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Posts Tagged ‘BORIS YELTSIN’

DICTATORS: A MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 20, 2023 at 12:17 am

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have rightly gotten a lot of publicity—for how much they admire each other.

On the surface, this might seem surprising.  Putin spent most of his adult life as a fervent member of the Communist Party, which swore eternal warfare against capitalism.

After joining the KGB in 1975, he served as one of its officers for 16 years, eventually rising to the level of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1991, he retired to enter politics in his native St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad).

Vladimir Putin 17-11-2021 (cropped).jpg

Vladimir Putin

Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

This, in turn, brought him to the attention of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who groomed Putin as his successor. When Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned on December 31, 1999, Putin became Acting President.

In 2000, he was elected President in his own right, despite widespread accusations of vote-rigging. He won re-election in 2004, but could not run for a third term in 2008 because of constitutionally-mandated term limits.

So Putin ran his handpicked successor, Dimitry Medvedev, as president.  When Medvedev won, he appointed Putin as prime minister.

Of course, the man who actually called the shots in Russia was not Medvedev but Putin.

In 2012, Putin again ran for president and won.

Trump, on the other hand, is the personification of capitalistic excess. He has been an investor, real estate mogul, television personality as former host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” and alleged author.

The Trump Organization sponsored the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants.

Related image

Donald Trump

He is notorious for stamping “Trump” on everything he acquires, most notably Trump Tower, a 58-story skyscraper at 725 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

On June 16, 2015, he declared himself a candidate for the Presidency in the 2016 election. Since July, he was consistently the front-runner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

So it came as a surprise to many in the United States when, on December 17, 2015, Putin described Trump as “a bright and talented person without any doubt,” and “an outstanding and talented personality.”

He summed up Trump as “the absolute leader of the presidential race.”

Trump, in turn, was quick to respond: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

Two months earlier, in October, Trump had said of Putin: “I think that I would probably get along with him very well.”

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”

The conservative host, Joe Scarborough, took exception to Trump’s praise for Putin: “Well, I mean, he’s also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.”

SCARBOROUGH: “But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.”

TRUMP: “Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe. You know. there’s a lot of stuff going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on and a lot of stupidity…”

Absolute dictators like Vladimir Putin and would-be dictators like Donald Trump often gravitate toward each other.  At least temporarily.

Adolf Hitler

On January 30, 1933, anti-Communist Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany. For the next six years, the Nazi press hurled insults at its arch-enemy, the Soviet Union.

And the Soviet press hurled insults at Nazi Germany. 

Then, on August 23, 1939, Hitler’s foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, signed the Treaty of Non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R).

Signing for the Soviet Union was its own foreign minister, Vyachelsav Molotov.

The reason: Hitler planned to invade Poland on September 1. He needed to neutralize the military might of the U.S.S.R.  And only Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin could do that.

Democratic nations like France, Great Britain and the United States were stunned.

But there had long been a grudging respect between the two brutal dictators.

On June 30, 1934, Hitler had ordered a bloody purge throughout Germany. Privately, Stalin offered praise: “Hitler, what a great man! This is the way to deal with your political opponents.”

Joseph Stalin

Hitler was—privately—equally admiring of the series of purges Stalin inflicted on the Soviet Union. Even after he broke the non-aggression pact by invading the U.S.S.R. on June 22, 1941, he said:

“After the victory over Russia, it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country—with German oversight, of course.  He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”

In April, 1945, as he waited for victorious Russian armies to reach his underground bunker, Hitler confided to Joseph Goebbels, his propaganda minister, his major regret:

He should have brutally purged the officer corps of the Wehrmacht, as Stalin had that of the Red Army. Stalin’s purges had cleaned “deadwood” from the Russian ranks, and a purge of the German army would have done the same.

For Adolf Hitler, the lesson was clear: “Afterward, you rue the fact that you’ve been so kind.”

It’s the sort of sentiment that dictators like Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump can appreciate.

A HEROINE FOR RUSSIA–AND OUR TIMES: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 8, 2022 at 12:11 am

In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, conscience comes with a price. It can range anywhere from house arrest to years of imprisonment in the Gulag—to being shot or poisoned by the FSB, the secret police successor to the infamous KGB.

It has always been so.

Mikhail  Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky was a major Soviet military leader and theoretician from 1918 to 1937. 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.

But he fell victim to the paranoia of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

Tukhachevsky.png

Mikhail  Nikolayevich 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 June 11, 1937, the Soviet Supreme Court quickly sentenced Tukhachevsky for treason. Hours later, he was executed.

Among his friends had been Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev. a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers. Knowing that he was a marked man, Zhilayev did something truly extraordinary.

He had a large portrait 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. If discovered, it meant instant arrest—and almost certain execution.

