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LIKE HITLER, LIKE TRUMP–“LET THEM DIE”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 21, 2017 at 12:21 am

On March 6, 2017, House Republican leaders unveiled the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as their replacement for “Obamacare.”

Conservative Republicans immediately declared that it didn’t repeal and replace Obamacare. And “moderates” complained that it would leave too many people uninsured. 

Democrats, meanwhile, stayed silent. They had pushed hard in 2009-10 to provide all Americans with access to healthcare. And they weren’t going to participate in dismantling their signature legislation.

On March 13, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released its report estimating that about 18 million people would be uninsured in 2018 if the AHCA were enacted. The number of uninsured people would reach 19 million in 2020 and 24 million in 2026.

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Still, Republicans plunged forward, with House leaders tweaking it slightly to win conservative and “moderate” votes.

Still, conservatives felt the bill helped too many people. And “moderates” feared that the millions of voters who would lose their insurance would vote them out of office at the next election. 

On March 24, President Donald Trump, knowing the AHCA couldn’t pass the House, asked Speaker Paul Ryan to pull it off the floor. 

And Ryan did so, only moments before a scheduled vote.

Finally, on May 4, House Republicans were ready to vote to pass the AHCA.

The vote was preceded by a pep rally, which featured beer, the “Rocky” theme song, the “Taking Care of Business” song, a prayer and the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Some Republicans, asked whether they had read the bill they supported, refused to answer. 

That up to 24 million Americans would lose their medical insurance meant nothing to Right-wingers. 

What did matter to them was:

  • Destroying the legacy of Barack Obama, the nation’s first black President; and
  • Initiating a huge transfer of wealth from the poor and middle-class to the 1% wealthiest.

On May 4, House Republicans passed the AHCA and sent it the Senate. There it was expected to be significantly revised.

But this, too, didn’t matter to House Republicans. They had “kept faith” with their hate-filled. Right-wing constituents—and assured their own re-elections. 

Speaking in front of nearly 100 GOP lawmakers in the White House Rose Garden, Trump boasted that the AHCA would “finish off” the “catastrophe” of Obamacare.

Donald Trump

At a White House celebration, Trump boasted: “This has brought the Republican Party together.”

But then came disaster—for Republicans—in the Senate. 

With Democrats abstaining, Republicans found themselves fighting each other. 

Some wanted to gut “Obamacare” entirely, whatever the consequences for the 24 million Americans who would be left without insurance.

Others feared that slashing more than $700 billion from Medicaid—the Federal medical insurance program for the poor—would lead to millions of angry voters turning out Republicans at the polls.

(And slashing Medicaid—as opposed to expanding it, as President Obama had sought to do—was a major reason why Republicans wanted to overturn “Obamacare.”) 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) desperately tried to hammer out a compromise between the two opposing sides. When this proved impossible, it was clear the “repeal and replace” bill wouldn’t pass the Senate. 

At that point, President Trump tweeted his own solution: “Republicans should just ‘REPEAL’ failing ObamaCare now & work on a new Healthcare Plan that will start from a clean slate. Dems will join in!” 

But this proved too politically risky for some Republicans. 

On July 18, Republican Senators’ efforts to replace the ACA without a ready replacement collapsed. 

As usual, Donald Trump had a ready “solution” to offer. Like Adolf Hitler issuing his “scorched earth” order in a doomed Berlin in 1945, the President said:

“Let Obamacare fail; it’ll be a lot easier. And I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail.

“We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it. We’ll let Obamacare fail, and then the Democrats are going to come to us and they’re going to say, ‘How do we fix it? How do we fix it?’ Or, ‘How do we come up with a new plan?’” 

* * * * *

Allowing Obamacare to fail would deprive millions of Americans of healthcare. But that meant nothing to Donald Trump.

Just as destroying everything still remaining in Germany had meant nothing to Adolf Hitler.

Fortunately for Germany, one man—Albert Speer—finally broke ranks with his Fuhrer.

Albert Speer

Albert Speer

Risking death, he refused to carry out Hitler’s “scorched earth” order. Even more important, he mounted a successful effort to block such destruction and persuade influential military and civilian leaders to disobey the order as well.

As a result, those targets slated for destruction were spared.

Since the election of America’s first black President, Republicans have waged a similar “scorched earth” campaign.

Acting as extortionists, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t get their way in legislative matters. And they repeatedly blocked legislation to help the poor, the unemployed, the sick, women, the elderly, the disabled and the middle-class. 

Like Adolf Hitler, their attitude has been: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

The country is still waiting for a Republican Albert Speer to step forward and save America from the self-destructive brutalities of its own Right-wing fanatics.

LIKE HITLER, LIKE TRUMP–“LET THEM DIE”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 20, 2017 at 12:50 am

Albert Speer, Minister of Armaments for the Third Reich, was appalled.

His Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler—the man he had idolized for 14 years—had just passed a death sentence on Germany, the nation he claimed to love above all others.

Albert Speer and Adolf Hitler pouring over architectural plans

On March 19, 1945, facing certain defeat, Hitler had ordered a massive “scorched-earth” campaign throughout Germany.

All German agriculture, industry, ships, communications, roads, food stuffs, mines, bridges, stores and utility plants were to be destroyed.

If implemented, it would deprive the entire German population of even the barest necessities after the war.

Now living in a bunker 50 feet below bomb-shattered Berlin, Hitler gave full vent to his most destructive impulses.

Adolf Hitler addressing boy soldiers as the Third Reich crumbles

“If the war is lost,” Hitler told Speer, “the nation will also perish. This fate is inevitable. There is no necessity to take into consideration the basis which the people will need to continue even a most primitive existence.

“On the contrary, it will be better to destroy these things ourselves, because this nation will have proved to be the weaker one and the future will belong solely to the stronger eastern nation.

