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ANCIENT ROME IS AMERICA’S PRESENT–AND FUTURE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 17, 2017 at 12:07 am

The 1960 Kirk Douglas epic, Spartacus may soon prove to be more than great entertainment. It may also turn out to be a prophecy of the end of the American Republic.

In the movie, Spartacus (Douglas), a Roman slave, entertains Marcus Crassus (Laurence Oliver) the richest man in Rome. He does so by fighting to the death as a gladiator.

Poster for Spartacus

While Spartacus and his fellow gladiator/friend, Draba, slash and stab at each other in the arena, Crassus idly chats with his crony, Marcus Glabrus.

Crassus has just secured Glabrus’ appointment as commander of the garrison of Rome.  Glabrus is grateful, but curious as to how he did it.

After all, Gaius Gracchus, the leader of the Roman Senate, hates Crassus, and stands ever ready to oppose his every move.

“I fought fire with oil,” says Crassus. “I purchased the Senate behind his back.”  

Draba defeats Spartacus in their gladiatorial bout, but refuses to kill him. Instead, he throws his spear at Crassus—and is immediately slaughtered by Roman guards.  

Soon afterward, Spartacus leads 70 other gladiators  against their Roman masters, forms an army of freed slaves, and marches against Rome.

Just as Crassus bought the Roman Senate in Spartacus, billionaires similarly bought the 2016 Presidential election.

In 2016, Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, ran as the pet candidate of casino billionaire Sheldon G. Adelson. Since 2007, Adelson had spent millions in support of Gingrich and his causes.

Newt Gingrich

Adelson put up seed money and, ultimately, $7.7 million between 2006 and 2010 for a nonprofit group that served as a precursor to Gingrich’s presidential campaign.

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Sheldon Adelson

Such a contribution is no small amount to the average American. But Adelson is listed by Forbes as the eighth-wealthiest American, with a net worth of $21.5 billion.

Naturally, Adelson denied he had any selfish motives for shelling out so much money to a candidate for the most powerful office in the world:

“My motivation for helping Newt is simple and should not be mistaken for anything other than the fact that my wife Miriam and I hold our friendship with him very dear and are doing what we can as private citizens to support his candidacy.”

Unfortunately, Gingrich was not the only candidate of the rich, by the rich and for the rich seeking the Presidency.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney relied heavily on a small group of millionaires and billionaires for support.

By February, 2012, a quarter of the money amassed by Romney’s campaign came from just 41 people. Each contributor gave more than $100,000, according to a Washington Post analysis of disclosure data. Nearly a dozen of the donors had contributed $1 million or more.

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Some of Romney’s biggest supporters included executives at Bain Capital, his former firm; bankers at Goldman Sachs; and a hedge fund mogul who made billions betting on the housing crash.

Like Adelson, Bain has directly profited from the losses of others.  

Fast forward to 2016:

In early May, Adelson met privately with Republican Presidential nominee-in-waiting Donald Trump. Nevertheless, at least this much has leaked: 

Adelson promised to contribute more to secure Trump’s election than he had contributed to any previous campaign—up to and exceeding $100 million.  

Meanwhile, Trump bragged that he was “not beholden” to any “special interests” because “I’m really rich.”  This myth proved a main reason for his popularity as a candidate.

Donald Trump

All of this can be directly traced to the 2010 “Citizens United” decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that ended limits in corporate contributions to political campaigns. The decision is so named for the group that successfully sued over federal campaign finance laws.

The 5-4 decision led to the rise of Super PACs—outside groups affiliated with candidates that can take in unlimited contributions as long as they don’t directly coordinate with the candidate. The overwhelming majority of this money goes for negative ads—that slander opponents without saying anything about what a candidate proposes to do.

Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia brushed aside criticism of the corrupting role money played in politics: Change the channel or turn off the TV.

“I don’t care who is doing the speech—the more the merrier,” Scalia said. “People are not stupid. If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.”

On the contrary: A fundamental principle of propaganda holds that most people are stupid—or can be made to behave stupidly. If they are ceaselessly bombarded with mind-numbing lies, they will eventually substitute these for reality.  

In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler laid out his formula for successful propaganda: “All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials.  

“These must be expressed as far as possible in stereotypical formulas.  These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

During the early 1960s a series of movies about the Roman Empire—like Spartacus and Cleopatra—hit the big screen. In these, rich criminals like Marcus Crassus openly bought the favors of ambitious politicians like Julius Caesar.

No doubt millions of moviegoers thought, “Boy, I’m glad that couldn’t happen here.”

But it has happened here—and it’s happening right now.

WHEN CRIMINALS FALL OUT, AMERICA WINS

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 16, 2017 at 12:17 am

In 1972, warfare erupted the between the two most powerful Mafia families of New York.

On one side: The Corleone Family, headed by “Don Vito” Corleone.  On the other: The Barzini Family, whose boss was Emilio Barzini.

Moviegoers flooded theaters across the nation to make The Godfather the highest-grossing film of 1972—and, for a time, the highest-grossing film ever made.

The Godfather written on a black background in stylized white lettering, above it a hand holds puppet strings

Audiences rooted for the Corleones and thrilled whenever a Barzini “soldier” bit the concrete.  And they moaned when Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) was shot and wounded at an outdoor market and Sonny Corleone (James Caan) got riddled by machine guns on a New Jersey causeway.

Why did so many moviegoers feel compelled to side with the Corleones?

One reason was that, early in the film, Don Corleone rejects an offer by the Barzini Family to enter the narcotics-trafficking business.