When the secret police came for him, even they were awed: ”“What, it’s still up?”

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

As, in fact, has happened. 

Standing before a Russian judge, accused of vandalism for participating in a demonstration against Putin’s suppression of human rights, 19-year-old Olga Misik dared to speak truths most Russians fear to even whisper. 

I Was Never Afraid': In The Face Of Criminal Charges, Russian Teen Protester Stands Defiant

Olga Misik

From her statement to the court on May 11, 2021:

The prosecution is putting all its efforts into proving that I am implicated in the incident. I’m not going to spend much time showing that they can’t even do that professionally: They are using falsified fingerprint analysis, and, as you saw when you were examining the evidence, there was no trace of paint on my clothes….

But what does that matter when no law was broken? What difference does it make whether I was there or not when no crime was committed?….There is a crime, and it was committed by the police and the prosecutors. And I very much hope, Comrade Judge, that you will not become an accomplice to this crime. 

This is precisely why I demand a complete and unconditional acquittal. I am not accepting any half measures, like settling for a fine. I am sure of my innocence and am prepared to uncompromisingly defend it to the end….

The past nine months have been very difficult, you know, and I wouldn’t like to repeat them. I kept thinking to myself, What could have happened if, and, Everything could have gone differently. But I was lying to myself, because nothing could have gone differently.

From the moment I picked up the constitution, my fate was set in stone, and I accepted it with pride. I made the right choice, and making the right choice in a totalitarian state will always have horrifying consequences. I always knew I’d end up behind bars—it was only a matter of when.

My lawyer brought up Sophie Scholl [a German student and anti-Nazi political activist] today. Her story is shockingly similar to mine. She was put on trial for flyers and graffiti; I’m being tried for posters and paint.

Like she was, I am essentially on trial for thought crimes. My trial is very similar to Sophie’s, and today’s Russia really resembles Nazi Germany.

Right up to the guillotine, Sophie did not stray from her beliefs. Her story inspired me not to agree to charges being dropped. Sophie Scholl is the embodiment of youth, individuality, and freedom. I would like to believe that to be another thing that makes us similar.

The Nazi regime eventually crumbled, as will the fascist regime in Russia. I don’t know when it will happen, be it a week, a year, or decade, but I know that someday we will be victorious, because love and youth always prevail….

Sophie Scholl’s last words before her execution were, “The sun still shines.” Indeed, the sun still shines. I couldn’t see it out the window of the detention center, but I always knew it was there. And if now, in such dark times, we can turn to the light, then maybe victory isn’t so far after all. 

In his 1960 poem, “Conversation With an American Writer,” the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko spoke for those Russians who had maintained 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.

Demonstrating his own moral courage, on August 22, 1968—the day after the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia—Yevtushenko sent a telegram protesting the invasion to Communist Party Boss Leonid Brezhnev and Premier Aleksei Kosygin:  

In Russia—under Czars or Commissars—acting on moral courage is no small thing.

A revered poet demonstrated it in 1968. And a teenage girl demonstrated it in 2021.

A HEROINE FOR RUSSIA–AND OUR TIMES: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 7, 2022 at 12:11 am

For 300 years, Russians feared the wrath of their czars, who ruthlessly decreed what their subjects could read, write and say.

Protests were brutally punished, even by so-called “enlightened” Czars. Catherine the Great had Cossack rebel Yemelyan Ivanovich Pugachev beheaded, then drawn and quartered.

Catherine II by J.B.Lampi (1780s, Kunsthistorisches Museum).jpg

Catherine the Great

Czarist rule ended in 1917, when the installation of a democratic Provisional Government. But just nine months later, the Bolsheviks seized power—and starvation, mass executions, forced exiles and repression of religion, speech and press followed until Communism collapsed in 1991.

Then came the wholesale corruption and ineptness of Boris Yeltsin’s brief reign. When Yeltsin picked Vladimir Putin, a former member of the KGB, as his successor, many Russians welcomed his arrival. 

Unlike the fat, alcoholic Yeltsin, he appeared to be a man’s man who plunged into icy rivers, slammed opponents to the floor in judo matches, and—shirtless—hunted tigers and bears. 

He promised that so long as ordinary Russians stayed out of politics, they would enjoy a level of personal independence totally absent during the 74-year Communist regime. 

But, gradually, that promise was revealed as a lie.

At no time has that been more true than following his brutal invasion of Ukraine on February 24. Most Russians can’t imagine waging war against a “brotherly nation.”

Russia 'threatening Ukraine With Destruction', Kyiv Says | Conflict News - Newzpick

Ukraine vs. Russia

Putin’s government unleashed a massive propaganda campaign to convince Russians that Russia was battling Fascists and taking no casualties. And many have believed it.

(Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president, is Jewish, and Western intelligence agencies estimate that 7,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers have died.)

Nevertheless, thousands flocked to streets and squares throughout Russia despite government threats of prosecution for high treason.  

More than 6,500 demonstrators were arrested over a five-day period. Several Russian and Ukrainian news outlets were blocked for covering the invasion. 

One of those who has repeatedly demonstrated against Putini’s repressive regime is Olga Misik, a former journalism student at the University of Moscow.

Brut - Olga Misik is the New Symbol of the Russian Resistance | Facebook| By Brut

Olga Misik

Accused of vandalism, standing before a judge who could sentence her to literally any punishment he wished, 19-year-old Olga Misik dared to speak forbidden truths about life in Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

On May 11, 2021, she did so again in a Moscow district court.

Below follows relevant portions of her statement to the court:

And maybe I was scared on the way to the protest after all, but I knew I had no other choice. I understood that anything else would be wrong. That if I stayed silent this time, I would never be able to forgive myself….

Of course I was at that protest. I don’t regret it and more so am proud of my actions. In reality, I had no choice. I had to do everything in my power, thus I have no right to regret it. And if I had the option to go back in time, I would do it again.

If I was being threatened with execution, I would do it again. I would do it time and time again, until it finally started to make some change. They say that doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

I guess hope is insanity. But not doing something you believe in, just because everyone around you thinks it’s pointless, that is learned hopelessness. And better to be insane in your eyes than hopeless in my own….

Denying my participation in the protest would not only be unprincipled, it would erase all of the fear and agony, all we have achieved, all of my pain and rage. I can’t afford such dishonor with which our interrogator and prosecutor live their days….

A fascist government never seems fascist from the inside. It seems like just some minuscule, inconsequential censorship and some targeted repression that will never reach you. I’m not the one on trial today. Today, you are deciding not my fate but yours, and you still have a chance to do the right thing.

You can’t keep lying to yourselves. You know what goes on here. You know what it’s called. You know that there is good and evil, freedom and fascism, love and hatred, and denying that there are sides to take would be a colossal lie.

Those who chose evil have preordered their tickets to the defense table. The Hague awaits all who had a hand in this chaos. I am not promising victory tomorrow, the day after, in a year, or 10. But someday we will win, because love and youth always win. I can’t promise to make it there alive, but I really hope you live to see it.

You’re lying to yourselves if you maintain that I am here because of the protest at the office of the prosecutor general….You know why I’m here….You know what I’m actually being tried for.

For reading the constitution. For my political positions. For being named person of the year. For my principles. For my actions.

I might even be flattered by being singled out for a political trial, if only I really were singled out—when in fact the state is repressing anyone who has an opinion. 

A HEROINE FOR RUSSIA–AND OUR TIMES: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 6, 2022 at 12:10 am

“I just read her final speech. And you know what? I felt ashamed,” Andrei Chvanov, from Tatarstan, wrote on Facebook.

He was referring to Olga MisIk, a 17-year-old activist in the Russia of President Vladimir Putin.

“Because my threshold of fear is much lower….She holds strong, jokes, writes, and is 100 percent sure that she is right. And she is right. She sees the truth. And she is not afraid. Not many people in our country have such a gift.”

On July 27, 2019, Olga was among thousands of people attending an unauthorized protest in Moscow against the bar on opposition activists competing for seats in the Duma (parliament) election against Putin’s lackeys.

Heavily-armed riot police—wielding shields, batons and helmets—stood behind her. As if oblivious to their presence, Olga sat cross-legged in the middle of the street.

She pulled out her copy of Russia’s 1993 constitution and began reading from it.

Dr. Jennifer Cassidy 🇺🇦 on Twitter: "How did I miss this incredible image. One to be enshrined in history forever. Olga Misik (aged 17) heroically sat in front of Russia's riot police.

Olga Misik

“I read four sections,” she said in a later interview “An article talking about the right to peacefully protest, an article saying that everyone can take part in elections, has the right to freedom of speech and that the people’s will and power are the most important thing for the country.”

Olga left the scene after the reading, but was later arrested on her way to a metro station. She was among more than 1,000 protesters arrested as a result of the rally. She had been detained four times in the past three months. She says she was peacefully protesting each time.

Misik was released after the protest in 2019, but she later found herself facing charges related to a protest in 2020.

According to the Moscow Times, Olga and two friends were accused of vandalism after police said they hung a banner supporting Putin arch-foe Alexi Navalny and other political prisoners on a government building.

In addition, said the indictment, they “splashed red paint on a security booth outside the Prosecutor General’s Office building in August 2020.”

