Posts Tagged ‘Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’


The late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, the city of Detroit and I all share a common link.

Chavez and me? In my novel San Café, the would-be socialist strongman of fictional San Cristo, Jesús Garcia-Vega, idolizes Chavez. Both reject the accumulation of private wealth. Chavez redistributed much wealth to the poor. In doing so, he virtually eliminated illiteracy and vastly improved healthcare. Yet he left Venezuela’s oil-dependent economy in a shambles. And no leader who embraces Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will ever play a constructive role on the world stage.

Detroit and me? My youngest son Aaron spent his first year as a professional dancer there—in the suburbs. I made three trips to Detroit, including downtown visits and a pilgrimage to the old Motown studios on West Grand.

The Chavez-Detroit connection? Government can and should play a role in improving the lives of people left out of a nation’s economic advances. But government control on the scale of Venezuela’s can warp an economy and stunt its growth. Venezuela now faces a choice. It can use Chavez’ positive accomplishments as a platform for establishing a responsible market economy or it can continue carrying its people on the government’s back—and sink under its bloated weight.

Detroit also faces a choice. America’s poster child for failed cities is witnessing impressive changes. True, most of the city remains poor and blighted. Yet three of its four major league sports teams play downtown. The opera house draws crowds. The Big Three automakers are thriving. And Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans, as well as ambitious entrepreneurs are buying run-down buildings, refurbishing them and filling them with businesses. They’re developing new living spaces, too. Enclave though it is, downtown is coming back even as Michigan governor Rick Snyder plans to appoint a manager over the city’s finances.

Critics decry the downtown surge. They say Detroit’s poor aren’t riding this economic wave. They’re right. But most productive jobs get created when companies and entrepreneurs identify markets, invest money and sweat then take on employees. In the process, they hire contractors and their subs, janitors, IT consultants and security personnel. More workers and residents boost sales at nearby restaurants, coffee houses, drugstores and dry cleaners.

Momentum builds. Enterprising individuals open new small businesses or seek work. The tax base expands. Optimism grows. Business, community and government organizations devote more resources to helping local residents acquire job skills. Give a man a fish and eats for a day, the saying goes. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.

Detroit won’t become an overnight success. But it can make progress—and ultimately spread it to neighborhoods—if citizens and politicians see downtown development not as a racial or class barrier but as a springboard to a better future. The marketplace is imperfect. But it offers more hope than a government-controlled economy that insists that “the people” all be equally poor.

Hugo Chavez would have been exactly the wrong mayor for the Motor City.

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Read the first three chapters of David’s new novel, SAN CAFÉ at SAN CAFÉ is available at, and


David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, offers fascinating insights into the workings of the human mind in his book, The Social Animal. Brooks points to how we often judge people in milliseconds based on stimuli recognized only the subconscious. I had that experienced with a recent photo in the San Francisco Chronicle.

I immediately responded to the face of a man distorted by emotion—not so much anger as hatred. I knew who he was, where he was and what he was feeling. What I read confirmed what a glance told me. The man was an Iranian at a rally in Tehran protesting the existence of Israel.

We know the background. Iran has opposed Israel ever since the revolution of 1979 created a religious-dominated government. It has bankrolled and trained terrorists. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and most of the world believe that Iran seeks nuclear weapons—a charge Iran denies. Israel has declared its right to a conduct a preemptive attack to deter an existential threat. President Obama has stated that Iran must not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons; American military action remains an option. Mitt Romney offers no disagreement. Tehran responds that it will target American military bases and ships in the Persian Gulf—and Israel, of course—should Israel and the West attack its nuclear facilities.

Geopolitics? And then some! But the face of the man in the photo did not reflect the age-old competition for land and resources. It displayed much more. Here’s why…

Last Friday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad bellowed, “The existence of the Zionist regime is an insult to all humanity.” Opposing Israel’s existence is justified to “protect the dignity of all human beings.” Ahmadinejad, who denies the Holocaust—which tells you something—called Israel “a corrupt, anti-human organized minority group standing up to all divine values.” Iran’s Grand Ayatollah and Supreme Leader—the latter term also tells you something—Ali Khamenei has called Israel a “cancerous tumor” that must be eliminated. Also last week, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah boasted from Lebanon that precision-guided rockets could kill tens of thousands of Israelis. Military targets? No concern. Human beings? Let the slaughter begin.

So what’s the point? The very existence of a Jewish state on land Muslims once conquered offends God and brooks no toleration, no compromise.

Yes, Jews can hate, too. A few days ago, Jewish teens in Jerusalem engaged in several attacks on Arabs. One involved a severe beating. But here’s the difference: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately stated, “We are not prepared to tolerate racism in Israel.” President Shimon Peres declared, “I am full of shame and outrage… This is an intolerable incident of violence that we must uproot from our midst.” The vast majority of Israelis and Jews worldwide echoed their sentiments.

When Jews practice such hatred, they defame Judaism. Israel and the world Jewish community marginalizes them and justly so. Yet governmental and institutional hatred as expressed by Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and others draws wide acceptance—or at best apathy—in the Muslim world. It often attains smug agreement in much of the rest of the world, too.

And it makes quite clear just who is insulting humanity.

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Read the first 2-1/2 chapters of SLICK! at Which, by the way, received a great review and coveted Star as “a book of remarkable merit” from Kirkus Reviews. To purchase a signed copy, email me at SLICK! also is now available at, and