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Posts Tagged ‘MIKHAIL TUKHACHEVSKY’

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.

OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART FIVE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 18, 2018 at 1:16 am

The first year of Donald Trump’s White House has seen more firings, resignations, and reassignments of top staffers than any other first-year administration in modern history. His Cabinet turnover exceeds that of any other administration in the last 100 years. 

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The White House

With the administration rapidly approaching its halfway pint—January 20, 2019—it’s time to size up its litany of casualties. 

This listing, however, does not tell the full story. Among those who resigned from the Trump administration—and the real reasons why:

  • Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald – Resigned as director of the Center of Disease Control after Politico reported that she had bought stock in Japan Tobacco while serving as CDC director.
  • Omarosa Manigault-Newman – Met Trump as a contestant on “The Apprentice,” where he fired her on three different shows. She moved into the White House with him as Director of Communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison. She became disillusioned with him during 2017 and began taping her conversations with him and other government officials. When she learned she had been fired she reportedly had to be literally dragged from the White House.
  • Tom Price – The Secretary of Health and Human Services ran up a $1 million cost to taxpayers for private planes and military jets for travel within the United States and trips to Asia, Africa and Europe. 
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross – Trump told him: “I don’t trust you. I don’t want you doing any more negotiations….You’re past your prime.” 
  • Sean Spicer – Resigned in anger after Trump chose Anthony Scaramucci as White House Communications Director. The reason: Trump kept him in the dark about events Spicer needed to know—such as an interview that Trump arranged with the New York Times—and which ended disastrously for Trump.
  • Walter Shaub – Resigned as the director of the Office of Government Ethics in July after clashing with Trump over the President’s conflicts-of-interest vis-a-vis his financial holdings.
  • Hope Hicks – White House Communications Director, resigned one day after testifying before the House Intelligence Committee. She claimed she had told “white lies” for Trump but hadn’t lied about anything important relating to the investigation of Russian subversion of the 2016 election.
  • Chief of Staff Reince Priebus – Suffered repeated humiliations by Trump—such a being ordered to kill a fly that was buzzing about.
  • On another occasion, Trump told an associate that Priebus was “like a little rat. He just scurries around.”
  • On July 28, 2017, Priebus resigned.
  • Chief of Staff John Kelly – Trump similarly ridiculed Priebus’ replacement, a former Marine Corps general. Kelly tried to limit the number of advisers who had unrestricted access to Trump—and thus bring discipline to his schedule.
  • Instead of being grateful, Trump became furious. Kelly told colleagues: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”

Related image

John Kelly

On December 8, 2018, Trump announced that: “John Kelly will be leaving at the end of the year, we will be announcing who will be taking John’s place, it may be on an interim basis, in the next day or two.” 

This had been expected for months. Reportedly, Kelly and Trump were no longer on speaking terms.

Trump’s apparent first choice for Kelly’s replacement: Nick Ayers, who had served as Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff for more than a year.  

Trump pushed Ayers to commit to two years, but he declined.

Ayers told Trump he had young children, and wanted to return to his home state of Georgia. He offered to temporarily serve as chief of staff, but Trump demanded a two-year commitment, and talks fell apart.

Finally, Trump found a replacement for Kelly: Mick Mulvaney, who has served as director of the Office of Management and Budget. He intends to keep his position at OMB while serving as Trump’s chief of staff.

As 2018 rapidly comes to an end, the Trump administration will come under increased pressure on two fronts:

  1. The Special Counsel’s investigation of Russian subversion of the 2016 Presidential election: Robert Mueller is slowly closing the net on the highest-ranking members of the Trump administration—such as Michael Flynn and Paul Manafort. These will almost certainly lead to Trump himself.
  2. On January 3, the House of Representatives will become a Democratically-controlled body. Trump will face unprecedented opposition—and major investigations of his past and current actions. It’s likely that the House Intelligence Committee will go after his long-hidden tax returns—which may well prove his longstanding financial ties to Russian oligarchs.

The White House is one of the most stressful places to work. Constant deadlines keep staffers working days on end. Travel is frequent. And anyone can be dismissed in an instant, since all employees work “at the pleasure of the President.”

These events will bring increased fear and stress to those who still remain in the White House. This, in turn, will ensure increased mass firings and/or resignations from the White House.  

As aging stage actress Margo Channing (Bette Davis) warns in All About Eve:  “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART FOUR (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 17, 2018 at 12:26 am

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

With the Trump administration rapidly approaching its halfway point—January 20, 2019—it’s time to size up its litany of casualties.

Among these: 

FIRED: 

  • Preet Bharara – U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York
  • Sally Yates – Assistant United States Attorney General
  • James Comey – FBI Director
  • Rex Tillerson – Secretary of State
  • Andrew McCabe – FBI Deputy Director 
  • Jeff Sessions – United States Attorney General 

RESIGNED:

  • Katie Walsh – Deputy White House Chief of Staff
  • Michael T. Flynn – National Security Adviser
  • Walter Shaub – Office of Government Ethics Director
  • Michael Dubke – Communications Director
  • Sean Spicer – Press Secretary
  • Reince Priebus – Chief of Staff
  • Anthony Scaramucci – Communications Director
  • Steve Bannon – Chief Strategist
  • Sebastian Gorka – Deputy Assistant to the President
  • Tom Price – Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Omarosa Manigault-Newman – Director of Communications for White House Office of Public Liaison
  • Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald – Director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention 
  • Rob Porter – White House Staff Secretary
  • Hope Hicks – White House Communications Director
  • Gary Cohn – Director of the National Economic Council
  • H.R. McMaster – National Security Adviser 
  • Tom Bossert – Homeland Security Adviser
  • Scott Pruitt – Director, Environmental Protection Agency
  • Don McGahn – White House Counsel
  • Nikki Haley – United States Ambassador to the United Nations
  • David Shulkin – Secretary of the Veterans Administration 

This listing, however, does not tell the full story. 

