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FLATTERY: THEY NAME IS STALIN / TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 24, 2019 at 12:06 am

I must not omit an important subject….And this is with regard to flatterers, of which courts are full, because men take such pleasure in their own things and deceive themselves about them that they can with difficulty guard against this plague….

Because there is no other way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking  the truth.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

On October 10, President Donald Trump took aim at Joe Biden, his potential Democratic rival for the White House in 2020.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Trump spoke as if Biden’s son, Hunter, was present: “Your father was never considered smart. He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”

Trump no doubt believed he had scored a two-in-one insult—at both former President Barack Obama and his then-Vice President.

But Obama, as depicted in the memoirs of those who worked closely with him, did not demand sickeningly worshipful praise. He was, in fact, wary of sycophants, insisting on being well and honestly briefed.

It was this quality that led him to authorize—and oversee—the successful takedown of 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden on May 1, 2011 by U.S. Navy SEALs.

It is actually Trump who demands not simply loyalty but constant flattery.

In this—as in his vindictiveness and coarseness—he closely resembles Joseph Stalin, the infamous dictator of the Soviet Union from 1924 to 1953.

Joseph Stalin

A third similarity unites Trump and the late Soviet premier: Raging egomania.

On December 21, 1949, Stalin turned 70. And millions of Russians feverishly competed to out-do one another in singing his praises.

These celebrations weren’t prompted by love—but fear.

He had lived up to his pseudonym: “Man of Steel.” For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, he had slaughtered 20 to 60 million of his fellow citizens.

The British historian, Robert Payne, described these rapturous events in his classic 1965 biography, The Rise and Fall of Stalin:

“From all over the country came gifts of embroidered cloth, tapestries and carpets bearing his name or his features….Poets extolled him in verses, He was the sun, the splendor, the lord of creation.

“The novelist Leonid Lenov…foretold the day when all the peoples of the earth would celebrate his birthday; the new calendar would begin with the birth of Stalin rather than with the birth of Christ.”

Lavrenti P. Beria, Stalin’s sinister and feared secret police chief: “Millions of fighters for peace and democracy in all countries of the world are closing their ranks still firmer around Comrade Stalin.”

Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov: “The gigantic Soviet army created during [World War II] was under the direct leadership of Comrade Stalin and built on the basis of the principles of Stalinist military science.”

Defense Commissar Kliment Voroshilov: “The mighty voice of the Great Stalin, defending the peace of the world, has penetrated into all corners of the globe.”

Central Committee Secretary Georgi Malenkov: “With a feeling of great gratitude, turning their eyes to Stalin, the peoples of the Soviet Union, and hundreds of millions of peoples in all countries of the world, and all progressive mankind see in Comrade Stalin their beloved leader and teacher….”

Now, fast forward to June 12, 2017.

That was when President Donald J. Trump—also 70—convened his first full Cabinet meeting since taking office on January 20.

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Donald Trump

On June 12, polls showed that only 36% of Americans approved of his conduct. But from his Cabinet members, Trump got praise traditionally lavished on dictators like Stalin and North Korea’s Kim Jong On.

While the Cabinet members sat around a mahogany table in the West Wing of the White House, Trump instructed each one to say a few words about the good work his administration was doing.

Vice President Mike Pence: “It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as the vice president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people.”

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Mike Pence

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue: “I just got back from Mississippi. They love you there.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price: “What an incredible honor it is to lead the Department of Health and Human Services at this pivotal time under your leadership. I can’t thank you enough for the privilege that you’ve given me, and the leadership you’ve shown.”

Chief of Staff Reince Priebus:On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people.” 

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao: “Thank you for coming over to the Department of Transportation. I want to thank you for getting this country moving again, and also working again.”

Politicians—both domestic and foreign—have quickly learned that the quickest way to get on Trump’s “good side” is to shamelessly and constantly praise him.

Some historians believe that Stalin was poisoned by one of his fawning yes-men—most likely Lavrenti Beria.

The time may come when Trump learns that outrageous flattery can hide murderous hatred.

DONALD TRUMP’S “MEIN KAMPF” COMES TO VIDEO: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 22, 2019 at 12:05 am

Since taking office as President on January 20, 2017, Donald Trump has continued to hurl threats of violence against those he hates.

“Trump’s language of violence started with immigrants when he launched his presidential campaign in 2015,” wrote Washington Post Reporter Eugene Scott. “There is a direct line from his language to real violence against immigrants and other innocent Americans caught in the maniacal mass shootings of the past year.

“And this cancer is spreading: to Congress, to the media, to the intelligence community, to foreign allies. There is no end in sight as Trump becomes increasingly unhinged and the GOP remains frozen in abject silence.”

On October 2, 2019, Journalist Nina Burleigh wrote: “Since 2015, TV-watching Americans have been subject to the deimatic spectacle of more than 400 rallies (at least 80 since his election) in which Trump sometimes openly and more often coyly urged supporters to violence. These spectacles have conditioned many Americans to fear him and his more enthusiastic supporters.” 

Image result for Images of people giving the "Sieg heil" salute to Trump

Supporters giving the “Seig Heil” salute to Donald Trump

“Over the last few days, the President’s rhetoric of violence and hate has spread,” stated an October 3, 2019 press release by America’s Voice, a liberal immigration group.

“As Jamelle Bouie noted yesterday, ‘Over the weekend, in a rage over impeachment, President Trump accused Representative Adam Schiff of ‘treason,’ promised ‘Big Consequences’ for the whistle-blower who sounded the alarm about his phone call with President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine and shared a warning — from a Baptist pastor in Dallas — that impeachment ‘will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.’” 

