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Posts Tagged ‘NICCOLO MACHIAVELLI’

AN NRA SOLUTION TO PLANNED PARENTHOOD’S TERRORISM PROBLEM

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on May 30, 2022 at 12:12 am

Guns and abortion—Republicans’ two most inflammatory issues.

Who would have thought that the first might lead to a solution for the second?

On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adult staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

As it usually does after a mass shooting, the National Rifle Association (NRA) remained silent for a few days.

Then on December 18, its executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, broke that silence. In doing so, he offered his suggestion for preventing further tragedies perpetrated by heavily armed criminals.

Speaking at an NRA press conference, LaPierre said: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

“Would you rather have your 911 call bring a good guy with a gun from a mile away or a minute away?”

Wayne LaPierre by Gage Skidmore 2 (cropped).jpg

Wayne La Pierre

And LaPierre demanded that armed guards be placed in every school in the United States:

“Politicians pass laws for gun-free school zones. They issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them, and in doing so, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.

“We care about our president, so we protect him with armed Secret Service agents. Members of Congress work in offices surrounded by Capitol Police officers.

“Yet, when it comes to our most beloved, innocent and vulnerable members of the American family–our children–we as a society leave them everyday utterly defenseless.

“And the monsters and the predators of the world know it and exploit it.

Without knowing it, Wayne LaPierre produced a way to end attacks on Planned Parenthood clinics.

Between 1973, when the Supreme Court made abortion legal throughout the United States via Roe v. Wade, and 2003, abortion providers were targeted for more than 300 acts of extreme violence, including arson, bombings, murders and butyric acid attacks.

The National Abortion Federation documents more than 176,000 instances of picketing at clinics (and nearly 34,000 arrests) since 1977. More than 16,000 hate mail or harassing phone calls, over 1,500 acts of vandalism and 400 death threats have been aimed at clinics.

On November 27, 2015, an anti-abortionist shot and killed a police officer and two civilians at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. An additional five police officers and four civilians were injured.

The arrested suspect, Robert Lewis Dear, mentioned “baby parts” as his reason for the attack. During questioning by police, Dear expressed anti-abortion and anti-government views, a police source told CNN.

Image result for Images of Robert Lewis Dear

Robert Lewis Dear, Jr.

Those on the Left were outraged at this latest attack on the reproductive rights of women.  But those on the Right offered no sympathy for the victims—or women who sought out medical care at Planned Parenthood clinics.

Colorado state Rep. JoAnn Windholz issued a statement blaming Planned Parenthood for the attack:

“Violence is never the answer, but we must start pointing out who is the real culprit. The true instigator of this violence and all violence at any Planned Parenthood facility is Planned Parenthood themselves. Violence begets violence. So Planned Parenthood: YOU STOP THE VIOLENCE INSIDE YOUR WALLS.” [Italics added]

 Rep. JoAnn Windholz 

Planned Parenthood offers reproductive health care, sex education to women and men and, at some clinics, abortions.

Since Planned Parenthood can’t expect help from Republican lawmakers, perhaps it’s time for its officials to consider the advice of Niccolo Machiavelli.

“For among other evils caused by being disarmed, it renders you contemptible,” he writes in Chapter 14 of The Prince, his primer on gaining political power.

“Because there is no comparison whatever between an armed and a disarmed man. It is not reasonable to suppose that one who is armed will obey willingly one who is unarmed….”

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

 Niccolo Machiavelli

In short: Planned Parenthood should begin training its personnel in the use of automatic firearms. And widely advertising the fate that awaits future terrorist attackers.

This would send an unmistakable message to future would-be terrorists: We will no longer be passive victims to your violent fanaticism. Attack us—and die.

By doing so, Planned Parenthood would be following the advice of Wayne La Pierre—and the example set by New York City after 9/11. 

In 1993, Islamic terrorists unsuccessfully bombed the World Trade Center. Six people were killed and 1,042 others were injured during escape attempts.

