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WHEN NEGOTIATIONS FAIL, TRY “THE KGB METHOD”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on December 12, 2022 at 12:12 am

On December 8, the United States and Russia swapped convicted criminals.

The Americans were holding—and gave up—Victor Bout, a notorious Russian international arms dealer known as “The Merchant of Death.” 

The Russians were holding—and gave up—Britney Griner, an American professional basketball player for the Women’s National Basketball Association.

Bout had been arrested in Bangkok, Thailand, on March 6, 2008, and extradited to the United States. The Justice Department charged Bout with:

  • Conspiracy to provide material support or resources to a designated foreign terrorist organization;
  • Conspiring to kill Americans;
  • Conspiring to kill American officers or employees; and
  • Conspiring to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile.

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Victor Bout

Bout was convicted on November 2, 2011, and sentenced to 25 years’ imprisonment

Griner was arrested on February 17 for possession of vaporizer cartridges containing hash oil. Although legal in In Arizona, “medicinal” cannabis is illegal in Russia.

On July 7, Griner pleaded guilty but said she had not intended to break the law. On August 4, the court found Griner guilty and sentenced her to nine years in prison. 

The December 8 prisoner exchange was widely attacked by Right-wing Americans, who argued that freeing Bout would lead terrorists to take countless more American hostages. 

There are three methods for securing the release of hostages. 

The first is to meet the ransom demands of the hostage-taker.

That was the method chosen in the above case. The Biden administration didn’t want to give up Bout, but the Russians–i.e., Russian president Vladimir Putin—refused to exchange Griner for anyone else.

The second is to wear down the hostage-taker(s) with patient negotiation.

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, American law enforcement agencies began creating Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams. These units were armed with automatic weapons and trained to enter barricaded buildings. They were also given special training in hostage negotiation.

Their men came from the most physically and mentally fit officers of those departments.  And the police departments whose SWAT teams were universally recognized as the best were the LAPD and NYPD. 

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A SWAT team

The third method might be called, “The KGB Method.”

This was not available to the Biden administration against a superpower armed with nuclear missiles. But against non-state terrorist groups it can reap powerful results.

The KGB served as a combination secret police/paramilitary force throughout the 74-year life of the Soviet Union. Its name (“Committee for State Security”) has changed several times since its birth in 1917: Cheka, NKVD, MGB, KGB.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the establishment of the Russian Federation, its name was officially changed to the FSB (Federal Security Service).

By any name, this is an agency known for its brutality and ruthlessness. The numbers of its victims literally run into the millions.

On September 30, 1985, four attaches from the Soviet Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, were kidnapped by men linked to Hizbollah (“Party of God”), the Iranian-supported terrorist group.

The kidnappers sent photos of the four men to Western news agencies. Each captive was shown with an automatic pistol pressed to his head.

The militants demanded that Moscow pressure pro-Syrian militiamen to stop shelling the pro-Iranian militia in Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli.

And they threatened to execute the four Soviet captives, one by one, unless this demand was met.

The Soviet Union began negotiations with the kidnappers, but could not secure a halt to the shelling of Tripoli.

Only two days after the kidnappings, the body of Arkady Katov, a 30-year-old consular secretary, was found in a Beirut trash dump. He had been shot through the head.

That was when the KGB took over negotiations.


Insignia of the KGB

They kidnapped a man known to be a close relative of a prominent Hizbollah leader. Then they castrated him, stuffed his testicles in his mouth, shot him in the head, and sent the body back to Hizbollah.

With the body went a note: We know the names of other close relatives of yours, and the same will happen to them if our diplomats are not released immediately.

Soon afterward, the remaining three Soviet attaches were released only 150 yards from the Soviet Embassy.

Hizbollah telephoned a statement to news agencies claiming that the release was a gesture of “goodwill.”

In his 1987 bestseller, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward wrote that then-CIA Director William Casey “decided that the Soviets knew the language of Hizbollah.”

Both the United States and Israel—the two nations most commonly targeted for terrorist kidnappings—have elite Special Forces units.

Military hostage-rescue units operate differently from civilian ones. They don’t care about taking alive hostage-takers for later trials. The result is usually a pile of dead hostage-takers.

These Special Forces could be ordered to similarly kidnap the relatives of whichever terrorist leaders are responsible for the latest outrages.

Ordering such action would instantly send an unmistakable message to terrorist groups: Screw with us at your own immediate peril.  And at the peril of those you most hold dear.

In the United States, such elite units as the U.S. Navy SEALS, Green Berets and Delta Force stand ready. They require only the orders.

IF THERE’S A “WAR” ON CHRISTMAS, AMERICANS DON’T KNOW IT

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 9, 2022 at 12:10 am

Christmas is special.

That’s why, each December, the executives at Fox News find a new way to stir up emotions—and ratings—by resurrecting the “war on Christmas” slander.

Fox launched this in 2004 with a recurring segment called “Christmas Under Siege.” 

Stirring up false controversies is a daily assignment for the alleged reporters of this company owned by Right-wing oligarch Rupert Murdoch. 

Perhaps its most outrageous example happened on December 11, 2013. Fox hostess Megyn Kelly offered this on “The Kelly File,” her then-popular Fox News program.

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Megyn Kelly

Referring to an article by Slate writer Aisha Harris on “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore,” she said:

“When I saw this headline, I kinda laughed and I said, ‘Oh, this is ridiculous. Yet another person claiming it’s racist to have a white Santa.’

