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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.

COVERING TRUMP AS HE DESERVES

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2018 at 12:13 am

On June 8, 2017, James Comey testified before the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

On May 9, he had been fired as director of the FBI by President Donald Trump.

During his Congressional testimony, Comey revealed that, on February 14,  2017, Trump had ordered everyone but Comey to leave a crowded meeting in the Oval Office.

Michael Flynn had resigned the previous day from his position as National Security Adviser. The FBI was investigating him for his previously undisclosed ties to Russia.

“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” said Trump. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

This was clearly an attempt by Trump to obstruct the FBI’s investigation.

Yet Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan rushed to excuse his clearly illegal behavior: “He’s new at government, so therefore I think he’s learning as he goes.”

Paul Ryan's official Speaker photo. In the background is the American Flag.

Paul Ryan

Many reporters who undoubtedly knew better agreed with this excuse: He just didn’t understand the protocols. He’ll get it right next time.

They didn’t dare report the truth: America is being ruled by a dictator in the mold of John Gotti.

Thus, Trump didn’t meet privately with Comey because he didn’t know “how modern government operates.” He wanted a private meeting to make a request he knew was on its face illegal—and he wanted to ensure “plausible deniability” in doing so.

If Comey later told the truth about that meeting—as he later did—Trump could say—as he later did: “It’s just his word against mine. Who are you going to believe?”

Reporters covering the Trump administration need to radically change their methods for doing so.

They should start covering it the way organized crime reporters have long covered the Mafia.

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Donald Trump

First, assume that Trump—and those who serve him—are acting criminally unless they can prove otherwise.

As Niccolo Machiavelli advised in his classic work, The Discourses:

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

“If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason, and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself.”

Second, report what he and his minions say publicly—but look for well-placed sources in law enforcement for the truth.

Reporters covering John Gotti found him highly quotable copy. But they also cultivated secret sources within the FBI and NYPD to discover what crimes he had committed—and was committing.

And when they wrote stories about him, they stated—unequivocally—that he was the boss of an organized crime family.

Reporters covering Trump should similarly list his own history of conflicts with the law.

John Gotti.jpg

John Gotti

Third, news media should devote fewer resources to covering the public side of Trump—and  more to unearthing the truths he wants to suppress. 

As robber baron J.P. Morgan once admitted: “A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing. One that sounds good, and a real one.”

What’s said during a press conference—whether by Trump or any other of his officials—is strictly the version he wants stated. This could be transcribed by a single pool reporter, who shares whatever’s said with all the major news media.

This, in turn, would free legions of reporters to unearth truths that Trump doesn’t want revealed.

Fourth, recognize that Trump is fighting an all-out war on the media—and have the courage to publicly state this.

In 1976, Arizona Republic reporter and organized crime expert Don Bolles, was killed by a car bomb. Legions of reporters from across the country descended on Arizona to prove to mobsters: Attacking reporters is as dangerous as attacking cops.

Donald Trump has labeled established news media as “fake news.” He has called reporters “the enemy of America.” On at least one occasion, he told a CNN reporter: “You’re fake news.”

Yet no reporter—for CNN or any other news outlet—has called him a “fake President.” Nor has any reporter dared to call him a pathological liar with dictatorial ambitions.

CNN has started running an ad featuring a shiny red apple, while a voice-over intones:

“This is an apple. Some people might try to tell you that it’s a banana. They might scream banana, banana, banana over and over and over again. They might put BANANA in all caps. You might even start to believe that this is a banana. But it’s not. This is an apple.”

Unfortunately, many viewers might mistake the “apple” for Apple. Thus, a more effective ad could feature a picture of Trump in an SS uniform, and the following message:

“This  is a Fascist. Some people might try to tell you that he’s a Republican. They might scream Republican, Republican, Republican over and over and over again. They might put REPUBLICAN in all caps. You might even start to believe that he is a Republican. But he’s not. This is a Fascist.”

DUMBOCRATS AND THEIR COMPUTERS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on April 13, 2018 at 12:06 am

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).

The emails were exchanged from January 2015 through May 2016.

These clearly reveal a bias for Hillary Clinton and against her lone challenger, Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders.

One email revealed that Brad Marshall, the chief financial officer of the DNC, suggested that Sanders, who is Jewish, could be portrayed as an atheist. 

