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Posts Tagged ‘THE SS’

DE-REGULATION: LET CRIMINALS BE CRIMINALS

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

This December 2 will mark the 21st anniversary of the collapse of Enron Corporation.

Based in Houston, Texas, Enron had employed 22,000 staffers and was one of the world’s leading electricity, natural gas, communications and paper companies.

In 2000, it claimed revenues of nearly $101 billion. Fortune had named Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years.

But then the truth emerged in 2001: Enron’s reported profitability was based not on brilliance and innovation but on systematic and creative accounting fraud.

And, on December 2, 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy  Code.

Enron’s $63.4 billion in assets made it the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history—until WorldCom’s bankruptcy in 2002.

The California electricity crisis (2000-2001) was caused by market manipulations and illegal shutdowns of pipelines by Texas energy companies.

The state suffered from multiple large-scale blackouts. Pacific Gas & Electric, one of the state’s largest energy companies, collapsed, and the economic fall-out greatly harmed Governor Gray Davis’ standing.

The crisis was made possible by Governor Pete Wilson, who had forced the passage of partial de-regulation legislation in 1996. 

Enron seized its opportunity to inflate prices and manipulate energy output in California’s spot markets. The crisis cost the state $40 to $45 billion.

The true scandal of Enron was not that it was eventually destroyed by its own greed.

The true scandal was that its leaders were never Federally prosecuted for almost driving California—and the entire Western United States—into bankruptcy.

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And it happened during the “liberal” administration of President Bill Clinton.

Once the news broke that Enron had filed for bankruptcy, commentators almost universally oozed compassion for its thousands of employees who would lose their salaries and pensions.

No one, however, condemned the “profits at any cost” dedication of those same employees for pushing California to the brink of ruin.

To put this in historical perspective:

  • Imagine a historian writing about the destruction of Hitler’s Schutzstaffel (Guard Detachment), or SS, as a human interest tragedy.
  • Imagine its Reichsfuhrer, Heinrich Himmler, being blamed for failing to prevent its collapse—as CEO Kenneth Lay was blamed for Enron’s demise.
  • Imagine that same historian completely ignoring the horrific role the SS had played throughout Nazi-occupied countries—and its primary role in slaughtering six million Jews in the Holocaust.  

Nor did the media urge the United States Department of Justice to end the extortion via RICO—the Federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

Seal of the United States Department of Justice.svg

Passed by Congress in 1970, this was originally aimed at the kingpins of the Mafia. Since the mid-1980s, however, RICO has been successfully applied against both terrorist groups and legitimate businesses engaged in criminal activity.

Under RICO, people financially injured by a pattern of criminal activity can bring a claim in State or Federal court, and obtain damages at three times the amount of their actual claim, plus reimbursement for their attorneys’ fees and costs.

Such prosecutions would have pitted energy-extortionists against the full investigative might of the FBI and the sweeping legal authority of the Justice Department.

Consider this selection from the opening of the Act:

(1) “racketeering activity” means (A) any act or threat involving…extortion; (B) any act which is indictable under any of the following provisions of title 18, United States Code: sections 891-894 (relating to extortionate credit transactions), section 1343 (relating to wire fraud)Section 1344 (relating to financial institution fraud), section 1951 (relating to interference with commerce, robbery, or extortion), section 1952 (relating to racketeering)….

Today, two powerful social media companies—Facebook and Twitter—play pivotal and potentially dangerous roles in the lives of millions of men, women and children.

Facebook has invaded its users’ privacy (such as via the Cambridge Analytica data scandal), manipulated elections (such as the 2016 Presidential one) and subjected its users to mass surveillance.

Twitter has allowed trolls to abuse its followers and spread dangerous lies to millions. For five years, its chief troll was Donald Trump, who libeled hundreds while falsely claiming that COVID-19 was a hoax and that he won re-election in 2020 but was cheated by fraud.

Such lies resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans from COVID—and poisoned the American electoral system for future races.

Yet in both cases, the Federal Government has stood by and allowed such abuses to continue unpunished. Yet it commands a wide range of agencies capable of addressing such abuses—such as the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and—not least importantly, the Justice Department.

Powerful, life-altering companies require powerful oversight—through the prism of the warning given by Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago:

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. But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

WHEN CRIMINALS SCREAM “LIBEL!”

In Business, History, Law, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on November 2, 2022 at 12:14 am

On October 3, former President Donald Trump filed a lawsuit against CNN for defamation.

Seeking $475 million in punitive damages, he charged the network with conducting a “campaign of libel and slander” against him. 

Trump is claiming that CNN had used its influence to defeat him politically.

“As a part of its concerted effort to tilt the political balance to the left, CNN has tried to taint the Plaintiff with a series of ever-more scandalous, false, and defamatory labels of ‘racist,’ ‘Russian lackey,’ ‘insurrectionist,’ and ultimately ‘Hitler,'” the lawsuit claims. 

The lawsuit focuses largely on CNN’s use of the term, “The Big Lie,” to describe Trump’s false claims that widespread voter fraud cost him the 2020 Presidential election.  

The phrase dates from Adolf Hitler’s use of it in his autobiography, Mein Kampf: People “more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods.”

Trump’s lawsuit claims “The Big Lie” has been used in referring to him more than 7,700 times on CNN since January, 2021.

In addition, the lawsuit cites instances where CNN compared Trump to Hitler. In a January, 2022 report, Fareed Zakaria provided footage of Germany’s dictator.