Eight years later, on September 11, 2001, they launched their second—and this time successful–attack on the Center, killing 2,977 New Yorkers.

On both occasions, New Yorkers had expected the Federal Government to protect them. After 9/11, the NYPD decided it could no longer rely on the FBI and CIA for protection.

The NYPD greatly expanded the ranks of its Counterterrorism Division. More than 600 officers and operatives both stateside and worldwide now stood guard over New York City.

Since 9/11, New York has not faced a similar terrorist attack.

Finally, an Aesop’s fable serves up a lesson known long ago—but repeatedly ignored by the idealistic but ineffectual Left:

A snake was stepped on by so many people that, one day, he prayed to Zeus for help. And Zeus replied: “If you had bitten the first person who stepped on you, the second would have thought twice about it.”  

MORE THAN FETUSES MAY BE ABORTED

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on May 17, 2022 at 12:10 am

In The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, raised the question of “whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved.”

And he answered it: “The reply is, that one ought to be both feared and loved, but as it is difficult for the two to go together, it is much safer to be feared than loved.”  

But Machiavelli warned against relying primarily on fear:

“Still, a prince should make himself feared in such a way that if he does not gain love, he at any rate avoids hatred, for fear and the absence of hatred may well go together, and will always be attained by one who abstains from interfering with the property of his citizens….or with their women.”  

If the Republicans governing Georgia and Alabama ever read this warning, they have ignored it with a vengeance.

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

On May 7, 2019, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed an anti-abortion law that—in defiance of the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade—re-criminalizes abortion.

The law bans abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detectable. This usually occurs about six weeks into a pregnancy—even before many women know they’re pregnant.

The law permits abortions

  • Only if the mother’s life is at risk; or
  • If the fetus cannot survive. 

No exceptions are made for cases of rape or incest.

“HB 481 would also have consequences for women who get abortions from doctors or miscarry,” writes Mark Joseph Stern for Slate.

“A woman who seeks out an illegal abortion from a health care provider would be a party to murder, subject to life in prison. And a woman who miscarries because of her own conduct—say, using drugs while pregnant—would be liable for second-degree murder, punishable by 10 to 30 years’ imprisonment.

“Prosecutors may interrogate women who miscarry to determine whether they can be held responsible; if they find evidence of culpability, they may charge, detain, and try these women for the death of their fetuses.”  [Emphasis added.]

In addition, a woman could be sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment if she leaves Georgia to obtain an abortion in another state.Related image

And on May 14, 2019, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed into law the “Alabama Human Life Protection Act.” The law only allows exceptions “to avoid a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother,” for ectopic pregnancy and if the “unborn child has a lethal anomaly.”

Again, no exceptions are made for rape or incest.

Ivey admitted that the new law may be unenforceable owing to Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in all 50 states. But the whole point of the law is to challenge that decision, Ivey said.

Republicans constantly claim to be “the party of small government.” But there can be no more intrusive act than dictating to a woman that she must give birth—even if she’s the victim of rape or incest.      

At the same time:

  • Republicans have proven uniformly hostile to providing poor mothers with access to food, clothing and medical care.
  • Donald Trump made repealing the Affordable Care Act—which provides medical insurance to more than 20 million Americans—the hallmark of his Presidency.

It’s easy to imagine many of these women fatally cracking under the strain.  

On December 6, 2011, Rachelle Grimmer, a 38-year-old resident of San Antonio, pulled a gun in a state welfare office and held off police for seven hours. Then she shot and wounded her two children—ages 10 and 12—before fatally shooting herself.

For months, she had been unable to qualify for food stamps. 

Thus, women living in abortion-banning states face Right-wing hypocrisy on one hand and draconian laws punishing the most intimate acts—of sexuality and reproductive freedom—on the other.

It’s easy to imagine some pregnant women—especially the victims of incest and/or rape—desperately seeking redress through violence. And the targets of their wrath could easily be the Republican legislators of their states who have made their lives a living hell.

