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JFK: ONE HUNDRED YEARS LATER: PART ONE (OF TEN)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 4, 2022 at 11:55 am

This October 16 – 28 will mark 60 years since the world hovered on the brink of nuclear oblivion.

It was the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. And it was the supreme test of John F. Kennedy’s leadership as the 35th President of the United States.

He served as President for only two years, ten months and two days.

Yet today—-61 years since he took office, and 59 years since his assassination—millions of Americans still remember Kennedy with reverence, even awe. This despite decades of highly embarrassing revelations about his scandalous private life.

Some have called the Kennedy administration a golden era in American history. A time when touch football, lively White House parties, stimulus to the arts and the antics of the President’s children became national obsessions.

John F. Kennedy

Others have called the Kennedy Presidency a monument to the unchecked power of wealth and ambition. An administration staffed by young novices playing at statesmen, riddled with nepotism, and whose legacy includes the Bay of Pigs, the Vietnam war and the world’s first nuclear confrontation.

The opening days of the Kennedy Presidency raised hopes for a dramatic change in relations between the United States and the Soviet Union.

But detente was not possible then. The Russians had not yet experienced their coming agricultural problems and the setback in Cuba during the Missile Crisis. And the United States had not suffered defeat in Vietnam.

Kennedy’s first brush with international Communism came on April 17, 1961, with the invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. This operation had been planned and directed by the Central Intelligence Agency during the final months of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s term as President.

The U.S. Navy was to land about 1,400 Cuban exiles on the island to overthrow the Communist government of Fidel Castro. They were supposed to head into the mountains—as Castro himself had done against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1956—and raise the cry of revolution.

The  invasion would occur after an American air strike had knocked out the Cuban air force. But the airstrike failed and Kennedy, under the pressure of world opinion, called off a second try.

Even so, the invasion went ahead. When the invaders surged onto the beaches, they found Castro’s army waiting for them. Many of the invaders were killed on the spot. Others were captured—to be ransomed by the United States in December, 1962, in return for medical supplies.

It was a major public relations setback for the newly-installed Kennedy administration, which had raised hopes for a change in American-Soviet relations.

Kennedy, trying to abort widespread criticism, publicly took the blame for the setback: “There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan….I’m the responsible officer of the Government.”

The Bay of Pigs convinced Kennedy that he had been misled by the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Out of this came his decision to rely heavily on the counsel of his brother, Robert, whom he had installed as Attorney General.

The failed Cuban invasion—unfortunately for Kennedy—convinced Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev that the President was weak.

Khrushchev told an associate that he could understand if Kennedy had not decided to invade Cuba. But once he did, Kennedy should have pressed on and wiped out Castro.

Khrushchev attributed this to Kennedy’s youth, inexperience and timidity—and believed he could bully the President.

On June 4, 1961, Kennedy met with Khrushchev in Vienna to discuss world tensions. Khrushchev threatened to go to nuclear war over the American presence in West Berlin—the dividing line between Western Europe, protected by the United States, and Eastern Europe, controlled by the Soviet Union.

Kennedy, who prized rationality, was shaken by Khrushchev’s unexpected rage. After the conference, he told an associate: “It’s going to be a cold winter.”

Meanwhile, East Berliners felt they were about to be denied access to West Berlin. A flood of 3,000 refugees daily poured into West Germany.

Khrushchev was embarrassed at this clear showing of the unpopularity of the Communist regime. In August, he ordered that a concrete wall—backed up by barbed wire, searchlights and armed guards—be erected to seal off East Berlin.

As tensions mounted and a Soviet invasion of West Berlin seemed likely, Kennedy sent additional troops to the city in a massive demonstration of American will.

Two years later, on June 26, 1963, during a 10-day tour of Europe, Kennedy visited Berlin to deliver his “I am a Berliner” speech to a frenzied crowd of thousands.

JFK addresses crowds at the Berlin Wall

“There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world,” orated Kennedy. “Let them come to Berlin.”

Standing within gunshot of the Berlin wall, he lashed out at the Soviet Union and praised the citizens of West Berlin for being “on the front lines of freedom” for more than 20 years.

“All free men, wherever they may live,” said Kennedy, “are citizens of Berlin.  And therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, ‘Ich ben ein Berliner.’”

WILD BILL HICKOK VS. THE NRA: PART TWO (END)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 25, 2022 at 12:12 am

After being fired as town marshal of Abilene, Kansas, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok lived another five years. But they weren’t good ones.

Unlike William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Hickok couldn’t adjust to the changing West.