“And by the way, for all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. But this person is maybe just arguing that we should also have a black Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you know, we’re just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids.”

Of course, Santa Claus is a completely fictional character. Arguing about his skin color is as pointless as arguing about his weight.

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But Kelly wasn’t content to talk only about Santa. So she turned next to Jesus, a historical figure about whom we have not a single reference to his appearance, let alone a picture.

“Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean it has to change. You know, I mean, Jesus was a white man, too.

“He was a historical figure; that’s a verifiable fact—as is Santa, I want you kids watching to know that—but my point is: How do you revise it, in the middle of the legacy of the story, and change Santa from white to black?”

Santa Claus a verifiable historical figure? Not even Charlie Brown, in the annually telecast “Peanuts” Christmas special, would make that claim.

In 2015, Donald Trump claimed center-stage in “defending” Christmas. And the target of his ire? Starbucks.

In years past, its disposable coffee cups featured snowflakes, winter scenes, reindeer and Christmas ornaments.

But in 2015, Starbucks decided to go with a minimalist, all-red design, its only feature being the company’s green and white logo.

This angered some religious conservatives, who generally care more about symbols than substance. And Trump was eager to enlist evangelicals as voters.

During a campaign rally in October, Trump promised: “I guarantee if I become president, we’re going to be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ at every store.”

Donald Trump September 3 2015.jpg

Donald Trump

On November 9, 2015, addressing  a crowd of several thousands in Springfield, Illinois, Trump said: “Did you read about Starbucks? No more Merry Christmas on Starbucks.

“I have one of the most successful Starbucks, in Trump Tower. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks? I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t care. That’s the end of that lease, but who cares?

“If I become president, we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas again, that I can tell you.”

Trump did not explain how he would coerce non-Christian Americans—-such as atheists, Jews and Muslims—into observing a Christian holiday.

Those who claim that Christmas is threatened don’t know—or deliberately ignore—-the following:

  • The Christmas shopping season can start as early as September. Some consumers begin even earlier. 
  • According to the latest data from the National Retail Federation (NRF), American consumers spend an average of $997.73 on gifts and holiday items each Christmas. 
  • Holiday sales in 2021 totaled $99 billion.
  • For 2022, industry analysts expect Americans to spend $$1,455 per household on holiday gifts.
  • Because prices are up about 10%, Americans are expected to purchase an average of nine gifts, down from 16 in 2021.
  • For many stores, holiday shopping accounts for nearly a third of annual sales.

In short, no one is “making war” on Christmas—-except Right-wing broadcasters at Fox News to jack up ratings.  

As to the historical realities of this season:

  • There is no reference anywhere in the Bible to the month—let alone the day—of Jesus’ birth. 
  • Jesus didn’t command his followers to celebrate his birth—but he did call on them to remember his death.  It’s called Easter.
  • Many of the “religious” traditions associated with Christmas stem from the pagan Roman festival, Saturnalia, which celebrated the “birthday” of the sun.
  • This was celebrated December 17-25.
  • Saturnalia traditions included feasting, gift-giving, lighting candles (to ward off evil spirits) and displaying wreaths (as a sign of coming spring).
  • Early Christians tried mightily to convince their members to stop celebrating the Saturnalia.
  • When these efforts failed, the Roman Catholic Church, in the fourth century, “Christianised” the festival by naming Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25, as Jesus’ birthday.

In George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, Oceania is always at war with Eurasia or Eastasia. Its citizens are kept in a constant state of frenzy as they’re directed to search for endless “enemies of the state.”

This, in turn, allows the unseen rulers of Oceania to run their dictatorship without interference.

It’s a lesson well-known to hucksters like Donald Trump and the men who run Fox News.

TRUMP AND TREASON

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 28, 2022 at 12:14 am

Less than three years before committing his ultimate act of treason, President Donald Trump determined that Democrats were guilty of it.

Their crime? Refusing to stand and applaud him during his State of the Union message in January, 2018.

On February 5, he told a crowd in Cincinnati: “They were like death and un-American. Un-American. Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, Yeah, I guess why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean they certainly didn’t seem to love our country that much.”

For Trump, to love the United States, you must first prove that you love him.

Article Three of the United States Constitution defines treason as:

“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

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United States Constitution

In short: Actions such as colluding with a foreign power hostile to the United States (such as Russia) to subvert America’s democratic election process. 

By that standard, Donald Trump stands rightly accused of a crime that traditionally carries the penalty of death.

Example #1: The infamous June, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower starring Donald Trump’s son, Donald, Jr.; Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and Trump’s then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort—and two Russian lobbyists who wanted the United States to end its sanctions against Russia for human rights abuses.

The meeting’s purpose: To obtain from Russian Intelligence agents “dirt” on Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton. 

Example #2: On July 27, 2016, Trump said  at a press conference in Doral, Florida: “Russia, if you are listening, I hope you are able to find [Hillary Clinton’s] 33,000 emails that are missing—I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”  

Hours later, the Main Intelligence Directorate in Moscow targeted Hillary Clinton’s personal office and hit more than 70 other Clinton campaign accounts,

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Donald Trump

Example #3: On December 16, 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. agreed with a CIA assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election in part to help Donald Trump win the White House.  

Trump, however has steadfastly denied any such role by Russia. 

On July 16, 2018, he attended a press conference in Helsinki, Finland, with Russian President Vladimir 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.”

Example #4: On May 9, 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey for investigating Russia’s subversion of the 2016 Presidential race. His motive: To end that investigation before it reached him.