CNN.svg

So what are his odds of winning?  Far less than your own of finding loose change in sofa cushions.

First: Donald Trump is a public figure—arguably the most public figure in the world. Plaintiffs who are public figures or government officials must prove themselves victims of actual malice to collect damages. 

In the landmark case, New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) the Supreme Court declared that actual malice occurs when a statement is made “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.”

This is a more stringent standard than private citizens have to meet, which is negligence. 

Second: Truth is an absolute defense against libel (unless the plaintiff is suing for invasion of privacy).  And Trump’s history as a liar, criminal and traitor has been thoroughly established.

Liar: 

  • He created the lie that Barack Obama—whose birth certificate states unequivocally that he was born in Hawaii—was not an American citizen. The reason: To de-legitimize Obama as a Presidential candidate and President.
  • Throughout 2020, he repeatedly lied about the dangers of COVID-19—attacking medical experts who urged citizens to mask up and social distance. As a result, by the time he left office, 400,000 Americans had died of COVID. 

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Donald Trump

Criminal:

  • He has been forced to shut down his Trump Foundation and forced to pay more than $2 million in court-ordered damages to eight different charities for illegally misusing charitable funds at the Foundation for political purposes.
  • He was also forced to close his unaccredited Trump University for scamming its students. He had promised to teach them “the secrets of success” in the real estate industry—then delivered nothing. In 2016, a federal court approved a $25 million settlement with many of those students.

Traitor:

  • On July 9, 2016, high-ranking members of his Presidential campaign met at Trump Tower with at least two lobbyists who had ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The reason: To obtain “dirt” on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
  • On July 27, 2016, Trump said at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you are able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing [from Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s computer]. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”

These incidents were nothing less than treason—inviting a foreign power, hostile to the United States, to interfere in its Presidential election.

Third—and perhaps the most important of all: In a libel suit, the plaintiff must answer—under oath—all questions put to him by the defendant’s attorneys.

Trump, better than anyone, knows the depths of his own criminality. Just as Al Capone knew his notoriety for evil would make it impossible for him to win a libel suit, so does Trump. 

On August 10, he invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination nearly 450 times during a deposition at the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, in its probe into the Trump Organization’s business practices.

He would not be allowed to do so as a litigant in a libel suit.

Wooden Judge Gavel Isolated On White Background

Moreover, he has a history of threatening to file lawsuits—and then failing to do so.

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, at least 12 women publicly accused him of sexually inappropriate behavior—if not assault. 

Trump’s reaction: “All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”

Six years later, he has not filed a single lawsuit for defamation. 

So why has he filed a defamation suit against CNN? 

Money—not by winning an impossible lawsuit, but by raising it from his gullible and Fascistic followers.

He will claim—once again—that he’s being persecuted and that “they’re not coming after me, they’re coming after you.”

And his millions of media-hating followers will gladly pony up money they will never see again.

If he loses the lawsuit—or pulls out of it—he will claim he’s the victim of “the deep-state establishment.”

And ask his followers for even more money—which they’ll cough up.

GIVING ADVICE SAFELY—THE MACHIAVELLI WAY

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 28, 2022 at 12:11 am

Ask the average person, “What do you think of Niccolo Machiavelli?” and he’s likely to say: “The devil.” 

In fact, “The Old Nick” became an English term used to describe Satan and slander Machiavelli at the same time.

Niccolo Machiavelli

The truth, however, is more complex. Machiavelli was a passionate Republican, who spent most of his adult life in the service of his beloved city-state, Florence.

The years he spent as a diplomat were tumultuous ones for Italy—with men like Pope Julius II and Caesare Borgia vying for power and plunging Italy into one bloodbath after another. 

Florence, for all its wealth, lacked a strong army, and thus lay at the mercy of powerful enemies, such as Borgia. Machiavelli often had to use his wits to keep them at bay.

Machiavelli is best-known for his writing of The Prince, a pamphlet on the arts of gaining and holding power. Its admirers have included Benito Mussolini and Joseph Stalin.

But his longer and more thoughtful work is The Discourses, in which he offers advice on how to maintain liberty within a republic. Among its admirers were many of the men who framed the Constitution of the United States.

The Discourses (Pelican Classics, Ac14): Niccolo Machiavelli, Bernard R. Crick: 9780140400144: Amazon.com: Books

Most people believe that Machiavelli advocated evil for its own sake.

Not so. Rather, he recognized that sometimes there is no perfect—or perfectly good—solution to a problem. 

Sometimes it’s necessary to take stern—even brutal—action to stop an evil (such as a riot) before it becomes widespread:

“A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good.  And therefore it is necessary for a prince, who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.”Related image

His counsel remains as relevant today as it did during his lifetime (1469 – 1527). This is especially  true for politicians—and students of political science.

But plenty of ordinary citizens can also benefit from the advice he has to offer—such as those in business who are asked to give advice to more powerful superiors.

Machiavelli warns there is danger in urging rulers to take a particular course of action: For men only judge of matters by the result, all the blame of failure is charged upon him who first advised it, while in case of success he receives commendations. But the reward never equals the punishment.” 

This puts would-be counselors in a difficult position: “If they do not advise what seems to them for the good of the republic or the prince, regardless of the consequences to themselves, then they fail to do their duty.  

“And if they do advise it, then it is at the risk of their position and their lives, for all men are blind in thus, that they judge of good or evil counsels only by the results.” 

Thus, Machiavelli warns that an adviser should “take things moderately, and not to undertake to advocate any enterprise with too much zeal, but to give one’s advice calmly and modestly.” 

