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Posts Tagged ‘JOE BIDEN’

SURVIVING “FACEBOOK JAIL”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 16, 2022 at 12:10 am

Facebook likes to promote itself as a place for “more than three billion people around the world to share ideas, offer support and make a difference.”

But there are limits to the ideas that can be shared on Facebook. And while Facebook likes to boast about its “Community Standards,” these are enforced in a totally arbitrary way.

There is simply no predicting what will trigger Facebook’s ire and land a post—and its poster—in “Facebook Jail.” 

Facebook doesn’t restrict itself to banning posts that are libelous and/or harassing. Its definition of “Hate speech” is so all-encompassing it can be stretched to cover anything—including historically valid statements. 

Our Favourite Banned Facebook Memes - The Inappropriate Gift Co

In Part One I laid out the reason for my sending a letter of protest to Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s longtime Chief Operating Officer.

In this part, I will offer specific steps Facebook can take to keep faith with its stated mission to be a place where people can “share ideas.” 

Noting that I had been banned from Facebook for seven days for posting “Americans are historical illiterates,” I cited the noted historian, David McCullough, and an article from the Smithsonian Institute to support my statement. 

At the 2015 National Book Festival

David McCullough 

fourandsixty, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

I then quoted my offending paragraph in full:

“Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.” 

This referred to yet another act of cowardice by Democrats in refusing to stand up to the aggression of the Republican Right.

There are serious historical parallels between the closing days of the German Weimar Republic and the rise of Adolf Hitler—and what is happening today in the United States.

Example: In the Weimar Republic, all that stood between Hitler and total power was a frail old man—President Paul von Hindenburg. In the United States, all that stands between Donald Trump and absolute power is a frail old man: President Joe Biden.

Revelan elogios de expresidente Donald Trump a Hitler | Cuba Si

Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump

Too many Americans remain ignorant of their own history—not to mention that of other countries.

That was the point of my post. But on Facebook, it’s “Hate speech” to point out the ignorance of criminally ignorant people.

Then came my third and last point.

Third: Facebook claimed: “You can disagree with the decision if you think we got it wrong.” That implied that I would be given the opportunity to state why I believed the decision was wrong and have that objection carefully reviewed. 

But, immediately afterward, Facebook stated: “We usually offer the chance to request a review and follow up if we got decisions wrong.

“We have fewer reviewers available right now because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. We’re trying hard to prioritize reviewing content with the most potential for harm. This means we may not be able to follow up with you, though your feedback helps us do better in the future.” 

Using COVID as an excuse to avoid responsible behavior is despicable. If Facebook is  going to ban people for supposedly violating its “Community Standards,” it has a moral obligation—if not a legal one—-to give them a chance to share their side of the story.

That is how a court in a democracy behaves. Making a decision based on whim and secrecy, with no appeal possible, is the behavior of a star chamber.

Facebook jail Memes

I then noted two ways by which Facebook could avoid such disgraceful episodes in the future:

  1. Providing its users with an 800 number whereby they can interact directly with the Censorship Committee and share their reasons for posting the comment(s) they did;
  2. Providing its users with at least an Instant Messaging capability, so they can do so.

My letter to Sheryl Sandberg closed as follows: 

Im aware that Facebook is a private company and thus can do whatever it likes. But it is also—supposedly—a market for the airing of competing ideas. And to behave in the despicable manner I have described is as much a disservice to the reputation Facebook wishes to have as to those who are negatively affected by its censorship decisions. 

Frankly, I don’t expect to get an answer from Sandberg, any more than I expected one from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

Still, there is this:

On August 23, 1968, Russian poet Yevgeney Yevtushenko sent a telegram to Communist Party Boss Leonid Brezhnev and Premier Aleksei Kosygin, protesting their invasion of Czechoslovakia. 

No doubt, Yevtushenko didn’t expect his protest to change Soviet policy—just as I don’t expect any major changes—for the good—from Facebook.

These will come about only if:

  1. Enough Facebook users get so fed up with arbitrary bullying that they seek another social media format to speak their minds; and/or
  2. Enough members of Congress demand major changes in the way Facebook regularly makes a mockery of the First Amendment. 

Neither of these is likely to happen anytime soon.

SURVIVING “FACEBOOK JAIL”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, Entertainment, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 15, 2022 at 12:10 am

Facebook likes to promote itself as a place for “more than three billion people around the world to share ideas, offer support and make a difference.”

But there are limits to the ideas that can be shared on Facebook. And while Facebook likes to boast about its “Community Standards,” these are enforced in a totally arbitrary way.

There is simply no predicting what will trigger Facebook’s ire and land a post—and its poster—in “Facebook Jail.” 

50+ Funny Facebook Jail Memes to Avoid Being Blocked / Get Out of It

It’s true that standards against libel and harassment are absolutely essential.

Twitter has earned an unsavory reputation for refusing to take action against those guilty of one or both. As a result, the Disney company has refused to partner with this company.

But Facebook doesn’t restrict itself to banning posts that are libelous and/or harassing. Its definition of “Hate speech” is so all-encompassing it can be stretched to cover anything. 

For example: On June 3, I received the following message from Facebook: “You can’t post or comment for 7 days. This is because you previously posted something that didn’t follow our Community Standards.

“This comment goes against our standards on hate speech and inferiority, so only you and the admins of Private Liberal Group can see it.

“If your content goes against our Community Standards again, your account may be restricted or disabled.” 

Meta Platforms Headquarters Menlo Park California.jpg

Facebook / Meta headquarters in Menlo Park, California 

LPS.1, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

And just what was my comment that qualified as “hate speech”?

Facebook refused to publish the comment or news story to which I responded. So I can only assume that I was referring to yet another act of cowardice by Democrats in standing up to the Fascistic Right:

“Americans are historical illiterates, and this is just another example proving it. Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.”

