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

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 16, 2023 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.

No Labels - One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. | Facebook

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 were a big turn-off among the 70% of women who had 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 January 6, 2023 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.

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

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.

BIDEN’S ENEMIES: REPUBLICANS AND THE TALIBAN

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 2, 2023 at 12:03 pm

On April 14, 2021, President Joseph Biden said that America would withdraw its armed forces from Afghanistan by September 11, thus ending the nearly 20-year war.

“How many more, how many more thousands of American daughters and sons are you willing to risk?” Biden said to those calling for the United States to extend the military operation. 

Apparently, for Republicans, there is no limit to the number of Americans deserving to be killed on behalf of a barbaric people. 

Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) said: “No one has ever been held accountable” for the haphazard removal of American troops from Afghanistan.

The truth is: Republicans have two constituencies:

  1. The 1% richest, who can be satisfied only with tax cuts and government subsidies; and
  2. Poor and middle-class Fascists, who can be fobbed off with appeals to their hatred and prejudice.

Attacking Biden for not continuing to waste American lives and treasure on a barbarous “country” is aimed at appeasing the second group. 

House Republicans are expected to zero in on the chaotic withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. 

“Why did it go so badly? Why were Americans left behind? Why were Afghan partners we promised to protect, 100,000 of them, left to the Taliban?” Michael McCaul (R-TX) demanded.

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Michael McCaul

To answer his questions:

  • If Americans were left behind, they had four months—May to September—to clear out.
  • Afghans were content to let Americans fight—and die—for them.
  • When the Taliban launched its final offensive on May 1, 2021, tens of thousands of cowardly Afghan “soldiers” fled to Kabul Airport—to seek asylum in the United States. 
  • They left behind their wives, girlfriends, mothers and sisters to face slavery and brutality.
  • Withdrawals during a war usually prove chaotic, if not disastrous.

To put the consequences of America’s losses in human terms:

On December 21, 2015, a suicide-bomber rammed an explosives-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO-Afghan patrol.  Six American troops and an Afghan were killed.

One of the dead was Joseph Lemm, 45, a detective and 15-year veteran of the New York Police Department. A technical sergeant in the New York Air National Guard, he had been deployed three times—once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.

Joseph Lemm - Tunnel to Towers Foundation

Joseph Lemm

Lemm left behind a daughter, Brook, 16, a son, Ryan, four, and his wife, Christine.

“He was just everything for our family. He was always my rock,” said his widow.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ordered that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff on December 23 in Lemm’s honor.

“Staff Sergeant Joe Lemm served this nation with the selflessness and bravery that embodies the U.S. Armed Forces and the NYPD,” Cuomo said in a statement. 

Lemm’s death was a double tragedy—that of a dedicated man who should not have died so needlessly. 

A total of 2,456 American military personnel in Afghanistan died and 20,752 were wounded since 2001. The cost of military operations is put at $2 trillion.

The history of American conflict in Afghanistan began on September 11, 2001.

Nineteen Islamic hijackers slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

The mastermind of the attacks was Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire then living in Afghanistan, under protection by its ruling thugocracy, the Taliban.

President George W. Bush demanded his immediate surrender to American justice.

The Taliban refused.

So, on October 7, 2011, American bombers began pounding Taliban positions.

In December, 2001, Bin Laden holed up in the mountains of Tora Bora—and then escaped into Pakistan.

Thus, there was no longer any point in pressuring the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden. Nor to stay in Afghanistan.

Osama bin Laden

Still, the United States continued to commit forces to Afghanistan—to turn a primitive, warlord-ruled country into a modern-day democracy.

Despite the Taliban’s horrific atrocities, the United States was not obligated to squander its citizens and treasure

In pursuing that goal, the Bush and Obama administrations repeatedly overlooked the following realities:

  • Hamid Karzai, the “president” of Afghanistan (2001-2014) didn’t believe in democracy—despite American claims to support his efforts to bring this to Afghanistan.
  • His authority didn’t extend beyond Kabul, and he was viewed by most Afghans as an illegitimate ruler, imposed by America.
  • Ditto for his successor, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
  • American soldiers in Afghanistan felt surrounded by enemies and hamstrung by unrealistic orders to win “hearts and minds” at the risk of their own lives.
  • The Taliban poses no threat to the United States.
  • Americans entered Afghanistan without an exit strategy.

All these truths applied to America’s failed misadventure in Vietnam.