Russian Embassy in Ghana on Twitter: "President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin sent a congratulatory message on the occasion of the 65th Anniversary of the Independence Day of the Republic of

Vladimir Putin

Misik wrote on social media that she was dragged out of her home by police after the 2020 protest.

Olga was sentenced on May 11, 2021, for vandalism. She received two years and two months of “restricted liberty,” which amounted to home confinement, including a curfew that required her to be inside her house from 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Her two friends received similar sentences.

Prior to her sentencing, Misik read a prepared statement to the court. At a time when millions of Right-wing Americans lust to replace democracy with the dictatorship of Donald Trump, this statement speaks volumes to Americans who would oppose this.

Here are its most moving passages: 

People often asked, “Aren’t I scared?” More commonly outside the country than in Russia, because they don’t get the reality of life in Russia. They don’t understand the knock on the door in the middle of the night, the arrests and imprisonment without reason or cause.

They don’t realize that the feeling of despair is passed on to us through our mothers’ milk. And that that feeling of despair causes any semblance of fear to atrophy, infecting us with learned hopelessness. What use is fear if you have no say in your future?

I have never been afraid. I have felt despair, hopelessness, helplessness, disorientation, anxiety, frustration, burnout, but neither politics nor activism ever struck fear in me.

I wasn’t scared when armed thugs stormed my home in the night, threatening me with prison. They wanted to scare me, but I wasn’t afraid. I made jokes and laughed, knowing that the moment I stopped smiling, I would have lost.

I wasn’t scared when they put me in the detention center….My own fate was the last thing on my mind. It is very strange, maybe some sort of coping mechanism, but in those days I wasn’t afraid once….

I was worried and stressed about how things would play out, but unafraid. The night was beautiful. I was aware that it could be my last one in freedom, and yet that did not scare me.

However, after the search, for the past nine months, I have been scared constantly. Ever since the night in the detention center, I haven’t been able to get a good night’s sleep once.

Every night I wake from the smallest of sounds. I keep imagining footsteps in the hallway. Panic washes over me from the sound of the gravel crunching under the wheels of cars outside my window.

I feel like all of the fear accumulated over the past nine months is most concentrated in this exact moment, in my final statement, because public speaking scares me more than the sentencing. My heart is racing at 151 beats per minute, and it feels as though it could explode any second now….

Someone said, “It’s impossible to be afraid if you know you’re right.” But Russia teaches us to always be afraid. A country that attempts to kill us every day, and if you’re not part of the system, you might as well be dead already.

TYRANTS: A MUTUAL-ADMIRATION SOCIETY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 9, 2018 at 12:10 am

“And I have to say, I don’t understand Donald [Trump’s] bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America.”  

The speaker was Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, addressing an audience in San Diego, California, on June 2, 2016.

“He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit’ for taking over North Korea—something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie.

“And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A. Now, I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants,” said Clinton.

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Hillary Clinton

To many people, it’s the ultimate odd-couple: The lifelong Communist and former KGB officer (Putin) walking arm-in-arm with the billionaire, publicity-hungry capitalist.

First Putin:

“He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race.”

Now Trump:

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

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Donald Trump

Actually, it’s not uncommon for dictators to admire one another—as the case of Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler nicely illustrates.

After Hitler launched a blood-purge of his own private Stormtroopers army on June 30, 1934, Stalin exclaimed: “Hitler, what a great man! That is the way to deal with your political opponents!” 

And Hitler was equally admiring of Stalin’s notorious ruthlessness: “After the victory over Russia,” he told his intimates, “it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country, with German oversight, of course. He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”  

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant,’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”

The host, Joe Scarborough, was upset by Trump’s praise for Putin: “Well, I mean, [he’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

When Trump praised Putin as a leader—“unlike what we have in this country”—he undoubtedly meant then-President Barack Obama.

Ironically, it was Obama—not Trump—who was repeatedly named in Gallup polls as the most admired man in America in each of the last seven years, from 2008, the year he was elected president, to 2016, his last year in office.

Although Trump didn’t mention former President George W. Bush, it was he, not Obama, who was taken in by Putin.

In June 2001, Bush and Putin met in Slovenia. During the meeting this exchange occurred.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush

Putin, a former KGB Intelligence officer, had clearly done his homework on Bush. When he mentioned that one of the sports Bush had played was rugby, Bush was highly impressed.

“I did play rugby,” said Bush. “Very good briefing.”

Bush knew that Putin had worked for Soviet intelligence. So he should not have been surprised that the KGB had amassed a lengthy dossier on him.

But more was to come.

BUSH: Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land.

PUTIN: It’s true.

BUSH: That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross. That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President. May I call you Vladimir?

Putin instantly sensed that Bush judged others—even world leaders—through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this point of commonality to build a bond. He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

“Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned,” said Bush. “Things are meant to be.”

