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WHEN PRESIDENTS ACT LIKE MAFIA BOSSES: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 11, 2018 at 12:27 am

A reputation for being feared can be useful.

But it’s dangerous to constantly employ cruelties or punishments. 

Whoever does so, warns Niccolo Machiavelli, “is always obliged to stand with knife in hand, and can never depend on his subjects, because they, owing to continually fresh injuries, are unable to depend upon him.”

Such a President is Donald Trump, who, as a Presidential candidate in 2016, told journalist Bob Woodward: “Real power is—I don’t even want to use the word—fear.” 

As  a Presidential candidate and President, Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to attack hundreds of real and imagined enemies in politics, journalism, TV and films.

From June 15, 2015, when he launched his Presidential campaign, until October 24, 2016, Trump fired almost 4,000 angry, insulting tweets at 281 people and institutions that had somehow offended him.

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Donald Trump

The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them. Making one inflammatory statement after another, he offended one group of potential voters after another. Among those groups: 

  • Latinos
  • Asians
  • Blacks
  • The disabled
  • Women
  • Prisoners-of-war

Since becoming President on January 20, 2017, Trump has attacked and/or infuriated a wide array of influential agencies or groups. Among these:  

  • “Obamacare” patients: Trump authorized the directors of Federal agencies to waive requirements of the Affordable Care Act—which provides medical insurance to 22 million otherwise uninsured Americans—to the “maximum extent permitted by law.”  
  • The CIA: Appearing at CIA headquarters on his first full day in office, Trump addressed about 400 case officers. Standing before the star-studded memorial wall honoring 117 CIA officers who had fallen in the line of duty. Trump ignored their sacrifice. Instead, he boasted of the size of his Inaugural crowd and how many times he had appeared on the cover of Time.
  • Civil rights advocates: Trump signed an executive order banning Muslims from entering the United States. 
  • He also ordered the Department of Homeland Security to massively expand the number of people subject to detention and deportation.
  • Women: Trump has publicly insulted numerous women—such as Carly Fiorina, Megyn Kelly and Rosie O’Donnell—on their looks.
  • He’s been accused by 22 women of making improper sexual advances.
  • And he successfully backed Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, whom Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers.
  • Medicare patients: During the 2016 campaign, Trump said he would allow Medicare to negotiate down the price of prescription drugs. But after meeting with pharmaceutical lobbyists on January 31, 2017,  Trump said: “I’ll oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing their product to a vibrantly competitive market. That includes price-fixing by the biggest dog in the market, Medicare.”  

And he has bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers:

  • Jeff Sessions: Trump waged a Twitter-laced feud against his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign.
  • On the day after the November, 2018 mid-term elections, Trump fired him.
  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross: Trump told him: “I don’t trust you. I don’t want you doing any more negotiations….You’re past your prime.”
  • Chief of Staff Reince Priebus: Suffered repeated humiliations by Trump—such a being ordered to kill a fly that was buzzing about.
  • On another occasion, Trump told an associate that Priebus was “like a little rat. He just scurries around.”
  • On July 28, 2017, Priebus resigned.
  • Chief of Staff John Kelly: Trump similarly ridiculed Priebus’ replacement, a former Marine Corps general. Kelly tried to limit the number of advisers who had unrestricted access to Trump—and bring discipline to his schedule.
  • Instead of being grateful, Trump became furious. Kelly told colleagues: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.”
  • The United States Secret Service: Before taking office as President, Trump infuriated this agency by keeping his longtime private security force—and adding its members to the elite federal agency. Thus, he clearly sent the insulting message: “You’re not good enough, and I don’t trust you.”

Trump’s repeated humiliations—and firings—of high-ranking administration officials have led to a near-paralysis of his government. Many agencies remain plagued by staff shortages. And many of the replacements are not of “top drawer” quality.

If Trump ever read Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince, he’s clearly forgotten the Florentine’s warning on the need to avoid hatred at all costs.

The new musical version of the play/movie A Bronx Tale allows Mafia capo Sonny to sing his lesson on fear versus love to Calogero, the teenager who idolizes him: 

Listen now what I tell ya
This advice is you know who’s
Love or fear—
It’s up to you kid
But you live with what you choose.

And it’s true: You live with what you choose.

Make being loved your top priority, and you risk being labeled a weakling who can be rolled—as Bill Clinton did.

But make being feared your goal, and you risk creating an atmosphere of hatred and paranoia—as Donald Trump has.

WHEN PRESIDENTS ACT LIKE MAFIA BOSSES: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on December 10, 2018 at 12:27 am

It’s probably the most-quoted passage of Niccolo Machiavelli’s infamous book, The Prince:

“From this arises the question whether it is better to be loved than feared, or feared more than loved. 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. 

“For it may be said of men in general that they are ungrateful, voluble, dissemblers, anxious to avoid danger and covetous of gain. As long as you benefit them, they are entirely yours: they offer you their blood, their goods, their life and their children, when the necessity is remote, but when it approaches, they revolt.

“And the prince who has relied solely on their words, without making other preparations, is ruined. For the friendship which is gained by purchase and not through grandeur and nobility of spirit is bought but not secured, and at a pinch is not to be expended in your service. 

“And men have less scruple in offending one who makes himself loved than one who makes himself feared. For love is held by a chain of obligations which, men being selfish, is broken whenever it serves their purpose. But fear is maintained by a dread of punishment which never fails.”

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

So—which is better: To be feared or loved?

In the 1993 film, A Bronx Tale, 17-year-old Calogero (Lillo Brancato) poses that question to his idol, the local Mafia capo, Sonny (Chazz Palminteri).