American “grunts” felt about their so-called South Vietnamese allies as American troops felt about their Afghan “allies.”

According to Dr. Dennis Greenbaum, a former army medic:

“The highest [priority for medical treatment] was any U.S. person. The second highest was a U.S. dog from the canine corps. The third was NVA [North Vietnamese Army].

“The fourth was VC [Viet Cong]. And the fifth was ARVIN [Army of the Republic of South Vietnam], because they had no particular value. The only thing below them was the civilians,” said Greenbaum.

When you despise the “ally” you’re spending lives and treasure to defend, it’s time to pack up.

NANCY PELOSI: THE LION AND THE FOX: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 29, 2022 at 12:15 am

In facing off against President Donald Trump, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi proved the embodiment of Niccolo Machiavelli’s “lion and the fox.”

Trump couldn’t believe that Nancy Pelosi meant it when she politely refused to let him give his State of the Union address in the House of Representatives until he reopened the Federal Government.

He dared her to say plainly that she would deny him access. 

THE LION

So she did—issuing a statement saying that the speech was off—until the government reopened. 

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Donald Trump

THE FOX:

Pelosi didn’t let herself be drawn into any Twitter slugfests with a semi-literate dictator. She could well afford to sit out the shutdown, since only the Fascistic Right truly believed she was responsible for it. 

And she capitalized on the unexpected help she received from one of Trump’s highest-ranking officials: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Asked on CNBC if he knew that many Federal employees had been reduced to going to food banks, Ross—a billionaire—said yes, but he didn’t understand why.

His suggestion: They could just take out a loan.   

“So the 30 days of pay that some people will be out, there’s no real reason why they shouldn’t be able to get a loan against it, and we’ve seen a number of ads of financial institutions doing that. 

“True, the people might have to pay a little bit of interest. But the idea that it’s ‘paycheck or zero’ is not a really valid idea.” 

Wilbur Ross Official Portrait.jpg

Wilbur Ross

It was a remark worthy of Marie Antoinette’s reported (but inaccurate) dismissal of the miseries of impoverished French citizens: “Let them eat cake.”

And Pelosi didn’t hesitate to point it out:

“Is this the ‘Let them eat cake,’ kind of attitude? Or ‘Call your father for money?’ Or ’This is character-building for you; it’s all going to end up very well—just as long as you don’t get your paychecks?’” 

As CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza saw it: “What Pelosi seems to understand better than past Trump political opponents is that giving ANY ground is a mistake. You have to not only stand firm, but be willing to go beyond all political norms—like canceling the SOTU—to win.” 

And Julian Zelitzer, another CNN political analyst, agreed: “Pelosi did not hesitate to use her political power aggressively. From the start of this process, she has remained steadfast in her insistence that closing the government was not a legitimate way to make demands for new forms of spending. 

“While sometimes Democrats become leery about seeming too partisan and not being civil enough, Pelosi and the Democrats stood their ground. She drew a line in the sand and stuck by it.” 

When Republicans claim that Democrats aren’t being “civil,” they mean: “They’re not doing exactly as we tell them to do.”

And of course Republicans tried to convince voters that Trump had not threatened to shut down the government—and then had done so. Republicans like Texas United States Senator Rafael “Ted” Cruz repeatedly railed against the “Pelosi-Schumer shutdown.”

But the vast majority of voters weren’t having it. They had seen the original broadcast where Trump made his threat. And if they had missed the original, there were plenty of re-broadcasts of that moment on news networks to alert them.

As Pelosi and Democrats held firm, Republicans began getting desperate.

  • They were being depicted in the news as extortionists while 800,000 of their fellow Americans suffered.
  • Those businesses that served them—such as grocery stores and auto repair shops—were being starved of revenue.
  • There was legitimate fear that the entire airline industry might have to shut down for lack of enough air traffic controllers to regulate air traffic. 
  • Worst of all for Republicans, chaos at airports threatened the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of people traveling to and from the upcoming Super Bowl. Most Americans might not know the name of their Senator, but they take their sports fetish seriously.

By January 25, the 35th day of the shutdown, an ABC News/Washington Post poll showed that 53% of Americans blamed Trump for the shutdown. His popularity had fallen to a historic low of 37%. And 60% disapproved of how he was handling negotiations to reopen the government. 

So, on that same date, Trump did what his Hispanic-hating base thought was impossible: He caved. 

He walked into the White House Rose Garden and said he would sign a bill to reopen the government for three weeks.