Many viewers saw this as proof that “Don Vito” was more honest than other Mafia chiefs who did enter the drug trade.  In fact, Corleone made it clear that he wanted to stay out for completely practical reasons.

When speaking with Virgil Sollotzzo, the Turkish drug kingpin backed by the Barzinis, Corleone says: “It makes no difference to me what a man does for a living.  But your business is a little dangerous.

“It’s true I have a lot of friends who are judges and politicians.  And they don’t mind if people want to gamble, or drink, or even pay for a woman.  But they wouldn’t be so friendly if they knew my business was drugs.”

In short, it wasn’t morality that led him to steer clear of narcotics trafficking.  He simply didn’t want to go to prison.

The other reason so many viewers identified with the Corleones lay in the brilliant casting of their members.

  • Marlon Brando—considered by many the greatest actor of his time—headed the cast.
  • Al Pacino, then an unknown, aroused sympathy as Michael, the Family outsider forced by the shooting of his father to become the Boss of All Bosses.
  • James Caan (as Sonny) is handsome and the defender of his brutalized sister, Connie, against her abusive husband, Carlo Rizzi.
  • John Cazale (as Fredo) is riddled with insecurities and not very bright, won the audiences’ sympathy by his sheer helplessness when compared to his ruthless siblings.

But the fact remained that the Corleones—for all their homilies about “honor” and “loyalty”—were every bit as greedy and lethal as their Mafia competitors.  They just played the game more ruthlessly—and successfully.

All of which brings us to the current Mafia-like struggle within the Republican party in Alabama. 

On one side: Roy Moore, the twice-ousted former chief justice of the Alabama supreme court, who is running for U.S. Senator.

Judge Roy Moore.jpg

Roy Moore

On the other: “Establishment” Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan. 

The uproar started when four women, in a Washington Post story, accused Moore of seeking romantic relationships with four teenage girls while he was in his 30s, and even trolling malls for such dates.

The worst of these charges came from Leigh Corfman, who said that, when she was 14, Moore took off her “shirt and pants and removed his clothes,” touched her “over her bra and underpants” and “guided her hand to touch him over his underwear.”

One of Moore’s defenders is Steve Bannon, executive chairman of Breitbart News, an online Right-wing news, opinion and commentary website. 

“This is nothing less than the politics of personal destruction,” he told Bloomberg News. “And they need to destroy him by any means necessary.”

Another is Sean Hannity, a talk show host on Fascistic Fox News. Interviewed on Hannity’s program, Moore said he did “not generally” remember dating teenagers when he was in his 30s.

Many Republicans want President Donald Trump to publicly urge Moore to step aside. But Trump is extremely reluctant to do so—and for good reason.  

On October 12, 2016, The Palm Beach Post, The New York Times and People all published stories of women claiming to have been sexually assaulted by Trump. By October 14, at least 12 women had publicly accused Trump of sexually inappropriate behavior. 

Trump, having become the poster boy of sexual harassment—if not predators—does not want the public once again reminded of his own repellent behavior. 

There are several possible outcomes here—all of them disastrous for the Republican party. 

  • Moore could win—thus becoming a national embarrassment to Republicans.
  • Moore could lose to his Democratic challenger, Doug Jones—thus giving Democrats one more Senator to oppose the Trump agenda.
  • Moore could win—and be expelled from the Senate by his fellow Republicans. This would require a two-thirds majority vote. It would ignite a civil war among “establishment” Republicans like McConnell and “anti-establishment” Right-wingers like Bannon, Hannity and even Trump.
  • No matter what Trump does, it will prove a lose/lose issue for Republicans. If he condemns Moore, he will be accused of hypocrisy. If he doesn’t, he will be accused of silently condoning sexually predatory behavior.

When predatory Mafiosi wipe each other out, honest citizens win. When Fascistic Republicans wage war on each other, democracy wins.

REPUBLICANS: USING HATE TO WIN ELECTIONS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 15, 2017 at 12:42 pm

Republicans and their Rightist allies have repeatedly compared President Barack Obama to Adolf Hitler. But their propaganda campaign draws heavily on the Nazi leader’s own advice.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler laid out his formula for successful propaganda: “All effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials.

“Those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotypical formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

Adolf Hitler

Consider the vocabulary Right-wingers use to describe their political adversaries:

“Liberals,” “radicals, “bankrupting,” “treason,” subversion,” “slander,” “terrorism,” “betrayal,” “catastrophe,” “shattering the American dream,” “leftists,” “Communists,” “government takeover,” “socialism,” “power grab,” “secularism,” “environmentalism.”

In recent years, the GOP has targeted gays and lesbians as America’s subversive enemies.

These attacks have come as thinly disguised as efforts to “restore religious freedom.”

In December, 2014, Republicans in the Michgan House of Representatives passed “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act.”

The bill would allow public agencies and private businesses to refuse service to anyone under the claim that their “religious beliefs” had been affronted.

And the State government would be legally prevented from intervening if a person claimed that his/her “deeply-held religious beliefs” was the reason for acting—or not acting—in a certain way.

Thus:

  • An emergency room doctor could refuse service to a gay or lesbian needing medical care.
  • A pharmacist could refuse to fill a doctor’s prescription for birth control, or HIV medication.
  • A DMV clerk could refuse to give a driver’s license to someone who’s divorced.  
  • An employer could deny equal pay to women.

The bill seems modeled on a proposed law that the Republican House and Senate in Arizona sent to Governor Jan Brewer in 2014.

