I remember the first time I saw Nikki Haley. It was in a high school gym before the 2012 South Carolina Republican presidential primary. Tim Scott, who was then a congressman, was holding a raucous town hall, and Ms. Haley was there to cheer him on. The first woman governor of South Carolina, the first Indian American ever elected to statewide office there, the youngest governor in the country. Whatever that “thing” is that talented politicians possess, Ms. Haley had it. People liked her, and more important, she seemed to like people. She talked with you, not to you, and made routine conversations feel special and important. She seemed to have unlimited potential.
The president tweeted the name of the presumed whistle-blower in the Ukraine scandal—demonstrating that he is unrepentant and determined to break the law again.
December 28, 2019
Staff writer at The Atlantic
U.S. President Donald Trump listens to a question from the news media as he sits behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., July 26, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis – RC19D2A20E00
Amid a two-day binge of post-Christmas rage-tweeting, President Donald Trump retweeted the name of the CIA employee widely presumed to be the whistle-blower in the Ukraine scandal. On Thursday night, December 26, Trump retweeted his campaign account, which had tweeted a link to a Washington Examiner article that printed the name in the headline. Then, in the early hours of Friday morning, December 27, Trump retweeted a supporter who named the presumed whistle-blower in the text of the tweet.
This is a step the president has been building toward for some time. The name of the presumed whistle-blower has been circulating among Trump supporters for months. Trump surrogates—including the president’s eldest son—have posted the name on social media and discussed it on television. Yet actually crossing the line to post the name on the president’s own account? Until this week, Trump hesitated. That red line has now been crossed.
Lawyers debate whether the naming of the federal whistle-blower is in itself illegal. Federal law forbids inspectors general to disclose the names of whistle-blowers, but the law isn’t explicit about disclosure by anybody else in government.
What the law does forbid is retaliation against a whistle-blower. And a coordinated campaign of vilification by the president’s allies—and the president himself—surely amounts to “retaliation” in any reasonable understanding of the term.
While the presumed whistle-blower reportedly remains employed by the government, he is also reportedly subject to regular death threats, including at least implicit threat by Trump himself. Trump was recorded in September telling U.S. diplomats in New York: “Basically, that person never saw the report, never saw the call, he never saw the call—heard something and decided that he or she, or whoever the hell they saw—they’re almost a spy. I want to know who’s the person, who’s the person who gave the whistle-blower the information? Because that’s close to a spy. You know what we used to do in the old days when we were smart? Right? The spies and treason, we used to handle it a little differently than we do now.”
Trump’s tweeting in the past two days was so frenzied and the sources quoted were so bizarre—including at least four accounts devoted to the Pizzagate-adjacent conspiracy theory QAnon, as well as one that describes former President Barack Obama as “Satan’s Muslim scum”—as to renew doubts about the president’s mental stability. But Trump’s long reticence about outright naming the presumed whistle-blower suggests that he remained sufficiently tethered to reality to hear and heed a lawyer’s advice. He disregarded that advice in full awareness that he was disregarding it. The usual excuse for Trump’s online abusiveness—he’s counterpunching—amounts in this case not to a defense but to an indictment: Counterpunching literally means retaliating, and retaliation is what is forbidden by federal law.
The presumed whistle-blower’s personal remedy for the president’s misconduct is a private lawsuit for monetary damages against the federal government. It’s hard to see how such a lawsuit would do anybody any good. The presumed whistle-blower still draws a salary, and may not have suffered any material costs at all. The presumed whistle-blower’s ultimate compensation for this ordeal should be a future place of honor in the service of the country.
In the meantime, though, the country is left once again with the problem of a president who refuses to obey the law. Trump is organizing from the White House a conspiracy to revenge himself on the person who first alerted the country that Trump was extorting Ukraine to help his reelection: more lawbreaking to punish the revelation of past lawbreaking. Impeaching a president whose party holds a majority in the Senate obviously presents many grave practical difficulties. But Trump’s post-Christmas mania confirms House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s prediction that Trump would impeach himself.