“Besides, those who will remain after the battle are only the inferior ones, for the good ones have all been killed.”

Speer argued in vain that there must be a future for the German people. But Hitler refused to back down. He gave Speer 24 hours to reconsider his opposition to the order.

The next day, Speer told Hitler: “My Fuhrer, I stand unconditionally behind you!”

“Then all is well,” said Hitler, suddenly with tears in his eyes.

“If I stand unreservedly behind you,” said Speer, “then you must entrust me rather than the Gauleiters [district Party leaders serving as provincial governors] with the implementation of your decree.”

Filled with gratitude, Hitler signed the decree Speer had thoughtfully prepared before their fateful meeting.

By doing so, Hitler unintentionally gave Speer the power to thwart his “scorched earth” decree.

Speer had been the closest thing to a friend in Hitler’s life. Trained as an architect, he had joined the Nazi Party in 1931.

He met Hitler in 1933, when he presented the Fuhrer with architectural designs for the Nuremberg Rally scheduled for that year.

From then on, Speer became Hitler’s “genius architect” assigned to create buildings meant to last for a thousand years.

In 1943, Hitler appointed him Minister of Armaments, charged with revitalizing the German war effort.

Nevertheless, Speer now crisscrossed Germany, persuading military leaders and district governors to not destroy the vital facilities that would be needed after the war.

“No other senior National Socialist could have done the job,” writes Randall Hanson, author of Disobeying Hitler: German Resistance After Valkyrie.

“Speer was one of the very few people in the Reich—perhaps even the only one—with such power to influence actors’ willingness/unwillingness to destroy.”

Despite his later conviction for war crimes at Nuremberg, Speer never regretted his efforts to save Germany from total destruction at the hands of Adolf Hitler.

Fast-forward to the United States and the 2008 election of the nation’s first black President. 

On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act (ACA), nicknamed Obamacare. Its purpose: To provide access to healthcare for millions of poor and middle-class Americans who had heretofore been unable to obtain it.

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President Barack Obama

It became—and remains—Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment. 

Republicans immediately declared “Obamacare” Public Enemy Number One and set out to repeal it. By March 2014 they had already voted against it 54 times, trying to undo or substantially change it.

In October, 2013, they shut down the Federal Government for 15 days. They hoped to extort Obama into de-funding the ACA: If he did, they would re-open Federal agencies.

But, facing pressure from voters unable to obtain basic government services, Republicans backed down. 

During the 2016 Presidential campaign, every Republican candidate pledged to repeal Obamacare if s/he were elected.

Donald Trump—who won the Republican nomination and then the election—repeatedly made this the centerpiece of his campaign. 

On October 25, he promised: “My first day in office, I am going to ask Congress to put a bill on my desk getting rid of this disastrous law and replacing it with reforms that expand choice, freedom, affordability.

“You’re going to have such great health care at a tiny fraction of the cost. And it’s going to be so easy.”

But after taking office on January 20, he found that replacing the ACA wasn’t so easy.

On March 6, 2017, House Republicans unveiled the American Health Care Act (AHCA). This was attacked by conservatives because it didn’t repeal and replace Obamacare. And “moderate” Republicans complained that it would leave too many people uninsured.

On March 13, 2017, the Congressional Budget Committee released its report estimating that about 18 million people would be uninsured in 2018 if the AHCA were enacted. The number of uninsured people would reach 19 million in 2020 and 23 million in 2026. 

Still, Republicans plunged forward, with House leaders making slight changes to win conservative and moderate votes.

WORDS FOR TYRANTS–AND LIBERATORS: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 18, 2017 at 12:22 am

On the May 27, 2016 edition of the PBS Newshour, syndicated columnist Mark Shields noted the ability of Elizabeth Warren to rattle Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump:

“Elizabeth Warren gets under Donald Trunp’s skin. And I think she’s been the most effective adversary. I think she’s done more to unite the Democratic party than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

“I mean, she obviously–he can’t stay away from her. He is tweeting about her.”

Donald Trump

And syndicated New York Times Columnist David Brooks said on the same program the Democrats faced two choices in combating Trump:

“And so the tactics…is either you do what Elizabeth Warren has done, like full-bore negativity, that kind of [get] under the skin, or try to ridicule him and use humor. Humor is not Hillary Clinton’s strongest point.”  

But sharp-edged humor clearly works for Warren.  

A May 12, 2016 story on CNN—“Elizabeth Warren Gives Trump a Dose of His Own Medicine on Twitter”—notes:  

“In the past week the Massachusetts Democrat has refined an aggressive anti-Trump message through a series of so-called tweetstorms. 

“Whenever Trump criticizes her, Warren fires right back at him, sometimes twice as hard.”  

Warren’s tweets, according to the article, appeared to have two goals:

  1. Challenge Trump on social media, which he had so far dominated; and
  2. Use attention-catching words like “bully” and “loser.”  

Among her tweets:

  • “But here’s the thing. You can beat a bully—not by tucking tail and running, but by holding your ground.” 
  • “You care so much about struggling American workers, @realDonaldTrump, that you want to abolish the federal minimum wage?”
  • @realDonaldTrump: Your policies are dangerous. Your words are reckless. Your record is embarrassing. And your free ride is over.”

Nor did Warren restrict herself to battling Trump on Twitter.

Elizabeth Warren--Official 113th Congressional Portrait--.jpg

Elizabeth Warren

On May 24, 2016, Warren unleashed perhaps her most devastating attack on Trump at an event hosted by the Center for Popular Democracy:

“Just yesterday, it came out that Donald Trump had said back in 2007 that he was ‘excited’ for the real estate market to crash because, quote, ‘I’ve always made more money in bad markets than in good markets.’

“That’s right. The rest of us were horrified by the 2008 financial crisis, by what happened to the millions of families…that were forced out of their homes.  