Trump is constantly guarded by the Secret Service. And governors are protected by state police. But state assemblymen and senators aren’t assigned such details—unless there’s a specific threat made against them. Nor are anti-abortion Right-wing commentators like Tucker Carlson.

In fact, Right-wing figures have often been the targets of successful—and unsuccessful—assassination attempts.

  • On September 8, 1935, Louisiana U.S. Senator Huey Long was shot and fatally wounded by Carl Austin Weiss, an idealistic young doctor. Long had intended to run for President in 1936 and unseat Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  • On May 27, 1942, SS Obergruppenführer (General) Reinhard Heydrich—“The Butcher of Prague”—was killed with a hand grenade by two Czech patriots.
  • On May 15, 1972, Presidential candidate George C. Wallace was shot and paralyzed by a crazed gunman while mingling with supporters in a Maryland shopping center.
  • On March 30, 1981, President Ronald Reagan was shot and almost killed by a psychotic gunman while walking to his bulletproof limousine in Washington, D.C. 

All but one of these men (Heydrich) were protected by bodyguards when they were attacked.

Given the ferocity of laws aimed specifically at them, some women may decide to abort more than fetuses.

DEMOCRATS CAN PREVAIL—WITH THIS GAME PLAN: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 11, 2022 at 12:17 am

According to numerous polls, Democrats are looking at a political massacre this November—losing both the House and Senate.

Nany of the problems facing Democrats are self-inflicted. But they can be resolved if Democrats—and especially President Joseph Biden—are willing to fight fire with fire.

In Part One of this series, four such remedies were listed. Here are the remaining two.

WEAPON #5: ACCUSE—AND PROSECUTE—REPUBLICANS FOR SUPPORTING DICTATORSHIP

Just hours after the deadly January 6, 2021 coup attempt at the United States Capitol, 147 Republicans lawmakers in the House and Senate voted to overturn then-president Donald Trump’s election loss, following months of his baseless claims that the November election had been stolen.

Mounting evidence proves that many Republicans actively tried to assist Trump in illegally overturning the results of the 2020 election.

For example: On January 17, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene texted Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, advising Trump to declare martial law.

Yet not one Republican member of Congress has been indicted—let alone convicted—by the Biden Justice Department. Nor has any key member of the Trump administration, such as:  

  • Rep, Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) who incited the Trump crowd with: “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass!”
  • Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who cried to the demonstrators, “Let’s have trial by combat!”
  • Donald Trump, who incited his followers to attack the Capitol and has spent a year and a half spreading poisonous lies that the 2020 election was “stolen” from him through “massive” voter fraud.

There is no better way to discourage law-abiding citizens and encourage law-breaking ones than to allow notorious criminals to go unpunished.

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

Donald Trump

President Biden should order Attorney General Merrick Garland to immediately start prosecuting ALL Republicans linked to the January 6 coup attempt.

Democrats should make their slogan for 2022—and 2024: “This time, vote like your whole democracy depends on it.” 

WEAPON #6 DROP THE FIXATION ON ADMITTING ILLEGAL ALIENS  

The Biden administration is pushing to lift Title 42, a 1944 federal law meant to help prevent the spread of communicable disease.

In March, 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) authorized agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to quickly expel migrants and deny entry to asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border.

For President Donald Trump, the order restricted migrants’ entry into the country. But many congressional Democrats claimed that it short-circuited the country’s asylum system.

Republicans are fiercely defending Title 42—and holding continued funding for COVID research and vaccines as hostage for its retention.

When people are frightened and angry by high prices for food, housing and gas, they don’t welcome competition from uninvited illegal aliens. This includes Latinos—55% of whom disapprove of the job that Biden is doing.

Biden should drop plans to lift Title 42. He can use this as leverage in dealing with Republicans. And refusing to support illegal immigration won’t cost him support among Latinos.

* * * * *

Millions of Americans believe that only liberals can be Communist sympathizers and traitors. This is the direct result of decades of Republican propaganda dating back to 1946.

