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

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

Donald Trump has often been compared to Adolf Hitler.

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

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

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

Joseph Stalin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lavrenti P. Beria

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

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

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

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

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

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Donald Trump

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

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

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

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

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Mike Pence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

BURYING TRUMP–AND STALIN: PART TWO (END)

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph Stalin

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

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

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

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

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

File:Khrushchov.jpg - Wikipedia

Nikita Khrushchev

Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Donald Trump

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

Since then, Trump’s fortunes have sharply declined:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler read the charges:

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

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

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

Adam Schiff official portrait.jpg

Adam Schiff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stormtrumpers scaling Capitol Building walls

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

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

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

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

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

A growing number of Cabinet officials began resigning:

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

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

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

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

Mike Pence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE CORRUPTIONS OF THE RICH: PART TWO (END)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walter Scheidel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

Joe Biden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Payne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Payne has proven to be an uncanny prophet.

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

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

But this situation need not remain permanent.

ADVICE FOR DICTATORS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 24, 2022 at 12:11 am

According to an October 29, 2014 story on National Public Radio, at least 10 North Korean officials had been executed for watching South Korean soap operas.

If true, this brings to 50 the number of people murdered by North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un for committing this “crime”.

Kim Jong-Un and his generals

Sources for Bloomberg News speculated they were likely purged for having close ties to his uncle, Jang Song Thae, who was executed in 2013.

Kim inherited control of the country after his father, Kim Jong-Il, died in 2011. Since then, he has ruthlessly eliminated all possible opposition.

“Kim Jong Un is trying to establish absolute power and strengthen his regime with public punishments,” Yang Moo Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, told Bloomberg. “However, frequent purges can create side effects.”

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, couldn’t have said it better.

Niccolo Machiavelli

In fact, Machiavelli did say it. In Chapter Eight of The Prince, his famous work on the realities of politics, he tackled the subject: “Of Those Who Have Attained the Position of Prince by Villany.”

“…In taking a state, the conqueror must arrange to commit all his cruelties at once, so as not to have to recur to them very day, and so as to be able, by not making fresh changes, to reassure people and win them over by benefiting them.  

Whoever acts otherwise, either through timidity or bad counsels, is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him.”

Another Communist dictator—Joseph Stalin—may have paid the price for violating this counsel.

Joseph Stalin

Throughout his 30-year reign over the Soviet Union, Stalin was responsible for the deaths of at least 20 million men, women and children.

These deaths resulted from executions, a man-made famine through the forced collectivation of harvests,  deportations and imprisonment in Gulag camps.

Robert Payne, the acclaimed British historian, vividly portrayed the crimes of this murderous tyrant in his brilliant 1965 biography, The Rise and Fall of Stalin.

According to Payne, Stalin Was planning yet another purge during the last weeks of his life. This would be “a holocaust greater than any he had planned before.

“The chistka [purge] had become a ritual like a ceremonial cleansing of a temple performed every three or four years according to ancient laws.

“The first chistka had taken place during the early months of the [Russian] revolution. It had proved so salutory that periodical bloodbaths were incorporated in the unwritten laws of the state.

“This time there would be a chistka to end all chistkas, a purging of the entire body of the state from top to bottom. No one, not even the highest officials, was to be spared.”

Then, on January 13, 1953, the Soviet Union’s two government-controlled newspapers—Pravda (“Truth”) and Izvestiya (“News”)—announced that a sinister plot by Jewish doctors had been uncovered.

Its alleged object: No less than the murder of Joseph Stalin himself.

Nine doctors, said Pravda, had so far been arrested.

Stalin’s closest associates—veteran observers of past purges—quickly realized that another was about to descend.  And there could be no doubt who its chief victims would be.

Yet Stalin did nothing to calm their fears. He often summoned his “comrades” to the Kremlin for late-night drinking bouts, where he freely humiliated them.

“What would you do without Stalin?” he asked one night. “You’d be like blind kittens.”

Then, on March 4, 1953, Moscow Radio announced “the misfortune which has overtaken our Party and the people—the serious illness of Comrade J.V. Stalin.

“During the night of March 1-2, while in his Moscow apartment, Comrade Stalin suffered a cerebral hemorrhage affecting vital areas of the brain.”

Death came to Stalin on March 5.

