Category Archives: notes

A Sojourn In Words


It is 2:30AM and I cannot sleep ~ again. Sitting in my window looking south. An occasional car passes, but mainly I see the lights of the city. Centered in the window of my “Eagle’s Nest” (so dubbed by my neighbors) are the green lights of one building in particular. It sits on the corner of Main and 2nd streets a few blocks from the post office. The green lights frame the pyramidal roof, crowned by two red lights at the peak.

This is my home, it speaks to me and calls my name. The first time I stood here with the realtor waiting on a friend of mine (I always want a second opinion) it spoke to me then. I have never felt so “at home” before. I will not spend the rest of my life here, I cannot, I am a wanderer and a seeker. Even as I live here now I continue to go forth. Sometimes I travel a few blocks, sometimes a few states, or even to another country. No matter where I wander I am always seeking. Sometimes I am seeking even before I know the question. I have the curiosity of a child (and the impudence of one too).

Children are curious about everything. Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green? Why is water wet? Some people say children are simple ,I prefer wise. When they speak they are always direct, to the point, and short. “Daddy stay.” “I am hungry.” “I love you.” “I am tired.”

We clutter speech.

“Boy – I had a rough day. The traffic lights were out on the way to work, and I was almost late. Two people called in sick and the boss dumped their work on me. Then on the way home there was an accident on I-135. I’m tired.”

There it is, “I’m tired.” All those words, all that time. Five sentences, forty-seven words – why? A child would have simply said, “I am tired.”

On one of my sojourns I met a linguist. In thirty minutes over coffee I learned more about language than I had learned in thirty years. Linguists can compare two languages and by the common speech patterns know which language is older. The older language is shorter, more direct, and not so cluttered with extra words. Russian and Chinese are two of the oldest languages on earth that are still spoken. English is one of the younger languages. (Maybe children are even wiser than I thought.)

I like language, I like words. In ancient times people believed if you knew the one true name of a god you could control that god. Words have power and each word is unique. Adventurers and pilgrims are both travelers, and yet they convey a different meaning, they produce a different mental image for us.

I know some Spanish and a few words in several other languages. Though my native tongue is English. English isn’t just English words, no we borrow words from many languages. I like English I find it so expressive. Why just for the word traveler there are dozens of synonyms, adventurer and pilgrim being just two. Yet with all the variety of English we have only one word for the most powerful word of all – love.

Love is an intangible like liberty. You cannot detect love with your five senses, only the evidence of love. Love is one of only two intangibles for which people will sacrifice their life and all they hold dear (liberty being the other). One word – that’s it – just one word. We love our pets, our children, our parents, our relatives, our friends. All of those are different kinds of love, but still just one word. Our children we are willing to protect at all costs. We nurture them, teach them, we revel in their very essence. When they come home from school and explain to us the sun is a star, we listen as if they are teaching us something we never knew.

Then there is the love we have for a lover. This is the love where we are at our most vulnerable. Then, if we are truly lucky, we experience a love that marks our very soul. It changes you – from the inside, and you are never the same again. That is a love that never dies. If that person dies or you get a divorce or breakup, they are still a part of you. The love you shared marked your soul, it changed you. And though separated by time and space they will always be a part of you.

People talk about the power and the strength of steel and granite. But it pales in comparison with the strength and power of love. Look into the eyes of your own child. Do you feel that within your breast? See how your child looks at you? There is nothing as powerful as love.

Yet, just one word. From pizza to life altering and soul touching we have just one word. Yet if a god, as powerful as a god is, has only one true name shouldn’t the most powerful force of all have just one word?

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Elephants, Circuses, And P.E.T.A.


March 5, 2015, Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus announced that as of 2018, it will no longer be using elephants in its shows. The animal rights group P.E.T.A. (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) claimed responsibility, which Feld Entertainment the owners of the circus denied. For 35 years P.E.T.A.  has protested Ringling Brothers for cruelty to elephants.

But, P.E.T.A. has not been just protesting, they have been filing lawsuits against the circus. They lost each lawsuit they have filed against the circus. In 2014, the circus sued P.E.T.A. for making false claims against the circus. In an attempt to win that lawsuit, PE.T.A. paid a $190,000 bribe to a barn worker for the circus. In the end P.E.T.A. lost that lawsuit as well and was ordered to pay $25.2 million dollars. Yet, they are continuing to make claims which were already proved false in court.