The person who asked for the advice may follow it, or not, as of his own choice, and not because he was led or forced into it by the adviser.

Above all, the adviser must avoid the danger of urging a course of action that runs “contrary to the wishes of the many. 

“For the danger arises when your advice has caused the many to be contravened. In that case, when the result is unfortunate, they all concur in your destruction.”

Or, as President John F. Kennedy famously said after the disastrous invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in April, 1961: “Victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan.”

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John F. Kennedy

By “not advocating any enterprise with too much zeal,” the adviser gains two advantages:

“The first is, you avoid all danger.

“And the second consists in the great credit which you will have if, after having modestly advised a certain course, your counsel is rejected, and the adoption of a different course results unfortunately.”

Finally, the time to give advice is before a catastrophe occurs, not after. Machiavelli gives a vivid example of what can happen if this rule is ignored.

King Perseus of Macedon had gone to war with Paulus Aemilius—and suffered a humiliating defeat. Fleeing the battlefield with a handful of his men, he later bewailed the disaster that had overtaken him.

Suddenly, one of his lieutenants began to lecture Perseus on the many errors he had committed, which had led to his ruin.

“Traitor,” raged the king, turning upon him, “you have waited until now to tell me all this, when there is no longer any time to remedy it—” And Perseus slew him with his own hands.

Niccolo Machiavelli sums up the lesson as this:

“Thus was this man punished for having been silent when he should have spoken, and for having spoken when he should have been silent.”

Be careful that you don’t make the same mistake.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: UNLEARNING THE LESSONS OF HISTORY

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 10, 2022 at 12:10 am

Vladimir Putin believes himself to be a serious student of history. If so, he has drawn the wrong lessons from the past.

During the American Revolution (1775-1783) and the War of 1812 (1812-1815) Great Britain encouraged Indian attacks on American settlers.

One of the worst of these attacks occurred on August 30, 1813, when over 700 Creek Indians destroyed Fort Mims, near Mobile, Alabama. About 500 militiamen, settlers, slaves and Creeks loyal to the Americans were slaughtered or captured.

Massacre at Fort Mims.jpg

Fort Mims massacre

Inflaming the Indians against settlers didn’t help the British on the battlefield—in the American Revolution or the War of 1812. But it did incite long-lasting hatred by the vast majority of Americans against the British—and even greater hatred of the Indians. 

To cite one example: The Fort Mims massacre inspired General Andrew Jackson to take the field, eventually destroying the Creeks as a nation and wresting Florida from Spain for the United States.

The British lost their American colony. And the Indians were gradually driven from their dominance of the continent. 

Similarly, Vladimir Putin has turned to Chechen mercenaries for help in conquering Ukraine. They are known as “Kadyrovtsy” or “Kadyrovites” after their leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya’s pro-Kremlin strongman.

Human rights groups, witnesses and survivors have for decades accused them of murders, kidnappings and the torture of Kadyrov’s rivals and critics.

Just as the Indians hoped to use their alliance with the British to defeat their Anglo-American enemies, so, too, do Chechen mercenaries hope to ingratiate themselves with the Kremlin.

Vladimir Putin 17-11-2021 (cropped).jpg

Vladimir Putin 

Kremlin.ru, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Yet that alliance has not advanced Russia’s fortunes on the battlefield, just as the British-Indian alliance did not gain victory for the British.

As Niccolo Machiavelli, writing more than 500 years ago in The Prince, warned: “[Mercenaries] have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Moreover, the atrocities committed by Indians and Chechens only inflamed their enemies to seek revenge.  

In his masterwork, The Discourses, Machiavelli offered a lesson on the power of mercy even in the midst of war. 

“Marcus Furius Camillus, a Roman general, was besieging the city of the Faliscians, and had surrounded it. A teacher charged with the education of the children of some of the noblest families of that city decided to ingratiate himself with Camillus by leading those children into the Roman camp. 

“Presenting them to Camillus the teacher said to him, ‘By means of these children as hostages, you will be able to compel the city to surrender.’

“Camillus not only declined the offer but had the teacher stripped and his hands tied behind his back. Then he had a rod put into the hands of each of the children and directed them to whip the teacher all the way back to the city. 

“Upon learning this, the citizens of Faliscia were so much touched by the humanity and integrity of Camillus, that they surrendered the place to him without any further defense.”

Summing up the meaning of this, Machiavelli writes: “This example shows that an act of humanity and benevolence will at all times have more influence over the minds of men than violence and ferocity.  It also proves that provinces and cities which no armies…could conquer, have yielded to an act of humanity, benevolence, chastity or generosity.

“…History also shows us how much the people desire to find such virtues in great men, and how much they are extolled by historians and biographers of princes….Amongst these, Xenophon takes great pains to show how many victories, how much honor and fame, Cyrus gained by his humanity and affability, and by his not having exhibited a single instance of pride, cruelty or luxuriousness, nor of any of the other vices that are apt to stain the lives of men.”

Quote by Machiavelli: “Necessity is what impels men to take action ...

Niccolo Machiavelli

Then there has been Putin’s use of terror-attacks on Ukrainian cities.

Using bombers and long-range artillery, Putin has tried to compensate for losses on the battlefield by terrorizing Ukrainians into surrender. 

Adolf Hitler applied the same tactic against an equally stubborn Great Britain during the Second World War. in 1940-41.

