Politics & Policy

“Surprise!” &C.

Something remarkable happened on Saturday night. The Cuban Interests Section in Washington held a little soirée. That’s not so remarkable. What’s remarkable is that it was brilliantly disrupted by freedom activists.

A group called Professionals in the City arranged the soirée. They’re described as “a social and networking organization” (and you can see for yourself, at their website).

Let me give you a taste of an article about the event. The complete article is found here, on a website called TheRealCuba. Scroll down to the piece headed “Freedom network outdoes Castro’s Security in its own nest.”

Saturday night Cuban officials expelled a group of peaceful advocates from a gala at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington for distributing cards allusive to repression in Cuba. Party organizers had ignored numerous calls and e-mails objecting to Cuba’s totalitarian regime and asking for the event to be canceled or the venue changed.

The black tie event at $89-99 per guest was organized by Professionals in the City, a social and networking organization. It had been heavily promoted as an extremely unique opportunity “to explore the culture, cuisine, and music of Cuba, one of the most fascinating and misunderstood nations of our time.”

Partygoers were promised “a true Havana evening,” at the “gorgeous mansion with thick red carpet and crystal chandeliers.” The house, built in 1917, was once the official embassy of Cuba. A scrumptious buffet, flowing alcohol, music, and dance followed salsa lessons held two days before.

Okay, here’s where it gets interesting. Some freedom-and-democracy types who had infiltrated the event started to hand out cards, which highlighted oppression in Cuba (e.g., the imprisonment of Oscar Biscet, among many others). The activists were quickly set upon by Castro’s agents and thrown out.

In one case, a woman . . . was surrounded by several male agents and angrily told she had to leave as they grabbed her cards. When she refused to hand over the cards, two agents squeezed her strongly by both arms. As they pulled her down the stairs, she began crying out “Freedom for Cuba.” On Sunday, she proudly showed off her bruises as her father’s day gift to her dad, killed when she was a toddler at the Bay of Pigs after he had fought under Castro for democracy in Cuba.

Nice going, sister. Same with all the rest.

‐A friend of mine has provided a list of mosque bombings–in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is only a partial list, but it shows three bombings, already this year, in Afghanistan. These killed more than 20, and injured as many. And in Iraq, the list shows eight mosque bombings since the liberation–killing about 400, injuring about 1,000.

Does this count? Does this count as an insult to Islam, and as desecration of the Koran? (Surely there were Korans in there, as well as mere human beings.)

No, it doesn’t count, of course: because the atrocities, the bombings, were committed by enemies of the United States, of freedom, and of democracy.

Pity.

‐It’s refreshing to see protests of the Vietnamese premier, Pham Van Khai, as he visits the United States. Vietnam is a brutal Communist country (is there any other kind?); and Vietnamese Americans, along with a few others, know this.

A group of human-rights and religious-freedom advocates sent a letter to Condoleezza Rice, dated May 11. The website of the Institute on Religion and Democracy publishes it. Also on the website is an article on the letter, and related matters.

I further wish to cite a letter sent to me by a freedom-in-China group–it’s by a Vietnam-democracy activist, Scott Pham (a better Pham!). The letter is addressed to that unsurpassed human-rights champion, Rep. Chris Smith, the New Jersey Republican.

Mr. Pham wonders whether President Bush will meet with “well-known freedom fighters who currently reside in the U.S., such as the famed dissident-poet Nguyen Chi Thien, Father Nguyen Huu Le, Dr. Doan Viet Hoan, and Dr. Nguyen Quan (brother of the dissident Dr. Nguyen Dan Que and chairman of the Non-Violent Movement for Human Rights in Vietnam).”

And why not “a public reception by U.S. ambassador to Vietnam Michael Marine for the best-known in-country dissidents such as geophysicist Nguyen Thanh Giang, Dr. Nguyen Dan Que, oppositionist Nguyen Vu Binh, Father Nguyen Van Ly, oppositionist Nguyen Dinh Huy, Father Chan Tin, and more”? Mr. Pham believes that such an event would have the effect of President Reagan’s reception for Soviet dissidents in Moscow.

For the mainstream press, the story of the Vietnamese chief’s visit is reconciliation, and, “Will Vietnam forgive us?” Some others, fortunately, ask, “What are we doing receiving the head of a vicious, Communist state? Isn’t this supposed to be the age of the democrat and the dissident?”