It was becoming less wild. His scouting days were over—the Indian wars were rapidly coming to an end.

(On June 25, 1876, barely two months before his own death, the Sioux and Cheyenne would wipe out the other famous “Long Hair” of the plains—George Armstrong Custer—at the battle of Little Bighorn.)

And most towns, like Abilene, increasingly had little use for lead-slinging lawmen like Hickok.

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

Worst of all, he was going blind—either from a venereal disease he had contracted or from the glare of too many prairie sunrises.

In 1873, Hickok tried his hand as an actor in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. But he was a terrible performer—and knew it.

The fault, however, did not lie entirely with him. Even Laurence Oliver would have rebelled at spouting lines like: “Fear not, fair maiden, for you are ever safe with Will Bill, who has sworn to defend to the death your maidenly virtue.”

Not that the audiences cared. They had come to see legendary plainsmen—such as Hickok and Cody—in the flesh, not great theater.

Hickok asked Cody to release him from his contract. Cody refused. So Hickok once again turned to his guns for a solution.

In this case, it meant shooting blanks into the legs and buttocks of “dead” Indians who suddenly sprang to life and rushed off the stage. And one night, Hickok put a real bullet through a stage light that was hurting his already sensitive eyes.

That, finally, convinced Cody that Hickok’s acting days were over.

In March, 1876, he married Agnes Lake Thatcher, a circus acrobat several years his senior.

In April, he told Agnes he was heading for the gold rush country of Deadwood, South Dakota. After he made his fortune, he would send for her.

But she never saw him again.

Deadwood was the sort of town the National Rifle Association wants to see replicated across modern-day America. Everyone wore a gun, and there was no town ordinance against doing so. Nor were there any law-enforcers like Hickok to protect the public from the kill-crazy antics of liquored-up gunmen.

Image result for Images of grave of Wild Bill Hickok

Grave of “Wild Bill” Hickok

Worse for Hickok, he had two strikes against him: His reputation as a matchless gunfighter had preceded him—and his failing vision put him at a disadvantage in backing it up.

Arriving in Deadwood, he quickly decided that the strenuous life of a gold-miner was not for him. Instead, he would seek his fortune as he often had—in saloons as a gambler.

And, as he had so often, he spent more of his time losing money than making it.

On August 2, 1876, his long trail of bad luck finally ran out.

He had always sat with his back to a wall, as a precaution against ambush. On this afternoon, he found his preferred seat taken by another gambler named Charles Rich. Hickok asked Rich to trade places with him, but when the latter refused, Hickok didn’t press the matter. 

Hickok paid no attention as a whiskey bum named Jack McCall walked around to the corner of the saloon to where the ex-lawman was playing.

Jack McCall

The previous night, Hickok had won considerable money from McCall in a poker game—and had generously given him back enough to buy something to eat.

Suddenly, McCall  pulled a double-action .45 from under his coat, shouted “Take that!” and shot Hickok in the back of the head.

Hickok died instantly.  He was 39.

As he slid from the table, he dropped the cards he had been holding—a pair of eights and another pair of Aces, which has ever since been known as “the dead man’s hand.”

McCall was “tried” by a mining court. He claimed that Hickok had murdered his brother and he had sought revenge. He was acquitted.

He headed for Wyoming, where he incessantly bragged that he had killed the famous “Wild Bill” Hickok.

McCall was arrested in Laramie and charged with murder. The trial in Deadwood was found to have been invalid—owing to the town’s being in Indian territory and outside the reach of United States law.

Once again forced to stand trial, McCall found himself convicted. On March 1, 1877, he was hanged. Later, it was discovered that McCall had never had a brother.

In its zeal to return to the “glory days” of the Wild West, the National Rifle Association deliberately overlooks an uncomfortable truth: It was men like Hickok who brought order and safety to countless towns—by forbidding the wearing of firearms.

If worn into town, they were to be surrendered at the marshal’s office—and returned when the visitors left. Those who resisted could leave town in a hearse.

WILD BILL HICKOK VS. THE NRA: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 24, 2022 at 12:10 am

Almost everyone has heard of “Wild Bill” Hickok—the legendary Western scout, Indian fighter, two-gun lawman and crack shot.

And the legend, not the man, is often invoked—inaccurately—by “gun rights” advocates who seek to reduce the entire Constitution to a single amendment: The Second Amendment.

But there is a vast difference between Hickok the legend—and Hickok the actual man.

For one thing, his real name wasn’t “Bill”—or even “William.” It was James Butler Hickok.