Unable to invade England because the British Navy controlled the sea, Hitler turned to terror-bombing. 

He believed he could terrorize Britons into demanding that their government yield to German surrender demands.

From September 7, 1940 to May 21, 1941, the Luftwaffe subjected England—and especially London—to a ruthless bombing campaign that became known as The Blitz.

The undamaged St. Paul’s Cathredal, December, 1940

During 267 days—almost 37 weeks—between 40,000 and 43,000 British civilians were killed. About 139,000 others were wounded.

But the terror-bombing only inflamed Britons to fight Germany even more stubbornly.

Vladimir Putin has learned nothing from these historical lessons.

He has employed mercenaries and terror-bombing against patriotic Ukrainians—who continue to sweep Russian forces from their country.

If he employs even “small” tactical weapons, he risks triggering a fullscale NATO response—thus destroying the Russian empire he hopes to re-create.

Finally: Even if he conquers Ukraine, he will inherit a hate-filled population thirsting for revenge at every opportunity. 

TWO DICTATORS, TWO CRISES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 6, 2022 at 12:29 am

In the United States, World War II—at least, that part of the war fought in Europe—used to be celebrated in movies and TV shows like “Combat!” and “The Rat Patrol.” Today, it’s largely forgotten, except by veterans groups and the conflict’s rapidly aging veterans.

But in the Soviet Union, “the Great Patriotic War” against Nazi Germany is still celebrated as the triumph of Soviet strength and determination against horrific odds and losses.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is unlikely to be remembered so fondly. 

On April 28, 2006, Putin publicly stated that the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.

“As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory.”

Putin was sounding a warning: He saw himself as Russia’s savior who would restore its lost empire.

Vladimir Putin 17-11-2021 (cropped).jpg

Vladimir Putin

His invasion of Ukraine—officially called a “special military operation”—was intended as an important step toward that restoration. 

Begun on February 24, the invasion targeted the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in an attempt to overthrow the democratic government of President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

Ukrainian troops were outgunned and outnumbered. As in the case of the Soviet Union in 1941, Western military analystss expected the attack to quickly succeed. The Biden administration offered to evacuate Zelensky to safety.

Zelensky refused: “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

But after weeks of combat, Russian forces retreated, stymied by ferocious Ukrainian resistance. 

In July, the last city under Ukrainian control in Luhansk fell to Russia after weeks of artillery bombardment and street fighting. But the Russians made little progress as they tried to conquer the remainder of Donbas.

In late August, after weeks of buildup, Ukraine launched a counteroffensive in the southern region of Kherson. Ukraine deployed newly arrived missile systems supplied by the United States and other Western countries to destroy Russian ammunition dumps and a Russian air base in Crimea.

By September, Ukrainian forces launched a rapid offensive, recapturing much of the northeastern Kharkiv region, including the city of Izium. Previously, the Russians had been using this as a key logistics hub.

Volodymyr Zelensky Official portrait.jpg

Volodymyr Zelensky

On September 21, with Russian forces bogged down or retreating, Vladimir Putin announced the partial mobilization of 300,000 military reservists. All male citizens below 60 are now eligible to be drafted.

There are exceptions: Employees in IT and telecommunications, finance, “systemically-important” mass media outlets and interdependent suppliers, including registered media and broadcasters.

Still, the announcement set off a massive exodus of at least 194,000 Russian men (and their wives or girlfriends) to such neighboring countries as Turkey, Georgia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. 

During World War II, this would have been unthinkable: Whether driven by patriotism or a desire for vengeance on their German tormentors, Russians at all levels threw themselves into the conflict. 

On the same day Putin announced the mobilization, he threatened to use nuclear weapons to defend not simply Russia but the Ukrainian territory his forces had captured:

“Our country possesses various means of destruction. When the territorial integrity of our nation is threatened, we, of course, will use all the means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people.” 

To underscore his threat, he added: “Those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the weathervane can turn and point towards them.”

Ukrainian Forces Make Some Gains in North, South > U.S. Department of Defense > Defense Department News

Putin’s threats have heightened world tensions and triggered speculation as to whether he would use nukes—against Ukraine or NATO countries, including the United States.

Volodymyr Zelensky thinks Putin is not bluffing.

President Joe Biden initially assured Americans there was no cause for concern. But since then the United States has stated that it has warned Putin that any use of nuclear weapons would trigger a catastrophic (non-specific) response against Russia. 

Seen against the backdrop of Russia’s titanic victory in “the Great Patriotic War,” Putin’s repeated threats to use nuclear weapons actually underscore Russia’s weakness, not its strength.

Consider:

  • “The Great Patriotic War” lasted almost four years—from June 22, 1941, to May 7, 1945.
  • Russia’s opponent, Nazi Germany, was the most-feared military power in Europe. 
  • The war cost the Soviet Union at least 26 million lives before ending with the Red flag flying over Berlin.
  • Almost the entire western half of the Soviet Union was devastated—first as the Germans overran territory from the Polish border to the gates of Moscow, and then again as the Soviets slowly pushed them back to Germany itself.
  • For Russians, this was truly a “people’s war,” won through massive sacrifice and heroism—and without the use of nuclear weapons, which did not then exist.

Seventy-seven years after the end of World War II:

  • Against the smaller and initially ill-equipped Ukrainian army, Russia has enjoyed a huge advantage in manpower and material. 
  • Yet so low is Russian morale that Putin has been forced to offer huge bribes to foreign mercenaries and even convicted criminals to refill his dispirited legions. 
  • Ukrainians, fueled by patriotism and a desire for vengeance, are fighting—and winning—their own version of “the Great Patriotic War.” 