Under threat of a nationwide boycott of Arizona if the bill became law, Brewer vetoed it.

Republicans have introduced similar “right-to-discriminate” legislation in other states as well:

  • On March 26, 2015, its governor, Mike Pence, signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This will allow any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.
  • In Kansas, lawmakers voted to exempt individuals from providing any service that was “contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
  • That bill passed the state’s House chamber on February 11, 2014, triggering national backlash.  It stalled in the Senate and didn’t advance beyond that body.
  • In January, 2014, South Dakota Republicans introduced a bill to let businesses refuse to serve same-sex couples on the grounds that “businesses are private and that their views on sexual orientation are protected to the same extent as the views of private citizens.”
  • The South Dakota bill—which was killed in February, 2014—would have made it illegal for a gay person to file a lawsuit charging discrimination.

Republicans claim they want to “get the government off the backs of the people.” But their fixation  on regulating the sexual lives of Americans ensures government intrusions of the most intimate kind.

Since 9/11, Republicans have warned that Muslims are trying to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on America.

Ironically, Right-wing legislators, in elevating religion above the secular law, may have laid the legal foundations for making that possible.

What will happen when some Muslims claim their right–guaranteed in Islamic religious law–to have as many as four wives?

And when they claim that the “religious freedom” laws protect that right?

Republicans have defended such legislation by equating gays with child predators.

In fact, the Child Molestation Research & Prevention Institute states that 90% of child molesters target children in their network of family and friends, and the majority are men married to women.

Yet Republicans and their Rightist allies have refused to condemn such heterosexual—and Right-wing—child molesters as Dennis Hastert and Josh Duggar.

Josh Duggar, the “all-American” child molester

On May 21, 2015, responding to press leaks, Duggar resigned as director of the Family Research Council, a Right-wing organization dedicated to fighting sexually-oriented issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion and pornography.

In 2002-3, as a 14-15 year-old, Duggar had fondled the breasts and vaginas of five underage girls—four of whom were his own sisters.

And on October 28, 2015, Hastert—Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1999 to 2007–pleaded guilty to structuring money transactions in a way to avoid requirements to report where the money was going.

Dennis Hastert

The reason: To conceal the truth about his past as a child molester. Hastert had abused four young boys when he was their high school wrestling coach.  One was only 14 years old.

Despite such setbacks, the politics of “smear and fear” have been good to Republicans—and their Right-wing allies.  

The Republican “base” refuses to learn that those who portray themselves as morally superior are:

  1. Hypocrites, who are in effect saying: “Do as I say, not as I do,” or
  2. Fanatics, who intend to force their version of morality on others.

So long as millions of hate-filled Right-wingers support the endless succession of “two minute hates,” Republicans will continue to target an endless series of victims.

The good news: As blacks, Hispanics, women, gays and others become a significant political force, Republicans will stop attacking them and court them for votes.

The bad news: Republicans will move on to find other still-helpless scapegoats for America’s troubles.

REPUBLICANS: USING HATE TO WIN ELECTIONS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on November 14, 2017 at 12:12 am

In 1953, Red-baiting Wisconsin United States Senator Joseph R. McCarthy finally overstepped himself.

He attacked the leadership of the United States Army as “a hotbed of traitors” and convened an inquiry through the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.

But the hearings backfired, exposing McCarthy as the bullying demagogue he was. A Senate committee voted to condemn his behavior, charging that he had “acted contrary to senatorial ethics and tended to bring the Senate into dishonor and disrepute.”

Although McCarthy remained in the Senate another two and a half years, his political influence had ended.

Yet even without McCarthy, Republicans rode the issue of anti-Communism to victory from 1948 to 1992.

After holding the White House for eight years under Dwight D. Eisenhower, they lost it in 1960 to John F. Kennedy and again in 1964 to Lyndon B. Johnson.

By 1968, with the nation mired in Vietnam and convulsed by antiwar demonstrations and race riots, Americans turned once more to those who preyed upon their fears and hates.

They elected Richard Nixon, who promised to end the Vietnam war and crack down on “uppity” blacks and antiwar demonstrators.

The same strategy re-elected him in 1972.

After Jimmy Carter won the Presidency in 1976 and lost it in 1980 to Ronald Reagan, Republicans held the White House until 1992.

During the 1970s and 1980s, they continued to accuse their opponents of being devious agents—or at least unwitting pawns—of “the Communist conspiracy.”

Even as late as 1992, President George H.W. Bush and the Republican establishment charged that Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton might be a KGB plant.

George H.W. Bush

Their evidence: During his tenure at Oxford University in 1969-70, Clinton had briefly visited Moscow.

Thus, the Republican charged that he might have been “programmed” as a real-life “Manchurian candidate” to become, first, Governor of Arkansas—one of America’s poorest states—and then President.

What made this charge all the more absurd: The Soviet Union had officially dissolved in December, 1991.

Republicans continued to accuse their opponents of being “Communists” and “traitors.” But these charges no longer carried the weight they had while the Soviet Union existed.

Right-wingers had to settle for attacking their opponents as “liberals” and “soft on crime.”

When riots flared in 1992 after the acquittal of LAPD officers who had savagely beaten Rodney King, President George H.W. Bush blamed the carnage on the “Great Society” programs of the 1960s.

Then, on September 11, 2001, Republicans—and their right-wing supporters—at last found a suitable replacement for the Red Menace.

Two highjacked jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center in New York and one struck the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

Exit The Red Bogeyman.  Enter The Maniacal Muslim.