And, for Pelosi, the sweetest moment was yet to come. 

Nancy Pelosi

True, Trump had said he would not give the State of the Union address on his originally scheduled date of January 29th. But eventually he did.

And when this happened, Pelosi sat directly behind him—along with Vice President Mike Pence—the whole time.

Unlike Trump, who revels in bragging about how powerful and brilliant he is, she didn’t have to.

Simply sitting behind him, probably trying hard to suppress a gleeful smile, she nevertheless reminded the audience that she was the one who had taught this failed businessman “the art of the deal.”

PRESIDENTS RULE BY CONSENT, DICTATORS RULE BY FEAR: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 27, 2022 at 12:10 am

In January, 2018, the White House banned the use of personal cell phones in the West Wing. The official reason: National security.

The real reason: To prevent staffers from leaking to reporters.

More ominously, well-suited men roamed the halls of the West Wing, carrying devices that pick up signals from phones that aren’t government-issued.

“Did someone forget to put their phone away?” one of the men would ask if such a device was detected. If no one said they had a phone, the detection team started searching the room.

Image result for images of cell phone detectors on Youtube

Phone detector

The devices can tell which type of phone is in the room.

This is the sort of behavior Americans have traditionally—and correctly—associated with dictatorships

In his memo outlining the policy, then-Chief of Staff John Kelly warned that anyone who violated the phone ban could be punished, including “being indefinitely prohibited from entering the White House complex.”

Yet even these draconian methods did not end White House leaks.

White House officials still spoke with reporters throughout the day and often aired their grievances, whether about annoying colleagues or competing policy priorities.

Aides with private offices sometimes called reporters on their desk phones. Others got their cell phones and called or texted reporters during lunch breaks.

According to an anonymous White House source: “The cellphone ban is for when people are inside the West Wing, so it really doesn’t do all that much to prevent leaks. If they banned all personal cellphones from the entire [White House] grounds, all that would do is make reporters stay up later because they couldn’t talk to their sources until after 6:30 pm.”

Image result for images of no cell phones

Other sources believed that leaks wouldn’t end unless Trump started firing staffers. But there was always the risk of firing the wrong people. Thus, to protect themselves, those who leaked might well accuse tight-lipped co-workers.

Within the Soviet Union (especially during the reign of Joseph Stalin) fear of secret police surveillance was widespread—and absolutely justified.

Among the methods used to keep conversations secret:

  • Turning on the TV or radio to full volume.
  • Turning on a water faucet at full blast.
  • Turning the dial of a rotary phone to the end—and sticking a pencil in one of the small holes for numbers.
  • Standing six to nine feet away from the hung-up receiver.
  • Going for “a walk in the woods.” 
  • Saying nothing sensitive on the phone.

The secret police (known as the Cheka, the NKVD, the MGB, the KGB, and now the FSB) operated on seven working principles:

  1. Your enemy is hiding.
  2. Start from the usual suspects.
  3. Study the young.
  4. Stop the laughing.
  5. Rebellion spreads like wildfire.
  6. Stamp out every spark.
  7. Order is created by appearance.

Trump has always ruled through bribery and fear. He’s bought off (or tried to) those who might cause him trouble—like porn actress Stormy Daniels. And he’s threatened or filed lawsuits against those he couldn’t or didn’t want to bribe—such as contractors who have worked on various Trump properties. 

But Trump couldn’t buy the loyalty of employees working in an atmosphere of hostility—which breeds resentment and fear. And some of them took revenge by sharing with reporters the latest crimes and follies of the Trump administration.

The more Trump waged war on the “cowards and traitors” who worked most closely with him, the more some of them found opportunities to strike back. This inflamed Trump even more—and led him to seek even more repressive methods against his own staffers. 

This proved a no-win situation for Trump.

The results were twofold:

  1. Constant turnovers of staffers—with their replacements having to undergo lengthy background checks before coming on; and
  2. Continued leaking of embarrassing secrets by resentful employees who stayed.

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As host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” Trump became infamous for booting off contestants with the phrase: “You’re fired.” In fact, he so delighted in using this that, in 2004, he tried to gain trademark ownership of it.

But  the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected his application. American copyright law explicitly prohibits copyright protections for short phrases or sayings.

Upon taking office as President, Trump bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers. This resulted in an avalanche of firings and resignations. 

The first two years of Trump’s White House saw more firings, resignations, and reassignments of top staffers than any other first-term administration in modern history. His Cabinet turnover exceeded that of any other administration in the last 100 years.