“That’s a good question,” Sonny replies. “It’s nice to be both, but it’s very difficult. But if I had my choice, I would rather be feared.”

Sonny has “done 10 years in the joint.” There he got an education in power—from the works of Machiavelli. Now he wants to pass on those hard-learned lessons to Calogero.

“Fear lasts longer than love. Friendships that are bought with money mean nothing. You see how it is around here. I make a joke, everybody laughs. I know I’m funny, but I’m not that funny. It’s fear that keeps them loyal to me.”

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Sonny gives advice to his adopted son, Calogero

But Sonny warns there is a trick to being feared: “The trick is not being hated. That’s why I treat my men good, but not too good.

“I give too much, then they don’t need me. I give them just enough where they need me, but they don’t hate me.”  

Many who quote Machiavelli in defense of being feared overlook this vital point: “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.”

Presidents who desire above all to be loved risk inviting their enemies to see them as weaklings.

Case in point: Bill Clinton.

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Bill Clinton

Clinton needed to be loved. He once said that if he were in a room with 100 people and 99 of them liked him but one didn’t, he would spend all his time with that one person, trying to win him over.

But while he could charm voters, he could not bring himself to retaliate against his sworn Republican enemies.

Clinton sought to endear himself to Republicans by:

  • Adopting NAFTA–the Republican-sponsored North American Free Trade Act, which later proved so devastating to American workers;
  • Siding with Republicans against poor Americans on welfare; and
  • Championing the gutting of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law, which barred investment banks from commercial banking activities.

In 1998, emboldened by Clinton’s refusal to stand up to them, House Republicans moved to impeach him over a sex scandal with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. But his Presidency survived when the Senate refused to convict.

To establish a fearful reputation, a leader must act decisively and ruthlessly when the interests of the organization are threatened. Punitive action must be taken promptly and confidently.

One or two harsh actions of this kind can make a leader more feared than a reign of terror.

Case in point: Ronald Reagan.

Always smiling, quick with a one-liner (especially at press conferences), seemingly unflappable, he projected a constantly optimistic view of his country and its citizens.

Ronald Reagan

But there was a steely, ruthless side to Reagan that appeared when he felt crossed.

On August 3, 1981, nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers walked out after contract talks with the Federal Aviation Administration collapsed. As a result, some 7,000 flights across the country were canceled on that day at the peak of the summer travel season.

Reagan branded the strike illegal. He threatened to fire any controller who failed to return to work within 48 hours.

On August 5, Reagan fired more than 11,000 air traffic controllers who hadn’t returned to work. The mass firing slowed commercial air travel, but it did not cripple the system as the strikers had forecast.

Reagan’s action stunned the American labor movement. Reagan was the only American President to have belonged to a union—the Screen Actors Guild. He had even been president of this, from 1947 to 1954.

There were no more strikes by Federal workers during Reagan’s tenure in office.

A CHRISTMAS INTERLUDE WITH DONALD TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Humor, Politics, Social commentary on December 7, 2018 at 12:56 am
STORMY, BABY

(To be sung to the tune of “Santa, Baby”)

Stormy baby, slip yourself right under the tree, for me.
I’ve been an awful bad boy, Stormy baby, 
And hurry to the White House tonight.

Stormy baby, 
A picture of your beautiful self.
I’ll wait up for you dear, Stormy baby, 
And hurry to the White House tonight.

Think of all the fun I’ve missed.
Think of all the porn stars that I haven’t kissed.
Next year I could be oh, so bad,
And give you the best sex that you’ve ever had.

Stormy honey, I wanna screw and really that’s quite a lot
All the passion you’ve got.
I’ve been a devil all year, Stormy baby, 
And hurry to the White House tonight.

Come and trim my Christmas tree,
Melania will be gone so it’s just you and me.
I really do believe in you
Let’s see if you still want to screw.

Stormy cutie, there’s one thing that I really do need—your lips
And your non-virgin hips, Stormy cutie.
And hurry to the White House tonight.
Hurry to the White House tonight.
Hurry, tonight.

* * * * *

PAUL MANAFORT, PAUL MANAFORT
(To be sung to the tune, “O Christmas Tree”)

Paul Manafort, Paul Manafort, how ugly is your treason.
Paul Manafort, Paul Manafort, we know the ugly reason.
You have betrayed your native land
To serve another traitor man.
Paul Manafort, Paul Manafort, how ugly is your treason.

Paul Manafort, Paul Manafort, for you the judge is coming.
Paul Manafort, Paul Manafort, it’s “Traitors Die” he’s humming.
Vlad Putin cannot save you now.
Nor can his ugly White House sow.
Paul Manafort, Paul Manafort, how ugly is your treason.

* * * * *

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* * * * *

HAVE YOURSELF A ROBERT MUELLER CHRISTMAS
(To be sung to the tune, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”)

Have yourself a Robert Mueller Christmas
Let your hearts be light.
From now on the Fascists will be filled with fright.

Have yourself a Robert Mueller Christmas
Let your hearts be gay.
I can’t wait till all the traitors go away.

Here we are as in Watergate
Traitors filled with hate feel fear.
Faithless friends now are selling out
Let us give a shout—and cheer.

Soon we hope their Fuhrer will be history
Crying Fascist tears.
When the Traitor’s gone we’ll put away our fears.
And celebrate in Robert Mueller’s name for years.

Here we are as in Watergate
Traitors filled with hate feel fear.
Faithless friends now are selling out
Let us give a shout—and cheer.