Consider:

  • Rep. Michelle Bachman (R-Minn.): On July 13, 2012, she sent letters to the Inspectors General of the Departments of Defense; State; Justice; and Homeland Security, demanding a “a multi-department investigation into potential Muslim Brotherhood infiltration into the United States Government.”
  • Rick Santorum:  On supporting the racial profiling of Muslims: “Obviously, Muslims would be someone you look at, absolutely.”
  • Mitt Romney: “Based on the numbers of American Muslims in our population, I cannot see that a Cabinet position [for a Muslim] would be justified.”

The 2008 election of Barack Obama pushed the Republican “treason chorus” to new heights of infamy.

Barack Obama

Almost immediately after Obama took office, he came under attack by an industry of right-wing book authors such as Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh. 

The following titles vividly reveal the hates, fears and ambitions of their authors–and audience:

  • Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama’s Radical Agenda by Sean Hannity
  • How Barack Obama is Bankrupting the U.S. Economy by Stephen Moore
  • The Manchurian President: Barack Obama’s Ties to Communists, Socialists and Other Anti-American Extremists by Aaron Klein
  • The Blueprint: Obama’s Plan to Subvert the Constitution and Build an Imperial Presidency by Ken Blackwell
  • Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks, and Cronies by Michelle Malkin
  • Why Obama’s Government Takeover of Health Care Will Be a Disaster by David Gratzer
  • Power Grab: How Obama’s Green Policicies Will Steal Your Freedom and Bankrupt America by Christopher C. Horner
  • America’s March to Socialism: Why We’re One Step Closer to Giant Missile Parades by Glenn Beck
  • The War On Success: How the Obama Agenda Is Shattering the American Dream by Tommy Newberry
  • Liberalism is a Mental Disorder: Savage Solutions by Michael Savage
  • Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism by Ann Coulter

Yet despite Right-wingers’ slanderous and fear-mongering claims, the United States actually prospered during the Obama years.   

  • Thanks to government loans from President Obama, American capitalism was saved from its own excesses during the George W. Bush administration. 
  • Employment went up.  CEOs did extremely well.
  • In contrast to the corruption that had plagued the administration of Ronald Reagan—whom Republicans idolize—no such scandals haunted the Obama Presidency. 
  • There had been no major-scale terrorist attacks on American soil–as had occurred on 9/11 under President George W. Bush. 
  • Millions of Americans who had been unable to obtain healthcare did so under Obama’s Affordable Care Act. 
  • Obama actually stood up to Russian President Vladimir Putin—as opposed to his successor, Donald Trump, who constantly praised him.

REPUBLICANS: USING HATE TO WIN ELECTIONS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 13, 2017 at 12:19 am

The Right’s fixation on transgender “dangers” is only the latest in a long string of “enemies” painted by the Republican party.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the “enemy” was blacks. The key to winning votes of racist whites without appearing racist lay in what Republicans called “the Southern Strategy.”

It was this that won Richard Nixon the Presidency in 1968 and 1972 and the White House for George H.W. Bush in 1988.

In a now-infamous 1981 interview, Right-wing political consultant Lee Atwater explained how this worked: 

“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you, backfires. 

“So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract.

“Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites….

“‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’ 

“So anyway you look at it, race is coming on the back burner.”

Lee Atwater 1989.jpg

Lee Atwater 

 

At the end of his life, Atwater recognized the monster he had helped unleash.

Like Reinhard Heydrich—the designer of the “Final Solution” who, on his deathbed, begged forgiveness for his crimes—Atwater, in a 1991 article for Life, apologized to former Democratic Presidential nominee Michael Dukakis for the “naked cruelty” of the 1988 campaign.

But blacks have by no means been the only targets—and victims—of Republican hate campaigns. A partial list of these would include:

  • Liberals
  • Women
  • Socialists
  • Secularists
  • Disabled
  • Environmentalists
  • Hispanics
  • Gays
  • Lesbians

And now transgenders.

George Orwell’s classic 1949 novel, 1984, serves as a better guide to Republican electioneering than any official statement of the GOP.

1984 is set in a futuristic dictatorship called Oceania, whose constantly alternating mortal enemies are Eurasia and Eastasia.

A daily fixture of life in Oceania is the “Two Minutes Hate.” During this, Party members must watch a film depicting the Party’s enemies and express their hatred for them in exactly two minutes.

Chief among these is Emmanuel Goldstein, who is obviously based on Leon Trotsky, the longtime antagonist of Joseph Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union for almost 30 years.

The “Two Minutes Hate” serves as a form of brainwashing, whose purpose is to whip ordinary citizens into a frenzy of hatred and loathing for whoever the Party designates as it—and their—-mortal enemies.

Since the end of World War II, Republicans have regularly hurled the charge of “treason” against anyone who dared to run against them for office or think other than Republican-approved thoughts.

Republicans had been locked out of the White House from 1933 to 1952, during the administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman.

Determined to regain the Presidency by any means, they found that attacking the integrity of their fellow Americans a highly effective tactic.

During the 1950s, Wisconsin Senator Joseph R. McCarthy rode a wave of paranoia to national prominence–by attacking the patriotism of anyone who disagreed with him.

Joseph McCarthy

Elected to the Senate in 1946, he rose to national prominence on February 9, 1950, after giving a fiery speech in Wheeling, West Virginia:

“The State Department is infested with communists. I have here in my hand a list of 205—a list of names that were made known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party and who nevertheless are still working and shaping policy in the State Department.”