“But Donald Trump was drooling over the idea of a housing meltdown—because it meant he could buy up a bunch more property on the cheap….

“What kind of a man does that? I’ll tell you exactly what kind—a man who cares about no one but himself. A small, insecure moneygrubber who doesn’t care who gets hurt, so long as he makes some money off it….”

As a whole, Democrats have shown themselves indifferent to or ignorant of the power of effective language.

Many of them—such as former President Barack Obama—take the view: “I’m not going to get into the gutter like my opponents.” Thus, they take the “high ground” while their sworn Republican enemies undermine them via “smear and fear” tactics. 

As far back as the early 1950s, slander-hurling Wisconsin U.S. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy demonstrated the effectiveness of such tactics. Wrote Pulitzer-Prize winning author David Halberstam, in his monumental study of the origins of the Vietnam War, The Best and the Brightest:

“But if they did not actually stick, and they did not, [McCarthy’s] charges had an equally damaging effect: They poisoned. Where there was smoke, there must be fire. He wouldn’t be saying these things [voters reasoned] unless there was something to it.” 

Tyrants are conspicuously vulnerable to ridicule, yet, here, too, Democrats have proven unable or unwilling to make use of this powerful weapon. 

Donald Trump, for example, has labeled established news media as “fake news.” Yet despite his repeated assaults on the press, judiciary and Intelligence agencies such as the CIA and FBI, not one Democrat has dared to label him a “fake President.” 

Similarly, while he has branded Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary,” no Democrat—despite Trump’s well-established admiration for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin—has dared to call him “Red Donald.” 

Nor to charge him with using dictatorial methods via the damning barb: “TrumPutin.”

Nor, in this YouTube-obsessed age, have Democrats assailed Trump with a ridiculing video. In the hands of a creative writer, “Springtime for Hitler,” the signature tune of the hit play and movie, The Producers, could become “Springtime for Trumpland.” 

And Democrats could attack the Trump administration’s secretive ties with Russian oligarchs and Intelligence agents by turning the Muppet Song, “The Rainbow Connection,” into “The Russian Connection.” 

A possible stanza could go: 

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.

If Democrats continue to fight Waffen-SS tactics with those of a Shirley Temple, they will continue to decline in influence as a political party. Their only hope lies in combating the Heinz Guderians of the Republican Party with the full-force tactics of a George S. Patton.

WORDS FOR TYRANTS–AND LIBERATORS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 17, 2017 at 12:41 am

Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks appear every Friday on the PBS Newshour to review the week’s major political events.

On May 27, 2016, Shields—a liberal, and Brooks, a conservative—came to some disturbingly similar conclusions about the character of Republican Presidential front-runner Donald Trump.  

With the business magnate having won the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination, both columnists appeared increasingly dismayed. 

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David Brooks and Mark Shields

MARK SHIELDS: “Donald Trump gratuitously slandered Ted Cruz’s wife. He libeled Ted Cruz’s father for being potentially part of Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of the president of the United States, suggesting that he was somehow a fellow traveler in that.  

“This is a libel. You don’t get over it….  

“…I think this man may be addicted to the roar of the grease paint and the sound of the crowd, or however it goes, smell of the crowd.”

Donald Trump

Ironically, Rand Paul, Republican U.S. Senator from Kentucky, had reached a similar conclusion about Trump:  

“I think there is a sophomore quality that is entertaining with Mr. Trump, but I am worried. I’m very concerned of having him in charge of his nuclear weapons because his visceral response to attack people on their appearance—short, tall, fat, ugly—my goodness that happened in junior high.”

DAVID BROOKS: “Trump, for all his moral flaws, is a marketing genius. And you look at what he does. He just picks a word and he attaches it to a person. Little Marco [Rubio], Lyin’ Ted [Cruz], Crooked Hillary [Clinton].

“And that’s a word.  And that’s how marketing works. It’s a simple, blunt message, but it gets under.

“It sticks, and it diminishes. And so it has been super effective for him, because he knows how to do that.  And she [Hillary Clinton] just comes with, ‘Oh, he’s divisive.’

“These are words that are not exciting people. And her campaign style has gotten, if anything…a little more stagnant and more flat.” 

Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only Presidential candidate who proved unable to cope with Trump’s gift for insult.  His targets—and insults—included:

  • Former Texas Governor Rick Perry: “Wears glasses to seem smart.”
  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush: “Low Energy Jeb.” 
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders: “Crazy Bernie.” 
  • Ohio Governor John Kasich: “Mathematically dead and totally desperate.”

How did American politics reach this state of affairs?  

In 1996, Newt Gingrich, then Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, wrote a memo that encouraged Republicans to “speak like Newt.”

Entitled “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control,” it urged Republicans to attack Democrats with such words as “corrupt,” “selfish,” “destructive,” “hypocrisy,” “liberal,” “sick,” and “traitors.”

Newt Gingrich

Even worse, Gingrich encouraged the news media to disseminate such accusations.  Among his suggestions:

  • “Fights make news.”
  • Create a “shield issue” to deflect criticism: “A shield issue is, just, you know, your opponent is going to attack you as lacking compassion. You better…show up in the local paper holding a baby in the neonatal center.”

In the memo, Gingrich advised:

“….In the video “We are a Majority,” Language is listed as a key mechanism of control used by a majority party, along with Agenda, Rules, Attitude and Learning. 

“As the tapes have been used in training sessions across the country and mailed to candidates we have heard a plaintive plea: ‘I wish I could speak like Newt.’

“That takes years of practice. But, we believe that you could have a significant impact on your campaign and the way you communicate if we help a little. That is why we have created this list of words and phrases….

“This list is prepared so that you might have a directory of words to use in writing literature and mail, in preparing speeches, and in producing electronic media.