Apparently, for Facebook, “Americans are historical illiterates” qualifies as “hate speech.”  

When Donald Trump boasted, during his 2016 campaign for President, “I love the poorly educated!” he was not alone. The leadership of Facebook apparently feels the same way. 

Making a decision based on whim and secrecy, with no appeal possible—as Facebook routinely does—is the behavior of a star chamber.

In the past, I had sent letters to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, protesting Facebook’s star chamber approach to justice. Zuckerberg’s life features two accomplishments that dwarf all others:

  1. He’s worth $71.5 billion, courtesy of Facebook’s revenues; and
  2. In multiple appearances before Congress, he’s managed to unite Right-wing Republicans and Liberal Democrats—in their rage at his perceived arrogance and stonewalling.

I didn’t expect Zuckerberg to show the courtesy of a fair-minded CEO by replying to my letters—and I wasn’t disappointed.

Mark Zuckerberg F8 2019 Keynote (32830578717) (cropped).jpg

Mark Zuckerberg

Anthony Quintano from Westminster, United States, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

So, this time, on June 3, I decided to write someone else: Sheryl Sandberg, longtime Chief Operating Officer for Facebook. (She will be stepping down from that position in the fall of 2022, She will, however, remain a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

Early on in my letter I quickly laid out my case:  Apparently what aroused the ire of Facebook’s Censorship Committee was my statement that “Americans are historical illiterates,” and this was interpreted as “hate speech and inferiority.” Taken to its logical conclusion, only comments celebrating the ignorance of ignorant people will be considered acceptable on Facebook.

Facebook Jail Memes - Geeks + Gamers

Then I offered three reasons why I strongly objected to the decision to ban my post—and me—from Facebook:

First: What I said about Americans’ historical illiteracy was entirely accurate. No less an authority than the acclaimed historian David McCullough has said: “I think we are raising a generation of young Americans who are, to a very large degree, historically illiterate.” 

Nor is he alone. A May 5, 2015 article by the Smithsonian Institute asks: “How Much U.S. History Do Americans Actually Know?” And it answers the question: “Less Than You Think.”

Comedians have long gained laughs at Americans’ historical illiteracy. When Jay Leno hosted The Tonight Show, he often did “Jaywalking Tours” where he would ask people about seemingly well-known historical events. It was common to see people say the Civil War happened in the 1940s (instead of 1861-1865) or to believe that the Texans won at the battle of the Alamo. 

Second:  I quoted the rest of my paragraph: “Tyrants cannot be appeased by giving into their demands–it just convinces them that they can demand even more from their victims. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tried that approach at Munich in September, 1938, giving Adolf Hitler a big chunk of Czechoslovakia. The reason: To prevent a war with Nazi Germany. Less than a year later, war broke out anyway.”

I challenge you—and anyone else who reads this letter—to refute one line of that paragraph.

SAN FRANCISCO: WHERE PROSECUTORS SEE CRIMINALS AS VICTIMS: PART TWO (END)

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

On June 7, San Francisco residents voted—60% to 40%—to oust District Attorney Chesa Boudin.

Since “liberal” has become a taboo word even among liberals, Boudin was praised by his supporters—and saw himself—as a “progressive prosecutor.”

This meant he favored—and implemented:

  • Abolishing cash bail;
  • Refusing to prosecute minors as adults—regardless of their crime; 
  • Lowering the jail population during the COVID crisis;
  • Refusing to seek tougher sentences under California’s anti-gang (“three strikes”) law.

Boudin, 41, had previously served as a deputy public defender for the city’s Public Defender office. As such, he was expected to provide his clients with a vigorous defense. His mistake was taking that same mentality into the office of District Attorney. 

Chesa Boudin, San Francisco Elections candidate video (October 2019) (cropped).png

Chesa Boudin

Shoplifters ran rampant in the city, victimizing not only high-end stores but even pharmacies. As a result, Walgreens has closed at least 10 stores since the beginning of 2019. Five closed in November 2021. Six CVS stores have closed for the same reason.

Owing to President Donald Trump’s attacks on China as the incubator of COVID-19, assaults on Asian-Americans steadily rose—in a city where they make up 34.40% of the population. 

Overall crime in San Francisco is up nearly 8% in 2022, with a 20% surge in larcenies, as well as spikes in homicides, rapes and assaults.

Boudin and his supporters blamed conservative and business groups for the recall effort. And, in fact, they had raised more than $7 million to secure his ouster. 

But the recall clearly tapped into existing anger about soaring levels of quality-of-life crimes in the Bay Area—car break-ins, burglaries and shoplifting.

San Francisco’s notorious tolerance for “the homeless”—most of whom consist of drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill and outright bums—also played a major role. Tax-paying citizens have grown fed up with sidewalks littered with oversize tents, empty wine bottles and beer cans, human feces and urine, used hypodermic syringes—and the Untermenschen responsible for them.

Drunk guy passed out on the sidewalk - YouTube

Boudin had been elected District Attorney on November 5, 2019. 

In hindsight, Boudin’s priorities as District Attorney—and the reasons for his recall—seem foretold.

His parents, David Gilbert and Kathy Boudin, were members of the radical Weather Underground. In 1981, when Boudin was 14 months old, both served as getaway drivers in a Brink’s robbery. And both were convicted of the murder of two police officers and a security guard.

Kathy Boudin was sentenced to 20 years to life; David Gilbert drew 75 years. Kathy Boudin was paroled in 2003, dying of cancer in May. Gilbert was paroled in October, 2003.

As a result, the raising of Chesa fell to two other members of the Weather Underground: Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. So discovering why Boudin considers criminals as oppressed victims is relatively easy.

For Michael Shellenberger, author of San Fransicko: Why Progressives Ruin Cities, none of this has come as a surprise.