He supposedly got the name “Wild Bill” after thwarting an attempted lynching—and a woman applauded his bravery with: “Good for you, Wild Bill!”

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok

For another, Hickok didn’t spend most of his life as a town marshal. His gunslinging days as a lawman lasted just two years—1869 to 1871.

And they ended badly. His first stint as a lawman came at Hays City, Kansas. As sheriff, he shot and killed at least two men.

According to legend, one of these shootings occurred when Hickok, looking in a bar mirror, saw a ruffian named Strawhan pull a pistol to shoot him in the back.

The two-gun lawman

Hickok, looking into the mirror, threw a “trick shot” over his shoulder–and nailed Strawhan dead.

Then Hickok’s luck ran out. On July 17, 1870, several members of the 7th U.S. Cavalry attacked him in Drum’s Saloon. Knocked to the floor and repeatedly kicked, Hickok had reason to fear death.

Drawing his pistols, he killed one private and wounded another. Although he had acted in self-defense and the shootings were entirely justifiable, Hickok now faced even greater danger from other, enraged members of the same regiment.

He decided to leave Hays before they could take their revenge.

His next posting as town marshal came in Abilene, Kansas. This stint lasted from April to December, 1871.

And, like his last one as a “town-tamer,” it ended with a deadly shootout.

A major portion of his duties lay in enforcing the “no firearms worn or used in town” edict.

Abilene was a cattle town, the end of the line for many outfits seeking a major railhead where their hundreds of beeves could be dropped off and shipped eastward.

When cowboys—most of them in their teens or early 20s—reached Abilene, they wanted to celebrate. Their long drive was over, and now they could finally get paid. And there were plenty of bars and whores waiting to pick up their newly-issued monies.

This combination of randy men and ready supplies of alcohol and women often led to trouble. One cowboy might make a pass at another’s “lady” for the night. Or an argument might erupt over a card game.

It was Hickok’s duty to make sure that such arguments were settled only with fists. And that meant demanding that all cowboys’ guns be checked at the marshal’s office until the “boys” were ready to leave Abilene.

Hickok Colt Pistol on Display in Deadwood :: Guns.com

Hickok’s 1860 .44 caliber Colt Army revolver

This, of course, contradicts the “open carry” demands of the National Rifle Association. And most of its members—if transported to the Old West—would find themselves on the wrong side of Hickok.

And that wasn’t a good place to be—as Texas gambler Phil Coe learned to his dismay.

Coe and Hickok had clashed before.

As co-owner of the Bull’s head Saloon, Coe had advertised its wares with a sign depicting a bull with oversized sexual organs. A number of citizens raged that this was obscene and demanded that the animal’s sexuality be greatly reduced.

The city fathers agreed. Hickok stood nearby with a shotgun while a painter made the necessary deletions.

On October 5, 1971, cowboys were flooding into Abilene, looking for a good time. Coe, feeling in high spirits, decided to celebrate by firing his pistol into the air several times.

The shots quickly brought Hickok to the scene.

“Did you fire that shot?” Hickok demanded.

Coe supposedly replied: “I shot at a dog—and I’ll shoot at another.”

Coe threw a shot at Hickok—which missed.

Hickok whipped out his two revolvers and put two bullets into Coe’s stomach, mortally wounding the Texan, who died three days later.

With Coe’s Texas buddies surrounding him, Hickok suddenly heard someone rushing at him from behind. Hickok whirled and fired twice more—into the chest of his own deputy, Mike Williams, who had been running to his aid.

Hickok, aghast at his mistake, gently carried Williams into a saloon and placed his body onto a billiard table. Then he raged through Abilene, ordering an end to the festivities and knocking down any cowboys foolish enough to resist.

Owing to this latest explosion in violence, the city fathers quickly reached two decision: First, they put an end to Abilene’s years as a major cattle shipping point. From now on, cattlemen were no longer welcome there.

And then they fired Hickok as city marshal in December, 1871.

For James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, it was time to find a new career.

ANN COULTER: HATRED IS MY MOTIVE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 6, 2022 at 12:10 am

On November 6, 2012, Ann Coulter, the Right-wing activist and propagandist, was devastated by the re-election of President Barack Obama. 

“People are suffering. The country is in disarray,” she whined during an interview. “If Mitt Romney [the Republican Presidential nominee] cannot win in this economy, then the tipping point has been reached. We have more takers than makers and it’s over. There is no hope.

