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Posts Tagged ‘THE DISCOURSES’

TRUMP’S INSULTS COME BACK TO HAUNT HIM

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 26, 2019 at 12:06 am

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) was an Italian Renaissance historian, diplomat and writer. Two of his books continue to profoundly influence modern politics: The Prince and The Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy.

The Prince has often been damned as a dictator’s guide on how to gain and hold power. Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini and John Gotti have effusively praised its teachings.

But The Discourses outlines how citizens in a republic can maintain their liberty.

Machiavelli’s writings on republicanism greatly influenced the political thinking of America’s own Founding Fathers. For example: Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson feared that Alexander Hamilton was creating an American aristocracy through the Federalist Party. And they moved vigorously to oppose him.

Portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli by Santi di Tito.jpg

Niccolo Machiavelli

In Chapter 26 of The Discourses, Machiavelli advises:

I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one, for neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy—but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.

If Donald Trump has read Machiavelli, he’s clearly forgotten the Florentine statesman’s advice. Or he decided long ago that it simply didn’t apply to him.

On November 18, 2018, Trump hurled a scatological insult at Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), one of his frequent critics.

Trump’s was furious that Schiff had said on ABC’s “This Week” that the President’s appointment of Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was “unconstitutional” because he wasn’t confirmed by the Senate.

So, true to form, Trump responded with a tweet: “So funny to see little Adam Schitt (D-CA) talking about the fact that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was not approved by the Senate, but not mentioning the fact that Bob Mueller (who is highly conflicted) was not approved by the Senate!”

Special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in May, 2017, after Trump suddenly fired FBI Director James Comey. Mueller didn’t require Senate confirmation for the position.

Schiff was quick to respond on Twitter: “Wow, Mr. President, that’s a good one. Was that like your answers to Mr. Mueller’s questions, or did you write this one yourself?”

What made Trump’s insult not only infantile but self-destructive was that, on November 6, the Democrats had retaken the House of Representatives. 

For Trump, this spelled real danger. Even before taking office in 2017, he had been haunted by charges of conspiring with Russian Intelligence agents to subvert the 2016 Presidential election.

And in six weeks, Schiff would become Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when Democrats returned in January. This would arm him with investigative powers even greater than those possessed by Mueller.

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Adam Schiff

Trump similarly relishes tossing insults at another longtime critic—Rep. Maxime Waters (D-CA). On June 25, 2018, he tweeted: “Congresswoman Maxine Waters, an extraordinarily low IQ person, has become, together with Nancy Pelosi, the Face of the Democrat Party.” 

This also proved a mistake. After voters returned Democrats to running the House, Waters was slated to become Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee.

For Trump, this had to be a nightmare come true. Throughout the 2016 Presidential race, Trump had refused to release his tax returns—which every Presidential candidate has done since Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Trump’s longstanding ties to Russian oligarchs and subservience to Vladimir Putin have fueled speculation that his returns could reveal some truly unscrupulous financial dealings.

Waters would now have the power to subpoena Trump’s tax returns and delve into the long-standing mystery of what he’s hiding.

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Maxine Waters

As both a Presidential candidate and President, Trump has repeatedly attacked 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.  The New York Times needed two full pages of its print edition to showcase them.

As President, he has bullied and insulted even White House officials and his own handpicked Cabinet officers:

  • Trump waged a Twitter-laced feud against Jeff Sessions, his Attorney General. Sessions’ “crime”? Recusing himself from investigations into well-established ties between Russian Intelligence agents and members of Trump’s Presidential campaign. Trump fired him on November 7, 2018, the day after Democrats retook the House of Representatives in the mid-term elections.
  • Trump humiliated his Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus—at one point ordering him to kill a fly that was buzzing about. On July 28, 2017, six months after taking the job, Priebus resigned.
  • Trump similarly tongue-lashed Priebus’ replacement, former Marine Corps General John Kelly. Trump was angered by Kelly’s efforts to limit the number of advisers who had unrestricted access to him. Kelly told colleagues he had never been spoken to like that during 35 years of military service—and wouldn’t tolerate it again.

With Adam Schiff and Maxine Waters now heading powerful House investigative committees, Trump will undoubtedly come to regret the fury his ill-advised insults have raised up against him.

Which leads to a final warning by Machiavelli: Unwise princes cannot be wisely advised.

LOVE THE RICH, IGNORE THE REST: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 25, 2019 at 12:15 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.

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Walter Scheidel

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

He 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.

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“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.

“Scheidel identifies and examines these processes, from the crises of the earliest civilizations to the cataclysmic world wars and communist revolutions of the twentieth century.

“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.”

LOVE THE RICH, IGNORE THE REST: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on June 24, 2019 at 1:21 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. A pointed example:

On June 18, Democratic Presidential candidate (and momentary front-runner) Joe Biden addressed a roomful of donors in New York. Money is, after all, the lifeblood of all political campaigns, and Biden wanted to guarantee he got more of it than any of his 23 Democratic rivals.

So the former vice president had a message he felt sure would appeal to 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.