Praise for San Fransicko — Environmental Progress

From the inside cover flap: 

“Michael Shellenberger has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 30 years. During that time, he advocated for the decriminalization of drugs, affordable housing and alternatives to jail and prison. 

“But as homeless encampments spread and overdose deaths skyrocketed, Shellenberger decided to take a closer look at the problem. 

“What he discovered shocked him. The problems had grown worse, not in spite of but because of progressive policies. San Francisco and other West Coast cities—Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland—had gone beyond merely tolerating homelessness, drug dealing and crime to actively enabling them….

“The real problem is an ideology that designates some people, by identity or experience, as victims entitled to destructive behaviors. The result is an undermining of the values that make cities, and civilization itself, possible.”

Anyone who doubts Shellenberger’s conclusions need only examine the city’s COVID-19 Alternative Housing Program. 

It’s the creation of San Francisco Mayor London Breed and the Board of Supervisors, and run by the city’s Department of Public Health (DPH),

It works in two stages:

Stage 1: Move the “homeless” into the city’s hotels—at city expense.

Stage 2: Provide them with not only free food and shelter but free alcohol, cannabis and cigarettes

According to a May 11, 2020 story in City Journal.org:

“The program’s primary purpose is to keep homeless people, the majority of whom are addicts, out of harm’s way during the pandemic. By getting their substance of choice delivered, the thinking goes, the guests may be more apt to remain in their government-funded rooms….

The city doesn’t want homeless people who should be staying in their rooms roaming the neighborhood in search of the substances, potentially infecting others.”

Referring to these people as “guests,” DPH said in a statement that they are screened for substance addictions and asked if they’d like to stop or have support to reduce their use.

If they say they want to remain alcoholics and/or drug addicts, they’re provided with their substance of choice. 

In 2020, and lasting until at least 2022, San Francisco lost its longstanding convention, Oracle’s OpenWorld, to Las Vegas. A chief reason cited: “Poor street conditions.”

And “a major medical association” will move its convention out of San Francisco after 2023

Tourism is San Francisco’s largest industry, generating $8.4 billion annually. When tourism revenues dry up, so will the city.

SAN FRANCISCO: WHERE PROSECUTORS SEE CRIMINALS AS VICTIMS: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 13, 2022 at 12:11 am

On August 11, 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden—having become the Democratic nominee for President—chose California United States Senator Kamala Harris as his Vice Presidential running mate.

Harris had served as District Attorney of San Francisco (2004 – 2011) and as California Attorney General (2011 – 2017). Then, in 2016, she won election to the United States Senate.

In 2019, she ran for the Presidency of the United States. But after 11 months of failing to win major support among voters, she withdrew from the race on December 3.

To tout her candidacy, she had published her memoirs: The Truths We HoldIn these, she described herself as a “progressive prosecutor.”  But there was one major truth she didn’t tout.

Visions of Justice Exhibition at San Francisco District Attorney's ...

Today, with millions of illegal aliens from Central and Latin America flooding into the United States, the spotlight has shifted from the incarceration of blacks to that of Hispanics.

Illegal immigration—and what to do about it—is now one of the hottest political issues in the country. 

For liberals of the Democratic party, “open borders” appears to be the solution to illegal immigration. Yet the vast majority of Americans support legal immigration—while rejecting illegal immigration.

And Kamala Harris’ record as San Francisco District Attorney violated those desires with a vengeance.   

Secretly, she created a program, called Back on Track, to keep convicted illegal alien felons in the country—and to train them for jobs they could not legally hold. This was a flagrant violation of Federal immigration law.

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris

Completion led to the expunging of a felony conviction, making it highly popular among convicted criminals.

One such alumnus was Alexander Izaguirre, an illegal alien who had been arrested twice within eight months—for purse-snatching and selling cocaine.

In July, 2008, four months after pleading guilty to selling cocaine, Izaguirre assaulted Amanda Kiefer, a legal San Francisco resident.

Snatching her purse, he jumped into an SUV, then tried to run Kiefer down. Terrified, she leaped onto the hood and saw Izaguirre and a driver laughing.

The driver slammed on the brakes, sending Kiefer flying onto the pavement and fracturing her skull.

D.A.’s office let illegal immigrants go   https://tinyurl.com/yyhp3hb6

Back on Track became a centerpiece of Harris’ campaign for state Attorney General.

Until the the Los Angeles Times questioned her about the Izaguirre case, Harris had never publicly admitted that the program included illegal aliens.

Harris claimed she first learned that illegal aliens were training for jobs only after Izaguirre was arrested for the Kiefer assault. 

Harris said it was a “flaw in the design” of the program to let illegal aliens into the program. “I believe we fixed it,” she told the Times.

Harris never released statistics on how many illegal aliens were included since the program started in 2005.

She said that after Izaguirre’s arrest she never asked—or learned—how many illegal aliens were in Back on Track.

A strange lapse in curiosity for a prosecutor charged with enforcing the law.

When Harris learned that illegal aliens were enrolled, she allowed those who were following the rules to finish the program and have their criminal records expunged.

So much for her oath to faithfully defend the Constitution of the United States and that of the state of California “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

From 2005 to 2009, 113 admitted drug dealers graduated from Back on Track. Another 99 were kicked off the program for failing to meet the requirements. They were sentenced under their guilty plea, the D.A.’s office claimed.

Harris told the Times that graduates of Back on Track were less likely than other offenders to commit crimes again.  But her spokeswoman refused to offer detailed statistics to back this up.

When Harris became San Francisco District Attorney, she vowed she would “never charge the death penalty.” 

Amanda Kiefer left California. Interviewed by the Times, she said she could not understand why San Francisco police and prosecutors would allow convicted illegal aliens back onto the streets.

“If they’re committing crimes,” she said, “I think there’s something wrong that they’re not being deported.”

