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Posts Tagged ‘JOSEPH STALIN’

WHEN TYRANTS FALL OUT

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on August 14, 2018 at 12:09 am

Just as opposites can attract, so, too can similarities repel.

Take Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler, for example.

Both:

  • Admired strength and despised weakness.
  • Built their careers by appealing to hatred—Hitler of Jews, Stalin of non-Communists.
  • Were colossal egotists—insisting that they be referred to as geniuses and saviors and ordering that their portraits and statues be displayed everywhere.
  • Ruled by terror—exterminating millions and imprisoning other millions in a network of concentration camps. 
  • Signed a non-aggression treaty, partly because each feared the other, and partly to gain half of Poland.

Joseph Stalin

Yet for all their similarities Hitler and Stalin inevitably became deadly enemies.

Hitler hated Communism and coveted “living space” for Germans within the Soviet Union. And Stalin hated Fascism and saw “Hitlerite” Germany as his most dangerous enemy. 

On June 22, 1941, Hitler ordered the invasion of the Soviet Union. Only after suffering at least 25 million casualties did Stalin see his armies repel the Nazi invaders and conquer Germany.

Adolf Hitler

Fast forward 73 years since the end of World War II in 1945.

Stalin and Hitler are dead—and so is the death-struggle they shared. In its place stands the conflict between President Donald Trump and his former White House assistant, Omarosa Manigault-Newman.

The relationship between these two dates to 2004, when she became a participant in the first season of The Apprentice, NBC’s “reality” TV series. Her rudeness and ruthlessness toward other contestants quickly made her “the woman America loved to hate,” according to Jet magazine.

She returned in the seventh season of The Apprentice as well.

TV Guide included her in its 2013 list of “The 60 Nastiest TV Villains of All Time.”

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Omarosa Manigault

In 2008, she appeared on Celebrity Apprentice—where she was again fired after failing to sell more artwork than a rival team. 

During the 2016 Presidential race, she served as Trump’s Director of African-American Outreach, although she had absolutely no credible ties to the black community.

In February, 2016, she appeared on a segment on Maria Bartiromo’s Fox Business show. Fox panelist Tamara Holder said that she would like Trump more if he expressed support for Black Lives Matter or put forward a plan to improve inner cities.

Manigault argued that the topic of the discussion should be limited to Trump’s criticism of the Iraq war. In doing so, she mispronounced Holder’s first name.

Holder: “It’s Tamara.”

Manigault: “It’s the same difference, boo. You want to come on with big boobs, then you deal with the pronunciation of your name.”

“Wait a second,” Bartiromo interrupted. “Why are you bringing up Tamara’s boobs?”

Manigault: “Because she started going back talking about, ‘Oh, you were a Democrat and you supported Hillary Clinton.’ If you want to get personal, we can get personal.”

Manigault wasn’t bothered that blacks regarded Trump so poorly in polls: “My reality is that I’m surrounded by people who want to see Donald Trump as the next president of the United States who are African-American.”

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Donald Trump

And, in September, 2016, she famously predicted: “Every critic, every detractor will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”

Just as Hitler—for all the similarities he shared with Stalin—inevitably turned on him, so did Manigault turn on Trump.

When Trump moved into the White House on January 20, 2017, Manigault moved in with him as his director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison.

In June, 2017, she invited the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) to visit the White House. And she signed the invitation: “The Honorable Omarosa Manigault.” 

This is not a title given to political aides. And it’s not used by those referring to themselves.

The arrogance offended some members of the Caucus, which declined the invitation.

In August, Manigault appeared at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans. She was a panelist on a discussion about losing loved ones to violence.

When the moderator, Ed Gordon, asked her about Trump’s policies and not her personal history with losing family members through violence, Manigault got into a shouting match with him.

On December 13, she was told that she would be leaving the White House on January 20, 2018—one year from the day she had arrived there. She reportedly asked Ivanka Trump to intervene on her behalf, but the request was denied.

Deciding to go right to the top, she headed for the Trump’s private quarters. There she tripped an alarm—which brought guards and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly to the scene.

An enraged Kelly ordered her ejected from the White House. Multiple sources report that she was physically restrained and escorted—cursing and screaming—from the Executive Mansion.