In 1934, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion in 1941.

No one was safe from execution—not even the men who slaughtered as many as 20 to 60 million. 

Fittingly, for all the fear he inspired, Stalin was plagued by paranoia. He lived in constant fear of assassination. Although surrounded by bodyguards, he distrusted even them.

Thus Stalin, who had turned the Soviet Union into a vast prison, became its leading prisoner.  

Similarly, Donald Trump daily proved the accuracy of the age-old warning: “You can build a throne of bayonets, but you can’t sit on it.”

PRESIDENTS RULE BY CONSENT, DICTATORS RULE BY FEAR: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 26, 2022 at 12:10 am

Donald Trump has often been compared to Adolf Hitler. But his reign bears far more resemblance to that of Joseph Stalin.

Germany’s Fuhrer, for all his brutality, maintained a relatively stable government by keeping the same men in office—from the day he took power on January 30, 1933, to the day he blew out his brains on April 30, 1945.

Adolf Hitler

Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1990-048-29A / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D

Heinrich Himmler, a former chicken farmer, remained head of the dreaded, black-uniformed Schutzstaffel, or Protection Squads, known as the SS, from 1929 until his suicide in 1945. 

In April, 1934, Himmler was appointed assistant chief of the Gestapo (Secret State Police) in Prussia, and from that position he extended his control over the police forces of the whole Reich.

Hermann Goering, an ace fighter pilot in World War 1, served as Reich commissioner for aviation and head of the newly developed Luftwaffe, the German air force, from 1935 to 1945.

And Albert Speer, Hitler’s favorite architect, held that position from 1933 until 1942, when Hitler appointed him Reich Minister of Armaments and War Production. He held that position until the Third Reich collapsed in April, 1945.

Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, by contrast, purged his ministers constantly.  For example: From 1934 to 1953, Stalin had no fewer than three chiefs of his secret police, then named the NKVD:

  • Genrikh Yagoda – (July 10, 1934 – September 26, 1936)
  • Nikolai Yezhov (September 26, 1936 – November 25, 1938) and
  • Lavrenty Beria (November, 1938 – March, 1953).

Stalin purged Yagoda and Yezhov, with both men executed after their arrest.

Joseph Stalin

He reportedly wanted to purge Beria, too, but the latter may have acted first. There has been speculation that Beria slipped warfarin, a blood-thinner often used to kill rats, into Stalin’s drink, causing him to die of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Stalin’s record for slaughter far eclipses that of Hitler.

For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, Stalin slaughtered 20 to 60 million people. 

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 in 1941.

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.”

Another Russian-installed tyrant who has sought to rule by fear: President Donald J. Trump.

In fact, he admitted as much to journalist Bob Woodward during the 2016 Presidential race: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.” 

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Donald Trump

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

As President, he continued to insult virtually everyone, verbally and on Twitter. His targets included Democrats, Republicans, the media, foreign leaders and even members of his Cabinet.

In Russian, the word for “purge” is “chistka,” for “cleansing.”  Among the victims of Trump’s recurring chistkas:

  • Sally Yates – Assistant United States Attorney General
  • James Comey – FBI Director
  • Andrew McCabe – FBI Deputy Director 
  • Jeff Sessions – United States Attorney General 
  • Rachel Brand – Associate United States Attorney General 
  • Randolph “Tex” Alles – Director of the United States Secret Service
  • Krisjen Nielsen – Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security

In his infamous political treatise, The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, asked: “Is it is better to be loved or feared?”  

And he answered it thus:

The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved.

“For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain; as long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours….

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined….

“And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared; for love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose; but fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.” 

But Machiavelli warned about relying primarily on fear: “Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred, for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together.”  

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Donald Trump has violated that counsel throughout his life. He not only makes enemies, he revels in doing so—and in the fury he has aroused.

Filled with a poisonous hatred that encompasses almost everyone, Trump, as Presidential candidate and President, repeatedly played to the hatreds of his Right-wing base.  

As first-mate Starbuck said of Captain Ahab in Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick: “He is a champion of darkness.”

ALBERT SPEER MEETS DEBORAH BIRX: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 23, 2022 at 12:10 am

From January to early March, 2020, President Donald Trump and his allies within the Republican party and Fox News Network repeatedly assured Americans they had nothing to fear from COVID-19.