Republicans, having lost the White House from 1932 to 1948, furiously sought a return to power. And they found their remedy in attacking the patriotism of their fellow Americans—ushering in the infamous era of Joseph McCarthy, Richard Nixon and the Hollywood Blacklist.

Democrats need to similarly damn Republicans with the charge of “Traitor.” The difference: There is plenty of evidence—much of it on video—to document its truth.

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

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

By contrast, Democrats have proven indifferent to or ignorant of the power of effective language. This has been true despite overwhelming evidence of Donald Trump’s treason. Out of this could have come: 

  • “TrumPutin” 
  • “Commissar-in-Chief”
  • “Fake President”
  • “DJTraitor”
  • “Red Donald.”

In addition, Democrats have handicapped themselves via the Michelle Obama formula: “When they go low, we go high.” When you’re in a boxing match and your opponent goes for your groin, you’re a fool to adhere to Marquis of Queensbury. 

Finally, Democrats have refused to see most of their fellow Americans for what they are.

Historically, the United States has always been a highly conservative nation. Going from “conservative” to “Fascist” is a relatively easy step—as millions of Donald Trump’s supporters have proven. 

That’s why, despite his manifest criminalities, a majority of Right-wing Americans would have given Trump another four years.

But COVID-19 changed all that. Suddenly, millions of Americans found themselves stuck at home with their children. Many of them couldn’t go to work—because they were sick or their jobs had disappeared. Their 401Ks suddenly became worthless.

Only a lethal pandemic forced them to vote for Joe Biden.

In short: To win elections, Democrats must use the same weapons as their sworn Republican enemies and brutally attack them head-on.

And they must appeal to what truly moves most voters: Greed. Fear.  Hatred.  

DEMOCRATS CAN PREVAIL—WITH THIS GAME PLAN: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Medical, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 10, 2022 at 12:22 am

“Republicans have the advantage with voters in 2022 elections, poll finds.”

So read the headline in an April 29 story on the NPR website. According to the story:

  • “All signs are pointing to a difficult midterm election for President Biden and Democrats, and a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll has fresh evidence of that.”
  • “Of the 1,162 registered voters surveyed, 47% said they are more likely to vote for the Republican in their district, as opposed to 44% who said Democrats.”
  • Voters favor Republicans on the issues of inflation, crime and national security. Inflation is Americans’ No. 1 concern.
  • On immigration, the country is split.

Political pundits are openly predicting that this will hand Republicans the House, if not the Senate as well.

Yet there are steps that Democrats—particularly President Joseph Biden—can take to try to reverse this outcome.

WEAPON #1:  REASSURE VOTERS THAT HE IS ATTACKING INFLATION IN A WAY THEY CAN UNDERSTAND 

When people are frightened and angry, they look for simple answers and solutions—and scapegoats. That is how Republicans deal with crises.

Republicans learned long ago that most voters aren’t moved by appeals to their rationality. Instead, what counts with them is emotions

And Republicans have become experts at appealing to these—especially the baser ones. For Republicans, the Big Three are: Hatred, Greed, Fear.

Voters want to buy groceries at an affordable price—and to walk streets and enter stores without wearing a mask. And they want concrete reasons to believe that these can become reality.

President Biden should do the same in combating rising gas and food prices, which are frightening and angering millions.

Instead of accepting the conventional explanation of “supply chain difficulties,” he should blame rising prices on the entrenched greed of corporations. In many cases, it is no doubt true.

More importantly, Biden should propose a bill to make price gouging a national crime, punishable by a lengthy prison term. It can be modeled on the anti-extortion provisions in the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

No matter what happens on the bill, the President faces a win/win situation.

If it passes, he can rightly take credit for it and reap the popularity certain to result. And if Republicans block its passage, he can rightly blame them, thus ensuring that he and Democrats are seen as “the people’s champions.” 

