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Posts Tagged ‘JOSEPH STALIN’

JOSEPH STALIN AND DONALD TRUMP: TWO EGOS IN SEARCH OF A STROKING

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 25, 2022 at 2:54 pm

Donald Trump has often been compared to Adolf Hitler.

But, in fact, he bears a far more striking resemblance to Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili—better known as Stalin, which, in Russian, means “Man of Steel.”

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

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

Joseph Stalin

The British historian, Robert Payne, described how Russians’ celebrated Stalin’s birthday in his classic 1965 biography, The Rise and Fall of Stalin:

“The guns blazed in salute, the processions marched across the Red Square, and huge balloons bearing the features of a younger Stalin climbed into the wintry sky. 

“The official buildings were draped in red, the color of happiness.  From all over the country came gifts of embroidered cloth, tapestries and carpets bearing his name or his features.

“Ornamental swords, cutlasses, tankards, cups, everything that might conceivably please him, were sent to the Kremlin, and then displayed in the State Museum of the Revolution….Poets extolled him in verses, He was the sun, the splendor, the lord of creation. 

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

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

Lavrenti P. Beria

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

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

“Without Comrade Stalin’s special care,” extolled Trade and Supply Minister Anastas Mikoyan, “we would have never have had a network of meat combines equipped with the latest machinery, canneries and sugar refineries, a fishing industry….” 

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

So those Americans with a sense of history were alarmed and disgusted upon watching President Donald J. Trump—also 70—convene his first full Cabinet meeting since taking office on January 20, 2017. 

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Donald Trump

On June 12, 2017, polls showed that only 36% of Americans approved of his conduct. But from his Cabinet members, Trump got praise traditionally lavished on dictators like Stalin and North Korea’s Kim Jong On.

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

“Start with Mike,” ordered Trump, referring to Vice President Mike Pence.

“It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as the vice president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people,” Pence dutifully said.

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Mike Pence

Then it was the turn of Attorney General Jeff Sessions: “It’s an honor to be able to serve you.”

“My hat’s off to you,” oozed Energy Secretary Rick Perry, referring to Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

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

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

Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta raved: “I’m deeply honored and I want to thank you for keeping your commitment to the American workers.”

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

“On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President,” said Reince Prebus, Trump’s chief of staff, “we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people, and we’re continuing to work very hard every day to accomplish those goals.” 

Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget: “At your direction, we were able to also focus on the forgotten men and women who are paying taxes, so I appreciate your support on pulling that budget together.”   

* * * * *

Donald Trump’s followers believe he was all that stood between the United States and the threat of “Godless Communism.”

They totally ignore that he was elected via Russian propaganda orchestrated by Russian President Vladimir Putin. And that he repeatedly defended Putin’s every aggressive move.

And, all the while, he continues to rage against the evils of “socialism.”

REPUBLICANS: TURNING INFORMERS INTO HEROES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on July 18, 2022 at 12:10 am

You can’t understand what’s happening in Texas—and other states where abortion is now banned as a crime—without knowing the story of Pavlik Morozov.

Pavel Trofimovich Morozov—better known by the diminutive Pavlik—was born on November 14, 1918. Until his 13th birthday, he did nothing to win the status of a Hero of the Soviet Union.

Then his chance came—in 1932, at the height of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s campaign to confiscate the grain of millions of Soviet peasants.

Stalin intended to convert the backward Soviet Union into a major industrial power within a decade. Central to this: Turning land privately farmed by peasants into collective farms which would be “great factories of grain.”

Morozov was a dedicated Communist who led the Young Pioneers at his school and supported Stalin’s forced collections policies.

In 1932, at the age of 13, Morozov reported his father, Trofim, to the political police, the GPU—the forerunner to the KGB.

According to one account,, Trofim, the chairman of the Gerasimovka Village Soviet, had been “forging documents and selling them to the bandits and enemies of the Soviet State” (as the sentence read).

Another account charges him with hoarding grain.

Pavel Morozov.jpg

Pavlik Morozov

Trofim Morozov was sentenced to 10 years in a labor camp. There his sentence was changed to execution, which was carried out.

On September 3, 1932, Pavlik’s infuriated uncle, grandfather, grandmother and a cousin murdered him, along with his younger brother. 

Only the uncle escaped arrest by the GPU’s sentence to “the highest measure of social defense”—execution by a firing squad.