Soon we hope their Fuhrer will be history
Crying Fascist tears.
When the Traitor’s gone we’ll put away our fears.
And celebrate in Robert Mueller’s name for years.

* * * * *

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* * * * *

THE 12 DAYS OF MUELLER
(To be sung to “The 12 Days of Christmas”)

On the first day of Christmas Bob Mueller gave to me
A country once again free.

On the second day of Christmas Bob Mueller gave to me
Two indicted Fascists and
A country once again free.

On the third day of Christmas Bob Mueller gave to me
Three busted hackers
Two indicted Fascists and
A country once again free.

On the fourth day of Christmas Bob Mueller gave to me
Michael Flynn convicted
Three busted hackers
Two indicted Fascists and
A country once again free.

On the fifth day of Christmas Bob Mueller gave to me
Five Russian spies
Michael Flynn convicted
Three busted hackers
Two indicted Fascists and
A country once again free.

On the sixth day of Christmas Bob Mueller gave to me
Six prisons filling 
Five Russian spies
Michael Flynn convicted
Three busted hackers
Two indicted Fascists and
A country once again free.

On the seventh day of Christmas Bob Mueller gave to me
Eric Trump in handcuffs
Six prisons filling
Five Russian spies
Michael Flynn convicted
Three busted Fascists
Two indicted hackers and 
A country once again free.

On the eighth day of Christmas Bob Mueller gave to me
Michael Cohen a-ratting
Eric Trump in handcuffs
Six prisons filling
Five Russian spies
Michael Flynn convicted
Three busted Fascists
Two indicted hackers and
A country once again free.

On the ninth day of Christmas Bob Mueller gave to me
Vlad Putin raging
Michael Cohen a-ratting
Eric Trump in handcuffs
Six prisons filling
Five Russian spies
Michael Flynn convicted 
Three busted hackers
Two indicted Fascists and
A country once again free.

On the tenth day of Christmas Bob Mueller gave to me
Ivanka Trump a-wailing
Vlad Putin raging
Michael Cohen a-ratting
Eric Trump in handcuffs
Six prisons filling
Five Russian spies
Michael Flynn convicted
Three busted hackers
Two indicted Fascists and
A country once again free.

On the eleventh day of Christmas Bob Mueller gave to me
Sarah Sanders belching
Ivanka Trump a-wailing
Vlad Putin raging
Michael Cohen a-ratting
Eric Trump in handcuffs
Six prisons filling
Five Russian spies
Michael Flynn convicted
Three busted hackers
Two indicted Fascists and
A country once again free.

On the twelfth day of Christmas Bob Mueller gave to me
Donald Trump indicted
Sarah Sanders belching
Ivanka Trump a-wailing
Vlad Putin raging
Michael Cohen a-ratting
Eric Trump in handcuffs
Six prisons filling
Five Russian spies
Michael Flynn convicted
Three busted hackers
Two indicted Fascists and 
A country once again free.

A MOVIE, MACHIAVELLI AND THE CARAVAN

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on December 6, 2018 at 12:11 am

There’s a great exchange in the 1975 classic, Three Days of the Condor, that serves as a prophecy of what’s to come.

As the world heats up, more mass migrations will occur. Millions of people will retreat from the undeveloped “shithole countries” that Donald Trump detests and try to enter the United States and Europe.

This will be entirely natural. What will also be entirely natural is that those who have a decent life will want to hold onto it—and not be overwhelmed by millions who don’t share their same race, values, education and religion.

In Three Days of the Condor, Higgins, the deputy director of the CIA’s New York Division confronts Joe Turner, an idealistic ex-CIA employee on the realities of espionage.

Higgins (played by Cliff Robertson): “It’s simple economics. Today it’s oil, right? In ten or fifteen years, food. Plutonium. Maybe even sooner. Now, what do you think the people are gonna want us to do then?”

Joe Turner (played by Robert Redford): “Ask them?”

Higgins: “Not now—then! Ask ’em when they’re running out. Ask ’em when there’s no heat in their homes and they’re cold. Ask ’em when their engines stop. Ask ’em when people who have never known hunger start going hungry. You wanna know something? They won’t want us to ask ’em. They’ll just want us to get it for ’em!”

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That day has come for millions of desperate people in Central and Latin America. And it is coming for all of us in the foreseeable future.

On October 13, a caravan of at least 5,000 men, women and children from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras set out for the United States. Many of them claim they have been threatened by street gangs such as MS-13 or by government officials.

On October 18, President Trump threatened to deploy the United States military and close the U.S.-Mexico border to keep the caravan from entering the country.

And then Trump did just that. 

By November 19, migrants had begun piling up in Tijuana, which borders San Diego.

And that’s when Tijuana residents began carrying signs reading “No illegals,” “No to the invasion” and “Mexico First.” And marching in the streets wearing Mexico’s red, white and green national soccer jersey and vigorously waving Mexican flags. 

“We want the caravan to go; they are invading us,” said Patricia Reyes, a 62-year-old protester. “They should have come into Mexico correctly, legally, but they came in like animals.”

And the situation will only worsen in the months ahead.

Trump has ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to draft new rules to limit the number of asylum-seekers.

As increasing numbers of migrants pour into Tijuana, access to housing, schools, hospitals and other social services will become increasingly strained. Violent clashes between Tijuana’s 1.6 million residents and its thousands of uninvited arrivals will almost certainly be the result. 

Tijuana’s mayor, Juan Manuel Gastélum, says Tijuana lacks the funds to continue supporting the migrants. He has requested support from Mexico’s federal authorities.