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Donald Trump

Barnstorming the country in a series of hate-filled political rallies, Trump told his supporters:

  • “We have it totally under control.”
  • “This is [the Democrats’] new hoax.”
  • “It will go away. Just stay calm.”

On February 27, 2020, Dr. Deborah Birx was appointed White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator for President Donald J. Trump.

On March 26, Birx reassured Americans in a press conference that “there is no situation in the United States right now that warrants that kind of discussion [that ventilators or ICU hospital beds might be in limited supply].”

A day earlier, The New York Times had run the headline: “Amid Desperate Need for Ventilators, Calls Grow for Federal Intervention.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, took a different tack. The coronavirus could become cyclical; a vaccine was still many months away; and therapeutic treatments—which Trump had pushed as a “game changer”—were still unproven.

Deborah Birx in April 2020 face detail, from- White House Coronavirus Update Briefing (49742678236) (cropped).jpg

Deborah Birx

Trump insisted that each state was responsible for securing its needed supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for its doctors and nurses aiding Coronavirus patients. This created ruthless competition and scarcity, with Americans not only fighting the virus but each other. But it ensured that Trump remained the final voice of authority. 

Birx did not publicly urge the Federal Government—i.e., Trump—to create a streamlined approach to providing these necessities. Nor did she protest Trump’s refusal to do so. 

On March 27, The New York Times reported: “Dr. Birx’s comments casting doubt on talk of ventilator and hospital-bed shortages, and praising Mr. Trump’s attention to detail in lavish terms, have raised questions about her independence as the number of coronavirus infections in the United States has soared past 100,000….

“Conservative commentators have praised her as a truth-teller, pushing back on coronavirus hysteria. Critics of Mr. Trump accused her of squandering the credibility she had developed as a health official in Democratic and Republican administrations.” 

In April, she asserted that COVID-19 infections had peaked and the virus was fading quickly. In fact, infections quickly surged. 

Birx helped create a reopening plan—presented by Trump on April 16, 2020—with voluntary standards for states to end coronavirus lockdowns.

On April 23, Trump, in a public press conference, recommended the use of ultraviolet light and disinfectant as possible cures for COVID-19.

Birx remained silent. 

The Internet—and medical experts—did not.

Trump’s critics—including many medical experts—believed that, by her silence, Birx forfeited her opportunity to confront the cascade of lies and crackpot theories Trump was promoting.

One of these was California’s Democratic Representative Ted Lieu: “The malicious incompetence that resulted in hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths starts at the top, with the former President and his enablers. And who was one of his enablers? Dr. Birx, who was afraid to challenge his unscientific rhetoric and wrongfully praised him.”

Political commentator Joe Scarborough said: “…And it’s been one scam idea after another, that people then promoted on other networks, scam doctors promoting these scam solutions, claiming that everybody who had taken this malaria drug had been cured in certain hospitals. This is just the sort of thing that catches up to Donald Trump.”

In July 2020, a working group convened by Birx ordered hospitals to bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and send all COVID-19 patient information to a database at the Department of Health and Human Services. 

The continuing flood of alarming Coronavirus information was undermining Trump’s “everything-is-OK” assurances. Some public health officials warned that bypassing the CDC would allow Trump to politicize the findings and withhold them from the public.

In November, Birx stated in an internal report: “There is an absolute necessity of the Administration to use this moment to ask the American people to wear masks, physical distance and avoid gatherings in both public and private spaces.”

But she did not say this in public.

Trump had politicized the wearing of masks, dividing the country into his supporters, who didn’t wear masks, and “Never Trumpers” who did. He also called for the “liberation” of states that had ordered lockdowns to stop the spread of the virus.

Birx never publicly criticized Trump for creating this divisiveness. 

During Thanksgiving, Birx hosted three generations of her family from two households—after she had urged Americans to restrict such gatherings to “your immediate household.”

After her term ended on January 20, 2021, Birx said that she had often considered quitting her position due to the administration’s hyper-partisanship, especially during the 2020 Presidential election.

Perhaps the most damning verdict on Deborah Birx came from Birx herself.

On March 29, 2021, speaking with Sanjay Gupta, MD, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, she said: “The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from the original surge. All of the rest of them, in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially.” 

By mid-March, 2021, nearly 550,000 Americans had died from COVID-19. By the time Trump left office, 400,000 Americans would be dead of it.