You would think that with all the trouble P.E.T.A. has been through over circus elephants that they would be a major organization in the fight to save the more than 50,000 elephants killed in Africa every year. But, you would be wrong. Actually P.E.T.A. is very limited in the animals it does fight for. They are against zoos, circuses, aquariums, wool, leather, fur, silk, hunting, fishing, pet ownership, and service animals. Yes, that is correct. P.E.T.A. is against Seeing Eye dogs and any other animal that is used to benefit people in any way.

P.E.T.A. also donates thousands of dollars every year to know domestic terrorist organizations that have been and are being prosecuted by the FBI and the Justice Department.

P.E.T.A. lobbies to kill cats saying that it is more humane to kill cats than to catch neuter and release. But, they have fought fiercely to prevent feral pigs from being killed, despite the damage in property and the injuries and deaths these animals cause to people. P.E.T.A puts to death over 97 percent of the pets they receive at their shelters around the country, and has been sited many times for inhumane treatment of the animals in their facilities.

A close examination of those animals P.E.T.A does take an interest in shows that the organization appears to be interested in only those animals in industries making millions of dollars a year; companies and corporations which can be sued for millions of dollars.

The situation has gotten so bad at P.E.T.A. that former employees and volunteers have left P.E.T.A. and started their own organization to try and stop the atrocities P.E.T.A. is committing to animals. Their organization is www.petakillsanimals.com and their facebook page is www.facebook.com/PETAKillsAnimals .

 

In future articles we will look more closely at both the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus and at P.E.T.A. including what government inspectors have to say.

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Domestic Violence, I’m No Expert, But …


First I want to say I am not a counselor, doctor, therapist or anything like that. I am just a guy who has been through an abusive relationship and have friends who have been through abusive relationships. So, what I am saying is from experience. You need to talk with a professional if you or friends are in an abusive relationship.

What I want to talk about is when the person who is being abused decides to leave. (I refuse to call anyone a victim). In most cases the abuse is not widely known. So, when the one being abused decides to leave the proverbial cat is out of the bag. For the abuser this is embarrassing and could include being arrested and booked for domestic violence. That is even more embarrassing. Someone who is already violent and gets publicly embarrassed is unpredictable, and unpredictable is dangerous. They could try to clean themselves up or they could become more violent. You cannot tell which they are trying to do. The person who wants revenge will try to seem like they are changing. They may be, but you need to let the professional take care of that.

What you can do is support the person who has decided to leave. When that person decides to leave, they need to disappear. They need to make it hard for anyone to find them; it is a matter of safety. There are many people who have been tracked down and killed by an ex. Where they are should be on a need to know basis. Yes you may be a parent, sibling, best friend, co-worker or some other friend or relative, but that does not mean you need to know where they are. If you are their doctor, lawyer, or law enforcement – you need to know where they are. If you have to take that person to work or help them move – you need to know where they are. Otherwise, if you really care for them, you need to tell them you do not want to know where they are.

Before I get to phone and social media security I want to talk about if the person being abused is a man. In our society we talk an awful lot about gender equality. We talk about how women can do anything a man can do. We know there are women in prison for first degree murder. But our society is not ready to accept women being the abuser in a domestic violence case. So when your male friend or relative is abused by his significant other, do not go to any of the domestic violence groups for help. Some of them will actually get mad at you. I talked one abused man into contacting one of those groups. They were furious with him, accused him of making fun of domestic violence, and threatened him with reporting him to police for making a false report to them.

I have been pushed down stairs, had chairs (and other objects) thrown at me. I have had my glasses broken while I was wearing them. I lied to my optometrist about how my glasses got broken, each and every time. The last time my glasses where broken while I was wearing them I went to Wal Mart and bought over the counter glasses because I did not think the doctor’s office would believe me if I told them I tripped yet again.

What made the difference for me, what made me finally decide I had to do something; was when my four year old daughter decided to protect daddy and jumped up in between. That was when I knew I had to do something.