Sanders’ supporters had long charged that the DNC and its chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, were plotting to undercut his campaign. Now thousands of them were outraged to discover that their fears had been confirmed.  

The leak came at a disastrous time for Hillary Clinton, the former First Lady, United States Senator from New York and Secretary of State under President Barack Obama.

About to receive the Democratic nomination for President, she found herself charged with undermining the electoral process. 

Wasserman-Schultz proved the first casualty of the leak, resigning from her position as chair of the DNC and saying she would not open the Democratic convention as previously scheduled.

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Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

As for Clinton: Her campaign manager, Bobby Mook, blamed the Russians for the leak. Their alleged motive: To help Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Cyber-security experts believed the hackers originated from Russia—-and that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have authorized it.

His alleged motive: Trump had repeatedly attacked United States’ membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Trump believed the United States was paying an unfairly large portion of the monies needed to maintain this alliance—and he wanted other members to contribute far more. He made it clear that if they didn’t—and if he was elected President—they would be on their own if attacked by Russia.

Trump took to twitter to offer his take on the release: “How much BAD JUDGEMENT was on display by the people in DNC in writing those really dumb e-mails, using even religion, against Bernie!”  

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Bernie Sanders

Which brings up the obvious question: Why was such sensitive information entrusted to computers that could be hacked? 

This is not the first time a major corporation or government agency has fallen prey to hackers.

Name-brand companies, trusted by millions, have been hit with massive data breaches that compromised their customers’ and/or employees’ most sensitive financial and personal information.

Among those companies and agencies:

  • Target
  • Kmart
  • Home Depot
  • JPMorgan/Chase
  • Staples
  • Dairy Queen
  • Anthem, Inc.
  • Sony Pictures
  • The U.S. State Department
  • The Pentagon
  • The Office of Personnel Management

Perhaps the most notorious target hacked was Ashley Madison, the website for cheating wives and husbands. Launched in 2001, its catchy slogan was: “Life is short. Have an affair.”  

On July 15, 2015, its more than 37 million members learned that highly embarrassing secrets they had entrusted to Ashley Madison had been compromised.

This included their sexual fantasies, matching credit card transactions, real names and addresses, and employee documents and emails.

A website offering cheating services to those wealthy enough to afford high-priced fees is an obvious target for hackers. After all, its database is a blackmailer’s dream-come-true.  

And the same is true for computers of one of the two major political parties of the United States. 

Among the secrets unearthed in the WikiLeaks document-dump: Plans by Democratic party officials to reward large donors and prominent fundraisers with lucrative appointments to federal boards and commissions.

Most of the donors listed gave to Clinton’s campaign. None gave to Sanders.

According to Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group: 

“The disclosed DNC emails sure look like the potential Clinton Administration has intertwined the appointments to federal government boards and commissions with the political and fund raising operations of the Democratic Party. That is unethical, if not illegal.”  

Centuries before the invention of computers–and the machinery needed to hack into them–Niccolo Machiavelli offered cautionary advice to those thinking of entering into a conspiracy.  He did so in his masterwork on politics, The Discourses.  

Niccolo Machiavelli

Unlike his better-known work, The Prince, which deals with how to secure power, The Discourses lays out rules for preserving liberty within a republic.

In Book Three, Chapter Six (“Of Conspiracies”) he writes:

“I have heard many wise men say that you may talk freely with any one man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the ‘Yes’ of one man is worth as much as the ‘No’ of another. 

“And therefore one should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting.”

In 1804, Napoleon Bonaparte, then First Consul of France, ordered the execution of the popular Louis Antoine de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, claiming that he had aided Britain and plotted against France.

The aristocracy of Europe, still recalling the slaughters of the French Revolution, was shocked. 

Asked for his opinion on the execution, Napoleon’s chief of police, Joseph Fouche, said: “It was worse than a crime; it was a blunder.”  

This may prove to be history’s verdict on the storing of so many incriminating computer files by the DNC.

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.

GREATNESS IN HEROES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 10, 2018 at 3:03 pm

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

Three heroes, two villains.

Two of the heroes are Russian; the third is an American.

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

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

Tukhachevsky (February 4, 1893 – June 12, 1937) was a leading Soviet military leader and theoretician from 1918 to 1937. 