Among those who were fired—and the real reasons why:

  • Jeff Sessions – Fired as Attorney General because he refused to quash Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller’s probe into proven connections between Russian Intelligence agents and high-ranking members of Trump’s Presidential campaign. 
  • On the day after the November, 2018 mid-term elections, Trump fired him. 
  • James Comey – Fired as FBI Director because he refused to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump. Trump also hoped to end the FBI’s investigation of links between Russian Intelligence agents and members of his 2016 Presidential campaign.
  • Trump later admitted to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak: “I just fired the head of the FBI….I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” 
  • Don McGahn – Resigned as White House Counsel after repeatedly clashing with Trump about the best strategy for dealing with Mueller’s investigation. 
  • Tom Bossert – Trump’s Homeland Security Adviser, was fired by John Bolton, the new National Security Adviser.  
  • Sally Yates – Fired by Trump as Acting Attorney General for her aggressive pursuit of Michael Flynn’s treasonous contacts with Russian Intelligence officials during the 2016 Presidential campaign. She had also refused to uphold Trump’s executive order on immigration and denounced it as unlawful.
  • Preet Bharara – Fired by Trump as United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Although an Obama appointee, Trump had initially asked him to stay on—and then abruptly fired him. The possible reason: He was known as one of Wall Street’s fiercest watchdogs and a widely respected prosecutor. Trump believes that corporations should be immune from their crimes—and, as President, has worked to confer such immunity upon them.
  • Rex Tillerson – Trump’s Secretary of State, was fired without warning while on a trip to Africa. The reason: In 2017, word leaked to the press that Tillerson had called Trump “a moron.”   
  • Steve Bannon – Although he officially resigned, Trump fired his Fascistic chief strategist after Bannon heatedly clashed with other members of the White House. 
  • Anthony Scaramucci – Although he officially resigned, he was in fact fired by Trump at the urging of John Kelly. The reason: An obscenity-laced interview with The New Yorker, where he attacked members of the Trump administration—most notably Bannon.

Among those who resigned—and the real reasons why:

  • Scott Pruitt – Although he technically resigned as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, he was in effect fired. He was under several federal ethics investigation for lavish spending, conflicts of interests with corporate lobbyists, and enlisting his official government staffers to run personal errands.
  • Rob Porter – The White House Staff Secretary resigned after after two of his ex-wives accused him of physical and emotional abuse. 
  • Michael Flynn – Although he officially resigned, he was in fact fired as National Security Adviser. The reason: He had discussed, with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, ending the Obama administration’s sanctions against Russia. Then he lied about it to Vice President Mike Pence. When these facts became public, Flynn was sent packing. 

OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART THREE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 14, 2018 at 12:06 am

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

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

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.

Image result for images of cell phone detectors on Youtube

Phone detector

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

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

In his memo outlining the policy, 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.”

Image result for images of no cell phones

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.

Trump became famous on “The Apprentice” for telling contestants: “You’re fired.”

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

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

With the Trump administration rapidly approaching its halfway point—January 20, 2019—it’s time to size up its litany of casualties.

The list is impressive—but only in a negative sense.

OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART TWO (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 13, 2018 at 12:36 am

In his infamous treatise, The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli warns that it is safer to be feared than loved. And he lays out his reason thusly: 

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 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….”

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

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, 2018, 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.

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.

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.”

SarahHuckabeeSanders.jpg

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.

In January, 2018, 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.

OUT OF EVIL, CHAOS: PART ONE (OF FIVE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 12, 2018 at 12:06 am

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

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

Adolf Hitler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stalin purged Yagoda and Yezhov, with both men executed after being arrested.

Joseph Stalin

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

Nor were these the only casualties of Stalin’s reign.

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

The 1930s were a frightening and dangerous time to be alive in the Soviet Union. In 1934, Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion.

An example of Stalin’s paranoia occurred one day while the dictator walked through the Kremlin corridors with Admiral Ivan Isakov. Officers of the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) stood guard at every corner. 

“Every time I walk down the corridors,” said Stalin, “I think: Which one of them is it? If it’s this one, he will shoot me in the back. But if I turn the corner, the next one can shoot me in the face.”

In 1937-38, the Red Army fell prey to Stalin’s paranoia.

Its victims included:

  • Three of five marshals (five-star generals);
  • Thirteen of 15 army commanders (three- and four-star generals);
  • Fifty of 57 army corps commanders; and
  • One hundred fifty-four out of 186 division commanders.

And heading the list of those marked for death was Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

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

On his confession, which survives in the archives, his bloodstains can clearly be seen.

On June 11, the Soviet Supreme Court convened a special military tribunal to try Tukhachevsky and eight generals for treason.

It was a sham: The accused were denied defense attorneys, and could not appeal the verdict—-which was foregone: Death.

In a Russian version of poetic justice, five of the eight generals who served as Tukhachevsky’s judges were themselves later condemned and executed as traitors.

Since taking office as the nation’s 45th President, Donald Trump has sought to rule by fear. 

Related image

Donald Trump

In fact, he candidly shared his belief in this as a motivator to journalist Bob Woodward during the 2016 Presidential race: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.” 

It is unknown if Trump ever read The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli’s infamous treatise on attaining political power. If so, he doubtless is familiar with its most famous passage:

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…. 

“For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain; as long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt. 

“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.”

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