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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 has talked about decreasing income inequality and promoting workers’ rights. But he’s taken a moderate stance when it comes to taxation.

Vermont United States Senator Bernie Sanders, 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.

Instead, he proposes 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, had 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.

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Among the epochs it covered were 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.

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.

TRUMP: IGNORING MACHIAVELLI—AND INFLAMING RELATIONS

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on June 7, 2019 at 12:07 am

Niccolo Machiavelli (1469 – 1527) was an Italian Renaissance historian, diplomat and writer. Two of his books continue to profoundly influence modern politics: The Prince and The Discourses on the First Ten Books of Titus Livy.

The Prince has often been damned as a dictator’s guide on how to gain and hold power.  But The Discourses outlines how citizens in a republic can maintain their liberty.

Niccolo Machiavelli

In Chapter 26 of The Discourses, he advises:

I hold it to be a proof of great prudence for men to abstain from threats and insulting words towards any one, for neither the one nor the other in any way diminishes the strength of the enemy—but the one makes him more cautious, and the other increases his hatred of you, and makes him more persevering in his efforts to injure you.

If Trump has read Machiavelli, he’s utterly forgotten the Florentine statesman’s advice. Or he decided long ago that it simply didn’t apply to him.

Consider his treatment of Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, in advance of his scheduled June 3 visit to the United Kingdom.

Interviewed by London’s The Sun newspaper on May 31, Trump said it would be his great honor to once again meet with 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth II. Then the conversation turned to Markle—and Trump’s uncanny ability to inflame rather than nurture relations between longtime allies.

Markle, an American citizen born in Los Angeles in 1981, had accused Trump of being “divisive” and “misogynistic” during the 2016 Presidential campaign.

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Meghan Markle

Northern Ireland Office [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D

The Sun reporter told Trump that Markle, 37, was on maternity leave with her three-week-old son, Archie. As a result, she would not join other members of the royal family in meeting with the President.

“Are you sorry not to see her? Because she wasn’t so nice about you during the campaign. I don’t know if you saw that,” the Sun reporter added.

Trump: “I didn’t know that, no. I didn’t know that. No, I hope she’s OK. I did not know that, no.” 

Reporter: “She said she’d move to Canada if you got elected. It turned out she moved to Britain.” 

Trump: “A lot of people moving here, so what can I say? No, I didn’t know that she was nasty.” 

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Donald Trump

The remark predictably triggered a torrent of outrage among Britons. So, equally predictably, on June 1 the President’s “Official Trump War Room” Twitter account went into denial.

“Fake News CNN is at it again, falsely claiming President Trump called Meghan Markle ‘nasty,’” the account tweeted. Accompanying the tweet was a 44-second audio clip of Trump’s interview with The Sun. “Here is what he actually said. Listen for yourself!”

The only problem with the clip: It completely validated reports that Trump had used the word “nasty.”

Having insulted the Duchess of Sussex before leaving for Great Britain, Trump decided to launch another missile-insult while he was still in flight.

On June 1, The (London) Observer had published an opinion column by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. The headline: “It’s Un-British to Roll Out the Red Carpet for Donald Trump.”

And Khan hadn’t spared any reasons for his verdict:

“Praising the ‘very fine people on both sides’ when torch-wielding white supremacists and antisemites marched through the streets clashing with anti-racist campaigners. Threatening to veto a ban on the use of rape as a weapon of war.

“Setting an immigration policy that forcefully separates young children from their parents at the border. The deliberate use of xenophobia, racism and “otherness” as an electoral tactic. Introducing a travel ban to a number of predominately Muslim countries. Lying deliberately and repeatedly to the public.

“No, these are not the actions of European dictators of the 1930s and 40s. Nor the military juntas of the 1970s and 80s. I’m not talking about Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong-un. These are the actions of the leader of our closest ally, the president of the United States of America….

“History teaches us of the danger of being afraid to speak truth to power and the risk of failing to defend our values from the rise of the far right. At this challenging time in global politics, it’s more important than ever that we remember that lesson.”

As Air Force One was on its final approach to Britain, Trump, like a petulant child, tweeted back. 

@SadiqKhan, who by all accounts has done a terrible job as Mayor of London, has been foolishly ‘nasty’ to the visiting President of the United States, by far the most important ally of the United Kingdom. He is a stone cold loser who should focus on crime in London, not me….

“….Kahn reminds me very much of our very dumb and incompetent Mayor of NYC, de Blasio, who has also done a terrible job – only half his height. In any event, I look forward to being a great friend to the United Kingdom, and am looking very much forward to my visit. Landing now!”

Khan’s spokesman said “childish insults” should be “beneath the president of the United States.” 

But they aren’t. They’re simply the stock-in-trade of a childish dictator.

KINDNESS CAN BE A WEAPON: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 2, 2019 at 12:04 am

In June, 1948, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin was determined to drive the Western occupying powers out of Berlin—and of West Germany.

On June 19, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies’ railway, road, and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Western control.