He commanded the Soviet Western Front during the Russian-Polish War (1920-21) and served as Chief of Staff of the Red Army (1925-1928).

He fought to modernize Soviet armament, as well as develop airborne, aviation and mechanized forces.  Almost singlehandedly, he created the theory of deep operations for Soviet forces.

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky

All of these innovations would reap huge dividends when the Soviet Union faced the lethal fury of Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht.

In 1936, Tukhachevsky warned Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that Nazi Germany might attack without warning—and ignite a long and murderous war.

Stalin—the son of a Georgian cobbler—resented Tukhachevsky’s coming from a noble family. A monumental egomaniac, he also hated that Tukhachevesky’s fame rivaled his own.

Warned of the approaching German danger, Stalin shouted: “What are you trying to do—frighten Soviet authority?”

Joseph Stalin

The attack that Tukhachevsky warned against came five years later—on June 22, 1941, leaving at least 20 million Russians dead.

But Tukhachevsky wasn’t alive to command a defense.

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

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

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

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

Its victims included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Within hours of the verdict, Tukhachevsky was summoned from his cell and shot once in the back of the head.

From 1937 until 1956, Tukhachevsky was officially declared a traitor and fifth-columnist.

Then, on February 25, 1957, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev delivered his bombshell “Secret Speech” to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

In this, he denounced Stalin (who had died in 1953) as a ruthless tyrant responsible for the slaughter of millions of innocent men, women and children. He condemned Stalin for creating a “personality cult” around himself, and for so weakening the Red Army that Nazi Germany was able to easily overrun half of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1943.

On January 31, 1957, Tukhachevsky and his co-defendants were declared innocent of all charges and were “rehabilitated.”

Today, he is once again—rightly—considered a Russian hero and military genius. And Stalin is universally—and rightly—seen as a blood-stained tyrant.

Next hero: Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev)

Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers. Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

Zhilayev, a member of the Russian Academy of Art-Sciences, taught at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his friends–to his ultimate misfortune–was Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

In 1938, he, too, became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

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

MACHIAVELLI WARNED AMERICA ABOUT TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 29, 2018 at 3:36 pm

As a Presidential candidate, Donald Trump was fiercely attacked by Democrats and his fellow Republicans. But one of his sharpest critics lived more than 500 years ago

He was Niccolo Machiavelli, the 16th-century Florentine statesmen and father of modern politics. 

For openers: Trump had drawn heavy criticism for his angry and brutal attacks on a wide range of persons and organizations—including his fellow Republicans, journalists, news organizations, other countries and even celebrities who have nothing to do with politics.

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Donald Trump

Now consider Machiavelli’s advice on gratuitously handing out insults and threats:  

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

Trump, in turn, casually dismissed the criticism he had received:

“I can be Presidential, but if I was Presidential I would only have–about 20% of you would be here because it would be boring as hell, I will say,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Superior, Wisconsin.

Trump admitted that his wife, Melania, and daughter, Ivanka, had urged him to be more Presidential.  And he promised that he would. 

“But I gotta knock off the final two [Republican candidates—Ohio Governor John Kasich and Texas U.S. Senator Rafael Cruz] first, if you don’t mind.”

For those who expected Trump to shed his propensity for constantly picking fights, Machiavelli offered a stern warning:

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

Niccolo Machiavelli

Then there was Trump’s approach to consulting advisers:

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

This totally contrasted with the advice given by Machiavelli:

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

And Machiavelli gave a related warning on the advising of rulers: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.

During the fifth GOP debate in the Presidential sweepstakes, host Hugh Hewitt asked Trump this question:

“Mr. Trump, Dr. [Ben] Carson just referenced the single most important job of the president, the command and the care of our nuclear forces. And he mentioned the triad.

“The B-52s are older than I am. The missiles are old. The submarines are aging out. It’s an executive order. It’s a commander-in-chief decision.

“What’s your priority among our nuclear triad?”

[The triad refers to America’s land-, sea- and air-based systems for delivering nuclear missiles and bombs.]

Nuclear missile in silo

Trump’s reply: “Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible, who really knows what he or she is doing.  That is so powerful and so important.”

He then digressed to his having called the Iraq invasion a mistake in 2003 and 2004. Finally he came back on topic:

“But we have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear.

“Nuclear changes the whole ballgame.  The biggest problem we have today is nuclear–nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon.