“Mitt Romney was the president we needed right now, and I think it is so sad that we are going to be deprived of his brain power, of his skills in turning companies around, turning the Olympics around, his idea and his kindness for being able to push very conservative ideas on a country that no longer is interested in conservative ideas. It is interested in handouts.”

Mitt Romney

Note the chief reason for her regret: Romney would have been “able to push very conservative ideas on a country that no longer is interested in conservative ideas.”

Unfortunately for Coulter, a majority of Americans rejected this mentality—and the repressive measures that would have accompanied it.

So, naturally, Coulter and her fellow Rightists felt dejected. 

One of these was Donald Trump, then a real estate mogul and host of the “reality show” The Apprentice.  

Donald Trump

When it became clear that Romney was not going to be America’s 45th President, Trump went ballistic on Twitter. Among his tweets:

  • More votes equals a loss…revolution!
  • Lets fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice!  The world is laughing at us.
  • We can’t let this happen.  We should march on Washington and stop this travesty.  Our nation is totally divided!
  • The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation.  The loser one!
  • He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election.  We should have a revolution in this country! 

To put Trump’s rants into real-world perspective:

  • According to Trump, the electoral process works when a Republican wins the Presidency.  It only doesn’t work when a Democrat wins.
  • “We should march on Washington” conjures up images of another Fascist–Benito Mussolini—marching on Rome at the head of his Blackshirts to seize power. Which, in a democracy, is treason
  • “The phoney electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation. The loser one!”

Ironically, the 2012 Republican Platform had fully embraced preserving the Electoral College: “We oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact or any other scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College.

“We recognize that an unconstitutional effort to impose ‘national popular vote’ would be a mortal threat to our federal system and a guarantee of corruption as every ballot box in every state would become a chance to steal the presidency.”

And the loser didn’t win: He lost.

Obama got 60,652,238 votes. Romney got 57,810,407. 

But by 2016, Coulter no longer felt dismayed. She felt rejuvenated—for she had found her perfect Presidential candidate: Donald Trump.

Appearing on the Right-wing radio program, “The Eric Metaxes Show,” she said: “It is like the fall of Rome but, thank God, and I am not using the Lord’s name in vain, I mean that absolutely literally, thank God for raising up Donald Trump and giving us a chance to save the country.

“What is the point of talking about abortion or anything else unless you get Donald Trump in to build the wall, deport illegals, end this ‘anchor baby’ nonsense, stop importing 100,000 Muslims a year, in addition to two million Third Worlders per year. It’s madness what this country has been doing.” 

Coulter not only spoke on Trump’s behalf—she sang his praises in a 2016 book: In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome!

Ann Coulter

According to its dust jacket: “[Ann Coulter] argues that a bull in the china shop is exactly what we need to make America great again.

“In this powerful book, Coulter explains why conservatives, moderates, and even disgruntled Democrats should set aside their doubts and embrace Trump:

“He’s putting America first in our trade deals and alliances, rather than pandering to our allies and enemies.

“He’s abandoned the GOP’s decades-long commitment to a bellicose foreign policy, at a time when the entire country is sick of unnecessary wars.” 

To Coulter’s delight, Trump defeated Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on November 9, 2016.

Although Clinton got almost 2.9 million more popular votes, he swamped her in the Electoral College—304 votes to Clinton’s 227. 

Suddenly, for Trump, the Electoral College wasn’t “phoney.”  

But by May, 2017, four months after Trump had taken office as President, Ann Coulter was ready to abandon him. Her chief complaint: He hadn’t built the wall along the United States-Mexican border he had promised to erect.

“We want the ruthless businessman we were promised,” she told the conservative website, The Daily Caller.

I guess we have to try to push him to keep his promises. But this isn’t North Korea, and if he doesn’t keep his promises I’m out.

“This is why we voted for him. I think everyone who voted for him knew his personality was grotesque, it was the issues.”

In short: She backed a monster to wreak destruction on those she hated.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 21, 2022 at 12:10 am

Next hero: 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).

In May 2019, on President Donald 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.

Marie L. Yovanovitch.jpg

Marie Yovanovitch

CNN reported that Yovanovitch stopped Giuliani from interviewing witnesses in his search for politically damaging information against former Vice President Joe Biden, whose son, Hunter, had had business dealings in Ukraine.

On October 11, 2019, 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.

“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, Giuliani, might have thought “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.”

Another victim on Trump’s hate-list was Chis Krebs.

