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HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 25, 2021 at 12:39 am

Next hero: Marie Yovanovitch, the former United States ambassador to Ukraine (2016 – 2019). She had joined the Foreign Service in 1986, and served as ambassador to Kyrgyzstan (2005 – 2008) and Armenia (2008 – 2011).

In May 2019, on President Donald Trump’s orders, the State Department recalled Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine. She had earned respect from the national security community for her efforts to encourage Ukraine to tackle corruption.

But she had been criticized by Right-wing media outlets—notably Fox News Network—and by Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

Marie L. Yovanovitch.jpg

Marie Yovanovitch

CNN reported that Yovanovitch stopped Giuliani from interviewing witnesses in his search for politically damaging information against former Vice President Joe Biden, whose son, Hunter, had had business dealings in Ukraine.

On October 11, 2019, she appeared before the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA). She did so in defiance of orders by the White House and State Department to not attend.

“She was a hero even before she hit the hearing room,” wrote Charles Pierce for Esquire magazine.

“She told them to stuff their directives, she would answer a congressional subpoena like a citizen is supposed to do. And she didn’t sneak in through the basement. She walked into the Capitol through the front doors, and she didn’t do so to fck around.”

Testifying for nearly 10 hours, Yovanovitch said that Trump had removed her from her post owing to “unfounded and false claims” and “a concerted campaign against me.”

She believed that associates of Trump’s personal lawyer, Giuliani, might have thought “that their personal financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”

And she warned that the State Department was being “attacked and hollowed out from within. State Department leadership, with Congress, needs to take action now to defend this great institution, and its thousands of loyal and effective employees.”

Another victim on Trump’s hate-list was Chis Krebs.

During the 2016 Presidential race, Russian propaganda had played a major role in convincing millions of Americans to vote for Donald Trump. Social media platforms—especially Facebook and Twitter—were flooded with genuinely fake news to sow discord among Americans and create a pathway for Trump’s election.

And where Internet trolls left off, Russian computer hackers took over.

Trump didn’t win a majority of the popular vote. But he got enough help from Putin to triumph in the Electoral College.

So notorious was the role played by Russian trolls and hackers in winning Trump the 2016 election that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was determined to prevent a repetition in 2020.

And point man for this was Chris Krebs.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1977, Krebs had received a B.A. in environmental sciences from the University of Virginia in 1999, and a J.D. from the George Mason University School of Law in 2007.

Chris Krebs official photo.jpg

Chris Krebs

Krebs had served as Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Infrastructure Protection, and later worked in the private sector as Director for Cybersecurity Policy for Microsoft.

Now he was director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at DHS.

In preparation for the 2020 Presidential election, Krebs launched a massive effort to counter lies spread by Russians—and Americans—on social media platforms. Among his duties:

  • Sharing Intelligence from agencies such as the CIA and National Security Agency with local officials about foreign efforts at election interference.
  • Ensuring that domestic voting equipment was secure.
  • Attacking domestic misinformation head-on.

As a result, Krebs was widely praised for revamping the department’s cybersecurity efforts and increasing coordination with state and local governments. 

By all accounts—except Trump’s—the November 3, 2020 election went very smoothly. 

As a result of the vast increase in election security, Trump not only failed to win the popular vote again but couldn’t get the help he expected from Putin. 

On November 17, Trump fired Chris Krebs. 

The reason: Krebs had not only countered Russian propaganda lies—he had dared to counter Trump’s as well. For example: He rejected Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud: There “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

In a November 17 story on the CNN website, CNN reporters Kaitlan Collins and Paul LeBlanc bluntly concluded:

“[Krebs’] dismissal underscores the lengths Trump is willing to go to punish those who don’t adopt his conspiratorial view of the election.

“Since CNN and other outlets called the race for President-elect Joe Biden, Trump has refused to accept the results, instead pushing baseless conspiracies that his second term is being stolen.”

Yet, by depriving Trump of Russian help, Krebs ensured a victory for democracy.

On January 6, the House and Senate counted the Electoral Votes—and pronounced Joseph Biden the winner—bringing an end to Trump’s reign of criminality and treason.

In his 1960 poem, “Conversation With an American Writer,” the Russian poet, Yevgeney Yevtushenko spoke for those Russians who had maintained their integrity in the face of Stalinist terror:

“You have courage,” they tell me.
It’s not true. I was never courageous.
I simply felt it unbecoming
to stoop to the cowardice of my colleagues.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Republicans in the United States Senate and House of Representatives in the face of Trump terror.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 24, 2021 at 12:11 am

Next up: Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers.

Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich (September 25, 1906 – August 9, 1975)

Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky, the former military hero now falsely condemned and executed as a traitor by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.

In 1938, Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) also became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) secret police sent to arrest him.

Image result for images of Dmitri Shostakovich

Dimitri Shostakovich

“He had a large picture of Tukhachevsky in his room, and after the announcement that Tukhachevsky had been shot as a traitor to the homeland, Zhilayev did not take the picture down.

“I don’t know if I can explain how heroic a deed that was….As soon as the next poor soul was declared an enemy of the people, everyone destroyed in a panic everything connected with that person….

“And naturally, photographs flew into the fire first, because if someone informed on you, reported that you had a picture of an enemy of the people, it meant certain death.

“Zhilayev wasn’t afraid. When they came for him, Tukhachevsky’s prominently hung portrait amazed even the executioners.”

“What, it’s still up?” one of the secret police asked.

“The time will come,” Zhilayev replied, “when they’ll erect a monument to him.”

As, in fact, has happened. 