“I think to me, nuclear, is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.”

Which brings us back to Machiavelli:

  • “…Some think that a prince who gains the reputation of being prudent [owes this to] the good counselors he has about him; they are undoubtedly deceived.”
  • “It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.”

All of which led Niccolo Machiavelli to warn: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

FIGHTING TANKS WITH DAISIES

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on March 28, 2018 at 12:12 am

Most Americans believe that Nazi Germany was defeated because “we were the Good Guys and they were the Bad Guys.”

Not so.  

The United States—and its allies, Great Britain and the Soviet Union—won the war for reasons that had nothing to do with the righteousness of their cause.  These included:

  • Nazi Germany—–i.e, its Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler—made a series of disastrous decisions. Chief among these: Attacking its ally, the Soviet Union, and declaring war on the United States;
  • The greater material resources of the Soviet Union and the United States; and
  • The Allies waged war as brutally as the Germans.

On this last point:

  • From D-Day to the fall of Berlin, captured Waffen-SS soldiers were often shot out of hand.
  • When American troops came under fire in the German city of Aachen, Lt. Col. Derrill Daniel brought in a self-propelled 155mm artillery piece and opened up on a theater housing German soldiers. After the city surrendered, a German colonel labeled the use of the 155 “barbarous” and demanded that it be outlawed.

German soldiers at Stalingrad

  • During the battle of Stalingrad in 1942, Wilhelm Hoffman, a young German soldier and diarist, was appalled that the Russians refused to surrender. He wrote: “You don’t see them at all, they have established themselves in houses and cellars and are firing on all sides, including from our rear–barbarians, they used gangster methods….”

In short: The Allies won because they dared to meet the brutality of a Heinz Guderian with that of a George S. Patton.

This is a lesson long ignored by the liberals of the Democratic Party.  As a result, Republicans now hold both houses of Congress and the Presidency.

An example of this occurred as recently as March 25.  

On CBS’ “Sunday Morning,” former President Jimmy Carter said that even if Special Counsel Robert Mueller found evidence that President Donald Trump had broken the law, “my own preference would be that he not be impeached.” 

Instead, Carter would want Trump to “be able to serve out his term, because I think he wants to do a good job. And I’m willing to help him, if I can help him, and give him the benefit of the doubt.

“You know, I have confidence in the American system of government. I think ultimately the restraints on a president from the Congress and from the Supreme Court will be adequate to protect our nation, if he serves a full term.”   

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Jimmy Carter

Since becoming President on January 20, 2017, Trump has:  

  • Fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to pledge his personal loyalty—and for investigating documented ties between Russian Intelligence agents and the 2016 Trump Presidential campaign.  
  • Threatened to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who was assigned to take over that investigation after the Comey firing.
  • Repeatedly attacked the nation’s press as “fake news” and “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Contemptuously dismissed the warnings of American Intelligence agencies that Russia tried to subvert the 2016 Presidential campaign—and plans to do the same for the upcoming mid-term elections in November.
  • Repeatedly praised Russian dictator Vladimir Putin—and refused to enforce Congressionally-mandated sanctions against Russia for its attempted subversion of the 2016 Presidential election.

Trump, in short, is not going to be “helped” by the humility of a Jimmy Carter.

Barack Obama, like Jimmy Carter, believes in rationality and decency. Like Carter, he feels more comfortable responding to attacks on his character than attacking the character of his enemies. 

As a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama was one of the most academically gifted Presidents in American history.

Yet he failed—like Carter—to grasp and apply this fundamental lesson taught by Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science.

In The Prince, Machiavelli warns:

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.

Obama’s failure to recognize the truth of Machiavelli’s lesson allowed Republicans to thwart many of his Presidential ambitions—such as picking a replacement for deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Throughout 2016, liberals celebrated on Facebook and Twitter the “certain” Presidency of Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders or former First Lady Hillary Clinton. 

They fully expected to win the White House again, and thought they might retake the Senate—and maybe even the House of Representatives. 

But Donald Trump had a different plan—to subvert the 2016 election by Russian Intelligence agents and millions of Russian trolls flooding the Internet with legitimately fake news.  

For Democrats to win elective victories and enact their agenda, they must find their own George Pattons to take on the Waffen-SS generals among Republican ranks. 