Trump’s opponents have good reason to fear. And not simply the public demonstrations by the President’s fanatical base. They should fear the secret fantasies of the Right. 

Those secret fantasies have been revealed in a series of Right-wing videos featuring graphic acts of violence against those whom the Right—and Trump—hate.

From October 10 to 12, 2019, attendees of the American Priority Conference at the Trump National Doral Miami resort enjoyed many of those videos.

One of these, “The Trumpsman,” featured a digitized Trump shooting, stabbing and setting fire to such liberals—and even conservatives—as: 

  • Former President Bill Clinton
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Former Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
  • Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
  • Former President Barack Obama
  • Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders
  • Utah Senator Mitt Romney
  • The late Arizona Senator John McCain

And legitimate news media—such as CBS, BBC, ABC, CNN, The New York Times and The  Washington Post—were also depicted as among Trump’s victims.

Image result for images of the trumpsman video

The video was produced by Rightists who believed it reflected what Donald Trump would do to his enemies if only he could get away with it. And given his near-constant calls for violence against his critics, they were absolutely correct.  

But the video’s critics are wrong to call for its suppression.

On the contrary—it should be widely seen for what it is: The Mein Kampf of Donald Trump and his fanatical followers, in and outside the Republican party.

Like Adolf Hitler’s autobiography, it depicts the future America can expect if the Right gains the power to live out its murderous fantasies. And the fantasy Right-wingers prize most: The brutal extermination of everyone who refuses to submit to their Fascistic tyranny.

“The Trumpsman” is part of a growing genre of pro-Trump memes that routinely earn thousands of views on sites like YouTube and Twitter. Many superimpose the faces of Trump and his chief supporters slaughtering Democrats, liberal celebrities and/or members of the media.

The event’s organizer, Alex Phillips, hurriedly claimed that the “unauthorized video” was shown “in a side room” at the American Priority Conference.

But there is an upside to this exercise in Right-wing porn. Democrats could easily run TV ads showing limited clips from “The Trumpsman” video.

Unfortunately, the majority of Democrats lack the courage to attack their Right-wing enemies with the same ruthlessness used against them. That’s why they lost most Presidential elections of the 20th century.

Americans should be constantly warned: These videos were not made by liberals to parody the values and goals of the Republican party and its Right-wing supporters.

These videos were made by Right-wingers—and reflect the true values and intentions of the Republican party and its Right-wing supporters. 

The boiler-plate rhetoric that gushes out of Republican conventions—about love of family, God and flag—is the public mask of the Right.

The videos that depict Right-wingers ruthlessly slaughtering anyone who dares to disagree with them reflect the real face of the Right.

Of course, most Americans never imagined that a President would:

  • Fire an FBI director for investigating Russian subversion of a Presidential election.
  • Openly call on a foreign enemy nation—China—to investigate his political rival for the White House.
  • Accuse his Congressional critics of treason—a crime punishable by death.

Trump’s opponents should stop deluding themselves that: “Surely he’ll never do that.”

Whatever it is they fear he will do, he will do.

Like all predators, he will stop only when he meets a stronger opponent.

DONALD TRUMP’S “MEIN KAMPF” COMES TO VIDEO: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 21, 2019 at 12:14 am

On November 9, 1923, Nazi Party Fuhrer Adolf Hitler tried to overthrow the government in Munich, Bavaria.

About 2,000 Nazis marched to the center of Munich, where they confronted heavily-armed police. A shootout erupted, killing 16 Nazis and four policemen. 

Hitler was injured during the clash, but managed to escape. Two days later, he was arrested and charged with treason.

Put on trial, he found himself treated as a celebrity by a judge sympathetic to Right-wing groups. He was allowed to brutally cross-examine witnesses and even make inflammatory speeches.

At the end of the trial, he was convicted of treason and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment. Of this he served only nine months before being pardoned.

Hitler used his time in Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria, to write his infamous book, Mein Kampf-–“My Struggle.” Part autobiography, part political treatise, it laid out his future plans—for a revitalized Germany and the conquest of other nations.

Image result for Images of Adolf Hitler outside Landsberg prison

Adolf Hitler leaving Landsberg Prison, December, 20, 1924

Published in 1925, it was long ignored by all but the most fanatical Nazis. But as Hitler gained increasing numbers of votes in a series of elections, many people—inside and outside Germany—began paying attention to its contents.

By 1939 it had sold 5,200,000 copies and had been translated into 11 languages.

Most of those who bought the book never read it. Its style was bombastic, repetitious and illogical. The first edition contained grammatical errors, reflecting a self-educated man.

Few who read it took Hitler’s intentions seriously. Comedians portrayed him as a wildly gesturing  crank who screamed constantly.

Hitler made no effort to hide his program for Germany under his rule. His candor led many people to believe he was a lunatic who could be safely ignored. 

He was especially insistent on the need for eliminating world Jewry and conquering the Soviet Union. 

On the former topic he wrote: “The nationalization of our masses will succeed only when, aside from all the positive struggle for the soul of our people, their international poisoners are exterminated. 

“If at the beginning of the war and during the war twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the nation had been subjected to poison gas, such as had to be endured in the field by hundreds of thousands of our very best German workers of all classes and professions, then the sacrifice of millions at the front would not have been in vain.”