Meanwhile, Stalin has been universally condemned as one of history’s greatest tyrants.

Third hero—Brett Crozier, the former commanding officer of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Graduating from the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1992, he received his Master’s Degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the Naval War College in 2007.

From 2017 to 2018 he commanded the USS Blue Ridge. In November, 2019, he was given command of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

On March 24, 2020, reports circulated that three members of the crew had tested positive for COVID-19. The next day the number of stricken sailors increased to eight. A few days later, it was “dozens.” The sailors reportedly became ill at sea, two weeks after a port call at Danang, Vietnam.

The initial cases were airlifted to a military hospital. The Roosevelt was ordered to Guam. After the ship docked on March 27, 2020, all 5,000 aboard were ordered to be tested for the virus. But only about 100 stricken sailors were allowed to leave the ship. The rest remained on board.

On March 30, Crozier emailed a four-page internal letter to multiple Naval officials, pleading to have the majority of the crew evacuated and quarantined on shore. Given the crowded sleeping quarters and narrow passageways of the vessel, Crozier wrote that it was impossible to follow social distancing and quarantine procedures: 

“This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do. We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset—our Sailors….

“This is a necessary risk. Keeping over 4,000 young men and women on board the TR is an unnecessary risk and breaks faith with those Sailors entrusted to our care.”

Brett E. Crozier (2).jpg

Brett Crozier

Crozier sent his letter via a non-secure, unclassified email to 20 to 30 recipients, as well as the captain’s immediate chain of command. He reportedly believed that his immediate supervisor would not allow him to send it.

And his superior later confirmed that he would not have allowed Crozier to send it.

On March 31, someone leaked the letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, which published it.

On April 1, the Navy ordered the aircraft carrier evacuated. A skeleton crew of 400 remained aboard to maintain the nuclear reactor, the fire-fighting equipment, and the ship’s galley. 

On April 2, Crozier was relieved of command by acting United States Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly.

By that time, about 114 crew members—out of a total of around 4,000—reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.  

As Crozier disembarked, sailors loudly saluted him with a standing ovation: “Cap-tain Cro-zier!”   

Modly claimed that Crozier’s letter “raised alarm bells unnecessarily. It undermines our efforts and the chain of command’s efforts to address this problem, and creates a panic and this perception that the Navy’s not on the job, that the government’s not on the job, and it’s just not true.”

Actually, the Trump administration had frittered away January and February, with President Donald Trump giving multiple—and misleading—press conferences. In these, he played down the dangers of COVID-19, saying that “we’re on top of it”—even as the virus spread across the country. 

“It was a betrayal. And I can tell you one other thing: because he did that he put it in the public’s forum and it is now a big controversy in Washington, DC,” continued Modly. [Italics added] 

This was the United States Navy under Donald Trump—who threw “betrayal” and “treason” at anyone who dared reveal the truth about institutional crimes and failures.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on February 23, 2021 at 12:18 am

…A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.
The conduct of weak men is very different. Made vain and intoxicated by good fortune, they attribute their success to merits which they do not possess. And this makes them odious and insupportable to all around them. And when they have afterwards to meet a reverse of fortune, they quickly fall into the other extreme, and become abject and vile.
Niccolo Machiavelli, The Discourses

Four heroes, three villains.

Two of the heroes are Russians; three are Americans.

The villains: One Russian (actually, Georgian); two American.

First up—in order of disappearance: Mikhail Nikolayevich Tukhachevsky (pronounced too-ka-chev-sky).

Tukhachevsky (February 4, 1893 – June 12, 1937) was a major Soviet military leader and theoretician from 1918 to 1937. 

He commanded the Soviet Western Front during the Russian-Polish War (1920-21) and served as Chief of Staff of the Red Army (1925-1928).

He fought to modernize Soviet armament, as well as develop airborne, aviation and mechanized forces.  Almost singlehandedly, he created the theory of deep operations for Soviet forces.

Tukhachevsky.png

Mikhail Tukhachevsky

All of these innovations would reap huge dividends when the Soviet Union faced the lethal fury of Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht.

In 1936, Tukhachevsky warned Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin that Nazi Germany might attack without warning—and ignite a long and murderous war.

Stalin—the son of a Georgian cobbler—resented Tukhachevsky’s coming from a noble family. A monumental egomaniac, he also hated that Tukhachevesky’s fame rivaled his own.

Warned of the approaching German danger, Stalin shouted: “What are you trying to do—frighten Soviet authority?”

Joseph Stalin

The attack that Tukhachevsky warned against came five years later—on June 22, 1941, leaving at least 26 million Russians dead.

But Tukhachevsky wasn’t alive to command a defense.

The 1930s were a frightening and dangerous time to be alive in the Soviet Union. In 1934, Stalin, seeing imaginary enemies everywhere, ordered a series of purges that lasted right up to the German invasion.

An example of Stalin’s paranoia occurred one day while the dictator walked through the Kremlin corridors with Admiral Ivan Isakov. Officers of the NKVD (the predecessor to the KGB) stood guard at every corner. 

“Every time I walk down the corridors,” said Stalin, “I think: Which one of them is it? If it’s this one, he will shoot me in the back. But if I turn the corner, the next one can shoot me in the face.”

In 1937-38, the Red Army fell prey to Stalin’s paranoia.

Its victims included:

  • Three of five marshals (five-star generals);
  • Thirteen of 15 army commanders (three- and four-star generals);
  • Fifty of 57 army corps commanders; and
  • One hundred fifty-four out of 186 division commanders.