During the 2016 Presidential race, Russian propaganda had played a major role in convincing millions of Americans to vote for Donald Trump. Social media platforms—especially Facebook and Twitter—were flooded with genuinely fake news to sow discord among Americans and create a pathway for Trump’s election.

And where Internet trolls left off, Russian computer hackers took over.

Trump didn’t win a majority of the popular vote. But he got enough help from Russian President Vladimir Putin to triumph in the Electoral College.

So notorious was the role played by Russian trolls and hackers in winning Trump the 2016 election that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was determined to prevent a repetition in 2020.

And point man for this was Chris Krebs.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1977, Krebs had received a B.A. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in 1999, and a J.D. from the George Mason University School of Law in 2007.

Chris Krebs official photo.jpg

Chris Krebs

Krebs had served as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection, and later worked in the private sector as Director for Cybersecurity Policy for Microsoft.

Now he was director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at DHS.

In preparation for the 2020 Presidential election, Krebs launched a massive effort to counter lies spread by Russians—and Americans—on social media platforms. Among his duties:

  • Sharing Intelligence from agencies such as the CIA and National Security Agency with local officials about foreign efforts at election interference.
  • Ensuring that domestic voting equipment was secure.
  • Attacking domestic misinformation head-on.

As a result, Krebs was widely praised for revamping the department’s cybersecurity efforts and increasing coordination with state and local governments. 

By all accounts—except Trump’s—the November 3, 2020 election went very smoothly. 

As a result of the vast increase in election security, Trump not only failed to win the popular vote again but couldn’t get the help he expected from Putin. 

On November 17, Trump fired Chris Krebs. 

The reason: Krebs had not only countered Russian propaganda lies—he had dared to counter Trump’s as well. For example: He rejected Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud: There “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

In a November 17 story on the CNN website, CNN reporters Kaitlan Collins and Paul LeBlanc bluntly concluded:

“[Krebs’] dismissal underscores the lengths Trump is willing to go to punish those who don’t adopt his conspiratorial view of the election.

“Since CNN and other outlets called the race for President-elect Joe Biden, Trump has refused to accept the results, instead pushing baseless conspiracies that his second term is being stolen.”

Yet, by depriving Trump of Russian help, Krebs ensured a victory for democracy.

On January 6, the House and Senate counted the Electoral Votes—and pronounced Joseph Biden the winner—bringing an end to Trump’s reign of criminality and treason.

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.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Republicans in the United States Senate and House of Representatives in the face of Trump terror.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 20, 2022 at 12:10 am

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

Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich (September 25, 1906 – August 9, 1975)

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.

Third hero—Brett Crozier, the former commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Graduating from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1992, he received his Master’s Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in 2007.

From 2017 to 2018 he commanded the USS Blue Ridge. In November, 2019, he was given command of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

On March 24, 2020, reports circulated that three members of the crew had tested positive for COVID-19. The next day the number of stricken sailors increased to eight. A few days later, it was “dozens.” The sailors reportedly became ill at sea, two weeks after a port call at Danang, Vietnam.

The initial cases were airlifted to a military hospital. The Roosevelt was ordered to Guam. After the ship docked on March 27, 2020, all 5,000 aboard were ordered to be tested for the virus. But only about 100 stricken sailors were allowed to leave the ship. The rest remained on board.

On March 30, Crozier emailed a four-page internal letter to multiple Naval officials, pleading to have the majority of the crew evacuated and quarantined on shore. Given the crowded sleeping quarters and narrow passageways of the vessel, Crozier wrote that it was impossible to follow social distancing and quarantine procedures: 

“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do. We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset—our Sailors….

“This is a necessary risk. Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”

Brett E. Crozier (2).jpg

Brett Crozier

Crozier sent his letter via a non-secure, unclassified email to 20 to 30 recipients, as well as the captain’s immediate chain of command. He reportedly believed that his immediate supervisor would not allow him to send it.

And his superior later confirmed that he would not have allowed Crozier to send it.

On March 31, someone leaked the letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published it.

On April 1, the Navy ordered the aircraft carrier evacuated. A skeleton crew of 400 remained aboard to maintain the nuclear reactor, the fire-fighting equipment, and the ship’s galley. 

On April 2, Crozier was relieved of command by acting United States Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly.

By that time, about 114 crew members—out of a total of around 4,000—reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.  

As Crozier disembarked, sailors loudly saluted him with a standing ovation: “Cap-tain Cro-zier!”   

Modly claimed that Crozier’s letter “raised alarm bells unnecessarily. It undermines our efforts and the chain of command’s efforts to address this problem, and creates a panic and this perception that the Navy’s not on the job, that the government’s not on the job, and it’s just not true.”