Donald Trump will not be bound by any rule, even after he has been caught. He is unrepentant and determined to break the rules again—in part by punishing those who try to enforce them. He is a president with the mind of a gangster, and as long as he is in office, he will head a gangster White House.
Bushwick Bill, performing at Los Angeles State Historic Park on August 5, 2018. The rapper died June 9, 2019 following an earlier diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
We’re here to talk about those who
Are considered to be an elected official
Who said it was official that when they was elected
That everything that they dealt with had me in mind
As a human being, as a man
But not as a slave or three fifths human
I have the right to bear arms
What makes you think I respect you?
[ VERSE 1: 3D ]
Hello Mr. President, residents of the White House, excuse me
I’d like to know, have you ever enjoyed an old-time gangster movie?
With the white man ringin shots on blocks
With their clean shave and pin strip-suits
Undercover David Duke, isn’t it true
The gangster movement started long before my time
Long before the hair rag, gangster sag
Finger signs and love for nines?
Damn, in your minds and in your hearts
Is the hate really that deep, what’s truly goin on?
Knockin me for the words I write
For writin movie scripts by whites like Mr. Al Capone
[ Bushwick Bill ]
A land that made Christopher Columbus
A historian for bringing madmen, white slaves, and rapists
Kennedy, his dad was a bootlegger for Al Capone
Isn’t it evident
That those who sit in the residence
Are not president?
[ VERSE 2: 3D ]
Now why you want to try to knock me
Cause I’m black, got a gat
Twist my hat and all, listen to Mr. Scarface
Think about the way the government wants to hold us back
As a matter of fact
I believe the whole system is a huge crime scene
And everyday they’re doin the dirty work
And layin it on us niggas, if you know what I mean
So don’t corrupt your own minds foolin yourself
Tryin to lay it on the black man
I’m a young gee tryin to leave poverty
With a gat in my black hand
So white heathen, taken straight out of
The crate of a mouth of a babe
Yeah, a honkey can’t stop what a honkey started
And the ghetto’s what you honkeys made
[ Bushwick Bill ]
That’s right, sittin up there in the White House
With your homosexual mentalities and female persuasions
Yeah, I’m talkin to all the J. Edgar Hoovers
That are still left in there
All the big brothers that are watching
I hope you’re listenin
Cause the bad shit you put on criminals has made the citizens take control
[ VERSE 3: 3D ]
Now Sergeant hit ya, get with ya
Let’s get back to the issue, continue dissin
My way of livin, so a little nigga like me
Gots to go and dish ya this mission
Hopin that the message that I’m sendin
Gets through to you and your people
Devil, look at your own dirty past
Before you come to me with your blue-eyed evil
If I kill 30 innocent, would you write
A movie about me and spare
My life, or would you lock me up with triple life
And strap me down in the electric chair?
See, it’s not about the sign I throw up
Or where I roam, or what a nigga wear
See cracker, it’s all about respect for your hood
Your clique, and all of those whose pain with you share
[ Bushwick Bill ]
That’s right, pain
The pain that I feel
Is the pain from shame
The shame that you’ve caused me
For over 400 years of protection
The pain that I have within me
The rage that is flaming
Makes me want to say the things that I say
Do the things that I do
And let you know
That when you look at me
Or look down at me
Or look across from your side of the world to my side
That what you have failed to realize
Is that you’ve put me in projects
I realize it was an experiment
So when you put me in jail
I realize I just made it through the millions
I’m just another rat that made my cheese
And you couldn’t stand it
But what can all the big cats do
When all the rats want to get fat
But try to cut down on the cheese
What you don’t realize is that you’re jerkin yourself
Killin your own existence
You’re all walking dead men, and don’t know it
With book sense and street sense
If you had street intelligence
You would really know
That you’re one footstep between life and death
That the mouth is a open grave
And you’ve offered me the right to elect you to a bullet
Which is a straight shot to the top, right?