For decades, the Mexican Government did nothing to stop millions of its own citizens from routinely violating America’s immigration laws.

The reason: Mexicans still remember the bloody upheaval known as the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) which slaughtered one to two million men, women and children. Massacres were common on all sides, with men shot by the hundreds in bullrings or hung by the dozen on trees.

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A Mexican “fruit tree”

As a result, every successive Mexican government has lived in the shadow of another such wholesale bloodletting. These officials have thus quietly turned the United States border into a safety valve.

If potential revolutionaries leave Mexico to find a better life in the United States, the Government doesn’t have to fear the rise of another “Pancho” Villa.

Suddenly, with the escape route to “El Norte” shut off, Mexicans have discovered that “illegal alien” is no longer a dirty phrase.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli outlined the reason for such conflicts. In The Discourses, his masterwork on preserving liberty within a republic, he writes: 

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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.

Those who want the United States to allow unchecked immigration are ignorant of such truths—or deliberately ignore them.

REVENGE OF THE “RATS”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 4, 2018 at 12:06 am

Donald Trump resembles his fellow New Yorker, Mafia “Boss of all Bosses” John Gotti, in more ways than he would like to admit. Among these:

  • He craves publicity like a drug.
  • His egomania long ago reached psychotic heights: In a 1990 interview with Playboy magazine, he offered his worldview: “The show is Trump, and it is sold-out performances everywhere.” 
  • He impulsively and brutally badmouths virtually everyone—in press conferences and on Twitter. 
  • He brags constantly—about his wealth, his intelligence, his sexual prowess, his achievements: “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”  
  • He has bought his way out of legal trouble: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a political contribution from him while her office deliberated joining an investigation of alleged fraud at Trump University and its affiliates. After Bondi dropped the case against Trump, he wrote her a $25,000 check for her re-election campaign. 

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 Donald Trump

  • He repeatedly threatens violence against his opponents: On March 16, 2016, he warned Republicans that if he didn’t win the GOP nomination in July, “I think you’d have riots….I think bad things would happen.” 
  • Although not a member of the Mafia, he has often been linked—directly or indirectly—to men who are, such as “Fat Tony” Salerno and Paul Castellano.
  • He prizes being seen as a tough guy: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.” At a Las Vegas rally in 2016, he said about a protester: “I’d like to punch him in the face.”
  • He has no loyalty to anyone. He has badmouthed—and fired—such ardent supporters as his ex-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions

It is this last characteristic—his complete lack of loyalty—that may well undo him.

Consider his treatment of Michael Cohen, his personal attorney for more than 10 years.  

On April 9, 2018, the FBI, executing a federal search warrant, raided Cohen’s office at the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs, as well as his home and his hotel room in the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City. 

And Trump’s response: “Michael Cohen only handled a tiny, tiny fraction of my legal work. 

“Michael is in business—he is really a businessman, a fairly big business, as I understand it. I don’t know his business, but [the investigation] doesn’t have to do with me.” 

Thus Trump undermined the argument of Cohen’s lawyers that he was the President’s personal attorney—and therefore everything Cohen did was protected by attorney-client privilege.

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Michael Cohen

IowaPolitics.com [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

An April 19, 2018 headline in Esquire magazine warned: “If the Water is Rising, Donald Trump Will Throw You Overboard.” 

The article read in part:

“No matter how long or how intimately you’ve known Donald Trump, you’re one news cycle away from being tossed overboard….

“An old friend becomes a needy acquaintance; a campaign chairman becomes someone you got from the temp agency; a national security adviser becomes a ‘volunteer.'” 

But Michael Cohen wasn’t just Trump’s lawyer. He was his fixer, a man who made problems “go away” with threats and bribes. He knows many—if not most—of Trump’s darkest secrets.

And he has since made it clear he is willing to reveal them.

In an off-camera interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Cohen warned: “I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defense strategy” if Trump or his attorneys try to discredit him.

And unlike Trump—who has repeatedly asserted that Russia didn’t interfere with the 2016 Presidential election—Cohen said he believed it did.

Moreover, on November 29, Cohen pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to lying to Congress about the Russia investigation. It’s part of a new deal reached with Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.  

Cohen admitted that he lied about the “Moscow Project”—the Trump Organization’s efforts to “pursue a branded property in Moscow.”

He did so in an August 2017 letter to the House and Senate intelligence committees, which were investigating alleged collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian Intelligence agents to subvert the 2016 Presidential election. 

Now Cohen has revealed why, throughout the campaign, Trump hid his business dealings with Russia—while Moscow intervened to elect him.

Cohen has spent more than 70 hours in interviews with Mueller’s team. There is no telling how many of Trump’s secrets he has revealed.

Mueller—unlike Trump—doesn’t vent his temper in semi-literate tweets. In a rarity for Washington institutions, there have been almost no leaks from the Office of the Special Counsel since Mueller was empowered on May 17, 2017.

Mueller has also spoken with other federal prosecutors and the New York State Attorney General’s Office. 

Shortly after news broke that Cohen had pleaded guilty to lying to Congress, Trump attacked his onetime fixer: “He’s a liar. He’s a weak person and what he’s trying to do is get a reduced sentence.” 

But shortly after news broke that Cohen had revealed Trump’s business dealings with Russia, the President canceled his scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the December 1 G20 summit in Buenos Aires.

REVENGE OF THE “RATS”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 3, 2018 at 12:23 am

President Donald Trump shares many similarities with John Gotti, who, for five years, ruled as the boss of the most powerful Mafia family in the United States: The Gambino Family. 