The way the laws are written everyone who is abused has equal protection under the law. However, law enforcement and the court systems do not always enforce the law equally. This is not the fault of individual officers they have to follow not only the law but the instructions of the courts and other law officers appointed over them. When I realized I had to do something I stopped an officer going into a police station and talked to him (not one in my municipality). At first he only quoted what the law said. But, eventually I got him to understand that I knew the law, but wanted to know what actually happens. What he said was that in the county I lived, if I called in a complaint of domestic violence, one of two things would happen. I would be arrested or my abuser and I would be arrested. He said that once I was booked they would get to the bottom of the situation and I would be released. But, he continued, I would have on my permanent record an arrest for domestic violence and that would not go away. The options I had were to take my daughter and leave, which may or may not cause me to be arrested, leave without my daughter (in which case I could be declared by a judge to have abandoned my daughter, losing parental rights but not child support) or stay and wait for her to leave. I confirmed this with two other officers with two other departments. What I was told was exactly the same including the advice that I “suck it up and wait for her to leave.”

I should also say the abuse I suffered was brought on by a family tragedy and stopped after we separated. But, this is highly unusual. Normally abusers need counseling and that is no guarantee they will stop their abusive ways.

Let me say this again. If a man is being abused by a woman, physical abuse – do not contact any of the domestic violence organizations, they will not help. He needs to get away from her and he will have no help hiding from his abuser.

Now social media security. If you are the person who is leaving you need to go onto every one of your social media accounts and make sure the location is turned off. Do not do that anywhere near where you are going to because it will show up. Before you leave, or at a location near your old residence go onto each of your social media accounts and turn off the location function. Even if you think it is off, you need to check.

Phone security. When you are not on the phone, you need to turn it off. There are apps being sold so that parents can track their wild teenagers. Those apps can just as easily be used to track someone running from an abuser.

Actually what you really need to do is take the battery out of your phone when you turn it off. It is possible for someone to turn on your phone remotely, after you have turned it off. Not only can they listen through the speaker to everything happening near the phone (while you think it is off) they can also turn on/off features on your phone. So, after you have turned off your phone – say at your lawyers office – they can turn on your phone and listen to the conversation between you and your lawyer. Then they can turn on the location (GPS) feature and find out where you are.

Law enforcement has already used cell phones in this manner to collect evidence on drug dealers and other felons they are tracking. It may be illegal for your ex to do this, but it is also illegal for them to violate a restraining order, and each year people are murdered by people they have a restraining order against.

The police are your friends and they can give you advice. But, they cannot do anything until the law is broken. They are not trying to protect the abuser, they want to protect the abused, but their hands are tied, they cannot do anything until the law is broken. Unfortunately, sometimes the first time an abuser breaks a law is when they break the restraining order while killing the person they have abused.

Lastly, I want to talk about protection. First I am a big defender of the second amendment, but I do not advise buying a gun for someone who is being abused, and here’s why.

Let’s face it, guns are designed to take life, be it human or animal, that is the purpose. If an armed criminal is threatening people and shot by a victim it is considered a justifiable homicide, in other words you are not charged with a crime, but a person is still dead. Better the crook than the law abiding citizen, but still someone is dead.

A new gun owner does not have the familiarity with the weapon to feel comfortable with it. A gun owner should take a gun safety class and regularly go to a shooting range for practice and additional training. Obviously, give a gun to someone as they are leaving they will not have any of this training or practice.

Also, a new gun owner is not only less likely to take out a gun, but after they do they are less likely to use the weapon. If you pull a weapon on someone who already has a weapon out they do not know you do not want to use the weapon and will probably shoot you, or take the weapon away from you. People who are afraid of a weapon are more likely to hesitate to use it even when they take the weapon out. Those moments of hesitation are just enough time for the abuser to kill them, and if the victim has the gun on them, the abuser can say they were only defending themselves and there will be no one to dispute their claim. So, once again the abuser could commit a crime and get away with it – this time the crime being murder.

So, while I understand wanting to give the abused person a way to defend themselves, if their abuser catches up with them; I do not recommend giving a gun to someone who does not already have experience with firearms. And we have not even discussed the possibility of an innocent person or even the abused person themselves being accidentally shot.

In closing I would like to recap.

When the abused person decides to leave:

1-Go into hiding and tell no one where you are except your lawyer and law enforcement.

2-Turn your cell phone off and remove the battery when you are not using it.