Soviet authorities quickly turned Pavlik Morozov into a Communist martyr. He became a subject for readings, plays, songs, a symphonic poem, a full-length opera and no fewer than six biographies.

The goal of these efforts: To encourage other Soviet children to inform on their parents.

Which brings us, appropriately enough, to 2022 America—and the June 24 Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the Court’s historic decision legalizing abortion in 1973. 

For Right-wing states dominated by Republican governors and/or legislatures, it isn’t enough to forbid women in their states to get abortions. They insist on preventing them from terminating their pregnancies (even in cases of rape and/or incest) in states where abortion is legal.  

And key to making this a reality is turning America into a nation of Pavlik Morozovs.

Even before the Supreme Court handed down its infamous decision, Missouri gave the nation a foretaste of what was to come.

A first-of-its-kind proposal from Missouri lawmakers allowed private citizens to sue anyone who helped a Missouri resident obtain an abortion.

This included the out-of-state physician who performed the procedure to whoever helped transport a person across state lines to a clinic.

Republican state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman admitted that her measure specifically targeted a Planned Parenthood clinic in Illinois just across the river from St. Louis that opened in 2019 with the stated goal of serving Missouri patients.

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Mary Elizabeth Coleman

“If you believe as I do that every person deserves dignity and respect and protection whether they’re born or unborn, then of course you want to protect your citizens, no matter where they are,” Coleman told POLITICO.

“If a Missouri resident is hurt, even in Illinois, by a product that they bought in Illinois, there is still jurisdiction for them to sue in a Missouri court because that’s home for them … and this is extending that same kind of thought to abortion jurisprudence.”

This totally ignores the huge difference between unknowingly buying a defective product that causes harm and knowingly seeking a medical procedure.

Abortion pills—now the most popular method of terminating a pregnancy in the United States—are also a target of Republican-dominated states.

Several states including Texas have moved to ban prescribing the drugs via telemedicine and sending them by mail to people’s homes. Many others are looking to implement similar bans in the wake of the Biden administration’s move earlier this year to loosen restrictions on the pills.

Anti-abortion-rights activists claim they can’t eliminate all abortions without deterring travel across state lines. They blame pro-choice advocates who are raising money to help people terminate a pregnancy in another state. 

“You have a very aggressive industry working on helping people circumvent pro-life laws,” said Kristi Hamrick with Students for Life of America, which has chapters lobbying for restrictions in all 50 states. “So the conversation in Missouri and other locations is in direct response to that.” 

In post-Roe America, a woman’s cell phone can also become her legal undoing.

Pin on Literatuuropdracht Nederlands

Digital period tracking apps could be used against them. As a result, many experts advise removing them from cell phones.

More than 100 million women use period tracking applications. They help predict the date of the next period, the ovulation period, and track the signs of premenstrual syndrome. Dozens of applications are available.

And if you want to talk about abortion online in Texas, remember: Doing so on Facebook or Twitter could hurt you. 

Texas residents could find themselves in legal hot water for sharing a Facebook or Twitter post on how to get an abortion or holding an online fundraiser for someone seeking one.

Thus Texans, who have long prided themselves on their independence from authority, have become a state filled with informers hoping to get rich quick by invading the privacy of others.

BURYING TRUMP–AND STALIN: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 10, 2022 at 12:15 am

Sixty years before an American congress failed to remove a ruthless dictator from its midst, a Russian congress successfully removed their own.

For almost 30 years, from 1924 to 1953, Joseph Vissarionovich Djugashvili—better known as Stalin—had ruled as absolute dictator over the Soviet Union. Hallmarks of his legacy included mass arrests, repeated purges, forced mass starvation and the imprisonment of millions.

As many as 20 million men, women and children died as his victims. 

His reign of terror ended only with his death, of a cerebral hemorrhage, on March 5, 1953, at age 74. 

Joseph Stalin

As historian Robert Payne wrote in his monumental 1965 biography The Rise and Fall of Stalin: “The son of an obscure cobbler, he had become during the last years of his life the most powerful man on earth. No emperor had ever enjoyed the power he possessed.

“He had taken the world by the throat, and forced it to do his will. He was one of the world-shakers, and when he died in 1953 it was thought proper that his remains should be exhibited as an object of reverence and worship in the Lenin mausoleum, the holy of holies of the Soviet empire.”