Americans were already growing increasingly fearful of Communism:

  • Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had not withdrawn the Red Army from the countries it had occupied in Eastern Europe during World War II.
  • In 1948, the Soviet Union developed—and demonstrated—its own atomic bomb, an achievement U.S. scientists had claimed would not happen for at least a decade.
  • In 1949, China fell to the triumphant armies of Mao Tse Tung.

But anti-communism as a lever to political advancement sharply accelerated following McCarthy’s speech. Republicans—resentful at being denied the White House since 1932—seized upon anti-communism as their passport to power.

No American—no matter how prominent—was safe from the accusation of being a Communist or a Communist sympathizer—”a Comsymp” or “fellow traveler” in the style of the era.

Among those accused:

  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall, who had overseen America’s strategy for defeating Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan
  • President Harry S. Truman
  • Playwrights Lillian Hellman and Arthur Miller
  • Actors Charlie Chaplin, Zero Mostel, Lloyd Bridges, Howard Da Silva, Edward G. Robinson and John Garfield
  • Composers Arron Copland and Elmer Bernstein
  • Physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who presided over the creation of America’s atomic bomb
  • Actresses Lee Grant, Delores del Rio, Ruth Gordon and Lucille Ball
  • Journalists Edward R. Murrow and William L. Shirer, who had chronicled the rise of Nazi Germany
  • Folksinger Pete Seeger
  • Writers Irwin Shaw, Howard Fast, John Steinbeck and Dashiell Hammett

Even “untouchable” Republicans became targets for such slander.

The most prominent of these was President Dwight D. Eisenhower–labeled ”a conscious, dedicated agent of the Communist Conspiracy” by Robert Welch, who founded the John Birch Society in 1958.

FASCISM: IT’S NOT JUST FOR GERMANS ANYMORE

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 10, 2017 at 12:22 am

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.

“Ultimately the responsibility for the rise of Hitler lies with the German people, who 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: Germany will rule the world; our enemies will be our slaves….

“If he answered their suppressed desires, it was not because he shared them, but because he could make use of them. He despised the German people, for they were merely the instruments of his will.”

So much for the truth of Nazi Germany–from 1933 to 1945.

On November 8, 2016, Americans proved they could embrace Fascism, too.  

That was when millions of ignorant, greedy, hate-filled, Right-wing Americans turned their backs on democracy and fervently embraced Fascism. 

They elected Donald Trump—a man reflecting their own hate, greed and ignorance—to the Presidency.

But Americans had far fewer excuses for turning to a Fascistic style of government than the Germans did. 

The conditions existing in pre-Hitler Germany and pre-Trump America could not have been more different.

Adolf Hitler joined the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party in 1919—the year after World War 1 ended.

Related image
Adolf Hitler

In 1923, he staged a coup attempt in Bavaria—which was quickly and brutally put down by police. He was arrested and sentenced to less than a year in prison.

After that, Hitler decided that winning power through violence was no longer an option. He must win it through election—or appointment.

He repeatedly ran for the highest office in Germany—President—but never got a clear majority in a free election.

When the 1929 Depression struck Germany, the fortunes of Hitler’s Nazi party rose as the life savings of ordinary Germans fell. Streets echoed with bloody clashes between members of Hitler’s Nazi Stormtroopers and those of the German Communist Party.

Germany seemed on the verge of collapsing.Germans desperately looked for a leader—a Fuhrer—who could somehow deliver them from the threat of financial ruin and Communist takeover.

In early 1933, members of his own cabinet persuaded aging German president, Paul von Hindenburg, that only Hitler’s appointment as Chancellor (the equivalent of Attorney General) could do this.

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Paul von Hindenburg

Hindenburg was reluctant to do so. He considered Hitler a dangerous radical. But he allowed himself to be convinced that, by putting Hitler in the Cabinet, he could be “boxed in” and thus controlled.

So, on January 30, 1933, he appointed Adolf Hitler Chancellor of Germany.

On August 2, 1934, Hindenberg died, and Hitler immediately assumed the titles–and duties—of the offices of Chancellor and President. His rise to total power was now complete.

It had taken him 14 years to do so.

In 2015, when Donald Trump declared his candidacy for President.

  • The United States was technically at war in the Middle East—but its fate was not truly threatened, as it had been during the Civil War.
  • There was no draft; if you didn’t know someone in the military, you didn’t care about the mounting casualty list.
  • Nor were these conflicts—in Iraq and Afghanistan–imposing domestic shortages on Americans, as World War II had.
  • Thanks to government loans from President Barack Obama, American capitalism had been saved from its own excesses during the George W. Bush administration.
  • Employment was up. CEOs’ profits were at record levels.
  • In contrast to the corruption that had plagued the administration of Ronald Reagan, whom Republicans idolize, no such scandals had rocked the Obama Presidency.
  • There had not been any large-scale terrorist attacks on American soil—such as on 9/11 under President George W. Bush.

Yet—not 17 months after announcing his candidacy for President—enough Americans fervently embraced Donald Trump to give him the most powerful position in the country and the world.

Image result for images of Donald Trump
Donald Trump

The message of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign had been one of hope: “Yes, We Can!” 

For everyone who was not an avid Trump supporter, the message of Trump’s campaign was: “No, You Can’t!”

Whites comprised the overwhelming majority of the audiences at Trump rallies. Not all were racists, but many who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.”

They knew that demographics were steadily working against them. Birthrates among non-whites were rising. By 2045, whites would make up less than 50 percent of the American population.

The 2008 re-election of the first black President had shocked many whites. His 2012 re-election had deprived them of the hope that 2008 had been an accident.