TWO DICTATORS, TWO CRISES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 5, 2022 at 12:21 am

On June 22, 1941, with 134 Divisions at full fighting strength and 73 more divisions for deployment behind the front, the German Wehrmacht invaded the Soviet Union.

Joseph Stalin, the longtime Soviet dictator, was stunned. The invasion had come less than two years after Germany had signed a non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union.

On August 23, 1939, Stalin had signed the German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact with German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler.

The reason: Each dictator got what he wanted—for the moment. Hitler was planning to invade Poland in a matter of days—and he wanted to avoid a war with the Soviet Union.

And Stalin got what he wanted: The eastern half of Poland.

Joseph Stalin

The agreement stunned the world. Since 1919, Nazis and Communists had fought bitter battles against each other in the streets of Germany during the Weimar Republic.

When this was replaced in 1933 by the Third Reich, German Communists were rounded up and imprisoned, if not murdered, by Hitler’s ruthless secret police, the Schutzstaffel (“Protective Squads”).

For the moment, however, all of that was conveniently forgotten.

And, surprising as it might seem, each dictator harbored a secret respect for the other.

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

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

Adolf Hitler

But Hitler hadn’t forgotten his life’s ambition to conquer the Soviet Union and utterly destroy “the scourge of Jewish-Marxism.”

Stalin received numerous warnings from the United States and Great Britain about the coming invasion. But he dismissed them as efforts by the West to trick him into violating the pact and turning Nazi Germany into his mortal enemy. 

When informed of the attack, Stalin at first believed it was being made by rogue German forces. He refused to order an immediate counterattack.

Upon being convinced that the Wehrmacht intended to wage all-out war, he went into a funk in his dacha and shut himself off from everyone. To his closest associates he wailed: “Lenin left us a great inheritance and we, his heirs, have fucked it all up!”

Meanwhile, the Red Air Force was destroyed on the ground by the awesome Luftwaffe. And the Wehrmacht was advancing at a rate of 25 miles a day.

German soldiers marching through Russia

On July 3, after 10 days of brooding (and probably drinking heavily) in his dacha, Stalin finally took to the airways across the Soviet Union.

Never a spellbinding orator, Stalin spoke in slow and faltering tones. Nevertheless, his opening words were startling: “Comrades! Citizens! Brothers and sisters! Men of our army and navy! I am addressing you, my friends!”

Stalin had never addressed an audience this way, and he never would again.

He said the “peace loving” Soviet Union had been attacked by “fiends and cannibals” who wanted to restore the rule of the landlords and Czars. He claimed the non-aggression pact with Germany had given the army much-needed time to rearm and reorganize its forces. 

This was accompanied by orders unprecedented in any other army: Those taken prisoner by the Germans were to be considered traitors—and shot or imprisoned. Those suspected of wounding themselves to avoid combat were also subject to summary execution. So were soldiers who had been legitimately wounded in battle but were suspected of inflicting those injuries.

The first two years of the war—1941 to 1943—proved disastrous for the Soviet Union.

During the first six months—June to December, 1941—German armies lured huge Soviet forces into gigantic “cauldron battles,” surrounding and exterminating them. An estimated 5.7 million prisoners of war (POWs) fell into German hands. Of these, at least 3.5 million died in custody.

But then the infamous Russian cold and snows of winter halted the Wehrmacht before Moscow.

In the summer of 1942 German forces once again mounted a ferocious offensive, driving all the way to the Volga—and Stalingrad.

But they became bogged down in bitter house-to-house fighting. With the arrival of winter, Soviet forces surrounded the Wehrmacht’s powerful Sixth Army. The besiegers became the besieged. On February 2, 1943, Field Marshal Friedrich von Paulus surrendered what remained of his army. The battle cost Germany 500,000 men, including 91,000 taken prisoner. 

As the Red Army finally began to go over on the offensive, Stalin relaxed the iron controls that had long stifled creativity on the part of his commanders. 

The infamous political commissars were removed from control over Russian generals. Gold braid and fancy uniforms were manufactured and rushed to the front as morale boosters.

The war would last another two years—costing the Soviet Union at least 26 million citizens—before it ended with the Red flag flying over Berlin.

Almost the entire western half of the Soviet Union was devastated—first as the Germans overran territory from the Polish border to the gates of Moscow, and then again as the Soviets slowly pushed them back to Germany itself.

NAZI DEJA-VU IMERICAN STYLE: PART THREE (END)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 25, 2022 at 12:15 am

On July 20, 1944, members of the Wehrmacht high command failed to assassinate Adolf Hitler with a bomb hidden in a briefcase. 

Mass arrests quickly followed. 

Among the first victims discovered and executed was the conspiracy’s leader, Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg. Standing before a makeshift firing squad at midnight, he cried: “Long live our sacred Germany!”

Adolf Hitler

At least 7,000 persons were arrested by the Gestapo. According to records of the Fuehrer Conferences on Naval Affairs, 4,980 were executed.      

Had the conspiracy succeeded, history would have turned out differently:

  • If Germany had surrendered in July or August, 1944, World War II would have ended eight to nine months earlier.
  • The Russians—who didn’t reach Germany until April, 1945—could not have occupied the Eastern part of the country.
  • This would have prevented many of the future conflicts between the United States and the Soviet Union over access to West Berlin and/or West Germany.
  • Untold numbers of Holocaust victims would have survived because the extermination camps would have been shut down.

