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FLOWERS: Shadow of Financier George Soros Looms Over Philadelphia

I just spent two weeks in Italy. Since travel writing is not my forte, I’ll leave it to Rick Steves and Stanley Tucci to cover the culture and history of my ancestral land. And while I had the serendipitous opportunity to observe what happens when a prime minister resigns, you’d be better off reading Politico for the ramifications of the upcoming Italian elections.

But there is something I feel comfortable discussing in this forum as a woman, a lawyer, an American citizen, and someone who has a deep appreciation for justice. It’s the idea that you can live in a large metropolitan city filled with people of different nationalities, ethnicities, and social classes and feel safe.

I am not talking about my hometown Philadelphia. There, you are as likely to see a bullet flying in front of your face as you are to glimpse a butterfly drifting from flower to flower. There is no way of hiding the obvious: The City of Brotherly Love is a cesspool of violence, administrative incompetence, official negligence, a betrayal of civic trust, and a dereliction of duty to those who are trapped within its geographical prison bars. I have spent 60 years in this place, give or take the periods I escaped to Europe, and it has never been as dangerous, as hostile, as bellicose, or as close to the “Killing Fields” of Cambodia as it is today. Enough sugar coating: Philadelphia is dying.

I’ve tried to convince myself that this isn’t the case and that there are still vestiges of the city I have loved for well over a half-century. I walk past the historical markers of my childhood and focus on the profound significance they have for our country, trying desperately to ignore the homeless person defecating in the street near the Liberty Bell, or the strung-out addict gazing at me through his oblivion from the corner of Betsey Ross’ house. And when I take public transportation, which I do rarely these days, I try and huddle in a corner so the feral, rabid kids who ride the rails with their face-covering hoodies don’t assault me, as one did last October.

Being in Italy was a revelation. I saw a city bigger than Philadelphia shine with the glow of three millennia of history, of art, of culture. And I immersed myself in an atmosphere that–while urban–did not make me tremble with the fear that some criminal was lurking in a dark, stone-paved alleyway.

I walked alone, at midnight, along the Tiber and felt no fear. I approached strangers to seek direction, free from the anxiety that grips me in my hometown when I sprint down Broad Street, or Samson, or Market, looking over my shoulder.

So there was particular irony in the fact that one of the first things that I read upon returning from Rome this week was a piece in The Wall Street Journal from George Soros explaining why he will continue to use his money to destroy my city and others. Of course, that’s not the way he put it. His exact words were, “I have supported the election (and more recently the re-election) of prosecutors who support reform. I have done it transparently, and I have no intention of stopping.”

Those “prosecutors who support reform” are people like the recently recalled Chesa Boudin in San Francisco. They are like Alvin Bragg, a shameless provocateur in New York. They are like George Gascon, the arrogant prosecutor in LA. And they are, most importantly for those of us in the Delaware Valley, like Larry Krasner, who has presided over the greatest spike in homicide and violent crime in Philadelphia in over three decades.

I will not quote each of Soros’ lies in this column because his methods and machinations are well known to those of us suffering from the heavy effect of his wealth. He has purchased prosecutors who have brought mayhem and death to cities across the country and has tried to package it as “reform.”

What I will say is that his blatant, unapologetic support for people like Krasner who never met a criminal he didn’t like and who refuses to prosecute gun crimes while blaming Republicans for respecting the Second Amendment is proof positive that we are viewed as puppets in the vanity play written by Soros and his progressive colleagues, something akin to the dark Gotham of Batman lore.

If I could afford to move to Rome, I would. Soros has not yet cast his long shadow over my ancestral home.

But until that moment when I can live in a place where addicts are called addicts and not “patients” and criminals are treated as criminals and not “victims,” I will just have to continue speaking out against the destructive nihilism of a man who thinks he can buy the world, and remake it in his toxic image.

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HOLY COW! HISTORY: Mussolini and Those Tardy Trains

Think quick: When you hear the name Benito Mussolini, what comes to mind? Bad guy. Bellicose. Bald.

The man who styled himself Il Duce (The Leader) was all those. And more. Yet 77 years after he was shot and hanged upside down before an angry mob in the ruins of a bombed-out Milan gas station, one remnant of his legacy still lingers. “He made the trains run on time.”

But did he really?

Viewed from the 21st century, the father of Fascism looks like a cartoon character. Big-chested, big-jawed, big talker, a man able to strut while sitting down. He had a thing for balconies where he loved haranguing cheering crowds for hours. It was easy to draw huge crowds when attendance was mandatory and cheering was “encouraged” by the Blackshirts, street thugs loyal only to the big guy himself.

But in the 1920s and 30s, Mussolini was viewed by some in the U.S. and Europe as the face of the future, a powerful figure who took bold action and got things done. As the world sank into the grip of the Great Depression, many people at home and abroad wondered if Mussolini personified things to come.

And his claim to fame, the one thing that stood head and shoulders above all others was, “He made the trains run on time.”

From the minute the first steam engine chugged into Italy, its rail system was “challenged.” Italians never developed the iron discipline that American, British, and German rail barons brought to the Iron Horse.

When World War I ended Italy’s railways were in shambles. Tracks were in disrepair and timetables were a joke.

Then Mussolini burst onto the scene, bellowing that he would make everything right–including the country’s chaotic rail service. Soon people were saying over and over, “The trains are running on time.”

But did they really?

Sort of.

Like all dictators everywhere, Mussolini knew the value of good propaganda. And he made sure he got lots of it. His minions cranked out miles and miles of press releases trumpeting his achievements.

Mussolini did indeed spend money and effort on improving rail beds and imposing a certain degree of order on Italy’s rail lines. But it was almost entirely focused on those used by foreign visitors. Meaning they went home and reported the miracle Mussolini was making.

Consider this glowing headline from a 1923 story that ran in American newspapers“Punctuality Marks Italian Train Service.”

The article reported, “The spirit of discipline which the Mussolini government brought with it is no more concretely marked than on the railroads … Italian trains now run on time since the advent of Italy’s young dictator to power. The Italian crack trains on the main lines cover the distances with minute precision and according to schedule … Special policemen do service on all the lines and are present to prevent theft or disorder.”

Did you catch the “special policemen” reference? That was the Blackshirts again, making sure Italians stayed in line even while on the move.

Whenever the disappearance of personal freedom in Italy was mentioned, the answer was always the same: “The trains are running on time!” What about the dictator’s aggressive foreign policy? “But the trains are running on time!”

It was the trains, always the trains, as if that one achievement made everything else OK.

And so it went until Mussolini teamed up with a neighbor and unleashed World War II. Then the trains brought in hundreds of thousands of German troops, eventually leading to Italy’s military defeat and Mussolini’s downfall and death.

Still, whenever Mussolini’s name comes up more than 75 years later, someone always adds, “But remember, he made the trains run on time.” Except, of course, that he didn’t.

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