A mere 17 years later, Hitler’s “Thousand-Year Reich” would translate those words into horrific action in a series of extermination camps equipped with gas chambers.

Mein Kampf(german Language Edition) (German Edition)

Hitler was equally insistent that Germany needed to find Lebensraum—“Living space”—in the east. And by “east” he meant “Russia.” 

Specifically: “And so we National Socialists consciously draw a line beneath the foreign policy tendency of our pre-War period. We take up where we broke off six hundred years ago.

“We stop the endless German movement to the south and west, and turn our gaze toward the land in the east. At long last we break off the colonial and commercial policy of the pre-War period and shift to the soil policy of the future.

“If we speak of soil in Europe today, we can primarily have in mind only Russia and her vassal border states.” 

Hitler finally attained power on January 30, 1933. He realized that Germany was not yet strong enough to impose its will on other nations. So he set out on a secret crash program to make Germany the strongest military power in Europe.

In 1936, he set out on his “mission of Providence”:

  • March, 1936: Ordering German troops to reoccupy the demilitarised zone between France and Germany (the Rhineland), in violation of the Versailles Treaty, which ended World War 1.
  • July, 1936: Sending troops to Spain to support the Fascist army of General Francisco Franco.
  • March 12, 1938: Occupying Austria and “unifying” it with Germany (the “Anschluss“).
  • September 29, 1938: Bullying British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain into surrendering Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland districts to Germany.
  • September 1, 1939: Ordering the invasion of Poland, which unintentionally launched World War II.
  • June 22, 1941: Ordering the invasion of the Soviet Union. 
  • 1941: Secretly ordering “the Final Solution of the Jewish Question,” resulting in the extermination of at least six million Jews.

Only after Hitler set out to conquer, first Europe, then the Soviet Union, did his victims and intended victims realize that Mein Kampf had given them a deadly warning. A warning too many of them had refused to heed.

By the time World War II ended:

  • Fifty million men, women and children were died—most of them dying in agony.
  • The Soviet Union, having crushed Nazi Germany, become a world power.
  • Poland and eastern Europe—once captives of Nazi Germany—now found themselves captives of the Soviet Union.
  • The United States, untouched by the war, emerged as the world’s superpower—and the only country strong enough to contain the Soviet Union.

But Adolf Hitler isn’t the only would-be dictator to give ample warning of his murderous intentions.

And, like most Germans in the Weimar Republic, which preceded Nazi Germany, most Americans refuse to take that warning seriously. 

TRUMP’S BRUTAL FANTASIES COME ALIVE—ON VIDEO: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on October 18, 2019 at 1:02 am

From October 10 to 12, attendees of the American Priority Conference at the Trump National Doral Miami resort got a treat that was supposed to be kept secret.

They got to watch a series of Right-wing videos featuring graphic acts of violence against those President Donald Trump hates. One of these, “The Trumpsman,” featured a digitized Trump shooting, stabbing and setting fire to such liberals as:

  • Former President Bill Clinton
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Former Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton
  • Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
  • Former President Barack Obama
  • Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders

Even Republicans who have dared to disagree with Trump—such as Utah Senator Mitt Romney and the late Arizona Senator John McCain—met a brutal end.

Legitimate news media—such as CBS, BBC, ABC, CNN, The New York Times and The  Washington Post—were also depicted as among Trump’s victims. 

The New York Times broke the news of the video’s showing. Since then, the American Priority Conference has rushed to disavow it—and the firestorm of outrage it set off.

So has the Trump White House.

And America’s major news media have demanded that Trump strongly condemn the video.

If Donald Trump had a history of truthfulness and humanity, his denouncing the video would prove highly believable. But he has neither.

He is a serial liar—The  Washington Post noted on August 12 that, since taking office on January 20, 2017, Trump has made more than 12,000 false or misleading claims.

As for his reputation as a humanitarian:

As a Presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.

And he has continued to do so since taking office on January 20, 2017. The New York Times calculates that, as of January 2019, Trump had insulted 551 people (including private citizens), places, and institutions on Twitter, ranging from politicians to journalists and news outlets to entire countries.

Donald Trump

Summing up Trump’s legacy of hatred, longtime Republican Presidential adviser David Gergen said: 

“Trump unleashed the dogs of hatred in this country from the day he declared he was running for president, and they’ve been snarling and barking at each other ever since. It’s just inevitable there are going to be acts of violence that grow out of that.” 

So any Trump statement claiming that he strongly condemns the video should rightly be discounted as mere propaganda.

The video was first uploaded on YouTube in 2018 by a account named TheGeekzTeam. The GeekzTeam is a frequent contributor to MemeWorld, a pro-Trump website. Its creator was prominent Twitter user Carpe Donktum. 

MemeWorld, embarrassed that its Right-wing porn has become a national scandal, now claims: 

“The Kingsman video is CLEARLY satirical and the violence depicted is metaphoric. No reasonable person would believe that this video was a call to action or an endorsement of violence towards the media. The only person that could potentially be ‘incited’ by this video is Donald Trump himself, as the main character of the video is him. THERE IS NO CALL TO ACTION.” 

Of course, that was not how the Right reacted in 2017 when comedian Kathy Griffin posed for a photograph holding up what was meant to look like Trump’s bloody, severed head.

A furious Right-wing backlash cost her gigs as a comedian and made her the target of a Secret Service investigation into whether she was a credible threat. She even had to buy metal detectors to post at her appearances at comedy clubs: “There were all kinds of incidents. A guy came at me with a knife in Houston.” 