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” a reporter asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

No Right-wingers—including Trump—criticized Bush then. Nor do they now recall such embarrassing words.

It’s politically profitable for Rightists to pretend that America’s tensions with Russia began with the election of Barack Obama.

And that those tensions have vanished now that another Rightist—and white—President occupies the White House.

CHESSMASTER PUTIN: CHECKMATING BUSH AND TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on February 23, 2017 at 3:39 pm

The love-fest between Donald and Vladimir Putin began on December 17, 2015.

Putin made the first move: “He is a bright and talented person without any doubt. He is the absolute leader of the presidential race.

“He says he will want to reach another, deeper, level of relations (with Russia). What else can we do but to welcome it? Certainly, we welcome it. 

“That is none of our business to evaluate his accomplishments, but he remains the absolute front-runner in the presidential race. He is an outstanding and talented personality without any doubts.”

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump responded in kind: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant,’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

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Donald Trump

The host, Joe Scarborough, was taken aback: “Well, I mean, [Putin’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

SCARBOROUGH: But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.

TRUMP: I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is.

SCARBOROUGH: I’m confused. So I mean, you obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?

TRUMP:  Oh sure, absolutely.

When Trump praised Putin as a leader–“unlike what we have in this country”–he no doubt meant President Barack Obama.

Ironically, it was not Obama but President George W. Bush to whom his insult applies.

In June 2001, Bush and Vladimir Putin met in Slovenia. During the meeting a truly startling exchange occurred.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush

Putin, a former KGB Intelligence officer, had clearly done his homework on Bush. When he mentioned that one of the sports Bush had played was rugby, Bush was highly impressed.

“I did play rugby,” said Bush. “Very good briefing.”

Bush knew that Putin had worked for Soviet intelligence. So he should not have been surprised that the KGB had amassed a lengthy dossier on him.

But more was to come.

BUSH: Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land.

PUTIN: It’s true.

BUSH: That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross. That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President. May I call you Vladimir?

Putin instantly sensed that Bush judged others–even world leaders–through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond. He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

“Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned,” said Bush, clearly impressed. “Things are meant to be.”

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Fournier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

Now Putin is putting his KGB skills to work with another President–Trump.

At Putin’s direction, an Intelligence dossier is being prepared on Trump. According to Andrei Fedorov, former Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, a team of retired diplomats and Putin staffers are compiling a seven-page profile of Trump’s psychological state.  

Trump is depicted as a naive risk-taker who acts like a “tough guy.”

The dossier will be given to Putin before their first meeting–for which no date has been set. 

Federov said that Trump doesn’t understand Putin and should listen more to his team, “especially in the areas where he is weak.” 

Trump’s constant battles with the American press worry the Kremlim: “He’s dancing on thin ice,” said Federov. “It’s a risky game.”  

Mikhail Kasyanov, who was once prime minister under Putin, said that Putin was worried that, unless Trump is careful, he will lose the political clout he needs to improve relations with Russia.

In particular, Putin wants American economic sanctions against Russia–imposed by President Barack Obama over Russian interference in the 2016 election–lifted.

American hostility toward Russia has been increased by three major revelations:

  • Russia’s hacks against the Democratic party to sway the election in favor of Trump;
  • Members of Trump’s Presidential campaign were in regular contact with senior Russian Intelligence officials; and 
  • Trump’s being forced to fire his National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, over his ties with Russia.

EVERY DICTATOR KNOWS HIS OWN

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 3, 2016 at 12:01 am

“And I have to say, I don’t understand Donald [Trump’s] bizarre fascination with dictators and strongmen who have no love for America.”  

The speaker was Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, addressing an audience in San Diego, California, on June 2.

“He praised China for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he said it showed strength.

“He said, ‘You’ve got to give Kim Jong Un credit’ for taking over North Korea–something he did by murdering everyone he saw as a threat, including his own uncle, which Donald described gleefully, like he was recapping an action movie.

“And he said if he were grading Vladimir Putin as a leader, he’d give him an A. Now, I’ll leave it to the psychiatrists to explain his affection for tyrants,” said Clinton.

Yes, Donald Trump admires Vladimir Putin. And Vladimir Putin admires Donald Trump.

To many people, it’s the ultimate odd-couple: The lifelong Communist and former KGB officer (Putin) walking arm-in-arm with the billionaire, publicity-hungry capitalist.

What could be going on here?

First Putin:

“He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it. It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race.

“He is saying that he wants to move to a different level of relations with Russia, to a closer, deeper one. How can we not welcome that?  Of course, we welcome that.”

Now Trump:

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

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Donald Trump

Appearing on the December 18, 2015 edition of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant,’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”

The host, Joe Scarborough, was upset by Trump’s praise for Putin: “Well, I mean, [he’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.