At that time, West Berlin had only 36 days’ worth of food and 45 days’ worth of coal. And the United States had only 8,973 Americans stationed in Berlin. British forces totaled 7,606, and French forces 6,100.

Russian forces in Berlin and East Germany outnumbered them 62 to 1.

The United States seemed to face a choice between all-out war with the Soviet Union—or appeasing its growing aggression in Eastern Europe.

Fortunately, a third choice was found. It became known as the Berlin Airlift.

This was carried out primarily by the United States and Great Britain. Other Western powers taking part in this operation included France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa.

Starting on June 24, 1948, the Berlin Airlift aimed to supply the city’s two and a half million residents with food and energy supplies.

There was no guarantee that such an operation could succeed–at least, not in the long run. Since 1903, airplanes had been used to carry out surveillance, engage in dogfights or bomb cities. But airlifts—flying supplies to stranded people—had proven dismal failures.

At first, the Berlin Airlift worked haphazardly. Pilots flew themselves to exhaustion to meet the needs of those they had relentlessly bombed just three years ago.

Then Major General William “Willie the Whip” Tunner took charge—and brought a totally mechanized approach to the drops:

  • Pilots must fly strictly by instruments, even when visibility was excellent.
  • Planes could no longer circle over Berlin. Each plane would have only one chance to land in Berlin—or must return to its base if it missed its approach.
  • Every 90 seconds, a plane was to take off or land.

Just keeping Berliners alive demanded 4,000 tons of supplies each day. Each plane was thus overloaded by 10 tons. Pilots flew literally round the clock. When fog rolled in that winter, visibility was reduced to zero. Twenty-eight Americans died in crashes.

A Douglas C-54 Skymaster lands at Berlin’s Templehof Airport

Germans were impressed with American efficiency, but knew that, in the eyes of most of their American occupiers, they were pariahs. They had waged an aggressive war and exterminated millions of helpless men, women and children in concentration camps.

They were glad the Allies were keeping them alive, but felt they were pawns in a global chess game between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Then fate took a hand.

An Army Air Force pilot named Gail “Hal” Halvorsen impulsively decided to drop a series of small, hand-made parachutes of candies to Berlin’s children.

When General Tunner learned of this, he instantly realized its worth as a morale booster to Berliners. He ordered Halvorsen to continue the drops.

Gail “Hal” Halvorsen

Other pilots followed Halvorsen’s example. Soon Berlin’s children were lining up by the thousands, hoping to grab one of the candy-filled parachutes made from handkerchiefs or strips of clothing.

When the press learned of the drops, the story became a worldwide sensation. Back in the United States, Americans mailed literally tons of candy to Germany for distribution to Berlin’s children.

“The candy bombers” became the most beloved Americans in Berlin.  And Halvorsen became the most beloved of them all.  On October 3, 1948, when his plane landed in Berlin during a pouring storm, 700 children greeted him on the tarmac for “Lieutenant Gail Halvorsen Day.”

Among the letters he received from Berlin’s children:

Dear Uncle Wiggly Wings,

When yesterday I came from school, I had the happiness to get one of your sweet gifts….You cannot think how big the joy was….My brother and parents stood about me when I opened the strings and fetched out all the chocolate.

Dear Candy Bomber,

…How lucky I was last Sunday. I played at a ruin with some friends of mine opposite our house. Suddenly we saw about ten white parachutes coming out of the sky! One of them set down on the roof of our house. There were three stripes chocolate in the parachute….I want to thank you for your love to the German kids….

From 10-year-old Helma Lurch came this tribute:

Take care of yourself, and remember us children and we will remember you our whole life.

Adults as well as children responded emotionally to the candy drops—and “the candy bombers” responsible for them. When a plane crashed, killing two American lieutenants, residents of the neighborhood memorialized them with a plaque: “Once we were enemies yet you now gave your lives for us. We are doubly in your debt.”

The Airlift ended on May 12, 1949, when Stalin finally accepted defeat and ended the blockade.

“As [Halvorsen] came to represent the Airlift and America to the Berliners,” writes Andrei Cherney in his definitive book, The Candy Bombers, “through him America became a country that cared enough about the defeated Germans to…deliver candy to children, an act without any…ulterior motive, a gift of plain compassion.”

In 1948, that act forged a solid bond—which still exists—between Germany and the United States.

KINDNESS CAN BE A WEAPON: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 1, 2019 at 12:03 am

Once again, it falls to Niccolo Machiavelli to reveal truths long forgotten—especially by those who subscribe only to the darkest arts.

In his most important book, The Discourses, he outlines the methods by which citizens of a republic can maintain their freedom.

In Book Three, Chapter 20, he offers this example of the power of humanity to win over even the most stubborn opponents:

Niccolo Machiavelli

“Camillus was besieging the city of the Faliscians, and had surrounded it….A teacher charged with the education of the children of some of the noblest families of that city [to ingratiate himself] with Camillus and the Romans, led these children…into the Roman camp.