At the outset of his Presidential campaign, Joe Biden pledged to choose a woman for his Vice Presidential running mate. Among those he could have chosen:

  • Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who stood up to Trump-inspired anti-mask protesters threatening violence; and
  • Illinois United States Senator Tammy Duckworth, who, as an Army officer, lost both legs in Iraq in 2004 after her helicopter was shot down by Iraqi insurgents.

Either would have lent significant gravitas to Biden’s candidacy. But Whitmer and Duckworth suffered the misfortune of being white—at a time when Uber liberals were demanding that Biden pick a “woman of color.”

By which they meant: Any color other than white.

Harris, with her record of protecting criminal illegal aliens at the expense of law-abiding American citizens, will prove an easy target for attacks that she’s “soft on crime.”

Eight years after Kamala Harris’ tenure as a “progressive prosecutor,” Chesa Boudin sought to carry on her “legacy.”. 

“THE TWILIGHT ZONE” AS COVID-19 PROPHECY

In Business, Entertainment, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on June 3, 2022 at 12:14 am

On November 8, 1963—57 years before COVID-19 invaded the United States—Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone” offered a prophecy of future disaster for the country.

“The Old Man in the Cave” is set in a post-apocalyptic rural town in 1974, 10 years after a nuclear war has devastated the United States. 

A nuclear explosion

The townspeople have discovered a supply of canned food. However, they are waiting for Mr. Goldsmith [John Anderson], their leader, to return with a message from the mysterious and unseen “old man in the cave.” Then they will learn whether the food is contaminated with radiation.

When Goldsmith returns, he informs them that the old man has declared the food is contaminated and that it should be destroyed.

Shortly thereafter, three soldiers led by Major French [James Coburn] enter the town and clash with Goldsmith as they try to establish their authority.

French is clearly a precursor of Donald Trump: Demanding instant obedience and threatening death to anyone who disobeys him, he claims he will organize the region to rebuild society..

President Trump tests positive for COVID-19 | KRCR

Donald Trump

However, Goldsmith believes that French and his men simply want to strip the town of its food.

French attacks the townspeople’s belief in the seemingly infallible “old man in the cave.” He tells them they have survived these past 10 years—but they haven’t lived. 

Fifty-seven years later, Donald Trump will furiously attack not COVID-19 but the medical advice of his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—especially that provided by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top expert on infectious disease.

He will disdain the wearing of masks and social distancing, and attack those Democratic governors who impose stay-at-home orders to contain the virus. He will offer a series of rosy predictions—none of which come true—that the virus will soon end.

His “cures” include ingesting Clorox bleach and/or having UV light shined up one’s anus.

Interferon Plays Pivotal, Inflammatory Role in Severe COVID-19 Cases

COVID-19 virus

And French holds himself out as the man who can deliver them a wonderful new future.

Fifty-seven years later, Donald Trump will similarly declare: “I have joined the political arena so that the powerful can no longer beat up on people that cannot defend themselves. Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.”

French tempts the townspeople to eat the food Goldsmith warned was contaminated. There is a wild orgy of gluttony as they greedily consume it. 

Only Goldsmith refuses to partake in the food orgy.

The townspeople turn on Goldsmith and threaten him with death unless he reveals the identity of “the old man in the cave.” Goldsmith finally takes the assembly to the cave to reveal his source: A computer.

French incites the townspeople to stone the computer with rocks and canned goods until it explodes. Then French leads the people into celebrating their new-found freedom from this “tyranny”. 

Fifty-seven years later, Trump will similarly incite his followers to attack the United States Capitol building to halt the legal transfer of Presidential power from himself to Joe Biden. 

But as Goldsmith had insisted, the “old man” was correct: The canned goods were contaminated with radiation. All the townspeople—including French and the soldiers—die, their bodies left lying throughout the streets.

Trump will similarly tempt millions of Americans to ignore the deaths of tens of thousands of their fellow citizens from COVID-19 and the overwhelming of the nation’s hospitals. The result will be a vast increase in deaths.

Many of the businesses Trump hoped to keep open—to ensure his own re-election—will be shuttered.

Only one man survives—Goldsmith, who has refused to eat the forbidden food and somberly walks out of the now-dead town.  

As always in a “Twilight Zone” episode, it is Rod Serling who gets the final word: “Mr. Goldsmith, survivor. An eyewitness to man’s imperfection. An observer of the very human trait of greed. And a chronicler of the last chapter—the one reading ‘suicide’. Not a prediction of what is to be, just a projection of what could be. This has been The Twilight Zone.”

Dark-haired man holding a lit cigarette

Rod Serling

Except that Serling was wrong: “The Old Man in the Cave” has proven an uncanny prediction of what did happen in America.

* * * * *

The chief lesson to be learned from the COVID-19 epidemic is that catastrophe inevitably results when natural disaster collides with an evil and incompetent administration.

And the man who stands most responsible for the deaths of 400,000 Americans in 2020 is Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States.

Under his tyrannical rule, the United States suffered not simply from a lethal virus but a combination of denial, lies, Republican subservience, chaos, extortion, propaganda as news, quackery as medicine, premature demands to “re-open the country,” ignoring the danger and—finally—resignation (“Learn to live with the virus”). 

Even now, when three vaccines have been produced, millions of Americans—almost all of them Right-wing Trump supporters—refuse to protect themselves and the families and friends they claim to love. 

Mark Anthony—in William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”—had it right: “The evil that men do lives after them.”

THE CORRUPTIONS OF THE RICH: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 29, 2022 at 12:11 am

The gap between rich and poor in the United States has never been greater.

A May 1, 2018 article in Forbes—which bills itself as “The Capitalist Tool”—vividly documents this truth.