Among those similarities: A complete lack of loyalty to anyone. 

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John Gotti

On December 12, 1989, Gotti became a victim of his own disloyalty.

Unknowingly speaking into an FBI electronic bug, Gotti charged that Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, his underboss, or second-in command, was too greedy. He also blamed him for the murders of three Mafiosi whom Gotti had ordered hit: Robert “Deebee” DiBernardo, Louis Milito and Louis DiBono.  

“Deebee, did he ever talk subversive to you?” asked Gotti.

“Never,” replied his Consigliere, or adviser, Frankie Locascio. 

“Never talked it to Angelo, never talked it to [Joseph Armone] either,” said Gotti. “I took Sammy’s word that he talked about me behind my back….I was in jail when I whacked him. I knew why it was being done. I done it anyway. I allowed it to be done anyway.” 

Gotti was determined to blame Gravano for the murders of Milito and DiBono. He claimed that both men had been killed because Gravano had asked for permission to remove his business partners.

In fact, Milito had been “whacked” for questioning Gotti’s judgment. And DiBono had been hit because he refused to answer a Gotti summons

And there was more: Gotti accused Gravano of excessive greed—and hoarding money for himself at the expense of the Family:

“That’s Sammy….Every fucking time I turn around there’s a new company poppin’ up. Building. Consulting. Concrete.  Where the hell did all these new companies come from?  Where did five new companies come from? 

“Paul [Castellano, the Gambino Family’s previous boss] sold the Family out for a fucking construction company. And that’s what Sammy’s doing now. Three, four guys will wind up with every fuckin’ thing. And the rest of the Family looks like waste.” 

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Sammy “The Bull” Gravano

He accused Gravano of creating “a fuckin’ army inside an army,” adding: “You know what I’m saying, Frankie? I saw that shit and I don’t need that shit.” 

Gotti’s effort to rewrite history soon came back to haunt him.

At a 1991 pretrial hearing following the arrests of Gotti, Gravano and Locascio, prosecutors played the FBI’s tapes of Gotti’s unintended confessions—including his badmouthing of Gravano. 

Gravano suddenly realized that his future in the Mafia was nil. 

Gravano, Gotti and Locascio were all facing life imprisonment as targets of RICO—the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

And if the Feds didn’t send him to prison, mob gunmen—sent by Gotti—would eventually get him. Gotti clearly planned to make him the fall guy—in court or in a coffin—for murders that Gotti himself had ordered

Only John Gotti was shocked when Gravano agreed to testify against him—and other Mafiosi—in exchange for a five-year prison sentence.

Gravano, as Gotti’s second-in-command, had literally been at the seat of power for five years. He knew the secrets of the Gambino Family—and the other four Mafia families who ruled New York.

On April 2, 1992, a jury convicted Gotti of five murders, conspiracy to murder, loansharking, illegal gambling, obstruction of justice, bribery and tax evasion. He drew a life sentence, without possibility of parole.

Gotti was incarcerated at the United States Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois, in virtual solitary confinement. He died of throat cancer on June 10, 2002, at the age of 61.    

And just as Gotti’s disloyalty ultimately destroyed him, the same may yet prove true for Donald Trump.

Consider the case of attorney Michael Cohen.

  • An executive of the Trump Organization, Cohen acted as “Trump’s pit bull.” “If somebody does something Mr. Trump doesn’t like,” he told ABC News in 2011, “I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr. Trump’s benefit.”
  • In 2015, a reporter for The Daily Beast asked Cohen about Ivana Trump’s charge (later recanted) that Trump had raped her while they were married. Cohen: “I’m warning you, tread very fucking lightly, because what I’m going to do to you is going to be fucking disgusting.”
  • In 2016, while Trump was running for President, Cohen acted as the go-between for a $130,000 hush-money payoff to porn star Stormy Daniels. The reason: To prevent her from revealing a 2006 tryst she had had with Trump.  

In April 2018, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York began investigating Cohen. Charges reportedly included bank fraud, wire fraud and violations of campaign finance law.

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Michael Cohen

By IowaPolitics.com (Trump executive Michael Cohen 012) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

On April 9, 2018, the FBI, executing a federal search warrant, raided Cohen’s office at the law firm of Squire Patton Boggs, as well as his home and his hotel room in the Loews Regency Hotel in New York City. Agents seized emails, tax and business records and recordings of phone conversations that Cohen had made.

Trump’s response: “Michael Cohen only handled a tiny, tiny fraction of my legal work.”  

Thus Trump undermined the argument of Cohen’s lawyers that he was the President’s personal attorney—and therefore everything Cohen did was protected by attorney-client privilege.

DE-REGULATION: LET CRIMINALS BE CRIMINALS

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 29, 2018 at 12:05 am

A forgotten anniversary is fast approaching: This December 2 will mark the 17th anniversary of the collapse of Enron Corporation.

Based in Houston, Texas, Enron had employed 22,000 staffers and was one of the world’s leading electricity, natural gas, communications and paper companies.

In 2000, it claimed revenues of nearly $101 billion. Fortune had named Enron “America’s Most Innovative Company” for six consecutive years.

But then the truth emerged in 2001: Enron’s reported profitability was based not on brilliance and innovation but on systematic and creative accounting fraud.

And, on December 2, 2001, Enron filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy  Code.

Enron’s $63.4 billion in assets made it the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history—until WorldCom’s bankruptcy in 2002.

The California electricity crisis (2000-2001) was caused by market manipulations and illegal shutdowns of pipelines by Texas energy companies.