And heading the list of those marked for death was Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

Arrested on May 22, 1937, he was interrogated and tortured. As a result, he “confessed” to being a German agent plotting to overthrow Stalin and seize power. 

On his confession, which survives in the archives, his bloodstains can clearly be seen.

On June 11, 1937, the Soviet Supreme Court convened a special military tribunal to try Tukhachevsky and eight generals for treason.

It was a sham: The accused were denied defense attorneys, and could not appeal the verdict—-which was foregone: Death.

In a Russian version of poetic justice, five of the eight generals who served as Tukhachevsky’s judges were themselves later condemned and executed as traitors.

Within hours of the verdict, Tukhachevsky was summoned from his cell and shot once in the back of the head.

From 1937 until 1956, Tukhachevsky was officially declared a traitor and fifth-columnist.

Then, on February 25, 1957, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev delivered his bombshell “Secret Speech” to the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

In this, he denounced Stalin (who had died in 1953) as a ruthless tyrant responsible for the slaughter of millions of innocent men, women and children. He condemned Stalin for creating a “personality cult” around himself, and for so weakening the Red Army that Nazi Germany was able to easily overrun half of the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1943.

On January 31, 1957, Tukhachevsky and his co-defendants were declared innocent of all charges and were “rehabilitated.”

Today, he is once again—rightly—considered a Russian hero and military genius. And Stalin is universally—and rightly—seen as a blood-stained tyrant.

Image result for Images of Statues to Mikhail Tukhachevsky

Mikhail Tukhachevsky appears on a 1963 Soviet Union postage stamp

Next hero: Nikolai Sergeyvich Zhilayev (pronounced Zill-lay-ev)

Zhilayev (November 18, 1881 – January 20, 1938) was a Russian musicologist and the teacher of several 20th-century Russian composers. Among these: Dimitri Shostakovich.

Zhilayev, a member of the Russian Academy of Art-Sciences, taught at the Moscow Conservatory. Among his friends—to his ultimate misfortune—was Mikhail Tukhachevsky.

In 1938, he, too, became a casualty of what has become known as The Great Terror.

In his posthumously-published memoirs, Testimony, Shostakovich, his pupil and friend, described how Zhilayev faced his end with a calmness that awed even the NKVD secret police sent to arrest him. 

TREASON’S GREETINGS: PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 18, 2021 at 12:07 am

“U.S. democracy wasn’t set up to deal with a president openly behaving like a James Bond villain while being protected by a political party behaving more like a mafia than a civic institution.”  
—The Washington Monthly 

TRUMP’S ULTIMATE TREASON

On January 6, the United States Senate, with Vice President Mike Pence presiding, would certify states’ Electoral College results of the 2020 election. 

That morning, President Donald Trump urged Pence to flip the results of the election to give him a win.

Pence replied that he was not authorized by the Constitution to overturn those results.

But as Pence went off to the Capitol Building housing the Senate and House of Representatives, Trump had one last card to play.

Mike Pence - Wikipedia

Mike Pence

For weeks, Trump had ordered his legions of Right-wing Stormtrumpers to descend on Washington, D.C. on January 6. 

On December 20, he had tweeted: “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election. Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!” 

In tweets, he promoted the rally again on December 27 and 30, and January 1.

On January 6, Trump appeared at the Ellipse, a 52-acre park south of the White House fence and north of Constitution Avenue and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

A stage had been set up for him to address tens of thousands of his supporters, who eagerly awaited him.  

Trump ordered them to march on the Capitol building to express their anger at the voting process and to intimidate their elected officials to reject the results. 

Melania Trump 'disappointed' by Trump supporters' Capitol riot - ABC7 Chicago

Donald Trump addresses his Stormtrumpers 

“Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore, and that is what this is all about. And to use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with, we will stop the steal….

“Republicans are constantly fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back….And we’re going to have to fight much harder….

“And after this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol. And we’re going to cheer on our brave Senators and Congressmen and women and we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them.

“Because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated.”

The Stormtrumpers marched to the United States Capitol—and quickly brushed aside Capitol Police, who made little effort to arrest or shoot them.

Image result for Images of hangman's noose outside Capitol Building riot

The “Jolly Roger” meets Donald Trump

  • Members of the mob attacked police with chemical agents, metal poles and lead pipes.
  • Injuries suffered by almost 140 officers included concussions, broken ribs, smashed spinal discs, a lost eye.
  • Several rioters carried plastic handcuffs, possibly intending to take hostages. Others carried walkie-talkies.
  • Senators ran down a flight of stairs and along a hallway as police held off rioters.

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

Stormtrumpers scaling Capitol Building walls

  • Many of the lawmakers’ offices were occupied and vandalized—including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a favorite Right-wing target.  
  • Insurrectionists shouted “Hang Pence!” for his refusal to block certification of Biden’s victory.
  • Others yelled, “Where are you, Nancy [Pelosi]?” 
  • Lawmakers huddled under desks and behind locked doors, expecting to die any minute.

Trump to Pardon 'Patriots' Involved in Capitol Attack? Truth About WH Pardons Attorney Seeking Names in Viral Post

Stormtrumpers inside the Capitol Building

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

And Trump? After giving his inflammatory speech, he returned to the White House—to watch his handiwork on television. He initially rebuffed requests to mobilize the National Guard.

This required intervention by Pat A. Cipollone, the White House Counsel, among other officials. 

Told that Secret Service agents had spirited Pence off the floor of the Senate following the attack, Trump tweeted: “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) frantically called Trump, begging him to call off the rioters.

“Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,” replied Trump.