The next day, meeting with Russian Foreign Minister  Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office, Trump said: “I just fired the head of the FBI. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” 

On May 11, during an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump admitted: “And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”

Example #5: During that same meeting, Trump gave the Russian officials highly classified Israeli Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.

At first, the White House denied Trump had done so. Then Trump admitted in a tweet: “As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining … to terrorism and airline flight safety.

Example #6: Trump surrounded himself with men who had close ties to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Among these:

  • Paul Manafort – His former campaign manager. His longstanding ties to pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine lead directly to Putin.
  • Roger Stone – Self-confessed dirty trickster and former business partner of Manafort. Stone had extensive contacts with hacker Guccifer 2.0, whom the CIA, NSA and FBI believe was actually a front for GRU, Russian military intelligence.
  • Michael T. Flynn – Former United States Army lieutenant general and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. A leading Trump supporter during the 2016 Presidential campaign, he was rewarded with the post of National Security Adviser when Trump took office.

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Michael T. Flynn

  • On February 13, 2017, The Washington Post reported that Acting Attorney General Sally Yates had warned Trump in late January that Flynn had lied about his contacts with Kislyak—and that he could be blackmailed by Russian Intelligence. Flynn was forced to resign that same day.  
  • In December, 2015, he had appeared on Russia Today, the news network that serves as “the Kremlin’s principal international propaganda outlet.” For this he received more than $45,000 as a “speaking fee.”
  • At the gala where Flynn received the fee, he sat next to Putin for dinner.

The Republican party—which for 50 years claimed to be America’s defender against Communism—has now fervently embraced a man with demonstrated ties to a Communist dictator.

THE COMINIG DICTATORS’ BLOODBATH: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on November 16, 2022 at 12:10 am

In his coming war against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, Donald Trump may have the last word.

The former President has warned that if he can’t be the Republican Presidential nominee in 2024, “he’s willing to burn it all down.” 

New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who has intimately covered Trump for years, has tweeted:  

“Yes, Trump is more vulnerable than he’s been in a long time. But that has happened before and he’s survived.”

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Maggie Haberman 

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

“Trump has extremely few major donors who want to do anything for him right now and a number of them are having active conversations about the best way to stop him. But. Again….sound familiar?

“Trump has made clear he’s willing to burn it all down if he doesn’t get what he wants, which is maintaining his grip on the product line he’s been developing for six years: the Republican party. So a lot of electeds will have to make a choice they’ve not had to before.” 

There is precedent for this. After serving two terms in the White House (1901-1909) Theodore Roosevelt became increasingly disillusioned with his handpicked successor: William Howard Taft.

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Theodore Roosevelt

By 1912, he decided to run for a third term as a third-party candidate. His candidacy split the Republican vote—and enabled Democrats to elect Woodrow Wilson President.

No doubt many Democrats are now salivating at the possibility of the same occurring in 2024.

And even more of them are looking forward to seeing two would-be tyrants—Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis—trading lethal blows for most of the Presidential year. 

Their reaction would be similar to that expressed by then-Senator Harry S. Truman when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941: “If we see that Germany is winning the war, we ought to help Russia; and if that Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany, and in that way let them kill as many as possible.” 

* * * * *

As the Third Reich came to its fiery end, its dictator, 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–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.

Throughout his four years in office, President Donald Trump made it clear that America faced a stark choice: It could remain a constitutional democracy—or allow him to become an all-powerful “President-for-Life.”

Among his outrages:

  • Repeatedly attacking the nation’s free press for daring to report his growing list of crimes and disasters, calling it “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Siding with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin against the FBI, CIA and National Security Agency which unanimously agreed that Russia had subverted the 2016 Presidential election. 
  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for investigating that subversion.
  • Giving Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak highly classified CIA Intelligence about an Islamic State plot to turn laptops into concealable bombs.  
  • Shutting down the Federal Government for 35 days in 2018-19 because Democrats refused to fund his ineffective “border wall” between the United States and Mexico.
  • An estimated 380,000 government employees were furloughed and another 420,000 were ordered to work without pay. The shutdown ended due to public outrage—without Trump getting the funding amount he had demanded.
  • Trying to coerce Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to smear former Vice President Joe Biden, who was likely to be his Democratic opponent in the 2020 Presidential election.
  • Repeatedly lying about the dangers posed by the COVID-19 virus, and thus enabling it to ravage the country and ultimately kill 400,000 by the time Trump left office.
  • Attacking medical experts and governors who urged Americans to wear masks and socially distance to protect themselves from COVID-19.

Trump’s ultimate act of criminality and treason came on January 6, 2021, when he incited his followers to violently attack the United States Capitol Building. Their goal: To prevent Republicans and Democrats from counting the Electoral Votes cast in the 2020 Presidential election.

Trump fully understood that an accurate count of those votes would reveal his loss to Joe Biden: 306 votes for Biden, compared with 232 for Trump.

Fortunately for American democracy, there were enough patriots determined to prevent Trump from becoming the absolute dictator he clearly intended to be.

Like Adolf Hitler, Donald Trump’s attitude was: “If I can’t rule America, there won’t be an America.”

Deprived of his chance to destroy the country he claimed to love, Trump now threatens to destroy the political party that brought him to near-absolute power in 2016.

And Ron DeSantis stands ready to establish himself as an equally Trumpian dictator.

Their party 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.

THE COMING DICTATORS’ BLOODBATH: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 15, 2022 at 12:10 am

Having been defeated in 2020 for a second term by former Vice President Joe Biden, Donald Trump has convinced himself—and millions of his fanatical followers—that he was cheated by vote fraud.