3-Confirm the location or GPS location has been turned off on all social media accounts, then go back and check it again.

4-If you have no experience with firearms; do not accept a firearm for protection.

The majority of domestic violence victims are women and children, but men are also victims of domestic violence and we need to start extending to them the same protections.

Please, share this article. Share it on your blog or website, print it off and take it to work or church. It could help someone who has made the decision to leave an abusive relationship.

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If Not Now, When? If Not Here, Where? If Not Us, Who?


I started my weekly blog two years ago in Jan of 2012. One rule I have always had is no politics, religion, or finance on my page. The only exception to this has been on occasion when I needed to explain a personal spiritual belief of mine to put my own comments in their correct context. However, each time I was very careful to express that I was attempting to convert no one, and your own personal beliefs, even if they clash with mine, in no way effect my opinion of you. Each person’s spiritual beliefs are very personal and based on their own personal experiences.

Today I break the “rule of three no-no’s” and discuss politics. I am going to discuss the Edward Snowden case. This is the man who leaked classified secrets of the United States Government to the world wide web. Before I go too far though I need to disclose that as a submarine sailor in the United States Navy during the 1980’s I have been on classified missions on behalf of the NSA. As a sonar operator, and later a sonar supervisor, I was an important part of the classified activities we conducted for the NSA. I took an oath when I entered the United States Navy to obey my officers and the commander-in-chief (President of the United States or POTUS) and to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United States. When I was honorably discharged from the United States Navy I had two debriefings. The first, an unclassified debriefing, was held in an auditorium with a large group of men and women about to leave naval service. The second was a classified debriefing where I was debrief by two officers, just the three of us. I was asked to sign a non-disclosure statement, which I did. I will not discuss any of the items that are covered by this non-disclosure statement – ever. During my service, after different missions, we were also debriefed and asked to sign non-disclosure statements, I have signed many of them. They are always the same. Say nothing of what you know, under penalty of arrest for treason/espionage.

Edward Snowden would have signed these same non-disclosure documents. He violated his oath and committed treason. So, why do I support Edward Snowden? Why do I, someone who was given the same trust and responsibility, find no fault with a man who violated those very trusts that I still keep?

There is one very distinct difference between what I did for the NSA and what Snowden did for the NSA. What I did was legal. The NSA is forbidden by federal law from operating inside the United States and from collecting data on United States’ citizens. That job falls to the FBI (federal Bureau of Investigations) and local and state law enforcement agencies. The constitution also clearly states that an agent of the government must show, to a judge, evidence to suspect criminal activity and seek a warrant from a judge before it can spy or collect evidence on an individual or individuals without their consent.

Clearly the NSA was acting inside the United States, against American citizens, and did not have a warrant from a judge naming who was to be under surveillance. A violation of both federal and constitutional law.

On the blog theothersideofugly.com in it’s article “It is Time for Another Martin Luther King” written by Ms. Sheri Bessi she states “Is there a legal way to share with the citizens of earth what your respective governments are doing when one takes a job that makes you swear an oath not to share what your country’s government is doing; even if what your country’s government is doing is actually illegal? I don’t think so, so it’s a huge conundrum.”

I believe the federal whistleblower laws protect Mr. Snowden. But the real question is not whether Mr. Snowden is protected by law. Our government and it’s agencies no longer respects the law and routinely breaks the laws it is sworn to uphold and defend. Shortly before Edward Snowden released classified information demonstrating that the NSA was breaking federal and constitutional law the NSA appeared before the congress and denied it was spying on United States citizens, as Snowden later proved it was. Lying to congress is also a violation of federal law. The real question is how can Edward Snowden be protected from the government by laws, when the government does not respect law and routinely violates the law. Answer — he can’t.

During the Cold War Soviet citizens frequently sought political asylum in the United States after revealing the excesses of the Soviet government. In the 21st century United States citizens must seek political asylum in Russia (the former Soviet Union) after revealing the excesses of the government of the United States.