Next day—December 14—Manigault appeared on “Good Morning America.”

The woman who had been Trump’s ambassador to blacks now sang a different tune: “I have seen things that made me uncomfortable, that have upset me, that have affected me deeply and emotionally, that has affected my community and my people. And when I can tell my story, it is a profound story that I know the world will want to hear.”

TRUMP: EVERYONE IS A LIAR–EXCEPT ME

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 30, 2018 at 1:47 am

“We don’t apologize for America anymore,” President Donald Trump said at the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri. 

“We stand up for America.  We stand up for the patriots who defend America.” 

That was on July 24, 2018.  

Yet, eight days earlier, on July 16, Trump had stood before assembled reporters in a press conference in Helsinki, Finland. Standing next to him was Vladimir Putin, the absolute dictator of Russia.

It was there that Trump blamed American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—instead of Putin for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.  

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Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin in Helsinki

“You have groups that are wondering why the FBI never took the server, why haven’t they taken the server? Why was the FBI told to leave the office of the Democratic National Committee? 

“I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” 

So much for “we don’t apologize for America anymore.”

But worse was to come at the VFW Convention. 

“Just stick with us,” Trump told his audience. “Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. Just remember:  What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

Political pundits were appalled. But Trump’s attitude was entirely predictable.

During the 2016 election, he tried to convince Americans that:

  1. He did not insult the parents of Captain Humayun Khan, who was killed by a truck-bomb in Iraq in 2004; and/or
  2. Barack Obama was responsible for Khan’s death. And so was Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

On July 28, 2016 Trump had become embroiled in a series of angry exchanges with Khan’s father, Khizr, and his mother, Ghazala.  

Khizr was a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention, and he used the opportunity to attack Trump:

“If it was up to Donald Trump, [Humayun] never would have been in America. Donald Trump consistently smears the character of Muslims. He disrespects other minorities, women, judges, even his own party leadership. He vows to build walls and ban us from this country….You have sacrificed nothing and no one.” 

Republicans desperately wanted Trump to end the conflict and return to attacking his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.  

That was the assignment given to Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson.

Appearing on CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on August 2, Pierson said: “It was under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that changed the rules of engagements that probably cost his life.”

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Katrina Pierson

Totally ignored in that scenario: 

  • President George W. Bush lied the nation into a needless war that cost the lives of 4,486 Americans and wounded another 33,226.  
  • Barack Obama did not become President until 2009—almost five years after Khan’s death.
  • And Hillary Clinton did not become Secretary of State until the same year.

Pierson argued that Trump should be exempt from apologizing to the Khan family because he “never voted for the Iraq War.”  

“Hillary Clinton did,” Pierson added. “And then she didn’t support the troops to have what they need.”

It’s true that Clinton, elected U.S. Senator from New York in 2000, voted in 2002 to support Bush’s attack on Iraq.  

But Obama, elected U.S. Senator from Illinois in 2004, strongly opposed the Iraq war from the onset of his term. In fact, he made it a major issue during his 2008 Presidential race against Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain.

Pierson’s attempt to rewrite history touched off a frenzy on Twitter, leading to the creation of the hashtag #KatrinaPiersonHistory. Its purpose: To mock Pierson’s revisionist take on history.

Among the tweets offered: 

  • Hillary Clinton slashed funding for security at the Ford Theater, leading to Lincoln’s assassination. 
  • Obama introduced John Lennon to Yoko Ono, and well, you know.  
  • Obama gave Amelia Earhart directions to Kenya.  
  • Remember the Alamo? Obama and Hillary let it happen. 
  • Obama and Clinton kidnapped the Lindbergh baby. 
  • Obama decided that too many lifeboats would offend radical Islamic terrorists aboard the Titanic.  
  • Barack Obama convinced the serpent to tempt Eve in the Garden of Eden.  
  • Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton organized The Spanish Inquisition.

The effect turned Trump’s spokeswoman into a nationwide laughingstock. And her efforts to rewrite history didn’t help Trump.

On August 3, 2016, Pierson appeared on CNN’s New Day. She admitted being wrong about the timeline and said she had been trying to say that Donald Trump had no connection to the Khans.

Later on CNN, Anderson Cooper asked Khizr Khan to comment on Pierson’s allegation. 

