never out of work. He got up every morning and grinded it out every day. I have been successful because of that.”

It's a charming article about a man who is living the American dream. The whole thing may be read here.

Originally published at The American Thinker blog.

A Slur Upon the Irish on St. Patrick's Day?

By David Pauiln

St. Patrick's Day has collided with America's grievance-mongering movement -- and in Iowa of all places.

Now, besides looking forward to another beer-addled St. Patrick's Day, many Iowans are debating whether a pub and eatery in Davenport insulted the Irish with a light-hearted promotion depicting them as hard drinkers.

John M. Dooley, a Davenport resident who is fiercely proud of his Irish heritage, claims the popular Circle Tap pub and eatery went too far -- and he vented his outrage in an Op-Ed published Friday in the Quad-City Times, a local newspaper. His article is attracting wide attention, and the overwhelming number of readers -- including those of Irish heritage - are telling Dooley to lighten up in the paper's comments section.

At issue: A T-shirt being sold by the pub, in the run-up to St. Patrick's Day, that's emblazoned with an "alcohol-detection meter" against a green background. The meter displays a needle and various levels of inebriation: sober, buzzed, drunk, blitzed -- and Irish. And befitting St. Patrick's Day, the needle falls squarely upon "Irish" (the highest level of drunkenness).

Dooley contends the implied stereotype --that the Irish are hard drinkers -- is highly offensive. Even worse, he wrote, the T-shirt is part of a string of historical outrages against the Irish.

"My first thought at seeing the shirt was of my immediate family and my ancestors. How could someone - I presume ignorant of the bitter story of the Irish being exiled from their homes and homeland, hungry and diseased - once again use a wicked, stunningly incorrect stereotype to make money?"

He added:

"Some people of Irish ancestry might not know much about their ancestors and benignly accept the caricatures. If more people knew that a great-great-grandparent was stuffed into an over-loaded ship in the stench of the hold, with no sanitary facilities and only the food he or she brought, they might take a different view of simplistic, cruel depictions spread over T-shirts."

He concluded:

"I am defending my ancestors and will give no quarter. Wouldn't anyone of us do the same? The regimental motto of the Irish Brigade of Civil War fame is "Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked"; words that apply as much today as they did 150 years ago."

All in all, it's the sort of chest-thumping victimization talk that one rarely finds among Americans of European heritage (Balkans excluded). Rather, it's typical of some members of groups -- typically those with high levels of underachievement -- who are highly adept at playing the victimization card.

Circle Tap owner Debra Lundgren shot back with a diplomatic rejoinder: "Every year the Circle Tap offers a St. Patrick's celebration in good faith, good fun and with a light heart. We invite everyone to join us for a responsible good time."

She has the support of an overwhelmingly number of readers offering up comments. In the paper's online comments section, many readers -- including some identifying themselves as having Irish ancestry -- had a singular message for Dooley: lighten up. Some compared Dooley's outrage to what they regarded as the silliness of native Americans protesting Indian-themed mascots used by some universities.

A sampling of 40-plus comments that overwhelmingly took issue with Dooley:

*"I showed the article to my Irish wife and she laughed. Why? The Irish love a joke, no more so than at their own expense. Irish-Americans with little more than a genetic connection to Ireland can be a bit too sensitive."

*"Hmm...My Irish ancestors were blitzed half the time, and proud of it. They worked hard and played hard, drank others under the table and got up the next morning to work again. I guess the T-shirts are meant for my rugged ancestors, not the lace-curtain Irish ancestors of Mr. Dooley."

*"Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked" So you complain about stereotypes but offer up another? I guess because in your eyes, this one is more positive. Get a sense of humor, it's obvious you are seriously lacking one."

*"Some demographic groups are very willing to be cast as victims and some are not...However, the vast majority of Irish-Americans are not willing to be cast as victims based on their ancestry and heritage. I think most Irish are teased because no one sees them as having a victim mentality or needing pity. Seriously speaking, victim mentality is not a preparation for success."

*"So these (T-shirts) are available for sale right now? I totally want one, maybe one for the misses too. (We're both Irish, so Ceiliúradh de Bruscar!)"

How ironic that John M. Dooley, rather than shaming the Circle Tap, has inadvertently given it priceless publicity - and probably boosted sales of its politically incorrect T-shirts. Tonight, the Circle Tap ought to be a fun place to knock back a few.

And I say "cheers."

Originally published at The American Thinker blog.