“In the 1950s, a typical CEO made 20 times the salary of his or her average worker. Last year, [2017] CEO pay at an S&P 500 Index firm soared to an average of 361 times more than the average rank-and-file worker, or pay of $13,940,000 a year, according to an AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch news release today.”

The average CEO pay climbed six percent in 2017—while the average production worker earned just $38,613, according to Executive Paywatch.

The average wage—adjusted for inflation—has stagnated for more than 50 years. Meanwhile, CEOs’ average pay since the 1950s has risen by 1000%.

This would not have been news to Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science. In his masterwork, The Discourses, he observed the human condition as that of constant struggle: 

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

“It was a saying of ancient writers, that men afflict themselves in evil, and become weary of the good, and that both these dispositions produce the same effects. 

“For when men are no longer obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition, which passion is so powerful in the hearts of men that it never leaves them, no matter to what height they may rise. 

“The reason for this is that nature has created men so that they desire everything, but are unable to attain it. Desire being thus always greater than the faculty of acquiring, discontent with what they have and dissatisfaction with themselves result from it. 

“This causes the changes in their fortunes—for as some men desire to have more, while others fear to lose what they have, enmities and war are the consequences. And this brings about the ruin of one province and the elevation of another.”

Author Walter Scheidel, Dickason Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Classics and History at Stanford University, has also given this subject a great deal of thought. And, like Machiavelli, he has reached some highly disturbing conclusions.

Walter Scheidel - Annual Meeting of the New Champions 2012.jpg

Walter Scheidel

World Economic Forum [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

Scheidel gave voice to these in his 2017 book, The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century. His thesis: Only violence and catastrophes have consistently reduced inequality throughout history

According to the book’s jacket blurb: Are mass violence and catastrophes the only forces that can seriously decrease economic inequality? To judge by thousands of years of history, the answer is yes.

“Tracing the global history of inequality from the Stone Age to today, Walter Scheidel shows that inequality never dies peacefully. Inequality declines when carnage and disaster strike and increases when peace and stability return.

Related image

“The Great Leveler is the first book to chart the crucial role of violent shocks in reducing inequality over the full sweep of human history around the world.

“Ever since humans began to farm, herd livestock, and pass on their assets to future generations, economic inequality has been a defining feature of civilization. Over thousands of years, only violent events have significantly lessened inequality.

“The ‘Four Horsemen’ of leveling—mass-mobilization warfare, transformative revolutions, state collapse, and catastrophic plagues—have repeatedly destroyed the fortunes of the rich….

“Today, the violence that reduced inequality in the past seems to have diminished, and that is a good thing. But it casts serious doubt on the prospects for a more equal future.”

Revolutionaries have known the truth of Scheidel’s findings from the gladiators’ revolt of Spartacus (73 – 71 B.C.) to the French Revolution (1789 – 1799) to the overthrow of the Czarist Romanov dynasty (1917).

But American politicians serenely ignore that truth. They depend on the mega-rich for millions of dollars in “campaign contributions”—which pay for self-glorifying ads on TV.

Thus, in 2016, American voters had a “choice” between two “love-the-rich” Presidential candidates: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The result was that millions stayed home or voted in protest for third-party candidates who had no chance of winning.

In his 1975 book, The Corrupt Society: From Ancient Greece to Modern-day America, British historian Robert Payne warned that the predatory rich would not change their behavior: “Nor is there any likelihood that the rich will plow back their money into services to ensure the general good.

“They have rarely demonstrated social responsibility, and they are much more likely to hold on to their wealth at all costs than to renounce any part of it.

“Like the tyrant who lives in a world wholly remote from the world of the people, shielded and protected from all possible influences, the rich are usually the last to observe the social pressures rising from below, and when these social pressures reach flashpoint, it is too late to call in the police or the army.

“The tyrant dies; the police and the army go over to the revolutionaries; and the new government dispossesses the rich by decree. A single authoritative sentence suffices to expunge all private wealth and restore it to the service of the nation.”

For millions of struggling, impoverished Americans, that day cannot come soon enough.

THE CORRUPTIONS OF THE RICH: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 28, 2022 at 12:31 am

Americans are used to Presidential candidates telling lies (euphemistically known as “campaign promises”) to get elected.

But when a candidate actually (and usually accidentally) tells the truth, the results can be electrifying. And sometimes devastating for the candidate.

On June 18, 2019, Democratic Presidential candidate (and momentary front-runner) Joseph Biden addressed a roomful of donors in New York. 

The former Vice President believed that his message would comfort his well-heeled audience of billionaires: Don’t worry, if I’m elected, your standard of living won’t change.

Addressing the 100 or so guests at a fundraiser at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City, Biden said that he had taken heat from “some of the people on my team, on the Democratic side” because he had said that rich people were “just as patriotic as poor people.

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

Joe Biden

“The truth of the matter is, you all, you all know, you all know in your gut what has to be done. We can disagree in the margins but the truth of the matter is it’s all within our wheelhouse and nobody has to be punished. No one’s standard of living will change, nothing would fundamentally change,” he said. 

And he added: “I mean, we may not want to demonize anybody who has made money.

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“When we have income inequality as large as we have in the United States today, it brews and ferments political discord and basic revolution. Not a joke. Not a joke … It allows demagogues to step in and say the reason where we are is because of the ‘other’….

“You’re not the other. I need you very badly. I hope if I win this nomination, I won’t let you down. I promise you. I have a bad reputation, I always say what I mean. The problem is I sometimes say all that I mean.”

Biden had talked about decreasing income inequality and promoting workers’ rights. But he had also taken a moderate stance when it came to taxation.

United States Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT), on the other hand, has attacked the ultra-rich as responsible for the ever-widening gap between themselves and the poor.

“I love Bernie, but I’m not Bernie Sanders. I don’t think 500 billionaires are the reason why we’re in trouble,” Biden said in March, 2019.