“Do I need to say anything?” Khan replied. “Lack of understanding, lack of factual correctness, it’s just nothing but political vote pandering.”  

In George Orwell’s novel, 1984, the unnamed Party’s slogan is: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”

The same holds true for Trump and Republicans: They hope to rewrite the past, as Joseph Stalin did, to wash away their crimes and errors—and pin these on their self-declared enemies.

And thus gain—and retain—absolute power over 300 million Americans.

REPUBLICANS: “WE ARE THE ONLY LEGITIMATE POLITICAL PARTY”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 2, 2018 at 12:04 am

There was a time when Republicans saw—and portrayed themselves—as America’s foremost defenders against Communism.

This is well-illustrated by the career of Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. 

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia: 

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Joseph McCarthy

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer. 

Among those slandered:

  • Folksinger Pete Seeger
  • President Harry S. Truman
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast and John Steinbeck
  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan

So imagine how Red-baiting Republicans like McCarthy and then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon would feel dumbfounded at the following:  

On February 20, 2018, a purge of Russian “bots” by Twitter sparked outrage by—yes!—Right-wingers. 

Bots are fake accounts used to spread propaganda or advertising campaigns. Investigations by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have uncovered massive efforts by Russia to throw the 2016 Presidential election to Donald Trump.

They did so by swamping “social media” sites like Facebook, Google and Twitter with genuinely fake news. 

The Twitter purge came a week after Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies for interfering in that election. The indictments detailed an elaborate plot to wage “information warfare” against the United States. 

Right-wingers suddenly found thousands of their Russian bot followers had disappeared—and accused Twitter of secretly deleting like-minded accounts.

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“Twitter is currently purging the followers on conservative accounts only. I just lost 3000 followers in one minute,” tweeted Candace Owens, director of urban engagement for Turning Point USA.  This is a student organization promoting limited government and free markets.  

Bill Mitchell, a Right-winger known for his controversial tweets defending President Donald Trump, claimed that he lost roughly 4,000 followers overnight.  

“This is a damn joke,” tweeted Mike Zollo. “Twitter is absolutely censoring conservative and right wing speech for no damn reason other than their disagreement with it. But, liberals can write vile comments and threaten us with no punishment.”

From the end of World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, it would have been unthinkable for a Republican Presidential candidate to find common cause with a Soviet dictator.

But that utterly changed when Donald Trump won, first, the Republican Presidential nomination and, then, the White House. Trump lavishly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin—and even called on him to directly interfere in the 2016 Presidential race.

On July 22, 2016, Wikileaks released 19,252 emails and 8,034 attachments hacked from computers of the highest-ranking officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). Early reports traced the leak to Russian hackers. 

“Russia, if you are listening,” Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida, “I hope you are able to find the 33,000 emails that are missing—I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

This was nothing less than treason—calling upon a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

On December 16, 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House. 

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Trump, however, has steadfastly denied any such role by Russia: “I think it’s ridiculous,” he told “Fox News Sunday.” “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it….No, I don’t believe it at all.”  

The last time dictator-worshiping Fascists found common cause with dictator-worshiping Communists was in August, 1939. 

Germany’s Fuhrer Adolf Hitler and the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin agreed to end—at least temporarily—their years of violent rivalry and personal slander. 

Hitler planned to invade Poland, and feared he would have to fight its allies, France and England, if he did.  He didn’t want to have to fight the Soviet Union, too.

And Stalin saw Hitler’s warlike ambitions as useful to his own dreams of conquest: He wanted—and got—-the eastern half of Poland, while Hitler’s legions occupied the western half. 

Similarly, Donald Trump—the arch capitalist—and Vladimir Putin—the arch Communist—found common cause

Putin wanted a President who would withdraw the United States from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)—which would instantly render that alliance kaput. And give Russia a free hand to attack Europe.

And Trump had repeatedly said the United States was paying an unfairly large portion of the monies needed to maintain that alliance. 

And Trump wanted to be President—to enrich himself and his family, to become the center of the world’s attention, and to destroy anyone who dared confront or contradict him. 

And in supporting his dictatorial agenda, his millions of Right-wing followers have found common cause with the followers of a Communist dictator’s agenda.  