“And presenting them to Camillus [the teacher] said to him, ‘By means of these children as hostages, you will be able to compel the city to surrender.’

“Camillus not only declined the offer but had the teacher stripped and his hands tied behind his back….[Then Camillus] had a rod put into the hands of each of the children…[and] directed them to whip [the teacher] all the way back to the city.

“Upon learning this fact, the citizens of Faliscia were so much touched by the humanity and integrity of Camillus, that they surrendered the place to him without any further defense.

“This example shows that an act of humanity and benevolence will at all times have more influence over the minds of men than violence and ferocity.  It also proves that provinces and cities which no armies…could conquer, have yielded to an act of humanity, benevolence, chastity or generosity.”

Americans put this lesson to use in 1948 in the skies over Berlin.

When Nazi Germany fell to the Allies in May, 1945, the country was divided into four zones of occupation—one for each of the occupying powers: The United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union.

Within the fledgling administration of President Harry S. Truman, many believed that a new era of peace had dawned between America and Russia.

But then grim reality intruded.

Adolf Hitler had invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.  As a result, at least 20 million Soviet men, women and children died violently.

To expel the invasion and destroy Nazi Germany, Russian armies had advanced across a series of Eastern European countries.  With the war over, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin decided to protect the Soviet Union from a future German invasion.

Joseph Stalin

His solution: Occupy Eastern Europe with Red Army units as a buffer between Germany and the Soviet Union. Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Albania and Yugoslavia.

Stalin had promised President Franklin Roosevelt that he would withdraw his armies from these countries once Germany was defeated.  And he would allow them to choose whatever form of government they desired.

But Stalin had no intention of living up to his promises.  And backing him up were 10 to 13 million Red Army soldiers.  The entire United States Army had been reduced to 552,000 men by February 1948.

Liberating the captive nations of Eastern Europe—as General George S. Patton wanted to do—would have plunged the United States into full-scale war against its World War II ally.

And by 1945, the Red Army was a formidable enemy: Of the 4.3 million dead and missing casualties suffered by the Wehrmacht, 85% of them occurred on the dreaded “Eastern front.”

So there was nothing the United States could do—short of all-out war—to “roll back” the “Iron Curtain” that had swept over Eastern Europe.

Image result for Images of maps of Soviet control of Eastern Europe

But Americans could—and did—draw a line in the sand.  That line became known as the policy of “containment.”

And nowhere was the collision between the U.S.A and the U.S.S.R. more likely to ignite into full-scale war than in Berlin.

Between 1945 and 1948, the Soviets increased their pressure on Western forces occupying Berlin to leave the city. The Soviets already controlled East Germany; gaining control of the Western-held part of Berlin would likely be their first step toward overwhelming the rest of Germany.

And, after Germany, probably France—and as many other European countries as possible.

During the first two years of occupation the occupying powers of France, United Kingdom, United States, and the Soviet Union were not able to successfully negotiate a possible currency reform in Germany.  Each of the Allies printed its own occupation currency.

Then, on June 20, 1948, the Bizonal Economic Council introduced the Deutsche mark to West Germany.

On June 24, 1945, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies’ railway, road, and canal access to the sectors of Berlin under Western control.  This meant a cutoff of food and energy supplies to Berlin’s two and a half million residents.

The United States faced a monumental crisis:

  • Should it abandon West Berlin—and thus tempt the Soviet Union into further aggression?
  • Should it match the puny Western military forces—outnumbered 62 to 1—against the massive Soviet military presence?
  • If it chose to fight in Berlin, would this lead to nuclear war?

Fortunately for the Allies—and West Germany—a third choice was available besides war and appeasement.

It became known as the Berlin Airlift.

PUBLIC ENEMY #1: THE RICH (PART FOUR (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 20, 2019 at 12:06 am

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern politics, warns in his masterwork, The Discourses:

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. 

Where the crimes of corporate employers are concerned, Americans need not wait for their evil disposition to reveal itself. It has been fully revealed for decades.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Increased media attention to “income inequality” has led some Democratic lawmakers to press for a long-overdue reform: Raising the stock threshold to 50%, making it harder for firms to abandon their country.

Yet a more comprehensive reform package would include legislation that mandates:

  • American companies that move their headquarters abroad would be officially declared “agents of a foreign power engaged in hostile activity against the United States.”
  • Those “foreign-owned” companies would be forbidden to sell products within the United States. 
  • Their assets would be subject to seizure by the Internal Revenue Service.
  • The citizenship of those Americans engaged in such activity would be revoked and they would be ordered to leave the United States or face criminal prosecution for treason—and face trial for this if they returned. 

Public Campaign is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to eliminating special interest money in American politics by securing publicly-funded elections at local, state and federal levels.

According to Public Campaign: “Twenty-five profitable Fortune 500 companies, some with a history of tax dodging, spent more on lobbying than they paid in federal taxes between 2008 and 2012….

“Over the past five years, these 25 corporations generated nearly $170 billion in combined profits and received $8.7 billion in tax rebates while paying their lobbyists over half a billion ($543 million), an average of nearly $300,000 a day.