Instead, he proposed expanding tax credits for the poor and middle class, and making the tax code less friendly to rich investors. 

Robert Payne, the distinguished British historian, took a different—and darker—view of the rich.

Payne authored more than 110 books. Among his subjects were Adolf Hitler, Ivan the Terrible, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, Vladimir Lenin, William Shakespeare and Leon Trotsky.

In 1975, he published The Corrupt Society: From Ancient Greece to Present-Day America. It proved a summary of many of his previous works.Related image

Among the epochs it covered: The civilizations of ancient Greece, Rome and China; Nazi Germany; the Soviet Union; and Watergate-era America. And the massive corruption each of those epochs had spawned.

Amazon.com: Robert Payne: Books, Biography, Blog, Audiobooks, Kindle

Robert Payne

In his chapter, “A View of the Uncorrupted Society,” Payne warned: Power and wealth are the main sources of corruption.

“The rich, simply by being rich, are infected with corruption. Their overwhelming desire is to grow richer, but they can do this only at the expense of those who are poorer than themselves.

”Their interests conflict with those of the overall society. They live sheltered from the constant anxieties of the poor, and thus cannot understand them.  Nor do they try to.”

They see the poor as alien from themselves, and thus come to fear and despise them. And their wealth and influence enables them to buy politicians—who, in turn, write legislation that protects the rich from the poor.

But Payne foresaw an even greater danger from the rich and powerful than their mere isolation from the rest of society: “The mere presence of the rich is corrupting. Their habits, their moral codes, their delight in conspicuous consumption are permanent affronts to the rest of humanity. Vast inequalities of wealth are intolerable in any decent society.”

Writing in 1975, Payne noted that a third of the private wealth was possessed by less than five percent of the population—while about a fifth of the populace lived at the poverty level. By 2000, he predicted, about five percent of the population would possess two-thirds of America’s wealth. And more than half the population would be near or below the starvation level. 

The result could only be catastrophe. The only way to halt this this increasing concentration of wealth by fewer people would be through law or violent revolution.

Payne has proven to be an uncanny prophet.

On December 8, 2017, the Seattle Times noted that the wealthiest one percent of Americans owned 40% of the country’s wealth. They owned more wealth than the bottom 90% combined. 

From 2013, the share of wealth owned by the one percent increased by nearly three percentage points. Wealth owned by the bottom 90%, meanwhile, fell over the same period.

But this situation need not remain permanent.

SHOWING AMAZING COURAGE–ONCE DANGER IS SAFELY PAST

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 8, 2022 at 12:10 am

Many “heroes” come out of the woodwork only after the danger is safely past.

First up: Today’s Republicans in the United States Senate and House of Representatives.

On November 3, 2020, 81,255,933 Democratic voters elected former Vice President Joseph Biden the 46th President of the United States. Trump, running for a second term, got 74,196,153 votes.

Yet more than two months after the election, Trump refused to concede, insisting that he won—and repeatedly claiming falsely that he was the victim of massive vote fraud.

Donald Trump

With the Senate due to certify states’ Electoral College results on January 6, Trump pressed Vice President Mike Pence to illegally flip the results of the election to give him a win. Pence refused.

For weeks Trump called upon his legions of Right-wing followers to descend on Washington, D.C. on that day. On December 20, he tweeted: “Big protest in DC on January 6th. Be there, will be wild!”

On January 6, 2021, tens of thousands of Stormtrumpers heard Trump denounce the election. Then they stormed and breached the United States Capitol. They easily brushed aside Capitol Police, who made no effort to arrest or shoot them.

Many of the lawmakers’ office buildings were occupied and vandalized—including that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a favorite target of Trump and the Right.

Not until nightfall—hours later—did police finally restore order to the capitol.

Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley had intended to dispute the results of the 2020 election. As many as 25 Senators and 140 House Republicans had intended to join him. 

But now most of Trump’s longtime Congressional supporters feared they would be tarred—rightly—as his accessories to that day’s outrage. They might even be voted out of office!

Suddenly, many of them found reasons to reject a challenge to the Electoral College votes. 

In addition: 

  • Many of them piously claimed they were shocked—shocked!—by that day’s violence—carefully omitting that by their overt or covert support of Trump’s lies they had helped create the climate for its ignition.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—who had refused to condemn Trump’s efforts to overturn the election result—called the invasion a “failed insurrection.”
  • Senator Lindsey Graham, who had relentlessly defended Trump’s lies and outrages for four years, now dared to admit: “Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are lawfully elected.”
  • Twitter, which for years had ignored Trump’s flagrant violations of its rules against threats and harassment, now found it possible to ban Trump from its website.

Something similar happened in Washington, D.C., in 1954.

From 1950 to 1954, Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph R. McCarthy terrorized the nation, accusing anyone who disagreed with him of being a Communist—and leaving ruined lives in his wake.

Joseph R. McCarthy

Among those civilians and government officials he slandered as Communists were:

  • President Harry S. Truman
  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower
  • Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow
  • Secretary of State George C. Marshall
  • Columnist Drew Pearson

Finally, in 1954, McCarthy overreached himself and accused the U.S. Army of being a hotbed of Communist traitors. Joseph Welch, counsel for the Army, destroyed McCarthy’s credibility in a now-famous retort:

“Senator, may we not drop this?….You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Later that year, the Senate censured McCarthy and he rapidly declined in power and health.

  • Senatorial colleagues who had once courted his support now avoided him.
  • They left the Senate when he rose to speak.
  • Reporters who had once fawned on him for his latest sensational slander now ignored him.
  • Eisenhower—who had sought McCarthy’s support during his 1952 race for President—joked that “McCarthyism” was now “McCarthywasm.”