Then came 2016—and the possibility that a black President might actually be followed by a woman: Hillary Clinton. And the idea of a woman dictating to men was strictly too much to bear.

Since Trump’s election, educators have reported a surge in bullying among students of all ages, from elementary- to high-school. Those doing the bullying are mostly whites, and the victims are mostly blacks, Muslims, Jews, Hispanics, Asians.

It even has a name: “The Trump Effect.”

All of this should be remembered the next time an American blames Germans for their embrace of Adolf Hitler

THE MEDIA–NOT ITS AUDIENCE–CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 9, 2017 at 1:18 am

In the 1992 courtroom drama, “A Few God Men,” Jack Nicholson, as Marine Colonel Nathan Jessup, utters a line that has since become famous.

When his prosecutor, Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) demands the truth about the murder of a fellow Marine, Jessup shouts: “You can’t handle the truth!”

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Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men”

Apparently, many of those who work in the television news business feel the same way about their audience.

[WARNING: This column contains some words that some readers may find offensive.  Read on at your own risk.]  

On February 9, businessman Donald Trump scored a new blow at his Rafael “Ted” Cruz, his closest rival for the Republican Presidential nomination.

Speaking at a rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, Trump attacked Cruz, the United States Senator from Texas, for being unwilling to support the widespread use of torture against America’s Islamic enemies.

“He’s a pussy!” yelled a woman in the crowd.

Apparently a certain portion of the attendees didn’t hear–or misheard–the insult. So Trump–pretending to be shocked–repeated it for them:

“She said–I never expect to hear that from you again!  She said: ‘He’s a pussy.’ That’s terrible.”

“What kind of people do I have here?” joked Trump, clearly playing to the boisterous crowd.

Donald Trump

The incident went viral on social media. But all the major TV news outlets–for ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC–bleeped the word and/or coyly referred to it as “the P-word.”

It was as if they assumed their viewers would of course know what had been said despite the networks’ censorship of it. And if viewers didn’t already know what the woman–and Trump–had said, the networks weren’t going to enlighten them.

Of course, “the P-word” could just as easily have been “prick” or “pervert.” So it’s understandable that many viewers might have thought a very different word had been used.

No doubt the networks hoped to avoid offending large numbers of viewers.

But when the use of certain words becomes central to a news story, editors and reporters should have the courage to reveal just what was said. It should then be up to the audience to decide if the language was offensive–and, if so, if its user deserves condemnation.

The evening news is–supposedly–aimed at voting-age adults. And adults need–and deserve–the hard truth about the world they live in. Only then do they have a chance to reform it–if, in fact, they decide it needs reforming.

Those who wanted to learn–rather than guess–what Trump had repeated had to turn to the Internet or to a handful of news source such as Vox: Policy and Politics.

In their defense, the networks could argue that the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates radio and television, does not usually permit the word “pussy” to be aired between 6 am and 10 pm.

On the other hand, immediately after the 9/11 terror attacks, all the major TV networks endlessly replayed the destruction of the World Trade Center, with the resulting deaths of hundreds of men and women.

Censorship, then, tends to center on two types of subject material:

  1. Sex, or “obscenity,” which is sex-related; and
  2. Race, meaning racial slurs that would offend some minority group.

An example of race-related censorship occurred during the short-lived administration of President Gerald R. Ford.

During a lull in the 1976 Republican convention, entertainer Pat Boone asked Earl Butz, then Secretary of Agriculture: Why was the party of Lincoln having so much trouble winning black votes for its candidates?

“I’ll tell you what the coloreds want,” said Butz. “It’s three things: first, a tight pussy; second, loose shoes; and third, a warm place to shit.”

Image result for Images of Earl Butz

Earl Butz

Unknown to Butz, a Rolling Stone reporter was standing nearby. When his comments became public, Butz was quickly forced to resign.

Meanwhile, most TV and print media struggled to protect their audiences from the truth of Butz’ racism. Many newspapers simply reported that Butz had said something too obscene to print. Some invited their readers to contact the editors if they wanted more information.

TV newsmen generally described Butz’ firing as stemming from “a racially-offensive remark,” which they refused to explain.

In short: A high-ranking government official had been fired, but audiences were not allowed to judge whether his language justified that termination.

Forty years later, TV news viewers were again prevented from reaching their own conclusions about Trump’s repetition of the slur aimed at his rival.

Nor is there any guarantee that such censorship will not occur again.

Censoring the truth has always been a hallmark of dictatorships. It has no place in a democracy–despite the motives of those doing the censoring.

The ancient historian, Plutarch, sounded a warning that remains timely:

“And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.”

In a democracy, citizens must be alert for those tell-tale expressions or jests. And this demands that the media, in turn, have the courage to bring those truths to their attention.

 

SONGS IN THE KEY OF TREASON

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 8, 2017 at 12:08 am

On October 30, Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller unveiled a pre-Halloween trick for President Donald Trump.

He unsealed indictments against Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, and his business partner Rick Gates.

And George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his dealings with foreign officials close to the Russian government.

The charges:

  • Conspiracy against the United States
  • Conspiracy to launder money
  • Unregistered agent of a foreign principal
  • False and misleading Foreign Agent Registration Act statements
  • False statements, and
  • Seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

These are the first indictments in Mueller’s probe of collusion between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign.

They directly link a Trump campaign associate to such collusion. They make hash of Trump’s claims that he is the victim of a “witch hunt.” And they make it politically hazardous for Trump to fire the special prosecutor.