“Based on newly released data by Citizens for Tax Justice, these 25 companies actually received tax refunds over all those five years.

“So most individual American families and small businesses have bigger tax bills than these corporate giants. Unfortunately, most American families and businesses do not have the lobbying operation and access these 25 companies enjoy.”

Several companies on this list are well-known—and spend millions of dollars on self-glorifying ads every year to convince consumers how wonderful they are. Among these:

  • General Electric
  • PG&E Corp
  • Verizon Communications
  • Boeing
  • Consolidated Edison
  • MetroPCS Communications

Republicans—and some Democrats—have tirelessly defended the greed of the richest and most privileged in America. For example, they have dubbed the estate tax—which affects only a tiny, rich minority—“the death tax.”  

This makes it appear to affect everyone. So millions of poor and middle-class Americans who will never have to pay a cent in estate taxes vigorously oppose it.

It’s time to recognize that a country can be sold out for other than political reasons. It can be sold out for economic ones, too.

 

Trea$on

 

The United States desperately needs a new definition of treason—one that takes into account the following:  

  • Employers who set up offshore accounts to claim their American companies are foreign-owned—and thus exempt from taxes—are traitors.
  • Employers who enrich themselves by firing American workers and moving their plants to other countries—are traitors.
  • Employers who systematically violate Federal immigration laws—to hire illegal aliens at cut-rate wages–instead of American workers–are traitors.  

For thousands of years, otherwise highly intelligent men and women believed that kings ruled by divine right. That kings held absolute power, levied extortionate taxes and sent countless millions of men off to war—all because God wanted it that way.

That lunacy was dealt a deadly blow in 1776 when American Revolutionaries threw off the despotic rule of King George III of England.

But today, millions of Americans remain imprisoned by an equally outrageous and dangerous theory: The Theory of the Divine Right of Employers.

America can no longer afford such a dangerous fallacy as the Theory of the Divine Right of Employers.

The solution lies in remembering that the powerful never voluntarily surrender their privileges. Americans did not win their freedom from Great Britain—and its enslaving doctrine of the “divine right of kings”—by begging for their rights.

Americans will not win their freedom from their corporate masters—and the equally enslaving doctrine of “the divine right of employers”—by begging for the right to work and support themselves and their families.

And they will most certainly never win such freedom by supporting Right-wing political candidates whose first and only allegiance is to the corporate interests who bankroll their campaigns.

Corporations can—and do—spend millions of dollars on TV ads, selling lies—such as if the wealthy are forced to pay their fair share of taxes, jobs will inevitably disappear.

But Americans can choose to reject those lies—and demand that employers behave like patriots instead of predators.

PUBLIC ENEMY #1: THE RICH: PART THREE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 19, 2019 at 12:10 am

The British offered Revolutionary War General Benedict Arnold £20,000 for betraying West Point to the Crown.

Benedict Arnold

But Arnold was a piker compared to companies that are raking in literally billions of untaxed dollars by betraying the United States in its time of economic trial.

To avoid paying their legitimate share of taxes, they move their headquarters overseas to countries with reduced tax rates. In tax parlance, this is called an “inversion.”

For almost 20 years, tax-avoiding corporations fled to Caribbean countries such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. But in 2004, Congress ruled that American companies could relocate overseas if foreign shareholders owned 20% of their stock.

According to statistics compiled by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) in 2014:

“Forty-seven U.S. corporations have reincorporated overseas through corporate inversions in the last 10 years, far more than during the previous 20 years combined.

“In total, 75 U.S. corporations have inverted since 1994 – with one other inversion occurring in 1983. What’s more, there are a dozen prospective inversion deals involving U.S. corporations looking to reincorporate overseas, according to CRS

“The new data underscores the significant increase in the number of U.S. corporations that have or are seeking to lower their U.S. taxes by reincorporating overseas.

“It also adds urgency to a legislative solution. Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sander Levin in May introduced legislation that would tighten rules to limit inversions.

“The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the legislation would save $19.5 billion over 10 years. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Carl Levin.

“‘Barely a week seems to pass without news that another corporation plans to move its address overseas simply to avoid paying its fair share of U.S. taxes,’” said Ranking Member Levin.

“These corporate inversions are costing the U.S. billions of dollars and undermining vital domestic interests.

“‘We can and should address this problem immediately through legislation to tighten rules to limit the ability of corporations to simply change their address and ship U.S. tax dollars overseas.’”