ALBERT SPEER MEETS DEBORAH BIRX: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 22, 2022 at 12:08 am

Born on March 19, 1905 and trained as an architect, Albert Speer joined the Nazi Party in 1931. He met Adolf Hitler in 1933, when he presented the Fuhrer with architectural designs for the Nuremberg Rally scheduled for that year.

Hitler was thoroughly impressed.

From then on, Speer became Hitler’s “genius architect” assigned to create buildings for the Third Reich, meant to last for a thousand years.

In 1937, Hitler appointed Speer as General Building Inspector for Berlin. This made him responsible for the Central Department for Resettlement that evicted Jewish tenants from their homes in Berlin. The vast majority of these men, women and children ended up in extermination camps.

Adolf Hitler

Speer had nothing to do with their imprisonment; that was strictly the province of SS-Reichsuhrer Heinirich Himmler. Nevertheless, he knew the end results of his evictions. 

On September 1, 1939, Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland—unintentionally igniting World War II.

In 1943, Hitler appointed Speer Minister of Armaments, charged with revitalizing the German war effort.

As Hitler’s architect, Speer had stayed aloof from the political intrigues of such power-driven men as Himmler, Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering and Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels.

But as Minister of Armaments, Speer thrust himself into the currents of intrigue surrounding the Fuhrer. It was this role that earned him 20 years in Spandau Prison for war crimes.

Albert Speer

 Albert Speer

With millions of able-bodied German men drafted for his endless wars, Hitler turned to slave laborers to keep his arms factories going.

“Speer joined in planning and executing the program to dragoon prisoners of war and foreign workers into German war industries, which waxed in output while the workers waned in starvation,” charged chief United States prosecutor Robert H. Jackson during the Nuremberg war crimes trials.

Speer’s attorney, Hans Flächsner, presented Speer as an artist thrust into political life who had always remained apolitical. 

Both at Nuremberg and for the rest of his life, Speer claimed that he was unaware of Nazi extermination plans. But in a letter dated December 23, 1971, Speer wrote: “There is no doubt—I was present as Himmler announced on October 6, 1943, that all Jews would be killed.”

If Speer’s extensive involvement in the Holocaust had been known at the time of his trial he would have been sentenced to death. Twelve of his fellow defendants were so sentenced—and died by hanging. 

Speer was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity, principally for the use of slave labor and forced labor. He was sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment, and was released from Spandau Prison on October 1, 1966. 

He spent the rest of his life portraying himself as “the good Nazi” who, as an apolitical technocrat, deeply regretted having failed to discover the monstrous crimes of the Third Reich. Out of this came his bestselling autobiography, Inside the Third Reich, published in 1969. 

He died of a heart attack on September 1, 1981—42 years to the day his Fuhrer had plunged the world into war.

British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper considered Speer an administrative genius whose basic instincts were peaceful and constructive. Nevertheless, he assailed Speer for failing to recognize the immorality of the Hitler regime—and called him “the real criminal of Nazi Germany.” 

Specifically:

“For ten years he sat at the very centre of political power; his keen intelligence diagnosed the nature and observed the mutations of Nazi government and policy; he saw and despised the personalities around him; he heard their outrageous orders and understood their fantastic ambitions; but he did nothing.

“Supposing politics to be irrelevant, he turned aside and built roads and bridges and factories, while the logical consequences of government by madmen emerged. Ultimately, when their emergence involved the ruin of all his work, Speer accepted the consequences and acted. Then it was too late; Germany had been destroyed.” 

Germans are not, however, the only ones to clinch a deal with the Devil.

Eighty-seven years after Albert Speer began his rise to power—and infamy—Deborah Birx, an American physician and diplomat, reached her own height of power—and infamy. 

Born on April 4, 1956, Deborah Birx served from 1980 to 1994 as an active duty reserve officer in the United States Army. From 1994 to 2008, Birx was on active duty regular Army, achieving the rank of Colonel.

From 1980 to 1989, Birx worked as a physician at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. In 1981, she completed a one-year internship and did a two-year residency in internal medicine. From 1983 to 1986, she completed two fellowships in clinical immunology in the areas of allergies and diagnostics.

From 1985 to 1989, Birx was the assistant chief of the Walter Reed Allergy/Immunology Service. Birx started her career as a clinician in immunology, eventually specializing on HIV/AIDS vaccine research. 

She served as the United States global AIDS coordinator for Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump (2014-2020). She also served as the country’s special representative for global health diplomacy between 2015 and 2021.

On February 27, 2020, she was appointed White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator for President Donald J. Trump.

The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, in December, 2019, quickly spread around the world. 

Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that affect birds and mammals. In humans, they can cause pneumonia and may cause bronchitis.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

On February 29, 2020, the first American died of Coronavirus. 

WHO IS REMEMBERED WITH LOVE–AND WHO ISN’T

In Entertainment, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on December 21, 2022 at 12:10 am

Euripides, the Greek  tragedian, was right: When good men dietheir goodness does not perish, but lives though they are gone. As for the bad, all that was theirs dies and is buried with them.

Two deaths well illustrate the truth of this.

The first—of Rush Limbaugh—came on February 17, 2021.  

The second—of Olivia Newton-John—came on August 10, 2022.

Limbaugh hosted The Rush Limbaugh Show, which was nationally syndicated on AM and FM radio stations from 1988 until his death in 2021.

Rush Limbaugh

With 15.5 million listeners, Limbaugh’s radio show was the most popular one in the United States. He became one of the most prominent Right-wing voices in the country during the 1990s. 

Among his targets: Blacks; liberals; Democrats; gays; lesbians; feminists (whom he called “feminazis”); consent in sexual relations; environmentalism; climate change; abortion rights; Barack Obama; the need for masking and vaccinations against COVID-19.

Among the personalities and causes he championed: The 2003 Iraq war; torture at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison; eliminating taxes on the wealthy; smoking; Donald Trump; 

His attack on Sandra Fluke, a third-year Georgetown University law student who testified before Congress on February 23, 2012, was typical Limbaugh. 

Fluke said that insurance companies should cover the costs of birth control. As a student at a Jesuit campus that refuses to provide insurance coverage for contraception, birth control costs can be as high as $3,000 during the three years a woman attends law school.

Limbaugh’s response: “So Ms. Fluke and the rest of you Feminazis, here’s the deal: If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it.  And I’ll tell you what it is.  We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

Sandra Fluke was among the millions who didn’t mourn when Limbaugh died at 70 on February 17, 2021, of lung cancer caused by a lifetime of cigar smoking.

If the legacy of Rush Limbaugh was darkness personified, the legacy of Olivia Newton-John was one of sunshine and joy. 

Olivia Newton-John

Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

She dominated the pop charts of the 1970s and ’80s with mega hits “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” “I Honestly Love You,” “Have You Never Been Mellow?” “Magic,” and “Physical.” 

Vanity Fair described her thus:  “Her angelic beam matched with a clear, sweet-yet-supple soprano was vocal satin, giving her a versatile edge in singing feel-good numbers across genres and styles.” 

But her biggest splash came in “Grease,” the top-grossing movie for 1978, where she co-starred with John Travolta. Her role as Sandy, an Australian exchange student, brought her international acclaim and further propelled her musical career. The movie’s soundtrack remains one of the world’s best-selling albums.   

“I don’t think anyone could have imagined a movie would go on almost 40 years and would still be popular and people would still be talking to me about it all the time and loving it,” Newton-John said in 2017.

She won four Grammy awards and racked up five number-one hits and another 10 top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and two number-one albums on the Billboard 200. Eleven of her singles and 14 of her albums have been certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.

Having sold more than 100 million records, Newton-John is one of the most popular singers of the 20th and 21st centuries.

“I love to sing, it’s all I know how to do,” she told CNN in 2017. “That’s all I’ve ever done since I was 15, so it’s my life. I feel very grateful that I can still do it and people still come to see me.”

An animal-rights advocate, she cancelled a 1978 concert tour of Japan to protest the slaughter of dolphins caught in tuna fishing nets.

Among the charities and foundations she supported: Cure Breast Cancer, Red Cross, Healthy Child Healthy World, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She was a performer on the 1979 Music for UNICEF Concert for the UN’s International Year of the Child, televised worldwide.

Behind her bright smile and sunny disposition lay the shadow of tragedy. In 2005 Newton-John’s then-boyfriend, Patrick McDermott, disappeared at sea while on a fishing trip off the coast of California.

“It’s very hard to live with that,” she told CNN’s Larry King in 2006. “It’s probably the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve been through a lot of things.”

In 1992, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She recovered, but for more than 40 years she lived with the constant threat of its return.

“I draw strength from the millions of women who have faced this challenge successfully,” she said in a statement. “This has been detected early because I’ve had regular examinations, so I encourage other women to do the same.”

Then, in May 2017, she announced that the cancer had returned and metastasized to her lower back. 