For those who are not ardent Trump supporters, it’s definitely Mueller time.   

* * * * *

THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION
(To be sung to the tune of “The Rainbow Connection”)

Why are there so many
Tales about Russians
And Right-wingers taking bribes?
Russians are Commies
And have lots of rubles
For traitors with something to hide.

So I’ve been told
And some choose to believe it.
It’s clear as the old KGB.
Someday we’ll find it
The Russian Connection–
The bribers, the traitors–you’ll see.

Abraham Lincoln is watching and asking:
“How much more slime must there be?”
What’s so amazing is we just sit gazing
While traitors destroy liberty.

Someday we’ll find it
The Russian Connection–
The bribers, the traitors–you’ll see.
All of them under its spell
We know that it’s probably treason.
Why are we waiting
To throw out the traitors?
Let’s send them all straight to Hell.

Is this the money
That calls forth the traitors?
Their defenders are called G-O-P.

I’ve heard it too many times
To ignore it.
We are supposed to be free.

Someday we’ll find it
The Russian Connection–
The bribers, the traitors–you’ll see.

* * * * *

DONALD TRUMP: CRIMINAL
(To be sung to the tune of “Physical”)

I’m telling all the lies that my base will like
Making good Tweet sensation.
I gotta handle treason right–
You know what I mean.

I called the Russian KGB late at night
Said, “Come on in soon and see me.
I’ve got some secret stuff to share
That only Vlad can see.

“Let’s get criminal, criminal.
I wanna get criminal.
Let’s get into criminal.
Let me have that Russian gold, that Russian gold.
Let me have that Russian gold.

“Let’s get criminal, criminal.
I wanna get criminal.
Let’s get into criminal.
Let me have that Russian gold, that Russian gold!
Let me have that Russian gold!”

I’ve been evil, I’ve been bad
I’ve tried to keep Jim Comey at bay.
And now the FBI is after me
They’ll get me any day.

I’m sure they understand that I’m a crook
My whole life’s been one big crime-spree.
Committing treason is my latest thrill–
For rubles–yessirree!

Let’s get criminal, criminal
I wanna get criminal
Let’s get into criminal
Let me have that Russian gold, that Russian gold!
Let me have that Russian gold!

Let’s get criminal, criminal.
I wanna get criminal.
Let’s get into criminal.
Let me have that Russian gold!
Let me have that Russian gold!

* * * * *

TRUMPY TRAITOR
(To be sung to the tune, “Rockin’ Robin”)

He Tweets in the White House all the day long
Screamin’ and a-schemin’ and a-doin’ what’s wrong.
All the Special Agents in the FBI
Hope he goes to prison in the bye-and-bye.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight

Every act of treason, every act of crime—
America has never seen a bigger slime.
Bob Mueller’s ready, the cops are closin’ in
To put a grand finale to your reign of sin.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

Eric’s getting ready for his next big steal
While Daddy hugs Ivanka—who lets out a squeal.
Don Junior’s got the Russians coming once again—
It’s party-time for traitors and their lives of sin.

He Tweets in the White House all the day long
Screamin’ and a-schemin’ and a-doin’ what’s wrong.
Handing out secrets to the KGB
The biggest Right-wing traitor that you’ll ever see.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

Well, Eric’s getting ready for his next big steal
While Daddy hugs Ivanka—who lets out a squeal.
Don Junior’s got the Russians coming once again—
It’s party-time for traitors and their lives of sin.

He Tweets in the White House all the day long
Screamin’ and a-schemin’ and a-doin’ what’s wrong.
Handing out secrets to the KGB
The biggest Right-wing traitor that you’ll ever see.

Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Trumpy Traitor (tweet tweet)
Go Trumpy Traitor
‘Cause they’re gonna bust your ass tonight.

MERCENARIES: NO FEAR OF GOD, NO LOYALTY TO MAN

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 7, 2017 at 12:03 am

On October 4, four American Special Forces soldiers were ambushed and gunned down at the border of Niger and Mali.

For 12 days after the tragedy, President Donald Trump said nothing.

Then, during an October 16 press conference in the White House Rose Garden, a reporter asked him about his silence.

Donald Trump Pentagon 2017.jpg

Donald Trump

So Trump claimed—falsely—that earlier Presidents—including Barack Obama—had  never or rarely called or written family members of soldiers who died on duty.

But it was his call to Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson, that ignited a firestorm.

According to Florida Democratic Representative Frederica Wilson, Trump’s condolence call was brutally insensitive.  Wilson was riding in a limousine with Johnson and heard the conversation on speakerphone.

“He knew what was signing up for, but I guess it hurts anyway,” Wilson quoted Trump as telling the grieving widow.

But maybe Sergeant Johnson didn’t know what he was signing up for.

On October 19, Pentagon officials said that a private contractor airlifted some of the troops from the scene.

Trump had sent a private aviation contractor—instead of the U.S. military—to retrieve the bodies of the four soldiers killed in Niger.

Robyn Mack, an official for U.S. Africa Command, said Texas-based Berry Aviation was “on alert during the incident and conducted casualty evacuation and transport for US and partner forces.”

Sergeant Johnson’s body was left behind when the bodies of his three fellow soldiers were evacuated. His remains were recovered two days after the extraction by Nigerien troops. 

Even worse, his corpse had been so corrupted by heat that the Pentagon demanded a closed coffin for his burial service.

Contractor aircraft are typically not armed, though their crews may carry side-arms for personal protection.

It’s possible that lightly-armed private contractors were so eager to leave the danger area they did a slapdash search for bodies—and accidentally left Johnson’s behind.