While the rioting was still erupting, Trump posted a video on Twitter: I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us….But you have to go home now. We have to have peace. We have to have law and order….So go home. We love you. You’re very special.”

THE TREASONOUS LEGACY OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY

The conscience of Rod Serling still speaks to us.

And we need only watch his “Twilight Zone” episode, “Death’s Head Revisited,” to fully understand how Republicans react when they are confronted with overwhelming evidence of their evil. 

In that episode, a former Nazi concentration camp captain returns to Dachau, to savor the torments he once inflicted on helpless men and women. To his horror, he’s greeted by the ghosts of those victims.

To one of them—Becker—he says: “That was such a long time ago. Let’s forget about all that–unpleasantness—and move on.” 

That is how Republicans have reacted when confronted with overwhelming evidence that President Donald J. Trump, having lost the 2020 Presidential election, incited violence against the Government of the United States. 

And just as most of the Original Nazis were forced to confront their past “unpleasantness”—and punished for it—so, too, must Republicans be forced to confront—and punished for—their own.

Image result for Images of Twilight Zone episode "Death's Head Revisited"

A former tormentor—and his former tormented victim—confront each other in “Death’s Head Revisited”

TREASON’S GREETINGS: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 17, 2021 at 12:05 am

TRUMP’S FINAL SCHEMES TO REMAIN IN POWER

Throughout November and December, 2020, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. None were supported by evidence of fraud—as even Trump’s lawyers admitted when questioned by judges.  

In Michigan, Trump’s attorneys dropped their federal suit to block the certification of Detroit-area ballots.

By November 21, more than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

Ultimately, from November 3 to December 14, Trump and his allies lost 59 times in court, either withdrawing cases or having them dismissed by Federal and state judges.

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Donald Trump

On November 19, losing in the courts, Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House. The reason: To persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

The Michigan legislators said they would follow the law.

On December 5, Trump called Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and asked him to call a special legislative session and convince state legislators to select their own electors that would support him, thus overturning Biden’s win.

Kemp refused, saying he lacked the authority to do so.

On December 8, the Supreme Court refused to hear Trump’s bid to reverse Pennsylvania’s certification of Biden’s victory. Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA), a Trump ally, argued that the state’s 2.5 million mail-in votes were unconstitutional.

The Court’s order read, “The application for injunctive relief presented to Justice [Samuel] Alito and by him referred to the Court is denied.”

Although Trump had appointed three of the Court’s Justices, not one of them dissented.

On December 10, the Supreme Court refused to let a Texas lawsuit overturn the results in four battleground states: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

The majority of their votes—cast for Biden—were critical to Trump’s defeat.

“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections,” the court said without further comment. It dismissed all other related claims as moot.

The request for their overturning came in a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. A Trump ally, Paxton has been indicted on felony securities fraud charges. He have been seeking a Presidential pardon as reward for his effort.

Seventeen Republican state Attorney Generals—and 126 Republican members of Congress—supported the lawsuit. They feared Trump’s fanatical base would “primary” them if they didn’t publicly declare their loyalty—to a man they knew was slated to leave office within two months.

Had the Court acted on Paxton’s request, the results for democracy would have been catastrophic. 

“Texas seeks to invalidate elections in four states for yielding results with which it disagrees,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told the justices in legal papers. “Its request for this court to exercise its original jurisdiction and then anoint Texas’s preferred candidate for president is legally indefensible and is an affront to principles of constitutional democracy.”

Meanwhile, top Republicans—such as Vice President Mike Pence, Missouri United States Senator Roy Blunt and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—refused to congratulate Biden as the winner. 

Mitch McConnell portrait 2016.jpg

Mitch McConnell

In fact, the vast majority of House and Senate Republicans refused to publicly acknowledge Biden as President-Elect of the United States.  The reason: They were still in thrall to Trump’s fanatical base. 

They feared that if they broke with the soon-to-be-ex-President, they would be voted out of office at the next election—and lose their cozy positions and the power and perks that come with them.

Then, on December 30,  Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley announced that, on January 6, 2021, he would object to the certification of some states’ Electoral College results. As many as 140 House Republicans and 25 from the Senate were expected to join him. 

This would have forced Republicans to:

  1. Vote to reject Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of massive voter fraud; or
  2.  Disenfranchise millions of voters who had voted for Biden.

“Josh Hawley and anyone who supports his effort are engaged in the attempted overthrow of democracy,” Democratic Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy said.

“There is no evidence that there was any fraud. Senator Hawley apparently believes that if a Democrat wins the presidential race, it must be illegitimate by definition, even absent any actual evidence of misbehavior.”

Nebraska Republican Senator Ben Sasse bluntly offered the reason for this effort: ‘”We have a bunch of ambitious politicians who think there’s a quick way to tap into the president’s populist base without doing any real, long-term damage. But they’re wrong—and this issue is bigger than anyone’s personal ambitions.” 

Having lost in 59 court cases to overturn the election results, Trump opted for some old-fashioned arm-twisting.   

On January 2, 2021,  Trump called the office of Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The reason: To pressure him to “find” enough votes to overturn former Vice President Joe Biden’s win in the state’s presidential election.

“All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state,” Trump lied.

He even threatened Raffensperger with criminal prosecuted if he did not change the vote count in Trump’s favor: That’s a criminal offense. And you can’t let that happen.”  

TREASON’S GREETINGS: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 16, 2021 at 12:23 am

PREVENTING TREASON IN 2020

Donald Trump didn’t win a majority of the popular vote in 2016—but he got enough help from Russian dictator Vladimir Putin to put him over the top in the Electoral College.