Cindy McCain, widow of Senator John McCain, wasn’t buying the Right’s disavowals, tweeting: “Reports describing a violent video played at a Trump Campaign event in which images of reporters & @John McCain are being slain by Pres Trump violate every norm our society expects from its leaders & the institutions that bare their names. I stand w/ @whca in registering my outrage”.

Nor was Democratic Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke: “This video isn’t funny. It will get people killed.”   

* * * * *

The video was produced by Rightists who believed it reflected what Donald Trump would do to his enemies if only he could get away with it. And given his near-constant calls for violence against his critics, they were absolutely correct. 

But the video’s critics are wrong to call for its suppression.

On the contrary—it should be seen for what it is: The Mein Kampf of Donald Trump and his fanatical followers, in and outside the Republican party.

Mein Kampf(german Language Edition) (German Edition)

Like Adolf Hitler’s autobiography, it depicts the future America can expect if the Right gains the power to live out its murderous fantasies. 

And the fantasy Right-wingers prize most: The brutal extermination of everyone who refuses to submit to their Fascistic tyranny. 

The hour is late and the clock is ticking as the Right conspires to give Trump this power as “President-for-Life.”

It now remains to be seen if enough Americans are willing to stand fast against the brutal intentions of these specialists in evil.

TRUMP’S BRUTAL FANTASIES COME ALIVE–ON THE SCREEN: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on October 17, 2019 at 12:07 am

And the most glorious episodes do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men.  Sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles.”
Plutarch, Alexander the Great

It’s in “The Church of Fake News” that President Donald Trump finally revenges himself upon his many enemies.

He walks down an aisle, reaches into his suit jacket pocket, pulls out a .45 automatic—which seems to have an endless magazine—and opens fire on: 

  • Democratic Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee
  • Former President Bill Clinton
  • Democratic Representative Maxine Waters
  • Utah United States Senator Mitt Romney
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Liberal activist George Soros
  • Former Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton
  • Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and
  • Former President Barack Obama. 

Nor does he spare his longtime “enemies” in the legitimate news media, such as:

  • CNN
  • The Washington Post 
  • BBC
  • ABC
  • MSNBC Anchor Rachel Maddow
  • The New York Times
  • PBS
  • NBC
  • and Politico

Trump has, after all, slandered journalists as “the enemy of the American people.” And he has called news stories documenting his crimes and follies “fake news.”

 

Nor in the video is he limited to using a firearm.

  • He lights the head of Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders on fire.
  • He stabs to death the late Arizona Senator John McCain.
  • He stabs TV personality Rosie O’Connell in the face. 

The clip ends with Trump driving a stake into the head of someone whose face bears the CNN logo. Then he stands and smiles as he looks around. 

This video carnage was made possible by TheGeekzTeam, which digitally placed Trump’s head over the main character (played by Colin Firth) in the 2015 spy thriller The Kingsman: The Secret Service as he shoots his way through a crowd of possessed churchgoers.

“The Trumpsman” was shown along with other videos at the Trump National Doral Miami resort as part of the American Priority Conference, held from October 10-12. 

It’s part of a growing genre of pro-Trump memes that routinely earn thousands of views on sites like YouTube and Twitter. Many superimpose the faces of Trump and his chief supporters slaughtering Democrats, liberal celebrities and/or members of the media.

Once The New York Times broke the story, the event’s organizer, Alex Phillips, sought to avoid responsibility for the showing. He hurriedly claimed that the “unauthorized video” was shown “in a side room.” 

“Content was submitted by third parties and was not associated with or endorsed by the conference in any official capacity,” Phillips told the Times.

“American Priority rejects all political violence and aims to promote a healthy dialogue about the preservation of free speech. This matter is under review.”

The organization issued a statement calling it “shocking” that the Times didn’t cover any of the sanctioned events at the conference.

In other words, public relations events that were meant to be seen by the press, as opposed to events that were not meant to be seen.

Yet this was only one of several Right-wing videos screened at the event. C.J. Ciaramella, a journalist for Reason magazine, filmed a room where these were being screened. 

Among the speakers at the conference:

  • Republican Representative Matt Gaetz
  • Donald Trump, Jr.
  • Former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski
  • Professional Right-wing dirty-trickster Roger Stone
  • Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders
  • NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch

Reaction from the legitimate news media was immediate.

CNN: “The president and his family, the White House, and the Trump campaign need to denounce it immediately in the strongest possible terms. Anything less equates to a tacit endorsement of violence and should not be tolerated by anyone.” 

White House Correspondents Association: “All Americans should condemn this depiction of violence directed toward journalists and the President’s political opponents. We have previously told the President his rhetoric could incite violence. Now we call on him and everybody associated with this conference to denounce this video and affirm that violence has no place in our society.””

CBS News: “This video, and the rhetoric increasingly used against the media, puts journalists in danger, prevents open and honest debate about the issues, and undermines democracy.”

If Donald Trump had a history of truthfulness and humanity, his denouncing the video would prove highly believable.

But Trump has neither.  

An August 12 Washington Post story noted that, since taking office on January 20, 2017, Trump has made more than 12,000 false or misleading claims.

Among his lies: Accusing former President Barack Obama of illegally wiretapping him—without offering a shred of evidence to back up that accusation.

Even worse: On July 25, 2019, Trump tried to coerce the president of Ukraine to manufacture “evidence” to discredit former Vice President Joe Biden, his Democratic rival for the Presidency in 2020. And shortly after that revelation became public, he publicly invited China to “investigate the Bidens”—Biden and his son, Hunter, for the same reason.