On February 25, 1956, his successor, Nikita Khrushchev, revealed Stalin’s litany of crimes to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

The speech was the opening shot in Khrushchev’s “de-Stalinization” campaign. He intended to destroy the image of the late dictator as an infallible leader and rein in the infamous KGB secret police. 

The speech gave rise to a period of liberalization known as the “Khrushchev thaw” (1956-1964). During this, censorship policy was relaxed, and for the first time books and articles appeared about the huge network of forced labor camps set up by Vladimir Lenin and reaching its peak under Stalin.   

File:Khrushchov.jpg - Wikipedia

Nikita Khrushchev

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Thousands of political prisoners were released, and thousands more who had perished during Stalin’s reign were officially “rehabilitated.”

By 1961, Khrushchev and those seeking to reform the Soviet political system decided to condemn the horrors of the Stalinist decades in a forceful symbolic act.

On October 31, 1961, the body of Joseph Stalin was removed from its honored resting place in the Lenin mausoleum in Red Square. A new grave was dug for him—among the minor heroes of the Russian Revolution. The re-internment took place secretly—at night—without ceremonies. And his name was removed from the mausoleum. 

Historian Robert Payne described that event—and its significance: “A dead god was being transformed into a dead man, a dead emperor was being dethroned, a dead criminal was being executed….

The rise and fall of Stalin: Robert Payne: Amazon.com: Books

But more than a ritual murder was at stake. The Supreme Soviet and the Central Committee, which decreed the punishment now being inflicted on the corpse of Stalin, were now attempting to absolve themselves from responsibility for his crimes. 

“They were saying: ‘We are not responsible, we are casting him away, he is not one of us! He committed such terrible crimes that we will have none of him.’

“For nearly thirty years Stalin had ruled tyrannically over Russia. History, too, was being consigned to oblivion.” 

A series of similar events has erupted within the United States since January 6, 2021.

On that day, thousands of Right-wing supporters of President Donald Trump—ignited by his fiery, lie-riddled rhetoric—overwhelmed police guarding the United States Capitol and occupied the building.

Donald Trump

Their intention: To halt the counting of Electoral College votes that would certify former Vice President Joseph Biden as the next President of the United States.

Since then, Trump’s fortunes have sharply declined:

  • Twitter—whose platform he had used during his Presidency to ruthlessly attack hundreds of people—finally cut off his account.
  • Deutsche Bank, his business lender since the 1990s, announced that it would not continue to do business with him.
  • The PGA of America cut ties with Trump by canceling plans to hold the PGA Championship at his New Jersey golf course in 2022.
  • On May 24, David Perdue, Trump’s chosen candidate for Governor of Georgia, failed to secure the nomination over Georgia Governor Brian Kemp. 
  • A September 2020 AP poll shows that 56% of Republicans want him to run for president in 2024; 44% don’t want Trump to run.
  • A special grand jury will determine whether Trump broke the law by unsuccessfully pressuring Georgia officials to throw out President Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
  • New York state Attorney General Letitia James stated in a court filing that her office uncovered evidence that Trump used “fraudulent or misleading” valuations of his golf clubs, skyscrapers and other property to secure loans and tax benefits.
  • Federal prosecutors are investigating fake certificates sent to the National Archives with made-up slates of electors who wrongly declared Trump the winner in seven states he lost to Biden. 

Herodotus, the Greek historian who chronicled the Greek-Persian wars, offers a still-timely explanation of such reverses of fortune—and a warning for those who dare to ignore history:

“Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering. Often enough God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him.”

BURYING TRUMP–AND STALIN: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 9, 2022 at 12:10 am

On January 13, 2021, for the first time in its history, the United States House of Representatives voted to impeach a President—for the second time during his tenure.

On December 10, 2019, Democratic leaders in the House voted to send two Articles of Impeachment to the House Judiciary Committee.

Their purpose: To remove Donald J. Trump from office as the 45th President of the United States.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler read the charges:

Article 1: Abuse of Power: For pressuring Ukraine to assist him in his re-election campaign by damaging former Vice President Joseph Biden, his possible Democratic rival.

Article 2: Obstruction of Congress: For obstructing Congress by blocking testimony and refusing to provide documents in response to House subpoenas in the impeachment inquiry.