And Trump gladly reciprocated.

On July 16, 2018, Trump attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Putin.

There he blamed American Intelligence agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency—instead of Putin for Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential election: “I have President Putin. He just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

In early 2020, SEAL Team Six raided a Taliban outpost and recovered $500,000 in American cash. The CIA believed that Putin had offered money to Taliban militants to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. Trump—who received Intelligence from a wide range of military and civilian agencies—claimed he wasn’t told.

So notorious was the role played by Russian trolls and hackers in winning Trump the 2016 election that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was determined to prevent a repetition in 2020.

The man ultimately tasked with this mission was Chris Krebs, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency run by DHS.

Chris Krebs official photo.jpg

Chris Krebs

Krebs launched a massive effort to counter lies spread by Russians—and Americans—on social media platforms. Among his duties:

  • Sharing Intelligence from agencies such as the CIA and National Security Agency with local officials about foreign efforts at election interference.
  • Ensuring that domestic voting equipment was secure.
  • Attacking domestic misinformation head-on.

As a result, Krebs was widely praised for revamping the department’s cybersecurity efforts and increasing coordination with state and local governments. 

By all accounts—except Trump’s—the 2020 election went very smoothly. 

As a result of the vast increase in election security, Trump not only failed to win the popular vote again but couldn’t get the help he expected from Putin. 

On November 17, Trump fired Chris Krebs. 

The reason: Krebs had not only countered Russian propaganda lies—he had dared to counter Trump’s as well. For example: He rejected Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud: There “is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised.”

Too cowardly to confront Krebs, Trump fired him by tweet—and accompanied the outrage with yet another lie:

“The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 election was highly inaccurate, in that there were massive improprieties and fraud, including dead people voting, poll watchers not allowed into polling locations, glitches in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more. Therefore, effective immediately, Chris Krebs has been terminated as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.”

In a November 17 story on the CNN website, CNN reporters Kaitlan Collins and Paul LeBlanc bluntly concluded:

“[Krebs’] dismissal underscores the lengths Trump is willing to go to punish those who don’t adopt his conspiratorial view of the election.

“Since CNN and other outlets called the race for President-elect Joe Biden, Trump has refused to accept the results, instead pushing baseless conspiracies that his second term is being stolen.

“This includes falsely claiming during an election night address that he had already won reelection, that he had won states that were actually still up in the air at the time and that his opponents were perpetrating a fraud.”

TRUMP’S FINAL SCHEMES TO REMAIN IN POWER

On November 3, Joseph Biden became President-elect of the United States by winning 81,283,495 votes, or 51.4% of the vote, compared to 74,223,755 votes, or 46.9% of the vote cast for Trump.

In the Electoral College—which actually determines the winner—the results were even more stunning: 306 votes for Biden, compared with 232 for Trump. It takes 270 votes to be declared the victor.

From the moment Biden was declared the winner, Trump set out to overturn that verdict.

Joe Biden's Next Big Decision: Choosing A Running Mate | Voice of America - English

Joseph Biden

Trump refused to accept that verdict.

Speaking from the White House in the early hours of November 4, Trump sounded like a petulant child whose planned outing has been suddenly called off:

“We were getting ready for a big celebration, we were winning everything and all of a sudden it was just called off. The results tonight have been phenomenal…I mean literally we were just all set to get outside and just celebrate something that was so beautiful, so good, such a vote such a success.” 

For the first time in American history, a President demanded a halt to the counting of votes while the outcome of an election hung in doubt. 

States ignored his demand and kept counting.

Next, Trump ordered his attorneys to file lawsuits to overturn the election results, charging electoral fraud. Specifically:

  • Illegal aliens had been allowed to vote.
  • Trump ballots were systematically destroyed.
  • A sinister computer program turned Trump votes into Biden ones.

Throughout November and December, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. None were supported by evidence of fraud—as even Trump’s lawyers admitted when questioned by judges.

On November 13, nine cases meant to attack President-Elect Joseph Biden’s win in key states were denied or dropped. A law firm challenging the vote count in Pennsylvania withdrew from the effort.   

TREASON’S GREETINGS: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 15, 2021 at 12:25 am

 HISTORY’S LESSON ON TREASON

Whatever may have been my political opinions before, I have one sentiment now: That is, we have a government, and laws, and a flag, and they must all be sustained. There are but two parties now, traitors and patriots, and I want hereafter to be ranked with the latter and, I trust, the stronger party. 
—Ulysses S. Grant 

History teaches us that republics that tolerate treason soon become former republics.

Example: #1: In February, 1917, Alexander Kerensky became president of the Russian Provisional Government after the fall of Tsar Nicholas II.

Warned that Bolshevik leaders were plotting his overthrow, he refused to order their arrests: “In Russia, it’s always been too easy to arrest people who disagree with you.”

Image result for Images of Alexander Kerensky

Alexander Kerensky

On November 7, 1917, he found himself overthrown and fleeing the country for his life. A Communist government, presided over by Vladimir Lenin, assumed absolute power—and held onto it for the next 74 years

Example #2: On November 9, 1923, Nazi Party Fuhrer Adolf Hitler tried to overthrow the government in Munich, Bavaria.

About 2,000 Nazis marched to the center of Munich, where they confronted heavily-armed police. A shootout erupted, killing 16 Nazis and four policemen. 

Hitler was injured during the clash, but managed to escape. Two days later, he was arrested and charged with treason.