So much for his trustworthiness. 

We’ll examine his reputation as a humanitarian in Part Two.

FOUR HEROES, TWO VILLAINS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 16, 2019 at 12:05 am

In his poem, “Conversation With an American Writer,” the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko spoke for those Russians who managed to maintain their integrity in the face of Stalinist terror:

“You have courage,” they tell me.
It’s not true. I was never courageous.
I simply felt it unbecoming
to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the vast majority of Republicans in the United States Senate and House of Representatives.

Yevgeny Yevtushenko poet

Yevgeney Yevtushenko

In late September, news broke that, on July 25, President Donald Trump had tried to extort a “favor” from the president of Ukraine: Find embarrassing “dirt” on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter.

Hunter had had business dealings in Ukraine. And Joe Biden might be Trump’s Democratic opponent for the White House in 2020. 

To underline the seriousness of his “request,” Trump had withheld $400 million in promised military aid to Ukraine, which is facing an increasingly aggressive Russia. 

Since late September, reporters have repeatedly asked Congressional Republicans: “Is it appropriate for President Donald Trump to ask a foreign government to investigate his political opponent?” 

And the overwhelming majority of Republicans have refused to answer—even though, on October 3, Trump said publicly on the south lawn of the White House: “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”

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Donald Trump

Among those refusing to answer:

Colorado Republican Senator Cory Gardner: “Well look, that’s what we’re going to get into. The Senate Intelligence Committee is having an investigation, a bipartisan investigation.”

Iowa Senator Joni Ernst: “We don’t have all the facts, we don’t know what is accurate. We have a picture painted by the media and we don’t know if that picture is accurate.”

Arizona Senator Martha McSally: “I think what we’ve seen out of [Speaker of the House Nancy] Pelosi and [House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam] Schiff and others in the House is quite partisan and I think people want us to take a serious look at this and not have it be just partisan bickering going on.” 

North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis: “I’m going to leave it to the President to make that decision” on whether his actions were appropriate. 

The reason for Republicans’ deafening silence: They don’t want to anger Trump or his fanatical supporters. Many of them face tough reelection campaigns. And they fear losing their Congressional seats and the perks that go with them.  

So they’re willing to support a President who calls on hostile foreign nations to subvert an American Presidential election.

Enter Marie Yovanovitch, the former United States ambassador to Ukraine (2016 – 2019). She had joined the Foreign Service in 1986, and served as ambassador to Kyrgyzstan (2005 – 2008) and Armenia (2008 – 2011). 

Marie L. Yovanovitch.jpg

Marie Yovanovitch

In May 2019, on Trump’s orders, the State Department recalled Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine. She had earned respect from the national security community for her efforts to encourage Ukraine to tackle corruption.

But she had been criticized by Right-wing media outlets—notably Fox News Network—and by Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

CNN reported that Yovanovitch stopped Giuliani from interviewing witnesses in his search for politically damaging information against former Vice President Joe Biden.

On August 12, a whistleblower filed a complaint with the Intelligence community’s Inspector General, Michael Atkinson.

In it, he warned that Yovanovitch’s ousting raised red flags that Trump was abusing his office by soliciting foreign interference in the 2020 election.

From that complaint ultimately resulted the impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives.

With so many Republicans cowering before Trump, Yovanovitch emerged as the first real hero of the Trump era.

On October 11, she appeared before the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA). She did so in defiance of orders by the White House and State Department to not attend.

In response, the Committee issued a subpoena to compel her testimony—and provide her with a measure of protection against wrongful termination.

“She was a hero even before she hit the hearing room,” wrote Charles Pierce for Esquire magazine.

“She told them to stuff their directives, she would answer a congressional subpoena like a citizen is supposed to do. And she didn’t sneak in through the basement. She walked into the Capitol through the front doors, and she didn’t do so to fck around.”

Testifying for nearly 10 hours, Yovanovitch said that Trump had removed her from her post owing to “unfounded and false claims” and “a concerted campaign against me.”

She believed that associates of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, might have believed “that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”

And she warned that the State Department was being “attacked and hollowed out from within. State Department leadership, with Congress, needs to take action now to defend this great institution, and its thousands of loyal and effective employees.

“We need to rebuild diplomacy as the first resort to advance America’s interests and the front line of America’s defense. I fear that not doing so will harm our nation’s interest, perhaps irreparably.”

Frontier general Andrew Jackson once said: “One man with courage makes a majority.”

By courageously defying Trump, Marie Yovanovitch may lead other conscientious men and women to do the same.

FOUR HEROES, TWO VILLAINS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 15, 2019 at 12:11 am

Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers.

Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky, the former military hero now falsely condemned and executed as a traitor by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In 1938, Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) also became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him.

Image result for images of Dmitri Shostakovich

Dimitri Shostakovich

“He had a large picture of Tukhachevsky in his room, and after the announcement that Tukhachevsky had been shot as a traitor to the homeland, Zhilayev did not take the picture down.

“I don’t know if I can explain how heroic a deed that was….As soon as the next poor soul was declared an enemy of the people, everyone destroyed in a panic everything connected with that person….

“And naturally, photographs flew into the fire first, because if someone informed on you, reported that you had a picture of an enemy of the people, it meant certain death.

“Zhilayev wasn’t afraid. When they came for him, Tukhachevsky’s prominently hung portrait amazed even the executioners.”