Fast-forward to July 12, 2012—and the release of former FBI Director Louie Freeh’s report on serial pedophile Jerry Sandusky. As the assistant football coach at Penn State University (PSU), he had used the football facilities to sexually attack numerous young boys.

Jerry Sandusky

But Sandusky was regarded as more than a second-banana. He received Assistant Coach of the Year awards in 1986 and 1999, and authored several books about his coaching experiences.

In 1977, Sandusky founded The Second Mile, a non-profit charity serving underprivileged, at-risk youth.

College football is a $2.6 billion-a-year business. And Penn State is one of its premiere brands, with revenue of $70 million in 2010.

PSU’s seven-month internal investigation, headed by Freeh, revealed:

  • Joe Paterno, head coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions, was aware of a 1998 criminal investigation of Sandusky.
  • So was president Graham Spanier, athletic director Tim Curley and vice president Gary Schultz.
  • In 2001, then-graduate assistant Mike McQueary reported to Paterno that he’d seen Sandusky attacking a boy in the shower.
  • Paterno, Spanier, Curley and Schultz then conspired to cover up for Sandusky.
  • The rapes of these boys occurred in the Lasch Building—where Paterno had his office.

In 2011, Sandusky was arrested and charged with sexually abusing young boys over a 15-year period. 

On June 22, 2012, he was convicted on 45 of the 48 charges. He will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

On the day the Freeh report was released, Nike—a longtime sponsor for Penn State—announced that it would remove Paterno’s name from the child care center at its world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

REPUBLICANS’ VERSION OF “CANCEL CULTURE”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on April 1, 2022 at 12:22 am

Republicans have made “cancel culture” an accusation hurled at Democrats.

Democrats, for example, who want to strip the names of Confederate traitor-generals from many of America’s most famous military bases. Among those bases: 

  • Fort Benning (Georgia) – Named after Confederate General Henry L. Benning, who fought against the Union armies at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam and Gettysburg.
  • Fort Lee (Virginia) – Named after Robert E. Lee, commander of the Army of Northern Virginia. 
  • Fort Bragg (North Carolina) – Named for Confederate General Braxton Bragg.

Republicans have also used “cancel culture” to denounce the ban imposed on former President Donald Trump by Facebook and Twitter.

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Donald Trump

Throughout his Presidency, Trump had used Facebook—and especially Twitter—to attack and slander literally hundreds of people. 

Trump’s reign of Twitter insults ended abruptly after he instigated an attack on the United States Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.

Desperate to stay in office by any means, he roused his legions of Stormtrumper followers to halt the counting of Electoral College votes certain to give former Vice President Joe Biden victory in the 2020 Presidential election.

Stormtrumpers attacking the Capitol Building

This treasonous behavior finally led Twitter to impose a permanent ban on Trump’s future tweets. Facebook quickly followed with a temporary ban of unspecified length.

Republicans were outraged. For decades they had aggressively demanded that corporations be free of government regulation. Now they demanded that Internet-related companies be stripped of their independence. 

Their outrage reflected their support for what would have been the greatest “cancel crime” in American history: Trump’s unprecedented attempt to cancel the votes of 80 million Americans for Joe Biden and remain in office for at least another four years.

And on May 20, 2021, Republicans proved their willingness to cancel legislation to protect Asian-Americans from a recent rise in attacks on them.

These attacks can be attributed directly to Donald Trump. Desperate to divert attention from his own indifference to the rising death toll from Coronavirus, throughout 2020 he repeatedly blamed China for “The China virus” and “The China plague.”

In October, Trump tested positive for COVID-19.

Republicans quickly blamed China.

The blame lay with Trump, who had refused to mask up or socially distance from others, as his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had recommended. 

But this didn’t stop Georgia Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler from tweeting: “China gave this virus to our President,” adding “WE MUST HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE.”

And Blair Brandt, a Trump campaign fundraiser, claimed that the “Chinese Communist Party has biologically attacked our President.” 

Trump’s slanderous rhetoric—and the tensions it produced between the United States and China—has resulted in numerous attacks on Asian-Americans. In 2020, crimes targeting Asian Americans rose by 149% over those reported in 2019.

Introduced by Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act would:

  • Expedite the review of hate crimes related to the pandemic;
  • Expand the reporting of hate crimes to local and state agencies;
  • Require the Justice Department to work with state and local agencies to address them.

In the United States Senate, Josh Hawley (R-MO) cast the only vote against the Act. 

“It’s too broad,” he said. “As a former prosecutor, my view is it’s dangerous to simply give the federal government open-ended authority to define a whole new class of federal hate crime incidents.”

In the House of Representatives 62 Republicans tried to cancel the legislation. 

Among these:

  • Ohio’s Jim Jordan, who said falsely: “This violence, by and large, is happening in Democrat-controlled cities, many of which, interestingly enough, have defunded their police departments.” 
  • Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) said: “We can’t legislate away hate”–which was the same excuse Southern Republicans made to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

On May 20, President Biden signed the Act into law.

Facebook

The following Republican House members joined Roy and Jordan in voting no: 