The state suffered from multiple large-scale blackouts. Pacific Gas & Electric, one of the state’s largest energy companies, collapsed, and the economic fall-out greatly harmed Governor Gray Davis’ standing.

The crisis was made possible by Governor Pete Wilson, who had forced the passage of partial de-regulation legislation in 1996. 

Enron seized its opportunity to inflate prices and manipulate energy output in California’s spot markets. The crisis cost the state $40 to $45 billion.

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The true scandal of Enron was not that it was eventually destroyed by its own greed.

The true scandal was that its leaders were never Federally prosecuted for almost driving California—and the entire Western United States—into bankruptcy.

Under the pro-oil company administration of George W. Bush, no such prosecutions ever occurred. But Americans had a right to expect such redress under “liberal” President Bill Clinton.

Once the news broke that Enron had filed for bankruptcy, commentators almost universally oozed compassion for its thousands of employees who would lose their salaries and pensions.

No one, however, condemned the “profits at any cost” dedication of those same employees for pushing California to the brink of ruin.

To put this in historical perspective:

  • Imagine a historian writing about the destruction of Hitler’s Schutzstaffel (Guard Detachment), or SS, as a human interest tragedy.
  • Imagine its Reichsfuehrer, Heinrich Himmler, being blamed for failing to prevent its collapse—as CEO Kenneth Lay was blamed for Enron’s demise.
  • Imagine that same historian completely ignoring the horrific role the SS had played throughout Nazi-occupied countries—and its primary role in slaughtering six million Jews in the Holocaust.  

Nor did anyone in the media or government declare that the solution to such extortionate activity lay within the United States Department of Justice via RICO—the Federal Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations Act.

Seal of the United States Department of Justice.svg

Passed by Congress in 1970, this was originally aimed at the kingpins of the Mafia. Since the mid-1980s, however, RICO has been successfully applied against both terrorist groups and legitimate businesses engaged in criminal activity.

Under RICO, people financially injured by a pattern of criminal activity can bring a claim in State or Federal court, and obtain damages at three times the amount of their actual claim, plus reimbursement for their attorneys’ fees and costs.

Such prosecutions would have pitted energy-extortionists against the full investigative might of the FBI and the sweeping legal  authority of the Justice Department.

Consider this selection from the opening of the Act:

(1) “racketeering activity” means (A) any act or threat involving…extortion; (B) any act which is indictable under any of the following provisions of title 18, United States Code: sections 891-894 (relating to extortionate credit transactions), section 1343 (relating to wire fraud)Section 1344 (relating to financial institution fraud), section 1951 (relating to interference with commerce, robbery, or extortion), section 1952 (relating to racketeering)….

With the 17th anniversary of Enron’s demise coming up, the mantra of “de-regulation” should be ruthlessly turned against those who have most ardently championed it.

Republicans have ingeniously dubbed the estate tax—which affects only a tiny minority of ultra-rich—“the death tax.” This makes it appear to affect everyone.

Democrats should thus recast de-regulation in terms that will prove equally popular.  For example:

“Greed Relief” 

“Greed Protection” 

“Legalized Extortion” 

And here are some possible slogans: 

“The Energy Industry: Giving You the Best Congress Money Can Buy.” 

“De-regulation: Let Criminals Be Criminals.”

Today the coal industry is pumping millions into TV ads touting the non-existent wonders of “clean coal.” And Chevron spends millions assuring us that “all those profits” go strictly toward making the world a better place for others. (Presumably not a penny is left for its altruistic executives.)

When faced with such outright lying by the most vested of financial interests, it’s well to recall the warning given by Niccolo Machiavelli more than 500 years ago:

All those who have written upon civil institutions demonstrate…that whoever desires to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature, whenever they may find occasion for it.  

If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself. But time, which has been said to be the father of all truth, does not fail to bring it to light.

USING RELIGION TO EXCUSE GUN VIOLENCE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 28, 2018 at 12:07 am

Barack Obama was right.

As a 2008 Presidential candidate, he famously (or infamously) said about small-town Right-wing voters across the Midwest:

“You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them.

“And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not.

“And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

At the time that Obama made that remark, he was seeking the 2008 Democratic nomination for President.

His opponents—both Democratic and Republican—quickly attacked him as elitist and anti-Second Amendment.

Democratic New York United States Senator Hillary Clinton—his chief rival for the nomination—said: “I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small-town America. His remarks are elitist and out of touch.” 

Obama survived the firestorm and won the Democratic nomination—and the Presidency.

Since then, the truth of his widely-criticized remarks has been repeatedly proven by his Republican adversaries.

On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof, a white high school dropout, gunned down three black men and six black women at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

At 21, Roof was unemployed, dividing his time between playing video games and taking drugs.

Dylann Roof

The signs of Roof’s malignant racism were evident long before he turned mass murderer:

  • He had posed for a photo sitting on the hood of his parents’ car—whose license plate bore a Confederate flag.
  • He had posed for pictures wearing a jacket sporting the white supremacist flags of Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa.
  • He told a friend that he hoped “to start a civil war” between the black and white races.
  • Roof reportedly told friends and neighbors of his plans to kill people.
  • In the midst of his massacre of unarmed worshipers, he told one of his victims: “You’ve raped our women, and you are taking over the country.” Then Roof shot him.