“What, it’s still up?” one of the secret police asked.

“The time will come,” Zhilayev replied, “when they’ll erect a monument to him.”

As, in fact, has happened. 

Meanwhile, Stalin has been universally condemned as one of history’s greatest tyrants.

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky appears on a 1963 Soviet Union postage stamp

Third hero—James Brien Comey (December 14, 1960)

Comey served as United States Attorney (federal prosecutor) for the Southern District of New York (2002-2003).

As United States Deputy Attorney General (2003-2005), he opposed the warrantless wiretapping program of the George W. Bush administration. He also argued against the use of water boarding as an interrogation method.

In 2005, he entered the private sector as General Counsel and Senior Vice President for Lockheed Martin, the biggest contractor for the Department of Defense. 

On July 29, 2013, the United States Senate voted 93 -1 to confirm Comey as director of the FBI, the seventh in its history.

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James B. Comey

He directed the FBI from his appointment in 2013 by President Barack Obama until his firing on May 9, 2017, by President Donald Trump.

In a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump gave no warning of his intentions. Instead, he sent Keith Schiller, his longtime bodyguard, to the FBI with a letter announcing Comey’s dismissal.

Trump had three reasons for firing Comey:

  1. Comey had refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump had made this “request” during a private dinner at the White House in January. After refusing to make that pledge, Comey told Trump that he would always be honest with him. But that didn’t satisfy Trump’s demand that the head of the FBI act as his personal secret police chief.
  2. Trump had tried to coerce him into dropping the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, for his secret ties to Russia and Turkey. Comey had similarly resisted that demand.
  3. Comey had recently asked the Justice Department to fund an expanded FBI investigation into contacts between Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents. 

As a Presidential candidate and President, Trump:

  • Steadfastly denied those revelations;
  • Repeatedly attacked the “fake news” media reporting these revelations. Chief among his targets: CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post; and
  • Attacked the Intelligence agencies responsible for America’s security. 

On May 10—the day after firing Comey—Trump met in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Kislyak was reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign Intelligence agency. He has been closely linked with Jeff Sessions and Mike Flynn—respectively,, Trump’s fired Attorney General and fired National Security Adviser.

“I just fired the head of the FBI,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

During that meeting he gave the Russians sensitive Intelligence on ISIS that had been supplied by Israel. 

Two days later, on May 12, Trump tweeted a threat to the fired FBI director: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.” 

But shortly afterward, it appeared Trump was the one who should worry: Reports surfaced that Comey had written memos to himself immediately after his private meetings with Trump. 

He had also told close aides that Trump was trying to pressure him into dropping the investigation into close ties between Russian Intelligence agents and Trump campaign staffers.

As for Trump’s threat of having tapes of his and Comey’s conversations: Like Trump’s claim that he could prove that Barack Obama wasn’t an American citizen, this, too, proved to be a lie.

And Comey’s firing led directly to a result Trump did not anticipate: Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein yielded to demands from Democrats and appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller III as a special prosecutor to investigate those ties.

FOUR HEROES, TWO VILLAINS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 14, 2019 at 12:09 am

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

Four heroes, two villains.

Two of the heroes are Russians; two are Americans.

The villains: One Russian (actually, Georgian); one American.

First up—in order of disappearance: Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky (pronounced too-ka-chev-sky)

Tukhachevsky (February 4, 1893 – June 12, 1937) was a leading Soviet military leader and theoretician from 1918 to 1937. 

He commanded the Soviet Western Front during the Russian-Polish War (1920-21) and served as Chief of Staff of the Red Army (1925-1928).

He fought to modernize Soviet armament, as well as develop airborne, aviation and mechanized forces.  Almost singlehandedly, he created the theory of deep operations for Soviet forces.

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky

All of these innovations would reap huge dividends when the Soviet Union faced the lethal fury of Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht.

In 1936, Tukhachevsky warned Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that Nazi Germany might attack without warning—and ignite a long and murderous war.

Stalin—the son of a Georgian cobbler—resented Tukhachevsky’s coming from a noble family. A monumental egomaniac, he also hated that Tukhachevesky’s fame rivaled his own.

Warned of the approaching German danger, Stalin shouted: “What are you trying to do—frighten Soviet authority?”

Joseph Stalin

The attack that Tukhachevsky warned against came five years later—on June 22, 1941, leaving at least 20 million Russians dead.

But Tukhachevsky wasn’t alive to command a defense.

The 1930s were a frightening and dangerous time to be alive in the Soviet Union. In 1934, Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion.

An example of Stalin’s paranoia occurred one day while the dictator walked through the Kremlin corridors with Admiral Ivan Isakov. Officers of the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) stood guard at every corner. 

“Every time I walk down the corridors,” said Stalin, “I think: Which one of them is it? If it’s this one, he will shoot me in the back. But if I turn the corner, the next one can shoot me in the face.”

In 1937-38, the Red Army fell prey to Stalin’s paranoia.

Its victims included:

  • Three of five marshals (five-star generals);
  • Thirteen of 15 army commanders (three- and four-star generals);
  • Fifty of 57 army corps commanders; and
  • One hundred fifty-four out of 186 division commanders.

And heading the list of those marked for death was Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

Arrested on May 22, 1937, he was interrogated and tortured. As a result, he “confessed” to being a German agent plotting to overthrow Stalin and seize power. 

On his confession, which survives in the archives, his bloodstains can clearly be seen.