Actually, the Trump administration had frittered away January and February, with President Donald Trump giving multiple—and misleading—press conferences. In these, he played down the dangers of COVID-19, saying that “we’re on top of it”—even as the virus spread across the country. 

“It was a betrayal. And I can tell you one other thing: because he did that he put it in the public’s forum and it is now a big controversy in Washington, DC,” continued Modly. [Italics added] 

This was the United States Navy under Donald Trump—who threw “betrayal” and “treason” at anyone who dared reveal the truth about institutional crimes and failures.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 19, 2022 at 12:17 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, three villains.

Two of the heroes are Russians; three are Americans.

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

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

Tukhachevsky (February 4, 1893 – June 12, 1937) was a major 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 26 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, 1937, 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, 1957, 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.

Image result for Images of Statues to Mikhail Tukhachevsky

Mikhail Tukhachevsky appears on a 1963 Soviet Union postage stamp

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 secret police sent to arrest him. 

MACHIAVELLI’S VERDICT ON TRUMP: HE’S NO PRINCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 11, 2022 at 12:10 am

No shortage of pundits have sized up Donald Trump—-first as a Presidential candidate, then as the nation’s 45th President, and now as a potential Presidential candidate in 2024.  

But how does Trump measure up in the estimate of Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th-century Florentine statesman?

It is Machiavelli whose two great works on politics—The Prince and The Discourses—remain textbooks for successful politicians more than 500 years later.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Let’s start with Trump’s notoriety for hurling insults at virtually everyone, including:  

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Muslims
  • Blacks
  • The Disabled
  • Women
  • Prisoners-of-War

These insults delight his white, under-educated followers. But they have alienated millions of other Americans who might have voted for him.

Here’s Machiavelli’s advice on issuing threats and insults:

  • “I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one.
  • “For neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy–but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.”

For those who expected Trump to shed his propensity for constantly picking fights once he became President, Machiavelli warned:

  • “…If it happens that time and circumstances are favorable to one who acts with caution and prudence he will be successful. But if time and circumstances change he will be ruined, because he does not change the mode of his procedure.
  • “No man can be found so prudent as to be able to adopt himself to this, either because he cannot deviate from that to which his nature disposes him, or else because, having always prospered by walking in one path, he cannot persuade himself that it is well to leave it…
  • “For if one could change one’s nature with time and circumstances, fortune would never change.”

Then there is Trump’s approach to consulting advisers:

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied; “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

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Donald Trump

Machiavelli advised:

  • “A prudent prince must [choose] for his counsel wise men, and [give] them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.
  • “But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels…comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable.”

On selecting good advisers, Machiavelli taught:

  • “The first impression that one gets of a ruler and his brains is from seeing the men that he has about him. 
  • “When they are competent and loyal one can always consider him wise, as he has been able to recognize their ability and keep them faithful. 
  • “But when they are the reverse, one can always form an unfavorable opinion of him, because the first mistake that he makes is in making this choice.” 

Among the advisers Trump relied on in his 2016 Presidential campaign: 

  • Founder of Latinos for Trump Marco Gutierrez told MSNBC’s Joy Reid: “My culture is a very dominant culture. And it’s imposing, and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re gonna have taco trucks every corner.” 
  • At a Tea Party for Trump rally at a Harley-Davidson dealership in Festus, Missouri, former Missouri Republican Party director Ed Martin reassured the crowd that they weren’t racist for hating Mexicans.

From the outset of his Presidential campaign, Trump polled extremely poorly among Hispanic voters. Comments like these didn’t increase his popularity.

  • Wayne Root, opening speaker and master of ceremonies at many Trump campaign events, told Virginia radio host Rob Schilling: People on public assistance and women getting birth control through Obamacare should not be allowed to vote.

Comments like this are a big turn-off among the 70% of women who have an unfavorable opinion of him–and anyone who receives Medicaid, Medicare or Social Security.

  • Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, claimed that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were responsible for the death of Captain Humayun Khan—who was killed by a truck-bomb in Iraq in 2004.  

Obama became President in 2009—almost five years after Khan’s death. And Clinton became Secretary of State the same year.  

When your spokeswoman becomes a nationwide laughingstock, your own credibility goes down the toilet as well.

Finally, Machiavelli offered a warning that especially applies to Trump: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.

  • “It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.”