REPUBLICANS: “WE ARE THE ONLY LEGITIMATE POLITICAL PARTY”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 29, 2018 at 12:02 am

Reince Priebus, the incoming White House Chief of Staff for soon-to-be President Donald J. Trump, summed up the essential attitude of the Republican party.

Millions of Americans were questioning whether Trump was legitimately elected. Their suspicions were based on solid evidence: According to the American Intelligence community, that Russian President Vladimir Putin intervened in the 2016 Presidential election to help him defeat Hillary Clinton.

And Priebus believed—or at least claimed to believe—that outgoing President Barack Obama should vouch for Trump’s legitimacy.

“I think President Obama should step up,” Priebus said on January 15, 2017 on ABC’s “This Week.” “We’ve had a great relationship with the White House….I think the administration can do a lot of good by telling folks that are on the Republican side of the aisle, look, we may have lost the election on the Democratic side, but it’s time to come together.”

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Reince Priebus

“You didn’t have Republicans questioning whether or not Obama legitimately beat John McCain in 2008,” Priebus added.

“This Week” host George Stephanopoulos replied that Trump had questioned Obama’s legitimacy as an American citizen until almost the end of the 2016 Presidential race.

“But look, George, that’s not the point!” Priebus said, visibly agitated. “The point is not where Barack Obama was born! The point is that we’ve got congressmen on the Democratic side of the aisle that are questioning the legitimacy of President-elect Trump.”  

In short: Let’s ignore Trump’s five-year slander campaign against the legitimacy of President Obama. What’s important is that people are questioning the legitimacy of a Republican elected with the help of Russian Communists.

In 2011, Trump, then-host of NBC’s “The Apprentice,” was thinking of running for President against Obama.

To gain popularity among America’s Right-wing, Trump almost singlehandedly created the popular fiction that the President was born in Kenya–and was not an American citizen.

His motive: To convince Americans that Obama was an illegitimate President.

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Donald Trump

Among the statements Trump made:

February 10, 2011: “Our current president came out of nowhere. Came out of nowhere. In fact, I’ll go a step further: The people that went to school with him, they never saw him, they don’t know who he is. It’s crazy.”

March 23, 2011: “I want him to show his birth certificate. I want him to show his birth certificate. … There’s something on that birth certificate that he doesn’t like.”

March 28, 2011: “I am really concerned” [that Obama wasn’t born in the United States]. He said that the birth announcement for Obama in a Hawaii newspaper could have been planted “for whatever reason.”

March 30, 2011: “If you are going to be president of the United States you have to be born in this country. And there is a doubt as to whether or not he was. … He doesn’t have a birth certificate. He may have one, but there’s something on that, maybe religion, maybe it says he is a Muslim. I don’t know. Maybe he doesn’t want that. Or he may not have one. But I will tell you this. If he wasn’t born in this country, it’s one of the great scams of all time.”

April 7, 2011: “I have people that have been studying it, and they cannot believe what they’re finding. You are not allowed to be a president if you’re not born in this country. Right now I have real doubts.”

April 25, 2011: “I’ve been told very recently…that the birth certificate is missing. I’ve been told that it’s not there or it doesn’t exist. And if that’s the case, it’s a big problem.”

On April 27, President Obama released his original, long-form Hawiian birth certificate.

The long-form version of President Obama’s birth certificate

“We do not have time for this kind of silliness,” said Obama at a press conference, speaking as a father might to a roomful of spiteful children. “We have better stuff to do. I have got better stuff to do. We have got big problems to solve.

“We are not going to be able to do it if we are distracted, we are not going to be able to do it if we spend time vilifying each other…if we just make stuff up and pretend that facts are not facts, we are not going to be able to solve our problems if we get distracted by side shows and carnival barkers.” 

Trump responded with a series of tweets on Twitter—all of them attacking the legitimacy of the birth certificate that President Obama had released.  

For more than a year during his 2016 Presidential campaign, Trump continued his campaign of slander. But as his popularity steadily fell among black voters, even his own campaign strategists  urged him to put the “birther” issue behind him.

So, on September 16, 2016—10 days before his scheduled first debate with Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton—Trump gave his version of a reversal. 

“President Barack Obama was born in the United States, period. Now we all want to get back to making America strong and great again.”