A RECIPE FOR CONSPIRACY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 22, 2018 at 12:02 am

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, wrote that there are three periods of danger in a conspiracy:  

  • Dangers in organizing the plot
  • Dangers in executing the conspiracy
  • Dangers following the execution of the plot.   

The first two dangers were covered in Part One of this series.  Now, as to the third danger.

Dangers following the Execution of the Conspiracy: There is really but one—someone is left who will avenge the murdered prince. These can be brothers, sons or other relatives, who have been spared by negligence or for other reasons. 

But of all the perils that follow the execution of a conspiracy, the most certain and fearful is the attachment of the people to the murdered prince. There is no remedy against this, for the conspirators can never secure themselves against a whole people. 

An example of this occurred in the case of Julius Caesar, who, being beloved by the people, was avenged by them.  

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Julius Caesar 

Machiavelli closes his chapter “Of Conspiracies” with advice to rulers on how they should act when they find a conspiracy has been formed against them.  

If they discover that a conspiracy exists against them, they must, before punishing its authors, strive to learn its nature and extent. And they must measure the danger posed by the conspirators against their own strength.

And if they find it powerful and alarming, they must not expose it until they have amassed sufficient force to crush it. Otherwise, they will only speed their own destruction. They should try to pretend ignorance of it. If the conspirators find themselves discovered, they will be forced by necessity to act without consideration.  

The foregoing was taken from Book Three, Chapter Six, of Machiavelli’s masterwork, The Discourses on Livy, which was published posthumously in 1531. But elsewhere in this volume, he notes how important it is for rulers to make themselves loved—or at least respected—by their fellow citizens: 

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Note how much more praise those Emperors merited who, after Rome became an empire, conformed to her laws like good princes, than those who took the opposite course. 

Titus, Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus and Marcus Auelius did not require the Praetorians nor the multitudinous legions to defend them, because they were protected by their own good conduct, the good will of the people, and by the love of the Senate.

On the other hand, neither the Eastern nor the Western armies saved Caligula, Nero, Vitellius and so many other wicked Emperors from the enemies which their bad conduct and evil lives had raised up against them.  

In his better-known work, The Prince, he warns rulers who—like Donald Trump—are inclined to rule by fear:

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.

Donald Trump Pentagon 2017.jpg

Donald Trump

If Trump is aware of Machiavelli’s warnings, he has shown no signs of it.

Presidents have universally tried to seem friendly and caring toward their fellow Americans.

This held true even for Richard M. Nixon, when he made an impromptu visit to the Lincoln Memorial and engaged in a rambling dialogue with Vietnam war protesters. 

The encounter happened around 4 a.m. on May 9, 1970, shortly after the invasion of Cambodia. Nationwide outrage had exploded on college campuses, climaxing in the killing of four students at Kent State University on May 4.  

So young Vietnam antiwar protesters who had descended on Washington, D.C. were startled when Nixon suddenly appeared in their midst.

Nixon, in his awkward way of trying to establish rapport, asked some of the students where they were from. When they said they attended Syracuse University, Nixon replied that it had a great football team.  

But Nixon and the protesters were separated by too many differences—in their views on sexuality, civil rights, dissent and war—to find common cause.

Still, Nixon at least made an effort to understand and reach an accommodation with his critics.

Since taking office on January 20, 2017, Donald Trump has made none.

Instead, he has:

  • Defended white supremacists who sparked violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
  • Fired James Comey, the director of the FBI, for investigating ties between his 2016 Presidential campaign and Russian Intelligence agents.  
  • Attacked the integrity of Federal judges who struck down his travel ban on Muslims.
  • Called the nation’s most prestigious news media “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Rammed through Congress a massive tax cut for the wealthy, at the expense of ordinary Americans.
  • Attacked the integrity of American Intelligence agencies, such as the FBI and CIA.
  • Falsely accused his predecessor, President Barack Obama, of wiretapping him.

These and other infamous actions have led to only 36% of Americans approving of his performance—while 58% disapprove. 

Trump’s approval rating is now lower than that of any other President at this point in modern polling at this point. 

By Machiavelli’s standards, Trump has made himself the perfect target for a conspiracy: “When a prince becomes universally hated, it is likely that he’s harmed some individuals—who thus seek revenge. This desire is increased by seeing that the prince is widely loathed.”