Put on trial, he found himself treated as a celebrity by a judge sympathetic to Right-wing groups. He was allowed to brutally cross-examine witnesses and even make inflammatory speeches.

At the end of the trial, he was convicted of treason and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

Serving time in Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria. he was given a huge cell, allowed to receive unlimited visitors and gifts, and treated with deference by guards and inmates.

Hitler used his time in prison to write his infamous book, Mein Kampf-–“My Struggle.” Part autobiography, part political treatise, it laid out his future plans—including the extermination of the Jews and the conquest of the Soviet Union.

Image result for Images of Adolf Hitler outside Landsberg prison

Adolf Hitler leaving Landsberg Prison, December, 20, 1924

Nine months later, he was released on parole—by authorities loyal to the authoritarian Right instead of the newly-created Weimar Republic.

Hitler immediately began rebuilding the shattered Nazi party—and deciding on a new strategy to gain power. Never again would he resort to armed force. He would win office by election—or intrigue.

On January 30, 1933, those intrigues made him Chancellor of Germany. 

Writes historian Volker Ullrich, in his monumental 2016 biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939: “Historians have perennially tried to answer the question of whether Hitler’s rise to power could have been halted….

“There were repeated opportunities to end Hitler’s run of triumphs. The most obvious one was after the failed Putsch of November 1923. Had the Munich rabble-rouser been forced to serve his full five-year term of imprisonment in Landsberg, it is extremely unlikely that he would have been able to restart his political career.”

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE ELECTIONS OF 2016 AND 2020

During the 2016 Presidential race, Russian propaganda played a major role in convincing millions of Americans to vote for Donald Trump. Social media platforms—especially Facebook and Twitter—were flooded with genuinely fake news to sow discord among Americans and create a pathway for Trump’s election.

And where Internet trolls left off, Russian computer hackers took over.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, had quickly assessed Trump as an egotistical narcissist. By appealing to Trump’s vanity, Putin expected to sharply reduce the military and political threat the United States represented to a resurgent Russia. 

Donald Trump didn’t win a majority of the popular vote in 2016—but he got enough help from Putin to put him over the top in the Electoral College. 

And Trump gladly reciprocated.

Image result for Images of Donald Trump with Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump

From his first day in office, he sided with brutal dictators (Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong-On, China’s Xi Jinping) and declared war on America’s oldest and most reliable allies (Canada, Britain, France).

When he spoke with Putin face-to-face, he afterward demanded that the lone translator surrender his notes, so there would be no record of what he had agreed to with Putin.   

On May 10, 2017, Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office—and gave them highly classified CIA Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs. 

Not only did this occur in the Oval Office, but it happened on the day after he fired FBI Director James Comey for refusing to become Trump’s version of a KGB chief. 

“I just fired the head of the FBI,” Trump told the two dignitaries. “He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

On numerous occasions Donald Trump fiercely denied any Russian connections. On January 11, 2017, he tweeted: “Russia has never tried to use leverage over me. I HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH RUSSIA – NO DEALS, NO LOANS, NO NOTHING!” 

But Trump’s son, Eric, bragged in 2014: “Well, we don’t rely on American banks. We have all the funding we need out of Russia. We’ve got some guys that really, really love golf, and they’re really invested in our programs. We just go there all the time.”

STILL COUNTING THE STUPIDS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 2, 2021 at 12:12 am

With the swearing in of Joseph R. Biden as the 46th President of the United States, a new—and desperately needed—chapter in the saga of COVID-19 has finally begun.

President Donald Trump had made the wearing of masks a divisive political issue. Wearing a mask, according to him, made you a wimp and a liberal Never-Trumper. Not wearing a mask showed you’re a macho man or woman—and in solidarity with him.

In effect, he was egotistically demanding that his followers risk death to prove their loyalty to him.

Biden, from the first, has seen COVID-19 as a plague—and not as a test of personal loyalty.

During a June 26, 2020 television interview he said that, if he were elected President, he would require wearing face masks in public to prevent the spread of Coronavirus: “The one thing we do know—these masks make a gigantic difference. I would insist that everybody out in public be wearing that mask.”

Since becoming President, he has:

  • Issued a national mask mandate on federal property, airlines, trains and other public transit systems.
  • Created an office of White House COVID-19 response. Its goals: Secure more protective equipment for workers, increase testing and vaccinations and reopen schools.
  • Restored science to its rightful place in fighting the plague. “You’re going to be hearing a lot from [Infectious disease expert] Dr. [Anthony] Fauci again,” Biden promised, saying that public health officials would be “free from political interference.”
  • Promised to push for a $1.9 trillion economic relief and COVID response package. Although he has repeatedly said he wants to pass this with bipartisan support, he has also warned that he will try to do so without Republican agreement if necessary.
  • Promised to level with the country on both the progress and setbacks in his war on COVID-19. He has predicted that 100,000 Americans will die from COVID-19 during his first six weeks in office.

Joe Biden official portrait 2013 cropped.jpg

President Joseph Biden

Biden’s mask rules come as close to a national mask mandate as his federal powers allow. Only states and municipalities can require residents to wear masks at a local level.

And even in states that require wearing a mask in public, many people refuse to do so. Fights have erupted between mask-less and mask-wearing customers—and sometimes store employees—who asked them to put on a mask before entering. Even store security guards have been assaulted.

So: How should those who refuse to wear a mask—and thus threaten the lives of others—be dealt with?