His clearly  wanted to get it over with as fast as possible. He refused to take questions from reporters covering the event. And he didn’t apologize for his five-year campaign of slander.

THE DISCRIMINATION DOOR SWINGS BOTH WAYS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 24, 2018 at 9:23 pm

On June 19, Kirstjen Nielsen, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, was heckled by protesters while dining at a Mexican restaurant in Washington, D.C. 

The reason: To protest the Trump administration’s separation of illegal alien parents from their children in detention centers.

Then, three nights later, on June 22, the owner of a Lexington, Virginia, restaurant asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave. 

The reason: To protest the Trump’s discrimination against transgenders’ entering the military. 

Those verbally assailing Nielsen shouted:

  • “Do you hear the babies crying?”
  • “If kids don’t eat in peace, you don’t eat in peace.”
  • “Shame! Shame! Shame!”  
  • “In a Mexican restaurant of all places. The fucking gall.”
  • “No borders, no wall, sanctuaries for all.”

On June 23, Sanders tweeted her version of her requested exit: “Last night I was told by the owner of Red Hen in Lexington, VA to leave because I work for @POTUS and I politely left. Her actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders

According to The Washington Post, the Red Hen’s co-owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, got a call from her staff, reporting that Sanders was at the restaurant. Several employees are gay and knew Sanders had defended Trump’s efforts to bar transgenders from the military.

She added that her restaurant has “certain standards that I feel it has to uphold, such as honesty, and compassion and cooperation.”

From her statement, Wilkinson clearly believed Sanders was dishonest, inhumane and uncooperative.

On June 25, President Trump tweeted: “The Red Hen Restaurant should focus more on cleaning its filthy canopies, doors and windows (badly needs a paint job) rather than refusing to serve a fine person like Sarah Huckabee Sanders. I always had a rule, if a restaurant is dirty on the outside, it is dirty on the inside!” 

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Donald Trump

[Trump’s charge that the Red Hen is “dirty on the inside” was—as usual for him—false. 

[According to its most recent state health inspection in February, the Red Hen restaurant had zero violations.

[On the other hand: Florida health inspectors cited Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach with 15 violations in late January, 2017, days before Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe there for a diplomatic visit

Nor was this an exception. From 2014-2017, records show the club was cited 78 times for such violations as:

  • Chefs handling food without washing their hands
  • Dirty cutting boards
  • A slicer “soiled with old food debris” and
  • The “accumulation of black/green mold-like substance” in the ice machine.]

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Mar-a-Lago

Ironically, Trump and his followers are responsible for Nielsen’s and Sanders’ evictions. They have pushed legislation allowing businesses to discriminate against anyone they dislike on the basis of “religious freedom.”

On March 26, 2015, Mike Pence, then Governor of Indiana before accepting Trump’s invitation to become his Vice Presidential nominee, signed into law the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” 

This allows any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.

Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs. Unofficially, its intent is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.

In short, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake to be used at a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons can legally refuse to do so. Or a hospital can legally refuse to treat gay patients.

Although he praised the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press. 

On the eve of invading the Soviet Union, Adolf Hitler told an aide: “At the beginning of each campaign, one pushes a door into a dark, unseen room. One can never know what is hiding inside.”

Maybe Pence—like Hitler—sensed that he, too, was about to push open “a door into a dark, unseen room.” 

On the day after Pence signed the Act, Bill Levin filed paperwork with the Indiana Secretary of State to register the First Church of Cannabis as a legitimate religious institution. The registration was approved.

By elevating religion above the law, Indiana’s legislators may have enabled Indiana’s Muslims to:

  • Claim their right—guaranteed in Islamic religious law—to have as many as four wives.
  • Demand a taxpayer-funded “halal” non-pork food shelf at free food pantries for the poor. (As happened among Somali refugees in Minnesota in 2015.)
  • Demand that police departments cancel counter-terrorism courses by claiming that their materials are anti-Muslim. (As happened to several police departments in Illinois.)

And it was the Trump administration that supported the Supreme Court’s June 4 ruling 7-2 on behalf of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple. He had claimed that doing so would violate his religious beliefs against homosexuality. 

By championing the rights of businesses to legally discriminate against anyone they dislike—under the guise of “religious freedom”—Trump and his followers have opened a door that they themselves may now be forced to walk through.