Officially, the cause was ruled a cerebral hemorrhage. Stalin was 73 and in poor health from a lifetime of smoking and little exercise.

So it’s possible he died of natural causes.

But it’s equally possible that he died of unnatural ones.

In the 2004 book, Stalin’s Last Crime, Vladimir P. Naumov, a Russian historian, and Jonathan Brent, a Yale University Soviet scholar, assert that he might have been poisoned.

If this happened, the occasion was during a final dinner with four members of the Politburo:  Lavrenti P. Beria, chief of the secret police; Georgi M. Malenkov, Stalin’s immediate successor; Nikita S. Khrushchev, who eventually rose to the top spot; and Nikolai Bulganin.

Lavrenti Beria

The authors believe that, if Stalin was poisoned, the most likely suspect was Beria. And the method: Slipping warfarin, a tasteless and colorless blood thinner also used as a rat killer, into his glass of wine.

In Khrushchev’s 1970 memoirs, he quotes Beria as telling Vyacheslav M. Molotov, another Polituro member, two months after Stalin’s death: “I did him in! I saved all of you.”

Kim Jong Un had better hope that Communist history doesn’t repeat itself.

YESTERDAY, GERMANY, TODAY, AMERICA!

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 7, 2022 at 12:20 am

Those who have seen the classic 1960 movie, “Judgment at Nuremberg,” will remember its pivotal moment. 

That’s when Burt Lancaster, as Ernst Janning, the once distinguished German judge, confesses his guilt and that of Nazi Germany in a controlled, yet emotional, outburst. 

Addressing the court—presided over by Chief Judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy)—Janning explains the forces that led to the triumph of evil.

“My counsel would have you believe we were not aware of the concentration camps. Not aware? Where were we?

“Where were we when Hitler began shrieking his hate in the Reichstag? When our neighbors were dragged out in the middle of the night to Dachau?

“Where were we when every village in Germany has a railroad terminal where cattle cars were filled with children being carried off to their extermination? Where were we when they cried out in the night to us? Were we deaf? Dumb? Blind?

“My counsel says we were not aware of the extermination of the millions. He would give you the excuse we were only aware of the extermination of the hundreds. Does that make us any the less guilty?

“Maybe we didn’t know the details, but if we didn’t know, it was because we didn’t want to know.”

Judgment at Nuremberg (1961 film poster).jpg

It’s not hard to imagine, in the future, an equally conscience-stricken member of the Donald Trump administration, standing before the bar of justice, making a similar statement: 

“My counsel would have you believe we were not aware of the ICE concentration camps. Not aware? Where were we?

“Where were we when Trump began shrieking his hate across the country? When Trump called our free press ‘the enemy of the people’?

“Where were we when Trump openly praised Vladimir Putin and attacked those in the FBI, CIA and other Intelligence agencies sworn to protect us?

“Where were we when the victims of Trump’s hatred cried out in the night to us? Were we deaf? Dumb? Blind?

“My counsel says we were not aware of Trump’s treasonous collusion with Vladimir Putin—and his intention to betray American freedoms in exchange for the Presidency. He would give you the excuse we were misled by the lying rhetoric coming out of the White House.

“Does that make us any the less guilty? Maybe we didn’t know the details—but if we didn’t know, it was because we didn’t want to know.”

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Donald Trump

In his bestselling 1973 biography, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, British historian Robert Payne harshly condemned the German people for the rise of the Nazi dictator:

“[They] allowed themselves to be seduced by him and came to enjoy the experience….[They] followed him with joy and enthusiasm because he gave them license to pillage and murder to their hearts’ content. They were his servile accomplices, his willing victims.”

On November 8, 2016, millions of ignorant, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans catapulted Donald Trump—a man, charged conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks, with an “odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity”—into the Presidency. 

Whereas Barack Obama, in 2008, ran for President on the slogan, “Yes, We Can!” Trump ran on the themes of fear and vindictiveness. He threatened violence not only against Democrats but even his fellow Republicans.

Upon taking office in January, 2017, Trump began undermining one public or private institution after another.