Asked during a February 2021 interview if she had contemplated her own death, she replied, “I have quite a few times,” adding it was “sooner than I would have wanted. I mean—we all know we are going to die. I think we spend our lives probably much in denial of it.”

On August 8, 2022, Olivia Newton-John died from cancer at her home in the Santa Ynez Valley of California. She was 73. 

WHY SOME PEOPLE WON’T WEAR MASKS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on December 16, 2022 at 12:55 am

There are five reasons why millions of Americans refuse to wear masks during a deadly pandemic:

  1.  A feeling of solidarity against authority.
  2. “If liberals do it, it’s fascistic.”
  3. Rejection of the death-toll caused by COVID-19.
  4. Disdain for education in general—and science in particular.
  5. Religious fanaticism.

To these must be added:

Sixth: Hypocrisy. Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the Right has demanded that even women who are pregnant due to rape or incest carry the fetus to term.

Yet now that Right-wingers are being asked to wear masks in public—to protect themselves and others from a deadly plague—they’ve suddenly discovered the mantra: “It’s my body!”

Seventh: Identifying with Donald Trump. Trump has made it clear that his followers don’t wear masks. And they have fallen into line, refusing to mask up even in crowded, indoor arenas where infection is most likely.

As winter approaches, more than 80% of hospital beds in the United States are filled—with patients suffering from COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, a common virus that causes lung infections.

Nearly 26,000 people were admitted to hospitals with the flu during the week ending December 3, an increase of 32% compared with the week prior.

Hospitalizations of people with Covid have increased about 14% week over week, to more than 4,800 admissions per day on average.

Yet many people refuse to mask up.

During the initial spread of COVID-19, fights erupted before mask-less and mask-wearing customers—and sometimes store employees—who asked them to put on a mask before entering.

  • Two men were arrested for felony battery after starting a fight with employees at a Los Angeles Target store over wearing masks inside the store.
  • A woman entered Curbside Eatery in La Mesa, California, without a mask, pulling her T-shirt over her face. When the owner told her to mask up or leave, the woman yelled: “This is ridiculous! You’re discriminating against me!’ and threatened a lawsuit.
  • In a Costco in Fort Myers, Florida, a masked man asked an unmasked customer to wear a mask. The unmasked man screamed that he was being harassed: “I feel threatened!”

On February 2, 2021, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) required all airline travelers to wear masks. By December, the TSA had logged more than 4,100 mask-related air-rage incidents. 

Refer to the following caption.

So: How should those who refuse to wear a mask—and thus present a clear and present danger to others—be dealt with?

Ideally, President Joe Biden could issue a mandatory emergency order requiring everyone to wear a mask when in public. But the President lacks the legal authority to do so.

Governors, mayors and business owners should issue emergency orders mandating the wearing of masks in public. And these orders should be forcibly backed up by the following:

  • Stop stressing that a mask will protect others from “you.” Most people don’t care about strangers. Emphasize that wearing a mask will protect “you and your family” from others. 
  • Don’t give tickets to mask-evaders. They will simply ignore them—or consider them a cheap price for going without a mask. 
  • Major retailers should hire professional guards to arrest mask-evaders—and turn them over to police.
  • Police should arrest everyone not wearing a mask in public and jail them—without bond—until the plague is over. 
  • Create tip hotlines for reporting mask-evaders.
  • Offer rewards for tips that lead to arrests.
  • Police and prosecutors should publicize these arrests and jailings—to warn other potential mask-evaders.  
  • Arrest, prosecute and imprison Right-wingers who openly display and/or threaten unarmed civilians with firearms.
  • Above all: Stop admitting the unmasked and unvaccinated to hospitals. Forcing them to pay the price for their irresponsible behavior will end hospital overcrowding.

It was the failure of German police and courts to abort Right-wing violence during the Weimar Republic that led to even greater violence through the rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party.

This is how United States authorities dealt with “Typhoid Mary” Mallon (September 23, 1869 – November 11, 1938).

What's The Harm?

Mary Mallon

An Irish-born cook, she was an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever and is believed to have infected 53 people, three of whom died. Because she persisted in working as a cook, she exposed others to the disease.

As a result, she was twice forcibly quarantined by authorities, and died after a total of nearly 30 years in isolation at Riverside Hospital on North Brother Island, in New York City.

Laws are useless if citizens believe they are unfairly or unpredictably enforced. As Niccolo Machiavelli warns in his classic work, The Discourses:

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it. 

If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself. But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

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