A RECIPE FOR CONSPIRACY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 19, 2018 at 1:50 am

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, authored The Discourses on Livy, a work of political history and philosophy. In it, he outlined how citizens of a republic can maintain their freedoms.  

One of the longest chapters—Book Three, Chapter Six—covers “Of Conspiracies.”  In it, those who wish to conspire against a ruler will find highly useful advice.  

And so will those who wish to foil such a conspiracy.  

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Writes Machiavelli:

For conspirators, there are three ways their efforts can be foiled:

  • Discovery through denunciation;
  • Discovery through incautiousness;
  • Discovery through writings.

Discovery through Denunciation: This occurs through treachery or lack of prudence among one or more conspirators.  

Treachery is so common that you can safely tell your plans to only your most trusted friends who are willing to risk their lives for your sake.  You may find that you have only one or two of these. 

But as you are bring more people into the conspiracy, the chances of discovery greatly increase. It’s impossible to find many who can be completely trusted: For their devotion to you must be greater than their sense of danger and fear of punishment.  

Discovery through Carelessness: This happens when one of the conspirators speaks incautiously, so that a third person overhears it  Or it may occur from thoughtlessness, when a conspirator tells the secret to his wife or child, or to some other indiscreet person.  

When a conspiracy has more than three or four members, its discovery is almost certain, either through treason, imprudence or carelessness. 

If more than one conspirator is arrested, the whole plot is discovered, for it will be impossible for any two to agree perfectly as to all their statements.  

If only one is arrested, he may–through courage and stubbornness–be able to conceal the names of his accomplices. But then the others, to remain safe, must not panic and flee, since this is certain to be discovered.

If one of them becomes fearful—whether it’s the one who was arrested or is still at liberty—discovery of the conspiracy is certain. 

The best way to avoid such detection is to confide your project to your intended fellow conspirators at the moment of execution—and not sooner.  

A classic example of this occurred in ancient Persia: A group of nobles assembled to discuss overthrowing a usurper to the throne. The last one to arrive was Darius.

When one of the conspirators asked, “When should we strike?” Darius replied: “We must either go now at this very moment and carry it into execution, or I shall go and denounce you all.  For I will not give any of you time to denounce me.”

At that, they went directly to the palace, assassinated the usurper and proclaimed Darius their new king.

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Discovery through Writings: You may talk freely with anyone man about everything, for unless you have committed yourself in writing, the “Yes” of one man is worth as much as the “No” of another. 

Thus, you should guard most carefully against writing, as against a dangerous rock, for nothing will convict you quicker than your own handwriting.

You may escape, then, from the accusation of a single individual, unless you are convicted by some writing or other pledge, which you should be careful never to give.  

If you are denounced, there are means of escaping punishment:

  • By denying the accusation and claiming that the person making it hates you; or
  • Claiming that your accuser was tortured or coerced into giving false testimony against you.

But the most prudent course is to not tell your intentions to anyone, and to carry out the attempt yourself.  

Even if you’re not discovered before you carry out your attack, there are still two dangers facing a conspirator:

Dangers in Execution: These result from:

  • An unexpected change in the routine of the intended target;
  • The lack of courage among the conspirators; or
  • An error on their part, such as leaving some of those alive whom the conspirators intended to kill.  

Adolf Hitler, who claimed to have a sixth-sense for danger, was famous for changing his routine at the last minute. 

Adolf Hitler

On November 9, 1939, this instinct saved his life. He had been scheduled to give a long speech at a Munich beer hall before the “Old Fighters” of his storm troopers. 

But that evening he cut short his speech and left the beer hall. Forty-five minutes later, a bomb exploded inside a pillar—before which Hitler had been speaking.

Conspirators can also be doomed by their good intentions.  

In 44 B.C., Gaius Cassius, Marcus Brutus and other Roman senators decided to assassinate Julius Caesar, whose dictatorial ambitions they feared.

Cassius also intended to murder Mark Anthony, Caesar’s strongest ally. But Brutus objected, fearing the plotters would look like butchers, not saviors. Even worse, he allowed Anthony to deliver a eulogy at Caesar’s funeral.

This proved so inflammatory that the mourners rioted, driving the conspirators out of Rome. Soon afterward, they were defeated in a battle with the legions of Anthony and Octavian Caesar—and forced to commit suicide to avoid capture and execution.

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