Berry Aviation has also done Defense Department work in Afghanistan, Central African Republic and Burkina Faso. 

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors. In the past, such groups were called mercenaries.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992.

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“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….”

Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private companies. The CIA thus had two workforces-–but the private one was paid far better.

Wrote Weiner: “Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.”

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center on 9/11.

His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Sign up for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up for far more money with a private security company.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and Presidents like George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country.

One of Trump’s key military advisers is Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater. Under President George W. Bush, the now-infamous mercenary company got $1 billion to provide security for American officials and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Blackwater was also accused of abusing Iraqis and engaging in torture.

There were, however, others who could have offered a timely warning against this use of mercenaries-–had there been leaders willing to heed it.

One of these, reaching back more than 500 years ago, was the Florentine statesman, Niccolo Machiavelli, who famously warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries.

Image result for Images of Niccolo Machiavelli

Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They 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.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

POLICING SAN FRANCISCO: A SICK JOKE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 6, 2017 at 12:33 am

On August 7, Hal Gordon (not his real name) a San Francisco resident, double-parked his Toyota Sienna in front of an apartment building, hoping for a parking space to open.

As he sat behind the wheel, a man came up to the driver’s window and started berating him for using his emergency brake lights. The next thing Gordon knew, the stranger was throwing punches at him through the window.

After a passenger in Gordon’s car stepped out of the vehicle, the attacker got back into his own car—a green Jeep—parked behind Gordon’s.

Then—wham!—the Jeep plowed into the back of Gordon’s Toyota Sienna. Luckily for Gordon and his passenger, both were wearing seat belts.

The Jeep then took off, with Gordon giving chase. About a block later, both cars stopped at a red light.

That was when Gordon took out his cell phone, turned on its camera, and took a photo of the license plate of the road-raging Jeep.

And that was when the Jeep suddenly backed up—right into the front of Gordon’s car. Then the Jeep sped off.

Gordon decided to file a police report. So he and his passenger then drove to Central Station of the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD).

Image result for Images of SFPD logo

At the front desk, they were each given an incident report page to fill out. They agreed on the appearance of the attacker: A white male, 50-60 years old, about 5’6″ tall, with gray, bushy hair.

And both driver and passenger gave separate interviews to the uniformed desk officer.

A subsequent record check on the license plate revealed that the Jeep was registered to a female resident of San Francisco, whose address was given.

That was on August 7.

Almost three months have since passed–and neither Gordon nor his passenger has been contacted by the SFPD. Nor, to their knowledge, has an arrest been made of the road-raging assailant.

For anyone familiar with the workings of this agency, none of this will come as a surprise.

In 2002, the San Francisco Chronicle ran a series on the need for major reforms within the SFPD.  Among its findings:

  • Violent criminals who preyed on San Francisco’s residents and visitors had a better chance of getting away with their crimes than predators in any other large American city. 
  • A victim who was shot, treated at a hospital and then released was not guaranteed an investigation—unless he could name his assailant. 
  • Inspectors often investigated cases from their desks—by phone—rather than leave their offices to interview victims and find evidence. 
  • Due to budget cuts, violent crime inspectors lacked such basic investigative tools as portable radios, cell phones and even cars.   
  • No formal performance standards existed in the Inspectors Bureau. Inspectors were required to provide a monthly account of their activities, but were not evaluated on performance. 
  • Police needed only to make an arrest to claim a crime as solved or cleared, without regard for what happened in court.   
  • Police also could list a crime as solved for “exceptional” reasons. These included: The suspect was dead or in jail elsewhere, extradition was denied or the victim ­wouldn’t cooperate.

Most citizens would expect the top priority of the SFPD to be protecting citizens from crime. But in Politically Correct San Francisco, the SFPD Police Commission makes protecting the “rights” of illegal aliens its most important goal.

San Francisco is one of 31 “sanctuary cities” in this country: Washington, D.C.; New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; Santa Ana; San Diego; Salt Lake City; Phoenix; Dallas; Houston; Austin; Detroit; Jersey City; Minneapolis; Miami; Denver; Baltimore; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; New Haven, Connecticut; and Portland, Maine.

These cities have adopted “sanctuary” ordinances that forbid municipal funds or resources to be used to enforce federal immigration laws, usually by not allowing police or municipal employees to inquire about a suspect’s immigration status.

Anyone who believes that Political Correctness isn’t a killer need only ask the family of Kathryn Steinle.

Kathryn Steinle

Steinle was gunned down on July 2, 2015, while out for an evening stroll with her father along the San Francisco waterfront.

Steinle, 32, had worked for a medical technology company.

And her charged killer?

Francisco Sanchez, 45, has a history of seven felony convictionsHe’s been deported to his native Mexico five times, most recently in 2009.

Francisco Sanchez

On March 26, agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) turned Sanchez over to San Francisco police on an outstanding warrant.

On March 27, a San Francisco Superior Court judge dismissed charges of possession and distribution of marijuana against Sanchez.

Sanchez was released on April 15.

ICE had issued a detainer for Sanchez in March, requesting to be notified if he would be released.  But the detainer was not honored.

So Sanchez was released on April 15–-without anyone notifying ICE.

Seventy-eight days later, illegal alien Francisco Sanchez crossed paths with American citizen Kathryn Steinle-–and killed her.  

Robert F. Kennedy, during his three-year tenure as Attorney General, said it best: “Every society gets the kind of criminal it deserves. What is equally true is that every community gets the kind of law enforcement it insists on.”

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