“The words and phrases are powerful. Read them. Memorize as many as possible. And remember that like any tool, these words will not help if they are not used.”

Here is the list of words Gingrich urged his followers to use in describing “the opponent, their record, proposals and their party”:

  • abuse of power
  • anti- (issue): flag, family, child, jobs
  • betray
  • bizarre
  • bosses
  • bureaucracy
  • cheat
  • coercion
  • “compassion” is not enough
  • collapse(ing)
  • consequences
  • corrupt
  • corruption
  • criminal rights
  • crisis
  • cynicism
  • decay
  • deeper
  • destroy
  • destructive
  • devour
  • disgrace
  • endanger
  • excuses
  • failure (fail)
  • greed
  • hypocrisy
  • ideological
  • impose
  • incompetent
  • insecure
  • insensitive
  • intolerant
  • liberal
  • lie
  • limit(s)
  • machine
  • mandate(s)
  • obsolete
  • pathetic
  • patronage
  • permissive attitude
  • pessimistic
  • punish (poor …)
  • radical
  • red tape
  • self-serving
  • selfish
  • sensationalists
  • shallow
  • shame
  • sick
  • spend(ing)
  • stagnation
  • status quo
  • steal
  • taxes
  • they/them
  • threaten
  • traitors
  • unionized
  • urgent (cy)
  • waste
  • welfare

Yes, speaking like Newt—or Adolf Hitler or Joseph McCarthy—“takes years of practice.”  

And to the dismay of both Republicans and Democrats, Donald Trump has learned his lessons well.

Only one opponent—who was not a Presidential candidate—managed to stand up to Trump: Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. 

On the May 27, 2016 edition of the PBS Newshour, syndicated columnist Mark Shields noted the ability of Elizabeth Warren to rattle Trump:

“Elizabeth Warren gets under Donald Trump’s skin.  And I think she’s been the most effective adversary. I think she’s done more to unite the Democratic party than either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.”

LEGACIES OF DESTRUCTION–FOR GERMANY AND AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 13, 2017 at 10:55 am

The ancient Greeks passionately believed that “character is destiny.”

This certainly proved true in the case of Adolf Hitler, Germany’s Fuhrer from 1933 to 1945.  And it’s proving the same for Donald J. Trump, who became President of the United States on January 20.

One of the most perceptive observers of Hitler’s character was Panzer General Heinz Guderian.

Guderian created the concept of motorized blitzkrieg warfare, enabling coordinated masses of tanks and planes to strike at the vital nerve centers of an enemy.  

As a result, Guderian enabled Hitler to conquer France in only six weeks in 1940, and to come to the brink of crushing the Soviet Union in 1941. He recounted his career as the foremost tank commander of the Third Reich in his 1950 autobiography, Panzer Leader.  

Heinz Guderian

Guderian noted, for example, Hitler’s absolute need to dominate every situation:

HEINZ GUDERIAN: As Hitler’s self-confidence grew, and as his power became more firmly established both inside and outside Germany, he became overbearing and arrogant. Everyone appeared to him unimportant compared to himself.  

Previously, Hitler had been open to practical considerations, and willing to discuss matters with others. But now he became increasingly autocratic. 

Chris Uhlmann, political editor for ABC News, has reached similar conclusions about Trump’s own authoritarian character.

Uhlmann started his journalism career at The Canberra Times in 1989 and edited The Canberra Weekly before joining the ABC in 1998.

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Chris Uhlmann

“It’s the unscripted Trump that’s real,” wrote Uhlmann in a July 9 news analysis column.  “A man who barks out bile in 140 characters, who wastes his precious days as President at war with the West’s institutions like the judiciary, independent government agencies, and the free press.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN: Once in power, Hitler quickly—and violently—eliminated his opposition. He make no attempt to disguise this aspect of his character, because the opposition was weak and divided and soon collapsed after the first violent attack. This allowed Hitler to pass laws which destroyed the safeguards enacted by the Weimar Republic against the the dangers of dictatorship.

CHRIS UHLMANN:  “Mr. Trump is a man who craves power because it burnishes his celebrity. To be constantly talking and talked about is all that really matters. And there is no value placed on the meaning of words. So what is said one day can be discarded the next.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN:  Hitler promised to “make Germany great again” both domestically and internationally. And this won him many followers. In time he controlled the largest party in the land and this allowed him, by democratic procedure, to assume power.  

CHRIS UHLMANN: “Donald Trump has a particular, and limited, skill-set. He has correctly identified an illness at the heart of the Western democracy. But he has no cure for it and seems to just want to exploit it.”

HEINZ GUDERIAN: [Hitler] was isolated as a human being. He had no real friend. There was nobody who was really close to him.  

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Adolf Hitler

There was nobody he could talk to freely and openly.  And just as he never found a true friend, he was denied the ability to deeply love a woman.  

CHRIS UHLMANN: “He was an uneasy, awkward figure at [the G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany] and you got the strong sense some other leaders were trying to find the best way to work around him.”

Another keen assessor of Donald Trump’s character is David Brooks, conservative columnist for the New York Times.

DAVID BROOKS: “The odd thing about [Trump’s] whole career and his whole language, his whole world view is there is no room for love in it. You get a sense of a man who received no love, can give no love….

“And [Trump’s] relationship toward the world is one of competition and beating, and as if he’s going to win by competition what other people get by love.”

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Donald Trump

HEINZ GUDERIAN: Everything on this earth that casts a glow of warmth over our life as mortals—friendship with fine men, the pure love for a wife, affection for one’s own children—all this was and forever remained unknown to him. 

DAVID BROOKS:  “And so you really are seeing someone who just has an odd psychology unleavened by kindness and charity, but where it’s all winners and losers, beating and being beat. And that’s part of the authoritarian personality, but it comes out in his attitude towards women.”  