On January 23, 2020, House Intelligence Committee Chairman and Lead Impeachment Manager Adam Schiff (D-CA) tweeted a prophecy—and a warning: “Donald Trump must be convicted and removed from office. Because he will always choose his own personal interest over our national interest. Because in America, right matters. Truth matters. If not, no Constitution can protect us. If not, we are lost.” 

Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg

Adam Schiff

On February 5, 2020, the Republican-dominated Senate—ignoring the overwhelming evidence against him—acquitted Donald Trump on both impeachment articles: Obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.

Schiff’s prophecy came true on January 6, 2021. On that day, Trump unleashed thousands of Right-wing terrorists on the United States Capitol.

Inside, members of Congress were tabulating the Electoral College votes cast in the 2020 Presidential election.

The winner had been former Vice President Joseph Biden. Trump, seeking a second term, had lost, getting 74,196,153 votes.to 81,255,933 for Biden.

Trump had made repeated—and false—claims of electoral fraud. Yet despite filing 60 court cases seeking to overturn the election’s results, his lawyers had failed to produce any proof of it.

Trump had often “joked” about how great it would be for the United States to have a “President-for-Life”—like China.  Now his only hope of remaining in power lay in intimidating Congress into ignoring the election results.

Inspired by Trump’s violence-charged rhetoric, the Stormtrumpers marched to the United States Capitol—and quickly brushed aside outnumbered Capitol Police.

  • Members of the mob attacked police with chemical agents or lead pipes.
  • A Capitol Hill police officer was knocked off his feet, dragged into the mob surging toward the building, and beaten with the pole of an American flag.
  • Several rioters carried plastic handcuffs, possibly intending to take hostages. Others carried treasonous Confederate flags.

These are some of the high-profile figures who were seen storming the US Capitol

Stormtrumpers scaling Capitol Building walls

  • Shouts of “Hang Pence!” often rang out.
  • Improvised explosive devices were found in several locations in Washington, D.C. 
  • Members of the House and Senate huddled anxiously behind locked doors barricaded with furniture as seditionists tried to break in.
  • Many of the lawmakers’ office buildings were occupied and vandalized—including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a favorite Right-wing target.

More than three hours passed before police—using riot gear, shields and batons—retook control of the Capitol. 

Meeting again that evening, members of the Senate and House resumed their vote-counting. In the end, Joseph Biden and Kamala Harris were named, respectively, the President-Elect and Vice-President Elect of the United States.

By the next day, members of the House—especially Democrats—were furious at their near-brush with death. And they were ready to seek retribution on the man responsible.

Their initial hope was that Vice President Mike Pence and a majority of Trump’s cabinet would invoke the 25th Amendment. But hopes for this quickly faded.

A growing number of Cabinet officials began resigning:

  • Education Secretary Betsy DeVos
  • Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao
  • Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf

There was a very real danger there wouldn’t be enough Cabinet members left to invoke the Amendment.  

But making the use of the Amendment even more unlikely was the obvious unwillingness of Vice President Pence to invoke it.

Official White House portrait of Mike Pence smiling. He wears a black suit, red tie, and an American flag lapel pin.

Mike Pence

This despite the fact that he could have been hanged as a “traitor” by the Stormtrumpers only days ago.

(He had likely been spared this fate by his Secret Service detail, whisking him out of the Senate—and leaving other government officials to their own fates.)

On January 11, Democrats introduced a single impeachment article charging Trump with “incitement of insurrection” in urging his supporters to march on the U.S. Capitol on January 6.

They also introduced a resolution that called on Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove him from office before January 20.

On January 13, the House met to debate a single article of impeachment: “Incitement of Insurrection.” Its gist:

“Thus incited by President Trump, members of the crowd he had addressed, in an attempt to, among other objectives, interfere with the Joint Session’s solemn constitutional duty to certify the results of the 2020 Presidential election, unlawfully breached and vandalized the Capitol, injured and killed law enforcement personnel, menaced Members of Congress, the Vice President, and Congressional personnel, and engaged in other violent, deadly, destructive, and seditious acts.” 

Thus, the House sought to remove a President who intended to rule as a dictator.

Fifty-nine years earlier, a Russian congress had come face-to-face with the despotism of another tyrant.

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

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

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

It has always been so.

Mikhail  Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky was a major Soviet military leader and theoretician from 1918 to 1937. He fought to modernize Soviet armament, as well as develop airborne, aviation and mechanized forces. Almost singlehandedly, he created the theory of deep operations for Soviet forces.