Governors, mayors and business owners need to fill the leadership void. They should issue emergency orders mandating the wearing of masks in public. And these orders should be forcibly backed up by the following:

  • Stop stressing that wearing a mask will protect others from “you.” Most people don’t care about strangers. Emphasize that wearing a mask will protect “you and your family” from others. 
  • Don’t hand out tickets to mask-evaders. They will simply ignore them—or write them off as a cheap price for going without a mask. 
  • Major retailers should hire professional guards to handle mask-evaders—who should be turned over to police.
  • Police should arrest everyone not wearing a mask in public and jail them—without bond—until the plague is over or a vaccine is found.

VIPERTEK Double Lock Steel Handcuffs

  • These inmates should be lodged together—and away from those who are not infected with COVID-19.
  • Police should create tip hotlines for reporting mask-evaders—and offer rewards for tips that lead to arrests.
  • The media should publicize these arrests and jailings—to warn other potential mask-evaders.  
  • Right-wingers who openly carry firearms and threaten violence should be arrested and imprisoned under State and Federal anti-terrorism laws.  

It was the failure of German police and courts to abort Right-wing violence during the Weimar Republic that led to even greater violence through the rise of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party.

Laws are useless if citizens believe they are unfairly or unpredictably enforced. As Niccolo Machiavelli warns in his classic work, The Discourses:

…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.

This is how United States authorities dealt with “Typhoid Mary” Mallon (September 23, 1869 – November 11, 1938).

Typhoid Mary Mallon – Legends of America

Mary Mallon

An Irish-born cook, she was an asymptomatic carrier of typhoid fever and is believed to have infected 53 people, three of whom died. Because she persisted in working as a cook, she exposed others to the disease.

As a result, she was twice forcibly quarantined by authorities, and died after a total of nearly 30 years in isolation at Riverside Hospital on North Brother Island, in New York City.

It’s long past time for responsible Federal, state and local officials to get tough on those who, through sheer egotism or allegiance to a medically discredited American traitor, place others at risk of a deadly plague.

STILL COUNTING THE STUPIDS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on February 1, 2021 at 12:21 am

Here’s a new game you can play the next time you take a walk: Count the Stupids! 

These are the people who, during a deadly pandemic: 

  • Don’t wear a mask.
  • Don’t wear a mask—and suck on a cigarette.
  • Wear a mask—just under their nose.
  • Wear a mask—around their neck like a bandanna. 

The number of people who fall into these categories will vary each day.

But they all constitute a clear and present danger to those who want to stay clear of COVID-19. Here’s why:

  • NOT WEARING A MASK exposes the non-wearer and anyone else not wearing one to the possibility of COVID-19. You can sneeze or cough into someone’s face—or someone can sneeze or cough into yours.
  • NOT WEARING A MASK WHILE SMOKING exposes the smoker to both the probability of getting COVID-19 and the almost certainty of getting lung cancer, heart disease and/or emphysema.
  • WEARING A MASK JUST UNDER THE NOSE means you can sneeze COVID-19 into someone’s face—or someone with COVID-19 can sneeze into your nose.
  • WEARING A MASK AROUND THE NECK may make you feel like a range-roving cowboy, but it offers the same degree of protection as NOT WEARING A MASK: Zero. 

N95 Respirator Masks | Bass-Mollett Publishers Inc.

N95 mask

The Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, emerged in China in December, 2019, and has since spread throughout the world.

By February 1, 2021, it had infected 102,659,554 people worldwide. Of these, 2,221,640 have died.

In the United States, case totals have reached 26,075,932. Of these, 439,536 have died.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

For the first three months of the plague, masks were hard to come by. Top-of-the-line masks such as the N95 were quickly snapped up by hospitals filling with COVID cases. This forced many families to sew their own masks. Many of these were made of porous material, allowing the wearer to become easily infected.

But today masks are advertised—and sold—everywhere. 

Wearing a mask and “social distancing”—keeping at least six feet between yourself and others while in public—have been the Golden Rules urged by public health officials for months.

Scientists have learned, for example, that COVID-19 can be spread by those who show no symptom of the disease. And mounting evidence has proven that masks are essential for protecting people from the virus. 

Coronavirus is spread by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks—especially if large numbers of people are packed indoors. The danger goes up if the talker is shouting or singing loudly.

If not blocked by a face covering, the droplets can travel six to 13 feet.   

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University found that some masks were more effective than others. One study showed that well-fitted homemade masks with multiple layers of fabric, as well as off-the-shelf cone style masks, were the most effective in reducing droplet dispersal.

The N95 mask—made by the 3M Company—has been rated the best. Its Chinese counterpart—the KN95—has been rated its equivalent.

Bandannas turned out to be the least effective in reducing transmission.

There are at least seven reasons why so many Americans refuse to wear a mask—even in the midst of a deadly pandemic. 

First: A feeling of solidarity. According to David Abrams, a professor of social and behavioral sciences at NYU School of Global Public Health: People who don’t wear masks may see it as a sign of solidarity, as if they are taking a stand against authority.

Second: “If liberals do it, it’s fascistic.” Many mask protesters accuse those who wear masks of being fascists. This is a hallmark of Right-wing politics—accusing their opponents of being what they are themselves.

Third: They have utterly rejected the rising death-toll caused by the virus. They claim stories of such deaths are mere “fake news”—the term Donald Trump uses to dismiss any news stories that highlight his mistakes and criminality. 

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Fourth: Republicans disdain education in general—and science in particular. In March, an NBC News poll found that only 30% of Republicans said that they would actually listen to the advice of doctors to stay away from large, crowded areas to avoid Coronavirus

Fifth: Religious Fanaticism: Many fundamentalist Christians believe that their faith in Jesus will protect them against COVID-19. They continue to attend services indoors in defiance of warnings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that such meetings are dangerous.