HEINZ GUDERIAN: He lived alone, cherishing his loneliness, with only his gigantic plans for company.  His relationship with Eva Braun may seem to contradict what I have written. But it is obvious that she could not have had any influence over him. And this is unfortunate, for it could only have been a softening one.

Adolf Hitler’s manic desire for conquest left Germany a thoroughly destroyed and defeated nation in 1945.

Chris Uhlmann offers a similar prediction on Donald Trump’s legacy for the United States:

“…Mr Trump has pressed fast forward on the decline of the US as a global leader. He managed to diminish his nation [at the G20 Summit] and to confuse and alienate his allies.

“He will cede that power to China and Russia–two authoritarian states that will forge a very different set of rules for the 21st century.”

THE COSTS OF TIMIDITY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 30, 2017 at 12:03 am

During the summer of 2011, Republicans threatened to destroy the Nation’s credit rating unless Democrats agreed to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

President Barack Obama could have countered this extortion through the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act.

RICO opens with a series of definitions of “racketeering activity” which can be prosecuted by Justice Department attorneys. Among those crimes: Extortion.

Extortion is defined as “a criminal offense which occurs when a person unlawfully obtains either money, property or services from a person(s), entity, or institution, through coercion.” 

The RICO Act defines “a pattern of racketeering activity” as “at least two acts of racketeering activity, one of which occurred after the effective date of this chapter and the last of which occurred within ten years…after the commission of a prior act of racketeering activity.” 

And if President Obama had believed that RICO was not sufficient to counter Republicans’ extortion attempts, he could have relied on the USA Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of 9’11. 

In Section 802, the Act defines domestic terrorism. Among the behavior so defined: “Activities that…appear to be intended…to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion [and]…occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” 

U.S. Department of Justice

The remedies for punishing such criminal behavior were now legally in place. President Obama needed only to direct the Justice Department to apply them.

Criminally investigating and possibly indicting members of Congress would not violate the separation-of-powers principle.  Congressmen have in the past been investigated, indicted and convicted for various criminal offenses. 

The indictment of large numbers of Republican extortionists would have substantially changed the course of American history while Obama held office.

Instead of raising huge sums of money for re-election battles, those Representatives and Senators would have been forced to raise monies for their legal defense. And while some might have been convicted, others almost certainly would have been.

This would have substantially depleted the ranks of Obama’s sworn enemies—and given him far greater opportunities to enact his legislative agenda.

Such indictments and prosecutions—and especially convictions—would have served notice on current and future members of Congress: The lives and fortunes of American citizens may not be held hostage to gain leverage in a political settlement.

A Cuban Missile Crisis Speech

But Obama could have stood up to Republican extortionists in another way: By urging his fellow Americans to rally to him in a moment of supreme national danger.

President John F. Kennedy did just that—successfully—during the most dangerous crisis of his administration. Addressing the Nation on October 22, 1962, Kennedy shocked his fellow citizens by revealing that the Soviet Union had installed offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba.

John F. Kennedy

Kennedy outlined a series of steps he had taken to end the crisis—most notably, a blockade of Cuba. 

Then he sought to reassure and inspire his audience: “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.”

President Obama could have sent that same message to the extortionists of the Republican Party—by explaining to the American people: 

  • Republicans have adopted the same my-way-or-else “negotiating” stance as Adolf Hitler.
  • Like the Nazis, they are determined to gain absolute power—or destroy the Nation they claim to love.
  • They raised the debt ceiling seven times during the eight-year Presidency of George W. Bush.
  • But now that a Democrat holds the White House, raising the debt ceiling is unacceptable.
  • Despite Republican lies, we cannot revitalize the economy by slashing taxes on the wealthy and on cash-hoarding corporations while cutting benefits for millions of average Americans.
  • We will need both tax increases and sensible entitlement cuts to regain our economic strength.

And he could have ended his speech with a direct call to action by the American people:

Image result for Images of Barack Obama giving a speech in the Oval Office

President Barack Obama addressing the Nation

We stand on the edge of economic disaster. Therefore, I am asking each of you to stand up for America tonight–by demanding the recall of the entire membership of the Republican Party.

“This is the moment when each of us must decide—whether we will survive as a Republic, or allow ruthless political fanatics to destroy what has lasted and thrived for more than 200 years.”

Instead, Obama caved in to Republican extortion demands.

In September, 1939, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier sold out their ally, Czechoslovakia, to Adolf Hitler at the infamous Munich Conference. 

As Winston Churchill aptly predicted: “Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonor. They chose dishonor. They will have war.”

To paraphrase Churchill: President Obama had to choose between confrontation and timidity. He chose timidity. He got contempt and obstruction in return. 

Five years later, the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency informed Obama that Russian Intelligence agents were actively working to ensure Donald Trump’s election as President. 

Obama did not publicly release this information–nor indict Trump campaign staffers who were colluding with those agents. 

Thus, Trump won the election–and gained the power to destroy Obama’s Presidential legacy.

THE COSTS OF TIMIDITY: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 29, 2017 at 11:40 am

“[Barack] Obama needs to find his voice now in ways that, during his time in the Oval Office, he was too often reluctant to do, perhaps fearing the immense power of the bully pulpit.

“But now there is a real bully in the pulpit, and Obama–like the rest of us–has no choice but to speak, and to act.” 

So writes noted author and poet Jay Parini in an Op-Ed piece for CNN. 

“[President Donald] Trump has, in fact, gone out of his way to attack Obama, as in his recent nonsensical reversal wherein he attacked Obama for his lack of response to Russian meddling in the 2016 election: ‘Obama did NOTHING,’ Trump tweeted. He went on to accuse Obama of colluding with the Russians!” 