  • Matt Gaetz (Florida)
  • Lauren Boebert (Colorado)
  • Mo Brooks (Alabama)
  • Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia). 
  • Robert Aderholt (Alabama)
  • Rick Allen (Georgia)
  • Jodey Arrington (Texas)
  • Brian Babin (Texas)
  • Jim Banks (Indiana)
  • Andy Biggs (Arizona)
  • Dan Bishop (North Carolina
  • Ted Budd (North Carolina)
  • Tim Burchett (Tennessee)
  • Kat Cammack (Florida)
  • Jerry Carl (Alabama)
  • Madison Cawthorn (North Carolina)
  • Michael Cloud (Texas)
  • Andrew Clyde (Georgia
  • Tom Cole (Oklahoma)
  • Warren Davidson (Ohio)
  • Byron Donalds (Florida)
  • Jeff Duncan (South Carolina)
  • Virginia Foxx (North Carolina)
  • Louie Gohmert (Texas)
  • Bob Good (Virginia)
  • Lance Gooden (Texas)
  • Paul Gosar (Arizona)
  • Mark Green (Tennessee)
  • Michael Guest (Mississippi)
  • Andy Harris (Maryland)
  • Diana Harshbarger (Tennessee)
  • Kevin Hern (Oklahoma)
  • Yvette Herrell (New Mexico)
  • Jody Hice (Georgia)
  • Clay Higgins (Louisiana)
  • Ronny Jackson (Texas)
  • Mike Johnson (Louisiana)
  • Trent Kelly (Mississippi)
  • Doug LaMalfa (California)
  • Barry Loudermilk (Georgia)
  • Nancy Mace (South Carolina)
  • Tracey Mann (Kansas)
  • Thomas Massie (Kentucky)
  • Tom McClintock (California)
  • Mary Miller (Illinois)
  • Alexander Mooney (West Virginia)
  • Barry Moore (Alabama)
  • Ralph Norman (South Carolina)
  • Steven Palazzo (Mississippi)
  • Gary Palmer (Alabama)
  • Scott Perry (Pennsylvania)
  • August Pfluger (Texas)
  • Tom Rice (South Carolina)
  • John Rose (Tennessee)
  • Matthew Rosendale (Montana)
  • David Rouzer (North Carolina)
  • John Rutherford (Florida)
  • W. Gregory Steube (Florida)
  • Thomas Tiffany (Wisconsin)
  • Randy Weber (Texas) 

Nearly one-third of the House Republican caucus voted against the measure, which was supported by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Minority Whip Steve Scalise and newly appointed GOP leader Elise Stefanik.

ACCOMPLICES TO OUR OWN DESTRUCTION: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on March 29, 2022 at 12:11 am

On November 3, 80 million voters elected former Vice President Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States.

President Donald Trump had often “joked” that America needed a “President-for-Life.” Now he demanded that he be awarded that title.

Trump refused to accept that verdict. 

Speaking from the White House in the early hours of November 4, he said: “Millions and millions of people voted for us tonight, and a very sad group of people is trying to disenfranchise that group of people and we won’t stand for it.”

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

States ignored his demand and kept counting.

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

He claimed:

  • Illegal aliens had been allowed to vote.
  • Trump ballots had been systematically destroyed.
  • Tampered voting machines had turned Trump votes into Biden ones.

Throughout November and December, cases were filed in Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Michigan, Minnesota and Georgia challenging the election results. More than 30 cases were withdrawn by Trump’s attorneys or dismissed by Federal judges—some of them appointed by Trump himself.

For 20 days, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy refused to release $7.3 million in transition funding and Federal resources to the President-elect’s team.

Under the law governing presidential transitions, Murphy was responsible for determining the winner based on publicly available information before the actual Electoral College vote. 

Finally, on November 23, Murphy released the transition funding and resources.

Trump invited two Republican legislative leaders from Michigan to the White House to persuade them to stop the state from certifying the vote.

Nothing changed. 

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

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

Top Republicans—such as Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell—refused to congratulate Biden as the winner. 

None of them branded Trump’s efforts to overturn the election as those of a tyrant.

Just as Germans did nothing to stop Adolf Hitler’s inexorable march toward war—and the destruction of millions of lives and Germany itself—so, too, did Americans seem paralyzed to end the equally self-destructive reign of the man often dubbed “Carrot Caligula.”

Gaius Caligula was “the mad emperor” of ancient Rome. Like Trump, he lived by a philosophy of “Let them hate me, so long as they fear me.”

He ruled as the most powerful man of his time—three years, 10 months and eight days. And all but the first six months of his reign were drenched in slaughter and debauchery.

There were basically three ways America’s slide into tyranny could have been stopped:

First, Congressional Republicans could have revolted against Trump’s authority and/or agenda.

They could have demanded that Trump accept the verdict of the electorate—as every other past President had.

But they didn’t.

Republicans feared that if they openly defied him, his fanatical base would turn on them in coming elections—and end their comfortable reign of power and privileges.

Second, invoking the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

This allows the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet to recommend the removal of the President in cases where he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” It also allows the House and Senate to confirm the recommendation over the President’s objection by two-thirds vote. 

The Vice President then takes over as President.

A case could easily have been made that Trump, emotionally distraught over his loss and determined to circumvent the will of the electorate, had been rendered unfit to continue in office.

This did not happen.

Most of Trump’s cabinet rightly feared him. He fired FBI Director James Comey in 2017 and publicly humiliated his Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for more than a year until firing him in 2018. Vice President Mike Pence in particular had set new records for sycophancy. 

Third, the “Caligula solution.” Like Trump, Caligula delighted in humiliating others. His fatal mistake was taunting Cassius Chaerea, a member of his own bodyguard. Caligula considered Chaerea effeminate owing to a weak voice and mocked him with names like “Priapus” and “Venus.”

Gaius Caligula

On January 22 41 A.D. Chaerea and several other bodyguards hacked Caligula to death with swords before other guards could save him.

Trump had similarly behaved arrogantly toward his Secret Service guards. He forced them to work without pay during his 35-day government shutdown in 2018. He also forced them to accompany him to COVID-infected states—both during the Presidential campaign and afterward. Many of them had been stricken with this often lethal disease as a result. 

During Adolf Hitler’s 12-years reign of Nazi Germany, high-ranking military officers tried to kill him at least 42 times. 

The best-known of these attempts occurred on July 20, 1944, when Colonel Count Claus Shenk von Stauffenberg planted a bomb in a conference room attended by Hitler and his generals. Hitler survived only by sheer luck. 

By contrast, no similar plot was aimed at Donald Trump.

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