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

President Joe Biden

WEAPON #2: STOP THINKING OF  REPUBLICANS AS “OUR FRIENDS”

The President should stop referring to “our Republican friends.” He has no friends among men and women dedicated to overthrowing Constitutional government and imposing a lifelong criminal and tyrant in his place.

Republicans have enthusiastically embraced Donald Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him—despite overwhelming evidence that it wasn’t.

Legislators in Republican-controlled states are now working furiously to corrupt election machinery at state and local levels so they can nullify the votes of millions of Democrats in the 2022 and 2024 elections.

Their ultimate goal: Restore a lifelong criminal and Russia-appeasing traitor to absolute power as “President-for-Life.” 

And more than a year after that treasonous attempted coup, many Republicans still refuse to accept the legitimacy of Biden’s win.

Would Franklin D. Roosevelt have referred to his Right-wing enemies as “our Nazi friends”?

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

January 6, 2021 attempted coup

WEAPON #3: BLAME DONALD TRUMP AND HIS STORMTRUMPERS FOR COVID-19 DEATHS

Trump learned how deadly the virus was in January, 2020. But he

  • Publicly denied this and attacked mask-wearing and social distancing;
  • Attacked governors who issued stay-at-home orders to contain the virus;
  • Incited his followers to defy those orders; and
  • Secretly got vaccinated before leaving office and has only reluctantly acknowledged the importance of vaccinations.

His legacy of defying science continues to live on in his millions of Stormtrumper followers—who refuse to mask up, social distance and, most importantly, get vaccinated. The vast majority of those now flooding hospital ICU rooms—and morgues—are unvaccinated.

As a result, countless victims of crime, accidents, heart attacks, strokes and other debilitating conditions find their surgeries/treatments canceled or indefinitely postponed. And doctors and nurses treating these patients are nearing the breaking point of exhaustion.

COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) | Santa Cruz County, AZ - Official Website

President Biden and the health officials of his administration should blame the unvaccinated for their egotistical selfishness in causing this crisis. This will put Republicans on the defensive and divert attacks on the President.

He should also propose a national law allowing hospitals to stop admitting unvaccinated anti-vaxxers. These people need to face the consequences of their own irresponsible behavior. Only then will hospitals be free to care for those who deserve medical treatment.

WEAPON #4: BLAME TRUMP AND REPUBLICANS FOR THE CURRENT CRISIS IN UKRAINE

In July, 2019, Trump tried to extort a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky: Investigate on presumed 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter, who had had business dealings in Ukraine.

Clearly implied in the call: Produce “dirt” on Biden—or you won’t get the Congressionally authorized $400 million in military aid.

Biden should blame Trump for having encouraged Putin to invade Ukraine. Example: Siding with Putin against the FBI and CIA when they agreed that Russia had interfered in the 2016 Presidential election. The words “traitor” and “treason” should be routinely used when he discusses these incidents.

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.

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 21, 2022 at 12:10 am

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

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

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

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Marie Yovanovitch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And point man for this was Chris Krebs.

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

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Chris Krebs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On November 17, Trump fired Chris Krebs. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 20, 2022 at 12:10 am

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for images of Dmitri Shostakovich

Dimitri Shostakovich

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

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

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

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

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

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

As, in fact, has happened. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Brett Crozier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HEROES AND VILLAINS: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 19, 2022 at 12:17 am

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

Four heroes, three villains.

Two of the heroes are Russians; three are Americans.

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

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

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

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

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

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Mikhail Tukhachevsky

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

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

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

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

Joseph Stalin

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

But Tukhachevsky wasn’t alive to command a defense.

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

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

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

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

Its victims included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for Images of Statues to Mikhail Tukhachevsky

Mikhail Tukhachevsky appears on a 1963 Soviet Union postage stamp

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

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

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

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

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

MACHIAVELLI: STUPID LEADERS CANNOT BE WISELY ADVISED

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 15, 2022 at 12:13 am

“There is no other way of guarding oneself against flattery than by letting men understand that they will not offend you by speaking the truth.  But when every one can tell you the truth, you lose their respect.  