And what goes up must come down
That’s why it’s goin down right now
You can smell the smoke
See the flames
And see the bodies that are left on the ground
Because the flag
Red, white and blue
And the stars from all the years you’ve whupped me and mines
I still see
appeared in the mailbox. Yakov Vilner: First Ukrainian Chess Champion and First USSR Chess Composition Champion,
is the follow up to the aforementioned book.
Tkrachenko writes in the introduction to the latter book, “I found clear evidence that the versions that Alekhine was saved by important Soviet functionaries were incorrect. Historical facts and memoirs pointed to the undoubted fact that his salvation was down to the modest Jewish lad Yakov Vilner, who at the time the grandmaster was arrested was working as a clerk in the Odessa revolutionary tribunal.
Naturally, I wanted to find out more about this figure. However, it transpired that there was little ready information about Vilner. Even his date of birth was unknown. Well, I then spent eight years researching him until the curtain of mysteriousness finally fell! I now saw a vivid and gifted personality who had the “luck” to live in such turbulent times.
Moreover, I collected so much material that on the advice of historians among my friends I decided to split it into two books, with the material on Alexander Alekhine’s three trips to Odessa compiled as a separate book (subsequently published later in 2016 in Russian and in 2018 in English, as Alekhine’s Odessa Secrets: Chess, War and Revolution, which was short-listed for the 2018 English Chess Federation Book of the Year).
The book you are now reading was originally intended as a prelude to the book on Alekhine and is devoted to the first Ukrainian Chess Champion, first USSR Chess Composition Champion and first Odessa Master Yakov Semionovich Vilner, who in 1919 managed to save Alekhine from death and thereby cange the courst of chess history.”
Before reading the two books by Sergei Tkachenko what I knew about Ukraine could be summed up in the sentence, “Ukraine was the breadbasket of the USSR.” Because of the attempt of the Commander in Thief of the DisUnited States of America, Donald John (has any POTUS ever had a better fitting middle name?) Trumpster to gain another term as POTUS by strong arming the young President of Ukraine that country has been in the news often this year. In an attempt to learn more about Ukraine I recently watched two documentaries, Ukraine on Fire, and Revealing Ukraine. Oliver Stone
is the Executive Producer, which was all I needed to know to watch. My knowledge of Ukraine was increased exponentially by watching the films, which were viewed between reading the two aforementioned books.
From a historical perspective I enjoyed the book, yet wondered how many others would be interested in what was happening in Chess a century ago. The first book was about a former World Chess Champion with a backdrop of radical political change containing firing squads for those with a different political thought. Firing squads feature in the Vilner book but the drama is lacking. Yakov Vilner was obviously a fine Chess player, but unfortunately, his health was sometimes bad because he had asthma. Thus, his Chess results were rather erratic. The same can be said about the Chess games. For example, the second game, versus Boris Koyalovich, features 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 Bb5 f6? I kid you not. This is the kind of move Chess teachers of children often encounter. The author writes, “One of the weakest ways to defend the Spanish. Koyalovich clearly chooses it to avoid the well-known variations.” I’ll say! This game was played during the Tournament of Kislovodsk in 1917.
When healthy Yakov Vilner was the best player in Odessa, and Ukraine. He was good enough to finish in a three way tie for sixth place in the eighteen player 3rd tournament Championship of the USSR in 1924 played in Moscow in August/September.
Some of the games are interesting and the annotations are excellent. For example, consider this game from the 4th USSR Championship played in Leningrad 1925:
The author writes, “A game of fireworks! Interestingly, almost all of white’s moves were consistent with Rybka’s first line. In our days that might have led to allegations of cheating!” This is a sad indictment of modern Chess. Spurious allegations by Chess.com, for example, have forced former online players to go elsewhere. An example can be found at GM Kevin’s Spraggett’s wonderful blog with the post, Blogger’s Reputation Intentionally Smeared? (https://www.spraggettonchess.com/chesscom-caught-cheating/) Reading the article caused me to do some checking around and one of the things learned was that one local youngster was given the boot from chess.com for allegedly “boosting.” The youngster was accused of creating false accounts to play in order to beat them and “boost” his rating. The youngster did no such thing, yet had no recourse other than to leave chess.com and play at one of the other, more reputable, websites. How many players have been falsely accused by chess.com ?