He is convinced that the 2024 GOP Presidential nomination rightfully belongs to him. And that anyone who stands in his way must be mercilessly crushed.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, on the other hand, is equally convinced that it’s now the turn of a younger, more vigorous and equally ruthless man to hold the White House.

Not only does Trump believe DeSantis owes him absolute loyalty, but so do many of his supporters. 

“Sadly, everything President Trump says is true. Ron DeSantis owes his governorship to Donald Trump and challenging him in 2024 would be a treacherous act of disloyalty,” said Roger Stone, a long-time Trump adviser.

That assumes that Trump has been ordained as the official Republican Presidential nominee for 2024.

He has not. 

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Donald Trump

Moreover, Trump has never allowed a sense of loyalty to stand in the way of his ambitions—in business or politics. 

In DeSantis, Trump faces an opponent every bit as ruthless as himself—and endowed with several built-in advantages. 

On November 11, the CNN website carried an opinion piece by Nichole Hemmer, an associate professor of history at Vanderbilt University. 

Entitled “Even the DeSantis bubble may burst,” it noted:

“On paper, DeSantis looks like Trump’s natural heir. Since winning the governorship by a whisper-thin margin in 2018, he has consciously molded himself after Trump, picking up everything from Trump’s hand gestures and speech cadence to his media-bashing and calculated viciousness….

“He has married that political style with a strongman persona. As governor, he has targeted protesters, universities, public health workers and corporations for opposing his policies.

“He has sent police to round up voters with felony convictions who, confused by the state’s efforts to strip their voting rights after voters reinstated them a few years ago, mistakenly voted in recent elections.

“He has bent the Florida legislature to his will, whipping up support for anti-gay laws, a new redistricting map and punitive legislation targeting Disney after the company criticized the state’s infamous ‘don’t say gay” bill.'” 

Nicole Hemmer (@pastpunditry) / Twitter

Nichole Hemmer

Thus, in DeSantis, Trump faces an opponent every bit as ruthless as himself—and endowed with several built-in advantages.

First, DeSantis, at 44, is 32 years younger than the 76-year-old Trump.  

Second, DeSantis, unlike Trump, has an existing power-base: The Governorship of a pivotal swing state: Florida.

Trump, an ex-President, lives at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

Third, DeSantis doesn’t carry the baggage of scandals and notoriety that Trump has acquired as a businessman and President.

Fourth, DeSantis can reach far greater numbers of people through his Twitter account than Trump has been able to do through his failing website, Truth Social.

That’s because Trump’s Twitter account was closed—by Twitter—after he incited a mob of his followers to attack the United States Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.

The object of that attack: To stop the counting of Electoral College votes certain to find former Vice President Joe Biden the legitimate winner of the 2020 Presidential election.

Gov Ron DeSantis Portrait.jpg

Ron DeSantis

Fifth, many Republicans are blaming Trump for their failure to sweep Democrats from state and Federal offices in a widely heralded “Red wave” in the 2022 midterm elections.  

“Trump Is the Republican Party’s Biggest Loser,” read the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board’s headline. Fox News and right-wing podcasts and radio shows repeated the charge in the days after the elections.

Sixth, DeSantis has gained huge popularity within Florida by molding himself after Trump by tapping into the politics of resentment. Among the targets of his attacks:

Protesters:  DeSantis enacted a 2021 “anti-riot” bill that: 

  • Grants civil legal immunity to people who drive through protesters blocking a road;
  • Creates a broad category for misdemeanor arrest during protests;
  • Anyone charged will be denied bail until their first court appearance;
  • Creates a new felony crime of “aggravated rioting” that carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison and a new crime of “mob intimidation.”  

Schools:  

  • Installed GOP allies in top university posts;
  • Successfully pushed legislation that could change tenure and limit how university professors can teach lessons on race.  

Blacks:  Pushed through the legislature a new congressional map that will dilute the voting power of black Floridians. 

COVID-19: Attacked wearing masks and getting vaccinated as threats to “American freedom”—to support a family, attend school, run a business. 

Gays: Signed legislation prohibiting classroom discussions about sexual orientation and gender identity with younger students—a measure critics dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

Walt Disney Corporation: Disney CEO Bob Chapek criticized DeSantis’ “don’t say gay” bill. DeSantis rammed through the legislature a bill eliminating the decades-long status Disney had held to operate as an independent government around its Orlando-area theme parks.

Asylum-seekers: Sent two planeloads of illegal aliens—at Florida’s expense—to the island of Martha’s Vineyard as a pre-election publicity stunt.

Nor has DeSantis neglected to make himself appear as a true “man of the people.”

A month before the election, he declared a gas tax holiday. He also suspended campaigning and focused on effective hurricane relief after Hurricane Ian. 

THE COMING DICTATORS’ BLOODBATH: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 14, 2022 at 12:10 am

For Americans, it may turn out to be the equivalent of the deathmatch between German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin. 

At the very least, it promises to be the Right-wing heavyweight championship of the decade, if not the century: An all-out slugfest between former President Donald J. Trump and Florida Governor Ron D. DeSantis.

On November 10, Trump publicly attacked DeSantis as “Ron DeSanctimonious” and took credit for DeSantis’ success after endorsing him in 2018.

This was only two days after DeSantis was soundly re-elected Governor—and the much-hyped “Red wave” failed to sweep Democrats out of state and federal offices in the 2022 midterm elections. 