You would think that a United States citizen could seek protection in the United States Courts, but you would be wrong. Our judges have been appointed by the very same politicians (republican and democrat) who routinely violate the law. Judges are charge with interpreting our laws and ensuring they are followed, but our judges long ago stopped doing this. Justice Sotomayor, in 2005 speaking before Duke University Law school, stated that the court of appeals is where policy is made. She went on to say she was not advocating it or supporting it. Conservatives attacked the Justice for her comments. I applauded her, she stated in public on tape what is already common in our Justice system. She didn’t say it was right or wrong, she merely said what is actually happening, and she is correct. I salute the Justice for her courage in stating the truth, that judges are making law from the bench. Making the law is the job of the legislature, interpreting law is the job of the courts.

Where? Is here now, where you are.

When? Is now, right now. We may be able to turn back the out of control governments of the world in the future, but the longer we wait the harder it will be.

Who? Is you, me, your neighbor, your family and friends, all of us.

How? Write letters to your local news agencies; print, television, and radio. Talk about this with your family and friends, talk about it on family and friendly gatherings, talk about it in church and social clubs.

Can We really make a difference? Yes, we can. I have friends across the spectrum on politics. These friends are so diverse that they agree on nothing … except that our government is out of control and no longer respects the law. When extreme liberals and extreme conservatives are saying the same thing, the time to act is now.

I will write more in the future. Copy this and hand it out to the people you know, discuss it, act now. Make comments below. Listen to people you normally would not talk with. Find common ground. Only together can we return our nations to governments that respect, uphold, and defend the laws and rights of our countries.

Thank You,

Joe C Combs II

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Royalist, Jacobin, Republican, or Patriot?


Napoleon Bonaparte in the coup d'état of 18 Br...

Napoleon Bonaparte in the coup d’état of 18 Brumaire in Saint-Cloud. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Battle of Weissenfels 1813 by Girardet

Battle of Weissenfels 1813 by Girardet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His Grace Jean Baptiste Bessieres, First Duke of Istria, Marshal of France, awarded the Legion d’Honneur (grand eagle, the highest rank), knighted in two countries, and numerous other awards for bravery and valor in battle.

Jean Baptiste Bessieres was born on 6 August 1768, in Prayssac near Cahors in southern France. His father was a successful and affluent country surgeon. Jean was 21 and studying to follow in his father’s footsteps when the French Revolution began in 1789.

In 1791, the new Legislative Assembly was divided between those who wanted a constitutional monarchy like England and those who wanted a republic. It was a dangerous time in Paris and the royal family decided to secretly flee to Varennes near the Austrian border. In Austria they would join those who had fled France in voluntary exile, and with the support and protection of Austria, retake France.

On 21 June the royal family fled Paris, dressed as their servants. Jean Baptiste Bessieres joined those protecting the royal family on their attempted escape from Paris. The king was recognized in Varennes and captured before the royals could get into Austria; they returned to Paris 25 June under house arrest in the Tuileries.

In early 1792, Bessieres joined the National Guard as a non-commissioned officer. Then in April of 1792, he was selected to join the new King’s Constitutional Guard of Louis XVI. When the Constitutional Guard was disbanded, he remained in Paris. When the Tuileries was stormed by a Paris mob on 10 August, Bessieres again joined those who protected the king, at great risk to himself.

On 13 August, the king was officially arrested, and on 21 September, France was declared a Republic. On 21 January 1793, King Louis XVI was executed. Afterwards Bessieres traveled south joining a cavalry regiment and was elected a second lieutenant.

All during this time, France was involved in war with foreign countries invading France and violent struggles among the revolutionaries within the country to establish a legitimate government in France. The Jacobins emerged in power after four years of struggle within France. The Jacobins were a political club that wanted France to be a democratic republic. By September of 1793, the Jacobins created the Committee for Public Safety and the Reign of Terror began, lasting for twelve months. Under the direction of this committee and its leader Robespierre, the streets of Paris ran red with blood until the execution of Robespierre in July 1794. The Jacobins were outlawed and most of its leaders also executed.  While all of this was going on, France continued to be attacked by foreign countries that feared the violence of France spilling over into their own country.

In 1795, Bessieres’ regiment was sent to the Pyrenees and coastal Italy, not good terrain for cavalry. It was while in Italy he attracted Napoleon’s attention with his calm and intrepid personality.