On June 11, the Soviet Supreme Court convened a special military tribunal to try Tukhachevsky and eight generals for treason.

It was a sham: The accused were denied defense attorneys, and could not appeal the verdict—-which was foregone: Death.

In a Russian version of poetic justice, five of the eight generals who served as Tukhachevsky’s judges were themselves later condemned and executed as traitors.

Within hours of the verdict, Tukhachevsky was summoned from his cell and shot once in the back of the head.

From 1937 until 1956, Tukhachevsky was officially declared a traitor and fifth-columnist.

Then, on February 25, 1956, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev delivered his bombshell “Secret Speech” to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

In this, he denounced Stalin (who had died in 1953) as a ruthless tyrant responsible for the slaughter of millions of innocent men, women and children. He condemned Stalin for creating a “personality cult” around himself, and for so weakening the Red Army that Nazi Germany was able to easily overrun half of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1943.

On January 31, 1957, Tukhachevsky and his co-defendants were declared innocent of all charges and were “rehabilitated.”

Today, he is once again—rightly—considered a Russian hero and military genius. And Stalin is universally—and rightly—seen as a blood-stained tyrant.

Next hero: Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev)

Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers. Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

Zhilayev, a member of the Russian Academy of Art-Sciences, taught at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

In 1938, he, too, became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him. 

REPUBLICANS LOVE TRUMP—BUT THEY LOVE THEIR JOBS MORE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 27, 2019 at 12:08 am

On August 30, 2017, an article in Salon examined why Donald Trump’s base supports him so fanatically: “Most Americans Strongly Dislike Trump, But the Angry Minority That Adores Him Controls Our Politics.”

It described these voters as representing about one-third of the Republican party:

“These are older and more conservative white people, for the most part, who believe he should not listen to other Republicans and should follow his own instincts….

“They like Trump’s coarse personality, and approve of the fact that he treats women like his personal playthings. They enjoy it when he expresses sympathy for neo-Nazis and neo-Confederate white supremacists.

“They cheer when he declares his love for torture, tells the police to rough up suspects and vows to mandate the death penalty for certain crimes. (Which of course the president cannot do.)

“…This cohort of the Republican party didn’t vote for Trump because of his supposed policies on trade or his threat to withdraw from NATO. They voted for him because he said out loud what they were thinking. A petty, sophomoric, crude bully is apparently what they want as a leader.”

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Supporters giving the Nazi “Sieg Heil” salute to Trump

According to an August 29, 2017 survey by the Pew Research Center, they only comprise 16% of the population. That leaves 65% of Republicans who are revolted by Trump’s personality and behavior. But they are being advised by GOP political consultants to vigorously support him.

“Your heart tells you that he’s bad for the country,” one anonymous consultant told the Salon reporter. “Your head looks at polling data among Republican primary voters and sees how popular he is.” 

It’s precisely these hard-core Fascists who come out in mid-term elections—and they’re scaring the remaining 65% who make up the GOP establishment.

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Donald Trump

That’s one reason why the vast majority of Republicans continue to fanatically support Trump: They fear he will turn his hate-filled base on them.

But there’s a second reason why Republicans back Trump. And it has a historical basis.

While the Nazi Party ruled Germany from 1933 to 1945, its influence over all aspects of Germans’ lives was suffocating.

“Censorship prevailed, education was undermined, family life was idealized, but children were encouraged to turn in disloyal parents,” reads the back cover of Richard Grunberger’s classic 1971 book, The 12-Year Reich

“‘Volk’ festivals, party rallies, awards, uniforms, pageantry all played a part in the massive effort to shape the mind of a nation.” 

And yet, after the Reich surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on May 8, 1945, a strange thing happened: Virtually no German admitted to having been a Nazi—or having even known one.

In short: Adolf Hitler had lost the war he started—making him a loser nobody wanted to be identified with.

In the decades since, the “loser” tag has continued to stick with those who once served the Third Reich. Mel Brooks has repeatedly turned German soldiers—once the pride of the battlefield—into idiotic comic foils.

Even the fearsome Gestapo was spoofed for laughs on the long-running TV comedy, “Hogan’s Heroes.”

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“Hogan’s Heroes”

“Americans love a winner,” George C. Scott as George S. Patton says at the outset of the classic 1970 movie. “And will not tolerate a loser.” 

And that is why Republicans have stuck so closely with President Donald J. Trump.

Republicans don’t fear that Trump will destroy the institutions that Americans have long cherished—such as:

  • An independent judiciary
  • A free press
  • An incorruptible Justice Department
  • Intelligence agencies (such as the FBI and CIA) charged with protecting the country against subversion.

Trump has furiously attacked all of these—and Republicans have either said nothing or rushed to his defense.

  • Republicans don’t care that he has all but destroyed decades of solid relations between the United States and longtime allies, such as Canada and Great Britain.
  • Republicans don’t care that he will sell out the Nation to Russian president Vladimir Putin—whom he has never criticized and has defended against the FBI and CIA.
  • Republicans don’t even care that he tried to pressure the president of Ukraine to slander former Vice President Joe Biden, his rival in the upcoming 2020 election—and then tried to cover it up.

What Republicans fear is that if Democrats can impeach Trump, they will lose their own hold on nearly absolute power in Congress and the White House. 

If Trump is impeached and possibly indicted, he will become a man no one any longer fears. He will be a figure held up to ridicule and condemnation.

Like Adolf Hitler.  Like Richard M. Nixon. 