All of which would lead Niccolo Machiavelli to warn, if he could witness American politics today: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

MACHIAVELLI WAS RIGHT: DISTRUST THE RICH

In Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 31, 2022 at 12:14 am

For President Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans, the single greatest achievement of their time in office was to drastically cut taxes on the wealthy (including themselves).

It’s a view that Niccolo Machiavelli would dispute.        

In 1513, Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman who has been called the father of modern political science, published his best-known work: The Prince.

Quote by Machiavelli: “Necessity is what impels men to take action ...

Niccolo Machiavelli

Among the issues he confronted was how to preserve liberty within a republic. And key to this was mediating the eternal struggle between the wealthy and the poor and middle class.

Machiavelli deeply distrusted the nobility because they stood above the law. He saw them as a major source of corruption because they could buy influence through patronage, favors or nepotism.

Successful political leaders must attain the support of the nobility or general populace. But since these groups have conflicting interests, the safest course is to choose the latter.  

Writes Machiavelli:

….He who becomes prince by help of the [wealthy] has greater difficulty in maintaining his power than he who is raised by the populace. He is surrounded by those who think themselves his equals, and is thus unable to direct or command as he pleases. 

But one who is raised to leadership by popular favor finds himself alone, and has no one, or very few, who   are not  ready  to  obey him. [And] it is impossible to satisfy the [wealthy] by fair dealing and without inflicting injury upon others, whereas it is very easy to satisfy the mass of the people in this way. 

Machiavelli warns that the general populace is more honest than the nobility—i.e., wealthy. The wealthy seek to oppress, while the populace wants to simply avoid oppression.

A political leader cannot protect himself against a hostile population, owing to their numbers, but he can against the hostility of the great, as they are but few.

The worst that a prince has to expect from a hostile people is to be abandoned, but from hostile nobles he has to fear not only desertion but their active opposition. And as they are more far seeing and more cunning, they are always in time to save themselves and take sides with the one who they expect will conquer. 

The prince is, moreover, obliged to live always with the same people, but he can easily do without the same nobility, being able to make and unmake them at any time, and improve their position or deprive them of it as he pleases.

Unfortunately, political leaders throughout the world—including the United States–have ignored this sage advice.

In 2012, Tax Justice Network, which campaigns to abolish tax havens, commissioned a study of their effect on the world’s economy.

The study was entitled, “The Price of Offshore Revisited: New Estimates for ‘Missing’ Global Private Wealth, Income, Inequality and Lost Taxes.”

http://www.taxjustice.net/cms/upload/pdf/Price_of_Offshore_Revisited_120722.pdf

The research was carried out by James Henry, former chief economist at consultants McKinsey & Co.  Among its findings:

  • By 2010, at least $21 to $32 trillion of the world’s private financial wealth had been invested virtually tax-­free through more than 80 offshore secrecy jurisdictions.
  • Since the 1970s, with eager (and often aggressive and illegal) assistance from the international private banking industry, private elites in 139 countries had accumulated $7.3 to $9.3 trillion of unrecorded offshore wealth by 2010.
  • This happened while many of those countries’ public sectors were borrowing themselves into bankruptcy, suffering painful adjustment and low growth, and holding fire sales of public assets.
  • The assets of these countries are held by a small number of wealthy individuals while the debts are shouldered by the ordinary people of these countries through their governments.
  • The offshore industry is protected by pivate bankers, lawyers and accountants, who get paid handsomely to hide their clients’ assets and identities.
  • Bank regulators and central banks of most countries allow the world’s top tax havens and banks to hide the origins and ownership of assets under their supervision.
  • Although multilateral institutions like the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the IMF and the World Bank are supposedly insulated from politics, they have been highly compromised by the collective interests of Wall Street.
  • These regulatory bodies have never required financial institutions to fully report their cross-­border customer liabilities, deposits, customer assets under management or under custody.
  • Less than 100,000 people, .001% of the world’s population, now control over 30% of the world’s financial wealth.
  • Assuming that global offshore financial wealth of $21 trillion earns a total return of just 3% a year, and would have been taxed an average of 30% in the home country, this unrecorded wealth might have generated tax revenues of $189 billion per year.

Summing up this situation, the report noted: “We are up against one of society’s most well-­entrenched interest groups. After all, there’s no interest group more rich and powerful than the rich and powerful.”

Fortunately, Machiavelli has supplied timeless remedies to this increasingly dangerous situation:

  • Assume evil among men—and most especially among those who possess the greatest concentration of wealth and power.
  • Carefully monitor their activities—the way the FBI now regularly monitors those of the Mafia and major terrorist groups.
  • Ruthlessly prosecute the treasonous crimes of the rich and powerful—and, upon their conviction, impose severe punishment.