Of course, Jean Bessieres would have attracted attention anywhere he went. He was tall with a natural military bearing and grace, with long powdered hair (like the 18th century military men before him). His hair style fitted his youthful face. Bessieres was a man of integrity, very exact and even-tempered; in battle, he possessed an almost cold courage. Some of his contemporaries described him as unflinching. He was more intelligent and had better judgment than his peers. He also had an unusual kindness about him and took better care of his men, horses and equipment than other generals. Though, he was very disciplined, he was well loved by his men. At the battle of Wagram a cannonball struck Bessieres’ horse; killing the horse, injuring him, and knocking him unconscious. He was carried from the field of battle. His men, thinking he was dead, wept and charged into battle vowing revenge.

At the end of the Reign of Terror, the Directory was the governmental head of France, and still the wars and civil unrest continued. By 1799 it appeared the Directory was about to start a second Reign of Terror.

Meanwhile Bessieres was serving his country in the cavalry under General Bonaparte, first in Italy, then in Egypt and the East. Bessieres had risen to the rank of colonel and become a trusted friend of General Bonaparte. In November, General Napoleon Bonaparte secretly returned to France with a small body of trusted friends to take the reins of power through a military coup. Bessieres was a member of this small group and helped Murat, Lannes, and Marmont secure the support of the Army for Napoleon, and he went on to play a prominent role in the coup d’état.

In March 1804, when Napoleon had the Duke of Enghien executed on dubious and shifting charges, Bessieres protested loud and long against it. Apparently, Bessieres did not suffer from blind loyalty for his best friend and Emperor.

My Analysis

Thirty years ago, I was a young man still forming my approach to history. I accepted the history books at face value, except those areas I knew to be stilted concerning America’s Civil War. I knew the victor had written the history books in their favor on that great conflict, but was this the case throughout historical writing. I was determined to find out, and decided a good place to start my quest was with Napoleon, one of the most important military leaders in history.

I knew from history that Napoleon was an egomaniac determined to sacrifice his own country and Europe to feed his own ambitions of power, fame, and glory. I realized much of what I could find in English about Napoleon (I don’t read French) was written after the fact and could be tainted by the victors. So, I chose to start with Napoleon’s Marshalls. I chose, at random from a list of Napoleon’s first selected Marshalls, Jean Baptiste Bessieres. My approach to history was changed forever. From that point forward I would conduct my own research of primary source material, read the analysis of professional historians, and then arrive at my own analysis. Without Bessieres, my historical work as you see it today would not have been possible. The articles that so many of you have expressed appreciation for, through your comments and e-mails, would have never been written.

Family tradition has Bessieres as royalists; Bessieres himself proclaimed to be a Jacobin; and most historians list him as a republican. I found Bessieres to be none of the above. To me Bessieres was a man loyal to France, a patriot. When France was in upheaval and under threat from forces within and without the country Bessieres sided with his country and not any particular government. When the Monarchy seemed to be France’s best hope for stability, the 26-year-old Bessieres risked his life to protect the Royal family. When the Jacobins seemed to be France’s best hope for stability, he joined the Jacobins and became a republican. When the Jacobins threatened to tear France apart with a second Reign of Terror to support their own power, he became a prominent figure in a coup d’état that brought Napoleon to power.

Friend and foe alike claimed that Bessieres was a man whose intelligence and cool judgment were above that of his peers. Bessieres had a clearness of vision and his advice always lacked bias, disinterested, but decidedly not uninterested. When, early in the Russian campaign, Napoleon had a defeated the enemy in the field, and had all of his Marshalls convened around him deciding what to do next. Bessieres kept quite while the other Marshalls advised sending in the reserves (comprised entirely of Imperial Guard) to finish off the Russian army. Then Bessieres calming stated to Napoleon, “Sire, you are seven hundred leagues from Paris.”

Napoleon did not send in his reserves.

Yet, when Napoleon executed the Duke of Enghien, unjustly to Bessieres’ view, he did not hesitate to go against his friend and Emperor. Undoubtedly, it was Napoleon’s respect for Bessieres’ intellect and clearness of thought, which saved Bessieres.

When I finished my studies of Jean Baptiste Bessieres, I was convinced the victor tainted our knowledge of Napoleon. Bessieres would not have supported Napoleon for so long if Napoleon had been the self-serving, egomaniac, sacrificing France for his own power and glory that we have been lead to believe.

Next week, more of this remarkable man, Jean Baptiste Bessieres, in war and peace.

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