WHAT TRUMP SHARES WITH OTHER DICTATORS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 19, 2018 at 12:16 am

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

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

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

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

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

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Hillary Clinton

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

First Putin:

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

Now Trump:

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

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Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, as President, Trump has continued to worship the ground dictators cover with corpses. Asked by a Fox news anchor why he praised murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, Trump replied: 

“He’s a tough guy. Hey, when you take over a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father …if you could do that at 27 years old, I mean, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that.  

“Anybody that takes over a situation like he did, at 26 years of age, and is able to run it, and run it tough—I don’t say he was nice or I don’t say anything about it—he ran it.” 

In short: Kim must be doing something right because he’s in power. And it doesn’t matter how he came to power—or the price his country is paying because of it.  

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Kim Jong-Un

Blue House (Republic of Korea) [KOGL (http://www.kogl.or.kr/open/info/license_info/by.do)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Actually, for all their differences in appearance and nationality, Trump shares at least two similarities with Kim.

First, both of them got a big boost into wealth and power from their fathers.

  • Trump’s father, Fred Trump, a real estate mogul, reportedly gave Donald $200 million to enter the real estate business. It was this sum that formed the basis for Trump’s eventual rise to wealth and fame—and the Presidency. 
  • Kim’s father was Kim Jong-Il, who ruled North Korea as dictator from 1994 to 2011. When his father died in 2011, Kim Jong-Un immediately succeeded him, having been groomed for years to do so. 

Second, both Trump and Kim have brutally tried to stamp out any voices that contradict their own.

  • Trump has constantly attacked freedom of the press, even labeling it “the enemy of the American people.” He has also slandered his critics on Twitter—which has refused to enforce its “Terms of Service” and revoke his account.
  • Kim has attacked his critics with firing squads and prison camps. (Amnesty International estimates that more than 200,000 North Koreans are now suffering in labor camps throughout the country.)   

During a February, 2017 interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, Trump defended Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. 

Reilly: “But he’s a killer.” 

Trump: “There are a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?” 

Thus, Trump—-elected to lead the “free world”—believes, like all dictators:

  • People are evil everywhere—so who am I to judge who’s better or worse? All that counts is gaining and holding onto power. 
  • And if you can do that, it doesn’t matter how you do so.

STALIN IN THE WHITE HOUSE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 17, 2018 at 12:00 am

On May 10, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Gina Haspel as CIA director: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark touched off a furor of criticism—and demands for her firing.

But the Trump White House refused to apologize for the remark.

Then, on May 14, President Donald Trump registered his fury—not at Sadler but at whoever had leaked her joke to the media:

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Donald Trump

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted. “With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”

Then, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the joke-leaker.

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

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

Officials now have two choices:

  1. Leave their cell phones in their cars, or,
  2. When they arrive for work, deposit them in lockers installed at West Wing entrances. They can reclaim their phones when they leave.

Several staffers huddle around the lockers throughout the day, checking messages they have missed. The lockers buzz and chirp constantly from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

More ominously, well-suited men roam 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 will ask if such a device is detected. If no one says they have a phone, the detection team start searching the room.

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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, 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 may not end White House leaks.

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

Aides with private offices sometimes call reporters on their desk phones. Others get their cell phones and call or text 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.”

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Other sources believe that leaks won’t end unless Trump starts firing staffers. But there is always the risk of firing the wrong people. Thus, to protect themselves, those who leak 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 can’t buy the loyalty of employees working in an atmosphere of hostility—which breeds resentment and fear. And some of them are taking revenge by sharing with reporters the latest crimes and follies of the Trump administration.

The more Trump wages war on the “cowards and traitors” who work most closely with him, the more some of them will find opportunities to strike back. This will inflame Trump even more—and lead him to seek even more repressive methods against his own staffers. 

This is a no-win situation for Trump.

The results will be 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 stay.

STALIN IN THE WHITE HOUSE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 16, 2018 at 12:08 am

It’s perhaps the most famous—and most widely quoted—part of The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli’s classic work on gaining political power:

From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.  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….

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined; for the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service. 

“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 immediately follows this up with a warning about the abuses of 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….”

Niccolo Machiavelli

It’s a warning that someone should have given President Donald Trump long ago.