  • Repeatedly and viciously attacking the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Brutally attacking American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—which unanimously agreed that Russia had interfered with the 2016 Presidential election.
  • Repeatedly attacking Seattle US District Judge James Robart, who halted Trump’s first travel ban. 
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for refusing to pledge his personal loyalty to Trump—and continuing to investigate Russian subversion of the 2016 election.
  • Intending to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in 2017, but talked out of it by aides fearful that it would result in his impeachment.
  • Lying so often—30,573 times in four years—he’s universally distrusted, at home and abroad.
  • Shutting down the Federal government on December 22, 2018—because Democrats refused to fund his useless “border wall” between the United States and Mexico. 
  • Furloughing an estimated 380,000 government employees  and ordering another 420,000 to work without pay. This lasted until January 25, 2019, when Trump caved to public pressure.

So why have Republicans almost unanimously stood by Trump despite the wreckage he has made of American foreign and domestic policy?  

Fear that they will lose their privileged positions in Congress if they don’t.

This could happen by being voted out of Congress by:

  • Trump’s fanatical base if they don’t slavishly obey him; or
  • Anti-Trump voters wanting to protect the nation from a Trump dictatorship.

Future historians—if there are any—will similarly and harshly condemn those Americans who, like “good Germans,” joyfully embraced a regime dedicated to:

  • Celebrating Trump’s egomania;
  • Using the White House to further enrich Trump;
  • Siding with Russia and North Korea against America’s oldest allies, such as those in NATO;
  • Depriving America’s poor of their only source of healthcare; and
  • Further enriching the ultra-wealthy.

THE CORRUPTIONS OF THE RICH: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on December 21, 2021 at 12:11 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Niccolo Machiavelli

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walter Scheidel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on December 20, 2021 at 12:19 am

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

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

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

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

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

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Joe Biden

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

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

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

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

Biden has talked about decreasing income inequality and promoting workers’ rights. But he’s taken a moderate stance when it comes to taxation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Payne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Payne has proven to be an uncanny prophet.

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

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

But this situation need not remain permanent.

TRUTH IS FOR PRESIDENTS, FLATTERY IS FOR DICTATORS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on May 13, 2021 at 12:10 am

I must not omit an important subject….And this is with regard to flatterers, of which courts are full, because men take such pleasure in their own things and deceive themselves about them that they can with difficulty guard against this plague….Because there is no other way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking  the truth.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

On October 10, 2019, President Donald Trump took aim at Joe Biden, his potential Democratic rival for the White House in 2020.

Speaking at a campaign rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Trump spoke as if Biden’s son, Hunter, was present: “Your father was never considered smart. He was never considered a good senator. He was only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass.”

Trump no doubt believed he had scored a two-in-one insult—at both former President Barack Obama and his then-Vice President.

But Obama, as depicted in the memoirs of those who worked closely with him, did not demand sickeningly worshipful praise. He was, in fact, wary of sycophants, insisting on being well and honestly briefed.

It was this quality that led him to authorize—and oversee—the successful takedown of 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden on May 1, 2011 by U.S. Navy SEALs.

It is actually Trump who demands not simply loyalty but constant flattery.

In this—as in his vindictiveness and coarseness—he closely resembles Joseph Stalin, the infamous dictator of the Soviet Union from 1924 to 1953.

Joseph Stalin

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

These celebrations weren’t prompted by love—but fear.

He had lived up to his pseudonym: “Man of Steel.” For almost 30 years, through purges and starvation caused by enforced collections of farmers’ crops, he had slaughtered 20 to 60 million of his fellow citizens.

The British historian, Robert Payne, described these rapturous events in his classic 1965 biography, The Rise and Fall of Stalin:

“From all over the country came gifts of embroidered cloth, tapestries and carpets bearing his name or his features….Poets extolled him in verses, He was the sun, the splendor, the lord of creation.

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

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

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

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

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

Now, fast forward to June 12, 2017.

That was when President Donald J. Trump—also 70—convened his first full Cabinet meeting since taking office on January 20.

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Donald Trump

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

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

Vice President Mike Pence: “It is the greatest privilege of my life to serve as the vice president to a president who is keeping his word to the American people.”

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Mike Pence

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

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

Chief of Staff Reince Priebus:On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people.” 

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

Politicians—both domestic and foreign—quickly learned that the quickest way to get on Trump’s “good side” was to shamelessly and constantly praise him.

Some historians believe that Stalin was poisoned by one of his fawning yes-men—most likely Lavrenti Beria.

The time may come when Trump learns that outrageous flattery can hide murderous hatred.

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