On his website, Truth Social, Trump posted that DeSantis had been a political lightweight who had come to him “in desperate shape” when running for his first term in office in 2017.

Donald Trump

“Ron had low approval, bad polls, and no money, but he said that if I would Endorse [sic] him, he could win.  also fixed his campaign, which had completely fallen apart.”

For Trump, DeSantis’ worst sin was refusing to say whether he would run for President in 2024.

Having been defeated for a second term by Joe Biden in 2020, Trump believes he has an absolute right to regain that office in another two years. 

“Ron DeSanctimonious is playing games! The Fake News asks him if he’s going to run if President Trump runs, and he says, ‘I’m only focused on the Governor’s race, I’m not looking into the future.’ Well, in terms of loyalty and class, that’s really not the right answer.”

By “loyalty” Trump meant: Loyalty to himself.

For Trump, there was only one “right” answer DeSantis could have given: “I will not be a candidate for President in 2024 and I will totally support President Trump for that office.”

And that was not the response that DeSantis gave.

Even worse for Trump: Several of his loudly-supported candidates across the country lost their electoral bids.

To add to his rage and sense of betrayal: Conservative media sided with DeSantis—such as Fox News and the New York Post, which ran a front page headline calling DeSantis “DeFuture” the day after the election. 

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New York Post, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Responded Trump:  “NewsCorp, which is Fox, the Wall Street Journal, and the no longer great New York Post, is all in for Governor Ron DeSanctimonious.” 

A Trump advisor, speaking off-the-record, told Politico: “Obviously he is escalating. It is total shots fired. It is not what I would have done if it were totally up to me, but you can’t argue with Donald Trump’s tactics. They work. He is savage but effective. He was never going to stay restrained for long.” 

“He is obviously threatened by a DeSantis presidential run,” said a longtime Florida Republican consultant speaking of Trump. “And by doing this, I think he will lose a lot of his base support.”

Trump’s advisors are trying to persuade him to soften his image. They fear that his angry and divisive rhetoric is turning off many voters who like his policies but desire some normalcy. 

They are also trying to persuade Trump to focus less on his 2020 election loss and offer solutions to voters’ problems. 

At the DeSantis victory rally, chants resounded: “Two more years!”—meaning that his supporters want him to run for President in 2024.

DeSantis has not responded to the attacks Trump has made on him. 

Two Florida Republicans close to DeSantis told Yahoo News that the governor would be wary of attacking Trump. He wants to focus on policy issues and Florida’s recovery from Hurricane Ian.

By doing so, they said, DeSantis will highlight how his governing style differs from Trump’s more combative and less policy-focused approach.

It also prevents him from getting sucked into an endless tit-for-tat war of insults with the insult-happy ex-President.

The Donald Trump-Ron DeSantis relationship wasn’t always so hostile.

Trump’s endorsement played a huge role in DeSantis’ winning the 2018 GOP primary against former Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who was an early favorite.

And DeSantis quickly showed his gratitude with a campaign video that was a naked Valentine to Trump’s ego—and the base that worshiped him.

Released on July 30, 2018, the ad was narrated by DeSantis’ wife, Casey.

CASEY DESANTIS: Everyone knows my husband, Ron DeSantis, is endorsed by President Trump. But he’s also an amazing dad. Ron loves playing with the kids.

DESANTIS: “Build the wall” [as his son uses colored plastic bricks to build a wall. This was a line right out of Trump’s repeated demands for a wall separating the United States from Mexico.]

Ron DeSantis Has Released the Most Bizarre Campaign Ad of 2018 – Rolling Stone

CASEY: He reads stories.

DESANTIS:Then Mr. Trump said ‘You’re fired.’ I love that part'” [as he reads a book to his son]. 

CASEY: He’s teaching Madison to talk.

DESANTIS: “Make America great again” [as he holds up a “Trump” sign that says exactly that].

CASEY: People say Ron’s all Trump, but he’s so much more.

DESANTIS: Bigly. So good” [as he’s looking at his son in a crib].

CASEY: I just thought you should know.

YOUR FRIENDS AS YOUR WORST ENEMIES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 27, 2022 at 12:11 am

Donald Trump—before, during and after his Presidency—has always preferred “journalists” who toss him softball questions and repeatedly pay homage to him.  

Such a “journalist” is Sean Hannity, host of the Fox Network’s Sean Hannity Show.

On September 21, Hannity—who had “interviewed” Trump on many other occasions, did so again.

From the outset, he made his intentions clear: To exonerate Trump—who is now facing multiple civil and criminal investigations—from all accusations.     

Hannity opened by attacking Trump’s longtime foe, New York Attorney General Letitia James:

“Take a look at New York Attorney General Letitia James. Now, today she filed a lawsuit against Donald Trump and three of his children and other entities, claiming that they inflated the value of the Trump Organization. It is nothing short of a very obvious political stunt. It is not a criminal case. It is a civil case….

Sean Hannity 2020.jpg

Sean Hannity

“Now, the attorney general isn’t even trying to hide her efforts to weaponize justice in New York State. Her conduct is deeply unethical at best.”

Then Hannity moved on to other “Trump haters”:

“But she’s not alone, you know, from the Trump haters on Capitol Hill, high-ranking deep state bureaucrats in the DOJ, the FBI. Now we have witnessed, going on many years, the 45th president has been the subject of what is non-stop, never-ending legal scrutiny focused not on a specific crime but on the man himself.”