Parini believes that Obama should have warned the American public that Russia was trying to sway the 2016 election for Trump: “There can be no sound reason for not alerting the people of this country to a major attack on their most cherished right, the right to vote.” 

But Obama didn’t issue any such warning. The findings of the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency were kept strictly confidential until after Trump won the campaign.

Parini also believes that Obama should now forcefully respond to Trump’s attacks on him and his signature legislative achievement: The Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”

But Obama has long refused to respond forcefully to Republican attacks. As a result, Republicans now dominate both houses of Congress–and the White House.

During the summer of 2011, Republicans threatened to destroy the Nation’s credit rating unless their budgetary demands were met. They refused to raise the debt ceiling unless Democrats agreed to massively cut social programs for the elderly, poor and disabled.

Sign of the Mafia “Black Hand”

If Congress failed to raise the borrowing limit of the federal government by August 2, the date when the U.S. reached the limit of its borrowing abilities, it would have begun defaulting on its loans.

As Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, explained the looming economic catastrophe: “If you don’t send out Social Security checks, I would hate to think about the credit meeting at S&P and Moody’s the next morning.

“If you’re not paying millions and millions and millions of people that range in age from 65 on up, money you promised them, you’re not a AAA,” said Buffett.

A triple-A credit rating is the highest possible rating that can be received.

President Obama offered to make historic cuts in the federal government and the social safety net–on which millions of Americans depend for their most basic needs.

But House Speaker John Boehner rejected that offer. He would not agree to the tax increases that Democrats wanted to impose on the wealthiest 1% as part of the bargain.

John Boehner

To raise taxes on the wealthy, Republicans insisted, would be a “jobs-killer.” It would “discourage” corporate CEOs from creating tens of thousands of jobs they allegedly “wanted” to create.

As the calendar moved ever closer to the fateful date of August 2, Republican leaders continued to insist: Any deal that includes taxes “can’t pass the House.”

One senior Republican said talks would go right up to—and maybe beyond—the brink of default.

“I think we’ll be here in August,” said Republican Representative Pete Sessions, of Texas. “We are not going to leave town until a proper deal gets done.”

President Obama had previously insisted on extending the debt ceiling through 2012. But in mid-July, he simply asked congressional leaders to review three options with their members:

  1. The “Grand Bargain” choice—favored by Obama–would cut deficits by about $4 trillion, including spending cuts and new tax revenues.
  2. A medium-range plan would aim to reduce the deficit by about $2 trillion.
  3. The smallest option would cut between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion, without increased tax revenues or any medicare and Medicaid cuts.

And the Republican response?  

Said Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee: “Quite frankly, [Republican] members of Congress are getting tired of what the president won’t do and what the president wants.” 

With the United States teetering on the brink of national bankruptcy, President Obama faced three choices:

  1. Counter Republican extortion attempts via RICO—the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act.
  2. Make a “Cuban Missile Crisis”-style address to the American people, seeking to rally them against a criminal threat to the fiscal security of the Nation.
  3. Cave in to Republican demands. 

Unfortunately for Obama and the Nation, he chose Number Three.

Here is how he could have applied the other two options.

Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act

In 1970, Congress passed the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1961-1968.

Congress’ goal was to eliminate the stranglehold of organized crime on the nation’s economy. To put it bluntly, RICO was intended to destroy the Mafia.

But in United States v. Turkette, 452 U.S. 576 (1981), the Supreme Court held that RICO applied as well to legitimate enterprises being operated in a criminal manner.

After Turkette, RICO could also be used against corporations, political protest groups, labor unions and loosely knit-groups of people.

In short, the stage was set to hold even Congressional extortionists accountable.

GOP: “GIVE US AMERICA–OR WE’LL DESTROY IT!”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on June 28, 2017 at 9:17 am

On December 13, 2014, the U.S. Senate passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund almost the entire government through the September 30 end of the fiscal year.

But one Federal agency was pointedly exempted from full funding: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Its funding would expire on February 27.

With their newfound majorities in both houses of Congress, Republicans intended to hold the security of the United States as a hostage.

Their goal: To force President Barack Obama to rescind the changes he had made in American immigration policy.

With more than 240,000 employees, the DHS is the third largest Cabinet department, after the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

The Defense Department is charged with military actions abroad.  

DHS is responsible for protecting the United States inside and outside its borders. Its goal is to prepare for, prevent and—if prevention fails—respond to man-made accidents, natural disasters and terrorism.

Among the agencies now operating under its mandate:

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  • U.S. Coast Guard
  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
  • Federal Law Enforcement Training Center
  • U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
  • Transportation and Safety Administration (TSA)
  • U.S. Secret Service
  • Science and Technology Directorate
  • Domestic Nuclear Detection Office
  • Office of Intelligence and Analysis
  • Office of Operations Coordination and Planning

Yet each of these agencies has a vital role to play in protecting the nation.  A nation whose security Republicans were willing to threaten to get their way on a matter of domestic policy.

Right-wing Republicans argued that even if DHS’s funding were stopped, most of its employees would stay on the job. That’s because they perform work considered necessary to protect human life and property.

But while those employees were safeguarding the country, they wouldn’t be paid until the shutdown ended. 

It’s hard to give your full attention to protecting the lives of others when you have to worry about paying a mortgage or feeding your family.

Of course, the Republicans responsible for this shutdown would have continued to receive their hefty paychecks.

Republicans chose to act as Mafia extortionists at a time when the United States appeared to be in the crosshairs of North Korean terrorism.

On November 14, 2014, Sony Pictures came under relentless attack by cyberterrorists, whom the FBI linked to North Korea.

The reason?  Sony’s production of “The Interview,” a comedy depicting the assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Calling themselves “Guardians of Peace,” or GOP, they shut down the company’s computer system and revealed employees’ personal information such as salaries, addresses, and Social Security numbers.