A female member of the Solid Red Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, told CNN: “I wouldn’t be anywhere else. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood. I’m covered in Jesus’ blood.”

Sixth: Hypocrisy. Since the Supreme Court legalized abortion in 1973, the Right has demanded that even women who are pregnant due to rape or incest carry the fetus to term.

Yet now that Right-wingers are being asked to wear masks in public—to protect themselves and others from a deadly plague—they’ve suddenly discovered the mantra: “It’s my body!”

Seventh: Identifying with Donald Trump. The former President made it clear that his followers don’t wear masks. And they have fallen into line, refusing to mask up even in crowded, indoor arenas where infection is most likely.

THE PERILS OF COWERING TO FASCISM

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on January 26, 2021 at 12:09 am

On November 9, 1923, Nazi Party Fuhrer Adolf Hitler tried to overthrow the government in Munich, Bavaria.

About 2,000 Nazis marched to the center of Munich, where they confronted heavily-armed police. A shootout erupted, killing 16 Nazis and four policemen. 

Hitler was injured during the clash, but managed to escape. Two days later, he was arrested and charged with treason.

Put on trial, he found himself treated as a celebrity by a judge sympathetic to Right-wing groups. He was allowed to brutally cross-examine witnesses and even make inflammatory speeches.

At the end of the trial, he was convicted of treason and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment.

Serving time in Landsberg Prison, in Bavaria. he was given a huge cell, allowed to receive unlimited visitors and gifts, and treated with deference by guards and inmates.

Hitler used his time in prison to write his infamous book, Mein Kampf-–“My Struggle.” Part autobiography, part political treatise, it laid out his future plans—including the extermination of the Jews and the conquest of the Soviet Union.

Image result for Images of Adolf Hitler outside Landsberg prison

Adolf Hitler leaving Landsberg Prison, December, 20, 1924

Nine months later, he was released on parole—by authorities loyal to the authoritarian Right instead of the newly-created Weimar Republic.

Hitler immediately began rebuilding the shattered Nazi party—and deciding on a new strategy to gain power. Never again would he resort to armed force. He would win office by election—or intrigue.

On January 30, 1933, those intrigues made him Chancellor of Germany. 

Writes historian Volker Ullrich, in his monumental 2016 biography, Hitler: Ascent 1889 – 1939: “Historians have perennially tried to answer the question of whether Hitler’s rise to power could have been halted….

“There were repeated opportunities to end Hitler’s run of triumphs. The most obvious one was after the failed Putsch of November 1923. Had the Munich rabble-rouser been forced to serve his full five-year term of imprisonment in Landsberg, it is extremely unlikely that he would have been able to restart his political career.”

Related image

The United States Senate—and Justice Department—now face the same dilemma faced by the judges of the Weimar Republic. 

On January 6, thousands of Donald Trump’s supporters—incited by the then-President—attacked the United States Capitol. Stormtrumpers ransacked the building while legislators—protected by only a small cadre of police—huddled fearfully. Five people—including a Capitol Hill policeman—were killed.

The Stormtrumpers’ goal: To illegally overturn Trump’s defeat in the November 3 Presidential election.

The storming of the United States Capitol

TapTheForwardAssist, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

On January 23, the Daily Mail carried a story under the headline: “Justice Department Debate NOT Charging Up to 800 MAGA Rioters at Capitol”:

“The FBI and prosecutors at the Justice Department are debating whether to decline to charge some of the MAGA rioters who stormed the United States Capitol on January 6 in an attempt to derail President Joe Biden’s certification.

“There is concern among DOJ officials that bringing charges against all of the estimated 800 rioters who ransacked the Capitol building could flood the local federal courthouse in Washington, DC, with cases.

“There have been internal discussions about forgoing charges against those who were not involved in any violence or vandalism but were simply trespassing or ‘going along with the crowd,’ The Washington Post reported.”

Meanwhile, many Republicans are strongly opposing Trump’s second impeachment trial—which is set to open on February 8. 

Some claim that the only way to “heal” the country after four divisive years of Trump is to forgive his every crime.

This amounts to Right-wing hypocrisy, since Trump himself wanted his Attorney General to “lock up” those who had not broken the law—former FBI Director James Comey, former President Barack Obama and former First Lady and Senator Hillary Clinton. 

Other Republicans are asserting that since Trump has left office, his crimes cannot be prosecuted.

Yet no other United States official has ever been granted such immunity. If an ex-Senator is found to have taken bribes, he can be tried for bribery—so long as the statute hasn’t expired

More than 500 years ago, the father of political science, Niccolo Machiavelli, examined the issue of rewards and punishments. He concluded: 

…No well-ordered republic should ever cancel the crimes of its citizens by their merits. But having established rewards for good actions and penalties for evil ones, and having rewarded a citizen for conduct who afterwards commits a wrong, he should be chastised for that without regard to his previous merits. And a state that properly observes this principle will long enjoy its liberty, but if otherwise, it will speedily come to ruin. 

For if a citizen who has rendered some eminent service to the state should add to the reputation and influence which he has thereby acquired the confident audacity of being able to commit any wrong without fear of punishment, he will in a little while become so insolent and overbearing as to put an end to all power of the law.  

For those who require more contemporary advice, the example of the Weimar Republic offers a continuing warning.

Right-wing judges and police, sympathizing with men like Adolf Hitler—who had publicly sworn to destroy the fledging Republic—ultimately made that a reality.

They must not be allowed to do the same to the American Republic.

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