The evidence makes clear that Roof’s slaughter was racially motivated. Yet no 2016 Republican Presidential candidate dared acknowledge it:

  • Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida:  “I don’t know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes.”
  • Rick Santorum, former United States Senator from Pennsylvania: “You talk about the importance of prayer in this time and we’re now seeing assaults on our religious liberty we’ve never seen before.  It’s a time for deeper reflection beyond this horrible situation.”
  • Bobby Jindal, former governor of Louisiana: “I don’t think we’ll ever know what was going on in his mind.”

On October 27, 2018, another worship-services slaughter occurred. The target was the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Eleven people died in a hail of bullets fired by anti-Semetic Robert Bowers, 46.

Two days later, on October 29, White House Counselor Kelleyanne Conway offered a unique reason for the massacre:

“The anti-religiosity in this country that is somehow in vogue and funny to make fun of anybody of faith, to constantly be making fun of people that express religion—the late-night comedians, the unfunny people on TV shows—it’s always anti-religious.

“These people were gunned down in their place of worship, as were the people in South Carolina several years ago. And they were there because they’re people of faith, and it’s that faith that needs to bring us together. This is no time to be driving God out of the public square.” 

No Republican in 2015 dared to blame the shooting on Right-wing hatred and/or ready access to high-powered firearms by the mentally disturbed. And, three years later, the situation remained the same.

Someone who has dared to tell the truth about guns and the carnage inflict is Chief Edward Flynn of the Milwaukee Police Department.

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Chief Edward Flynn

On the August 4, 2015 edition of The PBS Newshour, Flynn said: Certainly, one of the things we have seen is a dramatic increase in the use of firearms, particularly semiautomatic pistols, in our violent deaths.

We have seen that our shootings are up significantly, our homicides are up dramatically. Over 85% of our homicides are committed with firearms, and, of those, over 85% are committed with semiautomatic pistols.

Another truth-teller is Colonel Sam Dotson, Chief of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.  Interviewed on the same Newshour program, he said: 

I’m seeing exactly the same thing that they’re seeing in Milwaukee, the availability of guns. I’m seeing exactly the same thing, high-capacity magazines, a willingness to use the guns, and a judiciary that sometimes doesn’t follow through on the prosecution. 

Police Chiefs Edward Flynn and Samuel Dotson bluntly stated the devastating results of unrestricted access to high-powered firearms. And they offered a concrete solution: Drastically restrict that access.

The “solution” offered by Kelleyanne Conway comes down to: “America needs to pray.” It’s a “solution” that appeases the religious Right—and doesn’t infuriate the National Rifle Association.

And it won’t prevent a single murder.

NAZI GERMANY’S PAST MAY BE AMERICA’S FUTURE

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 27, 2018 at 12:01 am

Hans Bernd Gisevius holds a unique position in the history of the Third Reich.

He was one of the few plotters of the July 20, 1944 bomb attack on Adolf Hitler to survive the wave of arrests that followed.

A covert opponent of the Nazi regime, he served as a liaison in Zurich between the American Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and German resistance forces in Germany.

Not only did he outlive the Reich, he took revenge on it at the Nuremberg trials. In April, 1946, for three days he gave damning evidence against former Reichsmarshall Hermann Goring and his accomplices.

Hans Bernd Gisevius at Nuremberg

In 1946, he published his autobiography, To the Bitter End, sharply indicting the Reich and its leaders—many of whom Gisevius had known personally. He also condemned the German people, charging that they pretended ignorance of the atrocities being committed.

In his introduction, Gisevius notes: “This book is not intended as a history of the Third Reich. The author has selected a few prominent incidents out of the confusion of contemporaneous events and has attempted to use these as points through which to trace the broad curves of the historical process.”

To the Bitter End opens with the February 27, 1933 arson attack on the Reichstag building, home of the German parliament. By the time the fire was put out, most of the building was gutted. 

On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler had been appointed Chancellor of Germany. Now he used the fire to gain unprecedented control over the country. 

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Reichstag fire

The next day, at Hitler’s request, President Paul von Hindenburg signed the Reichstag Fire Decree into law. This suspended most civil liberties in Germany, including:

  • Freedom of speech, press, association and public assembly
  • Habeas corpus and
  • Secrecy of the mails and telephone.

The next major event Gisevius chronicled has since become known as “The Night of the Long Knives.”

On June 30, 1934, Hitler ordered a massive purge of his private army, the S.A., or Stormtroopers. This was carried out by Hitler’s elite army-within-an-army, the Schutzstaffel, or Protective Squads, better known as the SS.

The S.A. Brownshirts had been instrumental in securing Hitler’s rise to Chancellor of Germany. They had intimidated political opponents and organized mass rallies for the Nazi Party.

Ernst Rohem, their commander, urged Hitler to disband the regular German army, the Reichswehr, and replace it with his own legions as the nation’s defense force.

Frightened by Rohem’s ambitions, the generals of the Reichswehr warned Hitler: Get rid of Rohem—or we’ll get rid of you.

So Rohem died in a hail of SS bullets—along with several hundred of his longtime S.A. cronies.

SS firing squad

A third crisis that paved the way for Hitler’s assuming supremacy over the German armed forces came in early 1938.

Hitler had been wanting to replace two high-ranking military officials: General Werner von Fritsch and Colonel General Werner von Blomberg. He intended to go to war—and despised their hesitation to do so. 

On January 12, 1938, Blomberg married Erna Gruhn, with Hitler and Reichsmarshall Hermann Goring attending as witnesses. Soon afterward, Berlin police discovered that Gruhn had a criminal record as a prostitute and had posed for pornographic photographs.

Marrying a woman with such a background violated the standard of conduct expected of officers. Hitler was infuriated at having served as a witness, but he also saw the scandal as an opportunity to dispose of Blomberg.