Among those companies that have chosen to betray their country in its time of economic need:

INVERSION YEAR COMPANY NAME TYPE COUNTRY OF INCORPORATION REVENUE
1983 McDermott International Engineering Panama $2.7 billion
1994 Helen of Troy Consumer Products Bermuda $1.3 billion (FY 2014)
1996 Triton Energy Oil and Gas Cayman Islands Acq by Hess in ’01
1996 Chicago Bridge & Iron (CBI) Engineering Netherlands $11.1 billion
1997 Tyco International Diversified Manufacturer Bermuda $10.6 billion
1997 Santa Fe International Oil and Gas Cayman Islands Acq by Transocean in ’07
1998 Fruit of the Loom Apparel Manufacturer Cayman Islands private company
1998 Gold Reserve Mining Bermuda N/A
1998 Playstar Corp. Toys Antigua Acq by Premier Mobile in ’06
1999 Transocean Offshore Drilling Cayman Islands $9.4 billion
1999 White Mountain Insurance Insurance Bermuda $2.3 billion
1999 Xoma Corp. Biotech Bermuda $35.5 million
1999 PXRE Group Insurance Bermuda Acq by Argonaut Group in ’07
1999 Trenwick Group Insurance Bermuda Acq by LaSalle Re Holdings in ’00
2000 Applied Power Engineering Bermuda Now called Actuant $494 million
2000 Everest Reinsurance Insurance Bermuda $5.6 billion
2000 Seagate Technology Data Storage Cayman Islands $14.4 billion
2000 R&B Falcon Drilling Cayman Islands Acq by Transocean in ’00
2001 Global Santa Fe Corp. Offshore Drilling Cayman Islands Acq by Transocean in ’07
2001 Foster Wheeler Engineering Bermuda $559 million
2001 Accenture Consulting Bermuda $28.6 billion (FY 2013)
2001 Global Marine Engineering Cayman Islands Acq by Bridgehouse Capital in ’04
2002 Noble Corp. Offshore Drilling Cayman Islands $4.2 billion
2002 Cooper Industries Electrical Products Bermuda Acq by Eaton in ’12
2002 Nabor Industries Oil and Gas Bermuda $1.6 billion
2002 Weatherford International Oil and Gas Bermuda $15.2 billion
2002 Ingersoll-Rand Industrial Manufacturer Bermuda $12.3 billion
2002 PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting Consulting Bermuda N/A
2002 Herbalife International Nutrition Cayman Islands $4.8 billion (sales)
2005 Luna Gold Corp Mining Canada $85.3 million
2007 Lincoln Gold Group Mining N/A  
2007 Western Goldfields Mining N/A Acq by New Gold in ’09
2007 Star Maritime Acquisition Grp Shipping N/A Now Star Bulk $69 million
2007 Argonaut Group Insurance Bermuda $1.4 billion
2007 Fluid Media Networks Music Distribution    
2008 Tyco Electronics Industrial Manufacturer Switzerland Now TE Connectivity $3.4 billion (FY ’13)
2008 Foster Wheeler Engineering Bermuda $3.3 billion
2008 Covidien Healthcare Ireland $10.2 billion
2008 Patch International Inc Oil and Gas Canada  
2008 Arcade Acquisition Group Financial    
2008 Energy Infrastructure Acquisition Group Energy    
2008 Ascend Acquisition Group Electronics N/A Acq by Kitara Media in ’13
2008 ENSCO International Oil and Gas United Kingdom $4.9 billion
2009 Tim Hortons Inc Restaurant Chain Canada $3.2 billion
2009 Hungarian Telephone & Cable Corp. Telecommunications Denmark $219 million
2009 Alpha Security Group Security N/A  
2009 Alyst Acquisition Group Financial N/A Acq by China Networks Media in ’09
2009 2020 ChinaCap Acquirco Financial N/A Acq by Exceed Co. in ’09
2009 Ideation Acquisition Grp Private Equity N/A Acq by SearchMedia in ’09
2009 InterAmerican Acquisition Grp Business Management N/A Acq by Sing Kung Ltd in ’09
2009 Vantage Energy Services Offshore Drilling Cayman Islands $732 million
2009 Plastinum Polymer Tech Corp. Industrial Manufacturer    
2010 Valient Biovail Pharmaceuticals Canada $5.7 billion
2010 Pride International Offshore Drilling United Kindom Acq by Ensco in ’11
2010 Global Indemnity Insurance Ireland $319 billion
2011 Alkermes, Inc. Biopharmaceutical Ireland $575 million
2011 TE Connectivity Industrial Manufacturer Switzerland $13.3 billion
2011 Pentair Water Filtration Switzerland $7.5 billion
2012 Rowan Companies Oil Well Drilling United Kindom $1.5 billion
2012 AON Insurance United Kindom $11.8 billion
2012 Tronox Inc Chemical Australia $1.9 billion
2012 Jazz Pharmaceuticals / Azur Pharma Pharmaceuticals Ireland $872 million
2012 D.E. Master Blenders Coffee Netherlands $3.5 billion
2012 Stratasys Printer Manufacturer Israel $486.7 million
2012 Eaton/Cooper Power Management Ireland $22 billion
2012 Endo Health Solutions Pharmaceuticals Ireland $2.6 billion
2013 Liberty Global PLC Cable Company United Kindom $17.3 billion
2013 Actavis / Warner Chilcott Pharmaceuticals Ireland $8.7 billion
2013 Perrigo/Elan Pharmaceuticals Ireland $3.5 billion (FY 2013)
2013 Cadence Pharmaceuticals Pharmaceuticals Ireland $110 million
2014 Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals Pharmaceuticals Ireland $2.2 billion
2014 Chiquita Brands Produce Ireland $3 billion
2014 Medtronic Pharmaceuticals Ireland $16.5 billion

SOURCE: Source: Ways and Means Committee Democrats. GRAPHIC: Danielle Douglas – The Washington Post. Published Aug. 6, 2014.