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

Tukhachevsky.png

Mikhail  Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky  

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

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

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

He had a large portrait of Tukhachevsky in his room, and after the announcement that Tukhachevsky had been shot as a traitor to the homeland, Zhilayev did not take the picture down. If discovered, it meant instant arrest—and almost certain execution.

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

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

As, in fact, has happened. 

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

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

Olga Misik

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In his 1960 poem, “Conversation With an American Writer,” the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko spoke for those Russians who had maintained their integrity in the face of Stalinist terror:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catherine the Great

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ukraine vs. Russia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olga Misik

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

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

Below follows relevant portions of her statement to the court:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olga Misik

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vladimir Putin

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

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

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

Here are its most moving passages: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE CORRUPTIONS OF THE RICH: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 29, 2022 at 12:11 am

The gap between rich and poor in the United States has never been greater.

A May 1, 2018 article in Forbes—which bills itself as “The Capitalist Tool”—vividly documents this truth.

“In the 1950s, a typical CEO made 20 times the salary of his or her average worker. Last year, [2017] CEO pay at an S&P 500 Index firm soared to an average of 361 times more than the average rank-and-file worker, or pay of $13,940,000 a year, according to an AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch news release today.”

The average CEO pay climbed six percent in 2017—while the average production worker earned just $38,613, according to Executive Paywatch.

The average wage—adjusted for inflation—has stagnated for more than 50 years. Meanwhile, CEOs’ average pay since the 1950s has risen by 1000%.

This would not have been news to Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science. In his masterwork, The Discourses, he observed the human condition as that of constant struggle: 

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

“It was a saying of ancient writers, that men afflict themselves in evil, and become weary of the good, and that both these dispositions produce the same effects. 

“For when men are no longer obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition, which passion is so powerful in the hearts of men that it never leaves them, no matter to what height they may rise. 

“The reason for this is that nature has created men so that they desire everything, but are unable to attain it. Desire being thus always greater than the faculty of acquiring, discontent with what they have and dissatisfaction with themselves result from it. 

“This causes the changes in their fortunes—for as some men desire to have more, while others fear to lose what they have, enmities and war are the consequences. And this brings about the ruin of one province and the elevation of another.”

Author Walter Scheidel, Dickason Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics and History at Stanford University, has also given this subject a great deal of thought. And, like Machiavelli, he has reached some highly disturbing conclusions.

Walter Scheidel - Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2012.jpg

Walter Scheidel

World Economic Forum [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

Scheidel gave voice to these in his 2017 book, The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century. His thesis: Only violence and catastrophes have consistently reduced inequality throughout history

According to the book’s jacket blurb: Are mass violence and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease economic inequality? To judge by thousands of years of history, the answer is yes.

“Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter Scheidel shows that inequality never dies peacefully. Inequality declines when carnage and disaster strike and increases when peace and stability return.

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“The Great Leveler is the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around the world.

“Ever since humans began to farm, herd livestock, and pass on their assets to future generations, economic inequality has been a defining feature of civilization. Over thousands of years, only violent events have significantly lessened inequality.

“The ‘Four Horsemen’ of leveling—mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues—have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich….

“Today, the violence that reduced inequality in the past seems to have diminished, and that is a good thing. But it casts serious doubt on the prospects for a more equal future.”

Revolutionaries have known the truth of Scheidel’s findings from the gladiators’ revolt of Spartacus (73 – 71 B.C.) to the French Revolution (1789 – 1799) to the overthrow of the Czarist Romanov dynasty (1917).

But American politicians serenely ignore that truth. They depend on the mega-rich for millions of dollars in “campaign contributions”—which pay for self-glorifying ads on TV.

Thus, in 2016, American voters had a “choice” between two “love-the-rich” Presidential candidates: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The result was that millions stayed home or voted in protest for third-party candidates who had no chance of winning.

In his 1975 book, The Corrupt Society: From Ancient Greece to Modern-day America, British historian Robert Payne warned that the predatory rich would not change their behavior: “Nor is there any likelihood that the rich will plow back their money into services to ensure the general good.

“They have rarely demonstrated social responsibility, and they are much more likely to hold on to their wealth at all costs than to renounce any part of it.

“Like the tyrant who lives in a world wholly remote from the world of the people, shielded and protected from all possible influences, the rich are usually the last to observe the social pressures rising from below, and when these social pressures reach flashpoint, it is too late to call in the police or the army.