‐Was interested in a statement by Andy Ward, executive editor of GQ. As the Drudge Report informed us, they have an article coming up on Saddam Hussein behind bars, and five U.S. soldiers who guarded him. Ward says, “These young men showed Hussein a respect and courtesy that made possible an unusual bond between captors and captive. And because of this, they were able to see a very different side of one of the most controversial figures in modern history.”

I have a feeling that liberals have greater respect for Saddam’s polite, “bonding” guards than they do for the soldiers who removed him from the Iraqi throat. But I was especially interested in that word “controversial”–”one of the most controversial figures in modern history.”

Why controversial? Because he has his defenders and excusers on the Western left? I’m afraid so–but that is unsayable, because it’s McCarthyite.

Too bad.

‐I was taken with something Steven Spielberg said–with a usage of his. Interviewed by Newsweek, he was talking about Tom Cruise, and his exuberant performance on the Oprah show. Said Spielberg, “Tom lost his cool because he was deliriously happy, and now he was being punished for his public display of happiness.”

My point is purely linguistic: Usually, when we say, “lost his cool,” we mean got mad. And yet one can lose one’s cool in other ways–as Spielberg apparently understands. An elegant statement: “Tom lost his cool because he was deliriously happy . . .”

Of course, you can lose your temper–strictly speaking–when deliriously happy, too. Temper is neutral.

But that’s only strictly speaking!

‐I was reading about some congressional nutjobs, and the question occurred to me, “Where’s Cynthia?” Where’s Cynthia McKinney, the Jew-hating, conspiracy-mongering loudmouth from the Fourth District of Georgia? Many of us were anticipating her return to Congress, for she is always great copy. But, unless I’ve missed something, she has been awfully quiet–suspiciously quiet. Has the Democratic party worked out some kind of deal with her, whereby she doesn’t embarrass them? (Talk about conspiracy-mongering!)

Unleash Cynthia! Free Cynthia!

‐Every once in a while, we talk about the word “liberal” in this column: its odyssey and its various abuses. We did so just last Friday.

Now I wish to quote Charles Moore, from an old issue of The Spectator (April 30):

I long for a political leader who can rescue the word ‘liberal’ . . . It should not mean spending lots of public money, or being soft on crime, or denigrating marriage. It means believing in freedom–a free economy, a free (independent) country, trial by jury, a smaller state, choice in health and schools, no ID cards, a bicameral legislature with real powers. Freedom is not the only thing a nation needs, but it is the necessary start. It is a word that Tony Blair avoids. I wish Mr Howard had come out more clearly as a liberal.

Ah, but those windmills are invincible.

‐Had a talk with a well-placed academic the other day. He spoke of the general conservative belief that we simply have to wait out the current professoriate, before we have a saner, more decent faculty. The New Left will depart the scene, eventually, won’t they?

Yes, said my academic friend, but conservatives are apt to be disappointed, because there is no one to replace those lefties: just other lefties, their disciples. Too few conservatives apply to graduate school, or want academic careers (which is understandable).

Anyway, I was reading Petronella Wyatt, in that same issue of The Spectator. She was commenting on, and reporting from, Hungary:

. . . the Right has more or less given up. A young politician, who preferred to remain anonymous, explained. ‘As nearly everyone was a former communist, in their bureaucratic attitudes at least, there is nothing we can do but wait 20 years until they die. The Hungarians are very fatalistic about things like that.’

Well, at least they have the hope of a better day after!

‐Just as we sometimes examine the word “liberal” in this column, we sometimes talk about cool congressional names–e.g., Zack Wamp. So, let us mourn the death of Rep. J. J. Pickle, at 91. The Texas Democrat served until 1994, which was a very good time for a member of his party to leave.

J. J. Pickle–pair him with (the late representative) Claude Pepper, and you have quite a twosome!

James Weinstein, the founder of In These Times, died, too. Before reading his obituary, I never knew that he ran for Congress on the Upper West Side, in 1966. He lost. And if you can’t win there (especially in 1966) . . .

‐A reader sent me an article about a teenage countertenor in Texas, denied the right (or something) to sing soprano in the All-State Choir. (That article is here.) You know the old threat, “. . . or you’ll be singin’ soprano”? Well, here’s a boy who wants to sing soprano–and can’t!

If you want my opinion, I’d let him in. On strictly musical grounds–which we need not detail–I would.

On that “note” (ha, ha, ha) . . .

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