And his Congressional supporters will be branded as losers along with him.

Republicans vividly remember what happened after Nixon was forced to resign in disgrace on August 9, 1974: Democrats, riding a wave of reform fever, swept Republicans out of the House and Senate—and Jimmy Carter into the White House. 

If Republicans are conflicted about supporting Trump, their dilemma boils down to this:

  1. Can I hold onto my power—and all the privileges that go with it—by supporting Trump?  Or: 
  2. Can I hold onto my power—and privileges—by deserting him?

This is how Republicans define morality today.

FORGET MARY POPPINS: IN SAN FRANCISCO, BUMS ARE IN, BIRDS ARE OUT

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 3, 2019 at 12:04 am

If you visit San Francisco, forget what Julie Andrews told you in Mary Poppins: Don’t “Feed the Birds.”  

Getting caught doing so can net you a fine from $25 to $1,000.

City officials launched the campaign in 2004, fining people who fed pigeons in the Tenderloin area.

Within a month, they extended the crackdown to Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown and the cable car turnaround in downtown.

Feeding birds “damages property, and it’s not good for the bird population,” said Christine Falvey, a spokeswoman for the Public Works Department at the time of the ban.

“We have a whole education campaign letting people know it’s against the law,” said Falvey.

This includes posters erected by the Department of Public Works, which read:

“Please do not feed the pigeons. There are dozens of reasons why, but mainly: Feeding pigeons harms our neighborhoods and also harms the birds.

“Large population of pigeons is a health hazard. Our huge feral pigeon population is a health hazard and creates many problems in the city.

“Pigeon droppings dirty public spaces, do costly damage to buildings, and can spread life-threatening diseases, especially to the elderly and immune-deficient. Their nesting materials block drains and harbor parasites like bird mites. Pigeon food makes a mess and attracts rats.

“Feeding pigeons promotes over-breeding. Pigeon feeding produces over-breeding.

“Pigeons normally breed two or three times a year, producing two eggs per brood. Overfed city pigeons can breed up to eight times a year.

“Pigeons are harmed when fed. When you feed pigeons, you are not doing them a favor. They lose their natural ability to scavenge and survive on their own.

“Pigeon over population leads to overcrowded, unsanitary conditions and produces sick and injured birds. A smaller flock is healthier and does less damage.

“It is illegal. It’s against the law to feed pigeons on the streets or sidewalks of San Francisco (Sec. 486. M.P.C). Violators may be cited and fined.

“You can help keep your neighborhood safe and clean and the pigeon population under control by not feeding pigeons. Keep edible garbage away from pigeons by discarding it in a securely covered garbage can.

“And don’t feed pets outside. You may report pigeon feeders to the San Francisco Police Department at 415-553-0123, or by calling 3-1-1. 

“Please join in on the efforts to keep San Francisco clean and beautiful by NOT feeding the pigeons.”

* * * * *

At the same time that city officials are telling residents, “Please don’t feed the pigeons,” they aren’t telling them, “Please don’t feed the bums.”

Because of its mild climate and social programs that give cash payments to just-arrived vagrants, San Francisco is often considered the homelessness capital of the United States.

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown (1996–2004) actually proposed that the city create electronic cards for transients that residents could swipe with their credit cards, thus transferring money from their accounts to that of the recipient.

Brown dropped the idea when faced with the brutal truth that not many citizens—especially women—would be willing to whip out their credit card when confronted by a smelly, unshaved and possibly psychotic transient.

San Francisco spends spends more than $40,000 per homeless person each year.  In 2018, the city spent $305 million on what are now euphemistically called “the homeless.” That’s because city officials don’t want to use words that accurately describe who makes up the overwhelming majority of this population: 

  • Druggies
  • Drunks
  • Mental cases
  • Bums

Eight city departments oversee at least 400 contracts to 76 private organizations, most of them nonprofits, that are charged with eliminating this pestilence.

Estimates of this population range from 7,000 to 10,000 people, of which approximately 3,000 to 5,000 refuse shelter.

A similar public crackdown on “bum-feeders” could go like this:

“Please do not feed the bums. There are dozens of reasons why, but mainly: Feeding bums harms our neighborhoods and also harms the bums.

“Our huge feral bum population is a health hazard and creates many problems in the city. Bum droppings dirty public spaces, do costly damage to buildings, and can spread life-threatening diseases, especially to the elderly and immune-deficient.

“Their stolen shopping carts and filthy possessions block sidewalks and harbor parasites like bedbugs and lice. Bum food makes a mess and attracts rats.

“Feeding bums promotes overbreeding.  Bums normally travel alone, foraging for drugs and/or alcohol. Pampered city bums flock to liquor stores and drug dens where they can indulge their vices, thus taxing city medical services to the limit.

“When you feed bums, you are not doing them a favor. They lose their natural ability to find work and support themselves and their families.

“Bum over population leads to overcrowded, unsanitary conditions and produces sick and injured bums. A smaller horde is healthier and does less damage.

“It’s against the law to feed bums on the streets or sidewalks of San Francisco. Violators may be cited and fined.

“You can help keep your neighborhood safe and clean and the bum population under control by not feeding bums.

“Keep edible garbage away from bums by discarding it in a securely covered garbage can. And don’t feed bums outside.

“It is Illegal.  You may report bum feeders to the San Francisco Police Department at 415-553-0123, or by calling 3-1-1.

“Please join in on the efforts to keep San Francisco clean and beautiful by NOT feeding the bums.”

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