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Donald Trump

Then he moved on—inevitably—to attacking former Secretary of State and 2016 Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton:  

“And, by the way, the president can declassify any of these documents—unlike, for example, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, she cannot.

“Still, she stored 110 classified documents on unsecured private servers. Hillary Clinton was never forced to endure a federal raid. She was never charged with any crime.”

Hannity then ran a clip of former FBI Director James Comey saying of Clinton: “Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”

But Hannity did not say that Trump, on becoming President, fired Comey for investigating the proven ties between Trump’s Presidential campaign and operatives for Russian president Vladimir Putin.

All of this undoubtedly made Trump feel vindicated and comfortable. Too comfortable, as matters turned out.

When Trump left the White House on January 20, 2021, he illegally took highly-classified government documents to his private club, Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida.

On August 8, FBI agents searched Mar-a-Lago to recover those documents. Among those retrieved: Eleven sets of classified documents, four of them tagged as “Top Secret” and one as “Top Secret/SCI,” the highest level of classification.

How the Photo of Top Secret Folders at Trump's Home Came About - The New York Times

Documents found at Trump’s residence

Continuing to exonerate Trump, no matter what the offense, Hannity said: “OK. You have said on Truth Social a number of times you did declassify—”

TRUMP: “I did declassify.”

HANNITY: “OK. Is there a process—what was your process to declassify?”

TRUMP: “There doesn’t have to be a process, as I understand it. You know, there’s—different people say different things, but as I understand there doesn’t have to be.

“If you’re the President of the United States, you can declassify just by saying, ‘It’s declassified.’ Even by thinking about it, because you’re sending it to Mar-a-Lago or to wherever you’re sending it.”

Not even Trump’s attorneys have dared to make such an argument. Not when they demanded a “Special Master” to comb through the seized documents—allegedly so those that belonged to Trump could be returned to him.

Nor did they make such an assertion when, before Special Master Judge Raymond Dearie, they refused to state the process by which Trump had allegedly declassified the documents.

The media—and Trump’s many enemies—quickly seized upon this mind-blowing claim. Late-night TV hosts in particular milked it for laughs.

The Daily Show host Trevor Noah:  How could Trump “declassify documents with his brain” when he couldn’t even “read documents with his brain?”

“If Trump actually had the power to change things just by thinking about them,” joked Jimmy Kimmel, “Don Jr. would have turned into a Big Mac 30 years ago.”  

Nor did Kimmel pass up the opportunity to stick a barb into Hannity: “His approach was basically, ‘Show me on the doll where the FBI investigated you.’ I mean you have to hand it to Sean. When life gives him felons, he makes felon-ade!”

On a serious level, Trump’s outlandish assertion is liable to hurt his—or his attorneys’—appearances before various state and federal judges. 

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern politics, warned that a prince must guard against being taken lightly—and, worse, expose himself to ridicule.

In his book, The Prince, Machiavelli writes: “…He ought….to pay attention to [guilds and classes], mingle with them from time to time, and give them an example of his humanity and munificence, always upholding, however, the majesty of his dignity, which must never be allowed to fail in anything whatever.”

It’s hard to be taken seriously when you claim supernatural powers denied to other, mere mortals. 

YOUR FRIENDS AS YOUR WORST ENEMIES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on September 26, 2022 at 12:10 am

It’s a truth well-known to cross-examining attorneys: The best way to obtain the truth is often to “kill your opponents with kindness.”

Witnesses always expect the opposing counsel to immediately start screaming at them. But that only causes the witness to stay alert and say as little as possible.

So the smart attorney comes on as courteous, friendly, even sympathetic.

Image result for Images of justice

A classic example of this: A laborer claimed to have permanently injured his shoulder in a railway accident, leaving him unable to work. He claimed he could no longer raise his arm above a point parallel with his shoulder.

The railway’s attorney asked him a few sympathetic questions about his injuries. And the witness quickly volunteered that he was in constant pain and a near-invalid.

“And, as a result of the accident, how high can you raise your arm?” asked the attorney.

The witness slowly raised his arm parallel with his shoulder.

“Oh, that’s terrible,” said the attorney.

Then: “How high could you get it up before the accident?”

Unthinkingly, the witness extended his arm to its full height above his head—to the laughter of the judge, jury and spectators.

Case dismissed.

In politics, sometimes your best friends turn out to be your worst enemies.

Kevin McCarthy proved this during his September 30, 2015 appearance on Fox News.

McCarthy, the Republican member of the House of Representatives from Bakersfield, California, was undoubtedly feeling relaxed.

After all, he wasn’t being interviewed by such “enemies” of the Right as The New York Times or MSNBC political commentator Rachel Maddow.

He was being interviewed by Sean Hannity, a Right-wing political commentator whose books included Conservative Victory: Defeating Obama’s Radical Agenda and Deliver Us From Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism.

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Sean Hannity

The topic under discussion: Who would be the next Republican Speaker of the House, now that John Boehner had announced his decision to leave not only the Speakership but the House itself in November?

Now Hannity wanted to know what would happen when the next Republican Speaker took office. And McCarthy—who was in the running for the position—was eager to tell him.

“What you’re going to see is a conservative Speaker, that takes a conservative Congress, that puts a strategy to fight and win.

“And let me give you one example. Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?

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Kevin McCarthy

“But we put together a Benghazi special committee. A select committee. What are her [poll] numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known that any of that had happened had we not fought to make that happen.”

