Book review w/ a twist by Steve📚 … Kirk’s ♥️ for his dogs + 🎶


By Steven R. Maher

When Fiona Hill testified in a pronounced British accent before the House of Representatives this year, she gave straightforward testimony about the Ukrainian arms deal. She testified that the Russians had interred in the 2016 American Presidential election, and stated that the claims the Ukrainians interfered in the election was a falsehood fabricated by the Russian intelligence service.

Recently I came across a biography by Hill, of Russian strongman and former KGB agent Vladimir Putin.

Entitled “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin”, the book was co-authored by Clifford G. Gaddy. This 2013, 390 page publication by the Brookings Institute has the advantage of being published before Donald Trump was elected President, and then subjected to the impeachment hearing before which Hill testified. It is a unique view of the Russian dictator by an informed intelligence analyst, and allows us to view the Russian dictator in light of his history.

“For most of the first decade of the 2000s, Putin displayed remarkable political strength as a political actor in the Russian context. This strength was derived from the combination of the six individual identities we discuss and highlight in this book, not from his staged performances,” wrote Hill.

“We term these identities the Statist, the History Man, the Survivalist, the Outsider, the Free Marketeer, and the Case officer. We discuss each in detail, looking at their central elements and the evolution and their roots in Russian history, culture and politics,” continues Hill, “…Vladimir Putin is a composite of them.”

Wikipedia defines a “statist” as “an advocate of a political system in which the state has substantial centralized control over social and economic affairs.” Putin and his followers believe in a strong state to protect Russians from outside invaders and chaos at home. Americans prefer a strong state to safeguard them economically and protect individual rights.

The 1990s under Boris Yeltsin were called a “time of troubles” by Hill and Gaddy. The time of troubles” is a reference to the chaos following the collapse of the pre-Romanov dynasty in the 1660s. Hill and Gaddy argue that the 1990s, the first post-Soviet era, was a similar era of upheaval. Many Russian citizens were impoverished during this period. Putin campaigned for a return to the pre-Soviet state, arguing that history justified it. “Vladimir Putin is a self-designated student of history,” writes the authors. “Throughout his time in office, Putin has actively deployed his own and his team’s interpretation of Russian history to reinforce policy positions and frame key events.”

The Survivalist

Putin is the child of World War II survivors, a vital subject in his developing world-view. “Their collective experience has turned the Russian population into survivalists, people who constantly think of and prepare for the worst.” Putin showed this during during the 1991 food crisis. Putin bartered natural resources for food to feed the St. Petersburg population. Putin stored up reserves for future such crisis.

Hill focuses briefly on Putin’s KGB experiences in East Germany prior to his rise in Russian political circles. Hill traces Putin’s inner circle and argues that none of them, but above all Putin himself, saw themselves as outsiders in the bureaucracy. She argues further than this gave Putin the advantage of watching the disintegration of the Soviet state from a distance, observing who in the Russian bureaucracy made the wrong moves.

Putin advocated free markets. In 2011, during the global financial crisis, Putin Russian oligarchs wanted to transfer their monopoly enterprises back to state control. Putin refused.

Putin also believed in building up his financial reserves to weather financial difficulties. In the 2000s Putin “had amassed enough food to supply the entire country for up to three months, as well as sufficient fuel, clothing, medications, and other products and equipment for a similarly lengthy period. The authors also credited Putin with having created sufficient financial reserves to weather the 2008 banking collapse. It’s too bad Putin did not advice to his admirers George W. Bush and Donald Trump on the importance of balancing budgets and storing up cash reserves.


Perfect tune🎶 for the Trump era:



Kirk Douglas Had Something to Teach Us All

By Lindsay Pollard-Post

Acclaimed actor, producer, author, and philanthropist Kirk Douglas, who died on February 5 at the age of 103, had iconic roles in movies such as Spartacus, Paths of Glory, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, The Bad and the Beautiful, Lust for Life, and many others. Everyone remembers him for these performances — as well as for his chiseled features — but what many may not realize is that this Hollywood legend was also an animal advocate who boldly spoke out against injustice.

PETA Supporter Kirk Douglas with his beloved dogs. Photo Courtesy of Kirk Douglas

Following the killing of Cecil the lion, Douglas wrote a brave piece in which he opened up about his one (and only) experience of trophy hunting in the past — which he came to regret deeply and called “the most stupid thing I’ve ever done.” Explaining his change of heart about hunting, Douglas wrote,

“[O]ne day I looked up and all my trophies seemed to be staring at me. I realized how obscene it was to kill them. I quickly got rid of all the ‘trophies’ and tried to forget the sin that I had committed.”

He called the actions of Walter Palmer, who lured Cecil out of a park and shot him with a high-powered weapon, “inexcusable” and said that the practice of killing animals for sport “must be stopped.”

A PETA supporter, Douglas spoke with PETA in 2011 about his biggest fans—his canine companions. Through all the highs and lows of his long life, Douglas found joy and solace in spending time with his dogs.

“I’ve had dogs all my life …. They have never failed to give me friendship,” he said. “If I come home and the dogs are not there (they may be at the vet), the house feels empty. If you don’t have a dog, you are missing a lot in life.” He joked, “My wife says I could live without a wife but I could never live without dogs.”

Douglas’ compassion for others began early. As a child, he was deeply touched by seeing his mother give food to those in need even when their own family didn’t have enough to eat. “My mother said to me, ‘You must take care of other people.’ That stayed with me,” he said.

Kirk and Anne Douglas

He carried those early lessons in justice and doing right by others into his movie career. Douglas said that his proudest achievement was the role that he played in breaking the “Hollywood blacklist.” In the 1940s and 1950s, many prominent members of the film industry were banned from working because they were suspected of sympathizing with humanitarian causes or were branded a “communist threat.” Douglas stood up against this injustice by crediting blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo for his work on Spartacus.

Douglas’ remarkable life is an inspiration to us all to care for others and speak out against injustice.♥️