Thus, history can be altered by the appearance—or disappearance—of a single individual.

Which brings us back to Donald Trump. 

Donald Trump

Just as Germans did nothing to stop Adolf Hitler’s inexorable march toward war—and the destruction of millions of lives and Germany itself—so, too, did Americans seem paralyzed to put an end to the equally self-destructive reign of the man often dubbed “Carrot Caligula.” 

  • Trump’ could have been non-violently removed via the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the President when he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” The Vice President then becomes President.
  • No Cabinet members dared to invoke this.
  • When Trump praised North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-On or attacked Vietnam POW John McCain, House and Senate Republicans stayed silent. When he falsely charged massive voter fraud, they stayed silent or loudly parroted his lies.
  • On February 5, 2020, the Republican-dominated Senate—ignoring the overwhelming evidence against him—acquitted Trump on both impeachment articles: Obstruction of Congress and abuse of power.
  • Pentagon generals stood mute as Trump repeatedly sided with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—and even gave classified CIA Intelligence to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
  • High-ranking field marshals in Hitler’s Wehrmacht held their tongues when he insulted them. So did American generals when Trump belittled their intelligence and even patriotism. 
  • The CIA overthrew Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh, in 1953 and Guatemalan president Jacobo Árbenz in 1954. It repeatedly tried—unsuccessfully—to assassinate and/or overthrow Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. But it made no effort to halt the ongoing treachery of Donald Trump. 
  • When Trump arbitrarily decided to remove American forces from Syria and Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned in protest in 2018. But then he was simply replaced by Mark Esper.
  • Despite the fact that many of these men regularly came into contact with Trump, not one of them apparently plotted his removal. 
  • Similarly, Trump repeatedly attacked the integrity of the men and women of the FBI—even firing its director, James Comey, for daring to investigate Russia’s subversion of the 2016 election. If its armed agents—steeped in Federal criminal law—built a case for Trump’s indictment and prosecution, it has never come to light.
  • Neither did any of his armed Secret Service agents register the slightest protest, despite his arrogant behavior toward them. He forced them to work without pay during his 35-day government shutdown in 2018. They also had to accompany him to COVID-infected states—both during the Presidential campaign and afterward. Many of them became stricken with this often fatal disease as a result.

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters elected former Vice President Joseph Biden the 46th President of the United States. Trump, running for a second term, got 74,196,153 votes.

Yet almost two months after the election, Trump refused to concede, insisting that he won—and repeatedly claiming falsely that he was the victim of massive vote fraud.

This toxic lie has been feverishly embraced by millions of Right-wingers, robbing the Biden administration of its deserved legitimacy.

This refusal to acknowledge the outcome initially denied Biden access to the money, information-sharing and machinery traditionally accorded the President-elect. Trump himself was the beneficiary of such assistance in 2016, after his win over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Only on November 23 was Biden acknowledged as the winner by the General Services Administration, as the Trump administration finally began the formal transition process.

Trump’s refusal to accept reality posed an unprecedented danger to democracy: No presidential candidate had ever refused to concede defeat once all the votes were counted and legal challenges resolved.

By refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, Trump took on the classic mantle of of a dictator.  

Historians have uncovered at least 42 assassination plots against Adolf Hitler. That resistance movement has earned honor for its members, many of whom died heroically for standing firm against a brutal tyrant.

To its eternal shame, the same cannot be said of America during the reign of Donald Trump.

NAZI DEJA-VU AMERICAN STYLE: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 24, 2022 at 12:10 am

On July 20, 1944, Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

He had served with the Wehrmacht in Poland (1939), France (1940) and the Soviet Union (1941).

While serving in Tunisa, he was seriously wounded on April 7, 1943, when Allied fighters strafed his vehicle. He lost his left eye, right hand and two fingers of his left hand after surgery.  

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg

Nevertheless, he now acted as the prime mover for the conspiracy among a growing number of German high command officers to arrest or assassinate Germany’s Fuehrer.

For most of these officers, the motive was craven: The “happy time’ of German victories was over. Germany was losing the war it had launched on the world in 1939–and now they feared the worst. 

This was especially true now that the numerically superior forces of the Soviet Union had gone onto the offensive.

For Stauffenberg, there was another reason: His disgust at the horrors he had seen committed by his fellow Wehrmacht soldiers upon defenseless POW’s and civilians in Russia.

Thus, Stauffenberg—more than many Germans—knew firsthand the vengeance his country could expect if the “Thousand-Year Reich” fell.

Something must be done, he believed, to prove to the world that not all Germans—even members of the Wehrmacht—were criminals.

Most of the conspirators wanted to arrest Hitler and surrender to British and American forces—well before the much-feared Russians gained a toehold in Germany.

Stauffenberg didn’t want to arrest Hitler; he wanted to kill him. A live Hitler might eventually be rescued by his Nazi colleagues.

But Hitler was a closely-guarded target. He was surrounded by fanatical bodyguards who were expert marksmen. He often wore a bulletproof vest and a cap lined with three pounds of laminated steel. 

Adolf Hitler

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

But his single greatest protection–he claimed—was an instinct for danger. He would suddenly change his schedule—to drop in where he was least expected. Or suddenly depart an event where he was expected to stay a long time.

On November 9, 1939, this instinct saved his life. He was expected to give a long speech at a Munich beer hall before the “old Fighters” of his brown-shirted storm troopers. 

Instead, he suddenly 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.