In 51 words, McCarthy revealed that:

  • The House Select Committee on Benghazi was not a legitimate investigative body.
  • Its purpose was not to investigate the 2012 deaths of four American diplomats during a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya.
  • Its real purpose was to destroy the Presidential candidacy of Hillary Clinton.
  • To accomplish this, its members spent 17 months and wasted more than $4.5 million of American taxpayers’ funds.

On October 8, 2015, Republicans were expected to choose their nominee for Speaker. On that same date, McCarthy announced that he was withdrawing his name from consideration:

“Over the last week it has become clear to me that our Conference is deeply divided and needs to unite behind one leader. I have always put this Conference ahead of myself. Therefore I am withdrawing my candidacy for Speaker of the House.”

When reporters asked McCarthy if his revelation was the reason he withdrew, he replied, “Well, that wasn’t helpful.”

But then he quickly replayed the official Republican version: “But this Benghazi committee was only created for one purpose: to find the truth on behalf of the families for the four dead Americans.”

On October 29, 2015, Republicans—holding the majority of House members–elected Paul Ryan, (Wisconsin) the 54th speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

Democrats and Republicans were united in their anger that the real reason for the Benghazi “investigation” had been revealed.

Democrats were furious that McCarthy, in an unguarded moment, had revealed that their major Presidential candidate had been the victim of a Republican smear campaign disguised as a legitimate inquiry.

And Republicans were furious that McCarthy, in an unguarded moment, had revealed that the “legitimate inquiry” had been nothing more than a Republican smear campaign.

For McCarthy, the Benghazi Committee had legitimately served the nation—not by uncovering relevant details about a terrorist act but by causing Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers to drop.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan had attacked the leaders of the Soviet Union thusly: “They reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie, to cheat.”

McCarthy’s comments demonstrated that the Republican Party had adopted the same mindset and tactics as the dictators of the former Soviet Union.

Almost seven years after Kevin McCarthy revealed himself and his party as ruthless hypocrites, Republicans suffered a similar outbreak of truth.

But this time, the stakes were higher—involving Donald J. Trump, the former President of the United States.

VLADIMIR PUTIN: BRIBES FOR THE SENATE, TANKS FOR UKRAINE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on May 16, 2022 at 12:11 am

Anyone wondering where Vladimir Putin got the idea he could invade Ukraine with impunity need look no further than the United States Senate.

On April 16, 2018, the New York Times published an editorial taking direct aim at the vast majority of Congressional Republicans.

Specifically, it noted their unwillingness to speak out against threats by President Donald Trump to fire deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and/or Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

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Robert Mueller

Its key paragraph:

“Make no mistake: If Mr. Trump takes such drastic action, he will be striking at the foundation of the American government, attempting to set a precedent that a president, alone among American citizens, is above the law. What can seem now like a political sideshow will instantly become a constitutional crisis, and history will come calling for Mr. [Orrin] Hatch and his colleagues.”

Orrin Hatch was the Republican United States Senator from Utah. He and Republican Senators Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa) had warned Trump not to fire  Rosenstein or Mueller. 

But most Republicans had held silent.

Why?

The Times editorial offers two reasons:

First, Republicans feared enraging an easily infuriated Trump—who might aim his Twitter account at them and cost them votes in the upcoming fall elections.

Second, Republicans feared enraging Trump’s fanatical base—which, in this instance, had two meanings:

  1. “Something (as a group of people) that reliably provides support (such as for a business or political candidate)”—Merriam Webster; and
  2. “Without moral principles; ignoble”—Oxford Living Dictionaries

On April 17, Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would not allow legislation to protect Mueller’s independent investigation to reach the Senate floor.

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Mitch McConnell

“I’m the one who decides what we take to the floor. That’s my responsibility as majority leader. We’ll not be having this on the floor of the Senate,” the Kentucky Republican said in an interview on Fox News.  

Earlier in the day, another Republican, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, claimed that legislation to protect Mueller was “unnecessary.” 

“It would not be in the President’s interest to [fire Mueller] and I think he knows that,” said the Wisconsin Congressman.

But there is an additional reason why so few Republicans dared to stand up against Trump. 

Trump received help from Russian Intelligence agents during the 2016 Presidential campaign. And House and Senate Republicans have received Russian help of another kind: Bribe monies.

Of course, these are not officially classified as bribes. Officially, they are “campaign contributions.” 

In recent years, a network of Russian oligarchs—all of them answerable to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin—has been increasingly contributing to top Republicans. 

And, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, the donations are entirely legal

The following data comes from the Federal Election Commission.

One such major contributor is Len Blavatnik, who holds citizenship in both the United States and the United Kingdom. During the 2015-16 election cycle, he proved one of the largest donors to GOP Political Action Committees (PACs).  

Blavatnik’s net worth is estimated at $20 billion. Before 2016, he donated to both Democrats and Republicans in meager amounts. But in 2016, he gave $6.35 million to GOP PACs. 

Millions of dollars went to top Republican leaders—such as Senators Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio (Florida) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)Specifically, he contributed

  • A total of $1.5 million to PACs associated with Rubio.  
  • $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee
  • $41,000 to both Republicans and Democrats in 2017.
  • $1 million to McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund.
  • $3.5 million to a PAC associated with McConnell
  • $1.1 million to Unintimidated PAC, associated with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. 
  • $200,000 to the Arizona Grassroots Action PAC, associated with Arizona Senator John McCain. 
  • $250,000 to New Day for America PAC, associated with Ohio Governor John Kasich
  • $800,000 went to the Security is Strength PAC, associated with Senator Lindsey Graham.