Another game from the same tournament attests to the strength of Vilner.
The annotations to both games were provided by Yakov Vilner. The author writes, “Naturally, I wanted to find out more about this figure. However, it transpired that there was little ready information about Vilner. Even his date of birth was unknown. Well, I then spent eight years researching him until the curtain of mysteriousness finally fell! I now saw a vivid and gifted personality who had the “luck” to live in such turbulent times.”
Vilner was very ill for a time and the title of one chapter is, How To Combine Treatment With Playing. Then came the Odessa Championship tournament of 1927.
“At first, everything went to plan. On 12 April the 12 best players of Odessa began their battle for the city championship. After round 4 Vilner headed the field with a perfect score. But then his illness returned. The tournament committee managed to postpone several of Vilner’s games so that he could complete the tournament. His short rest brought dividends. After round 8 Yakov Semionovich was still a point ahead of Sergei Ballodit and 1.5 ahead of Dmitry Russo. Vilner then had to play each of them in the final rounds. Such intrigue would have been hard to make up! A reporter hiding behind the initials AMO shared his observations in the newspaper Odessa Izvestia. The column was entitled Before the end and stated:
“Final games. Vilner-Ballodit. Two stubborn “wolf-dogs”. They will battle to the end, to the final pawn. They both possess deep theoretical preparation and have mastered the complex meandering of combinational play. Who will come out on top? So they begin. We see agile bishops slipping out. Knights crawling over the heads of pawns. Carefully feeling out the paths, the queen emerges.
A schematic position has already appeared. Vilner “presses”. With an apparently strong front, Vilner strides towards a difficult but possible victory. Vilner analyzes dozens of variations. He thinks ahrd. But the clock isn’t sleeping. Maestro, time is running out. The maestro makes his move. Then another and another. Time is running out. He needs to catch up.
Well, his opponent is “time-rich”, and coldly calculating. time-trouble disrupts the accuracy of the plan. “Enemy” pieces ahve already broken through. One blunder and it’s death. A crush is close… The game cannot be saved. Destruction…”
This reminded me of the battles between IM Boris Kogan and LM Klaus Pohl, the German Shepard, ‘back in the day’. Boris usually took the measure of Klaus, but occasionally the Krazy Kraut would do the measuring. Ballodit played second fiddle to Vilner, but took over first position in this particular tournament.
Also found is this:
“In order to popularize chess, two rounds were played at factories in the city: at the jute factory and the leather goods factory. “Chess to the masses”, as the slogan went! But of course sharp games are the best adverts for chess.” (The USSR was as full of slogans as it was full of excrement)
Vilner finished near the bottom of the Fifth championship of the USSR in 1927, but did inflict a defeat upon future World champion Botvinnik in the tournament.
“He became recognized as a top chess player in 1913 after winning the All-Russian amateurs tournament with a score of 6.5 out of 7! He edited the chess column of the newspaper Kievan Thought (Kievskaya Mysl) (1914). Graduated from the Law Faculty of the Stl Vladimir Kiev University. Fought in WWI. Served in the cavalry and was injured. A Knight of the Order of St. George. Died in the Civil War. According to one version, he served in Kiev as an investigator of the military-revolutionary tribunal and was shot by a Denikin forces’ firing squad after the latter captured the city. Another version has that Evenson actually signed up as a volunteer for Denikin’s white army and was killed in unclear circumstances. Alekhine and Capablanca considered Evenson to be one of the most talented chess players of his time.
The 6th Championship of the USSR was held in Odessa from September, 2-20, 1929. Because of the large number of participants it came to be thought of as “Odessa roulette”. There were so many players because the Communists in charge wanted to welcome “the masses.”