SCARBOROUGH: But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.

TRUMP: I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know. There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is.

SCARBOROUGH: I’m confused. So I mean, you obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?

TRUMP:  Oh sure, absolutely.

When Trump praised Putin as a leader–“unlike what we have in this country”–he no doubt meant President Barack Obama.

Ironically, it is Obama–not Trump–who has repeatedly been named in Gallup polls as the most admired man in America in each of the last seven years, beginning with 2008, the year he was elected president.

Although Trump didn’t mention former President George W. Bush, his insult applies–unintentionally but accurately–to Obama’s predecessor.

In June 2001, Bush and Vladimir Putin met in Slovenia. During the meeting a truly startling exchange occurred.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush

Putin, a former KGB Intelligence officer, had clearly done his homework on Bush. When he mentioned that one of the sports Bush had played was rugby, Bush was highly impressed.

“I did play rugby,” said Bush. “Very good briefing.”

Bush knew that Putin had worked for Soviet intelligence. So he should not have been surprised that the KGB had amassed a lengthy dossier on him.

But more was to come.

BUSH: Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land.

PUTIN: It’s true.

BUSH: That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross. That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President. May I call you Vladimir?

Putin instantly sensed that Bush judged others–even world leaders–through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond. He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

“Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned,” said Bush, clearly impressed. “Things are meant to be.”

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Fournier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.  I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

Of course, no one from the Right–including Trump–is now recalling such embarrassing words.

It’s far more politically profitable to pretend that all of America’s tensions with Russia began with the election of Barack Obama.

And that those tensions will vanish once another Rightist–and non-black–President enters the White House.

LEADERS AND THOSE WHO GET LED

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on December 22, 2015 at 12:06 am

Vladimir Putin admires Donald Trump. And Donald Trump admires Vladimir Putin.

To many people, it’s the ultimate odd-couple: The lifelong Communist and former KGB officer (Putin) walking arm-in-arm with the billionaire, publicity-hungry capitalist.

What could be going on here?

First Putin:

“He is a bright personality, a talented person, no doubt about it.  It is not up to us to appraise his positive sides, it is up to the U.S. voters. but, as we can see, he is an absolute leader in the presidential race.

“He is saying that he wants to move to a different level of relations with Russia, to a closer, deeper one. How can we not welcome that?  Of course, we welcome that.”

Now Trump:

“It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

Related image

Donald Trump

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant,’ it’s always good.  Especially when the person heads up Russia.”

The host, Joe Scarborough, was upset by Trump’s praise for Putin: “Well, I mean, [he’s] also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

TRUMP: He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader.  Unlike what we have in this country.

SCARBOROUGH:  But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.

TRUMP:  I think our country does plenty of killing, also, Joe, so, you know.  There’s a lot of stupidity going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on. A lot of stupidity. And that’s the way it is.

SCARBOROUGH: I’m confused.  So I mean, you obviously condemn Vladimir Putin killing journalists and political opponents, right?

TRUMP: “Oh sure, absolutely.

When Trump praised Putin as a leader–“unlike what we have in this country”–he no doubt meant President Barack Obama.

Ironically, it is Obama–not Trump–who has repeatedly been named in Gallup polls as the most admired man in America in each of the last seven years, beginning with 2008, the year he was elected president.

Although Trump didn’t mention former President George W. Bush, his insult applies–unintentionally but accurately–to Obama’s predecessor.

In June 2001, Bush and Vladimir Putin met in Slovenia. During the meeting a truly startling exchange occurred.

Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush

Putin, a former KGB Intelligence officer, had clearly done his homework on Bush.  When he mentioned that one of the sports Bush had played was rugby, Bush was highly impressed.

“I did play rugby,” said Bush.  “Very good briefing.”

Bush knew that Putin had worked for Soviet intelligence.  So he should not have been surprised that the KGB had amassed a lengthy dossier on him.

But more was to come.

BUSH:  Let me say something about what caught my attention, Mr. President, was that your mother gave you a cross which you had blessed in Israel, the Holy Land.

PUTIN:  It’s true.

BUSH:  That amazes me, that here you were a Communist, KGB operative, and yet you were willing to wear a cross.  That speaks volumes to me, Mr. President.  May I call you Vladimir?

Putin instantly sensed that Bush judged others–even world leaders–through the lens of his own fundamentalist Christian theology.

Falling back on his KGB training, Putin seized on this apparent point of commonality to build a bond.  He told Bush that his dacha had once burned to the ground, and the only item that had been saved was that cross.

“Well, that’s the story of the cross as far as I’m concerned,” said Bush, clearly impressed.  “Things are meant to be.”