Since then, a series of other assassination attempts had been made against Hitler. All of them involved time-bombs. And all of the would-be assassins were members of the German General Staff.

In one case, a bomb secretly stashed aboard Hitler’s plane failed to explode. In another, an officer who had a bomb strapped to himself unexpectedly found his scheduled meeting with Hitler called off. He had to rush into a bathroom to defuse the bomb before it went off.

So now it was the turn of von Stauffenberg. He would carry his bomb—hidden in a briefcase—into a “Hitler conference” packed with military officers.

But Stauffenberg didn’t intend to be a suicide bomber. He meant to direct the government that would replace that of the Nazis.

His bomb—also rigged with a time-fuse—would be left in the conference room while he found an excuse to leave. After the explosion, he would phone one of his fellow conspirators with the news.

Then, the coup—“Operation Valkyrie”—would be on.

Anti-Nazi conspirators would seize control of key posts of the government. The British and Americans would then be informed of Germany’s willingness to surrender. Provided, of course, that the vengeance-seeking Russians did not have a say in its postwar future.

The Wehrmacht and Schutzstaffel (SS) had killed millions of Russians. Many had died in combat. Others had been murdered as captives. Still more had been allowed to die by starvation and exposure to the notorious Russian winter.

So the Germans—both Nazi and anti-Nazi—knew what they could expect if soldiers of the Soviet Union reached German soil.

On July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg appeared at Hitler’s well-guarded military headquarters in East Prussia.  Like all his other outposts, Hitler had named it—appropriately enough—“Wolf’s Lair.” 

“Wolf’s Lair”

Stauffenberg entered the large, concrete building while the conference was in session. He placed his yellow briefcase next to Hitler—who was standing with his generals at a heavy oaken table. Then he excused himself to take an “urgent” phone call.

After Stauffenberg left the room, Colonel Heinz Brandt, standing next to Hitler, found the briefcase blocking his legs. So he moved it—to the other side of the heavy oaken support, partially shielding Hitler from the blast.. 

At 12:42 p.m. on July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg’s briefcase bomb erupted. 

Brandt died, as did two other officers and a stenographer.  

Hitler not only survived, but the plotters failed to seize the key broadcast facilities of the Reich.  

This allowed Hitler to make a late-night speech to the nation, revealing the failed plot and assuring Germans that he was alive. And he swore to flush out the “traitorous swine” who had tried to kill him.

He soon proved as bad as his word.

NAZI DEJA-VU AMERICAN STYLE: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 23, 2022 at 12:10 am

In the Twilight Zone episode, “No Time Like the Past,” Paul Driscoll (Dana Andrews), a scientist in early 1960s America, uses a time machine to visit Nazi Germany on the eve of World War II. 

He’s rented a motel room overlooking the balcony from where the Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler will soon make a speech. And he’s eager to watch that speech—through the lens of a telescopic-sighted rifle.  

Just as he’s about to pull the trigger, there’s a knock at his door–by the maid. Driscoll hustles her out as soon as possible, then once again picks up his rifle. He—and viewers—can once again see Hitler through the cross-hairs of his weapon.  

Paul Driscoll prepares to shoot Adolf Hitler

But instead of the anticipated shot, there’s another knock at his door—his time by the black-uniformed secret police, the SS. Driscoll knows the game is up, and disappears into the present just as the thugs break down his door.  

And the audience is left to ponder how different the world would have been if Driscoll—or someone in Nazi Germany—had succeeded in assassinating the man whose wars would wipe out the lives of 50 million men, women and children around the globe.  

One 2016 Republican candidate for President dared to invoke the menace of Nazi Germany in warning of the dangers of a Donald Trump Presidency. And to argue that Americans could prevent that past from returning.  

In November, 2015, John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, was peddling a message of creating jobs, balancing the Federal budget and disdain for Washington, D.C.  

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John Kasich

But he remained far behind in the polls, dropping 50% in support in just one month—from September to October. Meanwhile, Trump, the New York billionaire developer, was being backed by 25% of Republican primary voters.  

So, with nothing to lose, Kasich decided to take off the gloves. He invoked the “N” word for Republicans: Nazi.  

He authorized the creation of a TV ad that opened with ominous music—and the face of a snarling Donald Trump.

“I would like anyone who is listening to consider some thoughts that I’ve paraphrased from the words of German pastor Martin Niemoeller.” 

The voice belonged to Tom Moe, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force—and a former Vietnam prisoner-of-war.

“You might not care if Donald Trump says Muslims must register with the government, because you’re not one,” continued Moe. 

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says he’s going to round up all the Hispanic immigrants, because you’re not one. 

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Donald Trump

“And you might not care if Donald Trump says it’s OK to rough up black protesters, because you’re not one. 

“And you might not care of Donald Trump wants to suppress journalists, because you’re not one.

“But think about this: 

“If he keeps going, and he actually becomes President, he might just get around to you. And you’d better hope that there’s someone left to help you.”  

Martin Niemoeller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who had commanded a U-boat during World War 1. He became a bitter public foe of Adolf Hitler.

A staunch anti-Communist, he had initially supported the Nazis as Germany’s only hope of salvation against the Soviet Union.

But when the Nazis made the church subordinate to State authority, Niemoeller created the Pastors’ Emergency League to defend religious freedom. 

For his opposition to the Third Reich,  Niemoeller spent seven years in concentration camps.

With the collapse of the Reich in 1945, he was freed—and elected President of the Protestant church in Hesse and Nassau in 1947. During the 1960s, he was a president of the World Council of Churches.