“A prudent prince must therefore take a third course, by choosing for his counsel wise men, and giving them alone full liberty to speak the truth to him, but only of those things that he asks and of nothing else.”

So wrote the Italian statesman Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago in his famous treatise on politics, The Prince. And he added:

“But he must be a great asker about everything and hear their opinions, and afterwards deliberate by himself in his own way, and in these counsels and with each of these men comport himself so that every one may see that the more freely he speaks, the more he will be acceptable. 

“Beyond these he should listen to no one, go about the matter deliberately, and be determined in his decisions.”

Machiavelli’s words remain as true in our day as they were in his.

Especially for “a very stable genius,” as ex-President Donald J. Trump once referred to himself.

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Niccolo Machiavelli

Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” who he consults about foreign policy, Trump replied; “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

Machiavelli offers a related warning that especially applies to Trump: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised:

“It is an infallible rule that a prince who is not wise himself cannot be well advised, unless by chance he leaves himself entirely in the hands of one man who rules him in everything, and happens to be a very prudent man. In this case, he may doubtless be well governed, but it would not last long, for the governor would in a short time deprive him of the state.”

Competent executives surround themselves with experts in diverse fields and pay attention to their expertise. They don’t feel threatened by it but rely on it to implement their agenda. Advisers whose counsel proves correct are to be retained and rewarded.

Machiavelli offers practical advice on this: 

“The prince, in order to retain his fidelity, ought to think of his minister, honoring and enriching him, doing him kindnesses and conferring on him favors and responsible tasks, so that the great favors and riches bestowed on him cause him not to desire other honors and riches, and the offices he holds make him fearful of changes.”

But rewarding those who try to head off ruinous decision-making is not Trump’s way. 

Consider the case of John Rood, the Pentagon’s top policy official until February 19. That was when he resigned, saying he was leaving at Trump’s request.

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John Rood

Rood had certified last year that Ukraine had made enough anti-corruption progress to justify the release of Congressionally-authorized aid for its efforts to thwart Russian aggression.

And that totally conflicted with Trump’s attempt to extort a “favor” from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

In July, 2019, Trump told his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, to withhold almost $400 million in promised military aid for Ukraine.

On July 25, Trump telephoned Zelensky to “request” a “favor”: Investigate Democratic Presidential Candidate Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter, who has had business dealings in Ukraine.

The reason for such an investigation: To find embarrassing “dirt” on Biden.

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Joe Biden

But then a CIA whistleblower filed a complaint about the extortion attempt—and this led directly to impeachment proceedings by the Democratically-controlled House for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

But the Republican-dominated Senate voted to acquit him.

Afterwards, Trump purged several officials he considers disloyal for cooperating with the impeachment hearings:

  • Army Lt. Col. Alex Vindman, from the National Security Council.
  • White House Attorney Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, Vindman’s twin brother.
  • Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the European Union.

“The truth has cost Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman his job, his career, and his privacy,” his attorney David Pressman, said in a statement.

For Trump, Rood had been “disloyal” on two occasions: 

  • He stated in a May 23, 2019 letter to Congress that the Pentagon had thoroughly assessed Ukraine’s anti-corruption actions. And he said that those reforms justified the authorized $400 million in aid.
  • He told reporters last year: “In the weeks after signing the certification I did become aware that the aid had been held. I never received a very clear explanation other than there were concerns about corruption in Ukraine.”

Asked about Rood’s resignation, chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman declined to speculate on the reason for Trump’s decision.

According to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, Rood played “a critical role” on issues such as nuclear deterrence, NATO, missile defense and the National Defense Strategy.

That did not protect him, however, from Trump’s vendetta against those who dared to reveal his crimes to Democratic impeachment committees.

All of which would lead Niccolo Machiavelli to warn, if he could witness American politics today: “This bodes ill for your Republic.”

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