(Ironically, “Guardians of Peace” appropriated the same abbreviation–GOP–used by the Republicans for “Grand Old Party.”)

Warning issued by “Guardians of Peace” (GOP)

On December 17, 2014, Sony Pictures cancelled the Christmas Day premier of “The Interview” after the nation’s five largest movie chains refused to show the movie, following a terror threat posted online.

And then on February 5, 2015, Anthem Insurance announced that its database had been hacked–and sensitive medical information on up to 80 million customers and employees accessed.

According to an anonymous source, the hackers used malware that’s been used almost exclusively by Chinese cyberspies.

* * * * *

As the Third Reich came to its fiery end, Adolf Hitler sought to punish the German people for being “unworthy” of his “genius” and losing the war he had started.

His attitude was: “If I can’t rule Germany, then there won’t be a Germany.”

In his infamous “Nero Order,” he decreed the destruction of everything still remaining–industries, ships, harbors, communications, roads, mines, bridges, stores, utility plants, food stuffs.

Fortunately for Germany, one man—Albert Speer, the Minister of Armaments—finally broke ranks with his Fuhrer.

Albert Speer

Risking death, he refused to carry out Hitler’s “scorched earth” order.  Even more important, he mounted a successful effort to block such destruction or persuade influential military and civilian leaders to disobey the order as well.

As a result, those targets slated for destruction were spared.

After the election of America’s first black President, Republicans waged a similar “scorched earth” campaign. Their avowed goal—as stated openly by Kentucky’s U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell—was “to make Barack Obama a one-term President.”  

Literally during his first Inauguration, Republicans, in a secret meeting, agreed to block every effort he made to repair the economy.

Acting as extortionists, they repeatedly threatened to shut down the government if they didn’t get their way in legislative matters.

And just as repeatedly, they blocked legislation that would have helped the poor, unemployed, women, elderly, disabled or middle-class. 

At the center of their fury lay the Affordable Care Act, providing medical care to all citizens.

Even after Congress passed it and the Supreme Court affirmed it, House Republicans shut down the government in October, 2013. 

By doing so, they hoped to pressure Obama into killing his signature piece of legislation. The effort failed.

Like Adolf Hitler, their attitude has been: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

It remains to be seen whether a Republican Albert Speer will step forward to save America from the self-destructive excesses of this Nation’s own fanatics.

THE HEYDRICH SOLUTION

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 27, 2017 at 9:25 am

Johnny Depp is an acclaimed actor. But his skills as a comic have sparked a backlash. 

“When was the last time an actor assassinated the President?” he asked while speaking at the Glatonbury Festival on June 22.

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Johnny Depp

The Glastonbury Festival is an annual, five-day celebration of contemporary performing arts that takes place near Pilton, Somerset (England).

Perhaps Depp sensed that he was making himself a target for the Secret Service, for he quickly added that he was not referring to himself: “I want to clarify, I am not an actor. I lie for a living. However, it has been a while and maybe it is time.”

Predictably, Donald Trump’s family did not find the joke funny. 

The next day, Lara Trump, wife of the President’s son, Eric, called Depp’s comments “really, really sad—as a family member and as an American.”

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Eric and Lara Trump

Appearing on Right-wing Fox Network’s “Hannity,” she told its host, Sean Hannity: “It’s happening to Donald Trump because he is Donald Trump. Their candidate failed, because they have nothing else to say. They have no platform; they have no real leader; they have no message.

“So the only thing they can do is pile on the President. Unfortunately it is to the detriment of the country. 

“It’s really sick, Sean. The Republican Party is becoming the only party of tolerance here in the United States.” 

On Twitter, Donald Trump Jr. called for Disney to dump the star of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise.

“President Trump has condemned violence in all forms, and it’s sad that others like Johnny Depp have not followed his lead,” said deputy White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Apparently these Trump enthusiasts forgot Trump’s series of threats against his Republican and Democratic opponents throughout the 2016 campaign:

  • On March 16, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, his supporters would literally riot: “I think you’d have riots. I think you would see problems like you’ve never seen before. I think bad things would happen. I really do. I wouldn’t lead it, but I think bad things would happen.”
  • That Republicans clearly saw this as a threat is undeniable. Paul Ryan, their Speaker of the House, said on March 17: “Nobody should say such things in my opinion because to even address or hint to violence is unacceptable.
  • On August 9, Trump told a rally in Wilmington, North Carolina: “Hillary [Clinton] wants to abolish, essentially abolish, the Second Amendment. If she gets to pick her [Supreme Court] judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people–maybe there is, I don’t know.”

Clinton’s camp instantly responded with fury.

“Don’t treat this as a political misstep,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut, who has called for stiffer gun laws, wrote on Twitter. “It’s an assassination threat, seriously upping the possibility of a national tragedy & crisis.” 

“Well, let me say if someone else said that outside of the hall, he’d be in the back of a police wagon now, with the Secret Service questioning him,” said Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and National Security Agency (NSA).

The Trump campaign issued a statement denying that he had meant any such thing. 

Three days after Trump’s Hillary remarks, Operation Antrhopoid, a UK-French-Czech historical film, appeared in theaters. Its subject: The 1942 assassination of SS Obergruppenführer (General) Reinhard Heydrich.  

A tall, blond-haired formal naval officer, he was both a champion fencer and talented violinist. Heydrich joined the Schutzstaffel, or Protective Squads, better known as the SS, in 1931, and quickly became head of its counterintelligence service.

Reinhard Heydrich

In September, 1941, Heydrich was appointed “Reich Protector” of Czechoslovakia, which had fallen prey to Germany in 1938 but whose citizens were growing restless under Nazi rule.

Heydrich immediately ordered a purge, executing 92 people within the first three days of his arrival in Prague. By February, 1942, 4,000-5,000 people had been arrested.