The most popular countries for these “inversions” are:

  • The Cayman Islands
  • Bermuda
  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • Ireland
  • Switzerland
  • Netherlands

PUBLIC ENEMY #1: THE RICH: PART TWO (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 18, 2019 at 12:28 am

On May 13, 2012, Forbes magazine ran an Op-Ed piece under the headline: “For De-Friending The U.S., Facebook’s Eduardo Saverin Is an American Hero.”

Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer of New York angrily disagreed.

Chuck Shumer

“It is scary. It is a scary, absurd place where even a tax dodger who renounces America for his own 30 pieces of silver is celebrated as a patriot and an American hero.

“It is perverse. I am appalled by making heroic a man who renounces citizenship to escape a tax rate of capital gains of 15%.

“No one gets rich in America on their own,” Schumer said. “And when people do well in America, they should do well by America. I believe the vast majority of Americans believe this, too.”

From that Op-Ed piece:

“Saverin’s flight from the U.S. is yet another reminder of the superiority of a national consumption tax that in a perfect world would be implemented in concert with the abolition of the I.R.S.”

It’s tempting to imagine a world without an agency to collect taxes. But it’s nightmarish to contemplate a world where there were no taxes to pay for

  • A powerful military to protect us;
  • An FBI to combat terrorism and organized crime;
  • An FAA to safely regulate airline traffic;
  • Agencies to repair roads;
  • Agencies to erect public buildings (such as schools, courts and libraries) and
  • Agencies (such as the EPA and FDA) to protect us from predatory businessmen.

The Op-Ed piece further asserts that “you cannot limit the power of the Federal Government if its officials hold the power to tax incomes.” 

Every nation in history—whether a democracy or a dictatorship, whether capitalist, socialist or communist––has understood the absolute necessity for collecting public revenues. And it has created means by which to do so.

“When individuals resist governmental hubris, we should exalt their actions.”

We should, in short, celebrate those who come to the United States to make fortunes they could not make anywhere else––and then, when they do, turn their backs on their adopted country.

We should rejoice that they have stuffed billions of dollars more into their already-fat pockets and left their supposed fellow countrymen to shift for themselves.

“In an ideal world the Federal Government should implement a consumption tax.  And if, as a result, poor people suffer because they’re taxed at the same level as rich ones, fine. 

“Everyone should know how much it costs to run the government.”

Of course we should have a “regressive” tax that “hits low incomes at the same percentage as high ones.   

Of course, those who are barely able to feed their families or can’t afford medical care should pay as much in taxes as a rich parasite who, like Mitt Romney, throws out $10,000 bets like so many dimes.

“If the Federal Government can’t fund all its programs because rich people like Saverin refuse to pay taxes, then U.S. taxpayers generally will have to make good for the missing taxes.  It’s the fault of Congress that it cannot put an end to any program.”

For billionaires like Saverin and the well-heeled types who subscribe to Forbes, it doesn’t matter whether “the Federal Government can’t fund all its programs.”

San Simeon, estate of William Randolph Hearst

Greed-obsessed “swells” like Saverin:

  • Don’t depend on Medicare—they can easily afford the best doctors money can buy;
  • Don’t have to depend on Social Security to see them through old age;
  • Don’t have to worry about standing in food bank lines;
  • Don’t need to rely on police departments—if they’re threatened, they can easily afford round-the-clock bodyguards; 
  • Don’t need consumer protection agencies; if they’re victimized by unscrupulous businessmen, they can hire platoons of lawyers and private detectives.

A contemporary writer who warned of America’s abandonment by its privileged classes was Christopher Lasch. In his posthumously published last book, The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy [2005] he wrote:

The Revolt Of The Elites And The Betrayal Of Democracy

“There has always been a privileged class, even in America. But it has never been so dangerously isolated from its surroundings.

“George Bush’s [the president who served from 1989 to 1992] wonderment, when he saw for the first time an electronic scanning device at a supermarket checkout counter, revealed…the chasm that divides the privileged classes from the rest of the nation.”

Until recently, wrote Lasch, American cultural and economic elites willingly shouldered civic responsibilities. But in post-modern capitalism, a professional elite defines itself as entirely separate from civic concerns.

The new elites flourish through enterprises that operate across international borders. The rich in America have more in common with their fellows in Europe or Asia than with the vast majority of their fellow Americans who don’t share their comfortable surroundings.

Thus, the privileged class in America—the top 1%—has separated itself from the crumbling public services and industrial cities that are used and lived in by the rest of the country’s citizens.