Another Russian oligarch, Alexander Shustorovich, contributed $1 million to Trump’s Inaugural Committee.   

Altogether, four Russian oligarchs—Blavatnik, Shustorovich, Andrew Intrater and Simon Kukescontributed $10.4 million from the start of the 2015-16 election cycle through September 2017. Of this, 99% went to Republicans.  

As Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell participated in high-level intelligence briefings in 2016. From agencies such as the FBI, CIA and the code-cracking National Security Agency, he learned that the Russians were trying to subvert the electoral process.  

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In October, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) issued a joint statement: The Russian government had directed the effort to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

Two weeks later, McConnell’s PAC accepted a $1 million donation from Blavatnik.

On March 30, 2017, McConnell’s PAC accepted another $1 million from Blavatnik. This was just 10 days after former FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee about Russia’s efforts to subvert the 2016 election.

Millionaires and billionaires don’t give six- or seven-figure monetary contributions to politicians without expecting to get something in return. And this is especially true—and frightening—when the contributors are linked to a former KGB agent like Vladimir Putin, whose aggressive intentions are increasingly on display. 

It’s clear that the Republican party has moved from “Better Dead than Red” to “My Wallet, First and Always.”

WHEN FASCISTS BECOME TARGETS

In Bureaucracy, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on May 9, 2022 at 12:10 am

In 1942, two British-trained Czech commandos assassinated SS Obergruppenführer (General) Reinhard Heydrich.

A tall, blond-haired former 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 Heycrich

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.”  

At the now-infamous Wannsee conference, Heydrich decreed that, henceforth, all Jews in Reich-occupied territories would be shipped to extermination camps. No exceptions would be made for women, children or the infirm.  

An estimated six million Jews were thus slaughtered.

Returning to Prague, Heydrich continued his 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 Heydrich.  

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

Unexpectedly, they got help from Heydrich himself. Supremely arrogant, he traveled the same route every day from home to his downtown office and refused to be escorted by armed guards, claiming no one would dare attack him.

On May 27, 1942, Kubis and Gabcik waited at a hairpin turn in the road always taken by Heydrich. When Heydrich’s Mercedes slowed down, Gabcik raised his machinegun–which jammed.

Rising in his seat, Heydrich aimed his revolver at Gabcik—as Kubis lobbed a hand grenade at the car. The explosion drove steel and leather fragments of the car’s upholstery into Heydrich’s diaphragm, spleen and lung.

Hitler dispatched doctors from Berlin to save the Reich Protector. But infection set in, and on June 4, Heydrich died at age 38. 

The assassination sent shockwaves through the upper echelons of the Third Reich. No one had dared assault—much less assassinate—a high-ranking Nazi official.

Nazis had slaughtered tens of thousands without hesitation—or fear that the same might happen to them. 

Suddenly they realized that the fury they had aroused could be turned against themselves.

Adolf Hitler introducing his new cabinet, 1933

Members of the Nazi government

Which brings us to the leaders of America’s own Right-wing.

The names of infamous Nazis were widely known:

  • Reichsmarshall Hermann Goering;
  • Propaganda Minister Paul Joseph Goebbels;
  • Deputy Fuhrer Rudolf Hess;
  • Propaganda Film Director Leni Riefenstahl;
  • SS-Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler;
  • “Hanging Judge” Roland Freisler;
  • Architect Albert Speer;
  • Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop;
  • SS Obergruoppenfuhrer Reinhard Heydrich; and
  • The most infamous Nazi of all: Adolf Hitler.

And so are the names of the infamous leaders of the American Right: 

  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell;
  • Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett;
  • Texas Senator Ted Cruz; 
  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas;
  • Commentator Tucker Carlson;
  • Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch;
  • Evangelist Franklin Graham;
  • Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh;
  • Florida Senator Marco Rubio;
  • Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito; 
  • Florida Governor Ron DeSantis; and
  • The most infamous Right-winger of all: Former President Donald Trump.

The difference between these two infamous groups is this:

In Nazi Germany, ordinary Germans could not learn about the personal lives of their dictators—including their home addresses—and to conspire against them.

In the United States, ordinary citizens have an array of means to do this. They can turn to newspapers, TV and magazines. And if that isn’t enough, “people finder” websites, for a modest price, provide addresses and names of relatives of potential targets.

In Nazi Germany, firearms were tightly controlled. In the United States, the Right’s National Rifle Association has successfully lobbied to put lethal firepower into the hands of virtually anyone who wants it.

Which brings us to the firestorm now erupting over the publication of an initial draft majority opinion of the Supreme Court. Backed by the Court’s five Right-wing Justices, it overturns the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion.

The Supreme Court: The Judicial Power of the United States | NEH-Edsitement

The Supreme Court

In one to two months, millions of women will likely become victims of Right-wing anti-abortion fanaticism.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, 23 states will institute bans, with trigger laws on the books in 13 of them. These are bans designed to take effect if Roe is overturned.

Republicans boast that they want to “get the government off the backs of the people.” Yet since 1973 they have furiously tried to re-insert it into the vagina of every American woman.

Interfering with the right to obtain medical care—especially when it applies to sexually-involved matters—is an act guaranteed to arouse fury in even the most pacifistic men and women. 

This is especially true when a political party—such as that of the Nazis and Republicans—makes clear its intention to rule by force, rather than by public consent.

Reinhard Heydrich believed himself invulnerable from the hatred of the enemies he had made. That arrogance cost him his life.

The day may soon come when America’s own Right-wingers start learning the same lesson.

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