“The tyrant dies; the police and the army go over to the revolutionaries; and the new government dispossesses the rich by decree. A single authoritative sentence suffices to expunge all private wealth and restore it to the service of the nation.”

For millions of struggling, impoverished Americans, that day cannot come soon enough.

THE CORRUPTIONS OF THE RICH: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 28, 2022 at 12:31 am

Americans are used to Presidential candidates telling lies (euphemistically known as “campaign promises”) to get elected.

But when a candidate actually (and usually accidentally) tells the truth, the results can be electrifying. And sometimes devastating for the candidate.

On June 18, 2019, Democratic Presidential candidate (and momentary front-runner) Joseph Biden addressed a roomful of donors in New York. 

The former Vice President believed that his message would comfort his well-heeled audience of billionaires: Don’t worry, if I’m elected, your standard of living won’t change.

Addressing the 100 or so guests at a fundraiser at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City, Biden said that he had taken heat from “some of the people on my team, on the Democratic side” because he had said that rich people were “just as patriotic as poor people.

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

Joe Biden

“The truth of the matter is, you all, you all know, you all know in your gut what has to be done. We can disagree in the margins but the truth of the matter is it’s all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished. No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change,” he said. 

And he added: “I mean, we may not want to demonize anybody who has made money.

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“When we have income inequality as large as we have in the United States today, it brews and ferments political discord and basic revolution. Not a joke. Not a joke … It allows demagogues to step in and say the reason where we are is because of the ‘other’….

“You’re not the other. I need you very badly. I hope if I win this nomination, I won’t let you down. I promise you. I have a bad reputation, I always say what I mean. The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean.”

Biden had talked about decreasing income inequality and promoting workers’ rights. But he had also taken a moderate stance when it came to taxation.

United States Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), on the other hand, has attacked the ultra-rich as responsible for the ever-widening gap between themselves and the poor.

“I love Bernie, but I’m not Bernie Sanders. I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason why we’re in trouble,” Biden said in March, 2019.

Instead, he proposed expanding tax credits for the poor and middle class, and making the tax code less friendly to rich investors. 

Robert Payne, the distinguished British historian, took a different—and darker—view of the rich.

Payne authored more than 110 books. Among his subjects were Adolf Hitler, Ivan the Terrible, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, William Shakespeare and Leon Trotsky.

In 1975, he published The Corrupt Society: From Ancient Greece to Present-Day America. It proved a summary of many of his previous works.Related image

Among the epochs it covered: The civilizations of ancient Greece, Rome and China; Nazi Germany; the Soviet Union; and Watergate-era America. And the massive corruption each of those epochs had spawned.

Amazon.com: Robert Payne: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Robert Payne

In his chapter, “A View of the Uncorrupted Society,” Payne warned: Power and wealth are the main sources of corruption.

“The rich, simply by being rich, are infected with corruption. Their overwhelming desire is to grow richer, but they can do this only at the expense of those who are poorer than themselves.

”Their interests conflict with those of the overall society. They live sheltered from the constant anxieties of the poor, and thus cannot understand them.  Nor do they try to.”

They see the poor as alien from themselves, and thus come to fear and despise them. And their wealth and influence enables them to buy politicians—who, in turn, write legislation that protects the rich from the poor.

But Payne foresaw an even greater danger from the rich and powerful than their mere isolation from the rest of society: “The mere presence of the rich is corrupting. Their habits, their moral codes, their delight in conspicuous consumption are permanent affronts to the rest of humanity. Vast inequalities of wealth are intolerable in any decent society.”

Writing in 1975, Payne noted that a third of the private wealth was possessed by less than five percent of the population—while about a fifth of the populace lived at the poverty level. By 2000, he predicted, about five percent of the population would possess two-thirds of America’s wealth. And more than half the population would be near or below the starvation level. 

The result could only be catastrophe. The only way to halt this this increasing concentration of wealth by fewer people would be through law or violent revolution.

Payne has proven to be an uncanny prophet.

On December 8, 2017, the Seattle Times noted that the wealthiest one percent of Americans owned 40% of the country’s wealth. They owned more wealth than the bottom 90% combined. 

From 2013, the share of wealth owned by the one percent increased by nearly three percentage points. Wealth owned by the bottom 90%, meanwhile, fell over the same period.

But this situation need not remain permanent.

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.

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