Afterward, Bush and Putin gave an outdoor news conference.

“Is this a man that Americans can trust?” Associated Press correspondent Ron Fournier asked Bush.

“Yes,” said Bush. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue.

“I was able to get a sense of his soul, a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.  I wouldn’t have invited him to my ranch if I didn’t trust him.”

Of course, no one from the Right–including Trump–is now recalling such embarrasing words.

It’s far more politically profitable to pretend that all of America’s tensions with Russia began with the election of Barack Obama.

And that those tensions will vanish once another Rightist–and non-black–President enters the White House.

DICTATORS AND THEIR ADMIRERS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 21, 2015 at 12:21 am

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have been getting a lot of publicity lately–for how much they admire each other.

On the surface, this might seem surprising.  Putin spent most of his adult life as a fervent member of the Communist Party, which swore eternal warfare against capitalism.

After joining the KGB in 1975, he served as one of its officers for 16 years, eventually rising to the level of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1991, he retired to enter politics in his native St. Petersburg (formerly Leningrad).

Vladimir Putin

This, in turn, brought him to the attention of Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who groomed Putin as his successor.  When Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned on December 31, 1999, Putin became Acting President.

In 2000, he was elected President in his own right, despite widespread accusations of vote-rigging.  He won re-election in 2004, but could not run for a third term in 2008 because of constitutionally-mandated term limits.

So Putin ran his handpicked successor, Dimitry Medvedev, as president.  When Medvedev won, he appointed Putin as prime minister.  In 2012, Putin again ran for president and won.

Trump, on the other hand, is the personification of capitalistic excess.  He has been an author, investor, real estate mogul and television personality as former host of NBC’s “The Apprentice.”

The Trump Organization sponsors the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants.

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Donald Trump

He is notorious for stamping “Trump” on everything he acquires, most notably Trump Tower, a 58-story skyscraper at 725 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

On June 16, he declared himself a candidate for the Presidency in the 2016 election. Since July, he has consistently been the front-runner in public opinion polls for the Republican Party nomination.

So it came as a surprise to many in the United States when, on December 17, Putin described Trump as “a bright and talented person without any doubt,” adding that Trump is “an outstanding and talented personality.”

And he called Trump “the absolute leader of the presidential race.”

Trump, in turn, was quick to respond: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond.”

Two months earlier, in October, Trump had said of Putin: “I think that I would probably get along with him very well.”

Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Trump said: “Sure, when people call you ‘brilliant’ it’s always good. Especially when the person heads up Russia.”

The host, Joe Scarborough, was upset by Trump’s praise for Putin: “Well, I mean, it’s also a person who kills journalists, political opponents, and invades countries. Obviously that would be a concern, would it not?”

Trump: “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader. Unlike what we have in this country.”

Scarborough: “But again: He kills journalists that don’t agree with him.”

Trump: “Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe. You know. there’s a lot of stuff going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on and a lot of stupidity…”

Absolute dictators like Vladimir Putin and would-be dictators like Donald Trump often gravitate toward each other.  At least temporarily.

On January 30, 1933, anti-Communist Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany.  For the next six years, the Nazi press hurled insults at the Soviet Union.

Adolf Hitler

And the Soviet press hurled insults at Nazi Germany.

Then, on August 23, 1939, Hitler’s foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop, signed the Treaty of Non-aggression between Nazi Germany and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R). Signing for the Soviet Union was its own foreign minister, Vyachelsav Molotov.

The reason: Hitler planned to invade Poland on September 1. He needed to neutralize the military might of the U.S.S.R.  And only Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin could do that.

Democratic nations like France, Great Britain and the United States were stunned.  But there had long been a grudging respect between the two brutal dictators.

On June 30, 1934, Hitler had ordered a bloody purge throughout Germany.  Privately, Stalin offered praise: “Hitler, what a great man! This is the way to deal with your political opponents.”

Joseph Stalin

Hitler was–privately–equally admiring of the series of purges Stalin inflicted on the Soviet Union.  Even after he broke the non-aggression pact by invading the U.S.S.R. on June 22, 1941, he said:

“After the victory over Russia, it would be a good idea to get Stalin to run the country, with German oversight, of course.  He knows better than anyone how to handle the Russians.”

In April, 1945, as he waited for victorious Russian armies to reach his underground bunker, Hitler confided to Joseph Goebbels, his propaganda minister, his major regret:

He should have brutally purged the officer corps of the Wehrmacht, as Stalin had that of the Red Army. Stalin’s purges had cleaned “deadwood” from the Russian ranks, and a purge of the German army would have done the same.

For Adolf Hitler, the lesson was clear: “Afterward, you rue the fact that you’ve been so kind.”