TIME TO END OUR DEAL WITH THE DEVIL

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 25, 2022 at 12:10 am

The time is long overdue for the United States to scrap its devil’s bargain relationship with Saudi Arabia.

Reason #1: The political assassination of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a key critic of Saudi King Mohammed bin Salman.

On October 2, 2018, Khashoggi walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to pick up a document allowing him to marry a Turkish woman. Video footage showed Khashoggi walking into the consulate; there is none of him leaving it.

He was never seen again.

According to Turkish government officials:

  • Fifteen Saudi agents flew into Istanbul.
  • They waited for Khashoggi inside the consulate and murdered him within two hours of his arrival.
  • The assassins used a bone saw to dismember Khashoggi’s corpse. 

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 Jamal Khashoggi

[GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Reason #2: Saudi Arabia is a weak ally.

President Donald Trump claimed that Saudi Arabia served as a counter-weight to the growing regional influence of Iran. But Saudi Arabia was unable to defend itself against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1990, after the invasion and takeover of Kuwait.

This was, in fact, why Saudi-born Osama bin Laden decided to declare war on the United States.

He petitioned Saudi King Fahd bin Abdulazis al-Saud to let Saudis oppose any invasion by Iraq. He argued that “infidel” American soldiers stationed in the Kingdom would “pollute” Islam’s two great holy sites: Mecca and Medina.  

Having fought against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s, bin Laden offered to help defend Saudi Arabia with his Arab legion. 

The king refused—because he knew that, despite all the sophisticated military hardware he had bought from the United States, the Saudis were too militarily weak to resist an invasion.

Bin Laden left the country to wage fulltime war against the United States.

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Osama bin Laden

Reason #3: Saudi Arabia is filled with Islamics who hate the United States as “the Great Satan.”  

Fifteen of the 19 September 11, 2001 highjackers came from Saudi Arabia. 

And Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Wahhabism, a radical brand of Islam dedicated to “purifying” the world of “unbelievers.”

Reason #4: The only reason the United States cares about Saudi Arabia is that it’s the second-largest oil-producing country (after Venezuela) n the world. 

Yet oil consumption threatens the future of the world through global warming. And it keeps America tethered to a regime that is fundamentally unstable and hostile to the West.

Reason #5: The United States can end its dependence on Saudi oil by embarking on a crash program to develop alternatives to oil.  

Had this happened during the 1973 Arab oil embargo, the United States would now be energy-independent. America has the technology to do so; it lacks only the will.  

Reason #6: Once the United States no longer needs fossil fuels, it can quit financing Middle East dictatorships.

This will end spending billions of dollars every year to prop up dictatorial regimes like those in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt. America will no longer supply big-ticket military hardware (like fighter planes and missiles) to potentially hostile Islamic regimes.

Reason #7: By withdrawing from the Middle East, the United States can free itself of the burden of acting as Israel’s permanent bodyguard. 

Millions of Americans believe they are morally obligated to defend Israel owing to the barbarism of the Holocaust. But America was never a party to this, and has nothing to atone for.

Yet, for decades, the United States has been repeatedly dragged into the never-ending religious conflicts between Israelis and Islamics. Since both sides believe they are doing “God’s will,” there can be no substantial compromise by either.

Reason #8: The United States and its European allies can defend themselves against Islamic terrorism by erecting a “Sand Curtain” around the Middle East. 

For 44 years—1947 to 1991—the United States and the Soviet Union were locked in a Cold War stalemate. Essentially, the United States drew a ring around the Soviet Union—including those nations its armies had seized following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

The United States said, in effect: “We can’t liberate the countries you’re now occupying”—because that would have triggered a nuclear World War III. “But we won’t allow you to occupy and enslave any other countries.  And if you try to do so, it will mean total war.”

America could withdraw all of its forces from the Middle East—but keep a good portion stationed in Europe.

It could then publicly announce: “From now on, you are the masters of your own destinies—so long as what you do affects only the Middle East.

“We recognize that barbarism and violence have always been a part of life in the Middle East. And we don’t expect this to change.

“We realize you will destroy as many of your own citizens as you can—because they’re Jewish or Christians, or because Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims hate each other.

“Just don’t threaten citizens living outside your territories. In short: Europe and the United States are strictly off-limits to you.

“And if you aim your aggression at either, we will consider this an act of war and use all the weapons at our disposal—including nuclear ones—to wipe you from the face of the Earth.

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