Not that he would have heeded it.

On May 10, The Hill reported that White House Special Assistant Kelly Sadler had joked derisively about Arizona United States Senator John McCain.

McCain, a Navy pilot during the Vietnam war, was shot down over Hanoi on October 26, 1967, and captured. He spent five and a half years as a POW in North Vietnam—and was often brutally tortured. He wasn’t released until March 14, 1973.

Recently, he had opposed the nomination of Gina Haspel as director of the CIA.

The reason: In 2002, Haspel had operated a “black” CIA site in Thailand where Islamic terrorists were often waterboarded to make them talk. 

For John McCain, waterboarding was torture, even if it didn’t leave its victims permanently scarred and disabled. 

Aware that the 81-year-old McCain was dying of brain cancer, Sadler joked to intimates about the Senator’s opposition to Haspel: “It doesn’t matter. He’s dying anyway.”

John McCain's official Senate portrait, taken in 2009

John McCain

Leaked to CNN by an anonymous White House official, Sadler’s remark sparked fierce criticism—and demands for her firing.

McCain’s daughter, Meghan, said on the ABC talk show, “The View”: “Kelly, here’s a little news flash … we’re all dying. I’m dying, you’re dying, we’re all dying. And I want to say, since my dad has been diagnosed … I really feel like I understand the meaning of life, and it is not how you die, it’s how you live.”

Others were equally outraged. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close friend of McCain, said: “Ms. Sadler, may I remind you that John McCain has a lot of friends in the United States Senate on both sides of the aisle. Nobody is laughing in the Senate.”

“People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration. It happened yesterday,” said former Vice President Joe Biden.

“John McCain makes America great. Father, grandfather, Navy pilot, POW hero bound by honor, an incomparable and irrepressible statesman. Those who mock such greatness only humiliate themselves and their silent accomplices,” tweeted former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

And how has the Trump White House responded to this bipartisan fury?

Officially, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders refused to confirm or deny Sadler’s joke: “I’m not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of leaked staff meetings.”

Unofficially, Sanders was furious—not at the joke about a dying man, but that someone had leaked it. After assailing the White House communications team, she pouted: “I am sure this conversation is going to leak, too. And that’s just disgusting.”

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Sarah Huckabee Sanders

No apology has been offered by any official at the White House—including President Trump.

In fact, Senior White House communications adviser Mercedes Schlapp reportedly expressed her support for Sadler: “I stand with Kelly Sadler.”

On May 11—the day after Sadler’s comment was reported—reporters asked Sanders if the tone set by Trump had caused Sadler to feel comfortable in telling such a joke.

“Certainly not!” predictably replied Sanders, adding: “We have a respect for all Americans, and that is what we try to put forward in everything we do, but in word and in action, focusing on doing things that help every American in this country every single day.”

On May 14 Trump revealed his “respect” for “all Americans”—especially those working in the White House.

“The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the Fake News Media in order to make us look as bad as possible,” Trump tweeted.

“With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!”

In a move that Joseph Stalin would have admired, Trump ordered an all-out investigation to find the joke-leaker.

SPEAKING TRUTH TO TYRANTS

In Bureaucracy, History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on May 1, 2018 at 12:04 am

Speaking truth to tyrants is always risky. But those who do—and survive—can find consolation in knowing they have done something few others have dared to do.

Two women—one Russian, the other American—have had this experience.

Maria Veniaminovna Yudina (1899 – 1970) was a gifted pianist who joined the piano faculty of the Moscow Conservatory in 1936, where she taught until 1951.

Maria Yudina

From 1944 to 1960, Yudina taught chamber ensemble and vocal class at the Gnessin Institute. In 1960, she was fired from the Institute because of her religious beliefs and championing of modern Western music.

She continued to perform in public, but her recitals were forbidden to be recorded. At one of her recitals in Leningrad, she read Boris Pasternak’s  poetry from the stage as an encore.

For that, Yudina was banned from performing for five years. In 1966, when the ban was lifted, she gave a cycle of lectures on Romanticism at the Moscow Conservatory.

Although born into a Jewish family, she joined and remained a devout member of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Perhaps her most courageous act occurred during the last years of the reign of Joseph Stalin. The Soviet dictator was responsible for the deaths of 20 to 25 million people—through execution, famine, torture, imprisonment and deportations.