It’s the sort of sentiment that both Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump can appreciate.

DA PLANE! DA PLANE!

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on March 20, 2014 at 12:35 am

On March 8,  2014, Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport for Beijing Capital International Airport.

Less than an hour after taking off, the boeing 777-200ER last made contact with an air traffic control tower–and then vanished.

With it vanished 227 passengers–the majority of them Chinese–and a crew of 12.

By March 18, 26 nations were participating in the search.

Not since the 1937 disappearance of aviatrix Amelia Earhart has the disappearance of a single plane triggered such an international frenzy.

And that frenzy extends to the media coverage given it–especially on CNN.

Since its disappearance on March 8, Flight 370 has been the preeminent story on CNN.

With no telltale wreckage or even an oil slick to indicate the plane’s fate, CNN has been forced to make do with maps and “talking heads” speculation.

And to keep audiences attuned while there is no actual news to report, CNN has been forced to rely on a steady stream of “BREAKING NEWS” headlines.

And then what follows is more “talking heads” offering more speculation.

On March 16, CNN anchor Don Lemon and Brad Meltzer, host of Brad Meltzer Decoded, raised the possibility of “the supernatural” as responsible for the disappearance.

Lemon used a toy plane to demonstrate a series of turns and dives before simulating a landing on his anchor desk.

Image result for Images of Don Lemon playing with toy airplane

 Don Lemon with his toy plane

“We go to church, the supernatural power of God,” said Lemon.  “People are saying to me, ‘Why aren’t you talking about the possibility?’

“And I’m just putting it out there–that something odd happened to this plane, something beyond our understanding.”

And Meltzer responded: “People roll their eyes at conspiracy theories, but what conspiracy theories do is they ask the hardest, most outrageous questions sometimes, but every once in a while they’re right.

“You can say, ‘Oh, it crashed into the ocean.  But where are the parts? Where are the pieces? Why did it keep going for seven hours?”

This, in turn, has had both a positive and a negative effect.

On the positive side: CNN–which has found itself struggling in the ratings war against Fox News and MSNBC–has seen its ratings surge.

Over the weekend of March 15-16, CNN’s ratings soared, rising by almost 100% in prime time.

On the negative side: CNN’s “All-Vanished-Plane/All-the-Time” coverage has annoyed and angered many other viewers–including some prominent ones.

One of these is Bill O’Reilly, host of Fox News program The OReilly Factor.

“When I’m watching this, I’m like throwing–I’m upset about it,” he said on March 18.   “I know it’s ratings obviously or people wanna watch the mystery, but it’s now corrupting the news business I think.”

Charles Krauthammer, the conservative columnist, replied: What bothered him was that networks were treating the tragedy as “a game, when actually it was a terrible, terrible event.”

“There comes a point where it becomes a burlesque show, it becomes a farce and we’ve reached that point on this coverage,” O’Reilly said.

“When does Godzilla come in? And on another network they actually said aliens might’ve taken it. They actually said that on the air!”

As a result, there are three journalistic truths that CNN can–and should–take to heart:

  1. Breaking News!” means “news that is happening right now.” It does not mean “news that happened last week but we just found out about it today.”  Nor does it mean speculation about events that still remain a mystery.
  2. It is possible to broadcast more than one news story in a 24-hour period. The disappearance of the Malaysian plane does raise troubling questions about aviation safety. But there are other events going on in the world. And some of them are–surprise!–even more important.
  3. When you don’t have any actual news to report on a particular story, just say so and move on to another story where you do have news. Putting a half-dozen “talking heads” around a table to endlessly speculate about what might have happened isn’t the same as actually reporting the news.

There’s nothing wrong with a network’s sticking with a story as long as (1) it’s truly important, and (2) it’s actually ongoing.

The classic example of this: When, in August, 1991, the KGB and other Right-wingers overthrew Mikhail Gorbachev, General Secretary of the Soviet Union.

Closely following this story–for reporters and viewers–made sense: The Soviet Union commanded enough nuclear weaponry to destroy the United States.

Image result for Boris yeltsin standing on a tank during anti-Gorbachev coup

Boris Yeltsin, President of the Russian Federation, denounces the KGB coup

So it truly mattered whether Gorbachev–a moderate reformer–remained in power or was replaced by a KGB-sponsored coup.

Fortunately–for Gorbachev and the West–he was returned to power and Communism collapsed.

Watching on TV as Russians throw off the yoke of 70 years of Red slavery was like watching the fall of the Roman Empire.

This was a truly monumental and historical event.   And those who lived through it as spectators could be grateful to CNN and other networks for their ongoing coverage.

But the disappearance of a single Malaysian plane doesn’t fit into these categories.  Even if it proves monumentally good for CNN’s ratings.

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