He is best remembered for his powerful condemnation of the failure of Germans to protest the increasing oppression of the Nazis:

First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Socialists, but I was not a Socialist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist, so I did not speak out.

Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew, so I did not speak out.

And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.

Neither “Adolf Hitler” nor “Nazi Party” was mentioned during the one-minute Kassich video. But a furious Trump threatened to sue Kasich if he could find find anything “not truthful” within the ad.

Apparently he couldn’t find anything “not truthful,” because he never sued.

So threatened the man who had called Mexican immigrants “rapists” and accused President Barack Obama of being a Muslim and an illegal alien.

The Kasich ad was the darkest attack made against Trump by any candidate—Republican or Democrat. And it raised a disturbing question:

If Donald Trump proved to be America’s Adolf Hitler, would there be an American Claus von Stauffenberg? 

Colonel Claus Schenk von Stuaffenberg was the German army officer who, on July 20, 1944, tried to assassinate Adolf Hitler. 

DE-REGULATION: LET PREDATORS BE PREDATORS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 21, 2021 at 12:09 am

This December 2 will mark the 20th anniversary of the death of a criminal empire. An empire that almost destroyed the Western United States.

The Enron Corporation.

Based in Houston, Texas, Enron had employed 22,000 staffers and was one of the world’s leading electricity, natural gas, communications and paper companies.

In 2000, it claimed revenues of nearly $101 billion. Fortune had named Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years.

But then the truth emerged in 2001: Enron’s reported profitability was based not on brilliance and innovation but on systematic and creative accounting fraud.

And, on December 2, 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy  Code.

Enron’s $63.4 billion in assets made it the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history—until WorldCom’s bankruptcy in 2002.

The California electricity crisis (2000-2001) was caused by extortionate market manipulations and illegal shutdowns of pipelines by Texas energy companies.

California suffered from multiple large-scale blackouts. Pacific Gas & Electric, one of the state’s largest energy companies, collapsed, and the economic fall-out greatly harmed Governor Gray Davis’ standing.

The crisis was made possible by Governor Pete Wilson, who had forced the passage of partial de-regulation legislation in 1996. 

Enron seized its opportunity to inflate prices and manipulate energy output in California’s spot markets. The crisis cost the state $40 to $45 billion.

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The true scandal of Enron was not that it was eventually destroyed by its own greed.

The true scandal was that its leaders were never Federally prosecuted for almost driving California—and the entire Western United States—into bankruptcy.

Under the pro-oil company administration of George W. Bush, no such prosecutions ever occurred. But Americans had a right to expect such redress under “liberal” President Bill Clinton.

Once the news broke that Enron had filed for bankruptcy, commentators almost universally oozed compassion for its thousands of employees who would lose their salaries and pensions.

No one, however, condemned the “profits at any cost” dedication of those same employees for pushing California to the brink of ruin.

To put this in historical perspective:

  • Imagine a historian writing about the destruction of Adolf Hitler’s Schutzstaffel (Guard Detachment), or SS, as a human interest tragedy.
  • Imagine its Reichsfuehrer, Heinrich Himmler, being blamed for failing to prevent its collapse—as CEO Kenneth Lay was blamed for Enron’s demise.
  • Imagine that same historian completely ignoring the horrific role the SS had played throughout Nazi-occupied countries—and its primary role in slaughtering six million Jews in the Holocaust.  

Nor did anyone in the media or government declare that the solution to such extortionate activity lay within the United States Department of Justice via RICO—the Federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

Seal of the United States Department of Justice.svg

Passed by Congress in 1970, this was originally aimed at the kingpins of the Mafia. Since the mid-1980s, however, RICO has been successfully applied against both terrorist groups and legitimate businesses engaged in criminal activity.

Under RICO, people financially injured by a pattern of criminal activity can bring a claim in State or Federal court, and obtain damages at three times the amount of their actual claim, plus reimbursement for their attorneys’ fees and costs.

Such prosecutions would have pitted energy-extortionists against the full investigative might of the FBI and the sweeping legal  authority of the Justice Department.

Consider this selection from the opening of the Act:

(1) “racketeering activity” means (A) any act or threat involving…extortion; (B) any act which is indictable under any of the following provisions of title 18, United States Code: sections 891-894 (relating to extortionate credit transactions), section 1343 (relating to wire fraud)Section 1344 (relating to financial institution fraud), section 1951 (relating to interference with commerce, robbery, or extortion), section 1952 (relating to racketeering)….

With the 20th anniversary of Enron’s demise coming up, the mantra of “de-regulation” should be ruthlessly turned against those who have most ardently championed it.

Republicans have ingeniously dubbed the estate tax—which affects only a tiny minority of ultra-rich—“the death tax.” This makes it appear to affect everyone.

With the 2022 midterm elections fast approaching, Democrats should recast de-regulation thus:

“Greed Relief” 

“Greed Protection” 

“Legalized Extortion” 

And here are some possible slogans: 

“The Energy Industry: Giving You the Best Congress Money Can Buy.” 

“De-regulation: Let Criminals Be Criminals.”

The coal industry has pumped millions into TV ads touting the non-existent wonders of “clean coal.” And Chevron has spent millions assuring us that all its profits go strictly toward making the world a better place for others. (Presumably not a penny is left for its altruistic executives.)

When faced with such outright lying by the most vested of financial interests, it’s well to recall the warning given by Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago:

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. But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

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