Joseph Stalin

One night in 1944, Stalin, listening to the radio, heard a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23. Yudina had played the piano, backed up by a full orchestra.

Stalin, impressed, ordered that an envelope containing 20,000 rubles be sent to Yudina.

According to Russian composer and pianist Dimitri Shostakovich, Yudina then did the unthinkable.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony,  Shostakovich writes that Yudina sent Stalin a letter almost certain to result in her arrest.

The gist of the letter: “I thank you, Iosif Vissarionovich, for your aid.

“I will pray for you day and night and ask the Lord to forgive your great sins before the people and the country. The Lord is merciful and He will forgive you. I gave the money to the church that I attend.”

Stalin read the letter to his inner circle. Although he could have destroyed Yudina as easily as killing a fly, he set aside the letter and did nothing.

Yudina’s recording of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 was on Stalin’s record player when he collapsed with a cerebral hemorrhage on March 1, 1953. It was the last music he had listened to.

Shostakovich believed that Stalin was superstitious—and it was this that saved Yudina.

Throughout her life, Yudina remained an uncompromising critic of the Soviet regime. She died in Moscow in 1970.

Seventy-four years later, another woman—Michelle Wolf—dared speak truth to a tyrant in a different way.

Wolf (1985 – ) is an American comedian and writer. In 2007, she graduated from the College of William & Mary, a public research university in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Her major: Kinesiology (the scientific study of human or non-human body movement.

She decided to enter the comedy world and made her first appearance on late-night television in 2014, on Late Night with Seth Meyers. She made repeated appearances on the show,  A regular at the Comedy Cellar in New York City, she joined The Daily Show with Trevor Noah in 2016

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Michelle Wolf

In 2017, she made her HBO stand-up debut, Michelle Wolf: Nice Lady.

On April 28, she hosted the annual White House Correspondents Dinner.

Traditionally, it’s been an occasion where Washington’s political and media elites enjoy dinner and trade barbed quips at one another.

But President Donald Trump chose to skip the dinner in 2017 and 2018. Trump—who repeatedly  insults others—is too thin-skinned to accept even harmless jokes aimed at him.

That, however, didn’t deter Wolf. And she served up a series of barbed jokes aimed at the greed, deceit and hypocrisy of high-ranking Trump administration officials. Among these:

  • [Trump] loves white nationalists, which is a weird term for a Nazi. Calling a Nazi a white nationalist is like calling a pedophile a kid friend or Harvey Weinstein a ladies’ man.
  • [Vice President] Mike Pence is a weirdo, though. He’s a weird little guy. He won’t meet with other women without his wife present. When people first heard this, they were like, “That’s crazy.” But now, in this current climate, they’re like, “That’s a good witness.”
  • A tree falls in the woods is [Environmental Protection Agency director] Scott Pruitt’s definition of porn. Yeah, we all have our kinks.

But Wolf also had plenty of jabs for assembled media bigwigs.

  • The most useful information on CNN is when Anthony Bourdain tells me where to eat noodles. 
  • People want me to make fun of [Fox News host] Sean Hannity tonight, but I cannot do that; this dinner is for journalists.

Wolf’s jokes—especially those about White Hose Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sanders—triggered harsh attacks in turn from Trump officials and media critics.

But Jimmy Kimmel—who has also performed at the correspondents dinner—tweeted:

“Michelle did exactly what she should do, which was [to] upset everybody. That’s the role of a commentator and a bomb thrower and a comedian. Your job is not to make people comfortable and your job is definitely not to stay within the line. Your job is to say the things that make people uncomfortable and upset.”

GREATNESS IN HEROES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 11, 2018 at 12:04 am

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

Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

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

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

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

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Dimitri Shostakovich

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

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

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

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

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

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

As, in fact, has happened. 

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

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky appears on a 1963 Soviet Union postage stamp

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

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

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

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

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

James Comey official portrait.jpg

James B. Comey

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

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

Trump had three reasons for firing Comey:

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

As a Presidential candidate and President, Trump:

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

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

Kislyak is reportedly a top recruiter for Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. He has been closely linked with Jeff Sessions, now Attorney General, and fired National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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