In January, 1942, Heydrich convened a meeting of high-ranking political and military leaders to streamline “the Final Solution to the Jewish Question.”

An estimated six million Jews were thus slaughtered.

Returning to Prague, Heydrich continued a policy of carrot-and-stick with the Czechs—improving the social security system and requisitioning luxury hotels for middle-class workers—alternating with arrests and executions.

The Czech government-in-exile, headquartered in London, feared that Heydrich’s incentives might lead the Czechs to passively accept domination. They decided to assassinate him.  

Two British-trained Czech commandos—Jan Kubis and Joseph Gabcik—parachuted into Prague. 

On May 27, 1942, the assassins waited at a hairpin turn in the road always taken by Heydrich. When Heydrich’s Mercedes slowed down, Kubis lobbed a hand grenade at the car. The explosion ruptured Heydrich’s diaphragm, spleen and lung.

On June 4, Heydrich died of his injuries.

For Donald Trump, movies and jokes about assassination carry supreme—if unnoticed—irony.

It is Trump who repeatedly raised the issue of using violence and assassination to attain political ends. The last thing he needs are reminders—like Depp and Anthropoid—that Right-wingers can also be targets for death.

FROM PREDATOR TO POLITICIAN

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on June 21, 2017 at 10:18 am

What a difference five years makes.

On June 20, Karen Handel became the next Republican to represent the suburban Atlanta 6th District of Georgia in the House of Representatives.

The seat became vacant in January, when its holder, Tom Price, became Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Handel won the election by more than 10,000 votes against her opponent, Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Both Republicans and Democrats saw the race as a referendum on the increasingly troubled Presidency of Donald J. Trump.

For Handel, the victory had to be sweet. She had sought–unsuccessfully–to represent Georgia as governor in 2010 and then as U.S. Senator in 2014.

But perhaps her most embarrassing moment came in 2012 as vice president of public affairs for Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

A fanatical anti-abortionist, she thought she had worked out a successful strategy for Komen to pull its grant monies from Planned Parenthood (PP).

Karen Handel

She didn’t care that this money went entirely for breast cancer screenings for poor women. What she did care about was that about 3% of all PP revenues went toward providing abortion services.

Since being hired by Komen as vice president of public affairs, in April, 2011, Handel had pushed to drop PP from grants.

And why not? 

She had promised to de-fund PP during her failed 2010 campaign for governor of Georgia.

She believed that:

  • She could strip PP of future grants from the Komen Foundation, and
  • Make the decision look as if it resulted from a legitimate tightening of eligibility criteria.

The official version, as put out by Handel and the top brass of Komen, went: “We’ve halted grants to Planned Parenthood because it’s under investigation by Congress for misuse of funds.”

Image result for images of planned parenthoodUnfortunately for Handel–and Komen–the public instantly saw through the lie.

Any crank in Congress can start an “investigation” into anything.

And PP was “under investigation” by a crank: Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

Stearns claimed he wanted to determine whether PP had spent public money on abortions over the last decade.

But Stearns didn’t hesitate to slander the patriotism of thousands of 9/11 “first responders”—the police, firefighters, construction workers and others who risked their lives to save their fellow Americans.

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Rep. Cliff Stearns

He did so by demanding that they submit their names, birthplaces, addresses, government ID numbers and other personal data to the FBI to prove they were not terrorists. 

Only then could they receive federally-subsidized medical care for injuries caused by exposure to toxic dust and debris at the site.  

Not one terrorist was discovered in the resulting investigations.

Public outrage at Komen was immediate and overwhelming:

  • More than 50 members of Congress signed letters asking Komen to reverse course.
  • New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg publicly rebuked Komen and pledged $250,000 to PP.
  • Approximately 37,000 people from all over the country signed a petition demanding Handel’s resignation.
  • PP raised nearly $3 million in contributions.

Reeling before this unexpected onslaught of criticism, Komen issued a statement: “We will continue to fund existing grants, including those of Planned Parenthood, and preserve their eligibility to apply for future grants.”

Having failed in their latest assault on women’s rights, the Right’s would-be predators now portrayed themselves as victims:

  • “The last time I checked,” Handel told Right-wing Fox News, “private non-profit organizations have a right and a responsibility to be able to set the highest standards and criteria on their own without interference, let alone the level of vicious attacks and coercion that has occurred by Planned Parenthood. It’s simply outrageous.”
  • “Planned Parenthood campaigns to destroy anyone who questions them,” charged Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List.“Their attitude is that of an immature teenager with an enormous sense of entitlement. This is just more proof that Planned Parenthood will pulverize anyone who dares to question them.”
  • “What Planned Parenthood did to that venerable and honorable organization [Komen Foundation] is nothing less than a Mafia-style shakedown,” said Steven H. Aden, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund. The Fund bitterly opposes abortion, gay marriage, birth control and the separation of church and state.

Many conservatives correctly defended Komen’s right, as a private charitable organization, to give–or withhold–its money as it saw fit.

But these same conservatives refused to grant PP’s outraged supporters the same right: To withhold their own monies from Komen. 

National Review’s Daniel Foster called the backlash to Komen “disgusting,” attacking PP and “the Left” for their “gangsterism.

During the battle for Stalingrad, in 1942, a young German soldier named Wilhelm Hoffman was appalled that the Russians refused to surrender. In his diary he wrote:

German soldiers at Stalingrad

“September 26. Our regiment is involved in constant heavy fighting. After the elevator was taken the Russians continued to defend themselves just as stubbornly.

“You don’t see them at all, they have established themselves in houses and cellars and are firing on all sides, including our rear. Barbarians–they use gangster methods! Stalingrad is hell….”

What held true for German Fascists holds equally true for those in America: Oppose their efforts to enslave you–and you become a gangster. 

And Georgians now have a would-be predator as their representative.

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