Even worse, our society has condoned their exalted status. The dust jacket blurb for James Patterson’s crime-thriller, NYPD Red, says it best:

“NYPD Red is a special task force charged with protecting the interests of Manhattan’s wealthiest and most powerful citizens.”

It’s time to protect the 99% of America’s citizens against the predators of its 1% wealthiest.

PUBLIC ENEMY #1: THE RICH: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on March 15, 2019 at 12:07 am

Americans need to realize that a country can be betrayed for other than political reasons.  It can be sold out for economic ones, too

On May 15, 2012, Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin renounced his U.S. citizenship.

Born in Brazil, the 30-year-old Saverin became a U.S. citizen in 1998 but had lived in Singapore since 2009.

Eduardo Saverin 

Giving up his citizenship allowed him to avoid paying taxes on billions of dollars on capital gains when Facebook launched its IPO on May 18, 2012.

Singapore does not have a capital gains tax.

And America’s extreme Right couldn’t have been happier.

Take Rush Limbaugh, the Right-wing talk-show host. The Rush Limbaugh Show airs throughout the U.S. on over 400 stations and is the highest-rated talk-radio program in the United States.

When Limbaugh speaks, his “dittohead” audience listens—and acts as he decrees.

Rush Limbaugh

“So if it’s a more favorable tax haven that you can find elsewhere and you go there,” asked Limbaugh, “why is it automatically that you are unpatriotic?

“Why is it automatically that you are a coward, that you are not paying your fair share? It’s this whole class envy thing rearing its head again.”

For Limbaugh, the villain isn’t a billionaire who turns his back on the country that gave him the opportunity to become one. No, the villain lies in those who believe that even wealthy businessmen should behave like patriots—instead of parasites.

“But [Barack Obama is] out there demonizing successful people every day,” said Limbaugh, “targeting successful people every day, running a presidential campaign based on class warfare, trying to get the 99% of the country who are not in the top 1% to hate the 1%, to literally despise ’em.”

Consider the implications of this: 

On November 1, 2011, Forbes magazine reported that, in 2007, the richest 1% of the American population owned 34.6% of the country’s total wealth, and the next 19% owned 50.5%. 

Thus, the top 20% of Americans owned 85% of the country’s wealth and the bottom 80% of the population owned 15%.

According to Limbaugh’s philosophy, the bottom 80% of the population owning 15% of the country’s wealth should pay homage to the top 20% of Americans who own 85% of the country’s wealth.

In short, they should “know their place” and not expect the moneyed few to pay their fair share of taxes.

Of course, this is to be expected of Limbaugh—whose own wealth makes him a multi-millionaire. 

In 2001, U.S. News & World Report noted that Limbaugh had an eight-year contract, with Clear Channel Communications, for $31.25 million a year.

And according to a July 2, 2008, Matt Drudge column, Limbaugh signed a contract extension through 2016 that is worth over $400 million.

And Limbaugh wasn’t alone in his praise for Saverin.

Another right-winger who defends those who run out on their country is anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.

On May 7, 2012, two Democratic Senators—Chuck Schumer of New York and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania—introduced legislation designed to tax expatriates even after they have left the country. 

Their “Ex-PATRIOT Act” would have imposed a mandatory 30% tax on American investments for those who renounce their citizenship and would also prohibit individuals like Saverin from re-entering the country.  

But the bill died in committee. 

In 2013, Schumer and two other Senators added similar provisions to a major immigration reform bill. But their amendment was not included in the version of the bill that passed the Senate. 

“Saverin has turned his back from the country that welcomed him, kept him safe, educated him and helped him become a billionaire,” Schumer said at a press conference. He added that it was time to “de-friend” the Facebook co-founder.

Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform (ATF) said that targeting people that turn in their passports reminded him of regimes that had driven people out of the country, only to confiscate their wealth at the door.

Grover Norquist

“I think Schumer can probably find the legislation to do this,” said Norquist. “It existed in Germany in the 1930s and Rhodesia in the ’70s and in South Africa as well. He probably just plagiarized it and translated it from the original German.”

On the floor of the Senate, Schumer denounced Norquist in return:

“I know a thing or two about what the Nazis did. Some of my relatives were killed by them.

“Saying that a person who made their fortune specifically because of the positive elements in American society, in turn, has a responsibility to do right by America is not even on the same planet as comparing to what Nazis did to Jews.”

Chuck Schumer

Schumer added that he found it troubling that conservatives would lionize someone like Saverin, who was called “an American hero” by Forbes magazine.

On May 13, 2012, Forbes—which describes itself as “The Capitalist Tool”–had run an Op-Ed piece under the headline: “For De-Friending The U.S., Facebook’s Eduardo Saverin Is an American Hero.”

“Can you believe it?” asked Schumer. “An American hero? Renouncing your citizenship now qualifies as heroic for the hard Right-wing?”

“This has gone so far, this idolatry they have taken to such an extreme end, they make Eduardo Saverin into their patron saint. In the name of low taxes for the wealthy, they have lionized an inherently unpatriotic person.” 

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