“A record number of players took part – 36! Of these, 14 were masters and 22 were first category players. How were such a large number of players to be paired off? Oddly enough, the tournament had no clear regulations. It was all decided on an ad hoc basis. At the opening, the organizing committee proposed two options for holding the tournament to the players: either six groups each with six players and one game per day, or four groups each with nine players and three games every two days. The majority voted for the second option, which was later subject to harsh criticism… by the very same players. That’s democracy for you!”
The infamous communist apparatchik, Nikolai Krylenko,
“The outcome of the USSR championship has given rise to a number of critical articles in our periodical publications, most of which lack sufficient objectivity.”
Objectivity being whatever Lenin or Stalin said…
“Many secrets of the championship remained backstage. The biggest one was Izmailov’s withdrawal from the final. The master’s son recalled:
This championship could well have become Izmailov’s hour in the sun. He was only 23, he was gaining ground and his game was blossoming, but alas, my father didn’t play in the final. Why? I attempted to establish this but failed to do so. In Chess List Duz-Khotimirsky wrote about “the need to take university exams”. Kan in 64 writes that Izmailov withdrew from the tournament at his own volition. Pravada and Izvestiia referred to illness, while Komsomolskaya Pravda cited exhaustion. Half a century later, recalling this episode, my mother told me that in the mid 1930’s she and my father held a conversation on this subject (they didn’t yet know each other in 1929), and he confirmed that he was healthy and ready to continue the battle, but he was forced to leave…
So who forced Izmailov to leave Odessa? Whom was this talented chess player impeding? Is fecit cui prodest (“it was done by the person for whom it was advantageous”). Seven years after the Odessa tournament ended, Piotr Izmailov was arrested by the NKVD and accused of “Trotskyist-Fascist activity”. He was eventually sentenced to the firing squad on 21 April 1937 and executed the next day.”
As for the protagonist, “At the end of October 1930, Vilner moved to live in Leningrad. Is it not surprising that a person suffering from serious asthma suddenly abandons the warm Odessa climate with its curative sea air in favor of the rainy climate of Northern Palmyra? I consulted with doctors specializing in heart and respiratory illnesses what such a change of environment could bring. They told me that it would mean serious stress on the body and was quite a suicidal step! So why did Vilner, despite his illness, prefer Leningrad? Had he planned this change of residence in advance?”
“At the end of the 1920s the political climate in Odessa worsened, as it did throughout the country. The ideological war against Trotsky and his supporters
reached an apex by the beginning of 1929. At the end of January, the former Minister for War and Naval Matters was secretly transported along with his family from exile in Almaty to Odessa. It was here that the ferry with the symbolic name Illych awaited him. On the night before 11 February the ferry set course for Constantinople accompanied by an icebreaker and government officials, and the next day Trotsky reached Turkey. With Trotsky’s expulsion, the USSR intensified its purges of his supporters and mentors. Christian Rakovsky, the protector of Alexander Alekhine and one of the leaders of Soviet power in Ukraine, was cruelly punished. He had been expelled from the party back in 1927 and then sent to internal exile in Barnaul in 1929. His party membership card was returned to him in 1935 and he was even entrusted to head the All-Union Red Cross society, but not for long. He was arrested in 1937, sentenced to 20 years in jail, and then shot at the start of the war. Vilner also suffered during the battle against Trotskyism.”
It seems Vilner chose the wrong side…
“Vilner didn’t quite live to the age of Christ – he was granted less than 32 years on this earth. Yakov Rokhlin published an obituary on the Odessite in the June edition of Chess List (1931): “Soviet chess players have endured a heavy loss. Master Yakov Semionovich Vilner died on 29 June at &pm in Leningrad after a lengthy illness…”
The book is replete with many interesting Chess games and annotations. In addition, it contains ninety five problems and studies, and if you are into that kind of thing this book is simply de rigeur.
After an email discussion with Dirk Jan ten Geuzendam,
editor of New In Chess magazine, I have decided to forgo the usual star system and grade the way teachers still grade papers, even if they are written in digits now, with A+ being the top of the line and “F” as in “failure” as the bottom. This book deserves the grade “A”.