Shortly after Blomberg was forced to resign in disgrace, the SS presented Hitler with a file that falsely accused Werner von Fritsch of homosexuality. Fritsch angrily denied the accusation but resigned on February 4, 1938.

From that point on, Hitler was in de facto command of the German Armed Services.

To the Bitter End vividly depicts how, step by step, Hitler gained total control of Germany—and plunged it headlong into World War II.

None of these steps, by itself, was fatal. But, taken together, they led to the deaths of 60 million men, women and children, the utter destruction of Germany and the domination of Eastern Europe (including East Germany) for 44 years after the Reich collapsed.

Since Donald Trump took office as the 45th President of the United States, Americans have seen him move, step by step, toward his goal of absolute power. Among these moves:

  • Firing FBI Director James Comey for pursuing an investigation into Russian subversion of the 2016 election.
  • Repeatedly attacking his own Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, for not “protecting” him from investigators pursuing the Russia investigation.
  • Firing Sessions and replacing him with Matthew Whittaker, who had loudly criticized the probe led by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller.
  • Relentlessly attacking the free press as “the enemy of the American people.”
  • Brutally attacking Federal judges whose rulings displease him.
  • On multiple occasions, urging Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to vengefully prosecute Hillary Clinton, his 2016 rival for the Presidency.

The United States may yet fall victim to a nuclear war triggered by an insult-happy Trump, or a dictatorship where he turns the Justice Department into his personal SS. 

If so, a future American chronicler may, like Hans Bernd Gisevius, leave behind a record of a nation betrayed by lost opportunities and a brutal tyrant.

TRUMP ON THANKSGIVING: “I’M THANKFUL FOR—ME”

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on November 23, 2018 at 12:09 am

Thanksgiving Day is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a legal holiday for people to be thankful for what they have.” 

So what did President Donald Trump give thanks for on November 22, 2018?

“For having a great family and for having made a tremendous difference in this country. I’ve made a tremendous difference in the country. This country is so much stronger now than it was when I took office that you wouldn’t believe it. 

“And I mean, you see, but so much stronger people can’t even believe it. When I see foreign leaders they say we cannot believe the difference in strength between the United States now and the United States two years ago. Made a lot of progress.”

Anyone expecting Trump to show even the slightest humility on this occasion had only to recall his first appearance at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

This occurred on January 21, 2017—his first full day as President.

Officially, he was there to pay tribute to the men and women who serve on the front lines of America’s Intelligence community. Who dedicate their lives to finding out when and where America’s enemies are planning to strike—and to countering those threats.

And now Trump was appearing before what, to CIA employees, was the agency’s most sacred site: The star-studded memorial wall honoring the 117 CIA officers who had fallen in the line of duty.

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Donald Trump at the CIA

So what did Trump spend much of his time talking about?

Himself, of course.

Here are the major excerpts:

“….You know, when I was young and when I was — of course, I feel young. I feel like I’m 30, 35, 39. Somebody said, are you young? I said, I think I’m young. You know, I was stopping — when we were in the final month of that campaign, four stops, five stops, seven stops. Speeches, speeches, in front of 25,000, 30,000 people, 15,000, 19,000 from stop to stop. I feel young….

“When I was young, we were always winning things in this country. We’d win with trade. We’d win with wars….We don’t win anymore. The old expression, “to the victor belong the spoils” — you remember.

“I always used to say, keep the oil. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong. And I always said, in addition to that, keep the oil….

“Now, I said it for economic reasons. But if you think about it….if we kept the oil you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place. So we should have kept the oil. But okay.  Maybe you’ll have another chance….

“And the reason you’re my first stop is that, as you know, I have a running war with the media. They are among the most dishonest human beings on Earth.

“And they sort of made it sound like I had a feud with the intelligence community. And I just want to let you know, the reason you’re the number-one stop is exactly the opposite — exactly. And they understand that, too.

“And I was explaining about the numbers. We did a thing yesterday at the speech. Did everybody like the speech?  I’ve been given good reviews. But we had a massive field of people. You saw them. Packed. I get up this morning, I turn on one of the networks, and they show an empty field. 

“I say, wait a minute, I made a speech. I looked out, the field was — it looked like a million, million and a half people….

“And they said, Donald Trump did not draw well. I said, it was almost raining, the rain should have scared them away, but God looked down and he said, we’re not going to let it rain on your speech….

“But, you know, we have something that’s amazing because we had — it looked — honestly, it looked like a million and a half people. Whatever it was, it was….

Crowds at Trump and Obama Inaugurals

“We had 250,000 people literally around — you know, in the little bowl that we constructed. That was 250,000 people. The rest of the 20-block area, all the way back to the Washington Monument, was packed. So we caught them, and we caught them in a beauty. And I think they’re going to pay a big price.

“So a reporter for Time magazine — and I have been on their cover, like, 14 or 15 times. I think we have the all-time record in the history of Time magazine. Like, if Tom Brady is on the cover, it’s one time, because he won the Super Bowl or something, right?

“I’ve been on it for 15 times this year. I don’t think that’s a record….that can ever be broken.  Do you agree with that? What do you think?”

* * * * *

At least one former CIA director thought that Trump’s remarks were “despicable.” In a tweeted statement, Nick Shapiro, John Brennan’s former deputy chief of staff, said:

“Former CIA Director Brennan is deeply saddened and angered at Donald Trump’s despicable display of self-aggrandizement in front of CIA’s Memorial Wall of Agency heroes. Brennan says that Trump should be ashamed of himself.” 

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